TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RIFLE

 

OR

 

Daring Adventures in Elephant Land

 

by VICTOR APPLETON

 

CONTENTS

 

     I   TOM WANTS EXCITEMENT

    II   TRYING THE NEW GUN

   III   A DIFFICULT TEST

    IV   BIG TUSKS WANTED

     V   RUSH WORK

    VI   NEWS FROM ANDY

   VII   THE BLACK HAWK FLIES

  VIII   OFF FOR AFRICA

    IX   ATTACKED BY A WHALE

     X   OFF IN THE AIRSHIP

    XI   ANCHORED TO EARTH

   XII   AMONG THE NATIVES

  XIII   ON THE ELEPHANT TRAIL

   XIV   A STAMPEDE

    XV   LIONS IN THE NIGHT

   XVI   SEEKING THE MISSIONARIES

  XVII   SHOTS FROM ABOVE

 XVIII   NEWS OF THE RED PYGMIES

   XIX   AN APPEAL FOR HELP

    XX   THE FIGHT

   XXI   DRIVEN BACK

  XXII   A NIGHT ATTACK

 XXIII   THE RESCUE

  XXIV   TWO OTHER CAPTIVES

   XXV   THE ROGUE ELEPHANT--CONCLUSION

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

TOM WANTS EXCITEMENT

 

 

"Have you anything special to do to-night, Ned?" asked Tom Swift,

the well-known inventor, as he paused in front of his chum's window,

in the Shopton National Bank.

 

"No, nothing in particular," replied the bank clerk, as he stacked

up some bundles of bills. "Why do you ask?"

 

"I wanted you to come over to the house for a while."

 

"Going to have a surprise party, or something like that?"

 

"No, only I've got something I'd like to show you."

 

"A new invention?"

 

"Well, not exactly new. You've seen it before, but not since I've

improved it. I'm speaking of my new electric rifle. I've got it

ready to try, now, and I'd like to see what you think of it. There's

a rifle range over at the house, and we can practice some shooting,

if you haven't anything else to do."

 

"I haven't, and I'll be glad to come. What are you doing in the

bank, anyhow; putting away more of your wealth, Tom?"

 

"Yes, I just made a little deposit. It's some money I got from the

government for the patents on my sky racer, and I'm salting it down

here until Dad and I can think of a better investment."

 

"Good idea. Bring us all the money you can," and the bank clerk, who

held a small amount of stock in the financial institution, laughed,

his chum joining in with him.

 

"Well, then. I'll expect you over this evening," went on the

youthful inventor, as he turned to leave the bank.

 

"Yes, I'll be there. Say, Tom, have you heard the latest about Andy

Foger?"

 

"No, I haven't heard much since he left town right after I beat him

in the aeroplane race at Eagle Park."

 

"Well, he's out of town all right, and I guess for a long time this

trip. He's gone to Europe."

 

"To Europe, eh? Well, he threatened to go there after he failed to

beat me in the race, but I thought he was only bluffing."

 

"No, he's really gone this time."

 

"Well, I, for one, am glad of it. Did he take his aeroplane along?"

 

"Yes, that's what he went for. It seems that this Mr. Landbacher,

the German who really invented it, and built it with money which Mr.

Foger supplied, has an idea he can interest the German or some other

European government in the machine. Andy wanted to go along with

him, and as Mr. Foger financed the scheme, I guess he thought it

would be a good thing to have some one represent him. So Andy's

gone."

 

"Then he won't bother me. Well, I must get along. I'll expect you

over to-night," and with a wave of his hand Tom Swift hurried from

the bank.

 

The young inventor jumped into his electric runabout which stood

outside the institution, and was about to start off when he saw a

newsboy selling papers which had just come in from New York, on the

morning train.

 

"Here, Jack, give me a TIMES," called Tom to the lad, and he tossed

the newsboy a nickel. Then, after glancing at the front page, and

noting the headings, Tom started off his speedy car, in which, on

one occasion, he had made a great run, against time. He was soon at

home.

 

"Well, Dad, I've got the money safely put away," he remarked to an

aged gentleman who sat in the library reading a book. "Now we won't

have to worry about thieves until we get some more cash in."

 

"Well, I'm glad it's coming in so plentifully," said Mr. Swift with

a smile. "Since my illness I haven't been able to do much, Tom, and

it all depends on you, now."

 

"Don't let that worry you, Dad. You'll soon be as busy as ever,"

for, following a serious operation for an ailment of the heart, Mr.

Swift, who was a veteran inventor, had not been able to do much. But

the devices of his son, especially a speedy monoplane, which Tom

invented, and sold to the United States Government, were now

bringing them in a large income. In fact with royalties from his

inventions and some gold and diamonds which he had secured on two

perilous trips, Tom Swift was quite wealthy.

 

"I'll never be as busy as I once was," went on Mr. Swift, a little

regretfully, "but I don't know that I care as long as you continue

to turn out new machines, Tom. By the way, how is the electric rifle

coming on? I haven't heard you speak of it lately."

 

"It's practically finished, Dad. It worked pretty well the time I

took it when we went on the trip to the caves of ice, but I've

improved it very much since then. In fact I'm going to give it a

severe test to-night. Ned Newton is coming over, and it may be that

then we'll find out something about it that could be bettered. But I

think not. It suits me as it is."

 

"So Ned is coming over to see it; eh? You ought to have Mr. Damon

here to bless it a few times."

 

"Yes, I wish I did. And he may come along at any moment, as it is.

You never can tell when he is going to turn up. Mrs. Baggert says

you were out walking while I was at the bank, Dad. Do you feel

better after it?"

 

"Yes, I think I do, Tom. Oh, I'm growing stronger every day, but it

will take time. But now tell me something about the electric gun."

 

Thereupon the young inventor related to his father some facts about

the improvements he had recently made to the weapon. It was dinner

time when he had finished, and, after the meal Tom went out to the

shed where he built his aeroplanes and his airships, and in which

building he had fitted up a shooting gallery.

 

"I'll get ready for the trial to-night," he said "I want to see what

it will do to a dummy figure. Guess I'll make a sort of scarecrow

and stuff it with straw. I'll get Eradicate to help me. Rad! I say,

Rad! Where are you?"

 

"Heah I is, Massa Tom! Heah I is" called a colored man as he came

around the corner of a small stable where he kept his mule

Boomerang. "Was yo'-all callin' me?"

 

"Yes, Rad, I want you to help make a scarecrow."

 

"A scarecrow, Massa Tom! Good land a' massy! What fo' yo' want ob a

scarecrow? Yo'-all ain't raisin' no corn, am yo'?"

 

"No, but I want something to shoot at when Ned Newton comes over

to-night."

 

"Suffin t' shoot at? Why Massa Tom! Good land a' massy! Yo'-all

ain't gwine t' hab no duel, am yo'?"

 

"No, Rad, but I want a life-size figure on which to try my new

electric gun. Here are some old clothes, and if you will stuff them

with rags and straw and fix them so they'll stand up, they'll do

first-rate. Have it ready by night, and set it up at the far end of

the shooting gallery."

 

"All right, Massa Tom. I'll jest do dat, fo' yo'," and leaving the

colored man to stuff the figure, after he had showed him how, Tom

went back into the house to read the paper which he had purchased

that morning.

 

He skimmed over the news, thinking perhaps he might see something of

the going abroad of Andy Foger with the German aeroplane, but there

was nothing.

 

"I almost wish I was going to Europe," sighed Tom. "I will certainly

have to get busy at something, soon. I haven't had any adventure

since I won the prize at the Eagle Park aviation meet in my sky

racer. Jove! That was some excitement! I'd like to do that over

again, only I shouldn't want to have Dad so sick," for just before

the race, Tom had saved his father's life by making a quick run in

the aeroplane, to bring a celebrated surgeon to the invalid's aid.

 

"I certainly wish I could have some new adventures," mused Tom, as

he turned the pages of the paper. "I could afford to take a trip

around the earth after them, too, with the way money is coming in

now. Yes, I do wish I could have some excitement. Hello, what's

this! A big elephant hunt in Africa. Hundreds of the huge creatures

captured in a trap--driven in by tame beasts. Some are shot for

their tusks. Others will be sent to museums."

 

He was reading the headlines of the article that had attracted his

attention, and, as he read, he became more and more absorbed in it.

He read the story through twice, and then, with sparkling eyes, he

exclaimed:

 

"That's just what I want. Elephant shooting in Africa! My! With my

new electric rifle, and an airship, what couldn't a fellow do over

in the dark continent! I've a good notion to go there! I wonder if

Ned would go with me? Mr. Damon certainly would. Elephant shooting

in Africa! In an airship! I could finish my new sky craft in short

order if I wanted to. I've a good notion to do it!"

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER II

 

TRYING THE NEW GUN

 

 

While Tom Swift is thus absorbed in thinking about a chance to hunt

elephants, we will take the opportunity to tell you a little more

about him, and then go on with the story.

 

Many of you already know the young inventor, but those who do not

may be interested it hearing that he is a young American lad, full

of grit and ginger, who lives with his aged father in the town of

Shopton, in New York State. Our hero was first introduced to the

public in the book, "Tom Swift and His Motorcycle."

 

In that volume it was related how Tom bought a motor-cycle from a

Mr. Wakefield Damon, of Waterford. Mr. Damon was an eccentric

individual, who was continually blessing himself, some one else, or

something belonging to him. His motor-cycle tried to climb a tree

with him, and that was why he sold it to Tom. The two thus became

acquainted, and their friendship grew from year to year.

 

After many adventures on his motor-cycle Tom got a motor-boat, and

had some exciting times in that. One of the things he and his father

and his chum, Ned Newton, did, was to rescue, from a burning balloon

that had fallen into Lake Carlopa, an aeronaut named John Sharp.

Later Tom and Mr. Sharp built an airship called the Red Cloud, and

with Mr. Damon and some others had a series of remarkable fights.

 

In the Red Cloud they got on the track of some bank robbers, and

captured them, thus foiling the plans of Andy Foger, a town bully,

and one of Tom's enemies, and putting to confusion the plot of Mr.

Foger, Andy's father.

 

After many adventures in the air Tom and his friends, in a submarine

boat, invented by Mr. Swift, went under the ocean for sunken

treasure and secured a large part of it.

 

It was not long after this that Tom conceived the idea of a powerful

electric car, which proved, to be the speediest of the road, and in

it he won a great race, and saved from ruin a bank in which his

father and Mr. Damon were interested.

 

The sixth book of the series, entitled "Tom Swift and His Wireless

Message," tells how, in testing a new electric airship, which a

friend of Mr. Damon's had invented, Tom, the inventor and Mr. Damon

were lost on an island in the middle of the ocean. There they found

some castaways, among whom were Mr. and Mrs. Nestor, parents of Mary

Nestor of Shopton, a girl of whom Tom was quite fond.

 

Tom Swift, after his arrival home, went on an expedition among a

gang of men known as the "Diamond Makers" who were hidden in the

Rocky Mountains. He was accompanied by Mr. Barcoe Jenks, one of the

castaways of Earthquake Island. They found the diamond makers, and

had some surprising adventures, barely escaping with their lives.

 

This did not daunt Tom, however, and he once more started off on an

expedition in his airship the Red Cloud to Alaska, amid the caves of

ice. He was searching for a valley of gold, and though he and his

friends found it, they came to grief. The Fogers, father and son,

tried to steal the gold from them, and, failing in that, incited the

Eskimos against our friends. There was a battle, but the forces of

nature were even more to be dreaded than the terrible savages.

 

The ice cave, in which the Red Cloud was stored, collapsed, crushing

the gallant craft, and burying it out of sight forever under

thousand of tons of the frozen bergs.

 

After a desperate journey Tom and his friends reached civilization,

with a large supply of gold. Tom regretted very much the destruction

of the airship, but he at once set to work on another--a monoplane

this time, instead of a combined aeroplane and dirigible balloon.

This new craft he called the Humming Bird and it was a "sky racer"

of terrific speed. In it, as we have said, Tom brought a specialist

to operate on his father, when, because of a broken railroad bridge,

the physician could not otherwise have gotten to Shopton. He and Tom

traveled through the air at the rate of over one hundred miles an

hour. Later, Tom took part in a big race for a ten-thousand-dollar

prize, and won, defeating Andy Foger, and a number of well-known

"bird-men" who used biplanes and monoplanes of a more or less

familiar type.

 

The government became interested in Tom's craft, the Humming Bird,

and, as told in the ninth book of this series, Tom Swift and His Sky

Racer, they secured some rights in the invention.

 

And now Tom, who had done nothing for several months following the

great race--that is, nothing save to work on his new rifle--Tom, we

say, sighed for new adventures.

 

"Well, Tom, what is on your mind?" asked his father at the supper

table that evening. "What is worrying you?"

 

"Nothing is worrying me, Dad."

 

"You are thinking of something. I can see that. Are you afraid your

electric rifle won't work as well as you hope, when Ned comes over

to try it?"

 

"No, it isn't that, Dad. But I may as well tell you, I guess. I've

been reading in the paper about a big elephant hunt in Africa, and

I--"

 

"That's enough, Tom! You needn't say any more," interrupted Mr.

Swift. "I can see which way the wind is blowing. You want to go to

Africa with your new rifle."

 

"Well, Dad, not exactly--that is--"

 

"Now, Tom, you needn't deny it," and Mr. Swift laughed. "Well, I

don't blame you a bit. You have been rather idle of late."

 

"I would like to go, Dad," admitted the young inventor, "only I'd

never think of it while you weren't well."

 

"Don't worry about me, Tom. Of course I will be lonesome while you

are gone, but don't let that stand in the way. If you want to go to

Africa, you may start to-morrow, and take your new rifle with you."

 

"The rifle part would be all right, Dad, but if I went I'd want to

take an airship along, and it will take me some little time to

finish the Black Hawk, as I have named my new craft."

 

"Well, there's no special hurry, is there?" asked Mr. Swift. "The

elephants in Africa are likely to stay there for some time. If you

want to go, why don't you get right to work on the Black Hawk and

make the trip? I'd like to go myself."

 

"I wish you would, Dad," exclaimed Tom eagerly.

 

"No, son, I couldn't think of it. I want to stay here and get well.

Then I am going to resume work on my wireless motor. Perhaps I'll

have it finished when you come back from Africa with an airship load

of elephants' tusks."

 

"Perhaps," admitted the young inventor. "Well, Dad, I'll think of

it. But now I'm going after my rifle, and--"

 

Tom was interrupted by a ring of the front-door bell, and Mrs.

Baggert, the housekeeper, who was almost like a mother to the youth,

went to answer it.

 

"It's Ned Newton, I guess," murmured Tom, and, a little later, his

chum entered the room.

 

"Oh, I guess I'm early," said Ned. "Haven't you had supper yet,

Tom'"

 

"Yes, we're just finished. Come on out and we'll try the gun."

 

"And practice shooting elephants," added Mr. Swift with a laugh, as

he mentioned to Ned the latest idea of Tom.

 

"Say! That would be great!" cried the bank clerk. "I wish I could

go!"

 

"Come along!" invited Tom cordially. "We'll have more fun than we

did in the caves of ice," for Ned had gone on the voyage to Alaska.

 

The two youths went out to the shed where the rifle gallery had been

built. The new electric weapon was out there, and Eradicate Sampson,

the colored man, who was a sort of servant and man-of-all-work about

the Swift household, had set up the scarecrow figure at the end of

the gallery.

 

"Now we'll try some shots," said Tom, as he took the gun out of the

case. "Just turn on a few more lights, will you, Mr. Jackson," and

the engineer, who was employed by Tom and his father to aid them in

their inventive work, did as requested.

 

The gallery was now brilliantly illuminated, with the reflectors

throwing the beams on the big stuffed figure, which, save for a

face, looked very much like a human being, standing at the end of

the gallery.

 

"I don't suppose you want to go down there and hold it, while I

shoot at it; do you, Rad?" asked Tom jokingly, as he prepared the

electric rifle for use.

 

"No indeedy, I don't!" cried Eradicate. "Yo'-all will hab t' scuse

me, Massa Tom. I think I'll be goin' now."

 

"What's your hurry?" asked Ned, as he saw the colored man hastily

preparing to leave the improvised gallery.

 

"I spects I'd better fro' down some mo' straw fo' a bed fo' my mule

Boomerang!" exclaimed Eradicate, as he hastily slid out of the door,

and shut it after him.

 

"Rad is nervous," remarked Tom. "He doesn't like this gun. Well, it

certainly does great execution."

 

"How does it work'" asked Ned, as he looked at the curious gun. The

electric weapon was not unlike an ordinary heavy rifle in appearance

save that the barrel was a little longer, and the stock larger in

every way. There were also a number of wheels, levers, gears and

gages on the stock.

 

"It works by electricity," explained Tom.

 

"That is, the force comes from a powerful current of stored

electricity."

 

"Oh, then you have storage batteries in the stock?"

 

"Not exactly. There are no batteries, but the current is a sort of

wireless kind. It is stored in a cylinder, just as compressed air or

gases are stored, and can be released as I need it."

 

"And when it's all gone, what do you do?"

 

"Make more power by means of a small dynamo."

 

"And does it shoot lead bullets?"

 

"Not at all. There are no bullets used."

 

"Then how does it kill?"

 

"By means of a concentrated charge of electricity which is shot from

the barrel with great force. You can't see it, yet it is there. It's

just as if you concentrated a charge of electricity of five thousand

volts into a small globule the size of a bullet. That flies through

space, strikes the object aimed at and--well, we'll see what it does

in a minute. Mr. Jackson, just put that steel plate up in front of

the scarecrow; will you?"

 

The engineer proceeded to put into place a section of steel armor-plate

before the stuffed figure.

 

"You don't mean to say you're going to shoot through that, do you?"

asked Ned in surprise.

 

"Surely. The electric bullets will pierce anything. They'll go

through a brick wall as easily as the x-rays do. That's one valuable

feature of my rifle. You don't have to see the object you aim at. In

fact you can fire through a house, and kill something on the other

side."

 

"I should think that would be dangerous."

 

"It would be, only I can calculate exactly, by means of an automatic

arrangement, just how far the charge of electricity will go. It

stops short just at the limit of the range, and is not effective

beyond that. Otherwise, if I did not limit it and if I fired at the

scarecrow, through the piece of steel, and the bullet hit the

figure, it would go on, passing through whatever else was in the

way, until its power was lost. I use the term 'bullet,' though as I

said, it isn't properly one."

 

"By Jove, Tom, it certainly is a dangerous weapon!"

 

"Yes, the range-limit idea is a new one. That's what I've been

working on lately. There are other features of the gun which I'll

explain later, particularly the power it has to shoot out luminous

bars of light. But now we'll see what it will do to the image."

 

Tom took his place at the end of the range, and began to adjust some

valves and levers. In spite of the fact that the gun was larger than

an ordinary rifle, it was not as heavy as the United States Army

weapon.

 

Tom aimed at the armor-plate, and, by means of an arrangement on the

rifle, he could tell exactly when he was pointing at the scarecrow,

even though he could not see it.

 

"Here she goes!" he suddenly exclaimed.

 

Ned watched his chum. The young inventor pressed a small button at

the side of the rifle barrel, about where the trigger should have

been. There was no sound, no smoke, no flame and not the slightest

jar.

 

Yet as Ned watched he saw the steel plate move slightly. The next

instant the scarecrow figure seemed to fly all to pieces. There was

a shower of straw, rags and old clothes, which fell in a shapeless

heap at the end of the range.

 

"Say. I guess you did for that fellow, all right!" exclaimed Ned.

 

"It looks so," admitted Tom, with a note of pride in his voice. "Now

we'll try another test."

 

As he laid aside his rifle in order to help Mr. Jackson shift the

steel plate there was a series of yells outside the shed.

 

"What's that?" asked Tom, in some alarm.

 

"Sounds like some one calling," answered Ned.

 

"It is," agreed Mr. Jackson. "Perhaps Eradicate's mule has gotten

loose. I guess we'd better--"

 

He did not finish, for the shouts increased in volume, and Tom and

Ned could hear some one yelling:

 

"I'll have the law on you for this! I'll have you arrested, Tom

Swift! What do you mean by trying to kill me? Where are you? Don't

try to hide away, now. You were trying to shoot me, and I'm not

going to have it!"

 

Some one pounded on the door of the shed.

 

"It's Barney Moker!" exclaimed Tom. "I wonder what can have

happened?"

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER III

 

A DIFFICULT TEST

 

 

Tom Swift opened the door of the improvised rifle gallery and looked

out. By the light of a full moon, which shone down from a cloudless

sky, he saw a man standing at the portal. The man's face was

distorted with rage, and he shook his fist at the young inventor.

 

"What do you mean by shooting at me?" he demanded. "What do you

mean, I say? The idea of scaring honest folks out of their wits, and

making 'em think the end of the world has come! What do you mean by

it? Why don't you answer me? I say, Tom Swift, why don't you answer

me?"

 

"Because you don't give me a chance, Mr. Moker," replied our hero.

 

"I want to know why you shot at me? I demand to know!" and Mr.

Moker, who was a sort of miserly town character, living all alone in

a small house, just beyond Tom's home, again shook his fist almost

in the lad's face. "Why don't you tell me? Why don't you tell me?"

he shouted.

