Part 3 out of 4
"I never can thank you enough!" exclaimed the exile, as he
shook hands with Mr. Androwsky,
The Nihilist left, after announcing that, in the event of
the success of Tom and his friends, and the rescue of the
exile from the sulphur mine, it would probably become known
to them, as such news came through the Revolutionary
channels, slowly but surely.
"Here we go!" cried the young inventor gaily, as he turned
the starting lever in the pilot house, and silently, in the
darkness of the night, the Falcon shot upward. There was not
a light on board, for, though small signal lamps had been
kept burning when the craft was in the forest, to guide the
Nihilists to her, now that she was up in the air, and in
motion, it was feared that her presence would become known
to the authorities of the town, so even these had been
"After we get well away we can turn on the electrics,"
remarked Tom, "and if they see us at a distance they may
take us for a meteor. But, so close as this, they'd get wise
in a minute."
Mr. Damon, who had done all that Tom needed in the
starting of the craft, went to the forward port rail, and
idly looked down on the black forest they were leaving. He
could just make out the clearing where they had rested for
over a week, and he was startled to see lights bobbing in
"I say, Mr. Petrofsky!" he called. "Did we leave any of
our lanterns behind us?"
"I don't believe so," answered the exile. "I'll ask Tom."
"Lanterns? No," answered the young inventor. "Before we
started I took down the only one we had out. I'll take a
Setting the automatic steering apparatus, he joined Mr.
Damon and the Russian. The lights were now dimly visible,
moving about in the forest clearing.
"It's just as if they were looking for something," said
Tom. "Can it be that any of your Nihilist friends, Mr.
"Friends--no friends--enemies!" cried the Russian. "I
understand now! We got away just in time. Those are police
agents who are looking for us! They must have received word
about our being there. Androwsky and the others never carry
lights when they go about. They know the country too well,
and then, too, it leads to detection. No, those are police
spies. A few minutes later, and we would have been
"As it is we're right over their heads, and they don't
know it," chuckled Tom. The airship was moving silently
along before a good breeze, the propellers not having been
started, and Tom let her drift for several miles, as he did
not want to give the police spies a clew by the noise of the
The twinkling lights in the forest clearing disappeared
from sight, and the seekers went on in the darkness.
"Well, we've got the hardest part of our work yet ahead of
us," remarked Tom several hours later when, the lights
having been set aglow, they were gathered in the main cabin.
There was no danger of being seen now, for they were quite
"We've done pretty well, so far," commented Ned. "I think
we will have easier work rescuing Mr. Petrofsky's brother
than in locating the mine.
"I don't know about that," answered the Russian. "It is
almost impossible to rescue a person from Siberia. Of course
it is not going to be easy to locate the lost mine, but as
for that we can keep on searching, that is if the air glider
works, but there are so many forces to fight against in
rescuing a prisoner.
They had a long journey ahead of them, and not an easy
route to follow, but as the days passed, and they came
nearer and nearer to their goal, they became more and more
They were passing over a desolate country, for they
avoided the vicinity of large towns and cities.
"I wonder when we'll strike Siberia?" mused Tom one
afternoon, as they sat on the outer deck, enjoying the air.
"At this rate of progress, very soon." answered the exile,
after glancing at the map. "We should be at the foot of the
Ural mountains in a few hours, and across them in the night.
Then we will be in Siberia."
And he was right, for just as supper was being served,
Ned, who had been making observations with a telescope,
"These must be the Urals!"
Mr. Petrofsky seized the glass.
"They are," he announced. "We will cross between Orsk and
Iroitsk. A safe place. In the morning we will be in Siberia
--the land of the exiles."
And they were, morning seeing them flying over a most
desolate stretch of landscape. Onward they flew, covering
verst after verst of loneliness.
"I'm going to put on a little more speed," announced Tom,
after a visit to the storeroom, where were kept the reserve
tanks of gasolene. "I've got more fluid than I thought I
had, and as we're on the ground now I want to hurry things.
I'm going to make better time," and he yanked over the lever
of the accelerator, sending the Falcon ahead at a rapid
All day this was kept up, and they were just making an
observation to determine their position, along toward supper
time, when there came the sound of another explosion from
the motor room.
"Bless my safety valve!" cried Mr. Damon. "Something has
gone wrong again."
Tom ran to the motor, and, at the same time the Falcon
which was being used as an aeroplane and not as a dirigible,
began to sink.
"We're going down!" cried Ned.
"Well, you know what to do." shouted his chum. "The gas
bag! Turn on the generator!"
Ned ran to it, but, in spite of his quick action, the
craft continued to slide downward.
"She won't work !" he cried.
"Then the intake pipe must be stopped!" answered the young
inventor. "Never mind, I'll volplane to earth and we can
make repairs. That magneto has gone out of business again."
"Don't land here!" cried Ivan Petrofsky.
"Because we are approaching a large town--Owbinsk I think
it is-the police there will be there to get us. Keep on to
the forest again!"
"I can't!" cried Tom. "We've got to go down, police or no
Running to the pilot house, he guided the craft so that it
would safely volplane to earth. They could all see that now
they were approaching a fairly large town, and would
probably land on its outskirts. Through the glass Ned could
make out people staring up at the strange sight.
"They'll be ready to receive us," he announced grimly.
"I hope they have no dynamite bombs for us," murmured Mr.
Damon. "Bless my watch chain! I must get rid of that
Nihilist literature I have about me, or they'll take me for
one," and he tore up the tracts, and scattered them in the
Meanwhile the Falcon continued to descend.
"Maybe I can make quick repairs, and get away before they
realize who we are," said Tom, as he got ready for the
They came down in a big field, and, almost before the
bicycle wheels had ceased revolving, under the application
of the brakes, several men came running toward them.
"Here they come!" cried Mr. Damon.
"They are only farmers," said the exile. He had donned his
dark glasses again, and looked like anything but a Russian.
"Lively, Ned!" cried Tom. "Let's see if we can't make
repairs and get off again."
The two lads frantically began work, and they soon had the
magneto in running order. They could have gone up as an
aeroplane, leaving the repairs to the gas bag to be made
later but, just as they were ready to start, there came
galloping out a troop of Cossack soldiers. Their commander
called something to them.
"What is he saying?" cried Tom to Mr. Petrofsky.
"He is telling them to surround us so that we can not get
a running start, such as we need to go up. Evidently he
"Well, I'm going to have a try," declared the young
He jumped to the pilot house, yelling to Ned to start the
motor, but it was too late. They were hemmed in by a cordon
of cavalry, and it would have been madness to have rushed
the Falcon into them, for she would have been wrecked, even
if Tom could have succeeded in sending her through the
"I guess it's all up with us," groaned Ned.
And it seemed to; for, a moment later, an officer and
several aides galloped forward, calling out something in
"What is it?" asked Tom.
"He says we are under arrest," translated the exile.
"What for?" demanded the young inventor.
Ivan Petrofsky shrugged his shoulders.
"It is of little use to ask--now," he answered. "It may be
we have violated some local law, and can pay a fine and go,
or we may be taken for just what we are, or foreign spies,
which we are not. It is best to keep quiet, and go with
"Go where?" cried Tom.
"To prison, I suppose," answered the exile. "Keep quiet,
and leave it to me. I will do all I can. I don't believe
they will recognize me.
"Bless my search warrant!" cried Mr. Damon. "In a Russian
prison! That is terrible!"
A few minutes later, expostulations having been useless,
our friends were led away between guards who carried ugly
looking rifles, and who looked more ugly and menacing
themselves. Then the doors of the Russian prison of Owbinsk
closed on Tom and his friends, while their airship was left
at the mercy of their enemies.
LOST IN A SALT MINE
The blow had descended so suddenly that it was paralyzing.
Tom and his friends did not know what to do, but they saw
the wisdom of the course of leaving everything to Ivan
Petrofsky. lie was a Russian, and he knew the Russian police
ways--to his sorrow.
