The Secret of Phantom Mountain
by Victor Appelton
MR. DAMON IS ON HAND
The young inventor stood almost spellbound for a few moments. Then recovering himself he made a dash for the door through which the mysterious man had disappeared. Tom saw him sprinting down the road, and was half-minded to take after him, but a cooler thought warned him that he had better not.
"He may be one of those men who are on Mr. Jenks' trail," reasoned Tom, in which case it might not be altogether safe to attempt to stop him, and make him explain. Or he may be a lunatic, and in that case it wouldn't be altogether healthy to interfere with him.
"I'll just let him go, and tell Mr. Jenks about him when he comes to-night. But I must warn Rad never to let him in here again. He might damage the airship."
Calling to Eradicate, Tom pointed to the stranger, who was almost out of sight down the road, and said earnestly:
"Rad, do you see that fellow?"
"I sho do, Tom, but I sorter has t' strain my eyes t' do it. He's goin' laik my mule Boomerang does when he's comm' home t' dinnah."
"That's right, Rad. Well, never let that man set foot inside our fence again! If he comes, and I'm home, call me. If I'm away, call dad or Mr. Jackson, and if you're here alone, drive him away, somehow."
"I will, Tom!" exclaimed Rad, earnestly, "an' if I can't do it alone, I'll get Boomerang t' help. Once let dat ar' mule git his heels on a pusson, an' dat pusson ain't goin' t' come bodderin' around any mo'that is, not right away."
"I believe you, Rad. Well, keep a lookout for him, and don't let him in," and with that Tom entered the house to think over matters. They were beginning to assume an aspect he did not altogether like. Not that Tom was afraid of danger, but he preferred to meet it in the open, and the warning, or threat, of the mysterious man disquieted him.
When Mr. Swift came home, a little later, his son told him of the midnight interview with Mr. Jenks, for, up to this time, the aged inventor was unaware of it, and Tom also gave an account of the diamonds, speaking of their value.
"And do you propose to go to Phantom Mountain, in search of the makers of these gems, Tom?" asked Mr. Swift.
"I had about decided to do so, dad."
"And you're going in the Red Cloud?'
"Who are going with you?"
"Well, Mr. Jenks will go, of course, and I've no doubt but that if I mention the prospective trip to Mr. Damon, that he'll bless his skating cap, or something like that, and come along."
"I suppose so, Tom, and I'd like to have you take him. But I think you'll need some one else."
"Because, from what you have told me, you are going out to a dangerous part of the country, and you may have to deal with unscrupulous men. Three of you are hardly enough to cope with them. You ought to have at least another member of your party. If I was not busy on my invention of a new wireless motor I would go along, but I can't leave. You might take Mr. Jackson."
"No, you need him here to help you, dad."
"How about Eradicate?"
"Rad would get homesick for his mule Boomerang, and I'd have to bring him back just when we'd found the diamonds," replied the young inventor. "No, we'll have to think of some one else. I'll ask Mr. Damon, and then I'll consider matters further. I expect to see Mr. Jenks to-night, and he may have some one in mind."
"Perhaps that will be a good plan. Well, Tom, I trust you will take good care of yourself, and not run into unnecessary danger. Is the Red Cloud in good shape for the voyage?"
"It needs looking over. I'm going to get right at it."
"It's a pretty indefinite sort of a quest you're going on, Tom, my son. How do you expect to find Phantom Mountain?"
"Well, it's going to be quite a task. In the first place we'll head for Leadville, Colorado, and then we'll go to Indian Ridge and make some inquiries. We may get on the track of the place that way. If we don't, why I'll take the airship up as high as is necessary and sort of prospect until we see that big cliff that's shaped like a head. That will give us something to go by."
"Well, do the best you can. If you can discover the secret of making diamonds it will be a valuable one."
"I guess it will, dad; and Mr. Jenks is entitled to know it, for he paid his good money to that end. He has promised to go halves with me, as payment for the use of the airship, and I must say the two diamonds he gave me last night have proved very valuable."
"Two diamonds, Tom? You only showed me one, an uncut gem"; and Mr. Swift looked at his son.
"Oh, the othererthe other isI left it with a jeweler," and Tom blushed a trifle, as he thought of the present he contemplated making to Mary Nestor.That afternoon, as Tom was out in the shed of the Red Cloud looking over the airship, to see what would be necessary to do to it in order to get it in shape for a long trip, he heard voices outside.
"Yesyes, I know the way in perfectly well," he caught. "You needn't bother to come, my good fellow. Just step this way, and I'll show you something worth seeing."
"I wonder if it's that mysterious man coming back?" thought Tom. He dropped the tool he was using, and hurried to the door. As he approached it he heard the voice continue.
"Why bless my shoe laces, Mr. Parker! You'll see a wonderful airship, I promise you. Wonderful! Bless my hatband, but I hope Tom is here!"
"Mr. Damon!" exclaimed our hero, as he recognized the tones of his eccentric friend. "But who is with him?"
A moment later he caught sight of the gentleman who was always blessing himself, or something. Behind him stood another man, whose features Tom could not see plainly.
"Hello, Tom Swift!" called Mr. Damon. "Looking over the Red Cloud, eh? Does that mean you're off on another trip?"
"I guess it does," answered the lad.
"Where to this time? if I may ask."
"I'm thinking of going off to the mountains to find a band of men engaged in making diamonds," replied Tom.
"Making diamonds! Bless my finger ring! Making diamonds! A trip to the mountains! Bless my disposition! but do you know I'd like to go with you!"
"I was thinking of asking you, Mr. Damon."
"Were you? Bless my heart, I'm glad you thought of me. You don't by any possible chance want another person; do you?"
"We were thinking of having four in the party, Mr. Damon," and Tom wondered who was with his eccentric friend.
"Then bless my election ticket! This is the very chance for you, Mr. Parker!" cried Mr. Damon. "Will you go with us? It will be just what you need," and Mr. Damon stepped aside, revealing to Tom the features of Mr. Ralph Parker, the scientist who had correctly predicted the destruction of Earthquake Island.
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