TOM SWIFT AND HIS UNDERSEA SEARCH
The Treasure on the Floor of the Atlantic
I UNTOLD MILLIONS II A STRANGE OFFER III THINKING IT OVER IV AGAINST HIS WILL V BUSY DAYS VI MARY'S ODD STORY VII THE TRIAL TRIP VIII THE MUD BANK IX READY TO START X STARTLING REVELATIONS XI BARTON KEITH'S STORY XII IN DEEP WATERS XIII THE SEA MONSTER XIV IN STRANGE PERIL XV TOM TO THE RESCUE XVI GASPING FOR AIR XVII WHERE IS IT? XVIII A SEPARATION XIX THE SERPENT WEED XX THE DEVIL FISH XXI A WAR REMINDER XXII STUDYING CURRENTS XXIII AN UNDERSEA COLLISION XXIV THE TREASURE SHIP XXV THE STEEL BOX
TOM SWIFT AND HIS UNDERSEA SEARCH
"Tom, this is certainly wonderful reading! Over a hundred million dollars' worth of silver at the bottom of the ocean! More than two hundred million dollars in gold! To say nothing of fifty millions in copper, ten millions in—"
"Say, hold on there, Ned! Hold on! Where do you get that stuff; as the boys say? Has something gone wrong with one of the adding machines, or is it just on account of the heat? What's the big idea, anyhow? How many millions did you say?" and Tom Swift, the talented young inventor, looked at Ned Newton, his financial manager, with a quizzical smile.
"It's all right, Tom! It's all right!" declared Ned, and it needed but a glance to show that he was more serious than was his companion. "I'm not suffering from the heat, though the thermometer is getting close to ninety-five in the shade. And if you want to know where I get 'that stuff' read this!"
He tossed over to his chum, employer, and friend—for Tom Swift assumed all three relations toward Ned Newton—part of a Sunday newspaper. It was turned to a page containing a big illustration of a diver attired in the usual rubber suit and big helmet, moving about on the floor of the ocean and digging out boxes of what was supposed to be gold from a sunken wreck.
"Oh, that stuff!" exclaimed Tom, with a smile of disbelief as he saw the source of Ned's information. "Seems to me I've read something like that before, Ned!"
"Of course you have!" agreed the young financial manager of the newly organized Swift Construction Company. "It isn't anything new. This wealth of untold millions has been at the bottom of the sea for many years—always increasing with nobody ever spending a cent of it. And since the Great War this wealth has been enormously added to because of the sinking of so many ships by German submarines."
"Well, what's that got to do with us, Ned?" asked Tom, as he looked over some blue prints and other papers on his desk, for the talk was taking place in his office. "You and I did our part in the war, but I don't see what all this undersea wealth has to do with us. We've got our work cut out for us if we take care of all the new contracts that came in this week."
"Yes, I know," admitted Ned. "But I couldn't help calling your attention to this article, Tom. It's authentic!"
"Authentic? What do you mean
"Well, the man who wrote it went to the trouble of getting from the ship insurance companies a list of all the wrecks and lost vessels carrying gold and silver coin, bullion, and other valuables. He has gone back a hundred years, and he brings it right down to just before the war. Hasn't had time to compile that list, the article says. But without counting the vessels the Germans sank, there is, in various places on the bottom of the ocean today, wrecks of ships that carried, when they went down, gold, silver, copper and other metals to the value of at least ten billions of dollars!"
Tom Swift did not seem to be at all surprised by the explosive emphasis with which Ned Newton conveyed this information. He gazed calmly at his friend and manager, and then handed the paper back.
"I haven't time to look at it now," said Tom. "But is there anything new in the story? I mean has any of the wealth been recovered lately—or is it in a way to be?"
"Yes!" exclaimed Ned. "It is! A company has been formed in Japan for the purpose of using a new kind of diving bell, invented by an American, it seems. The inventor claims that in his machine he can go down deeper than ever man went before, and bring up a lot of this lost ocean wealth."
"Well, every so often an inventor, or some one who calls himself that, crops up with a new proposal for cleaning up the untold millions on the floor of the Atlantic or the Pacific," replied Tom. "Mind you, I'm not saying it isn't there. Everybody knows that hundreds of ships carrying gold and silver have gone down in storms or been sunk in war. And some of the gold and silver has been recovered by divers—I admit that. In fact, if you recall, my father and I perfected a new style diving dress a few years ago that was successfully used in getting down to a wreck off the Cuban coast. A treasure ship went down there, and I believe they recovered a large part of the gold bullion—or perhaps it was silver.
"But this diving bell stunt isn't new, and it hasn't been successful. Of course a man can go down to a greater depth in a thick iron diving bell than he can in a diving suit. That's common knowledge. But the trouble with a diving bell is that it can't be moved about as a man can move about in a diving suit. The man in the bell can't get inside the wreck, and it's there where the gold or silver is usually to be found."
"Can't they blow the wreck apart with dynamite, and scatter the gold on the bottom of the ocean?" asked Ned.
"Yes, they could do that, but usually they scatter it so far, and the ocean currents so cover it with sand, that it is impossible ever to get it again. I admit that if a wreck is blown apart a man in a diving bell can perhaps get a small part of it. But the limitations of a diving bell are so well recognized that several inventors have tried adjusting movable arms to the bell, to be operated by the man inside."
"Did they work?" asked Ned.
"After a fashion, yes. But I never heard of any case where the gold and silver recovered paid for the expenses of making the bell and sending men down in it. For it takes the same sort of outfit to aid the man in the diving bell as it does the diver in his usual rubber or steel suit. Air has to be pumped to him, and he has to be lowered and raised."
"Well, isn't there any way of getting at this gold on the floor of the ocean?" asked Ned, his enthusiasm a little cooled by the practical "cold water" Tom had thrown.
"Oh, yes, of course there is, in a way," was the answer of the young inventor. "Don't you remember how my father and I, with Mr. Damon and Captain Weston, went in our submarine, the Advance, and discovered the wreck of the Boldero?"
"I do recall that," admitted Ned.
"Well," resumed Tom, "there was a case of showing how much trouble we had. An ordinary diving outfit never would have answered. We had to locate the wreck, and a hard time we had doing it. Then, when we found it, we had to ram the old ship and blow it apart before we could get inside. Even after that we just happened to discover the gold, as it were. I'm only mentioning this to show you it isn't so easy to get at the wealth under the sea as writers in Sunday newspaper supplements think it is."
"I believe you, Tom. And yet it seems a shame to have all those millions going to waste, doesn't it?" And Ned spoke as a banker and financial man, who is not happy unless money is earning interest all the while.
"Well, a billion of dollars is a lot," Tom admitted. "And when you think of all that have been sunk, say even in the last hundred years, it amazes one. But still, all the gold and silver was hidden in the earth before it was dug out, and now it's only gone back where it came from, in a way. We got along before men dug it out and coined it into money, and I guess we'll get along when it's under water. No use worrying over the ocean treasures, as far as I'm concerned."
"You're a hopeless proposition!" laughed Ned. "You'd never make a banker, or a Napoleon of finance."
"That's why my father and I got you to look after our financial affairs," and Tom smiled. "You're just the one—with your interest-bearing mind—to keep us off the shoals of business trouble."
"Yes, I suppose I can do that, while you and your father go on inventing giant cannons, great searchlights, submarines, and airships," conceded Ned. "But this, to me, did look like an easy way of making money."
"How's that, Ned?" asked Tom, a new note coming into his voice. "Were you thinking of going to Japan and taking a hand in the undersea search?"
"No. But stock in this company is being sold, and shareholders stand to win big returns—if the wrecks are come upon."
"That's just it!" exclaimed Tom. "If they find the wrecks! And let me tell you, Ned, that there's a mighty big 'if' in it all. Do you realize how hard it is to find anything on the ocean, to say nothing of something under it?"
"I hadn't thought of it."
"Well, you'd better think of it. You know on the ocean sailors have to locate a certain imaginary position by calculation, using the sun and stars as guides. Of course, they have navigation down pretty fine, and a good pilot can get to a place on the surface of the ocean and meet another craft there almost as well as you and I can make an appointment to meet at Main and Broad streets at a certain hour.
"But lots of times there are errors in calculations or a storm comes up hiding the sun and stars, and, instead of a captain getting to where he wants to, he's anywhere from one to a hundred miles out. Now the location of Broad and Main Streets doesn't change even in a storm.
"And I'm not saying that a location on an ocean changes. I'm only saying that the least disturbance or error in calculation makes it almost impossible to find the exact spot. And if it's that hard on the surface, where you can see what you're doing, how much harder is it in regard to something on the bottom of the sea? So don't take any stock in these ocean treasure recovering companies. They may not be fakes, but they're mighty uncertain."
"Oh, I don't know that I was really going to buy any stock in this Japanese concern, Tom. I only thought it would be interesting to think about. And perhaps you might sell them a submarine or some of your diving apparatus."
"Nothing doing, Ned. We've got other plans, my father and I. There's that new tractor for use in the big wheat-growing belt, to say nothing of—"
Tom's remarks were interrupted by voices outside his office door. One voice, in particular, rose above the others. It said:
"No can go in! The Master he am busily! No can go in!"
"Nonsense, Koku!" exclaimed a man, and at the sound of his voice Tom and Ned smiled. "Nonsense! Of course I can go in! Why, bless my watch fob, I must go in! I've got the greatest proposition to lay before Tom Swift that he ever heard of! There's at least a million in it! Let me pass, Koku!"
"Mr. Damon!" murmured Tom Swift. "I wonder what he has on his mind now?"
As he spoke the door opened rather violently and a short, stout man, evidently much excited, fairly burst into the room, followed, more sedately, by a stranger.
