Chapter XX. The Lone Captive
 

The murmurs of astonishment that greeted Tom's seemingly marvelous feat of strength was even greater than that which had marked his trick with the electric battery. The giants stared at him as though they feared the next moment he might suddenly turn upon them and hurl them about like ten-pins.

"You see, it is easy when one knows the white man's magic," spoke Tom, making many gestures to help along. "Go tell your king that it is not well that he keeps us prisoners here, for if he does not soon let us go the magic may break loose and destroy his palace!"

There was a gasp of dismay from the giants at this bold talk.

"Better go easy, Tom," counseled Ned.

"I'm tired of going easy," replied the young inventor. "Something has got to happen pretty soon, or it will be all up with us. I'm getting weary of being cooped up here. Not that the king doesn't treat us well, but I don't want to be a prisoner. I want to get out and see if we can't arrange to take a couple of these giants back for Mr. Preston. That Delby sneak has things all his own way."

And this was so, for the circus man had poisoned the king's mind against Tom and his friends, representing (as our hero learned later) that the first arrivals in giant land were dangerous people, and not to be trusted. On his own part, Hank Delby intimated that he would always be a friend to the king, would teach him many of the white man's secrets, and would make him powerful. Thus the circus man was making plans for his own ends, and he was scheming to get a couple of giants for himself, who he intended to hurry away, leaving Tom and his friends to escape as best they could.

And Delby had brought with him some novelties in the way of toys and machinery that seemed greatly to take the fancy of the king. Tom realized this when he saw his rival free to come and go, and one reason why our hero did the experiments just related was so that the king might hear of them, and wonder.

"Go tell the king that, strong as he is, I am stronger," went on Tom boldly to the giant guards. "I am not afraid of him."

"Bless my war club, Tom, aren't you a little rash to talk that way?" asked Mr. Damon.

"No. As I said, I want things to happen. If I can only get the king curious enough to come here I can show him things to open his eyes. I'll work the miniature circus, and explain that some of his subjects can take part in a real one if they will come with us. I want to beat this Delby at his own game."

"That's the stuff!" cried Ned. "Stick to it, Tom. I'll help you, and we'll get a giant or two yet. And maybe we can get some news of poor Jake Poddington."

"I intend to make inquiries about him, now that these guards are a little more friendly," said Tom. "It may be that he is a prisoner in this very village."

The giant guards, now that they had gotten over their fright at their own inability to raise the bar while Tom had lifted it with one finger, again crowded around, asking that the trick be repeated. Tom did it, with the same result.

None of the giants could move the iron, yet Tom had no difficulty in doing so. Of course my readers have already guessed how the trick was done. It was worked by a strong magnet, hidden in the floor. At a signal from Tom, Ned would switch on the current. The iron would be held fast and immovable, but when Tom himself went to raise it Ned would cut off the electricity and the bar was lifted as easily as an ordinary piece of iron. But simple as the trick was, it impressed the giants. Then Tom did some other stunts for them, simple experiments in physics, that every High School lad has done in class.

"I want to get these guards friendly with me," he explained. "In time the news will reach the king and he'll be so curious that he'll come here and then--well, we'll see what will happen."

But this did not take place as soon as Tom desired. In fact, the giants were very slow to act. The guards did get quite friendly, and every day they wanted the same two first tricks performed over again. Tom did them many times, wondering when the king would come.

Then he played a bold game, and made open inquiries about a white man, one like the king's captives, who might have come to giant land about a year previous.

"Is there a lone white captive here?" asked Tom.

The giant guard to whom he directed his question gave a start, for Tom could now speak the language fairly well, and, after the first indication of surprise, the guard muttered something to his companions. There was a startled ejaculation, a curious glance at the captives, and then--silence. The guards filed silently away, and, a little later, could be seen going in the king's big hut.

"By Jove, Tom!" cried Ned. "You touched 'em that time. There's something up, as sure as you're born!"

"I believe so myself," agreed the young inventor. "And now to throw a real scare into these giants," he added, as he went to a distant room of the hut where he had hidden some of the things he had taken from his "box of tricks," as Ned dubbed it.

"Bless my necktie!" cried Mr. Damon. "What's up now, Tom."