"I'm not afraid, said Tom, when they had been locked in a
large prison room, evidently set apart for the use of
political, rather than criminal, offenders. "We're United
States citizens, and once our counsel hears of this--as he
will--there'll be some merry doings in Oskwaski, or whatever
they call this place. But I am worried about what they may
do to the Falcon."
"Have no fears on that score," said the Russian exile.
"They know the value of a good airship, and they won't
"What will they do then?" asked Tom.
"Keep her for their own use, perhaps."
"Never!" cried Tom. "I'll destroy her first!"
"If you get the chance!" interposed the exile.
"But we're American citizens!" cried Tom, "and--"
"You forget that I am not," interrupted Mr. Petrofsky. "I
can't claim the protection of your flag, and that is why I
wish to remain unknown. We must act quietly. The more
trouble we make, the more important they will know us to be.
If we hope to accomplish anything we must act cautiously."
"But my airship!" cried Tom.
"They won't do anything to that right away," declared the
Russian in a whisper for he knew sometimes the police
listened to the talk of prisoners. "I think, from what I
overheard when they arrested us, that we either trespassed
on the grounds of some one in authority, who had us taken in
out of spite, or they fear we may be English or French
spies, seeking to find out Russian secrets."
They were served with food in their prison, but to all
inquiries made by Ivan Petrofsky, evasive answers were
returned. He spoke in poor, broken Russian, so that he would
not be taken for a native of that country. Had he been, he
would have at once been in great danger of being accused as
an escaped exile.
Finally a man who, the exile whispered to his Companions,
was the local governor, came to their prison. He eagerly
asked questions as to their mission, and Mr. Petrofsky
answered them diplomatically.
"I don't think he'll make much out of what I told him,"
said the exile when the governor had gone. "I let him think
we were scientists, or pleasure seekers, airshipping for our
amusement. He tried to tangle me up politically, but I knew
enough to keep out of such traps."
"What's going to become of us?" asked Ned.
"We will be detained a few days--until they find out more
about us. Their spies are busy, I have no doubt, and they
are telegraphing all over Europe about us."
"What about my airship?" asked Tom.
"I spoke of that," answered the exile. "I said you were a
well-known inventor of the United States, and that if any
harm came to the craft the Russian Government would not only
be held responsible, but that the governor himself would be
liable, and I said that it cost much money. That touched
him, for, in spite of their power, these Russians are
miserably paid. He didn't want to have to make good, and if
it developed that he had made a mistake in arresting us, his
superiors would disclaim all responsibility, and let him
shoulder the blame. Oh, all is not lost yet, though I don't
like the looks of things."
Indeed it began to seem rather black for our friends, for,
that night they were taken from the fairly comfortable,
large, prison room, and confined in small stone cells down
in a basement. They were separated, but as the cells
adjoined on a corridor they could talk to each other. With
some coarse food, and a little water, Tom and his friends
were left alone.
"Say I don't like this!" cried our hero, after a pause.
"Me either," chimed in Ned.
"Bless my burglar alarm!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "It's an
awful disgrace! If my wife ever heard of me being in jail--"
"She may never hear of it!" interposed Tom.
"Bless my heart!" cried the odd man. "Don't say such
They discussed their plight at length, but nothing could
be done, and they settled themselves to uneasy slumber. For
two days they were thus imprisoned, and all of Mr.
Petrofsky's demands that they be given a fair trial, and
allowed to know the nature of the charge against them, went
for naught. No one came to see them but a villainous looking
guard, who brought them their poor meals. The governor
ignored them, and Mr. Petrofsky did not know what to think.
"Well, I'm getting sick of this!" exclaimed Tom--I wish I
knew where my airship was."
"I fancy it's in the same place," replied the exile. "From
the way the governor acted I think he'd be afraid to have it
moved. It might be damaged. If I could only get word to some
of my Revolutionary friends it might do some good, but I
guess I can't. We'll just have to wait."
Another day passed, and nothing happened. But that night,
when the guard came to bring their suppers, something did
"Hello! we've got a new one!" exclaimed Tom, as he noted
the man. "Not so bad looking, either."
The man peered into his cell, and said something in
"Nothing doing," remarked the young inventor with a short
laugh. "Nixy on that jabbering."
But, no sooner had the man's words penetrated to the cell
of Ivan Petrofsky, that the exile called out something. The
guard started, hastened to that cell door, and for a few
seconds there was an excited dialogue in Russian.
"Boys! Mr. Damon! We're saved!" suddenly cried out Mr.
"Bless my door knob! You don't say so!" gasped the odd
man. "How? Has the Czar sent orders to release us."
"No, but somehow my Revolutionary friends have heard about
my arrest, and they have arranged for our release--secretly
of course. This guard is affiliated with the Nihilist group
that got on the trail of my brother. He bribed the other
guard to let him take his place for to-night, and now
"Yes! What is it?" cried Tom.
"He's going to open the cell doors and let us out!"
"But how can we get past the other guards, upstairs?"
"We're not going that way," explained Mr. Petrofsky.
"There is a secret exit from this corridor, through a tunnel
that connects with a large salt mine. Once we are in there
we can make our way out. We'll soon be free."
"Ask him if he's heard anything of my airship?" asked Tom.
Mr. Petrofsky put the question rapidly in Russian and then
translated the answer.
"It's in the same place."
"Hurray!" cried Tom.
Working rapidly, the Nihilist guard soon had the cell
doors open, for he had the keys, and our friends stepped out
into the corridor.
"This way," called Ivan Petrofsky, as he followed their
liberator, who spoke in whispers. "He says he will lead us
to the salt mine, tell us how to get out and then he must
make his own escape."
"Then he isn't coming with us?" asked Ned.
"No, it would not he safe. But he will tell us how to get
out. It seems that years ago some prisoners escaped this
way, and the authorities closed up the tunnel. But a cavein
of the salt mine opened a way into it again."
They followed their queer guide, who led them down the
corridor. He paused at the end, and then, diving in behind a
pile of rubbish, he pulled away some boards. A black
opening, barely large enough for a man to walk in upright,
"In there?" cried Tom.
"In there," answered Mr. Petrofsky. He and the guard
murmured their good-byes, and then, with a lighted candle
the faithful Nihilist had provided, and with several others
in reserve, our friends stepped into the blackness. They
could hear the board being pulled back into place behind
"Forward!" cried the exile, and forward they went.
It was not a pleasant journey, being through an uneven
tunnel in the darkness. Half a mile later they emerged into
a large salt mine, that seemed to be directly beneath the
town. Work in this part had been abandoned long ago, all the
salt there was left being in the shape of large pillars,
that supported the roof. It sparkled dully in the candle
"Now let me see if I remember the turnings," murmured Mr.
Petrofsky. "He said to keep on for half an hour, and we
would come out in a little woods not far from where our
airship was anchored."
Twisting and turning, here and there in the semi-darkness,
stumbling, and sometimes falling over the uneven floor, the
little party went on.
"Did you say half an hour?" asked Tom, after a while.
"Yes," replied the Russian.
"We've been longer than that," announced the young
inventor, after a look at his watch. "It's over an hour."
"Bless my timetable!" cried Mr. Damon.
"Are you sure?" asked Mr. Petrofsky.
"Yes," answered Tom in a low voice.
The Russian looked about him, flashing the candle on
several turnings and tunnels. Suddenly Ned uttered a cry.
"Why, we passed this place a little while before!" he
said. "I remember this pillar that looks like two men
It was true. They all remembered it when they saw it
"Back in the same place!" mused the Russian. "Then we have
doubled on our tracks. I'm afraid we're lost!"
"Lost in a Russian salt mine!" gasped Tom, and his words
sounded ominous in that gloomy place.
For a space of several seconds no one moved or spoke. In
the flickering light of the candle they looked at one
another, and then at the fantastic pillars of salt all about
them. Then Mr. Damon started forward.
"Bless my trolley car!" he exclaimed. "It isn't possible!
There must be some mistake. If we'll keep on we'll come out
all right. You know your way about, don't you, Mr.
"I thought I did, from what the guard told us. but it
seems I must have taken a wrong turning."
