HotFreeBooks.com
Tom Swift in the Caves of Ice
by Victor Appleton
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Tom Swift in the Caves of Ice

OR

The Wreck of the Airship

by VICTOR APPLETON



CONTENTS

I ERADICATE IN AN AIRSHIP II ANDY FOGER'S TRIPLANE III ABE IS DECEIVED IV TOM GETS THE MAP V GRAVE SUSPICIONS VI ANDY'S AIRSHIP FLIES VII READY FOR THE TRIP VIII A THIEF IN THE NIGHT IX A VANDAL'S ACT X TOM IS HELD UP XI OFF FOR THE FROZEN NORTH XII PELTED BY HAILSTONES XIII A FRIGHTENED INDIAN XIV THE RIVAL AIRSHIP XV THE RACE XVI THE FALL OF THE ANTHONY XVII HITTING THE ICE MOUNTAIN XVIII A FIGHT WITH MUSK OXEN XIX THE CAVES OF ICE XX IN THE GOLD VALLEY XXI THE FOGERS ARRIVE XXII JUMPING THE CLAIM XXIII ATTACKED BY NATIVES XXIV THE WRECK OF THE AIRSHIP XXV THE RESCUE-CONCLUSION



CHAPTER I

ERADICATE IN AN AIRSHIP

"Well, Massa Tom, am yo' gwine out in yo' flyin' machine ag'in to-day?"

"Yes, Rad, I think I will take a little flight. Perhaps I'll go over to Waterford, and call on Mr. Damon. I haven't seen very much of him, since we got back from our hunt after the diamond-makers."

"Take a run clear ober t' Waterfield; eh, Massa Tom?"

"Yes, Rad. Now, if you'll help me, I'll get out the Butterfly, and see what trim she's in for a speedy flight."

Tom Swift, the young inventor, aided by Eradicate Sampson, the colored helper of the Swift household, walked over toward a small shed.

A few minutes later the two had rolled into view, on its three bicycle wheels, a trim little monoplane—one of the speediest craft of the air that had ever skimmed along beneath the clouds. It was built to carry two, and had a very powerful motor.

"I guess it will work all right," remarked the young inventor, for Torn Swift had not only built this monoplane himself, but was the originator of it, and the craft contained many new features.

"It sho' do look all right, Massa Tom."

"Look here, Rad," spoke the lad, as a sudden idea came to him, "you've never ridden in an airship, have you?"

"No, Massa Tom, an' I ain't gwine to nuther!"

"Why not?"

"Why not? 'Case as how it ain't healthy; that's why!"

"But I go in them frequently, Eradicate. So does my father. You've seen us fly often enough, to know that it's safe. Why, look at the number of times Mr. Damon and I have gone off on trips in this little Butterfly. Didn't we always come back safely?"

"Yes, dat's true, but dere might come a time when yo' WOULDN'T come back, an' den where'd Eradicate Sampson be? I axes yo' dat—whar'd I be, Massa Tom?"

"Why, you wouldn't be anywhere if you didn't go, of course," and Tom laughed. "But I'd like to take you for a little spin in this machine, Rad. I want you to get used to them. Sometime I may need you to help me. Come, now. Suppose you get up on this seat here, and I promise not to go too high until you get used to it. Come on, it will do you good, and think of what all your friends will say when they see you riding in an airship."

"Dat's right, Massa Tom. Dey suah will be monstrous envious ob Eradicate Sampson, dat's what dey will."

It was clear that the colored man was being pursuaded somewhat against his will. Though he had been engaged by Tom Swift and his father off and on for several years, Eradicate had never shown any desire to take a trip through the air in one of the several craft Tom owned for this purpose. Nor had he ever evinced a longing for a trip under the ocean in a submarine, and as for riding in Tom's speedy electric car—Eradicate would as soon have sat down with thirteen at the table, or looked at the moon over the wrong shoulder.

But now, somehow, there was a peculiar temptation to take his young employer at his word. Eradicate had seen, many times, the youthful inventor and his friends make trips in the monoplane, as well as in the big biplane and dirigible balloon combined—the RED CLOUD. Tom and the others had always come back safely, though often they met with accidents which only the skill and daring of the daring aeronaut had brought to a safe conclusion.

"Well, are you coming, Rad?" asked Tom, as he looked to see if the oil and gasoline tanks were filled, and gave a preliminary twirl to the propeller.

"Now does yo' t'ink it am puffickly safe, Massa Tom?" and the colored man looked nervously at the machine.

"Of course, Rad. Otherwise I wouldn't invite you. But I won't take you far. I just want you to get used to it, and, once you have made a flight, you'll want to make another."

"I don't nohow believe I will, Massa Tom, but as long as you have axed me, an' as yo' say some of dem proud, stuck-up darkies in Shopton will be tooken down a peg or two when de sees me, vhy, I will go wif yo', Massa Tom."

"I thought you would. Now take your place in the little seat next to where I'm going to sit. All start the engine and jump in. Now sit perfectly still, and, whatever you do, don't jump out. The ground's pretty hard this morning. There was a frost last night."

"I knows dere was, Massa Tom. Nope, I won't jump. I-I-Oh, golly, Massa Tom! I guess I don't want to go-let me out!"

Eradicate, his heart growing fainter as the time of starting drew nearer, made as if he would leave the monoplane, in which he had taken his seat.

"Sit still!" yelled Tom. At that instant he started the propeller. The motor roared like a salvo of guns, and streaks of fire could be seen shooting from one cylinder to the other, until there was a perfect blast of explosions.

The speed of the propeller increased as the motor warmed up. Tom ran to his seat and opened the gasoline throttle still more, advancing the spark slightly. The roar increased. The lad darted a look at Eradicate. The colored man's face was like chalk, and he was gripping the upright braces at his side as though his salvation depended on them.

"Steady now" spoke Tom, yelling to be heard above the racket. "Here we go."

The Butter-fly was moving slowly across the level stretch of ground which Tom used for starting his airships. The propeller was now a blur of light. The explosions of the motor became a steady roar, the noise from one cylinder being merged into the blast from the others so rapidly that it was a continuous racket.

With a whizz the monoplane shot across the ground. Then, with a quick motion, Tom tilted the lifting planes, and, as gracefully as a bird, the little machine mounted upward on a slant until, coming to a level about two hundred feet above the earth, Tom sent it straight ahead over the roof of his house.

"How's this, Rad?" he cried. "Isn't it great?"

"It—it—er—bur-r-r-r! It's—it's mighty ticklish, Massa Tom-dat's de word—it suah am mighty ticklish!"

Tom Swift laughed and increased the speed. The Butterfly darted forward like some hummingbird about to launch itself upon a flower, and, indeed, the revolutions of the propeller were not unlike the vibrations of the wings of that marvelous little creature.

"Now for some corkscrew twists!" cried the young inventor. "Here we go, Rad!"

With that he began a series of intricate evolutions, making figures of eight, spirals, curves, sudden dips and long swings. It was masterwork in handling a monoplane, but Eradicate Sampson, as he sat crouched in the seat, gripping the uprights until his hands ached, was in no condition to appreciate it. Gradually, however, as he saw that the craft remained up in the air, and showed no signs of falling, the fears of the colored man left him. He sat up straighter.

"Don't you like it, Rad?" cried Tom.

This time the answer came with more decision.

"It suah am great, Massa Tom! I'm—I'm beginnin' t' like it. Whoop! I guess I do like it! Now if some of dem stuck-up coons could see me—"

"They'd think YOU were stuck up; eh, Rad? Stuck up in the air!"

"Dat's right, Massa Tom. Ha! Ha! I suah am stuck up in de air! Ha! Ha!"

By this time Tom had guided the machine away from the village, and they were flying over the fields, some distance from his house. The colored man was beginning to enjoy his experience very much.

Suddenly, just as Tom was trying to get a bit more speed out of the motor, the machine stopped. The cessation of the racket was almost as startling as a loud explosion would have been.

"Just my luck!" cried Tom.

"What's de matter?" asked Eradicate, anxiously.

"Motor's stalled," replied the young inventor.

"An', by golly, we's falling!" yelled the colored man.

Naturally, with the stopping of the propeller, there was no further straight, forward motion to the monoplane, and, following the law of nature, it began to drop toward the earth on a slant.

"We's fallin'! We'll be killed!" yelled the negro.

"It's all right, I'll just vol-plane back to earth," spoke Tom, calmly. "I've often done it before, higher up than this. Sit still, Rad, I'm volplaning back to the ground."

"An' I'll JUMP back to de ground; dat's what I'll do. I ain't goin' t' wait until I falls, no sah! An' I ain't gwine t' do none ob dat ball-playin' yo' speak ob, Massa Swift. It's no time t' play ball when yo' life am in danger. I'se gwine t' jump."

"Sit still!" cried Tom, for the colored man was about to spring from his seat. "There's no danger! I didn't say anything about playing ball. I said I'd VOL-PLANE back to the earth. We'll be there shortly. I'll take you down safe. Sit still, Rad!"

He spoke so earnestly that the fears of his colored passenger were quelled. With a quick motion Tom threw up the head planes, to check the downward sweep. The Butterfly shot forward on a gradual slant. Repeating this maneuver several times, the young inventor finally brought his machine to within a short distance of the earth, and, also, considerably nearer his own home.

"I wonder if we can make it?" he murmured, measuring the distance with his eye. "I think so. I'll shoot her up a bit and then let her down on a long slant. Then, with another upward tilt, I ought to fetch it."

The monoplane tilted upward. Eradicate gave a cry of terror. It was stilled at a look from Tom. Once more the air machine glided forward. Then came another long dip, another upward glide and the Butterfly came gently to earth almost on the very spot whence it had flown upward a few minutes before.

