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The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings

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The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

The Circus Boys on the
Flying Rings

Edgar B.P. Darlington 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"I say, Phil, I can do that." "Do what, Teddy?" "A cartwheel in the air 
like that fellow is doing in the picture on the billboard there." "Oh, pshaw! 
You only think you can. Besides, that's not a cartwheel; that's a double 
somersault. It's a real stunt, let me tell you. Why, I can do a cartwheel 
myself. But up in the air like that--well, I don't know. I guess not. I'd 
be willing to try it, though, if I had something below to catch me," added 
the lad, critically surveying the figures on the poster before them. "How'd 
you like to be a circus man, Phil?" Phil's dark eyes glowed with a new 
light, his slender figure straightening until the lad appeared fully half a 
head taller. "More than anything else in the world," he breathed. "Would 
you?" "Going to be," nodded Teddy decisively, as if the matter were 
already settled. "Oh, you are, eh?" "Uh-huh!" "When?" "I don't know. 
Someday--someday when I get old enough, maybe." Phil Forrest surveyed 
his companion with a half critical smile on his face. "What are you going 
to do--be a trapeze performer or what?" "Well," reflected the lad wisely, 
"maybe I shall be an 'Or What.' I'm not sure. Sometimes I think I should 
like to be the fellow who cracks the whip with the long lash and makes the 
clowns hop around on one foot--" "You mean the ringmaster?" "I guess 
that's the fellow. He makes 'em all get around lively. Then, sometimes, I 
think I would rather be a clown. I can skin a cat on the flying rings to 
beat the band, now. What would you rather be, Phil?" "Me? Oh, 
something up in the air--high up near the peak of the tent--something 
thrilling that would make the people sit up on the board seats and gasp, 
when, all dressed in pink and spangles, I'd go flying through the air--" 
"Just like a bird?" questioned Teddy, with a rising inflection in his voice. 
"Yes. That's what I'd like most to do, Teddy," concluded the lad, his face 
flushed with the thought of the triumphs that might be his. Teddy Tucker 
uttered a soft, long-drawn whistle. "My, you've got it bad, haven't you? 
Never thought you were that set on the circus. Wouldn't it be fine, now, 
if we both could get with a show?" "Great!" agreed Phil, with an emphatic 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

nod. "Sometimes I think my uncle would be glad to have me go away-
that he wouldn't care whether I joined a circus, or what became of me." 
"Ain't had much fun since your ma died, have you, Phil?" questioned 
Teddy sympathetically. "Not much," answered the lad, a thin, gray mist 
clouding his eyes. "No, not much. But, then, I'm not complaining." 
"Your uncle's a mean old--" "There, there, Teddy, please don't say it. He 
may be all you think he is, but for all the mean things he's said and done to 
me, I've never given him an impudent word, Teddy. Can you guess 
why?" "Cause he's your uncle, maybe," grumbled Teddy. "No, 'cause he's 
my mother's brother--that's why." "I don't know. Maybe I'd feel that way 
if I'd had a mother." "But you did." "Nobody ever introduced us, if I did. 
Guess she didn't know me. But if your uncle was my uncle do you know 
what I'd do with him, Phil Forrest?" "Don't let's talk about him. Let's talk 
about the circus. It's more fun," interrupted Phil, turning to the billboard 
again and gazing at it with great interest. They were standing before the 
glowing posters of the Great Sparling Combined Shows, that was to visit 
Edmeston on the following Thursday. Phillip Forrest and Teddy Tucker 
were fast friends, though they were as different in appearance and 
temperament as two boys well could be. Phil was just past sixteen, while 
Teddy was a little less than a year younger. Phil's figure was slight and 
graceful, while that of his companion was short and chubby. Both lads 
were orphans. Phil's parents had been dead for something more than five 
years. Since their death he had been living with a penurious old uncle 
who led a hermit-like existence in a shack on the outskirts of Edmeston. 
But the lad could remember when it had been otherwise--when he had 
lived in his own home, surrounded by luxury and refinement, until evil 
days came upon them without warning. His father's property had been 
swept away, almost in a night. A year later both of his parents had died, 
leaving him to face the world alone. The boy's uncle had taken him in 
begrudgingly, and Phil's life from that moment on had been one of self-
denial and hard work. Yet he was thankful for one thing--thankful that his 
miserly old uncle had permitted him to continue at school. Standing high 
in his class meant something in Phil's case, for the boy was obliged to 
work at whatever he could find to do after school hours, his uncle 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

compelling him to contribute something to the household expenses every 
week. His duties done, Phil was obliged to study far into the night, under 
the flickering light of a tallow candle, because oil cost too much. 
Sometimes his candle burned far past the midnight hour, while he applied 
himself to his books that he might be prepared for the next day's classes. 
Hard lines for a boy? Yes. But Phil Forrest was not the lad to complain. 
He went about his studies the same as he approached any other task that 
was set for him to do--went about it with a grim, silent determination to 
conquer it. And he always did. As for Teddy--christened Theodore, but 
so long ago that he had forgotten that that was his name--he studied, not 
because he possessed a burning desire for knowledge, but as a matter of 
course, and much in the same spirit he did the chores for the people with 
whom he lived. Teddy was quite young when his parents died leaving him 
without a relative in the world. A poor, but kind-hearted family in 
Edmeston had taken the lad in rather than see him become a public charge. 
With them he had lived and been cared for ever since. Of late years, 
however, he had been able to do considerable toward lightening the 
burden for them by the money he managed to earn here and there. The two 
boys were on their way home from school. There remained but one more 
day before the close of the term, which was a matter of sincere regret to 
Phil and of keen satisfaction to his companion. Just now both were too full 
of the subject of the coming show to think of much else. "Going to the 
show, Phil?" "I am afraid not." "Why not?" "I haven't any money; that's 
the principal reason," smiled the boy. "Are you?" "Sure. Don't need 
any money to go to a circus." "You don't?" "No." "How do you manage 
it?" "Crawl in under the tent when the man ain't looking," answered Teddy 
promptly. "I wouldn't want to do that," decided the older lad, with a shake 
of the head. "It wouldn't be quite honest. Do you think so?" Teddy 
Tucker shrugged his shoulders indifferently. "Never thought about it. 
Don't let myself think about it. Isn't safe, for I might not go to the show if I 
did. What's your other reason?" "For not going to the circus?" "Yes." 
"Well, I don't think Uncle would let me; that's a fact." "Why not?" "Says 
circuses and all that sort of thing are evil influences." "Oh, pshaw! Wish 
he was my uncle," decided Teddy belligerently. "How long are you going 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

to stand for being mauled around like a little yellow dog?" "I'll stand most 
anything for the sake of getting an education. When I get that then I'm 
going to strike out for myself, and do something in the world. You'll hear 
from me yet, Teddy Tucker, and maybe I'll hear from you, too." "See me, 
you mean--see me doing stunts on a high something-or- other in a circus. 
Watch me turn a somersault." The lad stood poised on the edge of the ditch, 
on the other side of which the billboard stood. This gave him the 
advantage of an elevated position from which to attempt his feat. "Look 
out that you don't break your neck," warned Phil. "I'd try it on a haymow, 
or something like that, first." "Don't you worry about me. See how easy 
that fellow in the picture is doing it. Here goes!" Teddy launched himself 
into the air, with a very good imitation of a diver making a plunge into the 
water, hands stretched out before him, legs straight behind him. He was 
headed straight for the ditch. "Turn, Teddy! Turn! You'll strike on your 
head." Teddy was as powerless to turn as if he had been paralyzed from 
head to foot. Down he went, straight as an arrow. There followed a 
splash as his head struck the water of the ditch, the lad's feet beating a 
tattoo in the air while his head was stuck fast in the mud at the bottom of 
the ditch. "He'll drown," gasped Phil, springing down into the little stream, 
regardless of the damage liable to be done to his own clothes. Throwing 
both arms about the body of his companion he gave a mighty tug. Teddy 
stuck obstinately, and Phil was obliged to take a fresh hold before he 
succeeded in hauling the lad from his perilous position. Teddy was 
gasping for breath. His face, plastered with mud, was unrecognizable, 
while his clothes were covered from head to foot. Phil dumped him on the 
grass beneath the circus billboard and began wiping the mud from his 
companion's face, while Teddy quickly sat up, blinking the mud out of his 
eyes and grumbling unintelligibly. "You're a fine circus performer, you 
are," laughed Phil. "Suppose you had been performing on a flying trapeze 
in a circus, what do you suppose would have happened to you?" "I'd have 
had a net under me then, and I wouldn't have fallen in the ditch," grunted 
Teddy sullenly. "What do you suppose the folks will say when you go 
home in that condition?" "Don't care what they say. Fellow has got to 
learn sometime, and if I don't have any worse thing happen to me than 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

falling in a ditch I ought to be pretty well satisfied. Guess I'll go back 
now. Come on, go 'long with me." Phil turned and strode along by the 
side of his companion until they reached the house where Teddy lived. 
"Come on in." "I'm sorry, Teddy, but I can't. My uncle will be expecting 
me, and he won't like it if I am late." "All right; see you tomorrow if you 
don't come out again tonight. We'll try some more stunts then." "I wouldn't 
till after the circus, were I in your place," laughed Phil. "Why not!" "Cause, 
if you break your neck, you won't be able to go to the show." "Huh!" 
grunted Teddy, hastily turning his back on his companion and starting for 
the house. Phil took his way home silently and thoughtfully, carrying his 
precious bundle of books under an arm, his active mind planning as to 
how he might employ his time to the best advantage during the summer 
vacation that was now so close at hand. A rheumatic, bent figure was 
standing in front of the shack where the lad lived, glaring up the street 
from beneath bushy eyebrows, noting Phil Forrest's leisurely gait 
disapprovingly. Phil saw him a moment later. "I'm in for a scolding," he 
muttered. "Wonder what it is all about this time. I don't seem able to 
do a thing to please Uncle Abner." 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"Where you been, young man?" The question was a snarl rather than 
a sentence. "To school, Uncle, of course." "School's been out more than an 
hour. I say, where have you been?" "I stopped on the way for a few 
minutes." "You did?" exploded Abner Adams. "Where?" "Teddy Tucker 
and I stopped to read a circus bill over there on Clover Street. We did not 
stop but a few minutes. Was there any harm in that?" "Harm? Circus 
bill--" "And I want to go to the circus, too, Uncle, when it comes here. You 
know? I have not been to anything of that sort since mother died--not 
once. I'll work and earn the money. I can go in the evening after my 
work is finished. Please let me go, Uncle." For a full minute Abner 
Adams was too overcome with his emotions to speak. He hobbled about 
in a circle, smiting the ground with his cane, alternately brandishing it 
threateningly in the air over the head of the unflinching Phil. "Circus!" he 
shouted. "I might have known it! I might have known it! You and 
that Tucker boy are two of a kind. You'll both come to some bad ending. 
Only fools and questionable characters go to such places--" "My mother 
and father went, and they always took me," replied the boy, drawing 
himself up with dignity. "You certainly do not include them in either of 
the two classes you have named?" "So much the worse for them! So 
much the worse for them. They were a pair of--" "Uncle, Uncle!" warned 
Phil. "Please don't say anything against my parents. I won't stand it. 
Don't forget that my mother was your own sister, too." "I'm not likely to 
forget it, after she's bundled such a baggage as you into my care. You're 
turning out a worthless, good-for- nothing loaf--" "You haven't said 
whether or not I might go to the circus, Uncle," reminded Phil. "Circus? 
No! I'll have none of my money spent on any such worthless--" "But I 
didn't ask you to spend your money, even though you have plenty of it. 
said I would earn the money--" "You'll have a chance to earn it, and right 
quick at that. No, you won't go to any circus so long as you're living under 
my roof." "Very well, Uncle, I shall do as you wish, of course," answered 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

Phil, hiding his disappointment as well as he could. The lad shifted his 
bundle of books to the other hand and started slowly for the house. Abner 
Adams hobbled about until he faced the lad again, an angry gleam lighting 
up his squinting eyes. "Come back here!" Phil halted, turning. "I said 
come back here." The lad did so, his self-possession and quiet dignity 
never deserting him for an instant. This angered the crabbed old uncle 
more than ever. "When will you get through school?" "Tomorrow, I 
believe." "Huh! Then, I suppose you intend to loaf for the rest of the 
summer and live on my hard earned savings. Is that it?" "No, sir; I hadn't 
thought of doing anything of the sort. I thought--" "What did you think?" 
"I thought I would find something to do. Of course, I do not expect to be 
idle. I shall work at something until school begins again next fall, then, 
of course, I shall not be able to do so much." "School! You've had 
enough school! In my days boys didn't spend the best part of their lives 
in going to school. They worked." "Yes, sir; I am willing to work, too. 
But, Uncle, I must have an education. I shall be able to earn so much 
more then, and, if necessary, I shall be able to pay you for all you have 
spent on me, which isn't much, you know." "What, what? You dare to be 
impudent to me? You--" "No, sir, I am not impudent. I have never been 
that and I never shall be; but you are accusing me wrongfully." "Enough. 
You have done with school--" "You--you mean that I am not to go to 
school any more--that I have got to go through life with the little I have 
learned? Is that what you mean, Uncle?" asked the boy, with a sinking 
heart. "You heard me." "What do you want me to do?" "Work!" "I am 
working and I shall be working," Phil replied. "You're right you will, or 
you'll starve. I have been thinking this thing over a lot lately. A boy 
never amounts to anything if he's mollycoddled and allowed to spend his 
days depending on someone else. Throw him out and let him fight his 
own way. That's what my father used to tell me, and that's what I'm going 
to say to you." "What do you mean, Uncle?" "Mean? Can't you 
understand the English language? Have I got to draw a picture to make 
you understand? Get to work!" "I am going to as soon as school is out." 
"You'll do it now. Get yourself out of my house, bag and baggage!" 
"Uncle, Uncle!" protested the lad in amazement. "Would you turn me 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

out?" "Would I? I have, only you are too stupid to know it. You'll thank 
me for it when you get old enough to have some sense." Phil's heart sank 
within him, and it required all his self-control to keep the bitter tears from 
his eyes. "When do you wish me to go?" he asked without a quaver in his 
voice. "Now." "Very well, I'll go. But what do you think my mother 
would say, could she know this?" "That will do, young man. Do your 
chores, and then--" "I am not working for you now, Uncle, you know, so I 
shall have to refuse to do the chores. There is fifty cents due me from Mr. 
Churchill for fixing his chicken coop. You may get that, I don't want it." 
Phil turned away once more, and with head erect entered the house, going 
straight to his room, leaving Abner Adams fuming and stamping about in 
the front yard. The old man's rage knew no bounds. He was so beside 
himself with anger over the fancied impudence of his nephew that, had the 
boy been present, he might have so far forgotten himself as to have used 
his cane on Phil. But Phil by this time had entered his own room, locking 
the door behind him. The lad threw his books down on the bed, dropped 
into a chair and sat palefaced, tearless and silent. Slowly his eyes rose to 
the old-fashioned bureau, where his comb and brush lay. The eyes halted 
when at length they rested on the picture of his mother. The lad rose as if 
drawn by invisible hands, reached out and clasped the photograph to him. 
Then the pent-up tears welled up in a flood. With the picture pressed to 
his burning cheek Phil Forrest threw himself on his bed and sobbed out his 
bitter grief. He did not hear the thump of Abner Adams' cane on the 
bedroom door, nor the angry demands that he open it. "Mother, Mother!" 
breathed the unhappy boy, as his sobs gradually merged into long-drawn, 
trembling sighs. Perhaps his appeal was not unheard. At least Phil 
Forrest sprang from his bed, holding the picture away from him with both 
hands and gazing into the eyes of his mother. Slowly his shoulders drew 
back and his head came up, while an expression of strong determination 
flashed into his own eyes. "I'll do it--I'll be a man, Mother!" he exclaimed 
in a voice in which there was not the slightest tremor now. "I'll fight the 
battle and I'll win." Phil Forest had come to the parting of the ways, which 
he faced with a courage unusual in one of his years. There was little to 
be done. He packed his few belongings in a bag that had been his 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

mother's. The lad possessed one suit besides the one he wore, and this he 
stowed away as best he could, determining to press it out when he had 
located himself. Finally his task was finished. He stood in the middle of 
the floor glancing around the little room that had been his home for so 
long. But he felt no regrets. He was only making sure that he had not 
left anything behind. Having satisfied himself on this point, Phil 
gathered up his bundle of books, placed the picture of his mother in his 
inside coat pocket, then threw open the door. The lad's uncle had stamped 
to the floor below, where he was awaiting Phil's coming. "Good-bye, 
Uncle," he said quietly, extending a hand. "Let me see that bag," snapped 
the old man. "The bag is mine--it belonged to my mother," explained the 
boy. "Surely you don't object to my taking it with me?" "You're welcome 
to it, and good riddance; but I'm going to find out what's inside of it." "You 
surely don't think I would take anything that doesn't belong to me--you 
can't mean that?" "Ain't saying what I mean. Hand over that bag." With 
burning cheeks, Phil did as he was bid, his unwavering eyes fixed almost 
sternly on the wrathful face of Abner Adams. "Huh!" growled the old man, 
tumbling the contents out on the floor, shaking Phil's clothes to make sure 
that nothing was concealed in them. Apparently satisfied, the old man 
threw the bag on the floor with an exclamation of disgust. Phil once 
more gathered up his belongings and stowed them away in the satchel. 
"Turn out your pockets!" "There is nothing in them, Uncle, save some 
trinkets of my own and my mother's picture." "Turn them out!" thundered 
the old man. "Uncle, I have always obeyed you. Obedience was one of 
the things that my mother taught me, but I'm sure that were she here she 
would tell me I was right in refusing to humiliate myself as you would 
have me do. There is nothing in my pockets that does not belong to me. 
I am not a thief." "Then I'll turn them out myself!" snarled Abner Adams, 
starting forward. Phil stepped back a pace, satchel in hand. "Uncle, I am a 
man now," said the boy, straightening to his full height. "Please don't 
force me to do something that I should be sorry for all the rest of my life. 
Will you shake hands with me?" "No!" thundered Abner Adams. "Get 
out of my sight before I lay the stick over your head!" Phil stretched out an 
appealing hand, then hastily withdrew it. "Good-bye, Uncle Abner," he 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

breathed. Without giving his uncle a chance to reply, the lad turned, 
opened the door and ran down the steps. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



The sun was just setting as Phil Forrest strode out of the yard. Once 
outside of the gate he paused, glancing irresolutely up and down the street. 
Which way to turn or where to go he did not know. He had not thought 
before of what he should do. Phil heard the clatter of Abner Adams' stick 
as the old man thumped about in the kitchen. Suddenly the door was 
jerked open with unusual violence. "Begone!" bellowed Mr. Adams, 
brandishing his cane threateningly. Phil turned down the street, without 
casting so much as a glance in the direction of his wrathful uncle, and 
continued on toward the open country. To anyone who had observed him 
there was nothing of uncertainty in the lad's walk as he swung along. As a 
matter of fact, Phil had not the slightest idea where he was going. He 
knew only that he wanted to get away by himself. On the outskirts of the 
village men had been at work that day, cutting and piling up hay. The 
field was dotted with heaps of the fragrant, freshly garnered stuff. Phil 
hesitated, glanced across the field, and, noting that the men had all gone 
home for the day, climbed the fence. He walked on through the field 
until he had reached the opposite side of it. Then the lad placed his bag on 
the ground and sat down on a pile of hay. With head in hands, he tried to 
think, to plan, but somehow his mind seemed unable to perform its proper 
functions. It simply would not work. "Not much of a start in the world, 
this," grinned Phil, shifting his position so as to command a better view of 
the world, for he did not want anyone to see him. "I suppose Uncle 
Abner is getting supper now. But where am I going to get mine? I 
hadn't thought of that before. It looks very much as if I should have to go 
without. But I don't care. Perhaps it will do me good to miss a meal," 
decided the boy sarcastically. "I've been eating too much lately, 
anyhow." Twilight came; then the shadows of night slowly settled over the 
landscape, while the lad lay stretched out on the sweet-smelling hay, hands 
supporting his head, gazing up into the starlit sky. Slowly his heavy 
eyelids fluttered and closed, and Phil was asleep. The night was warm and 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

he experienced no discomfort. He was a strong, healthy boy, so that 
sleeping out of doors was no hardship to him. All through the night he 
slept as soundly as if he had been in his own bed at home. Nor did he 
awaken until the bright sunlight of the morning finally burned his eyelids 
apart. Phil started up rubbing his eyes. At first he wondered where he was. 
But the sight of his bag lying a little to one side brought back with a rush 
the memory of what had happened to him the evening before. "Why, it's 
morning," marveled the lad, blinking in the strong sunlight. "And I've slept 
on this pile of hay all night. It's the first time I ever slept out of doors, 
and I never slept better in my life. Guess I'll fix myself up a little." Phil 
remembered that a little trout stream cut across the field off to the right. 
Taking up his bag, he started for the stream, where he made his toilet as 
best he could, finishing up by lying flat on his stomach, taking a long, 
satisfying drink of the sparkling water. "Ah, that feels better," he breathed, 
rolling over on the bank. After a little he helped himself to another drink. 
"But I've got to do something. I can't stay out here in this field all the 
rest of my life. And if I don't find something to eat I'll starve to death. 
I'll go downtown and see if I can't earn my breakfast somehow." Having 
formed this resolution, Phil took up his belongings and started away 
toward the village. His course led him right past Abner Adams' house, 
but, fortunately, Mr. Adams was not in sight. Phil would have felt a keen 
humiliation had he been forced to meet the taunts of his uncle. He 
hurried on past the house without glancing toward it. He had gone on for 
some little way when he was halted by a familiar voice. "Hello, Phil! 
Where are you going in such a hurry and so early in the morning?" Phil 
started guiltily and looked up quickly at the speaker. "Good morning, Mrs. 
Cahill. What time is it?" "It's just past four o'clock in the morning." 
"Gracious! I had no idea it was so early as that," exclaimed the lad. "If 
you are not in such a great hurry, stop a bit," urged the woman, her keen 
eyes noting certain things that she did not give voice to. She had known 
Phil Forrest for many years, and his parents before him. Furthermore, 
she knew something of the life he had led since the death of his parents. 
"Had your breakfast?" "Well--" "Of course you haven't. Come right in 
and eat with me," urged the good-hearted widow. "If you will let me do 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

some chores, or something to pay for it, I will," agreed Phil hesitatingly. 
"Nothing of the kind! You'll keep me company at breakfast; then you'll 
be telling me all about it." "About what?" " 'Bout your going away," 
pointing significantly to the bag that Phil was carrying. He was ravenously 
hungry, though he did not realize it fully until the odor of the widow's 
savory cooking smote his nostrils. She watched him eat with keen 
satisfaction. "Now tell me what's happened," urged Mrs. Cahill, after he 
had finished the meal. Phil did so. He opened his heart to the woman 
who had known his mother, while she listened in sympathetic silence, now 
and then uttering an exclamation of angry disapproval when his uncle's 
words were repeated to her. "And you're turned out of house and home? 
Is that it, my boy?" "Well, yes, that's about it," grinned Phil. "It's a shame." 
"I'm not complaining, you know, Mrs. Cahill. Perhaps it's the best thing 
that could have happened to me. I've got to start out for myself sometime, 
you know. I'm glad of one thing, and that is that I didn't have to go until 
school closed. I get through the term today, you know?" "And you're 
going to school today?" "Oh, yes. I wouldn't want to miss the last day." 
"Then what?" "I don't know. I shall find something else to do, I guess. I 
want to earn enough money this summer so that I can go to school again in 
the fall." "And you shall. You shall stay right here with the Widow 
Cahill until you've got through with your schooling, my lad." "I couldn't 
think of that. No; I am not going to be a burden to anyone. Don't you 
see how I feel--that I want to earn my own living now?" She nodded 
understandingly. "You can do some chores and--" "I'll stay here until I find 
something else to do," agreed Phil slowly. "I shan't be able to look about 
much today, because I'll be too busy at school; but tomorrow I'll begin 
hunting for a job. What can I do for you this morning?" "Well, you might 
chop some wood if you are aching to exercise your muscles," answered 
the widow, with a twinkle in her eyes. She knew that there was plenty of 
wood stored in the woodhouse, but she was too shrewd an observer to tell 
Phil so, realizing, as she did, that the obligation he felt for her kindness 
was too great to be lightly treated. Phil got at his task at once, and in a few 
moments she heard him whistling an accompaniment to the steady thud, 
thud of the axe as he swung it with strong, resolute arms. "He's a fine 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

boy," was the Widow Cahill's muttered conclusion. Phil continued at his 
work without intermission until an hour had passed. Mrs. Cahill went 
out, begging that he come in and rest. "Rest? Why, haven't I been resting 
all night? I feel as if I could chop down the house and work it up into 
kindling wood, all before school time. What time is it?" "Nigh on to 
seven o'clock. I've wanted to ask you something ever since you told me 
you had left Abner Adams. It's rather a personal question." The lad 
nodded. "Did your uncle send you away without any money?" "Of course. 
Why should he have given me anything so long as I was going to leave 
him?" "Did you ever hear him say that your mother had left a little money 
with him before she died--money that was to be used for your education as 
long as it lasted?" Phil straightened up slowly, his axe falling to the ground, 
an expression of surprise appeared in his eyes. "My mother left money-
for me, you say?" he wondered. "No, Phil, I haven't said so. I asked you 
if Abner had ever said anything of the sort?" "No. Do you think she 
did?" "I'm not saying what I think. I wish I was a man; I'd read old 
Abner Adams a lecture that he wouldn't forget as long as he lives." Phil 
smiled indulgently. "He's an old man, Mrs. Cahill. He's all crippled up 
with rheumatism, and maybe he's got a right to be cranky--" "And to turn 
his own sister's child outdoors, eh? Not by a long shot. Rheumatics don't 
give anybody any call to do any such a thing as that. He ought to have his 
nose twisted, and it's me, a good church member, as says so." The lad 
picked up his axe and resumed his occupation, while Mrs. Cahill turned up 
a chunk of wood and sat down on it, keeping up a running fire of comment, 
mostly directed at Abner Adams, and which must have made his ears burn. 
Shortly after eight o'clock Phil gathered his books, strapped them and 
announced that he would be off for school. "I'll finish the woodpile after 
school," he called back, as he was leaving the gate. "You'll do nothing of 
the sort," retorted the Widow Cahill. Darting out of the yard, Phil ran 
plump into someone, and halted sharply with an earnest apology. "Seems 
to me you're in a terrible rush about something. Where you going?" "Hello, 
Teddy, that you?" "It's me," answered Teddy ungrammatically. "I'm on my 
way to school." "Never could understand why anybody should want to run 
when he's going to school. Now, I always run when I start off after 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

school's out. What you doing here?" demanded the boy, drawing his 
eyelids down into a squint. "I've been chopping some wood for Mrs. 
Cahill." "Huh! What's the matter with the bear this morning?" "The 
bear?" Teddy jerked a significant thumb in the direction of Phil's former 
home. "Bear's got a grouch on a rod wide this morning." "Oh, you mean 
Uncle Abner," answered Phil, his face clouding. "Yep." "Why?" "I just 
dropped in to see if you were ready to go to school. He yelled at me like 
he'd gone crazy." "That all?" grinned the other boy. "No. He chased me 
down the road till his game knee gave out; then he fell down." Phil could 
not repress a broad grin at this news. "Good thing for me that I could run. 
He'd have given me a walloping for sure if he'd caught me. I'll bet that 
stick hurts when it comes down on a fellow. Don't it, Phil?" "I should 
think it would. I have never felt it, but I have had some pretty narrow 
escapes. What did the folks you are living with say when you got home 
all mud last night?" Teddy grinned a sheepish sort of grin. "Told me I'd 
better go out in the horse barn--said my particular style of beauty was 
better suited to the stable than to the kitchen." "Did you?" "Well, no, not 
so as you might notice it. I went down to the creek and went in 
swimming, clothes and all. That was the easiest way. You see, I could 
wash the mud off my clothes and myself all at the same time." "It's a 
wonder they let you in at all, then." "They didn't; at least not until I had 
wrung the water out of my trousers and twisted my hair up into a regular 
top-knot. Then I crawled in behind the kitchen stove and got dried out 
after a while. But I got my supper. I always do." "Yes; I never knew 
you to go without meals." "Sorry you ain't going to the circus tomorrow, 
Phil." "I am. Teddy, I'm free. I can do as I like now. Yes, I'll go to the 
circus with you, and maybe if I can earn some money tonight I'll treat you 
to red lemonade and peanuts." "Hooray!" shouted Teddy, tossing his hat 
high in the air. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



