THE CONTRACT AND THE CAR

On his way across the city to the aeroplane factory, Roy stopped at
the railroad offices and found that the fare to Dolores in Colorado
was fifty-seven dollars, with ten dollars additional for sleeping-car
accommodations. Reaching the company shops, he made his way at once to
the assembling room, where he found his father directing a squad of men
who were setting up an airship. Roy, stepping to his father’s side,
whispered:

“Outfit, one hundred and six dollars and fifty-five cents; carfare and
Pullman, sixty-seven dollars; total, one hundred and seventy-three
dollars and fifty-five cents. Better make it two hundred dollars.”

Mr. Osborne’s only reply was to jerk his thumb in the direction of the
general offices.

“Mr. Atkinson wants to see you,” the skilled machinist remarked, and
turned again to his work. But, as Roy disappeared in the direction of
the president’s office, Mr. Osborne seemed to change his mind. With
some instructions to the experts working under him, he also made his
way toward the offices.

“Father says you want to see me,” began Roy, after his, “Good morning.”

“Didn’t _you_ want to see _me_?” retorted Mr. Atkinson.

“I certainly did, if father hadn’t told you,” replied Roy.

“I have,” said a voice behind the boy, and Mr. Osborne came forward,
wiping his grimy face, which had a troubled look. “I told Mr. Atkinson
just what you and your mother have decided.”

“Pshaw, George,” interrupted Mr. Atkinson, indicating a couple of
chairs into which the engineer and Roy seated themselves. “I guess you
are willing, aren’t you?” Then he turned to Roy. “Your father said it
was all settled and I was glad of it. I think it’s a fine chance for
you, Roy.”

“I’m going,” said Roy. “Father said so, didn’t he?”

“I did,” broke in Mr. Osborne. “But look here, Atkinson, where’s the
‘fine chance’ you’re talking about? I reckon these folks ain’t givin’
money away. It ain’t likely they’ll want to pay more than two hundred
dollars a month. And what if Roy goes all the way out there and works
five or six weeks? That might be three hundred dollars. He’s just told
me it’s goin’ to cost him nearly two hundred dollars to get ready.
Ain’t that a pretty small margin for a youngster to risk his life on?”

“Osborne,” Mr. Atkinson exclaimed at last, “you’re the best mechanical
man I ever knew. But you were not cut out for high finance. Perhaps I
oughtn’t say it, but you should be worth a hundred thousand dollars
to-day. And you’re not, are you?”

Mr. Osborne laughed.

“You know I’m not,” he added, a little ruefully.

“Well,” added Mr. Atkinson, with a kind of earnestness, “if you ever
expect to get beyond that cap and that oil and grease begin to take a
chance.”

“I don’t understand,” answered the engineer.

“I’ll bet Roy does,” added the aeroplane company president, turning to
the boy again. Then with a snap in his tone, he added: “What do you
think about it, Roy?”

“What do I think?” replied Roy as he brought all his wits to work
to understand the situation. “Well, I think this: the Utah company
wants some one to come out there as a part of its business. It’s a big
company, and it must have plenty of money. It certainly don’t want me
to come for less than I’m worth to the company. I think I can go and be
worth a good deal. If I am, I’ll expect to be paid handsomely.”

Mr. Atkinson turned to Mr. Osborne.

“Hear that?” he exclaimed. “That’s the way to talk. The boy can turn
the trick. Do you still object?”

“Well, I still think it’s a big risk for little pay.”

“Who’s said anything about pay?” retorted the president. “You’re like
a good many hard working men, George. You assume a fact, and then work
backwards from it. Let’s see what the boy has to say. Roy, do you think
it’s too much risk for too little pay?”

“No,” exclaimed the boy, “because I guess the company’ll do what’s
right.”

“And what’s that?” continued Mr. Atkinson, looking at Mr. Osborne with
a smile.

“Since you’ve asked,” answered Roy, “I should say it ought to buy my
outfit, about one hundred dollars; advance my carfare and expenses–say
two hundred dollars altogether–and pay me about one hundred dollars a
week while I’m at work, with a guarantee of at least two months’ work.”

Mr. Atkinson slapped his hand on Roy’s knee.

“Reasonable enough,” he exclaimed. “Too reasonable. I had in mind not
less than five hundred dollars a month. How about it, George?” he
added, with a laugh.

Mr. Osborne was wiping his perspiring face.

“You high financiers are too much for me,” he said with an attempt at a
smile. “I see Roy wasn’t cut out to be a mechanic. I haven’t anything
more to say.”

“But I have,” said Mr. Atkinson, quickly. “Mr. Cook, of the Utah
company, offered our regular list price of five thousand dollars for
one of the No. 1 machines. I discounted it one thousand dollars. He’s
so dead set on getting some one to come out there that he’s offered
that one thousand dollars as a bonus to whomever will come. That means
Roy. And, from what I see of him, I know he won’t take it. That means
you.”

Mr. Osborne, visibly affected, shook his head.

“There you go,” broke in Mr. Atkinson. Then he whirled toward the boy.
“Your father seems to think this is charity, Roy,” he added. “He don’t
understand that corporations like this or the Utah company have no
funds set aside for charity. Will you take it?”

Roy looked at him soberly a moment.

“Mr. Atkinson,” he said at last, “Mr. Cook offered that one thousand
dollars because he was mighty anxious to get some one to do something
that was well worth the money, in his judgment. You just put it aside
till I come back. Then I’ll know whether his judgment was right. If I
think I’ve earned it, I’ll take it.”

Mr. Atkinson’s eyes snapped.

“I don’t know but you’re right,” he said, after a moment’s thought.
“What do you say, Osborne?”

“I guess there isn’t much chance but that he’ll earn it all right,” he
said. “He can go. Keep the money for him.”

