Infomotions, Inc.Tom Swift in the Land of Wonders, or, the Underground Search for the Idol of Gold / Appleton, Victor [pseud.]



Author: Appleton, Victor [pseud.]
Title: Tom Swift in the Land of Wonders, or, the Underground Search for the Idol of Gold
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): professor bumper; ned; tom; bumper; damon; beecher; professor; tom swift; professor beecher; asked ned; copan valley; val jacinto; young inventor; mary nestor; asked tom
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Title: Tom Swift in the Land of Wonders

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TOM SWIFT IN THE LAND OF WONDERS

OR

The Underground Search
for the Idol of Gold


BY VICTOR APPLETON

AUTHOR OF 
"TOM SWIFT AND HIS MOTORCYCLE,"
"TOM SWIFT AND HIS BIG TUNNEL," 
"THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS SERIES,"
"THE MOTION PICTURE CHUMS SERIES," ETC.




THE TOM SWIFT SERIES

1  TOM SWIFT AND HIS MOTOR CYCLE
2  TOM SWIFT AND HIS MOTOR BOAT
3  TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIRSHIP
4  TOM SWIFT AND HIS SUBMARINE BOAT
5  TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RUNABOUT
6  TOM SWIFT AND HIS WIRELESS MESSAGE
7  TOM SWIFT AMONG THE DIAMOND MAKERS
8  TOM SWIFT IN THE CAVES OF ICE
9  TOM SWIFT AND HIS SKY RACER
10 TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RIFLE
11 TOM SWIFT IN THE CITY OF GOLD
12 TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIR GLIDER
13 TOM SWIFT IN CAPTIVITY
14 TOM SWIFT AND HIS WIZARD CAMERA
15 TOM SWIFT AND HIS GREAT SEARCHLIGHT
16 TOM SWIFT AND HIS GIANT CANNON
17 TOM SWIFT AND HIS PHOTO TELEPHONE
18 TOM SWIFT AND HIS AERIAL WARSHIP
19 TOM SWIFT AND HIS BIG TUNNEL
20 TOM SWIFT IN THE LAND OF WONDERS
21 TOM SWIFT AND HIS WAR TANK
22 TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIR SCOUT
23 TOM SWIFT AND HIS UNDERSEA SEARCH
24 TOM SWIFT AMONG THE FIRE FIGHTERS
25 TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC LOCOMOTIVE
26 TOM SWIFT AND HIS FLYING BOAT
27 TOM SWIFT AND HIS GREAT OIL GUSHER
28 TOM SWIFT AND HIS CHEST OF SECRETS
29 TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIRLINE EXPRESS
***




Tom Swift in the Land of Wonders




CONTENTS



I    A WONDERFUL STORY
II   PROFESSOR BUMPER ARRIVES
III  BLESSINGS AND ENTHUSIASM
IV   FENIMORE BEECHER
V    THE LITTLE GREEN GOD
VI   UNPLEASANT NEWS
VII  TOM HEARS SOMETHING
VIII OFF FOR HONDURAS
IX   VAL JACINTO
X    IN THE WILDS
XI   THE VAMPIRES
XII  A FALSE FRIEND
XIII FORWARD AGAIN
XIV  A NEW GUIDE
XV   IN THE COILS
XVI  A MEETING IN THE JUNGLE
XVII THE LOST MAP
XVIII "EL TIGRE!"
XIX  POISONED ARROWS
XX   AN OLD LEGEND
XXI  THE CAVERN
XXII THE STORM
XXIII ENTOMBED ALIVE
XXIV THE REVOLVING STONE
XXV  THE IDOL OF GOLD





TOM SWIFT IN THE LAND OF WONDERS





CHAPTER I

A WONDERFUL STORY


Tom Swift, who had been slowly looking
through the pages of a magazine, in the contents
of which he seemed to be deeply interested,
turned the final folio, ruffled the sheets back
again to look at a certain map and drawing, and
then, slapping the book down on a table before
him, with a noise not unlike that of a shot,
exclaimed:

"Well, that is certainly one wonderful story!"

"What's it about, Tom?" asked his chum, Ned
Newton.  "Something about inside baseball, or a
new submarine that can be converted into an
airship on short notice?"

"Neither one, you--you unscientific heathen,"
answered Tom, with a laugh at Ned.  "Though
that isn't saying such a machine couldn't be invented."

"I believe you--that is if you got on its trail,"
returned Ned, and there was warm admiration in
his voice.

"As for inside baseball, or outside, for that
matter, I hardly believe I'd be able to tell third
base from the second base, it's so long since I
went to a game," proceeded Tom.  "I've been
too busy on that new airship stabilizer dad gave
me an idea for.  I've been working too hard,
that's a fact.  I need a vacation, and maybe a
good baseball game----"

He stopped and looked at the magazine he had
so hastily slapped down.  Something he had read
in it seemed to fascinate him.

"I wonder if it can possibly be true," he went
on.  "It sounds like the wildest dream of a
professional sleep-walker; and yet, when I stop to
think, it isn't much worse than some of the
things we've gone through with, Ned."

"Say, for the love of rice-pudding! will you
get down to brass tacks and strike a trial
balance?  What are you talking of, anyhow?  Is it
a joke?"

"A joke?"

"Yes.  What you just read in that magazine
which seems to cause you so much excitement."

"Well, it may be a joke; and yet the professor
seems very much in earnest about it," replied
Tom.  "It certainly is one wonderful story!"

"So you said before.  Come on--the `fillium'
is busted.  Splice it, or else put in a new reel and
on with the show.  I'd like to know what's doing.
What professor are you talking of?"

"Professor Swyington Bumper."

"Swyington Bumper?" and Ned's voice
showed that his memory was a bit hazy.

"Yes.  You ought to remember him.  He was
on the steamer when I went down to Peru to
help the Titus Brothers dig the big tunnel.  That
plotter Waddington, or some of his tools,
dropped a bomb where it might have done us
some injury, but Professor Bumper, who was a
fellow passenger, on his way to South America
to look for the lost city of Pelone, calmly picked
up the bomb, plucked out the fuse, and saved
us from bad injuries, if not death.  And he was
as cool about it as an ice-cream cone.  Surely
you remember!"

"Swyington Bumper! Oh, yes, now I remember
him," said Ned Newton.  "But what has
he got to do with a wonderful story?  Has he
written more about the lost city of Pelone?  If
he has I don't see anything so very wonderful
in that."

"There isn't," agreed Tom.  "But this isn't
that," and Tom picked up the magazine and
leafed it to find the article he had been reading.

"Let's have a look at it," suggested Ned.  "You
act as though you might be vitally interested
in it.  Maybe you're thinking of joining forces
with the professor again, as you did when you
dug the big tunnel."

"Oh, no.  I haven't any such idea," Tom said.
"I've got enough work laid out now to keep me
in Shopton for the next year.  I have no notion
of going anywhere with Professor Bumper.  Yet
I can't help being impressed by this," and,
having found the article in the magazine to which
he referred, he handed it to his chum.

"Why, it's by Bumper himself!" exclaimed Ned.

"Yes.  Though there's nothing remarkable in
that, seeing that he is constantly contributing
articles to various publications or writing books.
It's the story itself that's so wonderful.  To
save you the trouble of wading through a lot
of scientific detail, which I know you don't care
about, I'll tell you that the story is about a queer
idol of solid gold, weighing many pounds, and,
in consequence, of great value."

"Of solid gold you say?" asked Ned eagerly.

"That's it.  Got on your banking air already,"
Tom laughed.  "To sum it up for you--notice
I use the word `sum,' which is very appropriate
for a bank--the professor has got on the track
of another lost or hidden city.  This one, the
name of which doesn't appear, is in the Copan
valley of Honduras, and----"

"Copan," interrupted Ned.  "It sounds like
the name of some new floor varnish."

"Well, it isn't, though it might be," laughed
Tom.  "Copan is a city, in the Department of
Copan, near the boundary between Honduras and
Guatemala.  A fact I learned from the article
and not because I remembered my geography."

"I was going to say," remarked Ned with a
smile, "that you were coming it rather strong
on the school-book stuff."

"Oh, it's all plainly written down there," and
Tom waved toward the magazine at which Ned
was looking.  "As you'll see, if you take the
trouble to go through it, as I did, Copan is, or
maybe was, for all I know, one of the most
important centers of the Mayan civilization."

"What's Mayan?" asked Ned.  "You see I'm
going to imbibe my information by the deductive
rather than the excavative process," he added
with a laugh.

"I see," laughed Tom.  "Well, Mayan refers
to the Mayas, an aboriginal people of Yucatan.
The Mayas had a peculiar civilization of their
own, thousands of years ago, and their calendar
system was so involved----"

"Never mind about dates," again interrupted
Ned.  "Get down to brass tacks.  I'm willing
to take your word for it that there's a Copan
valley in Honduras.  But what has your friend
Professor Bumper to do with it?"

"This.  He has come across some old
manuscripts, or ancient document records, referring
to this valley, and they state, according to this
article he has written for the magazine, that
somewhere in the valley is a wonderful city,
traces of which have been found twenty to forty
feet below the surface, on which great trees are
growing, showing that the city was covered
hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago."

"But where does the idol of gold come in?"

"I'm coming to that," said Tom.  "Though,
if Professor Bumper has his way, the idol will
be coming out instead of coming in."

"You mean he wants to get it and take it
away from the Copan valley, Tom?"

"That's it, Ned.  It has great value not only
from the amount of pure gold that is in it, but
as an antique.  I fancy the professor is more
interested in that aspect of it.  But he's written
a wonderful story, telling how he happened to
come across the ancient manuscripts in the tomb
of some old Indian whose mummy he unearthed
on a trip to Central America.

"Then he tells of the trouble he had in
discovering how to solve the key to the translation
code; but when he did, he found a great story
unfolded to him.

"This story has to do with the hidden city,
and tells of the ancient civilization of those who
lived in the Copan valley thousands of years ago.
The people held this idol of gold to be their
greatest treasure, and they put to death many of
other tribes who sought to steal it."

"Whew!" whistled Ned.  "That IS some yarn.
But what is Professor Bumper going to do about it?"

"I don't know.  The article seems to be written
with an idea of interesting scientists and
research societies, so that they will raise money
to conduct a searching expedition.

"Perhaps by this time the party may be
organized--this magazine is several months old.
I have been so busy on my stabilizer patent that
I haven't kept up with current literature.  Take
it home and read it! Ned.  That is if you're
through telling me about my affairs," for Ned,
who had formerly worked in the Shopton bank,
had recently been made general financial man-
ager of the interests of Tom and his father.  The
two were inventors and proverbially poor business
men, though they had amassed a fortune.

"Your financial affairs are all right, Tom," said
Ned.  "I have just been going over the books,
and I'll submit a detailed report later."

The telephone bell rang and Tom picked up
the instrument from the desk.  As he answered in
the usual way and then listened a moment, a
strange look came over his face.

"Well, this certainly is wonderful!" he exclaimed,
in much the same manner as when he had finished
reading the article about the idol.  "It certainly
is a strange coincidence," he added,
speaking in an aside to Ned while he himself
still listened to what was being told to him
over the telephone wire.



CHAPTER II

PROFESSOR BUMPER ARRIVES


"What's the matter, Tom?  What is it?"
asked Ned Newton, attracted by the strange
manner of his chum at the telephone.  "Has
anything happened?"

But the young inventor was too busy listening
to the unseen speaker to answer his chum,
even if he heard what Ned remarked, which is
doubtful.

"Well, I might as well wait until he is
through," mused Ned, as he started to leave the
room.  Then as Tom motioned to him to remain,
he murmured: "He may have something
to say to me later.  But I wonder who is talking
to him."

There was no way of finding out, however,
until Tom had a chance to talk to Ned, and at
present the young scientist was eagerly listening
to what came over the wire.  Occasionally Ned
could hear him say:

"You don't tell me! That is surprising! Yes
--yes! Of course if it's true it means a big
thing, I can understand that.  What's that?  No,
I couldn't make a promise like that.  I'm sorry,
but----"

Then the person at the other end of the wire
must have plunged into something very interesting
and absorbing, for Tom did not again
interrupt by interjected remarks.

Tom.  Swift, as has been said, was an inventor,
as was his father.  Mr. Swift was now rather old
and feeble, taking only a nominal part in the
activities of the firm made up of himself and his
son.  But his inventions were still used, many
of them being vital to the business and trade of
this country.

Tom and his father lived in the village of
Shopton, New York, and their factories covered
many acres of ground.  Those who wish to read
of the earliest activities of Tom in the inventive
line are referred to the initial volume, "Tom
Swift and His Motor Cycle."  From then on he
and his father had many and exciting adventures.
In a motor boat, an airship, and a submarine
respectively the young inventor had gone through
many perils.  On some of the trips his chum,
Ned Newton, accompanied him, and very often
in the party was a Mr. Wakefield Damon, who
had a curious habit of "blessing" everything
that happened to strike his fancy.

Besides Tom and his father, the Swift household
was made up of Eradicate Sampson, a colored
man-of-all-work, who, with his mule Boomerang,
did what he could to keep the grounds
around the house in order.  There was also Mrs.
Baggert, the housekeeper, Tom's mother being
dead.  Mr. Damon, living in a neighboring town,
was a frequent visitor in the Swift home.

Mary Nestor, a girl of Shopton, might also
be mentioned.  She and Tom were more than
just good friends.  Tom had an idea that some
day----.  But there, I promised not to tell that
part, at least until the young people themselves
were ready to have a certain fact announced.

From one activity to another had Tom Swift
gone, now constructing some important invention
for himself, as among others, when he made
the photo-telephone, or developed a great
searchlight which he presented to the Government
for use in detecting smugglers on the
border.

The book immediately preceding this is called
"Tom Swift and His Bit, Tunnel," and deals
with the efforts of the young inventor to help a
firm of contractors penetrate a mountain in
Peru.  How this was done and how, incidental-
ly, the lost city of Pelone was discovered, bringing
joy to the heart of Professor Swyington
Bumper, will be found fully set forth in the book.

Tom had been back from the Peru trip for
some months, when we again find him interested
in some of the work of Professor Bumper,
as set forth in the magazine mentioned.

"Well, he certainly is having some conversation,"
reflected Ned, as, after more than five
minutes, Tom's ear was still at the receiver of
the instrument, into the transmitter of which
he had said only a few words.

"All right," Tom finally answered, as he hung
the receiver up, "I'll be here," and then he turned
to Ned, whose curiosity had been growing with
the telephone talk, and remarked:

"That certainly was wonderful!"

"What was?" asked Ned.  "Do you think I'm
a mind reader to be able to guess?"

"No, indeed! I beg your pardon.  I'll tell you
at once.  But I couldn't break away.  It was
too important.  To whom do you think I was
talking just then?"

"I can imagine almost any one, seeing I know
something of what you have done.  It might be
almost anybody from some person you met up
in the caves of ice to a red pygmy from the
wilds of Africa."

"I'm afraid neither of them would be quite
up to telephone talk yet," laughed Tom.  "No,
this was the gentleman who wrote that interesting
article about the idol of gold," and he
motioned to the magazine Ned held in his hand.

"You don't mean Professor Bumper!"

"That's just whom I do mean."

"What did he want?  Where did he call
from?"

"He wants me to help organize an expedition
to go to Central America--to the Copan valley,
to be exact--to look for this somewhat mythical
idol of gold.  Incidentally the professor will
gather in any other antiques of more or less
value, if he can find any, and he hopes, even if he
doesn't find the idol, to get enough historical
material for half a dozen books, to say nothing
of magazine articles."

"Where did he call from; did you say?"

"I didn't say.  But it was a long-distance call
from New York.  The Professor stopped off
there on his way from Boston, where he has been
lecturing before some society.  And now he's
coming here to see me," finished Tom.

"What! Is he going to lecture here?" cried
Ned.  "If he is, and spouts a whole lot of that
bone-dry stuff about the ancient Mayan civilization
and their antiquities, with side lights on
how the old-time Indians used to scalp their
enemies, I'm going to the moving pictures! I'm
willing to be your financial manager, Tom Swift,
but please don't ask me to be a high-brow.  I
wasn't built for that."

"Nor I, Ned.  The professor isn't going to
lecture.  He's only going to talk, he says."

"What about?"

"He's going to try to induce me to join his
expedition to the Copan valley."

"Do you feel inclined to go?"

"No, Ned, I do not.  I've got too many other
irons in the fire.  I shall have to give the professor
a polite but firm refusal."

"Well, maybe you're right, Tom; and yet that
idol of gold--GOLD--weighing how many pounds
did you say?"

"Oh, you're thinking of its money value, Ned,
old man!"

"Yes, I'd like to see what a big chunk of gold
like that would bring.  It must be quite a nugget.
But I'm not likely to get a glimpse of it
if you don't go with the professor."

"I don't see how I can go, Ned.  But come
over and meet the delightful gentleman when
he arrives.  I expect him day after to-morrow."

"I'll be here," promised Ned; and then he
went downtown to attend to some matters con-
nected with his new duties, which were much
less irksome than those he had had when he
had been in the bank.

"Well, Tom, have you heard any more about
your friend?" asked Ned, two days later, as he
came to the Swift home with some papers needing
the signature of the young inventor and his
father.

"You mean----?"

"Professor Bumper."

"No, I haven't heard from him since he
telephoned.  But I guess he'll be here all right.
He's very punctual.  Did you see anything of
my giant Koku as you came in?"

"Yes, he and Eradicate were having an
argument about who should move a heavy casting
from one of the shops.  Rad wanted to do it
all alone, but Koku said he was like a baby now."

"Poor Rad is getting old," said Tom with a
sigh.  "But he has been very faithful.  He and
Koku never seem to get along well together."

Koku was an immense man, a veritable giant,
one of two whom Tom had brought back with
him after an exciting trip to a strange land.  The
giant's strength was very useful to the young
inventor.

"Now Tom, about this business of leasing to
the English Government the right to manufac-
ture that new explosive of yours," began Ned,
plunging into the business at hand.  "I think
if you stick out a little you can get a better
royalty price."

"But I don't want to gouge 'em, Ned.  I'm
satisfied with a fair profit.  The trouble with
you is you think too much of money.  Now----"

At that moment a voice was heard in the hall
of the house saying:

"Now, my dear lady, don't trouble yourself.
I can find my way in to Tom Swift perfectly well
by myself, and while I appreciate your courtesy
I do not want to trouble you."

"No, don't come, Mrs. Baggert," added another
voice.  "Bless my hat band, I think I know my
way about the house by this time!"

"Mr. Damon!" ejaculated Ned.

"And Professor Bumper is with him," added
Tom.  "Come in!" he cried, opening the hall
door, to confront a bald-headed man who stood
peering at our hero with bright snapping eyes,
like those of some big bird spying out the land
from afar.  "Come in, Professor Bumper; and
you too, Mr. Damon!"



CHAPTER III

BLESSINGS AND ENTHUSIASM


Greetings and inquiries as to health having
been passed, not without numerous blessings on
the part of Mr. Damon, the little party gathered
in the library of the home of Tom Swift sat
down and looked at one another.

On Professor Bumper's face there was, plainly
to be seen, a look of expectation, and it seemed
to be shared by Mr. Damon, who seemed eager
to burst into enthusiastic talk.  On the other
hand Tom Swift appeared a bit indifferent.

Ned himself admitted that he was frankly
curious.  The story of the big idol of gold had
occupied his thoughts for many hours.

"Well, I'm glad to see you both," said Tom
again.  "You got here all right, I see, Professor
Bumper.  But I didn't expect you to meet and
bring Mr. Damon with you."

