Tom Swift And His Big Tunnel
Victor Appleton

Part 3 out of 4

"That's what I want to know!" exclaimed Tim.

"Are you sure they didn't come out the mouth of the
tunnel?" asked Job Titus.

"Positive," asserted Tom. I was there all the while,
rigging up the fires."

"We'll call the roll, and check up," decided Job Titus.
"Get Serato to help."

The Indian foreman had not been in the tunnel with the
last shift of men, having left them to Tim Sullivan to get
out in time. The Indian foreman was called from his supper
in the shack where he had his headquarters, and the roll of
workmen was called.

Ten men were missing, and when this fact became known
there were uneasy looks among the others.

"Well," said Mr. Titus, after a pause. "The men are either
in the tunnel or out of it. If they're in we don't dare set
off the blast, and if they're out they'll show up, sooner or
later, for supper. I never knew any of 'em to miss a meal."

"If such a thing were possible," said Walter Titus, "I
would say that our rivals had a hand in this, and had
induced our men to bolt in order to cripple our force. But
we haven't seen any of Blakeson & Grinder's emissaries
about, and, if they were, how could they get the ten men out
of the tunnel without our Seeing them? It's impossible!"

"Well, what did happen then?" asked Tom.

"I'm inclined to think that the men came out and neither
you, nor any one else, saw them. They ran away for reasons
of their own. We'll take another look in the morning, and
then set off the blast."

And this was done. There being no trace of the men in the
tunnel it was deemed safe to explode the charges. This was
done, a great amount of rock being loosened.

The laborers hung back when the orders were given to go in
and clean up. There were mutterings among them.

"What's the matter?" asked Job Titus.

"Them afraid," answered Serato. "Them say devil in tunnel
eat um up! No go in."

"They won't go in, eh?" cried Tim Sullivan. "Well, they
will thot! If there's a divil inside there's a worse one
outside, an' thot's me! Git in there now, ye black-livered
spalapeens!" and catching up a big club the Irishman made a
rush for the hesitating laborers. With a howl they rushed
into the tunnel, and were soon loading rock into the dump

Chapter XVI

On the Watch

The mystery of the disappearance of the ten men--for
mystery it was--remained, and as no side opening or passage
could be found within the tunnel, it came to be the
generally accepted explanation that the laborers had come
out unobserved, and, for reasons of their own, had run away.

This habit on the part of the Peruvian workers was not
unusual. In fact, the Titus brothers had to maintain a sort
of permanent employment agency in Lima to replace the
deserters. But they were used to this. The difference was
that the Indians used to vanish from camp at night, and
invariably after pay-day.

"And that's the only reason I have a slight doubt that
they walked out of the tunnel," said Job Titus. "There was
money due em."

"They never came out of the front entrance of the tunnel,"
said Tom. "Of that I'm positive."

But there was no way of proving his assertion.

The third blast, while not as successful as the second in
the amount of rock loosened, was better than the first, and
made a big advance in the tunnel progress. Tom was beginning
to understand the nature of the mountain into which the big
shaft was being driven and he learned how better to apply
the force of his explosive.

That was the work which he had charge of--the placing of
the giant powder so it would do the most effective work.
Then, when the fumes from the blast had cleared away, in
would surge the workmen to clear away the debris.

Under the direction of Mr. Swift, left at Shopton to
oversee the manufacture of the explosive, new shipments came
on promptly to Lima, and were brought out to the tunnel on
the backs of mules, or in the case of small quantities, on
the llamas. But the latter brutes will not carry a heavy
load, lying down and refusing to get up if they are
overburdened, whereas one has yet to find a mule's limit.

After his first success in getting the natives to take a
more active interest in the gathering of the cinchona bark,
Mr. Damon found it rather easy, for the story of Tom's
electric rifle and how it had killed the mad dog spread
among the tribes, and Mr. Damon had but to announce that the
"lightning shooter," as Tom was called, was a friend of the
drug concern to bring about the desired results. Mr. Damon,
by paying a sort of bribe, disguised under the name "tax,"
secured the help of Peruvian officials so he had no trouble
on that score.

Koku was in his element. He liked a wild life and Peru was
much more like the country of giants where Tom had found
him, than any place the big man had since visited. Koku had
great strength and wanted to use it, and after a week or so
of idleness he persuaded Tom to let him go in the tunnel to

The giant was made a sort of foreman under Tim, and the
two became great friends. The only trouble with Koku was
that he would do a thing himself instead of letting his men
do it, as, of course, all proper foremen should do. If the
giant saw two or three of the Indians trying to lift a big
rock into the little dump cars, and failing because of its
great weight, he would good-naturedly thrust them aside,
pick up the big stone in his mighty arms, and deposit it in
its place.

And once when an unusually big load had been put in a car,
and the mule attached found it impossible to pull it out to
the tunnel mouth, Koku unhitched the creature and, slipping
the harness around his waist, walked out, dragging the load
as easily as if pulling a child on a sled.

Professor Bumper kept on with his search for the lost city
of Pelone. Back and forth he wandered among the wild Andes
Mountains, now hopeful that he was on the right trail, and
again in despair. Tom and Mr. Damon went with him once more
for a week, and though they enjoyed the trip, for the
professor was a delightful companion, there were no results.
But the scientist would not give up.

Tom Swift was kept busy looking after the shipments of the
explosive, and arranging for the blasts. He had letters from
Ned Newton in which news of Shopton was given, and Mr. Swift
wrote occasionally. But the mails in the wilderness of the
Andes were few and far between.

Tom wrote a letter of explanation to Mr. Nestor, in
addition to the wireless he had sent regarding the box
labeled dynamite, but he got no answer. Nor were his
letters to Mary answered.

"I wonder what's wrong?" Tom mused. "It can't be that they
think I did that on purpose. And even if Mr. Nestor is angry
at me for something that wasn't my fault, Mary ought to

But she did not, and Tom grew a bit despondent as the days
went by and no word came.

"I suppose they might be offended because I left Rad to do
up that package instead of attending to it myself," thought
Tom. "Well, I did make a mistake there, but I didn't mean
to. I never thought about Eradicate's not reading. I'll make
him go to night school as soon as I get back. But maybe I'll
never get another chance to send Mary anything. If I do,
I'll not let Rad deliver it--that's sure."

The feeling of alarm engendered among the Indians by the
disappearance of their ten fellow-workers seemed to have
disappeared. There were rumors that some of the mysterious
ten had been seen in distant villages and settlements, but
the Titus brothers could not confirm this.

"I don't think anything serious happened to them, anyhow,"
said Job Titus one day. "And I should hate to think our work
was responsible for harm to any one."

"Your rivals don't seem to be doing much to hamper you,"
observed Tom. "I guess Waddington gave up.

"I won't be too sure of that," said Mr. Titus.

"Why, what has happened?" Tom asked.

"Well, nothing down here--that is, directly--but we are
meeting with trouble on the financial end. The Peruvian
government is holding back payments."

"Why is that?"

"They claim we are not as far advanced as we ought to be."

"Aren't you?"

"Practically, yes. There was no set limit of work to be
done for the intermediate payments. We bonded ourselves to
have the tunnel done at a certain date.

"If we fail, we lose a large sum, and if we get it done
ahead of time we get a big premium. There was no question as
to completing a certain amount of footage before we received
certain payments. But Senor Belasdo, the government
representative, claims that we will not be done in time, and
therefore he is holding back money due us. I'm sure the
rival contractors have set him up to this, because he was
always decent to us before.

"Another matter, too, makes me suspicious. We have tried
to raise money in New York to tide us over while the
government is holding up our funds here. But our New York
office is meeting with difficulties. They report there is a
story current to the effect that we are going to fail, and
while that isn't so, you know how hard it is to borrow money
in the face of such rumors. We are doing all we can to
fight them, of course, and maybe we'll beat out our rivals

"But that isn't all. I'm sure some one is on the ground
here trying to make trouble among our workers. I never knew
so many men to leave, one after another. It's keeping the
employment agency in Lima busy supplying us with new
workers. And so many of them are unskilled. They aren't able
to do half the work of the old men, and poor Tim Sullivan is
in despair."

