TOM HOPES FOR A PRIZE
"Father," exclaimed Tom Swift, looking up from a paper he was
reading, "I think I can win that prize!"
"What prize is that?" inquired the aged inventor, gazing away
from a drawing of a complicated machine, and pausing in his task
of making some intricate calculations. "You don't mean to say,
Tom, that you're going to have a try for a government prize for a
submarine, after all."
"No," not a submarine prize, dad," and the youth laughed.
"Though our Advance would take the prize away from almost any
other under-water boat, I imagine. No, it's another prize I'm
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I see by this paper that the Touring Club of America has
offered three thousand dollars for the speediest electric car.
The tests are to come off this fall, on a new and specially built
track on Long Island, and it's to be an endurance contest for
twenty-four hours, or a race for distance, they haven't yet
decided. But I'm going to have a try for it, dad, and, besides
winning the prize, I think I'll take Andy Foger down a peg.
"What's Andy been doing now?"
"Oh, nothing more than usual. He's always mean, and looking
for a chance to make trouble for me, but I didn't refer to
anything special He has a new auto, you know, and he boasts that
it's the fastest one in this country. I'll show him that it
isn't, for I'm going to win this prize with the speediest car on the road."
"But, Tom, you haven't any automobile, you know," and Mr. Swift
looked anxiously at his son, who was smiling confidently. "You
can't be going to make your motor-cycle into an auto; are you?"
"Then how are you going to take part in the prize contest?
Besides, electric cars, as far as I know, aren't specially speedy."
"I know it, and one reason why this club has arranged the
contest is to improve the quality of electric automobiles. I'm
going to build an electric runabout, dad."
"An electric runabout? But it will have to be operated with a
storage battery, Tom, and you haven't--"
"I guess you're going to say I haven't any storage battery,
dad," interrupted Mr. Swift's son. "Well, I haven't yet, but I'm
going to have one. I've been working on--"
"Oh, ho!" exclaimed the aged inventor with a laugh. "So that's
what you've been tinkering over these last few weeks, eh, Tom? I
suspected it was some new invention, but I didn't suppose it was
that. Well, how are you coming on with it?"
"Pretty good, I think. I've got a new idea for a battery, and I
made an experimental one. I gave it some pretty severe tests, and
it worked fine."
"But you haven't tried it out in a car yet, over rough roads,
and under severe conditions have you?"
"No, I haven't had a chance. In fact, when I invented the
battery I had no idea of using it on a car I thought it might
answer for commercial purposes, or for storing a current
generated by windmills. But when I read that account in the
papers of the Touring Club, offering a prize for the best
electric car, it occurred to me that I might put my battery into
an auto, and win."
"Hum," remarked Mr. Swift musingly. "I don't take much stock
electric autos, Tom. Gasolene seems to be the best, or perhaps
steam, generated by gasolene. I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.
All the electric runabouts I ever saw, while they were very nice
cars, didn't seem able to go so very fast, or very far."
"That's true, but it's because they didn't have the right kind
of a battery. You know an electric locomotive can make pretty
good speed, Dad. Over a hundred miles an hour in tests."
"Yes, but they don't run by storage batteries. They have a
third rail, and powerful motors," and Mr. Swift looked
quizzically at his son. He loved to argue with him, for he said
it made Tom think, and often the two would thus thresh out some
knotty point of an invention, to the interests of both.
"Of course, Dad, there is a good deal of theory in what I'm
thinking of," the lad admitted. "But it does seem to me that if
you put the right kind of a battery into an automobile, it could
scoot along pretty lively. Look what speed a trolley car can make."
"Yes, Tom, but there again they get their power from an
"Some of them don't. There's a new storage battery been
invented by a New Jersey man, which does as well as the third
rail or the overhead wire. It was after reading about his battery
that I thought of a plan for mine. It isn't anything like his;
perhaps not as good in some ways, but, for what I want, it is
better in some respects, I think. For one thing it can be
recharged very quickly."
"Now Tom, look here," said Mr. Swift earnestly, laying aside
his papers, and coming over to where his son sat. "You know I
never interfere with your inventions. In fact, the more you think
of the better I like it. The airship you helped build certainly
did all that could be desired, and--"
"That reminds me. Mr. Sharp and Mr. Damon are out in it now,"
interrupted Tom. "They ought to be back soon. Yes, Dad, the
airship Red Cloud certainly scooted along."
"And the submarine, too," continued the aged inventor. "Your
ideas regarding that were of service to me, and helped in our
task of recovering the treasure, but I'm afraid you're going to
be disappointed in the storage battery. You may get it to work,
but I don't believe you can make it powerful enough to attain any
great speed. Why don't you confine yourself to making a battery
for stationary work?"
"Because, Dad, I believe I can build a speedy car, and I'm
going to try it. Besides I want to race Andy Foger, and beat him,
even if I don't win the prize. I'm going to build that car, and
it will make fast time."
"Well, go ahead, Tom," responded his father, after a pause. "Of
course you can use the shops here as much as you want, and Mr.
Sharp, Mr. Jackson, and I will help you all we can. Only don't be
disappointed, that's all."
"I won't, Dad. Suppose you come out to my shop and I'll show
you a sample battery I've been testing for the last week. I have
it geared to a small motor, and it's been running steadily for
some time. I want to see what sort of a record it's made."
Father and son crossed the yard, and entered a shop which the
lad considered exclusively his own. There he had made many
machines, and pieces of apparatus, and had invented a number of
articles which had been patented, and yielded him considerable of
"There's the battery, Dad," he said, pointing to a complicated
mechanism in one corner
"What's that buzzing noise?" asked Mr. Swift. "That's the
little motor I run from the new cells. Look here," and Tom
switched on an electric light above the experimental battery,
from which he hoped so much. It consisted of a steel can, about
the size of the square gallon tin in which maple syrup comes, and
from it ran two wires which were attached to a small motor that
was industriously whirring away.
Tom looked at a registering gauge connected with it.
"That's pretty good," remarked the young inventor.
"What is it, Tom?" and his father peered about the shop.
"Why this motor has run an equivalent of two hundred miles on
one charging of the battery! That's much better than I expected.
I thought if I got a hundred out of it I'd be doing well. Dad, I
believe, after I improve my battery a bit, that I'll have the
very thing I want! I'll install a set of them in a car, and it
will go like the wind. I'll --" Tom's enthusiastic remarks were
suddenly interrupted by a low, rumbling sound.
"Thunder!" exclaimed Mr. Swift. "The storm is coming, and
Sharp and Mr. Damon in the airship--"
Hardly had he spoken than there sounded a crash on the roof of
the Swift house, not far away. At the same time there came cries
of distress, and the crash was repeated.
"Come on, Dad! Something has happened!" yelled Tom, dashing
from the shop, followed by his parent. They found themselves in
the midst of a rain storm, as they raced toward the house, on the
roof of which the smashing noise was again heard.
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