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The Circus Boys on the Plains Or The Young Advance Agents Ahead of the Show

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One of his men would have a thirty-five-mile drive back after he
had finished his day's work. That would bring the man "home,"
as the return to the car is called, long after midnight in
all probability.

Inquiry at the station and a wire to the division superintendent
failed to get a special engine to haul Car Three out that night.
But in his talk with the station agent Phil learned something
that set him thinking. He pondered over the information he had
obtained, for sometime.

"I believe I can do it," he muttered. "Talk about Teddy taking
long chances, I am going to try to take some chances tonight that
are far more dangerous. But I must do something."

Phil had seen a section gang go out in the morning. They had not
come in yet, so the Circus Boy strolled over toward the station
shortly after six o'clock waiting for the section gang to return.

They did not come in until after seven o'clock.

As the men were going by the station, having put their
handcar away, Phil motioned to the foreman of the gang,
a bright faced Irishman.

"How are you?" greeted Phil smilingly.

The foreman waved a hand, at which Phil beckoned the man to come
to him.

"Are there any more trains over this division tonight?"

"Only number forty-two going west."

"She is due shortly after midnight, is she not?"


"Do you like to go to the circus, Pat?"

"I do."

"Have you a family?"

"I have."

"Will you do me a favor if I give you tickets to the show for
yourself and family?"

"That I will. What show is yours?"

"The Sparling Combined Shows."

"That your car over there?"

"Yes--Car Three."

"You run it?"

"I do."

"Pretty young fellow to handle a car like that, aren't you?"

"I guess you are right. However, I am running it just the same."

"What is it you want me to do?"

"In the first place I want you to keep a close mouth. I do not
want you to speak to a human being about my plans. There are
some fellows that would like to know them. They must not."

The foreman grinned understandingly.

"I'm your man."

"I knew you were. You have a switch key of course?"


"Then I want you to bring your switch key here at half-past two
o'clock tomorrow morning. You have crowbars in the tool house,
have you not?"


"Bring two of them with you."

"What are you going to do?"

"Never mind now. I'll tell you when you come around in
the morning. Do you think you can wake up in time?"

"Sure, I can."

"You may sleep on my car if you wish."

"No; I have a bunk in the tool house. I will come back and sleep
there after supper."

"Excellent. Do you want an alarm clock?"

"No; I have one in the shanty. I often sleep there when I expect
a call to go out on the road during the night."

"I am right, am I not, in my understanding that unless I get
away on forty-two I shall not be able to leave here before
noon tomorrow?"

"That's right. You are not going on forty-two, then?"

"I think not."

"The other fellows going on forty-two?"

"No; they will not be through billing here before
sometime tomorrow."

The foreman grinned.

"I smell a rat," he said.

"Don't. It might not be healthful for you if you were to be
too wise. Be on time and say nothing. How far is it to the
next town?"

"Nigh onto twenty-five miles."

"All right. That's all. I will have your tickets ready for you
when you come on in the morning. Good night, if I don't see you
again until then."

All hands save Phil and Teddy went to bed early that night and
the car was soon dark and silent. The late man from the country
route did not get in until half-past one o'clock in the morning.
He unloaded as quietly as possible, not knowing what plans of the
manager he might disturb were he to make his presence known.

By this time every man of the crew was well aware that their
young manager seldom was without some shrewd plan for outwitting
his competitors, but these plans he ordinarily kept well to
himself until he was ready to carry them out.

Phil busied himself during the night in posting his books, making
out the payroll for the car, and writing the report sheet for the
owner of the show.

Right on the minute at the appointed hour there came a light tap
on the car window. Phil stepped out to the platform.

"I am ready, sir." It was the section foreman.

"Come inside," said Phil. "Do not make any noise, for the men
are all asleep. I will awaken two of them soon, but I do not
want those other car men to get awake, not for any price."

"Now, what is it you want to do?"

"You are sure there will be no more trains over this road in
either direction tonight?" asked Phil.

"Not a train."

"That's good. Now I will tell you what I want you to do. I want
you to open that switch to let us out on the main track."

The foreman opened his eyes.

"But how are you going to get out there?"

"I'll show you after you get the switch open. There is no
grade up or down between here and the other side of the station,
is there?"

"No; dead flat till you get ten rods beyond the station, then
she drops."

Phil nodded thoughtfully.

"Get the crowbars while I call a couple of the men."

The Circus Boy went inside and gently awakened Billy Conley and
Rosie, telling them to dress and report to the office at once.

The men made no protest. They knew their young manager was
planning some new ruse by which to outwit his rivals. When they
heard his plan they opened their eyes in wonder.

"Come on, now, and not a word nor a sound out of you, fellows!"
commanded Phil.

Once outside, Phil threw off the brakes and then the foreman of
the section gang brought his knowledge to bear on the situation.
He directed the men to get their crowbars under the rear wheels
of the coach. After several attempts they succeeded in prying
the car ahead a few inches. After repeated efforts they got the
car moving slowly.

Now the foreman took a third crowbar; jumping from one side to
the other he relieved the men until the car was making very fair
progress under its human power.

Teddy had been standing on the platform, rubbing his palms in
high glee.

"Going to push her all the way to Marion like this?" he demanded.

"You keep still up there unless you are looking for trouble,"
warned Phil. "Get off the platform. Think we want to drag you
along, too?"

Teddy hopped down, thrust his hands in his trousers pockets, and
watched the operation of moving the heavy car.

It was slow work, but inch by inch Number Three crept nearer to
the station.

"Let me know when we get right on the grade, so I can slap on the
brakes," ordered Phil.

"I'll let you know. You'll know without my telling you,
I reckon."

At last the car was at the desired point. Phil sprang to the
platform and set the brakes, while the section man ran back and
closed the switch.

"Here are your tickets," said Phil when the man returned.
"And thank you very much."

"You're welcome, but don't you let on that I have helped you out.
I will sure lose my job if you do."

"You need not worry. I do not forget a favor so easily as that."

"You better wait till daylight before you start," advised
the foreman.

"Yes, I am going to. I do not want to take any more chances than
I have to. There are enough as it is."

"Anything more I can do for you, sir?"

"No, thank you."

"Then, good night."

"Good night," answered Phil.

