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The Circus Boys On the Mississippi Or Afloat with the Big Show on the Big River

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Let's go on board and find out where we are going to live."

"After we speak to Mr. Sparling. Is there anything we can do to
help you, Mr. Sparling?" asked Phil, stepping up to the owner of
the show, who, hatless, coatless, his hair looking as if it had
not been combed in days, was giving orders in sharp, short
sentences, answering questions and shouting directions almost in
the same breath.

"Oh, is that you, Phil?"

"It is myself, sir," smiled the lad. "How are you
getting along?"

"Much better than I had hoped. You see the 'Little Nemo' is
already loaded. The 'Fat Marie' is well loaded and the 'Queen'
is taking stuff on board at a two-forty gait."

"I see you haven't driven the bulls on yet," meaning
the elephants.

The elephants were standing off beyond the docks, huge shadowy
figures, swaying silently in the faint light, for there was a
slight haze in the air that even the brilliant moonlight could
not wholly pierce.

"No; I thought it best to load the bulls and the ring stock
later on. The bulls might get frightened with all the unusual
noises around them. After they become more used to this method
of traveling they will be all right."

"What time do we pull out?"

"It will be three o'clock, I think. Perhaps a little later
than that."

"You mean earlier," suggested Teddy.

The showman turned on him sharply.

"Why, hello, Teddy. Really, you are so small that I did not
see you."

Teddy winced.

"I guess I'm some, even if I am little," protested the
lad warmly.

"You are right. You are not only some, but _much._
What's this I hear about trouble on the lot? Some of the
men said they heard there had been an accident, but they
guessed it didn't amount to much."

"It was not very serious," said Phil.

"Oh, no; nothing of any consequence," jeered Teddy. "I was
struck by lightning, that's all."


"Hit by balls of fire--and the big hen laid an egg."

"See here, what are you driving at--"

"And crushed, utterly crushed by my best friend, Phil Forrest.
Now, what do you think of that?"

"Teddy, please hitch your tongue to the roof of your mouth for
a moment. Now, Phil, tell me what happened. I get so dizzy when
Teddy is talking that I almost imagine I am going to be seasick."

"Pshaw!" growled Teddy.

"We did have a little trouble."

"Tell me about it."

"The storm came up while the aerial acts were on. We all
shortened our acts at the direction of the ringmaster, and it
was well we did so. We had not all gotten down when a bolt of
lightning struck the main center pole."

"You don't say! Here, men, stow those canvas wagons forward!
You must learn to trim the boat, giving her an even load
all over! Did the bolt do any damage?"

"Slivered the pole."

"Wreck it?"

"Yes. Not worth carrying off the lot."

"What else?"

"Some excitement--"


"No, but I think there would have been had it not been for my
friend, Teddy Tucker. He amused the audience while things were
happening up above."

"Good for you, Teddy Tucker," said the showman, slapping the
Circus Boy on the back.

"Ouch!" howled Teddy.

"I was congratulating you, that's all," laughed Mr. Sparling.

"If it is all the same to you, please use a club when you
congratulate me. I won't feel it so much."

Phil next went on to relate how Teddy had, by his quickness, made
fast the rope and probably saved the top from falling in on them,
and how he, Phil, had fallen on the boy and knocked him out.

Mr. Sparling surveyed the flushed face of Teddy approvingly.

"Thank you, Teddy," he said. "I'll give you a day off to go
fishing, sometime, for that."

"I don't want to go fishing."

"Then you are the first showman I ever knew who did not.
They are simply crazy over fishing. You'll see every one
of them hanging over the rails in the early morning trying
to catch fish."

"I won't. You'll see me asleep about that time, if you look in
the right place," answered Teddy very promptly.

"Teddy deserves your praise, Mr. Sparling."

"He does, and he has it. I will show my appreciation more fully
when I get all this rush out of the way. The loss of the center
pole doesn't amount to much, but the rest does."

"And the hen laid an egg," reiterated Teddy.

"Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you. The big ostrich hen laid an egg
this evening."

"Is it possible?"

"Yes; Teddy found it in the hay behind the concert platform."

The showman's eyes twinkled.

"What were you doing back there?"

"Looking for a place to take a catnap between acts."

Mr. Sparling laughed heartily.

"There's only one Teddy in the whole wide world!"

"I hope not," added the boy quickly.

"Where is the egg--what did you do with it?"

"Got it in my bag here, want to see it?"

He handed the egg to Mr. Sparling who turned it over, glancing at
it curiously.

"Look out! You'll drop it!"

"And what are you going to do with it, may I ask?"

"Eat it."

"What, eat up my property?"

"Eggs belongs to the finder, and--"

"You mean eggs _belong_ to the finder," corrected Phil.

"Yes, I guess so. Any way, so you say it. I'm going to eat this
egg, even if it does give me indigestion all the rest of my life.
How do you cook ostrich eggs?"

"I never cooked any, my boy. You will have to consult the cook
on that point. Perhaps he may consent to cook it for you."

"I'll give you a slice off the white when it's cooked."

"Thank you. You are welcome to the whole egg. Better go up and
locate yourselves, boys."

"What number is our room, Mr. Sparling?" asked Phil.

"Number twenty-four, on the upper deck. I have given you a nice,
roomy, light and airy cabin that I think will please you. It is
one of the best on the ship and you should be very
comfortable there."

"I am sure we shall be, and thank you very much," said Phil.
"Come along, Teddy."

Together they made their way to the boat and through the crowded,
bustling lower deck, where the big canvas-covered wagons were
being warped into place, a sort of orderly confusion reigning
over everything, the scene lighted by lanterns swinging from
hooks all about the deck.

The lads found their cabin, and after lighting the lamp, uttered
exclamations of surprise. Instead of the narrow berths they had
expected to see, there were white enameled iron bedsteads, a
washstand with the same neat finish, and several pictures on
the walls.

The cabin was a large one. In the center of it stood a table on
which lay a large portfolio and inscribed in gold letters on the
outside they read the words, "For the Circus Boys."

The portfolio was filled with writing materials.

"Oh, isn't that fine?" exclaimed Phil.

"Yes, it's a fine egg. I'm going to have the feast of my life
when I get it baked--"

"Teddy Tucker!"


"What do you think I am talking about?"


"I am not. I am talking about this beautiful cabin that
Mr. Sparling has fixed for us. Look at it--look at
this portfolio. I am afraid you don't appreciate how
good our employer is to us. There is an easy chair for
each of us, too. Why, we ought to be very happy."

"I am happy. So would you be if a hen had laid a five pound egg
for you," retorted Teddy.

"Hopeless, hopeless," groaned Phil.

Teddy, muttering to himself, carefully laid the egg away in his
trunk, first wrapping it up in an old silk ring shirt, then
locking the trunk and putting the key in his pocket.

The lad then made a personal and critical examination of the
room, tried the springs of the bed, nodded approvingly, sat down
in one of the easy chairs and put his feet on the table.

Phil promptly pushed the feet off.

"Here, what are you doing?"

"This is not the dressing room of a circus, Teddy. This is
the living room of a couple of young gentlemen. Let's not
forget that. Let us try to keep our cabin looking nice and
shipshape, else Mr. Sparling will think we do not appreciate
his kindness."

