TWO BOYS ON A TRAMP

When Robert left the ring, the old man sank back into his seat, and his
interest in the performance ceased. For some reason his nephew also was
anxious to leave the tent.

“Uncle,” he said, “hadn’t we better go back to the hotel? It will be
too fatiguing for you to remain here all the evening.”

“Will that boy ride again?” asked Mr. Richmond, eagerly.

“No, he is not to appear again.”

“Then I think I will go. As you say, I may feel fatigued.”

There was a hack in waiting to convey them back to the hotel, for the
distance was too great for a feeble old man to walk.

When they reached the hotel, Mr. Richmond went at once to his chamber,
attended by his nephew.

“You had better go to bed at once, uncle,” said Hugo, and he prepared
to leave the room.

“Stay a moment, Hugo. I want to speak to you,” said the old man.

“Very well, uncle,” and Hugo seated himself.

“The sight of that boy has affected me strangely, Hugo,” said Mr.
Richmond. “He seems just what Julian was at his age.”

“You said so before, uncle,” said Hugo, in a tone of annoyance; “but I
assure you there is nothing in it. My eyes are better than yours, and I
could see no likeness.”

“Suppose Julian’s child were living,” proceeded Mr. Richmond, not
heeding his nephew’s last speech, “he would be about the age of that
boy.”

“There are tens of thousands of boys about the same age, uncle,” said
Hugo, flippantly.

“Yes, but they haven’t his look,” returned the old man, shrewdly.

“Really, uncle, you are troubling yourself to no purpose. The son of
Julian died when he was four years old, as Fitzgerald reported to us.”

“He might be mistaken. If he only were!” exclaimed the old man, with
deep emotion. “How bright my few remaining years would be if I had
Julian’s son with me!”

“No doubt. But he is dead, and we may as well give up all thoughts of
such a possibility. Besides, uncle, you have me, and I try to do all
I can for you. If I have failed, I deeply regret it,” continued Hugo,
assuming a tone of sorrow.

“No, no; I have no fault to find with you, Hugo,” said his uncle,
hastily. “You are devoted to me, as I am well aware; but you cannot be
to me what a son or a grandson might be.”

“No, I suppose not,” said Hugo, with a sneer which his uncle did not
detect. “But I am afraid, uncle, you will have to be content with my
humble services, however unacceptable they may be.”

“Nay, Hugo, I do not mean to mortify you. I am truly grateful for your
devotion, and you will find it to be so when I am gone.”

“You are a long time going!” thought Hugo, as his cold glance rested on
the trembling form of his uncle. “It is exasperating that you should
linger so, cutting me off perhaps for half a dozen years longer from
the enjoyment of the estate which is one day to be mine.”

It was well that the old man could not read the thoughts of the man in
whom he placed so much confidence. He little knew the cold, crafty,
scheming character of the man who supplied to him the place of son and
grandson.

“If you have no more to say, uncle, I will leave you,” said Hugo,
rising.

“I came near forgetting. I want you to find out all about that boy and
let me know. The manager boards at this hotel.”

“Still harping on the boy!” muttered Hugo. “Very well, uncle, I will do
as you say.”

“Thank you, Hugo. I shall feel more easy in mind when I have learned.”

As Hugo left the room, he said to himself, “I will do as my uncle
requests, but for my own benefit, not his. Though I would not confess
it to him, the resemblance to my cousin is startling. I don’t wonder
Uncle Cornelius noticed it. Can it be possible that Fitzgerald deceived
me, and that the boy is really alive, and is a bareback circus-rider?
He is capable of playing me false. If he has done so, I must at all
hazards prevent my uncle finding it out. The estate of Chestnutwood,
for which I have schemed so long, must be mine. The life of a frail
old man alone separates me from it now, but if this boy were found, then
I should sink back to my life of humble dependence. It shall never be!”

It was not yet 10 o’clock, and Hugo was in no mood for bed. He went
down-stairs and remained in the bar room till the return of the hotel
guests who were connected with the circus.

Towards 10.30, Mr. Coleman, proprietor of the circus, entered the
office of the hotel. He was in good spirits, for there had been a large
attendance at the first performance, and the prospects of a successful
season were flattering.

“Good evening, Mr. Coleman,” said Hugo, approaching the manager, to
whom he had been introduced; “did your first performance pass off well?”

“It was immense, sir, immense! I am proud of Crampton! It has received
me royally,” returned the manager, enthusiastically.

“I am glad to hear it. May I offer you a cigar?”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You will find mine choicer than any you can procure here. I spent a
part of the evening at the tent.”

“I hope you didn’t get tired.”

“Oh, no; that was not the cause of my coming away. The fact is, my
uncle, who was with me, became fatigued (he is a very old man), and I
felt obliged to come home with him. I should have been glad to stay
till the close.”

“It’s a pity you did. Coleman’s circus, though I do say it myself, has
no superior on the road this season.”

