TOM SWIFT AND HIS BIG TUNNEL
The Hidden City of the Andes
I An Appeal for Aid II Explanations III A Face at the Window IV Tom's Experiments V Mary's Present VI Mr. Nestor's Letter VII Off for Peru VIII The Bearded Man IX The Bomb X Professor Bumper XI In the Andes XII The Tunnel XIII Tom's Explosive XIV Mysterious Disappearances XV Frightened Indians XVI On the Watch XVII The Condor XVIII The Indian Strike XIX A Woman Tells XX Despair XXI A New Explosive XXII The Fight XXIII A Great Blast XXIV The Hidden City XXV Success
TOM SWIFT AND HIS BIG TUNNEL
An Appeal for Aid
Tom Swift, seated in his laboratory engaged in trying to solve a puzzling question that had arisen over one of his inventions, was startled by a loud knock on the door. So emphatic, in fact, was the summons that the door trembled, and Tom started to his feet in some alarm.
"Hello there!" he cried. "Don't break the door, Koku!" and then he laughed. "No one but my giant would knock like that," he said to himself. "He never does seem able to do things gently. But I wonder why he is knocking. I told him to get the engine out of the airship, and Eradicate said he'd be around to answer the telephone and bell. I wonder if anything has happened?"
Tom shoved back his chair, pushed aside the mass of papers over which he had been puzzling, and strode to the door. Flinging it open he confronted a veritable giant of a man, nearly eight feet tall, and big in proportion. The giant, Koku, for that was his name, smiled in a good-natured way, reminding one of an overgrown boy.
"Master hear my knock?" the giant asked cheerfully.
"Hear you, Koku? Say, I couldn't hear anything else!" exclaimed Tom. "Did you think you had to arouse the whole neighborhood just to let me know you were at the door? Jove! I thought you'd have it off the hinges."
"If me break, me fix," said Koku, who, from his appearance and from his imperfect command of English, was evidently a foreigner.
"Yes, I know you can fix lots of things, Koku," Tom went on, kindly enough. "But you musn't forget what enormous strength you have. That's the reason I sent you to take the engine out of the airship. You can lift it without using the chain hoist, and I can't get the chain hoist fast unless I remove all the superstructure. I don't want to do that. Did you get the engine out?"
"Not quite. Almost, Master."
"Then why are you here? Has anything gone wrong?"
"No, everything all right, Master. But man come to machine shop and say he must have talk with you. I no let him come past the gate, but I say I come and call you."
"That's right, Koku. Don't let any strangers past the gate. But why didn't Eradicate come and call me. He isn't doing anything, is he? Unless, indeed, he has gone to feed his mule, Boomerang."
"Eradicate, he come to call you, but that black man no good!" and Koku chuckled so heartily that he shook the floor of the office.
"What's the matter with Eradicate?" asked Tom, somewhat anxiously. "I hope you and he haven't had another row?" Eradicate had served Tom and his father long before Koku, the giant, had been brought back from one of the young inventor's many strange trips, and ever since then there had been a jealous rivalry between the twain as to who should best serve Tom.
"No trouble, Master," said Koku. "Eradicate he start to come and tell you strange man want to have talk, but Eradicate he no come fast enough. So I pick him up, and I set him down by gate to stand on guard, and I come to tell you. Koku come quick!"
"Oh, I knew it must be something like that!" exclaimed Tom in some vexation. "Now I'll have Eradicate complaining to me that you mauled him. Picked him up and set him down again."
"Sure. One hand!" boasted the giant. "Eradicate him not be heavy. More as a sack of flour now."
"No, poor Eradicate is getting pretty old and thin," commented Tom. "He can't move very quickly. But you should have let him come, Koku. It makes him feel badly when he thinks he can't be of service to me any more."
"Man say he in hurry." The giant spoke softly, as though he felt the gentle rebuke Tom administered. "Koku run quick tell you—bang on door."
"Yes, you banged all right, Koku. Well, it can't be helped, I reckon. Where is this strange man? Who is he? Did you ever see him before?"
"Me no can tell, Master. Not sure. But him now be at the outer gate. Eradicate watch."
"All right. I'll go and see who it is. I don't want any strangers poking around here, especially with the plans of my new gyroscope lying in plain view."
Before he left the laboratory Tom swept into a desk drawer the mass of papers and blue prints, and locked the receptacle.
"No use taking any chances," he remarked. "I've had too much trouble with people trying to get inside information about dad's and my patents. Now, Koku, I'll go and see this man."
The buildings composing the plant of Tom Swift and his father at Shopton were enclosed by a high, board fence, and at one of the entrances was a sort of gate-house, where some one was always on guard. Only those who could give a good account of themselves, workmen in the plant, or those known to the sentinel were admitted.
It happened that the colored man, Eradicate, was on guard at the gates this day when the stranger asked to see Tom. Koku, working on the airship engine not far away, saw the stranger. Hearing the man say he was in a hurry and noting the slow progress of the aged Eradicate, who was troubled with rheumatism, the giant took matters into his own hands.
Tom Swift entered the gate-house and saw, seated in a chair, a man who was impatiently tapping the floor with his thick-soled shoe.
"Looks like a detective or a policeman in disguise," thought Tom, for, almost invariably, members of this profession wear very thick-soled shoes. Opposite the stranger sat Eradicate, a much-injured look on his honest, black face.
"Oh, Massa Tom!" exclaimed Eradicate, as soon as the young inventor entered. "Dat Koku he—he—he done gone and cotch me by de collar ob mah coat, an' den he lif' me up, an' he sot me down so hard—so hard—dat he jar loose all mah back teef!" and Eradicate opened his mouth wide to display his gleaming ivories.
"Eradicate, he no can come quick. He walk like so fashion!" and Koku, who had followed the young inventor, imitated the limping gait of the colored man with such a queer effect that Tom could not help laughing, and the stranger smiled.
"Ef I gits holt on yo'—ef I does, yo' great, big, overgrown lummox, Ah'll—Ah'll—" began the colored man, stammeringly.
"There. That will do now!" interrupted Tom. "Don't quarrel in here. Koku, get back to that engine and lift out the motor. Eradicate, didn't father tell you to whitewash the chicken coops to-day?"
"Dat's what he done, Massa Tom."
"Well, go and see about that. I'll stay here for a while, and when I leave I'll call one of you, or some one else, to be on guard. Skip now!"
Having thus disposed of the warring factions, Tom turned to the stranger and after apologizing for the little interruption, asked:
"You wished to see me?"
"If you're Tom Swift; yes."
"Well, I'm Tom Swift," and the young owner of the name smiled.
"I hope you will pardon a stranger for calling on you," resumed the man, "but I'm in a lot of trouble, and I think you are the only one who can help me out."
"What sort of trouble?" Tom inquired.
"Contracting trouble—tunnel blasting, to be exact. But if you have a few minutes to spare perhaps you will listen to my story. You will then be better able to understand my difficulty."
Tom Swift considered a moment. He was used to having appeals for help made to him, and usually they were of a begging nature. He was often asked for money to help some struggling inventor complete his machine.
In many cases the machines would have been of absolutely no use if perfected. In other cases the inventions were of the utterly hopeless class, incapable of perfection, like some perpetual motion apparatus. In these cases Tom turned a deaf ear, though if the inventor were in want our hero relieved him.
But this case did not seem to be like anything Tom had ever met with before.
"Contracting trouble—blasting," repeated the youth, as he mused over what he had heard.
"That's it," the man went on. "Permit me to introduce myself" and he held out a card, on which was the name
MR. JOB TITUS
Down in the lower left-hand corner was a line:
"Titus Brothers, Contractors."
"I am glad to meet you, Mr. Titus," Tom said warmly, offering his hand. "I don't know anything about the contracting business, but if you do blasting I suppose you use explosives, and I know a little about them."
"So I have heard, and that's why I came to you," the contractor went on. "Now if you'll give me a few minutes of your time—"
"You had better come up to the house," interrupted Tom. "We can talk more quietly there."
Calling a young fellow who was at work near by to occupy the gate-house, Tom led Mr. Titus toward the Swift homestead, and, a little later, ushered him into the library.
"Now I'll listen to you," the youth said, "though I can't promise to aid you."
"I realize that," returned Mr. Titus. "This is a sort of last chance I'm taking. My brother and I have heard a lot about you, and when he wrote to me that he was unable to proceed with his contract of tunneling the Andes Mountains for the Peruvian government, I made up my mind you were the one who could help us if you would."
"Tunneling the Andes Mountains!" exclaimed Tom.
"Yes. The firm represented by my brother and myself have a contract to build a railroad for the Peruvian government. At a point some distance back in the district east of Lima, Peru, we are making a tunnel under the mountain. That is, we have it started, but now we can't advance any further."
"Because of the peculiar character of the rock, which seems to defy the strongest explosive we can get. Now I understand you used a powder in your giant cannon that—"
Mr. Titus paused in his explanation, for at that moment there arose such a clatter out on the front piazza as effectually to drown conversation. There was a noise of the hoofs of a horse, the fall of a heavy body, a tattoo on the porch floor and then came an excited shout:
"Whoa there! Whoa! Stop! Look out where you're kicking! Bless my saddle blanket! Ouch! There I go!"
