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Title: The Stolen Aeroplane - or, How Bud Wilson Made Good
Author: Lamar, Ashton
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Stolen Aeroplane - or, How Bud Wilson Made Good" ***

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                       The Aeroplane Boys Series

                         The Stolen Aeroplane
                       How Bud Wilson Made Good



The Aeroplane Boys Series

By ASHTON LAMAR


   I. IN THE CLOUDS FOR UNCLE SAM

  II. THE STOLEN AEROPLANE

 III. THE BOY AVIATOR’S GRIT

  IV. THE BOY AVIATORS’ CLUB

OTHER TITLES TO FOLLOW

These stories are the newest and most up-to-date. All aeroplane details
are correct. Fully illustrated. Colored frontispiece. Cloth, 12mos.

Price, 60c Each.


The Airship Boys Series

By H. L. SAYLER


   I. THE AIRSHIP BOYS

  II. THE AIRSHIP BOYS ADRIFT

 III. THE AIRSHIP BOYS DUE NORTH

  IV. THE AIRSHIP BOYS IN BARREN LANDS

These thrilling stories deal with the wonderful new science of aerial
navigation. Every boy will be interested and instructed by reading
them. Illustrated. Cloth binding. Price, $1.00 each.


The above books are sold everywhere or will be sent postpaid on receipt
of price by the

  Publishers      The Reilly & Britton Co.      Chicago

_Complete catalog sent, postpaid, on request_



[Illustration: “STOP! IN THE NAME OF THE LAW!”]



                              The Stolen
                               Aeroplane


                       How Bud Wilson Made Good


                                  BY
                             ASHTON LAMAR


                         [Illustration: _The_
                               AEROPLANE
                                 BOYS
                                SERIES]


                       Illustrated by M. G. Gunn


                                Chicago
                       The Reilly & Britton Co.
                              Publishers



                           COPYRIGHT, 1910,
                                  by
                       THE REILLY & BRITTON CO.

                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


                         THE STOLEN AEROPLANE



CONTENTS


 CHAP.                                                   PAGE
    I  AN IDLE BOY GETS A JOB                               9
   II  THE HERO OF THE GRAVEL PIT                          21
  III  SCOTTSVILLE’S FAIR SECURES AN AVIATOR               33
   IV  A MIDNIGHT LUNCH                                    44
    V  MADAME ZECATACAS READS THE FUTURE                   57
   VI  THE GYPSY QUEEN’S TALISMAN                          70
  VII  A FOOLHARDY TRICK IN AN AEROPLANE                   84
 VIII  AMATEUR VERSUS PROFESSIONAL                         95
   IX  BUD MAKES A STRANGE CONTRACT                       106
    X  THE FLIGHT IN THE DARK                             117
   XI  DUMPED INTO THE MARSH                              131
  XII  THE ROMNEY RING BRINGS NEWS                        143
 XIII  A UNIQUE STARTING DEVICE                           155
  XIV  AN EXHIBITION UNDER DIFFICULTIES                   169
   XV  THE ENEMY OUTWITTED ONCE MORE                      182
  XVI  BUD DISCOVERS A FRIEND                             197
 XVII  THE PRIVATE OFFICE OF THE FIRST NATIONAL BANK      211



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


 “Stop! In the name of the law!”      _Frontispiece_

 Bud bargains for coffee.                          53

 The start from the flume.                        165

 Mr. Camp drew out an envelope.                   201



 The Stolen Aeroplane
 OR,
 How Bud Wilson Made Good



CHAPTER I

AN IDLE BOY GETS A JOB.


“Here she comes.”

Doug’ Jackson, the driver of the Scottsville House ’bus, rose from the
edge of the depot platform, hitched up his trousers, and motioned the
usual depot loungers back to safety. All were waiting for passenger
train No. 22, west bound, due at 11:15 A. M., and late, as usual.

“She’s made up seven minutes,” Doug’ announced authoritatively after
consulting a large silver watch. “She’s fannin’--git back there, you
kids.”

No one else yet saw or heard the approaching train, whose proximity was
only detected by Doug’s long experience in such matters; but all necks
were craned toward the grade east of town and the curve at its far end.

One of these anxious watchers was Mr. Josiah Elder, a man just beyond
middle age, who shaved every morning down to a round patch of whiskers
on a prolonged chin, and whose white starched shirt and heavy gold
watch chain proclaimed him a person of affairs. Just at present, a
heavy coat of dust on a new, black, soft hat and on his dark trousers
suggested that the morning had been spent out of doors, where the
September drought had coated the town and country with suffocating dust.

Mr. Elder was president of the Scottsville First National Bank. He
was also president of the Scott County Joint Stock Agricultural and
Trotting Association. And this was Wednesday morning of fair week. The
president was hot, dusty, and had an anxious look.

“Hello, Mr. Elder,” exclaimed Doug’ hastily, lifting his cap with his
badge as “runner” on it, and glancing hastily along the track to be
sure that his announcement had not been premature. “Train’ll be here
right away.”

“Morning,” replied the anxious fair official, looking toward a dusty,
side-bar buggy and a lively looking horse hitched just beyond the ’bus.
“Keep your eye on my rig, Doug’.”

Just then a hollow whistle sounded far up the track, and a moment
later, beneath a puff of white steam that drifted around the curve, a
billow of black smoke told that No. 22 was “fanning” down grade toward
the town.

“I’m lookin’ for a man named Dare--T. Glenn Dare. If you see him, he
ain’t goin’ to the hotel. He’s goin’ with me.”

“What’s the prospec’s fur fair week?” asked Doug’, indicating that he
understood. “I reckon that airship’ll bring out a fine attendance ’bout
Thursday.”

“We hope so,” replied Mr. Elder impressively. “It is a novel attraction
of great educational value. And it is an expensive feature. The people
o’ Scott County should recognize our enterprise and turn out liberally.”

“I reckon it’s goin’ to kind o’ crowd you to git everything in shape
on time, ain’t it? All the boxes and the injine is over there in the
freight house yit.”

“We are waiting for Mr. Dare. He’s the manufacturer’s agent and
operator.”

The oncoming train was already pounding over the switch track frogs at
the town limits. Doug’ mustered up his courage, crowded a little closer
to the disturbed fair official and exclaimed, nervously:

“All right, Mr. Elder, I’ll keep my eye out fur him. And your rig’ll be
all safe. Say, Mr. Elder, you couldn’t spare me a ticket fur the fair,
could ye?”

But this appeal was lost. The mogul engine, hissing as if annoyed at
its enforced stop in Scottsville, slid to a grinding stop, panted a
few times, and then with a sharp clang of its bell and a deep snort,
was off again. The crowd, always anxious to see the train come in,
edged forward, fell back and grouped itself about a dozen arrivals. Two
traveling men, or “drummers,” Doug’ captured. The others were either
not strangers to the depot crowd or easily identified by their luggage
and costume as visitors from near by towns. Mr. T. Glenn Dare was not
among those who alighted.

Having made sure of this fact, President Elder’s strained look at once
turned into one of complete annoyance.

“I reckon yer man didn’t git here,” remarked the talkative ’bus driver.
“Maybe he’ll be on seventeen.”

One look at the official’s face convinced Doug’ that it was not the
time to renew his request for a free ticket. Mr. Elder hurried into the
depot, and with no attempt to restrain his anger, called up the ticket
office of the fair association on the telephone.

To some one, he rapidly explained that Mr. T. Glenn Dare, the expert
who was to set up and operate the aeroplane for the fair directors had
not arrived. The boxed and crated airship had been in the depot freight
house for a week. It was now Tuesday of the week of the fair, and a
flight had been advertised for Wednesday afternoon at three o’clock.
Operator Dare, who was to make this at the rate of fifty dollars a day,
had been expected Tuesday morning.

“Yes, I know,” answered the president to the person with whom he had
been talking, “we’ve saved one hundred dollars, but that ain’t it.
We’ve got to exhibit our aeroplane to-morrow, or let the people know we
can’t. We’ve paid one thousand eight hundred dollars in good money for
the thing, and it ain’t worth a nickel to us over there in the freight
depot.”

There was more talk, and then President Elder ended the conversation by
announcing:

“There isn’t any use to haul the boxes out to the ground, if the man
don’t come. We’ll wait until the night train. If he ain’t on that,
we’ll send out bills callin’ the show off. Then we’ll ship the machine
back East and sue the company for failure to keep its contract. They
agreed to have a competent man here, and they’ve thrown us down.”

As the perspiring Mr. Elder came out of the hot ticket-office of the
musty-smelling station and paused on the platform to wipe his red
face, his eye fell on the freight-house across the tracks from the
station. He glanced at his horse to see that it was all right, and then
sprang across to the freight-depot. He had not yet seen the valuable
crates consigned to him. The freight-agent had already gone to dinner.
Entering the long shed, he glanced inquiringly about. It was half dark.

“Lookin’ for your aeroplane, Mr. Elder?” exclaimed a pleasant boyish
voice from somewhere in the gloom.

The banker and fair president traced the sounds to their source. At the
far end of the room and opposite a rear door stood a mound of carefully
packed and braced skeleton-like frames. On the edge of a heavy square
box bound with steel bands, sat a boy of perhaps seventeen or eighteen.
Although it was hot, the lad was wearing a heavy blue flannel shirt, a
red neck tie, and a cheap, sailor hat. His low shoes were worn and old,
and his socks gave signs of needing a mother’s care. He was slowly
fanning himself with a big blue handkerchief.

“If you are,” added the boy, springing to his feet, “here it is; and it
looks like the real thing.”

Instead of examining the aeroplane crates, Mr. Elder’s eye swept the
boy from hat to shoes.

“Aren’t you Bud Wilson?” he asked at last.

“Yes, sir. Attorney Cyrus Stockwell is my foster father.”

“I thought so,” rejoined the banker tartly. “I’ve heard of you. Lafe
Pennington, of our bank, has told me about you.”

The boy laughed--he had already taken off his discolored hat.

“Then you didn’t hear much good about me, that’s certain.”

“No,” soberly answered the elder man, “to tell you the truth, I’ve
never heard much good about you.”

The boy laughed again, but in an embarrassed way, showed his confusion,
and then said:

“Lafe and I never got along. But, he may be right. I’ve got a bad name.”

“What are you doing here? You are old enough to be at work.”

“That’s it,” went on Bud, “I ought to be. I have a job promised me
when I want it, out in the country. But I’ve been waitin’ to see this.”

He pointed toward the dismantled airship.

“What do you want to see? You haven’t any business loafing in here.
Have you been monkeyin’ with the machinery?”

“Oh! I know ’em around here. And I ain’t hurt nothing. No fear o’ that.”

“Well, what’s your interest?”

“I want to see it. I’ve been waiting every day since it came. I want to
be here when you move it. I want to help unpack it.”

“You? What do you know about aeroplanes?”

“Nothing--that is, almost nothing. But I guess I know a little. You
know I ran Mr. Greeley’s automobile nearly all summer. I understand
motors. And--well, I do know something about aeroplanes. I tried to
make one this summer.”

A look of sudden interest showed in the banker’s face.

“Oh, I remember now, you are the youngster that nearly broke his neck
trying to fly.”

“I suppose Lafe Pennington told that,” answered Bud, looking up. “Well,
I didn’t. I fell, but I lit on my feet, and I didn’t even harm my
aeroplane.”

President Elder was looking over the big crates, and peering through
the frames. Suddenly, he turned to Bud again.

“What do you mean by _your_ aeroplane?”

“It wasn’t really an aeroplane. That is, I didn’t have an engine; but I
made the wings; and I flew one hundred and fifty feet in them, too, out
at Greeley’s gravel pit.”

“Then you know how an aeroplane is made?”

“I think I do. They are all pretty much alike. When I see this one,
I’ll know a lot more.”

An idea was plainly working in President Elder’s brain. He made a
searching examination of the lad before him. Then he asked:

“Didn’t you and Lafe Pennington work on this airship idea together?”

Bud laughed outright.

“Hardly,” he answered, “Lafe wouldn’t work with any one. He knows too
much. I worked alone.”

President Elder looked at his watch. It was just noon.

“Do you think you could put this airship together?”

“Certainly, I put my own together.”

“Bud, meet me here at one o’clock. I may have a job for you.”

While the banker’s smart rig went clattering up the brick street, Bud
started for home on a run.

Long before one o’clock, Bud was at the freight-house again. In a short
time, a dray and an express wagon appeared. About the time that a large
farm wagon, drawn by two horses, came in sight, Mr. Elder reappeared.
In the buggy with him was the young man referred to several times by
Mr. Elder and Bud an hour before--Lafe Pennington. As they sprang from
the vehicle, Bud was on the freight-house platform. Lafe passed the boy
with a condescending smile; but Mr. Elder stopped.

“Bud,” he began, “I had a kind of a notion that I had a job for you,
but I guess that’s all off.”

“I hoped you had. I hurried back.”

“Well, it’s this way. I forgot that our clerk, Mr. Pennington, had
some knowledge of aeroplanes. We are in a sort of a box, and after I
talked to you, I decided to try to get this machine ready. The man who
ought to do it isn’t here. Even if he comes to-night, he won’t have
time to set it up. So, while I talked to you, I decided to try to put
it together and have it ready when he came. I was going to get you to
help.”

“Can’t I?” asked the boy eagerly.

“I don’t think we’ll need you now. I’ve got Mr. Pennington. He says he
can do it without any trouble. And you know he’s in the bank, and I
know him. He’s one of our clerks.”

“I reckon he can do it, perhaps,” answered Bud in a disappointed tone,
“but I’d like to help too. I’d work for nothing.”

“I suggested that, but Mr. Pennington says he’d rather work alone.”

Mr. Elder was about to pass on when Bud touched his sleeve.

“Mr. Elder,” he said, “Lafe said that because he knew I was the only
person in Scottsville who could help. I haven’t anything against Lafe,
but you ought to know the facts--I know more about aeroplanes than
he does. He may be able to do what you want, and he may not. You may
think I’m knocking Lafe, but I’m not. I’m just giving you the truth: he
thinks he knows more about airships than he really does.”

“You seem to feel sure you know it all,” almost sneered the banker.

“I should say not,” answered the boy promptly. “I know hardly
anything, and Lafe knows less.”

“Well, if we get stuck, I suppose we can call on you.”

“I’ll be right there, waiting.”

“Pshaw,” exclaimed the banker laughing, “we need plenty of help. Mr.
Pennington may not want you, but I do. Turn in and give us a lift.
Between us, we’ll see what we can do. We are going to move these boxes
out to the fair-ground, and see if we can put our aeroplane together.
You’re hired to help.”



CHAPTER II

THE HERO OF THE GRAVEL PIT.


The Scott County Fair-grounds were a mile and a half from Scottsville.
A little after two o’clock, the “aeroplane” cavalcade was on its way
there from the freight-house. In front, rode President Elder of the
fair association, with Lafayette, or Lafe, Pennington, the bank clerk
and amateur dabbler in aeronautics, by his side. Then came a dray with
the four-cylinder, 25-horse power, 190 lb. Curtiss engine elaborately
crated. Next was an express wagon with boxed engine accessories, such
as gasoline tank, water cooler, chain drives, and the dismounted
propeller blades. In the rear, in the big farm wagon, rode proud Bud
Wilson, busy preserving the balance of the spruce sections of the
aeroplane surfaces.

In the excitement attendant upon the fair, the procession attracted
little attention. Buggies and passenger hacks raised clouds of dust
in which wagons laden with belated exhibits made their way toward
the great enclosure within whose high white fence Scott County’s
agricultural exhibit was fast getting into final order. At the sight
of President Elder, the gate attendants threw the white portals wide
open, and Bud had a new joy--he was working for the fair, and didn’t
have to pay to get in.

“I never did pay,” laughed Bud, speaking to the driver of the wagon,
“but this is the first time I ever went in at the main gate.”

Winding their way among the plows, self-binders and threshing-machines
already in place, and then directly between the two lines of peanut,
pop, candy, cider and “nigger baby” stands--already making a
half-hearted attempt to attract trade--the aeroplane wagons passed
through the heart of the grounds. Near the “grand stand,” where for ten
cents extra, one might view the trotting and running races, President
Elder alighted and personally superintended the unlocking of the gates
leading onto the race-track. Across this, the three vehicles made their
way.

At the far end of the space within the smooth half-mile race-track was
a newly built shed, made according to directions forwarded from the
aeroplane factory in New Jersey. In front of this, the wagons halted.
There were not many persons in attendance that day on the fair, but
there were enough to make an audience of several hundred at once. The
aeroplane shed was a temporary structure--a shed with a board top and
canvas sides. Willing hands soon had the different sections of the car
either in the house or near by in front.

Lafe Pennington’s coat was off, and he superintended the unloading with
a great show of authority. By this time, a carpenter and a machinist
had arrived, and the officious bank clerk announced that spectators had
better be dispersed in order that he might work undisturbed.

“What do you want Bud to do?” asked President Elder.

Lafe smiled feebly.

“Nothing just now,” he answered. “He can stay outside and see that we
are not disturbed. I don’t think it will take us very long.”

The confident clerk started to enter the shed.

“How about the starting track and the derrick for the drop weight?”
asked Bud innocently. “I don’t see any material here for those.”

Lafe stopped suddenly, and looked up in surprise.

“Yes, of course,” he faltered, “where are they?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” said President Elder. “I guess
everything’s here.”

Pennington made a quick survey.

“Oh, they are not here,” explained Bud. “I discovered that some days
ago.”

“You’re right,” conceded Lafe. “They must have forgotten them. We’ll
have to telegraph for them.”

“Telegraph nothing,” blurted the president. “We’ve no time for
telegraphing. They can’t get ’em here in time. If it’s something you
have to have, I guess we are stuck.”

“Perhaps,” suggested Bud, “the manufacturers expected you to make this
apparatus on the ground. The ropes and automatic release block are
here.”

“How can we do that?” sneered Pennington, already irritated at the turn
affairs were taking.

“Very easily, I imagine,” replied Bud, “if they sent specifications.
The manufacturer sent word how to build a shed and how big to make it.
Didn’t they send a letter?” he asked, turning to President Elder.

“Letter? Why, yes--I forgot that--a big letter,” exclaimed Mr. Elder,
reaching into his inside pocket.

Pennington took it, glanced it over hurriedly, and exclaimed:

“Sure, here it is, sketch, measurement, and all.”

“Couldn’t I look after that?” asked Bud turning from the president to
Lafe.

“That’s carpenters’ work,” answered Pennington at once. “We’ll have the
carpenters see to that. They can order the stuff by ’phone at once.”

He turned again to begin the work of uncrating the aeroplane.

“How long do you figure it’s going to take to put the car together,
Lafe?” asked Bud.

“I don’t know,” retorted Pennington sharply, “but I’ll get along all
the faster if I’m not stopped to talk about it.”

“It ought to be done to-night, shouldn’t it?” queried Bud, turning to
the president and showing no irritation.

“Certainly, if possible.”

“Then we ought to get some lights--three or four gasoline flares. That
work can’t be done before dark. It’s going to take all night. It’s a
tejous job. And after the frame is set up and made fast, the engine
must be tested and anchored and the shafts set.”

“Hadn’t we better get the lights ready?” asked Mr. Elder of Pennington.

“Of course, we’ll need them,” answered Pennington, who had in reality
not thought of them. “Better let Bud go to town for them.”

“All right. Here Bud, take my horse and buggy and go to town, and get
what’s needed at Appleton’s hardware store. I’ll be at the ticket
office when you get back.”

Pennington had disposed of his rival temporarily, but Bud took his
defeat cheerfully. However, he could not resist the temptation to turn
the tables once more.

“Want anything else?” he asked casually as he climbed into the rig.

“Nothing more now,” answered Pennington, turning away for the third
time.

“You want gasoline for the lamps, don’t you?” suggested Bud.

“Certainly--and matches, too,” said Lafe with another sneer.

“Well, how about some gasoline for the engine?”

Lafe grew red in the face, and turned away impatiently.

“And some oil for the engine?”

“You don’t expect a fellow to think of everything at once, do you?”
snorted Lafe. “I haven’t been hanging over this thing for a week. I’ve
had something else to think about.”

“Seems as if Bud had done a good deal of thinking,” suggested President
Elder. “Hurry back, Bud, we may need you again.”

Bud Wilson had long been pointed out as the prize example of juvenile
perverseness. Many persons, including Lafe Pennington, were in the
habit of referring to him as a “bad” boy. But in this, they were wrong.
Bud’s differences from other boys of better reputation meant no more
than that he was headstrong and so full of ideas that the routine of
school went hard with him. The boy often shocked his teacher. Instead
of the old-fashioned speaking pieces, Bud was apt to select some
up-to-date newspaper story or verse. Once he even ventured to recite
some poetry of his own, in which Miss Abbott, the teacher, did not
particularly shine.

When he was left an orphan and went to live with Attorney Cyrus
Stockwell, the lively youngster gave up most of his school hours to
drawing engines. At that time, he planned to be an engineer. Succeeding
that, he aspired to be a detective. In this new ambition, he read a
great deal of literature concerning crime. But this new profession
was soon forgotten with the advent of aeroplanes. From the moment Bud
realized what a heavier-than-air flying-machine meant, he was a rapt
disciple of the world’s new aviators.

Verses of his own and detective stories were now forgotten. Given the
task of writing an essay, by Miss Abbott, for some lapse of discipline,
he produced a wonderful composition on “The Airship.” It was so full
of Jules Verne ideas that Miss Abbott visited Bud’s foster father, and
suggested that something be done with the boy.

The something that Attorney Stockwell did was to take Bud out of school
and put him at work on rich Mr. Greeley’s farm, where, for a time,
he labored in a gravel pit shovelling. Learning to operate the steam
shovel, he became the engineer, and after that, for some months in the
summer, he had been Mr. Greeley’s chauffeur. Just now he was back home
without a job, and a half promise of another try at school when it
opened.

Lafe Pennington was everything Bud wasn’t. He graduated from the
high-school, and was a clerk in the First National Bank. He was popular
with the young ladies, and already wore a moustache. Lafe’s interest
in aeronautics was older than Bud’s, but his knowledge was largely
superficial. Young Pennington’s information did not extend much further
than what he had written in an essay he read before the Scottsville
Travel and Study Circle. This paper, entitled “The Development of the
Aeroplane,” had been printed in the Globe-Register. Ever since its
publication, Lafe had been trying to live up to the reputation it had
brought him.

When Bud Wilson read the article, he at once pronounced it a
“chestnut,” and declared that it was copied almost wholly from a
magazine and an old one at that. Bud repeated this statement to Lafe
himself on the memorable occasion when the aeroplane or glider dumped
Bud.

While running the steam shovel at Greeley’s gravel pit, Bud had the
long summer evenings to himself. There was a tool house, plenty of
lumber, and, what prompted the manufacture of the small aeroplane,
several long, steep switch tracks running down into the pit. After
several weeks of work, based on a mass of magazine photographs,
newspaper clippings, and scientific paper detailed plans, Bud finally
constructed a pretty decent looking bi-plane airship, complete in all
respects except as to the engine. It was a combination of the Curtiss
planes and the Wright rudders, with some ideas of Bud’s in the wing
warping apparatus.

This work was done in the abandoned engine house on the slope of the
gravel hill above the pit. Lafe learned of the experiment through Mr.
Greeley, who was rather proud of his young engineer, and who did not
fail to talk about the amateur airship to those in the bank.

As chief aviation authority in Scottsville, Lafe felt it his duty to
investigate. And, to Bud’s annoyance, the bank clerk made his first
visit to the gravel pit on a Saturday afternoon just as Bud was about
to make a trial flight.

“What do you think of her?” asked Bud proudly.

Lafe screwed up his mouth.

“Pretty fair, for a kid. But what’s the sense of it? You haven’t an
engine, and I reckon you never will have one.”

“What’s the good of it?” repeated Bud. “I suppose you know the
heavier-than-air car--the aeroplane--was developed before the
experimenters had any power. If the Wright Brothers had waited for an
engine, they’d never had a machine. The thing is to know how to fly.
You can only learn by flying.”

Lafe smiled in a superior way.

“All right,” he laughed. “Go ahead. I’ll see that you have a decent
funeral.”

Lafe even helped Bud carry the fragile frame down to the head of the
switch track grade where Bud had a small tool car--no larger than a
hand car. On this the motorless planes were deposited, and when Bud had
taken his place on his stomach on the lower frame, an idle workman gave
the car a shove.

To young Pennington’s gratification, the experiment was a fiasco.
Even after several trials, it was found that the car would not get up
sufficient momentum. The model would not leave the moving platform.
Finally, Bud got grease for the car wheels, and then stood up with his
arm pits resting on the light framework. As the car reached the bottom
of the incline, the boy sprang forward. For one moment, the surfaces
caught and held the air and the planes seemed about to rise. Then, with
a sudden twist, the frame sprang sideways and downward. Bud’s feet
struck the gravel and he stumbled. To keep from mixing up with the car,
he hurled it from him. The aeroplane sank down with only a few strains,
but Bud landed on the side of his face.

The following Saturday, as a sort of a challenge, Bud invited Lafe and
a reporter for the Globe-Register to witness his second attempt. This
time he abandoned the car. The gravel pit had been cut into the side
of the hill. At the edge of the pit, there was a sharp drop of nearly
fifty feet. When his guests were ready, Bud had them raise the light
car--only twenty feet long--on his shoulders. Balancing the planes, he
gripped the lower struts, and before Lafe or the reporter had time to
protest, he ran a few feet down the slope--the car had been removed to
the old engine house on the hill at the brink of the pit--and stumbled
over the precipice.

His guests caught their breaths. But Bud did not fall. When he reached
the gravel bed at the bottom, he had flown one hundred and fifty feet,
and he came down easily and safely. It was the account of this in the
Globe-Register, under the title of “First Aeroplane in Scott County”
that cemented Lafe’s jealousy of Bud’s nerve.



CHAPTER III

SCOTTSVILLE’S FAIR SECURES AN AVIATOR.