"You think some one here is causing dissensions and
desertions among your men?"

"I'm sure of it! I've tried to ferret out who it is, but
the spy, for such he must be, keeps his identity well

Tom thought for a moment. Then he said:

"Mr. Titus, with your permission, I'll see if I can find
out about this for you."

"Find out what, Tom?"

"What is causing the men to leave. I don't believe it's
the scare about the ten missing ones."

"Nor do I. That's past and gone. But how are you going to
get at the bottom of it?"

"By keeping watch. I've got nothing to do now for the next
week. "We've just set off a big blast, and I've got the
powder for the following one all ready. The men will be busy
for some time getting out the broken rock. Now what I
propose to do is to go in the tunnel and work among them
until I can learn something.

"I can understand the language pretty well now, though I
can't speak much of it. I'll go in the tunnel every day and
find out what's going on."

"But you'll be known, and if one of our men, or one who we
suppose is one, turns out to be a spy, he'll be very
cautious while you're in there."

"He won't know me," Tom said. "This is how I'll work it.
I'll go off with Professor Bumper the next time he starts on
one of his weekly expeditions into the woods. But I won't go
far until I turn around and come back. I'll adopt some sort
of disguise, and I'll apply to you for work. You can tell
Tim to put me on. You might let him into the secret, but no
one else."

A few days later Tom was seen departing with Professor
Bumper into the interior, presumably to help look for the
lost city. Mr. Damon was away from camp on business
connected with the drug concern, and Koku, to his delight,
had been given charge of a stationary hoisting engine
outside the tunnel, so he would not come in contact with
Tom. It was not thought wise to take the giant into the

Then one day, shortly after Professor Bumper and Tom had
disappeared into the forest, a ragged and unkempt white man
applied at the tunnel camp for work. There was just the
barest wink as he accosted Mr. Titus, who winked in turn,
and then the new man was handed over to Tim Sullivan, as a
sort of helper.

And so Tom Swift began his watch.

Chapter XVII

The Condor

Left to himself, with only the rather silent gang of
Peruvian Indians as company, Tom Swift looked about him.
There was not much active work to be done, only to see that
the Indians filled the dump cars evenly full, so none of the
broken rock would spill over the side and litter the
tramway. Then, too, he had to keep the Indians up to the
mark working, for these men were no different from any
other, and they were just as inclined to "loaf on the job"
when the eye of the "boss" was turned away.

They did not talk much, murmuring among themselves now and
then, and little of what they said was intelligible to Tom.
But he knew enough of the language to give them orders, the
main one of which was:

"Hurry up!"

Now, having seen to it that the gang of which he was in
temporary charge was busily engaged, Tom had a chance to
look about him. The tunnel was not new to him. Much of his
time in the past month had been spent in its black depths,
illuminated, more or less, by the string of incandescent

"What I want to find," mused Tom, as he walked to and fro,
"is the place where those Indians disappeared. For I'm
positive they got away through some hole in this tunnel.
They never came out the main entrance."

Tom held to this view in spite of the fact that nearly
every one else believed the contrary--that the men had left
by the tunnel mouth, near which Tom happened to be alone at
the time.

Now, left to himself, with merely nominal duties, and so
disguised that none of the workmen would know him for the
trim young inventor who oversaw the preparing of the blast
charges, Tom Swift walked to and fro, looking for some
carefully hidden passage or shaft by means of which the men
had got away.

"For it must be well hidden to have escaped observation so
long," Tom decided. "And it must be a natural shaft, or
hole, for we are boring into native rock, and it isn't
likely that these Indians ever tried to make a tunnel here.
There must be some natural fissure communicating with the
outside of the mountain, in a place where no one would see
the men coming out."

But though Tom believed this it was another matter to
demonstrate his belief. In the intervals of seeing that the
natives properly loaded the dump cars, and removed as much
of the debris as possible, Tom looked carefully along the
walls and roof of the tunnel thus far excavated.

There were cracks and fissures, it is true, but they were
all superficial ones, as Tom ascertained by poking a long
pole up into them.

"No getting out that way," he said, as he met with failure
after failure.

Once, while thus engaged, he saw Serato, the Indian
foreman looking narrowly at him, and Serato said something
in his own language which Tom could not understand. But
just then along came Tim Sullivan, who, grasping the
situation, exclaimed:

"Thot's all roight, now, Serri, me lad!" for thus he
contracted the Indian's name. "Thot's a new helper I have, a
broth of a bye, an' yez kin kape yer hands off him. He's
takin' orders from me!"

"Um!" grunted the Indian. "Wha for he fish
in tunnel roof?" for Tom's pole was one like those
the Indians used when, on off days, they emulated
Izaak Walton.

"Fishin' is it!" exclaimed Tim. "Begorra 'tis flyin' fish
he's after I'm thinkin'. Lave him alone though, Serri! I'm
his boss!"

"Um!" grunted the Indian again, as he moved off into the
farther darkness.

"Be careful, Tom," whispered the Irishman, when the native
had gone. "These black imps is mighty suspicious. Maybe thot
fellah had a hand in th' disappearances hisself."

"Maybe," admitted Tom. "He may get a percentage on all new
hands that are hired."

Tom kept on with his search, always hoping he might find
some hidden means of getting out of the tunnel. But as the
days went by, and he discovered nothing, he began to

"The queer thing about it," mused Tom, "is what has become
of the ten men. Even if they did find some secret means of
leaving, what has become of them? They couldn't completely
disappear, and they have families and relatives that would
make some sort of fuss if they were out of sight completely
this long. I wonder if any inquiries have been made about

When Tom came off duty he asked the Titus brothers whether
or not any of the relatives of the missing men had come to
seek news about them. None had.

"Then," said Tom, "you can depend on it the men are all
right, and their relatives know it. I wonder how it would do
to make inquiries at that end? Question some of the

"Bless my hat hand!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, who was at the
conference. "I never thought of that. I'll do it for you."

The odd man had gotten his quinine gathering business well
under way now, and he had some spare time. So, with an
interpreter who could be trusted, he went to the native
village whence had come nearly all of the ten missing men.
But though Mr. Damon found some of their relatives, the
latter, with shrugs of their shoulders, declared they had
seen nothing of the ones sought.

"And they didn't seem to worry much, either," reported Mr.

"Then we can depend on it," remarked Tom, "that the men
are all right and their relatives know it. There's some
conspiracy here."

So it seemed. But who was at the bottom of it?

"I can't figure out where Blakeson & Grinder come in,"
said Job Titus. "They would have an object in crippling us,
but they seem to be working from the financial end, trying
to make us fail there. I haven't seen any of their sneaking
agents around here lately, and as for Waddington he seems to
have stayed up North."

Tom resumed his vigil in the tunnel, poking here and
there, but with little success. His week was about up, and
he would soon have to resume his character as powder expert,
for the debris was nearly all cleaned up, and another blast
would have to be fired shortly.

"Well, I'm stumped!" Tom admitted, the day when he was to
come on duty for the last time as a pretended foreman. "I've
hunted all over, and I can't find any secret passage."

It was warm in the tunnel, and Tom, having seen one train
of the dump cars loaded, sat down to rest on an elevated
ledge of rock, where he had made a sort of easy chair for
himself, with empty cement bags for cushions.

The heat, his weariness and the monotonous clank-clank of
a water pump near by, and the equally monotonous thump of
the lumps of rocks in the cars made Tom drowsy. Almost
before he knew it he was asleep.

What suddenly awakened him he could not tell. Perhaps it
was some influence on the brain cells, as when a vivid dream
causes us to start up from slumber, or it may have been a
voice. For certainly Tom heard a voice, he declared

As he roused up he found himself staring at the rocky wall
of the tunnel. And yet the wall seemed to have an opening in
it and in the opening, as if it were in the frame of a
picture, appeared the face Tom had seen at his library the
day Job Titus called on him--the face of Waddington!

Tom sat up so quickly that he hit his head sharply on a
projecting rock spur, and, for the moment he "saw stars."
And with the appearance of these twinkling points of light
the face of Waddington seemed to fade away, as might a
vision in a dream.

