Chapter One The Prize Offer
"Is this Tom Swift, the inventor of several airships?"
The man who had rung the bell glanced at the youth who answered his summons.
"Yes, I'm Tom Swift," was the reply. "Did you wish to see me?"
"I do. I'm Mr. James Gunmore, secretary of the Eagle Park Aviation Association. I had some correspondence with you about a prize contest we are going to hold. I believe—"
"Oh, yes, I remember now," and the young inventor smiled pleasantly as he opened wider the door of his home. "Won't you come in? My father will be glad to see you. He is as much interested in airships as I am." And Tom led the way to the library, where the secretary of the aviation society was soon seated in a big, comfortable leather chair.
"I thought we could do better, and perhaps come to some decision more quickly, if I came to see you, than if we corresponded," went on Mr. Gunmore. "I hope I haven't disturbed you at any of your inventions," and the secretary smiled at the youth.
"No. I'm through for to-day," replied Tom. "I'm glad to see you. I thought at first it was my chum, Ned Newton. He generally runs over in the evening."
"Our society, as I wrote you, Mr. Swift, is planning to hold a very large and important aviation meet at Eagle Park, which is a suburb of Westville, New York State. We expect to have all the prominent 'bird-men' there, to compete for prizes, and your name was mentioned. I wrote to you, as you doubtless recall, asking if you did not care to enter."
"And I think I wrote you that my big aeroplane-dirigible, the Red Cloud, was destroyed in Alaska, during a recent trip we made to the caves of ice there, after gold," replied Tom.
"Yes, you did," admitted Mr. Gunmore, "and while our committee was very sorry to hear that, we hoped you might have some other air craft that you could enter at our meet. We want to make it as complete as possible, and we all feel that it would not be so unless we had a Swift aeroplane there."
"It's very kind of you to say so," remarked Tom, "but since my big craft was destroyed I really have nothing I could enter."
"Haven't you an aeroplane of any kind? I made this trip especially to get you to enter. Haven't you anything in which you could compete for the prizes? There are several to be offered, some for distance flights, some for altitude, and the largest, ten thousand dollars, for the speediest craft. Ten thousand dollars is the grand prize, to be awarded for the quickest flight on record."
"I surely would like to try for that," said Tim, "but the only craft I have is a small monoplane, the Butterfly, I call it, and while it is very speedy, there have been such advances made in aeroplane construction since I made mine that I fear I would be distanced if I raced in her. And I wouldn't like that."
"No," agreed Mr. Gunmore. "I suppose not. Still, I do wish we could induce you to enter. I don't mind telling you that we consider you a drawing-card. Can't we induce you, some way?"
"I'm afraid not. I haven't any machine which—"
"Look here!" exclaimed the secretary eagerly....