The Circus Boys In Dixie Land by Edgar B. P. Darlington
Chapter XII. Locked in the Linen Closet
Phil roused himself for a moment.
"We're going," he muttered, realizing that the train was in motion. Then he dropped off to sleep again.
When next he awakened it was broad daylight, though the lad did not know it until after he had struck a match and looked at his watch.
"Eight 'clock in the morning," he exclaimed. "My, how I must have slept, and on such a bed too!"
The lad was lame and sore from the cramped position in which he had been obliged to lie all night, but he was just as cheerful as if he had awakened in his own berth on sleeper number eleven on the Sparling train. He began to feel hungry, though.
Phil tapped on the door. There was no response, so he rapped again, this time with more force. Still failing to arouse anyone Phil delivered a series of resounding kicks against the door.
"If no one answers that I'll know there is nobody here and I'll see if I can't break the door down."
There was someone there, however, as was made plain a moment later, when the door was thrown suddenly open, revealing the grinning face of Sully, the owner of the show.
"Morning," greeted Phil. "I thought maybe breakfast was being served in the dining car, and I didn't want to miss it."
"You're a cheerful idiot, aren't you?"
"So I have been told. But about that breakfast? If you'll kindly conduct me to the wash room, so I can make myself beautiful and prepare for breakfast, I shall be obliged to you."
"Huh!" grunted the showman.
"Where are we?"
"Is this where we show today?"
"Yes, this is where we show today. As if you didn't know that as well as I do."
"I may have heard something to that effect. I don't just remember for the moment. But, how about that breakfast?"
"How do you know you are going to get any breakfast?"
"Because I smelled it a few minutes ago."
"That's my breakfast that your keen nose scented, young man."
"Well, I guess I can stand it for once."
Sully was forced to smile at his young captive's good nature. So he took Phil by the arm and led him to the wash room, where the showman remained until Phil had completed his preparations for breakfast. Then Sully led the way to a compartment at the rear of the car where a small table had been set.
"This looks good to me," grinned Phil, rubbing his palms together. "You live high in this outfit, don't you?"
The lad ate his breakfast with a will.
"I hope I am not depriving you of your meal?" questioned Phil, glancing up quickly.
"I've had my breakfast. If there had been only enough for one, you'd have gone hungry."
"You don't have to tell me that. I know it. That's about your measure."
"That will be about all from you," snapped the showman. "The trouble with you is that you can't appreciate decent treatment. You're just like your boss."
"I'll not hear you say a word against Mr. Sparling," bristled Phil, then suddenly checked himself.
"So, I caught you that time, did I?" exclaimed Sully, slapping his thighs and laughing uproariously, while Phil's face grew red with mortification at the slip he had made. "You are not half as smart as you think you are, young man. I'll keep at you until I get out of you all the information I want."
"I'm afraid the show season isn't long enough for you to do that," was the boy's quick retort.
"You'll find out whether it is or not."
"I shall not be with you that long. Now that I have admitted that I have been connected with the Sparling show, what do you think my employer will do when he finds I am missing?"
"I rather guess he will do something. Wait."
"When does he expect you back?"
Phil looked at the showman, laughing.
"Did I mention that I was expected? I said that when he missed me there would be an inquiry, and there will."
"Little good that will do him," growled the showman.
"Then you don't know James Sparling."
"How'll he know you are here?"
"Trust him to find out, and then--wow! There will be an explosion that you can hear on the other side of the St. Lawrence. Do I take a walk for my health after breakfast?"
"To the other end of the car, to the linen closet, where you are to stay until--"
"Until what?" questioned Phil sharply.
"Until you tell me what I want to know."
"What is it that you wish to know?"
"Why were you sent to spy on my outfit?"
"Perhaps for the same reason that you keep a spy in his camp," retorted Phil, bending a keen gaze on the face of his jailer.
Sully's face went violently red. Without another word he grasped Phil roughly by the shoulder, jerked him from the table and hurried the lad down the corridor.
"Here, here, I haven't finished my breakfast yet," protested the boy.
"You have, but you don't know it. You will know in a minute."
With that the showman thrust Phil into the linen closet again and slammed the door.
"My, I wouldn't have a temper like yours if you were to make me a present of a six-pole circus!" called the Circus Boy.
He chuckled as Sully uttered a grunt of anger and strode off to the other end of the car.
"He'll be going to the lot after a while, then I'll get busy," muttered Phil. In the meantime there was nothing for him to do but to sit down and make the best of his situation, which he did. Once, during the morning, Phil, believing himself to be alone, made several desperate attempts to break the door down.
His efforts brought a threat from the corridor as to what would happen if he tried that again. Phil knew, then, that he was not to be left alone.
After a while the lad went to sleep, not awakening until late in the afternoon.
He got no supper that night, nor did the showman come near him until late on the following morning. Phil was ravenously hungry, not having had a thing to eat in twenty-four hours, but he had too much grit to utter a word of complaint.
An excellent breakfast was served, but instead of Mr. Sully one of his men sat at the table while another stood out in the corridor ready to take a hand in case the boy made an effort to escape.
Had there been an open window near him Phil would have tried a dive through it, taking the chance of getting away. The windows in the room where the breakfast was served had been prudently shut, however.
He had just finished his breakfast when Sully came storming in. The lad could see that he was very angry about something.
"Good morning, sir. Aren't you feeling well this morning?" questioned Phil innocently.
"Feeling--feeling--" The words seemed to choke in the showman's throat.
"Why--why--why didn't you tell me that Sparling had changed his date and was planning to make Corinto the same day we are billed there?" thundered Sully.
"Is he? You know very well that he is, and it was your report that put him up to doing this trick. We've got you to thank for this piece of business, and you're going to pay dear for your part in it. Is he going to follow us all around the country--is that what he's planning to do?"
"I guess you had better ask Mr. Sparling himself. He hasn't seen fit to tell me, as yet."
"I'll show him that he can't trifle with me, and I'll show you, so you won't forget it for the rest of your circus career."
"I wouldn't make threats were I in your place, Mr. Sully. Wait until you get over your mad fit; then you'll be glad you didn't say anything you might have to take back later on," advised Phil.
"Take back? Take back?"
For the moment the showman was too far overcome with emotion to speak. Then he uttered a roar and stamped out of the car.
"Say, when is he going to let me out of here?"
"Not till we get to the border," answered the attendant.
"When will that be?"
"I don't know for sure. I guess maybe a month."
"You don't mean he is going to keep me in that linen cupboard for a full month--you can't mean that?"
"Can't say about that. I guess that's it. If you're finished with your breakfast--"
"I have been finished for sometime."
"Then you'll have to git back to the coop again."
Phil reluctantly rose, but his keeper kept tight hold of him, and the man on guard out in the corridor walked ahead of the boy on down to the linen closet, where Phil was once more thrust in and the door closed on him.
He had not been there long before he heard Sully enter the car with one of his men. All at once their voices seemed to come to him clearly and distinctly. The lad did not remember to have heard voices there so plainly before.
This time Phil began looking about to see if there were not really an opening in his chamber. He found it at the top over one of the shelves, a small grill, over which a curtain had been stretched. Phil lost no time in climbing up to it. He peered out and saw the men plainly. With Sully was his parade manager, and they were talking excitedly.
Phil opened his eyes wide when he began to realize the enormity of the plan that they were discussing.