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
In the Dressing Tent.
clown Grlnaldi had shaken
the boy Into partial wakeful
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
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
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.
"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
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
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
"Only across the mountain.'' he said
succiutly. "I've been out in the rain,
ma'am." he vouchsafed.
He had nevor been so
and women in tights before. Tlie
fluffy. abbreviated tarlatan skirts of
iwo women bareback riders who stood
not more than two yards away seemed
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"And you didn't do It?" the clown
asked, something like awe In bis
"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
"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
"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
"No, Mrs. Braddock,'' said Grinaldi,
"he didn't do it."
"How do you know, Grinaldi? lioiv
"Because he says another person did
it." said Grinaldi calmly.
A Forgotten Blow.
woman turned to the boy
once more. She seemed to be
searching bis soul with her in
"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
"Let tne tell you all about it.
madam," began David Jenison, the
"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
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.
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"Say, do you suppose I'm going to
get into a muss with these people by
hiding a murderer:'' snapped Brad
"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
"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
"Don't be a fool!" exclaimed the
murmur of protest arose
from the others.
woman's voice was
calling from the other side of the low
"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
"Come here, please. I must speak
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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.
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
Then he whirled about and snatched
aside the llap, calling to the group of
"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
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
"Don't, father!" cried Ihe girl.
"D—n him, he may have a gun."
exclaimed Braddock. "ile's used one
"Why did you strike tne?" cried
"Aw, none o* that, now, nunc
that!" snarled Braddock, taking a slep
"Why did you strike me?" repented
the boy dully.
"Calm yourself, my
Braddock kept repeating without rais
ing her voice, always low, tense, Im
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.]
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