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The Young Acrobat of the Great North American Circus
by Horatio Alger Jr.
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"Excuse me, Mr. Dupont, but I find it hard to think you are Joe Dupont, the clown," said Kit.

"Why?"

"Because you look so grave and sedate."

Joe Dupont smiled.

"I only make a fool of myself in the ring," he said. "Outside you might take me for a merchant or minister. Indeed, I am a minister's son."

"You a minister's son!" ejaculated Kit.

"Yes; you wouldn't think it, would you? I was rather a wild lad, as minister's sons often are. My poor father tried hard to give me an education, but my mind wasn't on books or school exercises, and at sixteen I cut and run."

"Did you join a circus then?"

"Not at once. I tried hard to earn my living in different ways. Finally I struck a circus, and got an engagement as a razorback. When I got older I began to notice and imitate the clowns, and finally I made up my mind to become one myself."

"Do you like the business?"

"I have to like it. No; I am disgusted with myself often and often. You can judge from one thing. I have a little daughter, Katy, now eight years of age. She has never seen me in the ring and never will. I could never hold up my head in her presence if she had once seen me playing the fool before an audience."

All this surprised Kit. He had been disposed to think that what clowns were before the public they were in private life also. Now he saw his mistake.

"You contribute to the public amusement, Mr. Dupont," said Kit.

"True; but what sort of a life record is it? Suppose in after years Katy is asked, 'Who was your father?' and is obliged to answer, 'Joe Dupont, the clown.' But I ought not to grumble. But for you I should have died a terrible death, and Katy would be fatherless, so I have much to be thankful for after all."

Kit listened to the clown not without surprise. He could hardly realize that this was the comical man whose grotesque actions and sayings had convulsed the spectators only an hour before. When he came to think of it, he felt that he would rather be an acrobat than a clown.



CHAPTER XV.

MR. BICKFORD GOES TO THE CIRCUS.

When Aaron Bickford, balked of his prey, was compelled to get into his wagon and start for home, he felt uncommonly cross. To begin with, he was half famished, having harnessed up and set out on what turned out to be a wild goose chase without breaking his fast. Yet he could have borne this with comparative equanimity if he had effected the purpose which he had in view—the capture of his expected apprentice.

But he had been signally defeated. Indeed he had been humiliated in presence of Kit and William Morris, by being unceremoniously picked up and tossed over the fence. As William was an Oakford boy, he foresaw that his discomfiture would soon be known to all his fellow townsmen, and that public ridicule would be his portion. There seemed no way to avoid this, unless by begging William to keep silent, and this he could not bring himself to do, even if the request was likely to be granted.

"Where's the boy?" asked his wife, as, after unharnessing his horse, he went into the house.

"I don't know where he is," answered Bickford, in a surly tone.

"Didn't you find him?"

"Yes, I found him."

"Wouldn't he come back?"

"He didn't."

"I'd have made him if I were you."

"Perhaps you would, and then perhaps you wouldn't. Perhaps you couldn't."

"You don't mean to say, Aaron Bickford, that you let a whippersnapper like that defy you?"

"What could I do against a man eight feet high?"

"Goodness, Mr. Bickford, have you been drinking?" ejaculated his wife.

"No, I haven't been drinking."

"Do you mean to tell me that boy is eight feet high?"

"No, I don't mean to tell you the boy is eight feet high. But I won't answer any more foolish questions till you give me something to eat. I am fairly faint with hunger."

"Sit down, then, and I hope after you've gratified your appetite you'll be a little less mysterious."

Mrs. Bickford was privately of opinion that her husband had stopped at some drinking place—otherwise why should he prate of men eight feet tall?

Aaron Bickford ate almost ravenously, though the food set before him was not calculated to gratify the taste of an epicure. But all things are acceptable to an empty stomach.

When he seemed to be satisfied, his wife began anew.

"Who is it that is eight feet high?" she asked.

"The giant at the circus."

"What did you have to do with him?"

"Not much, but he had something to do with me," answered Bickford, grimly.

"How is that?"

"I overhauled the boy, and was dragging him back to the wagon, when this fellow hove in sight. It seems he knew the young rascal, and took his part. He seized me as easily as you would take up a cat, and flung me over the fence."

"I wish I'd been there!" exclaimed Mrs. Bickford, angrily.

"What could you have done. You would have been flung over too," said her husband, contemptuously.

"I would have got a good grip of his hair, and I guess that would have made him let go."

"You'd have to stand on a ladder, then."

"So the boy got away?"

"Of course he did."

"And where did he go?"

"I expect he went to the circus along with William Morris."

"Was that boy with him?"

"Yes."

"They were pretty well matched. What can they do at the circus?"

"I don't know. Perhaps their long-legged friend will give them a ticket to the show."

"Aaron, suppose we go to the circus?"

"What for?"

"You may get hold of the boy, and bring him back. The giant won't be with him all the time."

"I'd like to get the boy back," said Bickford, in a wavering tone. "I'd give him a lesson."

"And so would I. I guess between us we could subdue him. But of course he must be got back first."

"I'll think of it, Sarah."

Later in the day Mr. Bickford told his wife he would go to the circus, but he tried to evade taking her in order to save the expense of another ticket. To this, however, she would not agree. The upshot was, that after supper the old horse was harnessed up, and the amiable pair, bent on vengeance, started for Grafton.



CHAPTER XVI.

MR. BICKFORD AT THE CIRCUS.

Mr. Bickford's chief object in going to the circus was to regain possession of Kit, his runaway apprentice, as he chose to consider him. But, besides this, he really had a curiosity to see the show, and thought this would afford him a good excuse for doing so. The same remark will apply to Mrs. Bickford, whose curiosity had been excited the year previous by seeing a circus procession. The blacksmith and his wife were not prejudiced against amusements, like many others, but were too frugal to attend them. Now that they could combine business with pleasure, they threw to the winds all hesitation.

"Do you think you'll get the boy, father?" asked Mrs. Bickford, as they jolted over the road to Grafton.

"I'll make a try for it, Sarah. He's a good strong boy, and he'll make a capital blacksmith. Did you notice his broad shoulders?"

"He looks like he'd have a hearty appetite," said the careful spouse.

"We won't pamper him, Sarah," replied Bickford, smiling grimly. "He won't get no such victuals as he did at home. Plain food and plenty of it, that's the way to bring up boys."

"Perhaps he won't be at the circus," suggested Mrs. Bickford.

"I'd be surprised if he wasn't. Boys have a natural hankering for the circus. I had when I was a boy."

"Did you ever go, Aaron?"

"No; I didn't have the money."

"Do you know how much they charge?"

"Fifty cents, I believe."

"It's an awful sight of money to pay for amusement. If it lasts two hours, that makes twenty-five cents an hour."

"So it does, Sarah. That's as much as I can earn by hard work in that time."

"I don't know as it's right to fling away so much money."

"I wouldn't do it if it wasn't for gettin' the boy back. He'll be worth a good deal to me if I do. He's a good deal stronger than Bill Morris."

"Of course that makes a difference. I don't care so much for the circus, though I should like to see the man stand up on a horse and jump through hoops. I wonder if the horse jumps through too."

"I don't know, but we'll soon know all that is to be known. The boy won't expect to see us, I reckon," concluded the blacksmith, with a chuckle.

At length they reached the circus grounds. All was bustle and excitement in the neighborhood of the lot.

"I declare, Aaron, it looks like Fourth of July," said Mrs. Bickford.

"So it does. It beats all—what a crowd there is."

They bought tickets and entered the inclosure.

In a small tent near the entrance were the curiosities. They were about to walk in when a young man curtly asked for tickets.

"We bought tickets at the gate. Here they are."

"All right; but you need separate tickets here."

"I declare that's a swindle," said Mrs. Bickford. "I thought we could see the whole show on these."

"We only charge ten cents extra for this."

"It's a shame. Shall we go in, Aaron?"

"I guess we will. I want to see that 'ere fat woman."

"I'd like to see the dwarf and the woman with hair five feet long. A circus is dreadful expensive, but bein' as we're here we might as well see the whole thing."

Twenty cents was paid at the door, and the economical pair, grown suddenly so extravagant, walked in.

The first object on which the blacksmith's eyes rested kindled him with indignation, and recalled mortifying memories. It was Achilles Henderson, the giant, who, on his side recognized Aaron Bickford.

"Good evening, my friend," he said, with a smile. "I believe we have met before."

"Do you know him?" asked Mrs. Bickford, in surprise.

Aaron's brow contracted as he answered:

"It's the ruffian that threw me over the fence this morning."

"I see you remember me," said Achilles, good-naturedly.

"I ought to remember you," retorted the blacksmith.

"Come, don't bear malice. It was only a little joke."

"I don't like such jokes."

"Well, well; I'll give you satisfaction. I'll let you throw me over the fence any time you want to, and I won't make a particle of resistance."

Somehow this proposal did not strike the blacksmith as satisfactory. He asked abruptly: "Where's the boy?"

"There were two boys."

"I mean the stout, broad-shouldered boy."

"I don't know just where he is at present."

"Do you know why I've come here this evening?"

"To see the show, I expect."

"I've come to get that boy. I've no doubt he's somewhere about here."

"Oho!" thought the giant; "I must put my young friend on his guard."

"If you'll help me I'll do as much for you some time."

"So you are going to carry him back with you?" went on Achilles, desirous of learning the extent of Kit's danger.

"Yes, I am."

"You say he is your apprentice?"

"Of course he is."

"And you've got the papers to show for it?"

"I don't need no papers. I've got his uncle's consent."

"I think, my friend, you're not familiar with the law," thought Achilles. "Kit won't go with you to-night."