Teddy did not yet fully understand what his companion's plan
might be. Billy, on the contrary, understood it fully.

"You beat anything I ever came across," Conley remarked in Phil's
car as the two were standing at the side of the track in front of
Number Three.

"Wait! Don't throw any flowers at me too soon. We have not done
it yet. I understand there is a short up-grade about seven miles
below here. If we get stalled on that we will be in a fine fix
and likely to get smashed into ourselves. It looks to me like
a storm. What do you think?"

"I think yes--thunderstorm. I saw the lightning a moment ago."
"Good! I hope it storms. It will be a good cover to get
away under."

"Slippery rails will be bad for our business, though,"
warned Billy.

"We shall have to take the chance."

They had not long to wait after that. Day soon dawned but the
skies were dark and forbidding. As soon as it was light enough
to see well, Phil began to make preparations for his unique trip.

"Now what are you going to do?" demanded Teddy.

"My dear boy, we are going to try to coast all the way to Marion.
We may land in the ditch or we may get stalled, but I am not
going to lie here and waste nearly a day. Let the other fellows
spend the time here if they wish. I reckon they will be
surprised in the morning, when they wake up and find Car Three
has dropped off the map."

Teddy uttered a long whistle of surprise.

"Don't you ever find fault with me again for doing a trick like
I played."

"What trick was that?" questioned Billy.

"Never mind. That's my secret. It isn't any of your affair,"
grumbled Teddy.

"Teddy, you get on the back platform. Keep your hand on the
brake wheel every second of the time. Keep your ears open.
When I jerk once sharply on the bell rope set the brakes tight.
If I jerk it twice, just apply them a little to steady the car."

"Pull the bell rope? Huh! There isn't any bell."

"I know that, but you can hear the rope slap the top of the
platform roof when I pull it. Now, get back there. Don't call
out to me, but attend to your business. I'll pull the cord when
I am ready for you to release the brake. We must get away from
here in a hurry."

Teddy hopped from the platform and ran to the rear, where he
awaited the signal.

Phil's plan was a daring one. For twenty-five miles the road
fell away at a sharp downgrade of sixty feet to the mile and in
some places even greater. In one spot, as has already been
stated, there was a sharp up-grade for a short distance.

It was Phil's purpose to coast the twenty-five miles in order
to reach the next stand in time for the day's work. It was a
risky undertaking. Besides the danger of a possible collision
with an extra sent over the road, there was the added danger
of the car getting beyond their control and toppling over into
a ditch.

The Circus Boy had weighed all these chances well before starting
on his undertaking.

"I guess we will be moving now," he said, giving the bell cord a
pull, then throwing off the brake, Teddy performing the same
service at the other end of the car.

Car Number Three did not start at once.

Phil and Billy jumped up and down on the platform in excitement.

"She's moving," exulted Phil. "We're off."

A faint "yee--ow!" from the rear platform was evidence that Teddy
Tucker also had discovered this fact.

"That boy!" grumbled Phil.

At first the show car moved slowly; then little by little it
began to gather headway. Rattling over switches, past lines of
box cars, on past rows of houses that backed up against the
railroad's right of way, they rumbled. A few moments later Car
Three shot out into the open country at a lively rate of speed.



"This is great!" cried Billy.

Phil Forrest, however, was keeping his eyes steadily on
the shining rails ahead. All at once the storm broke.
The lightning seemed to rend the heavens before them.
Then the rain came down in a deluge.

So heavy was the rainfall that the young pilot could see only
a few car lengths ahead of him. Instinctively he tightened the
brakes slightly. The car was swaying giddily, not having a
train with it to steady it.

"We ought to be near that grade the section man told us about,"
said Conley.

"Yes; I was just thinking of that. I guess I had better let her
out, so we shall be sure to make it."

Phil threw off the brake wheel and Car Three shot ahead like a
great projectile, rocking from side to side, moving at such high
speed that the joints in the rails gave off a steady purring
sound under the wheels.

The wildcat car struck the grade with a lurch and a bang,
climbing it at a tremendous pace.

The two men on the front platform were compelled to hold on with
their full strength, in order to keep from being hurled into the
ditch beside the track.

"I hope Teddy is all right," shouted Phil.

Billy leaned out over the side looking back. Teddy, who was also
leaning out, peering ahead regardless of the driving rain, waved
a hand at him.

"Yes; you can't hurt _that_ boy--"

Just then the car plunged over the crest of the hill and went
thundering away down the steep grade.

By this time the men in the car had, one by one, been
shaken awake by the car's terrific pace, and one by one
they tumbled from their berths, quickly raising the
curtains for a look outside.

What they saw was a driving storm and the landscape slipping past
them at a higher speed than they ever had known before. Three of
the men bolted to the front platform.

"What's the matter? Are we running away?" shouted a voice in
Phil's car.

"Go back, fellows, and shut the door. Don't bother me.
I'm making the next town."

The men retired to the car, sat down and looked at each other in
blank amazement.

"Well, did you ever?" gasped Rosie.

"Never," answered the Missing Link, shaking his head helplessly.
"He'll be the death of us yet."

"At least we'll be going some if we stay on this car."

"We _are_ going some. We've been going some ever since the new
Boss took hold of this car. I hope we don't hit anything.
It'll be a year of Sundays for us, if we do."

"A good many years of 'em," muttered Rosie.

"I hear a train whistle!" shouted Billy, leaning toward Phil.

"I heard it," answered the boy calmly, beginning to tug at the
brake wheel.

"Want any help?" asked Conley anxiously.

"No; you can't help me any." Phil had ceased twisting the wheel.

"What's the matter?"

"The wheels are slipping. The brakes will not hold them. If we
are going to meet anything we might as well meet it properly,"
answered Phil calmly, whereupon he kicked the ratchet loose and
spun the brake wheel about.

The car seemed to take a sudden leap forward.

Just then there came a rift in the clouds.

"Look!" cried Billy.

Phil leaned over the rail, peering into the mist.

The track, just a little way ahead of them, took a sudden
bend around a high point of land. And on beyond the hill
they saw the smoke of an engine belching up into the air
like so many explosions.

"I guess that settles it," said the boy. His face was, perhaps,
a little more pale than usual, but in no other way did he show
any emotion.

