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Mr. Stover was considerably surprised when twenty minutes later, looking up from his work in the yard, he saw a man of colossal size crossing the street. He hadn't attended the circus, and had not therefore heard of the giant, who was one of its principal features.
"Who in creation can that be?" Stover asked himself.
Achilles Henderson turned into the yard, and accosted the farmer:
"Good morning, friend," he said. "Can you tell me if a boy of about sixteen has passed here this morning?"
"That boy again!" thought the bewildered farmer.
"Yes," he answered.
"Please describe him."
Mr. Stover did so.
"The very one!" said Achilles. "Now how long since was he here?"
"He took breakfast with my family, and started off nigh on to an hour ago."
"In what direction did he go?"
This question was also answered.
"Thank you, friend," said the giant; "you have done me a favor."
"Then won't you do me one?" said Stover. "Who is this boy that so many people are askin' for?"
"He is a young acrobat connected with Barlow's circus. But what do you mean by so many people asking about him?"
"There was two men here twenty minutes ago, that seemed very anxious to find him."
Achilles Henderson heard this with apprehension. He could guess who they were, and what he heard alarmed him for Kit's safety.
"Who are they?" he inquired hastily.
"Dick Hayden and Bob Stubbs."
"Are they miners?"
"Did you tell them where the boy went?"
"Sartin! Why not?"
"Because they mean to do the boy a mischief; they may even kill him."
"What in creation should they do that for?"
"Mr. Stover, I must follow them at once. Have you a team?"
"Yes; but I calculated to use it."
"I must have it, and I want you to go with me. You may charge what you please. Remember a boy's life may depend on it."
"Then you shall have it," said the farmer, "and I'll go with you. I took a likin' to the boy. He was a gentleman, if ever I saw one; and my women folks was mightily taken with him. Dick Hayden and Bob Stubbs are rough kind of men, and I wouldn't trust any one I set store by in their hands. But why——"
"Harness your horse, and I'll answer your questions on the way, Mr. Stover."
"How do you know my name?" asked Stover, with sudden thought.
"I was told by some one as I came along."
The farmer lost no time in harnessing his horse, Achilles Henderson lending a hand. The horse seemed rather alarmed, never having seen a giant before, but soon got over his fright. The two men then jumped into the wagon, and set out in search of Kit.
Meanwhile our hero had taken his way leisurely along the road. He didn't anticipate being followed, at any rate so soon, and felt under no particular apprehension. He had walked about three miles when a broad branching elm tree tempted him to rest by its shade. He threw himself down on the grass, and indulged in self congratulations upon his escape from his captors. But his congratulation proved to be premature. After a while he raised his eyes and looked carelessly back in the direction from which he had come. What he saw startled him.
The two miners, Hayden and Stubbs, had lost no time on the way. They were bent on capturing Kit, in order to revenge themselves upon him.
Reaching a little eminence in the road Dick Hayden caught sight of his intended victim sitting under the tree.
His eyes gleamed with a wicked light.
"There's the kid, Stubbs!" he said. "Stir your stumps, old man, and we'll collar him!"
The two miners started on a run, and when Kit caught sight of them they were already within a few rods. The young acrobat saw that his only safety, if indeed there was any chance at all, was in flight. He started to his feet, and being fleet of limb gave them a good chase. But in the end the superior strength and endurance of the men conquered. Flushed and panting, Kit was compelled to stop. Hayden grasped him by the collar with a look of wicked satisfaction.
"So I've got you, my fine chap, have I?"
"Yes, so it seems!" said Kit, his heart sinking.
"Sit down! I've got a few questions to ask."
There was a broad flat stone by the roadside. He seated Kit upon it with a forcible push, and the two men ranged themselves one on each side of him.
"What time did you leave the cabin, boy?"
"I don't know what time it was. It must have been two hours since—perhaps more."
"Did any one let you out?"
"Who was it?"
"I don't know the person's name."
"Was it a man?"
Kit began to feel that he must be cautious. He knew that she was the daughter of the man who was questioning him, and that she would be in danger of rough treatment if her father should find out that she had thwarted him.
"I cannot tell you," he answered, though he well knew that the answer was likely to get him into trouble.
"You can't tell? Why not? Don't you know whether it was a man or not?"
"Yes, I know."
"You mean that you won't tell me, then?" said Hayden, in a menacing tone.
"I mean that I don't care to do it. I might get the person into trouble."
"You would that, you may bet your life. I can tackle any man round here, and I'd get even with that man if I swung for it."
"That is why I don't care to tell you," said Kit. "How can you tell that the man knew you put me there?"
"Didn't you tell him?"
"It was a man, then!" said Hayden, turning to Stubbs. "Look here, young feller, if you tell me who it was, you may get off better yourself."
"I would rather not!" answered Kit, pale but firm.
"Suit yourself, kid, but you may as well know that you'll be half killed before we get through with you. Get up!"
As he spoke, Hayden jerked Kit to his feet, and began to drag him toward the rail fence.
"Take down the rails, Stubbs!" he said.
"What's your game, Dick?"
"I'm going to give the kid a drubbing that he won't be likely to forget, but I can't do it in the road, for some one may come along."
"I'm with you, Dick."
At the lower end of the field which they had now entered was a strip of woods, which promised seclusion and freedom from interruption. Poor Kit, as he was dragged forward by his relentless captor, found his spirits sinking to zero.
"Will no one deliver me from this brutal man?" he exclaimed inwardly.
He felt that his life was in peril.
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