Part 3 out of 4
I hope neither the Ringlings, nor Barnum and Bailey, nor any
of the big shows get a peep at that act."
"Because were they to do so I would be sure to lose my little
star performers right in the middle of the season," laughed
"Oh, I hardly think so. I do not wish to leave this show.
Had it not been for you I should still be doing chores for
my board and clothes back in Edmeston. Now wouldn't that
"Very," grinned the showman.
"Whatever I have accomplished I have you to thank for."
"You mean you owe to your own brightness and cleverness.
No, Phil, you are a boy who would have succeeded anywhere.
They can't keep you down--no, not even were they to sit
"If Fat Marie, with her five hundred and odd pounds, were
to sit on me, I rather think I would be kept down," answered
the Circus Boy, with a hearty laugh in which Mr. Sparling
"What is Teddy doing out in the ring?"
"I left him there to keep an eye on the injured horse."
"Until I could get back and make an examination."
"Very well; I want to see you after you have done so."
"I will look you up."
With that Phil hurried out into the arena. None of the
spectators appeared to recognize the lad in his street clothes.
Besides, he tried to avoid observation. He might have been one
of the spectators, except that he picked his way, among the ropes
and properties down through the center, where the public were not
allowed to go.
"The rest of you may go," said Phil, reaching the ring where
Jim lay breathing heavily. "Thank you for easing off old Jim.
I know he appreciates it."
Jim looked up pleadingly as Phil bent over him, patting the
animal on his splendid old gray head.
The attendants went about their duties.
"How'd this happen, Phil?" questioned Teddy.
"I fell off; that's what happened."
"Yes, I know you did, but there's more to it. I wonder if it's
got anything to do with the loss of my egg?"
"I guess not."
"You guess not? Well, I know something, Phil."
"I should hope you do."
"I mean about this accident."
Phil gazed at his companion keenly.
"What do you know?"
"Look here," said Teddy, pointing to a depression in the
Phil bent over, examining the spot closely. When he rose, his
lips were tightly compressed and his face was pale.
"Don't mention this to anyone, Teddy. Promise me?"
" 'Course I won't tell. Why should I? But I found out about it,
"Yes; at least you have made a pretty good start in
that direction. I shall have to tell Mr. Sparling.
It would not be right to keep this information from him."
"N-n-o-o. Then maybe he'll organize a posse to hunt for my egg."
"Oh, hang your old egg!"
The Roman chariot races were on, the rattle of the wheels, the
shouts of the drivers drowning the voices of the two boys.
"Teddy, you'll have to get back and change your clothes.
The performance is about over. That makes me think. I have on
my ring clothes under this suit and I must hurry back to my bath
and my change."
The performance closed and the rattle and bang of tearing down
the big white city had begun. The boys were engaged in packing
their trunks now, as were most of their fellow performers.
"What's that?" demanded Teddy, straightening up suddenly.
"Somebody fired a shot," answered another performer.
Phil knew what it meant.
A bullet had ended the sufferings of the faithful old ring horse
off under the big top. The Circus Boy turned away, with a
blinding mist in his eyes.
"Poor old Jim!" he groaned.
Off under the women's dressing tent another pair of ears had
heard and understood, and Little Dimples, burying her head in
her hands wept softly.
"Poor old Jim!" she, too, murmured.
THE PILOT GETS A SURPRISE
The happiness of the day had been marred by the accident,
but, like true circus men, all hands took the disaster in
the matter-of-fact manner characteristic of their kind.
The show people, in couples and singly, took their way to the
river, where they boarded the boats. Already wagons were
rumbling down on the docks and cages were being quickly shunted
into position for their journey down the river that night.
Everything moved with as much method as if the show had been
traveling in this way from the beginning of the season.
The performers were enjoying the novel experience of river
traveling too thoroughly to turn into their berths early. A cold
lunch had been spread in the main cabins of the "Marie" and the
"River Queen" for the performers, while from the cook tent,
baskets had been prepared and sent in for the use of the laborers
after they had completed their night's work and finished loading
All this was appreciated, and it was a jolly company that lined
the tables in the two larger boats. Leather upholstered seats
were built into the sides of the cabin, and with mouths and hands
full, the circus people soon took possession of the seats, where
they ate and chatted noisily.
"Funny thing about Jim," said one of the performers. "What do
you suppose made him fall, Mr. Miaco?"
"I don't know. Probably for the same reason that anyone falls."
"What is that?"
"Stumbled over something, I guess."
"Hey, Teddy, what ailed the ring horse?" called a voice as
the Circus Boy sauntered in and espying the tables made a
dive for them.
"I guess he was hungry," mumbled Teddy, his mouth full of
"What makes you think that?"
" 'Cause he bit the dust."
A general groan was heard in the cabin.
"Throw him overboard!"
"I know a better way to punish him for that ghastly joke."
"Take the food away from him, tie him up and make him watch us
eat," was the answer.
A shout of laughter greeted the proposition.
The pilot of the "Marie," a heavily bearded man named Cummings,
broke out in a loud guffaw.
All eyes were turned upon him.
"I reckon I kin tie him up if you says the word," he volunteered.
"All right; tie him up," shouted the performers, scenting fun.
Teddy eyed the pilot out of the corners of his eyes and placidly
munched his sandwich. The pilot, in the meantime, had stepped to
the rear end of the cabin, where, from a box of life-preservers
he took a piece of Manila rope.
"I believe he is going to do it," said a clown, nudging
"You mean he is going to try it," answered the other. "Watch for
some fun. He thinks Teddy is an easy mark."
"He will be in this case. That fellow, Cummings, is hard as a
rail fence. He could handle two of Teddy."
In the meantime Tucker had strolled to the table, from which he
took a large sandwich, buttered it well, then returned to his
seat, not appearing to observe the pilot's movements at all.
As he sat down the lad was observed to open the sandwich,
removing the thin slice of ham and stowing the latter in his
coat pocket. Then he sat thoughtfully contemplating the two
pieces of buttered bread as if trying to decide whether or not
he should eat them.
"Get up, kiddie," said Cummings, grasping the boy by
the shoulder. "Get up and take your punishment like
a little dear."
Teddy got up, carelessly, indifferently, while the pilot
stretched the rope to its full length.
The boy saw that he was in earnest.
Quick as a flash Teddy had plastered one half of the sandwich,
buttered side in, right over the eyes of Cummings.
The second half of the sandwich landed neatly over his mouth,
pressed home by a firm fist.
Cummings could not speak, neither could he see. At that moment
he was perhaps the most surprised man on the Mississippi River.
At least he appeared to be, for he stood still. He stood still
just a few seconds too long.
Teddy had seized the rope. With it he made a quick twist about
the body of the pilot, taking two turns, then drawing the rope
tight and tying it, thus pinioning the hands and arms of the
pilot to his sides.
"Yip-yeow!" howled Teddy.
The show people shrieked with delight.
"You'll tie up a Circus Boy, will you?" jeered Teddy.