But it was nearly time for the performance. Mr. and Mrs. Bickford left the smaller tent, and entering the big one took their seats. They watched the performance with great wonder and enjoyment till the entrance of Kit and the Vincenti brothers. They did not immediately discover him, but when he stood on the shoulders of Alonzo Vincenti, who, in turn, stood on the shoulders of Antonio, and the three-storied acrobat walked round the ring, Mrs. Bickford recognized Kit, and, pointing with her parasol to the young acrobat, as she half raised herself from her seat, she exclaimed in a shrill voice: "Look, Aaron, there's your boy, all rigged out in circus clothes!"

"Well, that beats all!" ejaculated the blacksmith, gazing with wide open mouth at Kit.

Just then, Kit, reversing his attitude, raised his feet in the air and was borne round the ring, amid the plaudits of the spectators.

"How do you think he does it?" asked Mrs. Bickford in astonishment.

"I give it up," said the blacksmith.

"He's a smart critter. Do you think they pay him?"

"I reckon he gets two or three dollars a week, but he hain't no business to hire out to the circus folks. He's going back with us to-night, and I'll turn him out a blacksmith in two years."

When Kit had finished his act, he went to the dressing room and changed his clothes.

"I wonder whether the old fellow is after me!" he thought. "What could have put it into his head that I was here?"

As he emerged from the dressing room he met Mr. Barlow, the proprietor of the circus, who advanced towards him, and shook his hand cordially.

"Bravo, my young friend!" he said. "You did yourself great credit. Are you sure you have never performed in a circus before?"

"Quite sure, sir."

"You went through your act like an old professional. You did as well as either of the other two."

"Thank you, sir. I am glad you are satisfied."

"I ought to be. I regard you as a decided acquisition to my show. Keep on doing your best, and I can assure you that your efforts will be appreciated. How much did I agree to pay you?"

"Ten dollars a week, sir."

"That isn't enough. I raise your salary at once to twenty-five."

Kit was dazzled by his good fortune. What! Twenty-five dollars a week and traveling expenses for a boy of sixteen! It seemed marvelous.

"I am afraid I am dreaming, Mr. Barlow," he said. "I can't believe that I am really to receive so handsome a salary."

"You will realize it to-night when you collect your first week's pay."

"But this won't be a full week, sir."

"Never mind! You shall receive full pay. Do you think I forget your heroic act at Smyrna?"

"Thank you, sir. I hope nothing will prevent my continuing in your employ."

"What should prevent?" asked Mr. Barlow, quickly. "Have you had an offer from another show?"

"No, sir; I am not well known enough for that; but I saw a man in the audience who would probably like to get me away."

"Who is it?"

"A blacksmith from Oakford."

"I don't understand. What have you to do with a blacksmith?"

Kit explained briefly.

"When do you think he will try to recover possession of you?" asked the circus proprietor.

"Just after the show is over."

"Has he any papers?"

"Not one."

"Then he has no claim on you. If he makes any trouble let me know."

"I will, Mr. Barlow."



CHAPTER XVII.

KIT'S STRATAGEM.

Kit, when dressed, sought the part of the house where he knew that William Morris was seated.

"How did I do, Will?" he asked.

"Splendidly!" answered the boy enthusiastically. "I felt proud of you."

"I think I have a right to be satisfied myself. I have had my pay raised."

"You don't mean to say you are to get more than ten dollars?" said his friend, opening his eyes in amazement.

"I am raised to twenty-five."

"You don't mean to say you are to get twenty-five dollars a week, Kit?"

"Yes, I do."

"And your board?"

"And my board and traveling expenses," added Kit, with a smile.

"I wish I were in your shoes, Kit," said William. "Think of me with only one dollar a week."

"Would you be willing to go through my acts for the money I am going to receive?"

William shook his head.

"I couldn't do it, Kit," he replied. "It always makes me dizzy when I have my head down. I don't believe I could ever do anything in a circus."

"Well, William, I won't forget you. If I save money, as I am sure to do, I'll see if I can't do something for you by and by. By the way, did you see Mr. and Mrs. Bickford?"

"No, you don't mean to say they are here?"

"Look over there!"

William followed the direction of Kit's finger, and he easily discovered the blacksmith and his wife.

"By gracious! You're right!" he said. "It's the first money I've known old Bickford to pay for any amusement for years."

"They came after me, William."

"You won't go back with them?"

"Not much. I don't care to give up twenty-five dollars a week for the privilege of learning the trade of a blacksmith."

"Suppose they try to carry you off?"

"That gives me an idea. With your help I'll try to play a trick on them. It'll be capital fun."

"Go ahead and tell me what it is, Kit. I'm with you!"

"My plan is that you should ride home with Mr. Bickford," said Kit.

"I don't understand," said William, looking puzzled.

"I'll tell you my idea. Bickford has come here with the intention of taking me back with him to Oakford."

"But you don't mean to go?"

"Of course not, but when the show is over I shall put myself in his way, and after a little objection agree to go. I will ask for five minutes to get ready. In that time I will change hats with you, and as it is dark you can easily pass yourself off for me."

"Capital!" exclaimed William, laughing. "Won't the old man look foolish when he finds out who is with him?"

"Don't let him know till you arrive, or he would force you to leave the carriage, and walk home alone, and a six mile walk is no joke."

"All right Kit! I understand, and I think I can carry out your idea. I haven't much love for the old man or his wife either, and I am glad of a chance to get even with them."

The performance continued till ten o'clock. The blacksmith and his wife enjoyed it beyond their anticipations. Amusements of any kind were new to them, and their pleasure was like that of children.

"I begin to think, Sarah, we shall get our money's worth," said Aaron cautiously, as the entertainment neared its end; "this is a great show."

"So it is, Aaron. I don't begrudge the money myself, though fifty cents is a pretty high price to pay. Then, besides, you'll have a chance to carry the boy home."

"That's so, Sarah. Just as soon as the show is over, foller me, and we'll try to find him."

At length the last act was ended, and the crowd of spectators began pouring from the tent.

Mr. Bickford hurriedly emerged from the audience, and began to look around for Kit. He had but little trouble in finding him, for the boy purposely put himself in his way. Aaron Bickford strode up to him.

"Well, I've caught you at last!" he said, putting his hand on the boy's shoulder.

"What do you want of me, Mr. Bickford?" said Kit.

"What do I want of you? Well, I want you to go home with me, of course."

"Won't you let me stay with the circus a week?" asked Kit, in a subdued tone.

"No, I won't. I've got the wagon here, and I'm goin' to take you back with me to-night."

"If you really think my uncle wishes it, perhaps I had better go," said Kit, in what appeared to be a wavering tone.

Mr. Bickford was quite elated. He feared he should have trouble in persuading Kit to accompany him. He would not have been surprised if the boy had disappeared, and given him trouble to find him, and his unexpected submissiveness was an agreeable surprise.

"Well, boy, it's time to be goin'. Oakford's six miles off, and we won't get home before midnight unless we start right off."

"I'll go and get my things, Mr. Bickford. Where is your horse and wagon?"

"Out by the entrance. It's hitched to a tree."

"All right! You go and unhitch the horse, and I'll be right along."

"But suppose you give me the slip? You'd better go along now."

"I'll bring him with me, Mr. Bickford," said the giant. "I'm sorry he isn't going to stay with us, and I'll see him off."

Achilles Henderson spoke in so straightforward a manner that Mr. Bickford was deceived.

"Very well," he said. "I'll go along with Mrs. Bickford. Don't keep me waitin', for it's gettin' late."

The blacksmith and his wife took up their march to the place where their team had been hitched. They found it safe, and untied the horse.

"We're goin' to have a dark ride home, mother," he said.

"Yes, Aaron, but you've done a good evening's work."

"That's so, Sarah. I expected I'd have more trouble with the boy."

"There's nothing like being firm, Aaron. When he saw you were in earnest, he gave up."

"I mean to keep a tight rein on him, Sarah. He's a boy that likes to have his own way, if I ain't greatly mistaken. We must break his will."

The horse was unhitched, and still Kit had not arrived. Mr. Bickford began to fear that he had been tricked after all, when two figures, contrasting strongly with each other, appeared. One was the giant, in his ample height, and the other was a boy.

"There they are, Aaron!" said Mrs. Bickford, who was the first to descry the oddly assorted pair.

"Where is the boy to sit?" asked Achilles.

"In the back seat. Mother and I will sit in front."

"All right! There you are!" said Mr. Henderson, lifting the boy in his arms, as easily as if he were a kitten, and putting him on the rear seat.

"Good-by, Kit!" he said. "I'm sorry you're going to leave us. Perhaps Mr. Bickford will let you off if we show anywhere near here."

"The boy will be at work, and can't be let off," said the blacksmith, stiffly. "But it is time we were off."

"Good-by, then, Kit!"

"Good-by!" said the supposed Kit, in a low tone, for he feared that the difference in his voice would be recognized. But Mr. Bickford had no suspicions. He was anxious to get started, for he and his wife were always in bed by this time ordinarily.

So the team started, and Achilles Henderson, suppressing a laugh, strode away to the circus cars, which were already being prepared for a midnight journey to the next place. It may be explained here that the circus of to-day generally owns its own cars, which are used for the conveyance of all connected with it, their luggage, the tents, the animals, and all the paraphernalia of the show. As soon as the show is ended, the canvas men set to work to take down and fold up the tents. All the freight is conveyed to the cars, and the razorbacks, already referred to, set about loading them. The performers, ticketmen, and candy butchers seek their berths in the sleeping cars and are often in the land of dreams before the train starts.

While Mr. Bickford was driving in the darkness to Oakford with the supposed Kit on the back seat, the real Kit was in his berth in the circus cars, preparing for a refreshing night's rest.



CHAPTER XVIII.

MR. BICKFORD'S MORTIFYING DISCOVERY.

