Chapter XV. Emperor to the Rescue
 

"Get back!" shouted the boy.

He had descried Teddy Tucker driving his own mount toward him. Teddy was coming to the rescue in the face of almost certain death.

"You can't make it! Go back!"

Whether or not Teddy heard and understood, did not matter, for at that moment the view of the plucky lad was shut off by the elephants forming their charging line into crescent shape.

"Emperor!" he called in a shrill penetrating voice. But in the dust of the charge he could not make out which one was Emperor, yet he continued calling lustily.

"Emperor!"

Phil threw his hands above his head as was his wont when desirous of having the old elephant pick him up.

Right across the center of the crescent careened a great hulking figure, uttering loud trumpetings--trumpetings that were taken up by his companions until the very ground seemed to shake.

Phil's back was half toward the big elephant, and in the noise he did not distinguish a familiar note in the call.

All at once he felt himself violently jerked from the ground. The lad was certain that his time had come. But out of that cloud of dust, in which those who looked, believed that the little Circus Boy had gone down to his death, Phil Forrest rose right up into the air and was dropped unharmed to the back of old Emperor.

For the moment he was so dizzy that he was unable to make up his mind what had happened or where he was. Then it all came to him. He was on Emperor's back.

"Hurrah!" shouted Phil. "Good old Emperor! Steady, steady, Emperor! That's a good fellow."

He patted the beast's head with the flat of his hand, crooned to him, using every artifice that he knew to quiet the nerves of his big friend.

Little by little Emperor appeared to come out of his fright, until the lad felt almost certain that the big beast would take orders. He tried the experiment.

"Left, Emperor!"

The elephant swerved sharply to the left, aided by a sharp tap of the riding crop which Phil still carried.

Phil uttered a little cry of exultation.

"Now, if I can head them off!"

With this in mind he gradually worked Emperor around until the herd had been led into a narrow street. Here, Phil began forcing his mount back and forth across the street in an effort to check the rush of the stampede, all the time calling out the command to slow down, which he had learned from Mr. Kennedy.

He was more successful than he had even dreamed he could be.

"Now, if I am not mistaken, that street beyond there leads out to the lot. I'll see if I can make them go that way."

All did save Jupiter, who charged straight ahead for some distance, then turning sharply tore back and joined his fellows.

"If I had a hook I believe I could lead him. He's a very bad elephant. I hope nobody has been killed."

It was more quiet in the street where Forrest now found himself, and by degrees the excitement that had taken possession of the huge beasts began to wear off.

Phil uttered his commands to them in short, confident tones, all the time drawing nearer and nearer to the circus lot.

Very soon the fluttering flags from the big top were seen above the intervening housetops.

"I'm going to win--oh, I hope I do!" breathed the Circus Boy.

With rapid strides, at times merging into a full run, the beasts tore along, now understanding that they were nearing their quarters, where safety and quiet would be assured.

And, beyond that, it was time for their dinners. Already bales of hay had been placed in front of their quarters, and the elephants knew it.

As the procession burst into the circus lot a dozen attendants started on a run toward them.

"Keep off!" shouted Phil. "Do you want to stampede them again? Keep away, I tell you and I'll get them home. Drive all the people out of the way in case the bulls make another break. That's all you can do now."

Now young Forrest urged Emperor to the head of the line of bobbing beasts, feeling sure that the others would follow him in now.

They did. The whole line of elephants swept in through the opening that the attendants had quickly made by letting down a section of the side walls of the menagerie tent, with Phil Forrest a proud and happy boy, perched on the head of old Emperor.

"Halt!"

He went at it with all the confidence and skill of a professional elephant trainer.

"Stations!"

Each beast walked to his regular place, a dozen sinuous trunks gathering up as many wisps of hay.

"Back up! Back, Jupiter!"

As docile as if they never had left the tent, each huge beast slowly felt his way into his corner.

"Good boy, Emperor!" glowed Phil holding out a small bag of peanuts, which Emperor quickly stowed away in his mouth bag and all.

"You greedy fellow! Now get back into your own corner!"

The elephant did so.

"You fellows keep away from here," warned Phil as the anxious tent men began crowding around him. "Don't let anybody get these big fellows excited. We've had trouble enough for one day."

Phil then began chaining down the beasts, his first care being to secure the unruly Jupiter. But Jupiter's fit of bad temper seemed to have left him entirely. He was as peaceful as could be, and, to show that he was good, he showered a lot of hay all over Phil.

