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Polly of the Circus by Margaret Mayo

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Chapter I

The band of the "Great American Circus" was playing noisily. The
performance was in full swing.

Beside a shabby trunk in the women's dressing tent sat a young,
wistful-faced girl, chin in hand, unheeding the chatter of the
women about her or the picturesque disarray of the surrounding
objects. Her eyes had been so long accustomed to the glitter and
tinsel of circus fineries that she saw nothing unusual in a
picture that might have held a painter spellbound.

Circling the inside of the tent and forming a double line down
the centre were partially unpacked trunks belching forth impudent
masses of satins, laces, artificial hair, paper flowers, and
paste jewels. The scent of moist earth mingled oddly with the
perfumed odours of the garments heaped on the grass. Here and
there high circles of lights threw a strong, steady glare upon
the half-clad figure of a robust acrobat, or the thin, drooping
shoulders of a less stalwart sister. Temporary ropes stretched
from one pole to another, were laden with bright- coloured
stockings, gaudy, spangled gowns, or dusty street clothes,
discarded by the performers before slipping into their circus
attire. There were no nails or hooks, so hats and veils were
pinned to the canvas walls.

The furniture was limited to one camp chair in front of each
trunk, the till of which served as a tray for the paints, powders
and other essentials of "make-up."

A pail of water stood by the side of each chair, so that the
performers might wash the delicately shaded tights, handkerchiefs
and other small articles not to be entrusted to the slow,
careless process of the village laundry. Some of these had been
washed to-night and hung to dry on the lines between the dusty
street garments.

Women whose "turns" came late sat about half-clothed reading,
crocheting or sewing, while others added pencilled eyebrows,
powder or rouge to their already exaggerated "make-ups." Here
and there a child was putting her sawdust baby to sleep in the
till of her trunk, before beginning her part in the evening's
entertainment. Young and old went about their duties with a
systematic, business-like air, and even the little knot of
excited women near Polly--it seemed that one of the men had upset
a circus tradition--kept a sharp lookout for their "turns."

"What do you think about it, Polly?" asked a handsome brunette,
as she surveyed herself in the costume of a Roman charioteer.

"About what?" asked Polly vacantly.

"Leave Poll alone; she's in one of her trances!" called a
motherly, good-natured woman whose trunk stood next to Polly's,
and whose business was to support a son and three daughters upon
stalwart shoulders, both figuratively and literally.

"Well, _I_ ain't in any trance," answered the dark girl, "and _I_
think it's pretty tough for him to take up with a rank outsider,
and expect us to warm up to her as though he'd married one of our
own folks." She tossed her head, the pride of class distinction
welling high in her ample bosom.

"He ain't asking us to warm up to her," contradicted Mademoiselle
Eloise, a pale, light- haired sprite, who had arrived late and
was making undignified efforts to get out of her clothes by way
of her head. She was Polly's understudy and next in line for the
star place in the bill.

"Well, Barker has put her into the 'Leap of Death' stunt, ain't
he?" continued the brunette. " 'Course that ain't a regular
circus act," she added, somewhat mollified, "and so far she's had
to dress with the 'freaks,' but the next thing we know, he'll be
ringin' her in on a regular stunt and be puttin' her in to dress
with US."

"No danger of that," sneered the blonde; "Barker is too old a
stager to mix up his sheep and his goats."

Polly had again lost the thread of the conversation. Her mind
had gone roving to the night when the frightened girl about whom
they were talking had made her first appearance in the circus
lot, clinging timidly to the hand of the man who had just made
her his wife. Her eyes had met Polly's, with a look of appeal
that had gone straight to the child's simple heart.

A few nights later the newcomer had allowed herself to be
strapped into the cumbersome "Leap of Death" machine which hurled
itself through space at each performance, and flung itself down
with force enough to break the neck of any unskilled rider.
Courage and steady nerve were the requisites for the job, so the
manager had said; but any physician would have told him that only
a trained acrobat could long endure the nervous strain, the
muscular tension, and the physical rack of such an ordeal.

What matter? The few dollars earned in this way would mean a
great deal to the mother, whom the girl's marriage had left

Polly had looked on hungrily the night that the mother had taken
the daughter in her arms to say farewell in the little country
town where the circus had played before her marriage. She could
remember no woman's arms about HER, for it was fourteen years
since tender hands had carried her mother from the performers'
tent into the moonlit lot to die. The baby was so used to seeing
"Mumsie" throw herself wearily on the ground after coming out of
the "big top" exhausted, that she crept to the woman's side as
usual that night, and gazed laughingly into the sightless eyes,
gurgling and prattling and stroking the unresponsive face. There
were tears from those who watched, but no word was spoken.

Clown Toby and the big "boss canvas-man" Jim had always taken
turns amusing and guarding little Polly, while her mother rode in
the ring. So Toby now carried the babe to another side of the
lot, and Jim bore the lifeless body of the mother to the distant
ticket-wagon, now closed for the night, and laid it upon the
seller's cot.

"It's allus like this in the end," he murmured, as he drew a
piece of canvas over the white face and turned away to give
orders to the men who were beginning to load the "props" used
earlier in the performance.

When the show moved on that night it was Jim's strong arms that
lifted the mite of a Polly close to his stalwart heart, and
climbed with her to the high seat on the head wagon. Uncle Toby
was entrusted with the brown satchel in which the mother had
always carried Polly's scanty wardrobe. It seemed to these two
men that the eyes of the woman were fixed steadily upon them.

Barker, the manager, a large, noisy, good-natured fellow, at
first mumbled something about the kid being "excess baggage," but
his objections were only half-hearted, for like the others, he
was already under the hypnotic spell of the baby's round,
confiding eyes, and he eventually contented himself with an
occasional reprimand to Toby, who was now sometimes late on his
cues. Polly wondered, at these times, why the old man's stories
were so suddenly cut short just as she was so "comfy" in the soft
grass at his feet. The boys who used to "look sharp" because of
their boss at loading time, now learned that they might loiter so
long as "Muvver Jim" was "hikin' it round for the kid." It was
Polly who had dubbed big Jim "Muvver," and the sobriquet had
stuck to him in spite of his six feet two, and shoulders that an
athlete might have envied. Little by little, Toby grew more
stooped and small lines of anxiety crept into the brownish
circles beneath Jim's eyes, the lips that had once shut so firmly
became tender and tremulous, but neither of the men would
willingly have gone back to the old emptiness.

It was a red letter day in the circus, when Polly first managed
to climb up on the pole of an unhitched wagon and from there to
the back of a friendly, Shetland pony. Jim and Toby had been
"neglectin' her eddication" they declared, and from that time on,
the blood of Polly's ancestors was given full encouragement.

Barker was quick to grasp the advantage of adding the kid to the
daily parade. She made her first appearance in the streets upon
something very like a Newfoundland dog, guarded from the rear by
Jim, and from the fore by a white-faced clown who was thought to
be all the funnier because he twisted his neck so much.

From the street parade to Polly's first appearance in the "big
top," had seemed a short while to Jim and Toby. They were proud
to see her circling the ring in bright colours and to hear the
cheers of the people, but a sense of loss was upon them.

"I always said she'd do it," cried Barker, who now took upon
himself the credit of Polly's triumph.

And what a triumph it was!

Polly danced as serenely on Bingo's back as she might have done
on the "concert boards." She swayed gracefully with the music.
Her tiny sandals twinkled as she stood first upon one foot and
then upon the other.

Uncle Toby forgot to use many of his tricks that night; and Jim
left the loading of the wagons to take care of itself, while he
hovered near the entrance, anxious and breathless. The
performers crowded around the girl with outstretched hands and
congratulations, as she came out of the ring to cheers and

But Big Jim stood apart. He was thinking of the buttons that his
clumsy fingers used to force into the stiff, starchy holes too
small for them and of the pigtails so stubborn at the ends; and
Toby was remembering the little shoes that had once needed to be
laced in the cold, dark mornings, and the strings that were
always snapping.

Something had gone.

They were not philosophers to reason like Emerson, that for
everything we lose we gain something; they were simple souls,
these two, they could only feel.

Chapter II

WHILE Polly sat in the dressing tent, listening indifferently to
the chatter about the "Leap of Death" girl, Jim waited in the lot
outside, opening and shutting a small, leather bag which he had
bought for her that day. He was as blind to the picturesque
outdoor life as she to her indoor surroundings, for he, too, had
been with the circus since his earliest recollection.

The grass enclosure, where he waited, was shut in by a circle of
tents and wagons. The great, red property vans were waiting to
be loaded with the costumes and tackle which were constantly
being brought from the "big top," where the evening performance
was now going on. The gay striped curtains at the rear of the
tent were looped back to give air to the panting musicians, who
sat just inside. Through the opening, a glimpse of the audience
might be had, tier upon tier, fanning and shifting uneasily.
Near the main tent stood the long, low dressing "top," with the
women performers stowed away in one end, the "ring horses" in the
centre, and the men performers in the other end.

A temporary curtain was hung between the main and the dressing
tent, to shut out the curious mob that tried to peep in at the
back lot for a glimpse of things not to be seen in the ring.