"Say, Phil!"


"I'll tell you what we'll do!"

"I am listening."

"We'll have a spread up here all by ourselves, tomorrow night,
after the show. We'll eat the egg. I'll get the cook to boil it
all day tomorrow--does it take a day to boil an ostrich egg?"

"I should think it might take a month," laughed Phil. "Yes; I'll
make a martyr of myself and help you eat the egg. I shall never
have any peace until that egg is finally disposed of--"

"What's going on downstairs?" interrupted Teddy.

A commotion was heard out on the dock. There was the tramping of
many feet, mingled with loud, angry shouts and sharp commands.

"It sounds to me as if something has been let loose," said Teddy
Tucker wisely.

Something had been "let loose."

With one accord the Circus Boys sprang up. Rushing out into the
corridor they leaped down the after companionway four steps at
a jump.



"What's the row? What's the row?" bellowed Teddy, who, bolting
under a cage and, leaving his hat under the wagon, dashed out to
the dock, where their vessel was moored.

The two boys saw an object leaping into the air, performing
strange and grotesque antics.

"It's January!" yelled Teddy. "Whoa, January!"

But January refused to "whoa." The donkey had objected to going
aboard the boat. When the workmen tried to force him, he
protested vigorously, biting those in front and kicking those
behind him.

"Teddy, get that fool donkey out of here or I'll throw him in the
river," bawled the owner of the show.

Perhaps January understood the threat. At least he started for
Mr. Sparling, snorting.

The showman ducked under a canvas wagon and climbed up the
other side of it, giving his orders from the top of the wagon.
He knew January. He had had business dealings with the donkey
on other occasions.

"Get him out of here, I tell you!"

"Drive him in yourself," answered a groom. "I wouldn't try it
for a present of the whole confounded show."

Up to this point those who had not left the dock willingly
January had assisted with his ever ready hoofs, and, by the
time Teddy reached the scene the donkey had kicked every man off
and into the street, excepting the owner of the show himself.
As already related, Mr. Sparling had seen fit to leave in haste
when January directed his attention to him.

"Whoa, January!" commanded Teddy in a soothing tone.

The donkey, at sound of the Circus Boy's voice, reared and came
down facing Teddy.

"Come here, you beast. Don't you know you're going to have a
ride on the river? You don't know enough to know when you are
well off. Come, Jany, Jany, Jany. Wow!"

January had responded with a rush. Teddy stepped aside just in
time to save himself from being bowled over. But as the donkey
ran by him the boy threw both arms about the animal's neck.

Then began the liveliest scrimmage that the spectators had
ever witnessed. Kicking and bucking, the donkey raced from
side to side, varying his performance now and then by making
a dive toward the crowd, which quickly gave gangway as the
people sought for safety.

"Whoa, January! I--I'll break your neck for this, hang you!
Some other donkey has taught you these tricks. You never knew
anything about them way back in Edmeston. You--"


Teddy was slapped against the side of the "Fat Marie."

By this time Tucker's temper was beginning to rise. His first
inclination was to hit the donkey on the nose with his free hand,
but he caught himself in time. He was too fond of animals, even
donkeys, to strike one on the head. It was a rule too, in the
Sparling shows, that any man who so far forgot himself as to
strike a horse over the head closed with the show then and there.

Now Teddy thought of a new plan. He watched his opportunity.
Suddenly, Teddy put his plan into operation.

It must be remembered that the Circus Boy was strong and agile,
and that his work in the ring had given him added quickness.

He therefore applied the trick he had thought of; then something
happened to January. The donkey struck the planking of the pier
flat on his back, his feet beating the air viciously.

"Whoa, January!"

Teddy flopped the animal on its side, then calmly sat down on the
donkey's head. He had thrown the beast as prettily as ever had a
wrestler an adversary.

The Circus Boy began mopping the perspiration from his brow.

"Warm, isn't it?" he said, tilting his eyes up to where
Mr. Sparling had been watching the proceedings from the
top of a wagon.

"You certainly look the part. Now, what are you going to do with
that fool donkey?"

"I'm going to sit on his head until I get ready to get up.
Then, if somebody will lend me a whip, I'll tan his jacket
to my own taste."

January uttered a loud bray.

"Well, do something," shouted a canvasman. "We can't wait all
night on the gait of that donkey."

"All right; if any of you fellows think you know the inside
workings of a donkey's mind better than I do, just come and
lead this angelic creature on board the 'Fat Marie.'"

"No, no; we don't know anything about donkeys," came a chorus
of voices. "We don't want to know anything about
donkeys, either."

"Somebody bring me a bridle, then. Don't be afraid of him, he
is as gentle as a lamb. You wouldn't hurt a fly, would you,
dear January?"

January elevated both hind feet, narrowly missing the groom who
had brought the bridle.

After some difficulty the bystanders succeeded in getting the bit
between his teeth and the bridle over his head.

"Now, take tight hold of the bridle and lead him. I'll use
persuasive measures at the other end," directed Teddy.

January fairly hurled himself forward, jerking the groom off his
feet at once. But the man hung on stubbornly.

A moment more, and Teddy had fastened a firm grip on January's
tail, not appearing to be in the least afraid of the flying hoofs
that were beating a tattoo in the air.

How Teddy did twist that tail! Finally January, in sheer
desperation, was forced to give ground. One leap carried him
over the gangplank and into the boat. Once within, there was
a repetition of the scenes enacted on the dock, except that
this time it was the groom who was getting the worst of it,
while Teddy sat on the gangway, howling with delight.

At last the donkey was subdued and led to the place where he was
to spend the night. But they had to rope him in to prevent his
kicking the other stock through the side of the boat.

Fat Marie herself came waddling along about this time, blowing
like a miniature steam engine.

"Gangway! Gangway!" shrieked Marie, in a high-pitched,
shrill voice.

Teddy was nearly crowded off the gangplank.

"See here, where are you going? Don't you know there's a crazy
donkey in there?"

"Going to my cabin to seek sweet repose," squeaked Marie.

"What! Are you going to live on this boat?"

"That's what. If I can get up to the sky parlor where my
'boodwah' is. Come, help me up the stairs; that's a
good boy, Teddy."

"I helped you once. That was enough for me. Say, Marie?"

"What is it, my lad?"

"If the boat should be wrecked in one of the terrible storms
that sweep this raging river you had better grab the anchor the
first thing."

"Why grab the anchor?"

"You'll sink quicker," laughed the Circus Boy, darting out to the
dock and leaning against a wagon wheel.

By this time Mr. Sparling had descended from his haven of safety,
and began issuing orders again.

"Get the bulls in now. No more nonsense. Teddy, you did a good
job, but it took you a long time to do it."

"Yes, sir. Do you think anybody else could have done
it quicker?"

"I know they could not. Where is Phil?"

"Guess he went back to his cabin after I finished off January.
Going to load the elephants, did you say?"


"Aren't you afraid they will sink the boat?"

"Don't bother us now. You know we did not bother you when you
were trying to get your livestock in."

"I noticed that you didn't," answered Teddy, humorously, which
remark brought a shout of laughter from everyone within hearing
of his voice.

