TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RIFLE
Daring Adventures in Elephant Land
by VICTOR APPLETON
I TOM WANTS EXCITEMENT II TRYING THE NEW GUN III A DIFFICULT TEST IV BIG TUSKS WANTED V RUSH WORK VI NEWS FROM ANDY VII THE BLACK HAWK FLIES VIII OFF FOR AFRICA IX ATTACKED BY A WHALE X OFF IN THE AIRSHIP XI ANCHORED TO EARTH XII AMONG THE NATIVES XIII ON THE ELEPHANT TRAIL XIV A STAMPEDE XV LIONS IN THE NIGHT XVI SEEKING THE MISSIONARIES XVII SHOTS FROM ABOVE XVIII NEWS OF THE RED PYGMIES XIX AN APPEAL FOR HELP XX THE FIGHT XXI DRIVEN BACK XXII A NIGHT ATTACK XXIII THE RESCUE XXIV TWO OTHER CAPTIVES XXV THE ROGUE ELEPHANT—CONCLUSION
TOM WANTS EXCITEMENT
"Have you anything special to do to-night, Ned?" asked Tom Swift, the well-known inventor, as he paused in front of his chum's window, in the Shopton National Bank.
"No, nothing in particular," replied the bank clerk, as he stacked up some bundles of bills. "Why do you ask?"
"I wanted you to come over to the house for a while."
"Going to have a surprise party, or something like that?"
"No, only I've got something I'd like to show you."
"A new invention?"
"Well, not exactly new. You've seen it before, but not since I've improved it. I'm speaking of my new electric rifle. I've got it ready to try, now, and I'd like to see what you think of it. There's a rifle range over at the house, and we can practice some shooting, if you haven't anything else to do."
"I haven't, and I'll be glad to come. What are you doing in the bank, anyhow; putting away more of your wealth, Tom?"
"Yes, I just made a little deposit. It's some money I got from the government for the patents on my sky racer, and I'm salting it down here until Dad and I can think of a better investment."
"Good idea. Bring us all the money you can," and the bank clerk, who held a small amount of stock in the financial institution, laughed, his chum joining in with him.
"Well, then. I'll expect you over this evening," went on the youthful inventor, as he turned to leave the bank.
"Yes, I'll be there. Say, Tom, have you heard the latest about Andy Foger?"
"No, I haven't heard much since he left town right after I beat him in the aeroplane race at Eagle Park."
"Well, he's out of town all right, and I guess for a long time this trip. He's gone to Europe."
"To Europe, eh? Well, he threatened to go there after he failed to beat me in the race, but I thought he was only bluffing."
"No, he's really gone this time."
"Well, I, for one, am glad of it. Did he take his aeroplane along?"
"Yes, that's what he went for. It seems that this Mr. Landbacher, the German who really invented it, and built it with money which Mr. Foger supplied, has an idea he can interest the German or some other European government in the machine. Andy wanted to go along with him, and as Mr. Foger financed the scheme, I guess he thought it would be a good thing to have some one represent him. So Andy's gone."
"Then he won't bother me. Well, I must get along. I'll expect you over to-night," and with a wave of his hand Tom Swift hurried from the bank.
The young inventor jumped into his electric runabout which stood outside the institution, and was about to start off when he saw a newsboy selling papers which had just come in from New York, on the morning train.
"Here, Jack, give me a TIMES," called Tom to the lad, and he tossed the newsboy a nickel. Then, after glancing at the front page, and noting the headings, Tom started off his speedy car, in which, on one occasion, he had made a great run, against time. He was soon at home.
"Well, Dad, I've got the money safely put away," he remarked to an aged gentleman who sat in the library reading a book. "Now we won't have to worry about thieves until we get some more cash in."
"Well, I'm glad it's coming in so plentifully," said Mr. Swift with a smile. "Since my illness I haven't been able to do much, Tom, and it all depends on you, now."
"Don't let that worry you, Dad. You'll soon be as busy as ever," for, following a serious operation for an ailment of the heart, Mr. Swift, who was a veteran inventor, had not been able to do much. But the devices of his son, especially a speedy monoplane, which Tom invented, and sold to the United States Government, were now bringing them in a large income. In fact with royalties from his inventions and some gold and diamonds which he had secured on two perilous trips, Tom Swift was quite wealthy.
"I'll never be as busy as I once was," went on Mr. Swift, a little regretfully, "but I don't know that I care as long as you continue to turn out new machines, Tom. By the way, how is the electric rifle coming on? I haven't heard you speak of it lately."
"It's practically finished, Dad. It worked pretty well the time I took it when we went on the trip to the caves of ice, but I've improved it very much since then. In fact I'm going to give it a severe test to-night. Ned Newton is coming over, and it may be that then we'll find out something about it that could be bettered. But I think not. It suits me as it is."
"So Ned is coming over to see it; eh? You ought to have Mr. Damon here to bless it a few times."
"Yes, I wish I did. And he may come along at any moment, as it is. You never can tell when he is going to turn up. Mrs. Baggert says you were out walking while I was at the bank, Dad. Do you feel better after it?"
"Yes, I think I do, Tom. Oh, I'm growing stronger every day, but it will take time. But now tell me something about the electric gun."
Thereupon the young inventor related to his father some facts about the improvements he had recently made to the weapon. It was dinner time when he had finished, and, after the meal Tom went out to the shed where he built his aeroplanes and his airships, and in which building he had fitted up a shooting gallery.
"I'll get ready for the trial to-night," he said "I want to see what it will do to a dummy figure. Guess I'll make a sort of scarecrow and stuff it with straw. I'll get Eradicate to help me. Rad! I say, Rad! Where are you?"
"Heah I is, Massa Tom! Heah I is" called a colored man as he came around the corner of a small stable where he kept his mule Boomerang. "Was yo'-all callin' me?"
"Yes, Rad, I want you to help make a scarecrow."
"A scarecrow, Massa Tom! Good land a' massy! What fo' yo' want ob a scarecrow? Yo'-all ain't raisin' no corn, am yo'?"
"No, but I want something to shoot at when Ned Newton comes over to-night."
"Suffin t' shoot at? Why Massa Tom! Good land a' massy! Yo'-all ain't gwine t' hab no duel, am yo'?"
"No, Rad, but I want a life-size figure on which to try my new electric gun. Here are some old clothes, and if you will stuff them with rags and straw and fix them so they'll stand up, they'll do first-rate. Have it ready by night, and set it up at the far end of the shooting gallery."
"All right, Massa Tom. I'll jest do dat, fo' yo'," and leaving the colored man to stuff the figure, after he had showed him how, Tom went back into the house to read the paper which he had purchased that morning.
He skimmed over the news, thinking perhaps he might see something of the going abroad of Andy Foger with the German aeroplane, but there was nothing.
"I almost wish I was going to Europe," sighed Tom. "I will certainly have to get busy at something, soon. I haven't had any adventure since I won the prize at the Eagle Park aviation meet in my sky racer. Jove! That was some excitement! I'd like to do that over again, only I shouldn't want to have Dad so sick," for just before the race, Tom had saved his father's life by making a quick run in the aeroplane, to bring a celebrated surgeon to the invalid's aid.
"I certainly wish I could have some new adventures," mused Tom, as he turned the pages of the paper. "I could afford to take a trip around the earth after them, too, with the way money is coming in now. Yes, I do wish I could have some excitement. Hello, what's this! A big elephant hunt in Africa. Hundreds of the huge creatures captured in a trap—driven in by tame beasts. Some are shot for their tusks. Others will be sent to museums."
He was reading the headlines of the article that had attracted his attention, and, as he read, he became more and more absorbed in it. He read the story through twice, and then, with sparkling eyes, he exclaimed:
"That's just what I want. Elephant shooting in Africa! My! With my new electric rifle, and an airship, what couldn't a fellow do over in the dark continent! I've a good notion to go there! I wonder if Ned would go with me? Mr. Damon certainly would. Elephant shooting in Africa! In an airship! I could finish my new sky craft in short order if I wanted to. I've a good notion to do it!"
TRYING THE NEW GUN
While Tom Swift is thus absorbed in thinking about a chance to hunt elephants, we will take the opportunity to tell you a little more about him, and then go on with the story.
Many of you already know the young inventor, but those who do not may be interested it hearing that he is a young American lad, full of grit and ginger, who lives with his aged father in the town of Shopton, in New York State. Our hero was first introduced to the public in the book, "Tom Swift and His Motorcycle."
In that volume it was related how Tom bought a motor-cycle from a Mr. Wakefield Damon, of Waterford. Mr. Damon was an eccentric individual, who was continually blessing himself, some one else, or something belonging to him. His motor-cycle tried to climb a tree with him, and that was why he sold it to Tom. The two thus became acquainted, and their friendship grew from year to year.
