What’s the matter

About three o’clock in the afternoon an oddly assorted couple walked
through the main street in the manufacturing town of Crampton. One
was a man of herculean proportions, fully seven and a half feet
high, but with a good-natured face that relieved the fears which he
might otherwise have inspired. The other was a boy of fifteen, tall
and slender, with a dark complexion and bright eyes. He found some
difficulty in keeping pace with his tall companion.

“You’re going too fast for me, Anak,” he said at last. “Remember, my
legs are not quite so long as yours.”

The giant laughed—a deep, resonant and not unmusical laugh, and
answered: “I’m always forgetting that, Robert. I suppose I ought to
walk alone, for I can’t find any one to match me.”

“See how people are looking at us,” continued the boy, glancing quickly
back. “There’s an army of small boys following us.”

“Do you want to see me scatter them?” asked Anak.

“Yes; it will be fun.”

The burly giant turned, and assuming a terrific frown, ran back,
his long limbs carrying him on at remarkable speed. Instantly the
boys, with loud shouts of dismay, broke ranks and scattered in every
direction, not daring even to look over their shoulders.

Anak came back, laughing heartily.

“I wonder what the boys thought I would do to them,” he said. “The fact
is, I like young people, and am always ready to take their parts; but
then, they don’t know that. Did I look very alarming just now?”

“Yes,” answered Robert; “if I hadn’t known you, I might have run too.”

“I don’t know about that, Robert. No one can accuse you of want of
courage.”

Robert smiled, and his dark face looked very attractive when he smiled.

“I am not afraid of horses,” he said.

“No; you are the most daring bareback rider I ever knew.”

“I don’t think I ever was afraid of horses,” continued the boy,
thoughtfully. “I can’t remember the time when I was not used to them.”

“How long have you been a bareback rider?” asked Anak.

“I think I commenced when I was nine years old.”

“And now you are—how old?”

“Fifteen.”

“You never told me how you came to join a circus, Robert.”

“I was wandering about the country—tramping—without a friend, and
without any means of living, when a circus man offered to train me as a
rider. Anything was better than tramping, and I accepted—”

“And now you are

ROBERT RUDD,
THE BOY WONDER!
_The Best Bareback Rider in the World._”

“That’s what the circus bills say,” replied Robert, smiling. “Now let
me introduce you. Gentlemen and ladies,” said the boy, waving his hand,
as if addressing an audience, “I have the pleasure of introducing to
you,

ANAK!

THE CELEBRATED NORWEGIAN GIANT!

_Eight feet in height, and weighing four hundred and twenty pounds,
who has been exhibited before all the crowned heads of Europe, and
is generally acknowledged to be the tallest giant in the world!_”

“Good for you, Robert!” said the giant, good naturedly. “You’ve got it
by heart, my boy.”

“I want to ask you a favor, Anak,” said Robert, slyly: “Speak a little
Norwegian; I want to know how it sounds.”

“Oh go away with you! I don’t know any more Norwegian than you do.”

“How is that? You don’t mean to say you’ve forgotten your native
language?”

“I never knew a bit of Norwegian, Rob, my boy; and as for native
language, I’m minded to tell you a secret.”

“Go ahead!”

“I was born in Tipperary, and they didn’t use to speak Norwegian there
when I was a boy.”

“Then why do they call you a Norwegian?”

“It sounds better than Irish, you see.”

“But haven’t you ever been caught? Didn’t you ever have a Norwegian
come up and try to talk to you in his own language?”

“Yes,” said Anak, laughing, “and mighty embarrassing it was, too.”

“What did you do?”

“Faith, I opened upon him in old Irish. You ought to have seen the
fellow stare. I shrugged my shoulders, and said I, ‘You speak bad
Norwegian,’ and the crowd believed me. He slunk away, and that’s the
way I got over that.”

“What’s your real name, Anak?”

Anak looked about him guardedly, and finding that no one was within
earshot, he answered, “Tom O’Connor, but don’t give me away, Robert!”

“I don’t believe I could, Anak,” said the boy, laughing.

Anak joined in the laugh, and Robert continued, “When did you get your
growth? I mean, how old were you?”

“I kept on growing till I was twenty-one. When I was sixteen I was six
feet high, and everybody thought I was through, but I kept on till I
reached seven and a half feet, and then was tall enough to show.”

“How about that eight feet, Anak?”

“You must ask the manager. They always make giants taller than they
are. It’s equal all round, and nobody’s hurt. And now, Robert, I’m
going to ask you a question.”

“What is it, Anak?”

“Do you expect always to be in this business?”

“Bareback riding, you mean? No, I hope not,” said the boy, gravely.

“I hope not, too. It’ll do for a time, and there isn’t anything else
open to a big overgrown fellow like me, but you are a smart boy, and
there are plenty of chances for you to get into something else. You
never told me about when you were a little boy; can you remember as far
back?”

