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Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle by Victor Appleton

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shouted hoarse orders.

"Here he comes again!" yelled Mr. Durban, as he hurried to the side
of the ship. "The whale takes us for an enemy, I guess. and he's
going to ram us again!"

"And if he does it many times, he'll start the plates and cause a
leak that won't be stopped in a hurry!" cried a sailor as he rushed
past Tom.

The young inventor looked at the oncoming monster for a moment, and
then started on the run for his cabin.

"Here! Where are you going?" cried Mr. Damon, but Tom did not



As Tom Swift hurried down the companionway he again felt the ship
careen as the whale struck it a powerful blow, and he was almost
knocked off his feet. But he kept on.

Below he found some frightened men and women, a number of whom were
adjusting life preservers about them, under the impression that the
ship had struck a rock and was going down. They had not been up on
deck, and did not know of the battle between the killer and the
whale, nor what followed.

"Oh, I know we're sinking!" cried one timid woman. "What has
happened?" she appealed to Tom.

"It will be all right in a little while," he assured her.

"But what is it? I want to know. Have we had a collision."

"Yes, with a whale," replied Tom, as he grabbed up something from
his stateroom, and again rushed up on deck. As he reached it the
whale came on once more, and struck the ship another terrific blow.
Then the monster sank and could be seen swimming back, just under
the surface of the water, getting ready to renew the attack.

"He's going to ram us again!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my machine
oil! Why doesn't the captain do something?"

At that moment the commander cried from the bridge:

"Send a man below, Mr. Laster, to see if we are making any water.
Then tell half a dozen of the sailors to get out the rifles, and see
if they can't kill the beast. He'll put us in Davy Jones's locker if
he keeps this up! Lively now, men!"

The first mate, Mr. Laster, called out the order. A sailor went
below to see if the ship was leaking much, and the captain rang for
full speed ahead. But the Soudalar was slow in getting under way
again, and, even at top speed she was no match for the whale, which
was again rushing toward the vessel.

"Quick with those rifles!" cried the captain. "Fire a volley into
the beast!"

"There's no need!" suddenly called Mr. Damon, who had caught sight
of Tom Swift, and the object which the lad carried.

"No need?" demanded the commander. "Why, has the whale sunk, or made

"No," answered the eccentric man, "the whale is still coming on, but
Tom Swift will fix him. Get there, Tom, and let him have a good

"What sort of a gun is that?" demanded the commander as the young
inventor took his place at the rail, which was now almost deserted.

Tom did not answer. Bracing himself against the rolling and heaving
of the vessel, which was now under about half speed, Tom aimed his
electric rifle at the oncoming leviathan. He looked at the automatic
gage, noted the distance and waiting a moment until the crest of a
wave in front of the whale had subsided, he pressed the button.

If those watching him expected to hear a loud report, and see a
flash of flame, they were disappointed. There was absolutely no
sound, but what happened to the whale was most surprising.

The great animal stopped short amid a swirl of foam, and the next
instant it seemed to disintegrate. It went all to pieces, just as
had the dummy figure which Tom on one occasion fired at with his
rifle and as had the big packing-cases. The whale appeared to
dissolve, as does a lump of sugar in a cup of hot tea, and, five
seconds after Tom Swift had fired his electric gun, there was not a
sign of the monster save a little blood on the calm sea.

"What--what happened?" asked the captain in bewilderment. "Is--is
that monster gone?"

"Completely gone!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my powder horn, Tom, but
I knew you could do it!"

"Is that a new kind of whale gun, firing an explosive bullet?"
inquired the commander, as he came down off the bridge and shook
hands with Tom. "If it is, I'd like to buy one. We may be rammed
again by another whale."

"This is my new, electric rifle," explained the young inventor
modestly, "and it fires wireless charges of electricity instead of
bullets. I'm sorry I can't let you have it, as it's the only one I
have. But I guess no more whales will ram us. That one was evidently
crazed by the attack of the killer, and doubtless took us for
another of its enemies."

Sailors and passengers crowded around Tom, eager to shake his hand,
and to hear about the gun. Many declared that he had saved the ship.

This was hardly true, for the whale could not have kept up its
attacks much longer. Still he might have done serious damage, by
causing a leak, and, while the Soudalar was a stanch craft, with
many water-tight compartments, still no captain likes to be a week
from land with a bad leak, especially if a storm comes up. Then,
too, there was the danger of a panic among the passengers, had the
attacks been kept up, so, though Tom wanted to make light of his
feat, the others would not let him.

"You're entitled to the thanks of all on board," declared Captain
Wendon, "and I'll see that the owners hear of what you did. Well, I
guess we can go on, now. I'll not stop again to see a fight between
a killer and a whale."

The steamer resumed her way at full speed, and the sailor, who had
gone below, came up to report that there was only a slight leak,
which need not cause any uneasiness.

Little was talked of for the next few days but the killing of the
whale, and Tom had to give several exhibitions of his electric
rifle, and explain its workings. Then, too, the story of his
expedition became known, and also the object of Mr. Anderson's
quest, and Tom's offer of aid to help rescue the missionaries, so
that, altogether, our hero was made much of during the remainder of
the voyage.

"Well, if your gun will do that to a whale, what will it do to an
elephant?" asked Mr. Durban one morning, when they were within a
day's steaming of their port. "I'm afraid it's almost too strong,
Tom. It will leave nothing--not even the tusks to pick up."

"Oh, I can regulate the power," declared the lad. "I used full force
on the whale, just to see what it would do. It was the first tine
I'd tried it on anything alive. I can so regulate the charge that it
will kill even an elephant, and leave scarcely a mark on the beast."

"I'd like to see it done," remarked the old. hunter.

"I'll show you, if we sight any sharks," promised Tom. He was able
to keep his word for that afternoon a school of the ugly fish
followed the steamer for the sake of the food scraps thrown
overboard. Tom took his position in the stern, and gave an
exhibition of shooting with his electric gun that satisfied even Mr.
Durban, exacting as he was.

For the lad, by using his heaviest charges, destroyed the largest
sharks so that they seemed to instantly disappear in the water, and
from that he toned down the current until he could kill some of the
monsters so easily and quickly that they seemed to float motionless
on the surface, yet there was no life left in them once the electric
charge touched them.

"We'll use the light charges when we're killing elephants for their
tusks," said Tom, "and the heavy ones when we're in danger from a
rush of the beasts."

He little knew how soon he would have to put his plan into effect.

They arrived safely at Majumba, the African coast city, and for two
days Tom was kept busy superintending the unloading of the parts of
his airship. But it was safely taken ashore, and he and his friends
hired a disused warehouse in which to work at reassembling the Black

Tom had everything down to a system, and, in less than a week the
aircraft was once more ready to be sent aloft. It was given a try-
out, much to the astonishment of the natives, and worked perfectly.
Then Tom and his friends busied themselves laying in a stock of
provisions and stores for the trip into the interior.

They made inquiries about the chances of getting ivory and were told
that they were good if they went far enough into the jungle and
forests, for the big beasts had penetrated farther and farther

They also tried to get some news regarding the captive missionaries,
but were unsuccessful nor could they learn what had become of Tomba,
who had brought the dire news to civilization.

"It's too soon to hope for anything yet," said Mr. Anderson. "Wait
until we get near the country of the red pygmies."

"And then it may be too late," said Tom in a low voice.

It was two weeks after their arrival in Majumba that Tom announced
that all was in readiness. The airship was in perfect working order,
it was well stocked with food, arms, articles and trinkets with
which to trade among the natives, spare parts for the machinery,
special tools and a good supply of the chemicals needed to
manufacture the lifting gas.

Of course Tom did not leave behind his electric weapon and Mr.
Durban and the others took plenty of ammunition for the ordinary
rifles which they carried.

One morning, after cabling to his father that they were about to
start, Tom gave a last careful look to his airship, tested the motor
and dynamos, took a hasty survey of the storeroom, to see that
nothing had been forgotten, and gave the word to get aboard.

They took their places in the cabin. Outside a crowd of natives, and
white traders of many nationalities had gathered. Tom pulled the
starting lever. The Black Hawk shot across a specially prepared
starting ground, and, attaining sufficient momentum, suddenly arose
into the air.

There was a cheer from the watching crowd, and several superstitious
blacks, who saw the airship for the first time, ran away in terror.

Up into the blue atmosphere Tom took his craft. He looked down on
the city over which he was flying. Then he pointed the prow of the
Black Hawk toward the heart of the dark continent.

"Off for the interior!" he murmured. "I wonder if we'll ever get out

No one could answer. They had to take their chances with the dangers
and terrors of elephant land, and with the red pygmies. Yet Tom
Swift was not afraid.



With the voyage on the steamer, their arrival in Africa, the many
strange sights of the city of Majumba, and the refitting of the
airship, our friends had hardly had time to catch their breath since
Tom Swift's determination to go elephant hunting. Now, as the Black
Hawk was speeding into the interior, they felt, for the first time
in many weeks, that they "could take it easy," as Ned Newton
expressed it.