Eradicate gave one mad spring from his seat, almost before the bicycle wheels had ceased revolving, as Tom jammed on the earth-brake.

"Here, where are you going, Rad?" cried the lad.

"Whar am I goin'? I'se goin' t' see if mah mule Boomerang am safe. He's de only kind ob an airship I wants arter dis!" and the colored man disappeared into the shack whence came a loud "hee-haw!"

"Oh, pshaw! Wait a minute, Rad. I'll soon have the motor fixed, and we'll make another try. I'll take you over to Mr. Damon's with me."

"No, sah, Massa Tom. Yo' don't catch dis coon in any mo' airships. Mah mule am good enough fo' me!" shouted Eradicate from the safe harbor of the mule's stable.

Tom laughed, and turned to inspect the motor. As he was looking it over, to locate the trouble, the door of the house opened and a pleasant-faced woman stepped out.

"Oh, Tom," she called. "I looked for you a moment ago, and you weren't here!"

"No, Mrs. Baggert," Tom replied, waving his hand in greeting to the housekeeper, "Rad and I just came back—quite suddenly—sooner than we expected to. Why? Did you want me?"

"Here's a letter that came for you," she went on.

Tom tore open the envelope, and rapidly scanned the contents of the missive.

"Hello!" he ejaculated half aloud. "It's from Abe Abercrombie, that miner I met when we were after the diamond-makers! He says he is on his way east to get ready to start on the quest for the Alaskan valley of gold, in the caves of ice. I had almost forgotten that I promised to make the attempt in the big airship. How did this letter come, Mrs. Baggert?" he asked.

"By special delivery. The messenger brought it a few minutes ago."

"Then we may see Abe any day now. Guess I'd better be looking over the RED CLOUD to see if it's in shape for a trip to the Arctic regions."

Tom's attention for the moment was taken off his little monoplane, and his memory went back to the strange scenes in which he and his friends had recently played a part, in searching for the cave of the diamond-makers on Phantom Mountain. He recalled the promise he had made to the old miner.

"I wonder if he expects us to start for Alaska with winter coming on?" thought Tom.

His musings were suddenly interrupted by the entrance into the yard, surrounding the aeroplane shed, of a lad about his own age.

"Hello, Ned Newton!" called Tom, heartily.

"Hello, yourself," responded Ned. "I've got a day off from the bank, and I thought I'd come over and see you. Say, have you heard the latest?"

"No. What is it?"

"Andy Foger is building an airship."

"Andy Foger building an airship?"

"Yes, he says it will beat yours."

"Humph! It will, eh? Well, Andy can do as he pleases as long as he doesn't bother me. I won't be around here much longer, anyhow."

"Why not, Tom?"

"Because I soon expect to start for the far north on a strange quest. Come on in the shed, and I'll tell you about it. We're going to try to locate a valley of gold, and I guess Andy Foger won't follow me there, even if he does build an airship."

Tom and his chum started toward the shed, the young inventor still holding the letter that was to play such an important part in his life within the next few months. And, had he only known it, the building of Andy Foger's airship was destined to be fraught with much danger to our hero.



CHAPTER II

ANDY FOGER'S TRIPLANE

"Going to look for a valley of gold, eh?" remarked Ned Newton as he and Tom took seats in a little room, fitted up like a den, where the young inventor frequently worked out the details of the problems that confronted him. "Where is this valley, Tom? Anywhere so I could have a chance at it?"

"It's up in Alaska. Just where I don't know, but Abe Abercrombie, the old miner whom we met when out in Colorado this summer, says he can find it if we circle around in the airship. So I'm going to take a chance. I'll tell you all about it."

And, while Tom is doing this, I will take the opportunity to more formally introduce to my new readers our hero and his friends.

Tom Swift was an inventor of no little note, in spite of his youth. He lived with his father, Barton Swift, who was also an inventor, on the outskirts of the village of Shopton, New York State. Tom's mother was dead, and Mrs. Baggert had kept house for him and his father since he was a child. Garret Jackson, an expert machinist, was also a member of the household, and as has been explained, Eradicate Sampson, who took that name because, as he said he "eradicate de dirt," was also a sort of retainer. He lived in a little house on the Swift grounds, and did odd jobs about the place.

In the first book of the series, entitled "Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle," there was related how the lad became possessed of one of those speedy machines, after Mr. Wakefield Damon had come to grief on it. Mr. Damon was an eccentric man, who was always blessing himself, some part of his anatomy, or some of his possessions.

After many adventures on his motor-cycle, Tom Swift went through some surprising happenings with a motor-boat be bought. After that he built an airship, the RED CLOUD, and later he and his father constructed a submarine, in which they went under the ocean in search of sunken treasure, enduring many perils and much danger.

Tom Swift's electric runabout, which he built after returning home from the submarine trip, proved to be the speediest car on the road. The experience he acquired in making this machine stood him in good stead, when (as told in the sixth volume, "Tom Swift and His Wireless Message") the airship in which he, Mr. Damon and a friend of the latter's (who had built the craft) were wrecked on Earthquake Island. There Tom was marooned with some refugees from a wrecked steam yacht, among whom were Mr. and Mrs. Nestor, father of a girl of whom Tom thought a great deal.

With parts from the wrecked electric airship the youth rigged up a plant, and sent wireless messages from the island. The castaways nearly lost their lives in the earthquake shocks, but a steamer, summoned by Tom's wireless call, arrived in time to save them, just as the island disappeared beneath the sea.

In the seventh book of the series, entitled "Tom Swift Among the Diamond Makers" there was related the adventures of himself and his friends when they tried to solve the mystery of Phantom Mountain.

Among the castaways of Earthquake Island was a Mr. Barcoe Jenks and a Professor Ralph Parker. Mr. Jenks was a strange man, and claimed to have some valuable diamonds, which he said were made by a gang of men hidden in a cave in the Rocky Mountains. Tom did not believe that the diamonds were real, but Mr. Jenks soon proved that they were.

He asked Tom to aid him in searching for the cave of the diamond makers. Mr. Jenks had been there once—in fact, he had been offered a partnership in the diamond-making business, but, after he had paid his money, he had been drugged, and carried secretly from the cave before he had a chance to note its location.

But he, together with Tom, Mr. Damon and the scientist Mr. Parker, who correctly predicted the destruction of Earthquake Island, set out in the RED CLOUD to find the diamond makers. They did find them, after many hardships, and were captured by the gang. How Tom and his friends escaped from the cave, after they had seen diamonds made by a powerful lightning flash, and how they nearly lost their lives from the destruction of Phantom Mountain, is fully set down in the book.

Sufficient to say now, that, though they had a general idea of how the precious stones were made, by the power of the lightning, the young inventor and his friends were never quite able to accomplish it, and the secret remained a secret. But they had secured some diamonds as they rushed from the cave (Mr. Damon grabbing them up) and these were divided among Tom and the others.

Just as they were ready to come home in the airship, our friends were met by an old miner, Abe Abercrombie, who spoke of a valley of gold in Alaska, which was the story Tom related to Ned Newton, as the two chums sat in the den of the airship shed.

"Then you don't know all the details about the gold valley, Tom?" remarked Ned, as the young inventor showed his chum the letter that had just arrived.

"No, not all of them. At the time this miner met us I was anxious to get back East, for we had been away so long I knew dad would be worried. But I listened to part of Abe's story, and half promised to go in partnership in this quest for gold. He was to furnish information about the hidden valley, and I was to supply the airship. I expect Abe to come along at any time, now, and then I'll hear more particulars."

"Will you go all the way in the airship?"

"Well, I hadn't thought of that. I could ship it to the nearest place by rail, I suppose, and go on from there. That's a detail to be considered later. I'll talk it over with Abe."

"Who are going?"

"I don't know that even. I suppose Mr. Damon would feel slighted if I left him out. And perhaps Mr. Parker, that gloomy scientist, who is always predicting terrible accidents, will be glad to go along. Then Abe may have some friend he wants to take."

"By Jinks! But you certainly do have swell times, Tom Swift!" exclaimed Ned Newton, enviously. "I wish I could go and have a try at that valley of gold!"

"Why don't you come along, Ned?"

"Do you really mean it?"

"Of course."

"But I don't believe I could get away from the bank."

"Oh, dad and Mr. Damon could fix that. They're directors, you know. Come along, I'd be delighted to have you. Will you?"

"I'll think about it. Jinks! But I sure would like to go. Do you think you can find the valley?"

"Well, there's no telling. We generally do succeed in finding what we go after, even if we didn't get the diamond secret. I'm anxious to have Abe come, now, though until I got his letter I had almost forgotten about my promise to him. But, say, what's this you told me about Andy Foger making an airship?"

"It's true, though I haven't seen it. Jake Porter was telling me about it. Andy's built a big shed in his yard, and he and some cronies of his, including Pete Bailey and Sam Snedecker, are working in there night and day. They've hired a couple of machinists, too. Mr. Foger is putting up the cash, I guess. Say, that was quite a scare you gave Andy on your monoplane, one day."

"Yes, the big bully! and I'd like to scare him worse. But say, do you know I'd like to get a look at his airship. I wonder what sort of a craft it is?"

"We can see it easily enough."

"How?"

"Why, the back part of the shed where he and the others are working is close to our fence. There are some holes in our fence and if you come there, maybe you can look in."

"I can't see through the side of the shed, though."

"Yes, you can."

"How?"

"Why, there's a big window, for light, in the back part of it. I happened to notice it the other day. I didn't look in, because I wasn't much interested, but I saw that one could peer over the top of our fence right into the shop where Andy is working. Want to try it?"

Tom hesitated a moment.

