Part 3 out of 3
To Tom's disappointment, the next day proved stormy, a heavy rain
falling, so it was impossible to test the balloon with the gas. The
camp was a disconsolate and dreary place, and even Eradicate,
usually so jolly, was cross and out of sorts.
For three days the rain kept up, and Tom and Ned thought they would
never see the last of it, but on the fourth morning the sun shone,
wet garments and shoes were dried out, tents were opened to the warm
wind and everyone was in better spirits. Tom and his chum at once
set about making gas for the big bag, their operations being closely
watched by the Mexicans.
As I have explained before, Tom had the secret of making a very
powerful gas from comparatively simple ingredients, and the
machinery for this was not complicated. So powerful was it that the
bag of the dirigible balloon did not need to be as large as usual, a
distinct saving in space.
In a short time the bag began to distend and then the balloon took
shape and form. The bag was of the usual cigar shape, divided into
many compartments so that the puncture of one would not empty out
all the vapor.
Below the bag was a car or cabin made of light wood. It was all
enclosed and contained besides the motor, storage tanks for
gasolene, oil and other things, sleeping berths, a tiny kitchen, a
pilot house, and a room to be used for a living apartment.
Everything was very compact, and there was not half the room there
was in some of Tom Swift's other airships. But then the party did
not expect to make long voyages.
They could take along a good supply of canned and also compressed
food, much of which was in tablet or capsule form, and of course
they would take their weapons, and ammunition.
"And I hope you'll leave room for plenty of gold," said Ned in a
whisper to Tom, as they completed arrangements for the gas test.
"I guess we can manage to store all that we can get out of the
underground city," replied his chum. "I'm going to find a place for
the big gold statue if we can manage to lift it."
"Say, we'll be millionaires all right!" exulted Ned.
Though much still remained to be done on the balloon, it was soon in
shape for an efficient test, and that afternoon Tom, Ned and Mr.
Damon went up in it to the no small wonder, fear and delight of the
Mexicans. Some, who had never seen an air craft before, fell on
their knees and prayed. Others shouted, and when Tom started the
motor, and showed how he could control his aircraft, there were
yells of amazement.
"She'll do!" cried the young inventor, as he let out some gas and
Thereupon followed busy days, stocking the airship for the trip to
discover the ruined temple. Food and supplies were put aboard, spare
garments, all their weapons and ammunition, and then Tom paid
Delazes and his men, giving them a month's wages in advance, for he
told them to wait in camp that long.
"But they won't," the young inventor predicted to Ned.
There was nothing more to be done. All that they could do, to insure
success had been completed. From now on they were in the hands of
"All aboard!" cried Tom, as he motioned for Eradicate to take his
place in the car. Mr. Damon and Ned followed, and then the young
inventor himself. He shook hands with Delazes, though he did not
like the man.
"Good bye," said Tom. "We may be back before the month is up. If we
are not, go back to Tampico."
"Si, senor," answered the contractor, bowing mockingly.
Tom turned the lever that sent more gas into the bag. The balloon
shot up. The young gold-seeker was about to throw on the motor, when
Delazes waved his hand to the little party.
"Bon voyage!" he called. "I hope you will find the city of gold!"
"Bless my soul!" cried Mr. Damon. "He knows our secret!"
"He's only guessing at it," replied Tom calmly. "He's welcome to
follow us--if he can."
Up shot the aircraft, the propellers whirling around like blades of
light. Up and up, higher and higher, and then forward, while down
below the Mexicans yelled and swung their hats.
Straight for the north Tom headed his craft, so as to throw the
eagerly watching ones off the track. He intended to circle around
and go west when out of sight.
And then the very thing Tom had predicted came to pass. The balloon
was scarcely half a mile high when, as the young inventor looked
down, he uttered a cry.
"See!" he said. "They're breaking camp to follow us."
And it was so. Riding along in one of the lightest ox carts was
Delazes, his eyes fixed on the balloon overhead, while behind him
came his followers.
"They're following us," said Tom, "but they're going to get sadly
In an hour Tom knew his balloon would not be visible to the
Mexicans, and at the end of that time he pointed for the west. And
then, flying low so as to use the trees as a screen, but going at
good speed. Tom and his friends were well on their way to the city
"We must keep a good lookout down below," said Tom, when everything
was in working order. "We don't want to fly over the plain of the
"We may in the night," suggested Ned.
"No night flying this time," said his chum. "We'll only move along
daytimes. We'll camp at night."
For three days they sailed along, sometimes over vast level plains
on which grazed wild cattle, again over impenetrable jungles which
they could never have gotten through in their ox carts. They crossed
rivers and many small lakes, stopping each night on the ground, the
airship securely anchored to trees. Tom could make the lifting gas
on board so what was wasted by each descent was not missed.
One day it rained, and they did not fly, spending rather a lonely
and miserable twelve hours in the car. Another time a powerful wind
blew them many miles out of their course. But they got back on it,
and kept flying to the west.
"We must strike it soon," murmured Tom one day.
"Maybe we're too far to the north or south," suggested Ned.
"Then we'll have to beat back and forth until we get right," was
Tom's reply. "For I'm going to locate that ruined temple."
They ate breakfast and dinner high in the air, Eradicate preparing
the meals in the tiny kitchen. Ever did they keep looking downward
for a sight of a great plain, with a ruined temple in the midst of
In this way a week passed, the balloon beating back and forth to the
North or South, and they were beginning to weary of the search, and
even Tom, optimistic as he was, began to think he would never find
what he sought.
It was toward the close of day, and the young inventor was looking
for a good place to land. He was flying over a range of low hills,
hoping the thick forest would soon come to an end when, as he
crossed the last of the range of small mountains, he gave a cry,
that drew the attention of Ned and Mr. Damon.
"What is it?" demanded his chum.
"Look!" said Tom. "There is the great plain!"
Ned gazed, and saw, spread out below them a vast level plateau. But
this was not all he saw, for there, about in the centre, was a mass
of something--something that showed white in the rays of the setting
"Bless my chimney!" cried Mr. Damon. "That's some sort of a
"The ruined temple," said Tom softly. "We've found it at last," and
he headed the balloon for it and put on full speed.
FINDING THE TUNNEL
In silence, broken only by the noise of the motor, did the gold-
seekers approach the temple. As they neared it they could see its
vast proportions, and they noted that it was made of some white
stone, something like marble. Then, too, as they drew closer, they
could see the desolate ruin into which it had fallen.
"Looks as if a dynamite explosion had knocked it all apart,"
"It certainly does," agreed Mr. Damon.
"Maybe Cortez, or some of those early explorers, blew it up with
gunpowder after fighting the Aztecs, or whatever the natives were
called in those days," suggested Tom.
"Bless my bookcase! You don't mean to say you think this temple goes
back to those early days," spoke Mr. Damon.
"Yes, and probably farther," declared Tom. "It must be very ancient,
and the whole country about here is desolate. Why, the way the woods
have grown up everywhere but on this plain shows that it must be
three or four hundred years ago. There must have been a city around
the temple, probably Poltec, and yet there isn't a trace of it that
we have seen as we came along. Oh, yes, this is very ancient."
"It will be jolly fun to explore it," decided Ned. "I wish it wasn't
so near night."
"We can't do much now," decided Tom. "It will be too dark, and I
don't altogether fancy going in those old ruins except by daylight."
"Do you think any of those old Aztec priests, with their knifes of
glass, will sacrifice you on a stone altar?" asked Ned, with a
"No, but there might be wild beasts in there," went on the young
inventor, "and I'm sure there are any number of bats. There must be
lots of nooks and corners in there where a whole army could hide.
It's an immense place."
The ruined temple certainly was large in extent, and in its glory
must have been a wonderful place. The balloon came nearer, and then
Tom let it sink to rest on the sand not far from the ancient ruin.
