Chapter XVIII. Tom's Mysterious Box
 

The young inventor walked slowly back to the middle of the hut--a prison now it was--and sat down on a bench. The others followed his example, and the elaborate toy, with which they had hoped to win the king's favor, was laid aside. For a moment there was silence in the structure--a silence broken only by the pacing up and down of the giant guards outside. Then Eradicate spoke.

"Massa Tom," began the aged negro, "can't we git away from heah?"

"It doesn't seem so, Rad."

"Can't we shoot some of dem giants wif de 'lectric guns, an' carry a couple ob 'em off after we stun 'em like?"

"No, Rad; I'm afraid violent measures won't do, though now that you speak of the guns I think that we had better get them ready."

"You're not going to shoot any of them, are you, Tom?" asked Mr. Damon quickly.

"No, but if they continue to turn against us as easily as they have, there is no telling what may happen. If they attack us we will have to defend ourselves. But I think they are too gentle for that, unless they are unduly aroused by what misstatements Hank Delby may make against us."

"Misstatements?" inquired Ned.

"Yes. I don't doubt but what he told the king a lot of stuff that isn't true, to cause his majesty to make us captives here. Probably he said we came to destroy the giant city with magic, or something like that, and he represented himself as a simple traveler. He's used to that sort of business, for he has often tried to get ahead of Mr. Preston in securing freaks or valuable animals for the circus. He wants to make it look bad for us, and good for himself. So far he has succeeded. But I've got a plan."

"What is it?" asked Mr. Damon.

"I'll tell you when I've got it more worked out. The thing to do now is to get in shape to stand off the giants if they should attack us. This hut is pretty strong, and we can risk a siege in here. Let's arrange the boxes and bales into a sort of breastwork, and then we'll take the electric rifles inside."

This was soon done, and, though there was considerable noise attending the moving about of the boxes and bales, the giant guards did not seem at all alarmed. They did not even take the trouble to stop the work, though they looked in the windows. In a short time there was a sort of hollow square formed in the middle of the big main room, and inside of this our friends could give battle.

"And now for my plan of teaching these giants a lesson," said Tom, when this work was finished. "Ned, help me open this box," and he indicated one with his initials on in red letters.

"That's the same one you saved from the fire in the ship," commented Ned.

"Yes, and I can't put it to just exactly the use I intended, as the situation has changed--for the worse I may say. But this box will answer a good purpose," and Tom and Ned proceeded to open the mysterious case which the young inventor had transported with such care.

"Bless my cannon cracker!" exclaimed Mr. Damon who watched them. "You're as careful of that as if it contained dynamite."

"It does contain something like that," answered Tom. "It has some blasting powder in, and I was going to use it to show the giants how little their strength would prevail against the power which the white man could secure from some harmless looking powder. There are also a lot of fireworks in the box, and I intend to use them to scare these big men. That's why I was so afraid when I heard that there was a blaze near my box. I was worried for fear the ship would be blown up. But I can't use the blasting powder--at least not now. But we'll give these giants an idea of what Fourth of July looks like. Come on, Ned, we'll take a look and see from which window it will be safest to set off the rockets and other things, as I don't want to set fire to any of the grass huts."

Eradicate and Mr. Damon looked on wonderingly while Tom and his chum got out the packages of fireworks which had been kept safe and dry. As for the giant guards, if they saw through the windows what was going on, they made no effort to stop Tom.

Tom had brought along a good collection of sky rockets, aerial bombs, Roman candles and similar things, together with the blasting powder. The latter was put in a safe place in a side room, and then, with some boards, the young inventor and his chum proceeded to make a sort of firing stand. One big window opened out toward a vacant stretch of woods into which it would not be dangerous to aim the fireworks.

Building the stand took some time, and they knocked off to make a meal from the food that had been brought, and which they had been about to eat when the circus man had appeared. The food was good, and it made them feel better.

"I hope they won't forget us to-morrow," observed Tom, for there was enough of the first meal left for supper. "But if they do we have some food of our own."

"Oh, I don't think they mean to starve us," remarked Ned. "I think they are just acting on suggestions from that circus man."

"Perhaps," agreed Tom. "Well, they may sing another tune when we get through with them."

As night approached the giant guards about the hut were changed, and again the women came, bearing platters of food. There was plenty of it, showing that the king, however fickle his friendship might be, did not intend to starve his captives. Tom and his friends had not seen Delby come out of the royal palace, and they concluded that he was still with his giant majesty.

"Is it dark enough now, Tom?" asked Ned of his chum, as they sat about the rude wooden platform which they had made to hold the fireworks. "Shall we set them off?"

"Pretty soon now. Wait until it gets a little darker, and the effect will be better." The room was dimly lighted by a small portable electric lamp, one of several Tom had brought along in his mysterious box. The lamps were operated by miniature but powerful dry batteries. The giant guards were still outside, but they showed no disposition to interfere with our friends.

"There's something going on at the palace," reported Mr. Damon, who was watching the big hut. "There are a lot of giants around it with torches."

"Maybe they're going to escort Delby to a hut with the same honors they paid us," suggested Tom. "If they do, we'll set off the fireworks as he comes out and maybe they'll think he is afflicted with bad magic, and they'll give us our freedom."

"Good idea!" cried Ned. "Say, that's what they're going to do," he added a moment later as, in the glare of a number of torches, there could be seen issuing from the king's palace, the two big giants, evidently his brothers. Between them was the figure of the circus man, looking like a dwarf. He was not so far away but what the smile of triumph on his face could be seen as he glanced in the direction of the darkened hut where Tom and his friends were captives.

"Now's our chance!" cried the young inventor. "Set 'em off, Ned. You help, Mr. Damon. The more noise and fuss we make at once, the more impressive it will be. Set off everything in sight!"

There was a flicker of matches as they were applied to the fuses, and then a splutter of sparks. An instant later it seemed as if the whole heavens had been lighted up.

Sky rockets shot screaming toward the zenith, aerial bombs went whirling slantingly upward amid a shower of sparks, then to burst with deafening reports, sending out string after string of colored lights. Red and green fire gleamed, and the hot balls from Roman candles burst forth. There was a whizz, a rush and a roar. Blinding flashes and startling reports followed each other as Tom and his friends set off the fireworks. It was like the Independence Day celebration of some little country village, and to the simple giants it must have seemed as if a volcano had suddenly gone into action.

For several minutes the din and racket, the glare and explosions, kept up, pouring out of the big window of the hut. And then, as the last of the display was shot off, and darkness seemed to settle down blacker than ever over the giant village, there arose howls of fear and terror from the big men and their women and children. They cried aloud in their thunderous voices, and there was fear in every cry.