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Tom Swift in the Land of Wonders by Victor Appleton

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certain of Tom's inventions and implements sent
on by express to New York to be taken to Honduras,
and then our friends themselves followed
to the metropolis.

"Good-bye, Tom," said his father. "Good-
bye, and good luck! If you don't get the idol
of gold I'm sure you'll have experiences that
will be valuable to you."

"We're going to get the idol of gold!" said
Tom determinedly.

"Look out for the bad bugs," suggested Eradicate.

"We will," promised Ned.

Tom's last act was to send a message to Mary
Nestor, and then he, with Ned and Mr. Damon,
who blessed everything in sight from the gasoline
in the automobile to the blue sky overhead,
started for the station.

New York was reached without incident. The
trio put up at the hotel where Professor Bumper
was to meet them.

"He hasn't arrived yet," said Tom, after
glancing over the names on the hotel register and
not seeing Professor Bumper's among them.

"Oh, he'll be here all right," asserted Mr.
Damon. "Bless my galvanic battery! he sent me
a telegram at one o'clock this morning saying
he'd be sure to meet us in New York. No fear
of him not starting for the land of wonders."

"There are some other professors registered,
though," observed Ned, as he glanced at the
book, noting the names of several scientists of
whom he and Tom had read.

"Yes. I wonder what they're doing in New
York," replied Tom. "They are from New
England. Maybe there's a convention going on.
Well, we'll have to wait, that's all, until
Professor Bumper comes."

And during that wait Tom heard something
that surprised him and caused him no little
worry. It was when Ned came back to his
room, which adjoined Tom's, that the young
treasurer gave his chum the news.

"I say, Tom!" Ned exclaimed. "Who do you
think those professors are, whose names we saw
on the register?"

"I haven't the least idea."

"Why, they're of Beecher's party!"

"You don't mean it!"

"I surely do."

"How do you know?"

"I happened to overhear two of them talking
down in the lobby a while ago. They didn't
make any secret of it. They spoke freely of going
with Beecher to some ancient city in Honduras,
to look for an idol of gold."

"They did? But where is Beecher?"

"He hasn't joined them yet. Their plans
have been changed. Instead of leaving on the
same steamer we are to take in the morning
they are to come on a later one. The professors
here are waiting for Beecher to come."

"Why isn't he here now?"

"Well, I heard one of the other scientists say
that he had gone to a place called Fayetteville,
and will come on from there."

"Fayetteville!" ejaculated Tom.
"Yes. That isn't far from Shopton."

"I know," assented Tom. "I wonder--I wonder
why he is going there?"

"I can tell you that, too."

"You can? You're a regular detective."

"No, I just happened to overhear it. Beecher
is going to call on Mary Nestor in Fayetteville,
so his friends here said he told them, and his call
has to do with an important matter--to him!"
and Ned gazed curiously at his chum.



Just what Tom's thoughts were, Ned, of
course, could not guess. But by the flush that
showed under the tan of his chum's cheeks the
young financial secretary felt pretty certain that
Tom was a bit apprehensive of the outcome of
Professor Beecher's call on Mary Nestor.

"So he is going to see her about `something
important,' Ned?"

"That's what some members of his party called

"And they're waiting here for him to join

"Yes. And it means waiting a week for
another steamer. It must be something pretty
important, don't you think, to cause Beecher to
risk that delay in starting after the idol of gold?"

"Important? Yes, I suppose so," assented
Tom. "And yet even if he waits for the next
steamer he will get to Honduras nearly as soon
as we do."

"How is that?"

"The next boat is a faster one."

"Then why don't we take that? I hate dawdling
along on a slow freighter."

"Well, for one thing it would hardly do to
change now, when all our goods are on board.
And besides, the captain of the _Relstab_, on which
we are going to sail, is a friend of Professor

"Well, I'm just as glad Beecher and his party
aren't going with us," resumed Ned, after a
pause. "It might make trouble."

"Oh, I'm ready for any trouble HE might make!"
quickly exclaimed Tom.

He meant trouble that might be developed in
going to Honduras, and starting the search
for the lost city and the idol of gold. This kind
of trouble Tom and his friends had experienced
before, on other trips where rivals had sought
to frustrate their ends.

But, in his heart, though he said nothing to
Ned about it, Tom was worried. Much as he
disliked to admit it to himself, he feared the visit
of Professor Beecher to Mary Nestor in Fayetteville
had but one meaning.

"I wonder if he's going to propose to her,"
thought Tom. "He has the field all to himself
now, and her father likes him. That's in his favor.
I guess Mr. Nestor has never quite forgiven me
for that mistake about the dynamite box, and
that wasn't my fault. Then, too, the Beecher
and Nestor families have been friends for years.
Yes, he surely has the inside edge on me, and
if he gets her to throw me over---- Well, I
won't give up without a fight!" and Tom mentally
girded himself for a battle of wits.

"He's relying on the prestige he'll get out of
this idol of gold if his party finds it," thought
on the young inventor. "But I'll help find it
first. I'm glad to have a little start of him, anyhow,
even if it isn't more than two days. Though
if our vessel is held back much by storms he may
get on the ground first. However, that can't
be helped. I'll do the best I can."

These thoughts shot through Tom's mind
even as Ned was asking his questions and making
comments. Then the young inventor, shaking
his shoulders as though to rid them of some
weight, remarked:

"Well, come on out and see the sights. It will
be long before we look on Broadway again."

When the chums returned from their sightseeing
excursion, they found that Professor Bumper
had arrived.

"Where's Professor Bumper?" asked Ned, the next day.

"In his room, going over books, papers and
maps to make sure he has everything."

"And Mr. Damon?"

Tom did not have to answer that last question.
Into the apartment came bursting the excited
individual himself.

"Bless my overshoes!" he cried, "I've been
looking everywhere for you! Come on, there's
no time to lose!"

"What's the matter now?" asked Ned. "Is the
hotel on fire?"

"Has anything happened to Professor Bumper?"
Tom demanded, a wild idea forming in his
head that perhaps some one of the Beecher party
had tried to kidnap the discoverer of the lost
city of Pelone.

"Oh, everything is all right," answered Mr.
Damon. "But it's nearly time for the show to
start, and we don't want to be late. I have

"For what?" asked Tom and Ned together.

"The movies," was the laughing reply. "Bless
my loose ribs! but I wouldn't miss him for anything.
He's in a new play called `Up in a Balloon
Boys.' It's great!" and Mr. Damon named
a certain comic moving picture star in whose
horse-play Mr. Damon took a curious interest.
Tom and Ned were glad enough to go, Tom
that he might have a chance to do a certain
amount of thinking, and Ned because he was
still boy enough to like moving pictures.

"I wonder, Tom," said Mr. Damon, as they
came out of the theater two hours later, all three
chuckling at the remembrance of what they had
seen, "I wonder you never turned your inventive
mind to the movies."

"Maybe I will, some day," said Tom.

He spoke rather uncertainly. The truth of
the matter was that he was still thinking deeply
of the visit of Professor Beecher to Mary Nestor,
and wondering what it portended.

But if Tom's sleep was troubled that night he
said nothing of it to his friends. He was up
early the next morning, for they were to leave
that day, and there was still considerable to be
done in seeing that their baggage and supplies
were safely loaded, and in attending to the last
details of some business matters.

