Part 3 out of 3
There was a tense moment; Tom's thumb pressed home the electric
button, and then came the explosion.
It seemed for a moment as if everyone was lifted from his feet.
They had all stood on their tiptoes, and opened their mouths to
lessen the shock, but even then it was terrific. The very ground
shook--from the roof of their cave small stones and gravel
rattled down on their heads. Their ear-drums were numbed from the
shock. And the noise that filled the valley seemed like a
thousand thunderbolts merged into one.
Tom rushed from the bombproof, dropping the electric button. He
caught sight of his gun, resting undisturbed on the improvised
"Hurray!" he cried in delight. "She stood the charge all right.
And look! look!" he cried, as he pointed the glasses toward the
distant hillside. "There goes my projectile as straight as an
arrow. There! By Caesar, Ned! It landed within three feet of the
target! Oh, you beauty!" he yelled at his giant cannon. "You did
all I hoped you would! Thirty miles, Ned! Think of that! A two-
ton projectile being shot thirty miles!"
"It's great, Tom!" yelled his chum, clapping him on the back,
and capering about. "It's the longest shot on record."
"It certainly is," declared the foreman of the steel workers,
who had helped in casting many big guns. "No cannon ever made can
equal it. You win, Tom Swift!"
"Bless my armor plate!" gasped Mr. Damon. "What attacking ship
against the Panama Canal could float after a shot like that."
"Not one," declared Tom; "especially after I put a bursting
charge into the projectile. We'll try that next."
By means of compressed air the gases and some particles of the
unexploded powder were blown out of the big cannon. Then it was
loaded again, the projectile this time carrying a bursting charge
of another explosive that would be set off by concussion.
Once more they retired to the bombproof, and again the great
gun was fired. Once more the ground shook, and they were nearly
deafened by the shock.
Then, as they looked toward the distant hillside, they saw a
shower of earth and great rocks rise up. It was like a sand
geyser. Then, when this settled back again, there was left a
gaping hole in the side of the mountain.
"That does the business!" cried Tom. "My cannon is a success!"
The last shot did not go quite as far as the first, but it was
because a different kind of projectile was used. Tom was
perfectly satisfied, however. Several more trials were given the
gun, and each one confirmed the young inventor in his belief that
he had made a wonderful weapon.
"If that doesn't fortify the Panama Canal nothing will,"
"Well, I hope I can convince Uncle Sam of that," spoke Tom,
The muzzle velocity and the pressure were equal to Tom's
highest hopes. He knew, now, that he had hit on just the right
mixture of powder, and that his gun was correctly proportioned.
It showed not the slightest strain.
"Now we'll try another bursting shell," he said, after a rest,
during which some records were made. "Then we'll call it a day's
work. Koku, bring up some more powder. I'll use a little heavier
charge this time."
It was while the gun was being loaded that a horseman was seen
riding wildly down the valley. He was waving a red flag in his
"Bless my watch chain!" cried Mr. Damon. "What's that?"
"It looks as though he was coming to give us a warning,"
suggested the steel foreman.
"Maybe someone has kicked about our shooting," remarked Ned.
"I hope not," murmured Tom.
He looked at the horseman anxiously. The rider came nearer and
nearer, wildly waving his flag. He seemed to be shouting
something, but his words could not be made out. Finally he came
near enough to be heard.
"The dam! The dam!" he cried. "It's bursting. Your shots have
hastened it. The cracks are widening. You'd better get away!" And
he galloped on.
"Bless my toilet soap!" gasped Mr. Damon.
"I was afraid of this!" murmured Tom. "But, since our shots
have hastened the disaster, maybe we can avert it."
"How?" demanded Ned.
"I'll show you. All hands come here and we'll shift this gun. I
want it to point at that big white stone!" and he indicated an
immense boulder, well up the valley, near the place where the two
great gulches joined.
THE DOPED POWDER
"What are you going to do, Tom?" cried Ned, as he, with the
others, worked the hand gear that shifted the big gun. When it
was permanently mounted electricity would accomplish this work.
"What's your game, Tom?"
"Don't you remember, Ned? When we were talking about the chance
of the dam bursting, I said if the current of suddenly released
water could be turned into the other valley, the people below us
would be saved."
"Well, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to fire a
bursting shell at the point where the two valleys come together.
I'll break down the barrier of rock and stone between them."
"Bless my shovel and hoe!" cried Mr. Damon.
"If we can turn enough of the water into the other valley,
where no one lives, and where it can escape into the big river
there, the amount that will flow down this valley will be so
small that only a little damage will be done."
"That's right!" declared the steel foreman, as he caught Tom's
idea. "It's the only way it could be done, too, for there won't
be time to make the necessary excavation any other way. Is the
gun swung around far enough, Mr. Swift?"
"No, a little more toward me," answered Tom, as he peered
through the telescope sights. "There, that will do. Now to get
the proper elevation," and he began to work the other apparatus,
having estimated the range as well as he could.
In a few seconds the giant cannon was properly trained on the
white rock. Meanwhile the horseman, with his red flag, had
continued on down the valley. In spite of his warning of the
night before, it developed that a number had disregarded it, and
had remained in their homes. Most of the inhabitants, however,
had fled to the hills, to stay in tents, or with such neighbors
as could accommodate them. Some lingered to move their household
goods, while others fled with what they could carry.
It was to see that the town was deserted by these late-stayers
that the messenger rode, crying his warning as did the messenger
at the bursting of the Johnstown dam twenty-odd years ago.
"The projectile!" cried Tom, as he saw that all was in
readiness. "Lively now! I can see the top of the dam beginning to
crumble," and he laid aside the telescope he had been using.
The projectile, with a heavy charge of bursting powder, was
slung into the breech of the gun.
"Now the powder, Koku!" called Tom. "Be quick; but not so fast
that you drop any of it."
"Me fetch," responded the giant, as he hastened toward the
small cave where the explosive was kept. As the big man brought
the first lot, and Ned was about to insert it in the breech of
the gun, behind the projectile, Tom exclaimed:
"Just let me have a look at that. It's some that I first made,
and I want to be sure it hasn't gone stale."
Critically he looked at the powerful explosive. As he did so a
change came over his face.
"Here, Koku!" the young inventor said. "Where did you get
"In cave, Master."
"Is there any more left?"
"Only enough for this one shoot."
"By Jove!" muttered Tom. "There's been some trick played here!"
and he set off on a run toward the bomb-proof.
"What's the matter?" cried Ned, as he noticed the agitation of
"The powder has been doped!" yelled Tom. "Something has been
put in it to make it nonexplosive. It's no good. It wouldn't send
that shell a thousand yards, and it's got to go five miles to do
any good. My plan won't work."
"Doped the powder?" gasped Ned. "Who could have done it?"
"I don't know. There must have been some spy at work. Quick,
run and ask the foreman if any of his men are missing. I'll see
if there's enough of the good powder left to break down the
Ned was away like a shot, while the others, not knowing what to
make of the strange conduct of the two lads, looked on in wonder.
Tom raced toward the cave where the powder was stored, Koku
"Bless my shoe laces!" cried Mr. Damon. "Look at the dam now
They gazed to where he pointed. In several places the concrete
spillway had crumbled down to a ragged edge, showing that the
solid wall was giving way. The amount of water flowing over the
dam was greater now. The creek was steadily rising. Down the
valley the horseman with the red flag was but a speck in the
"What can I do? What can I do?" murmured Tom. "If all the
powder there is left has been doped, I can't save the town! What
can I do? What can I do?"
Ned had reached the foreman, who, with his helpers, was
standing about the big gun.
"Have any of your men left recently?" yelled Ned.
"Any of my men left? What do you mean?
"Schlichter went yesterday," said the timekeeper. "I thought he
was in quite a hurry to get his money, too."
"Schlichter gone!" exclaimed the foreman. "He was no good
anyhow. I think he was a sort of Anarchist; always against the
government, the way he talked. So he has left; eh? But what's the
"Something wrong with the powder. Tom can't shoot the cannon
and turn aside the water to save the town. Some of his enemies
have been at work. Schlichter leaving at this time, and in such
hurry, makes it look suspicious."
