Chapter X. The Circus Boy is Recognized
 

Giving the wrist of his prisoner a sharp twist, Phil snatched away the small handful of bills that the fellow had stolen, returning them to the woman.

By this time the thief had suddenly recovered his wits and sought to jerk his hand away, seeing that it was merely a boy who had grabbed him. To the surprise of the crook he found it was not an easy matter to free himself from that grip. After making several desperate efforts the fellow adopted other methods.

"Let go of me, I tell you. I'll have you put away for this."

"I'll let go of you when a policeman has hold of you, and not before," retorted Phil. "You are a thief. I saw you steal that woman's money."

The man suddenly uttered an angry exclamation and launched a blow at Phil's head, which the lad avoided, allowing it to pass over his shoulder.

"Hurry! Get a policeman! This man is a thief," urged Phil, as he closed with his antagonist.

"Thief! Thief," cried several voices at once. It was a cry that had been heard before about the Sully shows.

Phil had not struck back at his enemy. Instead the lad, by a skillful twist, had whirled the fellow about until his back was toward the boy. Then Phil suddenly let go his hold on the wrist, clasping the man around the body and pinioning his arms to his sides.

"You might as well stand still," said the lad coolly. "You can't get away until I permit you to, and that won't be until something that looks like a policeman comes along."

In the meantime the captive was struggling and threatening. All at once he raised his voice in a peculiar, wailing cry. The Circus Boy felt sure that it was some sort of a signal, though it was new to him. But he was not to be cowed.

"Police!" shouted Phil.

"Police!" cried many voices.

Half a dozen men came rushing into the crowd, thrusting the people aside as they ran, looking this way and that to learn from where the cry for assistance had come.

Phil's captive uttered a sharp cry, and the lad realized what was going to happen. At first he had thought it was the police coming, but he was undeceived the moment he caught his prisoner's appeal to them. The men dashed toward the two, and as they rushed in Phil whirled his man so that the latter collided violently with the newcomers. That checked the rush briefly. He knew, however, that he could not hope to stand off his assailants for more than a few seconds. Yet the lad calculated that in those few seconds the police might arrive. He did not know that they had been well bribed neither to see nor to hear what occurred on the circus grounds.

A moment more and the lad had been roughly jerked from his captive and hurled violently to the ground.

Phil sprang up full of fight while the angry fellows closed in on him. He saw that they were showmen. A sudden idea occurred to him.

"Hey, Rube!" he shouted at the top of his voice, hoping that the rest of the show people within reach of his voice might crowd in and in the confusion give him a chance to get away.

And they did crowd in. They came on like a company of soldiers, sweeping everything before them. Phil, in that brief instant, while he was sparring to keep his opponents off, found time to smile grimly.

The fellow he had first made captive now attacked Phil viciously, the lad defending himself as best he could, while the people who had come to attend the show got out of harm's way as rapidly as possible. Phil could hope for no assistance from that quarter.

"I guess I have gotten myself into a worse scrape by calling the rest of the gang," he muttered, noting that he was being surrounded as some of the first comers pointed him out to the others.

Suddenly they fell upon Phil with one accord. He was jerked this way and that, but succeeded pretty well in dodging the blows aimed at his head, though his clothes were torn and he was pretty badly used.

Suddenly a voice roared out close behind him.

"Stop it!"

Turning his head a little Phil recognized Sully, the owner of the show. Sully's face was redder than ever.

"What--what's all this row about? Haven't you fellows anything more important to do than raising a roughhouse? Get out of here, the whole bunch of you! What's he done? Turn him over to the police and go on about your business."

One of the men said something in a low tone to Sully. The showman shot a keen, inquiring glance at the lad.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"I don't know that it makes any difference. I saw a fellow robbing a woman, and it was my duty to stop him. I did it, then a lot of his companions, who, I suppose, belong to your show pitched into me."

"So, you are trying to run the whole show, are you?"

"I am not."

"Well, you get off this lot as fast as you can hoof it. If I find you butting in again it will be the worse for you."

"That's the fellow who was hanging around the lot at St. Catharines yesterday," spoke up someone.

"Yes; I remember now, he was asking me questions," said another, whose voice Phil recognized as belonging to the foreman of the stake and chain gang. "I got to thinking about it afterwards, and realized that he was a little too inquisitive for a greenhorn. He's been on the lot all day again."

Mr. Sully surveyed Phil with an ugly scowl.

"What are you doing around here, young man?"

"For one thing, I am trying to prevent one of your followers robbing a woman," answered Phil boldly.

"Who are you?"

"That is my own affair."

"I know him! I know him! I Know!" shouted another.

Sully turned to him inquiringly.

"Who is he, if you know so much?"

"He's a fellow what was with the Sparling outfit last year. He was always butting in then, and I can tell you he ain't here for any good now, Boss."

"So, that's the game is it?" sneered Sully. "You come with me. I've got a few questions I want to ask you."

"I don't have to go with you," replied Phil.

"Oh, yes you do! Bring him along and if he raises a row just hand him one and put him to sleep."

Two men grabbed Phil roughly by his arms.

He jerked away and started to run when he was pounced upon and borne to the ground. Phil found himself grasped by the collar and jerked violently to his feet, with the leering face of Sully thrust up close to his own.

"I'll see that you don't get away this time," growled the showman.

Dragging the lad along by the collar further off on the lot, the showman finally paused.

"Get the carriage," he commanded sharply.

"What you going to do with me?" demanded Phil.

"That depends. I'm going to find out something about you first, and decide what to do with you later."

"And, when you get through, I shall have you arrested for assault. It will be my turn to act then," retorted the Circus Boy. "I have done nothing except to stop a miserable thief from plying his trade. I understand that's a game you--"

"That will do, young man. Here's the wagon. Now, if you go quietly you will have no trouble. But just try to call for help, or raise any sort of a ruction, and you'll see more stars than there are in the skies when the moon's on a strike. Get in there."

Phil was thrust into the closed carriage, which the showman used for driving back and forth between the train and the lot.

Quick as a flash Phil Forrest dived through the open coach window on the other side, and with equal quickness he was pounced upon by the driver, who had gotten off on that side, probably at a signal from Sully.

Had Sully not run around to the other side of the wagon Phil would have quickly disposed of the driver, strong as was the latter.

With an enraged cry Sully sprang upon Phil, and raised his hand to strike.

"If you attempt to do that you'll serve the rest of the season in jail," dared Phil, taking a bold course. "You know they don't trifle with brutes like you up here in Canada?"

Sully growled an unintelligible reply, but that he recognized the truth of the lad's words was evident when he slowly dropped his clenched fist to his side.

"I'll see that you don't get away this time," he said once more thrusting Phil into the carriage, this time, however, keeping a firm grip on the lad's arm.

The driver whipped up the horse and the carriage rumbled away, soon reaching the village street and turning sharply off into a side street.