Coloured streamers, fastened to the roofs of the tents, waved and
floated in the night air and beckoned to the towns-people on the
other side to make haste to get their places, forget their cares,
and be children again.

Over the tops of the tents, the lurid light of the distant red
fire shot into the sky, accompanied by the cries of the peanut
"butchers," the popcorn boys, the lemonade venders,{sic} and the
exhortations of the side-show "spieler," whose flying banners
bore the painted reproductions of his "freaks." Here and there
stood unhitched chariots, half filled trunks, trapeze tackle,
paper hoops, stake pullers or other "properties" necessary to the

Torches flamed at the tent entrances, while oil lamps and
lanterns gave light for the loading of the wagons.

There was a constant stream of life shooting in and out from the
dressing tent to the "big top," as gaily decked men, women and
animals came or went.

Drowsy dogs were stretched under the wagons, waiting their turn
to be dressed as lions or bears. The wise old goose, with his
modest grey mate, pecked at the green grass or turned his head
from side to side, watching the singing clown, who rolled up the
painted carcass and long neck of the imitation giraffe from which
two property men had just slipped, their legs still encased in

Ambitious canvas-men and grooms were exercising, feet in air, in
the hope of some day getting into the performers' ring. Property
men stole a minute's sleep in the soft warm grass while they
waited for more tackle to load in the wagons. Children of the
performers were swinging on the tent ropes, chattering monkeys
sat astride the Shetland ponies, awaiting their entrance to the
ring. The shrieks of the hyenas in the distant animal tent, the
roaring of the lions and the trumpeting of the elephants mingled
with the incessant clamour of the band. And back of all this,
pointing upward in mute protest, rose a solemn church spire,
white and majestic against a vast panorama of blue, moonlit
hills, that encircled the whole lurid picture. Jim's eyes turned
absently toward the church as he sat fumbling with the lock of
the little brown satchel.

He had gone from store to store in the various towns where they
had played looking for something to inspire wonder in the heart
of a miss, newly arrived at her sixteenth year. Only the
desperation of a last moment had forced him to decide upon the
imitation alligator bag, which he now held in his hand.

It looked small and mean to him as the moment of presentation
approached, and he was glad that the saleswoman in the little
country store had suggested the addition of ribbons and laces,
which he now drew from the pocket of his corduroys. He placed
his red and blue treasures very carefully in the bottom of the
satchel, and remembered with regret the strand of coral beads
which he had so nearly bought to go with them.

He opened the large property trunk by his side, and took from it
a laundry box, which held a little tan coat, that was to be
Toby's contribution to the birthday surprise. He was big-
hearted enough to be glad that Toby's gift seemed finer and more
useful than his.

It was only when the "Leap of Death" act preceding Polly's turn
was announced, that the big fellow gave up feasting his eyes on
the satchel and coat, and hid them away in the big property
trunk. She would be out in a minute, and these wonders were not
to be revealed to her until the close of the night's performance.

Jim put down the lid of the trunk and sat upon it, feeling like a
criminal because he was hiding something from Polly.

His consciousness of guilt was increased as he recalled how often
she had forbidden Toby and himself to rush into reckless
extravagances for her sake, and how she had been more nearly
angry than he had ever seen her, when they had put their month's
salaries together to buy her the spangled dress for her first
appearance. It had taken a great many apologies and promises as
to their future behaviour to calm her, and now they had again
disobeyed her. It would be a great relief when to-night's ordeal
was over.

Jim watched Polly uneasily as she came from the dressing tent and
stopped to gaze at the nearby church steeple. The incongruity of
the slang, that soon came from her delicately formed lips, was
lost upon him as she turned her eyes toward him.

"Say, Jim," she said, with a Western drawl, "them's a funny lot
of guys what goes to them church places, ain't they?"

"Most everybody has got some kind of a bug," Jim assented; "I
guess they don't do much harm."

" 'Member the time you took me into one of them places to get me
out a the rain, the Sunday our wagon broke down? Well, that bunch
WE butted into wouldn't a give Sell's Brothers no cause for worry
with that show a' theirn, would they, Jim?" She looked at him
with withering disgust. "Say, wasn't that the punkiest stunt
that fellow in black was doin' on the platform? You said Joe was
only ten minutes gettin' the tire onto our wheel, but say, you
take it from me, Jim, if I had to wait another ten minutes as
long as that one, I'd be too old to go on a-ridin'."

Jim " 'lowed" some church shows might be better than "that un,"
but Polly said he could have her end of the bet, and summed up by
declaring it no wonder that the yaps in these towns was daffy
about circuses, if they didn't have nothin' better an' church
shows to go to.

One of the grooms was entering the lot with Polly's horse. She
stooped to tighten one of her sandals, and as she rose, Jim saw
her sway slightly and put one hand to her head. He looked at her
sharply, remembering her faintness in the parade that morning.

"You ain't feeling right," he said uneasily.

"You just bet I am," Polly answered with an independent toss of
her head. "This is the night we're goin' to make them rubes in
there sit up, ain't it, Bingo?" she added, placing one arm
affectionately about the neck of the big, white horse that stood
waiting near the entrance.

"You bin ridin' too reckless lately," said Jim, sternly, as he
followed her. "I don't like it. There ain't no need of your
puttin' in all them extra stunts. Your act is good enough
without 'em. Nobody else ever done 'em, an' nobody'd miss 'em if
you left 'em out."

Polly turned with a triumphant ring in her voice. The music was
swelling for her entrance.

"You ain't my MOTHER, Jim, you're my GRANDmother," she taunted;
and, with a crack of her whip she was away on Bingo's back.

"It's the spirit of the dead one that's got into her," Jim
mumbled as he turned away, still seeing the flash in the
departing girl's eyes.

Chapter III

Polly and Bingo always made the audience "sit up" when they swept
into the ring. She was so young, so gaily clad, so light and
joyous in all her poses. She seemed scarcely to touch the back
of the white horse, as they dashed round the ring in the glare of
the tent lights. The other performers went through their work
mechanically while Polly rode, for they knew the audience was
watching her only.

As for Polly, her work had never lost its first interest. Jim
may have been right when he said that the spirit of the dead
mother had got into her; but it must have been an unsatisfied
spirit, unable to fulfil its ambition in the body that once held
it, for it sometimes played strange pranks with Polly. To-night,
her eyes shone and her lips were parted in anticipation, as she
leaped lightly over the many coloured streamers of the wheel of
silken ribbons held by Barker in the centre of the ring, and by
Toby and the "tumblers" on the edge of the bank.

With each change of her act, the audience cheered and frantically
applauded. The band played faster; Bingo's pace increased; the
end of her turn was coming. The "tumblers" arranged themselves
around the ring with paper hoops; Bingo was fairly racing. She
went through the first hoop with a crash of tearing paper and
cheers from the audience.

"Heigh, Bingo!" she shouted, as she bent her knees to make ready
for the final leap.

Bingo's neck was stretched. He had never gone so fast before.
Barker looked uneasy. Toby forgot to go on with his accustomed
tricks. Jim watched anxiously from the entrance.

The paper of one hoop was still left unbroken. The attendant
turned his eyes to glance at the oncoming girl; the hoop shifted
slightly in his clumsy hand as Polly leapt straight up from
Bingo's back, trusting to her first calculation. Her forehead
struck the edge of the hoop. She clutched wildly at the air.
Bingo galloped on, and she fell to the ground, striking her head
against the iron-bound stake at the edge of the ring.

Everything stopped. There was a gasp of horror; the musicians
dropped their instruments; Bingo halted and looked back uneasily;
she lay unconscious and seemingly lifeless.

A great cry went up in the tent. Panic- stricken, men, women and
children began to clamber down from their seats, while others
nearest the ground attempted to jump into the ring. Barker,
still grasping his long whip, rushed to the girl's side, and
shouted wildly to Toby:

"Say something, you. Get 'em back!"

Old Toby turned his white face to the crowd, his features worked
convulsively, but he could not speak. His grief was so
grotesque, that the few who saw him laughed hysterically. He
could not even go to Polly, his feet seemed pinned to the earth.

Jim rushed into the tent at the first cry of the audience. He
lifted the limp form tenderly, and kneeling in the ring held her
bruised head in his hands.

"Can't you get a doctor!" he shouted desperately to Barker.

"Here's the doctor!" some one called; and a stranger came toward
them. He bent over the seemingly lifeless form, his fingers on
the tiny wrist, his ear to the heart.

"Well, sir?" Jim faltered, for he had caught the puzzled look in
the doctor's eyes as his deft hand pressed the cruelly wounded

"I can't tell just yet," said the doctor. "She must be taken

"Where can we take her?" asked Jim, a look of terror in his
great, troubled eyes.

"The parsonage is the nearest house," said the doctor. "I am
sure the pastor will be glad to have her there until we can find
out how badly she is hurt."

In an instant Barker was back in the centre of the ring. He
announced that Polly's injuries were slight, called the attention
of the audience to the wonderful concert to take place, and bade
them make ready for the thrilling chariot race which would end
the show.

Jim, blind with despair, lifted the light burden and staggered
out of the tent, while the band played furiously and the people
fell back into their seats. The Roman chariots thundered and
clattered around the outside of the ring, the audience cheered
the winner of the race, and for the moment Polly was forgotten.