The Sparling Combined Shows came rumbling into Edmeston at about 
three o'clock the next morning. But, early as was the hour, two boys sat 
on the Widow Cahill's door-yard fence watching the wagons go by. The 
circus was one of the few road shows that are now traveling through the 
country, as distinguished from the great modern organizations that travel 
by rail with from one to half a dozen massive trains. The Sparling people 
drove from town to town. They carried twenty-five wagons, besides a 
band wagon, a wild-west coach and a calliope. "Phil! Phil! Look!" 
exclaimed Teddy, clutching at his companion's coat sleeve, as two hulking, 
swaying figures appeared out of the shadows of the early morning. 
"Where?" "There." "Elephants! There's two of them." "Ain't that great? 
I didn't suppose they'd have any elephants. Wonder if there's any lions and 
tigers in those big wagons." "Of course there are. Didn't you see pictures 
of them on the bills, Teddy?" "I don't know. Dan Marts, the postmaster, 
says you can't set any store by the pictures. He says maybe they've got 
the things you see in the pictures, and maybe they haven't. There's a 
camel! Look at it! How'd you like to ride on that hump all day?" 
questioned Teddy gleefully. "Shouldn't like it at all." "I read in my 
geography that they ride on them all the time on the--on--on Sarah's 
Desert." "Oh, you mean the Sahara Desert--that's what you mean," 
laughed Phil. "Well, maybe." "I should rather ride an elephant. See, it's 
just like a rocking chair. I could almost go to sleep watching them move 
along." "I couldn't," declared Teddy. "I couldn't any more go to sleep 
when a circus is going by than I could fly without wings." "See, there 
comes a herd of ponies. Look how small they are. Not much bigger than 
St. Bernard dogs. They could walk right under the elephants and not 
touch them." "Where do they all sleep?" wondered Teddy. "Who, the 
ponies?" "No, of course not. The people." "I don't know unless they 
sleep in the cages with the animals," laughed Phil. "Some of the folks 
appear to be sleeping on the horses." "I'd be willing to go without sleep if I 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

could be a showman," mused Teddy. "Wouldn't you?" "Sure," agreed 
Phil. "Hello! There come some more wagons. Come on! We'll run 
down to meet them." "No; Let's go over to the grounds where the circus is 
coming off. They'll be putting up the tents first thing we know." "That's so, 
and I want to be around. You going to work any, Teddy?" "Not I. I'm 
going to see the show, but you don't catch me carrying pails of water for 
the elephants for a ticket of admission that don't admit you to anything 
except a stand-up. I can stand up cheaper than that." Both boys slipped 
from the fence, and, setting off at a jog trot, began rapidly overhauling and 
passing the slow-moving wagons with their tired horses and more tired 
drivers. By the time Teddy and Phil reached the circus grounds several 
wagons were already there. Shouts sprang up from all parts of the field, 
while half a dozen men began measuring off the ground in the dim 
morning light, locating the best places in which to pitch the tents. Here 
and there they would drive in a stake, on one of which they tied a piece of 
newspaper. "Wonder what that's for," thought Phil aloud. "Hey, what's the 
paper tied on the peg for?" shouted Teddy to a passing showman. "That's 
the front door, sonny." "Funniest looking front door I ever saw," grunted 
Teddy. "He means that's the place where the people enter and leave their 
tickets." "Oh, yes. That's what they call the 'Main Entrance,'" nodded 
Teddy. "I've seen it, but I don't usually go in that way." With the early 
dawn figures began emerging from several of the wagons. They were a 
sleepy looking lot, and for a time stood about in various attitudes, yawning, 
stretching their arms and rubbing their eyes. "Hey, boy, what town is 
this?" questioned a red-haired youth, dragging himself toward the two lads. 
"Edmeston." "Oh, yes. I remember; I was here once before." "With a 
show?" asked Teddy. "Yes, with a Kickapoo Indian medicine man. And 
he was bad medicine. Say, where can I wash my countenance?" "Come on; 
I'll show you," exclaimed Teddy and Phil in the same breath. They led the 
way to the opposite side of the field, where there was a stream of water. 
While the circus boy was making his morning toilet the lads watched him 
in admiring silence. "What do you do?" ventured Phil. "I perform on the 
rings." "Up in the air?" "Uh-huh." "Ever fall off?" "I get my bumps," 
grinned the red-haired boy. "My name is Rodney Palmer. What's your 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

names?" They told him. "We're going to be circus men, too," Teddy 
informed him, but the announcement did not seem to stir a deep interest in 
the circus boy. He had heard other boys say the same thing. "Is it very 
hard work?" "Worst ever." "When do you sleep?" "When we ain't awake." 
"And you perform on the flying rings?" Rodney nodded his head 
indifferently. "I should think you'd burn the tent up with that head of red 
hair," grinned Teddy. Instead of getting angry at the boy's thrust, Rodney 
glanced at Teddy with a half questioning look in his eyes, then burst out 
laughing. "You're a cheerful idiot, aren't you?" he twinkled. "I'll tell you 
why I don't. Confidentially, you know?" "Sure." "I wear a wig when I'm 
performing. Mebby if it wasn't for that I might set something on fire. I 
must get over on the lot now." "You're in a lot already," Teddy informed 
him. "We call the place where we pitch the tents 'the lot.' The cook tent 
must be up by this time, and I'm half starved. The performance was so 
late yesterday afternoon that they had the cook tent down before I got my 
supper. Will you come along?" They did. "Do you think there is anything 
I could do to earn a ticket to the show today?" asked Phil. "Yes, there's 
most always something for a boy to do." "Whom do I ask about it?" "Go 
see the boss canvasman. I'll point him out to you as we go along." 
"Thank you. You want to see him, too, Teddy?" "No; I don't have to." 
"That's him over there. He's a grouch, but just don't let him bluff you. 
Yes, the cook tent's about ready. I'll sneak in and hook something before 
breakfast; then mebby I'll come back and talk with you." "We'll look for 
you in the show this afternoon," said Phil. "All right, if I see you I'll swing 
my hand to you," Rodney replied, starting for the cook tent, where the 
meals were served to the show people. "Now, I'm going to see that boss 
canvasman," announced Phil. "See, they are laying the pieces of the tents 
flat on the ground. I suppose they fasten them all together when they get 
them placed, then raise them up on the poles." "I guess so. I don't care 
much so long as I don't have to do it." "Teddy Tucker, actually you are the 
laziest boy I ever knew. Why don't you brace up?" "Don't I have just as 
good a time and better, than you do?" "Guess you do." "Don't I get just as 
much to eat?" "I presume so," admitted Phil. "Don't I see all the shows that 
come to town, and go to all the picnics?" "Yes." "Then, what's the use of 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

being any more'n lazy?" Teddy's logic was too much for his companion, 
and Phil laughed heartily. "Look, the elephant is butting one of the 
wagons," cried Teddy. "No, they are using the elephant to push the cage 
around in place. I wonder what's in it," said Phil. A roar that fairly made 
the ground shake answered Phil's question. The cage in question held a 
lion, and a big, ugly one if his voice was any indication. The great 
elephant, when the cage was being placed, would, at a signal from its 
keeper, place its ponderous head against one side of the cage and push, 
while a driver would steer the wagon by taking hold of the end of the 
tongue. It was a novel sight for the two boys, and they watched it with the 
keenest interest. A man dressed in riding clothes, carrying a short crop in 
his hand, was observing the operations with equal interest. He was 
James Sparling, the proprietor and manager of the Great Combined Shows, 
but the lads were unaware of that fact. Even had they known, it is doubtful 
if Mr. Sparling would have been of sufficient attraction to draw their 
attention from the working elephant. All at once there was a warning shout 
from Mr. Sparling. The men set up a yell, followed by a sudden scurrying 
from the immediate vicinity of the cage that the elephant had been 
shunting about. "Stop it! Brace it!" bellowed the owner of the show, 
making frantic motions with his free hand, cutting circles and dashes in 
the air with the short crop held in the other. "What's the row?" wondered 
Teddy. "I--I don't know," stammered Phil. "The elephant's tipping the lion 
cage over!" shouted someone. "Run for your lives!" For once in his life 
Teddy Tucker executed a lightning-like movement. He was one of several 
dark streaks on the landscape running as if Wallace, the biggest lion in 
captivity, were in reality hard upon his heels. As he ran, Teddy uttered a 
howl that could have been heard from one end of the circus lot to the other. 
A few of the more fearless ones, the old hands of the show, did not attempt 
to run. Instead they stood still, fairly holding their breaths, waiting to see 
what would happen next. Mr. Sparling was too far away to be able to do 
anything to prevent the catastrophe that was hanging over them, but it did 
not prevent him from yelling like a madman at the inactive employees of 
the show. At the first cry--the instant he comprehended what was 
happening-- Phil Forrest moved every bit as quickly as had his companion, 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

though he leaped in the opposite direction. All about on the ground lay tent 
poles of various length and thickness, side poles, quarter poles and the 
short side poles used to hold the tent walls in place. These were about 
twenty feet in length and light enough to be easily handled. With ready 
resourcefulness and quick comprehension, Phil pounced upon one of these 
and darted toward the cage which was toppling over in his direction. The 
roof of the lion cage that housed Wallace projected over the edge some six 
inches, and this had caught the keen eyes of the lad at the first alarm. His 
plan had been formed in a flash. He shot one end of the side pole up under 
the projecting roof, jammed the other end into the ground, throwing his 
whole weight upon the foot of the pole to hold it in place. For an instant 
the tent pole bent like a bow under the pull of the archer. It seemed as if 
it must surely snap under the terrific strain. Phil saw this, too. Now that 
the foot of the pole was firmly imbedded in the ground, there was no 
further need for him to hold it down. He sprang under the pole with the 
swaying cage directly over him, grabbed the pole at the point where it was 
arching so dangerously, and pulling himself from the ground, held to the 
slippery stick desperately. Light as he was the boy's weight saved the pole. 
It bent no further. The cage swayed from side to side, threatening to topple 
over at one end or the other. "Get poles under the ends," shouted the boy 
in a shrill voice. "I can't hold it here all day." "Get poles, you lazy good-
for-nothings!" bellowed the owner. "Brace those ends. Look out for the 
elephant. Don't you see he's headed for the cage again?" Orders flew 
thick and fast, but through it all Phil Forrest hung grimly to the side pole, 
taking a fresh overhand hold, now and then, as his palms slipped down the 
painted stick. Now that he had shown the way, others sprang to his 
assistance. Half a dozen poles were thrust up under the roof and the cage 
began slowly settling back the other way. "Hadn't you better have some 
poles braced against the other side, sir?" suggested Phil, touching his hat 
to Mr. Sparling, who, he had discovered, was some person in authority. 
"The cage may tip clear over on the other side, or it may drop so heavily 
on the wheels as to break the axles." "Right. Brace the off side. That's 
right. Now let it down slowly. Not so hard on the nigh side there. Ease 
off there, Bill. Push, Patsy. What do you think this is--a game of croquet? 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

There you go. Right. Now let's see if you woodenheads know enough to 
keep the wagon right side up." Mr. Sparling took off his hat and wiped the 
perspiration from his forehead, while Phil stood off calmly surveying the 
men who were straightening the wagon, but with more caution than they 
had exercised before. "Come here, boy." Someone touched Phil on the arm. 
"What is it?" "Boss wants to speak to you." "Who?" "Boss Sparling, the 
fellow over there with the big voice and the sombrero." Phil walked over 
and touched his hat to Mr. Sparling. The showman looked the lad over 
from head to foot. "What's your name?" He shot the question at the lad 
as if angry about something, and he undoubtedly was. "Phil Forrest." "Do 
they grow your kind around here?" "I can't say, sir." "If they do, I'd like to 
hire a dozen or more of them. You've got more sense than any boy of 
your age I ever saw. How old are you?" "Sixteen." "Huh! I wish I had 
him!" growled Mr. Sparling. "What do you want?" "I should like to have 
a chance to earn a pass to the show this afternoon. Rodney Palmer said 
the boss canvasman might give me a chance to earn one." "Earn one? 
Earn one?" Mr. Sparling's voice rose to a roar again. "What in the name of 
Old Dan Rice do you think you've been doing? Here you've kept a cage 
with a five-thousand-dollar lion from tipping over, to say nothing of the 
people who might have been killed had the brute got out, and you want to 
know how you can earn a pass to the show? What d'ye think of that?" 
and the owner appealed helplessly to an assistant who had run across the 
lot, having been attracted to the scene by the uproar. The assistant grinned. 
"He's too modest to live." "Pity modesty isn't more prevalent in this show, 
then. How many do you want? Have a whole section if you say the 
word." "How many are there in a section?" asked Phil. " 'Bout a hundred 
seats." Phil gasped. "I--I guess two will be enough," he made answer. 
"Here you are," snapped the owner, thrusting a card at the lad, on which 
had been scribbled some characters, puzzling to the uninitiated. "If you 
want anything else around this show you just ask for it, young man. Hey, 
there! Going to be all day getting that canvas up? Don't you know 
we've got a parade coming along in a few hours?" Phil Forrest, more light 
of heart than in many days, turned away to acquaint his companion of his 
good fortune. Teddy Tucker was making his way cautiously back to the 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

scene of the excitement of a few moments before. "Did he get away?" 
Teddy questioned, ready to run at the drop of the hat should the danger 
prove to be still present. "Who, the manager?" "No, the lion." "He's in 
the cage where he's been all the time. They haven't opened it yet, but I 
guess he's all right. Say, Teddy!" "Say it." "I've got a pass to the show for 
two people for both performances--this afternoon and tonight." The 
interest that the announcement brought to Teddy's eyes died away almost 
as soon as it appeared. "Going?" "Am I going? I should say so. Want 
to go in with me on my pass, Teddy?" The lad hitched his trousers, took a 
critical squint at the canvas that was slowly mounting the center pole to 
the accompaniment of creaking ropes, groaning tackle and confused 
shouting. "They're getting the menagerie tent up. I'll bet it's going to be a 
dandy show," he vouchsafed. "How'd you get the tickets?" "Manager 
gave them to me." "What for?" "I did a little work for him. Helped get 
the lion's cage straightened up. How about it--are you going in on my 
pass?" "N-o-o," drawled Teddy. "Might get me into bad habits to go in 
on a pass. I'd rather sneak in under the tent when the boss isn't looking." 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



Phil started for the Widow Cahill's on the run after having procured his 
tickets. "Here's a ticket for the circus, Mrs. Cahill," he shouted, bursting 
into the room, with excited, flushed face. "What's this you say--the circus? 
Land sakes, I haven't seen one since I was--well, since I was a girl. I 
don't know." "You'll go, won't you?" urged Phil. "Of course, I'll go," she 
made haste to reply, noting the disappointment in his face over her 
hesitation. "And thank you very much." "Shall I come and get you, Mrs. 
Cahill, or can you get over to the circus grounds alone?" "Don't worry 
about me, my boy. I'll take care of myself." "Your seat will be right next 
to mine, and we can talk while we are watching the performers." "Yes; you 
run along now. Here's a quarter for spending money. Never mind 
thanking me. Just take it and have a good time. Where's your friend?" 
"Teddy?" "Yes." "Over on the lot." "He going in with you, too?" "Oh, no. 
Teddy is too proud to go in that way. He crawls in under the tent," 
laughed Phil, running down the steps and setting off for the circus grounds 
with all speed. When he arrived there he saw at once that something was 
going on. The tents were all in place, the little white city erected with as 
much care and attention to detail as if the show expected to remain in 
Edmeston all summer. The lad could scarcely make himself believe that, 
only a few hours before, this very lot had been occupied by the birds alone. 
It was a marvel to him, even in after years, when he had become as 
thoroughly conversant with the details of a great show as any man in 
America. Just now there was unusual activity about the grounds. Men in 
gaudy uniforms, clowns in full makeup, and women with long glistening 
trains, glittering with spangles from head to feet, were moving about, 
while men were decorating the horses with bright blankets and fancy 
headdress. "What are they going to do?" asked Phil of a showman. "Going 
to parade." "Oh, yes, that's so; I had forgotten about that." "Hello, boy-
I've forgotten your name--" "Forrest," explained Phil, turning. The 
speaker was Mr. Sparling's assistant, whom the lad had seen just after 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

saving the lion cage from turning over. "Can you blow a horn as well as 
you can stop a wagon?" "Depends upon what kind of a horn. I think I 
can make as much noise on a fish horn as anyone else." "That'll do as well 
as anything else. Want to go in the parade?" "I'd love to!" The color 
leaped to the cheeks of Phil Forrest and a sparkle to his eyes. This was 
going beyond his fondest dreams. The assistant motioned to a clown. "Fix 
this boy up in some sort of a rig. I'm going to put him in the Kazoo Band. 
Bring him back here when he is ready. Be quick." A long, yellow robe 
was thrown about the boy, a peaked cap thrust on his head, after which a 
handful of powder was slapped on his face and rubbed down with the flat 
of the clown's hand. The fine dust got into the lad's nostrils and throat, 
causing him to sneeze until the tears rolled down his cheeks, streaking his 
makeup like a freshet through a plowed field. "Good," laughed the clown. 
"That's what your face needs. You'd make a good understudy for Chief 
Rain-In-The-Face. Now hustle along." Phil picked up the long skirts and 
ran full speed to the place where the assistant had been standing. There 
he waited until the assistant returned from a journey to some other part of 
the lot. "That's right; you know how to obey orders," he nodded. "That's 
a good clown makeup. Did Mr. Miaco put those streaks on your face?" 
"No, I sneezed them there," answered Phil, with a sheepish grin. The 
assistant laughed heartily. Somehow, he had taken a sudden liking to this 
boy. "Do you live at home, Forrest?" "No; I have no home now." "Here's a 
fish horn. Now get up in the band wagon--no, not the big one, I mean the 
clowns' band wagon with the hayrack on it. When the parade starts blow 
your confounded head off if you want to. Make all the noise you can. 
You'll have plenty of company. When the parade breaks up, just take off 
your makeup and turn it over to Mr. Miaco." "You mean these clothes?" 
"Yes. They're a part of the makeup. You'll have to wash the makeup off 
your face. I don't expect you to return the powder to us," grinned the 
assistant humorously. The clowns were climbing to the hayrack. A bugle 
had blown as a signal that the parade was ready to move. Phil had not 
seen Teddy Tucker since returning to the lot. He did not know where the 
boy was, but he was quite sure that Teddy was not missing any of the fun. 
Tucker had been around circuses before, and knew how to make the most 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

of his opportunities. And he was doing so now. "Ta ra, ta ra, ta ra!" sang 
the bugle. Crash! answered the cymbals and the bass drums. The snare 
drums buzzed a long, thrilling roll; then came the blare of the brass as the 
whole band launched into a lively tune such as only circus bands know 
how to play. The parade had begun to move. It was a thrilling moment--the 
moment of all moments of Phil Forrest's life. The clowns' wagon had been 
placed well back in the line, so as not to interfere with the music of the 
band itself. But Phil did not care where he was placed. He only knew 
that he was in a circus parade, doing his part with the others, and that, so 
far as anyone knew, he was as much a circus man as any of them. As the 
cavalcade drew out into the main street and straightened away, Phil was 
amazed to see what a long parade it was. It looked as if it might reach 
the whole length of the village. The spring sun was shining brightly, 
lighting up the line, transforming it into a moving, flashing, brilliant 
ribbon of light and color. "Splendid!" breathed the boy, removing the fish 
horn from his lips for a brief instant, then blowing with all his might again. 
As the wagons moved along he saw many people whom he knew. As a 
matter of fact, Phil knew everyone in the village, but there were hundreds 
of people who had driven in from the farms whom he did not know. Nor 
did anyone appear to recognize him. "If they only knew, wouldn't they be 
surprised?" chuckled the lad. "Hello, there's Mrs. Cahill." The widow was 
standing on her front door step with a dishtowel in one hand. In the excess 
of his excitement, Phil stood up, waving his horn and yelling. She heard 
him--as everybody else within a radius of a quarter of a mile might have-
and she recognized the voice. Mrs. Cahill brandished the dishtowel 
excitedly. "He's a fine boy," she glowed. "And he's having the first good 
time he's had in five years." The Widow Cahill was right. For the first 
time in all these years, since the death of his parents, Phil Forrest was 
carefree and perfectly happy. The clowns on the wagon with him were 
uproariously funny. When the wagon stopped now and then, one whom 
Phil recognized as the head clown, Mr. Miaco, would spring to the edge of 
the rack and make a stump speech in pantomime, accompanied by all the 
gestures included in the pouring and drinking of a glass of water. So 
humorous were the clown's antics that the spectators screamed with 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

laughter. Suddenly the lad espied that which caused his own laughter to 
die away, and for the moment he forgot to toot the fish horn. The parade 
was passing his former home, and there, standing hunched forward, 
leaning on his stick and glaring at the procession from beneath bushy 
eyebrows, stood Phil's uncle, Abner Adams. Phil's heart leaped into his 
throat; at least that was the sensation that he experienced. "I--I hope he 
doesn't know me," muttered the lad, shrinking back a little. "But I'm a 
man now. I don't care. He's driven me out and he has no right to say a 
thing." The lad lost some of his courage, however, when the procession 
halted, and he found that his wagon was directly in front of Mr. Adams' 
dooryard, with his decrepit uncle not more than twenty feet away from 
him. The surly, angry eyes of Abner Adams seemed to be burning 
through Phil's makeup, and the lad instinctively shrank back ever so little. 
However, at that instant the boy's attention was attracted to another part of 
the wagon. The head clown stepped from the wagon and, with dignified 
tread, approached Abner Adams. He grasped the old man by the hand, 
which he shook with great warmth, making a courtly bow. At first Abner 
Adams was too surprised to protest. Then, uttering an angry snarl, he 
threw the clown off, making a vicious pass at him with his heavy stick. 
The clown dodged the blow, and made a run for the wagon, which was 
now on the move again. Phil breathed a sigh of relief. The people had 
roared at the funny sight of the clown shaking hands with the crabbed old 
man; but to Phil Forrest there had been nothing of humor in it. The sight of 
his uncle brought back too many unhappy memories. The lad soon forgot 
his depression, however, in the rapid changes that followed each other in 
quick succession as on a moving- picture film. Reaching the end of the 
village street the procession was obliged to turn and retrace its steps over 
the same ground until it reached the business part of the town, where it 
would turn off and pass through some of the side streets. Now there were 
two lines, moving in opposite directions. This was of interest to Phil, 
enabling him, as it did, to get a good look at the other members of the 
troupe. Mr. Sparling was riding ahead in a carriage drawn by four 
splendid white horses, driven by a coachman resplendent in livery and 
gold lace, while the bobbing plumes on the heads of the horses added to 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

the impressiveness of the picture. "I'd give anything in the world to be able 
to ride in a carriage like that," decided Phil. "Maybe someday I shall. 
We'll see." Now came the elephants, lumbering along on velvet feet. On 
the second one there crouched a figure that somehow seemed strangely 
familiar to Phil Forrest. The figure was made up to represent a huge frog. 
A peculiar gesture of one of the frog's legs revealed the identity of the 
figure beneath the mask. "Teddy!" howled Phil. "Have a frog's leg," 
retorted Teddy, shaking one of them vigorously at the motley collection of 
clowns. "Not eating frogs legs today," jeered a clown, as Teddy went 
swinging past them, a strange, grotesque figure on the back of the huge, 
hulking beast. The clowns' wagon was just on the point of turning when 
the men heard a loud uproar far down the line. At first they thought it 
was a part of the show, but it soon became apparent that something was 
wrong. Phil instinctively let the horn fall away from his lips. He peered 
curiously over the swaying line to learn what, if anything, had gone wrong. 
He made out the cause of the trouble almost at once. A pony with a 
woman on its back had broken from the line, and was plunging toward 
them at a terrific pace. She appeared to have lost all control of the 
animal, and the pony, which proved to be an ugly broncho, was bucking 
and squealing as it plunged madly down the street. The others failed to see 
what Phil had observed almost from the first. The bit had broken in the 
mouth of the broncho and the reins hung loosely in the woman's helpless 
hands. They were almost up with the clowns' wagon when the woman was 
seen to sway dizzily in her saddle, as the leather slipped beneath her. Then 
she plunged headlong to the ground. Instead of falling in a heap, the circus 
woman, with head dragging, bumping along the ground, was still fast to 
the pony. "Her foot is caught in the stirrup!" yelled half a dozen men at 
once, but not a man of them made an effort to rescue her. Perhaps this was 
because none of the real horsemen of the show were near enough to do so. 
Mr. Sparling, however, at the first alarm, had leaped from his carriage, and, 
thrusting a rider from his mount, sprang into the saddle and came tearing 
down the line in a cloud of dust. He was bearing down on the scene at 
express train speed. "The woman will be killed!" "Stop him! Stop him!" 
"Stop him yourself!" But not a man made an effort to do anything. It had 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

all occurred in a few seconds, but rapidly as the events succeeded each 
other, Phil Forrest seemed to be the one among them who retained his 
presence of mind. He fairly launched himself into the air as the ugly 
broncho shot alongside the clowns' wagon. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



Familiar as they were with daring deeds, those of the circus people 
who witnessed Phil Forrest's dive gasped. They expected to see the boy 
fall beneath the feet of the plunging pony, where he would be likely to be 
trampled and kicked to death. But Phil had looked before he leaped. He 
had measured his distance well--had made up his mind exactly what he 
was going to do, or rather what he was going to try to do. The pony, 
catching a brief glimpse of the dark figure that was being hurled through 
the air directly toward him, made a swift leap to one side. But the animal 
was not quick enough. The boy landed against the broncho with a jolt 
that nearly knocked the little animal over, while to Phil the impact could 
not have been much more severe, it seemed to him, had he collided with a 
locomotive. "Hang on!" howled a voice from the wagon. That was exactly 
what he intended to do. The cloud of dust, with Mr. Sparling in the center 
of it, had not reached them, but his keen eyes already had observed what 
was going on. "G-g-g-grab the woman!" shouted Phil. His left arm had 
been thrown about the broncho's neck, while his right hand was groping 
frantically for the animal's nose. But during all this time the pony was far 
from idle. He was plunging like a ship in a gale, cracking the whip with 
Phil Forrest until it seemed as if every bone in the lad's body would be 
broken. He could hear his own neck snap with every jerk. With a howl 
Miaco, the head clown, launched himself from the wagon, too. Darting 
in among the flying hoofs--there seemed to be a score of them--he caught 
the woman, jerked her foot free of the stirrup and dragged her quickly 
from her perilous position. "She's free. Let go!" he roared to the boy 
holding the pony. But by this time Phil had fastened his right hand on the 
pony's nostrils, and with a quick pressure shut off the animal's wind. He 
had heard the warning cry. The lad's grit had been aroused, however, and 
he was determined that he would not let go until he should have conquered 
the fighting broncho. With a squeal of rage, the pony leaped sideways. A 
deep ditch led along by the side of the road, but this the enraged animal 


