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

Part 4 out of 4

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After a minute or two the band once more collected itself and
the show went on, but there were dire threats uttered against
Teddy Tucker by the leader and players. The bass drummer
grinned appreciatively.

"I wish I could think of something that would tie up that fellow
with the drum," muttered Teddy, gazing off at the drummer with
resentful eyes.

The band leader had no scruples against carrying tales, and
immediately after the performance he hunted up Mr. Sparling and
entered a complaint against the irrepressible Teddy. The result
was that Teddy was given a severe lecture by the showman after
they got on board the boat that night. Then Phil added
a warning.

"Well, what about yourself?" retorted the lad.


"I never stirred up as much roughhouse as you did this morning.
You had better take some of that advice to yourself."

Phil laughed good-naturedly.

"I shall have to admit the impeachment," he said.

It seemed, however, as if the Sparling shows could not get
along without exciting incidents happening at least once in
twenty-four hours. They appeared to follow the Circus Boys,
too, like a plague. It is likely that, had they not followed
the boys, Teddy Tucker would have gone out hunting for them.

The next morning something else occurred that was not a part of
the daily routine. The boats were late and the next stand was
not yet in sight, so the band had not been called to work as
early as on the previous morning. The bandsmen were just
rousing themselves, in response to raps on their cabin doors,
when they heard rapid footsteps on the deck, and excited shouts
from several voices.

Teddy and Phil awakened at about the same time, having been
disturbed by the unusual sounds.

"Now, what is the trouble?" exclaimed Phil.

"Something is going on, and here I am in bed," answered Teddy,
tumbling out and throwing open the blinds.

He saw nothing unusual. The boat was slipping along, enveloped
in a cloud of black smoke. The disturbance seemed to be on the
other side of the vessel.

"Come on, Phil. Let's find out what it is all about.
Maybe the boat has struck a rock and we are sinking.
Wouldn't that be fun?"

"I don't see anything funny about that. It would be serious, and
you and I would be out of a job for the rest of the season."

"Don't you care! I have money. Didn't I give you seven-fifty
yesterday and still have some left?"

"Eight," grinned Phil.

By this time the boys had hurried out into the corridor, and
thence to the deck.

"Well, what do you think of that?" howled Teddy.

"Bruiser is out," exclaimed Phil.

Bruiser was a baboon, whose temper was none too angelic. He was
a big heavy fellow, who never lost an opportunity to vent his
temper on whoever chanced to be within reach.

It seems that on this particular occasion a sleepy keeper was
cleaning Bruiser's cage so that it might be neat and presentable
when the show opened. Bruiser had sat on a trapeze far up in the
cage, watching the proceedings with resentful eyes, perhaps
wondering how he might administer a rebuke to the keeper.

All at once the baboon saw his opportunity. The keeper had
stooped over to pick up something from the floor of the boat,
as he stood at the open door of the cage in the rear.

Bruiser projected himself toward the opening like a catapult.
At that instant the keeper had straightened up and the baboon
hit him squarely in the face. There could be but one result.
The keeper tumbled over on his back.

Chattering joyously, Bruiser began hopping off on all fours.
First he investigated the tops of the cages, running over them
and bringing roars from the animals within. Then he hopped down
and paid a visit to the horses.

January sent a volley of kicks at the beast, but Bruiser was too
quick, and the hoofs passed harmlessly over his head.

About this time the keeper had scrambled to his feet in alarm.
At first he did not know where the baboon had gone, but hearing
the disturbance among the horses he ran that way, soon coming
upon Bruiser. With a scream of defiance, the animal bolted up
the companionway, hurriedly investigated the corridors and the
main cabin, then leaped out through an open window to the
hurricane deck.

Two other men had joined in the chase now, and it was their
shouts that had awakened the Circus Boys.

"Come on, here's sport!" shouted Teddy Tucker starting on a run
after the fleeing Bruiser. The latter tried to climb up the
smoke stack and narrowly missed being captured in the attempt.
At the same time he burned his feet, filling him with rage and
resentment, so that, when the keeper grabbed him, the former's
face was badly scratched.

Round and round the deck ran pursued and pursuers, the baboon
having not the slightest difficulty in eluding his followers,
Teddy chasing gleefully and howling at the top of his
shrill voice.

Others joined the chase, until well nigh half the boat's company
raced yelling up and down the decks. Mr. Sparling was one of
the number, though he devoted most of his attention to directing
the others.

One mast had been erected on the boat from which to fly flags,
and from this rope braces ran off forward and aft.

Finally Bruiser was so hard pressed that he took to this rigging
and ran up one of the ropes to the mast, where he perched on the
end of a spar and appeared to mock his pursuers.

Poles were brought, at the direction of the owner, with which the
men sought to poke Bruiser down. But the poles were too short.
Then the men threw ropes and missiles at the baboon, most of
which went overboard and were lost.

"It is no use. We shall have to wait until he gets ready to come
down," decided Mr. Sparling. "How did he get away?"

The keeper explained.

"He won't come down today," added the man. "That is, so long as
we are here. He is a bad one."

"You do not have to tell me that. Can any of you
offer suggestions? I am not very strong on capturing
escaped animals. Phil, how about it?"

Phil shook his head.

"I have an idea, Mr. Sparling," spoke up Teddy.

"I knew you had, from the expression on your face. What is it?"

"I'll climb up and shake him down."

A loud laugh greeted this remark.

"You couldn't climb up there. The mast is too slippery."

"I'll show you."

"Very well; go ahead."

"Teddy, I think I would keep out of this, were I in your place,"
remarked Phil.

"You keep out of it yourself. I'll show you that I know how
to catch wild beasts. I haven't ridden January all this time
for nothing."

Teddy started in bravely to climb the mast. After a great
struggle he managed to get up about eight feet. Suddenly he
lost his grip and came sliding down, landing at the foot of
the mast in a heap.

A shout greeted his ludicrous drop.

"I think you had better give it up," laughed Mr. Sparling.

"I won't give it up."

"You cannot climb the mast."

"I don't intend to. I have an idea."

"What is your idea?"

"I will show you. Bring me a rope."

The rope was quickly handed to him. The Circus Boy coiled
it neatly, closely observed by the show people, who did not
understand what he was about to do.