Chapter IV

THE blare of the circus band had been a sore temptation to Mandy
Jones all afternoon and evening. Again and again it had dragged
her from her work to the study window, from which she could see
the wonders so tantalisingly near. Mandy was housekeeper for the
Rev. John Douglas, but the unwashed supper dishes did not
trouble her, as she watched the lumbering elephants, the restless
lions, the long-necked giraffes and the striped zebras, that came
and went in the nearby circus lot. And yet, in spite of her own
curiosity, she could not forgive her vagrant "worse half," Hasty,
who had been lured from duty early in the day. She had once
dubbed him Hasty, in a spirit of derision, and the name had clung
to him. The sarcasm seemed doubly appropriate to-night, for he
had been away since ten that morning, and it was now past nine.

The young pastor for a time had enjoyed Mandy's tirades against
her husband, but when she began calling shrilly out of the window
to chance acquaintances for news of him, he slipped quietly into
the next room to finish to-morrow's sermon. Mandy renewed her
operations at the window with increased vigour when the pastor
had gone. She was barely saved from pitching head foremost into
the lot, by the timely arrival of Deacon Strong's daughter, who
managed, with difficulty, to connect the excited woman's feet
with the floor.

"Foh de Lor' sake!" Mandy gasped, as she stood panting for breath
and blinking at the pretty, young, apple-faced Julia; "I was suah
most gone dat time." Then followed another outburst against the
delinquent Hasty.

But the deacon's daughter did not hear; her eyes were already
wandering anxiously to the lights and the tinsel of the little
world beyond the window.

This was not the first time to-day that Mandy had found herself
talking to space. There had been a steady stream of callers at
the parsonage since eleven that morning, but she had long ago
confided to the pastor that she suspected their reasons.

"Dey comes in here a-trackin' up my floors," she said, "and
a-askin' why you don' stop de circus from a-showin' nex' to de
church and den a-cranin' afar necks out de winder, till I can't
get no housework done."

"That's only human nature," Douglas had answered with a laugh;
but Mandy had declared that she knew another name for it, and had
mumbled something about "hypocritters," as she seized her broom
and began to sweep imaginary tracks from in front of the door.

Many times she had made up her mind to let the next caller know
just what she thought of "hypocritters," but her determination
was usually weakened by her still greater desire to excite
increased wonder in the faces of her visitors.

Divided between these two inclinations, she gazed at Julia now;
the shining eyes of the deacon's daughter conquered, and she
launched forth into an eager description of how she had just seen
a "wondeful striped anamule" with a "pow'ful long neck walk right
out of the tent," and how he had "come apart afore her very
eyes," and two men had slipped "right out a' his insides." Mandy
was so carried away by her own eloquence and so busy showing
Julia the sights beyond the window, that she did not hear Miss
Perkins, the thin-lipped spinster, who entered, followed by the
Widow Willoughby dragging her seven-year-old son Willie by the

The women were protesting because their choir practice of "What
Shall the Harvest Be?" had been interrupted by the unrequested
acompaniment{sic} of the "hoochie coochie" from the nearby circus

"It's scandalous!" Miss Perkins snapped. "Scandalous! And
SOMEBODY ought to stop it." She glanced about with an
unmistakable air of grievance at the closed doors, feeling that
the pastor was undoubtedly behind one of them, when he ought to
be out taking action against the things that her soul abominated.

"Well, I'm sure I'VE done all that _I_ could," piped the widow,
with a meek, martyred air. She was always martyred. She
considered it an appropriate attitude for a widow. "He can't
blame ME if the choir is out of key to-morrow." "Mercy me!"
interrupted the spinster, "if there isn't Julia Strong a-leaning
right out of that window a-looking at the circus, and her pa a
deacon of the church, and this the house of the pastor. It's
shocking! I must go to her."

"Ma, let me see, too," begged Willie, as he tugged at his
mother's skirts.

Mrs. Willoughby hesitated. Miss Perkins was certainly taking a
long while for her argument with Julia. The glow from the red
powder outside the window was positively alarming.

"Dear me!" she said, "I wonder if there can be a fire." And with
this pretext for investigation, she, too, joined the little group
at the window.

A few moments later when Douglas entered for a fresh supply of
paper, the backs of the company were toward him. He crossed to
the study table without disturbing his visitors, and smiled to
himself at the eager way in which they were hanging out of the

Douglas was a sturdy young man of eight and twenty, frank and
boyish in manner, confident and light-hearted in spirit. He had
seemed too young to the deacons when he was appointed to their
church, and his keen enjoyment of outdoor games and other
healthful sports robbed him of a certain dignity in their eyes.
Some of the women of the congregation had been inclined to side
with the deacons, for it hurt their vanity that the pastor found
so many other interests when he might have been sitting in dark,
stuffy rooms discussing theology with them; but Douglas had been
either unconscious of or indifferent to their resentment, and had
gone on his way with a cheery nod and an unconquerable conviction
of right, that had only left them floundering. He intended to
quit the room now unnoticed, but was unfortunate enough to upset
a chair as he turned from the table. This brought a chorus of
exclamations from the women, who chattering rushed quickly toward

"What do you think of my naughty boy, Willie?" simpered the
widow. "He dragged me quite to the window."

Douglas glanced amusedly first at the five- foot-six widow and
then at the helpless, red- haired urchin by her side, but he made
no comment beyond offering a chair to each of the women.

"Our choir practice had to be entirely discontinued," declared
Miss Perkins sourly, as she accepted the proffered chair,
adjusted her skirts for a stay, and glanced defiantly at the
parson, who had dutifully seated himself near the table.

"I am sure _I_ have as true an ear as anybody," whimpered the
widow, with an injured air; "but I defy ANY ONE to lead 'What
Shall the Harvest Be?' to an accompaniment like THAT." She
jerked her hand in the direction of the window. The band was
again playing the "hoochie coochie."

"Never mind about the choir practice," said Douglas, with a
smile. "It is SOUL not SKILL that our congregation needs in its
music. As for that music out there, it is NOT without its
compensations. Why, the small boys would rather hear that band
than the finest church organ in the world."

"And the SMALL BOYS would rather see the circus than to hear you
preach, most likely," snapped Miss Perkins. It was adding insult
to injury for him to try to CONSOLE her.

"Of course they would; and so would some of the grown-ups if
they'd only tell the truth about it," said Douglas, laughing.

"What!" exclaimed Miss Perkins.

"Why not?" asked Douglas. "I am sure I don't know what they do
inside the tents, but the parade looked very promising."

"The PARADE!" the two women echoed in one breath. "Did YOU see
the parade?"

"Yes, indeed," said Douglas, enthusiastically. "But it didn't
compare with the one I saw at the age of eight." He turned his
head to one side and looked into space with a reminiscent smile.
The widow's red-haired boy crept close to him.

"The Shetland ponies seemed as small as mice," he continued,
dreamily, "the elephants huge as mountains, the great calliope
wafted my soul to the very skies, and I followed that parade
right into the circus lot."

"Did you seed inside de tent?" Willie asked, eagerly.

"I didn't have enough money for that," Douglas answered, frankly.
He turned to the small boy and pinched his ear. There was sad
disappointment in the youngster's face, but he brightened again,
when the parson confessed that he "peeped."

"A parson peeping!" cried the thin-lipped Miss Perkins.

"I was not a parson then," corrected Douglas, good-naturedly.

"You were GOING to be," persisted the spinster.

"I had to be a boy first, in spite of that fact."

The sudden appearance of Hasty proved a diversion. He was
looking very sheepish.

"Hyar he is, Mars John; look at him!" said Mandy.

"Hasty, where have you been all day?" demanded Douglas, severely.

Hasty fumbled with his hat and sparred for time. "Did yo' say
whar's I been, sah?"

"Dat's what he done ast yo'," Mandy prompted, threateningly.

"I bin 'ceived, Mars John," declared Hasty, solemnly. Mandy
snorted incredulously. Douglas waited.

"A gemmen in de circus done tole me dis mawnin' dat ef I carry
water fo' de el'phants, he'll let me in de circus fo' nuffin',
an' I make a 'greement wid him. Mars John, did yo' ebber seed
an' el'phant drink?" he asked, rolling his eyes. John shook his

"Well, sah, he jes' put dat trunk a'his'n into de pail, jes' once
an--swish--water gone."

Douglas laughed; and Mandy muttered, sullenly.

"Well, sah," continued Hasty, "I tote water fo' dem el'phants all
day long, an' when I cum roun' to see de circus, de gemmen won't
let me in. An' when I try to crawl under de tent, dey pulls me
out by de laigs an' beats me." He looked from one to the other
expecting sympathy.

"Serves you right," was Mandy's unfeeling reply. "If yo's so
anxious to be a-totin' water, jes' yo' come along outside and
tote some fo' Mandy."

"I can't do no mo' carryin', Mandy," protested Hasty. "I'se
hurted in mah arm."

"What hurt yo'?"


"A tiger?" exclaimed the women in unison.

"Done chawed it mos' off," he declared, solemnly. "Deacon
Elverson, he seed it, an' he says I's hurt bad."

"Deacon Elverson?" cried the spinster. "Was Deacon Elverson at
the circus?"

