The Circus Boys In Dixie Land Or Winning the Plaudits of the Sunny South
Part 2 out of 4
Zoraya, for that was her name, smiled down, gracefully swung off
into space, soaring lightly into the strong, sure arms of her
Just the suspicion of an approving smile lighted up the face
of the clown for the moment, for he dearly loved this little
motherless daughter of his, who had been his care since she
was a child.
Shivers had taught her all she knew, and Zoraya was the
acknowledged queen of the lofty tumblers.
But the clown half unconsciously caught his breath as the lithe
form of Zoraya shot over the trapeze bar, described a graceful
"two-and-a-half" in the air, and, shooting downward, hit the net
with a resounding smack that caused the spectators to catch their
The clown shook a warning head at her, and Teddy so far forgot
himself as to stub his toe and measure his length upon
"Don't do it, Bright Eyes!" cautioned Shivers, shaking his head
warningly at the girl, as the child bounced up from the impact,
kicking her little feet together and turning a somersault on the
swaying net. "It isn't in your contract. Folks sometimes break
their necks trying kinkers that's not in the writings."
Her answer was a merry, mocking laugh, and Zoraya ran lightly
up a rope ladder to the platform where she balanced easily for
"My, I wish I could do stunts like that!" breathed Teddy.
"Just like a bird. La, la, la! La, la, la!" sang the painted
clown, turning a handspring and pivoting on his head for a grand,
His refined comedy, so pleasing to the occupants of the reserved
seats, had now been changed to loud, uproarious buffoonery as he
bowed before the blue, fifty cent seats where his auditors were
massed on boards reaching from the top of the side wall clear
down to the edge of the arena.
He took liberties with their hats, passed familiar criticisms on
their families and told them all about the other performers in
the ring, arousing the noisy appreciation of the spectators.
Teddy was put to his wits end to keep up with this rapid-fire
clowning, and the perspiration was already streaking the powder
on his face.
All at once, above the din and the applause, the ears of
the clown caught a sound different from the others--a scream
of alarm. Shivers had heard such a cry many times before during
his twenty years in the sawdust ring, and, as he expressed it,
the sound always gave him "crinkles up and down his spine."
There was no need to start and look about for the cause.
He understood that there had been an accident. But the clown
looked straight ahead and went on with his work. He knew, by
the strains of the music, exactly what Zoraya should be doing at
the moment when the cry came--that her supple body was flashing
through the air in a "passing leap," one of the feats that
always drew such great applause, even if it were more
spectacular than dangerous.
"No, it can't be Zoraya!" he muttered. But the clown cast one
nervous, hesitating glance up there where her troupe was working
in the air. The cold sweat stood out upon him. Zoraya was not
with them. His eyes sought the net. It was empty. He saw a
figure clad in pink, white and gold shooting right through
Then, too, he saw something else. A slender, pink-clad figure
was darting under the net with outstretched arms.
"It's Phil. He's going to catch her," shouted Teddy jubilantly.
But Phil went down under the impact of the heavy blow as Zoraya
struck him. A throng of ring attendants gathered about them, and
in a moment the two forms were picked up and borne quickly from
Once, years before, Shivers had been through an earthquake in
South America, when things about him were topsy-turvy, when the
circus tent came tumbling down about him, and ring curbs went up
into the air in most bewildering fashion.
Now, that same sensation was upon him again, and quarter poles
seemed to dance before his eyes like giddy marionettes, while
the long rows of blue seats appeared to be tilted up at a
dangerous angle. Then slowly the clown's bewilderment merged
into keen understanding, but his painted face reflected none of
the anguish that was gripping at his heart strings.
Teddy brushed a hand across his own eyes.
"I--I guess they're both killed," he said falteringly.
Just then the voice of the head clown broke out in the old
Netherlands harvest song:
"Yanker didel doodle down,
Didel, dudel lanter,
Yankee viver, voover vown,
Botermilk und tanther."
"Poor Zoraya!" muttered the clown under cover of the applause
that greeted his vocal effort. And his associates looked down
from their perches high in the air, gazing in wonder upon the
clown who was bowing so low that, each time he did so, he was
obliged to turn a somersault to gain his equilibrium.
"Dangerously hurt--went through the net head first. Hurry!"
panted a belated clown, running by to his station.
"Boy hurt, too."
"Told you so!" grumbled Teddy.
But Shivers did not flinch, and, as he neared the reserved seats
on the grandstand, his voice again rang out, this time in a
variation of the ancient harvest song:
"Yankee doodle, keep it up,
Yankee doodle, dandy;
Mind the music and the step,
And with your feet be handy."
Never had the show people seen Shivers so uproariously funny.
Under the spell of his merriment, the audience quickly forgot the
tragic scene that they had just witnessed.
Teddy, however, noticed little dark trenches that had ploughed
their courses down through the makeup of the clown's cheeks from
his eyes. Teddy knew that tears had caused those furrows.
As Shivers looked down the long, grassy stretch ahead of him,
that he still must cover before his act would be finished, the
goal seemed far away. He flashed one longing glance toward the
crimson curtains that shut off the view of the paddock and the
dressing tents, vaguely wondering what lay beyond for him and for
little Zoraya. Then Shivers set his jaws hard, plunging into a
mad whirl of handsprings and somersaults, each of which sent him
nearer to the end of that seemingly endless way.
"Here, here, what are you trying to do?" gasped Tucker, unable to
keep up with the clown's rapid progress by doing the same things.
Teddy solved the problem by running. He could keep up in no
At last Shivers reached the end. With a mighty leap he sprang
for the paddock and the dressing tent. And how he did run!
Such sprinting never had been seen in the big show, even between
man and horse in the act following the Roman chariot races.
Once a rope caught Shivers' toes. He fell forward, but cleverly
landed on his shoulders and the back of his neck, bouncing up
like a rubber man and plunging on.
Shivers had darted through the crimson curtain by the time
Teddy Tucker had succeeded in picking himself up from having
fallen over the same rope.
Stretched out on a piece of canvas in the dressing tent, her head
slightly elevated on a saddle pad, they found Zoraya, her pallor
showing even through the roughly laid on makeup.
Phil was sitting on a trunk holding his head in his hands, for he
had received quite a severe shock.
"If she regains consciousness soon she may live," announced
the surgeon. "If not--"
"No, no!" protested the white-faced clown, dropping on his knees
by the side of the child, folding Zoraya tenderly in his arms.
"She must not die! She cannot die!"
His jaunty baker's cap tilted off and fell upon her tinseled
breast, while groups of curious, sorrowful painted faces pressed
about them in silent sympathy.
Teddy crushed his white cap between his hands twisting
"She isn't hurt. Can't you see? Look, she is smiling now,"
pleaded the clown.
The surgeon shook his head sadly, and Shivers buried his head on
Zoraya's shoulder, pressing his painted cheek close to hers,
while the dull roar of the circus, off under the big top, drifted
to them faintly, like the sighing of a distant cataract.
An impressive silence hovered over the scene, which was broken,
at last, by the quiet voice of the circus surgeon.
"The child is coming back, Shivers. She has fought it out, but
she will perform no more, I am afraid, for bones broken as are
hers never will be quite the same again."
"She don't have to perform any more, sir," snapped the clown.