"Then it's easily remedied," suggested Tom "All we'll have
to do will be to go to the place where we started, and begin
"Of course," agreed Ned, and they all seemed more
"And if we start out once more, and get lost again, then
what?" asked Mr. Damon.
"Well, if worst comes to worst, we can go, back in the
tunnel, go to our cells and ask the guard to come with us
and show us the way went on Tom.
"Never!" cried the exile. "It would be the most dangerous
thing in the world to go back to the prison. Our escape has
probably been discovered by this time, and to return would
only be to put our heads in the noose. We must keep on at
"But if we can't get out," suggested Tom, "and if we
haven't anything to eat or drink, we--"
He did not finish, but they all knew what he meant.
"Oh, we'll get out!" declared Ned, who was something of an
optimist. "You've been in salt mines before, haven't you,
"Yes, I was condemned to one once, but it was not in this
part of the country, and it was not an abandoned one. I
imagine this was only an isolated mine, and that there are
no others near it, so when they abandoned it, after all the
salt was taken out, most people forgot about it. I remember
once a party of prisoners were lost in a large salt mine,
and were missed for several days."
"What happened to them?" asked Tom.
"I don't like to talk about it," replied the Russian with a
"Bless my soul! Was it as bad as that?" asked Mr. Damon.
"It was," replied the exile. "But now let's see if we can
find our way back, and start afresh. I'll be more careful
next time, and watch the turns more closely."
But he did not get the chance. They could not find the
tunnel whence they had started. Turn after turn they took,
down passage after passage sometimes in such small ones that
they almost had to crawl.
But it was of no use. They could not find their way back
to the starting place, and they could not find the opening
of the mine. They had used two of the slow burning candles
and they had only half a dozen or so left. When these were
But they did not like to think of that, and stumbled on
and on. They did not talk much, for they were too worried.
Finally Ned gasped:
"I'd give a good deal for a drink of water."
"So would I," added his chum. "But what's the use of
wishing? If there was a spring down here it would be salt
water. But I know what I would do--if I could."
"What?" asked Mr. Damon.
"Go back to the prison. At least we wouldn't starve there,
and we'd have something to drink. If they kept us we know we
could get free--sometime."
"Perhaps never!" exclaimed Ivan Petrofsky. "It is better
to keep on here, and, as for me, I would rather die here
than go back to a Russian prison. We must--we shall get
But it was idle talk. Gradually they lost track of time as
they staggered on, and they hardly knew whether a day had
passed or whether it was but a few hours since they had been
Of their sufferings in that salt mine I shall not go into
details. There are enough unpleasant things in this world
without telling about that. They must have wandered around
for at least a day and a half, and in all that while they
had not a drop of water, and not a thing to eat. Wait,
though, at last in their desperation they did gnaw the
tallow candles, and that served to keep them alive, and, in
a measure, alleviate their awful sufferings from thirst.
Back and forth they wandered, up and down in the galleries
of the old salt mine. They were merely hoping against hope.
"It's worse than the underground city of gold," said Ned
in hollow tones, as he staggered on. "Worse--much worse."
His head was feeling light. No one answered him.
It was, as they learned later, just about two days after
the time when they entered the mine that they managed to get
out. Forty-eight hours, most of them of intense suffering.
They were burning their last candle, and when that was out
they knew they would have the horrors of darkness to fight
against, as well as those of hunger and thirst.
But fate was kind to them. How they managed to hit on the
right gallery they did not know, but, as they made a turn
around an immense pillar of salt Tom, who was walking weakly
in advance, suddenly stopped.
"Look! Look!" he whispered. "Another candle! Someone--
someone is searching for us! We are saved!"
"It may be the police!" said Ned.
"That is not a candle," spoke the Russian in hollow tones
as he looked to where Tom pointed, to a little glimmer of
light. "It is a star. Friends, we are saved, and by
Providence! That is a star, shining through the opening of
the mine. We are saved!"
Eagerly they pressed forward, and they had not gone far
before they knew that the exile was right. They felt the
cool night wind on their hot cheeks.
"Thank heaven!" gasped Tom, as he pushed on.
A moment later, climbing over the rusted rails on which
the mine cars had run with their loads of salt, they
staggered into the open. They were free--under the silent
"And now, if we can only find the airship," said Tom
faintly, "we can--"
"Look there!" whispered Ned, pointing to a patch of deeper
blackness that the surrounding night. "What's that."
"The Falcon!" gasped Tom. He started toward her, for she
was but a short distance from a little clump of trees into
which they had emerged from the opening of the salt mine.
There, on the same little plane where they had landed in her
was the airship. She had not been moved.
"Wait!" cautioned Ivan Petrofsky. "She may be guarded."
Hardly had he spoken than there walked into the faint
starlight on the side of the ship nearest them, a Cossack
soldier with his rifle over his shoulder.
"We can't get her!" gasped Ned.
"We've got to get her!" declared Tom. "We'll die if we
"But the guards! They'll arrest us!" said the exile.
An instant later a second soldier joined the first, and
they could be seen conversing. They then resumed their
pacing around the anchored craft. Evidently they were
waiting for the escaped prisoners to come up when they would
give the alarm and apprehend them.
"What can we do?" asked Mr. Damon.
"I have a plan," said Tom weakly. "It's the only chance,
for we're not strong enough to tackle them. Every time they
go around on the far side of the airship we must creep
forward. When they come on this side we'll lie down. I doubt
if they can see us. Once we are on hoard we can cut the
ropes, and start off. Everything is all ready for a start if
they haven't monkeyed with her, and I don't think they have.
We've got room enough to run along as an aeroplane and mount
upward. It's our only hope."
The others agreed, and they put the plan into operation.
When the Cossack guards were out of sight the escaped
prisoners crawled forward, and when the soldiers came into
view our friends waited in silence.
It took several minutes of alternate creeping and waiting
to do this, but it was accomplished at last and unseen they
managed to slip aboard Then it was the work of but a moment
to cut the restraining ropes.
Silently Tom crept to the motor room. He had to work in
absolute darkness, for the gleam of a light would have
drawn the fire of the guards. But the youth knew every inch
of his invention. The only worriment was whether or not the
motor would start up after the break-down, not having been
run since it was so hastily repaired. Still he could only
He looked out, and saw the guards pacing back and forth.
They did not know that the much-sought prisoners were within
a few feet of them.
Ned was in the pilot house. He could see a clear field in
front of him.
Suddenly Tom pulled the starting lever. There was a little
clicking, followed by silence. Was the motor going to
revolve? It answered the next moment with a whizz and a
"Here we go!" cried the young inventor, as the big machine
shot forward on her flight. "Now let them stop us!"
Forward she went until Ned, knowing by the speed that she
had momentum enough, tilted the elevation rudder, and up she
shot, while behind, on the ground, wildly running to and
fro, and firing their rifles, were the two amazed guards.
"Have we--have we time to get a drink?" gasped Ned, when
the aeroplane, now on a level keel, had been shooting
forward about three minutes. Already it was beyond the reach
of the rifles.
"Yes, but take only a little," cautioned Tom. "Oh! it
doesn't seem possible that we are free!"
He switched on a few interior lights, and by their glow
the faint and starving platinum-seekers found water and
food. Their craft had, apparently, not been touched in their
absence, and the machinery ran well.
Cautiously they ate and drank, feeling their strength come
back to them, and then they removed the traces of their
terrible imprisonment, and set about in ease and comfort,
talking of what they had suffered.
Onward sped the aeroplane, onward through the night, and
then Tom, having set the automatic steering gear, all fell
into heavy slumbers that lasted until far into the next day.
When the young inventor awoke he looked below and could
see nothing--nothing but a sea of mist.
"What's this?" he cried. "Are we above the clouds, or in a
fog over some inland sea?"
He was quite worried, until Ivan Petrofsky informed him
that they were in the midst of a dense fog, which was common
over that part of Siberia,
"But where are we?" asked Ned.
"About over the province of Irtutsk," was the answer. "We
are heading north," he went on, as he looked at the compass,
"and I think about right to land somewhere near where my
brother is confined in the sulphur mine."
