Dick Hamilton's Fortune/10

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Dick Hamilton's Fortune by Howard Roger Garis
Chapter X: Dick Invests in Happiness

CHAPTER X


DICK INVESTS IN HAPPINESS


Dick managed to swing aboard the last car as the train for Parkertown was pulling out of the station at Hamilton Corners. There was quite a crowd on it, as many were going to the circus.

"Hello!" exclaimed Frank Bender, as he caught sight of Dick walking up the aisle of the car in which he was. "I thought you weren't going."

"I wasn't, but I changed my mind. This is a free country."

"Of course," assented Frank, with a laugh. "We'll go together and have some fun."

"Oh, I'm going on business."

"That's too bad."

"Well, it's business connected with fun," explained Dick. "Maybe I'll have a chance to see the show with you later."

"See the show! Why, that's the main object of going to Parkertown," responded Frank. "I wouldn't miss it for anything. They've got a fellow in it, according to the pictures, who can stand on his head, hold a man in each hand, balance two others on his legs, hold one by a strap in his mouth—and all the while he's on a trapeeze at the top of the tent. It's great!"

"Well, maybe he can give you a few pointers," said Dick.

It was about an hour's run to Parkertown, and when the train reached the circus grounds there was a general rush to the big tents. It lacked about an hour to noon, and though the show had not opened yet there was much of interest to see. Dick and Frank watched the men putting finishing touches to the immense canvas shelters, while others were feeding the animals, getting the big gilded wagons into place, and arranging the side-shows.

In one tent hundreds of the performers and helpers were at dinner, while a curious crowd looked on under the raised flaps. The two boys, in company with scores of others, watched the cooks of the circus at work over the portable ranges and soup kettles, where it seemed as though enough food for an army was being prepared.

"Say, it's great, isn't it!" exclaimed Frank. "I can hardly wait until it's time to begin. Let's go get a hot frankfurter sausage somewhere."

"I'm afraid I've got to leave you," replied Dick. "I have some business on hand. I'll see you later. Maybe in the main tent."

"All right," assented Frank, a little disappointed, but he soon forgot about that in watching the many scenes of interest.

"Where can I find the manager?" asked Dick, of a man who wore a uniform and seemed to be some one in authority.

"In the ticket wagon," was the reply. "But you needn't think you can deadhead in. The free list is suspended."

"I've no intention of asking for a pass," replied Dick, with a smile. "Is the manager in?" he asked, a moment later, of the man who looked out of the high ticket wagon.

"I guess so. What do you want?"

"I want to see him in regard to the next town where he is to play."

"Who is it?" inquired a voice from within the vehicle.

"Some lad from our next town. Maybe the mayor's sent to say he's going to raise the license fee. I never see such a hold-up game as these country mayors try to pull off," and the ticket seller looked disgusted.

"No, I'm not from the mayor," said Dick. "I want to see the manager on my own account."

At this another man joined the one at the ticket window. He was large and fat, and wore a red necktie, in which sparkled a pin with a large stone. He had on a tall hat and a frock coat.

"Come around to the side door," he said, in no very gracious tones, and Dick noticed that a pair of steps at the side gave access to the wagon. He was soon inside the place, which was fitted Up like a small office, with desks, and even a typewriter, at which a young man was busy pounding the keys.

"What is it?" asked the manager, abruptly.

"I've come to see if you won't give a show in Hamilton Corners," began Dick. "I think the town would like to see it."

"Maybe the town would, but I wouldn't," replied the manager quickly. "I'm not in business for my health. I want to make a little money, and Hamilton Corners is too small. We couldn't clear expenses."

"How much do you have to clear to make it worth your while to show in a town?" asked Dick.

"Well, a thousand dollars is fair business."

"If you were sure of a thousand dollars clear, would you come to Hamilton Corners?"

"Yes, or any place else within traveling distance. But what are you? A newspaper reporter? If you are, you want to see our press agent. He's in that tent over there."

