Chapter XVIII. Teddy Taxes a Drop
 

"Throw him a rope!" shouted someone.

"Yes, give him a rope," urged Mr. Sparling.

"No one can throw a rope that high," answered Phil. "I think the first thing to be done is to get the monkeys and I have a plan by which to accomplish it."

"What's your plan?"

"Have their cage brought in. We should have thought of that before."

"That's a good idea," nodded Mr. Sparling. "I always have said you had more head than any of the others of this outfit, not excepting myself. Get the monkey cage in here."

While this was being done Phil hurried out into the menagerie tent, where, at a snack stand, he filled his pockets with peanuts and candy; then strolled back, awaiting the arrival of the cage.

"We shall be able to capture our monkeys much more easily if the audience will please leave the tent," announced Mr. Sparling. "The show is over. There will be nothing more to see."

The spectators thought differently. There was considerable to be seen yet. No one made a move to leave, and the manager gave up trying to make them, not caring to attempt driving the people out by force.

The cage finally was drawn up between the two rings. This instantly attracted the attention of the little beasts. Phil stood off from the cage a few feet.

"Now everybody keep away, so the monkeys can see me," he directed. Phil then began chirping in a peculiar way, giving a very good imitation of the monkey call for food. At the same time he began slowly tossing candy and peanuts into the cage.

There was instant commotion aloft. Such a chattering and scurrying occurred up there as to cause the spectators to gaze in open-mouthed wonder. But still Phil kept up his weird chirping, continuing to toss peanuts and candy into the cage.

"As I live, they are coming down," breathed Mr. Sparling in amazement, "never saw anything like it in my life!"

"I always told you that boy should have been a menagerie man instead of a ring performer," nodded Mr. Kennedy, the elephant trainer.

"He is everything at the same time," answered Mr. Sparling. "It is a question as to whether or not he does one thing better than another. There they come. Everybody stand back. I hope the people keep quiet until he gets through there. I am afraid the monkeys never will go back into the cage, though."

There was no hesitancy on the part of the monkeys. They began leaping from rope to rope, swinging by their tails to facilitate their descent, until finally the whole troop leaped to the top of the cage and swung themselves down the bars to the ground.

Phil lowered his voice to a low, insistent chirp. One monkey leaped into the cage, the others following as fast as they could stretch up their hands and grab the tail board of the wagon. Instantly they began scrambling for the nuts and candies that lay strewn over the floor.

The last one was inside. Phil sprang to the rear of the cage and slammed the door shut, throwing the padlock in place and snapping it.

"There are your old monkeys," he cried, turning to Mr. Sparling with flushed, triumphant face.

The audience broke out into a roar, shouting, howling and stamping on the seats at the same time.

"Now, you may go," shouted Mr. Sparling to the audience. "Phil, you are a wonder. I take off my hat to you," and the showman, suiting the action to the word, made a sweeping bow to the little Circus Boy.

Still the audience remained.

"Well, why don't you go?"

"What about the kid up there near the top of the house?" questioned a voice in the audience.

"That's so. I had forgotten all about him," admitted the owner of the show.

"Oh, never mind me. I'm only a human being," jeered Tucker, from his perch far up near the top of the tent. This brought a roar of laughter from everybody.

"We shall have to try to cast a rope up to him."

"You can't do it," answered Phil firmly. Nevertheless the effort was made, Teddy watching the attempts with lazy interest.

"No, we shan't be able to reach him that way," agreed Mr. Sparling finally.

"Hey down there," called Teddy.

"Well, what is it? Got something to suggest?"

"Maybe--maybe if you'd throw some peanuts and candy in my cage I might come down."

This brought a howl of laughter.

"I don't see how we are going to make it," said Mr. Sparling, shaking his head hopelessly.

"I'll tell you how we can do it," said Phil.

"Yes; I was waiting for you to make a suggestion. I thought it funny if you didn't have some plan in that young head of yours. What is it?"

"What's the matter with the balloon?"

"The balloon?"

"Yes."

"Hurrah! That's the very thing."

The balloon was a new act in the Sparling show that season. A huge balloon had been rigged, but in place of the usual basket, was a broad platform. Onto this, as the closing act of the show, a woman rode a horse, then the balloon was allowed to rise slowly to the very dome of the big tent, carrying the rider and horse with it.

The act was a decided novelty, and was almost as great a hit as had been the somersaulting automobile of a season before.

The balloon stood swaying easily at its anchorage.

"Give a hand here, men. Let the bag up and the boy can get on the platform, after which you can pull him down."

"That won't do," spoke up Phil. "He can't reach the platform. Someone will have to go up and toss him a rope. He can make the rope fast and slide down it."

"I guess you are right, at that. Who will go up?"

"I will," answered the Circus Boy. "Give me that coil of rope."

Taking his place on the platform the lad rose slowly toward the top of the tent as the men paid out the anchor rope.

"Halt!" shouted Phil when he found himself directly opposite his companion.

"Think you can catch it, Teddy?"

"Yep."

"Well, here goes."

The rope shot over Teddy's head, landing in his outstretched arm.

"Be sure you make it good and fast before you try to shin down it," warned Phil.

"I'll take care of that. Don't you worry. You might toss me a peanut while I'm getting ready. I'll go in my cage quicker."

Phil laughingly threw a handful toward his companion, three or four of which Teddy caught, some in his mouth and some in his free hand, to the great amusement of the spectators.

"They ought to pay an admission for that," grinned Phil.

"For what?"

"For seeing the animals perform. You are the funniest animal in the show at the present minute."

"Well, I like that! How about yourself?" peered Teddy with well-feigned indignation.

"I guess I must be next as an attraction," laughed the boy.

"I guess, yes."

"Haul away," called Phil to the men below him, and they started to pull the balloon down toward the ground again.

"Get a net under Tucker there," directed Mr. Sparling.

"I'm not going to dive. What do you think?" retorted Teddy.

"There is no telling what you may or may not do," answered the showman. "It is the unexpected that always happens with you."

Phil nodded his approval of the statement.

In the meantime Teddy had made fast the end of the rope to the aerial bar, and grasping the rope firmly in his hands, began letting himself down hand under hand.

"Better twist your legs about the rope," called Phil.

"No. It isn't neces--"

Just then Teddy uttered a howl. The rope, which he had not properly secured, suddenly slipped from the bar overhead.

Teddy dropped like a shot.