Part 2 out of 3
"Oh. they knew how to hustle at the last minute," said Tom, and so
it proved. Gradually the loading was finished. The coal barges were
emptied and towed away. Truck after truck departed from the dock
empty, having left its load in the interior of the steamer. One
donkey engine after another ceased to puff, and the littered decks
"Let's watch the late-comers get aboard," suggested Ned to Tom, when
they had arranged things in their stateroom. The two boys and Mr.
Damon had a large one to themselves and Eradicate had been assigned
a small one not far from them.
"That'll make the time pass until supper is ready," agreed the young
inventor, so they took their station near the main gangway and
watched the passengers hurrying up. There were many going to make
the trip to Mexico it seemed, and later the boys learned that a
tourist agency had engaged passage for a number of its patrons.
"That fat man will never get up the slope unless some one pushes
him," remarked Ned, pointing to a very fleshy individual who was
struggling up the steep gangplank, carrying a heavy valise. For the
tide was almost at flood and the deck of the steamer was much
elevated. Indeed it seemed at one moment as if the heavy-weight
passenger would slide backward instead of getting aboard.
"Go give him a hand, Rad," suggested Tom, and the colored man
obligingly relieved the fat man of his grip, thereby enabling him to
give all his attention to getting up the plank.
And it was this simple act on the part of Rad that was the cause of
an uneasy suspicion coming to Tom and Ned. For, as Eradicate
hastened to help the stout passenger, two others behind him. a man
and a boy, started preciptably at the sight of the colored helper.
So confused were they that it was noticed by Ned and his chum.
"Look at that!" said Ned in a low voice, their attention drawn from
the fat man to the man and youth immediately behind him. "You'd
think they were afraid of meeting Rad."
"That's right," agreed Tom, for the man and youth had halted, and
seemed about to turn back, Then the man, with a quick gesture,
tossed a steamer rug he was carrying over his shoulder up so that it
hid his face. At the same time the lad with him, evidently in
obedience to some command, pulled his cap well down over his face
and turned up the collar of a light overcoat he was wearing. He also
seemed to shrink down, almost as if he were deformed.
"Say!" began Ned in wondering tones, "Tom, doesn't that look like--"
"Andy Foger and his father!" burst out the young inventor in a horse
whisper. "Ned, do you think it's possible?"
"Hardly, and yet--"
Ned paused in his answer to look more closely at the two who had
aroused the suspicions of himself and Tom. But they had now crowded
so close up behind the fat man whom Eradicate was assisting up the
plank, that he partly hid them from sight, and the action of the two
in covering their faces further aided them in disguising themselves,
if such was their intention.
"Oh, it can't be!" declared Tom. "If they were going to follow us
they wouldn't dare go on the same steamer. It must be some one else.
But it sure did look like Andy at first."
"That's what I say," came from Ned. "But we can easily find out."
"Ask the purser to show us the passenger list. Even if they are down
under some other names he'd know the Fogers if we described them to
"That's right, we'll do it."
By this time the fat man, who was being assisted by Eradicate had
reached the top of the gang plank. He must have been expected, for
several friends rushed to greet him, and for a moment there was a
confusing little throng at the place where the passengers came
abroad. Tom and Ned hurried up, intent on getting a closer view of
the man and youth who seemed so anxious to escape observation.
But several persons got in their way. and the two mysterious ones
taking advantage of the confusion, slipped down a companionway to
their stateroom, so that when our two lads managed to extricate
themselves from the throng around the fat man, who insisted on
thanking them for allowing Eradicate to help him, it was too late to
effect any identification, at least for the time being.
"But we'll go to the purser," said Tom. "If Andy and his father are
on this steamer we want to know it."
"That's right," agreed Ned.
Just then there was the usual cry:
"All ashore that's going ashore! Last warning!"
A bell rang, there was a hoarse whistle, the rattle of the gangplank
being drawn in, a quiver through the whole length of the ship, and
"Yes," added Ned, "if Andy and his father are here it's too late to
leave them behind now!"
Ned and Tom did not escape the usual commotion that always attends
the sailing of a large steamer. The people on the dock were waving
farewells to those on the boat, and those on the deck of the Maderia
shook their handkerchiefs, their steamer rugs, their hands,
umbrellas--in short anything to indicate their feelings. It was
getting dark, but big electric lights made the dock and the
steamer's deck brilliantly aglow.
The big whistle was blowing at intervals to warn other craft that
the steamer was coming out of her slip. Fussy little tugs were
pushing their blunt noses against the sides of the Maderia to help
her and, in brief, there was not a little excitement.
"Bless my steamer chair!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "We're really off at
last! And now for the land of--"
"Hush!" exclaimed Tom, who stood near the odd gentleman. "You're
forgetting. Some one might hear you."
"That's so, Tom. Bless my soul! I'll keep quiet after this."
"Mah golly!" gasped Eradicate as he saw the open water between the
ship and the deck, "I can't git back now if I wanter--but I doan't
wanter. I hope yo' father takes good care ob Boomerang, Massa Tom."
"Oh, I guess he will. But come on, Ned, we'll go to the purser's
"What for? Is something wrong?" asked Mr. Damon.
"No, we just want to see if--er--if some friends of ours are on
board," replied the young inventor, with a quick glance at his
"Very well," assented Mr. Damon. "I'll wait for you on deck here.
It's quite interesting to watch the sights of the harbor."
As for these same sights they possessed no attractions for the two
lads at present. They were too intent on learning whether or not
their suspicions regarding the Fogers were correct.
"Now if they are on board," said Tom, as they made their way to the
purser's office, "it only means one thing--that they're following us
to get at the secret of the city of gold," and Tom whispered this
last, even though there seemed to be no one within hearing, for
nearly all the passengers were up on deck.
"That's right," agreed Ned. "Of course there's a bare chance, if
those two were the Fogers, that Mr. Foger is going off to try and
make another fortune. But more than likely they're on our trail,
"If it's them--yes."
"Hum, Foger--no, I don't think I havs any passengers of that name,"
said the purser slowly, when Tom had put the question. "Let's see,
Farday, Fenton, Figaro, Flannigan, Ford, Foraham, Fredericks--those
are all the names in the 'Fs'. No Fogers among them. Why, are you
looking for some friends of yours, boys?"
"Not exactly friends," replied Tom slowly, "but we know them, and we
thought we saw them come aboard, so we wanted to make sure."
"They might be under some other name," suggested Ned.
"Yes, that is sometimes done," admitted the purser with a quick
glance at the two lads, "It's done when a criminal wants to throw
the police off his track, or, occasionally, when a celebrated person
wants to avoid the newspaper reporters. But I hardly think that--"
"Oh, I don't believe they'd do it," said Tom quickly. He saw at once
that the suspicions of the purser had been aroused, and the official
might set on foot inquiries that would be distasteful to the two
lads and Mr. Damon. Then, too, if the Fogers were on board under
some other name, they would hear of the questions that had been put
regarding them, and if they were on a legitimate errand they could
make it unpleasant for Tom.
"I don't believe they'd do anything like that," the young inventor
"Well, you can look over the passenger list soon," said the purser.
"I'm going to post it in the main saloon. But perhaps if you
described the persons you are looking for I could help you out. I
have met nearly all the passengers already."
"Mr. Foger is a big man, with a florid complexion and he has a heavy
brown moustache," said Ned.
"And Andy has red hair, and he squints," added Tom.
"No such persons on board," declared the official positively. "It's
true we have several persons who squint, but no one with red hair--
I'm sure of it."
"Then they're not here," declared Ned. "No, we must have been
mistaken," agreed Tom, and there was relief in his tone. It was bad
enough to have to search for a hidden city of gold, and perhaps have
to deal with the head-hunters, without having to fight off another
enemy from their trail.
"Much obliged," said the young inventor to the purser, and then the
two lads went back on deck.
A little later supper was served in the big dining saloon, and the
boys and Mr. Damon were glad of it, for they were hungry. Eradicate
ate with a party of colored persons whose acquaintance he had
quickly made. It was a gay gathering in which Tom and Ned found
themselves, for though they had traveled much, generally it had been
in one of Tom's airships, or big autos, and this dining on a big
ship was rather a novelty to them.
The food was good, the service prompt, and Tom found himself
possessed of a very good appetite. He glanced across the table and
noted that opposite him and Ned, and a little way down the board,
were two vacant chairs.
"Can't be that anyone is seasick already." he remarked to his chum.
"I shouldn't think so, for we haven't any more motion than a
ferryboat. But some persons are very soon made ill on the water."
"If they're beginning thus early, what will happen when we get out
where it's real rough?" Tom wanted to know.