"Well, it seems rather an odd thing to do," he said. "But I would like to see what sort of a flying machine Andy is making, just for my own satisfaction. He may be infringing on some of my patents, and if he is, I'll stop him. Once or twice he's been sneaking around my shed here. I don't believe in sneaking, but I know he wouldn't let me in if I asked him, so I guess it's the only way. I'll go with you, Ned."

"All right. We'll see if we can get a glimpse of Andy's queer shebang through the window."

The two chums left Tom's shop, and were soon in the yard of Ned Newton's house. As he had said, the big shed in Andy's premises came close up to the fence, and there was a window through which one might gaze. The casement did not appear to be curtained.

"I'll get a ladder so we can climb up to the top of the fence, and look over," spoke Ned, as he and Tom went out into the yard back of his house. The fence was high up on an embankment.

A little later Tom and his chum were gazing into the shop window from the ladder.

"Why, it's a triplane—a big triplane!" he exclaimed.

"What's a triplane?" asked Ned, who didn't have much time to study the different types of airships.

"It's one that has three sets of planes, one above the other. A biplane has two sets of planes, and a monoplane only one. Triplanes are larger, and, as far as I've been able to learn, not as satisfactory as either the biplanes or monoplanes. But that's not saying Andy's won't be a success. They certainly are busy in there, though! Andy is flying around like a hen scratching for her little chickens!"

"See anything of his cronies?"

"Yes, Pete and Sam are hammering away. There are a couple of men, too."

"Yes, the machinists. Oh, I guess Andy expects great things from his airship."

"Have you heard what he's going to do with it, Ned? Make flights for pleasure, or exhibit it?"

"No, I haven't heard. Look out, Tom, the ladder is slipping!"

As Ned spoke this warning, the window of the airship shed, through which they were looking, was suddenly raised. The ugly face of Andy Foger peered out. He caught sight of Tom and Ned.

"Get away from there, you spies!" he yelled. "Get away from there, Tom Swift! You're trying to steal some of my ideas! Get away or I'll make you. Sam, bring me my gun! Pete, go tell my father to come here! I'll show Ned Newton and Tom Swift they can't bother me!"

Andy was dancing about in a rage. His two cronies crowded behind him to the window just as the ladder on which Tom and Ned were standing slipped along the fence.

"Jump, Ned!" yelled Tom Swift, as he leaped away to escape being entangled in the rungs.

The young inventor came to the ground with a jar that shook him up considerably, while Ned, who had grasped the top board of the fence, remained hanging there by his hands, his feet dangling in the air.

"Whack his fingers, Andy!" yelled Pete Bailey. "Get a long stick and whack Ned's fingers! That will make him drop off!"

Tom Swift heard, and labored desperately to raise the ladder to enable Ned to get down, for his chum seemed to be afraid to drop.



CHAPTER III

ABE IS DECEIVED

Raising a ladder alone is rather an awkward job. Tom found this so when he tried to aid his friend Ned. But, being a muscular lad, the young inventor did finally succeed in getting the ladder up against the fence where the bank clerk could reach it.

Whack! Down upon the top board came a stick wielded by Andy Foger from the rear window of his shop.

"Wow!" cried Ned, for the blow had been close to his fingers. "Hurry up with that ladder, Tom."

"There it is! But why don't you drop?"

"Too far. I can't reach the ladder now!"

"Yes, you can. Stretch a bit!"

"Whack!" Once more the stick descended on the fence, this time still closer to Ned's clinging hands.

"Hit him good, Andy!" cried Sam Snedecker, "Give me a shot at him!"

"I will not. I want to attend to him myself. You go tell my father, and he'll have Tom Swift arrested for trying to sneak in and get some of my airship ideas!"

By this time Ned's wiggling feet had found the topmost rung of the ladder. The next moment he was rapidly descending it, and, when on the ground, he and Tom carried it away, to prevent its use by the enemy.

"Whew!" exclaimed the young inventor. "I had no idea they would kick up such a row!"

"Me either. Did you hurt yourself when you jumped, as the ladder fell?"

"No. Did they hit your hands?"

"Came mighty near it. Well, I s'pose it serves us right, yet if I can't look over my own back fence it's a pity!"

"Of course we can, only I'd just as soon they hadn't seen us. However—hello! there's Andy looking over here, now."

The mean face of the bully now topped the fence. It was evident that he had crawled from the window of his shop.

"What are you trying to get into my place for, Tom Swift?" he demanded.

"I wasn't trying to get in, Andy Foger."

"Well, you were looking in."

"Only doing as you've done over at my shop, several times, Andy. I wanted to see what sort of an airship you were building."

"Trying to get some ideas for your own, I guess," sneered Andy.

Tom did not think it worth while to answer this taunt.

"I could have you arrested for this," went on Andy, who felt bolder now that he was reinforced by Sam and Pete on either side of him as he looked over the fence into Ned's yard.

"Arrested for what?" demanded the bank clerk.

"For trespassing on my father's premises," went on Andy.

"We weren't on your premises," declared Ned. "We were on our side of the fence all the while."

"Well, you were looking over in my yard."

"A cat may look at a king, you know, Andy," Tom reminded the bully.

"Yah! Think you're smart, don't you! Well, you can't steal any of my ideas for an airship. They're all patented, and I'll soon be making longer and higher flights than you ever dreamed of! I'll show you what a real airship is, Tom Swift! Monoplanes and biplanes are out of date. The only thing that's any good is a triplane. If mine works well—and I'm sure it will—I may build a quadruplane!"

"I wish you luck," spoke Tom, with a shrug of his shoulders.

"Well, you won't have any luck if you come around here any more," went on Pete Bailey. "We'll be on the watch for you fellows, now, and we'll cover this window, so you can't see in."

"That's what we will," agreed Andy, and Sam Snedecker shook his head vigorously to indicate that he, too, approved of this.

"Come on," spoke Tom in a low tone to Ned, "I've seen enough."

The two chums moved toward Ned's house, followed by the jeers and mocking laughter of Andy and his cronies.

"Can't you get back at them in some way?" asked Ned, for he did not like to see himself or his friend apparently vanquished by the bully.

"He laughs best who laughs last, Ned."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that when Andy tries to fly in his triplane it will be our turn to laugh."

"Won't it fly?"

"Never, the way he has it rigged up. It didn't take but one look to tell me that. He's working on altogether the wrong principle. Wait until he tries to go up, and then we'll have some fun with him."

"Then you got a good view of it through the window?"

"I saw all I wanted to. But say, I was about to take a little trip in my monoplane, to see my friend Mr. Damon, when Abe's letter arrived, and you came along with your news. I started to take Eradicate, but he backed out. Don't you want to come?"

"Sure, I'll go along."

Ned had often ridden in the trim Butterfly, though the trips had not been so frequent that he was tired of them. A little later, Tom, having adjusted the motor that had stalled before, compelling him to vol-plane back to earth, the two chums were sailing through the air toward Waterford.

"Why, bless my shoe laces!" cried Mr. Damon, as they alighted in the yard of his house, about an hour later. "I didn't expect you, Tom. But I'm glad to see you!"

"And I to meet you again. I guess you know Ned Newton."

"Ah, yes. How d'ye do, Ned? Bless my appetite! but it's quite chilly. We'll soon have winter. Won't you come in and have some hot chocolate?"

The boys were glad to accept the invitation, and as they were drinking the beverage, which Mrs. Damon made for them, Tom told of the receipt of the letter from the old miner, and also his experience in seeing Andy's airship.

"Why, bless my pocketbook!" cried Mr. Damon. "I had no idea we'd ever hear from Abe Abercrombie again. And so he is really coming on, to tell us about the valley of gold?"

"So he says," replied Tom. "I was wondering if you'd like to go, Mr. Damon."

"Go? Why, bless my very topknot! Of course I would. I'll go with you—only—only," and he leaned forward and whispered cautiously, "don't speak so loudly. My wife might hear you!"

"Doesn't she want you to go off in the airship any more?" asked Tom.

"Well, she'd rather I wouldn't. But she's going on a visit to her mother, soon, and then I think will come my opportunity to take another trip with you. A valley of gold in Alaska, eh? Up where the icebergs and caves of ice are. Say, Tom, I know some one else who would be glad to go."

"Who?" inquired the young inventor, though he had an idea to whom his friend referred.

"Mr. Parker! You know he's taken up his residence in Waterford, now, and only the other day he spoke to me about wishing he could go to the far north. He has some new theory—"

"About the destruction of something or other; hasn't he, Mr. Damon?" interrupted Tom, with a smile.

"That's it, exactly, my boy. Bless my coffeepot! But Mr. Parker has an idea that the whole northern part of this continent will soon be buried thousands of feet deep under an icy avalanche, and he wants to be there to see it. I know he'd like to go with us, Tom."

The young inventor made a little gesture of dissent, but as he knew Mr. Damon, who was very eccentric himself, had taken a great liking to the gloomy scientist, Tom did not feel like refusing. So he said:

"All right, Mr. Damon. If we go, and I think we shall, we'll expect you and Mr. Parker. I'll let you know the result of Mr. Abercrombie's visit, and I needn't request you to keep quiet about it. If there is a valley of gold in Alaska, we don't want everyone to know about it."

"No, of course not, Tom Swift. I'll keep silent about it. Bless my liverpin! But I'll be glad to on the move again, even if it is toward the Arctic regions."

After some further talk, Tom and Ned took their departure, making good time back to Shopton in the speedy monoplane.

For several days after that Tom busied himself about his big airship the RED CLOUD, for it needed quite a few repairs after the long trip to the mountains where the diamond makers had been discovered in their cave.

"And if we're going up amid the ice and snow," reasoned Tom, "I've got to make some different arrangements about the craft, and provide for keeping warmer than we found necessary when we went west."

So it was that Tom had no time to learn anything further about Andy Foger's airship, even had our hero been so inclined, which he was not. He looked for Abe Abercrombie any day now, for though the old miner had given no date as to when he would arrive, he had said, in his letter, that it would be soon.