"I met him on the train," explained the author
of the book on the lost city of Pelone, as well
as books on other antiquities.  "I had no
expectation of seeing him, and we were both
surprised when we met on the express."

"It stopped at Waterfield, Tom," explained
Mr. Damon, "which it doesn't usually do, being
an aristocratic sort of train, not given even to
hesitating at our humble little town.  There
were some passengers to get off, which caused
the flier to stop, I suppose.  And, as I wanted
to come over to see you, I got aboard."

"Glad you did," voiced Tom.

"Then I happened to see Professor Bumper a
few seats ahead of me," went on Mr. Damon,
"and, bless my scarfpin! he was coming to see
you also."

"Well, I'm doubly glad," answered Tom.

"So here we are," went on Mr. Damon, "and
you've simply got to come, Tom Swift.  You
must go with us!" and Mr. Damon, in his
enthusiasm, banged his fist down on the table with
such force that he knocked some books to the floor.

Koku, the giant, who was in the hall, opened
the door and in his imperfect English asked:

"Master Tom knock for him bigs man?"

"No," answered Tom with a smile, "I didn't knock
or call you, Koku.  Some books fell, that is all."

"Massa Tom done called fo' me, dat's what he done!"
broke in the petulant voice of Eradicate.

"No, Rad, I don't need anything," Tom said.
"Though you might make a pitcher of lemonade.
It's rather warm."

"Right away, Massa Tom! Right away!" cried
the old colored man, eager to be of service.

"Me help, too!" rumbled Koku, in his deep
voice.  "Me punch de lemons!" and away he
hurried after Eradicate, fearful lest the old
servant do all the honors.

"Same old Rad and Koku," observed Mr.
Damon with a smile.  "But now, Tom, while
they're making the lemonade, let's get down to
business.  You're going with us, of course!"

"Where?" asked Tom, more from habit than
because he did not know.

"Where?  Why to Honduras, of course! After
the idol of gold! Why, bless my fountain pen,
it's the most wonderful story I ever heard of!
You've read Professor Bumper's article, of
course.  He told me you had.  I read it on the
train coming over.  He also told me about it,
and---- Well, I'm going with him, Tom Swift.

"And think of all the adventures that may
befall us! We'll get lost in buried cities, ride down
raging torrents on a raft, fall over a cliff maybe
and be rescued.  Why, it makes me feel quite
young again!" and Mr. Damon arose, to pace
excitedly up and down the room.

Up to this time Professor Bumper had said
very little.  He had sat still in his chair
listening to Mr. Damon.  But now that the latter had
ceased, at least for a time, Tom and Ned looked
toward the scientist.

"I understand, Tom," he said, "that you read
my article in the magazine, about the possibility
of locating some of the lost and buried cities of
Honduras?"

"Yes, Ned and I each read it.  It was quite
wonderful."

"And yet there are more wonders to tell," went
on the professor.  "I did not give all the details
in that article.  I will tell you some of them.  I
have brought copies of the documents with me,"
and he opened a small valise and took out several
bundles tied with pink tape.

"As Mr. Damon said," he went on while
arranging his papers, "he met me on the train, and
he was so taken by the story of the idol of gold
that he agreed to accompany me to Central America."

"On one condition!" put in the eccentric man.

"What's that?  You didn't make any conditions
while we were talking," said the scientist.

"Yes, I said I'd go if Tom Swift did."

"Oh, yes.  You did say that.  But I don't call
that a condition, for of course Tom Swift will go.
Now let me tell you something more than I could
impart over the telephone.

"Soon after I called you up, Tom--and it was
quite a coincidence that it should have been at a
time when you had just finished my magazine
article.  Soon after that, as I was saying, I
arranged to come on to Shopton.  And now I'm
glad we're all here together.

"But how comes it, Ned Newton, that you are
not in the bank?"

"I've left there," explained Ned.

"He's now general financial man for the Swift
Company," Tom explained.  "My father and I
found that we could not look after the inventing
and experimental end, and money matters, too,
and as Ned had had considerable experience this
way we made him take over those worries," and
Tom laughed genially.

"No worries at all, as far as the Swift
Company is concerned," returned Ned.

"Well, I guess you earn your salary," laughed
Tom.  "But now, Professor Bumper, let's hear
from you.  Is there anything more about this
idol of gold that you can tell us?"

"Plenty, Tom, plenty.  I could talk all day,
and not get to the end of the story.  But a lot
of it would be scientific detail that might be too
dry for you in spite of this excellent lemonade,"

Between them Koku and Eradicate had managed
to make a pitcher of the beverage, though
Mrs. Baggert, the housekeeper, told Tom afterward
that the two had a quarrel in the kitchen
as to who should squeeze the lemons, the giant
insisting that he had the better right to "punch"
them.

"So, not to go into too many details," went on
the professor, "I'll just give you a brief outline
of this story of the idol of gold.

"Honduras, as you of course know, is a
republic of Central America, and it gets its name
from something that happened on the fourth
voyage of Columbus.  He and his men had had
days of weary sailing and had sought in vain
for shallow water in which they might come to
an anchorage.  Finally they reached the point
now known as Cape Gracias-a-Dios, and when
they let the anchor go, and found that in a short
time it came to rest on the floor of the ocean,
some one of the sailors--perhaps Columbus himself--
is said to have remarked:

"`Thank the Lord, we have left the deep
waters (honduras)' that being the Spanish word
for unfathomable depths.  So Honduras it was
called, and has been to this day.

"It is a queer land with many traces of an
ancient civilization, a civilization which I
believe dates back farther than some in the far
East.  On the sculptured stones in the Copan
valley there are characters which seem to
resemble very ancient writing, but this pictographic
writing is largely untranslatable.

"Honduras, I might add, is about the size of
our state of Ohio.  It is rather an elevated table-
land, though there are stretches of tropical
forest, but it is not so tropical a country as many
suppose it to be.  There is much gold scattered
throughout Honduras, though of late it has not
been found in large quantities.

"In the old days, however, before the Spaniards
came, it was plentiful, so much, so that the
natives made idols of it.  And it is one of the
largest of these idols--by name Quitzel--that I
am going to seek."

"Do you know where it is?" asked Ned.

"Well, it isn't locked up in a safe deposit box,
of that I'm sure," laughed the professor.  "No,
I don't know exactly where it is, except that it
is somewhere in an ancient and buried city
known as Kurzon.  If I knew exactly where
it was there wouldn't be much fun in going after
it.  And if it was known to others it would have
been taken away long ago.

"No, we've got to hunt for the idol of gold
in this land of wonders where I hope soon to be.
Later on I'll show you the documents that put
me on the track of this idol.  Enough now to
show you an old map I found, or, rather, a copy
of it, and some of the papers that tell of the idol,"
and he spread out his packet of papers on the
table in front of him, his eyes shining with
excitement and pleasure.  Mr. Damon, too, leaned
eagerly forward.

"So, Tom Swift," went on the professor, "I
come to you for help in this matter.  I want
you to aid me in organizing an expedition to go
to Honduras after the idol of gold.  Will you?"

"I'll help you, of course," said Tom.  "You
may use any of my inventions you choose--my
airships, my motor boats and submarines, even
my giant cannon if you think you can take it
with you.  And as for the money part, Ned will
arrange that for you.  But as for going with you
myself, it is out of the question.  I can't.  No
Honduras for me!"



CHAPTER IX

FENIMORE BEECHER


Had Tom Swift's giant cannon been discharged
somewhere in the vicinity of his home it could
have caused but little more astonishment to
Mr. Damon and Professor Bumper than did the
simple announcement of the young inventor.
The professor seemed to shrink back in his chair,
collapsing like an automobile tire when the air
is let out.  As for Mr. Damon he jumped up and
cried:

"Bless my----!"

But that is as far as he got--at least just then.
He did not seem to know what to bless, but he
looked as though he would have liked to include
most of the universe.

"Surely you don't mean it, Tom Swift,"
gasped Professor Bumper at length.  "Won't
you come with us?"

"No," said Tom, slowly.  "Really I can't go.
I'm working on an invention of a new aeroplane
stabilizer, and if I go now it will be just at a
time when I am within striking distance of success.
And the stabilizer is very much needed."

"If it's a question of making a profit on it,
Tom," began Mr. Damon, "I can let you have
some money until----"

"Oh, no! It isn't the money!" cried Tom.
"Don't think that for a moment.  You see the
European war has called for the use of a large
number of aeroplanes, and as the pilots of them
frequently have to fight, and so can not give their
whole attention to the machines, some form of
automatic stabilizer is needed to prevent them
turning turtle, or going off at a wrong tangent.

"So I have been working out a sort of
modified gyroscope, and it seems to answer the
purpose.  I have already received advance orders
for a number of my devices from abroad, and as
they are destined to save lives I feel that I ought
to keep on with my work.

"I'd like to go, don't misunderstand me, but
I can't go at this time.  It is out of the question.
If you wait a year, or maybe six months----"

"No, it is impossible to wait, Tom," declared
Professor Bumper.

"Is it so important then to hurry?" asked Mr.
Damon.  "You did not mention that to me, Professor
Bumper."

"No, I did not have time.  There are so many ends
to my concerns.  But, Tom Swift, you simply must go!"

"I can't, my dear professor, much as I should like to."

"But, Tom, think of it!" cried Mr. Damon,
who was as much excited as was the little bald-
headed scientist.  "You never saw such an idol
of gold as this.  What's its name?" and he
looked questioningly at the professor.

"Quitzel the idol is called," supplied Professor
Bumper.  "And it is supposed to be in a
buried city named Kurzon, somewhere in the
Sierra de Merendon range of mountains, in the
vicinity of the Copan valley.  Copan is a city,
or maybe we'll find it only a town when we get
there, and it is not far from the borders of
Guatemala.

"Tom, if I could show you the translations I
have made of the ancient documents, referring
to this idol and the wonderful city over which
it kept guard, I'm sure you'd come with us."

"Please don't tempt me," Tom said with a
laugh.  "I'm only too anxious to go, and if it
wasn't for the stabilizer I'd be with you in a
minute.  But---- Well, you'll have to get along
without me.  Maybe I can join you later."

"What's this about the idol keeping guard
over the ancient city?" asked Ned, for he was
interested in strange stories.

"It seems," explained the professor, "that in
the early days there was a strange race of people,
inhabiting Central America, with a somewhat
high civilization, only traces of which remained
when the Spaniards came.

"But these traces, and such hieroglyphics, or,
to be more exact pictographs, as I have been able
to decipher from the old documents, tell of one
country, or perhaps it was only a city, over which
this great golden idol of Quitzel presided.

"There is in some of these papers a description
of the idol, which is not exactly a beauty,
judged from modern standards.  But the main
fact is that it is made of solid gold, and may
weigh anywhere from one to two tons."

"Two tons of gold!" cried New Newton.  "Why,
if that's the case it would be worth----" and
he fell to doing a sum in mental arithmetic.

"I am not so concerned about the monetary
value of the statue as I am about its antiquity,"
went on Professor Bumper.  "There are other
statues in this buried city of Kurzon, and though
they may not be so valuable they will give me
a wealth of material for my research work."

"How do you know there are other statues?"
asked Mr. Damon.

"Because my documents tell me so.  It was
because the people made other idols, in opposition,
as it were, to Quitzel, that their city or
country was destroyed.  At least that is the
legend.  Quitzel, so the story goes, wanted to be
the chief god, and when the image of a rival was
set up in the temple near him, he toppled over
in anger, and part of the temple went with him,
the whole place being buried in ruins.  All the
inhabitants were killed, and trace of the ancient
city was lost forever.  No, I hope not forever,
for I expect to find it."

"If all the people were killed, and the city
buried, how did the story of Quitzel become
known?" asked Mr. Damon.

"One only of the priests in the temple of
Quitzel escaped and set down part of the tale," said
the professor.  "It is his narrative, or one based
on it, that I have given you."

"And now, what I want to do, is to go and
make a search for this buried city.  I have fairly
good directions as to how it may be reached.
We will have little difficulty in getting to
Honduras, as there are fruit steamers frequently
sailing.  Of course going into the interior--to the
Copan valley--is going to be harder.  But an
expedition from a large college was recently
there and succeeded, after much labor, in ex-
cavating part of a buried city.  Whether or not
it was Kurzon I am unable to say.

"But if there was one ancient city there must
be more.  So I want to make an attempt.  And
I counted on you, Tom.  You have had considerable
experience in strange quarters of the earth,
and you're just the one to help me.  I don't
need money, for I have interested a certain
millionaire, and my own college will put up part
of the funds."

"Oh, it isn't a question of money," said Tom.
"It's time."

"That's just what it is with me!" exclaimed
Professor Bumper.  "I haven't any time to lose.
My rivals may, even now, be on their way to Honduras!"

"Your rivals!" cried Tom.  "You didn't say anything about them!"

"No, I believe I didn't There were so many
other things to talk about.  But there is a rival
archaeologist who would ask nothing better than
to get ahead of me in this matter.  He is younger
than I am, and youth is a big asset nowadays."

"Pooh! You're not old!" cried Mr. Damon.
"You're no older than I am, and I'm still young.
I'm a lot younger than some of these boys who
are afraid to tackle a trip through a tropical
wilderness," and he playfully nudged Tom in the ribs.

"I'm not a bit afraid!" retorted the young inventor.

"No, I know you're not," laughed Mr. Damon.
"But I've got to say something, Tom, to stir you
up.  Ned, how about you?  Would you go?"

"I can't, unless Tom does.  You see I'm his
financial man now."

"There you are, Tom Swift!" cried Mr. Damon.
"You see you are holding back a number
of persons just because you don't want to go."

"I certainly wouldn't like to go without Tom,"
said the professor slowly.  "I really need his
help.  You know, Tom, we would never have
found the city of Pelone if it had not been for
you and your marvelous powder.  The conditions
in the Copan valley are likely to be still
more difficult to overcome, and I feel that I risk
failure without your young energy and your
inventive mind to aid in the work and to suggest
possible means of attaining our object.  Come,
Tom, reconsider, and decide to make the trip."

"And my promise to go was dependent on
Tom's agreement to accompany us," said Mr.
Damon

"Come on!" urged the professor, much as one boy
might urge another to take part in a ball game.
"Don't let my rival get ahead of me."

"I wouldn't like to see that," Tom said slowly.
"Who is he--any one I know?"

"I don't believe so, Tom.  He's connected
with a large, new college that has plenty of
money to spend on explorations and research
work.  Beecher is his name--Fenimore Beecher."

"Beecher!" exclaimed Tom, and there was
such a change in his manner that his friends
could not help noticing it.  He jumped to his
feet, his eyes snapping, and he looked eagerly
and anxiously at Professor Bumper.

"Did you say his name was Fenimore Beecher?"
Tom asked in a tense voice.

"That's what it is--Professor Fenimore Beecher.
He is really a learned young man, and
thoroughly in earnest, though I do not like his
manner.  But he is trying to get ahead of me,
which may account for my feeling."

Tom Swift did not answer.  Instead he hurried
from the room with a murmured apology.

"I'll be back in about five minutes," he said,
as he went out.

"Well, what's up now?" asked Mr. Damon of
Ned, as the young inventor departed.  "What
set him off that way?"

"The mention of Beecher's name, evidently.
Though I never heard him mention such a person
before."

"Nor did I ever hear Professor Beecher speak
of Tom," said the bald-headed scientist.  "Well,
we'll just have to wait until----"

At that moment Tom came back into the room.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I have reconsidered my
refusal to go to the Copan valley after the idol
of gold.  I'm going with you!"

"Good!" cried Professor Bumper.

"Fine!" ejaculated Mr. Damon.  "Bless my time-table!
I thought you'd come around, Tom Swift."

"But what about your stabilizer?" asked Ned.

"I was just talking to my father about it,'
the young inventor replied.  "He will be able
to put the finishing touches on it.  So I'll leave
it with him.  As soon as I can get ready I'll go,
since you say haste is necessary, Professor Bumper."

"It is, if we are to get ahead of Beecher."

"Then we'll get ahead of him!" cried Tom.
"I'm with you now from the start to the finish.
I'll show him what I can do!" he added, while
Ned and the others wondered at the sudden
change in their friend's manner.




CHAPTER V

THE LITTLE GREEN GOD


"Tom how soon can we go?" asked Professor
Bumper, as he began arranging his papers, maps
and documents ready to place them back in the
valise.

"Within a week, if you want to start that
soon."

"The sooner the better.  A week will suit me.
I don't know just what Beecher's plans are, but,
he may try to get on the ground first.  Though,
without boasting, I may say that he has not had
as much experience as I have had, thanks to
you, Tom, when you helped me find the lost city
of Pelone."

"Well, I hope we'll be as successful this time,"
murmured Tom.  "I don't want to see Beecher
beat you."

"I didn't know you knew him, Tom," said the
professor.

"Oh, yes, I have met him.  once," and there
was something in Tom's manner, though he tried
to speak indifferently, that made Ned believe
there was more behind his chum's sudden change
of determination than had yet appeared.

"He never mentioned you," went on Professor
Bumper; "yet the last time I saw him I said I
was coming to see you, though I did not tell
him why."

"No, he wouldn't be likely to speak of me,"
said Tom significantly.

"Well, if that's all settled, I guess I'll go back
home and pack up," said Mr. Damon, making a
move to depart.

"There's no special rush," Tom said.  "We
won't leave for a week.  I can't get ready in
much less time than that."

"Bless my socks! I know that," ejaculated Mr.
Damon.  "But if I get my things packed I can
go to a hotel to stay while my wife is away.  She
might take a notion to come home unexpectedly,
and, though she is a dear, good soul, she doesn't
altogether approve of my going off on these wild
trips with you, Tom Swift.  But if I get all
packed, and clear out, she can't find me and she
can't hold me back.  She is visiting her mother
now.  I can send her a wire from Kurzon after
I get there."

"I don't believe the telegraph there is work-
ing," laughed Professor Bumper.  "But suit
yourself.  I must go back to New York to arrange
for the goods we'll have to take with us.
In a week, Tom, we'll start."

"You must stay to dinner," Tom said.  "You
can't get a train now anyhow, and father wants
to meet you again.  He's pretty well, considering
his age.  And he's much better I verily
believe since I said I'd turn over to him the task
of finishing the stabilizer.  He likes to work."

"We'll stay and take the night train back,"
agreed Mr. Damon.  "It will be like old times,
Tom," he went on, "traveling off together into
the wilds.  Central America is pretty wild, isn't
it?" he asked, as if in fear of being disappointed!
on that score.

"Oh, it's wild enough to suit any one,"
answered Professor Bumper.

"Well, now to settle a few details," observed
Tom.  "Ned, what is the situation as regards the
financial affairs of my father and myself?  Nothing
will come to grief if we go away, will there?"

"I guess not, Tom.  But are you going to take
your father with you?"

"No, of course not."

"But you spoke of `we.' "

"I meant you and I are going."

"Me, Tom?"

"Sure, you! I wouldn't think of leaving you
behind.  You want Ned along, don't you, Professor?"

"Of course.  It will be an ideal party--we
four.  We'll have to take natives when we get
to Honduras, and make up a mule pack-train for
the interior.  I had some thoughts of asking
you to take an airship along, but it might frighten
the Indians, and I shall have to depend on
them for guides, as well as for porters.  So it
will be an old-fashioned expedition, in a way."

Mr. Swift came in at this point to meet his old
friends.

"The boy needs a little excitement," he said.
"He's been puttering over that stabilizer invention
too long.  I can finish the model for him
in a very short time."

Professor Bumper told Mr. Swift something
about the proposed trip, while Mr. Damon went
out with Tom and Ned to one of the shops to
look at a new model aeroplane the young inventor
had designed.

