Part 1 out of 4
The Circus Boys On the Mississippi
Afloat with the Big Show on the Big River
By EDGAR B. P. DARLINGTON
I MAKING A LIVELY START
II JANUARY LENDS A FOOT
III A DAY OF MEMORIES
IV THEIR CURIOSITY AROUSED
V THE CIRCUS BOYS' SURPRISE
VI A BOLT FROM THE CLOUDS
VII IN NEW QUARTERS
VIII JANUARY ON THE RAMPAGE
IX PHIL FORREST TO THE RESCUE
X ALL ABOARD FOR THE GULF!
XI EGG, EGG, WHO'S GOT THE EGG?
XII TRYING OUT A NEW ACT
XIII A NARROW ESCAPE
XIV THE PILOT GETS A SURPRISE
XV AN UNWELCOME VISITOR
XVI BETRAYED BY A SNEEZE
XVIII MAKING A CAPTURE
XIX TEDDY JOINS THE BAND
XX A CAPTURE IN THE AIR
XXI A CIRCUS BOY MISSING
XXII OVERBOARD INTO THE RIVER
XXIII THE ROMAN CHARIOT RACES
The Circus Boys on the Mississippi
MAKING A LIVELY START
"Have you had any trouble with Diaz, Teddy?"
"The new Spanish clown."
Teddy Tucker's face grew serious.
"What about him, Phil?"
"That is what I am asking you. Have you had any
misunderstanding--angry words or anything of the sort with him?"
persisted Phil Forrest, with a keen, inquiring glance into the
face of his companion.
"Well, maybe," admitted the Circus Boy, with evident reluctance.
"What made you think I had?"
"From the way he looked at you when you were standing in the
paddock this afternoon, waiting for your cue to go on."
"Huh! How did he look at me?"
"As if he had a grudge against you. There was an expression in
his eyes that said more plainly than words, 'I'll get even with
you yet, young man, you see if I do not.'"
"Wonderful!" breathed Teddy.
"What do you mean?"
"You must be a mind reader, Phil Forrest," grumbled Teddy,
digging his heel into the soft turf of the circus lot. "Can you
read my mind? If you can, what am I thinking about now?"
"You are thinking," answered Phil slowly, "that you will make me
forget the question I asked you just now. You are thinking you
would rather not answer my question."
Teddy opened his eyes a little wider.
"You ought to go into the business."
"Reading people's minds, at so much per read."
"I wish you'd read the mind of that donkey of mine, and find
out what he's got up his sleeve, or rather his hoofs, for me
"Do you know of what else you are thinking?"
"Of course I do. Think I don't know what I am thinking about?
Well! What am I thinking about?"
"At the present moment you are thinking that you will do to Diaz
what he hopes to do to you some of these days--get even with him
for some fancied wrong. Am I right?"
"I'll hand him a good stiff punch, one of these fine spring
mornings, that's what I'll do," growled Tucker, his face
"Teddy Tucker, listen to me!"
"You will do nothing of the sort."
"You just wait and see."
"Since we started out on our fourth season with the Sparling
Combined Shows this spring, you have behaved yourself
remarkably well. I know it must have pained you to do so.
I give you full credit, but don't spoil it all now, please."
"Yes. You must remember that this is now a Big show--larger this
season than ever before, and you must not expect Mr. Sparling to
excuse your shortcomings as he did in the old days."
"I'm not afraid of Boss Sparling."
"You have no occasion to be, as long as you do your duty and
attend to business. We owe him a heavy debt of gratitude,
both of us. You know that, don't you, Teddy?"
"I--I guess so."
"What is the trouble between you and Diaz?" persisted
Phil Forrest, returning to his original inquiry.
"Well," drawled Teddy, "you know their act?"
"Throwing those peaked hats clear across the arena and catching
the hats on their heads, just like a couple of monkeys."
"I didn't know monkeys ever did that," smiled Phil.
"Well, maybe they don't. The trained seals do, anyhow."
"They--the Spaniards--were doing that the other day when I was
going out after my clown act. I had picked up the ringmaster's
whip, and as one of the hats went sailing over my head I just
took a shot at it."
"Took a shot at it?"
"Yes. I fired at it on the wing, as it were. Don't you
understand?" demanded the lad somewhat impatiently.
Phil shook his head.
"I hit it a crack with the ringmaster's whip and I hit the mark
the first shot. Down came the hat and it caught me on the nose."
"Then what did you do?"
"Knocked it on the ground, then kicked it out of the ring,"
"Of course you spoiled their act," commented Phil.
"I--I guess I did."
"That was an ungentlemanly thing to do, to say the least.
It is lucky for you that Mr. Sparling did not happen to see you.
Do you know what would have happened to you if he had?"
"He would have fined me, I suppose."
"No. You would have closed right there. He would have had you
sent back home by the first train if he had seen you do a thing
"I don't care. I can get a job with the Yankee Robinson show any
"Not if you were to be discharged from this outfit for
bad conduct. I don't wonder Diaz is angry. Did he say
anything to you at the time?"
"What did he say?"
"I didn't understand all he said. Some of it was in Spanish,
but what I did understand was enough," grinned the boy.
"Strong language, eh?"
"Phil, he can beat the boss canvasman in that line."
"I am surprised, Teddy Tucker."
"So was I."
"I don't mean that. I am surprised that you should so far forget
yourself as to do such a thing. I don't blame Diaz for being
angry, and I warn you that you had better look out for him.
Some of those foreigners have very violent tempers."
"Well, he didn't tell the boss, at any rate."
"No. Perhaps in the long run it might have been better for you
if he had. Diaz is awaiting his opportunity to get even with you
in his own way. Look out for him, Teddy."
"He had better look out for me."
"Don't irritate him. Were I in your place I should go to the
clown and apologize. Tell him it was a thoughtless act on your
part and that you are sorry you did it--"
"As you please, but that is what I would do."
"You--you would do that?"
"I certainly would."
"And let him give you the laugh?"
"That would make no difference to me. I should be doing what is
right, and that would be satisfaction enough, no matter what he
said or did after that."
Teddy reflected for a moment.
"Well, maybe that would be a good idea. And if he won't accept
my apology, what then--shall I hand him a--"
"Smile and leave him. You will have done the best you could to
"All right, I'll apologize," nodded the Circus Boy. "I'll shed a
tear or two to show him how sorry I am. Want to see me do it?"
"I should say not. You will do it better provided I am not
looking on, but for goodness' sake don't make a mess of the
whole business. It would be too bad to make an enemy of one of
your associates so early in the season. Think how uncomfortable
it would be for you all through the summer. He has not been
with us long enough to become used to your practical jokes.
Perhaps after he gets better acquainted with you, he may not
mind your peculiar ways so much," added Phil, with a
short laugh. "Now run along and be good."
Teddy turned away and slipped through the paddock opening, in
front of which the lads had been standing just outside the tent,
leaving Phil looking after him with a half smile on his face.
The Circus Boys were again on the road with the Great Sparling
Combined Shows. This was their fourth season out, and the
readers will remember them as the same lads who in "THE CIRCUS
BOYS ON THE FLYING RINGS," had made their humble start in the
circus world. During that first season both lads had
distinguished themselves--Phil for his bravery and cool
headedness, Teddy for getting himself into trouble under all
circumstances and conditions. They had quickly risen, however,
to the grade of real circus performers, the owner of the show
recognizing in each, the making of a fine performer.
