There was a moment of suspense, and then the man, with an air of confidence, stepped close to the big, heavy box and, pointing to a certain corner, said:
“Right there is a secret panel. You slip it back and get out that way!”
The man seemed so triumphantly confident and so sure of his statement, that several in the audience cried:
“Is that right? Is that how you do the trick? If it is pay him the ten thousand dollars!”
Joe looked at Jim Tracy. This was the first time any one had ever come so close to the truth. Helen, standing at one side of the stage, began to be fearful that, after all, Joe’s secret was discovered. It would mean an end of the box trick.
Then Joe smiled, and stepped forward. And there was something in the smile that reassured Helen.
“Has he guessed it?” she asked in a low voice, as Joe passed her.
“No. But it was a narrow escape,” was the answer.
JUGGLING WITH FIRE
Smilingly the man who had made claim to the ten thousand dollars waited for Joe Strong. The fellow seemed already to have the money in his grasp.
“You say there is a sliding panel in that corner?” asked Joe.
“And that I get out that way?”
“Well, I say you are wrong, and I am going to prove it,” returned Joe easily, and also smiling. “Now I’m going to let you, and any one you may select from the audience, paste sheets of paper over that corner. Then I’ll do the trick over again. If I get out of the box, and the paper you paste on remains unbroken, you’ll have to admit that I didn’t come out through the place where you say is a sliding panel, won’t you?”
“Well, if you don’t break the paper, I guess I’ll have to admit you didn’t get out that way,” said the man, with a grin. “But I want to see you do it first.”
“Very well. I’ll send for some paste and paper,” went on Joe. “Meanwhile call upon any of your friends you like to help.”
“Come on up here, Bill!” called out the man.
For an instant Joe, and Helen also, as she admitted later, feared it might be Bill Carfax to whom he referred. But an altogether different individual shuffled up to the stage.
“We’ll paste paper over this end where the trick panel is,” went on the man who had claimed the reward. “He won’t get out then!”
“Sure he won’t,” agreed his companion. “Do we get the ten thousand then?”
“Naturally, if you have guessed right,” said Joe. “But that remains to be seen.”
There was no trouble in getting paste and paper. That is part of a circus, for, even though it is old-fashioned, paper hoops are still used for the clowns and some bareback riders to leap through.
A plentiful supply of large, white sheets and a pail of paste with a brush were brought up to the stage. Then the men were invited to begin their work, which was to seal up the corner the man had picked out as the location of the secret panel.