Mr. Bickford was in excellent spirits. He had enjoyed the evening, and although he had been compelled to disburse a dollar for two circus tickets, a sum which to him seemed large, he was disposed to acknowledge that he had received his money's worth. Besides, and this seemed to him the greatest triumph of all, he had recovered his runaway apprentice, or thought he had. He inwardly resolved that Kit should smart for his past insubordination, though he had not yet decided in what way he would get even with him. The unexpected submissiveness shown by Kit elated him, and confirmed him in the idea he had long entertained that he could manage boys a good deal better than the average of men.

"Talk about hard cases," he said one day to his wife. "I'd like to see the boy that can get the start of Aaron Bickford. He'll have to get up unusually airly in the mornin'."

Mr. Bickford felt a little like crowing over his captive, and turned his head partly round to survey the boy on the back seat. Fortunately for William the darkness was so great that there was small chance of his detecting the imposture.

"I reckon you didn't expect to be ridin' back to Oakford along of me this evenin'," he observed.

"No, sir," muttered William in a voice scarcely audible.

"Ho, ho, you feel kind of grouty, eh?" said the blacksmith. "Well, I ain't much surprised. You thought you could have your own way with Aaron Bickford, but you're beginnin' to see your mistake, I reckon?"

"Yes, sir," replied the supposed Kit, in a meek voice.

"Ho, ho! That's the way boys ginerally come out when they try to buck agin' their elders. Not but you might have succeeded with some men, but you didn't know the man you had to deal with this time."

There was a sort of gurgle, for William was trying hard not to laugh, as he was picturing to himself the rage and mortification of Mr. Bickford when he discovered the deceit that had been practiced upon him. But the blacksmith misunderstood the sound, and thought Kit was sobbing.

"You needn't take on!" he said, magnanimously. "It ain't so bad as it might be. You'll be a good deal better off learnin' a good trade than trampin' round the country with the circus. I hope this'll be a lesson to you. You'd better not try to run away ag'in, for it won't be no use. You won't always have that long-legged giant to help you. If I'd done right, I should have had him took up for 'sault and battery. He needn't think because he's eight feet high, more or less, that he can defy the laws of the land. I reckon he got a little skeered of what he done, or he wouldn't have acted so different this evening."

William did not reply to this. He was rather in hopes Mr. Bickford would stop addressing him, for he did not like to run the risk of answering, as it might open the eyes of the blacksmith to the fact that he had the wrong boy in the wagon.

The distance to Oakford steadily diminished, though Mr. Bickford's horse was a slow one. At length it had dwindled to half a mile.

"Now I don't care if he does find out who I am," thought William. "It ain't but a little way home now, and I shouldn't mind walking." Still his own house was rather beyond Mr. Bickford's, and it was just as well to ride the whole way, if he could escape detection so long.

"Where did you learn them circus performances, Christopher?" suddenly asked the blacksmith, turning once more in his seat.

By this time they were within a few rods of the blacksmith's yard, and William became bold, now that he had nothing to lose by it.

"My name isn't Christopher," he answered in his usual tone.

"Your name isn't Christopher? That's what your uncle told me."

"I think you are mistaken," said William quietly.

"What's got into the boy? Is he goin' to deny his own name? What is your name, then?"

"My name is William Morris," was the distinct response.

"What!" exclaimed the blacksmith in amazement.

"I think you ought to know me, Mr. Bickford. I worked for you some time, you know."

"Take off your hat, and let me look at your face!" said Aaron Bickford, sternly.

William laughed as he complied with the request. It was now rather lighter, and the blacksmith, peering into his face, saw that it was indeed true—that the boy on the back seat was not Kit Watson at all, but his ex-apprentice, William Morris.

"It's Bill Morris, by the living jingo!" he exclaimed. "What do you say to that, Sarah?"

"You're a master hand at managing boys, Aaron," said his wife sarcastically.

"How came you in the wagon, Bill Morris?" demanded Bickford, not caring to answer his wife.

"The giant put me in," answered William.

"Where is that boy, Christopher Watson?"

"I expect he is travelin' with the show, Mr. Bickford."

"Who put you up to this mean trick?" demanded the blacksmith, wrathfully.

"Kit Watson."

"I've got an account to settle with you, William Morris. I s'pose you think you've done something pretty smart."

"I think he has, Aaron," said Mrs. Bickford, who seemed to take a malicious pleasure in opening her husband's wounds afresh.

"Mrs. Bickford, it isn't very creditable in you to triumph over your husband, just after he's been spendin' fifty cents for your amusement."

"Goodness knows, Mr. Bickford, you don't often take me to shows. I guess what you spend that way won't ruin you."

While the married pair were indulging in their little recriminations, William had managed to slip out of the wagon in the rear, and he was now a rod away.

"Good night, Mr. Bickford!" he shouted. "I'm much obliged to you for bringing me home. It's saved me a long walk."

The blacksmith's reply was one that I do not care to record. He was thoroughly angry and disgusted. If it hadn't been so late he would have got out and tried to inflict punishment on William with his whip, but the boy was too far away by this time to make this possible.



CHAPTER XIX.

STEPHEN WATSON VISITS OAKFORD.

On Monday as Mr. Bickford was about his work a carriage drove into the yard, containing Stephen Watson and Ralph.

"Good morning, Mr. Bickford," said Stephen Watson. "I've called over to inquire about Kit. I hope he is doing his duty by you."

The blacksmith looked at Mr. Watson with embarrassment, and did not immediately reply.

Mr. Watson repeated his question.

"Kit isn't with me," answered Bickford, at length.

"Isn't with you!" repeated Stephen Watson, in surprise. "Where is he?"

"He's run away."

"Run away!" ejaculated Kit's uncle. "What is the meaning of that?"

"He said he didn't want to be a blacksmith, and that you had no authority to make him."

"But where has he gone? Have you any idea?"

"He has gone off with Barlow's circus."

"But what object can he have in going off with a circus?" asked Mr. Watson, no less bewildered.

"They've hired him to perform."

"Are you sure of this?"

"I ought to be," answered the blacksmith, grimly. "My wife and I saw him jumpin' round last evenin' in the circus tent over at Grafton."

"But I don't see what he—a green hand—can do. Ralph, can you throw any light on this mystery?"

Ralph explained that Kit had practiced acrobatic feats extensively at the gymnasium connected with the school.

"Did he ever talk of going off with a circus?" asked Mr. Watson.

"Never, though he enjoyed the exercise."

"I went after him and tried to get him back," said Mr. Bickford, "but he gave me the slip."

"He's done a very foolish and crazy thing. He can't get more than three or four dollars a week from the circus, and in the fall he'll be out of a job."

"Just as you say, sir. He'd have a good payin' trade if he stayed with me. What do you think it is best to do about it, Mr. Watson?"

"I shall do nothing. If the boy chooses to make a fool of himself, he may try it. Next fall, and possibly before, he'll be coming back in rags, and beg me to take him back."

"I hope you won't take him back," said Ralph, who was jealous of Kit.

"I shall not consider myself bound to do so, but if he consents to obey me, and learn a trade of Mr. Bickford, I will fit him, up and enable him to do so—out of charity, and because he is my nephew."

"Then you don't mean to do anything about it, sir?" asked Aaron Bickford, considerably disappointed, for he longed to get Kit into his power once more.

"No, I will leave the boy to himself. Ralph, as our business seems to be over, we will turn about and go home."

Mr. Watson drove out of the blacksmith's yard.

"Well, Ralph," he said, as they were on their way home, "I am very much annoyed at what your cousin has done, but I don't see that I am to blame."

"Of course you're not, pa," returned Ralph, promptly.

"Still the public may misjudge me. It will be very awkward to answer questions about Kit. I really don't know what to say."

"Say he's run away and joined the circus. We might as well tell the truth."

"I don't know but it will be best. I will add that, though it grieves me, I think it advisable, as he is so old, not to interfere with him, but let him see the error of his way for himself. I will say also that when he chooses to come back, I will make suitable arrangements for him."

"I guess that will do. I will say the same."

"I don't mind saying to you that I shall feel it quite a relief to be rid of the expense of maintaining him, for he has cost me a great deal of money. You are my son, and of course I expect to take care of you, and bring you up as a gentleman, but he has no claim upon me except that of relationship. I won't say that to others, however."

"You are quite right, pa. As he is poor, and has his own living to make, it isn't best to send him to a high-priced school, and give him too much money to spend."

It will be seen that there was a striking resemblance between the views of father and son, both of whom were intensely selfish, mean and unscrupulous.

Stephen Watson foresaw that there would be a difficulty in making outside friends of the family understand why Kit had left home. He deliberately resolved to misrepresent him, and the opportunity came sooner than he anticipated.

On the afternoon of the day of his call upon the blacksmith, there was a ring at the bell, and a middle-aged stranger was ushered into the parlor.

"I suppose you don't remember me," he said to Stephen Watson.

"I can't say I do," replied Stephen, eying him.

"I knew your brother better than I did you. I am Harry Miller, who used to go to school with you both in the old red schoolhouse on the hill."

"I remember your name, but I should not have remembered you."

"I don't wonder. Time changes us all. I am sorry to hear that your poor brother is dead."

"Yes," answered Stephen, heaving a sigh proper to the occasion, which was intended to signify his grief at the loss. "He was cut down like the grass of the field. It is the common lot."

"His wife died earlier, did she not?"

"Yes."

"But there was a son?"

"Yes."

"How old is the boy?"

"Just turned sixteen."

"May I see him? I should like to see the son of my old deskmate."

"Ah!" sighed Stephen. "I wish he were here to meet you."

"But surely he is not dead?"

"No; he is not dead, but he is a source of anxiety to me."

"And why?" asked the visitor, with concern. "Has he turned out badly?"

"Why, I don't know that I can exactly say that he has turned out badly."

"What is the matter with him, then?"

"He is wayward, and instead of being willing to devote himself to his school studies like my son Ralph, he has formed an extraordinary taste for the circus."

