Read CHAPTER III - ANOTHER OFFER of Joe Strong on the Trapeze / The Daring Feats of a Young Circus Performer, free online book, by Vance Barnum, on

Professor Rosello sank into a chair when he reached his dressing room.

“Quick! Get a doctor!” called Joe to one of the two helpers who traveled with them. “Bring him in through the stage door! Don’t let it be known out in front.”

One of the stage hands gave the helper the address of the nearest physician, and, fortunately, he was in his office. The doctor came at once and put a soothing ointment on the burns of the professor’s back, where the electric sparks had penetrated his clothing.

“That’s better,” remarked the magician with a sigh of relief. “I guess we’ll have to ring down the curtain, Joe. I can’t go on.”

“I’ll finish the show,” declared the boy wizard.

“Can you do it?”

“Not as well as you, of course. But I think I can keep them interested, so they will feel they have had their money’s worth. I’ll carry on the show. I can vary my egg and watch tricks a bit, and I’ll do that wine and water one, bringing the live guinea pig out of the bottle.”

“All right, Joe, if you think you can. I’m not equal to any more. I think I’d better go to the hotel.”

“I think so too, Professor. Now don’t worry. I’ll carry on the show as best I can.”

“And I think you can do it well, Joe. I’m proud of you. If it hadn’t been for you stopping the electric current when you did I would be dead now.”

“Oh, I hardly think it was as bad as that.”

“Yes it was. One of those wires broke. After this I’ll examine every connection a minute before I go into the cabinet. You saved my life this is the second time. Once at the fireworks factory, and again to-night. I’ll be so deeply in your debt, Joe, that I can never pay you.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” laughed the boy wizard, now much relieved in mind. With the professor safe he could go out on the stage with a light heart and an easy mind. He was used to facing the public, but this meant that he would have to do more tricks than usual, and some that were particularly the professor’s own, though Joe knew how they were worked.

When the physician had relieved the sufferer, Joe called a carriage and sent the magician to the hotel where they were staying. Then the pantomimist having finished, Joe prepared to go on with some illusions. And right here, while Joe is making his preparations, a description of the “fire trick” can be given.

The cabinet was, of course, a trick one. That is, it was provided with hidden electric contrivances so that when the professor stepped into it, by merely pressing a button he could have a shower of sparks shot out all around him. As he was insulated, these sparks could not injure him.

On the heavy silk robe he wore there had been painted the grinning skeleton. It was painted with a secret chemical paint, and when subjected to a flow of electricity the bones and skull showed outlined in fire. The professor, keeping well back toward the rear of the cabinet, was invisible.

Tying the ropes about him was not necessary as he did not leave the cabinet anyhow, but it added to the effectiveness of the illusion. But on this evening, after the electric wire broke causing a short circuit, the tying of the ropes was well-nigh fatal, for the professor could not move in order to escape, and had to stay while the current burned him. Luckily, however, Joe acted in time.

As has been intimated, the two front legs of the cabinet were really the positive and negative termini for the wires that were inside the box. These legs stood in two sockets in the floor of the stage, and to them ran the wires from the theatre’s circuit. When the helpers lifted the cabinet up, to show, ostensibly, that it had no connection with the floor, they put the legs down in the hidden sockets. Thus the connections were made. As can be seen, Joe had but to lift the cabinet away to break the connection.

In spite of the accident, the trick had ended satisfactorily, thanks to the quick work of Joe Strong. His strength, too, played not a little part in this, for ordinarily the cabinet required two men to shift it. But Joe had a knack of using his powerful muscles to the best advantage, and it was this, with his most marvelous nerve, that enabled him to do so many sensational things, about which this and future volumes concerning our hero will tell.

The professor having been sent to his hotel to rest, and the pantomimist having finished his act, Joe went out on the stage to continue the performance. He made no reference to the non-appearance of the chief performer, letting it be taken for granted that Professor Rosello had finished his part in the entertainment.

“I would now like to borrow a gold gentleman’s watch,” began Joe; this misplacement of words never failing to bring out a laugh. He then proceeded to perform the trick of apparently smashing a borrowed watch, firing the fragments from a pistol at a potted plant, and causing the reunited watch to appear among the roots of the pulled-up flower.

