A FARCE AND A TRAGEDY

The circus was nearing the close of its stay in Crampton. Of course,
though it was a large town, it was not large enough to warrant the
show in staying so long, but for the large number of visitors who were
attracted from neighboring towns. Both by rail and by carriages of all
sorts, from farmers’ wagons to top buggies and carryalls, hundreds of
people flocked to see the wonders it contained. Many a young heart
was stirred with ambition to pursue the noble profession of circus
performers, considering that the circus clown was as illustrious a
personage, not perhaps as the President of the United States, but at
least as a member of the Cabinet, or a Congressman. The time would come
of course when these admiring youngsters would learn that the halo
which invested the circus performer was unreal, but, for the time
being, any one connected with the circus was a great, illustrious and
envied personage.

One day Robert Rudd and Charlie Davis were standing outside the tent,
near the lemonade stand, when a boy of sixteen or seventeen, clad in
rustic attire and “with hayseed in his hair,” approached them, and,
though evidently somewhat awed by the idea that he was standing in the
presence of two circus performers, ventured to ask:

“Do you two belong to the circus?”

“Yes,” answered Robert.

“You bet we do,” said Charlie, vivaciously. “The circus would have to
shut up shop but for us.”

Robert smiled, but the visitor didn’t. He was too much in earnest.

“I seen you ridin’ last evenin’,” he said, next.

“Then you were at the performance?”

“Yes; I told dad I wanted to go, and he let me have the money I earned
weedin’ corn, tho’ he said I better keep it to buy somethin’ useful.”

“I hope you enjoyed the evening,” said Robert, courteously.

“It was splendid! I don’t see how you fellows can ride so.”

“It’s all in the training.”

“How long have you been a circus actor?” asked the young rustic.

“Five or six years; I began when I was very small.”

“I began as soon as I could walk,” said Charlie, who liked to romance a
little when he had an opportunity.

“You don’t say so?”

“Fact!” asserted Charlie.

“Did you ride on a hoss then?”

“No, I rode on a Newfoundland dog. When I got older I tried a pony. Now
Rob and I are the champion boy-riders of Europe and America.”

“Speak for yourself, Charlie,” said Robert, smiling. “I don’t make any
such claims.”

“Oh, well, don’t be discouraged. You’ll ride as well as I do some time.”

“You flatter me,” said Robert.

“I say, do you think there’s any chance for me to learn the business?”
asked the country boy, lowering his voice, in an anxious tone.

“What line do you want to take up?” asked Robert.

“Is there any line?” asked the boy, not understanding.

“I mean, do you want to be a rider, a clown, an acrobat, or what?”

“I’d like to ride like you two.”

“I am afraid you are rather large to begin,” said Robert, surveying
the boy’s large hands and feet, and his height, at least three inches
greater than his own.

“Am I too big?” asked the boy, disappointed.

“No, you’re not,” said Charlie. “Why, I could teach you myself.”

“I wish you would. I’d like goin’ round with a circus better than
working for dad on the farm. Do you fellow’s get paid big wages?”

“Of course we do,” answered Charlie. “I get fifty dollars a week, board
and travelling expenses.”

“Fifty dollars a week!” gasped the country boy, expanding his eyes in
astonishment.

“Yes, you see we’re first-class performers.”

“I couldn’t get but a dollar and a half a week and board workin’ on a
farm,” answered the country boy.

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

“Jotham Sprague.”

“That wouldn’t do for the stage; you’d have to take a better name.”

“I’d take any name; fact is, I don’t like Jotham myself.”

“It isn’t romantic enough,” said Charlie. “The manager wouldn’t have
anybody of that name. It sounds too countrified.”

“What sort of a name would do?” asked the boy.

“Lorenzo Leon would do pretty well.”

“That’s splendid!” said Jotham, admiringly.

“You see, it would look well on the bills. The famous bareback rider.
Lorenzo Leon, who has just been imported from his native Italy at large
expense, will perform some of his wonderful feats in the ring.”

“I’d like that first rate,” said Jotham, “only I ain’t from Italy.”

“No matter; no one will know that. Now, if you want to come in and take
a lesson I’ll give you one.”

“How much will you charge?” asked Jotham, eager but cautious.

“Oh, I won’t charge you anything. I’ll do it out of friendship. Come
in, Rob.”

“No, Charlie, not just now.”

Robert suspected that Charlie meditated a practical joke, and did not
care to take part in it.

They entered the tent—it was in the middle of the forenoon—and
Charlie went to his friend the clown, and whispered a few words.

“So the young gentleman wants to take a lesson in riding, does he?” he
asked.

“Yes,” answered Jotham, eagerly, “if you have no objection.”

“We’ll do it for you as a favor,” said the clown. “What’s your name,
young man?”

Jotham was about to answer correctly, when Charlie broke in—”His name
is Lorenzo Leon, from Italy.”

The clown grinned.

“A very fine name!” he answered. “Bring out the Andalusian steed.”

