Won by a Length
Rising upward, on a steep slant, for he wanted to get into
the upper currents as soon as possible, Tom looked down and
off to his left and saw one machine going over the ground in
curious leaps and bounds. It was the tiny Demoiselle--the
smallest craft in the race, and its peculiar style of
starting was always thus manifested.
"I don't believe he's going to make it," thought Tom.
He was right. In another moment the tiny craft, after
rising a short distance, dove downward, and was wrecked. The
young inventor saw the two men crawling out from the tangled
planes and wings, apparently uninjured.
"One contestant less," thought Tom, grimly, though with
pity in his heart for the unfortunates.
However, he must think of himself and his own craft now.
He glanced at Mr. Damon sitting beside him. That odd
gentleman, with never a thought of blessing anything now,
unless he did it silently, was watching the lubricating
system. This was a vital part of the craft, for if anything
went wrong with it, and the bearings overheated, the race
would have to be abandoned. So Tom was not trusting to any
automatic arrangement, but had instituted, almost at the
last moment, a duplicate hand-worked system, so that if
one failed him he would have the other.
"A good start!" shouted Mr. Damon in his car.
Tom nodded, and glanced behind him. On a line with the
Humming-Bird, and at about the same elevation, were the
Bleriot monoplane and a Wright biplane. Below were the
Santos-Dumont and the Antoinette.
"Where's the Slugger?" called Tom to his friend.
Mr. Damon motioned upward. There, in the air above Tom's
machine, and slightly in advance, was Andy Foger's craft. He
had gotten away in better shape than had the Humming-Bird.
For a moment Tom's heart misgave him. Then he turned on
more power, and had the satisfaction of mounting upward and
shooting onward until he was on even terms with Andy.
The bully gave one glance over toward his rival, and
pulled a lever. The Slugger increased her speed, but Tom was
not a second behind him.
There was a roaring noise in the rear, and up shot De
Tromp in the Farman, and Loi Tong, the little Japanese, in
the Santos-Dumont. Truly the race was going to he a hotly
contested one. But the end was far off yet.
After the first jockeying for a start and position, the
race settled down into what might be termed a "grind." The
course was a large one, but so favorable was the atmosphere
that day, and such was the location of Eagle Park in a great
valley, that even on the far side of the great ellipse the
contestants could be seen, dimly with the naked eye, but
very plainly with glasses, with which many of the spectators
Around and around they went, at no very great height, for
it was necessary to make out the signals set up by the race
officials, so that the contestants would know when they were
near the finish, that they might use the last atom of speed.
So at varying heights the wonderful machines circled about
The Humming-Bird was working well, and Tom felt a sense of
pride as he saw the ground slipping away below him. He felt
sure that he would win, even when Alameda, the Spaniard, in
the Antoinette, came creeping up on him, and even when Andy
Foger, with a burst of speed, placed himself and his
passenger in the lead.
"I'll catch him!" muttered Tom, and he opened the throttle
a trifle wider, and went after Andy, passing him with ease.
They had covered about thirty miles of the course, when
the humming and crackling of the wireless apparatus told Tom
that a message was coming. He snapped the receiver to his
ear, adjusting the outer covering to shut out the racket of
the motor, and listened.
"Well?" asked Mr. Damon, as Tom took off the receiver.
"Dad isn't quite so well," answered the lad. "Mr. Jackson
says they have sent for Dr. Hendrix again. But dad is game.
He sends me word to go on and win, and I'll do it, too,
Tom paused, and choked back a sob. Then he prepared to get
more speed out of his motor.
"Of course you will!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my--!"
But they encountered an adverse current of wind at that
moment, and it required the attention of both of the
aviators to manage the machine. It was soon on an even keel
again, and once more was shooting forward around the course.
At times Tom would be in advance, and again he would have
to give place to the Curtis, the Farman, or the Santos-
Dumont, as these speedy machines, favored by a spurt from
their motors, or by some current of air, shot ahead. But, in
general, Tom maintained the lead, and among the spectators
there began a series of guesses as to how much he would win
Tom glanced at the barograph. It registered a little over
twelve hundred feet. He looked at the speed gage. He was
doing a trifle better than a hundred miles an hour. He
looked down at the signals. There was twenty miles yet to
go. It was almost time for the spurt for which he had been
holding back. Yet he would wait until five miles from the
end, and then he felt that he could gain and maintain a
"Andy seems to be doing well," said Mr, Damon.
"Yes, he has a good machine," conceded Tom.
Five miles more were reeled off. Then an other five.