When Bud returned from town, he had a buggy full of material--three
large cans of gasoline, three gasoline flare torches, oil, waste,
and--what proved to be most essential--his scrap book of airship
pictures and plans. Everything was confusion in the airship shed. The
crowd had pretty well cleaned out, but Lafe Pennington and his two
assistants did not seem to be working with any more ease because of
this.

On top of a box, the manufacturer’s drawings and directions were spread
out. One thing only seemed to have been accomplished; everything was
uncrated.

“Put the stuff down, and don’t bother us,” exclaimed Lafe at once.
“There are too many in here now. I won’t need you any more.”

Before he took his departure, Bud made a hasty examination. Apparently
everything was being done backward. Pennington’s eagerness to unpack
and to knock boxes apart had made a chaos out of the shed interior.
There were no signs of work on the ascending track and weight derrick.

“Sure you don’t want me to get that track started?” Bud asked.

“See here, Bud, you seem to have that track on the brain. I’ll set it
up in a couple of hours when I get around to it.”

“Oh,” answered Bud, with a smile, “I thought it might take longer.” The
dismissed boy re-entered the buggy, and drove to the ticket office at
the gate. Mr. Elder appeared in a short time with the Superintendent of
the Grounds. The possibility of keeping faith with the public by flying
the aeroplane the next afternoon was under discussion.

“There’s a powerful lot to be done, even if Mr. Dare gets here
to-night,” commented Superintendent Perry.

“How does it look to you, Bud?” asked President Elder, turning to the
boy--they were all standing by the buggy. Bud said nothing.

“That’s what I think, too,” spoke up the superintendent. “I’ve been
over to the shed twice this afternoon. Mr. Pennington may be a fine
bank clerk--and I guess he’s all right at that--but he don’t strike me
as no aeroplaner. I’m afeared we’ve bit off more’n we can chew in this
deal.”

“Is he going to be able to finish the job?” asked Mr. Elder, turning to
Bud again.

“Perhaps. If he works all night.”

“All night?” exclaimed Superintendent Perry. “Them mechanics’ll not
stick all night. They’re gettin’ ready to quit now.”

Mr. Elder sighed.

“Well, let him go ahead until the eight o’clock train gets here. If the
expert ain’t on it, I guess we’ll call it off. We made a big mistake
not hirin’ that Roman Hippodrome and Wild West Congress, but it’s too
late now.”

Bud rode to town with Mr. Elder, after watching his horse for an hour,
and went sorrowfully home. But he was by no means as despondent as the
Fair Association President. His brain had been working all afternoon.
When the eight o’clock train came in without the eagerly longed for Mr.
Dare, Bud was at Mr. Elder’s elbow. The president was boiling mad.

“I see he didn’t come yit,” ventured the all-observing ’bus driver,
Doug’ Jackson. “Ef he gits here on the one o’clock, I reckon I’d better
call you up and let ye know?”

This willingness to oblige was leading up to another appeal for a pass,
but Doug’ got a cold reception.

“Needn’t bother,” responded Mr. Elder curtly. “I’m done with these
easterners and Mr. Dare.”

He was hurrying to his buggy when Bud touched him on the arm.

“Mr. Elder,” said the boy, in a businesslike tone, “I’m pretty young to
make any suggestions to you, but I can help you out of your trouble.
I’m sure of it.”

The angry fair official paused.

“Lafe Pennington is doing what he’s always done--when it comes to this
airship business--”

“Four flushin’,” interrupted Mr. Elder. “I know that.”

“I wouldn’t put it that way,” added Bud, “but he’s doin’ what Mr. Perry
says--he’s bit off more’n he can chew.”

“Well, what then? It don’t matter much. Our flyin’ man ain’t here, and
don’t look as if he’d be here.”

“I can chew it.”

Mr. Elder shrugged his shoulders.

“From what I hear, you and Lafe are always knockin’ each other,” he
commented.

“That’s right. I’ve got a reason, and he hasn’t. I can deliver the
goods, and he can’t. That’s all.”

“What are you tryin’ to git at?”

“Put me in charge of that work out there, and by noon to-morrow, I’ll
have that aeroplane ready to fly.”

“Alone?” said the man, after a moment’s thought and turning on the boy
suddenly.

“By noon, if I have carpenters to do what I need, and earlier if Lafe
will help.”

“Would you work with Mr. Pennington?”

“Certainly. He’s all right if he has some one with him who knows. I
know--I’ve figured this all out.”

The puzzled official was plainly in a quandary. Then he shook his head.

“What if you did? What’s the use of all this fussin’ and rushin’ around?
This feller to run it ain’t here, and we can’t count on him now.”

“I’ll do it.”

Mr. Elder’s mouth opened.

“You mean go up in the machine?”

“Yes.”

“And risk breakin’ your neck?”

“Hundreds are doing that every day. Hasn’t been but two men broken
their necks yet.”

“You’re foolish.”

“May be. But I’ll do it if you’ll give me the chance.”

The suggestion was too daring for President Elder to pass on at once
and alone. He lit a cigar, looked at his watch, examined Bud in the
glare of the depot light, and then went into the station and telephoned
to some one. When he came out, he motioned the boy to follow him,
unhitched his horse and told Bud to jump into the buggy. Before he
spoke they were on their way to the fair-grounds once more.

“What makes you think you can do this? I thought you had to be an
expert?”

“Experts always have to have a first experience. There isn’t any half
bites. It’s whole hog or none,” answered Bud.

“You had a half bite when you tumbled in the gravel pit,” laughed his
companion.

“No, sir,” answered the boy. “That was riskier than this. I took more
chances when I jumped off the hill than I’ll be takin’ here.”

“You’ll have to git your father’s consent,” suggested the president as
that thought struck the cautious banker. “If we try it, we can’t afford
to be sued for damages.”

“I haven’t any father.”

“Well, your guardian’s--I forgot. You’ll have to sign an agreement
waiving all claims.”

“I’ll do that, and I’ll do more. This expert was to get fifty dollars
a day. I’ll work for nothing.”

“Why?”

Bud was silent a little spell. Then he answered.

“Because every one says I’m a tough kid just because I ‘ditched’ school
a few times. I’ve never had a chance. I couldn’t even get work except
in a gravel pit. I’m anxious to ‘make good’ in this town.”

The road to the fair-ground was now pretty well deserted. Inside the
exhibition enclosure, the white tents and the little fires glowing here
and there under the trees gave the place the appearance of a hunter’s
camp in the woods. Hastening forward in the dark, Mr. Elder drove at
once into the center of the race track. To his and to Bud’s surprise,
there was no glare of light from the airship shed. They had expected to
find the place the center of activity.

“I reckon Mr. Pennington’s gone to supper,” suggested Bud.

“Maybe he’s given up,” said the president.

“You’re both wrong,” exclaimed a voice out of the blackness. “I’ve just
been over trying to get you or Superintendent Perry on the ’phone,”
went on the unseen speaker, who was easily recognized as Pennington.
“I can finish the job all right, but to be dead sure, I guess I ought
to have some help.”

A few minutes later, they were at the shed, and Lafe and the watchman
lit the lanterns.

“That’s what we concluded,” said Mr. Elder in a decisive tone. “And
I’ve brought Bud back. I guess you fellows had better work together.”

“That’s all right,” replied Lafe. “I was going to suggest Bud.”

The latter was already at work; his hat was off, his shirt was off and
his undershirt sleeves were rolled up to the elbows. He was heating and
lighting the gasoline torches.

“Oh, it’s all right now, Mr. Elder. We’ll get along fine together, and
you can go home and rest in peace. We’ll deliver the machine on time,”
began Bud enthusiastically. “You won’t disappoint the people.”

“Did Mr. Dare come?” asked Lafe, already greatly relieved in getting
out of his mess so easily.

Mr. Elder shook his head.

“No. And I ain’t countin’ on him now. Looks like we won’t need him.”

“How’s that?” asked Lafe, puzzled.

“If it comes to the worst, Bud says he can fly the thing.”

“Bud?”

“Why not? I’m sort o’ persuaded he can. I’m goin’ to see the directors
about it to-night. He’s willing to try.”

Lafe’s face turned red and white with anger and surprise. He stammered
and trembled.

“I think that’s a pretty raw deal, Mr. Elder, after what I’ve done. If
any one gets that chance, I think I ought.”

“Did you want to go up in it?”

“Of course. I had no other idea, if the operator didn’t come. I was
going to ask as soon as it was certain he couldn’t get here. I think
I’ve had a pretty hard turn down.”

He was lying, and his indignation was largely assumed. But his jealousy
of Bud made him desperate.

Mr. Elder was puzzled. He looked from one lad to the other.

“How about it, Bud?” he asked at last. “Looks as if you were sort of
second fiddle, don’t it?”

Bud hesitated, wiped his hands on a bit of waste and then smiled.

“You didn’t say I could do it,” he answered at last, “though I’m ready
to try. If you’d rather have Lafe, all right. I’ll help get her ready
just the same. Don’t let me make any trouble.”

The fair official looked relieved. From a dearth of aviators, he now
had an over supply of them.

“Maybe Judge Pennington won’t consent to your reskin’ your neck, Lafe,”
he commented.

“I’m of age,” answered Lafe, “and can do what I like.”

“And you think you can work it?”

There was a plain sneer on Lafe’s face.

“I guess I know as much about it as any one around here, even if I
haven’t fallen out of one.”

“Maybe your fall’s comin’,” interrupted Bud, with a broad grin.

“Well, settle it between you. We’ll count on one of you. I’ll go to
town and tell the other directors.”

“Give it to him--give Lafe the chance if he wants it,” volunteered Bud
suddenly and significantly.

“You give up quick enough, I notice,” exclaimed Lafe somewhat
nervously. “I reckon you ain’t afraid, are you?”

“Not so you can notice it,” retorted Bud.

“Then we’ll count on you, Lafe,” concluded President Elder.

“Much obliged,” was Lafe’s answer, but it lacked a good deal of being
enthusiastic.

As soon as Mr. Elder’s buggy disappeared in the darkness, Lafe wheeled
toward Bud.

“You did that on purpose, Bud Wilson, just to get me in a box.”

“You jump out, and let me in,” was Bud’s sober rejoinder.



CHAPTER IV

A MIDNIGHT LUNCH.


“When you see me doing that, just tell me,” retorted Lafe, with another
sneer.

“All right,” answered Bud, “I will.”

Surrounded by a wilderness of odds and ends, the youthful rivals stood
and faced each other. Finally, Bud reached out his hand.

“What’s the use of scrappin’ Lafe? I guess we don’t like each other any
too well, but we ought not let our grouch interfere with our chance.”

“What chance have you?” asked the bank clerk.

“Just a chance to get my hands on a real aeroplane. And that’s all I
want. But I won’t have that if we don’t stop quarrelin’ and get to
work.”

“Looks to me as if you thought I’d back out.”

“That’s up to you,” went on Bud. “I didn’t say so.”

“Are you willing to take orders and do as I say?”

“Sure,” answered Bud. “All I want is to see the thing fly. And, since
you are the aviator, I say ‘Good luck to you.’”

Lafe had ignored the proffered hand, but he now relented a little.

“I want to be fair,” he said half-heartedly, “and I’ll meet you half
way. But I don’t intend to work all night to give you a chance to show
off to-morrow.”

“Never fear,” answered Bud. “I had hopes for a minute, but they were
like all my other chances.” And he whistled. “You’re it and I’m nit.
Come on, let’s forget our troubles.”

As he smiled and held out his hand again, Lafe had not the heart to
refuse it.

“Now,” went on Bud enthusiastically as the two lads limply clasped
hands, “we’re on the job. What’s doin’?”

Within a few minutes, the rivalry was forgotten, at least temporarily.
The only headway made so far was in the mounting or setting up of a few
sections of the frame. More than half of the work was yet to be done;
the front and rear rudders were to be attached and levers adjusted;
the vulcanized silk covering of the two planes had to be put in place
and stretched; the landing skids bolted on; the engine, gasoline tank,
and water cooler put in place and tested; the batteries wired; the
propellers and shafts located; the chain gears and guards attached,
and, possibly most important, the starting rail and weight derrick
constructed. And it was then nine o’clock.

“Let’s get started right,” suggested Bud, “now that you have everything
unpacked. Before we go any further let’s see where we stand.”

As a result of a nearly thirty-minute conference, these were the
conclusions: A mechanic must be found at once, if possible, to adjust
the engine, oil it and get it running; a carpenter must also be secured
to start to work by midnight on the starting track; these things
arranged for, the two amateurs agreed that, together, they could have
the aeroplane itself so far set up by daylight as to give assurance to
the fair directors that the day’s program could be carried out.

“And then,” suggested Lafe, “I suppose T. Glenn Dare will sail in on
the noon train and steal our thunder.”

“He can’t steal mine,” laughed Bud. “I’ll have been through this thing
by that time from top to bottom. That’s all I want--that, I can get,”
he added with another laugh.

The first stumbling block was the launching device. This essential
part of any aeroplane flight is usually a single wooden rail about
eight inches high, faced with strap iron. As it is necessary with most
modern aeroplanes to make a run before sufficient sustention is secured
to force the machine into the air, it is evident that this starting
impulse must be secured through an outside force.

The specifications forwarded with the airship purchased by the fair
authorities, called for the long wooden rail. On this the aeroplane
was to be balanced on a small two-wheeled truck. At the rear end of
the rail, the plans called for a small derrick, pyramidal in form,
constructed of four timbers each twenty-five feet long and two inches
square braced by horizontal frames and wire stays.

At the top and at the bottom of this, were two, pulley blocks with a
rope passing around the sheaves a sufficient number of times to provide
a three-to-one relation between a 1500-pound weight suspended from the
top pulley and the movement of the aeroplane on the track.

The rope, which passes around the pulley at the bottom of the derrick,
is carried forward to and around a pulley at the front end of the
rail, and thence back to the aeroplane, to which it is attached with
a right-angled hook. When everything is ready for an ascension and
the operator is in place, the propellers are set to work. When they
have reached their maximum revolution and the car begins to feel
their propelling force, the weight, usually several bags of sand,
is released, the tightened rope shoots through the pulleys and the
balanced aeroplane springs forward on its car. By the time it has
traveled seventy-five or one hundred feet, the impulse of the falling
weight and the lift of the propellers sends it soaring. Thereupon, the
hook drops off and the free airship begins its flight.

“We have the plans for the derrick and the track, the pulley blocks,
rope and hook,” declared Bud at once. “But we haven’t the little car.”

“Couldn’t we make one?” ventured Lafe.

“Certainly, but hardly in the time we have.”

“I’ve heard of aeroplanes ascending by skidding along over the grass,”
suggested the bank clerk.

“But they weren’t in the hands of amateurs. We’d better stick to the
rail. I’ve been thinking over this--down there in the freight-house.”

“Did you know the track car wasn’t here?”

“Well, I didn’t see it. Here is the idea. The aeroplane has two light,
smooth landing runners or skids. Lumber is cheap. Instead of a track
for the wheels we haven’t got, we’ll make two grooves just as long as
the proposed track. We’ll stake these out on the ground and set the
landing runners in them after we’ve greased the grooves with tallow.
The weight, rope and hook will work exactly as if we had a single
track--’n possibly better. Anything the matter with that suggestion?”

Lafe was skeptical a few moments while Bud made a sketch of the new
device. Then he conceded that he could see no reason why it wouldn’t
work.

“All right,” exclaimed Bud, in a businesslike way, “now, you go ahead,
and I’m off for town for the timber and the men we need. You can’t do
much single handed, of course, but do what you can. I’ll be back before
midnight. Then we’ll get down to business.”

The boy had no vehicle to carry him the two miles to Scottsville, so he
walked. The night was dark, and almost starless, and the pike or road
was soft with heavy dust; but, with his coat on his arm, Bud struck out
with the stride of a Weston. Covered with dust and perspiration, in
about half an hour, he reached the edge of the town. Entering the first
open place he found, a sort of neighborhood grocery, he called up Mr.
Elder by telephone.

It required some minutes to fully explain the situation, but finally
he convinced the fair official that the things he suggested were
absolutely necessary and must be done at once. As a result, by the time
Bud reached the town public square, Mr. Elder was waiting for him in
the office of the hotel.

The usual “fair week” theatrical entertainment was in progress in the
town “opera-house,” fakers were orating beneath their street torches,
and the square was alive with Scottsville citizens and those already
arrived for the fair. It was not difficult for President Elder to
start things moving. Within a half hour he had found, and for extra
pay, arranged for two carpenters and an engineer to report at the
fair-grounds at once.

The securing of the lumber was not so easy and called for some
persistent telephoning. Finally an employe of the “Hoosier Sash,
Door and Blind Co.” was found, and he in turn secured a teamster. At
ten-thirty o’clock, Bud was in the lumber yard selecting the needed
material with the aid of a smoky lantern, and before eleven o’clock the
one-horse wagon was on its way to the fair-grounds. The two carpenters
reached the airship shed about eleven-thirty in a spring wagon with
their tools, and a little after twelve o’clock the engineer arrived on
foot with a hammer, a wrench and a punch in his pocket.

Before work really began, Bud startled Pennington with a cheery
question.

“Say, Lafe, I’m hungry as a chicken, and I’ve only got a dime. Got any
money?”

Lafe was not celebrated for generosity.

“I don’t see what good money’ll do out here. There’s no place to buy
stuff. And it’s midnight anyway.”

“If you’ll produce, I’ll get something to eat,” said Bud with a grin.

“Here’s a quarter,” answered Pennington slowly.

“Gimme a dollar,” exclaimed Bud. “I’ll pay it back. I forgot to speak
of it to Mr. Elder.”

“What do you want with a dollar?” asked his associate, somewhat
alarmed. Bud’s credit wasn’t the sort that would ordinarily warrant
such a loan.

“Why, for all of us, of course. We can’t work all night on empty
stomachs. And there’s five of us.”

Thereupon, Lafe rose to the occasion and handed Bud a two-dollar bill.

“You can bring me the change,” he suggested promptly. “I’ll charge it
up to the fair officers.”

Bud was off in the dark. His hopes of securing something to eat were
based on what he had seen passing through the grounds on his way back
with the lumber. In several groups under the big trees, he had seen
camp-fires. “Concession” owners and their attendants who remained on
the grounds during the night had turned the vicinity of the silent
tents and booths into a lively camp. In one place, the proprietor of a
“red hot” stand had a bed of charcoal glowing, and a supply of toasting
sausages on the grill. These were in apparently steady demand by
watchmen, hostlers, live stock owners and many others who had not yet
retired.

On his way to this stand, Bud passed what he had not observed before.
In the rear of a dirty, small tent, an old woman, a man and a woman
of middle age were squatted about the dying embers of a fire. Almost
concealing both the tent and group was a painted picture, worn and
dingy, displayed like a side-show canvas. On this, above the attempt
to outline an Egyptian female head, were the words: “Madame Zecatacas,
Gypsy Queen. The Future Revealed.”

[Illustration: BUD BARGAINS FOR COFFEE.]

Bud could not resist the temptation to stop a moment. The man greeted
him with a stare, but the old woman held out a skinny hand. Her brown,
wrinkled face was almost repulsive. A red and yellow handkerchief was
wound around her head, and her oily, thin black hair was twisted into
tight braids behind her ears, from which hung long, brassy-looking
earrings. In spite of her age, she was neither bent nor feeble.

As the low fire played on the gaudy colors of her thick dress, she
leaned forward, her hand still extended.

“Twelve o’clock, the good-luck hour,” she exclaimed in a broken voice.
“I see good fortune in store for the young gentleman. Let the Gypsy
Queen read your fate. Cross Zecatacas’ palm with silver. I see good
fortune for the young gentleman.”

There was something uncanny in the surroundings, and Bud was about to
beat a retreat, when the man exclaimed:

“Got a cigarette, Kid?”

In explaining that he had not, Bud’s eyes fell on the rest of the
group. A little girl lay asleep with her head in the middle-aged
woman’s lap. The man held a tin cup in his hand. On the coals of the
fire stood a coffee pot.

“Got some coffee, there?” asked Bud abruptly.

The man grunted in the negative. The old woman punched the coals into a
blaze.

“Give you fifty cents, if you’ll make me a pot full,” said Bud.

The little girl’s mother looked up with interest.

“What kind o’ money?” drawled the man.

“Part of this,” said Bud displaying Lafe’s two-dollar bill.

The man reached out his hand.

“Got the change?” Bud inquired.

The old woman reached under her dress and withdrew her hand with a bag
of silver coin.

“We’re over in the track working on the airship,” explained Bud with
no little pride. “When it’s ready bring it over. You can see the
aeroplane.”

In the matter of food, Bud secured not only “red hots,” sandwiches
and dill pickles, but a few cheese and ham sandwiches. Altogether he
expended a dollar and twenty-five cents of Lafe’s money.

“Here you are,” he exclaimed on his return, while the new workmen
grinned and chuckled, “hot dogs and ham on the bun. Coffee’ll be here
in a few minutes.”



CHAPTER V

MADAME ZECATACAS READS THE FUTURE.


The workmen assisting Lafe and Bud did not wait for the coffee. The
last of the appetizing sandwiches had disappeared when the male member
of Madame Zecatacas’ outfit came shambling along with the pot of
neither very fragrant nor very strong coffee.

“Help yourselves, boys,” suggested Bud, offering the workmen their
only drinking vessel--a tin water cup. “We’ll try to have a better
breakfast.”

Lafe, who had worked steadily and energetically all night, was sitting
on a box taking a breathing spell. Bud, as a further reward to the
coffee bearer, was attempting to show the sour-looking stranger some
details of the aeroplane and hastening in his explanation, for there
was plenty of work to be done. About the time he had finished, there
was a sharp exclamation just outside the shed.

“Move on. What are you doing hanging around here?”

It was Pennington speaking in a brusque voice.

“Twelve o’clock, the good-luck hour,” a woman’s voice responded. “I see
good fortune in store for the young gentleman. Let the Gypsy Queen read
your fate. Cross Zecatacas’ palm with silver. I see good fortune for
the young gentleman.”

“Get out, you faker,” exclaimed Lafe.

“She’s all right,” interrupted Bud. “She’s the Gypsy Queen. She’s Queen
Zecatacas, and she made the coffee for us.”

“Well, it’s no good anyway,” retorted Lafe. “And I reckon we’ve had
enough visitors for one day.”

The old woman seemed not to hear the words. She was looking beyond
Pennington and into the brilliantly lighted airship house, where, in
the glare of the torches and lanterns, the fragile and graceful frame
of the aeroplane had at last assumed shape.

“Beat it,” added Lafe authoritatively, “and don’t bother us any more.
We’re busy.”

The aged gypsy did not take her eyes from the skeleton of the airship.
To Bud, the shadowed fortune teller seemed like a person in a trance.
Without replying to Lafe or moving, she spoke, suddenly, in a strange
tongue, to the man with her. He answered angrily in the same language.
She stretched forth a bare, lean arm and pointing toward the aeroplane
spoke again. The man replied, more at length this time, and as if in
explanation.

“She wants to know what it’s all about,” volunteered one of the
carpenters who was nearest the apparently transfixed woman.

The man laughed with a sort of sneer.

“Don’t you fool yourself. She reads. She knows. But she never seen one.”

“Well, we ain’t on exhibition now,” spoke up Lafe. “You and the old
lady have your pay. We’ll excuse you.”

“What you so sore about, Lafe?” interrupted Bud. “I don’t see that
they’re doin’ any harm. I think we ought to thank ’em for makin’ us a
pot of coffee at midnight.”

Before Pennington could make reply to this, Zecatacas, the Queen of
the Gypsies, took a step forward. Something seemed to make her look
bigger--perhaps it was the light, which now fell full on her face. Bud
stepped back. It was a face full of creepy power. Chanting, the woman
spread her long fingers before her and mumbled:

“The old Gypsy Queen has read the Book of Fate many years. Across the
seas, she foretold how man would soar like a bird. What she foretold
has come to pass. Not for gold nor silver did the Book of the Future
open to her. She dreamed the dream of what would come to pass.
To-morrow Zecatacas will look upon what she foretold across the seas.”

“Sure,” interrupted Bud, anxious to change the subject, “come to me,
and I’ll get you a front seat--free. When did you predict that there’d
be airships?”

“Rubbish,” exclaimed Lafe, glaring at the old fortune teller. “If you
feel better now, you’d better duck and get to bed.”

To neither of these speeches did the gypsy seem to give the slightest
heed.

“What is written in the Book of the Future will be. I see men flying
over forest and mountain. Faster than birds they mount into the clouds.
The clouds are dark, the sky is black. I see--the Gypsy Queen sees
death.”

“Get out, you old hag,” roared Lafe, angered at last beyond control,
“or I’ll fire you out.”

With a cat-like spring, the gypsy leaped forward, caught Lafe’s
extended arm in a vice-like grip, and before the young man knew what
she was doing, or could prevent it, she had opened his clenched fist
and shot a lightning-like glance at his exposed palm. As the half
frightened and trembling Lafe jerked his hand from her grasp, the
fortune teller hissed at him:

“You spit upon the Gypsy Queen. She puts upon you no curse. But the
Line of Fate tells much. Beware! Zecatacas tells nothing. For him who
spits upon her, she sees all evil and woe. There is more, the sky is
black, but old Zecatacas tells nothing. Beware!”

With the last word, the old woman disappeared into the darkness. Before
Lafe could make reply to her, the man, picking up his coffee pot,
exclaimed:

“I was just goin’ to hand you a swipe for your freshness, young fellow,
but I guess the old woman has given you enough to think about.”

“What do you mean?” blurted out Lafe, making a show of resentment and
swaggering up to the man. The latter reached out a brawny hand and
pushed Pennington aside.

“I mean what I said. I ain’t no Romney. But, I don’t cross the old
lady. She ain’t handin’ out no hoodoo curses; but--well, the long and
short of it is, she’s got her fingers crossed on you. Them gypsies has
sure got somethin’ up their sleeves we ain’t an’, whatever it is, I
wouldn’t give you a nickel for your luck while she’s sore on you.”