"Indeed! but where is he?"

"He is traveling with Barlow's circus."

"In what capacity?"

"As an acrobat."

Henry Miller laughed.

"I remember," he said, "that his father was fond of athletic sports. You never were."

"No, I was a quiet boy."

"That you were, and uncommonly sly!" thought Miller, but he did not consider it polite to say so. "Is the boy—by the way, what is his name?"

"Christopher. He is generally called Kit."

"Well, is Kit a good gymnast?"

"I believe he is."

"When did he join the circus?"

"Only yesterday. In fact it is painful for me to say so, he ran away from a good home to associate with mountebanks."

"And what are you going to do about it?"

"He is so headstrong that I have thought it best to give him his own way, and let him see for himself how foolish he has been. Of course he has a home to return to whenever he sees fit."

"That may be the best way. I should like to see the young rascal. I would follow up the circus and do so, only I am unfortunately called to California on business. I am part owner of a gold mine out there."

"I trust you have been prospered in your worldly affairs."

"Yes, I have every reason to be thankful. I suppose I am worth two hundred thousand dollars."

Stephen Watson, whose god was money, almost turned green with jealousy. At the same time he asked himself how he could take advantage of his old schoolmate's good luck.

"I wish he would take a fancy to my Ralph," he thought.

So he called in Ralph, and introduced him to the rich stranger.

"He's a good boy, my Ralph," he said; "sober and correct in all his habits, and fond of study."

Ralph was rather surprised to hear this panegyric, but presently his father explained to him in private the object he had in view. Then Ralph made himself as agreeable as he could, but he failed to please Mr. Miller.

"He is too much like his father," he said to himself.

When he terminated his call, he received a very cordial invitation to come again on his return from California.

"If Kit has returned I certainly will come," he replied, an answer which pleased neither Ralph nor his father.



CHAPTER XX.

A CHAT WITH A CANDY BUTCHER.

Kit had a berth assigned him in one of the circus cars. His nearest neighbor was Harry Thorne, a young man of twenty-four, who filled the position of candy butcher. As this term may sound strange to my readers, I will explain that it is applied to the venders of candy, lemonade, peanuts, and other articles such as are patronized by those who come to see the show. It is really a very profitable business, as will be explained in the course of the story.

Harry Thorne was social and ready to give Kit any information about the circus.

"How long is it since you joined a circus?" asked Kit, after getting acquainted.

"I was younger than you," answered Thorne.

"Why did you join? What gave you the idea?"

"A spirit of adventure, I think. Besides, there was a large family of us—I am the oldest—and it was necessary for me to do something."

"That's a queer name—candy butcher."

"It seems so to you, but I am used to it."

"Did you become a candy butcher at once?"

"Not till I was eighteen. Before that I ran errands and made myself generally useful. I thought of being an acrobat, like you, but I was too stout and not active enough."

"I shouldn't think there would be much money made in your business," said Kit.

"That shows you don't know much about circus matters. Last fall I ran in with seven hundred dollars saved, besides paying all my expenses during the six months I was out."

"You ought to be pretty well off now, if you have been a candy butcher for five or six years."

"I haven't a cent, and am owing two hundred dollars in Philadelphia."

"How is that?"

"You don't often find a circus man that saves money. It's easy come, easy go. But I send money home every season—three or four hundred dollars at least, if I do well."

"That's a good thing any way. But if I were in your place I would put away some money every season."

"I could do it, but it's hard to make up my mind."

"I can't see how you can make such sums. It puzzles me."

"We are paid a fixed salary, say twenty-five dollars a month, and commission on sales. I was always pretty lucky in selling, and my income has sometimes been very large. But I don't make much in large places. It is in the smaller towns that the money is made. When a country beau brings his girl to the circus, he don't mind expense. He makes up his mind to spend several dollars in having a good time—so he buys lemonade, peanuts, apples, and everything that he or his girl fancies. In the city, where there are plenty of places where such things can be bought, we don't sell much. In New York or Philadelphia I make very little more than my salary."

"What is there most profit on?" asked Kit.

"Well, I should say lemonade. You've heard of circus lemonade?"

"Is there anything peculiar about it?"

"Yes, something peculiarly weak. A good-sized lemon will make half a dozen glasses, and perhaps more. But there is something cheaper still, and that is citric acid. I remember one hot day in an Ohio town. The thermometer stood at 99 degrees and there wasn't a drop of spring or well water to be had, for we had cornered it. All who were thirsty had to drink lemonade, and it took a good many glasses to quench thirst. I made a harvest that day, and so did the other candy butchers. If we could have a whole summer of such days, I could retire on a small fortune in October."

"Do you like the circus business?"

"Sometimes I get tired of it, but when the spring opens I generally have the circus fever."

"What do you do in the winter?"

"It is seldom I get anything to do. I am an expense, and that is why I find myself in debt when the new season opens. Last winter I was more lucky. A young fellow—an old circus acquaintance of mine—has a store in the country, and he offered to supply me with a stock of goods to sell on commission in country villages near by. In that way I filled up about three months, making my expenses, but doing nothing more. However, that was a great thing for me, and I start this season only two hundred dollars in debt, as I think I told you a few minutes ago."

"Is it the same way with performers?"

"No; they have a better chance. Next winter, if you try, you can probably make an engagement to perform at some dime museum or variety hall, in New York or elsewhere. I once got the position of ticket seller for a part of the winter."

"I don't think I should like to perform in a dime museum," said Kit.

"What's the odds, if you are well paid for it?"

"I don't intend to make my present business a permanent one."

"That's different. What will you do next fall?"

"I may go to school."

Harry Thorne whistled.

"That will be a novelty," he said. "I haven't been to school since I was twelve years old."

"Wouldn't you like to go now?"

"No; I'm too old. Are you much of a scholar?"

"I'm a pretty good Latin scholar, and know something of Greek."

"I'll bet there isn't another acrobat in the country that can say that. What salary do you get, if you don't mind telling?"

"Twenty-five dollars a week."

"You're in luck. How came Barlow to give you so much?"

"I think he took a liking to me. Perhaps he wanted to pay me for facing the lion at Smyrna."

"Were you the boy who did that? I thought your face looked familiar. You've got pluck, Kit."

"I hope so; but I'm not sure whether it is I or the snuff that is entitled to the most credit."

"Anyhow it took some courage, even if you did have the snuff with you."

"Do you know what is to be our route this season?"

"I think we are going West as far as St. Louis, taking all the larger towns and cities on our way. We are to show a week in Chicago. But I don't care so much for the cities as the country towns—the one-night places."

"Does Mr. Barlow go with us?"

"Not steadily. He drops in on us here and there. There's one thing I can say for him—he won't have any man in his employ drink or gamble. We have to bind ourselves to total abstinence while we are in his employ—that is, till the end of the season. Gambling is the great vice of circus men; it is more prevalent even than drinking."

"Don't the men do it on the sly?"

"They run a risk if they do. At the first offense they are fined, at the second or third they are bounced."

"That doesn't trouble me any. I neither drink nor gamble."

"Good for you."

"Say, when are you two fellows goin' to stop talkin'?" was heard from a neighboring berth. "You don't give a fellow a chance to sleep."

Kit and his new friend took the hint and addressed themselves to slumber.



CHAPTER XXI.

KIT MEETS A SCHOOLMATE.

Kit slept profoundly, being very tired. He was taken by surprise when, the next morning, he was shaken into a state of wakefulness, and opening his eyes met those of his neighbor Harry Thorne.

"Is it morning?" he asked, in a sleepy tone.

"I should say it was. It is a quarter after nine, and the parade starts at ten."

"The parade?"

"Yes; we give a morning parade in every place we visit. If you are not on hand to take part in it, you will be fined five dollars."

"I'll be up in a jiffy," said Kit, springing out of his berth. "But there's time enough, isn't there?"

"Yes; but not too much. You will want to get some breakfast. By the way, are you used to driving?"

"Oh, yes. I have done a good deal of it," answered Kit.

"I thought so, as you are a country boy. How would you like to drive a span of horses attached to one of the small chariots?"

Kit was extremely fond of a horse, and he answered promptly, "I'll do it."

"There are two. The other is driven by Charlie Davis, once a performer but now a ticket man. He is a little older than you."

"All right! I don't see how I came to sleep so late."

"You and Charlie are good matches. Once he went to bed Saturday night, and did not wake up till Monday morning."

"That beats my record!"

Kit was dressed in less than ten minutes.

"Where shall I get breakfast?" he asked.

"The regular breakfast is over, and you will have to buy some. There is a restaurant just opposite the lot. You might get in with one of the cooks, and get something in the cook tent."

"No; I'll go to the restaurant. To-morrow I'll be on hand at the regular breakfast."

The restaurant was a small one, with no pretensions to style, but Kit was hungry and not particular. At the same table there was a dark complexioned boy of about his own size, who had just begun to dispatch a beefsteak.

He looked up as Kit seated himself.

"You're the new acrobat, are you not?" asked the other.

"Yes; are you Charlie Davis?"

"Yes; how do you know me?"

"Harry Thorne was speaking of you."

"I see you're one of the late birds as well as I. I generally have to buy my breakfast outside. How do you like circus life?"

"I haven't tried it well enough to tell. This is only my second day."

"I went into it at fourteen. I've been an acrobat, too, but I have a weak ankle, and have gone into the ticket department."

"Are you going to remain in the circus permanently?"

"No, I'm trying to wean myself from it. A friend has promised to set me up in business whenever I get ready to retire. If I kept on, I would be no better off at forty than I am now."

"Yet circus people make a good deal of money, I hear."

"Right you are, my boy, but they don't keep it. They get spoiled for anything else, and soon or later they are left out in the cold. I've had a good deal of fun out of it, for I like traveling, but I'm going to give it up."