There was a merry party around the table at
dinner, though now and then Ned noticed that
Tom had an abstracted and preoccupied air.

"Thinking about the idol of gold?" asked Ned
in a whisper to his chum, when they were about
to leave the table.

"The idol of gold?  Oh, yes! Of course! It
will be great if we can bring that back with us."
But the manner in which he said this made Ned
feel sure that Tom had had other thoughts,
and that he had used a little subterfuge in his
answer.

Ned was right, as he proved for himself a little
later, when, Mr. Damon and the professor having
gone home, the young financial secretary
took his friend to a quiet corner and asked:

"What's the matter, Tom?"

"Matter?  What do you mean?"

"I mean what made you make up your mind
so quickly to go on this expedition when you
heard Beecher was going?"

"Oh--er--well, you wouldn't want to see our
old friend Professor Bumper left, would you,
after he had worked out the secret of the idol
of gold?  You wouldn't want some young
whipper-snapper to beat him in the race, would
you, Ned?"

"No, of course not."

"Neither would I.  That's why I changed my
mind.  This Beecher isn't going to get that idol
if I can stop him!"

"You seem rather bitter against him."

"Bitter?  Oh, not at all.  I simply don't want
to see my friends disappointed."

"Then Beecher isn't a friend of yours?"

"Oh, I've met him, that is all," and Tom tried
to speak indifferently.

"Humph!" mused Ned, "there's more here than I dreamed of.
I'm going to get at the bottom of it."

But though Ned tried to pump Tom, he was
not successful.  The young inventor admitted
knowing the youthful scientist, but that was all,
Tom reiterating his determination not to let Professor
Bumper be beaten in the race for the idol
of gold.

"Let me see," mused Ned, as he went home
that evening.  "Tom did not change his mind
until he heard Beecher's name mentioned.  Now
this shows that Beecher had something to do
with it.  The only reason Tom doesn't want
Beecher to get this idol or find the buried city
is because Professor Bumper is after it.  And
yet the professor is not an old or close friend
of Tom's.  They met only when Tom went to
dig his big tunnel.  There must be some other
reason."

Ned did some more thinking.  Then he
clapped his hands together, and a smile spread
over his face.

"I believe I have it!" he cried.  "The little
green god as compared to the idol of gold!
That's it.  I'm going to make a call on my way home."

This he did, stopping at the home of Mary
Nestor, a pretty girl, who, rumor had it, was
tacitly engaged to Tom.  Mary was not at home,
but Mr. Nestor was, and for Ned's purpose this
answered.

"Well, well, glad to see you!" exclaimed
Mary's father.  "Isn't Tom with you?" he asked
a moment later, seeing that Ned was alone.

"No, Tom isn't with me this evening," Ned
answered.  "The fact is, he's getting ready to
go off on another expedition, and I'm going with him."

"You young men are always going somewhere,"
remarked Mrs. Nestor.  "Where is it to this time?"

"Some place in Central America," Ned
answered, not wishing to be too particular.  He
was wondering how he could find out what he
wanted to know, when Mary's mother unexpectedly
gave him just the information he was after.

"Central America!" she exclaimed.  "Why,
Father," and she looked at her husband, "that's
where Professor Beecher is going, isn't it?"

"Yes, I believe he did mention something about that."

"Professor Beecher, the man who is an author-
ity on Aztec ruins?" asked Ned, taking a shot in
the dark.

"Yes," said Mr. Nestor.  "And a mighty fine
young man he is, too.  I knew his father well.
He was here on a visit not long ago, young
Beecher was, and he talked most entertainingly
about his discoveries.  You remember how
interested Mary was, Mother?"

"Yes, she seemed to be," said Mrs. Nestor.
"Tom Swift dropped in during the course of
the evening," she added to Ned, "and Mary
introduced him to Professor Beecher.  But I can't
say that Tom was much interested in the
professor's talk."

"No?" questioned Ned.

"No, not at all.  But Tom did not stay long.
He left just as Mary and the professor were
drawing a map so the professor could indicate
where he had once made a big discovery."

"I see," murmured Ned.  "Well, I suppose
Tom must have been thinking of something else
at the time."

"Very likely," agreed Mr. Nestor.  "But Tom
missed a very profitable talk.  I was very much
interested myself in what the professor told us,
and so was Mary.  She invited Mr. Beecher to
come again.  He takes after his father in being
very thorough in what he does.

"Sometimes I think," went on Mr. Nestor, "that
Tom isn't quite steady enough.  He's thinking
of so many things, perhaps, that he can't get his
mind down to the commonplace.  I remember he
once sent something here in a box labeled
`dynamite.' Though there was no explosive in it,
it gave us a great fright.  But Tom is a boy, in
spite of his years.  Professor Beecher seems
much older.  We all like him very much."

"That's nice," said Ned, as he took his
departure.  He had found out what he had come
to learn.

"I knew it!" Ned exclaimed as he walked
home.  "I knew something was in the wind.
The little green god of jealousy has Tom in his
clutches.  That's why my inventive friend was
so anxious to go on this expedition when he
learned Beecher was to go.  He wants to beat
him.  I guess the professor has plainly shown
that he wouldn't like anything better than to
cut Tom out with Mary.  Whew! that's something
to think about!"



CHAPTER VI

UNPLEASANT NEWS


Ned Newton decided to keep to himself what
he had heard at the Nestor home.  Not for the
world would he let Tom Swift know of the
situation.

"That is, I won't let him know that I know,"
said Ned to himself, "though he is probably as
well aware of the situation as I am.  But it sure
is queer that this Professor Beecher should have
taken such a fancy to Mary, and that her father
should regard him so well.  That is natural,
I suppose.  But I wonder how Mary herself
feels about it.  That is the part Tom would
be most interested in.

"No wonder Tom wants to get ahead of this
young college chap, who probably thinks he's
the whole show.  If he can find the buried city,
and get the idol of gold, it would be a big
feather in his cap.

"He'd have no end of honors heaped on him,
and I suppose his hat wouldn't come within
three sizes of fitting him.  Then he'd stand in
better than ever with Mr. Nestor.  And, maybe,
with Mary, too, though I think she is loyal
to Tom.  But one never can tell.

"However, I'm glad I know about it.  I'll
do all I can to help Tom, without letting him
know that I know.  And if I can do anything
to help in finding that idol of gold for Professor
Bumper, and, incidentally, Tom, I'll do it," and
he spoke aloud in his enthusiasm.

Ned, who was walking along in the darkness,
clapped his open hand down on Tom's magazine
he was carrying home to read again, and
the resultant noise was a sharp crack.  As it
sounded a figure jumped from behind a tree
and called tensely:

"Hold on there!"

Ned stopped short, thinking he was to be
the victim of a holdup, but his fears were
allayed when he beheld one of the police force of
Shopton confronting him.

"I heard what you said about gettin' the gold,"
went on the officer.  "I was walkin' along and I
heard you talkin'.  Where's your pal?"

"I haven't any, Mr. Newbold," answered Ned
with a laugh, as he recognized the man.

"Oh, pshaw! It's Ned Newton!" exclaimed
the disappointed officer.  "I thought you was
talkin' to a confederate about gold, and figured
maybe you was goin' to rob the bank."

"No, nothing like that," answered Ned, still
much amused.  "I was talking to myself about
a trip Tom Swift and I are going to take
and----"

"Oh, that's all right," responded the
policeman.  "I can understand it, if it had anything to
do with Tom.  He's a great boy."

"Indeed he is," agreed Ned, making a mental
resolve not to be so public with his thoughts
in the future.  He chatted for a moment with
the officer, and then, bidding him good-night,
walked on to his home, his mind in a whirl with
conglomerate visions of buried cities, great grinning
idols of gold, and rival professors seeking
to be first at the goal.

The next few days were busy ones for Tom,
Ned and, in fact, the whole Swift household.
Tom and his father had several consultations and
conducted several experiments in regard to the
new stabilizer, the completion of which was so
earnestly desired.  Mr. Swift was sure he could
carry the invention to a successful conclusion.

Ned was engaged in putting the financial
affairs of the Swift Company in shape, so they
would practically run themselves during his ab-
sence.  Then, too, there was the packing of their
baggage which must be seen to.

Of course, the main details of the trip were
left to Professor Bumper, who knew just what
to do.  He had told Tom and Ned that all they
and Mr. Damon would have to do would be to
meet him at the pier in New York, where they
would find all arrangements made.

One day, near the end of the week (the beginning
of the next being set for the start) Eradicate
came shuffling into the room where Tom was
sorting out the possessions he desired to take
with him, Ned assisting him in the task.

"Well, Rad, what is it?" asked Tom, with
businesslike energy.

"I done heah, Massa Tom, dat yo' all's gwine
off on a long trip once mo'.  Am dat so?"

"Yes, that's so, Rad."

"Well, den, I'se come to ast yo' whut I'd bettah
take wif me.  Shall I took warm clothes or cool
clothes?"

"Well, if you were going, Rad," answered Tom
with a smile, "you'd need cool clothes, for we're
going to a sort of jungle-land.  But I'm sorry to
say you're not going this trip."

"I---- I ain't gwine?  Does yo' mean dat yo'
all ain't gwine to take me, Massa Tom?"

"That's it, Rad.  It isn't any trip for you."

"In certain not!" broke in the voice of Koku,
the giant, who entered with a big trunk Tom had
sent him for.  "Master want strong man like a
bull.  He take Koku!"

"Look heah!" spluttered Eradicate, and his eyes
flashed.  "Yo'--yo' giant yo'--yo' may be strong
laik a bull, but ya' ain't got as much sense as
mah mule, Boomerang! Massa Tom don't want
no sich pusson wif him.  He's gwine to take me."

"He take me!" cried Koku, and his voice was
a roar while he beat on his mighty chest with his
huge fists.

Tom, seeing that the dispute was likely to be
bothersome, winked at Ned and began to speak.

"I don't believe you'd like it there, Rad--not
where we're going.  It's a bad country.  Why
the mosquitoes there bite holes in you--raise
bumps on you as big as eggs."

"Oh, good land!" ejaculated the old colored man.
"Am dat so Massa Tom?"

"It sure is.  Then there's another kind of bug
that burrows under your fingernails, and if you
don't get 'em out, your fingers drop off."

"Oh, good land, Massa Tom! Am dat a fact?"

"It sure is.  I don't want to see those things
happen to you, Rad."

Slowly the old colored man shook his head.

"I don't mahse'f," he said.  "I---- I guess I
won't go."

Eradicate did not stop to ask how Tom and
Ned proposed to combat these two species of
insects.

But there remained Koku to dispose of, and he
stood smiling broadly as Eradicate shuffled of.

"Me no 'fraid bugs," said the giant.

"No," said Tom, with a look at Ned, for he did
not want to take the big man on the trip for
various reasons.  "No, maybe not, Koku.  Your
skin is pretty tough.  But I understand there are
deep pools of water in the land where we are
going, and in them lives a fish that has a hide
like an alligator and a jaw like a shark.  If you
fall in it's all up with you."

"Dat true, Master Tom?" and Koku's voice
trembled.

"Well, I've never seen such a fish, I'm sure,
but the natives tell about it."

Koku seemed to be considering the matter.
Strange as it may seem, the giant, though afraid
of nothing human and brave when it came to a
hand-to-claw argument with a wild animal, had
a very great fear of the water and the unseen
life within it.  Even a little fresh-water crab in
a brook was enough to send him shrieking to
shore.  So when Tom told of this curious fish,
which many natives of Central America firmly
believe in, the giant took thought with himself.
Finally, he gave a sigh and said:

"Me stay home and keep bad mans out of
master's shop."

"Yes, I guess that's the best thing for you,"
assented Tom with an air of relief.  He and Ned
had talked the matter over, and they had agreed
that the presence of such a big man as Koku, in
an expedition going on a more or less secret mission,
would attract too much attention.

"Well, I guess that clears matters up," said
Tom, as he looked over a collection of rifles and
small arms, to decide which to take.  "We won't
have them to worry about."

"No, only Professor Beecher," remarked Ned,
with a sharp look at his chum.

"Oh, we'll dispose of him all right!" asserted
Tom boldly.  "He hasn't had any experience in
business of this sort, and with that you and
Professor Bumper and Mr. Damon know we
ought to have little trouble in getting ahead of
the young man."

"Not to speak of your own aid," added Ned.

"Oh, I'll do what I can, of course," said Tom,
with an air of indifference.  But Ned knew his
chum would work ceaselessly to help get the idol
of gold.

Tom gave no sign that there was any complication
in his affair with Mary Nestor, and of
course Ned did not tell anything of what he knew
about it.

That night saw the preparations of Ned and
Tom about completed.  There were one or two
matters yet to finish on Tom's part in relation
to his business, but these offered no difficulties.

The two chums were in the Swift home, talking
over the prospective trip, when Mrs. Baggert,
answering a ring at the front door, announced
that Mr. Damon was outside.

"Tell him to come in," ordered Tom.

"Bless my baggage check!" exclaimed the
excitable man, as he shook hands with Tom and
Ned and noted the packing evidences all about.
"You're ready to go to the land of wonders."

"The land of wonders?" repeated Ned.

"Yes, that's what Professor Bumper calls the
part of Honduras we're going to.  And it must
be wonderful, Tom.  Think of whole cities,
some of them containing idols and temples of
gold, buried thirty and forty feet under the
surface! Wonderful is hardly the name for it!"

"It'll be great!" cried Ned.  "I suppose you're
ready, Mr. Damon--you and the professor?"

"Yes.  But, Tom, I have a bit of unpleasant
news for you."

"Unpleasant news?"

"Yes.  You know Professor Bumper spoke of
a rival--a man named Beecher who is a member
of the faculty of a new and wealthy college."

"I heard him speak of him--yes," and the way
Tom said it no one would have suspected that
he had any personal interest in the matter.

"He isn't going to give his secret away,"
thought Ned.

"Well, this Professor Beecher, you know,"
went on Mr. Damon, "also knows about the idol
of gold, and is trying to get ahead of Professor
Bumper in the search."

"He did say something of it, but nothing was
certain," remarked Tom.

"But it is certain!" exclaimed Mr. Damon.
"Bless my toothpick, it's altogether too certain!"

"How is that?" asked Tom.  "Is Beecher
certainly going to Honduras?"

"Yes, of course.  But what is worse, he and
his party will leave New York on the same
steamer with us!"



CHAPTER VII

TOM HEARS SOMETHING


On hearing Mr. Damon's rather startling
announcement, Tom and Ned looked at one another.
There seemed to be something back of
the simple statement--an ominous and portending
"something."

"On the same steamer with us, is he?" mused Tom.

"How did you learn this?" asked Ned.

"Just got a wire from Professor Bumper
telling me.  He asked me to telephone to you about
it, as he was too busy to call up on the long
distance from New York.  But instead of 'phoning
I decided to come over myself."

"Glad you did," said Tom, heartily.  "Did
Professor Bumper want us to do anything
special, now that it is certain his rival will be
so close on his trail?"

"Yes, he asked me to warn you to be careful
what you did and said in reference to the expedition."

"Then does he fear something?" asked Ned.

"Yes, in a way.  I think he is very much afraid
this young Beecher will not only be first on the
site of the underground city, but that he may
be the first to discover the idol of gold.  It would
be a great thing for a young archaeologist like
Beecher to accomplish a mission of this sort,
and beat Professor Bumper in the race."

"Do you think that's why Beecher decided to
go on the same steamer we are to take?" asked Ned.

"Yes, I do," said Mr. Damon.  "Though from
what Professor Bumper said I know he regards
Professor Beecher as a perfectly honorable man,
as well as a brilliant student.  I do not believe
Beecher or his party would stoop to anything
dishonorable or underhand, though they would
not hesitate, nor would we, to take advantage of
every fair chance to win in the race."

"No, I suppose that's right," observed Tom;
but there was a queer gleam in his eye, and his
chum wondered if Tom did not have in mind the
prospective race between himself and Fenimore
Beecher for the regard of Mary Nestor.  "We'll
do our best to win, and any one is at liberty to
travel on the same steamer we are to take," added
the young inventor, and his tone became more
incisive.

"It will be all the livelier with two expeditions
after the same golden idol," remarked Ned.

"Yes, I think we're in for some excitement,"
observed Tom grimly.  But even he did not
realize all that lay before them ere they would
reach Kurzon.

Mr. Damon, having delivered his message, and
remarking that his preparations for leaving were
nearly completed, went back to Waterfield, from
there to proceed to New York in a few days
with Tom and Ned, to meet Professor Bumper.

"Well, I guess we have everything in pretty
good shape," remarked Tom to his chum a day
or so after the visit of Mr. Damon.  "Everything
is packed, and as I have a few personal matters
to attend to I think I'll take the afternoon off."

"Go to it!" laughed Ned, guessing a thing of two.
"I've got a raft of stuff myself to look after,
but don't let that keep you."

"If there is anything I can do," began Tom,
"don't hesitate to----"

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Ned.  "I can do it all alone.
It's some of the company's business, anyhow,
and I'm paid for looking after that."

"All right, then I'll cut along," Tom said, and
he wore a relieved air.

"He's going to see Mary," observed Ned with
a grin, as he observed Tom hop into his trim
little roadster, which under his orders, Koku had
polished and cleaned until it looked as though
it had just come from the factory.

A little later the trim and speedy car drew up
in front of the Nestor home, and Tom bounded
up on the front porch, his heart not altogether
as light as his feet.

"No, I'm sorry, but Mary isn't in," said Mrs.
Nestor, answering his inquiry after greeting him.

"Not at home?"

"No, she went on a little visit to her cousin's at
Fayetteville.  She said something about letting
you know she was going."

"She did drop me a card," answered Tom, and,
somehow he did not feel at all cheerful.  "But
I thought it wasn't until next week she was
going."

"That was her plan, Tom.  But she changed
it.  Her cousin wired, asking her to advance
the date, and this Mary did.  There was something
about a former school chum who was also
to be at Myra's house--Myra is Mary's cousin
you know."

"Yes, I know," assented the young inventor.
"And so Mary is gone.  How long is she going
to stay?"

"Oh, about two weeks.  She wasn't quite
certain.  It depends on the kind of a time she has,
I suppose."

"Yes, I suppose so," agreed Tom.  "Well, if
you write before I do you might say I called,
Mrs. Nestor."

"I will, Tom.  And I know Mary will be sorry
she wasn't here to take a ride with you; it's
such a nice day," and the lady smiled as she
looked at the speedy roadster.

"Maybe--maybe you'd like to come for a spin?"
asked Tom, half desperately.

"No, thank you.  I'm too old to be jounced
around in one of those small cars."

"Nonsense! She rides as easily as a Pullman
sleeper."

"Well, I have to go to a Red Cross meeting,
anyhow, so I can't come, Tom.  Thank you,
just the same."

Tom did not drive back immediately to his
home.  He wanted to do a bit of thinking, and
he believed he could do it best by himself.  So
it was late afternoon when he again greeted Ned,
who, meanwhile, had been kept very busy.

"Well?" called Tom's chum.

"Um!" was the only answer, and Tom called
Koku to put the car away in the garage.

"Something wrong," mused Ned.

The next three days were crowded with events
and with work.  Mr. Damon came over
frequently to consult with Tom and Ned, and
finally the last of their baggage had been packed,
certain of Tom's inventions and implements sent
on by express to New York to be taken to Honduras,
and then our friends themselves followed
to the metropolis.

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

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

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

"We will," promised Ned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I haven't the least idea."

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

"You don't mean it!"

"I surely do."

"How do you know?"

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

"They did?  But where is Beecher?"

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

"Why isn't he here now?"

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

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

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

"I can tell you that, too."

