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BY WARREN L, ELDRED
CHAPTER XV AN EXCITING DAY
Own ERs of launches and small steamers were driving a brisk trade carrying passengers across the lake to points near the circus grounds. About ten o'clock, the boys were ready to start. They had arranged with the owner of a launch to call for Mrs. Spencer and the girls, then stop at the camp landing for them, and continue on to Mr. Samuelson's dock, where Storer and Rutledge were to be picked up. They ran up the signal on a little flagpole at the end of the landing, and awaited the coming of the launch. “I wonder what 's happened,” Bert said, looking up and down the lake. “He was to call at Mrs. Spencer's before ten o'clock, then come right down here. I don't see a sign of his old scow, and it 's ten after ten now.” “Well, let 's hang around awhile and see if he appears,” Edgar suggested. “He may show up a little later, and we still have twenty minutes or so to spare.” So they waited. They fretted and waited some more. They grew increasingly impatient, but still they waited. They kept on waiting. Then they grew desperate, and decided to cease wait111g. Lefty volunteered to row up to Mrs. Spencer's landing and see the guests safely embarked on any craft that could be hailed. This done, he was to return to camp, and the boys would get across any way they could. After a time, Lefty was observed in the distance, returning with all speed. “Well, did you get ’em started?” Tom called. Lefty shook his head. “What 's up? Are n't they going?” Lefty rested on his oars, and the boat floated in near the landing. “No one was around the place,” he reported. “House all closed up?” “Yes. House closed, and not a sign of anybody on the premises.” There was a moment of silence, while the campers reviewed the situation. “Well,” Tom announced finally, “I think they 're across the lake waiting for us. Maybe the old skipper got mixed up and took 'em over before he called for us. There comes a little launch. Let's hail it ! There 's no one on board,
and we can just about squeeze in. We can't take Storer and Rutledge, though. They 'll surely think we 're lost We promised to call for them, you remember.” “Oh, well, when they find that we 're not coming, they 'll make up their minds that something 's happened, and get across some other way,” Eliot assured them. “Come on 1 Yell, or the boat 'll go past !” They raised a united shout, and a shrill toot from the whistle of the diminutive craft told them that their signal was heard. The bow swung around and pointed toward the landing, and the boys prepared to embark. “There hardly will be room enough on board for all of us,” the doctor declared, looking doubtfully at the approaching boat. “Perhaps the man will tow one of our boats behind. Then we can put our luncheon in it, with two or three of us to keep it from escaping.” The skipper of the small craft good-naturedly agreed (for a consideration) to tow the larger of the camp boats, so it was made fast to the stern of the launch, and the campers accepted his invitation to “pile in.” Lefty, Tom, and Tad sat in the rowboat. The others crowded on board the launch, and slowly it chugged across the lake, reaching the eastern shore at about half-past eleven. Roads were thronged with vehicles of many varieties, and people fairly swarmed in the direction of the circus tents. “If Mrs. Spencer and the girls are here, how shall we find them?” Jack asked in a perplexed tone. “There 's such a mob, it 'll be hard work.” “Just keep moving and looking,” Tad responded. “We’re pretty sure to run across them.” About fifteen minutes later, they were walking along a road that led back toward the circus grounds. Suddenly a familiar voice hailed them from a shady retreat, and, quickly looking upward, they discovered Mrs. Spencer and the four girls sitting upon a light shawl spread on the grass. With them, as calm and cool (well, perhaps not cool, considering the temperature, but untroubled, certainly), as if the original arrangements had been exactly carried out, sat Storer and Rutledge. “Greetings " cried Storer. “Salutations and a cordial welcome ! We 've been waiting for you to bring the lunch.” “Well, you do beat all !” gasped the doctor. “How did you get here, and how long have you been waiting 2" “How did we get here? Why, your old friend Charon, the boatman, called for us just as we arranged yesterday.” “He did P” “He was very prompt,” Mrs. Spencer added. “He called at our landing at half-past nine. Fortunately, we were all ready. There were a number of passengers on board, and we wondered where all you Beaver Campers would find room. The launch did not stop at your landing, however, and we supposed that you would be called for later. We kept right on down the lake until Mr. Samuelson's dock was reached, and there Mr. Storer and Mr. Rutledge came on board. After that, we were taken straight across the lake, and here we have been since, waiting in this cool, quiet nook which Mr. Rutledge discovered for us.” “Well, would n’t that jar you?” Lefty asked. “The ancient mariner never came near us.” Then they drew graphic word-pictures of their anxious waiting and final disappointment. Mrs. Spencer and the girls, however, expressed such hearty sympathy that they were soon comforted. The land on one side of the road sloped upward rather abruptly for eight or ten feet, being level on top of the rise, and well shaded. Here the party arranged itself comfortably. In the distance could be seen the white tents of the circus, and as the parade would soon pass along the road below on its way to town, they decided to eat luncheon, and await there the “grand, glittering