"They'll sure be in for it," agreed Ned, and a glance around the
dining saloon showed that those two vacant chairs were the only
Somehow Tom felt a vague sense of uneasiness--as if something was
about to happen. In a way he connected it with the suspicion that
the Fogers were aboard, and with his subsequent discovery that their
names were not on the passenger list. Then, with another thought in
mind, he looked about to see if be could pick out the man and youth
who, on coming up the gang plank, had been taken by both Tom and Ned
to be their enemies. No one looking like either was to be seen, and
Tom's mind at once went back to the vacant seats at the table.
"By Jove, Ned!" he exclaimed. "I believe I have it!"
"Have what--a fit of seasickness?"
"No, but these empty seats--the persons we saw you know--they belong
there and they're afraid to come out and be seen."
"Why should they be--if they're not the Fogers. I guess you've got
another think coming."
"Well, I'm sure there's something mysterious about those two--the
way they hid their faces as they came on board--not appearing at
supper--I'm going to keep my eyes open."
"All right, go as far as you like and I'm with you. Just now you may
pass me the powdered sugar. I want some on this pie."
Tom laughed at Ned's matter-of-fact indifference, but when the young
inventor turned in to his berth that night he could not stop
thinking of the empty seats--the two mysterious passengers--and the
two Fogers. They got all jumbled in his head and made his sleep
Morning saw the Maderia well out to sea, and, as there was quite a
swell on, the vessel rolled and pitched to an uncomfortable degree.
This did not bother Tom and Ned, who were used to sudden changes of
equilibrium from their voyages in the air. Nor did Mr. Damon suffer.
In fact he was feeling fine and went about on deck like an old salt,
blessing so many new things that he had many of the passengers
Poor Eradicate did suffer though. He was very seasick, and kept to
his berth most of the time, while some of his new friends did what
they could for him.
Tom had in mind a plan whereby he might solve the identity of the
mysterious passengers. He was going to do it by a process of
elimination--that is he would carefully note all on board until he
had fixed on the two who had aroused his suspicions. And he had to
do this because so many of the passengers looked very different, now
that they had on their ship "togs," than when first coming on board.
But the rough weather of the first day prevented the lad from
carrying out his plan, as many of the travelers kept to their
staterooms, and there were a score of vacant places at the tables.
The next day, however, was fine, and with the sea like the
proverbial mill pond, it seemed that everyone was out on deck. Yet
when meal time came there were these same two vacant seats.
"What do you think of it, Ned?" asked Tom, with a puzzled air.
"I don't know what to think, Tom. It sure is queer that these two--
whoever they are--don't ever come to meals. They can't be seasick on
a day like this, and they certainly weren't the first night."
"That's right. I'm going to ask one of the stewards where their
stateroom is, and why they don't come out."
"You may get into trouble."
"Oh, I guess not. If I do I can stand it. I want to solve this
mystery." Tom did put his question to one of the dining saloon
stewards and it created no suspicions.
"Ah, yes, I guess you must mean Mr. Wilson and his son." spoke the
steward when he had referred to a list that corresponded with the
numbers of the vacant places at the table. "They have their meals
served in their stateroom."
"Why?" asked Tom, "are they ill?"
"I really couldn't say, sir. They prefer it that way, and the
captain consented to it from the first."
"But I should think they'd want to get out for a breath of air," put
in Ned. "I can't stay below decks very long."
"They may come out at night," suggested the steward. "Some of our
travelers think they are less likely to be seasick if they come out
at night. They don't see the motion of the waves then."
"Guess that's it," agreed Tom with a wink at Ned. "Much obliged.
Glad we're not seasick," and he linked his arm in that of his chum's
and marched him off.
"Why the wink?" asked Ned, when they were out of earshot of the
"That was to tip you off to say nothing more. I've got a plan I'm
going to work."
"What is it?"
"Well, we know who the mysterious ones are. anyhow--at least we know
"It may not be the right one."
"That doesn't make any difference. I can find out their stateroom by
looking at the passenger list."
"What good will that do."
"Lots. I'm going to keep a watch on that stateroom until I get a
good look at the people in it. And if they only come out at night,
which it begins to look like, I'm going to do some night watching.
This thing has got to be settled, Ned. Our trip to the city of gold
is too important to risk having a mysterious couple on our trail--
when that same couple may be the Fogers. I'm going to do some
detective work, Ned!"
THE MIDNIGHT ALARM
"Whew! What a lot of 'em!"
"Bless my fish line! It's a big school!"
"Look how they turn over and over, and leap from the water."
"By golly, dere is suttinly some fish dere!"
These were the exclamations made by our four friends a few days
later, as they leaned over the rail of the Maderia and watched a big
school of porpoises gamboling about in the warm waters of the gulf
stream. It was the second porpoise school the ship had come up with
on the voyage, and this was a much larger one than the first, so
that the passengers crowded up to see the somewhat novel sight.
"If they were only good eating now, we might try for a few,"
"Some folks eat them, but they're too oily for me," observed a
gentleman who had struck up an acquaintance with the boys and Mr.
Damon. "Their skin makes excellent shoe laces though, their oil is
used for delicate machinery--especially some that comes from around
the head, at least so I have heard."
"Wow! Did you see that?" cried Tom, as one large porpoise leaped
clear of the water, turned over several times and fell back with a
loud splash. "That was the biggest leap yet."
"And there goes another," added Ned.
"Say, this ought to bring those two mysterious passengers out of
their room," observed Tom to his chum in a low voice. "Nearly
everyone else seems to be on deck."
"You haven't been able to catch a glimpse of them; eh Tom?"
"Not a peak. I stayed up several nights, as you know, and paced the
deck, but they didn't stir out. Or, if they did, it must have been
toward morning after I turned in. I can't understand it. They must
be either criminals, afraid of being seen, or they ARE the Fogers,
and they know we're on to their game."
"It looks as if it might be one or the other, Tom. But if they are
criminals we don't have to worry about 'em. They don't concern us."
"No, that's right. Split mackerel! Look at that fellow jump. He's
got 'em all beat!" and Tom excitedly, pointed at the porpoises, the
whole school of which was swimming but a short distance from the
"Yes, a lot of them are jumping now. I wonder--"
"Look! Look!" cried the man who had been talking to Mr. Damon.
"Something out of the ordinary is going on among those porpoises. I
never saw them leap out of the water like that before."
"Sharks! It's sharks!" cried a sailor who came running along the
deck. "A school of sharks are after the porpoises!" "I believe he's
right," added Mr. Sander, the gentleman with Mr. Damon. "See,
there's the ugly snout of one now. He made a bite for that big
porpoise but missed."
"Bless my meat axe!" cried the odd man. "So he did. Say, boys, this
is worth seeing. There'll be a big fight in a minute."
"Not much of a fight," remarked Mr. Sander. "The porpoise isn't
built for fighting. They're trying to get away from the sharks by
"Why don't they dive, and so get away?" asked Ned.
"The sharks are too good at diving," went on Mr. Sander. "The
porpoises couldn't escape that way. Their only hope is that
something will scare the sharks away, otherwise they'll kill until
their appetites are satisfied, and that isn't going to be very soon
"Look! Look!" cried Ned. "A shark leaped half way out of the water
"Yes, I saw it," called Tom.
There was now considerable excitement on deck. Nearly all the
passengers, many of the crew and several of the officers were
watching the strange sight. The porpoises were frantically tumbling,
turning and leaping to get away from their voracious enemies.
"Oh, if I only had my electric rifle!" cried Tom. "I'd make some of
those ugly sharks feel sick!"
"Bless my cartridge belt!" cried Mr. Damon. "That would be a good
idea. The porpoises are such harmless creatures. It's a shame to see
them attacked so."
For the activity of the sharks had now redoubled, and they were
darting here and there amid the school of porpoises biting with
their cruel jaws. The other fish were frantically leaping and
tumbling, but the strange part of it was that the schools of sharks
and porpoises kept about the same distance ahead of the ship, so
that the passengers had an excellent view of the novel and thrilling
"Rifle!" said Mr. Sander, catching at the word. "I fancy the captain
may have some. He's quite a friend of mine, I'll speak to him."
"Get me one, too, if you please," called Ned as the gentleman
"And I'll also try my luck at potting a shark. Bless my gunpowder if
I won't!" said Mr. Damon.
The captain did have several rifles in his stateroom, and he loaned
them to Mr. Sander. They were magazine weapons, firing sixteen shots
each, but they were not of as high power as those Tom had packed
"Now we'll make those sharks sing a different tune, if sharks sing!"
cried the young inventor.
"Yes, we're coming to the rescue of the porpoises!" added Ned.
The passengers crowded up to witness the marksmanship, and soon the
lads and Mr. Damon were at it.
