“I wish you wouldn’t,” said Helen, in a low voice, but Joe did not seem to hear her.
The big swing was a trapeze act performed on the highest of the circus apparatus. Part of this apparatus consisted of two platforms fastened to two of the opposite main poles, and up under the very roof of the big top.
Midway between the platforms, which were just large enough for a man to stand on, was a trapeze with long ropes, capable of being swung from one resting place to the other. It was, in reality, a “big swing.”
Joe’s act, which he had often done, but which of late had been performed by a man billed as “Wogand,” was to stand on one platform, have the long trapeze started in a long, pendulumlike swing by an attendant, and then to leap down, catch hold of the bar with his hands, and swing up to the other platform. If he missed catching the bar it meant a dangerous fall; a fall into a net, it is true, but dangerous none the less. Its danger can be judged when it is said that Wogand had died as an indirect result of a fall into the net. He missed the trapeze, toppled into the net, and, by some chance, did not land properly. His back was injured, his spine became affected, and he died.
When circus performers on the high trapezes fall or jump into the safety nets, they do not usually do it haphazardly. If they did many would be killed. There is a certain knack and trick of landing in a net.
Joe Strong, ever having the interest of the circus at heart, had decided to do this dangerous swing. He was an acrobat, as well as a stage magician, and he had decided to take up some of his earlier acts which had been so successful.
“But I wish he wouldn’t,” said Helen to herself. “I have a premonition that something will happen.” Helen was very superstitious in certain ways.
But to all she said, Joe only laughed.
“I’m going to do the big swing,” he replied simply.
TOO MANY PEOPLE
Hundreds of men toiling and sweating over stiff canvas and stiffer ropes. The thud of big wooden sledge hammers driving in the tent stakes. The rumble of heavy wagons, and a cloud of dust where they were being shoved into place by the busy elephants.
On one edge of the big, vacant lot were wisps of smoke from the fires in the stove wagons, and from these same wagons came appetizing odors.
Here and there men and women darted, carrying portions of their costumes in their hands. Clowns, partly made up, looked from their dressing tents to smile or shout at some acquaintance who chanced to be passing by.
All this was the Sampson Brothers’ Circus in preparation for a day’s performance.
Joe Strong, having had a good breakfast, without which no circus man or woman starts the day, strolled over to where Helen Morton was just finishing her morning meal.