TOM SWIFT AMONG THE DIAMOND MAKERS
or The Secret of Phantom Mountain
By Victor Appleton
I A SUSPICIOUS JEWELER II A MIDNIGHT VISIT III A STRANGE STORY IV ANDY FOGER GETS A FRIGHT V A MYSTERIOUS MAN VI MR. DAMON IS ON HAND VII MR. PARKER PREDICTS VIII OFF FOR THE WEST IX A WARNING BY WIRELESS X DROPPING THE STOWAWAY XI A WEARY SEARCH XII THE GREAT STONE HEAD XIII ON PHANTOM MOUNTAIN XIV WARNED BACK XV THE LANDSLIDE XVI THE VAST CAVERN XVII THE PHANTOM CAPTURED XVIII BILL RENSHAW WILL HELP XIX IN THE SECRET CAVE XX MAKING THE DIAMONDS XXI FLASHING GEMS XXII PRISONERS XXIII BROKEN BONDS XXIV IN GREAT PERIL XXV THE MOUNTAIN SHATTERED—CONCLUSION
CHAPTER I—A SUSPICIOUS JEWELER
"Well, Tom Swift, I don't believe you will make any mistake if you buy that diamond," said the jeweler to a young man who was inspecting a tray of pins, set with the sparkling stones. "It is of the first water, and without a flaw."
"It certainly seems so, Mr. Track. I don't know much about diamonds, and I'm depending on you. But this one looks to be all right."
"Is it for yourself, Tom?"
"Er—no—that is, not exactly," and Tom Swift, the young inventor of airships and submarines, blushed slightly.
"Ah, I see. It's for your housekeeper, Mrs. Baggert. Well, I think she would like a pin of this sort. True, it's rather expensive, but—"
"No, it isn't for Mrs. Baggert, Mr. Track," and Tom seemed a bit embarrassed.
"No? Well, then, Tom—of course it's none of my affair, except to sell you a good stone, But if this brooch is for a young lady, I can't recommend anything nicer. Do you think you will take this; or do you prefer to look at some others?"
"Oh, I think this will do, Mr. Track. I guess I'll take—"
Tom's Words were interrupted by a sudden action on the part of the jeweler. Mr. Track ran from behind the showcase and hastened toward the front door.
"Did you see him, Tom?" he cried. "I wonder which way he went?"
"Who?" asked the lad, following the shopkeeper.
"That man. He's been walking up and down in front of my place for the last ten minutes—ever since you've been in here, in fact, and I don't like his looks."
"What did he do?"
"Nothing much, except to stare in here as if he was sizing my place up."
"Sizing it up?"
"Yes. Getting the lay of the land, so he or some confederate could commit a robbery, maybe."
"A robbery? Do you think that man was a thief?"
"I don't know that he was, Tom, and yet a jeweler has to be always on the watch, and that isn't a joke, either, Tom Swift. Swindlers and thieves are always on the alert for a chance to rob a jewelry store, and they work many games."
"I didn't notice any particular man looking in here," said Tom, who still held the diamond brooch in his hand.
"Well I did," went on the jeweler. "I happened to glance out of the window when you were looking at the pins, and I saw his eyes staring in here in a suspicious manner. He may have a confederate with him, and, when you're gone, one may come in, and pretend to want to look at some diamonds. Then, when I'm showing him some, the other man will enter, engage my attention, and the first man will slip out with a diamond ring or pin. It's often done."
"You seem to have it all worked out, Mr. Track," observed the lad, with a smile. "How do you know but what I'm in with a gang of thieves, and that I'm only pretending to want to buy a diamond pin?"
"Oh, I guess I haven't known you, Tom Swift, ever since you were big enough to toddle, not to be sure about what you're up to. But I certainly didn't like the looks of that man. However, let's forget about him. He seems to have gone down the street, and, after all, perhaps I was mistaken. Just wait until I show you a few more styles before you decide. The young lady may like one of these," and the jeweler went to another showcase and took out some more trays of brooches.
"What makes you think she's a young lady, Mr. Track?" asked the lad.
"Oh, it's easy guessing, Tom. We jewelers are good readers of character. I can size up a young fellow coming in here to buy an engagement or a wedding ring, as soon as he enters the door. I suppose you'll soon be in the market for one of those, Tom, if all the reports I hear about you are true—you and a certain Mary Nestor."
"I—er—I think I don't care for any of these pins," spoke Tom, quickly, with a blush. "I like the first lot best. I think I'll take the one I had in my hand when that man alarmed you. Ha! That's odd! What did I do with it?"
Tom looked about on the showcase, and glanced down on the floor. He had mislaid the brooch, but the jeweler, with a laugh, lifted it out of a tray a moment later.
"I saw you lay it down," he said. "We jewelers have to be on the watch. Here it is. I'll just put it in a box, and—"
With an exclamation, Mr. Track gave a hasty glance toward his big show window. Tom looked up, and saw a man's face peering in. At the sight of it, he, too, uttered a cry of surprise.
The next instant the man outside knocked on the glass, apparently with a piece of metal, making a sharp sound. As soon as he heard it, the jeweler once more sprang from behind the showcase, and leaped for the door crying:
"There's the thief! He's trying to cut a hole through my show window and reach in and get something! It's an old trick. I'll get the police! Tom, you stay here on guard!" and before the lad could utter a protest, the jeweler had opened the door, and was speeding down the street in the gathering darkness.
Tom stared about him in some bewilderment. He was left alone in charge of a very valuable stock of jewelry, the owner of which was racing after a supposed thief, crying:
"Police! Help! Thieves! Stop him, somebody!"
"This is a queer go," mused Tom. "I wonder who that man was? He looked like somebody I know, and yet I can't seem to place his face. I wonder if he was trying to rob the placer Maybe there's another one—a confederate—around here."
This thought rather alarmed Tom, so he went to the door, and looked up and down the street. He could see no suspicious characters, but in the direction in which the jeweler was running there was a little throng of people, following Mr. Track after the man who had knocked on the window.
"I wish I was there, instead of here," mused the lad. "Still I can't leave, or a thief might come in. Perhaps that was the game, and one of the gang is hanging around, hoping the store will be deserted, so he can enter and take what he likes."
Tom had read of such cases, and he at once resolved that he would not only remain in the jewelry shop, but that he would lock the door, which he at once proceeded to do. Then he breathed easier.
The town of Shopton, in the outskirts of which Tom lived with his father, and where the scene above narrated took place, was none too well lighted at night, and the lad had his doubts about the jeweler catching the oddly-acting man, especially as the latter had a good start.
"But some one may head him off," reasoned Tom. "Though if they do catch him, I don't see what they can prove against him. Hello, here I am carrying this diamond pin around. I might lose it. Guess I'll put it back on the tray."
He replaced in the proper receptacle one of the pins he had been examining when the excitement occurred.
"I wonder if Mary will like that?" he said, softly. "I hope she does. Perhaps it would be better if she could come here herself and pick out one—"
Tom's musing was suddenly interrupted by a sharp tattoo on the glass door of the jewelry shop. With a start, he looked up, to see staring in on him the face of the man who had been there before—the man of whom the jeweler was even then in chase.
"Why—why——" stammered Tom.
The man knocked again.
"Tom—Tom Swift!" he called. "Don't you know me?"
"Know you—you?" repeated the lad.
"Yes—don't you remember Earthquake Island—how we were nearly killed there—don't you remember Mr. Jenks?"
Tom was so startled that he could only repeat words after the strange man, who was talking to him from outside the glass door.
"Yes, Mr. Jenks," was the reply. "Mr. Barcoe Jenks, who makes diamonds. I saw you in the store about to buy a diamond—I wanted to tell you not to—I'll give you a better diamond than you can buy—I just arrived in this place—I must have a private talk with you—Come out—I'll share a wonderful secret with you."
A flood of memory came to Tom. He did recall the very strange man who walked around Earthquake Island—where Tom and some friends had been marooned recently—walked about with a pocketful of what he said were diamonds. Now Barcoe Jenks was here.
"I must see you privately, Tom Swift," went on Mr. Jenks, as he once more tapped on the glass. "Don't waste money buying diamonds, when you and I can make better ones. Where can I have a talk with you? I—" Mr. Jenks suddenly looked down the dimly-lighted street. "They're coming back!" he cried. "I don't want to be seen. I'll call at your house later to-night—be on the watch for me—until then—good-by!"
He waved his hand, and was gone in an instant. Tom stood staring at the glass door. He hardly knew whether to believe it or not—perhaps it was all a dream.
He pinched himself to make sure that he was awake. Very substantial flesh met his thumb and finger, and he felt the pain.
"I'm awake all right," he murmured. "But Barcoe Jenks here—and still talking that nonsense about his manufactured diamonds. I think he must be crazy. I wonder—"
Once more the lad's musing was interrupted. He heard a murmur of excited voices outside the store, on the street. Then the door of the jewelry shop was tried. Mr. Track's face was pressed against the glass.
"Open the door! Let me in, Tom!" he called. "I've caught the thief," and as the lad unlocked the portal he saw that the jeweler held by the arm a ragged lad. "Ah; you scoundrel! I've caught you!" cried the diamond merchant, shaking the small chap, while Tom looked on, more mystified than ever.
CHAPTER II—A MIDNIGHT VISIT
While Mr. Track, the jeweler, and several citizens, attracted by the chase after the supposed thief, are crowded into the store, anxious to hear explanations of the strange affair, I will take the opportunity to tell you something of Tom Swift, the lad who is to figure in this story.
Many of you have already made his acquaintance, when he has been speeding about in his airship or fast electric runabout, and to others we will state that our hero first made his bow to the public in the book called "Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle," the initial volume of this series.
In that story there was related how Tom made the acquaintance of an odd individual, named Mr. Wakefield Damon, who was continually blessing himself, some part of his anatomy, or his possessions. Mr. Damon was riding a motor-cycle, and it started to climb a tree, to his pain and fright. Afterward Tom purchased the machine, and had many adventures on it, including a chase after a gang of men who had stolen a valuable patent model belonging to Mr. Swift.
Mr. Swift, and his son were both inventors. They lived together in a fine house in the suburbs of Shopton, New York, and with them dwelt Mrs. Baggert, the housekeeper (for Tom's mother was dead), and also Garret Jackson, an expert engineer, who aided the young inventor and his father in perfecting many machines.
There was also another semi-member of the household, to wit, Eradicate Sampson, an eccentric colored man, who owned a mule called Boomerang. Eradicate did odd jobs around the place, and the mule assisted his owner—that is when the mule felt like it.
