Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle by Victor Appleton
Chapter XXV. The Rogue Elephant--Conclusion
Early the next day the airship was again afloat. The night, what little of darkness remained after the rescue, had been spent in the clearing in the dense jungle. Some slight repairs had been made to the craft, and it was once more in readiness to be used in battle against the relentless savages.
"We can't wait for darkness," declared Tom. "In the first place there isn't time, and again, we don't know in what part of the village the other captives are. We'll have to hunt around."
"And that means going right down into the midst of the imps and fighting them hand to hand," said Ned.
"That's what it means," assented Tom grimly, "but I guess the powder bombs will help some."
Before starting they had prepared a number of improvised bombs, filled with powder, which could be set off by percussion. It was the plan to drop these down from the airship, into the midst of the savages. When the bomb struck the ground, or even on the bodies of the red dwarfs, it would explode. It was hoped that these would so dismay the little men that they would desert the village, and leave the way clear for a search to be made for the other captives.
On rushed the Black Hawk. There was to be no concealment this time, and Tom did not care how much noise the motors made. Accordingly he turned on full seed.
It was not long before the big plain was again sighted. Everything was in readiness, and the bombs were at hand to be dropped overboard. Tom counted on the natives gathering together in great masses as soon as they sighted the airship, and this would give him the opportunity wanted.
But something different transpired. No sooner was the craft above the village, than from all the huts came pouring out the little red men. But they did not gather together--at least just then. They ran about excitedly, and it could be seen that they were bringing from the huts the rude household utensils in which they did their primitive cooking. The women had their babies, and some, not so encumbered, carried rolls of grass matting. The men had all their weapons.
"Bless my wagon wheel!" cried Mr. Damon. "What's going on?"
"It looks like moving day," suggested Ned Newton.
"That's just what it is!" declared Mr. Durban. "They are going to migrate. Evidently they have had enough of us, and they're going to get out of the neighborhood before we get a chance to do any more damage. They're moving, but where are the white captives?"
He was answered a moment later, for a crowd of the dwarfs rushing to a certain hut, came out leading two persons by means of bark ropes tied about their necks. It was too far off to enable Tom or the others to recognize them, but they could tell by the clothing that they were white captives.
"We've got to save them!" exclaimed the young inventor.
"How?" asked Mr. Damon. And, indeed, it did seem a puzzle for, even as Tom looked, the whole tribe of red imps took up the march into the jungle, dragging the white persons with them. The captives looked up, saw the airship, and made frantic motions for help. It was too far off, yet, to hear their voices. But the distance was lessening every moment, for Tom had speeded the motor to the highest pitch.
"What are you going to do?" demanded Ned.
"I'll show you," answered his chum. "Take some of those bombs, and be ready to drop them overboard when I give the word."
"But we may kill those white people," objected Ned.
"Not the way I'm going to work it. You drop them when I give the word."
Tom steered the airship toward the head of the throng of blacks. The captives were in the rear, and the van of the strange procession was near the edge of the jungle now. Once the red dwarfs got into the tangle of underbrush they could never be found, and their captives would die a miserable death.
"We've got to stop them," murmured Tom. "Are you ready, Ned?"
"Then drop the bombs!"
Ned dropped them. A sharp explosion was heard, and the head of the procession was blown apart and thrown into confusion. The throng halted.
"Drop more!" cried Tom, sending the ship about in a circle, and hovering it over the middle of the press of savages.
More of the deadly tombs exploded. The pygmies were running about wildly. Tom, who was closely watching the rear of the cavalcade, suddenly called out:
"Now's our chance! They've let their captives go, and are running into the jungle. We must swoop down, and get the prisoners!"
It was no sooner said than the nose of the Black Hawk was pointed downward. Onward it flew, the two captives wildly waving their hands to the rescuers. There was no more danger from the red savages. They had been thrown into panic and confusion, and wore rapidly disappearing into the forest. The terrible weapons of the whites had been too much for them.
