Chapter II. An Unsuspected Listener
 

For a few moments after Tom Swift had announced his decision to start for the city of gold, and Mr. Damon had said he would accompany the young inventor, there was a silence in the workshop. Then Mr. Swift laid aside the delicate mechanism of the new model gyroscope on which he had been working, came over to his son, and said:

"Well, Tom, if you're going, that means you're going--I know enough to predict that. I rather wish you weren't, for I'm afraid no good will come of this."

"Now, dad, don't be talking that way!" cried Tom gaily. "Pack up and come along with us." Lovingly he placed his arm around the bent shoulders of his father.

"No, Tom, I'm too old. Home is the place for me."

"Bless my arithmetic tables!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "you're not so much older than I am, and I'm going with Tom. Come on, Mr. Swift."

"No, I can't put up with dangers, hardship and excitement as I used to. I'd better stay home. Besides, I want to perfect my new gyroscope. I'll work on that while you and Tom are searching for the city of gold. But, Tom, if you're going you'd better have something more definite to look for than an unknown city, located on a map drawn by some African bushman."

"I intend to, dad. I guess when Mr. Illingway wrote his letter he didn't really think I'd take him up, and make the search. I'm going to write and ask him if he can't get me a better map, and also learn more about the location of the city. Mexico isn't such a very large place, but it would be if you had to hunt all over it for a buried city, and this map isn't a lot of help," and Tom who had shown it to his father and Mr. Damon looked at it closely.

"If we're going, we want all the information we can get," declared the odd man. "Bless my gizzard, Tom, but this may mean a lot to us!"

"I think it will," agreed the young inventor. "I'm going to write to Mr. Illingway at once, and ask for all the information he can get."

"And I'll help you with suggestions," spoke Mr. Damon. "Come on in the house, Tom. Bless my ink bottle, but we're going to have some adventures again!"

"It seems to me that is about all Tom does--have adventures--that and invent flying machines," said Mr. Swift with a smile, as his son and their visitor left the shop. Then he once more bent over his gyroscope model, while Tom and Mr. Damon hurried in to write the letter to the African missionary.

And while this is being done I am going to ask your patience for a little while--my old readers, I mean--while I tell my new friends, who have never yet met Tom Swift, something about him.

Mr. Swift spoke truly when he said his son seemed to do nothing but seek adventures and invent flying machines. Of the latter the lad had a goodly number, some of which involved new and startling ideas. For Tom was a lad who "did things."

In the first volume of this series, entitled "Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle," I told you how he became acquainted with Mr. Damon. That eccentric individual was riding a motor cycle, when it started to climb a tree. Mr. Damon was thrown off in front of Tom's house, somewhat hurt, and the young inventor took him in. Tom and his father lived in the village of Shopton, New York, and Mr. Swift was an inventor of note. His son followed in his footsteps. Mrs. Swift had been dead some years, and they had a good housekeeper, Mrs. Baggert.

Another "member" of the family was Eradicate Sampson, a colored man of all work, who said he was named "Eradicate" because he "eradicated" the dirt. He used to do odd jobs of whitewashing before he was regularly employed by Mr. Swift as a sort of gardener and watchman.

In the first book I told how Tom bought the motor cycle from Mr. Damon, fixed it up, and had many adventures on it, not the least of which was saving some valuable patent models of his father's which some thieves had taken.

Then Tom Swift got a motor boat, as related in the second volume of the series, and he had many exciting trips in that craft. Following that he made his first airship with the help of a veteran balloonist and then, not satisfied with adventures in the air, he and his father perfected a wonderful submarine boat in which they went under the ocean for sunken treasure.

The automobile industry was fast forging to the front when Tom came back from his trip under water, and naturally he turned his attention to that. But he made an electric car instead of one that was operated by gasolene, and it proved to be the speediest car on the road.

The details of Tom Swift and his wireless message will be found in the book of that title. It tells how he saved the castaways of Earthquake Island, and among them was Mr. Nestor, the father of Mary, a girl whom Tom thought--but there, I'm not going to be mean, and tell on a good fellow. You can guess what I'm hinting at, I think.

It was when Tom went to get Mary Nestor a diamond ring that he fell in with Mr. Barcoe Jenks, who eventually took Tom off on a search for the diamond makers, and he and Tom, with some friends, discovered the secret of Phantom Mountain.

One would have thought that these adventures would have been enough for Tom Swift, but, like Alexander, he sighed for new worlds to conquer. How he went to the caves of ice in search of treasure, and how his airship was wrecked is told in the eighth volume of the series, and in the next is related the details of his swift sky- racer, in which he and Mr. Damon made a wonderfully fast trip, and brought a doctor to Mr. Swift in time to save the life of the aged inventor.

It was when Tom invented a wonderful electric rifle, and went to Africa with a Mr. Durban, a great hunter, to get elephants' tusks, that he rescued Mr. and Mrs. Illingway, the missionaries, who were held captive by red pygmies.

