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
On top of a box, the manufacturer’s drawings and directions were spread
out. One thing only seemed to have been accomplished; everything was
“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
“Is he going to be able to finish the job?” asked Mr. Elder, turning to
“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
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
“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
“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
“By noon, if I have carpenters to do what I need, and earlier if Lafe
“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?”
“And risk breakin’ your neck?”
“Hundreds are doing that every day. Hasn’t been but two men broken
their necks yet.”
“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
“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
“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.”
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.”
“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
“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,”
“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
As soon as Mr. Elder’s buggy disappeared in the darkness, Lafe wheeled
“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.