But the giant had planted the seed of a theory in Ted’s mind.
Presently Ted saw Stella beckoning to him in the crowd, and forced his way to her side.
She took his arm, and they got out of the crowd. Ted saw that she had something to communicate.
“Well?” he said, smiling down on her.
“There’s going to be something doing here,” said she. “The boss showman has been talking with several of the gang.”
“All right. Did you hear anything about Skip Riley?”
“Yes. He’s been gone from Strongburg about a month.”
“Learn anything else about him?”
“Skip Riley is not his name at all.”
“That so? What is it? Did you learn?”
“I was talking to a lady from Strongburg, one of those who got him a job on the fire department.”
“What did she know about him?”
“She said that she was appointed a committee of one by the Ladies’ Aid Society over there to look up the new fireman’s career.”
“And I suppose she ran onto some hot stuff?”
“It seems that the ex-convict, Skip Riley, had been a circus performer once upon a time, before he took to being a burglar.”
“Was burglary the crime for which he was put in prison?”
“Yes, so she says. He was an aeronaut and acrobat.”
“Good! And what was his stage name? Did she say?”
“Robinson—Ben Robinson. She says that she was told that he was quite famous in his day as a circus performer, but that he couldn’t resist the temptation to steal, and so had to quit the business, as none of the circus proprietors would have him around.”
“Did she say where she got this information?”
“Yes. It was sent to her by the warden of the penitentiary in which Riley was confined before he came to Strongburg.”
“Then her information is probably correct. Stella, thanks to you, we’ve got them dead to rights. We’ve solved the mystery hanging around all these recent robberies.”
“Nearly, but not quite. How were they accomplished?”
“That I don’t know positively, but I have a theory which I believe will turn out to be correct.”
“But about Riley?”
“Ben Robinson, the proprietor of this show, and Skip Riley, burglar and ex-convict, are one and the same man.”
Aloft after A prisoner.
“All ready for the big show,” cried Kit, riding up to Ted. “When will we begin the sports?”
Ted looked over the grand stand, which was built around an arena in which the cowboy sports were to come off.
This was the most important event of the day, for while bronchobusting and cattle roping are a cowboy’s business, yet he finds unending amusement in doing these same things if his girl and friends are there to witness his skill.
After some ordinary feats of trick riding by the visiting cowboys, several really dangerous steers were turned loose in the arena, and for several minutes a very fair imitation of a Spanish bullfight, minus the killing of the animals, took place.