Read CHAPTER XXV - THE LAST PERFORMANCE of Joe Strong on the Trapeze / The Daring Feats of a Young Circus Performer, free online book, by Vance Barnum, on

It would have been difficult to say who was the more surprised by the sudden entrance of Joe Strong Helen or the law clerk. Both seemed startled.

Once more Joe cried:

“Helen, don’t throw away any more of your money on his stocks!”

“How dare you come in here?” demanded Sanford.

“Never mind about that,” answered Joe coolly. “I know what I’m doing. I’m not going to see you get any more of her money.”

“Oh, Joe. How did you know I was here?” asked Helen. “I didn’t want any one to know I came.”

“I found out. I feared this was what you’d do.”

“Do what, Joe?”

“Buy more stock in the hope of making good your losses on the Circle City investment.”

“But, Joe, I’m not doing that. I don’t want to buy any more stock. I’ve had too much as it is.”

“Then what in the world did you come here for?” cried Sanford. “You intimated that you wanted more stock. That’s why I met you here to sell it to you.”

“Yes, I thought that’s what you’d think,” replied Helen, and she seemed less excited now than Joe Strong. “But what I came for was to sell you back these worthless oil certificates. I want my money back.”

“Well, you won’t get it!” sneered the law clerk. “You bought that stock and now ”

“Now she’s going to sell it again,” put in Joe. He seemed to understand the situation now.

“Helen,” he went on, “I think it would be well if you left this matter in my hands. If you’ll just go downstairs and to the nearest police station and ask an officer to step around here, I think we can find something for him to do.”

“Police!” faltered Sanford.

“Oh, well, perhaps we won’t need one,” said Joe coolly, “but it’s always best, in matters of this kind, to have one on hand. It doesn’t cost anything. Just get an officer, Helen, and wait downstairs with him. I’ll have a little talk with Sanford.”

“Oh, Joe! I I !”

“Now, Helen, you just leave this to me. Run along.”

Joe Strong seemed to dominate the situation. He displayed splendid nerve.

Helen went slowly from the room.

“The clerk will tell you where to find a policeman,” Joe called to her. “You needn’t tell him why one is needed. It may be that we shall get along without one, and there’s no need of causing any excitement unless we have to.”

“Joe Joe,” faltered Helen. “You will be careful won’t you?”

“Well,” and Joe smiled quizzically, “I’ll be as careful as he’ll let me,” and he nodded toward the law clerk.

“What do you mean?” demanded Sanford, uneasily.

“You’ll see in a few minutes,” said Joe calmly.

When Helen went out Joe, with a quick movement, closed and locked the hall door.

“What’s that for?” cried Sanford.

“So you won’t get out before I’m through with you.”

The law clerk made a rush for Joe, endeavoring to push him to one side. But muscles trained on a typewriter or with a pen are no match for those used on the flying rings and trapeze.

With a single motion of his hand Joe thrust the clerk aside, fairly forcing him into a chair.

“Now then,” said Joe calmly, “you and I will have a little talk. You needn’t try to yell. If you do I’ll stuff a bedspread in your mouth. And if you want to try conclusions with me physically well, here you are!”

With a quick motion Joe caught the fellow up, and raised him high in the air, over his head.

“Oh oh! Put me down! Put me down!” Sanford begged. “I I’ll fall!”

“You won’t fall as long as I have hold of you,” chuckled Joe. “But there’s no telling when I might let go. Now let’s talk business.”

Trembling, Sanford found himself in the chair again.

“Did you sell Miss Morton any more stock?” demanded Joe.

“No I she came here to buy, I thought, but ”

“Well, as long as she didn’t it’s all right. Now then about that oil stock you got her to invest her money in is that stock good?”

“Why, of course it ”

“Isn’t!” interrupted Joe, “and you knew it wasn’t when you sold it to her. Now then I want you to take that stock back and return her money. And I don’t want you to sell that stock to some other person, either. You just tear it up. It’s worthless, and you know it. I want Miss Morton’s money back for her.”

“I haven’t it!” whined the clerk.

“Then you know where to get it. I fancy if I tell Mr. Pike, of your law firm, what you’ve been up to ”

“Oh, don’t tell him! Don’t tell him!” whined the clerk. “He doesn’t know anything about it. I I just did this as a side line. If you tell him I’ll lose my position and ”

“Well, I’ll tell him all right, if you don’t give back Miss Morton’s money!” said Joe grimly.

“I tell you I haven’t the cash.”