"It sure does! And, now I recall it, I saw him yesterday near
your powder magazine. I called him down for it, for I knew Tom
Swift had given orders that only his own party was to go near it.
So the powder is doped; eh?"
"Yes! It's all off now."
He turned to see Tom approaching on the run.
"Any good powder left?" asked Ned.
"Not a pound. Did you hear anything?"
"Yes, one man has disappeared. Oh, Tom, we've got to fail after
all! We can't save the town!"
"Yes, we can, Ned. If that dam will only hold for half an hour
"What do you mean
"I mean that I have another supply of good powder in the
village. I secreted some there, you remember I told you. If I can
go get that, and get back here in time, I can break down the
barrier with one shot, and save Preston."
"But you never can make the trip there and back in time, with
the powder, Tom. It's impossible. The dam may hold half an hour,
or it may not. But, if it does, you can't do anything!"
"I can't? Well, I'm going to make a big try, Ned. You stay on
the job here. Have everything ready so that when I get back with
the new explosive, which I hope hasn't been tampered with, I can
shove it into the breech, and set it off. Have the wires, primers
and button all ready for me."
Then Tom set off on the run.
"Where are you going?" gasped his chum. "You can never run to
Preston and back in time."
"I don't intend to. I'm going in my airship. Koku, never mind
bringing the rest of the powder from the cave. It's no good. Run
out the Humming Bird. I'm going to drive her to the limit. I've
just got to get that powder here on time!"
"Bless my timetable!" gasped Mr. Damon. "That's the only way it
can be done. Lucky Tom brought the airship along!"
The young inventor, pausing only to get some cans for the
explosive, and some straps with which to fasten them in the
monoplane, leaped into the speedy craft.
The motor was adjusted; Koku whirled the propeller blades.
There was a staccato succession of explosions, a rushing, roaring
sound, and then the craft rose like a bird, and Tom circled
about, making a straight course for the distant town, while below
him the creek rose higher and higher as the dam continued to
BLOWING DOWN THE BARRIER
"Can you see anything of him, Ned?"
"Not a thing, Mr. Damon. Wait--hold on--no! It's only a bird,"
and the lad lowered the glasses with which he had been sweeping
the sky. looking for his chum returning in his airship with the
"He'd better hurry," murmured the foreman. "That dam can't last
much longer. The water is rising fast. When it does go out it
will go with a rush. Then good-bye to the village of Preston."
"Bless my insurance policy!" cried Mr. Damon. "Don't say such
things, my friend."
"But they're true!" insisted the man. "You can see for yourself
that the cracks in the dam are getting larger. It will be a big
flood when it does come. And I'm not altogether sure that we're
safe up here," he added, as he looked down the sides of the hill
to where the creek was now rapidly becoming a raging torrent.
"Bless my hat-band!" gasped Mr. Damon. "You--you are getting on
"I don't want to be a calamity howler," went on the foreman;
"but we've got to face this thing. We'd better get ready to
vamoose if Tom Swift doesn't reach here in time to fire that
shot--and he doesn't seem to be in sight."
Once more Ned swept the sky with his glasses. The roar of the
water below them could be plainly heard now.
"I wish I could get hold of that rascally German," muttered the
foreman. "I'd give him more than a piece of my mind. It will be
his fault if the town is destroyed, for Tom's plan would have
saved it. I wonder who he can be, anyhow?"
"Some spy," declared Ned. "We've been having trouble right
along, you know, and this is part of the game. I have some
suspicions, but Tom doesn't agree with me. Certainly the fellow,
whatever his object, has made trouble enough this time."
"I should say so," agreed the foreman.
"Look, Ned!" cried Mr. Damon. "Is that a
bird; or is it Tom?" and he pointed to a speck in
the sky. Ned quickly focused his glasses on it.
"It's Tom!" he cried a second later. "It's Tom in the Humming
"Thank Heaven for that!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, fervently,
forgetting to bless anything on this occasion. "If only he can
get here in time!"
"He's driving her to the limit!" cried Ned, still watching his
chum through the glass. "He's coming!"
"He'll need to," murmured the foreman, grimly. "That dam can't
last ten minutes more. Look at the people fleeing from the
He pointed to the north, and a confused mass of small black
objects--men, women and children, doubtless, who had lingered in
spite of the other warning--could be seen clambering up the sides
of the valley.
"Is everything ready at the gun?" asked Mr. Damon.
"Everything," answered Ned, whom Tom had instructed in all the
essentials. "As soon as he lands we'll jam in the powder, and
fire the shot."
"I hope he doesn't land too hard, with all that explosive on
board," murmured the foreman.
"Bless my checkerboard!" cried Mr. Damon. "Don't suggest such a
"I guess we can trust Tom," spoke Ned.
They looked up. The distant throb of the monoplane's motor
could now be heard above the roar of the swollen waters. Tom
could be seen in his seat, and beside him, in the other, was a
Nearer and nearer came the monoplane. It began to descend, very
gently, for well Tom Swift knew the danger of hitting the ground
too hard with the cargo he carried.
He described a circle in the air to check his speed. Then,
gently as a bird, he made a landing not far from the gun, the
craft running easily over one of the few level places on the side
of the hill. Tom yanked on the brake, and the iron-shod pieces of
wood dug into the ground, checking the progress of the monoplane
on its bicycle wheels.
"Have you got it, Tom?" yelled Ned.
"I have," was the answer of the young inventor as he leaped
from his seat.
"Is it good powder?" asked the foreman, anxiously.
"I don't know," spoke Tom. "I didn't have time to look. I just
rushed up to where I had stored it, got some out and came back
with the motor at full speed. Ran into an airpocket, too, and I
thought it was all up with me when I began to fall. But I managed
to get out of it. Say, we're going to have it nip and tuck here
to save the village."
"That's what!" agreed the foreman, as he helped Koku take the
cans of explosive.
"Wait until I look at it," suggested Tom, as he opened one. His
trained eye and touch soon told him that this explosive had not
been tampered with.
"It's all right!" he shouted. "Into the gun with it, and we'll
see what happens."
It was the work of only a few moments to put in the charge.
Then, once more, the breech-block was slotted home, and the
trailing electric wires unreeled to lead to the bomb-proof.
Tom Swift took one last look through the telescope sights of
his giant cannon. He changed the range slightly by means of the
hand and worm-screw gear, and then, with the others, ran to the
shelter of the cave. For, though the gun had stood the previous
tests well, Tom had used a heavier charge this time, both in the
firing chamber and in the projectile, and he wanted to take no
"All ready?" asked the young inventor, as he looked around at
his friends gathered in the cave.
"I--I guess so," answered Ned, somewhat doubtfully.
Tom hesitated a moment, then, as his fingers stiffened to press
the electric button there sounded to the ears of all a dull,
"The dam! It has given way!" cried Ned.
"That's it!" shouted the foreman. "Fire!"
Tom pressed the button. Once again was that awful tremor of the
earth--the racking shake--the terrific explosion and a shock that
knocked a couple of the men down.
"All right!" shouted Tom. "The gun held together. It's safe to
go out. We'll see what happened!"
They all rushed from the shelter of the cave. Before them was
an awe-inspiring sight. A great wall of water was coming down the
valley, from a large opening in the centre of the dam. It seemed
to leap forward like a race horse.
Tom declared afterward that he saw his projectile strike the
barrier that separated one valley from the other, but none of the
others had eyes-sight as keen as this--and perhaps Tom was in
But there was no doubt that they all saw what followed. They
heard a distant report as the great projectile burst. Then a wall
of earth seemed to rise up in front of the advancing wall of
water. High into the air great stones and masses of dirt were
"A good shot!" cried the foreman. "Just in the right place,
For a moment it was as though that wall of water hesitated, not
deciding whether to continue on down the populated valley, or to
swing over into the other gash where it could do comparatively
little harm. It was a moment of suspense.
