In addition to these mystery acts, and some more ordinary sleight-of-hand tricks which he used to fill in with, Joe did his fire-eating trick, ending that act with the plunge into the tank. This never failed to create a sensation.
“But it isn’t the big sensation I’m after!” said Joe, when his friends congratulated him. “Wait until you see that!”
Another feature of Joe’s performance was his wire-walking. Since he had rescued the lady’s cat he had added this to his share of the program, and it was a thriller enjoyed by many audiences.
“But it’s a little tame,” said Joe one day to Jim Tracy. “I want to put a little more pep into it.”
“How are you going to do it?” asked the ringmaster.
“I think I know a way,” was the answer.
And a few days later Joe gave a demonstration.
The wire on which he performed was a high one, stretched between two well-braced poles. On each pole was fastened a small platform, somewhat like those high up in the tent where the big swing was fastened.
Joe walked across the wire from one platform to the other, doing various “stunts” on the slender support. One day Jim Tracy noticed that a long to the ground between one of the rings and a wooden platform.
“What’s that, Joe?” asked the ringmaster, “Looks like an extra guy wire for the pole.”
“No, that’s for my new stunt,” said Joe. “I’ll show you at this show.”
The audience watched him performing on the high wire. Jim Tracy was watching, too, for he remembered what Joe had said. Suddenly, at the conclusion of the usual wire-walking feats, Joe stooped, placed his head on the slanting wire, raised himself until he was standing with his legs up and spread apart. Then he quickly flung wide his hands and slid on his head down the slanting win to the ground, stopping himself just before he reached it by grasping the wire in his gloved hands.
Jim Tracy, who was sitting on a box, leaped to his feat.
“Head first!” he cried. “That’s some stunt!”
And the audience seemed to think so, too, from the way it applauded.
THE SWINDLERS AGAIN
Joe Strong, having checked his rapid, head-first and head-on slide down the slanting wire by grasping it in his gloved hands, gave a “flip-flop” and stood up, bowing to the loud applause. Jim Tracy and some of the other circus employees surrounded the young man.
“Why didn’t you tell us you were going to pull off something like this?” demanded the ringmaster.
“Because I wasn’t sure until the last minute that I would do it,” answered Joe. “I hadn’t practiced it as much as I should have liked, but when I got up there on the platform I felt pretty sure I could do it. I wasn’t running much risk anyhow, except that of failure. I knew I wouldn’t fall, for I could have grabbed the wire in my hands if I had started to topple over.”