"Thank goodness," said the bank clerk, "I can sit down and look at
something for a while," and he gazed out of the main cabin windows
down at the wild country over which they were then flying.

For, so swiftly had the airship moved that it was hardly any time at
all before it had left Majumba far behind, and was scudding over the

"Bless my camera," exclaimed Mr. Damon, who had brought along one of
the picture machines, "bless my camera! I don't call that much to
look at," and he pointed to the almost impenetrable forest over
which they then were.

"No, it isn't much of a view," said the old elephant hunter, "but
wait. You'll soon see all you want to. Africa isn't all like this.
There are many strange sights before us yet. But, Tom Swift, tell us
how the airship is working in this climate. Do you find any
difficulty managing it?"

"Not at all," answered Tom, who was in the cabin then, having set
the automatic steering apparatus in the pilot house, and come back
to join the others. "It works as well as it did in good old York
State. Of course I can't tell what affect the continual hot and
moist air will have on the gas bag, but I guess we'll make out all

"I certainly hope so," put in Mr. Anderson. "It would be too bad to
be wrecked in the middle of Africa, with no way to get out."

"Oh, you needn't worry about that," said Ned with a laugh. "If the
airship should smash, Tom would build another out of what was left,
and we'd sail away as good as before."

"Hardly that," answered the young inventor.

"But we won't cross a bridge until we hear it coming, as Eradicate
would say. Hello, that looks like some sort of native village."

He pointed ahead to a little clearing in the forest, where a number
of mud and grass huts were scattered about. As they came nearer they
could see the black savages, naked save for a loin cloth, running
about in great excitement, and pointing upward.

"Yes, that's one of the numerous small native villages we'll see
from now on," said Mr. Durban. "Many a night have I spent in those
same grass huts after a day's hunting. Sometimes, I've been
comfortable, and again not. I guess we've given those fellows a

It did seem so, for by this time the whole population, including
women and children, were running about like mad. Suddenly, from
below there sounded a deep booming noise, which came plainly to the
ears of the elephant hunters through the opened windows of the
airship cabin.

"Hark! What's that?" cried Tom, raising his hand for silence.

"Bless my umbrella! it sounds like thunder," said Mr. Damon.

"No, it's one of their war drums," explained Mr. Durban. "The
natives make large ones out of hollow trees, with animal skins
stretched over the ends, and they beat them to sound a warning, or
before going into battle. It makes a great noise."

"Do you think they want to fight us?" asked Ned, looking anxiously
at Tom, and then toward where his rifle stood in a corner of the

"No, probably that drum was beaten by some of the native priests,"
explained the hunter. "The natives are very superstitious, and
likely they took us for an evil spirit, and wanted to drive us

"Then we'll hustle along out of their sight," said Tom, as he went
to the pilot house to increase the speed of the airship, for he had
been letting it drift along slowly to enable the adventurers to view
the country over which they were passing. A few minutes later, under
the increased force of the machinery, the Black Hawk left the native
village, and the crowd of frightened blacks, far behind.

The travelers passed over a succession of wild stretches of forest
or jungle, high above big grassy plains, over low but rugged
mountain ranges, and big rivers. Now and then they would cross some
lake, on the calm surface of which could be made out natives, in big
canoes, hollowed out from trees. In each case the blacks showed
every appearance of fright at the sight of the airship throbbing
along over their heads.

On passing over the lake, Ned Newton looked down and cried out

"Look! Elephants! They're in swimming, and the natives are shooting
them! Now's our chance, Tom!"

Mr. Anderson and Mr. Durban, after a quick glance, drew back

"Those are hippopotami!" exclaimed the old elephant man. "Good
hunting, if you don't care what you shoot, but not much sport in it.
It will be some time yet before we see any elephants, boys."

Ned was rather chagrined at his mistake, but the African travelers
told him that any one, not familiar with the country, would have
made it, especially in looking down from a great height.

They sailed along about half a mile above the earth, Tom gradually
increasing the speed of the ship, as he found the machinery to be
working well. Dinner was served as they were crossing a high grassy
plateau, over which could be seen bounding a number of antelopes.

"Some of those would go good for a meal," said Mr. Durban, after a
pause during which he watched the graceful creatures.

"Then we'll go down and get some for supper," decided Tom, for in
that hot climate it was impossible to carry fresh meat on the

Accordingly, the Black Hawk was sent down, and came to rest in a
natural clearing on the edge of the jungle. After waiting until the
fierce heat of noonday was over, the travelers got out their rifles
and, under the leadership of Mr. Durban and Mr. Anderson, who was
also an experienced hunter, they set off.

Game was plentiful, but as they could only eat a comparatively small
quantity, and as it would not keep, they only shot what they needed.
Tom had his electric rifle, but hesitated to use it, as Mr. Durban
and Mr. Anderson had each already bowled over a fine buck.

However, a chance came most unexpectedly, for, as they were passing
along the banks of a little stream, which was almost hidden from
view by thick weeds and rank grass, there was a sudden commotion in
the bushes, and a fierce wild buffalo sprang out at the party.

There are few animals in Africa more dreaded by hunters than the
wild buffalo, for the beast, with its spreading sharp horns is a
formidable foe, and will seldom give up the attack until utterly
unable to move. They are fierce and relentless.

"Look out!" yelled Mr. Durban. "To cover, everybody! If that beast
gets after you it's no fun! You and I will fire at him, Mr. Anderson!"

Mr. Durban raised his rifle, and pulled the trigger, but, for some
reason, the weapon failed to go off. Mr. Anderson quickly raised
his, but his foot slipped in a wet place and he fell. At that moment
the buffalo, with a snort of rage, charged straight for the fallen man.

"Tom! your electric rifle!" yelled Ned Newton, but he need not have
done so, for the young inventor was on the alert.

Taking instant aim, and adjusting his weapon for the heaviest
charge, Tom fired at the advancing beast. The result was the same as
in the case of the whale, the buffalo seemed to melt away. And it
was stopped only just in time, too, for it was close to the
prostrate Mr. Anderson, who had sprained his ankle slightly, and
could not readily rise.

It was all over in a few seconds, but it was a tense time while it

"You saved my life again, Tom Swift," said Mr. Anderson, as he
limped toward our hero. "Once on Earthquake Island, and again now. I
shan't forget it," and he shook hands with the young inventor.

The others congratulated Tom on his quick shot, and Mr. Damon, as
usual blessed everything in sight, and the electric rifle

They went back to the airship, taking the fresh meat with them, but
on account of the injury to Mr. Anderson's ankle could not make
quick progress, so that it was almost dusk when they reached the

"Well, we'll have supper, and then start off," proposed Tom, "I
don't think it would be wise to remain on the ground so near the

"No' it's safer in the air," agreed Mr. Durban. The meal was much
enjoyed, especially the fresh meat, and, after it was over, Tom took
his place in the pilot house to start the machinery, and send the
airship aloft.

The motor hummed and throbbed, and the gas hissed into the bag, for
the ground was not level enough to permit of a running start by
means of the planes. Lights gleamed from the Black Hawk and the big
search-lantern in front cast a dazzling finger of light into the
black forest.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" called Ned, who heard the
machinery in motion, but who could not feel the craft rising. "Why
don't you go up, Tom?"

"I'm trying to," answered the young inventor. "Something seems to be
the matter." He pulled the speed lever over a few more notches, and
increased the power of the gas machine. Still the Black Hawk did not

"Bless my handkerchief box!" cried Mr. Damon, "what's the matter?"

"I don't know," answered Tom. "We seem to be held fast."

He further increased the speed of the propellers, and the gas
machine was set to make vapor at its fullest capacity, and force it
into the bag. Still the craft was held to the earth.

"Maybe the gas has no effect in this climate," called Ned.

"It can't be that," replied Tom. "The gas will operate anywhere. It
worked all right today."

Suddenly she airship moved up a little way, and then seemed to be
pulled down again, hitting the ground with a bump.

"Something is holding us!" cried Tom. "We're anchored to earth! I
must see what it is!" and, catching up his electric rifle, he dashed
out of the cabin.



For a moment after Tom's departure the others stared blankly at one
another. They could hear the throbbing and hum of the machinery, and
feel the thrill of the anchored airship. But they could not
understand what the trouble was.

"We must help Tom!" cried Ned Newton at length as he caught up his
rifle. "Maybe we are in the midst of a herd of elephants, and they
have hold of the ship in their trunks."

"It couldn't be!" declared Mr. Durban, yet they soon discovered that
Ned's guess was nearer the truth then any of them had suspected at
the time.

"We must help him, true enough!" declared Mr. Anderson, and he and
the others followed Ned out on deck.

"Where are you Tom?" called his chum.

"Here." was the answer. "I'm on the forward deck."

"Do you see anything?"

"No, it's too dark. Turn the search-light this way."

"I will," shouted Mr. Damon, and a moment later the gleam of the
powerful lantern brought Tom clearly into view, as he stood on the
small forward observation platform in the bow of the Black Hawk.

An instant later the young inventor let out a startled cry.

"What is it?" demanded Mr. Durban.