"I'll do that for her. You put that down in your fool's cap
and smoke it. Yes, sir, I'll--"
"Daddy!" murmured the lips that were pressed close to
It was scarcely a whisper, more a breath that Shivers caught, but
faint as it was, it sent the blood pounding to his temples until
they showed red, like blotches of rouge under powder.
"D-a-d-d-y--y-o-u-r--Zory got an awful--b-u-m-p."
Three harlequins who had been poising each on one knee, chins in
hands, gazing down into the face of the little performer,
suddenly threw backward somersaults in their joy.
"Yes, Phil's quickness saved you," spoke up the surgeon. "Had it
not been for him you would be dead now."
Teddy Tucker, the tears streaming down his cheeks, was hopping
about on one foot, vigorously kicking a shin with the other foot,
trying to punish himself for his tears.
"I'm a fool! I'm a fool! But--but--I can't help it," he sobbed,
wheeling suddenly and dashing into his own dressing tent.
"Call for Shivers!" bellowed the voice of the callboy, thrusting
his head inside the entrance flap. "All the Joeys out for the
Shivers gently laid the broken form of Zoraya back, pressed a
hurried kiss on her painted lips and bounded away to take his
cue, the circus band out there by the crimson curtains swinging
brazenly into the enlivening strains of "There'll Be a Hot Time
in the Old Town Tonight!"
A RIVAL IN THE FIELD
Zoraya was left behind. She was sent to a hospital where she was
destined to remain many weeks, before she would be able to be
moved to her little home in Indiana. She never performed again.
In the meantime the Great Sparling Combined Shows had moved
majestically along. They had left the United States and were
touring Canada, playing in many of the quaint little French
villages and larger towns, where the Circus Boys found much to
interest and amuse them.
Teddy and Shivers had made a great hit in their "brother" clown
act, which was daily added to and improved upon as the show
worked its way along the Canadian border.
One day Phil, who had been downtown after the parade, where he
went to read the papers when he got a chance, came back and
sought out Mr. Sparling in the latter's private tent.
"Well, Phil," greeted the owner cordially, "what's on your mind?"
"Perhaps a good deal, but possibly nothing of any consequence.
You will have to decide that."
"What is it?" questioned Mr. Sparling sharply.
"Do we show in Corinto?"
"I thought I had heard you mention that we were to do so."
"Why do you ask that question?"
"I'll answer it by asking another," smiled the Circus Boy.
"When do we make that stand?"
The showman consulted his route book.
"A week from next Tuesday," he said. "Anything wrong
"Nothing except that there is another show billed to play there
the day before."
Mr. Sparling bent a keen gaze on Phil's face, to make sure the
lad was not joking.
"Yes, the Sully Hippodrome Circus is billed there for Monday."
"Where did you find that out?"
"I read it in a St. Catharines' paper down at the hotel
this morning. I thought you would be interested in knowing
"Interested? Why, boy, it will kill our business. So Sully
is cutting in on us, is he? I thought he was playing the
eastern circuit. He threatened to get even with me."
"Yes. Sully was once a partner in this show, but he proved
himself so dishonest that I had to take legal measures to get
him out. He got money from some source last season, and put
a show of his own on the road. He has a twenty-five car
show, I understand. Not such a small outfit at that. But I
hear it is a graft show."
"What's a graft show? I must confess that I never heard of
"A graft show, my boy, is a show that gets money in various ways.
They frequently carry a gang of thieves and confidence men with
them, who work among the spectators on the grounds before the
show, robbing them and getting a commission on their earnings."
"Is it possible that there are such dishonest people in the
show business?" marveled the lad.
"Not only possible, but an actual fact. I am happy to say,
however, that there are few shows that will tolerate anything
of that sort."
"I'm glad I did not have the misfortune to get with one of them,"
smiled Phil. "Are any of the big shows graft shows?"
"None of them. But about this heading us off?"
"Yes; what will you do about it?"
"We'll be there on Monday, too," decided the showman after a
"Then--then you intend to skip a date somewhere?"
"We shall have to."
Mr. Sparling was a man of resource and quick action. He made up
his mind in a minute as to what course to follow.
"I'm going to detach you from the show for a few days, if you
don't mind, Phil," decided Mr. Sparling.
"I am glad to serve you in any way that you think I can,"
answered the lad with a flash of surprise in his glance.
"I know that. What I want you to do is to join that show
"I do not mean that exactly. I want you to go to the town where
they are playing tomorrow, I will get the name of the town before
the day is over. Follow the show right along from town to town
until next Monday, paying your way when you go in and keeping
your eyes open for their game. You, with your shrewdness, ought
to have no difficulty in getting sufficient evidence to help me
carry out my plans."
"What sort of evidence do you wish me to get?"
"Make a mental note of everything you see that is not regular,
and if they have a route card get a copy of that. It's perfectly
regular, young man," hastened the showman, noting Phil's look
of disapproval. "You are not doing anything improper. I do not
ask you to pry into their private affairs. We have a right,
however, to find out if we can, what their plans are with
relation to ourselves. If they are playing Corinto the day
before we do, just by mere chance, then I shall make no further
objections, but if they are planning to move along ahead of us
and kill our business--well, that's a different matter."
"I see," nodded Phil. "Who will take my place in the ring
"We will get along without it, that's all. It doesn't matter so
much in these small towns. I don't care if you do not join out
until we get to Niagara Falls. We'll be playing in the real
"And working south?"
"Yes. As soon as the weather gets cooler we will head for the
south and stay there until the close of the season. They are
going to have a big cotton crop in the south this fall, and there
will be lots of money lying around loose to be picked up by a
show like ours."
"When do you want me to start?" asked Phil.
"Just as soon as I can get an answer to a telegram that I'm
going to send now. You will be off sometime this afternoon.
But perhaps you can go on in your acts--no, I guess you had
better not. You'll be missed at night if you do."
"Yes; that's so."
"I shall have some further directions for you. So long, for
Phil turned away thoughtfully. Shortly after the afternoon
performance Mr. Sparling sent for Phil again, the lad having
in the meantime packed a few necessary articles in his bag
preparatory to the journey that lay before him.
"The other show will be at St. Catharines tomorrow.
Are you ready?"
"Yes, sir. What time can I get away?"
"Five o'clock. You will be there in the morning in time to
see them set the tents. Let me warn you that Sully is ugly
and unscrupulous. If he were to know what you are there for
it might get you into a mix-up, so be careful."
"I'll be careful. Have you any further instructions?"
"I want to give you some money. You can't travel without money."
"I have plenty," answered Phil. "I will keep my expense account
and turn it in to you when I get back. Where do you wish me to
"Corinto, unless you think best to come back in the meantime.
That is, if you get sufficient information. You know what I want
without my going into details, don't you?"
"I think so."
"Now, look out for yourself."
"I'll try to."
"You have not mentioned to anyone what you are going to do,
"Certainly not. Not even to Teddy. Perhaps if you will, you
might make the explanation to him," suggested Phil.
"Yes; I'll do that as soon as you have gotten away. He'll be
raising the roof off the big top when he misses you."
Phil extended his hand to his employer, then turned and hurried
from the tent. First, the boy proceeded to the sleeping car in
which he berthed, for his bag. Securing this he had just time to
reach the station before the five o'clock train rumbled in.