"Quick! Get on board!" called Tom, as he brought the machinery to a stop. The airship now rested on the ground, close to the former captives. "Get in here!" shouted the young inventor. "They may change their minds and come back."
The two white persons ran toward the Black Hawk. Then one of them-- the smaller--halted and cried out:
"Why, it's Tom Swift!"
Tom turned and glanced at the speaker. A look of astonishment spread over his face.
"Andy Foger--here!" gasped Tom. "How in the world--?"
"I dink besser as ve git on der board, und dalk aftervard!" exclaimed Andy's companion, who spoke with a strong German accent. "I like not dose red little mans."
In another minute the two rescued ones were safe on Tom Swift's airship, and it had arisen high enough to be out of all danger.
"How in the world did you ever get here?" asked Tom of the lad who had so often been his enemy.
"I'll tell you soon," spoke Andy, "but first, Tom, I want to ask your forgiveness for all I've done to you, and to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for saving us. I thought we were going to be killed by those dwarfs; didn't you, Herr Landbacher?"
"Sure I did. But ve are all right now. Dis machine is efen besser as mine vot vos lost. Is dere anyt'ing to eats, on board, if you vill excuse me for being so bolt as to ask?"
"Plenty to eat," said Tom, laughing, "and while you eat you can tell us your story. And as for you, Andy, I hope we'll be friends from now on," and Tom held out his hand.
There was not much to tell that the reader has not already guessed. Andy and the German, as has been explained, went abroad to give airship flights. They were in the lower part of Egypt, and a sudden gale drove them into Africa.
For a long time they sailed on, and then their fuel gave out, and they had to descend into the jungle. They managed to fall in with some friendly blacks, who treated them well. The airship was useless without gasolene, and it was abandoned.
Andy and the German inventor were planning to walk to some white settlement, when the tribe they were with was attacked by the red dwarfs and vanquished. Andy and his friend were taken prisoners, and carried to the very village where the missionaries were, just before the latter's rescue.
Then came the fight, and the saving of Andy and the German, almost at the last minute.
"Well, you certainly had nearly as many adventures as we did," said Tom. "But I guess they're over now."
But they were not. For several days the airship sailed on over the jungles without making a descent. Mr. and Mrs. Illingway wished to be landed at a white settlement where they had other missionary friends. Tom would go with them. This was done, and Tom and the others spent some time in this place, receiving so many kinds of thanks that they had to protest.
Andy and Herr Landbacher asked to be taken back to the coast, where they could get a steamer to America. Andy was a very different lad now, and not the bully of old.
"Well, hadn't we better be thinking of getting back home?" asked Tom one day.
"Not until we get some more ivory," declared Mr. Durban. "I think we'll have to have another elephant hunt."
They did, about a week later, and got some magnificent tusks. Tom's electric rifle did great work, to the wonder of Andy and Mr. Landbacher, who had never before seen such a curious weapon. They also did some night hunting.
"But we haven't got that pair of extra large tusks that I want," said the old hunter, as he looked at the store of ivory accumulated after the last hunt. "I want those, and then I'll be satisfied. There is one section of the country that we have not touched as yet, and I'd like to visit that."
"Then let's go," proposed Tom, so, good-bys having been said to the missionaries, who sent greetings to their friends in America, and to the church people who had arranged for their rescue, the airship was once more sent to the deepest part of a certain jungle, where Mr. Durban hoped to get what he wanted.
They had another big hunt, but none of the elephants had any remarkable tusks, and the hunter was about to give up in despair, and call the expedition over, when one afternoon, as they were sailing along high enough to merely clear the tops of the trees, Tom heard a great crashing down below.
"There's something there," he called to Mr. Durban. "Perhaps a small herd of elephants. Shall we go down?"
Before Mr. Durban could answer there came into view, in a small clearing, an elephant of such size, and with such an enormous pair of tusks, that the young inventor and the old hunter could not repress cries of astonishment.
"There's your beast!" said Tom. "I'll go down and you can pot him," and, as he spoke, Tom stopped the propellers, so that the ship hung motionless in the air above where the gigantic brute was.
