Chapter XIX. Secret Operations
 

"Help me save this machinery!" yelled Tom, whose first thought was for the electrical apparatus. "Don't let it fall into that chasm!"

For the crack had widened, until it was almost to the place where the parts of the wrecked airship had been carried.

"The machinery? What do I care about the machinery?" cried Mr. Jenks. "I want to save my life!"

"And this machinery is our only hope!" retorted Tom. He began tugging at the heavy dynamos and gasolene engine, but he might have saved himself the trouble, for with the same suddenness with which it opened, the crack closed again. The shock had done it, and, as if satisfied with that phenomena, the earthquake ceased, and the island no longer trembled.

"That was a light one," spoke Tom, with an air of relief. He was becoming used to the shocks now, and, when he saw that his precious machinery was not damaged he could view the earth tremors calmly.

"Slight!" exclaimed Mr. Jenks. "Well, I don't call it so. But I see Captain Mentor and Mr. Hosbrook coming. Please don't say anything to them about the diamonds. I'll see you again," and with that, the queer Mr. Jenks walked away.

"We came to see if you were hurt," called the captain, as he neared the young inventor.

"No, I'm all right. How about the others?"

"Only frightened," replied the yacht owner. "This is getting awful. I hoped we were free from the shocks, but they still continue."

"And I guess they will," added Tom. "We certainly are on Earthquake Island!"

"Mr. Parker, the scientist, says this last shock bears out his theory," went on the millionaire. "He says it will be only a question of a few days when the whole island will disappear."

"Comforting, to say the least," commented Tom.

"I should say so. But what are you doing, Mr. Swift?"

"Trying an experiment," answered the young inventor, in some confusion. He was not yet ready to talk about his plans.

"We must begin to think seriously of building some sort of a boat or raft, and getting away from the island," went on the millionaire. "It will be perilous to go to sea with anything we can construct, but it is risking our lives to stay here. I don't know what to do."

"Perhaps Captain Mentor has some plan," suggested Tom, hoping to change the subject.

"No," answered the commander, "I confess I am at a loss to know what to do. There is nothing with which to do anything, that is the trouble! But I did think of hoisting another signal, on this end of the island, where it might be seen if our first one wasn't. I believe I'll do that," and he moved away, to carry out his intention.

"Well, I think I'll get back, Tom, and tell the others that you are all right," spoke Mr. Hosbrook. "I left the camp, after the shock, because Mrs. Nestor was worried about you." The place to which the airship machinery had been removed was some distance from the camp, and out of sight of the shacks.

"Oh, yes. I'm all right," said Tom. Then, with a sudden impulse, he asked:

"Do you know much about this Mr. Barcoe Jenks, Mr. Hosbrook?"

"Not a great deal," was the reply. "In fact, I may say I do not know him at all. Why do you ask?"

"Because I thought he acted rather strangely."

"Just what the rest of us think," declared the yacht owner. "He is no friend of mine, though he was my guest on the Resolute. It came about in this way. I had invited a Mr. Frank Jackson to make the trip with me, and he asked if he could bring with him a Mr. Jenks, a friend of his. I assented, and Mr. Jackson came aboard with Mr. Jenks. Just as we were about to sail Mr. Jackson received a message requiring his presence in Canada, and he could not make the trip."

"But Mr. Jenks seemed so cut-up about being deprived of the yachting trip, and was so fond of the water, that I invited him to remain on board, even if his friend did not. So that is how he came to be among my guests, though he is a comparative stranger to all of us."

"I see," spoke Tom.

"Has he been acting unusually strange?" asked Mr. Hosbrook suspiciously.

"No, only he seemed very anxious to get off the island, but I suppose we all are. He wanted to know what I planned to do."

"Did you tell him?"

"No, for the reason that I don't know whether I can succeed or not, and I don't want to raise false hopes."

"Then you would prefer not to tell any of us?"

"No one--that is except Mr. Fenwick and Mr. Damon. I may need them to help me."

"I see," responded Mr. Hosbrook. "Well, whatever it is, I wish you luck. It is certainly a fearful place--this island," and busy with many thoughts, which crowded upon him, the millionaire moved away, leaving Tom alone.

A little while after this Tom might have been seen in close conversation with Mr. Damon and Mr. Fenwick. The former, on hearing what the young inventor had to say, blessed himself and his various possessions so often, that he seemed to have gotten out of breath. Mr. Fenwick exclaimed:

"Tom, if you can work that it will be one of the greatest things you have ever done!"

"I hope I can work it," was all the young inventor replied.

For the next three days Tom, and his two friends, spent most of their time in the neighborhood of the pile of machinery and apparatus taken from the wrecked Whizzer. Mr. Jenks hung around the spot, but a word or two from Mr. Hosbrook sent him away, and our three friends were left to their work in peace, for they were inclined to be secretive about their operations, as Tom did not want his plans known until he was ready.

The gasolene motor was overhauled, and put in shape to work. Then it was attached to the dynamo. When this much had been done, Tom and his friends built a rude shack around the machinery shutting it from view.

"Humph! Are you afraid we will steal it?" asked Mr. Parker, the scientist, who held to his alarming theory regarding the ultimate disappearance of the island.

"No, I simply want to protect it from the weather," answered Tom. "You will soon know all our plans. I think they will work out."

"You'd better do it before we get another earthquake, and the island sinks," was the dismal response.

But there had been no shocks since the one that nearly engulfed Mr. Jenks. As for that individual he said little to any one, and wandered off alone by himself. Tom wondered what kind of diamonds they were that the odd man had, and the lad even had his doubts as to the value of the queer stones he had seen. But he was too busy with his work to waste much time in idle speculation.