Chapter XXI. A Circus Boy Missing
 

"Grab the beast!"

Teddy was still clinging to the baboon so firmly that they had to use force to get Bruiser away from him.

As for the baboon, he was too dazed from the shock of the fall to offer any resistance, and was quickly captured and returned to his cage.

Teddy had not fared quite so well. He was unconscious, and for a time it was feared that he had been seriously injured.

As it turned out, however, he had escaped with nothing worse than a severe shock and a sprained wrist. A sprain of any sort is sufficient to lay up a circus performer for sometime. As a result of his injury, Teddy Tucker did not work again for the next week; that is, he did not enter the ring, though he was anxious to do so. Mr. Sparling, however, would not permit it.

Those were glorious days for Teddy. He could not keep away from the circus lot. He had plenty of time to think up new ways of tormenting his enemies, some of which he applied from time to time. The boy was safe, however, for no one felt inclined to punish a boy who was going around the outfit with one arm helpless in a sling.

Perhaps Teddy Tucker took advantage of this fact. At least, he enjoyed himself and, besides, found plenty of time to hunt for his lost egg. The boy was suspicious of everyone. One time he became firmly convinced that Mr. Sparling had taken it from him. The moment the idea occurred to him he hunted up the showman and demanded to know if the latter had his egg.

"No," answered Mr. Sparling with a twinkle in his eyes, "but I will try to arrange so you get another."

"You will?"

"Yes."

"Thank you; thank you."

"I am having the show's carpenter make one out of wood."

"I can't eat a wooden egg," protested Teddy.

"Why not? You were going to eat the ostrich egg. The wooden one will give you indigestion no quicker than the other would have done."

"I'll tell you what I will do," said the Circus Boy, an idea suddenly occurring to him.

"I am listening."

"You have the carpenter make an egg and I will circulate the news that I have another egg. I will leave it in my cabin and keep watch on the thing. In that way I shall catch the fellow, if he tries to steal it again. I shan't put it in the trunk. Oh, I'll talk a lot about that wooden egg."

"I am in hopes we shall hear no more about eggs all the rest of the trip, after I give you another," said the showman. "Your idea is not a half-bad one at that. If you catch the man we are looking for I will make you a nice present."

"What kind of a present?" asked Teddy with an eye to business.

"What would you like?"

"I'll have to think it over. There are so many things I want, that I do not know which I want most."

"I thought you had money enough to buy whatever you needed. By the way, how much money have you saved, Teddy?"

"Let me see," reflected the lad, counting up on his fingers. "Why, I must have a little more than three thousand dollars in the bank. Mrs. Cahill is taking care of it for me, you know."

"Fine, fine! That is splendid. What are you going to do with all of that money?"

"I think I will buy out the Sparling shows, someday, when you get tired of the business and want to sell at any old price," answered the boy boldly.

The showman laughed heartily.

"So you think you would like to own a show, do you?"

"Yes, sir, I am going to--Phil and I."

"May I ask when this interesting affair is coming off--this purchasing of a real circus?"

"I told you. When you get tired of the business we are going to buy you out."

"You have it planned, eh?"

"Yes, sir; that is, I have. Phil doesn't know anything about that yet. I haven't told him."

"I thought not. So, while I am paying you to work for me, you are planning to take my show away from me, are you?" questioned Mr. Sparling with a smile.

"No, Sir; we are not trying to do anything of the sort. You have been too kind, and I thank you for all you have done for me, and--and all you have put up with. You ought to have 'fired' me a long time ago--I guess you ought to have done it before I started in the Show business. I'm glad you didn't," added Teddy, glancing up with a bright smile.

It was the first time Mr. Sparling had ever heard the little Circus Boy express his appreciation. He patted the lad affectionately.

"I hope you are feeling quite well, today, my boy. You never talked this way before. What caused your sudden change of heart?"

"I--I guess it was the baboon," answered Teddy whimsically. "Or else, maybe, it was the bump I got when I hit the deck of the 'Fat Marie.'"

Phil came up and joined them at that moment, waiting for his turn to go on in his trapeze act for the evening performance. Mr. Sparling surveyed him keenly. He noted the trim, athletic figure, the poise of the head and the steady clear eyes that held one irresistibly.