"An immense snake!" shouted Tom. "It's wound around a tree, and
partly twined around the ship! That's why we couldn't go up! I'm
going to shoot it."

They looked to where he pointed, and there, in the glare of the
light, could be seen an immense python, fully twenty-five feet long,
the forward part of its fat ugly body circled around the slender
prow of the airship, while the folds of the tail were about a big

Tom Swift raised his electric rifle, took quick aim, and, having set
it to deliver a moderate charge, pressed the button. The result was
surprising, for the snake being instantly killed the folds uncoiled
and the ship shot upward, only, instead of rising on an even keel,
the bow pointed toward the sky, while the stern was still fast to
the earth. Tilted at an angle of forty-five degrees the Black Hawk
was in a most peculiar position, and those standing on the deck
began to slide along it.

"There's another snake at the stern!" cried Mr. Damon as he grasped
a brace to prevent falling off. "Bless my slippers! it's the mate of
the one you killed! Shoot the other one, Tom!"

The young inventor needed no urging. Making his way as best he could
to the stern of the airship, he killed the second python, which was
even larger than the first, and in an instant the Black Hawk shot
upward, this time level, and as it should be. Things on board were
soon righted, and the travelers could stand upright. High above the
black jungle rose the craft, moving forward under the full power of
the propellers, until Tom rushed into the engine room, and reduced

"Well, talk about things happening!" exclaimed Ned, when they had
somewhat recovered from the excitement. "I should say they were
beginning with a vengeance!"

"That's the way in Africa," declared Mr. Durban. "It's a curious
country. Those pythons generally go in pairs, but it's the first
time I ever knew them to tackle an airship. They probably stay
around here where there is plenty of small game for them, and very
likely they merely anchored to our craft while waiting for a supper
to come along."

"It was a very odd thing," said Tom. "I couldn't imagine what held
us. After this I'll see that all is clear before I try to go up.
Next time we may he held by a troop of baboons and it strains the
machinery to have it pull against dead weight in that way."

However, it was found no harm had resulted from this experience,
and, after reducing the gas pressure, which was taking them too
high, Tom set the automatic rudders.

"We'll keep on at slow speed through the night," he explained, "and
in the morning we'll be pretty well into the interior. Then we can
lay our course for wherever we want to go. Where had we better head

"I don't want to interfere with your plans," said Mr. Anderson, "but
I would like to rescue those missionaries. But the trouble is, I
don't know just where to look for them. We couldn't get much of a
line in Majumba on where the country of the red pygmies is located.
What do you think about it, Mr. Durban?"

"As far as elephant hunting goes we can probably do as well in the
pygmy land as anywhere else," answered the veteran, "and perhaps it
will be well to head for that place. If we run across any elephant
herds in the meanwhile, we can stop, get the ivory, and proceed."

They discussed this plan at some length, and agreed that it was the
best thing to do. Mr. Durban had a map of the country around the
center of Africa, and he marked on it, as nearly as he could, the
location of the pygmies' country, while Mr. Anderson also had a
chart, showing the location of the mission which had been wiped out
of existence. It was in the midst of a wild and desolate region.

"We'll do the best we can," declared Tom, "and I think we'll
succeed. We ought to be there in about a week, if we have no bad

All that night the Black Hawk flew on over Africa, covering mile
after mile, passing over jungle, forest, plains, rivers and lakes,
and, doubtless, over many native villages, though they could not be

Morning found the travelers above a great, grassy plain, dotted here
and there with negro settlements which were separated by rivers,
lakes or thin patches of forest.

"Well, we'll speed up a bit," decided Tom after breakfast, which was
eaten to the weird accompaniment of hundreds of native warning-
drums, beaten by the superstitious blacks.

Tom went to the engine room, and turned on more speed. He was about
to go back to the pilot house, to set the automatic steering
apparatus to coincide with the course mapped out, when there was a
crash of metal, an ominous snapping and buzzing sound, followed by a
sudden silence.

"What's that?" cried Ned, who was in the motor compartment with his

"Something's gone wrong!" exclaimed the young inventor, as he sprang
back toward the engine. The propellers had ceased revolving, and as
there was no gas in the bag at that time, it having been decided to
save the vapor for future needs, the Black Hawk began falling toward
the earth.

"We're going down!" yelled Ned.

"Yes, the main motor has broken!" exclaimed Tom. "We'll have to
descend to repair it."

"Say!" yelled Mr. Damon, rushing in, "we're right over a big African
village! Are we going to fall among the natives?"

"It looks that way," admitted Tom grimly, as he hastened to the
pilot house to shift the wings so that the craft could glide easily
to the ground.

"Bless my shoe blacking!" cried the eccentric man as he heard the
beating of drums, and the shouts of the savages.

A little later the airship had settled into the midst of a crowd of
Africans, who swarmed all about the craft.



"Get ready with your guns, everybody!" cried the old elephant
hunter, as he prepared to leave the cabin of the Black Hawk. "Tom
Swift, don't forget your electric rifle. There'll be trouble soon!"

"Bless my cartridge belt!" gasped Mr. Damon. "Why? What will happen?"

"The natives," answered Mr. Durban. "They'll attack us sure as fate!
See, already they're getting out their bows and arrows, and
blowguns! They'll pierce the gas bag in a hundred places!"

"If they do, it will be a bad thing for us," muttered Tom. "We can't
have that happen."

He followed the old elephant hunter outside, and Mr. Anderson, Ned
Newton and Mr. Damon trailed after, each one with a gun, while Tom
had his electric weapon. The airship rested on its wheels on some
level ground, just in front of a large hut, surrounded by a number
of smaller ones. All about were the natives, tall, gaunt black men,
hideous in their savagery, wearing only the loin cloth, and with
their kinky hair stuck full of sticks, bones and other odd objects
they presented a curious sight.

Some of them were dancing about, brandishing their weapons--clubs
spears, bows, and arrows, or the long, slender blowguns, consisting
merely of a hollow reed. Women and children there were, too, also
dancing and leaping about, howling at the tops of their voices.
Above the unearthly din could be heard the noise of the drums and
tom-toms, while, as the adventurers drew up in front of their
airship, there came a sort of chant, and a line of natives, dressed
fantastically in the skins of beasts, came filing out of the large

"The witch-doctors!" exclaimed Tom, who had read of them in African
travel books.

"Are they going to attack us?" cried Ned.

"Bless my hymn book! I hope not!" came from Mr. Damon. "We wouldn't
have any chance at all in this horde of black men. I wish Eradicate
Sampson and his mule Boomerang were here. Maybe he could talk their
language, and tell them that we meant no harm."

"If there's any talking to be done, I guess our guns will have to do
it," said Tom grimly.

"I can speak a little of their language," remarked Mr. Durban, "but
what in the world are the beggars up to, anyhow? I supposed they'd
send a volley of arrows at us, first shot, but they don't seem to be
going to do that."

"No, they're dancing around us," said Tom.

"That's it!" exclaimed Mr. Anderson. "I have it! Why didn't I think
of it before? The natives are welcoming us!"

"Welcoming us?" repeated Ned.

"Yes," went on the missionary seeker. "They are doing a dance in our
honor, and they have even called out the witch-doctors to do us

"That's right," agreed Mr. Durban, who was listening to the chanting
of the natives dressed in animal skins. "They take us for spirits
from another land, and are making us welcome here. Listen, I'll see
if I can make out what else they are saying."

The character of the shouts and chants changed abruptly, and the
dancing increased in fervor, even the children throwing themselves
wildly about. The witch-doctors ran around like so many maniacs, and
it looked as much like an American Indian war dance as anything

"I've got it!" shouted Mr. Durban, for he had to call loudly to be
heard above the din. "They are asking us to make it rain. It seems
there has been a dry spell here, and their own rain-makers and
witch-doctors haven't been able to get a drop out of the sky. Now,
they take it that we have come to help them. They think we are going
to bring rain."

"And if we don't, what will happen?" asked Tom.

"Maybe they won't be quite so glad to see us," was the answer.

"Well, if they don't mean war, we might as well put up our weapons,"
suggested Mr. Anderson. "If they're going to be friendly, so much
the better, and if it should happen to rain while we're here, they'd
think we brought it, and we could have almost anything we wanted.
Perhaps they have a store of ivory hidden away, Mr. Durban. Some of
these tribes do."

"It's possible, but the chances for rain are very small. How long
will we have to stay here, Tom Swift?" asked the elephant hunter

"Well, perhaps I can get the motor mended in two or three days,"
answered the young inventor.

"Then we'll have to stay here in the meanwhile," decided Mr. Durban.
"Well, we'll make the best of it. Ha, here comes the native king to
do us honor," and, as he spoke there came toward the airship a
veritable giant of a black man, wearing a leopard skin as a royal
garment, while on his head was a much battered derby hat, probably
purchased at a fabulous price from some trader. The king, if such he
could be called, was accompanied by a number of attendants and
witch-doctors. In front walked a small man, who, as it developed,
was an interpreter. The little cavalcade advanced close to the
airship, and came to a halt. The king made a low bow, either to the
craft or to the elephant hunters drawn up in front of it. His
attendants followed his example, and then the interpreter began to

Mr. Durban listened intently, made a brief answer to the little man,
and then the elephant hunter's face lighted up.

