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´╗┐Title: Tom Swift and His Air Glider, or Seeking the Platinum Treasure
Author: Appleton, Victor [pseud.]
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.


*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Tom Swift and His Air Glider, or Seeking the Platinum Treasure" ***


TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIR GLIDER

or

Seeking the Platinum Treasure


By

VICTOR APPLETON



CONTENTS

     I  A Breakdown
    II  A Daring Project
   III  The Hand of the Czar
    IV  The Search
     V  A Clew from Russia
    VI  Rescuing Mr. Petrofsky
   VII  The Air Glider
  VIII  In a Great Gale
    IX  The Spies
     X  Off in the Airship
    XI  A Storm at Sea
   XII  An Accident
  XIII  Seeking a Quarrel
   XIV  Hurried Flight
    XV  Pursued
   XVI  The Nihilists
  XVII  On to Siberia
 XVIII  In a Russian Prison
   XIX  Lost in a Salt Mine
    XX  The Escape
   XXI  The Rescue
  XXII  In the Hurricane
 XXIII  The Lost Mine
  XXIV  The Leaking Tanks
   XXV  Homeward Bound--Conclusion



TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIR GLIDER



CHAPTER I

A BREAKDOWN


"Well, Ned, are you ready?"

"Oh, I suppose so, Tom. As ready as I ever shall be."

"Why, Ned Newton, you're not getting afraid; are you? And after you've
been on so many trips with me?"

"No, it isn't exactly that, Tom. I'd go in a minute if you didn't have
this new fangled thing on your airship. But how do you know how it's
going to work--or whether it will work at all? We may come a cropper."

"Bless my insurance policy!" exclaimed a man who was standing near the
two lads who were conversing. "You'd better keep near the ground, Tom."

"Oh, that's all right, Mr. Damon," answered Tom Swift. "There isn't any
more danger than there ever was, but I guess Ned is nervous since our
trip to the underground city of gold."

"I am not!" indignantly exclaimed the other lad, with a look at the
young inventor. "But you know yourself, Tom, that putting this new
propeller on your airship, changing the wing tips, and re-gearing the
motor has made an altogether different sort of a craft of it. You,
yourself, said it wasn't as reliable as before, even though it does go
faster."

"Now look here, Ned!" burst out Tom. "That was last week that I said it
wasn't reliable. It is now, for I've tried it out several times, and
yet, when I ask you to take a trip with me, to act as ballast--"

"Is that all you want me for, Tom, to act as ballast? Then you'd better
take a bag of sand--or Mr. Damon here!"

"Me? I guess not! Bless my diamond ring! My wife hasn't forgiven me for
going off on that last trip with you, Tom, and I'm not going to take
any more right away. But I don't blame Ned--"

"Say, look here!" cried Tom, a little out of patience, "you know me
better than that, Ned. Of course your more than ballast--I want you to
help me manage the craft since I made the changes on her. Now if you
don't want to come, why say so, and I'll get Eradicate. I don't believe
he'll be afraid, even if he--"

"Hold on dar now, Massa Tom!" exclaimed an aged colored man, who was an
all around helper at the Swift homestead, "was yo' referencin' t' me
when yo' spoke?"

"Yes, Rad, I was saying that if Ned wouldn't go up in the airship with
me you would."

"Well, now, Masa Tom, I shorely would laik t' 'blige yo', I shore
would.  But de fack ob de mattah am dat I has a mos' particular job ob
white washin' t' do dish mornin', an' I 'spects I'd better be gittin'
at it.  It's a mos' particular job, an', only fo' dat, I'd be mos'
pleased t' go up in de airship. But as it am, I mus' ax yo' t' 'scuse
me, I really mus'," and the colored man shuffled off at a faster gait
than he was in the habit of using.

"Well, of all things!" gasped Tom. "I believe you're all afraid of the
old airship, just because I wade some changes in her. I'll go up alone,
that's what I will."

"No, I'll go with you," interposed Ned Newton who was Tom's most
particular chum. "I only wanted to be sure it was all right, that was
all."

"Well, if you've fully made up your mind," went on the young inventor,
a little mollified, "lend me a hand to get her in shape for a run. I
expect to make faster time than I ever did before, and I'm going to
head out Waterford way. You'd better come along, Mr. Damon, and I'll
drop you off at your house."

"Bless my feather bed!" gasped the man. "Drop me off! I like that, Tom
Swift!"

"Oh, I didn't mean it exactly that way," laughed Tom. "But will you
come."

"No, thanks, I'm going home by trolley," and then as the odd man went
in the house to speak to Tom's father, the two lads busied themselves
about the airship.

This was a large aeroplane, one of the largest Tom Swift had ever
constructed, and he was a lad who had invented many kinds of machinery
besides crafts for navigating the upper regions. It was not as large as
his combined aeroplane and dirigible balloon of which I have told you
in other books, but it was of sufficient size to carry three persons
besides other weight.

Tom had built it some years before, and it had seemed good enough then.
Later he constructed some of different models, besides the big
combination affair, and he had gone on several trips in that.

He and his chum Ned, together with Eradicate Sampson, the colored man,
and Mr. Damon, had been to a wonderful underground city of gold in
Mexico, and it was soon after their return from this perilous trip that
Tom had begun the work of changing his old aeroplane into a speedier
craft.

This had occupied him most of the Winter, and now that Spring had come
he had a chance to try what a re-built motor, changed propellers, and
different wing tips would do for the machine.

The time had come for the test and, as we have seen, Tom had some
difficulty in persuading anyone to go along with him? But Ned finally
got over his feeling of nervousness.

"Understand, Tom," spoke Ned, "it isn't because I don't think you know
how to work an aeroplane that I hesitated. I've been up in the air with
you enough times to know that you're there with the goods, but I don't
believe even you know what this machine is going to do."

"I can pretty nearly tell. I'm sure my theory is right."

"I don't doubt that. But will it work out in practice?"

"She may not make all the speed I hope she will, and I may not be able
to push her high into the air quicker than I used to before I made the
changes," admitted Tom, "but I'm sure of one thing. She'll fly, and she
won't come down until I'm ready to let her. So you needn't worry about
getting hurt."

"All right--if you say so. Now what do you want me to do, Tom?"

"Go over the wire guys and stays for the first thing. There's going to
be lots of vibration, with the re-built motor, and I want everything
tight."

"Aye, aye, sir!" answered Ned with a laugh.

Then he set at his task, tightening the small nuts, and screwing up the
turn-buckles, while Tom busied himself over the motor. There was some
small trouble with the carburetor that needed eliminating before it
would feed properly.

"How about the tires?" asked Ned, when he had finished the wires.

"You might pump them up. There, the motor is all right. I'm going to
try it now, while you attend to the tires."

Ned had pumped up one of the rubber circlets of the small bicycle
wheels on which the aeroplane rested, and was beginning on the second,
when a noise like a battery of machine guns going off next to his ear
startled him so that he jumped, tripped over a stone and went down, the
air pump thumping him in the back.

"What in the world happened, Tom?" he yelled, for he had to use all his
lung power to be heard above that racket. "Did it explode?"

"Explode nothing!" shouted Tom. "That's the re-built motor in action."

"In action! I should say it was in action. Is it always going to roar
like that?"

Indeed the motor was roaring away, spitting fire and burnt gases from
the exhaust pipe, and enveloping the aeroplane in a whitish haze of
choking smoke.

No, I have the muffler cut out, and that's why she barks so. But she
runs easier that way, and I want to get her smoothed out a bit.

"Whew! That smoke!" gasped his chum. "Why don't you--whew--this is more
than I can stand," and holding his hands to his smarting eyes, Ned,
gasping and choking, staggered away to where the air was better.

"It is sort of thick," admitted Tom. "But that's only because she's
getting too much oil. She'll clear in a few minutes. Stick around and
we'll go up."

Despite the choking vapor, the young inventor stuck to his task of
regulating the motor, and in a short while the smoke became less, while
the big propeller blades whirled about more evenly. Then Tom adjusted
the muffler, and most of the noise stopped.

"Come on back, and finish pumping up the tires," he shouted to Ned.
"I'm going to stop her now, and then I'll give her the pressure test,
and we'll take a trip."

Having cleared his eyes of smoke, Ned came back to his task, and this
having been finished, Tom attached a heavy spring balance, or scales,
to the rope that held the airship back from moving when her propellers
were whirling about.

"How much pressure do you want?" asked Ned.

"I ought to get above twelve hundred With the way the motor is geared,
but I'll go up with ten. Watch the needle for me."

It may be explained that when aeroplanes are tested on the earth the
propellers are set in motion. This of course would send a craft
whizzing over the ground, eventually to rise in the air, but for the
fact that a rope, attached to the craft, and to some stationary object,
holds it back.

Now if this rope is hooked to a spring balance, which in turn is made
fast to the stationary object, the "thrust" of the propellers will be
registered in pounds on the scale of the balance. Anywhere from five
hundred to nine hundred pounds of thrust will take a monoplane or
biplane up. But Tom wanted more than this.

Once more the motor coughed and spluttered, and the big blades whirled
about so fast that they seemed like solid pieces of wood. Tom stood on
the ground near the levers which controlled the speed, and Ned watched
the scale.

"How much?" yelled the young inventor.

"Eight hundred."

Tom turned on a little more gasolene.

"How much?" he cried again.

"Ten hundred. That'll do!"

"No, I'm going to try for more."

Again he advanced the spark and gasolene levers, and the comparatively
frail craft vibrated so that it seemed as if she would fly apart.

"Now?" yelled Tom.

"Eleven hundred and fifty!" cried Ned.

"Good! That'll do it. She'll give more after she's been running a
while.  We'll go up."

Ned scrambled to his seat, and Tom followed. He had an arrangement so
that he could slip loose the retaining rope from his perch whenever he
was ready.

Waiting until the motor had run another minute, the young inventor
pulled the rope that released them. Over the smooth starting ground
that formed a part of the Swift homestead darted the aeroplane. Faster
and faster she moved, Ned gripping the sides of his seat.

"Here we go!" cried Tom, and the next instant they shot up into the air.

Ned Newton had ridden many times with his chum Tom, and the sensation
of gliding through the upper regions was not new to him. But this time
there was something different. The propellers seemed to take hold of
the air with a firmer grip. There was more power, and certainly the
speed was terrific.

"We're going fast!" yelled Ned into Tom's ear.

"That's right," agreed the young inventor. "She'll beat anything but my
Sky Racer, and she'd do that if she was the same size." Tom referred to
a very small aeroplane he had made some time before. It was like some
big bird, and very swift.

Up and onward went the remodeled airship, faster and faster, until,
when several miles had been covered, Ned realized that the young
inventor had achieved another triumph.

"It's great, Tom! Great!" he yelled.

"Yes, I guess it will do, Ned. I'm satisfied. If there was an
international meet now I'd capture some of the prizes. As it is--"

Tom stopped suddenly. His voice which had been raised to overcome the
noise of even the muffled motor, sounded unnaturally loud, and no
wonder, for the engine had ceased working!

"What's the matter?" gasped Ned.

"I don't know--a breakdown of some kind."

"Can you get it going again?"

"I'm going to try."

Tom was manipulating various levers, but with no effect. The aeroplane
was shooting downward with frightful rapidity.

"No use!" exclaimed the young inventor. "Something has broken."

"But We're falling, Tom!"

"I know it. We've done it before. I'm going to volplane to earth."

This, it may be explained, is gliding downward from a height with the
engine shut off. Aeroplanists often do it, and Tom was no novice at the
art.

They shot downward with less speed now, for the young inventor had
thrown up his headplanes to act as a sort of brake. Then, a little
later they made a good landing in a field near a small house, in a
rather lonely stretch of country, about ten miles from Shopton, where
Tom lived.

"Now to see what the trouble is," remarked our hero, as he climbed out
of his seat and began looking over the engine. He poked in among the
numerous cogs, wheels and levers, and finally uttered an exclamation.

"Find it?" asked Ned.

"Yes, it's in the magneto. All the platinum bearings and contact
surfaces have fused and crystallized. I never saw such poor platinum as
I've been getting lately, and I pay the highest prices for it, too. The
trouble is that the supply of platinum is giving out, and they'll have
to find a substitute I guess."

"Can't we go home in her?" asked Ned.

"I'm afraid not. I've got to put in new platinum bearings and contacts
before she'll spark. I only wish I could get hold of some of the better
kind of metal."

The magneto of an aeroplane performs a service similar to one in an
automobile. It provides the spark that explodes the charge of gas in
the cylinders, and platinum is a metal, more valuable now than gold,
much used in the delicate parts of the magneto.

"Well, I guess it's walk for ours," said Ned ruefully.

"I'm afraid so," went on Tom. "If I only had some platinum, I could--"

"Perhaps I could be of service to you," suddenly spoke a voice behind
them, and turning, the youths saw a tall, bearded man, who had
evidently come from the lonely house. "Did I hear you say you needed
some platinum?" he asked. He spoke with a foreign accent, and Tom at
once put him down for a Russian.

"Yes, I need some for my magneto," began the young inventor.

"If you will kindly step up to my house, perhaps I can give you what
you want," went on the man. "My name is Ivan Petrofsky, and I have only
lately come to live here."

"I'm Tom Swift, of Shopton, and this is my chum, Ned Newton," replied
the young inventor, completing the introductions. He was wondering why
the man, who seemed a cultured gentleman, should live in such a lonely
place, and he was wondering too how he happened to have some platinum.

"Will that answer?" asked Mr. Petrofsky, when they had reached his
house, and he had handed Tom several strips of the precious silverlike
metal.

"Do? I should say it would! My, but that is the best platinum I've seen
in a long while!" exclaimed Tom, who was an expert judge of this metal.
"Where did you get it, if I may ask?"

"It came from a lost mine in Siberia," was the unexpected answer.

"A lost mine?" gasped Tom.

"In Siberia?" added Ned.

Mr. Petrofsky slowly nodded his head, and smiled, but rather sadly.

"A lost mine," he said slowly, "and if it could be found I would be the
happiest man on earth for I would then be able to locate and save my
brother, who is one of the Czar's exiles," and he seemed shaken by
emotion.

Tom and Ned stood looking at the bearded man, and then the young
inventor glanced at the platinum strips in his hand while a strange and
daring thought came to him.



CHAPTER II

A DARING PROJECT


While Tom and his chum are in the house of the Russian, who so
strangely produced the platinum just when it was most needed, I am
going to take just a little time to tell you something about the hero
of this story.  Those who have read the previous books of this series
need no introduction to him, but in justice to my new readers I must
make a little explanation.

Tom Swift was an inventor, as was his father before him. But Mr. Swift
was getting too old, now, to do much, though he had a pet
invention--that of a gyroscope--on which he worked from time to time.
Tom lived with his father in the village of Shopton, in New York state.
His mother was dead, but a housekeeper, named Mrs. Baggert, looked
after the wants of the inventors, young and old.

The first book of the series was called "Tom Swift and His
Motor-Cycle," and in that I related how Tom bought the machine from a
Mr. Wakefield Damon, of Waterford, after the odd gentleman had
unintentionally started to climb a tree with it. That disgusted Mr.
Damon with motor-cycling, and Tom had lots of fun on the machine, and
not a few daring adventures.

He and Mr. Damon became firm friends, and the oddity of the
gentleman--mainly that of blessing everything he could think of--was no
objection in Tom's mind. The young inventor and Ned Newton went on many
trips together, Mr. Damon being one of the party.

In Shopton lived Andy Foger, a bullying sort of a chap, who acted very
meanly toward Tom at times. Another resident of the town was a Mr.
Nestor, but Tom was more interested in his daughter Mary than in the
head of the household. Add Eradicate Sampson, an eccentric colored man
who said he got his name because he "eradicated" dirt, and his mule,
Boomerang, and I think you have met the principal characters of these
stories.

After Tom had much enjoyment out of his motor-cycle, he got a motor
boat, and one of his rivals on Lake Carlopa was this same Andy Foger,
but our hero vanquished him. Then Tom built an airship, which had been
the height of his ambition for some years. He had a stirring cruise in
the Red Cloud, and then, deserting the air for the water, Tom and his
father built a submarine, in which they went after sunken treasure. In
the book, "Tom Swift and His Electric Runabout," I told how, in the
speediest car on the road, Tom saved his father's bank from ruin, and
in the book dealing with Tom's wireless message I related how he saved
the Castaways of Earthquake Island.

When Tom went among the diamond makers, at the request of Mr. Barco
Jenks, and discovered the secret of phantom mountain the lad fancied
that might be the end of his adventures, but there were more to follow.
Going to the caves of ice, his airship was wrecked, but he and his
friends managed to get back home, and then it was that the young
inventor perfected his sky racer, in which he made the quickest flight
on record.

Most startling were his adventures in elephant land whither he went
with his electric rifle, and he was the means of saving a missionary,
Mr. Illingway and his wife, from the red pygmies.

Tom had not been home from Africa long before he got a letter from this
missionary, telling about an underground City in Mexico that was said
to be filled with gold. Tom went there, and in the book, entitled, "Tom
Swift in the City of Gold," I related his adventures.

How he and his friends were followed by the Fogers, how they eluded
them, made their way to the ruined temple in a small dirigible balloon,
descended to the secret tunnel, managed to turn aside the underground
river, and reach the city of gold with its wonderful gold statues--all
this is told in the volume.

Then, after pulling down, in the centre of the underground city, the
big golden statue, the door of rock descended, and made our friends
prisoners. They almost died, but Andy Foger and his father, in league
with some rascally Mexicans and a tribe of head-hunters, finally made
their way to the tunnel, and most unexpectedly, released Tom and his
friends.

There was a fight, but our hero's party escaped with considerable gold
and safely reached Shopton. Now, after a winter spent in work, fixing
over an old aeroplane, we again meet Tom.

"Would you mind telling me something about where this platinum comes
from, and if you can get any more of it?" asked Tom, after a pause,
following the strange statement made by the Russian.

"I will gladly tell you the story," spoke Mr. Petrofsky, "for I am much
interested in inventions, and I formerly did something in that line
myself, and I have even made a small aeroplane, so you see I know the
need of platinum in a high power magneto."

"But where did you get such pure metal?" asked Tom. "I have never seen
it's equal."

"There is none like it in all the world," went on the Russian, "and
perhaps there never can be any more. I have only a small supply. But in
Siberia--in the lost mine--there is a large quantity of it, as pure as
this, needing only a little refining.

"Can't we get some from there?" asked the young inventor eagerly. "I
should think the Russian government would mine it, and export it."

"They would--if they could find it," said Ivan Petrofsky dryly, "but
they can't--no one can find it--and I have tried very hard--so hard, in
fact, that it is the reason for my coming to this country--that and the
desire to find and aid my brother, who is a Siberian exile."

"This is getting interesting," remarked Ned to Tom in a low voice, and
the young inventor nodded.

"My brother Peter, who is younger than I by a few years, and I, are the
last of our family," began Mr. Petrofsky, motioning Tom and Ned to take
chairs. "We lived in St. Petersburg, and early in life, though we were
of the nobility, we took up the cause of the common people."

"Nihilists?" asked Ned eagerly, for he had read something of these
desperate men.

"No, and not anarchists," said Mr. Petrofsky with a sad smile. "Our
party was opposed to violence, and we depended on education to aid our
cause. Then, too, we did all we could in a quiet way to help the poor.
My brother and I invented several life-saving and labor-saving machines
and in this way we incurred the enmity of the rich contractors and
government officials, who made more money the more people they could
have working for them, for they made the people buy their food and
supplies from them.

"But my brother, and I persisted, with the result that we were both
arrested, and, with a number of others were sent to Siberia.

"Of the horrors we endured there I will say nothing. However, you have
probably read much. In the country near which we were quartered there
were many mines, some of salt and some of sulphur. Oh, the horrors of
those mines! Many a poor exile has been lost in the windings of a salt
mine, there to die miserably. And in the sulphur mines many die also,
not from being lost so much as being overcome by stifling gases. It is
terrible! And sometimes they are purposely abandoned by their guides,
for the government wants to get rid of certain exiles.

"But you are interested in platinum. One day my brother and I who had
been sent to work in the salt mines, mistook a turning and wandered on
and on for several miles, finally losing our way. We had food and water
with us, or we would have perished, and, as it was, we nearly died
before we finally found our way out of an abandoned opening.

"We came out in the midst of a terrible snowstorm, and wandered about
almost frozen. At last we were found by a serf who, in his sled, took
us to his poor cottage. There we were warmed and fed back to life.

"We knew we would be searched for, as naturally, our absence would lead
to the suspicion that we had tried to escape. So as soon as we were
able, we started back to the town where we were quartered. The serf
wanted to take us in his sled, but we knew he might be suspected of
having tried to aid us to get away, and he might be arrested. So we
went alone.

"As might have been expected, we became lost again, and wandered about
for several days. But we had enough food to keep us alive. And it was
during this wandering that I came upon the platinum mine. It was down
in a valley, in the midst of a country densely wooded and very
desolate.  There was an outcropping of the ore, and rather idly I put
some of it in my pockets. Then we wandered on, and finally after awful
suffering in terrific storms, were found by a searching party and
brought back to the barracks."

"Did they think you had escaped?" asked Tom.

"They did," replied the Russian, "and they punished us severely for it,
in spite of our denials. In time I managed secretly to smelt the
platinum ore, and I found I had some of the purest metal I had ever
seen. I was wishing I could find the mine, or tell some of my friends
about it, when one of the officers discovered the metal in my bed.

"He demanded to know where I had gotten it, and knowing that refusal
would only make it the worse for me I told him. There was considerable
excitement, for the value of the discovery was recognized, and a search
was at once made for the mine.

"But, even with the aid we were able to give, it could not be located.
Many expeditions went out to hunt for it but came back baffled. They
could not penetrate that wild country."

"They should have used an aeroplane," suggested Tom.

"They did," replied the Russian quickly, "but it was of no use."

"Why not?" the young inventor wanted to know.

"Because of the terrific winds that almost continually sweep over that
part of Siberia. They never seem to cease, and there are treacherous
air currents and 'pockets' that engulfed more than one luckless
aviator. Oh, you may be sure the Russian government spared no means of
finding the lost platinum mine, but they could not locate it, or even
get near the place where they supposed it to be.

"Then, perhaps thinking that my brother and I were concealing
something, they separated us. Where they sent him I do not know, but I
was doomed to the sulphur mines. I was heartbroken, and I scarcely
cared whether I lived or died. But an opportunity of escape came, and I
took it. I wanted to save my brother, but I did not know where he was,
and I thought if I could make my way to some civilized country, or to
free America, I might later be able to save my brother.

"I went to England, taking some of my precious platinum with me, and
stayed there for two years. I learned your language, but my efforts to
organize an expedition to search for the lost mine, and for my brother,
failed. Then I came here, and--well, I am still trying."

"My! That is certainly interesting!" exclaimed Ned, who had been all
attention during the telling of the story.

"And you certainly had a hard time," declared Tom. "I am much obliged
for this platinum. Have you set a price on it? It is worth much more
than the ordinary kind."

"The price is nothing to you," replied the Russian, with a smile. "I am
only too glad to help you fix your aeroplane. Will it take long? I
should like to watch you."

"Come along," invited Tom. "I can soon have it going again, and I'll
give you a ride, if you like."

"No, thank you, I'm hardly up to that yet, though I may be some day.
The machine I made never flew well and I had several bad falls."

Tom and Ned worked rapidly on the magneto, and soon had replaced the
defective bits of platinum.

"If the Russians had such a machine as this maybe they could have
gotten to that mine," suggested Ned, who was very proud of Tom's craft.

"It would be useless in the terrific winds, I fear," answered Ivan
Petrofsky. "But now I care little for the mine. It is my brother whom I
want to save. He must be in some of the Siberian mines, and if I had
such a craft as this I might be able to rescue him."

Tom Swift dropped the file he was using. A bright light sparkled in his
eyes. He seemed strangely excited.

"Mr. Petrofsky!" he cried, "would you let me have a try at finding your
brother, and would you come with me?"

"Would I?" asked the Russian eagerly. "I would be your debtor for life,
and I would always pray for you, if you could help me to save my
brother Peter."

