Read CHAPTER V - OFF TO THE CIRCUS of Joe Strong on the Trapeze / The Daring Feats of a Young Circus Performer, free online book, by Vance Barnum, on

“Well?” questioned Professor Rosello, as Joe came back to the hotel. “Is it my show or ”

“The circus,” answered Joe, and he did not smile. He was rather serious about it, for in spite of what his friend had said Joe could but feel that the magician might be disappointed over the choice. But Professor Rosello was a broad-minded man, as well as a fair and generous one.

“Joe, I’m sure you did just the right thing!” he exclaimed, as he shook hands with the boy wizard, or rather with the former boy wizard, for the lad was about to give up that life. Yet Joe knew that he would not altogether give it up. He would always retain his knowledge and ability in the art of mystifying.

“Yes, I thought it all over,” said Joe, “and I concluded that I could do better on the trapeze than at sleight-of-hand. You see, if I want to be a successful circus performer I have to begin soon. The older I get the less active I’ll be, and some tricks take years to polish off so one can do them easily.”

“I understand,” the professor said. “I think you did the right thing for yourself.”

“Of course if I could be any help to you I wouldn’t leave you this way,” Joe went on earnestly. “I wouldn’t desert in a time of trouble.”

“Oh, it isn’t exactly trouble,” replied the magician. “I really need a rest, and you’re not taking my offer won’t mean any money loss to me, though, personally, I shall feel sorry at losing you. But I want you to do the best possible thing for yourself. Don’t consider me at all. In fact you don’t have to. I am going to take a rest. I need it. I’ve been in this business nearly thirty years now, and time is beginning to tell.

“I think there is more of a future for you in the circus than there would be in magic. Not that you have exhausted the possibilities of magic by any means, but changes are taking place in the public. The moving pictures are drawing away from us the audiences we might otherwise attract. Then, too, there has been so much written and exposed concerning our tricks, that it is very hard to get up an effective illusion. Even the children can now guess how many of the tricks are done.

“It may be that I shall give up altogether. At, any rate I will lease my show out for a time. I’m I going to take a rest. And now about your plans. What are you going to do?”

“I don’t exactly know,” was the hesitating answer. “I have telegraphed to Mr. Tracy that I would join his circus in two days. I think I’ll need that much time to get ready.”

“Yes. We can settle up our business arrangements in that time, Joe. As I said, I’ll be very sorry to lose you, but it is all for the best. We may see each other occasionally. Shall you tell the deacon of the change?”

“I think not. He and I don’t get along very well, and he hasn’t much real interest in me, now that he feels I am following in the footsteps of my father. And if he knew that I was taking up the profession my mother felt called to, he would have even less regard for me. I’ll not write to him at all.”

“Perhaps that is wise. I wonder, Joe, if in traveling about with Sampson Brothers’ Show you will meet any one who knew your mother?”

“I wish that would happen,” Joe answered. “I’d like to hear about her. I shall ask for information about her.”

Joe related his encounter with one of the Lascalla Brothers which one he did not know.

“I wonder if he’ll try to make trouble?” he asked.

“I hardly think so,” answered the professor. “He’s probably a bad egg, and talks big. Just go on your own way, do the best you can, keep straight and you’ll be all right.”

They talked for some little time further, discussing matters that needed to be settled between them, and making arrangements for Joe to leave.

Now that he had come to a decision he was very glad that he was going with the circus.

“I’ll be glad to meet Benny Turton, the ‘human fish,’ again,” said Joe to himself. “His act is sure a queer one. I wonder if I could stay under water as long as he does. I’m going to try it some day if I get a chance at his tank. And Helen I’ll be glad to see her again, too.”

Joe did not admit, even to himself, just how glad he would be to meet the pretty circus rider again. But he surely anticipated pleasure in renewing the acquaintance.

“That is, if she’ll notice me,” thought Joe. “I wonder what the social standing is between trick and fancy riders and the various trapeze performers.”

The next day was a busy one. Joe had to pack his belongings. Some he arranged to store with the professor’s things. He also helped his friend, the magician, to prepare an advertisement for the theatrical papers, announcing that The Rosello Show was for lease, along with the advance bookings. Joe also went over the apparatus with the professor, making a list of some necessary repairs that would have to be made.

“And now, Joe,” said the professor, when the time for parting came, “I want you to feel free to use any of my tricks, or those you got up yourself, whenever you want to.”