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had not noticed. Into it he went, kicking and fighting, pieces of Phil's 
yellow robe streaming from his hoofs. The lad's body was half under the 
neck of the pony, but he was clinging to the neck and the nose of the beast 
with desperate courage. "Get the boy out of there!" thundered Mr. Sparling, 
dashing up and leaping from his pony. "Want to let him be killed?" By 
this time others had ridden up, and some of the real horsemen in the outfit 
sprang off and rushed to Phil Forrest's assistance. Ropes were cast over the 
flying hoofs before the men thought it wise to get near them. Then they 
hauled Phil out, very much the worse for wear. In the meantime Mr. 
Sparling's carriage had driven up and he was helping the woman in. "Is the 
boy hurt?" he called. "No, I'm all right, thank you," answered Phil, smiling 
bravely, though he was bruised from head to foot and his clothing hung in 
tatters. His peaked clown's cap someone picked up in a field over the 
fence and returned to him. That was about all that was left of Phil 
Forrest's gaudy makeup, save the streaks on his face, which by now had 
become blotches of white and red. The clowns picked him up and boosted 
him to the wagon, jabbering like a lot of sparrows perched on a telephone 
wire. "See you later!" shouted the voice of Mr. Sparling as he drove 
rapidly away. Phil found his horn, and despite his aches and pains he 
began blowing it lustily. The story of his brave rescue had gone on ahead, 
however, and as the clowns' wagon moved on it was greeted by 
tremendous applause. The onlookers had no difficulty in picking out the 
boy who had saved the woman's life, and somehow the word had been 
passed around as to his identity. "Hooray for Phil Forrest!" shouted the 
multitude. Phil flushed under the coating of powder and paint, and sought 
to crouch down in the wagon out of sight. "Here, get up there where they 
can see you!" admonished a clown. "If you're going to be a showman you 
mustn't be afraid to get yourself in the spotlight." Two of them hoisted the 
blushing Phil to their shoulders and broke into a rollicking song, swaying 
their bodies in imitation of the movements of an elephant as they sang. At 
this the populace fairly howled with delight. "He's the boy, even if he ain't 
purty to look at," jeered someone in the crowd. "Handsome is as 
handsome does!" retorted a clown in a loud voice, and the people cheered. 
After this the parade went on without further incident, though there could 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

be no doubt that the exciting dash and rescue by one of their own boys had 
aroused the town to a high pitch of excitement. And the showmen smiled, 
for they knew what that meant. "Bet we'll have a turn-away this 
afternoon," announced a clown. "Looks that way," agreed another, "and all 
on account of the kid." "What's a turn-away?" asked Phil. "That's when 
there are more people want to get in than the tent will hold. And it means, 
too, that the boss will be good natured till it rains again, and the wagons 
get stuck in the mud so that we'll make the next town behind time. At 
such times he can make more noise than the steam calliope." "He seems to 
me to be a pretty fine sort of a man, even if he is gruff," suggested Phil. 
"The best ever," agreed several clowns. "You'll look a long way before 
you'll find a better showman, or a better man to his help, than Jim Sparling. 
Ever been in the show business, kid?" Phil shook his head. "Anybody'd 
think you always had been, the way you take hold of things. I'll bet you'll 
be in it before you are many years older." "I'd like to," glowed the lad. 
"Ask the boss." "No, he wouldn't want me. There is nothing I could do 
now, I guess." Further conversation was interrupted by the bugle's song 
announcing the disbanding of the parade, the right of the line having 
already reached the circus lot. The clowns piled from the hayrack like a 
cataract, the cataract having all the colors of the rainbow. Phil, not to be 
behind, followed suit, though he did not quite understand what the rush 
was about. He ran until he caught up with Miaco. "What's the hurry 
about?" he questioned. "Parade's over. Got to hurry and get dinner, so as 
to be ready for the afternoon performance." All hands were heading for the 
dressing tent in a mad rush. Phil was halted by the assistant manager. The 
lad glanced down rather sheepishly at his costume, which was hanging in 
tatters, then up at the quizzically smiling face of the showman. "I--I'm 
sorry I've spoiled it, sir, but I couldn't help it." "Don't worry about that, 
young man. How did it happen?" he questioned, pretending not to know 
anything about the occurrence in which Phil had played a leading part. 
"Well, you see, there was a horse ran away, and I happened to get in the 
way of it. I--" "Yes, Forrest, I understand all about it. Somebody did 
something to that animal to make it run away and the boss is red headed 
over it." "I--I didn't." "No, that's right. It was lucky that there was one 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

person in the parade who had some sense left, or there would have been a 
dead woman with this outfit," growled the assistant. "Was she badly hurt?" 
"No. Only bruised up a bit. These show people get used to hard 
knocks." "I'm glad she is all right. Who is she?" "Don't you know?" 
"No." "That was Mr. Sparling's wife whose life you saved, and I reckon 
the boss will have something to say to you when he gets sight of you 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"Is it possible? I didn't know that," marveled the boy. "And does she 
perform?" "Everybody works in this outfit, young man," laughed the 
assistant, "as you will learn if you hang around long enough. Going to the 
show?" "Yes, sir." "Got seats?" "Mr. Sparling provided me with tickets, 
thank you. But I've got to get home first and put on some other clothes. 
This suit is about done for, isn't it?" "I should say it was. You did that 
stopping the horse, didn't you?" Phil nodded. "Boss will buy you a new 
suit for that." "Oh, no; I couldn't allow him to do that," objected Phil. 
"Well, you are a queer youngster. So long. I'll see you when you come 
in this afternoon. Wait, let me see your tickets." The lad handed them 
over wonderingly, at which his questioner nodded approvingly. "They're 
good seats. Hope you will enjoy the show." "Thank you; I am sure I 
shall," answered Phil, touching his hat and starting on a run for home. 
Arriving there, Mrs. Cahill met him and threw up her hands in horror 
when she observed the condition of his clothes. "I am afraid they are gone 
for good," grinned Phil rather ruefully. "No. You leave them with me. 
I'll fix them up for you. I heard how you saved that show woman's life. 
That was fine, my boy. I'm proud of you, that I am. You did more than 
all those circus men could do, and the whole town is talking about it." "If 
you are going to the show you had better be getting ready," urged Phil, 
wishing to change the subject. "All right, I will. I'll fix your clothes 
when I get back. Will you be home to supper?" "I don't know for sure. If 
I can I'll be back in time, but please don't wait for me. Here is your 
ticket." The lad hurried to the room the good woman had set aside for him 
and quickly made the change of clothing. He was obliged to change 
everything he had on, for even his shirt had been torn in his battle with the 
broncho. After bathing and putting on the fresh clothes, Phil hurried 
from the house, that he might miss nothing of the show. The sideshow 
band was blaring brazenly when he reached the lot. The space in front of 
the main entrance was packed with people, many of whom pointed to him, 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

nodding their heads and directing the attention of their companions to the 
lad. Phil wished he might be able to skulk in by the back door and thus 
avoid their attention, but as this was impossible, he pulled his hat down 
over his eyes and worked his way slowly toward the front of the crowd. 
Getting near the entrance, he saw Mr. Sparling's assistant. The latter, 
chancing to catch sight of Phil, motioned him to crawl under the ropes and 
come in. The boy did so gratefully. "The doors are not open yet, but you 
may go in. You will have time to look over the animals before the crowd 
arrives, then you can reach your seat before the others get in. Please let 
me see those checks once more." The assistant made a mental note of the 
section and number of the seats for future reference and handed back the 
coupons. Phil stole into the menagerie tent, relieved to be away from the 
gaze and comments of the crowd that was massed in front. "Gracious, I'm 
afraid I wouldn't make a very good circus man. I hate to have everybody 
looking at me as if I were some natural or unnatural curiosity. Wonder if 
I will know any of the show people when they are made up, as they call it, 
and performing in the ring? I shouldn't wonder if they didn't know me in 
my best clothes, though," grinned the boy. Phil had had the forethought to 
bring a few lumps of sugar in his pocket. Entering the menagerie tent, he 
quickly made his way to the place where the elephants were chained, 
giving each one of the big beasts a lump. He felt no fear of them and 
permitted them to run their sensitive trunks over him and into his pockets, 
where they soon found the rest of the sugar. After disposing of the sweets, 
both beasts emitted a loud trumpeting. At such close quarters the noise 
they made seemed to shake the ground. "Why do they do that?" 
questioned Phil of the keeper. "That's their way of thanking you for the 
sugar. You've made friends of both of them for life. They'll never 
forget you, even if they don't see you for several seasons." "Do they like 
peanuts?" "Do they? Just try them." Phil ran to a snack stand at the 
opposite side of the tent and bought five cents' worth of peanuts, then 
hurried back to the elephants with the package. "What are their names?" 
"The big one is Emperor and the smaller one is called Jupiter," answered 
the keeper, who had already recognized his young visitor. "Are they ever 
ugly?" "Never have been. But you can't tell. An elephant is liable to go 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

bad most any time, then you--" "But how can you tell, or can't you?" 
"Most always, unless they are naturally bad." "How do you know?" "See 
that little slit on the cheek up there?" "Yes," said Phil, peering at the great 
jowls wonderingly. "Well, several days before they get in a tantrum you 
will see a few tear drops--that's what I call them--oozing from that little 
slit. I don't know whether it's water on the brain or what it is. But when 
you see the tear drops you want to get from under and chain Mr. Elephant 
down as quickly as possible. "That is strange." "Very. But it's a sure sign. 
Never knew it to fail, and I've known some elephants in my time. But 
Emperor and Jupiter never have shed a tear drop since I've known them. 
They are not the crying kind, you know." The lad nodded understandingly. 
"How about the lions and the tigers--can you tell when they are going to 
have bad spells?" "Well," reflected the showman, "it's safe to say that 
they've always got a grouch on. The cats are always--" "Cats?" "Yes. 
All that sort of animals belong to the cat family and they've got only one 
ambition in life." "What's that?" "To kill somebody or something." "But 
their keepers--don't they become fond of their keepers or trainers?" The 
elephant tender laughed without changing the expression of his face. His 
laugh was all inside of him, as Phil characterized it. "Not they! They 
may be afraid of their keeper, but they would as soon chew him up as 
anybody else--I guess they would rather, for they've always got a bone to 
pick with him." "Do any of the men go in the cages and make the animals 
perform here?" "Oh, yes. Wallace, the big lion over there, performs 
every afternoon and night. So does the tiger in the cage next to him." 
Phil had dumped the bag of peanuts into his hat, which he held out before 
him while talking. Two squirming trunks had been busy conveying the 
peanuts to the pink mouths of their owners, so that by the time Phil 
happened to remember what he had brought them, there was not a nut left 
in the hat. He glanced up in surprise. "Emperor, you are a greedy old 
elephant," laughed Phil, patting the trunk. Emperor trumpeted loudly, and 
the call was immediately taken up even more loudly by his companion. 
"No, you can't have any more," chided Phil. "You will have indigestion 
from what you've already eaten, I'm afraid. Behave, and I'll bring you 
some more tonight if I come to the show," he laughed. Two caressing 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

trunks touched his hands, then traveled gently over his cheeks. They 
tickled, but Phil did not flinch. "You could do most anything with them 
now, you see," nodded the keeper. "They'd follow you home if I would 
let them." "Especially if my pockets were full of sweets." "There's the 
animal trainer getting ready to go into the lion cage, if you want to see 
him," the attendant informed him. "Yes, I should like to. And thank you 
very much for your kindness." "You're welcome. Come around again." 
The boy hurried over to the lion cage. The people were now crowding 
into the menagerie tent in throngs. There seemed to Phil to be thousands 
already there. But all eyes now being centered on Wallace's cage, they 
had no time to observe Phil, for which he was duly thankful. The animal 
trainer, clad in red tights, his breast covered with spangles, was already at 
the door of the cage, whip in hand. When a sufficient crowd had gathered 
about him, he opened the door, and, entering the cage threw wide the iron 
grating that shut Wallace off from the door end of the wagon. The big 
lion bounded out with a roar that caused the people to crowd back 
instinctively. Then the trainer began putting the savage beast through its 
paces, causing it to leap over his whip, jump through paper hoops, 
together with innumerable other tricks that caused the spectators to open 
their mouths in wonder. All the time Wallace kept up a continual 
snarling, interspersed now and then with a roar that might have been heard 
a quarter of a mile away. This was a part of the exhibition, as Phil 
shrewdly discovered. The boy was a natural showman, though unaware of 
the fact. He noted all the little fine points of the trainer's work with as 
much appreciation as if he had himself been an animal trainer. "I half 
believe I should like to try that myself," was his mental conclusion. "But 
I should want to make the experiment on a very little lion at first. If I got 
out with a whole skin I might want to tackle something bigger. I wonder 
if he is going into the tiger cage?" As if in answer to his question, an 
announcer shouted out the information that the trainer would give an 
exhibition in the cage of the tiger just before the evening performance. "I'll 
have to see that," muttered Phil. "Guess I had better get in and find my 
seat now." At the same time the crowd, understanding that the lion 
performance was over, began crowding into the circus tent. The band 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

inside swung off into a sprightly tune and Phil could scarcely repress the 
inclination to keep time to it with his feet. Altogether, things were moving 
pretty well with Phil Forrest. They had done so ever since he left home the 
day before. In that one day he had had more fun than had come to him in 
many years. But his happy day would soon be ended. He sighed as he 
thought of it. Then his face broke out into a sunny smile as he caught a 
glimpse of the ropes and apparatus, seen dimly through the afternoon haze, 
in the long circus tent. As he gained the entrance between the two large 
tents he saw the silk curtains at the far end of the circus arena fall apart, 
while a troop of gayly caparisoned horses and armored riders suddenly 
appeared through the opening. The grand entry was beginning. "Gracious, 
here the show has begun and I am not anywhere near my seat," he 
exclaimed. "But, if I am going to be late I won't be alone. There are a 
whole lot more of us that were too much interested in the animal trainer to 
think to come in and get our seats. I guess I had better run. I--" Phil 
started to run, but he got no further than the start. All at once his waist was 
encircled in a powerful grip and he felt his feet leaving the ground. Phil 
was being raised straight up into the air by some strange force, the secret 
of which he did not understand. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



The lad repressed an inclination to cry out, for the thing that had 
encircled his waist and raised him up seemed to be tightening about him. 
A familiar voice just behind him served to calm Phil's disquieted nerves. 
"Don't be frightened, kid. It's only Emperor having a little joke. He's a 
funny fellow," said the elephant's attendant. Phil had read somewhere that 
elephants possessed a keen sense of humor, and now he was sure of it. 
But he never thought he would have an opportunity to have the theory 
demonstrated on himself. The elephants were on their way to participate in 
the grand entry, and there was not a minute to spare now. Emperor on his 
way into the other tent had come across his new-found friend and 
recognized him instantly, while Phil had not even heard the approach of 
the elephants. No sooner had the elephant discovered the lad than he 
picked him up with his trunk, slowly hoisting the boy high in the air. 
"Steady, Emperor! Steady!" cautioned the attendant. But Emperor 
needed no admonition to deal gently with his young friend. He handled 
Phil with almost the gentleness of a mother lifting a babe. Phil Forrest 
experienced a thrill that ran all through him when he realized what was 
taking place. "We can't stop to put you down now, my boy. You'll have to 
go through the performance with us. Grab the head harness when he lets 
you down on his head. You can sit on the head without danger, but keep 
hold of the harness with one hand. I'll bet you'll make a hit." "I will if I 
fall off," answered Phil a bit unsteadily. As it was, the unusual motion 
made him a little giddy. "That's a good stunt. Stick to him, Forrest," 
directed a voice as they swept on toward the ring. The voice belonged to 
Mr. Sparling, the owner of the show. He was quick to grasp the value of 
Phil's predicament--that is, its value to the show as a drawing card. By 
now the people began to understand that something unusual was going on, 
and they asked each other what it was all about. "It's Phil Forrest riding the 
elephant," shouted one of the lad's school friends, recognizing him all at 
once. "Hooray for Phil!" There were many of the pupils from his school 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

there, and the howling and shouting that greeted him made the lad's cheeks 
burn. But now, instead of wanting to crawl under something and hide, Phil 
felt a thrill of pleasure, of pride in the achievement that was denied to all 
the rest of his friends. The inspiring music of the circus band, too, added 
to his exhilaration. He felt like throwing up his hands and shouting. 
Suddenly he felt something tugging at his coat pocket, and glancing down 
gave a start as he discovered the inquisitive trunk of Emperor thrust deep 
down in the pocket. When the trunk came away it brought with it a lump 
of sugar that Phil did not know he possessed. The sugar was promptly 
conveyed to the elephant's mouth, the beast uttering a loud scream of 
satisfaction. "Emperor, you rascal!" laughed Phil, patting the beast on the 
head. Once more the trunk curled up in search of more sugar, but a stern 
command from the trainer caused the beast to lower it quickly. The time 
for play had passed. The moment had arrived for Emperor to do his 
work and he was not the animal to shirk his act. In fact, he seemed to 
delight in it. All elephants work better when they have with them some 
human being or animal on which they have centered their affections. 
Sometimes it is a little black and tan dog, sometimes a full-grown man. 
In this instance it happened to be a boy, and that boy Phil Forrest. "Waltz!" 
commanded the trainer. If Phil's head had swum before, it spun like a top 
now. Round and round pirouetted the huge beasts, keeping in perfect 
step with the music of the band, and tighter and tighter did the lad grip the 
head harness of old Emperor. Phil closed his eyes after a little because 
he had grown so dizzy that he feared he would fall off. "Hang on, kid. 
It'll be Christmas by and by," comforted the trainer humorously. "That's 
what I am trying to do," answered Phil a bit unsteadily. "How's your 
head?" "Whirling like a merry-go-round." He heard the trainer chuckling. 
The spectators were shouting out Phil's name all over the big tent. "Fine, 
fine!" chuckled James Sparling, rubbing his palms together. "That ought to 
fill the tent tonight." The spectators realized, too, that they were being 
treated to something not down on the bills and their shouts and laughter 
grew louder and louder. "Do you think you could stand up on his head?" 
came the voice of the trainer just loud enough for Phil to hear. "Me? 
Stand on the elephant's head?" "Yes. Think you can do it?" "If I had a net 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

underneath to catch me, maybe I'd try it." "Emperor won't let you fall. 
When I give the word he'll wrap his trunk around your legs. That will 
hold you steady from the waist down. If you can keep the rest of 
yourself from lopping over you'll be all right. It'll make a hit--see if it 
don't." "I--I'll try it." "Wait till I give the word, then get up on all fours, but 
don't straighten up till you feel the trunk about you. We'll make a 
showman of you before you know it." "I seem to be the whole show as it 
is," grumbled Phil. "You are, just now--you and Emperor. Good thing the 
other performers are not in the ring, or they would all be jealous of you." 
"I wish Uncle Abner could see me now. Wouldn't he be mad!" grinned 
Phil, as the memory of his crabbed relative came back to him. "He'd come 
right out after me with his stick, he'd be so angry. But I guess Emperor 
wouldn't let him touch me," decided the boy proudly, with an affectionate 
pat to which the elephant responded with a cough that sounded not unlike 
the explosion of a dynamite cartridge. "All ready now. Don't be afraid. 
Hold each position till I give you the word to change it." "Ready," 
announced the lad. "Emperor! Jupiter!" The twitching of a ponderous ear 
of each animal told that they had heard and understood. "Rise!" Phil had 
scrambled to all fours. "Hold him, Emperor!" The great trunk curled up, 
ran over the boy's legs and twined about them. "Up you go, kid!" Phil 
raised himself fearlessly, straightened and stood full upon his feet. That 
strong grip on his legs gave him confidence and told him he had nothing to 
fear. All he would have to do would be to keep his ears open for the 
trainer's commands both to himself and the beast, and he would be all 
right. He felt himself going up again. The sensation was something akin to 
that which Phil had once experienced when jumping off a haystack. He 
felt as if his whole body were being tickled by straws. The elephants were 
rising on their hind legs, uttering shrill screams and mighty coughs, as if 
enraged over the humiliation that was being put upon them. It seemed to 
Phil as if Emperor would never stop going up until the lad's head was 
against the top of the tent. He ventured to look down. What a distance it 
was! Phil hastily directed his glances upward. At last the elephant had 
risen as high as he could go. He was standing almost straight up and 
down, and on his head the slender figure of the boy appeared almost 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

unreal to those off on the seats. Thunders of applause swept over the 
assemblage. People rose up in their seats, the younger ones hurling hats 
high in the air and uttering catcalls and shrill whistles, until pandemonium 
reigned under the "big top," as the circus tent proper is called by the 
showmen. "Swing your hat at them!" The trainer had to shout to make 
himself heard, and as it was Phil caught the words as from afar off. He 
took off his soft hat and waved it on high, gazing wonderingly off over the 
seats. He could distinguish nothing save a waving, undulating mass of 
moving life and color. It was intoxicating. And Phil Forrest went 
suddenly dizzy again. "I'm losing my head," rebuked the lad. "If I don't 
pull myself together I shall surely fall off. Then they will have 
something to laugh at rather than to applaud." He took himself firmly in 
hand. But the applause did not abate one whit. "Watch out, we're going 
down," warned the trainer. "Right!" The elephant trainer's command came 
out like the crack of a ringmaster's whip. Slowly the great beasts lowered 
themselves toward the sawdust ring. "Stoop over and grab the harness!" 
Phil did so. "Sit! Let go, Emperor!" The trunk was released instantly and 
Phil plumped to the beast's head once more, amid the wildest applause. 
The band swung into another tune, which was the signal for the next act to 
be brought on. At the same time the ringmaster blew a shrill blast on his 
whistle. The trainer left the ring with his charges by an exit that he seldom 
departed through. But he did so in order to leave Phil near the place 
where his seats were, first having ascertained where these were located. 
"Put him down, Emperor! Down, I say!" Emperor reached up an 
unwilling trunk, grasped Phil about the waist and stood him on the ground. 
At the trainer's command the beast released his hold of his friend and as 
the hook was gently pressed against his side to hurry him, Emperor started 
reluctantly away. Phil, with flushed face, a happy look in his eyes, had 
turned to run up the aisle to his seats, when, with a loud trumpeting, 
Emperor wheeled, and breaking away from his trainer, swept down toward 
the spot where he had left Phil Forrest. The movement almost threw those 
in that section into a panic. Women screamed, believing the animal had 
suddenly gone crazy, while men sprang to their feet. Phil had turned at the 
first alarm, and, observing what was taking place, with rare presence of 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

mind trotted down to the arena again. He reached there about the same 
time that Emperor did. With a shrill scream Emperor threw his long trunk 
about the lad, and before Phil had time to catch his breath, he had been 
hurled to the elephant's back. Uttering loud trumpetings the great elephant 
started on a swift shamble for his quarters, giving not the slightest heed to 
his trainer's commands to halt. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"Let him go. Emperor won't hurt me," laughed Phil as soon as he 
could get his breath, for he was moving along at a pace which would have 
meant a tumble to the ground had the elephant not supported the lad with 
its trunk. The audience soon seeing that no harm had come to the boy, set 
up another roar, which was still loud in Phil's ears when Emperor set his 
burden down after reaching the elephant quarters in the menagerie tent. 
"You're a bad boy. Get down, sir, and let me off," chided Phil. The 
elephant, to his surprise, cautiously let himself down to his knees, his 
trunk at the same time reaching out surreptitiously for a wisp of fresh 
grass. Phil slipped off, laughing heartily. He had lost all fear of the great, 
hulking beast. "Don't punish him, please," begged the boy when the keeper 
came hurrying along with Jupiter. "But if you will make him let me 
alone, I'll go in the other tent. I want to see the circus." "Wait a moment. 
I'll chain him up." The keeper soon had Emperor fast. Then after a final 
affectionate petting Phil ran lightly to the other tent and quickly made his 
way to his seat. The people were so engrossed in the acts in the ring that 
they did not observe the boy particularly this time. "Did I make a show of 
myself, Mrs. Cahill?" questioned the lad, with sparkling eyes. "You did 
not. You were as handsome as a picture. There isn't one of all those 
people that looks so handsome or so manly as--" "Please, please, Mrs. 
Cahill!" begged the lad, blushing violently. "Have you seen anything of 
my friend Teddy? I had forgotten all about him." "That looks like him 
down there." "Where?" "There, leaning against that pole," she pointed. 
Phil gazed in the direction indicated, and there, sure enough, was Teddy 
Tucker leaning carelessly against the center pole. He had no right to be 
there, as Phil well knew, and he watched with amused interest for the 
moment when the other boy's presence would be discovered. It came 
shortly afterwards. All at once the ringmaster fixed a cold eye on Teddy. 
"Hey, you!" Teddy gave no heed to him. "Get out of there! Think you 
own this show?" The lad made believe that he did not hear. The 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

ringmaster's long whip lash curled through the air, going off with a crack 
that sounded as if a pistol had been fired, and within an inch of Teddy's 
nose. Teddy sprang back, slapping a hand to his face, believing that he had 
been hit. Then there followed a series of disconcerting snaps all around 
his head as the long lash began to work, but so skillfully was it wielded 
that the end of it did not touch him. But Teddy had had enough. He 
turned and ran for the seats. "Come up here," cried Phil, laughing 
immoderately. "Here's a seat right beside us and there won't be any 
ringmaster to bother you." Considerably crestfallen, the lad climbed up to 
where Phil and Mrs. Cahill were sitting. "You mustn't go down there, you 
know, Teddy. They don't allow outsiders in the ring while the 
performance is going on. Someone might get hurt--" "They let you in," 
bristled Teddy. "That was different. They couldn't help themselves, and 
neither could I. Emperor took me in whether I would or not; and, in fact, 
I didn't know I was going till I was halfway there." Phil's companion 
surveyed him with admiration. "My, but you did cut a figure up on that 
elephant's head! I should have been afraid." "There was nothing to be 
afraid of. But let's watch the performance. There's a trapeze act going on 
now." For a few moments the lads watched the graceful bodies of the 
performers slipping through the air. One would swing out from his perch, 
flying straight into the arms of his fellow-performer who was hanging 
head down from another swinging bar. On the return sweep the first 
performer would catch his own bar and return to his perch. "Looks easy. 
I'll bet I could do that," nodded Teddy. Phil shook his head. "Not so easy 
as it looks." "How much do you suppose they get--think they must get as 
much as a dollar and a half a day for doing that? I'd do it for a dollar, if I 
could," averred the irrepressible Teddy Tucker. "They get a good many 
more dollars than that, Teddy. I've heard that some of them get all of 
twenty-five or thirty dollars a week." Phil's companion whistled. The next 
act was a bareback riding exhibition, by a pretty, graceful young woman 
whom the ringmaster introduced as Mademoiselle Mora. At the crack of 
the whip she sprang lightly to the back of the gray old ring horse and 
began a series of feats that made the boys sit forward in their seats. At the 
conclusion of the act Mademoiselle Mora ran out to the edge of the ring, 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

and blowing a kiss at the blushing Phil, tripped away on fairy feet for the 
dressing tent. "Did you see her? She bowed to me?" exclaimed Teddy 
enthusiastically. "Guess she didn't see you at all, young man," replied Mrs. 
Cahill dryly. "There's others in the tent besides you, even if the 
ringmaster did crack his whip in your face and just miss your nose." A 
clown came out and sang a song about a boy who had rescued a beautiful 
young woman from a runaway horse and got kidnaped by an elephant. 
The song made a hit, for most of the audience understood that it referred 
to Phil Forrest. And so the performance went on, with a glitter and a crash, 
a haze of yellow dust hanging like a golden cloud in the afternoon sun, 
over spectators and performers alike. "Hello, there's Rod!" exclaimed 
Teddy. "Who?" "Rod. The red-haired kid we saw this morning, only his 
hair is black now. He's covered up his own looks so he won't set the tent 
on fire." "Oh, you mean Rodney Palmer? Yes, I guess that is he." "See, 
they're pulling him up on a rope. I wonder where he is going?" "To those 
flying rings," explained Phil. "And there is a young woman going up, 
too." One after another was pulled up, until a troupe of four had ascended 
and swung off to the rings that were suspended far up there in the haze. 
Both Phil and Teddy were more than ordinarily interested in this act, for 
they were no mean performers on the rings themselves. In the schoolyard 
an apparatus had been rigged with flying rings, and on this the boys had 
practiced untiringly during the spring months, until they had both become 
quite proficient. "Isn't he great?" breathed Teddy, as Rodney Palmer 
swung out into the air, letting his legs slip through the rings until only his 
toes were hanging to the slender support. "Yes; he certainly does do it 
fine." "We can do it just as well." "Perhaps, but not so gracefully." "See, 
he's swinging his hand at us." Sure enough, Rodney had picked out the 
two lads, and was smiling at them and waving a hand in their direction. 
The two lads felt very proud of this, knowing as they did that they were 
the envy of every boy of their acquaintance within sight of them. The 
climax of the act was when the young woman seemed to plunge straight 
down toward the ground. The women in the audience uttered sharp little 
cries of alarm. But the performer was not falling. Strong slender ropes 
had been fastened to her heels, the other ends being held by one of the 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

performers who was hanging from the rings. As a result the falling girl's 
flight was checked just before she reached the ground and the spectators 
breathed a sigh of profound relief. "My, that was great! I wouldn't want 
to do that." "No, you're too heavy, Teddy. That's why they have a girl do 
it. She is slender and light--" "I'd be light headed." "Guess, I would, too," 
laughed Phil. At this juncture an attendant came running up the steps, 
halting before the lads. "Are you Phil Forrest?" he asked. "Yes." "The boss 
wants to see you." "Mr. Sparling? All right. I wanted to see the rest of 
the show, but I'll go." Phil rose reluctantly and followed the guide. "I'll 
meet you by the ticket wagon if I don't get back here, Teddy," he said. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"Where will I find Mr. Sparling?" "In the doghouse." "Where's that?" 
"Out back of the ticket wagon. It's a little A tent, and we call it the boss's 
doghouse, because it's only big enough to hold a couple of St. Bernards." 
"Oh! What does he want of me?" "Ask him," grinned the attendant, who, 
it developed, was an usher in the reserved-seat section. "He don't tell us 
fellows his business. Say, that was a great stunt you did with Emperor." 
"Oh, I don't know." "I do. There's the doghouse over there. See it?" 
"Yes, thank you." The attendant leaving him, Phil walked on alone to Mr. 
Sparling's private office, for such was the use to which he put the little tent 
that the usher had called the "doghouse." "I wonder what he can want of 
me?" mused Phil. "Probably he wants to thank me for stopping that pony. 
I hope he doesn't. I don't like to be thanked. And it wasn't much of 
anything that I did anyway. Maybe he's going to--but what's the use of 
guessing?" The lad stepped up to the tent, the flaps of which were closed. 
He stretched out his hand to knock, then grinned sheepishly. "I forgot you 
couldn't knock at a tent door. I wonder how visitors announce 
themselves, anyway." His toe, at that moment, chanced to touch the tent 
pole and that gave him an idea. Phil tapped against the pole with his foot. 
"Come in!" bellowed the voice of the owner of the show. Phil entered, hat 
in hand. At the moment the owner was busily engaged with a pile of bills 
for merchandise recently purchased at the local stores, and he neither 
looked up nor spoke. Phil stood quietly waiting, noting amusedly the stern 
scowl that appeared to be part of Mr. Sparling's natural expression. "Well, 
what do you want?" he demanded, with disconcerting suddenness. "I--I 
was told that you had sent for me, that you wanted to see me," began the 
lad, with a show of diffidence. "So I did, so I did." The showman hitched 
his camp chair about so he could get a better look at his visitor. He 
studied Phil from head to foot with his usual scowl. "Sit down!" "On the 
ground, sir?" "Ground? No, of course not. Where's that chair? Oh, 
my lazy tent man didn't open it. I'll fire him the first place we get to 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