"You'll have to grow some first. No Rube with a bunch of
whiskers on his face like that ever lived who could tie up
a real circus man."
Teddy had drawn nearer to impress his words upon the pilot, when
all of a sudden the man's hands gripped the lad. The boy never
had felt quite so strong a grip on his body. Cummings had not
handled a pilot wheel on the Mississippi for thirty years without
acquiring some strength in hands and arms.
Teddy, failing to pull away, grappled with his antagonist,
all in the best of humor, though his face bore its usual
"Gangway," cried Teddy humorously. "I'm going to give him a bath
in the river."
Then began a lively scrimmage. Back and forth the combatants
struggled across the cabin floor, the growls of the pilot drowned
in the shouts and jeers of the performers.
All at once, Teddy tripped his antagonist and the two went down
into a heap, rolling under the main table on which the lunch had
"Look out for the table!" warned a voice.
"Sit on it, some of you fellows, and hold it down!"
The suggestion came too late. The table suddenly rose into the
air, landing upside down with a crash, at one side of the cabin.
A moment more and the two combatants were wrestling on roast beef
and ham sandwiches, potato salad and various other foods.
"I guess this has gone about far enough," decided Mr. Miaco,
the head clown. "We'll have a fight on our hands, first thing
we know. If Teddy really gets angry you'll think the 'Sweet
Marie' is in the midst of a cyclone."
"The 'Fat Marie,' you mean," corrected a voice.
With the assistance of two others Miaco succeeded in
separating the combatants, after which he untied the rope,
releasing the pilot.
Teddy was grinning broadly, but Cummings was not. The latter was
glowering angrily at his little antagonist.
"Shake?" asked Teddy, extending a hand.
"No, I'm blest if I will! I'll not shake hands with anybody who
has insulted me by buttering my face," growled the pilot.
"You'll be better bred if you are well buttered,"
"Oh, help!" moaned The Fattest Woman on Earth.
"Put him out! Put him out!" howled several voices in chorus.
"Yes, that's the thing! We can stand for some things some of the
time, but we won't stand for everything all of the time," added
a clown wisely.
Half a dozen performers picked Teddy up bodily, bore him to one
of the open windows and dumped him out on the deck.
"Here, what's all this commotion about?" commanded Phil, who,
at that moment, came from his cabin to the deck.
"They threw me out," wailed Teddy.
"I made a pun."
"Tell it to me."
Teddy in short, jerky sentences, related what had been done
and said. Phil leaned against the rail and shouted.
"I--I don't blame them," he gasped between laughs. "It is a
wonder they did not throw you overboard."
"They had better not try it."
"But what about the pilot--what happened to him?"
"May--maybe they have put him out, too."
"You have a way of getting into trouble, Teddy. Mr. Cummings
will love you for what you have done to him, I can well imagine."
"About as much as I love him, I guess. He got too bold, Phil.
He had to have a lesson and Teddy Tucker was the boy who had to
teach it to him. Say, go in and gather me a sandwich out of the
wreck, will you?"
"Not I. Go and get your own sandwich. I'm going to see
Mr. Sparling in his cabin. He has sent for me."
Teddy sat out on deck while the others were picking up the table,
the dishes and the ruined food. It would not do for Mr. Sparling
to come in and see how they had wasted the food he had had
prepared for them. The probabilities were that they would get no
more, were he to do so. Teddy watched the proceedings narrowly
from the safe vantage point of the deck.
In the meantime Phil had gone to Mr. Sparling's cabin, where the
showman was checking up the day's receipts.
"A pretty good day, Phil," smiled Mr. Sparling.
"I am glad to hear that, sir."
"Two thousand dollars in the clear, as the result of our two
performances today. Do you know of any other business that would
pay as much for the amount invested, eh, Phil?"
"I do not, sir."
"You see, it is a pretty good business to be in after all,
provided it is run on business principles, at the same time
treating one's employees like human beings."
"How would you like to have an interest in a show?"
"I am going to, someday. It may be a long time yet before I have
earned money enough, but I shall if I live," said the Circus Boy
quietly but with determination.
"So you shall. I intend to have a talk with you on this subject,
one of these days. What I wanted to talk with you about is
Jim's loss. I am glad it wasn't your ring horse, Phil. Have you
anything to say about the animal breaking his leg?"
"Out with it."
"Somebody is to blame for that accident."
"Someone planned that accident."
"Teddy and myself examined the ring, that is, Teddy already had
done so before I returned, and he discovered something--we both
decided what must have happened."
"Yes," urged the showman as Phil paused.
"A round hole about a foot deep had been dug in the ring.
This had been covered with a shingle and the sawdust sprinkled
over to hide the shingle. It was a deliberate attempt to do
someone an injury."
Mr. Sparling eyed him questioningly.
"Are you sure?"
"As sure as I can be. Jim didn't happen to step on the
shingle until we were doing the pyramid, then of course
something happened. It is a wonder that neither Little
Dimples nor myself was injured."
"Phil, we simply must find out who is responsible for this
"And when we do--when we do--"
"What then, Mr. Sparling!"
The showman was opening and closing his fingers nervously.
"Don't ask me," he replied in a low, tense voice. "I don't want
to see the man. I should do something I would be sorry for all
the rest of my life. Good night, Phil."
Phil Forrest left the cabin and strode thoughtfully away to his
own room, where he was soon in bed. Phil, however, did not sleep
very well that night.
AN UNWELCOME VISITOR
The boats of the Sparling fleet had been moving steadily
downstream for several hours, their passengers, in the majority
of instances, sound asleep, lulled by the gentle motion and the
far away "spat, spat, spat," of the industrious paddle wheel at
the stern of each craft.
Teddy had prudently kept away from the main cabin for the rest
of the evening; when Phil turned in, Teddy was sleeping sweetly.
His active part in the affair in the cabin had not caused him
any loss of sleep.
With the pilot, Cummings, however, matters had been different.
Mr. Cummings had been steadily at the wheel of the "Marie" since
the boats had sailed shortly after one o'clock in the morning.
The pilot's temper had suffered as the result of his experience
in the cabin, and the jeers aud laughter of the circus people had
not added to his peace of mind. At intervals he would break out
into a tirade of invective and threats against Teddy Tucker, who
had so humiliated him.
"I'll get even with that little monkey-face! They ought to put
him in the monkey cage where he belongs," growled the pilot,
giving the wheel a three-quarter turn to keep the boat from
driving her prow into the bank, for which he had been steering
to avoid a hidden sand bar.
"I'll tell the manager tomorrow, that if he doesn't keep that
boy away from me, I'll take the matter into my own hands and
give that kid a trouncing that will last him till we get to
The darkness of the night, just before the dawn, hung over the
broad river. Doors and windows of the pilot house were thrown
open so that the wheelman might get a clear view on all sides.
All at once Cummings seemed to feel some presence near him.
He thought he caught the sound of a footfall on the deck.
To make sure he left the wheel for a few seconds, peering out
along the deck, on both sides of the pilot house.
