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

Chapter 12. Mr. Bickford's Defeat

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Aaron Bickford was a strong man. By his work at the forge he had strengthened his muscles till they were like iron. So was Kit a strong boy, but it would be absurd to represent him as a match for the sturdy blacksmith.

"I've got ye at last!" repeated Bickford tightening his grasp of Kit's coat collar.

"Let go my collar!" cried Kit, not struggling, for he knew that it would be useless.

"I'll let go your collar when I've got ye in the wagon," answered the blacksmith, "and not till then. You, Bill, bring along his valise. I'll take ye home in the wagon, though it would be only right if I let ye walk."

"Mr. Bickford," said Kit, "you have no right to touch me. You have no authority over me."

"I ain't, hey? Well, we'll argy that matter when we get home."

And he commenced dragging Kit in the direction of the wagon.

It certainly seemed as if Kit's plans were destined, if not for defeat, to postponement. Unconditional surrender was his only choice against the superior strength of Aaron Bickford. It was certainly very vexatious.

But help was nearer than he anticipated.

They were now within sight of the circus tents, and Kit, to his joy, descried the giant, Achilles Henderson, taking a morning walk, and already within hearing distance.

"Mr. Henderson!" he called out, eagerly.

"Who is that you're calling?" asked the blacksmith sharply.

Achilles heard, and instantly recognized the boy who had talked with him at Smyrna.

It took but a few strides to bring him to the spot where Kit was held in captivity.

"What does this mean?" he asked.

"This man is dragging me away without authority," answered Kit.

"Who is he?" asked the giant.

"He is a blacksmith, and claims me as an apprentice, but I never agreed to work for him."

"That's a lie," said the blacksmith, "he's my runaway apprentice."

"I would believe the boy sooner than you," said Achilles, not favorably impressed by the blacksmith's bull dog look.

"It doesn't make any difference what you believe," said Bickford, rudely; and he began to pull Kit in the direction of the wagon.

"Let go that boy's collar," cried Achilles, sternly.

"I won't!" retorted the blacksmith. "I advise you to mind your own business."

Achilles Henderson, like most big men, was good natured, but he was roused by the other's insolence. He carried war into the enemy's camp by seizing the blacksmith and shaking him till he was compelled to release his grasp.

"What do you mean by this outrage?" demanded Bickford, furiously.

"It's only a gentle hint," said Achilles, smiling. "Now, my friend, I've got a piece of advice to give you. If that is your wagon back there you'd better get into it as soon as convenient--the sooner the better--and get out of my way or I'll give you a stronger hint."

The blacksmith was too indignant to be prudent. What! Confess himself vanquished, and go home without the boy! The idea was intolerable to him.

"I'm goin' to take the boy," he said, angrily, and darting forward he essayed to seize Kit by the collar again.

"Oho! You need a stronger hint," said Achilles. With this he grasped the blacksmith about the middle, and tossed him over the fence into the adjoining field as easily as if he were a cat.

Aaron Bickford did not know what had happened to him. He lay motionless for a few seconds, and then picked himself up with some difficulty, and confronted the giant with mingled fear and anger.

"I'll have the law of ye for this," he shouted.

Achilles laughed.

"It's as you like," he said. "I've got my witnesses here," pointing to the two boys.

Mr. Bickford got over the fence, and sullenly turned in the direction of his deserted wagon.

"You'll hear from me again, all of you!" he shouted, shaking his fist.

"Don't trouble yourself to write," said the giant, jocosely. "We can worry along without a letter."

The blacksmith was too full of wrath for utterance. He kept on his way, muttering to himself, and shaking his fist at intervals.

"Now what's all this about?" asked Achilles. "What's the matter with our amiable friend?"

Kit explained.

"So you don't want to be a blacksmith? Where are you going, if I may inquire?"

"I'm going to join the circus," answered Kit.

"In what capacity--as a lion tamer?"

"No; I shouldn't fancy that business. I am to be an acrobat."

"An acrobat! But are you qualified?" asked Achilles, somewhat surprised.

He had not heard of Kit's practice with the Vincenti brothers on the day of his first visit to the circus.

"I am pretty well qualified already," answered Kit, "I saw Mr. Barlow yesterday morning, and he promised me an engagement at ten dollars a week."

"Good!" said Achilles, heartily. "I am pleased to hear it. I took a liking to you the other day, and I'm glad you're going to join us. But do you think it wise to choose such a life?"

"You have chosen it," said Kit.

"Yes; but what could I do--a man of my size? I must earn more than a common man. My board and clothes both cost more. What do you think I paid for this suit I have on?"

"I couldn't tell, sir."

"Sixty dollars. The tailor only charges thirty dollars to a man of ordinary size, but I am so absurdly large that I have to pay double price."

"Why don't you buy your suits ready made?" asked Kit, smiling.

Achilles laughed heartily at the idea.

"Show me a place where I can get ready made clothes to fit me," he answered, "and I will gladly accept your suggestion."

"That may be a little difficult, I admit."

"Why, you have no idea how inconvenient I find it to be so large. I can't find a bed to suit me in any hotel. If I go to the theater I can't crowd myself into an ordinary seat. I have to have all kinds of clothing, inside and outside, made to order. My hats and shoes must also be made expressly for me."

"I suppose you get very well paid," suggested Kit.

"Seventy-five dollars a week sounds pretty large, and would be if my expenses were not so great. You wouldn't be a giant for that money, would you?"

"I am not so ambitious," replied Kit, smiling. "But there was a moment when I wished myself of your size."

"When was that?"

"When the blacksmith grasped me by the collar."

"You don't have to work very hard," said William Morris.

"My boy, it is pretty hard work to be stared at by a crowd of people. I get tired of it often, but I see no other way of making a living."

"You would make a pretty good blacksmith."

"I couldn't earn more than a man of average strength, and that wouldn't be enough, as I have explained."

"Were your parents very tall?" asked Kit.

"My father was six feet in height, but my mother was a small woman. I don't know what put it into me to grow so big. But here we are at the lot. Will you come in?"

"When can I see Mr. Barlow?" asked Kit, anxiously.

"He is at the hotel. He won't be round till half-past nine. Have you two boys had breakfast?"

"No," answered Kit; "I'm nearly famished."

"Come round to the circus tent. You are to be one of us, and will board there. I guess we can provide for your friend, too."

Never was invitation more gladly accepted. Both Kit and William felt as if they had not broken their fast for a week. _

Read next: Chapter 13. Breakfast In The Circus Tent

Read previous: Chapter 11. Kit Falls Into The Hands Of The Enemy

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