Chapter XIII. The Dawning of a New Day
 

"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 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 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 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."

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 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.