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| Home | Reading Room Tom Swift And His Sky Racer

Tom Swift And His Sky Racer
or The Quickest Flight on Record
by Victor Appleton

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Chapter Sixteen

A Mysterious Fire

For a few moments Tom did not know what to think. Not that

the sight of aeroplanes in flight were any novelty to him,

but to see one flying over his house in the dead of night

was a little out of the ordinary. Then, as he realized that

night-flights were becoming more common, Tom tried to make

out the details of the craft.

"I wish I had brought the night glasses with me," he said


"Here they are," spoke a voice at his side, and so

suddenly that Tom was startled. He looked down, and saw Mr.

Jackson standing beside him.

"Did you hear the noise, too?" the lad asked the engineer.

"Yes. It woke me up. Then I heard you moving around, and I

heard you come up here. I thought maybe it was a flight of

meteors you'd come to see, and I knew the glasses would be

handy, so I stopped for them. Take a look, Tom. It's an

aeroplane; isn't it?"

"Yes, and not moving very fast, either. They seem to be

circling around here."

The young inventor was peering through the binoculars,

and, as soon as he had the mysterious craft in focus, he


"Look, Mr. Jackson, it's a new kind of monoplane. I never

saw one like it before. I wonder who could have invented

that? It's something like a santos-Dumont and a Bleriot,

with some features of Cornu's Helicopter. That's a queer


"It certainly is," agreed the engineer, who was now

sighting through the glasses. In spite of the darkness the

binoculars brought out the peculiarities of the aeroplane

with considerable distinctness.

"Can you make out who are in it?" asked Tom.

"No," answered Mr. Jackson. "You try."

But Tom had no better luck. There were two persons in the

odd machine, which was slowly flying along, moving in a

great circle, with the Swift house for its center.

"I wonder why they're hanging around here?" asked Tom,


"Perhaps they want to talk to you," suggested Mr. Jackson.

"They may be fellow inventor--perhaps one of them is that

Philadelphia man who had the Whizzer."

"No," replied the lad. "He would have sent me word if he

intended calling on me. Those are strangers, I think. There

they are, coming back again."

The mysterious aeroplane was once more circling toward the

watchers on the roof. There was a movement on the steps,

near which Tom was standing, and his father came up.

"Is anything the matter?" he asked anxiously.

"Only a queer craft circling around up here," was the

reply. "Come and see, dad."

Mr. Swift ascended to the roof. The aeroplane was higher

now, and those in her could not so easily be made out. Tom

felt a vague sense of fear, as though he was being watched

by the evil eyes of his enemies. More than once he looked

over to the shed where his craft was housed, as though some

danger might threaten it. But the shed of the Humming-Bird

showed no signs of invaders.

Suddenly the mysterious aeroplane increased its speed. It

circled about more quickly, and shot upward, as though to

show the watchers of what it was capable. Then, with a quick

swoop it darted downward, straight for the building where

Tom's newest invention was housed.

"Look out! They'll hit something!" cried the young

inventor, as though those in the aeroplane could hear him.

Then, just as though they had heeded his warning, the

pilots of the mysterious craft shot her upward, after she

had hovered for an instant over the big shed.

"That was a queer move," said Tom. "It looked as if they

lost control of her for a moment."

"And they dropped something!" cried Mr. Jackson. "Look!

something fell from the aeroplane on the roof of the shed."

"Some tool, likely," spoke Tom. "I'll get it in the

morning, and see what sort of instruments they carry. I'd

like to examine that machine, though."

The queer aeroplane was now shooting off in the darkness

and Tom followed it with the glasses, wondering what its

construction could be like. He was to have another sight of

it sooner than he expected.

"Well, we may as well get back to bed," said Mr. Jackson.

"I'm tired, and we've got lots to do to-morrow."

"Yes," agreed Tom. "It's cooler now. Come on, dad."

Tom fell into a light doze. He thought afterward he could

not have slept more than half an hour when he heard a

commotion out in the yard. For an instant he could not tell

what it was, and then, as he grew wider awake he knew that

it was the shouting of Eradicate Sampson, and the braying of


But what was Eradicate shouting?

"Fire! Fire! Fire!"

Tom leaped to his window.

"Wake up, Massa Tom! Wake up! De areoplane shed am on

fire, an' de Humming-Bird will burn up! Hurry! Hurry!"

Tom looked out. Flames were shooting up from the roof of

the shed where his precious craft was kept.



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