"You bad, bad boy!" chided the lad. "All this is just because you let your temper get the best of you. I think perhaps Mr. Sparling may have something to say to you if anyone has been killed or seriously hurt. Oh, you want some peanuts, do you? I haven't any, but I'll get you some, though goodness knows you don't deserve any. Bring me some peanuts, will you please?"

An attendant came running with a bag of them. Phil met him halfway, not wishing the man to approach too near. With the bag in his hand the boy walked slowly down the line, giving to each of his charges a small handful.

This was the final act in subduing them. They were all thoroughly at home and perfectly contented now, and Phil had chained the last one down, except the baby elephant, that usually was left free to do as it pleased, providing it did not get too playful.

At this moment Phil heard a great shouting out on the lot.

"Go out there and stop that noise!" the boy commanded. He was as much in charge of the show at that moment as if he had been the proprietor himself.

Shortly after that Mr. Kennedy came rushing in on one of the circus ponies that he had taken from a parade rider. Phil was delighted to see that the keeper was uninjured.

"Did you do this, Phil Forrest?" he shouted bursting in.

"Yes. But I'll have to do it all over again if you keep on yelling like that. What happened to you?"

"Jupiter threw me over a fence, into an excavation where they were digging for a new building. I thought I was dead, but after a little I came to and crawled out. It was all over but the shouting then."

"Did you know I had them?"

"No; not until I got near the lot. I followed their tracks you see. Finally some people told me a kid was leading the herd back here. I knew that was you. Phil Forrest, you are a dandy. I can't talk now! I'm too winded. I'll tell you later on what I think of your kind. Now I'm going to whale the daylights out of that Jupiter."

"Please don't do anything of the sort," begged Phil. "He is quiet now. He has forgotten all about it. I am afraid if you try to punish him you will only make him worse."

"Good elephant sense," emphasized the keeper. "You ought to be on the animals."

"It seems to me that I have been pretty well on them today," grinned the lad. "Oh, was anybody killed?"

"I think not. Don't believe anyone was very seriously hurt. You see, that open lot there gave the people plenty of chance to see what was coming. They had plenty of time to get away after that."

"I'm so glad. I hope no one was killed."

"Reckon there would have been if you hadn't got busy when you did."

"Have you seen Mrs. Robinson? I'm rather anxious about her."

"There she is now."

Dimples had changed her torn white dress for a short riding skirt, and when Phil turned about she was running toward him with outstretched arms. He braced himself and blushed violently.

"Oh, you dear," cried the impulsive little equestrienne, throwing both arms about Phil's neck. "I wish my boy could have seen you do that! It was splendid. You're a hero! You'll see what a craze the people will make of you--"

"I--I think they are more likely to chase us out of town," laughed Phil. "We must have smashed up things pretty thoroughly downtown."

"Never mind; Mr. Sparling will settle the damage. The only trouble will be that he won't have anyone to scold. You saved the day, Phil, and you saved me as well. Of course I'm not much, but I value my precious little life just as highly as the next one--I mean the next person."

"The bay ran away with you, didn't he?"

"I suppose that's what some people would call it. It would have been a glorious ride if it hadn't been that I expected you were being trampled to death back there. The bay brought me right to the lot, then stopped, of course. Circus horses have a lot of sense. I heard right away that you were not injured and that you were bringing the bulls in. Then I was happy. I'm happy now. We'll have a lesson after the show. You--"

"When do you think I shall be fit to go in the ring?"

"Fit now! You're ahead of a good many who have been working at it for years, and I mean just what I'm saying. There is Mr. Sparling. Come on; run along back to the paddock with me. I haven't finished talking with you yet."

"Perhaps he may want me," hesitated Phil.

"Nothing very particular. He'll want to have it out with Mr. Kennedy first. Then, if he wants you, he can go back and hunt you up, or send for you. Mr. Sparling knows how to send for people when he wants them, doesn't he?" twinkled Dimples.

"I should say he did," grinned Phil. "He's not bashful. Has my friend Teddy got back yet?"

"Haven't seen him. Why? Worried about him?"

"Not particularly. He has a habit of taking care of himself under most circumstances."

Dimples laughed heartily.

"It will take more than a stampede to upset him. He'll make a showman if he ever settles down to the work in earnest."

"He has settled down, Mrs. Robinson," answered Phil with some dignity.

"My, my! But you needn't growl about it. I was paying him a compliment."

Thus she chattered on until they reached the paddock. They had been there but a few moments before the expected summons for Phil was brought.