“Not much,” answered the boy, soberly. “Sometimes I seem to remember a
fine house and grounds, and it seems as if I were riding on a beautiful
lawn, on a pony, with a servant at my side. But it is provoking that I
can’t remember any more, and the whole seems dim, and melts away, and
it may be all imagination, after all.”

“It may be all true, Robert. Was it in America, do you think, now?”

“That is more than I can tell. It may be all fancy.”

“Have you any relations living?”

“Not that I know of,” said the boy sadly; “I wish I had. I feel very
lonely sometimes, and there doesn’t seem much to live for.”

“You’ve plenty of friends, Rob—all of us like you.”

“Yes, you all treat me well.”

“You have always been a favorite in the circus, my lad.”

“Yes; I never had anything to complain of except that my trainer was
sometimes a little rough. But it isn’t as if I had somebody belonging
to me—a brother, or a cousin, at the least. Have you any relations,
Anak?”

“Yes, I’ve got any number of cousins, and my old mother’s living, too,
bless her heart.”

“In Norway?” asked Robert, slyly.

“Oh go away! they know no more about Norway than you do. It is in
Tipperary they all live. I’ve forty or fifty cousins at the least, and
I’ll give you a half a dozen with pleasure, if it’ll do you any good.”

“I don’t think they would answer my purpose, Anak,” answered the boy,
smiling.

“Well, as I was sayin’, Robert, I wouldn’t stay with the circus always
if I was you.”

“What else is there for me to do?”

“Wait and see. You’re young yet.”

“My education is very poor, you know, Anak.”

“Can’t you read and write?”

“Yes, but not much more. I should like to go to school for two years.”

“Sure you look like a gentleman, and you’ll be one some day, I
shouldn’t wonder.”

“Look there, Anak!” said the boy, suddenly; “there’s a man who appears
to be in trouble.”

As he spoke he pointed to the driver of a team, which seemed to have
settled in the mud, for it was now spring-time, and the roads were in
a bad condition. The driver was shouting frantically to the horse, who
was making desperate efforts to pull the wagon out of the mire, but
without success.

“What’s the matter, my friend?” inquired Anak, addressing the driver of
the team.

The latter stared in amazement at the gigantic querist, but his trouble
overcame his surprise, and he answered, “You can see for yourself. My
wagon’s mired and my horse is too lazy to draw it out.”

“Indeed the poor beast is unable,” said Anak.

“He can do it if he wants to,” said the driver, angrily. “I’ll see if I
can’t persuade him,” and he flourished a whip in a menacing manner.

“Hold there!” said Anak. “We’ll see if we can’t help him.”

So saying he went round to the back of the wagon, and, seizing it in
his powerful hands, cried, “Now start your horse!”

The driver did so, and, with Anak’s powerful help, the horse had small
difficulty in extricating the wagon from the mire.

“There, that’s better than beating your horse,” said Anak, stepping
once more to the side of the road.

“You’re powerful strong, sir,” said the teamster, respectfully,
surveying the colossal proportions of Anak.

“I ought to be, oughtn’t I?” returned Anak.

“Excuse me, sir, but do you belong to the circus?”

“Yes, you’ll find me there if you take the trouble to visit it.”

“Are you the Norwegian giant?”

“That’s what they call me,” answered Anak, smiling.

“Well, at any rate, I’m obliged to you for helping me.”

“And so is the horse, I’m thinking.”

“Yes; you are as strong as a horse yourself,” said the teamster,
admiringly.

“That is convenient sometimes, my friend.”

The teamster drove on, and Anak and Robert also continued their walk.

“The manager doesn’t like to have me show myself for nothing,” said
Anak, “but I can’t stay under canvas all day to oblige him. My health
requires me to walk out in the open air.”

“Does it require you to walk so fast, Anak?”

“Excuse me, Robert; I’m always forgetting.”

“The manager has less trouble in keeping Madame Leonora in,” said Robert.

“That’s true; she’s too fat to walk much. She weighs more than I do,
though she’s two feet shorter.”

They had drawn out of the village, and got into the comparatively open
country among the farms. They were talking of one subject and another,
when suddenly their attention was drawn to a small boy who was running
towards them in terror and dismay.

“What’s the matter?” asked Robert, his sympathy quickly aroused; “are
you hurt?”

“No,” answered the boy, slackening his speed, “but Mr. Tarbox is going
to whip Jimmy.”

“And who is Jimmy?”

“Jimmy’s my brother.”

“And what have you been doing?”

“We were only cutting across his lot, when he came out and chased us,
swearin’ awful. I got away, but he’s got poor Jimmy, and he’s going to
horsewhip him,” and the poor boy burst into terrified tears.

