Chapter 29




JANET MEETS THE GIANT.

Janet took her way homewards, hurrying with quick feet, lest her father should wake up before she arrived. But she had taken so early a start that she found him still sleeping soundly. She instantly began to make preparations for breakfast.

By the time it was on the table her father woke up and yawned. With his waking there came the thought of his young circus captive, and the vengeance he intended to wreak upon him. This pleasant idea roused him completely, and he dressed himself briskly.

"Is breakfast ready, Janet?" he asked.

"Yes, father."

"What time is it?"

"Seven o'clock," answered Janet, looking at the clock over the mantel.

"I am expecting Bob Stubbs here this morning. Have you got enough for him?"

"I think so, father," replied Janet. She did not speak with alacrity, for Mr. Stubbs was no favorite of hers.

At that moment a step was heard at the door, and the gentleman spoken of made his appearance.

"You're late, Dick," said Stubbs, rubbing his bristling chin.

"Yes, I got tired out yesterday. When the mine's shut down I like to take my time. Have you had breakfast, Bob?"

"Ye-es," answered Stubbs hesitating, as he glanced at the neatly spread table, with the eggs and bacon on the center dish.

"Never mind! You can eat some more. Put a chair for him, Janet."

"This lass of yours is growing pretty," said Stubbs, with a glance of admiration.

"There's a compliment for you, lass!" said the father.

Janet, however, did not appear to appreciate it, and continued to look grave.

"Wonder how the kid's getting along," said Bob Stubbs, with his mouth full of bacon.

"I reckon he's hungry," said Dick Hayden, in a voice of satisfaction.

"Have you left him without anything to eat, father?" asked Janet.

"Yes."

"The poor fellow will be starved."

"And serves him right, too. There ain't no call to pity him."

"Why won't you take him some breakfast if you're going round there? I will put some up in a tin pail."

"What do you say to that, Bob, hey?" said Hayden.

"It's natural for the gal to pity him. He's a nice lookin' chap enough."

"He's nicer looking than he will be when we get through with him, eh, Bob?"

"That's so, Dick."

As Janet listened to this conversation, her heart revolted against the brutality conveyed by the words. She felt dissatisfied to think that her own father was such a man. She could not well feel an affection for him, remembering how ill he had treated her gentle mother, who, as she knew, would be living to-day had she been wedded to a better husband.

The two men did not linger long at the table. They were accustomed to swallow their food rapidly, in order to get to the scene of their daily labor on time. So in twenty minutes they rose from the table, and putting on their hats left the cabin.

As they departed Janet breathed a sigh of relief, and congratulated herself that she had released the poor boy, and so saved him from the brutal treatment he was likely to receive at the hands of the two miners.

"He will have had plenty of time to get away before father and Mr. Stubbs reach the cabin," she said to herself.

Janet washed the dishes, and then, having an errand at the store, put on her hat and left the cabin. She did not trouble herself to lock the door, for there was nothing in the place likely to excite the cupidity of any dishonest person.

Janet had accomplished a part of the distance when she saw approaching her a figure that at once attracted her earnest attention.

The reason will be readily understood when I say that it was Achilles Henderson, the circus giant.

Mr. Henderson had been exploring the neighborhood in the hope of finding some trace of Kit, but thus far had been unsuccessful. He was very much perplexed, having absolutely no clew, and was thinking of starting for Groveton, where the circus was billed to appear that evening. He was walking in an undecided way, and never thought of noticing the little girl who stood staring at him. Indeed he was so used to being stared at that he took it as a matter of course, and did not think of giving the curious gazer a second glance.

But his attention was called by a low, half frightened voice.

"Mr. Giant!"

"Well, little girl, what do you want?" he asked.

"Are you looking for anybody?" asked Janet, first glancing carefully around, to make sure that she was not likely to be overheard.

"Yes," answered Achilles, quickly. "I am looking for a boy."

"A circus boy?"

"Yes; do you know where he is?"

"Come nearer! I don't want anybody to hear what I say."

"All right, my little maid! Is the boy alive and well?"

"Yes, he was two hours ago."

"Where is he?"

"I don't know where he is now."

Achilles looked disappointed.

"Tell me all you know," he said.

"My father and Bob Stubbs took him last night, and shut him up in a lonely cabin on the hill."

"Where is the cabin?"

"He isn't there now. I let him out."

"Good for you, little girl! You're a trump. You're a great deal better than your father. Do you know where the boy went?"

"I will tell you where I told him to go."

"Where is your father now? Is he at work?"

"No; the mine is shut down."

"How did you know that the boy was in the cabin?"

"I heard father tell where he was last night, when he was at supper. So I got up very early, and stole out to release him, for I was afraid father might kill him. He said he meant to punish him for what you did. He said he would rather get at you."

"He's quite welcome to, if he wants to," answered Achilles, grimly. "On the whole I wouldn't advise him to tackle me."

"He thought you had gone on with the circus."

"I should have done so if I hadn't missed Kit."

"Yes; he told me his name was Kit."

"Was he tied?"

"Yes; I took a knife with me and cut the ropes."

"The poor fellow must have passed an uncomfortable night."

"Yes, he said so."

"He must have been very glad to see you."

"Yes, he was. I am only afraid of one thing."

"What is that?"

"Father and the other man left the house more than half an hour ago to go to the cabin. When they find him gone, they will be very angry."

"Like as not."

"And I think they will try to find him."

"Very true; I wish I knew where he was. They wouldn't dare to attack him in my company."

"No, Mr. Giant. You must be very strong."

"I think I would be a match for them."

Achilles questioned Janet minutely as to the advice she had given Kit.

"I might follow the boy," he said to himself, "at a guess, but there's only half a chance of my hitting right. Where is the cabin?" he asked, suddenly.

Janet pointed in the proper direction.

"I know what I'll do," he said, with sudden decision. "I'll follow your father and the other man. All the danger to Kit is likely to come from them. If I can get track of them, I can make sure that no mischief will be done."

Achilles Henderson then stepped over a fence which an ordinary man would have had to climb, and made his way to the deserted cabin.



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