"Bless my salt mackerel, as Mr. Damon would say!" cried
Tom. "What have I discovered?"

He rubbed his head where he had struck it, and then passed
his hand before his eyes, to make sure he was awake. But the
vision, if vision it was, had vanished, and he saw only the
bare rock wall. However, the echo of the voice remained in
his ears, and, looking down toward the tunnel floor Tom saw
Serato, the Indian foreman.

"Were you speaking to me?" asked Tom, for the man
understood and spoke English fairly well.

"No, sar. I not know you there!" and the fore man seemed
startled at seeing Tom. Clearly he was in a fright.

"You were speaking!" insisted Tom.

"No, sar!" The man shook his head.

"To some one up there!" went on the young inventor, waving
his hand toward the spot where he had seen the face in the

"Me speak to roof? No, sar!" Serato laughed.

Tom did not know what to believe.

"You hear me tell um lazy man to much hurry," the Indian
went on. "Me not know you sleep there, sar!"

"Oh, all right," Tom said, recollecting that he must keep
up his disguise. "Maybe I was dreaming."

"Yes, sar," and the foreman hurried on, with a backward
glance over his shoulder.

"Now was I dreaming or not?" thought Tom. "I'm going to
have a look at that place though, where I saw Waddington's
face. Or did I imagine it?"

He got a long pole and a powerful flash lamp, and when he
had a chance, unobserved, he poked around in the vicinity
where he had seen the face.

But there was only solid rock.

"It must have been a dream," Tom concluded. "I've been
thinking too much about this business. I'll have to give up.
I can't solve the mystery of the missing men."

The next day, much disappointed, he resumed his own
character as explosive expert, and prepared for another
blast. The net result of his watch was that he became
suspicious of Serato, and so informed the Titus Brothers.

"Oh, but you're mistaken," said Job "We have had him for
years, on other contracts in Peru, and we trust him."

"Well, I don't," Tom said, but he had to let it go at

Another blast was set off, but it was not very successful.

"The rock seems to be getting harder the farther in we
go," commented Walter Titus. "We're not up to where we ought
to be."

"I'll have to look into it," answered Tom. "I may have to
change the powder mixture. Guess I'll go up the mountain a
way, and see if there are any outcroppings of rock there
that would give me an idea of what lies underneath."

Accordingly, while the men in the tunnel were clearing
away the rock loosened by the blast, Tom, one day, taking
his electric rifle with him, went up the mountain under
which the big bore ran.

He located, by computation, the spot beneath which the end
of the tunnel then was, and began collecting samples of the
outcropping ledge. He wanted to analyze these pieces of
stone later. Koku was with him, and, giving the giant a bag
of stones to carry, Tom walked on rather idly.

It was a wild and desolate region in which he found
himself on the side of the mountain. Beyond him stretched
towering and snow-clad peaks, and high in the air were small
specks, which he knew to be condors, watching with their
eager eyes for their offal food.

As Tom and Koku made their way along the mountain trail
they came unexpectedly upon an Indian workman who was
gathering herbs and bark, an industry by which many of the
natives added to their scanty livelihood. The woman was
familiar with the appearance of the white men, and nodded in
friendly fashion.

Tom passed on, thinking of many things, when he was
suddenly startled by a scream from the woman. It was a
scream of such terror and agony that, for the moment, Tom
was stunned into inactivity. Then, as he turned, he saw a
great condor sweeping down out of the air, the wind fairly
whistling through the big, outstretched wings.

"Jove!" ejaculated Tom. "Can the bird be going to attack
the woman?"

But this was not the object of the condor. It was aiming
to strike, with its fierce talons, at a point some paces
distant from where the woman stood, and in the intervals
between her screams Tom heard her cry, in her native tongue:

"My baby! My baby! The beast-bird will carry off my baby!"

Then Tom understood. The woman herb-gatherer had brought
her infant with her on her quest, and had laid it down on a
bed of soft grass while she worked. And it was this infant,
wrapped as Tom afterward saw in a piece of deer-skin, at
which the condor was aiming.

"Master shoot!" cried Koku, pointing to the down-sweeping

"You bet I'll shoot!" cried Tom.

Throwing his electric rifle to his shoulder, Tom pressed
the switch trigger. The unseen but powerful force shot
straight at the condor.

The outstretched wings fell limp, the great body seemed to
shrivel up, and, with a crash, the bird fell into the
underbrush, breaking the twigs and branches with its weight.
The electric rifle, a full account of which was given in the
volume entitled "Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle," had done
its work well.

With a scream, in which was mingled a cry of thanks, the
woman threw himself on the sleeping child. The condor bad
fallen dead not three paces from it.

Tom Swift had shot just in time.

Chapter XVIII

The Indian Strike

Snatching up in her arms the now awakened child, the woman
gazed for a moment into its face, which she covered with
kisses. Then the herb-gatherer looked over to the dead, limp
body of the great condor, and from thence to Tom.

In another moment the woman had rushed forward, and knelt
at the feet of the young inventor. Holding the baby in one
arm, in her other hand the woman seized Toms and kissed it
fervently, at the same time pouring forth a torrent of
impassioned language, of which Tom could only make out a
word now and then. But he gathered that the woman was
thanking him for having saved the child.

"Oh, that's all right," Tom said, rather embarrassed by
the hand-kissing. "It was an easy shot."

An Indian came bursting through the bushes, evidently the
woman's husband by the manner in which she greeted him, and
Tom recognized the newcomer as one of the tunnel workers.
There was some quick conversation between the husband and
wife, in which the latter made all sorts of motions,
including in their scope Tom, his rifle, the dead condor and
the now smiling baby.

The man took off his hat and approached Tom, genuflecting
as he might have done in church.

"She say you save baby from condor," the man said in his
halting English. "She t'ank you--me, I t'ank you. Bird see
babe in deer skin--t'ink um dead animal. Maybe so bird carry
baby off, drop um on sharp stone, baby smile no more. You
have our lives, senor! We do anyt'ing we can for you."

"Thanks," said Tom, easily. "I'm glad I happened to be
around. I supposed condors only went for things dead, but I
reckon, as you say, it mistook the baby in the deer skin for
a dead animal. And I guess it might have carried your little
one off, or at least lifted it up, and then it might have
dropped it far enough to have killed it. It sure is a big
bird," and Tom strolled over to look at what he had bagged.

The condor of the Andes is the largest bird of prey in
existence. One in the Bronx Zoo, in New York, with his wings
spread out, measured a little short of ten feet from tip to
tip. Measure ten feet out on the ground and then imagine a
bird with that wing stretch.

This same condor in the park was made angry by a boy
throwing a feather boa up into the air outside the cage. The
condor raised himself from the ground, and hurled himself
against the heavy wire netting so that the whole, big cage
shook. And the breeze caused by the flapping wings blew off
the hats of several spectators. So powerful was the air
force from the condor's wings that it reminded one of the
current caused when standing behind the propellers of an
aeroplane in motion. The condor rarely attacks living
persons or animals, though it has been known to carry off
big sheep when driven by hunger.

It was one of these animals Tom Swift had shot with his
electric rifle.

"We do anyt'ing you want," the man gratefully repeated.

"Well, I've got about all I want," Tom said. "But if you
could tell me where those ten missing men are, and how they
got out of the tunnel, I'd be obliged to you."

The woman did not seem to comprehend Tom's talk, but the
man did. He started, and fear seemed to come over him.

"Me--I--I can not tell," he murmured.

"No, I don't suppose you can," said Tom, musingly. "Well,"
it doesn't matter, I guess I'll have to cross it off my
books. I'll never find out."

Again the Indian and his wife expressed their gratitude,
and Tom, after letting the little brown baby cling to his
finger, and patting its chubby cheek, went on his way with

"Well, that was some excitement," mused Tom, who made
little of the shot itself, for the condor was such a mark
that he would have had to aim very badly indeed to miss it.
And perhaps only the electric rifle could have killed
quickly enough to prevent the baby's being injured in some
way by the big bird, even though it was dying.

"Master heap good shot!" exclaimed Koku, admiringly.