"Shall we tell the men to jump, then go over ourselves?"

"No; we should all be killed. We will stay and see it through.
The men are better off inside the car."

A yell from Teddy, sounding faint and far away, caused Billy to
lean out and look back.

"Turn on your sand! Turn on your sand! She's slipping!"
howled Teddy.

"We haven't any sand. D'you think this is a trolley car?"

Just then Teddy caught sight of the smoke ahead of them.
He pointed. His voice seemed to fail him all at once.

"It looks as if we would get all the publicity we want in about
a minute, Billy," said Phil, smiling easily. "We shall not be
likely to know anything about it, though," he added.

Car Three swept around the bend.

"There they are!" cried Conley.

"Coming head on!" commented Phil. He seemed not in the least
disturbed, despite the fact that he believed himself to be facing
certain death.

Billy let out a yell of joy.

"They are on another track. They are not on these irons at all!"
he shouted.

Phil had observed this at about the same instant. He saw
something else, too. The road on which the train was approaching
crossed his track at right angles. The other was a double track
railroad, and the train was a fast express train, tearing along
at high speed.

"We're safe!" breathed Billy, heaving a great sigh of relief.

"No, we are not. We are going to smash right into them,
_broadside,_ unless we can check our car enough to clear them."

"You think so?"

"I know so."

Billy groaned. His joy had been short-lived.

"Give Teddy the signal to put on the brakes. We will make
another attempt to check her."

Phil threw himself into the task of turning the wheel, which he
did in quick, short, spasmodic jerks, rather than by a steady
application of the brakes.

The car slackened somewhat--hardly enough to be noticed.

"Tell Teddy to keep it up. You had better send one of the men
back to help him."

Billy bellowed his command to the men inside.

"They see us. They are whistling to us."


Shriek after shriek rang out from the whistle of the approaching
express train, the engineer of which jerked his throttle wide
open in hopes of clearing the oncoming wildcat car.

Phil was still tugging desperately, but without any apparent
nervousness, at the brake wheel. He finally ceased his efforts.

"I can't do any more," he said; then calmly leaned his arms on
the wheel awaiting results.

Billy did not utter a word. He, too, possessed strong nerves.

The man and the boy stood there calmly watching the train ahead
of them. Nearer and nearer to it did they draw. They could see
the engineer and fireman leaning from their cab, looking back.
Phil waved a hand to them, to which the engine crew responded
in kind.

"Now for the smash, Billy, old boy!" muttered Phil with the smile
that no peril seemed able to banish from his face.

"Yes; it's going to be a close shave."

The last car of the express train was now abreast of them.
They seemed to be right upon it. So close were they that Phil
thought he could stretch out a hand and touch it.

Suddenly it was whisked from before them as if by magic.

The engineer had given his engine its final burst of speed.

"Hang on tight!" shouted Phil. "We're going to sideswipe
them now!"

"Off brakes!"

Billy gave the bell rope a tug.

Then came a crash, a grinding, jolting sound. It seemed as if
the red car were being torn from end to end. Car Three careened,
rocked and swayed, threatening every second to plunge from the
rails over the embankment at that point.

As suddenly as it had come, the strain seemed to have been
removed from it. Once more Number Three was thundering along
over the rails.

"Yee--ow!" howled Teddy from the rear platform.

The men inside the car were not saying anything. They were
slowly picking themselves up from the floor, where they had been
hurled by the sudden shock. The interior of the car looked as if
it had been struck by a tornado. The contents were piled in a
confused heap at one end of the car, paste pots overturned,
bedding stripped clean from the berths, lamps smashed, and great
piles of paper scattered all over the place.

"Hooray!" yelled Billy in the excess of his joy. "We're saved."

"Yes," answered Phil with a grin. "It was a close call, though.
I hope no one in the car is hurt. You had better go in and
find out. I am afraid our car has been damaged."

Billy leaned over the side, looking back.

"Yes, we got a beauty of a sideswipe," he said.

The coupling and rear platform of the rear car on the express
train had cut a deep gash in the side of Car Three, along half of
its length.

"Any windows left?"

"I don't see anything that looks like glass left in them,"
laughed Conley.

"You watch the wheel a minute. I will go inside," said Phil.

He hurried into the car.

Phil could not repress a laugh at the scene that met his gaze.

"Hello, boys; what's going on in here?" called Phil.

"Say, Boss," spoke up Rosie the Pig. "If it's all the same to
you, I think I'll get out and walk the rest of the way."

"Are we on time?" howled Teddy, poking his head in at the
rear door.

"Better straighten the car out, for we should reach our town
in a few minutes now--"

"I should say we would, at this gait," interrupted a voice.

"Then all hands will have to hustle out to work. I want to
be out of the next stand sometime tonight. We go out on
another road, so we shall not have to wait, unless something
unforeseen occurs. Came pretty near having a smash-up,
didn't we?" suggested Phil.

"Near?" The Missing Link's emotion was too great to permit him
to finish the sentence.

The car bowled merrily along. In a short time the two men on the
front platform were able to make out the outlines of the town
ahead of them. The skies were clearing now, and shortly
afterwards the sun burst through the clouds.

"All is sunshine," laughed Phil. "For a time it looked as if
there would be a total eclipse," he added, grimly.

Billy gazed at him wonderingly.

"If I had your nerve I'd be a millionaire," said Billy in a
low tone.

"You probably would break your neck the first thing you did,"
answered Phil with a short laugh.

They were now moving along on a level stretch of track. Phil set
the brakes a little, and the car slowed down. In this way they
glided easily into the station, where the Circus Boy brought the
car to a stop directly in front of the telegraph office.

The station agent came out to see what it was that had come in
so unexpectedly.

His amazement was great.

"Well, we are here," called Phil, stepping down from
the platform. "I guess we are on time."

"Any orders?" shouted Teddy Tucker, dropping from the
rear platform.

"Where--where did you fellows come from?"


"Where's your engine?"

"I'm the engine," spoke up Teddy. "Wasn't I behind, pushing Car
Three all the way over?"

All hands set up a shout of laughter.



The story of Phil Forrest's brilliant and perilous dash quickly
spread about the town. By six o'clock a great crowd had gathered
about the station to get a look at the car and at the Circus Boy
who had piloted her.