"Then we'll have a try at it!" cried Tom. "I've got a different airship
than this--one in which I can travel three thousand miles without
coming down. I haven't had any excitement since I got back from the
city of gold. I'm going to Russia to help you rescue your brother from
exile, and I'm also going to have a try for that lost platinum
treasure!"

"Thank heaven, there is some hope for poor Peter at last," murmured Mr.
Petrofsky earnestly.

"You never can get to the platinum mine," said Ned. "The winds will
tear your airship to pieces."

"Not the kind I'm going to make," declared Tom. "It's going to be an
air glider, that will fairly live on high winds. Ho! for Siberia and
the platinum mines. Will you come?"

"I don't know what you mean by an air glider, Tom Swift, but I'll go to
help rescue my brother," was the quick answer, and then, with the light
of a daring resolve shining in his eyes, the young inventor proceeded
to get his aeroplane in shape for the trip back to Shopton.



CHAPTER III

THE HAND OF THE CZAR


"Then you won't take a ride with me to-day?" asked the young inventor,
of the Russian, as he completed the repairs to the magneto. "I'd like
to have you meet my father, and a friend of his, Mr. Damon. Most likely
he'll go to Siberia with us, if his wife will let him. I'd like to talk
some plans over with you."

"I shall certainly call on you," answered Ivan Petrofsky, "but," he
added with a smile, "I think I should prefer to take my first ride in
your larger airship--the one that doesn't come down so often."

"Well, perhaps it is a little easier on an amateur," admitted Tom. "If
you'll come over to our house at any time I'll take you out in it, or
I'll call for you."

"I'll come over in a few days," answered the escaped exile. "Then I'll
tell you all I know of the locality where the platinum mine is located,
and we can make our plans. In the meanwhile don't say anything about
what I have told you."

"Why?" asked Ned quickly.

Mr. Petrofsky approached closer to the lads, and in a low voice said:

"I am not sure about it, but of late I think I have been shadowed. I
have seen strange men in the village near here and they have eyed me
rather suspiciously. Then, too, I have surprised several men around my
house. I live here all alone, you know, and do most of my own work, a
woman coming in occasionally to clean. But I don't like these
suspicious characters hanging about.

"Who do you think they are?" asked Tom

"I'm almost afraid to think, but from my past experience I think--nay,
I fear--they may be spies, or agents of the Russian government."

"Spies!" cried Ned.

"Hush. Not so loud," cautioned Mr. Petrofsky. "They may even now be in
hiding, especially since your aeroplane landed so near my house. They
may see something suspicious even in that."

"But why should the Russian government set spies on you?" asked Tom in
a low voice.

"For two reasons. I am an escaped exile, and I am not a citizen of the
United States. Therefore I may be sent back to the sulphur mines. And
another reason is that they may think I know the secret of the platinum
treasure--the lost mine."

"Say this is getting interesting!" exclaimed Tom. "If we are going to
have a brush with some of the spies of the Russian government so much
the better. I'm ready for 'em!"

"So am I!" added Ned.

"You don't know them," said Mr. Petrofsky, and he could not repress a
shudder. "I hope they are not on my trail, but if they are--" he paused
a moment, straightened himself up, and looked like what he was, a
strong man--"if they are let them look out. I'd give my life to save my
brother from the awful, living death to which he is consigned!"

"And we're with you!" cried Tom, offering the Russian his hand. "We'll
turn the trick yet. Now don't forget to come and see us. Come along,
Ned. If I'm going to build an air glider I've got to get busy." And
waving farewells to their new friend, the lads took their places in the
aeroplane and were soon on their way to Shopton.

"Well, what do you think of it?" asked Ned of his chum, as they sped
along at a good elevation, the engine going at half speed to be less
noisy and make talking easier.

"Lots. I think we're in for a good time, an exciting one, anyhow, if
what he says is true. But what in the world is an air glider, Tom?"

"It's the last word in aeroplanes. You don't need a motor to make it
go."

"Don't need a motor?"

"No, the wind does it all. It's a sort of aeroplane, but the motion
comes from the wind, acting on different planes, and this is
accomplished by shifting weights. In it you can stand still in a fierce
gale, if you like."

"How, by tying her fast on the ground?"

"No, hovering in the air. It's all done by getting the proper balance.
The harder the wind blows the better the air glider works, and that's
why I think it will be just the thing for Siberia. I'm going to get
right at work on it, and you'll help me; won't you?"

"I sure will. Say, is platinum worth much?"

"Worth much? I should say it was! It's got gold beat now, and the
available supply is very small, and it's getting more scarce. Russia
has several mines, and the metal is of good quality. I've used some
Russian platinum, but the kind Mr. Petrofsky gave me to-day was better
than the best I ever had. If we can only find that lost mine we'll be
millionaires all right."

"That's what we thought when we found the city of gold, but the gold
wasn't of as fine a grade as we hoped."

"Well, nothing like that can happen in this platinum deal. It sure is
rich ore that Mr. Petrofsky and his brother found. Poor fellow! To
think of being an exile in that awful country, not knowing where you
may be sent next. No wonder Mr. Petrofsky wants to rescue him."

"That's right. Well, here we are. I wonder what your father will say
when he hears you're thinking of another expedition, Tom?"

"Oh, he'll want me to go when he hears about the exile."

"And I'm sure my folks will let me go. How about Mr. Damon?"

"I don't believe we can hold him back. It will make a nice party, just
you and I, and Mr. Damon and Mr. Petrofsky. That will leave room for
the other Russian--if we can rescue him," and with that Tom shut off
the engine and glided to earth.

It may well be imagined that Mr. Swift was surprised when his son told
him the latest news, but he did not offer any serious objection to the
young inventor going to Siberia.

"Only you must be careful," he said. "Those Russian officers are ugly
when it comes to trying to take away any of their prisoners. And this
air glider--I don't exactly know about that. It's a new machine, and
you want to be sure it works before you trust yourself to it."

"I will," promised Tom. "Say, I've got plenty of work ahead of me,--to
get my big airship in shape, and build the glider. You'll have to help
me, dad."

"I will, son. Now tell me more about this Mr. Petrofsky." Which Tom did.

The days that followed were indeed busy ones for Tom. The young
inventor made a model air glider that sailed fairly well, but he knew
it would have to work better to be successful, and he bent all his
energies in that direction. Meanwhile Mr. Damon had been told of the
prospective trip.

"Bless my bank book! Of course I'll go," he said. "But don't say
anything about it to my wife--that is, just yet. I'll bring her around
to it gradually. She has always wanted a diamond ring set in platinum,
and now I can get it for her. I know she'll let me go if I break it to
her gently."

It may be mentioned here that many valuable diamonds are now set in
platinum instead of gold.

"I want to keep busy," said Mr. Damon, so Tom set him, Ned and
Eradicate at the task of getting the big airship in shape for the trip.
This air craft has not figured in any of my previous stories, but as it
is so nearly like the one that was crushed in the caves of ice, I will
not give a description of it here. Those who care to may refer to the
book telling of Tom's trip to the caves of ice for a detailed account
of the craft.

Sufficient to say that this latest airship, named the Falcon, was the
largest Tom had ever built. It contained much room, many comforts, and
could sail for several thousand miles without descending, except in
case of accident. It was a combined dirigible balloon and aeroplane,
and could be used as either, the necessary gas being made on board. It
was large enough to enable the air glider to be taken on it in sections.

It was about a week after their first meeting with him, that Ivan
Petrofsky paid a visit to the Swift home. He was warmly welcomed by the
aged inventor and Mr. Damon, and, closeted in the library of the house,
he proceeded to go more into details of his own and his brother's exile
to Siberia, and to tell about the supposed location of the lost
platinum mine.

"I don't believe we can start for several weeks yet," said Tom, after
some discussion. "It will take me that long to make the glider."

"And I, too, need a little time," said the Russian. "I will write to
some friends in St. Petersburg and perhaps they can get some
information for us, as to where my brother is.

"That will be good," declared Mr. Damon. "Bless my icicle! But the more
I think of this trip the better I like it!"

It was arranged that the Russian should call again soon, when the plans
would be nearer in shape, and in the meanwhile he must learn all he
could from revolutionary friends in Siberia.

It was a week after this, during which Tom, Ned and the others had been
very busy, that Tom decided to take a trip to see their Russian friend.
They had not heard from him since his visit, and Tom wanted to learn
something about the strength of the Siberian winds.

He and Ned went in one of the small airships and soon they were
hovering over the grounds surrounding the lonely house where Ivan
Petrofsky lived.

"He doesn't seem to be at home," remarked Ned, as they descended and
approached the dwelling.

"No, and it looks quite deserted," agreed the young inventor. "Say, all
the doors are open, too! He shouldn't go away and leave his house open
like that--with the valuable platinum there."

"Maybe he's asleep," suggested Ned.

They knocked on the opened door, but there was no answer. Then they
went inside. To their surprise the house was in confusion. Furniture
was overturned, tables and chairs were broken, and papers were
scattered about the room.

"There's been a fight here!" cried Tom.

"That's right," agreed Ned. "Maybe he's been hurt--maybe burglars came
for the platinum!"

"Come on!" cried Tom, making a dash for the stairs. "We'll see if he's
here."

The house was small, and it took but a moment to show that Mr.
Petrofsky was not there. Upstairs, as below, was the same
confusion--the overturned furniture and the papers scattered about.

Tom stooped and picked up a scrap that looked like a piece torn from a
letter. On top was a seal--the black seal of Russia--the imperial arms
of the Czar!

"Look!" cried Tom, holding out the paper.

"What is it?" asked Ned.

"The hand of the Czar!" answered his chum. "It has reached out from
Russia, and taken Mr. Petrofsky away!"



CHAPTER IV

THE SEARCH


For a moment Ned could scarcely understand what Tom meant. It scarcely
seemed possible that such a thing could happen. That some one in
far-off Russia--be it the Czar or one of the secret police--could
operate from such a distance, seeking out a man in an obscure house in
a little American village, and snatching him away.

"It isn't possible!" declared Ned breathlessly.

"What difference does that make?" asked Tom. "The thing has happened,
and you can't get out of it. Look at all the evidence--there's been a
fight, that's sure, and Mr. Petrofsky is gone."

"But maybe he went away of his own accord," insisted Ned, who was
sometimes hard to convince.

"Nonsense! If a man went away of his own accord would he smash up his
furniture, leave his papers scattered all about and go off leaving the
doors and windows open for any one to walk in? I guess not."

"Well, maybe you're right. But think of it! This isn't Russia!"

"No, but he's a Russian subject, and, by his own confession an escaped
exile. If he was arrested in the usual way he could be taken back, and
our government couldn't interfere. He's been taken back all right. Poor
man! Think of being doomed to those sulphur mines again, and as he
escaped they'll probably make it all the harder for him!"

"But I thought our government wouldn't help other nations to get back
prisoners convicted of political crimes," suggested Ned. "That's all
Mr. Petrofsky was guilty of--politics, trying to help the poor in his
own country. It's a shame if our government stands for anything like
that!"

"That's just the point!" exclaimed Tom. "Probably the spies, secret
police, or whoever the Russian agents were, didn't ask any help from
our government. If they did there might be a chance for him. But likely
they worked in secret. They came here, sneaked in on him, and took him
away before he could get help. Jove! If he could only have gotten word
to me I'd have come in the airship, and then there'd be a different
ending to this."

"I guess you're right, Tom. Well, that ends it I suppose."

"Ends what?"

"Our trip to the platinum mine."

"Not a bit of it. I'm going to have a hunt for it."

"But how can you when Mr. Petrofsky can't go along to show us the way?
Besides, we wanted to help rescue his brother, and now we can't."

"Well, I'm going to make a big try," declared the young inventor
firmly.  "And the first thing I'm going to do is to get our friend out
of the clutches of the Russian police."

"You are? How?"

"I'm going to make a search for him. Look here, Ned, he must have been
taken away some time to-day--perhaps only a few hours ago--and they
can't have gone far with him."

"How do you make that out?" Ned wanted to know.

"Well, I guess I'm detective enough for that," and Tom smiled. "Look
here, the doors and windows are open. Now it rained last night, and
there was quite a wind. If the windows had been open in the storm
there'd be some traces of moisture in the rooms. But there isn't a
drop.  Consequently the windows have been opened since last night."

"Say, that's so!" cried Ned admiringly.

"But that's not all," went on Tom. "Here's a bottle of milk on the
table, and it's fresh," which he proved by tasting it. "Now that was
left by the milkman either late last night or early this morning. I
don't believe it's over twelve hours old."

"Well, what does this mean?" asked Ned, who couldn't quite follow Tom's
line of reasoning.

"To my mind it means that the spies were here no later than this
morning. Look at the table upset, the dishes on the floor. Here's one
with oatmeal in it, and you know how hard and firm cooked oatmeal gets
after it stands a bit. This is quite fresh, and soft, and--"

"And that means--" interrupted Ned, who was in turn interrupted by Tom,
who exclaimed:

"It means that Mr. Petrofsky was at breakfast when they burst in on
him, and took him away. They had hard work overpowering him, I'll
wager, for he could put up a pretty good fight. And the broken
furniture is evidence of that. Then the spies, after tying him up, or
putting him in a carriage, searched the house for incriminating papers.
That's as plain as the nose on your face. Then the police agents, or
whoever they were, skipped out in a hurry, not taking the trouble to
close the windows and doors."

"I believe it did happen that way," agreed Ned, who clearly saw what
Tom meant. "But what can we do? How can we find him?"

"By getting on the trail," answered his chum quickly. "There may be
more clews in the house, and I'm sure there'll be some out of doors,
for they must have left footprints or the marks of carriage wheels.
We'll take a look, and then we'll get right on the search. I'm not
going to let them take Mr. Petrofsky to Russia if I can help it. I want
to get after that platinum, and he's the only one who can pilot us
anywhere near the place; and besides, there's his brother we've got to
rescue. We'll make a search for the exile."

"I'm with you!" cried Ned. "Jove! Wouldn't it be great if we could
rescue him? They can't have gotten very far with him."

"I'm afraid they have quite a start on us," admitted Tom with a dubious
shake of his head, "but as long as they're in the United States we have
a chance. If ever they get him on Russian soil it's all up with him."

"Come on then!" cried Ned. "Let's get busy. What's the first thing to
do?"

"Look for clews," replied Tom. "We'll begin at the top of the house and
work down. It's lucky we came when we did, for every minute counts."

Then the two plucky lads began their search for the kidnapped Russian
exile. Had those who took him away seen the mere youths who thus
devoted themselves to the task, they might have laughed in contempt,
but those who know Tom Swift and his sturdy chum, know that two more
resourceful and brave lads would be hard to find.



CHAPTER V

A CLEW FROM RUSSIA


"Nothing much up here," remarked Tom, when he and Ned had gone all over
the second floor twice. "That scrap of paper, which put me on to the
fact that some one from the Russian government had been here, is about
all. They must have taken all the documents Mr. Petrofsky had."

"Maybe he didn't have any," suggested Ned.

"If he was wise he'd get rid of them when he knew he was being
shadowed, as he told us. Perhaps that was why they broke up the
furniture, searching for hidden papers, or they may have done it out of
spite because they didn't find anything. But we might as well go
downstairs and look there."

But the first floor was equally unproductive of clews, save those
already noted, which showed, at least so Tom believed, that Mr.
Petrofsky had been surprised and overpowered while at breakfast.

"Now for outside!" cried the young inventor. "We'll see if we can
figure out how they got him away."

There were plenty of marks in the soft ground and turf, which was still
damp from the night's rain, though it was now afternoon. Unfortunately,
however, in approaching the house after leaving the aeroplane, Ned and
Tom had not thought to exercise caution, and, not suspecting anything
wrong, they had stepped on a number of footprints left by the
kidnappers.

But for all that, they saw enough to convince them that several men had
been at the lonely house, for there were many marks of shoes. It was
out of the question, however, to tell which were those of Mr. Petrofsky
and which those of his captors.

"They might have carried him out to a carriage they had in waiting,"
suggested Ned. "Let's go out to the front gate and look in the road.
They hardly would bring the carriage up to the door."

"Good idea," commented Tom, and they hurried to the main thoroughfare
that passed the Russian's house.

"Here they are!" cried Ned, Who was in the lead. "There's been a
carriage here as sure as you're a foot high and it's a rubber-tired one
too."

"GOOD!" cried Tom admiringly. "You're coming right along in your
detective training. How do you make that out?"

"See here, where a piece of rubber has been broken or cut out of the
tire. It makes a peculiar mark in the dirt every time the wheel goes
around."

"That's right, and it will be a good thing to trace the carriage by.
Come on, we'll keep right after it."

"Hold on a bit," suggested Ned, who, though not so quick as Tom Swift,
frequently produced good results by his very slowness. "Are you going
off and leave the airship here for some one to walk off with?"

"Guess they wouldn't take it far," replied the young inventor, "but I'd
better make it safe. I'll disconnect it so they can't start it, though
if Andy Foger happens to come along he might slash the planes just out
of spite. But I guess he won't show up."

Tom took a connecting pin out of the electrical apparatus, making it
impossible to start the aeroplane, and then, wheeling it out of sight
behind a small barn, he and Ned went back to the carriage marks in the
road.

"Hurry!" urged Tom, as he started off in the direction of the village
of Hurdtown, near where the cottage stood. "We will ask people living
along the highway if they've seen a carriage pass."

"But what makes you think they went off that way?" asked Ned. "I should
think they'd head away from the village, so as not to be seen."

"No, I don't agree with you. But wait, we'll look at the marks. Maybe
that will help us."

Peering carefully at the marks of horses' hoofs and the wheel
impressions, Tom uttered a cry of discovery.

"I have it!" he declared. "The carriage came from the village, and kept
right on the other way. You're right, Ned. They didn't go back to town.

"Are you sure?"

"Of course. You can see for yourself; if the carriage had turned around
the track would show, but it doesn't and, even if they turned on the
grass, there'd be two lines of marks--one coming out here and one
returning. As it is there is only a single set--just as if the carriage
drove up here, took on its load, and continued on. This way, Ned."

They hurried down the road, and soon came to a cluster of farm houses.
Inquiries there, however, failed to bring anything to light, for either
the occupants of the house had failed to notice passing vehicles, or
there had been so many that any particular carriage was not recalled.
And there were now so many impressions in the soft dirt of the
highway--so many wheel tracks and hoof imprints--that it was impossible
to pick out those of the carriage with the cut rubber tire. "Well, I
guess it isn't of much use to go on any farther," spoke Ned, when they
had traveled several miles and had learned nothing.

"We'll try one more house, and then go back," agreed Tom. "We'll tell
dad about what's happened, and see what he says."

"Carriage?" repeated an old farmer to whom they next put the question.
"Wa'al, now, come t' think of it, I did see one drivin' along here
early this morning. It had rubber tires on too, for I recollect
remarkin' t' myself that it didn't make much noise. Had t' talk t'
myself," he added in explanation, "'cause nobody else in the family was
up, 'ceptin' th' dog."

"Did the carriage have some Russians in it?" asked Tom eagerly, "and
was one a big bearded man?"

"Wa'al, now you've got me," admitted the farmer frankly. "It was quite
early you see, and I didn't take no particular notice. I got up early
t' do my milkin' 'cause I have t' take it t' th' cheese factory. That's
th' reason nobody was up but me. But I see this carriage comin' down
th' road, and thinks I t' myself it was pretty middlin' early fer
anybody t' be takin' a pleasure ride. I 'lowed it were a pleasure ride,
'cause it were one of them hacks that folks don't usually use 'ceptin'
fer a weddin', or a funeral, an' it wa'n't no funeral."

"Then you can't tell us anything more except that it passed?" asked Ned.

"No, I couldn't see inside, 'cause it was rather dark at that hour, and
then, too, I noticed that they had th' window shades down."

"That's suspicious!" exclaimed Tom. "I believe they are the fellows we
re after," and, without giving any particulars he said that they were
looking for a friend who might have been taken away against his will.

"Could you tell where they were going?" asked Tom, scarcely hoping to
get an affirmative answer.

"Wa'al, th' man on th' seat pulled up when he see me," spoke the farmer
with exasperating slowness, "an' asked me how far it was t' th'
Waterville station, an' I told him."

"Why didn't you say so at first?" asked Tom quickly. "Why didn't you
tell us they were heading for the railroad?"

"You didn't ask me," replied the farmer. "What difference does it make."

"Every minute counts!" exclaimed the young inventor. "We want to keep
right after those fellows. Maybe the agent can tell us where they
bought tickets to, and we can trace them that way.

"Shouldn't wonder," commented the farmer. "There ain't many trains out
from Waterville at that time of day, an' mighty few passengers.
Shouldn't wonder but Jake Applesauer could put ye on th' trail."

"Much obliged," called Tom. "Come on, Ned," and he started back in the
direction of the house where the kidnapping had taken place.

"That ain't th' way t' 'vaterville!" the farmer shouted after them.

"I know it, we're going to get our airship," answered Tom, and then he
heard the farmer mutter.

"Plumb crazy! That's what they be! Plumb crazy! Going after their
airship! Shouldn't wonder but they was escaped lunatics, and the other
fellers was keepers after 'em. Hu! Wa'al, I've got my work to do.
'Tain't none of my affair."

"Let him think what he likes," commented Ned as he and his chum hurried
on. "We're on the trail all right."

If Jake Applesauer, the agent at the Waterville station, was surprised
at seeing two youths drop down out of an aeroplane, and begin
questioning him about some suspicious strangers that had taken the
morning train, he did not show it. Jake prided himself on not being
surprised at anything, except once when he took a counterfeit dollar in
return for a ticket, and had to make it good to the company.

But, to the despair of Tom and Ned, he could not help them much. He had
seen the party, of course. They had driven up in the hack, and one of
the men seemed to be sick, or hurt, for his head was done up in
bandages, and the others had to half carry him on the train.

"That was Mr. Petrofsky all right," declared Ned.

"Sure," assented Tom. "They must have hurt and drugged him. But you
can't tell us for what station they bought tickets, Mr. Applesauer?"

"No, for they didn't buy any. They must have had 'em, or else they paid
on the train. One man drove off in the coach, and that's all I know."

As Tom and Ned started back to Shopton in the aeroplane they discussed
what could be done next. A hard task lay before them, and they realized
that.

"They could have gotten off at any station between here and New York,
or even changed to another railroad at the junction," spoke Tom. "It's
going to be a hard job."

"Guess we'll have to get some regular detectives on it," suggested Ned.

"And that's what I'll do," declared the young inventor. "They may be
able to locate Mr. Petrofsky before those spies take him out of this
country. If they don't--it will be too late. I'm going to talk to dad
about it, and if he agrees I'll hire the best private detectives."

Mr. Swift gave his consent when Tom had told the story, and, a day
later, one of the best detectives of a well known agency called on Tom
in Shopton and assumed charge of the case.

The early reports from the detective were quite reassuring. He got on
the trail of the men who had taken Mr. Petrofsky away, and confirmed
the suspicion that they were agents of the Russian police. He trailed
them as far as New York, and there the clews came to an end.

"Whether they are in the big city, which might easily be, or in some of
the nearby towns, will take some time to learn," the detective wrote,
and Tom wired back telling him to keep on searching.

But, as several weeks went by, and no word came, even Tom began to give
up hope, though he did not stop work on the air glider, which was
nearing completion. And then, most unexpectedly a clew came--a clew
from far-off Russia.

Tom got a letter one day--a letter in a strange hand, the stamp and
postmark showing that it had come from the land of the Czar.

"What do you suppose it contains?" asked Ned, who was with his chum
when the communication was received.

"Haven't the least idea; but I'll soon find out."

"Maybe it's from the Russian police, telling you to keep away from
Siberia."

"Maybe," answered Tom absently, for he was reading the missive. "I
say!" he suddenly cried. "This is great! A clew at last, and from St.
Petersburg! Listen to this, Ned!

"This letter is from the head of one of the secret societies over
there, a society that works against the government. It says that Mr.
Petrofsky is being detained a prisoner in a lonely hut on the Atlantic
sea coast, not far from New York--Sandy Hook the letter says--and here
are the very directions how to get there!"

"No!" cried Ned, in disbelief. "How in the world could anybody in
Russia know that."