A STRANGE OFFER
"Hello, Tom Swift! Hello, Ned! Glad to see you both! Busy, as usual, I'll wager. Bless my check book! I never saw you when you weren't busy at some scheme or other, Tom, my boy. But I won't take up much of your time. Tom Swift, let me introduce my friend, Mr. Dixwell Hardley. Mr. Hardley, shake hands with Tom Swift, one of the youngest, and yet one of the greatest, inventors in the world! I've told you a little about him, but it would take me all day to tell you what he really has done and—"
"Hold on, Mr. Damon!" laughed Tom, as he shook hands with the man whom Mr. Damon had named Dixwell Hardley. "Hold on, if you please. There's a limit to it, you know, and already you've said enough about me to—"
"Bless my ink bottle, Tom, I haven't said half enough!" interrupted the little, eccentric man. "Wait until you hear what he has done, Mr. Hardley. Then, if you don't say he's the very chap for your wonderful scheme, I'm mighty much mistaken! And shake hands with Ned Newton, too. He's Tom's financial manager, and of course he'll have something to say. Though when he hears how you are going to turn over a couple of million dollars or more, why, I know he'll be on our side."
Ned's eyes sparkled at the mention of the money. In truth he dealt in dollars and cents for the benefit of Tom Swift. Ned shook hands with Mr. Hardley and Tom motioned Mr. Damon and his friend to chairs.
"Now, Tom," went on the strange little man, "I know you're busy. Bless my adding machine, I never saw you when—"
At that moment there arose in the corridor outside Tom's private office a discord of voices, in which one could be heard exclaiming:
"Now yo' clear out oh heah! Massa Tom done tole me to sweep dish yeah place, an' ef yo' doan let me alone, why—why—"
"Huh! Radicate him big stiff—dat's what! Big stiff! Too stiff for sweep Master's floor. Koku sweep one hand!"
"Oh, yo' t'ink 'case yo' is sich a big giant, yo' kin git de best ob ole black Rad! But I'll show yo' dat—"
"Excuse me a moment," said Tom, with a smile to his guests as he arose. "Eradicate and Koku are at it again, I'm sorry to say. I'll have to go out and arbitrate the strike," and he left the room.
While he is settling the differences between his faithful old black servant and Koku, the giant, I will take the opportunity of telling my new readers something about Tom Swift.
Those who are familiar with the previous books of this series may skip this part. But it will give my new audience a better insight into this story if they will bear with me a moment and peruse these few lines.
As related in the first book, "Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle," the hero seemed born an inventive genius. It was this inventive faculty which enabled him to take the motor cycle that tried to climb a tree with Mr. Wakefield Damon on it and make the wreck into a serviceable bit of mechanism. Thus Tom became acquainted with Mr. Damon, who among other eccentricities, was always "blessing" something personal.
Tom Swift lived in the city of Shopton with his father and their faithful housekeeper, Mrs. Baggert. It was so named because the Swift shops were an important industry there. Tom's father, as well as Tom himself, was an inventor of note, and employed many men in building machines of various kinds. During the Great War the services of Tom and his father had been dedicated to the government.
There are a number of books dealing with Tom's activities, the list of titles of which may be found at the beginning of this volume.
Sufficient to say here, that Tom invented and operated motor boats, airships, and submarines. In addition he traveled on many expeditions with Mr. Damon, Ned, and others. He went among the diamond makers and it was when he escaped from captivity that he managed to bring away Koku, the giant, with him. Since then Koku and Eradicate Sampson, the faithful colored man, had periodic quarrels as to who should serve the young inventor.
Besides inventing and using many machines of motive power, Tom Swift engaged in other industries. He helped dig a big tunnel, he constructed a photo-telephone, a great searchlight and a monster cannon. Occasionally he had searched for treasure, once under the sea, with considerable success.
Of late his and his father's industries had become so important that a number of new buildings had been constructed and the plant greatly enlarged. Ned Newton, who had once worked in a Shopton bank, became financial manager for Tom and his father, and plenty of work he found with which to occupy himself.
Just prior to the opening of this story Tom had perfected a noiseless aeroplane—or one so nearly silent as to justify the name. The details of it will be found in the book called "Tom Swift and His Air Scout." In this mechanism of the air Tom had had some wonderful experiences, and they had not been at home more than a few weeks when New Newton broached the subject of undersea wealth.
The talk of Tom and his financial manager was interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Damon and the stranger he had introduced as Mr. Hardley.
Eradicate, or "Rad," and Koku, have been mentioned. Rad was an ancient colored man who once owned a mule named Boomerang. Sampson was the colored servant's last name, and he declared he had chosen the one "Eradicate" because in his younger days he was a great cleaner and whitewasher, "eradicating" the dirt, so to speak.
Boomerang had, some time since, gone where all good mules go, though Eradicate declared he would get another and call him Boomerang II. But, so far, he had not done so.
Rad, though too old to do heavy work, still believed he was indispensable to the welfare of Tom and his father; and as the giant Koku, who was physically an immense man, held the same view, it followed there were frequent clashes between the two, as on the occasion just mentioned.
"What was the matter, Tom?" asked Ned, when the young inventor came back into the room.
"Oh, the same old story," replied Tom. "Rad wanted to sweep the hall, and Koku insisted he was to do it."
"What'd you do, Tom?" asked Mr. Damon.
"I settled it by having Rad sweep this hall and sending Koku to do another—a bigger one I told him. He likes hard work, so he was pleased. Now we'll have it quiet for a little while. Did I understand you to say, Mr. Damon, that—er—Mr. Hardley I believe the name is—had a proposition to make to me?"
"That's exactly it, my dear Mr. Swift!" broke in the man in question. "I have a wonderful offer to make you, and I'm sure you will admit that it will be well worth your while to consider and accept it. There will be at least a million in it—"
"Bless my check book, I thought you said several millions!" exclaimed Mr. Damon.
"So I did," was the rather nettled answer. "I was about to say, Mr. Damon, that there will be at least a million in it for Mr. Swift, and another million for myself. There may be more, but I want to be conservative."
"Talking in millions, and calling himself conservative," mused Ned Newton. "Somehow or other I don't just cotton to this fellow!"
"When our mutual friend, Mr. Damon, told me about you, my dear Mr. Swift," went on Mr. Hardley, "I at once came to the conclusion that you were the very man I wanted to do business with. I'm sure it will be to our mutual advantage."
Tom Swift said nothing. He was willing to let the other talk, while he waited to see how far he would go. And, as Tom said afterward, he, as had Ned, took an instinctive dislike to Mr. Hardley. He could not say definitely what it was, but that was his feeling. That he might be mistaken, he admitted frankly. Time alone could tell.
"Have you a half hour to give me while it explain matters?" asked Mr. Hardley. "I may go farther and say I need considerable time to go into all the details. May I speak now?"
To tell the truth Tom Swift had many important matters to consider, and, in addition, Ned Newton was prepared to go over some financial ends of the business with Tom. But the young inventor felt that, in justice to his friend Mr. Damon, who had brought Mr. Hardley, he could do no less than give the stranger a hearing. But only the introduction by Mr. Damon brought this about.
"I shall be glad to hear what you have to say, Mr. Hardley," said Tom, as courteously as he could. "I will not go so far as to say that my time is unlimited, but I will listen to you now if you care to go into details."
"That's good!" exclaimed the visitor. "I'm sure that when you have listened you will agree with me."
"He's a little bit too sure!" mused Ned.
"Bless my pocketbook, Tom, but there are millions in it!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Literally millions, Tom!"
Mr. Hardley settled himself comfortably in his chair and looked from Tom to Ned.
"May I speak freely here?" he asked, with obvious intent.
"You may," the young inventor answered. "Mr. Newton is my financial manager, and I do nothing of importance without consulting him. You may regard him as a member of the firm, in fact, as he does own some stock. My father is practically retired, and I do not trouble him with unimportant details. So Mr. Newton and I are prepared to listen to you."
"Very well, Mr. Swift, I'm going to ask you a question. Have you all the money you want?"
"I suppose any man would answer that question in the negative," he replied. "Frankly, I could use more money, though I am not poor."
"So I have heard. Well, would a million dollars clear profit appeal to you?"
"It certainly would," was the answer.
"Then I am prepared to offer you that sum," went on Mr. Hardley. "But there are certain conditions, and I may say that this vast wealth is not easy to come at. However, with your inventive genius, I am sure you will be able to solve the mystery of the sea. Now then as to details. There lies, on the floor of the ocean—"
"Hark!" exclaimed Tom, raising a hand to enjoin silence. "I think I hear some one coming." At that moment there was a knock at the door.
THINKING IT OVER
"Father, is that you?" asked Tom. "Father hasn't been feeling well, of late," he said to the assembled company, "and I told him to go to lie down. But he's hard to manage, and he won't rest more than ten minutes at a time. My father, I might explain, Mr. Hardley," Tom went on, "is actively associated with me in business."
"So I have understood," said the man who had been introduced by Mr. Damon.
"Dis Koku!" came the guttural voice of the giant from the other side of the door. "Koku want more work. Hall, him all clean. Maybe I help dat no-good Rad now."
"No you don't, Koku!" exclaimed the young inventor, with a laugh. "You keep away from Rad. You'll get to disputing again and interrupt me, and I have business on hand. Here, wait a minute. I'll find something for you to do," he went on, opening the door to disclose the immense man standing outside, a broom in his hand seeming like a toy.
"Excuse me one moment," went on Tom to his friends. Taking up his desk telephone he called one of the shops, asking: "Have you any heavy work on hand this morning; lifting big castings, or anything like that? You have? Good! I'll send Koku right over."
Turning to the giant who apparently had not paid much attention to the talk over the wire, Tom said:
"Koku, go over to shop number ten, ask for the foreman, and he'll keep you busy. There are some five-hundred-pound castings that need assembling, and you can help him."
"Good!" exclaimed the giant, with a cheerful grin. "Koku like big work—no like sweep. Good for women and Rad, but not for Koku!"