 

"I will, if you give me a chance!" fairly exploded Tom. "If you can

be cool for five minutes, and come inside and tell me what happened

I'll be glad to answer any of your questions, Mr. Moker. I didn't

shoot at you."

 

"Yes, you did! You tried to shoot a hole through me!"

 

"Tell me about it?" suggested Tom, as the excited man calmed down

somewhat. "Are you hurt?"

 

"No, but it isn't your fault that I'm not. You tried hard enough to

hurt me. Here I am, sitting at my table reading, and, all at once

something goes through the side of the house, whizzes past my ear,

makes my hair fairly stand up on end, and goes outside the other

side of the house. What kind of bullets do you use, Tom Swift?

that's what I want to know. They went through the side of my house,

and never left a mark. I demand to know what kind they are."

 

"I'll tell you, if you'll only give me a chance," went on Tom

wearily. "How do you know it was me shooting?"

 

"How do I know? Why, doesn't the end of this shooting gallery of

yours point right at my house? Of course it does; you can't deny

it!"

 

Tom did not attempt to, and Mr. Moker went on:

 

"Now what do you mean by it?"

 

"If any of the bullets from my electric gun went near you, it was a

mistake, and I'm sorry for it," said Tom.

 

"Well, they did, all right," declared the excited man. "They went

right past my ear."

 

"I don't see how they could," declared Tom. "I was trying my new

electric rifle, but I had the limit set for two hundred feet, the

length of the gallery. That is, the electrical discharge couldn't go

beyond that distance."

 

"I don't know what it was, but it went through the side of my house

all the same," insisted Mr. Moker. "It didn't make a hole, but it

scorched the wall paper a little."

 

"I don't see how it could," declared Tom. "It couldn't possibly have

gone over two hundred feet with the gage set for that distance." He

paused suddenly, and hurried over to where he had placed his gun.

Catching up the weapon he looked at the gage dial. Then he uttered

an exclamation.

 

"I'm sorry to admit that you are right, Mr. Moker!" he said finally.

"I made a mistake. The gage is set for a thousand feet instead of

two hundred. I forgot to change it. The charge, after passing

through the steel plate, and the scarecrow figure, destroying the

latter, went on, and shot through the side of your house."

 

"Ha! I knew you were trying to shoot me!" exclaimed the still angry

man. "I'll have the law on you for this!"

 

"Oh, that's all nonsense!" broke in Ned Newton. "Everybody knows Tom

Swift wouldn't try to shoot you, or any one else, Mr. Moker."

 

"Then why did he shoot at me?"

 

"That was a mistake," explained Tom, "and I apologize to you for

it."

 

"Humph! A lot of good that would do me, if I'd been killed!"

muttered the miser. "I'm going to sue you for this. You might have

put me in my grave."

 

"Impossible!" exclaimed Tom.

 

"Why impossible?" demanded the visitor.

 

"Because I had so set the rifle that almost the entire force of the

electrical bullet was expended in blowing apart the scarecrow figure

I made for a test," explained Tom. "All that passed through your

house was a small charge, and, if it HAD hit you there would have

been no more than a little shock, such as you would feel in taking

hold of an electric battery."

 

"How do I know this?" asked the man cunningly. "You say so, but for

all I know you may have wanted to kill me."

 

"Why?" asked Tom, trying not to laugh.

 

"Oh, so you might get some of my money. Of course I ain't got none,"

the miser went on quickly, "but folks thinks I've got a lot, and I

have to be on the lookout all the while, or they'd murder me for

it."

 

"I wouldn't," declared the young inventor. "It was a mistake. Only

part of the spent charge passed near you. Why, if it had been a

powerful charge you would never have been able to come over here. I

set the main charge to go off inside the scarecrow, and it did so,

as you can see by looking at what's left of it," and he pointed to

the pile of clothes and rags.

 

"How do I know this?" insisted the miser with a leer at the two

lads.

 

"Because if the charge had gone off either before or after it passed

through the figure, it would not have caused such havoc of the cloth

and straw," explained Tom. "First the charge would have destroyed

the steel plate, which it passed through without even denting it.

Why, look here, I will now fire the rifle at short range, and set it

to destroy the plate. See what happens."

 

He quickly adjusted the weapon, and aimed it at the plate, which,

had again been set up on the range. This time Tom was careful to set

the gage so that even a small part of the spent. charge would not go

outside the gallery.

 

The young inventor pressed the button, and instantly the heavy steel

plate was bent, torn and twisted as though a small sized cannon ball

had gone through it.

 

"That's what the rifle will do at short range," said Tom. "Don't

worry, Mr. Moker, you didn't have a narrow escape. You were in no

danger at all, though I apologize for the fright I caused you."

 

"Humph! That's an easy way to get out of it!" exclaimed the miser.

"I believe I could sue you for damages, anyhow. Look at my scorched

wall paper."

 

"Oh, I'll pay for that," said Tom quickly, for he did not wish to

have trouble with the unpleasant man. "Will ten dollars be enough?"

He knew that the whole room could be repapered for that, and he did

not believe the wall-covering was sufficiently damaged for such work

to be necessary.

 

"Well, if you'll make it twelve dollars, I won't say anything more

about it," agreed the miser craftily, "though it's worth thirteen

dollars, if it is a penny. Give me twelve dollars, Tom Swift, and I

won't prosecute you."

 

"All right, twelve dollars it shall be," responded the young

inventor, passing over the money, and glad to be rid of the

unpleasant character.

 

"And after this, just fire that gun of yours the other way,"

suggested Mr. Moker as he went out, carefully folding the bills

which Tom had handed him.

 

"Hum! that was rather queer," remarked Ned, after a pause.

 

"It sure was," agreed his chum. "This rifle will do more than I

thought it would. I'll have to be more careful. I was sure I set the

gage for two hundred feet. I'll have to invent some automatic

attachment to prevent it being discharged when the gage is set

wrong." Let us state here that Tom did this, and never had another

accident.

 

"Well, does this end the test?" asked Ned.

 

"No, indeed. I want you to try it, while I look on," spoke Tom. "We

haven't any more stuffed figures to fire at, but I'll set up some

targets. Come on, try your luck at a shot."

 

"I'm afraid I might disturb Mr. Moker, or some of the neighbors."

 

"No danger. I've got it adjusted right now. Come on, see if you can

shatter this steel target," and Tom set up a small one at the end of

the range.

 

Then, having properly fixed the weapon, Tom handed it to his chum,

and, taking his place in a protected part of the gallery, prepared

to watch the effect of the shot.

 

"Let her go!" cried Tom, and Ned pressed the button.

 

The effect was wonderful. Though there was no noise, smoke nor

flame, the steel plate seemed to crumple up, and collapse as if it

had been melted in the fire. There was a jagged hole through the

center, but some frail boards back of it were not even splintered.

 

"Good shot!" cried Tom enthusiastically. "I had the distance gage

right that time."

 

"You sure did," agreed Ned. "The electric bullet stopped as soon as

it did its work on the plate. What's next?"

 

"I'm going to try a difficult test," explained Tom. "You know I said

the gun would shoot luminous charges?" "Yes."

 

"Well, I'm going to try that, now. I wish we had another image to

shoot at, but I'll take a big dry-goods box, and make believe it's

an elephant. Now, this is going to be a hard test, such as we'd meet

with, if we were hunting in Africa. I want you to help me."

 

"What am I to do?" asked Ned.

 

"I want you to go outside," explained Tom, "set up a dry-goods box

against the side of the little hill back of the shed, and not tell

me where you put it. Then I'll go out, and, by means of the luminous

charge, I'll locate the box, set the distance gage, and destroy it."

 

"Well, you can see it anyhow, in the moonlight," objected Ned.

 

"No, the moon is under a cloud now," explained Tom, looking out of a

window. "It's quite dark, and will give me just the test I want for

my new electric rifle."

 

"But won't it be dangerous, firing in the dark? Suppose you misjudge

the distance, and the bullet, or charge, files off and hits some

one?"

 

"It can't. I'll set the distance gage before I shoot. But if I

should happen to make a mistake the charge will go into the side of

the hill, and spend itself there. There is no danger. Go ahead, and

set up the box, and then come and tell me. Mr. Jackson will help

you."

 

Ned and the engineer left the gallery. As Tom had, said, it was very

dark now, and if Tom could see in the night to hit a box some

distance away, his weapon would be all that he claimed for it.

 

"This will do," said the engineer, as he pointed to a box, one of

several piled up outside the shed. The two could hardly see to make

their way along, carrying it to the foot of the hill, and they

stumbled several times. But at last it was in position, and then Ned

departed to call Tom, and have him try the difficult test--that of

hitting an object in the dark.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

BIG TUSKS WANTED

 

 

"Well, are you all ready for me?" asked the young inventor, as he

took up his curious weapon, and followed Ned out into the yard. It

was so dark that they had fairly to stumble along.

 

"Yes, we're ready," answered Ned. "And you'll be a good one, Tom, if

you do this stunt. Now stand here, "he went on, as he indicated a

place as well as he could in the dark. The box is somewhere in that

direction," and he waved his hand vaguely. "I'm not going to tell

you any more, and let's see you find it.

 

"Oh, I will, all right--or, rather, my electric rifle will,"

asserted Tom.

 

The inventor of the curious and terrible weapon took his position.

Behind him stood Ned and Mr. Jackson, and just before Tom was ready

to fire, his father came stalking through the darkness, calling to

them.

 

"Are you there, Tom?"

 

"Yes Dad, is anything the matter?"

 

"No, but I thought I'd like to see what luck you have. Rad was

saying you were going to have a test in the dark."

 

"I'm about ready for it," replied Tom. "I'm going to blow up a box

that I can't see. You know how it's done, Dad, for you helped me in

perfecting the luminous charge, but it's going to be something of a

novelty to the others. Here we go, now!"

 

Tom raised his rifle, and aimed it in the dark. Ned Newton,

straining his eyes to see, was sure the young inventor was pointing

the gun at least twenty feet to one side of where the box was

located, but he said nothing, for from experiences in the past, he

realized that Tom knew what he was doing.

 

There was a little clicking sound, as the youth moved some gear

wheel on his gun. Then there came a faint crackling noise, like some

distant wireless apparatus beginning to flash a message through

space.

 

Suddenly a little ball of purplish light shot through the darkness

and sped forward like some miniature meteor. It shed a curious

illuminating glow all about, and the ground, and the objects on it

were brought into relief as by a lightning flash.

 

An instant later the light increased in intensity, and seemed to

burst like some piece of aerial fireworks. There was a bright glare,

in which Ned and the others could see the various buildings about

the shed. They could see each other's faces, and they looked pale

and ghastly in the queer glow. They could see the box, brought into

bold relief, where Ned and the engineer had placed it.

 

Then, before the light had died away, they witnessed a curious

sight. The heavy wooden box seemed to dissolve, to collapse and to

crumple up like one of paper, and ere the last rays of the

illuminating bullet faded, the watchers saw the splinters of wood

fall back with a clatter in a little heap on the spot where the

dry-goods case had been.

 

A silence followed, and the darkness was all the blacker by contrast

with the intense light. At length Tom spoke, and he could not keep

from his voice a note of triumph.

 

"Well, did I do it?" he asked.

 

"You sure did!" exclaimed Ned heartily.

 

"Fine!" cried Mr. Swift.

 

"Golly! I wouldn't gib much fo' de hide ob any burglar what comed

around heah!" muttered Eradicate Sampson. "Dat box am knocked clean

into nuffiness, Massa Tom."

 

"That's what I wanted to do," explained the lad. "And I guess this

will end the test for tonight."

 

"But I don't exactly understand it," spoke Ned, as they all moved

toward the Swift home, Eradicate going to the stable to see how his

mule was. "Do you have two kinds of bullets, Tom, one for night and

one for the daytime?"

 

"No," answered Tom, "there is only one kind of bullet, and, as I

have said, that isn't a bullet at all. That is, you can't see it, or

handle it, but you can feel it. Strictly speaking, it is a

concentrated discharge of wireless electricity directed against a

certain object. You can't see it any more than you can see a

lightning bolt, though that is sometimes visible as a ball of fire.

My electric rifle bullets are similar to a discharge of lightning,

except that they are invisible."

 

"But we saw the one just now," objected Ned.

 

"No, you didn't see the bullet," said Tom.

 

"You saw the illuminating flash which I send out just before I fire,

to reveal the object I am to hit. That is another part of my rifle

and is only used at night."

 

"You see I shoot out a ball of electrical fire which will disclose

the target, or the enemy at whom I am firing. As soon as that is

discharged the rifle automatically gets ready to shoot the electric

charge, and I have only to press the proper button, and the

'bullet,' as I call it, follows on the heels of the ball of light.

Do you see?"

 

"Perfectly," exclaimed Ned with a laugh. "What a gun that would be

for hunting, since most all wild beasts come out only at night."

 

"That was one object in making this invention," said Tom. "I only

hope I get a chance to use it now."

 

"I thought you were going to Africa after elephants," spoke Mr.

Swift.

 

"Well, I did think of it." admitted Tom, "but I haven't made any

definite plans. But come into the house, Ned. and I'll show you more

in detail how my rifle works."

 

Thereupon the two chums spent some time going into the mysteries of

the new weapon. Mr. Swift and Mr. Jackson were also much interested,

for, though they had seen the gun previously and had helped Tom

perfect it, they had not yet tired of discussing its merits.

 

Ned stayed quite late that night, and promised to come over the next

day, and watch Tom do some more shooting.

 

"I'll show you how to use it, too," promised the young inventor, and

he was as good as his word, initiating Ned into the mysteries of the

electric rifle, and showing him to store the charges of death-dealing

electricity in the queer-looking stock.

 

For a week after that Tom and Ned practiced with the terrible gun,

taking care not to have any more mishaps like the one that had

marked the first night. They were both good shots with ordinary

weapons and it was not long before they had equaled their record

with the new instrument.

 

It was one warm afternoon, when Tom was out in the meadow at one

side of his house, practicing with his rifle on some big boxes he

had set up for targets, that he saw an elderly man standing close to

the fence watching him. When Tom blew to pieces a particularly large

packing-case, standing a long distance away from it, the stranger

called to the youth.

 

"I beg your pardon," he said, "but is that a dynamite gun you are

using?"

 

"No, it's an electric rifle," was the answer.

 

"Would you mind telling me something about it?" went on the elderly

man, and as Tom's weapon was now fully protected by patents, the

young inventor cordially invited the stranger to come nearer and see

how it worked.

 

"That's the greatest thing I ever saw!" exclaimed the man

enthusiastically when Tom had blown up another box, and had told of

the illumination for night firing. "The most wonderful weapon I ever

heard of! What a gun it would be in my business."

 

"What is your trade?" asked Tom curiously, for he had noted that the

man, while aged, was rugged and hearty, and his skin was tanned a

leathery brown, showing that he was much in the open air.

 

"I'm a hunter," was the reply, "a hunter of big game, principally

elephants, hippos and rhinoceroses. I've just finished a season in

Africa, and I'm going back there again soon. I came on to New York

to get a new elephant gun. I've got a sister living over in

Waterford, and I've been visiting her. I went out for a stroll

to-day, and I came farther than I intended. That's how I happened to be

passing here."

 

"A sister in Waterford, eh?" mused Tom, wondering whether the

elephant hunter had met Mr. Damon. "And how soon are you going hack

to Africa, Mr.--er--" and Tom hesitated.

 

"Durban is my name, Alexander Durban," said the old man. "Why, I am

to start back in a few weeks. I've got an order for a pair of big

elephant tusks--the largest I can get for a wealthy New York man,--and

I'm anxious to fulfil the contract. The game isn't what it once

was. There's more competition and the elephants are scarcer. So I've

got to hustle."

 

"I got me a new gun. but my! it's nothing to what yours is. With

that weapon I could do about as I pleased. I could do night hunting,

which is hard in the African jungle. Then I wouldn't have any

trouble getting the big tusks I'm after. I could get a pair of them,

and live easy the rest of my life. Yes, I wouldn't ask anything

better than a gun like yours. But I s'pose they cost like the

mischief?" He looked a question at Tom.

 

"This is the only one there is," was the lad's answer. "But I am

very glad to have met you, Mr. Durban. Won't you come into the

house? I'm sure my father will be glad to see you, and I have

something I'd like to talk to you about," and Tom, with many wild

ideas in his head, led the old elephant hunter toward the house.

 

The dream of the young inventor might come true after all.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER V

 

RUSH WORK

 

 

Mr. Swift made the African hunter warmly welcome, and listened with

pride to the words of praise Mr. Durban bestowed on Tom regarding

the rifle.

 

"Yes, my boy has certainly done wonders along the inventive line,"

said Mr. Swift.

 

"Not half as much as you have, Dad," interrupted the lad, for Tom

was a modest youth.

 

"You should see his sky racer," went on the old inventor.

 

"Sky racer? What's that?" asked Mr. Durban. "Is it another kind of

gun or cannon?"

 

"It's an aeroplane--an airship," explained Mr. Swift.

 

"An airship!" exclaimed the old elephant hunter. "Say, you don't

mean that you make balloons, do you?"

 

"Well, they're not exactly balloons," replied Tom, as he briefly

explained what an aeroplane was, for Mr. Durban, having been in the

wilds of the jungle so much, had had very little chance to see the

wonders and progress of civilization.

 

"They are better than balloons," went on Tom, "for they can go where

you want them to."

 

"Say! That's the very thing!" cried the old hunter enthusiastically.

"If there's one thing more than another that is needed in hunting in

Africa it's an airship. The travel through the jungle is something

fierce, and that, more than anything else, interferes with my work.

I can't cover ground enough, and when I do get on the track of a

herd of elephants, and they get away, it's sometimes a week before I

can catch up to them again."

 

"For, in spite of their size, elephants can travel very fast, and

once they get on the go, nothing can stop them. An airship would be

the very thing to hunt elephants with in Africa--an airship and this

electric rifle. I wonder why you haven't thought of going, Tom

Swift."

 

"I have thought of it," answered the young inventor, "and that's why

I asked you in. I want to talk about it."

 

"Do you mean you want to go?" demanded the old man eagerly.

 

"I certainly do!"

 

"Then I'm your man! Say, Tom Swift, I'd be proud to have you go to

Africa with me. I'd be proud to have you a member of my hunting

party, and, though I don't like to boast, still if you'll ask any of

the big-game people they'll tell you that not every one can

accompany Aleck Durban."

 

Tom realized that he was speaking to an authority and a most

desirable companion, should he go to Africa, and he was very glad of

the chance that had made him acquainted with the veteran hunter.

 

"Will you go with me?" asked Mr. Durban. "You and your electric gun

and your airship? Will you come to Africa to hunt elephants, and

help me get the big tusks I'm after?"

 

"I will!" exclaimed Tom.

 

"Then we'll start at once. There's no need of delaying here any

longer."

 

"Oh, but I haven't an airship ready," said the young inventor. The

face of the old hunter expressed his disappointment.

 

"Then we'll have to give up the scheme," he said ruefully.

 

"Not at all," Tom told him. "I have all the material on hand for

building a new airship. I have had it in mind for some time, and I

have done some work on it. I stopped it to perfect my electric

rifle, but, now that is done, I'll tackle the Black Hawk again, and

rush that to completion."

 

"The Black Hawk?" repeated Mr. Durban, wonderingly.

 

"Yes, that's what I will name my new craft. The RED CLOUD was

destroyed, and so I thought I'd change the color this time, and

avoid bad luck."

 

"Good!" exclaimed the hunter. "When do you think you can have it

finished?"

 

"Oh, possibly in a month--perhaps sooner, and then we will go to

Africa and hunt elephants!"

 

"Bless my ivory paper cutter!" exclaimed a voice in the hall just

outside the library. "Bless my fingernails! But who's talking about

going to Africa?"

 

The old hunter looked at Tom and his father in surprise, but the

young inventor laughing and going to the door, called out:

 

"Come on in, Mr. Damon. I didn't hear you ring. There is some one

here from your town."

 

"Is it my wife?" asked the odd gentleman who was always blessing

something. "She said she was going to her mother's to spend a few

weeks, and so I thought I'd come over here and see if you had

anything new on the program. The first thing I hear is that you are

going to Africa. And so there's some one from Waterford in there,

eh? Is it my wife?"

 

"No," answered Tom with another laugh. "Come on in Mr. Damon."

 

"Bless my toothpick!" exclaimed the odd gentleman, as he saw the

grizzled elephant hunter sitting between Tom and Mr. Swift. "I have

seen you somewhere before, my dear sir."

 

"Yes," admitted Mr. Durban, "if you're from Waterford you have

probably seen me traveling about the streets there. I'm stopping

with my sister, Mrs. Douglass, but I can't stand it to be in the

house much, so I'm out of doors, wandering about a good bit of the

time. I miss my jungle. But we'll soon be in Africa, Tom Swift and

me."

 

"Is it possible, Tom?" asked Mr. Damon. "Bless my diamond mines! but

what are you going to do next?"

 

"It's hard to say," was the answer. "But you came just in time. Mr.

Damon. I'm going to rush work on the Black Hawk, my newest airship,

and we'll leave for elephant land inside of a month, taking my new

electric rifle along. Will you come"

 

"Bless my penknife! I never thought of such a thing. I--I--guess--no,

I don't know about it--yes, I'll go!" he suddenly exclaimed.

