The Circus Boys on the Plains by Edgar B. P. Darlington
Chapter VI. Almost a Tragedy
"Strike a light!"
"Are we off the rails?"
"No, you idiot. Don't you feel the car going just the same as before? And he's wheeling her a mile a minute at that. Hurry with that light, somebody!" commanded Billy.
At this moment they heard the sliding door of the manager's stateroom come open with a crash.
"Now, here's trouble for certain!" muttered the Missing Link. "The Boss is on deck."
"I guess my friend Teddy has got into trouble," said Phil Forrest, slipping quickly from his bed on top of a pile of gaudy circus posters. "Ted! Ted, where are you?"
There was no answer.
"What is all this row about?" thundered the manager, stalking down the car, clad only in his pajamas.
"We do not know, sir. We are trying to find out. I am afraid my friend has fallen out of bed and hurt himself," answered Phil.
"I hope it killed him!" bellowed Mr. Snowden. "The idea of waking up the whole car at this time of the night! This nonsense has got to stop, and right quick at that. Where's that light?"
Phil was groping about the floor, trying hurriedly to locate Teddy. But no Teddy was to be found.
Finally a match flickered; after lurching about the car the man with the match finally succeeded in locating the bracket lamp near the end of the car.
Anxious eyes peered about them in the dim light.
"Look!" howled Rosie the Pig.
A pair of wildly kicking legs were seen protruding from one of the big paste cans, these cans being made like the big garbage cans that one sees in backyards in the city.
"It's Teddy! There he is!" cried Phil, springing forward.
"He's gone in the paste can head first!" yelled another of the crew.
"Help me get him out; he has stuck fast!" shouted Phil, tugging desperately at his companion's heels.
The car set up a roar of laughter at the ludicrous sight. To Phil, however, it was no laughing matter. The paste can was nearly full of paste and of about the same consistency as dough in a bread pan. It was thick and wickedly blue, for it had been mixed with bluestone to preserve it until required by the billposters.
"Pull him out, you idiots!" bellowed the car manager. "If he isn't dead now, he can't be killed. Pull him out and throw him overboard!"
Phil flashed an indignant look at Mr. Snowden.
By this time others had come to his assistance. It required their united efforts to rescue Teddy from his perilous predicament.
They hauled him out and laid him on the door.
"Teddy, Teddy!" cried Phil, but Tucker made no reply. In the first place his mouth was so full of paste that he could not utter a sound. Again, he was half unconscious, nearly smothered and still unable to breathe freely.
Phil grabbed off the jacket of his own pajamas and began wiping the blue paste from the unfortunate lad's mouth, eyes and nose.
A happy thought appeared to strike the car manager. He dashed to the sink, and, quickly filling a pail of water, ran back to the spot where Teddy was lying.
Snowden turned the pail bottom side up, apparently intending to douse the water into Tucker's face.
Instead, the contents of the pail landed on Phil Forrest's head, spreading itself over his bare back, and trickled down in rivulets over Teddy's face.
The water was almost ice cold.
"Wow!" howled Phil, springing to his feet. "Who did that?"
"I did, and I'll do it again," jeered the car manager.
"Get me another pail, but I'll do the spilling this time. Don't you dare duck me again, or I'll settle with you after I get through with my friend."
One of the crew grabbed up the pail to run for water. This time the pail was handed to Phil who instantly began mopping the face of young Tucker.
In a moment or so Teddy began to gasp. His dive had nearly been the end of him.
"Get a net," he murmured as he slowly came to, whereat everyone save the car manager laughed loudly. "Wha--what happened? Did we run off the track?"
"No, you took a high dive into a can of paste," jeered Billy. "You're the champion high diver of Car Three."
Mr. Snowden, stooping over, grabbed the luckless Teddy by the collar and jerked him to his feet.
"Get up, you lummox!" he commanded.
Teddy blinked very fast. Mr. Snowden began to shake him. Phil stepped forward quickly and pushed the car manager away.
"Wha--what!" growled Snowden, an angry light leaping into his eyes.
"You let the boy alone," commanded Phil. "Because he has had an accident is no reason why you should punish him!"
Phil paid no heed to him, but led the unsteady Teddy to the far end of the compartment.
"You get off this car, both of you!" yelled the manager.
"What, with the train running sixty miles an hour?" questioned Phil, turning slowly.
"Yes; I don't care if it kills you both. Good riddance--good job if it did."
"I think you have another guess coming, Mr. Car Manager," replied Phil calmly.
Snowden glared at the Circus Boy who had thus defied him; then turning sharply on his bare heel he strode back to his stateroom.
A broad grin appeared on the faces of the car crew.
"I guess that will be about all for this evening," announced Rain-in-the-Face.
"Is there a rope on this car?" asked Phil.
"Yes; what do you want a rope for?" replied Billy.
"He's going to complete the job by hanging the Boss from a brake beam," spoke up Rosie.
"Not quite as bad as that, I guess," laughed Phil. "I am going to tie my friend Teddy in his bed. There is no telling what may happen to him, if I do not. Teddy, had we happened to be sound sleepers you would in all probability be dead by this time."
"That would please Mr. Snowden too much, you know."
"Then tie me in. I don't want to please him. Did he duck me while I was asleep?"
"He tried to. As it chanced my bare back got most of the ducking," answered Phil with a short laugh, for he believed the car manager had purposely poured the water on him.
"But he shook me," protested Teddy.
"He did that," chorused the crew. "What are you going to do about it?"
"Well," reflected Tucker; "I think he and I will fight a duel tomorrow at sunrise."
Once more all hands turned in, Phil humorously making a pretense of tying his companion to his "berth." As a matter of fact, Phil did tie the rope about Teddy's wrist, wrapping the free end about his own arm, and thus the boys went to sleep once more.
It seemed as if they had been asleep only a few minutes when they were suddenly startled into wakefulness by a loud noise.
This time, however, it was not a yell, but a roar.
Phil sat up suddenly, rubbing his eyes sleepily.
"Get up, you lazy good-for-nothings!" bellowed the car manager, dancing up and down the aisle, still in his pajamas, his hair standing up, his eyes wild and menacing.
"Is that all?" muttered Teddy, sinking back into a sound sleep again.
Phil sprang from the pile of papers on which he had been sleeping, landing lightly on the floor in his bare feet.
"Good morning, Mr. Snowden. I hope you had a good night's sleep," greeted the Circus Boy.
Snowden glared at the lad, as if trying to make up his mind whether or not Phil was making sport of him. But there was only pleasantness in the face of Phil Forrest.
"Huh!" grunted the manager. Then he once more began racing up and down the car, roaring at his men, threatening and expressing his opinion of them in the way with which Phil already had become familiar.
Teddy lay curled up, with one foot protruding from beneath the covers. Whether or not he had done this purposely, it was difficult to decide. Be that as it may, Mr. Snowden caught sight of the pink foot. He rose to the bait like a bass to a fly.
In another second he had pounced upon the foot. Grabbing it with both hands he gave it a violent tug. Tucker responded. He came slipping from the "berth," throwing the quilts before him as he did so. The quilts landed over the car manager's head. Then came Teddy Tucker.
Ted landed, full on Mr. Snowden's head, with a wild yell.
Down went the manager and the Circus Boy, with the latter on top, in a writhing, howling, confused heap.