Chapter XIV. The Circus
 

News of the circus had spread from one end of Meadow Brook to the other. Every boy and girl in the place expected to get in to see the sights, and even some grown folks had made up their minds, from what they heard, there would be something interesting for them to see, and so they decided to go too.

Mrs. Bobbsey, Aunt Sarah, Dinah, and Martha had bought tickets for reserved seats (these cost ten cents each). Then Mildred Manners was going to bring her mother and her big sister, and Mabel Herold expected to have her mother with her also. Mr. Bobbsey was coming up from Lakeport purposely to see the circus, and Uncle Daniel had helped the boys put up the seats and fix things generally. A big tent had been borrowed from the Herolds; they were only out at Meadow Brook for the summer, and this tent was erected in the open field between the Bobbsey and the Mason farms, alongside the track where Tom had tried Sable.

The tent had large flaps that opened up the entire front, so that all the exhibits could be shown nicely to the people on the seats out side.

The seats were made of boards set on most anything that would hold them, with a few garden benches for reserved seats at the front.

Everything was ready, and the circus day came at last.

"Lucky it isn't raining," the boys declared as they rushed around putting the final touches to everything.

August Stout was appointed to collect the tickets, and Ned Prentice was to show the people to their seats.

Two o'clock!

Only one hour more!

Lots of children came early to get good seats. Roy Mason sat right in the front row alongside of Freddie. Nettie Prentice was on the very first bench back of the reserved seats. The Herolds came next, and had Aunt Sarah's front garden bench, the red one. Mildred Manners' folks paid ten cents each too, and they had the big green bench from the side porch.

"Give Mrs. Burns a front seat," Harry whispered to Ned, as the busy farmer's wife actually stopped her work to see what all the excitement was about.

The Bobbseys had come - Mr. Bobbsey and all, - and Dinah wore her best black bonnet.

"When will it begin?" Flossie asked, just trembling with excitement.

"I saw Harry and Bert go in the tent some time ago," whispered Nan; "and see, they are loosing the tent flap."

There was a shout of applause when Harry appeared. He actually wore a swallowtail coat and had on a choker - a very high collar - and a bright green tie. He wore long trousers too, and looked so queer even Aunt Sarah had to laugh when she saw him.

"Oh!" exclaimed all the children when they looked inside the tent.

"Isn't it grand!" whispered Flossie.

Then Bert stepped up on the soap box in the middle of the ring.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he began, making a profound bow, "ladies and gentlemen."

Then everybody roared laughing.

Bert had to wait until they got through laughing at his funny costume, which was a good deal like Harry's, only the latter wore a red tie. I

In a few moments Bert went on again.

"Ladies and gentlemen! Our first number is Frisky, the Sacred Calf of India!" he exclaimed, imitating that queer-voiced man called a "Barker" and used at circuses.

Snap! snap! went Bert's whip, and out from a side place, back of a big screen, came Jack Hopkins dressed like a real clown, leading our old friend Frisky, the runaway calf.

How awfully funny it was!

The calf had over him a plush portiere that reached clear down to the ground, and over each ear was tied a long-handled feather duster!

Such laughing and clapping as greeted this "first number"!

Frisky just turned around square in front and looked the people straight in the face. This funny move made Mr. Bobbsey "die laughing," as Flossie said, and Uncle Daniel too was hilarious.

"The sacred calf is too sacred to smile," laughed Uncle Daniel, while Dinah and Martha just roared.

The children didn't think they ought to laugh out loud and spoil the show; even Freddie raised his finger to Dinah.

Suddenly the clown jumped on the calf's back. He tried to stand on his head. Then he turned a somersault on to the sawdust.

Everybody clapped hard now, and the children began to shout.

But Bert snapped his whip and the clown went down on his hands and knees to apologize. Of course clowns are not supposed to speak, so Jack did everything by pantomime.

Next he came around and kissed Frisky. This made everybody roar again, and no matter what the clown did it certainly looked very funny.

Finally Bert snapped his whip three times, and the clown jumped on Frisky's back, over the plush curtain and all, and rode off.

"Wasn't that splendid!" everybody exclaimed.

"I really never enjoyed a big circus more than this!" remarked Mrs. Bobbsey to Mrs. Burns. The others all said nice things too; and then Bert announced the next turn.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he began again, "our next number will introduce to you the famous wildcats, Snoop and Fluffy. Real wildcats from the jungle, and this is the first - time - they - have ever been exhibited in - this country!"

Snap went the whip, and out came Harry with our little kitten friends one on each arm.

He whistled, and Snoop climbed on his shoulder!

He whistled again, and Fluffy climbed on the other shoulder.

This "brought the house down," as Uncle Daniel said, and there was so much noise the kittens looked frightened.

