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Joe Strong, the Boy Fish or Marvelous Doings in a Big Tank   By:

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Author of "Joe Strong, the Boy Wizard," "Joe Strong on the Trapeze," etc.





Bass drums were booming, snare drums were rattling, above them sounded the shrill notes of the bugles. There was the rumble of big wheeled wagons, now and then an elephant trumpeted or a lion gave a hungry roar. Gay banners fluttered, glistening spears flashed with points of light, gaily attired women and men sat on the backs of swaying, ugly camels, or galloped on mettlesome steeds. And looking at it all was a vast throng of eager eyed men, women and children. It was the opening performance of the circus.

"Good crowd all right," remarked Joe Strong, as he came back to the dressing tent from a preliminary survey of the audience. He took up one hole in the belt of his acrobatic suit of tights.

"Full house is there?" asked a dark complexioned, foreign looking man, as he rubbed some rosin on the soles of his soft shoes, so they would not slip when he attempted some feat high up on a trapeze bar, or let himself down a rope head first, disdaining the use of his hands.

"I should say it is a full house!" went on Joe as he, too, west over to the rosin box. "They'll have to do as they do in theatres, and hang out the S.R.O. sign if it keeps on. It looks as though there would be standing room only before long, it certainly is starting the season good."

"I'm glad to hear it," remarked Tonzo Lascalla, one of a trio of "brothers" with whom Joe Strong did more or less dangerous things on the high trapeze. "If the owners take in plenty of money they may give us more salary."

"Not much danger of that," averred Tom Jefferson, who did a "strong man" act. "Still, we can't complain. We get pretty goad money as it is."

There came a different note into the music. There were a few sharp notes on a bugle, and the strong man, who had been lying down on some boxes covered with blankets, sprang to his feet.

"Grand entry's over," he remarked. "I've got to go on!"

"And so have I!" added a clown, who had been busily engaged in painting one half of his face white and the other black. "Here we are again gentlemen!" and he turned two or three somersaults on the grass of the dressing, tent. "Whoop la la!" and out he ran to make his appearance in the ring. A gale of laughter followed, testifying to the effects of his antics.

"All ready, Joe?" asked Sid Lascalla, the other member of the acrobatic trio.

"Why, that isn't our call, is it?" asked Joe, who was relacing one of his shoes.

"No, but it will come in a few minutes. Are you going to try the long swing and double catch this afternoon?"

"I think we might as well, don't you? We've had enough practice at it, even though this is the first show of the season. What do you say, Tonzo?"

"Oh, I'm ready for it."

"So am I, then," added Sid. "Only let's be sure the life net is all right. The ring attendants are apt to be a bit careless at first."

"I'll look after it," promised Joe.

The lacing of his shoes seemed to give the young trapeze performer some little concern. He did not want them too tight, and, on the other hand, they must not be loose enough to give any play to the ankles. For in a great measure the life of the young man who was soon to thrill the big audience with his daring depended on the firmness of his stand.

A fine figure of youthfulness was Joe Strong as he stood in his closely fitting red tights, tall and straight as an Indian arrow, with not an ounce of superfluous flesh, and yet not over muscled. But the muscles he had were powerful. One could see his biceps ripple under his tights as he bent his arm, and when he straightened up there were bunches back of his shoulders that told of power there. His legs, too, on the strength of which he depended for many tricks, were symmetrical with muscles, and his hands and wrists showed force... Continue reading book >>

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