Mr. Kennedy, the elephant-trainer, now ranged his charges in
line, with Jupiter, the ill-tempered member of the herd, in
the lead. He wanted to get Jupiter in ahead, knowing that the
others would follow willingly enough after him. Emperor, the
great beast that had such a warm regard for Phil, was third in
the line.

"Everybody keep away and don't make a racket or they will
get nervous. I expect to have a little trouble with those
bulls the first time. After that they will go one board as
meek as a flock of spring mutton," declared Kennedy.
Teddy was close at hand. If there was any prospect of
trouble or excitement he wanted to be near enough not to
miss a single feature of it.

Mr. Kennedy gave the command for attention.

Each of the elephants to the rear of Jupiter stretched forth a
trunk and grasped the tail of the elephant directly in front
of him.

"Forward, march!"

"Hip! Hip!" began Teddy.

"That will do, young man," warned Mr. Sparling.

The line moved slowly forward, Jupiter offering no objection to
going where he was ordered.

Just as he reached the gangplank, however, Jupiter halted.


The elephant's trunk curled upward and a mighty trumpeting sent
the villagers scurrying for places of safety.

Mr. Kennedy prodded the elephant with the sharp point of
his hook. The act forced Jupiter to place one foot on the
gang plank, throwing his weight upon the planking to test
its stability. He felt it give ever so little beneath his
feet, and quickly withdrew the foot.

Once more the prod was brought into use. Jupiter waxed angry.
With a great cough, he curled his trunk about the heavy
gangplank, wrenching it free from its resting place.

Raising the planking high above his head he hurled it into
the river.

"Ladies and gentlemen," announced Teddy Tucker, in a loud voice,
"you have witnessed a most satisfying, edifying, gratifying,
ennobling, superb and sublime spectacular prelude, as our press
agent would say. But, if you know what's good for you, you will
now hasten to the high places, for there's going to be something
doing around here in about a minute."

Teddy was no false prophet in this instance.

Strutting up to the angry Jupiter the Circus Boy slapped him
playfully on the trunk.

"You bad boy. I thought January was the limit, but I have
changed my mind. You--"

Suddenly Jupiter's trunk curled about the lad. The angry
elephant raised the boy far above his head and hurled him up
into the air as he had done with the gangway, except that he
threw Teddy in another direction.



"Catch Teddy! Catch him!" shouted Mr. Sparling.

"The boy has gone into the river!" cried half a dozen voices
at once.

"No; the bull threw him toward the boat. He may have shot right
on over and into the water or he may still be on the upper deck,"
answered Mr. Kennedy, as he plied his prod industriously,
shouting his orders to the other elephants that already were
showing signs of restlessness.

By this time a boat had been launched from the dock, and half a
dozen men had gone in search of the lost gangway that was now
floating slowly down the river some distance away.

"Ahoy, boat!" bellowed Mr. Sparling. "Row around to the other
side and see if Tucker is in the river."

At the same time the owner of the show was running toward
the "Marie." He plunged into the mass of equipment on
the lower deck, lost his footing and went rolling under a
lion's cage. He was on his feet and bounding up the stairs
almost in the next second.

Just as he reached the upper deck he met Phil Forrest emerging
from the cabin, attracted by the uproar.

"What's the matter, sir?"

"Teddy," answered the showman shortly.

"Oh, that boy again! What is it?"

"Jupiter tossed him."

"Where is he?"

"Maybe in the river. Help me look for him up here. They are
searching for him on the other side of the boat."

Phil started on a run along one side of the deck, Mr. Sparling
taking the other side.

"Here he is. Ahoy, boat! Go and get the gangway. I have the
boy here," called Mr. Sparling.

Phil hurried over to where Mr. Sparling was bending over Teddy,
who lay doubled up against the pilot house.

"Is he hurt?"

"I don't know. I'll tell you when I get him untangled. He seems
to be standing on his head. Lucky if his neck isn't broken."

"Teddy's neck is too tough to be easily broken. I think he is
merely stunned," said Phil.

The showman straightened the Circus Boy out, and Teddy suddenly
sat up, rubbing his head and neck gingerly.

"Did January kick me?" he demanded wonderingly.

"No; Jupiter threw you up here. Are you hurt?"



"I'm worse than that. I'm like the carpenter who swallowed a
tape measure. I'm dying by inches."

Mr. Sparling uttered an impatient exclamation.

"Take care of him, Phil. I must get back. There is trouble
down there."

The showman hurried away, and Phil saw at once that his companion
had sustained a severe shock, but nothing of a serious nature.

"You're all right, Teddy. What is the trouble down there?"

Teddy, still rubbing himself, explained what had happened.

Just then there came a call from below.

"Oh, Phil!"


"Can you come down here?"

"Of course. What is it?"

"Mr. Sparling wants you."

"I'll be right there."

The lad, instead of taking the time to go down the companionway,
swung over the side of the boat and dropped lightly to the wharf.
Such is the advantage of being a showman.

"Mr. Kennedy is having trouble with the bulls, Phil," explained
Mr. Sparling.

"Yes; so Teddy told me."

"He thinks you may be able to suggest some way out of
our difficulty. Mr. Kennedy has great confidence in
your resourcefulness."

"What have you done thus far?"

Mr. Sparling explained briefly, Phil giving close attention.

"Have they found the gangplank yet?"

"Yes; they are towing it up to the dock now."

Phil waited until they had hauled the gangway up and put it
in place.

"Will you try her, so that I can see how she works, Mr. Kennedy?"
asked the lad after the gangway had been chained down so securely
that the elephant would have difficulty in ripping it loose.

Jupiter was just as stubborn as he had been before.
Phil observed three or four showmen standing near him
on the other side.

"Please step back, all of you," he said. "Mr. Sparling, will
you see that no one comes near the elephants? I'll see what I
can do. Back him off, Mr. Kennedy."

This done, Phil stepped back along the line until he came to the
big elephant Emperor.

"Good old Emperor," cried the Circus Boy soothingly. "Here's a
lump of sugar."

Emperor tucked the sugar far back in his pink mouth. Then Phil,
taking hold of the trunk, petted it affectionately, next tucking
it under his arm.

"Come along, old fellow. You need not be afraid," he said,
starting toward the ship, with Emperor following meekly
and obediently. At the gangway he stopped and examined the
passageway carefully.

"Are you sure it is strong enough to support them, Mr. Kennedy?"

"Yes, it will hold two at once."

"Very well."

Once more Phil took hold of the trunk and led Emperor across and
into the boat, the elephant making no protest; though, knowing
him as he did, Phil saw that the animal was timid. The beast's
confidence in the little Circus Boy overcame his fears, however.

Emperor got another lump of sugar as the result of his obedience.

"See if Jupiter will follow," called Phil.

Jupiter would not.

Observing this, Phil swung Emperor around and led him to
the dock.

"What are you going to do?" asked Mr. Sparling.

"Perhaps nothing at all. If Mr. Kennedy failed I do not see how
I shall be able to accomplish anything. Get Jupiter up to the
gangway, please."

This was done.

"When I say the word, you give Jupiter the hook good and hard
and quick. I'll promise you that something will happen.
See here; didn't I tell you fellows to keep away from
those elephants?" demanded the boy, observing two figures
edging up toward Emperor.