Then, as Tom's great shot had, by means of the exploding
projectile, torn down the barrier, the water chose the more
direct and shorter path. With a mighty roar, like a distant
Niagara, it swept into the new channel the young inventor had
made. Into the transverse valley it tumbled and tossed in muddy
billows of foam, and only a small portion of the flood added
itself to the already swollen creek.
The village of Preston had been saved by the
shot from Tom's giant cannon.
THE GOVERNMENT ACCEPTS
"Whew! Let me sit down somewhere and get my breath!" gasped
Tom, when it was all over.
"I should think you would want a bit of quiet," replied Ned.
"You've been on the jump since early morning."
"Bless my dining-room table!" cried Mr. Damon. "I should say
so! I'll go tell the cook to get us all a good meal--we need it,"
for a competent cook had been installed in the old farmhouse
where Tom and his party had their headquarters.
"But you did the trick, Tom, old man!" exclaimed Ned,
fervently, as he looked down the valley and saw the receding
water. For, with the opening of the channel into the other valley
the flood, at no time particularly dangerous near Preston, was
"He sure did," declared the foreman. "No one else could have
done it, either."
"Oh, I don't know," spoke Tom, modestly. "It just happened so.
There was one minute, though, after I got to the place in Preston
where I had stored the powder, that I didn't know whether I would
succeed or not."
"How was that?" asked Mr. Damon.
"Why, in my hurry and excitement I forgot the key to the
underground storeroom where I had put the explosive. I knew there
was no time to get another, so I took a chance and burst in the
door with an axe I found in the freight depot."
"I should say you did take a chance!" declared Ned, who knew
how "freaky" the high explosive was, and how likely it was, at
times, to be set off by the least concussion.
"But it came out all right," went on Tom. "I bundled it into
the other seat of my Humming Bird, and started back."
"Had most of the folks left town?" asked the foreman.
"Nearly all," replied Tom. "The last of them were hurrying away
as I left. And it shows how scared they were, they didn't pay any
attention to me and my flying machine, though I'll wager some of
them never saw one before."
"Well, they don't need to be scared any more," put in Mr. Damon
"You saved their homes for them, Tom."
"I'd like to get hold of the fellow who doped my powder; that's
what I'd like to do," murmured the young inventor. "Ned, we'll
have to be doubly watchful from now on. But I must take a look at
my gun. That last charge may have strained it."
But the giant cannon was as perfect as the day it was turned
out of the shop. Not even the extra charge of the powerful
explosive had injured it.
"That's fine!" cried Tom, as he looked at every part. "As soon
as this flood is over we'll try some more practice shots. But
we're all entitled to a rest now"
The great gun was covered with tarpaulins to protect it from
the weather, and then all retired to the house for a bountiful
meal. Late that afternoon nearly all signs of the flood had
disappeared, save that along the edges of the creek was much
driftwood, showing the height to which the creek had risen. But
it would have gone much higher had it not been for Tom's timely
The water from the impounded lake continued to pour down into
the cross valley, and did some damage, but nothing like what
would have followed its advent into Preston. The few inhabitants
of the gulch into which the young inventor had directed the flood
had had warning, and had fled in time. In Preston, some few
houses nearest the banks of the rising creek were flooded, but
were not carried away.
The following day some of the officers of the water company
paid a visit to Tom, to thank him for what he had done. But for
him they would have been responsible for great property damage,
and loss of life might have followed.
They intended to rebuild the dam, they said, on a new
principle, making it much stronger.
"And," said the president, "we will have an emergency outlet
gate into that valley you so providentially opened for us, Mr.
Swift. Then, in time of great rain, we can let the water out
slowly as we need to."
Tom's chief anxiety, now, was to bring his perfected gun to the
notice of the United States Government officials. To have them
accept it, he knew he must give it a test before the ordnance
board, and before the officers of the army and navy. Accordingly
he prepared for this.
He ordered several new projectiles, some of a different type
from those heretofore used, and leaving Koku and Ned in charge of
the gun, went back to Shopton to superintend the manufacture of
an additional supply of his explosive. He took care, too, that no
spies gained access to it.
Then, with a plentiful supply of ammunition and projectiles,
Tom resumed his practice in the lonely valley. He had, in the
meanwhile, sent requests to the proper government officials to
come and witness the tests.
At first he met with no success, and he learned, incidentally,
that General Waller had built a new gun, the merits of which he
was also anxious to show.
"It's a sort of rivalry between us," said Tom to Ned.
But, in a way, fortune favored our hero. For when General
Waller tested his new gun, though it did not burst, it did not
come up to expectations, and its range was not as great as some
of the weapons already in use.
Then, too, Captain Badger acted as Tom's friend at court. He
"pulled wires" to good advantage, and at last the government sent
word that one of the ordnance officers would be present on a
certain day to witness the tests.
"I wish the whole board had come," said Tom. "Probably they
have only sent a young fellow, just out of West Point, who will
turn me down.
"But I'm going to give him the surprise of his life; and if he
doesn't report favorably, and insist on the whole board coming
out here, I'll be much disappointed."
Tom made his preparations carefully, and certainly Captain
Waydell, the young officer who came to represent Uncle Sam, was
impressed. Tom sent shell after shell, heavily charged, against
the side of the mountain. Great holes and gashes were torn in the
earth. The gun even exceeded the range of thirty miles. And the
heaviest armor plate that could be procured was to the
projectiles of the giant cannon like cheese to a revolver bullet.
"It's great, Mr. Swift! Great!" declared the young captain. "I
shall strongly recommend that the entire board see this test."
And when Tom let him fire the gun himself the young man was more
He was as good as his word, and a week later the entire
ordnance board, from the youngest member to the grave and
grizzled veterans, were present to witness the test of Tom's
It is needless to say that it was successful. Tom and Ned, not
to mention Mr. Damon, Koku and every loyal member of the steel
working gang, saw to it that there was no hitch. The solid shots
were regarded with wonder, and when the explosive one was sent
against the hillside, making a geyser of earth, the enthusiasm
"We shall certainly recommend your gun, Mr. Swift," declared
the Chief of Staff. "It does just what we want it to do, and we
have no doubt that Congress will appropriate the money for
several with which to fortify the Panama Canal."
"The gun is most wonderful," spoke a voice with a German
accent. "It is surprising!"
Tom and Ned both started. They saw an officer, evidently a
foreigner, resplendent in gold trimmings, and with many medals,
standing near the secretary of the ordnance board.
"Yes, General von Brunderger," agreed the chief, "it is a most
timely invention. Mr. Swift, allow me to present you to General
von Brunderger, of the German army, who is here learning how
Uncle Sam does things."
Tom bowed and shook hands. He glanced sharply at the German,
but was sure he had never seen him before. Then all the board,
and General von Brunderger, who, it appeared, was present as an
invited guest, examined the big cannon critically, while Tom
explained the various details.
When the board members left, the chief promised to let Tom know
the result of the formal report as soon as possible.
The young inventor did not have long to wait. In about two
weeks, during which time he and Ned perfected several little
matters about the cannon, there came an official-looking
"Well, we'll soon know the verdict," spoke Tom, somewhat
nervously, as he opened the envelope. Quickly he read the
"What is it!" cried Ned.
"The government accepts my gun!" exclaimed the young inventor.
"It will purchase a number as soon as they can be made. We are to
take one to Panama, where it will be set up. Hurray, Ned, my boy!
Now for Panama!"
OFF FOR PANAMA
"WELL," Tom, it doesn't seem possible; does it, old man?"
"You're right, Ned--in a way. And yet, after all the hard work
we've done, almost anything is possible."
"Hard work! We? Oh, pshaw! You've done most of it, Tom. I only
helped here and there."
"Indeed, and you did more than that. If it hadn't been for you,
Mr. Damon and Koku we'd never have gotten off as soon as we did.
The government is the limit for doing things, sometimes."
"Bless my timetable! but I agree with you," put in Mr. Damon.
"But at last we are on the way, in spite of delays."