where he won't be likely to starve to death. I hear you've been trying to 
put my show out of business." "I wasn't aware of it, sir," replied Phil, 
looking squarely at his questioner. "Perhaps I was not wholly blameless 
in attaching myself to Emperor." "Huh!" grunted Mr. Sparling, but 
whether or not it was a grunt of disapproval, Phil could not determine. "So 
you're not living at home?" "I have no home now, sir." "Just so, just so. 
Brought up in refined surroundings, parents dead, crabbed old uncle 
turned you out of doors for reasons best known to himself--" Phil was 
amazed. "You seem to know all about me, sir." "Of course. It's my 
business to know something about everything. I ought to thank you for 
getting Mrs. Sparling out of that mix-up this morning, but I'll let her do 
that for herself. She wants to see you after the performance." "I don't like 
to be thanked, Mr. Sparling, though I should like to know Mrs. Sparling," 
said Phil boldly. "Neither do I, neither do I. Emperor has gone daffy over 
you. What did you feed him?" "Some sugar and peanuts. That was all." 
"Huh! You ought to be a showman." "I have always wanted to be, Mr. 
Sparling." "Oh, you have, eh?" "Yes, sir." "Well, why don't you?" "I have 
never had the opportunity." "You mean you've never looked for an 
opportunity. There are always opportunities for everything, but we have 
to go after them. You've been going after them today for the first time, and 
you've nailed one of them clear up to the splice of the center pole. 
Understand?" "Not entirely, sir." "Well, do you want to join out with the 
Great Sparling Combined Shows, or don't you?" "You mean--I join the-
the--" Mr. Sparling was observing him narrowly. "I said, would you like to 
join our show?" "I should like it better than anything else in the world." 
"Sign this contract, then," snapped the showman, thrusting a paper toward 
Phil Forrest, at the same time dipping a pen in the ink bottle and handing it 
to him. "You will allow me to read it first, will you not?" "Good! That's 
the way I like to hear a boy talk. Shows he's got some sense besides 
what he's learned in books at some--well, never mind." "What--what is 
this, ten dollars a week?" gasped Phil, scarcely able to believe his eyes as 
he looked at the paper. "That's what the contract says, doesn't it?" "Yes, 
sir." "Then, that's what it is. Traveling expenses and feed included. You 
are an easy keeper?" "Well, I don't eat quite as much as a horse, if that's 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

what you mean," laughed Phil. "Huh!" After reading the contract through, 
the lad affixed his signature to it with trembling hand. It was almost too 
good to be true. "Thank you, sir," he said, laying the paper before Mr. 
Sparling. "And now, my lad," added the showman more mildly, "let me 
give you some advice. Some folks look upon circus people as rough and 
intemperate. That day's past. When a man gets bad habits he's of no 
further use in the circus business. He closes mighty quick. Remember 
that." "Yes, sir. You need not worry about my getting into any such 
trouble." "I don't, or I wouldn't take you. And another thing: Don't get it 
into your head, as a good many show people do, that you know more 
about running the business than the boss does. He might not agree with 
you. It's a bad thing to disagree with the boss, eh?" "I understand, sir." 
"You'd better." "What do you want me to do? I don't know what I can do 
to earn that salary, but I am willing to work at whatever you may put me 
to--" "That's the talk. I was waiting for you to come to that. But leave 
the matter to me. You'll have a lot of things to do, after you get your 
bearings and I find out what you can do best. As it is, you have earned 
your salary for the first season whether you do anything else or not. You 
saved the big cat and you probably saved my wife's life, but we'll let that 
pass. When can you join out?" "I'm ready now, sir. I shall want to go 
home and get my things and my books." "Huh! That's right. Take your 
time. We shan't be pulling out of here till after midnight, so you'd better 
go home and get ready. You'll want to bid good-bye to Mrs. Ca--Ca-
Cahill." "I wonder if there is anything that he doesn't know about," 
marveled Phil. "Anything you want to ask me about--any favor you'd like? 
If there is, get it out." "Well, yes, there is, but I scarcely feel like asking it, 
you have been so kind to me." "Shucks!" "I--I have a little friend, who-
who, like myself, has no parents and is crazy over the circus. He wants 
to be a circus man just as much as I do. If you had a place--if you could 
find something for him to do, I should appreciate it very much." "Who is 
he, that youngster with the clown face, who crawled in under the tent this 
afternoon?" Phil laughed outright. "I presume so. That's the way he 
usually gets in." "Where is he now?" "Seeing the performance, sir." "Nail 
him when he comes out. We'll give him all the show he wants." With 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

profuse thanks Phil Forrest backed from the tent and walked rapidly 
toward the entrance. It seemed to him as if he were walking on air. "Let 
that boy through. He's with the show now," bellowed Mr. Sparling, 
poking his head from the doghouse tent. The gateman nodded. "How soon 
will the performance be over?" inquired Phil, approaching the gateman. 
"Ten minutes now." "Then, I guess I won't go in. I promised to meet 
Teddy over by the ticket wagon anyway." But Phil could not stand still. 
Thrusting his hands in his pockets he began pacing back and forth, 
pondering deeply. He did not observe the shrewd eyes of Mr. Sparling 
fixed upon him from behind the flap of the little tent. "At last, at last!" 
mused Phil. "I'm a real live showman at last, but what kind of a 
showman I don't know. Probably they'll make me help put up the tents 
and take them down. But, I don't care. I'll do anything. And think of 
the money I'll earn. Ten dollars a week!" he exclaimed, pausing and 
glancing up at the fluttering flags waving from center and quarter poles. 
"Why, it's a fortune! I shall be able to save most all of it, too. Oh, I'm so 
happy!" "They're coming out," called the gateman to him. "Thank you." 
Phil's face was full of repressed excitement when Teddy came slouching 
up to him. "Bully show," announced the lad. "Didn't know which way to 
look, there was so much to be seen." "How would you like to join the 
show and be a real circus man?" demanded Phil. "Great!" "Maybe I can 
fix it for you." "You?" "Yes." "Don't give me such a shock, Phil. You 
said it almost as if you meant it." "And I did." Teddy gazed at his 
companion for a full minute. "Something's been going on, I guess-
something that I don't seem to know anything about." "There has, Teddy. 
I'm already a showman. You come with me. Mr. Sparling wants to speak 
with you. Don't be afraid of him. He talks as if he was mad all the time, 
but I'm sure he isn't." Grasping Teddy by the arm Phil rushed him into Mr. 
Sparling's tent, entering this time without knocking. "This is my friend 
whom I spoke to you about," announced Phil, thrusting Teddy up before 
the showman. Mr. Sparling eyed the lad suspiciously. "Want to join out, 
too, eh?" "I--I'd like to," stammered Teddy. "Do your parents approve of 
your going with a show?" "I--I don't know, sir." "You'd better find out, 
then. Ask them mighty quick. This is no camp meeting outfit that plays 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

week stands." "Can't." "Why not?" " 'Cause they're dead." "Huh! Why 
didn't you say so before?" "You didn't ask me." "You're too smart, young 
man." "Takes a smart man to be a circus man, doesn't it?" "I guess you're 
right at that," answered the showman, his stern features relaxing into a 
smile. "You'll do. But you'd better not hand out that line of sharp talk 
in bunches when you get with the show. It might get you into trouble if 
you did." "Yes, sir; I'll be good." "Now, you boys had better run along and 
make your preparations. You may take your supper in the cook tent tonight 
if you wish. But you will have to be on hand promptly, as they take down 
the cook tent first of all." "Thank you; we will," answered Phil. "What act-what do I perform?" questioned Teddy, swelling with pride. "Perform?" 
"Yes." "Ho, ho, ho!" "I'm going to be a performer and wear pink pants, 
ain't I?" "A performer? Oh, that's too good. Yes, my son, you shall be a 
performer. How would you like to be a juggler?" "Fine!" "Then, I think 
I'll let you juggle the big coffeepot in the cook tent for the edification of 
the hungry roustabouts," grinned Mr. Sparling. "What do I do?" "Do, 
young man--do?" "Yes, sir." "Why, you stand by the coffee boiler in the 
cook tent, and when you hear a waiter bawl 'Draw one,' at the same time 
throwing a pitcher at you from halfway across the tent, you catch the 
pitcher and have it filled and ready for him by the time he gets to you." 
"Do I throw the pitcherful of coffee back at him?" questioned Teddy 
innocently. "You might, but you wouldn't be apt to try it a second time. 
You'd be likely to get a resounding slap from the flat of his hand--" "I'd hit 
him on the nose if he did," declared Teddy belligerently. Mr. Sparling 
could not resist laughing. "That's not the way to begin. But you will 
learn. Follow your friend Phil, here, and you will be all right if I am any 
judge of boys. I ought to be, for I have boys of my own. You'd better 
be going now." The two lads started off at a brisk pace. Phil to tell Mrs. 
Cahill of his good fortune. Teddy to bid good-bye to the people with 
whom he had been living as chore boy. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"Teddy, you and I are a pair of lucky boys. Do you know it?" asked 
Phil. Each, with his bag of belongings, was on his way to the circus lot, 
the boys having bid good-bye to their friends in the village. The people 
with whom Teddy lived had given a reluctant consent to his going with the 
circus, after he had explained that Phil Forrest had gotten him the place 
and that Phil himself was going to join the show. The lad told them he 
was going to make a lot of money and that someday he would pay them 
for all they had done for him. And he kept his word faithfully. "Maybe. I 
reckon Barnum & Bailey will be wanting us first thing we know," 
answered Teddy. "We shall be lucky if we hold on to the job we have 
already. Did Mr. Sparling say what he would pay you?" "No, he didn't 
think of that--at least I didn't. Did he tell you how much you were going 
to get?" Phil nodded. "How much?" "I don't think I had better say," 
answered the lad doubtfully. "If you ask him and he tells you, of course 
that will be all right. I shall be glad to do so then. It isn't that I don't want 
you to know, you understand, but it might be better business, just now, to 
say nothing about it," added Phil, with a wisdom far beyond his years. 
"Dark secret, eh?" jeered Teddy Tucker. "No; there's no secret about it. It 
is just plain business, that's all." "Business! Huh! Who ever heard of a 
circus being business?" "You'll find business enough when you get in, 
Teddy Tucker." "Don't believe it. It's just good fun and that's all." They 
had reached the circus lot by this time and were now making their way to 
Mr. Sparling's tent. "We have come to report, sir," announced Phil, 
entering the tent with Teddy close behind him. "We are ready for work." 
There was a proud ring in Phil Forrest's voice as he made the 
announcement. "Very well, boys. Hand your baggage over to the man at 
the baggage wagon. If there is anything in either of your grips that you 
will want during the night you had better get it out, for you will be unable 
to get into the wagon after the show is on the road. That's one of the early 
wagons to move, too." "I guess there is nothing except our tooth brushes 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

and combs that we shall need. We have those in our pockets." "Better 
take a couple of towels along as well." "Yes, sir; thank you." "The cook 
tent is open. Go over and have your suppers now. Wait a moment, I'll go 
with you. They might not let you in. You see, they don't know you there 
yet." Mr. Sparling, after closing and locking his trunk, escorted the lads to 
the cook tent, where he introduced both to the manager of that department. 
"Give them seats at the performers' table for tonight," he directed. "They 
will be with the show from now on. Mr. Forrest here will remain at that 
table, but the other, the Tucker boy, I shall probably turn over to you for a 
coffee boy." The manager nodded good naturedly, taking quick mental 
measure of the two lads. The boys were directed to their seats, which they 
took, almost as if in a dream. It was a new and unfamiliar experience to 
them. The odor of the food, the sweet scents from the green grass 
underneath their feet, all so familiar to the showman, gave Phil and Teddy 
appetites that even a canvasman might have envied. The performers 
glanced at them curiously, some of the former nodding to Phil, having 
recognized in him the boy who had ridden the elephant into the arena in 
the grand entry. "Not so much after all, are they?" grunted Teddy. "They 
are all human beings like ourselves, I guess," replied Phil. Stripped of their 
gaudy costumes and paint, the performers looked just like other normal 
beings. But instead of talking about the show and their work, they were 
discussing the news of the day, and it seemed to the two lads to be more 
like a large family at supper than a crowd of circus performers. Rodney 
Palmer nodded good naturedly to them from further up the long table, but 
they had no more than time to nod back when a waiter approached to take 
their orders. Teddy ordered pretty much everything on the bill, while 
Phil was more modest in his demands. "Don't eat everything they have," 
he warned laughingly. "Plenty more where this came from. That's one 
good thing about a show." "What's that?" "If the food gives out they can 
eat the animals." "Better look out that the animals don't make a meal of 
you." "Joining out?" asked the man sitting next to Phil. "Yes, sir." "Ring 
act?" "I don't know yet what I am to do. Mr. Sparling is giving me a 
chance to find out what I am good for, if anything," smiled Phil. "Boss is 
all right," nodded the circus man. "That was a good stunt you did this 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

afternoon. Why don't you work that up?" "I--I'll think about it." Phil 
did not know exactly what was meant by the expression, but it set him to 
thinking, and out of the suggestion he was destined to "work up" 
something that was really worthwhile, and that was to give him his first 
real start in the circus world. "What's that funny-looking fellow over there 
doing?" interrupted Teddy. "That man down near the end of the table?" 
"Yes." "That's Billy Thorpe, the Armless Wonder," the performer informed 
him. "And he hasn't any hands?" wondered the boy. "Naturally not, not 
having any arms. He uses his feet for hands." "What's he doing now?" 
"Eating with his feet. He can use them almost as handily as you can your 
hands. You should see Billy sew, and write and do other things. Why, 
they say he writes the best foot of anybody in the show." "Doesn't he 
ever get cold feet?" questioned Teddy humorously. "Circus people are not 
afflicted with that ailment. Doesn't go well with their business." "May I 
ask what you do?" inquired Phil. "I am the catcher in the principal trapeze 
act. You may have seen me today. I think you were in the big top 
then." "Oh, yes, I saw you this afternoon." "How many people are with the 
show?" asked Teddy. "At a rough guess, I should say a hundred and fifty 
including canvasmen and other labor help. It's a pretty big organization 
for a road show, the biggest in the country; but it's small, so small it would 
be lost if one of the big railroad shows was around." "Is that another 
armless or footless wonder next to Billy Thorpe?" asked Teddy. "It's a 
freak, yes, but with hands and feet. That's the living skeleton, but if he 
keeps on eating the way he's been doing lately the boss will have to 
change the bills and bill him as the fattest man on earth." "Huh!" grunted 
Teddy. "He could crawl through a rat hole in a barn door now. He's 
thin enough to cut cheese with." Phil gave his companion a vigorous 
nudge under the table. "You'll get into trouble if you are so free in 
expressing your opinions," he whispered. "Don't forget the advice Mr. 
Sparling gave you." "Apple or custard pie?" broke in the voice of the 
waiter. "Custard," answered Phil. "Both for mine," added Teddy. He got 
what he had ordered and without the least question, for the Sparling show 
believed that the best way to make its people contented was to feed them. 
Mr. Sparling and his assistants, Phil observed, occupied a table by 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

themselves. After he had finished the owner motioned to him to join 
them, and there Mrs. Sparling made a place for him by her side and 
thanked him briefly but warmly for his brave act. "I shall have to keep an 
eye on you two boys," she smiled. "Any time I can help you with advice 
or otherwise you come right to me. Don't you be backward about doing 
so, will you?" Phil assured her that he would not. The two lads after some 
further conversation strolled from the cook tent. "I think I'll go in and see 
how the animals are getting along," decided Phil, beginning to realize that 
he was free to go where he would and without fear of being ordered off. 
Already people were gathering in front of the entrance for the night 
performance. The doors were advertised to open at seven o'clock, so that 
the spectators might have plenty of time in which to view the collection of 
"rare and wonderful beasts, gathered from the remote places of the earth," 
as the announcer proclaimed from the vantage point of a dry goods box. 
Phil bought a bag of peanuts and took them in to his friend Emperor, the 
beast uttering a shrill cry of joy when he saw Phil approaching. "I'll try to 
teach him my whistle," said the boy, puckering his lips and giving the 
signal that the boys of his school used in summoning each other. "Think 
he'll remember that, Mr. Kennedy?" he asked of the trainer. "Never forget 
it, will you, Emperor?" The elephant coughed. "Never forgets anything. 
Knows more than any man in the show now, because he has lived longer." 
"How old is he?" "Close to a hundred." "You don't say?" marveled Teddy. 
"Hope I'll be able to squeal as loud as that when I'm a hundred. Has he 
got a hole through his trunk?" "Not that anybody knows of." "Come on; I 
want to see the fellow tame the tiger. I missed that today, because he 
didn't do it at the afternoon show." They found Mr. Sparling standing in 
front of the cage. He, too, was there to watch the performance. "This 
looks to me like ready money," he observed to Phil, nodding his head 
toward the people who were crowding into the tent. "Mr. Forrest, will you 
ride Emperor in again tonight? I think that's one of the reasons they have 
come here," said the showman, shrewdly grasping the least thing that 
would tend to popularize his show. "Certainly, sir. I shall enjoy it very 
much." They now turned their attention to the cage where the trainer had 
begun with the savage tiger. "Bengal is in an ugly temper about something 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

tonight," announced Mr. Sparling in a low tone. "Better be careful, Bob," 
he cautioned, after having stepped up close to the cage. "I'll take care of 
him," answered the trainer, without taking his eyes from the beast for the 
fraction of a second. Phil had heard the dialogue and now drew closer to 
the cage, stepping under the rope and joining Mr. Sparling. Teddy, of 
course, not to be left behind, crawled under the rope also. "Sit down in 
front," shouted someone. "We can't see the animals play." In a moment 
the spectators saw a play that was not down on the bills. Bob was 
swinging the whip over Bengal's nose, the cruel lash cutting the tender 
snout with every blow. But he was not doing it from sheer cruelty, as 
many of the spectators who raised their voices in loud protest imagined. 
Not understanding wild animals as the trainer did, they did not realize that 
this plucky fellow was fighting for his life, even though he used but a 
slender rawhide in his effort to do so. Bengal was crowding him. The 
least mistake on the trainer's part now and the savage tiger would put a 
quick and terrible end to him. "Stand back, everybody! Bring the prods!" 
bellowed Mr. Sparling. Phil understood that something was wrong, though 
he never would have guessed it from the calm expression on the trainer's 
face. Not a word did the performer speak, but his hand rained blows on the 
nose, while snarl after snarl was spit from between Bengal's gleaming 
teeth. The trainer was edging slowly toward the door. He knew that 
nothing could be done with the beast in its present state of terrible temper. 
His only hope was that at a favorable moment, when the attendants came 
with their long, iron bars, he might be able to spring from the door at his 
back, which he was trying to reach. Phil's mind was working like an 
automatic machine. He saw now what the trainer was attempting to do, 
and was seeking for some means of helping the man. But what could a 
slender boy hope to do against the power of a great, savage brute like 
Bengal? Phil concluded there was nothing. A pistol flashed almost in the 
face of the two lads. Mr. Sparling had started away on a run to fetch the 
attendants who either had not heard or failed to heed his call. "What did he 
do that f-f-for?" stammered Teddy. "To drive the tiger back. It was a 
blank cartridge that he fired. I think the tiger is going to attack him. Yes, 
there he goes! Oh, that's _terrible!_" The trainer had been forced against 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

the bars at the back of the cage by the animal, whose length was more than 
the width of the cage itself. In an unsuspected moment the beast had 
sprung upon the unfortunate man, and with one sweep of his powerful paw 
had laid the man low. With a growl of savage joy, the brute settled back 
against the bars of the cage near which the lads were standing. Women 
shrieked and men grew pale as they stood helpless to do aught to avert the 
impending tragedy. Teddy slipped out from under the rope, his face ashen 
gray. But Phil stood his ground. He felt that he _must_ do something. 
Then his opportunity came. The beast's great silken tail popped out 
through the bars against which he was backing. Phil Forrest, without an 
instant's thought of the danger into which he was placing himself, sprang 
forward. His hands closed over the tail, which he twisted about his right 
arm in a flash, at the same time throwing up his feet and bracing them 
against a wheel of the wagon. No sooner had he done so than Bengal, 
uttering a frightful roar, whirled. The force of the jerk as the brute turned 
hurled Phil Forrest against the bars of the cage with a crash, and Bengal's 
sharp-clawed feet made a vicious sweep for the body of the lad pressed so 
tightly against the bars. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"Open the door and let the man out!" shouted Phil, with great presence 
of mind. But no one seemed to have the power to move. One sweep of 
the powerful claw and one side of the lad's clothes was literally stripped 
from him, though he had managed to shrink back just far enough to save 
himself from the needle like claws of the tiger. At this moment men came 
rushing from other parts of the tent. Some bore iron rods, while two or 
three carried tent poles and sticks--anything that the circus men could lay 
their hands upon. Mr. Sparling was in the lead of the procession that 
dashed through the crowd, hurling the people right and left as they ran. 
With every spring of the tiger Phil was being thrown against the bars with 
terrific force, but still he clung to the tail that was wrapped about his arm, 
hanging on with desperate courage. Though the lad was getting severe 
punishment, he was accomplishing just what he had hoped for--to keep 
Bengal busy until help arrived to liberate the unconscious trainer, who lay 
huddled against the bars on the opposite side of the cage. "Poke one of the 
tent poles in to him and let him bite it!" roared Mr. Sparling. "Half a 
dozen of you get around behind the cage and when we have his attention 
one of you pull Bob out. Keep your poles in the opening when you open 
the door, so Bengal doesn't jump out. Everybody stand back!" The 
commands of the showman came out like so many explosions of a pistol. 
But it had its effect. His men sprang to their work like machines. In the 
meantime Mr. Sparling himself had grabbed the tail of the beast, taking a 
hold higher up than Phil's. "Pull the boy off. He's hanging on like a bull 
dog. If you had half his sense you'd have put a stop to this mix-up 
minutes ago." Teddy by this time had gotten in under the ropes again, and, 
grasping his companion about the waist, he held on until he had untwisted 
the tiger's tail from his companion's arm and released Phil, staggering back 
with his burden against the rope. Phil's limp body, the moment Teddy let 
go of him, collapsed in a heap. The circus men were too busy at the 
moment to notice him. One of the men had thrust a short tent pole 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

between the bars. Bengal was upon it like an avalanche. Biting, clawing, 
uttering fierce growls, he tore the hard wood into shreds, the man at the 
other end poking at the beast with all his might. Cautiously the rear door 
of the cage was opened. Two men grasped Bob by the shoulders and 
hauled him out with a quick pull. The crowd shouted in approval. "All out! 
Let go!" shouted Mr. Sparling. It took the strength of two men to pull the 
tent pole from Bengal's grip. The instant he lost the pole the beast 
whirled and pounced upon the spot where he had left his victim. Finding 
that he had lost his prey, the savage beast uttered roar upon roar, that made 
every spectator in the tent tremble and draw back, fearing the animal 
would break through the bars and attack them. "Where's that boy?" "Here 
he is, and I guess he's hurt," answered Teddy. "Give him to me. I'll get 
him outside where we can get some decent air into him. Is he much 
hurt?" "I--I don't know." The showman grabbed Phil, and as a helper lifted 
the bottom of the tent's side wall, Mr. Sparling ran to his own small tent 
with the unconscious Phil. "Fetch a pail of water." Teddy ran for the cook 
tent to get the water. He was amazed to find no cook tent there. Instead, 
there remained only the open plot of grass, trampled down, with a litter of 
papers and refuse scattered about. By the time he had dashed back to the 
tent to inquire where he could find a pail, one of the showmen had brought 
some water and Mr. Sparling was bathing Phil's face with it. He had made 
a hasty examination of the unconscious boy's wounds, which he did not 
believe were serious. Phil soon came to, and by that time the show's doctor 
had arrived, having been in attendance on the wounded animal trainer. "No; 
he'll be sore for a few days, but there's nothing dangerous about those 
scratches, I should say. I'll dress the wounds and he can go on about his 
business," was the surgeon's verdict. "I've got to ride Emperor in tonight," 
objected Phil. "You'll do nothing of the sort. You'll get into my wagon 
and go to bed. That's what you will do, and right quick, at that." "But," 
urged the lad, "the people will all think I am seriously hurt if they see no 
more of me. Don't you think it would be a good plan for me to show 
myself? They are liable to be uneasy all through the performance. If I 
show myself they will settle down and forget all about it in a few 
minutes." Mr. Sparling turned to his assistant with a significant nod. "I 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

told you that boy was a natural born showman. You can't stop that kind 
with a club. Can you stand up alone?" "Yes." Phil scrambled to his feet, 
steadying himself with a hand on the table. "I'll be all right after I walk 
about a bit. How long before the elephants go in?" "You've got fifteen 
minutes yet." "Then I may go on?" "Yes, yes, go on. You'll never be 
satisfied if you don't. But I ought to take you over my knee and give you 
a sound walloping." "Thank you. How is Mr.--Mr.--the trainer?" "He 
isn't badly hurt, thanks to your presence of mind, young man," answered 
the surgeon. "That makes two people you've saved today, Forrest," 
emphasized Mr. Sparling. "We will call that a day's work. You have 
earned your meal ticket. Better run back to the dressing tent and ask 
them to fix up some clothes for you. Ask for Mrs. Waite, the wardrobe 
woman. Teddy Tucker, you run in and tell Mr. Kennedy, who has charge 
of the elephants, that Phil will ride tonight, and to wait until he gets in." 
Both boys hurried away on their respective missions. All that Mrs. Waite 
had that would come anywhere near fitting Phil was a yellow robe that 
looked like a night gown. Phil grinned as he tucked it under his arm and 
hurried back to the menagerie tent. As he passed through the "big top" he 
saw that it was filling up rapidly. "I guess we are going to have a good 
house tonight," muttered the lad with a pleased smile. It did not occur to 
him that he himself was responsible for a large part of the attendance--that 
the part he had played in the exciting incidents of the day had done more 
to advertise the Great Sparling Combined Shows than any other one factor. 
"I am all ready, Mr. Kennedy," announced Phil, running to the elephant 
quarters. The horns were blowing the signal for the grand entry, so the 
lad grasped the head harness, as Emperor stooped, and was quickly 
hoisted to the position in which he would enter the ring. When the people 
saw that it was indeed Phil they set up a great shout. The lad was pale 
but resolute. As he went through the performance, his wounds smarted 
frightfully. At times the pain made him dizzy. But Phil smiled bravely, 
waving his hands to the cheering people. After the finish of the act Mr. 
Kennedy headed the elephants into the concourse, the open space between 
the rings and the seats, making a complete circuit of the tent, so that all 
might see Phil Forrest. "This is a kind of farewell appearance, you know," 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

grinned Kennedy. And so the audience took it. The lad's former 
companions shouted all manner of things to him. "Good-bye, Phil!" "Don't 
stick your head in the lion's mouth." "Be careful when you twist the tiger's 
tail. Better put some salt on it before you do." "We'll look out for Uncle 
Abner." Phil was grinning broadly as he rode back into the menagerie tent. 
Everybody in town now knew that he had joined the circus, which brought 
forth a variety of comments. Some said it would be the end of the boy, 
but Phil Forrest knew that a boy could behave himself with a circus just as 
well as in any other occupation, and so far as his observations went, the 
circus people were much better than some folks he knew at home. No 
sooner had they gotten into the menagerie tent than a sudden bustle and 
excitement were apparent. Confused shouts were heard on all sides. 
Teams, fully harnessed, were being led into the tent, quarter-poles were 
coming down without regard to where they struck, everybody appearing to 
have gone suddenly crazy. "They're striking the tent," nodded Mr. 
Kennedy, noting the boy's wonderment. "You had better look out for 
yourself. Don't stand in the way or you may get hurt," he warned. "Get the 
bulls out!" called a man, hurrying by. "They're getting," answered 
Kennedy. "What do they mean by that?" "In circus parlance, the 'bulls' are 
the elephants. Where you going to ride tonight?" "I don't know. Hello, 
there's my friend Teddy. I guess I had better attach myself to him or he 
may get lost." As a matter of fact, Phil was not sure where he was himself, 
activities were following each other with such surprising rapidity. But the 
lads stuck to their ground until it was no longer safe to do so. Phil was 
determined to see all there was to be seen, and what he saw he 
remembered. He had no need to be told after that, providing he 
understood the meaning of a certain thing at first. Observing that one man 
was holding to the peak rope, and that it was rapidly getting the best of 
him, both lads sprang to his assistance. "That's right, boys. That's the 
way to do it. Always be ready to take advantage of every opening. 
You'll learn faster that way, and you'll both be full-fledged showmen 
before you know it." "O Mr. Sparling," exclaimed Phil, after others had 
relieved them on the rope. "Yes? What is it?" "I have been wanting to 
see you, to ask what you wish us to do tonight--where we are to travel?" 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