In "THE CIRCUS BOYS ACROSS THE CONTINENT," it will be recalled
how Phil and his companion won new laurels in the sawdust arena,
and how the former ran down and captured a bad man who had been a
thorn in the side of the circus itself for many weeks through his
efforts to avenge a fancied wrong. By this time the boys had
become full-fledged circus performers, each playing an important
part in the performance.
It will be recalled, too, how Phil and Teddy in "THE CIRCUS BOYS
IN DIXIE LAND," advanced rapidly in their calling; how Phil was
captured by a rival show, held prisoner on the owner's private
car, and later was obliged to become a performer in the ring of
the rival show. His escape, his long tramp to rejoin his own
show, followed by the battle of the elephants--will be well
remembered by all the readers of the previous volumes in
During the winter just passed, the lads had been attending the
high school at Edmeston, where they made their home, working hard
after school hours to keep themselves in good physical condition
for the next season's work.
Spring came. The lads passed their final examinations, and, with
their diplomas in their pockets, set out one bright May morning
to join the show which, by this time, had come to be looked upon
by them as a real home.
They had been on the road less than two weeks now, and were
looking forward with keen anticipation to their summer under the
billowing canvas of the Great Sparling Shows.
"I think I _will_ take a peep to see how Teddy is getting
along with his apology," decided Phil, turning and entering
the paddock. Then he stepped quietly into the dressing tent.
He saw Teddy approach the clown, Diaz, who sat on his trunk
making up his face before a hand mirror.
Teddy halted a few feet from the clown, waiting until the latter
should have observed him. The clown glanced up, glowered, and
slowly placed the mirror on the trunk beside him. He seemed
astonished that the boy should have the courage to face him.
Then Teddy, solemn-faced, made his apology. To Phil Forrest's
listening ears it was the most amazing apology he ever had
"I'm sorry I made a monkey of you," said Teddy.
"What!" fairly exploded the clown.
"I'm sorry I made a monkey of you," repeated the Circus Boy in a
slightly louder tone. "Maybe I wouldn't have done so if I had
had time to think about it."
"You make apology to me--to me?" questioned Diaz, tapping his own
"Yes; to whom did you think I was making an apology--to the hyena
out under the menagerie top, eh?"
"I am sorry I made a fool of you, Mr. Diaz."
"Yes, I guess you are about right. You certainly look the
Diaz sprang up with a growl of rage, Tucker giving ground a
little as he observed the anger in the painted face before him.
Before the lad could raise his hands to protect himself Diaz had
grasped Teddy and hurled him across the dressing tent, where he
landed in a pail of water.
He was up in a twinkling. His face was flushed and his hands
No sooner had he gotten to his feet than he observed that the
clown had started for him again. Teddy squared off, prepared
for fight. At that moment, however, there came an interruption
that turned the attention of the enraged clown in
Phil Forrest quickly stepped between them facing Diaz.
"What are you going to do?" demanded the Circus Boy in a
"I punish the monkey-face--"
"You will, eh?" howled Teddy, starting forward.
Phil thrust his companion aside.
"Go away. I will see if I can explain to him," cautioned Phil,
turning to the clown again, just as the latter was making a rush
"One moment, Mr. Diaz. My friend Teddy is not very diplomatic,
but he means well. He apologized to you for what he had done,
did he not?"
"Yes," growled the clown.
"Then why not call it square and--"
"I punish him. I fix him!" roared Diaz, making a leap for Teddy,
who had managed to edge up nearer to them.
"You will do nothing of the sort," answered Phil Forrest firmly,
again stepping between them.
An angry light glowed in the eyes of the clown. For an instant
he glared into Phil's steady gray eyes, then all of a sudden
launched a vicious blow at the boy.
The blow failed to reach the mark. Phil dodged and stepped back
a couple of feet.
Another, as swift as the first was sent straight for his head.
This blow the Circus Boy skillfully parried, but made no effort
"Mr. Diaz! Mr. Diaz!" warned Phil. "You forget yourself.
Please don't do anything you will be sorry for afterwards."
"I fix you!" snarled the clown.
"I don't want to hit you, sir, but you may force me to do so."
Phil had no time to warn the fellow further, for the clown
began to rain blows upon him, though with no great exhibition
of boxing skill. Phil could have landed effectively anywhere
on the clown's body had he chosen to do so.
Instead, the boy slowly gave ground, defending himself cleverly.
Not one single blow from the powerful fist of Diaz reached him,
Phil exhibiting the wonderful self-control that was
characteristic of him. He even found opportunity to warn Teddy
to get out of the tent until the tempest had blown over.
Teddy, however, stood with hands thrust in his trousers pockets,
shoulders hunched forward, glaring at Diaz.
"Don't you get in this now," breathed Phil. "Keep away!
Keep away! I'll--"
At that moment Phil stumbled over a trunk, landing on his head
and shoulders. Quick as he was he found himself unable to turn
over and roll away soon enough to get beyond reach of the
Diaz hurled himself upon the slender, though athletic figure of
the Circus Boy, almost knocking the breath out of Phil.
No sooner had he done so than something else happened. A body
launched itself through the air. The body belonged to Tucker.
Teddy landed with great force on the head and shoulders of the
enraged clown, flattening the latter down upon Phil with crushing
weight, and nearly knocking Forrest senseless.
JANUARY LENDS A FOOT
"Stop it!" roared a voice. "We don't allow 'roughhouse' in the
"Yes," added another; "go out on the lot if you want to settle
Mr. Miaco, the head clown, who had been a true friend to the
boys from the beginning of their circus career, had discovered
what was going on about the time Teddy decided to mix in in
the disagreement. Mr. Miaco sprang up and ran to the
struggling heap. Grasping Teddy firmly by the shoulder he
tossed the lad aside.
"Now, you stay out of this, unless you want a thrashing from me,"
the head clown warned.
The next to feel the grip of his powerful hand was the clown,
Diaz, and when Mr. Miaco discovered that the clown had Phil
Forrest down, he could scarcely restrain himself from severely
punishing the fellow. However, Miaco satisfied himself with
hauling Diaz from his victim with little ceremony. Then he
jerked the angry clown to his feet.
"Well, sir, what have you to say for yourself?" demanded Miaco,
gazing at the other sternly.
"This no business of yours," growled Diaz.
"That remains to be seen. I'll decide whether it is any of my
affair or not. Phil, what does this mean?"
"Just a little matter between ourselves. Thank you for helping
"Did he attack you, Phil?"
"He did, but he no doubt thought he had sufficient provocation.
Perhaps we should not be too hard on Mr. Diaz."
"Then the best thing to do is to tell Mr. Sparling. I--"
"Please don't do anything of the sort," begged Phil. "In the
first place, Diaz's anger was directed against Teddy, and I had
to mix myself in their quarrel. Teddy did something to him a
few weeks ago that made the clown very angry, and I don't
"Was there any excuse for his pitching into you in this manner?"
"Well," laughed Phil, "perhaps the situation did not demand
exactly that sort of treatment."