display of public pageantry.” “Ah!” Storer cried suddenly, pausing with a sandwich midway to its destruction. “Sounds of martial music smite my ears' The monster street parade must have started.” Sure enough, a procession of red wagons, gaily ornamented with gold-leaf, was rolling out of the big tent. The band rode in the first chariot, and certainly worked hard in an effort to let people know that the procession had started. Onward it moved, nearer and nearer to the party under the trees. Storer rose, assumed the manner of a ringmaster, and began to explain the features of the procession for the benefit of his audience. “First, we have a bewildering bit of bewitching band. Next, you will kindly observe the gorgeous galaxy of glittering glory, gregariously grouped. Now approaches the ponderous procession of prepossessing pachyderms. Next in line, we discover a dismal drove of dilapidated dromedaries, together with a colossal class of celebrated camels. We now see some savage
specimens of untamed animals. ladies. There is no danger terrifying, tempestuous tiger. Now a wild, wilful wolf. Next, a languorous, lacerating lion. There, a huge, haughty hippopotamus. In the next cage, a ravenous, raging rhinoceros. Finally, a gigantic, garrulous giraffe. “Now the brave riders and fair rideresses enter upon the scene. Behold the prancing steeds ! Observe the ease and grace with which they are controlled ! Notice the spirited picture which is here presented. “Here come the clowns—joy of youth, solace of age | Comical, curious, clever, charming, captivating ! “Ah! Here is the familiar tail-end of the procession Our shrinking little warbler the calliope Well, that 's all of the parade Had n't we better amble along toward the tents?” The others were willing, even eager, to start, so the party walked leisurely along toward the circus grounds. Already dark clouds were rolling together in the west, and the wind was rising. “We 're going to have a storm before long, I 'm afraid,” Doctor Halsey said, rather anxiously. “I wonder if that tent is put up strongly enough to be safe.” “They must strike storms once in a while,” Tom remarked. “If there 's any way of making a tent storm-proof, I dare say the circus folks know all about it.” “We 'll be careful to sit under a spot that does n’t leak,” Jack added. “It diverts your interest to have water splashing down on your head.” They reached the circus grounds after a short walk, and secured the bits of cardboard that entitled them to the unspeakable bliss of a circus performance. Already people were gravitating toward the ticket wagon, going thence into the menagerie, and on to the main tent. “Most of the animals are out helping to lengthen the parade,” Eliot observed, looking around the almost deserted tent. They procured programs and found their seats, and before long sounds of stirring music were heard outside. Nearer and nearer they came. Finally, with a crash of cymbals and a vigorous thumping of drums, the parade returned from its invasion of the town, and the performance began. The three rings at once became the centers of interest. Event followed event in rapid succession. Clowns performed all manner of droll antics, Horses danced gracefully to the music of waltzes and two-steps. Trapeze artists exhibited such skill and daring, that more than one spectator gasped apprehensively. Races of several varie
Keep your seats, Here we have a
ties thrilled the excited watchers, and animals, more or less wild, gave convincing demonstrations of man's power over the brute creation. Suddenly, a long rumble of thunder made itself heard above the varied noises of the circus. Sharp flashes of lightning
Spencer and the girls, who were outwardly calm in spite of any misgivings which they may have felt. Soon after the accident, the performance concluded abruptly, but most of the spectators kept
could be seen through the canvas, and the wind blew with increasing violence, -- or whirling loose papers and --
even small objects around in the confusion that precedes a Storm. The performance continued as if the hot July sun still shone. A vague restlessness, however, appeared among the spectators. A few made their way toward the exits. Others looked about them with undisguised apprehension. Attention was diverted from the rings. “Shall we stay here, Mrs. Spencer, or seek some safer shelter?” the doctor inquired. “I think we are quite safe.” she replied quietly. “If we go outside, we may be exposed to the full force of the storm. It is probably only a thunder-shower. Perhaps the sun will be shining again when the performance is over.” The thunder rolled nearer and louder. The lightning flashes followed one another in rapid succession, and the wind gathered increasing strength. Now the rain came pattering and splashing down about the tent. All at once came a blinding flash of lightning, followed almost immediately by a tremendous clap of thunder. At the same time, the flaming lights in the middle of the tent suddenly went out. Women screamed in terror, and some of the spectators hastily fled toward the exits. Fortunately, the lights at either end of the tent still burned brightly, and nothing like a panic resulted, though many were visibly nervous and alarmed. The Beaver Campers hastened to reassure Mrs.
“HE APPROACHED THE MAN, WHO STEPPED BACKWARD IN ALARM."
(SEE PAGE IoI9.)
their seats, choosing to remain under shelter. The mishap marked the climax of the storm. Presently the thunder was rolling faintly in the distance, the lightning flashes came more rarely, and the rain was falling less heavily. “Well, this has been a great day !” Storer remarked cheerfully. “Who ever heard before of