Suddenly, as though possessed by a fit of rage, the elephant rushed at a good-sized tree and began butting it with his head. Then, winding his trunk around it he pulled it up by the roots, and began trampling on it out of a paroxysm of anger.
"A rogue elephant!" exclaimed Mr. Durban. "Don't go down if you value your life, or the safety of the airship. If we attacked that brute on the ground, we would be the hunted instead of the hunters. That's a rogue elephant of the worst kind, and he's at the height of his rage."
This was indeed so, for the beast was tearing about the clearing like mad, breaking off trees, and uprooting them in sheer vantonness. Tom knew what a "rogue" elephant was. It is a beazt that goes away from the herd, and lives solitary and alone, attacking every living thing that comes in his way. It is a species of masness, a disease which attacks elephants and sometimes passes away. More often the afflicted creature gives battle to everything and every animal he meets until he is killed or carried off by his malady. It was sueh an elephant that Tom now saw, and he realized what the hunter said about attacking one, as he saw the brute's mad rushes.
"Well, if it's dangerous to attack him on the ground, we'll kill him from up above," said the young inventor. "Here is the electric rifle, Mr. Durban. I'll let you have the honor of getting those tusks. My! But they're whoppers! Better use almost a full charge. Don't take any chances on merely wounding him, and having him rush off to the jungle."
"I won't," said the old hunter, and he adjusted the electric rifle which Tom handed him.
As the great beast was tearing around, trumpeting shrilly and breaking off trees Mr. Durban fired. The creature sank down, instantly killed, and was out of his misery, for often it is great pain which makes an otherwise peaceable elephant become a "rogue."
"He's done for," said Ned. "I guess you have the tusks you want now, Mr. Durban."
"I think so," agreed the hunter, and when the airship was sent down, and the ivory cut out, it was found that the tusks were even larger than they had supposed. "It is a prize worth having," said Mr. Durban. "I'm sure my customer will think so, too. Now I'm ready to head for the coast."
Tom Swift went to the engine room, while the last big tusks were being stored away with the other ivory. Several parts of the motor needed oiling, and Ned was assisting in this work.
"Going to start soon?" asked Mr. Durban, appearing in the doorway.
"Yes; why?" inquired Tom, who noted an anxious note in the voice of the hunter.
"Well, I don't like staying longer in this jungle than I can help. It's not healthy in the first place, and then it's a wild and desolate place, where all sorts of wild beasts are lurking, and where wandering hands of natives may appear at any time."
"You don't mean that the red pygmies will come back; do you?" asked Ned.
"There's no telling," replied Mr. Durban with a shrug of his shoulders. "Only, as long as we've got what we're after, I'd start off as soon as possible."
"Yes, don't run any chances with those little red men," begged Andy Foger, who had given himself up for lost when he and his companion fell into their hands.
"Radder vould I be mit cannibals dan dose little imps!" spoke the German fervently.
"We'll start at once," declared Tom. "Are you all aboard, and is everything loaded into the airship?"
"Everything. I guess." answered Mr. Anderson.
Tom looked to the motor, saw that it was in working order, and shoved over the lever of the gas machine to begin the generating of the lifting vapor. To his surprise there was no corresponding hiss that told of the gas rushing into the bag.
"That's odd," he remarked. "Ned, see if anything is wrong with that machine. I'll pull the lever again."
The bank clerk stood beside the apparatus, while Tom worked the handle, but whatever was the matter with it was too intricate or complicated for Ned to solve.
"I can't see what ails it," he called to his chum. "You better have a peep."
"All right, I'll look if you work the handle."
The passengers on the airship, which now rested in a little clearing in the dense jungle, gathered at the engine room door, looking at Tom and Ned as they worked over the machine.
"Bless my pulley wheel!" exclaimed Mr. Damon "I hope nothing has gone wrong."