In the second volume of the series, entitled "Tom Swift and His Motor-Boat," there was related the incidents following a pursuit after a gang of unprincipled men, who sought to get Possession of some of Mr. Swift's patents, and it was while in this boat that Tom, his father, and a friend, Ned Newton, rescued from Lake Carlopa a Mr. John Sharp, who fell from his burning balloon. Mr. Sharp was a skilled aeronaut, and after his recovery he joined Tom in building a big airship, called the Red Cloud. Tom's adventures in this craft are set down in detail in the third volume of the series, called "Tom Swift and His Airship." Not only did he and Mr. Sharp and Mr. Damon make a great trip, but they captured some bank robbers, and incidentally cleared themselves from the imputation of having looted the vault of seventy-five thousand dollars, which charge was fostered by a certain Mr. Foger, and his son Andy, who was Tom's enemy.
Not satisfied with having conquered the air, Tom and his father set to work to gain a victory over the ocean. They built a boat that could navigate under water, and, in the fourth book of the series, called "Tom Swift and His Submarine Boat," you will find an account of how they went under the ocean to secure a sunken treasure, and the fight they had with their enemies who sought to get it away from them. They went through many perils, not the least of which was capture by a foreign warship.
In the fifth book, entitled "Tom Swift and His Electric Runabout," there was told the story of a wonderfully speedy electric automobile the young inventor constructed, and how he made a great race in it, and saved from ruin a bank, in which his father and Mr. Damon were interested.
Tom's ability as an inventor had, by this time, become well known. One day, as related in a volume called "Tom Swift and His Wireless Message," he received a letter from a Mr. Hosmer Fenwick, of Philadelphia, asking his aid in perfecting an airship which the resident of the Quaker City had built, but which would not work. In his small monoplane, the Butterfly, Tom and Mr. Damon went to Philadelphia, as Mr. Damon was acquainted with Mr. Fenwick.
Tom carefully inspected the Whizzer which was the name of Mr. Fenwick's airship, and, after some difficulties, succeeded in getting the electric craft in shape to make a flight.
Tom, Mr. Damon and Mr. Fenwick started to make a trip to Cape May in the Whizzer, but were caught in a terrific storm, and blown out to sea. The wind became a hurricane, the airship was disabled, and wrecked in mid-air. When it fell to earth it landed on one of the small West Indian islands, but what was the terror of the three castaways to find that the island was subject to earthquake shocks.
But the earth-tremors were not the only surprise in store for Tom and his two friends, On the island they found five men and two ladies, who, by strange chance, had been stranded there when the yacht Resolute, owned by Mr. George Hosbrook, was wrecked in the same storm that disabled the airship. Mr. Hosbrook, a millionaire, was taking a party of friends to the West Indies.
When the castaways (among whom were Mr. and Mrs. Amos Nestor, parents of Mary Nestor, a girl of whom Tom was very fond) found that there was danger of the island being destroyed in an earthquake, they were in despair. There seemed no way of being rescued, as the island was out of the line of regular ship travel.
Tom, however, was resourceful. With the electrical apparatus from the wrecked airship, he built a wireless plant, and sent messages for help, broadcast over the ocean.
They were finally heard, and answered, by an operator on board the steamer Camberanian, which came on under forced draught, and rescued Tom and his friends. It was only just in time, for, no sooner had they gotten aboard the steamer in lifeboats, than the whole island was destroyed by an earthquake shock.
But Tom, the parents of Mary Nestor, Mr. Damon, Mr. Fenwick, and all the others, got safely home. Among the survivors from the yacht Resolute was a Mr. Barcoe Jenks, who now, most unexpectedly, had confronted Tom through the glass window of the jewelry store. Mr. Jenks was a peculiar man. Tom discovered this on Earthquake Island. Mr. Jenks carried with him some stones which he said were diamonds. He asserted that he had made them, but Tom did not know whether or not to believe this.
When it seemed that the castaways would not be saved Mr. Jenks offered Tom a large sum in these same diamonds for some plan whereby he might escape the earthquakes. Mr. Jenks said there was a certain secret in connection with the manufactured diamonds that he had to solve—that he had been defrauded of his rights—and that a certain Phantom Mountain figured in it. But Tom, at that time, paid little attention to Mr. Jenks' talk. The time was to come, however, when he would attach much importance to it.
When this story opens, Tom was more interested in Mr. Barcoe Jenks than in any one else, and was wondering what he wanted to see him about. The young inventor could not quite understand how Mr. Track, the jeweler, could come back with a lad he suspected of being a thief, when the person who had acted so suspiciously, and who had knocked on the glass, was the queer man, Mr. Jenks.
"Yes, Tom I caught him," the jeweler went on. "I chased after him, and nabbed him. It was hard work, too, for I'm not a good runner. Now, you little rascal, tell me why you tried to rob my store?" and the diamond merchant shook the lad roughly.
"I—I didn't try to rob your store," was the timid answer.
"Well, perhaps you didn't, exactly, but your confederates did. Why did you rap on the glass, and why were you staring in so intently?"
"I wasn't lookin' in."
"Well, if it wasn't you, it was some one just like you. But why did you run when I raced down the street?"
"I—I don't know," and the lad began to snivel. "I—I jest ran—that's all—'cause I see everybody else runnin', an' I thought there was a fire."
"Ha! That's a likely story! You ran because you are guilty! I'm going to hand you over to the police."
"Did he get anything, Mr. Track?" asked one of the men who had joined the jeweler in the chase.
"No, I can't say that he did. He didn't get a chance. Tom Swift was in here at the time. But this fellow was only waiting for a chance to steal, or else to aid his confederates."
"But, if he didn't take anything, I don't see how you can have him arrested," went on the man.
"On suspicion; that's how!" asserted Mr. Track. "Will some one get me a constable?"
"I wouldn't call a constable," said Tom, quietly.
"Because that isn't the person who looked in your window."
"How do you know, Tom?"
"Because that person came back while you were out. I saw him."
"You saw him? Did he try to steal any of my diamonds, Tom?"
"No, I guess he doesn't need any."
"Why not?" There was wonder in the jeweler's tone.
"Why, he claims he can make all he wants."
"So he says."
"Why, he must be crazy!" and Mr. Track laughed.
"Perhaps he is," admitted Tom, "I'm only telling you what he says. He's the person who acted so suspiciously. He came back here, I'm telling you, while you were running down the street, and spoke to me."
"Oh, then you know him?" The jeweler's voice was suspicious.
"I didn't at first," admitted Tom. "But when he said he was Mr. Barcoe Jenks, I remembered that I had met him when I was cast away on Earthquake Island."
"And he says he can make diamonds?" asked Mr. Track.
"What did he want of you?" and the jeweler looked at Tom, quizzically.
"He wanted to have a talk with me," replied the lad, "and when he saw me in your store, he tried to attract my attention by knocking on the glass."
"That's a queer way to do," declared Mr. Track. "What did he want?"
"I don't know exactly," answered Tom, not caring to go into details just then. "But I'm sure, Mr. Track, that you've got the wrong person there. That lad never looked in the window, nor knocked on the glass."
"That's right—I didn't," asserted the captive.
The jeweler looked doubtful.
"Why did you run?" he asked.
"I told you, I thought there was a fire."
"That's right, I don't believe he's the fellow you want," put in another man. "I was standing on the corner, near White's grocery store, and I noticed this lad. That was before I heard you yelling, and saw you coming, and then I joined in the chase. I guess the man you were after got away, Track."
"He did," asserted Tom. "He came back here, a little while ago, and he ran away just now, as he heard you coming."
"Where did he go?" asked the jeweler, eagerly.
"I don't know," answered Tom. "Only you've got the wrong lad here."
"Well, perhaps I have," admitted the diamond merchant. "You can go, youngster, but next time, don't run if you're not guilty."
"I thought there was a fire," repeated the lad, as he hurriedly slipped through the crowd in the store, and disappeared down the dark street.
"Well, I guess the excitement's all over, and, anyhow, you weren't robbed, Track," said a stout man, as he left the store. The others soon followed, and Tom and the jeweler were once more alone in the shop.
"Can you tell me something about this man, Tom?" asked Mr. Track, eagerly. "So he really makes diamonds. Who is he?"
"I'd rather not tell—just now," replied the young inventor. "I don't take much stock in him, myself. I think he's visionary. He may think he has made diamonds, and he may have made some stones that look like them. I'm very skeptical."
"If you could bring me some, Tom, I could soon tell whether they were real or not. Can you?"
The lad shook his head.
"I don't expect to see Mr. Jenks again," he said. "He talked rather wildly about waiting to meet me, but that man is odd—crazy, perhaps—and I don't imagine I'll see him. He's harmless, but he's eccentric. Well, there was quite some excitement for a time."
"I should say there was. I thought it was a plan to rob me," and the jeweler began putting away the diamond pins. In fact, the excitement so filled the minds of himself and Tom that neither of them thought any more of the object of the lad's visit, and the young inventor departed without purchasing the pin he had come after.
It was not until he was out on the street, walking toward his home, that the matter came back to his mind.
"I declare!" he exclaimed. "I didn't get that pin for Mary, after all! Well, never mind, I have a week until her birthday, and I can get it to-morrow."
He walked rapidly toward home, for the weather looked threatening, and Tom had no umbrella. He was musing on the happenings of the evening when he reached his house. His father was out, as was Garret Jackson, the engineer; and Mrs. Baggert, the housekeeper, was entertaining a lady in the sitting-room, so, as Tom was rather tired, he went directly to his own room, and, a little later got into bed.
It was shortly after midnight when he was awakened by hearing a rattling on the window of his room. The reason he was able to fix the time so accurately was because as soon as he awakened he pressed a little electric button, and it illuminated the face of a small clock on his bureau. The hands pointed to five minutes past twelve.
"Humph! That sounds like hail!" exclaimed Tom, as he arose, and looked out of the casement. "I wonder if any of the skylights of the airship shed are open? There might be some damage. Guess I'd better go out and take a look."
He had mentally reasoned this far before he had looked out, and when he saw that the moon was brightly shining in a clear sky, he was a bit surprised.
"Why—that wasn't hail," he murmured. "It isn't even raining. I wonder what it was?"
He was answered a moment later, for a shower of fine gravel from the walk flew up and clattered against the glass. With a start, Tom looked down, and saw a dark figure standing under an apple tree.
"Hello! Who's there?" called the lad, after he had raised the sash.
"It's I—Mr. Jenks," was the surprising answer.
"Mr. Jenks?" repeated Tom.
"Yes—Barcoe Jenks, of Earthquake Island."
"You here? What do you want?"
"Can you come down?"
