Chapter XXII. What Happened to a Pacemaker
 

"Find out how that car came to tumble off," were the first words Phil uttered after they had restored him to consciousness.

Teddy, however, was bemoaning the loss of the sandwich that he had bought but had not eaten.

"The accident shall be investigated by me personally before this section leaves the yard," said Mr. Sparling. "I am glad you suggested it, Phil. How do you feel?"

"I am all right. Did somebody pull me out?"

"Yes, Teddy did. You are a pair of brave boys. I guess this outfit knows now the stuff you two are made of, if it never did before," glowed Mr. Sparling.

"How many were killed?"

"None. The head steward has a broken leg, one waiter a few ribs smashed in, and another has lost a finger. I reckon the railroad will have a nice bill of damages to pay for this night's work. Were you in the car when it occurred?"

"Yes. They had been handling it rather roughly. We spoke of it at the time. We were moving down the yard when suddenly one end seemed to drop right off the track as if we had come to the end of it."

Mr. Sparling nodded.

"I'll go into it with the railroad people at once. You two get into your berths. Can you walk?"

"Oh, yes."

"How about you, Tucker,"

"I can creep all right. I learned to do that when I was in long pants."

"I guess you mean long dresses," answered the showman.

"I guess I do."

The boys were helped to the sleeper, where they were put to bed. Phil had been slightly burned on one hand while Teddy got what he called "a free hair cut," meaning that his hair had been pretty well singed. Otherwise they were none the worse for their experiences, save for the slight cuts Phil had received by coming in contact with broken glass and some burns from the coffee boiler.

They were quite ready to go to sleep soon after being put to bed, neither awakening until they reached the next show town on the following morning.

When the two lads pulled themselves up in their berths the sun was well up, orders having been given not to disturb them.

"Almost seven o'clock, Teddy," cried Phil.

"Don't care if it's seventeen o'clock," growled Teddy. "Lemme sleep."

"All right, but you will miss your breakfast."

That word "breakfast" acted almost magically on Tucker. Instantly he landed in the middle of the aisle on all fours, and, straightening up, began groping sleepily for his clothes.

Phil laughed and chuckled.

"How do you feel, Teddy?"

"Like a roast pig being served on a platter in the cook tent. Do you need a net this morning?"

"No, I think not. I'm rather sore where I got cut, but I guess I am pretty fit otherwise."

After washing and dressing the lads set out across the fields for the lot, which they could see some distance to the west of the sidings, where their sleepers had been shifted. Both were hungry, for it is not an easy matter to spoil a boy's appetite. Railroad wrecks will not do it in every case, nor did they in this.

But, before the morning ended, the cook tent had seen more excitement than in many days--in fact more than at any time so far that season.

The moment Phil and Teddy strolled in, each bearing the marks of the wreck on face and head everybody, except the Legless Man, stood up. Three rousing cheers and a tiger for the Circus Boys, were given with a will, and then the lads found themselves the center of a throng of performers, roustabouts and freaks all of whom showered their congratulations on the boys for their heroism in saving other's lives at the risk of their own.

Little Dimples was not one whit behind the others. She praised them both, much to Phil's discomfiture and Teddy's pleasure.

"Teddy, you are a hero after all," she beamed.

"Me? Me a hero?" he questioned, pointing to himself.

"Yes, you. I always knew you would be if you had half a chance. Of course Phil had proved before that he was."

Teddy threw out his chest, thrusting both hands in his trousers pockets.

"Oh, I don't know. It wasn't so much. How'd you get out?"

"Your friend, Phil, here, is responsible for my not being in the freak class this morning. There's Mr. Sparling beckoning to you. I think he wants you both."

The boys walked over as soon as they could get away from the others. That morning they sat at the executive table with the owner of the show, his wife and the members of Mr. Sparling's staff.

For once Teddy went through a meal with great dignity, as befitted one who was in the hero class.

"What happened to cause the wreck last night?" asked Phil, turning to his host of the morning at the first opportunity.

"The car went off over a blind switch that had been opened."

"By whom?"

"Ah, that's the question."

"Perhaps one of the railroad men opened it by mistake," suggested Teddy. "Nobody else would have a key."

"You'll find no railroad man made that blunder," replied Phil.