Phil was hustling about in search of an engine crew from the
other road. He wanted his car moved from the main track,
before some other train should come along and run into him,
thus completing the wrecking that he already had so
successfully begun.

In the meantime Teddy placed himself on view, parading up and
down, looking wise and pompous. He always was willing to
be admired. As soon as the newspaper offices were open he made
haste to visit them, and the afternoon papers printed the story
of Car Three's great wildcat dash, displaying the account under
big, black headlines. The Sparling Shows got a full measure of
publicity that day.

Teddy marked and wrapped copies of the papers containing the
notice, mailing them back to the show for Mr. Sparling to read.
On the margin of one of the papers so sent, Teddy wrote with a
lead pencil, "no news today."

What the Circus Boy's idea of news really was it would be
difficult to say.

Car Three had a fair field for most of the day. By the time the
rivals got in there were few choice locations for billing left in
the town.

The manager of the yellow car tried to induce the railroad
authorities to proceed against Phil for the boy's action in
taking his car over the division without authority. The road,
however, refused to accede to the demand, and nothing ever was
done about it. Perhaps Mr. Sparling had something to do with
this, for telegrams were exchanged that day between the owner of
the show and the division superintendent. In the meantime Phil
did not trouble himself over the matter. He had too many other
things to think of.

The next stand was to be in Oklahoma. Phil hoped that, by the
time they reached there, they would be far enough ahead of the
rival cars to shake them off entirely.

That afternoon he and Teddy went over town to look over the work.
One of the first things to attract Phil's attention was a flag
pole towering high above everything else in the city.

"Wouldn't I like to unfurl a Sparling banner from the top of that
pole," exclaimed Phil, gazing up at the top. "How high is that
pole?" he asked of a man standing near him.

"One hundred feet."

Teddy whistled softly.

"I wonder if I could get the consent of the town authorities to
run some advertising matter up there?"

"Couldn't do it, even if you got the permission," answered
the man.

"Why not?"

"There is no rope on the pole. It rotted off a year ago."

"That is too bad. I had already set my heart on billing
the pole. It can be seen from all parts of the city, can
it not?"

"Yes, and a long way out of the city at that."

"Come on, Teddy; let's not look at it. It makes me feel sad to
think I cannot possess that pole."

"I wonder if you will ever be satisfied?" grumbled Teddy.

"Not as long as there is a spot on earth large enough for a
Sparling one-sheet left uncovered."

"What will you give--what would you give, I mean, to have some
banners put on top of the flag pole?"

"I would give fifty dollars and think I had got off
very cheaply."

Teddy waxed thoughtful. Several times, that afternoon,
he wandered over to the vicinity of the tall flag pole,
and, leaning against a building, surveyed it critically.

After the fifth trip of this sort, the Circus Boy hurried back
to the car. No one was on board save the porter. Teddy began
rummaging about among the cloth banners, littering the floor
with all sorts of rubbish in his feverish efforts to get what
he wanted.

After considerable trouble he succeeded in laying out a gaudy
assortment of banners. These he carefully stitched together
until he had a completed flag or banner about fifty feet long.

"See here, Henry, don't you tell anybody what I have been doing,
for you don't know."

"No, sir," agreed the porter.

Next Teddy provided himself with a light, strong rope. All his
preparations completed, he once more strolled over town, where
he joined Phil in watching the work. But he confided to his
companion nothing of what he had been doing. Teddy Tucker's
face wore its usual innocent expression.

That night, after supper, he called Billy Conley aside and
confided to the assistant car manager what he had in mind.

"_Forget_ it!" advised Billy with emphasis.

"I can't. I want to earn that fifty dollars."

"But if you break your neck what good will the fifty do you?"

"If I don't it will do me fifty dollars' worth of good," was the
quick reply.

"How do you expect to do it?"

"I'll show you tonight. But we shall have to wait till most of
the people are off the streets. You get away about ten o'clock,
and don't let either Phil or any of the crew know where you
are going. I will meet you on the other side of the station at
ten o'clock sharp, provided I can get away from Phil."

"I don't like it, but I guess I am just enough of a good fellow
to be willing to help you break your neck. Have you any family
that you wish me to notify?"

"No one, unless it is January."

"Who's he?"

"My educated donkey."

"Oh, pshaw!" grumbled Billy.

At the appointed time Teddy made his exit from the car without
attracting the attention of any of the crew. Phil was busy over
his books, while the men were sitting on piles of paper, relating
their experiences on the road.

Earlier in the evening Teddy had secreted his banners in what is
known as the cellar, the large boxlike compartment under the car
He now hastily gathered up his equipment and hurried to the
station platform. Billy was already awaiting him there.

"You better give up this fool idea," warned Billy. "I don't want
anything to do with it. You can go alone if you want to, but
none of it for mine."



"If you back down now, do you know what I'll do?"

"What will you do?"

"I'll give you the worst walloping you ever had in your life."

"You can't do it."

Teddy whipped off his coat.

"Come on; I'll show you."

Conley burst out laughing.

"The Boss says you are a hopeless case. I agree with him.
Come on. I'll help you to break your neck."

They started off together. When they reached the pole, the pair
dodged into a convenient doorway where they waited to make sure
that they were not observed.

"I guess it is all right," said Teddy.

"How you going to get up there?"

"I brought a pair of climbers that I found in the car yesterday--
the kind those telephone linemen use to climb telephone
poles with. Won't I go up, I guess _yes!_"

Teddy first strapped the banners over his shoulders, in such a
way that they would not impede his progress; then he put on the
climbers, Billy watching disapprovingly.

All was ready. With a final glance up and down the street Teddy
strode from his hiding place.

He walked up the pole as if he were used to it. In a few
minutes the watcher below could barely make him out in the
faint moonlight.

"Look out, when you get up higher. The pole may be rotten,"
called Billy softly.

"All right. I'm up to the splice."

Here Teddy paused to rest, being now about halfway up the pole.
Before going higher the Circus Boy prudently wrapped the small
rope that he carried twice around the pole, forming a slip-noose.
He made the free end fast around his body in case he should lose
his footing.

This done, Teddy felt secure from a fall.