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

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



CHAPTER VIII

OFF FOR HONDURAS


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

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

"That's what some members of his party called
it."

"And they're waiting here for him to join
them?"

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

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

"How is that?"

"The next boat is a faster one."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And Mr. Damon?"

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

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

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

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

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

"For what?" asked Tom and Ned together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER IX

VAL JACINTO


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

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

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

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

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

"What do you mean?" asked Ned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What did you do?" asked Ned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"At your service!"

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

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

"How far is it?" asked Tom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER X

IN THE WILDS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ugh!" they grunted.

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

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

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

"Dangerous?" queried Tom.

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

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

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

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

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

"And always hungry," observed Jacinto grimly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XI

THE VAMPIRES


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

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

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

Tom laughed quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I can't understand it!"

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

"I say I can't understand it."

"Understand what?"

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

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

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

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

"What is the matter?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oshtoo! Oshtoo! Oshtoo!"

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

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

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



CHAPTER XII

A FALSE FRIEND


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

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

"Vampires?"

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

"Nonsense!"

"I tell you I did!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

From without the tent came the Indian cries of:

"Oshtoo!  Oshtoo!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"They may--there is no telling."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And a man, too?" asked Ned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"An alligator is after him!" yelled Ned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I suppose that is so."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Gone back?"

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

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

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



CHAPTER XIII

FORWARD AGAIN


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

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

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

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


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


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

Professor Bumper read on:


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

"Trick!" cried Tom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Nor I!" cried Mr. Damon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XIV:

A NEW GUIDE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Come back?" queried Tom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why not?" asked Tom.

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

A silence followed Ned's intimation.



CHAPTER XV

IN THE COILS


"Ned, do you really think Tolpec is going to
desert us?" asked Tom.

"Well, I don't know," was the slowly given reply.
"It's a possibility, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is," broke in Professor Bumper.  "But
what if it is?  We might as well trust him, and
if he proves true, as I believe he will, we'll be
so much better off.  If he proves a traitor we'll
only have lost a few days, for if he doesn't come
back we can go on again in the way we started."

"But that's just it!" complained Tom.  "We
don't want to lose any time with that Beecher
chap on our trail."

"I am not so very much concerned about him,"
remarked Professor Bumper, dryly.

"Why not?" snapped out Mr. Damon.

"Well, because I think he'll have just about
as hard work locating the hidden city, and finding
the idol of gold, as we'll have.  In other words
it will be an even thing, unless he gets too far
ahead of us, or keeps us back, and I don't believe
he can do that now.

"So I thought it best to take a chance with this
Indian.  He would hardly have taken the trouble
to come all the way back, and run the risks he
did, just to delay us a few days.  However, we'll
soon know.  Meanwhile, we'll take it easy and
wait for the return of Tolpec and his friends."

Though none of them liked to admit it, Ned's
words had caused his three friends some anxiety,
and though they busied themselves about the
camp there was an air of waiting impatiently for
something to occur.  And waiting is about the
hardest work there is.

But there was nothing for it but to wait, and
it might be at least a week, Professor Bumper
said, before the Indian could return with a party
of porters and mules to move their baggage.

"Yes, Tolpec has not only to locate the
settlement," Tom admitted, "but he must persuade the
natives to come back with him.  He may have
trouble in that, especially if it is known that he
has left Jacinto, who, I imagine, is a power among
the tribes here."

But there were only two things left to do--wait
and hope.  The travelers did both.  Four days
passed and there was no sign of Tolpec.  Eager-
ly, and not a little anxiously, they watched the
jungle path along which he had disappeared.

"Oh, come on!" exclaimed Tom one morning,
when the day seemed a bit cooler than its
predecessor.  "Let's go for a hunt, or something!
I'm tired of sitting around camp."

"Bless my watch hands! So am I!" cried Mr. Damon.
"Let's all go for a trip.  It will do us good."

"And perhaps I can get some specimens of interest,"
added Professor Bumper, who, in addition to being
an archaeologist, was something of a naturalist.

Accordingly, having made everything snug in
camp, the party, Tom and Ned equipped with
electric rifles, and the professor with a butterfly
net and specimen boxes, set forth.  Mr. Damon
said he would carry a stout club as his weapon.

The jungle, as usual, was teeming with life,
but as Ned and Tom did not wish to kill wantonly
they refrained from shooting until later in the
day.  For once it was dead, game did not keep
well in that hot climate, and needed to be cooked
almost immediately.

"We'll try some shots on our back trip," said
the young inventor.

Professor Bumper found plenty of his own
particular kind of "game" which he caught in the
net, transferring the specimens to the boxes he
carried.  There were beautiful butterflies, moths
and strange bugs in the securing of which the
scientist evinced great delight, though when one
beetle nipped him firmly and painfully on his
thumb his involuntary cry of pain was as real
as that of any other person.

"But I didn't let him get away," he said in
triumph when he had dropped the clawing insect
into the cyanide bottle where death came painlessly.
"It is well worth a sore thumb."

They wandered on through the jungle, taking
care not to get too far from their camp, for they
did not want to lose their way, nor did they want
to be absent too long in case Tolpec and his
native friends should return.

"Well, it's about time we shot something, I
think," remarked Ned, when they had been out
about two hours.  "Let's try for some of these
wild turkeys.  They ought to go well roasted
even if it isn't Thanksgiving."

"I'm with you," agreed Tom.  "Let's see who
has the best luck.  But tone down the charge
in your rifle and use a smaller projectile, or you'll
have nothing but a bunch of feathers to show
for your shot.  The guns are loaded for deer."

The change was made, and once more the two
young men started off, a little ahead of Professor
Bumper and Mr. Damon.  Tom and Ned had
not gone far, however, before they heard a strange
cry from Mr. Damon.

"Tom! Ned!" shouted the eccentric man,
"Here's a monster after me! Come quick!"

"A tiger!" ejaculated Tom, as he began once
more to change the charge in his rifle to a larger
one, running back, meanwhile, in the direction
of the sound of the voice.

There were really no tigers in Honduras, the
jaguar being called a tiger by the natives, while
the cougar is called a lion.  The presence of these
animals, often dangerous to man, had been indicated
around camp, and it was possible that one had been
bold enough to attack Mr. Damon, not through hunger,
but because of being cornered.

"Come on, Ned!" cried Tom.  "He's in some
sort of trouble!"

But when, a moment later, the young inventor
burst through a fringe of bushes and saw Mr.
Damon standing in a little clearing, with upraised
club, Tom could not repress a laugh.

"Kill it, Tom! Kill it!" begged the eccentric man.
"Bless my insurance policy, but it's a terrible beast!"

And so it was, at first glance.  For it was a
giant iguana, one of the most repulsive-looking
of the lizards.  Not unlike an alligator in shape,
with spikes on its head and tail, with a warty,
squatty ridge-encrusted body, a big pouch beneath
its chin, and long-toed claws, it was enough
to strike terror into the heart of almost any one.
Even the smaller ones look dangerous, and this
one, which was about five feet long, looked
capable of attacking a man and injuring him.  As
a matter of fact the iguanas are harmless, their
shape and coloring being designed to protect them.

"Don't be afraid, Mr. Damon," called Tom, still
laughing.  "It won't hurt you!"

"I'm not so positive of that.  It won't let me pass."

"Just take your club and poke it out of the way,"
the young inventor advised.  "It's only waiting
to be shoved."

"Then you do it, Tom.  Bless my looking glass,
but I don't want to go near it! If my wife could
see me now she'd say it served me just right."

Mr. Damon was not a coward, but the giant
iguana was not pleasant to look at.  Tom, with
the butt of his rifle, gave it a gentle shove,
whereupon the creature scurried off through the brush
as though glad to make its escape unscathed.

"I thought it was a new kind of alligator," said
Mr. Damon with a sigh of relief.

"Where is it?" asked Professor Bumper, coming
up at this juncture.  "A new species of alligator?
Let me see it!"

"It's too horrible," said Mr. Damon.  "I never
want to see one again.  It was worse than a
vampire bat!"

Notwithstanding this, when he heard that it
was one of the largest sized iguanas ever seen,
the professor started through the jungle after it.

"We can't take it with us if we get it," Tom
called after his friend.

"We might take the skin," answered the
professor.  "I have a standing order for such things
from one of the museums I represent.  I'd like
to get it.  Then they are often eaten.  We can
have a change of diet.  you see."

"We'd better follow him," said Tom to Ned.
"We'll have to let the turkeys go for a while.
He may get into trouble.  Come on."

Off they started through the jungle, trailing
after the impetuous professor who was intent on
capturing the iguana.  The giant lizard's progress
could be traced by the disturbance of the
leaves and underbrush, and the professor was
following as closely as possible.

So fast did he go that Ned, Tom and Mr.
Damon, following, lost sight of him several
times, and Tom finally called:

"Wait a minute.  We'll all be lost if you keep
this up."

"I'll have him in another minute," answered
the professor.  "I can almost reach him now.
Then---- Oh!"

His voice ended in a scream that seemed to
be one of terror.  So sudden was the change that
Tom and Ned, who were together, ahead of Mr.
Damon, looked at one another in fear.

"What has happened?" whispered Ned, pausing.

"Don't stop to ask--come on!" shouted Tom.

At that instant again came the voice of the savant.

"Tom! Ned!" he gasped, rather than cried.

"I'm caught in the coils! Quick--quick if you
would save me!"

"In the coils!" repeated Ned.  "What does he mean?
Can the giant iguana----"

Tom Swift did not stop to answer.  With his
electric rifle in readiness, he leaped forward
through the jungle.



CHAPTER XVI

A MEETING IN THE JUNGLE


Before Tom and Ned reached the place
whence Professor Bumper had called, they heard
strange noises, other than the imploring voice of
their friend.  It seemed as though some great
body was threshing about in the jungle, lashing
the trees, bushes and leaves about, and when
the two young men, followed by Mr. Damon,
reached the scene they saw that, in a measure,
this really accounted for what they heard.

Something like a great whip was beating about
close to two trees that grew near together.  And
then, when the storm of twigs, leaves and dirt,
caused by the leaping, threshing thing ceased for
a moment, the onlookers saw something that
filled them with terror.

Between the two trees, and seemingly bound
to them by a great coiled rope, spotted and banded,
was the body of Professor Bumper.  His arms
were pinioned to his sides and there was horror
and terror on his face, that looked imploringly
at the youths from above the topmost coil of
those encircling him.

"What is it?" cried Mr. Damon, as he ran
pantingly up.  "What has caught him?  Is it the
giant iguana?"

"It's a snake--a great boa!" gasped Tom.  "It
has him in its coils.  But it is wound around
the trees, too.  That alone prevents it from
crushing the professor to death.

"Ned, be ready with your rifle.  Put in the
heaviest charge, and watch your chance to fire!"

The great, ugly head of the boa reared itself
up from the coils which it had, with the quickness
of thought, thrown about the man between
the two trees.  This species of snake is not
poisonous, and kills its prey by crushing it to
death, making it into a pulpy mass, with scarcely
a bone left unbroken, after which it swallows
its meal.  The crushing power of one of these
boas, some of which reach a length of thirty
feet, with a body as large around as that of a
full-grown man, is enormous.

"I'm going to fire!" suddenly cried Tom.  He
had seen his chance and he took it.  There was
the faint report--the crack of the electric rifle--
and the folds of the serpent seemed to relax.

"I see a good chance now," added Ned, who
had taken the small charge from his weapon,
replacing it with a heavier one.

His rifle was also discharged in the direction
of the snake, and Tom saw that the hit was a
good one, right through the ugly head of the reptile.

"One other will be enough to make him loosen
his coils!" cried Tom, as he fired again, and such
was the killing power of the electric bullets that
the snake, though an immense one, and one that
short of decapitation could have received many
injuries without losing power, seemed to shrivel up.

Its folds relaxed, and the coils of the great
body fell in a heap at the roots of the two trees,
between which the scientist had been standing.

Professor Bumper seemed to fall backward as
the grip of the serpent relaxed, but Tom, dropping
his rifle, and calling to Ned to keep an eye
on the snake, leaped forward and caught his friend.

"Are you hurt?" asked Tom, carrying the limp
form over to a grassy place.  There was no
answer, the savant's eyes were closed and he
breathed but faintly.

Ned Newton fired two more electric bullets
into the still writhing body of the boa.

"I guess he's all in," he called to Tom.

"Bless my horseradish! And so our friend
seems to be," commented Mr. Damon.  "Have
you anything with which to revive him, Tom?"

"Yes.  Some ammonia.  See if you can find a
little water."

"I have some in my flask."

Tom mixed a dose of the spirits which he
carried with him, and this, forced between the pallid
lips of the scientist, revived him.

"What happened?" he asked faintly as he opened
his eyes.  "Oh, yes, I remember," he added
slowly.  "The boa----"

"Don't try to talk," urged Tom.  "You're all
right.  The snake is dead, or dying.  Are you
much hurt?"

Professor Bumper appeared to be considering.
He moved first one limb, then another.  He
seemed to have the power over all his muscles.

"I see how it happened," he said, as he sat
up, after taking a little more of the ammonia.  "I
was following the iguana, and when the big lizard
came to a stop, in a little hollow place in the
ground, at the foot of those two trees, I leaned
over to slip a noose of rope about its neck.  Then
I felt myself caught, as if in the hands of a giant,
and bound fast between the two trees."

"It was the big boa that whipped itself around
you, as you leaned over," explained Tom, as Ned
came up to announce that the snake was no
longer dangerous.  "But when it coiled around
you it also coiled around the two trees, you,
fortunately slipping between them.  Had it not
been that their trunks took off some of the pressure
of the coils you wouldn't have lasted a minute."

"Well, I was pretty badly squeezed as it was,"
remarked the professor.  "I hardly had breath
enough left to call to you.  I tried to fight off the
serpent, but it was of no use."

"I should say not!" cried Mr. Damon.  "Bless my
circus ring! one might as well try to combat
an elephant! But, my dear professor, are you all
right now?"

"I think so--yes.  Though I shall be lame and
stiff for a few days, I fear.  I can hardly walk."

Professor Bumper was indeed unable to go
about much for a few days after his encounter
with the great serpent.  He stretched out in a
hammock under trees in the camp clearing, and
with his friends waited for the possible return
of Tolpec and the porters.

Ned and Tom made one or two short hunting
trips, and on these occasions they kept a lookout
in the direction the Indian had taken when he
went away.

"For he's sure to come back that way--if he
comes at all," declared Ned; "which I am beginning
to doubt."

"Well, he may not come," agreed Tom, who
was beginning to lose some of his first hope.
"But he won't necessarily come from the same
direction he took.  He may have had to go in an
entirely different way to get help.  We'll hope
for the best."

A week passed.  Professor Bumper was able
to be about, and Tom and Ned noticed that
there was an anxious look on his face.  Was he,
too, beginning to despair?

"Well, this isn't hunting for golden idols very
fast," said Mr. Damon, the morning of the eighth
day after their desertion by the faithless Jacinto.
"What do you say, Professor Bumper; ought
we not to start off on our own account?"

"We had better if Tolpec does not return
today," was the answer.

They had eaten breakfast, had put their camp
in order, and were about to have a consultation
on what was best to do, when Tom suddenly
called to Ned, who was whistling:

"Hark!"

Through the jungle came a faint sound of singing
--not a harmonious air, but the somewhat
barbaric chant of the natives.

"It is Tolpec coming back!" cried Mr. Damon.
"Hurray! Now our troubles are over t Bless my
meal ticket! Now we can start!"

"It may be Jacinto," suggested Ned.

"Nonsense! you old cold-water pitcher!"
cried Tom.  "It's Tolpec! I can see him! He's
a good scout all right!"

And then, walking at the head of a band of
Indians who were weirdly chanting while behind
them came a train of mules, was Tolpec, a cheerful
grin covering his honest, if homely, dark face.

"Me come back!" he exclaimed in gutteral
English, using about half of his foreign vocabulary.

"I see you did," answered Professor Bumper
in the man's own tongue.  "Glad to see you.
Is everything all right?"

"All right," was the answer.  "These Indians
will take you where you want to go, and will not
leave you as Jacinto did."

"We'll start in the morning!" exclaimed the
savant his own cheerful self again, now that
there was a prospect of going further into the
interior.  "Tell the men to get something to eat,
Tolpec.  There is plenty for all."

"Good!" grunted the new guide and soon the
hungry Indians, who had come far, were satisfying
their hunger.

As they ate Tolpec explained to Professor
Bumper, who repeated it to the youths and Mr.
Damon, that it had been necessary to go farther
than he had intended to get the porters and
mules.  But the Indians were a friendly tribe,
of which he was a member, and could be depended on.

There was a feast and a sort of celebration in
camp that night.  Tom and Ned shot two deer,
and these formed the main part of the feast and
the Indians made merry about the fire until nearly
midnight.  They did not seem to mind in the
least the swarms of mosquitoes and other bugs
that flew about, attracted by the light.  As for
Tom Swift and his friends, their nets protected
them.

An early start was made the following morning.
Such packages of goods and supplies as could
not well be carried by the Indians in their head
straps, were loaded on the backs of the pack-
mules.  Tolpec explained that on reaching the
Indian village, where he had secured the porters,
they could get some ox-carts which would be a
convenience in traveling into the interior toward
the Copan valley.

The march onward for the next two days was
tiresome; but the Indians Tolpec had secured
were as faithful and efficient as he had described
them, and good progress was made.

There were a few accidents.  One native fell
into a swiftly running stream as they were fording
it and lost a box containing some much-needed
things.  But as the man's life was saved Professor
Bumper said it made up for the other loss.
Another accident did not end so auspiciously.
One of the bearers was bitten by a poisonous
snake, and though prompt measures were taken,
the poison spread so rapidly that the man died.

In due season the Indian village was reached.
where, after a day spent in holding funeral services
over the dead bearer, preparations were
made for proceeding farther.

This time some of the bearers were left behind,
and ox-carts were substituted for them, as it was
possible to carry more goods this way,

"And now we're really off for Copan!"
exclaimed Professor Bumper one morning, when
the cavalcade, led by Tolpec in the capacity of
head guide, started off.  "I hope we have no
more delays."

"I hope not, either," agreed Tom.  "That
Beecher may be there ahead of us."

Weary marches fell to their portion.  There
were mountains to climb, streams to ford or swim,
sending the carts over on rudely made rafts.
There were storms to endure, and the eternal heat
to fight.

But finally the party emerged from the
lowlands of the coast and went up in among the
hills, where though the going was harder, the
climate was better.  It was not so hot and moist.

Not wishing to attract attention in Copan
itself, Professor Bumper and his party made a
detour, and finally, after much consultation with
Tom over the ancient maps, the scientist announced
that he thought they were in the vicinity
of the buried city.

"We will begin test excavations in the
morning," he said.

The party was in camp, and preparations were
made for spending the night in the forest, when
from among the trees there floated to the ears
of our friends a queer Indian chant.

"Some one is coming," said Tom to Ned.

Almost as he spoke there filed into the clearing
where the camp had been set up, a cavalcade of white men,
followed by Indians.  And at the sight of one
of the white men Tom Swift uttered a cry.

"Professor Beecher!" gasped the young inventor.



CHAPTER XVII

THE LOST MAP


The on-marching company of white men, with
their Indian attendants, came to a halt on the
edge of the clearing as they caught sight of the
tents already set up there.  The barbaric chant
of the native bearers ceased abruptly, and there
was a look of surprise shown on the face of
Professor Fenimore Beecher.  For Professor Beecher
it was, in the lead of the rival expedition.

"Bless my shoe laces!" exclaimed Mr. Damon.