While at the hotel they had several glimpses
of the members of the Beecher party who were
awaiting the arrival of the young professor who
was to lead them into the wilds of Honduras.
But our friends did not seek the acquaintance
of their rivals. The latter, likewise, remained
by themselves, though they knew doubtless
that there was likely to be a strenuous race for
the possession of the idol of gold, then, it was
presumed, buried deep in some forest-covered

Professor Bumper had made his arrangements
carefully. As he explained to his friends, they
would take the steamer from New York to Puerto
Cortes, one of the principal seaports of
Honduras. This is a town of about three thousand
inhabitants, with an excellent harbor and a
big pier along which vessels can tie up and
discharge their cargoes directly into waiting cars.

The preparations were finally completed.
The party went aboard the steamer, which was
a large freight vessel, carrying a limited number
of passengers, and late one afternoon swung
down New York Bay.

"Off for Honduras!" cried Ned gaily, as they
passed the Statue of Liberty. "I wonder what
will happen before we see that little lady again."

"Who knows?" asked Tom, shrugging his
shoulders, Spanish fashion. And there came before
him the vision of a certain "little lady," about
whom he had been thinking deeply of late.



"Rather tame, isn't it, Tom?"

"Well, Ned, it isn't exactly like going up in
an airship," and Tom Swift who was gazing
over the rail down into the deep blue water of
the Caribbean Sea, over which their vessel was
then steaming, looked at his chum beside him.

"No, and your submarine voyage had it all over
this one for excitement," went on Ned. "When
I think of that----"

"Bless my sea legs!" interrupted Mr. Damon,
overhearing the conversation. "Don't speak of
THAT trip. My wife never forgave me for going
on it. But I had a fine time," he added with a
twinkle of his eyes.

"Yes, that was quite a trip," observed Tom,
as his mind went back to it. "But this one isn't
over yet remember. And I shouldn't be surprised
if we had a little excitement very soon."

"What do you mean?" asked Ned.

Up to this time the voyage from New York
down into the tropical seas had been anything
but exciting. There were not many passengers
besides themselves, and the weather had been

At first, used as they were to the actions of
unscrupulous rivals in trying to thwart their
efforts, Tom and Ned had been on the alert for
any signs of hidden enemies on board the steamer.
But aside from a little curiosity when it became
known that they were going to explore
little-known portions of Honduras, the other
passengers took hardly any interest in our travelers.

It was thought best to keep secret the fact
that they were going to search for a wonderful
idol of gold. Not even the mule and ox-cart
drivers, whom they would hire to take them into
the wilds of the interior would be told of the real
object of the search. It would be given out that
they were looking for interesting ruins of ancient
cities, with a view to getting such antiquities
as might be there.

"What do you mean?" asked Ned again, when
Tom did not answer him immediately. "What's
the excitement?"

"I think we're in for a storm," was the reply.
"The barometer is falling and I see the crew
going about making everything snug. So we
may have a little trouble toward this end of our

"Let it come!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "We're
not afraid of trouble, Tom. Swift, are we?"

"No, to be sure we're not. And yet it looks
as though the storm would be a bad one."

"Then I am going to see if my books and
papers are ready, so I can get them together in a
hurry in case we have to take to the life-boats,"
said Professor Bumper, coming on deck at that
moment. "It won't do to lose them. If we
didn't have the map we might not be able to find----"

"Ahem!" exclaimed Tom, with unnecessary
emphasis it seemed. "I'll help you go over your
papers, Professor," he added, and with a wink
and a motion of his hand, he enjoined silence on
his friend. Ned looked around for a reason for
this, and observed a man, evidently of Spanish
extraction, passing them as he paced up and
down the deck.

"What's the matter?" asked the scientist in
a whisper, as the man went on. "Do you know
him? Is he a----?"

"I don't know anything about him," said Tom;
"but it is best not to speak of our trip before

"You are right, Tom," said Professor Bumper.
"I'll be more careful."

A storm was brewing, that was certain. A
dull, sickly yellow began to obscure the sky, and
the water, from a beautiful blue, turned a slate
color and ran along the sides of the vessel with a
hissing sound as though the sullen waves would
ask nothing better than to suck the craft down
into their depths. The wind, which had been
freshening, now sang in louder tones as it
hummed through the rigging and the funnel stays
and bowled over the receiving conductors of the

Sharp commands from the ship's officers
hastened the work of the crew in making things
snug, and life lines were strung along deck for
the safety of such of the passengers as might
venture up when the blow began.

The storm was not long in coming. The
howling of the wind grew louder, flecks of foam
began to separate themselves from the crests of
the waves, and the vessel pitched, rolled and
tossed more violently. At first Tom and his
friends thought they were in for no more than
an ordinary blow, but as the storm progressed,
and the passengers became aware of the anxiety
on the part of the officers and crew, the alarm
spread among them.

It really was a violent storm, approaching a
hurricane in force, and at one time it seemed as
though the craft, having been heeled far over
under a staggering wave that swept her decks,
would not come back to an even keel.

There was a panic among some of the
passengers, and a few excited men behaved in a
way that caused prompt action on the part of
the first officer, who drove them back to the
main cabin under threat of a revolver. For the
men were determined to get to the lifeboats, and
a small craft would not have had a minute to live
in such seas as were running.

But the vessel proved herself sturdier than the
timid ones had dared to hope, and she was soon
running before the blast, going out of her course,
it is true, but avoiding the danger among the
many cays, or small islands, that dot the Caribbean

There was nothing to do but to let the storm
blow itself out, which it did in two days. Then
came a period of delightful weather. The cargo
had shifted somewhat, which gave the steamer
a rather undignified list.

This, as well as the loss of a deckhand
overboard, was the effect of the hurricane, and
though the end of the trip came amid sunshine
and sweet-scented tropical breezes, many could
not forget the dangers through which they had

In due time Tom and his party found
themselves safely housed in the small hotel at Puerto
Cortes, their belongings stored in a convenient
warehouse and themselves, rather weary by reason
of the stress of weather, ready for the start
into the interior wilds of Honduras.

"How are we going to make the trip?" asked
Ned, as they sat at supper, the first night after
their arrival, eating of several dishes, the red-
pepper condiments of which caused frequent trips
to the water pitcher.

"We can go in two ways, and perhaps we shall
find it to our advantage to use both means," said
Professor Bumper. "To get to this city of Kurzon,"
he proceeded in a low voice, so that none
of the others in the dining-room would hear
them, "we will have to go either by mule back
or boat to a point near Copan. As near as I
can tell by the ancient maps, Kurzon is in the
Copan valley.

"Now the Chamelecon river seems to run to
within a short distance of there, but there is
no telling how far up it may be navigable. If
we can go by boat it will be much more comfortable.
Travel by mules and ox-carts is slow and
sure, but the roads are very bad, as I have heard
from friends who have made explorations in

"And, as I said, we may have to use both land
and water travel to get us where we want to go.
We can proceed as far as possible up the river,
and then take to the mules."

"What about arranging for boats and animals?"
asked Tom. "I should think----"

He suddenly ceased talking and reached for
the water, taking several large swallows.

