Tom Swift and His Wireless Message/Chapter 18

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Stunned, and well-nigh paralyzed by the suddenness of the awful crash, and the recurrence of the earthquake, the castaways gazed spell-bound at one another.

Succeeding the disappearance of the end of the island there arose a great wave in the ocean, caused by the immersion of such a quantity of rock and dirt.

"Look out!" yelled Tom, "there may be a flood here!"

They realized his meaning, and hastened up the beach, out of reach of the water if it should come. And it did. At first the ocean retreated, as though the tide was going out, then, with a rush and roar, the waves came leaping back, and, had the castaways remained where they had been standing they would have been swept out to sea.

As it was the flood reached part of the wreck of the airship, that lay on the beach, and washed away some of the broken planks. But, after the first rush of water, the sea grew less troubled, and there was no more danger from that source.

True, the whole island was rumbling and trembling in the throes of an earthquake, but, by this time, the refugees had become somewhat used to this, and only the two ladies exhibited any outward signs of great alarm, though Mr. Barcoe Jenks, Tom observed, was nervously fingering the belt which he wore about his waist.

"I guess the worst is over," spoke Mr. Fenwick, as they stood looking toward where part of the island had vanished. "The shock expended itself on tearing that mass of rock and earth away."

"Let us hope so," added Mr. Hosbrook, solemnly. "Oh, if we could only get away from this terrible place! We must hoist a signal of distress, even if we are out of the track of regular vessels. Some ship, blown out of her course may see it. Captain Mentor, I wish you and Mr. Fordam would attend to that."

"I will, sir," answered the commander of the ill-fated Resolute. "The signal shall be hoisted at once. Come on, Mr. Fordam," he added, turning to the first mate.

"If you don't mind," interrupted Tom, "I wish you would first help me to get what remains of the airship up out of reach of any more possible high waves. That one nearly covered it, and if there are other big rollers, the wreck may be washed out to sea."

"I can't see that any great harm would result from that," put in Mr. Jenks. "There isn't anything about the wreck that we could use to make a boat or raft from." Indeed, there was little left of the airship, save the mass of machinery.

"Well, it may come in handy before we leave here," said Tom, and there was a quiet determined air about him, that caused Mr. Damon to look at him curiously. The odd gentleman started to utter one of his numerous blessings, and to ask Tom a question, but he thought better of it. By this time the earthquake had ceased, and the castaways were calmer.

Tom started toward the airship wreck, and began pulling off some broken boards to get at the electrical machinery.

"I guess you had better give Mr. Swift a hand, Captain Mentor," spoke the millionaire yacht owner. "I don't know what good the wreck can be, but we owe considerable to Mr. Swift and his friends, and the least we can do is to aid them in anything they ask. So, Captain, if you don't mind, you and the mate bear a hand. In fact, we'll all help, and move the wreck so far up that there will be no danger, even from tidal waves."

Torn looked pleased at this order, and soon he and all the men in the little party were busy taking out the electrical apparatus, and moving it farther inland.

"What are you going to do with it, Tom?" asked Mr. Damon, in a low voice, as he assisted the young inventor to carry a small dynamo, that was used for operating the incandescent lights.

"I hardly know myself. I have a half-formed plan in my mind. I may be able to carry it out, and I may not. I don't want to say anything until I look over the machinery, and see if all the parts which I need are here. Please say nothing about it."

"Bless my toothpick! Of course, I'll not," promised Mr. Damon.

When the removal of most of the machinery of the wrecked airship had been completed, Mrs. Nestor exclaimed:

"Well, since you are moving that out of harm's way, don't you think it would be a good idea to change our camp, also? I'm sure I'll never sleep a wink, thinking that part of the island may fall into the ocean at any moment in the night, and create a wave that may wash us all out to sea. Can't we move the camp, Mr. Swift?"

"No reason why we can't," answered the lad, smiling. "I think it would be a good plan to take it farther back. We are likely to be here some time, and, while we are about it, we might build more complete shelters, and have a few more comforts."

The others agreed with this idea, so the little shacks that had been erected were taken down, and moved to higher ground, where a better outlook could be had of the surrounding ocean. At the same time as safe a place as possible, considering the frequent earthquakes, was picked out—a place where there were no overhanging rocks or cliffs.

Three huts were built, one for the two ladies, one for the men, and third where the cooking could be done. This last also held the food supplies and stores, and Tom noted, with satisfaction, that there was still sufficient to eat to last over a week. Mr. Fenwick had not stinted his kitchen stores.

This work done, Captain Mentor and Mate Fordam went to the highest part of the island, where they erected a signal, made from pieces of canvas that had been in the life boat. The boat itself was brought around to the new camp, and at first it was hoped that it could be repaired, and used. But too large a hole had been stove in the bottom, so it was broken up, and the planks used in making the shacks.

This work occupied the better part of two days, and during this time, there were no more earthquakes. The castaways began to hope that the island would not be quiet for a while. Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Nestor assumed charge of the "housekeeping" arrangements, and also the cooking, which relieved Tom from those duties. The two ladies even instituted "wash-day," and when a number of garments were hung on lines to dry, the camp looked like some summer colony of pleasure-seekers, out for a holiday.

In the meanwhile, Tom had spent most of his time among the machinery which had been taken from the airship. He inspected it carefully, tested some of the apparatus, and made some calculations on a bit of paper. He seemed greatly pleased over something, and one afternoon, when he was removing some of the guy and stay wires from the collapsed frame of the Whizzer, he was approached by Mr. Barcoe Jenks.

"Planning something new?" asked Mr. Jenks, with an attempt at jollity, which, however, failed. The man had a curious air about him, as if he was carrying some secret that was too much for him.

"Well, nothing exactly new," answered Tom. "At best I am merely going to try an experiment."

"An experiment, eh?" resumed Mr. Jenks. "And might I ask if it has anything to do with rescuing us from this island?"

"I hope it will have," answered Tom, gravely.

"Good!" exclaimed Mr. Jenks. "Well, now I have a proposition to make to you. I suppose you are not very wealthy, Mr. Swift?" He gazed at Tom, quizzically.

"I am not poor," was the young inventor's proud answer, "but I would be glad to make more money—legitimately."

"I thought so. Most every one would. Look here!"

He approached closer to Tom, and, pulling his hand from his pocket, held it extended. In the palm were a number of irregularly-shaped objects—stones or crystals the lad took them to be, yet they did not look like ordinary stones or crystals.

"Do you know what those are?" asked Mr, Jenks.

"I might guess," replied Tom.

"I'll save you the trouble. They are diamonds! Diamonds of the very first water, but uncut. Now to the point. I have half a million dollars worth of them. If you get me safely off this island, I will agree to make you a quarter of a million dollars worth of diamonds!"

"Make me a quarter of a million dollars worth of diamonds?" asked Tom, struck by the use of the work "make."

"Yes, 'make,'" answered Mr. Jenks. "That is if I can discover the secret—the secret of Phantom Mountain. Get me away from the island and I will share my knowledge with you—I need help—help to learn the secret and help to make the diamonds—see, there are some of the first ones made, but I have been defrauded of my rights—I need the aid of a young fellow like you. Will you help? See, I'll give you some diamonds now. They are genuine, though they are not like ordinary diamonds. I made them. Will you——"

Before Tom could answer, there came a warning rumble of the earth, and a great fissure opened, almost at the feet of Mr. Jenks, who, with a cry of fear, leaped toward the young inventor.