The lad boarded a sleeping car and settled himself for the
long ride before him, passing the time by reading the current
magazines with which he provided himself when the train agent
came through. Late in the evening the lad turned in. Riding in
a sleeping car was no novelty to him, and he dropped asleep
almost instantly, not to awaken again until the porter shook him
gently by the shoulder.
"What is it?" questioned Phil, starting up.
The lad pulled the curtains of his berth aside. Day was just
breaking as he peered out.
"There they are," he muttered, catching sight of a switch
full of gaudily painted cars bearing the name of the Sully
Hippodrome Circus. "They have just got in," he decided from
certain familiar signs of which he took quick mental note.
"Looks like a cheap outfit at that. But you never can tell."
Phil Forrest dressed himself quickly and grasping his bag hurried
from the car, anxious to be at his task, which, to tell the
truth, he approached with keen zest. He was beginning to enter
into the spirit of the work to which he had been assigned, and
which was to provide him with much more excitement than he at
that moment dreamed.
PHIL MAKES A DISCOVERY
"I guess I'll leave my bag in the station and go over to the
lot," decided the lad.
"The stake and chain gang will just about be on the job by
It is a well known fact in the circus world that there is no
better place to get information than from the stake and chain
gang, the men who hurry to the lot the moment their train gets
in and survey it, driving stakes to show where the tents are to
be pitched, and it is a familiar answer, when one is unable to
answer a question to say: "Ask the stake and chain gang."
That was exactly what Phil Forrest had in mind to do.
He followed a show wagon to the circus lot, where he found the
men already at work measuring off the ground with their
surveyor's chains, in the faint morning light.
"Morning," smiled Phil, sauntering over to where he observed the
foreman watching the work of his men.
"Morning," growled the showman. Phil knew he would growl because
the fellow had not yet had his breakfast.
"Seems to me the circuses are coming this way pretty fast?"
suggested the lad.
"What d'ye mean?"
"I hear that there are to be two over in Corinto within two
days--yours and--and. What's the name of the other one?"
"Sparling's," grunted the foreman.
Phil grinned appreciatively. He had drawn his man out on the
"That's it. That's the name. I shouldn't think he'd want to
show in the same place the day after you had been there?"
" 'Cause the folks will all spend their money going to
The foreman threw back his head and laughed.
"That's exactly what they will do, kid. That's what we want
them to do. We'll make that Sparling outfit get off the earth
before we get through with them. The boss has his axe out for
"Indeed?" cooed Phil.
"Yes. He's going, between you and me, to keep a day ahead of
them all the way over this circuit."
"Smart, very smart," laughed Phil, slapping his thigh as if he
appreciated the joke fully. "Have an orange. I always carry
some about with me when I'm going to visit a circus."
"Thanks, that will taste good at this time of the morning.
It will keep me going until the cook tent is ready. The cook
tent is where we get our meals, you understand. 'Course you
don't know about those things."
"Outsiders never do," replied the man.
"I was wondering something a moment ago, when you told me about
getting ahead of the other fellow."
"Wondering how you know where the other fellow is going?"
"That's a dark secret, kid," answered the stake and chain
foreman, with a very knowing wink.
"But if you know where he is going he must know where you are
billed for at the same time," urged Phil.
"But why not?"
"In the first place we bill ourselves only a few days ahead.
And, in the second, we have a way of finding out where Sparling
is going for the next month or so ahead. Sometimes further
"Well, well, that's interesting--" The foreman hurried off to
give some directions to his men, slowly returning a few
"I should like to know how you do it?"
"Say kid, there's tricks in the show business just the same as in
any other. Mebby there's somebody with the Sparling outfit who
keeps us posted. Mind you, I ain't saying there is; but that
there might be."
"Oh, I see," muttered Phil, suddenly enlightened. "Then someone
in the other show is giving away his employer's secrets.
Fine for you, but pretty rough on the other fellow."
"Let the other fellow take care of himself, the same way we do,"
growled the foreman, following it with a threatening command to
one of his men.
"That hardly seems fair," objected Phil.
"All is fair in war and the circus business. You seem a good
deal interested in this competition business?" snapped the man
with sudden suspicion in voice and face.
"I am. But where is this--this Sparling show going to--do you
know what towns they are going to play for the next month?
Can you tell that, too?"
"I can come pretty close to it," grinned the showman, whereupon
he named the towns on Phil's route list without so much as
missing one of them. But the stake and chain foreman did not
stop here; he went on and gave a further list that Phil only knew
of as having heard mentioned by Mr. Sparling in his various
conversations with the circus lad.
Phil was amazed.
"Then they must be going west. I see," nodded the boy.
"No, you don't see. You only think you do."
"No. If you was a showman and knew your business you'd know that
the Sparling outfit was going to make a sudden turn after a
little, and head for Dixie Land."
"Down south," exclaimed Phil.
"Sure. Why not? You see you lubbers don't know any more about
the show business than--"
"And you are going to follow them?"
"Follow them? No. We're going to lead them. They'll follow us."
"You're like a wildcat train then?"
"Something of the sort."
"Where's the boss?"
"There he comes now. I'll have to hustle the men, or he'll
scorch the grass off the lot with his roars."
The foreman hastened to stir up his surveyors and Phil moved
off that he might get a better look at Mr. Sully, the owner of
the show. Phil found him to be a florid-faced, square jawed man
whose expression was as repulsive as it was brutal. Sully wore a
red vest and red necktie with a large diamond in it. He gave the
Circus Boy a quick sharp look as he passed. "I'll bet he will
know me the next time he sees me," muttered Phil. "But whether
he does or not I have made some discoveries that Mr. Sparling
will be glad to know about, though they will not make him
particularly happy, I'm thinking."
Phil was hungry, and he was anxious to get back to the village to
write a letter, but decided that he would wait until the tents
were up. Then again, he wanted to see the wagons brought on so
he could count them and get a fair inventory of the show and what
it possessed. He soon discovered that the Sully Hippodrome
Circus was no one-horse affair, though considerably smaller than
the one with which he was connected.
Not until the people were getting ready for the parade did Phil
leave the lot. Then he hastened downtown and got his dinner and
breakfast all in one, after which he sat down to write a full
account of what he had learned to Mr. Sparling.
"There, if anything happens to me he is pretty well informed
so far. It's enough to enable him to lay those plans he has
in mind, whatever they may be. I can see him hammering his
desk and getting red in the face when he reads this letter."
Phil was cautious enough not to mention the name of the Sully
show in his letter, and tried to couch it in such terms, that
while Mr. Sparling would understand perfectly, another might not.
Phil took the letter to the post office, then went out on the
sidewalk where he stood leaning against a lamp post to watch the
parade, which he did with critical eyes.
"A pretty good-sized show," he mused. "But all their trappings
are second hand. They have bought them up from some show that
has discarded them. That's one thing the Sparling outfit
never does. All their stuff is new nearly every season.
Sully may have some of our old trappings, for all I know."
The parade was a long one; there were a good many cages, besides
a fair-sized herd of elephants.
"Hm-m-m! Three tuskers among the bulls," muttered Phil.
"Pretty well up to our herd, but I wouldn't trade Emperor
for any two of them, at that."
After the parade had passed, Phil once more strolled over to
the circus lot and hung about until time for the afternoon
performance to begin, when he bought a ticket and entered,
occupying a reserved seat where he could see all that was
The lad smiled at the thought of how his position had changed.
He was so used to being over there in the ring that it did not
seem quite right for him to be occupying a chair in the audience.
