The Secret of Phantom Mountain
by Victor Appleton
A MYSTERIOUS MAN
For several minutes Andy Foger did not arise. He remained prostrate in the dust, and Tom, observing him, thought perhaps the bully might have been seriously injured. But, a little later, Andy cautiously raised his head, and inquired in a frightened voice:
"Is itis it gone?"
"Is what gone?" asked Tom, grimly.
At the sound of his voice, Andy looked up. "Was that you, Tom Swift?" he demanded. "Did you knock me off my wheel?"
"My monoplane and I together did," was the reply; "or, rather, we didn't. It was the nervous reaction caused by your fright, and the knowledge that you had done wrong, that made you jump over the handlebars. That's the scientific explanation."
"Youyou did it!" stammered Andy, getting to his feet. He wasn't hurt much, Tom thought.
"Have it your own way," resumed our hero. "Did you think it was a hob-goblin in a chariot of fire after you, Andy?"
"Huh! Never mind what I thought! I'll have you arrested for this!"
"Will you? Delighted, as the boys say. Hop in my airship and I'll take you right into town. And when I get you there I'll make a charge of malicious mischief against you, for breaking the propeller of the Butterfly and slashing her wings. I've mended her up, however, so she goes better than ever, and I can take you to the police station in jig time. Want to come, Andy?"
This was too much for the bully. He knew that Tom would have a clear case against him, and he did not dare answer. Instead he shuffled over to where his wheel lay, picked it up, and rode slowly off.
"Good riddance," murmured Tom. He looked about, and saw that he was near a house, in the rear of which was a good-sized barn. "Guess I'll ask if I can leave the Butterfly there," he murmured, and, ringing the doorbell, he was greeted by a man.
"I'll pay you if you'll let me store my machine in the barn a little while, until I go into the city, and return," spoke the lad.
"Indeed, you're welcome to leave it there without pay," was the answer. "I'm interested in airships, and, I'll consider it a favor if you'll let me look yours over while it's here."
Tom readily agreed, and a few minutes later he had caught a trolley going into the city. He was soon in one of the largest jewelry stores of Chester."I'd like to get an expert opinion as to whether or not those stones are diamonds," spoke Tom, to the polite clerk who came up to wait on him, and our hero handed over the two gems which Mr. Jenks had given him. "I'm willing to pay for the appraisement, of course," the young inventor added, as he saw the clerk looking rather doubtfully at him, for Tom had on a rough suit, which he always donned when he flew in his monoplane.
"I'll turn them over to our Mr. Porter, a gem expert," said the clerk.
"Please be seated."
The young man disappeared into a private office with the stones, and Tom waited. He wondered if he was going to have his trouble for his pains. Presently two elderly gentlemen came from the little room, on the glass door of which appeared the word "Diamonds."
"Who brought these stones in?" asked one of the men, evidently the proprietor, from the deference paid him by the clerk. The latter motioned to Tom.
"Will you kindly step inside here?" requested the elderly man. When the door was closed, Tom found himself in a room which was mostly taken up with a bench for the display of precious stones, a few chairs, and some lights arranged peculiarly; while various scales and instruments stood on a table."You wished an opinion onon these?" queried the proprietor of the place. Tom noticed at once that the word "diamonds" was not used.
"I wanted to find out if they were of any value," he said. "Are they diamonds?"
"Would you mind stating where you got them?" asked the other of the two men.
"Is that necessary?" inquired the lad. "I came by them in a legitimate manner, if that's what you mean, and I can satisfy you on that point. I am willing to pay for any information you may give me as to their value."
"Oh, it isn't that," the proprietor hastened to assure him. "But these are diamonds of such a peculiar kind, so perfect and without a flaw, that I wondered from what part of the world they came."
"Then they are diamonds?" asked Tom, eagerly.
"The finest I have ever tested!" declared the other man, evidently Mr. Porter, the gem expert. "They are a joy to look at, Mr. Roberts," he went on, turning to the proprietor. "If it is possible to get a supply of them you would be justified in asking half as much again as we charge for African or Indian diamonds. The Kimberly products are not to be compared to these," and he looked at the two stones in his handthe one cut, and sparkling brilliantly, the other in a rough state.
"Do you care to state where these diamonds came from?" asked Mr. Roberts, looking critically at Tom.
