Chapter XXII. The Twin Giants
 

Daring indeed was the scheme decided on by the captives, and yet its very boldness might make it possible for them to carry it out. The king would never suspect them of plotting to carry off his two royal brothers, and this made it all the easier to lay their plans. In this they were much helped by Poddington, who knew the language and who had made a few friends among the more humble people of the village, though none dared assist him openly.

"The first thing to do," said the circus man, "is to get into communication with the twins."

That proved harder than they expected, for a week passed, and they did not have a glimpse of Tola and Koku. Meanwhile the giant guard was still maintained about the hut night and day. No more food was given the prisoners, and they would have starved had not Tom possessed a good supply of his own provisions. It was evidently the intention of the king to starve his captives into submission.

"Suppose you do get those big brothers to accompany you, Tom?" asked Ned one day. "How are you going to manage to get away, and take them with you?"

"My aeroplane!" answered Tom quickly. "I've got it all planned out. You and I with Mr. Damon, Mr. Poddington and Eradicate will skip away in the aeroplane. We can put it together in here, and I've got enough gasolene to run it a couple of hundred miles if necessary."

"But the giants--you can't carry them in it."

"No, and I'm not going to try. If they'll agree to go they can set off through the woods afoot. We'll meet them in a certain place-- where there's a good land mark which we can easily distinguish from the aeroplane. We'll take what stuff we can with us, and leave the rest here. Oh, it can be done, Ned."

"But when you start out with the aeroplane they'll make a rush and overwhelm us."

"No, for I'll do it so quickly that they won't have a chance. I'm going to saw through the beams of one side of this hut. To the rear there is level ground that will make a fine starting place. When everything is ready, say some night, we'll pull the side wall down, start the aeroplane out as it falls, and sail away. Then we'll pick up the giant brothers out in the woods, and travel to civilization again."

"By Jove! I believe that will work!" cried the circus man.

"Bless my corn plaster, I think so myself!" added Mr. Damon.

"But first we've got to get the brothers to agree," went on Tom, "and that is going to be hard work."

It was not so difficult as it was tedious. Through an aged woman, with whom he had made friends when a captive, Jake Poddington managed to get word to the royal twins that he and the other captives would like to see them privately. Then they had to wait for an answer.

In the meanwhile the giants tried several times to surprise Tom and his friends by attacks, but the captives were on the alert, and the electric rifles drove them back.

One night nearly all the guards were observed to be absent. There were not more than half a dozen scattered about the hut.

"I wonder what that means?" asked Tom, who was puzzled.

"I know!" exclaimed Jake Poddington after a moment's thought. "It's their big annual feast. Even the king goes to it. They were just getting over it when I struck here last year, and maybe that's what set them so against me. Boys, this may be our chance!"

"How?" asked Ned.

"The king's brothers may find an opportunity to come and talk to us when the feast is at its height," was the reply.

Anxiously they waited, and in order that the royal brothers might come in unobserved, if they did conclude to speak to the captives, Tom and his companions hung some pieces of canvas over the windows and doors, and had only a single light burning.

It was at midnight that a cautious knock sounded at the side of the hut and Tom glided to the main door. In the shadows he saw the two royal brothers, Tola and Koku.

"Here they are!" whispered Tom to Jake Poddington, who came forward.

"Come!" invited the circus man in the giants' tongue, and the brothers entered the hut.

How Jake persuaded them to throw in their fortunes with the captives the circus man hardly knew himself. Perhaps it was due as much as anything to the dislike they felt toward the king, and the mean way he had treated them.

"Come, and you will be kings among the small men in our country," invited Poddington. The brothers looked at each other, talked together in low tones, and then Koku exclaimed:

"We will come, and we will help you to escape. We have spoken, and we will talk with you again."

Then they glided out into the darkness, while from afar came the sounds of revelry at the big feast.