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PROLOGUE OF THE STORY.
young fugitive from Justice, utter ly exhausted, seeks shelter from the etorm under the protecting canvas of a circus tent In a Virginia town. He Is found there asleep by a clown, wo man and girl, members of the circus troupe. In the Dressing Tent. THE"Get clown Grlnaldi had shaken the boy Into partial wakeful ness. up," said Grlnaldi. "What are you doing here 5" The lad would have rushed away into the darkness behind him bad it not been for the restraining grip on his arm. He felt himself being drag ged Into the stuffy, mysterious vesti bule of the tent, into plain view of a half dozen vividly attired persons, al most under the feet of stolid, gayly caparisoned horses wearing the great back pads. Ha was not dreaming—he was in the dressing tent of the circus, envel oped by the dull, magic atmosphere that comes In the smoke of burning oils, ma atmosphere that la never to bs found outside the low walls of a dressing tent His bewildered gaze took In the bones, the boxes, the trunks, the ring paraphernalia, the "properties," the discarded uniforms of attendants, cast In apparent confualon here, there and everywhere. Somehow as he stared this conglomerate mass of unfamiliar things seemed to creep away Into the black shadows he had not perceived befor*. The drab dome of the tent began to swirl above his head like a merry-go-round. The lights danced and then went oat Grlnaldi, the clown, caught him In bis arms as he allpped forward In a faint When be regained consciousness he was lying on a thick, dusty mattress, his bead pillowed on a bundle of cloth that smelted of cotton and dyestuSs. Faces emerged from the gloom around him. Some one was holding a torch over his strange couch. He tried to raise himself to his elbow. Some one supported him from behind. As he turned his head to thank this person' it was with difficulty that he repressed a cry of alarm. The being who braced him with friendly arms was a glitter ing, shiny thing of green with a hu man face that leered upon him. Grlnaldi laughed. "He's not a boa constrictor, lad. He's the boneless wonder He's as gentle as a spring lamb and not 'art as tough. 8!gnor Anaconda, the hu man snake—that's wot he's called or. the bills. Ed Casey's 'Is real name.'' "Aw, cheese It Joey!" growled the amiable slgnor. "Bay, young feller, whafs ailing youf Where'd you come from 7" The stranger In this curious world faced his audience, a sudden wariness In his eyes. Before venturing a word of explanation, be allowed his gaze to sweep the entire group. There were men In tlghta and women In tights— In pink and red and green and blue some of them still panting and breath less after their perilous work in the ring. He took them all In at a glance, but his eyes rested at last on the one figure that seemed out of place in this motley crowd the tall, graceful figure of the woman In street clothes. lie looked long at the sweet, gentle, un palnted face of this woman and drew his first deep breath of relief and hope when she smiled. She moved quickly through the crowd of acrobats and rid ers, followed close behind by the slim, wide eyed girl in the long red cloak. "What has happened?" asked the tall woman gently. "Have you—have you run away from home, my boy?'* "How long have I been here?" There was a suggestion of alarm in the ab rupt question. nis voice, querulous through excite ment, was quite stroflg and musical. The tone and his manner of addressing the questioner proved beyond contra diction that he was uo ordinary tramp, or show follower, such as they wore in tile habit of seeing in their travels. A dozen fine old Virginia gentlemen, per haps, one after another, bad lived and died before him down that precious line of blood had come the strain that makes for the finished thoroughbred— the real Virginia aristocrat. "You fainted ten minutes ago. Are you feeling better now? Give him some brandy, one of you. How wet you are: You must have come far.'' He watched her face all the time she was speaking. No sign of trust or con fidence came into his own as the result of her kindliness. Instead, the wari ness grew. "Only across the mountain.'' he said succiutly. "I've been out in the rain, ma'am." he vouchsafed. He had nevor been so cin?o to men and women in tights before. Tlie fluffy. abbreviated tarlatan skirts of iwo women bareback riders who stood not more than two yards away seemed The Rose In the Ring By GEORGE BARR M'CUTCIIEON Copyright 1910 by Dodd, Mead 4L