Then he too was gone. The same talkative carpenter, for all had
suspended work while the incident was taking place, felt called upon to
make a remark.

“I knowed a Gypsy ’at put a charm on a feller I worked with onct an’ he
fell off’n a roof an’ purt nigh kilt hisself.”

“And I heard of a colored voodoo doctor,” broke in Bud, “who put a
curse on a coon, and the doctor himself was arrested for chicken
stealin’. So you see there ain’t much to be scared about.” He attempted
to liven things with a peal of laughter. But no one joined him. “And as
for this old Zecatacas, or Gypsy Queen as she calls herself,” he went
on, “she makes me tired. Give ’em a quarter and you’re goin’ to have
good luck and money; turn ’em down, as Lafe kind o’ had to do, an’ they
make an awful bluff about doin’ you dirt some way.”

“She don’t scare me a bit,” remarked Pennington, who was yet white and
trembling.

“You’d be a fool if she did,” added Bud consolingly. “Any way, it’s all
over now. Let’s fall to and get busy.”

Pennington had already worked nine hours, and it was not strange that
he was tired and nervous. He was restless and irritable, and every now
and then took occasion to say how little he cared for old Zecatacas’
words. Bud did what he could to belittle the gypsy’s disturbing speech.
At three o’clock, Lafe lay down and slept until six, when he, Bud
and the three men closed the shed and, on another advance from Lafe,
managed to secure an early breakfast at a boarding tent erected for the
stock attendants. Newly fortified with food and a wash up, they were
back to work at seven o’clock.

Pennington had grown a little more affable, and as the end of their
labors now came in sight, he was even at times in a good humor. But
Bud saw that either old Zecatacas’ speech or something else disturbed
Lafe. At eight o’clock, when President Elder arrived, it was seen that,
whether expert Dare arrived or not, the aeroplane would be ready by
about eleven o’clock.

“How did you young fellows settle it?” were Mr. Elder’s first words,
after a gratified look into the airship shed.

“Mr. Pennington has it,” answered Bud promptly.

“No hard feelings?” added the official with a smile.

“Smooth as pie,” explained Bud. “Only, if the chance ever comes, I’d
like a try at it--when I ain’t in any one’s way.”

“Still think you can sail her?” said Mr. Elder, turning to Pennington.

“Yes,” replied the latter, “it looks easy enough. Of course, there is
a certain risk, but I’ll chance that. Only,” and he spoke as if the
thought had just come to him, “I wish I’d had more rest last night. I’m
pretty tired, and you know a fellow ought to be at his best.”

“Yes,” explained Bud, “he worked a good deal longer than the rest of
us.” He didn’t say anything, however, about Pennington’s three hours’
sleep. “Of course, he feels it more.”

“Perhaps you’d better wait until to-morrow, Lafe, when you’ve had a
good night’s sleep. How would it do for Bud to make the first trial? He
seems fresh enough.”

“Oh, I’m all right--I guess,” answered Pennington. “You can count on
me. By the way, you didn’t hear from Mr. Dare, did you?”

“Not a peep.”

“I’ll be ready.”

Before nine o’clock, two more directors appeared, almost together. They
were Lafe’s father, Judge E. Pennington (in reality only a Justice of
the Peace), and Bud’s foster father, Attorney Cyrus Stockwell.

“Bud,” began Attorney Stockwell angrily, “why didn’t you send us word
you were going to stay out all night?”

“To tell you the truth,” answered Bud without any great alarm, “I
didn’t know it when I left home, and after I got out here, I didn’t
have a chance.”

“They tell me you offered to go up in this thing,” continued the
attorney, jerking his thumb toward the now practically completed air
craft.

“Offered!” exclaimed Bud. “I begged to. But I got left. Lafe beat me to
it.”

“Lafe?” exclaimed Judge Pennington. “Lafe going up in the airship?”

“I agreed to,” exclaimed young Pennington. “If the operator don’t come,
they’ve got to have some one. And I know more about it than any one
else around here.”

“And you’ve promised to commit suicide in that death trap?” added Judge
Pennington hastily.

“I--I didn’t see what else I could do,” faltered Lafe.

“Well, I can,” broke in his father, “and mighty quick. You can stay out
of it.”

“Judge,” interrupted Attorney Stockwell, “I don’t see any cause to
worry. Bud tells me he is anxious to take Lafe’s place.”

“Bud Wilson?” sneered the Judge. “What call has he to try such a thing?”

“Oh, none, except he’s been up in one once. I never heard that Lafe
had,” retorted the piqued lawyer. Attorney Stockwell had no particular
concern for Bud and certainly no affection for him. Later, Judge
Pennington said he reckoned the lawyer rather wanted Bud to turn
aviator and break his neck in the bargain. But, this morning, the
lawyer resented Lafe’s superiority.

“I guess if Lafe had tried to fly, he wouldn’t have tumbled out on his
head,” snorted the Judge. “I don’t approve of sending boys up just
because we made this fool arrangement. But, when it comes down to who’s
entitled to do the thing and who’s got the real grit, I guess it’ll be
my own boy.”

Bud was watching Lafe. He expected to see his rival swell up with pride
and elation. On the contrary, he was sure that he detected signs of
disappointment in young Pennington.

“He don’t seem to be hankerin’ after the job,” was the attorney’s next
shot.

“Lafe,” exclaimed his father belligerently, “did Mr. Elder select you
for this work?”

“He did.”

“Then you do the job, or I’ll know why.”

“I thought it was all settled,” interposed Bud in a calm voice. “I
ain’t makin’ any fuss about it. I ain’t claimin’ the right.”

“Then you won’t be disappointed,” snapped the judge, and he bustled
angrily away.

“Bud?” asked the Attorney in a low voice, as Lafe walked away, “how
much are you to get for workin’ all night?”

“Not a cent. It’s like goin’ to school to me.”

“You’re crazy. Workin’ all night for nothin’? Why that’s expert
service, an’ it ought to be double pay, too.”

“I did it for fun,” explained Bud, with a laugh.

“Fun?” snapped the lawyer. “You wouldn’t think it so funny if you had
to pay for your board and clothes.”

“I never asked you to do either,” replied Bud. “I don’t know why you
do. You just took me in. If you’re tired of me, I’ll stay away. But I
haven’t any money to pay you.”

“Stay away,” sneered the lawyer. “Where’d you stay? You haven’t a home.”

“Wherever there’s aeroplanes,” answered Bud calmly, “that’s my job now.”

“Still,” said the Attorney in a milder tone, “I don’t want to be hard
on you. You had better come back to us until you are able to care for
yourself.”

“Thank you,” answered Bud. “I hope that won’t be long.”

When his foster father had followed after Judge Pennington, Bud turned
to Lafe. The latter was lying on a long packing case.

“Sleepy?” asked Bud.

“Pretty tired,” replied Lafe. “Do you think you can finish up now?
I believe I ought to go home and go to bed for an hour or so before
afternoon. I’ve got to be on edge, you know.”

“Sure,” said Bud sympathetically. “You do that. I’ll put the last
touches on everything. If you get back here by two o’clock, that’s time
enough?”

Just before twelve o’clock, President Elder drove up to the airship
shed.

“Well,” he announced, “he didn’t come. Our expert failed to arrive.
It’s up to Lafe. Where is he?”

“He’ll be here,” answered Bud. “We’re all ready, and he’s gone home for
a little rest.”

About one-thirty o’clock, President Elder visited the aeroplane
headquarters again. Bud was greasing the starting grooves.

“Bud,” began the fair official with a faint smile, “I knew it all the
time. It’s you or no exhibition. Lafe Pennington is in bed, sick. He’s
got a nervous chill.”



CHAPTER VI

THE GYPSY QUEEN’S TALISMAN.


Thursday and Friday were usually the big days at the fair in point
of attendance; but, owing no doubt to the novel exhibition so widely
advertised to begin this day, long before noon it was apparent that the
directors had made a wise investment when they spent eighteen hundred
dollars for an aeroplane. The pike leading to the fair-ground lay
beneath a cloud of dust, the hitch racks were full, and, on the basis
of number of visitors, the exhibition was really in full blast a day
ahead of time.

The last touches were hastily put on the exhibits in the Agricultural,
Floral and Machinery Halls; the ice cream, candy, peanut and red
lemonade stands made a brave show of their wares; the “nigger baby” and
cane rack barkers began appealing to young and old alike to try their
luck, and by noon, thousands of pushing, tired and perspiring people
attested that the fair was already in full swing.

The “three minute” trot and “free for all” running races were carded
for the afternoon, beginning at two o’clock; and the big event, the
startling, stupendous and spectacular flight of the “Twentieth Century
Marvel,” the aeroplane, was to occur about three o’clock between heats
of the races.

The curious spectators did not bother themselves about the airship
until after the dinner hour. But, just about the time President Elder
announced to Bud that Lafe would not be able to operate the airship,
the crowd began to drift toward the field within the race track. By
two o’clock, the pressure became so great that Bud, the talkative
carpenter who was yet with him, and a special policeman detailed by
Superintendent Perry, were forced to drop the canvas side over the
front of the house, and devote their time to protecting the starting
track or rails.

When the carpenter learned that Lafe was sick and would be unable to
direct the flight, he did not hesitate to express his opinion.

“Humph!” he exclaimed. “I guess he’s sick, all right. And he began
gettin’ sick right after that old Gypsy spoke her piece. I don’t blame
him, neither.”

“What’d you mean?” asked Bud, apparently surprised. “You don’t mean the
old woman scared him?”

“She nigh scart me. You bet she did. Mr. Pennington ain’t sick o’
overwork. The Gypsy Queen jes’ nacherly scart him into a chill.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Bud. “He may be scared--I rather thought
myself he was weakenin’ this morning, but he’d be a fool to let a woman
put over such a bluff.”

The carpenter shook his head.

“I don’t know no law agin’ his bein’ a fool,” he added.

Bud made no answer. He knew well enough that the carpenter’s theory
was right. Whether Lafe had the physical courage to trust himself in
the aeroplane Bud had no way of knowing. But his own eyes told him
that Pennington had not the moral courage to throw off the prophecy of
Zecatacas, the Gypsy Queen. In his heart, he felt sorry for Lafe, for
he himself had a most distinct and disagreeable recollection of the
Gypsy’s depressing prediction.

The first thump of horses’ feet on the race track when the “three
minute” trotters came out to warm up and the “ding,” “ding,” “ding,” of
the warning bell in the judges’ stand took away a part of the crowd,
but enough remained to put the starting track in constant danger.
Finally, Bud managed to secure a long rope, and the carpenter staked
off a pen in front of the shed. This protected the apparatus, but it
made Bud conspicuous, and the crowd began to hail comment on him.

“Hey, there, Bud Wilson,” shouted a young man. “They’re a givin’ it out
over yender that you’re goin’ up in the airship.”

Bud smiled and nodded his head. The crowd pushed forward.

“I reckon yer likely to come down right smart faster nor ye go up,”
exclaimed a rural humorist.

“Not none o’ thet in mine,” added another voice. “Not fur love nur
money.”

“What won’t they be a doin’ nex?” exclaimed a fourth.

Bud smiled and said nothing. But, just at this time, seeing a familiar
figure in the crowd, he sprang forward, lifted the rope and beckoned
Madame Zecatacas, the Gypsy Queen, to come inside. She did so, and,
while a hubbub of protest and inquiry arose from the crowd, Bud led
the picturesquely bedecked fortune teller to the airship shed, lifted
the canvas flap and signed to her to enter. The old woman had now none
of the creepy, malignant look she exhibited the night before. She was
rather fawning than otherwise.

“Look a’ here, Madame Zecatacas,” Bud began at once. “I reckon you
don’t know what a commotion you made last night. They say you scared my
friend sick.”

“The Gypsy Queen sees all things--knows all,” began the old woman in
her usual singsong. “He who spits on--”

“Oh, see here,” interrupted Bud. “He didn’t spit on you, and didn’t
mean anything agin’ you. You’re a little touchy ain’t you?”

Madame Zecatacas gave him something like the look she gave Lafe the
night before. Then her face relaxed into a smile. She ignored the
question.

“The young gentleman has a good hand. Money, and the Gypsy Queen will
bring him good fortune.”

“I ain’t got but ten cents,” laughed Bud.

The Gypsy scowled.

“Here,” he exclaimed hastily. “Don’t begin that with me. Don’t put any
high sign on me. I ain’t got time to have a chill.”

“The Gypsy Queen can do much.”

“I can see that, good enough,” answered Bud promptly, thinking of Lafe,
“but I haven’t the price. If I had, I’d try you a whirl. I never had my
fortune told. See here, Mrs. Zecatacas, what do I get for lettin’ you
in here free gratis for nothin’? Right next the airship, too? I’d think
you’d tell me a few good things just to show there’s no hard feelin’.”

The Gypsy tried to scowl again, but Bud’s exuberance was too much for
her. She reached forward and took his hand.

“Look out now,” urged Bud. “Nothin’ bum. Don’t give me the willies. I
got to do my flyin’ stunt in a few minutes.”

“Long life,” began the Gypsy.

“Bully for you,” exclaimed Bud. “Now, just tell me I’ll get an
education and travel, and have money enough to buy an aeroplane, and
we’ll call it square.”

“And much trouble--”

“Shut her off,” interrupted the boy, with assumed concern. “Come to
think of it, I don’t need my fortune read. I’m goin’ to make my own.”

“A strange man will bring you much trouble--”

“Beware of a dark stranger,” laughed Bud. “That’s all right, Mrs.
Zecatacas, I’ll watch for him. Now, I’ll show you around a bit and then
I guess you’d better be going.”

For a few minutes, Bud explained, as well as he could, the general
features of the aeroplane. In the midst of this, he heard animated talk
just outside the canvas door, and, as it was quickly thrown aside, the
Scottsville Chief of Police, Matthew Marsh, or Mat Marsh, as he was
universally known, stepped inside the tent.

“Hello, Bud,” he began. “Heard you was in charge here. An’ got company,
too. Don’t want to make no disturbance, but I’m lookin’ fur your
friend.” He looked at Madame Zecatacas, and motioned her toward him. “I
want you,” he added officially. “I got a warrant for you.”

The old woman gazed at him in astonishment, and then appealingly at Bud.

“Got a warrant for her!” exclaimed the boy. “What for?”

“Assault and battery,” answered Chief Marsh laconically.

“Who’s she assaulted?”

“Judge Pennington issued it on complaint o’ his boy.”

“Lafe?”

“Yep. Lafe says the old lady jumped on him las’ night and assaulted
him. Guess it’s right. He’s home in bed.”

“That’s a lie,” retorted Bud angrily, “and I don’t believe Lafe ever
said so. I saw it all. It’s a lie.”

“You seen it?” commented the Chief.

“All of it--right here. But there wasn’t any fight. Nothin’ like it.”

“I reckon the old lady and her son-in-law better subpoena you fur a
witness.”

“Has the man been arrested, too?”

The Chief nodded his head.

“When’s the trial?” asked Bud indignantly.

This time, the Chief shook his head the other way.

“You let me know,” exclaimed Bud. “I’m beginnin’ to get onto this deal.
I want to be there and testify. These people didn’t do a thing out of
the way. There’s four of us’ll swear to it. This is Judge Pennington’s
doings.”

The Chief wiped his perspiring bald head.

“How do ye figure that?” he said at last.

Bud was silent a few moments, and in each one of these he became more
angry. Finally, he burst out in his indignation.

“I ain’t blamin’ Lafe,” he said, “but he talked pretty raw to Mrs.
Zecatacas last night, and she handed it right back. An’ gypsy-like
she talked about hard luck and trouble and things like that ’til Lafe
kind o’ got cold feet on reskin’ anything to-day. That’s what I think
anyway. Now he’s home in bed, sick or scared or both. An’ when he
told his father about what took place out here, the Judge didn’t do a
thing but fake up this complaint just to get even. He’s sore because
I’ve got the chance an’ Lafe ain’t. I didn’t expect to do no knockin’,
but that’s just the way it’ll all figure out. You can take it right
straight from me.”

The Chief looked knowingly at Bud, and then closed one eye.

“Bein’ an officer o’ the law, I ain’t takin’ sides an’ I don’t have no
opinion. But I heerd what you said. Come on, old lady.”

Madame Zecatacas straightened up and glared at the policeman. Bud
stepped over and patted her on the shoulder.

“You can’t get out of it--now--Mrs. Zecatacas. Go along quietly, and if
you want me for a witness or any of the men who were here last night,
you tell Mr. Marsh. I’ll come and testify for you.”

The gypsy caught his hands in hers, pressed them, and then with a swift
movement laid two brown fingers on Bud’s forehead. With another swift
motion, she pointed to the aeroplane and exclaimed:

“The Gypsy Queen gives you good luck.”

This happened in an instant, but before Bud could recover from his
surprise, the withered dame reached forth her hand once more, and
forced into Bud’s palm a small object. Then, without further word, she
followed the Chief of Police.

In his fingers, Bud found a heavy ring--dull of color, and yet,
apparently not brass. Sunk in the top of it, was a worn, opaque, green
stone in the shape of a bug. Bud did not know it, but the stone was a
sacred Egyptian scarab.

“Good luck from the Gypsy Queen,” repeated Bud, a little upset. “Well,
anyway, good or bad, here goes,” and he slipped the worn ring upon his
third finger.

Outside the shed, Bud found the waiting crowd almost too much for the
men on guard, with a new stream thronging toward the aviation grounds
from the race-track. At the head of this, marched President Elder,
Superintendent Perry and the other officials. Bud knew his part of the
day’s program was due. He glanced skyward. There was almost no breeze.

“Everything ready?” asked Mr. Elder, in a quick businesslike tone.
“It’s just been announced from the judges’ stand.”

“Ought to hear ’em yell when I told ’em how Mr. Bud Wilson, a product
of our own city, would operate the machine,” added the Superintendent.

Bud was too busy to parry personal compliments. While Superintendent
Perry and the President lifted the canvas front and drove the crowd
back, Bud tested the ignition battery, re-oiled the shaft bearings,
looked a last time for possible leaks in the gasoline reservoir and
then for an instant only, set the engine in motion. As it stopped and
the vibrating frame settled back on its trusses, he knew of nothing
more to be done.

Outside he could hear the President and the Superintendent shouting
commands and exhortations.

“Git back there, now, all o’ you, ’at don’t want to git hurt. Mr.
Wilson’s got to have room. Anybody ’at gits hit’ll be killed. Git back
there, everybody. You can all see. ’Taint no horse race. Stand back!
The aeroplane will circle around the track. You kin all see. Give us
room here,” the superintendent kept crying.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” added President Elder, mounting the lower
brace of the weight derrick. “It is only proper for me to announce
once more that we are only able to make this exhibition to-day through
the kindness of a Scottsville boy, Mr. Bud Wilson. The expert who was
to operate our aeroplane disappointed us. But, rather than disappoint
you, Mr. Wilson has volunteered to risk his life in exhibiting this
wonderful invention. I hope you will help him by giving us ample room,
and that you will refrain from rushing forward, if there happens to
be an accident. We must have no interference, and, on behalf of Mr.
Wilson, I ask absolute silence while he is adjusting the aeroplane for
its hazardous plunge into space.”

A murmur ran through the crowd which, in a moment, died away into an
awed silence. The speech and the silence that fell immediately upon
the thousands present attracted Bud’s attention. He turned from his
lingering look at the craft that meant so much to him just in time to
find President Elder motioning to him. He stepped to the official’s
side. As he did so, Mr. Elder sprang from the derrick and laid his hand
on Bud’s shoulder.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” shouted the president in a voice that could be
heard at the far edge of the expectant jam, “I take great pleasure in
presenting to you Mr. Bud Wilson, our aviator. Good luck and success
to you, Bud,” he added, melodramatically taking the boy’s hand.

A woman in the crowd sobbed and Bud, red with embarrassment, hastened
into the shed.

“What’d you do that for?” exclaimed Bud, as the President joined him.

“Do what?” laughed Mr. Elder.

“Why shake hands that way and say that. I ain’t no circus.”

“Excuse me,” answered the fair official. “That’s just what you are.
This is a show. And we want to make it worth our eighteen hundred
dollars.”

“Oh, I see.”

“And that isn’t all. The real performance is yet to come. You don’t
suppose you’re just going to shoot away in silence. Did you ever see
’em ‘loop the loop’ in a circus? Well, we’ve got that beat a mile.
Listen. I’ll release the weight that starts you. When you are ready to
get into the car, I’ll get up and tell ’em that any sound may distract
you and cause a fatal accident. When they are absolutely still, you’ll
take your seat and I’ll take my place at the weight cord. Then I’ll say
in a solemn voice: ‘When you are ready, Mr. Wilson, say Go.’ You’ll
look about, settle yourself, wait a few moments and then, sharp and
quick, shout ‘Go!’ Then if you do go, the crowd’ll feel it has its
twenty-five cents’ worth.”

Bud laughed.

“Funny you didn’t bring a pair of tights,” he commented.



CHAPTER VII

A FOOLHARDY TRICK IN AN AEROPLANE.


For one moment, a feeling of doubt swept over Bud--not fear of an
accident--it was only the first dread of all amateurs--apprehension
that his performance might not go off all right. When he glanced out
over the thousands waiting to see what was he going to do and realized
that all these people were waiting for him--it was enough to give a
youngster stage fright. While he paused, he felt Madame Zecatacas’
ring, her good luck charm.

“What more does a fellow need?” Bud said to himself. “All ready,” he
exclaimed aloud, suddenly reassured, and springing to the center of the
aeroplane frame between the engine section and the rear rudder struts,
he directed the others in the shed to places along the truss. Then
as gently as if moving a man with a broken leg, the long, wiry white
planes of the airship were carried out into the full view of the crowd.

The “Ohs” and “Ahs” were soon lost in the noise of the shuffling, eager
audience. Men and women crowded forward, clouds of dust arose, and
the rope barrier broke before the clamoring spectators. Those carrying
the machine could only call out threats until the aeroplane had been
deposited over the starting track and the landing skids fitted into the
greased grooves. Then Bud sprang onto the fragile frame work. Waving
his hand at the people, he shouted:

“The aeroplane is going to shoot straight along this track fast as an
engine. If any of you folks get in its way, you’ll be smashed. There
ain’t goin’ to be no start until you all get back and stay back.”

Then he sprang to the ground and for five minutes, he, the president,
superintendent and the others helping, struggled with the slowly
receding flood of people. At last the rope barrier was re-established
and Bud, hot and perspiring, felt that the trial might be safely
attempted. As a precaution, he went into the shed and put on his coat.
This one act seemed to calm the crowd.

“Goin’ to be cold up in the clouds?” inquired one facetious onlooker.

For answer, Bud fastened the right-angled hook attached to the end
of the starting rope to the lowest cross brace of the forward rudder
frame and then, with the help of the carpenter and the superintendent,
pushed the aeroplane backward on the two tracks until the rope was
taut. The bags of sand weighing 1500 pounds were already at the top
of the derrick, and the release cord was ready for President Elder’s
manipulation.

“Don’t forget the program,” whispered that official, as he stepped by
Bud.

“I’ll go you one better,” answered the boy, with a smile. Then,
recalling what he had often seen in circuses, Bud stepped a few paces
forward and looked the car over critically. This was wholly for effect,
but with a most concerned face, the young aviator squinted at the ship
of the air from two or three angles. Then he mounted the end of the
starting rail and looked critically into the sky, even holding up his
hand as if to test the air.

“Purty resky business,” volunteered one man in the front line.

“Ain’t agoin’ to take no chances,” suggested another.

Then, Bud ignoring, but drinking in with great satisfaction these and
many other nervous comments, walked rapidly to the aeroplane, and, with
well assumed professional rapidity, felt and shook several braces.

“I reckon he knows what he’s about, all right,” Bud heard some one say,
and the boy, losing his smile for a moment, wondered if he did.

“Ain’t no use puttin’ it off longer,” he said to himself, and he waved
his hand toward the fair president. Mr. Elder at once ascended to the
derrick cross brace, and removing his hat with a flourish, shouted:

“Ladies and gentlemen: Mr. Wilson announces that all is ready for his
daring flight into the clouds. I must ask that each and every one of
you maintain complete silence. Any undue noise may divert the attention
of the operator and the slightest disturbance may mean his instant
death.”

The mob seemed to sink back in awe. Bud and President Elder were
perhaps the only persons present whose hearts were not, figuratively,
in their mouths. The bareheaded president raised his hand. You might
have heard a pin drop.

“When you are ready, Mr. Wilson, say ‘Go.’”

Throwing on the ignition and giving the balance wheel a turn, Bud saw
the white propellers begin to revolve. As they gathered speed and the
engine was fully in motion--the car beginning to tremble under the
impact--Bud sprang into the little seat, thrust his feet into the
hanging supports and grasped the levers.

As his lips framed themselves to give the final signal, a flying figure
shot into his sight. A man panting, and with his hat in his hand was
rushing across the cleared space closely pursued by one of the special
policemen. Hardly able to speak, his arm wildly gesticulating, the new
arrival was shouting:

“Stop, stop. I just got here. What are you doin’?”

“Get out o’ the way,” shouted Bud in reply. “Get off that track.”

“I’m Dare,” panted the man. “Who’s tryin’ to run this? Stop!”

“Get off that track,” shouted Bud again.

“You’ll break your neck,” the breathless man managed to get out. But he
saw the car trembling for the start, and he began moving aside.

“Where’s Mr. Elder?” he cried. “Wait a minute. I’ll make the flight.
Hold on!”

“Go,” rang out from the boy in the aeroplane.

It came like a pistol shot, clear and distinct. But President Elder at
the weight rope hesitated.

“Go,” came once more.