"You may sleep in my wagon. I'll take a horse for tonight." "I could not 
think of doing such a thing. No, Mr. Sparling, if I am to be a circus man, 
I want to do just as the rest of them do. Where do the other performers 
sleep?" "Wherever they can find places. Some few of the higher paid 
ones have berths in wagons. Others sleep in the band wagon. The rest, 
I guess, don't sleep at all, except after we get into a town. The menagerie 
outfit will be leaving town very soon now. You may go through with them 
if you wish." "If you do not object, I think I should prefer to remain until 
the rest of the show goes out." "Suit yourself." Mr. Sparling understood 
how the lads felt, and perhaps it would be better to let them break in at 
once, he reasoned. They would become seasoned much sooner. The tent 
was taken down and packed away in the wagons in an almost incredibly 
short time. "Come on; let's go into the circus tent and see what's going on 
there," suggested Teddy. Phil agreed, and the lads strolled in. They found 
the performance nearly over. When it was finished quite a large number 
remained to see the "grand concert" that followed. While this was going 
on there was a crash and a clatter as the men ripped up and loaded the 
seats, piling them into waiting wagons that had been driven into the tent 
from the rear so as not to be in the way of the people going out. "It's more 
fun to watch the men work than it is to see the concert. That concert's a 
bum show," averred Teddy, thrusting his hands in his pockets and turning 
his back on the "grand concert." "I agree with you," laughed Phil. 
"There's nothing but the freaks there, and we'll see them, after this, every 
time we go for our meals." "Have you been in the dressing tent yet?" 
asked Teddy. "No, I haven't had time. We'll have to look in there 
tomorrow, though I don't think they care about having people visit them 
unless they belong there. Just now we don't. Do you start work in the 
cook tent tomorrow?" "Yes. I am to be the champion coffee drawer. I 
expect they will have my picture on the billboards after a little. Wouldn't 
I look funny with a pitcher of hot, steaming coffee in my hand leaping 
over a table in the cook tent?" and Teddy laughed heartily at the thought. 
"I'll bet I'd make a hit." "You mean you would get hit." "Well, maybe." 
The boys hung about until the big top had disappeared from the lot. The 
tent poles and boxes of properties were being loaded on the wagons, while 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

out on the field, the ring horses, performing ponies and the like stood 
sleeping, waiting for the moment when they should be aroused for the start. 
"Come on, Teddy; let's you and I go make up our beds." "Where are they?" 
"We'll have to ask the porter," laughed Phil, who had traveled a little with 
his parents years before. "It's a shame that that old tiger has to have a cage 
all to himself. We could make up a fine bed if we had half of his cage and 
some blankets," complained Teddy. "Thank you. I should prefer to walk. 
I have had all the argument I want with that beast. Let's go try the band 
wagon." "All right; that would be fine to sleep way up there." Laughing 
and chattering, the lads hunted about on the lot until they found the great 
glittering band wagon. Being now covered with canvas to protect it from 
the weather, they had difficulty in making it out, but finally they 
discovered it, off near the road that ran by the grounds. Four horses were 
hitched to it, while the driver lay asleep on the high seat. "Where will we 
get in?" "I don't know, Teddy; we will climb up and find out." Getting on 
the rear wheel they pulled themselves up, and finding the canvas covering 
loose, threw it open. Teddy plumped in feet first. Immediately there 
followed such a howling, such a snarling and torrent of invective that, 
startled as he was, Phil lost his balance on the wheel and fell off. No 
sooner had he struck the ground than a dark figure came shooting from 
above, landing on him and nearly knocking all the breath out of his body. 
Phil threw off the burden, which upon investigation proved to be Teddy 
Tucker. "Wha--what happened?" stammered Phil. "Sounds as if we had 
gotten into a wild animal cage." "I--I walked on somebody's face and he 
threw me out," answered Teddy ruefully. Phil leaned against the wagon 
wheel and laughed until his throat ached. "Get out of here! What do you 
mean?" bellowed an angry voice over their heads. "Think my face is a 
tight rope to be walked on by every Rube that comes along?" "Come-
come on away, Teddy. We made a mistake. We got into the wrong 
berth." "Here's another wagon, Phil. They're just hitching the horses. 
Let's try this." "All right, it's a canvas wagon. Go ahead, we'll try it." 
"I've tried one wagon. It's your turn now," growled Teddy. "I guess 
you're right. If I get thrown out you catch me the same as I did you," 
laughed Phil. "Yes, you _caught_ me, didn't you?" Phil climbed up, but 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

with more caution than Teddy had exercised in the case of the band wagon. 
"Anybody living in this bedroom tonight?" questioned Phil of the driver. 
"Guess you are. First come first served. Pile in. You're the kid that 
rode the bull, ain't you?" "And twisted the tiger's tail," added Teddy. "All 
right. Probably some others will be along later, but I'll see to it that they 
don't throw you out." "Thank you. Come on up, Teddy; it's all right." 
Teddy Tucker hastily scrambled up into the wagon which proved to be a 
canvas wagon--an open wagon, over which a canvas cover was stretched 
in case of storm only. "Where's the bed clothes?" demanded Teddy. "I 
guess the skies will have to be our quilts tonight," answered Phil. The boys 
succeeded in crawling down between the folds of the canvas, however, 
and, snuggling close together, settled down for their first night on the road 
with a circus. Soon the wagons began to move in response to a chorus of 
hoarse shouts. The motion of the canvas wagon very soon lulled the lads 
to sleep, as the big wagon show slowly started away and disappeared in 
the soft summer night. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"Hi! Stop the train! Stop the train!" howled Teddy, as he landed flat 
on his back on the hard ground. "Here, here! What are you fellows 
doing?" shouted Phil, scrambling to his feet. "I dreamed I was in a train of 
cars and they ran off the track," said Teddy, struggling to his feet and 
rubbing his shins gingerly. "Did you do that?" "You bet. Think I can wait 
for you kids to take your beauty sleep? Don't you suppose this show's got 
something else to do besides furnish sleeping accommodations for lazy 
kids? Take hold here, and help us get this canvas out if you want any 
breakfast." "Take it out yourself," growled Teddy, dodging the flat of the 
canvasman's hand. The lads had been hurled from their sleeping place by a 
rough tentman in a hurry to get at his work. The chill of the early dawn 
was in the air. The boys stood, with shoulders hunched forward, 
shivering, their teeth chattering, not knowing where they were and caring 
still less. They knew only that they were most uncomfortable. The 
glamor was gone. They were face to face with the hardships of the 
calling they had chosen, though they did not know that it was only a 
beginning of those hardships. "B-r-r-r!" shivered Teddy. "T-h-h-h-at's what 
I say," chattered Phil. "Say, are you kids going to get busy, or do you want 
me to help you to?" Phil did not object to work, but he did not like the way 
the canvasman spoke to them. "I guess you'll have to do your own work. 
Come on, Teddy; let's take a run and warm ourselves up." Hand in hand 
the lads started off across the field. The field was so dark that they could 
scarcely distinguish objects about them. Here and there they dodged 
wagons and teams that stood like silent sentinels in the uncertain light. 
"Turn a little, Teddy. We'll be lost before we know it, if we don't watch 
out--" "Ouch! We're lost already!" The ground seemed suddenly to give 
way beneath them. Both lads were precipitated into a stream of water 
that stretched across one end of the circus lot. Shouting and struggling 
about they finally floundered to the bank, drenched from head to foot. If 
they had been shivering before, they were suffering from violent attacks of 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

ague now. "Whew! I'm freezing to death!" cried Phil. "I feel like the 
North Pole on Christmas morning," added Teddy. "I wish I was home, so I 
could thaw out behind the kitchen stove." "Brace up, Teddy. This is only 
the beginning of the fun. We shall have worse experiences than this, late 
in the fall, when the weather gets cool; that is, if they do not get enough of 
us in the meantime and send us away." "I--I wish they would send us home 
now." "Come now; we've got to run again. We shall surely take our death 
of cold, if we stand here much longer." "Run? No, thank you. I've had 
one run." "And you don't want another? Is that it?" "Not I." "Don't know 
as I blame you. Well, if you don't want to run, just stand in one place and 
jump up and down. Whip your hands, and you'll see how soon it will 
start your blood to circulating," advised Phil, who immediately proceeded 
to put his own theory into execution. "That feel better?" "Yes, some," 
replied Teddy, rather doubtfully. "But I could be warmer. I wonder what 
time the cook tent will be up." "That's an idea. Suppose we go over and 
find out?" "Yes, but where is it?" "I don't know. But we won't find it if 
we stand here." They started off again, this time exercising more caution 
as to where their feet touched. They had not gone far before they came 
upon some men who were driving small stakes in the ground, marking out 
the spot where one of the tents was to be pitched. "Can you tell us where 
the cook tent is going up?" asked Phil politely. "North side of the field," 
grunted the man, not very good-naturedly. "Which way is north?" "Get a 
compass, get a compass," was the discourteous answer. "He's a grouch. 
Come along," urged Teddy Tucker. A few moments later, attracted by a 
light that looked like a fire, the lads hurried toward it. "Where will we find 
the cook tent?" questioned Phil again. "Right here," was the surprising 
answer. "What time will it be ready?" "About seven o'clock. What's the 
matter, hungry?" "More cold than hungry," replied Phil, his teeth 
chattering. "Got to get used to that. Come here. I've got something that 
will doctor you up in no time," announced the man in a cheerful voice, so 
different from the answers the lads had received to their questions that 
morning, that they were suddenly imbued with new courage. "What is it?" 
asked Phil. "Coffee, my lad. We always make coffee the first thing when 
we get in, these chilly mornings. The men work much better after getting 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

something warm inside them. Got a cup?" They had not. "Wait, I'll get 
you one," said the accommodating showman. Never had anything tasted 
so good as did the coffee that morning. It was excellent coffee, too, and 
the boys drank two cups apiece. "We mustn't drink any more," warned Phil. 
"Why not?" wondered Teddy. "Because we shall be so nervous that we 
shall not be able to work today. And, by the way, were I in your place, I 
should get busy here and help in the cook tent until you are told to do 
something else. I think it will make a good impression on Mr. Sparling." 
Teddy consented rather grudgingly. "I'll turn in and do something at the 
same time. What can we do to help you, sir? That coffee was very 
good." "Might get busy and unpack some dishes from those barrels. Be 
careful that you don't break any of them." "All right. Where shall we put 
them?" "Pile them on the ground, all the dishes of the same size together. 
Be sure to set a lantern by them so nobody falls over them in the dark." 
The boys, glad of some task to perform, began their work with a will. 
With something to do it was surprising how quickly they forgot their 
misfortunes. In a short time they were laughing and joking with the 
good-natured cooktent man and making the dishes fairly fly out of the 
barrels. "Guess I'll have to keep you two boys with my outfit," grinned the 
showman. "I think Mr. Sparling said my friend, Teddy here, was to work 
in the cook tent for the present." "All right, Mr. Teddy. There's one thing 
about working in the cook tent that ought to please you." "What's that?" 
"You can piece between meals all you want to. If you are like most boys, 
you ought to have a good healthy appetite all the time, except when you 
are sleeping." "That's right. I could eat an elephant steak now--right this 
minute. How long before breakfast?" "Seven o'clock, I told you." "What 
time does Mr. Sparling get up?" inquired Phil. "Up? Ask me what time 
he goes to bed. I can answer one question as well as the other. Nobody 
knows. He's always around when you least expect him. There he is 
now." The owner was striding toward the cook tent for his morning cup of 
coffee. "Good morning, sir," greeted the boys, pausing in their work long 
enough to touch their hats, after which they continued unpacking the 
dishes. "Morning, boys. I see you are up early and getting right at it. 
That's right. No showman was ever made out of a sleepy-head. Where 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

did you sleep last night?" "In a wagon on a pile of canvas," answered Phil. 
"And they threw us out of bed this morning," Teddy informed him, with a 
grimace. Mr. Sparling laughed heartily. "And we fell in a creek," added 
Teddy. "Well, well, you certainly are having your share of experiences." 
"Will you allow me to make a suggestion, Mr. Sparling?" asked Phil. "Of 
course. You need not ask that question. What is it?" "I think I ought to 
have some sort of a costume if I am to continue to ride Emperor in the 
grand entry." "H-m-m-m. What kind do you think you want?" "Could I 
wear tights?" Mr. Sparling was about to laugh, but one glance into the 
earnest eyes of Phil Forrest told him that the boy's interest was wholly in 
wishing to improve the act--not for the sake of showing himself, alone. 
"Yes, I think perhaps it might not be a bad idea. You go tell Mrs. Waite 
to fix you up with a suit. But I would prefer to have you wear your own 
clothes today." "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." "I'll tell you why. I 
telegraphed on to my advance man all about you last night, and what you 
did yesterday will be spread all over town here today. It will be a rattling 
good advertisement. You and the tiger are my best drawing cards today," 
smiled Mr. Sparling. "Glad I have proved of some use to you, sir." "Use? 
Use?" "Yes, sir." "Don't be a fool!" exploded the showman, almost brutally. 
Phil's countenance fell. "Don't you understand, yet, that you already have 
been worth several thousand dollars to me?" "I--I--" "Well, don't get a 
swelled head about it, for--" "There is no danger of that, sir." "And you 
don't have to potter around the cook tent working, either. That is, not 
unless you want to." "But, I do, Mr. Sparling. I want to learn everything 
there is to be learned about the show business," protested Phil. Mr. 
Sparling regarded him quizzically. "You'll do," he said, turning away. As 
soon as the dressing tent had been erected and the baggage was moved in, 
Phil hurried to the entrance of the women's dressing tent and calling for 
Mrs. Waite, told her what was wanted. She measured his figure with her 
eyes, and nodded understandingly. "Think I've got something that will fit 
you. A young fellow who worked on the trapeze fell off and broke a leg. 
He was just about your size, and I guess his tights will be about right for 
you. Not superstitious, are you?" Phil assured her he was not. "You will be, 
after you have been in the show business a while. Wait, I'll get them." 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

Phil's eyes glowed as he saw her returning with a suit of bright red tights, 
trunk and shirt to match. "Oh, thank you ever so much." "You're welcome. 
Have you a trunk to keep your stuff in?" "No; I have only a bag." "I've got 
a trunk in here that's not in use. If you want to drag it over to the men's 
dressing tent you're welcome to it." Phil soon had the trunk, which he 
hauled across the open paddock to the place where the men were settling 
their belongings. He espied Mr. Miaco, the head clown. "Does it make any 
difference where I place my trunk, Mr. Miaco?" "It does, my lad. The 
performers' trunks occupy exactly the same position every day during the 
show year. I'll pick out a place for you, and every morning when you 
come in you will find your baggage there. Let me see. I guess we'll 
place you up at the end, next to the side wall of the dressing room. You 
will be more by yourself there. You'll like that, won't you?" "Yes, sir." 
"Going in in costume, today?" "No, sir. Mr. Sparling thought I had better 
wear my own clothes today, for advertising purposes." Miaco nodded 
understandingly. "Then you'll want to fix up again. Been in the gutter?" 
"I fell into a ditch in the darkness this morning," grinned Phil. "You'll get 
used to that. Mr. Ducro, the ringmaster, carries a lantern with him so he 
won't fall in, but none of the rest of us do. We call him Old Diogenes 
because he always has a lantern in his hand. If you'll take off that suit I'll 
put it in shape for you." "Undress--here?" "Sure. You'll have to get used 
to that." Phil retired to the further end of the tent where his trunk had been 
placed in the meantime, and there took off his clothes, handing them to the 
head clown. Mr. Miaco tossed the lad a bath robe, for the morning was 
still chilly. "After you get broken in you will have to do all this for 
yourself. There's nothing like the show business to teach a fellow to 
depend upon himself. He soon becomes a jack-of-all-trades. As soon 
as you can you'll want to get yourself a rubber coat and a pair of rubber 
boots. We'll get some beastly weather by-and-by." The good-natured 
clown ran on with much good advice while he was sponging and pressing 
Phil's clothes. When he had finished, the suit looked as if it had just 
come from a tailor shop. Phil thanked him warmly. "Now, you and I will 
see about some breakfast." Reaching the cook tent, the first person Phil set 
eyes on was his chum, Teddy Tucker. Teddy was presiding over the big 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

nickel coffeepot, his face flushed with importance. He was bossing the 
grinning waiters, none of whom found it in his heart to get impatient with 
the new boy. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"Another turn-away," decided a ticket taker, casting his eyes over the 
crowds that had gathered for the afternoon performance. "I guess Mr. 
Sparling knows his business pretty well," mused Phil. "He knows how to 
catch the crowd. I wonder how many of them have come here to see me. 
How they would look and stare if they knew I was the kid that twisted the 
tiger's tail." Phil's color rose. It was something for a boy who had been a 
circus performer for less than two days to have his name heralded ahead of 
the show as one of the leading attractions. But Phil Forrest had a level 
head. He did not delude himself with any extravagant idea of his own 
importance. He knew that what he had done was purely the result of 
accident. "I'll do something, someday, that will be worthwhile," he told 
himself. Phil's act that afternoon was fully as successful as it had been on 
the previous day back in his home town. Besides, he now had more 
confidence in himself. He felt that in a very short time he might be able 
to keep his feet on the elephant's head without the support of Emperor's 
trunk. That would be an achievement. On this particular afternoon he 
rode with as much confidence as if he had been doing it all the season. 
"You'll make a performer," encouraged Kennedy. "You've got the poise 
and everything necessary to make you a good one." "What kind, do you 
think?" "Any old kind. Do you get dizzy when up in the air?" "I don't 
remember that I have ever been up much further than Emperor hoists me," 
laughed Phil. For the next two minutes the man and the boy were too busy 
with their act to continue their conversation. The audience was 
enthusiastic, and they shouted out Phil Forrest's name several times, which 
made him smile happily. "What would you advise me to do, Mr. 
Kennedy?" he asked as the elephants started to leave the ring, amid the 
plaudits of the spectators. "Ever try the rings?" "Yes, but not so high up as 
those that Rod and his partners perform on." "Height doesn't make much 
difference. Get them to let the rings down so you can reach them, then 
each day raise them a little higher, if you find you can work on them." 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

"Thank you. Perhaps I'll try it this afternoon. I am anxious to be a real 
performer. Anybody could do this. Though it's easy, I think I might 
work up this act of ours to make it rather funny." It will be observed that 
Phil was rapidly falling into the vernacular of the showman. "If you've got 
any ideas we'll thresh them out. Emperor will be willing. He'll say yes 
to anything you suggest. What is it?" "Don't you think Mr. Sparling 
would object?" "Not he. Wait till I get the bulls chained; then we'll talk." 
After attending to his charges, Mr. Kennedy and Phil stepped behind the 
elephants and sat down on a pile of straw against the side walls of the 
menagerie tent. Phil confided at length what he had in mind, Kennedy 
nodding from time to time as Phil made points that met with the trainer's 
approval. "Boy, you've got a head on you a yard wide. You'll make your 
everlasting fortune. Why, I'd never even thought of that before." "Don't 
you think I had better speak to Mr. Sparling?" Kennedy reflected for a 
moment. "Perhaps you had better do so. But you needn't tell him what it 
is. We'll give them a surprise. Let's go see the property man and the 
carpenter. We'll find out what they can do for us." Slipping out under the 
canvas, the two hurried back to the property room, an enclosure where all 
the costumes were kept, together with the armor used in the grand entry, 
and the other trappings employed in the show, known as properties. Mr. 
Kennedy explained to the property man what was wanted. The latter called 
in the carpenter. After consulting for a few minutes, they decided that 
they could give the elephant trainer and his assistant what they sought. 
"When will you have it ready?" "Maybe in time for tonight's performance, 
but I can't promise for sure." "Thank you," exclaimed Phil, hurrying away 
to consult with Mr. Sparling. "I have been thinking out a plan to work up 
my part of the elephant act," announced Phil, much to the owner's surprise. 
"You have, eh?" "Yes, sir." "What is it?" "I was in hopes you wouldn't ask 
me that. I wanted to surprise you." Mr. Sparling shook his head 
doubtfully. "I'm afraid you haven't had experience enough to warrant my 
trusting so important a matter to you," answered the showman, knowing 
how serious a bungled act might be, and how it would be likely to weaken 
the whole show. Phil's face showed his disappointment. "Mr. Kennedy 
says it will be a fine act. I have seen the property man and the carpenter, 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

and they both think it's great. They are getting my properties ready now." 
"So, so?" wondered the owner, raising his eyebrows ever so little. "You 
seem to be making progress, young man. Let's see, how long have you 
been in the show business?" he reflected. "Twenty-four hours," answered 
Phil promptly. Mr. Sparling grinned. "M-m-m-m. You're certainly 
getting on fast. Who told you you might give orders to my property man 
and my carpenter, sir?" the proprietor demanded, somewhat sternly. "I 
took that upon myself, sir. I'm sure it would improve the act, even 
though I have not had as much experience as I might have. Will you let me 
try it?" demanded the boy boldly. "I'll think about it. Yes, I'll think about 
it. H-m-m-m! H-m-m-m!" Thus encouraged, Phil left his employer, 
going in to watch some of the other acts. About that time Mr. Sparling 
found it convenient to make a trip back to the property man's room, where 
he had quite a long talk with that functionary. The proprietor came away 
smiling and nodding. About an hour later Phil sauntered out and passed in 
front of Mr. Sparling's tent, hoping the showman would see him and call 
him in. Phil was not disappointed. Mr. Sparling did that very thing. 
"How's that new act of yours coming along, young man?" he demanded. "I 
have done no more than think it over since talking with you a little while 
ago. If the props are ready Mr. Kennedy and I will have a quiet rehearsal 
this afternoon. That is, if we can shoo everybody out of the tent and you 
are willing we should try it. How about it, sir?" "I must say you are a most 
persistent young man." "Yes, sir." "And what if this act falls down flat? 
What then?" "It mustn't." "But if it does?" "Then, sir, I'll give up the show 
business and go back to Edmeston, where I'll hire out to work on a farm. 
If I can't do a little thing like this I guess the farm will be the best place for 
me." Phil was solemn and he meant every word he said. Mr. Sparling, 
however, unable to maintain his serious expression, laughed heartily. "My 
boy, you are all right. Go ahead and work up your act. You have my 
full permission to do that in your own way, acting, of course, under the 
approval of Mr. Kennedy. He knows what would go with his bulls." 
"Thank you, thank you very much," exclaimed Phil, impulsively. "I hope 
you will be pleasantly surprised." "I expect to be." Phil ran as fast as his 
legs would carry him to convey the good news to Mr. Kennedy. Active 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

preparations followed, together with several hurried trips to the property 
room. The property man was getting along famously with his part of the 
plan, and both Phil and Mr. Kennedy approved of what had been done thus 
far. According to programme, after the afternoon show had been finished 
and all the performers had gone to the cook tent the rehearsal took place in 
the menagerie tent. Faithful to his promise, Mr. Sparling kept away, but 
a pair of eyes representing him was peering through a pin-hole in the 
canvas stretched across the main opening where the ticket takers stood 
when at work. "That's great, kid! Great, you bet!" shouted Mr. Kennedy 
after a successful trial of their new apparatus. With light heart, an 
expansive grin overspreading his countenance, the lad ran to the cook tent 
for his supper. He came near missing it as it was, for the cook was about 
to close the tent. Mr. Sparling, who was standing near the exit, nodded to 
the chief steward to give Phil and Mr. Kennedy their suppers. "Well, did 
the rehearsal fall down?" he asked, with a quizzical smile on his face. "It 
fell down, but not in the way you think," laughed Phil happily. No further 
questions were asked of him. That night, when the grand entry opened the 
show to a packed house, a shout of laughter from the great assemblage 
greeted the entrance of old Emperor. Emperor was clad in a calico gown 
of ancient style, with a market basket tucked in the curl of his trunk. But 
the most humorous part of the long-suffering elephant's makeup was his 
head gear. There, perched jauntily to one side was the most wonderful 
bonnet that any of the vast audience ever had gazed upon. It was tied 
with bright red ribbons under Emperor's chops with a collection of varicolored, bobbing roses protruding from its top. Altogether it was a very 
wonderful piece of head gear. The further the act proceeded the more the 
humor of Emperor's makeup appeared to impress the audience. They 
laughed and laughed until the tears ran down their cheeks, while the 
elephant himself, appearing to share in the humor of the hour, never before 
had indulged in so many funny antics. Mr. Kennedy, familiar with sidesplitting exhibitions, forgot himself so far as actually to laugh out loud. 
But where was Phil Forrest? Thus far everybody had been too much 
interested in the old lady with the trunk and the market basket to give a 
thought to the missing boy, though some of the performers found 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

themselves wondering if he had closed with the show already. Those of the 
performers not otherwise engaged at the moment were assembled inside 
the big top at one side of the bandstand, fairly holding their sides with 
laughter over old Emperor's exhibition. Standing back in the shadow of the 
seats, where the rays from the gasoline lamps did not reach, stood Mr. 
Sparling, a pleased smile on his face, his eyes twinkling with merriment. 
It was a good act that could draw from James Sparling these signs of 
approval. The act was nearing its close. The audience thought they had 
seen the best of it. But there was still a surprise to come--a surprise that 
they did not even dream of. The time was at hand for the elephants to rear 
in a grand finale. An attendant quietly led Jupiter from the ring and to his 
quarters, Emperor making a circuit of the sawdust arena to cover the going 
of the other elephant and that there might be no cessation of action in the 
exhibition. Emperor and his trainer finally halted, standing facing the 
reserved seats, as motionless as statues. The audience sat silent and 
expectant. They felt that something still was before them, but what they 
had not the least idea, of course. "Up, Emperor!" commanded Mr. 
Kennedy in a quiet voice. "All ready, Phil." The elephant reared slowly on 
its hind legs, going higher and higher, as it did in its regular performance. 
As he went up, the bonnet on Emperor's head was seen to take on sudden 
life. The old calico gown fell away from the huge beast at the same time, 
leaving him clothed in a brilliant blanket of white and gold. But a long 
drawn "a-h-h-h," rippled over the packed seats as the old elephant's bonnet 
suddenly collapsed. Out of the ruins rose a slender, supple figure, topping 
the pyramid of elephant flesh in a graceful poise. The figure, clad in red 
silk tights, appeared to be that of a beautiful girl. The audience broke out 
into a thunder of approval, their feet drumming on the board seats 
sounding not unlike the rattle of musketry. The girl's hand was passed 
around to the back of her waist, where it lingered for an instant, then both 
hands were thrown forward just as a diver does before taking the plunge. 
"Ready?" "Yes." "Fly!" The young girl floated out and off from the 
elephant's back, landing gently on her feet just outside the sawdust ring. 
Emperor, at this juncture, threw himself forward on his forelegs, stretched 
out his trunk, encircling the performer's waist and lifting her clear off the 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

ground. At that moment the supposed young woman stripped her blonde 
wig from her head, revealing the fact that the supposed girl was no girl at 
all. It was a boy, and that boy was Phil Forrest. Emperor, holding his 
young friend at full length ahead of him, started rapidly for his quarters, 
Phil lying half on his side, appearing to be floating on the air, save for the 
black trunk that held him securely in its grip. At this the audience fairly 
howled in its surprise and delight, but Phil never varied his pose by a hair's 
breadth until Emperor finally set him down, flushed and triumphant, in the 
menagerie tent. At that moment Phil became conscious of a figure running 
toward him. He discovered at once that it was Mr. Sparling. Grasping both 
the lad's hands, the showman wrung them until it seemed to Phil as if his 
arms would be wrenched from their sockets. "Great, great, great!" cried 
the owner of the show. "Did you like it?" questioned the blushing Phil. 
"Like it? Like it? Boy, it's the greatest act I ever saw. It's a winner. 
Come back with me." "What, into the ring?" "Yes." "But what shall I do?" 
"You don't have to do anything. You've done it already. Show yourself, 
that's all. Hurry! Don't you hear them howling like a band of 
Comanche Indians?" "Y-yes." "They want you." By this time Mr. Sparling 
was fairly dragging Phil along with him. As they entered the big top the 
cheering broke out afresh. Phil was more disturbed than ever before in his 
life. It seemed as though his legs would collapse under him. "Buck up! 
Buck up!" snapped the showman. "You are not going to get an attack of 
stage fright at this late hour, are you?" That was exactly what was the 
matter with Phil Forrest. He was nearly scared out of his wits, but he did 
not realize the nature of his affliction. "Bow and kiss your hand to them," 
admonished the showman. Phil did so, but his face refused to smile. He 
couldn't have smiled at that moment to save his life. All at once he 
wrenched himself loose from Mr. Sparling's grip, and ran full speed for the 
dressing tent. He had not gone more than a dozen feet before he tripped 
over a rope, landing on head and shoulders. But Phil was up like a 
rubber man and off again as if every animal in the menagerie was pursuing 
him. The spectators catching the meaning of his flight, stood up in their 
seats and howled lustily. Phil Forrest had made a hit that comes to few 
men in the sawdust arena. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"That was a knockout, kid," nodded Mr. Miaco, with emphasis. "I'm 
laughing on the inside of me yet. I don't dare let my face laugh, for fear 
the wrinkles will break through my makeup." "Thank you," smiled Phil, 
tugging at his silk tights, that fitted so closely as to cause him considerable 
trouble in stripping them off. "You'll have the whole show jealous of you 
if you don't watch out. But don't get a swelled head--" "Not unless I fall 
off and bump it," laughed Phil. "Where do I wash?" "You always want to 
get a pail of water before you undress." "Say, Phil, did you really fly?" 
queried Teddy, who was standing by eyeing his companion admiringly. 
"Sure. Didn't you see me?" "I did and I didn't. Will you show me how 
to fly like that?" " 'Course I will. You come in under the big top 
tomorrow after the show and I'll give you a lesson." Teddy had not 
happened to observe the simple mechanical arrangement that had 
permitted the young circus performer to carry out his flying act. "I reckon 
you ought to get a dollar a day for that stunt," decided Teddy. "Yes, I think 
so myself," grinned Phil. Teddy now turned his attention to Mr. Miaco, 
who, made up for his clown act in the ring, presented a most grotesque 
appearance. "How do I look?" asked the clown, noting the lad's observant 
gaze. "You look as if you'd stuck your head in a flour barrel," grunted 
Teddy. "Ho ho," laughed the clown. "I'll have to try that on the audience. 
That's a good joke. To look at you, one wouldn't think it of you, either." 
"Oh, that's nothing. I can say funnier things than that when I want to. 
Why--" But their conversation was cut short by the band striking up the 
tune to which Mr. Miaco always entered the ring. "Listen to me, kid. 
You'll hear them laugh when I tell 'em the story," he called back. And 
they did. The audience roared when the funny man told them what his 
young friend had said. His work for the day having been finished, Phil 
bethought himself of his trunk, which had not yet been packed. His 
costume was suspended from a line in the dressing tent where many other 
costumes were hanging to air and dry after the strenuous labors of their 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