"That's so; we've got to drop," said Tom. "I must get the
gas pipe repaired. I wish we could see over what soft of a
place we were so as to know whether it would be safe to
land. I wish the mist would clear away."
It did, about noon, and they noted that they were over a
desolate stretch of country, in which it would be safe to
make a landing.
Bringing the aeroplane down on as smooth a spot as he
could pick out, Tom and Ned were soon at work clearing out
the clogged pipe of the gas generator. They had to take it
out in the open air, as the fumes were unpleasant, and it
was while working over it that they saw a shadow thrown on
the ground in front of them. Startled they looked up, to see
a burly Russian staring at them.
The sudden appearance of a man in that lonely spot, his
calm regard of the lads, his stealthy approach, which had
made it possible for him to be almost upon them before they
were aware of his presence, all this made them suspicious of
danger. Tom gave a quick glance about, however, and saw no
others--no Cossack soldiers, and as he looked a second time
at the man he noted that he was poorly dressed, that his
shoes were ragged, his whole appearance denoting that he had
traveled far, and was weary and ill.
"What do you make of this, Ned?" asked Tom, in a low
"I don't know what to make of it. He can't be an officer,
in that rig, and he has no one with him. I guess we haven't
anything to be afraid of. I'm going to ask him what he
Which Tom did in his plainest English. At once the man
broke into a stream of confused Russian, and he kept it up
until Tom held up his hand for silence.
"I'm sorry, but I can't understand you," said the young
inventor. "I'll call some one who can, though," and, raising
his voice, he summoned Ivan Petrofsky who, with Mr. Damon,
was inside the airship doing some small repairs.
"There's a Russian out here, Mr. Petrofsky," said Tom,
"and what he wants I can't make out."
The exile was quickly on the scene and, after a first
glance at the man, hurried up to him, grasped him by the
hand and at once the two were talking such a torrent of
hard-sounding words that Tom and Ned looked at each other
helplessly, while Mr. Damon, who had come out, exclaimed:
"Bless my dictionary! they must know each other."
For several minutes the two Russians kept up their rapid-
fire talk and then Mr. Petrofsky, evidently realizing that
his friends must wonder at it, turned to them and said:
"This is a very strange thing. This man is an escaped
convict, as I once was. I recognized him by certain signs as
soon as I saw him, though I had never met him before. There
are certain marks by which a Siberian exile can never be
forgotten," he added significantly. "He made his escape from
the mines some time ago, and has suffered great hardships
since. The revolutionists help him when they can, but he has
to keep in concealment and travels from town to town as best
he may. He has heard of our airship, I suppose from
inquiries the revolutionists have been making in our behalf,
and when he unexpectedly came upon us just now he was not
frightened, as an ordinary peasant would have been. But he
did not know I was aboard."
"And does he know you?" asked Tom. "Does he know you are
trying to rescue your brother?"
"No, but I will tell him."
There was another exchange of the Russian language, and it
seemed to have a surprising result. For, no sooner had Ivan
Petrofsky mentioned his brother, than the other, whose name
was Alexis Borious seemed greatly excited. Mr. Petrofsky was
equally so at the reply his new acquaintance made, and
fairly shouted to Tom, Ned and Mr. Damon.
"Friends, I have unexpected good news! It is well that we
met this man or we would have gone many miles out of our
way. My brother has been moved to another mine since the
revolutionists located him for me. He is in a lonely
district many miles from here. This man was in the same mine
with him, until my brother was transferred, and then Mr.
Borious escaped. We will have to change our plans."
"And where are we to head for now?" asked Tom.
"Near to the town of Haskaski, where my poor brother is
working in a sulphur mine!"
"Then let's get a move on!" cried Tom with enthusiasm. "Do
you think this man will come with us, Mr. Petrofsky, to help
in the rescue, and show us the place?"
"He says he will," translated the exile, "though he is
much afraid of our strange craft. Still he knows that to
trust himself to it is better than being captured, and sent
back to the mines to starve to death!"
"Good!" cried Tom. "And if he wants to, and all goes well,
we'll take him out of Russia with us. Now get busy, Ned, and
we'll have this machine in shape again soon.
While Ivan Petrofsky took his new friend inside, and
explained to him about the workings of the Falcon, Tom and
Ned labored over the gas machine with such good effect that
by night it was capable of being used. Then they went
aloft, and making a change in their route, as suggested by
Mr. Borious, they headed for the desolate sulphur region.
For several days they sailed on, and gradually a plan of
rescue was worked out. According to the information of the
newcomer, the best way to save Mr. Petrofsky's brother was
to make the attempt when the prisoners were marched back
from the mines to the barracks where they were confined.
"It will be dark then," said Mr. Borious, "and if you can
hover in your airship near at hand, and if Mr. Petrofsky can
call out to his brother to run to him, we can take him up
with us and get away before the guards know what we are
"But aren't the prisoners chained?" asked Tom.
"No, they depend on guards to prevent escapes."
"Then we'll try that way," decided the young inventor.
On and on they sailed, the Falcon working admirably. Verst
after verst was covered, and finally, one morning, Mr.
Borious, who knew the country well, from having once been a
prisoner there, said:
"We are now near the place. If we go any closer we may be
observed. We had better remain hidden in some grove of trees
so that at nightfall we can go forth to the rescue."
"But how can we find it after dark?" asked Ned.
"You can easily tell by the lights in the barracks," was
the answer. "I can stand in the pilot house to direct you,
for nearly all these exile prisons are alike. The prisoners
will march in a long line from the mine. Then for the
It was tedious waiting that day, but it had to be done,
and to Tom, who was anxious to effect the rescue, and
proceed to the place of the winds to try his air glider, it
seemed as if dusk would never come as they remained in
But night finally approached and then the great airship
went silently aloft, ready to hover over the prison ground.
Fortunately there was little wind; and she could be used as
a balloon, thus avoiding the noise of the motor.
"The next thing I do, when I get home," remarked Tom, as
they drifted along. "Will be to make a silent airship. I
think they would be very useful."
With Mr. Borious in the pilot house, to point out the way,
Tom steered through the fast-gathering darkness. The Russian
had soon become used to the airship, and was not at all
"Can you go just where you want to, as a balloon?" asked
the new guide.
"No, but almost," replied Tom. "At the last moment I've
got to take a chance and start the motor to send us just
where we want to go. That's why I think a silent airship
would be a great thing. You could get up on the enemy before
he knew it."
"There are the prison barracks," said the guide a little
later, his talk being translated by Mr. Petrofsky. Below and
a little ahead of them could been seen a cluster of lights.
"Yes, that looks like a line of prisoners," remarked Ned,
who was peering through a pair of night glasses.
"Where?" asked Tom eagerly, and they were pointed out to
him. He took an observation, and exclaimed:
"There they are, sure enough. Now if your brother is only
among them, Mr. Petrofsky, we'll soon have him on board."
"Heaven grant that he may be there!" said the exile in a
A moment later, the Falcon, meanwhile having been allowed
to drift as close as possible to the dimly-seen line of
prisoners, Tom set in motion the great motor, the propeller
blades heating the air fiercely.
At the sound there was a shout on the ground below, but
before the excitement had time to spread, or before any of
the guards could form a notion of what was about to take
place, Tom had sent his craft to earth on a sharp slant,
closer to the line of prisoners than he had dared to hope.
Mr. Petrofsky sprang out on deck, and in a loud voice
called in Russian:
"Peter! Peter! If you are there, come here! Come quickly!
It is I, your brother Ivan who speaks. I have come to save
you--save you in the wonderful airship of Tom Swift! Come
quickly and we will take you away! Peter Petrofsky!"
For a moment there was silence, and then the sound of some
one running rapidly was borne to the ears of the waiting
ones. It was followed, a moment later, by angry shouts from
"Quick! Quick, Peter!" cried the brother, "over this way!"
For an instant only the exile showed a single electric
flash light, that his brother might see in which direction
to run. The echo of the approaching footsteps came nearer,
the shouts of the guards redoubled, and then came the sound
of many men running in pursuit.