"I took it up because I had nothing else to do, but I shan't stay in it long. I'll tell you about it some day. I hear you drive one of the pony chariots."

"Yes."

"I am to drive the other."

"Good! Don't let them run away with you, my boy."

"I'll try not to," said Kit, smiling. "Is there any danger?"

"Not much. They're trained. Are you fond of horses?"

"I like nothing better."

"So it is with me. I'll wait till you are through breakfast, and then we'll go over together."

Half an hour later Kit sat on the box of a chariot, drawn by two beautiful ponies. The circus line had been formed, and the parade began. Behind him was a circus wagon, or rather a cage on wheels, through the gratings of which could be seen a tiger, crafty and cruel looking. In front was an elephant, with two or three performers on his back. Kit was dressed in street costume, his circus dress not being required.

In another part of the procession was Charlie Davis, driving a corresponding wagon.

Kit felt a peculiar exhilaration as he drove his ponies, and reflected upon the strangeness of his position, as compared with his previous experiences. He had from time to time watched circus processions, but not in his wildest and most improbable dreams had it ever occurred to him to imagine that he would ever himself take part in one. As he looked down from his perch he saw the streets lined with the usual curious crowd of spectators, among whom boys were largely represented.

"I suppose some of them are envying me," he thought to himself, with a smile. "Suppose there was some one who recognized me?"

No sooner had the thought come into his mind, than he heard his own name called in a voice indicating amazement.

"Kit Watson, by all that's wonderful!" were the words that fell on his ears.

Looking to the right, his glance fell upon Jack Dormer, a schoolmate, who had been attending the same academy with him for a year past.

Kit colored, feeling a little embarrassed.

"How are you, Jack?" he said.

"How came you in this circus procession, Kit?"

"I can't tell you now. Come round to the lot, after the parade is over, and I'll tell you all about it."

Jack availed himself of the invitation and presented himself at the circus grounds.

"What does it all mean, Kit?" he asked. "Have you really and truly joined the circus?"

"Come round this afternoon, and you'll see me perform. I am one of the Vincenti brothers, acrobats."

"But what put it in your head? That's what I want to know?"

"I thought I would like it better than being a blacksmith."

"But who ever dreamed of your being a blacksmith?"

"My uncle did. I'll tell you all about it."

Kit told his story. Jack Dormer listened with sympathetic interest.

"Do they pay you well?" he asked.

"I get twenty-five dollars a week, and all expenses."

"Can you get me a job?" asked Jack quite overcome by the magnificence of the salary.

"As an acrobat, Jack?" asked Kit, laughing, for Jack had the reputation of being one of the clumsiest boys in school.

"Well, no, I don't suppose I could do much in that way, but isn't there something I could do?"

"Take my advice, Jack, and give it up. You've got a good home, and there is no need of your going into any such business even if you were qualified."

"Don't you like it?"

"I can't tell yet. Of course it is exciting, but those who have been in it a good while advise against it. I may not stay in it more than one season."

"Shall I tell the fellows at school where you are?"

"No, I would rather you wouldn't."

"Does your cousin Ralph come back to school?"

"Yes."

"We could spare him a good deal better than you."

"I am not fond of Ralph myself, but the world is wide enough for us both."

Kit saw his schoolmate again after the afternoon performance, and received many compliments.

"I couldn't believe it was you," he said. "You acted as if you were an old hand at the business."



CHAPTER XXII.

NEW ACQUAINTANCES.

Sunday was of course a day of rest for the circus employees. Most of them observed it by lying in bed unusually late. Kit, however, rose in good season, and found himself first at breakfast. When the proper time arrived, he walked to the village, and selecting the first church he came to, entered. He had always been in the habit of attending church, and felt that there was no good reason why he should give up the practice now that he was away from home.

He stood in the lobby, waiting for the sexton to appear, when a fine-looking man of middle age entered the church with a young girl of fourteen at his side.

He glanced at Kit with interest, and after a moment's pause walked up to him.

"Are you a stranger here?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," answered Kit.

"I shall be glad to have you accept a seat in my pew."

"Thank you, sir," said Kit, politely; "I was waiting for the sexton, intending to ask him for a seat."

"I have plenty of room in my pew, having only my daughter with me. Are you staying long in the town?"

"Only as long as the circus does," answered Kit.

The gentleman looked surprised.

"Are you connected with the circus?" he asked, quickly.

"Yes, sir."

By this time the young girl was examining Kit with interest and attention.

"Is it possible you are a performer?"

"Yes, sir."

"I wouldn't have dreamed it. You look like a young gentleman."

"I hope I am, sir."

"Pardon me, I meant no offense, but you don't at all answer my idea of a circus performer."

"I have only been two days with the circus," said Kit; "and that may account for my not having a circus look."

"It is time to take our seats. I will speak with you afterwards. First, however, let me introduce my daughter, Evelyn Grant."

"I am glad to make your acquaintance, Miss Evelyn," said Kit, removing his hat. "My name is Christopher Watson."

Evelyn offered her hand with a smile.

"I had no idea circus young men were so polite," she said.

There was no chance for any further conversation, as they had entered the church. Mr. Grant's pew was in a prominent position. He drew back to let the two young people enter. They seated themselves at the lower end of the pew and Mr. Grant took his seat at the head. Kit noticed that several persons in neighboring pews regarded him with apparent curiosity.

Kit enjoyed the services, which were of an interesting character. He had expected to feel like a stranger, but thanks to the kindness of Mr. Grant, he felt quite as much at home as when he sat in his uncle's pew at Smyrna.

When the services were over, they filed slowly out of church. A new surprise was in store for Kit.

"If you have no engagement we shall be glad to have you dine with us, Master Watson," said Mr. Grant.

"You will come, won't you?" said Evelyn, with a smile.

"You are very kind," said Kit, in grateful surprise. "Nothing could be more agreeable to me."

Just then a gentleman approached Mr. Grant, and said: "I am glad to see you looking so well, Mr. Mayor."

"Is your father the mayor of the city?" asked Kit.

"Yes; he was elected last December."

"I am very fortunate to be invited to dinner by the mayor."

"And by the mayor's daughter. Don't forget that."

"You may be sure I appreciate that, too."

"How funny it seems to me to be walking with a circus performer! What do you do? You don't stand upon a horse's back, and jump through hoops, do you?"

"No, I can't do that."

"But what do you do?"

"I am an acrobat."

Kit explained to her what he did.

"It must be very hard."

"Oh, no! I learned to do it in a gymnasium, before I ever dreamed of being connected with a circus."

"Where was the gymnasium?"

"Attached to Dr. Codman's academy."

"Why, I had a cousin who attended there," said Evelyn, in surprise.

"What was his name?"

"Edward Moore."

"I know him very well. He is a nice fellow."

At this moment Kit, in looking around, was surprised to see the familiar face and figure of Mr. Barlow, the circus proprietor, who had evidently, like himself, been attending the service. Recognition was mutual.

"I am glad to see you here, Watson," said Mr. Barlow, offering his hand. "I always attend church myself when I have an opportunity, but I am afraid few in my employ follow my example. I always feel more confidence in any young man who seems to enjoy a church service."

Mr. Barlow was a man whose name was widely known, and Kit saw that Mr. Grant looked as if he would like to be introduced.

"Mr. Barlow," he said, "allow me to introduce a new friend, Mr. Grant, the mayor of the town."

"I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Mayor," said the showman, offering his hand.

"The pleasure is mutual, sir," said the mayor. "I need not say that your name has long been familiar to me."

"I am glad you have taken one of my young men under your wing. He is a recent acquisition, but I have reason to think well of him."

"He is to dine with us to-day. I shall be glad to extend an invitation to you also, Mr. Barlow."

"You are very kind, and but for a previous engagement I would accept with pleasure. I shall be glad to see you at my show to-morrow with complimentary tickets."

"What a nice old gentleman Mr. Barlow is," said Evelyn, in a low voice.

"I have found him an excellent friend. He won't allow any of us to drink or gamble while we are in his employ."

"I hope you wouldn't want to do either, Mr. Watson."

"I have no disposition to do so. But, Miss Evelyn, I want to ask you a favor."

"What is it? If it isn't anything very great, I may grant it."

"Don't call me Mr. Watson."

"What shall I call you then?"

"My friends call me Kit."

"That's a nice name. Yes, I'll call you Kit."

It will be seen that the two young people were getting on famously.

"Do you live far away, Miss Evelyn?"

"About a quarter of a mile from here."

In turning the corner of a street, Kit met his friend Harry Thorne, walking with Charlie Davis. Both regarded Kit with surprise.

"Kit seems to be getting on," said Charlie. "Do you know who he is walking with?"

"No; do you?"

"With the daughter of the mayor."

"How do you know?"

"The gentleman in front was pointed out to me as the mayor. I shouldn't wonder if he were going to dine there."

When Kit returned to the circus tents about four o'clock in the afternoon, he met with some good-natured raillery which he took in good part. He felt that he had passed the day in a much more satisfactory manner than if, like the great majority of his companions, he had risen late and lounged about the circus grounds, beguiling the time with smoking and story telling.



CHAPTER XXIII.

KIT'S DARING ACT.

Kit's acts thus far had been confined to the ring, but now a new one was expected from him. Early in the performance a series of flying leaps from a springboard, in which all the acrobats took part, was introduced. From a point thirty feet back the performer ran swiftly till he reached the springboard, from which a leap was made accompanied by a somersault, carrying him over a considerable space in advance.

It was the custom to place first one elephant, then a second, and finally a third, in front of the springboard. There was only one man who could leap over three elephants. The two Vincenti brothers took part regularly, but Kit, being a new hand, had thus far been excused. But one of the regular performers being temporarily unwell, it was considered desirable that his place should be supplied.

"Do you think you can do it?" asked Alonzo Vincenti, somewhat doubtfully.

"Yes," answered Kit, confidently.