This conversation took place on board one of Uncle Sam's
warships, which the President had designated to take Tom's giant
cannon to the Panama Canal.
The big gun had been lashed to the deck of the vessel, and was
well protected from the weather. In the hold the parts of the
disappearing carriage, which Tom had at last succeeded in having
made, were securely stowed. In another part of the warship were
the big projectiles, some arranged to be fired as solid shots,
and others with a bursting charge. There was also a good supply
of the powerful explosive, and Tom had taken extraordinary
precautions so that it could not be tampered with. Koku had been
detailed as a sort of guard over it, and to relieve him was a
trustworthy sergeant of marines.
"If anyone tries to dope that powder now, and spoil my test at
Panama," declared Tom, "he'll wish he'd never tried it."
"Especially if Koku gets hold of him," added Ned, grimly.
"But I don't believe there is any danger," went on the young
inventor. "I spoke about what had happened, and the ordnance
board took extra precautions to see that none but men and
officers who could be implicitly trusted had anything to do with
"You don't really believe anything like treachery would be
attempted; do you, Tom?"
"I don't know what to say. Certainly I can't see why anyone
connected with Uncle Sam would want to throw cold water on a plan
to fortify the canal, even if an outsider has invented the gun--I
mean someone like myself, not connected with the army or navy."
"If it's anything it's jealousy," declared Ned, "That General
"There you go again, Ned. Let's not talk about it. Come on
forward and see what progress we are making."
It must not be supposed that to get the big gun aboard the
vessel, arrange for a new supply of the explosive, and for many
of the great projectiles, had been easy work. It was a task that
taxed the skill and strength of Tom and his friends to the
There had been wearying delays, especially in the matter of
making the disappearing carriage. At times it seemed as if the
required projectiles would never be finished. The powder, too,
gave trouble, for sometimes batches would be turned out that were
But Tom never gave up, even when it seemed that some of the
failures were purposely made. Ned declared that there was a
conspiracy against his chum, but Tom could not see it that way.
It was due to a combination of circumstances, he insisted.
But finally the gun had been put aboard the ship, having been
transported from the proving ground in the valley, and they were
now en route to Panama. There the giant cannon was to be set up,
and tried again. If it came up to expectations it was to be
finally adopted as the official gun for the protection of the big
canal, and Tom would receive a substantial reward.
"And I'm confident that it will make good," said the young
inventor to his chum, as they paced the deck of the vessel. "In
fact, I'm so sure I have practically engaged the Universal Steel
Company to hold itself in readiness to make several more of the
"But suppose Uncle Sam decides against the cannon on this
"Well, then I've lost out, that's all," declared Tom,
philosophically. "But I don't believe they will."
"It certainly is a giant cannon," remarked Ned, as he paused to
look at the prostrate monster, lashed to the deck, with its
wrappings of tarpaulins. "It looks bigger here than it did when
you fired the shot that saved the town, Tom."
"Yes, I suppose it does, by contrast. But let's go down and see
how the powder and shells are standing the trip. I told the
captain to have them securely lashed, so if we struck rough
weather, and the vessel rolled, they wouldn't carry away."
"Especially the powder," put in Ned. "If that starts to banging
around--well, I'd rather be somewhere else."
"Bless my rain gauge!" cried Mr. Damon. "Please don't say such
things. You make me nervous. You're as bad as that steel
"All right, I'll be better," promised Ned, with a laugh.
The two chums found that every precaution had been taken in
regard to the projectiles and powder. Koku was on guard, the
giant regarding the boxes of explosive with a calm but determined
eye. It would not be well for any unauthorized hand to tamper
"Am dere anyt'ing I kin do fo' yo'-all, Massa Tom?" inquired
Eradicate, as the young inventor and Ned prepared to go on deck
again. The aged colored man had insisted on coming as a sort of
personal bodyguard to Tom, and the latter had not the heart to
refuse him. Eradicate was desperately jealous of the giant.
"Huh!" Eradicate had said, "anybody kin sit an' look at a lot
ob dem powder boxes; but 'tain't everybody what kin wait on Massa
Tom. I kin, an' I'se gwine t' do it." And so he had.
It was planned to proceed directly to Colon, the eastern
terminus of the canal, from New York, stopping at Santiago to
transact some government business there. The big gun was to be
mounted on a barbette near the Gatun locks, pointing out to sea,
and the trial shots would be fired over the water.
Eventually the gun would be so mounted as to swing in a
circle,, so as to command the land as well as the water; and, in
fact, if the government decided to adopt Tom's giant cannon as
the official protective arm of the canal, they would all be so
mounted. For, of course, it might be possible for land as well as
sea forces to attack and try to capture the big ditch.
The first few days of the voyage were pleasant enough. The
weather was fine, and Tom was kept busy explaining to many of the
officers aboard the ship the principles of his gun, powder and
projectiles. Members of the ordnance board, who had been detailed
to witness the test, were also much interested as Tom modestly
described his work on the giant cannon.
At Santiago de Cuba, when Tom and Ned were standing near the
gangway, watching the officers returning from shore leave, for
the ship was to proceed soon, after a two days' stay, the young
inventor started as he noticed a military man walking aboard.
"Look, Ned!" he exclaimed, in a low voice.
"At that man--an officer in civilian dress, I should judge--
haven't you seen him before?"
"I have, Tom. Now, where was it? I seem to remember his face;
and yet he wasn't dressed like this the last time I saw him."
"I guess not, Ned. He had on a uniform then."
"By jinks! I have it. That German officer--von Brunderger!
"You're right, Ned. And he's got his servant with him, I
guess," and Tom nodded toward a stolid German who was carrying
the other's suitcase.
"I wonder what he's doing aboard here?" went on our hero's
"We'll soon know," spoke Tom. "He's seen us and is nodding. We
might as well go meet him."
"Ah, my good friend, Tom Swift!" exclaimed General von
Brunderger, genially, as he grasped the hands of Tom and Ned. "I
am glad to see you both again." He seemed to mean it, though he
had not been especially cordial to them at the first gun test.
"Take my grip below," he said in German to the man, "and,
Rudolph, find Lieutenant Blake and inform him that I am on board.
I have been invited to go to Panama by Lieutenant Blake," he
added to Tom. "I have never seen the big ditch that you wonderful
Americans have so nearly finished."
"It is going to be a big thing," spoke Tom. "I am proud that my
gun is going to help protect it."
"Ah, so you were successful, then?" and his voice expressed
surprise. "I had not heard. And the big gun; is he here?" Though
speaking very good English, von Brunderger occasionally lapsed
into the idioms of his Fatherland.
"Yes, it's on board," said Tom. "Are you going to Panama for
any special purpose?"
Ned declared afterward that the German started as Tom asked
this question, but if he did the young inventor scarcely noticed
it. In an instant, however, von Brunderger was composed again.
"I go but to see the big ditch before the water is let in," he
replied. "And since your gun is to have a test I shall be glad to
witness that. You see, I am commissioned by my Kaiser to learn
all that you Americans will allow me to in reference to your ways
of doing things--in the army, the navy and in the pursuit of
peace. After all, preparation for war is the best means of
securing peace. Your officers have been more than kind and I have
taken advantage of the offer to go to Panama. Lieutenant Blake
said the ship would stop here, and, as I had business in Cuba, I
came and waited. I am delighted to see you both again."
He went below, leaving Tom and Ned staring at one another.
"Well, what do you think of it?" asked Ned.
"I don't see anything to be worried about," declared Tom. "It's
true that a German once tried to make trouble for me, but this
von Brunderger is all right, as far as I can learn. He has the
highest references, and is an accredited representative of the
Kaiser. You are too suspicious, Ned, just as you were in the case
of General Waller."
From Santiago, swinging around the island of Jamaica, the
warship took her way, with the big gun, to Colon. When half way
across the Caribbean Sea they encountered rough weather.
The storm broke without any unusual preliminaries, but quickly
increased to a hurricane, and when night fell it saw the big ship
rolling and tossing in a tempestuous sea. Torn was anxious about
his big gun, but the captain assured him that double lashings
would make it perfectly safe.