owners. Phil took his slender belongings down, shook them out well and 
laid them in the trunk that Mrs. Waite had given him. It was too late for 
Phil to get his bag from the baggage wagon, so with a grin he locked his 
tights and his wig in the trunk. "Guess they won't break their backs lifting 
that outfit," he mused. Phil then strolled in to watch the show. He found 
many new points of interest and much that was instructive, as he studied 
each act attentively and with the keenness of one who had been in the 
show business all his life. "Someday I'll have a show like this myself," 
nodded the boy. He did not know that he expressed his thoughts aloud 
until he noticed that the people sitting nearest to him were regarding him 
with amused smiles. Phil quickly repressed his audible comments. The 
show was soon over; then came the noise and the confusion of the 
breaking up. The illusion was gone--the glamor was a thing of the past. 
The lad strolled about slowly in search of his companion, whom he 
eventually found in the dressing tent. "Teddy, isn't it about time you and I 
went to bed?" he asked. "Oh, I don't know. Circus people sleep when 
there isn't anything else to do. Where we going to sleep?" "Same place, I 
presume, if no one gets ahead of us." "They'd better not. I'll throw them 
out if they do." Phil laughed good-naturedly. "If I remember correctly, 
somebody was thrown out last night and this morning, but it didn't happen 
to be the other fellow. I'm hungry; wish I had something to eat." "So am 
I," agreed Teddy. "You boys should get a sandwich or so and keep the stuff 
in your trunk while we are playing these country towns. When we get 
into the cities, where they have restaurants, you can get a lunch downtown 
after you have finished your act and then be back in time to go out with 
the wagons," Mr. Miaco informed them. "You'll pick up these little tricks 
as we go along, and it won't be long before you are full-fledged showmen. 
You are pretty near that point already." The lads strolled out on the lot and 
began hunting for their wagon. They found nothing that looked like it for 
sometime and had about concluded that the canvas wagon had gone, when 
they chanced to come across the driver of the previous night, who directed 
them to where they would find it. "The wagon isn't loaded yet. You'll 
have to wait half an hour or so," he said. They thanked him and went on in 
the direction indicated, where they soon found that which they were in 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

search of. "I think we had better wait here until it is loaded," advised Phil, 
throwing himself down on the ground. "This having to hunt around over a 
ten-acre lot for your bedroom every night isn't as much fun as you would 
think, is it?" grinned Teddy. "Might be worse. I have an idea we haven't 
begun to experience the real hardships of the circus life." And indeed 
they had not. Soon after that the wagon was loaded, and, bidding the 
driver a cheery good night, the circus boys tumbled in and crawled under 
the canvas. They were awakened sometime before daylight by a sudden 
heavy downpour of rain. The boys were soaked to the skin, the water 
having run in under the canvas until they were lying in a puddle of water. 
There was thunder and lightning. Phil scrambled out first and glanced up 
at the driver, who, clothed in oilskins, was huddled on his seat fast asleep. 
He did not seem to be aware that there was anything unusual about the 
weather. "I wish I was home," growled Teddy. "Well, I don't. Bad as it is, 
it's better than some other things that I know of. I'll tell you what I'll do-
I'll get rubber coats for us both when we get in in the morning." "Got the 
money?" "That's so. I had forgotten that," laughed Phil. "I never 
thought that I should need money to buy a coat with. We'll have to wait 
until payday. I wonder when that is?" "Ask Mr. Sparling." "No; I would 
rather not." "All right; get wet then." "I am. I couldn't be any more so 
were I to jump in the mill pond at home," laughed Phil. Home! It seemed 
a long way off to these two friendless, or at least homeless, boys, though 
the little village of Edmeston was less than thirty miles away. The show 
did not get in to the next town until sometime after daylight, owing to the 
heavy condition of the roads. The cook tent was up when they arrived 
and the lads lost no time in scrambling from the wagon. They did not 
have to be thrown out this morning. "Come on," shouted Phil, making a 
run for the protection of the cook tent, for the rain was coming down in 
sheets. Teddy was not far behind. "I'm the coffee boy. Where's the 
coffee?" he shouted. "Have it in a few minutes," answered the attendant 
who had been so kind to them the previous morning. "Here, you boys, 
get over by the steam boiler there and dry out your clothes," he added, 
noting that their teeth were chattering. "Wish somebody would pour a pail 
of water over me," shivered Teddy. "Water? What for?" "To wash the 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

rain off. I'm soaked," he answered humorously. They huddled around the 
steam boiler, the warmth from which they found very comforting in their 
bedraggled condition. "I'm steaming like an engine," laughed Phil, taking 
off his coat and holding it near the boiler. "Yes; I've got enough of it in my 
clothes to run a sawmill," agreed Teddy. "How about that coffee?" "Here 
it is." After helping themselves they felt much better. Phil, after a time, 
walked to the entrance of the cook tent and looked out. The same bustle 
and excitement as on the previous two days was noticeable everywhere, 
and the men worked as if utterly oblivious of the fact that the rain was 
falling in torrents. "Do we parade today?" called Phil, observing Mr. 
Sparling hurrying past wrapped in oilskins and slouch hat. "This show 
gives a parade and two performances a day, rain, shine, snow or 
earthquake," was the emphatic answer. "Come over to my tent in half an 
hour. I have something to say to you." Phil ran across to Mr. Sparling's 
tent at the expiration of half an hour, but he was ahead of time evidently, 
for the showman was not there. Nice dry straw had been piled on the 
ground in the little tent to take up the moisture, giving it a cosy, 
comfortable look inside. "This wouldn't be a half bad place to sleep," 
decided Phil, looking about him. "I don't suppose we ever play the same 
town two nights in succession. I must find out." Mr. Sparling bustled in 
at this point, stripping off his wet oilskins and hanging them on a hook on 
the tent pole at the further end. "Where'd you sleep?" "In wagon No. 10." 
"Get wet?" "Very." "Humph!" "We dried out in the cook tent when we got 
in. It might have been worse." "Easily satisfied, aren't you?" "I don't 
know about that. I expect to meet with some disagreeable experiences." 
"You won't be disappointed. You'll get all that's coming to you. It'll make 
a man of you if you stand it." "And if I don't?" questioned Phil Forrest, 
with a smile. Mr. Sparling answered by a shrug of the shoulders. "We'll 
have to make some different arrangements for you," he added in a slightly 
milder tone. "Can't afford to have you get sick and knock your act out. 
It's too important. I'll fire some lazy, good-for-nothing performer out of a 
closed wagon and give you his place." "Oh, I should rather not have you 
do that, sir." "Who's running this show?" snapped the owner. Phil made no 
reply. "I am. I'll turn out whom I please and when I please. I've been in 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

the business long enough to know when I've got a good thing. Where's 
your rubber coat?" he demanded, changing the subject abruptly. "I have 
none, sir. I shall get an outfit later." "No money, I suppose?" "Well, no, 
sir." "Humph! Why didn't you ask for some?" "I did not like to." "You're 
too modest. If you want a thing go after it. That's my motto. Here's ten 
dollars. Go downtown and get you a coat, and be lively about it. Wait a 
minute!" as Phil, uttering profuse thanks, started away to obey his 
employer's command. "Yes, sir." "About that act of yours. Did you think 
it out all yourself?" "The idea was mine. Of course the property man and 
Mr. Kennedy worked it out for me. I should not have been able to do it 
alone." "Humph! Little they did. They wouldn't have thought of it in a 
thousand years. Performers usually are too well satisfied with 
themselves to think there's anything worthwhile except what they've been 
doing since they came out of knickerbockers. How'd you get the idea?" "I 
don't know--it just came to me." "Then keep on thinking. That act is 
worth real money to any show. How much did I say I'd pay you?" "Ten 
dollars a week, sir." "Humph! I made a mistake. I won't give you ten." 
Phil looked solemn. "I'll give you twenty. I'd give you more, but it might 
spoil you. Get out of here and go buy yourself a coat." 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"Tha--thank--" "Out with you!" Laughing, his face flushed with pride 
and satisfaction, Phil did move. Not even pausing to note what direction 
he should go, he hurried on toward the village, perhaps more by instinct 
than otherwise. He was too full of this wonderful thing that had come to 
him--success--to take note of his surroundings. To Phil there was no rain. 
Though he already was drenched to the skin he did not know it. All at once 
he pulled himself up sharply. "Phil Forrest, you are getting excited," he 
chided. "Now, don't you try to make yourself believe you are the whole 
show, for you are only a little corner of it. You are not even a side show. 
You are a lucky boy, but you are going to keep your head level and try to 
earn your money. Twenty dollars a week! Why, it's wealth! I can see 
Uncle Abner shaking his stick when he hears of it. I must write to Mrs. 
Cahill and tell her the good news. She'll be glad, though I'll warrant the 
boys at home will be jealous when they hear about how I am getting on in 
the world." Thus talking to himself, Phil plodded on in the storm until he 
reached the business part of the town. There he found a store and soon 
had provided himself with a serviceable rubber coat, a pair of rubber boots 
and a soft hat. He put on his purchases, doing up his shoes and carrying 
them back under his arm. The parade started at noon. It was a dismal 
affair--that is, so far as the performers were concerned, and the clowns 
looked much more funny than they felt. Mr. Miaco enlivened the spirits of 
those on the hayrack by climbing to the back of one of the horses drawing 
the clowns' wagon, where he sat with a doll's parasol over his head and a 
doll in his arms singing a lullaby. The people who were massed along the 
sidewalks of the main street did not appear to mind the rain at all. They 
were too much interested in the free show being given for their benefit. 
The show people ate dinner with their feet in the mud that day, the cook 
tent having been pitched on a barren strip of ground. "This is where the 
Armless Wonder has the best of us today," nodded Teddy, with his usual 
keen eye for humor. "How is that?" questioned Mr. Miaco. " 'Cause he 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

don't have to put his feet in the mud like the rest of us do. He keeps them 
on the table. I wish I could put my feet on the table." Everybody within 
hearing laughed heartily. In the tents there was little to remind one of the 
dismal weather, save for the roar of the falling rain on the canvas overhead. 
Straw had been piled all about on the ground inside the two large tents, 
and only here and there were there any muddy spots, though the odor of 
fresh wet grass was everywhere. The afternoon performance went off 
without a hitch, though the performers were somewhat more slow than 
usual, owing to the uncertainty of the footing for man and beast. Phil 
Forrest's exhibition was even more successful than it had been in the last 
show town. He was obliged to run back to the ring and show himself 
after having been carried from the tent by Emperor. This time, however, 
his stage fright had entirely left him, never to return. He was now a 
seasoned showman, after something less than three days under canvas. 
The afternoon show being finished, and supper out of the way, Phil and 
Teddy returned to the big top to practice on the flying rings, which they 
had obtained permission to use. Mr. Miaco, himself an all around acrobat, 
was on hand to watch their work and to offer suggestions. He had taken 
a keen interest in Phil Forrest, seeing in the lad the making of a high-class 
circus performer. The rings were let down to within about ten feet of the 
sawdust ring, and one at a time the two lads were hoisted by the clown 
until their fingers grasped the iron rings. With several violent movements 
of their bodies they curled their feet up, slipping them through the rings, 
first having grasped the ropes above the rings. "That was well done. 
Quite professional," nodded the clown. "Take hold of this rope and I will 
swing you. If it makes you dizzy, tell me." "Don't worry; it won't," 
laughed Phil. "Give me a shove, too," urged Teddy. "In a minute." Mr. 
Miaco began swinging Phil backwards and forwards, his speed ever 
increasing, and as he went higher and higher, Phil let himself down, 
fastening his hands on the rings that he might assist in the swinging. "Now, 
see if you can get back in the rings with your legs." "That's easy," 
answered Phil, his breath coming sharp and fast, for he never had taken 
such a long sweep in the rings before. The feat was not quite so easy as he 
had imagined. Phil made three attempts before succeeding. But he 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

mastered it and came up smiling. "Good," cried the clown, clapping his 
hands approvingly. "Give me another swing. I want to try something 
else." Having gained sufficient momentum, the lad, after reaching the 
point where the rings would start on their backward flight, permitted his 
legs to slip through the rings, catching them with his feet. He swept back, 
head and arms hanging down, as skillfully as if he had been doing that 
very thing right along. "You'll do," emphasized the clown. "You will 
need to put a little more finish in your work. I'll give you a lesson in that 
next time." Teddy, not to be outdone, went through the same exhibition, 
though not quite with the same speed that Phil had shown. It being the 
hour when the performers always gathered in the big top to practice and 
play, many of them stood about watching the boys work. They nodded 
their heads approvingly when Phil finished and swung himself to the 
ground. Teddy, on his part, overrated his ability when it came to hanging 
by his feet. "Look out!" warned half a dozen performers at once. He had 
not turned his left foot into the position where it would catch and hold in 
the ring. Their trained eyes had noted this omission instantly. The foot, 
of course, failed to catch, and Teddy uttered a howl when he found himself 
falling. His fall, however, was checked by a sharp jolt. The right foot 
had caught properly. As he swept past the laughing performers he was 
dangling in the air like a huge spider, both hands and one foot clawing the 
air in a desperate manner. There was nothing they could do to liberate him 
from his uncomfortable position until the momentum of his swing had 
lessened sufficiently to enable them to catch him. "Hold your right 
steady!" cautioned Miaco. "If you twist it you'll take a beauty tumble." 
Teddy hadn't thought of that before. Had Miaco known the lad better he 
would not have made the mistake of giving that advice. Teddy promptly 
turned his foot. He shot from the flying rings as if he had been fired from a 
cannon. Phil tried to catch him, but stumbled and fell over a rope, while 
Teddy shot over his head, landing on and diving head first into a pile of 
straw that had just been brought in to bed down the tent for the evening 
performance. Nothing of Teddy save his feet was visible. They hauled him 
out by those selfsame feet, and, after disentangling him from the straws 
that clung to him, were relieved to find that he had not been hurt in the 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

least. "I guess we shall have to put a net under you. Lucky for you that 
that pile of straw happened to get in your way. Do you know what would 
have happened to you had it not been?" demanded Mr. Miaco. "I--I guess 
I'd have made a hit," decided Teddy wisely. "I guess there is no doubt 
about that." The performers roared. "I'm going to try it again." "No; you've 
done enough for one day. You won't be able to hold up the coffeepot 
tomorrow morning if you do much more." "Do you think we will be able 
to accomplish anything on the flying rings, Mr. Miaco?" asked Phil after 
they had returned to the dressing tent. "There is no doubt of it. Were I in 
your place I should take an hour's work on them every day. Besides 
building you up generally, it will make you surer and better able to handle 
yourself. Then, again, you never know what minute you may be able to 
increase your income. People in this business often profit by others' 
misfortunes," added the clown significantly. "I would prefer not to profit 
that way," answered Phil. "You would rather do it by your own efforts?" 
"Yes." "It all amounts to the same thing. You are liable to be put out any 
minute yourself, then somebody else will get your job, if you are a 
performer of importance to the show." "You mean if my act is?" "That's 
what I mean." The old clown and the enthusiastic young showman talked 
in the dressing tent until it was time for each to begin making up for the 
evening performance. The dressing tent was the real home of the 
performers. They knew no other. It was there that they unpacked their 
trunks--there that during their brief stay they pinned up against the canvas 
walls the pictures of their loved ones, many of whom were far across the 
sea. A bit of ribbon here, a faded flower drawn from the recess of a trunk 
full of silk and spangles, told of the tender hearts that were beating 
beneath those iron-muscled breasts, and that they were as much human 
beings as their brothers in other walks of life. Much of this Phil 
understood in a vague way as he watched them from day to day. He was 
beginning to like these big-hearted, big-muscled fellows, though there 
were those among them who were not desirable as friends. "I guess it's just 
the same as it is at home," decided Phil. "Some of the folks are worthwhile, 
and others are not." He had summed it up. Sometime before the evening 
performance was due to begin Phil was made up and ready for his act. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

As his exhibition came on at the very beginning he had to be ready early. 
Then, again, he was obliged to walk all the way to the menagerie tent to 
reach his elephant. Throwing a robe over his shoulders and pulling his hat 
well down over his eyes, the lad pushed the silken curtains aside and 
began working his way toward the front, beating against the human tide 
that had set in against him, wet, dripping, but good natured. "Going to 
have a wet night," observed Teddy, whom he met at the entrance to the 
menagerie tent. "Looks that way. But never mind; I'll share my rubber 
coat with you. We can put it over us and sit up to sleep. That will make a 
waterproof tent. Perhaps we may be able to find a stake or something to 
stick up in the middle of the coat." "But the canvas under us will be 
soaked," grumbled Teddy. "We'll be wetter than ever." "We'll gather some 
straw and tie it up in a tight bundle to put under us when we get located. 
There goes the band. I must be off, or you'll hear Emperor screaming for 
me." "He's at it now. Hear him?" "I couldn't well help hearing that roar," 
laughed Phil, starting off on a run. The grand entry was made, Phil 
crouching low in the bonnet on the big beast's head. It was an 
uncomfortable position, but he did not mind it in the least. The only 
thing that troubled Phil was the fear that the head gear might become 
disarranged and spoil the effect of his surprise. There were many in the 
tent who had seen him make his flight at the afternoon performance, and 
had returned with their friends almost solely to witness the pretty spectacle 
again. The time had arrived for Emperor to rise for his grand salute to the 
audience. Mr. Kennedy had given Phil his cue, the lad had braced 
himself to straighten up suddenly. A strap had been attached to the 
elephant's head harness for Phil to take hold of to steady himself by when 
he first straightened up. Until his position was erect Emperor could not 
grasp the boy's legs with his trunk. "Right!" came the trainer's command. 
The circus boy thrust out his elbows, and the bonnet fell away, as he rose 
smiling to face the sea of white, expectant faces before him. While they 
were applauding he fastened the flying wire to the ring in his belt. The 
wire, which was suspended from above, was so small that it was wholly 
invisible to the spectators, which heightened the effect of his flight. So 
absorbed were the people in watching the slender figure each time that 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

they failed to observe an attendant hauling on a rope near the center pole, 
which was the secret of Phil's ability to fly. Throwing his hands out before 
him the little performer dove gracefully out into the air. There was a slight 
jolt. Instantly he knew that something was wrong. The audience, too, 
instinctively felt that the act was not ending as it should. Phil was falling. 
He was plunging straight toward the ring, head first. He struck heavily, 
crumpling up in a little heap, then straightening out, while half a dozen 
attendants ran to the lad, hastily picking him up and hurrying to the 
dressing tent with the limp, unconscious form. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"Is he hurt much?" "Don't know. Maybe he's broken his neck." This 
brief dialogue ensued between two painted clowns hurrying to their 
stations. In the meantime the band struck up a lively air, the clowns 
launched into a merry medley of song and jest and in a few moments the 
spectators forgot the scene they had just witnessed, in the noise, the dash 
and the color. It would come back to them later like some long-past 
dream. Mr. Kennedy, with grim, set face, uttered a stern command to 
Emperor, who for a brief instant had stood irresolute, as if pondering as to 
whether he should turn and plunge for the red silk curtains behind which 
his little friend had disappeared in the arms of the attendants. The trainer's 
voice won, and Emperor trumpeting loudly, took his way to his quarters 
without further protest. In the dressing tent another scene was being 
enacted. On two drawn-up trunks, over which had been thrown a couple 
of horse blankets, they had laid the slender, red-clad figure of Phil Forrest. 
The boy's pale face appeared even more ashen than it really was under the 
flickering glare of the gasoline torches. His head had been propped up 
on a saddle, while about him stood a half circle of solemn-faced 
performers in various stages of undress and makeup. "Is he badly hurt?" 
asked one. "Can't say. Miaco has gone for the doc. We'll know pretty 
soon. That was a dandy tumble he took." "How did it happen?" "Wire 
broke. You can't put no faith on a wire with a kink in it. I nearly got my 
light put out, out in St. Joe, Missouri, by a trick like that. No more 
swinging wire for me. Guess the kid, if he pulls out of this, will want to 
hang on to a rope after this. He will if he's wise." "What's this? What's 
this?" roared Mr. Sparling, who, having heard of the accident, came 
rushing into the tent. "Who's hurt?" "The kid," informed someone. 
"What kid? Can't you fellows talk? Oh, it's Forrest, is it? How did it 
happen?" One of the performers who had witnessed the accident related 
what he had observed. "Huh!" grunted the showman, stepping up beside 
Phil and placing a hand on the boy's heart. "Huh!" "He's alive, isn't he, Mr. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

Sparling?" "Yes. Anybody gone for the doctor?" "Miaco has." "Wonder 
any of you had sense enough to think of that. I congratulate you. 
Somebody will suffer when I find out who was responsible for hanging 
that boy's life on a rotten old piece of wire. I presume it's been kicking 
around this outfit for the last seven years." "Here comes the doc," 
announced a voice. There was a tense silence in the dressing tent, broken 
only by the patter of the rain drops on the canvas roof, while the show's 
surgeon was making his examination. "Well, well! What about it?" 
demanded Mr. Sparling impatiently. The surgeon did not answer at once. 
His calm, professional demeanor was not to be disturbed by the blustering 
but kind- hearted showman, and the showman, knowing this from past 
experience, relapsed into silence until such time as the surgeon should 
conclude to answer him. "Did he fall on his head?" he questioned, looking 
up, at the same time running his fingers over Phil's dark-brown hair. 
"Looks that way, doesn't it?" "I should say so." "What's the matter with 
him?" "I shall be unable to decide definitely for an hour or so yet, unless 
he regains consciousness in the meantime. It may be a fracture of the 
skull or a mere concussion." "Huh!" Mr. Sparling would have said more, 
but for the fact that the calm eyes of the surgeon were fixed upon him in a 
level gaze. "Any bones broken?" "No; I think not. How far did he fall?" 
"Fell from Emperor's head when the bull was up in the air. He must have 
taken all of a twenty-foot dive, I should say." "Possible? It's a great 
wonder he didn't break his neck. But he is very well muscled for a boy 
of his age. I don't suppose they have a hospital in this town?" "Of course 
not. They never have anything in these tank towns. You ought to know 
that by this time." "They have a hotel. I know for I took dinner there 
today. If you will get a carriage of some sort I think we had better take 
him there." "Leave him, you mean?" questioned Mr. Sparling. "Yes; that 
will be best. We can put him in charge of a local physician here. He 
ought to be able to take care of the boy all right." "Not by a jug full!" 
roared Mr. James Sparling. "We'll do nothing of the sort." "It will not be 
safe to take him with us, Sparling." "Did I say it would? Did I? Of 
course, he shan't be moved, nor will he be left to one of these know-
nothing sawbones. You'll stay here with him yourself, and you'll take 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

care of him if you know what's good for you. I'd rather lose most any 
five men in this show than that boy there." The surgeon nodded his 
approval of the sentiment. He, too, had taken quite a fancy to Phil, 
because of the lad's sunny disposition and natural brightness. "Get out the 
coach some of you fellows. Have my driver hook up and drive back into 
the paddock here, and be mighty quick about it. Here, doc, is a head of 
lettuce (roll of money). If you need any more, you know where to reach 
us. Send me a telegram in the morning and another tomorrow night. 
Keep me posted and pull that boy out of this scrape or you'll be 
everlastingly out of a job with the Sparling Combined Shows. 
Understand?" The surgeon nodded understandingly. He had heard Mr. 
Sparling bluster on other occasions, and it did not make any great 
impression upon him. The carriage was quickly at hand. Circus people 
were in the habit of obeying orders promptly. A quick drive was made to 
the hotel, where the circus boy was quickly undressed and put to bed. All 
during the night the surgeon worked faithfully over his little charge, and 
just as the first streaks of daylight slanted through the window and across 
the white counterpane, Phil opened his eyes. For only a moment did they 
remain open, then closed again. The surgeon drew a long, deep breath. 
"Not a fracture," he announced aloud. "I'm thankful for that." He drew 
the window shades down to shut out the light, as it was all important that 
Phil should be kept quiet for a time. But the surgeon did not sleep. He 
sat keen-eyed by the side of the bed, now and then noting the pulse of his 
patient, touching the lad's cheeks with light fingers. After a time the fresh 
morning air, fragrant with the fields and flowers, drifted in, and the birds 
in the trees took up their morning songs. "I guess the storm must be over," 
muttered the medical man, rising softly and peering out from behind the 
curtain. The day was dawning bright and beautiful. "My, it feels good to 
be in bed!" said a voice from the opposite side of the room. "Where am 
I?" The surgeon wheeled sharply. "You are to keep very quiet. You had a 
tumble that shook you up considerably." "What time is it?" demanded Phil 
sharply. "About five o'clock in the morning." "I must get up; I must get 
up." "You will lie perfectly still. The show will get along without you 
today, I guess." "You don't mean they have gone on and left me?" "Of 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

course; they couldn't wait for you." The boys eyes filled with tears. "I 
knew it couldn't last. I knew it." "See here, do you want to join the show 
again?" "Of course, I do." "Well, then, lie still. The more quiet you keep 
the sooner you will be able to get out. Try to go to sleep. I must go 
downstairs and send a message to Mr. Sparling, for he is very much 
concerned about you." "Then he will take me back?" asked Phil eagerly. 
"Of course he will." "I'll go to sleep, doctor." Phil turned over on his side 
and a moment later was breathing naturally. The doctor tip-toed from the 
room and hastened down to the hotel office where he penned the following 

James Sparling, Sparling Combined Shows, Boyertown. 
Forrest recovers consciousness. Not a fracture. Expect him to be all 
right in a few days. Will stay unless further orders. Irvine. 