The tunnel work went on, though not so well as when Tom's
explosive was first used. The rock was indeed getting harder
and was not so easily shattered. Tom made tests of the
pieces he had obtained from the outcropping ledge on the
mountain where he had shot the condor, and decided to make a
change in the powder.

Shipments were regularly received from Shop ton, Mr. Swift
keeping things in progress there. Mr. Damon's business was
going on satisfactorily, and he lent what aid he could to
Tom. As for Professor Bumper he kept on with his search for
the lost city of Pelone, but with no success.

The scientist wanted Tom and Mr. Damon to go on another
trip with him, this time to a distant sierra, or fertile
valley, where it was reported a race of Indians lived,
different from others in that region.

"It may be that they are descendants from the Pelonians,"
suggested the professor. Tom was too busy to go, but Mr.
Damon went. The expedition had all sorts of trouble, losing
its way and getting into a swamp from which escape was not
easy. Then, too, the strange Indians proved hostile, and
the professor and his party could not get nearer than the
boundaries of the valley.

"But the difficulties and the hostile attitude of these
natives only makes me surer that I am on the right track,"
said Mr. Bumper. "I shall try again."

Tom was busy over a problem in explosives one day when he
saw Tim Sullivan hurrying into the office of the two
brothers. The Irishman seemed excited.

"I hope there hasn't been another premature blast," mused
Tom. "But if there had been I think I'd have heard it."

He hastened out to see Job and Walter Titus in excited
conversation with Tim.

"They didn't come out, an' thot's all there is to it," the
foreman was saying. "I sint thim in mesilf, and they worked
until it was time t' set off th' blast. I wint t' get th'
fuse, an' I was goin' t' send th' black imps out of danger,
whin--whist--they was gone whin I got back--fifteen of 'ern
this time!"

"Do you mean that fifteen more of our men have vanished as
the first ten did?" asked Job Titus.

"That's what I mean," asserted the Irishman.

"It can't be!" declared Walter.

"Look for yersilf!" returned Tim. "They're not in th'

"And they didn't come out?"

"Ask th' time-keeper," and Tim motioned to a young
Englishman who, since the other disappearance, had been
stationed at the mouth of the tunnel to keep a record of who
went in and came out.

"No, sir! Nobody kime hout, sir!" the Englishman declared.
"Hi 'aven't been away frim 'ere, sir, not since hi wint on
duty, sir. An' no one kime out, no, sir!"

"We've got to stop this!" declared Job Titus.

"I should say so!" agreed his brother.

With Tom and Tim the Titus brothers went into the tunnel.
It was deserted, and not a trace of the men could be found.
Their tools were where they had been dropped, but of the men
not a sign.

"There must be some secret way out," declared Tom.

"Then we'll find it," asserted the brothers.

Work on the tunnel was stopped for a day, and, keeping out
all natives, the contractors, with Tom and such white men as
they had in their employ, went over every foot of roof,
sides and floor in the big shaft. But not a crack or
fissure, large enough to permit the passage of a child, much
less a man, could be found.

"Well, I give up!" cried Walter Titus in despair. "There
must be witchcraft at work here!"

"Nonsense!" exclaimed his brother. "It's more likely the
craft of Blakeson & Grinder, with Waddington helping them."

"Well, if a human agency made these twenty-five men
disappear, prove it!" insisted Walter.

His brother did not know what to say.

"Well, go on with the work," was Job's final conclusion.
"We'll have one of the white men constantly in the tunnel
after this whenever a gang is working. We won't leave the
natives alone even long enough to go to get a fuse. They'll
be under constant supervision."

The tunnel was opened for work, but there were no workers.
The morning after the investigation, when the starting
whistle blew there was no line of Indians ready to file into
the big, black hole. The huts where they slept were
deserted. A strange silence brooded over the tunnel camp.

"Where are the men, Serato?" asked Tom of the Indian

"Men um gone. No work any more. What you call a hit."

"You mean a strike?" asked Tom.

"Sure--strike--hit--all um same. No more work--um 'fraid!"

Chapter XIX

A Woman Tells

"Well, if this isn't the limit!" cried Torn Swift. "As if
we didn't have trouble enough without a strike on our

"I should say yes!" chimed in Job Titus.

"Do you mean that the men won't work any more?" asked his
brother of the native foreman.

"Sure, no more work--um much 'fraid big devil in tunnel
carry um off an' eat um."

"Well, I don't know that I blame 'em for being a bit
frightened," commented Job. "It is a queer proceeding how
twenty-five men can disappear like that. Where have the men
gone, Serato?"

"Gone home. No more work. Go on hit--strike--same like
white men."

"They waited until pay day to go on strike," commented the
bookkeeper, a youth about Tom's age.

This was true. The men had been paid off the day before,
and usually on such occasions many of them remained away,
celebrating in the nearest village. But this time all had
left, and evidently did not intend to come back.

"We'll have to get a new gang," said Job. "And it's going
to delay us just at the wrong time. Well, there's no help
for it. Get busy, Serato. You and Tim go and see how many
men you can gather. Tell them we'll give them a sol a week
more if they do good work. (A sol is the standard silver
coin of Peru, and is worth in United States gold about fifty

"Half a dollar a day more will look mighty big to them,"
went on the contractor. "Get the men, Serato, and we'll
raise your wages two sols a week."

The eyes of the Indian gleamed, and he went off, saying.

"Um try, but men much 'fraid.'

Whether Serato used his best arguments could not, of
course, be learned, but he came back at the close of the
day, unaccompanied by any workers, and he shook his head

"Indians no come for one sol, mebby not for two," he said.
"I no can git."

"Then I'll try!" cried Job. "I'll get the workers. I'll
make our old ones come back, for they'll be the best."

Accompanied by his brother and Tom he went to the various
Indian villages, including the one whence most of the men
now on strike had come. The fifteen missing ones were not
found, though, as before, their relatives, and, in some
cases, their families, did not seem alarmed. But the men who
had gone on strike were found lolling about their cabins and
huts, smoking and taking their ease, and no amount of
persuasion could induce them to return.

Some of them said they had worked long enough and were
tired, needing a rest. Others declared they had money enough
and did not want more. Even two more sols a week would not
induce them to return.

And many were frankly afraid. They said so, declaring that
if they went back to the tunnel some unknown devil might
carry them off under the earth.

Job Titus and his brother, who could speak the language
fairly well, tried to argue against this. They declared the
tunnel was perfectly safe. But one native worker, who had
been the best in the gang, asked:

"Where um men go?"

The contractors could not answer.

"It's a trick," declared Walter. "Our rivals have induced
the men to go on strike in order to hamper us with the work
so they'll get the job."

But the closest inquiry failed to prove this statement. If
Blakeson & Grinder, or any of their agents, had a hand in
the strike they covered their operations well. Though
diligent inquiry was made, no trace of Waddington, or any
other tool, could be found.

Tom, who had some sort of suspicion of the bearded man on
the steamer, tried to find him, even taking a trip in to
Lima, but without avail.

The tunnel work was at a standstill, for there
was little use in setting off blasts if there were no men to
remove the resulting piles of debris. So, though Tom was
ready with some specially powerful explosive, he could not
use it.

Efforts were made to get laborers from another section of
the country, but without effect. The contractors heard of a
big force of Italians who had finished work on a railroad
about a hundred miles away, and they were offered places in
the tunnel. But they would not come.

"Well, we may as well give up," said Walter, despondently,
to his brother one day. "We'll never get the tunnel done on
time now."

"We still have a margin of safety," declared job. "If we
could get the men inside of a couple of weeks, and if Tom's
new powder rips out more rock, we'll finish in time."

"Yes, but there are too many ifs. We may as well admit
we've failed."

"I'll never do that!"

"What will you do?"

But Job did not know.

"If we could git a gang of min from the ould sod--th' kind
I used t' work wit in N'Yark," said Tim Sullivan, "I'd show
yez whot could be done! We'd make th' rock fly!"

But that efficient labor was out of the question now. The
tunnel camp was a deserted place.

"Come on, Koku, we'll go hunting," said Tom one day.
"There's no use hanging around here, and some venison
wouldn't go bad on the table."

