Peter T. Harkness.

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up on condition that he got me a place there. He wrote to his brother,
and I'm his assistant. On my way to Baltimore now. The show is on its
way through Delaware."

"Wait here a minute," spoke Andy, and he went back to his friends.

Andy told them of meeting Luke, and the whereabouts of the Big Show.
Just then the conductor came into the car, and they had to make a
rapid decision.

"Let us get to Baltimore, anyway," suggested the clown. "It's nearer
home - and my wife."

Andy paid their fares. Miss Starr briefly told the conductor of their
mishaps at Lacon. Her eloquent, sympathetic eyes won Midget a free ride.

Andy got pillows for his three friends, and some coffee and pie from the
adjoining buffet car.

He saw them comfortably disposed of for the night; and then went back to
Luke.

They sat down close together, two pleased, jolly friends. Andy
interested Luke immensely by reciting his vivid experiences since they
had parted.

"By the way, Luke," he observed at last, "there's something I missed
hearing from you at Tipton. Remember?"

"Let's see," said Luke musingly. "Oh, yes - you mean about your being an
heir?"

"That's it."

Luke became animated at once.

"I've often thought about that," he said. "You know I was all struck of
a heap when you first told me your name!"

"Yes."

"And asked if you was Andy Wildwood, the heir? Do you remember?"

"Exactly."

"Well, it was funny, but early on the day I came to the circus I was
tramping it along a creek. About three miles out of town I should think,
I lay down to rest among some bushes. Ten minutes after I'd got there a
boat rowed by some persons came along. They beached it right alongside
the brush. Then one of them, a boy, lifted a mail bag from the bottom of
the skiff."

"A mail bag - - a boy?" repeated Andy, with a start of intelligence. "Did
you hear his name?"

"Yes, in a talk that followed. The man with him called him Jim."

"Jim Tapp," murmured Andy.

"He called the man Murdock."

"I thought so," Andy said to himself. "They put up that mail robbery."

"They cut open the bag and took out a lot of letters," continued Luke.
"A few of them had money in them. This they pocketed, tearing up the
letters and throwing them into the creek. There was one letter the boy
kept. He read it over and over. When they had got through with the
letters, he said to the man that it was funny."

"What was funny?" asked Andy.

"Why, he said there was a letter putting him on to 'a big spec.,' as he
called it. He said the letter told about a secret, about a fortune the
writer had discovered. He said the letter was to a boy who would never
know his good luck if they didn't tell him. He said to the man there was
something to think over. He chuckled as he bragged how they would make a
big stake juggling the fortune of the heir, Andy Wildwood."

"I don't understand it at all," said Andy, "but it is a singular story,
for a fact."

"Well, that's all I know about it. The minute I heard your name, of
course I recalled where I had heard it before."

"Of course," nodded Andy thoughtfully.

After that the conversation lagged. Luke soon fell asleep. For over two
hours, however, Andy kept trying to figure out how he could possibly be
an heir, who had written the letter, and to whom it had been addressed.

The next day they arrived at Baltimore. A morning paper contained a
dispatch from Lacon.

The circus men had nearly killed half-a-dozen of the mob of roughs. The
police had restored order, but fire and riot had put the show out
of business.

Miss Starr wired to the town in Delaware where the Big Show was playing.
Luke had gone on to join it. By noon she received a satisfactory reply.
Then she telegraphed to Lacon about their traps, directing the manager
where to send them.

That evening, after a long talk over their prospects, the four refugees
took the train for Dover.

The next morning Miss Starr, Billy, Midget and Andy went to the
headquarters of The Biggest Show on Earth.

Andy had a chance to inspect it while waiting for Bob Sanderson, the
assistant manager, who was a distant relative of Miss Stella Starr.

Its mammoth proportions fairly staggered him. Its details were
bewildering in their system and perfection. Alongside of it, the circus
he had recently belonged to was merely a side show.

Sanderson was a brisk, business-like fellow. He soon settled on an
engagement for Miss Starr and Billy and Midget for the rest of
the season.

"I don't think I can use the boy, though," he said, glancing at Andy.

"Then you can't have us," said the equestrienne promptly. "Bob, you and
I are old friends, but not better ones than myself and Andy Wildwood. He
stood by us through thick and thin, he makes a good showing in the ring.
Why, before the Benares Brothers left us, they were training him for one
of the best acts ever done on the trapeze."

"Is that so?" spoke Sanderson, looking interested. "The Benares Brothers
joined us only last week. Here, give me five minutes."

"Miss Starr, you mustn't let me stand in your way of a good engagement,"
said Andy, as the assistant manager left the tent.

"It's the four of us, or none," asserted the determined little lady.

Sanderson came bustling in at the end of five minutes.

"All right," he announced brusquely, "I'll take the boy on."

"You'll never regret it," declared Stella Starr positively.


CHAPTER XXXI

CONCLUSION


"Bravo!"

"Clever!"

Amid deafening applause, old Benares and Thacher retired from the
sawdust ring, bowing profusely with a deep sense of pride and
satisfaction.

Between them, hands joined in the group of three, Andy Wildwood imitated
their graceful acknowledgment of the plaudits of the vast concourse in
the great metropolitan amphitheatre.