An attendant led out the trick mule, which, meekly enough, walked round
the ring.

“Can you ride that?” asked the clown.

“Oh, yes, I can ride a bigger hoss than that.”

“Mount, then, and away!”

Charlie held the mule, which stood very quiet and demure, while the
boy was getting on. But no sooner was the boy on his back than he
lifted his ears and dashed round the ring in such a lively way, making
sudden turns and curves, that Jotham was soon clinging to him as pale
as a sheet, with his arms closely clasped about the mule’s neck, in
momentary expectation of being thrown off. At this most critical point
the clown shouted, “Now get up and stand on his back!”

Instead of doing this Jotham roared, “Stop him; take me off,” in an
extremity of terror.

At a signal the mule threw up his hind legs and the rider measured his
length, more frightened than hurt, on the sawdust.

As he picked himself up Charlie came up to him.

“Have another lesson, Lorenzo!”

“I guess I’ll go back to farmin’,” answered Jotham, picking himself up
and finding to his relief that none of his limbs were broken.

“Oh, nonsense! Try it again!”

“No, I guess not; I never would make a rider,” and the boy left the
tent completely cured of his wish to be a rider. He had received a
rough but a wholesome lesson.

In the evening the performance began at the usual time. There was no
change in the bill, and everything was expected to go on as usual.

In due time Robert came out for his equestrian act. In the course
of it he had to jump through a hoop and over a banner. While he was
doing this, suddenly a stone, as large as a base ball, hurled from the
spectators’ seats, struck the horse, and he swerved. The result was
that Robert, instead of lighting on his back, fell to the ground in
such a way that he turned his ankle, while the horse dashed by.

He was picked up, his face pale with the pain in his ankle, and was
helped from the ring by some of the attendants.

“Shame! Shame! Lynch him!” rose from fifty indignant spectators.
“Where’s the man that threw the stone?”

But no one knew, except one. In one of the rear seats sat Carden, the
discharged canvas man, smiling with malignant triumph at the mischief
he had done.

“I said I’d be even with him,” he muttered. “I hope he’s badly hurt.”

Among the spectators were Sidney Grey and his father, Dr. Grey, a
skilful physician. Both hurried to the ring.

“Are you much hurt, Robert?” asked Sidney, anxiously.

“I am in considerable pain, but I don’t think I am seriously hurt,”
said Robert, attempting to smile.

“I will take the boy to my house,” said Dr. Grey to the manager. “I am
a physician, and I will see that he receives every attention.”

“Thank you, doctor, I accept your offer gratefully,” said Mr. Coleman.
“I am attached to the boy, and I will bear all his expenses.”

“There will be none, while he is at my house,” said the doctor. “My son
has taken a liking to young Rudd, and he will be a welcome guest.”

When the performance was over, Carden left the tent stealthily. He
had work to do that night. He bent his steps towards the house of Mr.
Tarbox.

When it was found that Robert was not seriously hurt there was a
general feeling of relief among his circus friends, for the boy
rider was a great favorite. Though he was somewhat reserved he was
always polite, affable, and ready to be of assistance to any of his
associates. He was sometimes called “the little gentleman,” and was
generally supposed to have sprung from a good family, though even to
himself his birth was a secret.

Among those who inquired anxiously for him were Charlie Davis and the
Norwegian giant.

“He has sprained his ankle slightly,” said Dr. Grey. “It will require
a week or two of perfect rest, perhaps more. Indeed it will not do for
him to ride again this season.”

“Are you sure of that, doctor?” asked the manager.

“I am positive that it would be most imprudent.”

“I asked because it cuts off the boy from earning money.”

“There need be no trouble on that score. He can stay at my house as
long as he likes, and it will cost him nothing.”

“You are very kind, Dr. Grey. However, the boy is not without funds. I
have two hundred dollars of his in my possession, and before I leave
town I will hand it to him or you, as this accident will part us for
the remainder of the season.”

“Give it to him, then. I am glad he has been so provident.”

Dr. Grey and Sidney obtained a carriage, and Robert was taken home to
the doctor’s comfortable and even luxurious dwelling, for, besides
having had an extensive practice for years, he had married a lady with
a fortune. Leaving Robert there in good hands, we return to the circus.

As soon as the entertainment was over, Charlie and Anak, remembering
their engagement, bent their steps towards the house of Mr. Tarbox.
They were detained, however, for fifteen minutes or more before being
able to depart, and this gave Carden an opportunity to get at work.

“Have you seen Carden this evening, Charlie?” asked Anak.

“Yes; he was at the circus.”

“I wonder whether it was he that threw the rock?” said Anak, suddenly.

“I shouldn’t wonder. I didn’t think of it before.”

“He could have no other object in coming to the show. He had seen it
plenty of times. Besides, his money must have been low.”

“Perhaps he got in for nothing,” suggested Charlie.

“Go and ask.”

Charlie, upon inquiring at the ticket-office, found that Carden had
tried to obtain a pass on the score of his former connection with the
circus, but without success, as the manager had left orders that he was
not to be admitted, except on the same footing with others.