“Then you must get it. You’ve been doing business here before, the hotel clerk tells me. Come now hand over the cash get it and I’ll let you go, though perhaps I shouldn’t. If you don’t pay up well, the officer ought to be downstairs waiting for you now. Come!” cried Joe sharply. “Which is it to be the money or jail?”

Sanford looked around like a cornered rat seeking a means of escape. There was none. Joe, big and powerful, stood between him and the door.

“Well?” asked Joe significantly.

“I I’ll pay her back the money,” faltered Sanford. “But I’ll have to go out to get it.”

“Oh, no, you won’t,” said Joe cheerfully. “If you went out you might forget to come back. Here’s a telephone just use that.”

Sanford sighed. His last chance was gone.

Just what or to whom he telephoned does not concern us. But in the course of an hour or so a messenger called with money enough to make good all Helen had risked in oil stock. The cash was handed to her.

“Here, you keep it for me, Joe,” she said. “I don’t seem to know how to manage my fortune.”

“What about those stock certificates?” asked Sanford. “I want them back.”

“They are worthless, by your own confession,” replied Joe, “and you’re not going to fool some one else on them. “We’ll just keep them for souvenirs, eh, Helen?”

“Just as you say, Joe,” she answered with a blush.

Sanford blustered, but to no purpose. He was beaten at his own game, and the fear of exposure and arrest brought him to terms.

“But you shouldn’t have gone to him alone, Helen,” remonstrated Joe, when they were on their way back to the circus with the recovered cash.

“Well, I’d been so foolish as to lose my money, that I wanted to see if I couldn’t get it back again,” she said. “I didn’t want any of you to help me, as I’d already given trouble enough.”

“Trouble!” cried Joe. “We would have been only too glad to help you.”

“Well, you did it in spite of me,” Helen said, with a smile. “I did not intend you should know where I had gone. How did you find out?”

“I saw a letter you dropped in the tent, and I followed. But how did you happen to locate Sanford?”

“By adopting just what Bill Watson said was the only plan. I made believe I wanted to buy more stock. Bill said that was the only way to catch Sanford. If I had tried to find him to get my money back he would have kept out of my way. But when he thought I might have more cash for him, he wrote and told me where I could find him. So I just waited until our show came here and then I called on Mr. Sanford.

“I was just begging him to give me back the money for the oil stock when you came in on us, Joe.”

“Well, I’m glad I did.”

“So am I. I hardly think he’d have paid me if it had not been for you. How did you make him settle?”

“Oh, I just sort of ‘held him up’ for it,” but Joe did not explain the way he had actually “held up” the swindler.

“I’m so glad to get my money back!” Helen sighed as they reached the circus grounds, over which dusk was settling, for it was now early fall.

“And I’m glad, too,” added Joe. “Then next time you buy oil stock ”

“There’ll not be any next time,” laughed Helen, as she went to give Rosebud his customary lumps of sugar.

And that night, in the Sampson Brother’s Show, there was an impromptu little celebration over the recovery of Helen’s money.

Later Joe learned that Sanford gave up his place in the law office. Perhaps the swindler was afraid Mr. Pike would find out about his underhand transactions. Sanford, it seemed, had done some law business for the oil company, and they let him sell some of the worthless stock for himself, allowing him to keep the money that is what Joe did not make him pay back.

It was the night of the final performance. The performers went through their acts with new snap and daring, for it was the last time some of them would face the public until the following season. A few would secure engagements for the winter in theatres, but most of them would winter with the circus.

When the tents came down this time they would be shipped to Bridgeport, where many shows go into winter quarters.

“Well, Joe,” remarked Helen, as she came out of the ring just as Joe finished his last thrilling feat, “what are you going to do? Will you be with us next season?”

“I don’t know. I’ve had several offers to go with hippodrome exhibitions, and on a theatrical circuit.”

“Oh, then you are going to leave us?”

Joe looked at Helen. There seemed to be a new light in her eyes. And though she was smiling, there was something of disappointment showing on her face. With parted lips she gazed at Joe.

“I thought perhaps you would stay,” she murmured, her eyes downcast.

“I I guess I will!” said Joe in a low voice. “This is a pretty good circus after all.”

And so Joe stayed. And what he did in the show will be related in the next volume of this series, to be called: “Joe Strong, the Boy Fish; Or, Marvelous Doings in a Big Tank.”

The chariots rattled their final dusty way around the big tent. The “barkers” came in to sell tickets for the “grand concert.” The animal tent was already down for the last time that season. With the ending of the concert the bugler blew “taps.” The torches went out.

“Good night, Joe,” said Helen.

“Good night, Helen,” he answered, and as they clasped hands in the darkness we will say good-bye to Joe Strong.