The Circus Boys In Dixie Land Or Winning the Plaudits of the Sunny South

Part 4 out of 4

"All right; then I'll go without you." Teddy started away,
whereupon the Fat Woman wailed to him to come back, at the same
time struggling to her feet, bedraggled and wet, her hair full of
sand and her clothes torn.

"If they'd only start a beauty show in the side top you would
take first prize," grinned the boy. "Hurry up."

Marie waddled along with great effort, making slow headway.

"We shall have to go further along before we can get up the bank.
That is, unless you want to take the chance of falling into the
creek again."

It was some distance to the place where the creek curved under
the railroad bed, and they would be obliged to go beyond that if
they expected to get the Fat Woman out without a repetition of
the previous disaster.

After a while they reached the spot for which Teddy had
been heading.

Marie surveyed the bank up which she must climb.

"Can you make it?"

"I--I'll try."

"That's the talk. Take a running start, but slow up before you
get to the top, or with your headway you'll go right on over the
other side and down that embankment. You ought to travel with a
net under you, but it would have to be a mighty strong one, or
you'd go through it."

Marie uttered a little hopeless moan and began climbing up
the bank once more, but bracing each foot carefully before
throwing her weight upon it. Teddy, in the meantime, had run up
to the top where he sat down on the end of a tie watching the
Fat Woman's efforts to get up to him.

"Oh, help!"

"Help, help," mimicked Teddy.

"I can't go any further, unless you come down here and push."

"Push? No thank you. I tried that before. It would take a
steam engine to push you up that bank, because you'd let the
engine do all the pushing. You wouldn't help yourself at all."

"I'll fall if you don't help me."

"Well, fall then. You've got a nice soft piece of grass to land
on down there. I'll tell you what I'll do."


"I'll take hold of your hand if you'll promise to let go the
minute you feel you're going to fall."

"I--I don't want to let go. I want to hold on if I feel I'm
going to fall," wailed Marie.

"No, you don't. 'United we stand, divided we fall,'" quoted
Teddy solemnly.

"I'll promise; I'll promise anything, if you will come help me."

Teddy rose and slid down the bank to her.

"Give me your hand."

Marie extended a fat hand toward him, which he grasped firmly.

"Now gather all your strength and run for it. We'll be at the
top before you know it. Run, run, run!"

The command was accompanied by a jerk on Marie's arm, and
together they started plowing up the bank.

"Here we are. One more reach, and we'll be on hard ground.

"Help!" screamed Marie.

Both her feet flew out. One caught Teddy, tripping him and down
they rolled amid a shower of cinders, both landing in a heap at
the foot of the embankment.

"That settles it. I thought you were going to let go,"
growled Teddy.

"I--I couldn't."

"You mean you didn't. Now, you can take your choice; go up the
bank alone or stay here. I suppose I have got to stay here with
you, but I really ought to leave you. Somehow, I'm not mean
enough to do it, but I want to."

Teddy stretched out on the grass in the bright sunlight to dry
himself, for he was still very wet, while Marie sat down
helplessly and shook out her hair.

They had been there for nearly two hours when the rails above
them began to snap.

"Guess there's a train coming. Just my luck to have it run off
the track and fall on me about the time it gets here."

The sound told him the train was coming from the direction his
own train had gone sometime before.

"It's a handcar," shouted the lad as a car swung around the bend
and straightened out down the track.

"Oh, help," wailed the Fat Woman.

"Hey, hey!" Teddy shouted.

Someone on the handcar waved a hat and shouted back at him.

"It's Phil, it's Phil! They're coming for us, Marie,"
cried Teddy. "Now, you've got to climb that bank unless you want
to stay here and starve to death. Let me tell you it's me for
the handcar and a square meal."

Phil, hearing of his companion's misfortune, had requested
Mr. Sparling to get him a handcar that he might go in search of
Marie and Teddy. This had been quickly arranged, and with three
Italian trackmen Phil had set out, he himself taking his turn at
the handle to assist in propelling the car.

"What's happened?" shouted Phil, leaping from the car and running
down the bank, falling the last half of the way and bringing up
in a heap at the feet of Teddy Tucker.

"That's the way we came down, a couple of times," grinned Teddy.
"Marie took a header into the creek and I went along.
Got a rope?"

"Yes, there's one on the handcar. Why?"

"Marie can't get up the bank. You'll have to pull her up."

The rope was hurriedly brought, and after being fastened
about her waist, the Italians were ordered to pull, while
Phil and Teddy braced themselves against the Fat Woman's
waist and pushed with all their might. At last they landed
her, puffing and blowing and murmuring for more help, at
the top of the embankment. She was quickly assisted to the
handcar, when the return journey was begun.

"Next time you fall off a train, I'll bet you go to the bottom
alone," growled Teddy. "The show ought to carry a derrick
for you."

"Oh, help!" moaned the Fat Woman, gasping for breath as she sat
dangling over the rear end of the handcar.

"We shall miss the parade, I fear," announced Phil consulting
his watch.

"Well, I don't mind for myself, but I could weep that Fat Marie
has to miss it," answered Teddy soberly. "I don't like to see
her miss anything that comes her way."

"She doesn't, usually," grinned Phil.

After a long hard pull they succeeded in reaching the next town
with their well loaded handcar. With the help of Phil and Teddy,
the Fat Lady was led puffing to the circus lot. The parade had
just returned and the paraders were hurrying to change their
costumes, as the red flag was up on the cook tent. Mr. Sparling
saw the Circus Boys and their charge approaching, and motioned
them to enter his office tent.

"Where did you find them, Phil?"

"At the bottom of a railroad embankment, about five miles back,
according to the mile posts."

"A couple of fine specimens you are," growled the showman.
"Well, Marie, what have you to say for yourself?"

