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

Some little time elapsed before Joe found a chance to speak to Jim Tracy. There had been a slight accident to one of the circus wagons in unloading from the train for that day’s show, and the ring-master was kept very busy. One of the elephants was slightly hurt also.

But finally the confusion was straightened out, and our hero had a chance to ask the question that was troubling him.

“What had become of Helen?”

“Why, I don’t know where she went,” Jim Tracy said. “She came to me almost as soon as we got in this morning, and wanted to know if she could have the afternoon off.”

“Cut out her act?” Joe asked.

“That’s it. Of course I didn’t want to lose her out of the show, but as long as we’re going to be here two days, and considering the fact that she hadn’t had a day off since the show started out this season, I said she might go. And so she went at least I suppose she did.”

“Yes, she’s gone,” Joe replied. “But where?”

Jim Tracy did not know and said so. He was too busy to talk much more about it.

“She’ll be back in time for the evening performance that’s all I know,” he told Joe.

The young trapeze’ performer sought out the old clown and told him what had taken place.

“Helen gone!” exclaimed Bill. “That’s queer!”

“I thought maybe you’d know about it, Bill.”

“Me? No, not a thing. She never said a word to me. Are you sure you and she didn’t have any er little tiff?”

“Of course not!” and Joe blushed under his tan. “She didn’t tell me she was going.”

“Oh, well, she’ll be back to-night, Jim says. I guess she’s all right. Now I’ve got to get busy.”

But Joe was not satisfied. It was not like Helen to go off in this way, and he felt there was something strange about it.

“I do hope she isn’t going to try to make any more investments with her money that is with what she has left,” he mused. “Maybe she heard of some other kind of stock she can buy, and she thinks from the profits of that she can make up for what she is sure to lose in the oil investment. Poor Helen! It certainly is hard luck!”

Joe thought so much of his new theory that he visited the circus treasurer with whom Helen had left some of her money.

“No, it’s here in the safe what she left with me,” the treasurer said. “Too bad about her losing that nice sum, wasn’t it? It will take her quite a while to save that much.”

“I wish I had hold of the law clerk who tricked her into buying the oil stock,” said Joe with energy. “I’d make him eat the certificates, and then I’d well, I don’t know what I would do.”

“But you haven’t got him,” said the treasurer, “and I guess their kind take good care to keep out of the way of those they’ve swindled.”

“I guess so,” Joe agreed.

There was nothing he could do at present, and he had soon to go on with his act. But Joe Strong made up his mind if Helen were not back early to make a thorough search for her.

“That is if I can get any trace of her,” he went on. “She may run into danger without knowing it, for she hasn’t had much experience in life, even if she is a circus rider.”

Joe was himself again now. His muscles seemed to have benefited by the rest, and the young trapeze performer went through all his old acts, alone and with the Lascalla Brothers, and Joe also put on one or two new things, or, rather, variations of old ones.

In one part of his performance he balanced himself upon his neck and shoulders on a trapeze high up in the top of the tent. He was almost standing upon his head. While this is not difficult for a performer to do when the trapeze is stationary it is not easy when the apparatus is swinging. Joe was going to try that.

A ring hand pulled on a light rope attached to the trapeze on which Joe was thus balanced on his neck and set the bar and ropes in motion. They moved slowly, and through only a short arc at first. But in a little while Joe, in his perilous position, was executing a long swing.

His feet were pressed against the ropes and his hands were on his hips. He balanced his body instinctively in this posture. But this was not all of the trick.

When the trapeze was swinging as high as he wanted it, Joe suddenly brought his legs together. For an instant he poised there on the bar, supporting himself on his neck and shoulders, as straight as an arrow.

Then, with a shout to warn those below, he fell over in a graceful curve, and began a series of rapid somersaults in the air.

Down he fell, the hushed attention of the big crowd being drawn to him. Just before reaching the life net, Joe straightened out and fell into the meshes feet first, bouncing out on a mat and from there bowing his thanks for the applause.

Thus Joe brought his act to a close for that afternoon, and he was glad of it for he wanted to go out and see if Helen had returned. As soon as he had changed to his street clothes he sought her tent.