"Tom Swift, I've something very important to tell you," was the answer in a low voice, yet which carried to Tom's ears perfectly. "Do you want to make a fortune for yourself—and for me?"
"How?" Tom was beginning to think more and more that Mr. Jenks was crazy.
"How? By helping me to discover the secret of Phantom Mountain, where the diamonds are made! Will you?"
"Wait a minute—I'll come down," answered Tom, and he began to grope for his clothes in the dim light of the little electric lamp.
What was the secret of Phantom Mountain? What did Mr. Jenks really want? Could he make diamonds? Tom asked himself these questions as he hastily dressed to go down to his midnight visitor.
CHAPTER III—A STRANGE STORY
"Well, Mr. Jenks," began Tom, when he had descended to the garden, and greeted the man who had acted so strangely on Earthquake Island, "this is rather an odd time for a visit."
"I realize that, Tom Swift," was the answer, and the lad noticed that the man spoke much more calmly than he had that evening at the jewelry shop. "I realize that, but I have to be cautious in my movements."
"Because there are enemies on my track. If they thought I was seeking aid to discover the secret of Phantom Mountain, my life might pay the forfeit."
"Are you in earnest, Mr. Jenks?"
"I certainly am, and, while I must apologize for awakening you at this unseemly hour, and for the mysterious nature of my visit, if you will let me tell my story, you will see the need of secrecy."
"Oh, I don't mind being awakened," answered Tom, good-naturedly, "but I will be frank with you, Mr. Jenks. I hardly can believe what you have stated to me several times—that you know how diamonds can be made."
"I can prove it to you," was the quiet answer.
"Yes, I know. For centuries men have tried to discover the secret of transmuting base metals into gold, and how to make diamonds by chemical means. But they have all been failures."
"All except this process—the process used at Phantom Mountain," insisted the queer man. "Do you want to hear my story?"
"I have no objections."
"Then let me warn you," went on Mr. Jenks, "that if you do hear it, you will be so fascinated by it that I am sure you will want to cast your lot in with mine, and aid me to get my rights, and solve the mystery. And I also want to warn you that if you do, there is a certain amount of danger connected with it."
"I'm used to danger," answered Tom, quietly. "Let me hear your story. But first explain how you came to come here, and why you acted so strangely at the jewelry store."
"Willingly. I tried to attract your attention at the store, because I saw that you were going to buy a diamond, and I didn't want you to."
"Because I want to present you with a beautiful stone, that will answer your purpose as well or better, than any one you could buy. That will prove my story better than any amount of words or argument. But I could not attract your attention without also attracting that of the jeweler. He became suspicious, gave chase, and I thought it best to vanish. I hope no one was made to suffer for what may have been my imprudence."
"No, the lad whom Mr. Track caught was let go. But how did you happen to come to Shopton?"
"To see you. I got your address from the owner of the yacht Resolute. I knew that if there was one person who could aid me to recover my rights, it would be you, Tom Swift. Will you help me? Will you come with me to discover the secret of Phantom Mountain? If we go, it will have to be in an airship, for in no other way, I think, can we come upon the place, as it is closely guarded. Will you come? I will pay you well."
"Perhaps I had better hear your story," said the young inventor. "But first let me suggest that we move farther away from the house. My father, or Mr. Jackson, or the housekeeper, may hear us talking, and it may disturb them. Come with me to my private shop," and Tom led the way to a small building where he did experimental work. He unlocked the door with a key he carried, turned on the lights, which were run by a storage battery, and motioned Mr. Jenks to a seat.
"Now I'll hear your story," said Tom.
"I'll make it as short as possible," went on the queer man. "To begin with, it is now several years ago since a poorly dressed stranger applied to me one night for money enough to get a meal and a bed to sleep in. I was living in New York City at the time, and this was midnight, as I was returning home from my club.
"I was touched by the man's appearance, and gave him some money. He asked for my card, saying he would repay me some day. I gave it to him, little thinking I would hear from the man again. But I did. He called at my apartments about a week later, saying he had secured work as an expert setter of diamonds, and wanted to repay me. I did not want to take his money, but the fact that such a sorry looking specimen of manhood as he had been when I aided him, was an expert handler of gems interested me. I talked with the man, and he made a curious statement.
"This man, who gave his name as Enos Folwell, said he knew a place where diamonds could be made, partly in a scientific manner, and partly by the forces of nature. I laughed at him, but he told me so many details that I began to believe him. He said he and some other friends of his, who were diamond cutters, had a plant in the midst of the Rocky Mountains, where they had succeeded in making several small, but very perfect diamonds. They had come to the end of their rope, though, so to speak, because they could not afford to buy the materials needed. Folwell said that he and his companions had temporarily separated, had left the mountain where they made diamonds, and agreed to meet there later when they had more money with which to purchase materials. They had all agreed to go out into civilization, and work for enough funds to enable them to go on with their diamond making.
"I hardly knew whether to believe the man or not, but he offered proof. He had several small, but very perfect diamonds with him, and he gave them to me, to have tested in any way I desired.
"I promised to look into the matter, and, as I was quite wealthy, as, in fact I am now, and if I found that the stones he gave me were real, I said I might invest some money in the plant."
"Were the diamonds good?" asked Tom, who was beginning to be interested.
"They were—stones of the first water, though small. An expert gem merchant, to whom I took them, said he had never seen any diamonds like them, and he wanted to know where I got them. Of course I did not tell him.
"To make a long story short, I saw Folwell again, told him to communicate with his companions, and to tell them that I would agree to supply the cash needed, if I could share in the diamond making. To this they agreed, and, after some weeks spent in preparation, a party of us set out for Phantom Mountain."
"Phantom Mountain?" interrupted Tom. "Where is it?"
"I don't know, exactly—it's somewhere in the Rockies, but the exact location is a mystery. That is why I need your help. You will soon understand the reason. Well, as I said, myself, Folwell and the others, who were not exactly prepossessing sort of men, started west. When we got to a small town, called Indian Ridge, near Leadville, Colorado, the men insisted that I must now proceed in secret, and consent to be blindfolded, as they were not yet ready to reveal the secret of the place where they made the diamonds.
"I did not want to agree to this, but they insisted, and I gave in, foolishly perhaps. At any rate I was blindfolded one night, placed in a wagon, and we drove off into the mountains. After traveling for some distance I was led, still blindfolded, up a steep trail.
"When the bandage was taken off my eyes I saw that I was in a large cave. The men were with me, and they apologized for the necessity that caused them to blindfold me. They said they were ready to proceed with the making of diamonds, but I must promise not to seek to discover the secret until they gave me permission, nor was I to attempt to leave the cave. I had to agree.
"Next they demanded that I give them a large sum, which I had promised when they showed me, conclusively, that they could make diamonds. I refused to do this until I had seen some of the precious stones, and they agreed that this was fair, but said I would have to wait a few days.
"Well, I waited, and, all that while, I was virtually a prisoner in the cave. All I could learn was that it was in the midst of a great range, near the top, and that one of the peaks was called Phantom Mountain. Why, I did not learn until later.
"At last one night, during a terrific thunder storm, the leader of the diamond makers—Folwell—announced that I could now see the stones made. The men had been preparing their chemicals for some days previous. I was taken into a small chamber of the cave, and there saw quite a complicated apparatus. Part of it was a great steel box, with a lever on it.
"We will let you make some diamonds for yourself," Folwell said to me, and he directed me to pull the lever of the box, at a certain signal. The signal came, just as a terrific crash of thunder shook the very mountain inside of which we were. The box of steel got red-hot, and when it cooled off it was opened, and was given a handful of white stones.
"Were they diamonds?" asked Tom, eagerly.
Mr. Jenks held out one hand. In the palm glittered a large stone—ostensibly a diamond. In the rays of the moon it showed all the colors of the rainbow—a beautiful gem. "That is one of the stones I made—or rather that I supposed I had made," went on Mr. Jenks. "It is one of several I have, but they have not all been cut and polished as has this one.
"Naturally I was much impressed by what I saw, and, after I had made certain tests which convinced me that the stones in the steel box were diamonds, I paid over the money as I had promised. That was my undoing."
"As soon as the men got the cash, they had no further use for me. The next I remember is eating a rude meal, while we discussed the future of making diamonds. I knew nothing more until I found myself back in the small hotel at Indian Ridge, whence I had gone some time previous, with the men, to the cave in the mountain."
"What happened?" asked Tom, much surprised by the unexpected outcome of the affair. "I had been tricked, that was all! As soon as the men had my money they had no further use for me. They did not want me to learn the secret of their diamond making, and they drugged me, carried me away from the cave, and left me in the hotel."
"Didn't you try to find the cave again?"
"I did, but without avail. I spent some time in the Rockies, but no one could tell where Phantom Mountain was; in fact, few had heard of it, and I was nearly lost searching for it.
"I came back East, determined to get even. I had given the men a very large sum of money, and, in exchange, they had given me several diamonds. Probably the stones are worth nearly as much as the money I invested, but I was cheated, for I was promised an equal share in the profits. These were denied me, and I was tricked. I determined to be revenged, or at least to discover the secret of making diamonds. It is my right."
"I agree with you," spoke Tom.
"But, up to the time I met you on Earthquake Island, I could form no plan for discovering Phantom Mountain, and learning the secret of the diamond makers," went on Mr. Jenks. "I carried the gems about with me, as you doubtless saw when we were on the island. But I knew I needed an airship in which to fly over the mountains, and pick out the location of the cave where the diamonds are made."
"But how can you locate it, if you were blindfolded when you were taken there, Mr. Jenks?"
"I forgot to tell you that, on our journey into the mountains, and just before I was carried into the cave, I managed to raise one corner of the bandage. I caught a glimpse of a very peculiarly shaped cliff—it is like a great head, standing out in bold relief against the moonlight, when I saw it. That head of rock is near the cave. It may be the landmark by which we can locate Phantom Mountain."
"Perhaps," admitted the young inventor.
"What I want to know is this," went on Mr. Jenks. "Will you go with me on this quest—go in your airship to discover the secret of the diamond makers? If you will, I will share with you whatever diamonds we can discover, or make; besides paying all expenses. Will you go, Tom Swift?"
The young inventor did not know what to answer. How far was Mr. Jenks to be trusted? Were the stones he had real diamonds? Was his story, fantastical as it sounded—true? Would it be safe for Tom to go?
The lad asked himself these questions. Mr. Jenks saw his hesitation.
"Here," said the strange man, "I will prove what I say. Take this diamond. I intended it for you, anyhow, for what you did for me on Earthquake Island. Take it, and—and give it to the person for whom you were about to purchase a diamond to-night. But, first of all, take it to a gem expert, and get his opinion. That will prove the truth of what I say, Tom Swift, and I feel sure that you will cast your lot in with mine, and help me to discover the secret of Phantom Mountain, and aid me to get my rights from the diamond makers!"