“Use the tricks?” queried Joe.

“Yes. It may be that you’ll find a chance to use them in the circus, or to entertain your friends privately. I want you to feel free to do so. There will not be any professional jealousy on my part.”

Joe was glad to hear this. The professor was unlike most professional persons who entertain the public.

“Well, good-bye,” said Joe, as the professor went with him to the railroad station, the burns having progressed rapidly in their healing. “You’ll always be able to write me in care of the circus.”

“Yes, I can keep track of your show through the theatrical papers, Joe. Let me hear from you occasionally. Write to the New York address where I buy most of my stuff. They’ll always have the name of my forwarding post-office on file. And now, my boy, I wish you all success. You have been a great help to me not to mention such a little thing as saving my life,” and he laughed, to make the occasion less serious.

“Thank you,” said Joe. “The same to you. And I hope you will soon feel much better.”

“A rest will do me good,” responded the professor. Then the train rolled in, and Joe got aboard with his valise. He waved farewell to his very good friend and then settled back in his seat for a long ride.

Joe Strong was on his way at last to join the circus.

As he sat in his comfortable seat, he could not help contrasting his situation now with what it had been some months before, when he was running away from the home of his foster-father in the night and riding in a freight car to join the professor.

Then Joe had very few dollars, and the future looked anything but pleasant. He had to sleep on the hard boards, with some loose hay as a mattress.

Now, while he was far from having a fortune, he had nearly two hundred dollars to his credit, and he was going to an assured position that would pay well. It was quite a contrast.

“I wonder if I’ll make good,” thought Joe. Involuntarily he felt of his muscles.

“I’m strong enough,” he thought with a little smile “Strong by name and strong by nature,” and as he thought this there was no false pride about it. Joe knew his capabilities. His nerves and muscles were his principal assets.

“I guess I’ll have to learn some new stunts,” Joe thought. “But Jim Tracy will probably coach me, and tell me what they want. I wonder if I’ll have to act with the Lascalla bunch? They may not be very friendly toward me for taking the place of one of their number. Well, I can’t help it. It isn’t my doing. I’m hired to do certain work for trapeze performing is work, though it may look like fun to the public. Well, I’m on my way, as the fellow said when the powder mill blew up,” and Joe smiled whimsically.

It was a long and tiresome trip to the town where the circus was performing, and Joe did not reach the “lot” until the afternoon performance was over.

The sight of the tents, the smell that came from the crushed grass, the sawdust, the jungle odor of wild animals all this was as perfume to Joe Strong. He breathed in deep of it and his eyes lighted up as he saw the fluttering flags, and noted the activity of the circus men who were getting ready for the night show filling the portable gasoline lamps, putting on new mantles which would glow later with white incandescence to show off the spectacle in the “main top.” As Joe took in all this he said to himself:

“I’m to be a part of it! That’s the best ever!”

It was some little time before he could find Jim Tracy, but at length he came upon the ring-master, who was trying to do a dozen things at once, and settle half a dozen other matters on which his opinion was wanted.

“Oh, hello, Joe?” Jim called to the young performer. “Glad you got here. We need you. Want to go on to-night?”

“Just as you say. But I really need a little practice.”

“All right. Then just hang around and pick up information. We don’t have to travel to-night, so you’ll have it easy to start. I’ll show you where you’ll dress when you get going. I’ll have to give you some one else’s suit until we can order one your size, but I guess you won’t mind.”

“No, indeed.”

Joe was looking about with eager eyes, hoping for a glimpse of Helen Morton. However, he was not gratified just then.

“Now, Joe,” went on the ring-master, coming over after having settled a dispute concerning differences of opinions between a woman with trained dogs and a clown who exhibited an “educated” pig, “if you’ll come with me, I’ll ”

“Well, what is it now?” asked Jim Tracy, exasperation in his voice. A dark-complexioned, foreign-looking man had approached him, and had said something in a low voice.

“No, I won’t take him back, and you needn’t ask!” declared Jim. “You can tell Sim Dobley, otherwise known as Rafello Lascalla, that he’s done his last hanging by his heels in my show. I don’t want anything more to do with him. I don’t care if he is outside. You tell him to stay there. He doesn’t come in unless he buys a ticket, and as for taking him back nothing doing, take it from me!”

The foreign-looking man turned aside, muttering, and Joe followed the ring-master.