TRAPPED.

Robert foresaw that trouble was in store for him, as he had seen enough
of the farmer to understand his disposition. However, the boy was not
easily startled, nor was he of a nervous temperament. He looked calmly
at Tarbox and said: “Very well, sir, what do you want of me?”

“What do I want of you? I shouldn’t think you’d need to be told. You
remember me, don’t you?”

“Perfectly well,” answered Robert.

“Perhaps you can remember where you saw me last?”

“In the circus last evening.”

“No, I don’t mean that—before that.”

“In your own field, trying to whip a poor boy who was going to call the
doctor for his sick mother.”

“Look here, boy,” said Tarbox, reddening; “none of your impudence!”

“Did I tell the truth?” asked Robert quietly.

“Never mind whether you did or not. I ain’t going to stand any of your
impudence. Where’s that big brute Enoch?”

“If you mean Anak, I left him in the tent.”

“He needn’t think he can go round insulting and committing assault and
battery on his betters,” said Tarbox.

“You can tell him that if you like, sir; I am not responsible for him.”

“No, but you are responsible for trespassin’ on my grounds.”

“I would do it again if I saw you trying to flog a defenceless boy,”
said Robert, independently.

“You would, hey?” sneered Tarbox. “Well, now, you may change your
opinion on that subject before we part company.”

“Come, Rob, let’s be going,” said Charlie Davis, who didn’t find this
conversation interesting.

“You can go,” said Tarbox; “I hav’nt anything ag’inst you; but this
boy’s got to stay.”

“What for?” asked Charlie.

“What for? He’ll find out what for.”

“If you touch him, I’ll send Anak after you,” said Charlie.

“You will, hey? So you are impudent, too. Well, I’ll have to give you a
lesson, too.”

Tarbox felt that it was time to commence business, and made a grab for
Robert’s collar, but the boy was agile, and quickly dodging ran to one
side.

Charlie Davis laughed, which further annoyed and provoked Mr. Tarbox,
but the wrath of the farmer was chiefly directed against Robert, who
had witnessed his discomfiture at the hands of the Norwegian giant.
He therefore set out to catch the young circus-rider, but Robert was
fleet-footed, and led him a fruitless chase around trees, and Tarbox
was not able to get his hand on him. What annoyed the farmer especially
was that the boy did not seem at all frightened, and it appeared to be
no particular effort to him to elude his grasp.

Tarbox was of a dogged, determined disposition, and the more difficult
he found it to carry out his purpose the more resolved he was to
accomplish it. It would never do to yield to two boys, who both
together had less strength than he. It was different from encountering
Anak, who was a match for three ordinary men.

But Tarbox, in spite of his anger, and in spite of his superior
strength, was destined to come to grief.

He had not paid any special attention to the younger boy, being intent
upon capturing Robert. Charlie, taking advantage of this, picked up a
stout stick, which had apparently been cut for a cane and then thrown
aside, and took it up first with the intention of defending himself,
if necessary. But as Tarbox dashed by without noticing him, a new idea
came to Charlie, and thrusting out the stick so that it passed between
the legs of the pursuer, Tarbox was thrown violently to the ground, on
which he lay for a moment prostrate and bewildered.

“Climb that tree, Rob!” called out Charlie quickly.

Robert accepted the suggestion. He saw that no time was to be lost, and
with the quickness of a trained athlete made his way up the trunk and
into the branches of a tall tree near at hand, while Charlie with equal
quickness took refuge on another.

Tarbox fell with such violence that he was jarred and could not
immediately recover from the shock of his fall. When he did rise he
was more angry than ever. He looked for the two boys and saw what had
become of them. By this time Robert was at least twenty-five feet from
the ground.

“Come down here, you, sir!” said the farmer, his voice shaking with
passion.

“Thank you, sir,” answered Robert coolly; “but at present I find it
more agreeable up here.”

“Come down here, and I’ll give you the worst thrashing you ever had!”

“Your intentions are very kind, but the inducement isn’t sufficient.”

“If I hadn’t fallen just as I did, I’d have had you by this time.”

“That’s just what I thought when I put the stick between your legs,”
called out Charlie Davis from another tree.

It may seem singular, but until then Tarbox had not understood how he
came to fall. He had an idea that he had tripped over the root of a
tree.

“Did you do that?” he asked wrathfully, turning to the smaller boy.

“Yes, I did.”

“If I could catch you, you wouldn’t get out of this wood alive.”

“Then I’m glad you can’t get me,” said Charlie, looking unconcernedly
down upon his stalwart enemy.

“You’re two of the worst boys I ever saw,” proceeded the farmer,
wrathfully.

“And I’m sure you’re the worst man I ever saw.”

“What’s your name?” asked Tarbox, abruptly.

“Charlie Davis; I’m sorry I haven’t got my card with me, or I’d throw
it down to you.”

“I’d like to have the bringing up of you.”

“All right! Perhaps I’ll appoint you my guardian.”