CHAPTER IV—ANDY FOGER GETS A FRIGHT
Tom Swift considered a few minutes. On the face of it, the proposition appealed to him. He had been home some time now after his adventures on Earthquake Island, and he was beginning to long for more excitement. The search for the mysterious mountain, and the cave of the diamond makers, might offer a new field for him. But there came to him a certain distrust of Mr. Jenks.
"I don't like to doubt your word," began Tom, slowly, "but you know, Mr. Jenks, that some of the greatest chemists have tried in vain to make diamonds; or, at best, they have made only tiny ones. To think that any man, or set of men, made real diamonds as large as the ones you have, doesn't seem—well—" and Tom hesitated.
"You mean you can hardly believe me?" asked Mr. Jenks.
"I guess that's it," assented Tom.
"I don't blame you a bit!" exclaimed the odd man. "In fact, I didn't believe it when they told me they could make diamonds. But they proved it to me. I'm ready now to prove it to you."
"I'll tell you what I'll do. Here's this one stone, cut ready for setting. Here's another, uncut," and Mr. Jenks drew from his pocket what looked like a piece of crystal. "Take them to any jeweler," he resumed—"to the one in whose place I saw you to-night. I'll abide by the verdict you get, and I'll come here to-morrow night, and hear what you have to say."
"Why do you come at night?" asked Tom, thinking there was something suspicious in that.
"Because my life might be in danger if I was seen talking to you, and showing you diamonds in the daytime—especially just now.
"Why at this particular time?"
"For the reason that the diamond makers are on my trail. As long as I remained quiet, after their shabby treatment of me, and did not try to discover their secret, they were all right. But, after I realized that I had been cheated out of my rights, and when I began to make an investigation, with a view to discovering their secret whereabouts, I received mysterious and anonymous warnings to stop."
"But I did not. I came East, and tried to get help to discover the cave of the diamond makers, but I was unsuccessful. I needed an airship, as I—said, and no person who could operate one, would agree to go with me on the quest. Again I received a warning to drop all search for the diamond makers, but I persisted, and about a week ago I found I was being shadowed."
"Shadowed; by whom?" asked Tom.
"By a man I never remember seeing, but who, I have no doubt, is one of the diamond-making gang."
"Do you think he means you harm?"
"I'm sure of it. That is the reason I have to act so in secret, and come to see you at night. I don't want those scoundrels to find out what I am about to do. On my return from Earthquake Island, I again endeavored to interest an airship man in my plan, but he evidently thought me insane. Then I thought of you, as I had done before, but I was afraid you, too, would laugh at my proposition. However, I decided to come here, and I did. It seemed almost providential that my first view of you was in a jewelry shop, looking at diamonds. I took it as a good omen. Now it remains with you. May I call here to-morrow night, and get your answer?"
Tom Swift made up his mind quickly. After all it would be easy enough to find out if the diamonds were real. If they were, he could then decide whether or not to go with Mr. Jenks on the mysterious quest. So he answered:
"I'll consider the matter, Mr. Jenks. I'll meet you here to-morrow night. In the meanwhile, for my own satisfaction, I'll let an expert look at these stones."
"Get the greatest diamond expert in the world, and he'll pronounce them perfect!" predicted the odd man. "Now I'll bid you goodnight, and be going. I'll be here at this time to-morrow."
As Mr. Jenks turned aside there was a movement among the trees in the orchard, and a shadowy figure was seen hurrying away.
"Who's that?" asked the diamond man, in a hoarse whisper. "Did you see that, Tom Swift? Some one was here—listening to what I said! Perhaps it was the man who has been shadowing me!"
"I think not. I guess it was Eradicate Sampson, a colored man who does work for us," said Tom. "Is that you, Rad?" he called.
"Yais, sah, Massa Tom, heah I is!" answered the voice of the negro, but it came from an entirely different direction than that in which the shadowy figure had been seen.
"Where are you, Rad?" called the young inventor.
"Right heah," was the reply, and the colored man came from the direction of the stable. "I were jest out seein' if mah mule Boomerang were all right. Sometimes he's restless, an' don't sleep laik he oughter."
"Then that wasn't you over in the orchard?" asked Tom, in some uneasiness.
"No, sah, I ain't been in de orchard. I were sleepin' in mah shack, till jest a few minutes ago, when I got up, an' went in t' see Boomerang. I had a dream dat some coon were tryin t' steal him, an' it sort ob 'sturbed me, laik."
"If it wasn't your man, it was some one else," said Mr. Jenks, decidedly.
"We'll have a look!" exclaimed Tom. "Here, Rad, come over and scurry among those trees. We just saw some one sneaking around."
"I'll sure do dat!" cried the colored man. "Mebby it were somebody arter Boomerang! I'll find 'em."
"I don't believe it was any one after the mule," murmured Mr. Jenks, "but it certainly was some one—more likely some one after me."
The three made a hasty search among the trees, but the intruder had vanished, leaving no trace. They went out into the road, which the moon threw into bold relief along its white stretch, but there was no figure scurrying away.
"Whoever it was, is gone," spoke Tom. "You can go back to bed, Rad," for the colored man, of late, had been sleeping in a shack on the Swift premises.
"And I guess it's time for me to go, too," added Mr. Jenks. "I'll be here to-morrow night, Tom, and I hope your answer will be favorable."
Tom did not sleep well the remainder of the night, for his fitful slumbers were disturbed by dreams of enormous caves, filled with diamonds, with dark, shadowy figures trying to put him into a red-hot steel box. Once he awakened with a start, and put his hand under his pillow to feel if the two stones Mr. Jenks had given him, were still there. They had not been disturbed.
Tom made up his mind to find out if the stones were really diamonds, before saying anything to his father about the chance of going to seek Phantom Mountain. And the young inventor wished to get the opinion of some other jeweler than Mr. Track—at least, at first.
"Though if this one proves to be a good gem, I'll have Mr. Track set it in a brooch, and give it to Mary for her birthday," decided the young inventor. "Guess I'll take a run over to Chester in the Butterfly, and see what one of the jewelers there has to say."
In addition to his big airship, Red Cloud, Tom owned a small, swift monoplane, which he called Butterfly. This had been damaged by Andy Foger just before Tom left on the trip that ended at Earthquake Island, but the monoplane had been repaired, and Andy had left town, not having returned since.
Telling his father that he was going off on a little business trip, which he often did in his aeroplane, Tom, with the aid of Mr. Jackson, the engineer, wheeled the Butterfly out of its shed.
Adjusting the mechanism, and seeing that it was in good shape, Tom took his place in one of the two seats, for the monoplane would carry two. Mr. Jackson then spun the propellers, and, with a crackle and roar the motor started. Over the ground ran the dainty, little aeroplane, until, having momentum enough, Tom tilted the wing planes and the machine sailed up into the air.
Rising about a thousand feet, and circling about several times to test the wind currents, Tom headed his craft toward Chester, a city about fifty miles from Shopton. In his pocket, snugly tucked away, were the two stones Mr. Jenks had given him.
It was not long before Tom saw, looming up in the distance the church spires and towering factory chimneys of Chester, for his machine was a speedy one, and could make ninety miles an hour when driven. But now a slower speed satisfied our hero.
"I'll just drop down outside of the city," he reasoned, "for too much of a crowd gathers when I land in the street. Besides I might frighten horses, and then, too, it's hard to get a good start from the street. I'll leave it in some barn until I want to go back."
Tom sent his craft down, in order to pick out a safe place for a landing. He was then over the suburbs of the city, and was following the line of a straight country road.
"Looks like a good place there," he murmured. "I'll shut off the motor, and vol-plane down."
Suiting the action to the word, Tom shut off his power. The little craft dipped toward the ground, but the lad threw up the forward planes, and caught a current of air that sent him skimming along horizontally.
As he got nearer to the ground, he saw the figure of a lad riding a bicycle along the country highway. Something about the figure struck Tom as being familiar, and he recognized the cyclist a moment later.
"It's Andy Foger!" said Tom, in a whisper. "I wondered where he had been keeping himself since he damaged the Butterfly. Evidently he doesn't dare venture back to Shopton. Well, here's where I give him a scare."
Tom's monoplane was making no more noise, now, than a soaring bird. He was gliding swiftly toward the earth, and, with the plan in his mind of administering some sort of punishment to the bully, he aimed the machine directly at him.
Nearer and nearer shot the monoplane, as quietly as a sheet of paper might fall. Andy pedaled on, never looking up nor behind him, A moment later, as Tom threw up his headplanes, to make his landing more easy, and just as he swooped down at one side of the cyclist, our hero let out a most alarming yell, right into Andy's ear.
"Now I've got you!" he shouted. "I'll teach you to slash my aeroplane! Come with me!"
Andy gave one look at the white bird-like apparatus that had flown up beside him so noiselessly, and, being too frightened to recognize Tom's voice, must have thought that he had been overtaken by some supernatural visitor.
Andy gave a yell like an Indian, about to do a stage scalping act, and fairly dived over the handlebars of his bicycle, sprawling in a heap on the dusty road.
"I guess that will hold you for a while," observed Tom, grimly, as he put on the ground-brake and brought his monoplane to a stop not far from the fallen rider.
CHAPTER V—A MYSTERIOUS MAN
For several minutes Andy Foger did not arise. He remained prostrate in the dust, and Tom, observing him, thought perhaps the bully might have been seriously injured. But, a little later, Andy cautiously raised his head, and inquired in a frightened voice:
"Is it—is it gone?"
"Is what gone?" asked Tom, grimly.
At the sound of his voice, Andy looked up. "Was that you, Tom Swift?" he demanded. "Did you knock me off my wheel?"
"My monoplane and I together did," was the reply; "or, rather, we didn't. It was the nervous reaction caused by your fright, and the knowledge that you had done wrong, that made you jump over the handlebars. That's the scientific explanation."
"You—you did it!" stammered Andy, getting to his feet. He wasn't hurt much, Tom thought.
"Have it your own way," resumed our hero. "Did you think it was a hob-goblin in a chariot of fire after you, Andy?"
"Huh! Never mind what I thought! I'll have you arrested for this!"
"Will you? Delighted, as the boys say. Hop in my airship and I'll take you right into town. And when I get you there I'll make a charge of malicious mischief against you, for breaking the propeller of the Butterfly and slashing her wings. I've mended her up, however, so she goes better than ever, and I can take you to the police station in jig time. Want to come, Andy?"
