As already said, it was the evening performance, and as Helen finished her act on Rosebud she looked over toward the place where Joe was preparing to do his slide down the slanting wire.
“I wonder what he had in mind as a new act for me,” mused Helen. “I do hope it isn’t anything to do with fire. That sort of stunt creates a sensation, but it’s dangerous, in spite of what Joe does to himself. I don’t like it! Not after what happened to Joe that day!”
She had seen that Rosebud was given in charge of the groom who always looked after the clever steed, and now Helen moved over where she could watch Joe’s comparatively new wire act.
As she approached this part of the circus tent Helen was startled to see several men carrying large hoops on long poles, take their positions on either side of the slanting wire down which the daring performer was soon to slide on his head, by means of the wheeled cap.
“That’s something new!” exclaimed Helen, as she saw the men with the big hoops. “I wonder if Joe is going to jump through them, as I jump through the paper hoops from Rosebud’s back?”
Joe was up on the little platform now, having finished his wire act. He was adjusting to his head the leather cap.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” began Jim Tracy in his sonorous voice, as he pointed to Joe on his high perch, thus calling attention to the performer.
All eyes were turned in his direction. Then, as Joe stooped over and stood on his head, preparatory to sliding down the wire, the hoops, which the men held over the cable by means of long poles, suddenly burst into flame. Held over the wire, down which Joe would in a moment slide, was a row of fiery circles!
Helen held her hand over her lips to stifle a scream.
THE BROKEN BOTTLE
So still was it in the big circus tent after the band stopped playing, while Joe prepared to do his head slide, that the whirr of the steel wheels in his leather cap could plainly be heard as he slid down the wire.
And as Helen and the others watched, the intention of the daring young performer became evident.
He was going to coast through the blazing hoops of fire which the men held in such a position that Joe could slide through them without touching them. Though they were called “hoops,” in reality they were not completely closed, there being a slight opening to enable them to be slipped over the slanting wire. If a gigantic letter “C” with a long pole fastened to the lower curved part, can be imagined, it; will give an exact idea of what is meant.
As to the fire itself, it was caused by blazing bits of tow fastened to the circumference of the big wire hoops. And thus through the blazing circles Joe Strong slid down the slanting wire on his head. At the lower end of the wire, where it was fast to a stake in the ground, he caught hold of the cable in his gloved hands and so slowed his speed. Then he leaped to his feet and bowed in acknowledgment of the applause.