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

Chapter 32. Kit's Danger

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The men reached the edge of the woods and halted.

"I'd like to hang him!" growled Dick Hayden with a malignant look.

"It wouldn't do, Dick," said Stubbs. "We'd get into trouble."

"If we were found out."

"Murder will 'most always come out," said Stubbs, uneasily. He was a shade less brutal and far less daring than his companion.

It can be imagined with what feelings Kit heard this colloquy. He had no confidence in the humanity of his captors, and considered them, Dick Hayden in particular, as capable of anything. He did not dare to remonstrate lest in a spirit of perversity the two men might proceed to extremities.

Kit was not long in doubt as to the intentions of his captors.

"Take off your coat, boy!" said Hayden, harshly.

Kit looked into the face of his persecutor, and decided that it would be prudent to obey. Otherwise he would have forcibly resisted.

He removed his coat and held it over his arm.

"Lay down the coat and take off your vest," was the next order.

This also Kit felt compelled to do.

Dick Hayden produced from the capacious side pocket of his coat a cord, which he proceeded to test by pulling. It was evidently very strong.

"Stubbs, tie him to yonder sapling!" said Dick.

Stubbs proceeded, nothing loth, to obey the directions of his leader. Kit was tied with his back exposed. Dick Hayden watched the preparations with evident enjoyment.

"This is the moment I have been longing for," he said.

From his other pocket he drew a cowhide, which he passed through the fingers of his left hand, while with cruel eyes he surveyed the shrinking form of his victim.

Meanwhile where was Achilles Henderson?

He and Stover bowled as rapidly over the road as the speed of a fourteen year old horse would permit. He looked eagerly before him, in the hope of catching a glimpse either of Kit or of the miners. When they started they were far behind, but at last they reached a point on the road where they could see Kit and his two captors making their way across the fields.

"There they are!" said Stover, who was the first to see them.

"And they've got the boy with them!" ejaculated Achilles. "Where are they going, do you think?"

"Over to them woods, it's likely," replied Stover.

"What for?"

"I'm afraid they mean to do the boy harm."

"Not if I can prevent it," said Achilles, with a stern look about the mouth.

"They're goin' to give him a floggin', I think."

"They'll get the same dose in larger measure, I can tell them that. Mr. Stover, isn't there any way I can reach the woods by a short cut so that they won't see me?"

"Yes, there is a path in that field there. There is a fringe of trees separatin' it from the field where they are walkin'."

"Then stop your horse, and I'll jump out!"

Mr. Stover did so with alacrity. He disliked both Dick Hayden and Bob Stubbs, whom he had reason to suspect of carrying off a dozen of his chickens the previous season. He had not dared to charge them with it, knowing the men's ugly disposition, and being certain that they would revenge themselves upon him.

"Do you want me along, Mr. Giant?" he asked.

"No; I'm more than a match for them both."

"Shouldn't wonder if you were," chuckled Stover.

He kept his place in the wagon and laughed quietly to himself.

"I'd like to see the scrimmage," he said to himself.

With this object in view he drove forward, so that from the wagon seat he could command a view of the scene of conflict.

"They're tying the boy to a tree," he said. "I reckon the giant'll be in time, and I'm glad on't. That boy's a real gentleman. Wonder what he's done to rile Dick Hayden and Bob Stubbs. He'd have a mighty small show if the giant hadn't come up. Dick's a strong man, but he'll be like a child in the hands of an eight-footer."

Meanwhile Achilles Henderson was getting over the ground at the rate of ten miles an hour or more. His long strides gave him a great advantage over an ordinary runner.

"If they lay a hand on that boy I pity 'em!" he said to himself.

It was fortunate for Kit that Dick Hayden, like a cat who plays with a mouse, paused to gloat over the evident alarm and uneasiness of his victim, even after all was ready for the punishment which he proposed to inflict.

"Well, boy, what have you to say now?" he demanded, drawing the cowhide through his short stubby fingers.

"I have nothing to say that will move you from your purpose, I am afraid," replied poor Kit.

"I guess you're about right there, kid!" chuckled Hayden. "Are you ready to apologize to me for what you done over to the circus?"

"I don't think there is anything to apologize for."

"There isn't, isn't there? Didn't you bring that long-legged ruffian on to me?"

"I was only doing my duty," said Kit, manfully.

"Oho! so that's the way you look at it, do you?"

"Yes, sir."

"No doubt you'd like it if that tall brute were here now," said Hayden, tauntingly.

"Yes," murmured Kit; "I wish my good friend Achilles were here."

"So that's his name, is it? Well, I wouldn't mind if he were here. Stubbs, I think you and I could do for him, eh?"

"I don't know," said Stubbs, dubiously.

"Well I do. He's only one man, while we are two, and strong at that."

"Oho!" thought Achilles, who was now within hearing. "So my friend, the miner, is getting valorous! Well, he will probably have a chance to test his strength."

By this time Hayden had got through with his taunts, and was ready to enjoy his vengeance.

"Your time has come, boy!" he said, fiercely. "Stand back, Stubbs!"

Bob Stubbs stepped back, and Dick Hayden raised the cruel cowhide in his muscular grasp. It would have inflicted a terrible blow had it fallen on the young acrobat. But something unexpected happened. The instrument of torture was torn from his hands, and a deep voice, which he knew only too well, uttered these words: "For shame, you brute! Would you kill the boy?"

Panic stricken the brutal miner turned and found himself confronting Achilles Henderson.

A fierce cry of rage and disappointment burst from his lips.

"Where did you come from?" he stammered.

"From Heaven, I think!" murmured poor Kit, with devout gratitude to that overruling Providence which had sent him such a helper in his utmost need. _

Read next: Chapter 33. Dick Hayden Meets With Retribution

Read previous: Chapter 31. In The Enemy's Hands

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