There was a note of command in the one word that startled the
official. Whatever his judgment was at the moment, President Elder
mechanically jerked the cord. With a crashing creak of the derrick
and a thud of falling sand bags, the starting rope whipped over the
pulleys; there was a spray of melted tallow thrown fifty feet into the
air by the flying skids; five thousand spectators gasped and fell back
as if panic stricken, and the aeroplane smoked forward as if rushing
into a vacuum.

Half way along the track, the rocking aeroplane seemed to lose headway
for an instant. The pressure of the air in front and the force of the
propellers behind had equalled and overcome the force of gravity. As
the starting rope hook fell from the frame, the two great planes, like
a kite in the wind, darted into a giant leap ahead.

Hundreds of spectators, still lingering in the path of the airship,
threw themselves onto the ground just in time. The aeroplane almost
touched the earth as the leap seemed to slacken, but this Bud had been
anticipating. He did not know whether the first dart of the car would
be up or down, to the right or left. But he did know that there was not
one chance in a thousand that the flight would be straight ahead and
upward. What professional aviators had learned by long experience, Bud
knew he had to get by sheer cool headed pluck.

He had thought over this idea so constantly that his muscles were set
and ready like springs. Not even the narrow escape of the people in
front of him rattled the boy. His body was cold from a realization of
the great risk he was taking, but this did not disconcert him. When Bud
shouted the word that was to hurl him into the air, he dismissed every
thought from his mind but this: “up, down, right, left.”

It was all done in a second, but Bud’s thinking apparatus responded.
“Down,” his whole being cried out, and his muscles responded like a
spring. Almost before the boy could realize what he was doing, he had
thrown the front, horizontal rudder up. In another instant he knew he
was going to fly; the ground dropped beneath him, and then a tremendous
roar sounded in his ears. He gasped. But the sound was only the wild
cheers of the multitude beneath. He _was_ flying--the aeroplane
was soaring swiftly upward. It was like falling in a dream. With
nervous dread, the boy looked about. Then came his third shock--the
fair-grounds were already behind him. He had passed beyond the
territory in which he was to operate. He was at least three hundred
feet in the air.

Suddenly all fear, apprehension and nervousness left Bud.

“It’s all over now,” he said to himself. “These things don’t fall like
rocks. If the engine stops, I’ll come down like a parachute. Here goes
to do my stunt.”

A minute later, Bud was directing the aeroplane along the back stretch
of the race track about one hundred and fifty feet above the ground. It
all seemed so easy that he wondered why he had had any apprehension. In
the midst of a chorus of yells and hurrahs from the hundreds who were
vainly trying to keep pace with the aeroplane, Bud at last heard one
positive voice:

“Get nearer the ground, you fool.”

The boy could not distinguish the man calling, but he recognized the
voice. It was that of the stranger--the expert, T. Glenn Dare. So far,
Bud had not time to think over the sudden appearance of the long waited
for man. But he smiled as the episode came back to him.

“That must have been the Gypsy Queen’s ring,” he thought to himself.
“Any way, I got my chance. I’m satisfied.”

Then he wondered: “What will Mr. Dare do when he makes a flight
to-morrow. I wonder if he’ll stay close to the ground. He’s only
jealous,” concluded Bud.

Prompted by that foolish idea and more than eager to take full
advantage of his opportunity, the gritty boy decided that he was not
satisfied--he determined, on a wild impulse, to test the airship to its
limit.

Circling the half-mile track, he dropped down nearer the ground as he
passed the crowded grand stand, but he was too intent on his work to
give any heed to the applause that greeted him. The dusty track was
packed with spectators throwing their hats into the air and shouting:
“Let her out,” “Gimme a ride,” “Good boy, Bud,” and such expressions
rang in his ears, but they did not draw even a smile.

Again, the wonderful craft, true to her steering gear and responding
to her propellers in the almost dead calm, circled the track. But this
time, as Bud reached the lower turn, he veered off to the left. As the
inclined planes moved forward toward the center of the track, Bud put
his indiscreet resolution into effect.

By the time he reached the far end of the track he was five hundred
feet in the air. Then, instead of turning, he held his course beyond
the enclosure out over the adjoining fields and pastures. Here, with
a long sweep in the air, he turned and headed over the grounds once
more. By the time he had passed the grand-stand again, he was at least
a thousand feet in the air.

At that moment, the boy began to regret his foolhardiness. To turn
at that height, with the sinking swing that always followed such an
operation, was enough to try the nerve of the most experienced. And, to
make matters worse, Bud perversely held to his ascending flight. When
the limits of the grounds had been again passed, the novice was, it was
afterwards estimated, fourteen hundred feet in the air.

“Now,” muttered Bud, “it’s sink or swim.”

Closing his eyes, with one hand he threw the vertical lever slowly
over for the turn, and at the same moment, he threw up the plane tips
with the warping lever. It was almost sickening, the long swoop that
followed, but, as Bud felt the warped surface checking the dip, he
breathed again. Then he opened his eyes. The airship shed fell on his
vision dead ahead and not far below.

Gritting his teeth to keep up his courage, the youngster made ready
to complete his program. As the aeroplane steadied, Bud pushed the
horizontal planes downward, and as the bird-like craft began to
descend, he turned and shut off the engine.

“They say any one can fly,” said Bud to himself, “but that it takes
judgment to make a landing. I’ll either make or break right here.”

As the swiftly whirling blades of the propellers stopped, the
aeroplane’s flight slackened. Then the ivory-winged truss began to
settle like a softly falling leaf. A mass of black heads appeared
beneath. Suddenly, they separated, and Bud saw the ground rising as if
to meet him. It was the crucial moment. The horizontal rudders sprang
up, the airship seemed to pause, then with a feeble response to her
steering gear, it rose a few feet and drifted along over the trodden
grass. Then the landing skids touched the ground--there was a slight
rebound, and Bud’s flight was at an end.



CHAPTER VIII

AMATEUR VS. PROFESSIONAL.


Every one in the yelling, pushing crowd seemed to be trying to get hold
of the aeroplane. But again the policemen forced the spectators back
and Bud saw, even before he alighted, and a good deal to his disgust,
that Mr. Dare seemed to be in charge of the situation. As the young
aviator climbed from the frame, the professional and President Elder
confronted him:

“Young man,” said the former, in a very superior tone, “you’re in luck
to be alive. Haven’t you any sense?”

Bud looked him over. The man was about thirty-five years old, rather
nattily dressed in grey clothes, a blue scarf and a chauffeur’s cap.
Two or three sharp replies occurred to Bud, but he suppressed them, and
turned to Mr. Elder. The latter walked into the tent, and motioned to
Bud to follow. Then the boy suddenly realized that the fair president
was trembling with anger.

“Bud,” he began at once, trying to be calm, “didn’t I tell you what
to do? Didn’t I give you your program? Wasn’t you to fly three times
around the track and then come down?”

“And you don’t like it because I varied it a little? Because I gave ’em
a good run for their money?”

Mr. Elder shook his finger before the boy’s face.

“Mr. Dare tells me it was one chance in a thousand that you didn’t
smash the machine.”

“Didn’t worry about my breaking my neck at the same time, did he?”
asked Bud with a smile.

“We risked two thousand dollars’ worth of property in your possession,
and you took every chance you could with it--”

“Including the risk of my own life,” retorted Bud. “Look here, Mr.
Elder, I wouldn’t get excited over what T. Glenn Dare thinks. He has
good reason to find fault with me.”

The fair official made a new gesture of impatience.

“That’s neither here nor there. Going up that way was a crazy thing to
do, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

Bud looked at the ground a moment. Then he said:

“That’s my usual luck, Mr. Elder. I don’t make any excuses. I see I’m
in the wrong, and I’ll take the short cut out. I haven’t hurt your
airship, and there she is. Mr. T. Glenn Dare is here ready to take
charge of it. I thank you for the chance you gave me.”

Bud started away.

“Here, Bud! Come here!”

Bud paused, but he did not return. “I guess we don’t need you any more,
but there ain’t no call to go ’way mad.”

“You said I ought to be ashamed of myself. I’m going where I can feel
ashamed without attracting attention.”

Bud smiled, and Mr. Elder looked a little embarrassed.

“I reckon if your fifty-dollar-a-day man had gone up there and done
what I did, you’d all be pattin’ him on the back. Like as not there’d
be a piece in the paper about it.”

Mr. Elder was even more embarrassed.

“When he goes up to-morrow,” went on Bud, “I reckon you’d better insist
that he skim around over the ground. I tell you what I think, Mr.
Elder,” said Bud, suddenly growing more serious, “a big bluff goes a
long ways. You wouldn’t dare to criticise your professional aviator.
Why? Because he’s an expert. And yet there isn’t one of you knows
whether he knows more about aeroplanes than I do. He’ll get the glad
hand. I get a good swift kick. Good bye.”

Mr. Elder was at Bud’s side before he could leave the shed.

“You certainly are a touchy boy,” he said in a not unkind voice. “I
don’t see why I should apologize to you,” he added, “but I’d like to do
one thing--here’s ten dollars for helping us out.”

Bud looked up with a peculiar expression. Never before in his life had
he earned so much money in practically one day. For a moment, he worked
his foot back and forth in the dust. Then he said:

“That just proves what I said. It’s the bluff that gets the money and
the praise. I told you I’d do what I could for nothing. I’m satisfied
if you are. But, if I took any pay, why shouldn’t I have as much as
your professional?”

Mr. Elder grew red in the face.

“He is to get fifty dollars a day. What can he do that I haven’t done?
I’m much obliged to you, Mr. Elder, and I don’t want you to put me down
as a smart aleck. I either work for nothing or I’m worth as much as the
fellow who is no better.”

The disturbed official became restless.

“You mean you want fifty dollars?” he exclaimed, almost in consternation.

“I should say not,” retorted Bud, “but,” and he laughed outright, “if
you offer me anything, don’t make it a cent less.”

Before the perplexed official could say anything, Bud was gone. The
crowd was in a thick ring around the aeroplane, and the boy had no
trouble in making his way almost unobserved out of the race-track
field. With ten cents in his pocket and tired and sleepy, he hurried
toward the entrance. No one seemed to recognize in him the “hero of the
aeroplane,” the skilled and daring aviator who had just made a record
breaking flight of 1400 feet in the air.

Money came too hard with Bud to permit him to spend his ten cents for
a ride to town in a hack. For that reason, although it was not yet
much after four o’clock, he set out on foot to cover the two-mile
walk to his home--or Attorney Cyrus Stockwell’s house. This was
not a pretentious building, but, being on the edge of town, it had
considerable ground around it, and the old two-story frame structure
had been Bud’s home for nearly ten years.

Bud’s father had at one time owned a small foundry in Scottsville; but,
his health failing, he disposed of it, moved to the country, and tried
farming on a small scale. Mrs. Wilson was a cousin of Mrs. Stockwell’s,
and when both Bud’s parents died the same winter, the boy, at Mrs.
Stockwell’s suggestion, went to live with the Stockwells. There he had
been ever since.

Reaching the house, Bud found it locked tight as wax. Undoubtedly the
lawyer and his wife had gone to the fair. The key, usually hidden under
the strip of rag carpet on the front porch, was not there. But this
did not interfere much with Bud. In the rear was a summer kitchen with
an adjoining grape arbor. On this arbor, Bud had more than once made
nocturnal ascents and descents to and from the kitchen roof, and thus
to the window of his own room.

Shinning up the arbor, he easily entered the house through the window
of his room. It was dark and close within, but the returned wanderer
was hungry and he hurried at once to the kitchen. Mrs. Stockwell did
not mind Bud “piecing,” but she was particular about the neatness of
her kitchen. So, instead of leaving traces of his attack on the larder,
Bud used no dishes. He found milk in the ice box. A dipperful of that
was consumed, and the dipper washed and returned to its hook.

Then with a slice of cold boiled ham, the back, two wings and the neck
of some fried chicken, six doughnuts, two pieces of bread covered with
new grape jelly, and an apple, Bud went to his room. Long before his
foster parents returned from the fair, Bud, his hunger satisfied, had
undressed, washed himself and gone to bed.

About seven o’clock, Attorney Stockwell, who had been reading the local
paper on the front porch, stuck his head into the kitchen and asked if
supper would soon be ready.

“I kind o’ been waitin’ thinkin’ maybe Bud’d come home this evening,”
was Mrs. Stockwell’s answer.

“You don’t need to count on him, I reckon,” answered her husband. “He
probably won’t think much about home long as that airship is on his
mind.”

“It’s funny to me,” added Mrs. Stockwell, stirring the potatoes, “that
he wouldn’t take no pay. Goodness knows he could use it. The boy ain’t
got hardly a whole shirt to his back.”

“He’ll have to be doin’ something soon,” said the attorney. “I can’t
keep him here for nothin’ all his life. An’ he’s nearly grown now.”

His wife sighed:

“He’s been a purty good boy at that. An’ he’s been quite a help to me.
I dunno how I’d get along without him.”

“Well, you better not wait for him. He’s gettin’ altogether too smart.
If he’s too proud to take the money he earned, I ain’t. President Elder
gave it to me to hold for him, _in trust_, but I guess Bud owes me a
good deal more’n that.”

The Stockwells ate their supper without Bud, although there was enough
talk about him. That evening the lawyer made inquiries in the boy’s
usual haunts, but no one had seen him since the aeroplane landed. So
the evening passed until nine o’clock, at which hour Attorney Stockwell
was summoned by telephone to come at once to Mr. Elder’s private office
in the First National Bank. Here he found a hastily called conference
of fair directors. The president was there with Judge Pennington and
Mr. Waldron, a country member.

“Here it is in a nutshell,” explained President Elder. “We either call
this fellow’s bluff, or let him ‘play horse’ with us. What’ll it be?”

The situation was this: Mr. T. Glenn Dare, the aeroplane expert, gave
as a reason for his failure to appear that he had not expected to
reach Scottsville until noon of the previous day. The work of setting
up the airship, he explained, would have required but a few hours.
The reason for his non-arrival at noon of the day before was because
he had gone to Scottsville, Kentucky, a small and out-of-the-way
place requiring a drive across country, and having no telephone or
telegraph. Returning to Cincinnati, he had “wired” the fair officials,
after telegraphing east to his employers for instructions, and had
then hastened to Scottsville, making the last stage of his journey by
trolley car.

This explanation was not satisfactory to Mr. Elder. Mr. Dare confessed
he had not seen any letters to his firm from the fair officials, and
had started west with only a memorandum of his destination. He would
not concede that his firm had made a mistake, and boldly asserted that
the mix up was probably due to carelessness on the part of the fair
committee.

“All right,” Mr. Elder had said. “You say you were in Cincinnati early
to-day. Why didn’t you send us word you’d be here? No telegram reached
any of us.”

“How do I know that?” impudently asked Mr. Dare. “Looks to me as if you
people were trying to beat me out of a job.”

“And it looks to me, to speak right out,” replied Mr. Elder in
considerable heat, “as if you might have been drunk for two or three
days.”

Instead of indignantly resenting this suggestion, Mr. Dare only got
red in the face and offered to produce innumerable affidavits that he
had been wandering around the country since Monday morning looking for
Scottsville and that he never indulged in intoxicating beverages.

This interview between Mr. Elder and Expert Dare had taken place on the
fair-grounds just after Bud disappeared and the car had been housed
for the night. It left anything but cordial relations between the two
men. But the explosion came later. As Mr. Elder was instructing the
watchmen concerning the care of the airship during the night, Mr. Dare
approached.

“In order that we have no further misunderstanding, I’d like to have a
check for one hundred and fifty dollars--the three days I’ve already
lost.”

The president, put out over his encounter with Bud, and disgruntled
over the conduct of the expert, whirled like a wild man.

“A check for one hundred and fifty dollars?”

“You don’t suppose I’m coming all the way out here for fun, do you?”
sneeringly answered Mr. Dare.

“Just put this in your pipe and smoke it,” snorted the fair president,
shaking his finger in the expert’s face. “You’ll get paid when you go
to work--that’s the contract. There wasn’t a thing said about comin’
or goin’. For the three days left this week, we’ll pay you just fifty
dollars each day. Not a cent more.”

“That aeroplane won’t move a foot till I get my money. And since this
controversy about it, you’d better pay in advance--three hundred
dollars. No money, no exhibition.”

“We got along without you so far.”

“Violating your contract, yes. Part of the agreement of sale was that I
was to operate the car. We don’t turn out aeroplanes to every Tom, Dick
and Harry. Under your contract, that car don’t go up unless I’m in it,
and I don’ go in it till I have my money. There’s plenty of law to fix
that. Do I get my money?”

“Not a cent,” snapped Mr. Elder. “Bud Wilson will go up in that machine
to-morrow.”



CHAPTER IX

BUD MAKES A STRANGE CONTRACT.


President Elder told all this to the assembled directors. A storm broke
at once. Naturally, Attorney Stockwell approved what the president had
done. He did it for two reasons: he was anxious to get Bud a profitable
job, and he saw at once that Judge Pennington was opposed to the action
taken by Mr. Elder. In the lively discussion, the other director, Mr.
Waldron, sided with Mr. Elder because Attorney Stockwell had once
opposed him in a lawsuit.

Judge Pennington argued that Mr. T. Glenn Dare would undoubtedly sue
the association.

“Let him,” exclaimed President Elder. “We can beat him. He didn’t
report, and I’m convinced he was on a spree somewhere. Look at the
advantage. If we pay him what he demands, it will be six days at fifty
dollars a day. That’s three hundred dollars. We can save that.”

“This young Wilson won’t work for nothing, will he?” asked Mr. Waldron.

President Elder felt compelled at this point to relate his experience
with Bud. He told of offering to pay their amateur operator; how the
boy had refused the money, and how Attorney Stockwell had finally
accepted the sum to hold in trust.

Judge Pennington laughed outright.

“An’ that’s what we’re up against, is it?” he asked, with a chuckling
sneer. “Wouldn’t take ten dollars an’ wants fifty dollars? And yet
you’re takin’ the risk o’ a lawsuit just to give him a job.”

“But,” insisted the president, “you forget. He’ll do in a pinch what he
won’t do for wages. He won’t work for ten dollars a day, but he’ll work
for nothing.”

“Ef he’ll do that,” promptly suggested Director Waldron, “I vote we
give him the job.”

“That ain’t treatin’ the boy right,” chimed in Attorney Stockwell. “Be
fair with him. He’ll listen to reason. It’s worth more’n ten dollars
to risk your life that way. If you’ll call it twenty-five dollars I’ll
undertake to see that he does the work.”

“My Lafe would do it for nothin’ as a matter o’ pride, if he wasn’t
sick,” urged Judge Pennington.

“But he is sick,” broke in Mr. Elder. “We’ve fired our expert, an’
we’ve got to get some one or cut out the performance. I agree with
Director Stockwell. If we call it twenty-five dollars--and that’ll only
be for three more days--I’m convinced Bud will help us out.”

But Judge Pennington and Director Waldron were stubborn. The matter
was argued for nearly an hour, and finally a compromise was reached.
President Elder was authorized to pay to Bud not over twenty dollars
a day to attempt another ascent. Then the meeting adjourned. At its
conclusion, Attorney Stockwell hurried off home to find Bud and tell
him of his good fortune.

Strangely enough, the lawyer had hardly disappeared when the other
three directors met again on the bank steps.

“That’s all we could do afore Stockwell,” said Judge Pennington at
once. “Ef we’d said any more, Attorney Stockwell would have put a bug
in the boy’s ear an’ they’d have worked together. What you want to do,
Mr. Elder, is to get the boy alone. I ain’t no love for him, but I will
say he gave us a good show, and I reckon he can do it agin. Ef he won’t
work for twenty dollars, give him what’s necessary.”

“I understand,” replied President Elder, “Stockwell is a good deal on
the make. If he thought we’d stand for any more, he’d see that the boy
holds out for the highest figure.”

“Better give him fifty dollars,” slowly conceded Director Waldron,
“ruther than put off the show. An’ we’ll make money at that. But it’s
ridic’lous for a boy o’ his age.”

“Get him at any figure in reason,” urged Judge Pennington. “I want
the fair to go off with a boom. An’ if it’s up to the kid to make it
go--all right. But it’ll swell him up awful.”

Before Attorney Stockwell reached his home, Mrs. Stockwell had
discovered Bud’s presence, although she had not disturbed him. When her
husband reached the house and learned that his adopted son was safe in
bed, he was greatly relieved. He went at once to Bud’s room. It was
after eleven o’clock. Arousing the sleeping boy, he prepared to close
the deal between Bud and the fair association.

Bud’s first response was to pull the covers over his head and snore
lustily.

“Wake up, Bud, I want to talk to you.”

“I have been here all the time,” sleepily responded the boy. “I ain’t
done nothin’. Is it morning?”

Attorney Stockwell shook him again until the lad was fully awake. Then
he asked him, somewhat brusquely, what he meant “by riding such a high
horse” with Mr. Elder and refusing to take the ten dollars.

“Because I said I’d work for nothing,” said Bud, crawling from under
his sheet and sitting on the bedside.

“But they are willing to pay you, and pay you well. Men don’t work for
nothing. I work all day for ten dollars,” added the lawyer.

“That’s it,” said Bud. “I don’t want to work all my life for ten
dollars a day. I want nothing or what I’m worth.”

“Rubbish,” snorted the lawyer. “You talk pretty swell for a boy who
ain’t never yet made enough to keep him.”

“I reckon I owe you a good deal of money,” exclaimed Bud, still
blinking his sleepy eyes and then looking at his foster father sharply.

“We ain’t talkin’ about that,” answered the lawyer evasively.

“I know ‘_we_’ ain’t,” said Bud. “But _I_ am. You never talk about it
when I want to. Why did you take me in? Did my father leave me any
property?”

“The courts’ll take care o’ that at the right time,” replied Attorney
Stockwell pompously.

“All right,” replied Bud, sleepily. “When they do, you just take out
all I’ve cost you and quit throwin’ it up to me ever’ day.”

The lawyer rose and walked about a moment in an embarrassed way.

“That’s all right, Bud. We won’t quarrel about that. I ain’t puttin’
you out o’ house an’ home. I didn’t wake you up to talk o’ that. I got
ten dollars here President Elder gave me to give to you.”

“Keep it yourself,” yawned Bud, “and I won’t owe you so much.”

“We’ve fired that Mr. Dare,” exclaimed the lawyer, playing his trump
card, “and we held a meeting to-night to get another operator. We
elected you.”

“Me?” exclaimed Bud, at last fully awake. “Elected me?”

“Yes,” went on the lawyer. “He got gay with us--wanted pay for six
days, and we discharged him.”

“And the fair people want me to sail the aeroplane again?” continued
Bud jubilantly.

“That’s what was voted.”

Bud sat up on the edge of the bed, his eyes snapping and his face
wreathed in smiles.

“I guess Mr. Elder must have changed his mind,” Bud commented. “He
told me I ‘ought to be ashamed of myself.’”

“He has. We’re all agreed. And we’ve agreed, too, that you’re to have
twenty-five dollars a day for your work.”

The boy straightened up as if he had been struck. From smiles, his face
became set, and finally rebellious. He picked at the bed clothes a
moment, and then said:

“I’m sorry they did that. I’d have done it for nothing to help out. But
when it comes to a price, I’m worth just as much as Mr. Dare. If they
want to pay me, it’s fifty dollars a day.”

“You won’t do for twenty-five dollars a day what you’ll do for nothing?”

“That’s it. I said I wouldn’t. That’s all there is to it.”

“You refuse,” said the lawyer, growing red in the face.

“You’ve said it.”

Attorney Stockwell fumbled at his collar as if he were choking. Then he
sputtered:

“You can think this over till morning. If you don’t get some sense into
your head by that time, you’d better find some other place to live.”

“Meaning I’m kicked out,” replied Bud instantly and springing to his
feet.

“You can sleep over it,” added the lawyer. “Don’t need to act hastily.
But it’s no use us trying to get along together if you’re too proud to
help out when I get you a good job.”

“I don’t need to sleep over it,” answered Bud promptly. “My sleepin’ is
done for to-night. If that’s the verdict, we’ll call it quits.”

The lawyer was palpably embarrassed. He was afraid to put Bud out for
reasons best known to himself, but he felt like it.

“I’ll see you later,” he snapped suddenly, and left the room.

Bud’s sleeping wasn’t as nearly finished as he thought. With youthful
agility, he turned in again, and did not awaken until daylight. The
Stockwells breakfasted early, but Bud’s chores were done when his
foster father appeared. Somewhat to Bud’s surprise, the affair of the
night before was not recalled, and the boy was about to escape from the
breakfast table when he was surprised to see President Elder’s well
known rig dash up to the house.

“You won’t listen to me,” explained the lawyer, in no very good humor,
“so Mr. Elder has come to reason with you.”

“I’ll do it for fifty dollars or nothing,” stoutly insisted Bud.

When Mr. Elder appeared on the porch--and it was apparent that he was
not overflowing with good humor--he wasted very little time. After
greeting the lawyer and his wife, he said:

“Bud, we worked together pretty well yesterday. Come with me. I want to
see you.”

“Go along,” exclaimed Attorney Stockwell, in a tone of authority. But
this was not needed. Bud needed no urging. With a smile, he led the way
to the buggy.

The fair official started toward the center of the town. Before he
could open negotiations, Bud exclaimed:

“Mr. Elder, I reckon I know what you want. You’ve fallen out with the
guy that threw us down and you want me to do the aeroplane stunt again.”

President Elder smiled.

“You know what I said yesterday,” went on Bud. “I don’t like to break
my word. But don’t you think you people are makin’ me purty cheap?”

“Perhaps not as cheap as you think!”

“Mr. Stockwell told me I’m to get twenty-five dollars.”

“And you think that ain’t enough?”

“Fifty dollars,” said Bud with a smile, “or nothing.”

The thrifty official grasped at this straw.

“Are you willing to do it for nothing?”

“Yes. But I’ll do it as a favor, and I want a favor in return.”

“What’s that?” asked Mr. Elder suspiciously.

“Well,” went on Bud, with some embarrassment, “you’re a big man in this
town, Mr. Elder. You can get about anything you want. I reckon Judge
Pennington would do you a favor if you asked.”