"What in the world is that?" cried Mr. Job Titus, in alarm.
Tom Swift did not answer. Instead he jumped up from his chair and ran toward the front door. Mr. Titus followed. They both saw a strange sight.
Standing on the front porch, which he seemed to occupy completely, was a large horse, with a saddle twisted underneath him. The animal was looking about him as calmly as though he always made it a practice to come up on the front piazza when stopping at a house.
Off to one side, with a crushed hat on the back of his head, with a coat split up the back, with a broken riding crop in one hand and a handkerchief in the other, sat a dignified, elderly gentleman.
That is, he would have been dignified had it not been for his position and condition. No gentleman can look dignified with a split coat and a crushed hat on, sitting under the nose of a horse on a front piazza, with his raiment otherwise much disheveled, while he wipes his scratched and bleeding face with a handkerchief.
"Bless my—bless my—" began the elderly gentleman, and he seemed at a loss what particular portion of his anatomy or that of the horse, to bless, or what portion of the universe to appeal to, for he ended up with: "Bless everything, Tom Swift!"
"I heartily agree with you, Mr. Damon!" cried Tom. "But what in the world happened?"
"That!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, pointing with his broken crop at the horse on the piazza. "I was riding him when he ran away—just as my motorcycle tried to climb a tree. No more horses for me! I'll stick to airships," and slamming his riding crop down on the porch floor with such force that the horse started back, Mr. Damon arose, painfully enough if the contortions on his face and his grunts of pain went for anything.
"Let me help you!" begged Tom, striding forward. "Mr. Titus, perhaps you will kindly lead the horse down off the piazza?"
"Certainly!" answered the tunnel contractor. "Whoa now!" he called soothingly, as the steed evinced a disposition to sit down on the side railing. "Steady now!"
The horse finally allowed himself to be led down the broad front steps, sadly marking them, as well as the floor of the piazza, with his sharp shoes.
"Ouch! Oh, my back!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, as Tom helped him to stand up.
"Is it hurt?" asked Tom, anxiously.
"No, I've just got what old-fashioned folks call a 'crick' in it," explained the elderly horseman. "But it feels more like a river than a 'crick.' I'll be all right presently."
"How did it happen?" asked Tom, as he led his guest toward the hall. Meanwhile Mr. Titus, wondering what it was all about, had tied the horse to a post out near the street curb, and had re-entered the library.
"I was riding over to see you, Tom, to ask you if you wouldn't go to South America with me," began Mr. Damon, rubbing his leg tenderly.
"South America?" cried Tom, with a sudden look at Mr. Titus.
"Yes, South America. Why, there isn't anything strange in that, is there? You've been to wilder countries, and farther away than that."
"Yes, I know—it's just a coincidence. Go on."
"Let me get where I can sit down," begged Mr. Damon. "I think that crick in my back is running down into my legs, Tom. I feel a bit weak. Let me sit down, and get me a glass of water. I shall be all right presently."
Between them Tom and Mr. Titus assisted the horseman into an easy chair, and there, under the influence of a cup of hot tea, which Mrs. Baggert, the housekeeper, insisted on making for him, he said he felt much better, and would explain the reason for his call which had culminated in such a sensational manner.
And while Mr. Damon is preparing his explanation I will take just a few moments to acquaint my new readers with some facts about Tom Swift, and the previous volumes of this series in which he has played such prominent parts.
Tom Swift was the son of an inventor, and not only inherited his father's talents, but had greatly added to them, so that now Tom had a wonderful reputation.
Mr. Swift was a widower, and he and Tom lived in a big house in Shopton, New York State, with Mrs. Baggert for a housekeeper. About the house, from time to time, shops and laboratories had been erected, until now there was a large and valuable establishment belonging to Tom and his father.
The first volume of this series is entitled, "Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle." It was through a motor cycle that Tom became acquainted with Mr. Wakefield Damon, who lived in a neighboring town. Mr. Damon had bought the motor cycle for himself, but, as he said, one day in riding it the machine tried to climb a tree near the Swift house.
The young inventor (for even then he was working on several patents) ministered to Mr. Damon, who, disgusted with the motor cycle, and wishing to reward Tom, let the young fellow have the machine.
Tom's career began from that hour. For he learned to ride the motor cycle, after making some improvements in it, and from then on the youth had led a busy life. Soon afterward he secured a motor boat and from that it was but a step to an airship.
The medium of the air having been conquered, Tom again turned his attention to the water, or rather, under the water, and he and his father made a submarine. Then he built an electric runabout, the speediest car on the road.
It was when Ton Swift had occasion to send his wireless message from a lonely island where he had been shipwrecked that he was able to do Mr. and Mrs. Nestor a valuable service, and this increased the regard which Miss Mary Nestor felt for the young inventor, a regard that bid fair, some day, to ripen into something stronger.
Tom Swift might have made a fortune when he set out to discover the secret of the diamond makers. But Fate intervened, and soon after that quest he went to the caves of ice, where he and his friends met with disaster. In his sky racer Tom broke all records for speed, and when he went to Africa to rescue a missionary, had it not been for his electric rifle the tide of battle would have gone against him and his party.
Marvelous, indeed, were the adventures underground, which came to Tom when he went to look for the city of gold, but the treasure there was not more valuable than the platinum which Tom sought in dreary Siberia by means of his air glider.
Tom thought his end had come when he fell into captivity among the giants; but even that turned out well, and he brought two of the giants away with him. Koku, one of the two giants, became devotedly attached to the lad, much to the disgust of Eradicate Sampson, the old negro who had worked for the Swifts for a generation, and who, with his mule Boomerang, "eradicated" from the place as much dirt as possible.
With his wizard camera Tom did much to advance the cause of science. His great searchlight was of great help to the United States government in putting a stop to the Canadian smugglers, while his giant cannon was a distinct advance in ordnance, not excepting the great German guns used in the European war.
When Tom perfected his photo telephone the last objection to rendering telephonic conversation admissible evidence in a law court was done away with, for by this invention a person was able to see, as well as to hear, over the telephone wire. One practically stood face to face with the person, miles away, to whom one was talking.
The volume immediately preceding this present one is called: "Tom Swift and His Aerial Warship." The young inventor perfected a marvelous aircraft that was the naval terror of the seas, and many governments, recognizing what an important part aircraft were going to play in all future conflicts, were anxious to secure Tom's machine. But he was true to his own country, though his rivals were nearly successful in their plots against him.
The Mars, which was the name of Tom's latest craft, proved to be a great success, and the United States government purchased it. It was not long after the completion of this transaction that the events narrated in the first chapter of this book took place.
Mr. Damon and Tom had been firm friends ever since the episode of the motor cycle, and the eccentric gentleman (who blessed so many things) often went with Tom on his trips. Besides Mary Nestor, Tom had other friends. The one, after Miss Nestor, for whom he cared most (if we except Mr. Damon) was Ned Newton, who was employed in a Shopton bank. Ned also had often gone with Tom, though lately, having a better position, he had less time to spare.
"Well, do you feel better, Mr. Damon?" asked Tom, after a bit.
"Yes, very much, thank you. Bless my pen wiper! but I thought I was done for when I saw my horse bolt for your front stoop. He rushed up it, fell down, but, fortunately, I managed to get out of his way, though the saddle girth slipped. And all I could think of was that my wife would say: 'I told you so!' for she warned me not to ride this animal.
"But he never ran away with me before, and I was in a hurry to get over to see you, Tom. Now then, let's get down to business. Will you go to South America with me?"
"Whereabout in South America are you going, Mr. Damon, and why?" Tom asked.
"To Peru, Tom."
"What a coincidence!" exclaimed Mr. Titus.
"I beg your pardon?" said Mr. Damon, interrogatively.
"I said what a coincidence. I am going there myself."
"Excuse me," interposed Tom, "I don't believe, in the excitement of the moment, I introduced you gentlemen. Allow me—Mr. Damon—Mr. Titus."
The presentation over, Mr. Damon went on:
"You see, Tom, I have lately invested considerable money in a wholesale drug concern. We deal largely in Peruvian remedies, principally the bark of the cinchona tree, from which quinine is made. Of late there has been some trouble over our concession from the Peruvian government, and the company has decided to send me down there to investigate.
"Of course, as soon as I made up my mind to go I thought of you. So I came over to see if you would not accompany me. All went well until I reached your front gate. Then my horse became frightened by a yellow toy balloon some boy was blowing up in the street and bolted with me. I suppose if it had been a red or green balloon the effect would have been the same. However, here I am, somewhat the worse for wear. Now Tom, what do you say? Will you go to South America—to Peru—with me, and help look up this Quinine business?"
Once more Mr. Titus and Tom looked at each other.
A Face at the Window
"What is the matter?" asked Mr. Damon, catching the glance between Tom and the contractor. "Is there anything wrong with South America—Peru? I know they have lots of revolutions in those countries, but I don't believe Peru is what they call a 'banana republic'; is it?"
"No," and Mr. Titus shook his head. "It isn't a question of revolutions."