Out he leaped, followed by his friends, and for a moment they stood
in silent contemplation of the vast temple. Then as the last rays of
the setting sun turned the white stones to gold, Tom exclaimed:
"A good omen! I'm sure the city of gold must be near here, and in
the morning we'll begin our search for the secret tunnel that leads
"That's the stuff!" cried Ned enthusiastically.
An instant later it seemed to get dark very suddenly, as it does in
the tropics, and almost with the first shadows of night there came a
strange sound from the ruined temple.
It was a low moaning, rumbling sound, like a mighty wind, afar off,
and it sent a cold shiver down the spines of all in the little
"Good land a' massy! What am dat?" moaned Eradicate, as he darted
back toward the balloon.
"Bless my looking glass!" cried Mr. Damon.
A second later the noise suddenly increased, and something black,
accompanied by a noise of rapidly beating wings rushed from one of
the immense doorways.
"Bats!" cried Tom. "Thousands of bats! I'm glad we didn't go in
after dark!" And bats they were, that had made the noise as they
rushed out on their nightly flight.
"Ugh!" shuddered Mr. Damon. "I detest the creatures! Let's get under
"Yes," agreed Tom, "we'll have supper, turn in, and be up early to
look for the tunnel. We're here at last. I'll dream of gold to-
Eradicate soon had a meal in preparation, though he stopped every
now and then to peer out at the bats, that still came in unbroken
flight from the old temple. Truly there must have been many
thousands of them.
Whether Tom dreamed of gold that night he did not say, but he was
the first one up in the morning, and Ned saw him hurrying over the
sands toward the temple.
"Hold on, Tom!" his chum called as he hastened to dress. "Where you
"To have a hunt for that tunnel before breakfast. I don't want to
lose any time. No telling when Delazes and his crowd may be after
us. And the Fogers, too, may strike our trail. Come on, we'll get
"Where do you think the tunnel will be?" asked Ned, when he had
caught up to Tom.
"Well, according to all that Mr. Illingway could tell us, it was
somewhere near this temple. We'll make a circle of it, and if we
don't come across it then we'll make another, and so on, increasing
the size of the circles each time, until we find what we're looking
"Let's have a look inside the temple first," suggested Ned. "It must
have been a magnificent place when it was new, and with the
processions of people and priests in their golden robes."
"You ought to have been an Aztec," suggested Tom, as he headed for
one of the big doorways.
They found the interior of the temple almost as badly in ruins as
was the outside. In many places the roof had fallen in, the side
walls contained many gaping holes, and the stone floor was broken
away in many places, showing yawning, black caverns below. They saw
hundreds of bats clinging to projections, but the ugly creatures
were silent in sleep now.
"Bur-r-r-r-r!" murmured Ned. "I shouldn't like any of 'em to fall on
"No, it's not a very nice place to go in," agreed Tom.
They saw that the temple consisted of two parts, or two circular
buildings, one within the other. Around the outer part were many
rooms, which had evidently formed the living apartments of the
priests. There were galleries, chambers, halls and assembly rooms.
Then the whole of the interior of the temple, under a great dome
that had mostly fallen in, consisted of a vast room, which was
probably where the worship went on. For, even without going farther
than to the edge of it, the youths could see stone altars, and many
strangely-carved figures and statues. Some had fallen over and lay
in ruins on the floor. The whole scene was one of desolation.
"Come on," invited Tom, "it's healthier and more pleasant outside.
Let's look for that tunnel."
But the lads soon realized that it was not going to be as easy to
locate this as they had hoped. They were looking for some sort of
slanting opening, going down into the earth--the entrance to the
underground city--but though they both made a complete circuit of
the temple, each at a varying distance from the outer walls, no
tunnel entrance showed.
"Breakfust! Breakfust!" called Eradicate, when Tom was about to
start on a second round.
"Let's eat," suggested Ned, "and then we four can circle around
together." Tom agreed that this would be a good plan. A little later
then, with Tom nearest the temple walls, the four began their march
Four times that morning they made the circuit, and the same number
in the afternoon, until they were nearly half a mile away from the
ruin, but no tunnel showed.
"Well, we'll have to keep at it to-morrow," suggested Tom. "It's too
soon to give up."
But the morrow brought no better success, nor did the following two
days. In fact for a week they kept up the search for the tunnel, but
did not come upon it, and they had now pretty well covered the big
plain. They found a few ruins of the ancient city of Poltec.
"Well, what about it?" asked Ned one night as they sat in the
balloon, talking it over. "What next, Tom?"
"We've got to keep at it, that's all. I think we'll go up in the
balloon, circle around over the plain at just a little elevation,
and maybe we can spot it that way."
"All right, I'm with you."
But they did not try that plan. For in the middle of the night Ned
suddenly awakened. Something had come to him in his sleep.
"Tom! Tom!" he cried. "I have it! What chumps we were!"
"What's the matter, old man?" asked Tom anxiously. "Are you sick--
talking in your sleep?"
"Sleep nothing! I've just thought of it. That tunnel entrance is
INSIDE the temple. That's the most natural place in the world for
it. I'll bet it's right in the middle of the big inner chamber,
where the priests could control it. Why didn't we look there
"That's right; why didn't we?" agreed Tom. "I believe you're right,
Ned! We'll look the first thing in the morning."
They did not wait for breakfast before trying the experiment, and
Mr. Damon and Eradicate went with Tom and Ned. It was no easy work
to make their way over the ruins to the inner auditorium. Wreckage
and ruin was all around, and they had to avoid the yawning holes on
every side. But when they got to the main, or sacrificial chamber,
as Ned insisted on calling it, they found the floor there solid. In
the centre was a great altar, but to their chagrin there was not a
sign of a tunnel opening.
"Fooled again!" said Tom bitterly.
"Maybe some of those holes outside is the entrance," suggested Mr.
"I don't believe so," objected Tom. "They seemed to go only to the
cellar, if a temple has such a thing."
Bitterly disappointed, Tom strolled over and stood in front of the
big stone altar. It seemed that he must give up the search. Idly he
looked at the sacrificial stone. Projecting from it was a sort of a
Tom took hold of it, and to his surprise he found that it could be
moved. Hardly knowing what he was doing, he pulled it toward him.
The next instant he uttered a cry of horror, for the immense stone
altar, with a dull rumbling, rolled back as though on wheels, and
there, over where it had stood was a hole of yawning blackness, with
a flight of stone steps leading down into it. And Tom stood so near
the edge that he almost toppled in.
"Look! Look!" he cried when he could get his gasping breath, and
step back out of danger.
"The tunnel entrance!" cried Ned. "That's what it is! You've found
it, Tom! The entrance to the city of gold at last!"
THE UNDERGROUND RIVER
They gathered around the opening so unexpectedly disclosed to them,
and stared down into the black depths. Beyond the first few steps of
the flight that led to they knew not where, nothing could be seen.
In his impatience Tom was about to go down.
"Bless my match box!" cried Mr. Damon. "What are you going to do,
Tom, my boy?"
"Go down there, of course! What else? I want to get to the
"Don't!" quickly advised the odd man. "You don't know what's there.
It may be a trap, where the old Aztecs used to throw their victims.
There may be worse things than bats there. You'll need torches--
lights--and you'd better wait until the air clears. It may have been
centuries since that place was opened."
"I believe that's right," agreed Ned. "Whew; Smell it! It's as musty
An unpleasant odor came up the tunnel entrance, and it was stifling
to stand too close. Tom lighted a match and threw it down. Almost
instantly the flame was snuffed out.
"We couldn't live down there a minute," said the young inventor.
"We've got to wait for it to clear. We'll go back to the balloon and
get some electric flash lamps. I brought along a lot of 'em, with
extra strong batteries. I thought we'd need some if we did find the
city of gold, and it looks as if we were almost there now."