"It's all right," he said to Tom and the others. "The king takes us
for wonderful spirits from another land. He welcomes us, says we can
have whatever we want, and he begs us to make it rain. I have said
we will do our best, and I have asked that some food be sent us.
That's always the first thing to do. We'll be allowed to stay here
in peace until Tom can mend the ship, and then we'll hit the air
trail again."

The talk between Mr. Durban and the interpreter continued for some
little time longer. Then the king went back to his hut, refusing, as
Mr. Durban said, an invitation to come aboard and see how a modern
airship was constructed. The natives, too, seemed anxious to give
the craft a wide berth.

The excitement had quieted down now, and, in a short tine a crowd of
native women came toward the airship, bearing, in baskets on their
heads, food of various kinds. There were bananas, some wild fruits,
yams, big gourds of goats' milk, some boiled and stewed flesh of
young goats, nicely cooked, and other things, the nature of which
could only be guessed at.

"Shall we eat this stuff, or stick to Mr. Damon's cooking?" asked

"Oh, you'll find this very good," explained Mr. Durban. "I've eaten
native cookery before. Some of it is excellent and as this appears
to be very good, Mr. Damon can have a vacation while we are here."

The old elephant hunter proved the correctness of his statement by
beginning to eat, and soon all the travelers were partaking of the
food left by the native women. They placed it down on the ground at
a discreet distance from the airship, and hurriedly withdrew. But if
the women and men were afraid, the children were not, and they were
soon swarming about the ship, timidly touching the sides with their
little black fingers, but not venturing on board.

Tom, with Ned and Mr. Damon to help him, began work on the motor
right after dinner. He found the break to be worse than he had
supposed, and knew that it would take at least four days to repair

Meanwhile the airship continued to be a source of wonder to the
natives. They were always about it, save at night, but their
admiration was a respectful one. The king was anxious for the rain-
making incantations to begin, but Mr. Durban put him off.

"I don't want to deceive these simple natives," he said, "and for
our own safety we can't pretend to make rain, and fail. As soon as
we have a chance we'll slip away from here."

But an unexpected happening made a change in their plans. It was on,
the afternoon of their third day in the native village, and Tom and
his assistants were working hard at the motor. Suddenly there seemed
to be great excitement in the vicinity of the king's hut. A native
had rushed into the village from the jungle, evidently with some
news, for presently the whole place was in a turmoil.

Once more the king and his attendants filed out toward the airship.
Once more the interpreter talked to Mr. Durban, who listened

"By Jove! here's our chance!" he cried to Tom, when the little man
had finished.

"What is it?" asked the young inventor.

"A runner has just come in with news that a large herd of wild
elephants is headed this way. The king is afraid the big beasts will
trample down all their crops, as often occurs, and he begs us to go
out and drive the animals away. It's just what we want. Come on,
Tom, and all of you. The airship will be safe here, for the natives
think that to meddle with it would mean death or enchantment for
then. We'll get on our first elephant trail!"

The old hunter went into the cabin for his big game gun, while Tom
hastened to get out his electric rifle. Now he would have a chance
to try it on the powerful beasts which he had come to Africa to

Amid the excited and joyous shouts of the natives, the hunters filed
out of the village, led by the dusky messenger who had brought the
news of the elephants. And, as Tom and the others advanced, they
could hear a distant trumpeting, and a crashing in the jungle that
told of the near presence of the great animals.



"Look to your guns, everybody!" cautioned Mr. Durban. "It's no joke
to be caught in an elephant herd with an unloaded rifle. Have you
plenty of ammunition, Mr. Damon?"

"Ammunition? Bless my powder bag, I think I have enough for all the
elephants I'll kill. If I get one of the big beasts I'll be
satisfied. Bless my piano keys! I think I see them, Tom!"

He pointed off through the thick jungle. Surely something was moving
there amid the trees; great slate-colored bodies, massive forms and
waving trunks! The trumpeting increased, and the crashing of the
underbrush sounded louder and nearer.

"There they are!" cried Tom Swift joyously.

"Now for my first big game!" yelled Ned Newton.

"Take it easy," advised Mr. Anderson. "Remember to aim for the spot
I mentioned to you as being the best, just at the base of the skull.
If you can't make a head shot, or through the eye, try for the
heart. But with the big bullets we have, almost any kind of a shot,
near a vital spot, will answer."

"And Tom can fire at their TOES and put them out of business,"
declared Ned, who was eagerly advancing. "How about it, Tom?"

"Well, I guess the electric rifle will come up to expectations. Say,
Mr. Durban, they seem to be heading this way!" excitedly cried Tom,
as the herd of big beasts suddenly turned and changed their course.

"Yes, they are," admitted the old elephant hunter calmly. "But that
won't matter. Take it easy. Kill all you can."

"But we don't want to put too many out of business," said Tom, who
was not needlessly cruel, even in hunting.

"I know that," answered Mr. Durban. "But this is a case of
necessity. I've got to get ivory, and we have to kill quite a few
elephants to accomplish this. Besides the brutes will head for the
village and the natives' grain fields, and trample them down, if
they're not headed back. So all together now, we'll give them a
volley. This is a good place! There they are. All line up now. Get

He halted, and the others followed his example. The natives had come
to a stop some time before, and were huddled together in the jungle
back of our friends, waiting to see the result of the white men's

Tom, Ned, Mr. Damon, and the two older hunters were on an irregular
line in the forest. Before them was the mass of elephants advancing
slowly, and feeding on the tender leaves of trees as they came on.
They would reach up with their long trunks, strip off the foliage,
and stuff it into their mouths. Sometimes, they even pulled up small
trees by the roots for the purpose of stripping them more easily.

"Jove! There are some big tuskers in that bunch!" cried Mr. Durban.
"Aim for the bulls, every one, don't kill the mothers or little
ones." Tom now saw that there were a number of baby Elephants in the
herd, and he appreciated the hunter's desire to spare them and their

"Here we go!" exclaimed Mr. Durban, as he saw that Tom and the
others were ready. "Aim! Fire!"

There were thundering reports that awoke the echoes of the jungle,
and the sounds of the rifles were followed by shrill trumpets of
rage. When the smoke blew away three elephants were seen prostrate,
or, rather two, and part of another one. The last vas almost blown
to pieces by Tom Swift's electric rifle; for the young inventor had
used a little too heavy charge, and the big beast had been almost

Mr. Durban had dropped his bull with a well-directed shot, and Mr.
Anderson had a smaller one to his credit.

"I guess I missed mine," said Ned ruefully.

"Bless my dress-suit case!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "So did I!"

"One of you hit that fellow!" cried Mr. Durban. "He's wounded."

He pointed to a fair-sized bull who was running wildly about,
uttering shrill cries of anger. The other beasts had gathered in a
compact mass, with the larger bulls, or tuskers, on the outside, to
protect the females and young.

"I'll try a shot at him," said Tom, and raising his electric, gun,
he took quick aim. The elephant dropped in his tracks, for this time
the young inventor had correctly adjusted the power of the wireless

"Good!" cried Mr. Durban. "Give them some more! This is some of the
best ivory I've seen yet!"

As he spoke he fired, and bowled over another magnificent specimen.
Ned Newton, determined to make a record of at least one, fired
again, and to his delight, saw a big fellow drop.

"I got him!" he yelled.

Mr. Anderson also got another, and then Mr. Damon, blessing
something which his friends could not make out, fired at one of the
largest bulls in the herd.

"You only nipped him!" exclaimed Mr. Durban when the smoke had
drifted away. "I guess I'll put him out of his misery!"

He raised his weapon and pulled the trigger but no report followed.
He uttered an exclamation of dismay.

"The breech-action has jammed!" he exclaimed. "Drop him, Tom. He's
scented us, and is headed this way. The whole herd will follow in a

Already the big brute wounded by Mr. Damon had trumpeted out a cry
of rage and defiance. It was echoed by his mates. Then, with
upraised trunk, he darted forward, followed by a score of big

But Tom had heard and understood. The leading beast had not taken
three steps before he dropped under the deadly and certain fire of
the young inventor.

"Bless my wishbone!" cried Mr. Damon when he saw how effective the
electric weapon was.

There was a shout of joy from the natives in the rear. They saw the
slain creatures and knew there would be much fresh meat and feasting
for them for days to come.

Suddenly Mr. Durban cried out: "Fire again, Tom! Fire everybody! The
whole herd is coming this way. If we don't stop them they'll overrun
the fields and village, anti may smash the airship! Fire again!"

Almost as he spoke, the rush, which had been stopped momentarily,
when Tom dropped the wounded elephant, began again. With shrill
menacing cries the score of bulls in the lead came on, followed this
time by the females and the young.

"It's a stampede!" yelled Mr. Anderson, firing into the midst of the
herd. Mr. Durban was working frantically at his clogged rifle. Ned
and Mr. Damon both fired, and Tom Swift, adjusting his weapon to
give the heaviest charges, shot a fusillade of wireless bullets into
the center of the advancing elephants, who were now wild with fear
and anger.