"But it's something!" insisted Mr. Damon. "Bless my ink bottle! but it's something. As soon as I mention Peru, Tom, you and Mr. Titus eye each other as if I'd said something dreadful. Out with it! What is it?"
"It's just—just a coincidence," Tom said. "But go on, Mr. Damon. Finish what you have to say and then we'll explain."
"Well, I guess I've told you all you need to know for the present. I went into this wholesale drug concern, hoping to make some money, but now, on account of the trouble down in Peru, we stand to lose considerable unless I can get back the cinchona concession."
"What does that mean?" Tom asked.
"Well, it means that our concern secured from the Peruvian government the right to take this quinine-producing bark from the trees in a certain tropical section. But there has been a change in the government in the district where our men were working, and now the privilege, or concession, has been withdrawn. I'm going down to see if I can't get it back. And I want you to go with me."
"And I came here for very nearly the same thing," went on Mr. Titus. "That is where the coincidence comes in. It is strange that we should both appeal to Mr. Swift at the same time."
"Well, Tom's a valuable helper!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "I know him of old, for I've been on many a trip with him."
"This is the first time I have had the pleasure of meeting him," resumed the tunnel contractor, "but I have heard of him. I did not ask him to go to South America for us. I only wanted to get some superior explosive for my brother, who is in charge of driving the railroad tunnel through a spur of the Andes. I look after matters up North here, but I may have to go to Peru myself.
"As I told Mr. Swift, I had read of his invention of the giant cannon and the special powder he used in it to send a projectile such a distance. The cannon is now mounted as one of the pieces of ordnance for the defense of the Panama Canal, is it not?" he asked Tom.
The young inventor nodded in assent.
"Having heard of you, and the wonderful explosive used in your big cannon," the contractor went on, "I wrote to my brother that I would try and get some for him.
"You see," he resumed, "this is the situation. Back in the Andes Mountains, a couple of hundred miles east of Lima, the government is building a short railroad line to connect two others. If this is done it will mean that the products of Peru—quinine bark, coffee, cocoa, sugar, rubber, incense and gold can more easily be transported. But to connect the two railroad lines a big tunnel must be constructed.
"My brother and I make a specialty of such work, and when we saw bids advertised for, our firm put in an estimate. There was some trouble with a rival firm, which also bid, but we secured the contract, and bound ourselves to have the tunnel finished within a certain time, or forfeit a large sum.
"That was over a year ago. Since then our men, aided by the native Indians of Peru, have been tunneling the mountain, until, about a month back, we struck a snag."
"What sort of snag?" Tom asked.
"A snag in the shape of extra hard rock," replied the tunnel contractor. "Briefly, Paleozoic rocks make up the eastern part of the Andean Mountains in Peru, while the western range is formed of Mesozoic beds, volcanic ashes and lava of comparatively recent date. Near the coast the lower hills are composed of crystalline rocks, syenite and granite, with, here and there, a strata of sandstone or limestone. These are, undoubtedly, relics of the lower Cretaceous age, and we, or rather, my brother, states that he has found them covered with marine Tertiary deposits.
"Now this Mesozoic band varies greatly. Porphyritic tuffs and massive limestone compose the western chain of the Andes above Lima, while in the Oroya Valley we find carbonaceous sandstones. Some of the tuffs may be of the Jurassic age, though the Cretaceous period is also largely represented.
"Now while these different masses of rock formation offer hard enough problems to the tunnel digger, still we are more or less prepared to meet them, and we figured on a certain percentage of them. Up to the present time we have met with just about what we expected, but what we did not expect was something we came upon when the tunnel had been driven three miles into the mountain."
"What did you find?" asked Tom, who knew enough about geology to understand the terms used. Mr. Damon did not, however, and when Mr. Titus rolled off some of the technical words, the drug investor softly murmured such expressions as
"Bless my thermometer! Bless my porous plaster!"
"We found," resumed Mr. Titus, "after we had bored for a considerable distance into the mountain, a mass of volcanic rock which is so hard that our best diamond drills are dulled in a short time, and the explosives we use merely shatter the face of the cutting, and give us hardly any progress at all.
"It was after several trials, and when my brother found that he was making scarcely any progress, compared to the energy of his men and the blasting, that he wrote to me, explaining matters. I at once thought of you, Tom Swift, and your powerful explosive, for I had read about it.
"Now then, will you sell us some of your powder—explosive or whatever you call it—Mr. Swift, or tell us where we can get it? We need it soon, for we are losing valuable time."
Mr. Titus paused to draw on a piece of paper a rough map of Peru, and the district where the tunnel was being constructed. He showed where the two railroad lines were, and where the new route would bring them together, the tunnel eliminating a big grade up which it would have been impossible to haul trains of any weight.
"What do you say, Mr. Swift?" the contractor concluded. "Will you let us have some of your powder? Or, better still, will you come to Peru yourself? That would suit us immensely, for you could be right on the ground. And you could carry out your plan of going with your friend here," and Mr. Titus nodded toward Mr. Damon. "That is, if you were thinking of going."
"Well, I was thinking of it," Tom admitted. "Mr. Damon and I have been on so many trips together that it seems sort of natural for us to 'team it.' I have never been to Peru, and I should like to see the country. There is only one matter though, that bothers me."
"What is it?" asked Mr. Titus quickly. "If it is a question of money dismiss it from your mind. The Peruvian government is paying a large sum for this tunnel, and we stand to make considerable, even if we were the lowest bidders. We can afford to pay you well—that is, we shall be able to if we can complete the bore on time. That is what is bothering me now—the unexpected strata of hard rock we have met with, which seems impossible to blast. But I feel sure we can do it with the explosive used in your giant cannon."
"That is just the point!" Tom exclaimed. "I am not so sure my explosive would do."
"Why not?" the tunnel contractor asked. "It's powerful enough; isn't it?"
"Yes, it is powerful enough, but whether it will have the right effect on volcanic rock is hard to say. I should like to see a rock sample."
"I can telegraph to have some sent here to you," said Mr. Titus eagerly. "Meantime, here is a description of it. I can read you that"; and, taking a letter from his pocket, he read to Tom a geological description of the hard rock.
"Hum! Yes," mused Tom, as he listened. "It seems to be of the nature of obsidian."
"Bless my watch chain!" cried Mr. Damon. "What's that?"
"Obsidian is a volcanic rock—a sort of combination of glass and flint for hardness," Tom explained. "It is brittle, black in color, and the natives of the Admiralty Islands use it for tipping their spears with which they slay victims for their cannibalistic feasts."
"Bless my—bless my ear-drums!" gasped Mr. Damon. "Cannibals!"
"Obsidian was also used by the ancient Mexicans to make knives and daggers," Tom went on. "When Cortez conquered Mexico he found the priests cutting the hearts from their living victims with knives made from this volcanic glass-like rock, known as obsidian. It may be that your brother has met with a vein of that in the tunnel," Tom said to the contractor.
"Possibly," admitted Mr. Titus.
"In that case," Tom stated, "I may have to use a new kind of explosive. That used for my giant cannon would merely crumble the hard rock for a short distance."
"Then will you accept the contract, and help us out?" asked Mr. Titus eagerly. "We will pay you well. Will you come to Peru and look over the ground?"
"And kill two birds with one stone, and come with me also?" put in Mr. Damon.
Tom pondered for a moment. He was about to answer when the tunnel contractor, who was looking from the library window, suddenly jumped from his chair crying:
"There he is again! Once more dogging me!"
As he rushed from the room, Tom and Mr. Damon had a glimpse of a face at one of the low library windows—a face that had an evil look. It disappeared as Mr. Titus ran from the room.
"Bless my looking glass, Tom, what does that mean?" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "That face!"
"I don't know," answered the young inventor. "But the sight of some one looking in here seemed to disturb Mr. Titus. We must follow him."
"Perhaps he saw your giant Koku looking in," suggested the odd, little man who blessed everything he could think of. "The sight of his face, to any one not knowing him, Tom, would be enough to cause fright."
"It wasn't Koku who looked in the window," said Tom, decidedly. "It was some stranger. Come on."
The young inventor and Mr. Damon hurried out after the tunnel contractor, who was running down the road that led in front of the Swift homestead.
"He's chasing some one, Tom," called Mr. Damon.
"Yes, I see he is. But who?"
"I can't see any one," reported Mr. Damon, who had run down to the gate, at which his horse was still standing. Mr. Damon had washed the dirt from his hands and face, and was wearing one of Mr. Swift's coats in place of his own split one.
Tom joined the eccentric man and together they looked down the road after the running Mr. Titus. They were in half a mind to join him, when they saw him pull up short, raise his hands as though he had given over the pursuit, and turn back.
"I guess he got away, whoever he was," remarked Tom. "We'll walk down and meet Mr. Titus, and ask him what it all means."
Shortly afterward they came up to the contractor, who was breathing heavily after his run, for he was evidently not used to such exercise.
"I beg your pardon, Tom Swift, for leaving you and Mr. Damon in such a fashion," said Mr. Titus, "but I had to act quickly or lose the chance of catching that rascal. As it was, he got away, but I think I gave him a scare, and he knows that I saw him. It will make him more cautious in the future."
"Who was it?" asked Tom.