As this trick has been described in detail in the first volume of this series, exposing just how it is done, the description will not be repeated here. In that book will also be found the details of how Joe made an ordinary egg float or sink in a jar of water, at his pleasure. (This is a trick one can easily do at home without apparatus.) Joe did that trick now, and also the one of lighting a candle, causing it to go out and relight itself again while he stood at one side of the stage, merely pointing his wand at the flickering flame. (See the first volume.)

Joe now essayed another trick. He brought out a bottle, apparently empty, and said that it was a magical flask.

“From this I am able to pour three kinds of drinks,” he stated. “Some persons like water, others prefer milk, while nothing but grape juice will satisfy some. Now will you kindly state which drink you like?” and he pointed to a man in the front row.

“I’ll have grape juice,” was the answer.

“Very good,” returned Joe. “Here you are!” He tilted the bottle, and a stream of purple grape juice ran from the flask into a goblet. Joe handed it to the man.

“It’s perfectly good grape juice,” Joe said, smilingly. “You need not be afraid to sample it.” The man did so, after a moment’s hesitation.

“Is it all right?” Joe asked. “Just tell the audience.”

“It’s good,” the man testified.

“Take it all. I have other drinks in the bottle,” Joe said.

“Save me some!” cried a boy up in the gallery, as the man drained the glass of grape juice.

“Now who’ll have milk?” Joe asked.

“I will,” called a boy in the second row. Without moving from where he stood Joe picked up a glass, and, from the same bottle, poured out a drink of milk which he passed to the boy, who took it wonderingly.

“Is it the real stuff?” asked Joe, smiling at the lad.

“That’s what it is!” was the quick answer.

“Drink it then. And now for water. Here we are!” And from the same bottle, out of which the audience had seen milk and grape juice come, Joe poured sparkling water and passed it to a lady in the audience.

“Hello! What’s this? There appears to be something else in the bottle!” exclaimed Joe, apparently surprised, as he held the flask up to his ear.

“Yes, I’ll let you out right away,” he said aloud. “There must be some mistake,” he went on, “there is an animal in this bottle. I’ll have to break it open to get it out.”

He went quickly back on the stage with the bottle, took up a hammer, and holding the flask over a table gently cracked the glass. In an instant he held up a little guinea pig.

There was a moment’s pause, and then the applause broke out at the effectiveness of the trick.

How was it done?

A trick bottle, you say at once. That is right. The bottle was made with three compartments. One held milk, another grape juice and the third water. Joe could pour them out in any order he wished, there being controlling valves in the bottom of the bottle.

But how did the guinea pig get inside?

It was another bottle. The bottom of this one had been cut off, and, after the guinea pig had been put inside, the bottom was cemented on again. This was done just before the trick was performed. On his way back to the stage, after having given the lady the glass of water, Joe substituted the bottle containing the guinea pig for the empty one that had held the three liquids. This was where his quick sleight-of-hand work came in. When he gently broke the bottle it was easy enough to remove the little animal, which had been used in tricks so often that it was used to them.

Joe brought the show to a satisfactory conclusion, perhaps a little earlier than usual, as he was anxious to get to the hotel and see how the professor was. The audience seemed highly pleased with the illusions the boy wizard gave them, and clapped long and loud as Joe made his final bow.

He left the theatrical people and his helpers to pack up, ready for the trip to the next town, and hastened to the hotel. There he found Professor Rosello much better, though still suffering somewhat.

“Do you think you will be able to go on to-morrow night?” asked Joe.

“I don’t know,” was the answer. “I can tell better to-morrow.”

But when the next day came, after a night journey that was painful for Mr. Crabb, he found that he could not give his portion of the performance.

And as Joe alone was not quite qualified to give a whole evening’s entertainment it was decided to cancel the engagement. It was not an important one, though several good “dates” awaited them in other towns on the route.

“I think I need a rest, Joe,” the professor said “My nerves are more shattered than I thought by that electrical accident. I need a good rest to straighten them out. I think we’ll not give any performances for at least a month that is I sha’n’t.”

Joe looked a little disappointed on hearing this. His living depended on working for the professor.

“I say I’ll not give any more performances right away, Joe,” went on the professor, “but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. I have been watching you of late, and I think you are very well qualified to go on with the show alone. You could get a helper, of course. But you can do most of my tricks, as well as your own. What do you say? I’ll make you a liberal offer as regards money. You can consider the show yours while I’m taking a rest. Would you like it?”

“I think ” began Joe, when there came a knock on the door of their hotel room.

“Telegram for Joe Strong!” called the voice of the bellboy.