"No! While the railroad is responsible for the damages, I hardly think they are for the wreck. No key was used to open the switch."

"No key?"

"No."

"How, then?"

"The lock was wrenched off with an iron bar and the switch wedged fast, so there could be no doubt about what would happen. It might have happened to some other car not belonging to us, though it was a pretty safe gamble that it would catch one of ours."

"I thought as much," nodded Phil. "But perhaps its just as well."

"What do you mean by that?" questioned the showman sharply.

"That the railroad folks will do what the police are too lazy to do."

"What?"

"Get after the fellow who did it," suggested Phil wisely.

"That's so! That's so! I hadn't thought of it in that light before. You've got a long head, my boy. You always have had, for that matter as long as I have known you, so it stands to reason that you must always have been that way."

Teddy, having finished his breakfast, excused himself and strolled off to another part of the tent where he might find more excitement. He sat down in his own place near the freak table and began talking shop with some of the performers, while Phil and Mr. Sparling continued their conversation.

"I haven't given up hopes of catching him myself, Mr. Sparling."

"You came pretty close to it Saturday night."

"And I wasn't so far from it last night either," laughed the boy. "Going to be able to save the accommodation car?"

"No, it's a hopeless wreck."

"You probably will not put on another this season then?"

"What would you suggest?"

"I should not think it would be advisable. Most of the people go downtown, anyway, to get their lunch after the show."

"Exactly. That's the way it appeared to me, but I wanted to get your point of view." It was not that the owner had not made up his mind, but that he wanted to get Phil Forrest's mind working from the point of view of the manager and owner of a circus, seeing in Phil, as he did, the making of a future great showman.

All at once their conversation was disturbed by a great uproar at the further end of the tent, near where Teddy sat.

Two midgets, arguing the question as to which of them was the Smallest Man in the World, had become so heated that they fell to pummeling each other with their tiny fists.

Instantly the tent was in confusion, and with one accord the performers and freaks gathered around to watch the miniature battle.

A waiter in his excitement, stepped in a woodchuck hole, spilling a bowl of steaming hot soup down the Fat Woman's neck.

"Help! Help! I'm on fire!" she shrieked.

Teddy, now that he had become a hero, felt called upon to hurry to the rescue. Seizing a pitcher of ice water, he leaped over a bench and dumped the contents of the pitcher over the head of the Fattest Woman on Earth. Several chunks of ice, along with a liberal quantity of the water, slid down her neck.

This was more than human flesh could stand. The Fat Woman staggered to her feet uttering a series of screams that might have been heard all over the lot, while those on the outside came rushing in to assist in what they believed to be a serious disturbance.

Mr. Sparling pushed his way through the crowd, roaring out command after command, but somehow, the ring about the Fat Woman and the fighting midgets did not give way readily. The show people were too much engrossed in the funny spectacle of the midgets to wish to be disturbed.

Not so Teddy Tucker.

Having quenched the fire that was consuming the Fat Woman, he pushed his way through the crowd, with the stern command, "Stand aside here!" and fell upon the Lilliputian gladiators.

"Break away!" roared Teddy, grasping each by the collar and giving him a violent tug.

What was his surprise when both the little men suddenly turned upon him and started pushing and beating him.

Taken unawares, Teddy began to back up, to the accompaniment of the jeers of the spectators.

The crowd howled its appreciation of the turn affairs had taken, Teddy steadily giving ground before the enraged Lilliputians.

As it chanced a washtub filled with pink lemonade that had been prepared for the thirsty crowds stood directly in the lad's path. If anyone observed it, he did not so inform Teddy.

All at once the Circus Boy sat down in the tub of pink lemonade with a loud splash, pink fluid spurting up in a veritable fountain over such parts of him as were not already in the tub.

Teddy howled for help, while the show people shrieked with delight, the lad in his efforts to get out of the tub, falling back each time, until finally rescued from his uncomfortable position by the owner of the show himself.

"That's what you get for meddling with other peoples' affairs," chided Phil, laughing immoderately as he observed the rueful countenance of his friend.

"If I hadn't meddled with you last night, you'd have been a dead one today," retorted the lad. "Anyway, I've made a loud splash this morning."