Co. tawdry and flimsy at close range the pink fleshings of the world's greatest somersault artist looked rumpled and fuzzy the zouave costume of the lady rope walker lost its satiny sheen through propinquity the clown was dusty and greasy and stuffy. An illu sion was being shattered in the flash of an eye. "I must lie moving along," he said in quick return to apprehension. "Thank you for looking out for me. It was very kind of"— He swayed as he tried to arise. He made a heroic ef fort to pull himself together. The in nate modesty of gentleman reproved him even as things went hazy. A flask of brandy was pressed to his lips. He gasped, caught his breath and as tears came to his eyes smiled apologetically. "It's pretty strong," he choked out. "Puts snap and ginger Into you," said the clowu, standing back to watch the effect of his ministrations. "You wasn't trying to peep into the dressing tent, was you?" A hot flush mounted to the boy's forehead. "No." he said quickly. "I was trying to find a dry spot. I was tired out. Let me go now, please." He started toward a flap In the tent wall. "Better not go that awny," said the clown. "You'll go plump Into the ring. Wait a minute. Are you 'ungry?" "No," said the boy, but they knew he was not speaking the truth. The girl In the red cloak stood before him. "Please wait, won't you?' she said half timidly, half Imperatively. "I will get something for you to eat. The cook always brings my father's sup per here after ihe show begins. He won't mind if I give it to you. He can get more. My father owns the show." "No, no!" he cried. 'T can't take his supper. I am not hungry." But she smiled and flew away. "It's all right, my boy," said the girl's mother. "We know what it Is to be hungry—sometimes. What is your name? Where do you come from?" "I can't tell you my name," he said In a low voice. "I hoped you wouldn't ask me. I have no home now—not since—oh, a long time ago, It seems— more than a week, I reckon, ma'am." "You have been wandering about like this for a week?" she asked in surprise. "Yes, ma'am. Since the 11th of May." He wanted to tell her that he had been hunted from county to coun ty for over a week, but something held He Lowered His Eyes, Singularly Abashed. his tongue. He felt that she would understand and sympathize, but ho was not so sure of the others. Perhaps she suspected what was go ing on in that troubled brain, for she laid her hand gently upon his arm and said: "Never mind, then. When you are stronger you may go. I am sure you are a good boy." He thanked her with a look of mute gratitude. The girl with the red cloak came trip ping back with a tray. She placed it on his knees, then she whisked away the napkin which covered it. All he knew was that he smiled up into her eyes through his tears, and that the smell of warm food assailed his nos trils. As she straightened up the neg lected cloak slipped from ber shoul ders. She caught it on her arm, but did not attempt to replace it. He low ered his eyes, singularly abashed. A trim, clean figure in red tights stood before him. absolutely without fear or sh.uae or in the least conscious of her attire She was just rounding into young womanhood, turning fifteen, in truth. Lithe and graceful, with the sinuous development of a perfectly healthy young girl who has gone through the expanding process without pausing at the awkward stage, due no doubt to er life and training. The mot her. arose at owe. Site re membered that he was in their world. "Come." she said to her daughter. They withdraw, leaving him to devour his feast alone. Slowly the others, tak ing their cue, edged away. When next the clown approached him, fresh from a merry whirl in the ring, the tray was on the mattress at his side, every par ticle of food gone. The boy's face was in his hands, his elbows on his knees. Suddenly it dawned on him that the elown was staring Intently at his face. With quick understanding he shrank back, but did not withdraw his ga/.e from the eyes of the other. "By jingo!" muttered the motley one. "You—you are the one they're 'tinting for—all over the state. The re ward bills! I remember now!" The lad had risen. A look of abject misery and dread leaped in his eyes. "Let me go." he said almost In whisper, fiercely intense. "I'll get out. I haven't done any harm to you. Don't keep me here a minute"— "Then you are the Jenlson boy!" in open mouthed wonder. "Well, I'll be Jiggered! Here! Don't bolt like that!" "Let go of me!" cried the boy, strik ing at the hand that clutched his