"I'll, go! Hurrah for the elephants!" and he jumped up and shook

hands in turn with Mr. Durban, to whom he had been formally

introduced, and with Tom and Mr. Swift.

 

"Then it's all settled but the details," declared the youth, "and

now I'll call in Mr. Jackson, and we'll talk about how soon we can

have the airship ready."

 

"My, but you folks are almost as speedy as a herd of the big

elephants themselves!" exclaimed Mr. Durban, and with the advent of

the engineer the talk turned to things mechanical among Tom and Mr.

Jackson and Mr. Damon, while Mr. Durban told Mr. Swift hunting

stories which the old inventor greatly enjoyed.

 

The next day Tom engaged two machinists who had worked for him

building airships before, and in the next week rush work began on

the new Black Hawk. Meanwhile Mr. Durban was a frequent visitor at

Tom's home, where he learned to use the new rifle, declaring it was

even more wonderful than he had at first supposed.

 

"That will get the elephants!" he exclaimed. It did, as you shall

soon learn, and it also was the means of saving several lives in the

wilds of the African jungle.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

NEWS FROM ANDY

 

 

Tom Swift's former airship, the Red Cloud, had been such a fine

craft, and had done such good service that he thought, in building a

successor, that he could do no better than to follow the design of

the skyship which had been destroyed in the ice caves. But, on

talking with the old elephant hunter, and learning something of the

peculiarities of the African jungle the young inventor decided on

certain changes.

 

In general the Black Hawk would be on the lines of the Red Cloud but

it would be smaller and lighter and would also be capable of swifter

motion.

 

"You want it so that it will rise and descend quickly and at sharp

angles," said Mr. Durban.

 

"Why," inquired Tom.

 

"Because in Africa, at least in the part where we will go, there are

wide patches of jungle and forest, with here and there big open

places. If you are skimming along close to the ground, in an open

place, in pursuit of a herd of elephants and they should suddenly

plunge into the forest, you would want to be able to rise above the

trees quickly."

 

"That's so," admitted Tom. "Then I'll have to use a smaller gas bag

than we had on the other ship, for the air resistance to that big

one made us go slowly at times."

 

"Will it be as safe with a small bag?" Mr. Damon wanted to know.

 

"Yes, for I will use a more powerful gas, so that we will be more

quickly lifted," said the young inventor. "I will also retain the

aeroplane feature, so that the Black Hawk will be a combined biplane

and dirigible balloon. But it will have many new features. I have

the plans all drawn for a new style of gas generating apparatus, and

I think it can be made in time."

 

There were busy days about the Swift home. Mrs. Baggert, the

housekeeper, was in despair. She said the good meals she got ready

were wasted, because no one would come to table when they were

ready. She would ring the bell, and announce that dinner would be

served in five minutes.

 

Then Tom would shout from his workshop that he could not leave until

he had inserted a certain lever in place. Mr. Jackson would

positively decline to sit down until he had screwed fast some part

of a machine. Even Mr. Swift, who, because of his recent illness,

was not allowed to do much, would often delay his meal to test some

new style of gears.

 

As for Mr. Damon, it was to be expected that he would be eccentric

as he always was. He was not an expert mechanic, but he knew

something of machinery and was of considerable help to Tom in the

rush work on the airship. He would hear the dinner bell ring, and

would exclaim:

 

"Bless my napkin ring! I can't come now. I have to fix up this

electrical register first."

 

And so it would go. Eradicate and Boomerang, his mule, were the only

ones who ate regularly, and they always insisted on stopping at

exactly twelve o'clock to partake of the noonday meal.

 

"'Cause ef I didn't," explained the colored man, "dat contrary mule

ob mine would lay down in de dust ob de road an' not move a step,

lessen' he got his oats. So dat's why we has t' eat, him an' me."

 

"Well, I'm glad there's some one who's got sense," murmured Mrs.

Baggert. Eradicate and Boomerang were of great service in the

hurried work that followed, for the colored man in his cart brought

from town, or from the freight depot, many things that Tom needed.

 

The young inventor was very enthusiastic about his proposed trip,

and at night, after a hard day's work in the shop, he would read

books on African hunting, or he would sit and listen to the stories

told by Mr. Durban. And the latter knew how to tell hunting tales,

for he had been long in his dangerous calling, and had had many

narrow escapes.

 

"And there are other dangers than from elephants and wild beasts in

Africa," he said.

 

"Bless my toothbrush!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Do you mean cannibals,

Mr. Durban?"

 

"Some cannibals," was the reply. "but they're not the worst. I mean

the red pygmies. I hope we don't get into their clutches."

 

"Red pygmies!" repeated Tom, wonderingly.

 

"Yes, they're a tribe of little creatures, about three feet high,

covered with thick reddish hair, who live in the central part of

Africa, near some of the best elephant-hunting ground. They are

wild, savage and ferocious, and what they lack individually in

strength, they make up in numbers. They're like little red apes, and

woe betide the unlucky hunter who falls into their merciless hands.

They treat him worse than the cannibals do."

 

"Then we'll look out for them," said Tom. "But I fancy my electric

rifle will make them give us a wide berth."

 

"It's a great gun," admitted the old hunter with a shake of his

head, "but those red pygmies are terrible creatures. I hope we don't

get them on our trail. But tell me, Tom, how are you coming on with

the airship? for I don't know much about mechanics, and to me it

looks as if it would never be put together. I's like one of those

queer puzzles I've seen 'em selling in the streets of London."

 

"Oh, it's nearer ready than it looks to be," said Tom. "We'll have

it assembled, and ready for a trial in about two weeks more."

 

Work on the Black Hawk was rushed more than ever in the next few

days, another extra machinist being engaged. Then the craft began to

assume shape and form, and with the gas bag partly inflated and the

big planes stretching out from either side, it began to look

something like the ill-fated Red Cloud.

 

"It's going to be a fine ship!" cried Tom enthusiastically, one day,

as he went to the far side of the ship to get a perspective view of

it. "We'll make good time in this."

 

"Are you going to sail all the way to Africa--across the ocean--in

her?" asked Mr. Durban, in somewhat apprehensive tones.

 

"Oh, no," replied Tom. "I believe she would be capable of taking us

across the ocean, but there is no need of running any unnecessary

risks. I want to get her safely to Africa, and have her do stunts in

elephant land."

 

"Then what are your plans?" asked the hunter.

 

"We'll put her together here," said Tom, "give her a good try-out to

see that she works well, and then pack her up for shipment to the

African coast by steamer. We'll go on the same ship, and when we

arrive we'll put the Black Hawk together again, and set sail for the

interior."

 

"Good idea," commented Mr. Durban. "Now, if you've no objections,

I'm going to do a little practice with the electric rifle."

 

"Go ahead," assented Tom. "There comes Ned Newton; he'll be glad of

a chance for a few shots while I work on this new propeller motor.

It just doesn't suit me."

 

The bank clerk, who had arranged to go to Africa with Tom, was seen

advancing toward the aeroplane shed. In his hand Ned held a paper,

and as he saw Tom he called out:

 

"Have you heard the news?"

 

"What news?" inquired the young inventor.

 

"About Andy Foger. He and his aeroplane are lost!"

 

"Lost!" cried Tom, for in spite of the mean way the bully had

treated him our hero did not wish him any harm.

 

"Well, not exactly lost," went on Ned, as he held out the paper to

Tom, "but he and his sky-craft have disappeared."

 

"Disappeared?"

 

"Yes. You know he and that German, Mr. Landbacher, went over to

Europe to give some aviation exhibitions. Well, I see by this paper

that they went to Egypt, and were doing a high-flying stunt there,

when a gale sprang up, they lost control of the aeroplane and it was

swept out of sight."

 

"In which direction; out to sea?"

 

"No, toward the interior of Africa."

 

"Toward the interior of Africa!" cried Tom. "And that's where we're

going in a couple of weeks. Andy in Africa!"

 

"'Maybe we'll see him there," suggested Ned.

 

"Well, I certainly hope we do not!" exclaimed Tom, as he turned back

to his work, with an undefinable sense of fear in his heart.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

THE BLACK HAWK FLIES

 

 

It was with no little surprise that the news of the plight that was

said to have befallen Andy Foger was received by Tom and his

associates. The newspaper had quite an account of the affair, and,

even allowing the usual discount for the press dispatches, it looked

as if the former bully was in rather distressing circumstances.

 

"He won't have to be carried very far into Africa to be in a bad

country," said the old hunter. "Of course, some parts of the

continent are all right, and for me, I like it all, where there's

hunting to be had. But I guess your young friend Foger won't care

for it."

 

"He's no friend of ours." declared Ned, as Tom was reading the

newspaper account. "Still, I don't wish him any bad luck, and I do

hope he doesn't become the captive of the red pygmies."

 

"So do I," echoed the old hunter fervently. There was no news of

Andy in the papers the next day, though there were cable dispatches

speculating on what might have happened to him and the airship. In

Shopton the dispatches created no little comment, and it was said

that Mr. Foger was going to start for Africa at once to rescue his

son. This, however, could not be confirmed.

 

Meanwhile Tom and his friends were very busy over the Black Hawk.

Every hour saw the craft nearer completion, for the young inventor

had had much experience in this sort of work now, and knew just how

to proceed.

 

To Mr. Damon were intrusted certain things which he could well

attend to, and though he frequently stopped to bless his necktie or

his shoelaces, still he got along fairly well.

 

There would be no necessity of purchasing supplies in this country,

for they could get all they needed in the African city of Majumba,

on the western coast, where they planned to land. There the airship

would be put together, stocked with provisions and supplies, and

they would begin their journey inland. They planned to head for Buka

Meala, crossing the Congo River, and then go into the very interior

of the heart of the dark continent.

 

As we have described in detail, in the former books of this series,

the construction of Tom Swift's airship, the Red Cloud, and as the

Black Hawk was made in a similar manner to that, we will devote but

brief space to it now. As the story proceeds, and the need arises

for a description of certain features, we will give them to you, so

that you will have a clear idea of what a wonderful craft it was.

 

Sufficient to say that there was a gas bag, made of a light but

strong material, and capable of holding enough vapor, of a new and

secret composition, to lift the airship with its load. This was the

dirigible-balloon feature of the craft, and with the two powerful

propellers, fore and aft (in which particular the Black Hawk

differed from the Red Cloud which had two forward propellers);--with

these two powerful wooden screws, as we have said, the new ship

could travel swiftly without depending on the wing planes.

 

But as there is always a possibility of the gas bag being punctured,

or the vapor suddenly escaping from one cause or another, Tom did

not depend on this alone to keep his craft afloat. It was a perfect

aeroplane, and with the gas bag entirely empty could be sent

scudding along at any height desired. To enable it to rise by means

of the wings, however, it was necessary to start it in motion along

the ground, and for this purpose wheels were provided.

 

There was a large body or car to the craft, suspended from beneath

the gas bag, and in this car were the cabins, the living, sleeping

and eating apartments, the storerooms and the engine compartment.

 

This last was a marvel of skill, for it contained besides the gas

machine, and the motor for working the propellers, dynamos, gages,

and instruments for telling the speed and height, motors for doing

various pieces of work, levers, wheels, cogs, gears, tanks for

storing the lifting gas, and other features of interest.

 

There were several staterooms for the use of the young captain and

the passengers, an observation and steering tower, a living-room,

where they could all assemble as the ship was sailing through the

air, and a completely equipped kitchen.

 

This last was Mr. Damon's special pride, as he was a sort of cook,

and he liked nothing better than to get up a meal when the craft was

two or three miles high, and scudding along at seventy-five miles an

hour.

 

In addition there were to be taken along many scientific

instruments, weapons of defense and offense, in addition to the

electric rifle, and various other objects which will be spoken of in

due time.

 

"Well," remarked Tom Swift one afternoon, following a hard day's

work in the shop, "I think, if all goes well, and we have good

weather, I'll give the Black Hawk a trial tomorrow."

 

"Do you think it will fly?" asked Ned.

 

"There is no telling," was the answer of the young inventor. "These

things are more or less guesswork, even when you make two exactly

alike. As far as I can tell, we have now a better craft than the Red

Cloud was, but it remains to be seen how she will behave."

 

They worked late that night, putting the finishing touches on the

Black Hawk, and in the morning the new airship was wheeled out of

the shed, and placed on the level starting ground, ready for the

trial flight.

 

Only the bare machinery was in her, as yet, and the gas bag had not

been inflated as Tom wanted to try the plane feature first. But the

vapor machine was all ready to start generating the gas whenever it

was needed. Nor was the Black Hawk painted and decorated as she

would be when ready to be sent to Africa. On the whole, she looked

rather crude as she rested there on the bicycle wheels, awaiting the

starting of the big propellers. As the stores and supplies were not

yet in, Tom took aboard, in addition to Mr. Damon, Ned, his father,

Mr. Jackson and Mr. Durban, some bags of sand to represent the extra

weight that would have to be carried.

 

"If she'll rise with this load she'll do," announced the young

inventor, as he went carefully over the craft, looking to see that

everything was in shape.

 

"If she does rise it will be a new experience for me," spoke the old

elephant hunter. "I've never been in an airship before. It doesn't

seem possible that we can get up in the air with this machine."

 

"Maybe we won't," spoke Tom, who was always a little diffident about

a new piece of machinery.

 

"Well, if it doesn't do it the first time, it will the second, or

the fifty-second," declared Ned Newton. "Tom Swift doesn't give up

until he succeeds."

 

"Stop it! You'll make me blush!" cried the Black Hawk's owner as he

tried the different gages and levers to see that they were all

right.

 

After what seemed like a long time he gave the word for those who

were to make the trial trip to take their places. They did so, and

then, with Mr. Jackson, Tom went to the engine room. There was a

little delay, due to the fact that some adjustment was necessary on

the main motor. But at last it was fixed.

 

"Are you all ready?" called Tom.

 

"All ready," answered Mr. Damon. The old elephant hunter sat in a

chair, nervously gripping the arms, and with a grim look on his

tanned face. Mr. Swift was cool, as Ned, for they had made many

trips in the air. Outside were Eradicate Sampson and Mrs. Baggert.

 

"Here we go!" suddenly cried Tom, and he yanked over the lever that

started the main motor and propellers. The Black Hawk trembled

throughout her entire length. She shivered and shook. Faster and

faster whirled the great wooden screws. The motor hummed and

throbbed.

 

Slowly the Black Hawk moved across the ground. Then she gathered

speed. Now she was fairly rushing over the level space. Tom Swift

tilted the elevation rudder, and with a suddenness that was

startling, at least to the old elephant hunter, the new airship shot

upward on a steep, slant.

 

"The Black Hawk flies!" yelled Ned Newton. "Now for elephant land

and the big tusks!"

 

"Yes, and perhaps for the red pygmies, too," added Tom in a low

voice. Then he gave his whole attention to the management of his new

machine, which was rapidly mounting upward, with a speed rivalling

that of his former big craft.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

OFF FOR AFRICA

 

 

Higher and higher went the Black Hawk, far above the earth, until

the old elephant hunter, looking down, said in a voice which he

tried to make calm and collected, but which trembled in spite of

himself:

 

"Of course I'm not an expert at this game, Tom Swift, but it looks

to me as if we'd never get down. Don't you think we're high enough?"

 

"For the time being, yes," answered the young inventor. "I didn't

think she'd climb so far without the use of the gas. She's doing

well."

 

"Bless my topknot, yes!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "She beats the Red

Cloud, Tom. Try her on a straight-away course."

 

Which the youth did, pointing the nose of the craft along parallel

to the surface of the earth, and nearly a mile above it. Then,

increasing the speed of the motor, and with the big propellers

humming, they made fast time.

 

The old elephant hunter grew more calm as he saw that the airship

did not show any inclination to fall, and he noted that Tom and the

others not only knew how to manage it, but took their fight as much

a matter of course as if they were in an automobile skimming along

on the surface of the ground.

 

Tom put his craft through a number of evolutions, and when he found

that she was in perfect control as an aeroplane, he started the gas

machine, filled the big black bag overhead, and, when it was

sufficiently buoyant, he shut off the motor, and the Black Hawk

floated along like a balloon.

 

"That's what we'll do if our power happens to give out when we get

over an African jungle, with a whole lot of wild elephants down

below, and a forest full of the red pygmies waiting for us,"

explained Tom to Mr. Durban.

 

"And I guess you'll need to do it, too," answered the hunter. "I

don't know which I fear worse, the bad elephants wild with rage, as

they get some times, or the little red men who are as strong as

gorillas, and as savage as wolves. It would be all up with us if we

got into their hands. But I think this airship will be just what we

need in Africa. I'd have been able to get out of many a tight place

if I had had one on my last trip."

 

While the Black Hawk hung thus, up the air, not moving, save as the

wind blew her, Tom with his father and Mr. Jackson made an

inspection of the machinery to find out whether it had been strained

any. They found that it had worked perfectly, and soon the craft was

in motion again, her nose this time being pointed toward the earth.

Tom let out some of the gas, and soon the airship was on the ground

in front of the shed she had so recently left.

 

"She's all right," decided the young inventor after a careful

inspection. "I'll give her a couple more trials, put on the

finishing touches and then we'll be ready for our trip to Africa.

Have you got everything arranged to go, Ned?"

 

"Sure. I have a leave of absence from the bank, thanks to your

father and Mr. Damon, most of my clothes are packed, I've bought a

gun and I've got a lot of quinine in case I get a fever."

 

"Good!" cried the elephant hunter. "You'll do all right, I reckon.

I'm glad I met you young fellows. Well, I've lived through my first

trip in the air, which is more than I expected when I started."

 

They discussed their plans at some length, for, now that the airship

had proved all that they had hoped for, it would not be long ere

they were under way. In the days that followed Tom put the finishing

touches on the craft, arranged to have it packed up for shipment,

and spent some time practicing with his electric rifle. He got to be

an expert shot, and Mr. Durban, who was a wonder with the ordinary

rifle, praised the young inventor highly.

 

"There won't many of the big tuskers get away from you, Tom Swift,"

he said. "And that reminds me, I got a letter the other day, from

the firm I collect ivory for, stating that the price had risen

because of a scarcity, and urging me to hurry back to Africa and get

all I could. It seems that war has broken out among some of the

central African tribes, and they are journeying about in the jungle,

on the war path here and there, and have driven the elephants into

the very deepest wilds, where the ordinary hunters can't get at

them."

 

"Maybe we won't have any luck, either," suggested Ned.

 

"Oh, yes, we will," declared the hunter. "With our airship, the

worst forest of the dark continent won't have any terrors for us,

for we can float above it. And the fights of the natives won't have

any effect. In a way, this will be a good thing, for with the price

of ivory soaring, we can make more money than otherwise. There's a

chance for us all to get a lot of money."

 

"Bless my piano keys!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "if I can get just one

elephant, and pull out his big ivory teeth, I'll be satisfied. I

want a nice pair of tusks to set up on either side of my fireplace

for ornaments."

 

"A mighty queer place for such-like ornaments," said Mr. Durban in a

low voice. Then he added: "Well, the sooner we get started the

better I'll like it, for I want to get that pair of big tusks for a

special customer of mine."

 

"I'll give the Black Hawk one more trial flight, and then take her

apart and ship her," decided Tom, and the final flight, a most

successful one, took place the following day.

 

Then came another busy season when the airship was taken apart for

shipment to the coast of Africa by steamer. It was put into big

boxes and crates, and Eradicate and his mule took them to the

station in Shopton.

 

"Don't you want to come to Africa with us, Rad?" asked Tom, when the

last of the cases had been sent off. "You'll find a lot of your

friends there."

 

"No, indeedy, I doan't want t' go," answered the colored man,

"though I would like to see dat country."

 

"Then why don't you come?"

 

"Hu! Yo' think, Massa Tom, dat I go anywhere dat I might meet dem

little red men what Massa Durban talk about? No, sah, dey might hurt

mah mule Boomerang."

 

"Oh, I wasn't going to take the mule along," said Tom, wondering how

the creature might behave in the airship.

 

"Not take Boomerang? Den I SUTTINLY ain't goin," and Eradicate

walked off, highly offended, to give some oats to his faithful if

somewhat eccentric steed.

 

After the airship had been sent off there yet remained much for Tom

Swift to do. He had to send along a number of special tools and

appliances with which to put the ship together again, and also some

with which to repair the craft in case of accident. So that this

time was pretty well occupied. But at length everything was in

readiness, and with his electric rifle knocked down for

transportation, and with his baggage, and that of the others, all

packed, they set off one morning to take the train for New York,

where they would get a steamer for Africa.

 

Numerous good-bys had been said, and Tom had made a farewell call on

Mary Nestor, promising to bring her some trophy from elephant land,

though he did not quite know what it would be.

 

Mr. Damon, as the train started, blessed everything he could think

of. Mr. Swift waved his hand and wished his son and the others good

luck, feeling a little lonesome that he could not make one of the

party. Ned was eager with excitement, and anticipation of what lay

before him. Tom Swift was thinking of what he could accomplish with

his electric rifle, and of the wonderful sights he would see, and,

as for the old elephant hunter, he was very glad to be on the move

again, after so many weeks of idleness, for he was a very active

man.

 

Their journey to New York was uneventful, and they found that the

parts of the airship had safely arrived, and had been taken aboard

the steamer. The little party went aboard themselves, after a day

spent in sight-seeing, and that afternoon the Soudalar, which was

the vessel's name, steamed away from the dock at high tide.