"Well something has!" declared the young inventor in a muffled voice, for he was down on his hands and knees peering under the gas apparatus. "One of the compression cylinders has cracked," he added dubiously. "It must have snapped when we landed this last time. I came down too heavily."
"What does that mean?" asked Mr. Durban, who did not know much about machinery.
"It means that I've got to put a new cylinder in," went on Tom. "It's quite a job, too, but we can't make gas without it!"
"Well, can't you do it just as well up in the air as down here?" asked Mr. Durban. "Make an ascension, Tom, and do the repairs up above, where we've got good air, and where--"
He paused suddenly, and seemed to be listening.
"What is it?" asked the young inventor quickly. There was no need to answer, for, from the jungle without, came the dull booming of the war drums of some natives.
"That's what I was afraid of!" cried the old elephant hunter, catching up his gun. "Some black scout has seen us and is summoning his tribesmen. Hurry, Tom, send up the ship, and we'll take care of the savages."
"But I can't send her up!" cried Tom.
"You can't? Why not?"
"Because the gas machine won't work until I put in a new cylinder, and that will take at least a half a day."
"Go up as an aeroplane then!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my monkey wrench, Tom, you've often done it before."
For answer Tom waved his hand toward the thick jungle all about them.
"We haven't room to get a running start of ten feet." he said, "and without a start the airship can never rise as a mere aeroplane. The only way we can get up from the jungle is like a balloon, and without the gas--"
He paused significantly. The sound of the war drums became louder, and to it was added a weird singing chant.
"The natives!" cried Mr. Anderson. "They're coming right this way! We must fight them off if they attack us!"
"Where's the electric rifle?" asked Ned. "Get that out, Tom!"
"Wait!" suggested Mr. Durban. "This is serious! It looks as if they were going to attack us, and they have us at a disadvantage. Our only safety is in flight, but as Tom says we can't go up until the gas machine is fixed, he will have to attend to that part of it while we keep off the black men. Tom, we can't spare you to fight this time! You repair the ship as soon as you can, and we'll guard her from the natives. And you've got to work lively!"
"I will!" cried the young inventor. "It's luck we have a spare cylinder!"
Suddenly there was a louder shout in the jungle and it was followed by a riot of sound. War drums were beaten, tom-toms clashed and the natives howled.
"Here they are!" cried Mr. Anderson.
"Bless my suspenders!" shouted Mr. Damon. "Where is my gun?"
"Here, you take mine, and I'll use the electric rifle," answered the elephant hunter. As he spoke there was a hissing sound in the air and a flight of spears passed over the airship.
The defenders slipped outside, while Tom, with Ned to help him, worked feverishly to repair the break. They were in a serious strait, for with the airship practically helpless they were at the mercy of the natives. And as Tom glanced momentarily from the window, he saw scores of black, half-naked forms slipping in and out among the trees and trailing vines.
Soon the rifles of his friends began to crack, and the yells of the natives were changed to howls of anguish. The electric weapon, though it made no noise, did great execution.
"I only hope they don't puncture the gas bag," murmured Tom. as he began taking the generating machine apart so as to get out the cracked cylinder.
"If they do, it's all up with us," murmured Ned.
After their first rush, finding that the white men were on the alert, the blacks withdrew some distance, where their spears and arrows were not so effective. Our friends, including Andy Foger, and the German, kept up a hot fire whenever a skulking black form could be seen.
But, though the danger from the spears and arrows was less, a new peril presented itself. This was from the blow guns. The curious weapons shot small arrows, tipped with tufts of a cottony substance in place of feathers, and could be sent for a long distance. The barbs were not strong enough to pierce the tough fabric of the gas bag, as a spear or arrow would have done, but there was more danger from them to our friends who were on deck.
"Those barbs may be poisoned," said Mr. Durban, "and in case any one is wounded, the wound, though it be but a scratch, must be treated with antiseptics. I have some."
This course was followed, the elephant hunter being wounded twice, and Andy Foger and Mr. Damon once each. There was not a native to be seen now, for they were hiding behind the trees of the jungle, but every now and then a blowgun barb would whizz out of the forest.
