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"Billy Brad and His Lease" from Red Cross Magazine

by Ellis Parker Butler
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    Billy Brad and His Lease
  • Red Cross Magazine (September, 1920)   "Billy Brad and His Lease"   A Billy Brad story. "People other than youthful Billy Brad have been mystified by the intricacies of the lease question. In this story, Mr. Butler, in the genial form of Uncle Peter Henry, answers not only Billy Brad's doubts, but turns his wise and humorous searchlight on some things which all of us will be the better for recalling." Illustrated by J. R. Shaver. p 62-64, 72.  [HARPER]

from Red Cross Magazine
Billy Brad and His Lease
by Ellis Parker Butler

One day when Billy Brad was picking the last of his corn, he looked up and saw Mr. Giffen who owned the field where Billy Brad's corn grew.

"Hello, Billy Brad!" Mr. Giffen said. "Picking the last of your corn, I see. You had very nice corn this year. Are you going to grow more corn next year?"

"Ye -- yes, sir!" said Billy Brad eagerly. "For -- for because I got big, round dollars for my corn, I did. And -- I'm going to grow corn every year. Right here."

"I'm sorry," said Mr. Giffen, shaking his head rather sadly, for he did not like to disappoint little boys. "I'm sorry, Billy Brad, but you cannot grow corn here next year."

"But -- but I want to!" said Billy Brad, looking very sober indeed. "I -- want to grow corn here always. And -- and I'm going to. I don't want to grow corn anywhere else. For -- for because I paid to have this cornfield all plowed up, and the plowman said it would not cost me so much money to have it plowed up another time."

"I know," said Mr. Giffen, "and I'm sorry. I don't like to send away such a good tenant as you are, Billy Brad, but I must do it. I have sold the whole field. You will have to find another corn patch."

Billy Brad looked at Mr. Giffen resentfully. If Mr. Giffen looked sorry,

To Billy Brad the very lines and paragraphs were full of mystery.

Billy looked even sorrier, for Billy Brad was almost ready to cry.

"But -- but my Uncle Peter Henry said I could grow corn here this year and next year and every year," said Billy Brad, "and -- and I'm going to tell him on you, I am! And -- and my Uncle Peter Henry will make you let me grow corn in this field."

"I think it might be a good plan for you to ask your Uncle Peter Henry about it," said Mr. Giffen, smiling, for he had already spoken to Uncle Peter Henry, "but I'm quite sure you cannot grow corn here again, because I have sold this field, and long before this time next year there will be three or four houses standing here."

Mr. Giffen went away, and then Billy Brad stopped picking corn and went straight home. He found his Uncle Peter Henry resting in a hammock, reading a book; and, as soon as Billy Brad saw Uncle Peter Henry, Billy Brad was comforted, because Uncle Peter Henry was quite bald and wore big spectacles with tortoise-shell rims, and looked as wise as an owl, and Billy Brad was sure Uncle Peter Henry could make Mr. Giffen let Billy Brad use the corn patch another year.

When Uncle Peter Henry saw Billy Brad, he put down his book.

"Well, hello!" he said cheerfully.

"And what is the matter now? You look as if you were ready to cry."

"Why -- why, Mr. Giffen won't let me grow corn in his cornfield any more," said Billy Brad, all in a hurry. "For -- for because he sold it. And -- and he's going to have houses on it. But -- but you won't let him sell it to have houses on it, will you, Uncle Peter Henry? For because I want to grow corn there next year, and every year, and always!"

Uncle Peter Henry moved over a little in the hammock and put his arm around Billy Brad and boosted him into the hammock that way.

"Billy Brad," he said quite seriously, when his arm was around Billy Brad and they were swinging slowly to and fro. "I'm afraid we have made a mistake, you and I. I'm afraid we will have to find a new corn patch next spring."

"Will we?" asked Billy Brad. "Why will we, Uncle Peter Henry?"

"Because," said Uncle Peter Henry, "we have no lease. We rented that corn patch by the year."

Uncle Peter Henry moved over a little in the hammock. 'Billy Brad,' he said seriously, 'we have made a mistake.'

"Yes," said Billy Brad, "this year, and next year, and all the years!"

"No!" said Uncle Peter Henry solemnly. "That is just the trouble. We rented it for this year only. As your agent --"

"What's an agent?" asked Billy Brad.

"Anyone who does business for another person," said Uncle Peter Henry. "I rented that corn patch for you, from Mr. Giffen, so I was your agent. And, as your agent, Billy Brad, I rented it for one year only."

"But -- but I want it for more years," said Billy Brad.

"Did you want it for more years when I rented it this spring?" asked Uncle Peter Henry.

"No," said Billy Brad promptly. "Not this spring, I didn't. But I do now."

"And that is just the trouble," said Uncle Peter Henry, nodding his bald head and looking as wise as an owl. "If you wanted the corn patch next year and more years after that you should have told your agent. Then your agent might have made a lease."

"What is a lease, Uncle Peter Henry?" Billy Brad asked. "Wouldn't I have to find a new corn patch if I had a lease?"