“I can easily believe it, sir. By the way, I was rather interested in
the bareback riding.”

“It takes everywhere. I have two of the smartest boy riders in the
country.”

“Where did you pick them up?” asked Hugo, with assumed carelessness.

“The younger one, Charlie Davis, comes from Canada.”

“My attention was particularly attracted to the other.”

“Robert Rudd?”

“Yes, if that is his name. How long has he been with you?”

“Two seasons. Before that he was with another smaller circus.”

“How long has he been riding?”

“Ever since he was eight or nine years old. That boy is perfectly
fearless with horses. Not many grown men can ride as well. And that
isn’t all! I could easily make a lion tamer of him if he were willing.
He has a wonderful power over the wild beasts. I believe he would go
into their cages and they wouldn’t offer to harm him.”

“My cousin Julian had a passion for horses,” thought Hugo. “If this boy
were his son he would come honestly by his taste.”

“You don’t know how he came to adopt such a life, do you?” he asked.

“No; I believe the boy was alone in the world. I have heard him say he
was under the care of a man who called himself his uncle, but for whom
he does not seem to entertain any affection. Whether this man deserted
him, or he ran away from the man, I don’t know. At any rate he fell
in with some men in our business, and a well-known rider, seeing that
the boy was quick and daring, offered to instruct him in his special
line. The boy accepted, and that is the way he drifted into the show
business.”

“You say he has no relatives?”

“None that he knows of.”

“Has he any education?”

“He can read and write, and I believe he knows something of arithmetic.
He is smart enough, if he ever got an opportunity, to learn. I am
selfish, however, and should not like to lose him, though I might
consent if he could better himself. You see, sir, although I am in the
show business myself, I don’t consider it a very desirable career for
a boy to follow. I’ve got a boy of my own, but I have placed him at
boarding-school, and he shall never, with my permission, join a circus.
You’ll think it strange, Mr. Richmond, but so far as I know, Henry has
never yet witnessed a circus performance.”

“I quite agree with you, Mr. Coleman,” said Hugo. “Then I offer you
another cigar.”

“Thanks, but I never smoke but one just before going to bed. If you are
here to-morrow evening I shall be glad to offer you a ticket to the
show.”

“Thank you, but I must get away to-morrow with my uncle.”

As Hugo went up-stairs to his room he said to himself, “It is high time
we left the place, for the manager’s story leads me to think this boy
may be my cousin’s son after all. My uncle must never know or suspect
it, or my hopes of an inheritance are blasted.”

The next morning when Hugo entered his uncle’s apartment, according to
custom, the old man asked eagerly, “Did you learn anything about the
boy, Hugo?”

“Yes, uncle, I learned all about him. He was born in Montreal, and
his father and mother live there now. He sends them half his earnings
regularly. His name—that is, his real name—is Oliver Brown.”

Mr. Richmond never thought of doubting the truth of this smoothly-told
fiction, but he was greatly disappointed. He sighed deeply, and when
Hugo proposed to continue their journey that day he made no objection.

“Mr. Tarbox, where on earth have you been?” inquired his wife, when her
liege lord returned about 11.30 o’clock.

“I’ve been to the circus,” said the farmer shortly.

“Oh, why didn’t you take me, Nathan? I’ve always wanted to go to the
circus,” said Mrs. Tarbox in a tone of disappointment.

“It isn’t a fit place for you,” said her husband.

“You went!” said his wife, significantly. “If it’s a fit place for you,
why isn’t it for me?”

“Do you think I went there for pleasure? You ought to know me better
than to suppose I would visit such a demoralizing spectacle for
amusement.”

“Then why did you go?”

“I went to arrest that brute who kicked Bruiser to death and assaulted
me. That’s why I went.”

“Did he feel bad when you arrested him?” asked Mrs. Tarbox, with
natural curiosity.

“No; I had to defer it, for the warrant wasn’t rightly made out.”

“Dear me! Did it take all the evening?” asked his wife.

“Peace, woman! You ask too many questions,” said Tarbox, who found it
rather difficult to explain matters.

“It must have been so nice to see the circus,” murmured Mrs. Tarbox;
“but I am sure I should have been afraid of the giant.”

“There was a fat woman,” growled Tarbox, “who looked as silly as you
do. I dare say she wasn’t, though.”

“How funny you are. Nathan!” said his wife, who wasn’t at all
sensitive. “How was she dressed?”

“How on earth should I know? She didn’t wear a coat and pantaloons.”

“It must take a sight of calico to make her a dress. How much does she
weigh?”

“Two tons, more or less,” answered Tarbox.

“Good gracious!” ejaculated his simple-minded wife. “I never heard the
like. Do let me go to the circus, husband. I should so like to see her.”

“You might never come back alive. There’s lions, and tigers and wild
cats all around. They often break out of their cages and kill a dozen
people before they can be stopped.”

Mrs. Tarbox turned pale and gave up her idea of going to the circus.