"I'm a sailor, you know," he grinned. Measuring the distance
accurately, Teddy swung the coil about his head a few times,
then let it fly up into the air, keeping the free end in one
hand as he did so.

The coil tumbled over the yard or cross piece and came down,
hitting the deck with a thump.

"There. Can you beat that?" he demanded triumphantly.

"Very well done," agreed Mr. Sparling. "Now that it is over,
what do you propose to do next?"

"Watch me!"

The lad made fast one end of the rope to the ship's rail, the
baboon peering down suspiciously.

"Oh, I'm after you, you rascal," jeered Teddy, shaking a fist at
the ugly face above him.

After testing the rope, Teddy began climbing it hand over hand.
Then the spectators divined his purpose.

"The boy is all right," nodded Mr. Sparling approvingly.
"That is the time that he got the best of you, Phil."

"He is welcome to the job," answered Phil. "You haven't captured
the baboon yet."

Teddy, by this time, was halfway up the mast. It seemed a dizzy
climb, but the lad was so used to being up high that he did not
mind it in the least.

"Hey, down there!" he called.

"What is it?"

"Better get out a small net so you can catch him. I'm going to
shake him down as I would a ripe apple. If you catch him in the
net he will tangle himself up so that he cannot get away."

"That is a good idea," approved Mr. Sparling. "Get the net, and
hold it in readiness."

Teddy, in the meantime, was working his way up. After a time his
hands grasped the crossbar and he pulled himself up astride it,
waving one hand to those below him.

Bruiser, however, was not there. The baboon had scrambled to the
top of the mast on which there was a golden ball, and on this he
perched some eight or nine feet above Teddy Tucker's head.

"Now where is your baboon?" called a voice.

"Where he cannot get away from me unless he jumps into the
Mississippi," answered Teddy quickly.

"How are you going to get him?" called Mr. Sparling.

"I'll see when I get to him."

With great caution, the lad climbed up the slender top of
the mast.

Bruiser's tail hung over, while he clung with his feet, glaring
down at Teddy. The baboon realized that he could not get away.

"Come down here!" commanded Teddy, grabbing the beast's tail and
giving it a mighty tug.

Bruiser's grip gave way. Down shot Teddy and the baboon.
But the cross-tree saved him, as the lad figured that it would.
One hand was clinging to Bruiser's tail, the other arm thrown
about the mast.

Now, Bruiser took a hand. With a snarl of rage he fastened
in the hair of Teddy Tucker's head, causing that young man
to howl lustily.

For a moment boy and baboon "mixed it up" at such a lively rate
that it was difficult for the spectators below to tell which was
boy and which baboon. Teddy seemed to be getting the worst
of it.

"Look out! Let go of him! You will be in the river the first
thing you know!" shouted Mr. Sparling warningly.

Teddy did not hear him. He was too busy, at the moment, trying
to keep those savage teeth from fastening themselves in his neck,
for which the beast seemed to be aiming. At the same time the
boy was getting more and more angry. It was characteristic of
Teddy that, the angrier he became, the cooler he grew.

He was guarding himself as best he could and watching his chance
to get the upper hand of his antagonist.

All at once Teddy let drive a short-arm blow at the head of
the baboon.

Few things could withstand that blow, and least of all a baboon.
It landed fairly on the grinning jaws and Bruiser's head jolted
backwards as if it were going right on into the river.

Teddy lost his balance, aided in this by the fact that Bruiser
had fastened to the lad's pajamas.

"They're going to fall!" roared Mr. Sparling. "Catch them!
Catch them!"

The men hastened to move the net, and none too soon, for Teddy
and Bruiser came whirling down, the lad making desperate efforts
to right himself so as to drop on his feet. But the baboon
prevented his doing this.

They struck the net, which was jerked from the hands of the men,
and Teddy hit the deck with a terrific bump.



"Grab the beast!"

Teddy was still clinging to the baboon so firmly that they had to
use force to get Bruiser away from him.

As for the baboon, he was too dazed from the shock of the fall
to offer any resistance, and was quickly captured and returned
to his cage.

Teddy had not fared quite so well. He was unconscious, and for a
time it was feared that he had been seriously injured.

As it turned out, however, he had escaped with nothing worse than
a severe shock and a sprained wrist. A sprain of any sort is
sufficient to lay up a circus performer for sometime. As a
result of his injury, Teddy Tucker did not work again for the
next week; that is, he did not enter the ring, though he was
anxious to do so. Mr. Sparling, however, would not permit it.

Those were glorious days for Teddy. He could not keep away
from the circus lot. He had plenty of time to think up new
ways of tormenting his enemies, some of which he applied from
time to time. The boy was safe, however, for no one felt
inclined to punish a boy who was going around the outfit with
one arm helpless in a sling.

Perhaps Teddy Tucker took advantage of this fact. At least, he
enjoyed himself and, besides, found plenty of time to hunt for
his lost egg. The boy was suspicious of everyone. One time he
became firmly convinced that Mr. Sparling had taken it from him.
The moment the idea occurred to him he hunted up the showman and
demanded to know if the latter had his egg.

"No," answered Mr. Sparling with a twinkle in his eyes, "but I
will try to arrange so you get another."

"You will?"


"Thank you; thank you."

"I am having the show's carpenter make one out of wood."

"I can't eat a wooden egg," protested Teddy.

"Why not? You were going to eat the ostrich egg. The wooden
one will give you indigestion no quicker than the other would
have done."

"I'll tell you what I will do," said the Circus Boy, an idea
suddenly occurring to him.

"I am listening."

"You have the carpenter make an egg and I will circulate the news
that I have another egg. I will leave it in my cabin and keep
watch on the thing. In that way I shall catch the fellow, if he
tries to steal it again. I shan't put it in the trunk. Oh, I'll
talk a lot about that wooden egg."

"I am in hopes we shall hear no more about eggs all the rest
of the trip, after I give you another," said the showman.
"Your idea is not a half-bad one at that. If you catch the
man we are looking for I will make you a nice present."

"What kind of a present?" asked Teddy with an eye to business.

"What would you like?"

"I'll have to think it over. There are so many things I want,
that I do not know which I want most."

"I thought you had money enough to buy whatever you needed.
By the way, how much money have you saved, Teddy?"

