CHAPTER I TOM HOPES FOR A PRIZE
"Father," exclaimed Tom Swift, looking up from a paper he was reading, "I think I can win that prize!"
"What prize is that?" inquired the aged inventor, gazing away from a drawing of a complicated machine, and pausing in his task of making some intricate calculations. "You don't mean to say, Tom, that you're going to have a try for a government prize for a submarine, after all."
"No, not a submarine prize, dad," and the youth laughed. "Though our Advance would take the prize away from almost any other under-water boat, I imagine. No, it's another prize I'm thinking about."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I see by this paper that the Touring Club of America has offered three thousand dollars for the speediest electric car. The tests are to come off this fall, on a new and specially built track on Long Island, and it's to be an endurance contest for twenty-four hours, or a race for distance, they haven't yet decided. But I'm going to have a try for it, dad, and, besides winning the prize, I think I'll take Andy Foger down a peg.
"What's Andy been doing now?"
"Oh, nothing more than usual. He's always mean, and looking for a chance to make trouble for me, but I didn't refer to anything special He has a new auto, you know, and he boasts that it's the fastest one in this country. I'll show him that it isn't, for I'm going to win this prize with the speediest car on the road."
"But, Tom, you haven't any automobile, you know," and Mr. Swift looked anxiously at his son, who was smiling confidently. "You can't be going to make your motor-cycle into an auto; are you?"
"Then how are you going to take part in the prize contest? Besides, electric cars, as far as I know, aren't specially speedy."
"I know it, and one reason why this club has arranged the contest is to improve the quality of electric automobiles. I'm going to build an electric runabout, dad."
"An electric runabout? But it will have to be operated with a storage battery, Tom, and you haven't—"
"I guess you're going to say I haven't any storage battery, dad," interrupted Mr. Swift's son. "Well, I haven't yet, but I'm going to have one. I've been working on—"
"Oh, ho!" exclaimed the aged inventor with a laugh. "So that's what you've been tinkering over these last few weeks, eh, Tom? I suspected it was some new invention, but I didn't suppose it was that. Well, how are you coming on with it?"
"Pretty good, I think. I've got a new idea for a battery, and I made an experimental one. I gave it some pretty severe tests, and it worked fine."
"But you haven't tried it out in a car yet, over rough roads, and under severe conditions have you?"
"No, I haven't had a chance. In fact, when I invented the battery I had no idea of using it on a car I thought it might answer for commercial purposes, or for storing a current generated by windmills. But when I read that account in the papers of the Touring Club, offering a prize for the best electric car, it occurred to me that I might put my battery into an auto, and win."
"Hum," remarked Mr....