RUTH FIELDING ON THE ST. LAWRENCE
THE QUEER OLD MAN OF THE THOUSAND ISLANDS
BY ALICE B. EMERSON
Author of "Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill," "Ruth Fielding in the Great Northwest," "Betty Gordon series," etc.
NEW YORK CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY PUBLISHERS
BOOKS FOR GIRLS
by ALICE B. EMERSON
RUTH FIELDING SERIES 12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.
RUTH FIELDING OF THE RED MILL RUTH FIELDING AT BRIARWOOD HALL RUTH FIELDING AT SNOW CAMP RUTH FIELDING AT LIGHTHOUSE POINT RUTH FIELDING AT SILVER RANCH RUTH FIELDING ON CLIFF ISLAND RUTH FIELDING AT SUNRISE FARM RUTH FIELDING AND THE GYPSIES RUTH FIELDING IN MOVING PICTURES RUTH FIELDING DOWN IN DIXIE RUTH FIELDING AT COLLEGE RUTH FIELDING IN THE SADDLE RUTH FIELDING IN THE RED CROSS RUTH FIELDING AT THE WAR FRONT RUTH FIELDING HOMEWARD BOUND RUTH FIELDING DOWN EAST RUTH FIELDING IN THE GREAT NORTHWEST RUTH FIELDING ON THE ST. LAWRENCE
BETTY GORDON SERIES
BETTY GORDON AT BRAMBLE FARM BETTY GORDON IN WASHINGTON BETTY GORDON IN THE LAND OF OIL BETTY GORDON AT BOARDING SCHOOL BETTY GORDON AT MOUNTAIN CAMP
Cupples & Leon Co., Publishers, New York
Copyright, 1922, by Cupples & Leon Company
Ruth Fielding on the St. Lawrence Printed in U. S. A.
CHAPTER PAGE I "Here Comes The Bride" 1 II A Rift In His Lute 10 III Rice And Old Shoes 18 IV Bilby 27 V Trouble In Prospect 37 VI An Abduction 45 VII Expediency 54 VIII At Chippewa Bay 63 IX A Film Mystery 73 X A Smell Of Smoke 83 XI Bilby Again 93 XII The Dance At Alexandria Bay 100 XIII The Kingdom Of Pipes 109 XIV A Demand Is Made 116 XV The Yellow Lady 124 XVI Marooned 131 XVII A Determination 140 XVIII Bilby's Trump Card 148 XIX Suspense 156 XX A Failure In Calculation 164 XXI In The Chinese Den 171 XXII The Twins' Alarm 178 XXIII Trouble Enough 186 XXIV A Letter Comes 193 XXV The Heart's Desire 201
RUTH FIELDING ON THE ST. LAWRENCE
"HERE COMES THE BRIDE"
The sudden joyous pealing of the organ could be heard upon the sidewalk before the stately church. As there was a broad canopy from the door to the curb, with a carpet laid down and motor-cars standing in line, it took no seer to proclaim that a wedding was in progress within.
Idlers halted to wait for the appearance of the wedding party, which was about to come forth. Some of the younger spectators ran up the steps and peered in at the door, for there was only a lame, old, purblind sexton on guard, and he, too, seemed vastly interested in what was going on inside.
One glance down the main aisle of the great edifice revealed a much more elaborate scheme of decoration than usually appears at a church wedding. Its main effect was the intertwining of French and American flags, and as the bridal party turned from the altar the horizon blue uniform of the soldier-bridegroom was a patch of vivid color that could not be mistaken.
The bride in her white gown and veil and wreath made, it may be, even a more prominent picture than did her husband. But that was only to be expected perhaps, for a girl on her wedding day, and in the church, is usually the focus of all eyes.
It must be confessed (even her dearest friends must confess it) there was another reason why she who, only a moment before had been Jennie Stone, quite filled the public eye.
In the first place, Jennie was a well-built girl, and upon her well-built frame there had always been since her childhood days a superabundance of flesh. And getting married had not changed sweet, jolly, funny Jennie Stone in the least! Instead of coming back down the aisle of the church with modestly downcast eyes (which is usually a hypocritical display of emotion), Jennie smiled at her friends and beamed proudly upon the figure in horizon blue at her side.
And she might well be proud of Major Henri Marchand, for he was in the very best sense a soldier and a gentleman, and there gleamed a bit of color on his breast that had been pinned there by Marshal Foch's own hand. As he was still in active service and had only been given leave to come to America for his bride, this might be considered the last military wedding that the old church was likely to see—perhaps for many years.
The groom's French uniform, and even the olive gray of the best man and two or three other men in the party at the altar, had lent their touch of color to the picture. But it was the bride's attendants, however, that made the party so well worth looking at—especially to the greater number of young women and girls in the pews.
Jennie Stone was a popular girl, and had friends galore. Many of those girl friends had come from a distance to see their beloved "Heavy Stone" (as she had been nicknamed in the old Briarwood Hall days) married to the man she had met in France while she was engaged in those useful and helpful occupations into which so many American girls entered during the war.