"He spoke the truth there," remarked Ned Newton, as the giant stalked down the hall. "I never saw such a strong man. I'm afraid to shake hands with him, for fear I'll be minus a couple of fingers in the operation."
"Well, he's disposed of," remarked Tom, as he closed the door. "And now, Mr. Hardley, I'm at your service, as far as listening to your proposition is concerned."
"Thank you. I shall endeavor to be brief," remarked the visitor. "Am I correct in assuming that you have had some experience in submarine work? I believe Mr. Damon mentioned something of that sort."
"Submarine work? Bless my hydrometer, I should say so!" exclaimed the eccentric man. "And not only in submarine, but in aeroplane! but you don't need any aeroplanes, my dear Mr. Hardley. It's the submarine end of it that you are interested in, as far as Tom Swift is concerned. Now go ahead and tell him what you told me, and how many millions there are in it."
"Very well," assented the visitor. "Have you ever had any experience in recovering treasure from sunken wrecks?" he asked Tom.
"Yes," was the answer. "And it is curious that you should ask me that, for my friend here, Ned Newton, and I were just talking about that very matter. Here's what brought it up," and Tom showed the page from the Sunday paper.
"Hum! Yes!" musingly remarked Mr. Hardley. "That's all very well. Part of it is true; but I imagine most of it is the work of imagination of some enterprising reporter. Of course there is no question but that there are untold millions on the bottom of the ocean. The only trouble, as I think you will agree with me, Mr. Swift, is in coming at the money."
"Exactly," said Tom.
"And will you bear me out when I say that if the wreck of a treasure ship could be exactly located in water that is not too deep, half the trouble would be solved?" asked Mr. Hardley.
"A good share of it would," answered Tom. "That is usually the chief difficulty—locating the wreck. Nearly always they are anywhere from one to five miles from where the persons seeking them think they are. And five miles, or even half a mile, is a good distance on the bottom of the ocean."
"Exactly," echoed Mr. Hardley. "Then if I could give you the exact location of a sunken treasure ship, and prove to you that the owners had given up the search for it, leaving it open to salvage on the part of whoever wished to try—would that be any inducement to you to make an attempt, Mr. Swift?"
"I should want to hear more about it before I gave an answer," replied Tom. "As perhaps Mr. Damon has told you, I once went on a hunt for treasure in my submarine. We found it, but only after considerable trouble, and then I declared I'd never again engage in such a search. There wasn't enough net profit in it."
"But there are millions in this, Tom! Bless my gold tooth, but there are millions!" cried the excitable Mr. Damon. "Hurry up and tell him!" he urged his friend.
"I will," assented Mr. Hardley. "I can readily believe," he went on, "that the cost of hunting for undersea treasure is great. I have taken that into consideration. Now, in brief, my plan is this. I will join forces with you, and bear half the expense if I am allowed to share half the proceeds. That's fair, isn't it?" he asked Tom.
"So far, yes," replied the young inventor.
"Now then, to business!" exclaimed the visitor. "Will you join with me in searching for some of the wealth-laden wrecks that are rotting at the bottom of the sea, Mr. Swift?"
"Do you mean make an indiscriminate search for any one of a number of wrecks?" Tom wanted to know.
"I should want the understanding broad enough to include all wrecks we might discover," was the answer, "but I have in mind one in particular now. It is the wreck of the steamer Pandora which was sunk off the coast of one of the West Indian Islands about a year ago."
Ned Newton quickly caught up the page of the Sunday supplement and scanned the list of wrecks given there.
"No mention of the Pandora here," he said.
"No," agreed Mr. Hardley, "the story of this wreck is not generally known, and the story of the treasure she carried is hardly known at all. As a matter of fact, this money, mostly in gold, was to finance a South American revolution, and such matters are generally kept quiet. That is why nothing much appeared in the papers about the Pandora. But I happen to know that she carried over two million dollars in gold, and I know—"
"Think of that, Tom! Think of that!" cried Mr. Damon. "Two million dollars in gold! Why bless my—bless my—"
But the eccentric man could think of nothing adequate to bless under the circumstances, and he subsided with a murmur.
"Excuse me for interrupting you," he said to his new friend. "But I just couldn't help it."
"That's all right," Mr. Hardley remarked, with a smile that showed two rows of very even, white teeth. "I don't blame you for getting excited. Does that interest you?" he asked Tom. "Two million dollars in gold, besides a quantity of silver—just how much I don't know."
"It certainly sounds interesting," replied Tom, with a smile. "But are you sure of your facts?"
"Absolutely," was the answer. "I was a passenger on the Pandora when she was wrecked in a storm. I saw the gold put on board. It was not taken off, and is on her now as she lies at the bottom of the sea."
"And the location?" queried Tom.
"I know that, too!" said Mr. Hardley eagerly. "I was with the captain just before we had to abandon ship, and I heard the exact nautical location given him by an officer who made the calculation. I have it written down to the second—latitude and longitude. That will be a help in locating the wreck, won't it?"
"Why, yes," Tom had to agree, "it will be, but if you know it, then the captain and others must know it. And what is to prevent them from making a search for the Pandora if they have not already done so?"
"The best reason in the world," was the answer. "The boat containing the captain and the officer who gave him the ship's position was sunk, and all on board lost. The boat I was in was the only one picked up, and I believe I am the only one who knows exactly where the Pandora lies.
"Now, here is my offer, Mr. Swift," went on the seeker after the ocean's hidden wealth. "I will bear half the expense of fitting out a submarine, or for any other kind of expedition to go in search of the wreck of the Pandora. I will furnish you with the exact nautical location, as I have it. And when the wealth is found and brought to the surface, I will give you half—in other words at least a million dollars! Does that appeal to you?"
"I must say it is a fair, though perhaps strange, offer," conceded Tom. "And a million dollars is not made every day nor every year. But what about the title to this money? After we have recovered it—provided we are successful—will not some person or some government lay claim to it?"
"None can successfully," declared Mr. Hardley. "As I told you, the money was to finance a revolution. It was raised for an unlawful purpose, so to speak, and no one has a valid claim to it under the circumstances, so lawyers whom I have consulted have told me. But if that is not enough, I have papers to prove that those who might be called the owners have given up the search for it. More than a year has elapsed, and though I don't know just how long it takes to outlaw an under-ocean claim, I feel sure that we would have a legal and moral right to take this gold if we could find it."
"I should want to be satisfied on that point before I undertook the search," said Tom.
"Then you will undertake it?" eagerly exclaimed Mr. Hardley.
"I will think it over," Tom answered quietly—so quietly that distinct disappointment showed on the face of the visitor.
AGAINST HIS WILL
For a moment it seemed that Mr. Damon, as well as Mr. Hardley, felt disappointment at Tom's answer, for the eccentric man exclaimed:
"Bless my leather belt, Tom, but you aren't very keen on making a million dollars!"
"Oh, yes, I like to make money," the young inventor answered. "I guess you know that, as well as any one, for you've been with me on several trips. And I don't mind hard work, nor danger."
"I'll say you don't!" added Ned, as he thought of some of Tom's perilous voyages, among the diamond makers and in the caves of ice.
"Well, if you are anxious to make money, as I admit I am," said Mr. Hardley, "why can't you give me an answer now?"
"Because," answered Tom, "there are many things to be considered. Hunting for a treasure on the floor of the Atlantic isn't like going to some location on land, however wild or inaccessible it might be. Do you realize, Mr. Hardley, what a large difference in miles a small error in nautical calculations makes? We might go to the exact spot where you thought the wreck of the Pandora lies, only to find that we would have to hunt around a long time.
"I must think of that, and also think of my other business affairs. Then, too, there is my father. He is getting old, and while he is still active in the affairs of the company, particularly when it comes to taking up new lines of work, I do not like to think of leaving him, as I should have to, in case I went on this trip."
"Take him along!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "He's gone with us before, Tom."
"He's too old now," said the young inventor a bit sadly. "Father will never make another extended trip. But I will let you have my answer as soon as I can, Mr. Hardley, and I will give the matter considerable thought."
"I'm sure I hope you will, and also that you will consent to go," was the answer. "A million is not easily to be come at in these days after the Great War."
"I realize that," agreed Tom with a smile. "And you shall have my answer as soon as possible."
With this the visitor was forced to be content, and a little later he withdrew with Mr. Damon, the latter telling Tom that he would see him again soon.
"Well, that was queer, wasn't it?" remarked Ned, when he and Tom were alone again.
"What was?" asked Tom, as though his mind was far away, as indeed it was.
"That this man should come in with his project to search for a sunken treasure wreck just as we were talking about how many millions were on the bottom of the ocean."
"Yes, it was quite a coincidence," Tom admitted.
"What do you think of it—and him?" asked Ned.
"Well, to tell you the truth, I didn't take a great fancy to Mr. Hardley," Tom said. "I think he's altogether too cocksure, and takes too much for granted. Still I may misjudge him. Certainly he doesn't have a chance at a million dollars every day."
"Do you think you could get the treasure out of this wreck, Tom, if you could locate her?"
"Why, it's possible; yes. We proved that with the Boldero."
"Would you use the same submarine?"
"No, I think I'd have to rebuild it, or make an altogether new one. Possibly I might get one of Uncle Sam's and add some improvements of my own."
"Yes, you could do that," agreed Ned. "You've done so much for the government that it couldn't refuse you something reasonable, now that the war is over. Then do you think you'll go?"
"Really, Ned, I can't make up my mind yet. Now let's forget the Pandora and all the millions and get down to business. This Criterion company seems to me to want altogether too much, We'll have to trim their request down a bit. They owe the money and ought to pay it."
"Yes, I'll get after them," said Ned, and then he and his chum, as well as employer, plunged into a mass of business details.
It was the next afternoon, when Tom, following a strenuous morning of work, leaned back in his chair at his desk, that Mr. Damon was announced.