"It tells here," said Tom. "It's all explained. As soon as the secret
police got Mr. Petrofsky they communicated with the head officials in
St. Petersburg. You know nearly everyone is a spy over there, and the
letter says that Mr. Petrofsky's friends there soon heard the news, and
even about the exact place where he is being held."

"What are they holding him for?" asked Ned.

"That's explained, too. It seems they can't legally take him back until
certain papers are received from his former prison in Siberia, and
those are now on the way. His friends write to me to hasten and rescue
him."

"But how did they ever get your address?"

"That's easy, though you wouldn't think so. It seems, so the letter
explains, that as soon as Mr. Petrofsky got acquainted with us he wrote
to friends in St. Petersburg, giving my address, and telling them, in
case anything ever happened to him, to notify us. You see he suspected
that something might, after he found he was being shadowed that way.

"And it all worked out. As soon as his friends heard that he was
caught, and learned where he was being held, they wrote to me. Hurrah,
Ned! A clew at last! Now to wire the detective--no, hold on, we'll go
there and rescue him ourselves! We'll go in the airship, and pick up
Detective Trivett in New York."

"That's the stuff! I'm with you!"

"Bless my suspender buttons! So am I, whatever it is!" cried Mr. Damon,
entering the room at that moment.



CHAPTER VI

RESCUING MR. PETROFSKY


"We ought to be somewhere near the place now, Tom."

"I think we are, Ned. But you know I'm not going too close in this
airship."

"Bless my silk hat!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "I hope we don't have to walk
very far in such a deserted country as this, Tom Swift."

"We'll have to walk a little way, Mr. Damon," replied the young
inventor. "If I go too close to the hut they'll see the airship, and as
those spies probably know that Mr. Petrofsky has been dealing with me,
They'd smell a rat at once, and run away, taking him with them, and
we'd have all our work to do over again."

"That's right," agreed Detective Trivett, who was one of the four in
the airship that was now hovering over the Atlantic coast, about ten
miles below the summer resorts of which Asbury Park was one.

It was only a few hours after Tom had received the letter from Russia
informing him of the whereabouts of the kidnapped Russian, and he had
acted at once.

His father sanctioned the plan of going to the rescue in one of Tom's
several airships and, Mr. Damon, having been on hand, at once agreed to
go. Of course Ned went along, and they had picked up the private
detective in New York, where he was vainly seeking a clew to the
whereabouts of Mr. Petrofsky.

Now the young inventor and his friends were hovering over the sandy
stretch of coast that extends from Sandy Hook down the Atlantic
seaboard. They were looking for a small fishing hamlet on the outskirts
of which, so the Russian letter stated, was situated the lonely hut in
which Mr. Petrofsky was held a prisoner.

"Do you think you can pick it out from a distance, Tom?" asked Mr.
Damon, as the airship floated slowly along. It was not the big one they
intended taking on their trip to Siberia, but it was sufficiently large
to accommodate the four and leave room for Mr. Petrofsky, should they
succeed in rescuing him.

"I think so," answered the young inventor.

In the letter from Russia a comparatively accurate description of the
prisoner's hut had been given, and also some details about his guards.
For there is little goes on in political circles in the realm of the
Czar that is not known either to the spies of the government or those
of the opposition, and the latter had furnished Tom with reliable
information.

"That looks like the place," said Tom at length, when, after peering
steadily through a powerful telescope, during which time Ned steered
the ship, the young inventor "picked up" a fishing settlement. "There
is the big fish house, spoken of in the letter," he went on, "and the
Russians know a lot about fish. That house makes a good landmark. We'll
go down now, before they have a chance to see us."

The others thought this a good idea, and a little later the airship
sank to the ground amid a lonely stretch of sand dunes, about two miles
from the hamlet on the outskirts of which the prison hut was said to be
located.

"Now," said Tom, "we've got to decide on a plan of Campaign. It won't
do for all of us to go to the hut and make the rescue. Some one has got
to stay with the airship, to be ready to start it off as soon as we
come back with Mr. Petrofsky--if we do come.

"Then there's no use in me staying here," spoke Detective Trivett. "I
don't know enough even to turn on the gasolene."

"No, it's got to be Ned or me," said the young inventor.

"I'll stay," volunteered Ned quickly, for though he would very much
have liked to be in at the rescue, he realized that his place was in
the airship, as Mr. Damon was not sufficiently familiar with the
machinery to operate it.

Accordingly, after looking to everything to see that it was in working
order, Tom led the advance. It was just getting dusk, and they figured
on getting to the hut after dark.

"Have everything ready for a quick start," Tom said to Ned, "for we may
come back running."

"I will," was the prompt answer, and then, getting their bearings, the
little party set off.

They had to travel over a stretch of sandy waste that ran along the
beach. Back in shore were a few scattered cottages, and not yet opened
for the summer, and on the ocean side was the pounding surf. The hut,
as Tom recalled the directions, lay just beyond a group of stunted
hemlock trees that set a little way hack from the ocean, on a bluff
overlooking the sea. It was not near any other building.

Slowly, and avoiding going any nearer the other houses than they could
help, the little party made its way. They had to depend on their own
judgement now, for the minor details of the location of the hut could
not be given in the letter from Russia. In fact the spies themselves,
in writing to their head officers about the matter, had not described
the location in detail.

"That looks like it over there," said Tom at last, when they had gone
about a mile and a half, and saw a lonely hut with a light burning in
it.

Cautiously they approached and, as they drew nearer, they saw that the
light came through the window of a small hut.

"Looks like the place," commented the detective.

"We'll have a look," remarked Tom.

He crept up so he could glance in the window, and no sooner had he
peered in, than he motioned for the others to approach.

Looking under a partly-drawn curtain, Mr. Damon and Mr. Trivett saw the
Russian whom they sought. He was seated at a table, his head bowed on
his hands, and in the room were three men. A rifle stood in one corner,
near one of the guards.

"They're taking no chances," whispered Mr. Damon. "What shall we do,
Tom?"

"It's three to three," replied the young inventor. "But if we can get
him away without a fight, so much the better. I think I have it. I'll
go up to the door, knock and make quite a racket, and demand admittance
in the name of the Czar. That will startle them, and they may all three
rush to answer. Mr. Damon, you and the detective will stay by the
window. As soon as you see the men rush for the door, smash in the
window with a piece of driftwood and call to Mr. Petrofsky to jump out
that way. Then you can run with him toward the airship, and I'll
follow.  It may work."

"I don't see why it wouldn't," declared the detective. "Go ahead, Tom.
We're ready."

Looking in once more, to make sure that the guards were not aware of
the presence of the rescuing party, Tom went to the front door of the
hut.  It was a small building, evidently one used by fishermen.

Tom knocked loudly on the portal, at the same time crying out in a
voice that he strove to make as deep and menacing as possible:

"Open! Open in the name of the Czar!"

Looking through the window, ready to act on the instant, Mr. Damon and
the detective saw the three guards spring to their feet. One remained
near Mr. Petrofsky, who also leaped up.

"Now!" called the detective to his companion. "Smash the window!"

The next instant a big piece of driftwood crashed through the casement,
just as the two men were hurrying to the front door to answer Tom's
summons.

"Mr. Petrofsky! This way!" yelled Mr. Damon, sticking his head in
through the broken sash. "Come out! We've come to save you! Bless my
putty blower, but this is great! Come on!"

For a moment the exile stared at the head thrust through the broken
window, and he listened to Tom's emphatic knocks and demands. Then with
a cry of delight the Russian sprang for the open casement, while the
guard that had remained near him made a leap to catch him, crying out:

"Betrayed! Betrayed! It's the Nihilists! Look out, comrades!"



CHAPTER VII

THE AIR GLIDER


Mr. Damon continued to hammer away at the window sash with the piece of
driftwood. There were splinters of the frame and jagged pieces of glass
sticking out, making it dangerous for the exile to slip through.

"Come on! Come on!" the eccentric man continued to call. "Bless my
safety valve! We'll save you! Come on!"

Mr. Petrofsky was leaping across the room, just ahead of the one guard.
The other two were at the open door now, through which Tom could be
seen. Then the spies, realizing in an instant that they had been
deceived, made a dash after their comrade, who had his hand on the
tails of the exile's coat.

"Break away! Break loose!" cried Mr. Damon, who, by this time had
cleared the window so a person could get through. "Don't let them hold
you!"

"I don't intend to!" retorted Mr. Petrofsky, and he swerved suddenly,
tearing his coat, from the grasp of the guard.

In another instant the exile was at the casement, and was being helped
through by Mr. Damon, and there was need of it, for the three guards
were there now, doing their best to keep their prisoner.

"Pull away! Pull away!" cried Mr. Damon.

"We'll help you!" shouted Tom, who, now that his trick had worked, had
sped around to the other side of the hut.

"Don't be afraid, we're with you!" exclaimed the detective, who was
with the young inventor.

"Grab him! Keep him! Hold him!" fairly screamed the rearmost of the
three guards. "It is a plot of the Nihilists to rescue him. Shoot him,
comrades. He must not get away!"

"Don't you try any of your shooting games, or I'll take a hand in it!"
shouted the detective, and, at the same moment he drew his revolver and
fired harmlessly in the air.

"A bomb! A bomb!", yelled the guards in terror.

"Not yet, but there may be!" murmured Tom. The firing of the shot
produced a good effect, for the three men who were trying to detain
Ivan Petrofsky at once fell back from the window and gave him just the
chance needed. He scrambled through, with the aid of Mr. Damon, and
before the guards could again spring at him, which they did when the
echoes of the shot had died away. They had realized, too late, that it
was not a bomb, and that there was no immediate danger for them.

"Come on!" cried Tom. "Make for the airship! We've got to get the start
of them!"

Leading the way, he sprinted toward the road that led to the place
where the airship awaited them. He was followed by Mr. Damon and the
detective, who had Mr. Petrofsky between them.

"Are you all right?" Tom called back to the exile. "Are you hurt? Can
you run?"

"I'm all right," was the reassuring answer. "Go ahead; But they'll be
right after us."

"Maybe they'll stop when they see this," remarked the detective
significantly, and he held his revolver so that the rays of the
newly-risen moon glinted on it.

"Here they come!" cried Tom a moment later, as three figures, one after
the other, came around the corner of the house. They had not taken the
shorter route through the window, as had Mr. Petrofsky, and this gained
a little time for our friends.

"Stop! Hold on!" cried one of the guards in fairly good English. "That
is our prisoner."

"Not any more!" the young inventor yelled back. "He's ours now."

"Look out! They're going to shoot!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my
gunpowder! can't you stop them some way or other, Mr. Detective?"

"The only way is by firing first," answered Mr. Trivett, "and I don't
want to hurt them. Guess I'll fire in the air again."

He did, and the guards halted. They seemed to be holding a
consultation, as Tom learned by glancing hastily back, and he caught
the glisten of some weapon. But if the three men had any notion of
firing they gave it up, and once more came on running. Doubtless they
had orders to get their prisoner back to Russia alive, and did not want
to take any chances of hitting him.

"Leg it!" cried Tom. "Leg it!"

He was well ahead, and wanted the others to catch up to him, but none
of the men was a good runner, and Mr. Petrofsky, by reason of being
rather heavily built, was worse than the other two, so they had to
accommodate their pace to his.

"I wonder if we can make it," mused Tom, as he realized that the
airship was a good distance off yet the guards, though quite a way in
the rear now were coming on fast. "It's going to be a close race,"
thought the young inventor. "I wish we'd brought the airship a little
nearer."

It was indeed a race now, for the guards, seeming to know that they
would not be shot at, were coming on more confidently, and were rapidly
lessening the distance that separated them from their recent prisoner.

"We've got to go faster!" cried Tom.

"Bless my shoe leather!" yelled Mr. Damon. "I can't go any faster."

Still he did make the attempt, and so did the exile and the detective.
Little was said now, for each of the parties was running a dogged race,
and in silence. They had gone possibly half a mile, and the first
advantage of Tom and his friends was rapidly being lost, when suddenly
there sounded in the air above a curious throbbing noise.

"Bless my gasolene! What's that?" cried Mr. Damon.

"The airship! It's the airship!" yelled Tom, as he saw a great dark
shape slowly approaching. "Ned is bringing her to met us."

"Good!" cried the detective. "We need it I'm about winded!"

"This way, Ned! This way!" cried Tom, and, an instant later, they were
in the midst of a brilliant glow, for Ned had turned the current into
the great searchlight on the bow of the air craft, and the beams were
focused on our friends. Ned could now see the refugees, and in a moment
he sent the graceful craft down, bringing it to a halt on the ground
near Tom.

"In with you!" cried the lad. "She's all ready to start up again!"

"Come on!" yelled Tom to the others. "We're all right now, if you
hustle!"

"Bless my pin cushion!" gasped Mr. Damon, making a final spurt.

The three guards had halted in confusion on seeing the big, black bulk
of the airship, and when they noted the gleaming of the searchlight
they must have realized that their chances were gone. They made a rush,
however, but it was too late. Over the side of the craft scrambled Tom,
Mr. Damon, the detective and Ivan Petrofsky, and an instant later Ned
had sent it aloft. The race was over, and the young inventor and his
friends had won.

"You're the stuff!" cried Tom to Ned, as he went with his chum to the
pilot house to direct the progress of the airship. "It's lucky you came
for us. We never could have made the distance. We left the ship too far
off."

"That's what I thought after you'd gone," replied his chum. "So I
decided to come and meet you. I had to go slowly so as not to pass you
in the darkness."

They were speeding off now, and Ned, turning the beams of the great
searchlight below them, picked up the three guards who were gazing
helplessly aloft after their fast disappearing prisoner.

"You're having your first ride in an airship, Mr. Petrofsky," remarked
Tom, when they had gone on for some little distance. "How do you like
it?"

"I'm so excited I hardly know, but it's quite a sensation. But how in
the world did you ever find me to rescue me?"

Then they told the story of their search, and the unexpected clew from
Russia. In turn the exile told how he had been attacked at the
breakfast table one morning by the three spies--the very men who had
been shadowing him--and taken away secretly, being drugged to prevent
his calling for help. He had been kept a close prisoner in the lonely
hut, and each day he had expected to be taken back to serve out his
sentence in Siberia.

"Another day would have been too late," he told Tom, when he had
thanked the young inventor over and over again, "for the papers would
have arrived, and the last obstacle to taking me back to Russia would
have been removed. They dared not take me out of the United States
without official documents, and they would have been forged ones, for
they intended trumping up a criminal charge against me, the political
one not being strong enough to allow them to extradite me."

"Well I'm glad we got you," said Tom heartily. "We will soon be ready
to start for Siberia."

"In this kind of a craft?"

"Yes, only much larger. You'll like it. I only hope my air glider
works."

By putting on speed, Tom was able to reach Shopton before midnight, and
there was quite an informal celebration in the Swift homestead over the
rescue of the exile. The detective, for whom there was no further need,
was paid off, and Mr. Petrofsky was made a member of the household.

"You'd better stay here until we are ready to start," Tom said, "and
then we can keep an eye on you. We need you to show us as nearly as
possible where the platinum field is."

"All right," agreed the Russian with a laugh. "I'm sure I'll do all I
can for you, and you are certainly treating me very nicely after what I
suffered from my captors."

Tom resumed work on his air glider the next day, and he had an
additional helper, for Mr. Petrofsky proved to be a good mechanic.

In brief, the air glider was like an aeroplane save that it had no
motor. It was raised by a strong wind blowing against transverse
planes, and once aloft was held there by the force of the air currents,
just like a box kite is kept up. To make it progress either with or
against the wind, there were horizontal and vertical rudders, and
sliding weights, by which the equilibrium could be shifted so as to
raise or lower it. While it could not exactly move directly against the
wind it could progress in a direction contrary to which the gale was
blowing, somewhat as a sailing ship "tacks."

And, as has been explained, the harder the wind blew the better the air
glider worked. In fact unless there was a strong gale it would not go
up.

"But it will be just what is needed out there in that part of Siberia,"
declared the exile, "for there the wind is never quiet. Often it blows
a regular hurricane."

"That's what we want!" cried Tom. He had made several models of the air
glider, changing them as he found out his errors, and at last he had
hit on the right shape and size.

Midway of the big glider, on which work was now well started, there was
to be an enclosed car for the carrying of passengers, their food and
supplies. Tom figured on carrying five or six.

For several weeks the work on the air glider progressed rapidly, and it
was nearing completion. Meanwhile nothing more had been heard or seen
of the Russian spies.

"Well," announced Tom one night, after a day's hard work, "we'll be
ready for a trial now, just as soon as there comes a good wind."

"Is it all finished?" asked Ned.

"No, but enough for a trial spin. What I want is a big wind now."



CHAPTER VIII

IN A GREAT GALE


There was a humming in the air. The telegraph wires that ran along on
high poles past the house of Tom Swift sung a song like that of an
Aeolian harp. The very house seemed to tremble.

"Jove! This is a wind!" cried Tom as he awakened on a morning a few
days after his air glider was nearly completed. "I never saw it so
strong.  This ought to be just what I want I must telephone to Mr.
Damon and to Ned."

He hustled into his clothes, pausing now and then to look out of his
window and note the effects of the gale. It was a tremendous wind, as
was evidenced by the limbs of several trees being broken off, while in
some cases frail trees themselves had been snapped in twain.

"Coffee ready, Mrs. Baggert?" asked our hero as he went downstairs. "I
haven't got time to eat much though."

In spite of his haste Tom ate a good breakfast and then, having
telephoned to his two friends, and receiving their promises to come
right over, our hero went out to make a few adjustments to his air
glider, to get it in shape for the trial.

He was a little worried lest the wind die out, but when he got outside
he noted with satisfaction that the gale was stronger than at first. In
fact it did considerable damage in Shopton, as Tom learned later.

It certainly was a strong wind. An ordinary aeroplane never could have
sailed in it, and Tom was doubtful of the ability of even his big
airship to navigate in it. But he was not going to try that.

"And maybe my air glider won't work," he remarked to himself as he was
on his way to the shed where it had been constructed. "The models went
up all right, but maybe the big one isn't proportioned right. However,
I'll soon see."

He was busy adjusting the balancing weights when Ned Newton came in.

"Great Scott!" exclaimed the lad, as he labored to close the shed door,
"this is a blow all right, Tom! Do you think it's safe to go up?"

"I can't go up without a gale, Ned."

"Well, I'd think twice about it myself."

"Why, I counted on you going up with me."

"Burr-r-r-r!" and Ned pretended to shiver. "I haven't an accident
insurance policy you know."

"You won't need it, Ned. If we get up at all we'll be all right. Catch
hold there, and shift that rear weight a little forward on the rod. I
expect Mr. Damon soon."

The eccentric man came in a little later, just as Tom and Ned had
finished adjusting the mechanism.

"Bless my socks!" cried Mr. Damon. "Do you really mean to go up to-day,
Tom?"

"I sure do! Why, aren't you going with me?" and Tom winked at Ned.

"Bless my--" began Mr. Damon, and then, evidently realizing that he was
being tested he exclaimed: "Well, I will go, Tom! If the air glider is
any good it ought to hold me. I will go up."

"Now, Ned, how about you?" asked the young inventor.

"Well, I guess it's up to me to come along, but I sure do wish it was
over with," and Ned glanced out of the window to see if the gale was
dying out. But the wind was as high as ever.

It was hard work getting the air glider out of the shed, and in
position on top of a hill, about a quarter of a mile away, for Tom
intended "taking off" from the mound, as he could not get a running
start without a motor. The wind, however, he hoped, would raise him and
the strange craft.

In order to get it over the ground without having it capsize, or
elevate before they were ready for it, drag ropes, attached to bags of
sand were used, and once these were attached the four found that they
could not wheel the air glider along on its bicycle wheels.

"We'll have to get Eradicate and his mule, I guess," said Tom, after a
vain endeavor to make progress against the wind. "When it's up in the
air it will be all right, but until then I'll need help to move it.
Ned, call Rad, will you?"

The colored man, with Boomerang, his faithful mule, was soon on hand.
The animal was hitched to the glider, and pulled it toward the hill.

"Now to see what happens," remarked Tom as he wheeled his latest
invention around where the wind would take it as soon as the
restraining ropes were cast off, for it was now held in place by
several heavy cables fastened to stakes driven in the ground.

Tom gave a last careful look to the weights, planes and rudders. He
glanced at a small anemometer or wind gage, on the craft, and noted
that it registered sixty miles an hour.

"That ought to do," he remarked. "Now who's going up with me? Will you
take a chance, Mr. Petrofsky?"

"I'd rather not--at first."

"Come on then, Ned and Mr. Damon. Mr. Petrofsky and Rad can cast off
the ropes."

The wind, if anything, was stronger than ever. It was a terrific gale,
and just what was needed. But how would the air glider act? That was
what Tom wanted very much to know.

"Cast off!" he cried to the Russian and Eradicate, and they slipped the
ropes.

The next moment, with a rush and whizzing roar, the air glider shot
aloft on the wings of the wind.



CHAPTER IX

THE SPIES


"We're certainly going up!" yelled Ned, as he sat beside Tom in the
cabin of the air glider.

"That's right!" agreed the young inventor rather proudly, as he grasped
two levers, one of which steered the craft, the other being used to
shift the weights. "We're going up. I was pretty sure of that. The next
thing is to see if it will remain stationary in the air, and answer the
rudder."

"Bless my top knot!" cried Mr. Damon. "You don't mean to tell me you
can stand still in a gale of wind, Tom Swift."

"That's exactly what I do mean. You can't do it in an aeroplane, for
that depends on motion to keep itself up in the air. But the glider is
different. That's one of its specialties, remaining still, and that's
why it will be valuable if we ever get to Siberia. We can hover over a
certain spot in a gale of wind, and search about below with telescopes
for a sign of the lost platinum mine.

"How high are you going up?" demanded Ned, for the air glider was still
mounting upward on a slant. If you' ever scaled a flat piece of tin, or
a stone, you'll remember how it seems to slide up a hill of air, when
it was thrown at the right angle. It was just this way with the air
glider--it was mounting upward on a slant.

"I'm going up a couple of hundred feet at least," answered Tom, "and
higher if the gale-strata is there. I want to give it a good test while
I'm at it."

Ned looked down through a heavy plate of glass in the floor of the
cabin, and could see Mr. Petrofsky and Eradicate looking up at them.

"Bless my handkerchief!" cried Mr. Damon, when his attention had been
called to this. "It's just like an airship."

"Except that we haven't a bit of machinery on board," said Tom. "These
weights do everything," and he shifted them forward on the sliding
rods, with the effect that the air glider dipped down with a startling
lurch.

"We're falling!" cried Ned.

"Not a bit of it," answered Tom. "I only showed you how it worked. By
sliding the weights back we go up."

He demonstrated this at once, sending his craft sliding up another hill
of air, until it reached an elevation of four hundred feet, as
evidenced by the barograph.

"I guess this is high enough," remarked Tom after a bit. "Now to see if
she'll stand still."

Slowly he moved the weights along, by means of the compound levers,
until the air glider was on an "even keel" so to speak. It was still
moving forward, with the wind now, for Tom had warped his wing tips.

"The thing to do," said the young inventor, "is to get it exactly
parallel with the wind-strata, so that the gale will blow through the
two sets of planes, just as the wind blows through a box kite. Only we
have no string to hold us from moving. We have to depend on the
equalization of friction on the surfaces of the wings. I wonder if I
can do it."

It was a delicate operation, and Tom had not had much experience in
that sort of thing, for his other airships and aeroplanes worked on an
entirely different principle. But he moved the weights along, inch by
inch, and flexed the tips, planes and rudders until finally Ned, who
was looking down through the floor window, cried out:

"We're stationary!"

"Good!" exclaimed Tom. "Then it's a success."

"And we can go to Siberia?" added Mr. Damon.

"Sure," assented the young inventor. "And if we have luck we'll rescue
Mr. Petrofsky's brother, and get a lot of platinum that will be more
valuable than gold."

It would not be true to say that the air glider was absolutely
stationary. There was a slight forward motion, due to the fact that it
was not yet perfected, and also because Tom was not expert enough in
handling it.