"Let me see," reflected the lad, counting up on his fingers.
"Why, I must have a little more than three thousand dollars in
the bank. Mrs. Cahill is taking care of it for me, you know."

"Fine, fine! That is splendid. What are you going to do with
all of that money?"

"I think I will buy out the Sparling shows, someday, when you get
tired of the business and want to sell at any old price,"
answered the boy boldly.

The showman laughed heartily.

"So you think you would like to own a show, do you?"

"Yes, sir, I am going to--Phil and I."

"May I ask when this interesting affair is coming off--this
purchasing of a real circus?"

"I told you. When you get tired of the business we are going to
buy you out."

"You have it planned, eh?"

"Yes, sir; that is, I have. Phil doesn't know anything about
that yet. I haven't told him."

"I thought not. So, while I am paying you to work for me, you
are planning to take my show away from me, are you?" questioned
Mr. Sparling with a smile.

"No, Sir; we are not trying to do anything of the sort. You have
been too kind, and I thank you for all you have done for me,
and--and all you have put up with. You ought to have 'fired'
me a long time ago--I guess you ought to have done it before I
started in the Show business. I'm glad you didn't," added Teddy,
glancing up with a bright smile.

It was the first time Mr. Sparling had ever heard the little
Circus Boy express his appreciation. He patted the
lad affectionately.

"I hope you are feeling quite well, today, my boy. You never
talked this way before. What caused your sudden change
of heart?"

"I--I guess it was the baboon," answered Teddy whimsically.
"Or else, maybe, it was the bump I got when I hit the deck
of the 'Fat Marie.'"

Phil came up and joined them at that moment, waiting for his
turn to go on in his trapeze act for the evening performance.
Mr. Sparling surveyed him keenly. He noted the trim, athletic
figure, the poise of the head and the steady clear eyes that
held one irresistibly.

"You are looking very handsome tonight, Phil," said the owner.

"Thank you, sir. 'Handsome is as handsome does,' as the saying
goes," laughed the Circus Boy. "Are you having the net watched,
Mr. Sparling?"

"Yes, my lad. Two men are keeping close tab on the big spider
web all the time, except in the afternoon, when no one would dare
to tamper with it for fear of being detected."

"I am not so sure of that. You see, I have a personal interest
in that net, seeing that I have to risk my bones over it twice
each day."

"Don't worry. It will be well watched, Phil."

"I take the first drop in it, you know, so if it should give way
you would be minus Phil Forrest."

"Teddy tells me you and he are thinking of buying out the
Sparling shows, eh?"

"Why, Teddy, how could you say such a thing?" demanded
Phil, reddening.

Teddy expostulated, explaining that it was merely a dream in his
own mind, repeating that Phil knew nothing of it.

"I do intend to own a show, as I have told you before,
Mr. Sparling, as soon as I have enough money. I am afraid,
however, that that day is a long way off."

"Perhaps not so far off as you think, Phil. Perhaps both of
you may own a show much sooner than you even dream," said the
showman, significantly. "Well, good night, boys if I do not
see you again."

"What do you think he meant by that?" questioned Teddy.

"I am sure I do not know. Perhaps he thinks we have a future
before us and that we shall make rapid advances. I hope so,
don't you, Teddy?"

"I think I would rather find my egg than have most anything else
just now."

"Oh, hang your egg! There goes my cue. I must get out, now.
Bye, bye. You are a lucky boy not to have to work on this
hot night."

Phil waved his hand and tripped out into the arena. A few
minutes later he was soaring through the air with the
gracefulness and ease of a bird on the wing.

The boys did not meet again until bedtime, for Phil had turned
in immediately upon reaching the boat. Teddy, of course, was
the last one to go to bed, but he was soon asleep after
reaching there.

Phil, on the contrary, had lain awake for some hours, thinking.
He was still seeking a solution to the mystery that had been
disturbing them almost from the beginning of the season.
Twice had an effort been made to do him serious injury at least.
Who could have taken so violent a dislike to him as to wish to
cause his death? There seemed to be no answer to the question.

"I can think of no one, unless it is Diaz," muttered the boy.
"Yet he surely was not one of those who were plotting out on the
lot that night. He would not have had time to get back to the
boat ahead of me. Then again, Teddy was sure that the clown had
been back for more than an hour. He may have had something to do
with laying the trap in the ring for Dimples and myself."

"I am afraid I am not on the right track at all," decided Phil
at last, with a deep sigh.

He was still awake when the "Fat Marie" shook off her moorings
and with a long blast of her siren, drifted out into the stream
and began pounding down the river.

Phil got up, stretched himself, looked out of the window, then
decided to go on deck to get the breeze, for the heat was
stifling in his stateroom. Teddy was sound asleep.

The deck seemed to be deserted. Phil walked over to the rail and
leaning both elbows upon it closed his eyes dreamily.

It must have been fully an hour later when Teddy awakened
suddenly, with a foreboding that something was not as it
should be.

"Phil!" he called.

There was no reply.

"_Phil!_" repeated Teddy in a louder tone.

Failing to get a response, Teddy arose and found his companion's
bed empty. Teddy, knowing that Phil seldom ever left the
stateroom after retiring, decided to go out to look for him.
He investigated the cabin, then going out on dock peered into
every shadow, calling softly for Phil.

Failing to get any trace of his chum, Teddy returned to his
cabin, put on his slippers and went down to the lower deck, where
he made inquiries of the watchman, but with no better success.

Teddy Tucker began to feel alarmed. He hurried to the upper deck
again, once more going over it carefully, as well as the inside
of the boat.

A terrible suspicion began to force itself upon him.

"Man overboard!" bellowed the Circus Boy. "Man overboard!"
He ran through the corridors shouting the startling cry, then
out to the deck repeating it as he ran.

The cry was taken up by others as they rushed from their cabins,
Mr. Sparling among the number.

"Where, where?" shouted the showman. "Who--who--"

"It's Phil! He's gone. He's over there, somewhere, I don't
know where!"



"I can't understand it," Phil mused, as the soft evening breezes
lulled him into slumber.

"What! What!" he cried suddenly. "What is it? I'm falling!"

The deck of the "Marie" all at once seemed to have dropped from
beneath him. He felt himself falling through space. What could
it mean?

With the showman's instinct the Circus Boy quickly turned his
body, spread out his hands and righted himself.