 

"Off for Africa!" exclaimed Tom to Ned, as they stood at the rail,

watching the usual crowd wave farewells. "Off for Africa, Ned."

 

As Tom spoke, a gentleman who had been standing near him and his

chum, vigorously waving his hand to some one on the pier, turned

quickly. He looked sharply at the young inventor for a moment, and

then exclaimed:

 

"Well, if it isn't Tom Swift! Did I hear you say you were going to

Africa?"

 

Tom looked at the gentleman with rather a puzzled air for a moment.

The face was vaguely familiar, but Tom could not recall where he had

seen it. Then it came to him in a flash.

 

"Mr. Floyd Anderson!" exclaimed our hero. "Mr. Anderson of--"

 

"Earthquake Island!" exclaimed the gentleman quickly, as he extended

his hand. "I guess you remember that place, Tom Swift."

 

"Indeed I do. And to think of meeting you again, and on this African

steamer," and Tom's mind went back to the perilous days when his

wireless message had saved the castaways of Earthquake Island, among

whom were Mr. Anderson and his wife.

 

"Did I hear you say you were going to Africa?" asked Mr. Anderson,

when he had been introduced to Ned, and the others in Tom's party.

 

"That's where we're bound for," answered the lad. "We are going to

elephant land. But where are you going, Mr. Anderson?"

 

"Also to Africa, but not on a trip for pleasure or profit like

yourselves. I have been commissioned by a missionary society to

rescue two of its workers from the heart of the dark continent."

 

"Rescue two missionaries?" exclaimed Tom, wonderingly.

 

"Yes, a gentleman and his wife, who, it is reported, have fallen

into the hands of a race known as the red pygmies, who hold them

captives!"

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

ATTACKED BY A WHALE

 

 

Surprise at Mr. Anderson's announcement held Tom silent for a

moment. That the gentleman whom he had been the means of rescuing,

among others, from Earthquake Island, should be met with so

unexpectedly, was quite a coincidence, but when it developed that he

was bound to the same part of the African continent as were Tom and

his friends, and when he said he hoped to rescue some missionaries

from the very red pygmies so feared by the old elephant hunter--this

was enough to startle any one.

 

"I see that my announcement has astonished you," said Mr. Anderson,

as he noted the look of surprise on the face of the young inventor.

 

"It certainly has! Why, that's where we are bound for, in my new

airship. Come down into our cabin, Mr. Anderson, and tell us all

about it. Is your wife with you?"

 

"No, it is too dangerous a journey on which to take her. I have

little hope of succeeding, for it is now some time since the

unfortunate missionaries were captured, but I am going to do my

best, and organize a relief expedition when I get to Africa."

 

Tom said nothing at that moment, but he made up his mind that if it

was at all possible he would lend his aid, that of his airship, and

also get his friends to assist Mr. Anderson. They went below to a

special cabin that had been reserved for Tom's party, and there, as

the ship slowly passed down New York Bay, Mr. Anderson told his

story.

 

"I mentioned to you, when we were on Earthquake Island," he said to

Tom, "that I had been in Africa, and had done some hunting. That is

not my calling, as it is that of your friend, Mr. Durban, but I know

the country pretty well. However, I have not been there in some

time."

 

"My wife and I are connected with a church in New York that, several

years ago, raised a fund and sent two missionaries, Mr. and Mrs.

Jacob Illingway, to the heart of Africa. They built up a little

mission there, and for a time all went well, and they did good work

among the natives."

 

"They are established in a tribe of friendly black men, of simple

nature, and, while the natives did not become Christianized to any

remarkable extent, yet they were kind to the missionaries. Mr. and

Mrs. Illingway used frequently to write to members of our church,

telling of their work. They also mentioned the fact that adjoining

the country of the friendly blacks there was a tribe of fierce

little red men,--red because of hair of that color all over their

bodies."

 

"That's right," agreed Mr. Durban, shaking his head solemnly.

"They're red imps, too!"

 

"Mr. Illingway often mentioned in his letters," went on Mr.

Anderson, "that there were frequent fights between the pygmies and

the race of blacks, but the latter had no great fear of their small

enemies. However, it seems that they did not take proper

precautions, for not long ago there was a great battle, the blacks

were attacked by a large force of the red pygmies, who overwhelmed

them by numbers, and finally routed them, taking possession of their

country."

 

"What became of the missionaries?" asked Ned Newton.

 

"I'll tell you," said Mr. Anderson. "For a long time we heard

nothing, beyond the mere news of the fight, which we read of in the

papers. The church people were very anxious about the fate of Mr.

and Mrs. Illingway, and were talking of sending a special messenger

to inquire about them, when a cablegram came from the headquarters

of the society in London."

 

"It seems that one of the black natives, named Tomba, who was a sort

of house servant to Mr. and Mrs. Illingway, escaped the general

massacre, in which all his friends were killed. He made his way

through the jungle to a white settlement, and told his story,

relating how the two missionaries had been carried away captive by

the pygmies."

 

"A terrible fate," commented Mr. Durban.

 

"Yes, they might better be dead, from all the accounts we can hear,"

went on Mr. Anderson.

 

"Bless my Sunday hat! Don't say that!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Maybe

we can save them, Mr. Anderson."

 

"That is what I am going to try to do, though it may be too late. As

soon as definite news was received, our church held a meeting,

raised a fund, and decided to send me off to find Mr. and Mrs.

Illingway, if alive, or give them decent burial, if I could locate

their bones. The reason they selected me was because I had been in

Africa, and knew the country."

 

"I made hurried arrangements, packed up, said good-by to my wife,

and here I am. But to think of meeting you, Tom Swift! And to hear

that you are also going to Africa. I wish I could command an airship

for the rescue. It might be more easily accomplished!"

 

"That's just what I was going to propose!" exclaimed Tom. "We are

going to the land of the red pygmies, and while I have promised to

help Mr. Durban in getting ivory, and while I want to try my

electric rifle on big game, still we can do both, I think. You can

depend on us, Mr. Anderson, and if the Black Hawk can be of any

service to you in the rescue, count us in!"

 

"Gosh!" cried the former castaway of Earthquake Island. "This is the

best piece of luck I could have! Now tell me all about your plans."

which Tom and the others did, listening in turn, to further details

about the missionaries.

 

Just how they would go to work to effect the rescue, or how they

could locate the particular tribe of little red men who had Mr. and

Mrs. Illingway, they did not know.

 

"We may be able to get hold of this Tomba," said Mr. Durban. "If not

I guess between Mr. Anderson and myself we can get on the trail,

somehow. I'm anxious to get to the coast, see the airship put

together again, and start for the interior."

 

"So am I," declared Tom, as he got out his electric rifle, and began

to put it together, for he wanted to show Mr. Anderson how it

worked.

 

They had a pleasant and uneventful voyage for two weeks. The weather

was good, and, to tell the truth, it was rather monotonous for Torn

and the others, who were eager to get into activity again. Then came

a storm, which, while it was not dangerous, yet gave them plenty to

think and talk about for three days. Then came more calm weather,

when the Soudalar plowed along over gently heaving billows.

 

They were about a week from their port of destination, which vas

Majumba, on the African coast, when, one afternoon, as Tom and the

others were in their cabin, they heard a series of shouts on deck,

and the sound of many feet running to and fro.

 

"Something has happened!" exclaimed the young inventor.

 

Tom raced for the companionway, and was soon on deck, followed by

Mr. Durban and the others. They saw a crowd of sailors and

passengers leaning over the port rail.

 

"What's the matter?" asked Tom, of the second mate, who was just

passing.

 

"Fight between a killer and a whale," was the reply. "The captain

has ordered the ship to lay-to so it can be watched."

 

Tom made his way to the rail. About a quarter of a mile away there

could be observed a great commotion in the ocean. Great bodies

seemed to be threshing about, beating the water to foam, and, with

the foam could be seen bright blood mingled. Occasionally two jets

of water, as from some small fountain, would shoot upward.

 

"He's blowing hard!" exclaimed one of the sailors. "I guess he's

about done for!"

 

"Which one?" asked Tom.

 

"The whale," was the reply. "The killer has the best of the big

fellow," and the sailor quickly explained how the smaller killer

fish, by the peculiarity of its attack, and its great ferocity,

often bested its larger antagonist.

 

The battle was now at its height, and Tom and the others were

interested spectators. At times neither of the big creatures could

be seen, because of the smother of foam in which they rolled and

threshed about. The whale endeavored to sound, or go to the bottom,

but the killer stuck to him relentlessly.

 

Suddenly, however, as Tom looked, the whale, by a stroke of his

broad tail, momentarily stunned his antagonist. Instantly realizing

that he was free the great creature, which was about ninety feet

long, darted away, swimming on the surface of the water, for he

needed to get all the air possible.

 

Quickly acquiring momentum, the whale came on like a locomotive,

spouting at intervals, the vapor from the blowholes looking not

unlike steam from some submarine boat.

 

"He looks to be heading this way," remarked Mr. Durban to Tom.

 

"He is," agreed the young inventor, "but I guess he'll dive before

he gets here. He only wants to get away from the killer. Look, the

other one is swimming this way, too!"

 

"Bless my harpoon, but he sure is!" called Mr. Damon. "They'll renew

the fight near here."

 

But he was mistaken, for the killer, after coming a little distance

after the whale, suddenly turned, hesitated for a moment, and then

disappeared in the depths of the ocean.

 

The whale, however, continued to come on, speeding through the water

with powerful strokes. There was an uneasy movement among some of

the passengers.

 

"Suppose he strikes the ship," suggested one woman.

 

"Nonsense! He couldn't," said her husband.

 

"The old man had better get under way, just the same," remarked a

sailor near Tom, as he looked up at the bridge where the captain was

standing.

 

The "old man," or commander, evidently thought the same thing, for,

after a glance at the oncoming leviathan, which was still headed

directly for the vessel, he shoved the lever of the telegraph signal

over to "full speed ahead."

 

Hardly had he done so than the whale sank from sight.

 

"Oh, I'm so glad!" exclaimed the woman who had first spoken of the

possibility of the whale hitting the ship, "I am afraid of those

terrible creatures."

 

"They're as harmless as a cow, unless they get angry," said her

husband.

 

Slowly the great ship began to move through the water. Tom and his

friends were about to go back to their cabin, for they thought the

excitement over, when, as the young inventor turned from the rail,

he felt a vibration throughout the whole length of the steamer, as

if it had hit on a sand-bar.

 

Instantly there was a jangling of bells in the engine room, and the

Soudalar lost headway.

 

"What's the matter?" asked several persons.

 

They were answered a moment later, for the big whale, even though

grievously wounded in his fight with the killer, had risen not a

hundred feet away from the ship, and was coming toward it with the

speed of an express train.

 

"Bless my blubber!" cried Mr. Damon. "We must have hit the whale, or

it hit us under the water and now it's going to attack us!"

 

He had no more than gotten the words out of his mouth ere the great

creature of the deep came on full tilt at the vessel, struck it a

terrific blow which made it tremble from stem to stern, and careen

violently.

 

There was a chorus of frightened cries, sailors rushed to and fro,

the engine-room bells rang violently, and the captain and mates

shouted hoarse orders.

 

"Here he comes again!" yelled Mr. Durban, as he hurried to the side

of the ship. "The whale takes us for an enemy, I guess. and he's

going to ram us again!"

 

"And if he does it many times, he'll start the plates and cause a

leak that won't be stopped in a hurry!" cried a sailor as he rushed

past Tom.

 

The young inventor looked at the oncoming monster for a moment, and

then started on the run for his cabin.

 

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

answer.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER X

 

OFF IN THE AIRSHIP

 

 

As Tom Swift hurried down the companionway he again felt the ship

careen as the whale struck it a powerful blow, and he was almost

knocked off his feet. But he kept on.

 

Below he found some frightened men and women, a number of whom were

adjusting life preservers about them, under the impression that the

ship had struck a rock and was going down. They had not been up on

deck, and did not know of the battle between the killer and the

whale, nor what followed.

 

"Oh, I know we're sinking!" cried one timid woman. "What has

happened?" she appealed to Tom.

 

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

 

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

 

"Yes, with a whale," replied Tom, as he grabbed up something from

his stateroom, and again rushed up on deck. As he reached it the

whale came on once more, and struck the ship another terrific blow.

Then the monster sank and could be seen swimming back, just under

the surface of the water, getting ready to renew the attack.

 

"He's going to ram us again!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my machine

oil! Why doesn't the captain do something?"

 

At that moment the commander cried from the bridge:

 

"Send a man below, Mr. Laster, to see if we are making any water.

Then tell half a dozen of the sailors to get out the rifles, and see

if they can't kill the beast. He'll put us in Davy Jones's locker if

he keeps this up! Lively now, men!"

 

The first mate, Mr. Laster, called out the order. A sailor went

below to see if the ship was leaking much, and the captain rang for

full speed ahead. But the Soudalar was slow in getting under way

again, and, even at top speed she was no match for the whale, which

was again rushing toward the vessel.

 

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

the beast!"

 

"There's no need!" suddenly called Mr. Damon, who had caught sight

of Tom Swift, and the object which the lad carried.

 

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

off?"

 

"No," answered the eccentric man, "the whale is still coming on, but

Tom Swift will fix him. Get there, Tom, and let him have a good

one!"

 

"What sort of a gun is that?" demanded the commander as the young

inventor took his place at the rail, which was now almost deserted.

 

Tom did not answer. Bracing himself against the rolling and heaving

of the vessel, which was now under about half speed, Tom aimed his

electric rifle at the oncoming leviathan. He looked at the automatic

gage, noted the distance and waiting a moment until the crest of a

wave in front of the whale had subsided, he pressed the button.

 

If those watching him expected to hear a loud report, and see a

flash of flame, they were disappointed. There was absolutely no

sound, but what happened to the whale was most surprising.

 

The great animal stopped short amid a swirl of foam, and the next

instant it seemed to disintegrate. It went all to pieces, just as

had the dummy figure which Tom on one occasion fired at with his

rifle and as had the big packing-cases. The whale appeared to

dissolve, as does a lump of sugar in a cup of hot tea, and, five

seconds after Tom Swift had fired his electric gun, there was not a

sign of the monster save a little blood on the calm sea.

 

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

that monster gone?"

 

"Completely gone!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my powder horn, Tom, but

I knew you could do it!"

 

"Is that a new kind of whale gun, firing an explosive bullet?"

inquired the commander, as he came down off the bridge and shook

hands with Tom. "If it is, I'd like to buy one. We may be rammed

again by another whale."

 

"This is my new, electric rifle," explained the young inventor

modestly, "and it fires wireless charges of electricity instead of

bullets. I'm sorry I can't let you have it, as it's the only one I

have. But I guess no more whales will ram us. That one was evidently

crazed by the attack of the killer, and doubtless took us for

another of its enemies."

 

Sailors and passengers crowded around Tom, eager to shake his hand,

and to hear about the gun. Many declared that he had saved the ship.

 

This was hardly true, for the whale could not have kept up its

attacks much longer. Still he might have done serious damage, by

causing a leak, and, while the Soudalar was a stanch craft, with

many water-tight compartments, still no captain likes to be a week

from land with a bad leak, especially if a storm comes up. Then,

too, there was the danger of a panic among the passengers, had the

attacks been kept up, so, though Tom wanted to make light of his

feat, the others would not let him.

 

"You're entitled to the thanks of all on board," declared Captain

Wendon, "and I'll see that the owners hear of what you did. Well, I

guess we can go on, now. I'll not stop again to see a fight between

a killer and a whale."

 

The steamer resumed her way at full speed, and the sailor, who had

gone below, came up to report that there was only a slight leak,

which need not cause any uneasiness.

 

Little was talked of for the next few days but the killing of the

whale, and Tom had to give several exhibitions of his electric

rifle, and explain its workings. Then, too, the story of his

expedition became known, and also the object of Mr. Anderson's

quest, and Tom's offer of aid to help rescue the missionaries, so

that, altogether, our hero was made much of during the remainder of

the voyage.

 

"Well, if your gun will do that to a whale, what will it do to an

elephant?" asked Mr. Durban one morning, when they were within a

day's steaming of their port. "I'm afraid it's almost too strong,

Tom. It will leave nothing--not even the tusks to pick up."

 

"Oh, I can regulate the power," declared the lad. "I used full force

on the whale, just to see what it would do. It was the first tine

I'd tried it on anything alive. I can so regulate the charge that it

will kill even an elephant, and leave scarcely a mark on the beast."

 

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

 

"I'll show you, if we sight any sharks," promised Tom. He was able

to keep his word for that afternoon a school of the ugly fish

followed the steamer for the sake of the food scraps thrown

overboard. Tom took his position in the stern, and gave an

exhibition of shooting with his electric gun that satisfied even Mr.

Durban, exacting as he was.

 

For the lad, by using his heaviest charges, destroyed the largest

sharks so that they seemed to instantly disappear in the water, and

from that he toned down the current until he could kill some of the

monsters so easily and quickly that they seemed to float motionless

on the surface, yet there was no life left in them once the electric

charge touched them.

 

"We'll use the light charges when we're killing elephants for their

tusks," said Tom, "and the heavy ones when we're in danger from a

rush of the beasts."

 

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

 

They arrived safely at Majumba, the African coast city, and for two

days Tom was kept busy superintending the unloading of the parts of

his airship. But it was safely taken ashore, and he and his friends

hired a disused warehouse in which to work at reassembling the Black

Hawk.

 

Tom had everything down to a system, and, in less than a week the

aircraft was once more ready to be sent aloft. It was given a try-out,

much to the astonishment of the natives, and worked perfectly.

Then Tom and his friends busied themselves laying in a stock of

provisions and stores for the trip into the interior.

 

They made inquiries about the chances of getting ivory and were told

that they were good if they went far enough into the jungle and

forests, for the big beasts had penetrated farther and farther

inland.

 

They also tried to get some news regarding the captive missionaries,

but were unsuccessful nor could they learn what had become of Tomba,

who had brought the dire news to civilization.

 

"It's too soon to hope for anything yet," said Mr. Anderson. "Wait

until we get near the country of the red pygmies."

 

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

 

It was two weeks after their arrival in Majumba that Tom announced

that all was in readiness. The airship was in perfect working order,

it was well stocked with food, arms, articles and trinkets with

which to trade among the natives, spare parts for the machinery,

special tools and a good supply of the chemicals needed to

manufacture the lifting gas.

 

Of course Tom did not leave behind his electric weapon and Mr.

Durban and the others took plenty of ammunition for the ordinary

rifles which they carried.

 

One morning, after cabling to his father that they were about to

start, Tom gave a last careful look to his airship, tested the motor

and dynamos, took a hasty survey of the storeroom, to see that

nothing had been forgotten, and gave the word to get aboard.

 

They took their places in the cabin. Outside a crowd of natives, and

white traders of many nationalities had gathered. Tom pulled the

starting lever. The Black Hawk shot across a specially prepared

starting ground, and, attaining sufficient momentum, suddenly arose

into the air.

 

There was a cheer from the watching crowd, and several superstitious

blacks, who saw the airship for the first time, ran away in terror.

 

Up into the blue atmosphere Tom took his craft. He looked down on

the city over which he was flying. Then he pointed the prow of the

Black Hawk toward the heart of the dark continent.

 

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

again?"

 

No one could answer. They had to take their chances with the dangers

and terrors of elephant land, and with the red pygmies. Yet Tom

Swift was not afraid.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XI

 

ANCHORED TO EARTH

 

 

With the voyage on the steamer, their arrival in Africa, the many

strange sights of the city of Majumba, and the refitting of the

airship, our friends had hardly had time to catch their breath since

Tom Swift's determination to go elephant hunting. Now, as the Black

Hawk was speeding into the interior, they felt, for the first time

in many weeks, that they "could take it easy," as Ned Newton

expressed it.

 

"Thank goodness," said the bank clerk, "I can sit down and look at

something for a while," and he gazed out of the main cabin windows

down at the wild country over which they were then flying.

 

For, so swiftly had the airship moved that it was hardly any time at

all before it had left Majumba far behind, and was scudding over the

wilderness.

 

"Bless my camera," exclaimed Mr. Damon, who had brought along one of

the picture machines, "bless my camera! I don't call that much to

look at," and he pointed to the almost impenetrable forest over

which they then were.

 

"No, it isn't much of a view," said the old elephant hunter, "but

wait. You'll soon see all you want to. Africa isn't all like this.

There are many strange sights before us yet. But, Tom Swift, tell us

how the airship is working in this climate. Do you find any

difficulty managing it?"

 

"Not at all," answered Tom, who was in the cabin then, having set

the automatic steering apparatus in the pilot house, and come back

to join the others. "It works as well as it did in good old York

State. Of course I can't tell what affect the continual hot and

moist air will have on the gas bag, but I guess we'll make out all

right."

 

"I certainly hope so," put in Mr. Anderson. "It would be too bad to

be wrecked in the middle of Africa, with no way to get out."

 

"Oh, you needn't worry about that," said Ned with a laugh. "If the

airship should smash, Tom would build another out of what was left,

and we'd sail away as good as before."

 

"Hardly that," answered the young inventor.

 

"But we won't cross a bridge until we hear it coming, as Eradicate

would say. Hello, that looks like some sort of native village."