The friction on the plane surfaces was not equalized, and the gale
forced the craft along slightly. But, compared to the terrific power of
the wind, the air glider was practically at a standstill, and this was
remarkable when one considers the force of the hurricane that was
blowing above below and through it.

For actually that was what the hurricane was doing. It was as if an
immense box kite was suspended in the air, without a string to hold it
from moving, and as though a cabin was placed amidships to hold human
beings.

"This sure is great!" cried Ned. "Have you got her in control, Tom?"

"I think so. I'll try and see how she works."

By shifting the weights, changing the balance, and warping the wings,
the young inventor sent the craft higher up, made it dip down almost to
the earth, and then swoop upward like some great bird. Then he turned
it completely about and though he developed no great speed in this test
made it progress quarteringly against the wind.

"It's almost perfect," declared Tom. "A few touches and she'll be all
right."

"Is it all right?" asked Ivan Petrofsky anxiously, as the three left
the cabin, and Eradicate hitched his mule to the glider to take it back
to the shed.

"I see where it can be improved," he said, as they made ready to
descend. "I'll soon have it in shape."

"Then we can go to Siberia?"

"In less than a month. The big airship needs some repairs, and then
we'll be off."

The Russian said nothing, but he looked his thanks to Tom, and the
manner in which he grasped the hand of our hero showed his deep
feelings.

The glider was given several more trials, and each time it worked
better. Tom decided to change some of the weights, and he devoted all
his time to this alteration, while Ned, Mr. Damon, and the others
labored to get the big airship in shape for the long trip to the land
of the exiles.

So anxious was Tom to get started, that he put in several nights
working on the glider. Ned occasionally came over to help him, while
Mr. Damon was on hand as often as his wife would allow. Mr. Petrofsky
spent his nights writing to friends in Russia, hoping to get some clew
as to the whereabouts of his brother.

It was on one of these nights, when Tom and Ned were laboring hard,
with Eradicate to help them that an incident occurred which worried
them all not a little. Tom was adjusting some of the new weights on the
sliding rods, and called to Ned:

"I say, old man, hand me that big monkey wrench, will you. I can't
loosen this nut with the small one. You'll find it on the bench by that
back window."

As Ned went to get the tool he looked from the casement. He started,
stood staring through the glass for a moment into the outer darkness,
and then cried out:

"Tom, we're being watched! There are some spies outside!"

"What?" exclaimed the young inventor "Where are they? Who are they?"

"I don't know. Those Russian police, maybe out front, and maybe we can
catch them!"

Grabbing up the big monkey wrench, Ned made a dash for the large
sliding doors, followed by Tom who had an iron bar, and Eradicate with
a small pair of pliers.

"By golly!" cried the colored man, "ef I gits 'em I'll pinch dere noses
off!"



CHAPTER X

OFF IN THE AIRSHIP


Going from the brightly lighted shop into the darkness of the night,
illuminated as it was only by the stars, neither Tom, Ned, nor
Eradicate, could see anything at first. They had to stand still for a
moment to accustom their eyes to the gloom.

"Can you see them?" cried Tom to his chum.

"No, but I can hear them! Over this way!" yelled Ned, and then, being
able to dimly make out objects, so he would not run into them, he
started off, followed by the young inventor.

Tom could hear several persons running away now, but he could see no
one, and from the sound he judged that the spies, if such they were,
were hurrying across the fields that surrounded the shop.

It was almost a hopeless task to pursue them, but the two lads were not
the kind that give up. They rushed forward, hoping to be able to
grapple with those who had looked in the shop window, but it was not to
be.

The sound of the retreating footsteps became more and more faint, until
finally they gave no clew to follow.

"Better stop," advised Tom. "No telling where we'll end up if we keep
on running. Besides it might be dangerous."

"Dangerous; how?" panted Ned.

"They might dodge around, and wait for us behind some tree or bush."

"An' ef dat Foger feller am around he jest as soon as not fetch one ob
us a whack in de head," commented Eradicate grimly.

"Guess you're about right," admitted Ned. "There isn't much use keeping
on. We'll go back."

"What sort of fellows were they?" asked Tom, when, after a little
further search, the hunt was given up. "Could you see them well, Ned?"

"Not very good. Just as I went to get you that wrench I noticed two
faces looking in the window. I must have taken them by surprise, for
they dodged down in an instant. Then I yelled, and they ran off."

"Did you see Andy Foger?"

"No, I didn't notice him."

"Was either of them one of the spies who had Mr. Petrofsky in the hut?"

"I didn't see those fellows very well, you remember, so I couldn't say."

"That's so, but I'll bet that's who they were."

"What do you think they're after, Tom?"

"One of two things. They either want to get our Russian friend into
their clutches again, or they're after me--to try to stop me from going
to Siberia."

"Do you think they'd go to such length as that?"

"I'm almost sure they would. Those Russian police are wrong, of course,
but they think Mr. Petrofsky is an Anarchist or something like that,
and they think they're justified in doing anything to get him back to
the Siberian mines. And once the Russian government sets out to do a
thing it generally does it--I'll give 'em credit for that."

"But how do you suppose they know you're going to Russia?"

"Say, those fellows have ways of getting information you and I would
never dream of. Why, didn't you read the other day how some fellow who
was supposed to be one of the worst Anarchists ever, high up in making
bombs, plotting, and all that sort of thing--turned out to be a police
spy? They get their information that way. I shouldn't be surprised but
what some of the very people whom Mr. Petrofsky thinks are his friends
are spies, and they send word to headquarters of every move he makes."

"Why don't you warn him?"

"He knows it as well as I do. The trouble is you can't tell who the
spies are until it's too late. I'm glad I'm not mixed up in that sort
of thing. If I can get to Siberia, help Mr. Petrofsky rescue his
brother, and get hold of some of that platinum I'll be satisfied. Then
I won't go back to the land of the Czar, once I get away from there."

"That's right. Well, let's go back and work on the glider."

"And we'll have Eradicate patrolling about the shop to make sure we're
not spied on again."

"By golly! Ef I sees any oh 'em, I suah will pinch 'em!" cried the
colored man, as he clicked the pliers.

But there was no further disturbance that night, and, when Tom and Ned
ceased work, they had made good progress toward finishing the air
glider.

The big airship was almost ready to be given a trial flight, with her
motors tuned up to give more power, and as soon as the Russian exile
had a little more definite information as to the possible whereabouts
of his brother, they could start.

In the days that followed Tom and his friends worked hard. The air
glider was made as nearly perfect as any machine is, and in a fairly
stiff gale, that blew up about a week later, Tom did some things in it
that made his friends open their eyes. The young inventor had it under
nearly as good control as he had his dirigible balloons or aeroplanes.

The big airship, too, was made ready for the long voyage, extra large
storage tanks for gasolene being built in, as it was doubtful if they
could get a supply in Siberia without arranging for it in advance, and
this they did not want to do. Besides there was the long ocean flight
to provide for.

"But if worst comes to worst I can burn kerosene in my motor," Tom
explained, for he had perfected an attachment to this end. "You can get
kerosene almost anywhere in Russia."

At last word was received from Russia, from some Revolutionist friends
of the exile, stating that his brother was supposed to be working in a
certain sulphur mine north of the Iablonnoi mountains, and half way
between that range and the city of Iakutsk.

"But it might be a salt mine, just as well," said Mr. Petrofsky, when
he told the boys the news. "Information about the poor exiles is hard
to get."

"Well, we'll take a chance!" cried Tom determinedly.

The preparations went on, and by strict watchfulness none of the spies
secured admission to the shop where the air glider was being finished.
The big airship was gotten in shape for the voyage, and then, after a
final trial of the glider, it was taken apart and put aboard the
Falcon, ready for use on the gale-swept plains of Siberia.

The last of the stores, provisions and supplies were put in the big car
of the airship, a route had been carefully mapped out, and Tom, after
saying good-bye to Mary Nestor, his father, the housekeeper, and
Eradicate, took his place in the pilot house of the airship one
pleasant morning at the beginning of Summer.

"Don't you wish you were going, Rad?" the young inventor asked, for the
colored man had decided to stay at home.

"No indeedy, Massa Tom," was the answer. "Dat's a mighty cold country
in Shebeara, an' I laik warm wedder."

"Well, take care of yourself and Boomerang," answered Tom with a laugh.
Then he pulled the lever that sent a supply of gas into the big bag,
and the ship began to rise.

"I guess we've given those spies the slip," remarked Ned, as they rose
from the ground calling good-byes to the friends they left behind.

"I hope so," agreed Tom, but could he have seen two men, of sinister
looks, peering at the slowly-moving airship from the shelter of a glove
of trees, not far off, he might have changed his opinion, and so would
Ned.

Then, as the airship gathered momentum, it fairly sprang into the air,
and a moment later, the big propellers began revolving. They were off
on their long voyage to find the lost platinum mine, and rescue the
exile of Siberia.



CHAPTER XI

A STORM AT SEA


Tom had the choice of two routes in making his voyage to far-off
Siberia. He could have crossed the United States, sailed over the
Pacific ocean, and approached the land of the Czar from the western
coast above Manchuria. But he preferred to take the Atlantic route,
crossing Europe, and so sailing over Russia proper to get to his
destination. There were several reasons for this.

The water voyage was somewhat shorter, and this was an important
consideration when there was no telling when he might have an accident
that would compel him to descend. On the Atlantic he knew there would
be more ships to render assistance if it was needed, although he hoped
he would not have to ask for it.

"Then, too," he said to Ned, when they were discussing the matter, "we
will have a chance to see some civilized countries if we cross Europe,
and we may land near Paris."

"Paris!" cried Ned. "What for?"

"To renew our supply of gasolene, for one thing," replied the young
inventor. "Not that we will be out when we arrive, but if we take on
more there we may not have to get any in Russia. Besides, they have a
very good quality in France, so all told, I think the route over Europe
to be the best."

Ned agreed with him, and so did Mr. Petrofsky. As for Mr. Damon, he was
so busy getting his sleeping room in order, and blessing everything he
could think of, that he did not have time to talk much. So the eastern
route was decided on, and as the big airship, carrying our friends,
their supplies, and the wonderful air glider rose higher and higher,
Tom gradually brought her around so that the pointed nose of the gas
bag aimed straight across the Atlantic.

They were over the ocean on the second day out, for Tom did not push
the craft to her limit of speed, now they had time to consider matters
at their leisure, for they had been rather hurried on leaving.

The machinery was working as nearly to perfection as it could be
brought, and Tom, after finding out that his craft would answer equally
well as a dirigible balloon or an aeroplane, let it sail along as the
latter.

"For," he said, "we have a long trip ahead of us and we need to save
all the elevating gas we can save. If worst comes to worst, and we
can't navigate as an aeroplane any more, we can even drift along as a
dirigible. But while we have the gasolene we might as well make speed
and be an aeroplane."

The others agreed with him, and so it was arranged. Tom, when he had
seen to it that his craft was working well, let Ned take charge and
devoted himself to seeing that all the stores and supplies were in
order for quick use.

Of course, until they were nearer the land of the Czar, and that part
of Siberia where Mr. Petrofsky's brother was held as an exile, they
could do little save make themselves as comfortable as possible in the
airship. And this was not hard to do.

Naturally, in a craft that had to carry a heavy load, and lift itself
into the air, as well as propel itself along, not many things could be
taken. Every ounce counted. Still our friends were not without their
comforts. There was a well stocked kitchen, and Mr. Damon insisted on
installing himself as cook. This had been Eradicate's work but the
eccentric man knew how to do almost everything from making soup to
roasting a chicken, and he liked it. So he was allowed free run of the
galley.

Tom and Ned spent much time in the steering tower or engine room, for,
though all of the machinery was automatic, there was need of almost
constant attention, though there was an arrangement whereby in case of
emergency, the airship would steer herself in any set direction for a
certain number of hours.

There were ample sleeping quarters for six persons, a living room and a
dining saloon. In short the Falcon was much like Tom's Red Cloud, only
bigger and better. There was even a phonograph on board so that music,
songs, and recitations could be enjoyed.

"Bless my napkin! but this is great!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, about noon
of the second day, when they had just finished dinner and looked down
through the glass windows in the bottom of the cabin at the rolling
ocean below them. "I don't believe many persons have such opportunities
as we have."

"I'm sure they do not," added Mr. Petrofsky. "I can hardly think it
true, that I am on my way back to Siberia to rescue my dear brother."

"And such good weather as we're having," spoke Ned. "I'm glad we didn't
start off in a storm, for I don't exactly like them when we're over the
water."

"We may get one yet," said Tom. "I don't just like the way the
barometer is acting. It's falling pretty fast."

"Bless my mercury tube!" cried Mr. Damon. "I hope we have no bad luck
on this trip."

"Oh, we can't help a storm or two," answered Tom. "I guess it won't do
any harm to prepare for it."

So everything was made snug, and movable articles on the small exposed
deck of the airship were lashed fast. Then, as night settled down, our
friends gathered about in the cheerful cabin, in the light of the
electric lamps, and talked of what lay before them.

As Mr. Damon could steer as well as Tom or Ned, he shared in the night
watch. But Mr. Petrofsky was not expert enough to accept this
responsibility.

It was when Mr. Damon finished his watch at midnight, and called Tom,
that he remarked.

"Bless my umbrella, Tom. But I don't like the looks of the weather."

"Why, what's it doing?"

"It isn't doing anything, but it's clouding up and the barometer is
going down."

"I was afraid we were in for it," answered the young inventor. "Well,
we'll have to take what comes."

The airship plunged on her way, while her young pilot looked at the
various gages, noting that to hold her way against the wind that had
risen he would have to increase the speed of the motor.

"I don't like it," murmured Tom, "I don't like it," and he shook his
head dubiously.

With a suddenness that was almost terrifying, the storm broke over the
ocean about three o'clock that morning. There was a terrific clap of
thunder, a flash of lighting, and a deluge of rain that fairly made the
staunch Falcon stagger, high in the air as she was.

"Come on, Ned!" cried Tom, as he pressed the electric alarm bell
connected with his chum's berth. "I need you, and Mr. Damon, too."

"What's the matter?" cried Ned, awakened suddenly from a sound sleep.

"We're in a bad storm," answered Tom, "and I'll have to have help. We
need more gas, to try and rise above it."

"Bless my hanging lamp!" cried Mr. Damon, "I hope nothing happens!"

And he jumped from his berth as the Falcon plunged and staggered
through the storm that was lashing the ocean below her into white
billow of foam.



CHAPTER XII

AN ACCIDENT


For a few moments it seemed as if the Falcon would surely turn turtle
and plunge into the seething ocean. The storm had burst with such
suddenness that Tom, who was piloting his air craft, was taken
unawares.  He had not been using much power or the airship would have
been better able to weather the blast that burst with such fury over
her. But as it was, merely drifting along, she was almost like a great
sheet of paper.  Down she was forced, until the high-flying spray from
the waves actually wet the lower part of the car, and Ned, looking
through one of the glass windows, saw, in the darkness, the
phosphorescent gleam of the water so near to them.

"Tom!" he cried in alarm. "We're sinking!"

"Bless my bath sponge! Don't say that!" gasped Mr. Damon.

"That's why I called you," yelled the young inventor. "We've got to
rise above the storm if possible. Go to the gas machine, Ned, and turn
it on full strength. I'll speed up the motor, and we may be able to cut
up that way. But get the gas on as soon as you can. The bag is only
about half full. Force in all you can!

"Mr. Damon, can you take the wheel? It doesn't make any difference
which way we go as long as you keep her before the wind, and yank back
the elevating rudder as far as she'll go! We must head up."

"All right, Tom," answered the eccentric man, as he fairly jumped to
take the place of the young inventor at the helm.

"Can I do anything?" asked the Russian, as Tom raced for the engine
room, to speed the motor up to the last notch.

"I guess not. Everything is covered, unless you want to help Mr. Damon.
In this blow it will be hard to work the rudder levers."

"All right," replied Ivan Petrofsky, and then there came another
sickening roll of the airship, that threatened to turn her completely
over.

"Lively!" yelled Tom, clinging to various supports as he made his way
to the engine room. "Lively, all hands, or we'll be awash in another
minute!"

And indeed it seemed that this might be so, for with the wind forcing
her down, and the hungry waves leaping up, as if to clutch her to
themselves, the Falcon was having anything but an easy time of it.

It was the work of but an instant however, when Tom reached the engine
room, to jerk the accelerator lever toward him, and the motor responded
at once. With a low, humming whine the wheels and gears redoubled their
speed, and the great propellers beat the air with fiercer strokes.

At the same time Tom heard the hiss of the gas as it rushed into the
envelope from the generating machine, as Ned opened the release valve.

"Now we ought to go up," the young inventor murmured, as he anxiously
watched the barograph, and noted the position of the swinging pendulum
which told of the roll and dip of the air craft.

For a moment she hung in the balance, neither the increased speed of
the propellers, nor the force of the gas having any seeming effect. Mr.
Damon and the Russian, clinging to the rudder levers, to avoid being
dashed against the sides of the pilot house, held them as far back as
they could, to gain the full power of the elevation planes. But even
this seemed to do no good.

The power of the gale was such, that, even with the motor and gas
machine working to their limit, the Falcon only held her own. She swept
along, barely missing the crests of the giant waves.

"She's got to go up! She's got to go up!" cried Tom desperately, as if
by very will power he could send her aloft. And then, when there came a
lull in the fierce blowing of the wind, the elevation rudder took hold,
and like a bird that sees the danger below, and flies toward the
clouds, the airship shot up suddenly.

"That's it!" cried Tom in relief, as he noted the needle of the
barograph swinging over, indicating an ever-increasing height. "Now
we're safe."

They were not quite yet, but at last the power of machinery had
prevailed over that of the elements. Through the pelting rain, and amid
the glare of the lightning, and the thunder of heaven's artillery, the
airship forced her way, up and up and up.

Setting the motor controller to give the maximum power until he
released it, Tom hastened to the gas-generating apparatus. He found Ned
attending to it, so that it was now working satisfactorily.

"How about it, Tom?" cried his chum anxiously.

"All right now, Ned, but it was a close shave! I thought we were done
for, platinum mine, rescue of exiles, and all."

"So did I. Shall I keep on with the gas?"

"Yes, until the indicator shows that the bag is full. I'm going to the
pilot house."

Running there, Tom found that Mr. Damon and the Russian had about all
they could manage. The young inventor helped them and then, when the
Falcon was well started on her upward course, Tom set the automatic
steering machine, and they had a breathing spell.

To get above the sweep of the blast was no easy task, for the wind
strata seemed to be several miles high, and Tom did not want to risk an
accident by going to such an elevation. So, when having gone up about a
mile, he found a comparatively calm area he held to that, and the
Falcon sped along with the occupants feeling fairly comfortable, for
there was no longer that rolling and tumbling motion.

The storm kept up all night, but the danger was practically over,
unless something should happen to the machinery, and Tom and Ned kept
careful watch to prevent this. In the morning they could look down on
the storm-swept ocean below them, and there was a feeling of
thankfulness in their hearts that they were not engulfed in it.

"This is a pretty hard initiation for an amateur," remarked Mr.
Petrofsky. "I never imagined I should be as brave as this in an airship
in a storm."

"Oh, you can get used to almost anything," commented Mr. Damon.

It was three days before the storm blew itself out and then came
pleasant weather, during which the Falcon flew rapidly along. Our
friends busied themselves about many things, talked of what lay before
them, and made such plans as they could.

It was the evening of the fifth day, and they expected to sight the
coast of France in the morning. Tom was in the pilot house, setting the
course for the night run, and Ned had gone to the engine room to look
after the oiling of the motor.

Hardly had he reached the compartment than there was a loud report, a
brilliant flash of fire, and the machinery stopped dead.

"What is it?" cried Tom, as he came in on the run, for the indicators
in the pilot house had told him something was wrong.

"An accident!" cried Ned. "A breakdown, Tom! What shall we do?"



CHAPTER XIII

SEEKING A QUARREL


There was an ominous silence in the engine room, following the flash
and the report. The young inventor took in every bit of machinery in a
quick glance, and he saw at once that the main dynamo and magneto had
short-circuited, and gone out of commission. Almost instantly the
airship began to sink, for the propellers had ceased revolving.

"Bless my barograph!" cried Mr. Damon, appearing on the scene. "We're
sinking, Tom!"

"It's all right," answered our hero calmly. "It's a bad accident, and
may delay us, but there's no danger. Ned, start up the gas machine,"
for they were progressing as an aeroplane then. "Start that up, and
we'll drift along as a dirigible."

"Of course! Why didn't I think of that!" exclaimed Ned, somewhat
provoked at his own want of thought. The airship was going down
rapidly, but it was the work of but a moment to start the generator,
and then the earthward motion was checked.

"We'll have to take our chance of being blown to France," remarked Tom,
as he went over to look at the broken electrical machinery. "But we
ought to fetch the coast by morning with this wind. Lucky it's blowing
our way."

"Then you can't use the propellers?" asked Mr. Petrofsky.

"No," replied Tom, "but if we get to France I can easily repair this
break. It's the platinum bearings again. I do hope we'll locate that
lost mine, for I need a supply of good reliable metal.

"Then we'll have to land in France?" asked the Russian, and he seemed a
trifle uneasy.

"Yes," answered Tom. "Don't you want to?"

"Well, I was thinking of our safety."

"Bless my silk hat!" cried Mr. Damon. "Where is the danger of landing
there? I rather hoped we could spend some time in Paris."

"There is no particular danger, unless it be comes known that I am an
escaped exile, and that we are on our way to Siberia to rescue another
one, and try to find the platinum mine. Then we would be in danger."

"But how are they to know it?" asked Ned, who had come back from the
gas machine.

"France, especially in Paris and the larger cities, is a hot-bed of
political spies," answered Mr. Petrofsky. "Russia has many there on the
secret police, and while the objectors to the Czar's government are
also there, they could do little to help us."

"I guess they won't find out about us unless we give it away," was
Tom's opinion.

"I'm afraid they will," was the reply of the Russian. "Undoubtedly word
has been cabled by the spies who annoyed us in Shopton, that we are on
our way over here. Of course they can't tell where we might land, but
as soon as we do land the news will be flashed all over, and the word
will come back that we are enemies of Russia. You can guess the rest."

"Then let's go somewhere else," suggested Mr. Damon.

"It would be the same anywhere in Europe," replied Ivan Petrofsky.
"There are spies in all the large centres."

"Well, I've got to go to Paris, or some large city to get the parts I
need," said Tom. "Unfortunately I didn't bring any along for the dynamo
and magneto, as I should have done, and I can't get the necessary
pieces in a small town. I'll have to depend on some big machine shop.
But we might land in some little-frequented place, and I could go in to
town alone."

"That might answer," spoke the Russian, and it was decided to try that.

Meanwhile it was somewhat doubtful whether they would reach France, for
they were dependent on the wind. But it seemed to be blowing steadily
in the desired direction, and Tom noted with satisfaction that their
progress was comparatively fast. He tried to repair the broken
machinery but found that he could not, though he spent much of the
night over it.

"Hurrah!" cried Ned when morning came, and he had taken an observation.
"There's some kind of land over there."

The wind freshened while they were at breakfast and using more gas so
as to raise them higher Tom directed the course of his airship as best
he could. He wanted to get high enough so that if they passed over a
city they would not be observed.

At noon it could be seen through the glass that they were over the
outskirts of some large place, and after the Russian had taken an
observation he exclaimed:

"The environs of Paris! We must not land there!"

"We won't, if the wind holds out," remarked Tom and this good fortune
came to them. They succeeded in landing in a field not far from a small
village, and though several farmers wondered much as the sight of the
big airship, it was thought by the platinum-seekers that they would be
comparatively safe.

"Now to get the first train for Paris and get the things I need,"
exclaimed Tom. He set to work taking off the broken pieces that they
might be duplicated, and then, having inquired at an inn for the
nearest railroad station, and having hired a rig, the young inventor
set off.

"Can you speak French?" asked Mr. Petrofsky. "If not I might be of
service, but if I go to Paris I might be."

"Never mind," interrupted Tom. "I guess I can parley enough to get
along with."