"No, I want to do business with you," rejoined Dick, with a smile. "I live in Hamilton Corners. I'd like to see a circus there. In fact, I'm willing to pay for having one come there. I have a certain reason for it. If I give you a thousand-dollar guarantee will you bring the show there?"

"Yes, of course."

The manager seemed a little dazed. Dick drew out a thin red book.

"I'll give you the guarantee now," he said. "Can you come to-morrow?" and he began to use his fountain pen. "Whom shall I make it out to?" and he looked at the manager.

"Say," suddenly whispered the manager to the ticket seller. "Is the marshall out there? He is? All right. Call him here." Then in soothing tones he spoke to Dick. "That's all right," he said. "Never mind the check. We'll come to Hamilton Corners, anyhow. Now don't get excited. Here, take a drink of water and you'll feel better. The sun is very hot to-day. In fact, it makes my head buzz. Just put that red book away. Red is very heating, you know."

He paused, and looked rather helplessly about him. Then in a whisper he again asked the ticket seller:

"Is the marshall there? Tell him to come in before he gets violent."

The side door opened, and a town marshall, with a big nickel-plated star on his coat, entered the wagon.

"What's the matter?" asked Dick, somewhat surprised at the sudden turn of events.

"There! there!" spoke the manager, soothingly. "It's all right. Don't get excited. You're with friends."

"Don't you want this check?" asked Dick. "I'm in earnest. I want your circus to come to Hamilton Corners."

"Yes, yes, of course, my dear boy. We'll come. I'll let you ride on one of the elephants. You can feed the monkeys, and tickle the hippopotamus, if you like. Poor boy," in lower tones, "so young, too."

"Say," demanded Dick, standing up, "do you think I'm crazy?"

"There! there!" repeated the manager, in that soothing tone he had suddenly adopted. "Please don't get excited. It's the worst thing in the world for you."

Dick glanced up at the man in uniform. Then a smile came over his face that had assumed a rather angry look.

"Why, Marshall Hinckly!" he exclaimed. "How did you come to be here?"

"Dick Hamilton!" exclaimed the officer in surprise, "I didn't know you at first. You see the authorities in Parkertown, being a little short-handed, asked me to help out on circus day, and so I came over from Hamilton Corners. But what in the name of green turtles is the trouble here?"

"I don't know," replied the millionaire's son. "I merely offered to guarantee this manager a thousand dollars if he would bring his circus to Hamilton Corners, and he acts as though he thought I was crazy."

"And isn't he?" burst out the manager, less frightened, now that an officer of the law was present. "Isn't he, Mr. Policeman? The idea of a boy like him offering to make out a check for a thousand dollars to have a circus come to town! In the first place, I don't believe he has the money; and in the second, what does he want to hire a circus for? Say, honest, hasn't he got away from some asylum?"

"Dick Hamilton broke out of an asylum!" exclaimed the marshall. "Well, I rather guess not! As for him not having the money, you're wrong there. Why, that's Mortimer Hamilton's son," and he showed his pride at being acquainted with Dick.

"Mortimer Hamilton, president of the Hamilton National Bank?" asked the manager, incredulously.

"That's him," replied the marshall.

"Say!" exclaimed the manager rather faintly, sitting limply down in a chair. "Give me a glass of water, will you, please. Mortimer Hamilton, the multi-millionaire! And I thought his son didn't have a thousand dollars! Excuse me, Mr. Hamilton," he said, heartily, as he held out his hand to Dick. "I beg your pardon."

"That's all right," replied Dick, with a smile. "Whom shall I make the check out to?"

"Me," replied the manager. "Wellington Dappleton. But say," he added, "would you mind telling me what you want of the circus?"

"I'll tell you," answered Dick, with something of a serious air. "When I was out walking this morning I saw a procession from the orphan asylum. I heard about the circus being over here, and I knew those poor youngsters couldn't go. I made up my mind that if I could, I'd have the circus come to town and I'd take those kids free. It's the only chance they'll ever get, maybe, and I—well, I've got plenty of money. I can just as well spend some of it this way as in having a good time myself. When can you come?"