Tom's plan was voted good so they hurried out of the temple, their
feet echoing and re-echoing over the stone floor. The place, ruined
and desolate as it was, had no terrors for them now. In fact they
were glad of the very loneliness, and Tom and Ned actually looked
about apprehensively as they emerged, fearing they might see a sign
of the Mexicans or the Fogers.
"Guess they can't pick up our trail," said Tom, when, he saw of what
Ned was thinking.
"No, we've got the place to ourselves. I wonder how long it will
take for the air to get fresh?"
"Not so very long, I guess. There was a good draught. There must be
some opening in the underground city by which the air is sucked in.
They'd never have only one opening to it. But we don't need to look
for the other. Come on, we'll get out the torches."
These electrical contrivances are familiar to all boys. A small
electric lamp is set in the end of a hollow tube of tin, and about
the lamp is a reflector. Dry electrical batteries are put in the tin
tube, and by means of a push button the circuit is closed,
illuminating the lamp, which gives a brilliant glow. Tom had a
special kind of lamp, with tungsten filaments, which gave a very
powerful light, and with batteries designed to last a long time. A
clip on the spring controlling the push button made it so that the
lamp could be made to give a steady glow. Thus they were well
prepared for exploring the tunnel.
It took some little time to get the flash lamps ready, and when they
were all charged and they had eaten, they went back to the opening
to see if the air had cleared. Tom tested it by dropping a match
down, and, to his delight it burned with a clear flame.
"It's all right!" he exclaimed. "The air is pure. Now to see where
we will bring up. Come on, everybody."
"Jest one minute, Massa Tom," begged Eradicate, as the young
inventor was about to descend the steps, which even the brightness
of his lamp did not disclose the end. "Is yo' gwine down dar, Massa
"An' is yo'--'scuse me--but is yo' expectin' me fo' t' follow yo'?"
"Den, all I's got t' say is dat yo' is 'spectin' too much. I ain't
gwine t' bury mahse'f alive not yit."
"But, Rad, this is where the gold images are. If you don't come down
with us you won't get any gold."
"Am dat so? No gold?" The colored man scratched his head. "Well, I
shore does want gold," he murmured. "I reckon I'd better trot along.
But one thing mo', Massa Tom."
"What is it, Rad?"
"Was yo' all aimin' t' stay down thar any length ob time? 'Case if
yo' is yo' all'd better take along a snack ob suffin' t' eat. 'Case
when I gits among gold I don't want t' come out very soon, an' we
might stay dar all day."
"Good advice, Rad," exclaimed Ned with a laugh. "I think we may get
hungry. You go back and put us up a lunch. We'll wait for you."
"Bless my napkin ring! I think you're right!" exclaimed Mr. Damon,
and Eradicate hurried back to the balloon to get some of the
He was soon back and then, with Tom in the lead, and with everyone
carrying an electric torch, with a spare one in reserve, and with
their weapons in readiness the party descended the stone steps.
Their footfalls echoed solemnly as they went down--down into the
unknown blackness. They kept their bright lights playing here and
there, but even these did not dispell the gloom. On every side was
stone--stone walls--stone steps. It was like going down into some
vast stretch of catacombs.
"Say, will we ever get to the bottom?" asked Ned, when they had
counted several hundred steps. "Maybe this goes down to the middle
of the earth."
"Well, ef it do I'm gwine right along!" called Eradicate. "I's gwine
t' hab one ob dem gold images or bust!"
"And I'm with you!" cried Tom. "We'll have to get to the bottom
sooner or later."
Hardly had he spoken than he came to the last step, and saw
stretching off before him a long tunnel, straight and level, lined
on both sides, and bottom, with smooth stones that gleamed like
"Now we are really in the tunnel," declared Ned. "I wonder what's at
"The city of gold, of course," answered Tom confidently.
Eagerly they hurried on. There was a slightly musty smell to the
air, but it was fresher than might have been expected.
Suddenly Tom, who was in advance, uttered a cry. It sounded like one
of alarm, and Ned yelled:
"What's the matter?"
"Look here!" cried Tom. They hurried up to him, to find him standing
before a sort of niche in the wall. And the niche was lined with a
yellow metal that gleamed like gold, while in it was one of the
golden images, the second one they had seen, and the third they
"We're on the trail! We're on the trail!" cried Tom.
"Heah! Let me hab dat!" cried Eradicate. "I may not git anudder,"
and he reached up for the statue.
"Let it stay until we come back," suggested Mr. Damon.
"Somebody might take it," said the colored man.
"Who?" laughed Tom. "There's not a soul here but ourselves. But take
it, if you want it, Rad," and Eradicate did so, stuffing the image,
which was only about four inches high, into his pocket.
Then they went on, and they saw several other images, though not of
gold. Several niches were lined with yellow metal, but whether it
was gold or not they could not tell. They did not want to stop, as
they were anxious to get to the underground city.
"Hark! What's that?" asked Tom, when they had gone about a mile
along the tunnel. "Don't you hear something?"
"Sounds like a roaring," agreed Ned. "Maybe it's more of the bats."
"Doesn't sound like bats," declared Tom. "It's more like a
waterfall. Come on."
They hurried forward, the strange sound increasing at every step,
until it filled the tunnel with its menacing roar.
"That's strange," said Tom in worried tones. "I hope we don't come
to a waterfall."
Suddenly the tunnel made a turn, and as they went around the curve
in the wall the sound smote on their ears with increased violence.
Tom raced forward, focusing his electric lamp down on the stone
corridor. The next instant he cried out:
"A river! It's an underground river and we can't go any further!
The others came to his side, and there, in the glare of their lamps,
they saw rushing along, between two walls of stone, a dark stream
which caused the roaring sound that had come to them. The tunnel was
cut squarely in two by the stream, which was at least thirty feet
wide, and how deep they could only guess. Swiftly it flowed on, its
roar filling the tunnel.
THE CITY OF GOLD
"Well, I guess this is the end of it," remarked Ned ruefully, as
they stood contemplating the roaring stream by the gleam of their
electric flash lamps. "We can't go on to the city of gold unless we
swim that river, and--"
"And none of us is going to try that!" interrupted Tom sharply. "The
strongest swimmer in the world couldn't make a yard against that
current. He'd be carried down, no one knows where."
"Bless my bathing suit, yes!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "But what are we
to do? Can't we make a raft, or get a boat, or something like that?"
"Hab t' be a mighty pow'ful boat t' git across dat ribber ob
Jordan," spoke Eradicate solemnly.
"That's right," agreed Ned. "But say, Tom, don't you think we could
go back, get a lot of trees, wood and stuff and make some sort of a
bridge? It isn't so very wide--not more than thirty or forty feet.
We ought to be able to bridge it."
"I'm afraid not," and Tom shook his head. "In the first place any
trees that would be long enough are away at the far edge of the big
plain, and we'd have a hard job getting them to the temple, to say
nothing of lugging them down the tunnel. Then, too, we don't know
much about building a bridge, and with no one on the other side to
help us, we'd have our hands full. One slip and we might be all
drowned. No, I guess we've got to go back," and Tom spoke
regretfully. "It's hard luck, but we've got to give up and go back."
"Den I's pow'ful glad I got ma golden image when I did, dat's suah!"
exclaimed Eradicate. "Ef we doan't git no mo' I'll hab one. But I'll
sell it and whack up wid yo' all, Massa Tom."
"You'll do nothing of the sort, Rad!" exclaimed the young inventor.
"That image is yours, and I'm sorry we can't get more of them."
He turned aside, and after another glance at the black underground
river which flowed along so relentlessly he prepared to retrace his
steps along the tunnel.
"Say, look here!" suddenly exclaimed Ned. "I'm not so sure, after
all that we've got to turn back. I think we can go on to the city of
gold, after all."
"How do you mean?" asked Tom quickly. "Do you think we can bring the
balloon down here and float across?"