"Well, I didn't have as close a look as I could have wished for," the contractor said, as he walked back toward the house with Tom and Mr. Damon, "but I'm pretty sure the face that peered in at us through the library window was that of Isaac Waddington."
"And who is he, if it isn't asking information that ought not be given out?" inquired Mr. Damon.
"Oh, no, certainly. I can tell you," said the contractor. "Only perhaps we had better wait until we get back to the house.
"Since one of their men was seen lurking around here there may be others," went on Mr. Titus, when the three were once more seated in the Swift library. "It is best to be on the safe side. The face I saw, I'm sure, was that of Waddington, who is a tool of Blakeson & Grinder, rival tunnel contractors. They put in a bid on this Andes tunnel, but we were lower in our figures by several thousand dollars, and the contract was awarded to us.
"Blakeson & Grinder tried, by every means in their power, to get the job away from us. They even invoked the aid of some Peruvian revolutionists and politicians, but we held our ground and began the work. Since then they have had spies and emissaries on our trail, trying their best to make us fail in our work, so the Peruvian officials might abrogate the contract and give it to them.
"But, so far, we've managed to come out ahead. This Waddington is a sort of spy, and I've found him dodging me several times of late. I suppose he wants to find out my plans so as to be ready to jump in the breach in case we fail."
"Do you think your rivals had anything to do with the difficulties you are now meeting with in digging the tunnel?" asked Mr. Damon. Mr. Titus shook his head.
"The present difficulties are all of Nature's doing," he said. "It's just the abnormally hard rock that is bothering us. Only for that we'd be all right, though we might have petty difficulties because of the mean acts of Blakeson & Grinder. But I don't fear them."
"How do you think this Waddington, if it was he, knew you were coming here?" asked Tom.
"I can only guess. My brother and I have had some correspondence regarding you, Tom Swift. That is, I announced my intention of coming to see you, and my brother wrote me to use my discretion. I wrote back that I would consult you.
"Our main office is in New York, where we employ a large clerical and expert force. There is nothing to prevent one of our stenographers, for instance, turning traitor and giving copies of the letters of my brother and myself to our rivals.
"Mind you, I don't say this was done, and I don't suspect any of our employees, but it would be an easy matter for any one to know my plans. I never thought of making a secret of them, or of my trip here. In some way Waddington found out about the last, and he must have followed me here. Then he sneaked up under the window, and tried to hear what we said."
"Do you think he did?" asked Tom.
"I wouldn't be surprised. We took no pains to lower our voices. But, after all, he hasn't learned much that he didn't know before, if he knew I was coming here. He didn't learn the secret of the explosive that must be used, and that is the vital thing. For I defy him, or any other contractor, to blast that hard rock with any known explosive. We've tried every kind on the market and we've failed. We'll have to depend on you, Tom Swift, to help us out with some of your giant cannon powder."
"And I'm not sure that will work," said the young inventor. "I think I'll have to experiment and make a new explosive, if I conclude to go to Peru."
"Oh, you'll go all right!" declared Mr. Titus with a smile. "I can see that you are eager for the adventures I am sure you'll find there, and, besides, your friend here, Mr. Damon, needs you."
"That's what I do, Tom!" exclaimed the odd man. "Bless my excursion ticket, but you must come!"
"I'll have to invent the new powder first," Tom said.
"That's what I like to hear!" exclaimed Mr. Titus. "It shows you are thinking of coming with us."
Tom only smiled.
"I am so anxious to get the proper explosive," went on Mr. Titus, "that I would even purchase it from our rivals, Blakeson & Grinder, if I thought they had it. But I'm sure they have not, though they may think they can get it.
"That may be the reason they are following me so closely. They may want to know just when we will fail, and have to give up the contract, and they may think they can step in and finish the work. But I don't believe, without your help, Tom Swift, that they can blast that hard rock, and—"
"Well, I'll say this," interrupted Tom, "first come, first served with me, other things being equal. You have applied to me and, like a lawyer, I won't go over to the other side now. I consider myself retained by your firm, Mr. Titus, to invent some sort of explosive, and if I am successful I shall expect to be paid."
"Oh, of course!" cried the contractor eagerly.
"Very good," Tom went on. "You needn't fear that I'll help the other fellows. Now to get down to business. I must see some samples of this rock in order to know what kind of explosive force is needed to rend it."
"I have some in New York," went on the contractor. "I'll have it sent to you at once. I would have brought it, only it is too heavy to carry easily, and I was not sure I could engage you."
"Did that fellow—Waddington, I believe you called him—get away from you?" asked Mr. Damon.
"Clean away," the contractor answered. "He was a better runner than I."
"It doesn't matter much," Tom said. "He didn't hear anything that would benefit him, and I'll give my men orders to be on the lookout for him. What sort of fellow is he, Mr. Titus?"
The contractor described the eavesdropper, and Mr. Damon exclaimed:
"Bless my turkey wish-bone! I'm sure I passed that chap when I was riding over to see you a while ago, Tom."
"Yes, on the highway. He inquired the way to your place. But there was nothing strange in that, since you employ a number of men, and I thought this one was coming to look for work. I can't say I liked his appearance, though."
"No, he isn't a very prepossessing individual," commented Mr. Titus. "Well, now what's the first thing to be done, Tom Swift?"
"Get me some samples of the rock, so I can begin my experiments."
"I'll do that. And now let us consider about going to Peru. For I'm sure you will be successful in your experiments, and will find for us just the powder or explosive we need."
"We can go together." said Mr. Damon. "I shall certainly feel more at home in that wild country if I know Tom Swift is with me, and I will appreciate the help of you and your friends, Mr. Titus, in straightening out the tangles of our drug business."
"I'll do all I can for you, Mr. Damon."
The three then talked at some length regarding possible plans. Tom sent out word to one of his men to keep a sharp watch around the house and grounds, against the possible return of Waddington, but nothing more was seen of him, at least for the time being.
Mr. Titus drew up a sort of tentative agreement with Tom, binding his firm to pay a large sum in case the young inventor was successful, and then the contractor left, promising to have the rock samples come on later by express.
Mr. Damon, after blessing a few dozen more or less impersonal objects, took his departure, his fractious horse having quieted down in the meanwhile, and Tom was left to himself.
"I wonder what I've let myself in for now," the youth mused, as he went back to his laboratory. "It's a new field for me—tunnel blasting. Well, perhaps something may come of it."
But of the strange adventure that was to follow his agreement to help Mr. Titus, our hero, Tom Swift, had not the least inkling.
Tom went back to his labors over the gyroscope problem, but he could arrive at no satisfactory conclusion, and, tossing aside the papers, covered with intricate figures, he exclaimed:
"Oh, I'm going for a walk! This thing is getting on my nerves."
He strolled through the Shopton streets, and as he reached the outskirts of the town, he saw just ahead of him the figure of a girl. Tom quickened his pace, and presently was beside her.
"Where are you going, Mary?" he asked.
"Oh, Tom! How you startled me!" she exclaimed, turning around. "I was just thinking of you."
"Thanks! Something nice?"
"I shan't tell you!" and she blushed. "But where are you going?"
"Walking with you!"
Tom was nothing if not bold.
"Hadn't you better wait until you're asked?" she retorted, mischievously.
"If I did I might not get an invitation. So I'm going to invite myself, and then I'm going to invite you in here to have an ice cream soda," and he and Miss Nestor were soon seated at a table in a candy shop.
Tom had nearly finished his ice cream when he glanced toward the door, and started at the sight of a man who was entering the place.
"What's the matter?" asked Mary. "Did you drop some ice cream, Tom?"
"No, Mary. But that man—"
Mary turned in time to see an excited man hurry out of the candy shop after a hasty glance at Tom Swift.
"Who was he?" the girl asked.
"I—er—oh, some one I thought I knew, but I guess I don't," said Tom, quickly. "Have some more cream, Mary?"
"No, thank you. Not now."
Tom was glad she did not care for any, as he was anxious to get outside, and have a look at the man, for he thought he had recognized the face as the same that had peered in his window. But when he and Miss Nestor reached the front of the shop the strange man was not in sight.
"I guess he came in to cool off after his run," mused Tom, "but when he saw me he didn't care about it. I wonder if that was Waddington? He's a persistent individual if it was he."
"Are you undertaking any new adventures, Tom?" asked Mary.
"Well, I'm thinking of going to Peru."
"Peru!" she cried. "Oh, what a long way to go! And when you get there will you write to me? I'm collecting stamps, and I haven't any from Peru."
"Is that—er—the only reason you want me to write?" asked Tom.
"No," said Mary softly, as she ran up the walk.
Tom smiled as he turned away.
Three days later he received a box from New York. It contained the samples from the Andes tunnel, and Tom at once began his experiments to discover a suitable explosive for rending the hard stone.
"It is compressed molten lava," said Mr. Swift. "You'll never get an explosive that will successfully blast that, Tom."
"We'll see," declared the young inventor.
Outside a rudely-constructed shack, in the middle of a large field, about a mile away from the nearest of the buildings owned by Tom Swift and his father, were gathered a group of figures one morning. From the shack, trailing over the ground, were two insulated wires, which led to a pile of rocks and earth some distance off. Out of the temporary building came Koku, the giant, bearing in his arms a big rock, of peculiar formation.