He could scarcely resist the impulse to hurry back to the
dressing tent and prepare for the ring.
The grand entry came on; then his attention was centered on the
performance, which he watched with the keen eyes of an expert,
noting the work of every performer, completely forgetting the
cheering audience in his absorption.
It was really a fair performance. He was forced to admit this,
especially of the aerial acts. But the bareback riding he did
not think compared favorably with his own, especially so far as
the men riders were concerned. One woman rider was very
Phil drew a long breath when the performance had come to
an end. A circus performance, to him, was a matter of the
keenest interest. The fact that he himself was a circus
performer did not lessen that interest one whit, but rather
intensified it. Yet the glamour of his youthful days had passed.
It was now a professional interest, rather than the wondering
interest of a boy who never had seen the inside of the
Phil did not hang about the grounds. He went downtown, but was
once more on hand for the evening performance, where he noted
that the show was cut short fully half an hour, and this without
apparent good reason.
He had made the acquaintance of a "candy butcher" during the hour
before the show, and from him had learned some further details
that were of interest to him and his investigation.
The Circus Boy, after watching the striking of the tents,
returned to the railroad station and took a late train for the
town where the circus was to show next day. It was not a long
run, so he took a day coach. In it he saw several familiar
faces--faces that he had noticed about the circus lot that
afternoon, and from their appearance he was forced to conclude
that these men belonged to the shows.
"Those fellows are crooks, as sure as I am alive," decided the
lad, after listening to the conversation of the couple just ahead
of him. "That's what Mr. Sparling told me. I could hardly
believe it. I'll spend part of the time outside tomorrow and
make sure. I shall know those fellows when I see them, if they
are on the grounds."
It had not occurred to Phil Forrest that he might be recognized
also, though he knew full well that circus people had keen eyes,
especially in an outfit such as this.
The next morning he hunted up his friend the candy butcher,
inviting that worthy to take breakfast with him which the lad,
a boy about his own age, was glad to do. From the "butcher"
Phil learned a whole lot of things that added to his store of
knowledge, among them being the fact that Sully's outfit was
even worse than it had been painted.
Mingling with the crowds about the main entrance, before the
doors were opened that afternoon, Phil once more saw the same men
he had observed on the train the previous evening. From their
actions he was more than ever satisfied that he had not been
mistaken in his estimate of them.
"I shouldn't be surprised if they were looking for some
pockets to pick," mused the lad, "but I do not see them
doing anything yet."
As a matter of fact, the men were plying their trade, but
his eyes had not been quick enough to catch them at it.
Phil, however, was more successful just before the
Standing among the people massed out in front he saw a man's
hand steal slowly toward the handbag of a well-dressed woman.
Phil traced the hand back until he made out the owner, who was
one of the same men that had come through on the train with him.
A gasoline torch lighted the operation faintly, and Phil gazed
with fascinated eyes while the stealthy hand opened the bag
quickly extracting its contents.
Almost at the instant the woman looked down, perhaps attracted by
the tug at the bag.
"I've been robbed!" she cried.
The words stirred Phil to instant action.
In another second the thief felt a vise-like grip about the wrist
that held the plunder.
"Here's the man that did it, madam. Call an officer," said
THE CIRCUS BOY IS RECOGNIZED
Giving the wrist of his prisoner a sharp twist, Phil snatched
away the small handful of bills that the fellow had stolen,
returning them to the woman.
By this time the thief had suddenly recovered his wits and sought
to jerk his hand away, seeing that it was merely a boy who had
grabbed him. To the surprise of the crook he found it was not an
easy matter to free himself from that grip. After making several
desperate efforts the fellow adopted other methods.
"Let go of me, I tell you. I'll have you put away for this."
"I'll let go of you when a policeman has hold of you, and not
before," retorted Phil. "You are a thief. I saw you steal that
The man suddenly uttered an angry exclamation and launched a blow
at Phil's head, which the lad avoided, allowing it to pass over
"Hurry! Get a policeman! This man is a thief," urged Phil, as
he closed with his antagonist.
"Thief! Thief," cried several voices at once. It was a cry that
had been heard before about the Sully shows.
Phil had not struck back at his enemy. Instead the lad, by a
skillful twist, had whirled the fellow about until his back was
toward the boy. Then Phil suddenly let go his hold on the wrist,
clasping the man around the body and pinioning his arms to
"You might as well stand still," said the lad coolly. "You can't
get away until I permit you to, and that won't be until something
that looks like a policeman comes along."
In the meantime the captive was struggling and threatening.
All at once he raised his voice in a peculiar, wailing cry.
The Circus Boy felt sure that it was some sort of a signal,
though it was new to him. But he was not to be cowed.
"Police!" shouted Phil.
"Police!" cried many voices.
Half a dozen men came rushing into the crowd, thrusting the
people aside as they ran, looking this way and that to learn from
where the cry for assistance had come.
Phil's captive uttered a sharp cry, and the lad realized what
was going to happen. At first he had thought it was the police
coming, but he was undeceived the moment he caught his prisoner's
appeal to them. The men dashed toward the two, and as they rushed
in Phil whirled his man so that the latter collided violently
with the newcomers. That checked the rush briefly. He knew,
however, that he could not hope to stand off his assailants for
more than a few seconds. Yet the lad calculated that in those
few seconds the police might arrive. He did not know that they
had been well bribed neither to see nor to hear what occurred on
the circus grounds.
A moment more and the lad had been roughly jerked from his
captive and hurled violently to the ground.
Phil sprang up full of fight while the angry fellows closed in
on him. He saw that they were showmen. A sudden idea occurred
"Hey, Rube!" he shouted at the top of his voice, hoping that the
rest of the show people within reach of his voice might crowd in
and in the confusion give him a chance to get away.
And they did crowd in. They came on like a company of soldiers,
sweeping everything before them. Phil, in that brief instant,
while he was sparring to keep his opponents off, found time to
The fellow he had first made captive now attacked Phil
viciously, the lad defending himself as best he could, while the
people who had come to attend the show got out of harm's way as
rapidly as possible. Phil could hope for no assistance from
"I guess I have gotten myself into a worse scrape by calling
the rest of the gang," he muttered, noting that he was being
surrounded as some of the first comers pointed him out to
Suddenly they fell upon Phil with one accord. He was jerked
this way and that, but succeeded pretty well in dodging the
blows aimed at his head, though his clothes were torn and he
was pretty badly used.
Suddenly a voice roared out close behind him.
Turning his head a little Phil recognized Sully, the owner of
the show. Sully's face was redder than ever.
"What--what's all this row about? Haven't you fellows anything
more important to do than raising a roughhouse? Get out of here,
the whole bunch of you! What's he done? Turn him over to the
police and go on about your business."
One of the men said something in a low tone to Sully.
The showman shot a keen, inquiring glance at the lad.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"I don't know that it makes any difference. I saw a fellow
robbing a woman, and it was my duty to stop him. I did it, then
a lot of his companions, who, I suppose, belong to your show
pitched into me."
"So, you are trying to run the whole show, are you?"
"I am not."
"Well, you get off this lot as fast as you can hoof it. If I
find you butting in again it will be the worse for you."
"That's the fellow who was hanging around the lot at
St. Catharines yesterday," spoke up someone.
