Chapter III. Blessings and Enthusiasm
 

Greetings and inquiries as to health having been passed, not without numerous blessings on the part of Mr. Damon, the little party gathered in the library of the home of Tom Swift sat down and looked at one another.

On Professor Bumper's face there was, plainly to be seen, a look of expectation, and it seemed to be shared by Mr. Damon, who seemed eager to burst into enthusiastic talk. On the other hand Tom Swift appeared a bit indifferent.

Ned himself admitted that he was frankly curious. The story of the big idol of gold had occupied his thoughts for many hours.

"Well, I'm glad to see you both," said Tom again. "You got here all right, I see, Professor Bumper. But I didn't expect you to meet and bring Mr. Damon with you."

"I met him on the train," explained the author of the book on the lost city of Pelone, as well as books on other antiquities. "I had no expectation of seeing him, and we were both surprised when we met on the express."

"It stopped at Waterfield, Tom," explained Mr. Damon, "which it doesn't usually do, being an aristocratic sort of train, not given even to hesitating at our humble little town. There were some passengers to get off, which caused the flier to stop, I suppose. And, as I wanted to come over to see you, I got aboard."

"Glad you did," voiced Tom.

"Then I happened to see Professor Bumper a few seats ahead of me," went on Mr. Damon, "and, bless my scarfpin! he was coming to see you also."

"Well, I'm doubly glad," answered Tom.

"So here we are," went on Mr. Damon, "and you've simply got to come, Tom Swift. You must go with us!" and Mr. Damon, in his enthusiasm, banged his fist down on the table with such force that he knocked some books to the floor.

Koku, the giant, who was in the hall, opened the door and in his imperfect English asked:

"Master Tom knock for him bigs man?"

"No," answered Tom with a smile, "I didn't knock or call you, Koku. Some books fell, that is all."

"Massa Tom done called fo' me, dat's what he done!" broke in the petulant voice of Eradicate.

"No, Rad, I don't need anything," Tom said. "Though you might make a pitcher of lemonade. It's rather warm."

"Right away, Massa Tom! Right away!" cried the old colored man, eager to be of service.

"Me help, too!" rumbled Koku, in his deep voice. "Me punch de lemons!" and away he hurried after Eradicate, fearful lest the old servant do all the honors.

"Same old Rad and Koku," observed Mr. Damon with a smile. "But now, Tom, while they're making the lemonade, let's get down to business. You're going with us, of course!"

"Where?" asked Tom, more from habit than because he did not know.

"Where? Why to Honduras, of course! After the idol of gold! Why, bless my fountain pen, it's the most wonderful story I ever heard of! You've read Professor Bumper's article, of course. He told me you had. I read it on the train coming over. He also told me about it, and---- Well, I'm going with him, Tom Swift.

"And think of all the adventures that may befall us! We'll get lost in buried cities, ride down raging torrents on a raft, fall over a cliff maybe and be rescued. Why, it makes me feel quite young again!" and Mr. Damon arose, to pace excitedly up and down the room.

Up to this time Professor Bumper had said very little. He had sat still in his chair listening to Mr. Damon. But now that the latter had ceased, at least for a time, Tom and Ned looked toward the scientist.

"I understand, Tom," he said, "that you read my article in the magazine, about the possibility of locating some of the lost and buried cities of Honduras?"

"Yes, Ned and I each read it. It was quite wonderful."

"And yet there are more wonders to tell," went on the professor. "I did not give all the details in that article. I will tell you some of them. I have brought copies of the documents with me," and he opened a small valise and took out several bundles tied with pink tape.

"As Mr. Damon said," he went on while arranging his papers, "he met me on the train, and he was so taken by the story of the idol of gold that he agreed to accompany me to Central America."

"On one condition!" put in the eccentric man.

"What's that? You didn't make any conditions while we were talking," said the scientist.

"Yes, I said I'd go if Tom Swift did."

"Oh, yes. You did say that. But I don't call that a condition, for of course Tom Swift will go. Now let me tell you something more than I could impart over the telephone.

"Soon after I called you up, Tom--and it was quite a coincidence that it should have been at a time when you had just finished my magazine article. Soon after that, as I was saying, I arranged to come on to Shopton. And now I'm glad we're all here together.

"But how comes it, Ned Newton, that you are not in the bank?"

"I've left there," explained Ned.

"He's now general financial man for the Swift Company," Tom explained. "My father and I found that we could not look after the inventing and experimental end, and money matters, too, and as Ned had had considerable experience this way we made him take over those worries," and Tom laughed genially.

"No worries at all, as far as the Swift Company is concerned," returned Ned.

"Well, I guess you earn your salary," laughed Tom. "But now, Professor Bumper, let's hear from you. Is there anything more about this idol of gold that you can tell us?"

"Plenty, Tom, plenty. I could talk all day, and not get to the end of the story. But a lot of it would be scientific detail that might be too dry for you in spite of this excellent lemonade,"

Between them Koku and Eradicate had managed to make a pitcher of the beverage, though Mrs. Baggert, the housekeeper, told Tom afterward that the two had a quarrel in the kitchen as to who should squeeze the lemons, the giant insisting that he had the better right to "punch" them.

"So, not to go into too many details," went on the professor, "I'll just give you a brief outline of this story of the idol of gold.

"Honduras, as you of course know, is a republic of Central America, and it gets its name from something that happened on the fourth voyage of Columbus. He and his men had had days of weary sailing and had sought in vain for shallow water in which they might come to an anchorage. Finally they reached the point now known as Cape Gracias-a-Dios, and when they let the anchor go, and found that in a short time it came to rest on the floor of the ocean, some one of the sailors--perhaps Columbus himself-- is said to have remarked:

"`Thank the Lord, we have left the deep waters (honduras)' that being the Spanish word for unfathomable depths. So Honduras it was called, and has been to this day.

"It is a queer land with many traces of an ancient civilization, a civilization which I believe dates back farther than some in the far East. On the sculptured stones in the Copan valley there are characters which seem to resemble very ancient writing, but this pictographic writing is largely untranslatable.

"Honduras, I might add, is about the size of our state of Ohio. It is rather an elevated table- land, though there are stretches of tropical forest, but it is not so tropical a country as many suppose it to be. There is much gold scattered throughout Honduras, though of late it has not been found in large quantities.

"In the old days, however, before the Spaniards came, it was plentiful, so much, so that the natives made idols of it. And it is one of the largest of these idols--by name Quitzel--that I am going to seek."

"Do you know where it is?" asked Ned.

"Well, it isn't locked up in a safe deposit box, of that I'm sure," laughed the professor. "No, I don't know exactly where it is, except that it is somewhere in an ancient and buried city known as Kurzon. If I knew exactly where it was there wouldn't be much fun in going after it. And if it was known to others it would have been taken away long ago.

"No, we've got to hunt for the idol of gold in this land of wonders where I hope soon to be. Later on I'll show you the documents that put me on the track of this idol. Enough now to show you an old map I found, or, rather, a copy of it, and some of the papers that tell of the idol," and he spread out his packet of papers on the table in front of him, his eyes shining with excitement and pleasure. Mr. Damon, too, leaned eagerly forward.

"So, Tom Swift," went on the professor, "I come to you for help in this matter. I want you to aid me in organizing an expedition to go to Honduras after the idol of gold. Will you?"

"I'll help you, of course," said Tom. "You may use any of my inventions you choose--my airships, my motor boats and submarines, even my giant cannon if you think you can take it with you. And as for the money part, Ned will arrange that for you. But as for going with you myself, it is out of the question. I can't. No Honduras for me!"