"I--I fell down the bank."

"Pshaw! What were you doing on the bank?"

"I got off to pick some flowers when the train stopped, and when
I tried to get back I--I couldn't."

"Don't you know it is against the rules of the show to leave the
train between stations?"

The Fat Lady nodded faintly.

"Discipline must be maintained in this show. You are fined
five dollars, and the next time such a thing happens I'll
discharge you. Understand?"

"Help, oh help!" murmured Marie.

Teddy was grinning and chuckling over the Fat Lady's misfortune.

"And, young man, what were you doing off the train?" asked the
showman, turning sternly.

"Me? Why, I--I went to Marie's rescue."

"You did, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"I reckon it will cost you five dollars, too."

The grin faded slowly from Teddy's face.

"You--you going to fine me?" he stammered.

"No, I'm not going to. I already have done so."

"It doesn't pay to be a hero. A hero always gets the sharp end
of the stick. But who's going to pay me for the clothes
I ruined?"

Mr. Sparling surveyed the boy with the suspicion of a twinkle in
his eyes.

"Well, kid, I reckon I shall have to buy you a new suit, at that.

"Ye--yes, sir," responded the woman.

"Go downtown and see if you can find some new clothes that will
fit you. If not buy two suits and splice them together."

"Yes, sir; thank you, sir."

"Have the bill sent to me. Tucker, you do the same.
But remember, discipline must be maintained in this show,"
warned the owner sternly.



The lesson lasted Teddy for a few hours; then he forgot all
about it. But he was made the butt of the jokes of the dressing
tent for several days.

That afternoon Phil, while attending to some correspondence for
Mr. Sparling, had occasion to write to a trapeze performer about
booking with the Sparling show for the coming season.

"I have been thinking, Mr. Sparling," said Phil, "that I should
like to perform on the flying trapeze next season. You know I
have been practicing for sometime."

Mr. Sparling glanced up from his papers.

"I'm not surprised. I guess that's the only thing you haven't
done in the show thus far."

"I haven't been a fat woman or a living skeleton yet,"
laughed Phil.

"What can you do on the bars?"

"I can do all that your performers do. Sometimes I think I might
be able to do more. I can do passing leaps, two-and-a-halfs,
birds' nest and all that sort of thing."

"Is it possible? I had no idea you had gotten that far along."

"Yes. I have been wishing for a chance to see how I could work
before an audience."

"Haven't you enough to do already?"

"Well, I suppose I have, but you know I want to get along.
The season is nearly closed now, and I shall not have another
opportunity before next spring, possibly. As long as you are
going to engage some other performers for next year I rather
thought it might be a good plan to offer myself for the work."

"Why, Phil, why didn't you tell me?"

"I didn't like to."

"You can have anything in this show that you want. You know
that, do you not?"

"Yes, sir," answered the Circus Boy in a low tone. "And I thank
you very much."

"When do you want to go on?"

"Any time you think best. Would you prefer to have me go through
a rehearsal?"

"Not necessary. You have been practicing with Mr. Prentice,
the head of the trapeze troupe, haven't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"If you say you are fit, I am willing to take your word for it.
In view of the fact that you already have worked with the aerial
people all you will have to do will be to go on. I shall enjoy
seeing you do so, if you think you can stand the added work."

"I can do so easily. When shall I try it?"

"Whenever you wish."

"What do you say to trying it tonight?"

"Certainly; go on tonight, if you want to. I'll make it a point
to be on hand and watch the act."

"Thank you, very much. You are more kind to me than I have any
reason to expect."

"No such thing," snapped the showman. "Send Mr. Prentice to me
and I will give the necessary orders."

Phil, full of pleasurable anticipation, hurried to convey the
good news to Mr. Prentice. The result was that, instead of four
performers appearing in the great aerial act that evening, there
were five.

Phil shinned the rope to the trapeze perch, hand over hand, the
muscles standing out on his arms as he made the ascent, with as
much ease as he would walk to the dressing room, and perhaps even
with less effort.

Phil, with perfect confidence in himself, swung out and back
to give himself the momentum necessary to carry him to where
Mr. Prentice was now hanging head down ready to catch him.

The catcher slapped his palms sharply together, the signal that
on the return flight Phil was to let go and throw himself into
the waiting arms of the other.

In a graceful, curving flight the Circus Boy landed in the iron
grip of Mr. Prentice, and on the return sweep sprang lightly into
the air, deftly catching his own trapeze bar which carried him to
his perch.

Next he varied his performance by swinging off with his back to
the catcher, being caught about the waist, then thrown back to
meet his trapeze bar.

"He's the most graceful aerial performer I ever saw on a bar,"
declared Mr. Sparling. "He is a wonder."

The next variation of the act was what is known as a
"passing leap," where, while the catcher is throwing one
performer back to his trapeze bar, a second one is flying
toward the catcher, the two supple bodies passing in the air
headed in opposite directions. In this case, his opposite
partner was a young woman, the successor to little Zoraya
who had been so severely injured earlier in the season.

"Fine, Phil!" she breathed as they passed each other, and the
Circus Boy's face took on a pleased smile.

"Try a turn next time," said Mr. Prentice, as he threw Phil
lightly into the air toward his trapeze. "Think you can do it?"

"I can try, at least."

Phil got a wide swing and then at a signal from the catcher, shot
up into the air. He threw a quick somersault, then stretched out
his hands to be caught. He was too low down for Mr. Prentice to
reach him and Phil shot toward the net head first.

Though he had lost his bearings during the turn he had not lost
his presence of mind.

"Turn!" shouted a voice from below, the watchful ringmaster
having observed at once that the lad was falling, and that he was
liable to strike on his head in the net with the possible chance
of breaking his neck.