"How did you come to let him get you so easily?"
"I fell over something."
"Oh, that's it?"
"Yes. I wasn't trying to hit him. I could have done so easily,
but I felt that I was in the wrong."
"Humph!" grunted the head clown. Then he turned to Diaz.
"See here, you fellow!"
"What you want?" demanded Diaz in a surly tone.
"I want to advise you to let those boys alone in the future.
They have been with this show a long time, and they are highly
thought of by Mr. Sparling. Were he to hear what you have done
tonight I rather think you would pack your trunk and quit
right here. I shall not tell him. Next time I see you doing
any such thing you will have to answer to me. I'm the head
clown here, and I won't stand for one of my men pitching
on a boy."
Teddy was chuckling to himself over the severe rebuke that Miaco
was administering to his clown.
"Do you boys intend going on tonight?" Miaco demanded suddenly,
turning on Teddy.
"Certainly," answered Phil.
"Then I should advise you to be getting into your makeups."
"Why, what time is it?"
"A quarter to eight."
"Whew! Come on, Teddy."
A few moments more and peace had been restored in the dressing
tent, though Diaz was muttering to himself as he laid the powder
over his face, preparatory to his first entry into the ring.
"I am afraid we have not heard the last of Diaz, Teddy,"
confided Phil to his companion. "You see what your moment
of thoughtlessness has brought upon us, don't you?"
"You didn't have to mix in the row. I could have handled him."
"I am forced to admit that you are right. I sought to avoid
trouble and I was the direct cause of a lot of it. There goes
the first call. Hurry up!"
The Circus Boys had, indeed, made an enemy. It was noticed,
however, that Manuel, the assistant of Diaz, had taken no part in
the row. The young man had calmly proceeded with his making up
without appearing to take the slightest interest in the affair.
Whether or not his apparent indifference was merely assumed was
The two boys were not performing on the flying rings this season.
They had retained all their other acts, however, though the star
act was the flying trapeze, in which Phil Forrest was now one of
the leading performers.
Teddy rode his donkey, January, took part in the ground tumbling,
acted as shadow again for the clown Shivers, besides making
himself generally useful in some of the other acts.
As for Phil's bareback riding, he occupied the center ring in
this act, as he had done the season before. He had come to be
perhaps the most useful man with the Sparling show.
"I advise you to look out for that fellow. He is a dangerous
customer," warned Miaco under his breath, as Phil sat down on his
horse during a rest in the performance.
The Circus Boy nodded his understanding, but appeared little
disturbed at Miaco's warning. Like the seasoned circus man that
he was, he had learned to take things as they came, making the
best of every situation when he came face to face with it.
Diaz and his assistant were entering the ring as Phil left it.
They began throwing their hats, winning great applause, for their
act was a clever one of its kind. At about the same time, Teddy
Tucker and January came on, the Circus Boy howling, January
braying and bucking, beating the air with his heels, for he had
been taught some entirely new tricks during the winter.
The ringmaster held up his hand for silence.
"Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you, January.
As January is the first month of the year, so is this January
first in the donkey world. You will observe how docile and kind
he appears. Yet, ladies and gentlemen, the management of this
show will give a hundred dollars to any person who can stick
on his back for a full minute--only sixty seconds, ladies
and gentlemen. Do you know of any easier or faster way to
make money? Six thousand dollars an hour if you stay that long.
Who will be the first to earn the money?"
It was the first time the announcement had been made from
the ring. Mr. Sparling had given his consent, even though
he had not seen the act. He had, however, observed Teddy
engaged in a tussle with the beast that afternoon, and could
readily understand that what Teddy told him about January's
contrariness was not overdrawn.
A colored man came down from the audience, and, throwing off his
coat, announced his intention of riding the mule.
January appeared to have no objection, permitting the colored
man to get on his back without offering the least opposition.
To Teddy, who stood in front of the animal, grinning, there was
a glint in the eye of the mule that spelled trouble for the
Suddenly January reared, then as quickly tipped the other way
until it appeared to the spectators as if he were standing on
The rider suddenly landed on his back in the sawdust.
"The gentleman loses," announced the ringmaster. "Is there any
other gentleman in the audience who thinks he can earn one
hundred dollars a minute--six thousand dollars an hour?"
No one appeared to be anxious to make the attempt.
Manuel, in the meantime, had drawn closer, paying strict
attention to the words of the ringmaster.
"You give money for riding the burro?" questioned the
"Burro? This is no Mexican burro, this is a donkey!" sniffed
The ringmaster instantly scented an opportunity to have some fun,
and at the same time make the audience laugh. He glanced about
to see if Mr. Sparling were under the big top, and not seeing
him, instantly decided to take a long chance.
"Do you think you can ride January, sir?"
"I ride burro."
"Very well, it is your privilege to do so if you can. Ladies and
gentlemen, this clown has never before attempted this feat.
He thinks he can ride the donkey. If he succeeds he will receive
the reward offered by the management of the show, just the same
as you would have done had you performed the feat."
Teddy stroked January's nose, then leaning over, the Circus Boy
whispered in the animal's ear.
"January," he said, "you've got a solemn duty to perform.
If you shirk it you are no longer a friend of mine, and you
get no more candy--understand? No more candy."
January curled his upper lip ever so little and brayed dismally.
"That's right; I knew you would agree to the sentiment."
"Get away from his head, Master Teddy. The Spanish clown is
about to distinguish himself," announced the ringmaster.
Manuel was an agile little fellow. While the announcement was
being made he had been taking mental measurement of the beast
and deciding upon his course of action.
Ere Teddy had stepped back the Spaniard took a running start,
and, with a leap, landed fairly on the back of the donkey.
The latter, taken by surprise, cleared the ground with all
four feet and bucked, but the rider had flung his arms about
the donkey's neck, clinging with both feet to the beast's
body, grimly determined to win that hundred dollars or die
in the attempt.
"Go it, January," encouraged Teddy. "Give it to him!
Soak him hard!"
January stood on his hind feet, then on his head, as it were,
but still the Spaniard clung doggedly.
By this time the donkey had begun to get angry. He had been
taken an unfair advantage of and he did not like it. Suddenly he
launched into a perfect volley of kicks, each kick giving the
rider such a violent jolt that he was rapidly losing his hold.
"Keep it up! Keep it up! You've got him!" exulted the
The audience was howling with delight.
"There he goes!" shrieked Teddy.
Manuel, now as helpless as a ship without a rudder, was being
buffeted over the back of the plunging animal.
Manuel was yelling in his native language, but if anyone
understood what he was saying, that one gave no heed. Teddy, on
the other hand, was urging January with taunt and prod of the
Suddenly the Spanish clown was bounced over the donkey's rump,
landing on the animal's hocks. It was January's moment--the
moment he had been cunningly waiting and planning for.
The donkey's hoofs shot up into the air with the clown on them.
The hoofs were quickly drawn back, but the Spanish clown
continued right on, sailing through the air like a great
The audience yelled its approval.
Manuel landed with a crash in the midst of the lower
grandstand seats. A second later there was a mix-up that
required the united services of a dozen ring attendants to
In the meantime, Teddy Tucker was rolling on the ground near the
center pole, howling with delight, while January, with lowered
head, was trotting innocently toward the paddock.