arm. "I won't let them catch me! Let mo go!" "Nobody's going to 'urt you 'ere," said the clown coolly. "Just you re member that. I am not going to give you up—leastwise not Just yet So you murdered your grandfather, did you? Well, I wouldn't 'ave took you to be that kind"— "I didn't do It! I didn't do it!" There was piteous appeal in his wide eyes. "I swear I didn't. They're try ing to put It on me to save some one else. Oh, please, don't keep me here! They—they are—they must be here by this time looking for me. Oh, if you knew how I've tried to dodge them! They had bloodhounds last Saturday. Oh!" He covered his face with his hands and shuddered as with a mighty chill. "And you didn't do It?" the clown asked, something like awe In bis voice. "Before God, I did not I—I loved my grandfather. I couldn't have done It Why, he was the only father I had —the only mother. He was everything to me. It was"— He caught himself up quickly in his wild declaration. "I know the man who did It I heard them talking It over before It happen ed, but I didn't know what they were talking about" "Then why don't you tell your sto ry/" demanded the clown. "They've got the evidence against me. Ob, you don't know! You can't know how It looked to the world. There's a man who says he saw me with a gun at my grandfather's win dow. He did see me there and I had a gun, but not to kill poor old grand daddy. No, no! I heard some one walking on thfe gallery—a thief, I thought. I crawled out of my win dow with my shotgun. I—but I oughtn't to tell you this. You must let me go. I'll never tell on you, I swear"— "Wait fi minute,'' interrupted the clown, laying his arm over the boy's shoulder. "Mrs. Braddock can tell by lookin' in your eyes whether you're good or bad. As far as I'm concerned. I don't believe you did it." Mrs. Brad dock crossed over to them, smiling. "This 'ere chap, ma'am," said Grin aldi, "is David Jenison, the boy want ed for that murder near Richmond Inst week. You've seen the reward bills. His grandfather, you remember"— "You are the .Tenison boy?" she snid slowly, even unbelievingly. "The one who killed his grand fa"— "But 1 didn't do it.'' he almost walled.' "You—you must believe me. ma'am. I didn't do it!" He stood lief ore her. looking straight into her eyes. "No, Mrs. Braddock,'' said Grinaldi, "he didn't do it." "How do you know, Grinaldi? lioiv can you"— "Because he says another person did it." said Grinaldi calmly. A Forgotten Blow. THENever woman turned to the boy once more. She seemed to be searching bis soul with her in tense gaze. "No," she murmured, after a mo ment "I am sure 5-ou did not commit murder. You must keep very quiet and do what we tell you to do. You will be safe here. A circus is the safest harbor in all the world for the thief and the lawbreaker. Why should it not be so for one who is iii nocent?" "Let tne tell you all about it. madam," began David Jenison, the hunted. "Not now. There is no time for that We will take you on faith and we will help you. My lioy. I knew in the beginning that you were of gentle I birth—I saw it iu yuur face, in the way you hold yourself. But that you should bo one of the Jettisons of Vir ginia—why. Grinaldi, the .'e-nisons are the bluest— l'.ut. there, we'll talk of that another time too. Sam!'' She called to a ring attendant. "Go out in front and tell Mr. Brad doc's to hurry back here as soon as he is through with the tickets. Don't be alarmed, David Jenison." she said, with a smile. He had opened his Hps to protest ••There Isn't a soul in. all this company from feed boy to propri etor who will betray you to the ol cers of the law. We stand together, the in nocent and the guilty, if you are vouched for by Joey Grinaldi and—me or by any other in our little universe that is the end of It. Even the basest rufilan iu the canvas gang, even the vilest of the hostlers, will stand by you through thick and thin. And there are real murderers among them too. You must have faith in us." "1 have faith in you," lie said sim ply. Then, true Virginian that he was. this tired, nnrassed boy bent low and lifted her hand to his gallant lips. I will give my life up for you any day. madam. It is yours." Some one in the big tent wa. mak ing nn announcement in stentorian tones. "It's time for me to go in." said the clown. "My song comes now. .lust you go alo'g with Casey 'ere intc the dressing room. He'll gel. yon some thing dry to wear out of my box. Don't forget one thing—we're till as thick as thieves 'ere, whether we're honest mcr or