Chapter XXV. The Earthquake--Conclusion
 

"Here, Mr. Tom. Me carry you an' Ned. You hold picture machine!" cried the giant. "Me run faster."

As he spoke he lifted Ned up under one arm, and caught Tom in the other. For they were but as children to his immense strength. Tom held on to his camera, and, thus laden down, Koku ran as he had never run before, toward the waiting airship.

"Come on! Come on!" shouted Mr. Damon, for he could see what Tom, Ned and Koku could not, that the stream of lava was nearing them rapidly.

"It's hot!" cried Ned, as a wave of warm air fanned his cheek.

"I should say so!" cried Tom. "The volcano is full of red-hot melted stone."

There came a sickening shake of the earth. Koku staggered as he ran on, but he kept his feet, and did not fall. Again came a tremendous explosion, and a shower of fine ashes sifted over the airship, and on Koku and his living burdens.

"This is the worst ever!" gasped Tom. "But I've got some dandy pictures, if we ever get away from here alive to develop them."

"Hurry, Koku! Hurry!" begged Mr. Nestor. "Bless my shoe laces!" yelled Mr. Damon, who was fairly jumping up and down on the deck of the Flyer. "I'll never go near a volcano again!"

Once more the ground shook and trembled, as the earthquake rent it. Several cracks appeared in Koku's path, but he leaped over them with tremendous energy. A moment later he had thrust Tom and Ned over the rail, to the deck, and leaped aboard himself.

"Let her go!" cried Tom. "I'll do the rest of my moving picture work, around volcanoes and earthquakes, from up in the air!"

The Flyer shot upward, and scarcely a moment too soon, for, an instant after she left the ground, the stream of hot, burning and bubbling lava rolled beneath her, and those on board could feel the heat of it ascending.

"Say, I'm glad we got out of that when we did," gasped Ned, as he looked down. "You're all right, Koku."

"That no trouble," replied the giant with a cheerful grin. "Me carry four fellows like you," and he stretched out his big arms. Tom had at once set his camera to working again, taking view after view.

It was a terrifying but magnificent sight that our friends beheld, for the earth was trembling and heaving. Great fissures opened in many places. Into some of them streams of lava poured, for now the volcano had opened in several places, and from each crack the melted rocks belched out. The crater, however, was not sending into the air such volumes of smoke and ashes as before, as most of the tremendous energy had passed, or was being used to spout out the lava.

The earthquake was confined to the region right about the volcano, or there might have been a great loss of life in the city. As it was, the damage done was comparatively slight.

Tom continued to take views, some showing the earth as it was twisted and torn, and other different aspects of the crater. Then, as suddenly as the earthquake had begun, it subsided, and the volcano was less active.

"My! I'm glad to see that!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "I've had about enough of horrors!"

"And I have too," added Tom. "I'm on my last roll of film, and I can't take many more pictures. But I guess I have all Mr. Period needs, and we'll start for home, as soon as I finish the next roll. But I'm going to save that for a night view. That will he a novelty."

The volcano became active again after dark, and presented a magnificent though terrifying aspect. As the airship hovered above it, Tom got some of his best pictures, and then, as the last bit of film slipped along back of the lens, the airship was headed north.

"Now for Shopton!" cried Tom. "Our trip is ended."

"It's too had you didn't have more film," said Ned. "I thought you had plenty."

"Well, I used more than I counted on, but there are enough pictures as it is."

"Plenty," agreed Mr. Nestor. "I'm sure our company will be very well satisfied with them, Tom. We can't get home any too soon to suit me. I've had enough excitement."

"And we didn't see anything of those other fellows whom we heard about," spoke Mr. Damon, as the big airship flew on.

"No," said Tom. "But I'm not worrying about them."

They made another stop in Lima, on their homeward trip, to renew their supply of gasolene, and there learned that the rival picture men had arrived at the volcano too late to see it in operation. This news came to a relative of one of the two men who lived in Lima.

"Then our views of the earthquake and the smoking mountain will be the only ones, and your company can control the rights," said Tom to Mr. Nestor, who agreed with him.