The ringmaster's whistle trilled for the next act, and the show
went on with its characteristic dash and sprightliness.
However, Teddy Tucker's plan to get one of the Spanish
hat-throwing clowns into trouble had been an entire success.
He had succeeded, also, in making another bitter enemy for
the Circus Boys.
A DAY OF MEMORIES
Mr. Sparling, the owner of the show, had been a witness of
the latter part of Teddy's act. The showman was standing
over near the entrance to the menagerie tent when Manuel took
his unexpected flight, and the proprietor sat down on the
grass, laughing until the tears started from his eyes.
The act had been a breach of discipline, so Mr. Sparling
prudently kept himself out of sight until the show had
Later in the evening he chanced to pass Teddy out in the paddock.
"Well, my lad, how is January working tonight?" he asked, with a
twinkle in his eyes.
"Never better, sir, thank you."
"I presume he obeys your commands perfectly, eh?"
"Does everything I tell him to, Mr. Sparling. I can do anything
with that donkey. Why, I could wink at him and make him kick
your head off. I--"
"I'll take your word for it, young man--I'll take your word
for it. Let me warn you to be careful that you do not tell
him to do anything that will interfere with the programme.
We must have our acts clean cut, and embodying nothing that
has not been arranged for in advance. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir," answered Teddy, giving the owner a keen,
"I'll bet he saw that," mused the lad. "He's letting me off
easy because he had to laugh, just the same as the rest of the
"What did Mr. Sparling have to say?" questioned Phil, who had
emerged from the dressing tent just as Teddy was walking away
from the showman.
Teddy told him.
"You got off pretty easy, I must say. It is a wonder he did not
discipline you for that."
"Do you think he saw Manuel fly?"
"He did, or else someone told him. Be careful, Teddy! You are
laying up trouble for all of us," warned Phil.
"I got even with Mr. Hat Thrower, just the same," grinned Tucker.
Teddy was the happiest boy in the show that night, and he went to
his sleeping quarters chuckling all the way.
The show, this season, had opened in Chicago, and was now working
its way across the state of Illinois. The route had caused
considerable comment among the show people. They did not
understand what the plans of the owner might be.
Ordinarily, give a showman the first week or two of the show's
route and he will tell you just what parts of the country the
show will visit during that particular season. The performers
were unable to do so in this instance. Phil Forrest was as much
perplexed as the others, but he made no mention of this to
"He has some surprise up his sleeve, I am sure," decided
The next morning Phil asked Mr. Miaco, the head clown,
if he knew where they were going.
"I do not," answered the clown. "This route has kept
me guessing. Boss Sparling may be headed for Australia
for all I know. He's just as likely to go there as
anywhere else. Has the Spaniard bothered you since
"Well, keep away from him. That is my advice."
"I shall not bother him. You may depend upon that, Mr. Miaco.
I can't say as much for Teddy."
"Teddy put up that job with January last night, didn't he?"
"He hasn't said so."
"Not necessary. I saw the whole thing. Lucky for Teddy that
Mr. Sparling did not happen to be about."
"I am not so sure that he was not."
Phil explained what Mr. Sparling had said to Teddy out in
"Yes, he saw it all right, but I guess he doesn't know about the
trouble in the dressing tent yesterday."
"No, I think not. I hope he does not hear of it, either.
I do not wish Mr. Sparling to think that I am a troublemaker,
or that I was mixed up in an unseemly row in the dressing tent.
I should feel very much humiliated were I to be called to
account for a thing like that. What are all those flags flying
for in town today?"
"Don't you know?"
"No, I don't."
"You don't know what day this is?"
"This is Decoration Day."
"Oh, that's so."
"We lose all track of days in the show business. I'll wager you
do not even know what town we are performing in today," laughed
"I shall have to confess that I do not."
"I thought so. Of course you know we are in the state
"Yes, I think I have heard something to that effect,"
By the time the boys had eaten their breakfast, and had strolled
over toward the tents, they found the dressing tents in place and
the performers busily engaged in unpacking their belongings,
hanging their costumes on lines stretched across the dressing
tent, and making such repairs in the costumes as were found to be
necessary, for a showman must be handy with the needle as well as
with bar and trapeze.
Phil's trunk was next to that of Diaz. The Circus Boy did not
mind this at all, but the clown appeared to feel a continual
resentment at the fact.
"Good morning, Mr. Diaz," greeted the lad, with a sunny smile.
"Shall we shake hands and be friends?"
Diaz glared at him, but made no reply. He did not even appear to
have observed the hand that was extended toward him.
"I am sorry you feel that way about it, sir. If I was hasty I
beg you will forgive me," urged Phil.
Diaz turned his back on him.
"Very well, sir," said the Circus Boy, a little proudly and with
slightly heightened color, "I shall not trouble you again."
Phil turned away and began unpacking his trunk, giving no further
heed to the sullen clown.
"The Honorable Mr. Diaz says 'nix,'" laughed Teddy, who had been
an amused witness to the one-sided conversation, the word "nix"
being the circus man's comprehensive way of saying, "I refuse."
"Don't stir him up, Teddy," warned Phil.
"Say, what's going on over in the women's dressing tent?"
"I did not know that anything out of the ordinary was happening
there," said Phil. "Why?"
"I see a lot of folks going in and out."
"Nothing unusual about that, I guess."
"Yes, there is."
"What makes you think so?"
" 'Cause they're carrying flowers in and making a great fuss.
I'm going over to find out. Come along?"
"No, thank you. You had better keep out. You know you are not
supposed to go in the other dressing tent."
Teddy was not disturbed by the warning. He turned and started
for the women's dressing tent, where he saw several of the other
performers passing through the entrance. Phil, who had stepped
to the door of his own dressing tent, observed the same thing.
"I guess there must be something going on over there. I shall
have to find out what it means," he thought.
"May I come in, Mrs. Waite?" called Phil from the entrance.
"Sure. Come in Phil," smiled the wardrobe woman.
Teddy had not wasted the breath to ask permission to enter, but
the moment he stepped inside something caught his eyes, causing
them to open a little wider.
Two trunks had been drawn up in the center; over them was thrown
an American flag. At one end a flag on a standard had been
planted, and on the trunks, flowers and wreaths had been placed.
"What's that thing?" asked Teddy.
"That is my grave, Master Teddy," answered Mrs. Waite in a
"Pshaw! That's a funny kind of grave. What's buried there--your
"Teddy! Teddy!" whispered Phil reprovingly.
"Go 'way. This is some kind of a joke," growled Teddy.
"It is not a joke, though I do not understand the meaning of it
just yet. You say this is your grave, Mrs. Waite?" asked Phil.
"Yes, Phil. You know my husband was a soldier?"
"No, I did not know that, Mrs. Waite. Will you tell me all
Phil was deeply interested now.
"My husband was killed at the battle of Gettysburg. He lies in
Woodlawn Cemetery. I am never at home on Decoration Day. I am
always on the road with the circus, so I cannot decorate the
"I understand," breathed the Circus Boy.
"Being unable to decorate my husband's real grave, I carry my
grave with me. Each Memorial Day morning I prepare my grave
here in the dressing tent, and decorate it as you see here,
and all my friends of the circus are very good and thoughtful
on that occasion."