 

He pointed ahead to a little clearing in the forest, where a number

of mud and grass huts were scattered about. As they came nearer they

could see the black savages, naked save for a loin cloth, running

about in great excitement, and pointing upward.

 

"Yes, that's one of the numerous small native villages we'll see

from now on," said Mr. Durban. "Many a night have I spent in those

same grass huts after a day's hunting. Sometimes, I've been

comfortable, and again not. I guess we've given those fellows a

scare."

 

It did seem so, for by this time the whole population, including

women and children, were running about like mad. Suddenly, from

below there sounded a deep booming noise, which came plainly to the

ears of the elephant hunters through the opened windows of the

airship cabin.

 

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

 

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

 

"No, it's one of their war drums," explained Mr. Durban. "The

natives make large ones out of hollow trees, with animal skins

stretched over the ends, and they beat them to sound a warning, or

before going into battle. It makes a great noise."

 

"Do you think they want to fight us?" asked Ned, looking anxiously

at Tom, and then toward where his rifle stood in a corner of the

cabin.

 

"No, probably that drum was beaten by some of the native priests,"

explained the hunter. "The natives are very superstitious, and

likely they took us for an evil spirit, and wanted to drive us

away."

 

"Then we'll hustle along out of their sight," said Tom, as he went

to the pilot house to increase the speed of the airship, for he had

been letting it drift along slowly to enable the adventurers to view

the country over which they were passing. A few minutes later, under

the increased force of the machinery, the Black Hawk left the native

village, and the crowd of frightened blacks, far behind.

 

The travelers passed over a succession of wild stretches of forest

or jungle, high above big grassy plains, over low but rugged

mountain ranges, and big rivers. Now and then they would cross some

lake, on the calm surface of which could be made out natives, in big

canoes, hollowed out from trees. In each case the blacks showed

every appearance of fright at the sight of the airship throbbing

along over their heads.

 

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

excitedly:

 

"Look! Elephants! They're in swimming, and the natives are shooting

them! Now's our chance, Tom!"

 

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

laughing.

 

"Those are hippopotami!" exclaimed the old elephant man. "Good

hunting, if you don't care what you shoot, but not much sport in it.

It will be some time yet before we see any elephants, boys."

 

Ned was rather chagrined at his mistake, but the African travelers

told him that any one, not familiar with the country, would have

made it, especially in looking down from a great height.

 

They sailed along about half a mile above the earth, Tom gradually

increasing the speed of the ship, as he found the machinery to be

working well. Dinner was served as they were crossing a high grassy

plateau, over which could be seen bounding a number of antelopes.

 

"Some of those would go good for a meal," said Mr. Durban, after a

pause during which he watched the graceful creatures.

 

"Then we'll go down and get some for supper," decided Tom, for in

that hot climate it was impossible to carry fresh meat on the

airship.

 

Accordingly, the Black Hawk was sent down, and came to rest in a

natural clearing on the edge of the jungle. After waiting until the

fierce heat of noonday was over, the travelers got out their rifles

and, under the leadership of Mr. Durban and Mr. Anderson, who was

also an experienced hunter, they set off.

 

Game was plentiful, but as they could only eat a comparatively small

quantity, and as it would not keep, they only shot what they needed.

Tom had his electric rifle, but hesitated to use it, as Mr. Durban

and Mr. Anderson had each already bowled over a fine buck.

 

However, a chance came most unexpectedly, for, as they were passing

along the banks of a little stream, which was almost hidden from

view by thick weeds and rank grass, there was a sudden commotion in

the bushes, and a fierce wild buffalo sprang out at the party.

 

There are few animals in Africa more dreaded by hunters than the

wild buffalo, for the beast, with its spreading sharp horns is a

formidable foe, and will seldom give up the attack until utterly

unable to move. They are fierce and relentless.

 

"Look out!" yelled Mr. Durban. "To cover, everybody! If that beast

gets after you it's no fun! You and I will fire at him, Mr. Anderson!"

 

Mr. Durban raised his rifle, and pulled the trigger, but, for some

reason, the weapon failed to go off. Mr. Anderson quickly raised

his, but his foot slipped in a wet place and he fell. At that moment

the buffalo, with a snort of rage, charged straight for the fallen man.

 

"Tom! your electric rifle!" yelled Ned Newton, but he need not have

done so, for the young inventor was on the alert.

 

Taking instant aim, and adjusting his weapon for the heaviest

charge, Tom fired at the advancing beast. The result was the same as

in the case of the whale, the buffalo seemed to melt away. And it

was stopped only just in time, too, for it was close to the

prostrate Mr. Anderson, who had sprained his ankle slightly, and

could not readily rise.

 

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

lasted.

 

"You saved my life again, Tom Swift," said Mr. Anderson, as he

limped toward our hero. "Once on Earthquake Island, and again now. I

shan't forget it," and he shook hands with the young inventor.

 

The others congratulated Tom on his quick shot, and Mr. Damon, as

usual blessed everything in sight, and the electric rifle

especially.

 

They went back to the airship, taking the fresh meat with them, but

on account of the injury to Mr. Anderson's ankle could not make

quick progress, so that it was almost dusk when they reached the

craft.

 

"Well, we'll have supper, and then start off," proposed Tom, "I

don't think it would be wise to remain on the ground so near the

jungle."

 

"No' it's safer in the air," agreed Mr. Durban. The meal was much

enjoyed, especially the fresh meat, and, after it was over, Tom took

his place in the pilot house to start the machinery, and send the

airship aloft.

 

The motor hummed and throbbed, and the gas hissed into the bag, for

the ground was not level enough to permit of a running start by

means of the planes. Lights gleamed from the Black Hawk and the big

search-lantern in front cast a dazzling finger of light into the

black forest.

 

"Well, what are you waiting for?" called Ned, who heard the

machinery in motion, but who could not feel the craft rising. "Why

don't you go up, Tom?"

 

"I'm trying to," answered the young inventor. "Something seems to be

the matter." He pulled the speed lever over a few more notches, and

increased the power of the gas machine. Still the Black Hawk did not

rise.

 

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

 

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

 

He further increased the speed of the propellers, and the gas

machine was set to make vapor at its fullest capacity, and force it

into the bag. Still the craft was held to the earth.

 

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

 

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

worked all right today."

 

Suddenly she airship moved up a little way, and then seemed to be

pulled down again, hitting the ground with a bump.

 

"Something is holding us!" cried Tom. "We're anchored to earth! I

must see what it is!" and, catching up his electric rifle, he dashed

out of the cabin.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XII

 

AMONG THE NATIVES

 

 

For a moment after Tom's departure the others stared blankly at one

another. They could hear the throbbing and hum of the machinery, and

feel the thrill of the anchored airship. But they could not

understand what the trouble was.

 

"We must help Tom!" cried Ned Newton at length as he caught up his

rifle. "Maybe we are in the midst of a herd of elephants, and they

have hold of the ship in their trunks."

 

"It couldn't be!" declared Mr. Durban, yet they soon discovered that

Ned's guess was nearer the truth then any of them had suspected at

the time.

 

"We must help him, true enough!" declared Mr. Anderson, and he and

the others followed Ned out on deck.

 

"Where are you Tom?" called his chum.

 

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

 

"Do you see anything?"

 

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

 

"I will," shouted Mr. Damon, and a moment later the gleam of the

powerful lantern brought Tom clearly into view, as he stood on the

small forward observation platform in the bow of the Black Hawk.

 

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

 

"What is it?" demanded Mr. Durban.

 

"An immense snake!" shouted Tom. "It's wound around a tree, and

partly twined around the ship! That's why we couldn't go up! I'm

going to shoot it."

 

They looked to where he pointed, and there, in the glare of the

light, could be seen an immense python, fully twenty-five feet long,

the forward part of its fat ugly body circled around the slender

prow of the airship, while the folds of the tail were about a big

tree.

 

Tom Swift raised his electric rifle, took quick aim, and, having set

it to deliver a moderate charge, pressed the button. The result was

surprising, for the snake being instantly killed the folds uncoiled

and the ship shot upward, only, instead of rising on an even keel,

the bow pointed toward the sky, while the stern was still fast to

the earth. Tilted at an angle of forty-five degrees the Black Hawk

was in a most peculiar position, and those standing on the deck

began to slide along it.

 

"There's another snake at the stern!" cried Mr. Damon as he grasped

a brace to prevent falling off. "Bless my slippers! it's the mate of

the one you killed! Shoot the other one, Tom!"

 

The young inventor needed no urging. Making his way as best he could

to the stern of the airship, he killed the second python, which was

even larger than the first, and in an instant the Black Hawk shot

upward, this time level, and as it should be. Things on board were

soon righted, and the travelers could stand upright. High above the

black jungle rose the craft, moving forward under the full power of

the propellers, until Tom rushed into the engine room, and reduced

speed.

 

"Well, talk about things happening!" exclaimed Ned, when they had

somewhat recovered from the excitement. "I should say they were

beginning with a vengeance!"

 

"That's the way in Africa," declared Mr. Durban. "It's a curious

country. Those pythons generally go in pairs, but it's the first

time I ever knew them to tackle an airship. They probably stay

around here where there is plenty of small game for them, and very

likely they merely anchored to our craft while waiting for a supper

to come along."

 

"It was a very odd thing," said Tom. "I couldn't imagine what held

us. After this I'll see that all is clear before I try to go up.

Next time we may be held by a troop of baboons and it strains the

machinery to have it pull against dead weight in that way."

 

However, it was found no harm had resulted from this experience,

and, after reducing the gas pressure, which was taking them too

high, Tom set the automatic rudders.

 

"We'll keep on at slow speed through the night," he explained, "and

in the morning we'll be pretty well into the interior. Then we can

lay our course for wherever we want to go. Where had we better head

for?"

 

"I don't want to interfere with your plans," said Mr. Anderson, "but

I would like to rescue those missionaries. But the trouble is, I

don't know just where to look for them. We couldn't get much of a

line in Majumba on where the country of the red pygmies is located.

What do you think about it, Mr. Durban?"

 

"As far as elephant hunting goes we can probably do as well in the

pygmy land as anywhere else," answered the veteran, "and perhaps it

will be well to head for that place. If we run across any elephant

herds in the meanwhile, we can stop, get the ivory, and proceed."

 

They discussed this plan at some length, and agreed that it was the

best thing to do. Mr. Durban had a map of the country around the

center of Africa, and he marked on it, as nearly as he could, the

location of the pygmies' country, while Mr. Anderson also had a

chart, showing the location of the mission which had been wiped out

of existence. It was in the midst of a wild and desolate region.

 

"We'll do the best we can," declared Tom, "and I think we'll

succeed. We ought to be there in about a week, if we have no bad

luck."

 

All that night the Black Hawk flew on over Africa, covering mile

after mile, passing over jungle, forest, plains, rivers and lakes,

and, doubtless, over many native villages, though they could not be

seen.

 

Morning found the travelers above a great, grassy plain, dotted here

and there with negro settlements which were separated by rivers,

lakes or thin patches of forest.

 

"Well, we'll speed up a bit," decided Tom after breakfast, which was

eaten to the weird accompaniment of hundreds of native warning-drums,

beaten by the superstitious blacks.

 

Tom went to the engine room, and turned on more speed. He was about

to go back to the pilot house, to set the automatic steering

apparatus to coincide with the course mapped out, when there was a

crash of metal, an ominous snapping and buzzing sound, followed by a

sudden silence.

 

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

chum.

 

"Something's gone wrong!" exclaimed the young inventor, as he sprang

back toward the engine. The propellers had ceased revolving, and as

there was no gas in the bag at that time, it having been decided to

save the vapor for future needs, the Black Hawk began falling toward

the earth.

 

"We're going down!" yelled Ned.

 

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

descend to repair it."

 

"Say!" yelled Mr. Damon, rushing in, "we're right over a big African

village! Are we going to fall among the natives?"

 

"It looks that way," admitted Tom grimly, as he hastened to the

pilot house to shift the wings so that the craft could glide easily

to the ground.

 

"Bless my shoe blacking!" cried the eccentric man as he heard the

beating of drums, and the shouts of the savages.

 

A little later the airship had settled into the midst of a crowd of

Africans, who swarmed all about the craft.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XIII

 

ON AN ELEPHANT TRAIL

 

 

"Get ready with your guns, everybody!" cried the old elephant

hunter, as he prepared to leave the cabin of the Black Hawk. "Tom

Swift, don't forget your electric rifle. There'll be trouble soon!"

 

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

 

"The natives," answered Mr. Durban. "They'll attack us sure as fate!

See, already they're getting out their bows and arrows, and

blowguns! They'll pierce the gas bag in a hundred places!"

 

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

have that happen."

 

He followed the old elephant hunter outside, and Mr. Anderson, Ned

Newton and Mr. Damon trailed after, each one with a gun, while Tom

had his electric weapon. The airship rested on its wheels on some

level ground, just in front of a large hut, surrounded by a number

of smaller ones. All about were the natives, tall, gaunt black men,

hideous in their savagery, wearing only the loin cloth, and with

their kinky hair stuck full of sticks, bones and other odd objects

they presented a curious sight.

 

 Some of them were dancing about, brandishing their weapons--clubs

spears, bows, and arrows, or the long, slender blowguns, consisting

merely of a hollow reed. Women and children there were, too, also

dancing and leaping about, howling at the tops of their voices.

Above the unearthly din could be heard the noise of the drums and

tom-toms, while, as the adventurers drew up in front of their

airship, there came a sort of chant, and a line of natives, dressed

fantastically in the skins of beasts, came filing out of the large

hut.

 

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

travel books.

 

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

 

"Bless my hymn book! I hope not!" came from Mr. Damon. "We wouldn't

have any chance at all in this horde of black men. I wish Eradicate

Sampson and his mule Boomerang were here. Maybe he could talk their

language, and tell them that we meant no harm."

 

"If there's any talking to be done, I guess our guns will have to do

it," said Tom grimly.

 

"I can speak a little of their language," remarked Mr. Durban, "but

what in the world are the beggars up to, anyhow? I supposed they'd

send a volley of arrows at us, first shot, but they don't seem to be

going to do that."

 

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

 

"That's it!" exclaimed Mr. Anderson. "I have it! Why didn't I think

of it before? The natives are welcoming us!"

 

"Welcoming us?" repeated Ned.

 

"Yes," went on the missionary seeker. "They are doing a dance in our

honor, and they have even called out the witch-doctors to do us

homage."

 

"That's right," agreed Mr. Durban, who was listening to the chanting

of the natives dressed in animal skins. "They take us for spirits

from another land, and are making us welcome here. Listen, I'll see

if I can make out what else they are saying."

 

The character of the shouts and chants changed abruptly, and the

dancing increased in fervor, even the children throwing themselves

wildly about. The witch-doctors ran around like so many maniacs, and

it looked as much like an American Indian war dance as anything

else.

 

"I've got it!" shouted Mr. Durban, for he had to call loudly to be

heard above the din. "They are asking us to make it rain. It seems

there has been a dry spell here, and their own rain-makers and

witch-doctors haven't been able to get a drop out of the sky. Now,

they take it that we have come to help them. They think we are going

to bring rain."

 

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

 

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

 

"Well, if they don't mean war, we might as well put up our weapons,"

suggested Mr. Anderson. "If they're going to be friendly, so much

the better, and if it should happen to rain while we're here, they'd

think we brought it, and we could have almost anything we wanted.

Perhaps they have a store of ivory hidden away, Mr. Durban. Some of

these tribes do."

 

"It's possible, but the chances for rain are very small. How long

will we have to stay here, Tom Swift?" asked the elephant hunter

anxiously.

 

"Well, perhaps I can get the motor mended in two or three days,"

answered the young inventor.

 

"Then we'll have to stay here in the meanwhile," decided Mr. Durban.

"Well, we'll make the best of it. Ha, here comes the native king to

do us honor," and, as he spoke there came toward the airship a

veritable giant of a black man, wearing a leopard skin as a royal

garment, while on his head was a much battered derby hat, probably

purchased at a fabulous price from some trader. The king, if such he

could be called, was accompanied by a number of attendants and

witch-doctors. In front walked a small man, who, as it developed,

was an interpreter. The little cavalcade advanced close to the

airship, and came to a halt. The king made a low bow, either to the

craft or to the elephant hunters drawn up in front of it. His

attendants followed his example, and then the interpreter began to

speak.

 

Mr. Durban listened intently, made a brief answer to the little man,

and then the elephant hunter's face lighted up.

 

"It's all right," he said to Tom and the others. "The king takes us

for wonderful spirits from another land. He welcomes us, says we can

have whatever we want, and he begs us to make it rain. I have said

we will do our best, and I have asked that some food be sent us.

That's always the first thing to do. We'll be allowed to stay here

in peace until Tom can mend the ship, and then we'll hit the air

trail again."

 

The talk between Mr. Durban and the interpreter continued for some

little time longer. Then the king went back to his hut, refusing, as

Mr. Durban said, an invitation to come aboard and see how a modern

airship was constructed. The natives, too, seemed anxious to give

the craft a wide berth.

 

The excitement had quieted down now, and, in a short tine a crowd of

native women came toward the airship, bearing, in baskets on their

heads, food of various kinds. There were bananas, some wild fruits,

yams, big gourds of goats' milk, some boiled and stewed flesh of

young goats, nicely cooked, and other things, the nature of which

could only be guessed at.

 

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

Tom.

 

"Oh, you'll find this very good," explained Mr. Durban. "I've eaten

native cookery before. Some of it is excellent and as this appears

to be very good, Mr. Damon can have a vacation while we are here."

 

The old elephant hunter proved the correctness of his statement by

beginning to eat, and soon all the travelers were partaking of the

food left by the native women. They placed it down on the ground at

a discreet distance from the airship, and hurriedly withdrew. But if

the women and men were afraid, the children were not, and they were

soon swarming about the ship, timidly touching the sides with their

little black fingers, but not venturing on board.

 

Tom, with Ned and Mr. Damon to help him, began work on the motor

right after dinner. He found the break to be worse than he had

supposed, and knew that it would take at least four days to repair

it.

 

Meanwhile the airship continued to be a source of wonder to the

natives. They were always about it, save at night, but their

admiration was a respectful one. The king was anxious for the

rain-making incantations to begin, but Mr. Durban put him off.

 

"I don't want to deceive these simple natives," he said, "and for

our own safety we can't pretend to make rain, and fail. As soon as

we have a chance we'll slip away from here."

 

But an unexpected happening made a change in their plans. It was on,

the afternoon of their third day in the native village, and Tom and

his assistants were working hard at the motor. Suddenly there seemed

to be great excitement in the vicinity of the king's hut. A native

had rushed into the village from the jungle, evidently with some

news, for presently the whole place was in a turmoil.

 

Once more the king and his attendants filed out toward the airship.

Once more the interpreter talked to Mr. Durban, who listened

eagerly.

 

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

had finished.

 

"What is it?" asked the young inventor.

 

"A runner has just come in with news that a large herd of wild

elephants is headed this way. The king is afraid the big beasts will

trample down all their crops, as often occurs, and he begs us to go

out and drive the animals away. It's just what we want. Come on,

Tom, and all of you. The airship will be safe here, for the natives

think that to meddle with it would mean death or enchantment for

then. We'll get on our first elephant trail!"

 

The old hunter went into the cabin for his big game gun, while Tom

hastened to get out his electric rifle. Now he would have a chance

to try it on the powerful beasts which he had come to Africa to

hunt.

 

Amid the excited and joyous shouts of the natives, the hunters filed

out of the village, led by the dusky messenger who had brought the

news of the elephants. And, as Tom and the others advanced, they

could hear a distant trumpeting, and a crashing in the jungle that

told of the near presence of the great animals.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XIV

 

A STAMPEDE

 

 

"Look to your guns, everybody!" cautioned Mr. Durban. "It's no joke

to be caught in an elephant herd with an unloaded rifle. Have you

plenty of ammunition, Mr. Damon?"

 

"Ammunition? Bless my powder bag, I think I have enough for all the

elephants I'll kill. If I get one of the big beasts I'll be

satisfied. Bless my piano keys! I think I see them, Tom!"

 

He pointed off through the thick jungle. Surely something was moving

there amid the trees; great slate-colored bodies, massive forms and

waving trunks! The trumpeting increased, and the crashing of the

underbrush sounded louder and nearer.

 

"There they are!" cried Tom Swift joyously.

 

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

 

"Take it easy," advised Mr. Anderson. "Remember to aim for the spot

I mentioned to you as being the best, just at the base of the skull.

If you can't make a head shot, or through the eye, try for the

heart. But with the big bullets we have, almost any kind of a shot,

near a vital spot, will answer."

 

"And Tom can fire at their TOES and put them out of business,"

declared Ned, who was eagerly advancing. "How about it, Tom?"

 

"Well, I guess the electric rifle will come up to expectations. Say,

Mr. Durban, they seem to be heading this way!" excitedly cried Tom,

as the herd of big beasts suddenly turned and changed their course.

 

"Yes, they are," admitted the old elephant hunter calmly. "But that

won't matter. Take it easy. Kill all you can."

 

"But we don't want to put too many out of business," said Tom, who

was not needlessly cruel, even in hunting.