"I had rather not," answered the lad. "It is enough for me to know that they are diamonds. How much is your charge?"
"Nothing," was the unexpected answer. "We are very glad to have had the opportunity of seeing such stones. Is there any chance of getting any more?"
"Perhaps," answered Tom, as he accepted the gems which the expert held out to him.
"Then might we speak for a supply?" went on Mr. Roberts, eagerly. "We will pay you the full market price."
"What is the value of these stones?" asked Tom.
Mr. Roberts looked at his gem expert.
"It is difficult to say," was the answer of the man who had handed Tom the gems. "They are so far superior to the usual run of diamonds, that I feel justified in saying that the cut one would bring fifteen hundred dollars, anywhere. In fact, I would offer that for it. The other is larger, though what it would lose in cutting would be hard to say. I should say it was worth two thousand dollars as it is now."
"Thirty-five hundred dollars for these two stones!" exclaimed Tom.
"They are worth every cent of it," declared Mr. Roberts. "Do you want to sell?"
Tom shook his head. He could scarcely believe the good news. Mr. Jenks had told the truth. Now the young inventor could go with him to seek the diamond makers.
"Can you get any more of these?" went on Mr. Roberts.
"I think sothat is I don't knowI am going to try," answered the lad.
"Then if you succeed I wish you would sell us some," fairly begged the proprietor of the store.
"I will," promised Tom, but he little knew what lay before him, or perhaps he would not have made that promise. He thanked the diamond merchant for his kindness, and arranged to have the cut stone set in a pin for Miss Nestor.
The uncut gem Tom took away with him.
Thinking of many things, and wondering how best to start in his airship Red Cloud for the mysterious Phantom Mountain, Tom hurried back to where he had left the monoplane, wheeled it out, and was soon soaring through the air toward Shopton.
"I think I'll go with Mr. Jenks," he decided, as he prepared for a landing in the open space near his aeroplane shed. "It will be a risky trip, perhaps, but I've taken risks before. When Mr. Jenks comes to-night I'll tell him I'll help him to get his rights, and discover the secret of the diamond makers."
As Tom was wheeling the Butterfly into the shed, Eradicate came out to help him.
"Dere's a gen'man here to see yo', Tom," he said.
"Who is it?"
"I dunno. He keep askin' ef yo' de lad what done bust up Earthquake Island, an' send lightnin' flashes up to de sky, an' all sech questions laik dat."
"It isn't Mr. Damon; is it, Rad? He hasn't been around in some time."
"No, Tom, it ain't him. I knows dat blessin' man good an' proper. I jest wish he'd bless mah mule Boomerang some day, an' take some oh de temper out ob him. No, sah, it ain't Damon. De gen'man's in de airship shed waitin' fo' you."
"In the airship shed! No strangers are allowed in there, Rad."
"I knows it, Tom, but he done persisted his se'f inter it, an' he wouldn't come out when I told him; an' your pa an' Mr. Jackson ain't home."
"I'll see about this," exclaimed Tom, striding to the large shed, where the Red Cloud was kept. As he entered it he saw a man looking over the wonderful craft.
"Did you want to see me?" asked Tom, sharply, for he did not like strangers prowling around.
"I did, and I apologize for entering here, but I am interested in airships, and I thought you might want to hire a pilot. I am in need of employment, and I have had considerable to do with balloons and aeroplanes, but never with an airship like this, which combines the two features. Do you wish to hire any one."
"No, I don't!" replied Tom, sharply, for he did not like the looks of the man.
"I was told that you did," was the rather surprising answer.
"Who told you?"
The man looked all around the shed, before replying, as if fearful of being overheard. Then, stepping close to Tom, he whispered:
"Mr. Jenks told me!"
"Mr. Jenks?" Tom could not conceal his astonishment.
"Yes. Mr. Barcoe Jenks. But I did not come here to merely ask you for employment. I would like to hire out to you, but the real object of my visit was to say this to you."
The man approached still closer to Tom, and, in a lower voice, and one that could scarcely be heard, he fairly hissed:
"Don't go with Barcoe Jenks to seek the diamond makers!"
Then, before Tom could put out a hand to detain him, had the lad so wished, the man turned suddenly, and fairly ran from the shed.
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