"Whew!" he exclaimed, when he could catch his breath.
"That was a hot one."

"What did you do?" asked Ned.

"Bit into a nest of red pepper. Guess I'll have
to tell that cook to scatter his hits. He's bunching
'em too much in my direction," and Tom
wiped the tears from his eyes.

"To answer your question," said Professor
Bumper, "I will say that I have made partial
arrangements for men and animals, and boats
if it is found feasible to use them. I've been in
correspondence with one of the merchants here,
and he promised to make arrangements for us."

"When do we leave?" asked Mr. Damon.

"As soon as possible. I am not going to risk
anything by delay," and it was evident the professor
referred to his young rival whose arrival
might be expected almost any time.

As the party was about to leave the table,
they were approached by a tall, dignified Spaniard
who bowed low, rather exaggeratedly low,
Ned thought, and addressed them in fairly good

"Your pardons, Senors," he began, "but if it
will please you to avail yourself of the humble
services of myself, I shall have great pleasure
in guiding you into the interior. I have at my
command both mules and boats."

"How do you know we are going into the
interior?" asked Tom, a bit sharply, for he did
not like the assurance of the man.

"Pardon, Senor. I saw that you are from the
States. And those from the States do not come
to Honduras except for two reasons. To travel
and make explorations or to start trade, and
professors do not usually engage in trade," and
he bowed to Professor Bumper.

"I saw your name on the register," he proceeded,
"and it was not difficult to guess your mission,"
and he flashed a smile on the party, his
white teeth showing brilliantly beneath his
small, black moustache.

"I make it my business to outfit traveling
parties, either for business, pleasure or scientific
matters. I am, at your service, Val Jacinto,"
and he introduced himself with another low bow.

For a moment Tom and his friends hardly
knew how to accept this offer. It might be,
as the man had said, that he was a professional
tour conductor, like those who have charge of
Egyptian donkey-boys and guides. Or might he
not be a spy?

This occurred to Tom no less than to Professor
Bumper. They looked at one another while
Val Jacinto bowed again and murmured:

"At your service!"

"Can you provide means for taking us to the
Copan valley?" asked the professor. "You are
right in one respect. I am a scientist and I purpose
doing some exploring near Copan. Can
you get us there?"

"Most expensively--I mean, most expeditionlessly,"
said Val Jacinto eagerly. "Pardon my
unhappy English. I forget at times. The
charges will be most moderate. I can send you
by boat as far as the river travel is good, and
then have mules and ox-carts in waiting."

"How far is it?" asked Tom.

"A hundred miles as the vulture flies, Senor,
but much farther by river and road. We shall
be a week going."

"A hundred miles in a week!" groaned Ned.
"Say, Tom, if you had your aeroplane we'd be
there in an hour."

"Yes, but we haven't it. However, we're in
no great rush."

"But we must not lose time," said Professor
Bumper. "I shall consider your offer," he added
to Val Jacinto.

"Very good, Senor. I am sure you will be
pleased with the humble service I may offer you,
and my charges will be small. Adios," and he
bowed himself away.

"What do you think of him?" asked Ned, as
they went up to their rooms in the hotel, or
rather one large room, containing several beds.

"He's a pretty slick article," said Mr. Damon.
"Bless my check-book! but he spotted us at
once, in spite of our secrecy."

"I guess these guide purveyors are trained
for that sort of thing," observed the scientist.
"I know my friends have often spoken of having
had the same experience. However, I shall
ask my friend, who is in business here, about
this Val Jacinto, and if I find him all right we
may engage him "

Inquiries next morning brought the information,
from the head of a rubber exporting firm
with whom the professor was acquainted, that
the Spaniard was regularly engaged in transporting
parties into the interior, and was considered
efficient, careful and as honest as pos-
sible, considering the men he engaged as workers.

"So we have decided to engage you," Professor
Bumper informed Val Jacinto the afternoon
following the meeting.

"I am more than pleased, Senor. I shall take
you into the wilds of Honduras. At your
service!" and he bowed low.

"Humph! I don't just like the way our friend
Val says that," observed Tom to Ned a little
later. "I'd have been better pleased if he had
said he'd guide us into the wilds and out again."

If Tom could have seen the crafty smile on
the face of the Spaniard as the man left the
hotel, the young inventor might have felt even
less confidence in the guide.



"All aboard! Step lively now! This boat
makes no stops this side of Boston!" cried Ned
Newton gaily, as he got into one of the several
tree canoes provided for the transportation of
the party up the Chamelecon river, for the first
stage of their journey into the wilds of
Honduras. "All aboard! This reminds me of my
old camping days, Tom."

It brought those days back, in a measure, to
Tom also. For there were a number of canoes
filled with the goods of the party, while the
members themselves occupied a larger one with their
personal baggage. Strong, half-naked Indian
paddlers were in charge of the canoes which
were of sturdy construction and light draft, since
the river, like most tropical streams, was of
uncertain depths, choked here and there with sand
bars or tropical growths.

Finding that Val Jacinto was regularly engaged
in the business of taking explorers and
mine prospectors into the interior, Professor
Bumper had engaged the man. He seemed to be
efficient. At the promised time he had the
canoes and paddlers on hand and the goods safely
stowed away while one big craft was fitted up
as comfortably as possible for the men of the

As Ned remarked, it did look like a camping
party, for in the canoes were tents, cooking
utensils and, most important, mosquito canopies
of heavy netting.

The insect pests of Honduras, as in all tropical
countries, are annoying and dangerous. Therefore
it was imperative to sleep under mosquito

On the advice of Val Jacinto, who was to
accompany them, the travelers were to go up the
river about fifty miles. This was as far as it
would be convenient to use the canoes, the guide
told Tom and his friends, and from there on
the trip to the Copan valley would be made on
the backs of mules, which would carry most of
the baggage and equipment. The heavier portions
would be transported in ox-carts.

As Professor Bumper expected to do considerable
excavating in order to locate the buried
city, or cities, as the case might be, he had to
contract for a number of Indian diggers and
laborers. These could be hired in Copan, it was

The plan, therefore, was to travel by canoes
during the less heated parts of the day, and tie
up at night, making camp on shore in the net-
protected tents. As for the Indians, they did
not seem to mind the bites of the insects. They
sometimes made a smudge fire, Val Jacinto had
said, but that was all.

"Well, we haven't seen anything of Beecher
and his friends," remarked the young inventor
as they were about to start.

"No, he doesn't seem to have arrived," agreed
Professor Bumper. "We'll get ahead of him,
and so much the better.

"Well, are we all ready to start?" he continued,
as he looked over the little flotilla which carried
his party and his goods.

"The sooner the better!" cried Tom, and Ned
fancied his chum was unusually eager.

"I guess he wants to make good before Beecher
gets the chance to show Mary Nestor what
he can do," thought Ned. "Tom sure is after
that idol of gold."

"You may start, Senor Jacinto," said the
professor, and the guide called something in Indian
dialect to the rowers. Lines were cast off and
the boats moved out into the stream under the
influence of the sturdy paddlers.

"Well, this isn't so bad," observed Ned, as he
made himself comfortable in his canoe. "How
about it, Tom?"