"Yes; I remember now, he was asking me questions," said another,
whose voice Phil recognized as belonging to the foreman of the
stake and chain gang. "I got to thinking about it afterwards,
and realized that he was a little too inquisitive for
a greenhorn. He's been on the lot all day again."
Mr. Sully surveyed Phil with an ugly scowl.
"What are you doing around here, young man?"
"For one thing, I am trying to prevent one of your followers
robbing a woman," answered Phil boldly.
"Who are you?"
"That is my own affair."
"I know him! I know him! I Know!" shouted another.
Sully turned to him inquiringly.
"Who is he, if you know so much?"
"He's a fellow what was with the Sparling outfit last year.
He was always butting in then, and I can tell you he ain't
here for any good now, Boss."
"So, that's the game is it?" sneered Sully. "You come with me.
I've got a few questions I want to ask you."
"I don't have to go with you," replied Phil.
"Oh, yes you do! Bring him along and if he raises a row just
hand him one and put him to sleep."
Two men grabbed Phil roughly by his arms.
He jerked away and started to run when he was pounced upon and
borne to the ground. Phil found himself grasped by the collar
and jerked violently to his feet, with the leering face of Sully
thrust up close to his own.
"I'll see that you don't get away this time," growled
Dragging the lad along by the collar further off on the lot, the
showman finally paused.
"Get the carriage," he commanded sharply.
"What you going to do with me?" demanded Phil.
"That depends. I'm going to find out something about you first,
and decide what to do with you later."
"And, when you get through, I shall have you arrested
for assault. It will be my turn to act then," retorted the
Circus Boy. "I have done nothing except to stop a miserable
thief from plying his trade. I understand that's a game you--"
"That will do, young man. Here's the wagon. Now, if you
go quietly you will have no trouble. But just try to call
for help, or raise any sort of a ruction, and you'll see
more stars than there are in the skies when the moon's on
a strike. Get in there."
Phil was thrust into the closed carriage, which the showman used
for driving back and forth between the train and the lot.
Quick as a flash Phil Forrest dived through the open coach window
on the other side, and with equal quickness he was pounced upon
by the driver, who had gotten off on that side, probably at a
signal from Sully.
Had Sully not run around to the other side of the wagon Phil
would have quickly disposed of the driver, strong as was
With an enraged cry Sully sprang upon Phil, and raised his hand
"If you attempt to do that you'll serve the rest of the season
in jail," dared Phil, taking a bold course. "You know they
don't trifle with brutes like you up here in Canada?"
Sully growled an unintelligible reply, but that he recognized the
truth of the lad's words was evident when he slowly dropped his
clenched fist to his side.
"I'll see that you don't get away this time," he said once more
thrusting Phil into the carriage, this time, however, keeping a
firm grip on the lad's arm.
The driver whipped up the horse and the carriage rumbled away,
soon reaching the village street and turning sharply off into a
ON SULLY'S PRIVATE CAR
"Where are you taking me?" Phil demanded.
"You'll see in a minute."
"And so will you. There are laws to punish such high-handed
methods as yours, and I'll see that you are punished, and well
punished, too. If I can't do it, there are others who will--who
will see that you get what you deserve."
"Keep on talking. It will be my turn pretty soon,"
In a short time Phil discovered that they were driving along by
the railroad tracks. He knew that the yards where the circus
train was standing were only a short distance beyond.
"I guess he's going to take me to the train, for some reason
or other," decided Phil, but he could not understand what the
showman's motive might be.
The Circus Boy was not afraid, but he was thoroughly angry.
His grit and stubbornness had been aroused and he was ready to
take any desperate chance. However, he felt that, after all,
this capture might be the means of giving him the further
information of which he was in search. He might possibly be
able to draw some admission from Sully.
They drew up beside the tracks and the carriage halted.
"Now, not a sound!" warned the showman. "If you raise your
voice, or so much as speak to anyone you see, I'll forget that
you are a kid and--"
"I am not afraid of your threats," interrupted Phil. "I know you
are brute enough to do what you say you will, but it won't be
good for you if you do. Go on. I'll follow till I get a chance
"You'll not get the chance," retorted Sully, taking firm hold of
the boy's arm.
They made their way through the yards, avoiding the gasoline
torches that flared familiarly here and there among the mass
of cars, then turned toward the station. As the lights of the
latter came into view, the showman halted, looked up and down
the tracks, then led Phil to the platform of a car which the
boy recognized as being one of the show's sleepers.
"That's what I thought he was up to," muttered Phil, watching for
an opportunity to leap off the other side and lose himself among
No such opportunity was offered to him, however, and a moment
later the door of the sleeper had been opened, and he was pushed
roughly inside, Mr. Sully following in quickly, slamming and
locking the door behind them.
"Get in there and sit down!"
"In the private office there."
"So this is your private car, is it?"
"You seem to know a lot about the show business."
Phil made no reply, but dropped into the owner's chair at the
"Get out of that chair!"
"I thought you invited me to sit down?"
"I did, but I might have known you wouldn't have had sense enough
to sit where you ought to."
"On the floor."
"I am not in the habit of being received that way," taunted Phil,
making no move to vacate the chair.
Sully, with a grunt of disapproval, sat down in another chair,
placing himself so the light would fall fully on Phil's face.
"Now, what's your name?"
"You'll have to guess that," smiled Phil.
"That's where you're wrong. I know it."
"What is my name?"
"Forrest. You're a bareback rider in the Sparling outfit.
You thought you would not be known, but you see you are.
You can't fool a man in the show business so easily. After you
have grown older in the business you will learn a few things."
"I am learning fast," laughed the lad. "I am learning a lot of
things that I wish I did not have to learn."
"What, for instance?"
"That there are such men as you in the show business."
"Be careful, boy. You will go too far, the first thing you know.
Now, what are you doing here?"
"If you know so much I don't see why you should have to ask
"And I'm not telling. I'll answer none of your questions, unless
it is about something that I can tell you without getting others
"You already have admitted that you are with the Sparling show.
You have made several slips of the tongue since I got hold
"I haven't denied that I am with the Sparling show, neither have
I admitted it. I decline to lie or to give you any information
of any nature whatever."
"When is the Sparling show coming here?"
"I was not aware that it was coming here. Is it?"
"No, I didn't mean that. I mean when are they going to show
Phil was silent.
"You might as well make a clean breast of the whole business,
young man. I've caught you red-handed, snooping about the lot
for two days quizzing everybody. Now what's the game?"
"There is no game."
"What is Sparling trying to find out?"
"You will have to ask him, I guess."
Sully surveyed the lad in silence for a minute or two.
"I couldn't understand, at first, why he should send a kid like
you to spy upon us; but I begin to see that you are a sharp
Just then the showman was interrupted by the entrance of the
foreman of the stake and chain gang.
"Bob, I want you to tell me exactly what questions this cub asked
"I thought he was some curious town fellow, so I didn't pay much
attention to his questions. When I saw him on the lot, again
today, and heard him asking other folks, kind of careless like,
I began to smell a rat."
"What did he want to know, I'm asking you?"
The foreman related as well as he could remember, just
what conversation had taken place between himself and
Phil Forrest, omitting, however, the fact that he had furnished
any information. It would have ended his connection with the
show right there, had he let the owner know how much he really
Phil grinned appreciatively, but it was not for him to get the
foreman into trouble.