It was one day, nearly a week after Tom's attempt to make Eradicate like aeroplaning, that there might have been seen, coming along the Shopton road, which led toward Tom's house, the figure of a grizzled old man. His clothes were rather rough, and he carried a valise that had, evidently, seen much service. There was that about him which proclaimed him for a westerner—a cattleman or a miner.

He walked slowly along, murmuring to himself.

"Wa'al, I might better have taken one of them wagons at th' depot," he said, "than t' try t' walk. It's quite a stretch out t' Tom Swift's house. I hope I find him home."

He trudged on, and, a little later, his gaze was attracted by a large shed, in the rear of a white house the pretentious appearance of which indicated that persons of wealth owned it.

"I guess that must be the place," he remarked. "That shed is big enough to hold the airship. Now to present myself."

As he walked up the front path of the house, he was met by one of the gardeners, who was raking up the leaves.

"Is this the airship place?" asked the miner.

"Yes, that's where the young master is making his triplane," answered the man.

"Is he in?"

"Yes, I guess so. You can walk right back to the shed."

The miner did so. Through the open door of the building he had a glimpse of big stretches of wings, propellers, rudders, and some machinery.

"That's it," he murmured, "though it looks some different than I remembered it. However, maybe Tom's changed it about. I wonder where he is?"

As he spoke a lad came from the shed to meet him—a lad on whose face there was a look of suspicion.

"What do you want?" he demanded.

"I'm lookin' for Tom Swift," was the simple reply. "But I take it you're one of his partners in this airship business. I guess he must have told you about me. I'm Abe Abercrombie, the miner, and I've come to show him the way to that valley of gold in Alaska."

At the mention of Tom Swift's name, Andy Foger, for it was he, had started to utter a denial. But, at the next words of the miner, and as Mr. Abercrombie mentioned "gold" and "Alaska," there came a cunning look over Andy's face.

"Tom Swift isn't here just now," he said, wondering how he could turn to advantage the unexpected visit, and the impending information that the guileless old man was about to give under the mistaken idea that Andy was Tom's friend.

"That's all right, I reckon he'll be along presently. You'll do just as well, I reckon. You're in partnership with him, I take it. So this is the place where he makes his airships, eh? It's a big one," and Mr. Abercrombie looked in at the odd triplane of Andy's—for the airship was almost finished.

"But it'll need to be big if we're to go to Alaska in it," went on the miner. "It's quite a journey t' th' valley where th' gold is. No way t' get t' it except by an airship. An' here I be an' ready to start, I've brought th' map of th' place, jest as I promised. Here it is, better take good care of it. Now, let's talk business," and the miner, having guilelessly handed Andy Foger a folded parchment, sat down on a box at the door of the airship shed, and placed his heavy valise on the ground beside him.

"What's this?" asked the bully, wondering whether he had heard aright.

"It's the map of th' valley of gold—directions how t' git there, an' all that. I guess it's plain enough. Now, when can we start?"

Andy did not know what to say. Fate had, most unexpectedly, placed in his hands a valuable paper. The miner had made a mistake. Andy's house was on the same road as was Tom's and, seeing the airship shed, had deceived the aged man. He had not expected to find two airship manufactories in the same village.

"The map of the valley of gold," murmured Andy, as he put it in his pocket.

"Yes, jest as I told Tom about when I met him out West. I said I'd bring it with me, an' I did. When will Tom be back? He never spoke of you, though I reckoned he'd have to have some help in makin' his airships. Where is he?"

"He—he—" stammered Andy. He did not know what to say.

At that instant Tom Swift himself passed by in the road. He had been over to Shopton on an errand. One look into the yard of Andy's house showed to our hero the old miner sitting at the door of the airship shed.

"Mr. Abercrombie—Abe!" cried Tom, almost, before he thought.

"Hello, Tom! I got here!" cried the miner, heartily. "I was jest talking to your partner."

"My partner!" spoke Tom in amazement

"Yes—partner in th' airship business. I should think you'd need about three partners to build these machines!"

"My partner! Andy Foger isn't my partner!" cried Tom, wondering what would happen next. "I have no partner! If he said he was he deceived you!"

"No partner? Ain't he your partner?" cried Mr. Abercrombie. "Why, I thought he was. I told him about th' valley of gold—I—I—give him the map—"

"The map?"

"Yes, the map t' tell how to get there. He's got it!"

There was a mocking smile on Andy's face.

"Give that map back at once!" cried Tom, sternly, now understanding something of the situation. "Hand it over at once, Andy Foger!"

"I will—when I get ready! He gave it to me!" cried the bully, and then, before either Tom or Abe could stop him, Andy darted into the big shed, and slammed shut the door.



CHAPTER IV

TOM GETS THE MAP

For a few seconds Tom was so surprised at the sudden action of the bully that he could neither move nor speak. Then, crying out a command to halt, the young inventor took after his enemy.

"The scamp!" he cried. "The nerve he has! To deceive Abe Abercrombie in that fashion! Wait until I get hold of him!"

"What's it all about?" asked the old miner, who, being a slow thinker had not understood all that had happened. "What's up, Tom Swift?"

"Haven't time to tell you now," flung back the running lad over his shoulder. "I've got to catch Andy! Then I'll explain. He's trying to get ahead of us. I guess, but we'll stop him!" Thereupon Tom flung himself against the door of the airship shed. The young inventor found the portal bolted, though it vibrated with the impact of his body.

"Come out of there, Andy Foger!" cried Tom, pounding on the door. "Come out, or I'll get an officer, and have you arrested!"

There was no answer.

"Come out, I say!" repeated Tom.

"Around th' back! Try th' back door!" suggested the miner, who had hastened to Tom's side. "Maybe he's run out that way!"

Tom listened. There was no movement in the shop. Then the young inventor sprinted around the side. He was just in time to see the bully running away over the lots and fields in the rear of his father's premises. Andy had climbed out of the back window of the shed, into which Tom and Ned had peered that day, had climbed the high fence, dropped down on the other side, and was now running away with all the speed he could muster.

"Come back—!" began Tom, and then he realized that his enemy could not hear him. The bully was too far away. At the same time our hero realized that it would be useless to give chase, for Andy had too much of a start. There was nothing to do but to turn back, and Tom knew that his delay in trying to gain an entrance at the front door had given Andy the very opportunity he needed to escape at the rear.

"Well, this is a bad turn of affairs," remarked the lad, as he faced the puzzled miner.

"What is, Tom?"

"Him having that map. It shows the location of the valley of gold, doesn't it, and tells how to get there?"

"That's what it does!"

"How did Andy happen to get it?"

"Jest as I told you. I was on my way t' your house, havin' inquired at th' post-office, an' the man said that at your place there was a big shed, where you kept your airships. I come along, an', of course, when I see this house, an' the shed, an' had a glimpse of th' airship, I, of course, thought it was your place. An', though you'd never told me about it, I thought maybe this lad was in business with you. So, like a blamed young tenderfoot, I blurted out my business afore I thought, an' handed him the map for safe keepin'. He took it, too, that's the worst of it."

"Yes, that's the worst of it," agreed Tom, "But I'll get it back, if I have to cause his arrest, and search his whole house."

"But he runned away, Tom."

"Oh, he'll come back. Was there only one copy of the map of the valley, Abe?" asked Tom, anxiously.

"Yep; only one."

"Could you make another?"

"No, not if you was to pay me a million dollars! You see I ain't no drawer, an' this map, while I made part of it, was mostly made by my old partner, who was with me when we discovered th' valley of gold, an' was druv back by th' savage Eskimos an' Indians, an' by th' terrible cold. My partner made th' best part of th' map, an' he's dead, poor fellow."

"I see. That's too bad! Then you can't make a duplicate map?"

"Nary a one. But can't you do somethin'? It were amazin' stupid of me, old Abe Abercrombie, t' be took in by a boy like him! Can't you do somethin'?"

"I'm going to try," announced Tom determinedly, as he swung on toward the Foger house. "I'll cause his arrest if he doesn't give it up."

A few minutes later Tom Swift and Abe confronted Mr. Foger. The rich man, father of the bully, was rather surprised at the visit from the young inventor, for the two were not friends.

"Well, what can I do for you, Tom Swift?" asked the banker, for he felt a certain coldness toward our hero, since the latter had defeated him in an effort to wreck a financial institution in which Tom and his father were interested.

"Mr. Foger," spoke Tom, sternly, "your son has just stolen a map belonging to this gentleman," and he indicated Abe.

"My son stolen a map!" exclaimed Mr. Foger. "How dare you make such an accusation, Tom Swift?"

"I dare, because it's true! And, unless that map is returned to me at my house to-night I shall swear out a warrant for Andy's arrest."

"You'd never dare do that!"

"Wait and see!" spoke Tom, firmly. "I will give your son, or you, exactly five hours to return that map—if it isn't back in my hands by then, I'll get a warrant!"

"Preposterous! Stuff and nonsense!" blustered Mr. Foger. "My son never stole anything!"

"He stole this map, and there is plenty of evidence," went on Tom, as he detailed the circumstances.

Mr. Foger hemmed and hawed, and affected not to believe that anything of the kind could have happened. But Tom was firm, and Abe Abercrombie backed up his statements, until even the banker began to waver.

"Very well," he announced at length, "I will look into this matter, and if I find that my son has anything of yours, you shall have it back. But I cannot believe it. Perhaps he took it as a joke."

"In which case," spoke Tom grimly, "he will find that he has carried the joke too far," and with that he and the miner left the Foger home.

"It's all my fault," bewailed Abe, as he and our hero trudged on toward the Swift household.