This was too much for the bully. He knew that Tom would have a clear case against him, and he did not dare answer. Instead he shuffled over to where his wheel lay, picked it up, and rode slowly off.
"Good riddance," murmured Tom. He looked about, and saw that he was near a house, in the rear of which was a good-sized barn. "Guess I'll ask if I can leave the Butterfly there," he murmured, and, ringing the doorbell, he was greeted by a man.
"I'll pay you if you'll let me store my machine in the barn a little while, until I go into the city, and return," spoke the lad.
"Indeed, you're welcome to leave it there without pay," was the answer. "I'm interested in airships, and, I'll consider it a favor if you'll let me look yours over while it's here."
Tom readily agreed, and a few minutes later he had caught a trolley going into the city. He was soon in one of the largest jewelry stores of Chester.
"I'd like to get an expert opinion as to whether or not those stones are diamonds," spoke Tom, to the polite clerk who came up to wait on him, and our hero handed over the two gems which Mr. Jenks had given him. "I'm willing to pay for the appraisement, of course," the young inventor added, as he saw the clerk looking rather doubtfully at him, for Tom had on a rough suit, which he always donned when he flew in his monoplane.
"I'll turn them over to our Mr. Porter, a gem expert," said the clerk. "Please be seated."
The young man disappeared into a private office with the stones, and Tom waited. He wondered if he was going to have his trouble for his pains. Presently two elderly gentlemen came from the little room, on the glass door of which appeared the word "Diamonds."
"Who brought these stones in?" asked one of the men, evidently the proprietor, from the deference paid him by the clerk. The latter motioned to Tom.
"Will you kindly step inside here?" requested the elderly man. When the door was closed, Tom found himself in a room which was mostly taken up with a bench for the display of precious stones, a few chairs, and some lights arranged peculiarly; while various scales and instruments stood on a table.
"You wished an opinion on—on these?" queried the proprietor of the place. Tom noticed at once that the word "diamonds" was not used.
"I wanted to find out if they were of any value," he said. "Are they diamonds?"
"Would you mind stating where you got them?" asked the other of the two men.
"Is that necessary?" inquired the lad. "I came by them in a legitimate manner, if that's what you mean, and I can satisfy you on that point. I am willing to pay for any information you may give me as to their value."
"Oh, it isn't that," the proprietor hastened to assure him. "But these are diamonds of such a peculiar kind, so perfect and without a flaw, that I wondered from what part of the world they came."
"Then they are diamonds?" asked Tom, eagerly.
"The finest I have ever tested!" declared the other man, evidently Mr. Porter, the gem expert. "They are a joy to look at, Mr. Roberts," he went on, turning to the proprietor. "If it is possible to get a supply of them you would be justified in asking half as much again as we charge for African or Indian diamonds. The Kimberly products are not to be compared to these," and he looked at the two stones in his hand—the one cut, and sparkling brilliantly, the other in a rough state.
"Do you care to state where these diamonds came from?" asked Mr. Roberts, looking critically at Tom.
"I had rather not," answered the lad. "It is enough for me to know that they are diamonds. How much is your charge?"
"Nothing," was the unexpected answer. "We are very glad to have had the opportunity of seeing such stones. Is there any chance of getting any more?"
"Perhaps," answered Tom, as he accepted the gems which the expert held out to him.
"Then might we speak for a supply?" went on Mr. Roberts, eagerly. "We will pay you the full market price."
"What is the value of these stones?" asked Tom.
Mr. Roberts looked at his gem expert.
"It is difficult to say," was the answer of the man who had handed Tom the gems. "They are so far superior to the usual run of diamonds, that I feel justified in saying that the cut one would bring fifteen hundred dollars, anywhere. In fact, I would offer that for it. The other is larger, though what it would lose in cutting would be hard to say. I should say it was worth two thousand dollars as it is now."
"Thirty-five hundred dollars for these two stones!" exclaimed Tom.
"They are worth every cent of it," declared Mr. Roberts. "Do you want to sell?"
Tom shook his head. He could scarcely believe the good news. Mr. Jenks had told the truth. Now the young inventor could go with him to seek the diamond makers.
"Can you get any more of these?" went on Mr. Roberts.
"I think so—that is I don't know—I am going to try," answered the lad.
"Then if you succeed I wish you would sell us some," fairly begged the proprietor of the store.
"I will," promised Tom, but he little knew what lay before him, or perhaps he would not have made that promise. He thanked the diamond merchant for his kindness, and arranged to have the cut stone set in a pin for Miss Nestor. The uncut gem Tom took away with him.
Thinking of many things, and wondering how best to start in his airship Red Cloud for the mysterious Phantom Mountain, Tom hurried back to where he had left the monoplane, wheeled it out, and was soon soaring through the air toward Shopton.
"I think I'll go with Mr. Jenks," he decided, as he prepared for a landing in the open space near his aeroplane shed. "It will be a risky trip, perhaps, but I've taken risks before. When Mr. Jenks comes to-night I'll tell him I'll help him to get his rights, and discover the secret of the diamond makers."
As Tom was wheeling the Butterfly into the shed, Eradicate came out to help him.
"Dere's a gen'man here to see yo', Massa Tom," said the colored man.
"Who is it?"
"I dunno. He keep askin' ef yo' de lad what done bust up Earthquake Island, an' send lightnin' flashes up to de sky, an' all sech questions laik dat."
"It isn't Mr. Damon; is it, Rad? He hasn't been around in some time."
"No, Massa Tom, it ain't him. I knows dat blessin' man good an' proper. I jest wish he'd bless mah mule Boomerang some day, an' take some oh de temper out ob him. No, sah, it ain't Massa Damon. De gen'man's in de airship shed waitin' fo' you."
"In the airship shed! No strangers are allowed in there, Rad."
"I knows it, Massa Tom, but he done persisted his se'f inter it, an' he wouldn't come out when I told him; an' your pa an' Mr. Jackson ain't home."
"I'll see about this," exclaimed Tom, striding to the large shed, where the Red Cloud was kept. As he entered it he saw a man looking over the wonderful craft.
"Did you want to see me?" asked Tom, sharply, for he did not like strangers prowling around.
"I did, and I apologize for entering here, but I am interested in airships, and I thought you might want to hire a pilot. I am in need of employment, and I have had considerable to do with balloons and aeroplanes, but never with an airship like this, which combines the two features. Do you wish to hire any one."
"No, I don't!" replied Tom, sharply, for he did not like the looks of the man.
"I was told that you did," was the rather surprising answer.
"Who told you?"
The man looked all around the shed, before replying, as if fearful of being overheard. Then, stepping close to Tom, he whispered:
"Mr. Jenks told me!"
"Mr. Jenks?" Tom could not conceal his astonishment.
"Yes. Mr. Barcoe Jenks. But I did not come here to merely ask you for employment. I would like to hire out to you, but the real object of my visit was to say this to you."
The man approached still closer to Tom, and, in a lower voice, and one that could scarcely be heard, he fairly hissed:
"Don't go with Barcoe Jenks to seek the diamond makers!"
Then, before Tom could put out a hand to detain him, had the lad so wished, the man turned suddenly, and fairly ran from the shed.
CHAPTER VI—MR. DAMON IS ON HAND
The young inventor stood almost spellbound for a few moments. Then recovering himself he made a dash for the door through which the mysterious man had disappeared. Tom saw him sprinting down the road, and was half-minded to take after him, but a cooler thought warned him that he had better not.
"He may be one of those men who are on Mr. Jenks' trail," reasoned Tom, in which case it might not be altogether safe to attempt to stop him, and make him explain. Or he may be a lunatic, and in that case it wouldn't be altogether healthy to interfere with him.
"I'll just let him go, and tell Mr. Jenks about him when he comes to-night. But I must warn Rad never to let him in here again. He might damage the airship."
Calling to the colored man, Tom pointed to the stranger, who was almost out of sight down the road, and said earnestly:
"Rad, do you see that fellow?"
"I sho do, Massa Tom, but I sorter has t' strain my eyes t' do it. He's goin' laik my mule Boomerang does when he's comm' home t' dinnah."
"That's right, Rad. Well, never let that man set foot inside our fence again! If he comes, and I'm home, call me. If I'm away, call dad or Mr. Jackson, and if you're here alone, drive him away, somehow."
"I will, Massa Tom!" exclaimed the colored man, earnestly, "an' if I can't do it alone, I'll get Boomerang t' help. Once let dat ar' mule git his heels on a pusson, an' dat pusson ain't goin' t' come bodderin' around any mo'—that is, not right away."
"I believe you, Rad. Well, keep a lookout for him, and don't let him in," and with that Tom entered the house to think over matters. They were beginning to assume an aspect he did not altogether like. Not that Tom was afraid of danger, but he preferred to meet it in the open, and the warning, or threat, of the mysterious man disquieted him.
When Mr. Swift came home, a little later, his son told him of the midnight interview with Mr. Jenks, for, up to this time, the aged inventor was unaware of it, and Tom also gave an account of the diamonds, speaking of their value.
"And do you propose to go to Phantom Mountain, in search of the makers of these gems, Tom?" asked Mr. Swift.
"I had about decided to do so, dad."
"And you're going in the Red Cloud?'
"Who are going with you?"
"Well, Mr. Jenks will go, of course, and I've no doubt but that if I mention the prospective trip to Mr. Damon, that he'll bless his skating cap, or something like that, and come along."
"I suppose so, Tom, and I'd like to have you take him. But I think you'll need some one else."
"Because, from what you have told me, you are going out to a dangerous part of the country, and you may have to deal with unscrupulous men. Three of you are hardly enough to cope with them. You ought to have at least another member of your party. If I was not busy on my invention of a new wireless motor I would go along, but I can't leave. You might take Mr. Jackson."
"No, you need him here to help you, dad."
"How about Eradicate?"
"Rad would get homesick for his mule Boomerang, and I'd have to bring him back just when we'd found the diamonds," replied the young inventor. "No, we'll have to think of some one else. I'll ask Mr. Damon, and then I'll consider matters further. I expect to see Mr. Jenks to-night, and he may have some one in mind."
"Perhaps that will be a good plan. Well, Tom, I trust you will take good care of yourself, and not run into unnecessary danger. Is the Red Cloud in good shape for the voyage?"
"It needs looking over. I'm going to get right at it."
"It's a pretty indefinite sort of a quest you're going on, Tom, my son. How do you expect to find Phantom Mountain?"
"Well, it's going to be quite a task. In the first place we'll head for Leadville, Colorado, and then we'll go to Indian Ridge and make some inquiries. We may get on the track of the place that way. If we don't, why I'll take the airship up as high as is necessary and sort of prospect until we see that big cliff that's shaped like a head. That will give us something to go by."