"Oh, no. But this is only the beginning."

A canopy had been arranged over their boat
to keep off the scorching rays of the sun. The
boat containing the exploring party and Val
Jacinto took the lead, the baggage craft following.
At the place where it flowed into the bay
on which Puerto Cortes was built, the stream
was wide and deep.

The guide called something to the Indians,
who increased their stroke.

"I tell them to pull hard and that at the end
of the day's journey they will have much rest
and refreshment," he translated to Professor
Bumper and the others.

"Bless my ham sandwich, but they'll need
plenty of some sort of refreshment," said Mr.
Damon, with a sigh. "I never knew it to be
so hot."

"Don't complain yet," advised Tom, with a
laugh. "The worst is yet to come."

It really was not unpleasant traveling, aside
from the heat. And they had expected that,
coming as they had to a tropical land. But, as
Tom said, what lay before them might be worse.

In a little while they had left behind them all
signs of civilization. The river narrowed and
flowed sluggishly between the banks which were
luxuriant with tropical growth. Now and then
some lonely Indian hut could be seen, and
occasionally a craft propelled by a man who was
trying to gain a meager living from the rubber
forest which hemmed in the stream on either

As the canoe containing the men was paddled
along, there floated down beside it what seemed
to be a big, rough log.

"I wonder if that is mahogany," remarked Mr.
Damon, reaching over to touch it. "Mahogany
is one of the most valuable woods of Honduras,
and if this is a log of that nature----

"Bless my watch chain!" he suddenly cried. It's alive!"

And the "log" was indeed so, for there was a
sudden flash of white teeth, a long red opening
showed, and then came a click as an immense
alligator, having opened and closed his mouth,
sank out of sight in a swirl of water.

Mr. Damon drew back so suddenly that he
tilted the canoe, and the black paddlers looked
around wonderingly.

"Alligator," explained Jacinto succinctly, in
their tongue.

"Ugh!" they grunted.

"Bless my--bless my----" hesitated Mr.
Damon, and for one of the very few times in
his life his language failed him.

"Are there many of them hereabouts?" asked
Ned, looking back at the swirl left by the saurian.

"Plenty," said the guide, with a shrug of his
shoulders. He seemed to do as much talking that
way, and with his hands, as he did in speech.
"The river is full of them."

"Dangerous?" queried Tom.

"Don't go in swimming," was the significant
advice. "Wait, I'll show you," and he called
up the canoe just behind.

In this canoe was a quantity of provisions.
There was a chunk of meat among other things,
a gristly piece, seeing which Mr. Damon had
objected to its being brought along, but the guide
had said it would do for fish bait. With a quick
motion of his hand, as he sat in the awning-
covered stern with Tom, Ned and the others,
Jacinto sent the chunk of meat out into the muddy

Hardly a second later there was a rushing in
the water as though a submarine were about
to come up. An ugly snout was raised, two
rows of keen teeth snapped shut as a scissors-
like jaw opened, and the meat was gone.

"See!" was the guide's remark, and something
like a cold shiver of fear passed over the white
members of the party. "This water is not made
in which to swim. Be careful!"

"We certainly shall," agreed Tom. "They're fierce."

"And always hungry," observed Jacinto grimly.

"And to think that I--that I nearly had my
hand on it," murmured Mr. Damon. "Ugh!
Bless my eyeglasses!"

"The alligator nearly had your hand," said the
guide. "They can turn in the water like a flash,
wherefore it is not wise to pat one on the tail
lest it present its mouth instead."

They paddled on up the river, the dusky Indians
now and then breaking out into a chant
that seemed to give their muscles new energy.
The song, if song it was, passed from one boat
to the other, and as the chant boomed forth
the craft shot ahead more swiftly.

They made a landing about noon, and lunch
was served. Tom and his friends were hungry
in spite of the heat. Moreover, they were
experienced travelers and had learned not to fret
over inconveniences and discomforts. the Ind-
ians ate by themselves, two acting as servants
to Jacinto and the professor's party.

As is usual in traveling in the tropics, a halt
was made during the heated middle of the day.
Then, as the afternoon shadows were waning,
the party again took to the canoes and paddled
on up the river.

"Do you know of a good place to stop during
the night?" asked Professor Bumper of Jacinto.

"Oh, yes; a most excellent place. It is where
I always bring scientific parties I am guiding.
You may rely on me."

It was within an hour of dusk--none too much
time to allow in which to pitch camp in the
tropics, where night follows day suddenly--when
a halt was called, as a turn of the river showed a
little clearing on the edge of the forest-bound

"We stay here for the night," said Jacinto.
"It is a good place."

"It looks picturesque enough," observed Mr.
Damon. "But it is rather wild."

"We are a good distance from a settlement,"
agreed the guide. "But one can not explore--
and find treasure in cities," and he shrugged
his shoulders again.

"Find treasure? What do you mean?" asked Tom quickly.
"Do you think that we----?"

"Pardon, Senor," replied Jacinto softly. "I meant
no offense. I think that all you scientific
parties will take treasure if you can find it."

"We are looking for traces of the old Honduras
civilization," put in Professor Bumper.

"And doubtless you will find it," was the
somewhat too courteous answer of the guide.
"Make camp quickly!" he called to the Indians
in their tongue. "You must soon get under the
nets or you will be eaten alive!" he told Tom.
"There are many mosquitoes here."

The tents were set up, smudge fires built and
supper quickly prepared. Dusk fell rapidly, and
as Tom and Ned walked a little way down
toward the river before turning in under the
mosquito canopies, the young financial man said:

"Sort of lonesome and gloomy, isn't it, Tom?"

"Yes. But you didn't expect to find a moving
picture show in the wilds of Honduras, did you?"

"No, and yet-- Look out! What's that?"
suddenly cried Ned, as a great soft, black shadow
seemed to sweep out of a clump of trees toward
him. Involuntarily he clutched Tom's arm and
pointed, his face showing fear in the fast-gathering



Tom Swift looked deliberately around. It
was characteristic of him that, though by nature
he was prompt in action, he never acted so hurriedly
as to obscure his judgment. So, though
now Ned showed a trace of strange excitement,
Tom was cool.

"What is it?" asked the young inventor.
"What's the matter? What did you think you saw,
Ned; another alligator?"

"Alligator? Nonsense! Up on shore? I saw
a black shadow, and I didn't THINK I saw it,
either. I really did."

Tom laughed quietly.

"A shadow!" he exclaimed. "Since when
were you afraid of shadows, Ned?"

"I'm not afraid of ordinary shadows," answered
Ned, and in his voice there was an uncertain
tone. "I'm not afraid of my shadow or
yours, Tom, or anybody's that I can see. But
this wasn't any human shadow. It was as if a
great big blob of wet darkness had been waved
over your head."

"That's a queer explanation," Tom said in a
low voice. "A great big blob of wet darkness!"

"But that just describes it," went on Ned,
looking up and around. "It was just as if you were in
some dark room, and some one waved a wet
velvet cloak over your head--spooky like! It
didn't make a sound, but there was a smell as
if a den of some wild beast was near here. I
remember that odor from the time we went
hunting with your electric rifle in the jungle, and
got near the den in the rocks where the tigers

"Well, there is a wild beast smell all around
here," admitted Tom, sniffing the air. "It's the
alligators in the river I guess. You know they
have an odor of musk."

