Tom Swift and His Giant Telescope/7

Deep Sea DivingEdit

Swiftly the masked man took a bunch of keys from Tom's pocket. With a directness that indicated familiarity with the place, he went straight to the rug covering the entrance to the secret vault. Throwing this aside, he unlocked the trap door and quietly raised it. The combination lock, which gave warning if tampered with, had not been set for the night.

Now the intruder very carefully draped the rug over the door in such a way that it would spread itself as before when the trap should be closed from below. Two minutes later Tom was alone in the office, which appeared exactly as it had before he was rendered unconscious. Yet there crouched in the vault a hidden spy whose purpose was as sinister as his appearance.

"Mist' Swift, Massa Tom ain' come back fum de office yit," announced Rad Sampson as he placed the elderly inventor's nightly glass of hot milk on the library table. "I wuz jest up t' his room to ax him suffin' an' he wuzn't dar."

"Well, I guess the boy is working a bit late tonight. But you sound a trifle anxious, Eradicate. Do you think anything is wrong?"

"Uh--Oh, no suh. No suh," mumbled the old Negro. "I jest wondered ef yo'd seen him. Good night, suh! Good night!"

"Good night, Rad."

"Mustn't worry ole Mist' Swift," the servant muttered to himself as he shuffled back to the kitchen. "But Massa Tom tole me hisself he gwine t' baid early 'cause he gotta git up befo' sunrise.

"Look hyah, Koku," he went on when he got to the kitchen. "Quit stuffin' dat 'ar pie an' go out an' see ef Massa Tom all right. He ought t' have bin in de house long sence. I'se skeered mebbe some villains mought've cotched him!"

"Whoo!" growled the giant, jumping up so quickly that his big, specially-built chair crashed over. "Where um war-club? Me fixum!"

"Doan make sich a racket, yo' big lummox! Yo' want to skeer ol' Mist' Swift? Heah, take mah rollin'-pin."

Clutching the rolling pin as a "war-club," Koku started through the darkness toward Tom's private laboratory. Following him at a discreet distance came old Rad Sampson, who had armed himself with a big butcher knife.

"Dar's a light in de office, big boy," whispered the Negro. "Be keerful, now!"

The giant merely grunted, crept up to the window and peered within. His great height enabled him to do so easily. "Come," he said finally, turning toward the door. "We go in."

"Whut de matter?" demanded Eradicate, struggling to keep up with his companion. "Am suffin' wrong? Mah goodness!" he cried a moment later in the office. "Po' Massa Tom done been killed! Look at him a-layin' dere!"

"Him no dead!" rumbled Koku, leaning over his master. "Him heart still beatum. Him need fresh air." Gently he picked Tom up and carried him outside.

"I'll git a doctah!" exclaimed the old colored man. "Dey's a phone in heah."

Before the physician could be reached, the beneficial effects of the cool night air had brought the young inventor back to consciousness. At first he could not recall what had happened and was not a little astonished to find himself lying on the grass.

"What in the world is the matter, Koku?" he demanded, pressing his hand to his aching head. "What am I doing out here?"

"Master out, get knockum," said the giant. "We find you on desk. Rad callum medicine man now."

"A doctor? No, I'm all right. Tell him to cancel the call." Tom managed to struggle to his feet. "I remember now! Some kind of gas must have been used on me. But I must see to the office. Maybe I've been robbed."

Leaning heavily on the giant's arm, Tom walked as fast as he could into the laboratory. At first glance everything seemed to be in order, and to his relief he found the vault was locked.

The young inventor did not know that a key was missing from his ring, nor, as he twirled the dial of the combination-lock, did he realize that a slender lever had been severed from below, thus rendering useless the intricate mechanism.

"Who done dis to you', Massa Tom?" asked Rad.

"Wish I knew. Anyhow, there's been no damage done except to me! My head's splitting, so I must get to bed. Koku, stay on guard here from now on until I return from Cuba. And get several of the men to relieve you. Another thing: I don't want either of you to mention this affair to anyone. Dad would hear about it and worry."

"If I catchum fella I breakum in little bits!" cried Koku fiercely. He shook the rolling-pin vigorously. "Better him stay 'way fum me!"

Tom awoke the next morning little the worse for his experience. Thanks to a rugged constitution, he had been able to throw off the ill effects of the poisonous fumes which had overcome him.

"I can't make it out, Ned," he said as the boys stood watching the mechanics warm up the engines of the big seaplane. "Nothing is missing. Whoever did the job didn't even rob me, and I had a good deal of cash in my wallet."

"Maybe nobody made an attempt on you or your property at all, Tom," Ned remarked slowly.

"What d'you mean? I certainly was knocked out!"

"Oh, I know that. But couldn't some sort of gas have seeped into your office from your adjoining laboratory? A bottle of acid might have cracked, or--"

"Nothing like that happened. I'm positive, because the same thought struck me. I made a careful inspection this morning. Everything was in perfect order."

"It certainly is strange," said Ned. "It looks as if some enemy is camping on your trail, Tom!"

"He'll have a hard time picking up that same trail in a few minutes," chuckled the inventor. "Here come Captain Britten and Dad. I guess we can take off soon."

"So your sea-goin' air-yacht is ready to cast off, is she?" asked the old diver. "Well, when ye haul in the gangplank, so to speak, I'll be aboard!"

"Take care of yourself, son," said Barton Swift, shaking Tom's hand. "I hope you will be successful in your attempt."

"Good-bye, Dad. And thanks."

"Doan git et up by no sharks or allygators!" cautioned Rad.

The mechanics had finished their work and were seen climbing down from the fuselage. The passengers took their places in the roomy cabin while Tom seated himself behind the controls.

After running a critical eye over the score of instruments he reached for the throttle and clutched the wheel tighter. The intermittent coughing of the powerful motors changed to a deafening roar, and the huge ship lumbered off down the long field, gathering speed every second.

"We're off!" cried Ned, waving at the already distant figures left behind.

"And we'll bring home the meteorite!" muttered Tom to himself as the "Winged Arrow" glided smoothly toward the clouds lining the southern horizon. "For I'm going to make the most wonderful telescope the world has ever known!"