Phil understood, then, exactly what his position was, and, with a
slight upward tilt of his head, brought his body into position so
that he would strike the net on his shoulders.

He hit the net with a smack, bounded high into the air, rounding
off his accident by throwing a somersault on the net, bounding up
and down a few times on his feet.

The audience, quick to appreciate what he had done, gave Phil
a rousing cheer.

He shook his head and began clambering up the rope again.

"What happened to me?" he called across to the catcher.

"You turned too quickly."

"I'll do it right this time."

The band stopped playing, that its silence might emphasize
the act. Then Phil, measuring his distance with keen eyes,
launched into the air again. But instead of turning one
somersault he turned two, landing fairly into the outstretched
arms of Mr. Prentice, who gave him a mighty swing, whereat Phil
hurled himself into a mad whirl, performing three more
somersaults before he struck the net.

The audience howled with delight, and Mr. Sparling rushed forward
fairly hugging the Circus Boy in his delight.

"Wonderful!" cried the showman. "You're a sure-enough star
this time."



>From that moment on, until the close of the season, Phil Forrest
retained his place on the aerial trapeze team, doubling up with
his other work, and putting the finishing touches to what
Mr. Sparling called "a great career on the bars."

But Phil, much as he loved the work, did not propose to spend
all his life performing above the heads of the people. He felt
that a greater future was before him on the ground at the front
of the house.

Only a week remained now before the show would close for
the season. Even in Texas, where they were showing, the
nights had begun to grow chilly, stiffening the muscles of
the performers and making them irritable. All were looking
forward to the day when the tents should be struck for the
last time that season.

"What's the next stand?" asked Phil in the dressing tent a few
nights after his triumphal performance on the trapeze.

"Tucker, Texas," answered a voice.

"What's that?" shouted a clown.

"Tucker, I said."

"Any relation to Teddy Tucker?"

"I hope not," laughed the head clown.

"A place with that name spells trouble. Anything by the name of
Tucker, whether it's Teddy or not, means that we are in for some
kind of a mix-up. I wish I could go fishing tomorrow."

All in the dressing tent chuckled at the clown's sally.

"I know what you'd catch if you did," grumbled Teddy.

"Now, what would I catch, young man?" demanded the clown.

"You'd catch cold. That's all you can catch," retorted Teddy,
whereat the laugh was turned on the clown, much to the
latter's disgust.

Tucker proved to be a pretty little town on the open plain.
There was nothing in the appearance of the place to indicate
that they might look for trouble. However, as the clown had
prophesied, trouble was awaiting them--trouble of a nature
that the showman dreads from the beginning to the end of the
circus season.

The afternoon performance passed off without a hitch, the tent
being crowded almost to its capacity, Phil Forrest throwing
himself into his work in the air with more spirit and enthusiasm
than he had shown at any time since he took up his new work.

At Mr. Sparling's request, however, the lad had omitted his
triple somersault from the trapeze bar. The showman considered
the act too dangerous, assuring Phil that sooner or later he
would be sure to break his neck.

Phil laughed at the owner's fears, but promised that he would try
nothing beyond a double after that. He remembered how quickly he
had lost himself when he attempted the feat before. Few men are
able to do it without their brains becoming so confused that they
lose all sense of direction and location.

The evening house was almost as large as that of the afternoon,
as usual the audience being made up principally of town people,
the country spectators having returned to their homes
before night. The night set in dark and oppressive.

Soon after the gasoline lights were lighted the animals began
growling, pacing their cages restlessly, while the lions roared
intermittently, and the hyenas laughed almost hysterically.

It sent a shiver down the backs of nearly everyone who heard it--
the shrill laugh of the hyenas reaching clear back to the
dressing tent.

Teddy Tucker's eyes always grew large when he heard the laugh
of the hyena.

"B-r-r-r!" exclaimed Teddy.

"You'll 'b-r-r-r' worse than that before you get through,"
growled a performer.


" 'Cause it means what somebody said the other night--trouble."

"What kind of trouble does it mean?" asked Phil.

"I don't know. Some kind of a storm, I guess. You can't
always tell. Those animals know more than we human beings,
when it comes to weather and that sort of thing," broke in
Mr. Miaco the head clown.

"Well, you expected something would happen in a town called
Tucker, didn't you?"

"Are you going to be with this show next season, Teddy?"
questioned the clown who had taunted him before.

"I hope to."

"Then I sign out with some other outfit. I refuse to travel with
a bunch that carries a hoodoo like you with it. I feel it in my
bones that something is going to happen tonight, and just as soon
as I can get through my act I'm going to run--run, mind you,
not walk--back to the train as fast as my legs will carry me.
That won't be any snail's pace, either."

The performers joked and passed the time away until the band
started the overture, off under the big top. This means that
it is about time for the show to begin, and that the music is
started to hurry the people to their seats.

All hands fell silent as they got busy putting the finishing
touches to their makeup.

"All acts cut short five minutes tonight," sang the voice of
the ringmaster at the entrance to the dressing tent.

"You see," said the clown, nodding his head at Teddy.

"No, I hear," grumbled Teddy. "What's it all about?"

"Don't ask me. I don't know. I'm not running this show."

"Lucky for the show that you aren't," muttered the Circus Boy.

"What's that?"

"I was just thinking out loud, I guess."

"It's a bad habit. Don't do it when I'm around. All hoodoos
talk to themselves and in their sleep."

The show was started off with a rush, the Grand Entry having been
cut out again, as is frequently the case with a show where there
is a long run ahead, or a storm is expected. That night those in
the dressing tent could only surmise the reason. The hyena's
warning was the only thing to guide the performers in their
search for a reason for the haste. But they took the situation
philosophically, as they always had, and prepared for the
performance as usual.

