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
“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
“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.”
“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.”

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