He saw no one. The air was filled with a black pall of smoke
from the "Marie's" funnel, the smoke settling over the boat,
wholly enveloping her from her stack to the stern paddle wheel.
"Huh!" grunted the pilot, returning to his duties.
Yet his ears had not deceived him. Something was near him, a
strange shape, the like of which never had been seen on the deck
of the "Fat Marie", in all her long service on the Mississippi.
"If that fool boy comes nosing around here I'll throw him
overboard--that's what I'll do," threatened Cummings. "I'll show
him he can't fool with the pilot of the finest steamboat of the
old line. I--"
The pilot suddenly checked himself and peered out to starboard.
"Wha--what?" he gasped.
Something darkened the doorway. What he now saw was a strange,
grotesque shape that looked like a shadow itself in the uncertain
light of the early morning.
"Get out of here!" bellowed the pilot, the cold chills running up
and down his spine.
The most frightful sound that his ears had ever heard, broke
suddenly on the quiet of the Mississippi night.
"It's the lion escaped!"
Cummings grabbed a stout oak stick that lay at hand--the stick
that now and then, when battling with a stiff current, he used
to insert between the spokes of the steering wheel to give him
With a yell he brought the stick down on the head of the
strange beast. The roar or bray of the animal stopped suddenly.
Whack! came the echo from the club.
Cummings sprang back. He slammed the pilot-house door in the
face of the beast, and closed the windows with a bang that shook
the pilot house. In his excitement the pilot rang in a signal to
the engineer for full speed astern.
About that time something else occurred.
With a terrific crash one of the windows of the pilot house was
shattered, pieces of glass showering in upon the pilot like a
sudden storm of hail.
Another window fell in a shower about him. He tried to get the
door on the opposite side of the pilot house open, but locked it
instead and dropped the key on the floor.
All this time the "Fat Marie's" paddle wheel was backing water
and the craft, now swung almost broadside to the stream, was
working her way over toward the Iowa shore.
A section of the pilot-house door fell shattering on the inside,
and what sounded like a volley of musketry, rattled against the
harder woodwork of the pilot house itself.
Frightened almost out of all sense, Cummings began groping
excitedly for his revolver. At last he found it, more by
accident than through any methodical search for it.
The pilot began to shoot. Some of his bullets went through the
roof, others through the broken out windows, while a couple
landed in the door.
At last the half-crazed Cummings was snapping the hammer on
empty chambers. He had emptied his revolver without hitting
anything more than wood and water.
The fusillade from the outside still continued.
By this time the din had begun to arouse the passengers on
the boat. Phil Forrest was the first to spring up. He shook
Teddy by the shoulder, but, being unable to awaken his companion,
jerked the boy out of bed and let him drop on the floor.
"Get a net! What's the matter down there!" yelled Teddy.
"Hey, hey, did the mule kick me? Oh, that you Phil?
What's the row--what has happened?"
"I don't know. Come on out. Something has gone wrong.
Hear those shots?"
"Wow! Trouble! That's me! I knew I couldn't dream about angels
without something breaking loose."
Phil had thrown the door open and bounded out to the deck.
Just as he did so the pilot leaped from the front window of
the pilot house, climbed over the rail and dropped to the
deck below. The volleying, the thunderous blows
A loud bray attracted their attention to the other side of
"What's that?" demanded Phil, starting off in that direction.
"It's January! It's January!" howled Teddy Tucker. "I would
know that sweet voice if I heard it in the jungles of Africa.
Where is he?"
"Over here somewhere. Come on. I can't imagine what
"The animals have escaped. There's a lion on the hurricane
deck!" they heard a voice below shout in terrified tones.
"Do you think that's it?" called Phil.
"Lion, nothing! Didn't I tell you I knew that voice? There he
is now. See him hand out the hoofs at the pilot house. He must
have a grudge against Cummings. I know. He's paying the fellow
back for trying to tie me up."
"But--but, how did he ever get up here?"
"Go it, January! Kick the daylights out of him! I'll give you a
whole peck of sugar if you kick the house into the river, pilot
"Whoa! Whoa, January!" shouted Phil.
The donkey, for it was January himself, and not a savage
beast that was acting the part of a battering ram and rapidly
demolishing the pilot house, paused for a second; then, moving
to a new position, he began once more hammering at the structure.
"How did he ever get up here, Teddy?"
"I don't know. I know I am glad he did, that's all.
Let him kick."
"I'm going to try to catch him."
"Keep away, Phil. He'll have you in the river. He has a fit.
Wait till he comes out of it."
"Why, the boat is moving backwards," cried Phil.
"Yes, it is."
"Maybe January has kicked the machinery out of gear."
The circus people were by this time on deck, and, like Teddy and
Phil, many of them were in their pajamas. They had heard the
cry, "the animals have escaped," and many of the people were
gazing apprehensively about.
"It's all right," shouted Teddy. "It is only January, taking his
About that time Phil, who had run around to the other side of
the pilot house, discovered that it was empty. There was no
Understanding came to him instantly. January had either kicked
or frightened Cummings out.
"The boat is running wild!" he called. "Find the pilot or we
shall be on the shore before we know it."
Phil did not wait for them to find the pilot. Instead, he
climbed in through one of the broken windows and grasped
"I've got to stop this going astern first of all," he decided.
He could see the banks now, and they seemed perilously near in
the faint morning light. The other boats of the fleet were
steaming up in answer to the signals of distress that Cummings
had blown in his excitement.
"What is it? Are you sinking?" called a voice through a
megaphone from the deck of the "River Queen."
"No, we are all right," answered Phil, leaning out of the window.
"You'll be high and dry on the Iowa shore if you don't
watch sharp. Where are you going?"
"Don't know. Keep out of the way or we're liable to run
Phil grabbed a bell pull and gave it a violent jerk. The engines
stopped suddenly, to the Circus Boy's great delight. January had
ceased his bombardment and now stood with head thrust though one
of the broken windows, gazing in inquiringly at Phil Forrest.
"If one bell stopped the engine, another bell should be the
signal to go ahead," reasoned the lad, giving the bell pull two
quick jerks. He was right. The machinery started and he could
hear the big paddle wheel beating the river into a froth.
The lower deck was in an uproar. Men were shouting and running
about, trying to discover what animals had escaped, as the pilot
insisted that the hurricane deck was alive with them.
"Get that pilot up here, if you have to drag him. I don't know
where the channel is, and I am liable to put the whole outfit
aground any minute," shouted Phil Forrest. "Teddy, never mind
that idiotic donkey. We're in a fix. Get downstairs, at one
jump, and see that the pilot is brought up here lively."
"I'll fetch him. You watch me," answered the irrepressible
Teddy, starting off on a run.
January had all at once grown very meek. He stood gazing
thoughtfully off over the river.
"What is the trouble here?" roared Mr. Sparling dashing up to the
pilot house at that moment.
"That is exactly what I have been trying to find out," answered
the Circus Boy.
"Yes, it's Phil."
"What are you doing in there?"
"Steering the boat."
"Piloting the--where is the pilot?"
