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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 136 pages of information about Joe Strong the Boy Fire-Eater.

“That’s just it, Joe,” was the unexpected answer.  “There’s too big a crowd.  We have too many people at this show, and that’s what is worrying me a whole lot!”

Joe Strong looked in surprise at the treasurer.  What could Mr. Moyne mean?

CHAPTER IV

THE RUSTED WIRE

“Yes,” went on the circus treasurer, as he rubbed his chin reflectively, “it’s a curious state of affairs, and as you’re so vitally interested I came to you at once.  There’s going to be trouble!”

“Trouble!” cried Joe with a laugh.  “I can’t see that, Mr. Moyne.  You say there’s a big crowd of people at our circus—­too much of a crowd, in fact.  I can’t see anything wrong in that.  It’s just what we’re always wanting—­a big audience.  Let ’em fill the tent, I say, and put out the ‘Straw Seats Only’ sign.  Trouble!  Why, I should say this was good luck!” and Joe hastened his preparations, for he wanted to go on with the big swing.

“Ordinarily,” said Mr. Moyne, in the slow, precise way he had of speaking, brought about, perhaps, by his need of being exact in money matters, “a big crowd would be the very thing we should want.  But this time we don’t—­not this kind of a crowd.”

“What do you mean?” asked Joe, beginning to feel that it was more than a mere notion on the part of the treasurer that something was wrong.  “Is it a rough crowd?  Will there be a ‘hey rube!’ cry raised—­a fight between our men and the mill hands?”

“Oh, no, nothing like that!” the treasurer hastened to assure Joe.  “The whole thing is just this.  There are a great many more people in the main top now than there are admission prices in the treasurer’s cash box.  The books don’t balance, as it were.”

“More people in the tent than have paid their way?” asked Joe.  “Well, that always happens at a circus.  Small boys will crawl in under the canvas in spite of clubs.”

“Oh, it isn’t a question of the small boys—­I never worry about them,” returned Mr. Moyne.  “But there are about a thousand more persons at the performance which will soon begin than we have admission prices for.  In other words there are a thousand persons occupying fifty cent seats that haven’t paid their half dollar.  It isn’t the reserve chairs that are affected.  We’re all right there.  But fully a thousand persons have come into the show, and we’re short five hundred dollars in our cash.”

“You don’t tell me!” cried Joe.  He saw that Mr. Moyne was very much in earnest.  “Have the ticket men and the entrance attendants been working a flim-flam game on us?”

“Oh, no, it isn’t that,” said the treasurer.  “I could understand that.  But the men are perfectly willing to have their accounts gone over and their tickets checked up.  They’re straight!”

“Then what is it?” asked Joe.

“That’s what we’ve got to find out,” went on Mr. Moyne.  “In some way the thousand people have come in without paying the circus anything.  And they didn’t sneak in, either.  A few might do that, but a thousand couldn’t.  They’ve come in by the regular entrance.”

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