"I'll come, too," said Mr. Damon. "I haven't anything to

The Titus brothers had gone to a distant village, on the
forlorn hope of getting laborers, so Tom was left to his own
devices, and he decided to go hunting with his electric

The taruco, or native deer, had been plentiful in the
vicinity of the tunnel until the presence of so many men and
the frequent blasts had driven them farther off, and it was
not until after a tramp of several miles that Tom saw one.
Then, after stalking it a little way, he managed to kill it
with the electric rifle.

Koku hoisted the animal to his big shoulders, and, as this
would provide meat enough for some time, Tom started back
for camp.

As he and Mr. Damon, with Koku in the rear, passed through
a little clearing, they saw, on the far side, a native hut.
And from it rushed a woman, who approached Tom, casting
herself on her knees, while she pressed his free hand to her

"Bless my scarf pin!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "What does this
mean, Tom?"

"Oh, this is the mother of the child I saved from the
condor," said Tom. "Every time she sees me she thanks me all
over again. How is the baby?" he asked in the Indian tongue,
for he was a fair master of it by now.

"The baby is well. Will the mighty hunter permit himself
to enter my miserable hovel and partake of some milk and

"What do you say, Mr. Damon?" Tom asked. "She's clean and
neat, and she makes a drink of goat's milk that isn't bad.
She bakes some kind of meal cakes that are good, too. I'm

"All right, Tom, I'll do as you say."

A little later they were partaking of a rude, but none the
less welcome, lunch in the woman's hut, while the baby whose
life Tom had saved cooed in the rough log cradle.

"Say, Masni," asked Tom, addressing the woman by name,
"don't you know where we can get some men to work the
tunnel?" Of course Tom spoke the Indian language, and he had
to adapt himself to the comprehension of Masni.

"Men no work tunnel?" she inquired.

"No, they've all skipped out--vamoosed. Afraid of some

The woman looked around, as though in fear. Then she
approached Tom closely and whispered:

"No spirit in tunnel--bad man!"

"What!" cried Tom, almost jumping off his stool. "What do
you mean, Masni?"

"Me tell mighty hunter," she went on, lowering her voice
still more. "My man he no want to tell, he 'fraid, but I
tell. Mighty hunter save Vashni," and she looked toward the
baby. "Me help friends of mighty hunter. Bad man in tunnel--
no spirit!

"Men go. Spirit no take um--bad man take um."

"Where are they now?" asked Tom. "Jove, if I could find
them the secret would be solved!"

The woman looked fearfully around the hut and then

"You come--me show!"

"Bless my toothbrush!" cried Mr. Damon. "What is going to
happen, Tom Swift?"

"I don't know," was the answer, "but something sure is in
the wind. I guess I shot better than I knew when I killed
that condor."

Chapter XX


Calling to a girl of about thirteen years to look after
her baby, Masni slipped along up a rough mountain trail,
motioning to Tom, Mr. Damon and Koku to follow. Or rather,
the woman gave the sign to Tom, ignoring the others, who,
naturally, would not be left behind. Masni seemed to have
eyes for no one but the young inventor, and the manner in
which she looked at him showed the deep gratitude she felt
toward him for having saved her baby from the great condor.

"Come," she said, in her strange Indian tongue, which Tom
could interpret well enough for himself now.

"But where are we going, Masni?" he asked. "This isn't the
way to the tunnel."

"Me know. Not go to tunnel now," was her answer. "Me show
you men."

"But which men do you mean, Masni?" inquired Tom. "The
lost men, or the bad ones, who are making trouble for us?
Which men do you mean?"

Masni only shook her head, and murmured: "Me show."

Probably Tom's attempt to talk her language was not
sufficiently clear to her.

"My man--he good man," she said, coming to a pause on the
rough trail after a climb which was not easy.

"Yes, I know he is," Tom said. "But he went on a strike
with the others, Masni. He no work. He go on a 'hit,' as
Serato calls it," and Tom laughed.

"My man he good man--but he 'fraid," said the wife. "He
want to tell you of bad mans, but he 'fraid. You save my
baby, I no 'fraid. I tell."

"Oh, I see," said Tom. "Your husband would have given away
the secret, only he's afraid of the bad men. He likes me,

"Sure!" Masni exclaimed. "He want tell, but 'fraid. He go
'way, I tell."

Tom was not quite sure what it all meant, but it seemed
that after his slaying of the condor both parents were so
filled with gratitude that they wanted to reveal some secret
about the tunnel, only Masni's husband was afraid. She,
however, had been braver.

"Something is going to happen," said Tom Swift. "I feel it
in my bones!"

"Bless my porous plaster!" cried Mr. Damon. "I hope it
isn't anything serious."

"We'll see," Tom went on.

They resumed their journey up the mountain trail. It wound
in and out in a region none of them had before visited.
Though it could not be far from the tunnel, it was almost a
strange country to Tom.

Suddenly Masni stopped in a narrow gorge where the walls
of rock rose high on either hand. She seemed looking for
something. Her sharp, black eyes scanned the cliff and then
with an exclamation of satisfaction she approached a certain
place. With a quick motion she pulled aside a mass of
tangled vines, and disclosed a path leading down through a
V shaped crack in the cliff.

"Mans down there," she said. "You go look."

For a moment Tom hesitated. Was this a trap? If he and his
friends entered this narrow and dark opening might not the
Indian woman roll down some rock back of them, cutting off
forever the way of escape?

Tom turned and looked at Masni. Then he was ashamed of his
suspicion, for the honest black face, smiling at him, showed
no trace of guile.

"You go--you see lost men," the woman urged.

"Come on!" cried Tom. "I believe we're on the track of the

He led the way, followed by Mr. Damon, while Koku came
next and then Masni. It could be no trap since she entered
it herself.

The path widened, but not much. There was only room for
one to walk at a time. The trail twisted and turned, and Tom
was wondering how far it led, when, from behind him, came
the cry of the woman:

"Watch now--no fall down."

Tom halted around a sharp turn, and stood transfixed at
the sight which met his gaze. He found himself looking out
through a crack in the face of a sheer stone cliff that went
straight down for a hundred feet or more to a green-carpeted

Tom was standing in a narrow cleft of rock--the same rock
through which they had made their way. And at the foot of
the cliff was a little encampment of Indians. There were a
dozen huts, and wandering about them, or sitting in the
shade, were a score or more of Indians.

"There men from tunnel," said Masni, and, as he looked,
wondering, Tom saw some of the workers he knew. One
especially, was a laborer who walked with a peculiar limp.

"The missing men!" gasped the young inventor.

"Bless my almanac!" cried Mr. Damon. "Where?"

"Here," answered Tom. "If you squeeze past me you can see

Mr. Damon did so.

"How did they get here?" asked the odd man, as he looked
down in the little valley where the missing ones were

"That's what we've got to find out," Tom said. "At any
rate here they are, and they seem to be enjoying life while
we've been worrying as to what had become of them. How did
they get here, Masni?"

"Me show you. Come."

"Wait until I take another look," said Tom.

"Be careful they don't see you," cautioned Mr, Damon.

"They can't very well. The cleft is screened by bushes."

Tom looked down once more on the group of men who had so
mysteriously disappeared. The little valley stretched out
away from the face of the cliff, through which, by means of
the crack, or cleft in it, Tom and the others had come. Tom
looked down the wall of rock. It was as smooth as the side
of a building, and offered no means of getting down or up.
Doubtless there was an easier entrance to the valley on the
other side. It was like looking down into some vast hall
through an upper window or from a balcony.

"And those men have been in hiding, or been hidden here,
ever since they disappeared from the tunnel," said Mr.

"It doesn't look as though they were detained by force,"
Tom remarked. "I think they are being paid to stay away. How
did they get here, Masni?"

"Me show you. Come!"

They went back along the trail that led through the split
in the rock, until they had come to the place where the
natural curtain of vines concealed the entrance. Tom took
particular notice of this place so he would know it again.

Then Masni led them over the mountain, and this time Tom
saw that they were approaching the tunnel. He recognized
some places where he had taken samples of rock from the
outcropping to test the strength of his explosive.