Tom and Ned had seen little of the German officer that day,
nor, in fact, since he came aboard. He kept much in the quarters
of the other officers, and the report was current that he was a
"jolly good fellow."
Rather anxious as to the outcome of the storm, Tom turned in
late that night, not expecting to sleep much, for there were many
unusual noises. But he did drop off into a doze, only to be
awakened about an hour later by a commotion on deck.
"What's up, Ned?" he called to his chum, who had an adjoining
"I don't know, Tom. Something is going on, though. Hear that
thumping and pounding!"
As Ned spoke there came a tremendous noise from the deck.
"By Jove!" yelled Tom, jumping from his berth. "It's my big
gun! It has torn loose from the lashings and may roll overboard!"
AT GATUN LOCKS
"Steady there now, men! Pass forward those lashings! Careful!
Look out, or you'll be caught by it when she rolls! Another turn
around the bitts!"
It was the officer of the deck giving orders to a number of
marines and sailors as Tom hastily clad, leaped on deck, followed
by his chum. The warship was pitching and tossing worse than ever
in the heaving billows, and the men were engaged in making fast
the giant cannon, which, as Tom had surmised, had torn loose from
the steel cables holding it down on deck.
"Come on, Ned!" cried Tom. "We've got to help here!"
"That's right. Look at her swing, would you? If she hits
anything it's a goner!"
The breech of the gun appeared to be the end that had come
loose, while the muzzle still held fast. And this immense mass of
steel was swinging about, eluding the efforts of the ship's
officers and crew to capture it. And it seemed only a question of
time when the muzzle would tear loose, too. Then, free on deck,
the giant cannon would roll through the frail bulwarks, and
plunge. into the depths of the sea.
"Look out for yourselves, boys!" cried the officer, as he saw
Tom and Ned. "This is no plaything!"
"I know it!" gasped Tom. "But we've got to fasten it down."
"That's what we're trying to do," answered the other. "We did
get the bight of a cable over the breech, but the men could not
hold it, even though they took a couple of turns around the
"Ned, go call Koku!" cried Tom. "We need him up here."
"That's right!" declared his chum. "If anyone can hold the
cable with the weight of the big gun straining on it, the giant
can. I'll get him!"
"On deck, Koku, quick!" gasped Ned. "Master's cannon may fall
into the sea."
"But the powder!" asked the big man, simply. "Master told me to
guard the powder. I stay here."
"No, I'll stay!" insisted Ned. "You are needed on deck, I'll
take your place here."
Koku stared uncomprehendingly for a moment, while the loosened
gun continued to thump and pound on the deck as though it would
burst through. Then it filtered through the dull brain of honest
Koku what was wanted.
"I go," he said, and he hurried up the companionway, while Ned,
eager to be with Tom, took up the less exciting work of guarding
Once more, with the giant strength of Koku to aid in the work,
the task of lashing the gun again to the deck was undertaken. A
bight of steel cable was gotten around the breech, and then
passed to a big bitt, or stanchion, bolted to the deck. Koku,
working on the heaving deck, amid the hurricane, took a turn
around the brace.
There came a roll of the ship that threatened to send the gun
sliding against the stanchion, but Koku braced himself. His arms,
great bunches of muscles, strained and fairly cracked with the
strain. The wire rope seemed to give. Then, as the ship rolled
the other way, the strain eased. Koku, aided by the cable, and by
the leverage given by the several turns about the bitts, had held
the big gun.
"Quick!" cried Tom. "Now another rope so it can't roll the
opposite way, and we'll have her."
For a moment the ship was on a level keel, and taking advantage
of this, when the weight of the gun would be neutral, another
cable was passed around it. Then it was a comparatively easy
matter to put on more lashings until the giant cannon was once
"Whew! But that was tough work!" exclaimed Tom, as he once more
entered the stateroom with Ned.
"It must have been," agreed his chum, who had been relieved at
the powder station by the giant.
"I thought it would surely go overboard," went on Tom. "Only
for Koku it would have. Those fellows couldn't hold it when the
"How did it happen to get loose?" asked Ned.
"Oh, the cables frayed, I suppose. I'll take a look in the
morning. Say, but this is some storm!"
"Is the gun all right now?"
"Yes, it's fastened down like a mummy. It can't get loose
unless the whole deck comes with it. We can sleep in peace."
"Not much sleep in this blow, I guess," responded Ned.
But they did manage to get some rest by morning, at which time
the hurricane seemed to have blown itself out. The day saw the
sea gradually calm down, and the big cannon was made additionally
secure against a possible recurrence of the accident. But a few
days more and it would be safe at Colon.
Tom and Ned had gone on deck soon after breakfast to look at
the cannon. All about were pieces of the broken cables, that had
been cast aside when the new lashings were put on. Ned picked up
one end, remarking:
"These seem mighty strong. It's queer how they broke."
"Well, there was quite a weight upon them," spoke Tom.
Ned did not reply for a moment. Then, as he looked at another
piece of a severed cable, he exclaimed:
"Tom, the weight of your gun never broke these."
"What do you mean, Ned?"
"I mean that they were partly filed, or cut through--then the
storm and the pressure of the gun did the rest. Look!"
He held out the piece of wire rope. There, on the end, could be
seen several strands cleanly severed, as though a file or a hack-
saw had been used.
"By Jove!" murmured Tom. He looked about the deck. There was no
one near the big gun. "Ned," whispered his chum, "there's
something wrong here. It's more of that conspiracy to defeat my
aims. Don't say anything about this, and we'll keep our eyes
open. We'll do a bit of detective work."
"The scoundrels!" exclaimed Ned. "I wish we knew who they were.
General Waller isn't aboard, and what other of the officers has a
gun of his own that he would rather see accepted by the
government than yours?"
"None that I know of," replied Tom.
"General Waller might have hired someone to--"
"Don't go making any unwarranted charges," warned the young
"Or perhaps that German, Tom, might--"
"Hush!" cautioned Tom. "Here he comes now," and, as he spoke,
General von Brunderger came strolling along the deck.
"I am glad to see that the accident of last night had no
serious effects," he said, smiling.
"It was no accident!" burst out Ned.
"No accident? You surprise me. I thought--"
"Oh, Ned means that some of the cables look as though they had
been cut," hastily put in Tom, nudging his chum in the ribs as a
signal for him to keep quiet.
"The cables cut!" exclaimed the German, and his voice indicated
"Or else filed," went on Tom easily, with a warning glance at
Ned. "But I dare say they were old cables, that had been used on
other work, and may have become frayed. Everything is safe now,
though. New cables were lashed on this morning."
"I am glad to hear it. It would be a--er--ah, a national
calamity to lose so valuable a gun, and the opening of the canal
so near at hand. I am glad that your invention is safe, Herr
Swift," and he smiled genially at Tom and Ned.
"What did you shut me off for?" asked Ned, when he and his chum
were alone in their stateroom again.
"Because I didn't want you to make any breaks before him,"
"Then you suspect--"
"I suspect many things, Ned, but I'm not going to show my hand
until I'm ready. I'm going to watch and listen."
"And I'll be with you."
But no further accidents occurred. There were no more storms,
no attempt was made to meddle with Tom's powder, and in due
season the ship arrived at Colon, and after much labor the great
gun, its carriage, the shells and the powder were taken to the
barbette at the Gatun locks, designed to admit vessels from the
Caribbean Sea into Gatun Lake.
"And now for some more hard work," remarked Tom, as all the
needful stores were landed.
NEWS OF THE MINE
"Just a little farther over this way, Ned. That's better. Now
mark it there, and we'll have it clamped down."
"But can you get enough elevation here, Tom?"
"Oh, yes, I think so. Besides, I've added a few more inches to
the lift of the disappearing carriage, and it will send the gun
so much farther in the air. I think this will do. Where is Koku?"
"Here I be, Master."
"Just get hold of that small derrick, Koku, and lift up one of
the projectiles. I want to see if they come in the right place
for the breech before I set the hoisting apparatus permanently."