“Are you in trouble with Judge Pennington?”

“I’m not. But two of my friends are. See that, Mr. Elder,” continued
Bud, showing the ring Madame Zecatacas had given him. His companion
gazed at it intently.

“That’s a charm,” explained Bud. “It was given to me by an old gypsy
who hadn’t any other way to show me she was my friend. It’s a good luck
piece. I don’t know as it helped me any, but the old woman who gave it
to me wanted it to.”

“I don’t see,” began Mr. Elder.

“This old woman and her son-in-law made Lafe Pennington mad. It wasn’t
their fault. It was his. Yesterday, Judge Pennington had ’em arrested
for assaultin’ Lafe, which they hadn’t. They yanked ’em off’n the
fair-grounds and locked ’em up. They’re goin’ to have a trial to-day.
They ain’t done nothin’, but they are my friends, in a kind of a way.
If you’ll persuade Judge Pennington to let ’em go, I’ll work the
airship all week for nothin’.”

President Elder laughed. Then he slapped the boy on the back.

“Bud,” he said laughing heartily, “you are certainly a strange boy.
That’s a go. I’ll promise.”

“Let ’em out right away,” continued Bud, “so they can get in a full day
tellin’ fortunes.”

“Right away,” laughed the fair president.

“Then I guess I’ll take the first hack out to the grounds and get busy.”

“I suppose you won’t mind my paying your expenses,” suggested the
president, when they reached the square.

“Got to have hack fare and dinner money,” said Bud, with a smile. And
accepting a five dollar bill, Bud was off to the fair-grounds and
airship shed again.



CHAPTER X

THE FLIGHT IN THE DARK.


At twelve o’clock that day, while Bud was busy on the aeroplane, Mr. T.
Glenn Dare and Attorney Cyrus Stockwell suddenly appeared before the
airship shed. Mr. Dare walked in briskly, took off his coat, and gave
every sign of taking charge of the apparatus. Bud shook his head.

“Strangers not allowed in here, sir.”

The expert laughed.

“Since I’ve a contract that calls for my being here, I was about to say
the same thing to you, young man.”

“I guess we understand ourselves,” replied Bud, with composure.
“President Elder has been in here several times this morning. He left
orders for me to keep all strangers out.”

“Perhaps you’re goin’ to put me out,” smiled Mr. Dare.

“I would if I had time,” answered Bud. “But I’m busy. Any way, that
ain’t the program. I’m just to tell you to get out.”

Mr. Dare laughed outright.

“Put me out,” he said banteringly.

“Jim,” called out Bud, good naturedly, and resuming his work on the
engine, “accommodate the gentleman. He wants to be put out.”

Jim Hoarr, the night watchman, who was curled up in a corner of the
shed, slowly arose and hitched up his trousers. Jim was not tall, but
his tight undershirt exposed such a mass of rounded muscle and chest
that Mr. Dare at once stepped back.

“Wot gent?” asked Jim sleepily, glancing first at Mr. Dare and then at
Attorney Stockwell.

“Bud,” exclaimed Attorney Stockwell angrily, “come here.”

“I’m busy,” said Bud, polishing the engine industriously.

The lawyer stepped over to Bud and caught him by the shoulder. The next
moment, Attorney Stockwell was sliding over the worn and dusty grass
outside the shed and Jim was hurrying back for another victim. But his
services were not needed. Mr. T. Glenn Dare had caught up his coat and
escaped beneath the canvas on the far side of the tent.

With difficulty Bud refrained from laughing. But he ran out after his
foster father.

“I want to apologize for that,” he began. “Jim didn’t understand.”

Attorney Stockwell was boiling with rage.

“I thought you told me you wouldn’t do this again,” he almost shouted,
“for less than fifty dollars a day.”

“Or nothing,” added Bud.

The lawyer’s face grew white.

“You ungrateful whelp,” he almost hissed. “Don’t you set your foot in
my house again.”

“Good-bye,” said Bud indifferently, turning away.

Attorney Stockwell was too full of rage to talk. As Mr. Dare joined
him, they turned and hastened away.

“That’s all we wanted,” said the lawyer at last when he found his
tongue. “Now you’ve got to come back when it’s time to make the flight
and offer to take charge. Have a witness with you, and if they refuse
to accept your services, you have a plain case. I’ll arrange with Judge
Clark to issue a writ this afternoon. As for this watchman, we’ll have
him locked up before night and discharged to boot.”

“How about the kid?” asked the expert.

Attorney Stockwell shook his head ominously.

“I’ll attend to him all right. Never fear as to that.”

Which meant that he was already sorry that he had ordered Bud away from
his house.

Attorney Stockwell represented a type of lawyers found in all small
towns. Without reputation for pronounced legal ability, he undertook
all cases that came his way and what he had told Bud was true; often
enough he gave his services for ten dollars a day when he could get no
more. Therefore, when T. Glenn Dare had called on him that morning and
offered him fifty dollars to protect his interests in the aeroplane
dispute, the lawyer forgot local pride--even overlooked the fact that
he might be called on to take action against his fellow fair directors.

If he had any compunctions on this score, they disappeared when he
learned that President Elder had induced his foster son to accept
service once more without recompense.

“Your redress is very clear,” Attorney Stockwell told Mr. Dare when the
latter explained all the facts in the case. “The contract of sale calls
for one thousand eight hundred dollars for the aeroplane, but it also
stipulates that you are to be employed for six days at fifty dollars a
day. The cost of the machine, is, therefore, two thousand one hundred
dollars. So far, I understand, nothing has been paid on the machine.”

“Not a cent,” explained the representative of the manufacturers. “The
First National Bank guaranteed the payment on the aeroplane proving
satisfactory. I’ve had no chance to demonstrate this.”

“That’s all that is necessary,” sagely commented the lawyer. “If the
directors do not give you that chance this afternoon, we will go before
the county court, secure a writ of replevin, turn it over to the
sheriff, and to-night, a deputy sheriff will levy on the machine. If
the directors do not then comply with their contract, you will have a
right to remove the aeroplane.”

At two-thirty in the afternoon, Mr. Dare reappeared at the fair-grounds,
but he kept aloof from the airship shed until he saw President Elder
appear. To the latter, he formally made application to be permitted to
make the flight.

“You’re four days too late, young man. You didn’t keep your contract,
and we won’t keep ours.”

“Then you refuse?” asked Mr. Dare, turning to the ’bus driver, Doug’
Jackson, who was with the aviator and on a pass which he had at last
secured.

“Is Doug’ your witness?” asked Mr. Elder, smiling.

Doug’ threw out his chest.

“Mr. Stockwell told me to come along,” he explained. “He give me a
pass.”

While this conversation was in progress, Jim Hoarr, the muscular night
watchman, had caught sight of Mr. Dare. Still eager to be of service,
he had approached the group. Seeing him, President Elder laughed.

“Jim,” he said, “Doug’ has a pass that’ll take him out o’ the grounds,
but I think Mr. Dare might like help.”

Before even Jim could get busy, the alarmed aviator had disappeared in
the fast gathering crowd.

A little after three o’clock, Bud made his second flight. The news of
the previous day’s exploit had spread not only through the town but
even into the near-by country, and the crowd was immense. The flight
was not as spectacular as that of the day before, but it was longer and
not less successful. Four times the perfectly working car circled the
half-mile track. The time, taken with great ceremony by the trotting
and running horse judges assembled in their stand, was officially
announced as four minutes. This, considering the turns, was remarkably
fast. Bud offered at the end of the flight to make another short
flight with a passenger but this was vetoed.

Hardly had Bud alighted when two eager figures pushed their way
forward. They were Madame Zecatacas and her son-in-law.

“Look here, Kid,” began the latter at once and extending an awkward
hand, “me an’ the ole lady has come to tell you we’re much obliged to
you.”

“For what?” asked Bud, pretending ignorance.

“Never you mind about that,” continued the man gruffly.

“We’re on all right. They didn’t make no bones about it. You squared it
all right. How ’bout it, ole lady?”

The Gypsy Queen reached out her brown hands, took Bud’s hand in one of
hers and tapped the ring, which he still wore, with the other.

“The Gypsy Queen sees good fortune for the young gentleman. Wear old
Zecatacas’ ring--it will bring good luck. She can give no more.”

Bud was sure he saw tears in the old woman’s eyes; but, pressing his
hand in hers, she said no more.

“It’s all right, Kid,” went on the man, “that means a lot. I’d rather
have it than money. We ain’t got nothin’--we’re poor people, but when
Jack Stanley kin do ye a turn it’ll be done. That’s all.”

How well Jack Stanley and Madame Zecatacas kept their word, Bud soon
found out.

The aeroplane trial at an end, every one seemed to forget Bud. Homeless
at last, he did not care much. So long as his engagement with the fair
officials lasted, he determined to stay in the aeroplane shed, which
he now began to call the “aerodrome.” His only regret was that he had
had no opportunity to say good-bye to Mrs. Stockwell. But he would send
her a letter. Meanwhile, with Mr. Elder’s five dollars in his pocket
to provide for his meals, he whistled at hard luck and counted himself
content.

Yet, as evening came on, the thought of Mrs. Stockwell bothered him.
So long as he belonged in her home, a failure to return at night did
not bother him a great deal. Now that he was not going back again, he
had a longing to tell her “good-bye.” Besides there were a few clothes,
his parents’ pictures, some airship drawings and a couple of books that
he felt he would like to have before Attorney Stockwell might take a
notion to destroy them.

One of these books Bud was determined not to lose. This was a new
story--“In the Clouds for Uncle Sam or Morey Marshall of the Signal
Corps.” Anything relating to aeroplanes interested Bud, and this book
was wholly about the new flying machines, but, in Morey Marshall’s
adventures, he had just reached the most exciting part.

“Whatever happens,” said Bud to himself, “I’ve got to find out what
came of the blue packet Morey found in his father’s old desk and what
happened to Morey and Amos when they ran away from home.”

But it was some days before Bud had a chance to renew his reading of
this tale.

In the early evening, he knew that the lawyer always spent a few hours
“up town.”

Allowing a reasonable time after the usual supper hour, Bud stealthily
approached the Stockwell residence from the rear, and entered the yard
through the garden gate. There was a light in the kitchen, but Mrs.
Stockwell was not there. Tiptoeing around the house, he heard voices on
the porch. One was that of a stranger. But he easily made out that of
the lawyer, too, and he stepped back. Mrs. Stockwell was not in sight.

“I’ll at least get my things,” he said to himself.

Making his way to the grape arbor, he shinned up to the summer kitchen
roof, and, in bare feet, entered his room. Without venturing to strike
a light, he felt around, got the articles he had come for, and then,
stooping in a corner, by the light of a few matches, he wrote a note on
the fly leaf of one of his few books.

    “_Dear Mother Stockwell,” it ran, “your husban’ has drove me
    away, and I got to go, but I’ll be back to see you some time
    you have been good to me and I’ll be good to you when I can so
    no more at presence from_

                                                          “_Bud._”

Opening the book on the table, he softly escaped over the roof. He was
about to drop onto the grape arbor, when voices sounded immediately
beneath him.

“Now, don’t wait for me, Mother,” said one of them--easily distinguished
as that of the lawyer himself. “I’ll be out late on business.”

“’Tain’t about Bud, is it?” asked the other--Mrs. Stockwell.

“No,” sharply replied her husband. “But he caused it. It’s legal
business. You can’t understand it.”

“I wonder why the child don’t come home?” said Mrs. Stockwell.

“Oh, he’ll be home all right. I’m going to send for him. I knew you
would worry about him again, so I told ’em to tell him you wanted to
see him.”

“Cyrus,” added his wife, “I don’t think you’re treatin’ Bud right. He’s
a good boy if he has half a chance.”

“Well,” retorted the lawyer, “you can treat him well to-night by
keepin’ him in after he gets here. I’m goin’ out to the fair-ground
to-night with a deputy sheriff and levy on the aeroplane that’s turned
his head. We got a writ of replevin this afternoon and a deputy sheriff
is goin’ to take the machine for Mr. Dare, who’s out on the front
porch. If Bud gets in the way or interferes, he’ll be locked up for his
pains.”

“Lands sakes, Cyrus, Bud ain’t done no crime, has he?”

“No, but he’s made a fool of himself. And he’s tryin’ to make one o’
me. I’m goin’ up town now for a while, and I reckon I’ll be home ’bout
midnight. You keep Bud here when he comes.”

“I’ll lock him in his room,” exclaimed Mrs. Stockwell nervously.

As the two passed into the kitchen, Bud slipped down onto the arbor,
recovered his shoes, glanced into the empty kitchen, reached into the
window and captured a generous slice of jelly cake from a near-by
table, and was off down the garden path.

By half past eight, he was again on the fair-grounds. He had had a half
hour’s walk in which to think over the thing he had heard. Out of all
the projects that flashed into his busy brain, one only remained. It
was a daring idea, but the more he thought it over, the more determined
he was to execute it. Before going to the “aerodrome,” he went to the
tent of the Gypsy Queen. When he left it, Jack Stanley was with him.

Bud and Madame Zecatacas’ son-in-law made a quick tour among some of
Stanley’s friends, all of whom, after a brief talk, seemed highly
amused. And when Bud at last made his way across the dark enclosure
within the race-track, Jack and four of his husky friends were gathered
in a knot in the shadow of the judges’ stand.

Approaching the aeroplane shed, Bud broke into a run and arrived,
apparently, out of breath.

“Jim,” he panted, “there’s trouble. Go right over to the ticket office
and get Mr. Elder on the telephone. When you get him read him this
message. Got to get busy.”

Finding a piece of paper, Bud laboriously wrote a few lines. Then,
taking the vigilant watchman out into the dark where he could not see
the message until he reached the office nearly a half mile away, Bud
folded the scrap of paper, shoved it into the waiting watchman’s hand
and pushed him forward.

“You’ll watch things while I’m gone?” called the hurrying messenger
over his shoulder.

“You bet I will, Jim. I’ll not leave her. You can trust me.”

As the flying watchman passed the judges’ stand, Jack Stanley and his
pals slipped around the little structure to keep out of his sight, and
then the highly amused group rushed toward the airship shed.

The perspiring Jim had some trouble in getting President Elder on the
wire, but when he did so, he read the fair official this note:

    “_Mr. Eldur_

    “_They have got up a skeme to take the air plane, and I can
    beet em by takin it away where they aint no one knows where it
    is. Dont worry about us, for I ll be on hand promp tomorrow at
    reglar time for the show. Dont have no fear of nuthin for I m
    all O. K._

                                                   “_Bud Wilson._”

When, in response to President Elder’s forceful injunction, Jim, the
watchman, reached the airship shed again, the canvas front was up,
the shed was empty, and only a smell of gasoline told of the stolen
aeroplane.



CHAPTER XI

DUMPED INTO THE MARSH.


Plunging through the dark in an aeroplane, two hundred feet or more
above the earth and in a moonless night, was Bud’s predicament. Up
to that time, at least, neither the Wright Brothers, Mr. Farman, Mr.
Latham, nor Mr. Curtiss had had such an experience. When the chill
night breeze struck the boy’s face and he found himself sailing into
what was like a black cave, for a moment he was panic stricken.

Of course, he had not taken such a hazardous chance without a plan. In
a vague way, he had outlined what he hoped to do. But it was easier to
lay that plan out in his mind while on the firm ground than it was to
put it into execution high up in the impenetrable and chill air.

The thing that almost rattled Bud was the fact that he could not see
the ground. He could not even make out the lines of the fences beneath
him. It was like smoking a cigar in the dark when you can only tell
that it is going by the fire on the end. The lack of vibration in an
aeroplane is most pronounced in the dark. Like a soaring bird, the
ship glides forward with hardly a whirr or rattle to mark its flight.
But the breeze on Bud’s face and the spinning propellers told him he
was advancing, and with the speed of a train.

“I got to strike the Little Town pike first thing,” said Bud to himself
at last, as he began to get his wits together. “If I can’t do that, I’m
up a stump. That’s my only guide to where I got to go.”

The scattered lights of the edge of Scottsville were just rushing
beneath the aeroplane.

“I’ll follow the edge of town to the north,” went on Bud, talking
almost aloud to himself. “When I come to the river and the bridge,
I’ll head north and get down low enough to see the road. That’ll be my
guide.”

Five miles to the north of Scottsville, lay Little Town--three saloons,
a postoffice, a store and an elevator. Northwest from Little Town, a
road reached into the “hills.” In any other part of the country these
hills would have been hardly noticeable. But in Scott County, Indiana,
they were comparatively mountains. Bud knew them as the scenes of many
picnics and excursions.

At Camp’s Mill, about three miles from Little Town on the “hill road,”
where a creek, a mill race and a head-gate afforded small water-power
for a flour and saw mill, a dirt road turned sharply off to the north.
Within a mile and in a thickly wooded region, the “hills” suddenly
opened to enclose a pond. Little Town people called it Camp’s Lake.
Visitors from larger places usually described it as a “frog pond.”

In the spring and summer, the shores of this little body of water--scarce
a quarter of a mile long--were swamps full of cattails and spearmint. As
Bud figured it, the damp, flat vegetation would now be dead and dry. To
this secluded and seldom visited point, the youngster had decided to
attempt to carry the stolen aeroplane. This was not wholly because the
place was far from Scottsville. Bud had figured on all the problems he
would have to face. That of making an ascent the next day bothered him a
good deal more than the concealment of the airship. Here, he thought, he
might be able to put into execution the only device he could figure out
for starting the car on its flight again.

A sudden rumble beneath the car struck on Bud’s ears.

“That’s the bridge,” he said to himself. “It’s a team crossing the
bridge.”

He could not mistake that sound; nor would any other Scottsville boy.
Bridges may look a good deal alike, but no two of them sound alike. The
hollow noise of a wagon on a bridge always strikes the same note. That
note Bud had known for ten years. And, though the structure was out of
sight, the boy brought the aeroplane as sharply about as if it had been
day. It was now a straightaway course of five miles to Little Town due
north.

When the town lights were a half mile or so behind him, the determined
lad inclined his horizontal rudders until the ship sank close enough to
the ground to reveal forms. A little lower, the dusty, white turnpike
unwound beneath him, and then he steadied the craft. Not until then did
he begin to feel somewhat composed.

So far, the only thing that had bothered him was the fear that he might
not be able to get away with the aeroplane successfully. Now he had
time to think of something just as important.

“I wonder what they’ll think?” Bud finally asked himself. Then he
recalled how President Elder had reprimanded him for taking chances
with the car.

“Whew,” whistled the lad, as the thought came back to him, “like as
not, he’ll be sore all over now. And what if I do land her all right
and get her going again to-morrow? I can’t come down at the fair-ground
or the sheriff’ll nab me. I might as well have stayed. If I go back and
give the show and sail away again without landin’--and that’s the only
thing to do--where’ll I go? They can watch me and follow me. I can get
more gasoline somewhere, but I can’t hide out another night with the
sheriff and Mr. Stockwell and Mr. Dare on my track.”

With this new trouble bothering him, he held his course toward Little
Town. Once, like a great, black, groaning bird, he shot over a buggy.
The horse shied, and there were several alarmed imprecations from the
occupants.

“Lucky they didn’t shoot,” thought Bud. “But I can’t fly higher and
know where I am.”

Bud’s selection of Camp’s Lake as a desirable spot for his purpose
showed how familiar he was with the country in all directions about
Scottsville. His familiarity with this particular place was due to the
fact that his father’s farm had been just south of Little Town. Camp’s
Mill and its old-fashioned water wheel had always been Bud’s joy. And
Josh Camp was still one of his boy chums. Or he would have been had
Bud remained near Little Town.

He and Josh had, in earlier years, a firm belief that fish existed in
Camp’s Lake. They had never been able to absolutely prove this, but
many a night’s work with a lantern had proven that, if the pond were
devoid of fish, it was infested with bull frogs of giant girth. The
final argument in bringing the flying boy to his old stamping grounds
was this.

Camp’s Lake, whether lake or pond, was never devoid of water. Even
beyond its margins, the swampy cattail beds oozed moisture. At the head
of the body of water was a spring which flowed ceaselessly. At the foot
of the lake, at one time, the surplus water drained away through the
lower marsh ground to the creek feeding the mill-pond, a mile away at
Camp’s Mill.

As the country cleared up and the supply of water in the creek
became less certain, Josh’s father--who owned the land about Camp
Lake--determined to utilize the supply going to waste there. Accounts
of water storage in western irrigation districts had inspired this.
The last time Bud saw the place, he found that Mr. Camp had dammed up
the spillway at the end of the lake. In the center of the dam, he had
built a head-gate; and, from this, leading over the marsh, he had
constructed a flume about four feet wide leading to the creek below.

“The place behind the hills is a good place to hide,” thought Bud,
reviewing the situation, “the flat shores of the pond are the best
place to land without breaking anything, and the old flume is the best
starting apparatus I can think of.”

He knew there was an old flat-bottom boat and a skiff on Camp’s
Lake. On these, with Josh’s help, if he could get it, and any other
assistance that he could procure, he meant to carry the aeroplane
to the dam. It was a part of his plan to place the flat boat in the
flume. Balancing the aeroplane on this, he was counting on Mr. Camp’s
permission to throw open the head-gate, suddenly flood the flume with
the pent up water, and, as the boat rushed forward, to gain an impetus
that would start him on a new flight.

Bud’s first sight of Little Town was the green railroad switch light
at the settlement limits. He headed toward it, and, cutting out the
village, passed diagonally over the adjacent fields in search of the
road leading to the mill. At first, he missed it. The strain had made
him nervous. Although he had not been in the air over fifteen minutes,
he felt as if he had been up an hour. He had thoughtlessly started in
his shirt sleeves, and was chilled.

Everything seemed so desolate and quiet that there was an almost
compelling temptation to make a descent and trust to luck. But the boy
dismissed the idea, gritted his teeth, and, clutching the levers with
his benumbed fingers, made another attempt to find the dark, winding
country road.

“What am I goin’ to do when I got to strike off over the woods from the
mill?” thought Bud. “This ought to be pie compared to that.”

Dropping lower and lower, the nervous young aviator finally brushed
something light that rattled. He was over a field of corn in the shock.
As he gasped and threw the car upward, again he heard the unmistakable
“thud,” “thud” of a horse’s hoofs. Judging that they were on the unseen
road, he continued his upward flight until he was out of possible
sight, and then altered his course to bring him over the newly located
road.

In a few moments, the sound of the horse and vehicle were far behind.
Then he dropped down again until two dark lines marked the shrubbery
lined lane.

“Now for the old mill,” murmured Bud, greatly relieved.

It does not take long to cover three miles in an aeroplane. Almost
before he could believe it, the sharp turn in the road, the wide
clearing, the dark pile that he knew was the mill, and then the almost
phosphorescent sheen of the dark mill-pond marked the end of the second
stage of Bud’s wild flight.

“If there’s anything in the old gypsy’s ring, I can use it now,”
muttered Bud. “It’s all blind from this on, but I reckon I know the
way. Here goes, any way.”

With a bound upward, Bud headed the aeroplane over the trees beyond the
mill-pond. Three hundred feet over the forest, he steadied the airship.
But only for a moment. All was dark beneath, and yet Bud knew that the
open marsh and lake were just ahead. From that point, he might as well
have closed his eyes. It was all luck and instinct now.

Catching his breath, the boy lowered his horizontal rudders. With
his eyes glued on the seemingly endless black beneath him, he leaned
further and further forward. Twice he started upright, twice he
hesitated, and then, with feverish speed, his hand shot out and shut
off the engine. The propellers died away, but the car plunged ahead
with its speed apparently unchecked.

Lower and lower sank the drifting aeroplane. Again Bud leaned nervously
forward to catch some sign of the margin of the water. What had
happened? He had surely gone a mile! In the still night air came a
sudden splash. With it, rose the guttural honk of a bull frog. The
sound was dead ahead and almost beneath him.

With renewed energy, he swung his vertical rudder lever and the car
drifted quickly to the right. Under the impulse of the turn, it darted
downward. There was a rasping brush against the tall, dry swamp
vegetation and the aeroplane, touching first with its starboard end
on the soft marsh bed, settled with a dragging jolt on the weeds and
grasses.

There was a breaking creak, as the end of the framework struck, but
when Bud knew the flight was at an end he sank back into his seat with
a gulp of relief.

“I’m here,” he sighed, “right among the snakes and frogs. Maybe the
machine’s busted, and maybe not. Anyway, I’ve got a fine long job of
waitin’ for day.”

He was breathing as if he had just finished a race. When he had got
around to normal again, he made an attempt to get his bearings. With
his hands on the framework, he crawled from the car. His feet sank into
the soft ground and water oozed into his deep foot prints. Then he
listened. He fancied he heard the soft lap of water just ahead. That
meant the lake. But it was useless to try to reach it. The margin led
nowhere and it would be softer than where he was.

A good deal of the romance of his adventure disappeared at once. It was
exciting enough to navigate an aeroplane through the pathless black
sky; but it was far from interesting or comfortable to sit up all night
with the chill air benumbing his coatless body and keep sleepless
company with bugs, frogs and snakes in a damp marsh.

“And I ain’t goin’ to,” exclaimed Bud. “The marsh gets softer toward
the lake, but it gets firmer toward the hill.”

He debated and hesitated for an hour, growing colder and more miserable
all the time, and then, in desperation, he got stiffly out of the chair
on which he had been cramped and plunged through the bog toward the
high ground.

The mucky swamp was bad enough and, more than once, Bud thought
himself hopelessly mired. But in the end, exhausted, his face and hands
scratched with the weeds he had fallen against and his trousers and
shoes a coat of clayey black mud, he fell over a boulder and tumbled
out onto dry land.

What turned out to be as great a strain was the effort to make his
way through the woods to Camp’s Mill. Bud was no coward, but there is
something about a journey at midnight through an owly, twig-snapping
wood that is apt to give any one the creeps. When the double darkness
of the thick trees finally gave way to a more open gloom, and Bud knew
the Camp home was somewhere just ahead, he broke into a dead run, a
cold perspiration thick all over his body.