Finally Mr. Durban suggested that they erect improvised shelters, behind which they could stand with their rifle, and breastworks were made out of packing boxes. Then our friends were comparatively safe. But they had to be on the alert, and it was nervous work, for they could not tell what minute the blacks would rush from the jungle, and, in spite of the fire from the electric rifle and other guns, overwhelm the ship.
It was very trying to Tom and Ned, for they had to work hard and rapidly in the close engine room. The sweat dripped down off them, but they kept at it. It was three hours before the broken cylinder was removed, and it was no light task to put in the other, for the valves had to be made very tight to prevent leakage.
The two lads stopped to get something to eat, while the guards kept sharp watch against a surprise. At intervals came a flight of barbs, and occasionally a black form could be seen, when it was instantly fired at. Several times the barbaric noise of the tom-toms and war drums, with which the shouts of the natives mingled, broke out deafeningly.
"Think you can repair it by night?" asked Mr. Durban anxiously of Tom.
"I hope so," was the response.
"Because if we have to stay here after dark--well, I don't want to do it if I can help it," finished the hunter.
Neither did the young inventor, and he redoubled his efforts to make the repairs. It was getting dark when the last belt was in place, and it was high time, too, for the natives were getting bolder, creeping up through the forest to within shooting distance with their arrows and spears.
"There!" cried Tom at length. "Now we'll see if she works!" Once more he pulled the starting lever, and this time there was the welcome hiss of the gas.
"Hurrah!" cried Ned.
The young inventor turned the machine on at full power. In a few minutes the Black Hawk trembled through her length.
"She's going up! Bless my balloon basket! She's going up!" cried Mr. Damon.
The natives must have suspected that something unusual was going on, for they made a sudden rush, yelling and beating their drums. Mr. Durban and the others hurried out on deck and fired at them, but there vas little more need. With a bound the airship left the earth, being rapidly carried up by the gas. The blacks sent a final shower of spears after her, but only one was effective, slightly wounding the German. Then Tom started the motor, the propellers whizzed, and the Black Hawk was once more under way, just as night settled over the jungle, and upon the horde of black and howling savages that rushed around, maddened over the escape of their intended victims.
No further accidents marred the trip to the coast, which was reached in due time, and very glad our friends were to be away from the jungle and the land of the red pygmies.
A division was made of the ivory, and Tom's share was large enough to provide him with a substantial amount. Ned and Mr. Damon were also given a goodly sum from the sale of the tusks. The big ones, from the "rogue," were shipped to the man who had commissioned Mr. Durban to secure them for him.
"Well, now for home," said Tom, when the airship had been taken apart for shipment. "I guess you'll be glad to get back to the United States, won't you, friends?"
"That's what," agreed Andy Foger. "I think I'm done with airships. Ugh! When I think of those red dwarfs I can't sleep nights!"
"Yah, dot iss so!" agreed the German.
"Well, I'm going to settle down for a time," declared Tom. "I've had enough adventures for a while, but those in elephant land--"
"They certainly put it all over the things that happen to some people!" interrupted Ned with a laugh.
"Bless my fish-line, that's so!" agreed Mr. Damon.
But Tom Swift was not done with adventures, and what farther happened to him may be learned by reading the next volume of this series, which will be entitled, "Tom Swift in the City of Gold; or, Marvelous Adventures Underground."
They all made a safe and pleasant voyage home, and as news of the rescue of the missionaries had been cabled to America, Tom and his friends were met, as they left the steamer, by a crowd of newspaper reporters, who got a good story of the battle with the red pygmies, though Tom was inclined to make light of his part in the affair.
"Now for Shopton, home, Dad, Eradicate Sampson and his mule!" exclaimed Tom, as they boarded a train in New York.
"And somebody else, too, I guess; eh?" asked Ned of his chum, with a laugh.
"That's none of your affair!" declared Tom, as he blushed, and then he, too, joined in the merriment.
And now, for a time, we will say good-by to the young inventor and his friends.