The Circus Boys on the Plains by Edgar B. P. Darlington
Chapter IX. Teddy Gets Into Trouble
"Get those paste cans outside! Step lively there!"
"Say, you talk to me as if I were one of the hired help," objected Teddy, his face flushing.
"Well, that is exactly what you are. You'll soon learn that you are hired help if you remain on this car. I'll take all the freshness out of you. The flour is in the cellar."
"In the cellar?"
"That's what I said. Go down and get it out. You will require about a sack and a half for each can. That will be about right for a can of paste. Henry will show you how much bluestone to put in. But be careful of that boiler. I don't want the car blown up."
The manager strode away to his office, while Teddy, red and perspiring, went about his work. He was much more meek than usual, and this very fact, had the manager known him better, would have impressed Mr. Snowden as a suspicious circumstance.
Instead of the usual pink tights with spangled trunks, Teddy Tucker was now clad in a pair of blue jeans, held up by pieces of string reaching up over his shoulders. His was now a far different figure from that presented by him in the ring of the Sparling Shows.
After dumping the flour into the cans, in doing which Teddy took his time, he attached a hose pipe to the boiler, under the direction of Henry. Next he filled the cans with water and was then ready to turn on the steam to boil the paste.
Teddy was about to do this when Mr. Snowden appeared on the scene. He looked over the cans critically, but observing nothing that he could find fault with, he got a stick and began poking in the bottom of one of the cans, thinking he had discovered that more flour had been used than was necessary.
All at once Teddy, who was now inside the car, turned a full head of steam through the hose pipe. There being one hundred and forty pounds of steam on the boiler something happened.
The full force of the steam shot into the bottom of the can over which Mr. Snowden was bending. The contents of that can leaped up into the air, water, flour, bluestone and all, and for the next few seconds Manager Snowden was the central figure in the little drama. It rained uncooked paste for nearly half a minute. Such of it as had not smitten him squarely in the face went up in the air and then came down, showering on his head.
The force of the miniature explosion had bowled the manager over. Choking, sputtering, blinded for the moment by the stuff that had got into his eyes, he wallowed in the dust by the side of the car.
Teddy shut off the steam, went out on the platform and sat down.
"What happened?" he demanded innocently. Perhaps he did not know and perhaps he did.
Mr. Snowden did not answer, for the very good reason that he could not. His clothes were ruined.
"It looks like a storm," muttered the lad. In this he was not mistaken.
A happy thought came to him. Springing up he hurried into the car, and, drawing a pail of water from the tap, ran out with it. Mr. Snowden had just scrambled to his feet.
"This will do you good," said Teddy, dashing the pail of water over the manager's head. "That's the way you brought me back when I got pasted up last night."
The Circus Boy ducked back to the platform and sat down to await developments. They were not long in arriving. The instant Snowden got the flour out of his eyes sufficiently to enable him to see he began blinking in all directions.
Finally his eyes rested on Teddy Tucker, who was perched on a brake wheel observing the manager's discomfiture.
"You!" exploded the manager. Grabbing up the paddle used for the purpose of stirring paste he started for the Circus Boy.
Teddy promptly slid from the brake wheel and quickly got to the other side of the car. Snowden was after him with an angry roar, brandishing the paddle above his head.
"I knew it would blow up a storm pretty soon," muttered the lad, making a lively sprint as the manager came rushing around the end of the car. The chase was on, but Teddy Tucker was much more fleet of foot than was his pursuer, besides which his years of training in the circus ring had put him in condition for a long race.
Around and around the car they ran, the porter watching them, big-eyed and apprehensive, but Teddy kept his pursuer at a distance without great effort.
After a short time the lad varied his tactics. Increasing his speed, he leaped to the rear platform of the car, and sprang up on the platform railing. Here, grasping the edge, he pulled himself to the roof, where he sat down with his feet dangling over, grinning defiantly.
"Come down from there!" roared the manager. "I'll teach you to play your miserable pranks on me!" The roof of the car was beyond the ability of Mr. Snowden to reach.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know you had your nose stuck in the paste pot when I turned on the steam," murmured Teddy.
This served only to increase the anger of the man on the ground.
"You did it on purpose; you know you did!" roared Mr. Snowden. "Come down, I tell you."
"You come up. It's fine up here!"
The manager, now angered past all control, uttered a growl. Hastily gathering up a handful of coal he began heaving the pieces at Teddy. But Tucker was prepared for just such an emergency.
From his pockets he drew several chunks of coal, that he had picked up during his sprinting match around the car. He let these drive at Mr. Snowden, one after the other, not, however, throwing with sufficient force to do much damage. He did not wish to harm his superior, but he did want to drive him off.
Mr. Snowden soon got enough of the bombardment, for he was getting the worst of it all the time.
"I'll turn the hose on you!" he bellowed, making a dash for the interior of the car, where it was his intention to turn on the boiling hot water and steam.