He worked his way slowly upward, creeping higher and higher, inch
by inch, cautious but not in the least afraid, for Teddy was used
to being high in the air.

Now and then he would pause to call down to the anxious Billy.

"Stand under to be ready to catch me if I fall," directed Tucker.

"Not much. You hit ground if you fall," jeered Conley.

Teddy's laugh floated down to him, carefree and happy.
The Circus Boy was in his element.

Finally he managed to reach the top, or nearly to the top
of the pole without mishap. The slender top of the flag
pole swayed back and forth, like the mast of a ship in a
rolling sea. It seemed to Teddy as if each roll would be
his last.

He felt a slight dizziness, but it passed off quickly. In fact,
he was too busy to give much heed to it. With nimble fingers he
unpacked his roll of banners; and, in a few minutes, he was
securing the long streamer to the pole, which he did by lacing it
to the pole with leather thongs, through eyelets that he had
sewed in the cloth.

In a few minutes the great banner fluttered to the breeze.

"Hurrah!" cried Teddy exultingly. "We're off!"

As he called out Teddy suddenly felt his footing give way
beneath him. He had thrown too much weight on the climbers,
and they had lost their grip.




"What is it?" cried Billy in alarm. "I'm hung up--hung down,
I mean!"

"What--what's the matter, are you in trouble?"

"Yes, I'm hanging head down. I'm fast by the feet.
Help me down!"

"Help you down? I can't help you. You will have to get out the
best way you can. Can't you crawl up and free your feet?"

"No; go get Phil."

"Can you hold on?"

"I--I'll try. Go get Phil."

Conley dashed away as fast as he could run.

"I knew it, I knew it," he repeated at almost every bound.

Teddy's climbers had lost their grip in the rotting wood.
Before he could recover himself he had tumbled backward.
Fortunately the rope had clung to the pole; he was held fast
but Teddy was hanging with his back against the pole, being
powerless to help himself in the slightest degree. Again, he
was afraid that, were he to stir about, the rope, which had
slipped down and drawn tight about his ankles, might suddenly
slide down the pole and dash him to his death.

Not many minutes had elapsed before Phil and Conley came
running back. Phil, at the suggestion of the assistant
manager, had brought a pair of climbers with him, Billy
explaining, as they ran, the fix that the Circus Boy was in.

For a wonder, all the disturbance had attracted no attention on
the street.

"Are you all right?" called Phil as he ran to the spot.

"N--no; I'm all wrong," came the answer from above. "All the
blood in my body is in my head. I'm going to burst in a minute."

Phil wasted no words. Quickly strapping on his climbers, he
began shinning up the pole, which he took much faster than Teddy
had done, for the situation was critical.

"Hurry up! Think I want to stay here all night?"

"I'm coming. Hang on a few moments longer," panted Phil, for the
exertion was starting the perspiration all over his body.

At last he reached the spot where Teddy was hanging head down.

"Well, you have got yourself into a nice fix!" growled Phil.

"I got the banners up," retorted Teddy.

Phil cast his eyes aloft, and there, above his head, floated the
gaudy banners of the Sparling Show.

"Great!" he muttered. "But you are lucky if it doesn't cost you
your life and perhaps mine, too. Now, when I place this rope in
your hands, you hang on to it for all you are worth. I will make
it fast above, and I think I shall have to cut the rope that
holds your feet. I see no other way to get you down."

"What, and let me drop? No, you don't."

"I shall not let you drop if I can help it. Can't you manage to
get a grip on the pole with your arms?"

"If I were facing the other way, I might."

"Twist yourself. Aren't you enough of a circus man to do a
contortion act as simple as that?"

Teddy thought he was. At least, he was willing to try, and he
succeeded very well, throwing a firm grip about the pole.

Phil cautiously climbed above his companion. None save a trained
aerial worker could have accomplished such a feat, but the Circus
Boy managed it without mishap. He then made fast a rope about
the pole above the place where Teddy's rope was secured, drawing
it tight above a slight projection on the pole itself, where part
of a knot had been left.

Phil had not secured himself as Teddy had done, but he felt
no fear of falling as long as he had one arm about the pole.
He might slip, but even then the principal danger to be
apprehended was that he might carry Teddy down with him.

"Pass the rope about your body," directed Phil.

"Which rope?"

"My rope--_this_ rope," answered Phil, raising and lowering the
rope that Teddy might make no mistake. "If you get the wrong one
you will take a fine tumble. Got it?"


"All right. When you have secured it about your body let
me know."

"I've got it."

"Have you also got a firm grip on the pole?"


"Then look out. I am going to cut your feet loose.
Are you ready?"

"All ready!"

Phil severed the rope that held Teddy's feet, and the boy did
a half turn in the air, his feet suddenly flopping over until
he found himself in an upright position. But the twist of the
body had given him a fearful wrench, drawing a loud "ouch!"
from Teddy. To add to his troubles Tucker found himself unable
to move.

"I'm tied up in a hard knot," he wailed.

"What's the trouble?"

"I'm all twisted. I can't wiggle a toe."

"Well, you don't have to wiggle your toes, do you?"

Phil found the work of extricating his companion a more difficult
matter than he had expected, and to set Teddy free it was
necessary to cut the rope again.

This time the cutting was followed instantly by a wild yell.

Teddy shot down to the splice in the pole, where he struck the
crosspiece with a jolt that shook the pole from top to bottom;
but, fortunately, his arms were about the pole and the crosspiece
had kept him from plunging to the ground many feet below.

"Are you all right?" called Phil.

"No; I'm killed."

"Lucky you didn't break the pole, at any rate."

"Break the pole? Break the pole?" yelled Teddy, half
in anger, half in pain. "What do I care about the pole?
I've broken myself. I won't be able to sit down again
this season. Oh, why did I ever come with this outfit?"

"Hurry and get down. We shall have the whole town awake
if you keep up that racket."

Phil let himself down to where Teddy sat rubbing himself
and growling.

"Go on down. You are not hurt," commanded Phil.

"I am, I tell you."

"Well, are you going to stay up here all night?"

Teddy pulled himself together, preparing for the descent.

"Can you get down alone? If not I will tie a rope to you to
protect you."