not. You'll tind every man, woman and child wot appears iu the ring to be absolutely square and honest. They've got to be. The bad "What's he doing in that costume?" men are not the performers. I don't mind tellln' of it to you ns a consola tion that there is two real murderers among tie canvasnier. and dozen or more pussons whit .i are wanted for desp'rit things. Nobody peaches on 'em, mind you, ind that's the way It goes." Casey, asking no questions, led the youth into the men's section. Here all was confusion. A dozen men were stripping tbemselve. o' one set of tights to don another, for In those days the ordinary acrobat did many turns in the process of earning his daily bread By the time Grinaldi returned young Jenison wns completely arrayed in an extra costume of the clown's, a crea tion in red and white stripes, much too baggy in all directions, but dry as toast The owner of the costume put his hands to his sides and roared with laughter. "Casey, you serpent," he gasped "I didn't aiean that kind of a suit. I meant my Sunday togs—the ones I go to church in when I goes, which 1 doesn't. 'Ere, boys, step right up and listen to an announcement." The crowd gave attention. "This 'ere chap is wanted. There's a big reward for 'itn. You've all seen the posters. He's the Jenison boy. Weh, he aiu't guilty. Got the notion? We've got to '"lp 'itn out of the country. Mum's the word, lads. Stay!" He stood back to in spect his charge. "If you're going to wear then, togs you've got to 'ave out face done over to match." Whereupon he began to apply grease and bismuth to the countenance of the amazed young patrician. Iu a twinkling he was transformed into a mil scaramouch. A conical hat adorned the knit skullpiece that cov ered his black hair. A tall, black mustached man peered In upon lie group. "Where's the kid?" he demanded sharply. "My wife said he was with you, Joey. Say, 1 don't like this busi ness. They're out in front now looking for him. Two of 'em." David, peering from behind the real clown, experienced an instantaneous feeling of aversion lor Braddock. the proprietor. Even as he quailed be neath the new peril that asserted itself ill no vague manne. he found himself wondering how this man eoulil have come to be the husband of his lovely benefactress. "He's here. TOPI." 1 announced Gri naldi. shoving the boy forward. "What's he doing iu that costume?" demanded the owner. "His clothes were wet. Besides, if tlie.v come hotherin' around back 'ere. Tom, they won't be so likely to recog nize"— "Say, do you suppose I'm going to get into a muss with these people by hiding a murderer:'' snapped Brad dock. "You're getting blamed virtuous all of a sudden. Braddock." said the 'clown angrily. "'Ow about these dogs you are protectin' all the time? What's more, this 'ere kid's innocent." "There's Solid reward for this fel low." said Braddock, jamming Ills hands into his coat pockets. "That doesn't sound like lie's innocent, does it'- Besides. the otlicers are plutnb certain lie's hanging around this show some place. I'm not going to be pes tered with constables and detectives from here to Indiana, let me tell you that." "I'm not willing to see these men get into trouble." David said steadily. "Give me time to change tny clothes again, and yon can call iu the otli cers." "Don't be a fool!" exclaimed the clown. A murmur of protest arose from the others. "Thomas!" A woman's voice was calling from the other side of the low canvas partition. "That's tny wife:" growled Brad dock. "1 suppose she'll be beggitr for you too. What do you want':" The question was roared through the can vas. "Come here, please. I must speak with you." "Change your clothes, boy," he said after a moment of indecision. "See that he don't get away, you fellows. If he gives you the slip I'll have blood, and don't you forget it!" The man had been drinking. His eyes were bloodshot and unsteady. His face was bloated from the effects of long and continued use of alcohol, (luce on a time he had been a dashing, boldly handsome fellow. There could be no doubt of that the sort of youth that any romantic girl might have fallen iu love with. A wonderfully vital constitution had protected Ills body from the ravages of self indul gence—the constitution of a great, splendid human animal, in whom not the faintest sign of a once attractive personality remained. There wns no retinement there, no mark of good breeding. What she had evidently mistaken for tlie nobility of true man hood in her innocence and folly was no more than