"It's a stampede all right!" said Tom, when he saw that the big
creatures were not going to stop, in spite of the deadly fire poured
into them.



Shouting, screaming, imploring their deities in general, and the
white men in particular for protection, the band of frightened
natives broke and ran through the jungle, caring little where they
went so long as they escaped the awful terror of the pursuing herd
of maddened elephants. Behind them came Tom Swift and the others,
for it were folly to stop in the path of the infuriated brutes.

"Our only chance is to get on their flank and try to turn them!"
yelled Mr. Durban. "We may beat them in getting to the clearing, for
the trail is narrow. Run, everybody!"

No one needed his excited advice to cause them to hurry. They
scudded along, Mr. Damon's cap falling off in his haste. But he did
not stop to pick it up.

The hunters had one advantage. They were on a narrow but well-
cleared trail through the jungle, which led from the village where
they were encamped, to another, several miles away. This trail was
too small for the elephants, and, indeed, had to be taken in single
file by the travelers.

But it prevented the elephants making the same speed as did our
friends, for the jungle, at this point, consisted of heavy trees,
which halted the progress of even the strongest of the powerful
beasts. True, they could force aside the frail underbrush and the
small trees, but the others impeded their progress.

"We'll get there ahead of them!" cried Tom. "Have you got your rifle
in working order yet, Mr. Durban?"

"No, something has broken, I fear. We'll have to depend on your
electric gun, Tom. Have you many charges left?"

"A dozen or so. But Ned and the others have plenty of ammunition."

"Don't count--on--me!" panted Mr. Damon, who was well-nigh
breathless from the run. "I--can't--aim--straight--any--more!"

"I'll give 'em a few more bullets!" declared Mr. Anderson.

The fleeing natives were now almost lost to sight, for they could
travel through the jungle, ignoring the trail, at high speed. They
were almost like snakes or animals in this respect. Their one
thought was to get to their village, and, if possible, protect their
huts and fields of grain from annihilation by the elephants.

Behind our friends, trumpeting, bellowing and crashing came the
pachyderms. They seemed to be gaining, and Tom, looking back, saw
one big brute emerge upon the trail, and follow that.

"I've got to stop him, or some of the others will do the same,"
thought the young inventor. He halted and fired quickly. The
elephant seemed to melt away, and Tom with regret, saw a pair of
fine tusks broken to bits. "I used too heavy a charge," he murmured,
as he took up the retreat again.

In a few minutes the party of hunters, who were now playing more in
the role of the hunted, came out into the open. They could hear the
natives beating on their big hollow tree drums, and on tom-toms,
while the witch-doctors and medicine men were chanting weird songs
to drive the elephants away.

But the beasts came on. One by one they emerged from the jungle,
until the herd was gathered together again in a compact mass. Then,
under the leadership of some big bulls, they advanced. It seemed as
if they knew what they were doing, and were determined to revenge
themselves by trampling the natives' huts under their ponderous

But Tom and the others were not idle. Taking a position off to one
side, the young inventor began pouring a fusillade of the electric
bullets into the mass of slate-colored bodies. Mr. Anderson was also
firing, and Ned, who had gotten over some of his excitement, was
also doing execution. Mr. Durban, after vainly trying to get his
rifle to work, cast it aside. "Here! Let me take your gun!" he cried
to Mr. Damon, who, panting from the run, was sitting beneath a tree.

"Bless my cartridge belt! Take it and welcome!" assented the
eccentric man. It still had several shots in the magazine, and these
the old hunter used with good effect.

At first it seemed as if the elephants could not be turned back.
They kept on rushing toward the village, which was not far away, and
Tom and the others followed at one side, as best they could, firing
rapidly. The electric rifle did fearful execution.

Emboldened by the fear that all their possessions would be destroyed
a body of the natives rushed out, right in front of the elephants,
and beat tom-toms and drums, almost under their feet, at the same
time singing wild songs.

"I'm afraid we can't stop them!" muttered Mr. Anderson. "We'd better
hurry to the airship, and protect that, Tom."

But, almost as he spoke, the tide of battle turned. The elephants
suddenly swung about, and began a retreat. They could not stand the
hot fire of the four guns, including Tom's fearful weapon. With wild
trumpetings they fled back into the jungle, leaving a number of
their dead behind.

"A close call," murmured Tom, as he drew a breath of relief. Indeed
this was true, for the tide had turned when the foremost elephants
were not a hundred feet away from the first rows of native huts.

"I should say it was," agreed Ned Newton, wiping his face with his
handkerchief. He, as well as the others, was an odd-looking sight.
They were blackened by powder smoke, scratched by briars, and red
from exertion.

"But we got more ivory in this hour than I could have secured in a
week of ordinary hunting" declared Mr. Durban. "If this keeps up we
won't have to get much more, except that I don't think any of the
tusks to-day are large enough for the special purpose of my

"The sooner we get enough ivory the quicker we can go to the rescue
of the missionaries," said Mr. Anderson.

"That's so," remarked Tom. "We must not forget the red pygmies."

The natives were now dancing about, wild in delight at the prospect
of unlimited eating, and also thankful for what the white men had
done for them. Alone, the blacks would never have been able to stop
the stampede. They were soon busy cutting up the elephants ready for
a big feast, and runners were sent to tell neighboring tribes, in
adjoining villages, of the delights awaiting them.

Mr. Durban gave instructions about saving the ivory tusks, and the
valuable teeth, each pair worth about $1,000, were soon cut out and
put away for our friends. Some had been lost by the excessive power
of Tom's gun, but this could not be helped. It was necessary to stop
the rush at any price.

There was soon a busy scene at the native village, and with the
arrival of other tribesmen it seemed as if Bedlam had broken loose.
The blacks chattered like so many children as they prepared for the

"Do white men ever eat elephant meat?" asked Mr. Damon, as the
adventurers were gathered about the airship.

"Indeed they do," declared Mr. Durban. "Baked elephant foot is a
delicacy that few appreciate. I'll have the natives cook some for

He gave the necessary orders, and the travelers had to admit that it
was worth coming far to get.

For the next few days and nights there was great feasting in that
African village, and the praises of the white men, and power of Tom
Swift's electric rifle, were sung loud and long.

Our friends had resumed work on repairing the airship, and the young
inventor declared, one night, that they could proceed the next day.

They were seated around a small campfire, watching the dancing and
antics of some natives who were at their usual work of eating meat.
All about our friends were numerous blazes for the cooking of the
feasts, and some were on the very edge of the jungle.

Suddenly, above the uncouth sounds of the merry-making, there was
heard a deep vibration and roar, not unlike the distant rumble of
thunder or the hum of a great steamer's whistle heard afar in the

"What's that?" cried Ned.

"Lions," said Mr. Durban briefly. "They have been attracted by the
smell of cooking."

At that moment, and instantly following a very loud roar, there was
an agonized scream of pain and terror. It sounded directly in back
of the airship.

"A lion!" cried Mr. Anderson. "One of the brutes has grabbed a

Tom Swift caught up his rifle, and darted off toward the dark



"Here! Come back!" yelled Mr. Damon and Mr. Anderson, in the same
breath, while the old elephant hunter cried out: "Don't you know
you're risking your life, Tom to go off in the dark, to trail a

"I can't stand it to let the native be carried off!" Tom shouted

"But you can't see in the dark," objected Mr. Anderson. He had
probably forgotten the peculiar property of the electric rifle. Tom
kept on, and the others slowly followed.

The natives had at once ceased their merrymaking at the roaring of
the lions, and now all were gathered close about the campfires, on
which more wood had been piled, to drive away the fearsome brutes.

"There must be a lot of them," observed Mr. Durban, as menacing
growls and roars came from the jungle, along the edge of which Tom
and the others were walking just then. "There are so many of the
brutes that they are bold, and they must be hungry, too. They came
close to our fire, because it wasn't so bright as the other blazes,
and that native must have wandered off into the forest. Well, I
guess it's all up with him."

"He's screaming yet," observed Ned.

Indeed, above the rumbling roars of the lions, and the crackling of
the campfires, could be heard the moaning cries of the unfortunate

"He's right close here!" suddenly called Tom. "He's skirting the
jungle. I think I can get him!"

"Don't take any risks!" called Mr. Durban, who had caught up his own
rifle, that was now in working order again.

Tom Swift was not in sight. He had now penetrated into the jungle--
into the black forest where stalked the savage lions, intent on
getting other prey. Mr. Durban and Mr. Anderson vainly tried to
pierce the darkness to see something at which to shoot. Ned Newton
had eagerly started to follow his chum, but could not discern where
Tom was. A nameless fear clutched at the lad's heart. Mr. Damon was
softly blessing everything of which he could think.

Once more came that pitiful cry from the native, who was, as they
afterward learned, being dragged along by the lion, who had grabbed
him by the shoulder.

Suddenly in the dense jungle there shone a purple-bluish light. It
illuminated the scene like some great sky-rocket for an instant, and
in that brief time Ned and the others caught sight of a great, tawny
form, bounding along. It was a lion, with head held high, dragging
along a helpless black man.

