Chapter VII. Tom Hears Something
 

On hearing Mr. Damon's rather startling announcement, Tom and Ned looked at one another. There seemed to be something back of the simple statement--an ominous and portending "something."

"On the same steamer with us, is he?" mused Tom.

"How did you learn this?" asked Ned.

"Just got a wire from Professor Bumper telling me. He asked me to telephone to you about it, as he was too busy to call up on the long distance from New York. But instead of 'phoning I decided to come over myself."

"Glad you did," said Tom, heartily. "Did Professor Bumper want us to do anything special, now that it is certain his rival will be so close on his trail?"

"Yes, he asked me to warn you to be careful what you did and said in reference to the expedition."

"Then does he fear something?" asked Ned.

"Yes, in a way. I think he is very much afraid this young Beecher will not only be first on the site of the underground city, but that he may be the first to discover the idol of gold. It would be a great thing for a young archaeologist like Beecher to accomplish a mission of this sort, and beat Professor Bumper in the race."

"Do you think that's why Beecher decided to go on the same steamer we are to take?" asked Ned.

"Yes, I do," said Mr. Damon. "Though from what Professor Bumper said I know he regards Professor Beecher as a perfectly honorable man, as well as a brilliant student. I do not believe Beecher or his party would stoop to anything dishonorable or underhand, though they would not hesitate, nor would we, to take advantage of every fair chance to win in the race."

"No, I suppose that's right," observed Tom; but there was a queer gleam in his eye, and his chum wondered if Tom did not have in mind the prospective race between himself and Fenimore Beecher for the regard of Mary Nestor. "We'll do our best to win, and any one is at liberty to travel on the same steamer we are to take," added the young inventor, and his tone became more incisive.

"It will be all the livelier with two expeditions after the same golden idol," remarked Ned.

"Yes, I think we're in for some excitement," observed Tom grimly. But even he did not realize all that lay before them ere they would reach Kurzon.

Mr. Damon, having delivered his message, and remarking that his preparations for leaving were nearly completed, went back to Waterfield, from there to proceed to New York in a few days with Tom and Ned, to meet Professor Bumper.

"Well, I guess we have everything in pretty good shape," remarked Tom to his chum a day or so after the visit of Mr. Damon. "Everything is packed, and as I have a few personal matters to attend to I think I'll take the afternoon off."

"Go to it!" laughed Ned, guessing a thing of two. "I've got a raft of stuff myself to look after, but don't let that keep you."

"If there is anything I can do," began Tom, "don't hesitate to----"

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Ned. "I can do it all alone. It's some of the company's business, anyhow, and I'm paid for looking after that."

"All right, then I'll cut along," Tom said, and he wore a relieved air.

"He's going to see Mary," observed Ned with a grin, as he observed Tom hop into his trim little roadster, which under his orders, Koku had polished and cleaned until it looked as though it had just come from the factory.

A little later the trim and speedy car drew up in front of the Nestor home, and Tom bounded up on the front porch, his heart not altogether as light as his feet.

"No, I'm sorry, but Mary isn't in," said Mrs. Nestor, answering his inquiry after greeting him.

"Not at home?"

"No, she went on a little visit to her cousin's at Fayetteville. She said something about letting you know she was going."

"She did drop me a card," answered Tom, and, somehow he did not feel at all cheerful. "But I thought it wasn't until next week she was going."

"That was her plan, Tom. But she changed it. Her cousin wired, asking her to advance the date, and this Mary did. There was something about a former school chum who was also to be at Myra's house--Myra is Mary's cousin you know."

"Yes, I know," assented the young inventor. "And so Mary is gone. How long is she going to stay?"

"Oh, about two weeks. She wasn't quite certain. It depends on the kind of a time she has, I suppose."

"Yes, I suppose so," agreed Tom. "Well, if you write before I do you might say I called, Mrs. Nestor."

"I will, Tom. And I know Mary will be sorry she wasn't here to take a ride with you; it's such a nice day," and the lady smiled as she looked at the speedy roadster.

"Maybe--maybe you'd like to come for a spin?" asked Tom, half desperately.

"No, thank you. I'm too old to be jounced around in one of those small cars."

"Nonsense! She rides as easily as a Pullman sleeper."

"Well, I have to go to a Red Cross meeting, anyhow, so I can't come, Tom. Thank you, just the same."

Tom did not drive back immediately to his home. He wanted to do a bit of thinking, and he believed he could do it best by himself. So it was late afternoon when he again greeted Ned, who, meanwhile, had been kept very busy.

"Well?" called Tom's chum.

"Um!" was the only answer, and Tom called Koku to put the car away in the garage.

"Something wrong," mused Ned.

The next three days were crowded with events and with work. Mr. Damon came over frequently to consult with Tom and Ned, and finally the last of their baggage had been packed, certain of Tom's inventions and implements sent on by express to New York to be taken to Honduras, and then our friends themselves followed to the metropolis.

"Good-bye, Tom," said his father. "Good- bye, and good luck! If you don't get the idol of gold I'm sure you'll have experiences that will be valuable to you."

"We're going to get the idol of gold!" said Tom determinedly.

"Look out for the bad bugs," suggested Eradicate.

"We will," promised Ned.

Tom's last act was to send a message to Mary Nestor, and then he, with Ned and Mr. Damon, who blessed everything in sight from the gasoline in the automobile to the blue sky overhead, started for the station.

New York was reached without incident. The trio put up at the hotel where Professor Bumper was to meet them.

"He hasn't arrived yet," said Tom, after glancing over the names on the hotel register and not seeing Professor Bumper's among them.

"Oh, he'll be here all right," asserted Mr. Damon. "Bless my galvanic battery! he sent me a telegram at one o'clock this morning saying he'd be sure to meet us in New York. No fear of him not starting for the land of wonders."

"There are some other professors registered, though," observed Ned, as he glanced at the book, noting the names of several scientists of whom he and Tom had read.

"Yes. I wonder what they're doing in New York," replied Tom. "They are from New England. Maybe there's a convention going on. Well, we'll have to wait, that's all, until Professor Bumper comes."

And during that wait Tom heard something that surprised him and caused him no little worry. It was when Ned came back to his room, which adjoined Tom's, that the young treasurer gave his chum the news.

"I say, Tom!" Ned exclaimed. "Who do you think those professors are, whose names we saw on the register?"

"I haven't the least idea."

"Why, they're of Beecher's party!"

"You don't mean it!"

"I surely do."

"How do you know?"

"I happened to overhear two of them talking down in the lobby a while ago. They didn't make any secret of it. They spoke freely of going with Beecher to some ancient city in Honduras, to look for an idol of gold."

"They did? But where is Beecher?"

"He hasn't joined them yet. Their plans have been changed. Instead of leaving on the same steamer we are to take in the morning they are to come on a later one. The professors here are waiting for Beecher to come."

"Why isn't he here now?"

"Well, I heard one of the other scientists say that he had gone to a place called Fayetteville, and will come on from there."

"Fayetteville!" ejaculated Tom. "Yes. That isn't far from Shopton."

"I know," assented Tom. "I wonder--I wonder why he is going there?"

"I can tell you that, too."

"You can? You're a regular detective."

"No, I just happened to overhear it. Beecher is going to call on Mary Nestor in Fayetteville, so his friends here said he told them, and his call has to do with an important matter--to him!" and Ned gazed curiously at his chum.