Ihe arrogance of splen did health. Tills man hail been beau tiful In his day and frankly pleasing. That was long before the thing that was in his blood, and In the blood of his father perhaps, had claimed do minion—the mysterious thing which inevitably registers the curse of the base born, so that uo man may lie de ceived. A heavy hlack mustache, lightly touched with gray, shaded a coarse, rather sinister month, from the corner of which protruded an unlighted but thoroughly chewed cigar. Tliin red lines formed a network in hit! cheeks, telling of the habits that had put tliem there. On his forehead wns a perpetual scowl, a line slashed between the eyes as if Inid there by a knife. The fea tures were not Irregular, but they were of the strength that denotes cul tivated weaknesses. Ills chin was square nnd strong, heavily stubbled with a two days' growth of benrd. Eyes that were black and sullen stood well out In their sockets. A silk hat tilted rakishly over his brow. Ills waistcoat wns a loud brocade, his necktie a single black bnnd, knotted once. There wns a great paste dia mond in his soiled shirt front As the flap dropped behind him Grl naldi turned to the boy. "Mebbe we can fix it with 'lm. She'll put in a plea for you and BO will Little Starbright—that's what 'is daughter Is called on the bills—if she gets chance. Stay right 'ere, youngster. I've got to go in for my girl's act now. I wish yon could see my girl. She's the queen of the air and don't you forget it." Outside Braddock was glowering upon his wife, who faced him resolute ly. There never had been a time when she was afraid of this man. Even though he had mistreated her shame fully, he had never found the courage to exercise his physical supremacy. Braddock recognized and respected the qualities that put her so far above him. Not that, he admitted them, even to him self. That, would have been fatal to his own sense of justice. He merely felt. 1 hem. lie could not evade the con ditions tor the reason that he was pow erless to analyze the force that pro duced hem. He only knew that some how he merited the scorn in which she held him. There were times when he haieii tier for tlie very beauty of her character. Then he cursed her in bleak, despairing rage, more against himself than against her, but never without afterward cringing in morbid contem plation of the shudder it brought to her sensitive face. If any one had been so bold ns to accuse him oj' not loving her lie would have been crushed to earth by the brute that was in him. On the other hand, if he were timorously charged with lov ing her, it would have been like him to call the venturesome one a liar—and mean it, too, in his heart. "But live hundred Is five hundred," he was repeating doggedly in opposi tion to her argument in behalf c.f the boy. "You don't know whether he's guilty or not, Mary. Business Is bad We need every dollar we can scrape up. I won't be a party to"— "You harbor pickpockets nnd thieves and, yes, murderers, I'm told, Tom. it is a shameful fact that more sneak I thieves follow this show and share with its owner than any other concern iu the business. Oh. I know all about it! They pay a regular tribute to you for privileges ami protection. Artful Dick C'ronk gave you half of the hundred he tilched from the old man at Charlottes ville last week. I"— "Here, here!" he said In nn angry whisper. "Don't talk so damned loud. Next thing you'll be telling that sort of stuff to the girl. That'd- be a nice thing for her to think, wouldn't it? Say, don't you ever let me hear of you breatbiu' a word of that kind to her. I'd—I'd beat your brains out. Under stand "Oh. I'm not likely to tell her what kind of a man ber father is," said his wife bitterly. "Take care, Tom, that she doesn't find It out for herself. Be quiet! She is coming." Tiie girl, cleansed of her paint and powder., her lit lie body clad in a prim, navy blue frock, the skirt of whi came below the tops of her high laced boots, approached, her eyes gleaming witli excitement. "Where i-- that boy:" she asked, look ing about in some anxiety. "Father, you should s,v hiiu. He is so different from llie boys who follow"— "Wo were just talking about him." interrupted her father shortly. "He"* wanted by the police, so you see he ain't so different from the rest after ail. He's a"~ "Don't, Tom." cried his wife, —"a murderer." completed Braddock, rolling his eigar from one side of his mouth to tho other. The girl stared at him for a moment,' dumbly, iineomprohendingl.v. Her lips