"Hurry, Peter, hurry!" cried Mr. Petrofsky, and, as he
spoke in Russian the guards, of course, understood.
Suddenly a rifle shot rang out, but the weapon seemed to
have been fired in the air. A moment later a dark figure
clambered aboard the airship.
"Peter, is it you?" cried Ivan Petrofsky, hoarsely.
"Yes, brother! But get away quickly or the whole guard
will be swarming about here!"
"Praise the dear Lord you are saved!"
"Is it all right?" cried Tom, who wanted to make sure they
were saving the right man.
"Yes! Yes, Tom! Go quickly!" called Ivan Petrofsky, as he
folded his brother in his arms. A moment later, with a roar,
the Falcon shot away from the earth, while below sounded
angry cries, confused shouts and many orders, for the guards
and their officers had never known of such a daring rescue
IN THE HURRICANE
There was a volley of shots from the prison guards, and
the flashes of the rifles cut bright slivers of flame in the
darkness, but, so rapidly did the airship go up, veering off
on a wide slant, under the skillful guidance of Tom that the
shots did no harm.
"Bless my bullet pouch!" cried Mr. Damon. "They must be
"Shouldn't wonder," calmly observed Ned, as he went to
help his chum in managing the airship. "But it won't do
them any good. We've got our man."
"And right from under their noses, too," added Ivan
Petrofsky exultingly. "This rescue of an exile will go down
in the history of Russia."
The two exile brothers were gazing fondly at each other,
for now that the Falcon was so high, Tom ventured to turn on
A moment later the three Russians were excitedly
conversing, while Tom and Ned managed the craft, and Mr.
Damon, after listening a moment to the rapid flow of the
strange language, which quite fascinated him, hurried to the
galley to prepare a meal for the rescued one, who had been
taken away before he had had a chance to get his supper.
His wonder at his startling and unexpected rescue man well
be imagined, but the joy at being reunited to his brother
overshadowed everything for the time being. But when he had
a chance to look about, and see what a strange craft he was
in, his amazement knew no bounds, and he was like a child.
He asked countless questions, and Ivan Petrofsky and Mr.
Borious took turns in answering them. And from now on, I
shall give the conversation of the two new Russians just as
if they spoke English, though of course it had to be
translated by Ivan Petrofsky, Peter's brother.
If Peter was amazed at being rescued in an airship, his
wonder grew when he was served with a well-cooked meal,
while high in the air, and while flying along at the rate of
fifty miles an hour. He could not talk enough about it.
By degrees the story of how Tom and his friends had
started for Russia was told, and there was added the detail
of how Mr. Borious came to be picked up.
"But brother Ivan, you did not come all that distance to
rescue me; did you?" asked Peter.
"Yes, partly, and partly to find the platinum mine."
"What? The lost mine that you and I stumbled upon in that
"That is the one, Peter."
"Then, Tom Swift may as well return. I doubt if we can
even locate the district where it was, and if we did find
it, the winds blow so that even this magnificent ship could
not weather the gales."
"I guess he doesn't understand about my air glider," said
Tom with a smile, when this was translated to him. "I wish I
had a chance to put it together, and show him how it works."
"Oh, it will work all right," replied Ned, who was very
proud of his friend's inventive ability.
"Now, what is the next thing to be done?" asked Tom, a
little later that evening, when, supper having been served,
they were sitting in the main cabin, talking over the events
of the past few days. "I'd like to get on the track of that
"And we will do all in our power to aid you." said Ivan
Petrofsky. "My brother and I owe much to you--in fact Peter
owes you his life; do you not?" and he turned to him.
"I do," was the firm answer.
"Oh, nonsense!" exclaimed Tom, who did not like to he
praised. "I didn't do much."
"Much! You do not call taking me away from that place--
that sulphur mine--that horrible prison barrack with the
cruel guards--you do not call that much? My, friend," spoke
the Russian solemnly, "no one on earth has done so much for
me as you have, and if it is the power of man to show you
where that lost mine is, my brother and I will do so!"
"Agreed," spoke Ivan quietly.
"Then what plans shall we make?" asked Tom, after a little
more talk. "Are we to go about indiscriminately, or is there
any possible way of getting on the trail?"
"My brother and I will try and decide on a definite
route," spoke Ivan Petrofsky. "It is some time since I have
seen him, and longer since we accidently found the mine
together, but we will consult each other, and, if possible
make some sort of a map."
This was done the next day, the present maps aboard the
Falcon being consulted, and the brothers comparing notes.
They began to lay out a stretch of country in which it was
most likely the lost mine lay. It took several days to do
this, for sometimes one brother would forget some point, and
again the other would. But at last they agreed on certain
"This is the nearest we can come to it," said Ivan
Petrofsky to Tom. "The lost platinum mine lies somewhere
between the city of Iakutsk and the first range of the
Iablonnoi mountains. Those are the northern and southern
boundaries. As for the western one, it is most likely the
Lena river, and the eastern one the Amaga river. So you see
you have quite a large stretch of country to search, Tom
"Yes, I should say I had," agreed the young inventor. But
I have had harder tasks. Now that I know where to head for
I'll get there as soon as possible."
"And what will you do when you arrive?" asked Ned.
"Fly about in the Falcon, in ever-widening circles,
starting as near the centre of that area as possible,"
replied Tom. "And as soon as I run into a steady hurricane
I'll know that I'm at the place of the big winds, and I'll
get out my glider, for I'll be pretty sure to be near the
"Bless my gas meter!" cried Mr. Damon. "That's the talk!"
Tom put his plan into operation at once, by heading the
nose of his craft for the desolate region mapped out by the
The days that followed were filled with weary searching.
It was like the time when they had sought for the plain of
the great ruined Temple in Mexico, that they might locate
the underground city of gold. Only in this case they had no
such landmark as a great Aztec ruin to guide them.
What they were seeking for was something unseen, but which
could be felt--a mysterious wind--a wind that might be
encountered any time, and which might send the Falcon to the
earth a wreck.
The Russian brothers, staggering about in the storm, had
seen the mine under different conditions from what it would
be viewed now. Then it was winter in Siberia. Now it was
summer, though it was not very warm.
On and on sailed the Falcon. The weather could not have
been better, but for once Tom wanted bad weather. He wanted
a blow--the harder the better--and all eyes anxiously
watched the anemometer, or wind gage. But ever it revolved
lazily about in the gentle breeze.
"Oh, for a hurricane!" cried Tom.
He got his wish sooner than he anticipated. It was about
two days after this, when they were going about in a great
circle, about two hundred miles from the imaginary centre of
the district in which the mine lay, that, as Mr. Damon was
getting dinner a dish he was carrying to the table was
suddenly whisked out of his hand.
"I say, what's the matter?" he cried. "Bless my--"
But he had no time to say more. The airship fairly stood
on end, and then, turning completely about, was rapidly
driven in the opposite direction, though her propellers were
"What's up?" yelled Ned.
"We are capsizing!" shouted Ivan Petrofsky, and indeed it
seemed so, for the airship was being forced over.
"I guess we've struck what we want!" cried Tom. "We're in
a hurricane all right! This is the place of the big wind!
Now for my air glider, if I can get the airship to earth
without being wrecked! Ned, lend a hand! We've got our work
cut out for us now!"
THE LOST MINE
For several moments it seemed as if disaster would
overtake the little band of platinum-hunters. In spite of
all that Tom and Ned could do, the Falcon was whipped about
like a feather in the wind. Sometimes she was pointing her
nose to the clouds, and again earthward. Again she would be
whirling about in the grip of the hurricane, like some
fantastic dancer, and again she would roll dangerously. Had
she turned turtle it probably would have been the last of
her and of all on board.
"Yank that deflecting lever as far down as it will go!"
yelled Tom to his chum.
"I am. She won't go any farther."
"All right, hold her so. Mr. Damon, let all the gas out of
the bag. I want to be as heavy as possible, and get to earth
as soon as we can."