"How long have you been with the show--how many years have
you been decorating this little property grave, Mrs. Waite?"
"Thirty years, Phil."
"Is it possible?"
"Yes, and it seems no more than two."
"Do you intend remaining with the show much longer--aren't you
ever going to retire?"
"Yes. I am going to retire. I am getting old. I have laid up
enough money to keep me for the rest of my life, and I am going
to take a rest after two years more with this outfit."
"I am afraid you will miss the show," smiled the lad.
"I know I shall. I shall miss the life, the color, and I shall
miss my boys and my girls. I love them all very much."
One after another, the women of the circus had come in to the
dressing tent, depositing their little floral remembrances on the
property grave while Mrs. Waite was talking.
Teddy, as soon as he fully comprehended the meaning of the scene,
had slipped out. In a little while he returned. He brought with
him a bunch of daisies that he had gathered on the circus lot.
These he had tied with a soiled pink ribbon that he had ripped
from one of his ring costumes.
Phil saw the daisies, and, noting their significance,
"Teddy has a heart, after all," was his mental comment.
Teddy Tucker proceeded to the flag-draped grave, gently placed
his offering upon it, then turned away.
As he did so, he was observed to brush a hand across his eyes as
if something there were blurring his sight.
THEIR CURIOSITY AROUSED
"Phil, I have an idea that you are wondering where we are bound
for?" said Mr. Sparling, with a merry twinkle in his eyes.
"I will confess that I have been somewhat curious," smiled
the boy. "From the route I could not imagine where you
"You are not the only one who has been guessing. Our rivals are
positively nervous over the movements of this show. They think
we are going to jump into the Mississippi River, or something of
"Or float on it," added Phil.
Mr. Sparling eyed him keenly.
They were in the owner's private tent, discussing the business
of the show itself, as these two did every day of the season, for
Mr. Sparling had come to place no little reliance on the judgment
of his young Circus Boy.
"What made you say that, Phil?"
"I had no particular reason. Perhaps I thought I was saying
"Nothing very funny about that," answered the showman.
"I agree with you."
"I thought perhaps you might ask me where we were routed for
"And I thought you would tell me when you wished me to know,"
answered the boy.
"It was not because I did not wish you to know our route, Phil.
I rather thought I should like to give you a surprise."
"We are going to surprise the show world at the same time, so you
see you are not the only one who will be surprised."
"You arouse my curiosity, Mr. Sparling."
"Still you refuse to ask where we are going," replied the
showman, laughing heartily. "I have made my arrangements with
the utmost secrecy because I did not wish any of the opposition
shows to get a line on my plans. Not one of them has done so
thus far. Tomorrow they will know. Or at least by the day
after tomorrow. I am not going to let you in on my little
secret today either. Do you think you can possess your soul
in patience until then?"
"I think there will be no trouble about that. If I have
restrained my curiosity so far I surely can control it
until tomorrow. We show at Milledgeville tomorrow, do
"That's what the route card says and I guess the route card
"Small town, is it not?"
"Yes, one of the little river towns. Do you know much about
"Nothing except what I observed when we played the southern
states last season. I should like to take a trip down the river,
and hope I may have an opportunity to do so one of these days."
"You'll have the opportunity, all right."
"I said you would have the opportunity."
"I hope so."
"Perhaps sooner than you think, too. How is your friend, Tucker,
"Pretty well, thank you. I guess he is working better this
season than he did last. His acts are much more finished, don't
you think so?"
"Yes. I noticed that he nearly finished a clown with one of
his acts the other night," answered Mr. Sparling dryly, whereat
both laughed heartily. "Have you had any trouble, with any of
"Do you mean myself, personally?"
"Either or both of you?"
"Some slight disagreements. What trouble we have had has been
due wholly to our own fault," answered Phil manfully.
"I would rather not say anything about it, if you will permit me
to remain silent."
"You are a queer boy, Phil."
"So I have been told before," answered the lad, laughing.
"And your friend Teddy is a confounded sight more so. I'm afraid
he would have a hard time with most any other show in spite of
the fact that he is an excellent performer."
"I have told him as much."
"Oh, you have?"
"What does he say?"
"He doesn't take my advice very seriously, I am afraid. Teddy is
all right at heart, however."
"I agree with you."
Phil then related to Mr. Sparling the incident of the dressing
tent, when Teddy gathered the daisies to place on the "grave" in
memory of Mrs. Waite's soldier dead, to all of which the showman
listened with thoughtful face. Mr. Sparling rose, walked to the
door of the tent, then returned and sat down.
"You never knew that I was a soldier, too, did you, Phil?"
"No, sir. Were you really?"
"Yes. I fought with the South. I was a drummer boy in a Georgia
regiment," said the showman reminiscently. "Perhaps had I been
older I might have done differently, but I loved my Sunny South
and I love it now."
"So do I," added Phil Forrest fervently.
"But the war is over. It is the show business that concerns us
most intimately at the present moment. I want to say that you
are doing excellent work on the flying trapeze this season."
"Thank you. I am doing my best."
"You always do. Whatever you attempt you go at with all the
force you possess, and that is no slight factor, either. I have
been waiting to talk seriously with you for sometime. You have
finished your studies, have you not?"
"What are your plans for the future?"
"I have no immediate plans beyond continuing in the
show business. I am trying to lay up some money so I
can go into business some of these days."
"Circus business, of course. It is the only business I know
anything about, and I know very little about that, it seems
"Let me tell you something, Phil. Nine-tenths of the men who
have been in it nearly all their lives know no more about the
circus business than you do. Many of them not so much. You are
a born showman. Take my word for it, you have a very brilliant
career before you. You spoke, sometime ago, about wishing to go
"I should like to go."
"Under the circumstances I would advise against it, though I am a
thorough believer in the value of an education. You have a good
start now. Were you to go to college you would spend four years
there and when you finished, you would find that the show world
had been moving right along just the same. You would be out of
it, so to speak. You would have been standing still so far as
the circus was concerned, for four full years. Think it over and
some of these days we will have another talk."
"What would you advise, Mr. Sparling?"
"I don't advise. I am simply pointing out the facts for you to
consider, that's all."
"I thank you, Mr. Sparling. I already owe you a debt
of gratitude. I shall never forget all you have done for
Teddy and myself, and I am sure Teddy also appreciates it."
"You owe me nothing."
"Oh, yes, I do! I shall never be able wholly to pay the
"We will drop that side of the case, my boy. You will want to
pack all your things for moving tonight."
"You mean my dressing-room trunk?"
"I mean all your belongings."
Phil looked his surprise.
"I have special reference to your stuff in the sleeper."
"May I ask why, Mr. Sparling."
"Because tonight will be the last night you will spend on the
sleeping car for sometime, in all probability."
"I don't understand. Am I to leave the show?"
"Leave the show?"
"I should say not. You leave the show? I would rather lose any
ten men in it than to have you go away. I trust you never will
leave it for any length of time--at least not while I am in
the business. No, you are going on a little trip--the show is
going on a little trip. That is the surprise I have in store
for you. You will know tomorrow morning. Not another word now,
Phil Forrest. Run along and get ready for the performance."
