Chapter XIV. Teddy Writes a Letter
 

"I'm only a beginner," mused Phil Forrest, as his car spun along at a sixty-mile gait. "And I'm green, and I have a whole lot to learn, but if Bob Tripp catches up with Car Three, now, he will have to travel some!"

The next town was made quite early in the afternoon. Phil, however, did not settle down to wait for another day. He had wired the liveryman in the next town to meet his car, so, immediately upon arrival, he bundled his billposters off on the country routes.

"Work as far as you can before dark, then find places to sleep at a farmhouse. Do the best you can. We must be out of these yards before noon tomorrow, and as much earlier as possible. If you can post by moonlight do it, even if you have to wake the farmers up along the line to get permission."

The men were well-nigh exhausted, but they rose manfully to the occasion. They realized that there was a master hand over them, even if it were the hand of a boy inexperienced in their line of work.

No manager had ever reeled off work at such a dizzy pace as Phil Forrest was doing. It challenged their admiration and made them forget their weariness.

The country routes started, Phil set his lithographers at work. The men kept at it until nearly midnight. They had completed their work in the town and in the meantime Phil and Teddy had squared the hits, as they are called--the places where the banners were to be tacked up--all ready for the banner men to get to work when they arrived in town next morning, or late that night.

They arrived about midnight, but the other car did not come on the train with them. They brought the information that the train was a limited one, and would not carry the rival car. Bob Tripp would not be able to get through until sometime the next forenoon.

Phil felt like throwing up his hat and shouting with delight, but his dignity as a car manager would not permit him to do so. No such limitations were imposed upon Teddy Tucker, however, and Teddy whooped it up for all that was in him.

All hands were weary when they turned in that night. At about eleven o'clock the following morning, the country billposters came in, having completed their routes. Phil had made his arrangements to have his car hauled over the road by a special engine, and shortly after noon Car Three was again on its way, every man on board rejoicing over the drubbing they had given their rival.

Phil Forrest was a hero in their eyes. Not a man of that crew, now, but who would go through fire for him, if need be!

That afternoon the same plan was followed, Phil driving his men out to their work.

"I am sorry, boys," he said. "I don't like to drive you like this, but we've simply got to shake off Tripp and his crew. In a day or so we will be straightened around again so we can settle down to our regular routine, unless, perhaps, we run into more trouble. You have all done nobly. If it hadn't been for you I should have been whipped to a standstill by that other outfit."

"Not you," growled the Missing Link. "They don't grow the kind that can whip the likes of you," in which sentiment the entire crew concurred.

No more was seen of Bob Tripp and his men on that run. Tripp heard from his general agent, however, with a call-down that made his head ache. The general agent kept the telegraph wires hot for twenty-four hours, and in the end, sent another car ahead of Tripp into the territory that Phil Forrest and his men were working.

Phil, of course, was not aware of this at the time, but he found it out before long.

His car had slipped over into Kansas, by this time, and the crew were now working their way over the prairies.

"It seems to me that it is time you were attending to your press work, Teddy Tucker," said Phil on the following day. "You have not called at a newspaper office since we started under the new arrangement."

"Nope," admitted Teddy.

"Why not?"

"Why, do you think?"

"I am sure I do not know."

"Well, you ought to, seeing you have been keeping me running my legs off twenty-four and a half hours out of every day."

"You have been pretty busy, that is a fact. But you had better start in today. You have plenty of time this afternoon to attend to that work."

"What shall I tell them?"

"Oh, tell them a funny story. Make them laugh, and they will do the rest."

"But I don't know any funny stories."

"Tell them the story of your life as a circus boy. That will be funny enough to make a hyena laugh."

"Ho, ho!" exploded Teddy. "It is a joke. He who laughs first laughs last."

"You mean 'he who laughs last laughs best,'" corrected Phil, smiling broadly.

"Well, maybe. Something of the sort," grinned the Circus Boy.

"And look here, Teddy!"

"Yes?"

"Have you written to Mr. Sparling yet, as he requested you to do?"

"No."

"And why not?"

"Same reason."

"You must write to him every day, no matter how busy you are. Sit up a little later every night; go without a meal if necessary, but follow his directions implicitly."

"Implicitly," mocked Teddy.

However, Mr. Sparling was not without news of what had been going on on Car Three. Billy Conley had written fully of Phil Forrest's brilliant exploits. After one of these letters, Mr. Sparling wrote Conley, as follows:

"Those boys will never tell me when they do anything worthwhile. It isn't like Phil to talk about his own achievements. So you write me anything of this sort you think I would like to know. I do not mean you are to act as a spy, or anything of the sort. Just write me the things you think they will not write about."

Bill understood and faithfully followed out his employer's directions. Mr. Sparling proudly showed Conley's letters to all of his associates back with the show, where there was much rejoicing, for everyone liked Phil; not only liked but held him in sincere admiration for his many good qualities.

That evening, however, Teddy sat down at the typewriter and laboriously hammered out a letter to his employer.

"Hang the thing!" he growled. "I wish I had only one finger."

"Why? That's a funny wish," laughed Phil. "Why do you wish that?"

"Because all the rest of them get in the way when I try to run a typewriter."

"I am afraid you never would make a piano player, Teddy."

"I don't want to be one. I would rather ride the educated donkey. It's better exercise." Teddy then proceeded with his letter. This is what he wrote:

"Dear Mr. Sparling:"

"Nothing has happened since you were here."

One of the lithographers had a fit in the dining room of the contract hotel this morning (I don't blame him, do you?) and they hauled him out by the feet. We run amuck with another advance car, the other day, but nobody got into a fight. I thought rival cars always--excuse the typewriter, it doesn't know any better-- got into a fight when they met.

"One of the billposters fell off a barn--it was a hay barn, I think. I am not sure. I'll ask Phil before I finish this letter. Let me see, what happened to him? Oh, yes, I remember. He broke his arm off and we left him in a hospital back at Aberdeen. Phil let one of the banner men go this morning. The fellow had false teeth and couldn't hold tacks in his mouth. I tell him it would be a good plan to examine the teeth of all these banner men fellows before he joins them out, just the same as you would when you're buying a horse. Don't you think so?"

"By the way, I almost forgot to tell you. We ran over a switchman in the night last night. I don't think it hurt the car any."

"Well, good-bye. I'll write again when there is some news. How's January? Wish I was back, riding him in the ring. Expect I'll have an awful time with him when I start in again. Don't feed him any oats, and keep him off the fresh grass. I don't want him to get a fat stomach, because I can't get my legs under him to hold on when he bucks."

"Well, good-bye again. Love to all the boys."

"Your friend,"

"Teddy Tucker."

"P. S. Did I tell you we killed the switchman? Well, we did. He's dead. He's switched off for keeps."

"T. T."

"P. S. Yes, Phil says it was a hay barn that the billposter fell off from. Wouldn't it be a good plan to furnish those fellows with nets? Billposters are scarce and we can't afford to lose any good ones."

"T. T."