The performance had gotten along well toward the end, and without
the slightest interruption. All hands were beginning to feel a
certain sense of relief, when the shrill blasts of the boss
canvasman's emergency whistle were heard outside the big top.

Phil had just completed his trapeze act and was dropping into
the net when the whistle sounded.

He glanced up and made a signal to the others in the air.
They dropped, one by one, to the net and swung themselves to
the ground, where they stood awaiting the completion of the
piece that the band was playing.

"Wind, isn't it?" questioned Mr. Prentice.

Phil nodded.

He was listening intently. His keen ears caught a distant roar
that caused him to gaze apprehensively aloft.

"I am afraid we are going to have trouble," he said.

"It has been in the air all the evening," was the low answer.
"Wonder if they have the menagerie tent out of the way?"

It was being taken down at that moment, the elephants having been
removed to the train, as had part of the cages.

All at once there was a roar that sent the blood from the
faces of the spectators. The boss canvasman's whistle
trilled excitedly.

"There go the dressing tents," said Phil calmly as a ripping and
rending was heard off by the paddock. "I hope it hasn't taken
my trunk with it. Glad I locked the trunk before coming into
the ring."

The band stopped playing suddenly. The tent was in
absolute silence.

"It's a cyclone!" shouted a voice among the spectators.

A murmur ran over the assemblage. In a moment they would be
in a mad rush, trampling each other under foot in their efforts
to escape.

Phil bounded toward the band.

"Play! Play!" he shouted. "They'll stampede if you don't.
Play, I tell you!"

The bandmaster waved his baton and the music of the band drowned
out the mutterings of the storm for the moment.

Suddenly the roaring without grew louder. Ropes were creaking,
center and quarter poles lifting themselves a few inches from the
ground, dangerously.

"It's blowing end on," muttered Phil, running full speed down the
concourse in his ring costume.

"Keep your seats!" he shouted. "There may be no danger. If the
tent should go down you will be safer where you are. Keep your
seats, everybody."

Phil dashed on, shouting his warning until he had gotten halfway
around the tent. Mr. Prentice had taken up the lad's cry on the
other side.

Then the blow fell.

The big top bent under the sweep of the gale until the center
poles were leaning far over to the north. Had the wind not
struck the tent on the end it must have gone down under the
first blast. As it was, canvas, rope and pole were holding,
but every stitch of canvas and every pole was trembling under
its burden.

"Sit steady, everybody! We may be able to weather it."

Phil saw that, if the people were to run into the arena and the
tent should fall, many must be crushed under the center and
quarter poles.

Up and down he ran shouting words of encouragement, and he was
thus engaged when Mr. Sparling worked his way in from the pad
room, as the open enclosure between the two dressing tents
is called. Phil had picked up the ringmaster's whip and was
cracking it to attract the attention of the people to what he
was trying to tell them.

Somehow, many seemed to gain confidence from this plucky, slender
lad clad in silk tights, who was rushing up and down as cool and
collected as if three thousand persons were not in deadly peril.

Nothing but Phil Forrest's coolness saved many from death
that night.

A mighty roar suddenly drew every eye in the tent to the
south end where the wind was pressing against the canvas
with increasing force.

Phil stood near the entrance, the flap of which had been quickly
laced and staked down when the canvasmen saw the gale coming
upon them.

He turned quickly, for the roar had seemed to be almost at
his side. What he saw drew an exclamation from Phil that,
at other times, might have been humorous. There was no
humor in it now.

"Gracious!" exclaimed the lad.

There, within twenty feet of him stood a lion, a huge, powerful
beast, with head up, the hair standing straight along its back,
the mane rippling in the breeze.

"It's Wallace," breathed the lad, almost unable to believe
his eyes. The biggest lion in captivity, somehow in the
excitement had managed to escape from his cage.

"Now there'll be a panic for sure! They've seen him!"

"Sit still and keep still! He won't hurt you!" shouted Phil.
"Now, you get out of here!" commanded Phil, starting toward
Wallace and cracking the ringmaster's whip in the animal's face.

Just for the briefest part of a second did Wallace give way, then
with a terrific roar, he bounded clear over the Circus Boy's
head, bowling Phil over as he leaped, and on down to the center
of the arena.

Phil had not been hurt. He was up and after the dangerous beast
in a twinkling. The audience saw what he was trying to do.

"Keep away from him!" bellowed Mr. Sparling.

"Throw a net over him!" shouted Phil.

However, between the storm and the escaped lion, none seemed to
have his wits about him sufficiently to know what was best to do.
Had the showmen acted promptly when Phil called, they might have
been able to capture the beast then and there.

Seeing that they were not going to do so, and that the lion was
walking slowly toward the reserved seats, Phil sprang in front of
the dangerous brute to head him off.

The occupants of the reserved seats were standing up. The panic
might break at any minute.

"Sit down!" came the command, in a stern, boyish voice.

Phil faced the escaped lion, starting toward it with a
threatening motion of the whip.

"Are you ever going to get a net?"

"Get a net!" thundered Mr. Sparling. "Get away from him, Phil!"

Instead of doing so, the Circus Boy stepped closer to the beast.
No one made the slightest move to capture the beast, as Phil
realized might easily be done now, if only a few had the presence
of mind to attempt it.


The ringmaster's whip in Phil's hands snapped and the leather
lash bit deep into the nose of Wallace.

With a roar that sounded louder than that of the storm outside
the lion took a quick step forward, only to get the lash on his
nose again.

Suddenly he turned about and in long, curving bounds headed for
the lower end of the tent. Mr. Sparling sprang to one side,
knowing full well that it would be better to lose the lion than
to stir up the audience more than they already were stirred.

