Chapter XXIII. Across the Sea

With one accord the hands of the captives sought their pockets. Probably the first thought of each one was a knife--a pocket knife. But blank looks succeeded their first hopeful ones, for the hands came out empty.

"Not a thing!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Not a blessed thing! They have even taken my keys and--my fountain pen!"

"I guess they searched us all while they were struggling with us, tying us up," suggested Ned. "I had a knife with a big, strong blade, but it's gone.

"So is mine," echoed Tom.

"And I haven't even a screwdriver, or a pocket-wrench," declared the engineer, "though I had both."

"They evidently knew what they were doing," said Lieutenant Marbury. "I don't usually carry a revolver, but of late I have had a small automatic in my pocket. That's gone, too."

"And so are all my things," went on his naval friend. "That Frenchman, La Foy, was taking no chances."

"Well," if we haven't any weapons, or means of getting out of here, we must make them," said Tom, as hopefully as he could under the circumstances. "I don't know all the things that were put in this storeroom, and perhaps there may be something we can use."

"Shall we make the try now?" asked Ned. "I'm getting thirsty, at least. Lucky we had supper before they came out at us."

"Well, there isn't any water in here, or anything to eat, of so much I am sure," went on Tom "So we will have to depend on our captors for that."

"At least we can shout and ask for water," said Lieutenant Marbury. "They have no excuse for being needlessly cruel."

They all agreed that this might not be a bad plan, and were preparing to raise a united shout, when there came a knock on the door of their prison.

"Are you willing to listen to reason?" asked a voice they recognized as that of La Foy.

"What do you mean by reason?" asked Tom bitterly. "You have no right to impose any conditions on us."

"I have the right of might, and I intend exercising it," was the sharp rejoinder. "If you will listen to reason--"

"Which kind--yours or ours?" asked Tom pointedly.

"Mine, in this case," snapped back the Frenchman. "What I was going to say was that I do not intend to starve you, or cause you discomfort by thirst. I am going to open the door and put in food and water. But I warn you that any attempt to escape will be met with severe measures.

"We are in sufficient force to cope with you. I think you have seen that." He spoke calmly and in perfect English, though with a marked accent. "My men are armed, and will stand here ready to meet violence with violence," he went on. "Is that understood?"

For a moment none of the captives replied.

"I think it will be better to give in to him at least for a while," said Captain Warner in a low voice to Tom. "We need water, and will soon need food. We can think and plan better if we are well nourished."

"Then you think I should promise not to raise a row?"

"For the time being--yes."

"Well, I am waiting!" came in sharp tones from the other side of the portal.

"Our answer is--yes," spoke Tom. "We will not try to get out-- just yet," he added significantly.

A key was heard grating in the lock, and, a moment later, the door slid back. Through the opening could be seen La Foy and some of his men standing armed. Others had packages of food and jugs of water. A plentiful supply of the latter was carried aboard the Mars.

"Keep back from the door!" was the stern command of La Foy. "The food and drink will be passed in only if you keep away from the entrance. Remember my men are armed!"

The warning was hardly needed, for the weapons could plainly be seen. Tom had half a notion that perhaps a concerted rush would carry the day for him and his friends, but he was forced to abandon that idea.

While the guards looked on, others of the "pirate crew," as Ned dubbed them, passed in food and water. Then the door was locked again.

They all felt better after drinking the water, which was made cool by evaporation, for the airship was quite high above the earth when Tom's enemies captured it, and the young inventor felt sure it had not descended any.

No one felt much like eating, however, so the food was put away for a time. And then, somewhat refreshed, they began looking about for some means of getting out of their prison.

"Of course we might batter down the door, in time, by using some of these boxes as rams," said Tom. "But the trouble is, that would make a noise, and they could stand outside and drive us back with guns and pistols, of which they seem to have plenty."

"Yes, and they could turn some of your own quick-firers on us," added Captain Warner. "No, we must work quietly, I think, and take them unawares, as they took us. That is our only plan."

"We will be better able to see what we have here by daylight," Tom said. "Suppose we wait until morning?"

That plan was deemed best, and preparations made for spending the night in their prison.

It was a most uncomfortable night for all of them. The floor was their only bed, and their only covering some empty bags that had contained supplies. But even under these circumstances they managed to doze off fitfully.

Once they were all awakened by a violent plunging of the airship. The craft seemed to be trying to stand on her head, and then she rocked violently from side to side, nearly turning turtle. "What is it?" gasped Ned, who was lying next to Tom.

"They must be trying some violent stunts," replied the young inventor, "or else we have run into a storm."

"I think the latter is the case," observed Lieutenant Marbury.

And, as the motion of the craft kept up, though less violently, this was accepted as the explanation. Through the night the Mars flew, but whither the captives knew not.

The first gray streaks of dawn finally shone through the only window of their prison. Sore, lame and stiff, wearied in body and disturbed in mind, the captives awoke. Tom's first move was toward the window. It was high up, but, by standing on a box, he could look through it. He uttered an exclamation.

"What is it?" asked Ned, swaying to and fro from the violent motion ef the aerial warship.

"We are away out over the sea," spoke Tom, "and in the midst of a bad storm."