In due time, and without anything out of the ordinary happening the Flyer reached Shopton, where Tom found a warm welcome awaiting him, not only from his father, but from a certain young lady, whose name I do not need to mention.

"And so you got everything you went after, didn't you, Tom," exclaimed Mr. Period, a few days later, when he had come from New York to get the remainder of the films.

"Yes, and some things I didn't expect," replied Tom. "There was--"

"Yes! Yes! I know!" interrupted the odd picture man. "It was that jungle fire. That's a magnificent series. None better. And those scoundrels took your camera; eh?"

"Yes. Could you connect them with Turbot and Eckert?" asked Tom.

"No, but I'm sure they were acting for them just the same. I had no legal evidence to act on, however, so I had to let it go. Turbot and Eckert won't be in it when I start selling duplicates of the films you have. And these last ought to be the best of all. I didn't catch that fellow when I raced after him on the dock. He got away, and has steered clear of me since," finished Mr. Period.

"And our rivals didn't secure any views like ours," said Tom.

"I'm glad of it," spoke Mr. Period. "Turbot and Eckert bribed one of my men, and so found out where I was sending messages to you. They even got a copy of my cablegram. But it did them no good."

"Were all the films clear that I sent you?" asked our hero.

"Every one. Couldn't be better. The animal views were particularly fine. You must have had your nerve with you to get some of 'em."

"Oh, Tom always has his nerve," laughed Ned.

"Well, how soon will you be ready to start out again?" asked the picture man, as he packed up the last of the films which Tom gave him. "I'd like to get some views of a Japanese earthquake, and we haven't any polar views. I want some of them, taken as near the North Pole as you can get."

Tom gently shook his head.

"What! You don't mean to say you won't get them for me?" cried Mr. Period. "With that wonderful camera of yours you can get views no one else ever could."

"Then some one else will have to take them," remarked the young inventor. "I'll lend you the camera, and an airship, and you can go yourself, Mr. Period. I'm going to stay home for a while. I did what I set out to do, and that's enough."

"I'm glad you'll stay home, Tom," said his father. "Now perhaps I'll get my gyroscope finished."

"And I, my noiseless airship," went on our hero. "No, Mr. Period, you'll have to excuse me this time. Why don't you go yourself?" he asked. "You would know just what kind of pictures you wanted."

"No, I'm a promoter of the moving picture business, and I sell films, but I don't know hew to take them," was the answer. "Besides I--er--well, I don't exactly care for airships, Tom Swift," he finished with a laugh. "Well, I can't thank you enough for what you did for me, and I've brought you a check to cover your expenses, and pay you as I agreed. All the same I'm sorry you won't start for Japan, or the North Pole."

"Nothing doing," said Tom with a laugh; and Mr. Period departed.

"Have you any idea what you will do next?" asked Ned, a day or so later, when he and Tom were in the workshop.

"I can't tell until I finish my noiseless airship," was the answer. "Then something may happen."

Something did, as I shall have the pleasure of telling you about in the next volume of this series, to be called, "Tom Swift and His Great Searchlight; or, On the Border for Uncle Sam," and in it will be given an account of a great lantern our hero made, and how he baffled the smugglers with it.

"Oh, Tom, weren't you dreadfully frightened when you saw that burning river of lava coming toward you?" asked Mary Nestor, when the young inventor called on her later and told her some of his adventures. "I should have been scared to death."

"Well, I didn't have time to get scared," answered Tom. "It all happened so quickly, and then, too I was thinking of my camera. Next I knew Koku grabbed me, and it was all over."

"But those wild beasts! Didn't they frighten you, especially when the rhinoceros charged you?"

"If you won't let it get out, I'll make a confession to you," said Tom, lowering his voice. "I was scared stiff that time, but don't let Ned know it."

"I won't," promised Mary with a laugh. And now, when Tom is in such pleasant company, we will take leave of him for a while, knowing that. sooner or later, he will be seeking new adventures as exciting as those of the past.