"Hm-m!" mused Sully. "You found out a lot, I presume?"
"I can truthfully say that I found out that what I had heard
about the show is true."
"And what's that, if I may ask?"
"Thieves. I happen to know that they travel right along with the
show, and I shouldn't be surprised if you got part of their
stealings, either," Phil boldly flung at the showman.
Sully's face went redder than ever, while his fingers clenched
and unclenched. It was evident that the man feared to let his
anger get the better of him.
"If he ever lets go at me, I'm a goner," thought Phil
understanding that, besides an almost ungovernable temper, the
man possessed great physical strength. "I guess he won't do
anything of the sort, unless I goad him to it. I believe that I
have said about enough."
"Watch him a minute, Bob," directed Sully, rising and stepping to
the other end of the car. He returned a minute later.
"Young man," he said, "if you had been more civil you might have
gotten away with your bluff--"
"I have not tried to bluff you," interjected Phil.
"As it is, I think I'll lock you up until morning, and, if you
are ready then to make a clean breast of the whole affair,
perhaps I shall let you go back with a message to your boss--a
message that he won't like, I reckon."
"You won't send any such message by me," retorted Phil.
"Carry your own messages. Where you going to lock me up?"
"In a place where you will be safe. But I shouldn't advise you
to get red-headed about it. There will be someone nearby to take
all the howl out of you if you try it."
"You had better not!"
"What do you think, Bob? Is it safe to let this fellow go?"
"Well, I suppose you've got to let him go sometime. He'll be
getting us into trouble if you keep him."
"I'll take the chance of that. We can drop him just before
crossing the line back into the United States."
"That's a good game."
"Then the United States authorities can't take any action on
an offense committed across the border. I don't believe they
would, anyway. It is all a part of the show game. I'd like to
drop the spy over the Falls when we get to Niagara," added Sully.
"I might get wet if you did that," grinned Phil.
"You'll be lucky if you don't get worse, which you will unless
you keep a more civil tongue in your head. Yes; I guess that
will be the best plan, Bob."
"You--you don't mean that you will drop him over the Falls?"
gasped the foreman.
"No," laughed Sully. "Not that, much as I'd like to. But it
would serve him right. I'm going to lock him up; that's what
"But he'll get out."
"Not from where I put him."
The foreman looked about him a puzzled expression in his eyes.
"What do you say to the linen closet?"
"The linen closet?"
"Yes. I have just looked at it. There will be room enough for
him, and there's no opening through which he can call to anyone
on the outside. If he does make an outcry some of us will be
here to look after him."
"That's a good game. I hadn't thought of it before."
"Come along, my fine young bareback rider. You'll wish you'd
stuck to your own business before you get through with us!"
Phil was led down the side passageway of the car and thrust into
a narrow compartment, about three sides of which were shelves
loaded down with the linen used on the car.
There was room for a chair in the compartment and he could
stand upright. However, had he wished to lie down he would
have been unable to do so.
"So this is the prison you have decided to lock me in, is it?"
grinned the lad.
"It looks that way. I guess it will bring you to your senses.
You'll talk by tomorrow morning, I'll guarantee."
"I guess you will have another guess coming," warned Phil.
Without further parley Sully slammed the door and locked it,
leaving Phil in absolute darkness.
"Now I am in a fix, for sure. If Sully hadn't been quite so big
I should have taken a chance and pitched into him. He is strong
enough to eat me alive. I could handle the fellow, Bob, all
right, but not Sully. So I have got to stay here all night?
Fine, fine! I hope I don't smother."
The car soon settled down to quiet again. Phil knew, however,
that he was not alone--that undoubtedly there was someone
watching his prison. He examined the place as well as he could
in the darkness, tried the door, ran his hands over the sides and
up among the piles of linen. There was scant encouragement to be
found, though Phil believed that if he had room to take a running
start he might break the door down.
He decided to remain quiet, and after his exciting experiences he
was quite willing to rest himself for a time. The lad pulled a
lot of the linen down to the floor, and making a bed for himself,
doubled up like a jackknife and settled himself for the night.
It was not a comfortable position, but Phil Forrest was used to
roughing it. In a few minutes he was sound asleep.
LOCKED IN THE LINEN CLOSET
Phil roused himself for a moment.
"We're going," he muttered, realizing that the train was
in motion. Then he dropped off to sleep again.
When next he awakened it was broad daylight, though the lad
did not know it until after he had struck a match and looked
at his watch.
"Eight 'clock in the morning," he exclaimed. "My, how I must
have slept, and on such a bed too!"
The lad was lame and sore from the cramped position in which he
had been obliged to lie all night, but he was just as cheerful as
if he had awakened in his own berth on sleeper number eleven on
the Sparling train. He began to feel hungry, though.
Phil tapped on the door. There was no response, so he rapped
again, this time with more force. Still failing to arouse anyone
Phil delivered a series of resounding kicks against the door.
"If no one answers that I'll know there is nobody here and I'll
see if I can't break the door down."
There was someone there, however, as was made plain a moment
later, when the door was thrown suddenly open, revealing the
grinning face of Sully, the owner of the show.
"Morning," greeted Phil. "I thought maybe breakfast was being
served in the dining car, and I didn't want to miss it."
"You're a cheerful idiot, aren't you?"
"So I have been told. But about that breakfast? If you'll
kindly conduct me to the wash room, so I can make myself
beautiful and prepare for breakfast, I shall be obliged to you."
"Huh!" grunted the showman.
"Where are we?"
"Is this where we show today?"
"Yes, this is where we show today. As if you didn't know that as
well as I do."
"I may have heard something to that effect. I don't just
remember for the moment. But, how about that breakfast?"
"How do you know you are going to get any breakfast?"
"Because I smelled it a few minutes ago."
"That's my breakfast that your keen nose scented, young man."
"Well, I guess I can stand it for once."
Sully was forced to smile at his young captive's good nature.
So he took Phil by the arm and led him to the wash room, where
the showman remained until Phil had completed his preparations
for breakfast. Then Sully led the way to a compartment at the
rear of the car where a small table had been set.
"This looks good to me," grinned Phil, rubbing his
palms together. "You live high in this outfit, don't you?"
The lad ate his breakfast with a will.
"I hope I am not depriving you of your meal?" questioned Phil,
glancing up quickly.
"I've had my breakfast. If there had been only enough for one,
you'd have gone hungry."
"You don't have to tell me that. I know it. That's about
"That will be about all from you," snapped the showman.
"The trouble with you is that you can't appreciate
decent treatment. You're just like your boss."
"I'll not hear you say a word against Mr. Sparling," bristled
Phil, then suddenly checked himself.
"So, I caught you that time, did I?" exclaimed Sully, slapping
his thighs and laughing uproariously, while Phil's face grew red
with mortification at the slip he had made. "You are not half as
smart as you think you are, young man. I'll keep at you until I
get out of you all the information I want."
"I'm afraid the show season isn't long enough for you to do
that," was the boy's quick retort.
"You'll find out whether it is or not."
"I shall not be with you that long. Now that I have admitted
that I have been connected with the Sparling show, what do you
think my employer will do when he finds I am missing?"
"I rather guess he will do something. Wait."
"When does he expect you back?"
Phil looked at the showman, laughing.
"Did I mention that I was expected? I said that when he missed
me there would be an inquiry, and there will."
"Little good that will do him," growled the showman.