"No; you keep away from me. I'll get down if you let me alone."

"Teddy Tucker, you are an ungrateful boy."

"I'm a sore boy; that's what I am. Don't speak to me till
I get down again. Then I'll talk with you and I'll have
something to say, too. I want that fifty dollars for
putting the banner up, too."

"Well, wait till you get down, anyhow," retorted
Phil impatiently.

Teddy made his way down, muttering and growling every foot of the
way, followed by Phil at a safe distance, the latter chuckling
and laughing at Teddy's rage.

Young Tucker had nearly reached the base of the pole, when once
more he missed his footing.

Billy Conley was just below him, ready to assist, when Teddy
landed on him, both going down together.

Teddy uttered a yell that could have been heard more than a
block away.

As the two struggled to get up, both Teddy and Billy
threatening each other, rapid footsteps were heard approaching
them down the street. In a moment they saw the flash of a
policeman's shield.

"We're caught!" cried Conley. "Run for it!"

"Halt!" commanded the officer. He was almost upon them now.
Phil was still up the pole, where he clung, awaiting the result
of the surprise below.

"What does this mean?" demanded the bluecoat.

"It means you are it!" howled Teddy, bolting between the
officer's legs, causing the bluecoat to fall flat upon
the ground.

"Run! Run!" howled Teddy.

Phil sprang from the pole and all hands made a lively sprint for
the car.



But Teddy had distinguished himself. When the town awakened
next morning there were loud clamorings for the arrest of the
showman who had dared to unfurl a circus advertisement from the
top of the city's flag pole. The showmen guilty of the deed
were many, many miles away by that time, engaged in other
similar occupations.

At McAlister, a booming western town, the opposition were still
hard on the heels of Car Three. Try as he would Phil Forrest was
able to shake them off no longer than a few hours at a time.

A new plan occurred to him, and immediately upon his arrival at
McAlister he wired Mr. Sparling to send a brigade into the next
town ahead, to bill the place, in order that Car Three might make
a jump and get away from its rivals.

A brigade, it should be known, is a crew of men that does not
travel on a special car. They go by regular train, traveling as
other passengers do, dropping off and billing a town here and
there, as directed by wire.

The answer came back that the brigade would relieve him at the
next stand.

While this had been going on young Tucker had been listening to a
most interesting tale of a deserted town some twenty miles beyond
where they were then working. The deserted town was known as
Owls' Valley. It had been a prosperous little city up to within
two months previous, when, for reasons that Teddy did not learn,
the inhabitants had taken a sudden leave.

This information set Teddy Tucker to thinking.
A deserted village? He wished that he might see it.
He had heard of deserted villages, and this one was of
more than ordinary interest, because, the moment he
heard of it, a plan presented itself to his fertile mind.

"I'll bet they will not only nibble at the bait, but will swallow
it whole," he decided exultingly after he had thoroughly gone
over the plan, sitting off by himself on a pile of railroad iron.
"I'll take Billy into my confidence. Billy will spread the word,
and then we shall see what will happen."

When Billy came in Teddy called him aside and outlined his plan.

Billy returned from the conference grinning broadly, but Teddy
was serious and thoughtful.

However, he decided not to tell Phil what he had done.
Perhaps Phil might not approve of it. Phil was so peculiar
that he might visit the rival cars and tell them that
certain information they had obtained was not correct.

Be that as it may, a few hours later three car managers visited
the station, leaving orders that their cars were to be switched
off at Owls' Valley.

"That fellow, Forrest, thought he would play a smart trick on us
and slip into a town not down on his route, where he was going to
have all the billing to himself," said the manager of the yellow
car, late that evening.

"Where is Owls' Valley?" asked one of his men.

"About twenty miles west of here. It will be a short run.
He will be a very much surprised young man when he wakes up
in the morning and finds us lying on the siding with him."

The train to which the cars were to be attached was not to leave
until sometime after midnight. When it finally came in all the
advertising car crews were in bed and asleep. Teddy Tucker,
however, was not only wide awake, but outside at that.

"Couple us up next to your rear car, and put the other fellows on
the rear if you will," he said to the conductor. "They are going
to Owls' Valley, but we are going through. Please say nothing to
them about what I have told you. Here's a pass for
the circus."

The rest was easy. Soon the train was rumbling away, with Teddy
the happiest mortal on it. But he did not go to bed. Not Teddy!
He sat up to make sure that his plans did not miscarry.
Owls' Valley was reached in due time, and the Circus Boy was
outside to make sure that no mistake was made. He did not
propose that Car Three should, by any slip, be sidetracked
at the deserted village.

Very shortly afterwards they were again on their way, and Teddy
went to bed well satisfied with his night's work. When the men
woke up early next morning a new train crew was in charge, for
the advertising car was making a long run.

Phil was the first to awaken. As was customary with him he
stepped to the window and peered out.

"Why, we seem to be the last car on the train. There were
three opposition cars behind us when we started out last night.
I wonder what that means?"

Quickly dressing, he went out on the platform. Leaning over he
looked ahead. Car Three was the only show car on the train.

"That is queer. I do not understand it at all."

Hurrying in to the main part of the car Phil called to the men.

"Do any of you know what has become of the opposition?" he asked.

"Why, aren't they on behind?"

"No one is on behind. We are the last car. Those fellows have
stolen a march on us somewhere. I can't imagine where they
dropped off, though; can you?"

"Maybe they have switched off on another road," suggested
a voice.

"No other road they could switch off on. There is something
more to this than appears on the surface. I'll go forward and
ask the conductor."

Phil did so, but the conductor could give him no information.
Car Three was the only show car on the train when the present
conductor had taken charge.

Phil was more puzzled than ever. He consulted his route list, to
make sure that he himself had not made a mistake and skipped a
town that he should have billed. No; there was only one town he
had missed, and that was the one the brigade was to work.

About this time Teddy sat up, rubbing his eyes sleepily.

"What's up?" he inquired, noting that his companion was troubled.

"That is what I should like to know," answered Phil absently.

"Tell me about it. Anything gone wrong?"

"I don't know. The opposition has disappeared."


"Yes; they disappeared during the night, and I cannot imagine
where they have gone. They must have dropped in on some town
that we should have made, and I am worried."