"Is it really Beecher?" asked Ned, though he knew
as well as Tom that it was the young archaeologist.

"It certainly is!" declared Tom.  "And he has
nerve to follow us so closely!"

"Maybe he thinks we have nerve to get here
ahead of him," suggested Ned, smiling grimly.

"Probably," agreed Tom, with a short laugh.
"Well, it evidently surprises him to find us here
at all, after the mean trick he played on us to
get Jacinto to lead us into the jungle and desert
us."

"That's right," assented Ned.  "Well, what's
the next move?"

There seemed to be some doubt about this
on the part of both expeditions.  At the sight
of Professor Beecher, Professor Bumper, who had
come out of his tent, hurriedly turned to Tom
and asked him what he thought it best to do.

"Do!" exclaimed the eccentric Mr. Damon,
not giving Tom time to reply.  "Why, stand
your ground, of course! Bless my house and
lot! but we're here first! For the matter of that,
I suppose the jungle is free and we can no more
object to his coming: here than he can to our
coming.  First come, first served, I suppose is the
law of the forest."

Meanwhile the surprise occasioned by the
unexpected meeting of their rivals seemed to have
spread something like consternation among the
white members of the Beecher party.  As for the
natives they evidently did not care one way or
the other.

There was a hasty consultation among the
professors accompanying Mr. Beecher, and then the
latter himself advanced toward the tents of Tom
and his friends and asked:

"How long have you been here?"

"I don't see that we are called upon to answer
that question," replied Professor Bumper stiffly.

"Perhaps not, and yet----"

"There is no perhaps about it!" said Professor
Bumper quickly.  "I know what your object is,
as I presume you do mine.  And, after what
I may term your disgraceful and unsportsmanlike
conduct toward me and my friends, I prefer
not to have anything further to do with you.
We must meet as strangers hereafter."

"Very well," and Professor Beecher's voice was
as cold and uncompromising as was his rival's.
"Let it be as your wish.  But I must say I don't
know what you mean by unsportsmanlike conduct."

"An explanation would be wasted on you,"
said Professor Bumper stiffly.  "But in order that
you may know I fully understand what you did
I will say that your efforts to thwart us through
your tool Jacinto came to nothing.  We are here
ahead of you."

"Jacinto!" cried Professor Beecher in real or
simulated surprise.  "Why, he was not my `tool,'
as you term it."

"Your denial is useless in the light of his
confession," asserted Professor Bumper.

"Confession?"

"Now look here!" exclaimed the older
professor, "I do not propose to lower myself by
quarreling with you.  I know certainly what
you and your party tried to do to prevent us
from getting here.  But we got out of the trap
you set for us, and we are on the ground first.
I recognize your right to make explorations as
well as ourselves, and I presume you have not
fallen so low that you will not recognize the
unwritten law in a case of this kind--the law
which says the right of discovery belongs to the
one who first makes it."

"I shall certainly abide by such conduct as
is usual under the circumstances," said
Professor Beecher more stiffly than before.
"At the same time I must deny having set a trap.
And as for Jacinto----"

"It will be useless to discuss it further!" 
broke in Professor Bumper.

"Then no more need be said," retorted the
younger man.  "I shall give orders to my friends,
as well as to the natives, to keep away from
your camp, and I shall expect you to do the
same regarding mine."

"I should have suggested the same thing
myself," came from Tom's friend, and the two rival
scientists fairly glared at one another, the others
of both parties looking on with interest.

Professor Bumper turned and walked defiantly
back to his tent.  Professor Beecher did the same
thing.  Then, after a short consultation among
the white members of the latter's organization,
their tents were set up in another clearing,
removed and separated by a screen of trees and
bushes from those of Tom Swift's friends.  The
natives of the Beecher party also withdrew a little
way from those of Professor Bumper's organization,
and then preparations for spending the
night in the jungle went on in the rival
headquarters.

"Well, he certainly had nerve, to deny, practically,
that he had set Jacinto up to do what he did," commented Tom.

"I should say so!" agreed Ned.

"How do you imagine he got here nearly as
soon as we did, when he did not start until
later?" asked Mr. Damon.

"He did not have the unfortunate experience
of being deserted in the jungle," replied Tom.
"He probably had Jacinto, or some of that
unprincipled scoundrel's friends, show him a short
route to Copan and he came on from there."

"Well, I did hope we might have the ground
to ourselves, at least for the preliminary explorations
and excavations.  But it is not to be.  My
rival is here," sighed Professor Bumper.

"Don't let that discourage you!" exclaimed Tom.
"We can fight all the better now the foe
is in the open, and we know where he is."

"Yes, Tom Swift, that is true," agreed the
scientist.  "I am not going to give up, but I
shall have to change my plans a little.  Perhaps
you will come into the tent with me," and he
nodded to Tom and Ned.  "I want to talk over
certain matters with you and Mr. Damon."

"Pleased to," assented the young inventor, and
his financial secretary nodded.

A little later, supper having been eaten, the
camp made shipshape and the natives settled
down, Tom, Ned, Mr. Damon and Professor
Bumper assembled in the tent of the scientist,
where a dry battery lamp gave sufficient illumination
to show a number of maps and papers scattered
over an improvised table.

"Now, gentlemen," said the professor, "I have
called you here to go over my plans more in
detail than I have hitherto done, now we are on
the ground.  You know in a general way what
I hope to accomplish, but the time has come
when I must be specific.

"Aside from being on the spot, below which,
or below the vicinity where, I believe, lies the
lost city of Kurzon and, I hope, the idol of gold,
a situation has arisen--an unexpected situation,
I may say--which calls for different action from
that I had counted on.

"I refer to the presence of my rival, Professor
Beecher.  I will not dwell now on what he has
done.  It is better to consider what he may do."

"That's right," agreed Ned.  "He may get up in
the night, dig up this city and skip with that
golden image before we know it."

"Hardly," grinned Tom.

"No," said Professor Bumper.  "Excavating
buried cities in the jungle of Honduras is not
as simple as that.  There is much work to be
done.  But accidents may happen, and in case
one should occur to me, and I be unable to prosecute
the search, I want one of you to do it.  For
that reason I am going to show you the maps
and ancient documents and point out to you
where I believe the lost city lies.  Now, if you
will give me your attention, I'll proceed."

The professor went over in detail the story
of how he had found the old documents relating
to the lost city of Kurzon, and of how, after
much labor and research, he had located the
city in the Copan valley.  The great idol of
gold was one of the chief possessions of Kurzon,
and it was often referred to in the old
papers; copies and translations of which the
professor had with him.

"But this is the most valuable of all," he said,
as he opened an oiled-silk packet.  "And before
I show it to you, suppose you two young men
take a look outside the tent."

"What for?" asked Mr. Damon.

"To make sure that no emissaries from the
Beecher crowd are sneaking around to overhear
what we say," was the somewhat bitter answer
of the scientist.  "I do not trust him, in spite
of his attempted denial."

Tom and Ned took a quick but thorough
observation outside the tent.  The blackness of the
jungle night was in strange contrast to the light
they had just left.

"Doesn't seem to be any one around here,"
remarked Ned, after waiting a minute or two.

"No.  All's quiet along the Potomac.  Those
Beecher natives are having some sort of a song-
fest, though."

In the distance, and from the direction of their
rivals' camp, came the weird chant.

"Well, as long as they stay there we'll be all
right," said Tom.  "Come on in.  I'm anxious to
hear what the professor has to say."

"Everything's quiet," reported Ned.

"Then give me your attention," begged the
scientist.

Carefully, as though about to exhibit some,
precious jewel, he loosened the oiled-silk wrappings
and showed a large map, on thin but tough
paper.

"This is drawn from the old charts," the
professor explained.  "I worked on it many months,
and it is the only copy in the world.  If it were
to be destroyed I should have to go all the way
back to New York to make another copy.  I have
the original there in a safe deposit vault."

"Wouldn't it have been wise to make two
copies?" asked Tom.

"It would have only increased the risk.  With
one copy, and that constantly in my possession,
I can be sure of my ground.  Otherwise not.
That is why I am so careful of this.  Now I will
show you why I believe we are about over the
ancient city of Kurzon."

"Over it!" cried Mr. Damon.  "Bless my
gunpowder! What do you mean?" and he looked
down at the earthen floor of the tent as though
expecting it to open and swallow him.

"I mean that the city, like many others of
Central and South America, is buried below the
refuse of centuries," went on the professor.
"Very soon, if we are fortunate, we shall be
looking on the civilization of hundreds of years
ago--how long no one knows.

"Considerable excavation has been done in
Central America," went on Professor Bumper,
"and certain ruins have been brought to light.
Near us are those of Copan, while toward the
frontier are those of Quirigua, which are even
better preserved than the former.  We may visit
them if we have time.  But I have reason to
believe that in this section of Copan is a large
city, the existence of which has not been made
certain of by any one save myself--and, perhaps,
Professor Beecher.

"Certainly no part of it has seen the light of
day for many centuries.  It shall be our pleasure
to uncover it, if possible, and secure the idol of
gold."

"How long ago do you think the city was
buried?" asked Tom.

"It would be hard to say.  From the carvings
and hieroglyphics I have studied it would seem
that the Mayan civilization lasted about five
hundred years, and that it began perhaps in the
year A.  D.  five hundred."

"That would mean," said Mr. Damon, "that
the ancient cities were in ruins, buried, perhaps,
long before Columbus discovered the new
world."

"Yes," assented the professor.  "Probably
Kurzon, which we now seek, was buried deep for
nearly five hundred years before Columbus landed
at San Salvadore.  The specimens of writing and
architecture heretofore disclosed indicate that.
But, as a matter of fact, it is very hard to
decipher the Mayan pictographs.  So far, little but
the ability to read their calendars and numerical
system is possessed by us, though we are gradually
making headway.

"Now this is the map of the district, and by the
markings you can see where I hope to find what
I seek.  We shall begin digging here," and he
made a small mark with a pencil on the map.

"Of course," the professor explained, "I may be
wrong, and it will take some time to discover the
error if we make one.  When a city is buried thirty
or forty feet deep beneath earth and great trees
have grown over it, it is not easy to dig down to it."

"How do you ever expect to find it?" asked Ned.

"Well, we will sink shafts here and there.  If
we find carved stones, the remains of ancient
pottery and weapons, parts of buildings or building
stones, we shall know we are on the right
track," was the answer.  "And now that I have
shown you the map, and explained how valuable
it is, I will put it away again.  We shall begin
our excavations in the morning."

"At what point?" asked Tom.

"At a point I shall indicate after a further
consultation of the map.  I must see the configuration
of the country by daylight to decide.
And now let's get some rest.  We have had a
hard day."

The two tents housing the four white members
of the Bumper party were close together,
and it was decided that the night would be divided
into four watches, to guard against possible
treachery on the part of the Beecher crowd.

"It seems an unkind precaution to take against
a fellow scientist," said Professor Bumper, "but
I can not afford to take chances after what has
occurred."

The others agreed with him, and though standing
guard was not pleasant it was done.  However
the night passed without incident, and then
came morning and the excitement of getting
breakfast, over which the Indians made merry.
They did not like the cold and darkness, and
always welcomed the sun, no matter how hot.

"And now," cried Tom, when the meal was
over, "let us begin the work that has brought us
here."

"Yes," agreed Professor Bumper, "I will
consult the map, and start the diggers where I think
the city lies, far below the surface.  Now, gentlemen,
if you will give me your attention----"

He was seeking through his outer coat pockets,
after an ineffectual search in the inner one.  A
strange look came over his face.

"What's the matter?" asked Tom.

"The map--the map!" gasped the professor.
"The map I was showing you last night!  The map
that tells where we are to dig for the idol of gold!
It's gone!"

"The map gone?" gasped Mr. Damon.

"I--I'm afraid so," faltered the professor.
"I put it away carefully, but now----"

He ceased speaking to make a further search
in all his pockets.

"Maybe you left it in another coat," suggested Ned.

"Or maybe some of the Beecher crowd took it!" snapped Tom.



CHAPTER XVIII

"EL TIGRE!"


The four men gazed at one another.
Consternation showed on the face of Professor
Bumper, and was reflected, more or less, on the
countenances of his companions.

"Are you sure the map is gone?" asked Tom.
"I know how easy it is to mislay anything in a
camp of this sort.  I couldn't at first find my
safety razor this morning, and when I did locate
it the hoe was in one of my shoes.  I'm sure a
rat or some jungle animal must have dragged
it there.  Now maybe they took your map,
Professor.  That oiled silk in which it was wrapped
might have appealed to the taste of a rat or a
snake."

"It is no joking matter," said Professor
Bumper.  "But I know you appreciate the seriousness
of it as much as I do, Tom.  But I had the map
in the pocket of this coat, and now it is gone!"

"When did you put it there?" asked Ned.

"This morning, just before I came to breakfast."

"Oh, then you have had it since last night!"
Tom ejaculated.

"Yes, I slept with it under my clothes that I
rolled up for a pillow, and when it was my turn
to stand guard I took it with me.  Then I put
it back again and went to sleep.  When I awoke
and dressed I put the packet in my pocket and
ate breakfast.  Now when I look for it--why,
it's gone!"

"The map or the oiled-silk package?" asked
Mr. Damon, who, once having been a businessman,
was sometimes a stickler for small points.

"Both," answered the professor.  "I opened
the silk to tie it more smoothly, so it would not
be such a lump in my pocket, and I made sure
the map was inside."

"Then the whole thing has been taken--or you
have lost it," suggested Ned.

"I am not in the habit of losing valuable maps,"
retorted the scientist.  "And the pocket of my
coat I had made deep, for the purpose of carrying
the long map.  It could not drop out."

"Well, we mustn't overlook any possible
chances," suggested Tom.  "Come on now, we'll
search every inch of the ground over which you
traveled this morning, Professor."

"It MUST be found," murmured the scientist.
"Without it all our work will go for naught."

They all went into the tent where the professor
and Mr. Damon had slept when they were not
on guard.  The camp was a busy place, with the
Indians finishing their morning meal, and getting
ready for the work of the day.  For word
had been given out that there would be no more
long periods of travel.

In consequence, efforts were being directed by
the head men of the bearers to making a more
permanent camp in the wilderness.  Shelters of
palm-thatched huts were being built, a site for
cooking fires made, and, at the direction of Mr.
Damon, to whom this part was entrusted, some
sanitary regulations were insisted on.

Leaving this busy scene, the four, with solemn
faces, proceeded to the tent where it was hoped
the map would be found.  But though they went
through everything, and traced and retraced
every place the professor could remember having
traversed about the canvas shelter, no signs of
the important document could be found.

"I don't believe I dropped it out of my pocket,"
said the scientist, for perhaps the twentieth time.

"Then it was taken," declared Tom.

"That's what I say!" chimed in Ned.
"And by some of Beecher's party!"

"Easy, my boy," cautioned Mr. Damon.  "We
don't want to make accusations we can't prove."

"That is true," agreed Professor Bumper.
"But, though I am sorry to say it of a fellow
archaelogist, I can not help thinking Beecher
had something to do with the taking of my map."

"But how could any of them get it?" asked Mr. Damon.
"You say you had the map this morning, and certainly
none of them has been in our camp since dawn,
though of course it is possible that some of them
sneaked in during the night."

"It does seem a mystery how it could have
been taken in open daylight, while we were about
camp together," said Tom.  "But is the loss
such a grave one, Professor Bumper?"

"Very grave.  In fact I may say it is impossible
to proceed with the excavating without the map."

"Then what are we to do?" asked Ned.

"We must get it back!" declared Tom.

"Yes," agreed the scientist, "we can not work
without it.  As soon as I make a little further
search, to make sure it could not have dropped
in some out-of-the-way place, I shall go over to
Professor Beecher's camp and demand that he
give me back my property."

"Suppose he says he hasn't taken it?" asked Tom.

"Well, I'm sure he either took it personally,
or one of his party did.  And yet I can't understand
how they could have come here without our
seeing them," and the professor shook his head
in puzzled despair.

A more detailed search did not reveal the missing
map, and Mr. Damon and his friend the
scientist were on the point of departing for the
camp of their rivals, less than a mile away, when
Tom had what really amounted to an inspiration.

"Look here, Professor!" he cried.  "Can you
remember any of the details of your map--say,
for instance, where we ought to begin excavating
to get at the wonders of the underground city?"

"Well, Tom, I did intend to compare my map
with the configuration of the country about here.
There is a certain mountain which serves as a
landmark and a guide for a starting point.  I
think that is it over there," and the scientist
pointed to a distant snow-capped peak.

The party had left the low and marshy land
of the true jungle, and were among the foothills,
though all about them was dense forest and
underbush, which, in reality, was as much a jungle
as the lower plains, but was less wet.

"The point where I believe we should start
to dig," said the professor, "is near the spot
where the top of the mountain casts a shadow
when the sun is one hour high.  At least that is
the direction given in the old manuscripts.  So,
though we can do little without the map, we
might make a start by digging there."

"No, not there!" exclaimed Tom.

"Why not?"

"Because we don't want to let Beecher's crowd
know that we are on the track of the idol of gold."

"But they know anyhow, for they have the map,"
commented Ned, puzzled by his chum's words.

"Maybe not," said Tom slowly.  "I think this
is a time for a big bluff.  It may work and it
may not.  Beecher's crowd either has the map or
they have not.  If they have it they will lose
no time in trying to find the right place to start
digging and then they'll begin excavating.

"Very good! If they do that we have a right
to dig near the same place.  But if they have not
the map, which is possible, and if we start to dig
where the professor's memory tells him is the
right spot, we'll only give them the tip, and they'll
dig there also."

"I'm sure they have the map," the professor said.
"But I believe your plan is a good one, Tom."

"Just what do you propose doing?" asked Ned.

"Fooling 'em!" exclaimed Tom quickly.  "We'll
dig in some place remote from the spot where the
mountain casts its shadow.  They will think, if
they haven't the map, that we are proceeding by
it, and they'll dig, too.  When they find nothing,
as will also happen to us, they may go away.

"If, on the other hand, they have the map, and
see us digging at a spot not indicated on it, they
will be puzzled, knowing we must have some idea
of where the buried city lies.  They will think
the map is at fault, perhaps, and not make use of
it.  Then we can get it back."

"Bless my hatband!" cried Mr. Damon.
"I believe you're right, Tom.
We'll dig in the wrong place to fool 'em."

And this was done.  Search for the precious
map was given up for the time being, and the
professor and his friends set the natives to work
digging shafts in the ground, as though sinking
them down to the level of the buried city.

But though this false work was prosecuted with
vigor for several days, there was a feeling of
despair among the Bumper party over the loss of
the map.

"If we could only get it back!" exclaimed the
professor, again and again.

Meanwhile the Beecher party seemed inactive.
True, some members of it did come over to look
on from a respectful distance at what the diggers
were doing.  Some of the rival helpers, under
the direction of the head of the expedition, also
began sinking shafts.  But they were not in the
locality remembered by Professor Bumper as being
correct.

"I can't imagine what they're up to," he said.
"If they have my map they would act differently,
I should think."

"Whatever they're up to," answered Tom, "the
time has come when we can dig at the place
where we can hope for results."  And the following
day shafts were started in the shadow of the
mountain.

Until some evidence should have been obtained
by digging, as to the location beneath the surface
of a buried city, there was nothing for the
travelers to do but wait.  Turns were taken in
directing the efforts of the diggers, and an
occasional inspection was made of the shafts.

"What do you expect to find first?" asked Tom
of Professor Bumper one day, when the latter was
at the top of a shaft waiting for a bucket load
of dirt to be hoisted up.

"Potsherds and artifacts," was the answer.

"What sort of bugs are they?" asked Ned with
a laugh.  He and Tom were about to go hunting
with their electric rifles.