"Bless my watch chain!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "but that WOULD be a
way. I wonder--"
"No, I don't mean that way at all," went on Ned. "But it seems to me
as if this river isn't a natural one--I mean that it flows along
banks of smooth stone, just as if they were cut for it, a canal you
"That's right," said Tom, as he looked at the edge of the channel of
the underground stream. "These stones are cut as cleanly as the rest
of the tunnel. Whoever built that must have made a regular channel
for this river to flow in. And it's square on the other side, too,"
he added, flashing his lamp across.
"Then don't you see," continued Ned, "that this river hasn't always
"Bless my gaiters!" gasped Mr. Damon, "what does he mean? The river
not always been here?"
"No," proceeded Tom's chum. "For the ancients couldn't have cut the
channel out of stone, or made it by cementing separate stones
together while the water was here. The channel must have been dry at
one time, and when it was finished they turned the water in it."
"But how is that going to help us?" asked Tom. "I grant you that the
river may not have been here at one time, but it's here NOW, which
makes it all the worse for us."
"But, Tom!" cried his chum, "if the river was turned aside from this
channel once it can be done again. My notion is that the ancients
could make the river flow here or not, just as they choose. Probably
they turned it into this channel to keep their enemies from crossing
to the city of gold, like the ancient moats. Now if we could only
"I see! I see!" cried Tom enthusiastically. "You mean there must be
some way of shutting off the water."
"Exactly," replied his chum. "We've got to shut that stream of water
off, or turn it into some other channel, then we can cross, and keep
on to the city of gold. And I think there must be some valve--some
lever, or handle or something similar to the one that moved the
altar-near here that does the trick. Let's all look for it."
"Bless my chopping block!" cried Mr. Damon. "That's the strangest
thing I ever heard of! But I believe you're right, Ned. We'll look
for the handle to the river," and he laughed gaily.
Every one was in better spirits, now that there seemed a way out of
the difficulty, and a moment later they were eagerly flashing their
lamps on the sides, floor and ceiling of the tunnel, to discover the
means of shutting off the water. At first they feared that, after
all, Ned's ingenious theory was not to be confirmed. The walls,
ceiling and floor were as smooth near the edge of the river as
But Eradicate, who was searching as eagerly as the others, went back
a little, flashing his lamp on every square of stone. Suddenly he
uttered a cry.
"Look yeah, Massa Tom! Heah's suffin' dat looks laik a big door
knob. Maybe yo' kin push it or pull it."
They rushed to where he was standing in front of a niche similar to
the one where he had found the golden image. Sunken in the wall was
a round black stone. For a moment Tom looked at it, and then he said
"Well, here goes. It may shut off the water, or it may make it rise
higher and drown us all, or the whole tunnel may cave in, but I'm
going to risk it. Hold hard, everybody!"
Slowly Tom put forth his hand and pushed the knob of stone. It did
not move. Then he pulled it. The result was the same--nothing.
"Guess it doesn't work any more," he said in a low tone.
"Twist it!" cried Ned. "Twist it like a door knob."
In a flash Tom did so. For a moment no result was apparent, then,
from somewhere far off, there sounded a low rumble, above the roar
of the black stream.
"Something happened!" cried Mr. Damon.
"Back to the river!" shouted Tom, for they were some distance away
from it now. "If it's rising we may have a chance to escape."
They hurried to the edge of the stone channel, and Ned uttered a cry
"It's going down!" he yelled, capering about. "Now we can go on!"
And, surely enough, the river was falling rapidly. It no longer
roared, and it was flowing more slowly.
"The water is shut off," remarked Tom.
"Yes, and see, there are steps which lead across the channel," spoke
Ned, pointing to them as the receding water revealed them.
"Everything is coming our way now."
In a short time the water was all out of the channel, and they could
see that it was about twenty feet deep. Truly it would have been a
formidable stream to attempt to swim over, but now it had completely
vanished, merely a few little pools of water remaining in
depressions on the bottom of the channel. There were steps leading
down to the bottom, and other steps ascending on the other side,
showing that the river was used as a barrier to further progress
along the tunnel.
"Forward!" cried Tom gaily, and they went on.
They went down into the river channel, taking care not to slip on
the wet steps, and a few seconds later they had again ascended to
the tunnel, pressing eagerly on.
Straight and true the tunnel ran through the darkness, the only
illumination being their electric flash lamps. On and on they went,
hoping every minute to reach their goal.
"Dish suah am a mighty long tunnel," remarked Eradicate. "Dey ought
t' hab a trolley line in yeah."
"Bless my punching bag!" cried Mr. Damon, "so they had! Now if those
ancients were building to-day--"
He stopped suddenly, for Tom, who was in the lead, had uttered a
cry. It was a cry of joy, there was no mistaking that, and
instinctively they all knew that he had found what he had sought.
All confirmed it a moment later, for, as they rushed forward, they
discovered Tom standing at the place where the tunnel broadened out-
-broadened out into a great cave, a cave miles in extent, for all
they could tell, as their lamps, powerful as they were, only
illuminated for a comparatively short distance.
"We're here!" cried Tom. "In the city of gold at last!"
"The city of gold!" added Ned. "The underground city of gold!"
"And gold there is!" fairly shouted Mr. Damon. "See it's all over!
Look at the golden streets--even the sides of the buildings are
plated with it--and see, in that house there are even gold chairs!
Boys, there is untold wealth here!"
"An' would yo' all look at dem golden statues!" cried Eradicate,
"dey mus' be millions ob 'em! Oh, golly! Ain't I glad I comed
along!" and he rushed into one of the many houses extending along
the street of the golden city where they stood, and gatheredup a
fairly large statue of gold--an image exactly similar to the one he
already had, except as to size.
"I never would have believed it possible!" gasped Tom. "It's a city
of almost solid gold. We'll be millionaires a million times over!"
THE BIG IMAGE
Could the light of day have penetrated to that mysterious and
ancient underground city of gold our friends might have had some
idea of its magnificence. As it was they could only view small parts
of it at a time by the illumination of their electric torches. But
even with them they saw that it was a most wonderful place.
"I don't believe there's another city like it in all the world,"
spoke Tom in awed accents, "there never was, and never will be
again. Those Aztecs must have brought all their treasures of gold
"Bless my cake box! that's so," agreed Mr. Damon.
"Let's take a look around," advised Ned, "and then we can decide on
what will be best to take away."
"It won't take me long t' make up mah mind," spoke Eradicate. "I's
goin' t' take all dem images I kin find."
"I was going to say we'd have plenty of time to look about and pick
what we wanted," said Tom, "but I think perhaps we'd better hurry."
"Why?" asked Mr. Damon.
"There's no telling when Delazes and his gang may find this place,
and even the Fogers may be nearer than we think. But I believe our
best plan would be this: To take some gold now, and several of the
statues, go back to our balloon, and make some kind of big lamps, so
we can light this place up. Then, too, I think we'd better move the
balloon into the old temple. It will be safer there. Then we can
come back here, pack up as much gold as we can carry, and be off. I
don't like to think of being underground when Delazes and the Fogers
are on the surface. It might not be altogether safe for us."
"Bless my insurance policy!" cried the odd man. "Now YOU'RE giving
me the cold shivers, Tom. But I believe you're right. We must look
ahead a bit."
With all their electric flash lamps turned on, the four advanced
farther into the underground city of gold. As they went on they saw
the precious yellow metal on every side of them. It was used
lavishly, showing that to the ancients it was as common as iron or
steel is to-day. But they did not use the gold merely as common
material in the construction of buildings or objects of use.
Instead, the gold seemed to be brought into play to beautify the
city. An artistic scheme was carried out, and while it was true that
in many buildings common objects were made of gold, yet each one was
beautiful in itself.