"Clear the dock!" roared Mr. Sparling.

A sudden thought seemed to strike Phil. He left Emperor and
stepped around to the other side of the animal walking about and
peering into the faces of the people who now were standing back
at a respectful distance. Most of them proved to be villagers,
with a few circus people sprinkled among them.

"Did you notice who those two men were who were standing on the
other side, Mr. Sparling?" he asked in a low tone.

"No; why?"

"I wanted to know."

"Why do you ask that question?"

"Because I am suspicious of them, that's all."

Making sure that the dock was clear, Phil led Emperor up to
Jupiter, placing the former's head against the hips of the
stubborn elephant.

"Now!" he shouted, at the same time giving Emperor the signal
to push.

The big elephant threw all his great strength into a
forward movement. Jupiter, taken off his guard, plunged
across the gangplank, with Emperor pushing him along, the former
trumpeting wildly in his fear and rage. Another minute, and
Jupiter was landed safely on the lower deck of the "Fat Marie."



Day was breaking.

Clouds of dense black smoke were rolling from the funnels
of the Sparling fleet, while steam was hissing from the
overburdened safety valves.

The show was ready for its start down the river.
The "Little Nemo" had already hoisted anchor and
was drifting with the current awaiting the signal
to start her engines.

"All ashore that's going," sang a voice on each of
the two boats lying at the dock.

The boats' whistles broke out in three deafening,
prolonged blasts each.

"Cast off!" bellowed the pilots.

Hawsers were hauled in and the distance between the dock and
the boats slowly widened.

"We're off," shouted Teddy, waving his hat joyously.

"We will be more so, unless we get some sleep," warned Phil.
"I would suggest that you and I turn in for a few hours. We both
need a beauty sleep."

"I don't," answered Teddy promptly.

"Think not?"

"No, sir. I'm handsome enough as it is. Even the fool
donkey stands aghast when he comes face to face with my
surpassing beauty."

"How about the elephants?" twinkled Phil.

"Elephants don't count, at least not after twelve o'clock
at night."

"I move that we turn in just the same. We will sleep until
sometime before noon, then we can get up and enjoy the ride.
I understand we shall not reach the next stand until sometime
this evening. This is going to be a great trip, Teddy."

"It has been," nodded the other boy. "Where do we show first?"

"Milroy, I believe is the name of the place. I never heard of
it before."

"And probably you never will want to again, after you have
been there. That is the case with most of these little
tank towns. A fellow wonders where all the people come
from who go to the show."

The lads went to their cabin and were soon sound asleep.
They realized how tired they were when first they got into bed.

"This is great!" muttered Phil, as, lying in his bed, he felt the
cool air drifting in over him.

When they awakened the sun was at its zenith.

Phil consulted his watch.

"Wake up, Teddy. It is twelve o'clock."

Teddy sleepily dragged himself from his bed, pulled himself
wearily to the window and threw open the blinds.

"Where are we?" asked Phil.

"Ask the pilot," grumbled Teddy. "How do you suppose I know?
This water looks like a big mud puddle. I'm hungry; aren't you?"

"Yes, I am. What are we going to do for breakfast? I never
thought to bring along a lunch."

"I've got an egg," chuckled Teddy.

"You are welcome to it. I don't care for any, thank you."

Just then there came a rap on their door.

Phil opened it and looked out.

"Mr. Sparling wishes to know if you are ready for breakfast?"
asked the man, whom they recognized as the showman's
personal servant.

"Am I ready for breakfast?" shouted Teddy. "Tell Mr. Sparling
he ought to know better than to ask a question like that.
What's this, a joke? We can't get any breakfast on this
old tub."

"Mr. Sparling directs me to ask you to join him in his cabin for
breakfast in ten minutes."

"Thank you. Tell him we shall be on hand," smiled Phil.

"I hope it isn't a joke," grumbled Teddy, pulling on
his trousers.

"Now, isn't that fine of Mr. Sparling, old fellow?" asked Phil,
with glowing eyes.

"Tell you better after I sample the breakfast. I'm suspicious."

"You need not be. Mr. Sparling would not be so unkind as to
invite us to eat breakfast with him unless he had some breakfast
to offer us."

"Well, I hope it's straight," muttered the doubting Teddy. A few
minutes later the lads presented themselves at the door of the
owner's cabin.

"Good morning, boys; how did you sleep last night?" he greeted
them, with a cordial smile and a handshake for each.

"I was dead to the world," answered Teddy, with his customary
bluntness of speech.

"I guess we all were," smiled the showman. "All day and all
night was rather trying, but we shall not have the same trouble
after this; at least not after the next stand. Everything should
be in excellent working order after Monday. Sit down and have
some breakfast with me."

An appetizing meal had been spread in the cabin. Teddy surveyed
the table with wistful eyes.

"I did not know you were going to serve meals on board,"
said Phil.

"I am not, generally speaking. This is different. I would not
ask our people to go all day without anything to eat. I have had
a cold meal prepared in the main cabin, with hot coffee to wash
it down. I thought you boys might like to join me here for a
real meal. Having a real meal is one of the privileges of the
owner of the show, you know," replied Mr. Sparling, with a hearty
laugh, in which the boys joined.

"I was going to eat my egg," said Teddy humorously.

"It is very kind of you, Mr. Sparling," said Phil. "We were just
wondering what we should do for breakfast, and Teddy, as he has
just told you, was thinking of eating the ostrich egg."


"I presume so," replied Phil, with a short laugh.

"It would make a fellow strong," declared Teddy in defense of
his egg.

"I agree with you, my boy. I ate a piece of one once, and it was
quite the strongest thing I ever tackled."

"That's a joke. Ha, ha!" replied Teddy, with serious face.

The lads were, by this time, on such terms of intimacy with their
employer that they felt free to talk with him as they would to
each other. At least Phil did, and in all probability Tucker
would have done so at any rate.

"Do we unload tonight, Mr. Sparling?" questioned Phil.

"No, I think not. Tomorrow morning will be time enough. I never
like to do any more work on Sunday than is absolutely necessary."

Phil nodded his approval.

"I believe in observing the day, and besides, our people need
the rest and the relaxation. That reminds me of what I wanted
to say. You did a very clever piece of work last night, both
of you."

Teddy glanced up in surprise.

"Yes; I got a roughhouse from the donkey and the elephant.
I'm a sort of a good thing all around. When the fool donkey
gets through wiping up a whole county with me, the elephant
takes a hand--a trunk, I mean--and lands me high and dry on
the roof of the 'Fat Marie.'"

"You mean the deck," corrected Phil.

"I don't know what you call it, but it was hard enough when I
struck it. Next time I'm going to have a net spread to catch me.
I'll bet I would have made a hit in the ring with that donkey
wrestling bout. I guess I will try it on some of these times,
providing I can get the donkey to work the way he did
last night."

"As I said before, there is something I want to ask you, Phil,"
repeated the showman.

"Yes, sir."

"Did it not strike you that Jupiter acted very peculiarly
last night?"

"Yes. I did not see the first of it, but I saw enough."

"What did you think about it?"

"I did not know what to think."

The showman shot a keen glance at the Circus Boy's thoughtful,
serious face.

"What do you think today?"

