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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-Three

The Great Race

"Well," remarked Mr. Sharp, when Tom and Mr. Damon had

called on him, to state that Andy Foger's machine was now on

the grounds, and demanding to be allowed to view it, to see

if it was an infringement on the one entered by the young

inventor, "I'll do the best I can for you. I'll lay the case

before the committee. It will meet at once, and I'll let you

know what they say."

"Understand," said Tom, "I don't want to interfere unless

I am convinced that Andy is trying an underhand trick. My

plans are missing, and I think he took them. If his machine

is made after those plans, it is, obviously, a steal, and I

want him ruled out of the meet."

"And so he shall be!" exclaimed Mr. Sharp. "Get the

evidence against him, and we'll act quickly enough."

The committee met in about an hour, and considered the

case. Meanwhile, Tom and Mr. Damon strolled past the tent

with its flaring sign. There was a man on guard, but Andy

was not in sight.

Then Tom was sent for, and Mr. Sharp told him what

conclusion had been arrived at. It was this:

"Under the rules of the meet," said the balloonist, "we

had to guarantee privacy to all the contestants until such

time as they choose to exhibit their machines. That is, they

need not bring them out until just before the races," he

added. "This is not a handicap affair, and the speediest

machine, or the one that goes to the greatest height,

according to which class it enters, will win. In consequence

we cannot force any contestant to declare what kind of a

machine he will use until he gets ready.

"Some are going to use the familiar type of biplanes and,

as you can see, there is no secret about them. They are

trying them out now." This was so, for several machines of

this type were either in the air, circling about, or were

being run over the ground.

"But others," continued Mr. Sharp, "will not even take the

committee into their confidence until just before the race.

They want to keep their craft a secret. We can't compel them

to do otherwise. I'm sorry, Tom, but the only thing I see

for you to do is to wait until the last minute. Then, if you

find Andy has infringed on your machine, lodge a protest--

that is unless you can get evidence against him before that


Tom well knew the uselessness of the latter plan. He and

Mr. Damon had tried several times to get a glimpse of the

craft Andy had made, but without success. As to the other

alternative--that of waiting until the last moment--Tom

feared that, too, would be futile.

"For," he reasoned, "just before the race there will be a

lot of confusion, officials will be here and there,

scattered over the ground, they will be hard to find, and it

will be almost useless to protest then. Andy will enter the

race, and there is a possibility that he may win. Almost any

one could with a machine like the Humming-Bird. It's the

machine almost as much as the operator, in a case like


"But you can protest after the race," suggested Mr. Damon.

"That would be little good, in case Andy beat me. The

public would say I was a sorehead, and jealous. No, I've

either got to stop Andy before the race, or not at all. I

will try to think of a plan."

Tom did think of several, but abandoned them one after the

other. He tried to get a glimpse inside the tent where the

Foger aeroplane Was housed, but it was too closely guarded.

Andy himself was not much in evidence, and Tom only had

fleeting glimpses of the bully.

Meanwhile he and Mt Damon, together with their machinist,

were kept busy. As Tom's craft was fully protected by

patents now, he had no hesitation in taking it out, and it

was given several severe tests around the aerial course. It

did even better than Tom expected of it, and he had great


Always, though, there were two things that worried him.

One was his father's illness, and the other the uneasiness

he felt as to what Andy Foger might do. As to the former,

the wireless reports indicated that Mr. Swift was doing as

well as could be expected, but his improvement was not

rapid. Regarding the latter worry, Tom saw no way of getting

rid of it.

"I've just got to wait, that's all," he thought.

The day before the opening of the meet, Tom and Mr. Damon

had given the Humming-Bird a grueling tryout. They had taken

her high up--so high that no prying eyes could time them,

and there Tom had opened the motor for all the power in it.

They had flashed through space at the rate of one hundred

and twenty miles an hour.

"If we can only do that in the race, the ten thousand

dollars is mine!" exulted Tom, as he slanted the nose of the

aeroplane toward the earth.

The day of the race dawned clear and beautiful. Tom was up

early, for there remained many little things to do to get

his craft in final trim for the contest. Then, too, he

wanted to be ready to act promptly as soon as Andy's machine

was wheeled out, and he also wanted to get a message from


The wireless arrived soon after breakfast, and did not

contain very cheering news.

"Your father not so well," Mr. Jackson sent. "Poor night,

but doctor thinks day will show improvement. Don't worry."

"Don't worry! I wonder who could help it," mused poor Tom.

"Well, I'll hope for the best," and he wired back to tell

the engineer in Shopton to keep in touch with him, and to

flash the messages to the Humming-Bird in the air, after the

big race started.

"Now I'll go out and see if I can catch a glimpse of what

that sneak Andy has to pit against me," said Tom.

The Foger tent was tightly closed, and Tom turned back to

his own place, having arranged with a messenger to come and

let him know as soon as Andy's craft was wheeled out.

All about was a scene of great activity. The grand stands

were filled, and a big crowd stood about the field anxiously

waiting for the first sight of the "bird-men" in their

wonderful machines. Now and then the band blared out, and

cheers arose as one after another the frail craft were

wheeled to the starting place.

Men in queer leather costumes darted here and there-they

were the aviators who were soon to risk life and limb for

glory and gold. Most of them were nervously smoking

cigarettes. The air was filled with guttural German or nasal

French, while now and then the staccato Russian was heard,

and occasionally the liquid tones of a Japanese. For men of

many nations were competing for the prizes.