"Bless my comb and brush!" cried the odd man. "I don't
know what's going to become of us."
"You will know, pretty soon, if the gas isn't let out!"
retorted Tom grimly, and then Mr. Damon hastened to the
generator compartment, and opened the emergency outlet.
Finally, by crowding on all the possible power, so that
the propellers and deflecting rudders forced the craft down,
Tom was able to get out of the grip of the hurricane, and
landed just beyond the zone of it on the ground.
"Whew! That was a narrow squeak!" cried Ned, as he got
out. "How'd you do it, Tom?"
"I hardly know myself. But it's evident that we're on the
right spot now."
"But the wind has stopped blowing," said Mr. Damon. "It
was only a gust."
"It was the worst kind of a gust I ever want to see,"
declared the young inventor. "My air glider ought to work to
perfection in that. If you think the wind has died out, Mr.
Damon, just walk in that direction," and Tom pointed off to
"Bless my umbrella, I will," was the reply and the odd man
started off. He had not gone far, before he was seen to put
his hand to his cap. Still he kept on.
"He's getting into the blow-zone," said Tom in a low
The next moment Mr. Damon was seen to stagger and fall,
while his cap was whisked from his head, and sent high into
the air, almost instantly disappearing from sight.
"Some wind that," murmured Ned, in rather awe-struck
"That's so," agreed his chum. "But we'd better help Mr.
Damon," for that gentleman was slowly crawling back, not
caring to trust himself on his feet, for the wind had
actually carried him down by its force.
"Bless my anemometer!" he gasped, when Tom and Ned had
given him a hand up. "What happened?"
"It was the great wind," explained Tom. "It blows only in
a certain zone, like a draft down a chimney. It is like a
cyclone, only that goes in a circle. This is a straight
wind, but the path of it seems to be as sharply marked as a
trail through the forest. I guess we're here all right. Does
this location look familiar to you?" he asked of the Russian
"I can't say that it does," answered Ivan. "But then it
was winter when we were here."
"And, another thing," put in Peter. "That wind zone is
quite wide. The mine may be in the middle, or near the other
"That's so," agreed Tom. "We'll soon see what we can do.
Come on, Ned, let's get the air glider out and put her
together. She'll have a test as is a test, now."
I shall not describe the tedious work of re-assembling Tom
Swift's latest invention in the air craft line--his glider.
Sufficient to say that it was taken out from where it had
been stored in separate pieces on board the Falcon, and put
together on the plain that marked the beginning of the wind
It was a curious fact that twenty feet away from the path
of the wind scarcely a breeze could be felt, while to
advance a little way into it meant that one would at once be
almost carried off his feet.
Tom tested the speed of it one day with a special
anemometer, and found that only a few hundred feet inside
the zone the wind blew nearly one hundred miles an hour.
"What is it like inside, I wonder?" asked Ned.
"It must be terrific," was his chum's opinion.
"Dare you risk it, Tom?"
"Of course. The harder it blows the better the glider
works. In fact I can't make much speed in a hundred-mile
wind for with us all on board the craft will be heavy, and
you must remember that I depend on the wind alone to give me
"What do you think causes the wind to blow so peculiarly
here Tom?" went on Ned.
"Oh, it must be caused by high mountain ranges on either
side, or the effects of heat and cold, the air being
evaporated over a certain area because of great heat, say a
volcano, or something like that; though I don't know that
they have volcanoes here. That creates a vacuum, and other
air rushes in to fill the vacant space. That's all wind
is, anyhow, air rushing in to fill a vacuum, or low pressure
zone, for you remember that nature abhors a vacuum."
It took nearly a week to assemble the Vulture, as Tom had
named his latest craft, from the fact that it could hover in
the air motionless, like that great bird. At last it was
completed and then, weights being taken aboard to steady it,
all was ready for the test. Tom would have liked to have
taken all his passengers in the glider, for it would work
better then, but the three Russians were timid, though they
promised to get aboard after the trial.
The test came off early one morning, Tom, Ned and Mr.
Damon being the only ones aboard. Bags of sand represented
the others. The glider was wheeled to the edge of the wind
zone and they took their places in the car. It was hard
work. for the gale, that had never ceased blowing for an
instant since they found its zone, was very strong. But the
glider remained motionless in it, for the wing planes, the
rudders, and equalizing weights had been adjusted to make
the strain of the wind neutral.
"All ready?" asked Tom, when his chum and his friend were
in the enclosed car of the glider.
"As ready as I ever shall be," answered Ned.
"Bless my suspenders! Let her go, Tom, and have it over
with!" cried the odd man.
The young inventor pulled a lever, and almost instantly
the glider darted forward. A moment later it soared aloft,
and the three Russians cheered. But their voices were lost
in the roar of the hurricane, as Tom sent his craft higher
It worked perfectly, and he could direct it almost
anywhere. The wind acted as the motive power, the bending
and warping wings, and the rudders and weights controlling
"I'm going higher, and see if I can remain stationary!"
yelled Tom in Ned's ear. His chum only nodded. Mr. Damon was
seated on a bench, clinging to the sides of it as if he
feared he would fall off.
Higher and higher went the Vulture, ever higher, until,
all at once, Tom pulled on another lever and she was still.
There she hung in the air, the wind rushing through her
planes, but the glider herself as still and quiet as though
she rested on the ground in a calm. She hardly moved a foot
in either direction, and yet the wind, as evidenced by the
anemometer was howling along at a hundred and twenty miles
"Success!" cried Tom. "Success! Now we can lie stationary
in any spot, and spy out the land through our telescope. Now
we will find the lost platinum mine!"
"Well, I'm not deaf," responded Ned with a smile, for Tom
had fairly yelled as he had at the start, and there was no
need of this now, for though the wind blew harder than ever
it was not opposed to any of the weights or planes, and
there was only a gentle humming sound as it rushed through
the open spaces of the queer craft.
Tom gave his glider other and more severe tests, and she
answered every one. Then he came to earth.
"Now we'll begin the search," he said, and preparations
were made to that end. The Russians, now that they had seen
how well the craft worked, were not afraid to trust
themselves in her.
As I have explained, there was an enclosed car, capable of
holding six. In this were stores, supplies and food
sufficient for several days. Tom's plan was to leave the
airship anchored on the edge of the wind zone, as a sort of
base of supplies or headquarters. From there he intended to
go off from time to time in the wind-swept area to look for
the lost mine.
There were weary days that followed. Hour after hour was
spent in the air in the glider, the whole party being
aboard. Observation after observation was taken, sometimes a
certain strata of wind enabling them to get close enough to
the earth to use their eyes, while again they had to use the
telescopes. They covered a wide section but as day after day
passed, and they were no nearer their goal, even Tom
optimistic as he usually was, began to have a tired and
"Don't you see anything like the place where you found the
mine?" he asked of the exile brothers.
They could only shake their heads. Indeed their task was
not easy, for to recognize the place again was difficult.
More than a week passed. They had been back and forth to
their base of supplies at the airship, often staying away
over night, once remaining aloft all through the dark hours
in the glider, in a fierce gale which prevented a landing.
They ate and slept on board, and seldom descended unless at
or near the place where they had left the Falcon. Once they
completely crossed the zone of wind, and came to a calm
place on the other side. It was as wild and desolate as the
Nearly two weeks had passed, and Tom was almost ready to
give up and go back home. He had at least accomplished part
of his desire, to rescue the exile, and he had even done
better than originally intended, for there was Mr. Borious
who bad also been saved, and it was the intention of the
young inventor to take him to the United States.
"But the platinum treasure has me beat, I guess," said Tom
grimly. "We can't seem to get a trace of it."
Night was coming on, and he had half determined to head
back for the airship. Ivan Petrofsky was peering anxiously
down at the desolate land, over which they were gliding. He
and his brother took turns at this.
They were not far above the earth, but landmarks, such as
had to be depended on to locate the mine, could not readily
be observed without the glass. Mr. Damon, with a pair of
ordinary field glasses, was doing all he could to pick out
likely spots, though it was doubtful if he would know the
place if he saw it.