Next Harry stretched out both arms straight and the kittens carefully walked over into his hands.

"Well, I declare!" exclaimed Dinah. "Jest see dat Snoopy kitty-cat! If he can't do real reg'lar circus tricks! And jest to think how he cut up on de cars! 'Pears like as if he was doin' it fer jokes den too!"

"And look at Fluffy!" exclaimed Martha; "as white as Snoop is black!" Harry stooped down and let the kittens jump through his hands, which is an old but none the less a very pretty trick.

With the air of a real master, Bert snapped his whip and placed on the table a little piece of board. He rubbed something on each end (it was a bit of dried herring, but the people didn't know that), then Harry put Snoop on one end and Fluffy on the other.

"Oh, a teeter-tauter!" called Freddie, unable to restrain his joy any longer. "I bet on Snoop. He's the heaviest."

At the sound of Freddie's voice Snoop turned around and the move sent Fluffy up the air.

"Oh! oh! oh!" came a chorus from the children, but before anybody in the circus had time to interfere off went Fluffy, as hard as she could run, over the lots, home.

The next minute Snoop was after her, and Harry stood alone in the ring bowing to the "tremendous applause."

When the laughing had ceased Bert made the next announcement.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "we will now introduce our famous menagerie. First we have the singing mice."

"They're mine!" called Freddie, but Nan insisted on him keeping quiet.

"Now you will hear the mice sing," said Bert, and as he held up the cage of little mice somebody whistled a funny tune back of the scenes.

"Good! good!" called Mr. Bobbsey. "We've got real talent here," he added, for indeed the boys had put together a fine show.

"Now you see our aquarium," went on Bert as Harry helped him bring forward the table that held the glass tank.

"Here we have a real sea serpent," he said, pointing to a good fat chub that flopped around in the water.

"Let the little ones walk right up and see them," Bert said. "Form in line and pass in this way."

Not only the children went up, but grown folks too, for they wanted a look into the tank.

"Now here are our alligators and crocodiles," announced Bert, pointing his whip at the turtles.

"And these are sea-lions," he said, pointing out Freddie's hop-toads.

At each announcement everybody laughed, but Bert went on as seriously as if he were deaf.

"In this separate tank," he declared, "we have our boa-constrictors, the largest and fiercest in the world. This is the first time one of this specimen has ever been captured alive. Note the dangerous stripe on his back!"

It was Jack's snakes that came in for this description, and the girls were quite afraid of them, although they were in a glass jar.

"Well, I declare!" said Mrs. Burns. "If this isn't a sure-enough circus. I often paid a half-dollar when I went to see things no better than these!"

Everybody thought everything was splendid, and the boys were well paid for their efforts.

"Now," said Bert, "here are our crystal fish from the deep sea!" (These were Tom's goldfish.) "You will notice how bespangled they are. They say this comes from the fish eating the diamonds lost in shipwrecks."

"What a whopper!" called someone back of the scenes whose voice sounded like Torn Mason's.

Snap! went Bert's whip, and the boys did not interrupt him again.

"The last part of our menagerie is the cage of prize butterflies," said Bert. "These butterflies are rare and scarce and - "

"Hard to catch!" remarked someone not on the programme.

"Now there will be ten minutes' intermission," the announcer said, "so all may have time to see everything in the menagerie.

"After that we will give you the best number of the programme, our chariot race."

"Oh, that's going to be Tom!" exclaimed Roy.

"No, it's Bert," said Flossie.

"Well, Jack has our goat-wagon," said Mildred.

"I guess there'll be a whole lot in the race," said Freddie, "and maybe they'll have firemen."

During the intermission August sold a whole big basket of peanuts, and the people wanted more. They knew all the money was to go to the fresh-air camp, which was probably the reason they bought so generously.

"I don't know when I have enjoyed myself so much," declared Mrs. Manners, fanning herself. "I had no idea boys could be so clever."

"That's because you only have girls," laughed Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Don't you think we ought to give them a treat for working so hard?" whispered Mrs. Herold to Aunt Sarah. "I would be delighted to have them all to dinner," she added, in her society way, for the Herolds were quite rich.

"That would be very nice, I'm sure," Aunt Sarah replied; "boys always have good appetites after having a lot of fun."

All this time there was plenty of noise back of the scenes, and it was evident something big was being prepared.

Presently Bert and Harry came out and lowered tile tent flap, first making sure all the little sightseers were outside.

"They're comin'!" exclaimed Freddie, clapping his fat hands.

"Oh, I'm just so nervous!" whispered Flossie! "I hope none of the animals will get loose."

"Now, ladies and gentlemen," called Tom Mason, appearing at the tent, "if you will just turn round the other way in your seats and face that ring we will give you an exhibition of cowboy life on the plains!"