Robert afterwards learned that this Tarbox was a rough, tyrannical old
farmer, noted for his bad temper, who appeared to cherish a special
antipathy to boys. There was a footpath around his field, which
considerably lessened the distance to the main road for some of his
neighbors, but in the ugliness of his disposition he forbade it to be
used. Men he did not venture to attack, but woe betide the boy who
ventured to enter his enclosure.

“Where is this Tarbox and your brother?” asked Anak.

The boy pointed to a house and lot a little farther on.

“We wouldn’t have gone across-lots,” he explained, “but mother was
taken sick, and we got frightened and wanted to call the doctor as soon
as we could, and we thought we might do it for once.”

“Did you tell this man Tarbox the reason you went across his field?”
asked Anak.

“Yes, but he said it was no excuse, and I am afraid he’ll kill poor
Jimmy.”

The little boy fell to weeping again.

“There they are!” said Robert.

In a field, just off the road, was a strong, brutal-looking man
deliberately engaged in tying a boy of twelve to a tree. The whip in
his hand showed what he intended to do afterwards. He might indeed have
dispensed with tying the boy, for he was quite unable to escape, but he
did it on the same principle that a cat plays with a mouse, to increase
the terror of the poor victim.

His back was turned, so that he did not see the approach of Anak and
the two boys.

This was what the new-comer heard as they approached:

“Oh, please don’t whip me, Mr. Tarbox,” pleaded the poor boy, in an
agony of apprehension.

“Then why did you come across my lot, you little rascal?”

“I was in a hurry to call the doctor, because mother was sick. Indeed
that was the only reason.”

“I’ve got nothing to do with your sick mother,” said Tarbox. “That was
no reason for coming across my field.”

“I didn’t hurt anything, sir; I just walked along the path.”

“I’ll larn you not to try it again, Jim Benton; I’m goin’ to give you
as good a floggin’ as ever you had. You can just tell the other boys
how it feels and mebbe they’ll want to try it.”

“Oh, please don’t whip me! I ought to be goin’ for a doctor. My mother
may die.”

“She can die for all I care,” said the brutal Tarbox. “Now I’ve got you
tied, and I’m goin’ to give your jacket a good warmin’.”

He raised the whip and was about to bring it down upon the shrinking
limbs of the poor boy, when he was startled by a deep, stern voice only
a rod behind him, “Don’t touch that boy!”

Tarbox looked back and saw Anak striding towards him. He had not seen
him before, but he knew who he was, for he had seen the posters of the
circus. Though rather startled, he was not disposed to yield his victim
easily.

“Get out of my field!” he snarled; “you’re trespassin’.”

“I can’t help it,” said Anak; “I’m not going to see a brute like you
whip a poor child while I am here to defend him.”

“You ain’t, hey?” snarled Tarbox. “I’ve got the law on my side, and I’m
goin’ to do it. Just you clear out, you two, or I’ll have the law on
you.”

He raised the whip, but did not get a chance to use it. Anak reached
him in one stride, snatched the whip from his hand and flung it into
the road; then, grasping the stalwart farmer by the collar, shook him
till his teeth chattered, with as much ease as Tarbox himself would
have handled the twelve-year-old boy.

“Perhaps you’ll change your opinion now?” he said.

Tarbox was astonished and cowed. There wasn’t a man in town that could
cope with him, yet he was but a child in the hands of the Norwegian
giant.

“I’ll have the law of you!” he shrieked in furious anger.

“So you may, but first you’ve got to untie that boy.”

“I won’t!”

“You won’t, hey?”

Again Anak seized him, and shook him vigorously in spite of his
struggles.

When he let him go, Tarbox, with an evil look, called, “Here, Bruiser!
come here, sir.”

A large, wicked-looking bull-dog bounded over a stone wall, and rushed
forward evidently bent on mischief.

“Sik him!” he exclaimed, pointing to Anak.

“Is your dog’s life insured?” asked Anak, calmly.

He waited till the dog was within a foot or two, aiming to attack his
leg; then he raised one of his powerful feet, aimed a tremendous kick
at Bruiser, and the dog was stretched senseless at his feet.

“It’s your own fault,” said Anak, turning to the farmer; “your dog is
probably dead. Now, untie that boy.”

Tarbox by this time seemed thoroughly frightened. With dark, sullen
looks he obeyed the giant, and Jimmy, overjoyed to recover his freedom,
stretched his arms and legs.

“Now, go for the doctor as fast as you please,” said Anak.

The two brothers quickly started on their errand, and Anak, turning to
Tarbox, said, “You miserable brute, if I ever hear of your attempting
to abuse a poor boy again, I’ll travel five hundred miles if necessary
to kick you as I have kicked your dog. Go back to your house or I may
do it now.”

Tarbox needed no second order. He was rather afraid that he too might
feel the weight of the giant’s boot, and he hurried away. Safe in his
own yard, he shouted, “I’ll have you punished for this, you big rascal!”

Anak only laughed.

“We may as well be going back, Robert,” he said; “I don’t want to get
into any more fights.”