"Tell him to come in," ordered Tom, always glad to see his friend. "Wait a minute, though!" he called to the messenger. "Is any one with him?"
"No, sir; he is alone."
"Good! Then show him right in. I was afraid," said Tom to Ned, who was also in the office, "that he had Hardley with him. I'm not quite ready to see him yet."
"Then you haven't made up your mind about going for the treasure?"
"Not exactly. I shall, perhaps, this week."
"Bless my matchbox, Tom, but I'm glad to see you!" cried Mr. Damon, as he hastened forward with outstretched hand. "I was afraid you might be out. Now look here! What about my friend Hardley? He's very anxious to know your decision about going for that treasure, and I said I'd come over and sound you. I don't mind saying, Tom, that if you go I'm going too; if you'll take me, of course."
"Well, Mr. Damon, you know you'll always be welcome, as far as I am concerned," said the young inventor; "but, as a matter of fact, I don't believe I'm going."
"What? Not going to pick up a million dollars off the floor of the ocean, Tom? Bless my bank balance! but that's foolish, it seems to me."
"Perhaps it is, but I can't help it."
"What's your principal objection?" asked the eccentric man. "It isn't that you don't want the money, is it?"
"Then it must be that you object to Mr. Hardley personally." went on Mr. Damon. "I began to suspect that, Tom, and I want to say that you are wrong. Mr. Hardley is a friend of mine—a good friend. I have not known him long, but he strikes me as being all right. He had some good letters of introduction, and I believe he has money."
"Where'd he get it?" asked Tom.
"I don't know, exactly. Seems to me I heard him mention silver mines, or it may have been gold. Anyhow, it had something to do with getting wealth out of the ground. Now, Tom, I don't mind saying that I stand to make a little money in case this thing goes through."
"How's that, Mr. Damon?" asked the young scientist in surprise.
"Why, I agreed to bear part of the expense," was the answer. "I thought this was a pretty good scheme, and when Mr. Hardley came to me and told me of the possibilities I agreed to help him finance the expenses. That is, I have taken shares in the company he formed to raise his half of the expense money.
"Of course I thought of you at once when he spoke of having to search out a sunken wreck, and I proposed your name. He'd heard of you, he said, but didn't know you. So I brought you together and now—bless my apple pie, Tom! I hope you aren't going to turn down a chance to make a million and, incidentally, help an old friend."
"Well," remarked Tom, slowly, "I must admit, Mr. Damon, that I didn't think you'd go into a thing like this. Not that it is more risky than other schemes, but I thought you didn't care for speculation."
"Well, this sort of appealed to me Tom. You know—sunken wreck under the ocean, down in a diving bell perhaps, and all that! There's romance to it."
"Yes, there is romance," agreed Tom. "And hard work, too. If I undertook this it would mean an extra lot of work getting ready. I suppose I could use my own submarine. I could get her in commission, and make improvements more quickly than on any other."
"Then you'll go?" quickly cried the eccentric man.
"Well, since you tell me you are interested financially, I believe I will," assented Tom, but he spoke reluctantly. "As a matter of fact, I am going against my better judgment. Not that I fear we shall be in danger," he hastened to add; "but I think it will prove a failure. However, as Mr. Hardley will bear half the expense, and as by using my own submarine that will not be much, I'll go!"
"Then I'll tell him!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Hurray! This is great! I haven't had an exciting trip for a long while! Don't tell my wife about it," he begged Tom and Ned. "At least not until just before we start. Then she can't object in time. I'll have a wonderful experience, I know. This will be good news to Dixwell Hardley!"
And as Mr. Damon hastened away to acquaint his new friend with Tom's decision, the young inventor remarked to Ned:
"I'll go; but, somehow, I have a feeling that something will happen."
"Something bad?" asked the financial manager. "No, I wouldn't go so far as to say that. But I believe we'll have trouble. I'll start on the search for the sunken millions, but rather against my better judgment. However, maybe Mr. Damon's luck and good nature will pull us through!"
Once Tom Swift had made up his mind to do a thing he did it—even though it was against his better judgment. His word, passed, was his bond.
In conformity then with his decision to take Mr. Damon and the latter's friend, Mr. Hardley, on an undersea search for treasure, Tom at once proceeded to make his preparations. Ned, too, had his work to do, since the decision to make what might be a long trip would necessitate a change in Tom's plans. But, as in everything he did, he threw himself into this whole-heartedly and with enthusiasm.
Not once did Tom Swift admit to himself that he was going into this scheme because he thought well of it. It was all for Mr. Damon, after Tom had learned that his friend had invested considerable money in a company Mr. Hardley had formed to pay half the expenses of the trip.
Tom even tried to buy Mr. Damon off, by offering the latter back all the money the eccentric man had invested with his new friend. But Mr. Damon exclaimed:
"Bless my gasolene tank, Tom! I'm in this thing as much for the love of adventure, as I am for the money. Now let's go on with it. You will like Hardley better when you know him better."
"Perhaps," said Tom dryly, but he did not think so.
The young inventor insisted, before making any preparations for the trip, that all the cards be laid on the table. That is, he wanted to be sure there had been such a ship as the Pandora, that she was laden with gold, and that she had sunk where Mr. Hardley said she had. The latter was perfectly willing to supply all needful proofs, even though some were difficult, because of the nature of the voyage of the treasure craft. As a filibuster she was not trading openly.
"Here are all the records," said Mr. Hardley to Tom one day, when the young inventor, Ned, and Mr. Damon were gathered in Tom's office. "You may satisfy yourself."
And, with Ned's help, Tom did.
There was no question but what the Pandora had sailed from a certain port on a certain date. The official reports proved that. And that she did carry a considerable treasure in gold was also established to the satisfaction of Tom Swift. Because the gold was to be used for furthering ends against one of the South American governments, the gold shipment was not insured and, in consequence, no recovery could be made.
"Then you are satisfied, are you, Mr. Swift, that the ship, set out with over two millions in gold on board?" asked Mr. Hardley. "Yes, that seems to be proved," Tom admitted, and Ned nodded. "The next thing to prove is that she foundered in a storm about the position I am going to tell you," went on Mr. Damon's friend.
"He doesn't tell you the exact location now, Tom," explained Mr. Damon, "because it might leak out. He'll disclose it to us as soon as we are out of sight of land in the submarine."
"I'm willing to agree to that proposition," Tom said. "But I want to be sure she really did sink."
This was proved to him by official records. There was no question but that the Pandora had gone down in a big storm. And Mr. Hardley was on board. He proved that, too, a not very difficult task, since the official passenger list was open to inspection.
Mr. Hardley repeated his story about having overheard the exact location of the ship a few minutes before she sank, and he also told of the captain and several members of the ship's company having been drowned. This, too, was confirmed.
"Then," went on Mr. Hardley, "all that remains for me to do is to deposit at some bank my half of the expenses and await your word to go aboard the submarine."
"I believe that is all," returned Tom. "But, on my part, it will take some little time to fit the submarine out as I want to have her. There are some special appliances I want to take along which will aid us in the search for the gold, if we find the place where the Pandora is sunk."
"Oh, we'll find that all right," declared Mr. Hardley, "if you will only follow my directions."
Tom looked slightly incredulous, but said nothing.
Then followed busy days. The submarine Advance, which had made several successful trips, as related in the book bearing the title, "Tom Swift and His Submarine Boat," was hauled into dry dock and the work of overhauling her begun. Tom put his best men to work, and, after a consultation with his father, decided on some radical changes in the craft.
"Tom, my boy," said the aged Mr. Swift, "I wish you weren't going on this trip."
"Why, Dad?" asked the young inventor.
"Because I fear something will happen. We don't really need this money, and suppose—suppose—"
"Oh, I'm not worrying, Dad," was the answer. "I've taken worse risks than this, many a time. I'm really doing it as a favor to Mr. Damon. He's got too much money invested to let him lose it. And we can use a million dollars ourselves. It will enable me to put in operation a plan to pension our workmen. I've long had that in mind, but I've never had enough capital to carry it out."
"Well, of course, Tom, that's a worthy object, and I won't make any further objections. But take my advice, and strengthen the submarine."
"Why, Dad?" asked Tom in some surprise. "Because you'll find the water there of a greater depth than you think," was the answer. "I know you have the official hydrographic charts, but there's a mistake, I'm sure. I once made a study of that part of the ocean, and there are currents there at certain seasons of the year that no one suspects, and deep caverns that aren't charted. If the Pandora lies in one of these you'll need a great strength of walls to your submarine to withstand the pressure of deep water."
The craft Tom Swift proposed to use in searching for the treasure ship Pandora was of the regular cigar-shape, but inside it had many special features. It was more comfortable than the usual submarine, not being intended for fighting, though it did carry guns and a torpedo tube. Tom intended renaming the craft, which had been called Advance, and one day, when there had been some discussion as to what the undersea craft ought to be called, Ned explained:
"Why don't you name it after her?"
"After whom?" inquired Tom, in some surprise, looking up from a letter he was writing.
"Your friend and future wife, Mary Nestor," answered Ned. "I'm sure she'd appreciate it."
"That isn't such a bad idea," conceded Tom musingly. "The only thing about it is that I don't want Mary's name bandied about that way."
"Use her initials, then," suggested Ned.
"How do you mean
"Why not call it the M. N. 1.? Isn't that a good name?"
"The M. N. 1." mused Tom. "Not so bad. If the N. C. 4 flew over the ocean the M. N. 1 ought to be able to navigate under it. I think I'll do that, Ned."
So the Advance, rebuilt and refitted in many ways, was christened the M. N. 1, and a wonderful craft she proved to be. Mary Nestor was quite pleased when Tom told her what he had done. She appreciated the delicate compliment he had paid her.