After many adventures on his motor-cycle Tom got a motor-boat, and had some exciting times in that. One of the things he and his father and his chum, Ned Newton, did, was to rescue, from a burning balloon that had fallen into Lake Carlopa, an aeronaut named John Sharp. Later Tom and Mr. Sharp built an airship called the Red Cloud, and with Mr. Damon and some others had a series of remarkable fights.
In the Red Cloud they got on the track of some bank robbers, and captured them, thus foiling the plans of Andy Foger, a town bully, and one of Tom's enemies, and putting to confusion the plot of Mr. Foger, Andy's father.
After many adventures in the air Tom and his friends, in a submarine boat, invented by Mr. Swift, went under the ocean for sunken treasure and secured a large part of it.
It was not long after this that Tom conceived the idea of a powerful electric car, which proved, to be the speediest of the road, and in it he won a great race, and saved from ruin a bank in which his father and Mr. Damon were interested.
The sixth book of the series, entitled "Tom Swift and His Wireless Message," tells how, in testing a new electric airship, which a friend of Mr. Damon's had invented, Tom, the inventor and Mr. Damon were lost on an island in the middle of the ocean. There they found some castaways, among whom were Mr. and Mrs. Nestor, parents of Mary Nestor of Shopton, a girl of whom Tom was quite fond.
Tom Swift, after his arrival home, went on an expedition among a gang of men known as the "Diamond Makers" who were hidden in the Rocky Mountains. He was accompanied by Mr. Barcoe Jenks, one of the castaways of Earthquake Island. They found the diamond makers, and had some surprising adventures, barely escaping with their lives.
This did not daunt Tom, however, and he once more started off on an expedition in his airship the Red Cloud to Alaska, amid the caves of ice. He was searching for a valley of gold, and though he and his friends found it, they came to grief. The Fogers, father and son, tried to steal the gold from them, and, failing in that, incited the Eskimos against our friends. There was a battle, but the forces of nature were even more to be dreaded than the terrible savages.
The ice cave, in which the Red Cloud was stored, collapsed, crushing the gallant craft, and burying it out of sight forever under thousand of tons of the frozen bergs.
After a desperate journey Tom and his friends reached civilization, with a large supply of gold. Tom regretted very much the destruction of the airship, but he at once set to work on another—a monoplane this time, instead of a combined aeroplane and dirigible balloon. This new craft he called the Humming Bird and it was a "sky racer" of terrific speed. In it, as we have said, Tom brought a specialist to operate on his father, when, because of a broken railroad bridge, the physician could not otherwise have gotten to Shopton. He and Tom traveled through the air at the rate of over one hundred miles an hour. Later, Tom took part in a big race for a ten-thousand-dollar prize, and won, defeating Andy Foger, and a number of well-known "bird-men" who used biplanes and monoplanes of a more or less familiar type.
The government became interested in Tom's craft, the Humming Bird, and, as told in the ninth book of this series, Tom Swift and His Sky Racer, they secured some rights in the invention.
And now Tom, who had done nothing for several months following the great race—that is, nothing save to work on his new rifle—Tom, we say, sighed for new adventures.
"Well, Tom, what is on your mind?" asked his father at the supper table that evening. "What is worrying you?"
"Nothing is worrying me, Dad."
"You are thinking of something. I can see that. Are you afraid your electric rifle won't work as well as you hope, when Ned comes over to try it?"
"No, it isn't that, Dad. But I may as well tell you, I guess. I've been reading in the paper about a big elephant hunt in Africa, and I—"
"That's enough, Tom! You needn't say any more," interrupted Mr. Swift. "I can see which way the wind is blowing. You want to go to Africa with your new rifle."
"Well, Dad, not exactly—that is—"
"Now, Tom, you needn't deny it," and Mr. Swift laughed. "Well, I don't blame you a bit. You have been rather idle of late."
"I would like to go, Dad," admitted the young inventor, "only I'd never think of it while you weren't well."
"Don't worry about me, Tom. Of course I will be lonesome while you are gone, but don't let that stand in the way. If you want to go to Africa, you may start to-morrow, and take your new rifle with you."
"The rifle part would be all right, Dad, but if I went I'd want to take an airship along, and it will take me some little time to finish the Black Hawk, as I have named my new craft."
"Well, there's no special hurry, is there?" asked Mr. Swift. "The elephants in Africa are likely to stay there for some time. If you want to go, why don't you get right to work on the Black Hawk and make the trip? I'd like to go myself."
"I wish you would, Dad," exclaimed Tom eagerly.
"No, son, I couldn't think of it. I want to stay here and get well. Then I am going to resume work on my wireless motor. Perhaps I'll have it finished when you come back from Africa with an airship load of elephants' tusks."
"Perhaps," admitted the young inventor. "Well, Dad, I'll think of it. But now I'm going after my rifle, and—"
Tom was interrupted by a ring of the front-door bell, and Mrs. Baggert, the housekeeper, who was almost like a mother to the youth, went to answer it.
"It's Ned Newton, I guess," murmured Tom, and, a little later, his chum entered the room.
"Oh, I guess I'm early," said Ned. "Haven't you had supper yet, Tom'"
"Yes, we're just finished. Come on out and we'll try the gun."
"And practice shooting elephants," added Mr. Swift with a laugh, as he mentioned to Ned the latest idea of Tom.
"Say! That would be great!" cried the bank clerk. "I wish I could go!"
"Come along!" invited Tom cordially. "We'll have more fun than we did in the caves of ice," for Ned had gone on the voyage to Alaska.
The two youths went out to the shed where the rifle gallery had been built. The new electric weapon was out there, and Eradicate Sampson, the colored man, who was a sort of servant and man-of-all-work about the Swift household, had set up the scarecrow figure at the end of the gallery.
"Now we'll try some shots," said Tom, as he took the gun out of the case. "Just turn on a few more lights, will you, Mr. Jackson," and the engineer, who was employed by Tom and his father to aid them in their inventive work, did as requested.
The gallery was now brilliantly illuminated, with the reflectors throwing the beams on the big stuffed figure, which, save for a face, looked very much like a human being, standing at the end of the gallery.
"I don't suppose you want to go down there and hold it, while I shoot at it; do you, Rad?" asked Tom jokingly, as he prepared the electric rifle for use.
"No indeedy, I don't!" cried Eradicate. "Yo'-all will hab t' scuse me, Massa Tom. I think I'll be goin' now."
"What's your hurry?" asked Ned, as he saw the colored man hastily preparing to leave the improvised gallery.
"I spects I'd better fro' down some mo' straw fo' a bed fo' my mule Boomerang!" exclaimed Eradicate, as he hastily slid out of the door, and shut it after him.
"Rad is nervous," remarked Tom. "He doesn't like this gun. Well, it certainly does great execution."
"How does it work'" asked Ned, as he looked at the curious gun. The electric weapon was not unlike an ordinary heavy rifle in appearance save that the barrel was a little longer, and the stock larger in every way. There were also a number of wheels, levers, gears and gages on the stock.
"It works by electricity," explained Tom.
"That is, the force comes from a powerful current of stored electricity."
"Oh, then you have storage batteries in the stock?"
"Not exactly. There are no batteries, but the current is a sort of wireless kind. It is stored in a cylinder, just as compressed air or gases are stored, and can be released as I need it."
"And when it's all gone, what do you do?"
"Make more power by means of a small dynamo."
"And does it shoot lead bullets?"
"Not at all. There are no bullets used."
"Then how does it kill?"
"By means of a concentrated charge of electricity which is shot from the barrel with great force. You can't see it, yet it is there. It's just as if you concentrated a charge of electricity of five thousand volts into a small globule the size of a bullet. That flies through space, strikes the object aimed at and—well, we'll see what it does in a minute. Mr. Jackson, just put that steel plate up in front of the scarecrow; will you?"
The engineer proceeded to put into place a section of steel armor-plate before the stuffed figure.
"You don't mean to say you're going to shoot through that, do you?" asked Ned in surprise.
"Surely. The electric bullets will pierce anything. They'll go through a brick wall as easily as the x-rays do. That's one valuable feature of my rifle. You don't have to see the object you aim at. In fact you can fire through a house, and kill something on the other side."
"I should think that would be dangerous."
"It would be, only I can calculate exactly, by means of an automatic arrangement, just how far the charge of electricity will go. It stops short just at the limit of the range, and is not effective beyond that. Otherwise, if I did not limit it and if I fired at the scarecrow, through the piece of steel, and the bullet hit the figure, it would go on, passing through whatever else was in the way, until its power was lost. I use the term 'bullet,' though as I said, it isn't properly one."
"By Jove, Tom, it certainly is a dangerous weapon!"
"Yes, the range-limit idea is a new one. That's what I've been working on lately. There are other features of the gun which I'll explain later, particularly the power it has to shoot out luminous bars of light. But now we'll see what it will do to the image."
