Chapter XXIV. "We Are Lost!"
 

There was little more sleep for any one that night. They sat up, talking over the wonderful and unexpected outcome of Tom Swift's wireless message, and speculating as to when the steamer would get there.

"Bless my pocket comb! But I told you it would come out all right, if we left it to Tom!" declared Mr. Damon.

"But it hasn't come out yet," remarked the pessimistic scientist. "The steamer may arrive too late."

"You're a cheerful sort of fellow to take on a yachting trip," murmured Mr. Hosbrook, sarcastically. "I'll never invite you again, even if you are a great scientist."

"I'm going to sit and watch for the steamer," declared Mr. Damon, as he went outside the shack. The night was warm, and there was a full moon. "Which way will she come from, Tom?"

"I don't know, but I should think, that if she was on her way north, from South America, she'd pass on the side of the island on which we now are."

"That's right," agreed Captain Mentor. "She'll come up from over there," and he pointed across the ocean directly in front of the shacks and camp.

"Then I'm going to see if I can't be the first to sight her lights," declared Mr. Damon.

"She can't possibly get here inside of a day, according to what the operator said," declared Tom.

"Wire them to put on all the speed they can," urged the eccentric man.

"No, don't waste any more power or energy than is needed," suggested Mr. Hosbrook. "You may need the gasolene before we are rescued. They are on their way, and that is enough for now."

The others agreed with this, and so Tom, after a final message to the operator aboard the Cambaranian stating that he would call him up in the morning, shut down the motor.

Mr. Damon took up his position where he could see far out over the ocean, but, as the young inventor had said, there was no possible chance of sighting the relief steamer inside of a day. Still the nervous, eccentric man declared that he would keep watch.

Morning came, and castaways brought to breakfast a better appetite than they had had in some time. They were allowed larger rations, too, for it was seen that they would have just enough food to last until taken off.

"We didn't need to have made the big raft," said Mr. Fenwick, as Tom came down from his station, to report that he had been in communication with the Camabarian and that she was proceeding under forced draught. "We'll not have to embark on it, and I'm glad of it."

"Oh, we may need it yet," asserted Mr. Parker. "I have been making some observations just now, and the island is in a very precarious state. It is, I believe, resting on only a slim foundation, and the least shock may break that off, and send it into the sea. That is what my observations point out."

"Then I wish you wouldn't make any more observations!" exclaimed Mrs. Nestor, with spirit. "You make me nervous."

"And me, also," added Mrs. Anderson.

"Science can not deceive, madam," retorted Mr. Parker.

"Well it can keep quiet about what it knows, and not make a person have cold chills," replied Mary's mother. "I'm sure we will be rescued in time."

There was a slight tremor of an earthquake, as they were eating dinner that day, but, aside from causing a little alarm it did no damage. In the afternoon, Tom again called up the approaching steamer, and was informed that, because of a slight accident, it could not arrive until the next morning. Every effort would be made to keep up speed, it was said. There was much disappointment over this, and Mr. Damon was observed to be closely examining the food supply, but hope was too strong to be easily shattered now.

Mr. Parker went off alone, to make some further "observations" as he called them, but Mr. Hosbrook warned him never again to speak of his alarming theories.

Mr. Barcoe Jenks called Tom aside just before supper that evening.

"I haven't forgotten what I said to you about my diamonds," he remarked, with many nods and winks. "I'll show you how to make them, if you will help me. Did you ever see diamonds made?"

"No, and I guess very few persons have." replied the lad, thinking perhaps Mr. Jenks might not be quite right, mentally.

The night passed without alarm, and in the morning, at the first blush of dawn, every one was astir, looking eagerly across the sea for a sight of the steamer.

Tom had just come down from the wireless station, having received a message to the effect that a few hours more would bring the Cambaranian within sight of the island.

Suddenly there was a tremendous shock, as if some great cannon had been fired, and the whole island shook to its very centre.

"Another earthquake! The worst yet!" screamed Mrs. Anderson.

"We are lost!" cried Mrs. Nestor, clinging to her husband.

An instant later they were all thrown down by the tremor of the earth, and Tom, looking toward his wireless station, saw nearly half of the island disappear from sight. His station went down in collapse with it, splashing into the ocean, and the wave that followed the terrible crash washed nearly to the castaways, as they rose and kneeled on the sand.

"The island is sinking!" cried Mr. Parker. "Make for the raft!"

"I guess it's our only chance," murmured Captain Mentor, as he gazed across the water. There was no steamer in sight. Could it arrive on time? The tremors and shaking of the island continued.