A second later, and before the intense glare had died away, the
watchers saw the lion gently sink down, as though weary. He stopped
short in his tracks, his head rolled back, the jaws relaxed and the
native, who was unconscious now, toppled to one side.

"Tom's killed him with the electric rifle!" cried Mr. Durban.

"Bless my incandescent lamp! so he has," agreed Mr. Damon. "Bless my
dynamo! but that's a wonderful gun, it's as powerful as a
thunderbolt, or as gentle as a summer shower."

Mr. Durban seeing that the lion was dead, in that brief glance he
had had of the brute, called to some of the natives to come and get
their tribesman. They came, timidly enough at first, carrying many
torches, but when they understood that the lion was dead, they
advanced more boldly. They carried the wounded black to a hut, where
they applied their simple but effective remedies for the cruel bite
in his shoulder.

After Tom had shot several other of the illuminated charges into the
jungle, to see if he could discover any more lions, but failed to do
so, he and his friends returned to the anchored airship, amid the
murmured thanks of the Africans.

Bright fires were kept blazing all the rest of the night, but,
though lions could be heard roaring in the jungle, and though they
approached alarmingly close to the place where our friends were
encamped, none of the savage brutes ventured within the clearing.

With the valuable store of ivory aboard the Black Hawk, which was
now completely repaired, an early start was made the next morning.
The Africans besought Tom and his companions to remain, for it was
not often they could have the services of white men in slaying
elephants and lions.

"But, we've got to get on the trail," decided Tom, when the natives
had brought great stores of food, and such simple presents as they
possessed, to induce the travelers to remain.

"Every hour may add to the danger of the missionaries in the hands
of the red pygmies."

"Yes," said Mr. Anderson gravely, "it is our duty to save them."

And so the airship mounted into the air, our friends waving
farewells to the simple-hearted blacks, who did a sort of farewell
war-dance in their honor, shouting their praises aloud, and beating
the drums and tom-toms, so that the echoes followed for some time
after the Black Hawk had begun to mount upward toward the sky.

The craft was in excellent shape, due to the overhauling Tom had
given it while making the repairs. With the propellers beating the
air, and the rudder set to hold them about two thousand feet high,
the travelers moved rapidly over clearings, forests and jungles.

It was agreed that now, when they had made such a good start in
collecting ivory, that they would spend the next few days in trying
to get on the trail of the red pygmies. It might seem a simple
matter, after knowing the approximate location of the land of these
fierce little natives, to have proceeded directly to it. But Africa
is an immense continent, and even in an airship comparatively little
of the interior can be seen at a time.

Besides, the red pygmies had a habit of moving from place to place,
and they were so small, and so wild, capable of living in very tiny
huts or caves, and so primitive, not building regular villages as
the other Africans do, that as Ned said, they were as hard to locate
as the proverbial flea.

Our friends had a general idea of where to look for them, but on
nearing that land, and making inquiries of several friendly tribes,
they learned that the red pygmies had suddenly disappeared from
their usual haunts.

"I guess they heard that we were after them," said Tom, with a grim
smile one day, as he sent the airship down toward the earth, for
they were over a great plain, and several native villages could he
seen dotted on its surface.

"More likely they are in hiding because they have as captives two
white persons," said Mr. Anderson. "They are fierce and fearless,
but, nevertheless, they have, in times past, felt the vengeance of
the white man, and perhaps they dread that now."

They made a descent, and spent several days making inquiries from
the friendly blacks about the race of little men. But scarcely
anything was learned. Some of the negro tribes admitted having heard
of the red pygmies, and others, with superstitious incantations and
imprecations, said they had never heard of them.

One tribe of very large negroes had heard a rumor to the effect that
the band of the pygmies was several days' journey from their
village, across the mountains, and when Tom sent his airship there,
the searchers only found an impenetrable jungle, filled with lions
and other wild beasts, but not a sign of the pygmies, and with no
elephants to reward their search.

"But we're not going to give up," declared Tom, and the others
agreed with him. Forward went the Black Hawk in the search for the
imprisoned ones, but, as the days passed, and no news was had, it
seemed to grow more and more hopeless.

"I'm afraid if we do find them now," remarked Mr. Anderson at
length, "that we'll only recover the bodies of the missionaries."

"Then we'll avenge them," said Tom quietly.

They had stopped at another native village to make inquiries, but
without result, and were about to start off again that night when a
runner came in to announce that a herd of big elephants was feeding
not many miles away.

"Well, we'll stay over a day or so, and get some more ivory,"
decided Mr. Durban and that night they got ready for what was to
prove a big hunt.



"There they are!"

"My, what a lot of big ones!"

"Jove! Mr. Anderson, see those tusks!"

"Yes, you ought to get what you want this time, Mr. Durban."

"Bless my hatband! There must be two hundred of them!" exclaimed Mr.

"I'm glad I recharged my rifle last night!" exclaimed Tom Swift.
"It's fully loaded now."

Then followed exulting cries and shouts of the natives, who were
following our friends, the elephant hunters, who had given voice to
the remarks we have just quoted.

It was early in the morning, and the hunt was about to start, for
the news brought in by the runner the night before had been closely
followed by the brutes themselves, and at dawn our friends were
astir, for scouts brought in word that the elephants, including many
big ones, were passing along only a few miles from the African

Cautiously approaching, with the wind blowing from the elephants to
them, the white hunters made their way along. Mr. Durban was in the
lead, and when he saw a favorable opportunity he motioned for the
others to advance. Then, when he noticed the big bull sentinels of
the herd look about as if to detect the presence of enemies, he gave
another signal and the hunters sank out of sight in the tall grass.

As for the natives, they were like snakes, unseen but ever present,
wriggling along on their hands and knees. They were awaiting the
slaughter, when there would be fresh meat in abundance.

At length the old elephant hunter decided that they were near enough
to chance some shots. As a matter of fact, Tom Swift, with his
electric rifle, had been within range some time before, but as he
did not want to spoil the sport for the others, by firing and
killing, and so alarming the herd, he had held back. Now they could
all shoot together.

"Let her go!" suddenly cried Mr. Durban, and they took aim.

There was a fusillade of reports and several of the big brutes
toppled over.

"Bless my toothbrush!" cried Mr. Damon, "that's the time I got one!"

"Yes, and a fine specimen, too!" added Mr. Durban, who had only
succeeded in downing a small bull, with an indifferent pair of
tusks. "A fine speciment, Mr. Damon, I congratulate you!"

As for Tom Swift, he had killed two of the largest elephants in the

But now the hunters had their work cut out for them, since the
beasts had taken fright and were charging away at what seemed an
awkward gait, but which, nevertheless, took them rapidly over the

"Come on!" cried Mr. Durban. "We must get some more. Some of the
finest tusks I have ever seen are running away from us!"

He began to race after the retreating herd, but it is doubtful if he
would have caught up to them had not a band of natives, who had
crept up and surrounded the beasts, turned them by shouts and the
beating of tom-toms. Seeing an enemy in front of them, the elephants
turned, and our friends were able to get in several more shots. Tom
Swift picked out only those with immense tusks, and soon had several
to his credit. Ned Newton also bagged some prizes.

But finally the elephants, driven to madness by the firing and the
yells of the natives, broke through the line of black men, and
charged off into the jungle, where it was not only useless but
dangerous to follow them.

"Well, we have enough," said Mr. Durban, and when the tusks had been
collected it was found that indeed a magnificent and valuable supply
had been gathered.

"But I have yet to get my prize ones," said the old hunter with a
sigh. "Maybe we'll find the elephant with them when we locate the
red pygmies."

"If we do, we'll have our work cut out for us," declared Tom.

As on the other occasion after the hunt, there was a great feast for
the natives, who invited tribes from miles around, and for two days,
while the tusks were being cut out and cleaned, there were barbeques
on every side.

It was one afternoon, when they were seated in the shade of the
airship, cleaning their guns, and discussing the plans they had best
follow next, that our travellers suddenly heard a great commotion
amongst the Africans, who had for the past hour been very quiet,
most of them sleeping after the feasts. They yelled and shouted, and
began to beat their drums.

"Something is coming," said Ned.

"Perhaps there's going to be a fight," suggested Tom.

"Maybe it's the red pygmies," said Mr. Damon. "Bless my--"

But what he was going to bless he did not say, for at that instant
it seemed as if every native in sight suddenly disappeared, almost
like magic. They sank down into the grass, darted into their huts,
or hid in the tall grass.

"What can it be?" cried Tom, as he looked to see that his rifle was
in working order.

"Some enemy," declared Mr. Anderson.

"There they are!" cried Ned Newton, and as he spoke there burst into
view, coming from the tall grass that covered the plain about the
village, a herd of savage, wild buffaloes. On rushed the shaggy
creatures, their long, sharp horns seeming like waving spears as
they advanced.

"Here's more sport!" cried Tom.

"No! Not sport! Danger!" yelled Mr. Durban. "They're headed right
for us!"