"Artifacts are things made by the Indians--or
whatever members of the race who built the
ancient cities were called--such as household articles,
vases, ornaments, tools and so on.  Anything
made by artificial means is called an artifact."

"And potsherds are things with those Chinese
laundry ticket scratches on them," added Tom.

"Exactly," said the professor, laughing.
"Though some of the strange-appearing inscriptions
give much valuable information.  As soon
as we find some of them--say a broken bit of
pottery with hieroglyphics on--I will know I am
on the right track."

And while the scientist and Mr. Damon kept
watch at the top of the shaft, Tom and Ned went
out into the jungle to hunt.  They had killed some
game, and were stalking a fine big deer, which
would provide a feast for the natives, when suddenly
the silence of the lonely forest was broken
by a piercing scream, followed by an agonized
cry of

"El tigre! El tigre!"



CHAPTER XIX

POISONED ARROWS


"Did you hear that, Tom?" asked Ned, in a
hoarse whisper.

"Surely," was the cautious answer.  "Keep
still, and I'll try for a shot."

"Better be quick," advised Ned in a tense voice.
"The chap who did that yelling seems to be in
trouble!"

And as Ned's voice trailed off into a whisper,
again came the cry, this time in frenzied pain.

"El tigre! El tigre!" Then there was a jumble of words.

"It's over this way!" and this time Ned shouted,
seeing no need for low voices since the other was so loud.

Tom looked to where Ned had parted the
bushes alongside a jungle path.  Through the
opening the young inventor saw, in a little glade,
that which caused him to take a firmer grip on his
electric rifle, and also a firmer grip on his nerves.

Directly in front of him and Ned, and not more
than a hundred yards away, was a great tawny
and spotted jaguar--the "tigre" or tiger of Central
America.  The beast, with lashing tail, stood
over an Indian upon whom it seemed to have
sprung from some lair, beating the unfortunate
man to the ground.  Nor had he fallen scatheless,
for there was blood on the green leaves about
him, and it was not the blood of the spotted
beast.

"Oh, Tom, can you--can you----" and Ned
faltered.

The young inventor understood the unspoken
question.

"I think I can make a shot of it without hitting
the man," he answered, never turning his head.
"It's a question, though, if the beast won't claw
him in the death struggle.  It won't last long,
however, if the electric bullet goes to the right
place, and I've got to take the chance."

Cautiously Tom brought his weapon to bear.
Quiet as Ned and he had been after the discovery,
the jaguar seemed to feel that something was
wrong.  Intent on his prey, for a time he had
stood over it, gloating.  Now the brute glanced
uneasily from side to side, its tail nervously
twitching, and it seemed trying to gain, by a sniffing
of the air, some information as to the direction
in which danger lay, for Tom and Ned had
stooped low, concealing themselves by a screen
of leaves.

The Indian, after his first frenzied outburst
of fear, now lay quiet, as though fearing to move,
moaning in pain.

Suddenly the jaguar, attracted either by some
slight movement on the part of Ned or Tom, or
perhaps by having winded them, turned his head
quickly and gazed with cruel eyes straight at the
spot where the two young men stood behind the
bushes.

"He's seen us," whispered Ned.

"Yes," assented Tom.  "And it's a perfect shot.
Hope I don't miss!"

It was not like Tom Swift to miss, nor did he
on this occasion.  There was a slight report from
the electric rifle--a report not unlike the crackle
of the wireless--and the powerful projectile sped
true to its mark.

Straight through the throat and chest under
the uplifted jaw of the jaguar it went--through
heart and lungs.  Then with a great coughing,
sighing snarl the beast reared up, gave a convulsive
leap forward toward its newly discovered
enemies, and fell dead in a limp heap, just beyond
the native over which it had been crouching before
it delivered the death stroke, now never to fall.

"You did it, Tom! You did it!" cried
Ned, springing up from where he had been kneeling
to give his chum a better chance to shoot.
"You did it, and saved the man's life!" And Ned
would have rushed out toward the still twitching body.

"Just a minute!" interposed Tom.  "Those
beasts sometimes have as many lives as a cat.
I'll give it one more for luck."  Another electric
projectile through the head of the jaguar produced
no further effect than to move the body
slightly, and this proved conclusively that there
was no life left.  It was safe to approach, which
Tom and Ned did.

Their first thought, after a glance at the
jaguar, was for the Indian.  It needed but a brief
examination to show that he was not badly hurt.
The jaguar had leaped on him from a low tree
as he passed under it, as the boys learned afterward,
and had crushed the man to earth by the
weight of the spotted body more than by a stroke
of the paw.

The American jaguar is not so formidable a
beast as the native name of tiger would cause
one to suppose, though they are sufficiently dan-
gerous, and this one had rather badly clawed the
Indian.  Fortunately the scratches were on the
fleshy parts of the arms and shoulders, where,
though painful, they were not necessarily serious.

"But if you hadn't shot just when you did, Tom,
it would have been all up with him," commented
Ned.

"Oh, well, I guess you'd have hit him if I
hadn't," returned the young inventor.  "But let's
see what we can do for this chap."

The man sat up wonderingly--hardly able to
believe that he had been saved from the dreaded
"tigre."  His wounds were bleeding rather freely,
and as Tom and Ned carried with them a first-aid
kit they now brought it into use.  The wounds
were bound up, the man was given water to
drink and then, as he was able to walk, Tom and
Ned offered to help him wherever he wanted to
go.

"Blessed if I can tell whether he's one of our
Indians or whether he belongs to the Beecher
crowd," remarked Tom.

"Senor Beecher," said the Indian, adding, in
Spanish, that he lived in the vicinity and had
only lately been engaged by the young professor
who hoped to discover the idol of gold before
Tom's scientific friend could do so.

Tom and Ned knew a little Spanish, and with
that, and simple but expressive signs on the part
of the Indian, they learned his story.  He had his
palm-thatched hut not far from the Beecher camp,
in a small Indian village, and he, with others,
had been hired on the arrival of the Beecher party
to help with the excavations.  These, for some
reason, were delayed.

"Delayed because they daren't use the map they
stole from us," commented Ned.

"Maybe," agreed Tom.

The Indian, whose name, it developed, was Tal,
as nearly as Tom and Ned could master it, had
left camp to go to visit his wife and child in the
jungle hut, intending to return to the Beecher
camp at night.  But as he passed through the
forest the jaguar had dropped on him, bearing him
to earth.

"But you saved my life, Senor," he said to
Tom, dropping on one knee and trying to kiss
Tom's hand, which our hero avoided.  "And now
my life is yours," added the Indian.

"Well, you'd better get home with it and take
care of it," said Tom.  "I'll have Professor Bumper
come over and dress your scratches in a better
and more careful way.  The bandages we put
on are only temporary."

"My wife she make a poultice of leaves--they
cure me," said the Indian.

"I guess that will be the best way," observed
Ned.  "These natives can doctor themselves for
some things, better than we can."

"Well, we'll take him home," suggested Tom.
"He might keel over from loss of blood.
Come on," he added to Tal, indicating his object.

It was not far to the native's hut from the place
where the jaguar had been killed, and there Tom
and Ned underwent another demonstration of affection
as soon as those of Tal's immediate family and the
other natives understood what had happened.

"I hate this business!" complained Tom, after
having been knelt to by the Indian's wife and
child, who called him the "preserver" and other
endearing titles of the same kind.  "Come on,
let's hike back."

But Indian hospitality, especially after a life
has been saved, is not so simple as all that.

"My life--my house--all that I own is yours,"
said Tal in deep gratitude.  "Take everything,"
and he waved his hand to indicate all the possessions
in his humble hut.

"Thanks," answered Tom, "but I guess you
need all you have.  That's a fine specimen of
blow gun though," he added, seeing one hanging
on the wall.  "I wouldn't mind having one like
that.  If you get well enough to make me one,
Tal, and some arrows to go with it, I'd like it
for a curiosity to hang in my room at home."

"The Senor shall have a dozen," promised the
Indian.

"Look, Ned," went on Tom, pointing to the
native weapon.  "I never saw one just like this.
They use small arrows or darts, tipped with wild
cotton, instead of feathers."

"These the arrows," explained Tal's wife,
bringing a bundle from a corner of the one-room
hut.  As she held them out her husband gave a
cry of fear.

"Poisoned arrows! Poisoned arrows!" he exclaimed.
"One scratch and the senors are dead men.  Put them away!"

In fear the Indian wife prepared to obey, but
as she did so Tom Swift caught sight of the package
and uttered a strange cry.

"Thundering hoptoads, Ned!" he exclaimed.
"The poisoned arrows are wrapped in the piece of oiled
silk that was around the professor's missing map!"



CHAPTER XX

AN OLD LEGEND


Fascinated, Tom and Ned gazed at the package
the Indian woman held out to them.  Undoubtedly
it was oiled silk on the outside, and through
the almost transparent covering could be seen
the small arrows, or darts, used in the blow gun.

"Where did you get that?" asked Tom, pointing
to the bundle and gazing sternly at Tal.

"What is the matter, Senor?" asked the Indian in turn.
"Is it that you are afraid of the poisoned arrows?
Be assured they will not harm you unless
you are scratched by them."

Tom and Ned found it difficult to comprehend
all the rapid Spanish spoken by their host, but
they managed to understand some, and his
eloquent gestures made up the rest.

"We're not afraid," Tom said, noting that the
oiled skin well covered the dangerous darts.  "But
where did you get that?"

"I picked it up, after another Indian had thrown
it away.  He got it in your camp, Senor.  I
will not lie to you.  I did not steal.  Valdez
went to your camp to steal--he is a bad Indian--
and he brought back this wrapping.  It contained
something he thought was gold, but it was
not, so he----"

"Quick! Yes! Tell us!" demanded Tom
eagerly.  "What did he do with the professor's
map that was in the oiled silk?  Where is it?"

"Oh, Senors!" exclaimed the Indian woman,
thinking perhaps her husband was about to be
dealt harshly with when she heard Tom's
excited voice.  "Tal do no harm!"

"No, he did no harm," went on Tom, in a
reassuring tone.  "But he can do a whole lot of good
if he tells us what became of the map that was in
this oiled silk.  Where is it?" he asked again.

"Valdez burn it up," answered Tal.

"What, burned the professor's map?" cried Ned.

"If that was in this yellow cloth--yes,"
answered the injured man.  "Valdez he is bad.  He
say to me he is going to your camp to see what
he can take.  How he got this I know not, but
he come back one morning with the yellow pack-
age.  I see him, but he make me promise not
to tell.  But you save my life I tell you everything.

"Valdez open the package; but it is not gold,
though he think so because it is yellow, and the
man with no hair on his head keep it in his pocket
close, so close," and Tal hugged himself to indicate
what he meant.

"That's Professor Bumper," explained Ned.

"How did Valdez get the map out of the
professor's coat?" asked Tom.

"Valdez he very much smart.  When man
with no hair on his head take coat off for a
minute to eat breakfast Valdez take yellow thing
out of pocket."

"The Indian must have sneaked into camp
when we were eating," said Tom.  "Those from
Beecher's party and our workers look all alike
to us.  We wouldn't know one from the other,
and one of our rival's might slip in."

"One evidently did, if this is really the piece of
oiled silk that was around the professor's map,"
said Ned.

"It certainly is the same," declared the young
inventor.  "See, there is his name," and he
stretched out his hand to point.

"Don't touch!" cried Tal.  "Poisoned arrows
snake poison--very dead-like and quick."

"Don't worry, I won't touch," said Tom grimly.
"But go on.  You say Valdez sneaked into our
camp, took the oiled-silk package from the coat
pocket of Professor Bumper and went back to
his own camp with it, thinking it was gold."

"Yes," answered Tal, though it is doubtful if
he understood all that Tom said, as it was half
Spanish and half English.  But the Indian knew
a little English, too.  "Valdez, when he find no
gold is very mad.  Only papers in the yellow
silk-papers with queer marks on.  Valdez think
it maybe a charm to work evil, so he burn them
up--all up!"

"Burned that rare map!" gasped Tom.

"All in fire," went on Tal, indicating by his
hands the play of flames.  "Valdez throw away
yellow silk, and I take for my arrows so rain not
wash off poison.  I give to you, if you like, with
blow gun."

"No, thank you," answered Tom, in disappointed
tones.  "The oiled silk is of no use without
the map, and that's gone.  Whew! but this is
tough!" he said to his chum.  "As long as it was
only stolen there was a chance to get it back,
but if it's burned, the jig is up."

"It looks so," agreed Ned.  "We'd better get
back and tell the professor.  It he can't get along
without the map it's time he started a movement
toward getting another.  So it wasn't Beecher,
after all, who got it."

"Evidently not," assented Tom.  "But I
believe him capable of it."

"You haven't much use for him," remarked Ned.

"Huh!" was all the answer given by his chum.

"I am sorry, Senors," went on Tal, "but I
could not stop Valdez, and the burning of the
papers----"

"No, you could not help it," interrupted the
young inventor.  "But it just happens that it
brings bad luck to us.  You see, Tal, the papers
in this yellow covering, told of an old buried
city that the bald-headed professor--the-man-
with-no-hair-on-his-head--is very anxious to
discover.  It is somewhere under the ground," and
he waved to the jungle all about them, pointing
earthwards.

"Paper Valdez burn tell of lost city?" asked
Tal, his face lighting up.

"Yes.  But now, of course, we can't tell where
to dig for it."

The Indian turned to his wife and talked rapidly
with her in their own dialect.  She, too, seemed
greatly excited, making quick gestures.  Finally
she ran out of the hut.

"Where is she going?" asked Tom suspiciously.

"To get her grandfather.  He very old Indian.
He know story of buried cities under trees.  Very
old story--what you call legend, maybe.  But
Goosal know.  He tell same as his grandfather
told him.  You wait.  Goosal come, and you listen."

"Good, Ned!" suddenly cried Tom.  "Maybe,
we'll get on the track of lost Kurzon after all,
through some ancient Indian legend.  Maybe we
won't need the map!"

"It hardly seems possible," said Ned slowly.
"What can these Indians know of buried cities
that were out of existence before Columbus came
here?  Why, they haven't any written history."

"No, and that may be just the reason they are
more likely to be right," returned Tom.  "Legends
handed down from one grandfather to another
go back a good many hundred years.  If
they were written they might be destroyed as
the professor's map was.  Somehow or other,
though I can't tell why, I begin to see daylight
ahead of us."

"I wish I did," remarked Ned.

"Here comes Goosal I think," murmured Tom,
and he pointed to an Indian, bent with the weight
of years, who, led by Tal's wife, was slowly
approaching the hut.



CHAPTER XXI

THE CAVERN


"Now Goosal can tell you," said Tal, evidently
pleased that he had, in a measure, solved the
problem caused by the burning of the professor's
map.  "Goosal very old Indian.  He know old
stories--legends--very old."

"Well, if he can tell us how to find the buried
city of Kurzon and the--the things in it," said
Tom, "he's all right!"

The aged Indian proceeded slowly toward the
hut where the impatient youths awaited him.

"I know what you seek in the buried city,"
remarked Tal.

"Do you?" cried Tom, wondering if some one
had indiscreetly spoken of the idol of gold.

"Yes you want pieces of rock, with strange
writings on them, old weapons, broken pots.
I know.  I have helped white men before."

"Yes, those are the things we want," agreed
Tom, with a glance at his chum.  "That is--some
of them.  But does your wife's grandfather talk
our language?"

"No, but I can tell you what he says."

By this time the old man, led by "Mrs. Tal"--
as the young men called the wife of the Indian
they had helped--entered the hut.  He seemed
nervous and shy, and glanced from Tom and Ned
to his grandson-in-law, as the latter talked rapidly
in the Indian dialect.  Then Goosal made answer,
but what it was all about the boys could
not tell.

"Goosal say," translated Tal, "that he know a
story of a very old city away down under ground."

"Tell us about it!" urged Tom eagerly.

But a difficulty very soon developed.  Tal's
intentions were good, but he was not equal to
the task of translating.  Nor was the understanding
of Tom and Ned of Spanish quite up to the mark.

"Say, this is too much for me!" exclaimed Tom.
"We are losing the most valuable part of this by
not understanding what Goosal says, and what
Tal translates."

"What can we do?" asked Ned.

"Get the professor here as soon as possible.
He can manage this dialect, and he'll get the
information at first hand.  If Goosal can tell
where to begin excavating for the city he ought
to tell the professor, not us."

"That's right," agreed Ned.  "We'll bring the
professor here as soon as we can."

Accordingly they stopped the somewhat difficult
task of listening to the translated story and
told Tal, as well as they could, that they would
bring the "man-with-no-hair-on-his-head" to
listen to the tale.

This seemed to suit the Indians, all of whom
in the small colony appeared to be very grateful
to Tom and Ned for having saved the life of
Tal.

"That was a good shot you made when you
bowled over the jaguar," said Ned, as the two
young explorers started back to their camp.

"Better than I realized, if it leads to the discovery
of Kurzon and the idol of gold," remarked Tom.

"And to think we should come across the oiled-
silk holding the poisoned arrows!" went on Ned.
"That's the strangest part of the whole affair.
If it hadn't been that you shot the jaguar this
never would have come about."

That Professor Bumper was astonished, and
Mr. Damon likewise, when they heard the story
of Tom and Ned, is stating it mildly.

"Come on!" exclaimed the scientist, as Tom
finished, "we must see this Goosal at once.
If my map is destroyed, and it seems to be,
this old Indian may be our only hope.
Where did he say the buried city was, Tom?"

"Oh, somewhere in this vicinity, as nearly as
I could make out.  But you'd better talk with
him yourself.  We didn't say anything about the
idol of gold."

"That's right.  It's just as well to let the
natives think we are only after ordinary relics."

"Bless my insurance policy!" gasped Mr. Damon.
"It does not seem possible that we are on
the right track."

"Well, I think we are, from what little information
Goosal gave us," remarked Tom.  "This buried city
of his must be a wonderful place."

"It is, if it is what I take it to be," agreed the
professor.  "I told you I would bring you to a
land of wonders, Tom Swift, and they have hardly
begun yet.  Come, I am anxious to talk to Goosal."

In order that the Indians in the Bumper camp
might not hear rumors of the new plan to locate
the hidden city, and, at the same time, to keep
rumors from spreading to the camp of the rivals,
the scientist and his friends started a new shaft,
and put a shift of men at work on it.

"We'll pretend we are on the right track, and
very busy," said Tom.  "That will fool Beecher."

"Are you glad to know he did not take your
map Professor Bumper?" asked Mr. Damon.

"Well, yes.  It is hard to believe such things of
a fellow scientist."

"If he didn't take it he wanted to," said Tom.
"And he has done, or will do, things as unsportsmanlike."

"Oh, you are hardly fair, perhaps, Tom,"
commented Ned.

"Um!" was all the answer he received.

With the Indians in camp busy on the excavation
work, and having ascertained that similar
work was going on in the Beecher outfit,
Professor Bumper, with Mr. Damon and the young
men, set off to visit the Indian village and listen
to Goosal's story.  They passed the place where
Tom had slain the jaguar, but nothing was left
but the bones; the ants, vultures and jungle animals
having picked them clean in the night.

On the arrival of Tom and his friends at the
Indian's hut, Goosal told, in language which
Professor Bumper could understand, the ancient
legend of the buried city as he had had it from his
grandfather.

"But is that all you know about it, Goosal?"
asked the savant.

"No, Learned One.  It is true most of what I
have told you was told to me by my father and
his father's father.  But I--I myself--with these
eyes, have looked upon the lost city."