"That it was perfectly natural for Jupiter to balk going across
the gangplank."

"How about him having hurled Teddy to the deck of the
'Fat Marie'?"

"That is different."

"Did it arouse any suspicions in your mind, my boy?"

Phil reflected for a moment, toying absently with his fork.

"Candidly, it did, Mr. Sparling. It struck me as peculiar at
the time, and, as I thought it over, I became more and more
convinced that there was some reason for Jupiter's action
beyond what we saw."

The showman nodded, as if Phil's suggestion agreed with his
own ideas.

"What do you think happened?" he asked.

"What do you think?"

"I will confess that I don't know, Phil. You had some reason
for driving everyone away from the bulls there on the dock,
did you not?"

"Yes, I did not want anyone to bother them while we were trying
to get them on board."

"I understand," said Mr. Sparling, with a nod.

"Did you notice who was there on the dock at the time,
Mr. Sparling?"

"No, not particularly."

"Was it some of the show people?"

"I am unable to say. I saw you drive two men off in particular,
but I did not look at them closely. Did you know them?"

"Perhaps. They got away rather too quickly for me to make sure."

"Who do you think they were?"

Phil did not answer at once.

"Come, who were they, Phil?"

"I don't know, Mr. Sparling."

"I did not mean it exactly that way. You think you recognized
them, and as I said before, I want to know who you think the
men were?"

"I would rather not say, Mr. Sparling," answered the Circus Boy,
looking his employer squarely in the eye.

"It is your duty to tell me."

"Not unless I am sure. It would be unjust to do so, and I know
you would not wish to force me to be unjust."

"You are a queer boy, Phil Forrest," said the showman, gazing at
the lad intently.

"I wish I knew who I thought they were, if they had anything to
do with my aerial flight last night," growled Teddy. "They would
have reason to think a Kansas cyclone had struck them."

No one paid any attention to Teddy's remark.

"I will tell you what I think, however, Mr. Sparling,"
continued Phil.

"That's what I am trying to get you to do."

"I think some person with evil intent did something to Jupiter
to anger him, thus causing him to turn on Teddy. And it is my
opinion that if you will examine the animal you will find the
evidences on the animal himself," declared the Circus Boy boldly.

Mr. Sparling uttered an angry exclamation.

Teddy, who had tilted back in his chair as he listened to the
conversation, went crashing to the floor, overturning table,
dishes and all.

That broke up the conference of the morning.



"I've lost my egg! I've lost my egg!"

Teddy Tucker's shrill voice was heard from one end to the other
of the "Fat Marie." An hour had elapsed since his mishap in
Mr. Sparling's cabin, during which time the lads had been sitting
on the after deck of the boat.

Phil had been very thoughtful. Perhaps he had not done right in
keeping his real suspicions from Mr. Sparling. Yet he was firm
in his purpose not to say who he thought the men were. He was
not at all certain, in his own mind, that his eyes had not
deceived him.

There could be no doubt, however, that some person or persons
had pricked Jupiter on a tender part of his anatomy just as
Teddy Tucker was patting the trunk of the great beast.

Teddy had gone to his cabin for a moment, and no sooner had he
opened the door than he discovered that all was not as it should
be there.

"What's this? What's all this fuss about?" questioned Phil.

"My egg! My egg!"

"What about your egg?"

"It's gone, it's gone!"


"Yes, yes."

"But I thought you locked it in your trunk?"

"That's what I did."

"Then how can it be gone?"

"It is, I tell you. Come and see, if you don't believe me."

"Of course I believe you, but I do not see how it would be
possible for your egg to be taken when it was locked in your
trunk," objected Phil.

Teddy grasped his companion by the arm and rushed him to
the cabin.

"There, look!" exclaimed Teddy, pushing Phil into the room.

Teddy's trunk was open, most of its contents lying in a confused
heap on the cabin floor.

Phil's face grew serious.

"Now, let's understand this. Was your trunk in that condition
when you came in here a little while ago?"


"Are you sure?"

"Well, some of the stuff was sticking out, but the cover
was down."

"The trunk was unlocked?"

"Sure it was."

"You are positive that you locked it?"

"I know it was locked."

"Is anything missing--have you looked to make sure?"

"I tell you my egg has been taken."

"I know. Has anything else been taken?"

"I was so excited that I didn't look."

"Then, do so now."

Teddy dropped down beside his trunk, and began going over his
belongings, most of which were lying heaped on the floor.
He examined everything closely.

"How about it?"

"I--I guess it is all here--but my egg is not, Phil."

"So I heard you say before."

"Where is it--where is it?"

"How do you suppose I know? You are lucky that nothing else
was taken. Is the lock broken?"

"No. Somebody had a key."

"Almost any key made for an ordinary trunk will fit these
steamer trunks." Phil proved this by selecting and trying
three keys on his own key ring, each of which locked and
unlooked Teddy's steamer trunk with ease.

"I'll bet you took my egg for a joke."

"Teddy Tucker, how can you say so," demanded Phil indignantly.
"Did I ever do a thing like that?"

"No, I guess you didn't," admitted the boy. "But it's gone."

"It is evident that we have a thief on board. Mr. Sparling must
be informed of this at once," decided Phil firmly. "You remain
here and I will go and fetch him."

In a few moments the Circus Boy returned with Mr. Sparling.
The showman made a careful examination of the room and the trunk
on his own account. His face was flushed and angry.

He went over the same ground with his questions that Phil already
had done.

"Do you suspect anyone, Phil?"

"I do not. Whom should I suspect? Nothing like this has
ever happened in the Sparling show since I have been
connected with it."

"You are right. It won't be healthful for the man who is
responsible for this, if I catch him," growled the showman.
"Somebody must be unusually fond of ostrich eggs to go to this
length for one. If anyone in this show chances to dine on
ostrich egg in the next twenty-four hours we shall know whom to
accuse of the theft."

"I do not think you will get the opportunity," said Phil, with a
peculiar smile.

"What do you mean by that remark?"

"That it was not taken because the thief wanted to eat it.
He would not be foolish enough to do that."

"Then why?"

"Probably to get even with Teddy."

Mr. Sparling eyed him sternly.

"You mean somebody had a grudge against Teddy?"

Phil nodded.


"I do not know."

"Teddy, who is it in this show who has a grudge against you?"

Teddy pondered.

"I don't know of anybody unless it's January," he made
solemn reply.

"The fool donkey? Bah!"

"I guess the donkey did not unlock your trunk and steal your egg,
Teddy," answered Phil, a half smile curling his lips.

"I am not going to ask you again whom you suspect. I take it for
granted that you will keep your eyes open from now on."

"I certainly shall, Mr. Sparling."

"If you are unable to find out who is responsible for certain
things I am sure there is no use in my trying to do so."

"I do not know about that, Sir. I shall try. If I find out
anything worthwhile I shall come to you and tell you."

"I shall expect you to do so. And, Teddy!"

"Yes, sir."

"You are to say nothing of this occurrence to anyone on the boat.
Do not mention that your precious egg has been lost or stolen,
nor appear as if anything out of the ordinary had occurred."

Teddy nodded his understanding.