"Somewhere below. I have sent Teddy after him. You see,
January was trying to kick the pilot house off the boat and into
the river. The pilot, thinking the animals had escaped, fled.
When I came up this craft was traveling astern and January was
making a sieve of this little house. I have got the 'Marie'
going forward, but I may run her aground if he doesn't come
along pretty soon."
Mr. Sparling reached the companionway in two bounds, and, leaping
to the lower deck, caught the pilot by the coat collar, shaking
off the two circus men who had hold of Cummings.
"You get up to that pilot house or you'll be in the worst fix
in your whole river career." Mr. Sparling accompanied the
words with a violent push that sent the pilot headlong toward
the stairway. But the showman was by the fellow's side by the
time he had gotten to his feet, and began assisting him up the
companionway, while Teddy Tucker followed, prodding the pilot
in the back with a clenched fist.
Into the pilot house they hurled the man, Cummings.
"Now, you steer! If it had not been for that boy we might have
lost our whole equipment. I don't care anything about your old
boat, but I'm blest if I am going to let a fool pilot wreck
us--a pilot who is afraid of a donkey."
"I'll quit this outfit tomorrow," growled Cummings. "I kin pilot
steamers, but I can't fight a menagerie and a pack of boys with
the very Old Nick in them. Get away from that wheel!" he
commanded, thrusting Phil aside.
Mr. Sparling had him by the collar once more.
"You do that again, and I'll take it out of you right here!"
declared the showman savagely.
"I'll bet he's the fellow who stole my egg," declared Teddy,
eyeing the pilot sternly.
BETRAYED BY A SNEEZE
"How did that beast get up here?" demanded Mr. Sparling.
"Who, Cummings?" asked Teddy innocently.
"No, no! The donkey."
"Oh! Maybe he came up through the smoke stack. If you will look
at it you may find donkey tracks on the inside of the stack."
"That will do, that will do, young man."
It was found upon investigation that January had gnawed his
halter until only a thin strand held it together, which was easy
for the donkey to break. Then he began an investigation of the
boat, ending by his climbing the broad staircase and frightening
Next morning the pilot house looked as though it had been through
a shipwreck. The whole craft, in fact the entire fleet, was
laughing at the expense of Cummings, who now kept to himself,
studiously avoiding the other people. January was tied up with
a dog chain after that, and was not heard from again during any
trip of that season; that is, beyond his regular acts in the
The next day Phil Forrest began his investigation in earnest.
He knew that Mr. Sparling looked to him to discover who had
caused so much trouble in the show, besides which, Phil took a
personal interest because of the attempt that had been made on
the lives of Little Dimples and himself.
Teddy suggested that he go through the pilot's belongings,
expressing the firm belief that they would find the ostrich egg
were they to do so.
Phil consulted Little Dimples, that afternoon, as to her opinion
of the occurrences of the past week, but the star bareback rider
could shed no light on them, beyond the fact that certain people
with whom Phil had had difficulties might bear watching.
"That's what I think," answered the Circus Boy. "I do not like
to accuse anyone unjustly, but I have these suspicions of the
"Have you mentioned your suspicion to Mr. Sparling, Phil?"
"Do you intend to do so?"
"Not unless I find some facts to support my suspicion."
"You will get to the bottom of the mystery, I am sure," smiled
"I am not so sure. Why do you think so?"
"Because you are one of the cleverest boys I ever knew,
that's why. I should hate to have you on my track if I
were guilty of any particular crime that you were trying to
run down. I should expect to land in jail, and I think I
should come straight to you and give myself up," added the
woman with a merry laugh.
"I wish I were all that you think I am, Dimples."
"You are. You saved my life again yesterday. I'm going to
pay you back, however. Someday, when you fall overboard,
Little Dimples is going to jump right in and rescue you--haul
you out by the hair of your head--"
"You can't, it is cut too short."
"Then I will pull you out by an ear."
"I shall make it my business to fall in, then, at the first
opportunity," laughed Phil. "It would be worthwhile."
Dimples gave him a playful tap.
"You can turn a compliment as well as you can do a turn in the
ring, can't you Phil Forrest?"
Despite their narrow escape from serious accident, Phil and
Dimples went through their double act in the ring that day and
evening with perfect confidence. Previous to going on, Phil had
had a ring attendant go over the sawdust circle on his hands and
knees, making a careful examination of it, to be sure that the
ring had not been tampered with.
>From that time on until the act went on, the ring was watched,
though Phil did not believe the miscreant would attempt to lay
another trap for him so soon. Still, he took nothing
That night after the performance, the air being warm and balmy,
the Circus Boy strolled out on the lot, sitting down on a little
knoll to think matters over. There was plenty of time, for the
boat would not leave for two or three hours, and Phil wanted to
Lights were twinkling on the lot like fireflies. There was
shouting and singing, but little of this conveyed itself to Phil,
for his mind was on other things.
All at once he pricked up his ears. He caught the sound of
"Someone is coming this way," he muttered. "I wonder what
that means? Surely none of the circus people would come here.
They would go around by the road."
The lad concealed himself behind the knoll, peering over the top
of it. He resolved not to show himself until he had discovered
the identity of the newcomers.
They proved to be two men who halted a short distance beyond him,
and began to converse in guarded tones. It was so dark that Phil
could scarcely distinguish their figures and their voices were
pitched so low that it was impossible for him to hear what they
"This looks queer," Phil muttered. "I wish I could hear what
they are talking about. Perhaps they are town fellows who have
been chased off the lot because they were in the way. At any
rate, I'm going to try to find out what they are up to.
Hello, they are coming right over here."
Phil crouched down behind the knoll and listened. The men turned
slowly and came toward him. All at once one of them stumbled on
the very knoll behind which he was secreted.
The man uttered a growl.
"Come, sit down," he said to his companion.
"We better go on," answered the other.
"No hurry. We've got all the time in the world. If we miss the
boat we can swim. That was a narrow escape. In a minute more
we'd had that wagon fixed so they would never have got off the
lot with it."
"Hello," muttered Phil under his breath. "Something surely is
going on here. One of the voices I have heard before, and the
other I seem to recognize. I believe that first fellow belongs
to the show. I am almost sure of it."
"You think the fellow suspects?"
"The tall one does. But he doesn't know whom be suspects."
"We have to take care."
"But we will get both before the end of the season."
"You bet we will. I have a plan that--"
"What is it?"
"It is this."
Phil had buried his head in the grass and compressed his body
into the smallest possible space that he might avoid discovery.
He could hear the two men breathe, and he reasoned that they
might hear him as well.
"You know the big net?"
"You mean the one over which the flying four perform?"
"What about it?"
"It can be fixed."
"By weakening some of the strands on each side."
"That is good, but suppose someone noticed."
"Not if it is done right. I don't mean to do it all at once.
I'll doctor one or two strands every day until the net is so
weakened that it won't hold."
"Yes, but how will you do this so no one will see?"
"I'll tell you. After the act is over they roll the net up and
carry it out. It is dumped just outside the pad room, where it
is picked up by one of the property wagons later in the evening.