“You’d make a nice meal for a tiger. They’re fond of bones,” continued
the farmer, grimly.

“O, Nathan, don’t say another word. I wouldn’t go now if I could get in
for nothing.”

The next day, after a consultation with Squire Price and the constable,
Mr. Tarbox concluded that it wouldn’t be worth while to obtain a new
warrant for the arrest of the giant, as he had reason to believe that
Mr. Spriggins would go out of town to avoid serving it. It was hard
to give up his cherished scheme of vengeance, particularly as he had
already expended a dollar in vain; but there seemed no alternative.

“One thing I can do,” he said to himself; “if I can get hold of that
boy that was with Enoch I’ll give him a thrashing. He trespassed on
my grounds, and I saw him laugh when the brute kicked Bruiser. I can
manage him, anyway.”

There was no afternoon performance at the circus except on Wednesday
and Saturday, and Robert and his friend Charlie Davis were at leisure.

“Let’s go on a tramp, Charlie,” said Robert, after they had eaten
dinner.

“I’m with you,” said Charlie. “Where shall we go?”

“Oh, well, we’ll go across the fields. Perhaps we’ll go into the woods.
Anything for fun.”

The two boys set out about two o’clock, and after reaching the borders
of the village took a path across the fields.

“I wish nuts were ripe, Rob,” said Charlie. “We’d have a nice time
knocking them off the trees. Do you remember last fall up in Maine?”

“Yes, but it’s June now, and we can’t have any fun of that kind.
However, we can have a good time. Do you see those bars?”

“Yes.”

“I’m going to vault over them.”

“All right. I’ll follow.”

Robert ran swiftly, and cleared the bars without touching them. Charlie
followed, but, being a shorter boy, felt obliged to let his hand rest
on the upper bar. They were accustomed to springing from the ring upon
the backs of horses, and practice had made that easy to them which was
difficult for ordinary boys.

“I say, Charlie,” said Robert, thoughtfully, as they subsided into a
walk, “what are you going to do when you are a man?”

“Ride, I suppose.”

“In the circus?”

“Of course.”

“I don’t think I shall.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t want to be a circus rider all my life.”

“I should think you would. Ain’t you the Boy Wonder?”

“I shan’t be the Boy Wonder when I’m twenty-five years old.”

“You can’t make so much money any other way.”

“Perhaps not; but money isn’t everything I think of. I would like to
get a better education and settle down to some regular business.”

“There’s more fun in circus riding,” said Charlie, who was not as
thoughtful a boy as his companion.

“I don’t see much fun in it,” said Robert. “It is exciting, I know,
but it’s dangerous. Any day, if your nerves are not steady, you are
likely to fall and break a limb, and then good-by to your riding.”

“There’s no use in thinking about that.”

“I think there is. What could we do if we had to give up riding?”

“Oh, something would turn up,” said Charlie, who was of an easy
disposition. “We might take tickets or keep the candy stand.”

“That wouldn’t be very good employment for a man. No, Charlie, I think
this will be my last season at circus riding.”

“What will you do?”

“I am saving money so that, at the end of the season, I can have
something to keep me while I am looking round.”

“You don’t say so, Rob! How much have you saved up?”

“I’ve got about two hundred dollars saved up already.”

Charlie whistled.

“I had no idea you were so rich,” he said. “Why, I haven’t got five
dollars.”

“You might have. You are paid enough.”

“Oh, it goes some way. I guess I’ll begin to save, too.”

“I wish you would. Then if you want to leave the circus at the end of
the season we’ll go somewhere together, and look for a different kind
of work. We can take a room together in Boston or New York, eat at the
restaurants, and look for something.”

“I don’t know but I should like going to New York,” said Charlie.

By this time they had reached the edge of the woods, and were probably
a mile or more from the town. There was no underbrush, but the trees
rose clear and erect, and presented a cool and pleasant prospect to
the boys, who had become warm with walking. So far as they knew,
they were alone, but in this they were mistaken. Mr. Tarbox had some
wood-land near by, and he had gone out to look at it, when, alike to
his surprise and gratification, his eyes rested on the two boys, whom
he at once recognized as belonging to the circus, having seen them ride
the evening before. He didn’t care particularly for Charlie Davis, but
Robert Rudd had been with Anak when he inflicted upon him so mortifying
personal chastisement, and he looked upon the boy as an accomplice of
the man.

“That’s the very boy I wanted to see,” said Tarbox to himself, with a
cruel smile. “I can’t manage that overgrown brute, but I can manage
him. I’ll give the boy a lesson, and that’ll be better than nothing.”

Tarbox was naturally a tyrant and a bully, and, like most men of his
character, was delighted when he could get hold of a person of inferior
strength.

“Oh ho!” he said to himself, “the boy can’t escape me now.”

“Look here, boy,” he said, in an impatient tone.

Robert turned quickly, and saw the frowning face of Tarbox.

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