“You’re more impudent than the other one, though you ain’t so big.”

“Are you comin’ down?” he inquired of Robert.

“Not at present.”

“I won’t stir from here till you do, if I have to stay all night.”

This was not a cheerful reflection, for the two boys were expected
to be present and ride in the evening, and their absence would be
regretted, not only by the manager, but also by the public, with whom
they were favorites.

“I say, Rob,” called out Charlie, “how fond he is of our company!”

“So it seems!” responded Robert, who was quite cool but rather annoyed
by the farmer’s persistence.

“I only wish Bruiser were alive!” said Tarbox. “Then I’d know what to
do.”

“What would you do?” asked Charlie.

“I’d leave him to guard you, and then I’d go home and get my gun.”

“What for?”

“I’d soon bring you down if I had that,” answered the farmer, grimly.

“If that’s what you would do I’m glad old Bruiser’s kicked the bucket,”
said Charlie.

“I never shall get such another dog!” said Tarbox, half to himself,
in a mournful voice. “Nobody dared to go across my ground when he was
alive.”

“Was that the dog that Anak killed?” asked Charlie.

“Yes,” answered Robert, briefly. “He was a vicious-looking brute and
deserved to die.”

At that moment Tarbox chanced to notice the stick which had produced
his downfall, and a new idea came to him.

He picked it up, and breaking it in two seized one piece and flung it
with all his force at Robert.

The latter caught and flung it back, knocking off the farmer’s hat.

Tarbox was naturally incensed, and began again to hurl the missile, but
anger disturbed his aim so that this time it went wide of the mark.

“I say, Robert,” said Charlie, “this is interesting.”

“I’m glad you find it so,” answered Robert. “I can’t say I enjoy it.”

“You may just as well come down and take your thrashing now,” said
Tarbox, “for you’re sure to get it.”

“If you’re in a hurry to get home to supper, perhaps we’ll wait for you
here,” suggested Charlie, politely.

“Shut up, you saucebox! You won’t have much appetite for supper!”
retorted Tarbox.

He sat down where he could have a full view of both trees, when
presently he heard Charlie call out in a terrified tone, “Rob, look
there! The tiger’s got loose! See him coming this way! Can he climb
trees?”

Tarbox stopped to hear no more. He sprang to his feet, and without
waiting to bid the boys good-by he took to his heels and fled from the
wood, feeling that his life was in peril.

Robert quickly understood that Tarbox was the victim of a practical
joke, and did his best to help it along. He had amused himself during
his connection with the circus in imitating the cries of wild beasts,
and now from his perch in the tree reproduced the howl of a wolf so
naturally that Tarbox, hearing it, and knowing no better, thought it
proceeded from the throat of the tiger. Of course he increased his
speed, expecting every moment that the dangerous animal would spring
upon him and tear him to pieces.

“If I only had my gun with me,” he reflected in his dismay, “I might be
able to defend myself.”

He lost his hat somewhere on the road, and breathless and hatless
entered his own back door, shutting and bolting it after him, and with
disordered look entered the sitting-room where his wife was seated, in
a comfortable chat with Mrs. Dunlap, a neighbor.

Tarbox sank into a rocking-chair, and, gasping, stared at the two
ladies.

“Good gracious, Nathan!” exclaimed his wife, in a flutter; “what on
earth has happened?”

“Was anything chasin’ ye?” asked Mrs. Dunlap, unconsciously hitting the
mark.

“Yes,” answered Tarbox, in a hollow voice.

“Was it the Norwegian giant?” inquired Mrs. Tarbox, apprehensively.

“Worse!” answered Tarbox, sententiously.

“Worse! Do tell. Good gracious, Nathan, I shall go into a fit if you
don’t tell me right off what it was.”

“It was a tiger!” answered her husband, impressively.

“A tiger!” exclaimed both ladies, startled and affrighted.

“Yes, I’ve had a narrow escape of my life.”

“But where did he come from?” asked Mrs. Dunlap.

“Come from? Where should he come from except from the circus? He broke
loose and now he’s prowling round, seeking whom he may devour.

“O heavens,” exclaimed Mrs. Dunlap, terror-stricken, “and my innocent
children are out picking berries in the pasture.”

“Tigers are fond of children,” said Tarbox, whose hard nature found
pleasure in the dismay of the unhappy mother.

“I must go right home and send for the children,” said the mother, in
an agony of apprehension.

“You may never live to get home,” said Tarbox.

“Oh what shall I do?” said Mrs. Dunlap, wringing her hands. “Won’t you
go home with me, Mr. Tarbox? I can’t stay here with my poor children in
peril.”

“No, I thank you. My life is worth something.”

“You might take your gun, Nathan,” said Mrs. Tarbox, who was stirred by
the grief of her friend.

“Oh yes,” said Tarbox, sarcastically; “you’re very ready to have your
husband’s life exposed. You’d like to be a widow. Maybe you think I’ve
left you all my property.”