"You have!" cried the professor, this time in
English.  "Where?  When?  Take us to it!
How do you get here?"

"Through the cavern of the dead," was the
answer when the questions were modified.

"Bless my diamond ring!" exclaimed Mr.
Damon, when Professor Bumper translated the reply.
"What does he mean?"

And then, after some talk, this information
came out.  Years before, when Goosal was a
young man, he had been taken by his grandfather
on a journey through the jungle.  They
stopped one day at the foot of a high mountain,
and, clearing away the brush and stones at a
certain place, an entrance to a great cavern was
revealed.  This, it appeared, was the Indian burial
ground, and had been used for generations.

Goosal, though in fear and trembling, was lead
through it, and came to another cavern, vaster
than the first.  And there he saw strange and
wonderful sights, for it was the remains of a buried
city, that had once been the home of a great
and powerful tribe unlike the Indians--the ancient
Mayas it would seem.

"Can you take us to this cavern?" asked the professor.

"Yes," answered Goosal.  "I will lead to it
those who saved the life of Tal--them and their
friends.  I will take you to the lost city!"

"Good!" cried Mr. Damon, when this had been
translated.  "Now let Beecher try to play any
more tricks on us! Ho! for the cavern and the
lost city of Kurzon."

"And the idol of gold," said Tom Swift to
himself.  "I hope we can get it ahead of Beecher.
Perhaps if I can help in that--Oh, well, here's hoping,
that's all!" and a little smile curved his lips.

Greatly excited by the strange news, but
maintaining as calm an air outwardly as possible, so
as not to excite the Indians, Tom and his friends
returned to camp to prepare for their trip.  Goosal
had said the cavern lay distant more than a two-
days' journey into the jungle.



CHAPTER XXII

THE STORM


"Now," remarked Tom, once they were back
again in their camp, "we must go about this trip
to the cavern in a way that will cause no suspicion
over there as to what our object is," and he
nodded in the direction of the quarters of his
rival.

"Do you mean to go off quietly?" asked Ned.

"Yes.  And to keep the work going on here,
at these shafts," put in the scientist, "so that
if any of their spies happen to come here they
will think we still believe the buried city to be
just below us.  To that end we must keep the
Indians digging, though I am convinced now that
it is useless."

Accordingly preparations were made for an
expedition into the jungle under the leadership of
Goosal.  Tal had not sufficiently recovered from
the jaguar wounds to go with the party, but the
old man, in spite of his years, was hale and hearty
and capable of withstanding hardships.

One of the most intelligent of the Indians was
put in charge of the digging gangs as foreman,
and told to keep them at work, and not to let
them stray.  Tolpec, whose brother Tom had
tried to save, proved a treasure.  He agreed to
remain behind and look after the interests of his
friends, and see that none of their baggage or
stores were taken.

"Well, I guess we're as ready as we ever
shall be," remarked Tom, as the cavalcade made
ready to start.  Mules carried the supplies that
were to be taken into the jungle, and others of
the sturdy animals were to be ridden by the
travelers.  The trail was not an easy one, Goosal
warned them.

Tom and his friends found it even worse than
they had expected, for all their experience in
jungle and mountain traveling.  In places it was
necessary to dismount and lead the mules along,
sometimes pushing and dragging them.  More
than once the trail fairly hung on the edge of
some almost bottomless gorge, and again it
wound its way between great walls of rock,
so poised that they appeared about to topple
over and crush the travelers.  But they kept on
with dogged patience, through many hardships.

To add to their troubles they seemed to have
entered the abode of the fiercest mosquitoes
encountered since coming to Honduras.  At times
it was necessary to ride along with hats covered
with mosquito netting, and hands encased in
gloves.

They had taken plenty of condensed food with
them, and they did not suffer in this respect.
Game, too, was plentiful and the electric rifles of
Tom and Ned added to the larder.

One night, after a somewhat sound sleep
induced by hard travel on the trail that day, Tom
awoke to hear some one or something moving
about among their goods, which included their
provisions.

"Who's there?" asked the young inventor
sharply, as he reached for his electric rifle.

There was no answer, but a rattling of the pans.

"Speak, or I'll fire!" Tom warned, adding this
in such Spanish as he could muster, for he thought
it might be one of the Indians.  No reply came,
and then, seeing by the light of the stars a dark
form moving in front of the tent occupied by
himself and Ned, Tom fired.

There was a combined grunt and squeal of
pain, then a savage growl, and Ned yelled:

"What's the matter, Tom?" for he had been
awakened, and heard the crackle of the electrical
discharge.

"I don't know," Tom answered.  "But I shot
something--or somebody!"

"Maybe some of Beecher's crowd," ventured
his chum.  But when they got their electric
torches, and focused them on the inert, black
object, it was found to be a bear which had come
to nose about the camp for dainty morsels.

Bruin was quite dead, and as he was in prime
condition there was a feast of bear meat at the
following dinner.  The white travelers found it
rather too strong for their palates, but the Indians
reveled in it.

It was shortly after noon the next day, when
Goosal, after remarking that a storm seemed
brewing, announced that they would be at the
entrance to the cavern in another hour.

"Good!" cried Professor Bumper.  "At last
we are near the buried city."

"Don't be too sure," advised Mr. Damon,
"We may be disappointed.  Though I hope not
for your sake, my dear Professor."

Goosal now took the lead, and the old Indian,
traveling on foot, for he said he could better look
for the old landmark that way than on the back
of a mule, walked slowly along a rough cliff.

"Here.  somewhere, is the entrance to the cav-
ern," said the aged man.  "It was many years
ago that I was here--many years.  But it seems
as though yesterday.  It is little changed."

Indeed little did change in that land of wonders.
Only nature caused what alterations there were.
The hand of man had long been absent.

Slowly Goosal walked along the rocky trail,
on one side a sheer rock, towering a hundred feet
or more toward the sky.  On the other side a
deep gash leading to a great fertile valley below.

Suddenly the old man paused, and looked about
him as though uncertain.  Then, more slowly
still, he put out his hand and pulled at some
bushes that grew on a ledge of the rock.  They
came away, having no depth of earth, and a small
opening was disclosed.

"It is here," said Goosal quietly.  "The
entrance to the cavern that leads to the burial
place of the dead, and the city that is dead also.
It is here."

He stood aside while the others hurried
forward.  It took but a few minutes to prove that
he was right--at least as to the existence of the
cavern--for the four men were soon peering into
the opening.

"Come on!" cried Tom, impetuously.

"Wait a moment," suggested the professor,
"Sometimes the air in these places is foul.  We
must test it."  But a torch one of the Indians
threw in burned with a steady glow.  That test
was conclusive at least.  They made ready to enter.

Torches of a light bark, that glowed with a
steady flame and little smoke, had been provided,
as well as a good supply of electric dry-battery
lamps, and the way into the cavern was thus well
lighted.  At first the Indians were afraid to
enter, but a word or two from Goosal reassured
them, and they followed Professor Bumper, Tom,
and the others into the cavern.

For several hundred feet there was nothing
remarkable about the cave.  It was like any
other cavern of the mountains, though wonderful
for the number of crystal formations on the root
and walls--formations that sparkled like a million
diamonds in the flickering lights.

"Talk about a wonderland!" cried Tom.
"This is fairyland!"

A moment later, as Goosal walked on beside
the professor and Tom, the aged Indian came to
a pause, and, pointing ahead, murmured:

"The city of the dead!"

They saw the niches cut in the rock walls.
niches that held the countless bones of those who
had died many, many years before.  It was a
vast Indian grave.

"Doubtless a wealth of material of historic
interest here," said Professor Bumper, flashing
his torch on the skeletons.  "But it will keep.
Where is the city you spoke of, Goosal?"

"Farther on, Senor.  Follow me."

Past the stone graves they went, deeper and
deeper into the great cave.  Their footsteps
echoed and re-echoed.  Suddenly Tom, who with
Ned had gone a little ahead, came to a sudden
halt and said:

"Well, this may be a burial place sure enough,
but I think I see something alive all right--if
it isn't a ghost."

He pointed ahead.  Surely those were lights
flickering and moving about, and, yes, there were
men carrying them.  The Bumper party came to
a surprised halt.  The other lights advanced,
and then, to the great astonishment of Professor
Bumper and his friends, there confronted them
in the cave several scientists of Professor Beecher's
party and a score or more of Indians.  Professor
Hylop, who was known to Professor Bumper,
stepped forward and asked sharply:

"What are you doing here?"

"I might ask you the same thing," was the
retort.

"You might, but you would not be answered,"
came sharply.  "We have a right here, having
discovered this cavern, and we claim it under a
concession of the Honduras Government.  I shall
have to ask you to withdraw."

"Do you mean leave here?" asked Mr Damon.

"That is it, exactly.  We first discovered this
cave.  We have been conducting explorations in
it for several days, and we wish no outsiders."

"Are you speaking for Professor Beecher"' asked Tom.

"I am.  But he is here in the cave, and will
speak for himself if you desire it.  But I represent
him, and I order you to leave.  If you do
not go peaceably we will use force.  We have
plenty of it," and he glanced back at the Indians
grouped behind him--scowling savage Indians.

"We have no wish to intrude," observed
Professor Bumper, "and I fully recognize the right
of prior discovery.  But one member of our
party (he did not say which one) was in this
cave many years ago.  He led us to it."

"Ours is a government concession!" exclaimed
Professor Hylop harshly.  "We want no intruders!
Go!" and he pointed toward the direction
whence Tom's party had come.

"Drive them out!" he ordered the Indians in
Spanish, and with muttered threats the dark-
skinned men advanced toward Tom and the
others.

"You need not use force," said Professor Bumper.

He and Professor Hylop had quarreled bitterly
years before on some scientific matter, and the
matter was afterward found to be wrong.  Perhaps
this made him vindictive.

Tom stepped forward and started to protest,
but Professor Bumper interposed.

"I guess there is no help for it but to go.  It
seems to be theirs by right of discovery and
government concession," he said, in disappointed
tone.  "Come friends"; and dejectedly they
retraced their steps.

Followed by the threatening Indians, the
Bumper party made its way back to the entrance.
They had hoped for great things, but if the cavern
gave access to the buried city--the ancient
city of Kurzon on the chief altar of which stood
the golden idol, Quitzel--it looked as though
they were never to enter it.

"We'll have to get our Indians and drive those
fellows out!" declared Tom.  "I'm not going to
be beaten this way--and by Beecher!"

"It is galling," declared Professor Bumper.
"Still he has right on his side, and I must give
in to priority, as I would expect him to.  It is
the unwritten law."

"Then we've failed!" cried Tom bitterly.

"Not yet," said Professor Bumper.  "If I can
not unearth that buried city I may find another
in this wonderland.  I shall not give up."

"Hark! What's that noise?" asked Tom, as
they approached the entrance to the cave.

"Sounds like a great wind blowing," commented Ned.

It was.  As they stood in the entrance they
looked out to find a fierce storm raging.  The
wind was sweeping down the rocky trail, the
rain was falling in veritable bucketfuls from the
overhanging cliff, and deafening thunder and
blinding lightning roared and flashed.

"Surely you would not drive us out in this
storm," said Professor Bumper to his former
rival.

"You can not stay in the cave! You must get
out!" was the answer, as a louder crash of thunder
than usual seemed to shake the very mountain.



CHAPTER XXIII

ENTOMBED ALIVE


For an instant Tom and his friends paused at
the entrance to the wonderful cavern, and looked
at the raging storm.  It seemed madness to
venture out into it, yet they had been driven
from the cave by those who had every right of
discovery to say who, and who should not, partake
of its hospitality.

"We can't go out into that blow!" cried Ned.
"It's enough to loosen the very mountains!"

"Let's stay here and defy them!" murmured Tom.
"If the--if what we seek--is here we have
as good a right to it as they have."

"We must go out," said Professor Bumper simply.
"I recognize the right of my rival to dispossess us."

"He may have the right, but it isn't human,"
said Mr. Damon.  "Bless my overshoes! If
Beecher himself were here he wouldn't have the
heart to send us out in this storm."

"I would not give him the satisfaction of
appealing to him," remarked Professor Bumper.
"Come, we will go out.  We have our ponchos,
and we are not fair-weather explorers.  If we
can't get to the lost city one way we will
another.  Come my friends."

And despite the downpour, the deafening
thunder and the lightning that seemed ready to sear
one's eyes, he walked out of the cave entrance,
followed by Tom and the others.

"Come on!" cried Tom, in a voice he tried to
render confident, as they went out into the
terrible storm.  "We'll beat 'em yet!"

The rain fell harder than ever.  Small torrents
were now rushing down the trail, and it was only
a question of a few minutes before the place
where they stood would be a raging river, so
quickly does the rain collect in the mountains and
speed toward the valleys.

"We must take to the forest!" cried Tom.
"There'll be some shelter there, and I don't like
the way the geography of this place is behaving.
There may be a landslide at any moment."

As he spoke he motioned upward through the
mist of the rain to the sloping side of the mountain
towering above them.  Loose stones were
beginning to roll down, accompanied by patches
of earth loosened by the water.  Some of the
patches carried with them bunches of grass and
small bushes.

"Yes, it will be best to move into the jungle,"
said the professor.  "Goosal, you had better take
the lead."

It was wonderful to see how well the aged Indian
bore up in spite of his years, and walked on
ahead.  They had left their mules tethered some
distance back, in a sheltering clump of trees, and
they hoped the animals would be safe.

The guide found a place where they could
leave the trail, though going down a dangerous
slope, and take to the forest.  As carefully as
possible they descended this, the rain continuing to
fall, the wind to blow, the lightning to sizzle all
about them and the thunder to boom in their ears.

They went on until they were beneath the
shelter of the thick jungle growth of trees, which
kept off some of the pelting drops.

"This is better!" exclaimed Ned, shaking his
poncho and getting rid of some of the water that
had settled on it.

"Bless my overcoat!" cried Mr. Damon.  "We seem
to have gotten out of the frying pan into the fire!"

"How?" asked Tom.  "We are partly sheltered here,
though had we stayed in the cave in spite of----"

A deafening crash interrupted him, and following
the flash one of the giant trees of the forest
was seen to blaze up and then topple over.

"Struck by lightning!" yelled Ned.

"Yes; and it may happen to us!" exclaimed
Mr. Damon.  "We were safer from the lightning
in the open.  Maybe----"

Again came an interruption, but this time a
different one.  The very ground beneath their feet
seemed to be shaking and trembling.

"What is it?" gasped Ned, while Goosal fell on
his knees and began fervently to pray.

"It's an earthquake!" yelled Tom Swift.

As he spoke there came another sound--the
sound of a mass of earth in motion.  It came
from the direction of the mountain trail they had
just left.  They looked toward it and their horror-
stricken eyes saw the whole side of the
mountain sliding down.

Slowly at first the earth slid down, but
constantly gathering force and speed.  In the face
of this new disaster the rain seemed to have
ceased and the thunder and lightning to be less
severe.  It was as though one force of nature
gave way to the other.

"Look! Look!" gasped Ned.

In silence, which was broken now only by a
low and ominous rumble, more menacing than
had been the awful fury of the elements, the
travelers looked.

Suddenly there was a quicker movement of
seemingly one whole section of the mountain.
Great rocks and trees, carried down by the
appalling force of the landslide were slipping over
the trail, obliterating it as though it had never existed.

"There goes the entrance to the cavern!" cried Ned,
and as the others looked to where he pointed
they saw the hole in the side of the mountain
--the mouth of the cave that led to the lost city
of Kurzon--completely covered by thousands of
tons of earth and stones.

"That's the end of them!" exclaimed Tom, as
the rumble of the earthquake died away.

"Of----" Ned stopped, his eyes staring.

"Of Professor Beecher's party.  They're
entombed alive!"



CHAPTER XXIV

THE REVOLVING STONE

Stunned, not alone by the realization of the
awfulness of the fate of their rivals, but also by
the terrific storm and the effect of the earthquake
and the landslide, Tom and his friends remained
for a moment gazing toward the mouth of the
cavern, now completely out of sight, buried by
a mass of broken trees, tangled bushes, rocks and
earth.  Somewhere, far beyond that mass, was
the Beecher party, held prisoners in the cave
that formed the entrance to the buried city.

Tom was the first to come to a realization of
what was needed to be done.

"We must help them!" he exclaimed, and it was
characteristic of him that he harbored no enmity.

"How?" asked Ned.

"We must get a force of Indians and dig them
out," was the prompt answer.

At Tom's vigorous words Professor Bumper's
forces were energized into action, and he stated:
"Fortunately we have plenty of excavating
tools.  We may be in time to save them.  Come
on! the storm seems to have passed as suddenly
as it came up, and the earthquake, which, after
all did not cover a wide area, seems to be over.
We must start the work of rescue at once.  We
must go back to camp and get all the help we
can muster."

The storm, indeed, seemed to be over, but it
was no easy matter to get back over the soggy,
rain-soaked ground to the trail they had left to
take shelter in the forest.  Fortunately the earthquake
had not involved that portion where they
had left their mules, but most of the frightened
animals had broken loose, and it was some little
time before they could all be caught.

"It is no use to try to get back to camp to-
night," said Tom, when the last of the pack and
saddle animals had been corralled.  "It is getting
late and there is no telling the condition of the
trail.  We must stay here until morning."

"But what about them?" and Mr. Damon
nodded in the direction of the entombed ones.

"We can help them best by waiting until the
beginning of a new day," said the professor.  "We
shall need a large force, and we could not bring
it up to-night.  Besides, Tom is right, and if we
tried to go along the trail after dark, torn and
disturbed as it is bound to be by the rain, we
might get into difficulties ourselves.  No, we
must camp here until morning and then go for
help."

They all decided finally this was best.  The
professor, too, pointed out that their rivals were
in a large and roomy cave, not likely to suffer
from lack of air nor food or water, since they
must have supplies with them.

"The only danger is that the cave has been
crushed in," added Tom; "but in that event we
would be of no service to them anyhow."

The night seemed very long, and it was a most
uncomfortable one, because of the shock and
exertions through which the party had passed.
Added to this was the physical discomfort caused
by the storm.

But in time there was the light in the east that
meant morning was at hand, and with it came
action.  A hasty breakfast, cups of steaming coffee
forming a most welcome part, put them all
in better condition, and once more they were on
their way, heading back to the main camp where
they had left their force of Indians.

"My!" exclaimed Tom, as they made their
way slowly along, "it surely was some storm!
Look at those big trees uprooted over there.
They're almost as big as the giant redwoods of
California, and yet they were bowled over as if
they were tenpins."

"I wonder if the wind did it or the earthquake,"
ventured Mr. Damon.

"No wind could do that," declared Ned.  "It must
have been the landslide caused by the earthquake."

"The wind could do it if the ground was made
soft by the rain; and that was probably what
did it," suggested Tom.

"There is no harm in settling the point,"
commented Professor Bumper.  "It is not far off our
trail, and will take only a few minutes to go
over to the trees.  I should like to get some
photographs to accompany an article that perhaps
I shall write on the effects of sudden and
severe tropical storms.  We will go to look at
the overturned trees and then we'll hurry on to
camp to get the rescue party."

The uprooted trees lay on one side of the
mountain trail, perhaps a mile from the mouth of
the cave which had been covered over, entombing
the Beecher party.  Leaving the mules in
charge of one of the Indians, Professor Bumper
and his friends, accompanied by Goosal, approached
the fallen trees.  As they neared them
they saw that in falling the trees had lifted with
their roots a large mass of earth and imbedded
rocks that had clung to the twisted and gnarled
fibers.  This mass was as large as a house.

"Look at the hole left when the roots pulled
out!" cried Ned.  "Why, it's like the crater of
a small volcano!" he added.  And, as they stood
on the edge of it looking curiously at the hole
made, the others agreed with Tom's chum.

