Chapter III. The Circus Makes a Call
 

While the band played, the clown wagon came to a halt and the whole body of funny men sang a song in front of Mrs. Cahill's house, while the widow and her two young guests applauded enthusiastically.

As the clown's wagon drew on, a horse ridden by a young woman was seen dashing straight at the dooryard fence, which it took in a graceful leap, causing the Widow Cahill to gasp her amazement. The rider was none other than Little Dimples, the star bareback rider of the Sparling Shows, who had chosen this way to pay homage to her young associates and to Mrs. Cahill as well.

It was an unusual procedure in a circus parade, but though it had been arranged by Mr. Sparling out of the kindness of his heart, he shrewdly reasoned that it would make good business for the show as well. That the people lined up along the street agreed with his reasoning was evidenced by their shouts of applause.

"Mrs. Cahill, this is our very good friend, Mrs. Robinson, otherwise known as Little Dimples," announced Phil proudly.

Mrs. Cahill bowed and smiled, not the least bit embarrassed.

"You haven't introduced my pony, Phil. The pony is part of little me, you know."

"I beg pardon, Mrs. Cahill; let me introduce to you Mrs. Robinson's pony, Cinders, who, though he cannot talk, comes pretty close to it," said Phil, with great dignity.

Cinders bowed and bowed, the bits rattling against his teeth until it sounded to the little gathering as if he were trying to chatter his pleasure at the introduction.

"Now, shake hands with Mrs. Cahill, Cinders," directed Little Dimples.

Cinders extended a hoof, which Mrs. Cahill touched gingerly. She was not used to shaking hands with horses. Teddy and Phil, however, each grasped the pony's extended foot, giving it a good shake, after which Phil thrust a lump of sugar into the waiting lips of Cinders.

"Naughty boy!" chided Little Dimples, tapping the neck of her mount with the little riding crop she carried. "You would spoil him in no time. I must be going, now. I hope we shall see you at the show this afternoon, Mrs. Cahill," smiled Dimples, her face breaking out into dimples and smiles.

The widow nodded.

"This afternoon and tonight. She is going to dine with us under the cook tent this afternoon," Phil informed the rider.

"That will be fine."

Dimples nodded, tossed her whip in the air and clucking to Cinders, went bounding over the fence. A moment more and she had taken her place in the line and was moving along with the procession, bowing and smiling.

"That's what I call right fine," glowed Mrs. Cahill. "Did you say that little thing was Mrs. Robinson?"

"Yes."

"Why, she looks like a young girl."

"That's what I thought when I first saw her. But she has a son as old as I am."

"Land sakes!" wondered Mrs. Cahill. "You never can tell about these circus folks, anyhow."

Phil laughed heartily, but Teddy was too much interested in what was going on outside the fence to indulge in laughter. The band was still playing as if its very existence depended upon keeping up the noise, while the white horses attached to the band wagon were frantically seeking to get their heads down for a nibble of the fresh green grass at the side of the road.

"There come the bulls," called Teddy.

"Yes, I see them."

"The bulls?" wondered Mrs. Cahill. "I didn't know they had bulls in the circus."

"That's what the show people call the elephants," laughed Phil. "Teddy is talking show-talk now. We have a language of our own."

"I should say you do?" grumbled the widow.

"What's the bull in front got on his trunk, Phil?"

Phil shaded his eyes and gazed off down the street.

"That's my friend Emperor. I don't know what it is he is carrying. That's queer. I never saw him carrying anything in parade before, did you?"

"No."

For a moment both lads directed their attention to making out what it was that Emperor was carrying along.

"It looks to me like a basket of flowers," finally decided Phil.

"Has somebody been handing him a bouquet," grunted Teddy.

"It certainly looks that way."

"Why, I really believe he is coming in here."

"Coming here--an elephant coming into my front yard? Mercy me!" exclaimed Mrs. Cahill, starting up.

"Why, Mrs. Cahill, Emperor wouldn't hurt a little baby. I hope he does come in. Sit still. Don't be afraid."

"He'll spoil my flower beds--he'll trample them all down and after I've worked four weeks getting--"

"Yes; here he comes," exulted Phil.

At that moment Emperor, with his trainer, Mr. Kennedy, swung out of line and entered the garden gate. Turning to the left they headed directly across the lawn. The precious flower beds lay right in his path.

"Oh, my flowers! They're ruined," moaned the widow.

"Watch him and you'll see," answered Phil, his face wreathed in smiles.

She did, and her eyes opened wider when Emperor cautiously raised one ponderous foot after another until he had stepped clear of the first bed of flowers. The same thing happened when he got to the second bed. Not even the imprint of his footfalls was left on the fresh green grass of the lawn.

Mrs. Cahill's eyes were large and wondering. A sudden impulse stirred her to spring up and flee into the house.

Phil, noting it, laid a restraining hand lightly, on her arm.

"Don't be afraid," he reassured. "Emperor will not harm you. You see how careful he is of your lawn and your flower beds. I think he is coming here for some purpose."

Emperor and his trainer came to a half right in front of the porch, the elephant's little eyes fixed upon the slender form of Phil Forrest.

"Good boy, Emperor!" breathed Phil. "Did somebody present a basket of flowers to you?"

It was a big basket, and such a handsome collection of flowers did it contain as to cause Mrs. Cahill to open her eyes in wonder. A card was tied to the handle of the basket with a big pink ribbon. Phil began to understand the meaning of the scene, and he felt sure the name on the card was that of Mrs. Cahill.

A low spoken command from the trainer, and Emperor cautiously got down on his knees, keeping those small eyes on Phil Forrest all the time.

"Mrs. Cahill, Emperor has been commissioned by the Great Sparling Combined Shows to present a basket of flowers to you in the name of Mr. Sparling himself, and the show people, too. He has carried it all the way from the lot this morning," declared Mr. Kennedy.

The people on the street were now pressing closer, in order to see what was going to happen. Phil was smiling broadly, while Teddy was hugging himself with delight at Mrs. Cahill's nervousness.

"Emperor, give the flowers to the lady," commanded the trainer.

Slowly, the big elephant's trunk stretched out, extending the basket toward her inch by inch, while the widow instinctively shrank far back in her chair.

At last the trunk reached her.

"Take it," said Phil.

She grasped the basket with a muttered, "thank you."

"Say good-bye, Emperor," directed the trainer.

Emperor curled his trunk on high, coughed mightily, then rising on his hind legs until he stood almost as high as the widow's cottage, he uttered a wild, weird trumpeting that fairly shook the house.

Mrs. Cahill, in her fright, suddenly started back, her chair tipped over and she landed in a heap on the ground at the end of the porch.