“All right,” was the reply of the chemist. “But with the understanding that you do all the eating. I haven’t any appetite that way myself.”
They both laughed, and then, for some hours, Joe Strong was closeted with the chemist.
When Joe emerged from the office of Mr. Waldon there was a look of satisfaction on the face of the young magician.
“I think I can make quite an act, after what you’ve told me,” he said. “As soon as I get it perfected I’ll send you word and you can come to see me.”
“I will, if you aren’t too far away,” promised the chemist.
That night, following the closing of the performance, Joe invited Helen, Jim Tracy, and a few of his more intimate friends and associates into his private dressing tent.
“I have the nucleus of a new act,” he said, when they were seated in chairs before a small table, on which were several pieces of apparatus. “Just give me your opinion of this.”
Joe lighted a candle, picked up on a fork what seemed to be a piece of bread, and touched it to the candle flame. In an instant the object that was on the fork burst into a blaze, and, before the eyes of his friends, Joe calmly put the flaming portion into his mouth.
He closed his lips, seemed to be chewing something, opened his mouth, and showed it empty.
“A little light lunch!” he remarked, but his smile faded as Helen screamed in horror.
THE CHEMIST’S LETTER
“Oh, Joe, you’ll surely burn yourself!” exclaimed the startled bareback rider.
“Did you get burned?” questioned Mrs. Watson.
“Some trick!” declared the snake charmer.
For the moment there was some excitement, for this was a new act for the circus people.
Helen soon recovered her customary composure, and then she explained the cause of her excitement and the startled cry she had given. She had, of course, expected some trick with fire when Joe had summoned her and the others to his own private part of the dressing tents. But she had not expected to see him actually put the blazing material in his mouth.
“I thought there was some sleight-of-hand performance about it,” she said. “I had an idea that you only pretended to put the blazing stuff in your mouth, Joe. And when I saw it I was afraid you’d breathe in the flames and—and—”
She did not need to go on, they all understood what she meant, for every one in the circus knew that Helen and Joe were engaged.
“I once saw a little boy burned at a bonfire at which he was playing,” went on Helen. “He died. Since then the sight of fire near a human being has always a bad effect on me. But I suppose I can get over it, if I know there is no danger,” she said with a slight smile at Joe.
“Well, I can assure you there isn’t the slightest danger,” he declared. “If there was, I should be the first to give it up. I am as fond of living as any one.”