Tom took his place at the end of the range, and began to adjust some valves and levers. In spite of the fact that the gun was larger than an ordinary rifle, it was not as heavy as the United States Army weapon.
Tom aimed at the armor-plate, and, by means of an arrangement on the rifle, he could tell exactly when he was pointing at the scarecrow, even though he could not see it.
"Here she goes!" he suddenly exclaimed.
Ned watched his chum. The young inventor pressed a small button at the side of the rifle barrel, about where the trigger should have been. There was no sound, no smoke, no flame and not the slightest jar.
Yet as Ned watched he saw the steel plate move slightly. The next instant the scarecrow figure seemed to fly all to pieces. There was a shower of straw, rags and old clothes, which fell in a shapeless heap at the end of the range.
"Say. I guess you did for that fellow, all right!" exclaimed Ned.
"It looks so," admitted Tom, with a note of pride in his voice. "Now we'll try another test."
As he laid aside his rifle in order to help Mr. Jackson shift the steel plate there was a series of yells outside the shed.
"What's that?" asked Tom, in some alarm.
"Sounds like some one calling," answered Ned.
"It is," agreed Mr. Jackson. "Perhaps Eradicate's mule has gotten loose. I guess we'd better—"
He did not finish, for the shouts increased in volume, and Tom and Ned could hear some one yelling:
"I'll have the law on you for this! I'll have you arrested, Tom Swift! What do you mean by trying to kill me? Where are you? Don't try to hide away, now. You were trying to shoot me, and I'm not going to have it!"
Some one pounded on the door of the shed.
"It's Barney Moker!" exclaimed Tom. "I wonder what can have happened?"
A DIFFICULT TEST
Tom Swift opened the door of the improvised rifle gallery and looked out. By the light of a full moon, which shone down from a cloudless sky, he saw a man standing at the portal. The man's face was distorted with rage, and he shook his fist at the young inventor.
"What do you mean by shooting at me?" he demanded. "What do you mean, I say? The idea of scaring honest folks out of their wits, and making 'em think the end of the world has come! What do you mean by it? Why don't you answer me? I say, Tom Swift, why don't you answer me?"
"Because you don't give me a chance, Mr. Moker," replied our hero.
"I want to know why you shot at me? I demand to know!" and Mr. Moker, who was a sort of miserly town character, living all alone in a small house, just beyond Tom's home, again shook his fist almost in the lad's face. "Why don't you tell me? Why don't you tell me?" he shouted.
"I will, if you give me a chance!" fairly exploded Tom. "If you can be cool for five minutes, and come inside and tell me what happened I'll be glad to answer any of your questions, Mr. Moker. I didn't shoot at you."
"Yes, you did! You tried to shoot a hole through me!"
"Tell me about it?" suggested Tom, as the excited man calmed down somewhat. "Are you hurt?"
"No, but it isn't your fault that I'm not. You tried hard enough to hurt me. Here I am, sitting at my table reading, and, all at once something goes through the side of the house, whizzes past my ear, makes my hair fairly stand up on end, and goes outside the other side of the house. What kind of bullets do you use, Tom Swift? that's what I want to know. They went through the side of my house, and never left a mark. I demand to know what kind they are."
"I'll tell you, if you'll only give me a chance," went on Tom wearily. "How do you know it was me shooting?"
"How do I know? Why, doesn't the end of this shooting gallery of yours point right at my house? Of course it does; you can't deny it!"
Tom did not attempt to, and Mr. Moker went on:
"Now what do you mean by it?"
"If any of the bullets from my electric gun went near you, it was a mistake, and I'm sorry for it," said Tom.
"Well, they did, all right," declared the excited man. "They went right past my ear."
"I don't see how they could," declared Tom. "I was trying my new electric rifle, but I had the limit set for two hundred feet, the length of the gallery. That is, the electrical discharge couldn't go beyond that distance."
"I don't know what it was, but it went through the side of my house all the same," insisted Mr. Moker. "It didn't make a hole, but it scorched the wall paper a little."
"I don't see how it could," declared Tom. "It couldn't possibly have gone over two hundred feet with the gage set for that distance." He paused suddenly, and hurried over to where he had placed his gun. Catching up the weapon he looked at the gage dial. Then he uttered an exclamation.
"I'm sorry to admit that you are right, Mr. Moker!" he said finally. "I made a mistake. The gage is set for a thousand feet instead of two hundred. I forgot to change it. The charge, after passing through the steel plate, and the scarecrow figure, destroying the latter, went on, and shot through the side of your house."
"Ha! I knew you were trying to shoot me!" exclaimed the still angry man. "I'll have the law on you for this!"
"Oh, that's all nonsense!" broke in Ned Newton. "Everybody knows Tom Swift wouldn't try to shoot you, or any one else, Mr. Moker."
"Then why did he shoot at me?"
"That was a mistake," explained Tom, "and I apologize to you for it."
"Humph! A lot of good that would do me, if I'd been killed!" muttered the miser. "I'm going to sue you for this. You might have put me in my grave."
"Impossible!" exclaimed Tom.
"Why impossible?" demanded the visitor.
"Because I had so set the rifle that almost the entire force of the electrical bullet was expended in blowing apart the scarecrow figure I made for a test," explained Tom. "All that passed through your house was a small charge, and, if it HAD hit you there would have been no more than a little shock, such as you would feel in taking hold of an electric battery."
"How do I know this?" asked the man cunningly. "You say so, but for all I know you may have wanted to kill me."
"Why?" asked Tom, trying not to laugh.
"Oh, so you might get some of my money. Of course I ain't got none," the miser went on quickly, "but folks thinks I've got a lot, and I have to be on the lookout all the while, or they'd murder me for it."
"I wouldn't," declared the young inventor. "It was a mistake. Only part of the spent charge passed near you. Why, if it had been a powerful charge you would never have been able to come over here. I set the main charge to go off inside the scarecrow, and it did so, as you can see by looking at what's left of it," and he pointed to the pile of clothes and rags.
"How do I know this?" insisted the miser with a leer at the two lads.
"Because if the charge had gone off either before or after it passed through the figure, it would not have caused such havoc of the cloth and straw," explained Tom. "First the charge would have destroyed the steel plate, which it passed through without even denting it. Why, look here, I will now fire the rifle at short range, and set it to destroy the plate. See what happens."
He quickly adjusted the weapon, and aimed it at the plate, which, had again been set up on the range. This time Tom was careful to set the gage so that even a small part of the spent. charge would not go outside the gallery.
The young inventor pressed the button, and instantly the heavy steel plate was bent, torn and twisted as though a small sized cannon ball had gone through it.
"That's what the rifle will do at short range," said Tom. "Don't worry, Mr. Moker, you didn't have a narrow escape. You were in no danger at all, though I apologize for the fright I caused you."
"Humph! That's an easy way to get out of it!" exclaimed the miser. "I believe I could sue you for damages, anyhow. Look at my scorched wall paper."
"Oh, I'll pay for that," said Tom quickly, for he did not wish to have trouble with the unpleasant man. "Will ten dollars be enough?" He knew that the whole room could be repapered for that, and he did not believe the wall-covering was sufficiently damaged for such work to be necessary.
"Well, if you'll make it twelve dollars, I won't say anything more about it," agreed the miser craftily, "though it's worth thirteen dollars, if it is a penny. Give me twelve dollars, Tom Swift, and I won't prosecute you."
"All right, twelve dollars it shall be," responded the young inventor, passing over the money, and glad to be rid of the unpleasant character.
"And after this, just fire that gun of yours the other way," suggested Mr. Moker as he went out, carefully folding the bills which Tom had handed him.
"Hum! that was rather queer," remarked Ned, after a pause.
"It sure was," agreed his chum. "This rifle will do more than I thought it would. I'll have to be more careful. I was sure I set the gage for two hundred feet. I'll have to invent some automatic attachment to prevent it being discharged when the gage is set wrong." Let us state here that Tom did this, and never had another accident.
"Well, does this end the test?" asked Ned.
"No, indeed. I want you to try it, while I look on," spoke Tom. "We haven't any more stuffed figures to fire at, but I'll set up some targets. Come on, try your luck at a shot."
"I'm afraid I might disturb Mr. Moker, or some of the neighbors."
"No danger. I've got it adjusted right now. Come on, see if you can shatter this steel target," and Tom set up a small one at the end of the range.
Then, having properly fixed the weapon, Tom handed it to his chum, and, taking his place in a protected part of the gallery, prepared to watch the effect of the shot.
"Let her go!" cried Tom, and Ned pressed the button.
The effect was wonderful. Though there was no noise, smoke nor flame, the steel plate seemed to crumple up, and collapse as if it had been melted in the fire. There was a jagged hole through the center, but some frail boards back of it were not even splintered.