"Wildwood," declared Thacher, as they backed towards the performers'
room, "you've made a hit."

"It is so!" cried old Benares, with sparkling eyes. "We are a three
now - The Three Benares Brothers."

Andy was dizzy with exultation and delight. It was the first night of
the Biggest Show on Earth in New York City.

For a week he had been in training for the fantastic trapeze act which
had won thunders of approbation.

The Benares Brothers had appeared in the amphitheatre dome on a double
trapeze.

After several clever specialties, the ringmaster suddenly stepped
forward. He lifted his hand. The orchestra stopped playing.

Raising a pistol, the ringmaster directed it aloft. Bang! Crash! went
the orchestra, and from a box suspended over the trapezes the bottom
suddenly dropped out.

Following, an agile youthful form shot down through space. Quick as
lightning the Benares Brothers swung by their feet, joined hands in
mid-air, and the descending form - Andy Wildwood - catching at the wrists
of Thacher, was swung back in a twenty foot circle. Crash! again the
orchestra. Andy was flung through space across to old Benares, a
plaything in mid-air, Benares catching at the feet of Thacher, Andy
tailing on in a graceful descent, thrilling the delighted audience.

The act was not so difficult, but it was neat, rapid, unique. Andy
Wildwood felt that at last he was a full-fledged acrobat.

The manager came back to compliment him. Billy Blow looked delighted.
Miss Stella Starr said:

"Andy, we are all proud of you."

The next morning's papers gave him special notice. Luke Belding
whispered to him to demand double salary.

Andy walked from his boarding house the next morning feeling certain
that he had made very substantial progress during his sixty days of
circus life.

He was passing a row of houses on a side street when a cab drove up to
the curb. Andy casually glanced at the passenger as he crossed the
sidewalk. Then he gave a great start.

"It can't be!" he ejaculated. Then he added instantly: "Yes, I'd know
him among a thousand - Sim Dewey."

The man entered an open doorway, and Andy ran after him. He heard the
fellow ascend a pair of stairs and knock at a door.

"Oh, good morning, Mr. Vernon."

"Gracious!" exclaimed Andy - "Aunt Lavinia!"

Here was a stirring situation. There could be no mistake. Despite a
false moustache and a pair of dark eyeglasses, Andy had recognized the
defaulting cashier of the disbanded circus. Beyond dispute he had
recognized the welcoming tones above as belonging to his aunt, Miss
Lavinia Talcott.

"It's like dreaming," mused Andy. "All this happening together, and here
in New York City! Why, what ever brought Aunt Lavinia here? Where did
she ever get acquainted with that scamp?"

Andy felt that he had an urgent duty to perform. Here was a mystery to
explore, a villain to capture.

He went softly up the stairs. The place was a respectable boarding
house, he concluded. Stealing softly past a door, he went half-way up a
second pair of stairs.

Not five feet away from an open transom, Andy could now look into a room
containing three persons.

A motherly, dignified old woman sat in a big arm chair. Near her was
Andy's aunt, smiling and simpering up at Dewey. The latter, dressed "to
kill," was bowing like a French dancing master.

Dewey sat down. The chaperone, who seemed to be the landlady, did not
engage in a brief conversation that ensued within the room.

At its conclusion Andy saw his aunt hand Dewey a folded piece of paper.
The defaulting circus cashier gallantly bowed over her extended hand and
came out of the room.

"Hold on, Mr. Sim Dewey," spoke Andy, down the stairs in a flash, and
seizing Dewey's arm on the landing.

"Eh? Hello - Wildwood!"

"Yes, it's me," said Andy. "A word with you, sir, as to what business
you have with my aunt. Then - the stolen eleven thousand dollars, if
you please."

Dewey had turned deadly white. He glared desperately at Andy, and tried
to wrench his arm free.

"Shall I arouse the street?" demanded Andy sternly. "It's jail for
you - "

Crack! The treacherous Dewey had slipped one hand behind him. He had
drawn a slung shot from his pocket. It struck Andy's head, and he went
down with a sense of sickening giddiness.

"Stop him!" shouted Andy, half-blinded, crawling across the landing.

Dewey made a leap of four steps at a time.

"Out of my way!" he yelled at some obstacle.

"Hold on, mister!"

Andy arose to his feet with difficulty. He clung to the banister,
descending the stairs as a frightful clatter rang out.

A boy about his own age, coming up the stairs, had collided with Dewey.
Both tripped up and rolled to the front entry.

The boy got up, unhurt. Dewey, groaning, half-arose, fell back, and lay
prostrate, one limb bent up under him.

Andy was still weak and dizzy-headed, but he acted promptly for the
occasion.

He saw that Dewey had broken a limb, and was practically helpless. He
glanced out at the driver of the cab. He was an honest-faced old fellow.
Andy ran out to him and spoke a few quick words.

With Dewey writhing, moaning and resisting, this man, Andy and the
strange boy carried him to the cab. Andy directed the boy to get up with
the driver, He got inside the cab with Dewey.