"I think I'll go upstairs and get a bit of a nap myself," decided the 
surgeon, after having directed the sleepy clerk to see to it that the message 
was dispatched to its destination at once. He found Phil sleeping soundly. 
Throwing himself into a chair the surgeon, used to getting a catnap 
whenever and wherever possible, was soon sleeping as soundly as was his 
young patient. Neither awakened until the day was nearly done. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



Phil's recovery was rapid, though four days passed before he was 
permitted to leave his bed. As soon as he was able to get downstairs and 
sit out on the front porch of the hotel he found himself an object of interest 
as well as curiosity. The story of his accident had been talked of until it 
had grown out of all proportion to the real facts in the case. The boys of 
the village hung over the porch rail and eyed him wonderingly and 
admiringly. It did not fall to their lot every day to get acquainted with a 
real circus boy. They asked him all manner of questions, which the lad 
answered gladly, for even though he had suffered a severe accident, he 
was not beyond enjoying the admiration of his fellows. "It must be great to 
be a circus boy," marveled one. "It is until you fall off and crack your 
head," laughed Phil. "It's not half so funny then." After returning to his 
room that day Phil pondered deeply over the accident. He could not 
understand it. "Nobody seems to know what really did happen," he mused. 
"Dr. Irvine says the wire broke. That doesn't seem possible." Off in the 
little dog tent of the owner of the show, Mr. James Sparling, on the day 
following the accident, was asking himself almost the same questions. He 
sent for Mr. Kennedy after having disposed of his early morning business. 
There was a scowl on the owner's face, but it had not been caused by the 
telegram which lay on the desk before him, informing him that Phil was 
not seriously hurt. That was a source of keen satisfaction to the 
showman, for he felt that he could not afford to lose the young circus boy. 
Teddy was so upset over it, however, that the boss had about made up his 
mind to let Phil's companion go back and join him. While the showman 
was thinking the matter over, Mr. Kennedy appeared at the opening of the 
dog tent. "Morning," he greeted, which was responded to by a muttered 
"Huh!" from James Sparling. "Come in. What are you standing out there 
for?" Kennedy was so used to this form of salutation that he paid no 
further attention to it than to obey the summons. He entered and stood 
waiting for his employer to speak. "I want you to tell me exactly what 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

occurred last night, when young Forrest got hurt, Kennedy." "I can't tell 
you any more about it than you heard last night. He had started to make 
his dive before I noticed that anything was wrong. He didn't stop until he 
landed on his head. They said the wire snapped." "Did it?" "I guess so," 
grinned Kennedy. "Who is responsible for having picked out that wire?" "I 
guess I am." "And you have the face to stand there and tell me so?" "I 
usually tell the truth, don't I?" "Yes, yes; you do. That's what I like about 
you." "Heard from the kid this morning?" "Yes; he'll be all right in a few 
days. Concussion and general shaking up; that's all, but it's enough. 
How are the bulls this morning?" "Emperor is sour. Got a regular grouch 
on." "Misses that young rascal Phil, I suppose?" "Yes." "H-m-m-m!" 
"Didn't want to come through last night at all." "H-m-m-m. Guess we'd 
better fire you and let the boy handle the bulls; don't you think so?" The 
trainer grinned and nodded. "Kennedy, you've been making your brags 
that you always tell me the truth. I am going to ask you a question, and I 
want you to see if you can make that boast good." "Yes, sir." Perhaps the 
trainer understood something of what was in his employer's mind, for his 
lips closed sharply while his jaw took on a belligerent look. "How did that 
wire come to break, Kennedy?" The question came out with a snap, as if 
the showman already had made up his mind as to what the answer should 
be. "It was cut, sir," answered the trainer promptly. The lines in Mr. 
Sparling's face drew hard and tense. Instead of a violent outburst of 
temper, which Kennedy fully expected, the owner sat silently 
contemplating his trainer for a full minute. "Who did it?" "I couldn't 
guess." "I didn't ask you to guess. I can guess for myself. I asked who 
did it?" "I don't know. I haven't the least idea who would do a job like 
that in this show. I hope the mean hound will take French leave before I 
get him spotted, sir." Mr. Sparling nodded with emphasis. "I hope so, 
Kennedy. What makes you think the wire was cut?" With great 
deliberation the trainer drew a small package from his inside coat pocket, 
carefully unwrapped it, placing the contents on the table in front of Mr. 
Sparling. "What's this--what's this?" "That's the wire." "But there are two 
pieces here--" "Yes. I cut off a few feet on each side of where the break 
occurred. Those are the two." Mr. Sparling regarded them critically. "How 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

can you tell that the wire has been cut, except where you cut it yourself?" 
"It was cut halfway through with a file, as you can see, sir. When Forrest 
threw his weight on it, of course the wire parted at the weakened point." 
"H-m-m-m." "If you will examine it, an inch or two above the cut, you 
will find two or three file marks, where the file started to cut, then was 
moved down. Probably slipped. Looks like it. Don't you think I'm 
right, sir?" Mr. Sparling nodded reflectively. "There can be no doubt of it. 
You think it was done between the two performances yesterday?" "Oh, yes. 
That cut wouldn't have held through one performance. It was cut during 
the afternoon." "Who was in the tent between the shows?" "Pretty much 
the whole crowd. But, if you will remember, the day was dark and 
stormy. There was a time late in the afternoon, before the torches were 
lighted, when the big top was almost in darkness. It's my idea that the 
job was done then. Anybody could have done it without being discovered. 
It's likely there wasn't anybody in the tent except himself at the time." 
"Kennedy, I want you to find out who did that. Understand?" 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"The boss has an awful grouch on." "Yes; I wonder what's the matter 
with him," pondered the clown. His brother fun-maker shrugged his 
shoulders. "Guess he's mad because of young Forrest's accident. Just got 
a good act started when he had to go and spoil it." Not a hint of the 
suspicion entertained by the owner and his elephant trainer had been 
breathed about the show. Nearly a week had passed since Phil's narrow 
escape from death; yet, despite all the efforts of Kennedy or the shrewd 
observation of his employer, they were no nearer a solution of the mystery 
than before. The days passed, and with them the anger of James Sparling 
increased. "That chum of Forrest's is a funny fellow," continued the first 
speaker. "He'd make a good clown?" "Make? He's one already. Look 
at him." Teddy was perched on the back of Jumbo, the trick mule of the 
show, out in the paddock, where the performers were indulging in various 
strange antics for the purpose of limbering themselves up prior to entering 
the ring for their acts. The bright, warm sunlight was streaming down, 
picking up little flames from the glistening spangles sprinkled over the 
costumes of many of the circus folks. Teddy and Jumbo had become fast 
friends--a strangely assorted pair, and whenever the opportunity presented 
itself Teddy would mount the ugly looking mule, riding him about the 
paddock or the ring when there was nothing going on under the big top. 
Every time the pair made their appearance it was the signal for a shout of 
merriment from the performers. Teddy had perched himself on Jumbo's 
back while the mule was awaiting his turn to enter the ring, which he did 
alone, performing his act with nothing save the crack of the ringmaster's 
whip to guide him. Somebody had jammed a clown's cap on Teddy's head, 
while someone else had hit it a smash with the flat of his hand, until the 
peak of the cap lopped over to one side disconsolately. Teddy's face wore 
an appreciative grin, Jumbo's long ears lying as far back on his head as 
they would reach. To the ordinary observer it might have been supposed 
that the mule was angry about something. On the contrary, it was his way 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

of showing his pleasure. When a pan of oats was thrust before Jumbo, or 
he chanced upon a patch of fresh, tender grass, the ears expressed the 
animal's satisfaction. Jumbo could do pretty much everything except talk, 
but occasionally the stubbornness of his kind took possession of him. At 
such times the trick mule was wont to do the most erratic things. "How'd 
you like to ride him in?" chuckled Miaco, who stood regarding the lad 
with a broad smile. "If I had a saddle I wouldn't mind it," grinned Teddy's 
funny face as an accompaniment to his words. Jumbo's equipment 
consisted of a cinch girth and a pair of bridle reins connected with a 
headstall. There was no bit, but the effect was to arch his neck like that 
of a proud stallion. "You'd make the hit of your life if you did," laughed 
Miaco. "Wonder the boss don't have you do it." "Would if he knew about 
it," spoke up a performer. "The really funny things don't get into the ring 
in a circus, unless by accident." In the meantime the ringmaster was 
making his loud-voiced announcement out under the big top. "Ladies and 
gentlemen," he roared, after a loud crack of his long-lashed whip, to attract 
the attention of the people to him, "we are now about to introduce the 
wonderful performing mule Jumbo, the only broncho-bucking, bobtailed 
mule in the world. You will notice that he performs without a rider, 
without human interference. Please do not speak to Jumbo while he is 
going through his act. Ladies and gentlemen, Jumbo, the great educated 
mule, will now make his appearance unaided by human hand." The 
audience applauded the announcement. At that moment the band struck up 
the tune by which Jumbo always made his entrance. At the first blare of 
the brass a fun-loving clown jabbed Jumbo with a pin. The mule did the 
rest. "Here! Here! Get off that mule!" shouted the animal's trainer. 
"He's going on!" "Let him go!" roared clowns and other performers. 
Jumbo had never made as quick a start in all his circus career as he did 
that day. He fairly leaped into the air, though only one man understood 
the reason for the mule's sudden move. With a bray that was heard all over 
the big top Jumbo burst through the red curtains like a tornado. There he 
paused for one brief instant, as if uncertain whether to do a certain thing or 
not. Recalling the ringmaster's words, the spectators at first were at a loss 
to account for the odd-looking figure that was clinging to the back of the 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

educated mule. Suddenly they broke out into roars of laughter, while the 
performers peering through the red curtain fairly howled with delight. 
Teddy was hanging to the cinch girth uncertain what to do. The ringmaster, 
amazed beyond words, stood gaping at the spectacle, for the moment 
powerless to use his usually ready tongue. Jumbo launched into the arena. 
"Get off!" thundered the ringmaster, suddenly recovering himself. "I 
can't!" howled Teddy, though from present indications it appeared as if he 
would dismount without any effort on his own part. Jumbo's heels flew 
into the air, then began a series of lunges, bucking and terrific kicking 
such as none among the vast audience ever had witnessed in or out of a 
show ring. One instant Teddy would be standing on his head on the mule's 
back, the next lying on his back with feet toward the animal's head. Next 
he would be dragged along the ground, to be plumped back again at the 
next bounce. No feat seemed too difficult for Jumbo to attempt that day. 
"Stop him! Stop him!" howled the ringmaster. Ring attendants rushed 
forward to obey his command, but they might as well have tried to stop a 
tornado. Jumbo eluded them without the least trouble, but their efforts to 
keep out of range of his flying hoofs were not so easy. Some of them had 
narrow escapes from being seriously injured. Mr. Sparling, attracted by the 
roars of laughter of the audience and the unusual disturbance, had hurried 
into the big top, where he stood, at first in amazement, then with a broad 
grin overspreading his countenance. Now Jumbo began a race with 
himself about the arena, following the concourse, now and then sending 
his heels into the air right over the heads of the spectators of the lower row 
of seats, sending them scrambling under the seats for protection. A clown 
ran out with half a dozen paper covered hoops, which he was holding in 
readiness for the next bareback act. He flaunted them in the face of the 
runaway mule. Jumbo ducked his head under them and Teddy Tucker's 
head went through the paper with a crash, the mule's heels at that instant 
being high in the air. With the rings hung about his neck, Teddy cut a more 
ridiculous figure than ever. The audience went wild with excitement. 
Now the ringmaster, angered beyond endurance, began reaching for Teddy 
with the long lash of his whip. The business end of the lash once brushed 
the boy's cheek. It stung him. "Ouch!" howled Teddy as he felt the lash. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

"Stop that!" exploded Mr. Sparling, who, by this time, had gotten into the 
ring to take a hand in the performance himself. He grabbed the irate 
ringmaster by the collar, giving him a jerk that that functionary did not 
forget in a hurry. Jumbo, however, was no respecter of persons. He had 
taken a short cut across the ring just as the owner had begun his correction 
of the ringmaster. Jumbo shook out his heels again. They caught the 
owner's sombrero and sent it spinning into the air. Mr. Sparling, in his 
excitement, forgot all about the ringmaster. Picking up a tent stake, he 
hurled it after the educated mule, missing him by a full rod. The audience 
by this time was in a tempest of excitement. At first they thought it was 
all a part of the show. But they were soon undeceived, which made their 
enjoyment and appreciation all the greater. Jumbo took a final sprint about 
the arena, Teddy's legs and free arm most of the time in the air. He had 
long since lost his clown's cap, which Jumbo, espying, had kicked off into 
the audience. "You fool mule! You fool mule!" bellowed Mr. Sparling. 
Jumbo suddenly decided that he would go back to the paddock. With him, 
to decide was to act. Taking a fresh burst of speed, he shot straight at the 
red curtains. To reach these he was obliged to pass close to the 
bandstand, where the band was playing as if the very existence of the 
show depended upon them. Teddy's grip was relaxing. His arm was so 
benumbed that he could not feel that he had any arm on that side at all. His 
fingers slowly relaxed their grip on the cinch girth. In a moment he had 
bounced back to the educated mule's rump. In another instant he would 
be plumped to the hard ground with a jolt that would shake him to his 
foundations. But Jumbo had other plans--more spectacular plans--in mind. 
He put them into execution at once. The moment he felt his burden 
slipping over his back that active end grew busy again. Jumbo humped 
himself, letting out a volley of kicks so lightning-like in their swiftness 
that human eye could not follow. Teddy had slipped half over the mule's 
rump when the volley began. "Catch him! He'll be killed!" shouted 
someone. All at once the figure of Teddy Tucker shot straight up into the 
air, propelled there by the educated mule. The lad's body described what 
somebody afterwards characterized as "graceful somersault in the air," 
then began its downward flight. He landed right in the midst of the band. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

Crash! There was a yell of warning, a jingle and clatter of brass, several 
chairs went down under the impact, the floor gave way and half the band, 
with Teddy Tucker in the middle of the heap, sank out of sight. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"Is he dead?" "No; you can't kill a thick-head like that," snarled the 
ringmaster. The audience was still roaring. With angry imprecations the 
members of the band who had fallen through were untangling themselves 
as rapidly as possible. Teddy, in the meantime, had dragged himself from 
beneath the heap and slunk out from under the broken platform. He lost 
no time in escaping to the paddock, but the bandmaster, espying him, 
started after the lad, waving his baton threateningly. No sooner had Teddy 
gained the seclusion of the dressing tent than James Sparling burst in. 
"Where's that boy? Where's that boy?" "Here he is," grinned a performer, 
thrusting Teddy forward, much against the lad's inclinations. Mr. Sparling 
surveyed him with narrow eyes. "You young rascal! Trying to break up 
my show, are you?" "N-no--sir." "Can you do that again, do you think?" 
"I--I don't know." "That's the greatest Rube mule act that ever hit a 
sawdust ring. I'll double your salary if you think you can get away with it 
every performance," fairly shouted the owner. "I--I'm willing if the mule 
is," stammered Teddy somewhat doubtfully. As a result the lad left his job 
in the cook tent, never to return to it. After many hard knocks and some 
heavy falls he succeeded in so mastering the act that he was able to go 
through with it without great risk of serious injury to himself. The 
educated mule and the boy became a feature of the Sparling Combined 
Shows from that moment on, but after that Teddy took good care not to 
round off his act by a high dive into the big bass horn. No one was more 
delighted at Teddy Tucker's sudden leap to fame than was his companion, 
Phil Forrest. Phil and Dr. Irvine returned to the show, one afternoon, 
about a week after the accident. They had come on by train. Phil, though 
somewhat pale after his setback, was clear-eyed, and declared himself as 
fit as ever. He insisted upon going on with his act at the evening 
performance, but Mr. Sparling told him to wait until the day following. 
In the meantime Phil could get his apparatus in working order. "I'll look it 
over myself this time," announced the showman. "I don't want any more 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

such accidents happening in this show. Your friend Teddy nearly put the 
whole outfit to the bad--he and the fool mule." That afternoon Phil had an 
opportunity to witness for himself the exhibition of his companion and the 
"fool mule." He laughed until his sides ached. "O Teddy, you'll break 
your neck doing that stunt one of these times," warned Phil, hastening 
back to the dressing tent after Teddy and the mule had left the ring. "Don't 
you think it's worth the risk?" "That depends." "For two dollars a day?" "Is 
that what you are getting?" "Yep. I'm a high-priced performer," insisted 
Teddy, snapping his trousers pocket significantly. "I'd jump off the big 
top, twice every day, for that figure." "What are you going to do with all 
your money? Spend it?" "I--rather thought I'd buy a bicycle." Phil shook 
his head. "You couldn't carry it, and, besides, nobody rides bicycles these 
days. They ride in automobiles." "Then I'll buy one of them." "I'll tell 
you what you do, Teddy." "Lend the money to you, eh?" "No; I am earning 
plenty for myself. But every week, now, I shall send all my money home 
to Mrs. Cahill. I wrote to her about it while I was sick. She is going to 
put it in the bank for me at Edmeston, with herself appointed as trustee. 
That's necessary, you see, because I am not of age. Then no one can take 
it away from me." "You mean your Uncle Abner?" questioned Teddy. "Yes. 
I don't know that he would want to; but I'm not taking any chances. Now, 
why not send your money along at the same time? Mrs. Cahill will deposit 
it in the same way, and at the end of the season think what a lot of money 
you will have?" "Regular fortune?" "Yes, a regular fortune." "What'll I do 
with all that money?" "Do what I'm going to do--get an education." "What, 
and leave the show business? No, siree!" "I didn't mean that. You can 
go to school between seasons. I don't intend to leave the show business, 
but I'm going to know something besides that." "Well, I guess it would be 
a good idea," reflected Teddy. "Will you do it?" "Yes; I'll do it," he nodded. 
"Good for you! We'll own a show of our own, one of these days. You 
mark me, Teddy," glowed Phil. "Of our own?" marveled Teddy, his face 
wreathing in smiles. "Say, wouldn't that be great?" "I think so. Have you 
been practicing on the rings since I left?" "No." "That's too bad. You and 
I will begin tomorrow. We ought to be pretty expert on the flying rings in 
a few weeks, if I don't get hurt again," added the boy, a shadow flitting 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

across his face. "Then, you'd better begin by taking some bends," 
suggested Mr. Miaco, who, approaching, had overheard Phil's remark. 
"Bends?" questioned Teddy "What are they?" wondered Phil. "Oh, I 
know. I read about them in the papers. It's an attack that fellows 
working in a tunnel get when they're digging under a river. I don't want 
anything like that." "No, no, no," replied Mr. Miaco in a tone of disgust. 
"It's no disease at all." "No?" "What I mean by bends is exercises. You 
have seen the performers do it--bend forward until their hands touch the 
ground, legs stiff, then tipping as far backwards as possible. Those are 
bending exercises, and the best things to do. The performers limber up 
for their act that way. If you practice it slowly several times a day you 
will be surprised to see what it will do for you. I'd begin today were I in 
your place, Phil. You'll find yourself a little stiff when you go on in your 
elephant act tonight--" "I'm not going on tonight--not until tomorrow. Mr. 
Sparling doesn't wish me to." "All right. All the better. Exercise! I 
wouldn't begin on the rings today either. Just take your bends, get steady 
on your feet and start in in a regular, systematic way tomorrow," advised 
the head clown. "Thank you, Mr. Miaco; I shall do so. I am much 
obliged to you. You are very kind to us." "Because I like you, and because 
you boys don't pretend to know more about the circus business than men 
who have spent their lives in it." "I hope I shall never be like that," 
laughed Phil. "I know I shall always be willing to learn." "And there 
always is something to learn in the circus life. None of us knows it all. 
There are new things coming up every day," added the clown. Phil left the 
dressing tent to go around to the menagerie tent for a talk with Mr. 
Kennedy and Emperor. Entering the tent the lad gave his whistle signal, 
whereat Emperor trumpeted loudly. The big elephant greeted his young 
friend with every evidence of joy and excitement. Phil, of course, had 
brought Emperor a bag of peanuts as well as several lumps of sugar, and it 
was with difficulty that the lad got away from him after finishing his chat 
with Mr. Kennedy. Phil was making a round of calls that afternoon, so he 
decided that he would next visit Mr. Sparling, having seen him only a 
moment, and that while others were around. "May I come in?" he asked. 
"Yes; what do you want?" "To thank you for your kindness." "Didn't I tell 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

you never to thank me for anything?" thundered the showman. "I beg your 
pardon, sir; I'll take it all back," twinkled Phil. "Oh, you will, will you, 
young scapegrace? What did you come here for anyway? Not to 
palaver about how thankful you are that you got knocked out, stayed a 
week in bed and had your salary paid all the time. I'll bet you didn't 
come for that. Want a raise of salary already?" "Hardly. If you'll give 
me a chance, I'll tell you, Mr. Sparling." "Go on. Say it quick." "I have 
been thinking about the fall I got, since I've been laid up." "Nothing else to 
think about, eh?" "And the more I think about it, the more it bothers me." 
"Does, eh?" grunted Mr. Sparling, busying himself with his papers. "Yes, 
sir. I don't suppose it would be possible for me to get the broken wire 
now, would it? No doubt it was thrown away." The showman peered up 
at the boy suspiciously. "What do you want of it?" "I thought I should like 
to examine it." "Why?" "To see what had been done to it." "Oh, you do, 
eh?" "Yes, sir." "What do you think happened to that wire? It broke, 
didn't it?" "Yes, I guess there is no doubt about it but somebody helped to 
break it." "Young man, you are too confoundedly smart. Mark my words, 
you'll die young. Yes; I have the wire. Here it is. Look at it. You are 
right; something happened to it, and I've been tearing myself to pieces, 
ever since, to find out who it was. I've got all my amateur sleuths working 
on the case, this very minute, to find out who the scoundrel is who cut the 
wire. Have you any idea about it? But there's no use in asking you. I--" 
"I've got this," answered Phil, tossing a small file on the table in front of 
Mr. Sparling. "What, what, what? A file?" "Yes, will you see if it fits the 
notch in the wire there?" The showman did so, holding file and wire up to 
the light for a better examination of them. "There can be no doubt of it," 
answered the amazed showman, fixing wondering eyes on the young man. 
"Where did you get it?" "Picked it up." "Where?" "In the dressing tent." 
"Pooh! Then it doesn't mean anything," grunted Mr. Sparling. "If you 
knew where I picked it up you might think differently." "Then where 
_did_ you get it?" "Found it in my own trunk." "In your trunk?" Phil 
nodded. "How did it get there?" "I had left my trunk open after placing 
some things in it. When I went out to watch Teddy's mule act I was in 
such a hurry that I forgot all about the trunk. When I came back, there it 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

lay, near the end--" "Somebody put it there!" exploded the showman. 
"Yes." "But who? Find that out for me--let me know who the man is and 
you'll hear an explosion in this outfit that will raise the big top right off the 
ground." "Leave it to me, Mr. Sparling, I'll find him." The owner laughed 
harshly. "How?" "I think I know who the man is at this very minute," was 
Phil Forrest's startling announcement, uttered in a quiet, even tone. Mr. 
Sparling leaped from his chair so suddenly that he overturned the table in 
front of him, sending his papers flying all over the place. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"Who is he?" "I would not care to answer that question just now, Mr. 
Sparling," answered Phil calmly. "It would not be right--that is, not until 
I am sure about it." "Tell me, or get out." "Remember, Mr. Sparling, it is a 
serious accusation you ask me to make against a man on proof that you 
would say was not worth anything. It may take some time, but before I get 
through I'm going either to fasten the act on someone--on a particular one-or else prove that I am wholly mistaken." The showman stormed, but Phil 
was obdurate. He refused to give the slightest intimation as to whom he 
suspected. "Am I to go, Mr. Sparling?" he asked after the interview had 
come to an end. "No! I expect you'll own this show yet." He watched 
Phil walking away from the tent. There was a scowl on the face of James 
Sparling. "If I thought that young rascal really thought he knew, I'd take 
him across my knee and spank him until he told me. No; he's more of a 
man than any two in the whole outfit. I'd rather lose a horse than have 
anything happen to that lad." Days followed each other in quick 
succession. The show had by this time swung around into Pennsylvania, 
and was playing a circuit of small mining towns with exceptionally good 
attendance. The owner of the show was in high good humor over the 
profits the show was earning. The acts of Phil Forrest and Teddy Tucker 
had proved to be among the best drawing cards in the circus performance 
proper. So important did the owner consider them that the names of the 
two circus boys were now prominently displayed in the advertisements, as 
well as on the billboards. During all this time, Phil and Teddy had worked 
faithfully on the rings under the instruction of Mr. Miaco. On the side 
they were taking lessons in tumbling as well. For this purpose what is 
known as a "mechanic" was used to assist them in their schooling. This 
consisted of a belt placed about the beginner's waist. >From it a rope led 
up over a pulley, the other end of the rope being securely held by someone. 
When all was ready the pupil would take a running start, jump into the air 
and try to turn. At the same time, the man holding the free end of the 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

rope would give it a hard pull, thus jerking the boy free of the ground and 
preventing his falling on his head. After a few days of this, both boys had 
progressed so far that they were able to work on a mat, made up of several 
layers of thick carpet, without the aid of the "mechanic." Of course their 
act lacked finish. Their movements were more or less clumsy, but they 
had mastered the principle of the somersault in remarkably quick time. Mr. 
Miaco said that in two more weeks they ought to be able to join the 
performers in their general tumbling act, which was one of the features of 
the show. There was not an hour of the day that found the two boys idle, 
now, and all this activity was viewed by Mr. Sparling with an approving 
eye. But one day there came an interruption that turned the thoughts of the 
big show family in another direction. An accident had happened at the 
morning parade that promised trouble for the show. A countryman, who 
had heard that the hide of an elephant could not be punctured, was struck 
by the happy thought of finding out for himself the truth or falsity of this 
theory. He had had an argument with some of his friends, he taking the 
ground that an elephant's hide was no different from the hide of any other 
animal. And he promised to show them that it was not. All he needed 
was the opportunity. With his friends he had followed along with the 
parade, keeping abreast of the elephants, until finally the parade was 
halted by the crossing gates at a railroad. Now was the man's chance to 
prove the theory false. The crowd closed in on the parade to get a closer 
view of the people, and this acted as a cover for the man's experiment. 
Taking his penknife out he placed the point of it against the side of 
Emperor, as it chanced. "Now watch me," he said, at the same time giving 
the knife a quick shove, intending merely to see if he could prick through 
the skin. His experiment succeeded beyond the fellow's fondest 
expectations. The point of the knife had gone clear through Emperor's hide. 
Emperor, ordinarily possessed of a keen sense of humor, coupled with 
great good nature, in this instance failed to see the humor of the 
proceeding. In fact, he objected promptly and in a most surprising 
manner. Like a flash, his trunk curled back. It caught the bold 
experimenter about the waist, and the next instant the fellow was dangling 
in the air over Emperor's head, yelling lustily for help. The elephant had 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

been watching the man, apparently suspecting something, and therefore 
was ready for him. "Put him down!" thundered Kennedy. The elephant 
obeyed, but in a manner not intended by the trainer when he gave the 
command. With a quick sweep of his trunk, Emperor hurled his tormentor 
from him. The man's body did not stop until it struck a large plate glass 
window in a store front, disappearing into the store amid a terrific crashing 
of glass and breaking of woodwork, the man having carried most of the 
window with him in his sudden entry into the store. This was a feature of 
the parade that had not been advertised on the bills. The procession moved 
on a moment later, with old Emperor swinging along as meekly as if he 
had not just stirred up a heap of trouble for himself and his owner. The 
man, it was soon learned, had been badly hurt. But Mr. Sparling was on 
the ground almost at once, making an investigation. He quickly learned 
what had caused the trouble. And then he was mad all through. He raved 
up and down the line threatening to get out a warrant for the arrest of the 
man who had stuck a knife into his elephant. Later in the afternoon matters 
took a different turn. A lawyer called on the showman, demanding the 
payment of ten thousand dollars damages for the injuries sustained by his 
client, and which, he said, would in all probability make the man a cripple 
for life. If the showman had been angry before, he was in a towering rage 
now. "Get off this lot!" he roared. "If you show your face here again I'll 
set the canvasmen on you! Then you won't be able to leave without 
help." The lawyer stood not upon the order of his going, and they saw no 
more of him. They had about concluded that they had heard the last of 
his demands, until just before the evening performance, when, as the cook 
tent was being struck, half a dozen deputy sheriffs suddenly made their 
appearance. They held papers permitting them to levy on anything they 
could lay their hands upon and hold it until full damages had been fixed by 
the courts. There was no trifling with the law, at least not then, and Mr. 
Sparling was shrewd enough to see that. However, he stormed and 
threatened, but all to no purpose. The intelligent deputies reasoned that 
Emperor, having been the cause of all the trouble, would be the proper 
chattel to levy upon. So they levied on him. The next thing was to get 
Emperor to jail. He would not budge an inch when the officers sought to 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

take him. Then a happy thought struck them. They ordered the trainer 
to lead the elephant and follow them under pain of instant arrest if he 
refused. There was nothing for it but to obey. Protesting loudly, Kennedy 
started for the village with his great, hulking charge. Phil Forrest was as 
disconsolate as his employer was enraged. The boy's act was spoiled, 
perhaps indefinitely, which might mean the loss of part of his salary. 
"That's country justice," growled the owner. "But I'll telegraph my 
lawyer in the city and have him here by morning. Maybe it won't be 
such a bad speculation tomorrow, for I'll make this town go broke before it 
has fully settled the damages I'll get out of it. Don't be down in the 
mouth, Forrest. You'll have your elephant back, and before many days at 
that. Go watch the show and forget your troubles." It will be observed 
that, under his apparently excitable exterior, Mr. James Sparling was a 
philosopher. "Emperor's in jail," mourned Phil. The moment Mr. Kennedy 
returned, sullen and uncommunicative, Phil sought him out. He found 
the trainer in Mr. Sparling's tent. "Where did they take him?" demanded 
Phil, breaking in on their conversation. "To jail," answered Kennedy 
grimly. "First time I ever heard of such a thing as an elephant's going to 
jail." "That's the idea. We'll use that for an advertisement," cried the ever 
alert showman, slapping his thighs. "Emperor, the performing elephant 
of the Great Sparling Combined Shows, jailed for assault. Fine, fine! 
How'll that look in the newspapers? Why, men, it will fill the tent when we 
get to the next stand, whether we have the elephant or not." "No; you've 
got to have the elephant," contended Kennedy. "Well, perhaps that's so. 
But I'll wire our man ahead, just the same, and let him use the fact in his 
press notices." "But how could they get him in the jail?" questioned Phil. 
"Jail? You see, they couldn't. They wanted to, but the jail wouldn't fit, 
or the elephant wouldn't fit the jail, either way you please. When they 
discovered that they didn't know what to do with him. Somebody 
suggested that they might lock him up in the blacksmith shop." "The 
blacksmith shop?" exploded the owner. "I hope they don't try to fit him 
with shoes," he added, with a grim smile. "Well, maybe it wouldn't be so 
bad if they did. We'd have our elephant right quick. Yes, they tried the 
blacksmith shop on, and it worked, but it was a close fit. If Emperor had 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

had a bump on his back as big as an egg he wouldn't have gone in." "And 
he's there now?" "Yes. I reckon I'd better stay here and camp at the hotel, 
hadn't I, so's to be handy when your lawyer comes on? Emperor might 
tear up the town if he got loose." Mr. Sparling reflected for a moment. 
"Kennedy, you'll go with the show tonight. I don't care if Emperor tears 
this town up by the roots. If none of us is here, then we shall not be to 
blame for what happens. We didn't tell them to lock him up in the 
blacksmith shop. You can get back after the lawyer has gotten him out. 
That will be time enough." "Where is the blacksmith shop?" questioned 
Phil. "Know where the graveyard is?" "Yes." "It's just the other side of 
that," said Kennedy. "Church on this side, blacksmith shop on the other. 
Why?" "Oh, nothing. I was just wondering," answered Phil, glancing up 
and finding the eyes of Mr. Sparling bent keenly upon him. The lad rose 
hastily, went out, and climbing up to the seat of a long pole wagon, sat 
down to ponder over the situation. He remained there until a teamster 
came to hook to the wagon and drive it over to be loaded. Then Phil got 
down, standing about with hands in his pockets. He was trying to make up 
his mind about something. "Where do we show tomorrow?" he asked of 
an employee. "Dobbsville, Ohio. We'll be over the line before daybreak." 
"Oh." The circus tent was rapidly disappearing now. "In another state in 
the morning," mused Phil. One by one the wagons began moving from the 
circus lot. "Get aboard the sleeping car," called the driver of the wagon 
that Phil and Teddy usually slept in, as he drove past. "Hey, Phil!" called 
Teddy, suddenly appearing above the top of the box. "Hello, Teddy!" 
"What are you standing there for?" "Perhaps I'm getting the night air," 
laughed Phil. "Fine, isn't it?" "It might be better. But get in; get in. 
You'll be left." "Never mind me. I am not going on your wagon tonight. 
You may have the bed all to yourself. Don't forget to leave your window 
open," he jeered. "I have it open already. I'm going to put the screen in 
now to keep the mosquitoes out," retorted Teddy, not to be outdone. "Has 
Mr. Sparling gone yet do you know?" "No; he and Kennedy are over 
yonder where the front door was, talking." "All right." Teddy's head 
disappeared. No sooner had it done so than Phil Forrest turned and ran 
swiftly toward the opposite side of the lot. He ran in a crouching position, 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

as if to avoid being seen. Reaching a fence which separated the road from 
the field, he threw himself down in the tall grass there and hid. "In Ohio 
tomorrow. I'm going to try it," he muttered. "It can't be wrong. They 
had no business, no right to do it," he decided, his voice full of indignation. 
He heard the wagons rumbling by him on the hard road, the rattle of 
wheels accompanied by the shouts of the drivers as they urged their horses 
on. And there Phil lay hidden until every wagon had departed, headed for 
the border, and the circus lot became a barren, deserted and silent field. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