It was no easy matter to hit a shark, as the big, ugly fish were
only seen for a moment in their mad rushes after the porpoises, but
both Tom and Ned were good shots and they made the bullets tell.
"There, I hit one big fellow!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my bull's
eye, but I plugged him right in the mouth, I think."
"I hope you knocked out some of his teeth," cried Ned.
They fired rapidly, and while they probably hit some of the innocent
porpoises in their haste, yet they accomplished what they had set
out to do--scare off the sharks. In a little while the "tigers of
the sea" as some one has aptly called them, disappeared.
"That's the stuff!" cried Mr. Damon. "Now we can watch the porpoises
But they did not have that sight to interest them very long. For, as
suddenly as the gamboling fish had appeared, they sank from sight--
all but a few dead ones that the sharks had left floating on the
calm surface of the ocean. Probably the timid fish had taken some
alarm from the depths into which they sank.
"Well, that was some excitement while it lasted," remarked Tom. as
he and Ned took the rifles back to the captain.
"But it didn't bring out the mysterious passengers," added Ned. Tom
shook his head and on their return to deck he purposely went out of
his way to go past Stateroom No. 27, where the "Wilsons" were
quartered. The door was closed and a momentary pause to listen
brought our hero no clew, for all was silent in the room.
"It's too much for me," he murmured, shaking his head and he
rejoined his chum.
Several more days passed, for the Maderia was a slow boat, and could
not make good time to Mexico. However, our travelers were in no
haste, and they fully enjoyed the voyage.
Try as Tom did to get a glimpse of the mysterious passengers he was
unsuccessful. He spent many hours in a night, and early morning
vigil, only to have to do his sleeping next day, and it resulted in
"I guess they want to get on Mexican soil before any one sees their
faces," spoke Ned, and Tom was inclined to agree with his chum.
They awoke one morning to find the sea tempestuous. The ship tossed
and rolled amid the billows, and the captain said they had run into
the tail end of a gulf hurricane.
"Two days more and we'll be in port," he added, "and I'm sorry the
voyage had to be marred even by this blow."
For it did blow, and, though it was not a dangerous storm, yet many
passengers kept below.
"I'm afraid this settles it," remarked Tom that night, when the ship
was still pitching and tossing. "They won't come out now, and this
is likely to keep up until we get to port. Well, I can't help it."
But fate was on the verge of aiding Tom in an unexpected way. Nearly
every one turned in early that night for it was no pleasure to sit
in the saloons, and to lie in one's berth made it easier to stand
the rolling of the vessel.
Tom and Ned, together with Mr. Damon, had fallen into slumber in
spite of the storm, when, just as eight bells announced midnight
there was a sudden jar throughout the whole ship.
The Maderia quivered from stem to stern, seemed to hesitate a moment
as though she had been brought to a sudden stop, and then plowed on,
only to bring up against some obstruction again, with that same
sickening jar throughout her length.
"Bless my soul! What's that?" cried Mr. Damon, springing from his
"Something has happened!" added Tom, as he reached out and switched
on the electric lights.
"We hit something!" declared Ned.
The ship was now almost stopped and she was rolling from side to
Up on deck could be heard confused shouts and the running to and fro
of many feet. The jangling of bells sounded--hoarse orders were
shouted--and there arose a subdued hubbub in the interior of the
"Something sure is wrong!" cried Tom. "We'd better get our clothes
on and get on deck! Come on, Ned and Mr. Damon! Grab life
INTO THE UNKNOWN
"Bless my overshoes! I hope we're not sinking!" cried Mr. Damon, as
he struggled into some of his clothes, an example followed by Ned
"This boat has water-tight compartments, and if it does sink it
won't do it in a hurry," commented Tom.
"I don't care to have it do it at all," declared Ned, who found that
he had started to get into his trousers hindside before and he had
to change them. "Think of all our baggage and supplies and the
balloon on board." For the travelers had shipped their things by the
same steamer as that on which they sailed.
"Well, let's get out and learn the worst," cried Tom.
He was the first to have the stateroom, and as he rushed along the
passages which were now brilliant with light he saw other half-clad
passengers bent on the same errand as himself, to get on deck and
learn what had happened.
"Wait, Tom!" called Ned.
"Come along, I'm just ahead of you," yelled his chum from around a
corner. "I'm going to see if Eradicate is up. He's an awful heavy
"Bless my feather bed! That shock was enough to awaken anyone!"
commented Mr. Damon, as he followed Ned, who was running to catch up
Suddenly a thought came to our hero. The mysterious passengers in
Stateroom No. 27! Surely this midnight alarm would bring them out,
and he might have a chance to see who they were.
Tom thought quickly. He could take a turn, go through a short
passage, and run past the room of the mysterious passengers getting
on deck as quickly as if he went the usual way.
"I'll go look after Rad!" Tom shouted to Ned. "You go up on deck,
and I'll join you."
Eradicate's stateroom was on his way, after he had passed No. 27.
Tom at once put his plan into execution. As he ran on, the confusion
on deck seemed to increase, but the lad noted that the vessel did
not pitch and roll so much, and she seemed to be on an even keel,
and in no immediate danger of going down.
As Tom neared Stateroom No. 27 he heard voices coming from it,
voices that sent a thrill through him, for he was sure he had heard
"Where are the life preservers? Oh, I KNOW we'll be drowned! I wish
I'd never come on this trip! Look out, those are my pants you're
putting on! Oh, where is my collar? Hand me my coat! Look out,
you're stepping on my fingers!"
These were the confused and alarmed cries that Tom heard. He paused
for a moment opposite the door, and then it was suddenly flung open.
The lights were glaring brightly inside and a strange sight met the
gaze of the young inventor.
There stood Mr. Foger and beside him--half dressed--was his son--
Andy! Tom gasped. So did Andy and Mr. Foger, for they had both
recognized our hero.
But how Mr. Foger had changed! His moustache was shaved off, though
in spite of this Tom knew him. And Andy! No longer was his hair red,
for it had been dyed a deep black and glasses over his eyes
concealed their squint. No wonder the purser had not recognized them
by the descriptions Tom and Ned had given.
"Andy Foger!" gasped Tom.
"Tom--it's Tom Swift, father!" stammered the bully.
"Close the door!" sharply ordered Mr. Foger, though he and his son
had been about to rush out.
"I won't do it!" cried Andy. "The ship is sinking and I'm not going
to be drowned down here."
"So it was you--after all," went on Tom. "What are you doing here?"
"None of your business!" snapped Andy. "Get out of my way, I'm going
Tom realized that it was not the proper time to hold a conversation,
with a possibly sinking ship under him. He looked at Mr. Foger, and
many thoughts shot through his mind. Why were they on board? Had it
anything to do with the city of gold? Had Andy overheard the talk?
Or was Mr. Foger merely looking for a new venture whereby to
retrieve his lost fortune.
Tom could not answer. The bully's father glared at our hero and
then, slipping on a coat, he made a dash for the door.
"Get out of my way!" he shouted, and Tom stood aside.
Andy was already racing for the deck, and as the noise and confusion
seemed to increase rather than diminish, Tom concluded that his
wisest move would be to get out and see what all the excitement was
He stopped on his way to arouse Eradicate but found that he and all
the colored persons had left their staterooms. A few seconds later
Tom was on deck.
"It's all right, now! It's all right!" several officers were
calling. "There is no danger. Go back to your staterooms. The danger
is all over."
"Is the ship sinking?"
"Are we on fire?"
"Are you sure there's no danger?"
These were only a few of the questions that were flying about, and
the officers answered them as best they could.
"We hit a derelict, or some bit of wreckage," explained the first
mate, when he could command silence. "There is a slight hole below
the water-line, but the bulkheads have been closed, and there is not
the slightest danger."
"Are we going to turn back for New York?" asked one woman.
"No, certainly not. We're going right on as soon as a slight break
to one of the engines can be repaired. We are in no danger. Only a
little water came in before the automatic bulkheads were shut. We
haven't even a list to one side. Now please clear the decks and go
back to bed."
It took more urging, but finally the passengers began to disperse.
Tom found Ned and Mr. Damon, who were looking for him.
"Bless my life preserver!" cried the odd man. "I thought surely this
was my last voyage, Tom!"
"So did I," added Ned. "What's the matter, Tom, you look as though
you'd seen a ghost."
"I have--pretty near. The Fogers are on board."
"No! You don't mean it!"
"It's a fact. I just saw them. They are the mysterious passengers."
And Tom related his experience.
"Where are they now?" demanded Ned, looking about the deck.
"Gone below again, I suppose. Though I don't see what object they
can have in concealing their identity any longer."
"Me either. Well, that surely is a queer go."
"Bless my hot cross buns! I should say so!" commented Mr. Damon when
he heard about it. "What are you going to do, Tom?"