"Do you mean to say you didn't feel that
shadow flying over us just now?" asked Ned.

"Well, I felt something sail through the air,
but I took it to be a big bird. I didn't pay much
attention. To tell you the truth I was thinking
about Beecher--wondering when he would get
here," added Tom quickly as if to forestall any
question as to whether or not his thoughts had
to do with Beecher in connection with Tom's
affair of the heart.

"Well it wasn't a bird--at least not a regular
bird," said Ned in a low voice, as once more he
looked at the dark and gloomy jungle that
stretched back from the river and behind the
little clearing where the camp had been made.

"Come on!" cried Tom, in what he tried to
make a cheerful voice. "This is getting on your
nerves, Ned, and I didn't know you had any.
Let's go back and turn in. I'm dog-tired and
the mosquitoes are beginning to find that we're
here. Let's get under the nets. Then the black
shadows won't get you."

Not at all unwilling to leave so gloomy a scene,
Ned, after a brief glance up and down the dark
river, followed his chum. They found Professor
Bumper and Mr. Damon in their tent, a separate
one having been set up for the two men adjoining
that of the youths.

"Bless my fountain pen!" exclaimed Mr. Damon,
as he caught sight of Tom and Ned in the
flickering light of the smudge fire between the
two canvas shelters. "We were just wondering
what had become of you."

"We were chasing shadows!" laughed Tom.
"At least Ned was. But you look cozy enough in there."

It did, indeed, look cheerful in contrast to the
damp and dark jungle all about. Professor Bumper,
being an experienced traveler, knew how to
provide for such comforts as were possible. Folding
cots had been opened for himself, Mr. Damon
and the guide to sleep on, others, similar, being
set up in the tent where Tom and Ned were to
sleep. In the middle of the tent the professor
had made a table of his own and Mr.
Damon's suit cases, and on this placed a small
dry battery electric light. He was making some
notes, doubtless for a future book. Jacinto was
going about the camp, seeing that the Indians
were at their duties, though most of them had
gone directly to sleep after supper.

"Better get inside and under the nets," advised
Professor Bumper to Tom and Ned. "The mosquitoes
here are the worst I ever saw."

"We're beginning to believe that," returned
Ned, who was unusually quiet. "Come on,
Tom. I can't stand it any longer. I'm itching
in a dozen places now from their bites."

As Tom and Ned had no wish for a light,
which would be sure to attract insects, they
entered their tent in the dark, and were soon
stretched out in comparative comfort. Tom was
just on the edge of a deep sleep when he heard
Ned murmur:

"I can't understand it!"

"What's that?" asked the young inventor.

"I say I can't understand it."

"Understand what?"

"That shadow. It was real and yet----"

"Oh, go to sleep!" advised Tom, and, turning
over, he was soon breathing heavily and regularly,
indicating that he, at least, had taken his own advice.

Ned, too, finally succumbed to the overpowering
weariness of the first day of travel, and he,
too, slept, though it was an uneasy slumber,
disturbed by a feeling as though some one were
holding a heavy black quilt over his head,
preventing him from breathing.

The feeling, sensation or dream--whatever it
was--perhaps a nightmare--became at last so
real to Ned that he struggled himself into
wakefulness. With an effort he sat up, uttering an
inarticulate cry. To his surprise he was
answered. Some one asked:

"What is the matter?"

"Who--who are you?" asked Ned quickly,
trying to peer through the darkness.

"This is Jacinto--your guide," was the soft
answer. "I was walking about camp and, hearing
you murmuring, I came to your tent. Is
anything wrong?"

For a moment Ned did not answer. He
listened and could tell by the continued heavy
and regular breathing of his chum that Tom
was still asleep.

"Are you in our tent?" asked Ned, at length:

"Yes," answered Jacinto. "I came in to see
what was the matter with you. Are you ill?"

"No, of course not," said Ned, a bit shortly.
"I--I had a bad dream, that was all. All
right now."

"For that I am glad. Try to get all the sleep
you can, for we must start early to avoid the
heat of the day," and there was the sound of
the guide leaving and arranging the folds of the
mosquito net behind him to keep out the night-
flying insects.

Once more Ned composed himself to sleep, and
this time successfully, for he did not have any
more unpleasant dreams. The quiet of the
jungle settled down over the camp, at least the
comparative quiet of the jungle, for there were
always noises of some sort going on, from the
fall of some rotten tree limb to the scream or
growl of a wild beast, while, now and again, from
the river came the pig-like grunts of the alligators.

It was about two o'clock in the morning, as
they ascertained later, when the whole camp--
white travelers and all--was suddenly awakened
by a wild scream. It seemed to come from one
of the natives, who called out a certain word
ever and over again. To Tom and Ned it
sounded like:

"Oshtoo! Oshtoo! Oshtoo!"

"What's the matter?" cried Professor Bumper.

"The vampires!" came the answering voice of
Jacinto. "One of the Indians has been attacked
by a big vampire bat! Look out, every one!
It may be a raid by the dangerous creatures!
Be careful!"

Notwithstanding this warning Ned stuck his
head out of the tent. The same instant he was
aware of a dark enfolding shadow passing over
him, and, with a shudder of fear, he jumped back.



"What is it? What's the matter?" cried Tom
springing from his cot and hastening to the side
of his chum in the tent. "What has happened, Ned?"

"I don't know, but Jacinto is yelling
something about vampires!"


"Yes. Big bats. And he's warning us to be
careful. I stuck my head out just now and I
felt that same sort of shadow I felt this evening
when we were down near the river."


"I tell you I did!"

At that instant Tom flashed a pocket electric
lamp he had taken from beneath his pillow and
in the gleam of it he and Ned saw fluttering
about the tent some dark, shadow-like form, at
the sight of which Tom's chum cried:

"There it is! That's the shadow! Look out!"
and he held up his hands instinctively to shield
his face.

"Shadow!" yelled Tom, unconsciously adding
to the din that seemed to pervade every part of
the camp. "That isn't a shadow. It's
substance. It's a monster bat, and here goes
for a strike at it!"

He caught up his camera tripod which was near
his cot, and made a swing with it at the creature
that had flown into the tent through an opening
it had made for itself.

"Look out!" yelled Ned. "If it's a vampire it'll----"

"It won't do anything to me!" shouted Tom,
as he struck the creature, knocking it into the
corner of the tent with a thud that told it must
be completely stunned, if not killed. "But
what's it all about, anyhow?" Tom asked.
"What's the row?"

From without the tent came the Indian cries of:

"Oshtoo! Oshtoo!"

Mingled with them were calls of Jacinto, partly
in Spanish, partly in the Indian tongue and
partly in English.

"It is a raid by vampire bats!" was all Tom
and Ned could distinguish. "We shall have
to light fires to keep them away, if we can suc-
ceed. Every one grab up a club and strike hard!"

"Come on!" cried Tom, getting on some clothes
by the light of his gleaming electric light
which he had set on his cot.

"You're not going out there, are you?" asked Ned.