"I'm going to show these giants that they'd better make friends with us soon, or we may blow their whole town sky-high!" cried Tom. "I'm going to use some of the blasting powder--just a pinch, so to speak- -and knock an empty hut into slivers. I think that will impress these fellows. If I can only--"

"Look, Tom!" suddenly cried Ned. "The king's two brothers are coming here. Something's up. He's sent some of the family to interview us. Get ready to receive them."

"Couldn't be better!" cried the young inventor. "I've been waiting for this. Now I'll give them a surprise party."

The two big brothers of the king, for such Tom and his friends had recently learned was the relationship the giants on either side of the "throne" bore to the ruler, were indeed headed toward the hut of the captives. They came alone, in their royal garments of jaguar skins, and, standing about the palace hut, could be seen the giant guards who had doubtless carried the news of the question Tom had asked.

"Come on, Ned, we've got to get busy!" exclaimed Tom. "Connect the electric battery, and get that magnet in shape. I'm going to make a fuse for this blasting powder bomb, and if I can get those royal brothers to plant it for me, there'll be some high jinks soon."

Tom busied himself in making an improvised bomb, while Ned attended to the electrical attachments, and Mr. Damon and Eradicate acted as general assistants.

The two giant brothers entered the hut and greeted Tom and the others calmly. Then they explained that the king had sent them to investigate certain stories told by the guard.

"I'll show you!" exclaimed Tom, and he induced them to take hold of the handles of the battery. The current was turned on full strength, and from the manner in which the royal brothers writhed and howled Tom judged that the experiment was a success.

"With all your strength you can not let go until I move my finger," the young inventor explained, and it was so. Even the skeptical giants agreed on that.

"Now I shall show you that I am stronger than you!" exclaimed Tom, and though the giants smiled increduously so it was, for the magnet trick worked as well as before. There were murmurs of surprise from the two immense brothers, and they talked rapidly together.

"I will now show you that I can call the lightning from the sky to do my bidding," went on Tom. "Is that possible to any of you giants?"

"Never! Never! No man can do it!" cried Tola and Koku together.

"Then watch me!" invited Tom. "Is there an empty hut near here?" he asked. "One that it will do no harm to destroy?"

Tola pointed to one visible from the window of the prison of our friends.

"Then take this little ball, with the string attached to it, and place it in the hut," went on Tom. "Then flee for your lives, for standing from here, I shall call the lightning down, and you shall see the hut destroyed."

"Why don't you ask them something about Jake Poddington?" asked Ned.

"Time enough for that after I've shown them what a little powder will do, when I attach electric wires to it and press a button," replied Tom. "I've got that bomb fixed so it will go off by an electric fuse. If they'll only put it in the hut for me. I'd do it myself, only they won't let me go out."

The brothers conferred for a moment and then, seeming to arrive at a decision, Koku, who was slightly the larger, took the bomb, looked curiously at it, and walked with it toward the empty hut, the electric wire being reeled out behind him by Tom.

The bomb was left inside the frail structure, the two brothers hurried away, and, standing at a safe distance from the hut of the captives, as well as the one that Tom had promised to destroy by lightning, they waved their hands to show that they were ready.

"Bless my admission ticket!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "You've got quite an audience, Tom."

And so he had, for there was a crowd in the market square, another throng about the king's palace, while all about, hidden behind trees or huts, was nearly the whole population of the giant town.

"That's what I want," said the young inventor. "It will be all the more impressive."

"And there's the king himself!" exclaimed Ned. "He's standing in the door of his royal hut."

"Better yet!" cried Tom. "Are those wires all connected, Ned?"

"Yes," answered his chum, after a quick inspection.

"Then here she goes!" cried Tom, as he pressed the button.

Instantly the hut, in which the bomb had been placed, arose in the air. The roof was lifted off, the sides spread out and there was a great flash of fire and a puff of smoke.

Then as the smoke cleared away Ned cried out:

"Look, Tom! Look! You've blown a hole in the hut next to the one you destroyed!"

"Yes, and bless my check book!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "some one is running out of it. A white man, Tom! A white man!"

"It's Poddington! Poor Jake Poddington. We've found him at last! This way, Mr. Poddington! This way! Mr. Preston sent us to rescue you!" cried Tom.