"It will be sufficient if you jump over one elephant," continued his associate. "Then you can drop out."

"I can do better than that," said Kit.

"I don't know about that. My brother can only jump over two."

"You jump over three elephants."

"Yes; but I am the only one who can do it. It takes a good spring to clear even two. It won't do to lose your head."

"Can I have a chance to rehearse?"

"Yes, I will speak about it."

"Then I will appear this evening."

"But if you fail you are likely to hurt yourself."

"I know that. That is why I would rather make the first trial in the evening. The lights and the crowd will excite and help me."

Kit was not foolhardy in his undertaking, for he had already had some practice in similar feats with his old teacher. Besides, he was ambitious. In school his ambition had shown itself in his attempt to eclipse his schoolfellows in scholarship. In the gymnasium he had ranked first, and now that he had joined the circus he didn't like to be assigned to a place in the rear.

Let me take the opportunity here to advise my young readers not to imitate Kit in essaying dangerous parts. "Be bold, but not too bold!" is a very good motto.

During the forenoon Kit found an opportunity to practice in the empty tent, in order to settle the question whether he had lost any of his old-time skill. The result was satisfactory, and renewed his confidence.

"I can do better before a tent full of spectators than when practicing by myself," he decided.

The evening came.

Standing near the ticket seller half an hour before the show began, Kit heard his name called.

Turning quickly he saw his friends of the previous day, Mayor Grant and his daughter Evelyn.

"Good evening, my boy!" said the mayor cordially. "We have come to see what you can do."

"Then I hope I shall do myself credit," said Kit, shaking hands with the mayor and his daughter. "Have you engaged seats?"

"Not yet."

"Then let me select them for you."

"With pleasure. I am glad to have a friend at court."

Kit selected seats as near as possible to the ring where he was to perform.

"These are splendid seats," said Evelyn. "How soon do you appear?"

"In a few minutes. I shall have to leave you now, but I will be back after my first act."

"What a nice boy he is, papa!" said Evelyn.

"Yes; it is a pity he is attached to a circus."

"Why? Isn't it a respectable business?"

"Yes; but there are many temptations connected with it, and most circus performers never rise any higher."

Evelyn was not inclined to discuss the question, though there is no doubt that she took a more favorable view of the circus profession than her father. The procession had just begun to move round the inner ring of the circus, including the elephants, the riders, the clowns, and performers of all kinds. Kit appeared, as in the public procession, driving a span of ponies.

This was the introduction. Then the various parts of the programme succeeded. Soon Kit performed his act in the ring. He had a new act to-night. Standing on the shoulders of one of the Vincenti brothers, he turned a somersault and landed on the shoulders of the other, standing six to eight feet away.

"I don't see how he does it, papa," said Evelyn. "He must be very smart."

"I see you are determined to make a hero of this young man, Evelyn."

"Don't you admire him yourself, papa?"

"Admire is rather a strong word, daughter. I will admit, however, that I like him, and hope he will soon change his business."

After the act was over, Kit came round and received congratulations. Evelyn repeated what her father said.

"I agree with you, sir," said Kit, "I haven't selected this as my life business, but shall keep my engagement till the end of the season."

"How, on the whole, do you like your new associates? I don't need to be told that they are very different from those to whom you are accustomed."

"They are very kind to me, and generous to each other when there is need. They will divide their last dollar with a friend."

"They often come to their last dollar, don't they?"

"Yes; they can't keep money. They are always in debt when the new season opens, no matter how much they brought home with them at the end of the last."

"Are there no exceptions?"

"Yes, a few. I have heard of one circus manager who commenced as a candy butcher, and now is proprietor of a very fair-sized show. Of course he had to save up money or he would never have succeeded so well."

Kit had to cut short his visit, for the new act, already referred to, was near at hand.

In the list of leapers Kit came last. First of all, there was a simple somersault from the springboard. This was easy. Just after Kit came the clown, who, though really a clever acrobat, stopped short when he came to the board and merely jumped up and down to the amusement of the young spectators.

"He can't jump no more'n I can," said one small boy, contemptuously.

"I shouldn't think they'd let him try," said another.

Both boys were surprised when, in the next trial, where the task was to jump over an elephant, the despised clown made a good spring and landed fairly on his feet.

"I guess he was afraid before," said the first boy.

"No; he only pretended for fun. Do you see that boy? I wonder if he can jump over the elephant."

The question was soon answered. Kit took his turn and sprang with apparent ease over the great beast.

Next another elephant was driven in alongside of the first. Again the leapers advanced to try their skill. But two held back, not feeling competent for the task. The clown once more made a feint of jumping, but only jumped up and retired apparently filled with confusion.

Evelyn gazed in intense excitement.

"It must be awfully hard to jump like that, papa," she said.

"I don't think I shall ever try it, Evelyn."

Another elephant was driven alongside the other two, making three in all. The other contestants retired, for only Alonzo had succeeded hitherto in executing this difficult feat. He expected to be the only one now, but noticed with surprise that Kit seemed ready to follow him.

"You don't mean to try it, Kit?" he said, in amazement.

"Why not?"

"You will fail, and if you do, you may hurt yourself seriously."

"I shall not fail," said Kit, confidently.

Alonzo looked anxious, but there was no time to expostulate. He ran swiftly to the board, made a vigorous spring, and landed handsomely on the bedding which had been provided beyond. He had scarcely stepped aside, when, to the astonishment of the other acrobats, Kit gathered himself up, ran to the springboard, and exerting himself to the utmost, made his leap, and landed a foot ahead of Alonzo.

Then the tent rang with applause, and there were many exclamations of astonishment, not only among the spectators, but also among the circus performers.

Kit's face flushed with pleasure, and bowing his acknowledgments, he withdrew.

"He is certainly a wonderful boy," said the mayor.



CHAPTER XXIV.

KIT RECEIVES A LETTER.

Kit received compliments enough to spoil him, if he had not been strong-minded and level-headed boy. Among others Mr. Barlow, who had been present and witnessed his daring act, took the opportunity to congratulate him.

"You seem to be born for a circus performer, my young friend," he said. "You have come to the front at once."

"Thank you, sir," said Kit. "I am glad that I succeeded, but such success as that does not satisfy my ambition."

"You mean, perhaps, that you want to jump over four, perhaps five elephants?" suggested the manager.

Kit smiled.

"No," he answered; "I don't think I shall venture beyond three. But I don't expect to remain in the circus more than this season."

"That is almost a pity, when you are so well qualified to excel in it."

"Mr. Barlow," said Kit, seriously, "if I were a great manager like you, I would not mind, but I don't care to go through life as a circus performer."

"I don't know but you are right, my boy. In fact I know you are. I shouldn't care to be a performer myself."

"I don't think you would excel in that line," said Kit, with a glance at the portly form of the well-known showman.

"You wouldn't advise me to try jumping over elephants, I infer," said Mr. Barlow, with an amused smile.

"No, sir."

"I will take your advice, my boy. Though your share of worldly experience isn't great, you are certainly correct in that. I shall relieve the fears of Mrs. Barlow at once by telling her that I have decided not to enter the ring."

Kit also received the congratulations of the mayor and Evelyn, but the former added: "Though your act was a daring one, I was almost sorry to see it."

"Why, sir?"

"I feared it would confirm you in your love of your present business."

"No, sir, there is no danger," replied Kit. "I have a fair education already, and prefer to qualify myself for something different."

"I am glad to hear you say so. You are undoubtedly right."

"I must say good-by now," said Kit; "for we get off at midnight."

"Shall you not return this way?"

"No, sir; we are to go West, I hear."

"I hope when the season is over, you will make us a visit. Come and stay a week," said the mayor, hospitably.

"Do come," said Evelyn, earnestly.

"How can I thank you for your kindness to a stranger?" said Kit, gratefully. "I shall certainly avail myself of your hospitality. There are not many who would take such notice of a circus boy."

"You are something more than a circus boy," said the mayor, "or I might not have been so drawn to you. Good-by, then, and if you ever need a friend, don't forget that you are at liberty to call upon me."

It was a source of regret to Kit that he was obliged to part with friends whom in so short a time he had come to value so highly. He resolved that he would accept the mayor's offer at the close of the season. He would need a friend and adviser, and he felt confident that Mayor Grant's counsel would be wise and judicious.

Kit was already asleep in his bunk when the circus train started for the next place on the route. When he woke up he was in the town of Colebrook. Here a surprise was in store for him in the shape of a letter from his uncle. When he saw the familiar handwriting and the postmark "Smyrna," he broke the seal with a feeling of curiosity. He did not expect to derive either pleasure or satisfaction from the perusal.

We will look over his shoulder while he is reading the letter.

NEPHEW CHRISTOPHER,—I cannot express to you my surprise and disappointment when I rode over to Oakford to see you, and learned from Mr. Bickford that you had run away from his house and joined the circus. There must be something low and depraved in your tastes, that you should thus abandon the prospect of earning a respectable livelihood, and go tramping through the country with a circus. What do you think your father would say if he could come to life, and become aware of the course you have so rashly taken?

I should be justified in forcibly removing you from your present associations, and returning you to your worthy employer, Mr. Aaron Bickford, and perhaps it is my duty to do so. But I think it wiser for you to realize for yourself the folly of your course. You have deliberately deserted a good home and a kind guardian and become a tramp, if I may so express myself. I cannot imagine my son Ralph doing such a thing. He is, I hope, too dutiful and too sensible to throw away the advantages which fortune has secured him, to become a mountebank.

It is very embarrassing to me to answer questions about you. There are some who will be unjust enough, I doubt not, to blame me for your wild course, but I shall be sustained by the consciousness of my entire innocence in the matter. At great expense I have maintained you and paid the cost of your education, giving you privileges and advantages equal to those I have given my own boy. I have done so cheerfully, because you were my nephew, and I am sorry you have made me so poor a return. But I shall look for my reward to my own conscience, and hope you may yet see the folly and wickedness of your course.