"He was in de lot, a-tryin' to look in, same as me," Hasty
answered, innocently.

"You'd better take Hasty into the kitchen," said Douglas to
Mandy, with a dry smile; "he's talking too much for a wounded

Mandy disappeared with the disgraced Hasty, advising him with
fine scorn "to get de tiger to chew off his laigs, so's he
wouldn't have to walk no mo'."

The women gazed at each other with lips closed tightly.
Elverson's behaviour was beyond their power of expression. Miss
Perkins turned to the pastor, as though he were somehow to blame
for the deacon's backsliding, but before she could find words to
argue the point, the timid little deacon appeared in the doorway,
utterly unconscious of the hostile reception that Hasty had
prepared for him. He glanced nervously from one set face to the
other, then coughed behind his hat,

"We're all very much interested in the circus," said Douglas.
"Can't you tell us about it?"

"I just went into the lot to look for my son," stammered the
deacon. "I feared Peter had strayed."

"Why, deacon," said Mrs. Willoughby. "I just stopped by your
house and saw Mrs. Elverson putting Peter to bed."

The deacon was saved from further embarrassment by an exclamation
from Julia, who had stayed at the window. "Oh, look; something
has happened!" she cried. "There's a crowd. They are coming
this way."

Douglas crossed quickly to Julia's side, and saw an excited mob
collecting before the entrance to the main tent. He had time to
discover no more before Mandy burst in at the door, panting with
excitement and rolling her large, white-rimmed eyeballs.

"Mars John, a little circus girl done fall off her hoss!" she
cried. "Dr. Hartley say can dey bring her in heah?"

"Of course," said Douglas, hurrying outside.

There were horrified exclamations from the women, who were aghast
at the idea of a circus rider in the parsonage. In their
helpless indignation, they turned upon the little deacon, feeling
intuitively that he was enjoying the drama. Elverson was
retreating toward the door when he was suddenly thrust aside by

In the young pastor's arms was a white, spangled burden of
humanity, her slender arm hung lifeless over his shoulder. The
silk stocking was torn from one bruised ankle; her hair fell
across her face, veiling it from the unfriendly glances of the
women. Douglas passed out of sight up the stairway without
looking to the right or left, followed by the doctor.

Mandy reached the front door in time to push back a crowd of
intruders. She had barely closed the door when it was thrust
open by Jim.

"Where is she?" he demanded.

"Go 'way f'um here!" cried Mandy, as her eyes unconsciously
sought the stairs.

Jim followed the direction of her glance, and cleared the steps
at a bound. Mandy pursued him, muttering angrily. Deacon
Elverson, too, was about to follow, when a grim reminder from
Miss Perkins brought him around and he made for the door instead.
He started back on opening it, for standing on the threshold was
a clown in his grotesque "make-up"; his white clothes were
partially concealed by a large, travelling ulster, held together
by one button. In one hand he carried a small leather satchel;
in the other a girl's sailor hat; a little tan coat was thrown
across his arm. The giggles of the boy hiding behind his
mother's skirt were the only greetings received by the trembling
old man in the doorway.

He glanced uncertainly from one unfriendly face to the other,
waiting for a word of invitation to enter; but none came.

"Excuse me," he said; "I just brought some of her little things.
She'd better put on her coat when she goes out. It's gettin'
kinder chilly."

He looked again into the blank faces; still no one spoke. He
stepped forward, trembling with anxiety. A sudden fear clutched
at his heart, the muscles of his face worked pitifully, the red
painted lips began to quiver.

"It ain't-- It ain't that, is it?" he faltered, unable to utter
the word that filled him with horror.

Even Miss Perkins was momentarily touched by the anguish in the
old man's voice. "I guess you will find the person you are
looking for upstairs," she answered tartly; and flounced out of
the house, calling to Julia and the others to follow her, and
declaring that she would soon let folks know how the parson had
brought a "circus ridin' girl" into the parsonage.

The painted clown stood alone, looking from one wall to the
other, then he crossed the room and placed the alligator satchel
and the little coat and hat on the study table. He was careful
not to wrinkle the coat, for this was Polly's birthday gift. Jim
and he had planned to have sandwiches and soda pop on the top of
the big wagon when they offered their treasures tonight; but now
the wagons would soon be leaving--and where was Polly? He turned
to ask this question as Mandy came down the stairs.

"Well, if dar ain't anudder one," she cried.

"Never mind, Mandy," said Douglas, who was just behind her,
carrying a small water pitcher, and searching for a bottle of
brandy which had been placed in the medicine chest for

"You can take these upstairs," he told her, when he had filled
the pitcher with water and found the liquor. Mandy looked
threateningly at Toby, then reluctantly went on her way.

Douglas turned to the old man pleasantly. His was the first
greeting that Toby had received, and he at last found voice to
ask whether Polly was badly hurt.

"The doctor hasn't told us yet," said Douglas, kindly.

"I'm her Uncle Toby--not her REAL uncle," the old man explained,
"but that's what she calls me. I couldn't come out right away,
because I'm on in the concert. Could I see her now, please?"

"Here's the doctor," said Douglas, as Hartley came down the
stairs, followed by Jim. "Well, doctor, not bad, I hope?"

"Yes, rather bad," said the doctor, adding quickly, as he saw the
suffering in Toby's face, "but don't be alarmed. She's going to
get well."

"How long will it be before we can have her back--before she can
ride again?" asked Jim gruffly, as he stood apart, twisting his
brown, worn hat in his hands.

"Probably several months," said the doctor. "No bones are
broken, but the ligaments of one ankle are torn, and she received
a bad blow on the head. It will be some time before she recovers
"What are we goin' to do, Jim?" asked Toby, helplessly.

"You needn't worry, we'll take good care of her here," said
Douglas, seeing desperation written on their faces.

"Here?" They looked at him incredulously.-- And this was a

"Where are her parents?" the doctor asked, looking at Jim and

"She ain't got no parents 'cept Toby an' me," replied Jim.
"We've took care of her ever since she was a baby."

"Oh, I see," said the doctor. "Well, one of you'd better stay
here until she can be moved."

"That's the trouble; we can't," said Toby, hanging his head.
"You see, sir, circus folks is like soldiers. No matter what
happens, the show has to go on, and we got to be in our places."

"Well, well, she'll be safe enough, here," said the doctor. "It
is a fortunate thing that Mr. Douglas can manage this. Our town
hospital burned down a few months ago, and we've been rather
puzzled as to what to do with such cases." He took his leave
with a cheery "Good night," and a promise to look in upon the
little patient later. Jim shuffled awkwardly toward the pastor.

"It's mighty good of you to do this," he mumbled, "but she ain't
goin' to be no charity patient. Me and Toby is goin' to look
after her keep."

"Her wants will be very few," Douglas answered, kindly. "You
needn't trouble much about that."

"I mean it," said Jim, savagely. He met Douglas's glance of
surprise with a determined look, for he feared that his chance of
being useful to Polly might be slipping out of his life.

"You mustn't mind Jim," the clown pleaded at the pastor's elbow.
"You see pain gets some folks different from others; and it
always kinder makes him savage."

"Oh, that's all right," Douglas answered, quickly. His own life
had been so lonely, that he could understand the selfish yearning
in the big man's heart. "You must do what you think best about
these things; Mandy and I will look after the rest."

Jim hung his head, feeling somehow that the pastor had seen
straight into his heart and discovered his petty weakness. He
was about to turn toward the door when it was thrown open by

"Where is she?" shouted the manager, looking from one to the

"She can't come," said Jim in a low, steady voice, for he knew
the storm of opposition with which Barker would meet the

"Can't come?" shrieked Barker. "Of course she'll come. I can't
get along without her. She's GOT to come." He looked at Jim,
who remained silent and firm. "WHY ain't she comin'?" he asked,
feeling himself already defeated.

"She's hurt bad," was Jim's laconic reply.

"The devil she is!" said Barker, looking at Douglas for
confirmation. "Is that right?"

"She won't be able to travel for some time," said Douglas.

"Mr. Barker is our manager," Toby explained, as he edged his way
to the pastor's side.

"Some time!" Barker looked at Douglas as though he were to blame
for their misfortune. "Well, you just bet she will," he declared

"See here, Barker, don't you talk to him like that," said Jim,
facing the manager. "He's darned square even if he is a parson."
Barker turned away. He was not a bad-hearted man, but he was
irritated and upset at losing the star feature of his bill.

"Ain't this my dod-gasted luck?" he muttered to himself, as his
eye again travelled to the boss canvas-man. "You get out a'
here, Jim," he shouted, "an' start them wagons. The show's got
to go on, Poll or no Poll."

He turned with his hand on the door-knob and jerked out a
grudging thanks to the pastor. "It's all fired good of you to
take her in," he said, "but it's tough to lose her. Good night!"
He banged the door and clattered down the steps.

Jim waited. He was trying to find words in which to tell his
gratitude. None came; and he turned to go with a short

"Good night, Jim," said the pastor. He crossed the room and took
the big fellow's hand.

"Much obliged," Jim answered gruffly. It was his only polite
phrase, and he had taught Polly to say it. Douglas waited until
Jim had passed down the steps, then turned to Toby, who still
lingered near the table.