"Good shot!" cried Tom enthusiastically. "I had the distance gage right that time."
"You sure did," agreed Ned. "The electric bullet stopped as soon as it did its work on the plate. What's next?"
"I'm going to try a difficult test," explained Tom. "You know I said the gun would shoot luminous charges?" "Yes."
"Well, I'm going to try that, now. I wish we had another image to shoot at, but I'll take a big dry-goods box, and make believe it's an elephant. Now, this is going to be a hard test, such as we'd meet with, if we were hunting in Africa. I want you to help me."
"What am I to do?" asked Ned.
"I want you to go outside," explained Tom, "set up a dry-goods box against the side of the little hill back of the shed, and not tell me where you put it. Then I'll go out, and, by means of the luminous charge, I'll locate the box, set the distance gage, and destroy it."
"Well, you can see it anyhow, in the moonlight," objected Ned.
"No, the moon is under a cloud now," explained Tom, looking out of a window. "It's quite dark, and will give me just the test I want for my new electric rifle."
"But won't it be dangerous, firing in the dark? Suppose you misjudge the distance, and the bullet, or charge, files off and hits some one?"
"It can't. I'll set the distance gage before I shoot. But if I should happen to make a mistake the charge will go into the side of the hill, and spend itself there. There is no danger. Go ahead, and set up the box, and then come and tell me. Mr. Jackson will help you."
Ned and the engineer left the gallery. As Tom had, said, it was very dark now, and if Tom could see in the night to hit a box some distance away, his weapon would be all that he claimed for it.
"This will do," said the engineer, as he pointed to a box, one of several piled up outside the shed. The two could hardly see to make their way along, carrying it to the foot of the hill, and they stumbled several times. But at last it was in position, and then Ned departed to call Tom, and have him try the difficult test—that of hitting an object in the dark.
BIG TUSKS WANTED
"Well, are you all ready for me?" asked the young inventor, as he took up his curious weapon, and followed Ned out into the yard. It was so dark that they had fairly to stumble along.
"Yes, we're ready," answered Ned. "And you'll be a good one, Tom, if you do this stunt. Now stand here, "he went on, as he indicated a place as well as he could in the dark. The box is somewhere in that direction," and he waved his hand vaguely. "I'm not going to tell you any more, and let's see you find it.
"Oh, I will, all right—or, rather, my electric rifle will," asserted Tom.
The inventor of the curious and terrible weapon took his position. Behind him stood Ned and Mr. Jackson, and just before Tom was ready to fire, his father came stalking through the darkness, calling to them.
"Are you there, Tom?"
"Yes Dad, is anything the matter?"
"No, but I thought I'd like to see what luck you have. Rad was saying you were going to have a test in the dark."
"I'm about ready for it," replied Tom. "I'm going to blow up a box that I can't see. You know how it's done, Dad, for you helped me in perfecting the luminous charge, but it's going to be something of a novelty to the others. Here we go, now!"
Tom raised his rifle, and aimed it in the dark. Ned Newton, straining his eyes to see, was sure the young inventor was pointing the gun at least twenty feet to one side of where the box was located, but he said nothing, for from experiences in the past, he realized that Tom knew what he was doing.
There was a little clicking sound, as the youth moved some gear wheel on his gun. Then there came a faint crackling noise, like some distant wireless apparatus beginning to flash a message through space.
Suddenly a little ball of purplish light shot through the darkness and sped forward like some miniature meteor. It shed a curious illuminating glow all about, and the ground, and the objects on it were brought into relief as by a lightning flash.
An instant later the light increased in intensity, and seemed to burst like some piece of aerial fireworks. There was a bright glare, in which Ned and the others could see the various buildings about the shed. They could see each other's faces, and they looked pale and ghastly in the queer glow. They could see the box, brought into bold relief, where Ned and the engineer had placed it.
Then, before the light had died away, they witnessed a curious sight. The heavy wooden box seemed to dissolve, to collapse and to crumple up like one of paper, and ere the last rays of the illuminating bullet faded, the watchers saw the splinters of wood fall back with a clatter in a little heap on the spot where the dry-goods case had been.
A silence followed, and the darkness was all the blacker by contrast with the intense light. At length Tom spoke, and he could not keep from his voice a note of triumph.
"Well, did I do it?" he asked.
"You sure did!" exclaimed Ned heartily.
"Fine!" cried Mr. Swift.
"Golly! I wouldn't gib much fo' de hide ob any burglar what comed around heah!" muttered Eradicate Sampson. "Dat box am knocked clean into nuffiness, Massa Tom."
"That's what I wanted to do," explained the lad. "And I guess this will end the test for tonight."
"But I don't exactly understand it," spoke Ned, as they all moved toward the Swift home, Eradicate going to the stable to see how his mule was. "Do you have two kinds of bullets, Tom, one for night and one for the daytime?"
"No," answered Tom, "there is only one kind of bullet, and, as I have said, that isn't a bullet at all. That is, you can't see it, or handle it, but you can feel it. Strictly speaking, it is a concentrated discharge of wireless electricity directed against a certain object. You can't see it any more than you can see a lightning bolt, though that is sometimes visible as a ball of fire. My electric rifle bullets are similar to a discharge of lightning, except that they are invisible."
"But we saw the one just now," objected Ned.
"No, you didn't see the bullet," said Tom.
"You saw the illuminating flash which I send out just before I fire, to reveal the object I am to hit. That is another part of my rifle and is only used at night."
"You see I shoot out a ball of electrical fire which will disclose the target, or the enemy at whom I am firing. As soon as that is discharged the rifle automatically gets ready to shoot the electric charge, and I have only to press the proper button, and the 'bullet,' as I call it, follows on the heels of the ball of light. Do you see?"
"Perfectly," exclaimed Ned with a laugh. "What a gun that would be for hunting, since most all wild beasts come out only at night."
"That was one object in making this invention," said Tom. "I only hope I get a chance to use it now."
"I thought you were going to Africa after elephants," spoke Mr. Swift.
"Well, I did think of it." admitted Tom, "but I haven't made any definite plans. But come into the house, Ned. and I'll show you more in detail how my rifle works."
Thereupon the two chums spent some time going into the mysteries of the new weapon. Mr. Swift and Mr. Jackson were also much interested, for, though they had seen the gun previously and had helped Tom perfect it, they had not yet tired of discussing its merits.
Ned stayed quite late that night, and promised to come over the next day, and watch Tom do some more shooting.
"I'll show you how to use it, too," promised the young inventor, and he was as good as his word, initiating Ned into the mysteries of the electric rifle, and showing him to store the charges of death-dealing electricity in the queer-looking stock.
For a week after that Tom and Ned practiced with the terrible gun, taking care not to have any more mishaps like the one that had marked the first night. They were both good shots with ordinary weapons and it was not long before they had equaled their record with the new instrument.
It was one warm afternoon, when Tom was out in the meadow at one side of his house, practicing with his rifle on some big boxes he had set up for targets, that he saw an elderly man standing close to the fence watching him. When Tom blew to pieces a particularly large packing-case, standing a long distance away from it, the stranger called to the youth.
"I beg your pardon," he said, "but is that a dynamite gun you are using?"
"No, it's an electric rifle," was the answer.
"Would you mind telling me something about it?" went on the elderly man, and as Tom's weapon was now fully protected by patents, the young inventor cordially invited the stranger to come nearer and see how it worked.
"That's the greatest thing I ever saw!" exclaimed the man enthusiastically when Tom had blown up another box, and had told of the illumination for night firing. "The most wonderful weapon I ever heard of! What a gun it would be in my business."
"What is your trade?" asked Tom curiously, for he had noted that the man, while aged, was rugged and hearty, and his skin was tanned a leathery brown, showing that he was much in the open air.
"I'm a hunter," was the reply, "a hunter of big game, principally elephants, hippos and rhinoceroses. I've just finished a season in Africa, and I'm going back there again soon. I came on to New York to get a new elephant gun. I've got a sister living over in Waterford, and I've been visiting her. I went out for a stroll to-day, and I came farther than I intended. That's how I happened to be passing here."
"A sister in Waterford, eh?" mused Tom, wondering whether the elephant hunter had met Mr. Damon. "And how soon are you going hack to Africa, Mr.—er—" and Tom hesitated.
"Durban is my name, Alexander Durban," said the old man. "Why, I am to start back in a few weeks. I've got an order for a pair of big elephant tusks—the largest I can get for a wealthy New York man,—and I'm anxious to fulfil the contract. The game isn't what it once was. There's more competition and the elephants are scarcer. So I've got to hustle."
"I got me a new gun. but my! it's nothing to what yours is. With that weapon I could do about as I pleased. I could do night hunting, which is hard in the African jungle. Then I wouldn't have any trouble getting the big tusks I'm after. I could get a pair of them, and live easy the rest of my life. Yes, I wouldn't ask anything better than a gun like yours. But I s'pose they cost like the mischief?" He looked a question at Tom.