"You are looking very handsome tonight, Phil," said the owner.

"Thank you, sir. 'Handsome is as handsome does,' as the saying goes," laughed the Circus Boy. "Are you having the net watched, Mr. Sparling?"

"Yes, my lad. Two men are keeping close tab on the big spider web all the time, except in the afternoon, when no one would dare to tamper with it for fear of being detected."

"I am not so sure of that. You see, I have a personal interest in that net, seeing that I have to risk my bones over it twice each day."

"Don't worry. It will be well watched, Phil."

"I take the first drop in it, you know, so if it should give way you would be minus Phil Forrest."

"Teddy tells me you and he are thinking of buying out the Sparling shows, eh?"

"Why, Teddy, how could you say such a thing?" demanded Phil, reddening.

Teddy expostulated, explaining that it was merely a dream in his own mind, repeating that Phil knew nothing of it.

"I do intend to own a show, as I have told you before, Mr. Sparling, as soon as I have enough money. I am afraid, however, that that day is a long way off."

"Perhaps not so far off as you think, Phil. Perhaps both of you may own a show much sooner than you even dream," said the showman, significantly. "Well, good night, boys if I do not see you again."

"What do you think he meant by that?" questioned Teddy.

"I am sure I do not know. Perhaps he thinks we have a future before us and that we shall make rapid advances. I hope so, don't you, Teddy?"

"I think I would rather find my egg than have most anything else just now."

"Oh, hang your egg! There goes my cue. I must get out, now. Bye, bye. You are a lucky boy not to have to work on this hot night."

Phil waved his hand and tripped out into the arena. A few minutes later he was soaring through the air with the gracefulness and ease of a bird on the wing.

The boys did not meet again until bedtime, for Phil had turned in immediately upon reaching the boat. Teddy, of course, was the last one to go to bed, but he was soon asleep after reaching there.

Phil, on the contrary, had lain awake for some hours, thinking. He was still seeking a solution to the mystery that had been disturbing them almost from the beginning of the season. Twice had an effort been made to do him serious injury at least. Who could have taken so violent a dislike to him as to wish to cause his death? There seemed to be no answer to the question.

"I can think of no one, unless it is Diaz," muttered the boy. "Yet he surely was not one of those who were plotting out on the lot that night. He would not have had time to get back to the boat ahead of me. Then again, Teddy was sure that the clown had been back for more than an hour. He may have had something to do with laying the trap in the ring for Dimples and myself."

"I am afraid I am not on the right track at all," decided Phil at last, with a deep sigh.

He was still awake when the "Fat Marie" shook off her moorings and with a long blast of her siren, drifted out into the stream and began pounding down the river.

Phil got up, stretched himself, looked out of the window, then decided to go on deck to get the breeze, for the heat was stifling in his stateroom. Teddy was sound asleep.

The deck seemed to be deserted. Phil walked over to the rail and leaning both elbows upon it closed his eyes dreamily.

It must have been fully an hour later when Teddy awakened suddenly, with a foreboding that something was not as it should be.

"Phil!" he called.

There was no reply.

"Phil!" repeated Teddy in a louder tone.

Failing to get a response, Teddy arose and found his companion's bed empty. Teddy, knowing that Phil seldom ever left the stateroom after retiring, decided to go out to look for him. He investigated the cabin, then going out on dock peered into every shadow, calling softly for Phil.

Failing to get any trace of his chum, Teddy returned to his cabin, put on his slippers and went down to the lower deck, where he made inquiries of the watchman, but with no better success.

Teddy Tucker began to feel alarmed. He hurried to the upper deck again, once more going over it carefully, as well as the inside of the boat.

A terrible suspicion began to force itself upon him.

"Man overboard!" bellowed the Circus Boy. "Man overboard!" He ran through the corridors shouting the startling cry, then out to the deck repeating it as he ran.

The cry was taken up by others as they rushed from their cabins, Mr. Sparling among the number.

"Where, where?" shouted the showman. "Who--who--"

"It's Phil! He's gone. He's over there, somewhere, I don't know where!"