"Well, do the best you can. If you can discover the secret of making diamonds it will be a valuable one."
"I guess it will, dad; and Mr. Jenks is entitled to know it, for he paid his good money to that end. He has promised to go halves with me, as payment for the use of the airship, and I must say the two diamonds he gave me last night have proved very valuable."
"Two diamonds, Tom? You only showed me one, an uncut gem;" and Mr. Swift looked at his son.
"Oh, the other—er—the other is—I left it with a jeweler," and Tom blushed a trifle, as he thought of the present he contemplated making to Mary Nestor.
That afternoon, as Tom was out in the shed of the Red Cloud looking over the airship, to see what would be necessary to do to it in order to get it in shape for a long trip, he heard voices outside.
"Yes—yes, I know the way in perfectly well," he caught. "You needn't bother to come, my good fellow. Just step this way, and I'll show you something worth seeing."
"I wonder if it's that mysterious man coming back?" thought Tom. He dropped the tool he was using, and hurried to the door. As he approached it he heard the voice continue.
"Why bless my shoe laces, Mr. Parker! You'll see a wonderful airship, I promise you. Wonderful! Bless my hatband, but I hope Tom is here!"
"Mr. Damon!" exclaimed our hero, as he recognized the tones of his eccentric friend. "But who is with him?"
A moment later he caught sight of the gentleman who was always blessing himself, or something. Behind him stood another man, whose features Tom could not see plainly.
"Hello, Tom Swift!" called Mr. Damon. "Looking over the Red Cloud, eh? Does that mean you're off on another trip?"
"I guess it does," answered the lad.
"Where to this time? if I may ask."
"I'm thinking of going off to the mountains to find a band of men engaged in making diamonds," replied Tom.
"Making diamonds! Bless my finger ring! Making diamonds! A trip to the mountains! Bless my disposition! but do you know I'd like to go with you!"
"I was thinking of asking you, Mr. Damon."
"Were you? Bless my heart, I'm glad you thought of me. You don't by any possible chance want another person; do you?"
"We were thinking of having four in the party, Mr. Damon," and Tom wondered who was with his eccentric friend.
"Then bless my election ticket! This is the very chance for you, Mr. Parker!" cried Mr. Damon. "Will you go with us? It will be just what you need," and Mr. Damon stepped aside, revealing to Tom the features of Mr. Ralph Parker, the scientist who had correctly predicted the destruction of Earthquake Island.
CHAPTER VII—MR. PARKER PREDICTS
Tom Swift was a most generous lad, but when he saw that Mr. Damon had with him Mr. Parker, the gloomy scientist, who seemed to take delight in predicting disasters, our hero's spirits were not exactly of the best. He would have much preferred not to take Mr. Parker on the quest for the diamond makers, but, since Mr. Damon had mentioned it, he did not see how he could very well refuse.
"But perhaps he won't care to go," thought Tom.
He was undeceived a moment later, however, for the scientist remarked:
I am very glad to meet you once more, Mr. Swift. I have scarcely thanked you enough for what you did for us in erecting your wireless station on Earthquake Island, which, as you recall, I predicted would sink into the sea. It did, I am glad to say, not because I like to see islands destroyed, but because science has been vindicated. Now I have just heard you remark that you are about to set off to the mountains in search of some men who are making diamonds. I need hardly state that this is utterly useless, for no diamonds, commercially valuable, can be made by men. But the trip may be valuable in that it will permit me to demonstrate some scientific facts.
"Therefore, if you will permit me, I will be very glad to accompany you and Mr. Damon. I shall be delighted, in short, and I can start as soon as you are ready."
"There's no hope for it!" thought Tom, dismally. "I suppose he'll wake up every morning, and predict that before night the world will come to an end, or he'll prophesy that the airship will blow up, and vanish, when about seven miles above the clouds. Well, there's no way out of it, so here goes."
Thereupon Tom welcomed the scientist as cordially as he could, and invited him to form one of the party that would set off in the airship to search for Phantom Mountain.
"Bless my jewelry box!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, when this formality was over. "Tell me more about it, Tom."
Which our hero did, stating the need of maintaining secrecy on account of the danger to Mr. Jenks. Mr. Damon and Mr. Parker both agreed to say nothing about the matter, and then the scientist became much interested in the Red Cloud, which he closely examined. He even complimented Tom on the skill shown in making it, and, contrary to our hero's expectation, did not predict that it would blow up the next time it was used.
"How did you happen to arrive just at this time, Mr. Damon?" asked Tom.
"It was partly due to Mr. Parker," was the answer. "I had not seen him since we were rescued from the island, until a few days ago he called on me at my home. I happened to mention that you lived near here, and suggested that he might like to see some of your inventions. He agreed, and we came over in my auto. And now, bless my liver-pin! I find you about to start off on another trip."
"And have you fully decided to go with me?" asked Tom. "There may be danger, and I don't like the way that mysterious man behaved."
"Oh, bless my revolver!" cried Mr. Damon. "I'm used to danger by this time. Of course I'm going, and so is Mr. Parker. Do you know," and the man, who was always blessing something, came closer to the lad, and whispered: "Do you know, Tom, Mr. Parker is a very peculiar individual."
"I'm sure of it," answered the young inventor, looking at the gentleman in question, who was then inside the airship cabin.
"But he's all right, even if he is predicting unpleasant things," went on Mr. Damon. "I think we'll get better acquainted with him after a bit."
"I hope so," agreed Tom, but he did not realize then how close his companionship with Mr. Parker was to be, nor what dangers they were to share later.
The friends talked at considerable length of the prospective trip, and Tom, by this time, had ascertained what needed to be done to the airship to get it in shape to travel. It would take about a week, and, in the meanwhile, Mr. Damon would go home and get his affairs in order for the voyage. Tom's father was introduced to Mr. Parker, and, the former, finding that the scientist held some views in common with him, invited the gloomy predictor to remain at the Swift home until the Red Cloud was ready to sail. Tom could not repress a groan at this, but he decided he would have to make the best of it.
Mr. Damon left for home that afternoon, promising to be on hand at the time set to start for Phantom Mountain.
Tom was up waiting for Mr. Jenks at twelve o'clock that night. Shortly after the hour he saw a dark figure steal into the orchard. At first he feared lest it might be one of the spies who were, he was now convinced, on the trail of the man who was seeking to discover the secret of the diamond makers. But a whistle, which came to the lad's ear a moment later (that being a signal Mr. Jenks had agreed to sound), told Tom that it was none other than the visitor he expected.
"All right, Mr. Jenks, I'm here," called Tom, cautiously. "Come over this way," and he went out from the shadow of the house, where he had been waiting, and met the men. "We'll go into my private work-shop," the youth added, leading the way.
"Have you decided to go with me?" asked Mr. Jenks, in an anxious whisper. "Did you find the diamonds to be real ones?"
"I did; and I'm going," spoke Tom.
"Good! That relieves my mind. But we are still in danger. I was followed by my shadower to-day, and only succeeded in shaking him off just before coming here. I don't believe he knows what I am about to do."
"Oh, yes he does," said Tom.
"He does? How?"
"Because he was here, and warned me against you!"
"You don't mean it! Well, they are getting desperate! We must be on our guard. What sort of a man was he?"
Tom described the fellow, and Mr. Jenks stated that this tallied with the appearance of the person who had been shadowing him.
"But we'll fool them yet!" cried Tom, who had now fully entered into the spirit of the affair. "If they can follow us in the Red Cloud they're welcome to. I think we'll get ahead of them."
He then told of Mr. Damon and Mr. Parker, and Mr. Jenks agreed that it would add to the strength of the party to take these two gentlemen along.
"Though I can't say I care so much for Mr. Parker," he added. "But now as to ways and means. When can we start?"
Thereupon he and Tom talked over details in the seclusion of the little office, and arranged to leave Shopton in about a week. In the meanwhile the airship would be overhauled, stocked with supplies and provisions, and be made ready for a swift dash to the mountains.
"And now I must be going," said Mr. Jenks. "I have a great deal to do before I can start on this trip, and I hope I am not prevented by any of those men who seem to be trailing me."
"How could they prevent you?" Tom wanted to know.
"Oh, there are any number of ways," was the answer. "But I'm glad you found that my diamonds were real. We'll soon have plenty, if all goes well."
As Mr. Jenks left the shop, he started back, in some alarm.
"What's the matter?" asked Tom.
"Over there—I thought I saw a figure sneaking along under the trees—that man—perhaps—"
"That's Eradicate, our colored helper," replied Tom, with a laugh. "I posted him there to see that no strangers came into the orchard. Everything all right, Rad?" he asked, raising his voice.
"Yais, sah, Massa Tom. Nobody been around yeah this night."
"That's good. You can go to bed now," and Eradicate, yawning loudly, went to his shack. A little later Tom sought his own room, Mr. Jenks having hurried off to town, where he was boarding.
The next few days saw Tom busily engaged on the airship, making some changes and a few repairs that were needed. His father, Eradicate and Mr. Jackson helped him. As for Mr. Parker, the scientist, he went about the place, being much interested in the various machines which Tom or Mr. Swift had patented.
At other times the scientist would stroll about the extensive grounds, making what he said were "observations." One afternoon Tom saw him, apparently much excited, kneeling down back of a shed, with his ear to the ground.
"What is the matter?" asked the lad, thinking perhaps Mr. Parker might be ill.
"Have you ever had any earthquakes here, Tom Swift?" asked the scientist, quietly.
"Earthquakes? No. We had enough of them on the island."
"And you are going to have one here, in about two minutes!" cried Mr. Parker. "I predict that this place will be shaken by a tremendous shock very soon. We had all better get away from the vicinity of buildings."
"What makes you think there will be an earthquake?" asked Tom.
"Because I can hear the rumbling beneath the ground at this very minute. It is increasing in volume, showing that the tremors are working this way. There will soon be a great subterranean upheaval! Listen for yourself."
Tom cast himself down on the grass. Placing his ear close to the ground he did hear a series of dull thuds. He arose, not a little alarmed. There had never been any earthquakes in Shopton, yet he had great respect for Mr. Parker's scientific attainments.
Just then Eradicate Sampson came along. He saw Tom and Mr. Parker lying flat on the ground, and surprise showed on his honest, black face.
"Fo' de land sakes!" cried Eradicate. "What am de mattah now, Massa Tom?"
"Earthquake coming," answered Tom, briefly. "Better get away from the buildings, Rad. They might fall!" Tom's face showed the alarm he felt. What would happen to all of his valuable machines—to the Red Cloud?