Reaching a certain wild and desolate place, Masni made a
signal of caution. She seemed to be listening intently.
Then, as if satisfied there was no danger, she parted some
bushes and glided in, motioning the others to follow.

"Now I wonder what's up," Tom mused.

He and the others were soon informed.

Masni stopped in front of a pile of brush. With a few
vigorous motions of her arms she swept it aside and revealed
a smooth slab of rock. In the centre was what seemed to be a
block of metal Masni placed her foot on this and pressed

And those watching saw a strange thing.

The slab of rock tilted to one side, as if on a pivot,
revealing a square opening which seemed to lead through
solid stone. And at the far end of the opening Tom Swift saw
a glimmer of light

Stooping down, he looked through the hole thus strangely
opened and what he saw caused him to cry out in wonder.

"It's the tunnel!" he cried. "I can look right clown into
the tunnel. It's the incandescent lights I see. I can look
right at the ledge of rock where I kept watch that day, and
where I saw--where I saw the face of Waddington!" he cried.
"It wasn't a dream after all. This is a shaft connecting
with the tunnel. We didn't discover it because this rock
fits right in the opening in the roof. It must have been
there all the while, and some blast brought it to light. Is
this how the men got out, or were taken out of the tunnel,
Masni?" Tom asked.

"This how," said the Indian woman. "See, here rope!"

She pawed aside a mound of earth, and disclosed a rope
buried there, a rope knotted at intervals. This, let down
through the hole in the roof of the tunnel, provided a means
of escape, and in such a manner that the disappearance of
the men was most mysterious.

"I see how it is!" cried Tom. "Some one interested,
Waddington probably, who knew about this old secret shaft
going down into the earth, used it as soon as our blasting
was opened that far. They got the men out this way, and hid
them in the secret valley."

"But what for?" cried Mr. Damon.

"To cripple us! To cause the strike by making our other
workers afraid of some evil spirit! The men were taken away
secretly, and, doubtless, have been kept in idleness ever
since--paid to stay away so the mystery would be all the
deeper. Our rivals finding they couldn't stop us in any
other way have taken our laborers away from us."

"Bless my meal ticket! It does look like that!" cried Mr.

"Of course that's the secret!" cried Tom. "Blakeson &
Grinder, or some of their tools--probably the bearded man or
Waddington--found out about this shaft which led down into
our tunnel. They induced the first ten men to quit, and when
Tim went to get the fuse the rope was let down, and the men
climbed up here, one after the other. Those Indians can
climb like cats. Once the ten were out the shaft was closed
with the rock, and the ten men taken off to the valley to be
secreted there.

"The same was done with the next fifteen, and, I suppose,
if the strike hadn't come, more of our workers would have
been induced to leave in this way. They're probably being
better paid than when earning their wages; and their
relatives must know where they are, and also be given a
bonus to keep still. No wonder they didn't make a fuss.

"And no wonder we couldn't find any opening in the tunnel
roof. This rock must fit in as smoothly as a secret drawer
in the kind of old desk where missing wills are found in

"You say you saw Waddington, or the bearded man?" asked
Mr. Damon.

"At the time," replied Tom, "I thought it was a dream. Now
I know it wasn't. He must have opened the shaft just as I
awakened from a doze. He saw me and closed it again. He may
have been getting ready then to take off more of our men, so
as to scare the others. Well, we've found out the trick."

"And what are you going to do next?" asked Mr. Dam~n.

"Get those missing men back. That will break the hoodoo,
and the others will come back to work. Then we'll get on the
trail of Wadding ton, or Blakeson & Grinder, and put a stop
to this business. We know their secret now."

"You mean to get the men out of the secret valley, Tom?"

"Yes. There must be some other way into it than down the
rock where we were. How about it, Masni?" and he inquired as
to the valley. The Indian woman gave Tom to understand that
there was another entrance.

"Well, close up this shaft now before some one sees us at
it--the bearded man, for example," Tom suggested. He took
another look down into the tunnel, which was now deserted on
account of the strike, and then Masni pressed on the
mechanism that worked the stone. She showed Tom how to do

"Just a counter-balanced rock operating on the same
principle as does a window," Tom explained, after a brief
examination. "Probably some of the old Indian tribes made
this shaft for ceremonial purposes. They never dreamed we
would drive a tunnel along at the bottom of it. The shaft
probably opened into a cave, and one of our blasts made it
part of the tunnel. Well, this is part of the secret,
anyhow. Much obliged to you, Masni!"

The Indian woman had indeed revealed valuable information.
They covered the secret rock with brush, as it had been, hid
the rope and came away. But Tom knew how to find the place

Events moved rapidly from then on. The Titus brothers were
more than astonished when Tom told them what he had learned.
Masni had told him how to get into the secret valley by a
round about, but easy trail, and thither Tom, the
contractors, Mr. Damon and some of the white tunnel workers
went the next day.

The sequestered men, taken completely by surprise, tried
to bolt when they saw that they were discovered, and then,
shamefacedly enough, admitted their part in the trick.

They would not, however, reveal who had helped them escape
from the tunnel. Threats and promises of rewards were alike
unavailing, but Tom and his employers knew well enough who
it was. The tunnel workers seemed rather tired of living in
comparative luxury and idleness, and agreed to come back to
their labors.

They packed up their few belongings, mostly cooking pots
and pans, and marched out of the valley to the village at

And so the strike was broken.

The reappearance of the missing men, in better health and
spirits than when they went away, acted like magic. The
other men, who had missed their wages, crowded back into the
shaft, and the sounds of picks and shovels were heard again
in the tunnel.

Whether the missing ones told the real story, or whether
they made up some tale to account for their absence, Tom and
his friends could not learn. Nor did the bearded man (if he
it were who had helped in the plot), nor any representative
of Blakeson & Grinder appear. The work on the tunnel was
resumed as if nothing had happened. But Tom arranged a
bright light so it would reflect on the spot in the roof
where the moving rock was, so that if the evil face of the
bearded man, or of Waddington, appeared there again, it
would quickly be seen. A search of the neighborhood, and
diligent inquiries, failed to disclose the presence of any
of the plotters.

And then, as if Fate was not making it hard enough for the
tunnel contractors, they encountered more trouble. It was
after Tom had set off a big blast that Tim Sullivan, after
inspecting what had happened, came out to ask.

"I soy, Mr. Swift, why didn't yez use more powder?"

"More powder!" cried Tom. "Why, this is the most I have
ever set off."

"Then somethin's wrong, sor. Fer there's only a little
rock down. Come an' see fer yersilf."

Tom hastened in. As the foreman had said, the effect of
the blast was small indeed. Only a little rock had been
shaled off. Tom picked up some of this and took it outside
for examination.

"Why, it's harder than the hardest flint we've found yet,"
he said. "The powder didn't make any impression on it at
all. I'll have to use terrific charges."

This was done, but with little better effect. The
explosive, powerful as it was, ate only a little way into
the rock. Blast after blast had the same poor effect.

"This won't do," said Job Titus, despairingly, one day.
"We aren't making any progress at all. There's a half mile
of this rock, according to my calculations, and at this rate
we'll be six months getting through it. By that time our
limit will be up, and we'll be forced to give up the
contract What can we do, Tom Swift?"

Chapter XXI

A New Explosive

The young inventor was idly handling some pieces of the
very hard rock that had cropped out in the tunnel cut Tom
had tested it, he had pulverized it (as well as he was
able), he had examined it under the microscope, and he had
taken great slabs of it and set off under it, or on top of
it, charges of explosive of various power to note the
effect. But the results had not been at all what he had
hoped for.

"What's to be done, Tom?" repeated the contractor.

"Well, Mr. Titus," was the answer, "the only thing I see
to do is to make a new explosive."

"Can you do it, Tom?"

The reply was characteristic.

"I can try."

And in the days that followed, Tom began work on a new
line. He had brought from Shopton with him much of the
needful apparatus, and he found he could obtain in Lima what
he lacked.

A message to his father brought the reply that the new
ingredients Tom needed would be shipped.