The night was black, and as yet he had not succeeded in
collecting his senses sufficiently to decide what had happened.
He knew that he was falling, but that was all.

There was a sudden splash as his body struck the water.
Phil shot right down beneath it and the waters of the
Mississippi closed over him.

He understood then what had happened, but not for an instant did
he lose his presence of mind. Phil had caught his breath as his
feet touched the water, and now that he had sunk beneath the
surface he began to kick vigorously and work his hands to check
his downward course.

A moment of this and he felt himself rising toward the surface.
Phil was as good a swimmer as he was a performer in the circus
ring, and he felt no nervousness, even though his position at
that moment was a perilous one.

Almost at once he felt his head above the surface of the river,
but his eyes were so full of muddy water that he could see
nothing at all. Instead of trying to swim, Phil lay over on his
back, floated and began blinking industriously to get the water
out of his eyes. He soon found that he could see once more,
though at that moment there was nothing to be seen in the
blackness of the night.

"There's the 'Marie,'" he cried. Phil raised his voice in a good
lusty howl for help, but none heard him. He could see the lights
of the steamboat and they appeared to be far away.

"There is only one thing left for me to do, and that is to strike
out for the shore. I wonder which way the shore is?"

Once more he raised himself in the water, for an instant, and
gazed toward the rapidly disappearing lights of the 'Marie.'

"She is going downstream, so if I swim to the left I should reach
shore after a while," decided the lad.

He did not know that the boat had in the meantime made a sharp
turn to her right and that in turning to the left he would be
swimming downstream, making his attempt to reach shore a
difficult one indeed.

The lad struck out manfully, swimming with long, easy strokes,
aided considerably by the current which was sweeping him
downstream much faster than he thought.

"I'm glad I have only my pajamas on," decided the lad. "If I
had all my clothes on I fear I should have a pretty tough fight.
It's bad enough as it is."

Talking to himself, in order to keep up his courage, he swam
steadily on, now and then pausing to swim on his back to
rest himself. He had gone on for nearly an hour when the
lad began to wonder why he had not reached shore.

"Surely the river cannot be so wide at this point. I must have
drifted downstream considerably. Perhaps I haven't been going in
the right direction at all."

He tried to find out which way the drift was, in order to make
up his mind as to the direction in which the shore lay. In the
darkness, however, he was unable to determine this, so he began
swimming again, trusting to luck to land him on something solid,
sooner or later. He knew that this must occur, but whether his
strength would hold out that long he could not say.

All at once he caught a peculiar drumming sound. It reminded him
of a partridge that he had once heard in the woods, but it seemed
a long way off and he could not identify it.

"I guess it must be my heart, up somewhere near my mouth, that I
hear," said the boy with a short mindless laugh. "Maybe I am
going to pieces. If I am I deserve to drown."

About that time Phil decided to turn over on his back and rest
for a moment.

The instant he did so he uttered a sharp exclamation. His eyes
caught sight of something that he had not seen before. It looked
to him like some giant shadow, from which twinkled hundreds
of lights.

"It is the 'Marie'!" cried the boy. "They are coming back
for me. No, no, it cannot be the 'Marie,' for this boat
is coming from the opposite direction. Yes, it surely is
a steamboat!"

Though Phil did not know it, this was one of the big river
packets bound down the river from St. Louis.

"I must get out of the way, or they will run me down, but I want
to keep close enough so I can hail them. I hope this is where I
get on something solid again."

A few minutes of steady swimming appeared to have taken him out
of the path of the river boat. Then Phil rested, lying on his
back, watching the boat narrowly.

"In almost any other position or place, I might think that was a
pretty sight. As matters stand, now, it looks dangerous to me."

His position was more perilous at that moment than he
even dreamed.

"H-e-l-p! H-e-l-p!" called Phil, in what he thought was a
loud tone.

There were no indications that his cry had been heard by those
on board the steamboat. He tried it again, but with no better
success than before.

"I have simply got to keep on yelling my lungs out until I
attract their attention. I am afraid I shall never reach shore
unless I am picked up. I might be able to keep afloat until
daylight, but I doubt it. I shall get so chilled, before then,
that I shall have to give up. I've got some fight left in me
yet, just the same."

"A-h-o-y, boat! _Help!_"

On came the steamer, steadily.

Suddenly Phil discovered something else. She had changed
her course. The boat seemed to be drawing away from him!
His heart sank, but almost at once, the boat turned again,
following the tortuous channel of the stream.

She now was sweeping almost directly down upon him. He heard
some call on the upper deck.

"They are going to run me down!" he gasped.

Phil threw all his strength into an effort to swim out of the
path of the swiftly moving boat, but he feared he would not be
able to clear her.

The lad uttered a loud shout, then dived deep, coming up at once
only to find himself almost against the side of the moving craft.

He grabbed frantically, hoping that his hands might come in
contact with some projection to which he could cling, but the
slippery sides of the hull slid past him at what seemed almost
express train speed.

He was almost on the point of diving again to get away from the
dangerous spot, when suddenly, his fingers closed over something.
It was a rope, one of the hawsers that had not been fully hauled
in when the boat left the last landing place some miles up
the river.

With a glad cry, both the lad's hands closed over the
precious rope. His joy was short lived. He found himself
dropping back, the river craft still gliding past him.

The rope was paying out over the boat's side in his hands.

Phil Forrest was never more cool in his life, but he now began
to realize the well-nigh hopeless position in which be found
himself placed.

Suddenly the rope ceased paying out with an abruptness that
jerked him clear out of the water. He fell back with a splash,
all but losing hold of the rope as he did so.

"I've got it! I've got it!" exulted the lad. A rush of water
filled his mouth, almost suffocating him.

"I guess I had better keep my mouth closed," thought the boy.

He was directly astern of the steamboat by this time, and this
placed him in a much more favorable position than he had been
while dragging along at the side.

Phil began resolutely to work himself along the rope hand
over hand. It was a desperate undertaking, one calling for
strength and courage of an unusual kind, but he never hesitated.
His breath came in long, steady, sighs, for he was going though
the water at such a rate of speed that breathing was made
doubly difficult.

"It is a good thing I am a circus performer. I should probably
have been at the bottom of the river long ago, had I not been a
ring man."

