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CHAPTER XXI.-THE CAVERN 


"Now Goosal can tell you," said Tal, evidently pleased that he had, in a measure, solved the problem caused by the burning of the professor's map. "Goosal very old Indian. He know old stories--legends--very old."

"Well, if he can tell us how to find the buried city of Kurzon and the--the things in it," said Tom, "he's all right!"

The aged Indian proceeded slowly toward the hut where the impatient youths awaited him.

"I know what you seek in the buried city," remarked Tal.

"Do you?" cried Tom, wondering if some one had indiscreetly spoken of the idol of gold.

"Yes you want pieces of rock, with strange writings on them, old weapons, broken pots. I know. I have helped white men before."

"Yes, those are the things we want," agreed Tom, with a glance at his chum. "That is--some of them. But does your wife's grandfather talk our language?"

"No, but I can tell you what he says."

By this time the old man, led by "Mrs. Tal"-- as the young men called the wife of the Indian they had helped--entered the hut. He seemed nervous and shy, and glanced from Tom and Ned to his grandson-in-law, as the latter talked rapidly in the Indian dialect. Then Goosal made answer, but what it was all about the boys could not tell.

"Goosal say," translated Tal, "that he know a story of a very old city away down under ground."

"Tell us about it!" urged Tom eagerly.

But a difficulty very soon developed. Tal's intentions were good, but he was not equal to the task of translating. Nor was the understanding of Tom and Ned of Spanish quite up to the mark.

"Say, this is too much for me!" exclaimed Tom. "We are losing the most valuable part of this by not understanding what Goosal says, and what Tal translates."

"What can we do?" asked Ned.

"Get the professor here as soon as possible. He can manage this dialect, and he'll get the information at first hand. If Goosal can tell where to begin excavating for the city he ought to tell the professor, not us."

"That's right," agreed Ned. "We'll bring the professor here as soon as we can."

Accordingly they stopped the somewhat difficult task of listening to the translated story and told Tal, as well as they could, that they would bring the "man-with-no-hair-on-his-head" to listen to the tale.

This seemed to suit the Indians, all of whom in the small colony appeared to be very grateful to Tom and Ned for having saved the life of Tal.

"That was a good shot you made when you bowled over the jaguar," said Ned, as the two young explorers started back to their camp.

"Better than I realized, if it leads to the discovery of Kurzon and the idol of gold," remarked Tom.

"And to think we should come across the oiled- silk holding the poisoned arrows!" went on Ned. "That's the strangest part of the whole affair. If it hadn't been that you shot the jaguar this never would have come about."

That Professor Bumper was astonished, and Mr. Damon likewise, when they heard the story of Tom and Ned, is stating it mildly.

"Come on!" exclaimed the scientist, as Tom finished, "we must see this Goosal at once. If my map is destroyed, and it seems to be, this old Indian may be our only hope. Where did he say the buried city was, Tom?"

"Oh, somewhere in this vicinity, as nearly as I could make out. But you'd better talk with him yourself. We didn't say anything about the idol of gold."

"That's right. It's just as well to let the natives think we are only after ordinary relics."

"Bless my insurance policy!" gasped Mr. Damon. "It does not seem possible that we are on the right track."

"Well, I think we are, from what little information Goosal gave us," remarked Tom. "This buried city of his must be a wonderful place."

"It is, if it is what I take it to be," agreed the professor. "I told you I would bring you to a land of wonders, Tom Swift, and they have hardly begun yet. Come, I am anxious to talk to Goosal."

In order that the Indians in the Bumper camp might not hear rumors of the new plan to locate the hidden city, and, at the same time, to keep rumors from spreading to the camp of the rivals, the scientist and his friends started a new shaft, and put a shift of men at work on it.

"We'll pretend we are on the right track, and very busy," said Tom. "That will fool Beecher."

"Are you glad to know he did not take your map Professor Bumper?" asked Mr. Damon.

"Well, yes. It is hard to believe such things of a fellow scientist."

"If he didn't take it he wanted to," said Tom. "And he has done, or will do, things as unsportsmanlike."

"Oh, you are hardly fair, perhaps, Tom," commented Ned.

"Um!" was all the answer he received.

With the Indians in camp busy on the excavation work, and having ascertained that similar work was going on in the Beecher outfit, Professor Bumper, with Mr. Damon and the young men, set off to visit the Indian village and listen to Goosal's story. They passed the place where Tom had slain the jaguar, but nothing was left but the bones; the ants, vultures and jungle animals having picked them clean in the night.

On the arrival of Tom and his friends at the Indian's hut, Goosal told, in language which Professor Bumper could understand, the ancient legend of the buried city as he had had it from his grandfather.

"But is that all you know about it, Goosal?" asked the savant.

"No, Learned One. It is true most of what I have told you was told to me by my father and his father's father. But I--I myself--with these eyes, have looked upon the lost city."

"You have!" cried the professor, this time in English. "Where? When? Take us to it! How do you get here?"

"Through the cavern of the dead," was the answer when the questions were modified.

"Bless my diamond ring!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, when Professor Bumper translated the reply. "What does he mean?"

And then, after some talk, this information came out. Years before, when Goosal was a young man, he had been taken by his grandfather on a journey through the jungle. They stopped one day at the foot of a high mountain, and, clearing away the brush and stones at a certain place, an entrance to a great cavern was revealed. This, it appeared, was the Indian burial ground, and had been used for generations.

Goosal, though in fear and trembling, was lead through it, and came to another cavern, vaster than the first. And there he saw strange and wonderful sights, for it was the remains of a buried city, that had once been the home of a great and powerful tribe unlike the Indians--the ancient Mayas it would seem.

"Can you take us to this cavern?" asked the professor.

"Yes," answered Goosal. "I will lead to it those who saved the life of Tal--them and their friends. I will take you to the lost city!"

"Good!" cried Mr. Damon, when this had been translated. "Now let Beecher try to play any more tricks on us! Ho! for the cavern and the lost city of Kurzon."

"And the idol of gold," said Tom Swift to himself. "I hope we can get it ahead of Beecher. Perhaps if I can help in that--Oh, well, here's hoping, that's all!" and a little smile curved his lips.

Greatly excited by the strange news, but maintaining as calm an air outwardly as possible, so as not to excite the Indians, Tom and his friends returned to camp to prepare for their trip. Goosal had said the cavern lay distant more than a two- days' journey into the jungle.

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