He had a small knowledge of the tongue, and with that, and knowing that
English was spoken in many places, he felt that he could make out. And
indeed he had no trouble. He easily found his way about the gay
capital, and located a machine shop where a specialty was made of parts
for automobile and airship motors. The proprietor, knowing the broken
pieces belonged to an aeroplane, questioned Tom about his craft but the
young inventor knew better than to give any clew that might make
trouble, so he returned evasive answers.

It was nearly night when he got back to the place where he had left the
Falcon, and he found a curious crowd of rustics grouped about it.

"Has anything happened?" he asked of his friends.

"No, everything is quiet, I'm glad to say," replied Mr. Petrofsky. "I
don't think our presence will create stir enough so that the news of it
will reach the spies in Paris. Still I will feel easier when we're in
the air again."

"It will take a day to make the repairs," said Tom, "and put in the new
pieces of platinum. But I'll work as fast as I can."

He and Ned labored far into the night, and were at it again the next
morning. Mr. Damon and the Russian were of no service for they did not
understand the machinery well enough. It was while Tom was outside the
craft, filing a piece of platinum in an improvised vise, that a
poorly-clothed man sauntered up and watched him curiously. Tom glanced
at him, and was at once struck by a difference between the man's attire
and his person.

For, though he was tattered and torn, the man's face showed a certain
refinement, and his hands were not those of a farmer or laborer in
which character he obviously posed.

"Monsieur has a fine airship there," he remarked to Tom.

"Oh, yes, it'll do." Tom did not want to encourage conversation.

"Doubtless from America it comes?"

The man spoke English but with an accent, and certain peculiarities.

"Maybe so," replied the young inventor.

"Is it permit to inspect the interior?"

"No, it isn't," came from Tom shortly. He had hurt his finger with the
file, and he was not in the best of humor.

"Ah, there are secrets then?" persisted the stranger.

"Yes!" said Tom shortly. "I wish you wouldn't bother me. I'm busy,
can't you see."

"Ah, does monsieur mean that I have poor eyesight?"

The question was snapped out so suddenly, and with such a menacing tone
that Tom glanced up quickly. He was surprised at the look in the man's
eyes.

"Just as you choose to take it," was the cool answer. "I don't know
anything about your eyes, but I know I've got work to do."

"Monsieur is insulting!" rasped out the seeming farmer. "He is not
polite. He is not a Frenchman."

"Now that'll do!" cried Tom, thoroughly aroused. "I don't want to be
too short with you, but I've really got to get this done. One side, if
you please," and having finished what he was doing, he started toward
the airship.

Whether in his haste Tom did not notice where he was going, or whether
the man deliberately got in his way I cannot say, but at any rate they
collided and the seeming farmer went spinning to one side, falling down.

"Monsieur has struck me! I am insulted! You shall pay for this!" he
cried, jumping to his feet, and making a rush for our hero.

"All right. It was your own fault for bothering me but if you want
anything I'll give it to you!" cried Tom, striking a position of
defense.

The man was about to rush at him, and there would have been a fight in
another minute, had not Mr. Petrofsky, stepping to the open window of
the pilot house, called out:

"Tom! Tom! Come here, quick. Never mind him!"

Swinging away from the man, the young inventor rushed toward the
airship. As he entered the pilot house he noticed that his late
questioner was racing off in the direction of the village.

"What is it? What's the matter?" he asked of the Russian. "Is something
more wrong with the airship?"

"No, I just wanted to get you away from that man.

"Oh, I could take care of myself."

"I know that, but don't you see what his game was? I listened to him.
He was seeking a quarrel with you."

"A quarrel?"

"Yes. He is a police spy. He wanted to get you into a fight and then he
and you would be arrested by the local authorities. They'd clap you
into jail, and hold us all here. It's a game! They suspect us, Tom! The
Russian spies have had some word of our presence! We must get away as
quickly as we can!"



CHAPTER XIV

HURRIED FLIGHT


The announcement of Ivan Petrofsky came to Tom with startling
suddenness. He could say nothing for a moment, and then, as he realized
what it meant, and as he recalled the strange appearance and actions of
the man, he understood the danger.

"Was he a spy?" he asked.

"I'm almost sure he was," came the answer. "He isn't one of the
villagers, that's sure, and he isn't a tourist. No one else would be in
this little out-of-the-way place but a police official. He is in
disguise, that is certain."

"I believe so," agreed Tom. "But what was his game?"

"We are suspected," replied the Russian. "I was afraid a big airship
couldn't land anywhere, in France without it becoming known. Word must
have been sent to Paris in the night, and this spy came out directly."

"But what will happen now?"

"Didn't you see where he headed for? The village. He has gone to send
word that his trick failed. There will be more spies soon, and we may
be detained or thrown into jail on some pretext or other. They may
claim that we have no license, or some such flimsy thing as that.
Anything to detain us. They are after me, of course, and I'm sorry that
I made you run such danger. Perhaps I'd better leave you, and--"

"No, you don't!" cried Tom heartily. "We'll all hang together or we'll
hang separately', as Benjamin Franklin or some of those old chaps once
remarked. I'm not the kind to desert a friend in the face of danger."

"Bless my revolver! I should say not!" cried Mr. Damon. "What's it all
about? Where's the danger?"

They told him as briefly as possible, and Ned, who had been working in
the motor room, was also informed.

"Well, what's to be done?" asked Tom. "Had we better get out our
ammunition, or shall I take out a French license."

"Neither would do any good," answered the Russian. "I appreciate your
sticking by me, and if you are resolved on that the only thing to do is
to complete the repairs as soon as possible and get away from here."

"That's it!" cried Ned. "A quick flight. We can get more gasolene here,
for lots of autos pass along the road through the village. I found that
out. Then we needn't stop until we hit the trail for the mine in
Siberia!"

"Hush!" cautioned the Russian. "You can't tell who may be sneaking
around to listen. But we ought to leave as soon as we can."

"And we will," said Tom. "I've got the magneto almost fixed!"

"Let's get a hustle on then!" urged Ned. "That fellow meant business
from his looks. The nerve of him to try to pick a quarrel that way."

"I might have told by his manner that something was wrong," commented
Tom, "but I thought he was a fresh tramp and I didn't take any pains in
answering him. But come on, Ned, get busy."

They did, with such good effect that by noon the machinery was in
running shape again, and so far there had been no evidence of the
return of the spy. Doubtless he was waiting for instructions, and
something might happen any minute.

"Now, Ned, if you'll see to having some gasolene brought out here, and
the tanks filled, I'll tinker with the dynamo and get that in running
shape," said Tom. "It only needs a little adjustment of the brushes.
Then we'll be off."

Ned started for the village where there was a gasolene depot He fancied
the villagers regarded him rather curiously, but he did not stop to ask
what it meant. Another odd fact was that the usual crowd of curious
rustics about the airship was missing. It was as though they suspected
trouble might come, and they did not want to be mixed up in it.

Never, Ned thought, had he seen a man so slow at getting ready the
supply of gasolene. He was to take it out in a wagon, but first he
mislaid the funnel, then the straining cloth, and finally he discovered
a break in the harness that needed mending.

"I believe he's doing it on purpose to delay us," thought the youth,
"but it won't do to say anything. Something is in the wind." He helped
the man all he could, and urged him in every way he knew, but the
fellow seemed to have grown suddenly stupid, and answered only in
French, though previously he had spoken some English.

But at last Ned, by dint of hard work, got him started, and rode on the
gasolene wagon with him. Once at the anchored airship, Tom and the
others filled the reserve tanks themselves, though the man tried to
help. However he did more harm than good, spilling several gallons of
the fluid.

"Oh, get away, and let us do it!" cried Tom at last. "I know what you--"

"Easy!" cautioned Mr. Petrofsky, with a warning look, and Tom subsided.

Finally the tanks were full, the man was paid, and he started to drive
away.

"Now to make a quick flight!" cried Tom, as he took his place in the
pilot house, while Ned went to the engine room. "Full speed, Ned!"

"Yes, and we'll need it, too," said the Russian.

"Why?" asked Tom.

"Look!" was the answer, and Ivan Petrofsky pointed across the field
over which, headed toward the airship, came the man who had sought a
quarrel with Tom. And with the spy were several policemen in uniform,
their short swords dangling at their sides.

"They're after us!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my chronometer they're
after us!"

"Start the motor, Ned! Start the motor!" cried Tom, and a moment later
the hum of machinery was heard, while the police and the spy broke into
a run, shouting and waving their hands.



CHAPTER XV

PURSUED


Slowly the airship arose, almost too slowly to suit those on board who
anxiously watched the oncoming officers. The latter had drawn their
short swords, and at the sight of them Mr. Damon cried out:

"Bless my football! If they jab them into the gas bag, Tom, we're done
for!"

"They won't get the chance," answered the young inventor, and he spoke
truly, for a moment later, as the big propellers took hold of the air,
the Falcon went up with a rush, and was far beyond the reach of the
men.  In a rage the spy shook his fist at the fast receding craft, and
one of the policemen drew his revolver.

"They're going to fire!" cried Ned.

"They can't do much damage," answered Tom coolly. "A bullet hole in the
bag is easily repaired, and anywhere else it won't amount to anything."

The officer was aiming his revolver at the airship, now high above his
head, but with a quick motion the spy pulled down his companion's arm,
and they seemed to be disputing among themselves.

"I wonder what that means?" mused Mr. Damon.

"Probably they didn't want to risk getting into trouble," replied the
Russian. "There are strict laws in France about using firearms, and as
yet we are accused of no crime. We are only suspected, and I suppose
the spy didn't want to get into trouble. He is on foreign ground, and
there might be international complications."

"Then you really think he was a spy?" asked Tom.

"No doubt of it, and I'm afraid this is only the beginning of our
trouble."

"In what way?"

"Well, of course word will be sent on ahead about us, and every where
we go they'll be on the watch for us. They have our movements pretty
well covered."

"We won't make a descent until we get to Siberia," said Tom, "and I
guess there it will be so lonesome that we won't be troubled much."

"Perhaps," admitted the Russian, "but we will have to be on our guard.
Of course keeping up in the air will be an advantage but they may--"

He stopped suddenly and shrugged his shoulders.

"What were you going to say?" inquired Ned.

"Oh, it's just something that might happen, but it's too remote a
possibility to work about. We're leaving those fellows nicely behind,"
he added quickly, as though anxious to change the subject.

"Yes, at this rate we'll soon be out of France," observed Tom, as he
speeded the ship along still more. The young inventor wondered what Mr.
Petrofsky had been going to say, but soon after this, some of the
repaired machinery in the motor room needed adjusting, and the young
inventor was kept so busy that the matter passed from his mind.

The dynamo and magneto were doing much more efficient work since Tom
had put the new platinum in, and the Falcon was making better time than
ever before. They were flying at a moderate height, and could see
wondering men, women and children rush out from their houses, to gaze
aloft at the strange sight. Paris was now far behind, and that night
they were approaching the borders of Prussia, as Mr. Petrofsky informed
them, for he knew every part of Europe.

The route, as laid down by Tom and the Russian, would send the airship
skirting the southern coast of the Baltic sea, then north-west, to pass
to one side of St. Petersburg, and then, after getting far enough to
the north, so as to avoid the big cities, they would head due east for
Siberia.

"In that way I think we'll avoid any danger from the Russian police,"
remarked the exile.

For the next few days they flew steadily on at no remarkable speed, as
the extra effort used more gasolene than Tom cared to expend in the
motor. He realized that he would need all he had, and he did not want
to have to buy any more until he was homeward bound, for the purchase
of it would lead to questions, and might cause their detention.

Mr. Damon gave his friends good meals and they enjoyed their trip very
much, though naturally there was some anxiety about whether it would
have a successful conclusion.

"Well, if we don't find the platinum mine we'll rescue your brother, if
there's a possible chance!" exclaimed Tom one day, as he sat in the
pilot house with the exile. "Jove! it will be great to drop down, pick
him up, and fly away with him before those Cossacks, or whoever has
him, know what's up."

"I'm afraid we can't make such a sensational rescue as that," replied
Mr. Petrofsky. "We'll have to go at it diplomatically. That's the only
way to get an exile out of Siberia. We must get word to him somehow,
after we locate him, that we are waiting to help him, and then we can
plan for his escape. Poor Peter! I do hope we can find him, for if he
is in the salt or sulphur mines it is a living death!" and he shuddered
at the memory of his own exile.

"How do you expect to get definite information as to where he might
be?" asked Tom.

"I think the only thing to do is to get in touch with some of the
revolutionists," answered the Russian. "They have ways and means of
finding out even state secrets. I think our best plan will be to land
near some small town, when we get to the edge of Siberia. If we can
conceal the airship, so much the better. Then I can disguise myself and
go to the village."

"Will it be safe?" inquired the young inventor.

"I'll have to take that chance. It's the only way, as I am the only one
in our party who can speak Russian."

"That's right," admitted Tom with a laugh. "I'm afraid I could never
master that tongue. It's as hard as Chinese."

"Not quite," replied his friend, "but it is not an easy language for an
American."

They talked at some length, and then Tom noticing, by one of the
automatic gages on the wall of the pilot house, that some of the
machinery needed attention, went to attend to it.

He was rather surprised, on emerging from the motor compartment, to see
Mr. Damon standing on the open after deck of the Falcon gazing
earnestly toward the rear.

"Star-gazing in the day time?" asked Tom with a laugh.

"Bless my individuality!" exclaimed the odd man. "How you startled me,
Tom! No, I'm not looking at stars, but I've been noticing a black speck
in the sky for some time, and I was wondering whether it was my
eyesight, or whether it really is something."

"Where is it?"

"Straight to the rear," answered Mr. Damon, "and it seems to be about a
mile up. It's been hanging in the same place this ten minutes."

"Oh, I see," spoke Tom, when the speck had been pointed out to him.
"It's there all right, but I guess it's a bird, an eagle perhaps. Wait,
I'll get a glass and we'll take a look."

As he was taking the telescope down from its rack in the pilot house,
Mr. Petrofsky saw him.

"What's up?" asked the Russian, and the youth told him.

"Must be a pretty big bird to be seen at such a distance as it is,"
remarked Tom.

"Maybe it isn't a bird," suggested Ivan Petrofsky. "I'll take a look
myself," and, showing something of alarm in his manner, he followed Tom
to where Mr. Damon awaited them. Ned also came out on deck.

Quickly adjusting the glass, Tom focused it on the black speck. It
seemed to have grown larger. Me peered at it steadily for several
seconds.

"Is it a bird?" asked Mr. Damon.

"Jove! It's another airship--a big biplane!" cried Tom, "and there
seems to be three men in her."

"An aeroplane!" gasped Ned.

"Bless my deflecting rudder!" cried Mr. Damon. "An airship in this
out-of-the-way place?" for they were flying over a desolate country.

"And they're coming right after us," added Tom, as he continued to gaze.

"I thought so," was the quiet comment of Mr. Petrofsky. "That is what I
started to say a few days ago," he went on, "when I stopped, as I
hardly believed it possible. I thought they might possibly send an
aeroplane after us, as both the French and Russian armies have a number
of fast ones. So they are pursuing us. I'm afraid my presence will
bring you no end of trouble."

"Let it come!" cried Tom. "If they can catch up to us they've got a
good machine. Come on, Ned, let's speed her up, and make them take more
of our star dust."

"Wait a minute," advised the Russian, as he took the telescope from
Tom, and viewed the ever-increasing speck behind them. "Are you sure of
the speed of this craft?" he asked a moment later.

"I never saw the one yet I couldn't pull away from, even after giving
them a start," answered the young inventor proudly. "That is all but my
little sky racer. I could let them get within speaking distance, and
then pull out like the Congressional Limited passing a slow freight."

"Then wait a few minutes," suggested Mr. Petrofsky. "That is an
aeroplane all right, but I can't make out from what country. I'd like a
better view, and if it's safe we can come closer."

"Oh, it's safe enough," declared Tom. "I'll get things in shape for a
quick move," and he hurried back to the machine room, while the others
took turns looking at the oncoming aeroplane. And it was coming on
rapidly, showing that it had tremendous power, for it was a very large
one, carrying three men.

"How do you suppose they got on our track?" asked Ned.

"Oh, we must have been reported from time to time, as we flew over
cities or towns," replied Mr. Petrofsky. "You know we're rather large,
and can be seen from a good distance. Then too, the whole Russian
secret police force is at the service of our enemies."

"But we're not over Russia yet," said Mr. Damon.

Ivan Petrofsky took the telescope and peered down toward the earth.
They were not a great way above it, and at that moment they were
passing a small village.

"Can you tell where we are?" asked the odd man.

"We are just over the border of the land of the Czar," was the quiet
answer. "The imperial flag is flying from a staff in front of one of
the buildings down there. We are over Russia."

"And here comes that airship," called Ned suddenly.

They gazed back with alarm, and saw that it was indeed so. The big
aeroplane had come on wonderfully fast in the last few minutes.

"Tom! Tom!" cried his chum. "Better get ready to make a sprint."

"I'm all ready," calmly answered our hero. "Shall I go now?"

"If you can give us a few seconds longer I may be able to tell who is
after us," remarked Mr. Petrofsky, turning his telescope on the craft
behind them.

"I can let them get almost up to us, and get away," replied Tom.

The Russian did not answer. He was gazing earnestly at the approaching
aeroplane. A moment later he took the glass down from his eye.

"It's our spy again," he said. "There are two others with him. That is
one of the aeroplanes owned by the secret police. They are stationed
all over Europe, ready for instant service, and they're on our trail."

The pursuing craft was so near that the occupants could easily be made
out with the naked eye, but it needed the glass to distinguish their
features, and Mr. Petrofsky had done this.

"Shall I speed up?" cried Tom.

"Yes, get away as fast as you can!" shouted the Russian. "No telling
what they may do," and then, with a hum and a roar the motor of the
Falcon increased its speed, and the big airship shot ahead.



CHAPTER XVI

THE NIHILISTS


From the pursuing aircraft came a series of sharp explosions that
fairly rattled through the clear air.

"Look out for bombs!" yelled Ned.

"Bless my safety match!" cried Mr. Damon. "Are they anarchists?"

"It's only their motor hack-firing," cried Tom. "It's all right,
They're done for now, well leave them behind."

He was a true prophet, for with a continued rush and a roar the airship
of our friends opened up a big gap between her rear rudders and the
forward planes of the craft that was chasing her. The three men were
working frantically to get their motor in shape, but it was a useless
task.

A little later, finding that they were losing speed, the three police
agents, or spies, whatever they might be, had to volplane to earth and
there was no need for the Falcon to maintain the terrific pace, to
which Tom had pushed her. The pursuit was over.

"Well, we got out of that luckily," remarked Ned, as he looked down to
where the spies were making a landing. "I guess they won't try that
trick again."

"I'm afraid they will," predicted Mr. Petrofsky. "You don't know these
government agents as I do. They never give up. They'll fix their
engine, and get on our trail again."

"Then we'll make them work for what they get," put in Tom, who, having
set the automatic speed accelerator, had rejoined his companions.
"We'll try a high flight and if they can pick up a trail in the air,
and come up to us, they're good ones!"

He ran to the pilot house, and set the elevation rudder at its limit.
Meanwhile the spies were working frantically over their motor, trying
to get it is shape for the pursuit. But soon they realized that this
was out of the question, for the Falcon was far away, every moment
going higher and higher, until she was lost to sight beyond the clouds.

"I guess they'll have their own troubles now," remarked Ned. "We've
seen the last of them."

"Don't be too sure," spoke the Russian. "We may have them after us
again.  We're over the land of the Czar now, and they'll have
everything their own way. They'll want to stop me at any cost."

"Do you think they suspect that we're after the platinum?" asked Tom.

"They may, for they know my brother and I were the only ones who ever
located it, though unless I get in the exact neighborhood I'd have
trouble myself picking it out. I remember some of the landmarks, but my
brother is better at that sort of work than I am. But I think what they
are mostly afraid of is that I have some designs on the life of, say
one of the Grand Dukes, or some high official. But I am totally opposed
to violent measures," went on Mr. Petrofsky. "I believe in a campaign
of education, to gain for the down-trodden people what are their
rights."

"Do you think they know you are coming to rescue your brother?" asked
Tom.

"I don't believe so. And I hope not, for once they suspected that, they
would remove him to some place where I never could locate him."

Calmer feelings succeeded the excitement caused by the pursuit, and our
friends, speculating on the matter, came to the conclusion that the
aeroplane must have started from some Prussian town, as Mr. Petrofsky
said there were a number of Russian secret police in that country. The
Falcon was now speeding along at a considerable height, and after
running for a number of miles, sufficient to preclude the possibility
that they could be picked up by the pursuing aeroplane, Tom sent his
craft down, as the rarefied atmosphere made breathing difficult.

It was about three days after the chase when, having carefully studied
the map and made several observations through the telescope of the
Country over which they were traveling, that Ivan Petrofsky said:

"If it can be managed, Tom, I think we ought to go down about here.
There is a Russian town not far away, and I know a few friends there,
There is a large stretch of woodland, and the airship can be easily
concealed there.

"All right," agreed the young inventor, "down we go, and I hope you get
the information want."

Flying high so as to keep out of the observation of the inhabitants of
the Russian town, the young inventor sent his craft in a circle about
it, and, having seen a clearing in the forest, he made a landing there,
the Falcon having come to rest a second time since leaving Shopton, now
several thousand miles away.

"We'll hide here for a few days," observed Tom, "and you can spend as
much time in town as you like, Mr. Petrofsky."

The Russian, disguising himself by trimming his beard, and putting on a
pair of dark spectacles, went to the village that afternoon.

While he was gone Tom, Ned and Mr. Damon busied themselves about the
airship, making a few repairs that could not very well be done while it
was in motion. As night came on, and the exile did not return, Tom
began to get a little worried, and he had some notion of going to seek
him, but he knew it would not be safe.

"He'll come all right," declared Ned, as they sat down to supper. All
about them was an almost impenetrable forest, cut here and there by
paths along which, as Mr. Petrofsky had told them, the wood cutters
drove their wagons.

It was quite a surprise therefor, when, as they were leaving the table,
a knock was heard on the cabin door.

"Bless my electric bell!" cried Mr. Damon. "Who can that be?"

"Mr. Petrofsky of course," answered Ned.

"He wouldn't knock--he'd walk right in," spoke Tom, as he went to the
door. As he opened it he saw several dark-bearded men standing there,
and in their midst Mr. Petrofsky.

For one moment our hero feared that his friend had been arrested and
that the police bad come to take the rest of them into custody. But a
word from the exile reassured him.

"These are some of my friends," said Mr. Petrofsky simply. "They are
Nihilists which I am not, but--"

"Nihilists yes! Always!" exclaimed one who spoke English. "Death to the
Czar and the Grand Dukes! Annihilation to the government!"

"Gently my friend, gently," spoke Mr. Petrofsky. "I am opposed to
violence you know." And then, while his new friends gazed wonderingly
at the strange craft, he led them inside. Tom and the others were
hardly able to comprehend what was about to take place.



CHAPTER XVII

ON TO SIBERIA


"Has anything happened?" asked Tom. "Are we suspected? Have they come
to warn us?"

"No, everything is all right, so far," answered Ivan Petrofsky. "I
didn't have the success I hoped for, and we may have to wait here for a
few days to get news of my brother. But these men have been very kind
to me," he went on, "and they have ways of getting information that I
have not. So they are going to aid me."

"That's right!" exclaimed the one who had first spoken. "We will yet
win you to our cause, Brother Petrofsky. Death to the Czar and the
Grand Dukes!"

"Never!" exclaimed the exile firmly. "Peaceful measures will succeed.
But I am grateful for what you can do for me. They heard me describe
your wonderful airship," he explained to Tom, "and wanted to see for
themselves."

The Nihilists were made welcome after Mr. Petrofsky had introduced
them.  They had strange and almost unpronounceable names for the ears
of our friends, and I will not trouble you with them, save to say that
the one who spoke English fairly well, and who was the leader, was
called Nicolas Androwsky. There was much jabbering in the Russian
tongue, when Mr. Petrofsky and Mr. Androwsky took the others about the
craft, explaining how it worked.