At last, after what seemed hours of struggling, he had succeeded
in working his way past the stern paddle wheel, and up under the
stern of the ship. He twisted the rope about one arm, and with
his head well out of water lay half exhausted while he was shot
through the water at high speed.

A few minutes of this, and Phil, considerably rested, began to
pull himself up.

Ordinarily this hand over hand climb would have been an easy feat
for the Circus Boy. As it was, however, the lad was forced to
pause every foot or so, and, twisting the rope about an arm and a
leg, hang there between sky and water, gasping for breath, every
nerve and muscle in his body a-quiver.

Few men, no matter how strong nor how great their endurance,
could have gone through what Phil Forest had endured that night.

He was glad to be out of the water, where he was in imminent
danger of being drowned as the boat jerked him along. Of course
he was not obliged to cling to the rope, but the chances of his
reaching shore, were he to let go, he felt were very remote.

"I am glad Teddy is not here," muttered Phil with a half smile
as he thought of his companion back on the "Marie" fast asleep.
"I wonder what he will think when he finds that I am missing?
I hope they do not turn about and come back to look for me, for
I hardly think they will be able to do that and make their next
stand in time."

Once more the lad began pulling himself up the rope. At last,
to his great relief, his fingers closed over the stern rail of
the river boat. Phil pulled himself up as if he were chinning
the bar, though in this case he chinned it only once.

Elbows were braced on the rail, then the right leg was thrown
over and Phil Forrest was high and dry on the deck of a great
river steamer, after an experience that perhaps never had
befallen a human being on the Mississippi before.

He found himself standing face to face with an officer of the
boat, who proved to be the mate. The man was so astonished at
the dripping figure that had come over the stern, that, for the
moment, he did not speak.

"Good evening," greeted Phil politely.

"Who are you?" demanded the mate sternly.

"I guess I am Old Neptune himself. Maybe I am a mermaid.
At least I have just risen from the sea, and mighty glad
I am that I have risen."

The officer seized Phil. Leading the boy to where the light
shone from the main cabin window, he peered into the lad's face.
Evidently fairly well satisfied by his brief glance into the
honest eyes of the Circus Boy, the officer quickly turned and
led Phil to the forward end of the boat, where he summoned the
captain, who was lying down in the pilot house.

"What's this? Whom have you here?"

"I don't know, sir," answered the officer. "He came over the
side half a mile above here."

"What--what's this--came over the side?"

"Yes, sir."


"I saw him. I was standing astern when he climbed over
the rail."

"See here, young man, what does this mean?"

"I fell from a boat, sir, further up the river. I was trying to
swim ashore when you nearly ran me down. You see, I did not know
you were going to make that sharp turn and I did not have time to
get out of the way."

"That is not a likely story, young man. How did you get aboard
this boat? That is what I want to know."

Phil explained that he had caught hold of a rope.

"Is there a rope trailing, mate?"

"I don't know, sir."

"Find out."

The mate returned a few moments later with the information that a
hawser was dragging astern.

"Wonderful!" breathed the captain. "How did you ever do it, and
you only a boy?"

"I am pretty strong, even if I am a boy," smiled Phil.

"What is your name?"

Phil gave it.

"How did you happen to get in the river?"

"I told you I fell in, or something of the sort, from the
'Fat Marie.'"

"Never heard of her."

"I think she was called the 'Mary Jane.'"

"Oh, that's that circus boat--the Sparling Circus?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you belong to the circus?"

"Yes. I am a bareback rider and a trapeze performer."

Both men gazed at him with new interest.

"Well, you beat anything that I ever heard of. You certainly
must be a performer if you did a thing like that. I remember the
pilot's telling me he thought he heard someone cry out from the
river, but as the call was not repeated, he thought he must have
been mistaken. Come in, and we will put you to bed."

"I have no money with me, sir," said the lad. "If you will
extend the courtesies of your craft to me, I will see that you
are well paid after I reach my show once more."

"We will take care of you. Never mind about the pay."

"By the way, where is your next landing place?"


Phil gave a low whistle.

"Where do you want to go?"

"Corinth, I believe is the stand we show at tomorrow."

"That's not far from Memphis. We will land you at Memphis
in the morning and you can take a train back, getting you to
Corinth in plenty of time for your show. I will see that you
have a ticket."

"Thank you ever so much. You are very kind."

The Circus Boy was put to bed and in a few minutes he was sound
asleep, thus far not much the worse for his thrilling experience,
though he was completely exhausted, as he realized after he had
tucked himself in his berth.



It was late when the Circus Boy awoke next morning. A steward
rapped at the door and a suit of officer's clothes, brass buttons
and all was handed in to him.

"With the captain's compliments, sir," said the steward.
"He hopes it will fit you. When you are ready, you will
please come to the saloon for breakfast."

"Thank the captain for me, and say that I can't get there any
too soon," laughed Phil, springing out of bed.

The passengers had all heard the remarkable tale from the captain
that morning, and they were anxious to see the young Circus Boy
who had performed such a plucky act.

Phil entered the dining room, not thinking for a minute that he
would be recognized. When the passengers saw the handsome young
fellow in an officer's uniform, they knew him. Everyone in the
room sprang to his feet and three cheers rang out for
Phil Forrest.

"Speech, speech!" cried someone.

Blushing faintly, Phil glanced about him.

"You cannot expect a boy to make much of a speech before
breakfast, especially after he has been swimming most of
the night. I don't know that I am entitled to any
special credit. I saved only my own life, and I do not
expect to get a medal for it, either. I hope all of you
will visit the Great Sparling Shows at the first opportunity.
Then I shall try to entertain you in a way that I understand
far better than this. I'm very much obliged to you all."

Then Phil sat down. The passengers gave him another cheer,
louder and more enthusiastic than the first. Mr. Sparling would
have been proud of the lad could he have heard that speech.
Phil lost no opportunity to advertise the Sparling shows, and
every passenger on the boat, that morning, made up his mind to
visit the show ere another week had passed.

All the rest of the morning Phil was a hero in the eyes of the
passengers, who followed him wherever he went, asking questions
about his experience in the river, and how he had happened to
fall in, as well as numerous questions about the life of a
circus man.

With regard to his accident, Phil had little to say. He seemed
to wish to avoid discussing the falling-in matter, but his face
took on a serious expression when it was referred to.