"Nothing. I can't. They have a right on board. But if they try to
follow us--well, I'll act then," and Tom shut his jaws grimly.
Our three trends went back to their state-room, and Eradicate also
retired. The excitement was passing, and soon the ship was under way
again, the sudden shock having caused slight damage to one of the
big engines. But it was soon repaired and, though the storm still
continued, the ship made her way well through the waves.
A stout bow, water-tight compartments, and the fact (learned later)
that she had struck the derelict a glancing blow, had combined to
save the Maderia.
There were many curious ones who looked over the side next morning
to see the gaping hole in the bow. A canvas had been rigged over it,
however, to keep out the waves as much as possible, so little could
be viewed. Then the thoughts of landing occupied the minds of all,
and the accident was nearly forgotten. For it was announced that
they would dock early the next morning.
In spite of the fact that their presence on board was known to Tom
and his friends, the Fogers still kept to their stateroom, not even
appearing at meals. Tom wondered what their object could be, but
could not guess.
"Well, here we are at last--in Mexico," exclaimed Ned the next
morning, when, the Maderia having docked, allowed the passengers to
disembark, a clean bill of health having been her good luck.
"Yes, and now for a lot of work!" added Tom. "We've got to see about
getting ox teams, carts and helpers, and no end of food for our trip
into the interior."
"Bless my coffee pot! It's like old times to be going off into the
jungle or wilderness camping," said Mr. Damon.
"Did you see anything of the Fogers?" asked Ned of his chum.
"Not a thing. Guess they're in their stateroom, and they can stay
there for all of me. I'm going to get busy."
Tom and his friends went to a hotel, for they knew it would take
several days to get their expedition in shape. They looked about for
a sight of their enemies, but saw nothing of them.
It took five days to hire the ox carts, get helpers, a supply of
food and other things, and to unload the balloon and baggage from
the ship. In all this time there was no sign of the Fogers, and Tom
hoped they had gone about their own business.
Our friends had let it be known that they were going into the
interior to prospect, look for historic relics and ruins, and
generally have a sort of vacation.
"For if it is even hinted that we are after the city of gold," said
Tom, "it would be all up with us. The whole population of Mexico
would follow us. So keep mum, everyone."
They all promised, and then they lent themselves to the task of
getting things in shape for travel. Eradicate was a big help, and
his cheerful good nature often lightened their toil.
At last all was in readiness, and with a caravan of six ox carts
(for the balloon and its accessories took up much space) they
started off, the Mexican drivers cracking their long whips, and
singing their strange songs.
"Ho, for the interior!" cried Ned gaily.
"Yes, we're off into the unknown all right," added Tom grimly, "and
there's no telling when we'll get back, if we ever will, should the
head-hunters get after us."
"Bless my collar and tie! Don't talk that way. It gives me the cold
shivers!" protested Mr. Damon.
"Well, this is something like it!" exclaimed Ned as he sat in front
of the campfire, flourishing a sandwich in one hand, and in the
other a tin cup of coffee.
"It sure is," agreed Tom. "But I say, old man, would you just as
soon wave your coffee the other way? You're spilling it all over
"Excuse me!" laughed Ned. "I'll be more careful in the future. Mr.
Damon will you have a little more of these fried beans--tortillas or
frijoles or whatever these Mexicans call 'em. They're not bad. Pass
your plate, Mr. Damon."
"Bless my eyelashes!" exclaimed the odd man. "Water, please, quick!"
and he clapped his hand over his mouth.
"What's the matter?" demanded Tom.
"Too much red pepper! I wish these Mexicans wouldn't put so much of
it in. Water!"
Mr. Damon hastily swallowed a cup of the liquid which Ned passed to
"I spects dat was my fault," put in Eradicate, who did the cooking
for the three whites, while the Mexicans had their own. "I were just
a little short ob some ob dem funny fried beans, an' I took some
from ober dere," and the colored man nodded toward the Mexican
campfire. "Den I puts some red pepper in 'em, an' I done guess
somebody'd put some in afo' I done it."
"I should say they had!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, drinking more water.
"I don't see how those fellows stand it," and he looked to where the
Mexican ox drivers were eagerly devouring the highly-spiced food.
It was the second day of their trip into the interior, and they had
halted for dinner near a little stream of good water that flowed
over a grassy plain. So far their trip had been quite enjoyable. The
ox teams were fresh and made good time, the drivers were capable and
jolly, and there was plenty of food. Tom had brought along a supply
especially for himself and his friends, for they did not relish the
kind the Mexican drivers ate, though occasionally the gold-seekers
indulged in some of the native dishes.
"This is lots of fun," Ned remarked again, when Mr. Damon had been
sufficiently cooled off. "Don't you think so, Tom?"
"Indeed I do. I don't know how near we are to the place we're
looking for, nor even if we're going in the right direction, but I
like this sort of life."
"How long Massa Tom, befo' dat gold--" began Eradicate.
"Hush!" interrupted the young inventor quickly, raising a hand of
caution, and glancing toward the group of Mexicans. He hoped they
had not heard the word the colored man so carelessly used, for it
had been the agreed policy to keep the nature of their search a
secret. But at the mention of "gold" Miguel Delazes, the head ox
driver, locked up quickly, and sauntered over to where Tom and the
others were seated on the grass. This Delazes was a Mexican labor
contractor, and it was through him that Tom had hired the other men
and the ox carts.
"Ah, senors!" exclaimed Delazes as he approached, "I fear you are
going in the wrong direction to reach the gold mines. If I had known
at the start--"
"We're not looking for gold mines!" interrupted Tom quickly. He did
not like the greedy look in the eyes of Delazes, a look that flared
out at the mention of gold--a look that was crafty and full of
"Not looking for gold mines!" the contractor repeated incredulously.
"Surely I heard some one say something about gold," and he looked at
"Oh, you mustn't mind what Rad says," cried Tom laughing, and he
directed a look of caution at the colored man. "Rad is always
talking about gold; aren't you, Rad?"
"I 'spects I is, Massa Tom. I shore would laik t' find a gold mine,
dat's what I would."
"I guess that's the case with all of us," put in Ned.
"Rad, get the things packed up," directed Tom quickly. "We've had
enough to eat and I want to make a good distance before we camp for
the night." He wanted to get the colored man busy so the Mexican
would have no chance to further question him.
"Surely the senors are not going to start off again at once--
immediately!" protested Delazes. "We have not yet taken the siesta--
the noon-day sleep, and--"
"We're going to cut out the siestas on this trip," interposed Tom.
"We don't want to stay here too long. We want to find some good
ruins that we can study, and the sooner we find them the better."
"Ah, then it is but to study--to photograph ruined cities and get
relics, that the senors came to Mexico?"
Once more that look of cunning came in the Mexican's eyes.
"That's about it," answered Tom shortly. He did not want to
encourage too much familiarity on the part of the contractor. "So,
no siestas if you please, Senor Delazes. We can all siesta to-
"Ah, you Americanos!" exclaimed the Mexican with a shrug of his
shoulders. He stroked his shiny black moustache. "You are ever so on
the alert! Always moving. Well, be it so, we will travel on--to the
ruined city--if we can find one," and he gave Tom a look that the
latter could not quite understand.
It was hot--very hot--but Tom noticed that about a mile farther on,
the trail led into a thick jungle of trees, where it would be shady,
and make the going more comfortable.
"We'll be all right when we get there," he said to the others.
It was not with very good grace that the Mexicans got their ox teams
ready. They had not objected very much when, on the day before Tom
had insisted on starting off right after the mid-day meal, but now
when it seemed that it was going to be a settled policy to omit the
siesta, or noon sleep, there was some grumbling.
"They may make trouble for us, Tom," said in a low voice. "Maybe
you'd better give in to them."
"Not much!" exclaimed the young inventor. "If I do they'll want to
sleep all the while, and we'll never get any where. We're going to
keep on. They won't kick after the first few times, and if they try
any funny business--well, we're well armed and they aren't," and he
looked at his own rifle, and Ned's. Mr. Damon also carried one, and
Eradicate had a large revolver which he said he preferred to a gun.
Each of our white friends also carried an automatic pistol and
plenty of ammunition.
"I took care not to let the Mexicans have any guns," Tom went on.
"It isn't safe."
"I'll wager that they've got knives and revolvers tucked away
somewhere in their clothes," spoke Ned.
"Bless my tackhammer!" cried Mr. Damon. "Why do you say such blood-
curdling things Ned? You make me shiver!"