Busy and more busy were the days that passed. As the M. N. 1 had to be refitted some miles from Tom's home, where it was feasible to launch her for the trip, he had to make the journey between the drydock and his shop either by automobile or aeroplane. Often he choose the latter, since he had a number of small, speedy craft in his hangars. Sometimes Ned or Mr. Damon went with him, but Mr. Hardley could never be induced to ride in an airship.
"I'll travel on the ocean or under it," he said, "but I'm not going to take a chance in the air. I'm too afraid of falling."
"Tom, what's this?" asked Ned one day, when he and Tom had come to see how the work of remodeling the submarine was getting along. "It looks like something you used when you dug your big tunnel."
"That's a new kind of diving bell," Tom answered. "You know it isn't easy to get treasure out of a sunken ship. It isn't like picking it off the bottom of the ocean. We've got to get it out from inside—perhaps from inside a strong box or a safe. This bell may come in useful."
"Can't you use the special diving suits that you always used to carry?" the financial manager wanted to know.
"We might, if the water isn't too deep," replied Tom. "But you know there is a limit to how far down a man in even my kind of diving dress can go. With this diving bell a much greater depth can be reached. And this diving bell is not like any you have ever seen or read about. My father gave me the idea for it. I'll demonstrate it to you some day."
A diving bell is shaped like its name. A common glass tumbler thrust down into a pail of water, with the open side down, will show exactly the principle on which a diving bell works. It illustrates the fact that two things cannot occupy the same place at the same time.
Pushing the tumbler, open end down, into the pail of water, leaves a space in the upper end of the tumbler which the water cannot fill, because it is already occupied with air. Imagine a big tumbler, made of thick steel, lowered into the water. Air pumped into the upper part not only keeps the water from entering, but also enables a man inside to breathe and to move about inside the bell which may be lowered to the floor of the ocean. But, as Tom told Ned, his diving bell was a big improvement over those commonly used.
The two young men inspected the progress made in refitting the submarine, and Tom expressed himself as satisfied.
"How soon do you think you can start?" asked Ned.
"In about two weeks," was the answer. "I'll want to get to the West Indies before the fall storms start. Not only will it be impossible to make a search then, but the very location of the sunken wreck may be changed."
"How so?" asked Ned.
"Because of undersea currents. They are strong enough, not only to sweep a wreck away from the place where it may have settled, but they may cover it with sand, and then it is hopeless to try to dig it out. So We've got to go soon, if we go at all."
"Well, I'm with you!" exclaimed Ned. "Hello! here's some one looking for you, I guess," he added, as a boy came hurrying down to the dock from the temporary office Tom had set up there.
"You're wanted on the telephone, Mr. Swift," said the messenger. "It's important, too."
"All right. I'll come at once," was the answer. "Hope it isn't bad news," mused Ned, as his chum hurried on in advance. "Maybe Hardley has found out he hasn't a right to search for that sunken gold after all. That would be too bad for Mr. Damon!"
MARY'S ODD STORY
"Hello! Hello! Yes, this is Tom Swift. What's that? You've had an accident? Great Scott, Mary! I hope you aren't hurt."
Ned overheard these words as he stood outside the temporary office, from inside which Tom Swift was telephoning.
"There's been an accident!" thought the financial manager. "I wonder if I can help?"
He was about to hurry in to offer his services when he heard Tom laugh, and then he knew it was all right. He heard his chum say:
"I'll be right over and get you. Just where are you?"
Then followed a period of listening on the part of Tom, to be broken by the words:
"All right, I'll be right with you. Lucky I have my Air Scout with me. You aren't afraid to ride in that, are you? No, that's good! I'll be right over. Ned is here with me, and I'll have him telephone to your father and mother."
With that Tom hung up the receiver and joined his chum.
"Mary had a slight automobile accident about five miles from here," Tom told his chum. "Some green driver ran into her and dished one of her wheels. No one hurt, but she hasn't a spare wheel and can't navigate. She called me up at the house, not wishing to alarm her father, and Mrs. Baggert told her you and I had come down to the dock, so she reached me here. I'll go in the small aeroplane and get her. Luckily I left it here the last time I made a trip. Will you call up Mary's home and let them know she's all right and that I'll soon be home with her? They might hear an exaggerated account of the accident."
Ned promised to do this, and at once put in a call for the home of his chum's fiancee, while Tom had one of his men run out the Air Scout. This was an aeroplane recently perfected by the young inventor which slipped through space with scarcely a sound. So silent was it that the craft had been dubbed "Silent Sam," and it stood Tom in good stead as those of you know who have read the volume just before the present book. This sky glider Tom would now use in going to the rescue of Mary Nestor was not, however, the same large craft that figured in the previous story. That airship had been given to the United States government for war purposes. But Tom had built himself a smaller one for his own use. It had the advantage of enabling him to carry on a conversation with his passenger when he took one aloft.
About a week before Tom and Ned had flown from Shopton to the dry dock where the submarine was being reconstructed in this small airship. Engine trouble had developed after they had landed, and they had gone back by automobile, leaving the Air Scout to be repaired. This had been done, and now Tom intended to use it in going to Mary's rescue.
Now, when the Air Scout had been run out of the hangar, Tom climbed into it.
"Sorry I can't take you along," he called to Ned, who had finished telephoning to Mary's home, "but, under the circumstances—"
"Two's company and three's a crowd!" laughed Ned. "I know!"
"No, I didn't mean that," Tom said. "You know Mary likes you, but this will carry only two."
"I know!" answered his chum. "On your way!"
And with an almost noiseless throb of her engine and a whirr of her propeller, the aeroplane rolled swiftly over the level starting ground and took the air like a swan leaving its lake.
Tom did not rise to a great height, as he would need only a few minutes to reach the place where Mary was stalled by the accident to her machine. Soon he was hovering over a level field, one of several that lined the country highways in that section. A small crowd on the turnpike gathered about an evidently disabled automobile gave Tom the clew he needed, and presently he made a landing. Instantly the throng of country people who had gathered to look at the automobile crash deserted that for a view of something more sensational—an airship.
Cautioning the boys who gathered about not to "monkey" with any of the mechanism, Tom hastened over to where Mary was standing near her car.
"Are you sure you aren't hurt?" he asked her anxiously.
"Oh, yes, very sure," she replied, smiling at him. "It isn't much of an accident—only one wheel smashed. We were both going slowly."
"But it was all my fault!" insisted a young fellow who had been driving the car that crashed into Mary's. "I'm all kinds of sorry, and of course I'll pay all damages. I wanted this young lady to let me drive her home and then send a garage man to tow her car, but she said she had other plans. I don't blame her for not wanting to ride in my jitney bus when I see what kind of car you have," and he looked over toward Tom's aeroplane.
"Thank you, just the same," murmured Mary. "I'm not quite sure that it was all your fault. But if you will be so good as to send a man after my machine I'll go back with Mr. Swift. Wait until I get my bag," she added, and she extracted it from the seat in her automobile. "There'll be room for this, won't there?" she asked. "I've been shopping."
"You must have made some large purchases," laughed Tom, looking critically at the small bag. "Yes, there'll be room for that, all right."
He made a brief examination of Mary's machine, ascertaining that the dished wheel was the main damage, and then, having given the young man who caused the accident directions for the garage attendant, Tom led his pretty companion across the field to the waiting airship.
Of course a crowd gathered to see them start off, and this was not long delayed, as Tom was not fond of curiosity seekers. In a few minutes he and Mary were soaring aloft.
"Well, how are you?" he asked Mary, when they were alone well above the earth.
"Fine and dandy," she answered, smiling at him, for they were riding side by side and could converse with little difficulty owing to the silent running of Tom's latest invention. "I'm sorry to have called you away from your work," she added, "but when Mrs. Baggert told me you were at the submarine dock I thought perhaps you could run out and get me in your machine. I didn't expect you to fly to me."
"I'm always ready to do that!" exclaimed Tom, as he shot upward to avoid a bank of low-lying clouds. "Were you frightened at the crash in the machine?"
"Not greatly. I saw it coming, and knew it was unavoidable. That chap hasn't been running autos very long, I imagine, and he lost his head in the emergency. But I had my brakes on and he just coasted into me. I was lucky in that it wasn't worse."
"I should say so! Do you want to get right home?"
"I think I'd better. Mother and father may be a little worried about me. And they've had trouble enough of late."
"Trouble!" exclaimed Tom, in a questioning voice. "Anything serious?"
"No, just family financial matters. Not ours," she hastened to add, as she saw Tom look quickly at her. "A relative. I shouldn't have mentioned it, but father and mother are a little worried, and I don't want to add to it."
"Of course not," agreed Tom. "If there's anything I can do?"
"Oh, I expected you to say that!" laughed Mary. "Thanks. If there is we'll call on you. But it may all be straightened out. Father was expecting a message from Uncle Barton today. So, though I'd like to take a cloud-ride with you, I think I'd better get home."
"All right," agreed Tom. "I told Ned to telephone that you were all right, so they won't worry. And now try to enjoy yourself."
"I'll try," promised Mary, but it was obvious, even from the quick glances Tom gave her, that she was worried about something. Mary was not her usual, spontaneous, jolly self, and Tom realized it.
"Well, here we are!" he announced a little later, as they soared above a level field not far from her home. "Sorry I can't let you down right on your roof, but it isn't flat enough nor big enough."
"Oh, I don't mind a little walk, especially as I didn't have to hike it all the way in from Bailey Corners," she said, referring to the place of the automobile accident. "I suppose the time will come when everybody who now has an auto will have an airship and a landing place, or a starting place, for it at his own door," she added.
"Either that, or else we'll have airships so compact that they can set off and land in as small a space as an auto now requires," said Tom. "The latter would be the best solution, as one great disadvantage of airships now is the manner of starting and stopping. It's too big."
Tom left his Air Scout in a field owned by Mr. Nestor, where he had often landed before, and walked up to the house with Mary.
"Oh, I'm glad you're back!" exclaimed Mrs. Nestor, when she saw the two coming up the steps.