"What a wonderful place this must have been when it was lighted up,"
"Do you think it was ever lighted up?" asked his chum.
"It must have been," declared the young inventor. "My idea is that
this city was the home of the priests of the temple, and their
friends. I don't believe the common people ever came here. Perhaps
the officers of the army, the rulers and the royal family were
admitted, but not the ordinary people. That's why it's so far
underground, and so well guarded by the river."
"Probably the priests and others collected so much gold they didn't
know what to do with it, and built this city to use it up, and, at
the same time have a safe place to store it. And they must have had
some means of lighting the place, for they couldn't go about in
darkness--they couldn't have seen the gold if they did. Yes, this
must have been wonderfully beautiful then. The priests probably came
here to study, or perhaps to carry out some of their rites. Of
course it's only guesswork, but it seems true to me."
"I believe you're right, Tom," said Mr. Damon.
As our friends walked about they saw that the city, while smaller
than they had at first supposed, was laid out with regular streets.
Each one was straight, and at certain places in the stone pavement
plates of gold were set, so that literally the streets were paved
with gold. There were houses or buildings on each side of the
streets, and most of these were open at the doors or windows, for
there was no need of heat in that buried city.
All about were the golden images such as they had seen in the
Mexican's house, and like the one in far off Africa. Some of the
images were almost life size, and others were only an inch or two
inches in height. Not a house but had half a dozen or more in
various places, and there were also the images on golden pedestals
about the streets.
"This must have been their chief god, or else a representation of
some great personage to whom they paid the highest honor," said Mr.
Damon. "Perhaps he was the reigning king or ruler, and he, himself,
might have ordered the images made out of vanity, like some men of
The boys agreed that this was a natural theory. As for Eradicate he
was busy collecting numbers of the small golden statues, and
stuffing them in his pockets.
"Why don't you take bigger ones, and not so many of them?" asked
"'Case as how I doan't want all mah eggs in one basket," replied the
colored man. "I kin carry mo' ob de little fellers," and he
persisted in this plan.
They found in some of the houses utensils of solid gold, but there
appeared to be no way of cooking food, and that was probably done
outside, or in the great temple. In many houses were articles
evidently used in the sacrificial rites or in worship of strange
gods. They did not stay to half examine the wonderful city of gold,
for it would have taken several days. But on Tom's advice, they took
up a considerable quantity of the precious metal in the most
convenient form to carry, including a number of the statues and art
objects and started back along the tunnel.
"We'll rig up some sort of lamps," Tom explained, "and come back to
make a thorough examination of this place. I think the scientific
men and historians will be glad to know about this city, and I'm
going to make some notes about it."
They soon came again to the place of the underground river and found
no water there. Ned wanted to turn the stream back into the channel
again, but Tom said they might not be able to work the ancient
mechanism, so they left the black knob as it was, and hurried on.
They decided that the knob must have worked some counter-balance, or
great weight that let down a gate and cut off the river from one
channel, to turn it into another.
When they emerged at the top of the steps, and came out at the
opening which had been revealed by the rolling back of the great
altar, they saw there that counter weights, delicately balanced, had
moved the big stone.
"We might close that opening," said Tom, "and then if any one SHOULD
come along and surprise us, they wouldn't know how to get to the
underground city." This was done, the altar rolling back over the
"Now to get the balloon in the temple, make the lamps, and go back,"
suggested Tom, and, storing the gold they had secured in a safe
place in the temple, they went back to move the airship.
This was an easy matter, and soon they had floated the big gas bag
and car in through one of the immense doorways and so into the great
middle part of the temple where the big stone altar was located.
"Now we're prepared for emergencies," remarked Tom, as he looked up
at the yawning hole in the dome-like roof. "If worst comes to worst,
and we have to run, we can float right up here, out of the temple,
"Do you think anything is going to happen?" asked Mr. Damon
"You never can tell," replied Tom. "Now to make some lamps. I think
I'll use gas, as I've got plenty of the chemicals."
It took two days to construct them, and Tom ingeniously made them
out of some empty tins that had contained meat and other foods. The
tins were converted into tanks, and from each one rose a short piece
of pipe that ended in a gas tip. On board the dirigible were plenty
of tools and materials. Into the cans were put certain chemicals
that generated a gas which, when lighted, gave a brilliant glow,
almost like calcium carbide.
"Now, I guess we can see to make our way about," remarked Tom, on
the morning of the third day, when they prepared to go back to the
city of gold. "And we'll take plenty of lunch along, for we may stay
until nearly night."
It did not take them long to roll back the altar, descend into the
tunnel, and reach the underground city. The river channel was now
dry, even the small pools of water in the depressions having
The gas torches worked to perfection, and revealed the beauties and
wonders of the city of gold to the astonished gaze of our friends.
It was even richer in the precious metal than they had at first
"Before we do any exploring, I think we'd better take some more gold
back to the balloon," suggested Tom, "and I think I'll just move the
balloon itself more out of sight, so that if any persons come along,
and look into the temple, they won't see our airship without looking
This was done, and a considerable quantity of the precious metal,
including a number of the larger-sized statues, were stored in the
"We can't take much more," Tom warned his friends, "or we'll be
"We've got enough now, to make us all rich," said Ned, contentedly.
"I want moah," spoke Eradicate with a grin.
They went back to the underground city and began to explore it with
a view of taking back to civilization some word of its wonders and
"Didn't Mr. Illingway, in his letters, say something about an
immense golden statue here?" asked Ned, when they had almost
completed a circuit of the underground place.
"So he did!" exclaimed Tom. "I'd almost forgotten. It must be
somewhere in the centre of this place I should think. Let's have a
hunt for it. We can't take it with us, but maybe we could get part
of an arm or a leg to keep as a relic. Come on."
It was easy to reach the centre of the underground city, for it was
laid out on a regular plan. In a short time they were in sight of
the central plaza and, even before they reached it the glare of
their gas lamps showed them something glittering golden yellow. It
was on a tall, golden pedestal.
"There it is!" cried Ned.
"Yes, there's the big golden image all right," agreed Tom, hurrying
forward, and a moment later they stood before a most wonderful
"Well, that sure is a big statue!" exclaimed Ned as he walked around
"An' to t'ink dat it's SOLID GOLD!" cried Eradicate his eyes big
with wonder. "I suah wish I had dat all fo' mahse'f!"
"We never could carry that in the balloon," spoke Tom with a shake
of his head. "I guess we'll have to leave it here. But I would like
to take say the head. It would be worth a lot as a relic to some
museum--worth more than the value of the gold itself. I've a notion
to do it."
"How could you get the head off?" asked Mr. Damon.
"Oh, pull the statue down or overturn it, as the American patriots
did to the Bowling Green, New York, lead statue of King George III
during the Revolutionary days," answered Tom. "I think that's what
"I say, look here!" called Ned, who had made a circuit of the
statue. "There's some sort of an inscription here. See if you can
read it, Tom."
They went around to the front of the big, golden image where Ned
stood. On a sort of a plate, with raised letters, was an inscription
in a strange language. Part of it seemed to be the name of the
person or god whom the statue represented, and what followed none
could make out.
"It's something like the ancient Greek or Persian language,"
declared Mr. Damon, who was quite a scholar. "I can make out a word
here and there, and it seems to be a warning against disturbing the
statue, or damaging it. Probably it was put there to warn small boys
thousands of years ago, if they ever allowed small boys in this
"Does it say what will be done to whoever harms the statue?" asked
Tom with a laugh.
"Probably it does, but I can't make out what it is," answered Mr.
"Then here goes to see if we can't overturn it and hack off the
head," went on Tom. "I've got a sharp little hatchet, and gold is
very soft to cut. Over she goes."
"You never can upset that statue," declared Ned.