"Earthquake?" murmured Eradicate, and he, too, cast himself down to listen. A moment later he arose with a laugh.
"What's the matter?" cried Tom.
"Why, dat ain't no earthquake!" declared the colored man.
"No. Then perhaps you know what it is," said Mr. Parker, somewhat sharply.
"Course I knows what it am," answered Eradicate, with dignity. "Dat noise am my mule Boomerang, kickin' in his stable, on account oh me not feedin' him yet. Dat's what it am. I'se gwine right now t' gib him his oats, and den yo' see dat de noise stop. Boomerang allers kick dat way when he's hungry. I show yo'!"
And, sure enough, when Eradicate had gone to the mule's stable, which was near where Mr. Parker had heard the mysterious sounds, they immediately ceased.
"Dat mule was all de earthquake dere was around here," said the colored man as he came out.
Mr. Parker walked away, saying nothing, and Tom did not make any comments—just then.
CHAPTER VIII—OFF FOR THE WEST
It was a great relief to Tom, to find that there was no danger from an earth tremor. Now that he had made up his mind to go in search of the diamond makers, he wanted nothing to interfere with it. Lest the feelings of Mr. Parker might be hurt by the mistake he had made, the young inventor cautioned Eradicate not to say anything more about the matter.
"'Deed an' I won't," the colored man promised. "I'se only too glad dere wa'n't no earthquake, dat's what I is."
As for Mr. Parker, he did not appear much put out by his error in predicting.
"I am sure that what I heard was a tremor, due to some distant earthquake shock," he said. "The mule's kicking was only a coincidence."
And Tom let him have his way about it. The week was drawing to a close, and the Red Cloud was nearly in shape for the voyage. At almost the last minute Tom found that he needed some electrical apparatus for the airship, and as he had to go to Chester for it, he decided he would make the trip in his monoplane, and, while in the city, would also get the diamond pin he was having made for Mary Nestor.
He started off early one morning, in the swift little craft Butterfly, and soon had reached Chester. The diamond brooch was ready for him.
"It is one of the most beautiful stones we have ever set," the diamond merchant told him. "Don't forget, if you find any more, Mr. Swift, to let us have a chance to bid on them."
"I may," Tom promised, rather indefinitely. Then, having purchased his electrical supplies, he made a quick trip to Shopton, stopping on the way to call on Miss Nestor.
"Why Tom, I'm delighted to see you!" cried the girl, blushing prettily. "Did you come for some apple turnovers?" and she laughed, as she referred to a call Tom had once paid, when a new cook had been engaged, and when the pastry formed a feature of the meal.
"No turnovers this time," said the young inventor. "I came to wish you many happy returns of the day."
"Oh, you remembered my birthday! How nice of you!"
"And here is something else," added our hero, rather awkwardly, as he handed her the diamond pin.
"Oh, Tom! This for me! Oh, it's too lovely—it's far too much!"
"It isn't half enough!" he declared, warmly. "Oh, what a large diamond!" Mary cried as she saw the sparkling stone. "I never saw one so large and beautiful!"
"It's just as easy to make them large as small," explained Tom.
"Make them?" she looked the surprise she felt.
"Yes, I'm about to start for the place where diamonds are made."
"Oh, Tom! But isn't it dangerous? I mean won't you have to go to some far country—like Africa—to get to where diamonds are made?"
"Well, we are going on quite a trip, but not as far as that. And as for the danger—well, we'll have to take what comes," and he told her something of the proposed quest.
"Oh, it sounds—sounds scary!" Mary exclaimed, when she had heard of Mr. Jenks' experience. "Do be careful, Tom!"
"I will," he promised, and, somehow he was glad that she had cautioned him thus—and in such tones as she had used. For Mary Nestor was a girl that any young chap would have been glad to have manifest an interest in him.
"Well, I guess I'll have to say good-by," spoke Tom, at length. "We expect to start in a couple of days, and I may not get another chance to see you."
"Oh, I—I hope you come back safely," faltered Mary, and then she held out her hand, and Tom—well, it's none of our affair what Tom did after that, except to say that he hurried out, fairly jumped into his monoplane, and completed the trip home.
As the Red Cloud has been fully described in the volume entitled "Tom Swift and His Airship," we will not go into details about it now. Sufficient to say that it was a combination of a biplane and dirigible balloon. It could be used either as one or the other, and the gas-bag feature was of value when the wind was too great to allow the use of the planes, or when the motive power, for some reason stopped. In that event the airship could remain suspended far above the clouds if necessary. There was provision for manufacturing the gas on board.
The Red Cloud was fitted up to accommodate about ten persons, though it was seldom that this number was carried. Two persons could successfully operate the machinery. There were sleeping berths, and in the main cabin a sitting-room, a dining-room, and a kitchen. There was also the motor compartment, and a steering tower, from which the engines could be controlled.
It was in this craft that the seekers after the diamond makers proposed undertaking the trip. Mr. Damon came on from his home in Waterfield about two days before the date set to leave, and Mr. Jenks, had, three days before this, taken up his abode at the Swift home. Mr. Parker, as has been stated, was already there, and he had put in his time making a number of scientific observations, though he had made no more predictions.
Nothing more had been seen of the mysterious man who had warned Tom, and the young inventor and Mr. Jenks began to hope that they had thrown their enemies off the track.
"Though I don't imagine they'll give up altogether," said Mr. Jenks. "They're too desperate for that. We'll have trouble with them yet."
"Well, it can't be helped," decided Tom. "We'll try and be ready for it, when it comes," and then, dismissing the matter from his mind, he busied himself about the airship.
The food and supplies had all been put aboard, and they expected to start the next morning. In order to make sure that any stones which they might succeed in getting from the diamond makers were real gems, a set of testing apparatus was taken along. Mr. Parker had had some experience in this line, and, in spite of the fact that he might make direful predictions, Tom was rather glad, after all, that the scientist was going to accompany them.
"But what is worrying me," said Mr. Damon, "is what we are going to do after we get to Phantom Mountain. What are your plans, Mr. Jenks? Will you go in, and demand your share of the diamond-making business?"
"I have a right to it, as I invested a large sum in it, and I am entitled to more than a half-share. But, of course, I can't say what I'll do until I get there. We may have to act very secretly."
"I'm inclined to think we will," said Tom. "My plan would be to gain access to the cave, if possible, and watch them at work. We might be able to discover the secret of making diamonds, and, after all, that's what you want, isn't it, Mr. Jenks?"
"Yes, I paid my money for the secret, and I ought to have it. If I can get it quietly, so much the better. If not, I'll fight for my rights!" and he looked very determined.
"Bless my powder horn!" cried Mr. Damon. "That's the way to talk! And so we're to go cruising about in the air, looking for a mountain shaped like a man's head."
"That's it," a greed Mr. Jenks, "and when we find it we will be near Phantom Mountain, and the diamond makers."
The final details were completed that night. The last of the supplies had been put aboard, the larder was well stocked, the diamond testing apparatus was stored safely away, and all that remained was for the adventurers to board the Red Cloud in the morning, and soar away.
That night Tom was uneasy. Several times he got up, and looked toward the shed where the airship was stored. He could not rid himself of the idea that the men to whose interest it was that the diamond-making secret remain undiscovered, might attempt to wreck the airship before the start. Consequently both Eradicate Sampson and Engineer Jackson were on guard. Tom looked from his window, to the shed where the Red Cloud was housed. He saw nothing to cause him any uneasiness.
"I guess I'm just nervous," he mused. "But, all the same, I'll be glad when we've started."
They were all up early the next morning, Mr. Damon beginning the day by blessing the sunrise, and many other things that struck his fancy. The airship was wheeled out of the shed, and Tom gave her a final inspection.
"It's all right," he declared. "All aboard!"
"Now, do be careful," begged Mr. Swift. "Don't take too many chances, Tom."
The adventurers were in the forward part of the ship, and Tom had taken his place at the wheels and levers in the pilot house. As he was about to start the motor he looked toward the road, and saw a horse and carriage. In the vehicle was a girlish figure, at the sight of which Tom blushed and smiled. He waved his hand.
"I came to wish you good luck!" cried Mary Nestor, for it was she in the carriage.
"Thanks!" cried Tom, leaning from the window of the pilot house. "It was good of you to get up so early."
"Oh. I'm always up early," she informed him.
"Look out that the motor doesn't scare your horse," Tom warned her.
"Old Dobbin doesn't mind anything," was her answer. "I'll see that he doesn't run away with me, as long as you're not on earth to rescue me. Good-by, Tom!"
"Good-by!" he called, and then he pulled the lever that set in motion the motor, and whirled the great propellers about. They whizzed around with a roar, and the Red Cloud, shivering and trembling with the vibration, rose in the air like some great bird.
"We're off for the West and Phantom Mountain!" called Tom to his companions.
As the airship soared upward, Eradicate Sampson ran forward from where he had been standing near his mule Boomerang. He waved his hands, and shouted something.
"Bless my hatband! What does he want?" asked Mr. Damon, watching him curiously.
"It sounds as if he were calling to us to come back," spoke Mr. Parker.
"It's too late now," decided Tom. "Maybe he forgot to tell us good-by," but, he felt a vague wonder at Eradicate's odd motions; for the colored man was pointing toward the stern of the airship, as if there was something wrong there. But the Red Cloud soared on.
CHAPTER IX—A WARNING BY WIRELESS
Rapidly the airship ascended, and, when it was high over the town of Shopton, Tom headed the craft due west. Looking down he tried to descry Mary Nestor, in her carriage, but the trees were in the way, their interlocking branches hiding the girl. Tom did see crowds of other persons, though, thronging the streets of Shopton, for, though the young inventor had made many flights, there was always a novelty about them, that brought out the curious.
"A good start, Tom Swift," complimented Mr. Parker. "Is it always as easy as this?"
"Starting always is," was the answer, "though, as the Irishman said, coming down isn't sometimes quite so comfortable."
"Bless my gizzard! That's so," cried the eccentric Mr. Damon. "Can we vol-plane to earth in the Red Cloud, Tom?"
"Yes, but not as easily as in the Butterfly. However I hope we will not have to. Now, Mr. Damon, if you will just take charge of the steering apparatus for a minute, I want to go aft."
"I wish to see if everything is all right. I can't imagine why Eradicate was making those queer motions."
Mr. Damon, who knew how to operate the Red Cloud, was soon guiding her on the course, while Tom made his way to the rear compartments, through the motor room, where the stores of supplies and food were kept. He made a careful examination, looking from an after window, and even going out on a small, open platform, but could discover nothing wrong.
"I guess Rad was just capering about without any special object," mused Tom, but it was not long after this that they learned to their dismay, that the colored man had had a method in his madness.