Phil was in full pursuit, cracking his whip at every jump.

Wallace leaped through the open flap at the lower end of the tent
and disappeared in the night.

Just as he did so there came a sound different from anything that
had preceded it. A series of reports followed one another until
it sounded as if a battery of small cannon were being fired,
together with a ripping and tearing and rending that sent every
spectator in the big tent, to his feet yelling and shouting.

"The tent is coming down! The tent is coming down!"

Women fainted and men began fighting to get down into the arena.

"Stay where you are!" shouted Phil. Then the Circus Boy
did a bold act. Running along in front of the seats he let
drive the lash of his long whip full into the faces of the
struggling people. The sting of the lash brought many of
them to their senses. Then they too turned to help hold
the others back.

With a wrench, the center poles were lifted several feet up into
the air.

"Look out for the quarter poles! Keep back or you'll be killed!"
shouted Phil.

"Keep back! Keep back!" bellowed Mr. Sparling.

And now the quarter poles--the poles that stand leaning toward
the center of the arena, just in front of the lower row of
seats--began to fall, crashing inward, forced to the north.

The center poles snapped like pipe stems, pieces of them being
hurled half the length of the tent.

Down came the canvas, extinguishing the lights and leaving
the place in deep darkness. The people were fairly beside
themselves with fright. But still that boyish voice was
heard above the uproar:

"Sit still! Sit still!"

The whole mass of canvas collapsed and went rolling northward
like a sail suddenly ripped from the yards of a ship.

The last mighty blow of the storm had been more than canvas and
painted poles could stand.



For a moment there was silence. Then the people began shouting.

"Bring lights, men!" thundered the owner of the show.

Being so near the outer edges of the tent, the people had escaped
almost without injury. Many had been bruised as the canvas swept
over them, knocking them flat and some falling all the way
through between the seats to the ground, where they were in
little danger.

"Wait till the lights come! Phil! Phil!"

Phil Forrest did not answer. He had been knocked clear into
the center of the arena by a falling quarter pole, and stunned.
The Circus Boy's head was pretty hard, however, and no more
than a minute had passed before he was at work digging his way
out of the wreck.



"Thank heaven," muttered the showman. "I was afraid he had
been killed. Are you all right?" Mr. Sparling made his way
in Phil's direction.

"Yes. How--how many were killed?"

"I hope none," replied Mr. Sparling. "As soon as the lights are
on and all this stuff hauled out of the way we shall know."

Most of the canvas had been blown from the circus arena proper
so that little was left there save the seats, a portion of the
bandstand, the wrecks of the ruined poles and circus properties,
together with some of the side walls, which still were standing.

By this time the tornado, for such it had developed into, had
passed entirely and the moon came out, shining down into the
darkened circus arena, lighting it up brightly.

About that time torches were brought. The people had rushed down
from the seats as soon as the big top had blown away.

"I want all who have been injured to wait until I can see them,"
shouted Mr. Sparling. "Many of you owe your lives to this
young man. Had you started when the blow came many of you would
have been killed. Has anyone been seriously hurt?"

A chorus of "no's" echoed from all sides.

The showman breathed a sigh of relief. A bare half dozen had to
be helped down from the seats, where they had been struck by
flying debris, but beyond that no one obeyed Mr. Sparling's
request to remain.

The men had run quickly along under the seats to see if by any
chance injured persons had fallen through. They helped a few out
and these walked hurriedly away, bent on getting off the circus
lot as quickly as possible after their exciting experiences.

"No one killed, Phil."

"I'm glad of that. I'm going to look for Wallace. Better get
your men out right away, or he'll be too far away for us ever to
catch him again. Have the menagerie men gone to look for him?"

"I don't know, Phil. You will remember that I have been rather
busily engaged for the past ten or fifteen minutes."

"We all have. Well, I'm going to take a run and see if I can get
track of the lion."

"Be careful. Better get your clothes on the first thing you do."

"Guess he hasn't any. His trunk and mine have gone away
somewhere," nodded Teddy.

"Never mind the clothes. I'm on a lion hunt now," laughed Phil,
starting from the enclosure on a run.

"Nothing can stop that boy," muttered Mr. Sparling. The owner
was all activity now, giving his orders at rapid-fire rate.
First, the men were ordered to gather the canvas and stretch it
out on the lot so an inventory might be taken to determine in
what shape the show had been left. Others were assigned to
search the lot for show properties, costumes and the like, and in
a very short time the big, machine-like organization was working
methodically and without excitement.

It must not be thought that nothing was being done toward
catching the escaped lion. Fully fifty men had started in
pursuit immediately after the escape. They had been detained for
a few minutes by the blow down, after which every man belonging
to the menagerie tent, who could be spared, joined in the chase.

The lion cage, one of the few left remaining on the lot, had been
blown over as it was being taken away. The shock had burst open
the rear door and Wallace was quick to take advantage of the
opportunity to regain his freedom. An iron-barred partition
separated him from his mate. Fortunately this partition had
held, leaving the lioness still confined in the cage.

The attendants quickly righted the cage, making fast the door
so that there might be no repetition of the disaster.

Seeing Phil hurrying away Teddy took to his heels also, and
within a short distance caught up with his companion.

"You going to look for that lion, Phil?"


"So am I."

"You had better stay here, Teddy. You might get hurt."

"What about yourself?"

"Oh, I'm not afraid," laughed Phil.

"Don't you call me a coward, Phil Forrest. I've got as much sand
as you have any time."

"Why, I didn't call you a coward. I--"

"Yes, you did; yes, you did!"

"Don't let's quarrel. Remember we are on a lion hunt just now.
Hey, Bob." hailed Phil, discovering one of the
menagerie attendants.