"The kind of explosive we need to rend that very hard
rock," the young inventor explained to the Titus brothers,
"is one that works slowly."

"I thought all explosions had to be as quick as a flash,"
said Walter.

"Well, in a sense, they do. Yet we have quick burning and
slow-burning powders, the same as we have fuses. A quick-
burning explosive is all right in soft rock, or in soil with
rock and earth mingled. But in rock that is harder than
flint if you use a quick explosive, only the outer surface
of the rock will be scaled off.

"If you take a hammer and bring it down with all your
force on a hard rock you may chip off a lot of little
pieces, or you may crack the rock, but you won't, under
ordinary circumstances, pulverize it as we want to do in the

"On the other hand, if you take a smaller hammer, and keep
tapping the rock with comparatively gentle blows, you will
set up a series of vibrations, that, in time, will cause the
hard rock to break up into any number of small pieces.

"Now that is the kind of explosive I want one that will
deal a succession of constant blows at the hard rock instead
of one great big blast."

"Can you make it, Tom?"

"Well, I don't know. I'll do the best I can."

From then on Tom was busy with his experiments.

Work on the tunnel did not cease while he was searching
for a new explosive. There was plenty of the old explosive
left and charges of this were set off as fast as holes could
be drilled to receive it. But comparatively little was
accomplished. Sometimes more rock would be loosed than at
others, and the native laborers, now seemingly perfectly
contented, would be kept busy. Again, when a heavy blast
would be set off hardly a dozen dump cars could be filled.

But the work must go on. Already the time limit was
getting perilously close, and the contractors did not doubt
that their rivals were only waiting for a chance to step in
and take their places.

Nothing more had been seen or heard of the bearded man,
Waddington, or Blakeson & Grinder. But that the rival firm
had not given up was evidenced by the efforts made in New
York to cripple, financially, the firm in which Tom was
interested. In fact, at one time the Titus brothers were so
tied up that they could not get money enough to pay their
men. But Tom cabled his father, who was quite wealthy, and
Mr. Swift loaned the contractors enough to proceed with
until they could dispose of some securities.

It might be mentioned that Tom was to get a large sum if
the tunnel were completed on time, so it was to his interest
and his father's, to bring this about if he could.

Tom kept on with his powder experiments. Mr. Damon helped
him, for that gentleman had succeeded in putting the affairs
of the wholesale drug business on a firm foundation, and
there was no more trouble about getting the supplies of
cinchona bark to market. The natives seemed to have taken
kindly to the eccentric man, or perhaps it was the
reputation of Tom Swift and his electric rifle that induced
them to work hard.

It must not be supposed that Professor Bumper was idle all
this while.

He came and went at odd times, accompanied by his little
retinue of Indians, a guide and a native cook. He would come
back to the tunnel camp, where he made his headquarters,
travel stained, worn and weary, with disappointment showing
on his face.

"No luck," he would report. "The hidden city of Pelone is
still lost."

Then he would retire to his tent, to pour over his note-
books, and make a new translation of the inscription on the
golden plates. In a day or so, refreshed and rested, he
would prepare for another start.

"I'll find it this time, surely!" he would exclaim, as he
marched off up the mountain trail. "I have heard of a new
valley, never before visited by a white man, in which there
are some old ruins. I'm sure they must be those of Pelone."

But in a week or so he would come back, worn out and
discouraged again.

"The ruins were only those of a native village," he would
say. "No trace of an ancient civilization there."

The professor took little or no interest in the tunnel,
though he expressed the hope that Tom and his friends would
be successful. But industrial pursuits had no charm for the
scientist. He only lived to find the hidden city which was
to make him famous.

He heard the story of the queer shaft leading down into
the bore under the mountain, and, for a time, hoped that
might be some clue to the lost Pelone. But, after an
examination, he decided it was but the shaft to some ancient
mine which had not panned out, and so had been abandoned
after having been fitted with a balanced rocky door, perhaps
for some heathen religious rite.

There seemed to be no further trouble among the Indian
tunnel workers. Those who had disappeared--who had,
seemingly, gone willingly up the knotted rope to hide
themselves in the valley--kept on with their work. If they
told their fellows why and where they had gone, the others
gave no sign. The evil spirits of the tunnel had been
exorcised, and there was now peace, save for the blasts that
were set off every so often.

Tom tried combination after combination, testing them
inside and outside the tunnel, always seeking for an
explosive that would give a slow, rending effect instead of
a quick blow, the power of which was soon lost. And at last
he announced:

"I think I have it!"

"Have you? Good!" cried Job Titus.

"Yes," Tom went on, "I've got a mixture here that seems to
give just the effect I want. I tried it on some small pieces
of rock, and now I want to test it on some large chunks.
Have you brought any down lately?"

"Yes, we have some big slabs in there."

Some large pieces of the hard rock, which had been brought
down in a recent blast, were taken outside the tunnel, and
in them one afternoon Tom placed, in holes drilled to
receive it, some of his new explosive. The rocks were set
some distance away from the tunnel camp, and Tom attached
the electric wires that were to detonate the charge

"Well, I guess we're ready," announced the young inventor,
as he looked about him.

The tunnel workers had been allowed to go for the day, and
in a log shack, where they would be safe from flying pieces
of rock, were Tom, Mr. Damon and the two Titus brothers.

Tom held the electric switch in his hand, and was about to
press it.

"This explosive works differently from any other," he
explained. "When the charge is fired there is not instantly
a detonation and a bursting. The powder burns slowly and
generates an immense amount of gas. It is this gas,
accumulating in the cracks and crevices of the rock, that I
hope will burst and disintegrate it. Of course, an explosion
eventually follows, as you will see. Here she goes!"

Tom pressed the switch and, as he did so, there was a cry
of alarm from Mr. Damon.

"Bless my safety match, Tom!" cried the old man. "Look!

For, as the charge was fired, the giant emerged from the
woods and calmly took a seat on the rock that was about to
be broken up into fragments by Tom's new explosive.

Chapter XXII

The Fight

"Get off there, Koku!"

"Stand up!"


"Get out uf the way! That's going up!"

Thus cried Tom and his friends to the big, good-natured,
but somewhat stupid, giant who had sat down in the dangerous
spot. Koku looked toward the hut, in front of which the
young inventor and the others stood, waving their hands to
him and shouting.

"Get up! Get up!" cried Tom, frantically. The powder is
going off, Koku!"

"Can't you stop it?" asked Job Titus.

"No!" answered Tom. "The electric current has already
ignited the charge. Only that it's slow-burning it would
have been fired long ago. Get up, Koku!"

But the giant did not seem to understand. He waved his
hand in friendly greeting to Tom and the others, who dared
not approach closer to warn him, for the explosion would
occur any second now.

Then Mr. Damon had an inspiration.

"Call him to come to you, Tom!" shouted the odd man. "He
always comes to you in a hurry, you know. Call him!"

Tom acted on the suggestion at once.

"Here, Koku!" he cried. "Come here, I want you! Kelos!"

This last was a word in the giant's own language, meaning
"hurry." And Koku knew when Tom used that word that there
was need of haste. So, though he had sat down, evidently to
take his ease after a long tramp through the woods, Koku
sprang up to obey his master's bidding.

And, as he did so, something happened. The first spark
from the fuse, ignited by the electric current, had reached
the slow-burning powder. There was a crackle of flame, and a
dull rumble. Koku sprang up from the big stone as though
shot. What he saw and heard must have alarmed him, for he
gave a mighty jump and started to run, at the same time

"Me come, Master!"

"You'd better!" cried the young inventor.

Koku got away only just in time, for when he was half way
between the group of his friends and the big rock, the
utmost force of the explosion was felt. It was not so very
loud, but the power of it made the earth tremble.

The rock seemed to heave itself into the air, and when it
settled back it was seen to be broken up into many pieces.
Koku looked back over his shoulder and gave another
tremendous leap, which carried him out of the way of the
flying fragments, some of which rattled on the roof of the
log hut.

"There!" cried Tom. "I guess something happened that time!
The rock is broken up finer than any like it we tried to
shatter before. I think I've got the mixture just right!"