"We'll be there to-morrow and play the afternoon and evening," said the manager. "And I'll tell you what I'll do. You needn't make out that check now. We'll wait until after the last performance, and all I'll ask you to do will be to make good whatever I'm short of a thousand-dollar profit. Maybe we can get enough admissions in the town to make up part of the sum. I'll not see a lad do the only good turn in these parts. I'll meet you half way, and there's my hand on it," and once more he gripped Dick's fingers in a hold that made them tingle.

"But the orphans come in free," insisted Dick.

"The orphans come in free," repeated the manager, "and any other boys or girls you like. We'll only charge the grown folks."

So it was arranged. Dick and the manager had a long talk, so long that Dick had time only to see the closing acts in the big tent.

"Well, you missed it," said Frank, as he met Dick on his way out. "You should have seen that fellow hold all those others. It was great! I'm going to join a circus."

"Better wait," advised Dick, with a smile. "Have a talk with that acrobat. The show is coming to Hamilton Corners to-morrow, and you can ask him how he likes the life."

"The show coming to Hamilton Corners?"

"Yes," and then Dick told of the arrangements.

Hamilton Corners hardly knew itself when it awoke the next morning. The town was gay with many colored posters, showing fierce animals wandering together over vast treeless plains, and many-hued lithographs of men risking their lives on the high trapeze. Before the boys had fairly gotten the idea into their heads that the circus was coming the cavalcade of wagons began arriving. Dick had seen the town authorities and secured the necessary permits. Then Hamilton Corners really woke up as the news became known that Dick was responsible for the whole affair.

"Say, he spends money like water," observed Simon to Guy. "I wish I had some of what he's throwing away."

"I suppose you'd buy oil stock with it," observed Guy, with a peculiar smile. Simon did not answer.

The orphans at the asylum—hundreds of them—could hardly believe the joyous news when, after Dick had told those in charge, it was announced to them by the matrons. Some of the poor little tots cried in very happiness. One little boy, who remembered once seeing some of the gay lithographs of a circus, was discovered running around in a circle.

"What are you doing?" asked a matron.

"Playing I'm a circus horse," was the answer. "I'se got to do suffin to make de time pass. I'm so happy!"

Long before the time set for the performance, crowds of boys and girls were headed for the big tents. Dick had generously arranged so that no boy or girl need pay, and hundreds of those in Hamilton Corners, as well as those in the surrounding suburbs, besides the orphans, saw the show free.

Dick wanted to go off with some of his chums and view the performance, but the head matron of the asylum asked him to sit with her in the midst of her little charges.

"They want to see you," she explained. "They think you own the circus, and that you are the most wonderful person in the world."

"Oh, pshaw! It isn't anything at all," declared Dick, with a blush. "I just happened to think of it when I saw the little children out walking and saw how sad some of 'em looked. Besides, it's time we had a circus in Hamilton Corners."

The antics of the clowns, the "hair-raising, death-defying evolutions in mid-air," as the programme called them, the performing horses and elephants, the pony races, the chariot contests, the trick dogs, pigs, monkeys, and other animals, the glittering pageant, the music and excitement—all this was as a happy dream to the orphans. They sat in ecstasy, now and then some of them looking at Dick, who sat in their midst, as though, like some good fairy, they feared he might disappear any minute.

"Well," remarked the manager to Dick in the library of the Hamilton mansion, when the show was over. "You had your circus all right. I guess about four hundred dollars will square us. There were quite a few paid admissions."

"There's your check," answered Dick, passing over a slip of paper, and the manager took his departure.

That night, as the rumble of circus wagons leaving the town came faintly to the ears of Dick and his father, as they sat in the library, Mr. Hamilton remarked:

"Well, did you get your money's worth, Dick?"

"I certainly did, dad. The look on the faces of those orphans was worth twice as much as I spent."

"Still, you might have invested four hundred dollars in some business and gotten large returns from it."

"I invested it in happiness, dad," was Dick's answer.

And then Mr. Hamilton turned away, loving his son more than ever. But still he wondered if Dick would ever be able to fulfil the conditions of his mother's will.