I have only to add that when that time comes you are welcome to return to my roof and protection, and I will intercede with your excellent employer, Mr. Bickford, to take you back and teach you his trade, whereby you may be enabled to earn a more respectable living than you are doing at present. Ralph joins with me in this wish.

Your uncle, STEPHEN WATSON.

Kit's lip curled when he read this hypocritical letter, and was tempted to despise his uncle more now than ever. He lost no time in sending this reply:

UNCLE STEPHEN,—I have received your letter, and can only express my surprise at the view you take of your treatment of me. Whether my father really left me as destitute as you claim, I am not in a position to say. If you have really gone to personal expense in maintaining and educating me up to this point, I shall, when I am able, reimburse you to the last cent. But I cannot forgive you for your trying to force a boy, reared and educated as I have been, to learn the trade of a blacksmith. You say that I have enjoyed advantages similar to those of your son Ralph. I wish to ask whether you would dream of apprenticing him to any such business.

You speak of my low associations, and call me a mountebank. In the town I have just left I was the guest of the mayor, and have promised to spend a week at his house on a visit when the circus season is over. Though you have done your best to lower me socially, I am confident that I shall be able to win a good place by my own unaided exertions.

I have no intention in continuing as a circus performer, though I am very liberally paid. It is too soon for me to decide upon my future course, but you may tell Mr. Bickford he need not wait for me to resume my place in his shop.

I do not know when I shall see you or Ralph again, but you need have no fear that I shall appeal to your generosity.

Your nephew, CHRISTOPHER WATSON.

Stephen Watson read this letter with surprise and chagrin. He was sorry to hear that Kit was doing so well, and alarmed at his implied doubt whether he had really been left destitute by his father.

"That boy is going to give me trouble," he muttered.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE ATTACK ON THE CIRCUS TENT.

Four weeks passed, in which Kit continued to acquit himself to the satisfaction of the manager. His youth and pleasant face, added to his uncommon skill, made him a favorite with the public, and being a boy with a love of adventure he enjoyed thoroughly the constant variety of circus life and travel.

All circus existence is not sunshine, however. There are communities which are always dreaded by circus managers, on account of the rough and lawless element which dominates them.

Early one morning Barlow's circus arrived at the mining town of Coalville (as we will call it), in Pennsylvania. An afternoon performance was given, and passed off smoothly; but in the evening a gang of about twenty miners made their appearance, bent on mischief.

Mr. Clark, the manager, sought Mr. Barlow.

"I think we shall have trouble this evening, Mr. Barlow," he said.

"Guard against it, then. What indications have you seen?"

"A gang of twenty miners have just entered the lot. They look ugly."

"Have the canvas men on guard, and summon the razorbacks, if necessary. Don't provoke a conflict, but be ready for one."

Mr. Clark hastily made his arrangements as quietly as possible. Near the ticket seller lounged a body of men, strong and muscular.

These were the canvas men. Some of them looked as reckless and dangerous as the miners, from whom a disturbance was feared.

These canvas men, whose duty it is to set up and take down the tents, are, for the most part, a rough set. They are paid from fifteen to twenty dollars a month and board. Their accommodations are very poor, but as good perhaps as they are accustomed to. They are not averse to a scrimmage, and obeyed with alacrity the directions of Mr. Clark.

The body of miners marched in procession to the ticket seller and then halted, one serving as spokesman.

"Give us twenty tickets, boss," said the leader.

"Where is your money?" asked the ticket seller, cautiously.

"Never you mind! We're on the free list, ain't we, boys?"

"Yes, we are!" was the chorus from his followers.

"There are no deadheads admitted to the show," said the ticket agent, firmly.

"You'll be a deadhead yourself if you ain't careful, young feller!" was the retort.

"Keep back, men! There are others waiting for a chance to buy tickets."

"Let 'em wait! Just hand over them tickets, or we'll run over you."

The fellow looked so dangerous that the ticket seller saw there was no time to parley.

He raised the well-known circus cry, which is called out in times of danger, like a summons to arms,

"Hey, Rube!"

Instantly the canvas men and razorbacks rushed to the rescue, and made an impetuous attack on the disorderly crowd of miners. They, too, were aching for a fight, and there was a wild scene of battle, in which, as in the ancient days, the opposing forces fought hand to hand.

The canvas men were strong, but so were the miners. Their muscles were toughened by daily toil, and it looked as if the outsiders might win.

Kit was not of course called upon to take part in the contest, but he was unwillingly involved.

One of the miners detached himself from the main body, and creeping stealthily to the big tent, whipped out a large knife, and was on the point of cutting one of the ropes, his intention being to sever one after another till the big tent collapsed. Kit saw his design, and rushing forward seized his arm.

"Hold on there!" he cried. "What are you about?"

"Let me alone, and mind your own business!" returned the miner, in a hoarse, deep voice.

But Kit saw that it was a critical moment, and that great mischief might be done. He looked about him for help, for he was far from able to cope with his brawny antagonist. Still he clung to the arm of the intruder, and succeeded in delaying his purpose.

"Let go or I'll cut you!" said the miner, savagely.

Then Kit in desperation raised the cry, "Hey, Rube!"

But it hardly seemed likely to bring the needed assistance, for all the fighting men were engaged in the battle near the ticket seller.

"That won't do no good, young bantam!" said the ruffian, as he aimed a blow at our hero.

Kit's career would in all probability have been cut short, but for the timely arrival of Achilles Henderson. The giant had heard the boy's warning cry, and being near at hand, rushed to his aid. His arrival was most opportune. He seized the miner in his powerful grasp, and the ruffian, strong and muscular as he was, was like a child in his clutch. His knife fell from his hand, as he was shaken like a reed by the giant.

"Secure the knife, Kit!" cried Achilles.

Kit needed no second bidding. He stooped swiftly and took up the weapon.

But Achilles was needed in another direction.

The contest between the miners and the canvas men still raged fiercely near the ticket stand. It looked as if the intruders would conquer. From the ranks of the defenders rose a wild and desperate cry, "Hey, Rube!"

Achilles heard it.

"Come, Kit!" he said. "We are wanted."

He hurled the miner in his grasp to the ground with such force that the man lay senseless; then he rushed with all the speed which his long limbs enabled him to attain to the scene of the conflict.

Here again he was none too soon. The leader of the miners, who had been the first spokesman and aggressor, was armed with a powerful club with which he was preparing to deal the ticket seller a terrible and possibly fatal blow, when Achilles rushed into the melee like a hurricane. He snatched the club from the hands of the ruffian, and dealt about unsparingly.

The ringleader was the first to fall. Next Achilles attacked the rest of the brutal gang, till half a dozen men with broken heads lay upon the ground. The attacking force were completely demoralized, and in dismay fled from the field.

The ticket seller breathed a sigh of relief.

"I thought I was done for, Mr. Henderson," he said, when the giant returned flushed with his exertions. "You are equal to half a dozen men."

"I haven't had so much exercise in a long time," said Achilles, panting. "Kit, where is the knife that scalawag was going to cut the rope with?"

"Here it is, Mr. Henderson."

"I will keep it in remembrance of this little adventure. Perhaps I had better go and look after the original owner."

He met the ruffian limping like one disabled. His look was sullen and menacing.

"Give me my knife," he growled.

"I couldn't think of it, my man!" said Achilles blandly. "Evidently you are not old enough to be trusted with a knife."

"I'd like to thrash you!" growled the miner again.

"I've no doubt of it, my friend; your intentions are good, but can't be carried out. And now I have a word to say," he continued, sternly. "Just get out of the lot as fast as your legs can carry you, or I'll serve you worse than I did before."

The ruffian looked toward the ticket stand. He saw several of his friends limping away like himself, looking like whipped curs, and he saw that there was no choice for him but to obey. With a muttered oath and a sullen scowl, he left the grounds.

"Kit," said the giant, "it won't do for me to exercise like this every day. I shall need a second supper."

"You are certainly entitled to one, Mr. Henderson," replied our hero.



CHAPTER XXVI.

KIT IS MADE A PRISONER.

It had been a day of exciting adventure, but so far as Kit was concerned the end was not yet. He performed as usual, but as his second act was over at quarter past nine, he thought, being fatigued, that he would not wait until the close, but go at once to the circus car in which he had a berth, and go to bed.

He crossed the lot, and emerged into the street.

It was moderately dark, there being no moon, and only the light of a few stars to relieve the gloom.

Kit had not taken a dozen steps from the lot when two stout men approached him, both evidently miners.

"That's the kid that prevented my cutting the rope," he heard one say.

"Is he? I saw him with the giant."

"I mean to settle his hash for him," said the first.

Kit saw that he was in danger, and turned to run back to his friends. But it was too late! The first speaker laid a strong arm upon his shoulder, and his boyish strength was not able to overcome it.

"Don't be in such a hurry, kid," said his captor.

"Let me go," cried Kit.

"You belong to the circus, don't you?"

"Yes."

"What do you do?"

"I am an acrobat."

"What's that?"

"I leap and turn somersaults, and so on."

"Yes, I know. Do you remember me?"

"I might if it were lighter."

The man lit a match and held it close to his face.

"Do you know me now?"

"Yes."

"Who am I?"

"You are the man who tried to cut the ropes of the tent."

"Right you are. I would have succeeded but for you."

"I suppose you would."

"Did you call that giant to pitch into me?"

"No; I didn't know he was near."

"He treated me like a brute," said the man, wrathfully. "My limbs are aching now from the fall he gave me."

Kit did not answer.

"I'd like to give him a broken head, as he gave some of my friends. Where is he?"

"I suppose he is somewhere in the lot. I'll go and call him, if you want me to."

"That's too thin! Now I've got you I won't let you off so easy."