Teddy pulled up a window shade and studied the landscape for
several minutes.

"Curious, isn't it?" he mumbled.


"I might make a guess where they went, Phil."

"You might guess?"

"That's what I said."

"Where do you think they have gone?"

"If I were to make a long-range guess, I should say that perhaps
the cars of the opposition were sidetracked at Owls' Valley."

"Where is that? I never heard of the place."

"That, my dear sir, is the deserted village. Lonesome Town, they
ought to call it."

"Where is it?"

"About twenty miles from the last stand; and, if they are there,
they will be likely to stay there for sometime to come."

Phil had wheeled about, studying his companion keenly.

"You seem to know a great deal about the movements of the enemy.
How does it happen that you are so well posted, Teddy Tucker?"

"I was hanging around the station when they gave the order to
have their cars dropped off there," answered Teddy, avoiding the
keen gaze of his companion and superior.

"Did you know the place was deserted?"

Teddy nodded.

"Did _they?_"

Teddy shook his head.

"How did they happen to order their cars dropped off there?"

"I--I guess somebody must have told them that--I guess maybe they
thought we were going there."

"Thought we were going there?"



"Oh, because."

A light was beginning to dawn upon the young car manager.
He surveyed Teddy from beneath half closed eyelids.
Tucker grew restless under the critical examination.

"Say, stop your looking at me that way."


"You make me nervous. Stop it, I say!"

"Tell me all about it, Teddy," urged Phil, trying hard to make
his tone stern.

"Tell you about what?"

"Why the opposition happened to think we were going to
Owls' Valley."

"Maybe they just imagined it."

"And maybe they did not. You are mixed up in this, in some way,
and I want to know all about it, Teddy Tucker. I hope you have
done nothing dishonorable. Of course I am glad the other fellows
are out of our way, but I want to know how. Come, be frank
with me. You are avoiding the question. Remember I am the
manager of this car; I am responsible for all that is done on it.
Out with it!"

Teddy fidgeted.

"Well, it was this way. Somebody told them--"

"Well, told them what?" urged Phil.

"Told them they heard we were going to bill Owls' Valley."

"So, that's it, eh?"

Teddy nodded again.

"Did you give out any such information as that?"

Teddy shook his head.

"Who did?"

"I won't tell. You can't make me tell," retorted the
Circus Boy belligerently.

"But you were responsible for the rumor getting out?"

Teddy did not answer.

"And those poor fellows are lying there on the siding,
twenty miles from the nearest telegraph office?"

"I guess so." Tucker grinned broadly.

"And how are they going to get out?"


Phil broke out into a roar of laughter.

"Oh, Teddy, what am I going to do with you? Do you know you have
done very wrong?"

"No, I don't. The trouble with you is that you don't appreciate
a good thing when you get it. You were wishing you could get rid
of the opposition cars, weren't you?"

"Yes, but--"

"Well, you're rid of them, aren't you?"

"Yes, but--"

"And I got rid of them for you."

"Yes, but as I was saying--"

"Then what have you got to raise such a row about? You got
your wish."

Teddy curled up and began studying the landscape again.

"I admire your zeal young man, but your methods are open to
severe criticism. First you imperil the lives of three carloads
of men by cutting them loose from the train; then you climb a
flag pole, nearly losing your own life in the attempt, and now
you have lured three carloads of men to a deserted village, where
you have lost them. Oh, I've got to laugh--I can't help it!"
And Phil did laugh, disturbed as he was over Teddy Tucker's
repeated violation of what Phil believed to be the right and
honorable way of doing business.

"Billy!" called Phil.

Mr. Conley responded promptly.

"I am not asking any questions. I do not want to know any more
than I do about this business. I already know more than I wish
I knew. I want to say, however, that when any more plans are
made, any schemes hatched for outwitting our rivals, I shall
appreciate being made acquainted with such plans before they
are put into practice."

Teddy looked up in amazement. He had not the remotest idea that
Phil even suspected who had been his accomplice. But the car
manager had no need to be told. He was too shrewd not to suspect
at once who it was that had carried out Teddy's suggestions and
sidetracked the opposition where they would not get out for at
least a whole day.

"Yes, sir," answered Billy meekly.

"I understand that the opposition are where they are likely to
stay for sometime to come?"

"Yes, sir; so I understand."

"Oh, you do, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"You know all about it? Well, I thought as much. But I am
sorry you have admitted it. That necessitates my reading you
a severe lecture."

This Phil did, laying down the law as Conley never had supposed
the Circus Boy could do. Billy repeated the lecture to the
rest of the crew, later on, and all agreed that Phil Forrest,
the young advance agent, had left nothing unsaid. Phil's stock
rose correspondingly. A man who could "call down" his crew
properly was a real car manager.

While the Sparling Show profited by Teddy's ruse, Phil felt
unhappy that his advantage had come by reason of the falsehood
that Teddy had told; and that night Phil read his young friend
a severe lecture.

"If I find you doing a trick like that again," concluded Phil,
"you close there and then."



"Who is the man in charge of Sparling Advance Car Number Three?"
demanded Mr. Starr, manager of "The Greatest Show on Earth."

"A young fellow named Forrest. That is all I know about him,"
answered the treasurer of the show.

"He used to be a performer and a good one, too," spoke up the
assistant manager.

This conversation took place in the office tent of the show that
Phil Forrest had been fighting almost ever since he took charge
of Car Three.

"He is one of the best bareback riders who ever entered the
forty-two foot ring," continued the assistant manager.

"What has he ever done before? I never heard of him."

"He has been with Sparling, I think, about five years.
I understand he never did any circus work before that."

"I want that young man," announced the general
manager decisively.

"Probably money will get him," smiled the treasurer.

"I do not wish to do anything to offend Sparling, for he is
an old friend, and one of the best showmen in the country.
I'll write him today, and see what he has to say. That young
man, Forrest, or whatever his name may be, is giving us more
trouble than we ever had before. He is practically putting our
men all out of business. We shall have to change our route, or
close, if he keeps on heading off our advance cars."

"It has come to a pretty pass, if a green boy with no previous
experience is to defeat us. What is the matter with our advance
men?" demanded the assistant manager.

