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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

Badger to whom the circus belongs


he regained the open air, and had bidden an unwilling adieu to the sawdust glories, the afternoon was pretty well advanced and the fair was more crowded than ever. But Bertie could not tear himself away from Badger's. He hung about the exterior of the tent as though the neighbourhood was holy ground.

Several other loiterers lingered too; and among them were four or five men who did not look, to put it gently, as though they belonged to what are called the upper classes.

"I've half a mind," said Bertie to himself, "to go inside the tent, and ask Mr. Badger if he wants a boy. But perhaps he wouldn't like to be troubled when there's no performance on."

Bertie's ideas on circus management were rudimentary. Mr. Badger would perhaps have looked a little blue to find himself met with such a request if there had been a performance on.

"What do you think of the circus?"

The question was put by one of the individuals before referred to. He had apparently given his companions the slip, for they stood a little distance off, ostentatiously paying no attention to his proceedings. He was a short man, inclined to stoutness, and Bertie thought he had the reddest face he had ever seen.

"It's not a bad show, is it? And more it didn't ought to be, for the amount of money it cost me to put that

show together no one wouldn't believe."

Bertie stared. It dimly occurred to him that it must have cost him all the money he possessed and so left him nothing to throw away upon his clothing, for his costume was distinctly shabby. But the stout man went on affably:--

"I saw you looking round, so I thought as perhaps you took a interest in these here kind of things. Perhaps you don't know who I am?"

Bertie didn't and said so.

"I'm Badger, the Original Badger. I may say the only Badger as was ever known,--for all them other Badgers belongs to another branch of the family."

The Original Badger put his hand to his neck, apparently with the intention of pulling up his shirt collar, which, however, wasn't there. Bertie stared still more. The stout man did not by any means come up to the ideas he had formed of the world-famed Badger.

"You're not the Mr. Badger to whom the circus belongs."

"Ain't I! But I ham, I just ham." The Original Badger's enunciation of the letter was more emphatic than correct.

"And I should like to see the man who says I hain't! I'd fight that man either for beer or money either now or any other time, and I shouldn't care if he was twenty stone. Now look 'ere"--the Original Badger gave Bertie so hearty a slap upon the back that that young gentleman tottered--"What I say is this. I wants a well-built young fellow about your age to learn the riding, and to train for clown, and I wants that young feller to make his first appearance this day three weeks. Now what do you say to being that young feller?"

"I don't think I could learn it in three weeks," was all Bertie could manage to stammer.

"Oh couldn't you? I know better. Now, look 'ere, I'm going to pay that young feller five and twenty pound a week, and find him in his clothing. What do you say to that?"

Bertie would have liked to say a good deal, if he could have only found the words to say it with. Among other things he would probably have liked to have said that he hoped the clothing which was to accompany the five and twenty pounds a week would be of a different sort to that worn by the Original Badger. It would have been a hazardous experiment to have offered five and twenty pence for the stout man's costume.

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