"I certainly am! If there's a fight I want to
be in it, bats or anything else. Here, you have
a light like mine. Flash it on, and hang it
somewhere on yourself. Then get a club and
come on. The lights will blind the bats, and
we can see to hit 'em!"

Tom's plan seemed to be a good one. His
lamp and Ned's had small hooks on them, so
they could be carried in the upper coat pocket,
showing a gleam of light and leaving the hands
free for use.

Out of the tents rushed the young men to find
Professor Bumper and Mr. Damon before them.
The two men had clubs and were striking about
in the half darkness, for now the Indians had set
several fires aglow. And in the gleams,
constantly growing brighter as more fuel was piled
on, the young inventor and his chum saw a
weird sight.

Circling and wheeling about in the camp clearing
were many of the black shadowy forms that
had caused Ned such alarm. Great bats they
were, and a dangerous species, if Jacinto was
to be believed.

The uncanny creatures flew in and out among
the trees and tents, now swooping low near the
Indians or the travelers. At such times clubs
would be used, often with the effect of killing or
stunning the flying pests. For a time it seemed
as if the bats would fairly overwhelm the camp,
so many of them were there. But the increasing
lights, and the attacks made by the Indians and
the white travelers turned the tide of battle, and,
with silent flappings of their soft, velvety wings,
the bats flew back to the jungle whence they had emerged.

"We are safe--for the present!" exclaimed
Jacinto with a sigh of relief.

"Do you think they will come back?" asked Tom.

"They may--there is no telling."

"Bless my speedometer!" cried Mr. Damon,
"If those beasts or birds--whatever they are--
come back I'll go and hide in the river and take
my chances with the alligators!"

"The alligators aren't much worse," asserted
Jacinto with a visible shiver. "These vampire
bats sometimes depopulate a whole village."

"Bless my shoe laces!" cried Mr. Damon. "You
don't mean to say that the creatures can eat up a
whole village?"

"Not quite. Though they might if they got
the chance," was the answer of the Spanish
guide. "These vampire bats fly from place to
place in great swarms, and they are so large and
blood-thirsty that a few of them can kill a horse
or an ox in a short time by sucking its blood. So
when the villagers find they are visited by a
colony of these vampires they get out, taking
their live stock with them, and stay in caves or in
densely wooded places until the bats fly on.
Then the villagers come back.

"It was only a small colony that visited us to-
night or we would have had more trouble. I do
not think this lot will come back. We have
killed too many of them," and he looked about
on the ground where many of the uncanny creatures
were still twitching in the death struggle.

"Come back again!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless
my skin! I hope not! I've had enough of bats--
and mosquitoes," he added, as he slapped at his
face and neck.

Indeed the party of whites were set upon by
the night insects to such an extent that it was
necessary to hurry back to the protection of the

Tom and Ned kicked outside the bat the former
had killed in their tent, and then both went back
to their cots. But it was some little time
before they fell asleep. And they did not have
much time to rest, for an early start must be
made to avoid the terrible heat of the middle of
the day.

"Whew!" whistled Ned, as he and Tom arose
in the gray dawn of the morning when Jacinto
announced the breakfast which the Indian cook
had prepared. "That was some night! If this
is a sample of the wilds of Honduras, give me
the tameness of Shopton."

"Oh, we've gone through with worse than
this," laughed Tom. "It's all in the day's work.
We've only got started. I guess we're a bit
soft, Ned, though we had hard enough work in
that tunnel-digging."

After breakfast, while the Indians were making
ready the canoes, Professor Bumper, who,
in a previous visit to Central America, had
become interested in the subject, made a brief
examination of some of the dead bats. They were
exceptionally large, some almost as big as hawks.
and were of the sub-family _Desmodidae_, the scientist

"This is a true blood-sucking bat," went on
the professor. "This," and he pointed to the
nose-leaves, "is the sucking apparatus. The
bat makes an opening in the skin with its sharp
teeth and proceeds to extract the blood. I can
well believe two or three of them, attacking a
steer or mule at once, could soon weaken it so
the animal would die."

"And a man, too?" asked Ned.

"Well a man has hands with which to use
weapons, but a helpless quadruped has not.
Though if a sufficient number of these bats
attacked a man at the same time, he would have
small chance to escape alive. Their bites, too,
may be poisonous for all I know."

The Indians seemed glad to leave the "place
of the bats," as they called the camp site. Jacinto
explained that the Indians believed a vampire
could kill them while they slept, and they were
very much afraid of the blood-sucking bats.
There were many other species in the tropics,
Professor Bumper explained, most of which
lived on fruit or on insects they caught. The
blood-sucking bats were comparatively few, and
the migratory sort fewer still.

"Well, we're on our way once more,"
remarked Tom as again they were in the canoes
being paddled up the river. "How much
longer does your water trip take, Professor?"

"I hardly know," and Professor Bumper looked
to Jacinto to answer.

"We go two more days in the canoes," the
guide answered, "and then we shall find the
mules waiting for us at a place called Hidjio.
From then on we travel by land until--well until
you get to the place where you are going.

"I suppose you know where it is?" he added,
nodding toward the professor. "I am leaving
that part to you."

"Oh, I have a map, showing where I want to
begin some excavations," was the answer. "We
must first go to Copan and see what arrangements
we can make for laborers. After that--well, we
shall trust to luck for what we shall find."

"There are said to be many curious things,"
went on Jacinto, speaking as though he had no
interest. "You have mentioned buried cities.
Have you thought what may be in them--great
heathen temples, idols, perhaps?"

For a moment none of the professor's
companions spoke. It was as though Jacinto had
tried to get some information. Finally the
scientist said:

"Oh, yes, we may find an idol. I understand
the ancient people, who were here long before
the Spaniards came, worshiped idols. But we
shall take whatever antiquities we find."

"Huh!" grunted Jacinto, and then he called
to the paddlers to increase their strokes.

The journey up the river was not very
eventful. Many alligators were seen, and Tom and
Ned shot several with the electric rifle. Toward
the close of the third day's travel there was a
cry from one of the rear boats, and an alarm of
a man having fallen overboard was given.

Tom turned in time to see the poor fellow's
struggles, and at the same time there was a swirl
in the water and a black object shot forward.

"An alligator is after him!" yelled Ned.

"I see," observed Tom calmly. "Hand me the rifle, Ned."

Tom took quick aim and pulled the trigger.
The explosive electric bullet went true to its
mark, and the great animal turned over in a death
struggle. But the river was filled with them, and
no sooner had the one nearest the unfortunate
Indian been disposed of than another made a
dash for the man.

There was a wild scream of agony and then
a dark arm shot up above the red foam. The
waters seethed and bubbled as the alligators
fought under it for possession of the paddler.
Tom fired bullet after bullet from his wonderful
rifle into the spot, but though he killed some
of the alligators this did not save the man's life.
His body was not seen again, though search was
made for it.

The accident cast a little damper over the
party, and there was a feeling of gloom among
the Indians. Professor Bumper announced that
he would see to it that the man's family did not
want, and this seemed to give general satisfaction,
especially to a brother who was with the

Aside from being caught in a drenching storm
and one or two minor accidents, nothing else
of moment marked the remainder of the river
journey, and at the end of the third day the
canoes pulled to shore and a night camp was

"But where are the mules we are to use in
traveling to-morrow?" asked the professor of Jacinto.

