Chapter XIV. In a Great Gale

Tom Swift rose slowly to his feet, carefully setting his camera down, after making sure that it was not injured. Then he looked at the huge beast which lay dead in front of him, and, going over to the giant he held out his hand to him.

"Koku, you saved my life," spoke Tom. "Probably the life of Mr. Damon also. I can't begin to thank you. It isn't the first time you've done it, either. But I want to say that you can have anything you want, that I've got."

"Me like this gun pretty much," said the giant simply.

"Then it's yours!" exclaimed Tom. "And you're the only one, except myself, who has ever owned one." Tom's wonderful electric rifle, of which I have told you in the book bearing that name, was one of his most cherished inventions.

He guarded jealously the secret of how it worked, and never sold or gave one away, for fear that unscrupulous men might learn how to make them, and to cause fearful havoc. For the rifle was a terrible weapon. Koku seemed to appreciate the honor done him, as he handled the gun, and looked from it to the dead rhinoceros.

"Bless my blank cartridge!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, as he also got up and came to examine the dead beast. It was the first thing he had said since the animal had rushed at him, and he had not moved after he fell down. He had seemingly been in a daze, but when the others heard him use one of his favorite expressions they knew that he was all right again. "Bless my hat!" went on the odd man. "What happened, Tom? Is that beast really dead? How did Koku come to arrive in time?"

"I guess he's dead all right," said Tom, giving the rhinoceros a kick. "But I don't know how Koku happened to arrive in the nick of time, and with the gun, too."

"I think maybe I see something to shoot when I come after you, like you tell me to do," spoke the giant. "I follow your trail, but I see nothing to shoot until I come here. Then I see that animal run for you, and I shoot."

"And a good thing you did, too," put in Ned. "Well let's go back. My nerves are on edge, and I want to sit quiet for a while."

"Take the camera, Koku," ordered Tom, "and I'll carry the electric rifle--your rifle, now," he added, and the giant grinned in delight. They reached the airship without further incident, and, after a cup of tea, Tom took out the exposed films and put a fresh roll in his camera, ready for whatever new might happen.

"Where is your next stopping place, Tom?" asked Ned, as they sat in the main room of the airship that evening, talking over the events of the day. They had decided to stay all night anchored on the ground, and start off in the morning.

"I hardly know, answered the young inventor. "I am going to set the camera to-night, near a small spring I saw, to get some pictures of deer coming to drink. I may get a picture of a lion or a tiger attacking them. If I could it would be another fine film. To-morrow I think we will start for Switzerland. But now I'm going to get the camera ready for a night exposure.

"Bless my check book!" cried Mr. Damon. "You don't mean to say that you are going to stay out at a spring again, Tom, and run the chance of a tiger getting you."

"No, I'm merely going to set the camera, attach the light and let it work automatically this time. I've put in an extra long roll of film, for I'm going to keep it going for a long while, and part of the time there may be no animals there to take pictures of. No, I'm not going to sit out to-night. I'm too tired. I'll conceal the camera in the bushes so it won't be damaged if there's a fight. Then, as I said, we'll start for Switzerland to-morrow."

"Switzerland!" cried Ned. "What in the world do you want to go make a big jump like that for? And what do you expect to get in that mountain land?"

"I'm going to try for a picture of an avalanche," said Tom. "Mr. Period wants one, if I can get it. It is quite a jump, but then we'll be flying over civilized countries most of the time, and if any accident happens we can go down and easily make repairs. We can also get gasolene for the motor, though I have quite a supply in the tanks, and perhaps enough for the entire trip. At the same time we won't take any chances. So we'll be off for Switzerland in the morning.

"I think some avalanche pictures will be great, if you can get them," remarked Mr. Nestor. "But, Tom, you know those big slides of ice, snow and earth aren't made to order."

"Oh, I know," agreed the young inventor with a smile. "I'll just have to take my chances, and wait until one happens."

"Bless my insurance policy!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "And when it does happen, Tom, are you going to stand in front of it, and snap-shot it?"

"Indeed I'm not. This business is risky and dangerous enough, without looking for trouble. I'm going to the mountain region, and hover around in the air, until we see an avalanche 'happen' if that is the right word. Then I'll focus the camera on it, and the films and machinery will do the rest."

"Oh, that's different," remarked the odd man, with an air of relief.

Tom and Ned soon had the camera set near the spring and then, everyone being tired with the day's work and excitement, they retired. In the morning there were signs around the spring that many animals had been there in the night. There were also marks as if there had been a fight, but of course what sort, or how desperate, no one could say.

"If anything happened the camera got it, I'm sure of that much," remarked Tom, as he brought in the apparatus. "I'm not going to develop the roll, for I don't want to take the time now. I guess we must have something, anyhow."

"If there isn't it won't so much matter for you have plenty of other good views," said Mr. Nestor.

I will not go into details of the long trip to Switzerland, where, amid the mountains of that country, Tom hoped to get the view he wanted.

Sufficient to say that the airship made good time after leaving India. Sometimes Tom sent the craft low down, in order to get views, and again, it would be above the clouds.

"Well, another day will bring us there," said Tom one evening, as he was loading the camera with a fresh roll of films. "Then we'll have to be on the lookout for an avalanche."

"Yes, we're making pretty good time," remarked Ned, as he looked at the speed gage. "I didn't know you had the motor working so fast, Tom."

"I haven't," was the young inventor's answer, as he looked up in surprise. "Why, we are going quite fast! It's the wind, Ned. It's right with us, and it's carrying us along."

Tom arose and went to the anemometer, or wind-registering instrument. He gave a low whistle, half of alarm.

"Fifty miles an hour she's blowing now," he said. "It came on suddenly, too, for a little while ago it was only ten."

"Is there any danger?" asked Mr. Nestor, for he was not very familiar with airship perils.

"Well, we've been in big blows before, and we generally came out all right," returned Tom. "Still, I don't like this. Why she went up five points since I've been looking at it!" and he pointed to the needle of the gage, which now registered fifty-five miles an hour.

"Bless my appendix!" gasped Mr. Damon. "It's a hurricane Tom!"

"Something like that," put in Ned, in a low voice.

With a suddenness that was startling, the wind increased in violence still more. Tom ran to the pilot house.

"What are you going to do?" Ned called.

"See if we can't go down a bit," was Tom's answer. "I don't like this. It may be calmer below. We're up too high as it is."

He tried to throw over the lever controlling the deflecting rudder, which would send the Flyer down, but he could not move it.

"Give me a hand!" he called to Ned, but even the strength of the two lads was not sufficient to shift it.

"Call Koku!" gasped Tom. "If anybody can budge it the giant can!"

Meanwhile the airship was being carried onward in the grip of a mighty wind, so strong that its pressure on the surface of the deflecting rudder prevented it from being shifted.