"This is the only one there is," was the lad's answer. "But I am very glad to have met you, Mr. Durban. Won't you come into the house? I'm sure my father will be glad to see you, and I have something I'd like to talk to you about," and Tom, with many wild ideas in his head, led the old elephant hunter toward the house.
The dream of the young inventor might come true after all.
Mr. Swift made the African hunter warmly welcome, and listened with pride to the words of praise Mr. Durban bestowed on Tom regarding the rifle.
"Yes, my boy has certainly done wonders along the inventive line," said Mr. Swift.
"Not half as much as you have, Dad," interrupted the lad, for Tom was a modest youth.
"You should see his sky racer," went on the old inventor.
"Sky racer? What's that?" asked Mr. Durban. "Is it another kind of gun or cannon?"
"It's an aeroplane—an airship," explained Mr. Swift.
"An airship!" exclaimed the old elephant hunter. "Say, you don't mean that you make balloons, do you?"
"Well, they're not exactly balloons," replied Tom, as he briefly explained what an aeroplane was, for Mr. Durban, having been in the wilds of the jungle so much, had had very little chance to see the wonders and progress of civilization.
"They are better than balloons," went on Tom, "for they can go where you want them to."
"Say! That's the very thing!" cried the old hunter enthusiastically. "If there's one thing more than another that is needed in hunting in Africa it's an airship. The travel through the jungle is something fierce, and that, more than anything else, interferes with my work. I can't cover ground enough, and when I do get on the track of a herd of elephants, and they get away, it's sometimes a week before I can catch up to them again."
"For, in spite of their size, elephants can travel very fast, and once they get on the go, nothing can stop them. An airship would be the very thing to hunt elephants with in Africa—an airship and this electric rifle. I wonder why you haven't thought of going, Tom Swift."
"I have thought of it," answered the young inventor, "and that's why I asked you in. I want to talk about it."
"Do you mean you want to go?" demanded the old man eagerly.
"I certainly do!"
"Then I'm your man! Say, Tom Swift, I'd be proud to have you go to Africa with me. I'd be proud to have you a member of my hunting party, and, though I don't like to boast, still if you'll ask any of the big-game people they'll tell you that not every one can accompany Aleck Durban."
Tom realized that he was speaking to an authority and a most desirable companion, should he go to Africa, and he was very glad of the chance that had made him acquainted with the veteran hunter.
"Will you go with me?" asked Mr. Durban. "You and your electric gun and your airship? Will you come to Africa to hunt elephants, and help me get the big tusks I'm after?"
"I will!" exclaimed Tom.
"Then we'll start at once. There's no need of delaying here any longer."
"Oh, but I haven't an airship ready," said the young inventor. The face of the old hunter expressed his disappointment.
"Then we'll have to give up the scheme," he said ruefully.
"Not at all," Tom told him. "I have all the material on hand for building a new airship. I have had it in mind for some time, and I have done some work on it. I stopped it to perfect my electric rifle, but, now that is done, I'll tackle the Black Hawk again, and rush that to completion."
"The Black Hawk?" repeated Mr. Durban, wonderingly.
"Yes, that's what I will name my new craft. The RED CLOUD was destroyed, and so I thought I'd change the color this time, and avoid bad luck."
"Good!" exclaimed the hunter. "When do you think you can have it finished?"
"Oh, possibly in a month—perhaps sooner, and then we will go to Africa and hunt elephants!"
"Bless my ivory paper cutter!" exclaimed a voice in the hall just outside the library. "Bless my fingernails! But who's talking about going to Africa?"
The old hunter looked at Tom and his father in surprise, but the young inventor laughing and going to the door, called out:
"Come on in, Mr. Damon. I didn't hear you ring. There is some one here from your town."
"Is it my wife?" asked the odd gentleman who was always blessing something. "She said she was going to her mother's to spend a few weeks, and so I thought I'd come over here and see if you had anything new on the program. The first thing I hear is that you are going to Africa. And so there's some one from Waterford in there, eh? Is it my wife?"
"No," answered Tom with another laugh. "Come on in Mr. Damon."
"Bless my toothpick!" exclaimed the odd gentleman, as he saw the grizzled elephant hunter sitting between Tom and Mr. Swift. "I have seen you somewhere before, my dear sir."
"Yes," admitted Mr. Durban, "if you're from Waterford you have probably seen me traveling about the streets there. I'm stopping with my sister, Mrs. Douglass, but I can't stand it to be in the house much, so I'm out of doors, wandering about a good bit of the time. I miss my jungle. But we'll soon be in Africa, Tom Swift and me."
"Is it possible, Tom?" asked Mr. Damon. "Bless my diamond mines! but what are you going to do next?"
"It's hard to say," was the answer. "But you came just in time. Mr. Damon. I'm going to rush work on the Black Hawk, my newest airship, and we'll leave for elephant land inside of a month, taking my new electric rifle along. Will you come"
"Bless my penknife! I never thought of such a thing. I—I—guess—no, I don't know about it—yes, I'll go!" he suddenly exclaimed. "I'll, go! Hurrah for the elephants!" and he jumped up and shook hands in turn with Mr. Durban, to whom he had been formally introduced, and with Tom and Mr. Swift.
"Then it's all settled but the details," declared the youth, "and now I'll call in Mr. Jackson, and we'll talk about how soon we can have the airship ready."
"My, but you folks are almost as speedy as a herd of the big elephants themselves!" exclaimed Mr. Durban, and with the advent of the engineer the talk turned to things mechanical among Tom and Mr. Jackson and Mr. Damon, while Mr. Durban told Mr. Swift hunting stories which the old inventor greatly enjoyed.
The next day Tom engaged two machinists who had worked for him building airships before, and in the next week rush work began on the new Black Hawk. Meanwhile Mr. Durban was a frequent visitor at Tom's home, where he learned to use the new rifle, declaring it was even more wonderful than he had at first supposed.
"That will get the elephants!" he exclaimed. It did, as you shall soon learn, and it also was the means of saving several lives in the wilds of the African jungle.
NEWS FROM ANDY
Tom Swift's former airship, the Red Cloud, had been such a fine craft, and had done such good service that he thought, in building a successor, that he could do no better than to follow the design of the skyship which had been destroyed in the ice caves. But, on talking with the old elephant hunter, and learning something of the peculiarities of the African jungle the young inventor decided on certain changes.
In general the Black Hawk would be on the lines of the Red Cloud but it would be smaller and lighter and would also be capable of swifter motion.
"You want it so that it will rise and descend quickly and at sharp angles," said Mr. Durban.
"Why," inquired Tom.
"Because in Africa, at least in the part where we will go, there are wide patches of jungle and forest, with here and there big open places. If you are skimming along close to the ground, in an open place, in pursuit of a herd of elephants and they should suddenly plunge into the forest, you would want to be able to rise above the trees quickly."
"That's so," admitted Tom. "Then I'll have to use a smaller gas bag than we had on the other ship, for the air resistance to that big one made us go slowly at times."
"Will it be as safe with a small bag?" Mr. Damon wanted to know.
"Yes, for I will use a more powerful gas, so that we will be more quickly lifted," said the young inventor. "I will also retain the aeroplane feature, so that the Black Hawk will be a combined biplane and dirigible balloon. But it will have many new features. I have the plans all drawn for a new style of gas generating apparatus, and I think it can be made in time."
There were busy days about the Swift home. Mrs. Baggert, the housekeeper, was in despair. She said the good meals she got ready were wasted, because no one would come to table when they were ready. She would ring the bell, and announce that dinner would be served in five minutes.
Then Tom would shout from his workshop that he could not leave until he had inserted a certain lever in place. Mr. Jackson would positively decline to sit down until he had screwed fast some part of a machine. Even Mr. Swift, who, because of his recent illness, was not allowed to do much, would often delay his meal to test some new style of gears.
As for Mr. Damon, it was to be expected that he would be eccentric as he always was. He was not an expert mechanic, but he knew something of machinery and was of considerable help to Tom in the rush work on the airship. He would hear the dinner bell ring, and would exclaim:
"Bless my napkin ring! I can't come now. I have to fix up this electrical register first."
And so it would go. Eradicate and Boomerang, his mule, were the only ones who ate regularly, and they always insisted on stopping at exactly twelve o'clock to partake of the noonday meal.
"'Cause ef I didn't," explained the colored man, "dat contrary mule ob mine would lay down in de dust ob de road an' not move a step, lessen' he got his oats. So dat's why we has t' eat, him an' me."
"Well, I'm glad there's some one who's got sense," murmured Mrs. Baggert. Eradicate and Boomerang were of great service in the hurried work that followed, for the colored man in his cart brought from town, or from the freight depot, many things that Tom needed.