In a little while they took up the trail again, the ox carts moving
along toward the comparatively cool woods. Our friends had a cart to
themselves, one fitted with padded seats, which somewhat made up for
the absence of springs, and Eradicate was their driver. Tom had made
this arrangement so they might talk among themselves without fear of
being overheard by the Mexicans. At first Senor Delazes had
suggested that one of his own drivers pilot Tom's cart, saying:
"I know what the senors fear--that their language may be listened
to, but I assure you that this man understands no English, do you,
Josef?" he asked the man in question, using the Spanish.
The man shook his head, but a quick look passed between him and his
"Oh, I guess we'll let Rad drive," insisted Tom calmly, "it will
remind him of his mule Boomerang that he left behind."
"As the senor will," Delazes had replied with a shrug of his
shoulders, and he turned away. So it was that Tom, Ned and Mr.
Damon, in their own cart, piloted by the colored man, were in the
rear of the little cavalcade.
"Have you any idea where you are going, Tom?" asked Ned, after they
had reached the shade, when it was not such a task to talk.
"Oh, I have a good general idea," replied the young inventor. "I've
studied the map Mr. Illingway sent, and according to that the city
of--well, you know the place we're looking for--lies somewhere
between Tampico and Zacatecas, and which the plain of the ruined
temple which used to be near the ancient city of Poltec, is about a
hundred and fifty miles north of the city of Mexico. So I'm heading
for there, as near as I can tell. We ought to fetch it in about a
week at this rate."
"And what are we to do when we get there?" inquired Mr. Damon. "If
we keep on to that place where the images are to be found, with this
rascally crew of Mexicans, there won't be much gold for us." He had
spoken in low tones, though the nearest Mexican cart was some
"I don't intend to take them all the way with us," said Tom. "When I
think we are somewhere near the temple plain I'm going to make the
Mexicans go into camp. Then we'll put the balloon together and we
four will go off in that. When we find what we're looking for we'll
go back, pick up the Mexicans, and make for the coast."
"If the head-hunters let us," put in Ned grimly.
"Bless my nail file! There you go again!" cried Mr. Damon.
"Positively, Ned, you get on my nerves."
"Yais, Massa Ned, an' _I_ jest wish yo' wouldn't mention dem head
gen'men no mo'," added Eradicate. "I can't drive straight when I
hears yo' say dem words, an' goodness knows dese oxes is wusser t'
drive dan my mule Boomerang."
"All right I'll keep still," agreed Ned, and then he and Tom,
together with Mr. Damon, studied the map, trying to decide whether
or not they were on the proper trail.
They made a good distance that day, and went into camp that night
near the foot of some low hills.
"It will be cooler traveling to-morrow," said Tom. "We will be up
higher, and though we'll have to go slower on account of the up
grade, it will be better for all of us."
They found the trail quite difficult the next day, as there were
several big hills to climb. It was toward evening, and they were
looking for a good place to camp for the night, when Delazes, who
was riding in the first cart, was observed to jump down and hasten
to the rear.
"I wonder what he wants?" spoke Tom, as he noted the approaching
"Probably he's going to suggest that we take a few days' vacation,"
ventured Ned. "He doesn't like work."
"Senor," began Delazes addressing Tom, who called to Eradicate to
bring his oxen to a halt, "are you aware that we are being
"Followed? What do you mean?" cried the young inventor, looking
"Bless my watch chain!" gasped Mr. Damon. "Followed? By whom?" He,
too, looked around, as did Ned, but the path behind them was
"When last we doubled on our own trail, to make the ascent of the
big hill a little easier," on the Mexican, "I saw, on the road below
us two ox carts, such as are hired out to prospectors or relic
seekers like yourself. At first I thought nothing of it. That was
early this morning. When we stopped for dinner, once more having to
double, I had another view of the trail, I saw the same two carts.
And now, when we are about to camp, the same two carts are there."
He pointed below, for the caravan was on quite an elevation now, and
down on the faint trail, which was in plain view, for it wound up
the mountain like a corkscrew, were two ox carts, moving slowly
"They are the same ones," went on Delazes, "and they have been
following us all day--perhaps longer--though this is the first I
have noted them."
"Followed!" murmured Tom. "I wonder--" -From his valise he took a
small but powerful telescope. In the fast-fading light he focused it
on the two ox carts. The next moment he uttered an exclamation of
anger and dismay.
"Who is it?" asked Ned, though he was almost sure what the answer
"Andy Foger and his father!" cried Tom. "I might have known they'd
follow us--to learn--" and then he stopped, for Senor Delazes was
regarding him curiously.
A WEARY SEARCH
"Are you sure it's them?" asked Ned.
"Bless my toothpick!" cried Mr. Damon. "It isn't possible, Tom?"
"Yes, it is," said the young inventor. "It's the Fogers all right.
Take a look for yourself, Ned."
The other lad did, and confirmed his chum's news, and then Mr. Damon
also made sure, by using the glass.
"No doubt of it," the odd man said. "But what are you going to do,
Our hero thought for a moment. Then, once more, he looked
steadfastly through the glass at the other carts. The occupants of
them did not appear to know that they were under observation, and at
that distance they could not have made out our friends without a
telescope. Tom ascertained that the Fogers were not using one.
"Has Senor Swift any orders?" asked Delazes. "Who are these Fogers?
Enemies of yours I take it. Why should they follow you merely to
find a ruined city, that the ruins and relics may be studied?"
"Here are the orders," spoke Tom, a bit sharply, not answering the
question. "We'll camp and have supper, and then we'll go on and make
all the distance we can after dark."
"What, travel at night?" cried the Mexican, as if in horror at the
"Yes; why not?" asked Tom calmly. "They can't see us after dark, and
if we can strike off on another trail we may throw them off our
track. Surely we'll travel after supper."
"But it will be night--dark--we never work after dark," protested
"You're going to this time," declared Tom grimly.
"But the oxen--they are not used to it."
"Nothing like getting used to a thing," went on the young inventor.
"They won't mind after a rest and a good feed. Besides, there is a
moon to-night, and it will be plenty light enough. Tell the men,
"But they will protest. It is unheard of, and--"
"Send them to me," said Tom quickly. "There'll be double pay for
night work. Send them to me."
"Ah, that is good. Senor Swift. Double pay! I think the men will not
object," and with a greedy look in his black eyes the Mexican
contractor hastened to tell his men of the change of plans.
Tom took another look at the approaching Fogers. Their carts were
slowly crawling up the trail, and as Tom could plainly see them, he
made no doubt but that his caravan was also observed by Andy and his
"I guess that's the best plan to throw them off," agreed Ned, when
they were once more underway. "But how are you going to explain to
Delazes, Tom, the reason the Fogers are following us? He'll get
suspicious, I'm afraid."
"Let him. I'm not going to explain. He can think what he likes, I
can't stop him. More than likely though, that he'll put it down to
some crazy whim of us 'Americanos.' I hope he does. We can talk
loudly, when he's around, about how we want to get historical
relics, and the Fogers are after the same thing. There have been
several expeditions down this way from rival colleges or museums
after Aztec relics, and he may think we're one of them. For the
golden images are historical relics all right," added Tom in a lower
The Mexicans made no objections to continuing on after supper, once
they learned of the double pay, and a little later they went into
camp. A turn of the trial hid the Fogers from sight, but Tom and his
friends had no doubt but what they were still following.
It was rather novel, traveling along by the light of the brilliant
moon, and the boys and Mr. Damon thoroughly enjoyed it. Orders had
been given to proceed as quietly as possible, for they did not want
the Fogers to learn of the night trip.
"They may see us," Tom had said when they were ready to start, "but
we've got to take a chance on that. If the trail divides, however,
we can lose them."
"It does separate, a little farther on," Delazes had said.
"Good!" cried Tom, "then we'll fool our rival relic hunters and our
museum will get the benefit." He said this quite loudly.
"Ah, then you want the relics for a museum?" asked the Mexican
"Yes, if they pay enough," replied Tom, and he meant it, for he had
no doubt that many museums would be glad to get specimens of the
Just as they were about to start off Tom had swept the moonlit trail
with his night-glass, but there was no sign of the Fogers, though
they may have seen their rivals start off.
"Let her go!" ordered Tom, and they were once more underway.
It was about five miles to where the trail divided, and it was
midnight when they got there, for the going was not easy.
"Now, which way," asked Delazes, as the caravan came to a halt. "To
the left or right?"
"Let me see," mused Tom, trying to remember the map the African
missionary had sent him. "Do these roads come together farther on?"
"No, but there is a cross trail about twenty miles ahead by which
one can get from either of these trails to the other."
"Good!" cried the young inventor. "Then we'll go to the right, and
we can make our way back. But wait a minute. Send a couple of carts
on the left trail for about two miles. We'll wait here until they
"The senor is pleased to joke," remarked the Mexican quickly.
"I never was more earnest in all my life," replied Tom.
"What's the answer?" asked Ned.