Without further comment he left the office.

For a few moments the president of the aeroplane company sat in
silence. Then he turned to his desk and wrote out an order. As he sat
with it in his hand, he said:

“My boy, I understand what it means to your father. I’d never forgive
myself if anything happened to you. But I had to take chances–so
does any man who wants to go ahead of the crowd. You can take care of
yourself. So go ahead.”

“When ought I to start?” asked Roy.

“The car will leave by express to-morrow. It will be sent to Dolores,
Colorado. If you start about two days after the machine leaves, you’ll
have time to stop a day in Chicago and then reach Dolores about the
time the aeroplane does. After that, it’s up to you.”

“I’ll have charge of the car, then, from Dolores. I’m to deliver it?”

“Yes, and in doing that, you’ll act as our agent. You’ll have to hire
teams to transport the equipment.”

Roy’s lips puckered. Mr. Atkinson smiled.

“I’ve thought of that,” he explained. “Here’s an order the cashier will
honor. You’d better draw the money at once. I’ll charge your outfit and
personal expenses to the Utah company. The cost of delivering the car
is our expense. And,” said Mr. Atkinson, as he took the boy’s hand,
“no man works well with poor tools. Get what you need–don’t stint
yourself.”

“I’ve got a good deal to thank you for, Mr. Atkinson–” began Roy.

“Thank me?” exclaimed the president. “I’m going to do all the thanking.
I’m trusting you with the first aeroplane ever sent out from this
factory to be used for a commercial purpose. Just make good for us and
the American Aeroplane Company will put the gratitude where it belongs.”

His young head awhirl with the quick developments of the short
interview, Roy walked over to the cashier’s window and laid Mr.
Atkinson’s order on the marble counter. Instantly the busy cashier
shoved through the grating a package of bank notes. The figures on
the band startled the lad, but they did not disconcert him. With a
businesslike tone, Roy asked the cashier if he might see the order
again. One glance was enough–there it was: “Advance on account to
bearer, Mr. Roy Osborne, $500.”

He turned and entered the big assembling room again. Half way across
the noisy shop he stopped. He had just realized what had happened.
Twenty-four hours before, an idle schoolboy, he had been lounging about
this same place wondering if he could secure employment for a few
dollars a week. To-day he had five hundred dollars in advance expense
money in his pocket, a two months’ job at four hundred dollars a
month, and a possible bonus of one thousand dollars on deposit.

This he understood. The moment he had time to think over these things,
he said to himself:

“I didn’t do this–it’s no ability or virtue of mine; and you can’t
charge it to luck. What did it?”

As he asked himself this question, he looked down the shop and saw his
father–the man who was doing things, who was working out hard problems
with his head and hands. Then he knew. The reward hadn’t come to the
father. Even now he was working as he had for years. The reward for all
those years had come to the son.

“It’s father,” said the lad thoughtfully to himself. “It all comes from
what he’s done.” Then he thought of Mr. Atkinson’s words to his parent:
“You’re the best mechanical man I ever knew, but you were not cut out
for high finance.”

A little lump rose in the boy’s throat. He struck a bench with his
fist. “He’s right,” muttered Roy stoutly. “Mr. Atkinson told the truth.
But father has brought up three boys who, maybe, will do things that
money can’t. And it’s the man over there in overalls who’ll get the
credit–if I have my way.”

Almost at the same time his father saw him and motioned him forward.

“Get off your coat,” he ordered. “This is the car that’s going. I want
you to know every piece of it.”

Roy hesitated a moment.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” he began. “I’ll have to put this
somewhere–” He opened his coat and gave his father a secret look at
the five-hundred-dollar package of bills.

Instead of astonishment, the busy mechanic only grunted.

“Hang your coat right there,” he remarked shortly. “We ain’t sneak
thieves. Now, you’d better get down to a real job and make sure you’ve
got the hang of everything. Turn in and help put your car together.”

When Roy and his father left the works that evening, an American
Aeroplane Company Model No. 1 had been assembled, adjusted, tested and
taken apart again. The next morning it would be crated and dispatched
on its long journey to the west labeled: “R. C. Cook, Manager Utah
Mining and Development Company, Bluff, Utah, via Dolores, Colorado.”

If there was anything in the construction of that aeroplane that could
have been improved, it was not known to the airship skill of that day
or to George W. Osborne. A fore and aft or lateral biplane, utilizing
the highly successful flexible sustaining surfaces of the Montgomery
glider, the whole width of the air craft was 32 feet. The front and
rear planes were supported on the unique and distinguishing feature of
the draft–a three-section frame extending fore and aft.

In the forward section, each section measuring 4 feet 7 inches in width
and 7 feet in height–the single engine was located. On a cross shaft,
fixed to the forward frame of the section, the two propellers revolved,
operated by chain gears, one of which had the Wright reverse twist. In
this section, but to the rear were the cooling coils and the gasoline
tank. From the front of this section extended a vertical steering
rudder patterned after the Wright machine.

To the rear section was attached a horizontal steering plane copied
directly after the Montgomery rudder, a semi-circular plane 9 feet 10
inches high at its greatest diameter. In the middle section were seats
for two passengers and the operator’s station. From the saddle of the
latter, flexing wires connected both the planes with stirrups through
the operation of which the equilibrium of the car was maintained.
Levers and wires controlling the rear and forward rudders also ended
here. From the section division timbers, uprights carried wires,
bracing the big lateral planes in all directions. Short landing skids
were modeled after the Wright air craft.

The motive power was a 25-horsepower watercooled Curtiss with four
cylinders and weighed 180 pounds. The propellers measured 8 1/3 feet.

“What do you think about her?” asked Roy, as he and his father boarded
the car homeward bound.

“It’s the best I can do,” was the answer. To Roy that was enough.