At last Memphis was sighted. Phil arranged with the captain
to return the uniform, which he promised to send to St. Louis,
so that his benefactor could get it on the return trip.

As the craft began drawing in toward the dock, the Circus Boy
bade all the passengers good-bye, everyone of whom insisted on
shaking hands with him.

Phil walked off, the passengers giving him three cheers as he
stepped over the gangplank to the dock. Before he had reached
the end of it, he was overtaken by a reporter who had just heard
of Phil's feat and wished an interview.

At first Phil was reluctant to speak.

"I think it will be a good advertisement for the show," he said
to himself. So the Circus Boy related, modestly, the story
of his experience in the river and of his rescue of himself; not
forgetting to say some pleasant things about the Sparling shows,
which would visit Memphis two days hence. That afternoon he saw
his story set forth in the Memphis newspaper. He bought two
papers, one of which he tucked in his pocket, sending the other
to Mrs. Cahill, his guardian. His next move was to start for the
station, to take a train for Corinth. He was already too late to
reach that town in time for the afternoon performance, but he had
wired Mr. Sparling that he was safe.

As it happened the lad reached the show grounds before his
message had been delivered. Mr. Sparling, well nigh beside
himself with worry, had telegraphed to all points passed by their
boats, begging that neither effort nor expense be spared to find
his Circus Boy.

The showman was standing in front of his office tent, that
afternoon, at about three o'clock, his broad-brimmed slouch hat
pulled well down over his eyes, his hands thrust deep in his
trousers pockets.

Off under the big top the band was playing a lively tune,
and the side-show people were out in front sunning themselves,
all discussing Phil Forrest's mysterious disappearance.

After a short time, Mr. Sparling espied a young man in uniform
coming on the lot. He did not pay much attention to the
stranger, thinking the fellow was a police officer or something
of the sort.

As the young man drew nearer, however, the showman thought he
noted something familiar in the springy step and the poise of
the body.

"Now, who is that?" he muttered. "Somehow I seem to know
that youngster."

Others about the main entrance were also looking in his direction
about that time. Still no one seemed to recognize the young man.

All at once the showman tilted up the rim of his hat and gazed
more keenly.

"Phil!" he shouted, casting the hat aside and running forward
with outstretched arms. "It's Phil, it's Phil Forrest!"

A moment more and Mr. James Sparling had clasped his little
Circus Boy about the waist, hugging him delightedly. There was a
suspicious moisture in the eyes of the showman, which he sought
to hide from Phil.

"Phil! Phil! Where have you been?" he cried leading the boy
toward the office tent. "And that uniform--what does it mean?"

"I will tell you all about it as soon as I get my breath,"
laughed the lad.

By this time the others out in front had hurried forward,
showering questions upon the boy, all of which he answered
without giving very much information. He wished to talk with
Mr. Sparling first of all.

"Where is Teddy?" was almost his first question.

"He is in the big top at work."

"I presume he was considerably excited when he missed me, was
he not?"

"Yes, at first, but since then he has not said much. Teddy is
a queer boy."

The word was quickly passed that Phil had returned safe and
sound, and ten minutes after his arrival every man and woman
in the show had heard the news. There was great rejoicing.

Teddy was going through his clown act when he first heard the
rumor that Phil was back. Teddy waited until he had worked
around to the entrance to the menagerie tent when he suddenly
darted through, leaving his work and the ring, a most serious
breach of discipline. Teddy, however, did not care. He was
willing to be fined. He bolted through the main entrance like
a miniature tornado, to the amazement of the door tenders.

"Where's Phil?" he shouted.

One of the doormen pointed to Mr. Sparling's office tent.

The little clown was off on a run.

"Hey, Phil, you old rascal! Where have you been?" he demanded,
dashing into the small tent.

"I have been out for a swim, old fellow. Did you miss me?"

"I nearly broke my neck thinking about you this afternoon.
Landed on my head in the leaping act, and I've got a pain
in my neck yet."

"Young man, what are you doing here?" demanded the
showman, sternly.

"Same thing you are. Seeing Phil."

"Get back to your act!"

"I'm off. I'll see you later, Phil, then we will talk it over."

"We will, Teddy," and Teddy was off at top speed to take
up his performance where he had so abruptly left it a few
minutes before. The ringmaster had not missed him, though
he saw at once that the boy was not on his station, when
Teddy began to work again.

"Now, Phil, we will hear all about it. How in the name of the
Sparling shows did you get into that uniform?"

"The captain of the river boat that picked me up fitted me out."

"So you really fell in?"

"I got _in,_ right."

"Tell me all about it."

The Circus Boy related his experiences from the time he found
himself in the river, until his arrival in Memphis that morning.

"Marvelous--almost unbelievable," breathed Mr. Sparling as the
tale was unfolded. "I never heard anything to compare with it."

When Phil told of his speech in the dining saloon of the river
steamboat, Mr. Sparling leaned back with hands on his hips,
laughing immoderately.

"Oh, Phil, you are the sort from which great showmen are made!"

Phil handed over the Memphis paper with the account of his
experience, which the showman glanced over briefly.

"That will give us another turn-away in Memphis. You can't stop
them, after that. They will come to the show even if they have
to fight their way in. That was a great stroke of enterprise,
but I would rather it had not happened, of course."

"What--the interview?"

"No, of course not. I mean your accident."

"It is all right, Mr. Sparling. I am here now, and none the
worse for my bath, but for a time I surely thought I was a goner.
I would not care to go through that experience again."

"I should say not. Yours was the most wonderful escape I ever
heard of. I'll wager there was never anything like it before on
this river."

Mr. Sparling paused suddenly and bent a keen, searching glance on
Phil Forrest's face. The lad felt that he knew what was in the
mind of his employer.


"Yes, sir."

"You have not told me everything, yet."

"What makes you think that, Mr. Sparling?"

"Because I know you so well. There is something on your mind
that you have not told me. I want to know what it is."

Phil's eyes were lowered to the green grass at his feet. For a
moment he was silent and thoughtful.

"What is it you wish me to tell you, Mr. Sparling?" he asked in a
low voice.

"You have not given me a satisfactory explanation of how you came
to get into the river."