"You'll tell her how it was, me and Jim had to leave her without
sayin' 'good-bye,' won't you, sir?" Toby pleaded.

"Yes, indeed," Douglas promised.

"I'll jes' put this little bit o' money into her satchel." He
picked up the little brown bag that was to have been Polly's
birthday gift. "Me an' Jim will be sendin' her more soon."

"You're going to miss her, I'm afraid," Douglas said, feeling an
irresistible desire to gain the old man's confidence.

"Lord bless you, yes, sir," Toby answered, turning upon him
eagerly. "Me an' Jim has been father an' mother and jes' about
everythin' to that little one. She wan't much bigger'n a handful
of peanuts when we begun a-worryin' about her."

"Well, Mandy will do the worrying now," Douglas laughed. "She's
been dying for a chance to mother somebody all along. Why, she
even tried it on me."

"I noticed as how some of those church people seemed to look
kinder queer at me," said Toby, "and I been a-wonderin' if mebbe
they might feel the same about her."

"Oh, they're all right," Douglas assured him; "they'll be her
friends in no time."

"She's fit for 'em, sir," Toby pleaded. "She's good, clean into
the middle of her heart."

"I'm sure of it," Douglas answered.

"I've heard how some church folks feels towards us circus people,
sir, and I jes' wanted ye to know that there ain't finer
families, or better mothers or fathers or grandfathers or
grandmothers anywhere than we got among us. Why, that girl's
mother rode the horses afore her, and her mother afore that, and
her grandmother and grandfather afore that, an' there ain't
nobody what's cared more for their good name and their children's
good name an' her people has. You see, sir, circus folks is all
like that; they's jes' like one big family; they tends to their
business and takes good care o' theirselves--they has to --or
they couldn't do their work. It's 'cause I'm leavin' her with
you that I'm sayin' all this," the old man apologised.

"I'm glad you told me, Toby," Douglas answered, kindly. "I've
never known much about circus folks."

"I guess I'd better be goin'," Toby faltered, as his eyes roved
hungrily toward the stairway.

"I'll send you our route, and mebbe you'll be lettin' us know how
she is."

"Indeed I will," Douglas assured him, heartily.

"You might tell her we'll write ever' day or so," he added.

"I'll tell her," Douglas promised earnestly.

"Good night!" The old man hesitated, unwilling to go, but unable
to find further pretext for staying.

"Good night, Toby." Douglas extended his hand toward the bent
figure that was about to shuffle past him. The withered hand of
the white-faced clown rested in the strong grasp of the pastor,
and his pale, little eyes sought the face of the stalwart man
before him; a numb desolation was growing in his heart; the
object for which he had gone on day by day was being left behind
and he must stumble forth into the night alone.

"It's hard to leave her," he mumbled; "but the show has got to go

The door shut out the bent, old figure. Douglas stood for some
time where Toby had left him, still thinking of his prophetic
words. His revery was broken by the sounds of the departing
wagons, the low muttered curses of the drivers, the shrieking and
roaring of the animals, as the circus train moved up the distant
hill. "The show has got to go on," he repeated as he crossed to
his study table and seated himself for work in the dim light of
the old-fashioned lamp. He put out one hand to draw the sheets
of his interrupted sermon toward him, but instead it fell upon a
small sailor hat. He twisted the hat absently in his fingers,
not yet realising the new order of things that was coming into
his life. Mandy tiptoed softly down the stairs. She placed one
pudgy forefinger on her lips, and rolled her large eyes skyward.
"Dat sure am an angel chile straight from Hebben," she whispered.
"She done got a face jes' like a little flower."

"Straight from heaven," Douglas repeated, as she crossed softly
to the table and picked up the satchel and coat.

"You can leave the lamp, Mandy--I must finish to-morrow's

She turned at the threshold and shook her head rather sadly as
she saw the imprint of the day's cares on the young pastor's

"Yo' mus' be pow'ful tired," she said.

"No, no; not at all. Good night, Mandy!"

She closed the door behind her, and Douglas was alone. He gazed
absently at the pages of his unfinished sermon as he tapped his
idle pen on the desk. "The show has got to go on," he repeated,
and far up the hillside with the slow- moving wagons, Jim and
Toby looked with unseeing eyes into the dim, star-lit distance,
and echoed the thought: "The show has got to go on."

Chapter V

THE church bells were ringing their first warning for the morning
service when Mandy peeped into the spare bedroom for the second
time, and glanced cautiously at the wisp of hair that bespoke a
feminine head somewhere between the covers and the little white
pillow on the four- poster bed. There was no sound from the
sleeper, so Mandy ventured across the room on tiptoe and raised
the shades. The drooping boughs of Autumn foliage lay shimmering
against the window panes, and through them might be seen the grey
outline of the church. Mandy glanced again toward the bed to
make sure that the burst of sunlight had not wakened the invalid,
then crossed to a small, rickety chair, laden with the discarded
finery of the little circus rider.

"Lawdy sakes!" she cried, holding up a spangled dress,
admiringly. "Ain't dat beautiful!" She drew near the mirror,
attempting to see the reflection of the tinsel and chiffon
against her very ample background of gingham and avoirdupois.
"You'd sure be a swell nigger wid dat on, Honey," she chuckled to
herself. "Wouldn't dem deacons holler if dey done see dat?"

The picture of the deacons' astonishment at such a spectacle so
grew upon Mandy, that she was obliged to cover her generous mouth
to shut in her convulsive laughter, lest it awaken the little
girl in the bed. She crossed to the old-fashioned bureau which
for many months had stood unused against the wall. The drawer
creaked as she opened it to lay away the gay, spangled gown.

"It'll be a mighty long time afore she puts on dem tings agin,"
she said, with a doubtful shake of her large, round head.

Then she went back to the chair and picked up Polly's sandals,
and examined the bead-work with a great deal of interest.
"Lawdy, lawdy!" she cried, as she compared the size of the
sandals to that of her own rough, worn shoes. She was again upon
the point of exploding with laughter, as the church bell added a
few, final and more emphatic clangs to its warning.

She turned with a start, motioning a vain warning out of the
window for the bell to be silent, but the little sleeper was
already stirring uneasily on her pillow. One soft arm was thrown
languidly over her head. The large, blue eyes opened and closed
dreamily as she murmured the words of the clown song that Jim and
Toby had taught her years ago:

"Ting ling,

That's what the bells sing----"

Mandy reached the side of the bed as the girl's eyes opened a
second time and met hers with a blank stare of astonishment. A
tiny frown came into the small, white forehead.

"What's the matter?" she asked faintly, trying to find something
familiar in the black face before her.

"Hush, child, hush," Mandy whispered; "jes' you lie puffickly
still. Dat's only de furs' bell a-ringin'."

"First bell?" the girl repeated, as her eyes travelled quickly
about the strange walls and the unfamiliar fittings of the room.
"This ain't the show!" she cried, suddenly.

"Lor' bless you, no; dis ain't no show," Mandy answered; and she
laughed reassuringly.

"Then where am I?" Polly asked, half breathless with

"Nebber you mind 'bout dat," was Mandy's unsatisfactory reply.

"But I DO mind," protested Polly, trying to raise herself to a
sitting position. "Where's the bunch?"

"De wat?" asked Mandy in surprise.

"The bunch--Jim and Toby and the rest of the push!"

"Lor' bless you!" Mandy exclaimed. "Dey's done gone 'long wid de
circus, hours ago."

"Gone! Show gone!" Polly cried in amazement. "Then what am I
doing here?"

"Hole on dar, honey! hole on!" Mandy cautioned. "Don't you 'cite

"Let me alone!" Polly put aside the arm that was trying to place
a shawl around her. "I got to get out a-here."

"You'se got plenty o' time for dat," Mandy answered. "yes' yo'
wait awhile."

"I can't wait, and I won't!" Polly shrieked, almost beside
herself with anxiety. "I got to get to the next burg--Wakefield,
ain't it? What time is it? Let me alone! Let me go!" she cried,
struggling desperately.

The door opened softly and the young pastor stood looking down at
the picture of the frail, white-faced child, and her black,
determined captor.

"Here, here! What's all this about?" he asked, in a firm tone,
though evidently amused.

"Who are you?" returned the girl, as she shoved herself quickly
back against the pillows and drew the covers close under her
chin, looking at him oddly over their top.

"She done been cuttin' up somefin' awful," Mandy explained, as
she tried to regain enough breath for a new encounter.

"Cutting up? You surprise me, Miss Polly," he said, with mock

"How do you know I'm Polly?" the little rebel asked, her eyes
gleaming large and desperate above the friendly covers.

"If you will be VERY good and keep very quiet, I will try to tell
you," he said, as he crossed to the bed.

"I won't be quiet, not for nobody," Polly objected, with a bold
disregard of double negatives. "I got to get a move. If you
ain't goin' to help me, you needn't butt in."

"I am afraid I can't help you to go just yet," Douglas replied.
He was beginning to perceive that there were tasks before him
other than the shaping of Polly's character.

"What are you trying to do to me, anyhow?" she asked, as she shot
a glance of suspicion from the pastor to Mandy. "What am I up

"Don't yuh be scared, honey," Mandy reassured her. "You's jes'
as safe here as you done been in de circus."