On his way back through the motor room Tom looked to the machinery, and adjusted some of the auxiliary oil feeders. The various pieces of apparatus were working well, though the engine had not yet been speeded up to its limit. Tom wanted it to "warm-up" first.
"Everything all right?" asked Mr. Damon, as Tom rejoined them in the pilot house, which was just forward of the living room in the main cabin.
"Yes, I can't imagine what made Rad act that way. But I'll set the automatic steering gear now, Mr. Damon, and then you will be relieved."
Mr. Jenks was gazing off toward the west—to where he hoped to discover the secret of Phantom Mountain.
"How do you like it?" asked Tom.
"It's great," replied the diamond man. "I've never been in an airship before, and it's different than what I expected; but it's great! It's the only craft that will serve our purpose among the towering mountain peaks, where the diamond makers are hidden. I hope we can find them."
In a little while the Red Cloud was skimming along at faster speed, guided by the automatic rudders, so that no one was needed in the pilot house, since there was no danger of collisions. Airships are not quite numerous enough for that, yet, though they may soon become so.
Tom and the others devoted several hours to arranging their staterooms and bunks, and getting their clothing stowed away, and when this was done Mr. Parker and Mr. Jenks sat gazing off into space.
"It's hard to realize that we are really in an airship," observed the diamond man. "At first I thought I would be frightened, but I'm not a bit. It doesn't seem as if anything could happen."
"Something is likely to happen soon," said Mr. Parker, suddenly, as he gazed at some weather instruments on the cabin wall.
"Bless my soul! Don't say that!" cried Mr. Damon. "What is it?"
"I think, from my observations, that we will soon have a hurricane," said the scientific man. "There is every indication of it;" and he seemed quite delighted at the prospect of his prediction coming true.
"A hurricane!" cried Mr. Damon. "I hope it isn't like the one that blew us to Earthquake Island."
"Oh, I think there will be no danger," spoke Tom. "If it comes on to blow we will ascend or descend out of the path of the storm. This craft is not like the ill-fated Whizzer. I can more easily handle the Red Cloud; even in a bad storm."
"I'm glad to hear that," remarked Mr. Jenks. "It would be too bad to be wrecked before we got to Phantom Mountain."
"Well, I predict that we will have a bad storm," insisted Mr. Parker, and Tom could not help wishing that the scientist would keep his gloomy forebodings to himself.
However the storm had not developed up to noon, when Tom, with Mr. Damon's help, served a fine meal in the dining-room. In the afternoon the speed of the ship was increased, and by night they had covered several hundred miles. Through the darkness the Red Cloud kept on, making good time. Tom got up, occasionally, to look to the machinery, but it was all automatically controlled, and an alarm bell would sound in his stateroom when anything went wrong.
"Bless my napkin!" exclaimed Mr. Damon the next morning, as they sat down to a breakfast of fruit, ham and eggs and fragrant coffee, "this is living as well as in a hotel, and yet we are—how far are we above the earth, Tom?" he asked, turning to the young inventor.
"About two miles now. I just sent her up, as I thought I detected that storm Mr. Parker spoke of."
"I told you it would come," declared the scientist, and there was a small hurricane below them that morning, but only the lower edge of it caught the Red Cloud, and when Tom sent her up still higher she found a comparatively quiet zone, where she slid along at good speed.
That afternoon Tom busied himself about some wires and a number of complicated pieces of apparatus which were in one corner of the main cabin.
"What are you doing now?" asked Mr. Jenks, who had been talking with Mr. Parker, and showing that scientist some of the manufactured diamonds.
"Getting our wireless apparatus in shape," answered the lad. "I should have done it before, but I had so much to do that I couldn't get at it. I'm going to send off some messages. Dad will want to know how we are doing."
As he worked away, he also made up his mind to send another message, in care of his father, for there was a receiving station in the Swift home. And to whom this message was addressed Tom did not say, but we fancy some of our readers can guess.
Finally, after several hours of work, the wireless was in shape to send and receive messages. Tom pulled over the lever, and a crackling sound was heard, as the electricity leaped from the transmitters into space. Then he clamped the receiver on his ear.
"All ready," he announced. "Has anybody any messages they wish sent?" For, with the courtesy of a true host he was ready to serve his guests before he forwarded his own wireless notes.
"Just tell my wife that I'm enjoying myself," requested Mr. Damon. "Bless my footstool! But this is great! We're off the earth yet, connected with it."
Mr. Jenks had no one to whom he wanted to send any word, but Mr. Parker wish to wire to a fellow scientist the result of some observations made in the upper air.
Tom noted all the messages down, and then, when all was in readiness he began to call his home station. He knew that either his father or Mr. Jackson, the engineer, could receive the wireless.
But, no sooner had the young inventor sent off the first few dots and dashes representing "S. I."—his home station call—than he started and a look of surprise came over his face.
"They're calling us!" he exclaimed.
"Who is?" asked Mr. Jenks.
"My house—my father. He—he's been trying to get us ever since we started, but I didn't have the wireless in shape to receive messages. Oh, I hope it's not too late!"
"Too late! Bless my soul, too late for what?" gasped Mr. Damon, somewhat alarmed by Tom's manner.
The lad did not answer at once. He was intently listening to a series of dots and dashes that clicked in the telephone receiver clamped to his left ear. On his face there was a look of worriment.
"Father has just sent me a message," he said. "It's a warning flashed through space! He's been trying to get it to me since yesterday!"
"What is it?" asked Mr. Jenks, rising from his seat.
"The mysterious man is aboard the airship—hidden away!" cried Tom. "That's what Eradicate was trying to call to our attention as we started off. Eradicate saw his face at a rear window, and tried to warn us! The mysterious man is a stowaway on board!"
CHAPTER X—DROPPING THE STOWAWAY
Tom's excited announcement startled Mr. Damon and the others as much as if the young inventor had informed them that the airship had exploded and was about to dash with them to the earth. The men leaped to their feet, and stared at the lad.
"A stowaway on board!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my soul! How did he—"
"Are you sure that message is straight?" asked Mr. Jenks. "Did Eradicate see the man?"
"He says he did," answered Tom. "The man is hidden away on board now—probably among the stores and supplies."
"Bless my tomato sauce!" exploded Mr. Damon. "I hope he doesn't eat them all up!"
"We must get him out at once!" declared Mr. Jenks.
"I knew something would happen on this voyage," came from Mr. Parker. "I predicted it from the first!"
Tom thought considerable, but he did not answer the scientist just then. Another communication was coming to him by wireless. He listened intently.
"Father says," the lad told his companions "that Eradicate only had a glimpse of the man at the last moment. He was looking from the rear storeroom window—he's the same man who called on me that time—Rad remembers him very well."
"Bless my shoes! What's to be done?" inquired Mr. Damon, looking around helplessly.
"We must get him out, that's all," decided Mr. Jenks; with vigor. "Get him out and drop him overboard!"
"Drop him overboard!" cried Mr. Parker, in horror.
"Not exactly, but get rid of him," proceeded the diamond seeker. "That man is one of my enemies. He has been sent by the band of diamond makers hidden among the mountains, to spy on me, and, if possible, prevent me from seeking to discover their secret. He tried to work on Tom's Swift's fears, and frighten him from using his airship on this quest. Then, when he failed, the man must have sneaked into the shed, and hidden himself in the ship. We must get rid of him, or he may wreck the Red Cloud!"
"That's so!" cried Tom. "We must try to capture him. I think we had better—" the lad paused, and again listened to the wireless message. "Father says Eradicate saw the man have a gun, so we must be careful," the young inventor translated the dots and dashes.
"Bless my powder horn!" exploded Mr. Damon.
"We shall have to proceed cautiously then," spoke Mr. Jenks. "If he is like any others in the gang he is a desperate man."
"Better sneak up on him then, if we can," proposed Mr. Parker. "There are enough of us to cope with one man, even if he is armed. You have weapons aboard, haven't you?" he inquired of Tom.
"Yes," was the hesitating answer, "but I don't want to use them if I can help it. Not only because of the danger, and a dislike of shedding blood, but because a stray bullet might pierce the gas bag and damage the ship."
"That's so," agreed Mr. Jenks. "Well, I guess if we go at it the right way we can capture him without any shooting. But we must talk more quietly—we ought to have whispered—he may have heard us."
"I don't think so," replied Tom. "The storeroom is far enough off so that he couldn't hear us. Besides, the motor makes such a racket that he couldn't distinguish what we were talking about, even if he heard our voices. So, unless he heard the wireless working, and suspects something from that, he probably doesn't know that we are aware of his presence aboard."
"But why do you think he has remained quiet all this while, Tom?" asked Mr. Damon.
"Probably he wants to wait until the ship is farther out west," suggested Mr. Jenks. "Then he will be nearer his friends, and can get help, if he needs it."
"And do you really believe he would destroy the Red Cloud?" asked Mr. Parker.
"I think that all he is waiting for is a favorable chance," declared the diamond seeker. "He would destroy the craft, and us too, if he could prevent us from discovering the secret of Phantom Mountain, I believe."
"Then we must get ahead of him," decided Tom, quietly. "I have just flashed to dad a message, telling him that we will heed his warning. Now to capture the stowaway!"
"And while we're about it, give him a good scare when we do get him," suggested Mr. Jenks.
"How?" asked Tom.
"Threaten to drop him overboard. Perhaps that will make him tell how he happened to get in our ship, and what are the plans of the gang of diamond makers. We may get valuable information that way."
"I don't believe you can scare such fellows much," was Tom's opinion, but it was agreed to try.
"How are you going to capture him?" asked Mr. Parker. "If he has a gun it won't be any too easy to go in the storeroom, and drag him out."
"We'll have to use a little strategy," decided Tom, and then they discussed several plans. The one finally adopted was that Tom and Mr. Damon should enter the storeroom, casually, as if in search of food to cook for supper. They would discuss various dishes, and Mr. Damon was to express a preference for something in the food line, the box containing which, was well hack in the room. This would give the two a chance to penetrate to the far end of the apartment, without arousing the suspicions of the hidden man, who, doubtless, would be listening to the conversation.
"And as soon as we get sight of him, you and I will jump right at him, Mr. Damon," said Tom. "Jump before he has a chance to use his gun. Mr. Jenks and Mr. Parker will be waiting outside the room, to catch him if he gets away from us. I'll have some ropes ready, and we'll tie him up, and—well, we'll decide later what to do with him."
"All right. I'm ready as soon as you are, Tom," said the eccentric man. "Come ahead."
They went softly to the storeroom, and listened at the door. There was no sound heard save that made by the machinery.