The Secret of Phantom Mountain
by Victor Appelton
BILL RENSHAW WILL HELP
They were all panting from the exertion of the run up the mountain and the contest with the phantoma phantom no longerthough, truth to tell, the struggle was not nearly so fierce as Tom had expected. He thought the "ghost" would put up a stiff fight.
"Got any ropes to tie him with?" asked Mr. Damon, who was helping Tom hold the man down.
"Ropes? You aren't going to tie me up are you, strangers?" asked the captive.
"That's what we are!" exclaimed Mr. Jenks. "We've had trouble enough in this matter, and if I've got one of the gang, perhaps I can get some of the others, and have my rights. So tie him up, Tom, and we'll take him to camp.
"Oh, you needn't go to all that trouble, strangers," went on the man, calmly. "If one of you will get off my chest, and the other gentleman ease up on my stomach a bit, I'll walk wherever you want me, and not make any trouble. I haven't got a gun."
"Bless my gloves! But you're a cool one," commented Mr. Damon, as he complied with the man's request, and got up from his stomach. "But look out for him, Tom. He had a gun, for he fired it in the air."
"He hasn't it now," answered the young inventor. "I knocked it from his hand when I leaped for him."
"That's what you did," assented the man, as he got up, while Tom kept a tight hold of him, as did Mr. Jenks. "What kind of a grizzly bear hug do you call that, anyhow, that you gave me?"
"That was a football tackle," explained Tom.
"I allers heard that was a dangerous game!" remarked the former phantom simply. "Well, now you've got me, what are you going to do with me?"
"Take you where we can have a good look at you," replied Mr. Jenks, as he kicked aside the wooden framework, and the sheet which had made the "ghost" appear so tall. "So this is how you worked it; eh?"
"Yep. That was the 'haunt' stranger. I made it myself, and it worked all right until you folks come along. I rather suspicioned from the first, when I played the trick over on 'tother side of the mountain, that you wouldn't be so easy to fool as most prospectors are."
"Oh, so you're the only ghost then?" asked Tom.
"I'm the only one."
By this time they had reached the camp. Tom threw some light logs on the fire, which blazed up brightly. As the flames illuminated the face of their captive, Mr. Jenks looked at him, and cried out:
"Why it's Bill Renshaw!"
"That's me," admitted the man who had played the part of the phantom, "and thunder-turtles! if it ain't Mr. Jenks who was once in the diamond cave with us. Whatever happened to you? I never heard. The others said you got tired and went away."
"They took me awaydefrauded me of my rights!" declared Mr. Jenks, bitterly.
"But I'll get them back! To think of Bill Renshaw playing the part of a ghost!"
"They made me do it," went on the man, somewhat dejectedly. "I wanted to be at work in the cave, but they wouldn't let me."
"Is this man one of the diamond makers?" asked Tom, in great surprise.
"He isone of the helpers, though I don't believe he knows the secret of making the gems," explained Mr. Jenks. "He was one of the men in the cave when I was there before, and he and I struck up quite a friendship; didn't we, Renshaw?"
"That's what, and there ain't no reason why we can't be friends now; that is unless you hold a grudge against me for firing at you. But I only shot in the air, to scare you away. Them's my instructions. I'm supposed to be on guard, and scare away strangers. I'm tired of the work, too, for I don't get my share, and those other fellows, in the cave, get all the money from the diamonds."
Tom Swift uttered an exclamation. A sudden plan had come to him. Quickly he whispered to Mr. Jenks:
"Make a friend of this man if possible. He evidently is dissatisfied. Offer him a sum to show us another way into the cave, and we may yet discover the secret of the diamond makers."
"I will," declared Mr. Jenks, quietly. Then, turning to Renshaw, he added:
"Bill, come over here. I want to have a talk with you. Perhaps it will be to our mutual advantage."
He led the former phantom to one side, and for some time conversed earnestly with him. Mr. Jenks told the story of how he had been deceived by Folwell and the others who were at the head of the gang of diamond makers. The rich man related how they had taken his money, and, after promising to disclose the secret process to him, had broken faith, and had drugged him, afterward taking him out of the cave.
"I want only my rights, and that for which I paid," concluded Mr. Jenks.
"Now, I gather that these men haven't treated you altogether fairly, Bill."
"Indeed they haven't. I helped 'em to the best of my ability, and all I get out of it is to stay out on this lonely side of the mountain, and play ghost. They owe me money, too, and they won't pay me, either, though they have lots, for they sold some diamonds lately."
"Then they are still making diamonds?" asked Mr. Jenks, eagerly. "Have you seen them? Do you know the secret?"
"No, I don't know it, for they won't let me in on it. I'm always sent out of the cave just before they make the gems. But I know they've made some lately, and have sold 'em. I want my share."
"Look here!" exclaimed Mr. Jenks, quickly, wishing to strike while the iron was hot. "I'll make you a proposition. Show us how to get into that cave, unknown to the diamond makers, and I'll pay you twice what they agreed to. Is it a bargain?"
Bill Renshaw considered a moment. Then he thrust out his hand, clasped that of Mr. Jenks, and exclaimed:
"It is. I'll take you into the cave by an entrance that's seldom used. There are four ways to get in. The one where the two men drove you back is the rear one. The front one is on the other side of the mountain, but it's so well concealed that you'd never find it. But I can take you to one where you can get in, and those fellows will never know it. And, what's more, I'll help you if it comes to a fight!"
"Good!" exclaimed Mr. Jenks. "I think we'll discover the secret of the diamond makers this time," and he went to tell the others of the success of his talk. Bill Renshaw had been converted from an enemy into a friend, and the former phantom was now ready to lead Tom and the others into the secret cave.
"We'll start in the morning," decided Mr. Jenks, who, after many disappointments, at last saw success ahead of him.
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