"I can't show you the air glider," said Tom, who naturally acted as
guide, "as it would take too long to put together, and besides there is
not enough wind here to make it operate."

"Then you need much wind?" asked Nicolas Androwsky.

"The harder the gale the better she flies," answered Tom proudly.

"Bless my sand bag, but that's right!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, who, up to
now had not taken much part in the conversation. He followed the party
about the airship, keeping in the rear, and he eyed the Nihilists as if
he thought that each one had one or more dynamite bombs concealed on
his person.

"Ha!" exclaimed Mr. Androwsky, turning suddenly to the odd man. "Are
you not one of us? Do you not believe that this terrible kingdom should
be destroyed--made as nothing, and a new one built from its ashes? Are
you not one of us?" and with a quick gesture he reached into his pocket.

"No! No!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, starting back. "Bless my election
ticket!  No! Never could I throw a bomb. Please don't give me one." Mr.
Damon started to run away.

"A bomb!" exclaimed the Nihilist, and then he drew from his pocket some
pamphlets printed in Russian. "I have no bombs. Here are some of the
tracts we distribute to convert unbelievers to our cause," he went on.
"Read them and you will understand what we are striving for. They will
convert you, I am sure."

He went on, following the rest of the party, while Mr. Damon dropped
back with Ned.

"Bless my gas meter!" gasped the odd man, as he stared at the
queerly-printed documents in his hand. "I thought he was going to give
me a bomb to throw!"

"I don't blame you," said Ned in a low voice. "They look like desperate
men, but probably they have suffered many hardships, and they think
their way of righting a wrong is the only way. I suppose you'll read
those tracts," he added with a smile.

"Hum! I'm afraid not," answered Mr. Damon. "I might just as well try to
translate a Chinese laundry check. But I'll save 'em for souvenirs,"
and he carefully put them in his pocket, as if he feared they might
unexpectedly turn into a bomb and blow up the airship.

The tour of the craft was completed and the Nihilists returned to the
comfortable cabin where, much to their surprise, they were served with
a little lunch, Mr. Damon bustling proudly about from the table to the
galley, and serving tea as nearly like the Russians drink it as
possible.

"Well, you certainly have a wonderful craft here--wonderful," spoke Mr.
Androwsky. "If we had some of these in our group now, we could start
from here, hover over the palace of the Czar, or one of the Grand
Dukes, drop a bomb, utterly destroy it, and come back before any of the
hated police would be any the wiser."

"I'm afraid I can't lend it to you," said Tom, and he could scarcely
repress a shudder at the terrible ideas of the Nihilists.

"It would never do," agreed Ivan Petrofsky. "The campaign of education
is the only way."

There were gutteral objections on the part of the other Russians, and
they turned to more cheerful subjects of talk.

"What are your plans?" asked Tom of the exile. "You say you can get no
trace here of your brother?"

"No, he seems to have totally disappeared from sight. Usually we
enemies of the government can get some news of a prisoner, but poor
Peter is either dead, or in some obscure mine, which is hidden away in
the forests or mountains."

"Maybe he is in the lost platinum mine," suggested Ned.

"No, that has not been discovered," declared the exile, "or my friends
here would have heard of it. That is still to be found."

"And we'll do it, in the air glider," declared Tom. "By the way, Mr.
Petrofsky, would it not be a good plan to ask your friends the location
of the place where the winds constantly blow with such force. It occurs
to me that in some such way we might locate the mine."

"It would be of use if there was only one place of the gales," replied
the exile. "But Siberia has many such spots in the mountain
fastnesses--places which, by the peculiar formation of the land, have
constant eddys of air over them. No, the only way is for us to go as
nearly as possible to the place where my brother and I were imprisoned,
and search there."

"But what is that you said about us having to stay here, to get some
news of your brother?" asked Tom.

"I had hoped to get some information here," resumed Mr. Petrofsky, "but
my friends here are without news. However, they are going to make
inquiries, and we will have to stay here until they have an answer. It
will be safe, they think, as there are not many police in town, and the
local authorities are not very efficient. So the airship will remain
here, and, from time to time I will go to the village, disguised, and
see if any word has come."

"And we will bring you news as soon as we get it," promised Mr.
Androwsky. "You are not exactly one of us, but you are against the
government, and, therefor, a brother. But you will be one of us in
time."

"Never," replied the exile with a smile. "My only hope now is to get my
brother safely away, and then we will go and live in free America. But,
Tom, I hope I won't put you out by delaying here."

"Not a bit of it. More than half the object of our trip is to rescue
your brother. We must do that first. Now as to details," and they fell
to discussing plans. It was late that night when the Nihilists left the
airship, first having made a careful inspection to see that they were
not spied upon. They promised at once to set to work their secret
methods of getting information.

For several days the airship remained in the vicinity of the Russian
town. Our friends were undisturbed by visitors, as they were in a
forest where the villagers seldom came and the nearest wood-road was
nearly half a mile off.

Every day either Mr. Petrofsky went in to town to see the Nihilists or
some of them came out to the Falcon, usually at night.

"Well, have you any word yet?" asked Tom, after about a week had passed.

"Nothing yet," answered the exile, and his tone was a bit hopeless.
"But we have not given up. All the most likely places have been tried,
but he is not there. We have had traces of him, but they are not fresh
ones. He seems to have been moved from one mine to another. Probably
they feared I would make an attempt to rescue him. But I have not given
up. Me is somewhere in Siberia."

"And we'll find him!" cried Tom with enthusiasm.

For three days more they lingered, and then, one night, when they were
just getting ready to retire, there was a knock on the cabin door. Mr.
Petrofsky had been to the village that day, and had received no news.
He had only returned about an hour before.

"Some one's knocking," announced Ned, as if there could be any doubt of
it.

"Bless my burglar alarm!" gasped Mr. Damon.

"I'll see who it is," volunteered Mr. Petrofsky, and Tom looked toward
the rack of loaded rifles, for that day a man, seemingly a wood cutter
had passed close to the airship, and had hurried off as if he had seen
a ghost.

The knock was repeated. It might be their friends, and it might be--

But Mr. Petrofsky solved the riddle by throwing back the portal, and
there stood the Nihilist, Nicolas Androwsky.

"Is there anything the matter?" asked the exile quickly.

"We have news," was the cautious answer, as the Nihilist slipped in,
and closed the door behind him.

"News of my brother?"

"Of your brother! He is in a sulphur mine in the Altai Mountains, near
the city of Abakansk."

"Where's that?" asked Tom for he had forgotten most of his Russian
geography.

"The Altai Mountains are a range about the middle of Siberia,"
explained Mr. Petrofsky. "They begin at the Kirghiz Steppes, and run
west. It is a wild and desolate place. I hope we can find poor Peter
alive."

"And this city of Abakansk?" went on the young inventor.

"It is many miles from here, but I can give you a good map," said the
Nihilist. "Some of our friends are there," he added with a half-growl.
"I wish we could rescue all of them."

"We'd like to," spoke Tom. "But I fear it is impossible. But now that
we have a clew, come on! Let's start at once! It may be dangerous to
stay here. On to Siberia!"



CHAPTER XVIII

IN A RUSSIAN PRISON


The news they had waited for had come at last. It might be a false
clew, but it was something to work on, and Tom was tired of inaction.
Then, too, even after they had started, the prisoner might be moved and
they would have to trace him again.

"But that is the latest information we could get," said Mr. Androwsky.
"It came through some of our Anarchist friends, and I believe is
reliable. Can you soon make a thousand miles in your airship?"

"Yes," answered Tom, "if I push her to the limit."

"Then do so," advised the Nihilist, "for there is need of haste. In
making inquiries our friends might incur suspicions and Peter Petrofsky
may be exiled to some other place."

"Oh, we'll get there," cried Tom. "Ned, see to the gas machine. Mr.
Damon, you can help me in the pilot house."

"Here is a map of the best route," said the Nihilist, as he handed one
to Mr. Petrofsky. "It will take you there the shortest way. But how can
you steer when high in the air?"

"By compass," explained Tom. "We'll get there, never fear, and we're
grateful for your clew."

"I never can thank you enough!" exclaimed the exile, as he shook hands
with Mr. Androwsky.

The Nihilist left, after announcing that, in the event of the success
of Tom and his friends, and the rescue of the exile from the sulphur
mine, it would probably become known to them, as such news came through
the Revolutionary channels, slowly but surely.

"Here we go!" cried the young inventor gaily, as he turned the starting
lever in the pilot house, and silently, in the darkness of the night,
the Falcon shot upward. There was not a light on board, for, though
small signal lamps had been kept burning when the craft was in the
forest, to guide the Nihilists to her, now that she was up in the air,
and in motion, it was feared that her presence would become known to
the authorities of the town, so even these had been extinguished.

"After we get well away we can turn on the electrics," remarked Tom,
"and if they see us at a distance they may take us for a meteor. But,
so close as this, they'd get wise in a minute."

Mr. Damon, who had done all that Tom needed in the starting of the
craft, went to the forward port rail, and idly looked down on the black
forest they were leaving. He could just make out the clearing where
they had rested for over a week, and he was startled to see lights
bobbing in it.

"I say, Mr. Petrofsky!" he called. "Did we leave any of our lanterns
behind us?"

"I don't believe so," answered the exile. "I'll ask Tom."

"Lanterns? No," answered the young inventor. "Before we started I took
down the only one we had out. I'll take a look."

Setting the automatic steering apparatus, he joined Mr. Damon and the
Russian. The lights were now dimly visible, moving about in the forest
clearing.

"It's just as if they were looking for something," said Tom. "Can it be
that any of your Nihilist friends, Mr. Petrofsky are--"

"Friends--no friends--enemies!" cried the Russian. "I understand now!
We got away just in time. Those are police agents who are looking for
us!  They must have received word about our being there. Androwsky and
the others never carry lights when they go about. They know the country
too well, and then, too, it leads to detection. No, those are police
spies.  A few minutes later, and we would have been discovered."

"As it is we're right over their heads, and they don't know it,"
chuckled Tom. The airship was moving silently along before a good
breeze, the propellers not having been started, and Tom let her drift
for several miles, as he did not want to give the police spies a clew
by the noise of the motor.

The twinkling lights in the forest clearing disappeared from sight, and
the seekers went on in the darkness.

"Well, we've got the hardest part of our work yet ahead of us,"
remarked Tom several hours later when, the lights having been set
aglow, they were gathered in the main cabin. There was no danger of
being seen now, for they were quite high.

"We've done pretty well, so far," commented Ned. "I think we will have
easier work rescuing Mr. Petrofsky's brother than in locating the mine.

"I don't know about that," answered the Russian. "It is almost
impossible to rescue a person from Siberia. Of course it is not going
to be easy to locate the lost mine, but as for that we can keep on
searching, that is if the air glider works, but there are so many
forces to fight against in rescuing a prisoner."

They had a long journey ahead of them, and not an easy route to follow,
but as the days passed, and they came nearer and nearer to their goal,
they became more and more eager.

They were passing over a desolate country, for they avoided the
vicinity of large towns and cities.

"I wonder when we'll strike Siberia?" mused Tom one afternoon, as they
sat on the outer deck, enjoying the air.

"At this rate of progress, very soon," answered the exile, after
glancing at the map. "We should be at the foot of the Ural mountains in
a few hours, and across them in the night. Then we will be in Siberia."

And he was right, for just as supper was being served, Ned, who had
been making observations with a telescope, exclaimed:

"These must be the Urals!"

Mr. Petrofsky seized the glass.

"They are," he announced. "We will cross between Orsk and Iroitsk. A
safe place. In the morning we will be in Siberia--the land of the
exiles."

And they were, morning seeing them flying over a most desolate stretch
of landscape. Onward they flew, covering verst after verst of
loneliness.

"I'm going to put on a little more speed," announced Tom, after a visit
to the storeroom, where were kept the reserve tanks of gasolene. "I've
got more fluid than I thought I had, and as we're on the ground now I
want to hurry things. I'm going to make better time," and he yanked
over the lever of the accelerator, sending the Falcon ahead at a rapid
rate.

All day this was kept up, and they were just making an observation to
determine their position, along toward supper time, when there came the
sound of another explosion from the motor room.

"Bless my safety valve!" cried Mr. Damon. "Something has gone wrong
again."

Tom ran to the motor, and, at the same time the Falcon which was being
used as an aeroplane and not as a dirigible, began to sink.

"We're going down!" cried Ned.

"Well, you know what to do!" shouted his chum. "The gas bag! Turn on
the generator!"

Ned ran to it, but, in spite of his quick action, the craft continued
to slide downward.

"She won't work!" he cried.

"Then the intake pipe must be stopped!" answered the young inventor.
"Never mind, I'll volplane to earth and we can make repairs. That
magneto has gone out of business again."

"Don't land here!" cried Ivan Petrofsky.

"Why not?"

"Because we are approaching a large town--Owbinsk I think it is-the
police there will be there to get us. Keep on to the forest again!"

"I can't!" cried Tom. "We've got to go down, police or no police."

Running to the pilot house, he guided the craft so that it would safely
volplane to earth. They could all see that now they were approaching a
fairly large town, and would probably land on its outskirts. Through
the glass Ned could make out people staring up at the strange sight.

"They'll be ready to receive us," he announced grimly.

"I hope they have no dynamite bombs for us," murmured Mr. Damon. "Bless
my watch chain! I must get rid of that Nihilist literature I have about
me, or they'll take me for one," and he tore up the tracts, and
scattered them in the air.

Meanwhile the Falcon continued to descend.

"Maybe I can make quick repairs, and get away before they realize who
we are," said Tom, as he got ready for the landing.

They came down in a big field, and, almost before the bicycle wheels
had ceased revolving, under the application of the brakes, several men
came running toward them.

"Here they come!" cried Mr. Damon.

"They are only farmers," said the exile. He had donned his dark glasses
again, and looked like anything but a Russian.

"Lively, Ned!" cried Tom. "Let's see if we can't make repairs and get
off again."

The two lads frantically began work, and they soon had the magneto in
running order. They could have gone up as an aeroplane, leaving the
repairs to the gas bag to be made later but, just as they were ready to
start, there came galloping out a troop of Cossack soldiers. Their
commander called something to them.

"What is he saying?" cried Tom to Mr. Petrofsky.

"He is telling them to surround us so that we can not get a running
start, such as we need to go up. Evidently he understands aeroplanes."

"Well, I'm going to have a try," declared the young inventor.

He jumped to the pilot house, yelling to Ned to start the motor, but it
was too late. They were hemmed in by a cordon of cavalry, and it would
have been madness to have rushed the Falcon into them, for she would
have been wrecked, even if Tom could have succeeded in sending her
through the lines.

"I guess it's all up with us," groaned Ned.

And it seemed to; for, a moment later, an officer and several aides
galloped forward, calling out something in Russian.

"What is it?" asked Tom.

"He says we are under arrest," translated the exile.

"What for?" demanded the young inventor.

Ivan Petrofsky shrugged his shoulders.

"It is of little use to ask--now," he answered. "It may be we have
violated some local law, and can pay a fine and go, or we may be taken
for just what we are, or foreign spies, which we are not. It is best to
keep quiet, and go with them."

"Go where?" cried Tom.

"To prison, I suppose," answered the exile. "Keep quiet, and leave it
to me. I will do all I can. I don't believe they will recognize me.

"Bless my search warrant!" cried Mr. Damon. "In a Russian prison! That
is terrible!"

A few minutes later, expostulations having been useless, our friends
were led away between guards who carried ugly looking rifles, and who
looked more ugly and menacing themselves. Then the doors of the Russian
prison of Owbinsk closed on Tom and his friends, while their airship
was left at the mercy of their enemies.



CHAPTER XIX

LOST IN A SALT MINE


The blow had descended so suddenly that it was paralyzing. Tom and his
friends did not know what to do, but they saw the wisdom of the course
of leaving everything to Ivan Petrofsky. He was a Russian, and he knew
the Russian police ways--to his sorrow.

"I'm not afraid," said Tom, when they had been locked in a large prison
room, evidently set apart for the use of political, rather than
criminal, offenders. "We're United States citizens, and once our
counsel hears of this--as he will--there'll be some merry doings in
Oskwaski, or whatever they call this place. But I am worried about what
they may do to the Falcon."

"Have no fears on that score," said the Russian exile. "They know the
value of a good airship, and they won't destroy her."

"What will they do then?" asked Tom.

"Keep her for their own use, perhaps."

"Never!" cried Tom. "I'll destroy her first!"

"If you get the chance!" interposed the exile.

"But we're American citizens!" cried Tom, "and--"

"You forget that I am not," interrupted Mr. Petrofsky. "I can't claim
the protection of your flag, and that is why I wish to remain unknown.
We must act quietly. The more trouble we make, the more important they
will know us to be. If we hope to accomplish anything we must act
cautiously."

"But my airship!" cried Tom.

"They won't do anything to that right away," declared the Russian in a
whisper for he knew sometimes the police listened to the talk of
prisoners. "I think, from what I overheard when they arrested us, that
we either trespassed on the grounds of some one in authority, who had
us taken in out of spite, or they fear we may be English or French
spies, seeking to find out Russian secrets."

They were served with food in their prison, but to all inquiries made
by Ivan Petrofsky, evasive answers were returned. He spoke in poor,
broken Russian, so that he would not be taken for a native of that
country. Had he been, he would have at once been in great danger of
being accused as an escaped exile.

Finally a man who, the exile whispered to his Companions, was the local
governor, came to their prison. He eagerly asked questions as to their
mission, and Mr. Petrofsky answered them diplomatically.

"I don't think he'll make much out of what I told him," said the exile
when the governor had gone. "I let him think we were scientists, or
pleasure seekers, airshipping for our amusement. He tried to tangle me
up politically, but I knew enough to keep out of such traps."

"What's going to become of us?" asked Ned.

"We will be detained a few days--until they find out more about us.
Their spies are busy, I have no doubt, and they are telegraphing all
over Europe about us."

"What about my airship?" asked Tom.

"I spoke of that," answered the exile. "I said you were a well-known
inventor of the United States, and that if any harm came to the craft
the Russian Government would not only be held responsible, but that the
governor himself would be liable, and I said that it cost much money.
That touched him, for, in spite of their power, these Russians are
miserably paid. He didn't want to have to make good, and if it
developed that he had made a mistake in arresting us, his superiors
would disclaim all responsibility, and let him shoulder the blame. Oh,
all is not lost yet, though I don't like the looks of things."

Indeed it began to seem rather black for our friends, for, that night
they were taken from the fairly comfortable, large, prison room, and
confined in small stone cells down in a basement. They were separated,
but as the cells adjoined on a corridor they could talk to each other.
With some coarse food, and a little water, Tom and his friends were
left alone.

"Say I don't like this!" cried our hero, after a pause.

"Me either," chimed in Ned.

"Bless my burglar alarm!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "It's an awful disgrace!
If my wife ever heard of me being in jail--"

"She may never hear of it!" interposed Tom.

"Bless my heart!" cried the odd man. "Don't say such things."

They discussed their plight at length, but nothing could be done, and
they settled themselves to uneasy slumber. For two days they were thus
imprisoned, and all of Mr. Petrofsky's demands that they be given a
fair trial, and allowed to know the nature of the charge against them,
went for naught. No one came to see them but a villainous looking
guard, who brought them their poor meals. The governor ignored them,
and Mr. Petrofsky did not know what to think.

"Well, I'm getting sick of this!" exclaimed Tom--"I wish I knew where
my airship was."

"I fancy it's in the same place," replied the exile. "From the way the
governor acted I think he'd be afraid to have it moved. It might be
damaged. If I could only get word to some of my Revolutionary friends
it might do some good, but I guess I can't. We'll just have to wait."

Another day passed, and nothing happened. But that night, when the
guard came to bring their suppers, something did occur.

"Hello! we've got a new one!" exclaimed Tom, as he noted the man. "Not
so bad looking, either."

The man peered into his cell, and said something in Russian.

"Nothing doing," remarked the young inventor with a short laugh. "Nixy
on that jabbering."

But, no sooner had the man's words penetrated to the cell of Ivan
Petrofsky, that the exile called out something. The guard started,
hastened to that cell door, and for a few seconds there was an excited
dialogue in Russian.

"Boys! Mr. Damon! We're saved!" suddenly cried out Mr. Petrofsky.

"Bless my door knob! You don't say so!" gasped the odd man. "How? Has
the Czar sent orders to release us."

"No, but somehow my Revolutionary friends have heard about my arrest,
and they have arranged for our release--secretly of course. This guard
is affiliated with the Nihilist group that got on the trail of my
brother. He bribed the other guard to let him take his place for
to-night, and now--"

"Yes! What is it?" cried Tom.

"He's going to open the cell doors and let us out!"

"But how can we get past the other guards, upstairs?" asked Ned.

"We're not going that way," explained Mr. Petrofsky. "There is a secret
exit from this corridor, through a tunnel that connects with a large
salt mine. Once we are in there we can make our way out. We'll soon be
free."

"Ask him if he's heard anything of my airship?" asked Tom. Mr.
Petrofsky put the question rapidly in Russian and then translated the
answer.

"It's in the same place."

"Hurray!" cried Tom.

Working rapidly, the Nihilist guard soon had the cell doors open, for
he had the keys, and our friends stepped out into the corridor.

"This way," called Ivan Petrofsky, as he followed their liberator, who
spoke in whispers. "He says he will lead us to the salt mine, tell us
how to get out and then he must make his own escape."

"Then he isn't coming with us?" asked Ned.

"No, it would not be safe. But he will tell us how to get out. It seems
that years ago some prisoners escaped this way, and the authorities
closed up the tunnel. But a cave-in of the salt mine opened a way into
it again."

They followed their queer guide, who led them down the corridor. He
paused at the end, and then, diving in behind a pile of rubbish, he
pulled away some boards. A black opening, barely large enough for a man
to walk in upright, was disclosed.

"In there?" cried Tom.

"In there," answered Mr. Petrofsky. He and the guard murmured their
good-byes, and then, with a lighted candle the faithful Nihilist had
provided, and with several others in reserve, our friends stepped into
the blackness. They could hear the board being pulled back into place
behind them.

"Forward!" cried the exile, and forward they went.

It was not a pleasant journey, being through an uneven tunnel in the
darkness. Half a mile later they emerged into a large salt mine, that
seemed to be directly beneath the town. Work in this part had been
abandoned long ago, all the salt there was left being in the shape of
large pillars, that supported the roof. It sparkled dully in the candle
light.

"Now let me see if I remember the turnings," murmured Mr. Petrofsky.
"He said to keep on for half an hour, and we would come out in a little
woods not far from where our airship was anchored."

Twisting and turning, here and there in the semi-darkness, stumbling,
and sometimes falling over the uneven floor, the little party went on.

"Did you say half an hour?" asked Tom, after a while.

"Yes," replied the Russian.

"We've been longer than that," announced the young inventor, after a
look at his watch. "It's over an hour."

"Bless my timetable!" cried Mr. Damon.

"Are you sure?" asked Mr. Petrofsky.

"Yes," answered Tom in a low voice.

The Russian looked about him, flashing the candle on several turnings
and tunnels. Suddenly Ned uttered a cry.

"Why, we passed this place a little while before!" he said. "I remember
this pillar that looks like two men wrestling!"

It was true. They all remembered it when they saw it again.

"Back in the same place!" mused the Russian. "Then we have doubled on
our tracks. I'm afraid we're lost!"

"Lost in a Russian salt mine!" gasped Tom, and his words sounded
ominous in that gloomy place.



CHAPTER XX

THE ESCAPE


For a space of several seconds no one moved or spoke. In the flickering
light of the candle they looked at one another, and then at the
fantastic pillars of salt all about them. Then Mr. Damon started
forward.

"Bless my trolley car!" he exclaimed. "It isn't possible! There must be
some mistake. If we'll keep on we'll come out all right. You know your
way about, don't you, Mr. Petrofsky?"

"I thought I did, from what the guard told us, but it seems I must have
taken a wrong turning."

"Then it's easily remedied," suggested Tom "All we'll have to do will
be to go to the place where we started, and begin over again."

"Of course," agreed Ned, and they all seemed more cheerful.

"And if we start out once more, and get lost again, then what?" asked
Mr. Damon.