The giant was soon engaged in winding up the rope of an
improvised hoist that stood about in the position the permanent
one was to go. From the interior of the barbette, which was, in
effect, a bomb-proof structure, there was lifted one of the big
projectiles destined to be hurled from Tom Swift's giant cannon.
"Yes, I think that will do," decided the young inventor, as he
watched Koku. "Now, Mr. Damon, if you will kindly oversee this
part of the work, I'll see if we can't get that motor in better
shape. It didn't work worth a cent this morning."
"Bless my rubber coat, Tom, I'll do all I can to help you!"
declared the odd man.
"Massa Tom! Massa Tom!" called Eradicate.
"Yes, Rad. What is it?"
"Heah am dem chicken sandwiches, an' some hot coffee fo' yo'
all. I done knowed yo' alt wouldn't hab no time t' stop fo'
dinnah, so I done made yo' all up a snack."
"That's mighty good of you, Rad," spoke Tom, with a laugh. "I
was getting pretty hungry; but I didn't want to stop until I had
things moving in better shape. Come on, Ned, let's knock off for
a few minutes and take a bite. You, too, Mr. Damon."
As they sat about the place where the gun was being mounted,
munching sandwiches and drinking the coffee which the aged
colored man had so thoughtfully provided, Eradicate said, with a
"By gar! Dey can't git erlong wifout dish yeah coon, arter all!
Ha! ha! Dat cocoanut giant he mighty good when it comes t'
fastening big guns down so dey won't blow away, but when it comes
t' eatin' dey has t' depend on ole Eradicate! Ha! ha! I'se got
dat cocoanut giant beat all right!"
"He sure is jealous of Koku," remarked Ned, as Tom and Mr.
Damon smiled at the colored man.
"He certainly hit me in the right spot," declared Tom, as he
reached for another sandwich.
They had landed from the warship several days before, and from
then on there had been hard work and plenty of it. Tom was here,
there and everywhere, directing matters so that his gun would be
Some preliminary work had been done before they arrived in the
way of preparing a place to mount the gun, and this work was now
proceeding. The officers of the ordnance department were in
actual charge, but they always deferred to Tom, since he had most
"It will be some days before you can actually fire your gun;
will it not?" asked Ned of his chum, as they finished the lunch,
and prepared to resume work.
"Yes--a week at least, I expect. It is taking longer to set up
the carriage than I thought. But it will be an improvement over
the solid one we formerly used. That was fine, Rad," he concluded
as the colored man went back to the shack of which he had taken
possession for himself and his cooking operations. It adjoined
the quarters to which Tom, Ned, Mr. Damon and Koku had been
"Golly! I ain't so old yit but what I knows de stuff Massa Tom
laiks!" exclaimed the colored man, moving off with a chuckle.
Tom, though he had many suspicions about the cut cables that
had nearly been the cause of his gun sliding into the sea, had
learned nothing definite--nor had Ned.
The German officer, with his body servant, who seldom spoke,
had landed at Colon, and was proceeding to make himself at home
with the officers and men who were building the canal.
Occasionally he paid a visit to Tom and Ned, where they were
engaged about the big gun. He always seemed pleasant, and
interested in their labors, asking many question, but that was
all, and our hero began to feel that perhaps he was wrong in his
As for Ned, he veered uncertainly from one suspicion to
another. At one time he declared that von Brunderger and General
Waller were in a conspiracy to upset Tom's plans. Again he would
accuse the German alone, until Tom laughingly bade him attend
more to work and less to theories.
Slowly the work progressed. The gun was mounted after much
labor, and then arrangements began to be made for the test. A
series of shots were to be fired out to sea, and the proper
precautions were to be taken to prevent any ships from being
"Though if you intend to send a projectile thirty miles," said
one of the officers, "I'm afraid there may be some danger, after
all. Are you sure you have a range of thirty miles, Mr. Swift?"
"I have," answered Tom, calmly, "and with the increased
elevation that I am able to get here, it may exceed that."
The officer said nothing, but he looked at Tom in what our hero
thought was a peculiar manner.
A few days before the date set for the test one of the
sentinels, who had been detailed to keep curiosity-seekers away
from the giant cannon, approached Tom and said:
"There is a gentleman asking to see you, Mr. Swift."
"Who is it?" asked Tom, laying aside a pressure gauge he
intended attaching to the gun.
"He says his name is Peterson--Alec Peterson. Do you want to
"Yes, let him come up," directed the young inventor. "Do you
hear that, Ned?" he called. "Our fortune-hunting friend is here."
"Maybe he's found that lost opal mine," suggested Ned.
"I hope he has, for dad's sake," went on Tom. "Hello, Mr.
Peterson!" he called, as he noticed the old prospector coming
along. "Have you had any luck?"
"I heard you were down here," said the many not answering the
question directly, "and as I had to run over from my island for
some supplies I thought I'd stop and see you. How are you?" and
he shook hands.
"Fine!" answered Tom. "Have you found the lost mine yet?"
Alec Peterson paused a moment. Then he said slowly:
"No, Tom, I haven't succeeded in locating the mine yet. But I--
I expect to any day now!" he added, hastily.
THE LONGEST SHOT
"Well, Mr. Peterson," remarked Tom, after a pause, "I'm sure I
hope you will succeed in your quest. You must have met
disappointment so far."
"I have, Tom. But I'm not going to give up. Can't you come over
and see me before you go back North?"
"I'll try. Just where is your island?"
"Off in that direction," responded the fortune-hunter, pointing
to the northeast. "It's a little farther from here than I thought
it was at first--about thirty miles. But I have a little second-
hand steam launch that my pardners and I use. I'll come for you,
take you over and bring you back any time you say."
"After my gun has been tested," said Tom, with a smile. "Better
stay and see it."
"No, I must get back to the island. I have some new information
that I am sure will enable me to locate the lost mine."
"Well, good-bye, and good luck to you," called Tom, as the
fortune-hunter started away.
"Do you think he'll ever find the opals, Tom?" asked Ned.
His chum shook his head.
"I don't believe so," he answered. "Alec has always been that
way--always visionary--always just about to be successful; but
never quite getting there."
"Then your father's ten thousand dollars will be lost?"
"Yes, I suppose so; but, in a way, dad can stand it. And if I
make good on this gun test, ten thousand dollars won't look very
big to me. I guess dad gave it to Alec from a sort of sentimental
"You mean because he saved you from the live wire?"
"That's it, Ned. It was a sort of reward, in a way, and I guess
dad won't be broken-hearted if Alec doesn't succeed. Only, of
course, he'll feel badly for Alec himself. Poor old man! he won't
be able to do much more prospecting. Well, Ned, let's get to work
on that ammunition hoist. It still jams a little on the ways, and
I want it to work smoothly. There's no use having a hitch--even a
small one--when the big bugs assemble to see how my cannon
"That's right, Tom. Well, start off, I'm with you."
The two youths labored for some time, being helped, of course,
by the workmen provided by the government, and some from the
There were many little details to look after, not the least of
which was the patrolling of the stretch of ocean over which the
great projectiles would soar in reaching the far-off targets at
which Tom had planned to shoot. No ships were to be allowed to
cross the thirty-mile mark while the firing was in progress. So,
also, the zone where the shots were expected to fall was to be
But at last all seemed in readiness. The gun had been tried
again and again on its carriage. The projectiles were all in
readiness, and the terribly powerful ammunition had been stored
below the gun in a bomb-proof chamber, ready to be hoisted out as
Because the gun had been fired so many times with a charge of
powder heavier than was ordinarily called for, and had stood the
strain well, Tom had no fear of standing reasonably close to it
to press the button of the battery. There would be no retreating
to the bombproof this time.
The German officer was occasionally seen about the place where
the gun was mounted, but he appeared to take only an ordinary
interest in it. Tom began to feel more than ever that perhaps his
suspicions were unfounded.
Some officials high in government affairs had arrived at Colon
in anticipation of the test, which, to Tom's delight, had
attracted more attention than he anticipated. At the same time he
was a bit nervous.