"No, it wasn't, Abe," declared Tom. "Any one would have been deceived by such tactics as Andy used—that is any stranger. And you didn't expect to find two airship sheds so close together."

"No. That's right, I didn't. That's what threw me off th' track."

"Andy only recently began work on his triplane. I don't know what his object is, and I don't care. Just now I'm more concerned about getting back this map."

"I hope we do get it."

"Oh, we will. I'm going to start off on my own hook, to find Andy. But first I'll take you to my house."

The old miner was soon telling his story to Mr. Swift, the housekeeper and Garret Jackson. They expressed their surprise at Andy's daring act. But Tom didn't do much more talking.

"I'm going out to find Andy," he declared, "and when I do—" He didn't finish his sentence, but they all knew what he meant.

But the bully was in none of his usual haunts, though Tom visited them all. Nor was Andy at the homes of either of his cronies.

"Well, if I don't find him, I shall certainly swear out the warrant," decided Tom. "I'll give him until night, and then I'll call on the police."

Still he did not give up, but went to several other places where Andy might be found. He had about given up, as it was getting toward late afternoon, when, as he came out of a billiardroom, where the bully was in the habit of spending much of his time, Tom saw the lad of whom he was in search.

"Hold on there, Andy Foger!" cried the young inventor. "I want to see you!"

"What about?"

"You know very well. Where's that map you stole?"

"I haven't got it."

"Take care!" and Tom, with a quick step was beside the bully, and had grasped him firmly by the arm.

"You let me alone, Tom Swift!" cried Andy.

"Where's that map?" and Tom gave Andy's arm a wrench.

"It's at your house; that's where it is! I just took it back. It was only a joke."

"A joke, eh? And you took it back?"

"Yes, I did. Now you let me go!"

"I will when I find out if you're telling me the truth or not, Andy Foger. You come with me!"

"Where?"

"To my house. I want to see if that map's there."

"Well, you'll find that it is, and you'd better let me go! My father told me to take the map back, and I did. You let me go!"

Andy struggled to get loose, but Tom had too tight a grip. There was something, too, in the manner of our hero that warned Andy not to trifle with him. So, concluding that discretion was the better part of valor, Andy walked sullenly along toward Tom's home, the young inventor never relaxing the grip on his enemy's arm.

They reached the Swift home. Still holding his captive, Tom rang the bell. His father came to the door, followed by Abe Abercrombie.

"Is the map back?" asked the young inventor, anxiously.

"Yes, Andy brought it here a few minutes ago," announced Mr. Swift.

"Is it the right one, Abe?" inquired Tom.

"Yep, Tom. I made sure of that as soon as I laid my eyes on it. It's th' right one."

"Then you can go, Andy Foger," announced our hero, "and if I ever catch you in another trick like this, I'll take the law into my own hands. Clear out, now!"

"You wait! I'll get even with you," muttered the bully, as he fled down the front walk, as though afraid Tom would, even then, put his threat into execution.

"Did he damage the map any?" asked the lad, as he followed his father and Abe into the house.

"Nary a bit," answered the old miner. "It's jest th' same as it was. There it is," and he spread a crinkled sheet of tough parchment in front of Tom. It was covered with a rude drawing, and with names of places scrawled on it.

"So that's the map, eh?" murmured Tom, eagerly scanning it.

"That's it, an' here's th' valley of gold," went on Abe, as he placed one rough finger on a certain spot. "Right there—hello!" he cried, as he peered more closely at the parchment. "That ink spot wasn't there when I had th' map, a few hours ago."

"What ink spot?" asked Tom, anxiously.

"That one," and the miner indicated a small one near the edge of the map. "That was never there!"

"It looks as if it was recently made," added Mr. Swift, who was something of a chemist.

"An ink spot-freshly made," murmured Tom, "Dad—Abe, I can guess what's happened!"

"What?" demanded the miner.

"Andy Foger made a copy of this map while it was in his possession, and now he knows where the valley of gold is as well as we do! He may get there ahead of us!"



CHAPTER V

GRAVE SUSPICIONS

Tom's announcement took them all by surprise. For a moment no one knew what to say, while the young inventor looked more closely at the parchment map.

"Do you really think he has dared to make a copy of it?" asked Mr. Swift.

"I do," answered his son. "That ink spot wasn't there when Abe gave him the map; was it?"

"No," replied the miner.

"And it couldn't get on in Andy's pocket," went on Tom. "So he must have had it open near where there was ink."

"His fountain pen might have leaked," suggested Mr. Jackson.

"In that case the ink spot would be on the outside of the map, and not on the inside," declared Tom, with the instinct of a detective. "Unless he had the map folded in his pocket with the inside surface on the outside, the ink couldn't have gotten on. Besides, Andy always carries his fountain pen in his upper vest pocket, and that pocket is too small to hold the map. No, I'm almost positive that Andy or his father have sneakingly made a copy of this map!"

"I'm sorry to have to admit that Mr. Foger is capable of such an act," spoke Mr. Swift, "but I believe it is true."

"And here is another thing," went on the young inventor, who was now closely scanning the parchment through a powerful magnifying glass, "do you see those tiny holes here and there, Mr. Jackson?"

"Yes," answered the engineer.

"Were they there before, Abe?" went on Tom, calling the old miner's attention to them.

"Nary a one," was the answer. "It looks as if some one had been sticking pins in th' map."

"Not pins," said Tom, "but the sharp points of a pair of dividers, or compasses, for measuring distances. Andy, or whoever made a copy of the map, used the dividers to take off distances with. This clinches it, in my mind."

"But what can you do?" asked Tom's father.

"I don't know," answered the young inventor. "It would be of little use to go to Andy. Naturally he would deny having made a copy of the map, and his father would, also. Even though I am sure they have a copy, I don't see how I am going to make them give it up. It's a hard case. There's only one thing I see to do."

"What's that?" asked Abe.

"Start for Alaska as soon as possible, and be first on hand at the valley of gold."

"Good!" cried the miner. "That's the way to talk! We'll start off at once. I know my way around that country pretty well, an' even though winter is coming on, I think we can travel in th' airship. That's one reason why I wanted t' go in one of these flyin' machines. Winter is no time to be in Alaska, but if we have an airship we won't mind it, an' it's the best time t' keep other people away, for th' ordinary miner or prospector can't do anythin' in Alaska in winter—that is away up north where we're goin'."

"Exactly where are we going?" asked Tom. "I have been so excited about discovering Andy's trick that I haven't had much time to consider where we're bound for nor what will be the best plan to follow."

"Well, we're goin' to a region about seven hundred an' fifty miles northwest from Sitka," explained the old miner, as he pointed out the location on the map. "We'll head for what they call th' Snow Mountains, an' th' valley of gold is in their midst. It's just over th' Arctic circle, an' pretty cold, let me tell you!"

"You'll be warm enough in Tom's airship, with the electric stoves going," commented Mr. Jackson.

"Well, we'll need t' be," went on the miner. "Th' valley is full of caves of ice, an' it's dangerous for th' ordinary traveler. In fact an airship was the only way I saw out of th' difficulty when I was there."

"Then you have been to the valley of gold?" asked Tom.

"Well, not exactly TO it," was the reply, "but I was where I could see it. That was in th' summer, though of course the summer there isn't like here. I'll tell you how it was."

The miner settled himself more comfortably in his chair, and resumed his story.

"It was two year ago," he said, "that me an' Jim Mace started to prospect in Alaska. We didn't have much luck, an' we kept on workin' our way farther north until we come to these Snow Mountains. Then our supplies gave out, an' if it hadn't been for some friendly Eskimos I don't know what we would have done. Jim and me we gave 'em some trinkets an' sich, and th' Indians began talkin' of a wonderful valley of gold, where th' stuff lay around in chunks on top of the ground."

"Me and Jim pricked up our ears at that, so to speak, an' we wanted to see th' place. After some delay we was taken to th' top of a big crag, some distance away from where we had been stopping with the friendly Eskimos, or Indians, as I call 'em. There, away down below, was a valley—an' a curious sort of a valley it were. It seemed filled with big bubbles—bubbles made of solid banks of snow or ice, an' we was told, me an' Jim was, that these were caves of ice, an' that th' gold was near these caves."

"Well, of course me an' my partner wanted to go down the worst way, an' try for some gold, but th' Indians wouldn't let us. They said it was dangerous, for th' ice caves were constantly fallin' in, an' smashin' whoever was inside. But to prove what they said about th' gold, they sent one of their number down, while we waited on th' side of th' mountain."

"Did he get any gold?" asked Tom, eagerly.

For answer the old miner pulled from his pocket a few yellow pebbles—little stones of dull, gleaming yellow.

"There's some of th' gold from amid th' caves of ice," he remarked simply. "I kept 'em for a souvenir, hopin' some day I might git back there. Well, Jim an' me watched th' Indian going down into th' valley. He come back in about three hours, havin' only gone to th' nearest cave, an' he had two pockets filled with these little chunks of solid gold. They gave me an' Jim some, but they wouldn't hear of us goin' t' th' valley by ourselves."

"Then a bad storm come up, an' we had t' hit th' trail for home—the Indians' home, I mean—for Jim an' I was far enough away from ours."

"Well, t' make a long story short, Jim an' me tried every way we knowed t' git t' that valley, but we couldn't. It come off colder an' colder, an' th' tribe of Indians with whom we lived was attacked by some of their enemies, an' driven away from their campin' grounds. Jim an' me, we went too, but not before Jim had drawed this map on a piece of dog-skin we found in one of the huts. We had an idea we might get back, some day, an' find the valley, so we'd need a map t' go by. But poor Jim never got back. He got badly frozen when the Indians drove us an' our friends away, an' he never got over it. He died up there in th' ice, an' we buried him. I took th' map, an' when spring come, I made a hike out of that country. From then until now I've been plannin' how t' git t' that valley, an' th' only way I seen was an airship. Then, when I was prospectin' around out in Colorado I saw Tom's machine hidden in th' trees, an' I waited until he come along, which part you know as well as I do," finished Abe.