The Circus Boy hurried over to the dressing tent, full of
curiosity and anticipation of what awaited him on the morrow.
Strange to say, Phil had not the least idea what the plan of the
owner of the show might be.
The surprise was to be a complete one.
THE CIRCUS BOYS' SURPRISE
"Come, Phil and Teddy. I want you to take a little walk with
me," called Mr. Sparling early next morning after they had
finished their breakfast.
That morning orders had been given in each of the sleeping cars,
for the performers to pack their belongings, ready to be moved
from the cars.
The show people could not understand it, and gossip was rife
among them as to the meaning of the unusual order.
Orders also had been given to the various heads of departments to
prepare to desert the train, bag and baggage.
"Where are we going?" demanded Teddy suspiciously.
"For a walk. You need not go along, unless you wish to," added
"Of course I wish to go. Do you think I want to stay on the lot
when anything is going on somewhere else, eh?"
"There would be plenty going on, if you remained. I am
sure of that," replied Mr. Sparling, with a short laugh.
"Come along, boys."
Still wondering what it was all about, Phil and Teddy
walked along with their employer. They passed on through
the business street of the town, then turned off sharply,
heading for the north. A few moments of this and they
turned to the left again.
"Hello, there's the river," announced Teddy.
"Yes, that is the river."
"I wish I could take a boat ride."
"You shall have one tonight."
Phil glanced at Mr. Sparling inquiringly.
"Oh, look at that funny boat!" cried Teddy. "It's yellow.
I've heard of a yellow dog, but I can't say that I ever heard
of a yellow boat. And it has a paddle wheel on behind.
Well, if that isn't the limit! Why, there are three of them.
What are they, Mr. Sparling?"
Phil's eyes already were widening. He had caught sight of
something that shed a flood of light on the mystery--the surprise
that Mr. Sparling had in store for them. But he was not positive
enough to commit himself.
A moment more, and he knew he was not wrong.
"Teddy, if you will read the words on the side of that boat
nearest to us, you will understand, I think."
"T-h-e," spelled Teddy.
"The," finished Phil.
"S-p-a-r-l-i-n-g, Sparling. C-o-m-b-i-n-e-d Shows. Well, what
do you think of _that?_"
"I hardly know what to think, yet," answered Phil Forrest.
"The Sparling Combined Shows. Do you mean to say--?"
"I haven't said a word," answered Mr. Sparling, with a merry
twinkle in his eyes. "I am waiting for you to say something."
"I--I am afraid I am too much astonished to say much. Do you
mean we are going to take to the river?"
"With the show?"
"What's that?" demanded Teddy.
"Didn't you hear?"
"I heard, but I don't understand. What's it all about? What is
it about those yellow boats over there?"
"The Sparling Circus is going down the Mississippi," Mr. Sparling
"On those things?"
"On those boats."
"Then I think I'll walk. You don't catch me riding on any
boat that has to have a wheel on behind to help push it along.
No, siree, not for mine!"
"But, Teddy, they are fine boats," said Phil.
"They are among the few typical Mississippi River steamers,"
broke in Mr. Sparling. "I got them far up the river last winter.
When I first conceived the plan of sending my show down the
river, on the river itself, I took a trip out here to look over
"You mean the water," corrected Teddy innocently.
"A little of both, my boy. I found that no show since the early
days of the barnstorming outfits had ever attempted the feat.
I learned a number of things that made me all the more anxious
to try it. The next question was a boat. I heard of some of
the old broad-beamed river craft that were out of commission
up stream. I found them exactly suited to our requirements, and
I rented them for the season. It cost quite a sum to have them
fixed up, but you will find them just the thing for our work.
What do you think of the idea?"
"Great!" breathed Phil. "It fairly takes my breath away."
"When--when do we move in?" asked Teddy Tucker wonderingly.
"We begin moving in this morning. I have given the
orders to have the property removed from the trains and
brought here, now--that is, all that will not be needed
for today's performances. Tonight all hands will sleep
on the boats. How will you like that, boys?"
"Fine!" answered Phil, with glowing eyes.
"I'll tell you after I try it," added Teddy prudently.
Across the sides of each boat, in big black letters, were the
words, "The Sparling Combined Shows." Below this lettering
appeared the names of the boats. The "River Queen" was the name
emblazoned on one, several shades more yellow than the other two.
"I guess we shall have to call her the 'Yellow Peril,'"
laughed Phil. "Don't you think that would be an
Mr. Sparling laughed good-naturedly.
The companion boat to the "Queen" was named the "Mary Jane."
Teddy promptly renamed her the "Fat Marie," in honor of The
Fattest Woman on Earth, much to the amusement of Phil and
The "Nemah" was the third boat of the fleet, a much smaller
craft than either of the others. The owner intended to use
the "Nemah" as the Flying Squadron of the show, the boat that
went ahead of the main body of the show, bearing the cook
tent, kitchen equipment and as much other property as could
be loaded on it.
"Well, Teddy," said Mr. Sparling, "in view of the fact that you
and Phil have renamed the 'River Queen' and the 'Mary Jane,'
I suppose you will not be satisfied until you have rechristened
the 'Nemah.' What will you call her?"
"'Little Nemo,'" answered the lad promptly.
"You boys beat anything I ever came across in all my circus
experience," remarked Mr. Sparling.
"Where do we sleep?" asked Phil.
"The cabins are all on the upper decks. The lower decks will be
used wholly for the equipment. I have had all the partitions
ripped out, down there, and the deck flooring lowered a little
so that the elephants will have room to stand. I have also had
smaller wheels put on all the wagons. Had I not done so the
wagons would not have gone in through the openings on the sides."
"What about the tent poles?" asked Phil. "You never will be able
to drive a pole wagon on board."
"You have an eye to business, I see. Have you noticed that the
center poles are spliced this season?"
"Yes, I did observe that."
"It was for the purpose of easier handling. The poles will
all be swung to the upper decks in bundles. In the morning
they will be lowered to the wagons, which can be done
without much difficulty. All the poles, except those
belonging to the big top, will go out on the 'Little Nemo,'
as you have named her. At first, handling the show will be
a little awkward, but we shall soon get the hang of it and
fit into the new arrangement just as if we had been always
traveling on boats. Traveling on the water, you see, we
shall be able to show on both sides of the river all the way
down, which we could not do were we traveling by train.
That will give us a long season, short runs overnight and a
fine outing. Everybody will be delighted with the change,
don't you think so?"
"If not, they will be pretty hard to please, I should say,"
rejoined Phil. "Why, it will be a regular vacation--all summer!"
"How far do we go?" asked Teddy.
"The length of the river."
"To the Gulf of Mexico?"
"Yes. New Orleans probably will be our last stand of the season.
That is, if we do not get wrecked on the big river."
"We can swim out if we do," suggested Teddy.
"I hope nothing of the sort will occur. I think our new plans
will make a great hit along the river."
"They cannot help but do so. We shall have a fine business,
I know," smiled Phil," and our rivals will be green with envy."
"May we go on board?"
"I hardly think you will have time this morning, Teddy. You boys
had better get back to the lot now. I will let you run the show,
Phil, as I shall be busy most of the day arranging for the
transfer to our new quarters. I chose Saturday for the purpose,
as it will give us plenty of time. We probably shall not get
away from here much before daylight."