 

"I know that," answered Mr. Durban. "But this is a case of

necessity. I've got to get ivory, and we have to kill quite a few

elephants to accomplish this. Besides the brutes will head for the

village and the natives' grain fields, and trample them down, if

they're not headed back. So all together now, we'll give them a

volley. This is a good place! There they are. All line up now. Get

ready!"

 

He halted, and the others followed his example. The natives had come

to a stop some time before, and were huddled together in the jungle

back of our friends, waiting to see the result of the white men's

shots.

 

Tom, Ned, Mr. Damon, and the two older hunters were on an irregular

line in the forest. Before them was the mass of elephants advancing

slowly, and feeding on the tender leaves of trees as they came on.

They would reach up with their long trunks, strip off the foliage,

and stuff it into their mouths. Sometimes, they even pulled up small

trees by the roots for the purpose of stripping them more easily.

 

"Jove! There are some big tuskers in that bunch!" cried Mr. Durban.

"Aim for the bulls, every one, don't kill the mothers or little

ones." Tom now saw that there were a number of baby Elephants in the

herd, and he appreciated the hunter's desire to spare them and their

mothers.

 

"Here we go!" exclaimed Mr. Durban, as he saw that Tom and the

others were ready. "Aim! Fire!"

 

There were thundering reports that awoke the echoes of the jungle,

and the sounds of the rifles were followed by shrill trumpets of

rage. When the smoke blew away three elephants were seen prostrate,

or, rather two, and part of another one. The last vas almost blown

to pieces by Tom Swift's electric rifle; for the young inventor had

used a little too heavy charge, and the big beast had been almost

annihilated.

 

Mr. Durban had dropped his bull with a well-directed shot, and Mr.

Anderson had a smaller one to his credit.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

He pointed to a fair-sized bull who was running wildly about,

uttering shrill cries of anger. The other beasts had gathered in a

compact mass, with the larger bulls, or tuskers, on the outside, to

protect the females and young.

 

"I'll try a shot at him," said Tom, and raising his electric, gun,

he took quick aim. The elephant dropped in his tracks, for this time

the young inventor had correctly adjusted the power of the wireless

bullet.

 

"Good!" cried Mr. Durban. "Give them some more! This is some of the

best ivory I've seen yet!"

 

As he spoke he fired, and bowled over another magnificent specimen.

Ned Newton, determined to make a record of at least one, fired

again, and to his delight, saw a big fellow drop.

 

"I got him!" he yelled.

 

Mr. Anderson also got another, and then Mr. Damon, blessing

something which his friends could not make out, fired at one of the

largest bulls in the herd.

 

"You only nipped him!" exclaimed Mr. Durban when the smoke had

drifted away. "I guess I'll put him out of his misery!"

 

He raised his weapon and pulled the trigger but no report followed.

He uttered an exclamation of dismay.

 

"The breech-action has jammed!" he exclaimed. "Drop him, Tom. He's

scented us, and is headed this way. The whole herd will follow in a

minute."

 

Already the big brute wounded by Mr. Damon had trumpeted out a cry

of rage and defiance. It was echoed by his mates. Then, with

upraised trunk, he darted forward, followed by a score of big

tuskers.

 

But Tom had heard and understood. The leading beast had not taken

three steps before he dropped under the deadly and certain fire of

the young inventor.

 

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

electric weapon was.

 

There was a shout of joy from the natives in the rear. They saw the

slain creatures and knew there would be much fresh meat and feasting

for them for days to come.

 

Suddenly Mr. Durban cried out: "Fire again, Tom! Fire everybody! The

whole herd is coming this way. If we don't stop them they'll overrun

the fields and village, anti may smash the airship! Fire again!"

 

Almost as he spoke, the rush, which had been stopped momentarily,

when Tom dropped the wounded elephant, began again. With shrill

menacing cries the score of bulls in the lead came on, followed this

time by the females and the young.

 

"It's a stampede!" yelled Mr. Anderson, firing into the midst of the

herd. Mr. Durban was working frantically at his clogged rifle. Ned

and Mr. Damon both fired, and Tom Swift, adjusting his weapon to

give the heaviest charges, shot a fusillade of wireless bullets into

the center of the advancing elephants, who were now wild with fear

and anger.

 

"It's a stampede all right!" said Tom, when he saw that the big

creatures were not going to stop, in spite of the deadly fire poured

into them.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XV

 

LIONS IN THE NIGHT

 

 

Shouting, screaming, imploring their deities in general, and the

white men in particular for protection, the band of frightened

natives broke and ran through the jungle, caring little where they

went so long as they escaped the awful terror of the pursuing herd

of maddened elephants. Behind them came Tom Swift and the others,

for it were folly to stop in the path of the infuriated brutes.

 

"Our only chance is to get on their flank and try to turn them!"

yelled Mr. Durban. "We may beat them in getting to the clearing, for

the trail is narrow. Run, everybody!"

 

No one needed his excited advice to cause them to hurry. They

scudded along, Mr. Damon's cap falling off in his haste. But he did

not stop to pick it up.

 

The hunters had one advantage. They were on a narrow but well-cleared

trail through the jungle, which led from the village where they

were encamped, to another, several miles away. This trail was

too small for the elephants, and, indeed, had to be taken in single

file by the travelers.

 

But it prevented the elephants making the same speed as did our

friends, for the jungle, at this point, consisted of heavy trees,

which halted the progress of even the strongest of the powerful

beasts. True, they could force aside the frail underbrush and the

small trees, but the others impeded their progress.

 

"We'll get there ahead of them!" cried Tom. "Have you got your rifle

in working order yet, Mr. Durban?"

 

"No, something has broken, I fear. We'll have to depend on your

electric gun, Tom. Have you many charges left?"

 

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

 

"Don't count--on--me!" panted Mr. Damon, who was well-nigh

breathless from the run. "I--can't--aim--straight--any--more!"

 

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

 

The fleeing natives were now almost lost to sight, for they could

travel through the jungle, ignoring the trail, at high speed. They

were almost like snakes or animals in this respect. Their one

thought was to get to their village, and, if possible, protect their

huts and fields of grain from annihilation by the elephants.

 

Behind our friends, trumpeting, bellowing and crashing came the

pachyderms. They seemed to be gaining, and Tom, looking back, saw

one big brute emerge upon the trail, and follow that.

 

"I've got to stop him, or some of the others will do the same,"

thought the young inventor. He halted and fired quickly. The

elephant seemed to melt away, and Tom with regret, saw a pair of

fine tusks broken to bits. "I used too heavy a charge," he murmured,

as he took up the retreat again.

 

In a few minutes the party of hunters, who were now playing more in

the role of the hunted, came out into the open. They could hear the

natives beating on their big hollow tree drums, and on tom-toms,

while the witch-doctors and medicine men were chanting weird songs

to drive the elephants away.

 

But the beasts came on. One by one they emerged from the jungle,

until the herd was gathered together again in a compact mass. Then,

under the leadership of some big bulls, they advanced. It seemed as

if they knew what they were doing, and were determined to revenge

themselves by trampling the natives' huts under their ponderous

feet.

 

But Tom and the others were not idle. Taking a position off to one

side, the young inventor began pouring a fusillade of the electric

bullets into the mass of slate-colored bodies. Mr. Anderson was also

firing, and Ned, who had gotten over some of his excitement, was

also doing execution. Mr. Durban, after vainly trying to get his

rifle to work, cast it aside. "Here! Let me take your gun!" he cried

to Mr. Damon, who, panting from the run, was sitting beneath a tree.

 

"Bless my cartridge belt! Take it and welcome!" assented the

eccentric man. It still had several shots in the magazine, and these

the old hunter used with good effect.

 

At first it seemed as if the elephants could not be turned back.

They kept on rushing toward the village, which was not far away, and

Tom and the others followed at one side, as best they could, firing

rapidly. The electric rifle did fearful execution.

 

Emboldened by the fear that all their possessions would be destroyed

a body of the natives rushed out, right in front of the elephants,

and beat tom-toms and drums, almost under their feet, at the same

time singing wild songs.

 

"I'm afraid we can't stop them!" muttered Mr. Anderson. "We'd better

hurry to the airship, and protect that, Tom."

 

But, almost as he spoke, the tide of battle turned. The elephants

suddenly swung about, and began a retreat. They could not stand the

hot fire of the four guns, including Tom's fearful weapon. With wild

trumpetings they fled back into the jungle, leaving a number of

their dead behind.

 

"A close call," murmured Tom, as he drew a breath of relief. Indeed

this was true, for the tide had turned when the foremost elephants

were not a hundred feet away from the first rows of native huts.

 

"I should say it was," agreed Ned Newton, wiping his face with his

handkerchief. He, as well as the others, was an odd-looking sight.

They were blackened by powder smoke, scratched by briars, and red

from exertion.

 

"But we got more ivory in this hour than I could have secured in a

week of ordinary hunting" declared Mr. Durban. "If this keeps up we

won't have to get much more, except that I don't think any of the

tusks to-day are large enough for the special purpose of my

customer."

 

"The sooner we get enough ivory the quicker we can go to the rescue

of the missionaries," said Mr. Anderson.

 

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

 

The natives were now dancing about, wild in delight at the prospect

of unlimited eating, and also thankful for what the white men had

done for them. Alone, the blacks would never have been able to stop

the stampede. They were soon busy cutting up the elephants ready for

a big feast, and runners were sent to tell neighboring tribes, in

adjoining villages, of the delights awaiting them.

 

Mr. Durban gave instructions about saving the ivory tusks, and the

valuable teeth, each pair worth about $1,000, were soon cut out and

put away for our friends. Some had been lost by the excessive power

of Tom's gun, but this could not be helped. It was necessary to stop

the rush at any price.

 

There was soon a busy scene at the native village, and with the

arrival of other tribesmen it seemed as if Bedlam had broken loose.

The blacks chattered like so many children as they prepared for the

feast.

 

"Do white men ever eat elephant meat?" asked Mr. Damon, as the

adventurers were gathered about the airship.

 

"Indeed they do," declared Mr. Durban. "Baked elephant foot is a

delicacy that few appreciate. I'll have the natives cook some for

us."

 

He gave the necessary orders, and the travelers had to admit that it

was worth coming far to get.

 

For the next few days and nights there was great feasting in that

African village, and the praises of the white men, and power of Tom

Swift's electric rifle, were sung loud and long.

 

Our friends had resumed work on repairing the airship, and the young

inventor declared, one night, that they could proceed the next day.

 

They were seated around a small campfire, watching the dancing and

antics of some natives who were at their usual work of eating meat.

All about our friends were numerous blazes for the cooking of the

feasts, and some were on the very edge of the jungle.

 

Suddenly, above the uncouth sounds of the merry-making, there was

heard a deep vibration and roar, not unlike the distant rumble of

thunder or the hum of a great steamer's whistle heard afar in the

fog.

 

"What's that?" cried Ned.

 

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

smell of cooking."

 

At that moment, and instantly following a very loud roar, there was

an agonized scream of pain and terror. It sounded directly in back

of the airship.

 

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

native!"

 

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

jungle.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XVI

 

SEEKING THE MISSIONARIES

 

 

"Here! Come back!" yelled Mr. Damon and Mr. Anderson, in the same

breath, while the old elephant hunter cried out: "Don't you know

you're risking your life, Tom to go off in the dark, to trail a

lion?"

 

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

back.

 

"But you can't see in the dark," objected Mr. Anderson. He had

probably forgotten the peculiar property of the electric rifle. Tom

kept on, and the others slowly followed.

 

The natives had at once ceased their merrymaking at the roaring of

the lions, and now all were gathered close about the campfires, on

which more wood had been piled, to drive away the fearsome brutes.

 

"There must be a lot of them," observed Mr. Durban, as menacing

growls and roars came from the jungle, along the edge of which Tom

and the others were walking just then. "There are so many of the

brutes that they are bold, and they must be hungry, too. They came

close to our fire, because it wasn't so bright as the other blazes,

and that native must have wandered off into the forest. Well, I

guess it's all up with him."

 

"He's screaming yet," observed Ned.

 

Indeed, above the rumbling roars of the lions, and the crackling of

the campfires, could be heard the moaning cries of the unfortunate

black.

 

"He's right close here!" suddenly called Tom. "He's skirting the

jungle. I think I can get him!"

 

"Don't take any risks!" called Mr. Durban, who had caught up his own

rifle, that was now in working order again.

 

Tom Swift was not in sight. He had now penetrated into the jungle--into

the black forest where stalked the savage lions, intent on

getting other prey. Mr. Durban and Mr. Anderson vainly tried to

pierce the darkness to see something at which to shoot. Ned Newton

had eagerly started to follow his chum, but could not discern where

Tom was. A nameless fear clutched at the lad's heart. Mr. Damon was

softly blessing everything of which he could think.

 

Once more came that pitiful cry from the native, who was, as they

afterward learned, being dragged along by the lion, who had grabbed

him by the shoulder.

 

Suddenly in the dense jungle there shone a purple-bluish light. It

illuminated the scene like some great sky-rocket for an instant, and

in that brief time Ned and the others caught sight of a great, tawny

form, bounding along. It was a lion, with head held high, dragging

along a helpless black man.

 

A second later, and before the intense glare had died away, the

watchers saw the lion gently sink down, as though weary. He stopped

short in his tracks, his head rolled back, the jaws relaxed and the

native, who was unconscious now, toppled to one side.

 

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

 

"Bless my incandescent lamp! so he has," agreed Mr. Damon. "Bless my

dynamo! but that's a wonderful gun, it's as powerful as a

thunderbolt, or as gentle as a summer shower."

 

Mr. Durban seeing that the lion was dead, in that brief glance he

had had of the brute, called to some of the natives to come and get

their tribesman. They came, timidly enough at first, carrying many

torches, but when they understood that the lion was dead, they

advanced more boldly. They carried the wounded black to a hut, where

they applied their simple but effective remedies for the cruel bite

in his shoulder.

 

After Tom had shot several other of the illuminated charges into the

jungle, to see if he could discover any more lions, but failed to do

so, he and his friends returned to the anchored airship, amid the

murmured thanks of the Africans.

 

Bright fires were kept blazing all the rest of the night, but,

though lions could be heard roaring in the jungle, and though they

approached alarmingly close to the place where our friends were

encamped, none of the savage brutes ventured within the clearing.

 

With the valuable store of ivory aboard the Black Hawk, which was

now completely repaired, an early start was made the next morning.

The Africans besought Tom and his companions to remain, for it was

not often they could have the services of white men in slaying

elephants and lions.

 

"But, we've got to get on the trail," decided Tom, when the natives

had brought great stores of food, and such simple presents as they

possessed, to induce the travelers to remain.

 

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

of the red pygmies."

 

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

 

And so the airship mounted into the air, our friends waving

farewells to the simple-hearted blacks, who did a sort of farewell

war-dance in their honor, shouting their praises aloud, and beating

the drums and tom-toms, so that the echoes followed for some time

after the Black Hawk had begun to mount upward toward the sky.

 

The craft was in excellent shape, due to the overhauling Tom had

given it while making the repairs. With the propellers beating the

air, and the rudder set to hold them about two thousand feet high,

the travelers moved rapidly over clearings, forests and jungles.

 

It was agreed that now, when they had made such a good start in

collecting ivory, that they would spend the next few days in trying

to get on the trail of the red pygmies. It might seem a simple

matter, after knowing the approximate location of the land of these

fierce little natives, to have proceeded directly to it. But Africa

is an immense continent, and even in an airship comparatively little

of the interior can be seen at a time.

 

Besides, the red pygmies had a habit of moving from place to place,

and they were so small, and so wild, capable of living in very tiny

huts or caves, and so primitive, not building regular villages as

the other Africans do, that as Ned said, they were as hard to locate

as the proverbial flea.

 

Our friends had a general idea of where to look for them, but on

nearing that land, and making inquiries of several friendly tribes,

they learned that the red pygmies had suddenly disappeared from

their usual haunts.

 

"I guess they heard that we were after them," said Tom, with a grim

smile one day, as he sent the airship down toward the earth, for

they were over a great plain, and several native villages could be

seen dotted on its surface.

 

"More likely they are in hiding because they have as captives two

white persons," said Mr. Anderson. "They are fierce and fearless,

but, nevertheless, they have, in times past, felt the vengeance of

the white man, and perhaps they dread that now."

 

They made a descent, and spent several days making inquiries from

the friendly blacks about the race of little men. But scarcely

anything was learned. Some of the negro tribes admitted having heard

of the red pygmies, and others, with superstitious incantations and

imprecations, said they had never heard of them.

 

One tribe of very large negroes had heard a rumor to the effect that

the band of the pygmies was several days' journey from their

village, across the mountains, and when Tom sent his airship there,

the searchers only found an impenetrable jungle, filled with lions

and other wild beasts, but not a sign of the pygmies, and with no

elephants to reward their search.

 

"But we're not going to give up," declared Tom, and the others

agreed with him. Forward went the Black Hawk in the search for the

imprisoned ones, but, as the days passed, and no news was had, it

seemed to grow more and more hopeless.

 

"I'm afraid if we do find them now," remarked Mr. Anderson at

length, "that we'll only recover the bodies of the missionaries."

 

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

 

They had stopped at another native village to make inquiries, but

without result, and were about to start off again that night when a

runner came in to announce that a herd of big elephants was feeding

not many miles away.

 

"Well, we'll stay over a day or so, and get some more ivory,"

decided Mr. Durban and that night they got ready for what was to

prove a big hunt.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XVII

 

SHOTS FROM ABOVE

 

 

"There they are!"

 

"My, what a lot of big ones!"

 

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

 

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

 

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

Damon.

 

"I'm glad I recharged my rifle last night!" exclaimed Tom Swift.

"It's fully loaded now."

 

Then followed exulting cries and shouts of the natives, who were

following our friends, the elephant hunters, who had given voice to

the remarks we have just quoted.

 

It was early in the morning, and the hunt was about to start, for

the news brought in by the runner the night before had been closely

followed by the brutes themselves, and at dawn our friends were

astir, for scouts brought in word that the elephants, including many

big ones, were passing along only a few miles from the African

village.

 

Cautiously approaching, with the wind blowing from the elephants to

them, the white hunters made their way along. Mr. Durban was in the

lead, and when he saw a favorable opportunity he motioned for the

others to advance. Then, when he noticed the big bull sentinels of

the herd look about as if to detect the presence of enemies, he gave

another signal and the hunters sank out of sight in the tall grass.

 

As for the natives, they were like snakes, unseen but ever present,

wriggling along on their hands and knees. They were awaiting the

slaughter, when there would be fresh meat in abundance.

 

At length the old elephant hunter decided that they were near enough

to chance some shots. As a matter of fact, Tom Swift, with his

electric rifle, had been within range some time before, but as he

did not want to spoil the sport for the others, by firing and

killing, and so alarming the herd, he had held back. Now they could

all shoot together.

 

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

 

There was a fusillade of reports and several of the big brutes

toppled over.

 

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

 

"Yes, and a fine specimen, too!" added Mr. Durban, who had only

succeeded in downing a small bull, with an indifferent pair of

tusks. "A fine specimen, Mr. Damon, I congratulate you!"

 

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

herd.

 

But now the hunters had their work cut out for them, since the

beasts had taken fright and were charging away at what seemed an

awkward gait, but which, nevertheless, took them rapidly over the

ground.

 

"Come on!" cried Mr. Durban. "We must get some more. Some of the

finest tusks I have ever seen are running away from us!"

 

He began to race after the retreating herd, but it is doubtful if he

would have caught up to them had not a band of natives, who had

crept up and surrounded the beasts, turned them by shouts and the

beating of tom-toms. Seeing an enemy in front of them, the elephants

turned, and our friends were able to get in several more shots. Tom

Swift picked out only those with immense tusks, and soon had several

to his credit. Ned Newton also bagged some prizes.

 

But finally the elephants, driven to madness by the firing and the

yells of the natives, broke through the line of black men, and

charged off into the jungle, where it was not only useless but

dangerous to follow them.

 

"Well, we have enough," said Mr. Durban, and when the tusks had been

collected it was found that indeed a magnificent and valuable supply

had been gathered.

 

"But I have yet to get my prize ones," said the old hunter with a

sigh. "Maybe we'll find the elephant with them when we locate the

red pygmies."

 

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

 

As on the other occasion after the hunt, there was a great feast for

the natives, who invited tribes from miles around, and for two days,

while the tusks were being cut out and cleaned, there were barbeques

on every side.

 

It was one afternoon, when they were seated in the shade of the

airship, cleaning their guns, and discussing the plans they had best

follow next, that our travellers suddenly heard a great commotion

amongst the Africans, who had for the past hour been very quiet,

most of them sleeping after the feasts. They yelled and shouted, and

began to beat their drums.

 

"Something is coming," said Ned.

 

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

 

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

 

But what he was going to bless he did not say, for at that instant

it seemed as if every native in sight suddenly disappeared, almost

like magic. They sank down into the grass, darted into their huts,

or hid in the tall grass.

 

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

in working order.

 

"Some enemy," declared Mr. Anderson.

 

"There they are!" cried Ned Newton, and as he spoke there burst into

view, coming from the tall grass that covered the plain about the

village, a herd of savage, wild buffaloes. On rushed the shaggy

creatures, their long, sharp horns seeming like waving spears as

they advanced.

 

"Here's more sport!" cried Tom.

 

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

for us!"

 

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

his gun.