Another round of that distance and Tom would key his motor
up to the highest pitch, and then the Humming-Bird would
show what she could do. Eagerly Tom waited for the right
Suddenly the wireless began buzzing again. Quickly the
young inventor clamped the receiver to his ear. Mr. Damon
saw him turn pale.
"Dr. Gladby says dad has a turn for the worse. There is
little hope," translated Tom.
"Will you--are you going to quit?" asked Mr. Damon.
Tom shook his head.
"No!" he cried. "My father has become unconscious, so Mr.
Jackson says, but his last words were to me: 'Tell Tom to
win the race!' And I'm going to do it!"
Tom suddenly changed his plans. There was to be no waiting
for the signal now. He would begin his final spurt, and if
possible finish the hundred miles at his utmost speed, win
the race and then hasten to his father's side.
With a menacing roar the motor of the Humming-Bird took up
the additional power that Tom sent into her. She shot ahead
like an eagle darting after his prey. Tom opened up a big
gap between his machine and the one nearest him, which, at
that moment, was the Antoinette, with the Spaniard driving
"Now to win!" cried Tom, grimly.
Surely no race was ever flown as was that one! Tom flashed
through the air so quickly that his speed was almost
incredible. The gage registered one hundred and thirty miles
Down below in the grand stands, and on the aviation field,
there were yells of approval--of wonder--of fear. But Tom
and Mr. Damon could not hear them. They only heard the
powerful song of the motor.
Faster and faster flew the Humming-Bird Tom looked down,
and saw the signal put up which meant that there were but
three miles more to go. He felt that he could do it. He was
half a lap ahead of them all now. But he saw Andy Foger's
machine pulling away from the bunch.
"He's going to try to catch me!" exulted Tom.
Then something happened. The motor of the Humming-Bird
suddenly slackened its speed, it missed explosions, and the
trim little craft began to drop behind.
"What's the matter?" cried Mr. Damon.
"Three of the cylinders are out of business!" yelled Tom.
"We're done for, I guess."
On came the other machines, Andy in the lead, then the
Santos-Dumont, then the Farman, and lastly the Wright. They
saw the plight of the Humming-Bird and determined to beat
her. Tom cast a despairing look up at the motor. There was
nothing to be done. He could not reach it In mid-air. He
could only keep on, crippled as he was, and trust to luck.
Andy passed by his rival with an evil smile on his ugly
face. Then the Antoinette flashed by. In turn all the others
left Tom in the rear Toms heart was like lead. Mr. Damon
gazed blankly forward. They were beaten. It did not seem
There was but a single chance. If Tom shut off all power,
coasted for a moment, and then, ere the propeller had ceased
revolving, if he could start the motor on the spark, the
silent cylinders might pick up, with the others, and begin
again. He would try it. They could be no worse off than they
"A mile behind!" gasped Tom. "It's a long chance, but I'll
He shut off the power. The motor was silent. the Humming-
Bird began to fall. But ere she had gone down ten feet Tom
suddenly switched on the batteries. There was a moment of
silence, and then came the welcome roar that told of the
rekindled motor. And such a roar as it was! Every cylinder
was exploding as though none of them had ever stopped!
"We did it!" yelled Tom. Opening up at full speed, he sent
the sky racer on the course to overtake and pass his rivals.
Slowly he crept on them. They looked back and saw him
coming. They tried to put on more speed, but it was
impossible. Andy Foger was in the lead. He was being slowly
overhauled by the Santos-Dumont, with the queer tail-
"I'll get him!" muttered Tom. "I'll pass 'em all!"
And he did. With a wonderful burst of speed the little
Humming-Bird overtook one after another of her larger
rivals, and passed them. Then she crept up on Andy's
In an instant more it was done, and, a good length in
advance of the Foger craft, Tom shot over the finish line a
winner, richer by ten thousand dollars, and, not only that,
but he had picked up a mile that had been lost, and had
snatched victory from almost certain defeat.
There was a succession of thundering cheers as he shut off
the motor, and volplaned to earth, but he paid little
attention to them. He brought his craft to a stop just as
the wireless on it buzzed again.
He listened with a look of pain on his face.
"My father is dying," he said simply. "I must go to him.
Mr. Damon, will you fill the tanks with oil and gasoline,
while I send off a message?"
"Oil and gasoline," murmured the odd man, while hundreds
pressed up to congratulate Tom Swift "What are you going to
"I'm going to my father in the Humming-Bird, said Tom.
"It's the only way I can see him alive," and he began to
click off a message to Mr. Jackson, stating that he had won
the race and was going to fly to Shopton, while Mr. Damon
and several others replenished the fuel and oil of the
Tom Swift had won one race. Could he win the other?
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Room | Tom
Swift And His Sky Racer