Making sure that everybody had left, Phil Forrest ran swiftly toward 
the village. He knew the way, having been downtown during the day. A 
light twinkled here and there in a house, where the people, no doubt, were 
discussing the exciting events of the day. As Phil drew near the cemetery 
he heard voices. It would not do to be discovered, so the lad climbed the 
fence and crept along the edge of the open plot. He was nearing the 
blacksmith shop and it was soon apparent to him that quite a number of 
men had gathered in front of the shop itself. Skulking up to the corner, the 
last rod being traversed on all fours, the circus boy flattened himself on the 
ground to listen, in an effort to learn if possible what were the plans of the 
villagers. If they had any he did not learn them, for their conversation 
was devoted principally to discussing what they had done to the Sparling 
show and what they would do further before they had finished with this 
business. Phil did learn, however, that the man who had been hurled 
through the store window was not fatally injured, as had been thought at 
first. Someone announced that the doctor had said the man would be 
about again in a couple of weeks. "I'm glad of that," muttered Phil. "I 
shouldn't like to think that Emperor had killed anyone. I wonder how he 
likes it in there." Evidently the elephant was not well pleased, for the lad 
could hear him stirring restlessly and tugging at his chains. "Won't he be 
surprised, though?" chuckled Phil. "I shouldn't be surprised if he made a 
lot of noise. I hope he doesn't, for I don't want to stir the town up. I 
wonder if those fellows are going to stay there all night?" The loungers 
showed no inclination to move, so there was nothing for the boy to do but 
to lie still and wait. After a little he began to feel chilled, and began 
hopping around on hands and feet to start his blood moving. A little of 
this warmed him up considerably. This time he sat down in the fence 
corner. The night was moonless, but the stars were quite bright, enabling 
Phil to make out objects some distance away. He could see quite plainly 
the men gathered in front of the blacksmith shop. After a wait of what 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

seemed hours to Phil, one of the watchers stirred himself. "Well, fellows, 
we might as well go home. The brute's settled down for the night, I 
reckon." "What time is it?" "Half past two," announced the first speaker. 
"Well, well, I should say it was time to go. Not going to stay with him, 
are you, sheriff?" "Not necessary. He can't get out." After listening at the 
closed door, the one whom Phil judged to be an officer joined his 
companions and all walked leisurely down the road. The lad remained in 
the fence corner for sometime, but he stood up after they had gone. He 
did not dare move about much, fearing that Emperor might hear and know 
him and raise a great tumult. Phil waited all of half an hour; then he 
climbed the fence and slipped cautiously to the door of the shop. It was 
securely locked. "Oh, pshaw! That's too bad," grumbled the lad. "How 
am I going to do it?" Phil ran his fingers lightly over the fastening, which 
consisted of a strong hasp and a padlock. "What shall I do? I dare not try 
to break the lock. I should be committing a crime if I did. Perhaps I am 
already. No; I'm not, and I shall not. I'll just speak to Emperor, then 
start off on foot after the show. It was foolish of me to think I could do 
anything to help Mr. Sparling and the elephant out of his trouble. I ought 
to be able to walk to the next stand and get there in time for the last 
breakfast call, providing I can find the way." Perhaps Phil's conscience 
troubled him a little, though he had done nothing worse than to follow the 
dictates of his kind heart in his desire to be of assistance to his employer 
and to befriend old Emperor. Placing his lips close to the door, Phil called 
softly. "Emperor!" he said. The restless swaying and heavy breathing 
within ceased suddenly. "Emperor!" repeated the lad, at the same time 
uttering the low whistle that the big elephant had come to know so well. A 
mighty cough from the interior of the blacksmith shop answered Phil 
Forrest's signal. "Be quiet, Emperor. Be quiet! We are going to get you 
out as soon as we can, old fellow! You just behave yourself now. Do 
you hear?" Emperor emitted another loud cough. "Good old Emperor. 
I've got some peanuts for you, but I don't know how I am going to give 
them to you. Wait a minute. Perhaps there is a window somewhere that 
I can toss them through." Phil, after looking around, found a window with 
the small panes of glass missing. The window was so high that he could 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

not reach it, so he stood on the ground and tossed the peanuts in, while the 
big elephant demonstrated the satisfaction he felt, in a series of sharp 
intakes of breath. "Now I'm going," announced Phil. "Goodbye, 
Emperor. Here's a lump of sugar. That's all I have for you." Phil turned 
away sorrowfully. His purpose had failed. Not because he doubted his 
ability to carry it out, but he was not sure that he would be right in doing 
so. A few rods down the road he paused, turned and uttered his shrill 
signal whistle, with no other idea in mind than to bring some comfort to 
the imprisoned beast. Emperor interpreted the signal otherwise, however. 
He uttered a loud, shrill trumpet; then things began to happen with a 
rapidity that fairly made the circus boy's head whirl. A sudden jingle of 
metal, a crashing and rending from within the shop, caused Phil to halt 
sharply after he had once more started on his way. Crash! Bang! 
Emperor had brought his wonderful strength to bear on his flimsily 
constructed prison with disastrous results to the latter. First he had torn the 
blacksmith's bellows out by the roots and hurled it from him. Next he set 
to work to smash everything within reach. A moment of this and the 
elephant had freed himself from the light chains with which the keeper had 
secured him. "Wha--oh, what is he doing?" gasped Phil Forrest. The 
boards on one side of the shop burst out as from a sudden explosion. 
Down came half a dozen of the light studdings that supported the roof on 
that side. By this time Emperor had worked himself into a fine temper. He 
turned his attention to the other side of the shop with similar disastrous 
results. The interior of the blacksmith shop was a wreck. It could not 
have been in much worse condition had it been struck by a cyclone. All of 
a sudden the elephant threw his whole weight against the big sliding door. 
It burst out with a report like that of a cannon. Emperor came staggering 
out into the open. There he paused, with twitching ears and curling trunk, 
peering into the darkness in search of Phil Forrest. Phil recovered from his 
surprise sufficiently to realize what had happened and that old Emperor 
was free once more. The lad uttered a shrill whistle. Emperor responded 
by a piercing scream. He then whirled, facing up the road in Phil's 
direction, though unable to see the lad. Once more the boy whistled. 
Emperor was off in a twinkling. "Steady, steady, Emperor!" cautioned the 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

lad, as he saw the huge hulk bearing swiftly down on him. "Easy, old 
boy!" But the elephant did not lessen his speed one particle. Phil felt 
sure, however, that he himself would not be harmed. He knew Emperor 
too well. With perfect confidence in the great animal, the lad threw both 
hands above his head, standing motionless in the center of the street right 
in the path of the oncoming beast. "Steady, steady, steady!" cautioned Phil. 
"Now up, Emperor!" The elephant's long, sinuous trunk uncurled, coiled 
about the lad's waist and the next instant Phil felt himself being lifted to 
the big beast's head. "I've got him!" shouted Phil, carried away by the 
excitement of the moment. "Now, go it! Emperor! Go faster than you 
ever have since you chased lions in the jungle." And Emperor did go it! 
As he tore down the village street he woke the echoes with his shrill 
trumpetings, bringing every man and woman in the little village tumbling 
from their beds. "The elephant is escaping!" cried the people, as they 
threw up their windows and gazed out. As they looked they saw a huge, 
shadowy shape hurling itself down the street, whereat they hastily 
withdrew their heads. In a few moments the men of the village came 
rushing out, all running toward the blacksmith shop to learn what had 
happened there. There followed a perfect pandemonium of yells when 
they discovered the wrecked condition of the place. In the meantime Phil 
had guided Emperor into the road that led to the show grounds of the 
previous day. The elephant was about to turn into the lot, when a sharp 
slap from his rider caused him to swing back into the highway on the trail 
of the wagons that had passed on some hours before. Once he had fairly 
started Emperor followed the trail, making the turns and following the 
twists of the road as unerringly as an Indian follows the trail of his enemy. 
"Hurrah!" shouted Phil, after they had got clear of the village. "I've won, 
I've won! But, oh, won't there be a row back there when they find out 
what has happened, I wonder if they will follow us." The thought startled 
him. "If they do they are liable to arrest me, believing that I let him out. 
_Go it,_ Emperor! Go faster!" Emperor flapped his ears in reply and 
swung off at an increased gait. The darkness of early morn was soon 
succeeded by the graying dawn, and Phil felt a certain sense of relief as he 
realized that day was breaking. On they swept, past hamlets, by farm 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

houses, where here and there men with milkpails in hand paused, startled, 
to rub their eyes and gaze upon the strange outfit that was rushing past 
them at such a pace. Phil could not repress a chuckle at such times, at 
thought of the sensation he was creating. The hours drew on until seven 
o'clock had arrived, and the sun was high in the heavens. "I must be 
getting near the place," decided Phil. He knew he was on the right road, 
for he could plainly see the trail of the wagons and of the stock in the dust 
of the road before him. "Yes; there is some sort of a village way off yonder. 
I wonder if that is it?" A fluttering flag from the top of a far away center-
pole, which he caught sight of a few minutes later, told the boy that it was. 
"Hurrah!" shouted Phil, waving his hat on high. At that moment a distant 
chorus of yells smote his ears. The lad listened intently. The shout was 
repeated. Holding fast to the headstall, he glanced back over the road. 
There, far to his rear, he discovered a cloud of dust, which a few minutes 
later resolved itself into a party of horsemen, riding at top speed. "They're 
after me! Go faster! Go faster!" shouted the lad. As he spoke a rifle 
cracked somewhere behind him, but as Phil heard no bullet the leaden 
missile must have fallen far short of the mark. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



As he neared the village Phil began to shout and wave his hat. After a 
time his shouts attracted the attention of some of the people on the circus 
lot, which was on his side of the village. "It's Emperor coming back!" 
cried someone. "There's somebody on him," added another. "I'll bet the 
day's receipts that it's that rascally Phil Forrest," exclaimed Mr. Sparling, 
examining the cloud of dust with shaded eyes. "How in the world did it 
ever happen? I've been hunting all over the outfit for that boy this 
morning. Young Tucker said he thought Phil had remained behind, and I 
was afraid something had happened to the boy or that he had skipped the 
show. I might have known better. What's that back of him?" "Somebody 
chasing them, boss," a tentman informed him. "And they're going to catch 
old Emperor sure." "Not if I know it," snapped Mr. Sparling. _"Hey, 
Rube!"_ he howled. Canvasmen, roustabouts, performers and everybody 
within reach of his voice swarmed out into the open, armed with clubs, 
stones and anything they could lay their hands upon. "There's a posse 
trying to catch Phil Forrest and old Emperor. Get a going! Head them off 
and drive them back!" Every man started on a run, some leaping on horses, 
clearing the circus lot, riding like so many cowboys. As they approached 
the lad perched on the bobbing head of the elephant the showmen set up a 
chorus of wild yells, to which Phil responded by waving his hat. He tried 
to stand up on Emperor's head, narrowly missing a tumble, which he 
surely would have taken had not the elephant given him quick support 
with the ever-handy trunk. "They're shooting at me," cried Phil, as he 
swept by the showmen. "Line up!" commanded Mr. Sparling. His men 
stretched across the highway, with the mounted ones in front, his infantry 
behind. Soon the horsemen of the pursuing party came dashing up and 
brought their horses to a sudden stop. "What do you want?" "We demand 
the turning over of the elephant which one of your men stole from us. 
They've wrecked the blacksmith shop and there'll be a pretty bill of 
damages to pay! Come now, before we take you back with us." Mr. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

Sparling grinned. "Perhaps you don't know that you are in the State of 
Ohio at the present moment, eh? If you'll take my advice you'll turn 
about and get home as fast as horseflesh will carry you. My lawyer will 
be in your town today, and he will arrange for the payment of all just 
damages. We decline to be robbed, however. We've got the elephant 
and we're going to keep him." "And we're going to have the boy that broke 
in and released him." "Ho, ho, ho!" laughed Mr. Sparling jovially. "I 
guess you'll have the liveliest scrimmage you ever had in all your lives if 
you attempt to lay hands on that boy. Come, now, get out of here! If you 
attempt to raise the slightest disturbance I'll have the bunch of you in the 
cooler, and we'll be the boys to put you there if the town officials don't act 
quickly enough." "Boys, I guess it's up to us," decided the leader of the 
party. "Looks that way." "Then what do you say if we stop and see the 
show?" "Good idea!" "I don't care how many of you go to the show; but, 
mark me, it will cost you fifty cents a head, and at the first sign of 
disturbance you'll see the biggest bunch of trouble headed your way!" "It's 
all right, Mr. Sparling. We admit we've been done." And that was the end 
of it. Mr. Sparling's lawyer visited the town where the disturbance had 
occurred on the previous day, and at his client's direction made a 
settlement that should have been wholly satisfactory to the injured parties. 
Ordinarily the showman would not have settled the case, in view of the 
fact that neither he nor any of his employees was directly responsible for 
the series of disasters. He did it almost wholly on account of Phil Forrest, 
who had asked him to. "Well, young man, I've paid the bills," announced 
Mr. Sparling that afternoon before the evening performance. "Thank you," 
glowed Phil. "Stop that! If there's any thanks in it, they're coming to you. 
Between you and the elephant we'll have another turn-away today. You 
have already put a good bit of money in my pocket, and I'm not forgetting 
it. I have made definite arrangements for you and your chum to have a 
berth in a closed wagon after this. You will be good enough to offer no 
objections this time. What I say goes." "I hope I did not do anything 
wrong in taking Emperor away. I'm afraid my conscience has troubled me 
ever since. But I didn't intend to do anything wrong or to cause any 
further damage than already had been done." "You did perfectly right, 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

Forrest. That was a stroke of genius. As for damage, I tell you I have 
settled all of that. One of these days you come in when I'm not busy and 
we'll talk about next season. I want you to stay with me." Phil left his 
employer, the lad's face flushed and his eyes sparkling. Altogether, he was 
a very happy boy. The only real cloud that had darkened his horizon was 
that anyone should feel such an enmity toward him as to desire to take his 
life; or, at least, to cause him so serious an injury as to put an end to the 
career that now seemed so promising. "I know why, of course," mused the 
lad. "It was jealousy. I am more sure than ever as to the identity of the 
man who did it. When I get a good opportunity I am going to face him 
with it. I'm not afraid of the man. As it is, he might try it again; but if he 
understands that I know he will not dare try it, fearing I may have told 
someone else." Having come to this wise conclusion, Phil proceeded to the 
big top, where he and Teddy Tucker were to take their afternoon practice 
on the flying rings, pausing on the way to pass a handful of peanuts to 
Emperor, who was again in his place, and give the elephant's trainer a 
happy nod. "I've noticed of late that Signor Navaro acts rather grouchy 
over you boys working on his apparatus. You want to look out for these 
foreigners. Some of them are revengeful," cautioned Mr. Miaco. Signor 
Navaro was the leading performer in the flying-rings act. With him was 
his young son, Rodney Palmer and a young girl performer, whose father 
was a clown in the show. Phil shot a sharp glance at Mr. Miaco, then 
dropped his eyes. "I guess nobody would be jealous of me," laughed the 
lad. "I'm only a beginner, and a clumsy one at that. All I can do is to ride 
an elephant and fall off, nearly killing myself." "Nevertheless, you take 
my advice." "I will, thank you." The boys began their work after putting 
on their working clothes, consisting of old silk undershirts and linen trunks. 
This left them free for the full play of their muscles, which, by this time, 
were of exceptionally fine quality. Not big and bunchy, but like thin 
bands of pliable steel. Both Phil and Teddy appeared to have grown half 
a head taller since they joined out with the circus. "Put a little more finish 
in that cutoff movement," directed their instructor. "The way you do it, 
Teddy, you remind me of a man trying to kick out a window. There, 
that's better." And so it went on. Days came and went and the steady 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

practice of the two circus boys continued, but if Mr. Sparling knew what 
they were doing he made no reference to it. He probably did know, for 
little went on in the Sparling Combined Shows that he was not aware of. 
Nothing out of the routine occurred, until, late in the season, they pitched 
their tents in Canton, Ohio, when something happened that brought to a 
climax the certainty of the careers of the circus boys. All day long the 
clouds had been threatening. But, though keen eyes were watching the 
scudding clouds, no apprehension was felt, as it was believed to be but a 
passing thunderstorm that was coming up. The storm did not break until 
late in the afternoon when the show was more than half over. Phil had 
made his grand entry on Emperor, and Teddy had nearly sent the 
spectators into hysterics by his funny antics on the back of Jumbo, the 
educated mule. All at once the circus men glanced aloft as the shrill 
whistle of the boss canvasman trilled somewhere outside the big top. The 
audience, if they heard, gave no heed. They were too much interested in 
the show. To the showmen the whistle meant that the emergency gang was 
being summoned in haste to stake down emergency ropes to protect the 
tent from a windstorm that was coming up. Phil took a quick survey of the 
upper part of the tent. Two acts were just beginning up there. A trapeze 
act was on, and the four performers were swinging out on the flying rings. 
Both sets of performers were in rather perilous positions were the wind to 
blow very hard, as Phil well understood. He stepped off until he found a 
quarter pole at his back against which he leaned that he might watch the 
better the lofty performers. All at once there was a blast against the big top 
that sounded as if a great blow had been delivered. The audience half 
rose. The tent shook from end to end. "Sit down!" bellowed the ringmaster. 
"It's only a puff of wind." Before the words were out of his mouth a 
piercing scream roused the audience almost to the verge of panic. Phil, 
whose attention had been drawn to the people for the moment, shot a swift 
glance up into the somber haze of the peak of the big top. Something had 
happened. But what? "They're falling!" he gasped. The blow had 
loosened nearly every bit of the aerial apparatus under the circus tent. 
"There go the trapeze performers!" Down they came, landing with a 
whack in the net with their apparatus tumbling after them. But they were 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

out of the net in a twinkling, none the worse for their accident. Almost at 
the same moment there were other screams. "There go the rings!" There 
was no net under the flying ring performers. Two of them shot toward 
the ground. When they struck, one was on top of the other. The man at 
the bottom was Signor Navaro, his son having fallen prone across him. 
The two other performers in the act had grabbed a rope and saved 
themselves. Men picked the two fallen performers up hastily and bore 
them to the dressing tent, where Phil hastened the moment he was sure 
that all danger of a panic had passed. The gust of wind had driven the 
clouds away and the sun flashed out brilliantly. A moment later the 
performance was going on with a rush, the band playing a lively tune. Phil, 
when he reached the dressing tent, learned that Signor Navaro was 
seriously hurt, though his son was suffering merely from shock. The 
father had sustained several broken bones. Phil approached the injured 
performer and leaned over him. The man was conscious. "I'm sorry, very 
sorry, sir," breathed the boy sympathetically. "You needn't be. You'll get 
what you want," murmured the circus man. "I don't understand," wondered 
Phil. "You'll get my act." "Is that what you think I have been working 
for?" Signor Navaro nodded. "You are mistaken. Of course, if you are 
not able to perform any more this season I shall try to get it, but when you 
are able to go to work I shall give it up willingly, even if I succeed in 
getting it during that time. Is that why you played that trick on me?" 
demanded the lad. "You know?" questioned Signor Navaro, with a start. 
Phil gave a slight nod. "Why did you put the file in my trunk--the file you 
cut the wire with?" "I thought I dropped it in my own trunk. Somebody 
surprised me and I was afraid they would catch me with it in my hand and 
suspect." "That's what I thought." "You are sharp. And you told no one?" 
"No. But I had made up my mind to tell you. I didn't think it would 
have to be this way, though. I'm sorry it is." "Well, I have my 
punishment. It served me right. I was crazed with jealousy. I--how is 
the boy?" "Not badly hurt, I believe. He will be all right in a few days, 
and I hope you will be able to join out in a short time." Signor Navaro 
extended a feeble hand, which Phil pressed softly. "Forgive me, boy. 
Will you?" "Yes," whispered Phil. "And you will tell no--" "There is 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

nothing to tell, Signor Navaro. If there is anything I can do for you, tell 
me, and I shall have great happiness in doing it," breathed the lad. A final 
grip of the hands of the boy and the injured performer followed, after 
which Phil Forrest stepped back to make way for the surgeon, who had 
hurried to a wagon to fetch his case. 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 



"You see, an accident always casts a cloud over a show and makes the 
performers uncertain," said Mr. Miaco that night as he and Phil were 
watching the performance from the end of the band platform. "I should 
think it would," mused the boy. Soon after that Phil went to his wagon and 
turned in, his mind still on Signor Navaro, who had been taken to a 
hospital, where he was destined to remain for many weeks. "I guess it 
doesn't pay, in the long run, to be dishonorable," mused the lad as he was 
dropping off to sleep. The next morning Phil was up bright and early, very 
much refreshed after a good night's rest between his blankets in the 
comfortable sleeping wagon. Teddy, however, declared that he didn't like 
it. He said he preferred to sleep on a pile of canvas in the open air, even if 
he did get wet once in a while. Later in the morning, after Mr. Sparling 
had had time to dispose of his usual rush of morning business, which 
consisted of hearing reports from his heads of departments, and giving his 
orders for the day, Phil sought out his employer in the little dog tent. "I'm 
very sorry about the accident, Mr. Sparling," greeted Phil. "Yes; it ties up 
one act. It will be some days before I can get another team in to take it 
up, and here we are just beginning to play the big towns. I have been 
trying to figure out if there was not someone in the show who could 
double in that act and get away with it," mused the showman. "How'd 
you sleep?" "Fine. Is there no one you can think of who could fill the bill, 
Mr. Sparling?" "No; that's the rub. You know of anyone?" "How about 
myself." "What?" Mr. Sparling surveyed the lad in surprised inquiry. "I 
think I can make a pretty fair showing on the rings. Of course, if Signor 
Navaro gets well and comes back, I shall be glad to give the act back to 
him. I know something about the flying rings." "Young man, is there 
anything in this show that you can't do?" demanded Mr. Sparling, with an 
attempt at sternness. "A great many things, sir. Then, again, there are 
some others that I have confidence enough in myself to believe I can do. 
You see, I have been practicing on the rings ever since I joined out." "But 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

you are only one. We shall need two performers," objected the owner. 
"Teddy Tucker has been working with me. He is fully as good on the 
flying rings as I am, if not better." "H-m-m-m!" mused the showman. 
"Come over to the big top and let's see what you really can do," he said, 
starting up. Phil ran in search of Teddy and in a few minutes the two boys 
appeared in the arena, ready for the rehearsal. Mr. Miaco, who had been 
called on and informed of the news, accompanied them. It was he who 
hauled the boys up to the rings far up toward the top of the tent. "Get a net 
under there! We don't want to lose any more performers this season," the 
clown commanded. After some little delay the net was spread and the 
showman motioned for the performance to proceed, walking over and 
taking his seat on the boards so that he might watch the performance from 
the viewpoint of the audience. With the utmost confidence the boys went 
through the act without a slip. They did everything that Signor Navaro 
had done in his performance, adding some clever feats of their own that 
had been devised with the help of Mr. Miaco. Mr. Sparling looked on 
with twinkling eyes and frequent nods of approval. "Fine! Fine! One 
of the best flying-ring acts I ever saw," he shouted, when finally the lads 
rounded out their act by a series of rapid evolutions commonly known as 
"skinning the cat." Even in this their act was attended with variations. 
The boys concluded by a graceful drop into the net, from which they 
bounded into the air, swung themselves to the ground, each throwing a 
kiss to the grinning manager. A number of performers who had been a 
witness to the performance clapped their hands and shouted "bravo!" Mr. 
Sparling called the lads to him. "The act is yours," he said. "It is better 
than Navaro's. Each of you will draw twenty five dollars a week for the 
rest of the season," he announced to the proud circus boys, who thereupon 
ran to the dressing tent to take a quick bath and get into their costumes 
ready for the parade. "See to it that they have the net spread, Mr. Ducro," 
he directed. "Never permit them to perform without it." That afternoon the 
boys made their first appearance in the flying-ring exhibition, and their act 
really proved a sensation. Mr. Sparling, who was observing it from the 
side, kept his head bobbing with nods of approval and muttered comments. 
After the show Phil suggested that thereafter Teddy be allowed to use a 


The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings 

clown makeup, because his funny antics in the air were more fitted to the 
character of a clown than to that of a finished performer. To this the owner 
readily agreed, and that night they tried it with tremendous success. The 
days that followed were bright ones for the circus boys. Each day seemed 
an improvement over the previous one. The season drew rapidly to a 
close and they looked forward to the day with keen regret. One day Mr. 
Sparling summoned them to his tent. "Are you boys ready to sign up for 
next season?" he asked. "I should like to," answered Phil. "This will be a 
railroad show next season, the third largest show on the road, and I want 
you both." "Thank you; I shall join gladly." "So will I," chorused Teddy. 
"Your salaries will be fifty dollars a week next season. And if you wish a 
vaudeville engagement for the winter I think I shall be able to get one for 
you." "We are going to school, Mr. Sparling. Teddy and I will be hard at 
work over our books next week. But we are going to keep up our 
practice all winter and perhaps we may have some new acts to surprise 
you with in the spring," laughed Phil, his face aglow with happiness. A 
week later found the lads back in Edmeston, bronzed, healthy, manly and 
admired by all who saw them. Phil had nearly four hundred dollars in 
the bank, while Teddy had about one hundred less. Phil's first duty after 
greeting Mrs. Cahill was to call on his uncle, who begrudgingly allowed 
his nephew to shake hands with him. Next day the circus boys dropped 
into their old routine life and applied themselves to their studies, at the 
same time looking forward to the day when the grass should grow green 
again and the little red wagons roll out for their summer journeyings. Here 
we will leave them. But Phil and his companion will be heard from 
again in a following volume, to be published immediately, entitled, "THE 
on the Tanbark." In this volume their thrilling adventures under the 
billowing canvas are to be continued, leading them on to greater triumphs 
and successes. 



<<The Circus Boys on the Flying Rings>> 〔完〕


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