“Oh, that’s all right,” Joe assured him.
“Hello, what are you doing here—and what’s the matter with you?” cried Jim, seeing Harry Loper sitting dejectedly in a chair. “Why aren’t you out fixing the trapezes? You know Mr. Strong goes on them soon.”
“I—I—he told me to stay here,” Loper stammered, indicating Joe.
“Yes,” supplemented Joe Strong, “there’s something doing, Jim. I’ll tell you later. I want some one to stay in here with Harry. Some one we can trust,” he added significantly.
“I’ll send Paddy Flynn,” promised the ringmaster. As he went out he looked curiously at Harry.
“How’s the stuff coming on, Ted?” asked Joe, when the doctored mixture had been thrown away and new made.
“All right, I guess. I’ll try it.”
He put some on one finger, thrust the member into the flame of a candle, and held it there longer than usual.
“Look out!” Joe warned him. “You can’t be too familiar with fire.”
“The stuff’s all right,” was the answer. “It’s better than the last we used.”
“Good! Well, let’s get busy!”
In spite of the strain of what he had gone through in listening to the partial confession of Harry Loper, Joe did some of his best work in the fire acts that day. The blazing banquet was most effective.
Having changed to his costume for his magical box and other tricks, and learning that Harry was still safe under the watchful eye of Paddy Flynn, Joe hurried out to his stage, where Mr. Tracy was already making the ten thousand dollar offer.
As Joe hurried across the arena one of the tent men thrust into his hand a scrap of paper.
“What is it?” asked Joe.
“I don’t know,” was the reply. “A boy just brought it and told me to give it to you.”
Joe had a half minute to wait while the ringmaster was talking. Quickly he read the note—it was really a scrawl. But it said:
“Please forgive me and still believe in me. I am suffering! I can’t come to you in the condition I’m in now. But I have something to tell you if you could come to me. The boy will bring you.”
The note was signed “Hamilton Logan.”
“Whew!” whistled Joe. “Worse and more of it!”
THE TRAP IS SET
Pausing only long enough to tell the man who had given him the note to be sure and detain the boy who had brought it, Joe Strong hurried over to the stage to begin his box trick. That was to be followed by the “disappearing lady” act.
And here again Joe had to use all his reserve nerve to enable him to go on with the performance as smoothly as he usually did. He had to dismiss from his mind, for the time being, all thoughts of Ham Logan, and he steeled himself not to think of what the strange summons might mean.
“If Ham is in trouble I’m going to help him—that’s all!” declared Joe.