"And that's the story of the valley of gold," spoke Mr. Swift.

"That's all there is to it," assented Abe, simply.

"Do you think there is much gold there?" asked Tom.

"Plenty of it—for th' pickin' up," replied the miner. "Around th' caves of ice it's full of it, but, of course, it's dangerous. An' th' only way t' git t' it, an' pass th' savage Indians that are all around in th' mountains about th' valley, is t' fly over their heads in th' airship."

"Then that's what we'll do," decided Tom.

"Will you go all the way in the RED CLOUD?" inquired Mr. Jackson.

"No, I think I'll send the airship on ahead to some point in Washington—say Seattle," replied Tom, "put it together there, and start for the Snow Mountains. In Seattle we can get plenty of supplies and stores. It will be a good point to start from, and will save us a long, and perhaps dangerous, flight across the United States."

"I think that will be the best plan," agreed Mr. Swift. "But what about Andy—do you think he'll try to follow—or try to get ahead of you now that he has a copy of the map?"

"He may," answered Tom. "But I have a little trick I'm going to work on Andy. I will try to learn whether he really has a copy of the map, though I'm practically certain of it. Then I'll decide what's best to do."

"In th' meanwhile, will you be gettin' ready?" asked Abe. "I'd like t' start as soon as we can, for it's awful cold there, the longer you wait, at this time of th' year."

"Yes, I'll start right to work, getting the RED CLOUD in readiness to be shipped," promised Tom.



CHAPTER VI

ANDY'S AIRSHIP FLIES

"Hello, Tom, have you heard the news?" asked Ned Newton, of the young inventor, a few days later.

"What news, Ned? I declare I've been so busy thinking out the best plan to ship the RED CLOUD to Seattle that I haven't been over to town. What's going on? Have they decided to build a new church in Shopton, or something like that?"

"Oh, this about Andy Foger's airship."

"Andy's airship, eh? Is he still working on it?"

"It's all done, so Sam Snedecker was telling me last night, and to-day Andy is going to try to fly it."

"You don't mean it!"

"Sure thing. Let's go over and watch him."

"He might make a fuss, same as he did when we looked in the window of his shed."

"He can't make any fuss now. He's got to take his machine out to fly it, and anybody that wants to can look on. Didn't he watch you make flights often enough?"

"That's so. Where is the trial flight going to take place?"

"In the big meadow. Come on over."

"Guess I will. I can't do much more now. I've been getting some boxes and crates made in which to pack the RED CLOUD. I'll have to take her all apart."

"Then you're really going to hunt for the valley of gold?"

"Sure thing. How about you going, Ned? I spoke to dad about it, and he said he'd see that you could have a leave of absence."

"Yes, that part's all right. The bank president told me today I could take a vacation any time I wanted it. In fact that's what I came over to see you about. I want to thank your father."

"Then you're going?"

"I sure am, Tom! Won't it be great! I hope I can get a little gold for myself! My folks didn't take very much to the notion of me going off in an airship, but I told them how often you'd gone on trips, and come safely back, so they finally gave their consent. When are you going to start?"

"Oh, in about two weeks. Did I tell you about Andy and the map?"

"No. What trick has he been up to now?"

Thereupon Tom related his suspicions concerning the bully, and also hinted to Ned of a certain ruse he intended to work on Andy when he got the chance.

"Well, if you're ready, suppose we go over and see if Andy's airship will really fly," suggested Ned, after a while. "I'm doubtful myself, and I'd just like to see him come to grief, after the many mean things he's done to you."

"Well," spoke Tom slowly, "I don't know as I wish him any bad luck, but I certainly hope he doesn't use his airship to try to beat us out in the hunt for the valley of gold."

"Do you think he might?"

"It's possible. But never mind about that now. Come on, we'll go over to the big meadow."

The two chums walked along together, talking of many things. Tom told of some communication he had had with Mr. Damon, in which letters the eccentric man had inquired as to when the trip for Alaska would be undertaken.

"Then he's going?" asked Ned.

"Oh, yes, it wouldn't seem natural to go without some of Mr. Damon's blessings. But I think he's going to bring a friend with him."

"Who?"

"Mr. Ralph Parker."

"That gloomy scientist, who is always predicting such terrible things going to happen?"

"That's the gentleman. You met him once, I believe Mr. Damon says Mr. Parker wants to do some scientific studying in the far north, so I've already counted on him as one of our party. Well, perhaps he won't do so much predicting this trip."

A little later Tom and Ned came to a big open field. They saw quite a crowd gathered in it, but no sign of an airship.

"Guess Andy hasn't arrived," spoke Tom.

"No; very likely he's found out that something is wrong with his machine, and he isn't going to risk it."

But almost as Ned spoke, there sounded cries of excitement from the crowd, and, a little later, something big and white, with many wing-shaped stretches of canvas sticking out from all sides, was seen turning into the big meadow from the broad highway that led to Andy's house.

"There she is!" cried Ned.

"There's something, at any rate," conceded Tom, as he hastened his steps. "It's a queer-looking aeroplane, though. My! he's got enough wings to it!"

"Yes, it's Andy's sure enough," went on Ned "There he is in front, giving orders like a major-general, and Sam and Pete are helping him. Let's get closer."

They followed the crowd, which was thronging about the airship that Andy Foger had made, Tom had a glimpse of the machine. It was a form of triplane, with three tiers of main wings, and several other sets of planes, some stationary and some capable of being moved. There was no gas-bag feature, but amidships was a small, enclosed cabin, which evidently held the machinery, and was designed to afford living quarters. In some respects the airship was not unlike Tom's, and the young inventor could see that Andy had copied some of his ideas. But Tom cared little about this.

"Do you think it will go up?" asked Ned.

"It looks to me to be too heavy, and his propellers seem too small," answered Tom. "He's got to have a very powerful motor to make all that bulk fly."

The people were crowding in closer around the airship, for the news that Andy was to attempt a flight had spread about town.

"Now keep back—all of you!" ordered the bully, with a show of anger. "If any one damages my airship I'll have him arrested! Keep back, now, or I won't fly!"

"Reminds me of a little kid saying he won't play if he can't have his own way," whispered Ned to Tom.

"Hello, Andy, give us a ride!"

"Going above the clouds?"

"When are you coming back?"

"Bring down a snowstorm!"

"Be careful that you don't fall!"

These were some of the things shouted at Andy, for he had few friends among the town lads, on account of his mean ways.

"Keep quiet—all of you!" he ordered. "Get back. You might get hurt when I start the motor. I'm going to make a flight soon," he added proudly. "Sam, you come over here and hold this end. Pete, you go back to the rear. Simpson, you get inside and help me with the motor. Henderson, you get ready to shove when I tell you."

These last orders were to the two machinists whom Andy had engaged to help him, and the bully gave himself no end of airs and importance as he bustled about.

Tom could not help but admit that Andy's machine was a big affair. There was a great stretch of wings and planes, several rudders other appliances for which the young inventor could not exactly fathom a use. He did not think the machine would fly far, if at all. But Andy was hurrying here and there, getting the triplane in place on a level stretch of ground, as if he intended to capture some great prize.

"Are you going to tackle him about stealing a copy of that map?" asked Ned.

"I will if I get a chance," answered Tom, in a low voice.

He got his opportunity a few minutes later. Andy, hurrying here and there, came face to face with the young inventor.

"Hello, Andy," spoke Tom, good-naturedly. "So you're going to make a flight, eh?"

"Yes, I am, and I s'pose you came around to see if you could get any ideas; didn't you?" sneered Andy.

"Of course," admitted Tom, with an easy laugh. "My airship doesn't fly, you know, Andy, and I want to see what's wrong with it."

There was a laugh in the crowd, at this, for Tom's success was well known.

"Are you going to Alaska?" suddenly asked Tom, in a low voice, of the bully.

"To Alaska? I—I don't—I don't know what you mean?" stammered Andy, as he turned aside.

"Yes, you do know what I mean," insisted Tom. "And I want to tell you that the map you have won't be of much use to you. Why, do you think," he went on, "that Abe would carry the real map around with him that way? It's easy to make a copy look like an original, Andy, and also very easy to put false distances and directions on a map that may fall into the hands of an enemy."

The shot told. Andy's face turned first red and then pale.

"A—a false map!" he stammered. "Wrong directions?"

"Yes—on the copy you made of the map you took from Mr. Abercrombie," went on Tom.

"I—I didn't make any—Oh, I'm not going to talk to you!" blustered Andy. "Get out of my way! I'm going to fly my airship."

The bully pushed past Tom, and started toward the triplane. But Tom had found out what he wanted to know. Andy had made a copy of the map. From now on there would be every danger that the bully would make an effort to get to the valley of gold.

But other matters held Andy's attention now. He wanted to try his airship. With the help of his two cronies, and the machinists, the machine was gone over, oiled up, and finally, after several false starts, the motor was set going.

It made a terrific racket, and the whole machine vibrated as though it would shake apart.

"He hasn't got if well enough braced," said Tom to Ned.

"Out of the way, now, everybody!" yelled Andy. "Keep away or you'll get hurt! I'm going up!"

He climbed into the cabin of the craft, and took his position at the steering-wheel. The speed of the motor, its racket and its stream of sparks increased.

"Let go!" cried Andy to those who were holding his craft.

They released their hold. The triplane moved slowly across the ground, gathered speed, and, then, under the impulse of the powerful propellers, ran rapidly over the meadow.

"Hurrah! There he goes!" cried Sam.

"Yes! Now he's going to fly," proudly added Pete Bailey, the other crony of the bully.