"I want to fool the Fogers. If they see cart tracks on both roads
they won't know which one we took. They may hit on the right one
first shot, and again, they may go to the left until they come to
the place where our two carts turn back. In that case we'll gain a
"Good!" cried Ned. "I might have known you had a good reason, Tom."
"Send on two carts," ordered the young inventor, and now Delazes
understood the reason for the strategy. He chuckled as he ordered
two of the drivers to start off, and come back after covering a
couple of miles.
It was rather dreary waiting there at the fork of the trail, and to
beguile the time Tom ordered fires lighted and chocolate made. The
men appreciated this, and were ready to start off again when their
"There," announced Tom, when they were on the way once more, "I
think we've given them something to think over at any rate. Now for
a few more miles, and then we'll rest until morning."
All were glad enough when Tom decided to go into camp, and they
slept later than usual the next morning. The trail was now of such a
character that no one following them could be detected until quite
close, so it was useless to worry over what the Fogers might do.
"We'll just make the best time we can, and trust to luck," Tom said.
They traveled on for two days more, and saw nothing of the Fogers.
Sometimes they would pass through Mexican villages where they would
stop to eat, and Tom would make inquiries about the ancient city of
Poltec and the plain of the ruined temple. In every case the
Mexicans shook their heads. They had never heard of it. Long before
this Tom had ascertained that neither Delazes nor any of his men
knew the location of this plain nor had they ever heard of it.
"If there is such a place it must be far in--very far in," the
contractor had said. "You will never find it."
"Oh, yes, I will," declared Tom.
But when a week passed, and he was no nearer it than at first even
Tom began to get a little doubtful. They made inquiries at every
place they stopped, of villagers, of town authorities, and even in
some cases of the priests who obligingly went over their ancient
church records for them. But there was no trace of the temple plain,
and of course none of the city of gold.
Peasants, journeying along the road, parties of travelers, and often
little bodies of soldiers were asked about the ruined temple, but
always the answer was the same. They had never heard of it, nor of
the head-hunters either.
"Well, I'm glad of the last," said Mr. Damon, looking apprehensively
around, while Eradicate of his head to see if it was still fast on
It was a weary search, and when two weeks had passed even Tom had to
admit that it was not as easy as it had seemed at first. As for the
Mexicans, they kept on, spurred by the offer of good wages. Delazes
watched Tom narrowly, for a sign or hint of what the party was
really after, but the young inventor and his friends guarded their
"But I'm not going to give up!" cried Tom. "Our map may be wrong,
and likely it is, but I'm sure we're near the spot, and I'm going to
keep on. If we don't get some hint of it in a few days, though, I'll
establish a camp, go up in the air and see what I can pick out from
"That's the stuff!" cried Ned. "It will be a relief from these rough
So for the next few days they doubled and redoubled on their trail,
criss-crossing back and forth, ever hoping to get some trace of the
temple, which was near the entrance to the city of gold. In all that
time nothing was seen of the Fogers.
"We'll try the balloon to-morrow," decided Tom, as they went into
camp one night after a weary day. Every one was tired enough to
sleep soundly under the tents which were set up over the carts, in
which beds were laid. It must have been about midnight when Tom, who
felt a bit chilly (for the nights were cool in spite of the heat of
the day), got up to look at the campfire. It was almost out so he
went over to throw on some more logs.
As he did so he heard a noise as if something or somebody had leaped
down out of a tree to the ground. A moment later, before he could
toss on the sticks he had caught up, Tom was aware of two eyes of
greenish brightness staring at him in the glow of the dying fire,
and not ten feet away.
THE GOLDEN IMAGE
For a moment the young inventor felt a cold chill run down his
spine, and, while his hair did not actually "stand up" there was a
queer sensation on his scalp as if the hairs WANTED to stand on end,
but couldn't quite manage it.
Involuntarily Tom started, and one of the sticks he held in his hand
dropped to the ground. The green eyes shifted--they came nearer, and
the lad heard a menacing growl. Then he knew it was some wild animal
that had dropped down from a tree and was now confronting him, ready
to spring on the instant.
Tom hardly knew what to do. He realized that if he moved it might
precipitate an attack on him, and he found himself dimly wondering,
as he stood there, what sort of an animal it was.
He had about come to the conclusion that it was something between a
cougar and a mountain lion, and the next thought that came to him
was a wonder whether any one else in the camp was awake, and would
come to his rescue.
He half turned his head to look, when again there came that menacing
growl, and the animal came a step nearer. Evidently every movement
Tom made aroused the beast's antagonism, and made him more eager to
come to the attack.
"I've got to keep my eyes on him," mused the lad. "I wonder if
there's any truth in the old stories that you can subdue a wild
beast with your eyes--by glaring at him. But whether that's so or
not, I've got to do it--keep looking him in the face, for that's all
I can do."
True, Tom held in his hand some light sticks, but if it came to a
fight they would be useless. His gun was back in the tent, and as
far as he could learn by listening there was not another soul in the
Suddenly the fire, which had almost died out, flared up, as a dying
blaze sometimes will, and in the bright glare the young inventor was
able to see what sort of beast confronted him. He saw the tawny,
yellow body, the twitching tail, the glaring eyes and the cruel
teeth all too plainly, and he made up his mind that it was some
species of the cougar family. Then the embers flared out and it was
darker than before. But it was not so dark but what Tom could still
see the glaring eyes.
"I've got to get away from him--scare him--or shoot him," the lad
decided on the instant. "I'd like to bowl him over with a bullet,
but how can I get my gun?"
He thought rapidly. The gun was in the tent back of him, near where
he had been sleeping. It was fully loaded.
"I've got to get it," reflected Tom, and then he dropped the other
sticks in his hand. Once more the beast growled and came a step
nearer--soft, stealthy steps they were, too, making no sound on the
Then Tom started to make a cautious retreat backwards, the while
keeping his eyes focused on those of the beast. He made up his mind
that he would give that "hypnotism" theory a trial, at any rate.
But at his first backward step the beast let out such a fierce
growl, and came on with such a menacing leap that Tom stood still in
very terror. The animal was now so close to him that a short jump
would hurl the beast upon the lad.
"This won't do," thought Tom. "Every time I go back one step he
comes on two, and it won't take him long to catch up to me. And
then, too, he'll be in the tent in another minute, clawing Ned or
Mr. Damon. What can I do? Oh, for a gun!"
He stood still, and this seemed to suit the animal, for it remained
quiet. But it never took its eyes off Tom, and the switching tail,
and the low growls now and then, plainly indicated that the beast
was but waiting its time to leap and give the death blow.
Then an idea came to Tom. He remembered that he had once read that
the human voice had a wonderful effect on wild animals. He would try
"And I'm not going to sing him any slumber song, either," mused Tom.
"I'll start on a low tone to call for Ned, and gradually raise my
voice until I wake him up. Then I'll tell Ned to draw a bead on the
beast and plunk him while I hold his attention."
Tom lost no time in putting his plan into operation.
"Ned! Ned! Say, old man, wake up! I'm in trouble! There's a beast as
big as a lion out here. Ned! Ned! Ned!"
Tom began in a low voice, but increased his tones with each word. At
first the beast seemed uneasy, and then it stepped switching its
tail and just glared at Tom.
"Ned! I say Ned! Wake up!"
Tom listened. All was silent within the tent.
"Ned! Oh, Ned!"
Louder this time, but still silence.
"Hey, Ned! Are you ever going to wake up! Get your gun! Your gun!
Shoot this beast! Ned! Ned!"
Tom waited. It seemed as if the beast was nearer to him. He called
"Ned! Ned!" He was fairly shouting now. Surely some one must hear
"What's that? What's the matter? Tom? Where are you?"
It was Ned's voice--a sleepy voice--and it came from the interior of
"Here!" called Tom. "Out in front--by the fire--get your gun, and
get him with the first shot, or it's all up with yours truly."
"Get who with the first shot. Who are you talking about?"
"This cougar! Hurry Ned, he's creeping nearer!"
Tom heard a movement behind him. He dared not turn his head, but he
knew it was his chum. Then he heard a gasp and he knew that Ned had
seen the beast. Then all Tom could do was to wait. And it was not
easy waiting. At any moment the beast might spring, and, as far as
he was concerned it would be all over.
Nearer and nearer crept the brute. Again Tom felt that queer
sensation down his spine.
"Hurry, Ned," he whispered.
"All right," came back the reassuring answer.
There was a moment of silence.
Crack! A sliver of flame cut the darkness. There was a report that
sounded like a cannon, and it was followed by an unearthly scream.
Instinctively Tom leaped back as he saw the greenish eyes change
The young inventor felt a shower of dirt thrown over him by the
claws of the dying cougar, and then he realized that he was safe. He
raced toward the tent, to be met by Ned, and the next instant the
camp was in wild commotion.
