Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Horatio Alger > Young Acrobat of the Great North American Circus > This page

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

Chapter 23. Kit's Daring Act

< Previous
Table of content
Next >

Kit's acts thus far had been confined to the ring, but now a new one was expected from him. Early in the performance a series of flying leaps from a springboard, in which all the acrobats took part, was introduced. From a point thirty feet back the performer ran swiftly till he reached the springboard, from which a leap was made accompanied by a somersault, carrying him over a considerable space in advance.

It was the custom to place first one elephant, then a second, and finally a third, in front of the springboard. There was only one man who could leap over three elephants. The two Vincenti brothers took part regularly, but Kit, being a new hand, had thus far been excused. But one of the regular performers being temporarily unwell, it was considered desirable that his place should be supplied.

"Do you think you can do it?" asked Alonzo Vincenti, somewhat doubtfully.

"Yes," answered Kit, confidently.

"It will be sufficient if you jump over one elephant," continued his associate. "Then you can drop out."

"I can do better than that," said Kit.

"I don't know about that. My brother can only jump over two."

"You jump over three elephants."

"Yes; but I am the only one who can do it. It takes a good spring to clear even two. It won't do to lose your head."

"Can I have a chance to rehearse?"

"Yes, I will speak about it."

"Then I will appear this evening."

"But if you fail you are likely to hurt yourself."

"I know that. That is why I would rather make the first trial in the evening. The lights and the crowd will excite and help me."

Kit was not foolhardy in his undertaking, for he had already had some practice in similar feats with his old teacher. Besides, he was ambitious. In school his ambition had shown itself in his attempt to eclipse his schoolfellows in scholarship. In the gymnasium he had ranked first, and now that he had joined the circus he didn't like to be assigned to a place in the rear.

Let me take the opportunity here to advise my young readers not to imitate Kit in essaying dangerous parts. "Be bold, but not too bold!" is a very good motto.

During the forenoon Kit found an opportunity to practice in the empty tent, in order to settle the question whether he had lost any of his old-time skill. The result was satisfactory, and renewed his confidence.

"I can do better before a tent full of spectators than when practicing by myself," he decided.

The evening came.

Standing near the ticket seller half an hour before the show began, Kit heard his name called.

Turning quickly he saw his friends of the previous day, Mayor Grant and his daughter Evelyn.

"Good evening, my boy!" said the mayor cordially. "We have come to see what you can do."

"Then I hope I shall do myself credit," said Kit, shaking hands with the mayor and his daughter. "Have you engaged seats?"

"Not yet."

"Then let me select them for you."

"With pleasure. I am glad to have a friend at court."

Kit selected seats as near as possible to the ring where he was to perform.

"These are splendid seats," said Evelyn. "How soon do you appear?"

"In a few minutes. I shall have to leave you now, but I will be back after my first act."

"What a nice boy he is, papa!" said Evelyn.

"Yes; it is a pity he is attached to a circus."

"Why? Isn't it a respectable business?"

"Yes; but there are many temptations connected with it, and most circus performers never rise any higher."

Evelyn was not inclined to discuss the question, though there is no doubt that she took a more favorable view of the circus profession than her father. The procession had just begun to move round the inner ring of the circus, including the elephants, the riders, the clowns, and performers of all kinds. Kit appeared, as in the public procession, driving a span of ponies.

This was the introduction. Then the various parts of the programme succeeded. Soon Kit performed his act in the ring. He had a new act to-night. Standing on the shoulders of one of the Vincenti brothers, he turned a somersault and landed on the shoulders of the other, standing six to eight feet away.

"I don't see how he does it, papa," said Evelyn. "He must be very smart."

"I see you are determined to make a hero of this young man, Evelyn."

"Don't you admire him yourself, papa?"

"Admire is rather a strong word, daughter. I will admit, however, that I like him, and hope he will soon change his business."

After the act was over, Kit came round and received congratulations. Evelyn repeated what her father said.

"I agree with you, sir," said Kit, "I haven't selected this as my life business, but shall keep my engagement till the end of the season."

"How, on the whole, do you like your new associates? I don't need to be told that they are very different from those to whom you are accustomed."

"They are very kind to me, and generous to each other when there is need. They will divide their last dollar with a friend."

"They often come to their last dollar, don't they?"

"Yes; they can't keep money. They are always in debt when the new season opens, no matter how much they brought home with them at the end of the last."

"Are there no exceptions?"

"Yes, a few. I have heard of one circus manager who commenced as a candy butcher, and now is proprietor of a very fair-sized show. Of course he had to save up money or he would never have succeeded so well."

Kit had to cut short his visit, for the new act, already referred to, was near at hand.

In the list of leapers Kit came last. First of all, there was a simple somersault from the springboard. This was easy. Just after Kit came the clown, who, though really a clever acrobat, stopped short when he came to the board and merely jumped up and down to the amusement of the young spectators.

"He can't jump no more'n I can," said one small boy, contemptuously.

"I shouldn't think they'd let him try," said another.

Both boys were surprised when, in the next trial, where the task was to jump over an elephant, the despised clown made a good spring and landed fairly on his feet.

"I guess he was afraid before," said the first boy.

"No; he only pretended for fun. Do you see that boy? I wonder if he can jump over the elephant."

The question was soon answered. Kit took his turn and sprang with apparent ease over the great beast.

Next another elephant was driven in alongside of the first. Again the leapers advanced to try their skill. But two held back, not feeling competent for the task. The clown once more made a feint of jumping, but only jumped up and retired apparently filled with confusion.

Evelyn gazed in intense excitement.

"It must be awfully hard to jump like that, papa," she said.

"I don't think I shall ever try it, Evelyn."

Another elephant was driven alongside the other two, making three in all. The other contestants retired, for only Alonzo had succeeded hitherto in executing this difficult feat. He expected to be the only one now, but noticed with surprise that Kit seemed ready to follow him.

"You don't mean to try it, Kit?" he said, in amazement.

"Why not?"

"You will fail, and if you do, you may hurt yourself seriously."

"I shall not fail," said Kit, confidently.

Alonzo looked anxious, but there was no time to expostulate. He ran swiftly to the board, made a vigorous spring, and landed handsomely on the bedding which had been provided beyond. He had scarcely stepped aside, when, to the astonishment of the other acrobats, Kit gathered himself up, ran to the springboard, and exerting himself to the utmost, made his leap, and landed a foot ahead of Alonzo.

Then the tent rang with applause, and there were many exclamations of astonishment, not only among the spectators, but also among the circus performers.

Kit's face flushed with pleasure, and bowing his acknowledgments, he withdrew.

"He is certainly a wonderful boy," said the mayor. _

Read next: Chapter 24. Kit Receives A Letter

Read previous: Chapter 22. New Acquaintances

Table of content of Young Acrobat of the Great North American Circus


Post your review
Your review will be placed after the table of content of this book