"Suppose it fails, Ned?" he said.
"Oh, it can't!" cried his chum. "Don't think about such a
Plans had been made for a ship to be stationed near the zone of
fire, to report by wireless the character of each shot, the
distance it traveled, and how near it came to the target. The
messages would be received at a station near the barbette, and at
once reported to Tom, so that he would know how the test was
"Well, today tells the tale!" exclaimed the young inventor, as
he got up one morning. "How's the weather, Ned?"
"Couldn't be better--clear as a bell, Tom."
"That's good. Well, let's have grub, and then go out and see
how my pet is."
"Oh, I guess nothing could happen, with Koku on guard."
"No, hardly. I'm going to keep him in the ammunition room until
after the test, too. I'm going to take no chances."
"That's the ticket!"
The gun was found all right, in its great tarpaulin cover, and
Tom had the latter taken off that he might go over every bit of
mechanism. He made a few slight changes, and then got ready for
the final trials.
On an improvised platform, not too near the giant cannon, had
gathered the ordnance board, the specially invited guests, a
number of officers and workers in the canal zone, and one or two
representatives of foreign governments. Von Brunderger was there,
but his "familiar," as Ned had come to call the stolid German
servant, was not present.
Tom took some little time to explain, modestly enough, the
working of his gun. A number of questions were asked, and then it
was announced that the first shot, with only a practice charge of
powder, would be fired.
"Careful with that projectile now. That's it, slip it in
carefully. A little farther forward. That's better. Now the
powder--Koku, are you down there?" and Tom called down the tube
into the ammunition chamber.
"Me here, Master," was the reply.
"All right, send up a practice load."
Slowly the powerful explosive came up on the electric hoist. It
was placed in the firing chamber and the breech dosed.
"Now, gentlemen," said Tom, "this is not a shot for distance.
It is merely to try the gun and get it warmed up, so to speak,
for the real tests that will follow. All ready?"
"All ready!" answered Ned, who was acting as chief assistant.
"Here she goes!" cried Tom, and he pressed the button.
Many were astonished by the great report, but Tom and the
others, who were used to the service charges, hardly noticed this
one. Yet when the wireless report came in, giving the range as
over fourteen thousand yards, there was a gasp of surprise.
"Over eight miles!" declared one grizzled officer; "and that
with only a practice charge. What will happen when he puts in a
"I don't know," answered a friend.
Tom soon showed them. Quickly he called for another projectile,
and it was inserted in the gun. Then the powder began to come up
the hoist. Meanwhile the young inventor had assured himself that
the gun was all right. Not a part had been strained.
This time, when Tom pressed the button there was such a
tremendous concussion that several, who were not prepared for it,
were knocked back against their neighbors or sent toppling off
their chairs or benches. And as for the report, it was so
deafening that for a long time after it many could not hear well.
But Tom, and those who knew the awful power of the big cannon,
wore specially prepared eardrum protectors, that served to reduce
"What is it?" called Tom to the wireless operator, who was
receiving the range distance from the marking ship.
"A little less than twenty-nine miles."
"We must do better than that," said Tom. "I'll use more powder,
and try one of the newer shells. I'll elevate the gun a trifle,
Again came that terrific report, that trembling of the ground,
that concussion, that blast of air as it rushed in to fill the
vacuum caused, and then the vibrating echoes.
"I think you must have gone the limit this time, Tom!" yelled
Ned, as he turned on the compressed air to blow the powder fumes
and unconsumed bits of explosive from the gun tube.
"Possibly," admitted Tom. "Here comes the report." The wireless
operator waved a slip of paper.
"Thirty-one miles!" he announced.
"Hurray!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my telescope! The longest
shot on record!"
"I believe it is," admitted the chief of the ordnance
department. "I congratulate you, Mr. Swift."
"I think I can do better than that," declared Tom, after
looking at the various recording gauges, and noting the elevation
of the gun. "I think I can get a little flatter trajectory, and
that will give a greater distance. I'm going to try."
"Does that mean more powder, Tom?" asked Ned.
"Yes, and the heaviest shell we have--the one with the bursting
charge. I'll fire that, and see what happens. Tell the zone-ship
to be on the lookout," he said to the wireless operator, giving a
brief statement of what he was about to attempt.
"Isn't it a risk, Tom?" his chum asked.
"Well, not so much. I'm sure my cannon will stand it. Come on
now, help me depress the muzzle just a trifle," and by means of
the electric current the big gun was raised at the breech a few
As is well known, cannon shots do not go in straight lines.
They leave the muzzle, curve upward and come down on another
curve. It is this curve described by the projectile that is
called the trajectory. The upward curve, as you all know, is
caused by the force of the powder, and the downward by the force
of gravitation acting on the shot as soon as it reaches its
zenith. Were it not for this force the projectiles could be fired
in straight lines. But, as it is, the cannon has to be elevated
to send the shot up a bit, or it would fall short of its mark.
Consequently, the flatter the trajectory the farther it will
go. Tom's object, then, was to flatten the trajectory, by
lowering the muzzle of the gun, in order to attain greater
"If this doesn't do the trick, we'll try it with the muzzle a
bit lower, and with a trifle more powder," he said to Ned, as he
was about to fire.
The young inventor was not a little nervous as he prepared to
press the button this time. It was a heavier charge than any used
that day, though the same quantity had been fired on other
occasions with safety. But he was not going to hesitate.
Coincident with the pressure of Tom's fingers there seemed to
be a veritable earthquake. The ground swayed and rocked, and a
number of the spectators staggered back. It was like the blast of
a hundred thunderbolts. The gun shook as it recoiled from the
shock, but the wonderful disappearing carriage, fitted with
coiled, pneumatic and hydrostatic buffers, stood the strain.
Following the awful report, the terrific recoil and the howl of
the wind as it rushed into the vacuum created, there was an
intense silence. The projectile had been seen by some as a dark
speck, rushing through the air like a meteor. Then the wireless
operator could be seen writing down a message, the telephone-like
receivers clamped over his ears.
"Something happened, all right!" he called aloud. "That shot
"Not one of the ships!" cried Tom, aghast.
"I don't know. There seems to be some difficulty in
transmitting. Wait--I'm getting it: now."
As he ceased speaking there came from underneath the great gun
the sound of confused shouts. Tom and Ned recognized Koku's voice
"No--no--you can't come in here! Master said no one was to come
"What is it, Koku?" yelled Tom, springing to the speaking tube
connecting with the powder magazine, at the same time keeping an
eye on the wireless operator. Tom was torn between two anxieties.
"Someone here, Master!" cried the giant. "Him try to fix
powder. Ah, I fix you!" and with a savage snarl the giant, in the
concrete chamber below, could be heard to attack someone who
cried out gutturally in German:
"Help! Help! Help!"
"Come on, Ned!" cried Tom, making a dash for the stairs that
led into the magazine. There was confusion all about, but through
it all the wireless operator continued to write down the message
coming to him through space.
"What is it, Koku? What is it?" cried Tom, plunging down into
the little chamber.
As he reached it, a door leading to the outer air flew open,
and out rushed a man, badly torn as to his clothes, and scratched
and bleeding as to his face. On he ran, across the space back of
the barbette, toward the lower tier of seats that had been
erected for the spectators.
"It's von Brunderger's servant!" gasped Ned, recognizing the
"What did he do, Koku?" demanded the young inventor.
"Him sneak in here--have some of that stuff you call 'dope.' I
sent up powder, and I come back here to see him try to put some
dope in Master's ammunition."
"The scoundrel!" cried Tom. "They're trying to break me, even
at the last minute! Come on, Ned."
They raced outside to behold a curious sight. Straight toward
von Brunderger rushed the man as if in a frenzy of fear. He
called out something in German to his master, and the latter's
face went first red, then white. He was observed to look about
quickly, as though in alarm, and then, with a shout at his
servant, the German officer rushed from the stand, and the two
disappeared in the direction of the barracks.
"What does it mean?" cried Ned.