"Well, if worst comes to worst, we can go, back in the tunnel, go to
our cells and ask the guard to come with us and show us the way went on
Tom.

"Never!" cried the exile. "It would be the most dangerous thing in the
world to go back to the prison. Our escape has probably been discovered
by this time, and to return would only be to put our heads in the
noose.  We must keep on at any cost!"

"But if we can't get out," suggested Tom, "and if we haven't anything
to eat or drink, we--"

He did not finish, but they all knew what he meant.

"Oh, we'll get out!" declared Ned, who was something of an optimist.
"You've been in salt mines before, haven't you, Mr. Petrofsky?"

"Yes, I was condemned to one once, but it was not in this part of the
country, and it was not an abandoned one. I imagine this was only an
isolated mine, and that there are no others near it, so when they
abandoned it, after all the salt was taken out, most people forgot
about it. I remember once a party of prisoners were lost in a large
salt mine, and were missed for several days."

"What happened to them?" asked Tom.

"I don't like to talk about it," replied the Russian with a shudder.

"Bless my soul! Was it as bad as that?" asked Mr. Damon.

"It was," replied the exile. "But now let's see if we can find our way
back, and start afresh. I'll be more careful next time, and watch the
turns more closely."

But he did not get the chance. They could not find the tunnel whence
they had started. Turn after turn they took, down passage after passage
sometimes in such small ones that they almost had to crawl.

But it was of no use. They could not find their way back to the
starting place, and they could not find the opening of the mine. They
had used two of the slow burning candles and they had only half a dozen
or so left. When these were gone--

But they did not like to think of that, and stumbled on and on. They
did not talk much, for they were too worried. Finally Ned gasped:

"I'd give a good deal for a drink of water."

"So would I," added his chum. "But what's the use of wishing? If there
was a spring down here it would be salt water. But I know what I would
do--if I could."

"What?" asked Mr. Damon.

"Go back to the prison. At least we wouldn't starve there, and we'd
have something to drink. If they kept us we know we could get
free--sometime."

"Perhaps never!" exclaimed Ivan Petrofsky. "It is better to keep on
here, and, as for me, I would rather die here than go back to a Russian
prison. We must--we shall get out!"

But it was idle talk. Gradually they lost track of time as they
staggered on, and they hardly knew whether a day had passed or whether
it was but a few hours since they had been lost.

Of their sufferings in that salt mine I shall not go into details.
There are enough unpleasant things in this world without telling about
that.  They must have wandered around for at least a day and a half,
and in all that while they had not a drop of water, and not a thing to
eat. Wait, though, at last in their desperation they did gnaw the
tallow candles, and that served to keep them alive, and, in a measure,
alleviate their awful sufferings from thirst.

Back and forth they wandered, up and down in the galleries of the old
salt mine. They were merely hoping against hope.

"It's worse than the underground city of gold," said Ned in hollow
tones, as he staggered on. "Worse--much worse." His head was feeling
light. No one answered him.

It was, as they learned later, just about two days after the time when
they entered the mine that they managed to get out. Forty-eight hours,
most of them of intense suffering. They were burning their last candle,
and when that was out they knew they would have the horrors of darkness
to fight against, as well as those of hunger and thirst.

But fate was kind to them. How they managed to hit on the right gallery
they did not know, but, as they made a turn around an immense pillar of
salt Tom, who was walking weakly in advance, suddenly stopped.

"Look! Look!" he whispered. "Another candle! Someone--someone is
searching for us! We are saved!"

"It may be the police!" said Ned.

"That is not a candle," spoke the Russian in hollow tones as he looked
to where Tom pointed, to a little glimmer of light. "It is a star.
Friends, we are saved, and by Providence! That is a star, shining
through the opening of the mine. We are saved!"

Eagerly they pressed forward, and they had not gone far before they
knew that the exile was right. They felt the cool night wind on their
hot cheeks.

"Thank heaven!" gasped Tom, as he pushed on.

A moment later, climbing over the rusted rails on which the mine cars
had run with their loads of salt, they staggered into the open. They
were free--under the silent stars!

"And now, if we can only find the airship," said Tom faintly, "we can--"

"Look there!" whispered Ned, pointing to a patch of deeper blackness
that the surrounding night. "What's that."

"The Falcon!" gasped Tom. He started toward her, for she was but a
short distance from a little clump of trees into which they had emerged
from the opening of the salt mine. There, on the same little plane
where they had landed in her was the airship. She had not been moved.

"Wait!" cautioned Ivan Petrofsky. "She may be guarded."

Hardly had he spoken than there walked into the faint starlight on the
side of the ship nearest them, a Cossack soldier with his rifle over
his shoulder.

"We can't get her!" gasped Ned.

"We've got to get her!" declared Tom. "We'll die if we don't!"

"But the guards! They'll arrest us!" said the exile.

An instant later a second soldier joined the first, and they could be
seen conversing. They then resumed their pacing around the anchored
craft. Evidently they were waiting for the escaped prisoners to come up
when they would give the alarm and apprehend them.

"What can we do?" asked Mr. Damon.

"I have a plan," said Tom weakly. "It's the only chance, for we're not
strong enough to tackle them. Every time they go around on the far side
of the airship we must creep forward. When they come on this side we'll
lie down. I doubt if they can see us. Once we are on hoard we can cut
the ropes, and start off. Everything is all ready for a start if they
haven't monkeyed with her, and I don't think they have. We've got room
enough to run along as an aeroplane and mount upward. It's our only
hope."

The others agreed, and they put the plan into operation. When the
Cossack guards were out of sight the escaped prisoners crawled forward,
and when the soldiers came into view our friends waited in silence.

It took several minutes of alternate creeping and waiting to do this,
but it was accomplished at last and unseen they managed to slip aboard
Then it was the work of but a moment to cut the restraining ropes.

Silently Tom crept to the motor room. He had to work in absolute
darkness, for the gleam of a light would have drawn the fire of the
guards. But the youth knew every inch of his invention. The only
worriment was whether or not the motor would start up after the
breakdown, not having been run since it was so hastily repaired. Still
he could only try.

He looked out, and saw the guards pacing back and forth. They did not
know that the much-sought prisoners were within a few feet of them.

Ned was in the pilot house. He could see a clear field in front of him.

Suddenly Tom pulled the starting lever. There was a little clicking,
followed by silence. Was the motor going to revolve? It answered the
next moment with a whizz and a roar.

"Here we go!" cried the young inventor, as the big machine shot forward
on her flight. "Now let them stop us!"

Forward she went until Ned, knowing by the speed that she had momentum
enough, tilted the elevation rudder, and up she shot, while behind, on
the ground, wildly running to and fro, and firing their rifles, were
the two amazed guards.



CHAPTER XXI

THE RESCUE


"Have we--have we time to get a drink?" gasped Ned, when the aeroplane,
now on a level keel, had been shooting forward about three minutes.
Already it was beyond the reach of the rifles.

"Yes, but take only a little," cautioned Tom. "Oh! it doesn't seem
possible that we are free!"

He switched on a few interior lights, and by their glow the faint and
starving platinum-seekers found water and food. Their craft had,
apparently, not been touched in their absence, and the machinery ran
well.

Cautiously they ate and drank, feeling their strength come back to
them, and then they removed the traces of their terrible imprisonment,
and set about in ease and comfort, talking of what they had suffered.

Onward sped the aeroplane, onward through the night, and then Tom,
having set the automatic steering gear, all fell into heavy slumbers
that lasted until far into the next day.

When the young inventor awoke he looked below and could see
nothing--nothing but a sea of mist.

"What's this?" he cried. "Are we above the clouds, or in a fog over
some inland sea?"

He was quite worried, until Ivan Petrofsky informed him that they were
in the midst of a dense fog, which was common over that part of Siberia.

"But where are we?" asked Ned.

"About over the province of Irtutsk," was the answer. "We are heading
north," he went on, as he looked at the compass, "and I think about
right to land somewhere near where my brother is confined in the
sulphur mine."

"That's so; we've got to drop," said Tom. "I must get the gas pipe
repaired. I wish we could see over what soft of a place we were so as
to know whether it would be safe to land. I wish the mist would clear
away."

It did, about noon, and they noted that they were over a desolate
stretch of country, in which it would be safe to make a landing.

Bringing the aeroplane down on as smooth a spot as he could pick out,
Tom and Ned were soon at work clearing out the clogged pipe of the gas
generator. They had to take it out in the open air, as the fumes were
unpleasant, and it was while working over it that they saw a shadow
thrown on the ground in front of them. Startled they looked up, to see
a burly Russian staring at them.

The sudden appearance of a man in that lonely spot, his calm regard of
the lads, his stealthy approach, which had made it possible for him to
be almost upon them before they were aware of his presence, all this
made them suspicious of danger. Tom gave a quick glance about, however,
and saw no others--no Cossack soldiers, and as he looked a second time
at the man he noted that he was poorly dressed, that his shoes were
ragged, his whole appearance denoting that he had traveled far, and was
weary and ill.

"What do you make of this, Ned?" asked Tom, in a low voice.

"I don't know what to make of it. He can't be an officer, in that rig,
and he has no one with him. I guess we haven't anything to be afraid
of.  I'm going to ask him what he wants."

Which Tom did in his plainest English. At once the man broke into a
stream of confused Russian, and he kept it up until Tom held up his
hand for silence.

"I'm sorry, but I can't understand you," said the young inventor. "I'll
call some one who can, though," and, raising his voice, he summoned
Ivan Petrofsky who, with Mr. Damon, was inside the airship doing some
small repairs.

"There's a Russian out here, Mr. Petrofsky," said Tom, "and what he
wants I can't make out."

The exile was quickly on the scene and, after a first glance at the
man, hurried up to him, grasped him by the hand and at once the two
were talking such a torrent of hard-sounding words that Tom and Ned
looked at each other helplessly, while Mr. Damon, who had come out,
exclaimed:

"Bless my dictionary! they must know each other."

For several minutes the two Russians kept up their rapid-fire talk and
then Mr. Petrofsky, evidently realizing that his friends must wonder at
it, turned to them and said:

"This is a very strange thing. This man is an escaped convict, as I
once was. I recognized him by certain signs as soon as I saw him,
though I had never met him before. There are certain marks by which a
Siberian exile can never be forgotten," he added significantly. "He
made his escape from the mines some time ago, and has suffered great
hardships since. The revolutionists help him when they can, but he has
to keep in concealment and travels from town to town as best he may. He
has heard of our airship, I suppose from inquiries the revolutionists
have been making in our behalf, and when he unexpectedly came upon us
just now he was not frightened, as an ordinary peasant would have been.
But he did not know I was aboard."

"And does he know you?" asked Tom. "Does he know you are trying to
rescue your brother?"

"No, but I will tell him."

There was another exchange of the Russian language, and it seemed to
have a surprising result. For, no sooner had Ivan Petrofsky mentioned
his brother, than the other, whose name was Alexis Borious seemed
greatly excited. Mr. Petrofsky was equally so at the reply his new
acquaintance made, and fairly shouted to Tom, Ned and Mr. Damon.

"Friends, I have unexpected good news! It is well that we met this man
or we would have gone many miles out of our way. My brother has been
moved to another mine since the revolutionists located him for me. He
is in a lonely district many miles from here. This man was in the same
mine with him, until my brother was transferred, and then Mr. Borious
escaped. We will have to change our plans."

"And where are we to head for now?" asked Tom.

"Near to the town of Haskaski, where my poor brother is working in a
sulphur mine!"

"Then let's get a move on!" cried Tom with enthusiasm. "Do you think
this man will come with us, Mr. Petrofsky, to help in the rescue, and
show us the place?"

"He says he will," translated the exile, "though he is much afraid of
our strange craft. Still he knows that to trust himself to it is better
than being captured, and sent back to the mines to starve to death!"

"Good!" cried Tom. "And if he wants to, and all goes well, we'll take
him out of Russia with us. Now get busy, Ned, and we'll have this
machine in shape again soon."

While Ivan Petrofsky took his new friend inside, and explained to him
about the workings of the Falcon, Tom and Ned labored over the gas
machine with such good effect that by night it was capable of being
used. Then they went aloft, and making a change in their route, as
suggested by Mr. Borious, they headed for the desolate sulphur region.

For several days they sailed on, and gradually a plan of rescue was
worked out. According to the information of the newcomer, the best way
to save Mr. Petrofsky's brother was to make the attempt when the
prisoners were marched back from the mines to the barracks where they
were confined.

"It will be dark then," said Mr. Borious, "and if you can hover in your
airship near at hand, and if Mr. Petrofsky can call out to his brother
to run to him, we can take him up with us and get away before the
guards know what we are doing."

"But aren't the prisoners chained?" asked Tom.

"No, they depend on guards to prevent escapes."

"Then we'll try that way," decided the young inventor.

On and on they sailed, the Falcon working admirably. Verst after verst
was covered, and finally, one morning, Mr. Borious, who knew the
country well, from having once been a prisoner there, said:

"We are now near the place. If we go any closer we may be observed. We
had better remain hidden in some grove of trees so that at nightfall we
can go forth to the rescue."

"But how can we find it after dark?" asked Ned.

"You can easily tell by the lights in the barracks," was the answer. "I
can stand in the pilot house to direct you, for nearly all these exile
prisons are alike. The prisoners will march in a long line from the
mine. Then for the rescue."

It was tedious waiting that day, but it had to be done, and to Tom, who
was anxious to effect the rescue, and proceed to the place of the winds
to try his air glider, it seemed as if dusk would never come as they
remained in concealment.

But night finally approached and then the great airship went silently
aloft, ready to hover over the prison ground. Fortunately there was
little wind; and she could be used as a balloon, thus avoiding the
noise of the motor.

"The next thing I do, when I get home," remarked Tom, as they drifted
along. "Will be to make a silent airship. I think they would be very
useful."

With Mr. Borious in the pilot house, to point out the way, Tom steered
through the fast-gathering darkness. The Russian had soon become used
to the airship, and was not at all afraid.

"Can you go just where you want to, as a balloon?" asked the new guide.

"No, but almost," replied Tom. "At the last moment I've got to take a
chance and start the motor to send us just where we want to go. That's
why I think a silent airship would be a great thing. You could get up
on the enemy before he knew it."

"There are the prison barracks," said the guide a little later, his
talk being translated by Mr. Petrofsky. Below and a little ahead of
them could been seen a cluster of lights.

"Yes, that looks like a line of prisoners," remarked Ned, who was
peering through a pair of night glasses.

"Where?" asked Tom eagerly, and they were pointed out to him. He took
an observation, and exclaimed:

"There they are, sure enough. Now if your brother is only among them,
Mr. Petrofsky, we'll soon have him on board."

"Heaven grant that he may be there!" said the exile in a low voice.

A moment later, the Falcon, meanwhile having been allowed to drift as
close as possible to the dimly-seen line of prisoners, Tom set in
motion the great motor, the propeller blades heating the air fiercely.

At the sound there was a shout on the ground below, but before the
excitement had time to spread, or before any of the guards could form a
notion of what was about to take place, Tom had sent his craft to earth
on a sharp slant, closer to the line of prisoners than he had dared to
hope.

Mr. Petrofsky sprang out on deck, and in a loud voice called in Russian:

"Peter! Peter! If you are there, come here! Come quickly! It is I, your
brother Ivan who speaks. I have come to save you--save you in the
wonderful airship of Tom Swift! Come quickly and we will take you away!
Peter Petrofsky!"

For a moment there was silence, and then the sound of some one running
rapidly was borne to the ears of the waiting ones. It was followed, a
moment later, by angry shouts from the guards.

"Quick! Quick, Peter!" cried the brother, "over this way!"

For an instant only the exile showed a single electric flash light,
that his brother might see in which direction to run. The echo of the
approaching footsteps came nearer, the shouts of the guards redoubled,
and then came the sound of many men running in pursuit.

"Hurry, Peter, hurry!" cried Mr. Petrofsky, and, as he spoke in Russian
the guards, of course, understood.

Suddenly a rifle shot rang out, but the weapon seemed to have been
fired in the air. A moment later a dark figure clambered aboard the
airship.

"Peter, is it you?" cried Ivan Petrofsky, hoarsely.

"Yes, brother! But get away quickly or the whole guard will be swarming
about here!"

"Praise the dear Lord you are saved!"

"Is it all right?" cried Tom, who wanted to make sure they were saving
the right man.

"Yes! Yes, Tom! Go quickly!" called Ivan Petrofsky, as he folded his
brother in his arms. A moment later, with a roar, the Falcon shot away
from the earth, while below sounded angry cries, confused shouts and
many orders, for the guards and their officers had never known of such
a daring rescue as this.



CHAPTER XXII

IN THE HURRICANE


There was a volley of shots from the prison guards, and the flashes of
the rifles cut bright slivers of flame in the darkness, but, so rapidly
did the airship go up, veering off on a wide slant, under the skillful
guidance of Tom that the shots did no harm.

"Bless my bullet pouch!" cried Mr. Damon. "They must be quite excited."

"Shouldn't wonder," calmly observed Ned, as he went to help his chum in
managing the airship. "But it won't do them any good. We've got our
man."

"And right from under their noses, too," added Ivan Petrofsky
exultingly. "This rescue of an exile will go down in the history of
Russia."

The two exile brothers were gazing fondly at each other, for now that
the Falcon was so high, Tom ventured to turn on the lights.

A moment later the three Russians were excitedly conversing, while Tom
and Ned managed the craft, and Mr. Damon, after listening a moment to
the rapid flow of the strange language, which quite fascinated him,
hurried to the galley to prepare a meal for the rescued one, who had
been taken away before he had had a chance to get his supper.

His wonder at his startling and unexpected rescue man well be imagined,
but the joy at being reunited to his brother overshadowed everything
for the time being. But when he had a chance to look about, and see
what a strange craft he was in, his amazement knew no bounds, and he
was like a child. He asked countless questions, and Ivan Petrofsky and
Mr. Borious took turns in answering them. And from now on, I shall give
the conversation of the two new Russians just as if they spoke English,
though of course it had to be translated by Ivan Petrofsky, Peter's
brother.

If Peter was amazed at being rescued in an airship, his wonder grew
when he was served with a well-cooked meal, while high in the air, and
while flying along at the rate of fifty miles an hour. He could not
talk enough about it.

By degrees the story of how Tom and his friends had started for Russia
was told, and there was added the detail of how Mr. Borious came to be
picked up.

"But brother Ivan, you did not come all that distance to rescue me; did
you?" asked Peter.

"Yes, partly, and partly to find the platinum mine."

"What? The lost mine that you and I stumbled upon in that terrible
storm?"

"That is the one, Peter."

"Then, Tom Swift may as well return. I doubt if we can even locate the
district where it was, and if we did find it, the winds blow so that
even this magnificent ship could not weather the gales."

"I guess he doesn't understand about my air glider," said Tom with a
smile, when this was translated to him. "I wish I had a chance to put
it together, and show him how it works."

"Oh, it will work all right," replied Ned, who was very proud of his
friend's inventive ability.

"Now, what is the next thing to be done?" asked Tom, a little later
that evening, when, supper having been served, they were sitting in the
main cabin, talking over the events of the past few days. "I'd like to
get on the track of that platinum treasure."

"And we will do all in our power to aid you," said Ivan Petrofsky. "My
brother and I owe much to you--in fact Peter owes you his life; do you
not?" and he turned to him.

"I do," was the firm answer.

"Oh, nonsense!" exclaimed Tom, who did not like to be praised. "I
didn't do much."

"Much! You do not call taking me away from that place--that sulphur
mine--that horrible prison barrack with the cruel guards--you do not
call that much? My friend," spoke the Russian solemnly, "no one on
earth has done so much for me as you have, and if it is the power of
man to show you where that lost mine is, my brother and I will do so!"

"Agreed," spoke Ivan quietly.

"Then what plans shall we make?" asked Tom, after a little more talk.
"Are we to go about indiscriminately, or is there any possible way of
getting on the trail?"

"My brother and I will try and decide on a definite route," spoke Ivan
Petrofsky. "It is some time since I have seen him, and longer since we
accidently found the mine together, but we will consult each other,
and, if possible make some sort of a map."

This was done the next day, the present maps aboard the Falcon being
consulted, and the brothers comparing notes. They began to lay out a
stretch of country in which it was most likely the lost mine lay. It
took several days to do this, for sometimes one brother would forget
some point, and again the other would. But at last they agreed on
certain facts.

"This is the nearest we can come to it," said Ivan Petrofsky to Tom.
"The lost platinum mine lies somewhere between the city of Iakutsk and
the first range of the Iablonnoi mountains. Those are the northern and
southern boundaries. As for the western one, it is most likely the Lena
river, and the eastern one the Amaga river. So you see you have quite a
large stretch of country to search, Tom Swift."

"Yes, I should say I had," agreed the young inventor. "But I have had
harder tasks. Now that I know where to head for I'll get there as soon
as possible."

"And what will you do when you arrive?" asked Ned.

"Fly about in the Falcon, in ever-widening circles, starting as near
the centre of that area as possible," replied Tom. "And as soon as I
run into a steady hurricane I'll know that I'm at the place of the big
winds, and I'll get out my glider, for I'll be pretty sure to be near
the place."

"Bless my gas meter!" cried Mr. Damon. "That's the talk!"

Tom put his plan into operation at once, by heading the nose of his
craft for the desolate region mapped out by the Russian brothers.

The days that followed were filled with weary searching. It was like
the time when they had sought for the plain of the great ruined Temple
in Mexico, that they might locate the underground city of gold. Only in
this case they had no such landmark as a great Aztec ruin to guide them.

What they were seeking for was something unseen, but which could be
felt--a mysterious wind--a wind that might be encountered any time, and
which might send the Falcon to the earth a wreck.

The Russian brothers, staggering about in the storm, had seen the mine
under different conditions from what it would be viewed now. Then it
was winter in Siberia. Now it was summer, though it was not very warm.

On and on sailed the Falcon. The weather could not have been better,
but for once Tom wanted bad weather. He wanted a blow--the harder the
better--and all eyes anxiously watched the anemometer, or wind gage.
But ever it revolved lazily about in the gentle breeze.

"Oh, for a hurricane!" cried Tom.

He got his wish sooner than he anticipated. It was about two days after
this, when they were going about in a great circle, about two hundred
miles from the imaginary centre of the district in which the mine lay,
that, as Mr. Damon was getting dinner a dish he was carrying to the
table was suddenly whisked out of his hand.

"I say, what's the matter?" he cried. "Bless my--"

But he had no time to say more. The airship fairly stood on end, and
then, turning completely about, was rapidly driven in the opposite
direction, though her propellers were working rapidly.

"What's up?" yelled Ned.

"We are capsizing!" shouted Ivan Petrofsky, and indeed it seemed so,
for the airship was being forced over.

"I guess we've struck what we want!" cried Tom. "We're in a hurricane
all right! This is the place of the big wind! Now for my air glider, if
I can get the airship to earth without being wrecked! Ned, lend a hand!
We've got our work cut out for us now!"



CHAPTER XXIII

THE LOST MINE


For several moments it seemed as if disaster would overtake the little
band of platinum-hunters. In spite of all that Tom and Ned could do,
the Falcon was whipped about like a feather in the wind. Sometimes she
was pointing her nose to the clouds, and again earthward. Again she
would be whirling about in the grip of the hurricane, like some
fantastic dancer, and again she would roll dangerously. Had she turned
turtle it probably would have been the last of her and of all on board.

"Yank that deflecting lever as far down as it will go!" yelled Tom to
his chum.

"I am. She won't go any farther."

"All right, hold her so. Mr. Damon, let all the gas out of the bag. I
want to be as heavy as possible, and get to earth as soon as we can."

"Bless my comb and brush!" cried the odd man. "I don't know what's
going to become of us."

"You will know, pretty soon, if the gas isn't let out!" retorted Tom
grimly, and then Mr. Damon hastened to the generator compartment, and
opened the emergency outlet.

Finally, by crowding on all the possible power, so that the propellers
and deflecting rudders forced the craft down, Tom was able to get out
of the grip of the hurricane, and landed just beyond the zone of it on
the ground.

"Whew! That was a narrow squeak!" cried Ned, as he got out. "How'd you
do it, Tom?"