"That is what I should like to know," answered Mr. Starr.
"I will write Sparling today about this matter."

Weeks had passed and Car Three had worked its way across the
plains, on into the mountainous country. Car managers had again
been changed on the yellow car; another car had been sent in
ahead of Phil, but to no better purpose than before.

Car Three moved on, making one brilliant dash after another,
sometimes winning out by the narrowest margin and apparently by
pure luck. Still, Phil Forrest and his loyal crew were never
caught napping and were never headed off for more than a day at
a time.

The season was drawing to a close. One day Phil received a wire
from Mr. Sparling reading:

"Close at Deming, New Mexico, September fifteen."

"Boys, the end is in sight; and I, for one, shall be glad when we
are through," announced Phil, appearing in the men's part of the
car, where he read the telegram from the owner of the show.

The men set up a cheer.

"Now let's drive the other fellows off the map during these
remaining two weeks."

How those men did work! No man on that car overslept during the
rest of the trip. Phil seemed not to know the meaning of the
word "tired." All hours of the night found him on duty, either
watching the movements of his car or laying out work ahead,
planning and scheming to outwit his rivals.

At last Car Three rolled into the station at Deming. It was a
warm, balmy Fall day.

"Now burn the town up with your paper, boys," commanded Phil,
after they had finished their breakfast. "Come in early tonight.
I want all hands to drop paste pots and brushes tonight, and take
dinner with me. It will not be at a contract hotel, either.
Dinner at eight o'clock."

"Hooray!" exclaimed Teddy. "A real feed for once, fellows!
No more meals at The Sign of the Tin Spoon this season!"

The crew of Car Three were not slow about getting in that night.
Every man was on time. They dodged out of the car with bundles
under their arms, got a refreshing bath, and spick and span in
tailor-made clothes and clean linen, they presented themselves
at the car just before eight o'clock.

"Hello! You boys do not look natural," hailed Phil, with
a laugh. "But come along; I know you are hungry, and so
am I."

The Circus Boy had arranged for a fine dinner at the leading
hotel of the city, where he had engaged a private dining room
for the evening.

It was a jolly meal. Everyone was happy in the consciousness of
work well done, in the knowledge that they had outrivaled every
opposition car that had been sent into their field.

The dinner was nearing its close when Phil rose and rapped
for order.

"Boys," he said, "you have done great work. You have been loyal,
and without your help I should have made a miserable failure of
this work. You know how green I was, how little I really know
about the advance work yet--"

Someone laughed.

"You need not laugh. I know it, whether you boys do or not.
I asked you to dine with Teddy and myself here tonight, that
I might tell you these things and thank you. If ever I am
sent in advance again I hope you boys will be with me, every
one of you."

"You bet we will!" shouted the men in chorus.

"And let me add that Mr. Sparling is not ungrateful for the work
you have done this season. He has asked me to present you with a
small expression of his appreciation. Teddy, will you please
pass these envelopes to the boys? You will find their names
written on the envelopes."

Tucker quickly distributed the little brown envelopes.

The men shouted. Each envelope held a crisp, new
fifty-dollar bill.

"Three cheers for Boss Sparling!" cried Rosie the Pig, springing
to his feet, waving the bill above his head.

The cheers were given with a will.

"I will bid you good-bye tonight," continued Phil. "Teddy and
myself will take a late train for the East, after we get through.
We are going back to join the show until it closes--"

"Wait a minute, Boss," interrupted Billy Conley, rising.
"This show isn't over yet."

"The Band Concert in the main tent is about to begin."

Phil glanced at him inquiringly.

"All the natural curiosities, including the Missing Link and the
Human Pig, will be on view. Take your seats in the center ring,
immediately after the performance closes!"

Billy drew a package from his pocket and placed it on the table
before him.

"Boss, the fellows have asked me to present to you a little
expression of their good will--to the greatest advance agent that
ever hit the iron trail. You've made us work like all possessed,
but we love you almost to death, just the same. I present this
gift to you with our compliments, Boss, and here also is a little
remembrance for our friend, Spotted Horse, otherwise known as
Teddy Tucker."

Billy sat down, and Phil, rising, accepted the gift. Opening the
package he found a handsome gold watch and chain, his initials
set in the back of the watch case in diamonds.

"Oh, boys, why did you do it?" gasped Phil, in an unsteady voice.

"I've got a diamond stick pin!" shouted Teddy triumphantly.

Phil's eyes were moist.

"Why--why did you--"

" 'Cause--'cause you're the best fellow that ever lived!
Say, quit lookin' at me like that, or I'll blubber right
out," stammered Billy, hastily pushing back his chair and
walking over to the window.

"For he's a jolly good fellow!" struck up Rosie the Pig.
All joined in the chorus, while Phil sat down helplessly,
unable to say a word.

On the second morning thereafter the Circus Boys rejoined the
Great Sparling Shows, where they were welcomed right royally.
Teddy insisted in going on with his mule act that same day.

Even the donkey was glad to see Teddy. January evinced his
pleasure at having his young master with him again by promptly
kicking young Tucker through the side wall of the pad room,
nearly breaking the Circus Boy's neck.

That day a letter came to Phil from The Greatest Show on Earth.
After reading it, Phil hastened to his employer.

"I have a letter offering us both a contract with The Greatest
for next season. What do you think of that, Mr. Sparling?" asked
Phil with sparkling eyes.

Mr. Sparling did not appear to be surprised.

"Well, what are you going to do about it?"

"Refuse it, of course. I prefer to stay with you."

"And I prefer to have you."

"I thought you would."

"But I shall ask you to accept; in fact, I wish you to do so.
You will find the experience valuable. When you finish your
season with the big show I shall have something of great
importance to communicate to you, if you wish to return to us."

"Wish to?"

"Yes; so wire on your acceptance right away, my boy, then you and
I will have a long talk."

So it was left. Phil went on with the show during the remaining
four weeks, then the boys turned their faces homeward, where they
planned to put in a busy winter practicing and studying.

Despite their reluctance to leave Mr. Sparling for a season, they
were looking forward to the coming Spring when they were to join
the other show. Their experiences there will be related in a
following volume, entitled, "THE CIRCUS BOYS AT THE TOP; Or,
Bossing the Greatest Show of All."

End of

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