And, as he at last found the gate of Josh’s home and a deep-barking
dog lunged at him, he was about ready to pronounce Madame Zecatacas’
ring a failure. But his troubles for the night were over. Josh’s
father, responding to the watchdog’s bark, demanded to know what was
wanted. In a few moments, Bud was taken in. It was hard to explain the
situation, but Bud’s condition was almost explanation enough. In an
hour, refreshed with milk, bread and butter and cold ham, the airship
thief was put to sleep in the spare room.



CHAPTER XII

THE ROMNEY RING BRINGS NEWS.


“Hello, Josh. What time is it?” called Bud, sticking his head out of
the window of the spare room. The sun was high in the sky, and Bud,
just awake, had caught sight of his friend crossing the dooryard with a
milk pail in his hand.

“Time the milkin’ was over,” answered Josh. “But I ain’t had hardly no
time yet. I been over to see her, Bud. She’s a jim dandy.”

Bud, in Josh’s rough but freshly ironed night shirt, leaned further
out of the window. His eyes were yet blinking, but the mention of
“her” brought him to his full senses at once. He had slept late, worn
with the exertion and strain of the night before, and Mr. Camp had not
awakened him. The near-by mill was already groaning with its daily
grist, and breakfast was undoubtedly over.

“She ain’t broke anywhere is she?” asked Bud eagerly.

“How’d I know? I been down there to the lake, but you don’t reckon I
been over where she is? But she looks fine as silk.”

“You’ve got to help me to-day, Josh,” went on Bud, beginning to skin
off his chum’s long night gown.

Josh had come up to the window and was peering into the sacred
precincts of the spare room.

“That’s what I calklated,” he said, setting down his steaming milk
pail. “An’ that’s why I didn’t dig over in the mud when I was down to
see her. We got trompin’ enough ’thout lookin’ for more.”

The bedroom was cool and grateful; the high feather bed, with its blue
and white tasseled counterpane looked more than tempting, but Bud had
only two thoughts now--he smelled frying ham, and he was anxious to see
whether his airship was injured.

“Where’s my clothes?” he exclaimed, looking for them in vain.

“Oh, yes, I forgot,” explained Josh. “They’re dryin’. You can’t wear
them pants afore noon. I dunno as yo’ kin wear ’em then.”

“But my shoes?”

“Them’s as bad. We got oats in ’em dryin’ ’em out. Mother washed your
pants first thing this mornin’.”

Bud laughed.

“That’s mighty good o’ you folks. But I can’t stay here. I got a lot
to do. I mean _we_ have.”

“We figured that all out,” laughed Josh. “Your things’ll be dry by
noon. This mornin’ yo’ kin have my plow shoes an’ ole mill pants.”

When Bud emerged from the dustless and spotless bedroom to go to the
basin bench out near the well, he was attired as if for a masquerade.
Josh’s pants were so long that they had to be rolled up, and his old
shoes were much too large. After a good wash up and an elaborate
combing of his hair, he responded to Mrs. Camp’s smiling call to
breakfast.

“It certainly is good fur sore eyes,” commented Josh’s mother as Bud
sat down to breakfast--all alone--“to see Bud Wilson agin. I ain’t seen
hide n’r hair o’ you in ten year, I reckon. An’ how air ye?”

Bud, between mouthfuls of fried ham, biscuits and pancakes, told of his
life since he went to live with Attorney Stockwell. It took some time.

“An’ who’s on your pa’s farm?” asked Mrs. Camp.

Bud shook his head.

“I guess it’s been sold,” he ventured.

“Must a brought a good price,” suggested Mrs. Camp. “It was a good
piece o groun’, as I recollec’.”

Bud shook his head again.

“I don’t know,” he said, his mouth full of cakes and maple syrup, “like
as not. Only I didn’t see none o’ the money ef it was.”

Mrs. Camp eyed him closely. Then she shook her head in turn.

“I reckon ye ain’t old enough yet to be told. But somepins comin’ to
you, Bud. Don’t ye fergit that. It was a good piece o’ land and it’d
bring a good price.”

“Oh, that’ll work out all right,” laughed Bud, with boyish
indifference--but drinking in every one of Mrs. Camp’s words just the
same. “This charm is goin’ to bring me good luck.”

Then he explained the part that Madame Zecatacas, the Gypsy Queen,
had played in his recent experiences, and exhibited his ring. At that
moment, Josh’s father, Mr. Camp--“Stump” Camp--as he was generally
known, entered the kitchen from the mill. He was a small man, with
large and bushy tobacco-stained whiskers and considerable curiosity.
Bud repeated the story of the ring.

“Jack _Stanley_,” exclaimed Mr. Camp with a hearty guffaw. “Why, I’m
sprized, Bud, ye don’t know him. He ain’t no gypsy, an’ he ain’t no
Stanley, ’though all them horse traders give out they’re gypsies, an’
most o’ ’em say they’re Stanleys. You know him, Mother,” he said,
turning to his wife. “He’s ole Bill Reed’s boy ’at run off with Red
Stanley’s gang. I knowed ’em all. Red Stanley’s wife set up fur a great
fortune teller, an’ she had a sign sayin’ she was Madame Somepin or
Ruther.”

“Madame Zecatacas?” interrupted Bud.

“That’s it,” said Mr. Camp. “I seen her three years ago to the fair.
I knowed ’em all. They traded through this country a good many years.
They used to camp over nigh Little Town. That’s where John Reed, old
Bill Reed’s boy, fell in with Stanley’s girl, an’ followed the gang
away.”

“Shore,” commented Mrs. Camp, “I recollec’. And want it ole man Reed
’at sold that sixty acres to Bud’s pa?”

Mr. Camp knit his brows a moment, expectorated slowly into the wood
box, and then nodded his head.

“How ’bout that, Bud?” he exclaimed suddenly. “How did that trouble
’bout your pa’s farm ever come out?”

“I didn’t know there was any trouble about it,” answered Bud. “What do
you mean?”

Mr. Camp looked surprised. Then he slapped his knee.

“Bud,” he almost chuckled, “you hang onto that ring and hang on to John
Reed, or ‘Jack Stanley’ as he calls hisself. Ef I ain’t mistook, he kin
do ye some good.”

Bud was alert.

“I feel it in my bones he is goin’ to help me somehow. What is it?”

“I kin see that lawyer as took ye in never told you. But everybody
up this way knows the facks. I ain’t desirin’ to make no trouble fur
nobody, and may be ’tain’t my say, but facks is facks.”

“You mean ’bout the deed?” interrupted the rotund Mrs. Camp, who was
one of those country women who know what is going on around them.

Mr. Camp nodded his head. Then he scratched his chin through his
luxuriant whiskers and remarked, in a slow, judicial tone:

“Bud, when your pa bought that sixty acres o’ ole man Reed, he give
eighty dollars a acre fur it. Bein’ a easy-goin’ man not used to that
sort o’ business, he took the deed and stuck it away when he ought a’
took it to the courthouse an’ recorded it. One day when your ma’s
cousin, Lawyer Stockwell, was visitin’ him and he was complainin’, they
took out the papers an’, lo an’ behold, they discivered that Mrs. Reed,
ole Bill’s wife, hadn’t jined in the transfer.”

“The lawyer took the paper, as your pa told me more’n onct, fur I
knowed him well, an’ set out to get Mrs. Reed’s name to the dockyment.
That’d been easy enough like as not on’y it was jest about the time
Mrs. Reed and Bill fell out and sepyrated. She’d gone to Indinoplis
and afore the lawyer could ketch her, she was off to Calyfornee. Mr.
Stockwell went clean out there to find her onct, but he never did.”

Bud remembered the time. It was just after his father’s death. But his
foster father had never told him that the trip concerned him or his
father’s farm.

“What difference did that make?” asked Bud.

“Made jest this. Ole Bill Reed died, and there wa’nt really no good
deed to your pa. He was dead, too, then. The place was yours because
your pa paid for it with hard cash, but the title was bad. Ain’t no one
ever goin’ to buy the place from you--an’ its worth a hundred dollars a
acre now o’ any man’s money, lessen you go get your title cleared up.”

Bud smiled.

“That all sounds right,” he said, “and I reckon I ought to understand
it. But I don’t.”

Mr. Camp laughed, too, and looked at his wife.

“Lawyer Stockwell understands it all right, mother,” he said chuckling.
“It’s this way, Son. There’s only two persons who kin give you a clean
title to that land which you heired from your pa. An’ that’s them as is
Ole Bill Reed’s heirs. An’ ef you want to know who them air, it’s Jack
Stanley an’ his wife.”

Bud sat up trying to understand.

“Ef any one has claims on that farm besides you,” Mr. Camp continued,
“it’s John Reed and his wife. An’ they ain’t got no genoine claim
except to do the fair and square thing and that’s what ole Bill and his
wife didn’t. Ef they’re your friends, they’ll do it. An’ when they do
an’ give you a deed to what your pa hones’ly paid fur, Bud Wilson’ll
have as clean an’ tidy a bit o’ ground as they is in Scott County.”

The boy’s brow was wrinkled.

“You say my foster father understands? What do you mean? How is he
interested in all this?”

“Far be it from me to make reflections,” said Mr. Camp slowly, “but
lawyers has more tricks an’ one. I ain’t sayin’ he’d do it. But what
ef he or some one else’d buy that sixty acres o’ Jack Stanley. Where’d
you come in?”

“I see,” answered Bud, “but I can’t think you’re right. Any way,” he
added, “I’ll keep my eyes open. As for this,” and he whirled the dull,
brassy circle on his finger, “I guess it’s workin’ all right. It ain’t
brought me anything bad yet--exceptin’ my muddy pants and the swamp.”

Mr. Camp’s return to the house had been prompted by curiosity. When Bud
had asked a few more questions about his father and the farm, Mr. Camp
suggested that it would be well to hurry to the stranded aeroplane.

“Will you help me?” asked Bud eagerly.

“Will we?” answered Josh, speaking for his father and himself. “When a
real show comes right out here in our front yard without no charge to
see it--I guess we’ll see it ef we have to shet down the mill.”

“It’s most as good as goin’ to the fair,” chuckled his father.

Mrs. Camp gave a sigh of disappointment.

“You ain’t a goin’ to miss it, Mrs. Camp,” spoke up Bud promptly. “I’m
goin’ to start back to town about twenty minutes of three o’clock. You
be waitin’ out in the yard. I’ll sail right over the house. Don’t be
scared if I come close to you. I’ll do it so you can see the airship.”

“I jes can’t nacherly believe it,” exclaimed the good-natured woman.

“And if you’ll let me, I’ll come back and stay with you again
to-night,” added Bud. “That is, if you’ll let me pay for my board an’
lodgin’.”

“Pay?” exclaimed Mrs. Camp indignantly.

“Come on and quit your foolish talk,” added her husband.

A curious and laughable sight in his borrowed clothes, Bud, Josh and
Mr. Camp set out for the lake.

“She’s right down among the cattails,” explained Josh. “An’ mighty nigh
in the pond. You had a close call a gittin’ ducked.”

This was true, as Bud soon discovered. The day was fine, with only
a light September haze in the air. Standing on the slope of the
hill--which completely concealed the machine from a possible traveler
on the wood road--Bud and the two Camps began speculating on the best
way to approach the aeroplane. No one was anxious to plow through the
deep mire of the swamp unless it was necessary. The solution was easy.

The skiff and flat boat were moored at the bottom of the pond near the
closed head-gate. To reach these, there was a board path or footway
running along the flume from the creek. A half mile detour brought the
party there. In a few moments more, they were all at the dam and the
boats. Bud had explained his plans for moving the aeroplane by loading
it onto the boats and floating it to the head of the flume. Mr. Camp
reckoned the project feasible.

But, when the two boats had been brought as near the stranded machine
as they would float, and Bud, stripped of his trousers, underclothes,
shoes and socks, had crawled through the weeds and mud to the airship,
his fears were realized. Although the starboard end of the car was
partly buried in the mud, the keen-eyed lad at once discovered that the
bottom cross piece of the frame was broken.

Making further examination of the craft, his eye fell upon the gasoline
tank. A sudden alarm came over him. He knew he had enough fuel to carry
him safely back to the fair-grounds; but that would not suit all his
needs. He meant to return to the fair, give the advertised exhibition
by flying three times around the race-track, and then escape once more.
If he could do this, he would keep the aeroplane hidden until the next
day, which was Saturday. When he returned that day, he would come down.
The fair would be over.

But to do this meant more gasoline. He returned to his waiting friends
and reported. There was a hasty consultation, and this program was
agreed upon: Josh was to hook up a horse to the spring wagon and
proceed at once to Little Town for five gallons of gasoline; Bud was
to return to the mill and secure a few pieces of wood and some wire to
repair the broken cross piece; Mr. Camp was to stay by the aeroplane
and clear away the interfering weeds as well as he could.

“And,” volunteered Mr. Camp, as the boys left, “sense we’re all a
goin’ to be workin’ purty hard this mornin’ tell Mother to get us up
a pot-pie dinner with mashed potatoes. Ef any one asts fur me at the
mill, tell ’em we’re shet down.”



CHAPTER XIII

A UNIQUE STARTING DEVICE.


“Anyway,” exclaimed Bud, after he had returned with his supplies and
made another examination of the aeroplane, “the engine is in good
shape. The landing skids kept it above the weeds and it’s as dry as a
bone.”

Half naked, the boy went to work on the airship, and, with no little
annoyance from mosquitoes and sunburn, he soon had the broken
cross-piece mended.

Meanwhile, the two mill hands had managed to secure a couple of
substantial fence planks, each about ten feet long. While Bud tested
each brace in the car--fortunately the front and rear rudders and the
two propellers escaped without a scratch--Mr. Camp and his hands beat
down the tangle of cattails and flags. By using the fence boards to
walk on, a temporary tramway was made and when the busy young aviator
was ready to move his car, the planks were laid ready for the first
ten-foot lift.

“Now then,” called out Mr. Camp, as the three men and Bud took their
places, “right up to yer shoulder and then all together.”

With Mr. Camp and Bud in front and the others just behind them--all
standing on the narrow boards--they slowly raised the frame into the
air. At the end of the improvised walk, the car was gently eased to
the beaten-down weeds and the boards were shoved forward. Again, the
aeroplane was lifted and carried another ten feet. The next lift would
bring the frame to the water’s edge.

Before this was made, Bud lined up the two boats about fifteen feet
apart and anchored them between oars and sticks stuck in the mud. Then,
every one removing his shoes and trousers, the airship squad got its
shoulders under the machine once more, and, splashing and slipping in
the shallow water and mud, carefully laid the aeroplane on the boats.

“This is all new business to me,” said Mr. Camp, slapping at the
mosquitoes, thick on his unprotected legs, “but I’m ketchin’ on. An’ I
got an idee a’ready,” he added knowingly. “I see what you’re figgerin’
on, Bud. Ef ye git back here to-night, don’t land on the marsh. Ef
ye’ll jest make a landin’ over yender on the slope o’ the hill ye can
git out o’ all this trouble.”

“But I’d have as much trouble gettin’ the car over to the flume to
raise it again,” suggested Bud.

“That’s where you’re mistaken, an’ that’s where my idee comes in. I
reckon ye _kin_ start in the flume, but that’s fur frum bein’ the
easiest way.”

“What would you do?” asked Bud, with rather a patronizing smile.

“Well, as I figger it out,” said Mr. Camp, parting his flowing beard
to expectorate, “all ye want is a run fur yer money. There’s more ways
o’ gettin’ a runnin’ start than on a boat. When you git back to-night,
I’ll have an old spring wagon I got up thar nigh the top o’ the hill.
An’ I’ll have her greased good an’ plenty. Tomorrer we’ll put the
flying-machine on the wagon an’ Josh in the shafts. When he gits goin’
down hill ef he don’t beat this ole flat-boat I’m a liar.”

“Mr. Camp,” laughed Bud, approvingly, “if it wasn’t for gettin’ the
aeroplane over the marsh and on the hill, I’d try it to-day. That’s a
bird of a way.”

“Oh, I’m purty handy that away,” remarked the mill owner in a satisfied
tone.

Mr. Camp and one of the men climbed into the boats to balance the long
frame, while the other man and Bud, keeping within wading distance of
the shore, began the task of pushing the boats the quarter of a mile
or more to the dam. Before they reached the lower end of the pond,
Josh could be seen making his way laboriously up the plank walk along
the flume, pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with the wood-encased can of
gasoline.

It was nearly noon, and, by the time the aeroplane had been lifted
from its floating foundation and deposited safely upon the clay dam or
levee, the distant but welcome sound of Mr. Camp’s dinner bell could be
heard.

“There don’t seem to be any risk in leaving it here,” suggested Bud.
“There isn’t a living thing in sight except birds. And, anyway, I’ve
got to get my clothes, to say nothing of that chicken potpie.”

“I don’t know about that,” said Josh doubtfully. “Mebbe I better stay.
They been a telephonin’ ever’ where ’bout a lost flyin’ machine.
Somebody called up the store in Little Town this mornin’ while I was
there, astin’ ef any one had heerd o’ a lost flyin’ machine.”

Bud showed some alarm.

“Don’t be skeered, son,” exclaimed Mr. Camp. “Thet ain’t because they
think it’s up this way. They probable been telephonin’ all over the
county.”

It was finally agreed that Josh should remain on guard, and that his
dinner should be brought to him. After getting into their clothes, the
others started for the house. On the way, Bud was in a deep study. He
had no concern about his return to the fair-ground and no fear but
what he would give a successful exhibition, but what was to follow?
Certainly Attorney Stockwell and Mr. Dare and the deputy sheriff would
be on the watch for him.

And, if they were looking out for the stolen aeroplane, they would
not only see it approaching, but they would see the direction it took
on leaving. On a fast horse, a man might almost keep close enough on
the track of the retreating car to see it come down. After that, it
might be only a question of a few hours search. You can’t well hide a
forty-foot wide expanse of white canvas.

“Mr. Camp,” said Bud, at last, as they hurried along over the wood
road, “you figured out that starting apparatus so well, maybe you can
help me out of some other trouble.”

He related his predicament as he saw it. The old man wagged his jaws
and stroked his long whiskers.

“Gimme a little time,” he replied at last. “That’s a purty tough
problem, but mebbe I kin git some answer to it.”

At the house, it was like a holiday.

“Seems jes like Sunday with the mill shet down,” remarked Mrs. Camp,
opening a can of pickled pears. “You all git ready right away. Dinner’s
all dryin’ up.”

Bud changed his clothes--Mrs. Camp had even pressed his pants--and
the four men soused and scrubbed themselves, and all took turns with
the hanging comb. Then they filed in to dinner. It wasn’t a question
of light or dark meat of the chicken with Mr. Camp when he served the
pot-pie. The half spoon and half dipper plunged into the smoking soup
tureen came up charged with gravy, dumplings and meat. Into the center
of this, went the mashed potatoes, with butter melting on top of the
pile.

In the midst of the dinner, Mr. Camp suddenly balanced his knife on his
hand, struck the table with the butt of his fork and exclaimed:

“I’ve got her, Bud.”

“Got what, Pa?” broke in Mrs. Camp, nervously, as she sprang up and
looked into the pot-pie bowl.

Her husband smiled, pounded the table again, and went on:

“Sure as shootin’, Bud, them fellers is agoin’ to foller you. Mebbe
you could go right back there to the lake an’ never be discivered, and
mebbe not. ’Tain’t no use takin’ chances. Jest you hold yer horses,
finish yer pie, an’ I’ll put a bug in yer ear.”

“You’ve got a way to hide me?” exclaimed Bud eagerly.

“I hev that. An’ it’s simple as A. B. C.”

With most profuse thanks to Mrs. Camp for all she had done for him
and many promises to come and see her later if anything prevented
his return that night, Bud took farewell of his hostess. The men had
already left with Josh’s dinner. Out in the open space between the
dooryard and the mill, Mr. Camp, helping himself to an ample supply of
Kentucky twist, explained to Bud the details of his plan for concealing
the aeroplane that night. It did not have to be told twice. The
exuberant boy chuckled with delight.

“Mr. Camp,” exclaimed Bud, “if I ever get my farm, I’m goin’ to buy an
aeroplane. It’s goin’ to be a two-seater, too. An’ the first passenger
’at rides with me’ll be you.”

“Well, sir,” replied the farmer mill owner, twisting a lock of his
whiskers about his horny finger and shaking his head, “don’t you worry
about me bein’ afeered.”

It wasn’t an hour after the working squad reached the dam and head
gates again until the aeroplane was ready for flight. The gasoline tank
was full, the oil cups were charged and the engine--to the joy of Mr.
Camp and his hands--had been tested and found in order. The flat boat
had been lifted over the head-gate and was on the flume ready to dart
away upon the rushing flood of water when the head-gate was raised.
Finally, the bird-like framework had been balanced on the thwarts of
the flat boat, and nothing remain but to wait for the time to start.

It was then a quarter after two o’clock. Nearly a half hour remained
before leaving time. In spite of the plan proposed by Mr. Camp, Bud,
it was further suggested, ought to lose no opportunity to mislead his
almost certain pursuers. This meant that he should arrange his flight
from the fair-grounds so that he would head west. That would take him
away from Scottsville and toward a bit of low ground about four miles
west of the fair-ground. Both sides of this were heavily timbered.

“Ef ye kin git down thar in the ‘slashins’ afore they git too clost to
ye,” explained Mr. Camp, “an’ it ain’t too dangersome to git clost to
the groun’, ye kin make a quick turn an’ shoot along in the valley till
ye come to the ole Little Town road. An’ that’ll take ye furder in the
hills. Like as not ye kin git clean away unbeknownst to ’em.”

“I’ll try it,” exclaimed Bud. “But I reckon it don’t matter much. We
got ’em cinched if I ever get back here. And I’ll be here about a
quarter to four,” he added.

Mr. Camp’s plan did credit to the old man’s ingenuity. This is how he
explained it to Bud:

“Ye see the saw house down there?” he began. “Well, sir, ’at’s fifty
feet long, or more. An’ ye see that track? They’s a car ’at runs on
that to haul the logs into the shed to be sawed. When ye git back,
ye’ll come right here and land afore the mill. Me an’ Josh an’ the
hands’ll be waitin’ an’ the log car’ll be all ready. Afore ye kin say
Jack Robison, we’ll have thet flying-machine on the log car an’ in the
shed.”

“And the doors closed,” added Bud enthusiastically.

“Not by no means. That would be suspicious like ’cause they ain’t never
shet. This afternoon, they’ll be two pulleys rigged up in the comb o’
the shed all ready to yank the flyin’-machine up agin the roof--clear
o’ the car.”

“But they’ll see it!”

“They’ll be some pieces o’ timber all sawed to run acrost under the
machine like as if it was a kind of a second floor. An’ they’ll be
plenty o’ loose boards all stacked to lay on them jice. I been kind o’
needin’ a attic there any way,” laughed the grizzled mill owner. “An’
ef them jice is old timber an’ the floor is old boards, I reckon ain’t
no one goin’ to suspicion it’s all been made suddent like. An’ it don’t
’pear to me any one’s goin’ to take the trouble to look up in the attic
fur no airplane.”

It was at this point that Bud had chuckled. Then his enthusiasm cooled.

“How about getting another start?” he asked suddenly.

Mr. Camp chuckled in turn.

“Didn’t I tell you about the hill and the spring wagon and Josh for a
engine?”

“And we’ll carry it over there?”

[Illustration: THE START FROM THE FLUME.]

“The log wagon can be made thirty feet long,” drawled Mr. Camp with
another laugh. “We’ll haul it there like one o’ them poles they raise
at the rallies.”

As these details were gone over again, the old mill owner kept a close
eye on his thick silver watch. At twenty-five minutes of three, he
arose with the importance of Dewey at Manila.

“Well, Bud,” he exclaimed, extending his gnarled hand--his jaws working
vigorously, as they always did in moments of excitement, “time’s up.
An’ good luck to ye.”

It was an exhilarating moment for Bud. Stationing Josh and one of the
men at either end of the balanced airship, he knocked the block from
under the front of the flat boat, while the other mill hands held the
stern of the boat. Then, tightening his hat, Bud took his seat, and
rapidly tested all levers.

“Hold on, boys,” he said soberly, “until I yell ‘Go.’”

“Air ye all ready?” exclaimed Mr. Camp standing over the head-gate with
the lever that swung it up in his hand.

Bud turned in his seat, set the engine going, and then watched the
propellers begin to whirl. As their speed increased and the car began
to tremble, he said in a low voice to Mr. Camp:

“Turn her on!”

As the heavy-muscled man threw himself upon the lever and the gates
slowly rose, the banked up water rolled out beneath them like a wave
of oil. As the released flood shot under the car, Bud was firm in
his seat, both hands on the levers. There was a bob of the flat boat
upward, and the boy shouted, “Go!”

For a moment only, the boat seemed to pause like a chip on the brink
of an angry waterfall, and then, carried upon the crest of the new
torrent, it shot forward like a rock falling. There was time only for
a few swift blows on the sides of the flume, and then the aeroplane,
rising from the impetus of its unique flight, leaped forward and began
to rise. Bud did not turn, but he waved his hand in jubilation. The
airship was safely afloat.



CHAPTER XIV

AN EXHIBITION UNDER DIFFICULTIES.


It would require considerable space to describe what took place when
President Josiah Elder reached the fair-ground, after receiving Bud’s
message, and found the airship shed empty. A good share of his anger he
took out on poor Jim Hoarr, the watchman. And yet, Jim could give no
better explanation than that Bud Wilson had suddenly appeared, out of
breath, a short time before, handed him the message, and sent him on
the run to the telephone in the ticket office.