"What boat do we berth on?"
"The 'Fat Marie,'" answered the showman, with a laugh.
"I believe I'll have these new names of yours painted
on the boats. They certainly make a hit with me.
Skip along, now!"
Almost too full of the new plans to talk, the Circus Boys hurried
back to the circus lot. Mr. Sparling's surprise had been a
By the time they reached the lot the news had been circulated
that the show was to take to the river, and the show people were
discussing excitedly the new plan.
All was bustle and excitement, and the occupants of the dressing
tent, who were preparing for the parade, crowded about the boys
to hear of the new boats.
The Sparling show had never gone along with the snap and
enthusiasm that it did that afternoon. The performers were on
their mettle and the little town was treated to a performance
such as it had never seen before.
Teddy distinguished himself by landing on his head on the
somersaulting mat, narrowly escaping breaking his neck, and
Phil took an unexpected header into the big net during his
trapeze act, getting a jolt that made his head ache for an
hour afterwards. Nothing else of an exciting nature occurred
during the afternoon performance, but at the evening show the
circus people were not so fortunate.
At that performance they met with excitement enough to last them
for a long time.
A BOLT FROM THE CLOUDS
"The old hen has laid an egg! The old hen has laid an egg!"
The performance was moving merrily on, the gasoline lamps
shedding a bright glow over the golden haze of the circus tent,
when a diminutive clown rushed into the arena bearing something
in his arms.
To the spectators it was just another clownish act, and they
laughed uproariously. The circus people, however, realized at
once that something not down on the bills was taking place, and
they cast wondering glances at the little clown, who was dancing
about in high glee.
"Get out of here!" growled the ringmaster angrily. "What do you
mean by breaking into the performance in this way. Out of here,
"The old hen has laid an egg!" repeated the clown, holding aloft
the object that all might see.
Teddy Tucker, for it was he, cared nothing for the crowds
occupying the seats. In fact, it is doubtful that he gave
any thought to them at all.
"What do you mean?" demanded the ringmaster.
"The ostrich. Don't you see?"
"Yes, she's laid an egg."
Quick to appreciate the value of the clown's interruption, the
ringmaster took the great egg that Teddy had brought in, and held
"Ladies and gentlemen," he announced, as the band suddenly ceased
playing, "wonders never cease in the Great Sparling Shows.
You have been treated to startling feats of skill upon the lofty
flying swings; you have witnessed desperately dangerous displays
of unrivaled aerialism, and you are about to observe the
thundering, furious Roman chariot races three times about
"Say, what are you trying to get at?" growled Teddy Tucker.
"Give me back that egg."
"But a sensation greater than all of these is in store for you,
though you did not know it. The tallest hen in the world has
laid an egg for your instruction and amusement--the ostrich has
immortalized the town of Milledgeville by laying an egg within
its sacred precincts, and my friend, Teddy Tucker, in discovering
it, has accomplished an achievement beside which the discovery of
the north or south pole is a cheap side show."
The audience yelled its approval and appreciation.
"Young man, what do you intend to do with this wonderful and
"What do I intend to do with it?"
"Yes. Is it your purpose to present it to this beautiful little
city, to be placed among its other treasures in the city hall?"
"Well, I guess not!"
"I'm going to eat it. That's what I'm going to do with it,"
answered Teddy in a voice loud enough to be heard all over
the big top.
The people shouted.
"Give me that egg!" demanded the Circus Boy, grabbing the big
white ball and marching off toward the paddock with it, to the
accompaniment of the laughter and applause of the audience.
"Now that we have seen this remarkable Easter achievement, the
performance will proceed," announced the ringmaster, blowing his
whistle and waving his hand.
The band struck up; the performers, grinning broadly, took up
their work where they had left off upon the entrance of Teddy
Tucker with the giant egg.
The incident had served to put both performers and audience in
high good humor. Mr. Sparling was not present to witness it.
He was busy down by the docks, attending to the loading of such
of the show's equipment as was ready to be packed away for
shipment on the Sparling fleet.
Perhaps it was just as well for Teddy, that the owner of the show
was not present, as he might have objected to the Circus Boy's
interruption of the performance.
Teddy was irrepressible. He stood in awe of no one except
the Lady Snake Charmer, and did pretty much as he pleased all
the time. Yet, beneath the surface, there was the making of a
manly man, a resolute, sturdy character of whom great things
might be expected in the not far distant future.
As the performance proceeded an ominous rumbling was
"I think it is going to storm," Phil confided to his working mate
on the flying trapeze.
"Sounds that way. Is that thunder I hear?"
"Guess it won't amount to much. Just a spring shower. You will
find a lot of them along the river for the next month or so."
"I have always heard that rivers were wet," replied Phil
humorously, swinging off into space, landing surely and
gracefully in the arms of the catcher in the trapeze act.
"I think we had better cut the act short."
"Oh, no, let's go on with it," answered Phil. "I am not afraid
if you are not."
"Afraid nothing. I remember still what a narrow escape we had
last season just before that blow-down, when Wallace, the big
lion, made his escape. That was a lively time, wasn't it?"
"Rather," agreed Phil.
The ringmaster motioned to them to bring their act to a close,
and the band leader, catching the significance of the movement,
urged his musicians to play louder. The crash of cymbals and the
boom of the bass drum and the big horns almost drowned out the
rumbling of the thunder.
Those up near the dome of the tent, still going through their
acts, now heard the patter of heavy rain drops on the canvas top.
The lights throughout the tent flickered a little under the
draught that sucked in through the openings in the tent and
the open space at the top of the side walls.
The audience showed signs of restlessness.
"It is only a spring shower, ladies and gentlemen," announced
the ringmaster. "You have no cause for alarm. The hats of the
ladies are perfectly safe. This tent is waterproof. You could
soak it in the Mississippi without getting a drop of water
through it. That's the way the Sparling show looks out for
its patrons. Nothing cheap about the Sparling outfit!"
A laugh greeted his remarks.
A blinding flash faded the gasoline lamps to a ghostly flame.
A few seconds later a crash that shook the earth followed,
causing the audience to shiver with nervous apprehension.
Teddy had come out and was gazing aloft. He grinned at Phil,
noting at the same time that all the lofty performers were
preparing to come down.
"Hello, fraid-cats up there!" jeered the Circus Boy.
"You get out of here!" snapped the ringmaster. "What are you
doing here, anyway?"
"Yes, I see you working. Go on about your business and don't
bother me. Don't you think I have anything else to do except to
watch you, in order to prevent your breaking up the performance?"
"You ought to thank me for keeping you busy," chuckled Teddy,
making a lively jump to get out of the way of the long lash that
snapped at his heels.
Perhaps there was method in Teddy Tucker's movements.
He strolled out into the concourse, gazing up at the crowded
seats, winking and making wry faces at the people, as he moved
slowly along, causing them to laugh and shout flippant remarks
This was exactly what he wanted them to do. It gave Teddy an
opportunity to talk back, and many a keen-pointed shaft did he
hurl at the unwary who had been imprudent enough to try to make
sport of him.
While this impromptu act was going on the minds of the people
were so occupied that they forgot all about the storm.