"What do you intend to do?" asked Kit becoming alarmed.

"To give you a lesson."

Kit did not ask what kind of a lesson was meant, but he feared it included bodily injury. Then at least, if never before, he wished himself back at his uncle's house in Smyrna, uncongenial as it was otherwise.

The first speaker spoke in a low voice to the second. Kit did not hear the words, but judged what they were from what followed.

The two men placed him beside them, and he was sternly ordered to move on.

They kept the road for perhaps half a mile, then turned off into a narrow lane which appeared to ascend a hill. Finally they stopped in front of a dark cabin, of one story, which seemed to be unoccupied. The outer door was fastened by a bolt.

One of the men drew out a bolt, and threw open the door. A dark interior was revealed. One of the men lit a match, throwing a fitful light upon an empty room. At one end of the apartment was a ring, fixed in a beam, and in the corner was a stout rope.

"That will do," said the first speaker.

He took the rope, secured one end of it to the ring, and then tied Kit firmly with the balance. It was long enough to allow of his lying down.

"Now," said the first man grimly, "I reckon the kid will be safe here till to-morrow."

They prepared to leave the cabin.

"Are you going to leave me here?" asked Kit, in dismay.

"Yes."

"What good will it do you?"

"You'll see—to-morrow."

Kit had ten dollars in his pocket, and he thought of offering it in return for his freedom, but it occurred to him fortunately that his captors would deprive him of it, as it was quite within their power to do, and not compensate him in any way. He understood by this time the character of the men into whose hands he had fallen, and he thought it prudent to remain silent.

As the first captor stood with the door open, while just on the point of leaving, he said grimly, "How do you like it, kid?"

"Not at all," answered Kit.

"If you beg my pardon for what you did, I might let you go."

Kit did not believe this, and he had no intention of humiliating himself for nothing.

"I only did my duty," he said. "I have nothing to ask pardon for."

"You may change your mind—to-morrow!"

Another ominous reference to to-morrow. Evidently he was only deferring his vengeance, and intended to wreak it on his young prisoner the next day.

It was not a comforting thought, nor was it calculated to sooth Kit, weary as he was, to sleep.

The door was closed, and Kit heard the sliding of the bolt on the outside. He was a prisoner, securely enough, and with small chance of rescue.

Now, though Kit is my hero, I do not mean to represent him as above human weakness, and I won't pretend that he didn't feel anxious and disturbed. His prospects seemed very dark. He could not hope for mercy from the brutal men who had captured him. As they could not get hold of the giant they would undoubtedly seek to make him expiate the offenses of Achilles Henderson as well as his own.

"If only Mr. Henderson knew where I was," he said to himself, "I should soon be free."

But there seemed little hope of this. He had not told any one that he intended to retire to the circus cars earlier than usual. The chances were that he would not be missed till the circus company had reached the next town on their route, ten miles away. Then there would be no clew to his whereabouts, and even if there were he might be killed before any help could come to him. So far as he had been able to observe, the miners were—a portion of them, at least—a lawless set of men, who were not likely to be influenced by considerations of pity or ordinary humanity.

Kit had been very religiously brought up during his father's life, at least, and he had not lost his faith in an overruling Providence. So in this great peril it was natural for him to pray to God for deliverance from danger. When his prayer was concluded, he felt easier, and in spite of his disagreeable surroundings he managed to fall asleep.

Meanwhile the circus performance terminated, and preparations were commenced for the journey to the next town. The canvas men swarmed around the tents and swiftly took them down and conveyed them to the freight cars, where they assisted the razorbacks to pack them in small compass.

Harry Thorne, who had his berth next to Kit, turned in rather late. He looked into Kit's bed, and to his surprise found it unoccupied.

"What can have become of the boy?" he asked himself.

He went outside, and espying Achilles Henderson, he said: "Have you seen anything of Kit Watson?"

"Isn't he in his berth?" asked Mr. Henderson, surprised.

"No."

Inquiry developed the fact that Kit had not been seen by any one since the conclusion of his act.

"I am afraid the boy has come to harm," said Achilles. "This is a rough place, and there are plenty of tough characters about, as our experience this afternoon showed."

"What shall we do? The cars will soon be starting, and we must leave him behind."

"If he doesn't show up before that time, I will stay behind and hunt him up. He is too good a boy to be left to his fate."



CHAPTER XXVII.

A MINER'S CABIN.

Kit's principal captor was known as Dick Hayden. He was an Englishman, and a leader in every kind of mischief. If there was any disturbance between the miners and their employers, he was generally found to be at the bottom of it. A naturally quarrelsome disposition was intensified by intemperance. In the attack upon the circus tents he found himself in his element. His ignominious defeat made him ugly and revengeful.

His wife was dead, but he had one child, Janet, a girl of thirteen, who cooked for him and took care of his cabin. The poor girl had a hard time of it, but she endeavored so far as possible to avoid trouble with her brutal parent.

It was near ten o'clock when Hayden came home after locking Kit in the deserted cabin. He had gone away without supper, but late as it was, Janet had something hot ready for him on the stove.

"Well, Janet, child, have you my supper ready?" he said, not unpleasantly, for his victory over Kit and the meditated revenge of the next day had put him in good humor.

"Yes, father; it's on the stove and ready to dish up."

"Lay the table, then, for I'm main tired and hungry."

The little girl quickly spread the cloth, and Dick Hayden ate like a voracious animal.

When supper was over he sat back in his chair and lit a pipe. A comfortable supper made him loquacious.

"Well, Janet, you don't ask where I've been."

"Was it to the circus, father?"

"Yes."

"How did you like the show?"

"I didn't see it," he growled, a frown gathering upon his brow.

"And why not, father?"

"Because we had a fight to get in free, and got the worst of it."

"They must be main strong, then, those circus men."

"Strong!" repeated Hayden, scornfully. "Well, mayhap they are, but we'd have bested them but for the giant."

"The giant! Is it the big man I saw in the parade?"

"Yes; he's as strong as three men. He flung me down as easily as I'd throw a boy."

"Then he must have been strong, for you're a powerful man, father."

"There isn't a man as works in the mine'll compare with me, lass," said Hayden, proudly; "but all the same I'm no match for a monster."

"Tell me about it, father," said Janet, with natural curiosity.

Dick Hayden went on to describe the fight around the ticket stand, and how he had slipped away, intending to cut the ropes of the tent and let it down on the heads of the spectators gathered inside.

"I'd have done it, too," he added, "but for a kid."

"I thought just now you said it was the giant."

"And I stick to it, lass; but this boy saw what I was doing, and brought the giant to the spot. I could do nothing after that. He threw me down, so that for a few minutes I was stunned."

"And how did the fight come out at the ticket stand, father?"

"Our men had almost overpowered the circus men, when the giant rushed into the midst, and, seizing a club from Bob Stubbs, laid about him, till half a dozen of our strongest men lay on the ground with broken heads."

What puzzled Janet was, that her father should have come home in such good humor after so disastrous a defeat. It was contrary to her experience of him. She would naturally have expected that he would be surly and quarrelsome. The mystery was soon made clear.

"But we've got even with them!" chuckled Hayden directly after.

"How is that, father?"

"We caught the kid."

"You have?"

"Yes; he was goin' to the circus cars to turn in when Stubbs and I caught him."

"You—you didn't kill him, father?" asked Janet in alarm.

"No, not yet."

"Where is he?"

"Do you mind the deserted cabin on Knob Hill?"

"Yes, father."

"He's locked up in that, tied hand and foot."

"How long do you mean to keep him there?" asked Janet, anxiously.

"Till to-morrow, and then——" Dick paused ominously.

"Well, and then?"

"He'll be lucky if he gets off with a whole skin," growled her father. "But for him I'd have brought down the tent about the ears of the people that sat inside, and we'd have had a fine revenge on the showmen."

"You don't mean to kill the boy, do you, father?"

"What is it to you, lass? You'd best mind your own business. You've got nothing to do with it."

"How does the boy look? Was it the one that drove the first chariot, father?"

"Like enough, lass! Did you see him?"

"Yes; I saw the parade. Everybody was out in the streets then."

"And you took partic'lar notice of the boy? That's like a lass," chuckled Hayden.

"But it was his duty, father, to stand by the show, seein' he belongs to it."

"I don't trouble myself about that. He brought that monster on me, and I'm sore yet with the fall he gave me. I'll take it out of the kid."

"But it seems to me, father, it would be better to lay for the giant."

"What folly is that, lass? I'd be main glad to give the giant a dose of what he gave me, but he'll leave town to-night, and I ain't big enough to tackle him, even if I had the chance. So I'll revenge myself on his friend, the boy. The kid may be his son, for aught I know."

"And what will you do for him, father?" asked Janet, pertinaciously. "You won't kill him?"

"Well, I won't go so far as that, for I've no mind to put my neck in a noose, but I'll flog him within an inch of his life. I'll teach him to mind his own business for the future."

Janet knew her father's strength and brutality, and she shuddered at the idea of the boy being exposed to it. She knew very well it would be of no use to make a protest. She would only get herself into trouble. Yet she couldn't reconcile herself to the thought of poor Kit being cruelly punished. She asked herself what she could do to prevent it.

There was one thing in favor of a rescue. She knew where Kit was confined. If it were not so late she would steal out, and going to the cabin relieve him from captivity. But it was too late, and too dark for that. Besides, she could not leave her father's cabin without observation.

"I will wait till to-morrow morning," she said to herself.

It so chanced that on account of some slight repairs the mine in which her father was employed was shut down for a few days. This was favorable, for he would lie in bed till eight o'clock at least, and there would be a chance to get out without observation.

The next morning, about five o'clock, Janet rose from her bed, hastily dressed herself, and crept to the door of her father's chamber. He was sound asleep, and breathing heavily. There was small chance of his awakening before seven o'clock.

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