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The Young Acrobat of the Great North American Circus, a novel by Horatio Alger

Chapter 11. Kit Falls Into The Hands Of The Enemy

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If Aaron Bickford expected to frighten Kit by his threat, he was destined to find himself badly mistaken.

Kit was startled at first, not having anticipated that the blacksmith would get upon his track so soon. But he was a boy of spirit, and had no thought of surrender. Mr. Bickford halted his horse, and Kit faced him.

"Didn't you find my note?" he asked.

"Yes, I did."

"Then you know that I don't care to work for you."

"What's that got to do with it? Your uncle and me have settled that you shall."

"Then you'll have to unsettle it. I have a right to choose my own occupation, and I don't intend to become a blacksmith. Even if I did, I should choose some one else as my teacher."

"None of your impudence, young man! You'll have a long account to settle with me, I warn you of that."

"I had but one account to settle--for my board and lodging--and I've attended to that. Good morning, Mr. Bickford."

Kit turned and began to continue his journey.

"Hallo! Stop, I tell you!" shouted the blacksmith.

"Have you got any more to say? If so, I'll listen."

"What more I have to say, I shall say with a horsewhip!" retorted Bickford, grimly, preparing to descend from his wagon.

"Come, William, we must run for it," said Kit. "Are you good at running?"

"Try me!" was the laconic reply.

By the time Aaron Bickford was out of his wagon, the boys had increased the distance between them by several rods.

"Oho, so that's your game, is it?" said the blacksmith. "If I don't overhaul them, my name isn't Aaron Bickford."

Kit was a good runner--quite as good as his pursuer--but he had one serious disadvantage. His valise was heavy, and materially affected his speed. He had carried it several miles, and though he had shifted it from one hand to the other, both arms were now tired.

"Let me take it, Kit," said his companion, who was now on intimate terms with him.

"It'll be just as heavy for you as for me."

"Never mind! He isn't after me."

"Well, if you don't mind carrying it a little while."

The advantage of the change was soon apparent. Kit increased his speed, and William, whose arms were not tired, was not materially retarded by his burden.

"If I had no valise I would climb a tree," said Kit, while running. "I don't believe Mr. Bickford is good at climbing."

"We haven't got far to go to reach the circus tents," returned William.

But though the boys held out well, Aaron Bickford gradually gained upon them. Many years at the anvil had given him plenty of wind and endurance. Besides, he was entirely fresh, not having taken a long walk already, as the boys had done.

"You'd better give up!" he cried out, in the tone of one who was sure of victory. "It takes more than a boy like you to get the best of Aaron Bickford."

It did indeed seem as if the boys must surrender. Within a few rods Bickford would be even with them.

Kit came to a sudden determination.

"Jump over the fence!" he cried.

There was a rail fence skirting one side of the road.

No sooner said than done. Both boys clambered over the fence, and with that barrier between them faced the angry blacksmith.

"Well, I've got you!" he cried, panting.

"Have you? I don't see it," answered Kit.

"You might as well give up fust as last."

"Suppose we discuss matters a little, Mr. Bickford," said Kit, calmly. "What right have you to pursue me?"

"What right? Your uncle's given me the charge of you."

"That is something he had no right to do."

"Why not? Ain't he your guardian?"


"Who is, then?"

"I have no guardian but myself."

"That's a likely story. I can't listen to no such foolish talk."

Aaron Bickford felt that it was time to move upon the enemy's entrenchments, and, putting one leg on the lower rail, he proceeded to climb over the fence.

But the boys had anticipated this move, and were prepared for it. By the time the blacksmith was inside the field, the boys, who were considerably lighter and more active, had crossed to the reverse side.

"Here we are again, Mr. Bickford," said William Morris.

The blacksmith frowned.

"Don't you be impudent, Bill Morris," he said. "I haven't anything to do with you, but I sha'n't let you sass me."

"What have I said that's out of the way?" asked William.

"Oh, you're mighty innocent, you are! You're aidin' and abettin' Kit Watson to escape from me, his lawful master."

"I have no master, Mr. Bickford," said Kit, proudly.

"Well, that's what they used to call 'em when I was a boy. Boys weren't so pert and impudent in them days."

Meanwhile the blacksmith was recrossing the fence.

Kit and William took the opportunity to run, and by the time Mr. Bickford was again on the roadside they were several rods away.

This naturally exasperated the blacksmith, who felt mortified at his failure to overtake the youngsters. A new idea occurred to him.

"You, Bill, do you want to earn a dime?" he asked.

"How?" inquired William.

"Just help me catch that boy Kit, and I'll give you ten cents."

"I don't care to earn money that way, Mr. Bickford," responded William, scornfully.

"Good for you, William!" exclaimed Kit.

"You won't earn ten cents any easier," persisted Bickford.

"I wouldn't do such a mean thing for a dollar, nor five dollars," replied William. "Kit's a friend of mine, and I'm going to stand by him."

The blacksmith was made angry by this persistent refusal. Then again he was faint and uncomfortable from having missed his breakfast, which seemed likely to be indefinitely postponed.

"I'll lick you, Bill Morris, as well as Kit, when I catch you," he said.

"Probably you will--when you catch me!" retorted William, in an aggravating tone. "Run faster, Kit."

The boys ran, but again they were impeded by the heavy valise, and slowly but surely the blacksmith was gaining upon them.

Kit, who was again carrying the burden, began to show signs of distress, and dropped behind his companion.

"I can't hold out much longer, Bill," he said, puffing laboriously.

Aaron Bickford heard these words, and they impelled him to extra exertion. At last he caught up and grasped Kit by the collar.

"I've got ye at last!" he cried, triumphantly. _

Read next: Chapter 12. Mr. Bickford's Defeat

Read previous: Chapter 10. Kit's First Night At The Blacksmith's

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