"That's it, Koku!" exclaimed Tom Swift. "Now don't drop it on your toes."
"No, Master, me no drop," the giant said, as he strode off with the heavy load as easily as a boy might carry a stone for his sling-shot.
Koku placed the big rock on top of the pile of dirt and stones and came back to the hut, just as Eradicate, the colored man-of-all-work, emerged. Koku was not looking ahead, and ran into Eradicate with such force that the latter would have fallen had not the giant clasped his big arms about him.
"Heah now! Whut yo' all doin' t' me?" angrily demanded Eradicate. "Yo' done gone an' knocked de breff outen me, dat's whut yo' all done! I'll bash yo' wif a rock, dat's what I'll do!"
Koku, laughing, tried to explain that it was all an accident, but Eradicate would not listen. He looked about for a stone to throw at the giant, though it was doubtful, with his feeble strength, and considering the great frame of the big man, if any damage would have been done. But Eradicate saw no rocks nearer than the pile in which ended the two insulated wires, and, with mutterings, the negro set off in that direction, shuffling along on his rheumatic legs.
From the shack Tom Swift hailed:
"Hi there, Rad! Come back! Where are you going?"
"I'se gwine t' git a rock, Massa Tom, an' bash de haid ob dat big lummox ob a giant! He done knocked de breff outen me, so he did."
"You come back from that stone pile!" Tom ordered. "I'm going to blow it up in a minute, and if you get too near you'll have the breath knocked out of you worse than Koku did it. Come back, I say!"
But Eradicate was obstinate and kept on. Tom, who was adjusting a firing battery in the shack, laughed, and then in exasperation cried:
"Koku, go and get him and bring him back. Carry him if he won't come any other way. I don't want the dear old chump to get the fright of his life, and he sure will if he goes too close. Bring him back!"
"Koku bring, Master," was the giant's answer.
He ran toward Eradicate, who, seeing his tormentor approaching, redoubled his shuffling pace toward the stone pile. But he was no match for the giant, who, ignoring his struggles, picked up Eradicate, and, flinging him over his shoulder like a sack of meal, brought him to the shack.
"There him be, Master!" said the giant.
"So I see," laughed Torn. "Now you stay here, Rad."
"No, sah! No, sah, Massa Tom! I—I'se gwine t' git a rock an'—an' bash his haid—dat's what I'se gwine t' do!" and the colored man tried to struggle to his feet.
"Look out now!" cried Tom, suddenly. "If things go right there won't be a rock left for you to 'bash' anybody's head with, Rad. Look out!"
The three cowered inside the shack, which, though it was rudely made, was built of heavy logs and planks, with a fronting of sod and bags of sand.
Tom turned a switch. There was a loud report, and where the stone pile had been there was a big hole in the ground, while the air was filled with fragments of rock and dirt. These came down in a shower on the roof of the shack, and Eradicate covered his ears with his trembling hands.
"Am—am de world comin' to de end, Massa Tom?" he asked. "Am dat Gabriel's trump I done heah?"
"No, you dear old goose!" laughed the young inventor. "That was just a charge of my new explosive—a small charge, too. But it seems to have done the work."
He ran from the shack to the place where the rock pile had been, and picked up several small fragments.
"Busted all to pieces!" exulted Tom Swift. "Not a piece left as big as a hickory nut. That's going some! I've got the right mixture at last. If an ounce did that, a few hundred pounds ought to knock that Andes tunnel through the mountain in no time. I'll telegraph to Mr. Titus."
Leaving Koku and Rad to collect the wires and firing apparatus, there being no danger now, as no explosive was left in the shack, Tom made his way back to the house. His father met him.
"Well, Tom," he asked, "another failure?"
"No, Dad! Success! This time I turned the trick. I seem to have gotten just the right mixture. Look, these are some of the pieces left from the big rock—one of the samples Mr. Titus sent me. It was all cracked up as small as this," and he held out the fragments he had picked up in the field.
Mr. Swift regarded them for a few moments.
"That's better, Tom," he said. "I didn't think you could get an explosive that would successfully shatter that hard rock, but you seem to have done it. Have you the formula all worked out?"
"All worked out, Dad. I only made a small quantity, but the same proportions will hold good for the larger amounts. I'm going to start in and make it now. And then—Ho! for Peru!"
Tom struck an attitude, such as some old discoverer might have assumed, and then he hurried into the house to telephone a telegram to the Shopton office. The message was to Mr. Titus, and read:
"Explosive success. Start making it at once. Ready for Peru in month's time."
"Thirteen words," repeated Tom, as the operator called them back to him. "I hope that doesn't mean bad luck."
The experiment which Tom Swift had just brought to a successful conclusion was one of many he had conducted, extending over several wearying weeks.
As soon as Tom had received the samples of the rock he had begun to experiment. First he tried some of the explosive that was so successful in the giant cannon. As he had feared, it was not what was needed. It cracked the rock, but did not disintegrate it, and that was what was needed. The hard rock must be broken up into fragments that could be easily handled. Merely to crack it necessitated further explosions, which would only serve to split it more and perhaps wedge it fast in the tunnel.
So Tom tried different mixtures, using various chemicals, but none seemed to be just right. The trials were not without danger, either. Once, in mixing some ingredients, there was an explosion that injured one man, and blew Tom some distance away. Fortunately for him, there was an open window in the direction in which he was propelled, and he went through that, escaping with only some cuts and bruises.
Another time there was a hang-fire, and the explosive burned instead of detonating, so that one of the shops caught, and there was no little work in subduing the flames.
But Tom would not give up, and finally, after many trials, he hit on what he felt to be the right mixture. This he took out to the big lot, and having made a miniature tunnel with some of the sample rock, and having put some of the explosive in a hole bored in the big chunk Koku carried, Tom fired the charge. The result we have seen. It was a success.
A day after receiving Tom's message Mr. Titus came on and a demonstration was given of the powerful explosive.
"Tom, that's great!" cried the tunnel contractor. "Our troubles are at an end now."
But, had he known it, new ones were only just beginning.
Tom at once began preparations for making the explosive on a large scale, as much of it would be needed in the Andes tunnel. Then, having turned the manufacturing end of it over to his men, Tom began his preparations for going to Peru.
Mr. Damon was also getting ready, and it was arranged that he, with Tom and Mr. Titus, should take a vessel from San Francisco, crossing the continent by train. The supply of explosive would follow them by special freight.
"We might have gone by Panama except for the slide in the canal," Tom said. "And I suppose I could take you across the continent in my airship, Mr. Titus, if you object to railroad travel."
"No, thank you, Tom. If it's just the same to you, I'd rather stay on the ground," the contractor said. "I'm more used to it."
A day or so before the start for San Francisco was to be made, Tom, passing a store in Shopton, saw something in the window he thought Mary Nestor would like. It was a mahogany work-box, of unique design, beautifully decorated, and Tom purchased it.
"Shall I have it sent?" asked the clerk.
"No, thank you," Tom answered.
He knew the young lady who had waited on him, and, for reasons of his own, he did not want her to know that Mary was to get the box.
Carrying the present to his laboratory, Tom prepared to wrap it up suitably to send to Mary, with a note. Just, however, as he was looking for a box suitable to contain the gift, he received a summons to the telephone. Mr. Titus, in New York, wanted to speak to him.
"Here, Rad!" Tom called. "Just box this up for me, like a good fellow, and then take it to Miss Nestor at this address; will you?" and Tom handed his man the addressed letter he had written to Mary. "Be careful of it," Tom cautioned.
"Oh, I'll be careful, Massa Tom," was the reply. "I'll shore be careful."
And Eradicate was—all too careful.
Mr. Nestor's Letter
"Got t' git a good strong box fo' dish yeah," murmured Eradicate, as he looked at the beautiful mahogany present Tom had turned over to him to take to Mary. "Mah Landy! Dat suttinly am nice; Ah! Um! Jest laik some ob de old mahogany furniture dat was in our fambily down Souf." Eradicate did not mean his family, exactly, but the one in which he had been a slave.
"Yassum, dat shore am nice!" he went on, talking to himself as he admired the present. "I shore got t' put dat in a good box! An' dish year note, too. Let's see what it done say on de outside."
Eradicate held the envelope carefully upside down, and read—or rather pretended to read—the name and address. Eradicate knew well enough where Mary lived, for this was not the first time he had gone there with messages from his young master.
"Massa Tom shore am a fine writer," mused the negro, as he slowly turned the envelope around. "I cain't read nobody's writin' but hisen, nohow."
Had Eradicate been strictly honest with himself, he would have confessed that he could not read any writing, or printing either. His education had been very limited, but one could show him, say, a printed sign and tell him it read "Danger" or "Five miles to Branchville," or anything like that, and the next time he saw it, Eradicate would know what that sign said. He seemed to fix a picture of it in his mind, though the letters and figures by themselves meant nothing to him. So when Tom told him the envelope contained the name and address of Miss Nestor, Eradicate needed nothing more.