Mr. Elder then read the message at first hand. After that, while he
still berated the watchman, he began to think. What did it all mean?
Who were “they?” And why were “they” attempting to take the aeroplane.
After all, it could mean only one thing. It must mean Mr. Dare. The
angered expert was probably up to some trick. And if he was, the thing
had probably not yet been attempted. Sending his horse and buggy away,
the fair official withdrew to the airship shed, dropped the front
curtain, lit a cigar and sat down to await developments. Under a box,
he hid a lighted lantern.

About ten o’clock he was rewarded. Under instructions, the watchman
remained quiet, when stealthy footsteps approached and the front
curtain was raised. Waiting until three figures had crawled into the
shed, Mr. Elder suddenly drew his lantern from its shelter. Before him
stood the discomfited Attorney Stockwell, Mr. T. Glenn Dare and the
deputy sheriff.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” exclaimed the waiting president. “Anything I
can do for you?”

Attorney Stockwell put on a bold front. At the same time, he looked
about in open surprise. The aeroplane was gone.

“We’re here on an order of the Court, Josiah,” began the lawyer. “I’ve
been retained by Mr. Dare to protect his rights.”

“What rights?”

“That’s not for me to pass on. It’s in the hands of the Court. Mr. Dare
has made affidavit that the aeroplane we bought hasn’t been paid for,
and that he’s entitled to its possession. The Court, so far, agrees
with him. The officer of the Court is here with a writ to take charge
of the apparatus.”

“All right,” replied Mr. Elder. “Help yourself.”

“It isn’t necessary for me to say this is no laughing matter, Josiah.
It ain’t what you and me think. The Court has ordered the sheriff to
take charge of the machine.”

“I recognize the power of the Court,” responded the president. “I
shan’t interfere.”

“If you knew of this writ and have concealed Mr. Dare’s property, of
course, you know you can be cited for contempt.”

“I didn’t know of it, and I haven’t concealed the aeroplane,” answered
Mr. Elder, with a smile.

“Where is it?” demanded the lawyer.

Mr. Elder shook his head.

“Some one stole it,” he added, with an increasing smile.

“Stole it?” exclaimed the lawyer and Mr. Dare together.

“This is all I know about it,” added Mr. Elder. “And you are entitled
to know it, too, as a director of the fair.”

He handed the perplexed and angry lawyer Bud’s note. Attorney Stockwell
read it, Mr. Dare looking over his shoulder. When he had finished, the
lawyer, white with sudden anger, folded the bit of paper and put it
into his vest pocket.

“You’ll notice, Stockwell, that that note is addressed to me.”

“I’ll just keep it as evidence. It may come in handy.”

Mr. Elder slowly put his lantern on the ground and then stepped close
to the lawyer’s side. Holding out his hand he said, in a tone that made
Jim, the watchman, also step forward:

“Hand me that note.”

The lawyer stepped back. Then he weakened. Drawing the scrap of paper
from his pocket, he handed it to his fellow director.

“Are you backin’ him up in this?”

“Stockwell,” answered Mr. Elder, “in the last two or three days, I’ve
seen a good deal of your adopted son, and to-night, I’ve seen a good
deal of you. I don’t know any more about what Bud has done or is going
to do than this note tells. But I do know this. From this time on, when
it comes to ‘backin’ him up, I think I’ll back him in any fight he
makes against you.”

“Thank you,” sneered the lawyer. “All I can say is, you’re goin’ to
have your hands full. An’ you can begin your meddlin’ just the minute
this young thief lands on these grounds to-morrow. He’ll be arrested
and charged with larceny. If you interfere, I’ll give you all the fight
you want.”

Mr. Elder turned to the silent expert.

“I ought to tell you, Mr. Dare,” he said, ignoring the lawyer’s threat,
“that I telegraphed to your company to-day all the facts concerning
your conduct. I also sent them a draft for the cost of the aeroplane,
minus your fee. If they won’t settle on that basis, you are welcome to
the property.” Then he laughed, “The next time you have a job like this
and think you can come a confidence game on the country jakes, you’d
better select some town that hasn’t a Bud Wilson in it.”

“Come on, Mr. Dare,” said Attorney Stockwell pompously, “this fight’s
just began. We’ll have our innings to-morrow. There’ll be no exhibition
of our property on Saturday, at least. And that’s the big day.”

“If there isn’t,” replied Mr. Elder, good naturedly, “it’ll be the
first day your foster son has fallen down. He seems a little swift for
you, Cyrus.”

Before Mr. Elder could say more, the lawyer and his two companions
stalked out of the shed.

It was always a question in Scottsville, whether Friday or Saturday
would be the banner day at the fair. From the looks of the grounds
at ten o’clock the next morning, it was apparent that either the
fine weather, good crops, or the aeroplane was working wonders.
The enclosure was packed. Men, women and children swayed back and
forth; ice cream, candy, “hoky poky,” peanuts, toy balloons, whips,
“tin-types,” photographs, dusty shoes all told that the fair was
in full swing. The “Wheel of Fortune” operators; the barkers at
the “side shows;” the cries of the hatted Wild West young men who
besought onlookers to “hit a baby and get a seegar,” or informed
others vociferously that “the cane you ring is the cane you get,” made
a hubbub the endless keynote of which was the shrill organ at the
“merry-go-round.”

“She’ll run twelve thousand people to-day,” suggested Superintendent
Perry to President Josiah Elder as the two came out of the ticket
office.

“And half of ’em are here to see our flyin’-machine,” answered Mr.
Elder. “What do you ’spose that kid’s expectin’ to do?”

“What are _you_ expectin’ to do?” answered the superintendent, with
a half smile. “Ye don’t need to fear but he’ll be here. But after
his show--what then? Ye kin be sure Stockwell’ll be ready to grab the
outfit. An’ then--how about to-morrow?”

Mr. Elder shook his head. Then he explained to Mr. Perry what the
directors had done in the matter of offering to settle with the
manufacturers.

“We’ve telegraphed them that our eighteen hundred dollars is on the
way, and told ’em how this expert o’ theirs fell down. We’re expectin’
an answer any time to-day callin’ him off. If it don’t come, we’ll
fight ’em as best we can. But we’re all agreed we ain’t a goin’ to be
held up. We won’t pay Mr. T. Glenn Dare one cent. He can break up the
show to-morrow, but we won’t weaken.”

At two o’clock it looked as if another person could hardly be crowded
into the fair-grounds--at least, not near the exhibition buildings and
concession tents. With the first tap of the bell in the judge’s stand,
like a field of snow slipping in a body down a mountain side, the
heaving mass of humanity moved toward the race track. The five hundred
dollar purse for the two-twenty pace marked the big feature of the
speed contests and a new record was set for “grandstand” receipts.

But three men were not concerning themselves with this event. Sitting
complacently together, on a knoll under the only trees within the race
track, were Attorney Cyrus Stockwell, T. Glenn Dare, the aviator, and
Deputy Sheriff Pusey. They were waiting to see how Bud Wilson was going
to keep his word. One heat of the big race, delayed as usual, had been
run, and the first heat of the next event “green trotters without a
record” had been disposed of when two other men left the judges’ stand
and made their way toward the empty airship shed or “aerodrome.” These
were President Elder and Superintendent Perry. They were the reverse of
complacent.

It was only a few minutes of three o’clock and the space about the
aeroplane house was black with people. Jim Hoarr, the watchman, keeping
the canvas front of the shed closed to conceal the fact that there was
no aeroplane within the house, wondered what would happen when the
curious crowd learned that the house about which they were crowded was
empty.

As the packed spectators gave way before Superintendent Perry’s badge,
Attorney Stockwell and his friends fell in the wake of the president
and superintendent. The little party reached the shed together.

“Good afternoon, Josiah,” exclaimed the lawyer, touching his fellow
director on the arm. “You see we’re right on time. I hope Bud makes
good his promise.”

Mr. Elder scowled.

“If he don’t,” continued Attorney Stockwell, “what explanation are you
going to make? I see you have quite an audience.”

He waved his hand about him, to include perhaps ten thousand persons
who had paid their money to see the airship.

Mr. Elder looked at his watch, swept the horizon with his eyes and
scowled again. It was just three o’clock. “I reckon you’re in it
as deep as I am, as far as the crowd knows,” the president finally
replied, in a low voice. “I--”

A sudden murmur ran through the surging crowd. Mr. Elder paused and
looked quickly about. He saw nothing approaching, but before he could
continue, an arm shot out from the field of spectators and pointed
almost directly overhead. Then the mass of people began to melt away
with thousands of “Ahs,” and “Ohs” and “There she comes.”

At least fifteen hundred feet in the air, Bud’s stolen aeroplane
was rushing forward to make its advertised exhibition. Where it had
come from, no one seemed to know. Not one of the men most interested
had seen it until that moment, and it was swooping down upon the
fair-grounds as if it had come from above the clouds. So high was it
that, at the angle it was traveling, it had to pass over the grounds.
The sight set the crowd off in a frenzy of excitement. In a cloud of
dust, the eager spectators ran forward as if to follow the aeroplane.
In its wake were the lawyer, his client, and the deputy sheriff.

Mr. Elder stood as if transfixed.

“I guess I’ll wait developments right here,” he said, turning to Jim
Hoarr. “Get the shed ready.”

“I seen it,” said Jim, “but I thought it was a bird.”

“Where did he come from?” asked the fair official.

“Plumb out o’ the north, but about a mile high. An’ it sailed right
over the ground afore it turned. Not fur me,” added Jim, shaking his
head.

Having passed out over the grounds again, the aeroplane was seen
sweeping in a long curve on the turn. The scrambling crowd slackened,
and the airship, five hundred feet above the trees, headed back again.
For an instant, it darted upward, and then, settling once more, made a
curving swing toward the waiting thousands.

“Here she comes,” rose in a deafening roar.

Bud’s face could be made out for the first time. It wore neither
smile nor alarm. It was as placid as marble. With his feet close
together in his stirrups, his body erect and tense, his blue flannel
shirt fluttering in the breeze, he held his course with the ease of a
locomotive engineer.

“Now,” exclaimed Attorney Stockwell to Deputy Pusey, “get your writ
ready an’ keep your eyes peeled. Nab him the minute he lights.”

Once over the mob of upturned faces--gathered now mainly on the long
stretch of the race-track--Bud’s body swayed and his machine veered.
In another moment, the aeroplane had altered its course and was on its
way circling the grounds just above the track. Ten thousand people
rushed forward in spontaneous excitement. Just off the track, Attorney
Stockwell watched, breathed hard, and waited.

On the back stretch of the track, the aeroplane sank lower and lower
until by the time the upper turn was reached, it was just over the
heads of the spectators. Then, came the flight down the track, over
the crowd and in front of the grand-stand.

“I’ll show ’em I can travel where I please,” said Bud to himself. “Hold
on to your hats,” he yelled suddenly, as he smiled for the first time.

With a dart, the car skimmed toward the jam of humanity like a swallow
skims over a pond. Falling over each other, pushing, knocking and
yelling, the crowd attempted to clear the track. There was a crash,
and, as Bud swept onward, not over twenty feet above the ground, the
track fence gave way, and the panic stricken crowd sank in confused
heaps.

“Keep off the track,” yelled Bud warningly.

From the judges’ stand, the figure of Superintendent Perry suddenly
leaped forward. In his hand, he waved his big black hat warningly.

“Git back there, git back,” he called in a loud voice. “Git back, an’
keep back, or some one’ll get killed.”

At that instant, the aeroplane, like a yacht in a gale, swept by the
grand-stand. There was the low hum of propellers, and the whirr of the
engine, but not a creak from the car itself, and not a word or look
from the gritty young aviator. A buzz of relieved admiration seemed to
rise like a breeze from the grand-stand, the thousands on the dust
deep race-track caught their breath, and Bud had passed. His first
circuit of the course had been made.

From the airship house on the center of the track, three figures were
rushing forward. They had just made a discovery.

“Mr. Stockwell,” Deputy Pusey had suddenly exclaimed as he saw Bud
enter on his second lap, “do you know what he’s a goin’ to do?”

The attorney had just suspected, but he was watching the flying car as
if fascinated.

“He’s goin’ to beat us after all,” shouted the deputy, grabbing the
lawyer’s arm. “He ain’t a goin’ to land. He’s a goin’ to fly away agin.”

An awful word came from Mr. T. Glenn Dare’s lips, and Attorney
Stockwell, his face red with new anger, sprang forward as if to
intercept the flying boy.



CHAPTER XV

THE ENEMY OUTWITTED ONCE MORE.


Just within the race-track enclosure and in the shade of the judges’
stand, stood Deputy Sheriff Pusey’s side-bar buggy and his famous
roadster. The rig was known all over the county. Its appearance usually
meant the service of a writ, a subpoena or a warrant. It was a forlorn
hope, but, before the aeroplane had reached the far end of the track
again, the deputy and Attorney Stockwell were in the buggy and the
county official, his big official badge blazing on his blue coat and
his official voice demanding that the crowd give way, were forcing a
path through the packed crowd.

Before the horse could make much headway, the aeroplane was racing down
the “stretch” once more--this time even nearer the ground. As the whirr
of the engine struck on the horse’s ears and the wide white planes of
the car filled the width of the track just above, the horse reared,
lunged forward, and the aeroplane had passed once more.

“Hello,” rang out from the aeroplane at once. “Want me, Mr. Stockwell?”

There was a mutter of enraged words in the buggy, and then, the crowd,
alarmed at the horse’s actions, fell back in confusion. With a quick
command, the lawyer spoke to his companion, and, with a glance at the
aeroplane, already on the far side of the race-track on its next round,
the frightened horse was forced through the crowd toward the head of
the “stretch” down which the flying-machine would come on its next lap.

The turn was reached just before Bud arrived from the opposite
direction.

“Now, Pusey,” exclaimed the lawyer, grabbing the lines and whirling the
horse about, “get on the seat and serve him ef you can. Get your writ
ready. Ef he comes clost enough, grab him and hold on. I’ll take care
of the horse.”

Attorney Stockwell, whip in hand, headed the rearing animal down the
track, yelling to the crowd to get out of the way. The massed people
saw what was coming. Between the low-flying aeroplane and the galloping
horse, a second injunction was not needed. As the track opened up
before the snorting animal, already on a dead run, with its ears laid
back, Deputy Pusey sprang to the seat of the buggy, and began to wave
his writ.

Bud understood the situation as well as if it had been explained to
him. A provoking smile came on his face, and with a reckless daring
he headed the car straight at the deputy’s head. Down the stretch
together, came the foaming, galloping horse and the swiftly moving
aeroplane. Holding with one hand to Attorney Stockwell’s shoulder, the
deputy sheriff--he had already lost his official hat--waved his writ
and yelled:

“Hey, there, Bud Wilson, in the name of the law, Stop!”

“Busy,” cried out Bud. “See you to-morrow. Can’t stop to-day.”

“You’re under arrest,” shouted Attorney Stockwell.

The temptation was too great. Without answering, Bud gave the
horizontal rudder a slight turn, and the speeding car shot at the
deputy’s wobbling form.

“Grab him,” shouted the lawyer, as the car dropped.

Spurred on by the jeers and hoots of the thousands watching the strange
contest, the county officer made a feeble effort to respond. As he
threw his body up in a half-hearted effort to catch the car, now just
overhead, the aeroplane sprang up once more.

“Good-bye,” shouted Bud, “you’re too slow. See you later.”

Deputy Pusey balanced himself for a second, and then tumbled forward
between the foam-flecked horse and the light buggy. A dozen men grabbed
the bridle of the horse, and the lawyer, with an effort pulled the
deputy into the buggy.

As the machine sped by the judges’ stand, Bud heard a voice:

“Good boy, Bud,” it sounded jubilantly.

Bud glanced quickly, and saw President Elder, Superintendent Perry, and
a crowd of other laughing and excited fair officials.

“Be back at three o’clock to-morrow,” sang out the boy in response.

In another instant, his obedient craft was on the lower turn, and, with
the shouts and cheers of the assembled multitude ringing in his ears,
Bud prepared to make his escape. At the extreme end of the track, he
threw the lever of the vertical rudder over so sharply that the car
almost capsized. Like a bird with a wounded wing, the framework fell
partly on its side. Bud’s heart thumped. The ground seemed rushing up
to meet him. To even scrape the surface meant ruin to the car.

The boy retained his presence of mind and did the right thing. But
the car had lost so much headway that it did not respond at once.
It wavered, tried to recover itself and then, almost balanced, fell
within five or six feet of the earth. Escape did not seem possible. The
aeroplane was yet on an angle, and the low end of the frame was just
escaping the ground. If it struck, Bud’s work was over. Like lightning,
the thought came to him that he must jump to escape the wreckage.

Just then, with the spring of an animal, a man’s crouched form hurled
itself from the ground beneath the dragging end. Bud’s dry lips tried
to cry out, but there was no time. His eye was quicker than his tongue.
He saw the bronzed face of Jack Stanley, his gypsy friend, but no sound
came from the boy’s lips. As the gypsy’s face flashed before him,
something seemed to strike the car. A shock ran through the frame, and
then, as if caught by a gale of wind, the dragging end of the frame
flew up--the aeroplane, gathering speed, darted ahead, and the ship
righting herself, began once more to climb skyward.

“Go it, Kid--yer all right!”

These words followed after Bud as he renewed his flight, and he
realized that once again Jack Stanley had helped him over a crisis. Or,
was it Madame Zecatacas’ magic ring?

“If it’s the ring,” thought Bud, “I’m goin’ to have still more use fur
it. It’s got to make Jack and his wife sign the deed for me.”

Straight west over the “aerodrome,” the aeroplane took its new course
as steadily and easily as if had not just escaped destruction. Several
hundred feet in the air, Bud set the car on a level keel headed for the
“slashings”--the valley some miles ahead.

He was well out of the grounds when Attorney Stockwell and the deputy
untangled themselves from the dense crowd. But at no time, was he
out of the lawyer’s sight. To the indignation of the spectators, Mr.
Stockwell forced the deputy’s horse through the crowd and hurried
toward the fair-ground entrance. There was no rear entrance leading
in the direction Bud had flown, and in hastening to the main gate,
the buggy had nearly a half mile to cover before passing from the
enclosure. This was under trees and behind buildings that at once cut
off the view of the disappearing aeroplane.

The road leading to the fair-grounds from the main thoroughfare or
pike, ran north. Finally reaching the east-and-west road, the deputy’s
horse was put to a run. It was then a half mile further before the
flying car could possibly be seen, as, for that distance, the main
road ran between trees. It was not until ten minutes after the excited
lawyer and the bruised deputy had started on their chase that they came
out into the open road.

“There he goes,” exclaimed Deputy Pusey, when they did.

“Giddap,” shouted the lawyer, hitting the already galloping animal with
the end of the lines. “He’s goin’ like all sixty.”

Almost directly ahead, and perhaps four miles away, the aeroplane hung
like a bird. Without knowledge of what it really was, the object could
not have been picked out for other than a bird in flight.

“I’m afeered he’s given us the slip,” added the deputy.

“He ain’t goin’ far,” replied the panting lawyer, still slapping the
already jaded horse.

“You’re right,” sang out his companion. “He’s lightin’ a’ready.”

It seemed that this was true. The aeroplane, which was no great
distance in the air, was dropping slowly toward a distant line of trees.

“Comin’ down in the woods,” said Attorney Stockwell.

“Ain’t that the aidge o’ the ‘slashins’?” exclaimed the deputy.

“Looks like it. Well, there ain’t any place there to hide. It’s all
marsh or medder or underbrush,” argued the lawyer. “Anyway, keep your
eyes peeled to see ’at he don’t come up again on the fur side.”

Twenty minutes later, the pursuers mounted the high ground concealing
the valley beyond. There was a final quick dash down the gully road,
and the low ground spread out before them. The aeroplane was nowhere in
sight.

“Well,” began the deputy, “there ye are--all for nothin’.”

The lawyer pointed his whip ahead. An old man, apparently in charge of
a solitary cow whose bell had attracted the attorney’s attention, was
slowly coming toward them. The pursuers hastened ahead to meet the man.

“D’you see an airship sailing out here?” called out the attorney.

The herdsman looked up blankly. On a venture, Deputy Pusey addressed
him in German. Some intelligence came into the old man’s face. Then he
nodded his head and pointed north.

“He thought it was a big bird,” explained the deputy with a sneer. “And
he says it flew low like a hawk.”

He questioned the man some minutes, and then added:

“As near as I can make out, the kid kept down below the trees and then
disappeared in them. That means he probably kept going till he struck
the Little Town pike about two miles north. He couldn’t fly into the
trees. He’s took the Little Town road. Like as not he’s headed for
Little Town.”

The lawyer looked at his watch. It was three-forty-five.

“It’s no use to hurry now,” he explained. “We’ll go on till we come to
the section road and cross over to the Little Town pike. Then we’ll
go to Little Town. We’ll probably meet some one who’s seen him. If we
don’t we’ll get supper at that place an’ do some telephonin’. He can’t
hide that thing out in the open country.”

Some minutes before Bud’s estimated return, Josh Camp, perched upon the
roof of the mill, set up a shout.

“Here he comes,” was his cry to those waiting below, and almost before
Josh could reach the ground, the bird-like craft was slowly drifting
to rest in the mill place--the engine shut off, and the propellers
at rest. Eager hands caught it and eased it to the ground, and Bud,
trembling under the strain, climbed stiffly from his seat.

“I’ve had the time of my life,” he began abruptly. “Old Andy Pusey
chased me around the track with some kind of a paper--said I was under
arrest.”

“Are they after you?” interrupted Mr. “Stump” Camp at once.

“Sure,” went on Bud. “Mr. Stockwell and Andy had a buggy and Pusey’s
big bay horse. You can bet they’re after me. But I don’t believe they
saw me after I got in the ‘slashins.’ I didn’t see them.”

Bud’s hands trembled so that he could scarcely assist in disposing
of the aeroplane. But he was hardly needed. Before five o’clock, the
airship had been hauled into the sawing shed on the log car, drawn to
the roof by means of the waiting tackles and the false floor put into
place. To the uninformed, a glance into the shed suggested as unlikely
a place for hiding a forty-foot aeroplane as the top of a haystack.

It was yet an hour before supper time, and the irrepressible Bud and
Josh set out at once to select a place for the next day’s flight.

“An’ don’t be late,” called out Mrs. Camp. “We got fried chicken, sweet
potato pie and hickorynut cake.”

About the time the Camps, Bud, and the hired hands were attacking a big
platter of fried chicken, Attorney Stockwell and Deputy Sheriff Pusey
were making the best supper they could out of yellow cheese, dried beef
and crackers in the Little Town general store. This accomplished, the
lawyer, tracing in a general way on a county map the probable course
of the lost aeroplane, called by telephone those farmers who, in his
judgment, might have seen the airship.

Fortunately for Bud, the Camp’s Mill telephone was out of order. The
operator in Scottsville could not tell what was the matter. She had
no way of knowing that the wily mill owner had taken the instrument
off the hook just after Josh announced the returning aeroplane was in
sight. Josh’s report that there had been telephoning in Little Town the
day before was tip enough to the unlearned but crafty farmer.

But, unfortunately for Bud, an incident occurred in the general store
a little later that set the lawyer to thinking.

“Hey, Phil,” called out the proprietor, “I don’t see no charge o’ that
five gallon o’ gasoline Josh Camp got this mornin’.”

Phil’s excuse was lost on Attorney Stockwell. He looked at Deputy Pusey
significantly. The moment the officer’s horse had finished his oats,
the two men were in the buggy hurrying toward Camp’s Mill, a locality
as well known to both of them as to Bud. At seven o’clock, it was
growing dusk. When the buggy turned from the road into the open space
before the mill, Mr. Camp, Josh, and Bud were sitting on the porch, the
former with his cob pipe. Mr. Camp nudged Bud, who rolled off the edge
of the porch onto the grass and crawled around the house.

The greeting between the deputy and the mill owner was that of old
friends, but Attorney Stockwell did not stop for civilities. He became
officious at once.

“Say, Camp,” he exclaimed, “we have reason to believe you know
something about some stolen property.”

Before he could say more, the deputy interrupted his companion to
explain in detail what had happened. Then he added why they had come
to the mill, telling of Josh’s gasoline purchase.

“Well,” said Mr. Camp, drawing on his not very fragrant pipe. “Can’t I
buy gasoline if I like?”

“Don’t beat around the bush,” broke in Attorney Stockwell.

“Look a’ here, Stockwell,” exclaimed old “Stump.” “I never did have
the best opinion o’ you. I don’t like to say right out I think you’re
a shyster cause I ain’t lookin’ to start nothin’. An’ that’s more
considerate than some bluffers I know.”

“Have you seen the machine?” put in the deputy again, anxious to avoid
trouble.

“I don’t know much about the law,” drawled the mill owner, “but I got a
hunch I don’t have to answer that less’n I want to.”

“Don’t lose time with him,” sneered the lawyer. “You have the
authority. Search the place. I’ll help you.”

“So’ll I,” volunteered Mr. Camp. “Ef ye find any flyin’-machine on this
place or round about, yer welcome to it. Mr. Deputy, you do your duty.
An’ when you’re convinced, git.”

The lawyer and the deputy began rather unsystematically to look about
the premises, starting first for the lumber piles below the mill.

“Better look in the mill afore it’s too dark,” suggested Mr. Camp,
pointing to the sawing shed.

The lawyer sneered again.

“I reckon we’ll look amongst them piles of timber,” he exclaimed.

Deputy Pusey followed the mill owner up the little track to the long,
open shed and peered inside.

“Like to climb up into the attic?” asked Mr. Camp, carefully filling
his pipe, and nodding upward.

The officer smiled, turned and shook his head. When it was completely
dark and the two searchers had returned to the buggy empty handed, Mr.
Camp was sitting on the fence, his pipe sputtering and glowing in the
black night.

“Camp,” exclaimed Attorney Stockwell angrily, “I think you know a good
deal more’n you’re lettin’ on.”

“I reckon that’s right, Mr. Stockwell,” drawled the mill owner, without
changing his position. “I wouldn’t be supprized ef I told all I knowed
’at a certain lawyer might take to the woods. D’you find any airships?”