"Which way did he go?"

"We don't know. When the blow down came we lost all track
of Wallace. He's probably headed for the open country."

"Where are the searchers?"

"All over. A party went west, another north and the third to
the east."

"What about the village--did no one go that way to hunt for him?"

"No; he wouldn't go to town."

"Think not?"

"Sure of it."

"Why not?"

"He'd want to get away from the people as quick as he could.
You don't catch Wallace going into any town or any other place
where there's people."

"I noticed that he came in under the big top where there were
about three thousand of them," replied Phil dryly.

"He was scared; that's what made him do that."

"And that very emotion may have sent him into the town.
I'm going over there to start something on my own hook.
Are you going along Teddy?"

"You bet I am. I always did like to hunt lions."

"When you are sure you are going away from the lion, instead of
in his direction," suggested Phil, laughingly. "What's that you
have in your hand?"

"It's an iron tent stake I picked up on the lot. I'll fetch him
a wallop that'll make him see stars if I catch close enough sight
of him."

"I don't think you will get quite that close to Wallace."

"I'll show you."

By this time the word had spread all over town that the
whole menagerie of the Sparling Combined Shows had escaped.
The streets were cleared in short order. Here and there,
from an upper window, might be seen the whites of the
frightened eyes of a Negro peering down, hoping to catch
sight of the wild beasts, and fearful lest he should. "If it
was an elephant we might trail him," suggested Teddy.

"That's not a half bad idea. The dust is quite thick. I wish
we had thought to bring a torch with us."

"I'll tell you where we can get one."


"One of the markers set up to guide the wagon drivers to the
railroad yards. There's a couple on the next street above here.
I saw them just a minute ago."

"Teddy you are a genius. And to think I have known you all
this time and never found it out before. Come on, we'll get
the torches."

They started on a run across an open lot, then turning into the
street above, saw the torches flaring by the roadside half a
block away. Jerking the lights up the lads ran back to the
street they had previously left.

"Where shall we look?"

"We might as well begin right here, Teddy. I can't help
believing that Wallace is somewhere in the town. I don't
believe, for a minute, that he would run off into the country.
If he has he'll be back in a very short time. You remember what
I tell you. If we can get track of him we'll follow and send
word back to the lot so they can come and get him."

"Why not catch him ourselves?"

"I don't think we two boys had better try that. I am afraid it
would prove too much for us."

"I've got a tent stake. I'm not afraid. Why didn't you bring
a club?"

"I have the ringmaster's whip. I prefer that to a club when it
comes to meeting a wild lion. Hello, up there!" called Phil,
discovering two men looking out of a window above him.

"Hello yourself. You fellows belong to the circus?"

"Yes. Have you seen anything of a lion around this part of
the town?"

"A tall fellow about my size, with blue eyes and blonde hair,"
added Teddy.

"Stop your fooling, Teddy."

"A lion?"


"Only one?"

"That's all," replied Phil a bit impatiently. "Have you
seen him?"

"Why, we heard the whole menagerie had escaped."

"That is a mistake. Only one animal got away--the lion."

"No; we haven't seen him, but we heard him a little while ago."

"Where, where?" questioned the boy eagerly.

"Heard him roar, and it sounded as if he was off in
that direction."

"O, thank you, thank you," answered Phil.

"Say, are you in the show did you say?" now catching sight of
Phil's tights under the bright moonlight.


"What do you do?"

"I am in the big trapeze act, the flying rings and a few other
little things."

"Is that so?"

"Yes. Well, you'll have to excuse us. We must be going."

"You boys are not going out after that lion alone, are you?"

"Yes, of course."

"Great Caesar! What do you think of that? Wait a minute; we'll
get our guns and join you."

"Please, I would rather you would not. We don't want to kill the
lion, you see."

"Don't want to kill him?" questioned the man in amazement.

"Certainly not. We want to capture him. If the town's people
will simply stay in their homes, and not bother us, we shall get
him before morning and no one will be the worse for his escape.
Wallace is worth a few thousand dollars, I suppose you are aware.
Come along, Teddy."

Leaving the two men to utter exclamations of amazement, the lads
started off in the direction indicated by the others.

"What did I tell you, Teddy? That lion is in the town at this
very minute. He's probably eating up someone's fresh meat by
this time. Hold your torch down and keep watch of the street.
You keep that side and I'll watch this. We will each take half
of the road."

The Circus Boys had been around the animals of the menagerie
for nearly three years now, it will be remembered, and they had
wholly lost that fear that most people outside the circus feel
for the savage beasts of the jungle. They thought little more
of this lion hunt, so far as the danger was concerned, than if
they had been chasing a runaway circus horse or tame elephant.

All at once Teddy Tucker uttered an exclamation.

"What is it?"

"I've landed the gentleman."

"You sure?"

"Yes; here are his tracks."

"That's so; you have. Don't lose them now. We'll run him
down yet. Won't Mr. Sparling be pleased?"

"I reckon he will. But we have got to catch the cat first before
we can please anybody. I wonder how we're going to do it?"

"We shall see about that later."

The boys started on a trot, holding their torches close to
the ground. Their course took them about on another street
leading at right angles to the one they had been following.

All at once they seemed to have lost the trail. Before them
stood a handsome house, set well back in a green lawn. The house
was lighted up, and evidently some kind of an entertainment was
going on within.

"He's gone over in some of these yards," breathed Phil.
"Let's take the place that's lighted up, first. He'd be
more likely to go where there is life. He--"

Phil's words were cut short by a shriek of terror from the
lighted house followed by another and another.

"He's there! Come on!"

Both boys vaulted the fence and ran to the front door. By this
time shriek upon shriek rent the air. The lads burst into the
house without an instant's hesitation.