Besides, Jennie was the first of the old Briarwood Hall set to be married, and this was bound to be a gala occasion. This was no "weepy" wedding, but a time of joy. And the bridal party coming down the aisle made as brilliant a picture as had ever been seen in the old church.
The maid of honor in pink was as refreshing to look upon as a bouquet of arbutus. She had always been a pretty, winsome girl. Now she was developing into a handsome young woman, as all Ruth Fielding's friends declared. In her present filmy costume with its flowery picture hat the girl of the Red Mill had never looked better.
The young man at her side in the uniform of an American captain with his black curls and dark face, made a splendid foil for Ruth's beauty. Behind him walked his twin sister—as like Tom Cameron as another pea in a pod—and Ann Hicks, both in rose-color, completing a color scheme worthy of the taste of whoever had originated it. For the sheer beauty of the picture, this wedding would long be remembered.
In the very last pew, on the aisle, sat an eager old colored woman—one of those typical "mammies" now so seldom seen—in an old-fashioned bonnet and shawl. She was of a bulbous figure, and her dark face shone with perspiration and delight as she stared at the coming bride and groom.
Jennie saw Mammy Rose (the old woman had been a dependent of the Stone family for years), and had the occasion been much more serious than Jennie thought it, the plump girl would surely have smiled at Mammy Rose.
The old woman bobbed up, making an old-time genuflection. She thrust out a neat, paper-covered parcel which she had held carefully in her capacious lap all through the ceremony.
"Miss Janie—ma blessed baby!" she whispered. "I is suttenly glad to see dis here day! Heaven is a-smilin' on yo'. And here is one o' ma birfday cakes yo' liked so mighty well. Mammy Rose done make it for her chile—de las' she ever will make yo' now yo' is goin' to foreign paths."
Another girl than Jennie might have been confused, or even angered, by the interruption of the procession. But Jennie could be nothing if not kind. Her own hands were filled with her bouquet—it was enormous. She stopped, however, before the old woman.
"As thoughtful for me as ever, Mammy Rose, aren't you?" she said pleasantly. "And you know all my little failings. Henri," she said to her husband.
But the courtly young Frenchman had quite as great a sense of noblesse oblige as his bride. He bowed to the black woman as though she was the highest lady in the land and accepted the parcel, tied clumsily with baby ribbon by the gnarled fingers of Mammy Rose.
They moved on and the smiling, yet tearful, old woman, sank back into her seat. If there was anything needed to make this a perfect occasion, it was this little incident. The bride and groom came out into the smiling sunshine with sunshine in their hearts as well as on their faces.
"I knew," whispered Helen Cameron to Ann Hicks, who stalked beside her in rather a mannish way, "that Heavy Stone could not even be married without something ridiculous happening."
"'Ridiculous'?" repeated the Western girl, with something like a catch in her throat.
"Well, it might have been ridiculous," admitted Helen. "Only, after all, Jennie is real—and so is Major Marchand. You couldn't feaze him, not even if a bomb had been dropped in the church vestibule."
They were crowding into the motor-cars then, and merrily the wedding party sped back to the big house on Madison Avenue, which had been garnished for the occasion with the same taste that marked the color-scheme of the bride's attendants. The canopied steps and walk, the footmen in line to receive the party, and the banked flowers in the reception hall were all impressive.
"My!" whispered the irrepressible Jennie to Henri, "I feel like a prima donna."
"You are," was his prompt and earnest agreement.
They trooped in at once to the breakfast table. The spacious room was wreathed with smilax and other vines—even to the great chandelier. The latter was so hidden by the decorations that it seemed overladen, and Tom Cameron, who had a quick eye, mentioned it to Ruth.
"Wonder if those fellows braced that thing with wires? Florists sometimes have more sense of art than common sense."
"Hush, Tom! Nothing can happen to spoil this occasion. Isn't it wonderful?"
But Tom Cameron looked at her rather gloomily. He shook his head slightly.
"I feel like one of those pictures of the starving children in Armenia. I'm standing on the outside, looking in."
It is true that Ruth Fielding flushed, but she refused to make reply. A moment later, when Tom realized how the seating of the party had been arranged, his countenance showed even deeper gloom.
As best man Tom was directed to Jennie's right hand. On the other side of Henri, Ruth was seated, and that placed her across the wide table from Tom Cameron.
The smiling maid of honor was well worth looking at, and Tom Cameron should have been content to focus his eyes upon her whenever he raised them from his plate; but for a particular reason he was not at all pleased.
This particular reason was the seating of another figure in military uniform next to Ruth on her other side. This was a tall, pink-cheeked, well set-up youth looking as though, like Tom, he had seen military service, and with an abundance of light hair above his broad brow. At school Chessleigh Copley had been nicknamed "Lasses" because of that crop of hair.
He entered into conversation with Ruth at once, and he found her so interesting (or she found him so interesting) that Ruth had little attention to give to her vis-a-vis across the table.
The latter's countenance grew heavier and heavier, his dark brows drawing together and his black eyes smouldering.
If anybody noticed this change in Tom's countenance it was his twin sister, sitting on Ruth's side of the table. And perhaps she understood her brother's mood. Now and then her own eyes flashed something besides curiosity along the table on her side at Ruth and Chess Copley, so evidently lost in each other's companionship.