 

"No! No!" begged the old hunter. "It's as much as our lives are

worth to try to stop a rush of wild buffaloes. You couldn't do it

with Gatling guns. We can kill a few, but the rest won't stop until

they've finished us and the aeroplane too."

 

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

 

"Get into the airship!" cried Mr. Durban. "Send her up. It's the

only way to get out of their path. Then we can shoot them from

above, and drive them away!"

 

Quickly the adventurers leaped into the craft. On thundered the

buffaloes. Tom feared he could not get the motor started quickly

enough. He did not dare risk rising by means of the aeroplane

feature, but at once started the gas machine.

 

The big bag began to fill. Nearer came the wild creatures,

thundering over the ground, snorting and bellowing with rage.

 

"Quick, Tom!" yelled Ned, and at that instant the Black Hawk shot

upward, just as the foremost of the buffaloes passed underneath,

vainly endeavoring to gore the craft with their sweeping horns. The

air-travelers had risen just in time.

 

"Now it's our turn!" shouted Ned, as he began firing from above into

the herd of infuriated animals below him. Tom, after seeing that the

motor was working well, sent the airship circling about, while

standing in the steering tower, he guided his craft here and there,

meanwhile pouring a fusillade of his wireless bullets into the

buffaloes. Many of them dropped in their tracks, but the big herd

continued to rush here and there, crashing into the frail native

huts, tearing them down, and, whenever a black man appeared, chasing

after him infuriatedly.

 

"Keep at it!" cried Mr. Durban, as he poured more lead into the

buffaloes. "If we don't kill enough of them, and drive the others

away, there won't be anything left of this village."

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XVIII

 

NEWS OF THE RED PYGMIES

 

 

Seldom had it been the lot of Tom and his companions to take part in

such a novel hunting scene as that in which they were now

participating. With the airship moving quickly about, darting here

and there under the guidance of the young inventor, the erratic

movements hither and thither of the buffaloes could be followed

exactly. Wherever the mass of the herd went the airship hovered over

them.

 

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

could be worked.

 

"I guess not," answered the steersman of the Black Hawk, who was

dividing his attention between managing the craft and firing his

electric rifle.

 

The others, too, were kept busy with their weapons, shooting down on

the infuriated animals. It seemed like a needless slaughter, but it

was not. Had it not been for the white men, the native village,

which consisted of only frail huts, would have been completely wiped

out by the animals. As it was they were kept "milling" about in a

circle in an open space, just as stampeded cattle on the western

ranges are kept from getting away, by being forced round and round.

 

Not a native was in sight, all being hidden away in the jungle or

dense grass. The white hunters in their airship had matters to

themselves.

 

At last the firing proved even too much for the buffaloes which, as

we have said, are among the most dreaded of African beasts. With

bellows of fear, the leading bulls of the herd unable to find the

enemy above their heads, darted of into the forest the way they had

come.

 

"There they go!" yelled Mr. Durban.

 

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

with a breath of relief.

 

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

 

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

the weapon.

 

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

life before."

 

"Yes, there is enough food to last the natives for a week," observed

Mr. Durban, as Tom adjusted the deflecting rudder to send the

airship down.

 

"It won't last much longer at the rate they eat," spoke the young

inventor with a laugh. "I never saw such fellows for appetites! They

seem to eat in their sleep."

 

There were many dead buffaloes, but there was no fear that the meat,

which was much prized by the Africans, would be wasted. Already the

natives were coming from their hiding places, knowing that the

danger was over. Once more they sang the praises of the mighty white

hunters, and the magical air craft in which they moved about.

 

With the elephants previously killed, the buffaloes provided

material for a great feast, preparations for which were at once

gotten under way, in spite of the fact that the blacks had hardly

stopped eating since the big hunt began. But it was about all they

had to do.

 

Some of the buffaloes were very large, and there were a number of

pairs of fine horns. Tom and Ned had some of the blacks cut them off

for trophies, and they were stored in the airship together with the

ivory.

 

Becoming rather tired of seeing so much feasting, our friends bade

the Africans farewell the next day, and once more resumed their

quest. They navigated through the air for another week, stopping at

several villages, and scanning the jungles and plains by means of

powerful telescopes, for a sight of the red pygmies. They also asked

for news of the sacking of the missionary settlement, but, beyond

meager facts, could learn nothing.

 

"Well, we've got to keep on, that's all," decided Mr. Durban. "We

may find them most unexpectedly."

 

"I'm sorry if I have taken you away from your work of gathering

ivory," spoke Mr. Anderson. "Perhaps you had better let me go, and

I'll see if I can't organize a band of friendly blacks, and search

for the red dwarfs myself."

 

"Not much!" exclaimed Tom warmly. "I said we'd help rescue those

missionaries, and we'll do it, too!"

 

"Of course," declared the old elephant hunter. "We have quite a lot

of ivory and, while we need more to make it pay well, we can look

for it after we rescue the missionaries as well as before. Perhaps

there will be a lot of elephants in the pygmies' land."

 

"I was only thinking that we can't go on forever in the airship."

said Mr. Anderson. "You'll have to go back to civilization soon,

won't you, Tom, to get gasolene?"

 

"No, we have enough for at least a month," answered the young

inventor. "I took aboard an unusually large supply when we started."

 

"What would happen if we ran out of it in the jungle?" asked Ned.

"Bless my pocketbook! What an unpleasant question!" exclaimed Mr.

Damon. "You are almost as cheerful, Ned, as was my friend Mr.

Parker, the gloomy scientist, who was always predicting dire

happenings."

 

"Well, I was only wondering," said Ned, who was a little abashed by

the manner in which his inquiry was received.

 

"Oh, it would be all right," declared Tom. "We would simply become a

balloon, and in time the wind would blow us to some white

settlement. There is plenty of material for making the lifting gas."

 

This was reassuring, and, somewhat easier in mind, Ned took his

place in the observation tower which looked down on the jungle over

which they were passing.

 

It was a dense forest. At times there could be seen, in the little

clearings, animals darting along. There were numbers of monkeys, an

occasional herd of buffaloes were observed, sometimes a solitary

stray elephant was noted, and as for birds, there were thousands of

them. It was like living over a circus, Ned declared.

 

They had descended one day just outside a large native village to

make inquiries about elephants and the red pygmies. Of the big

beasts no signs had been seen in several months, the hunters of the

tribe told Mr. Durban. And concerning the red pygmies, the blacks

seemed indisposed to talk.

 

Tom and the others could not understand this, until a witch-doctor,

whom the elephant hunter had met some time ago, when he was on a

previous expedition, told him that the tribe had a superstitious

fear of speaking of the little men.

 

"They may be around us--in the forest or jungle at any minute," the

witch-doctor said. "We never speak of them."

 

"Say, do you suppose that can be a clew?" asked Tom eagerly. "They

may be nearer at hand than we think."

 

"It's possible." admitted the hunter. "Suppose we stay here for a

few days, and I'll see if I can't get some of the natives to go off

scouting in the woods, and locate them, or at least put us on the

trail of the red dwarfs."

 

This was considered good advice, and it was decided to adopt it.

Accordingly the airship was put in a safe place, and our friends

prepared to spend a week, if necessary, in the native village. Their

presence with the wonderful craft was a source of wonder, and by

means of some trinkets judiciously given to the native king, and

also to his head subjects, and to the witch-doctors (who were a

power in the land), the good opinion of the tribe was won. Then, by

promising rewards to some of the bolder hunters, Mr. Durban finally

succeeded in getting them to go off scouting in the jungle for a

clew to the red pygmies.

 

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

news."

 

Our friends spent their time observing some of the curious customs

of the natives, and in witnessing some odd dances gotten up in their

honor. They also went hunting, and got plenty of game, for which

their hosts were duly grateful. Tom did some night stalking and

found his illuminating bullets a great success.

 

One hot afternoon Tom and Mr. Damon strolled off a little way into

the jungle, Tom with his electric weapon, in case he saw any game.

But no animals save a few big monkeys where to be seen, and the

young inventor scorned to kill them. It seemed too much like firing

at a human being he said, though the natives stated that some of the

baboons and apes were fierce, and would attack one on the slightest

provocation.

 

"I believe I'll sit down here and rest," said Tom, after a mile's

tramp, as he came to a little clearing in the woods.

 

"Very well, I'll go on," decided Mr. Damon. "Mr. Durban said there

were sometimes rare orchids in these jungles, and I am very fond of

those odd flowers. I'm going to see if I can get any."

 

He disappeared behind a fringe of moss-grown trees, and Tom sat

down, with his rifle across his knees. He was thinking of many

things, but chiefly of what yet lay before them--the discovery of

the red dwarfs and the possible rescue of the missionaries.

 

He might have been thus day-dreaming for perhaps a half hour, when

he suddenly heard great commotion in the jungle, in the direction in

which Mr. Damon had vanished. It sounded as though some one was

running rapidly. Then came the report of the odd man's gun.

 

"He's seen some game!" exclaimed Tom, jumping up, and preparing to

follow his friend. But he did not have the chance. An instant later

Mr. Damon burst through the bushes with every appearance of fright,

his gun held above his head with one hand, and his pith helmet

swaying to and fro in the other.

 

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

 

"Who, the red pygmies?"

 

"No, but a couple of rhinoceroses are after me. I wounded one, and

he and his mate are right behind. Don't let them catch me, Tom!"

 

Mr. Damon was very much alarmed, and there was good occasion for it,

as Tom saw a moment later, for two fierce rhinoceroses burst out of

the jungle almost on the heels of the fleeing man.

 

Thought was not quicker than Tom Swift. He raised his deadly rifle,

and pressed the button. A charge of wireless electricity shot toward

the foremost animal, and it was dropped in its tracks. The other

came on woofing and snorting with rage. It was the one Mr. Damon had

slightly wounded.

 

"Come on!" yelled the young inventor, for his friend was in front of

the beast, and in range with the rifle. "Jump to one side, Mr.

Damon."

 

Mr. Damon tried, but his foot slipped, and there was no need for

jumping. He fell and rolled over. The rhinoceros swerved toward him,

with the probable intention of goring the prostrate man with the

formidable horn, but it had no chance. Once more the young inventor

fired, this time with a heavier charge, and the animal instantly

toppled over dead.

 

"Are you hurt?" asked Tom anxiously, as he ran to his friend. Mr.

Damon got up slowly. He felt all over himself, and then answered:

 

"No, Tom, I guess I'm not hurt, except in my dignity. Never again

will I fire at a sleeping rhinoceros unless you are with me. I had a

narrow escape," and he shook Tom's hand heartily.

 

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

 

"No, those beasts didn't give me a chance! Bless my tape measure!

but they're big fellows!"

 

Indeed they were fine specimens, and there was the usual rejoicing

among the natives when they brought in the great bodies, pulling

them to the village with ropes made of vines.

 

After this Mr. Damon was careful not to go into the jungle alone,

nor, in fact, did any of our friends so venture. Mr. Durban said it

was not safe.

 

They remained a full week in the native village, and received no

news. In fact, all but one of the hunters came back to report that

there was no sign of the red pygmies in that neighborhood.

 

"Well, I guess we might as well move on, and see what we can do

ourselves," said Mr. Durban.

 

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

may bring word."

 

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

Anderson.

 

"Why not?" asked Ned.

 

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

 

But this fear was ungrounded. It was on the second day after the

killing of the rhinoceroses that, as Tom was tinkering away in the

engine-room of the airship, and thinking that perhaps they had

better get under way, that a loud shouting was heard among the

natives.

 

"I wonder what's up now?" mused the young inventor as he went

outside. He saw Mr. Durban and Mr. Anderson running toward the ship.

Behind them was a throng of blacks, led by a weary man whom Tom

recognized as the missing hunter. The lad's heart beat high with

hope. Did the African bring news?

 

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

 

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

 

"Not the red pygmies?" asked Tom eagerly.

 

"Yes; this hunter has news of them. He has been to the border of

their country, and narrowly escaped capture. Then he was attacked by

a lion, and slightly wounded. But, Tom, now we can get on the

trail!"

 

"Good!" cried the young inventor. "That's fine news!" and he

rejoiced that once more there would be activity, for he was tired of

remaining in the African camp, and then, too, he wanted to proceed

to the rescue. Already it might be too late to save the unfortunate

missionaries.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XIX

 

AN APPEAL FOR HELP

 

 

The African hunter's story was soon told. He had gone on farther

than had any of his companions, and, being a bold and brave man, had

penetrated into the very fastness of the jungle where few would dare

to venture.

 

But even he had despaired of getting on the trail of the fierce

little red men, until one afternoon, just at dusk he had heard

voices in the forest. Crouching behind a fallen tree, he waited and

saw passing by some of the pygmy hunters, armed with bows and

arrows, and blowguns. They had been out after game. Cautiously the

hunter followed them, until he located one of their odd villages,

which consisted of little mud huts, poorly made.

 

The black hunter remained in the vicinity of the pygmies all that

night, and was almost caught, for some wild dogs which hung around

the village smelled him out, and attracted to him the attention of

the dwarf savages. The hunter took to a tree, and so escaped. Then,

carefully marking the trail, he came away in the morning. When near

home, a lion had attacked him, but he speared the beast to death,

after a hand-to-hand struggle in which his leg was torn.

 

"And do you think we can find the place?" asked Ned, when Mr. Durban

had finished translating the hunter's story.

 

"I think so," was the reply.

 

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

anxiously.

 

"That is what we don't know," said Mr. Anderson. "The native scout

could not learn that. But once we get on the trail of the dwarfs, I

think we can easily find the particular tribe which has the

captives."

 

"At any rate, we'll get started and do something," declared Tom, and

the next day, after the African hunter had described, as well as he

could, where the place was, the Black Hawk was sent up into the air,

good-bys were called down, and once more the adventurers were under

way.

 

It was decided that they had better proceed cautiously, and lower

the airship, and anchor it, sometime before getting above the place

where the pygmy village was.

 

"For they may see us, and, though they don't know what our craft is,

they may take the alarm and hide deeper in the jungle with the

prisoners, where we can't find them," said Tom.

 

His plan was adopted, and, while it had taken the native hunter

several days to reach the borders of the dwarfs' land, those in the

airship made the trip in one day. That is, they came as far toward

it as they thought would be safe, and one night, having located a

landmark which Mr. Durban said was on the border, the nose of the

Black Hawk was pointed downward, and soon they were encamped in a

little clearing in the midst of the dense jungle which was all about

them.

 

With his electric rifle, Tom noiselessly killed some birds, very

much like chicken, of which an excellent meal was made and then, as

it became dark very early, and as nothing could be done, they

lighted a campfire, and retired inside their craft to pass the

night.

 

It must have been about midnight that Tom, who was a light sleeper

at times, was awakened by some noise outside the window near which

his stateroom was. He sat up and listened, putting out his hand to

where his rifle stood in the corner near his bunk. The lad heard

stealthy footsteps pattering about on the deck of the airship. There

was a soft, shuffling sound, such as a lion or a tiger makes, when

walking on bare boards. In spite of himself, Tom felt the hair on

his head beginning to creep, and a shiver ran down his back.

 

"There's something out there!" he whispered. "I wonder if I'd better

awaken the others? No, if it's a sneaking lion, I can manage to kill

him, but--"

 

He paused as another suggestion came to him.

 

The red pygmies! They went barefoot! Perhaps they were swarming

about the ship which they might have discovered in the darkness.

 

Tom Swift's heart beat rapidly. He got softly out of his bunk, and,

with his rifle in hand made his way to the door opening on deck. On

his way he gently awakened Ned and Mr. Durban, and whispered to them

his fear.

 

"If the red pygmies are out there we'll need all our force," said

the old elephant hunter. "Call Mr. Damon and Mr. Anderson, Ned, and

tell them to bring their guns."

 

Soon they were all ready, fully armed. They listened intently. The

airship was all in darkness, for lights drew a horde of insects. The

campfire had died down. The soft footsteps could still be heard

moving about the deck.

 

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

 

"It does," agreed Tom. "Wait a minute, I'll fire an illuminating

charge, and we can see what it is."

 

The others posted themselves at windows that gave a view of the

deck. Tom poked his electric rifle out of a crack of the door, and

shot forth into the darkness one of the blue illuminations. The deck

of the craft was instantly lighted up brilliantly, and in the glare,

crouched on the deck, could be seen a powerful black man, nearly

naked, gazing at the hunters.

 

"A black!" gasped Tom, as the light died out. "Maybe it is one from

the village we just left. What do you want? Who are you?" called the

lad, forgetting that the Africans spoke only their own language. To

the surprise of all, there came his reply in broken English:

 

"Me Tomba! Me go fo' help for Missy Illingway--fo' Massy Illingway.

Me run away from little red men! Me Christian black man. Oh, if you

be English, help Missy Illingway--she most die! Please help. Tomba

go but Tomba be lost! Please help!"

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XX

 

THE FIGHT

 

 

Surprise, for the moment, held Tom and the others speechless. To be

answered in English, poor and broken as it was, by a native African,

was strange enough, but when this same African was found aboard the

airship, in the midst of the jungle, at midnight, it almost passed

the bounds of possibility.

 

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

"Tomba?"

 

"Of course!" cried Mr. Anderson, suddenly. "Don't you remember?

That's the name of the servant of Mr. and Mrs. Illingway, who

escaped and brought news of their capture by the pygmies. That's who

Tomba is."

 

"Yes, but Tomba escaped," objected Mr. Durban. "He went to the white

settlements with the news. How comes he here?"

 

"We'll have to find out," said Tom, simply. "Tomba, are you there?"

he called, as he fired other illuminating charge. It disclosed the

black man standing up on the deck, and looking at them appealingly.

 

"Yes, Tomba here," was the answer. "Oh, you be English, Tomba know.

Please help Missy and Massy Illingway. Red devils goin' kill 'em

pretty much quick."

 

"Come in!" called Tom, as he turned on the electric lights in the

airship. "Come in and tell us all about it. But how did you get

here?"

 

"Maybe there are two Tombas," suggested Ned.

 

"Bless my safety razor!" cried Mr. Damon "perhaps Ned is right!"

 

But he wasn't, as they learned when they had questioned the African,

who came inside the airship, looking wonderingly around at the many

strange things he saw. He was the same Tomba who had escaped the

massacre, and had taken news of the capture of his master and

mistress to the white settlement. In vain after that he had tried to

organize a band to go back with him to the rescue, but the whites in

the settlement were too few, and the natives too timid. Then Tomba,

with grief in his heart, and not wanting to live while the

missionaries whom he had come to care for very much, were captives,

he went back into the jungle, determined, if he could not help them,

that at least he would share their fate, and endeavor to be of some

service to them in their captivity.

 

After almost unbelievable hardships, he had found the red pygmies,

and had allowed himself to be captured by them. They rejoiced

greatly in the possession of the big black man, and for some strange

reason had not killed him. He was allowed to share the captivity of

his master and mistress.

 

Time went on, and the pygmies did not kill their prisoners. They

even treated them with some kindness but were going to sacrifice

them at their great annual festival, which was soon to take place.

Mr. and Mrs. Illingway, Tomba told our friends in his broken

English, had urged him to escape at the first opportunity. They knew

if he could get away he would travel through the jungle. They could

not, even if they had not been so closely guarded that escape was

out of the question.

 

But Tomba refused to go until Mr. Illingway had said that perhaps he

might get word to some white hunters, and so send help to the

captives. This Tomba consented to do, and, watching his chance, he

did escape. That was several nights ago, and he had been traveling

through the jungle ever since. It was by mere accident that he came

upon the anchored airship, and his curiosity led him to board her.

The rest is known.

 

"Well, of all queer yarns, this is the limit!" exclaimed Tom, when

the black had finished. "What had we better do about it?"

 

"Get ready to attack the red pygmies at once!" decided Mr. Durban.

"If we wait any longer it may be too late!"

 

"My idea, exactly," declared Mr. Anderson.

 

"Bless my bowie-knife!" cried Mr. Damon. "It'd like to get a chance

at the red imps! Come on, Tom! Let's start at once."

 

"No, we need daylight to fight by," replied Tom, with a smile at his

friend's enthusiasm. "We'll go forward in the morning."

 

"In the airship?" asked Mr. Damon.

 

"I think so," answered Tom. "There can be no advantage now in trying

to conceal ourselves. We can move upon them from where we are so

quickly that they won't have much chance to get away. Besides it

will take us too long to make our way through the jungle afoot. For,

now that the escape of Tomba must be known, they may kill the

captives at once to forestall any rescue."

 

"Then we'll move forward in the morning," declared Mr. Durban.

 

They took Tomba with them in the airship the next day, though he

prayed fervently before he consented to it. But they needed him to

point out the exact location of the pygmies' village, since it was

not the one the hunter-scout had been near.

 

The Black Hawk sailed through the air. On board eager eyes looked

down for a first sight of the red imps. Tomba, who was at Tom's side

in the steering tower, told him, as best he could, from time to

time, how to set the rudders.

 

"Pretty soon by-em-by be there," said the black man at length. "Pass

ober dat hill, den red devils live."

 

"Well, we'll soon be over that hill," announced Tom grimly. "I guess

we'd better get our rifles ready for the battle."

 

"Are you going to attack them at once?" asked Mr. Damon.