The rain was now beating down on the big top in a deluge, and
despite the ringmaster's assurance that the canvas would not
leak, a fine spray was filling the tent like a thin fog, through
which the lights glowed in pale circles.
"Even the lamps have halos," Teddy informed the people. "I had
one once, but the ringmaster borrowed it and forgot to return it.
But I don't care. He needs a halo more than I do."
A howl greeted this sally.
Teddy was about to say something else, after the first wave of
laughter had swept over the audience, but no one heard him speak.
Another flash, more brilliant, more blinding than any that had
gone before it, lighted up the tent. The big top seemed suddenly
to have been filled with fire. Thin threads of it ran down
quarter and center pole; circles of it raced about the iron rings
used in various parts of the tent, then jumped into the rigging,
running up and down the iron braces and wire ropes used to brace
The flash was accompanied by a report that was terrifying.
At that instant a great ball of fire descended from the damp
top of the tent, dropping straight toward the concourse.
Teddy Tucker chanced to be standing just beneath it. He had
glanced up when the report came, to see if any damage had
been done aloft.
"Wow!" breathed Teddy.
Just then the ball burst only a few feet above his head,
scattering fire in all directions.
Teddy fell flat to the ground.
He was up almost at once.
"I'm all right! How's the rest of the family?" he howled.
The rest of the family were too much concerned with what was
taking place in the big top to notice the Circus Boy's humor.
Then Teddy observed that the center pole was split from end
to end. The lightning bolt had followed it from its peak to
the ground. Several of the side poles had already given way,
and the lad saw the dome of the tent slowly settling.
"Hitch it! Anchor it!" he bellowed.
The attendants were too frightened to give heed to his words.
Phil Forrest was coming down a rope, hand under hand, as rapidly
as he could travel.
"Snub the rope or you'll have the tent down on you!" he shouted.
Teddy darted forward, throwing himself upon the heavy rope that
held the dome in place.
At that instant the rope on which Phil Forrest was descending
gave way, and Phil came straight down.
He landed on Teddy Tucker's head and shoulders, knocking Teddy
flat on the ground, where the little Circus Boy lay still.
Yet he had, with rare presence of mind, snubbed the heavy rope
around a tent stake, keeping the free end of the rope in hand,
and holding desperately to it.
Nor did Teddy release his grip on the rope, now that he had been
knocked unconscious. He held it in place, the strands wound
firmly about his arm, though inch by inch he was slipping toward
the heavy tent stake. Phil had received a severe shaking-up,
but he was on his feet quickly, looking about to see on whom he
When he discovered that Teddy had been the victim, Phil groaned.
"I'm afraid I have finished him!"
Teddy had now been drawn along by the rope until his head was
against the tent stake.
"Quick! Lend a hand here!" shouted Phil.
He wrenched the rope loose from Tucker's hands, taking a twist
about his own arms and holding on with all his might.
Several ring attendants came to their senses about that time and
rushed to his assistance.
"Take care of Teddy!" cried Phil.
The ringmaster turned Teddy over and looked into the lad's face.
At that, Teddy opened his eyes and winked. The ringmaster jerked
him to his feet and shook him vigorously.
This restored the boy to his normal condition.
"Hello, folks!" howled Teddy, turning a handspring, falling over
a ring curbing as he did so.
The people forgot their fear and greeted Teddy with
wild applause. The Circus Boy had saved a blow-down
and perhaps many lives as well.
IN NEW QUARTERS
Though the center pole had been struck by lightning, repairs
were soon sufficiently advanced to enable the show to go on
and complete the performance. The pole itself was
Fortunately, the show had another one, and the wrecked pole was
left on the lot that night as worthless.
After the Roman races the people stood up in their seats and gave
three cheers for the boy who had saved many of them from perhaps
serious injury or death.
Teddy heard the cheer. He was in his dressing tent changing
his clothes, having thus far gotten on only his trousers
He could not restrain his curiosity, so trotting to the entrance
he inquired the cause of the commotion.
"They're cheering for you," a canvasman informed him.
Teddy needed no more. Without an instant's hesitation he ran out
into the ring, where he stood smiling, bowing and throwing kisses
"Come and see us again!" yelled the Circus Boy.
"We will that!" answered a chorus of voices.
"I'll have the big hen lay another egg for you. I--" His voice
was drowned in the roar of laughter that followed this sally.
Already the attendants were ripping up the seats, loading them
into the wagons, with a rattle and bang. Men were shouting,
horses neighing; here and there an animal uttered a hoarse-voiced
protest at something, it knew not what.
Circus animals often scent a change, perhaps more quickly than do
the people about them.
Performers and others, whose duties did not keep them on the lot,
were hurrying to get to the dock where the circus boats were
waiting, and where Mr. Sparling was attending to the loading.
Phil and Teddy were in no less haste. Quickly getting their
trunks packed, they started off for the river. The moon had come
out after the storm and the air was fresh and fragrant, though
underfoot the evidences of the storm were still present.
"Did I hurt you much when I fell on you tonight, Teddy?"
"You knocked the breath out of me. But don't let a little thing
like that worry you. I thought the tent had fallen on me, or at
least a center pole. Lucky I was there, wasn't it?"
"You might have received a bump that you wouldn't have gotten
over right away."
"I might have done so."
"I saved your life, didn't I?"
"Perhaps you did. I had only a few feet to drop, you know.
I was ready to drop on all fours lightly when you happened
to get in the way--"
"When I happened to get in the way?"
"Yes. Didn't you?"
"Well, I like that," growled Teddy indignantly. "Here I run in
and save your life, willing to sacrifice my own for you and you
say when I 'happened to get in the way.'"
Phil laughed heartily.
"Of course, I appreciate your wonderful self-sacrifice. It was
very kind of you to get in the way and let me fall on you.
Nothing like having a soft place to fall, is there, old chap?"
Teddy uttered an unintelligible growl.
"That's right; insult me. I'm only a clown and--and
"And one of the best fellows a chap could have for his
friend, eh? I was only joking, Teddy."
"I accept your apology. My hand on it," answered
Teddy condescendingly. "Next time you can fall
on the ground or any old place. I don't care.
I shan't try to catch you."
"If I remember correctly, you could not very well help yourself
in this instance. You did not catch me. I caught you--caught
you unawares. There is Mr. Sparling and there are the boats.
Don't they look fine, all lighted up inside, their signal lights
burning on the outside?"
"They look wet to me."
Thin wisps of smoke were curling lazily from the funnels of the
three boats, for the stokers had not yet started to get up steam.
Some hours would elapse before the fleet would be ready to begin
its journey down the big river.
"There goes the 'Little Nemo,'" cried Teddy.
The smaller of the three steamboats moved slowly out into the
stream, and there came to anchor to await the other boats.
The "Fat Marie" was already alongside the long dock, but she now
moved up a little further to make room for her companion boat,
the "River Queen," which latter Phil had nicknamed the
"Let's see, where do we stow our belongings, Phil?"
"On the 'Fat Marie.'"
"If that name don't sink her, nothing will," said Teddy, with a
broad grin. "I hope the boat floats better than Fat Marie did
when she fell in the creek last season. If not, we're lost.