“You know, Nathan, I never thought of that. I only thought of poor Mrs.
Dunlap. Think how sad it would be if Jimmy and Florence Ann were torn
to pieces by the terrible tiger.”

There was a fresh outburst of grief from the stricken mother at the
heart-rending thought, but Mr. Tarbox was not moved.

“Mrs. Tarbox,” said he, “if you want to see Mrs. Dunlap home you can
take the gun.”

“Oh, I shouldn’t das’t to,” said Mrs. Tarbox, hastily. “I—I shouldn’t
know how to fire it.”

“I think you’d be more likely to shoot Mrs. Dunlap than the tiger,”
said her husband, derisively.

“Where did you come across the—the monster, Nathan?” asked Mrs.
Tarbox, shuddering.

“In the woods. I heard him roar. I ran from there as fast as I could
come, expecting every minute he would spring upon me.”

“Was there any one else in the wood?”

“Yes,” answered Tarbox, smiling grimly. “There’s two circus boys there.
They clumb into trees. I don’t know whether tigers can climb or not. If
they can they’ve probably made mincemeat of the boys by this time.”

“It’s terrible!” said Mrs. Dunlap, shuddering. “Perhaps my innocent
darlings are in the clutches of the monster at this very moment.”

And the unhappy lady went into a fit of hysterics, from which she was
brought to by a strong bottle of hartshorn held to her nose.

It so happened (happily for her) that her husband at this moment
knocked at the door. He had gone home to find something, and failing
had come to the house of his neighbor to inquire of his wife its
whereabouts. Great was his amazement to find his wife in such agitation.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, looking about him.

“O Thomas, have you heard the terrible news?” said his wife.

“I haven’t heard any terrible news,” was the bewildered reply. “Is
anybody dead?”

“Our two poor innocent darlings may be dead by this time,” sobbed his
wife.

“What does it all mean? Where are they?”

“Out in the berry pasture. The tiger may have caught them by this time.”

“What tiger?”

“The one that’s broken loose from the show.”

“I just came from the tent, and they don’t know anything there of any
tigers breaking loose. Who told you about it?”

“Mr. Tarbox. The tiger chased him all the way home from the woods.”

“That is strange. Did you see him, Mr. Tarbox?”

“I heard him roar,” answered Tarbox, “and he was close behind me all
the way.”

“Are you sure it was a tiger?”

“No; it may have been a lion. Anyhow, it was some wild critter.”

“O husband, do go after our poor children. And take Mr. Tarbox’s gun. I
am sure he will lend it to you.”

“I may need it myself,” said Tarbox, doubtfully.

“Give me a stout stick, and I’ll manage,” said Mr. Dunlap, who was a
more courageous man than his neighbor. “Come along, wife.”

“I—I hope, Mrs. Tarbox, we shall meet again,” said Mrs. Dunlap, as she
kissed her friend a tearful good-by. “I don’t feel sure, for we may
meet the terrible beasts.”

“If you do,” said Mrs. Tarbox, with tearful emotion, “I’ll come to your
funeral.”

Somehow this didn’t seem to comfort Mrs. Dunlap much, for when they
were fairly out of the house she observed sharply, “That woman’s a
fool!”

“You seem to like to call on her, Lucinda.”

“That’s only being neighborly. She has no heart or she wouldn’t allude
so coolly to my funeral. But do let us be getting home as soon as you
can.”

“I tell you what, Lucinda, I don’t take any stock in this cock-and-bull
story of a tiger being loose. I heard nothing of it at the tent.”

“But Mr. Tarbox said it chased him.”

“Tarbox is a coward. But here are two boys coming; they belong to the
circus. I will ask them.”

Robert and Charlie Davis were coming up the road. No sooner had their
enemy fled than they descended from the trees in whose branches they
had taken refuge, and started on their way home, laughing heartily at
the farmer’s fright.

“I say, boys,” said Mr. Dunlap, “don’t you two boys belong to the
circus?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Robert.

“What’s this story I hear about a tiger having escaped from his cage?”

“Who told you?” asked Robert.

“Mr. Tarbox.”

“Did he see him?”

“He said the tiger chased him all the way home.”

Both boys burst into a fit of laughter, rather to the amazement of
Mr. Dunlap and his wife. Then they explained how the farmer had been
humbugged, and Mr. Dunlap shouted with merriment, for Tarbox was very
unpopular in that town, and no one would feel troubled at any deception
practised upon him.

“Then the children are safe?” said Mrs. Dunlap, with a sigh of relief.
“Don’t you think I ought to go and tell Mr. Tarbox?”

“No; let Tarbox stay in the house, like a coward that he is, for fear
of the tiger. It’s a good joke at his expense. That was a pretty smart
trick, boys.”

“Old Tarbox will feel like murdering us if he ever finds out the
truth,” said Charlie.

“He feels so now, so far as I am concerned,” said Robert. “I am not
afraid of him.”