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.