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[Illustration: "Pull up; I'm all right."]




_Brave and Honest Series. No. 1_



Brave Tom

Or

The Battle That Won

By

Edward S. Ellis

Author of "River And Wilderness" Series, "Log Cabin" Series, "Honest Ned,"
"Righting The Wrong," Etc.

Illustrated




1894




Chapter I.



On a certain summer day, a few years ago, the little village of
Briggsville, in Pennsylvania, was thrown into a state of excitement, the
like of which was never known since the fearful night, a hundred years
before, when a band of red men descended like a cyclone upon the little
hamlet with its block-house, and left barely a dozen settlers alive to
tell the story of the visitation to their descendants.

Tom Gordon lived a mile from Briggsville with his widowed mother and his
Aunt Cynthia, a sister to his father, who had died five years before.

The boy had no brother or sister; and as he was bright, truthful,
good-tempered, quick of perception, and obedient, it can be well
understood that he was the pride and hope of his mother and aunt, whose
circumstances were of the humblest nature. He attended the village school,
where he was the most popular and promising of the threescore pupils
under the care of the crabbed Mr. Jenkins. He was as active of body as
mind, and took the lead among boys of his own age in athletic sports and
feats of dexterity.

One summer day the village of Briggsville blazed out in black and red and
white, every available space being covered with immense posters, which in
flaming scenes and gigantic type announced the coming of "Jones's & Co.'s
Great Moral Menagerie and Transcontinental Circus, on its triumphal tour
through the United States and Canada."

Naturally a tremendous excitement set in among the boys, who began
hoarding their pennies and behaving with supernatural propriety, so that
nothing should interfere with the treat, which in exquisite enjoyment can
never be equaled by anything that could come to them in after-life.

Tom Gordon had never yet seen the inside of a circus and menagerie; and as
his mother promised him that the enjoyment should be his, it is impossible
to describe his state of mind for the days and nights preceding the visit
of the grand aggregation, the like of which (according to the overwhelming
posters) the world had never known before. He studied the enormous
pictures, with their tigers, bears, leopards, and panthers, the size of a
meeting-house; their elephants of mountainous proportions, and the daring
acrobats, contortionists, and performers, whose feats made one hold one's
breath while gazing in awe at their impossible performances. The lad
dreamed of them at night, talked about them through the day, and discussed
with his most intimate friends the project of forming a circus of their
own when they became bigger and older. The latter project, it may be
added, owing to unforeseen obstacles, never assumed definite form.

But alas! this is a world of disappointment. On the morning of the circus
Tom was seized with a violent chill, which almost shook him out of his
shoes. He tried with might and main to master it; for he well knew that if
he did not, his visit to the wonderful show must be postponed
indefinitely. He strove like a hero, and was actually sick several hours
before the watchful eyes of his mother and aunt discovered his plight. The
moment came when he could hold out no longer, with his teeth rattling like
castanets, and his red face so hot that it was painful to the touch. Since
the performance did not open until two o'clock in the afternoon, he did
not as yet abandon all hope.

His mother and aunt sympathized with him; but although he rallied to a
great extent from his illness, they could not give consent for him to
leave the house. He partook of refreshment, and left his bed at noon. At
two o'clock he was able to sit in the chair by the window, with his fever
greatly abated, and an hour later he was as free from all traces of the
ague as you or I.

But it was then too late to go to the circus. The disappointment was a
sore one, but the lad stood it like the really brave fellow he was. He
swallowed the lump in his throat, and smiled as he said to his aunt,--

"When the circus comes again, I don't think I'll have a chill."

"And you shall see it, if you are alive then,--of that be assured."

The day was one of the most pleasant and balmy of the season, and Tom
walked out of the house, leaned on the gate, and looked up and down the
highway.

Suddenly he observed a span of horses coming on a gallop, while the driver
of the open wagon was lashing them with his whip and urging them to still
greater speed.

"They aren't running away," mused the astonished boy; "for, if they were,
the man wouldn't be trying to make them run faster. It's Mr. MacDowell! I
never saw him drive faster than a walk before; something dreadful must
have happened."

As Mr. MacDowell caught sight of the boy, and came opposite, he shouted
something, and with an expression of terror glanced around and pointed
with his whip behind him. The furious rattle of the wagon prevented Tom's
catching the words, and the terrified farmer did not repeat them, but
lashed his team harder than ever, vanishing in a cloud of dust raised by
his own wheels.