"Bless my slippers!" cried Mr. Damon. "What has happened. Tell me at
"Fo' de lob of chicken!" yelled Eradicate from a tent he had all to
himself--the cook tent.
"Santa Maria! Ten thousand confusions! What is it?" fairly screamed
"Are you all right, Tom?" called Ned.
"Sure. It was a good shot."
And then came explanations. Wood was thrown on the fire, and as the
Mexicans gathered around the blaze they saw, twitching in the death
throes, a big cougar, or some animal allied to it. Neither Tom nor
his friends had ever seen one just like it, and the Mexican name for
it meant nothing to them. But it was dead, and Tom was saved and the
way he grasped Ned's hand showed how grateful he was, even if he did
not say much.
Soon the excitement died out, after Tom had related his experience,
and though it was some time before he and the others got to sleep
again, they did finally, and the camp was once more quiet.
An early start was made the next day, for Tom had reconsidered his
determination to assemble the balloon and explore in that air craft,
And the reason for his reconsideration was this:
They had not gone far on their journey before they met a solitary
Mexican, and of him they asked the usual question about the plain of
He knew nothing, as might have been expected, but he stated that
there was a large village not far distant in which dwelt many old
"They might know something," he said.
"It's worth trying," decided Tom. "I'll wait until to-morrow about
the balloon. We can make the village by noon, I guess. Perhaps we
can get a clew there."
But it was nearly night when the ox carts drew into the Mexican
settlement, for there was an accident in the afternoon, one of the
vehicles breaking down.
There were fires blazing in many places in the village, which was
one of the most primitive sort, when our friends entered. They were
curiously watched as they drove through on their way to a good
camping site beyond.
And here, once more, fate stepped in to aid Tom in his search for
the city of gold.
As they were out of corn meal, and needed some for supper, Tom told
Eradicate to stop at one of the larger houses to buy some. The lad
followed the colored man into the building, which seemed to be used
by several families.
"We'll be obliged to yo' all fo' some corn meal," began Eradicate,
picking out an aged Mexican to whom he addressed his request.
"What is it?" asked the Mexican in Spanish.
Tom put the question in that language, and he was on the point of
explaining that they were travelers, when he stopped midway, and
stared at something on a rude shelf in the main room of the house.
"Look! Look, Ned!" whispered Tom.
"What is it?" asked his chum.
"On that shelf! That image! The image of gold! One just like the
drawing Mr. Illingway sent from Africa! Ned, we're on the trail at
last, for there is one of the small images from the city of gold!"
and Tom, with a hand that trembled in spite of himself, pointed at
the small, yellow figure.
THE MAP ON THE GOLD
Naturally, when Tom pointed at the golden image, the eyes of all the
Mexicans in the room, as well as those of the friends of the young
inventor, followed. For a moment there was silence and then the aged
Mexican, whom Eradicate had asked for corn meal, rapidly uttered
something in Spanish.
"Yes! Yes!" chorused his companions, and they followed this up, by
crying aloud when he had said something else: "No! No!" Then there
was confused talking, seemingly directed at Tom, who, though he had
lowered his hand, continued to stare at the golden image.
"What in the world are they saying?" asked Ned, who only knew a
"I can't get on to all of it," explained Tom above the confusion.
"Evidently they think we've come to take the image away from them
and they are objecting."
"Offer to buy it then," suggested Ned.
"That's what I'm going to do," answered Tom, and once more
addressing the aged Mexican, who seemed to be at the head of the
household, Tom offered to purchase the relic which meant so much to
him, agreeing to pay a large sum.
This seemed to create further confusion, and one of the women of the
household hastily took down the little statute and was carrying it
into an inner room, when Miguel Delazes came up. He looked into the
open doorway, glanced about the room which was illuminated by
several rude oil lamps, saw the looks of wonder and surprise on the
faces of Tom and his companions, noted the excitement among the
Mexicans, and then he caught sight of the golden image which the
"Ah!" exclaimed Delazes, and there was a world of meaning in his
tone. His small dark eyes glittered. They roved from the image to
Tom, and back to the little golden figure again. "Ah!" muttered the
contractor. "And so the senor has found that for what he was
searching? It IS gold after all, but such gold as never I have seen
before. So, the senor hopes to get many relics like that for his
museum? So, is it not? Ah, ha! But that is worth coming many miles
Tom realized that if he did net act quickly Delazes might have his
secret, and once it was known that Tom was seeking the buried city
of gold, the Mexicans could never be shaken off his trail. He
decided on a bold step.
"Look here, Senor Delazes," said the young inventor. "I had no more
idea that golden image was here than you did. I would like to buy
it, in fact I offered to, but they don't seem to want to sell it. If
you can purchase it for me I'll pay YOU a good price for it."
"And doubtless the senor would like many more," suggested Delazes,
with an open sneer.
"Doubtless the senor would!" snapped Tom. "Look here, Delazes, I'm
here on business, to get all the relics I can--this kind or any
other that I may fancy. You can think we're after buried treasure if
you want to--I'm not going to take the trouble to contradict you. I
hired you and your men for a certain purpose. But if you don't want
to stay and let me and my friends run things, the sooner you tell me
so the better. But I don't want any more of your underhand remarks.
For a moment Delazes stared at Tom with snapping eyes, as though he
would like to have attacked him. Then, knowing that Tom and his
friends were well armed, and doubtless thinking that strategy was
better than open force he bowed, smiled in what he probably meant
for a friendly fashion, and said:
"The senor is pleased to joke. Very well, I shall believe what I
like. Meanwhile, does Senor Swift commission me to buy the image for
Tom hesitated a moment. He feared he would be no match for the
shrewd Mexican, and he wondered how much Delazes already knew. Then
he decided on keeping up his end baldly, as that had seemed to have
the best effect.
"You can have a try at buying the image after I have failed," he
said. "I'll try my hand first."
"Very well," assented the contractor. The talk had been in English,
and none of the Mexicans gave any signs of having understood it. Tom
realized that he was playing a dangerous game, for naturally Delazes
would privately tell the Mexicans to put so high a price on the
statute as to prevent Tom from getting it and then the contractor
would make his own terms.
But Tom decided that this was the only course, and he followed it.
"We'll stay here in the village for to-night," he went on. "Delazes,
you and your men can make yourselves comfortable with any friends
you may find here. We'll set up our tent as usual, after we get some
corn meal for supper. I'll talk to them about the relic to-morrow.
They seem to be afraid now."
"Very well," assented the contractor again, and then be said
something in Spanish to the aged Mexican. What it was Tom could not
catch, for Delazes spoke rapidly and seemed to use some colloquial,
or slang phrases with which our hero was not familiar. The old
Mexican assented by a nod, and then he brought out some corn meal
which Eradicate took. The woman with the golden image had gone into
an inner room.
"Bless my pocketbook!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, when he Tom, Ned and
Eradicate were busy setting up their tent near a campfire just on
the edge of the village. "This is most unexpected. What are you
going to do, Tom?"
"I hardly know. I want to have a talk with whoever owns that image,
to learn where they got it. One thing is sure, it proves that Mr.
Illingway's information about the city of gold is correct."
"But it doesn't tell us where it is," said Ned.
"It must be somewhere around here," declared his chum. "Otherwise
the image wouldn't be here."
"Bless my gaiters, that's so!" exclaimed the odd man.
"Not necessarily," insisted Ned. "Why one of the images is away over
in Africa, and this one may have been brought hundreds of miles from
the underground city."
"I don't believe so," declared Tom. "We're somewhere in the
neighborhood of the city, according to Mr. Illingway's map, I'm
sure. That would be true, image or no image. But when you take the
little gold statue into consideration it makes me positive that I'm
near the end of the trail. I've just got to have a talk with those
people to learn where the statue came from."
"Look out for Delazes," warned Ned.
"I intend to. As soon as I can, I'm going to leave him and his men
behind and set off in the balloon. But first I want to get an idea
of where to head for. We must locate the plain on which stands the
"It's getting exciting," remarked Ned. "I wish--"
"Supper am serbed in de dinin' cah!" interrupted Eradicate with a
laugh, as he imitated a Pullman porter.
"That's the best thing you could wish for," put in Tom gaily. "Come
on, we'll have a good meal, a sleep, and then we'll be ready to play
detectives again to-morrow."
They all slept soundly that night, though Tom had some idea of
staying awake to see if Delazes paid any secret visits to the house
where the golden image was kept. But he realized that the Mexican,
if he wanted to, could easily find means to outwit him, so the young
inventor decided to get all the rest he could and trust to chance to
help him out.
His first visit after breakfast was to the house of the aged
Mexican. The image was not in sight, though Tom and Ned and Mr.