"Upstairs!" cried Phil, bounding up three steps at a time.

A woman, pale and wide-eyed, had pointed that way when she saw
the two boys in their circus tights and realized what they had
come there for.

In a large room a dozen people, pale and frightened were
standing, one man with hand on the door ready to slam it shut at
first sign of the intruder.

"Where--where is he?" demanded Phil breathlessly.

"We were playing cards, and when somebody looked up he saw that
beast standing in the door here looking in. He--he went down in
the back yard. Maybe you will be able to see him if you go in
the room across the hall there. There's a yard fenced off there
for the dogs to run in."

Phil bounded across the hall followed by two of the men.

"Does that stairway lead down into the back yard?"
questioned Phil.

"Yes, yes."

"Was the door open?"

"Yes, yes."

"Is it open now?"

"Yes. We can feel the draft."

"Show me into the room and I'll take a look."

One of the men, who evidently lived in the house, stepped
gingerly across the hall, turned the knob and pushed the door
in ever so little. Phil and Teddy, with torches still in hand,
crowded in.

As they did so their guide uttering a frightened yell, slammed
the door shut, and Phil heard a bolt shoot in place.

The boys found themselves in a large room running the full depth
of the house. It had been rigged up, as a gymnasium, with the
familiar flying rings, parallel bars and other useful equipment.

All this they saw instinctively. But what they saw beyond all
this caused the Circus Boys to pause almost spellbound.

"He's in there! He's in there!" shouted half a dozen voices at
the same moment. Then the lads heard the people rush down the
stairs and out into the street shouting and screaming for help.

Crouching in the far corner of the room, lashing its tail, its
evil eyes fixed upon them, was the lion Wallace.

"Wow!" breathed Teddy.

Phil with eyes fixed upon the lion reached back one hand and
tried the door behind him. It was locked.

"Teddy, don't make any sudden moves," cautioned Phil in a
low voice. "We're locked in. Give me your torch. Now edge
over to that open window and drop out. We can't both try it,
or Wallace will be upon us in a flash. When you get out, run
for the lot. Run as you never ran before. Get the men here.
Have them rush Wallace's cage here. Be careful until you
get out. Those people have locked us in. I shouldn't dare open
the door anyway, now, for he'd catch us before we could get out.
I know the ways of these tricky cats."

"Phil, he'll kill you!"

"He won't. I've got the torches. They're the best weapons a man
could have--they and the whip."

Teddy edged toward the window while Phil with a stern command
to the lion to "charge!" at the same time cracking the whip and
thrusting the torches toward the beast, checked the rush that
Wallace seemed about to make.

Teddy dropped from the window a moment later. Then began an
experience for Phil Forrest that few boys would have had the
courage to face.

Not for an instant did the Circus Boy lose his presence of mind.
He took good care not to crowd Wallace, giving him plenty of
room, constantly talking to him as he had frequently heard the
animal's keeper do, and keeping the beast's mind occupied as
much as he could.

Now and then Wallace would attempt to creep up on Phil, whereupon
the lad would start forward thrusting the torches before him and
crack the whip again. Wallace was afraid of fire, and under the
menacing thrusts of the torches would back cowering into
his corner.

For a full half hour did Phil Forrest face this deadly peril,
cool, collected, his mind ever on the alert, standing there in
his pink tights, almost a heroic figure as he poised in the light
of the flaring torches, the smoke of which got into his lungs and
made him cough. He did all he could to suppress this, for it
disturbed and irritated Wallace, who showed his disapproval by
swishing his tail and uttering low, deep growls of resentment.

Phil backed away a little so as to get nearer the window that
he might find more fresh air. Wallace followed. Phil sprang
at him.

"Charge!" he commanded making several violent thrusts with the
torches, at which Wallace backed away again and crouched lower.
Phil saw that the lion was preparing to jump over his head; and,
discovering this, the lad held one torch high above his head and
kept it swaying there from side to side.

Suddenly he made another discovery.

The light seemed to be growing dim. A quick glance at the flames
of the torches told him what the trouble was.

He dared not let his eyes dwell on the flame for more than a
brief instant for the glare would so blind him that he would not
be able to clearly make out the lion. To lose sight of Wallace
for a few seconds might mean a sudden and quick end to Phil
Forrest, and he knew it full well.

The lad backed a bit closer to the window, keeping his torches
moving rapidly to hide his movements.

Wallace, watching the torches did not observe the action.

"The torches are going out," breathed Phil. "If the folks don't
come soon I've got to jump through window glass and all or
Wallace will spring."

Phil was in a desperate situation.



"Down, Wallace! Charge!"

The Circus Boy's whip cracked viciously, while the dying
torches formed thin circles of fire as they were swung above
the lad's head.

"I shan't be able to hold him off much longer. Wallace knows,
as well as I do, that his turn is coming in a short time. If I
happen to be within reach then, something surely is going
to happen. Hark! What's that?"

Distant shouts were borne faintly to Phil's ears. He listened
intently, catching another and welcome sound. The latter was the
rumble of a heavy wagon, being driven rapidly along the paved
street of the town.

"It's a circus wagon," breathed the lad, recognizing the
sound instantly. "I hope it is the wagon."

He listened intently, keeping the torches moving, now
and then cracking his whip and uttering sharp commands
to Wallace.

The animal was growing more and more restless. His wild
instincts were returning to him.

The torches were so low, now, that Phil could scarcely see
the beast. Then, all at once, he realized that Wallace was
creeping toward him unmindful of the lash or of the
fading torches.

Phil waited, peering into the shadows. He was not afraid, as he
recalled his sensations afterwards; but a strange little thrill
seemed to be racing up and down his spinal column.