He rummaged about in some odds and ends in the corner of the laboratory, and brought out a strong, wooden box, which had a cover that screwed down.
"Dat'll be de ticket!" Eradicate exclaimed. "De mahogany present will jest fit." Eradicate took some excelsior to pad the box, and then, dropping inside it the gift, already wrapped in tissue paper, he proceeded to screw on the cover.
There was something printed in red letters on the outside box, but Eradicate could not read, so it did not trouble him.
"Dat Miss Nestor shore will laik her present," he murmured. "An' I'll be mighty keerful ob it' laik Massa Tom tole me. He wouldn't trust dat big lummox Koku wif anyt'ing laik dis."
Screwing on the cover, and putting a piece of wrapping paper outside the rough, wooden box, with the letter in his hand, Eradicate, full of his own importance, set off for Miss Nestor's house. Tom had not returned from the telephone, over which he was talking to Mr. Titus.
The message was an important one. The contractor said he had received word from his brother in Peru that his presence was urgently needed there.
"Could you arrange to get off sooner than we planned, Tom?" asked Mr. Titus. "I am afraid something has happened down there. Have you sent the first shipment of explosive?"
"Yes, that went three days ago. It ought to arrive at Lima soon after we do. Why yes, I can start to-night if we have to. I'll find out if Mr. Damon can be with us on such short notice."
"I wish you would," came from Mr. Titus. "And say, Tom, do you think you could take that giant Koku with you?"
"Well, I think he'd come in handy. There are some pretty rough characters in those Andes Mountains, and your big friend might be useful."
"All right. I was thinking of it, anyhow. Glad you mentioned it. Now I'll call up Mr. Damon, and I'll let you know, in an hour or so, if he can make it."
"Bless my hair brush, yes, Tom!" exclaimed the eccentric man, when told of the change in plans. "I can leave to-night as well as not."
Word to this effect was sent on to Mr. Titus, and then began some hurrying on the part of Tom Swift. He told Koku to get ready to leave for New York at once, where he and the giant would join Mr. Titus and Mr. Damon, and start across the continent to take for steamer for Lima, Peru.
"Rad, did you send that present to Miss Nestor?" asked Tom, later, as he finished packing his grip.
"Yas, sah. I done did it. Took it mase'f!"
"That's good! I guess I'll have to say good-bye to Mary over the telephone. I won't have time to call. I'm glad I thought of the present."
Tom got the Nestor house on the wire. But Mary was not in.
"There's a package here for her," said the girl's mother. "Did you—?"
"Yes, I sent that," Tom said. "Sorry I won't be able to call and say good-bye, but I'm in a terrible rush. I'll see her as soon as I get back, and I'll write as soon as I arrive."
"Do," urged Mrs. Nestor. "We'll all be glad to hear from you," for Tom and Mary were tentatively engaged to be married.
Tom and Koku went on with their hurried preparations to leave for New York. Eradicate begged to be taken along, but Tom gently told the faithful old servant that it was out of the question.
"Besides, Rad," he said, "it's dangerous in those Andes Mountains. Why, they have birds there, as big as cows, and they can swoop down and carry off a man your size."
"Am dat shorely so, Massa Tom?"
"Of course it is! You get the dictionary and read about the condors of the Andes Mountains."
"Dat's what I'll do, Massa Tom. Birds as big as cows what kin pick up a man in dere beaks, an' carry him off! Oh, my! No, sah, Massa Tom! I don't want t' go. I'll stay right yeah!"
Shortly before Tom and Koku departed for the railroad station, where they were to take a train for New York, Mary Nestor returned home.
"Tom called you on the telephone to say good-bye," her mother informed her, "and said he was sorry he could not see you. But he sent some sort of gift."
"Oh, how sweet of him!" Mary exclaimed. "Where is it?"
"On the dining room table. Eradicate brought it with a note."
Mary read the note first.
In it Tom begged Mary to accept the little token, and to think of him when she used it.
"Oh! I wonder what it can be," she cried in delight.
"Better open it and see," advised Mr. Nestor, who had come in at that moment.
Mary cut the string of the outside paper, and folded back the wrapper. A wooden box was exposed to view, a solid, oblong, wooden box, and on the top, in bold, red letters Mary, her father and her mother read:
DYNAMITE! HANDLE WITH CARE!
"Oh! Oh!" murmured Mrs. Nestor.
"Dynamite! Handle with care!" repeated Mr. Nestor, in a sort of dazed voice. "Quick! Get a pail of water! Dump it in the bathtub! Soak it good, and then telephone for the police. Dynamite! What does this mean?"
He rushed toward the kitchen, evidently with the intention of getting a pail of water, but Mary clasped him by the arm.
"Father!" she exclaimed. "Don't get so excited!"
"Excited!" he cried. "Who's excited? Dynamite! We'll all be blown up! This is some plot! I don't believe Tom sent this at all! Look out! Call the police! Excited! Who's getting excited?"
"You are, Daddy dear!" said Mary calmly. "This is some mistake. Tom did send this—I know his writing. And wasn't it Eradicate who brought this package, Mother?"
"Yes, my dear. But your father is right. Let him put it in water, then it will be safe. Oh, we'll all be blown up. Get the water!"
"No!" cried Mary. "There is some mistake. Tom wouldn't send me dynamite. There must be a present for me in there. Tom must have put it in the wrong box by mistake. I'm going to open it."
Mary's calmness had its effect on her parents. Mr. Nestor cooled down, as did his wife, and a closer examination of the outer box did not seem to show that it was an infernal machine of any kind.
"It's all a mistake, Daddy," Mary said. "I'll show you. Get me a screw driver."
After some delay one was found, and Mr. Nestor himself opened the box. When the tissue paper wrappings of the mahogany gift were revealed he gave a sigh of relief, and when Mary undid the wrappings, and saw what Tom had sent her, she cried:
"Oh, how perfectly dear! Just what I wanted! I wonder how he knew? Oh, I just love it!" and she hugged the beautiful box in her arms.
"Humph!" exclaimed Mr. Nestor, a slowly gathering light of anger showing in his eyes. "It is a nice present, but that is a very poor sort of joke to play, in my estimation."
"Joke! What joke?" asked Mary.
"Putting a present in a box labeled Dynamite, and giving us such a scare," went on her father.
"Oh, Father, I'm sure he didn't mean to do it!" Mary said, earnestly.
"Well, maybe he didn't! He may have thought it a joke, and he may not have! But, at any rate, it was a piece of gross carelessness on his part, and I don't care to consider for a son-in-law a young man as careless as that!"
"Oh, Daddy!" expostulated Mary.
"Now, now! Tut, tut!" exclaimed Mr. Nestor. "It isn't your fault, Mary, but this Tom Swift must be taught a lesson. He was careless, if nothing worse, and, for all he knew, there might have been some stray bits of dynamite in that packing box. It won't do! It won't do! I'll write him a letter, and give him a piece of my mind!"
And in spite of all his wife and his daughter could say, Mr. Nestor did write Tom a scathing letter. He accused him of either perpetrating a joke, or of being careless, or both, and he intimated that the less he saw of Tom at the Nestor home hereafter the better pleased he would be.
"There! I guess that will make him wish he hadn't done it!" exclaimed Mr. Nestor, as he called a messenger and sent the letter to Tom's house.
Mary and her mother did not know the contents of the note, but Mary tried to get Tom on the wire and explain. However, she was unable to reach him, as Tom was on the point of leaving.
The messenger, with Mr. Nestor's letter, arrived just as our hero was receiving the late afternoon mail from the postman, and just as Tom and Koku were getting in an automobile to leave for the depot.
"Good-bye, Dad!" Tom called. "Good-bye, Mrs. Baggert!" He thrust Mr. Nestor's letter, unopened, together with some other mail matter, which he took to be merely circulars, into an inner pocket, and jumped into the car.
Tom and Koku were off on the first stage of their journey.
Off for Peru
"Well, Tom Swift, you're on time I see," was Mr. Job Titus' greeting, when our hero, and Koku, the giant, alighted from a taxicab in New York, in front of the hotel the contractor had appointed as a meeting place.
"Yes, I'm here."
"Did you have a good trip?"
"Oh, all right, yes. Nothing happened to speak of, though we were delayed by a freight wreck. Has Mr. Damon got here yet?"
"Not yet, Tom. But I had a message saying he was on his way. Come on up to the rooms I have engaged. Hello, what's all the crowd here for?" asked the contractor in some surprise, for a throng had gathered at the hotel entrance.
"I expect it's Koku they're staring at," announced Tom, and the giant it was who had attracted the attention. He was carrying his own big valise, and a small steamer trunk belonging to Tom, as easily as though they weighed nothing, the trunk being under one arm.
"I guess they don't see men of his size outside of circuses," commented the contractor. "We can pretty nearly, though not quite match him, down in Peru though, Tom. Some of the Indians are big fellows."
"We'll get up a wrestling match between one of them and Koku," suggested Tom. "Come on!" he called to the giant, who was surrounded by a crowd.
Koku pushed his way through as easily as a bull might make his way through a throng of puppies about his heels, and as Tom, Mr. Titus and the giant were entering the hotel corridor, the chauffeur of the taxicab called out with a laugh:
"I say, boss, don't you think you ought to pay double rates on that chap," and he nodded in the direction of the giant.
