The Young Circus Rider
or, the Mystery of Robert Rudd
CHAPTER I.ANAK, THE NORWEGIAN GIANT.
ABOUT three o'clock in the afternoon an oddly assorted couple walked through the main street in the manufacturing town of Crampton. One was a man of herculean proportions, fully seven and a half feet high, but with a good-natured face that relieved the fears which he might otherwise have inspired. The other was a boy of fifteen, tall and slender, with a dark complexion and bright eyes. He found some difficulty in keeping pace with his tall companion.
"You're going too fast for me, Anak," he said at last. "Remember, my legs are not quite so long as yours."
The giant laughed-a deep, resonant and not8 unmusical laugh, and answered: "I'm always forgetting that, Robert. I suppose I ought to walk alone, for I can't find any one to match me."
"See how people are looking at us," continued the boy, glancing quickly back. "There's an army of small boys following us."
"Do you want to see me scatter them?" asked Anak.
"Yes; it will be fun."
The burly giant turned, and assuming a terrific frown, ran back, his long limbs carrying him on at remarkable speed. Instantly the boys, with loud shouts of dismay, broke ranks and scattered in every direction, not daring even to look over their shoulders.
Anak came back, laughing heartily.
"I wonder what the boys thought I would do to them," he said. "The fact is, I like young people, and am always ready to take their parts; but then, they don't know that. Did I look very alarming just now?"
"Yes," answered Robert; "if I hadn't known you, I might have run too."
"I don't know about that, Robert. No one can accuse you of want of courage."
Robert smiled, and his dark face looked very attractive when he smiled.
"I am not afraid of horses," he said.
"No; you are the most daring bareback rider I ever knew."
"I don't think I ever was afraid of horses," continued the boy, thoughtfully. "I can't remember the time when I was not used to them."
"How long have you been a bareback rider?" asked Anak.
"I think I commenced when I was nine years old."
"And now you are-how old?"
"You never told me how you came to join a circus, Robert."
"I was wandering about the country-tramping-without a friend, and without any means of living, when a circus man offered to train me as a rider. Anything was better than tramping, and I accepted-"
"And now you are
THE BOY WONDER!,/b>
The Best Bareback Rider in the World."
"That's what the circus bills say," replied Robert, smiling. "Now let me introduce you. Gentlemen and ladies," said the boy, waving his hand, as if addressing an audience, "I have the pleasure of introducing to you,
THE CELEBRATED NORWEGIAN GIANT!
Eight feet in height, and weighing four hundred and twenty pounds, who has been exhibited before all the crowned heads of Europe, and is generally acknowledged to be the tallest giant in the world!"
"Good for you, Robert!" said the giant, good naturedly. "You've got it by heart, my boy."
"I want to ask you a favor, Anak," said Robert, slyly: "Speak a little Norwegian; I want to know how it sounds."
"Oh go away with you! I don't know any more Norwegian than you do."
"How is that? You don't mean to say you've forgotten your native language?"
"I never knew a bit of Norwegian, Rob, my boy; and as for native language, I'm minded to tell you a secret."
"I was born in Tipperary, and they didn't use to speak Norwegian there when I was a boy."
"Then why do they call you a Norwegian?"
"It sounds better than Irish, you see."
"But haven't you ever been caught? Didn't you ever have a Norwegian come up and try to talk to you in his own language?"
"Yes," said Anak, laughing, "and mighty embarrassing it was, too."
"What did you do?"
"Faith, I opened upon him in old Irish. You ought to have seen the fellow stare. I shrugged my shoulders, and said I, 'You speak bad Norwegian,' and the crowd believed me. He slunk away, and that's the way I got over that."
"What's your real name, Anak?"
Anak looked about him guardedly, and finding that no one was within earshot, he answered, "Tom O'Connor, but don't give me away, Robert!"
"I don't believe I could, Anak," said the boy, laughing.
Anak joined in the laugh, and Robert continued, "When did you get your growth? I mean, how old were you?"
"I kept on growing till I was twenty-one. When I was sixteen I was six feet high, and12 everybody thought I was through, but I kept on till I reached seven and a half feet, and then was tall enough to show."
"How about that eight feet, Anak?"
"You must ask the manager. They always make giants taller than they are. It's equal all round, and nobody's hurt. And now, Robert, I'm going to ask you a question."
"What is it, Anak?"
"Do you expect always to be in this business?"
"Bareback riding, you mean? No, I hope not," said the boy, gravely.
"I hope not, too. It'll do for a time, and there isn't anything else open to a big overgrown fellow like me, but you are a smart boy, and there are plenty of chances for you to get into something else. You never told me about when you were a little boy; can you remember as far back?"
"Not much," answered the boy, soberly. "Sometimes I seem to remember a fine house and grounds, and it seems as if I were riding on a beautiful lawn, on a pony, with a servant at my side. But it is provoking that I can't remember any more, and the whole seems dim, and melts13 away, and it may be all imagination, after all."
"It may be all true, Robert. Was it in America, do you think, now?"
"That is more than I can tell. It may be all fancy."
"Have you any relations living?"
"Not that I know of," said the boy sadly; "I wish I had. I feel very lonely sometimes, and there doesn't seem much to live for."
"You've plenty of friends, Rob-all of us like you."
"Yes, you all treat me well."
"You have always been a favorite in the circus, my lad."
"Yes; I never had anything to complain of except that my trainer was sometimes a little rough. But it isn't as if I had somebody belonging to me-a brother, or a cousin, at the least. Have you any relations, Anak?"
"Yes, I've got any number of cousins, and my old mother's living, too, bless her heart."
"In Norway?" asked Robert, slyly.
"Oh go away! they know no more about Norway than you do. It is in Tipperary they all14 live. I've forty or fifty cousins at the least, and I'll give you a half a dozen with pleasure, if it'll do you any good."
"I don't think they would answer my purpose, Anak," answered the boy, smiling.
"Well, as I was sayin', Robert, I wouldn't stay with the circus always if I was you."
"What else is there for me to do?"
"Wait and see. You're young yet."
"My education is very poor, you know, Anak."
"Can't you read and write?"
"Yes, but not much more. I should like to go to school for two years."
"Sure you look like a gentleman, and you'll be one some day, I shouldn't wonder."
"Look there, Anak!" said the boy, suddenly; "there's a man who appears to be in trouble."
As he spoke he pointed to the driver of a team, which seemed to have settled in the mud, for it was now spring-time, and the roads were in a bad condition. The driver was shouting frantically to the horse, who was making desperate efforts to pull the wagon out of the mire, but without success