Chapter VII. Ready for the Trip
 

Andy Foger stood looking at his tilted airship. His clothes were covered with mud from the ditch, some of the muck had splashed over his face so that he was a pitiable looking object.

"What's the matter?" panted Pete Bailey.

"Are you hurt?" asked Sam Snedecker.

The two cronies had hurried to the side of the bully.

"Matter? Can't you see what's the matter?" demanded Andy wrathfully. "The machine came down, that's what's the matter! Why didn't you fellows fix the motor better?" he shouted at the two machinists as they came running up, followed by the crowd.

"Fix it better? The motor was all right," declared the taller machinist. "Any of them are likely to stop unexpectedly."

"Well, I didn't think mine would," came from Andy. "Now look at my airship! It's all busted!"

"No, it isn't hurt much," said the other man, after critically looking it over. "We can fix it, and you'll fly yet, Andy."

"I hope I do, if only to fool Tom Swift," declared the bully, as he wiped some of the mud from his face. "Come on, now, help me wheel the machine back, and I'll try it again."

Andy made another attempt, but this time the machine did not even rise off the ground, and then, amid the jeers of the crowd, the discomfited lad took his aeroplane back to the shed in the rear of his house.

"I'll fix it yet, and make a long flight," he declared. "I'll show Tom Swift he can't laugh at me!"

"You'll make a long flight eh?" asked one of the machinists. "Where will you go?"

"Never mind," answered Andy, with a knowing wink. "I've got a plan up my sleeve--my father and I are going to do something that will astonish everybody in Shopton," and then Andy, with many nods and winks, went into the shed, where he began giving orders about the airship. He wanted the motor changed, and one of the machinists made some suggestions about the planes, which, he said, would give better results.

As for Tom and Ned, they strolled away, satisfied that in Andy Foger they would not have a very dangerous rival, as far as airships were concerned.

Tom thought matters over during the next few days. He was now satisfied that Andy had a copy of the map, and, as far as he could see, there was no way of getting it from him, for he could not prove to the satisfaction of the legal authorities that the bully actually had it.

"We'll just have to take a chance, that's all," decided the young inventor in talking matters over with his father, Ned, and Abe Abercrombie. "If Andy and some of his crowd trail after us, we'll just have to run away from them and get to the valley first."

"If they do get there, they won't find it very easy traveling I reckon," remarked Abe. "They'll get all they want of the caves of ice. But hadn't we better get a hustle on ourselves, Tom?"

"Yes, we will soon start now. I have the Red Cloud all packed up for shipment to Seattle. We will send it on ahead, and then follow, for it will take some time to get there, even though it's going by fast freight."

"What about Mr. Damon?" asked Ned. "When is he coming?"

"There's no telling," responded Tom. "He may be on hand any minute, and, again, he may only show up just as we are starting. I haven't heard from him in the last day or two,"

At that moment there was a knock on the private office in the aeroplane shed, where Tom, Ned and Abe Abercrombie were talking.

"Who's there?" asked Tom.

"It's me," answered a voice recognizable as that of the colored man Eradicate.

"What is it, Rad?" asked Tom.

"Why I jest thought I'd tell you dat de blessin' man am comin' down de road."

"The blessing man?" repeated Tom. "Oh, you mean Mr. Damon."

"Yais, sah, dat's jest who I done mean. An' dere's anodder gen'man wif him."

"Mr. Parker, I expect," spoke Tom. "Well, tell them to come in here, Rad."

"Yais, sah. Dey's comin' up de path now, so dey is."

The next moment Tom and the others heard a voice saying:

"Why, bless my necktie! The Red Cloud is gone!" Mr. Damon had peered into the shed, and had not seen the airship, for Tom had it packed up. "I wonder if Tom Swift has gone away? Bless my top-knot, Mr. Parker, I hope We're not too late!"

"Indeed I hope not," added the scientist. "I wish to make a study of the caves of ice. I think perhaps they may be working south, and, in time, this part of the country may be covered deep under a frozen blanket."

"Cheerful, isn't he, Ned?" asked Tom, with a smile. Then, going to the door of the shed he called out: "Here we are, Mr. Damon. Glad to see you, Mr. Parker." This last wasn't exactly true, but Tom wanted to be polite.

"Bless my collar button, Tom! But what has become of the airship?" asked Mr. Damon, as he looked about the shed, and saw only a number of boxes and crates.

"Taken apart, and packed up, ready for the trip to the valley of gold and the caves of ice," replied the young inventor, and then he briefly told of their plans.

"Well, that's a good idea," declared the eccentric man. "Mr. Parker and I are ready to go whenever you are, Tom."

"Then we'll start very soon. I will get all our supplies in Seattle. Now, to discuss details," and, after Mr. Parker and Mr. Damon had been made acquainted with the old miner, who told his story in brief, they began a discussion of the prospective trip.

Mr. Damon and Mr. Parker took up their residence in Tom's house, and while the eccentric man busied himself in helping our hero, Ned and Abe Abercrombie in getting ready for the trip to Alaska, the gloomy scientist went about making "observations" as he called them, with a view to predicting what might happen in the near future.

He was particularly anxious to get up north, among the caves of ice, and, several times he repeated his statement that he believed the mass of ice in Alaska was working down toward the south. But no one paid much attention to him, though Tom recalled, not without a little shudder, that Mr. Parker had correctly predicted the destruction of Earthquake Island, and also the landslide on Phantom Mountain.

The airship was finally sent off, being forwarded to Seattle in sections, where it could easily be put together. The matter of Andy Foger having a duplicate map of the valley of gold was discussed, but it was agreed that nothing could be done about it. So Tom and the others devoted all their energies to getting in shape for their prospective journey.

Mr. Swift was invited to go, but declined on the ground that he had several inventions to perfect, nor could Mr. Jackson go, as he was needed to help his employer. So Tom, Ned, Mr. Damon, Mr. Parker and Abe Abercrombie made up the party. Tom arranged to send wireless messages to his father from the airship once they were started off toward the valley of gold, and over the frozen north.

One evening, when Tom had been to pay a last visit to Mary Nestor, as he was coming past the Foger premises he saw a number of large vans, loaded with big packing cases coming out of the banker's yard.

"Hum! I wonder if they're moving?" mused our hero. "If they are they're taking a queer time for it." He paused a moment to look at the procession of vans. As he did so he heard the voice of Andy Foger.

"Now, I want you men to be careful of everything!" the bully called out arrogantly. "If you break anything I'll sue you for damages!"

"Oh, that cub makes me sick!" exclaimed one of the drivers as he came opposite Tom.

"What are you moving--eggs, that you have to be so careful?" asked the young inventor, in a low voice.

"Eggs? No! But it might just as well be," was the growling answer. "He's shipping an airship, all taken to pieces, and he has nervous prostration for fear it will be broken. I don't believe the old thing's any good, anyhow."

"An airship--Andy Foger sending away his airship?" gasped Tom. "Where to?"

"Some place in Alaska," was the startling reply. "Pitka or Sitka, or some such place like that. It's all in these boxes, G'lang there!" this to his horses.

"Andy sending his airship to Alaska!" murmured Tom in dismay. "Then he surely is going to make a try for that valley of gold!"

He turned away, while the snarling voice of the bully rang out on the night, urging the drivers to be very careful of the boxes and crates on their trucks.