However, as chance willed it, he was instrumental in
bringing the quest to a close, and most unexpectedly. Peter
Petrofsky was relieving his brother at the telescope, when
the odd man, who had not taken his eyes from the field
glasses, suddenly uttered an exclamation.
"Bless my tooth-brush!" he cried. "That's a most desolate
place down there. A lot of trees blown down around a lake
that looks as black as ink."
"What's that!" cried Ivan Petrofsky. "A lake as black as
"We just passed it!" replied Mr. Damon.
"Then put back there, as soon as you can, Tom!" called the
Russian. "I want to look at that place."
With a long, graceful sweep the young inventor sent the
glider back over the course. Ivan Petrofsky glued his eyes
to the telescope. He picked out the spot Mr. Damon had
referred to, and a moment later cried:
"That's it! That's near the lost platinum mine! "We've
found it again, Tom--everybody! Don't you remember, Peter,"
he said turning to his brother, "when we were lost in the
snow we crawled in among a tangle of trees to get out of the
blast. There was a sheet of white snow near them, and you
broke through into water. I pulled you out. That must have
been a lake, though it was lightly frozen over then. I
believe this is the lost mine. Go down, Tom! Go down!"
"I certainly will!" cried the youth, and pulling on the
descending lever he shunted the glider to earth.
THE LEAKING TANKS
Like a bird descending from some dizzy height, the Vulture
landed close to the pool of black water. It was a small lake
and the darkness must have been caused by its depth, for
later when they took some out in a glass it was as clear as
a crystal. Then, too, there might have been black rocks on
"Can it he possible that we are here at last?" cried Tom,
above the noise of the gale, for the wind was blowing at a
terrific rate. But our friends knew better now how to adjust
themselves to it, and the lake was down in a valley, the
sides of which cut off the power of the gale. As for the
glider it was only necessary to equalize the balance and it
would remain stationary in any wind.
"This is the place! This is the place!" cried Ivan
Petrofsky. "Don't you remember, Peter?"
"Indeed I do! I have good cause to! This is where we found
"Bless my soul!" cried Mr. Damon. "Where is it, in the
"The mine itself is just beyond that barrier of broken and
twisted trees," replied the elder Russian brother. "It is an
irregular opening in the ground, as though once, centuries
ago, an ancient people tried to get out the precious metal.
We will go to it at once."
"But it is getting late," objected Ned.
"No matter," said Tom. "If we find any platinum we'll stay
here all night, and longer if necessary to get a good
supply. This is better than the city of gold, for we're in
"I should say we were," observed Mr. Damon, as he bent to
the blast, which was strong, sheltered even as they were.
"Will it be safe to remain all night?" asked Mr. Borious,
with a glance about the desolate country.
"We have plenty of food," replied Tom, "and a good place
to stay, in the car of the glider. I don't believe we'll be
"No, not here," said the elder Petrofsky. "But we still
have to go back across Siberia to escape."
"We'll do it!" cried Tom. "Now for the platinum treasure!"
They went forward, and it was no easy work. For the wind
still New with tremendous force though nothing like what it
did higher up. And the ground was uneven. They had to cling
to each other and it was very evident that no airship, not
even the powerful Falcon, could have reached the place. Only
an air glider would answer.
It took them half an hour to get to the opening of the
ancient mine, and by that time it was nearly dark. But Tom
had thought to bring electric torches, such as he had used
in the underground city of gold, and they dispelled the
gloom of the small cavern.
"Will you go in?" asked Ivan Petrofsky, when they had come
to the place. He looked at Tom.
"Go in? Of course I'll go in!" cried our hero, stepping
forward. The others followed. For some time they went on,
and saw no traces of the precious metal. Then Ned uttered a
cry, as he saw some dull, grayish particles imbedded in the
earth walls of the shaft.
"Look!" he cried.
Tom was at his chum's side in a moment
"That's platinum!" cried the young inventor. "And of the
very highest grade! But the lumps are very small."
"There are larger ones beyond," said the younger Russian
Forward they pressed, and a moment later. coming around a
turn in the cavern where some earth had fallen away,
evidently recently, Tom could not repress a cry of joy. For
there, in plain sight, were many large lumps of the valuable
metal, in as pure a state as it is ever found. For it is
always mixed with other metals or chemicals.
"Look at that!" cried Tom. "Look at that! Lumps as large
as an egg!" and he dug some out with a small pick he bad
brought along, and stuffed them into his pocket.
"Bless my check book!" cried Mr. Damon, "and that stuff is
as valuable as gold!"
"More so!" cried Tom enthusiastically.
"Oh, here's a whopping big one!" cried Ned. I'll bet it
weighs ten pounds."
"More than that!" cried Tom, as he ran over and began
digging it out, and they found later that it did. Platinum
is usually found in small granules, but there are records of
chunks being found weighing twenty pounds while others, the
size of pigeons' eggs, are not uncommon.
"Say, this is great!" yelled Ned, discovering another
large piece, and digging it out.
"I am glad we could lead you to it," said the elder
Russian brother. "It is a small return for what you did for
"Nonsense!" cried Tom. "These must be a king's ransom
here. Everybody dig it out! Get all you can."
They were all busy, but the light of the two torches Tom
had brought was not sufficient for good and efficient work,
so after getting several thousand dollars worth of the
precious metal, they decided to postpone operations until
morning, and come with more lights.
They were at the work soon after breakfast, the night in
the air glider having passed without incident. The treasure
of platinum proved even richer than the Russians had
thought, and it was no wonder the Imperial government had
tried so hard to locate it, or get on the trail of those who
"And it's all good stuff!" cried Tom eagerly. "Not like
that low-grade gold of the underground city. I can make my
own terms when I sell this."
For three days our friends dug and dug in that platinum
mine, so many years lost to man, and when they got ready to
leave they had indeed a king's ransom with them. But it was
to be equally divided. Tom insisted on this, as his Russian
friends had been instrumental in finding it. Toward the end
of the excavation large pieces were scarce, and it was
evident that the mine was what is called a "lode."
"Well, shall we go back now?" asked Tom one day, after the
finish of their mining operations. The work was
comparatively simple, as the platinum lumps had merely to be
dug out of the sides of the cave. But the loneliness and
dreariness of the place was telling on them all.
"Can't we carry any more?" asked Ned.
"We could, but it might not be safe. I don't want to take
on too much weight, as my glider isn't as stable as the
airship. But we have plenty of the metal.
"Indeed we have," agreed Ivan Petrofsky. "Much of mine and
my brother's will go toward helping relieve the sufferings
of the Siberian exiles," he added.
"And mine, too," said Alexis Borious.
They started back early the next morning in a more
terrific gale than in any the glider had yet flown. But she
proved herself a stanch craft, and soon they were at the
place where they had left the airship. It was undisturbed.
Four days were spent in taking apart the glider and
packing it on board the Falcon. Then, with the platinum
safely stored away Tom, with a last look at the desolate
land that had been so kind to them, sent his craft on her
It was when they were near the city of Pirtchina, on the
Obi river, that what might have proved a disastrous accident
occurred. They were flying along high, and at great speed,
for Tom wanted to make all the distance he could, to get
out of Siberia the more quickly. They had had a fair passage
so far, and were congratulating themselves that they would
soon be in civilization again.
Suddenly, Mr. Damon, who had been on the after deck,
taking observations through a telescope, came running
forward, crying out:
"Tom! Tom! What is that water dripping from the back part
of the airship?"
"Water?" exclaimed Tom. "No water is dripping from there."
"Come and look," advised Mr. Damon.
The young inventor raced back with him. He saw a thin,
white stream trickling down from the lower part of the
craft. Tom sniffed the air suspiciously.
"Gasolene! It's gasolene!" he cried. "We must have a leak
in the supply tanks!"
He dashed toward the reserve storeroom, and at that
moment, with a suddenness that was startling, the motor
stopped and the Falcon lurched toward the earth.
"All right!" yelled Ned, as soon as he heard Tom's cry.
"I've got her under control. We'll volplane down."