The young inventor was very enthusiastic about his proposed trip, and at night, after a hard day's work in the shop, he would read books on African hunting, or he would sit and listen to the stories told by Mr. Durban. And the latter knew how to tell hunting tales, for he had been long in his dangerous calling, and had had many narrow escapes.
"And there are other dangers than from elephants and wild beasts in Africa," he said.
"Bless my toothbrush!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Do you mean cannibals, Mr. Durban?"
"Some cannibals," was the reply. "but they're not the worst. I mean the red pygmies. I hope we don't get into their clutches."
"Red pygmies!" repeated Tom, wonderingly.
"Yes, they're a tribe of little creatures, about three feet high, covered with thick reddish hair, who live in the central part of Africa, near some of the best elephant-hunting ground. They are wild, savage and ferocious, and what they lack individually in strength, they make up in numbers. They're like little red apes, and woe betide the unlucky hunter who falls into their merciless hands. They treat him worse than the cannibals do."
"Then we'll look out for them," said Tom. "But I fancy my electric rifle will make them give us a wide berth."
"It's a great gun," admitted the old hunter with a shake of his head, "but those red pygmies are terrible creatures. I hope we don't get them on our trail. But tell me, Tom, how are you coming on with the airship? for I don't know much about mechanics, and to me it looks as if it would never be put together. I's like one of those queer puzzles I've seen 'em selling in the streets of London."
"Oh, it's nearer ready than it looks to be," said Tom. "We'll have it assembled, and ready for a trial in about two weeks more."
Work on the Black Hawk was rushed more than ever in the next few days, another extra machinist being engaged. Then the craft began to assume shape and form, and with the gas bag partly inflated and the big planes stretching out from either side, it began to look something like the ill-fated Red Cloud.
"It's going to be a fine ship!" cried Tom enthusiastically, one day, as he went to the far side of the ship to get a perspective view of it. "We'll make good time in this."
"Are you going to sail all the way to Africa—across the ocean—in her?" asked Mr. Durban, in somewhat apprehensive tones.
"Oh, no," replied Tom. "I believe she would be capable of taking us across the ocean, but there is no need of running any unnecessary risks. I want to get her safely to Africa, and have her do stunts in elephant land."
"Then what are your plans?" asked the hunter.
"We'll put her together here," said Tom, "give her a good try-out to see that she works well, and then pack her up for shipment to the African coast by steamer. We'll go on the same ship, and when we arrive we'll put the Black Hawk together again, and set sail for the interior."
"Good idea," commented Mr. Durban. "Now, if you've no objections, I'm going to do a little practice with the electric rifle."
"Go ahead," assented Tom. "There comes Ned Newton; he'll be glad of a chance for a few shots while I work on this new propeller motor. It just doesn't suit me."
The bank clerk, who had arranged to go to Africa with Tom, was seen advancing toward the aeroplane shed. In his hand Ned held a paper, and as he saw Tom he called out:
"Have you heard the news?"
"What news?" inquired the young inventor.
"About Andy Foger. He and his aeroplane are lost!"
"Lost!" cried Tom, for in spite of the mean way the bully had treated him our hero did not wish him any harm.
"Well, not exactly lost," went on Ned, as he held out the paper to Tom, "but he and his sky-craft have disappeared."
"Yes. You know he and that German, Mr. Landbacher, went over to Europe to give some aviation exhibitions. Well, I see by this paper that they went to Egypt, and were doing a high-flying stunt there, when a gale sprang up, they lost control of the aeroplane and it was swept out of sight."
"In which direction; out to sea?"
"No, toward the interior of Africa."
"Toward the interior of Africa!" cried Tom. "And that's where we're going in a couple of weeks. Andy in Africa!"
"'Maybe we'll see him there," suggested Ned.
"Well, I certainly hope we do not!" exclaimed Tom, as he turned back to his work, with an undefinable sense of fear in his heart.
THE BLACK HAWK FLIES
It was with no little surprise that the news of the plight that was said to have befallen Andy Foger was received by Tom and his associates. The newspaper had quite an account of the affair, and, even allowing the usual discount for the press dispatches, it looked as if the former bully was in rather distressing circumstances.
"He won't have to be carried very far into Africa to be in a bad country," said the old hunter. "Of course, some parts of the continent are all right, and for me, I like it all, where there's hunting to be had. But I guess your young friend Foger won't care for it."
"He's no friend of ours." declared Ned, as Tom was reading the newspaper account. "Still, I don't wish him any bad luck, and I do hope he doesn't become the captive of the red pygmies."
"So do I," echoed the old hunter fervently. There was no news of Andy in the papers the next day, though there were cable dispatches speculating on what might have happened to him and the airship. In Shopton the dispatches created no little comment, and it was said that Mr. Foger was going to start for Africa at once to rescue his son. This, however, could not be confirmed.
Meanwhile Tom and his friends were very busy over the Black Hawk. Every hour saw the craft nearer completion, for the young inventor had had much experience in this sort of work now, and knew just how to proceed.
To Mr. Damon were intrusted certain things which he could well attend to, and though he frequently stopped to bless his necktie or his shoelaces, still he got along fairly well.
There would be no necessity of purchasing supplies in this country, for they could get all they needed in the African city of Majumba, on the western coast, where they planned to land. There the airship would be put together, stocked with provisions and supplies, and they would begin their journey inland. They planned to head for Buka Meala, crossing the Congo River, and then go into the very interior of the heart of the dark continent.
As we have described in detail, in the former books of this series, the construction of Tom Swift's airship, the Red Cloud, and as the Black Hawk was made in a similar manner to that, we will devote but brief space to it now. As the story proceeds, and the need arises for a description of certain features, we will give them to you, so that you will have a clear idea of what a wonderful craft it was.
Sufficient to say that there was a gas bag, made of a light but strong material, and capable of holding enough vapor, of a new and secret composition, to lift the airship with its load. This was the dirigible-balloon feature of the craft, and with the two powerful propellers, fore and aft (in which particular the Black Hawk differed from the Red Cloud which had two forward propellers);—with these two powerful wooden screws, as we have said, the new ship could travel swiftly without depending on the wing planes.
But as there is always a possibility of the gas bag being punctured, or the vapor suddenly escaping from one cause or another, Tom did not depend on this alone to keep his craft afloat. It was a perfect aeroplane, and with the gas bag entirely empty could be sent scudding along at any height desired. To enable it to rise by means of the wings, however, it was necessary to start it in motion along the ground, and for this purpose wheels were provided.
There was a large body or car to the craft, suspended from beneath the gas bag, and in this car were the cabins, the living, sleeping and eating apartments, the storerooms and the engine compartment.
This last was a marvel of skill, for it contained besides the gas machine, and the motor for working the propellers, dynamos, gages, and instruments for telling the speed and height, motors for doing various pieces of work, levers, wheels, cogs, gears, tanks for storing the lifting gas, and other features of interest.
There were several staterooms for the use of the young captain and the passengers, an observation and steering tower, a living-room, where they could all assemble as the ship was sailing through the air, and a completely equipped kitchen.
This last was Mr. Damon's special pride, as he was a sort of cook, and he liked nothing better than to get up a meal when the craft was two or three miles high, and scudding along at seventy-five miles an hour.
In addition there were to be taken along many scientific instruments, weapons of defense and offense, in addition to the electric rifle, and various other objects which will be spoken of in due time.
"Well," remarked Tom Swift one afternoon, following a hard day's work in the shop, "I think, if all goes well, and we have good weather, I'll give the Black Hawk a trial tomorrow."
"Do you think it will fly?" asked Ned.
"There is no telling," was the answer of the young inventor. "These things are more or less guesswork, even when you make two exactly alike. As far as I can tell, we have now a better craft than the Red Cloud was, but it remains to be seen how she will behave."
They worked late that night, putting the finishing touches on the Black Hawk, and in the morning the new airship was wheeled out of the shed, and placed on the level starting ground, ready for the trial flight.
Only the bare machinery was in her, as yet, and the gas bag had not been inflated as Tom wanted to try the plane feature first. But the vapor machine was all ready to start generating the gas whenever it was needed. Nor was the Black Hawk painted and decorated as she would be when ready to be sent to Africa. On the whole, she looked rather crude as she rested there on the bicycle wheels, awaiting the starting of the big propellers. As the stores and supplies were not yet in, Tom took aboard, in addition to Mr. Damon, Ned, his father, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Durban, some bags of sand to represent the extra weight that would have to be carried.
"If she'll rise with this load she'll do," announced the young inventor, as he went carefully over the craft, looking to see that everything was in shape.
"If she does rise it will be a new experience for me," spoke the old elephant hunter. "I've never been in an airship before. It doesn't seem possible that we can get up in the air with this machine."
"Maybe we won't," spoke Tom, who was always a little diffident about a new piece of machinery.
