“All right,” assented Joe. And then, as he caught sight of what seemed to be a number of canceled bank checks on a table, he smilingly asked: “Have you been paying your income tax?”
“Oh, no,” answered the chemist with a laugh. “Those are just some samples of paper sent in for me to test. An inventor is trying to get up an acid-proof ink. I’m a sort of paper expert, among my other chemical activities, and I’m putting these samples through a series of tests. But you’ll not be interested in them.”
“I don’t know but what I shall be,” returned Joe, with sudden energy. “Since you are a paper expert I may be able to set you another task besides that of showing me the latest thing in fire-resisting liquids. Yes, I may want your services in both lines.”
“Well, I’m here to do business,” said Mr. Waldon, smiling.
JOE EATS FIRE
The chemist led the way into a little office. This opened off from the room in which was the apparatus, and where, as Joe had become more and more keenly aware, there was a most unpleasant odor.
“I’ll open the window, close the laboratory door, and you won’t notice it in a little while,” said Mr. Waldon, as he observed Joe’s nose twitching. “I’m so used to it I don’t mind, but you, coming in from the fresh air—”
“It isn’t exactly perfume,” interrupted Joe, with a laugh. “But don’t be uneasy on my account. I can stand it.”
However, he was glad when the fresh air came in through the window. The chemist washed his hands and then sat down at a desk, inviting Joe to draw up his chair.
“Now, what can I do for you?” asked Mr. Waldon. “Is it fire or paper?”
“Well, since I know pretty well what I want to ask you in the matter of fire,” replied Joe, “and since I’ve got a puzzling paper problem here, suppose we tackle the hardest first, and come to the known, and easier, trick later.”
“Just as you say,” assented Mr. Waldon. “What’s your paper problem?”
Joe’s answer was to take from the valise several hundreds of the circus tickets. They were the kind sold for fifty cents, or perhaps more in these days of the war tax. They entitle the holder to a seat on what, at a baseball game, would be called the “bleachers.” In other words they were not reserved-seat coupons.
However, these tickets were not the one-time blue or red pieces of stiff pasteboard, bearing the name of the circus and the words “Admit one,” which were formerly sold at the gilded wagon. These were handed in at the main entrance, and the tickets were used over and over again. Sometimes the blue ones sold for fifty cents, and a kind selling for seventy-five cents entitled the purchaser to a seat with a folding back to it, though it was not reserved.
But Joe had instituted some changes when he became one of the circus proprietors, and one was in the matter of the general admission tickets. He had them printed on a thin but tough quality of paper, and each ticket was numbered. In this way it needed but a glance at the last ticket in the rack and a look at the memorandum of the last number previously sold at the former performance, to tell exactly how many general admissions had been disposed of.