"Then you don't know James Sparling."
"How'll he know you are here?"
"Trust him to find out, and then--wow! There will be
an explosion that you can hear on the other side of the
St. Lawrence. Do I take a walk for my health
"To the other end of the car, to the linen closet, where you are
to stay until--"
"Until what?" questioned Phil sharply.
"Until you tell me what I want to know."
"What is it that you wish to know?"
"Why were you sent to spy on my outfit?"
"Perhaps for the same reason that you keep a spy in his camp,"
retorted Phil, bending a keen gaze on the face of his jailer.
Sully's face went violently red. Without another word he grasped
Phil roughly by the shoulder, jerked him from the table and
hurried the lad down the corridor.
"Here, here, I haven't finished my breakfast yet," protested
"You have, but you don't know it. You will know in a minute."
With that the showman thrust Phil into the linen closet again and
slammed the door.
"My, I wouldn't have a temper like yours if you were to make me a
present of a six-pole circus!" called the Circus Boy.
He chuckled as Sully uttered a grunt of anger and strode off to
the other end of the car.
"He'll be going to the lot after a while, then I'll get busy,"
muttered Phil. In the meantime there was nothing for him to do
but to sit down and make the best of his situation, which he did.
Once, during the morning, Phil, believing himself to be alone,
made several desperate attempts to break the door down.
His efforts brought a threat from the corridor as to what would
happen if he tried that again. Phil knew, then, that he was not
to be left alone.
After a while the lad went to sleep, not awakening until late in
He got no supper that night, nor did the showman come near him
until late on the following morning. Phil was ravenously hungry,
not having had a thing to eat in twenty-four hours, but he had
too much grit to utter a word of complaint.
An excellent breakfast was served, but instead of Mr. Sully one
of his men sat at the table while another stood out in the
corridor ready to take a hand in case the boy made an effort
Had there been an open window near him Phil would have tried a
dive through it, taking the chance of getting away. The windows
in the room where the breakfast was served had been prudently
He had just finished his breakfast when Sully came storming in.
The lad could see that he was very angry about something.
"Good morning, sir. Aren't you feeling well this morning?"
questioned Phil innocently.
"Feeling--feeling--" The words seemed to choke in the
"Why--why--why didn't you tell me that Sparling had changed
his date and was planning to make Corinto the same day we are
billed there?" thundered Sully.
"Is he? You know very well that he is, and it was your report
that put him up to doing this trick. We've got you to thank for
this piece of business, and you're going to pay dear for your
part in it. Is he going to follow us all around the country--is
that what he's planning to do?"
"I guess you had better ask Mr. Sparling himself. He hasn't seen
fit to tell me, as yet."
"I'll show him that he can't trifle with me, and I'll show you,
so you won't forget it for the rest of your circus career."
"I wouldn't make threats were I in your place, Mr. Sully.
Wait until you get over your mad fit; then you'll be glad you
didn't say anything you might have to take back later on,"
"Take back? Take back?"
For the moment the showman was too far overcome with emotion
to speak. Then he uttered a roar and stamped out of the car.
"Say, when is he going to let me out of here?"
"Not till we get to the border," answered the attendant.
"When will that be?"
"I don't know for sure. I guess maybe a month."
"You don't mean he is going to keep me in that linen cupboard for
a full month--you can't mean that?"
"Can't say about that. I guess that's it. If you're finished
with your breakfast--"
"I have been finished for sometime."
"Then you'll have to git back to the coop again."
Phil reluctantly rose, but his keeper kept tight hold of him, and
the man on guard out in the corridor walked ahead of the boy on
down to the linen closet, where Phil was once more thrust in and
the door closed on him.
He had not been there long before he heard Sully enter the car
with one of his men. All at once their voices seemed to come to
him clearly and distinctly. The lad did not remember to have
heard voices there so plainly before.
This time Phil began looking about to see if there were not
really an opening in his chamber. He found it at the top
over one of the shelves, a small grill, over which a curtain
had been stretched. Phil lost no time in climbing up to it.
He peered out and saw the men plainly. With Sully was his
parade manager, and they were talking excitedly.
Phil opened his eyes wide when he began to realize the enormity
of the plan that they were discussing.
THROUGH RINGS OF FIRE
"If there should happen to be a wind we might cut a rope or two
and let the big top down on them," suggested parade manager.
"Yes; it would put them out of business for the night
performance, but we don't want them to fill up for the
afternoon show. That's when they are going to get the money.
You see, Sparling's show is bigger and better known than ours,
and showing there the same day we are liable to get the worst
of it. Can't you suggest anything else?"
"If you don't like letting the big top down on their heads,
and providing there is no wind to make the attempt worthwhile,
I would suggest another way."
"The scoundrels!" breathed the listener above their heads.
"What's your suggestion?"
"Stampede the elephants."
"That's a dandy! And we know how to do it, eh, Lawrence?"
The parade manager nodded emphatically.
"They'll never know what happened to them. We can do it before
the show gets to the lot if you think best?"
Sully shook his head.
"No. We'll wait till just as the doors are about to open for
the afternoon show. Mind you, I'm not saying we shall do it.
I'll think about the matter. Perhaps I can think up a better
plan after I have gone over the matter."
"Where's that boy you told me about?"
Sully motioned toward the end of the car where Phil was locked in
the linen closet.
"What you going to do with him?"
"Drop him when I get ready."
"But aren't you afraid the other outfit will get wind of what you
are doing? It's pretty dangerous business to lock up a fellow
"I don't care whether they get wise to it or not. They won't
know where he is. After we get to the border I don't care a rap
for them," and the showman snapped his fingers disdainfully.
"They can't touch us on the other side of the Niagara River and
they'd better not try it. Maybe Sparling won't be in business by
that time," grinned the showman with a knowing wink.
Sully rose, and shortly afterwards left the car with his
Phil sat down on the floor of his compartment with head in hands,
trying to think what he had better do. These men were planning a
deliberate campaign to wreck his employer's show.
"Something must be done!" breathed the boy, clenching his fists
until the nails bit into the flesh, "But what can I do, I can do
nothing unless I can get away from here, and they will not let me
out, at least not until we have gotten by Corinto."
The more he thought and planned the greater his
perplexity became. There seemed no way out of it. His only
hope now seemed to lie in Mr. Sparling becoming alarmed at his
absence, and instituting a search for him. His employer would
quickly divine something of the truth after Phil had remained
silent for two or three days. Perhaps, even now, the owner of
the Great Sparling Combined Shows had sent someone on to learn
what had become of his star
Phil's train of thought was suddenly interrupted by the door of
his compartment being violently jerked open.
The lad's first impulse was to tell Sully, who now stood facing
him, what he had overheard. Upon second thought, however, Phil
decided that it would be much better to give the showman no
intimation of what he had learned.
"Come out, young man."
Phil complied, glad to be free of his narrow chamber, no matter
what the reason for the summons might be.
"What do you wish of me now?"
"Come into my office and I'll tell you. I understand you are
a bareback rider," continued Sully, after they had seated
themselves in his little office, the door being locked
"So you say."
"And a good one at that?"
Phil made no answer. He had not the least idea what was coming.
"My principal bareback rider stepped on a switch frog this
morning and turned his ankle. He is out of the running for
a week. I need a man more than I ever did. Do you want to
join this show?"
Phil gazed at him in amazement.
