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

Chapter 24. Kit Receives A Letter

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Kit received compliments enough to spoil him, if he had not been strong-minded and level-headed boy. Among others Mr. Barlow, who had been present and witnessed his daring act, took the opportunity to congratulate him.

"You seem to be born for a circus performer, my young friend," he said. "You have come to the front at once."

"Thank you, sir," said Kit. "I am glad that I succeeded, but such success as that does not satisfy my ambition."

"You mean, perhaps, that you want to jump over four, perhaps five elephants?" suggested the manager.

Kit smiled.

"No," he answered; "I don't think I shall venture beyond three. But I don't expect to remain in the circus more than this season."

"That is almost a pity, when you are so well qualified to excel in it."

"Mr. Barlow," said Kit, seriously, "if I were a great manager like you, I would not mind, but I don't care to go through life as a circus performer."

"I don't know but you are right, my boy. In fact I know you are. I shouldn't care to be a performer myself."

"I don't think you would excel in that line," said Kit, with a glance at the portly form of the well-known showman.

"You wouldn't advise me to try jumping over elephants, I infer," said Mr. Barlow, with an amused smile.

"No, sir."

"I will take your advice, my boy. Though your share of worldly experience isn't great, you are certainly correct in that. I shall relieve the fears of Mrs. Barlow at once by telling her that I have decided not to enter the ring."

Kit also received the congratulations of the mayor and Evelyn, but the former added: "Though your act was a daring one, I was almost sorry to see it."

"Why, sir?"

"I feared it would confirm you in your love of your present business."

"No, sir, there is no danger," replied Kit. "I have a fair education already, and prefer to qualify myself for something different."

"I am glad to hear you say so. You are undoubtedly right."

"I must say good-by now," said Kit; "for we get off at midnight."

"Shall you not return this way?"

"No, sir; we are to go West, I hear."

"I hope when the season is over, you will make us a visit. Come and stay a week," said the mayor, hospitably.

"Do come," said Evelyn, earnestly.

"How can I thank you for your kindness to a stranger?" said Kit, gratefully. "I shall certainly avail myself of your hospitality. There are not many who would take such notice of a circus boy."

"You are something more than a circus boy," said the mayor, "or I might not have been so drawn to you. Good-by, then, and if you ever need a friend, don't forget that you are at liberty to call upon me."

It was a source of regret to Kit that he was obliged to part with friends whom in so short a time he had come to value so highly. He resolved that he would accept the mayor's offer at the close of the season. He would need a friend and adviser, and he felt confident that Mayor Grant's counsel would be wise and judicious.

Kit was already asleep in his bunk when the circus train started for the next place on the route. When he woke up he was in the town of Colebrook. Here a surprise was in store for him in the shape of a letter from his uncle. When he saw the familiar handwriting and the postmark "Smyrna," he broke the seal with a feeling of curiosity. He did not expect to derive either pleasure or satisfaction from the perusal.

We will look over his shoulder while he is reading the letter.

NEPHEW CHRISTOPHER,--I cannot express to you my surprise and disappointment when I rode over to Oakford to see you, and learned from Mr. Bickford that you had run away from his house and joined the circus. There must be something low and depraved in your tastes, that you should thus abandon the prospect of earning a respectable livelihood, and go tramping through the country with a circus. What do you think your father would say if he could come to life, and become aware of the course you have so rashly taken?

I should be justified in forcibly removing you from your present associations, and returning you to your worthy employer, Mr. Aaron Bickford, and perhaps it is my duty to do so. But I think it wiser for you to realize for yourself the folly of your course. You have deliberately deserted a good home and a kind guardian and become a tramp, if I may so express myself. I cannot imagine my son Ralph doing such a thing. He is, I hope, too dutiful and too sensible to throw away the advantages which fortune has secured him, to become a mountebank.

It is very embarrassing to me to answer questions about you. There are some who will be unjust enough, I doubt not, to blame me for your wild course, but I shall be sustained by the consciousness of my entire innocence in the matter. At great expense I have maintained you and paid the cost of your education, giving you privileges and advantages equal to those I have given my own boy. I have done so cheerfully, because you were my nephew, and I am sorry you have made me so poor a return. But I shall look for my reward to my own conscience, and hope you may yet see the folly and wickedness of your course.

I have only to add that when that time comes you are welcome to return to my roof and protection, and I will intercede with your excellent employer, Mr. Bickford, to take you back and teach you his trade, whereby you may be enabled to earn a more respectable living than you are doing at present. Ralph joins with me in this wish.

Your uncle,

Kit's lip curled when he read this hypocritical letter, and was tempted to despise his uncle more now than ever. He lost no time in sending this reply:

UNCLE STEPHEN,--I have received your letter, and can only express my surprise at the view you take of your treatment of me. Whether my father really left me as destitute as you claim, I am not in a position to say. If you have really gone to personal expense in maintaining and educating me up to this point, I shall, when I am able, reimburse you to the last cent. But I cannot forgive you for your trying to force a boy, reared and educated as I have been, to learn the trade of a blacksmith. You say that I have enjoyed advantages similar to those of your son Ralph. I wish to ask whether you would dream of apprenticing him to any such business.

You speak of my low associations, and call me a mountebank. In the town I have just left I was the guest of the mayor, and have promised to spend a week at his house on a visit when the circus season is over. Though you have done your best to lower me socially, I am confident that I shall be able to win a good place by my own unaided exertions.

I have no intention in continuing as a circus performer, though I am very liberally paid. It is too soon for me to decide upon my future course, but you may tell Mr. Bickford he need not wait for me to resume my place in his shop.

I do not know when I shall see you or Ralph again, but you need have no fear that I shall appeal to your generosity.

Your nephew,

Stephen Watson read this letter with surprise and chagrin. He was sorry to hear that Kit was doing so well, and alarmed at his implied doubt whether he had really been left destitute by his father.

"That boy is going to give me trouble," he muttered. _

Read next: Chapter 25. The Attack On The Circus Tent

Read previous: Chapter 23. Kit's Daring Act

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