Professor Bumper was looking about, trying
to ascertain if there were any evidences of the
earthquake in the vicinity, when Tom, who had
cautiously gone a little way down into the excavation
caused by the fallen trees, uttered a cry of surprise.

"Look!" he shouted.  "Isn't that some sort of
tunnel or underground passage?" and he pointed
to a square opening, perhaps seven feet high and
nearly as broad, which extended, no one knew
where, downward and onward from the side of
the hole made by the uprooting of the trees.

"It's an underground passage all right," said
Professor Bumper eagerly; "and not a natural
one, either.  That was fashioned by the hand
of man, if I am any judge.  It seems to go right
under the mountain, too.  Friends, we must
explore this! It may be of the utmost importance!
Come, we have our electric torches, and we shall
need them, for it's very dark in there," and he
peered into the passage in front of which they
all stood now.  It seemed to have been tunneled
through the earth, the sides being lined by either
slabs of stone, or walls made by a sort of concrete.

"But what about the rescue work?" asked Mr. Damon.

"I am not forgetting Professor Beecher and his
friends," answered the scientist.

"Perhaps this may be a better means of rescuing
them than by digging them out, which will take
a week at least," observed Tom.

"This a better way?" asked Ned, pointing to the tunnel.

"That's it," confirmed the savant.  "If you
will notice it extends back in the direction
of the cave from which we were driven.
Now if there is a buried city beneath all this
jungle, this mountain of earth and stones, the
accumulation of centuries, it is probably on the
bottom of some vast cavern.  It is my opinion
that we were only in one end of that cavern, and
this may be the entrance to another end of it."

"Then," asked Mr. Damon, "do you mean that
we can enter here, get into the cave that contains
the buried city, or part of it, and find there
Beecher and his friends?"

"That's it.  It is possible, and if we could it
would save an immense lot of work, and probably
be a surer way to save their lives than by
digging a tunnel through the landslide to find
the mouth of the cave where we first entered."

"It's a chance worth taking," said Mr. Damon.
"Of course it is a chance.  But then everything
connected with this expedition is; so one is no
worse than another.  As you say, we may find
the entombed men more easily this way than any
other."

"I wonder," said Tom slowly, "if, by any
chance, we shall find, through this passage, the
lost city we are looking for."

"And the idol of gold," added Ned.

"Goosal, do you know anything about this?"
asked Professor Bumper.  "Did you ever hear
of another passage leading to the cave where you
saw the ancient city?"

"No, Learned One, though I have heard stories
about there being many cities, or parts of a big
one, beneath the mountain, and when it was
above ground there were many entrances to it."

"That settles it!" cried the professor in
English, having talked to Goosal in Spanish.
"We'll try this and see where it leads."

They entered the stone-lined passage.  In
spite of the fact that it had probably been buried
and concealed from light and air for centuries,
as evidenced by the growth of the giant trees
above it, the air was fresh.

"And this is one reason," said Tom, in
commenting on this fact, "why I believe it leads to
some vast cavern which is connected in some
fashion with the outer air.  Well, perhaps we
shall soon make a discovery."

Eagerly and anxiously the little party pressed
forward by the light of the pocket electric lamps.
They were obsessed by two thoughts--what they
might find and the necessity for aiding in the
rescue of their rivals.

On and on they went, the darkness illuminated
only by the torches they carried.  But they
noticed that the air was still fresh, and that a
gentle wind blew toward them.  The passage
was undoubtedly artificial, a tunnel made by the
hands of men now long crumbled into dust.  It
had a slightly upward slope, and this, Professor
Bumper said, indicated that it was bored upward
and perhaps into the very heart of the mountain
somewhere in the interior of which was the
Beecher party.

Just how far they went they did not know, but
it must have been more than two miles.  Yet
they did not tire, for the way was smooth.

Suddenly Tom, who, with Professor Bumper,
was in the lead, uttered a cry, as he held his
torch above his head and flashed it about in a
circle.

"We're blocked!" he exclaimed.  "We're up
against a stone wall!"

It was but too true.  Confronting them, and
extending from side to side across the passage
and from roof to floor, was a great rough stone.
Immense and solid it seemed when they pushed
on it in vain.

"Nothing short of dynamite will move that,"
said Ned in despair.  "This is a blind lead.
We'll have to go back."

"But there must be something on the other
side of that stone," cried Tom.  "See, it is pierced
with holes, and through them comes a current of
air.  If we could only move the stone!"

"I believe it is an ancient door," remarked
Professor Bumper.

Eagerly and frantically they tried to move it
by their combined weight.  The stone did not
give the fraction of the breadth of a hair.

"We'll have to go back and get some of your
big tunnel blasting powder, Tom," suggested Ned.

As he spoke old Goosal glided forward.  He
had remained behind them in the passage while
they were trying to move the rock.  Now he
said something in Spanish.

"What does he mean?" asked Ned.

"He asks that he be allowed to try," translated
Professor Bumper.  "Sometimes, he says, there
is a secret way of opening stone doors in these
underground caves.  Let him try."

Goosal seemed to be running his fingers lightly
over the outer edge of the door.  He was muttering
to himself in his Indian tongue.

Suddenly he uttered an exclamation, and, as
he did so, there was a noise from the door itself.
It was a grinding, scraping sound, a rumble as
though rocks were being rolled one against the
other.

Then the astonished eyes of the adventurers
saw the great stone door revolve on its axis
and swing to one side, leaving a passage open
through which they could pass.  Goosal had
discovered the hidden mechanism.

What lay before them?



CHAPTER XXV

THE IDOL OF GOLD


"Forward! cried Tom Swift.

"Where?" asked Mr Damon, hanging back for
an instant.  "Bless my compass, Tom! do you
know where you're going?"

"I haven't the least idea, but it must lead to
something, or the ancients who made this
revolving stone door wouldn't have taken such care
to block the passage."

"Ask Goosal if he knows anything about it,"
suggested Mr. Damon to the professor.

"He says he never was here before," translated
the savant, "but years ago, when he went into
the hidden city by the cave we left yesterday, he
saw doors like this which opened this way."

"Then we're on the right track!" cried Tom.
"If this is the same kind of door, it must lead
to the same place.  Ho for Kurzon and the idol
of gold!"

As they passed through the stone door, Tom
and Professor Bumper tried to get some idea of
the mechanism by which it worked.  But they
found this impossible, it being hidden within the
stone itself or in the adjoining walls.  But, in
order that it might not close of itself and entomb
them, the portal was blocked open with stones
found in the passage.

"It's always well to have a line of retreat open,"
said Tom.  "There's no telling what may lie beyond us."

For a time there seemed to be nothing more
than the same passage along which they had
come.  Then the passage suddenly widened, like
the large end of a square funnel.  Upward and
outward the stone walls swept, and they saw
dimly before them, in the light of their torches,
a vast cavern, seemingly formed by the falling
in of mountains, which, in toppling over, had met
overhead in a sort of rough arch, thus protecting,
in a great measure, that which lay beneath
them.

Goosal, who had brought with him some of
the fiber bark torches, set a bundle of them
aflame.  As they flared up, a wondrous sight
was revealed to Tom Swift and his friends.

Stretching out before them, as though they
stood at the end of an elevated street and gazed
down on it, was a city--a large city, with streets,
houses, open squares, temples, statues, fountains,
dry for centuries--a buried and forgotten city--
a city in ruins--a city of the dead, now dry as
dust, but still a city, or, rather, the strangely
preserved remains of one.

"Look!" whispered Tom.  A louder voice just then,
would have seemed a sacrilege.  "Look!"

"Is it what we are looking for?" asked Ned in a low voice.

"I believe it is," replied the professor.  "It is
the lost city of Kurzon, or one just like it.  And
now if we can find the idol of gold our search will
be ended--at least the major part of it."

"Where did you expect to find the idol?" asked Tom.

"It should be in the main temple.  Come, we
will walk in the ancient streets--streets where
no feet but ours have trod in many centuries.
Come!"

In eager silence they pressed on through this
newly discovered wonderland.  For it was a
wonderful city, or had been.  Though much of
it was in ruins, probably caused by an earthquake
or an eruption from a volcano, the central
portion, covered as it was by the overtoppling
mountains that formed the arching roof, was well
preserved.

There were rude but beautiful stone buildings.
There were archways; temples; public squares;
and images, not at all beautiful, for they seemed
to be of man-monsters--doubtless ancient gods.
There were smoothly paved streets; wondrously
carved fountains, some in ruins, all now as dry
as bone, but which must have been places of
beauty where youths and maidens gathered in
the ancient days.

Of the ancient population there was not a
trace left.  Tom and his friends penetrated some
of the houses, but not so much as a bone or a
heap of mouldering dust showed where the
remains of the people were.  Either they had fled
at the approaching doom of the city and were
buried elsewhere, or some strange fire or other
force of nature had consumed and obliterated
them.

"What a wealth of historic information I shall
find here!" murmured Professor Bumper, as he
caught sight of many inscriptions in strange
characters on the walls and buildings.
"I shall never get to the end of them."

"But what about the idol of gold?" asked Mr.
Damon, "Do you think you'll find that?"

"We must hurry on to the temple over there,"
said the scientist, indicating a building further along.

"And then we must see about rescuing your
rivals, Professor," put in Tom.

"Yes, Tom.  But fortunately we are on the
ground here before them," agreed the professor.

Undoubtedly it was the chief temple, or place
of worship, of the long-dead race which the
explorers now entered.  It was a building beautiful
in its barbaric style, and yet simple.  There were
massive walls, and a great inner court, at the end
of which seemed to be some sort of altar.  And
then, as they lighted fresh torches, and pressed
forward with them and their electric lights, they
saw that which caused a cry of satisfaction to
burst from all of them.

"The idol of gold!"

Yes, there it squatted, an ugly, misshapen,
figure, a cross between a toad and a gila monster,
half man, half beast, with big red eyes--rubies
probably--that gleamed in the repulsive golden
face.  And the whole figure, weighing many
pounds, seemed to be of SOLID GOLD!

Eagerly the others followed Professor Bumper
up the altar steps to the very throne of the golden
idol.  The scientist touched it, tried to raise it
and make sure of its solidity and material.

"This is it!" he cried.  "It is the idol of gold!
I have found We have found it, for it
belongs to all of us!"

"Hurray!" cried Tom Swift, and Ned and Mr.
Damon joined in the cry.

There was no need for silence or caution now;
and yet, as they stood about the squat and ugly
figure, which, in spite of its hideousness, was
worth a fortune intrinsically and as an antique,
they heard from the direction of the stone passage
a noise.

"What is it?" asked Tom Swift.

There was a murmur of voices.

"Indians!" cried Professor Bumper, recognizing
the language--a mixture of Spanish and Indian.

The cave was illuminated by the glare of other
torches which seemed to rush forward.  A moment
later it was seen that they were being carried
by a number of Indians.

"Friends," murmured Goosal, using the
Spanish term, "Amigos."

"They are our own Indians!" cried Tom Swift.
"I see Tolpec!" and he pointed to the native who
had deserted from Jacinto's force to help them.

"How did they get here?" asked Professor Bumper.

This was quickly told.  In their camp, where,
under the leadership of Tolpec they had been
left to do the excavating, the natives had heard,
seen and felt the effects of the storm and the
earthquake, though it did little damage in their
vicinity.  But they became alarmed for the safety
of the professor and his party and, at Tolpec's
suggestion, set off in search of them.

The Indians had seen, passing along the trail,
the uprooted trees, and had noted the footsteps
of the explorers going down to the stone passage.
It was easy for them to determine that Tom
and his friends had gone in, since the marks of
their boots were plainly in evidence in the soft
soil.

None of the Indians was as much wrought up
over the discovery of Kurzon and the idol as
were the white adventurers.  The gold, of course,
meant something to the natives, but they were
indifferent to the wonders of the underground
city.  Perhaps they had heard too many legends
concerning such things to be impressed.

"That statue is yours--all yours," said old
Goosal when he had talked with his relatives and
friends among the natives.  "They all say what
you find you keep, and we will help you keep it."

"That's good," murmured Professor Bumper.
"There was some doubt in my mind as to our
right to this, but after all, the natives who live
in this land are the original owners, and if they
pass title to us it is clear.  That settles the last
difficulty."

"Except that of getting the idol out," said Mr. Damon.

"Oh, we'll accomplish that!" cried Tom.

"I can hardly believe my good luck," declared
Professor Bumper.  "I shall write a whole book
on this idol alone and then----"

Once more came an interruption.  This time
it was from another direction, but it was of the
same character--an approaching band of torch-
bearers.  They were Indians, too, but leading
them were a number of whites.

And at their head was no less personage than
Professor Beecher himself.

For a moment, as the three parties stood
together in the ancient temple, in the glare of
many torches, no one spoke.  Then Professor
Bumper found his voice.

"We are glad to see you," he said to his rival.
"That is glad to see you alive, for we saw the
landslide bury you.  And we were coming to
dig you out.  We thought this cave--the cave of
the buried city--would lead us to you easier than
by digging through the slide.  We have just
discovered this idol," and he put his hand on the
grim golden image.

"Oh, you have discovered it, have you?" asked
Professor Beecher, and his voice was bitter.

"Yes, not ten minutes ago.  The natives have
kindly acknowledged my right to it under the law
of priority.  I am sorry but----"

With a look of disgust and chagrined
disappointment on his face, Professor Beecher turned
to the other scientists and said:

"Let us go.  We are too late.  He has what
I came after."

"Well, it is the fortune of war--and discovery,"
put in Mr. Hardy, one of the party who seemed
the least ill-natured.  "Your luck might have
been ours, Professor Bumper.  I congratulate
you."

"Thank you! Are you sure your party is all
right--not in need of assistance?  How did you
get out of the place you were buried?"

"Thank you! We do not require any help.  It
was good of you to think of us.  But we got
out the way we came in.  We did not enter the
tunnel as you did, but came in through another
entrance which was not closed by the landslide.
Then we made a turn through a gateway in a
tunnel connecting with ours--a gateway which
seems to have been opened by the earthquake--
and we came here, just now.

"Too late, I see, to claim the discovery of the
idol of gold," went on Mr. Hardy.  "But I trust
you will be generous, and allow us to make
observations of the buildings and other relics."

"As much as you please, and with the greatest
pleasure in the world," was the prompt answer
of Professor Bumper.  "All I lay sole
claim to is the golden idol.  You are at liberty
to take whatever else you find in Kurzon and to
make what observations you like."

"That is generous of you, and quite in contrast
to--er--to the conduct of our leader.  I trust
he may awaken to a sense of the injustice he
did you."

But Professor Beecher was not there to hear
this.  He had stalked away in anger.

"Humph!" grunted Tom.  Then he continued:
"That story about a government concession was all
a fake, Professor, else he'd have put up a fight now.
Contemptible sneak!"


In fact the story of Tom Swift's trip to the
underground land of wonders is ended, for with
the discovery of the idol of gold the main object
of the expedition was accomplished.  But their
adventures were not over by any means, though
there is not room in this volume to record them.

Suffice it to say that means were at once taken
to get the golden image out of the cave of the
ancient city.  It was not accomplished without
hard work, for the gold was heavy, and Professor
Bumper would not, naturally, consent to
the shaving off of so much as an ear or part of
the flat nose, to say nothing of one of the half
dozen extra arms and legs with which the ugly
idol was furnished.

Finally it was safely taken out of the cave,
and along the stone passage to the opening
formed by the overthrown trees, and thence on
to camp.

And at the camp a surprise awaited Tom.

Some long-delayed mail had been forwarded
from the nearest place of civilization and there
were letters for all, including several for our hero.
One in particular he picked out first and read
eagerly.

"Well, is every little thing all right, Tom?"
asked Ned, as he saw a cheerful grin spread itself
over his chum's face.

"I should say it is, and then some! Look
here, Ned.  This is a letter from----"

"I know.  Mary Nestor.  Go on."

"How'd you guess?"

"Oh, I'm a mind-reader."

"Huh! Well, you know she was away when
I went to call to say good-bye, and I was a little
afraid Beecher had got an inside edge on me."

"Had he?"

"No, but he tried hard enough.  He went to
see Mary in Fayetteville, just as you heard, be-
fore he came on to join his party, but he didn't
pay much of a visit to her."

"No?"

"No.  Mary told him he'd better hurry along
to Central America, or wherever it was he
intended going, as she didn't care for him as much
as he flattered himself she did."

"Good!" cried Ned.  "Shake, old man.  I'm glad!"

They shook hands.

"Well, what's the matter?  Didn't you read
all of her letter?" asked Ned when he saw his
chum once more perusing the epistle.

"No.  There's a postscript here.


"`Sorry I couldn't see you before you left.  It
was a mistake, but when you come back----'


"Oh, that part isn't any of your affair!" and,
blushing under his tan, Tom thrust the letter
into his pocket and strode away, while Ned
laughed happily.

With the idol of gold safe in their possession,
Professor Bumper's party could devote their
time to making other explorations in the buried
city.  This they did, as is testified to by a long
list of books and magazine articles since turned
out by the scientist, dealing strictly with archaeo-
logical subjects, touching on the ancient Mayan
race and its civilization, with particular reference
to their system of computing time.

Professor Beecher, young and foolish, would
not consent to delve into the riches of the ancient
city, being too much chagrined over the loss of
the idol.  It seems he had really promised to
give a part of it to Mary Nestor.  But he never
got the chance.

His colleagues, after their first disappointment
at being beaten, joined forces with Professor
Bumper in exploring the old city, and made many
valuable discoveries.

In one point Professor Bumper had done his
rival an injustice.  That was in thinking
Professor Beecher was responsible for the treachery
of Jacinto.  That was due to the plotter's own
work.  It was true that Professor Beecher had
tentatively engaged Jacinto, and had sent word
to him to keep other explorers away from the
vicinity of the ancient city if possible; but
Jacinto, who did not return Professor Bumper's
money, as he had promised, had acted treacherously
in order to enrich himself.  Professor
Beecher had nothing to do with that, nor had he
with the taking of the map, as has been seen, the
loss of which, after all, was a blessing in disguise,
for Kurzon would never have been located
by following the directions given there, as it was
very inaccurate.

In another point it was demonstrated that the
old documents were at fault.  This was in reference
to the golden idol having been overthrown
and another set up in its place, an act which had
caused the destruction of Kurzon.

It is true that the city was destroyed, or rather,
buried, but this catastrophe was probably
brought about by an earthquake.  And another
great idol, one of clay, was found, perhaps a
rival of Quitzel, but it was this clay image which
was thrown down and broken, and not the golden
one.

Perhaps an effort had been made, just before
the burying of the city, to change idols and the
system of worship, but Quitzel seemed to have
held his own.  The old manuscripts were not
very reliable, it was found, except in general.

"Well, I guess this will hold Beecher for a
while," said Tom, the night of the arrival of
Mary's letter, and after he had written one in
answer, which was dispatched by a runner to
the nearest place whence mail could be
forwarded.

"Yes, luck seems to favor you," replied Ned.
"You've had a hand in the discovery of the idol
of gold, and----"

"Yes.  And I discovered something else I
wasn't quite sure of," interrupted Tom, as he
felt to make sure he had a certain letter safe in
his pocket.

It was several weeks later that the explorations
of Kurzon came to an end--a temporary end, for
the rainy season set in, when the tropics are
unsuitable for white men.  Tom, Professor Bumper,
Ned and Mr. Damon set sail for the United
States, the valuable idol of gold safe on board.

And there, with their vessel plowing the blue
waters of the Caribbean Sea, we will take leave
of Tom Swift and his friends.






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