"Yes, I can," cried the young inventor. "I brought a long, thin, but
very strong rope with me, and I think if we all pull together we can
Tom made a noose and skillfully threw it over the head of the
statue. It settled about the neck, and then, all taking hold, and
walking away a short distance, they gave a "long pull, a strong
pull, and a pull altogether."
At first the statue would not move, but when they strained on the
rope, the image suddenly tilted, and, a moment later it tumbled to
the stone pavement. But the fall was not as heavy as should have
resulted from a statue of solid metal. There was a tinkling sound.
"That's queer!" cried Tom. "It didn't make half the fuss I
expected," and he hurried up to look at the fallen statue. "Why!" he
cried in astonishment, "it's hollow--the big golden statue is
hollow--it's a fake!"
And so it was. The big image was only a shell of gold.
"Not so valuable as it looked," commented Ned. "We could take that
with us in the balloon, if it wasn't so big."
"Well, here goes for the head, anyhow!" exclaimed Tom, and with a
few blows of his keen little axe he severed the neck. As he held it
up for all to see--rather a grewsome sight it was, too, in the
flickering light of the gas torches--there sounded throughout the
underground city, a dull, booming noise, like distant thunder.
"What's that?" cried Ned.
"Bless my bath sponge!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "I hope the water isn't
rising in the river."
"Oh land a massy!" gasped Eradicate.
Without a word Tom dropped the golden head and made for the street
that led to the tunnel. The others followed, and soon caught up to
the young inventor. On and on they ran, with only the light of their
electric flash torches to guide them. Suddenly Tom stopped.
"Go on!" cried Ned. "See what's happened! Go on!"
"I can't," answered Tom, and they all wondered at his voice.
"There's a big block of stone across the tunnel, and I can't go
another step. The stone gate has fallen. We're trapped here in the
underground city of gold!"
"Bless my soul! The tunnel closed?" cried Mr. Damon.
"Look," said Tom simply and in hopeless tones, as he flashed his
light. And there, completely filling the tunnel, was a great block
of stone, fitting from ceiling to floor and from side wall to side
wall, completely cutting off all escape.
"Trapped!" gasped Ned. "The Mexicans or Andy Foger did this."
"No, I don't think so," spoke Tom solemnly. "I think the pulling
down of the statue released this stone gate. We trapped ourselves.
Oh, why didn't I leave the statue alone!"
"That can't have done it!" declared Ned.
"We can soon tell," spoke Mr. Damon. "Let's go back and look. Later
maybe we can raise the block," and they returned to the fallen gold
statue. Tom casting back a hopeless look at the barrier that had
buried them alive in the city of gold.
"IS IT A RESCUE?"
"Can you see anything, Tom? Any lever or anything by which we can
raise the stone gate?"
It was Ned who spoke, and he addressed his chum, who was closely
examining the pedestal of the fallen golden statue.
"Bless my soul!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "we've get to find some way
out of here soon--or--"
He did not finish the sentence, but they all knew what he meant.
"Oh good landy!" cried Eradicate. "What's gwine t' become ob us?"
"Don't you see anything, Tom?" repeated Ned.
"Not a thing. Not a sign of a lever or handle by which the stone
might be raised. But wait, I'm going to get on top of the pedestal."
He managed to scramble up by stepping on and clinging to various
ornamental projections, and soon gained the flat place where the big
golden statue had rested. But he saw at a glance that it was as
smooth as a billiard table.
"Nothing here!" he called down to Ned.
"Then how do you suppose the gate closed down when the statue was
pulled off?" asked Ned.
"It must have been because of the disturbance of the equilibrium, or
due to a change of weight. Probably this pedestal rests on a
platform, like the platform of a large scale. Its weight, with that
of the statue, rested on certain concealed levers, and held the
stone up out of sight in the roof of the tunnel. When I yanked down
the statue I made the weight uneven, and the stone fell, and there
doesn't seem to be any way of putting the weight back again."
"No, we never could get the statue back on the pedestal," said Ned.
"But maybe there's some mechanism at the stone gate, or near it,
like the black knob which turned off the water. We may be able to
work that and raise the big stone slab."
"It's the only thing to try, as long as we haven't dynamite to blast
it," agreed Tom. "Come on, we'll take a look."
They went back to where the rock closed the tunnel, but a long and
frantic search failed to show the least projection, lever, handle or
any other thing, that could be moved.
"What in the world do you suppose those ancients made such a
terrible contrivance for?" Ned wanted to know.
"Well, if we could read the warning on the statue we might know,"
replied Mr. Damon. "That probably says that whoever disturbs the
status will close up the golden city forever."
"Maybe there's another way out--or in," suggested Tom hopefully. "We
didn't look for that. It must be our next move. We must not let a
single chance go by. We'll look for some way of getting out, at the
far end of this underground city."
Filled with gloomy and foreboding thoughts, they walked away from
the stone barrier. To search for another means of egress would take
some time, and the same fear came to all of them--could they live
"It was a queer thing, to make that statue hollow," mused Ned as he
walked between Mr. Damon and Tom. "I wonder why it was done, when
all the others are solid gold?"
"Maybe they found they couldn't melt up, and cast in a mould, enough
gold to make a solid statue that size," suggested Mr. Damon. "Then,
too, there may have been no means of getting it on the pedestal if
they made it too heavy."
They discussed these and other matters as they hurried on to seek
for some way of escape. In fact to talk seemed to make them less
gloomy and sad, and they tried to keep up their spirits.
For several hours they searched eagerly for some means of getting
out of the underground city. They went to the farthest limits of it,
and found it to be several miles in diameter, but eventually they
came to solid walls of stone which reached from roof to ceiling, and
there was no way out.
They found that the underground city was exactly like an overturned
bowl, or an Esquimo ice hut, hollow within, and with a tunnel
leading to it--but all below the surface of the earth. The city had
been hollowed out of solid rock, and there was but one way in or
out, and that was closed by the seamless stone.
"There's no use hunting any longer," declared Tom, when, weary and
footsore, they had completed a circuit of the outer circumference of
the city, "the rock passage is our only hope."
"And that's no hope at all!" declared Ned.
"Yes, we must try to raise that stone slab, or--break it!" cried Tom
desperately. "Come on."
"Wait a bit," advised Mr. Damon. "Bless my dinner plate! but I'm
hungry. We brought some food along, and my advice to you is to eat
and keep up our strength. We'll need it."
"By golly gracious, that's so!" declared Eradicate. "I'll git de
Fortunately there was a goodly supply, and, going in one the houses
they ate off a table of solid gold, and off dishes of the precious,
yellow metal. Yet they would have given it all--yes, even the gold
in their dirigible balloon--for a chance for freedom.
"I wonder what became of the chaps who used to live here?" mused Ned
as he finished the rather frugal meal.
"Oh, they probably died--from a plague maybe, or there may have been
a war, or the people may have risen in revolt and killed them off,"
suggested Tom grimly.
"But then there ought to be some remains--some mummies or skeletons
"I guess every one left this underground city--every soul."
suggested Mr. Damon, "and then they turned on the river and left it.
I shouldn't be surprised but what we are the first persons to set
foot here in thousands of years."
"And WE may stay here for a thousand years," predicted Tom.
"Oh, good land a' massy; doan't say dat!" cried Eradicate. "Why
we'll all be dead ob starvation in dat time."
"Before then, I guess," muttered Tom. "I wonder if there's any water
in this hole?"
"We'll need it--soon," remarked Ned, looking at the scanty supply
they had brought in with them. "Let's have a hunt for it."
"Let Rad do that, while we work on the stone gate," proposed the
young inventor. "Rad, chase off and see if you can find some water."
While the colored man was gone, Tom, Ned and Mr. Damon went back to
the stone gate. To attack it without tools, or some powerful
blasting powder seemed useless, but their case was desperate and
they knew they must do something.
