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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 Twenty

Just in Time

While Dr. Hendrix was in his office, getting ready to make

the thrilling trip through the air with Tom, the young

inventor spent a few minutes going over his monoplane. The

wonderful little craft had made her first big flight in

excellent time, though Tom knew she could do better the

farther she was flown. Not a stay had started, not a guy

wire was loose. The motor had not overheated, and every

bearing was as cool as though it had not taken part in

thousands of revolutions.

"Oh, I can depend on you!" murmured Tom, as he looked to

see that the propeller was tight on the shaft. He gave the

bearing a slight adjustment to make sure of it.

He was at this when the specialist reappeared. Dr.

Hendrix, after his first show of excitement, when he had

made his decision to accompany Tom, had resumed his usual

calm demeanor. Once again he was the grave surgeon, with his

mind on the case before him.

"Well, is my auto ready?" he asked absentmindedly. Then,

as he saw the little aeroplane, and Tom standing waiting

beside it, he added: "Oh, I forgot for the moment that I was

to make a trip through the air, instead of in my car. Well,

Mr. Swift, are we all ready?"

"All ready," replied the young inventor. "We're going to

make fast time, Dr. Hendrix. You'd better put this on," and

Tom extended a face protector.

"What's it for?" The physician looked curiously at it.

"To keep the air from cutting your cheeks and lips. We are

going to travel a hundred miles an hour this trip."

"A hundred miles an hour!" Dr. Hendrix spoke as though he

would like to back out.

"Maybe more, if I can manage it," went on Tom, calmly, as

he proceeded to remove the bag of sand from the place where

the surgeon was to sit. Then he looked to the various

equilibrium arrangements and the control levers. He was so

cool about it, taking it all for granted, as if rising and

flying through the air at a speed rivaling that of the

fastest birds, was a matter of no moment, that Dr. Hendrix

was impressed by the calm demeanor of the young inventor.

"Very well," said the surgeon with a shrug of his

shoulders, "I guess I'm game, Tom Swift."

The doctor took the seat Tom pointed out to him, with his

bag of instruments on his knees. He put on the face

protector, and had, at the suggestion of our hero, donned a

heavy coat.

"For it's cold in the upper regions," said Tom.

Several servants in the physician's household had gathered

to see him depart in this novel fashion, and the chauffeur

of the auto, in which the specialist usually made his calls,

was also there.

"I'll give you a hand," said the chauffeur to the young

inventor. "I was at an aviation meet once, and I know how

it's done."

"Good," exclaimed Tom. "Then you can hold the machine, and

shove when I give the word."

Tom started the propeller himself, and quickly jumped into

his seat. The chauffeur held back the Humming-Bird until the

young aviator had speeded up the motor.

"Let go!" cried the youthful inventor, and the man gave

the little craft a shove. Across the rather uneven ground of

the doctor's yard it ran, straight for a big iron barrier.

"Look out! We'll be into the fence!" shouted the surgeon.

"We'll be killed!" He seemed about to leap off.

"Sit still!" cried Tom, and at that instant he tilted the

elevation planes, and the craft shot upward, going over the

fence like a circus horse taking a seven-barred gate.

"Oh!" exclaimed the physician in a curious voice. They

were off on their trip to save the life of Mr. Swift.

What the sensations of the celebrated specialist were, Tom

never learned. If he was afraid, his fright quickly gave

place to wonder, and the wonder soon changed to delight as

the machine rose higher and higher, acquired more speed, and

soared in the air over the country that spread out in all

directions from Kirkville.

"Magnificent! Magnificent!" murmured the doctor, and then

Tom knew that the surgeon was in the grip of the air, and

was one of the "bird-men."

Every moment the Humming-Bird increased her speed. They

passed over the river near where men were working on the

broken bridge. It was now no barrier to them. Tom, noting

the barograph, and seeing that they were twenty-two hundred

feet high, decided to keep at about that distance from the


"How fast are we going?" cried Dr. Hendrix, into the ear

of the young inventor.

"Just a little short of a hundred an hour!" Tom shouted

back. "We'll hit a hundred and five before long."

His prediction proved true, and when about forty miles

from Shopton that terrific speed had been attained. It

seemed as if they were going to have a trip devoid of

incident, and Tom was congratulating himself on the quick

time made, when he ran into a contrary strata of air. Almost

before he knew it the Humming-Bird gave a dangerous and

sickening dive, and tilted at a terrifying angle.

"Are we going to turn turtle?" cried the doctor.

"I--I hope not!" gasped Tom. He could not understand why

the equilibrium weights did not work, but he had no time

then to investigate. Quickly he warped the wing tips and

brought the craft up on an even keel.

He gave a sigh of relief as the aeroplane was once more

shooting forward, and he was not mistaken when he thought he

heard Dr. Hendrix murmur a prayer of thankfulness. Their

escape had been a narrow one. Tom's nerve, and the coolness

of the physician, had alone saved them from a fall to death.

But now, as if ashamed of her prank, the Humming-Bird went

along even better than before. Tom was peering through the

slight haze that hung over the earth, for a sight of

Shopton. At length the spires of the churches came into


"There it is," he called, pointing downward. "We'll land

in two minutes more."

"No time to spare," murmured the doctor, who knew the

serious nature of the aged inventor's illness. "How long did

it take us?"

"Fifty-one minutes," replied Tom, glancing at a small

clock in front of him. Then he shut off the motor and

volplaned to earth, to the no small astonishment of the

surgeon. He made a perfect landing in the yard before the

shed, leaped from his seat, and called:

"Come, Dr. Hendrix!"

The surgeon followed him. Dr. Gladby and Dr. Kurtz came to

the door of the house. On their faces were grave looks. They

greeted the celebrated surgeon eagerly.

"Well?" he asked quickly, and they knew what he meant.

"You are only just in time," said Dr. Gladby, softly, and

Tom, following the doctors into the house, wondered if his

trip with the specialist had been in vain.



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