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

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

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
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.