The majority of the machines were monoplanes and biplanes

though one triplane was entered, and there were several

"freaks" as the biplane and monoplane men called them--craft

of the helicopter, or the wheel type. There was also one

Witzig Liore Dutilleul biplane, with three planes behind.

Tom was familiar with most of these types, but

occasionally he saw a new one that excited his curiosity.

However, he was more interested in what Andy Foger would

turn out. Andy's machine had not been tried, and Tom

wondered how he dared risk flying in it, without at least a

preliminary tryout. But Andy, and those with him, were

evidently full of confidence.

News of the suspicions of Tom, and what he intended to do

in case these suspicions proved true, had gotten around, and

there was quite a crowd about his own tent, and another

throng around that of Andy.

Tom and Mr. Damon had wheeled the Humming-Bird out of her

canvas "nest.". There was a cheer as the crowd caught sight

of the trim little craft. The young inventor, the eccentric

man, and the machinist were busy going over every part.

Meanwhile the meet had been officially opened, and it was

announced that the preliminary event would be some air

evolutions at no great height, and for no particular prize.

Several biplanes and monoplanes took part in this. It was

very interesting, but the big ten-thousand-dollar race, over

a distance of a hundred miles was the principal feature of

the meet, and all waited anxiously for this.

The opening stunts passed off successfully, save that a

German operator in a Bleriot came to grief, crashing down to

the ground, wrecking his machine, and breaking an arm. But

he only laughed at that, and coolly demanded another

cigarette, as he crawled out of the tangle of wires, planes

and the motor.

After this there was an exhibition flight by a French

aviator in a Curtis biplane, who raced against one in a Baby

Wright. It was a dead heat, according to the judges. Then

came a flight for height; and while no records were broken,

the crowd was well satisfied.

"Get ready for the hundred-mile ten-thousand-dollar-prize

race!" shouted the announcer, through his megaphone.

Tom's heart gave a bound. There were seven entrants in

this contest besides Tom and Andy Foger, and as announced by

the starter they were as follows:


Von Bergen.................Wright Biplane

Alameda..............Antoinette Monoplane

Perique.................Bleriot Monoplane

Loi Tong..........Santos-Dumont Monoplane

Wendell....................Curtis Biplane

De Tromp...................Farman Biplane

Lascalle.............Demoiselle Monoplane

Andy Foger.................--------------

Tom Swift..........Humming-Bird Monoplane

"What is the style of the Foger machine?" yelled some one

in the crowd, as the announcer lowered his megaphone.

"It has not been announced," was the reply. "It will at

once be wheeled out though, in accordance with the

conditions of the race."

There was a craning of necks, and an uneasy movement in

the crowd, for Tom's story was now generally known.

"Get ready to make your protest," advised Mr. Damon to the

young inventor. "I'll stay by the machine here until you

come back. Bless my radiator! I hope you beat him!"

"I will, if it's possible!" murmured Tom, with a grim

tightening of his lips.

There was a movement about Andy's tent, whence, for the

last half hour had come spasmodic noises that indicated the

trying-out of the motor. The flaps were pulled back and a

curious machine was wheeled into view. Tom rushed over

toward it, intent on getting the first view. Would it prove

to be a copy of his speedy Humming-Bird?

Eagerly he looked, but a curious sight met his eyes. The

machine was totally unlike any he had expected to see. It

was large, and to his mind rather clumsy, but it looked

powerful. Then, as he took in the details, he knew that it

was the same one that had flown over his house that night --

it was the one from which the fire bomb had been dropped.

He pushed his way through the crowd. He saw Andy standing

near the curious biplane, which type of air craft it nearest

resembled, though it had some monoplane features. On the

side was painted the name:


Andy caught sight of Tom Swift.

"I'm going to beat you!" the bully boasted, and I haven't

a machine like yours, after all. You were wrong."

"So I see," stammered Tom, hardly knowing what to think.

"What did you do with my plans then?"

"I never had them!"

Andy turned away, and began to assist the men he had hired

to help him. Like all the others, his machine had two seats,

for in this race each operator must carry a passenger.

Tom turned away, both glad and sorry,--glad that his rival

was not to race him in a duplicate of the Humming-Bird, but

sorry that he had as yet no track of the strangely missing


"I wonder where they can be?" mused the young inventor.

Then came the firing of the preliminary gun. Tom rushed

back to where Mr. Damon stood waiting for him.

There was a last lock at the Humming-Bird. She was fit to

race any machine on the ground. Mr. Damon took his place.

Tom started the propeller. The other contestants were in

their seats with their passengers. Their assistants stood

ready to shove them off. The explosions of so many motors in

action were deafening.

"How much thrust?" cried Tom to his machinist.

"Twenty-two hundred pounds!"


The report of the starting-gun could not be heard. But the

smoke of it leaped into the air. It was the signal to go.

Tom's voice would not have carried five feet. He waved his

hands as a signal. His helper thrust the Humming-Bird

forward. Over the smooth ground it rushed. Tom looked

eagerly ahead. On a line with him were the other machines,

including Andy Foger's Slugger.

Tom pulled a lever. He felt his craft soar upward. The

other machines also pointed their noses into the air.

The big race for the ten-thousand-dollar prize was under way!



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