"In the next village. We shall march there
in the morning. No use to go there at night
when all is dark."

"I suppose that is so."

The Indians made camp as usual, the goods being
brought from the canoes and piled up near
the tents. Then night settled down.

"Hello!" cried Tom, awakening the next morning
to find the sun streaming into his tent. "We
must have overslept, Ned. We were to start
before old Sol got in his heavy work, but we
haven't had breakfast yet."

"I didn't hear any one call us," remarked Ned.

"Nor I. Wonder if we're the only lazy birds."
He looked from the tent in time to see Mr.
Damon and the professor emerging. Then Tom
noticed something queer. The canoes were not
on the river bank. There was not an Indian
in sight, and no evidence of Jacinto.

"What's the matter?" asked the young
inventor. "Have the others gone on ahead?"

"I rather think they've gone back," was the
professor's dry comment.

"Gone back?"

"Yes. The Indians seem to have deserted us
at the ending of this stage of our journey."

"Bless my time-table!" cried Mr. Damon.
"You don't say so! What does it mean? What
has becomes of our friend Jacinto?"

"I'm afraid he was rather a false friend," was
the professor's answer. "This is the note he left.
He has gone and taken the canoes and all the
Indians with him," and he held out a paper on
which was some scribbled writing.



"What does it all mean?" asked Tom, seeing
that the note was written in Spanish, a tongue
which he could speak slightly but read indifferently.

"This is some of Beecher's work," was
Professor Bumper's grim comment. "It seems that
Jacinto was in his pay."

"In his pay!" cried Mr. Damon. "Do you mean
that Beecher deliberately hired Jacinto to betray us?"

"Well, no. Not that exactly. Here, I'll translate
this note for you," and the professor proceeded to read:

"Senors: I greatly regret the step I have to
take, but I am a gentleman, and, having given
my word, I must keep it. No harm shall come
to you, I swear it on my honor!"

"Queer idea of honor he has!" commented Tom, grimly.

Professor Bumper read on:

"Know then, that before I engaged myself to
you I had been engaged by Professor Beecher
through a friend to guide him into the Copan
valley, where he wants to make some explorations,
for what I know not, save maybe that it
is for gold. I agreed, in case any rival expeditions
came to lead them astray if I could.

"So, knowing from what you said that you
were going to this place, I engaged myself to you,
planning to do what I have done. I greatly regret
it, as I have come to like you, but I had
given my promise to Professor Beecher's friend,
that I would first lead him to the Copan valley,
and would keep others away until he had had a
chance to do his exploration.

"So I have led you to this wilderness. It is
far from the Copan, but you are near an Indian
village, and you will be able to get help in a week
or so. In the meanwhile you will not starve, as
you have plenty of supplies. If you will travel
northeast you will come again to Puerto Cortes
in due season. As for the money I had from
you, I deposit it to your credit, Professor Beecher
having made me an allowance for steering rival
parties on the wrong trail. So I lose nothing,
and I save my honor.

"I write this note as I am leaving in the night
with the Indians. I put some harmless sedative
in your tea that you might sleep soundly, and not
awaken until we were well on our way. Do not
try to follow us, as the river will carry us swiftly
away. And, let me add, there is no personal
animosity on the part of Professor Beecher
against you. I should have done to any rival
expedition the same as I have done with you.

For a moment there was silence, and then Tom
Swift burst out with:

"Well, of all the mean, contemptible tricks
of a human skunk this is the limit!"

"Bless my hairbrush, but he is a scoundrel!"
ejaculated Mr. Damon, with great warmth.

"I'd like to start after him the biggest alligator
in the river," was Ned's comment.

Professor Bumper said nothing for several
seconds. There was a strange look on his face,
and then he laughed shortly, as though the humor
of the situation appealed to him.

"Professor Beecher has more gumption than I gave
him credit for," he said. "It was a clever trick!"

"Trick!" cried Tom.

"Yes. I can't exactly agree that it was the
right thing to do, but he, or some friend acting
for him, seems to have taken precautions that
we are not to suffer or lose money. Beecher
goes on the theory that all is fair in love and
war, I suppose, and he may call this a sort of
scientific war."

Ned wondered, as he looked at his chum, how
much love there was in it. Clearly Beecher was
determined to get that idol of gold.

"Well, it can't be helped, and we must make
the best of it," said Tom, after a pause.

"True. But now, boys, let's have breakfast,
and then we'll make what goods we can't take
with us as snug as possible, until we can send
the mule drivers after them," went on Professor

"Send the mule drivers after them?" questioned Ned.
"What do you mean to do?"

"Do? Why keep on, of course. You don't
suppose I'm going to let a little thing like this
stand between me and the discovery of Kurzon
and the idol of gold, do you?"

"But," began Mr. Damon, "I don't see how--"

"Oh, we'll find a way," interrupted Tom. "It
isn't the first time I've been pretty well stranded
on an expedition of this kind, and sometimes
from the same cause--the actions of a rival.
Now we'll turn the tables on the other fellows
and see how they like it. The professor's right
--let's have breakfast. Jacinto seems to have
told the truth. Nothing of ours is missing."

Tom and Ned got the meal, and then a
consultation was held as to what was best to be

"We can't go on any further by water, that's
sure," said Tom. "In the first place the river
is too shallow, and secondly we have no canoes.
So the only thing is to go on foot through the

"But how can we, and carry all this stuff?"
asked Ned.

"We needn't carry it!" cried Professor Bumper.
"We'll leave it here, where it will be safe enough,
and tramp on to the nearest Indian village.
There we'll hire bearers to take our stuff on until
we can get mules. I'm not going to turn back!"

"Good!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my
rubber boots! but that's what I say--keep on!"

"Oh, no! we'll never turn back," agreed Tom.

"But how can we manage it?" asked Ned.

"We've just got to! And when you have
to do a thing, it's a whole lot easier to do than
if you just feel as though you ought to. So,
lively is the word!" cried Tom, in answer.

"We'll pack up what we can carry and leave
the rest," added the scientist.

Being an experienced traveler Professor Bumper
had arranged his baggage so that it could
be carried by porters if necessary. Everything
could be put into small packages, including the
tents and food supply.

"There are four of us," remarked Tom, "and if
we can not pack enough along with us to enable
us to get to the nearest village, we had better
go back to civilization. I'm not afraid to try."

"Nor I!" cried Mr. Damon.

The baggage, stores and supplies that were
to be left behind were made as snug as possible,
and so piled up that wild beasts could do the
least harm. Then a pack was made up for each
one to carry.

They would take weapons, of course, Tom
Swift's electric rifle being the one he choose for
himself. They expected to be able to shoot
game on their way, and this would provide them
food in addition to the concentrated supply they
carried. Small tents, in sections, were carried,
there being two, one for Tom and Ned and one
for Mr. Damon and the professor.

As far as could be learned from a casual
inspection, Jacinto and his deserting Indians had
taken back with them only a small quantity of
food. They were traveling light and down
stream, and could reach the town much more
quickly than they had come away from it.