"Then we'll stop them," declared the young inventor, as he raised
his gun.

"No! No!" begged the old hunter. "It's as much as our lives are
worth to try to stop a rush of wild buffaloes. You couldn't do it
with Gatling guns. We can kill a few, but the rest won't stop until
they've finished us and the aeroplane too."

"Then what's to be done?" demanded Mr. Anderson.

"Get into the airship!" cried Mr. Durban. "Send her up. It's the
only way to get out of their path. Then we can shoot them from
above, and drive them away!"

Quickly the adventurers leaped into the craft. On thundered the
buffaloes. Tom feared he could not get the motor started quickly
enough. He did not dare risk rising by means of the aeroplane
feature, but at once started the gas machine.

The big bag began to fill. Nearer came the wild creatures,
thundering over the ground, snorting and bellowing with rage.

"Quick, Tom!" yelled Ned, and at that instant the Black Hawk shot
upward, just as the foremost of the buffaloes passed underneath,
vainly endeavoring to gore the craft with their sweeping horns. The
air-travelers had risen just in time.

"Now it's our turn!" shouted Ned, as he began firing from above into
the herd of infuriated animals below him. Tom, after seeing that the
motor was working well, sent the airship circling about, while
standing in the steering tower, he guided his craft here and there,
meanwhile pouring a fusillade of his wireless bullets into the
buffaloes. Many of them dropped in their tracks, but the big herd
continued to rush here and there, crashing into the frail native
huts, tearing them down, and, whenever a black man appeared, chasing
after him infuriatedly.

"Keep at it!" cried Mr. Durban, as he poured more lead into the
buffaloes. "If we don't kill enough of them, and drive the others
away, there won't be anything left of this village."



Seldom had it been the lot of Tom and his companions to take part in
such a novel hunting scene as that in which they were now
participating. With the airship moving quickly about, darting here
and there under the guidance of the young inventor, the erratic
movements hither and thither of the buffaloes could be followed
exactly. Wherever the mass of the herd went the airship hovered over

"Want any help, Tom?" called Ned, who was firing as fast as his gun
could be worked.

"I guess not," answered the steersman of the Black Hawk, who was
dividing his attention between managing the craft and firing his
electric rifle.

The others, too, were kept busy with their weapons, shooting down on
the infuriated animals. It seemed like a needless slaughter, but it
was not. Had it not been for the white men, the native village,
which consisted of only frail huts, would have been completely wiped
out by the animals. As it was they were kept "milling" about in a
circle in an open space, just as stampeded cattle on the western
ranges are kept from getting away, by being forced round and round.

Not a native was in sight, all being hidden away in the jungle or
dense grass. The white hunters in their airship had matters to

At last the firing proved even too much for the buffaloes which, as
we have said, are among the most dreaded of African beasts. With
bellows of fear, the leading bulls of the herd unable to find the
enemy above their heads, darted of into the forest the way they had

"There they go!" yelled Mr. Durban.

"Yes, and I'm glad to see the last of them," added Mr. Anderson,
with a breath of relief.

"Score another victory for the electric rifle," exclaimed Ned.

"Oh, you did as much execution as I did," declared the inventor of
the weapon.

"Bless my ramrod!" cried Mr. Damon. "I never shot so much in all my
life before."

"Yes, there is enough food to last the natives for a week," observed
Mr. Durban, as Tom adjusted the deflecting rudder to send the
airship down.

"It won't last much longer at the rate they eat," spoke the young
inventor with a laugh. "I never saw such fellows for appetites! They
seem to eat in their sleep."

There were many dead buffaloes, but there was no fear that the meat,
which was much prized by the Africans, would be wasted. Already the
natives were coming from their hiding places, knowing that the
danger was over. Once more they sang the praises of the mighty white
hunters, and the magical air craft in which they moved about.

With the elephants previously killed, the buffaloes provided
material for a great feast, preparations for which were at once
gotten under way, in spite of the fact that the blacks had hardly
stopped eating since the big hunt began. But it was about all they
had to do.

Some of the buffaloes were very large, and there were a number of
pairs of fine horns. Tom and Ned had some of the blacks cut them off
for trophies, and they were stored in the airship together with the

Becoming rather tired of seeing so much feasting, our friends bade
the Africans farewell the next day, and once more resumed their
quest. They navigated through the air for another week, stopping at
several villages, and scanning the jungles and plains by means of
powerful telescopes, for a sight of the red pygmies. They also asked
for news of the sacking of the missionary settlement, but, beyond
meager facts, could learn nothing.

"Well, we've got to keep on, that's all," decided Mr. Durban. "We
may find them most unexpectedly."

"I'm sorry if I have taken you away from your work of gathering
ivory," spoke Mr. Anderson. "Perhaps you had better let me go, and
I'll see if I can't organize a band of friendly blacks, and search
for the red dwarfs myself."

"Not much!" exclaimed Tom warmly. "I said we'd help rescue those
missionaries, and we'll do it, too!"

"Of course," declared the old elephant hunter. "We have quite a lot
of ivory and, while we need more to make it pay well, we can look
for it after we rescue the missionaries as well as before. Perhaps
there will be a lot of elephants in the pygmies' land."

"I was only thinking that we can't go on forever in the airship."
said Mr. Anderson. "You'll have to go back to civilization soon,
won't you, Tom, to get gasolene?"

"No, we have enough for at least a month," answered the young
inventor. "I took aboard an unusually large supply when we started."

"What would happen if we ran out of it in the jungle?" asked Ned.
"Bless my pocketbook! What an unpleasant question!" exclaimed Mr.
Damon. "You are almost as cheerful, Ned, as was my friend Mr.
Parker, the gloomy scientist, who was always predicting dire

"Well, I was only wondering," said Ned, who was a little abashed by
the manner in which his inquiry was received.

"Oh, it would be all right," declared Tom. "We would simply become a
balloon, and in time the wind would blow us to some white
settlement. There is plenty of material for making the lifting gas."

This was reassuring, and, somewhat easier in mind, Ned took his
place in the observation tower which looked down on the jungle over
which they were passing.

It was a dense forest. At times there could be seen, in the little
clearings, animals darting along. There were numbers of monkeys, an
occasional herd of buffaloes were observed, sometimes a solitary
stray elephant was noted, and as for birds, there were thousands of
them. It was like living over a circus, Ned declared.

They had descended one day just outside a large native village to
make inquiries about elephants and the red pygmies. Of the big
beasts no signs had been seen in several months, the hunters of the
tribe told Mr. Durban. And concerning the red pygmies, the blacks
seemed indisposed to talk.

Tom and the others could not understand this, until a witch-doctor,
whom the elephant hunter had met some time ago, when he was on a
previous expedition, told him that the tribe had a superstitious
fear of speaking of the little men.

"They may be around us--in the forest or jungle at any minute," the
witch-doctor said. "We never speak of them."

"Say, do you suppose that can be a clew?" asked Tom eagerly. "They
may be nearer at hand than we think."

"It's possible." admitted the hunter. "Suppose we stay here for a
few days, and I'll see if I can't get some of the natives to go off
scouting in the woods, and locate them, or at least put us on the
trail of the red dwarfs."

This was considered good advice, and it was decided to adopt it.
Accordingly the airship was put in a safe place, and our friends
prepared to spend a week, if necessary, in the native village. Their
presence with the wonderful craft was a source of wonder, and by
means of some trinkets judiciously given to the native king, and
also to his head subjects, and to the witch-doctors (who were a
power in the land), the good opinion of the tribe was won. Then, by
promising rewards to some of the bolder hunters, Mr. Durban finally
succeeded in getting them to go off scouting in the jungle for a
clew to the red pygmies.

"Now we'll have to wait," said Mr. Anderson, "and I hope we get good

Our friends spent their time observing some of the curious customs
of the natives, and in witnessing some odd dances gotten up in their
honor. They also went hunting, and got plenty of game, for which
their hosts were duly grateful. Tom did some night stalking and
found his illuminating bullets a great success.

One hot afternoon Tom and Mr. Damon strolled off a little way into
the jungle, Tom with his electric weapon, in case he saw any game.
But no animals save a few big monkeys where to be seen, and the
young inventor scorned to kill them. It seemed too much like firing
at a human being he said, though the natives stated that some of the
baboons and apes were fierce, and would attack one on the slightest

"I believe I'll sit down here and rest," said Tom, after a mile's
tramp, as he came to a little clearing in the woods.

"Very well, I'll go on," decided Mr. Damon. "Mr. Durban said there
were sometimes rare orchids in these jungles, and I am very fond of
those odd flowers. I'm going to see if I can get any."

He disappeared behind a fringe of moss-grown trees, and Tom sat
down, with his rifle across his knees. He was thinking of many
things, but chiefly of what yet lay before them--the discovery of
the red dwarfs and the possible rescue of the missionaries.

He might have been thus day-dreaming for perhaps a half hour, when
he suddenly heard great commotion in the jungle, in the direction in
which Mr. Damon had vanished. It sounded as though some one was
running rapidly. Then came the report of the odd man's gun.