 

"Well," answered the young inventor, "I don't believe we ought to

kill any of them if we can avoid it. I don't like to do such a thing

but, perhaps we can't help ourselves. My plan is to take the airship

down, close to the hut where the missionaries are confined. Tomba

can point it out to us. If we can rescue them without bloodshed, so

much the better. But we'll fight if we have to."

 

Grimly they watched as the airship sailed over the hill. Then

suddenly there came into view a collection of mud huts on a vast

plain, surrounded by dense jungle on every side. As the travelers

looked, they could see little creatures running wildly about. Even

without a glass it could be noted that their bodies were covered

with a curious growth of thick sandy hair.

 

"The red pygmies!" cried Tom. "Now for the rescue!"

 

Eagerly Tomba indicated the hut where his master and mistress were

held. Telling his friends to have their weapons in readiness, Tom

steered the airship toward the rude shelter whence he hoped to take

the missionaries. Down to the ground swiftly shot the Black Hawk.

Tom checked her with a quick movement of the deflecting rudder, and

she landed gently on the wheels.

 

"Mr. Illingway! Mrs. Illingway! We have come to rescue you!" yelled

the young inventor, as he stepped out on the deck, with his electric

rifle in his hand. "Where are you? Can you come out?"

 

The door of the hut was burst open, and a white man and woman,

recognizable as such, even in the rude skins that clothed them,

rushed out. Wonder spread over their faces as they saw the great

airship. They dropped on their knees.

 

The next instant a swarm of savage little red men surrounded them,

and rudely bore them, strugglingly, back into the hut.

 

"Come on!" cried Tom, about to leap to the ground. "It's now or

never! We must save them!"

 

Mr. Durban pulled him back, and pointed to a horde of the red-haired

savages rushing toward the airship. "They'd tear you to pieces in a

minute!" cried the old hunter. "We must fight them from the ship."

 

There was a curious whistling sound in the air. Mr. Durban looked

up.

 

"Duck, everybody!" he yelled. "They're firing arrows at us! Get

under shelter, for they may be poisoned!"

 

Tom and the others darted into the craft. The arrows rattled on deck

in a shower, and hundreds of the red imps were rushing up to give

battle. Inside the hut where the missionaries were, it was now

quiet. Tom Swift wondered if they still lived.

 

"Give 'em as good as they send!" cried Mr. Durban. "We will have to

fire at them now. Open up with your electric rifle, Tom!"

 

As he spoke the elephant hunter fired into the midst of the

screaming savages. The battle had begun.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XXI

 

DRIVEN BACK

 

 

What the travelers had heard regarding the fierceness and courage of

the red pygmies had not been one bit exaggerated. Never had such

desperate fighting ever taken place. The red dwarfs, scarcely one of

whom was more than three feet high, were strongly built, and there

were so many of them, and they battled together with such singleness

of purpose, that they were more formidable than a tribe of ordinary-sized

savages would have been.

 

And their purpose was to utterly annihilate the enemy that had so

unexpectedly come upon them. It did not matter to them that Tom and

the others had arrived in an airship. The strange craft had no

superstitious terror for them, as it had for the simpler blacks.

 

"Bless my multiplication tables!" cried Mr. Damon. "What a mob of

them!"

 

"Almost too many!" murmured Tom Swift, who was rapidly firing his

electric rifle at them. "We can never hope to drive them back, I'm

afraid."

 

Indeed from every side of the plain, and even from the depths of the

jungle the red dwarfs were now pouring. They yelled most horribly,

screaming in rage, brandishing their spears and clubs, and keeping

up an incessant fire of big arrows from their bows, and smaller ones

from the blowguns.

 

As yet none of our friends had been hit, for they were sheltered in

the airship, and as the windows were covered with a mesh of wire, to

keep out insects, this also served to prevent the arrows from

entering. There were loopholes purposely made to allow the rifles to

be thrust out.

 

Mercifully, Tom and the others fired only to disable, and not to

kill the red pygmies. Wounded in the arms or legs, the little

savages would be incapable of fighting, and this plan was followed.

But so fierce were they that some, who were wounded twice, still

kept up the attack.

 

Tom's electric rifle was well adapted for this work, as he could

regulate the charge to merely stun, no matter at what part of the

body it was directed. So he could fire indiscriminantly, whereas the

others had to aim carefully. And Tom's fire was most effective. He

disabled scores of the red imps, but scores of others sprang up to

take their places.

 

After their first rush the pygmies had fallen back before the

well-directed fire of our friends, but as their chiefs and head men

urged them to the attack again, they came back with still fiercer

energy. Some, more bold than the others, even leaped to the deck of the

airship, and tried to tear the screens from the windows. They partly

succeeded, and in one casement from which Ned was firing they made a

hole.

 

Into this they shot a flight of arrows, and one slightly wounded the

bank clerk on the arm. The wound was at once treated with

antiseptics, after the window had been barricaded, and Ned declared

that he was ready to renew the fight. Tom, too, got an arrow scratch

on the neck, and one of the barbs entered Mr. Durban's leg, but the

sturdy elephant hunter would not give up, and took his place again

after the wound had been bandaged.

 

From time to time as he worked his electric gun, which had been

charged to its utmost capacity, Tom glanced at the hut where the

missionaries were prisoners. There was no movement noticed about it,

and no sound came from it. Tom wondered what had happened inside--he

wondered what was happening as the battle progressed.

 

Fiercely the fight was kept up. Now the red imps would be driven

back, and again they would swarm about the airship, until it seemed

as if they must overwhelm it. Then the fire of the white adventurers

was redoubled. The electric rifle did great work, and Tom did not

have to stop and refill the magazine, as did the others.

 

Suddenly, above the noise of the conflict, Tom Swift heard an

ominous sound. It was a hissing in the air, and well he knew what it

was.

 

"The gas bag!" he cried. "They've punctured it! The vapor is

escaping. If they put too many holes in the bag it will be all up

with us!"

 

"What's to be done?" asked Mr. Durban.

 

"If we can't drive them back we must retreat ourselves!" declared

Tom desperately. "Our only hope is to keep the airship safe from

harm."

 

Once more came a rush of the savages. They had discovered that the

gas bag was vulnerable, and were directing their arrows against

that. It was punctured in several more places. The gas was rapidly

escaping.

 

"We've got to retreat!" yelled Tom. He hurried to the engine-room,

and turned on the power. The great propellers revolved, and sent the

Black Hawk scudding across the level plain. With yells of surprise

the red dwarfs scattered arid made way for it.

 

Up into the air it mounted on the broad wings. For the time being

our friends has been driven back, and the missionaries whom they had

come to rescue were still in the hands of the savages.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XXII

 

A NIGHT ATTACK

 

 

"Well, what's to be done?"

 

Tom Swift asked that question.

 

"Bless my percussion cap! They certainly are the very worst imps for

fighting that I ever heard of," commented Mr. Damon helplessly.

 

"Is the gas bag much punctured?" asked Ned Newton.

 

"Wait a minute," resumed the young inventor, as he pulled the speed

lever a trifle farther over, thereby sending the craft forward more

swiftly, "I think my question ought to be answered first. What's to

be done? Are we going to run away, and leave that man and woman to

their fate?"

 

"Of course not!" declared Mr. Durban stoutly, "but we couldn't stay

there, and have them destroy the airship."

 

"No, that's so," admitted Tom, "if we lost the airship it would be

all up with us and our chances of rescuing the missionaries. But

what can we do? I hate to retreat!"

 

"But what else is there left for us?" demanded Ned.

 

"Nothing, of course. But we've got to plan to get the best of those

red pygmies. We can't go back in the airship, and give them open

battle. There are too many of them, and, by Jove! I believe more are

coming every minute!"

 

Tom and the others looked down. From all sides of the plain,

hastening toward the village of mud huts, from which our friends

were retreating, could be seen swarms of the small but fierce

savages. They were coming from the jungle, and were armed with war

clubs, bows and arrows and the small but formidable blowguns.

 

"Where are they coming from?" asked Mr. Damon.

 

"From the surrounding tribes," explained Mr. Durban. "They have been

summoned to do battle against us."

 

"But how did the ones we fought get word to the others so soon?" Ned

demanded.

 

"Oh, they have ways of signaling," explained Mr. Anderson. "They can

make the notes of some of their hollow-tree drums carry a long

distance, and then they are very swift runners, and can penetrate

into the jungle along paths that a white man would hardly see. They

also use the smoke column as a signal, as our own American Indians

used to do. Oh, they can summon all their tribesmen to the fight,

and they probably will. Likely the sound of our guns attracted the

imps, though if we all had electric rifles like Tom's they wouldn't

make any noise."

 

"Well, my rifle didn't appear to do so very much good this tune,"

observed the young inventor, as he stopped the forward motion of the

ship now, and let it hover over the plain in sight of the village,

the gas bag serving to sustain the craft, and there was little wind

to cause it to drift. "Those fellows didn't seem to mind being hurt

and killed any more than if mosquitoes were biting them."

 

"The trouble is we need a whole army, armed with electric rifles to

make a successful attack," said Mr. Durban. "There are swarms of

them there now, and more coming every minute. I do hope Mr. and Mrs.

Illingway are alive yet."

 

"Yes," added Mr. Anderson solemnly, "we must hope for the best. But,

like Tom Swift, I ask, what's to be done?"

 

"Bless my thinking cap!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "It seems to me if we

can't fight them openly in the daytime, there's only one other thing

to do."

 

"What's that?" asked Tom. "Go away? I'll not do it!"

 

"No, not go away," exclaimed Mr. Damon, "but make a night attack. We

ought to be able to do something then, and with your illuminating

rifle, Tom, we'd have an advantage! What do you say?"

 

"I say it's the very thing!" declared Tom, with sudden enthusiasm.

"We'll attack them to-night, when they're off their guard, and we'll

see if we can't get the missionaries out of that hut. And to better

fool the savages, we'll just disappear now, and make 'em believe

we've flown away."

 

"Then the missionaries will think we're deserting them," objected

Mr. Anderson.

 

But there was no help for it, and so Tom once more turned on the

power and the craft sailed away.

 

Tomba, the faithful black, begged to be allowed to go down, and tell

his master and mistress that help would soon be at hand again, even

though it looked like a retreat on the part of the rescuers, but

this could not be permitted.

 

"They'd tear you in pieces as soon as you got among those red imps,"

said Tom. "You stay here, Tomba, and you can help us to-night."

 

"A'right, me glad help lick red fellows," said the black, with as

cheerful a grin as he could summon.

 

The Black Hawk circled around, with Tom and the others looking for a

good place to land. They were out of sight of the village now but

did not doubt but that they were observed by the keen eyes of the

little men.

 

"We want to pick out a place where they won't come upon us as we

descend," declared Tom. "We've got to mend some leaks in the gas

bag, for, while they are not serious, if we get any more punctures

they may become so. So we've got to pick out a good place to go

down."

 

Finally, by means of powerful glasses, a desolate part of the jungle

was selected. No files of the red dwarfs, coming from their

scattered villages to join their tribesmen, had been noted in the

vicinity picked out, and it was hoped that it would answer. Slowly

the airship settled to earth, coming to rest in a thick grove of

trees, where there was an opening just large enough to allow the

Black Hawk to enter.

 

Our friends were soon busy repairing the leaks in the bag, while Mr.

Damon got a meal ready. As they ate they talked over plans for the

night attack.

 

It was decided to wait until it was about two o'clock in the

morning, as at that hour the dwarfs were most generally asleep,

Tomba said. They always stayed up quite late, sitting around camp-fires,

and eating the meat which the hunters brought in each day. But their

carousings generally ended at midnight, the black said, and then they

fell into a heavy sleep. They did not post guards, but since they knew

of the presence of the white men in the airship, they might do it

this time.

 

"Well, we've got to take our chance," decided Tom. "We'll start off

from here about one o'clock, and I'll send the ship slowly along.

We'll get right over the hut where the captives are, if possible,

and then descend. I'll manage the ship, and one of you can work the

electric rifle if they attack us. We'll make a dash, get Mr. and

Mrs. Illingway from the hut, and make a quick get-away."

 

It sounded good, and they were impatient to put it into operation.

That afternoon Tom and his friends went carefully over every inch of

their craft, to repair it and have it in perfect working order. Guns

were cleaned, and plenty of ammunition laid out. Then, shortly after

one o'clock in the morning the ship was sent up, and with the

searchlight ready to be turned on instantly, and with his electric

rifle near at hand, Tom Swift guided his craft on to the attack.

Soon they could see the glow of dying fires in the dwarfs' village,

but no sound came from the sleeping hordes of red imps.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XXIII

 

THE RESCUE

 

 

"Can you make out the hut, Tom?" asked Ned, as he stood at his

chum's side in the steering tower, and gazed downward on the silent

village.

 

"Not very clearly. Suppose you take a look through the night-glasses.

Maybe you'll have better luck."

 

Ned peered long and earnestly.

 

"No, I can't see a thing." he said. "It all looks to be a confused

jumble of huts. I can't tell one from the other. We'll have to go

lower."

 

"I don't want to do that," objected Tom. "If this attack succeeds at

all, it will have to be sharp and quick. If we go down where they

can spot us, and work our way up to the hut where the captives are,

we'll run the chance of an attack that may put us out of business."

 

"Yes, we ought to get right over the hut, and then make a sudden

swoop down," admitted Ned, "but if we can't see it--"

 

"I have it!" cried Tom suddenly. "Tomba! That African can see in the

dark like a cat. Why, just before we started I dropped a wrench, and

I didn't have any matches handy to look for it. I was groping around

in the dark trying to get my hands on it, and you know it was pretty

black in the jungle. Well, along come Tomba. and he spotted it at

once and picked it up. We'll call him here and get him to point out

the hut. He can tell me how to steer."

 

"Good!" cried Ned, and the black was soon standing in the pilot

house. He comprehended what was wanted of him, and peered down,

seeking to penetrate the darkness.

 

"Shall I go down a little lower?" asked Tom.

 

For a moment Tomba did not answer. Then he uttered an exclamation of

pleasure.

 

"Me see hut!" he said, clutching Tom's arm. "Down dere!" He pointed,

but neither Tom nor Ned could see it. However, as Tomba was now

giving directions, telling Tom when to go to the left or the right,

as the wind currents deflected they were certain of soon reaching

the place where Mr. and Mrs. Illingway were concealed, if they were

still alive.

 

The Black Hawk was moving slowly, and was not under as good control

as if she had been making ninety miles an hour. As it was desired to

proceed as quietly as possible, the craft was being used as a

dirigible balloon, and the propellers were whirled around by means

of a small motor, worked by a storage battery. While not much power

was obtained this way, there was the advantage of silence, which was

very necessary. Slowly the Black Hawk sailed on through the night.

In silence the adventurers waited for the moment of action. They had

their weapons in readiness. Mr. Durban was to work the electric

rifle, as all Tom's attention would be needed at the machinery. As

soon as the craft had made a landing he was to leap out, carrying a

revolver in either hand, and, followed by Tomba, would endeavor to

gain entrance to the hut, break through the flimsy grass-woven

curtain over the doorway, and get Mr. and Mrs. Illingway out. Ned,

Mr. Damon and the other two men would stand by to fire on the red

pygmies as soon as they commenced the attack, which they would

undoubtedly do as soon as the guards of the captives raised the

alarm.

 

The airship was in darkness, for it would have been dangerous to

show a light. Some wakeful dwarf might see the moving illumination

in the sky, and raise a cry.

 

"Mos' dere," announced Tomba at length. And then, for the first

time, Ned and Tom had a glimpse of the hut. It stood away from the

others, and was easy to pick out in daylight, but even the darkness

offered no handicap to Tomba. "Right over him now," he suddenly

called, as he leaned out of the pilot house window, and looked down.

"Right over place. Oh, Tomba glad when he see Missy an' Massy!"

 

"Yes, I hope you do see them," murmured Tom, as he pulled the lever

which would pump the gas from the inflated bag, and compress it into

tanks, until it was needed again to make the ship rise. Slowly the

Black Hawk sank down.

 

"Get ready!" called Tom in a low voice.

 

It was a tense moment. Every one of the adventurers felt it, and all

but Tom grasped their weapons with tighter grips. They were ready to

spring out as soon as a landing was made. Tom managed the machinery

in the dark, for he knew every wheel, gear and lever, and could have

put his hand on any one with his eyes shut. The two loaded revolvers

were on a shelf in front of him. The side door of the pilot house

was ajar, to allow him quick egress.

 

Tomba, armed with a big club he had picked up in the jungle, was

ready to follow. The black was eager for the fray to begin, though

how he and the others would fare amid the savages was hard to say.

 

Still not a sound broke the quiet. It was very dark, for nearly all

the camp fires, over which the nightly feast had been prepared, were

out. The hut could be dimly made out, however.

 

Suddenly there was a slight tremor through the ship. She seemed to

shiver, and bound upward a little.

 

"We've landed!" whispered Tom. "Now for it! Come on, Tomba!"

 

The big black glided after the lad like a shadow. With his two

weapons held in readiness our hero went out on deck. The others,

with cocked rifles, stood ready for the attack to open. It had been

decided that as soon as the first alarm was given by the dwarfs,

which would probably be when Tom broke into the hut, the firing

would begin.

 

"Open!" called Tom to Tomba, and the big black dashed his club

through the grass curtain over the doorway of the hut. He fairly

leaped inside, with a cry of battle on his lips.

 

"Mr. Illingway! Mrs. Illingway!" called Tom, "We've come to save

you. Hurry out. The airship is just outside!"

 

He fired one shot through the roof of the hut, so that the flash

would reveal to him whether or not the two missionaries were in the

place. He saw two forms rise up in front of him, and knew that they

were the white captives he had observed daring the former attack.

 

"Oh, what is it?" he heard the woman ask.

 

"A rescue! Thank the dear Lord!" answered her husband fervently.

"Oh, whoever you are, God bless you!"

 

"Come quickly!" cried Tom, "we haven't a moment to lose!"

 

He was speaking to absolute blackness now, for it was darker

immediately following the revolver flash than before. But he felt a

man's hand thrust about his arm, and he knew it was Mr. Illingway.

 

"Take your wife's hand, and follow me," ordered Tom. "Come, Tomba!

Are there any of the red pygmies in here?"

 

He had not seen any at the weapon's flash, but his question was

answered a moment later, for there arose from within and without the

hut a chorus of wild yells. At the same time Tom felt small arms

grasp him about the legs.

 

"Come on!" he yelled. "They're awake and after us!"

 

The din outside increased. Tom heard the rifles of his friends

crack. He saw, through the torn door curtain, the flashes of fire.

Then came a blue glare, and Tom knew that Mr. Durban was using the

electric weapon.

 

By these intermittent gleams Tom managed to see sufficiently to

thrust Mr. and Mrs. Illingway ahead of him. Tomba was at their side.

The yells inside the hut were almost deafening. All the red dwarfs

left to guard the captives had awakened, and they could see well

enough to attack Tom. Fortunately they had no weapons, but they

fairly threw themselves upon the sturdy lad, trying to pull him

down.

 

"Go on! Go on!" he yelled to the captives, fairly pushing them

along. Then, knowing they were out of the way, he turned and fired

his two revolvers as fast as he could pull the triggers, into the

very faces of the red imps who were seeking to drag him down. Again

and again he fired, until he had emptied both cylinders of his

weapons.

 

He felt the grasps of the fiendish little men relax one by one. Tom

finally dragged himself loose, and staggered out of the hut. The

captives and Tomba were right in front of him. At the airship, which

loomed up in the flashes from the guns and electric rifle, Tom's

friends were giving battle. About them swarmed the hordes of

savages, with more of the imps pouring in every moment.

 

"Get aboard!" cried Tom to the missionaries. "Get on the airship,

and we'll move out of this!"

 

He felt a stinging pain in his neck, where an arrow struck him. He

tore the arrow out, and rushed forward. Fairly pushing Mr. and Mrs.

Illingway up on deck before him, Tom followed. Tomba was capering

about his master and mistress, and he swung his big club savagely.

He had not been idle, and many a red imp had gone down under his

blows.

 

"Rescued! Rescued!" murmured Mr. Illingway, as Tom hastened to the

pilot house to start the motor.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XXIV

 

TWO OTHER CAPTIVES

 

 

But the rescue was not yet accomplished. Those on the airship were

still in danger, and grave peril, for all about them were the red

savages, shouting, howling, yelling and capering about, as they were

now thoroughly aroused, and realized that their captives had been

taken away from them. They determined to get them back, and were

rallying desperately to battle. Nearly all of them were armed by

this time, and flight after flight of spears and arrows were thrown

or shot toward the airship.

 

Fortunately it was too dark to enable the pygmies to take good aim.

They were guided, to an extent, by the flashes of fire from the

rifles, but these were only momentary. Still some of our friends

received slight wounds, for they stood on the open deck of the

craft.

 

"Bless my eye-glasses!" suddenly exclaimed Mr. Damon. "I'm stuck!"

 

"Don't mind that!" advised Ned. "Keep on pouring lead into them.

We'll soon be away from here!"

 

"Don't fire any more!" called Mr. Durban. "The gun-flashes tell them

where to shoot. I'll use the electric rifle. It's better."

 

They followed his advice, and put aside their weapons. By means of

the electric flash, which he projected into the midst of the

savages, without the glare coming on the airship, Mr. Durban was

able to tell where to aim. Once he had a mass of re