Then the lad did a daring thing. He sprang forward to
meet Wallace. The astonished lion halted for a brief instant,
and in that instant the Circus Boy thrust one of the torches
full in his face. The flame burned the nose of the king of
beasts and singed his brow as well.

Uttering a mighty roar Wallace cleared the floor, springing
backwards and landing against the wall with such force as to
jar several panes of glass from the window nearby.

"Phil! Phil! Are you there?" came a hesitating voice from
behind the lad. It was the voice of Teddy Tucker on a ladder
at one side of the window from which he had jumped earlier in
the evening.

"Yes, yes. Be careful. Did you bring them?"

"We've got the cage. Mr. Sparling is here, too. He's half
worried to death. What shall we do?"

"Have them draw the cage up in the back yard and back it against
the open door. When that's done some of you come upstairs and
throw the door open. Be sure to leave a light in the hall, but
jump into the room across the hall as soon as you open the door.
Wallace will scent his mate and I'll wager he'll trot right
downstairs and jump into his cage. Have someone standing by to
close the doors on him. Hurry now. Tell them my torches won't
last five minutes longer."

Teddy slid down the ladder without waiting to place feet or hand
on the rungs, and Phil's anxious ears told him the men were
drawing the cage around to the rear yard.

Soon he heard footsteps on the back stairs. Wallace was showing
new signs of agitation.

"All ready, in there?"

"All ready," answered Phil.

Teddy jerked the door open and leaping across the hall, shut
himself in the room opposite. Wallace paused, his tail beating
the wall behind him; then uttering a roar that shook the
building, the shaggy beast leaped into the hall. There he paused
for an instant. One bound took him to the foot of the stairs.
The next landed him in the cage next to his mate. The cage
doors closed behind him with a metallic snap.

Wallace was safe.

"Got him!" shouted a voice from below.

Phil drew a long sigh of relief. Someone dashed up the stairs
on a run. It was Mr. Sparling. He grabbed Phil Forrest in his
arms, hugging him until the dead torches fell to the floor with
a clatter and the lad begged to be released.

"My brave Phil, my brave boy!" breathed the showman. "No one but
you could have done a thing like that. You have saved the lives
of many people this night, and what is more you have captured the
most valuable lion in the world--you and Teddy. I don't know
what to say nor how to say it. I--"

"I wouldn't try were I in your place," grinned Phil. "I presume
you will have to settle with these people for the slight damage
that has been done to their house."

"I'll settle the bills; don't you worry about that."

"Any more lions lying around loose in here?" questioned Teddy,
poking his head in through the open door. "I and my little club
are ready for them if there are."

"Shall we be going, Mr. Sparling?"


Together the three made their way down the stairs just as the
cage was being driven from the yard. As soon as he could find
the owner of the house the showman paid him for the damages.

"What shape is the big top in?" asked Phil as they walked slowly
back toward the lot.

"Bad, very bad. I might say that it comes pretty near being a
hopeless wreck. Still it may be patched up."

"I am sure of it. I know a blown-down tent is not half as
hopeless as it looks. I saw the Robinson shows with a blown-down
tent once."

"I have been thinking the matter over, Phil."


"We have only a few days more to go before the close of the
season, and it seems to me that the best plan would be to close
right here and go in. What do you think?"

"I think," answered Phil Forrest slowly, "that I should turn
all hands loose and fix that tent up so the show will be able
to make the next stand and give a performance by tomorrow night
at latest. It can be done. If the tent is too badly torn to
set up a six pole show, make it a four pole show, or use the
menagerie tent for the circus performance. I should never have
it said that the Sparling Combined Shows were put out of
business by a gale of wind."

Mr. Sparling halted.

"Phil, there is an old saying to the effect that you can't
'teach an old dog new tricks.' It's not true. You have taught
me a new trick. The Sparling shows shall go on to the close of
the season. We'll make the next town, somehow, and we'll give
them a show the like of which they never before have seen."

"If they had been here tonight they would have seen one such as
they never saw before," grinned Teddy.


"A sort of Wild South instead of Wild West show," added the
irrepressible Teddy.

All that night the showmen worked, Phil not even taking the time
to discard his gaudy ring clothes. The next morning both he and
Teddy were sights to behold, but the show had been loaded, and
the big top straightened out and put in shape so that it could be
pitched when the next town was reached. At last the boys decided
to hunt up their trunks. They found them, after a long search.
Getting behind a pole wagon they put on their clothes. An hour
later they were on their way to the next stand, tired but proud
of their achievements and happy.

The news of the accident to the show, as well as the capture of
the big lion, Wallace, by the Circus Boys, had preceded them to
the next town. Once more Phil Forrest and Teddy Tucker were
hailed as heroes, which they really had proved themselves to be.

A very fair performance, considering their crippled condition,
was given that afternoon. By the next day the show was on its
feet again, and from then on to the close of the season, no other
exciting incidents occurred.

Two weeks later the big top came down for the last time
that year. On the afternoon of that happy day, the associates
of the Circus Boys gave a banquet for the two lads under the
cook tent, at which Teddy Tucker distinguished himself by making
a speech that set the whole tent in an uproar of merriment.

Good-byes were said, and the circus folks departed that night bag
and baggage to scatter to the four quarters of the globe, some
never to return to the Sparling shows. Phil and Teddy returned
to Edmeston to finish their course at the high school, from which
they were to graduate in the following spring.

How the lads joined out with the circus the next season will be
told in a succeeding volume entitled, "THE CIRCUS BOYS ON THE
MISSISSIPPI; Or, Afloat with the Big Show on the Big River."
This was destined to be one of the most interesting journeys
of their circus careers--one filled with new and exciting
experiences and thrilling adventures.

Until then we will leave them to continue their studies in the
little village of Edmeston.


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