"You weren't worried, were you, after Ned telephoned?" asked Tom.
"Not exactly worried, but I thought perhaps he was making light of it. Do tell me what happened, Mary!"
Thereupon the girl related all the circumstances of the smash, and Tom added his share of the story.
"Did father hear anything from Uncle Barton?" asked Mary, after her mother's curiosity had been satisfied.
"Yes," was the answer, in rather despondent tones, "he did, but the news was not encouraging. The papers cannot be found."
"It's mother's brother we're talking about," Mary explained to Tom. "Barton Keith in his name. Perhaps you remember him?"
"I've heard you speak of him," Tom admitted.
"Well," resumed Mary, "Uncle Barton is in a. peck of trouble. He was once very rich, and he invested heavily in oil lands, in Oklahoma, I believe."
"No, in Texas," corrected Mrs. Nestor.
"Yes, it was Texas," agreed Mary. "Well he bought, or got, somehow, shares in some valuable oil lands in Texas, and expected to double his fortune. Now, instead, he's probably lost it all."
"That's too bad!" exclaimed Tom. "How did it happen?"
"In rather an odd way," went on Mary. "He really owns the lands, or at least half of them, but he cannot prove his title because the papers he needs were taken from him, and, he thinks, by a man he trusted. He's been trying to get the documents back, and every day we've been expecting to hear that he has them, but mother says there has been no result."
"No," said Mrs. Nestor. "My brother thought sure he had a trace of the man he believes has the papers, or who had them, but he lost track of him. If we could only find him—"
At that moment a maid came into the room to announce that Tom Swift was wanted at the telephone.
THE TRIAL TRIP
"This is my busy day!" announced the young inventor as he went into the Nestor sitting room, where the telephone was installed.
"Perhaps it is some one else who wants you to come to their rescue," suggested Mary.
But it was not, as Tom related a little later when he had finished his talk over the wire.
"Just a business matter," he announced to Mary and her mother, when he rejoined them. "A gentleman with whom I expect to make a submarine trip is at the house, and wants to consult with me about details. He is getting anxious to start. Mr. Damon is there, too."
"Blessing every thing he lays eyes on, I suppose," remarked Mrs. Nestor, with a smile.
"Yes, and some things he doesn't see," agreed Tom. "He is going with us on this submarine trip."
"Oh, Tom, are you going to undertake another of those dangerous voyages?" asked Mary, in some alarm.
"Well, I don't know that they are particularly dangerous," replied Tom, with a smile. "But we expect to make a search for a sunken treasure ship in a submarine. That's the vessel I'm working on now," he added. "We're rebuilding the Advance, you know, making her more up-to-date, and adding some new features, including her name—M. N. 1."
"I suppose Mr. Damon's friend is getting anxious to make a start, particularly as he has already invested several thousand dollars in the project," went on the young inventor. "He formed a company to pay half the expenses of the search, and they will share in the treasure—if we find it," Tom said. "I wish Mr. Damon, who holds most of the shares the promoter let out of his own hands, had not gone into it, but, since he has, I'm going to do the best I can for him."
"Then aren't you friendly with the other man?" asked Mary.
"I don't especially care for him," the young inventor admitted. "He isn't just my style—too fond of himself, and all that. Still I may be misjudging him. However, I'm in the game now, and I'm going to stick. I'll have to be traveling on," he said. "Mr. Damon and his friend are at my house, and they've been telephoning all over to find me. I guess this was one of the first places they tried," he said with a smile, referring to the fact that he spent considerable time at Mary's home.
"Well, I'm glad they found you, but I'm sorry you have to go," Mary said with a smile.
A little later Tom Swift, with Ned, for whom he called, was on his way back home in his Air Scout, having said goodbye to Mary and her mother and expressing the hope that Mr. Keith would soon be over his business troubles.
"Oil wells are queer, anyhow," mused Tom.
Then Tom got to thinking about Dixwell Hardley: "I don't like the man, and the more I see of him the less I like him. But I'm in for it now, and I'll stick to the finish. I only wish I could locate the treasure ship, give him his share, and get back to my work. I'm going to try to turn out an airship that a man can use as handily as he does a flivver now."
Musing on the possibilities in this field, Tom, having left Ned at the latter's home, soared down from aloft, and a little later, having told Koku to look after the Air Scout, much to the delight of the giant and the discomfiture of Rad, the young inventor was closeted with Mr. Damon and Dixwell Hardley.
"Bless my straw hat, Tom!" exclaimed the eccentric man, "but we just couldn't wait any longer. How are you coming on, and when can we start on this treasure-hunting trip? I declare it makes me feel young again to think about it!"
"Well, it won't be long now," was the answer. "The men are working hard to get the submarine in shape, and I should say that in another week, or two weeks at the most, we could set off!"
"Good!" exclaimed Mr. Hardley. "I have received additional information," he went on, "to the effect that the amount of gold on board the Pandora was even greater than we at first thought."
"That sounds encouraging," replied Tom. "It only remains to find the sunken ship now. But what interests me greatly is whether, after we have gotten this gold, supposing we are successful, we shall be allowed to keep it."
"Bless my bank book! why not?" asked Mr. Damon. "Isn't it wealth abandoned at the bottom of the sea, and isn't finding keeping?"
"Not always," answered Tom. "There are certain rules and laws about treasure, and it might happen that after we got this—if we do—it could be taken away from us."
"I think there will be no difficulty on this score," said Mr. Hardley. "In the first place, two attempts were made to get this wealth, and were unsuccessful. Then it was practically abandoned, and I believe under the law the persons who now find it will be entitled to keep it. Besides the persons who gathered it together did so for an unlawful purpose—that of starting a revolution in a friendly country—and they would not dare claim it for fear of giving their secret away."
"Well, perhaps you are right," assented Tom. "We'll make a try for it, anyhow."
"You say the submarine is nearly ready?" asked Mr. Hardley.
"She will be ready for a trial trip at the end of this week," said Tom, "and be fitted up for the voyage within another seven days, I hope. Then for the great adventure!" and he laughed, though, truth to tell, he had no real liking for his task. The more he saw of Mr. Hardley the less he liked him.
"I shall begin getting my affairs in shape," said the latter, as he gathered up some papers he had brought to attempt to prove to Tom that the wealth of the Pandora was greater than had been supposed. "I have many large interests," he went on, rather pompously, "and they need looking after; especially if I undertake anything so extra hazardous as a submarine trip."
"Yes, there always is some danger," admitted Tom. "But then there is danger walking along the street."
"Oh, there's no danger with Tom Swift!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "I've been under the sea and above the clouds with him, and, bless my rainbow! he always brought us safe home."
"And I'll try to do the same this time," said the young inventor.
Busy days followed for Tom Swift and his friends. The force at work on the submarine turned night into day to rush her completion, and in due season she was set afloat in the dry dock basin and formally rechristened the M. N. 1.
Mary blushed as she gave the boat her new name, and there was a little cheer from the group of workmen gathered at the dock. There was no launching in the real sense of the word, since as the Advance that ceremony had been gone through with for the undersea craft.
She had been greatly changed interiorly and outwardly. Her skin, or plates, having been doubled and strengthened. For Tom proposed to go to a much greater depth than ever before.
In addition to using the submarine herself in a search for the gold on the Pandora, Tom had installed on board some new kinds of diving apparatus and also a diving bell. If one would not serve, the other might, he reasoned.
"Well, Tom," remarked his aged father the night before they were to start on the trial trip, "I understand you have practically rebuilt the Advance."
"Yes; and I think she's a much better craft, too, Father."
"Glad to hear that, Tom. Of course you kept the gyroscope rudder feature?"
"No, I didn't," replied Tom. "If I had left that installed it would have meant carrying a smaller diving bell, and I think that last will be more useful than the gyroscope. I put in a set of double-acting depth rudders instead."
Mr. Swift shook his head.
"I'm sorry for that, Tom," he remarked. "There's nothing like the gyroscope rudder in a tight pinch—say when there's a storm. And for holding the boat steady, if you have to make a sudden turn under water, to avoid an obstruction you come upon unexpectedly, a gyroscope can't be improved on. It holds you steady and prevents your turning turtle."
"I've put side fin-keels to correct that," Tom explained.
But still his father was not satisfied.
"I'd rather you had kept the gyroscope," he said, and the time was to come when Tom Swift wished that himself.
But it was too late to make the change now, and so, with more than usual confidence in his own designing abilities, the next day the young inventor and his friends went aboard the M. N. 1 for the trial trip.
"You don't easily get seasick, do you?" Tom asked Mr. Hardley, as they descended the hatchway into the interior of the craft.
"No, I'm considered a good sailor."
"Well, you'll need to be," went on Tom, with a smile. "Not that we are likely to strike any rough water now, though the reports say a stiff breeze is blowing in the bay. But when we once start for the West Indies you are likely to experience a new sensation. I've known sailors who never had any qualms, even in terrible storms, to get ill in a submarine when she went through only a small blow. The motion is different from that on a surface boat."
"I can imagine so," returned Mr. Hardley. "But I'll be thinking of the millions in gold on the Pandora, and that will keep my mind off being seasick."
"Let us hope so," murmured Tom.
He gave the word, they all descended, the hatch covers were closed down, and the M. N. 1 was ready to start on a trial trip.
THE MUD BANK
"What's that noise?" asked Mr. Hardley.
Mr. Hardley, Tom Swift, Mr. Damon, Ned Newton, Koku, and one or two navigating officers of the craft, were gathered in the operating cabin of the M. N. 1.
"That's water being pumped into the tanks," explained Tom. "We are now going down. If you'll watch the depth gauge you can note our progress."
"Going down, are we?" remarked Mr. Hardley. "Well, it's interesting to say the least," and he observed the gauge, which showed them to be twenty feet under the surface.
"Bless my hydrometer, but he's got nerve for a first trip in a submarine! He's all right, isn't he?" whispered Mr. Damon to Tom.
