The Bad Boy and His Pa Drive
a Roman Chariot—They Win the Race, but
Meet With Difficulties—The Bearded Lady to the Rescue—A Farmer’s
Cart Breaks Up the Circus Procession.
Ohio was a hoodoo for the circus business, and Kentucky got the whole bunch ready for a long stay at Dwight, Ill., but the agent routed us into Pennsylvania, and pa has had nothing but a series of disasters since striking the state.
Pa gave notice that when we got to his old home, at Scranton, where he lived when he was a boy, he wanted to sort of run things, so his old neighbors would see that he had got up in the world since he left the old town. So the manager gave pa about 400 free tickets to distribute among his friends, and arranged for pa to show off as the leading citizen in the show. He was offered a chance to take the place of the clown, the ring master or anybody whose duty he thought he could perform. Pa selected the place of driver of the Roman chariot with four horses abreast, in place of the Irish Roman who was accustomed to drive the chariot in the race with the female charioteer, a muscular girl who used to clerk in a livery stable at Chicago.
The chariot race is a fake, because it is arranged for the girl to win, so the audience will go wild and cheer her, so she has to come bowing all around the ring. The way the job is put up is for the two chariots to start, and go around twice. On the first turn the man driver is ahead, and takes the pole, and on the second turn the girl’s ahead, and she takes the pole, and on the third turn the man is ahead, and they begin to whip the horses, who seem crazy, and on the last stretch the man holds his team back a little, and the girl passes him and comes out a trifle ahead, and the crowd goes wild.
Well, the master of ceremonies coached pa about the business, and told him what to do. They knew he could drive four horses, because he said he was an old stage driver, and when he got in the chariot with the Roman suit on gleaming with gold, and the brass helmet, and the cloth of gold gauntlets, and stood up like a senator, gee, I was proud of him, and when he and the female drove out of the dressing-room and halted by the door for the announcer to announce the great Ben Hur chariot race, I got into the chariot behind pa, and told him he must win the race, or the people of Scranton would mob him. For they knew these races were usually fixed beforehand, but since he was to drive one of the teams, all his friends were betting on him, and if he pulled the team and let that livery stable lady win the race, they would accuse him of giving free tickets to get them in the show and skin them out of their money.
Pa said to me: “This race is going to be on the square, and you watch my smoke. Do you think I would let that red-headed dish washer beat me? Not on your life.”