Mr. Sparling understood his boys better than they knew. He was
confident that Phil Forrest had a shrewd idea as to who had
aroused the anger of the elephant, Jupiter, as well as to the
identity of the person who had stolen the egg from
Teddy Tucker's trunk.

The Circus Boy, however, kept his own counsel.

He made a trip down to the lower deck and had a long conversation
with Mr. Kennedy, the elephant trainer, while Teddy Tucker moped
in his cabin, mourning over the loss of his egg.

The show reached Milroy shortly before dark that evening, after
a most delightful trip down the river. The horse tents were
unloaded and pitched on the circus lot and the stock stabled in
them so the animals could get their rest and food.

Some of the show people strolled out through the little town,
while others remained on board the boat and went to bed.
All hands slept aboard that night. Bright and early, on the
following morning, the boats were unloaded and the tents pitched,
the men working much better for their day on the river.

Everyone appeared to be in high good humor and the wisdom of
Mr. Sparling's methods was apparent. The tents went up more
quickly that morning than at any time that season.

Breakfast under the cook tent was a jolly meal. Teddy had nearly
forgotten the loss of the ostrich egg, but Phil Forrest had not.
Phil, while not appearing to do so, was watching certain persons
in the dressing tent, among them being Diaz, the Spanish clown.

During the dressing hour before the afternoon performance the
clown had his trunk open to get out some costumes which were
at the bottom, beneath the lower tray.

Phil's trunk, it will be remembered, was close by that
of the clown's. The Circus Boy took advantage of the
opportunity to peep into the open trunk while Diaz was
rummaging over its contents. So absorbed did Phil become
in his own investigation that he forgot for the moment
that the owner of the trunk might resent such curiosity.

All at once Phil glanced down at the clown. He found the
dark eyes of Diaz fixed upon him, and the lad flushed in
spite of himself.

Diaz slowly rose to his feet. Thrusting his face close to that
of the lad he peered into the boy's face.

"What you want?"

"Nothing, thank you."

"You look for something in the trunk of Diaz, eh?"


"What for you look?"

"Maybe I was looking for an egg. Maybe I thought the clown
Diaz carried a supply of freshly laid eggs in his dressing-room
trunk," said Phil in a tone too low for the others to catch, all
the time holding the eyes of the clown in a steady gaze.

The eyes of the clown expressed surprise, but there was so much
grease paint and powder on his face that the boy could not tell
whether the fellow had flushed or not.

That Diaz was angry, however, was clear.

"What you mean?" demanded the clown, with a threatening gesture.

"If you do not know, I don't believe I care to explain just now."

"What you mean?" repeated the clown, his voice rising to a
higher pitch. "You--you think I a thief?"

"If I thought so I might be too courteous to say so," was the
calm retort. "What makes you imagine that I think you a thief?
You must have some reason--you must believe there is some truth
in your self-accusation, or you would not be so quick to
resent it."


"Remember, I have not accused you of anything. You have
accused yourself."

Perhaps there was method in Phil's nagging--perhaps he was
trying to goad the Spaniard into an admission that could be
used against him. If that were his purpose he had only
partly succeeded.

Diaz, who had closed the cover of his trunk with a bang, now
sprang to the trunk again, jerking up the cover with such force
as to nearly wrench it from its hinges.

Two trays came out and were hurled to the ground as the owner
dived deeper and deeper into the chest.

"What's the matter? Have you gone crazy?" questioned Phil,
laughing in spite of himself. "Come on, now; don't lose
your temper. If you will stop to consider, you will recall
that I have said nothing at which you might possibly
take offence."

To this the clown made no reply.

All at once he straightened up with a snarl that reminded Phil of
the cough of the tiger out in the menagerie as the beast struck
viciously at its keeper when the latter chanced to step too close
to the bars of the cage.

Diaz stood all a-quiver.

"This looks like trouble of some sort," muttered Phil Forrest.
"But I don't quite understand what he could have been hunting for
in the trunk."

Phil's question was answered a few seconds later.

>From the folds of the clown's costume his hand suddenly
shot upward. The hand held a knife. The hand shook from
rage as the knife was brandished aloft.

"Hello, so that's the game, is it?"

The Circus Boy stood his ground unflinchingly. He did not appear
to be disturbed in the least, though his situation at that moment
was a critical one.

"Diaz! Diaz! Drop that knife!" ordered Phil sternly.

Instead of obeying the command the clown leaped upon him, or upon
the spot where Phil had been standing a second before. The lad
had sprung back far enough so that the descending knife cut only
the empty air.

Again the knife flashed up. Just as it was being raised, the boy
leaped again. This time he sprang toward the enraged clown,
rather than away from him.

Ere the knife could be brought down, Phil gripped the wrist
holding the weapon, giving the wrist a quick, sharp twist that
brought a roar of pain from Diaz.

The knife dropped to the ground. Phil calmly stooped and picked
it up, while the clown was nursing his wrist and groaning.

Several performers, realizing that something out of the ordinary
was going on in that corner of the tent, hurried over.

"What's the matter here?"

"Diaz was showing me his knife. It's a beauty, isn't it?"
answered Phil, with a pleasant smile. "I think, however, it is
a little too pretty for a circus. Were I in your place, Diaz,
I should keep it in my trunk else someone may steal it."

The lad coolly raised the lid of the trunk, dropping the
knife in. The others, not noting that the clown was hurt,
and that his wrist had been twisted by the Circus Boy almost
to the breaking point, turned back to their own corners and
continued their labors preparatory to entering the ring.

"Mr. Diaz," said Phil in a low voice, bending over the clown,
"your temper is going to get you into serious trouble one of
these fine days. I am sorry I had to hurt you. But let me tell
you one thing. If you attack me again I shall be compelled to
give you the worst licking you ever had in your life. Put that
in one of your fool caps that you throw around the arena, so you
won't forget it. Behave yourself and you will find that I am a
pretty good friend."



"Well, Dimples, I hope you and I do not make sad exhibitions of
ourselves this evening."

"I hope not, Phil. I am sure you will not, but I am not so sure
of myself."

The afternoon performance had passed off without incident, save
that the performers had given a much better show than usual.
Everyone felt fresh and strong after his Sunday rest.

It was now evening. The band was playing its loudest, the clowns
were fast and furious in their fun, and the animals out in the
menagerie tent were doing their part toward raising a din that
might have been heard at least half a mile away.

Phil Forrest had already been in for his trapeze act, and
after changing his costume had come out again for the
bareback riding number, to which he always looked forward
with pleasurable anticipation.

At the same time Little Dimples, the star female bareback rider,
had come up and joined him and the two fell to talking, as they
always did whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Long ago the circus woman had constituted herself the "mother of
the Circus Boys," as she expressed it. She always insisted on
doing their sewing for them, helped them to plan their costumes
and gave them friendly advice on all occasions.

The act which they were entering the ring to perform on this
particular evening was a new one. The two had been practicing it
since the beginning of the season--practicing in secret that they
might put it on as a surprise to Mr. Sparling.

This was what is known as a "brother and sister act." That is,
the strong man and woman proposed to perform on the back of the
same horse, and at the same time.

The brother and sister act was not a new act by any means,
but they had added ideas of their own to it until it had
become novel. They had essayed some daring and sensational
features which were sure to create a sensation with any
audience before which the act was performed.

"It is a small town," said Dimples. "We don't care if we do fall
off, do we, Phil, my boy?"

"We most certainly do care. At least, _I_ do. Where's your
professional pride, Dimples?" demanded Phil, with an
indulgent smile.

"In my feet, I guess," answered the woman, with a merry laugh.
"I am making my living with my feet. Were they not so sure,
enabling me to stand on the slippery back of a ring horse,
I should not be drawing the fine salary that I now have.
Neither would you."

"Here we are at the ring," interrupted Phil. "The audience is
applauding us before we begin. They must be expecting something
out of the ordinary."

As a matter of fact, the two riders made a very pleasing
appearance as they entered the ring. Phil, slender, athletic,
manly; Dimples exquisitely dainty, looking almost as fragile
as a piece of Dresden china, they were a pair to attract
attention anywhere.

The spectators did not even dream that Little Dimples was a
married woman, with a son almost as old as Phil Forrest himself.

They kicked off their slippers, chalked their feet, then Phil
assisted his companion to the back of the horse.

The band struck up a lively tune, the ringmaster cracked
his whip, and Phil leaped to the back of the ring horse
beside Dimples.

"We are off," smiled the lad.

"I hope not," laughed the woman happily.

Further conversation for the moment was interrupted, for the
time had arrived to begin their work in earnest. The two threw
themselves into a series of graceful positions, neither very
difficult nor very dangerous, but to Mr. Sparling, who was
watching their performance from a seat directly opposite to them,
their work was more attractive than anything of the kind he ever
had seen.

The next time they started in, after the brief intermission,
Phil and Dimples varied their performance by leaping from the
ring horse, then, taking a running start, jumping to the back
of the galloping animal. Only once did Phil miss, and Dimples
not at all.

She greeted his failure with a merry laugh that goaded the lad to
renewed efforts.

"Have you forgotten how to jump?" teased Dimples.

"I'll show you whether I have or not. Keep him up close to the
ring curb and stand back as far as you can."

"What are you going to do?" she questioned suspiciously.

"Going to prove to you that I have not forgotten how to jump,"
answered Phil, with determination.

"Please don't do anything foolish," warned the dainty rider.
"It is too early in the season to break your neck. Just think
what you would miss were you to do so this early--think what I
should miss. Come up here and be sensible--that's a good boy."

The ringmaster paid no attention to their chatter, which was in
tones too low for the audience to catch.

Phil placed the little jumping board in place, upon which
the riders step just as they are leaping to the back of the
ring horses. Then the lad backed up.

"Keep him up lively," he said to the ringmaster.

All at once the lad started on a brisk run across the
sawdust arena.

"Yip!" encouraged Dimples.

"Yip! Yip!" answered Phil.

The lad leaped up into the air just as if he had been hurled
there on springs. As he leaped his legs were curled up under
him, and his working mate saw that he was not going to land
on the back of the horse at all. Still she dared not speak to
him, now. She knew that to attract Phil's attention at that
moment might mean a bad fall for him, for a performer must have
his mind on his work when attempting any dangerous feat.

To the surprise of everyone who witnessed the act, Phil Forrest
cleared the back of the ring horse, fairly flying past the
astonished eyes of Little Dimples.

He landed lightly well outside of the ring curbing, on the
soft turf.

The audience broke out into a roar of applause and a
ripple of hand clapping ran over the arena from the
appreciative performers. They wholly forgot themselves
in their surprise and approval of the feat.

"Wonderful!" breathed Mr. James Sparling. "That boy is
worth a thousand dollars a week to any show."

"Have I forgotten how to jump?" demanded the Circus Boy
exultingly, as the ring horse slowed down to a walk, Phil
stepping along by the side of it looking up into the eyes
of Little Dimples.

"Indeed you have not. It was wonderful. Don't you ever dare
try it again, however. Why, suppose you had dropped on an iron
tent stake? You would have at least been disabled for life."

"I presume I should have been. I happened to know there were
no stakes where I landed. I made sure of that before I made
the leap."

"You are a wise boy, even if an imprudent one. We try the
shoulder stand next, do we not?"


"I haven't the routine in my mind yet. Don't you dare let
me fall."

"Supposing we save the shoulder stand until the last. Let's do
the somersault first," suggested Phil.

"Very well; I don't care."

The music started and the little couple began their work again.

Dimples sprang up to the hip of the Circus Boy, leaning far out
to one side, holding to one of Phil's hands, a very pretty though
not perilous feat for a sure-footed ride.

This they varied by throwing themselves into several
different poses.

"Now the turn," breathed Phil.

He deftly lifted the little woman down to the horse just in front
of himself. Having done so, Phil grasped Dimples firmly about
the waist with his strong, muscular young hands.

"If you drop me I'll never speak to you again."

"I shall not drop you. You know the cue?"


The lad nodded to the ringmaster, indicating that the latter was
to urge the horse on to a faster gallop.

"Now what are those two children going to do?" wondered the owner
of the show. "One is as daring as the other. It's a wonder they
have gone along without knocking themselves out. I believe they
are going to do a turn."

That was exactly what they were preparing. "Now," said
Phil sharply.

The pair rose from the back of the ring horse as one person.
They leaped gracefully and deliberately into the air, doubled
their legs under them and performed one of the most graceful
somersaults that had ever been seen in the Sparling shows,
landing lightly and surely on the resined back of the old
ring horse.

Dimples sat down, and Phil, dropping lightly to the ground,
threw a kiss to the audience.

The spectators, fully appreciating what had been done, went
fairly wild in their enthusiasm.

Mr. Sparling was no less so. In his excitement he forgot time
and place and ran into the ring, where he threw an arm about
Phil Forrest, giving him a fatherly hug.

Dimples pouted prettily.

"That's what I call partiality," she complained.

Mr. Sparling promptly lifted her from the back of her horse,
and stood the blushing little performer on the sawdust by the
side of Phil.

How the spectators did applaud, many standing up in their seats
waving hats and handkerchiefs in their excitement and enthusiasm!

Mr. Sparling was always doing these little, intensely human
things, not with any idea of winning applause, but out of
sheer big-heartedness. They did much toward spreading the
reputation of the Sparling show and popularizing it as well.

"Ladies and gentlemen," announced the showman when quiet had once
more been restored, "you will pardon me for interrupting the
performance, but as the owner of the show I want to say a few
words on behalf of my star performers, Little Dimples and Master
Phil Forrest."

The audience interrupted him with a cheer.

"The act which you have just witnessed is as great a surprise
to me as it could possibly have been to you. It is the first
time these two performers ever attempted it in public. I might
say, also, that it is the first time to my own knowledge that
any performers in the world ever succeeded in getting away with
a feat of that sort. I thank you for your approval.
The performance will now proceed."

After the applause which this little speech elicited had died
away the band once more began to play.

Phil and Dimples commenced a series of acts, jumping from and to
the back of the horse whose speed was increased for the purpose.

In the next rest Dimples called the attention of her associate to
the clown Diaz, who was not far from them at the moment.

Dimples had been in the show business so long that her intuition
had become very keen. Nothing of consequence happened under the
big top, or beneath the low-roofed dressing tents, that she did
not know of, or at least surmise. Especially keen was she in all
matters relating to Phil Forrest and Teddy Tucker, and her
interest had in many instances served to save the lads from
unpleasant consequence.

"I don't like that fellow, Phil," Dimples remarked, referring
to Diaz.

"Why not?"

"I think he is a bad man."

"I hope not. He is impulsive and--"

"Revengeful and ugly," finished Dimples.

"As I said, he is impulsive, like all of his race."

"What has been going on with you lately, Phil?"

"I don't understand what you mean?"

"Oh, yes, you do."

"You mean with regard to Diaz?"

"That's what I mean. Have you had any trouble?"

"We had a slight disagreement," admitted the lad.

"Tell me about it."

"Wait! There goes the music."

The ringmaster's whip cracked its warning and the gray horse
started at a slow gallop. Phil was up beside his companion with
agility and grace. The first round or two they stood poised on
the horse, while Phil related briefly what had taken place
between himself and Diaz.

"Come, aren't you two going to get to work?" demanded
the ringmaster.

"You attend to your own work. We'll look out for ours,"
snapped Dimples.

"Yes, and if you think you can do better just come up and try,"
added Phil, with a good-natured laugh. "Up, Dimples!"

He threw her lightly to his shoulders, on which the woman stood
poised, making as graceful and pretty a picture as had ever been
seen in a circus ring. Fragile as she was, it seemed as if Phil
were all too slender to support her weight.

The act brought a whirlwind of applause.

"You look out for him, Phil. I--"

"Jump, Dimples!"

The ring horse had suddenly stumbled, its nose plowing up the
sawdust in a cloud.

Phil, with rare presence of mind, lifted the feet from his
shoulders and hurled the girl far from him.

"Land on your feet!" he shouted, then Phil plunged off,
head first.



Thanks to Phil's presence of mind, Dimples had landed lightly on
her feet well outside the ring curbing. Had the lad held to her
ankles even a second too long the result must have been serious,
if not fatal, for Dimples would have been hurled to the ground
head first.

As it was, Phil gave her a lift, enabling her to double and
"ball," a circus term meaning to curl one's feet up under the
body, then straighten them as needed to give the body balance
either in turning a somersault or in falling.

In doing so, however, Phil had had no thought for his own safety.
He plunged forward over the head of the ring horse, striking the
ground on his head and face.

The force of his fall had been broken somewhat by his quickly
throwing out his hands in front of him and relaxing the muscles
of his body. Circus performers soon learn how to fall--how to
make the best of every situation with which they are confronted.
Despite this, his fall had been a severe and dangerous one.

"There, he has done it! I knew he would," cried Mr. Sparling,
rushing to the ring. Quick as he was, Dimples was ahead of him.
She leaped the ring curbing and dropped down beside him, not
caring for the dust and the dirt that soiled her pretty costume.

"Phil! Phil!" she cried.

Phil did not answer at the moment.

"Is he hurt--is he killed?" demanded Mr. Sparling excitedly.

"Of course he is hurt. Can't you see he is?" answered
Dimples testily.

She turned the boy over and looked into his face. The dirt
was so ground into the handsome, boyish face as to make it
scarcely recognizable.

"Lift him up. Get some of the attendants to carry him back!"
commanded the woman impatiently.

"No, no!" protested Phil in a muffled voice, for his mouth
was full of sawdust and dirt. "I'm all right. Don't worry
about me."

"He's all right," repeated the showman. "I'll help you
up, Phil."

Phil, like the plucky performer that he was, declined their
offers of assistance and struggled to his feet. He was dizzy and
staggered a little, but after a moment succeeded in overmastering
his inclination to faint.

A fleck of blood on his lips showed through makeup and sawdust.

"I'm all right. Don't worry about me," he said, with a
forced smile.

Dimples sought to brush the dirt from his face with her
handkerchief, but he put her aside gently, and, with a low bow,
threw a kiss to the audience.

Their relief was expressed in a roar of applause.

Phil staggered over to where the ring horse still lay near the
center of the ring and knelt down beside it, examining the leg
that was doubled up under the animal.

The ringmaster cracked his whip lash as a signal for the animal
to get up, but the faithful old horse, despite its efforts to
rise, was unable to do so.

"What is the matter with him?" demanded Mr. Sparling.

"Jim has broken a leg, I think," answered Phil sadly. "Too bad,
too bad!"

The lad patted the head of the horse and ran his fingers through
the grey mane. Tears stood in Phil Forrest's eyes, for he had
ridden this horse and won most of his triumphs on its resined
back during the past three years.

"Dimples, I guess we have ridden Jim for the last time," said
Phil in a low voice. "Hadn't you better start the other acts,
Mr. Sparling. The audience will become uneasy."

"Yes, yes," answered the showman, waving his hand to the band,
a signal that they were to play and the show to go on as usual.
"Are you sure, Phil--sure Jim has not merely strained the leg?"

"I am sure. He never will perform again."

Dimples brushed a hand across her eyes.

"I shall cry when I get back to my dressing tent. I know I
shall," she said, with a tremor in her voice that she strove
to control.

Then Dimples smiled bravely, waving a hand at the audience,
though her heart was sad.

"What had we better do with him, Phil?"

"We can do nothing at present--not until the show is ended.
Then, there is only one thing to do."

"You mean he will have to be--"

"Yes, Dimples, he will have to be shot," answered Phil.

"But the audience?"

"Have a couple of attendants come in here and pretend to be
working over Jim. That will make the audience think the animal's
foot is injured rather than fatally hurt," suggested
Phil Forrest.

"A good idea," said Mr. Sparling, giving the necessary orders.

Tell them not to disturb the spot, not trample it down.

"Why?" questioned the showman in surprise.

"I'll tell you later. I have my own reasons."

Phil motioned to Teddy to approach.

"Sit down here in the ring and watch the horse and the men around
him," directed the Circus Boy. "I'll tell you why later."

The show went on with a snap and dash. Meanwhile, Phil, his
clothes torn, his face grimy with dirt, started down the
concourse toward the pad room, hand in hand with Little Dimples.

Their progress was a triumphal one so far as the audience was
concerned, for the people cheered them all the way and until the
slender riders had disappeared behind the crimson curtain just
beyond the bandstand.

Phil quietly washed the dirt from his face, and pulling on
his street clothes over his ring costume, started to reenter
the arena.

At that moment Mr. Sparling came hurrying in. The two met in the
pad room.

"Phil, how did that accident happen?" demanded the showman.

"You saw it, did you not, Mr. Sparling?"

"Yes. But I was unable to understand how it occurred."

"That is exactly what is bothering me," answered the lad, with a
peculiar smile that the owner of the show was not slow to catch.

"You suspect something?"

"I suspect I got a bump that I shan't forget soon," laughed the
Circus Boy. "It is a wonder I did not break my neck."

"You undoubtedly saved Dimples' life at the risk of your own.
You are the pluckiest lad--no, I'll say the pluckiest _man_ I
have ever known."

"Don't make me blush, Mr. Sparling."

"Nevertheless, I wish you wouldn't take chances on that
act again. Give the audience the same old act and they
will be satisfied with that."

"Didn't you like the act?"

"Like it?"


"It was the finest exhibition of its kind that I ever saw.

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