Damon looked eagerly around for it. There was a curious light in the
eyes of the old man as Tom asked for the little statue of gold.
Delazes was not in evidence. Tom had to conduct the conversation in
Spanish, no particularly easy task for him, though he made out all
"Will you sell the image?" he asked.
"No sell," replied the Mexican quickly.
"Will you please let me look at it?"
The Mexican hesitated a moment, called a command to some one in the
next room, and, a moment later the old woman shuffled in, bearing
the wonderful golden image. Tom could not repress a little gasp of
delight as he saw it at close range, for it was beautifully carved
out of solid, yellow gold.
The woman set it on a rude table, and the young inventor, Ned and
Mr. Damon drew near to look at the image more closely. It was the
work of a master artist. The statue was about eight inches high, and
showed a man, dressed in flowing robes, seated crosslegged on a sort
of raised pedestal. On the head was a crown, many pointed and the
face beneath it showed calm dignity like that of a superior being.
In one extended hand was a round ball, with lines on it to show the
shape of the earth, though only the two American continents
appeared. In the other hand was what might be tables of stone, a
book, or something to represent law-giving authority.
"How much?" asked Tom.
"No sell," was the monotonous answer.
"Five hundred dollars," offered our hero.
"One thousand dollars."
"Why is it so valuable to you?" Tom wanted to know.
"We have him for many years. Bad luck come if he go." Then the
Mexican went on to explain that the image had been in his family for
many generations, and that once, when it had been taken by an enemy,
death and poverty followed until the statue was recovered. He said
he would never part with it.
"Where did it come from?" asked Tom, and he cared more about this
than he did about buying the image.
"Far, far off," said the Mexican. "No man know. I no know--my father
he no know--his father's father no know. Too many years back--many
He motioned to the woman to take the statue away, and Tom and his
friend realized that little more could be learned. The young
inventor stretched out his hand with an involuntary motion, and the
Mexican understood. He spoke to the woman and she handed the image
to Tom. The Mexican had recognized his desire for a moment's closer
inspection and had granted it.
"Jove! It's as heavy as lead!" exclaimed Tom. "And solid gold."
"Isn't it hollow up the middle?" asked Ned. "Look on the underside,
His chum did so. As he turned the image over to look at the base he
had all he could do not to utter a cry of surprise. For there,
rudely scratched on the plain surface of the gold, was what was
unmistakably a map. And it was a map showing the location of the
ruined temple--the temple and the country surrounding it--the
ancient city of Poltec, and the map was plain enough so that Tom
could recognize part of the route over which they had traveled.
But, better than all, was a tiny arrow, something like the compass
mark on modern maps. And this arrow pointed straight at the ruins of
the temple, and the direction indicated was due west from the
village where our travelers now were. Tom Swift had found out what
he wanted to know.
Without a word he handed back the image and then, trying not to let
his elation show in his face, he motioned to Ned and Mr. Damon to
follow him from the house.
"Bless my necktie!" exclaimed the odd man, when they were out of
hearing distance. "What's up, Tom."
"I know the way to the ruined temple. We'll start at once," and he
told them of the map on the image.
"Who do you suppose could have made it?" asked Ned.
"Probably whoever took the image from the city of gold. He wanted to
find his way back again, or show some one, but evidently none of the
recent owners of the image understand about the map, if they know
it's there. The lines are quite faint, but it is perfectly plain."
"It's lucky I saw it. I don't have to try to buy the image now, nor
seek to learn where it came from. Anyhow, if they told me they'd
tell Delazes, and he'd be hot after us. As it is I doubt if he can
learn now. Come, we'll get ready to hit the trail again."
And they did, to the no small wonder of the contractor and his men,
who could not understand why Tom should start out without the image,
or without having learned where it came from, for Delazes had
questioned the old Mexican, and learned all that took place. But he
did not look on the base of the statue.
Due west went the cavalcade, and then a new complication arose. Tom
did not want to take the Mexicans any nearer to the plain of the
temple than possible, and he did not know how many miles it was
away. So he decided on taking a longer balloon voyage than at first
"We'll camp to-night at the best place we can find," he said to
Delazes, "and then I'm going on in the balloon. You and your men
will stay in camp until we come back."
"Ha! And suppose the senors do not come back with the balloon?"
"Wait a reasonable time for us, and then you can do as you wish.
I'll pay you to the end of the month and if you wait for us any
longer I have given instructions for the bank in Tampico to pay you
and your men what is right."
"Good! And the senors are going into the unknown?"
"Yes, we don't know where we'll wind up. This hunting for relics is
uncertain business. Make yourselves comfortable in camp, and wait."
"Waiting is weary business, Senor Swift. If we could come with you--"
began Delazes, with an eager look in his eyes.
"Out of the question," spoke Tom shortly. "There isn't room in the
"Very well, senor," and with a snapping glance from his black eyes
the contractor walked away.
THE RUINED TEMPLE
Though Tom had his portable balloon in shape for comparatively quick
assembling it was several days, after they went into permanent camp,
before it was in condition for use.
The Mexicans were not of much help for several reasons. Some of them
were ignorant men, and were very superstitious, and would have
nothing to do with the "Air Fiend" as they called it. In consequence
Tom, Ned, Mr. Damon and Eradicate had to do most of the work. But
Tom and Ned were a host in themselves, and Mr. Damon was a great
help, though he often stopped to bless something, to the no small
astonishment of the Mexicans, one of whom innocently asked Tom if
this eccentric man was not "a sort of priest in his own country, for
he called down so many blessings?"
"Bless my pen wiper!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, when Tom had told him. "I
must break myself of that habit. Bless my--" and then he stopped
and laughed, and went on with the work of helping to install the
Another reason why some of the Mexicans were of little service was
because they were so lazy. They preferred to sit in the shade and
smoke innumerable cigarettes, or sleep. Then, too, some of them had
to go out after some small game with which that part of the country
abounded, for though there was plenty of tinned food, fresh meat was
much more appreciated.
But Tom and Ned labored long and hard, and in about a week after
making camp they had assembled the dirigible balloon in which they
hoped to set out to locate the plain of the ruined temple, and also
the entrance to the underground city of gold.
"Well, I'll start making the gas to-morrow," decided Tom, in their
tent one night, after a hard day's work. "Then we'll give the
balloon a tryout and see how she behaves in this part of the world.
The motor is all right, we're sure of that much," for they had given
the engine a test several days before.
"Which way are we going to head?" asked Ned.
"North, I think," answered Tom.
"But I thought you said that the temple was west--"
"Don't you see my game?" went on the young inventor quickly, and in
a low voice, for several times of late he had surprised some of the
Mexicans sneaking about the tent. "As soon as we start off Delazes
is going to follow us."
"Follow us?" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my shoe horn, what do you
"I mean that he still suspects that we are after gold, and he is
going to do his best to get on our trail. Of course he can't follow
us through the air, but he'll note in what direction we start and as
soon as we are out of sight he and his men will hit the trail in the
"What, and leave the camp?" asked Ned.
"Yes, though they'll probably skip off with some of our supplies.
That's why I'm going to take along an unusually large supply. We may
not come back to this camp at all. In fact, it won't be much use
after Delazes and his crowd clean it out and leave."
"And you really think they'll do that, Tom?" asked his chum.
"I'm almost sure of it, from the way the Mexicans have been acting
lately. Delazes has been hinting around trying to surprise me into
saying which direction we're going to take. But I've been careful.
The sight of that golden image aroused him and his men. They're
hungry for gold, and they'd do away with us in a minute if they
thought they could find what we're looking for and get it without
us. But our secret is ours yet, I'm glad to say. If only the balloon
behaves we ought soon to be in the--"
"Hark!" exclaimed Ned, holding up a warning hand. They heard a
rustling outside the tent, and one side bulged in, as if some one
was leaning against it.
"Some one's listening," whispered Ned.
Tom nodded. The next moment he drew his heavy automatic revolver and
remarked in loud tones:
"My gun needs cleaning. I'm going to empty it through the tent where
that bulge is--look out, Ned."
The bulge against the canvas disappeared as if by magic, and the
sound of some one crawling or creeping away could be heard outside.
"You see how it is," he said. "We can't even think aloud."
"Bless my collar button; who was it?" asked Mr. Damon.
"Some of Delazes's men--or himself," replied the young inventor.
"But I guess I scared him."
"Maybe it was Andy Foger," suggested Ned with a smile.
"No, I guess we've lost track of him and his father," spoke Tom.
"I've kept watch of the back trail as much as I could, and haven't
seen them following us. Of course they may pick up our trail later
and come here, and they may join forces with the Mexicans. But I
don't know that they can bother us, once we're off in the balloon."