"Probably not," said Uncle Peter Henry. "That is what leases are for. But there is no use worrying about that now. I think, when we rented the corn patch this spring, we thought we were doing what was best. If Mr. Giffen had asked us to make a lease, we might have told him we did not want to."

"Why?" asked Billy Brad.

Because we did not know whether you would want to grow corn another year or not grow corn. Suppose, Billy Brad, you had not liked growing corn? Suppose you hated to grow corn? Suppose, this spring, just when you had your corn all planted, the crows had come and eaten all the seed, and no corn had come up? Or suppose the rain had come and rotted your corn in the ground, and no corn grew? Or, suppose, if the corn did come up, it was such poor, thin corn that it had no ears on it? Or, suppose, before it was ripe, a storm came and knocked it all down? Suppose, instead of making some big, round dollars of profit from the corn patch, you had lost all the big, round dollars you paid for plowing and seed and rent? Or, suppose, your papa and mamma decided tomorrow to move to another town. Would you want to have to pay Mr. Giffen rent for years and years and years then?"

"No, but --"

"That is why we rented the corn patch for one year only," said Uncle Peter Henry, gravely. "I am very bald, and I wear big spectacles with tortoise-shell rims, and I am almost as wise as an owl, so I know quite a little about little boys. I know that sometimes little boys become very, very tired of certain things in a year. I know that sometimes they begin growing corn in the spring, and are eager and excited about it, and before the summer is here they are tired of growing corn. That is why we thought it safer to rent the corn patch for one year only."

"Did we?" asked Billy Brad.

For one year only," said Uncle Peter Henry. "We rented the corn patch for one year, and we paid for one year, and now Mr. Giffen does not want to rent it to us any longer. If we had known -- positively and surely -- that you would want to grow corn in that very same corn patch for years and years, Mr. Giffen might have given us a lease on it."

"And wouldn't we have had to get another corn patch then?" asked Billy Brad. "If Mr. Giffen had given us a lease?"

"No," said Uncle Peter Henry, "then we could have kept the corn patch."

"I like leases," said Billy Brad. "I -- I want always to have one, Uncle Peter Henry."

"Are you sure?" asked Uncle Peter Henry, smiling.

"Why -- why, of course!" said Billy Brad.

"And. generally speaking," said Uncle Peter Henry slowly and in his wisest tone, "generally speaking, Billy Brad, you are right. A lease, you see, is just a paper with writing on it, with names signed at the bottom. It is always better to have things in writing than to trust to memory. Then, if one person says, 'As I remember it, you said this,' and the other person says 'No, as I remember it, I said that,' they can look at the written paper and see what was really agreed upon."

"If -- if they know how to read," said Billy Brad.

"And, even if they do not know how to read, they can get someone to read it for them," said Uncle Peter Henry. "So it is better to have a written agreement, always. It saves a great deal of trouble. And that is what a lease is -- it is a written agreement between the man who is renting something and the man who is renting it from him."

"For a whole lot of years," said Billy Brad.

Uncle Peter Henry laughed.

"No, not always," he said. "It may be for one day only. Do you remember when the circus came to town and put up its tents in Mr. Carter's field, just back of your house here? The circus wanted the field for one day only. So it made a lease for one day only. The circus did not want the field for years and years, you see. And you remember, this year, when the Chautauqua was here for a week? It leased Mr. Carter's field for one week only. So you can have a lease for a day or a week, or a month or three years, or ninety-nine years. There are a great many leases made for ninety-nine years."

"Oo!" exclaimed Billy Brad, for ninety-nine years is a very long time.

"They make leases for that long in New York," said Uncle Peter Henry. "Men lease ground in New York for ninety-nine years very often, because they want to build huge buildings on the ground, and unless the leases were for many, many years, it would not pay to put up buildings on the ground; because everything built on leased ground belongs to the owner of the ground when the lease runs out. Sometimes leases are made for nine hundred and ninety-nine years."

"Oh, my!" exclaimed Billy Brad. "I should think so!" said Uncle Peter Henry. "That is a long time, isn't it? So, you see, a lease may be for any length of time; but if a man is renting a house and says, 'I have a lease on this house,' he means for longer than a month, because the rent is usually paid by the month. If he has no lease, he is renting 'by the month' and can be put out of the house at the end of any month. On farms and fields, the rent is usually paid by the year and, when a man says, 'I have a lease on this farm,' he means he has a lease for more than one year; if not, he says he is 'renting by the year'."

"Like -- like I was, Uncle Peter Henry," said Billy Brad.

"Exactly!" said Uncle Peter Henry. "So that is what a lease is. It is a written agreement between the man who is renting and the man who owns, and it says how much rent is to be paid, and when it is to be paid, and where it is to be paid, and for how long. If it is a lease for a house or an apartment, it tells who is to make the repairs. When a lease is made, the man who is renting does not have to do anything except what the lease says and what the law says, and the man who owns the property does not have to do anything except what the lease says and what the law says. When a good lease is made, the tenant can look at it and see just what his rights are; and the owner, who also has a copy, can look at it and see just what his rights are. A lease saves a lot of unhappiness and trouble and dispute."