“He grumbled some, but finally bought a ticket,” added the
ticket-seller. “I wondered at it, for there was nothing new to him.”

“He must have been the one who fired the rock at poor Robert’s
horse—the villain!” said Anak, gravely. “We know he had a spite
against the boy.”

“I’d like to fire a rock at him!” said Charlie, impetuously.

“He may get into trouble yet,” said Anak. “Let us go along.”

“Shall we go to the house and speak to Mr. Tarbox?” asked Charlie.

“Yes, for he will know where to look for him.”

“I wonder what he will say when he sees you? Bet he’ll be scared.”

“We’ll soon let him understand that we came for his good.”

Mr. Tarbox was just about retiring, or rather he was making the usual
preparations—bringing in kindling wood from the shed, raking out the
fire, etc.—when a knock was heard at the outer door.

In the Tarbox household such a thing as a visitor at half-past 10
o’clock in the evening was absolutely unknown.

“Who can it be, Nathan?” asked Mrs. Tarbox, in a flutter.

“How do I know?” returned her husband in the usual polite tone in which
he was accustomed to address his wife.

“Suppose it should be burglars?” suggested Mrs. Tarbox, nervously.

“They’d be very likely to knock at the door, wouldn’t they, you goose!”
said her husband. “That’s exactly what they always do, isn’t it?”

The knock was repeated.

“Go to the door, Mrs. Tarbox.”

“Oh mercy, Nathan, I couldn’t. I might be killed.”

“Give me the lamp, then, you fool!”

Mrs. Tarbox readily gave her husband the lamp, and he strode to the
door.

When he opened it, and his inquiring glance fell on the towering form
of Anak, it must be admitted that Mr. Tarbox himself felt nervous. He
made a movement to close the door, but Anak thrust in his huge foot,
and this made the effort impossible.

“What do you want?” demanded Tarbox, his calmness not quite undisturbed.

“We come on important business,” said Anak, in his deep voice.

“Then you might have come at a better time,” said Tarbox, his fears
dissipated and his ill-temper returning. “It is time all honest persons
were abed.”

“So it is, Mr. Tarbox,” answered Anak, “but I am afraid there is one
dishonest person that is wide awake.”

“What do you mean?” demanded Tarbox, with a vague suspicion that the
remark might be made at his expense.

“Is there anything of value concealed under the barn yonder?” asked
Anak, pointing to the one already referred to in a former chapter.

“Why do you ask?” queried the farmer, turning pale, and eying the
questioner with suspicion.

“Because a man who has been discharged from our show—a canvas man,
named Carden—was seen by Charlie here prowling about the barn this
afternoon, and trying to look under it through a crack.”

Now Tarbox turned pale in earnest.

“It must have been when I was there,” he said.

“Very likely; were you under it?”

“Ye-es,” answered the farmer.

“Then he was watching you. You know best whether he was likely to see
anything that could be of service to him.”

“Is he there now?” asked Tarbox, agitated.

“I should not be at all surprised.”

“He may be robbing me at this moment,” said Tarbox, wildly.

“Then there is something hidden under the barn?”

“Ye-es. What shall I do? Is he armed? Is he a strong man?”

“No matter whether he is or not. I’m middling strong myself,” said the
giant, with a laugh. “Get your hat, and I’ll go with you, and we’ll see
if we can’t defeat him and his plans.”

“I’ll go, too,” added Charlie, in an important tone.

“You alone are able to frighten him, Charlie,” said Anak, aroused.

Tarbox got his hat and led the way hurriedly towards the barn. Before
they reached there a sudden suspicion entered his mind and he stopped
short.

“How do I know but this is a trick?” he said, nervously. “You may be
intending to rob me yourself.”

“Make your mind easy, Mr. Tarbox!” said Anak. “We don’t do business in
that way.”

“You are my enemy,” said Tarbox.

“Not at all. You have done me no harm. You were meaning to arrest me,
to be sure, but you didn’t, and I have no hard feelings against you. I
will do you a good turn if you will let me, especially as this Carden
is a bad fellow. He tried to kill Robert Rudd, to-night.”

“What, the boy rider?”

“Yes. Robert caught him stealing, or trying to steal, from his locker,
and this led to his discharge. He threw a rock at the boy’s horse, and
he was thrown.”

At another time Tarbox might possibly have felt rejoiced that the boy
against whom he himself felt a spite had met with an accident, but now
he felt too anxious about his own property to concern himself about
other matters.

By this time they had reached the solitary barn.

Charlie got down on his knees and peered through the same crevice which
Carden had used in the afternoon.

“He’s there!” he exclaimed in excitement, “and he’s got a lighted
candle.”

“What is he doing?” asked Tarbox in agitation.

“He’s digging.”

“He will steal my money!” ejaculated Tarbox in dismay. “There’s between
three and four hundred dollars hidden there.”

“Rather a queer savings bank, Mr. Tarbox!” said Anak, dryly.