"He'd better fly soon, then, or he'll be in the ditch," said Tom grimly, for a little, sluggish stream crossed the meadow not far from where Andy had started.

The next instant, thinking he had momentum enough, Andy tilted his elevation plane. The clumsy triplane rose into the air and shot forward.

"There he goes!" cried Sam.

"Hurrah!" yelled the crowd.

Andy had gone up about ten feet, and was making slow progress.

"I guess Tom Swift isn't the only one in Shopton who can build an airship!" sneered Pete Bailey.

"Look! Look!" yelled Ned. "He's coming down!"

Sure enough, Andy's machine had reached the end of her flight. The motor stopped with something between a cough and a wheeze. Down fluttered the aeroplane, like some clumsy bird, down into the ditch, settling on one side, and then coming to rest, tilted over at a sharp angle. Andy was pitched out, but landed on the soft mud, for there had been a thaw. He wasn't hurt much, evidently, for he soon scrambled to his feet as the crowd surged toward him.

"Well, he flew a little way," observed Ned, grimly.

"But he came down mighty soon," added Tom. "I thought he would. His machine is too big and clumsy. I've seen enough. Come on, Ned. We'll get ready to go to Alaska. Andy Foger will never follow us in that machine."

But Tom was soon to find out how much mistaken he was.



CHAPTER VII

READY FOR THE TRIP

Andy Foger stood looking at his tilted airship. His clothes were covered with mud from the ditch, some of the muck had splashed over his face so that he was a pitiable looking object.

"What's the matter?" panted Pete Bailey.

"Are you hurt?" asked Sam Snedecker.

The two cronies had hurried to the side of the bully.

"Matter? Can't you see what's the matter?" demanded Andy wrathfully. "The machine came down, that's what's the matter! Why didn't you fellows fix the motor better?" he shouted at the two machinists as they came running up, followed by the crowd.

"Fix it better? The motor was all right," declared the taller machinist. "Any of them are likely to stop unexpectedly."

"Well, I didn't think mine would," came from Andy. "Now look at my airship! It's all busted!"

"No, it isn't hurt much," said the other man, after critically looking it over. "We can fix it, and you'll fly yet, Andy."

"I hope I do, if only to fool Tom Swift," declared the bully, as he wiped some of the mud from his face. "Come on, now, help me wheel the machine back, and I'll try it again."

Andy made another attempt, but this time the machine did not even rise off the ground, and then, amid the jeers of the crowd, the discomfited lad took his aeroplane back to the shed in the rear of his house.

"I'll fix it yet, and make a long flight," he declared. "I'll show Tom Swift he can't laugh at me!"

"You'll make a long flight eh?" asked one of the machinists. "Where will you go?"

"Never mind," answered Andy, with a knowing wink. "I've got a plan up my sleeve—my father and I are going to do something that will astonish everybody in Shopton," and then Andy, with many nods and winks, went into the shed, where he began giving orders about the airship. He wanted the motor changed, and one of the machinists made some suggestions about the planes, which, he said, would give better results.

As for Tom and Ned, they strolled away, satisfied that in Andy Foger they would not have a very dangerous rival, as far as airships were concerned.

Tom thought matters over during the next few days. He was now satisfied that Andy had a copy of the map, and, as far as he could see, there was no way of getting it from him, for he could not prove to the satisfaction of the legal authorities that the bully actually had it.

"We'll just have to take a chance, that's all," decided the young inventor in talking matters over with his father, Ned, and Abe Abercrombie. "If Andy and some of his crowd trail after us, we'll just have to run away from them and get to the valley first."

"If they do get there, they won't find it very easy traveling I reckon," remarked Abe. "They'll get all they want of the caves of ice. But hadn't we better get a hustle on ourselves, Tom?"

"Yes, we will soon start now. I have the RED CLOUD all packed up for shipment to Seattle. We will send it on ahead, and then follow, for it will take some time to get there, even though it's going by fast freight."

"What about Mr. Damon?" asked Ned. "When is he coming?"

"There's no telling," responded Tom. "He may be on hand any minute, and, again, he may only show up just as we are starting. I haven't heard from him in the last day or two."

At that moment there was a knock on the private office in the aeroplane shed, where Tom, Ned and Abe Abercrombie were talking.

"Who's there?" asked Tom.

"It's me," answered a voice recognizable as that of the colored man Eradicate.

"What is it, Rad?" asked Tom.

"Why I jest thought I'd tell you dat de blessin' man am comin' down de road."

"The blessing man?" repeated Tom. "Oh, you mean Mr. Damon."

"Yais, sah, dat's jest who I done mean. An' dere's anodder gen'man wif him."

"Mr. Parker, I expect," spoke Tom. "Well, tell them to come in here, Rad."

"Yais, sah. Dey's comin' up de path now, so dey is."

The next moment Tom and the others heard a voice saying:

"Why, bless my necktie! The RED CLOUD is gone!" Mr. Damon had peered into the shed, and had not seen the airship, for Tom had it packed up. "I wonder if Tom Swift has gone away? Bless my top-knot, Mr. Parker, I hope We're not too late!"

"Indeed I hope not," added the scientist. "I wish to make a study of the caves of ice. I think perhaps they may be working south, and, in time, this part of the country may be covered deep under a frozen blanket."

"Cheerful, isn't he, Ned?" asked Tom, with a smile. Then, going to the door of the shed he called out: "Here we are, Mr. Damon. Glad to see you, Mr. Parker." This last wasn't exactly true, but Tom wanted to be polite.

"Bless my collar button, Tom! But what has become of the airship?" asked Mr. Damon, as he looked about the shed, and saw only a number of boxes and crates.

"Taken apart, and packed up, ready for the trip to the valley of gold and the caves of ice," replied the young inventor, and then he briefly told of their plans.

"Well, that's a good idea," declared the eccentric man. "Mr. Parker and I are ready to go whenever you are, Tom."

"Then we'll start very soon. I will get all our supplies in Seattle. Now, to discuss details," and, after Mr. Parker and Mr. Damon had been made acquainted with the old miner, who told his story in brief, they began a discussion of the prospective trip.

Mr. Damon and Mr. Parker took up their residence in Tom's house, and while the eccentric man busied himself in helping our hero, Ned and Abe Abercrombie in getting ready for the trip to Alaska, the gloomy scientist went about making "observations" as he called them, with a view to predicting what might happen in the near future.

He was particularly anxious to get up north, among the caves of ice, and, several times he repeated his statement that he believed the mass of ice in Alaska was working down toward the south. But no one paid much attention to him, though Tom recalled, not without a little shudder, that Mr. Parker had correctly predicted the destruction of Earthquake Island, and also the landslide on Phantom Mountain.

The airship was finally sent off, being forwarded to Seattle in sections, where it could easily be put together. The matter of Andy Foger having a duplicate map of the valley of gold was discussed, but it was agreed that nothing could be done about it. So Tom and the others devoted all their energies to getting in shape for their prospective journey.

Mr. Swift was invited to go, but declined on the ground that he had several inventions to perfect, nor could Mr. Jackson go, as he was needed to help his employer. So Tom, Ned, Mr. Damon, Mr. Parker and Abe Abercrombie made up the party. Tom arranged to send wireless messages to his father from the airship once they were started off toward the valley of gold, and over the frozen north.

One evening, when Tom had been to pay a last visit to Mary Nestor, as he was coming past the Foger premises he saw a number of large vans, loaded with big packing cases coming out of the banker's yard.

"Hum! I wonder if they're moving?" mused our hero. "If they are they're taking a queer time for it." He paused a moment to look at the procession of vans. As he did so he heard the voice of Andy Foger.

"Now, I want you men to be careful of everything!" the bully called out arrogantly. "If you break anything I'll sue you for damages!"

"Oh, that cub makes me sick!" exclaimed one of the drivers as he came opposite Tom.

"What are you moving—eggs, that you have to be so careful?" asked the young inventor, in a low voice.

"Eggs? No! But it might just as well be," was the growling answer. "He's shipping an airship, all taken to pieces, and he has nervous prostration for fear it will be broken. I don't believe the old thing's any good, anyhow."

"An airship—Andy Foger sending away his airship?" gasped Tom. "Where to?"

"Some place in Alaska," was the startling reply. "Pitka or Sitka, or some such place like that. It's all in these boxes, G'lang there!" this to his horses.

"Andy sending his airship to Alaska!" murmured Tom in dismay. "Then he surely is going to make a try for that valley of gold!"

He turned away, while the snarling voice of the bully rang out on the night, urging the drivers to be very careful of the boxes and crates on their trucks.



CHAPTER VIII

A THIEF IN THE NIGHT

Tom Swift hardly knew what to think. He had scarcely believed, in spite of the fact that he was sure Andy had a copy of the map, that the bully would actually make an effort to go to the valley of gold.

"And in that airship of his, too," mused Tom. "Well, there's one consolation, I don't believe he'll go far in that, though it does sail better than when he made his first attempt. Well, if he's going to try to beat us, it's a good thing I know it We can be prepared for him, now."

Tom, after watching the big vans for a few minutes, turned and kept on toward his home.

There was more than surprise on the part of Mr. Damon and the others when Tom told his news. There was alarm, for there was a feeling that Mr. Foger and his son might adopt unscrupulous tricks.

"But what can we do?" asked Mr. Swift

"Whitewash him!" exclaimed Eradicate Sampson, who had overheard part of the conversation. "Dat's what I'd do t' him an' his father, too! Dat's what I would! Fust I'd let mah mule Boomerang kick him a bit, an' den, when he was all mussed up, I'd whitewash him!" That was the colored man's favorite method of dealing with enemies, but, of course, he could not always carry it out.

However, after considering the matter from all sides, it was decided that nothing could be done for the present.