"I hardly know myself. But it's evident that we're on the right spot
now."

"But the wind has stopped blowing," said Mr. Damon. "It was only a
gust."

"It was the worst kind of a gust I ever want to see," declared the
young inventor. "My air glider ought to work to perfection in that. If
you think the wind has died out, Mr. Damon, just walk in that
direction," and Tom pointed off to the left.

"Bless my umbrella, I will," was the reply and the odd man started off.
He had not gone far, before he was seen to put his hand to his cap.
Still he kept on.

"He's getting into the blow-zone," said Tom in a low voice.

The next moment Mr. Damon was seen to stagger and fall, while his cap
was whisked from his head, and sent high into the air, almost instantly
disappearing from sight.

"Some wind that," murmured Ned, in rather awe-struck tones.

"That's so," agreed his chum. "But we'd better help Mr. Damon," for
that gentleman was slowly crawling back, not caring to trust himself on
his feet, for the wind had actually carried him down by its force.

"Bless my anemometer!" he gasped, when Tom and Ned had given him a hand
up. "What happened?"

"It was the great wind," explained Tom. "It blows only in a certain
zone, like a draft down a chimney. It is like a cyclone, only that goes
in a circle. This is a straight wind, but the path of it seems to be as
sharply marked as a trail through the forest. I guess we're here all
right. Does this location look familiar to you?" he asked of the
Russian brothers.

"I can't say that it does," answered Ivan. "But then it was winter when
we were here."

"And, another thing," put in Peter. "That wind zone is quite wide. The
mine may be in the middle, or near the other edge."

"That's so," agreed Tom. "We'll soon see what we can do. Come on, Ned,
let's get the air glider out and put her together. She'll have a test
as is a test, now."

I shall not describe the tedious work of re-assembling Tom Swift's
latest invention in the air craft line--his glider. Sufficient to say
that it was taken out from where it had been stored in separate pieces
on board the Falcon, and put together on the plain that marked the
beginning of the wind zone.

It was a curious fact that twenty feet away from the path of the wind
scarcely a breeze could be felt, while to advance a little way into it
meant that one would at once be almost carried off his feet.

Tom tested the speed of it one day with a special anemometer, and found
that only a few hundred feet inside the zone the wind blew nearly one
hundred miles an hour.

"What is it like inside, I wonder?" asked Ned.

"It must be terrific," was his chum's opinion.

"Dare you risk it, Tom?"

"Of course. The harder it blows the better the glider works. In fact I
can't make much speed in a hundred-mile wind for with us all on board
the craft will be heavy, and you must remember that I depend on the
wind alone to give me motion."

"What do you think causes the wind to blow so peculiarly here Tom?"
went on Ned.

"Oh, it must be caused by high mountain ranges on either side, or the
effects of heat and cold, the air being evaporated over a certain area
because of great heat, say a volcano, or something like that; though I
don't know that they have volcanoes here. That creates a vacuum, and
other air rushes in to fill the vacant space. That's all wind is,
anyhow, air rushing in to fill a vacuum, or low pressure zone, for you
remember that nature abhors a vacuum."

It took nearly a week to assemble the Vulture, as Tom had named his
latest craft, from the fact that it could hover in the air motionless,
like that great bird. At last it was completed and then, weights being
taken aboard to steady it, all was ready for the test. Tom would have
liked to have taken all his passengers in the glider, for it would work
better then, but the three Russians were timid, though they promised to
get aboard after the trial.

The test came off early one morning, Tom, Ned and Mr. Damon being the
only ones aboard. Bags of sand represented the others. The glider was
wheeled to the edge of the wind zone and they took their places in the
car. It was hard work for the gale, that had never ceased blowing for
an instant since they found its zone, was very strong. But the glider
remained motionless in it, for the wing planes, the rudders, and
equalizing weights had been adjusted to make the strain of the wind
neutral.

"All ready?" asked Tom, when his chum and his friend were in the
enclosed car of the glider.

"As ready as I ever shall be," answered Ned.

"Bless my suspenders! Let her go, Tom, and have it over with!" cried
the odd man.

The young inventor pulled a lever, and almost instantly the glider
darted forward. A moment later it soared aloft, and the three Russians
cheered. But their voices were lost in the roar of the hurricane, as
Tom sent his craft higher and higher.

It worked perfectly, and he could direct it almost anywhere. The wind
acted as the motive power, the bending and warping wings, and the
rudders and weights controlling its force.

"I'm going higher, and see if I can remain stationary!" yelled Tom in
Ned's ear. His chum only nodded. Mr. Damon was seated on a bench,
clinging to the sides of it as if he feared he would fall off.

Higher and higher went the Vulture, ever higher, until, all at once,
Tom pulled on another lever and she was still. There she hung in the
air, the wind rushing through her planes, but the glider herself as
still and quiet as though she rested on the ground in a calm. She
hardly moved a foot in either direction, and yet the wind, as evidenced
by the anemometer was howling along at a hundred and twenty miles an
hour!

"Success!" cried Tom. "Success! Now we can lie stationary in any spot,
and spy out the land through our telescope. Now we will find the lost
platinum mine!"

"Well, I'm not deaf," responded Ned with a smile, for Tom had fairly
yelled as he had at the start, and there was no need of this now, for
though the wind blew harder than ever it was not opposed to any of the
weights or planes, and there was only a gentle humming sound as it
rushed through the open spaces of the queer craft.

Tom gave his glider other and more severe tests, and she answered every
one. Then he came to earth.

"Now we'll begin the search," he said, and preparations were made to
that end. The Russians, now that they had seen how well the craft
worked, were not afraid to trust themselves in her.

As I have explained, there was an enclosed car, capable of holding six.
In this were stores, supplies and food sufficient for several days.
Tom's plan was to leave the airship anchored on the edge of the wind
zone, as a sort of base of supplies or headquarters. From there he
intended to go off from time to time in the wind-swept area to look for
the lost mine.

There were weary days that followed. Hour after hour was spent in the
air in the glider, the whole party being aboard. Observation after
observation was taken, sometimes a certain strata of wind enabling them
to get close enough to the earth to use their eyes, while again they
had to use the telescopes. They covered a wide section but as day after
day passed, and they were no nearer their goal, even Tom optimistic as
he usually was, began to have a tired and discouraged look.

"Don't you see anything like the place where you found the mine?" he
asked of the exile brothers.

They could only shake their heads. Indeed their task was not easy, for
to recognize the place again was difficult.

More than a week passed. They had been back and forth to their base of
supplies at the airship, often staying away over night, once remaining
aloft all through the dark hours in the glider, in a fierce gale which
prevented a landing. They ate and slept on board, and seldom descended
unless at or near the place where they had left the Falcon. Once they
completely crossed the zone of wind, and came to a calm place on the
other side. It was as wild and desolate as the other edge.

Nearly two weeks had passed, and Tom was almost ready to give up and go
back home. He had at least accomplished part of his desire, to rescue
the exile, and he had even done better than originally intended, for
there was Mr. Borious who bad also been saved, and it was the intention
of the young inventor to take him to the United States.

"But the platinum treasure has me beat, I guess," said Tom grimly. "We
can't seem to get a trace of it."

Night was coming on, and he had half determined to head back for the
airship. Ivan Petrofsky was peering anxiously down at the desolate
land, over which they were gliding. He and his brother took turns at
this.

They were not far above the earth, but landmarks, such as had to be
depended on to locate the mine, could not readily be observed without
the glass. Mr. Damon, with a pair of ordinary field glasses, was doing
all he could to pick out likely spots, though it was doubtful if he
would know the place if he saw it.

However, as chance willed it, he was instrumental in bringing the quest
to a close, and most unexpectedly. Peter Petrofsky was relieving his
brother at the telescope, when the odd man, who had not taken his eyes
from the field glasses, suddenly uttered an exclamation.

"Bless my tooth-brush!" he cried. "That's a most desolate place down
there. A lot of trees blown down around a lake that looks as black as
ink."

"What's that!" cried Ivan Petrofsky. "A lake as black as ink? Where?"

"We just passed it!" replied Mr. Damon.

"Then put back there, as soon as you can, Tom!" called the Russian. "I
want to look at that place."

With a long, graceful sweep the young inventor sent the glider back
over the course. Ivan Petrofsky glued his eyes to the telescope. He
picked out the spot Mr. Damon had referred to, and a moment later cried:

"That's it! That's near the lost platinum mine! We've found it again,
Tom--everybody! Don't you remember, Peter," he said turning to his
brother, "when we were lost in the snow we crawled in among a tangle of
trees to get out of the blast. There was a sheet of white snow near
them, and you broke through into water. I pulled you out. That must
have been a lake, though it was lightly frozen over then. I believe
this is the lost mine. Go down, Tom! Go down!"

"I certainly will!" cried the youth, and pulling on the descending
lever he shunted the glider to earth.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE LEAKING TANKS


Like a bird descending from some dizzy height, the Vulture landed close
to the pool of black water. It was a small lake and the darkness must
have been caused by its depth, for later when they took some out in a
glass it was as clear as a crystal. Then, too, there might have been
black rocks on the bottom.

"Can it be possible that we are here at last?" cried Tom, above the
noise of the gale, for the wind was blowing at a terrific rate. But our
friends knew better now how to adjust themselves to it, and the lake
was down in a valley, the sides of which cut off the power of the gale.
As for the glider it was only necessary to equalize the balance and it
would remain stationary in any wind.

"This is the place! This is the place!" cried Ivan Petrofsky. "Don't
you remember, Peter?"

"Indeed I do! I have good cause to! This is where we found the
platinum!"

"Bless my soul!" cried Mr. Damon. "Where is it, in the lake?"

"The mine itself is just beyond that barrier of broken and twisted
trees," replied the elder Russian brother. "It is an irregular opening
in the ground, as though once, centuries ago, an ancient people tried
to get out the precious metal. We will go to it at once."

"But it is getting late," objected Ned.

"No matter," said Tom. "If we find any platinum we'll stay here all
night, and longer if necessary to get a good supply. This is better
than the city of gold, for we're in the open."

"I should say we were," observed Mr. Damon, as he bent to the blast,
which was strong, sheltered even as they were.

"Will it be safe to remain all night?" asked Mr. Borious, with a glance
about the desolate country.

"We have plenty of food," replied Tom, "and a good place to stay, in
the car of the glider. I don't believe we'll be attacked."

"No, not here," said the elder Petrofsky. "But we still have to go back
across Siberia to escape."

"We'll do it!" cried Tom. "Now for the platinum treasure!"

They went forward, and it was no easy work. For the wind still New with
tremendous force though nothing like what it did higher up. And the
ground was uneven. They had to cling to each other and it was very
evident that no airship, not even the powerful Falcon, could have
reached the place. Only an air glider would answer.

It took them half an hour to get to the opening of the ancient mine,
and by that time it was nearly dark. But Tom had thought to bring
electric torches, such as he had used in the underground city of gold,
and they dispelled the gloom of the small cavern.

"Will you go in?" asked Ivan Petrofsky, when they had come to the
place.  He looked at Tom.

"Go in? Of course I'll go in!" cried our hero, stepping forward. The
others followed. For some time they went on, and saw no traces of the
precious metal. Then Ned uttered a cry, as he saw some dull, grayish
particles imbedded in the earth walls of the shaft.

"Look!" he cried.

Tom was at his chum's side in a moment

"That's platinum!" cried the young inventor. "And of the very highest
grade! But the lumps are very small."

"There are larger ones beyond," said the younger Russian brother.

Forward they pressed, and a moment later coming around a turn in the
cavern where some earth had fallen away, evidently recently, Tom could
not repress a cry of joy. For there, in plain sight, were many large
lumps of the valuable metal, in as pure a state as it is ever found.
For it is always mixed with other metals or chemicals.

"Look at that!" cried Tom. "Look at that! Lumps as large as an egg!"
and he dug some out with a small pick he had brought along, and stuffed
them into his pocket.

"Bless my check book!" cried Mr. Damon, "and that stuff is as valuable
as gold!"

"More so!" cried Tom enthusiastically.

"Oh, here's a whopping big one!" cried Ned. "I'll bet it weighs ten
pounds."

"More than that!" cried Tom, as he ran over and began digging it out,
and they found later that it did. Platinum is usually found in small
granules, but there are records of chunks being found weighing twenty
pounds while others, the size of pigeons' eggs, are not uncommon.

"Say, this is great!" yelled Ned, discovering another large piece, and
digging it out.

"I am glad we could lead you to it," said the elder Russian brother.
"It is a small return for what you did for us!"

"Nonsense!" cried Tom. "These must be a king's ransom here. Everybody
dig it out! Get all you can."

They were all busy, but the light of the two torches Tom had brought
was not sufficient for good and efficient work, so after getting
several thousand dollars worth of the precious metal, they decided to
postpone operations until morning, and come with more lights.

They were at the work soon after breakfast, the night in the air glider
having passed without incident. The treasure of platinum proved even
richer than the Russians had thought, and it was no wonder the Imperial
government had tried so hard to locate it, or get on the trail of those
who sought it.

"And it's all good stuff!" cried Tom eagerly. "Not like that low-grade
gold of the underground city. I can make my own terms when I sell this."

For three days our friends dug and dug in that platinum mine, so many
years lost to man, and when they got ready to leave they had indeed a
king's ransom with them. But it was to be equally divided. Tom insisted
on this, as his Russian friends had been instrumental in finding it.
Toward the end of the excavation large pieces were scarce, and it was
evident that the mine was what is called a "lode."

"Well, shall we go back now?" asked Tom one day, after the finish of
their mining operations. The work was comparatively simple, as the
platinum lumps had merely to be dug out of the sides of the cave. But
the loneliness and dreariness of the place was telling on them all.

"Can't we carry any more?" asked Ned.

"We could, but it might not be safe. I don't want to take on too much
weight, as my glider isn't as stable as the airship. But we have plenty
of the metal.

"Indeed we have," agreed Ivan Petrofsky. "Much of mine and my brother's
will go toward helping relieve the sufferings of the Siberian exiles,"
he added.

"And mine, too," said Alexis Borious.

They started back early the next morning in a more terrific gale than
in any the glider had yet flown. But she proved herself a stanch craft,
and soon they were at the place where they had left the airship. It was
undisturbed.

Four days were spent in taking apart the glider and packing it on board
the Falcon. Then, with the platinum safely stored away Tom, with a last
look at the desolate land that had been so kind to them, sent his craft
on her homeward way.

It was when they were near the city of Pirtchina, on the Obi river,
that what might have proved a disastrous accident occurred. They were
flying along high, and at great speed, for Tom wanted to make all the
distance he could, to get out of Siberia the more quickly. They had had
a fair passage so far, and were congratulating themselves that they
would soon be in civilization again.

Suddenly, Mr. Damon, who had been on the after deck, taking
observations through a telescope, came running forward, crying out:

"Tom! Tom! What is that water dripping from the back part of the
airship?"

"Water?" exclaimed Tom. "No water is dripping from there."

"Come and look," advised Mr. Damon.

The young inventor raced back with him. He saw a thin, white stream
trickling down from the lower part of the craft. Tom sniffed the air
suspiciously.

"Gasolene! It's gasolene!" he cried. "We must have a leak in the supply
tanks!"

He dashed toward the reserve storeroom, and at that moment, with a
suddenness that was startling, the motor stopped and the Falcon lurched
toward the earth.



CHAPTER XXV

HOMEWARD BOUND--CONCLUSION


"All right!" yelled Ned, as soon as he heard Tom's cry. "I've got her
under control. We'll volplane down."

"Is it dangerous? Are we in danger?" asked Peter Petrofsky of his
brother, in Russian.

"I guess there's no danger, where Tom Swift's concerned," was the
answer. "I have not volplaned much, but it will be all right I think."

And it was, for with Ned Newton to guide the craft, while Tom did his
best to stop the leak, the craft came gently to earth on the outskirts
of a fairly large Siberian city. Almost instantly the Falcon was
surrounded by a curious throng.

"You had better keep inside," said Ivan Petrofsky to his brother and
Mr. Borious. "Descriptions of you are probably out broadcast by now,
but I am still sufficiently disguised, I think."

"But what is to be done?" demanded the younger Russian brother. "If the
gasolene is gone, how can we leave here?"

"Trust Tom Swift for that," was the reply. "Keep out of sight now,
there is a large crowd outside."

Tom came from the tank room. There was a despondent look on his face.

"It's all gone--every drop," he said. "That's what made the motor stop."

"What's gone?" asked Mr. Damon.

"The gasolene. We sprung a leak in the main tank, somehow, and it all
flowed out while we were flying along."

"Haven't you any more?"

"Not a bit. I was drawing on the reserve tank, hoping to get to
civilization before I needed more. But its too late now. We will have
to--"

"Bless my snow shoes!" cried Mr. Damon. "Don't say we'll have to stay
here--in Siberia! Don't say that. My wife--"

"No, we won't have to stay here if we can get a supply of kerosene,"
interrupted Tom. "The motor will burn that. The only trouble is that we
may be detained. The authorities probably know us by this time, and are
on the watch."

"Then get it before they know we are here," advised Ned.

"I'll try," said Tom, and he at once conferred with the elder
Petrofsky.  The latter said he was sure kerosene could be had in town,
and, rather than risk going in themselves, they hired a wagoner who
agreed, for liberal pay, to go and return with a quantity. Until then
there was nothing to do but wait.

Meanwhile the crowd of curiosity seekers grew. They thronged around the
airship, some of them meddling with various devices, until Tom had to
order them away with gestures.

One particularly inquisitive man insisted on pulling or twisting
everything, until he happened to touch a couple of live wires, giving
himself quite a shock, and then he ran away howling. But still the
crowd increased, and at last Mr. Petrofsky said:

"I don't like this, Tom?"

"Why not?" They were all inside the craft, looking out and waiting for
the return of the man with the kerosene. The leak in the tank had
proved to be a small one, and had quickly been soldered. It had been
open a long time, which accounted for the large amount of gasolene
escaping.  "What don't you like, Mr. Petrofsky?"

"So many men surrounding us. I believe some of them are officers
dressed in civilians' clothes, and a Russian officer never does that
unless he has some object."

"And you think the object is--?"

"To capture us."

"If it was that, wouldn't they have done it long ago--when we first
came down?"

"No, they are evidently waiting for something perhaps for some high
official, without whose orders they dare do nothing. Russia is overrun
with officialdom."

And a little later Ivan Petrofsky's suspicion proved true. There
arrived a man in uniform, who spoke fairly good English, and who
politely asked Tom if he would not delay the start of the airship,
again, until the governor could arrive from his country place to see it.

"We know you are going to leave us," said the Russian with a smile,
"for you have sent for kerosene. But please wait."

"If your governor comes soon we'll wait," replied Tom. "But we are in a
hurry. I wish that kerosene fellow would get a move on," he murmured.

"Oh, he will doubtless be here soon," said the officer. "Might I be
permitted to come aboard and wait for my chief?"

"Sorry, but it's not allowed," replied our hero, straining his eyes
down the road for a sight of the wagoner. At last he came, and Tom
breathed easier.

But the crowd was bigger, and some of the men, though poorly dressed,
seemed to be persons in authority. Tom had no doubt but what there was
a plot afoot to detain him, and arrest the exiles, and that there were
disguised soldiers in the throng. But they could not act without the
governor's orders, and he was probably on his way with all haste.

"Lively now, get that kerosene in the tanks!" cried Tom to the man,
motioning in lieu of using Russian. The youth was not going to meet the
governor if he could help it.

Now it was a curious thing, but the more that wagoner and his helpers
seemed to try to hurry, and pour the oil from the cans into the
tank-opening of the airship, the slower they worked. They got in each
others' way, dropped some cans, spilled others, and in general made
such poor work at it that Tom saw there was something in the wind.

"Ned!" he exclaimed, "they're doing all they can to detain us. We've
got to put that oil in ourselves. Just as we did the gasolene in
France.  It's the same sort of a delay game."

"Right, Tom! I'm with you."

"And I'll warn the crowd back, by telling them we are likely to blow up
any minute!" added Ivan Petrofsky, which warning he shouted in Russian
a moment later.

Backward leaped the throng, as though a bomb bad been thrown into their
midst, even the supposed officers joining in the retreat. The oil wagon
was now easy of access, and Tom and Ned, with Mr. Damon to aid them,
hastened toward it. Then the work of filling the tanks went on in
something like good old, United States fashion.

The last gallon of kerosene had been put aboard, and Tom and Ned with
Mr. Damon, had climbed on deck, when the gaily uniformed officer, who
had requested the delay, came riding up furiously.

"Hold! Hold! If you please!" he cried. "The governor has come. He wants
to see you."

"Too late!" answered Tom. "Give him our best regards and ask him to
some to the United States if he wants to see us. Sorry we haven't cards
handy. Ned, take the pilot house, and shoot her up sharp when you get
the signal. I'm going to run the motor. I don't know just how she'll
behave on the kerosene."

"You must remain!" angrily cried the officer.

"The United States doesn't take 'must' from anybody, from the Czar
down!" cried Tom as he disappeared into the motor room. The window was
open, and the youth turned on the power the official cried again to him:

"Halt! Here comes the governor! I declared you arrested by his orders,
and in the name of the Czar!"

"Nothing doing!" yelled Tom, and then, looking from the window, he saw
approaching a troop of Cossacks, in the midst of whom rode a man in a
brilliant uniform--evidently the governor.

"Stop! Stop!" cried the official.

"Here we go, Ned!" yelled Tom, and turning on more power the Falcon
arose swiftly, before the very eyes of the angry governor, and his
staff of Cossack soldiers.

Up and up she went, faster and faster, the motors working well on the
kerosene. Higher and higher. The governor and his soldiers were
directly below her now.

"Stop! Stop! You must stop. The Imperial governor orders it!" yelled
the officer, evidently his Excellency's aide-de-camp.

"We can't hear you!" shouted Tom, waving his hand from the motor room
window, and then, turning on still more power he flew over the city,
taking his friends and the valuable supply of platinum with him. So
surprised were the soldiers that they did not fire a shot, but had they
done so it is doubtful if much damage could have been done.

"And now for home!" cried Tom, and homeward hound the Falcon was after
a perilous trip through two storms. But she weathered them well.

In due season they reached Paris again, and now, having no reason for
concealment, they flew boldly down, to change what remained of the
kerosene for gasolene, as the motor worked better on that. The secret
police learned that the exiles were aboard, but they could do nothing,
as the offenses were political ones, and so Tom kept his friends safe.

Then they started on the long voyage across the Atlantic, and though
they had one bad experience in a storm over that mighty ocean, they got
safely home to Shopton in due season.

There is little more to tell. The platinum proved to be even more
valuable than Tom had expected. He could have sold it all for a large
sum, but he preferred to keep most of what he had for his inventive
work, and he used considerable of it in his machinery. Ned disposed of
his, selling Tom some at a lower price than market quotations, and the
Russians got a good price for theirs, turning the money into the fund
to help their fellow exiles. Mr. Damon also made a good donation to the
cause, as did Tom and Ned.

Mr. Petrofsky and his brother, with the other exile, joined friends in
New York, and promised to come and see Tom when they could.

"Well, I suppose you'll take a long vacation now," said Mary Nestor, to
Tom, when he called on her one evening to present her a unique ring,
with the stones set in some of the platinum he had dug in the Siberian
mine.

"Vacation? I have no time for vacations!" said the young inventor. "I'm
soon going to work on my silent airship, and on some other things I
have in mind. I want more adventures."

"Oh, you greedy boy!" exclaimed Mary with a laugh.

And what adventures Tom had next will be found in the next book of this
series, which will be entitled, "Tom Swift in Captivity; Or, a Daring
Escape by Airship."

Tom had several offers to give exhibitions in his air glider, from
aviation committees at various meets, but he declined.

"I haven't time," he declared. "I'm too busy."

"You ought to rest," his chum Ned advised him.

"'Bless my alarm clock!' as Mr. Damon would say," exclaimed Tom. "The
best rest is new work," and then he began sketching his ideas for a
silent motor craft, during which we will take leave of him for a while.





*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Tom Swift and His Air Glider, or Seeking the Platinum Treasure" ***

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