"Safer, we hope," Douglas added, with a smile.

"Are you two bug?" Polly questioned, as she turned her head from
one side to the other and studied them with a new idea. "Well,
you can't get none the best of me. I can get away all right, and
I will, too."

She made a desperate effort to put one foot to the floor, but
fell back with a cry of pain.

"Dar, dar," Mandy murmured, putting the pillow under the poor,
cramped neck, and smoothing the tangled hair from Polly's
forehead. "Yuh done hurt yo'sef for suah dis time."

The pastor had taken a step toward the bed. His look of
amusement had changed to one of pity.

"You see, Miss Polly, you have had a very bad fall, and you can't
get away just yet, nor see your friends until you are better."

"It's only a scratch," Polly whimpered. "I can do my work; I got
to." One more feeble effort and she succumbed, with a faint
"Jimminy Crickets!"

"Uncle Toby told me that you were a very good little girl,"
Douglas said, as he drew up a chair and sat down by her side,
confident by the expression on her face that at last he was
master of the situation. "Do you think he would like you to
behave like this?"

"I sure am on the blink," she sighed, as she settled back wearily
upon the pillow.

"You'll be all right soon," Douglas answered, cheerily. "Mandy
and I will help the time to go."

"I recollect now," Polly faltered, without hearing him. "It was
the last hoop. Jim seemed to have a hunch I was goin' to be in
for trouble when I went into the ring. Bingo must a felt it,
too. He kept a-pullin' and a-jerkin' from the start. I got
myself together to make the last jump an'--I can't remember no
more." Her head drooped and her eyes closed.

"I wouldn't try just now if I were you," Douglas answered

"It's my WHEEL, ain't it?" Polly questioned, after a pause.

"Yoah what, chile?" Mandy exclaimed, as she turned from the
table, where she had been rolling up the unused bandages left
from the doctor's call the night before.

"I say it's my creeper, my paddle," Polly explained, trying to
locate a few of her many pains. "Gee, but that hurts!" She tried
to bend her ankle. "Is it punctured?"

"Only sprained," Douglas answered, striving to control his
amusement at the expression on Mandy's puzzled face. "Better not
talk any more about it."

"Ain't anything the matter with my tongue, is there?" she asked,
turning her head to one side and studying him quizzically.

"I don't think there is," he replied good-naturedly.

"How did I come to fall in here, anyhow?" she asked, as she
studied the walls of the unfamiliar room.

"We brought you here."

"It's a swell place," she conceded grudgingly.

"We are comfortable," he admitted, as a tell- tale smile again
hovered about his lips. He was thinking of the changes that he
must presently make in Miss Polly's vocabulary.

"Is this the 'big top?' she asked.

"The--what?" he stammered.

"The main tent," she explained.

"Well, no; not exactly. It's going to be your room now, Miss

"My room! Gee! Think a' that!" she gasped, as the possibility of
her actually having a room all of her own took hold of her mind.
"Much obliged," she said with a nod, feeling that something was
expected of her. She knew no other phrase of gratitude than the
one "Muvver" Jim and Toby had taught her to say to the manager
when she received from him the first stick of red and white
striped candy.

"You're very welcome," Douglas answered with a ring of genuine
feeling in his voice.

"Awful quiet, ain't it?" she ventured, after a pause. "Guess
that's what woke me up."

Douglas laughed good-naturedly at the thought of quiet as a
disturber, and added that he feared it might at first be rather
dull for her, but that Jim and Toby would send her news of the
circus, and that she could write to them as soon as she was

"I'll have to be a heap better 'an I ever was 'fore I can write
much," Polly drawled, with a whimsical little smile.

"I will write for you," the pastor volunteered, understanding her

"You will?" For the first time he saw a show of real pleasure in
her eyes.

"Every day," Douglas promised solemnly.

"And you will show me how?"

"Indeed I will."

"How long am I in for?" she asked.

"The doctor can tell better about that when he comes."

"The doctor! So--it's as bad as that, eh?"

"Oh, that need not frighten you," Douglas answered consolingly.

"I ain't frightened," she bridled quickly; "I ain't never scared
of nothin.' It's only 'cause they need me in the show that I'm

"Oh, they will get along all right," he said reassuringly.

"Get along?" Polly flashed with sudden resentment. "Get along
WITHOUT MY ACT!" It was apparent from her look of astonishment
that Douglas had completely lost whatever ground he had
heretofore gained in her respect. "Say, have you seen that
show?" She waited for his answer with pity and contempt.

"No," admitted John, weakly.

"Well I should say you ain't, or you wouldn't make no crack like
that. I'm the whole thing in that push," she said with an air of
self- complacency; "and with me down and out, that show will be
on the bum for fair."

"I beg your pardon," was all Douglas could say, confused by the
sudden volley of unfamiliar words.

"You're kiddin' me," she said, turning her head to one side as
was her wont when assailed by suspicion; "you MUST a seen me

"No, Miss Polly, I have never seen a circus," Douglas told her
half-regretfully, a sense of his deep privation stealing upon

"What!" cried Polly, incredulously.

"Lordy no, chile; he ain't nebber seed none ob dem tings," Mandy
interrupted, as she tried to arrange a few short-stemmed posies
in a variegated bouquet.

"Well, what do you think of that!" Polly gasped. "You're the
first rube I ever saw that hadn't." She was looking at him as
though he were a curiosity.

"So I'm a rube!" Douglas shook his head with a sad, little smile
and good-naturedly agreed that he had sometimes feared as much.

"That's what we always calls a guy like you," she explained
ingenuously, and added hopefully: "Well, you MUST a' seen our
parade--all the pikers see that--IT don't cost nothin'."

"I'm afraid I must also plead guilty to the charge of being a
piker," Douglas admitted half-sheepishly, "for I did see the

"Well, I was the one on the white horse right behind the lion
cage," she began excitedly. "You remember?"

"It's a little confused in my mind--" he caught her look of
amazement, "just AT PRESENT," he stammered, feeling her wrath
again about to descend upon him.

"Well, I'm the twenty-four sheet stand," she explained.

"Sheet!" Mandy shrieked from her corner.

"Yes--the billboards--the pictures," Polly said, growing
impatient at their persistent stupidity.

"She sure am a funny talkin' thing!" mumbled Mandy to herself, as
she clipped the withered leaves from a plant near the window.

"You are dead sure they know I ain't comin' on?" Polly asked with
a lingering suspicion in her voice.

"Dead sure"; and Douglas smiled to himself as he lapsed into her

There was a moment's pause. Polly realised for the first time
that she must actually readjust herself to a new order of things.
Her eyes again roved about the room. It was a cheerful place in
which to be imprisoned--even Polly could not deny that. The
broad window at the back with its white and pink chintz curtains
on the inside, and its frame of ivy on the outside, spoke of
singing birds and sunshine all day long. Everything from the
white ceiling to the sweet-smelling matting that covered the
floor was spotlessly clean; the cane-bottomed rocker near the
curved window-seat with its pretty pillows told of days when a
convalescent might look in comfort at the garden beneath; the
counterpane, with its old-fashioned rose pattern, the little
white tidies on the back of each chair, and Mandy crooning beside
the window, all helped to make a homelike picture.

She wondered what Jim and Toby would say if they could see her
now, sitting like a queen in the midst of her soft coverlets,
with no need to raise even a finger to wait upon herself.

"Ain't it the limit?" she sighed, and with that Jim and Toby
seemed to drift farther away. She began to see their life apart
from hers. She could picture Jim with his head in his hands.
She could hear his sharp orders to the men. He was always short
with the others when anything went wrong with her.

"I'll bet 'Muvver Jim's' in the dumps," she murmured, as a cloud
stole across the flower-like face; then the tired muscles
relaxed, and she ceased to rebel.

"Muvver Jim"? Douglas repeated, feeling that he must recall her
to a knowledge of his presence.

"That's what I calls him," Polly explained, "but the fellows
calls him 'Big Jim.' You might not think Jim could be a good
mother just to look at him, but he is; only, sometimes, you can't
tell him things you could a real mother," she added, half sadly.

"And your real mother went away when you were very young?"

"No, she didn't go AWAY----"

"No?" There was a puzzled note in the pastor's voice.

"She went out," Polly corrected.

"Out!" he echoed blankly.

"Yes--finished-- Lights out."

"Oh, an accident." Douglas understood at last.

"I don't like to talk about it." Polly raised herself on her
elbow and looked at him solemnly, as though about to impart a bit
of forbidden family history. It was this look in the round eyes
that had made Jim so often declare that the kid knew everything.

"Why mother'd a been ashamed if she'd a knowed how she wound up.
She was the best rider of her time, everybody says so, but she
cashed in by fallin' off a skate what didn't have no more ginger
'an a kitten. If you can beat that?" She gazed at him with her
lips pressed tightly together, evidently expecting some startling
expression of wonder.

"And your father?" Douglas asked rather lamely, being at a loss
for any adequate comment upon a tragedy which the child before
him was too desolate even to understand.

"Oh, DAD'S finish was all right. He got his'n in a lion's cage
where he worked. There was nothing slow about his end." She
looked up for his approval.

