Chapter V. Rush Work
 

Mr. Swift made the African hunter warmly welcome, and listened with pride to the words of praise Mr. Durban bestowed on Tom regarding the rifle.

"Yes, my boy has certainly done wonders along the inventive line," said Mr. Swift.

"Not half as much as you have, Dad," interrupted the lad, for Tom was a modest youth.

"You should see his sky racer," went on the old inventor.

"Sky racer? What's that?" asked Mr. Durban. "Is it another kind of gun or cannon?"

"It's an aeroplane--an airship," explained Mr. Swift.

"An airship!" exclaimed the old elephant hunter. "Say, you don't mean that you make balloons, do you?"

"Well, they're not exactly balloons," replied Tom, as he briefly explained what an aeroplane was, for Mr. Durban, having been in the wilds of the jungle so much, had had very little chance to see the wonders and progress of civilization.

"They are better than balloons," went on Tom, "for they can go where you want them to."

"Say! That's the very thing!" cried the old hunter enthusiastically. "If there's one thing more than another that is needed in hunting in Africa it's an airship. The travel through the jungle is something fierce, and that, more than anything else, interferes with my work. I can't cover ground enough, and when I do get on the track of a herd of elephants, and they get away, it's sometimes a week before I can catch up to them again."

"For, in spite of their size, elephants can travel very fast, and once they get on the go, nothing can stop them. An airship would be the very thing to hunt elephants with in Africa--an airship and this electric rifle. I wonder why you haven't thought of going, Tom Swift."

"I have thought of it," answered the young inventor, "and that's why I asked you in. I want to talk about it."

"Do you mean you want to go?" demanded the old man eagerly.

"I certainly do!"

"Then I'm your man! Say, Tom Swift, I'd be proud to have you go to Africa with me. I'd be proud to have you a member of my hunting party, and, though I don't like to boast, still if you'll ask any of the big-game people they'll tell you that not every one can accompany Aleck Durban."

Tom realized that he was speaking to an authority and a most desirable companion, should he go to Africa, and he was very glad of the chance that had made him acquainted with the veteran hunter.

"Will you go with me?" asked Mr. Durban. "You and your electric gun and your airship? Will you come to Africa to hunt elephants, and help me get the big tusks I'm after?"

"I will!" exclaimed Tom.

"Then we'll start at once. There's no need of delaying here any longer."

"Oh, but I haven't an airship ready," said the young inventor. The face of the old hunter expressed his disappointment.

"Then we'll have to give up the scheme," he said ruefully.

"Not at all," Tom told him. "I have all the material on hand for building a new airship. I have had it in mind for some time, and I have done some work on it. I stopped it to perfect my electric rifle, but, now that is done, I'll tackle the Black Hawk again, and rush that to completion."-

"The Black Hawk?" repeated Mr. Durban, wonderingly.

"Yes, that's what I will name my new craft. The Red Cloud was destroyed, and so I thought I'd change the color this time, and avoid bad luck."

"Good!" exclaimed the hunter. "When do you think you can have it finished?"

"Oh, possibly in a month--perhaps sooner, and then we will go to Africa and hunt elephants!"

"Bless my ivory paper cutter!" exclaimed a voice in the hall just outside the library. "Bless my fingernails! But who's talking about going to Africa?"

The old hunter looked at Tom and his father in surprise, but the young inventor laughing and going to the door, called out:

"Come on in, Mr. Damon. I didn't hear you ring. There is some one here from your town."

"Is it my wife?" asked the odd gentleman who was always blessing something. "She said she was going to her mother's to spend a few weeks, and so I thought I'd come over here and see if you had anything new on the program. The first thing I hear is that you are going to Africa. And so there's some one from Waterford in there, eh? Is it my wife?"

"No," answered Tom with another laugh. "Come on in Mr. Damon."

"Bless my toothpick!" exclaimed the odd gentleman, as he saw the grizzled elephant hunter sitting between Tom and Mr. Swift. "I have seen you somewhere before, my dear sir."

"Yes," admitted Mr. Durban, "if you're from Waterford you have probably seen me traveling about the streets there. I'm stopping with my sister, Mrs. Douglass, but I can't stand it to be in the house much, so I'm out of doors, wandering about a good bit of the time. I miss my jungle. But we'll soon be in Africa, Tom Swift and me."

"Is it possible, Tom?" asked Mr. Damon. "Bless my diamond mines! but what are you going to do next?"

"It's hard to say," was the answer. "But you came just in time. Mr. Damon. I'm going to rush work on the Black Hawk, my newest airship, and we'll leave for elephant land inside of a month, taking my new electric rifle along. Will you come"

"Bless my penknife! I never thought of such a thing. I--I--guess-- no, I don't know about it--yes, I'll go!" he suddenly exclaimed. "I'll, go! Hurrah for the elephants!" and he jumped up and shook hands in turn with Mr. Durban, to whom he had been formally introduced, and with Tom and Mr. Swift.

"Then it's all settled but the details," declared the youth, "and now I'll call in Mr. Jackson, and we'll talk about how soon we can have the airship ready."

"My, but you folks are almost as speedy as a herd of the big elephants themselves!" exclaimed Mr. Durban, and with the advent of the engineer the talk turned to things mechanical among Tom and Mr. Jackson and Mr. Damon, while Mr. Durban told Mr. Swift hunting stories which the old inventor greatly enjoyed.

The next day Tom engaged two machinists who had worked for him building airships before, and in the next week rush work began on the new Black Hawk. Meanwhile Mr. Durban was a frequent visitor at Tom's home, where he learned to use the new rifle, declaring it was even more wonderful than he had at first supposed.

"That will get the elephants!" he exclaimed. It did, as you shall soon learn, and it also was the means of saving several lives in the wilds of the African jungle.