"We'll try chipping away the stone at the base," suggested Tom. "It
isn't a very hard rock, in fact it's a sort of soft marble, or white
sand stone, and we may be able to cut out a way under the slab door
with our knifes."
Fortunately they had knives with big, strong blades, and as Tom had
said, the stone was comparatively soft. But, after several hours'
work they only had a small depression under the stone door.
"At this rate it will take a month," sighed Ned.
"Say!" cried Tom, "we're foolish. We should try to cut through the
stone slab itself. It can't be so very thick. And another thing. I'm
going to play the flames from the gas torches on the stone. The
fires will make it brittle and it will chip off easier."
This was so, but even with that advantage they had only made a
slight impression on the solid stone door after more than four hours
of work, and Eradicate came back, with a hopeless look on his face,
to report that he had been unable to find water.
"Then we've got to save every drop of what we've got," declared Tom.
"Short rations for everybody."
"And our lights, too," added Mr. Damon. "We must save them."
"All out but one!" cried Tom quickly. "If we're careful we can make
them gas torches last a week, and the electric flashes are good for
several days yet."
Then they laid out a plan of procedure, and divided the food into as
small rations as would support life. It was grim work, but it had to
be done. They found, with care, that they might live for four days
on the food and water and then--
Well--no one liked to think about it.
"We must take turns chipping away at the stone door," decided Tom.
"Some of us will work and some will sleep--two and two, I guess."
This plan was also carried out, and Tom and Eradicate took the first
trick of hacking away at the door.
How they managed to live in the days that followed they could never
tell clearly afterward. It was like some horrible nightmare,
composed of hours of hacking away at the stone, and then of eating
sparingly, drinking more sparingly, and resting, to get up, and do
it all over again.
Their water was the first to give out, for it made them thirsty to
cut at the stone, and parched mouths and swollen tongues demanded
moisture. They did manage to find a place where a few drops of water
trickled through the rocky roof, and without this they would have
died before five days had passed.
They even searched, at times for another way out of the city of
gold, for Tom had insisted there must be a way, as the air in the
underground cave remained so fresh. But there must have been a
secret way of ventilating the place, as no opening was found, and
they went back to hacking at the stone.
Just how many days they spent in their horrible golden prison they
never really knew. Tom said it was over a week, Ned insisted it was
a month, Mr. Damon two months, and Eradicate pitifully said "it seem
mos' laik a yeah, suah!"
It must have been about eight days, and at the end of that time
there was not a scrap of food left, and only a little water. They
were barely alive, and could hardly wield the knives against the
stone slab. They had dug a hole about a foot deep in it, but it
would have to be made much larger before any one could crawl
through, even when it penetrated to the other side. And how soon
this would be they did not know.
It was about the end of the eighth day. and Tom and Ned were hacking
away at the rocky slab, for Mr. Damon and Eradicate were too weary.
Tom paused for a moment to look helplessly at his chum. As he did so
he heard, amid the silence, a noise on the other side of the stone
"What--what's that?" Tom gasped faintly.
"It sounds--sounds like some one--coming," whispered Ned. "Oh, if it
is only a rescue party!"
"A rescue party?" whispered Tom. "Where would a rescue party--"
He stopped suddenly. Unmistakably there were voices on the other
side of the barrier--human voices.
"It IS a rescue party!" cried Ned.
"I--I hope so," spoke Tom slowly.
"Mr. Damon--Eradicate!" yelled Ned with the sudden strength of hope,
"they're coming to save us! Hurry ever here!"
And then, as he and Tom stood, they saw, with staring eyes, the
great stone slab slowly beginning to rise!
The talk sounded more plainly now--a confused murmur of voices--many
of them--the sound coming under the slowly raising stone doorway.
"Who can it be--there's a lot of them," murmured Ned.
Tom did not answer. Instead he silently sped back to where they had
slept and got his automatic revolver.
"Better get yours," he said to his companions. "It may be a rescue
party, though I don't see how any one could know we were in here, or
it may be--"
He did not finish. They all knew what he meant, and a moment later
four strained and anxious figures stood on the inner side of the
stone door, revolvers in hand, awaiting what might be revealed to
them. Would it be friend or foe?
At Tom's feet lay the golden head--the hollow head of the statue.
The scene was illumined by a flickering gas torch--the last one, as
the others had burned out.
Slowly the stone went up, very slowly, for it was exceedingly heavy
and the mechanism that worked it was primitive. Up and up it went
until now a man could have crawled under. Ned made a motion as if he
was going to do so, but Tom held him back.
Slowly and slowly it went up. On the other side was a very babble of
voices now--voices speaking a strange tongue. Tom and his companions
Then, above the other voices, there sounded the tones of some one
speaking English. Hearing it Tom started, and still more as he noted
the tones, for he heard this said:
"We'll be inside in a minute, dad, and I guess we'll show Tom Swift
that he and his crowd can't fool us. We've got to the city of gold
"Andy Foger!" hoarsely whispered Tom to Ned.
The next moment the stone gate went up with a rush, and there, in
the light of the gas torch, and in the glare of many burning ones of
wood, held by a throng of people on the other side, stood Andy
Foger, his father, Delazes, and a horde of men who looked as wild as
For a moment both parties stood staring at one another, too startled
to utter a sound. Then as Tom noticed that some of the natives, who
somewhat resembled the ancient Aztecs, had imitation human heads
stuck on the ends of poles or spears, he uttered two words;
Like a flash there came to him the warning of the African
missionary: "Beware of the head-hunters!" Now they were here--being
led on by the Mexican and the Fogers--the enemies of our friends.
For another moment there was a silence, and then Andy Foger cried
"They're here! Tom Swift and his party! They got here first and they
may have all the gold!"
"If they have they will share it with us!" cried Delazes fiercely.
"Quick!" Tom called hoarsely to Ned, Mr. Damon and Eradicate. "We've
got to fight. It's the only way to save our lives. We must fight,
and when we can, escape, get to the airship and sail away. It's a
fight to the finish now."
He raised his automatic revolver, and, as he did so one of the
savages saw the golden head of the statue lying at Tom's feet. The
man uttered a wild cry and called out something in his unknown
tongue. Then he raised his spear and hurled it straight at our hero.
Had not Mr. Damon pulled Tom to one side, there might have been a
different ending to this story. As it was the weapon hissed through
the air over the head of the young inventor. The next minute his
revolver spat lead and fire, but whether he hit any one or not he
could not see, as the place was so filled with smoke, from the
powder and from the torches. But some one yelled in pain.
"Crouch down and fire!" ordered Tom. "Low down and they'll throw
over our heads." It was done on the instant, and the four revolvers
rang out together.
There were howls of pain and terror and above them could be heard
the gutteral tones of Delazes, while Andy Foger yelled:
"Look out dad! Here, help me to get behind something or I may be
hit. Mr. Delazes, can't you tell those savages to throw spears at
Tom Swift and his gang?"
"They are doing it, Senor Foger," replied the Mexican. "Oh, why did
I not think to bring my gun! We haven't one among us." Then he
called some command to the head-hunters who had apparently been
enlisted on the side of himself and the two Fogers.
The automatic revolvers were soon emptied, and the place was now so
full of smoke that neither party could see the other. The torches
burned with a red glare.
"Reload!" ordered Tom, "and we'll make a rush for it! We can't keep
this up long!"
It took but an instant to slip in another lot of cartridges and
then, on Tom's advice, they slipped the catches to make the
automatic weapons simple ones, to be fired at will.
They sent several more shots through the door-way but no cries of
pain followed, and it was evident that their enemies had stepped
back out of the line of fire.
"Now's our chance!" cried Tom. "The way is clear. Come on!"
He and the others dashed forward, Tom carrying the golden head,
though it was hard work. It was not very heavy but it was awkward.
As they rushed through the now open gateway they crouched low to
avoid the spears, but, as it was one grazed Tom's shoulder, and
Eradicate was pierced in the fleshy part of his arm.