"For de Lord's sake!" Mandy groaned as the wonder of the child's
conversation grew upon her.

"And now I'm down and out," Polly concluded with a sigh.

"But THIS is nothing serious," said the pastor, trying to cheer

"It's serious ENOUGH, with a whole show a'- dependin' on you.
Maybe you don't know how it feels to have to knock off work."

"Oh, yes, I do," Douglas answered quickly. "I was ill a while
ago myself. I had to be in bed day after day, thinking of dozens
of things that I ought to be doing."

"Was you ever floored?" Polly asked with a touch of unbelief as
she studied the fine, healthy physique at the side of her bed.

" 'Deed he was, chile," Mandy cried, feeling that her opportunity
had now arrived; "an' I had the wors' time a-keepin' him in bed.
He act jes' like you did."

"Did he?" Polly was delighted to find that the pastor had
"nothin' on her," as she would have put it.

"You ought to have heard him," continued Mandy, made eloquent by
Polly's show of interest. " 'What will dose poor folks do?' he
kept a-sayin'. 'yes' yo' lie where yo' is,' I tole him. 'Dem
poor folks will be better off dan dey would be a-comin' to yoah
funeral.' "

"Poor folks?" Polly questioned. "Do you give money to folks?" We
are always itchin' to get it AWAY from 'em."

Before Douglas could think of words with which to defend his
disapproved methods, Mandy had continued eagerly:

"An' den on Sunday, when he can't go to church and preach--" She
got no further. A sharp exclamation brought both Mandy and
Douglas to attention.

"Preach!" Polly almost shouted. She looked at him with genuine
alarm this time.

"That will do, Mandy," Douglas commanded, feeling an unwelcome
drama gathering about his head.

"Great Barnum and Bailey!" Polly exclaimed, looking at him as
though he were the very last thing in the world she had ever
expected to see. "Are you a skypilot?"

"That's what he am, chile." Mandy slipped the words in slyly,
for she knew that they were against the pastor's wishes, but she
was unable to restrain her mischievous impulse to sow the seeds
of curiosity that would soon bear fruit in the inquisitive mind
of the little invalid.

"Will you get onto me a-landin' into a mix-up like this?" She
continued to study the uncomfortable man at her side. "I never
thought I'd be a-talkin'to one of you guys. What's your name?"

"Douglas." He spoke shortly.

"Ain't you got no handle to it?"

"If you mean my Christian name, it's John."

"Well, that sounds like a skypilot, all right. But you don't
look like I s'posed they did."

"Why not?"

"I always s'posed skypilots was old and grouchy-like. You're
a'most as good lookin' as our strong man."

"I done tole him he was too good-lookin' to be an unmarried
parson," Mandy chuckled, more and more amused at the pastor's

"Looks don't play a very important part in my work," Douglas
answered curtly. Mandy's confidential snickers made him doubly
anxious to get to a less personal topic.

"Well, they count for a whole lot with us." She nodded her head
decidedly. "How long you been showin' in this town, anyhow?"

"About a year," Douglas answered, with something of a sigh.

"A year!" she gasped. "In a burg like this? You must have an
awful lot of laughs in your act to keep 'em a-comin' that long."
She was wise in the ways of professional success.

"Not many, I'm afraid." He wondered, for the first time, if this
might be the reason for his rather indifferent success.

"Do you give them the same stuff, or have you got a rep?"

"A rep?" he repeated in surprise.

"Sure, repertory--different acts--entries, some calls 'em. Uncle
Toby's got twenty-seven entries. It makes a heap of difference
in the big towns where you have a run."

"Oh, I understand," Douglas answered in a tone of relief. "Well,
I try to say something new each Sunday."

"What kind of spiels do you give 'em?" she inquired with growing

"I try to help my people to get on better terms with themselves
and to forget their week-day troubles." He had never had
occasion to define his efforts so minutely.

"Well, that's jes' the same as us," Polly told him with an air of
condescension; "only circuses draws more people 'an churches."

"YOURS does seem to be a more popular form of entertainment,"
Douglas answered drily. He was beginning to feel that there were
many tricks in the entertainment trade which he had not mastered.
And, after all, what was his preaching but an effort at
entertainment? If he failed to hold his congregation by what he
was saying, his listeners grew drowsy, and his sermon fell short
of its desired effect. It was true that his position and hers
had points of similarity. She was apparently successful; as for
himself, he could not be sure. He knew he tried very hard and
that sometimes a tired mother or a sad- faced child looked up at
him with a smile that made the service seem worth while.

Polly mistook the pastor's revery for envy, and her tender heart
was quick to find consolation for him.

"You ain't got all the worst of it," she said. "If we tried to
play a dump like this for six months, we'd starve to death. You
certainly must give 'em a great show," she added, surveying him
with growing interest.

"It doesn't make much difference about the show--" Douglas began,
but he was quickly interrupted.

"That's right, it's jes' the same with a circus. One year ye
give 'em the rottenest kind of a thing, and they eat it up; the
next year you hand 'em a knock-out, and it's a frost. Is that
the way it is with a church show?"

"Much the same," Douglas admitted half- amusedly,
half-regretfully. "Very often when I work the hardest, I seem to
do the least good."

"I guess our troubles is pretty much alike.' Polly nodded with a
motherly air of condescension. "Only there ain't so much danger
in your act."

"I'm not so sure about that," he laughed.

"Well, you take my tip," she leaned forward as though about to
impart a very valuable bit of information. "Don't you never go
in for ridin'. There ain't no act on earth so hard as a ridin'
act. The rest of the bunch has got it easy alongside of us.
Take the fellows on the trapeze. They always get their tackle up
in jes' the same place. Take the balancin' acts; there ain't no
difference in their layouts. Take any of 'em as depends on
regular props; and they ain't got much chance a-goin' wrong. But
say, when yer have ter do a ridin' act, there ain't never no two
times alike. If your horse is feelin' good, the ground is
stumbly; if the ground ain't on the blink the horse is wobbly.
Ther's always somethin' wrong somewheres, and yer ain't never
knowin' how it's goin' ter end-- especially when you got to do a
careful act like mine. There's a girl, Eloise, in our bunch,
what does a SHOWY act on a horse what Barker calls Barbarian.
She goes on in my place sometimes-- and say, them rubes applauds
her as much as me, an' her stunts is baby tricks alongside o'
mine. It's enough to make you sick o' art." She shook her head
dolefully, then sat up with renewed interest.

"You see, mine is careful balancin' an' all that, an' you got ter
know your horse an' your ground for that. Now you get wise ter
what I'm a-tellin' yer, and don't you NEVER go into ANYTHIN' what
depends on ANYTHIN' else."

"Thank you, Polly, I won't." Douglas somehow felt that he was
very much indebted to her.

"I seen a church show once," Polly said suddenly.

"You did?" Douglas asked, with new interest.

"Yes," she answered, closing her lips and venturing no further

"Did you like it?" he questioned, after a pause.

"Couldn't make nothin' out of it--I don't care much for readin'."

"Oh, it isn't ALL reading," he corrected.

"Well, the guy I saw read all of his'n. He got the whole thing
right out of a book."

"Oh, that was only his text," laughed Douglas. "Text?"

"Yes. And later he tried to interpret to his congrega----"

"Easy! Easy!" she interrupted; "come again with that, will you?"

"He told them the meaning of what he read." "Well, I don't know
what he told 'em, but it didn't mean anythin' to me. But maybe
your show is better'n his was," she added, trying to pacify him.

Douglas was undecided whether to feel amused or grateful for
Polly's ever-increasing sympathy. Before he could trust his
twitching lips to answer, she had put another question to him.

"Are you goin' to do a stunt while I am here?"

"I preach every Sunday, if that's what you mean; I preach this

"Is this Sunday?" she asked, sitting up with renewed energy and
looking about the room as though everything had changed colour.


"And YOU GOT A MATINEE?" she exclaimed, incredulously.

"We have services," he corrected, gently.

"WE rest up on SUNDAYS," she said in a tone of deep

"Oh, I see," he answered, feeling it no time to enter upon
another discussion as to the comparative advantages of their two

"What are you goin' ter spiel about to-day?"

"About Ruth and Naomi."

"Ruth and who?"

"Naomi," he repeated.

"Naomi," she echoed, tilting her head from side to side, as she
listened to the soft cadences of the word. "I never heard that
name afore. It 'ud look awful swell on a billboard, wouldn't

"It's a Bible name, honey," Mandy said, eager to get into the
conversation. "Dar's a balful picture 'bout her. I seed it."

"I LIKE to look at PICTURES," Polly answered tentatively. Mandy
crossed the room to fetch the large Bible with its steel

"We got a girl named Ruth in our 'Leap of Death' stunt. Some of
the folks is kinder down on 'er, but I ain't."

She might have told Douglas more of her forlorn, little friend,
but just then Mandy came to the bed, hugging a large,
old-fashioned Bible, and Douglas helped to place the ponderous
book before the invalid.

"See, honey, dar dey is," the old woman said, pointing to the
picture of Ruth and Naomi.

"Them's crackerjacks, ain't they?" Polly gasped, and her eyes
shone with wonder. "Which one 's Ruth?"