"You haven't money enough to induce me to."
"Perhaps I have, but I won't induce with it," grinned the owner.
"I've a plan to suggest."
"What is it?"
"If you will ride for me until we get to Corinto I'll give you
The Circus Boy was on the point of making an emphatic refusal,
when he suddenly checked himself and remained silent, as if
thinking the proposition over.
"Well, what do you say?"
"If I do as you wish, when will you let me go?"
"Perhaps after we leave Corinto."
"I don't believe you intend to do anything of the sort."
"You think I'd lie to you?" blustered Sully.
"I'm not saying that. But I know you are not above doing
worse things. I'll tell you what I will do."
"I'll ride for you today for twenty-five dollars."
"Payable in advance, you know."
"I guess you don't trust me?"
"Not for a minute."
"Well, I must say you are brutally frank."
"That's the way I do business," answered the lad proudly.
"But see here, young man, you must agree that you will make no
effort to get away," demanded the showman a sudden thought
occurring to him.
"I shall make no such agreement. If I get a chance to get away
I'll do it, you may depend upon that. I will agree, however, to
make no outcry nor to appeal to anyone to help me. If I can't
manage it my own way, I'll stay here till I can. Remember, I'm
going to beat you if I can, and if I can't, why Mr. Sparling will
settle with you. He will do it properly, too."
The showman leaned back and guffawed loudly.
"I never saw a kid like you yet. You beat anything that ever got
into a freak tent. You are so infernally honest that you give me
notice you're going to try to escape from me. Thanks, my boy,
for the timely warning. I'll see to it that you don't get away
until I am ready to lose you. If you try it you must expect some
rough treatment, and you'll get it too."
"Very well; I accept the terms. How about the payment
Sully drew a roll of bills from his pocket counting out the sum
"If you should happen to get away I'd be out the money?"
"I'll send it back to you in that event."
"Ho, ho, ho! I believe you would, at that."
"I certainly shall."
"Say, kid, don't it ever give you pain to be so awfully honest?"
"I'll confess that it does when I am doing business with a man
"Oh! That one landed. That was a knockout," chuckled the
showman, rising. "I'll be back after you with the rig
pretty soon. We've got to fix up some togs for you to ride in,
but I guess we can do that all right. I'll have to put you back
in your cage in the meantime." It lacked an hour and a half of
the time for the afternoon performance to begin when Sully called
with his carriage for his new star. Phil was ready, as far as he
was able to be, and really welcomed the opportunity to get out in
the air again. But he was so stiff from the confinement in the
narrow linen closet that he did not feel as if he should be able
to ride at all.
The drive to the circus lot was without incident, and Phil
embraced the opportunity to familiarize himself with the
town and its surroundings as fully as was possible under
the circumstances. He had tried to form some plan by which
to make his escape, but had given it up and decided to
trust to luck.
There was another reason for his having decided to ride in
the Sully Hippodrome Show that day, and every day thereafter,
providing he was not able to get away before leaving Corinto.
He hoped that Mr. Sparling might have sent someone on to find
out what had become of him. This was sure to be done sooner or
later, especially when the showman found that his letters were
not being answered, but were being returned to him, as had been
arranged for before Phil left his own show.
Reaching the lot they drove around to the paddock where Phil
and his new employer entered the dressing tent. Even there the
lad was given no chance to break away. It seemed to him that
every person connected with the show had been set to watch him.
When he entered the dressing tent he was subjected to the
curious gaze of the performers, most of whom understood that he
was to ride that day in the place of the injured performer, but
who knew nothing further about the matter.
Some difficulty was experienced in getting a pair of tights that
would fit Phil, but after awhile this was arranged.
"You sit down here and wait now," directed Mr. Sully.
"No; I've got something else to do. Bring the horse out in the
paddock and let me see what I have to ride," answered Phil.
While they were getting out the ring horse, the lad indulged in a
series of bends and limbering exercises out in the paddock,
working until the perspiration stood out in great beads.
This done Phil sprang up to the back of the ring horse, and
while an attendant held the animal in a circle with a long
leading strap, Phil rode the horse about the paddock a few
times until he had become familiar with the motion and
peculiarities of the animal.
"How is he in the ring, fast or slow?"
"Just steady. Been at it a long time," the attendant
informed him. "He's steady. You can depend on him."
"Yes; he acts so. I'll look at the ring when I go in."
The owner of the show had been a keen observer of
these preparations. He noted, too, Phil appeared
entirely to have forgotten about his desire to escape.
"That kid acts to me as if he knew his business," he reflected.
"If he rides the way I think he can, I'm going to get him away
from Sparling if I have to double the wages he's drawing now.
And money talks!"
The band began to play in the big top. Phil glanced at
"When do I go on?"
The lad nodded, and sat awaiting his turn to enter
the arena. He did not have to ask when the moment had arrived.
The attendant started to lead the ring horse in and Phil quickly
fell in behind, following them in.
Right behind the Circus Boy came Sully, the owner of the show,
never taking his eyes off his captive for a moment. This amused
the lad. He grinned broadly. It was a novel experience for him.
Soon the strains of music told him this was where he was to begin
his act. The boy swung gracefully to the back of his mount.
Instantly he had leaped to his feet Sully clapped his hands
"That's the way to do it. You've got the other fellow skinned
forty ways!" he cried.
"In some ways," replied Phil significantly. "Otherwise not."
The ring was in excellent shape, much to the boy's surprise, and
the horse was the best he ever had ridden. In a few moments Phil
began to feel very much at home and to enjoy himself thoroughly.
The ring attendants brought out strips of bright yellow cloth,
which two clowns held across the ring for the Circus Boy to leap
over as his horse passed under. This did not bother him in the
least, though he had never tried the act before. It was a relic
of the old circus days that few shows had retained.
But Phil was on the point of balking when a clown came out with a
handful of hoops covered with paper.
"You want me to jump through those things?" he questioned, during
a brief intermission.
"Does the other man do that?"
"Then I can do it, I guess."
"I reckon you can do anything on a horse that you happen to feel
like," said the showman.
The band started up again and Phil sprang to his feet. A paper
hoop was raised on the opposite side of the ring, the lad eyeing
"I'll go through it if I break my neck trying," he muttered,
shutting his lips tightly together.
The Circus Boy hurled himself through the tender paper, but the
breaking paper stung his face like the crack of a whip lash, and
Phil, instead of landing on his feet as he should have done,
struck the back of his ring horse on all fours.
Sully growled angrily.
"You make a blunder like that again, and you'll be sorry for it,"
he bullied, shaking an angry fist at Phil, who turned a pair of
surprised eyes on the showman.
"See here," retorted the lad with rising color, "I'm not in the
habit of being talked to like that. If you don't like my riding
I'll end the act right here. I'm not obliged to ride for you,
"Go on, go on!" snapped the owner.
The next hoop Phil took as easily as if he had been doing that
very same thing all through the season.
"Fine!" chuckled Sully. "He's a star performer, even if he does
give me as good as I send."
Phil was hurling himself through a succession of hoops now.
Then all at once, to his surprise and disapproval, five hoops
of fire flared up before him and on all sides of him.
"Go through them!" shouted the showman.
"You can't stop now. Are you going to let a little thing like
that give you an attack of cold feet?" demanded Sully.
Thus appealed to, Phil Forrest thought better of it.
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