"He must be crazy," said Tom, unable to think of any other explanation of
the old man's frantic behavior.

The lad stood with his head turned toward the cloud of dust, wondering and
speculating over the strange affair, when hurried footsteps caused him to
turn quickly and look again in the direction of the village.

This time it was Jim Travers, who was panting from his running, and whose
face was a picture of consternation, equal to that of Farmer MacDowell.

"What's the matter, Jim?" asked Tom as his schoolmate reached him.

"O Tom, ain't it awful?" gasped the new arrival, coming to a halt, still
panting, and casting affrighted glances in the direction of Briggsville.

"Ain't _what_ awful?"

"Gracious! hain't you heard the news? I thought everybody knowed it."

And the tired boy took off his hat and rubbed his sleeve across his
steaming forehead, as though his expression of surprise at Tom's ignorance
communicated of itself the news to him. Tom, as may be supposed, was on
needles; for, as yet, he had not received the first hint of the
occurrence, which certainly must have been of a stirring nature.

"Sam Harper, Jack Habersham, and Bill Dunham--_all killed_ before any one
could help 'em! Did you ever hear of anything like it?" continued Jim.

"I haven't heard of _that_ yet. I don't know what you're talking about,
Jim; if you can't tell me, why, shut up!"

"So you hain't heard the news? I forgot; it scared me almost to death. I
thought everybody knowed it. I must hurry home."

And the bewildered youngster was on the point of dashing off again, after
partially recovering his wind, when he seemed to awaken to the fact that
he owed something in the way of enlightenment to his friend.

"I forgot, Tom; but I did think you knowed it: guess you're the only boy
in a thousand miles that hain't heard of it. Well, you see the way of it
was this: there was the biggest crowd I ever seed at the circus,--don't
believe any other circus in the country ever had so many people there.
Everything was going 'long all right, when what did Sam Harper do, but
reach out with a stick and punch it in the eye of the tiger, Tippo Sahib?
The minute he done it, the tiger let out a yell that you would have heerd
a mile off, and, afore Sam could get out of the way, the tiger smashed
right out of the cage and was among the people, chawing them up. He had
his well eye on Sam, and crushed his head like an eggshell, with one bite!
Then he made a sweep with his paw, and knocked Jack Habersham clean out
the tent. He must have gone a hundred feet through the air, for he come
down on top of the steeple, and is there yet with the spire sticking up
through him. Then he hit Bill Dunham such a clip that he sailed out
through the same hole in the tent that Jack passed through. When I left,
Bill hadn't been seed by anybody. Guess he hasn't come down yet.

"Then the tiger come for _me_!

"I seen him make a spring, and ducked my head. He went clean over, and
landed among the women and children, and begun chawing 'em up. Why, Tom,
the sound of their bones cracking and snapping in his jaws was like the
fire-crackers going off on the Fourth of July. Them as warn't swallered or
killed scattered right and left, and begun climbing trees, jumping through
winders, and fastening the doors. All this time the tiger kept on chawing.
He never took more than one bite at a man!"

"Did you see him kill any one?" asked the scared Tom, somewhat confused by
the tremendous narrative of his friend.

"Did I see him kill any one? I should say I did. I seed him kill more than
forty!"

"Did he eat 'em all?"

"Of course he did! That is, all but their boots and shoes. He don't seem
to like leather," added Jim thoughtfully; "for I noticed that when the
men were going down his throat, he kind of shet his jaws, so as to slip
off their boots."

"Jim, he must be a big tiger to hold so many folks inside of him."

"Course he is! The biggest that was ever catched in Greenland! He didn't
not only swaller the men and boys and women that I'm telling you 'bout,
but he took in horses, cows, dogs, and anything in his way. If I ain't
mistook, he swallered Mr. MacDowell's two horses with him."

"No, he didn't; for they went by a few minutes ago. But, Jim, what makes
you in such a hurry?"

"I'm trying to get away from Tippo Sahib," replied the frightened lad,
glancing furtively again toward the village.

"Where's the tiger now?"

"He ain't fur off, and," added Jim, speaking the truth this time, "_the
tiger's coming this way, and will soon be here_."




Chapter II.



It was Tom Gordon's turn now to be frightened.

"What!" he exclaimed, almost leaping from his feet; "the tiger coming this
way! How do you know that?"

"I seed him!



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