The women of the circus dressed together, each one in a sort of canvas screened apartment, and in the Sampson Brothers’ Show they also had a sort of ante-room to the dressing tent, where they could receive their friends.

There was no one in this room when Joe entered, save some of the maids which the higher-salaried circus women kept to help them dress, “make up” and so on.

“Is Miss Morton in?” asked Joe of a maid who knew him.

“No, Mr. Strong. I don’t believe she has returned yet. I’ll go and look in her room, though.” The maid came back shaking her head.

“She isn’t there,” she told Joe.

“I wonder where she can be,” he mused. “Why didn’t she leave some word? Are you sure there wasn’t a letter or anything on her trunk?” he inquired of the maid.

“Well, I didn’t look. You may go in if you like. I guess it will be all right.”

None of the performers were in the dressing tent then, being out in the big one doing their acts. Joe knew his way to Helen’s room, having been there many times, for there would often be little impromptu gatherings in it to talk over circus matters between the acts.

He looked about for a letter, thinking she might have left one for him before going away. He saw nothing addressed to himself, but on the ground, where it had evidently dropped, was an open note. Joe could not help reading it at a glance. To his surprise it was signed by Sanford, the tricky law clerk.

“I shall be glad to see you if you will call on me when you reach Lyledale,” the letter read. “I am glad you think of buying more stock. I have some to sell. I will be at the Globe Hotel.”

“Whew!” whistled Joe. “It’s just as I feared. She’s been doing business with Sanford again trying to make good her loss on the oil stock. He has an appointment with her here in Lyledale. That’s where she’s gone to meet him. She must have sold some of her other securities to get money to buy more stock. I must stop this. I’ve got to follow her. Poor Helen!”

Joe had found out what he wanted to know by accident. Helen, he reasoned, must have received the letter that day, or perhaps the day before, and had planned to meet Sanford on reaching Lyledale where the circus was then playing. In order to do this she had to be excused from the afternoon performance.

“But I’ll put a stop to that deal if I can,” Joe declared. “I’ll tell her how foolish and risky it is to invest any more money with Sanford. I only hope she’ll believe me.”

Joe’s time was his own until the night performance. He decided he would at once follow Helen to the hotel and there remonstrate with her, if it were not too late.

“Queer that she kept it a secret from all of us,” remarked Joe as he started for town. “I guess she knew we’d try to stop her from throwing good money after bad, as they say. Well, now to see what luck I’ll have.”

The Globe Hotel was the best and largest in town. Joe had no difficulty in finding it, and on inquiring at the desk was told that Mr. Sanford was a guest at the place.

“He has two rooms,” the clerk told Joe. “One he uses as an office, where he does business.”

“Oh, then he’s been here before?” Joe asked.

“Oh, yes, often. I don’t know what his business is, but I think, he is a sort of stock and bond dealer.”

“More like a stock and bond swindler,” thought Joe.

“Mr. Sanford will see you in a few minutes,” the bellboy reported to Joe, having come back from taking up our hero’s card. “There’s a lady in the office with him now.”

“A young lady?” Joe asked.

“Yes,” nodded the bellboy.

“I’ll go up now!” decided Joe. “I think he might just as well see me now as later.”

“Maybe he won’t like it,” the clerk warned him.

“I don’t care whether he likes it or not!” cried Joe. “It may be too late if I don’t go up now. You needn’t bother to announce me,” he said to the bell-boy who offered to accompany Joe to show the way. “I guess I can find the room all right.”

Joe rode up in the elevator, and turned down the corridor leading to the two rooms occupied by Sanford. Pausing at the door of the outer room, Joe heard voices. He recognized one as Helen’s.

“She’s there all right,” mused Joe. “I hope I’m not too late!”

He was about to enter when he heard Helen say: “Please give it back to me. It isn’t fair to take advantage of me this way.”

“You went into this with your eyes open,” Sanford replied. “It was a straight business deal, and I’m not to blame for the way it turned out. Now this stock ”

Joe waited no longer. He fairly burst into the room, crying:

“Helen, don’t waste any more money on his worthless investments!”