"That Beecher certainly was slick," commented
Professor Bumper when they were ready to
start. "He must have known about what time
I would arrive, and he had Jacinto waiting for
us. I thought it was too good to be true, to get
an experienced guide like him so easily. But it
was all planned, and I was so engrossed in thinking
of the ancient treasures I hope to find that
I never thought of a possible trick. Well, let's
start!" and he led the way into the jungle, carrying
his heavy pack as lightly as did Tom.

Professor Bumper had a general idea in which
direction lay a number of native villages, and it
was determined to head for them, blazing a path
through the wilderness, so that the Indians could
follow it back to the goods left behind.

It was with rather heavy hearts that the party
set off, but Tom's spirits could not long stay
clouded, and the scientist was so good-natured
about the affair and seemed so eager to do the
utmost to render Beecher's trick void, that the
others fell into a lighter mood, and went on
more cheerfully, though the way was rough and
the packs heavy.

They stopped at noon under a bower they made
of palms, and, spreading the nets over them, got a
little rest after a lunch. Then, when the sun
was less hot, they started off again.

"Forward is the word!" cried Ned cheerfully. "Forward!"'

They had not gone more than an hour on the
second stage of their tramp when Tom, who
was in the lead, following the direction laid out
by the compass, suddenly stopped, and reached
around for his electric rifle, which he was carrying
at his back.

"What is it?" asked Ned in a whisper.

"I don't know, but it's some big animal there
in the bushes," was Tom's low-voiced answer.
"I'm ready for it."

The rustling increased, and a form could be
seen indistinctly. Tom aimed the deadly gun
and stood ready to pull the trigger.

Ned, tho had a side view into the underbrush,
gave a sudden cry.

"Don't shoot, Tom!" he yelled. "It's a man!"



In spite of Ned Newton's cry, Tom's finger
pressed the switch-trigger of the electric rifle,
for previous experience had taught him that it
was sometimes the best thing to awe the natives
in out-of-the-way corners of the earth. But the
young inventor quickly elevated the muzzle, and
the deadly missile went hissing through the air
over the head of a native Indian who, at that
moment, stepped from the bush.

The man, startled and alarmed, shrank back
and was about to run into the jungle whence he
had emerged. Small wonder if he had, considering
the reception he so unwittingly met with.
But Tom. aware of the necessity for making
inquiries of one who knew that part of the jungle,
quickly called to him.

"Hold on!" he shouted. "Wait a minute. I didn't
mean that. I thought at first you were a
tapir or a tiger. No harm intended. I say,
Professor," Tom called back to the savant,
"you'd better speak to him in his lingo, I can't
manage it. He may be useful in guiding us to
that Indian village Jacinto told us of."

This Professor Bumper did, being able to make
himself understood in the queer part-Spanish
dialect used by the native Hondurians, though
he could not, of course, speak it as fluently as
had Jacinto.

Professor Bumper had made only a few remarks
to the man who had so unexpectedly appeared
out of the jungle when the scientist gave an
exclamation of surprise at some of the answers made.

"Bless my moving picture!" cried Mr. Damon.

"What's the matter now? Is anything wrong?
Does he refuse to help us?"

"No, it isn't that," was the answer. "In fact
he came here to help us. Tom, this is the brother
of the Indian who fell overboard and who was eaten
by the alligators. He says you were very kind
to try to save his brother with your rifle,
and for that reason he has come back to help us."

"Come back?" queried Tom.

"Yes, he went off with the rest of the Indians
when Jacinto deserted us, but he could not stand
being a traitor, after you had tried to save his
brother's life. These Indians are queer people.

They don't show much emotion, but they have
deep feelings. This one says he will devote
himself to your service from now on. I believe
we can count on him. He is deeply grateful to
you, Tom."

"I'm glad of that for all our sakes. But what
does he say about Jacinto?"

The professor asked some more questions,
receiving answers, and then translated them.

"This Indian, whose name is Tolpec, says
Jacinto is a fraud," exclaimed Professor Bumper.
"He made all the Indians leave us in the night,
though many of them were willing to stay and
fill the contract they had made. But Jacinto
would not let them, making them desert. Tolpec
went away with the others, but because of what
Tom had done he planned to come back at the
first chance and be our guide. Accordingly he
jumped ashore from one of the canoes, and made
his way to our camp. He got there, found it
deserted and followed us, coming up just now."

"Well I'm glad I didn't frighten him off with
my gun," remarked Tom grimly. "So he agrees
with us that Jacinto is a scoundrel, does he?
I guess he might as well classify Professor
Beecher in the same way."

"I am not quite so sure of that," said Professor
Bumper slowly. "I can not believe Beecher
would play such a trick as this, though some
over-zealous friend of his might."

"Oh, of course Beecher did it!" cried Tom.
"He heard we were coming here, figured out that
we'd start ahead of him, and he wanted to side-
track us. Well, he did it all right," and Tom's
voice was bitter.

"He has only side-tracked us for a while,"
announced Professor Bumper in cheerful tones.

"What do you mean?" asked Mr. Damon.

"I mean that this Indian comes just in the nick
of time. He is well acquainted with this part
of the jungle, having lived here all his life,
and he offers to guide us to a place where we can
get mules to transport ourselves and our baggage
to Copan."

"Fine!" cried Ned. "When can we start?"

Once more the professor and the native
conversed in the strange tongue, and then Professor
Bumper announced:

"He says it will be better for us to go back
where we left our things and camp there. He
will stay with us to-night and in the morning go
on to the nearest Indian town and come back
with porters and helpers."

"I think that is good advice to follow," put in
Tom, "for we do need our goods; and if we
reached the settlement ourselves, we would have
to send back for our things, with the uncertainty
of getting them all."

So it was agreed that they would make a forced
march back through the jungle to where they
had been deserted by Jacinto. There they would
make camp for the night, and until such time as
Tolpec could return with a force of porters.

It was not easy, that backward tramp through
the jungle, especially as night had fallen. But
the new Indian guide could see like a cat, and
led the party along paths they never could have
found by themselves. The use of their pocket
electric lights was a great help, and possibly
served to ward off the attacks of jungle beasts,
for as they tramped along they could hear stealthy
sounds in the underbush on either side of the
path, as though tigers were stalking them. For
there was in the woods an animal of the leopard
family, called tiger or "tigre" by the natives,
that was exceedingly fierce and dangerous. But
watchfulness prevented any accident, and eventually
the party reached the place where they had
left their goods. Nothing had been disturbed,
and finally a fire was made, the tents set up and
a light meal, with hot tea served.

"We'll get ahead of Beecher yet," said Tom.

"You seem as anxious as Professor Bumper,"
observed Mr. Damon,

"I guess I am," admitted Tom. "I want to
see that idol of gold in the possession of our

The night passed without incident, and then,
telling his new friends that he would return as
soon as possible with help, Tolpec, taking a
small supply of food with him, set out through
the jungle again.

As the green vines and creepers closed after
him, and the explorers were left alone with their
possessions piled around them, Ned remarked:

"After all, I wonder if it was wise to let him go?"

"Why not?" asked Tom.

"Well, maybe he only wanted to get us back
here, and then he'll desert, too. Maybe that's
what he's done now, making us lose two or three
days by inducing us to return, waiting for what
will never happen--his return with other

A silence followed Ned's intimation.



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