"Well, if it doesn't do it the first time, it will the second, or the fifty-second," declared Ned Newton. "Tom Swift doesn't give up until he succeeds."
"Stop it! You'll make me blush!" cried the Black Hawk's owner as he tried the different gages and levers to see that they were all right.
After what seemed like a long time he gave the word for those who were to make the trial trip to take their places. They did so, and then, with Mr. Jackson, Tom went to the engine room. There was a little delay, due to the fact that some adjustment was necessary on the main motor. But at last it was fixed.
"Are you all ready?" called Tom.
"All ready," answered Mr. Damon. The old elephant hunter sat in a chair, nervously gripping the arms, and with a grim look on his tanned face. Mr. Swift was cool, as Ned, for they had made many trips in the air. Outside were Eradicate Sampson and Mrs. Baggert.
"Here we go!" suddenly cried Tom, and he yanked over the lever that started the main motor and propellers. The Black Hawk trembled throughout her entire length. She shivered and shook. Faster and faster whirled the great wooden screws. The motor hummed and throbbed.
Slowly the Black Hawk moved across the ground. Then she gathered speed. Now she was fairly rushing over the level space. Tom Swift tilted the elevation rudder, and with a suddenness that was startling, at least to the old elephant hunter, the new airship shot upward on a steep, slant.
"The Black Hawk flies!" yelled Ned Newton. "Now for elephant land and the big tusks!"
"Yes, and perhaps for the red pygmies, too," added Tom in a low voice. Then he gave his whole attention to the management of his new machine, which was rapidly mounting upward, with a speed rivalling that of his former big craft.
OFF FOR AFRICA
Higher and higher went the Black Hawk, far above the earth, until the old elephant hunter, looking down, said in a voice which he tried to make calm and collected, but which trembled in spite of himself:
"Of course I'm not an expert at this game, Tom Swift, but it looks to me as if we'd never get down. Don't you think we're high enough?"
"For the time being, yes," answered the young inventor. "I didn't think she'd climb so far without the use of the gas. She's doing well."
"Bless my topknot, yes!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "She beats the Red Cloud, Tom. Try her on a straight-away course."
Which the youth did, pointing the nose of the craft along parallel to the surface of the earth, and nearly a mile above it. Then, increasing the speed of the motor, and with the big propellers humming, they made fast time.
The old elephant hunter grew more calm as he saw that the airship did not show any inclination to fall, and he noted that Tom and the others not only knew how to manage it, but took their fight as much a matter of course as if they were in an automobile skimming along on the surface of the ground.
Tom put his craft through a number of evolutions, and when he found that she was in perfect control as an aeroplane, he started the gas machine, filled the big black bag overhead, and, when it was sufficiently buoyant, he shut off the motor, and the Black Hawk floated along like a balloon.
"That's what we'll do if our power happens to give out when we get over an African jungle, with a whole lot of wild elephants down below, and a forest full of the red pygmies waiting for us," explained Tom to Mr. Durban.
"And I guess you'll need to do it, too," answered the hunter. "I don't know which I fear worse, the bad elephants wild with rage, as they get some times, or the little red men who are as strong as gorillas, and as savage as wolves. It would be all up with us if we got into their hands. But I think this airship will be just what we need in Africa. I'd have been able to get out of many a tight place if I had had one on my last trip."
While the Black Hawk hung thus, up the air, not moving, save as the wind blew her, Tom with his father and Mr. Jackson made an inspection of the machinery to find out whether it had been strained any. They found that it had worked perfectly, and soon the craft was in motion again, her nose this time being pointed toward the earth. Tom let out some of the gas, and soon the airship was on the ground in front of the shed she had so recently left.
"She's all right," decided the young inventor after a careful inspection. "I'll give her a couple more trials, put on the finishing touches and then we'll be ready for our trip to Africa. Have you got everything arranged to go, Ned?"
"Sure. I have a leave of absence from the bank, thanks to your father and Mr. Damon, most of my clothes are packed, I've bought a gun and I've got a lot of quinine in case I get a fever."
"Good!" cried the elephant hunter. "You'll do all right, I reckon. I'm glad I met you young fellows. Well, I've lived through my first trip in the air, which is more than I expected when I started."
They discussed their plans at some length, for, now that the airship had proved all that they had hoped for, it would not be long ere they were under way. In the days that followed Tom put the finishing touches on the craft, arranged to have it packed up for shipment, and spent some time practicing with his electric rifle. He got to be an expert shot, and Mr. Durban, who was a wonder with the ordinary rifle, praised the young inventor highly.
"There won't many of the big tuskers get away from you, Tom Swift," he said. "And that reminds me, I got a letter the other day, from the firm I collect ivory for, stating that the price had risen because of a scarcity, and urging me to hurry back to Africa and get all I could. It seems that war has broken out among some of the central African tribes, and they are journeying about in the jungle, on the war path here and there, and have driven the elephants into the very deepest wilds, where the ordinary hunters can't get at them."
"Maybe we won't have any luck, either," suggested Ned.
"Oh, yes, we will," declared the hunter. "With our airship, the worst forest of the dark continent won't have any terrors for us, for we can float above it. And the fights of the natives won't have any effect. In a way, this will be a good thing, for with the price of ivory soaring, we can make more money than otherwise. There's a chance for us all to get a lot of money."
"Bless my piano keys!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "if I can get just one elephant, and pull out his big ivory teeth, I'll be satisfied. I want a nice pair of tusks to set up on either side of my fireplace for ornaments."
"A mighty queer place for such-like ornaments," said Mr. Durban in a low voice. Then he added: "Well, the sooner we get started the better I'll like it, for I want to get that pair of big tusks for a special customer of mine."
"I'll give the Black Hawk one more trial flight, and then take her apart and ship her," decided Tom, and the final flight, a most successful one, took place the following day.
Then came another busy season when the airship was taken apart for shipment to the coast of Africa by steamer. It was put into big boxes and crates, and Eradicate and his mule took them to the station in Shopton.
"Don't you want to come to Africa with us, Rad?" asked Tom, when the last of the cases had been sent off. "You'll find a lot of your friends there."
"No, indeedy, I doan't want t' go," answered the colored man, "though I would like to see dat country."
"Then why don't you come?"
"Hu! Yo' think, Massa Tom, dat I go anywhere dat I might meet dem little red men what Massa Durban talk about? No, sah, dey might hurt mah mule Boomerang."
"Oh, I wasn't going to take the mule along," said Tom, wondering how the creature might behave in the airship.
"Not take Boomerang? Den I SUTTINLY ain't goin," and Eradicate walked off, highly offended, to give some oats to his faithful if somewhat eccentric steed.
After the airship had been sent off there yet remained much for Tom Swift to do. He had to send along a number of special tools and appliances with which to put the ship together again, and also some with which to repair the craft in case of accident. So that this time was pretty well occupied. But at length everything was in readiness, and with his electric rifle knocked down for transportation, and with his baggage, and that of the others, all packed, they set off one morning to take the train for New York, where they would get a steamer for Africa.
Numerous good-bys had been said, and Tom had made a farewell call on Mary Nestor, promising to bring her some trophy from elephant land, though he did not quite know what it would be.
Mr. Damon, as the train started, blessed everything he could think of. Mr. Swift waved his hand and wished his son and the others good luck, feeling a little lonesome that he could not make one of the party. Ned was eager with excitement, and anticipation of what lay before him. Tom Swift was thinking of what he could accomplish with his electric rifle, and of the wonderful sights he would see, and, as for the old elephant hunter, he was very glad to be on the move again, after so many weeks of idleness, for he was a very active man.
Their journey to New York was uneventful, and they found that the parts of the airship had safely arrived, and had been taken aboard the steamer. The little party went aboard themselves, after a day spent in sight-seeing, and that afternoon the Soudalar, which was the vessel's name, steamed away from the dock at high tide.
"Off for Africa!" exclaimed Tom to Ned, as they stood at the rail, watching the usual crowd wave farewells. "Off for Africa, Ned."
As Tom spoke, a gentleman who had been standing near him and his chum, vigorously waving his hand to some one on the pier, turned quickly. He looked sharply at the young inventor for a moment, and then exclaimed:
"Well, if it isn't Tom Swift! Did I hear you say you were going to Africa?"
Tom looked at the gentleman with rather a puzzled air for a moment. The face was vaguely familiar, but Tom could not recall where he had seen it. Then it came to him in a flash.
"Mr. Floyd Anderson!" exclaimed our hero. "Mr. Anderson of—"
"Earthquake Island!" exclaimed the gentleman quickly, as he extended his hand. "I guess you remember that place, Tom Swift."
"Indeed I do. And to think of meeting you again, and on this African steamer," and Tom's mind went back to the perilous days when his wireless message had saved the castaways of Earthquake Island, among whom were Mr. Anderson and his wife.