"He's seen some game!" exclaimed Tom, jumping up, and preparing to
follow his friend. But he did not have the chance. An instant later
Mr. Damon burst through the bushes with every appearance of fright,
his gun held above his head with one hand, and his pith helmet
swaying to and fro in the other.

"They're coming!" he cried to Tom.

"Who, the red pygmies?"

"No, but a couple of rhinoceroses are after me. I wounded one, and
he and his mate are right behind. Don't let them catch me, Tom!"

Mr. Damon was very much alarmed, and there was good occasion for it,
as Tom saw a moment later, for two fierce rhinoceroses burst out of
the jungle almost on the heels of the fleeing man.

Thought was not quicker than Tom Swift. He raised his deadly rifle,
and pressed the button. A charge of wireless electricity shot toward
the foremost animal, and it was dropped in its tracks. The other
came on woofing and snorting with rage. It was the one Mr. Damon had
slightly wounded.

"Come on!" yelled the young inventor, for his friend was in front of
the beast, and in range with the rifle. "Jump to one side, Mr.

Mr. Damon tried, but his foot slipped, and there was no need for
jumping. He fell and rolled over. The rhinoceros swerved toward him,
with the probable intention of goring the prostrate man with the
formidable horn, but it had no chance. Once more the young inventor
fired, this time with a heavier charge, and the animal instantly
toppled over dead.

"Are you hurt?" asked Tom anxiously, as he ran to his friend. Mr.
Damon got up slowly. He felt all over himself, and then answered:

"No, Tom, I guess I'm not hurt, except in my dignity. Never again
will I fire at a sleeping rhinoceros unless you are with me. I had a
narrow escape," and he shook Tom's hand heartily.

"Did you see any orchids?" asked the lad with a smile.

"No, those beasts didn't give me a chance! Bless my tape measure!
but they're big fellows!"

Indeed they were fine specimens, and there was the usual rejoicing
among the natives when they brought in the great bodies, pulling
them to the village with ropes made of vines.

After this Mr. Damon was careful not to go into the jungle alone,
nor, in fact, did any of our friends so venture. Mr. Durban said it
was not safe.

They remained a full week in the native village, and received no
news. In fact, all but one of the hunters came back to report that
there was no sign of the red pygmies in that neighborhood.

"Well, I guess we might as well move on, and see what we can do
ourselves," said Mr. Durban.

"Let's wait until the last hunter comes back," suggested Tom. "He
may bring word."

"Some of his friends think he'll never come back," remarked Mr.

"Why not?" asked Ned.

"They think he has been killed by some wild beast."

But this fear was ungrounded. It was on the second day after the
killing of the rhinoceroses that, as Tom was tinkering away in the
engine-room of the airship, and thinking that perhaps they had
better get under way, that a loud shouting was heard among the

"I wonder what's up now?" mused the young inventor as he went
outside. He saw Mr. Durban and Mr. Anderson running toward the ship.
Behind them was a throng of blacks, led by a weary man whom Tom
recognized as the missing hunter. The lad's heart beat high with
hope. Did the African bring news?

On came Mr. Durban, waving his hands to Tom.

"We've located 'em!" he shouted.

"Not the red pygmies?" asked Tom eagerly.

"Yes; this hunter has news of them. He has been to the border of
their country, and narrowly escaped capture. Then he was attacked by
a lion, and slightly wounded. But, Tom, now we can get on the

"Good!" cried the young inventor. "That's fine news!" and he
rejoiced that once more there would be activity, for he was tired of
remaining in the African camp, and then, too, he wanted to proceed
to the rescue. Already it might be too late to save the unfortunate



The African hunter's story was soon told. He had gone on farther
than had any of his companions, and, being a bold and brave man, had
penetrated into the very fastness of the jungle where few would dare
to venture.

But even he had despaired of getting on the trail of the fierce
little red men, until one afternoon, just at dusk he had heard
voices in the forest. Crouching behind a fallen tree, he waited and
saw passing by some of the pygmy hunters, armed with bows and
arrows, and blowguns. They had been out after game. Cautiously the
hunter followed them, until he located one of their odd villages,
which consisted of little mud huts, poorly made.

The black hunter remained in the vicinity of the pygmies all that
night, and was almost caught, for some wild dogs which hung around
the village smelled him out, and attracted to him the attention of
the dwarf savages. The hunter took to a tree, and so escaped. Then,
carefully marking the trail, he came away in the morning. When near
home, a lion had attacked him, but he speared the beast to death,
after a hand-to-hand struggle in which his leg was torn.

"And do you think we can find the place?" asked Ned, when Mr. Durban
had finished translating the hunter's story.

"I think so," was the reply.

"But is this the settlement where the missionaries are?" asked Tom

"That is what we don't know," said Mr. Anderson. "The native scout
could not learn that. But once we get on the trail of the dwarfs, I
think we can easily find the particular tribe which has the

"At any rate, we'll get started and do something," declared Tom, and
the next day, after the African hunter had described, as well as he
could, where the place was, the Black Hawk was sent up into the air,
good-bys were called down, and once more the adventurers were under

It was decided that they had better proceed cautiously, and lower
the airship, and anchor it, sometime before getting above the place
where the pygmy village was.

"For they may see us, and, though they don't know what our craft is,
they may take the alarm and hide deeper in the jungle with the
prisoners, where we can't find them," said Tom.

His plan was adopted, and, while it had taken the native hunter
several days to reach the borders of the dwarfs' land, those in the
airship made the trip in one day. That is, they came as far toward
it as they thought would be safe, and one night, having located a
landmark which Mr. Durban said was on the border, the nose of the
Black Hawk was pointed downward, and soon they were encamped in a
little clearing in the midst of the dense jungle which was all about

With his electric rifle, Tom noiselessly killed some birds, very
much like chicken, of which an excellent meal was made and then, as
it became dark very early, and as nothing could be done, they
lighted a campfire, and retired inside their craft to pass the

It must have been about midnight that Tom, who was a light sleeper
at times, was awakened by some noise outside the window near which
his stateroom was. He sat up and listened, putting out his hand to
where his rifle stood in the corner near his bunk. The lad heard
stealthy footsteps pattering about on the deck of the airship. There
was a soft, shuffling sound, such as a lion or a tiger makes, when
walking on bare boards. In spite of himself, Tom felt the hair on
his head beginning to creep, and a shiver ran down his back.

"There's something out there!" he whispered. "I wonder if I'd better
awaken the others? No, if it's a sneaking lion, I can manage to kill
him, but--"

He paused as another suggestion came to him.

The red pygmies! They went barefoot! Perhaps they were swarming
about the ship which they might have discovered in the darkness.

Tom Swift's heart beat rapidly. He got softly out of his bunk, and,
with his rifle in hand made his way to the door opening on deck. On
his way he gently awakened Ned and Mr. Durban, and whispered to them
his fear.

"If the red pygmies are out there we'll need all our force," said
the old elephant hunter. "Call Mr. Damon and Mr. Anderson, Ned, and
tell them to bring their guns."

Soon they were all ready, fully armed. They listened intently. The
airship was all in darkness, for lights drew a horde of insects. The
campfire had died down. The soft footsteps could still be heard
moving about the deck.

"That sounds like only one person or animal," whispered Ned.

"It does," agreed Tom. "Wait a minute, I'll fire an illuminating
charge, and we can see what it is."

The others posted themselves at windows that gave a view of the
deck. Tom poked his electric rifle out of a crack of the door, and
shot forth into the darkness one of the blue illuminations. The deck
of the craft was instantly lighted up brilliantly, and in the glare,
crouched on the deck, could be seen a powerful black man, nearly
naked, gazing at the hunters.

"A black!" gasped Tom, as the light died out. "Maybe it is one from
the village we just left. What do you want? Who are you?" called the
lad, forgetting that the Africans spoke only their own language. To
the surprise of all, there came his reply in broken English:

"Me Tomba! Me go fo' help for Missy Illingway--fo' Massy Illingway.
Me run away from little red men! Me Christian black man. Oh, if you
be English, help Missy Illingway--she most die! Please help. Tomba
go but Tomba be lost! Please help!"



Surprise, for the moment, held Tom and the others speechless. To be
answered in English, poor and broken as it was, by a native African,
was strange enough, but when this same African was found aboard the
airship, in the midst of the jungle, at midnight, it almost passed
the bounds of possibility.

"Tomba!" mused Tom, wondering where he had heard that name before.

"Of course!" cried Mr. Anderson, suddenly. "Don't you remember?
That's the name of the servant of Mr. and Mrs. Illingway, who
escaped and brought news of their capture by the pygmies. That's who
Tomba is."

"Yes, but Tomba escaped," objected Mr. Durban. "He went to the white
settlements with the news. How comes he here?"

"We'll have to find out," said Tom, simply. "Tomba, are you there?"
he called, as he fired other illuminating charge. It disclosed the
black man standing up on the deck, and looking at them appealingly.

"Yes, Tomba here," was the answer. "Oh, you be English, Tomba know.
Please help Missy and Massy Illingway. Red devils goin' kill 'em
pretty much quick."

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