With a curse, the lawyer sprang into his buggy and drove rapidly away.
Before the buggy was out of sound, a small figure seemed to appear out
of the grass back of the silent man on the fence. It was Bud, a little
nervous, but with a wide smile.

“Say, Mr. Camp,” he exclaimed, “I was kind o’ scart when you askt ole
Pusey to git up there in the attic where the machine was.”

“How’s that?” asked the old man.

“’Cause I was up there, hidin’.”



CHAPTER XVI

BUD DISCOVERS A FRIEND.


Even the fragrant restfulness of Mrs. Camp’s spare bedroom did not make
Bud sleep soundly that night. For almost the first time in his life, he
was restless. In the morning, he was far from as lively as he had been
the day before.

“What’s ailin’ ye, Son?” began Mr. Camp when they sat down to the usual
ham, eggs and biscuits. “You don’t seem very peart to-day. Ain’t afeerd
air ye?”

Bud only shook his head and tried to smile.

“I didn’t sleep well,” was his answer. “I reckon I’m tired o’ all this
excitement.”

Mr. Camp looked at him closely, but said no more. When breakfast was
over and Bud started toward the sawing shed, Mr. Camp followed him.

“Now ye better git it offen yer mind, Bud. Tell me yer troubles.”

The boy made another feeble effort to say he was all right. Then, his
voice trembling a little, he said hastily:

“I’m kind o’ lonesome, Mr. Camp. An’ you folks have been so good to me
that it makes me all the lonesomer.”

The grizzled mill owner laughed.

“I don’t see why yer botherin’ ’bout that. We ain’t seen nur heerd much
o’ ye fur a good many years. But your folks was purty good friends o’
mother an’ me. An’ ye knowed Josh. Why, Bud, it seems almost like as ye
was related to us. We’ll be glad to hev ye come out here whenever ye
like.”

“I thank you, Mr. Camp. But I didn’t mean that exactly. I ain’t got no
home now. An’ I ain’t got no education. An’ I’m purt near too old to go
to school ef I could.”

“Ain’t got no home?”

Bud related how he had been cast out by Attorney Stockwell; how all his
worldly possessions were in the little bundle he had brought with him
the night before; and how he had now in his pocket just five dollars.

Mr. Camp’s whiskers worked violently. He tried to ask two or three
questions at once. Mainly, why Bud hadn’t told him this, and how
it happened that he was working for nothing in such a dangerous
enterprise. The boy satisfied him as well as he could.

“Now,” interrupted the old man, at last, “I ain’t got but one thing
to say. Yer a goin’ to turn over this craft this evenin’ to the fair
folks, air ye?”

Bud nodded his head.

“An’ ye’ll quit without no wages and without no home?”

Bud nodded his head again.

“Well, I’ve give Josh leave to take the old sorrel and drive his mother
to the fair to-day--I got to be the startin’ engine myself. They’ll be
there long afore you git there. When yer’s flyin’ ’s all over, ye’ll
git right into the spring wagon with ’em and come right out here to old
‘Stump’ Camp’s. This here’ll be yer home till ye git another.”

The tears came into Bud’s eyes.

“I can’t do that, Mr. Camp. I haven’t any money--”

“Don’t I need hands?” interrupted Mr. Camp, with assumed gruffness.

“If you’ll let me work for you?” began Bud. But again he was
interrupted.

“Ye don’t need to do that long,” Mr. Camp hastened to say. “Your
gaurdeen, Mr. Stockwell, didn’t spare me none last night. If I ain’t
mistook there’s somepin comin’ to ye, Bud. An’ I’m goin’ to make it my
business to see ’at ye git yer jest dues.”

“You mean the farm?” exclaimed Bud.

“Sure’s yer born,” continued Mr. Camp, rubbing his chin. “An’ mebbe
more. I’ve heered a good deal I ain’t said nothin’ about to you.”

“But there’s Jack Stanley and his wife! They are the only ones who can
help me, aren’t they? You said they could give me a clear title to my
property. I’ve got to see them before they leave the fair to-night.”

The old man slowly winked at the lad.

“Ketched,” he chuckled. “I didn’t mean to tell ye about it, Bud. But
after Mr. Stockwell got so fresh with me las’ night, I jes made up my
mind to hand him somepin’ an’ help you a little at the same time.”

The sawmill owner reached into the hip pocket of his trousers and drew
out an envelope. On it, addressed in an awkward hand, were these words:

    “Mr. John Reed or Jack Stanley,
                      Fair Grounds.”

“That’s why Josh an’ mother air a goin’ to the fair,” he chuckled
again. “An’ ef this don’t bring my old friend Stanley’s wife and
son-in-law out to Camp’s Mill by to-morrer, I miss my guess.”

[Illustration: MR. CAMP DREW OUT AN ENVELOPE.]

“And you are doin’ this to try to get them to fix my property for me?”
Bud asked, his lip quivering.

“Oh, I’m jes doin’ it--that’s all,” answered Mr. Camp. “Now, you set
yer mind at ease. I ain’t askin’ no credit. I jes want to hear Cy
Stockwell swear. That’s all.”

When two o’clock came that day, Josh and Mrs. Camp were on the
fair-grounds. Instead of the somewhat stiff mill owner, one of the mill
hands had been substituted as the motive power to start the spring
wagon down hill. Mr. Camp, the two hands and Bud had safely conveyed
the aeroplane through the wood road, up over the hill (knocking down
two fences in the process) and the greased spring wagon stood like an
Atlas with the waiting airship balanced on its body.

In all its history there had been no such attendance on the Scott
County fair as poured through the gates on this Saturday. The story of
what Bud had done had at last become public, and the entire town was
alive with gossip and comment. The details became such a sensation and
were so well known that it wasn’t “Goin’ out to the grounds?” that
day. The morning salutation was, “Goin’ out to see Bud Wilson this
afternoon?”

Lafe Pennington, now fully recovered, had been a spectator of Bud’s
return and escape. He had the good taste to make no comment, but it
was a sore trial to his pride. After Bud’s spectacular exhibition and
flight the day before, President Elder, all smiles over his defeat of
the enemy, was hastening from the judges’ stand when he espied Lafe.

“Hello, Lafe,” called out the jubilant official. Lafe wanted to escape,
but he couldn’t. “Do you know what they’re all sayin’, Lafe?” continued
Mr. Elder, edging up to the embarrassed bank clerk. “They’re talkin’ it
around town that the old gypsy scared you. Folks say you were scar’t to
run the airship.”

“Well, let ’em,” retorted Lafe. “Talk’s cheap. They’d be tellin’
another story if they knew the facts. It ain’t much to guide an
aeroplane. But I’d like to see any one else in this town set one up and
get it ready.”

“Well,” continued President Elder, “you can shut ’em up next week if
you want to. If we get our dispute adjusted over the flyin’-machine, we
got an offer to make an exhibition at the State Fair. It’s gone all
over the state. Biggest thing any fair ever had.”

Lafe was visibly disturbed.

“How’d you like to try your hand up to the State Fair?” asked Mr.
Elder, with pretended seriousness.

“You gentlemen have made your choice,” faltered Lafe. “You’ve picked
out your operator. I ain’t takin’ none of Bud Wilson’s leavin’s.”

As Lafe hurried away, Mr. Elder smiled. Although Lafe was again in the
crowd the next day, he took good care to avoid the president.

Bud, now eager to escape from his responsibility, was a little ahead
of time in reaching the grounds on his last flight. But he did not
arrive before the crowd. The grand-stand, race track, and part of
the enclosure were jammed again. The nervous eagerness, the restless
scanning of the sky in all directions and the spectators’ impatience
were rewarded about five minutes before three o’clock, when the dark,
oblong aeroplane was made out in the sky north of the grounds.

This day, the band was prepared, and as Bud whirled into the course,
the vociferous musicians struck up La Poloma--more appropriate than
the leader knew, as the translation of the Spanish means “The Dove.”
But Bud wasn’t a white dove that day. Old “Stump” Camp, either from a
sense of humor or a love for the beautiful, had proposed and actually
decorated the bare aeroplane framework with flowers.

The gaudiest blooms in Mother Camp’s garden had been tied to the car
uprights, and right and left of the young aviator were bunches of pink,
red and white hollyhocks that met almost in an arch over Bud’s head. At
each end, there was single, mammoth sunflowers. Even across the track
enclosure, the decorations could be made out, and the usual “Ahs” and
“Ohs” soon swelled into a wave of amused admiration.

Again the crowd surged forward and back, horses backed and reared, and
the band umpahed and quavered.

With knowledge born of the previous day’s experience, the crowd parted
as the circling car came into the head of the stretch on its first
lap, and Bud had no occasion to call out warnings. He was greeted with
salutations of all kinds. This time, with growing confidence, he felt
able to look about. His eyes sought eagerly for his foster father, Mr.
Dare, or the deputy sheriff.

Then he smiled and the crowd yelled. But Bud was smiling because his
quick eyes had detected what he hoped to find. Over in front of the
deserted “aerodrome,” he saw the three men. He had guessed right. Since
the fair would conclude that day, Bud realized that there was no longer
any object in trying to hide the aeroplane. Whatever legal fight was
to be made could now be carried on without embarrassment to the fair
association.

“My work’s done,” Bud had said to himself. “All I want to do now is to
turn over the machine and get away. And I’m goin’ to get away quick.
They said I was under arrest. Not if I know it.”

Then the aeroplane approached the crowded grand-stand. As it did so,
Bud threw his vertical lever slightly to the starboard and brought
the car just in front of the packed seats. Every one sprang up,
open-mouthed and curious. As the graceful car drifted by the structure,
the young aviator, smiling, reached out to the nearest of his vertical
frames and jerked loose a large pink bundle. With another swift motion,
the mass of pink went whirling through the air toward the spectators.
Hundreds of spicy, clove-pinks separated and fluttered among the
outstretched hands.

At considerable risk, Bud jerked off his hat and leaned forward.

“For the ladies,” he shouted, “with the compliments of Mr. Elder.”

In the roar of thousands of voices, yelling and laughing, the aeroplane
shot by. On the back stretch of the track, Bud again made sure that Mr.
Stockwell and Deputy Pusey were at the airship shed. As he passed on
his second round, the cries were deafening.

“What’s the matter with the hollyhocks?”

“Give us a sunflower?”

“Have ’em all in a few minutes,” thought Bud.

As the third round began, Bud set himself for his finish.

“They’ll certainly figure that I’m going to come down to-day,” he said
to himself. “And I am. But not where they’re waitin’ for me.”

The natural thing for the aviator to do would be to pass by the
grand-stand, thus completing his third circuit, and then, at the lower
end of the track, to make a quick turn and head directly up the center
of the enclosure to the shed. What every one expected, Bud did not do.
He didn’t propose to stop for explanations or to be arrested.

As the aeroplane approached the grand-stand, Bud made a sweeping turn
into the track enclosure, shut off his power, and, with a graceful dip
over the heads of the spectators, sank swiftly toward the ground where
the crowd had thinned into groups.

In the crowd was one young man who noted every movement of Bud’s with
a trained eye. Neither Bud nor those standing next to the square
shouldered young stranger knew that Sergeant Morey Marshall of the U.
S. Signal Corps, stationed at Omaha, had been rushed to Scottsville on
the first express to observe and report on the daring flight of the
amateur aviator. If Bud Wilson had known it part of his composure might
have left him for, to the Hoosier lad, Morey Marshall, the hero of “In
the Clouds for Uncle Sam,” stood along side such operators as Wright
and Curtiss in skilful daring as an aviator. There came a time when the
two boys met and were glad to know each other.

“Ketch her,” cried Bud sharply. Almost before any one knew what had
taken place, twenty willing hands had the sinking car in their grip.
While it was still in the air, supported by the proud volunteers, Bud
drew his feet from his stirrups, caught the framework and dropped
nimbly to the ground. Hundreds of persons were already massed around
the mysterious craft. One after another turned to speak to or shake the
hand of Bud, but, somehow, when President Elder at last reached the
spot, out of breath, Bud was gone.

And, strangely enough, although it was early in the afternoon, the
aeroplane had no sooner landed than Mrs. “Stump” Camp and her son,
Josh, made their way to the hitch racks and hooked up the old sorrel.
Another strange thing--they did not go home by way of Scottsville, but
took the longer way east to the “slashings.” About a half mile east of
the road leading into the fair-ground, the old sorrel drew up, and Bud
Wilson, considerably puffed by his long run through the intermediate
cornfields, stepped out of a fence corner and climbed into the rear
seat.

About eight o’clock the same evening, two boney horses drawing a
gaudily-painted gypsy van passed over the Scottsville bridge toward
Little Town. It was Jack Stanley on his way to take Sunday dinner with
old “Stump” Camp.



CHAPTER XVII

THE PRIVATE OFFICE OF THE FIRST NATIONAL BANK.


The following Monday morning, an odd little caravan marched around the
Scottsville public square toward the First National Bank. Old “Stump”
Camp, in his black Sunday hat, and freshly shaven down to his lower
cheeks where his wide-spreading whiskers began, led the group. By his
side was Madame Zecatacas, the Gypsy Queen, her long earrings bobbing.
Behind them, walked “Jack Stanley,” her son-in-law, and his wife. Their
child was, at that moment, assisting Mother Camp to sugar doughnuts,
eight miles away at Camp’s Mill.

“Stump” Camp was not ignored at the First National Bank, and when he
escorted his followers into that austere financial institution and
asked to see President Elder, he was led into the latter’s private
office at once. What followed behind the closed door in the next twenty
minutes or so was a question that more than worried the bookkeeper,
cashier and clerk, Lafe Pennington, in the outside room.

“I don’t want to borry no money,” began Mr. Camp when President Elder
greeted him with the usual banker’s coolness. “Nor I ain’t come to pay
none.”

The banker made courteous offers of chairs to all.

“These air some ole friends o’ mine,” went on the mill owner, selecting
a chair near a cuspidor, “an’ they’re a goin’ to help me help some one
else.”

“Well, Camp, what can I do for you? Tradin’ horses again?”

The farmer-miller shook his head.

“Me an’ you knowed Bud Wilson’s father, Josiah.”

“Very well,” responded the banker. “And I’ve just come to know the boy.”

“So’ve I,” exclaimed Mr. Camp, drawing over and using the cuspidor.
“That’s the pint. An’ to keep to the pint, I got to tell you somepin’
mebbe ye don’t know. Bud’s father was a neighbor o’ mine, as ye might
say. An’ we farmers sort o’ keep clost watch o’ each other. When ye
knowed Mr. Wilson, he lived in town.”

“Then he bought a farm out your way--out about Little Town.”

“He did. An’ what’s curious, he paid for it--cash--four thousand eight
hundred dollars for eighty acres.”

The bank president seemed to be thinking.

“I suppose it’ll be Bud’s when the boy’s of age?” he suggested, at last.

“They ain’t no title to it,” remarked old Camp, with a judicial air.

“That’s what I was trying to recall,” said Mr. Elder. “Seems to me I’ve
heard Attorney Stockwell say so.”

“There ye air,” exclaimed the bewhiskered mill owner, rising and
striking the table. “Stockwell! There ye said it. He’s this boy’s
gardeen an’ ought to be lookin’ out fur him ef all’s on the square. Why
ain’t he cleared the title to that land? Why ain’t he, the old skin?
I’ll tell ye why, Mr. Elder. He don’t want to.”

“How’s that,” asked the bank president, leaning forward, with interest.

“Anybody goin’ to buy that land offen the boy when he gits it ’thouten
a title?”

“I reckon not,” ventured Mr. Elder.

“There ye said it,” snapped Mr. Camp, his whiskers vibrating in
his excitement. “No one exceptin’ his gardeen mebbe fur little nor
nuthin’.”

“You mean that the boy’s guardian has neglected this to injure the
title to the property?”

“When the boy comes o’ age, the farm’ll be his. He ain’t no farmer,
nur don’t want to be. He’ll put the track up fur sale. Who’ll buy it?
Nobody--exceptin’ the gardeen--Mr. Lawyer Cyrus Stockwell, an’ at his
own price.”

“Well,” asked Mr. Elder, leaning back into his chair, “what good will
it do him? Won’t be worth any more to him, will it?”

“Onless he turns around an’ finds the persons ’at kin give him a title.
But he won’t. Them folks is right here. They air a goin’ to make a deed
right here this mornin’, an’ it’ll run to Bud Wilson. They air a goin’
to sign the dockyment right here that’ll make Bud’s farm worth one
hundred and twenty-five dollars an acre o’ any man’s money.”

Then, while the interested banker followed old “Stump’s” explanation
eagerly, Mr. Camp told how Jack Stanley and his wife, the direct heirs
of William Reed and his wife, who had failed to properly transfer the
property to Bud’s father, were ready and even eager to see justice
done. They were prepared to sign a deed at once.

The keen, business man drew a long breath, and looked long and hard at
the silent gypsies.

“Camp,” he said at last, “how’d you work this out?”

“Jack Stanley” spoke, for the first time.

In his rough way he told of his brief acquaintance with Bud from the
time the boy came to him at midnight for coffee; how Bud had interfered
to protect his mother-in-law from insult; how the boy had treated them
as “white people,” and finally recalled to the bank officer and fair
director how Bud had come to the rescue of himself and old Madame
Zecatacas when they had been so unjustly arrested.

“That’s right,” mused Mr. Elder, “we couldn’t do a thing with him till
we got you out. He’d work for us for nothin’, but not till we got you
out of jail.”

“Didn’t I tell you,” exclaimed Jack to old Zecatacas. “Ain’t he on the
square for fair? Dat’s why, mister.”

The wrinkled Gypsy Queen smiled.

“He is our friend,” she added in a broken voice. “To his friend, the
gypsy gives all.”

“I ain’t no Romney,” added the man, shaking his head, “but the kid’s
all right. It’s comin’ to him, and we’re goin’ to see he gets a square
deal.”

President Elder sat silent for a few moments, and then drew Mr. Camp
to the far side of the room.

“Camp,” he began, curiously, “what’s your interest in this boy?”

It was Mr. Camp’s chance. While the tobacco-chewing and illiterate mill
owner rapidly related the story of the last two days, the dignified
bank president chuckled, grinned, and finally burst into loud guffaws.

“And the joke of it is,” he said, when Mr. Camp had finished, “that
Bud’s fright on the last day was altogether unnecessary. The machine
is ours. The company accepted our offer by telegraph, waived their
representative’s fee and called him off.”

“But Bud seen him waitin’ with the deputy,” insisted the mill owner.

“And I had the telegram to call him off in my pocket,” explained Mr.
Elder.

“Then he wa’n’t goin’ to be arrested?”

Mr. Elder shook his head, and laughed again.

“Well,” said Mr. Camp dolefully, “ye might as well kill a feller as
skeer him to death.”

Mr. Elder paced the floor a few moments. Then he asked:

“Where is Bud?”

“I’d a brung him, but we was scart he’d be put in jail. He’s down to
the livery stable.”

“Can’t you all come back here in an hour,” asked Mr. Elder after
another pause, “and bring Bud with you?”

“That’s our business to-day,” chuckled Mr. Camp.

When they had gone, the bank president sat back in his chair as if in
deep thought for some minutes. Then he took his hat and walked hastily
out of his room and through the bank. Mr. Elder went directly to the
county courthouse. There, after using the telephone, he was joined by a
lawyer--but not Attorney Cyrus Stockwell. Then the two men hastened to
the private office of the judge of the county court, after which they
went to the office of the attorney who had been summoned by telephone.

From this office, another telephone message was sent out, and in
response to that, Attorney Cyrus Stockwell was soon hastening toward
Mr. Elder’s lawyer’s office. Here there was apparently an animated
conference. When President Elder finally made his way back to his own
office, it was fifteen minutes after the appointed time. “Stump” Camp,
Bud and their gypsy friends were waiting patiently under the bank
awning.

With only a hasty grip of Bud’s hand, Mr. Elder led the party into
the private office once more. He motioned them to chairs, and then,
with a quick business air, drew out a deed, legally describing the
Reed-Wilson farm and arranged it for the Stanleys to sign. They did it
with apparent pleasure. Then he read it aloud. The consideration named
was one hundred and fifty dollars. Bud pricked up his ears.

“Mr. Stanley,” explained the banker, “your friend Bud has some peculiar
business ideas. He has just saved our fair association a good deal
of trouble. He didn’t save us any money, but we’ve concluded that he
saved our pride, and we agreed Saturday night to pay him three hundred
dollars for what he’d done.”

Bud tried to speak.

“’Tain’t your time, yet, young man,” interrupted the banker. “I’m goin’
to pay these honest people one hundred and fifty dollars for their
trouble in comin’ in here.”

Mr. Elder stepped out into the banking room, and a moment later
returned with two packages of one hundred and fifty dollars each. One
he handed to “Jack Stanley.”

“And now,” he added to the gypsies, “if you folks would like to do a
little shoppin’ before you start back to the country, I’d like a few
minutes’ talk with Bud and Mr. Camp.”

Stanley hesitated and looked at his mother-in-law, Madame Zecatacas.
The latter turned toward Bud. The boy, hardly knowing what to do,
paused a moment, and then, holding out his hand, pointed to his “good
luck” ring, which he still wore. Stepping to Stanley, Bud took the
package of money and pressed it into Madame Zecatacas’ hand.

“Here, Mrs. Zecatacas, I don’t hardly know what this all means, but
this is from me to you. And ‘good luck’ with it.”

With dignity, the three gypsies slowly left the room.

For a moment, President Elder sat and drummed on the table with his
fingers.

“Bud,” he said at last, “you seem to have the sudden faculty of making
good friends. These good people--including my old friend Camp here--are
no better friends of yours than I am. When I see any one gettin’ the
worst of it, I want to give ’em a lift. That right ‘Stump’?”

“That’s my motto.”

“Well,” went on the banker, “you’ve been gettin’ the worst of it, Bud.
You’re eighteen years old, and you’ve got the stuff in you to do
things. But you’ve got to get an education.”

Bud smiled and shook his head doubtfully.

“Mr. Camp tells me Mr. Stockwell has put you out of his house, and that
you are going to live with him.”

“If he’ll let me,” said Bud. “But he can’t keep me for nothing. I’ll
have to work, and while I’m workin’ I can’t go to school.”

“Are you through the grammar school?”

“That’s all,” confessed Bud, his face reddening. “I never seemed to get
ahead. I was always in trouble, and whenever I seemed to be gettin’ a
start, Mr. Stockwell would take me out an’ put me to work a spell. Even
ef I had the money, I ain’t never goin’ to the high school here. I’m
too old.”

“What would you like to do?”

“I could go to the normal school, over to Green County, in the winter
an’ work for Mr. Camp in the summer.”

“What’d that cost you?”

“Cost him ’bout eight dollars a week. Josh figured on it,” answered Mr.
Camp.

“Well,” said Mr. Elder, throwing himself back into his chair, “you can
do that!”

Bud gulped.

“I been doin’ a little hasty investigatin’ while I was out. What I
found out I got to look into further, but it’s nigh enough right I
reckon to make it worth tellin’. Mr. Stockwell, as your guardian and
the executor of your father’s estate, ain’t made but one report to
the court in ten years. Two years after your father died, he reported
that he’d been rentin’ the farm at six dollars an acre, cash rent.
That meant four hundred, and eighty dollars a year, or nine hundred
and sixty dollars for the two years. Agin that, he offset one hundred
and twenty dollars for taxes, five hundred and twenty dollars for
your board and clothes, and two hundred and forty dollars ‘for fences
an’ repairs.’ The court allowed it. Since that time, he ain’t made no
report.”

Bud wrinkled his brow in an effort to comprehend. But old “Stump” Camp
understood and chuckled.

“The fences don’t need rebuildin’ very often,” went on Mr. Elder, “and,
allowin’ the same amount for your board an’ clothes, I figure that Mr.
Stockwell must owe you considerable more than one thousand dollars.”

“He hasn’t got it to pay,” exclaimed Bud at once thinking of Mrs.
Stockwell. “An’, besides, I don’t want it. He wasn’t very bad to me.”

“That’s for the Court to say,” continued Mr. Elder. “At least, since
you’re not living with him now, there’s anyway over five hundred
dollars a year comin’ to you from that land from now on.”

“And,” added Mr. Camp, crossing the room to the cuspidor, and parting
his flowing beard, “in three years, when you git yer edication,
there’ll be the eighty acres. I’ll give you ten thousand dollars fur
it.”

“Mr. Elder,” said Bud at last, his voice choking, “I told you one day
last week I wanted to do something in this town because I wanted to
‘make good.’”

The pleased and smiling banker looked at him. Then he pointed to the
package of one hundred and fifty dollars on the table.

“That shows you made good with us,” he said, as Bud stood looking at
the money.

“I didn’t mean that,” Bud exclaimed with feeling. “I wanted to ‘make
good’ with some one that counted. If I ‘made good’ with you and with
Mr. Camp, I’m satisfied--I’m happy.”

“Let’s all go down to my house for dinner,” said Mr. Elder, turning
away abruptly as if to change the subject.

“I can’t,” answered Bud, picking up the package of bills. “I want to go
right out and give this to Mrs. Stockwell. Mr. Camp,” he added, as he
grasped the old man’s hand, “I’ll be waitin’ at the livery stable fur
you as soon as I kin git back.”


    The book you have just read is the second volume of The
    Aeroplane Boys Series. The first story is “In the Clouds for
    Uncle Sam, or, Morey Marshall of the Signal Corps.” It can be
    bought wherever books are sold as can the other new titles
    listed on page two.


    THE AIRSHIP BOYS SERIES, by H. L. Sayler, are the best “flying
    machine” stories to be found. See advertisement on page two.



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 Transcriber’s Notes:

 --Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 --Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 --Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 --Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.

 --The Chapter IX title in the Table of Contents (Bud Wilson Makes a
   Strange Contract) was changed to reflect the title within the
   contents (Bud Makes a Strange Contract).





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