"Dis one," said Mandy, pointing with her thumb.

"Why, they're dressed just like our chariot drivers. What does
it say about 'em?"

"You can read it for yourself," Douglas answered gently. There
was something pathetic in the eagerness of the starved little

"Well, I ain't much on readin'--OUT LOUD," she faltered, growing
suddenly conscious of her deficiencies. "Read it for me, will

"Certainly," and he drew his chair nearer to the bed. One strong
hand supported the other half of the Bible, and his head was very
near to hers as his deep, full voice pronounced the solemn words
in which Ruth pleaded so many years before.

" 'Entreat me not to leave thee,' " he read, " 'or to return from
following after thee, for whither thou goest I will go, and where
thou lodgest I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and
thy God my God.' "

He stopped to ponder over the poetry of the lines.

"Kind o' pretty, ain't it?" Polly said softly. She felt awkward
and constrained and a little overawed.

"There are far more beautiful things than that," Douglas assured
her enthusiastically, as the echo of many such rang in his ears.

"There are?" And her eyes opened wide with wonder.

"Yes, indeed," he replied, pitying more and more the starvation
of mind and longing to bring to it floods of light and

"I guess I'd LIKE to hear YOU spiel," and she fell to studying
him solemnly.

"You would?" he asked eagerly.

"Is there any more to that story?" she asked, ignoring his

"Yes, indeed."

"Would you read me a little more?" She was very humble now.

"Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried; the
Lord do so to me and more also, if ought but death part me and
thee.' "

Their eyes met. There was a long pause. Suddenly the sharp,
sweet notes of the church bell brought John Douglas to his feet
with a start of surprise.

"Have you got to go?" Polly asked regretfully.

"Yes, I must; but I'll read the rest from the church. Open the
window, Mandy!" And he passed out of the door and quickly down
the stairs.

Chapter VI

WHEN John Douglas's uncle offered to educate his nephew for the
ministry, the boy was less enthusiastic than his mother. He did
not remonstrate, however, for it had been the custom of
generations for at least one son of each Douglas family to preach
the gospel of Calvinism, and his father's career as an architect
and landscape gardener had not left him much capital.

Douglas, senior, had been recognised as an artist by the few who
understood his talents, but there is small demand for the builder
of picturesque houses in the little business towns of the Middle
West, and at last he passed away, leaving his son only the burden
of his financial failure and an ardent desire to succeed at the
profession in which his father had fared so badly. The hopeless,
defeated look on the departed man's face had always haunted the
boy, who was artist enough to feel his father's genius
intuitively, and human enough to resent the injustice of his

Douglas's mother had suffered so much because of the impractical
efforts of her husband, that she discouraged the early tendencies
of the son toward drawing and mathematics and tried to direct his
thoughts toward creeds and Bible history. When he went away for
his collegiate course, she was less in touch with him; and he was
able to steal time from his athletics to devote to his art. He
spent his vacations in a neighbouring city before a drawing board
in the office of a distinguished architect, his father's friend.

Douglas was not a brilliant divinity student, and he was relieved
when at last he received his degree in theology and found himself
appointed to a small church in the Middle West.

His step was very bright the morning he first went up the path
that led to his new home. His artistic sense was charmed by the
picturesque approach to the church and parsonage. The view
toward the tree-encircled spire was unobstructed, for the church
had been built on the outskirts of the town to allow for a growth
that had not materialised. He threw up his head and gazed at the
blue hills, with their background of soft, slow-moving clouds.
The smell of the fresh earth, the bursting of the buds, the
forming of new life, set him thrilling with a joy that was very
near to pain.

He stopped half way up the path and considered the advantages of
a new front to the narrow- eaved cottage, and when his foot
touched the first step of the vine-covered porch, he was far more
concerned about a new portico than with any thought of his first

His speculations were abruptly cut short by Mandy, who bustled
out of the door with a wide smile of welcome on her black face,
and an unmistakable ambition to take him immediately under her
motherly wing. She was much concerned because the church people
had not met the new pastor at the station and brought him to the
house. Upon learning that Douglas had purposely avoided their
escort, preferring to come to his new home the first time alone,
she made up her mind that she was going to like him.

Mandy had long been a fixture in the parsonage. She and her
worse half, Hasty Jones, had come to know and discuss the
weaknesses of the many clergymen who had come and gone, the
deacons, and the congregation, both individually and
collectively. She confided to Hasty, that she "didn't blame de
new parson fer not wantin' to mix up wid dat ar crowd."

In the study that night, when she and Hasty helped Douglas to
unpack his many boxes of books, they were as eager as children
about the drawings and pictures which he showed them. His mind
had gone beyond the parsonage front now, and he described to them
the advantage of adding an extra ten feet to the church spire.

Mandy felt herself almost an artist when she and Hasty bade the
pastor good night, for she was still quivering from the contagion
of Douglas's enthusiasm. Here, at last, was a master who could
do something besides find fault with her.

"I jest wan' to be on de groun' de firs' time dat Mars Douglas
and dat ere Deacon Strong clinches," she said to Hasty as they
locked the doors and turned out the hall light. "Did yuh done
see his jaw?" she whispered. "He look laughin' enough NOW, but
jes' yuh wait till he done set dat'ere jaw a his'n and afar ain't
nobody what's goin' ter unsot it."

"Maybe dar ain't goin' ter be no clinchin'," said Hasty, hoping
for Mandy's assurance to the contrary.

"What?" shrieked Mandy. "Wid dat 'ere sneakin' Widow Willoughby
already a-tellin' de deacons how to start de new parson a-goin'

"Now, why you's always a-pickin' onto dat 'ere widow?" asked
Hasty, already enjoying the explosion which he knew his defence
of the widow was sure to excite.

"I don' like no woman what's allus braggin' 'bout her clean
floors," answered Mandy, shortly. She turned out the last light,
and tiptoed upstairs, trying not to disturb the pastor.

John Douglas was busy already with pencil and paper, making notes
of the plans for the church and parsonage, which he would perfect
later on. Alas, for Douglas's day dreams! It was not many weeks
before he understood with a heavy heart that the deacons were far
too dull and uninspired to share his faith in beauty as an aid to
man's spiritual uplift.

"We think we've done pretty well by this church," said Deacon
Strong, who was the business head, the political boss, and the
moral mentor of the small town's affairs. "Just you worry along
with the preachin', young man, and we'll attend to the buyin' and
buildin' operations."

Douglas's mind was too active to content itself wholly with the
writing of sermons and the routine of formal, pastoral calls. He
was a keen humanitarian, so little by little, he came to be
interested in the heart stories and disappointments of many of
the village unfortunates, some of whom were outside his
congregation. The mentally sick, the despondent, who needed
words of hope and courage more than dry talks on theology, found
in him an ever ready friend and adviser, and these came to love
and depend on him. But he was never popular with the creed-
bound element of the church.

Mandy had her wish about being on the spot the first time that
the parson's jaw squared itself at Deacon Strong. The deacon had
called at the parsonage to demand that Douglas put a stop to the
boys playing baseball in the adjoining lot on Sunday. Douglas
had been unable to see the deacon's point of view. He declared
that baseball was a healthy and harmless form of exercise, that
the air was meant to be breathed, and that the boys who enjoyed
the game on Sunday were principally those who were kept indoors
by work on other days. The close of the interview was
unsatisfactory both to Douglas and the deacon.

"Dey kinder made me cold an' prickly all up an' down de back,"
Mandy said later, when she described their talk to Hasty. "Dat
'ere deacon don' know nuffin' 'bout gittin' 'roun' de parson."
She tossed her head with a feeling of superiority. She knew the
way. Make him forget himself with a laugh. Excite his sympathy
with some village underdog.

Chapter VII

MANDY had secretly enjoyed the commotion caused by the little
circus-rider being left in the parsonage, at first, because of
her inborn love of mischief, and later, because Polly had become
second in her heart only to the pastor. She went about her work,
crooning softly during the days of Polly's convalescence. The
deep, steady voice of the pastor reading aloud in the pretty
window overhead was company. She would often climb the stairs to
tell them some bit of village gossip, and leave them laughing at
a quaint comment about some inquisitive sister of the church, who
had happened to incur her displeasure.

As spring came on, Douglas carried Polly down to the sun-lit
garden beneath the window; and Mandy fluttered about arranging
the cushions with motherly solicitude.

More days slipped by, and Polly began to creep through the
little, soft-leaved trees at the back of the church, and to look
for the deep, blue, sweet-scented violets. When she was able,
Douglas took her with him to visit some of the outlying houses of
the poor. Her woman's instinct was quick to perceive many small
needs in their lives that he had overlooked, and to suggest
simple, inexpensive joys that made them her devoted friends.

Their evenings were divided between making plans for these
unfortunates and reading aloud from the Bible or other books.

When Polly gained courage, Douglas sometimes persuaded her to
read to him--and the little corrections that he made at these
times soon became noticeable in her manner of speech. She was so
eager, so starved for knowledge, that she drank it as fast as he
could give it. It was during their talks about grammar that
Mandy generally fell asleep in her rocker, her unfinished sewing
still in her lap.

When a letter came from Jim and Toby, it was always shared

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