"Is it dangerous? Are we in danger?" asked Peter Petrofsky
of his brother, in Russian.
"I guess there's no danger, where Tom Swift's concerned,"
was the answer. "I have not volplaned much, but it will be
all right I think."
And it was, for with Ned Newton to guide the craft, while
Tom did his best to stop the leak, the craft came gently to
earth on the outskirts of a fairly large Siberian city.
Almost instantly the Falcon was surrounded by a curious
"You had better keep inside," said Ivan Petrofsky to his
brother and Mr. Borious. "Descriptions of you are probably
out broadcast by now, but I am still sufficiently disguised,
"But what is to be done?" demanded the younger Russian
brother. "If the gasolene is gone, how can we leave here?"
"Trust Tom Swift for that," was the reply. "Keep out of
sight now, there is a large crowd outside."
Tom came from the tank room. There was a despondent look
on his face.
"It's all gone--every drop," he said. "That's what made
the motor stop."
"What's gone?" asked Mr. Damon.
"The gasolene. We sprung a leak in the main tank, somehow,
and it all flowed out while we were flying along."
"Haven't you any more?"
"Not a bit. I was drawing on the reserve tank, hoping to
get to civilization before I needed more. But its too late
now. We will have to--"
"Bless my snow shoes!" cried Mr. Damon. "Don't say we'll
have to stay here--in Siberia! Don't say that. My wife--"
"No, we won't have to stay here if we can get a supply of
kerosene," interrupted Tom. "The motor will burn that. The
only trouble is that we may be detained. The authorities
probably know us by this time, and are on the watch."
"Then get it before they know we are here," advised Ned.
"I'll try," said Tom, and he at once conferred with the
elder Petrofsky. The latter said he was sure kerosene could
be had in town, and, rather than risk going in themselves,
they hired a wagoner who agreed, for liberal pay, to go and
return with a quantity. Until then there was nothing to do
Meanwhile the crowd of curiosity seekers grew. They
thronged around the airship, some of them meddling with
various devices, until Tom had to order them away with
One particularly inquisitive man insisted on pulling or
twisting everything, until he happened to touch a couple of
live wires, giving himself quite a shock, and then he ran
away howling. But still the crowd increased, and at last Mr.
"I don't like this, Tom?"
"Why not?" They were all inside the craft, looking out and
waiting for the return of the man with the kerosene. The
leak in the tank had proved to be a small one, and had
quickly been soldered. It had been open a long time, which
accounted for the large amount of gasolene escaping. "What
don't you like, Mr. Petrofsky?"
"So many men surrounding us. I believe some of them are
officers dressed in civilians' clothes, and a Russian
officer never does that unless he has some object."
"And you think the object is--?"
"To capture us."
"If it was that, wouldn't they have done it long ago--when
we first came down?"
"No, they are evidently waiting for something perhaps for
some high official, without whose orders they dare do
nothing. Russia is overrun with officialdom."
And a little later Ivan Petrofsky's suspicion proved true.
There arrived a man in uniform, who spoke fairly good
English, and who politely asked Tom if he would not delay
the start of the airship, again, until the governor could
arrive from his country place to see it.
"We know you are going to leave us," said the Russian with
a smile, "for you have sent for kerosene. But please wait."
"If your governor comes soon we'll wait," replied Tom.
"But we are in a hurry. I wish that kerosene fellow would
get a move on," he murmured.
"Oh, he will doubtless be here soon," said the officer.
"Might I be permitted to come aboard and wait for my chief?"
"Sorry, but it's not allowed," replied our hero, straining
his eyes down the road for a sight of the wagoner. At last
he came, and Tom breathed easier.
But the crowd was bigger, and some of the men, though
poorly dressed, seemed to be persons in authority. Tom had
no doubt but what there was a plot afoot to detain him, and
arrest the exiles, and that there were disguised soldiers in
the throng. But they could not act without the governor's
orders, and he was probably on his way with all haste.
"Lively now, get that kerosene in the tanks!" cried Tom to
the man, motioning in lieu of using Russian. The youth was
not going to meet the governor if he could help it.
Now it was a curious thing, but the more that wagoner and
his helpers seemed to try to hurry, and pour the oil from
the cans into the tank-opening of the airship, the slower
they worked. They got in each others' way, dropped some
cans, spilled others, and in general made such poor work at
it that Tom saw there was something in the wind.
"Ned!" he exclaimed, "they're doing all they can to detain
us. We've got to put that oil in ourselves. Just as we did
the gasolene in France. It's the same sort of a delay game."
"Right, Tom! I'm with you."
"And I'll warn the crowd back, by telling them we are
likely to blow up any minute!" added Ivan Petrofsky, which
warning he shouted in Russian a moment later.
Backward leaped the throng, as though a bomb bad been
thrown into their midst, even the supposed officers joining
in the retreat. The oil wagon was now easy of access, and
Tom and Ned, with Mr. Damon to aid them, hastened toward it.
Then the work of filling the tanks went on in something like
good old, United States fashion.
The last gallon of kerosene had been put aboard, and Tom
and Ned with Mr. Damon, had climbed on deck, when the gaily
uniformed officer, who had requested the delay, came riding
"Hold! Hold! If you please!" he cried. "The governor has
come. He wants to see you."
"Too late!" answered Tom. "Give him our best regards and
ask him to some to the United States if he wants to see us.
Sorry we haven't cards handy. Ned, take the pilot house, and
shoot her up sharp when you get the signal. I'm going to run
the motor. I don't know just how she'll behave on the
"You must remain!" angrily cried the officer.
"The United States doesn't take 'must' from anybody, from
the Czar down!" cried Tom as he disappeared into the motor
room. The window was open, and the youth turned on the power
the official cried again to him:
"Halt! Here comes the governor! I declared you arrested by
his orders, and in the name of the Czar!"
"Nothing doing!" yelled Tom, and then, looking from the
window, he saw approaching a troop of Cossacks, in the midst
of whom rode a man in a brilliant uniform--evidently the
"Stop! Stop!" cried the official.
"Here we go, Ned!" yelled Tom, and turning on more power
the Falcon arose swiftly, before the very eyes of the angry
governor, and his staff of Cossack soldiers.
Up and up she went, faster and faster, the motors working
well on the kerosene. Higher and higher. The governor and
his soldiers were directly below her now.
"Stop! Stop! You must stop. The Imperial governor orders
it!" yelled the officer, evidently his Excellency's aide-de-
"We can't hear you!" shouted Tom, waving his hand from the
motor room window, and then, turning on still more power he
flew over the city, taking his friends and the valuable
supply of platinum with him. So surprised were the soldiers
that they did not fire a shot, but had they done so it is
doubtful if much damage could have been done.
"And now for home!" cried Tom, and homeward hound the
Falcon was after a perilous trip through two storms. But
she weathered them well.
In due season they reached Paris again, and now, having no
reason for concealment, they flew boldly down, to change
what remained of the kerosene for gasolene, as the motor
worked better on that. The secret police learned that the
exiles were aboard, but they could do nothing, as the
offenses were political ones, and so Tom kept his friends
Then they started on the long voyage across the Atlantic,
and though they had one bad experience in a storm over that
mighty ocean, they got safely home to Shopton in due season.
There is little more to tell. The platinum proved to be
even more valuable than Tom had expected. He could have sold
it all for a large sum, but he preferred to keep most of
what he had for his inventive work, and he used considerable
of it in his machinery. Ned disposed of his, selling Tom
some at a lower price than market quotations, and the
Russians got a good price for theirs, turning the money into
the fund to help their fellow exiles. Mr. Damon also made a
good donation to the cause, as did Tom and Ned.
Mr. Petrofsky and his brother, with the other exile,
joined friends in New York, and promised to come and see Tom
when they could.
"Well, I suppose you'll take a long vacation now," said
Mary Nestor, to Tom, when he called on her one evening to
present her a unique ring, with the stones set in some of
the platinum he had dug in the Siberian mine.
"Vacation? I have no time for vacations!" said the young
inventor. "I'm soon going to work on my silent airship, and