"Did I hear you say you were going to Africa?" asked Mr. Anderson, when he had been introduced to Ned, and the others in Tom's party.
"That's where we're bound for," answered the lad. "We are going to elephant land. But where are you going, Mr. Anderson?"
"Also to Africa, but not on a trip for pleasure or profit like yourselves. I have been commissioned by a missionary society to rescue two of its workers from the heart of the dark continent."
"Rescue two missionaries?" exclaimed Tom, wonderingly.
"Yes, a gentleman and his wife, who, it is reported, have fallen into the hands of a race known as the red pygmies, who hold them captives!"
ATTACKED BY A WHALE
Surprise at Mr. Anderson's announcement held Tom silent for a moment. That the gentleman whom he had been the means of rescuing, among others, from Earthquake Island, should be met with so unexpectedly, was quite a coincidence, but when it developed that he was bound to the same part of the African continent as were Tom and his friends, and when he said he hoped to rescue some missionaries from the very red pygmies so feared by the old elephant hunter—this was enough to startle any one.
"I see that my announcement has astonished you," said Mr. Anderson, as he noted the look of surprise on the face of the young inventor.
"It certainly has! Why, that's where we are bound for, in my new airship. Come down into our cabin, Mr. Anderson, and tell us all about it. Is your wife with you?"
"No, it is too dangerous a journey on which to take her. I have little hope of succeeding, for it is now some time since the unfortunate missionaries were captured, but I am going to do my best, and organize a relief expedition when I get to Africa."
Tom said nothing at that moment, but he made up his mind that if it was at all possible he would lend his aid, that of his airship, and also get his friends to assist Mr. Anderson. They went below to a special cabin that had been reserved for Tom's party, and there, as the ship slowly passed down New York Bay, Mr. Anderson told his story.
"I mentioned to you, when we were on Earthquake Island," he said to Tom, "that I had been in Africa, and had done some hunting. That is not my calling, as it is that of your friend, Mr. Durban, but I know the country pretty well. However, I have not been there in some time."
"My wife and I are connected with a church in New York that, several years ago, raised a fund and sent two missionaries, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Illingway, to the heart of Africa. They built up a little mission there, and for a time all went well, and they did good work among the natives."
"They are established in a tribe of friendly black men, of simple nature, and, while the natives did not become Christianized to any remarkable extent, yet they were kind to the missionaries. Mr. and Mrs. Illingway used frequently to write to members of our church, telling of their work. They also mentioned the fact that adjoining the country of the friendly blacks there was a tribe of fierce little red men,—red because of hair of that color all over their bodies."
"That's right," agreed Mr. Durban, shaking his head solemnly. "They're red imps, too!"
"Mr. Illingway often mentioned in his letters," went on Mr. Anderson, "that there were frequent fights between the pygmies and the race of blacks, but the latter had no great fear of their small enemies. However, it seems that they did not take proper precautions, for not long ago there was a great battle, the blacks were attacked by a large force of the red pygmies, who overwhelmed them by numbers, and finally routed them, taking possession of their country."
"What became of the missionaries?" asked Ned Newton.
"I'll tell you," said Mr. Anderson. "For a long time we heard nothing, beyond the mere news of the fight, which we read of in the papers. The church people were very anxious about the fate of Mr. and Mrs. Illingway, and were talking of sending a special messenger to inquire about them, when a cablegram came from the headquarters of the society in London."
"It seems that one of the black natives, named Tomba, who was a sort of house servant to Mr. and Mrs. Illingway, escaped the general massacre, in which all his friends were killed. He made his way through the jungle to a white settlement, and told his story, relating how the two missionaries had been carried away captive by the pygmies."
"A terrible fate," commented Mr. Durban.
"Yes, they might better be dead, from all the accounts we can hear," went on Mr. Anderson.
"Bless my Sunday hat! Don't say that!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Maybe we can save them, Mr. Anderson."
"That is what I am going to try to do, though it may be too late. As soon as definite news was received, our church held a meeting, raised a fund, and decided to send me off to find Mr. and Mrs. Illingway, if alive, or give them decent burial, if I could locate their bones. The reason they selected me was because I had been in Africa, and knew the country."
"I made hurried arrangements, packed up, said good-by to my wife, and here I am. But to think of meeting you, Tom Swift! And to hear that you are also going to Africa. I wish I could command an airship for the rescue. It might be more easily accomplished!"
"That's just what I was going to propose!" exclaimed Tom. "We are going to the land of the red pygmies, and while I have promised to help Mr. Durban in getting ivory, and while I want to try my electric rifle on big game, still we can do both, I think. You can depend on us, Mr. Anderson, and if the Black Hawk can be of any service to you in the rescue, count us in!"
"Gosh!" cried the former castaway of Earthquake Island. "This is the best piece of luck I could have! Now tell me all about your plans." which Tom and the others did, listening in turn, to further details about the missionaries.
Just how they would go to work to effect the rescue, or how they could locate the particular tribe of little red men who had Mr. and Mrs. Illingway, they did not know.
"We may be able to get hold of this Tomba," said Mr. Durban. "If not I guess between Mr. Anderson and myself we can get on the trail, somehow. I'm anxious to get to the coast, see the airship put together again, and start for the interior."
"So am I," declared Tom, as he got out his electric rifle, and began to put it together, for he wanted to show Mr. Anderson how it worked.
They had a pleasant and uneventful voyage for two weeks. The weather was good, and, to tell the truth, it was rather monotonous for Torn and the others, who were eager to get into activity again. Then came a storm, which, while it was not dangerous, yet gave them plenty to think and talk about for three days. Then came more calm weather, when the Soudalar plowed along over gently heaving billows.
They were about a week from their port of destination, which vas Majumba, on the African coast, when, one afternoon, as Tom and the others were in their cabin, they heard a series of shouts on deck, and the sound of many feet running to and fro.
"Something has happened!" exclaimed the young inventor.
Tom raced for the companionway, and was soon on deck, followed by Mr. Durban and the others. They saw a crowd of sailors and passengers leaning over the port rail.
"What's the matter?" asked Tom, of the second mate, who was just passing.
"Fight between a killer and a whale," was the reply. "The captain has ordered the ship to lay-to so it can be watched."
Tom made his way to the rail. About a quarter of a mile away there could be observed a great commotion in the ocean. Great bodies seemed to be threshing about, beating the water to foam, and, with the foam could be seen bright blood mingled. Occasionally two jets of water, as from some small fountain, would shoot upward.
"He's blowing hard!" exclaimed one of the sailors. "I guess he's about done for!"
"Which one?" asked Tom.
"The whale," was the reply. "The killer has the best of the big fellow," and the sailor quickly explained how the smaller killer fish, by the peculiarity of its attack, and its great ferocity, often bested its larger antagonist.
The battle was now at its height, and Tom and the others were interested spectators. At times neither of the big creatures could be seen, because of the smother of foam in which they rolled and threshed about. The whale endeavored to sound, or go to the bottom, but the killer stuck to him relentlessly.
Suddenly, however, as Tom looked, the whale, by a stroke of his broad tail, momentarily stunned his antagonist. Instantly realizing that he was free the great creature, which was about ninety feet long, darted away, swimming on the surface of the water, for he needed to get all the air possible.
Quickly acquiring momentum, the whale came on like a locomotive, spouting at intervals, the vapor from the blowholes looking not unlike steam from some submarine boat.
"He looks to be heading this way," remarked Mr. Durban to Tom.
"He is," agreed the young inventor, "but I guess he'll dive before he gets here. He only wants to get away from the killer. Look, the other one is swimming this way, too!"
"Bless my harpoon, but he sure is!" called Mr. Damon. "They'll renew the fight near here."
But he was mistaken, for the killer, after coming a little distance after the whale, suddenly turned, hesitated for a moment, and then disappeared in the depths of the ocean.
The whale, however, continued to come on, speeding through the water with powerful strokes. There was an uneasy movement among some of the passengers.
"Suppose he strikes the ship," suggested one woman.
"Nonsense! He couldn't," said her husband.
"The old man had better get under way, just the same," remarked a sailor near Tom, as he looked up at the bridge where the captain was standing.
The "old man," or commander, evidently thought the same thing, for, after a glance at the oncoming leviathan, which was still headed directly for the vessel, he shoved the lever of the telegraph signal over to "full speed ahead."
Hardly had he done so than the whale sank from sight.
"Oh, I'm so glad!" exclaimed the woman who had first spoken of the possibility of the whale hitting the ship, "I am afraid of those terrible creatures."
"They're as harmless as a cow, unless they get angry," said her husband.
Slowly the great ship began to move through the water. Tom and his friends were about to go back to their cabin, for they thought the excitement over, when, as the young inventor turned from the rail, he felt a vibration throughout the whole length of the steamer, as if it had hit on a sand-bar.