That was a startling trip, and full of surprises. Tom took with him to the dark continent a new airship, the Black Hawk, and but for this he and his friends never would have escaped from the savages and the wild beasts.

As it was, they had a hazardous time getting the missionary and his wife away from the jungle. It was this same missionary who, as told in the first chapter of this book, sent Tom the letter about the city of gold. Mr. Illingway and his wife wanted to stay in Africa in an endeavor to christianize the natives, even after their terrible experience. So Tom landed them at a white settlement. It was from there that the letter came.

But the missionaries were not the only ones whom Tom saved from the red pygmies. Andy Foger, a Shopton youth, was Tom's enemy, and he had interfered with our hero's plans in his trips. He even had an airship made, and followed Tom to Africa. There Andy Foger and his companion, a German were captured by the savages. But though Tom saved his life, Andy did not seem to give over annoying the young inventor. Andy was born mean, and, as Eradicate Sampson used to say, "dat meanness neber will done git whitewashed outer him--dat's a fack!"

But if Andy Foger was mean to Tom, there was another Shopton lad who was just the reverse. This was Ned Newton, who was Tom's particular chum, Ned had gone with our hero on many trips, including the one to Africa after elephants. Mr. Damon also accompanied Tom many times, and occasionally Eradicate went along on the shorter voyages. But Eradicate was getting old, like Mr. Swift, who, of late years, had not traveled much with his son.

When I add that Tom still continued to invent things, that he was always looking for new adventures, that he still cared very much for Mary Nestor, and thought his father the best in the world, and liked Mr. Damon and Ned Newton above all his other acquaintances, except perhaps Mrs. Baggert, the housekeeper, I think perhaps I have said enough about him; and now I will get back to the story.

I might add, however, that Andy Foger, who had been away from Shopton for some time, had now returned to the village, and had lately been seen by Tom, riding around in a powerful auto. The sight of Andy did not make the young inventor feel any happier.

"Well, Tom, I think that will do," remarked Mr. Damon when, after about an hour's work, they had jointly written a letter to the African missionary.

"We've asked him enough questions, anyhow," agreed the lad. "If he answers all of them we'll know more about the city of gold, and where it is, than we do now."

"Exactly," spoke the odd man. "Now to mail the letter, and wait for an answer. It will take several weeks, for they don't have good mail service to that part of Africa. I hope Mr. Illingway sends us a better map."

"So do I," assented Tom. "But even with the one we have I'd take a chance and look for the underground city."

"I'll mail the letter," went on Mr. Damon, who was as eager over the prospective adventure as was Tom. "I'm going back home to Waterfield I think. My wife says I stay here too much."

"Don't be in a hurry," urged Tom. "Can't you stay to supper? I'll take you home to-night in the sky racer. I want to talk more about the city of gold, and plan what we ought to take with us to Mexico."

"All right," agreed Mr. Damon. "I'll stay, but I suppose I shouldn't. But let's mail the letter."

It was after supper, when, the letter having been posted, that Tom, his father and Mr. Damon were discussing the city of gold.

"Will you go, even if Mr. Illingway can't send a better map?" asked Mr. Damon.

"Sure" exclaimed Tom. "I want to get one of the golden images if I have to hunt all over the Aztec country for it."

"Who's talking of golden images?" demanded a new voice, and Tom looked up quickly, to see Ned Newton, his chum, entering the room. Ned had come in unannounced, as he frequently did.

"Hello, old stock!" cried Tom affectionately. "Sir, there's great news. It's you and me for the city of gold now!"

"Get out! What are you talking about?"

Then Tom had to go into details, and explain to Ned all about the great quantity of gold that might be found in the underground city.

"You'll come along, won't you, Ned?" finished the young inventor. "We can't get along without you. Mr. Damon is going, and Eradicate too, I guess. We'll have a great time."

"Well, maybe I can fix it so I can go," agreed Ned, slowly, "I'd like it, above all things. Where did you say that golden city was?"

"Somewhere about the central part of Mexico, near the city of--"

"Hark!" suddenly exclaimed Ned, holding up a hand to caution Tom to silence.

"What is it?" asked the young inventor in a whisper.

"Some one is coming along the hall," replied Ned in a low voice.

They all listened intently. There was no doubt but that some one was approaching along the corridor leading to the library where the conference was being held.

"Oh, it's only Mrs. Baggert," remarked Tom a moment later, relief showing in his voice. "I know her step."

There was a tap on the door, and the housekeeper pushed it open, for it had been left ajar. She thrust her head in and remarked:

"I guess you've forgotten, Mr. Swift, that Andy Foger is waiting for you in the next room. He has a letter for you."

"Andy Foger!" gasped Tom. "Here."

"That's so, I forgot all about him!" exclaimed Mr. Swift jumping up. "It slipped my mind. I let him in a while ago, before we came in the library, and he's probably been sitting in the parlor ever since. I thought he wanted to see you, Tom, so I told him to wait. And I forgot all about him. You'd better see what he wants."

"Andy Foger there--in the next room," murmured Tom. "He's been there some time. I wonder how much he heard about the city of gold?"