"Well, I'm glad to see he isn't nervous," remarked Tom, honest enough to give his visitor credit for what was due him. And indeed many a person is nervous going down in a submarine for the first time. "Still we can't go more than thirty feet down in this water," went on Tom. "A better test will be when we get about five hundred feet below the surface. That's a real test, though as far as knowing it is concerned, a person can't tell ten feet from ten hundred in a submarine under water, unless he watches the gauge."
"Well, I think you'll find Mr. Hardley all right," said Mr. Damon, who seemed to have taken a strong liking to his new friend.
Certainly the latter showed no signs of nervousness as the craft slowly settled to the proper depth. He asked numberless questions, showing his interest in the operation of the M. N. 1, but he showed not the least sign of fear. However, as Tom said, that might come later.
"We are going down now," Tom explained, as he pointed out to Mr. Hardley the various controlling wheels and levers, "by filling our ballast tanks with water. We can rise, when needful, by forcing out this water by means of compressed air. When we are on the ocean we can go down by using our diving rudders, and in much quicker time than by filling our tanks."
"How is that?" asked the seeker after the Pandora's gold.
"Filling the tanks is slow work in itself," replied Tom, "and they have to be filled very carefully and evenly, so we don't stand on our stern or bow in going down. We want to sink on an even keel, and sometimes this is hard to accomplish. But we are doing it now," and he called attention to an indicator which told how much the M. N. 1 might be listing to one side or to one end or the other.
A submarine, as everyone knows, is essentially a water-tight tank, shaped like a cigar, with a propeller on one end. It can sink below the surface and move along under water. It sinks because rudders force it down, and water taken into tanks in its interior hold it to a certain depth. It can rise by ejecting this extra water and by setting the rudders in the proper position.
A submarine moves under water by means of electric motors, the current of which is supplied by storage batteries. On the surface when the hatches can be opened, oil or gasolene engines are used. These engines cannot be used under water because they depend on a supply of air, or oxygen, and when the submarine is tightly sealed all the air possible is needed for her crew to breathe. While cruising on the surface a submarine recharges her storage batteries to give her motive power when she is submerged.
There are many types of submarines, some comparatively simple and small, and others large and complex. In some it is possible for the crew to live many days without coming to the surface.
Tom Swift's reconstructed craft compared favorably with the best and largest ever made, though she was not of exceptional size. She was very strong, however, to allow her to go to a great depth, for the farther down one goes below the surface of the sea, the greater the pressure until, at, say, six miles, the greatest known depth of the ocean, the pressure is beyond belief. And yet is possible that marine monsters may live in that pressure which would flatten out a block of solid steel into a sheet as thin as paper.
"Well, we are as deep down as it is safe to go in the river," announced Tom, as the gauge showed a distance below the surface of a little less than twenty-nine feet. "Now we'll move into the bay. How do you like it, Mr. Hardley?"
"Very well, so far. But it isn't very exciting yet."
"Bless my accident policy!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "I hope you aren't looking for excitement."
"I'm used to it," was the answer. "The more there is the better I like it."
"Well, you may get your wish," said Tom.
He turned a lever, and those on board the submarine became conscious of a forward motion. She was no longer sinking.
She trembled and vibrated as the powerful electric motors turned her propellers, and Tom, having seen that all was running smoothly in the main engine room, called Mr. Damon, Ned, and Mr. Hardley to him.
"We'll go into the forward pilot house and give Mr. Hardley a view under water," he announced. "Of course, you'll see nothing like what you'll view when we're in the ocean," added the young inventor, "but it may interest you."
The four were soon in the forward compartment of the craft. She could be directed and steered from here when occasion arose, but now Tom was letting his navigator direct the craft from the controls in the main engine room. A conning tower, rising just above the deck of the craft, gave the pilot the necessary view.
"Here you are!" exclaimed Tom, as he switched out the lights in the cabin. For a moment they were in darkness, and then, with a click, steel plates, guarding heavy plate glass bull's-eyes, moved back, and Mr. Hardley for the first time looked out on an underwater scene. He saw the murky waters of river down which they were proceeding to the bay moving past the glass windows. Now and then a fish swam up, looking in, and, with a swirl of its tail, shot away again, apparently frightened well-nigh to death.
"Bless my shoe laces, Tom!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "this isn't a marker compared to some of the sights we've seen, is it?"
"I can imagine not," said Mr. Hardley. "But it is interesting. I shall be anticipating more wonderful sights."
"And you'll get them!" exclaimed Ned. "Do you remember, Tom, the time the big octopus tried to hold us back?"
"Yes, indeed," answered the young inventor. "That gave us a scare for the time being."
Steadily the M. N. 1 kept on her way under water. Her path was illuminated to a considerable degree by a broad, diffused beam of light from a powerful searchlight that was fixed just back of the conning tower, giving the helmsman a certain degree of vision. This light also served to illuminate the water, so that those in the forward cabin could see what was going on around them.
"There isn't much of interest in the river," said Tom. "No big fish, or anything else of moment. Even in the bay we won't see much to attract our attention. But I want to make sure everything is working smoothly before we start for the West Indies."
"That's right!" agreed Mr. Hardley. "We want to make a success of this trip."
He remained at the glass bull's-eyes, now and then exclaiming as some shad or other fair-sized fish came into view. Suddenly, however, his exclamation was sharper than usual.
"Look!" he exclaimed. "There's part of a wreck!"
Ned, Mr. Damon, and Tom looked out and saw, sweeping past them, the ribs and worm-eaten timbers of some craft, lying on the bottom of the river.
"Yes, that's the remains of an old brick scow," the young inventor explained. "That's one of our water-marks, so to speak. It is at the bend of the river. We turn now, and head for the bay."
As he spoke they all became aware of a sudden swerve in the course of the submarine. The helmsman had, doubtless, noted the "water-mark," as Tom termed it, and as an automobilist on land might swing at the cross-roads, the steersman was changing the course of his craft.
"We'll go deeper," said Tom a moment later, as the wreck passed out of view. "We can go about fifty feet down now. Yes, he's sinking her," he added, as a gauge showed the craft to be descending. "Nelson knows his business all right."
"He is your captain?" asked Mr. Hardley.
"One of the best, yes. He'll go with us on the search for the Pandora."
They talked of various matters, Tom relating to Mr. Hardley how a tug had rammed the brick scow some years ago, and sunk it in the river.
The submarine was now about forty-eight feet below the surface, and suddenly they all became aware that her speed had increased.
"Guess he's going to give the motors a good try-out," observed Tom. "I think I'll go back to the engine room. You may remain here, if you like, and you'll probably see—"
A cry from Mr. Damon interrupted him.
"Bless my rubber boots, Tom! Look!" cried the eccentric man. "We're going to ram a mud bank!"
As he spoke they all became aware of a solid black mass looming in front of the bull's-eye window. An instant later the submarine came to a jarring stop, as if she had struck some soft, yielding substance. There was a confused shouting throughout the craft, the noise of machinery, a trembling and vibration, and then ominous quiet.
READY TO START
Characteristic it was of Tom Swift to act calmly in times of stress and danger, and he ran true to form now. Only for an instant did he show any sign of perturbation. Then with calmness and deliberation the young inventor quickly did a number of things to the controls within his reach.
First of all he signaled to the engine room that he was going to take charge of the boat. This meant that the navigator in the conning tower was to keep his hands off the various levers and wheel-valves. It was possible to operate the M. N. 1 from three positions, but Tom wanted no triplicate handling of his craft now.
Almost the instant Tom signaled that he would take charge back came flashing the electrical signal from the conning tower that his orders were understood. The next thing that those aboard the craft became aware of was a tremor that seemed to run through the whole under-sea ship. The quiet had changed to a subdued humming, and the ominous lack of motion was succeeded by violent vibration.
"Backing her up, Tom?" asked Ned, in a low voice.
"Trying to," was the answer. "But I'm afraid her nose has gone in pretty deep. I've reversed the propellers."
For perhaps a minute this vibration continued, showing that the powerful electric motors were turning over the twin propellers at the blunt stern of the craft. But she did not change her position.
With a touch of his hand, and still almost as cool as the proverbial cucumber (though why they should be cool it is hard to say), Tom stopped the motors. Once again the craft was quiet, but now, instead of the occupants being able to see clearly from the thick, glass windows in the forward cabin, the water showed muddy and murky in the glare of the underwater searchlight.
"Bless my postage stamps, Tom! what has happened?" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Has a giant squid attacked us, as one did some time ago, and is he roiling up the water?"
"No, it isn't a squid, Mr. Damon," replied the young inventor easily; "though the water does look as if a squid had spilled a lot of his ink in it. This is just the effect of mud stirred up by our propellers. There may be more of it."
Ned looked toward Mr. Hardley to see how he was taking it. The seeker after gold apparently had good control of his nerves, or else he was ignorant of what was going on. For he asked, casually enough:
"Have we stopped?"
"We have," answered Tom. "I thought I'd give you a view of the scenery."
Perhaps he spoke sarcastically, but, if he did, Mr. Damon's friend did not seem to be aware of it. Coolly enough he replied:
"Well, if this is a fair sample of underwater scenery I prefer something up above, though I appreciate that this may be needful."
"We'll soon be traveling along," announced Tom. "Koku," he added to the giant, who had been calmly sitting during the excitement, "go to the engine room and help with the big levers."
"Yes, Master," was the answer. Koku had implicit faith in Tom.
Waiting a moment for his faithful servant to reach the post assigned to him, Tom again signaled to his helpers and then quickly turned a wheel which produced startling results. For all within the submarine suddenly slid forward across the cabin floor.
"Bless my hammock hooks, Tom! are you standing her on her head?" cried Mr. Damon.
"That's exactly what I'm doing," was the answer. "I've started to empty one of the after ballast tanks, and that, naturally, raises the stern while the nose is held down."