Billy Brad sat for quite a while, looking at the trees that were fluttering their leaves gently in the afternoon breeze. He was so quiet that Uncle Peter Henry thought he had fallen asleep, but, suddenly, Billy Brad said:

"I wish we had a lease on my corn patch, Uncle Peter Henry."

"You do?" asked Uncle Peter Henry. "And just what do you mean by a lease on your corn patch, may I ask. Billy Brad?"

"Why -- why --" said Billy Brad, "why, a paper. Writed -- wroted on --"

"Written on." Uncle Peter Henry corrected.

"Yes, a paper written on," said Billy Brad. "With Mr. Giffen's name signed onto it, Uncle Peter Henry. To say I could have my same corn patch in Mr. Giffen's field this year and next year and a whole lot of years, so I could grow my corn in my same corn patch all the years. And -- and --"

"And what?"

"And not to pay any more; just to pay the same," said Billy Brad wistfully.

"I see!" said Uncle Peter Henry. "And anything else?"

"Why -- why to pay the money one time a year," said Billy Brad. "In the spring, Uncle Peter Henry."

"Why not in the fall, when you have your corn all sold and have more big, round silver dollars?" asked Uncle Peter Henry.

"Yes, in the fall," said Billy Brad eagerly, "for because then I have all my big round dollars. In the fall, Uncle Peter Henry."

"Yes, and --"

"And that I don't have to do any -- any --"


"Yes," said Billy Brad, "that I don't have to do any repairs. How do you do repairs to a corn patch, Uncle Peter Henry?"

"Well, it might mean keep the fence from falling down," said Uncle Peter Henry.

"Well, I don't want to keep the fence from falling down," said Billy Brad.

"And that would seem to be a pretty good lease," said Uncle Peter Henry. "And you would like to have made that sort of lease for your corn patch in Mr. Giffen's field?"

"Yes, Uncle Peter Henry. For years and years and years!"

"I see! For three years, let us say? That would mean you could use the corn patch in Mr. Giffen's field for three years, at so much rent a year. Now, why not have in your lease an option for three years more at the same rent?"

"For because I don't know what an opshum is," said Billy Brad.

"An option," said Uncle Peter Henry, "is a part of the lease that says you can have the corn patch -- or whatever you are renting -- for still more years. if you want to have it for more years, at the same rent or at a certain rent that is mentioned in the lease."

"I know!" said Billy Brad eagerly. "So I could keep my corn patch in Mr. Giffen's field a long, long time, if I wanted to!"

"Just that!" agreed Uncle Peter Henry. "The lease would say you had to pay so much per year for three years, and that Mr. Giffen had to let you use the corn patch for three years if you paid the money to him, and the option would give you the right to keep on using the corn patch after the end of the three years. So that is what you would like, is it? A lease like that."

"Yes, Uncle Peter Henry!" Billy Brad said at once. "And -- and why didn't we?"

Then Uncle Peter Henry put his hand in his pocket and drew out a stiff, folded paper.

"Oh!" cried Billy Brad, smiling all over his face. "Oh! We did!"

Uncle Peter Henry held the paper in his hand.

"Now, one minute, young farmer!" he said. "One minute, young business man! One minute, young renter! You wished you had a lease for three years on your corn patch in Mr. Giffen's field, did you?"

"Yes, and --"

"It is quite a long walk to Mr. Giffen's field on a hot day," said Uncle Peter Henry. "The soil in his field is not very rich -- it requires a lot of fertilizer. I had a talk with Mr. Carter today, and he does not want to rent his field to the circus or the Chautauqua any more. He says he will be glad to rent you a corn patch just behind your papa's house, and you will have to pay only half of what you paid Mr. Giffen --"

"Oo!" cried Billy Brad joyfully. "I want to do that, Uncle Peter Henry! Let's do that, please!"

"Why, dear me!" exclaimed Uncle Peter Henry. "I thought you said you wished we had leased Mr. Giffen's corn patch for three years."

"But I don't wish it," said Billy Brad. "For because, I'd rather have my corn patch in Mr. Carter's field, I would."

"Very well," said Uncle Peter Henry. "You shall have it there. But you see now, don't you, Billy Brad, that while a lease may be a very good thing to have sometimes, at other times it is not? There are two things to remember in making a lease: First, be sure you really want to make one, and then be sure it says what you want it to say. Now, think! Are you sure you want this lease on a corn patch in Mr. Carter's field?"

Billy Brad put his cheek in his hand and thought so long and so hard that his plump face squeezed itself all up into little wrinkles.

"Come, now!" said Uncle Peter Henry. "Do you want your corn patch in Mr. Carter's field?"

"Yes," said Billy Brad. "Yes, Uncle Peter Henry. If --"

"If what?" asked Uncle Peter Henry.

"If the circus isn't going to be there any more," said Billy Brad.



Saturday, October 07 at 1:10:49am USA Central
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