"That's right!" added some one in the crowd with a laugh. "He might have broken the springs."
"All right," assented Tom, good-naturedly, tossing the chauffeur a coin. "Here you are, have a cigar on the giant."
There was more laughter, and even Koku grinned, though it is doubtful if he knew what about, for he could not understand much unless Tom spoke to him in a sort of code they had arranged between them.
"Sorry to have hastened your departure," began Mr. Titus when he and Tom sat in the comfortable hotel rooms, while Koku stood at a window, looking out at what to him were the marvelous wonders of the New York streets.
"It didn't make any difference," replied the young inventor. "I was about ready to come anyhow. I just had to hustle a little," and he thought of how he had had to send Mary's present to her instead of taking it himself. As yet he was all unaware of the commotion it had caused.
"Did you get the powder shipment off all right?"
"Yes, and it will be there almost as soon as we. Other shipments will follow as we need them. My father will see to that."
"I'm glad you hit on the right kind of powder," went on the contractor. "I guess I didn't make any mistake in coming to you, Tom."
"Well, I hope not. Of course the explosive worked all right in experimental charges with samples of the tunnel rock. It remains to be seen what it will do under actual conditions, and in big service charges."
"Oh, I've no doubt it will work all right."
"What time do we leave here?" Tom asked.
"At two-thirty this afternoon. We have just time to get a good dinner and have our baggage transferred to the Chicago limited. In less than a week we ought to be in San Francisco and aboard the steamer. I hope Mr. Damon arrives on time."
"Oh, you can generally depend on him," said Tom. "I telephoned him, just before I started from Shopton, and he said—"
"Bless my carpet slippers!" cried a voice outside the hotel apartment. "But I can find my way all right. I know the number of the room. No! you needn't take my bag. I can carry it my self!"
"There he is!" laughed Tom, opening the door to disclose the eccentric gentleman himself, struggling to keep possession of his valise against the importunities of a bellboy.
"Ah, Tom—Mr. Titus! Glad to see you!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "I—I am a little late, I fear—had an accident—wait until I get my breath," and he sank, panting, into a chair.
"Accident?" cried Tom. "Are you—?"
"Yes—my taxicab ran into another. Nobody hurt though."
"But you're all out of breath," said Mr. Titus. "Did you run?"
"No, but I walked upstairs."
"What! Seven flights?" exclaimed Tom. "Weren't the hotel elevators running?"
"Yes, but I don't like them. I'd rather walk. And I did—carried my valise—bellboy tried to take it away from me every step—here you are, son—it wasn't the tip I was trying to get out of," and he tossed the waiting and grinning lad a quarter.
"There, I'm better now," went on Mr. Damon, when Tom had given him a glass of water. "Bless my paper weight! The drug concern will have to vote me an extra dividend for what I've gone through. Well, I'm here, anyhow. How is everything?"
"Fine!" cried Tom. "We'll soon be off for Peru!"
They talked over plans and made sure nothing had been forgotten. Their railroad tickets had been secured by Mr. Titus so there was nothing more to do save wait for train-time.
"I've never been to Peru," Tom remarked shortly before lunch. "What sort of country is it?"
"Quite a wonderful country," Mr. Titus answered. "I have been very much interested in it since my brother and I accepted this tunnel contract. Peru seems to have taken its name from Peru, a small river on the west coast of Colombia, where Pizarro landed. The country, geographically, may be divided into three sections longitudinally. The coast region is a sandy desert, with here and there rivers flowing through fertile valleys. The sierra region is the Andes division, about two hundred and fifty miles in width."
"Is that where we're going?" asked Tom.
"Yes. And beyond the Andes (which in Peru consist of great chains of mountains, some very high, interspersed with table lands, rich plains and valleys) there is the montana region of tropical forests, running down to the valley of the Amazon.
"That sounds interesting," commented Mr. Damon.
"It is interesting," declared Mr. Titus. "For it is from this tropical region that your quinine comes, Mr. Damon, though you may not have to go there to straighten out your affairs. I think you can do better bargaining with the officials in Lima, or near there."
"Are there any wild animals in Peru?" Tom inquired.
"Well, not many. Of course there are the llamas and alpacas, which are the beasts of burden—almost like little camels you might say, though much more gentle. Then there is the wild vicuna, the fleece of which is made into a sort of wool, after which a certain kind of cloth is named.
"Then there is the taruco, a kind of deer, the viscacha, which is a big rat, the otoc, a sort of wild dog, or fox, and the ucumari, a black bear with a white nose. This bear is often found on lofty mountain tops, but only when driven there in search of food.
"The condors, of course, are big birds of prey in the Andes. You must have read about them; how they seem to lie in the upper regions of the air, motionless, until suddenly they catch sight of some dead animal far down below when they sweep toward it with the swiftness of the wink. There is another bird of the vulture variety, with wings of black and white feathers. The ancient Incas used to decorate their head dresses with these wing feathers."
"Well, I'm glad I'm going to Peru," said Tom. "I never knew it was such an interesting country. But I don't suppose we'll have time to see much of it."
"Oh, I think you will," commented Mr. Titus. "We don't always have to work on the tunnel. There are numerous holidays, or holy-days, which our Indian workers take off, and we can do nothing without them. I'll see that you have a chance to do some exploring if you wish."
"Good!" exclaimed Tom. "I brought my electric rifle with me, and I may get a chance to pop over one of those bears with a white nose. Are they good to eat?"
"The Indians eat them, I believe, when they can get them, but I wouldn't fancy the meat," said the contractor.
Luncheon over, the three travelers departed with their baggage for the Chicago Limited, which left from the Pennsylvania Station at Twenty-third Street. As usual, Koku attracted much attention because of his size.
The trip to San Francisco was without incident worth narrating and in due time our friends reached the Golden Gate where they were to go aboard their steamer. They had to wait a day, during which time Tom and Mr. Titus made inquiries regarding the first powder shipment. They had had unexpected good luck, for the explosive, having been sent on ahead by fast freight, was awaiting them.
"So we can take it with us on the Bellaconda," said, Tom, naming the vessel on which they were to sail.
The powder was safely stowed away, and our friends having brought their baggage aboard, putting what was wanted on the voyage in their staterooms, went out on deck to watch the lines being cast off.
A bell clanged and an officer cried:
"All ashore that's going ashore!"
There were hasty good-byes, a scramble on the part of those who had come to bid friends farewell, and preparations were made to haul in the gangplank.
Just as the tugs were slowly pushing against the Bellaconda to get her in motion to move her away from the wharf, there was a shout down the pier and a taxicab, driven at reckless speed, dashed up.
"Wait a minute! Hold that gangway. I have a passenger for you!" cried the chauffeur.
He pulled up with a screeching of brakes, and a man with a heavy black beard fairly leaped from the vehicle, running toward the plank which was all but cast off.
"My fare! My fare!" yelled the taxicab driver.
"Take it out of that! Keep the change!" cried the bearded man over his shoulder, tossing a crumpled bill to the chauffeur. And then, clutching his valise in a firm hand, the belated passenger rushed up the gangplank just in time to board the steamer which was moving away from the dock.
"Close shave—that," observed Tom.
"That's right," assented Mr. Titus.
"Well, we're off for Peru!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, as the vessel moved down the bay.
The Bearded Man
Travel to Tom and Mr. Damon presented no novelties. They had been on too many voyages over the sea, under the sea and even in the air above the sea to find anything unusual in merely taking a trip on a steamer.
Mr. Titus, though he admitted he had never been in a submarine or airship, had done considerable traveling about the world in his time, and had visited many countries, either for business or pleasure, so he was an old hand at it.
But to Koku, who, since he had been brought from the land where Tom Swift had been made captive, had gone about but little, everything was novel, and he did not know at what to look first.
The giant was interested in the ship, in the water, in the passengers, in the crew and in the sights to be seen as they progressed down the harbor.
And the big man himself was a source of wonder to all save his own party. Everywhere he went about the decks, or below, he was followed by a staring but respectful crowd. Koku took it all good-naturedly, however, and even consented to show his great strength by lifting heavy weights. Once when several sailors were shifting one of the smaller anchors (a sufficiently heavy one for all that) Koku pushed them aside with a sweep of his big arm, and, picking up the big "hook," turned to the second mate and asked:
"Where you want him?"
"Good land, man!" cried the astonished officer. "You'll kill yourself!"
But Koku carried the anchor where it ought to go, and from then on he was looked up to with awe and admiration by the sailors.
From San Francisco to Callao, Peru (the latter city being the seaport of Lima, which is situated inland), is approximately nine hundred miles. But as the Bellaconda was a coasting steamer, and would make several stops on her trip, it would be more than a week before our friends would land at Callao, then to proceed to Lima, where they expected to remain a day or so before striking into the interior to where the tunnel was being bored through the mountain.
The first day was spent in getting settled, becoming used to their new surroundings, finding their places and neighbors at table, and in making acquaintances. There were some interesting men and women aboard the Bellaconda, and Tom Swift, Mr. Damon and Mr. Titus soon made friends with them. This usually came about through the medium of Koku, the giant. Persons seeing him would inquire about him, and when they learned he was Tom Swift's helper it was an easy topic with which to open conversation.