The submarine was indeed in a peculiar position. She was on a slant in the water, her nose held fast in the soft mud bank, and it was Tom's idea that by making the stern buoyant it might help to pull her free.
To this end he also gave what assistance the propellers were capable of adding by starting the motors again, so that the craft once more trembled and vibrated.
But it all seemed to no purpose. Aside from the slanting position, there was no change in the M. N. 1. Ned, looking out into the murky water, which had cleared slightly, saw that the craft was still held fast. And then, for the first time, Mr. Hardley seemed to become aware that something serious was the matter. Up to now he seemed to think that all that had occurred was done for the purpose of testing the newly outfitted underseas boat.
"Is there anything wrong?" he asked sharply of Tom. "Why are we in this position, and why don't we go on out to the open ocean and make a test at considerable depth? We'll have to go down deeper than this if we find the Pandora!"
"I suppose so," agreed Tom. "But we have had an accident, and—"
"An accident!" interrupted the gold-seeker, and then Ned saw him turn pale. "Do you mean to say this is not part of the test?"
"We have run into a mud bank," said Tom. "The steersman must have become confused, or else, since we last used the submarine, there has been a shift of the mud banks in this river and one exists where there was none before. At any rate, we ran our nose deep into it, and here we are—stuck!"
"Can't we get loose—go up to the surface?" demanded Mr. Hardley.
"I'm trying to bring that about," announced Tom calmly. "So far her engines haven't been able to pull her loose."
"But Great Scott, man, we can't stay here!" cried the now excited adventurer. "We'll be drowned like rats in a trap! Let me out! Isn't there some way? I'll be shot through a torpedo tube, if necessary! I must get out! I can't stay here to be drowned! I have too much at stake!"
"Now wait a minute!" calmly advised Tom Swift. "You haven't any more at stake than the rest of us. None of us wants to be drowned, and there is only a remote possibility that we shall be. I haven't played all my cards yet. We can live on this boat for a week, if need be."
"You mean under water as we are now?" asked Mr. Hardley.
"Yes. I always keep the boat provisioned and with plenty of air and water for a long stay, if need be," replied Tom. "And I did not overlook the fact that we might have an accident on the trial trip."
"I don't see how you let an accident happen before we even got started," complained the gold-seeker. "I should think your steersman would have been more careful."
"He is very careful," explained Tom. "But we have not used the craft for some time, and, meanwhile, there have been changes in the river, due, I suppose, to heavy tides. But we may get out of the grip of the mud bank soon."
"And if we don't, what then?" asked Mr. Hardley.
"Then there is always the torpedo tube," said Tom calmly. "And we are not very deep down. I think I can save you all."
"I certainly hope so!" was the fretful comment of the adventurer. "I have too much at stake to be drowned like a rat in a trap! You must send me up first if it becomes necessary to use the tube."
Tom did not answer. But as he looked out of the observation windows to see if possible the conformation of the mud bank, the young inventor whispered to Ned one word. And that word was:
"You said it!" was Ned's whispered rejoinder.
Tom Swift arrived at a sudden determination. Once again the motors were stopped, and the boat gradually assumed an even keel.
"What are you going to try, Tom?" asked Ned.
"I'm going to shove her farther into the mud bank," announced the young inventor. "I think that's the only way to get her loose."
"Bless my apple pie, Tom!" cried Mr. Damon, "doesn't that seem a foolish thing to do?"
"It's the only thing to do, I believe," was the answer. "This mud is of a peculiar sticky and holding kind. The sub's nose is in it like a peg in a hole. What I propose to do now is to enlarge the hole, and then our nose will come loose—I hope."
"But you haven't any right to shove our nose further in!" cried Mr. Hardley. "I won't allow it! I demand to be put on the surface! I won't be drowned down here before I get the gold that's coming to me—the gold and—"
"Now look here!" suddenly cried Tom. "I'm in command of this boat, and you'll do as I say. I'll gladly set you on the surface if I can, and this is the only way it can be brought about—it's the only way to save all of us. I'm going to enlarge the mud hole so we can pull out. Please keep still!"
Mr. Hardley stared at the young inventor a moment, seemed about to say something, and then changed his mind.
"Hold fast, everybody!" suddenly called Tom. The next moment the M. N. 1 began behaving in a most peculiar manner.
She appeared to be acting like a corkscrew. While her bow was comparatively steady, her stern described a circle in the water which was churned to mud by the two propellers, each being revolved in a different direction.
"I'm trying to make the hole bigger just as an amateur carpenter makes a nail hole bigger, so he can pull out the nail, by twisting it around," explained Tom. "The motion may be a bit unpleasant, but it is needful."
And indeed the motion was unpleasant. Tom, veteran airman and sailor that he was, began to feel a trifle seasick, and Mr. Hardley was in very evident distress.
Suddenly, however, something happened. The M. N. 1 gave a lurch to one side and then shot upward so quickly that Ned and Mr. Damon lost their balance and slumped over on the bench that ran around three sides of the room.
"Are we free?" cried Mr. Hardley.
"We have come loose from the mud bank," said Tom quietly. "By boring into it the hole was enlarged sufficiently to enable us to pull loose. There is no more danger!"
His announcement was received in momentary silence, and then Ned exclaimed:
"Bless my accident policy!" voiced Mr. Damon.
Mr. Hardley appeared dazed, and then, as the submarine was again moving through the water, seemingly none the worse for the accident, the gold seeker approached Tom Swift.
"I want to apologize, Mr. Swift, for my actions and words," said Mr. Hardley frankly. "I admit that I lost my head. But it's my first trip in a submarine."
"I realize that," said Tom, equally frank, "and we'll forget all about it. It was a strain on you—on all of us—though there really was no very great danger. Now, are you game enough to continue the trip?"
"Try me!" exclaimed the adventurer. "You won't find me acting so like a baby again."
Nor did he, even when the craft reached the open ocean and went down to a considerable depth, where, had any accident occurred, there would have been grave danger to all. But Mr. Hardley seemed to enjoy it.
"Maybe I've misjudged him," Tom said to Ned, when they were getting ready to go back.
"It's possible," agreed the financial manager. This trial, which so nearly ended disastrously, was only one of several. No damage resulted from the collision with the river mud bank, and that trip and the ones following gave Tom some new ideas in interior construction which he followed out.
About a month later all was ready for the trip to the West Indies to look for the ill-fated Pandora. Tom's affairs were put in shape, the submarine was laden with stores and provisions, the new diving bell and other wonderful apparatus were put aboard, and the crew and officers picked. Ned, Mr. Damon, Koku, and Tom were, of course, together, and though Mr. Hardley was a stranger, he seemed to become more friendly as the days passed.
"Well, we start in the morning," said Tom to Ned one evening. "I'm going over to tell Mary goodbye."
"Give her my regards," requested Ned, and Tom said he would.
"Oh, Tom! And so you are really ready to start on that perilous trip!" exclaimed Mary Nestor, a little later that same evening, when Tom called at Mary's house in his speedy electric runabout, a car in which he had once made a sensational ride.
"Perilous? I don't know why you call it that!" exclaimed the young inventor.
"Didn't you tell me you were stuck in a mud bank away down under the river and had hard work to get loose?" asked the young lady, as she made a place for Tom on the sofa beside her.
"Oh, that! Why, that wasn't anything!" he declared.
"It would have been if you hadn't come up."
"Ah, but we did come up, Mary."
"Suppose you get in a similar position when you find the wreck of the Pandora? You won't get up so easily, will you?"
"No. But there aren't any mud banks in that part of the Atlantic, so I can't be stuck in one," answered Tom.
For some time Tom Swift and Mary talked of mutual friends and happenings in which they were both interested. Mr. and Mrs. Nestor stepped into the room for a minute, to wish the young inventor good luck on his voyage, and when they had gone out, promising to see Tom before he left for the night, the latter remarked to Mary:
"Did your uncle ever find the oil-well papers and get his affairs straightened out?"
"No," was the answer, "he never did. And we feel very sorry for him. Just think, he had a fortune in his grasp, and now it is slipping away."
"Just what happened?" asked Tom, hoping there might be some way in which he could aid Mary's uncle. Of course, Tom wanted to help Mary, and this was one of the ways.
"Well, I don't exactly understand it all," she replied. "Father says I'll never have a head for business. But as nearly as I can tell, my uncle, Barton Keith, went into partnership with a man to prospect for oil in Texas. My uncle has been in that business before, and he was very successful. He supplied the working knowledge about oil wells, I believe, and the other man put up the money. My uncle was to have a half share in whatever oil wells he located, and his partner supplied the cash for putting down the pipe, or whatever is done."
"I believe putting down a pipe is the proper term," said Tom.
"Well, anyhow," went on Mary, "my uncle spent many weary months prospecting in Texas. In fact, he made himself ill, being out in all sorts of weather, looking after the drilling. At last they struck oil, as I believe they call it. They drilled down until they brought in what my uncle called a 'gusher,' and there was a chance of him and his partner getting rich."
"Why didn't he?" asked Tom. "A gusher, I believe, is one of the best sort of oil wells. Why didn't your uncle clean up a fortune, to use a slang term?"
"Because he lost the papers showing that he had a right to half the oil well," answered Mary. "At least my uncle thinks he lost them, but he was so ill, directly after the well proved a success, that he says he isn't sure what happened. At any rate, his partner claims everything and my uncle can do nothing. He has been hoping he might find the papers somewhere, or that something would happen to prove the rights of his claim."
"And nothing has?" inquired Tom.
"Not yet. My father and mother have been trying to help him, and dad engaged a lawyer, but he says nothing can be done unless my uncle recovers the partnership and other papers. As it stands now, it is my uncle's word against the word of his partner, and both are equally good in a court of law. But if Uncle Barton could find the documents everything would come out all right. He could claim his half of the oil well then."