parted and her eyes grew very wide. "lie is the .leuison boy we were talk ing about last night, dearie." said Mrs. Braddock. "I don't believe he com mitted that horrid crime." "1 am sure he didn't—I am sure he didn't." cried the girl impulsively, "lie is a gentleman, father, lie couldn't" Braddock hated to hear any out spoken of as a gentleman. "What's that got to do with it':" he demanded. "Gentlei.ian. eh? You two seem to think that these pretty gentle men can't do anything wrong. Why. they're rot tenet- than nine-lout lis of the blokes that follow this show, every mother's son of 'em. I'm sick of hav ing this gentleman business thrown up to me. I suppose you think you're better than the company you live with. Lot me tell you this, you're show peo ple and nothin' more. 1 don't give who your people are you're my wife and my daughter, and that's all then is to it. 1 won't stand tills SOIL of"— Then he whirled about and snatched aside the llap, calling to the group of acrobats. "Come out hero, you! Step lively. 1 want to ask a few questions. Where the dev— Say, haven't you got out of that suit yet? Why, you little scuttle. I'll rip it off your back if you're not out of it in two minutes. Hold on! Come out here first." As .Icnison walked pnst liini the proprietor gave him a violent cuff on the side of the head. The boy, weak and faint, reeled away. His face con vulsed with rage. Even while Ills head swam, he pulled himself together for a leap at the man who had struck the wanton, unexpected blow. Braddock was huge enough anil strong enough to crush the Infuriated lad. but drink had made him a coward at heart He stooped over and picked up au irou tinged stake from tho grouud. With a little cry of terror his daugh ter sprang forward and frantically clutched the man's arm. Her mother wns no less active In staying lilin with resolute hands. The performers who had followed David leaped In with clinched fists, glaring hatefully at their employer. "Don't, father!" cried Ihe girl. "D—n him, he may have a gun." exclaimed Braddock. "ile's used one before." "Why did you strike tne?" cried Dnvid hon.Kely. "Aw, none o* that, now, nunc that!" snarled Braddock, taking a slep forward. "Why did you strike me?" repented the boy dully. "Calm yourself, my boy," Mrs. Braddock kept repeating without rais ing her voice, always low, tense, Im pelling. The tears spraug to his e.ves—tenrs of rage nnd helplessness. With a sob he turned away and leaned his head against the pole. Mrs. Braddock was speaking quiet ly, compassionately. "We must be careful." she said, "not to oppose him too strongly. lie Is not really heart less. It is only his way." "Why did he strike me?" tignin fell from the lips of the fugitive. Grinaldi came hurrying In from tho ring. Behind him, peering over his shoulder, was a black haired young woman in pink tights nnd spnngled trunks. David was afterward to know this handsome, black haired girl as Ruby Noakes, the daughter of Grinal di, otherwise Joey Noakes, and known to the gaping world as Mile. Hoxane. the Flying Queen of the Air. Braddock saw at once thai: the old clown was against him. With an ugly imprecation he directed one of the at tendants lo go to the main entrance with Instructions to bring Mr. Blake nnd hi: friend back to the dressing tent. "We'll see who's running this show!" he declared, taking a fresh grip on the stake and rolling the dangling cignr over nnd over between his teeth. "Hold on. ramp." said Grinnldl, checking the attendant with a gesture. "See 'ere, Tom," ho went on earnestly, "wot's the reason you won't give this one nn even chance with the others?" "Stand aside, fbristie." Braddock snid to his trembling daughter. "Don't get In the way. Oh. I'm not going to smash the cub. so don't worry. Here, come nwny from film. I say—both of you! I won't stand for nny petting of a rascal like him. Well. I'll tell you, Joey Noakes," he went on. turning to the clown. "I don't mind saying I need the money. This kid's going to lie caught by somebody before long, and the man that does it gets five hundred. It might as well be me. Business is business, and just now business Is bad. You people all know what this infer nal weather has done for us. We haven't had a paying day since we opened, and here it is the middle of May—nearly six weeks, that's what it is. There's a measly $300 in the big top tonight and half as much this after noon. I tell you. if these rains keep up I'll have to close. It takes more than $300 a day to run this show." [To be continued.]