"I guess it's time to leave," decided Teddy. Quickly hopping down he ran and hid behind a freight car a short distance from the show car. When Mr. Snowden came out, grasping the hissing hose, his victim was nowhere to be seen.
Uttering angry imprecations and threats the manager returned to his office, changed his clothes, then strode off up town to a hotel to get a bath, of which he was very much in need at the moment.
"I guess he will be cooled off by the time he gets back," decided Teddy, emerging from his hiding place. "I think I will go back to work. I must earn my money somehow. That man is crazy, but I have an idea he will be sane after I get through with him."
Teddy returned to his paste-making. Henry, the porter, was so frightened that he hardly dared talk to Teddy, for fear the manager might catch him doing so and vent his wrath on the Englishman.
As the Circus Boy had surmised Mr. Snowden returned after a two hours' absence, much chastened in spirit. He did not even look at Teddy Tucker, though the latter was watching the manager out of the corners of his eyes. Mr. Snowden went directly to his stateroom where he locked himself in.
"I guess the storm has blown over," decided young Tucker, grinning to himself. "But won't Phil raise an awful row when he hears about it!"
The lad quickly learned the paste-making trick, and after dinner he set to work in earnest. He found it hard work stirring the stiff paste, and it seemed as if Teddy got the greater part of it over his clothes and face. He was literally smeared with it, great splashes of it disfiguring his face and matting his hair.
When the men from the country routes drove in there was a howl of merriment. The lad did present a ludicrous sight.
"Hello, Spotted Horse!" shouted one of them.
"Hello yourself," growled Teddy, in none too enviable a frame of mind.
"That's the name. That's the name that fits our friend Tucker!" cried Missing Link. From that moment on, aboard Car Three, Teddy Tucker lost his own name and became Spotted Horse.
The men had no sooner unloaded their paste cans than the porter had told them of the trouble that morning between Teddy and the manager.
The men howled in their delight. Mr. Snowden, off in his little office, heard the sounds of merriment and knew that the laughter was at his expense. His face was black and distorted with rage.
"I'll show them they can't trifle with and insult me," he gritted.
At that moment he roared for Billy.
"The regular evening seance is about to begin," announced Billy, with a grimace, as he turned toward the office.
"Bring the cub, Forrest, along!" shouted the manager.
"Who?" called Conley.
"Forrest and that fool friend of his."
"He means Spotted Horse," suggested Rosie. "Run along, Spotted Horse. Got your war paint on?"
"I always have my war paint on," grinned Teddy, as he started toward the private office, following Conley and Phil Forrest.
The three ranged up before the car manager, who surveyed them with glowering face.
"What have you done today?" he demanded, fixing his gaze on Billy.
"We got up more than four hundred sheets of paper."
"Four hundred sheets!" groaned Snowden. "What have you fellows been doing? Sleeping by the roadside?"
"No, sir, we have been working, and Mr. Forrest here pulled off one of the cleverest hits that's ever been made. He plastered a silo that stands out like a sore thumb on the landscape, and which every farmer within ten or twenty miles about will go to look at."
"Humph, I don't believe it! What have the other men done?"
Conley reported as to the number of sheets that the men had posted, whereat the manager rose, pounded his desk and, in a towering rage, expressed his opinion of the tribe of billposters again.
Billy smiled sarcastically, in which he was joined by Teddy, but Phil's face was solemn. He was becoming rather tired of this constant abuse.
"If you have nothing to say to me, I will go back to my place in the car," spoke up Phil.
Snowden glared at him.
"Did I tell you to leave this room?"
"I believe you did not."
"Then stand there until I tell you to go!"
"Very well, sir."
"Conley, I have called you in here to be a witness to what I am about to say. Do you hear?"
"During the past two days I have been insulted and abused by those two young cubs there, until it has come to a point where I appear to be no longer manager of this car. Your men outside have laughed at my discomfiture--yes, sir, actually made sport of me."
"I think you are mistaken. I--"
"I am not. I am never mistaken. This morning, this fellow Tucker not only defied me, but turned on the steam when I was examining a paste pot, and soaked me from head to foot. Then he ended up by throwing coal at me."
"Yes, and you started the row," retorted Teddy. "The idea of a big man like you pitching on to a boy. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
"Stop it! I'll forget you are a boy if you goad me further. But I have had enough of it. I'll stand it no longer. Do you understand?"
No one replied to the question.
"This thing has gone far enough. Have you anything to say for yourself or your friend here, Forrest?"
"Yes, sir, I have."
"You are the most ill-tempered man it has ever been my experience to know."
"You're discharged! Both of you! Get off my car instantly! Do you hear me?"
"I could not very well help hearing you. I am sorry to disobey you, but we were ordered to Number Three by Mr. Sparling. We will try to do our duty, but we shall not leave this car until Mr. Sparling orders us to do so," answered Phil steadily.