Chapter XXII. A Dash for Liberty
 

"Help!"

"What is it?" cried Billy in alarm. "I'm hung up--hung down, I mean!"

"What--what's the matter, are you in trouble?"

"Yes, I'm hanging head down. I'm fast by the feet. Help me down!"

"Help you down? I can't help you. You will have to get out the best way you can. Can't you crawl up and free your feet?"

"No; go get Phil."

"Can you hold on?"

"I--I'll try. Go get Phil."

Conley dashed away as fast as he could run.

"I knew it, I knew it," he repeated at almost every bound.

Teddy's climbers had lost their grip in the rotting wood. Before he could recover himself he had tumbled backward. Fortunately the rope had clung to the pole; he was held fast but Teddy was hanging with his back against the pole, being powerless to help himself in the slightest degree. Again, he was afraid that, were he to stir about, the rope, which had slipped down and drawn tight about his ankles, might suddenly slide down the pole and dash him to his death.

Not many minutes had elapsed before Phil and Conley came running back. Phil, at the suggestion of the assistant manager, had brought a pair of climbers with him, Billy explaining, as they ran, the fix that the Circus Boy was in.

For a wonder, all the disturbance had attracted no attention on the street.

"Are you all right?" called Phil as he ran to the spot.

"N--no; I'm all wrong," came the answer from above. "All the blood in my body is in my head. I'm going to burst in a minute."

Phil wasted no words. Quickly strapping on his climbers, he began shinning up the pole, which he took much faster than Teddy had done, for the situation was critical.

"Hurry up! Think I want to stay here all night?"

"I'm coming. Hang on a few moments longer," panted Phil, for the exertion was starting the perspiration all over his body.

At last he reached the spot where Teddy was hanging head down.

"Well, you have got yourself into a nice fix!" growled Phil.

"I got the banners up," retorted Teddy.

Phil cast his eyes aloft, and there, above his head, floated the gaudy banners of the Sparling Show.

"Great!" he muttered. "But you are lucky if it doesn't cost you your life and perhaps mine, too. Now, when I place this rope in your hands, you hang on to it for all you are worth. I will make it fast above, and I think I shall have to cut the rope that holds your feet. I see no other way to get you down."

"What, and let me drop? No, you don't."

"I shall not let you drop if I can help it. Can't you manage to get a grip on the pole with your arms?"

"If I were facing the other way, I might."

"Twist yourself. Aren't you enough of a circus man to do a contortion act as simple as that?"

Teddy thought he was. At least, he was willing to try, and he succeeded very well, throwing a firm grip about the pole.

Phil cautiously climbed above his companion. None save a trained aerial worker could have accomplished such a feat, but the Circus Boy managed it without mishap. He then made fast a rope about the pole above the place where Teddy's rope was secured, drawing it tight above a slight projection on the pole itself, where part of a knot had been left.

Phil had not secured himself as Teddy had done, but he felt no fear of falling as long as he had one arm about the pole. He might slip, but even then the principal danger to be apprehended was that he might carry Teddy down with him.

"Pass the rope about your body," directed Phil.

"Which rope?"

"My rope--this rope," answered Phil, raising and lowering the rope that Teddy might make no mistake. "If you get the wrong one you will take a fine tumble. Got it?"

"Yes."

"All right. When you have secured it about your body let me know."

"I've got it."

"Have you also got a firm grip on the pole?"

"Yes."

"Then look out. I am going to cut your feet loose. Are you ready?"

"All ready!"

Phil severed the rope that held Teddy's feet, and the boy did a half turn in the air, his feet suddenly flopping over until he found himself in an upright position. But the twist of the body had given him a fearful wrench, drawing a loud "ouch!" from Teddy. To add to his troubles Tucker found himself unable to move.

"I'm tied up in a hard knot," he wailed.

"What's the trouble?"

"I'm all twisted. I can't wiggle a toe."

"Well, you don't have to wiggle your toes, do you?"

Phil found the work of extricating his companion a more difficult matter than he had expected, and to set Teddy free it was necessary to cut the rope again.

This time the cutting was followed instantly by a wild yell.

Teddy shot down to the splice in the pole, where he struck the crosspiece with a jolt that shook the pole from top to bottom; but, fortunately, his arms were about the pole and the crosspiece had kept him from plunging to the ground many feet below.

"Are you all right?" called Phil.

"No; I'm killed."

"Lucky you didn't break the pole, at any rate."

"Break the pole? Break the pole?" yelled Teddy, half in anger, half in pain. "What do I care about the pole? I've broken myself. I won't be able to sit down again this season. Oh, why did I ever come with this outfit?"

"Hurry and get down. We shall have the whole town awake if you keep up that racket."

Phil let himself down to where Teddy sat rubbing himself and growling.

"Go on down. You are not hurt," commanded Phil.

"I am, I tell you."

"Well, are you going to stay up here all night?"

Teddy pulled himself together, preparing for the descent.

"Can you get down alone? If not I will tie a rope to you to protect you."

"No; you keep away from me. I'll get down if you let me alone."

"Teddy Tucker, you are an ungrateful boy."

"I'm a sore boy; that's what I am. Don't speak to me till I get down again. Then I'll talk with you and I'll have something to say, too. I want that fifty dollars for putting the banner up, too."

"Well, wait till you get down, anyhow," retorted Phil impatiently.

Teddy made his way down, muttering and growling every foot of the way, followed by Phil at a safe distance, the latter chuckling and laughing at Teddy's rage.

Young Tucker had nearly reached the base of the pole, when once more he missed his footing.

Billy Conley was just below him, ready to assist, when Teddy landed on him, both going down together.

Teddy uttered a yell that could have been heard more than a block away.

As the two struggled to get up, both Teddy and Billy threatening each other, rapid footsteps were heard approaching them down the street. In a moment they saw the flash of a policeman's shield.

"We're caught!" cried Conley. "Run for it!"

"Halt!" commanded the officer. He was almost upon them now. Phil was still up the pole, where he clung, awaiting the result of the surprise below.

"What does this mean?" demanded the bluecoat.

"It means you are it!" howled Teddy, bolting between the officer's legs, causing the bluecoat to fall flat upon the ground.

"Run! Run!" howled Teddy.

Phil sprang from the pole and all hands made a lively sprint for the car.