"Perhaps I fell in," answered the lad with a faint smile.

"Perhaps. But you have not said so. I want you to tell me how
you did get in."

"I think I was thrown in, Mr. Sparling," answered the
Circus Boy quickly.

"Thrown in!" exclaimed the showman, leaping to his feet, his face
working convulsively in his effort to control his emotions.
"Phil Forrest, do you mean that?"

"I do."

Mr. Sparling sat down helplessly.

"Is it possible?"

"I am sure of it, sir."

"Had anyone but you told me that I should have laughed. I know
I can depend upon what you say. Tell me more about it?"

"As I have already said, I was leaning on the rail and dropped
off into a doze. How long I had been in that position I do
not know. I could not have been there many minutes, or I
should have gone so soundly asleep that I would have fallen
over to the deck, you know."

"Yes, yes."

"All at once I felt myself being lifted. At first, as I remember
it, the sensation was as if the deck were dropping from under me.
As I recalled the incident afterwards, I realized that I had
been lifted. You know all that occurred after that."

"Was there more than one who threw you overboard?"

"I am unable to say. I did not even see one," said Phil with
a half-smile. "I felt myself being lifted--that's all. The next
minute I was in the river, with the 'Marie' pounding away
downstream at a lively clip."

"Dastardly! Dastardly!" growled the showman. "I shall send for
a detective to meet us in Memphis tomorrow. This thing has gone
far enough."

"I think I agree with you, sir," was Phil's half-humorous answer.
"But I had been in hopes of solving this mystery myself."

"Yes, and you came near losing your life as the result.
No, sir! This thing must be cleared up at once. I shall wire to
St. Louis now, and we will have a man with us sometime tomorrow.
Say nothing to anyone of my plan. The detective will join
the show in some capacity or other, and have regular duties
to perform. You will know him, but no one else will
except myself. I think the Roman races are about due under the
big top now. Suppose you go in and change your clothes, joining
me at my table after you come out. We will talk these matters
over at length this evening. When the officer reaches here I
shall expect you to tell him freely all that you know as well
as what you suspect. Keep nothing from him. Run along, Phil.
I want to think this matter over by myself for a few minutes."

As Phil entered the big top the Roman races were just coming on.
The chariot drivers, with their prancing steeds, had entered
the arena.

Phil paused to wait until the fast and furious races were over.
The leading woman chariot driver was trying out a new three-horse
team; that is, two of the horses were new to the work, the third,
being an old hand. The new animals were spirited, and after the
first round of the arena, Phil saw that they were nervous.

"I am afraid she is going to have trouble with that pair,"
muttered Phil with a shake of his head. "If she can keep them
up to the mark, they will outrun anything in the show today."

The new team fairly tore around the arena. They won the first
races easily, then lined up in the center to await the finals
which were to follow a few minutes later.

The ringmaster's whistle trilled for the successful drivers to
swing out into the concourse. They were driving furiously,
almost before the echoes of the whistle had died away.

Making the turn at the lower end of the track in safety, the two
teams in the race squared away down the home stretch. All at
once Phil saw that something was wrong. The leading chariot was
swaying dizzily, and the driver was trying with all her strength
to pull the plunging animals down.

Suddenly the wheel on the inner side slipped from its axle and
went rolling off into the center of the arena. The axle dropped
to the turf, caught, then turned the chariot bottom side up.

The woman driver was hurled off into the center in the wake of
the careening wheel, landing on her head and shoulders beside the
center platform.

The team did not stop, however. It started directly across the
arena, in a diagonal course.

"She is hurt!" cried Phil. "Somebody will be killed unless that
wild team is stopped!"

Giving no thought to the danger to himself, Phil Forrest darted
across the arena and leaped for the bridles of the plunging,
frightened animals.



It seemed a foolhardy thing to do, but Phil understood exactly
how to go about it. If he were able to turn the team, he would
undoubtedly save them from plunging into the seats where hundreds
of people were sitting. A trained circus horse always will avoid
the spectators, but there is no accounting for what a green
animal will do.

Grasping the bit of the animal nearest to him, Phil threw his
whole weight into the effort. To his intense satisfaction the
team swerved, half turned and dashed across the arena again.
This time, however, they did not go far. The outfit smashed into
the main center pole, and Phil went on, sitting down violently in
the middle of the concourse, unhurt, but more or less shaken up.

By that time ring attendants had caught the frightened horses.
All danger was over.

Phil Forrest was loudly cheered by the spectators, but his
borrowed officer's uniform was a hopeless wreck. It was torn
beyond any possibility of repair.

Upon investigation, which Phil made at once, he found that the
cap that held the chariot wheel in place, had been removed.
No trace of it ever was found, and Phil well knew that the
mysterious enemy was once more at work. The news was conveyed
to Mr. Sparling, with the information that Phil had gleaned.

He also bore the unwelcome tidings to his employer that their
leading woman chariot driver had broken both arms and that she
would not perform again that season, if ever again.

Mr. Sparling was so angered over this latest outrage that he was
scarcely able to control himself. Yet he knew that it would be
best to maintain silence until the detective had had an
opportunity to make an investigation. Some of the circus people,
however, had voiced a suspicion that the accident was a
deliberate attempt to do the show an injury, and this was quickly
passed from lip to lip, until almost everyone had heard it.
The show people accepted the situation quietly, as was their
wont, nevertheless they were very much excited. There was no
telling when they themselves might fall victims to the mysterious
enemy, and each one vowed to run down the scoundrel who they knew
must be a member of the circus family.

Phil made some guarded inquiries, but was unable to learn
whether or not anyone had been observed about the chariots
that day. The hub cap, of course, might have been removed
while the chariots were still on the boat, but in that event
its loss would no doubt have been noticed, for the caps were
of brass, large and prominent.

Phil decided that the act must have been committed just before
the chariots were driven into the arena for the Roman races.

In this, Phil Forrest was right.

The solution of the mystery was at hand, however, and was to come
in a most unexpected manner.

Supper had been eaten, and most of the performers were out on
the lot, enjoying the balmy air of the early evening for the few
moments left to them before they would be obliged to repair to
the dressing tent to make ready for the evening performance.

Phil decided to go in, after finishing a talk with Mr. Sparling
in the latter's private tent. As the lad passed through the
menagerie tent the attendants were lighting the gasoline lamps
there and hauling them up the center poles.