"Let them go," said Tom, "I don't believe they'll ever find the valley of gold. I fancy I threw a scare into Andy, talking as I did about the map."

"Well, even if the Fogers do get the gold," said Mr. Parker calmly, "they cannot take away the caves of ice, and it is in them that I am most interested. I want to prove some of my new theories."

"And we need the gold," said Tom, in a low voice; "don't we, Abe?"

"That's what we do, Tom," answered the old miner.

Preparations were now practically completed for their trip to Seattle by rail. Tom made some inquiries in the next few days regarding the Fogers, but only learned that the father and son had left town, after superintending the shipment of their airship.

"Well, we start to-day," remarked Tom, as he arose one morning. "In two weeks, at most, we ought to be hovering over the valley, Abe."

"I hope so? Tom. You've got the map put away safely, have you?"

"Sure thing. Are you all ready?"

"Yes."

"Then we'll start for the depot right after breakfast." The adventurers had arranged to take a local train from Shopton, and get on a fast express at one of the more important! stations.

Good-byes were said, Mr. Swift, Mr. Jackson, Mrs. Baggert and Eradicate waving their adieus from the porch as Tom and the others started for the depot. Miss Mary Nestor had bidden our hero farewell the previous night—it being a sort of second good-bye, for Tom was a frequent caller at her house, and, if the truth must be told he rather disliked to leave the young lady.

Tom found a few of his friends at the station, who had gathered there to give him and Ned BON-VOYAGE.

"Bring us back some nuggets, Tom," pleaded Arthur Norton.

"Bring me a musk-ox if you can shoot one," suggested one.

"A live bear or a trained Eskimo for mine," exclaimed another.

Tom laughingly promised to do the best he could.

"I'll send you some gold nuggets by wireless," said Ned Newton.

It was almost time for the train to arrive. In the crowd on the platform Tom noticed Pete Bailey.

"He must feel lost without Andy," observed the young inventor to Ned.

"Yes, I wonder what he's hanging around here for?"

They learned a moment later, for they saw Pete going into the telegraph office.

"Must be something important for him to wire about," observed Ned.

Tom did not answer. The window of the office was slightly open, though the day was cool, and he was listening to the clicks of the telegraph instrument, as the operator sent Pete's message. Tom was familiar with the Morse code. What was his surprise to hear the message being sent to Andy Foger at a certain hotel in Chicago. And the message read:

"Tom Swift's party leaving to-day."

"What in the world does that mean?" thought Tom, but he did not tell Ned what he had picked up as it went over the wire. "Why should Andy want to be informed when we leave? That's why Pete was hanging around here! He had been instructed to let Andy know when we left for Seattle. There's something queer back of all this."

Tom was still puzzling over the matter when their train roiled in and he and the others got aboard.

"Well, we're off!" cried Ned.

"Yes; we're off," admitted Tom, and, to himself he added: "No telling what will happen before we get there, though."

The trip to Chicago was without incident, and, on arrival in the Windy City, Tom was on the lookout for Andy or his father, but he did not see them. He made private inquiries at the hotel mentioned in Pete's telegram, but learned that the Fogers had gone on.

"Perhaps I'm worrying too much," thought Tom. But an event that occurred a few nights later, when they were speeding across the continent showed him that there was need of great precaution.

On leaving Chicago, Tom had noticed, among the other passengers traveling in the same coach as themselves, a man who seemed to be closely observing each member of the party of gold-hunters. He was a man with a black mustache, a mustache so black, in fact, that Tom at once concluded that it had been dyed. This, in itself, was not much, but there was a certain air about the man—a "sporty" air—which made Tom suspicious.

"I wouldn't be surprised if that man was a gambler, Ned," he said to his chum, one afternoon, as they were speeding along. The man in question was several seats away from Tom.

"He does look like one," agreed Ned.

"I needn't advise you not to fall in with any of his invitations to play cards, I suppose," went on Tom, after a pause.

"No, indeed, it's something I don't do," answered Ned, with a laugh. "But it might be a good thing to speak to Abe Abercrombie about him. If that man's a sharper perhaps Abe knows him, or has seen him, for Abe has traveled around in the West considerable."

"We'll ask him," agreed Tom, but the miner, when his attention was called to the man, said he had never seen him before.

"He does look like a confidence man," agreed Abe, "but as long as he doesn't approach us we can't do anything, and don't need to worry."

There was little need to call the attention of either Mr. Damon or Mr. Parker to the man, for Mr. Damon was busy watching the scenery, as this trip was a new one to him, and he was continually blessing something he saw or thought of. As for Mr. Parker, he was puzzling over some new theories he had in mind, and he said little to the others.

On the night of the same day on which Tom had called special attention to the man with the black mustache, our hero went to his berth rather late. He had sent some telegrams to his father and one to Miss Nestor, and, when he turned in he saw the "gambler," as he had come to call him, going into the smoking compartment of the coach. Though Tom thought of the man as a gambler, there was no evidence, as yet, that he was one, and he had made no effort to approach any of our friends, though he had observed them closely.

How long Tom had been asleep he did not know, but he was suddenly awakened by feeling his pillow move. At first he thought it was caused by the swaying of the train, and he was about to go to sleep again, when there came a movement that he knew could not have been caused by any unevenness of the roadbed.

Then, like a flash there came to Tom's mind the thought that under his pillow, in a little leather case he had made for it, was the map, showing the location of the valley of gold.

He sat up suddenly, and made a lunge for the pillow. He felt a hand being hurriedly withdrawn. Tom made a grab for it, but the fingers slipped from his grasp.

"Here! Who are you!" cried Tom, endeavoring to peer through the darkness.

"It's all right—mistake," murmured a voice.

Tom leaned suddenly forward and parted the curtains of his berth. There was a dim light burning in the aisle of the car. By the gleam of it the young inventor caught sight of a man hurrying away, and he felt sure the fellow who had put his hand under his pillow was the man with the black mustache. He confirmed this suspicion a moment later, for the man half turned, as if to look back, and the youth saw the mustache.

"He—he was after my map!" thought Tom, with a gasp.

He sat bolt upright. What should he do? To raise an alarm now, he felt, would only bring a denial from the man if he accused him. There might also be a scene, and the man might get very indignant. Then, too, Tom and his friends did not want their object made known, as it would be in the event of Tom raising an outcry and stating what was under his pillow.

He felt for the map case, opened it and saw, in the gleam of the light, that it was safe.

"He didn't get it anyhow," murmured our hero. "I guess I won't say anything until morning, though he did come like a thief in the night to see if he could steal it."

Tom glanced to where his coat and other clothing hung in the little berth-hammock, and a hasty search showed that his money and ticket were safe.

"It was the map he was after all right," mused Tom. "I'll have a talk with Mr. Damon in the morning about what's best to do. That's why the fellow has been keeping such a close watch on us. He wanted to see who had the map."

Then another thought came to Tom.

"If it was the map he was after," he whispered to himself, "he must know what it's about Therefore the Fogers must have told him. I'll wager Andy or his father put this man up to steal the map. Andy's afraid he hasn't got a copy of the right one. This is getting more and more mysterious! We must be on our guard all the while. Well, I'll see what I'll do in the morning."

But in the morning the man with the black mustache was not aboard the train, and on inquiring of the conductor, Tom learned that the mysterious stranger had gotten off at a way station shortly after midnight.



CHAPTER IX

A VANDAL'S ACT

"Bless my penknife!" exclaimed Mr. Daman, the next morning, when he had been told of Tom's experience in the night, "things are coming to a pretty pass when our enemies adopt such tactics as this! What can we do, Tom? Hadn't you better let one of us carry the map?"

"Oh, I guess not," answered the young inventor. "They have had one try at me, and found that I wasn't napping. I don't believe they'll try again. No, I'll carry the map."

Tom concealed it in an old wallet, as he thought it was less likely to attract attention there than in the new case he formerly used. Still he did not relax his vigilance, and his sleep for the next few nights was uneasy, as he awakened several times, thinking he felt a hand under his pillow.

At length Ned suggested that one of them sit up part of the night, and keep an eye on Tom's berth. This was agreed to, and they divided the hours of darkness into watches, each one taking a turn at guarding the precious map. But they might have spared themselves the trouble, for no further attempt was made to get it.

"I'd just like to know what Andy Foger's plans are?" said Tom one afternoon, as they were within a few miles of Seattle. "He certainly must have made up his mind quickly, after he saw the map, about going in search of the gold."

"Maybe his father proposed it," suggested Ned. "I heard, in our bank, that Mr. Foger has lost considerable money lately, and he may need more."

"I shouldn't wonder. Well, if they are going to Sitka, Alaska, to assemble their ship, I think they'll have trouble, for supplies are harder to get there than in Seattle. But we'll soon be on our way ourselves, if nothing happens. I hope all the parts of the RED CLOUD arrive safely."

They did, as Tom learned a few hours later, when they had taken up their quarters in a Seattle hotel, and he had made inquiries at the railroad office. In the freight depot were all the boxes and crates containing the parts of the big airship, and by comparison with a list he had made, the young inventor found that not a single part was missing.

"We'll soon have her together again," he said to his friends, "and then we'll start for Alaska."

"Where are you going to assemble the airship?" asked Mr. Damon.

"I've got to hire some sort of a big shed," explained Tom. "I heard of one I think I can get. It's out at the fair grounds, and was used some time ago when they had a balloon ascension here. It will be just what I need."

"How long before we can start for the gold valley?" asked the old miner anxiously.

"Oh, in about a week," answered the lad, "that is, if everything goes well."

Tom lost no time in getting to work. He had the different parts of his airship carted to the big shed which he hired. This building was on one edge of the fair grounds, and there was a large, level space which was admirably adapted for trying the big craft, when once more it was put together.

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse