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The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings Or Making the Start in the Sawdust Life

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Phil climbed up, but with more caution than Teddy had exercised
in the case of the band wagon.

"Anybody living in this bedroom tonight?" questioned Phil of the

"Guess you are. First come first served. Pile in. You're the
kid that rode the bull, ain't you?"

"And twisted the tiger's tail," added Teddy.

"All right. Probably some others will be along later, but I'll
see to it that they don't throw you out."

"Thank you. Come on up, Teddy; it's all right."

Teddy Tucker hastily scrambled up into the wagon which proved to
be a canvas wagon--an open wagon, over which a canvas cover was
stretched in case of storm only.

"Where's the bed clothes?" demanded Teddy.

"I guess the skies will have to be our quilts tonight," answered

The boys succeeded in crawling down between the folds of the
canvas, however, and, snuggling close together, settled down for
their first night on the road with a circus. Soon the wagons
began to move in response to a chorus of hoarse shouts. The
motion of the canvas wagon very soon lulled the lads to sleep, as
the big wagon show slowly started away and disappeared in the
soft summer night.



"Hi! Stop the train! Stop the train!" howled Teddy, as he
landed flat on his back on the hard ground.

"Here, here! What are you fellows doing?" shouted Phil,
scrambling to his feet.

"I dreamed I was in a train of cars and they ran off the track,"
said Teddy, struggling to his feet and rubbing his shins
gingerly. "Did you do that?"

"You bet. Think I can wait for you kids to take your beauty
sleep? Don't you suppose this show's got something else to do
besides furnish sleeping accommodations for lazy kids? Take hold
here, and help us get this canvas out if you want any breakfast."

"Take it out yourself," growled Teddy, dodging the flat of the
canvasman's hand.

The lads had been hurled from their sleeping place by a rough
tentman in a hurry to get at his work. The chill of the early
dawn was in the air. The boys stood, with shoulders hunched
forward, shivering, their teeth chattering, not knowing where
they were and caring still less. They knew only that they were
most uncomfortable. The glamor was gone. They were face to face
with the hardships of the calling they had chosen, though they
did not know that it was only a beginning of those hardships.

"B-r-r-r!" shivered Teddy.

"T-h-h-h-at's what I say," chattered Phil.

"Say, are you kids going to get busy, or do you want me to help
you to?"

Phil did not object to work, but he did not like the way the
canvasman spoke to them.

"I guess you'll have to do your own work. Come on, Teddy; let's
take a run and warm ourselves up."

Hand in hand the lads started off across the field. The field
was so dark that they could scarcely distinguish objects about
them. Here and there they dodged wagons and teams that stood like
silent sentinels in the uncertain light.

"Turn a little, Teddy. We'll be lost before we know it, if we
don't watch out--"

"Ouch! We're lost already!"

The ground seemed suddenly to give way beneath them. Both lads
were precipitated into a stream of water that stretched across
one end of the circus lot.

Shouting and struggling about they finally floundered to the
bank, drenched from head to foot. If they had been shivering
before, they were suffering from violent attacks of ague now.

"Whew! I'm freezing to death!" cried Phil.

"I feel like the North Pole on Christmas morning," added Teddy.
"I wish I was home, so I could thaw out behind the kitchen

"Brace up, Teddy. This is only the beginning of the fun. We
shall have worse experiences than this, late in the fall, when
the weather gets cool; that is, if they do not get enough of us
in the meantime and send us away."

"I--I wish they would send us home now."

"Come now; we've got to run again. We shall surely take our
death of cold, if we stand here much longer."

"Run? No, thank you. I've had one run."

"And you don't want another? Is that it?"

"Not I."

"Don't know as I blame you. Well, if you don't want to run, just
stand in one place and jump up and down. Whip your hands, and
you'll see how soon it will start your blood to circulating,"
advised Phil, who immediately proceeded to put his own theory
into execution. "That feel better?"

"Yes, some," replied Teddy, rather doubtfully. "But I could be
warmer. I wonder what time the cook tent will be up."

"That's an idea. Suppose we go over and find out?"

"Yes, but where is it?"

"I don't know. But we won't find it if we stand here."

They started off again, this time exercising more caution as to
where their feet touched. They had not gone far before they came
upon some men who were driving small stakes in the ground,
marking out the spot where one of the tents was to be pitched.

"Can you tell us where the cook tent is going up?" asked Phil

"North side of the field," grunted the man, not very

"Which way is north?"

"Get a compass, get a compass," was the discourteous answer.

"He's a grouch. Come along," urged Teddy Tucker.

A few moments later, attracted by a light that looked like a
fire, the lads hurried toward it.

"Where will we find the cook tent?" questioned Phil again.

"Right here," was the surprising answer.

"What time will it be ready?"

"About seven o'clock. What's the matter, hungry?"

"More cold than hungry," replied Phil, his teeth chattering.

"Got to get used to that. Come here. I've got something that
will doctor you up in no time," announced the man in a cheerful
voice, so different from the answers the lads had received to
their questions that morning, that they were suddenly imbued with
new courage.

"What is it?" asked Phil.

"Coffee, my lad. We always make coffee the first thing when we
get in, these chilly mornings. The men work much better after
getting something warm inside them. Got a cup?"

They had not.

"Wait, I'll get you one," said the accommodating showman.

Never had anything tasted so good as did the coffee that morning.
It was excellent coffee, too, and the boys drank two cups apiece.

"We mustn't drink any more," warned Phil.

"Why not?" wondered Teddy.

"Because we shall be so nervous that we shall not be able to work
today. And, by the way, were I in your place, I should get busy
here and help in the cook tent until you are told to do something
else. I think it will make a good impression on Mr. Sparling."

Teddy consented rather grudgingly.

"I'll turn in and do something at the same time. What can we do
to help you, sir? That coffee was very good."

"Might get busy and unpack some dishes from those barrels. Be
careful that you don't break any of them."

"All right. Where shall we put them?"

"Pile them on the ground, all the dishes of the same size
together. Be sure to set a lantern by them so nobody falls over
them in the dark."

The boys, glad of some task to perform, began their work with a
will. With something to do it was surprising how quickly they
forgot their misfortunes. In a short time they were laughing and
joking with the good-natured cooktent man and making the dishes
fairly fly out of the barrels.

"Guess I'll have to keep you two boys with my outfit," grinned
the showman.

"I think Mr. Sparling said my friend, Teddy here, was to work in
the cook tent for the present."

"All right, Mr. Teddy. There's one thing about working in the
cook tent that ought to please you."

"What's that?"

"You can piece between meals all you want to. If you are like
most boys, you ought to have a good healthy appetite all the
time, except when you are sleeping."

"That's right. I could eat an elephant steak now--right this
minute. How long before breakfast?"

"Seven o'clock, I told you."

"What time does Mr. Sparling get up?" inquired Phil.

"Up? Ask me what time he goes to bed. I can answer one question
as well as the other. Nobody knows. He's always around when you
least expect him. There he is now."

The owner was striding toward the cook tent for his morning cup
of coffee.

"Good morning, sir," greeted the boys, pausing in their work long
enough to touch their hats, after which they continued unpacking
the dishes.

"Morning, boys. I see you are up early and getting right at it.
That's right. No showman was ever made out of a sleepy-head.
Where did you sleep last night?"

"In a wagon on a pile of canvas," answered Phil.

"And they threw us out of bed this morning," Teddy informed him,
with a grimace.

Mr. Sparling laughed heartily.

"And we fell in a creek," added Teddy.

"Well, well, you certainly are having your share of experiences."

"Will you allow me to make a suggestion, Mr. Sparling?" asked

"Of course. You need not ask that question. What is it?"

"I think I ought to have some sort of a costume if I am to
continue to ride Emperor in the grand entry."

"H-m-m-m. What kind do you think you want?"

"Could I wear tights?"

Mr. Sparling was about to laugh, but one glance into the earnest
eyes of Phil Forrest told him that the boy's interest was wholly
in wishing to improve the act--not for the sake of showing
himself, alone.

"Yes, I think perhaps it might not be a bad idea. You go tell
Mrs. Waite to fix you up with a suit. But I would prefer to have
you wear your own clothes today."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

"I'll tell you why. I telegraphed on to my advance man all about
you last night, and what you did yesterday will be spread all
over town here today. It will be a rattling good advertisement.
You and the tiger are my best drawing cards today," smiled Mr.

"Glad I have proved of some use to you, sir."

"Use? Use?"

"Yes, sir."

"Don't be a fool!" exploded the showman, almost brutally.

Phil's countenance fell.

"Don't you understand, yet, that you already have been worth
several thousand dollars to me?"


"Well, don't get a swelled head about it, for--"

"There is no danger of that, sir."

"And you don't have to potter around the cook tent working,
either. That is, not unless you want to."

"But, I do, Mr. Sparling. I want to learn everything there is to
be learned about the show business," protested Phil.

Mr. Sparling regarded him quizzically.

"You'll do," he said, turning away.

As soon as the dressing tent had been erected and the baggage was
moved in, Phil hurried to the entrance of the women's dressing
tent and calling for Mrs. Waite, told her what was wanted.

She measured his figure with her eyes, and nodded

"Think I've got something that will fit you. A young fellow who
worked on the trapeze fell off and broke a leg. He was just
about your size, and I guess his tights will be about right for
you. Not superstitious, are you?"

Phil assured her he was not.

"You will be, after you have been in the show business a while.
Wait, I'll get them."

Phil's eyes glowed as he saw her returning with a suit of bright
red tights, trunk and shirt to match.

"Oh, thank you ever so much."

"You're welcome. Have you a trunk to keep your stuff in?"

"No; I have only a bag."

"I've got a trunk in here that's not in use. If you want to drag
it over to the men's dressing tent you're welcome to it."

Phil soon had the trunk, which he hauled across the open paddock
to the place where the men were settling their belongings. He
espied Mr. Miaco, the head clown.

"Does it make any difference where I place my trunk, Mr. Miaco?"

"It does, my lad. The performers' trunks occupy exactly the same
position every day during the show year. I'll pick out a place
for you, and every morning when you come in you will find your
baggage there. Let me see. I guess we'll place you up at the
end, next to the side wall of the dressing room. You will be
more by yourself there. You'll like that, won't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Going in in costume, today?"

"No, sir. Mr. Sparling thought I had better wear my own clothes
today, for advertising purposes."

Miaco nodded understandingly.

"Then you'll want to fix up again. Been in the gutter?"

"I fell into a ditch in the darkness this morning," grinned Phil.

"You'll get used to that. Mr. Ducro, the ringmaster, carries a
lantern with him so he won't fall in, but none of the rest of us
do. We call him Old Diogenes because he always has a lantern in
his hand. If you'll take off that suit I'll put it in shape for


"Sure. You'll have to get used to that."

Phil retired to the further end of the tent where his trunk had
been placed in the meantime, and there took off his clothes,
handing them to the head clown. Mr. Miaco tossed the lad a bath
robe, for the morning was still chilly.

"After you get broken in you will have to do all this for
yourself. There's nothing like the show business to teach a
fellow to depend upon himself. He soon becomes a
jack-of-all-trades. As soon as you can you'll want to get
yourself a rubber coat and a pair of rubber boots. We'll get
some beastly weather by-and-by."

The good-natured clown ran on with much good advice while he was
sponging and pressing Phil's clothes. When he had finished, the
suit looked as if it had just come from a tailor shop.

Phil thanked him warmly.

"Now, you and I will see about some breakfast."

Reaching the cook tent, the first person Phil set eyes on was his
chum, Teddy Tucker. Teddy was presiding over the big nickel
coffeepot, his face flushed with importance. He was bossing the
grinning waiters, none of whom found it in his heart to get
impatient with the new boy.



"Another turn-away," decided a ticket taker, casting his eyes
over the crowds that had gathered for the afternoon performance.

"I guess Mr. Sparling knows his business pretty well," mused
Phil. "He knows how to catch the crowd. I wonder how many of
them have come here to see me. How they would look and stare if
they knew I was the kid that twisted the tiger's tail."

Phil's color rose.

It was something for a boy who had been a circus performer for
less than two days to have his name heralded ahead of the show as
one of the leading attractions.

But Phil Forrest had a level head. He did not delude himself
with any extravagant idea of his own importance. He knew that
what he had done was purely the result of accident.

"I'll do something, someday, that will be worthwhile," he told

Phil's act that afternoon was fully as successful as it had been
on the previous day back in his home town. Besides, he now had
more confidence in himself. He felt that in a very short time he
might be able to keep his feet on the elephant's head without the
support of Emperor's trunk. That would be an achievement.

On this particular afternoon he rode with as much confidence as
if he had been doing it all the season.

"You'll make a performer," encouraged Kennedy. "You've got the
poise and everything necessary to make you a good one."

"What kind, do you think?"

"Any old kind. Do you get dizzy when up in the air?"

"I don't remember that I have ever been up much further than
Emperor hoists me," laughed Phil.

For the next two minutes the man and the boy were too busy with
their act to continue their conversation. The audience was
enthusiastic, and they shouted out Phil Forrest's name several
times, which made him smile happily.

"What would you advise me to do, Mr. Kennedy?" he asked as the
elephants started to leave the ring, amid the plaudits of the

"Ever try the rings?"

"Yes, but not so high up as those that Rod and his partners
perform on."

"Height doesn't make much difference. Get them to let the rings
down so you can reach them, then each day raise them a little
higher, if you find you can work on them."

"Thank you. Perhaps I'll try it this afternoon. I am anxious to
be a real performer. Anybody could do this. Though it's easy, I
think I might work up this act of ours to make it rather funny."

It will be observed that Phil was rapidly falling into the
vernacular of the showman.

"If you've got any ideas we'll thresh them out. Emperor will be
willing. He'll say yes to anything you suggest. What is it?"

"Don't you think Mr. Sparling would object?"

"Not he. Wait till I get the bulls chained; then we'll talk."

After attending to his charges, Mr. Kennedy and Phil stepped
behind the elephants and sat down on a pile of straw against the
side walls of the menagerie tent.

Phil confided at length what he had in mind, Kennedy nodding from
time to time as Phil made points that met with the trainer's

"Boy, you've got a head on you a yard wide. You'll make your
everlasting fortune. Why, I'd never even thought of that

"Don't you think I had better speak to Mr. Sparling?"

Kennedy reflected for a moment.

"Perhaps you had better do so. But you needn't tell him what it
is. We'll give them a surprise. Let's go see the property man
and the carpenter. We'll find out what they can do for us."

Slipping out under the canvas, the two hurried back to the
property room, an enclosure where all the costumes were kept,
together with the armor used in the grand entry, and the other
trappings employed in the show, known as properties.

Mr. Kennedy explained to the property man what was wanted. The
latter called in the carpenter. After consulting for a few
minutes, they decided that they could give the elephant trainer
and his assistant what they sought.

"When will you have it ready?"

"Maybe in time for tonight's performance, but I can't promise for

"Thank you," exclaimed Phil, hurrying away to consult with Mr.

"I have been thinking out a plan to work up my part of the
elephant act," announced Phil, much to the owner's surprise.

"You have, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"What is it?"

"I was in hopes you wouldn't ask me that. I wanted to surprise

Mr. Sparling shook his head doubtfully.

"I'm afraid you haven't had experience enough to warrant my
trusting so important a matter to you," answered the showman,
knowing how serious a bungled act might be, and how it would be
likely to weaken the whole show.

Phil's face showed his disappointment.

"Mr. Kennedy says it will be a fine act. I have seen the
property man and the carpenter, and they both think it's great.
They are getting my properties ready now."

"So, so?" wondered the owner, raising his eyebrows ever so
little. "You seem to be making progress, young man. Let's see,
how long have you been in the show business?" he reflected.

"Twenty-four hours," answered Phil promptly.

Mr. Sparling grinned.

"M-m-m-m. You're certainly getting on fast. Who told you you
might give orders to my property man and my carpenter, sir?" the
proprietor demanded, somewhat sternly.

"I took that upon myself, sir. I'm sure it would improve the
act, even though I have not had as much experience as I might
have. Will you let me try it?" demanded the boy boldly.

"I'll think about it. Yes, I'll think about it. H-m-m-m!

Thus encouraged, Phil left his employer, going in to watch some
of the other acts.

About that time Mr. Sparling found it convenient to make a trip
back to the property man's room, where he had quite a long talk
with that functionary. The proprietor came away smiling and

About an hour later Phil sauntered out and passed in front of Mr.
Sparling's tent, hoping the showman would see him and call him

Phil was not disappointed. Mr. Sparling did that very thing.

"How's that new act of yours coming along, young man?" he

"I have done no more than think it over since talking with you a
little while ago. If the props are ready Mr. Kennedy and I will
have a quiet rehearsal this afternoon. That is, if we can shoo
everybody out of the tent and you are willing we should try it.
How about it, sir?"

"I must say you are a most persistent young man."

"Yes, sir."

"And what if this act falls down flat? What then?"

"It mustn't."

"But if it does?"

"Then, sir, I'll give up the show business and go back to
Edmeston, where I'll hire out to work on a farm. If I can't do a
little thing like this I guess the farm will be the best place
for me."

Phil was solemn and he meant every word he said. Mr. Sparling,
however, unable to maintain his serious expression, laughed

"My boy, you are all right. Go ahead and work up your act. You
have my full permission to do that in your own way, acting, of
course, under the approval of Mr. Kennedy. He knows what would
go with his bulls."

"Thank you, thank you very much," exclaimed Phil, impulsively. "I
hope you will be pleasantly surprised."

"I expect to be."

Phil ran as fast as his legs would carry him to convey the good
news to Mr. Kennedy. Active preparations followed, together with
several hurried trips to the property room. The property man was
getting along famously with his part of the plan, and both Phil
and Mr. Kennedy approved of what had been done thus far.

According to programme, after the afternoon show had been
finished and all the performers had gone to the cook tent the
rehearsal took place in the menagerie tent. Faithful to his
promise, Mr. Sparling kept away, but a pair of eyes representing
him was peering through a pin-hole in the canvas stretched across
the main opening where the ticket takers stood when at work.

"That's great, kid! Great, you bet!" shouted Mr. Kennedy after a
successful trial of their new apparatus.

With light heart, an expansive grin overspreading his
countenance, the lad ran to the cook tent for his supper. He
came near missing it as it was, for the cook was about to close
the tent. Mr. Sparling, who was standing near the exit, nodded to
the chief steward to give Phil and Mr. Kennedy their suppers.

"Well, did the rehearsal fall down?" he asked, with a quizzical
smile on his face.

"It fell down, but not in the way you think," laughed Phil

No further questions were asked of him.

That night, when the grand entry opened the show to a packed
house, a shout of laughter from the great assemblage greeted the
entrance of old Emperor. Emperor was clad in a calico gown of
ancient style, with a market basket tucked in the curl of his
trunk. But the most humorous part of the long-suffering
elephant's makeup was his head gear.

There, perched jauntily to one side was the most wonderful bonnet
that any of the vast audience ever had gazed upon. It was tied
with bright red ribbons under Emperor's chops with a collection
of vari-colored, bobbing roses protruding from its top.
Altogether it was a very wonderful piece of head gear.

The further the act proceeded the more the humor of Emperor's
makeup appeared to impress the audience. They laughed and
laughed until the tears ran down their cheeks, while the elephant
himself, appearing to share in the humor of the hour, never
before had indulged in so many funny antics.

Mr. Kennedy, familiar with side-splitting exhibitions, forgot
himself so far as actually to laugh out loud.

But where was Phil Forrest? Thus far everybody had been too much
interested in the old lady with the trunk and the market basket
to give a thought to the missing boy, though some of the
performers found themselves wondering if he had closed with the
show already.

Those of the performers not otherwise engaged at the moment were
assembled inside the big top at one side of the bandstand, fairly
holding their sides with laughter over old Emperor's exhibition.

Standing back in the shadow of the seats, where the rays from the
gasoline lamps did not reach, stood Mr. Sparling, a pleased smile
on his face, his eyes twinkling with merriment. It was a good
act that could draw from James Sparling these signs of approval.

The act was nearing its close.

The audience thought they had seen the best of it. But there was
still a surprise to come--a surprise that they did not even dream

The time was at hand for the elephants to rear in a grand finale.
An attendant quietly led Jupiter from the ring and to his
quarters, Emperor making a circuit of the sawdust arena to cover
the going of the other elephant and that there might be no
cessation of action in the exhibition.

Emperor and his trainer finally halted, standing facing the
reserved seats, as motionless as statues.

The audience sat silent and expectant. They felt that something
still was before them, but what they had not the least idea, of

"Up, Emperor!" commanded Mr. Kennedy in a quiet voice. "All
ready, Phil."

The elephant reared slowly on its hind legs, going higher and
higher, as it did in its regular performance.

As he went up, the bonnet on Emperor's head was seen to take on
sudden life. The old calico gown fell away from the huge beast
at the same time, leaving him clothed in a brilliant blanket of
white and gold.

But a long drawn "a-h-h-h," rippled over the packed seats as the
old elephant's bonnet suddenly collapsed.

Out of the ruins rose a slender, supple figure, topping the
pyramid of elephant flesh in a graceful poise. The figure, clad
in red silk tights, appeared to be that of a beautiful girl.

The audience broke out into a thunder of approval, their feet
drumming on the board seats sounding not unlike the rattle of

The girl's hand was passed around to the back of her waist, where
it lingered for an instant, then both hands were thrown forward
just as a diver does before taking the plunge.




The young girl floated out and off from the elephant's back,
landing gently on her feet just outside the sawdust ring.

Emperor, at this juncture, threw himself forward on his forelegs,
stretched out his trunk, encircling the performer's waist and
lifting her clear off the ground.

At that moment the supposed young woman stripped her blonde wig
from her head, revealing the fact that the supposed girl was no
girl at all. It was a boy, and that boy was Phil Forrest.

Emperor, holding his young friend at full length ahead of him,
started rapidly for his quarters, Phil lying half on his side,
appearing to be floating on the air, save for the black trunk
that held him securely in its grip.

At this the audience fairly howled in its surprise and delight,
but Phil never varied his pose by a hair's breadth until Emperor
finally set him down, flushed and triumphant, in the menagerie

At that moment Phil became conscious of a figure running toward

He discovered at once that it was Mr. Sparling.

Grasping both the lad's hands, the showman wrung them until it
seemed to Phil as if his arms would be wrenched from their

"Great, great, great!" cried the owner of the show.

"Did you like it?" questioned the blushing Phil.

"Like it? Like it? Boy, it's the greatest act I ever saw. It's
a winner. Come back with me."

"What, into the ring?"


"But what shall I do?"

"You don't have to do anything. You've done it already. Show
yourself, that's all. Hurry! Don't you hear them howling like a
band of Comanche Indians?"


"They want you."

By this time Mr. Sparling was fairly dragging Phil along with
him. As they entered the big top the cheering broke out afresh.

Phil was more disturbed than ever before in his life. It seemed
as though his legs would collapse under him.

"Buck up! Buck up!" snapped the showman. "You are not going to
get an attack of stage fright at this late hour, are you?"

That was exactly what was the matter with Phil Forrest. He was
nearly scared out of his wits, but he did not realize the nature
of his affliction.

"Bow and kiss your hand to them," admonished the showman.

Phil did so, but his face refused to smile. He couldn't have
smiled at that moment to save his life.

All at once he wrenched himself loose from Mr. Sparling's grip,
and ran full speed for the dressing tent. He had not gone more
than a dozen feet before he tripped over a rope, landing on head
and shoulders. But Phil was up like a rubber man and off again
as if every animal in the menagerie was pursuing him.

The spectators catching the meaning of his flight, stood up in
their seats and howled lustily.

Phil Forrest had made a hit that comes to few men in the sawdust



"That was a knockout, kid," nodded Mr. Miaco, with emphasis. "I'm
laughing on the inside of me yet. I don't dare let my face
laugh, for fear the wrinkles will break through my makeup."

"Thank you," smiled Phil, tugging at his silk tights, that fitted
so closely as to cause him considerable trouble in stripping them

"You'll have the whole show jealous of you if you don't watch
out. But don't get a swelled head--"

"Not unless I fall off and bump it," laughed Phil. "Where do I

"You always want to get a pail of water before you undress."

"Say, Phil, did you really fly?" queried Teddy, who was standing
by eyeing his companion admiringly.

"Sure. Didn't you see me?"

"I did and I didn't. Will you show me how to fly like that?"

" 'Course I will. You come in under the big top tomorrow after
the show and I'll give you a lesson."

Teddy had not happened to observe the simple mechanical
arrangement that had permitted the young circus performer to
carry out his flying act.

"I reckon you ought to get a dollar a day for that stunt,"
decided Teddy.

"Yes, I think so myself," grinned Phil.

Teddy now turned his attention to Mr. Miaco, who, made up for his
clown act in the ring, presented a most grotesque appearance.

"How do I look?" asked the clown, noting the lad's observant

"You look as if you'd stuck your head in a flour barrel," grunted

"Ho ho," laughed the clown. "I'll have to try that on the
audience. That's a good joke. To look at you, one wouldn't think
it of you, either."

"Oh, that's nothing. I can say funnier things than that when I
want to. Why--"

But their conversation was cut short by the band striking up the
tune to which Mr. Miaco always entered the ring.

"Listen to me, kid. You'll hear them laugh when I tell 'em the
story," he called back. And they did. The audience roared when
the funny man told them what his young friend had said.

His work for the day having been finished, Phil bethought himself
of his trunk, which had not yet been packed. His costume was
suspended from a line in the dressing tent where many other
costumes were hanging to air and dry after the strenuous labors
of their owners.

Phil took his slender belongings down, shook them out well and
laid them in the trunk that Mrs. Waite had given him. It was too
late for Phil to get his bag from the baggage wagon, so with a
grin he locked his tights and his wig in the trunk.

"Guess they won't break their backs lifting that outfit," he

Phil then strolled in to watch the show. He found many new
points of interest and much that was instructive, as he studied
each act attentively and with the keenness of one who had been in
the show business all his life.

"Someday I'll have a show like this myself," nodded the boy. He
did not know that he expressed his thoughts aloud until he
noticed that the people sitting nearest to him were regarding him
with amused smiles.

Phil quickly repressed his audible comments.

The show was soon over; then came the noise and the confusion of
the breaking up. The illusion was gone--the glamor was a thing
of the past. The lad strolled about slowly in search of his
companion, whom he eventually found in the dressing tent.

"Teddy, isn't it about time you and I went to bed?" he asked.

"Oh, I don't know. Circus people sleep when there isn't anything
else to do. Where we going to sleep?"

"Same place, I presume, if no one gets ahead of us."

"They'd better not. I'll throw them out if they do."

Phil laughed good-naturedly.

"If I remember correctly, somebody was thrown out last night and
this morning, but it didn't happen to be the other fellow. I'm
hungry; wish I had something to eat."

"So am I," agreed Teddy.

"You boys should get a sandwich or so and keep the stuff in your
trunk while we are playing these country towns. When we get into
the cities, where they have restaurants, you can get a lunch
downtown after you have finished your act and then be back in
time to go out with the wagons," Mr. Miaco informed them.
"You'll pick up these little tricks as we go along, and it won't
be long before you are full-fledged showmen. You are pretty near
that point already."

The lads strolled out on the lot and began hunting for their
wagon. They found nothing that looked like it for sometime and
had about concluded that the canvas wagon had gone, when they
chanced to come across the driver of the previous night, who
directed them to where they would find it.

"The wagon isn't loaded yet. You'll have to wait half an hour or
so," he said.

They thanked him and went on in the direction indicated, where
they soon found that which they were in search of.

"I think we had better wait here until it is loaded," advised
Phil, throwing himself down on the ground.

"This having to hunt around over a ten-acre lot for your bedroom
every night isn't as much fun as you would think, is it?" grinned

"Might be worse. I have an idea we haven't begun to experience
the real hardships of the circus life." And indeed they had not.

Soon after that the wagon was loaded, and, bidding the driver a
cheery good night, the circus boys tumbled in and crawled under
the canvas.

They were awakened sometime before daylight by a sudden heavy
downpour of rain. The boys were soaked to the skin, the water
having run in under the canvas until they were lying in a puddle
of water.

There was thunder and lightning. Phil scrambled out first and
glanced up at the driver, who, clothed in oilskins, was huddled
on his seat fast asleep. He did not seem to be aware that there
was anything unusual about the weather.

"I wish I was home," growled Teddy.

"Well, I don't. Bad as it is, it's better than some other things
that I know of. I'll tell you what I'll do--I'll get rubber
coats for us both when we get in in the morning."

"Got the money?"

"That's so. I had forgotten that," laughed Phil. "I never
thought that I should need money to buy a coat with. We'll have
to wait until payday. I wonder when that is?"

"Ask Mr. Sparling."

"No; I would rather not."

"All right; get wet then."

"I am. I couldn't be any more so were I to jump in the mill pond
at home," laughed Phil.

Home! It seemed a long way off to these two friendless, or at
least homeless, boys, though the little village of Edmeston was
less than thirty miles away.

The show did not get in to the next town until sometime after
daylight, owing to the heavy condition of the roads. The cook
tent was up when they arrived and the lads lost no time in
scrambling from the wagon. They did not have to be thrown out
this morning.

"Come on," shouted Phil, making a run for the protection of the
cook tent, for the rain was coming down in sheets.

Teddy was not far behind.

"I'm the coffee boy. Where's the coffee?" he shouted.

"Have it in a few minutes," answered the attendant who had been
so kind to them the previous morning. "Here, you boys, get over
by the steam boiler there and dry out your clothes," he added,
noting that their teeth were chattering.

"Wish somebody would pour a pail of water over me," shivered

"Water? What for?"

"To wash the rain off. I'm soaked," he answered humorously.

They huddled around the steam boiler, the warmth from which they
found very comforting in their bedraggled condition.

"I'm steaming like an engine," laughed Phil, taking off his coat
and holding it near the boiler.

"Yes; I've got enough of it in my clothes to run a sawmill,"
agreed Teddy. "How about that coffee?"

"Here it is."

After helping themselves they felt much better. Phil, after a
time, walked to the entrance of the cook tent and looked out. The
same bustle and excitement as on the previous two days was
noticeable everywhere, and the men worked as if utterly oblivious
of the fact that the rain was falling in torrents.

"Do we parade today?" called Phil, observing Mr. Sparling
hurrying past wrapped in oilskins and slouch hat.

"This show gives a parade and two performances a day, rain,
shine, snow or earthquake," was the emphatic answer. "Come over
to my tent in half an hour. I have something to say to you."

Phil ran across to Mr. Sparling's tent at the expiration of half
an hour, but he was ahead of time evidently, for the showman was
not there. Nice dry straw had been piled on the ground in the
little tent to take up the moisture, giving it a cosy,
comfortable look inside.

"This wouldn't be a half bad place to sleep," decided Phil,
looking about him. "I don't suppose we ever play the same town
two nights in succession. I must find out."

Mr. Sparling bustled in at this point, stripping off his wet
oilskins and hanging them on a hook on the tent pole at the
further end.

"Where'd you sleep?"

"In wagon No. 10."

"Get wet?"



"We dried out in the cook tent when we got in. It might have
been worse."

"Easily satisfied, aren't you?"

"I don't know about that. I expect to meet with some
disagreeable experiences."

"You won't be disappointed. You'll get all that's coming to you.
It'll make a man of you if you stand it."

"And if I don't?" questioned Phil Forrest, with a smile.

Mr. Sparling answered by a shrug of the shoulders.

"We'll have to make some different arrangements for you," he
added in a slightly milder tone. "Can't afford to have you get
sick and knock your act out. It's too important. I'll fire some
lazy, good-for-nothing performer out of a closed wagon and give
you his place."

"Oh, I should rather not have you do that, sir."

"Who's running this show?" snapped the owner.

Phil made no reply.

"I am. I'll turn out whom I please and when I please. I've been
in the business long enough to know when I've got a good thing.
Where's your rubber coat?" he demanded, changing the subject

"I have none, sir. I shall get an outfit later."

"No money, I suppose?"

"Well, no, sir."

"Humph! Why didn't you ask for some?"

"I did not like to."

"You're too modest. If you want a thing go after it. That's my
motto. Here's ten dollars. Go downtown and get you a coat, and
be lively about it. Wait a minute!" as Phil, uttering profuse
thanks, started away to obey his employer's command.

"Yes, sir."

"About that act of yours. Did you think it out all yourself?"

"The idea was mine. Of course the property man and Mr. Kennedy
worked it out for me. I should not have been able to do it

"Humph! Little they did. They wouldn't have thought of it in a
thousand years. Performers usually are too well satisfied with
themselves to think there's anything worthwhile except what
they've been doing since they came out of knickerbockers. How'd
you get the idea?"

"I don't know--it just came to me."

"Then keep on thinking. That act is worth real money to any
show. How much did I say I'd pay you?"

"Ten dollars a week, sir."

"Humph! I made a mistake. I won't give you ten."

Phil looked solemn.

"I'll give you twenty. I'd give you more, but it might spoil
you. Get out of here and go buy yourself a coat."




"Out with you!"

Laughing, his face flushed with pride and satisfaction, Phil did
move. Not even pausing to note what direction he should go, he
hurried on toward the village, perhaps more by instinct than
otherwise. He was too full of this wonderful thing that had come
to him--success--to take note of his surroundings.

To Phil there was no rain. Though he already was drenched to the
skin he did not know it.

All at once he pulled himself up sharply.

"Phil Forrest, you are getting excited," he chided. "Now, don't
you try to make yourself believe you are the whole show, for you
are only a little corner of it. You are not even a side show.
You are a lucky boy, but you are going to keep your head level
and try to earn your money. Twenty dollars a week! Why, it's
wealth! I can see Uncle Abner shaking his stick when he hears of
it. I must write to Mrs. Cahill and tell her the good news.
She'll be glad, though I'll warrant the boys at home will be
jealous when they hear about how I am getting on in the world."

Thus talking to himself, Phil plodded on in the storm until he
reached the business part of the town. There he found a store
and soon had provided himself with a serviceable rubber coat, a
pair of rubber boots and a soft hat. He put on his purchases,
doing up his shoes and carrying them back under his arm.

The parade started at noon. It was a dismal affair--that is, so
far as the performers were concerned, and the clowns looked much
more funny than they felt.

Mr. Miaco enlivened the spirits of those on the hayrack by
climbing to the back of one of the horses drawing the clowns'
wagon, where he sat with a doll's parasol over his head and a
doll in his arms singing a lullaby.

The people who were massed along the sidewalks of the main street
did not appear to mind the rain at all. They were too much
interested in the free show being given for their benefit.

The show people ate dinner with their feet in the mud that day,
the cook tent having been pitched on a barren strip of ground.

"This is where the Armless Wonder has the best of us today,"
nodded Teddy, with his usual keen eye for humor.

"How is that?" questioned Mr. Miaco.

" 'Cause he don't have to put his feet in the mud like the rest
of us do. He keeps them on the table. I wish I could put my
feet on the table."

Everybody within hearing laughed heartily.

In the tents there was little to remind one of the dismal
weather, save for the roar of the falling rain on the canvas
overhead. Straw had been piled all about on the ground inside the
two large tents, and only here and there were there any muddy
spots, though the odor of fresh wet grass was everywhere.

The afternoon performance went off without a hitch, though the
performers were somewhat more slow than usual, owing to the
uncertainty of the footing for man and beast. Phil Forrest's
exhibition was even more successful than it had been in the last
show town. He was obliged to run back to the ring and show
himself after having been carried from the tent by Emperor. This
time, however, his stage fright had entirely left him, never to
return. He was now a seasoned showman, after something less than
three days under canvas.

The afternoon show being finished, and supper out of the way,
Phil and Teddy returned to the big top to practice on the flying
rings, which they had obtained permission to use.

Mr. Miaco, himself an all around acrobat, was on hand to watch
their work and to offer suggestions. He had taken a keen
interest in Phil Forrest, seeing in the lad the making of a
high-class circus performer.

The rings were let down to within about ten feet of the sawdust
ring, and one at a time the two lads were hoisted by the clown
until their fingers grasped the iron rings.

With several violent movements of their bodies they curled their
feet up, slipping them through the rings, first having grasped
the ropes above the rings.

"That was well done. Quite professional," nodded the clown.
"Take hold of this rope and I will swing you. If it makes you
dizzy, tell me."

"Don't worry; it won't," laughed Phil.

"Give me a shove, too," urged Teddy.

"In a minute."

Mr. Miaco began swinging Phil backwards and forwards, his speed
ever increasing, and as he went higher and higher, Phil let
himself down, fastening his hands on the rings that he might
assist in the swinging.

"Now, see if you can get back in the rings with your legs."

"That's easy," answered Phil, his breath coming sharp and fast,
for he never had taken such a long sweep in the rings before.

The feat was not quite so easy as he had imagined. Phil made
three attempts before succeeding. But he mastered it and came up

"Good," cried the clown, clapping his hands approvingly.

"Give me another swing. I want to try something else."

Having gained sufficient momentum, the lad, after reaching the
point where the rings would start on their backward flight,
permitted his legs to slip through the rings, catching them with
his feet.

He swept back, head and arms hanging down, as skillfully as if he
had been doing that very thing right along.

"You'll do," emphasized the clown. "You will need to put a
little more finish in your work. I'll give you a lesson in that
next time."

Teddy, not to be outdone, went through the same exhibition,
though not quite with the same speed that Phil had shown.

It being the hour when the performers always gathered in the big
top to practice and play, many of them stood about watching the
boys work. They nodded their heads approvingly when Phil
finished and swung himself to the ground.

Teddy, on his part, overrated his ability when it came to hanging
by his feet.

"Look out!" warned half a dozen performers at once.

He had not turned his left foot into the position where it would
catch and hold in the ring. Their trained eyes had noted this
omission instantly.

The foot, of course, failed to catch, and Teddy uttered a howl
when he found himself falling. His fall, however, was checked by
a sharp jolt. The right foot had caught properly. As he swept
past the laughing performers he was dangling in the air like a
huge spider, both hands and one foot clawing the air in a
desperate manner.

There was nothing they could do to liberate him from his
uncomfortable position until the momentum of his swing had
lessened sufficiently to enable them to catch him.

"Hold your right steady!" cautioned Miaco. "If you twist it
you'll take a beauty tumble."

Teddy hadn't thought of that before. Had Miaco known the lad
better he would not have made the mistake of giving that advice.

Teddy promptly turned his foot.

He shot from the flying rings as if he had been fired from a

Phil tried to catch him, but stumbled and fell over a rope, while
Teddy shot over his head, landing on and diving head first into a
pile of straw that had just been brought in to bed down the tent
for the evening performance.

Nothing of Teddy save his feet was visible.

They hauled him out by those selfsame feet, and, after
disentangling him from the straws that clung to him, were
relieved to find that he had not been hurt in the least.

"I guess we shall have to put a net under you. Lucky for you
that that pile of straw happened to get in your way. Do you know
what would have happened to you had it not been?" demanded Mr.

"I--I guess I'd have made a hit," decided Teddy wisely.

"I guess there is no doubt about that."

The performers roared.

"I'm going to try it again."

"No; you've done enough for one day. You won't be able to hold
up the coffeepot tomorrow morning if you do much more."

"Do you think we will be able to accomplish anything on the
flying rings, Mr. Miaco?" asked Phil after they had returned to
the dressing tent.

"There is no doubt of it. Were I in your place I should take an
hour's work on them every day. Besides building you up
generally, it will make you surer and better able to handle
yourself. Then, again, you never know what minute you may be able
to increase your income. People in this business often profit by
others' misfortunes," added the clown significantly.

"I would prefer not to profit that way," answered Phil.

"You would rather do it by your own efforts?"


"It all amounts to the same thing. You are liable to be put out
any minute yourself, then somebody else will get your job, if you
are a performer of importance to the show."

"You mean if my act is?"

"That's what I mean."

The old clown and the enthusiastic young showman talked in the
dressing tent until it was time for each to begin making up for
the evening performance.

The dressing tent was the real home of the performers. They knew
no other. It was there that they unpacked their trunks--there
that during their brief stay they pinned up against the canvas
walls the pictures of their loved ones, many of whom were far
across the sea. A bit of ribbon here, a faded flower drawn from
the recess of a trunk full of silk and spangles, told of the
tender hearts that were beating beneath those iron-muscled
breasts, and that they were as much human beings as their
brothers in other walks of life.

Much of this Phil understood in a vague way as he watched them
from day to day. He was beginning to like these big-hearted,
big-muscled fellows, though there were those among them who were
not desirable as friends.

"I guess it's just the same as it is at home," decided Phil.
"Some of the folks are worthwhile, and others are not."

He had summed it up.

Sometime before the evening performance was due to begin Phil was
made up and ready for his act. As his exhibition came on at the
very beginning he had to be ready early. Then, again, he was
obliged to walk all the way to the menagerie tent to reach his

Throwing a robe over his shoulders and pulling his hat well down
over his eyes, the lad pushed the silken curtains aside and began
working his way toward the front, beating against the human tide
that had set in against him, wet, dripping, but good natured.

"Going to have a wet night," observed Teddy, whom he met at the
entrance to the menagerie tent.

"Looks that way. But never mind; I'll share my rubber coat with
you. We can put it over us and sit up to sleep. That will make a
waterproof tent. Perhaps we may be able to find a stake or
something to stick up in the middle of the coat."

"But the canvas under us will be soaked," grumbled Teddy. "We'll
be wetter than ever."

"We'll gather some straw and tie it up in a tight bundle to put
under us when we get located. There goes the band. I must be
off, or you'll hear Emperor screaming for me."

"He's at it now. Hear him?"

"I couldn't well help hearing that roar," laughed Phil, starting
off on a run.

The grand entry was made, Phil crouching low in the bonnet on the
big beast's head. It was an uncomfortable position, but he did
not mind it in the least. The only thing that troubled Phil was
the fear that the head gear might become disarranged and spoil
the effect of his surprise. There were many in the tent who had
seen him make his flight at the afternoon performance, and had
returned with their friends almost solely to witness the pretty
spectacle again.

The time had arrived for Emperor to rise for his grand salute to
the audience. Mr. Kennedy had given Phil his cue, the lad had
braced himself to straighten up suddenly. A strap had been
attached to the elephant's head harness for Phil to take hold of
to steady himself by when he first straightened up. Until his
position was erect Emperor could not grasp the boy's legs with
his trunk.

"Right!" came the trainer's command.

The circus boy thrust out his elbows, and the bonnet fell away,
as he rose smiling to face the sea of white, expectant faces
before him.

While they were applauding he fastened the flying wire to the
ring in his belt. The wire, which was suspended from above, was
so small that it was wholly invisible to the spectators, which
heightened the effect of his flight. So absorbed were the people
in watching the slender figure each time that they failed to
observe an attendant hauling on a rope near the center pole,
which was the secret of Phil's ability to fly.

Throwing his hands out before him the little performer dove
gracefully out into the air.

There was a slight jolt. Instantly he knew that something was
wrong. The audience, too, instinctively felt that the act was not
ending as it should.

Phil was falling. He was plunging straight toward the ring, head
first. He struck heavily, crumpling up in a little heap, then
straightening out, while half a dozen attendants ran to the lad,
hastily picking him up and hurrying to the dressing tent with the
limp, unconscious form.



"Is he hurt much?"

"Don't know. Maybe he's broken his neck."

This brief dialogue ensued between two painted clowns hurrying to
their stations.

In the meantime the band struck up a lively air, the clowns
launched into a merry medley of song and jest and in a few
moments the spectators forgot the scene they had just witnessed,
in the noise, the dash and the color. It would come back to them
later like some long-past dream.

Mr. Kennedy, with grim, set face, uttered a stern command to
Emperor, who for a brief instant had stood irresolute, as if
pondering as to whether he should turn and plunge for the red
silk curtains behind which his little friend had disappeared in
the arms of the attendants.

The trainer's voice won, and Emperor trumpeting loudly, took his
way to his quarters without further protest.

In the dressing tent another scene was being enacted. On two
drawn-up trunks, over which had been thrown a couple of horse
blankets, they had laid the slender, red-clad figure of Phil

The boy's pale face appeared even more ashen than it really was
under the flickering glare of the gasoline torches. His head had
been propped up on a saddle, while about him stood a half circle
of solemn-faced performers in various stages of undress and

"Is he badly hurt?" asked one.

"Can't say. Miaco has gone for the doc. We'll know pretty soon.
That was a dandy tumble he took."

"How did it happen?"

"Wire broke. You can't put no faith on a wire with a kink in it.
I nearly got my light put out, out in St. Joe, Missouri, by a
trick like that. No more swinging wire for me. Guess the kid,
if he pulls out of this, will want to hang on to a rope after
this. He will if he's wise."

"What's this? What's this?" roared Mr. Sparling, who, having
heard of the accident, came rushing into the tent. "Who's hurt?"

"The kid," informed someone.

"What kid? Can't you fellows talk? Oh, it's Forrest, is it? How
did it happen?"

One of the performers who had witnessed the accident related what
he had observed.

"Huh!" grunted the showman, stepping up beside Phil and placing a
hand on the boy's heart.


"He's alive, isn't he, Mr. Sparling?"

"Yes. Anybody gone for the doctor?"

"Miaco has."

"Wonder any of you had sense enough to think of that. I
congratulate you. Somebody will suffer when I find out who was
responsible for hanging that boy's life on a rotten old piece of
wire. I presume it's been kicking around this outfit for the
last seven years."

"Here comes the doc," announced a voice.

There was a tense silence in the dressing tent, broken only by
the patter of the rain drops on the canvas roof, while the show's
surgeon was making his examination.

"Well, well! What about it?" demanded Mr. Sparling impatiently.

The surgeon did not answer at once. His calm, professional
demeanor was not to be disturbed by the blustering but kind-
hearted showman, and the showman, knowing this from past
experience, relapsed into silence until such time as the surgeon
should conclude to answer him.

"Did he fall on his head?" he questioned, looking up, at the same
time running his fingers over Phil's dark-brown hair.

"Looks that way, doesn't it?"

"I should say so."

"What's the matter with him?"

"I shall be unable to decide definitely for an hour or so yet,
unless he regains consciousness in the meantime. It may be a
fracture of the skull or a mere concussion."


Mr. Sparling would have said more, but for the fact that the calm
eyes of the surgeon were fixed upon him in a level gaze.

"Any bones broken?"

"No; I think not. How far did he fall?"

"Fell from Emperor's head when the bull was up in the air. He
must have taken all of a twenty-foot dive, I should say."

"Possible? It's a great wonder he didn't break his neck. But he
is very well muscled for a boy of his age. I don't suppose they
have a hospital in this town?"

"Of course not. They never have anything in these tank towns.
You ought to know that by this time."

"They have a hotel. I know for I took dinner there today. If
you will get a carriage of some sort I think we had better take
him there."

"Leave him, you mean?" questioned Mr. Sparling.

"Yes; that will be best. We can put him in charge of a local
physician here. He ought to be able to take care of the boy all

"Not by a jug full!" roared Mr. James Sparling. "We'll do
nothing of the sort."

"It will not be safe to take him with us, Sparling."

"Did I say it would? Did I? Of course, he shan't be moved, nor
will he be left to one of these know-nothing sawbones. You'll
stay here with him yourself, and you'll take care of him if you
know what's good for you. I'd rather lose most any five men in
this show than that boy there."

The surgeon nodded his approval of the sentiment. He, too, had
taken quite a fancy to Phil, because of the lad's sunny
disposition and natural brightness.

"Get out the coach some of you fellows. Have my driver hook up
and drive back into the paddock here, and be mighty quick about
it. Here, doc, is a head of lettuce (roll of money). If you need
any more, you know where to reach us. Send me a telegram in the
morning and another tomorrow night. Keep me posted and pull that
boy out of this scrape or you'll be everlastingly out of a job
with the Sparling Combined Shows. Understand?"

The surgeon nodded understandingly. He had heard Mr. Sparling
bluster on other occasions, and it did not make any great
impression upon him.

The carriage was quickly at hand. Circus people were in the
habit of obeying orders promptly. A quick drive was made to the
hotel, where the circus boy was quickly undressed and put to bed.

All during the night the surgeon worked faithfully over his
little charge, and just as the first streaks of daylight slanted
through the window and across the white counterpane, Phil opened
his eyes.

For only a moment did they remain open, then closed again.

The surgeon drew a long, deep breath.

"Not a fracture," he announced aloud. "I'm thankful for that."
He drew the window shades down to shut out the light, as it was
all important that Phil should be kept quiet for a time. But the
surgeon did not sleep. He sat keen-eyed by the side of the bed,
now and then noting the pulse of his patient, touching the lad's
cheeks with light fingers.

After a time the fresh morning air, fragrant with the fields and
flowers, drifted in, and the birds in the trees took up their
morning songs.

"I guess the storm must be over," muttered the medical man,
rising softly and peering out from behind the curtain.

The day was dawning bright and beautiful.

"My, it feels good to be in bed!" said a voice from the opposite
side of the room. "Where am I?"

The surgeon wheeled sharply.

"You are to keep very quiet. You had a tumble that shook you up

"What time is it?" demanded Phil sharply.

"About five o'clock in the morning."

"I must get up; I must get up."

"You will lie perfectly still. The show will get along without
you today, I guess."

"You don't mean they have gone on and left me?"

"Of course; they couldn't wait for you."

The boys eyes filled with tears.

"I knew it couldn't last. I knew it."

"See here, do you want to join the show again?"

"Of course, I do."

"Well, then, lie still. The more quiet you keep the sooner you
will be able to get out. Try to go to sleep. I must go
downstairs and send a message to Mr. Sparling, for he is very
much concerned about you."

"Then he will take me back?" asked Phil eagerly.

"Of course he will."

"I'll go to sleep, doctor."

Phil turned over on his side and a moment later was breathing

The doctor tip-toed from the room and hastened down to the hotel
office where he penned the following message:

James Sparling,

Sparling Combined Shows,


Forrest recovers consciousness. Not a fracture. Expect him
to be all right in a few days. Will stay unless further orders.


"I think I'll go upstairs and get a bit of a nap myself," decided
the surgeon, after having directed the sleepy clerk to see to it
that the message was dispatched to its destination at once.

He found Phil sleeping soundly. Throwing himself into a chair
the surgeon, used to getting a catnap whenever and wherever
possible, was soon sleeping as soundly as was his young patient.

Neither awakened until the day was nearly done.



Phil's recovery was rapid, though four days passed before he was
permitted to leave his bed. As soon as he was able to get
downstairs and sit out on the front porch of the hotel he found
himself an object of interest as well as curiosity.

The story of his accident had been talked of until it had grown
out of all proportion to the real facts in the case. The boys of
the village hung over the porch rail and eyed him wonderingly and
admiringly. It did not fall to their lot every day to get
acquainted with a real circus boy. They asked him all manner of
questions, which the lad answered gladly, for even though he had
suffered a severe accident, he was not beyond enjoying the
admiration of his fellows.

"It must be great to be a circus boy," marveled one.

"It is until you fall off and crack your head," laughed Phil.
"It's not half so funny then."

After returning to his room that day Phil pondered deeply over
the accident. He could not understand it.

"Nobody seems to know what really did happen," he mused. "Dr.
Irvine says the wire broke. That doesn't seem possible."

Off in the little dog tent of the owner of the show, Mr. James
Sparling, on the day following the accident, was asking himself
almost the same questions.

He sent for Mr. Kennedy after having disposed of his early
morning business. There was a scowl on the owner's face, but it
had not been caused by the telegram which lay on the desk before
him, informing him that Phil was not seriously hurt. That was a
source of keen satisfaction to the showman, for he felt that he
could not afford to lose the young circus boy.

Teddy was so upset over it, however, that the boss had about made
up his mind to let Phil's companion go back and join him.

While the showman was thinking the matter over, Mr. Kennedy
appeared at the opening of the dog tent.

"Morning," he greeted, which was responded to by a muttered
"Huh!" from James Sparling.

"Come in. What are you standing out there for?"

Kennedy was so used to this form of salutation that he paid no
further attention to it than to obey the summons.

He entered and stood waiting for his employer to speak.

"I want you to tell me exactly what occurred last night, when
young Forrest got hurt, Kennedy."

"I can't tell you any more about it than you heard last night. He
had started to make his dive before I noticed that anything was
wrong. He didn't stop until he landed on his head. They said
the wire snapped."

"Did it?"

"I guess so," grinned Kennedy.

"Who is responsible for having picked out that wire?"

"I guess I am."

"And you have the face to stand there and tell me so?"

"I usually tell the truth, don't I?"

"Yes, yes; you do. That's what I like about you."

"Heard from the kid this morning?"

"Yes; he'll be all right in a few days. Concussion and general
shaking up; that's all, but it's enough. How are the bulls this

"Emperor is sour. Got a regular grouch on."

"Misses that young rascal Phil, I suppose?"



"Didn't want to come through last night at all."

"H-m-m-m. Guess we'd better fire you and let the boy handle the
bulls; don't you think so?"

The trainer grinned and nodded.

"Kennedy, you've been making your brags that you always tell me
the truth. I am going to ask you a question, and I want you to
see if you can make that boast good."

"Yes, sir."

Perhaps the trainer understood something of what was in his
employer's mind, for his lips closed sharply while his jaw took
on a belligerent look.

"How did that wire come to break, Kennedy?"

The question came out with a snap, as if the showman already had
made up his mind as to what the answer should be.

"It was cut, sir," answered the trainer promptly.

The lines in Mr. Sparling's face drew hard and tense. Instead of
a violent outburst of temper, which Kennedy fully expected, the
owner sat silently contemplating his trainer for a full minute.

"Who did it?"

"I couldn't guess."

"I didn't ask you to guess. I can guess for myself. I asked who
did it?"

"I don't know. I haven't the least idea who would do a job like
that in this show. I hope the mean hound will take French leave
before I get him spotted, sir."

Mr. Sparling nodded with emphasis.

"I hope so, Kennedy. What makes you think the wire was cut?"

With great deliberation the trainer drew a small package from his
inside coat pocket, carefully unwrapped it, placing the contents
on the table in front of Mr. Sparling.

"What's this--what's this?"

"That's the wire."

"But there are two pieces here--"

"Yes. I cut off a few feet on each side of where the break
occurred. Those are the two."

Mr. Sparling regarded them critically.

"How can you tell that the wire has been cut, except where you
cut it yourself?"

"It was cut halfway through with a file, as you can see, sir.
When Forrest threw his weight on it, of course the wire parted at
the weakened point."


"If you will examine it, an inch or two above the cut, you will
find two or three file marks, where the file started to cut, then
was moved down. Probably slipped. Looks like it. Don't you
think I'm right, sir?"

Mr. Sparling nodded reflectively.

"There can be no doubt of it. You think it was done between the
two performances yesterday?"

"Oh, yes. That cut wouldn't have held through one performance.
It was cut during the afternoon."

"Who was in the tent between the shows?"

"Pretty much the whole crowd. But, if you will remember, the day
was dark and stormy. There was a time late in the afternoon,
before the torches were lighted, when the big top was almost in
darkness. It's my idea that the job was done then. Anybody could
have done it without being discovered. It's likely there wasn't
anybody in the tent except himself at the time."

"Kennedy, I want you to find out who did that. Understand?"



"The boss has an awful grouch on."

"Yes; I wonder what's the matter with him," pondered the clown.

His brother fun-maker shrugged his shoulders.

"Guess he's mad because of young Forrest's accident. Just got a
good act started when he had to go and spoil it."

Not a hint of the suspicion entertained by the owner and his
elephant trainer had been breathed about the show. Nearly a week
had passed since Phil's narrow escape from death; yet, despite
all the efforts of Kennedy or the shrewd observation of his
employer, they were no nearer a solution of the mystery than
before. The days passed, and with them the anger of James
Sparling increased.

"That chum of Forrest's is a funny fellow," continued the first
speaker. "He'd make a good clown?"

"Make? He's one already. Look at him."

Teddy was perched on the back of Jumbo, the trick mule of the
show, out in the paddock, where the performers were indulging in
various strange antics for the purpose of limbering themselves up
prior to entering the ring for their acts.

The bright, warm sunlight was streaming down, picking up little
flames from the glistening spangles sprinkled over the costumes
of many of the circus folks.

Teddy and Jumbo had become fast friends--a strangely assorted
pair, and whenever the opportunity presented itself Teddy would
mount the ugly looking mule, riding him about the paddock or the
ring when there was nothing going on under the big top. Every
time the pair made their appearance it was the signal for a shout
of merriment from the performers.

Teddy had perched himself on Jumbo's back while the mule was
awaiting his turn to enter the ring, which he did alone,
performing his act with nothing save the crack of the
ringmaster's whip to guide him.

Somebody had jammed a clown's cap on Teddy's head, while someone
else had hit it a smash with the flat of his hand, until the peak
of the cap lopped over to one side disconsolately.

Teddy's face wore an appreciative grin, Jumbo's long ears lying
as far back on his head as they would reach. To the ordinary
observer it might have been supposed that the mule was angry
about something. On the contrary, it was his way of showing his
pleasure. When a pan of oats was thrust before Jumbo, or he
chanced upon a patch of fresh, tender grass, the ears expressed
the animal's satisfaction.

Jumbo could do pretty much everything except talk, but
occasionally the stubbornness of his kind took possession of him.
At such times the trick mule was wont to do the most erratic

"How'd you like to ride him in?" chuckled Miaco, who stood
regarding the lad with a broad smile.

"If I had a saddle I wouldn't mind it," grinned Teddy's funny
face as an accompaniment to his words.

Jumbo's equipment consisted of a cinch girth and a pair of bridle
reins connected with a headstall. There was no bit, but the
effect was to arch his neck like that of a proud stallion.

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