It's in the same place every night."
"I think somebody may see us do it."
"No danger. Keep cool; that's all. We'll get even with
those fellows. We have got to before we can carry out
the other plans we have talked over. They are too sharp.
Sooner or later they will get wise to us, and we've got to
get them out of the way before we go any further. The work
must be done in a natural sort of way, so that no suspicion
"Yes, that's so. But what about the others? You want to hurt
"I don't care, so long as we get the right one, how many get
"That's right. But only one of them is on trapeze. What you do
"It is the tall one that I want most. He's got to be put out of
the running. It won't kill him, but it will lay him up in a
hospital for the rest of the season, and that's enough for us."
"The other one will be taken care of after we get through with
the first. The small fellow is sharp, but he can't see beyond
his nose. It's easy to fool him."
"The fiends!" muttered Phil. "I believe they are plotting
against Teddy and me. I have a good notion to sail into
them right here and settle it. I believe I could whip the
two of them. I--"
At that instant a blade of grass tickled Phil's nose. He raised
his head quickly.
"What's that?" exclaimed one of the plotters.
"I heard nothing."
"You didn't? Well, I did. There's someone around here and close
"Perhaps it was a squirrel in the grass. There is no one here."
The blade of grass had done its work, however. Phil tried hard
to control himself, but he knew he was going to sneeze.
All at once the sneeze came, louder than he had ever
The men leaped to their feet in sudden alarm.
"There he is!"
Phil had bounded to his feet, realizing that he could no longer
conceal himself from them. As he did so, both men sprang toward
him, the Circus Boy eluding them by a leap to one side.
The men made a rush for him. At first Phil was inclined to stand
his ground and give battle, but he reasoned that, being two to
one, the chances were against him and that even if he were not
captured, he might sustain injuries that would keep him out of
That was the deciding factor with Phil Forrest. Although he
would have preferred facing his enemies, he whirled instead
and started on a run, with both men pursuing him at top speed.
"He's out-running us. He'll get away!" cried one of the men.
"Run, run! Run for all you're worth!"
But they might as well have spared their effort. Phil was fleet
of foot, and after getting a slight lead over them he turned
sharply to his right, leaped a fence and lay down.
The men quickly discovered that they had lost their prey.
Then they became alarmed.
"Get out of here, quick! He will be following us!"
The men turned and ran swiftly in an opposite direction.
"Do you think he recognized us?"
"I don't know. We can tell by the way he acts when we get back;
that is if he doesn't follow us now. We had better separate and
go back to the lot. From there we can go along with the wagons
and not be noticed. Don't let him bluff you."
"Have no fear for me."
The plotters separated and cautiously made their way back to the
lot where they were soon lost among the crowd of men at work
taking down the tent.
"I believe one of those two men was Diaz," declared Phil,
as he once more tried to place the voice that he had seemed
to recognize. "They have given me the slip, too. I know what
I'll do. I will hurry back to the boat and when Diaz returns
I will face him and make him betray himself if I can. I shall
have him then."
Having decided on his course of action, Phil struck off at a trot
across the field. He soon reached a back street of the village,
and from there ran at full speed to the docks.
All was activity here. The lad cast a quick glance about, though
he did not expect to find the man for whom he was looking.
Without pausing in his rapid gait he ran up the companionway to
the upper deck, where he intended to watch at the rail for the
arrival of Diaz from the lot.
As he leaned over the rail he felt someone stir near him.
Glancing up quickly, the Circus Boy started almost guiltily.
There, beside him, sat Diaz on a camp stool with his feet on the
steamer's rail, calmly watching the loading operations on the
"Good evening, Mr. Diaz," said Phil quickly recovering
Diaz uttered an unintelligible grunt, but did not deign to turn
"Hey, Phil, is that you?" called the voice of Teddy from further
down the deck.
"Yes," answered Phil, rising and moving aft. "How long have you
"About an hour."
"Do you know who is sitting over there?"
"There by the rail?"
"Sure, I know. That's our old friend Diaz," grinned Teddy.
"How long has he been there?"
"He came in when I did."
"An hour ago?"
Phil was perplexed.
"I do not understand it at all."
"Don't understand what?"
"Something that occurred this evening."
Teddy's curiosity was aroused.
"What is it all about, Phil?"
"I should prefer not to talk about it here, Teddy. I will tell
you after we get to bed and there is no one about to overhear us.
There is a rascally plot on foot."
"Yes. I know very little about it, but I know enough to warn me
that you and I will have to keep our eyes open or else we shall
find ourselves in serious difficulties before we realize it."
"Is that so? Tell me who the plotters are, and I'll turn January
loose on them," explained Teddy. "Do you think they are the
fellows who stole my egg?"
"I don't know. Where is Mr. Sparling?"
"I haven't seen him since I ran into him and bowled him over off
on the lot."
"As I have said many times before, you are hopeless, Teddy.
I must go now. If you see Mr. Sparling, please let me know,
but say nothing to anyone about what I have just told you."
Phil walked back to the point on the deck where he had first
stopped to look over the rail, and, drawing up a stool sat down.
He began studying the faces of the belated performers who came
straggling down to the dock, singly and in pairs. None seemed
to be in a hurry; not a face appeared to reflect any excitement.
After an hour of this Phil felt sure that all the company had
been accounted for.
Mr. Sparling had arrived about twenty minutes earlier, and was
standing on the dock giving orders. As the lad saw the owner
enter the boat he turned away and hurried downstairs.
"When you are at liberty, I should like a few moments
conversation with you, sir," announced Phil.
"I am at liberty, now, my lad," answered the showman with a smile
and a friendly slap on the boy's shoulder.
"I would rather not talk here, Mr. Sparling," answered Phil in a
"Something doing, eh?"
"Is it important that you should talk with me at once, or will a
little later on answer the purpose?"
"Later on will do. It is not so urgent as that."
"When the men get these menagerie cages all shifted on deck I
will meet you in my cabin. That will be in about twenty
"Very well, sir; I will be on hand."
Phil walked away, watched the loading operations for a few
minutes, then strolled to the main cabin on the upper deck,
where lunch was being served as usual.
The Circus Boy appeared more light-hearted than usual that
evening, as he chatted and joked with his friends among
the performers. He did not wish the man or men whom he had
overheard off on the lot to know that he was the eavesdropper.
He felt that he could make better progress in his investigation
were they not on their guard.
The pilot, Cummings, was not in the cabin. He had not been
seen there since his trouble with Teddy. Despite the pilot's
determination to resign, he was still on duty, he and
Mr. Sparling having come to a satisfactory understanding.
Teddy was helping himself liberally for the second time since his
return from the lot.
"Do you think you will ever be able to satisfy that appetite
of yours?" laughed Phil.
"I hope not," answered Teddy solemnly. "That's the only fun in
life--that and the donkey."
Just then Mr. Sparling passed through the cabin on the way to his
stateroom and office. He gave Phil a significant glance, to
which the Circus Boy did not respond. A few minutes later,
however, Phil strolled out to the deck. Reaching it he turned
quickly and hurried aft, entering the passageway there and going
directly to Mr. Sparling's quarters.
"Come in," invited the owner in response to Phil's gentle rap.
The blinds had been drawn up, though the windows were let
down into their casings out of sight. Phil noted this in
a quick glance.
"Sit down and tell me what has happened, Phil. I am sure you
have made some sort of discovery."
"I have and I haven't."
"What do you mean?"
"That I am deeper in the mire than ever."
"Tell me about it."
"While I have made no discoveries that will help us much, I have
learned just enough to understand that there is a diabolical plot
"I am not sure, but I think it is against Teddy and myself."
"Is it possible? Who are the plotters?"
"That is the worst of it; I do not know. I wish I did.
I thought I had one of the men identified, but I find I
am all wrong. I am more at sea than ever."
"Who did you think it was?"
"As long as I am mistaken, why should I accuse anyone?"
"You are right. Have you reason to believe it is someone
connected with this show?"
"I am sure that at least one of the men is."
"Then there is more than one in this thing?"
"There are two men. At least I have seen two. There may be more
for all I know."
"Now, tell me what it is all about. You haven't said a word
regarding this plot yet," urged the showman drawing his chair
around the corner of his desk and leaning forward with his hands
on his knees.
Phil told how he strolled off into the field adjoining the
circus lot, and went on in detail to relate all that had
occurred after that. As he proceeded with his story the face
of James Sparling grew serious and then stern.
"I presume I should have stood my ground and given battle to
them, if for no other reason than to find out who they were,"
concluded the lad, somewhat ruefully.
"Phil Forrest, you should have done nothing of the sort,"
answered Mr. Sparling sharply. "You take quite enough risk as
it is. You think the plot now is to tamper with the big net?"
"Is it possible that such scoundrels are traveling with the
"I wish I did not think so."
"Phil, it is not the man who was responsible for several
accidents the first year you were with us, is it?" demanded
the showman shrewdly, darting a sharp glance at Phil.
"No, sir," answered the boy flushing a little. "That man is no
longer with the show."
"I thought so. Now I have him located."
"The--the man I saw tonight--you know him?" gasped Phil.
"No. I did not mean that. I refer to the fellow who nearly
caused your death three years ago."
"You had some trouble with Diaz a short time ago, did you not?"
Phil was surprised that the showman was aware of this.
"Where is Diaz tonight?" demanded the showman almost sternly.
"In his stateroom, or else out on deck."
"Are you sure?"
"What time did he return from the lot?"
"He was here when I went on deck. He came to the boat directly
after the performance."
"You are sure of this?"
"You are a very shrewd young man, sir," said Mr. Sparling,
with a mirthless smile. "However, these guilty men must be
found and punished. You think their first efforts will be
directed toward the net?"
"Yes, according to what I overheard. I have an idea, however,
that they will not do so at once, fearing they may have been
recognized, or at any rate that their plans are known to
"Do you think they recognized you?"
"I do not. I did not speak. I was on the point of doing so,
then checked myself."
"Right! You are one in a hundred. I will have a watch kept on
the net, and an examination made of it before every performance."
Phil smiled faintly.
"I am not afraid for myself."
"No, that's your greatest failing. You are not afraid of
anything and you take very long chances. I hope you will be
more cautious in the future. You must be careful, Phil, and
you had better caution your partner, Teddy Tucker. Does he
know of this?"
"No, but I intend to tell him. He is more interested in the
possibility of recovering his egg than in any personal danger
to himself or to me," said the Circus Boy with a short laugh.
"Keep your eyes open, and take care of yourself. If we fail
to get a clue by the time we get to Des Moines I shall send
to St. Louis for the best detective they have and put him on
the case. Perhaps it would be best to do so now."
"I think--" began Phil, when his words were arrested by a loud
noise just outside the cabin, on the deck.
Mr. Sparling and Phil started up, for the instant not
understanding the meaning of the disturbance.
"Wha--what--" gasped the showman.
Phil ran to the window and looked out.
The deck at that point was deserted. He thought he saw a figure
dodge into an entrance near the stern of the boat, and looking
forward he discovered another disappearing in that direction.
The Circus Boy sprang for the door.
"What is it, what is it?" cried the showman.
"Eavesdroppers!" answered the lad, darting out into the
passageway, followed closely by Mr. Sparling.
"You go that way and I'll go this," directed Phil.
MAKING A CAPTURE
The two ran down the corridor, Mr. Sparling heading for the
forward end, Phil toward the stern.
"There he goes! I see him!" shouted the showman as a figure
leaped out to the deck, slamming the door. "We have him now!"
Phil rushed out at the stern and started to run along the
starboard side of the boat. As he emerged he caught sight of a
figure running toward him, and behind the figure, Mr. Sparling,
coming along the deck in great strides.
"Stop! We've got you!" shouted the showman.
Phil spread out his arms as the fleeing one drew near him, then
threw them about the fellow, holding him in a firm grip.
"I've got him, Mr. Sparling!"
"Leggo of me! What's the matter with you? Anybody would think
this was a high school initiation."
"Teddy," groaned Phil.
"What's that?" demanded the showman jerking Phil and his prisoner
over to an open window through which a faint light was showing.
"It is Teddy Tucker, sir," said Phil releasing his hold.
"What does this mean, sir?" demanded the showman in a
"That's what I want to know. You fellows chase me around the
boat as if I were some kind of a football. It's a wonder one
of you didn't kick me. Lucky for you that you didn't, too, I
can tell you."
"Teddy, come to my cabin at once. Phil, bring him along,
"Yes," answered Phil Forrest. Phil was troubled. He could not
believe it possible that Teddy was guilty of eavesdropping, and
yet the evidence seemed to point strongly in that direction.
Taking firm hold of his companion's arm he led him along toward
Mr. Sparling's cabin.
"What's all this row about?" growled Teddy.
"That is what I hope you will be able to explain to
Mr. Sparling's satisfaction," replied Phil. "However, wait
till we get to his cabin."
Phil led Teddy to the door, thrust him in, then followed, closing
and locking the door.
"Perhaps we had better close that window this time, sir."
Mr. Sparling drew up and locked the window.
"Sit down!" he commanded, eyeing Teddy keenly.
Teddy sat down dutifully and was about to place his feet on the
showman's desk when Phil nudged him.
"Now, sir, what does this mean?"
"What does what mean? I never was any good at guessing riddles."
"What do you mean by eavesdropping at my cabin window?"
"Oh, was that your window?"
"It was and it is. And unless you can offer a satisfactory
explanation, something will have to be done. That is one of the
things that I shall not tolerate. I can scarcely believe you
guilty of such a disgraceful act. Unfortunately, you have
"That you were listening at my window."
"I never said anything of the sort."
"No, not in so many words; but when I asked you what you meant by
doing so, you answered, 'Oh, was that your window?'"
"Certainly I said it."
"Then will you kindly explain why?"