"Forward! Forward!" cried Tom. "Come on!"
And on they went, through the smoke and darkness, Ned flashing his
electric torch which gave only a feeble glow as the battery was
almost exhausted. On and on! Now they were through the stone
gateway, now out in the long tunnel.
Behind them they could hear feet running, and several spears
clattered to the stone floor. Lights flickered behind them.
"If only the river bed is dry!" gasped Tom. "We may yet escape. But
if they've filled the channel--"
He did not dare think of what that would mean as he ran on, turning
occasionally to fire, for he and the others had again reloaded their
The noise behind our friends increased. There were shouts of rage,
yells of anger at the escape of the prey. High above the other
voices were the shrill war-cries of the head-hunters--the savages
with their grewsome desires.
"Can--can we make it, Tom?" panted Ned.
They were almost at the river channel now, and in another instant
they had reached it.
By the feeble rays of Ned's electric torch they saw with relief that
it was empty, though they would have given much to see just a
trickle of water in it, for they were almost dead from thirst.
Together they climbed up the other side, and as yet their pursuers
had not reached the brink. For one moment Tom had a thought of
working the black knob, and flooding the channel, but he could not
doom even the head-hunters, much less the Fogers and Delazes, to
such a death as that would mean.
On ran Tom and his companions, but now they could glance back and
see the foremost of the other crowd dipping down into the dry
"The steps! The steps!" suddenly cried Ned, when they had run a long
distance, as a faint gleam of daylight beyond shewed the opening
beneath the stone altar. "We're safe now."
"Hardly, but a few minutes will tell," said Tom. "The balloon is in
shape for a quick rise, and then we'll leave this horrible place
"And all the gold, too," murmured Ned regretfully. "We've got some,"
said Mr. Damon, "and I wouldn't take a chance with those head-
hunters for all the gold in the underground city."
"Same here!" panted Tom. Then they were at the steps and ran up
Out into the big auditorium they emerged, weak and faint, and toward
the hidden dirigible balloon they rushed.
"Quick!" cried Tom, as he climbed into the car, followed by Mr.
Damon and Eradicate. "Shove it right under the broken dome, Ned, and
I'll turn on the gas machine. It's partly inflated."
A moment later the balloon was right below the big opening. The blue
sky showed through it--a welcome sight to our friends. The hiss of
the gas was heard, and the bag distended still more.
"Hop in!" cried Tom. "She'll go up I guess."
"There they come!" shouted Ned, as he spoke the foremost of the
head-hunters emerged from the hole beneath the stone altar. He was
followed by Delazes.
"Stop them! Get them! Spear them!" cried the contractor. They
evidently thought our friends had all the gold from the underground
Fortunately the temple was so large that the balloon was a good
distance from the hole leading to the tunnel, and before the
foremost of the head-hunters could reach it the dirigible began to
"If they throw their spears, and puncture the bag in many places
we're done for," murmured Tom. But evidently the savages did not
think of this, though Delazes screamed it at them.
Up went the balloon, and not a moment too soon, for one of the head-
hunters actually grabbed the edge of the car, and only let go when
he found himself being lifted off the temple floor.
Up and up it went and, as it was about to emerge from the broken
dome, Tom looked down and saw a curious sight.
Mr. Foger and Andy, who brought up in the rear of the pursuing and
attacking party, had just emerged from the hole by the great stone
altar when there suddenly spouted from the same opening a solid
column of water. A cry of wonder came from all as they saw the
strange sight. A veritable geyser was now spurting in the very
middle of the temple floor, and the head-hunters, the Mexicans and
the Fogers ran screaming to get out of the way.
"Look!" cried Ned. "What happened?"
"The underground river must be running the wrong way!" answered Tom,
as he prepared to set in motion the motor. "Either they accidentally
turned some hidden lever, or when they raised the stone door they
did it. The tunnel is flooded and--"
"Bless my match box! So is the underground city!" cried Mr. Damon.
"I guess we've seen the last of it and its gold. We were lucky to
escape with our lives, and these fellows might have been drowned
like rats in a trap, if they hadn't followed us. The underground
city will never be discovered again."
"And now for home!" cried Tom, when they had eaten and drunk
sparingly until they should get back their strength, and had seen to
their slight wounds.
"And our trip wasn't altogether a failure," said Mr. Damon. "We'd
have had more gold if the stone door hadn't trapped us. But I guess
we have enough as it is. I wonder how the Fogers ever found us?"
"They must have followed our trail, though how we'll never know and
they came up to where Delazes and his men were, joined forces with
them, and hunted about until they found the temple," remarked Tom.
"Then they saw the opening, went down, and found the stone door."
"But how did they get it open? and what were they doing with the
head-hunters, and why didn't the head-hunters attack them?" Ned
wanted to know.
"Well, I guess perhaps Delazes knew how to handle those head-
hunters," replied Tom. "They may be a sort of lost tribe of
Mexicans, and perhaps their ancestors centuries ago owned the city
of gold. At any rate I think some of them knew the secret of raising
the door." And later Tom learned in a roundabout way from the Fogers
that this was so. The father and son had after much hardship joined
forces with Delazes and he, by a promise of the heads of the party
of our friends, and much tobacco, had gained the head-hunters as
On and on sailed the balloon and our friends regained their strength
after partaking of the nourishing food. They looked at their store
of gold and found it larger than they had thought. Soon they left
far behind them the great plain of the ruined temple, which, had
they but known it was a lake now, for the underground river, perhaps
by some break in the underground mechanism that controlled it, or a
break in the channel, overflowed and covered temple, plain and
underground city with water many fathoms deep.
"Are we going all the way home in the balloon?" asked Ned on the
second day of their voyage in the air, when they had stopped to make
"No, indeed," replied Tom. "As soon as we get to some city where we
can pack it up, and ship our gold without fear of being robbed, I'm
coming to earth, and go home in a steamer."
This plan was carried out; and a week later, with the gold safely
insured by an express company, and the balloon packed for
transportation, our friends went to a railroad station, and took a
train for Tampico, there to get a steamer for New York.
"Bless my top knot!" exclaimed Mr. Damon a few days after this, as
they were on the vessel. "I think for queer adventures this one of
ours in the city of gold, Tom, puts it all over the others we had."
"Oh, I don't know," answered the young inventor, "we certainly had
some strenuous times in the past, and I hope we'll have some more in
"The same here," agreed Ned.
And whether they did or not I will leave my readers to judge if they
peruse the next book in this series, which will be called, "Tom
Swift and His Air Glider; Or, Seeking the Platinum Treasure."
They arrived safely in Shopton in due course of time, and found Mr.
Swift well. They did not become millionaires, for they found, to
their regret that their gold was rather freely alloyed with baser
metals, so they did not have more than half the amount in pure solid
gold. But there was a small fortune in it for all of them.
In recognition of Mr. Illingway, the African missionary having put
Tom on the track of the gold, a large sum was sent to him, to help
him carry on his work of humanity.
Tom had many offers for the big golden head, but he would not sell
it, though he loaned it to a New York museum, where it attracted
much attention. There were many articles written about the
underground city of gold from the facts the young inventor
Eventually the Fogers got home, but they did not say much about
their experiences, and Tom and his friends did not think it worth
while to prosecute them for the attack. As for Delazes, Tom never
saw nor heard from him again, not in all his reading could he find
any account of the head-hunters, who must have been a small, little
"And you really kept your promise, and brought me a golden image?"
asked Mary Nestor of Tom, when he called on her soon after reaching
"Indeed I did, the two that I promised and a particularly fine one
that I picked up almost at the last minute," and Tom gave her the
"And now tell me about it," she begged, when she had admired them,
and then sat down beside Tom: and there we will leave our hero for
the present, as he is in very good company, and I know he wouldn't
like to be disturbed.