A hysterical shriek rang out at the street doorway. Andy saw his aunt
wildly wringing her hands. The maiden lady was held back from pursuing
the cab by the landlady.

Within ten minutes the cab delivered Dewey at a police station, and Andy
told his story to the precinct captain.

They found in a secret pocket on the defaulting cashier certificates of
deposit to the amount of ten thousand dollars, issued in a false name.
The amount was a part of the stolen circus funds.

In another pocket was discovered a draft for three thousand dollars,
made over to the same false name by Miss Lavinia Talcott on the bank
at Fairview.

The police at once locked the prisoner up in a cell, sent for a surgeon,
and asked Andy to telegraph to Mr. Giles Harding, the circus owner,
at once.

When Andy came out of the police station, he found the boy who had
assisted him waiting for him.

He was a bright-faced, pleasant-mannered lad, but his appearance
suggested hard luck.

Andy gave him a dollar, and got his name. It was Mark Hadley. Andy was
at once interested when the boy told him that his dead father had been a
professional sleight-of-hand man in the west.

Mark Hadley had come to New York on the track of an old circus friend of
his father. This man, it turned out, was a relative of Dewey,
masquerading now under the name of Vernon.

The man had told him that Dewey could help him out. He did not know
where Dewey was living, but understood he was about to marry a lady
living at the boarding house where Mark had gone, to meet the fellow in
a most sensational manner, indeed.

Andy invited Mark to call upon him later in the day, gave the youth his
present address, and proceeded back to the boarding house to find
his aunt.

The hour that followed was one of the strangest in Andy's life.

There were reproaches, threats, cajolings, until Andy found out the true
state of affairs.

It was only after he had proven to his humiliated and chagrined aunt
that Dewey was a villain, that Miss Lavinia broke down and confessed
that she had been a silly, sentimental woman.

It seemed that the letter Jim Tapp and Murdock had secured was from Mr.
Graham, back at Fairview.

Graham had discovered in a secret bottom of the box Andy had left with
him, a paper referring to a patent of Andy's father.

As time had brought about, this paper entitled the heirs of the old
inventor to quite large royalties on a new electrical device which had
come into practical use after Mr. Wildwood's death.

The plotters had gone at once to Miss Lavinia. Her cupidity was aroused.
She quieted her conscience by giving Andy ten dollars at Tipton, and
deciding to take charge of the royalty money "till he was of age."

This was her story, told amid contrite tears and shame as Andy proved to
her that Dewey was after her three thousand dollars, and would have
escaped with it only for his decisive action.

Murdock had introduced her to Dewey. The latter had pretended to be in
love with her, had promised to marry her, and that day had induced the
weak, silly old spinster to trust him with her little fortune.

"I have been a wicked woman!" Miss Lavinia declared. "I will make
amends, Andy. You shall have your rights. Come home with me."

"Not till my engagement is over, aunt," replied Andy, "and then only for
a visit, if you wish it. I love the circus life, and I seem to find just
as many chances there to be good and to do good as in any other
vocation."

Miss Lavinia was given back her three thousand dollars the next day, and
Sim Dewey was sent to prison on a long term.

Mr. Harding came on to the city the following day. He recovered all
except a trifle of the stolen circus money. That evening he sent a
sealed envelope by special messenger to Andy. It contained five one
hundred dollar bills - Andy's reward for capturing the embezzling
circus cashier.

The next afternoon Andy invited five of his special friends and several
of his acquaintances to a little dinner party.

Miss Starr, Billy Blow the clown, Midget, old Benares, Thacher, Luke
Belding and Mark Hadley were his guests of honor.

Andy had found a starting place in the circus for Mark, whose ambition
was to become a great magician.

They were a merry, friendly party. They jollied one another. They saw
nothing but sunshine in the sawdust pathway before them.

"You are a grand genius!" declared old Benares to Andy. "My friends, one
thought: in six weeks up from Andy the school boy, to Andy the acrobat."

"Hold on now, Mr. Benares," cried Andy, smilingly. "That was because of
my royal, good friends like you."

"And your own grit," said Marco. "You assuredly deserve your success."

And the other circus people agreed with Marco.

For the time being Andy heard nothing more of Tapp, Murdock and Daley.
The days passed pleasantly enough. He did his work faithfully,
constantly adding to his fame as an acrobat.

Between Andy and Luke Belding a warm friendship sprang up. Luke had much
to tell about himself. As time passed the lad who loved animals had many
adventures, but what these were I must reserve for another volume, to be
named, "Luke the Lion Tamer; or, On the Road with a Great Menagerie," In
that we shall not only follow brave-hearted Luke but also Andy, and see
what the future held in store for the boy acrobat.

"Andy, are you glad you joined the circus?" questioned Luke, one day,
after a particularly brilliant performance in the ring.

"Glad doesn't express it," was the quick answer. "Why, it seems to be
just what I was cut out for."

"I really believe you. You never make work of an act - like some of the
acrobats."

"It must be in my blood," said Andy, with a bright smile. "Anyway, I
expect to be Andy the Acrobat for a long while to come."

And he was.

THE END.




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Online LibraryPeter T. HarknessAndy the Acrobat → online text (page 11 of 11)