"I wasn't listening at your window. I wasn't within half a
block--half a boat, I mean--of it. What do you think I am?"
"Well, Teddy, for a minute I thought you had been guilty of an
inexcusable act but upon second thought I begin to understand
that it is impossible. There is some misunderstanding here."
Phil looked relieved, but Teddy was gazing at the showman with
"While Phil and myself were holding a confidential conversation
here, someone was listening to us under that window. All at once
the blind fell with a crash--"
"And so did the other fellow," interrupted Teddy, his eyes
lighting up mischievously.
"Phil looked out quickly. He thought he saw someone dodging into
the entrance aft, and at the same time he was sure someone was
doing the same thing forward."
"I was the fellow who dodged in the forward entrance. Then you
fellows started a sprinting match with me."
"Why did you run?"
"Oh, I suppose I might as well tell you all about it."
"Yes, if we are to make any headway it will be best to let you
tell your story in your own way," answered Mr. Sparling with a
"I was halfway between here and the pilot house, sitting
down on the deck, leaning against the side of the deck-house.
I had just gone to sleep, at least I think I had, when I woke
up suddenly. I saw somebody down this way peeping in at
a window. I became curious. I wondered if he was the fellow who
stole my egg, so I got up to investigate. Just then he saw me."
"Well, what happened?"
"He was standing on a box. The box tipped over or he jumped off,
I don't know which. I thought he was chasing me, and I ran."
"Afraid, eh?" jeered Phil.
"No, I wasn't afraid. I just ran because I needed the exercise;
that's all. Do you think he really had my egg?"
"Who was the man, Teddy?"
"How do I know?"
"You saw him. Could you not--did you not recognize him?"
"No, it was too dark. I didn't wait long after I first
discovered him, you know. I thought maybe it was that fellow
Cummings, laying for me. I wish January had finished him
while he had the chance."
"You noticed nothing familiar about him?"
"Yes, I did."
"He looked like some kind of a man," answered Teddy solemnly.
"You say he was standing on a box?"
"Something of the sort."
Mr. Sparling went out, leaving the boys alone for a few minutes.
When he returned he brought with him a small square box which he
examined very carefully.
"Do you recognize it?" asked Phil.
"Yes, it is one in which the candy butcher received some goods.
It might have been picked up by anyone. I will find out where he
left it. This may give us some slight clue. It is quite
evident, boys, that we have among us one or more dangerous men.
Teddy, I offer you my humble apology for having suspected you for
a moment. The thought was unworthy."
"Don't mention it," answered the Circus Boy airily.
TEDDY JOINS THE BAND
"I would suggest that you divide the band into two parts and have
them play on deck as we approach the next stand," said Phil later
"I think that a most excellent plan," decided Mr. Sparling.
"We will work it whenever we get in after daylight. It might
not be a bad idea to try it tomorrow morning. I'll allow the
musicians overtime for it, so there should be no objection on
their part. We will make a triumphal entry into Des Moines,
providing nothing happens to us in the meantime."
Mr. Sparling's face darkened as he thought of the dastardly
attempts that had been made against his young charges.
"I will see the leader before I turn in. You had better go to
bed now, Phil. You have been keeping pretty late hours and
working unusually hard. Good night."
"Good night," answered Phil pleasantly.
Man and boy had come to be very fond of each other, and
Phil Forrest could not have felt a more genuine affection
for Mr. Sparling had the latter been his own father.
"A noble fellow," was Mr. Sparling's comment as the youth walked
away from the cabin.
At half-past three o'clock the next morning the boat's passengers
were awakened by the blare of brass, the crash of cymbals and the
boom of the big bass drum.
They tumbled out of bed in a hurry, for few of them knew of the
plan of the owner to give an early morning concert on the deck of
the "Fat Marie."
Teddy Tucker struck the floor of his cabin broadside on.
"Wake up, Phil! We're late for the show. It's already begun and
here we are in bed."
"Guess again, Teddy," answered Phil sleepily. "Don't you know
where you are?"
"I thought I did, but I don't. Where am I?"
"In our cabin on the ship."
"But the band, the band?"
"It is playing for the benefit of the natives along the shore."
"Oh, pooh! And here I am wide awake. Do you know what time
"It is only twenty minutes of four."
"In the afternoon? Goodness we are late."
"No, in the morning, you ninny. This is a shame. I'll bet that
band concert was your suggestion, Phil Forrest."
Phil admitted the charge.
"Then you must take your medicine with the rest of us. Come out
One of Phil's feet was peeping out from under the covers.
Teddy saw it and grabbed it. Being a strong boy, the mighty
tug he gave was productive of results.
Phil landed on his back on the floor, with a resounding thump and
a jolt that made him see stars.
"Teddy Tucker, look out; I'm coming!"
"You had better look out; I'm waiting."
The two supple-limbed youngsters met in the middle of the cabin
floor and went down together. They were evenly matched, and
the muscles of their necks stood out like whip cords as they
struggled over the floor, each seeking to get a fall from
Teddy managed to roll under the bed, and there they continued
their early morning battle, but under no slight difficulties.
Every time one of the gladiators forgot himself and raised his
head, he bumped it. Phil tried to force Teddy out from under
the bed, but Teddy refused to be forced.
"When--when I get you out of here I am going to do something to
you that you won't like, Teddy Tucker," panted Phil.
"What--what you going to do to me?"
"I'm going to pour a pitcher of cold water on your bare feet."
The thought of it sent Teddy into a nervous chill. He would
rather take a sound thrashing, at any time, than have that done
to him. Now he struggled more desperately than ever to hold Phil
under the bed. At last, however, the boys rolled out and Teddy's
shoulders struck the cabin floor with a bang that sent the
pitcher jingling in the wash bowl.
Phil sprang up, seized the water pitcher, making a threatening
move with it toward his companion.
"Wow! Don't, don't!" howled Teddy.
Phil pursued him around the cabin, the water splashing from the
pitcher to the floor. Teddy yelling like a wild Indian every
time he stepped in the puddles.
The window was open and the band was playing just outside.
Suddenly a new plan occurred to Teddy--a plan whereby he might
escape from his tormentor.
Taking a running start he sprang up, making a clean dive through
the window head-first.
The lad had intended to land on his hands, do a cartwheel and
come up easily on his feet. But the best-laid plans sometimes
The bass drummer was pounding his drum right in line with
the window. Teddy did not see the drum until too late to
change his course. His head hit the drum with a bang.
He went clear through it, his head protruding from the
other side. And there he stuck!
"Oh, wow!" howled the Circus Boy.
The other members of the band, discovering that the drum was
no longer marking time for them, got out of tune and came to
a discordant stop.
The leader, whose side had been toward the drummer at the time,
did not know what had happened. He was furious. He was about
to upbraid them when he discovered the head of Teddy Tucker
protruding from the head of the drum.
The bass drummer paid no attention to him. Instead he grabbed
the offending boy by the feet, bracing his own feet against the
rim of the instrument, and began to pull. The drummer was red
in the face, perspiring and angry.