Tom told, modestly enough, how he had come to get Koku in his escape from captivity, but Mr. Damon was not so simple in describing Tom's feats, so that before many days had passed our hero found himself regarded as a personage of considerable importance, which was not at all to his liking.
"But bless my fountain pen!" cried Mr. Damon, when Tom objected to so much notoriety. "You did it all; didn't you?"
"Yes, I know. But these people won't believe it."
"Oh, yes they will!" said the odd man. "I'll take good care that they believe it."
"If any one say it not so, you tell me!" broke Koku, shaking his huge fist.
"No, I guess I'd better keep still," said Tom, with a laugh.
The weather was pleasant, if we except a shower or two, and as the vessel proceeded south, tropical clothing became the order of the day, while all who could, spent most of their time on deck under the shade of awnings.
"Did you ever hear anything more of that fellow, Waddington?" asked Tom of Mr. Titus one day.
"Not a thing. He seems to have dropped out of sight."
"And are your rivals, Blakeson & Grinder, making any trouble?"
"Not that I've heard of. Though just what the situation may be down in Peru I don't know. I fancy everything isn't going just right or my brother would not be so anxious for me to come on in such a hurry."
"Do you anticipate any real trouble?"
Mr. Titus paused a moment before answering.
"Well, yes," he said, finally, "I do!"
"What sort?" asked Tom.
"That I can't say. I'll be perfectly frank with you, Tom. You know I told you at the time that we were in for difficulties. I didn't want you to go into this thing blindly."
"Oh, I'm not afraid of trouble," Tom hastened to assure his friend. "I've had more or less of it in my life, and I'm willing to meet it again. Only I like to know what kind it is."
"Well, I can't tell you—exactly," went an the tunnel contractor. "Those rivals of ours, Blakeson & Grinder, are unscrupulous fellows. They feel very bitter about not getting the contract, I hear. And they would be only too glad to have us fail in the work. That would mean that they, as the next lowest bidders, would be given the job. And we would have to make up the difference out of our pockets, as well as lose all the work we have, so far, put on the tunnel."
"And you don't want that to happen!"
"I guess not, my boy! Well, it won't happen if we get there in time with this new explosive of yours. That will do the business I'm sure."
"I hope so," murmured Tom. "Well, we'll soon see. And now I think I'll go and write a few letters. We are going to put in at Panama, and I can mail them there."
Tom started for his stateroom, and rapidly put his hand in the inner pocket of his coat. He drew out a bundle of letters and papers, and, as he looked at them, a cry of astonishment came from his lips.
"What's the matter?" asked Mr. Titus.
"Matter!" cried Tom. "Why here's a letter from Mary—from Mr. Nestor," he went on, as he scanned the familiar handwriting. "I never opened it! Let's see—when did I get that?"
His memory went back to the day of his departure from Shopton when he had sent Mary the gift, and he recalled that the letter had arrived just as he was getting into the automobile.
"I stuck it in my pocket with some other mail," he mused, "and I never thought of it again until just now. But this is the first time I've worn this coat since that day. A letter from Mr. Nestor! Probably Mary wrote, thanking me for the box, and her father addressed the envelope for her. Well, let's see what it says."
Tom retired to the privacy of his stateroom to read the note, but he had not glanced over more than the first half of it before he cried out:
"Dynamite! Great Scott! What does this mean? 'Gross carelessness! Poor idea of a joke! No person with your idea of responsibility will ever be my son-in-law!' Box labeled 'open with care!' Why—why—what does it all mean?"
Tom read the letter over again, and his murmurs of astonishment were so loud that Mr. Damon, in the next room, called out:
"What's the matter, Tom? Get bad news?"
"Bad news? I should say so! Mary—her father—he forbids me to see her again. Says I tried to dynamite them all—or at least scare them into believing I was going to. I can't understand it!"
"Tell me about it, Tom," suggested Mr. Damon, coming into Tom's stateroom. "Bless my gunpowder keg! what does it mean?"
Thereupon Tom told of having purchased the gift for Mary, and of having, at the last minute, told Eradicate to put it in a box and deliver it at the Nestor home.
"Which he evidently did," Tom went on, "but when it got there Mary's present was in a box labeled 'Dynamite. Handle with care.' I never sent that."
Mr. Damon read over Mr. Nestor's letter which had lain so long in Tom's pocket unopened.
"I think I see how it happened," said the old man. "Eradicate can't read; can he, Tom?"
"No, but he pretends he can."
"And did you have any empty boxes marked dynamite in your laboratory?"
"Why yes, I believe I did. I used dynamite as one of the ingredients of my new explosive."
"Well then, it's as clear as daylight. Eradicate, being unable to read, took one of the empty dynamite boxes in which to pack Mary's present. That's how it happened."
Tom thought for a moment. Then he burst into a laugh.
"That's it," he said, a bit ruefully. "That's the explanation. No wonder Mr. Nestor was roiled. He thought I was playing a joke. I'll have to explain. But how?"
"By letter," said Mr. Damon.
"Too slow. I'll send a wireless," decided Tom, and he began the composition of a message that cost him considerable in tolls before he had hit on the explanation that suited him.
"That ought to clear the atmosphere," he said when the wireless had shot his message into the ether. "Whew! And to think, all this while, Mary and her folks have believed that I tried to play a miserable joke on them! My! My! I wonder if they'll ever forgive me. When I get hold of Eradicate—"
"Better teach him to read if he's going to do up love packages," interrupted Mr. Damon, dryly.
"I will," decided the young inventor.
The Bellaconda stopped at Panama and then kept on her way south. Soon after that she ran into a severe tropical storm, and for a time there was some excitement among the passengers. The more timid of them put on life preservers, though the captain and his officers assured them there was no danger.
Tom and Mr. Titus, descending from the deck, whence they had been warned by one of the mates, were on their way to their stateroom, walking with some difficulty owing to the roll of the ship.
As they approached their quarters the door of a stateroom farther up the passage opened, and a head was thrust out.
"Will you send a steward to me?" a man requested. "I am feeling very ill, and need assistance."
"Certainly," Tom answered, and at that moment he heard Mr. Titus utter an exclamation.
"What is it?" asked Tom, for the man who had appealed for help, had withdrawn his head.
"That—that man!" exclaimed the contractor. "That was Waddington, the tool of our rivals."
"Waddington!" repeated Tom, with a look at the now closed door. "Why, the bearded man has that stateroom—the bearded man who so nearly lost the steamer. He isn't Waddington!"
"And I tell you Waddington is in that room!" insisted the contractor. "I only saw the upper part of his face, but I'd know his eyes anywhere. Waddington is spying on us!"
Tom Swift and Mr. Titus withdrew a little way down the corridor, around a bulkhead and out of sight of any one who might look out from the stateroom whence had come the appeal for help. But, at the same time, they could keep watch over it.
"I tell you Waddington is in there!" insisted Mr. Titus, hoarsely whispering.
"Well, perhaps he may be," admitted Tom. "But several times I have seen the bearded man going in there, and it's only a single stateroom, for it's so marked on the deck plan."
"Waddington might be disguised with a false beard, Tom."
"Yes, he might. But did the man who just now looked out have a beard?"
"I couldn't tell, as I saw only the upper part of his face. But those were Waddington's shifty eyes, I'm positive."
"If Waddington were on board don't you suppose you would have seen him before this?"
"Not positively, no. If he and the bearded man are one and the same that would account for it. But I haven't noticed the bearded man once since he came aboard in such a hurry."
"Nor have I, now that I come to think of it," Tom admitted. "However, there is an easy way to prove who is in there."
"We'll knock on the door and go in."
"Perhaps he won't let us."
"He'll think it's the steward he called for. Come, you know Waddington better than I do. You knock and go in."
"I don't know Waddington very well," admitted the contractor. "I have only seen him a few times, but I am sure that was he. But what shall I do when he sees I'm not the steward?"
"Tell him you have sent for one. I'll go with the message, so it will be true enough. Even if you have only a momentary glance at him in close quarters you ought to be able to tell whether or not he has on a false beard, and whether or not it is Waddington."
Mr. Titus considered for a moment, and then he said:
"Yes, I guess that is a good plan. You go for the steward, Tom, and I'll see if I can get in that stateroom. But I'm sure I'm not mistaken. I'll find Waddington in there, perhaps in the person of the bearded man, disguised. Or else they are using a single stateroom as a double one." And while Tom went off down the pitching and rolling corridor to find a steward, Mr. Titus, not without some apprehension, advanced to knock on the door of the suspect.
"If it is Waddington he'll know me at once, of course," thought the contractor, "and there may be a row. Well, I can't help it. The success of my brother and myself depends on finishing that tunnel, and we can't have Waddington, and those whose tool he is, interfering. Here goes!"
He tapped on the door, and a faint voice called:
The contractor entered, and saw the bearded man lying in his berth.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" asked the contractor, bending close over the man. He wanted to see if the beard were false. Somewhat to his surprise the contractor saw that undoubtedly it was real.