"Give it up," answered Tom, "except that Koku spoiled their
trick, whatever it was. It looks as if this was the end of it,
and that the mystery has been cleared up."
"Mr. Swift! Where's Mr. Swift?" shouted the wireless operator.
"Where are you?"
"Yes; what is it?" demanded Tom, so excited that he hardly knew
what he was doing.
"The longest shot on record!" cried the man. "Thirty-three
miles, and it struck, exploded, and blew the top off a mountain
on an island out there!" and he pointed across the sun-lit sea.
THE LONG-LOST MINE
There was a silence after the inspiring words of the operator,
and then it seemed that everyone began to talk at once. The
record-breaking shot, the effect of it and the struggle that had
taken place in the powder room, together with the flight of von
Brunderger and his servant, gave many subjects for excited
"I've got to get at the bottom of this!" cried Tom, making his
way through the press of officials to where the wireless operator
stood. "Just repeat that," requested Tom, and they all gave place
for him, waiting for the answer.
The operator read the message again.
"Thirty-three miles!" murmured Tom. "That is better than I
dared to hope. But what's that about blowing the top off an
"That's what you did, with that explosive shell, Mr. Swift. The
operator on the firing-zone ship saw the top fly off when the
shell struck. The ship was about half a mile away, and when they
heard that shell coming the officers thought it was all up with
them. But, instead, it passed over them and demolished the top of
"Anybody hurt?" asked Tom, anxiously.
"No, it was an uninhabited island. But you have made the record
shot, all right. It went farther than any of the others."
"Then I suppose I ought to be satisfied," remarked Tom, with a
"What was that disturbance, Mr. Swift?" asked the chief
ordnance officer, coming forward.
"I don't understand it myself," replied the young inventor. "It
appeared that someone went into the ammunition room, and Koku, my
giant servant, attacked him."
"As he had a right to do. But who was the intruder?"
"Herr von Brunderger's man."
"Ha! That German officer's! Where is he, he must explain this."
But Herr von Brunderger was not to be found, nor was his man in
evidence. They had fled, and when a search was made of their
rooms, damaging evidence was found. Before a board of
investigating officers Koku told his story, after the gun tests
had been declared off for the day, they having been most
The German officer's servant, it appeared, had managed to gain
entrance to the ammunition chamber by means of a false key to the
outer door. There were two entrances, the other being from the
top of the platform where the cannon rested. Koku had seen him
about to throw something into one of the ammunition cases, and
had grappled with him. There was a fight, and, in spite of the
giant's strength, the man had slipped away, leaving part of his
garments in the grasp of Koku.
An investigation of some of the powder showed that it had been
covered with a chemical that would have made it explode
prematurely when placed in the gun. It would probably have
wrecked the cannon by blowing out the breech block, and might
have done serious damage to life as well as property.
"But what was the object?" asked Ned.
"To destroy Tom's gun," declared Mr. Damon.
"Why should von Brunderger want to do that?"
They found the answer among his papers. He had been a German
officer of high rank, but had been dismissed from the secret
service of his country for bad conduct. Then, it appeared, he
thought of the plan of doing some damage to a foreign country in
order to get back in the good graces of his Fatherland.
He forged documents of introduction and authority, and was
received with courtesy by the United States officials. In some
way he heard of Tom's gun, and that it was likely to be so
successful that it would be adopted by the United States
government. This he wanted to prevent, and he went to great
lengths to accomplish this. It was he, or an agent of his, who
forged the letter of invitation to General Waller, and who first
tried to spoil Tom's test by doping the powder through Koku.
Later he tried other means, sending a midnight visitor to Tom's
house and even going to the length of filing the cables in the
storm, so the gun would roll off the warship into the sea. All
this was found set down in his papers, for he kept a record of
what he had done in order to prove his case to his own
government. It was his servant who tried to get near the gun
while it was being cast.
That he would be restored to favor had he succeeded, was an
open question, though with Germany's friendliness toward the
United States it is probable that his acts would have been
repudiated. But he was desperate.
Failing in many attempts he resolved on a last one. He sent his
servant to the ammunition room to "dope" the powder, hoping that,
at the next shot, the gun would be mined. Perhaps he hoped to
disable Tom. But the plot failed, and the conspirators escaped.
They were never heard of again, probably leaving Panama under
assumed names and in disguise.
"Well, that explains the mystery," said Tom to Ned a few days
later. "I guess we won't have to worry any more."
"No, and I'm sorry I suspected General Waller."
"Oh, well, he'll never know it, so no harm is done. Oh, but I'm
glad this is over. It has gotten on my nerves."
"I should say so," agreed Ned.
"Bless my pillow sham!" cried Mr. Damon. "I think I can get a
good night's sleep now. So they have formally accepted your giant
"Yes. The last tests I gave them, showing how easily it could
be manipulated, convinced them. It will be one of the official
defense guns of the Panama Canal."
"Good! I congratulate you, my boy!" cried the odd man. "And
now, bless my postage stamp, let's get back to the United
"Before we go," suggested Ned, "let's go take a look at that
island from which Tom blew the top. It must be quite a sight--and
thirty-three miles away! We can get a launch and go out."
But there was no need. That same day Alec Peterson came to
Colon inquiring for Tom. His face showed a new delight.
"Why," cried Tom, "you look as though you had found your opal
"I have!" exclaimed the fortune-hunter. "Or, rather, Tom, I
think I have you to thank for finding it for me."
"Me find it?"
"Yes. Did you hear about the top of the island-mountain you
blew to pieces?"
"We did, but--"
"That was my island!" exclaimed Mr. Peterson. "The mine was in
that mountain, but an earthquake had covered it. I should never
have found it but for you. That shot you accidentally fired
ripped the mountain apart. My men and I were fortunately at the
base of it then, but we sure thought our time had come when that
shell struck. It went right over our heads. But it did the
business, all right, and opened up the old mine. Tom, your father
won't lose his money, we'll all be rich. Oh, that was a lucky
shot! I knew it was your cannon that did it."
"I'm glad of it!" answered the young inventor, heartily. "Glad
for your sake, Mr. Peterson."
"You must come and see the mine--your mine, Tom, for it never
would have been rediscovered had it not been for your giant
cannon, that made the longest shot on record, so I'm told."
"We will come, Mr. Peterson, just as soon as I close up matters
It did not take Tom long to do this. His type of cannon was
formally accepted as a defense for the Panama Canal, and he
received a fine contract to allow that type to be used by the
government. His powder and projectiles, too, were adopted.
Then, one day, he and Ned, with Koku and Mr. Damon, visited the
scene of the great shot. As Mr. Peterson had said, the whole top
of the mountain had been blown off by the explosive shell,
opening up the old mine. While it was not quite as rich as Mr.
Peterson had glowingly painted, still there was a fortune in it,
and Mr. Swift got back a substantial sum for his investment.
"And now for the good old U. S. A.!" cried Tom, as they got
ready to go back home. "I'm going to take a long rest, and the
only thing I'm going to invent for the next six months is a new
potato slicer." But whether Tom kept his words can be learned by
reading the next volume of this series.
"Bless my hand towel!" cried Mr. Damon. "I think you are
entitled to a rest, Tom."
"That's what I say," agreed Ned.
"I'll take care ob him--I'll take care ob Massa Tom," put in
Eradicate, as he cast a quick look at Koku. "Giants am all right
fo' cannon wuk, but when it comes t' comforts Massa Tom gwine t'
'pend on ole 'Radicate; ain't yo' all, Massa Tom?"
"I guess so, Rad!" exclaimed the young inventor, with a laugh.
"Is dinner ready?"
"It suah am, Massa Tom, an' I 'specially made some oh dat
fricasseed chicken yo' all does admire so much. Plenty of it,
too, Massa Tom."
"That's good, Rad," put in Ned. "For we'll all be hungry after
that trip to the island. That sure was a great shot Tom--thirty-
"Yes, it went farther than I thought it would," replied Tom.
And now, as they are taking a closing meal at Panama, ready to
return to the United States, we will take leave of Tom Swift and