Teddy popped out like a pea from a pod. The Circus Boy was not
yet out of his trouble. With unlooked-for strength the irate
drummer threw the lad over his knees, face down, and raised the
This drumstick, as our readers well know, is made of heavy
leather--that is the beating end is--and is hard. To add to the
distress of the victim, Teddy was in his pink pajamas and they
The stick came down with more force than seemed necessary.
"Ouch! Stop it! I'll pay you back for keeps for that!"
"Oh, Phil!" Teddy was making desperate efforts to squirm away
now, but his position was such that he was unable to bring his
full strength to bear on the task.
The stick was raised for another blow, but there came an
interruption that took all thought of continuing the punishment
out of the mind of the angry drummer.
"Stop it! I don't want to be a drum!" howled the boy.
A pitcher of water was emptied over the drummer's head, a large
part of the water running down and soaking Teddy to the skin,
causing that young gentleman to howl lustily.
It gave the boy the opportunity he was looking for, however.
With a quick twist he wrenched himself free from the grasp of the
drummer, dropped on all fours and was up and away, a pink streak
along the port side of the "Fat Marie."
Phil had come to the rescue of his companion. He now jerked the
window shut and slammed the blind in place, after which he
quickly got into his clothes, fully expecting that he should have
a call from the bass drummer.
There was a great uproar on deck about that time, with much
shouting and unintelligible language--at least unintelligible
Before he had finished dressing, Teddy came skulking in, rubbing
himself and muttering threats as to what he proposed to do to
"You did it! You did!" he shouted, pointing a finger at
"It strikes me that you did something, too--"
"No I didn't. Something was done to me. I had on my pajamas,
too," wailed the boy. "I'm glad you soaked him, though.
Why didn't you throw the pitcher at him, too?"
"Oh, no, it might have hurt him, Teddy."
"Hurt him? Pshaw! Maybe the drumstick didn't hurt me. Oh, no!"
"Well, get dressed. I will go out and see if I can pour oil on
the troubled waters. You stay here. I don't want you mixing it
up with the drummer. I'll attend to him."
Phil first hunted up Mr. Sparling, whom he found shaving in
"Why good morning, Phil. Why this early call?"
"I called to ask you what a new set of heads will cost for the
"I think they are worth about fifteen dollars. Why do you ask?"
"Because Teddy and myself have just smashed the heads out of the
one belonging to the band."
Mr. Sparling paused in his shaving long enough to glance keenly
at Phil. There was a twinkle in his eyes. He knew that his
Circus Boys had been up to some mischief. Phil was as solemn as
"It was this way," explained the lad, as he related how the
accident had occurred.
Mr. Sparling sat down and laughed.
"Never mind the drum heads. We have others for just such an
emergency, I do not mind a little fun once in a while. We all
have to blow off steam sometimes."
"No, sir; we shall pay for the drum heads. To whom does the
"The drummer, I think."
"Very well; thank you."
Phil hastily withdrew from the cabin and hurried back to his
"Teddy," he said, "I want seven-fifty from you."
"Seven dollars and a half, please."
Teddy began pawing over his trousers. All at once he paused,
looking up at Phil suspiciously.
"You want to borrow seven-fifty, do you?"
"No, I want you to contribute it."
"To the fund."
"What fund? What are you talking about?"
"Those drum heads are worth fifteen dollars and we are going to
pay the owner of the drum for the damage we did. I will give
half and you half."
"What!" shrieked Teddy.
"Come, pay up!"
"What! Give that fellow money when he's taken more than twenty-
five dollars worth out of my hide? I guess not! What kind of an
easy mark do you think I am? Pay him yourself. You did it."
"Teddy, do you want me to give you a good thrashing, right here
"You can't do it. You never could," returned
"Come, hand out the money!"
Teddy eyed his companion for a full minute; then, thrusting a
hand slowly into his own trousers' pocket, brought forth a goodly
roll of bills from which he counted off eight dollars.
"Tell him to keep the change."
"I will, thank you," said Phil with a merry twinkle in his eyes.
"It's like taking candy out of the mouth of a babe. I'll get
more than eight dollars' worth out of that bass--he's baser than
he is bass. Bass sounds like a fish, doesn't it--out of that
bass drummer when I get a good fair chance at him. Sometime when
he isn't looking, you know. I wonder if he could be the fellow
who stole my egg?" questioned Teddy reflectively.
Phil went out laughing, to make his peace with the drummer.
A CAPTURE IN THE AIR
Fortunately, the band carried a new set of heads for the drum,
and the contribution of the boys served to restore the offended
musicians to good nature. Teddy, however, was not appeased.
That youngster vowed that he would take revenge on the bass
drummer at the very first opportunity.
That afternoon, during the performance, Teddy began his
getting-even process by standing in front of the bandstand
between his acts, and making faces at the musicians.
This seemed to amuse them, and brought only smiles to
their faces. Teddy was not there for the purpose of
amusing the band, so he turned his back on them and
tried to think of something more effective.
The show did a great business at Des Moines, having a "turn-away"
at both afternoon and evening performances. The Sparling shows
had played there before, but never to such business, which the
showman decided was due to their novel way of traveling. He knew
that these little novelties frequently made fortunes for
At the evening performance, Teddy had an inspiration. He was
too busy, during the first part of the show, to give his idea a
practical test, but later in the evening, while he was awaiting
his cue to go on in his clown act, he tried the new plan.
The lad had purchased half a dozen lemons from the
refreshment stand. One of these he cut in halves, secreting
the pieces in a pocket of his clown costume; then when the
time came he stationed himself in front of the bandstand
where he stood until he had gained the attention of several
of the musicians.
Teddy took out the two pieces of lemon with a great flourish,
went through the motions of sprinkling sugar over them, then
began sucking first one piece, then the other, varying his
performance by holding out the lemon invitingly to the players.
The bass drum player scowled. Teddy's lemon did not affect the
beating of the drum, but as the lad began to make believe that
the acid juice was puckering his lips, some of the musicians
showed signs of uneasiness.
The Circus Boy observing this, smacked his lips again and again,
and industriously swallowed the juice, though it nearly choked
him to do so.
Very soon some of the players got off the key, their playing grew
uneven and in some instances stopped altogether. The leader
could not understand what the trouble was. He called out angrily
to the offending musicians, but this seemed only to add to
All at once the big German, who played the bass horn, rose from
his seat and hurled his music rack at the offending Teddy Tucker.
Everything on the bandstand came to a standstill, and the
performers in the ring glanced sharply down that way, wondering
what could have happened.
The leader turned and discovered Teddy and his lemons. He was
beside himself with rage. He understood, now, why his musicians
had failed. Teddy sucking the lemon had given many of them
It was an old trick, but it worked as well as if it had been
The Circus Boy was delighted. The leader experienced no
such sensations. With an angry exclamation, he leaped from
the box on which he was standing, aiming a blow at Teddy with
The boy dodged it and ran laughing out into the ring, for it was
now time for him to go on in his next act.