Under the big top, however, one could not see half its length.
The lights there would not be turned on for fifteen or twenty
minutes yet. Not a person was in sight as Phil entered the tent,
making his way slowly down the concourse. He paused half-way
down, seating himself on a grandstand chair in one of the arena
boxes, where he thought over the latest exploit of the
show's enemy.

"This time they were not after me, but after the outfit itself,"
he muttered. "That is the time the fellow showed his hand, and
it gives me an idea. I--hello, there is someone who acts as if
he did not wish to be seen."

Phil sat still and watched. Someone had slipped in under the
tent down at the other end, directly across the arena from where
the bandstand was located. It had now become so dark in the tent
that Phil could not make out the fellow's features. In fact, the
man was a mere shadow.

"I wonder what he is doing there?"

Then a thought struck Phil Forrest like a blow.

"That's where they put the big net between performances."

Phil crept down into the arena and made his way back to the
entrance to the menagerie tent, where he quickly slipped out
into the open and ran down along the outside of the big top
at his best speed. As he drew near the spot where he had seen
the man, he moved cautiously.

Finally Phil dropped down and peered under the tent. He was less
than ten feet from where the fellow was at work. The Circus Boy
could catch a "rip, rip" now and then.

"The fiend is cutting the net," he muttered. "I wonder who
he is. Ah, I know him now! He is one of the tent men. I never
thought he was in this thing. I must catch him--I must make the
attempt, for he may get away. I don't even know the fellow's
name, nor do I understand his enmity toward the show or myself."

Phil wriggled in under the tent, now, not fearing discovery, for
inside the tent, it was quite dark. Slowly raising himself to
his feet, he edged nearer, step by step, to where the man was
at work. The man had partly spread the net out by this time,
to make sure that he was cutting it in the right place so that
it would give way beneath the weight of the performer unfortunate
enough to drop into it first.

"The fiend!" repeated Phil, clenching his fists. "I'm glad I am
the one to discover him. Mr. Man, I have a score to settle with
you and I'm going to begin the settling up now."

Phil crouched low. He was now only a few feet from the
stooping figure.

All at once the boy threw himself forward. He landed on the man,
forcing him to the ground. As he struck, Phil raised his voice
in the showmen's rallying cry.

"_Hey, Rube!_" he shouted in a sing-song voice that was heard in
the dressing tents and even out in the menagerie tent.

His first care, then, was to pinion the man so he could not use
his hands, for the Circus Boy knew that his captive had a knife
in one hand.

Men came running from all directions, Mr. Sparling among the
number, for he had been in the menagerie tent when the cry
reached him, and feared some fresh trouble was at hand.

"What is it? Where is it?" roared the showman.

"Here, here! Bring lights. Bring--"

The man beneath him began to struggle. In fact the fellow
staggered to his feet, the boy being too light to hold him down.

Phil grabbed him about the waist, pinioning the man's arms to
his sides. Then began a desperate struggle, during which the
combatants fell to the ground, rolling over and over in their
fierce battle.

"It's Phil Forrest!" shouted the owner.

He sprang forward and with a mighty tug, jerked the tentman free
of the Circus Boy's body. At that instant the fellow leaped to
his feet and started to run.

"Stop him!" howled Phil.

Teddy, who had come running up, suddenly stooped over and
constituting himself a battering ram, ran full tilt into the
tentman, the boy's head landing in the pit of the circus
hand's stomach. The fellow went down, whereupon Teddy
promptly sat on him until the others reached the scene.

"Now, what does this mean?" demanded the showman sternly.

"It means that I caught this fellow cutting the net. If you will
look at it you will find it to be badly mutilated, I think."
An examination proved that Phil was right. Mr. Sparling had all
he could do to prevent the angry circus men from wreaking their
vengeance on the wretch then and there.

Teddy, in the meantime, had been peering into the man's face.

"I know him! I know him!" howled the Circus Boy, dancing about.

"You know him?"

"Yes, do you remember Bad Eye who was mixed up with Red Larry,
the fellow we sent to jail two or three seasons ago?"


"That's Bad Eye," pointing to the prisoner, "and he is bad
medicine, besides."

"Is it possible?" muttered Phil, a new light breaking over him.

Suddenly Teddy uttered a yell.

"I've got him! He's the fellow who stole my egg." Teddy made a
dive for the prisoner, but strong hands pulled him away.

Bad Eye, it developed, smarting under the punishment that had
been meted out to his companion, had once more joined the show,
determined upon revenge. He had in the meantime grown a full
beard, so that no one recognized him. Now, Phil Forrest knew why
the voice was dimly familiar to him when he had heard it that
night out on the lot.

Caught red-handed, Bad Eye made a full confession. And to the
surprise of everyone, he implicated Manuel, the assistant to
the Spanish clown. Bad Eye admitted having thrown Phil Forrest
overboard, as well. He denied having stolen Tucker's egg,
placing the full responsibility for this on the shoulders
of Manuel.

What was done with the egg was never known, though Manuel was
believed to have thrown it overboard. Diaz, after his one
violent outbreak, had made no further evil attempts.

Bad Eye and Manuel were tried and convicted in due time, and
placed where they would do the show no further harm.

The show went on, and after several successful weeks, reached
New Orleans, where the final performance of the season was given.
All hands then turned their faces northward. Teddy and Phil
decided to take a steamship for New York, thence proceeding to
their home by train. Each lad was a few thousand dollars richer
than when he had joined out in the spring.

They waved their adieus to Mr. Sparling from the deck of an ocean
steamer next morning as the big ship slowly poked its nose out
into the gulf.

"You can't down the Circus Boys," said Phil, with a pleased smile
as they leaned over the rail.

"At least, not this season," added Teddy.

But the exciting experiences of the Circus Boys were not yet at
an end. The lads will be heard from further in another volume,
under the title: "THE CIRCUS BOYS ON THE PLAINS; Or, The Young
Advance Agents Ahead of the Show."

In this forthcoming volume the lads pass through a phase of
circus life never experienced by them before. They will find,
too, that all the thrills of the circus life are not confined
to the sawdust arena, but that there is every whit as much
excitement and real peril in the daily life of the advance man
on the advertising car ahead of the show.

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