"Bless my handkerchief!" cried Mr. Damon. "Think of what
might have happened to Koku if he had been sitting there."

"Well," said Tom, "he might not have been killed, for he
would probably have been tossed well out of the way at the
first slow explosion, but afterward--well, he might have
been pretty well shaken up. He got away just in time."

The giant looked thoughtfully back toward the place of the
experimental blast.

"Master, him do that?" he asked.

"I did," Tom replied. "But I didn't think you'd walk out
of the woods, just at the wrong time, and sit down on that

"Um," murmured the giant. "Koku--he--he --Oh, by golly!"
he yelled. And then, as if realizing what he had escaped,
and being incapable of expressing it, the giant with a yell
ran into the tunnel and stayed there for some time.

The experiment was pronounced a great success and, now
that Tom had discovered the right kind of explosive to rend
the very hard rock, he proceeded to have it made in
sufficiently large quantities to be used in the tunnel.

"We'll have to hustle," said Job Titus. "We haven't much
of our contract time left, and I have reason to believe the
Peruvian government will not give any extension. It is to
their interest to have us fail, for they will profit by all
the work we have done, even if they have to pay our rivals a
higher price than we contracted for. It is our firm that
will pocket the loss."

"Well, we'll try not to have that happen," said Tom, with
a smile.

"If you're going to use bigger charges of this new
explosive, Tom, won't more rock be brought down?" asked
Walter Titus.

"That's what I hope."

"Then we'll need more laborers to bring it out of the

"Yes, we could use more I guess. The faster the blasted
rock is removed, the quicker I can put in new charges."

"I'll get more men," decided the contractor. "There won't
be any trouble now that the hoodoo of the missing workers is
solved. I'll tell Serato to scare up all his dusky brethren
he can find, and we'll offer a bonus for good work."

The Indian foreman readily agreed to get more laborers.

"And get some big ones, Serato," urged Job Titus. "Get
some fellows like Koku," for the giant did the work of three
men in the tunnel, not because he was obliged to, but
because his enormous strength must find an outlet in action.

"Um want mans like him?" asked the Indian, nodding toward
the giant. He and Koku were not on good terms, for once,
when Koku was a hurry, he had picked up the Indian (no mean
sized man himself) and had calmly set him to one side.
Serato never forgave that.

"Sure, get all the giants you can," Tom said. "But I guess
there aren't any in Peru."

Where Serato found his man, no one knew, and the foreman
would not tell; but a day or so later he appeared at the
tunnel camp with an Indian so large in size that he made the
others look like pygmies, and many of them were above the
average in height, too.

"Say, he's a whopper all right!" exclaimed Tom. "But he
isn't as big or as strong as Koku."

"He comes pretty near it," said Job Titus. "With a dozen
like him we'd finish the tunnel on time, thanks to your

Lamos, the Indian giant, was not quite as large as Koku.
That is, he was not as tall, but he was broader of shoulder.
And as to the strength of the two, well, it was destined to
be tried out in a startling fashion.

In about a week Tom was ready with his first charges of
the new explosive. The extra Indians were on hand, including
Lamos, and great hopes of fast progress were held by the

The charge was fired and a great mass of broken rock
brought down inside the tunnel.

"That's tearing it up!" cried Job Titus, when the fumes
had blown away, the secret shaft having been opened to
facilitate this. "A few more shots like that and we'll be
through the strata of hard rock."

The Indians, Koku and Lamos doing their share of the work,
were rushed in to clear away the debris, so another charge
might be fired as soon as possible. This would be in a day
or so. The contract time was getting uncomfortably close.

Blast after blast was set off, and good progress was made.
But instead of half a mile of the extra hard rock the
contractors found it would be nearer three quarters.

"It's going to be touch and go, whether or not we finish
on time," said Mr. Job Titus one afternoon, when a clearance
had been made and the men had filed out to give the drillers
a chance to make holes for a new blast.

Tom was about to make a remark when Tim Sullivan came
running out of the tunnel, his face showing fright and

"What's up now, I wonder," said Mr. Titus. "More men

"Quick! Come quick!" cried the Irishman. "Thim two giants
is fightin' in there, an' they'll tear th' tunnel apart if
we don't stop 'em. It's an awful fight! Awful!"

Chapter XXIII

A Great Blast

Hardly comprehending what the Irish foreman had said, Tom
Swift, the Titus brothers and Mr. Damon followed Tim
Sullivan back into the tunnel. They had not gone far before
they heard the murmur of many voices, and mingled with that
were roarings like those of wild beasts.

"That's thim!" cried Tim. "They're chawin' each other up!"

"Koku and that Indian giant fighting!" cried Tom. "What's
it all about?"

"Don't ask me!" shouted Tim. "They've been on bad terms
iver since they met." This was true enough, for one giant
was jealous of the other's power, and they were continually
trying feats of strength against one another. Probably this
had culminated in a fight, Tom concluded.

"And it will be some fight!" mused the young inventor.

Hurrying on, Tom and his companions came upon a strange
and not altogether pleasant sight. In an open place in the
tunnel, where the lights were brightest, and in front of the
rocky wall which offered a bar to further progress and which
was soon to be blasted away, struggled the two giants.

With their arms locked about one another, they swayed this
way and that--a struggle between two Titans. Of nearly the
same height and bigness, it was a wrestling match such as
had never been seen before. Had it been merely a friendly
test of strength it would have been good to look upon. But
it needed only a glance into the faces of either giant to
show that it was a struggle in deadly earnest.

Back and forth they reeled over the rocky floor of the
tunnel, bones and sinews cracking. One sought to throw the
other, and first, as Koku would gain a slight advantage, his
friends would call encouragement, while, when Lamos seemed
about to triumph, the Indians favoring him would let out a
yell of triumph.

For a few minutes Tom and his friends watched, fascinated.
Then they saw Koku slip, while Lamos bent him farther toward
the earth. The Indian giant raised his big fist, and Tom saw
in it a rock, which the big man was about to bring down on
Koku's head.

"Look out, Koku!" yelled Tom.

Tom's giant slid to one side only just in time, for the
blow descended, catching him on his muscular shoulder where
it only raised a bruise. And then Koku gathered himself for
a mighty effort. His face flamed with rage at the unfair

"Bless my bath sponge!" cried Mr. Damon. "This is awful!"

"They must stop!" said Job Titus. "We can't have them
fighting like this. It is bad for the others. If it were in
fun it would be all right, but they are in deadly earnest.
They must stop!"

"Koku, stop!" called Tom. "You must not fight any more!"

"No fight more!" gasped the giant, through his clenched
teeth. "This end fight!"

With a mighty effort he broke the hold of Lamos' arms.
Then stooping suddenly he seized his rival about the middle,
and with a tremendous heave, in which his muscles stood out
in great bunches while his very bones seemed to crack, Koku
raised Lamos high in the air. Up over his head he raised
that mass of muscle, bone and flesh, squirming and
wriggling, trying in vain to save itself.

Up and up Koku raised Lamos as the murmur of those
watching grew to a shout of amazement and terror. Never had
the like been seen in that land for generations. Up and up
one giant raised the other. Then calling out something in
his native tongue Koku hurled the other from him, clear
across the tunnel and up against the opposite rocky wall.
The murmuring died to frightened whispers as Lamos fell in a
shapeless heap on the floor.

"Ah!" breathed Koku, stretching himself, and extending his
brawny arms. "Fight all over, Master."

"Yes, so it seems, Koku," said Tom, solemnly, "but you
have killed him. Shame on you!" and he spoke bitterly.

Job Titus had hurried over to the fallen giant.

"He isn't dead," he called, "but I guess he won't wrestle
or fight any more. He's badly crippled."

"And him no more try to blow up tunnel, either," said Koku
in his hoarse voice. "Me fix: him! No more him take powder,
and make tunnel all bust."

"What do you mean, Koku?" asked Tom. "Is that why you
fought him? Did he try to wreck the tunnel?"

"So him done, Master. But Koku see--Koku stop. Then um

"Be jabbers an' I wouldn't wonder but what he was right!"
cried Tim Sullivan, excitedly. "I did see that beggar." and


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