But it was a gay party. How could it be otherwise with Jennie at the table? And everybody was bound to second the gaiety of the bride. The groom's pride in Jennie was so open, yet so very courteously expressed, that half the girls there envied Jennie her possession of Henri Marchand.
"To think," drawled Ann Hicks, who had come East from Silver Ranch, "that Heavy Stone should grab off such a prize in the matrimonial grab-bag. My!" and she finished with a sigh.
"When does your turn come, Ann?" asked somebody.
"Believe me," said the ranch girl, with emphasis, "I have got to see somebody besides cowpunchers and horse-wranglers before I make such a fatal move."
"You have lost all your imagination," laughed Helen, from across the table.
"I don't know. Maybe I used it all up, back in those old kid days when I ran away to be 'Nita' and played at being 'the abused chee-ild'. Remember?"
"Oh, don't we!" cried Helen and some of the other girls.
Something dropped on Tom Cameron's plate. He glanced up, then down again at the object that had fallen. It was a piece of plaster from the ceiling.
Chess Copley likewise shot a glance ceilingward.
There was a wide gap—and growing wider—on his side of the chandelier. A great piece of the heavy plaster was breaking away from the ceiling, and it hung threateningly over his own and Ruth Fielding's head.
"Look out, Ruth!" shouted Tom Cameron, jumping to his feet.
A RIFT IN HIS LUTE
Tom Cameron, no matter how desirous he might be of saving Ruth from hurt, could not possibly have got around the table in time. With a snarling, ripping noise the heavy patch of plaster tore away from the ceiling and fell directly upon the spot where the chairs of Ruth and Chess Copley had been placed!
The screams of the startled girls almost drowned the noise of the plaster's fall, but Ruth Fielding did not join in the outcry.
With one movement, it seemed, Copley had risen and kicked his own chair away, seized Ruth about her waist as he did so, and so dragged her out from under the avalanche.
It was all over in a moment, and the two stood, clinging to each other involuntarily, while the dust of the fallen plaster spread around them.
For a moment Ruth Fielding had been in as perilous a situation as she had ever experienced, and her life had been rather full of peril and adventure since, as a girl of twelve, and in the first volume of this series, we met her as "Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill."
At the time just mentioned, the orphaned Ruth had appeared at her great-uncle's mill on the Lumano River, near Cheslow, in one of the New England States, and had been taken in by the miserly old miller rather under protest. But Aunt Alvirah Boggs, who was Uncle Jabez Potter's housekeeper, had loved the child from the very beginning. And in truth the old miller loved Ruth too, only he was slow to admit it.
Ruth's first young friends at the Red Mill were the Cameron twins, and with Helen she had spent her schools days and many of her vacations, at Briarwood Hall, in the North Woods, at the seashore, in the West, in the South, Down East, and in other localities, the narrated adventures of which are to be found in the several volumes of the Ruth Fielding Series.
In the book just preceding this present story, "Ruth Fielding in the Great Northwest," Helen was likewise with Ruth when she made her famous moving picture, "Brighteyes" in connection with the Alectrion Film Corporation, the president of which, Mr. Hammond, had first encouraged Ruth to turn her entire time and talent to the writing of moving picture scenarios.
The fall before the time of this wedding party in which the girl of the Red Mill was taking part, fortune threw in Ruth's way a charming young woman, a full-blood Osage Indian, in whom Mr. Hammond saw possibilities of development for screen acting. At least, to use the trite and bombastic moving picture phrase, Wonota, the Indian princess, "photographed like a million dollars."
The Great War's abrupt conclusion brought Tom Cameron home just as eager as he had been for two years past to have Ruth agree to his plans for the future. As Ruth saw it (no matter what may have been her secret feeling for Tom) to do as Tom wished would utterly spoil the career on which she had now entered so successfully.
Tom, like most young men in love, considered that a girl's only career should be a husband and a home. He frankly said that he was prepared, young as he was, to supply both for Ruth.
But their youth, in the first place, was an objection in the very sensible mind of Ruth. It was true, too, that a second objection was the fact that she wanted to live her own life and establish herself in the great career she had got into almost by chance.
And then too Tom himself, since his return from France, had shown little determination to settle himself at work. Being the son of a wealthy merchant and possessing, now that he was of age, a fortune in his own right inherited from his mother's estate, Tom Cameron, it seemed to Ruth, was just playing with life.
Like many another young fellow so recently from the battlefield, it seemed as if he could not settle to anything. And his sister encouraged him in this attitude. Ruth secretly blamed Helen for this. And therefore her own attitude to Tom had grown more stern.
It was now June—the June following the armistice—the loveliest and most accepted time for a bridal. The ceremony of Jennie Stone's wedding to Major Henri Marchand had passed off, as we have seen, very smoothly. Even Tom, as best man, had found the ring at the right moment, and nobody had stepped on Jennie's train.
But this accident at the breakfast table—and an accident that might have resulted fatally for Ruth Fielding—threatened to cause not only excitement but to sober the whole party.
In a moment, however, in spite of the dust rising from the broken plaster, the others saw that Ruth and Chess Copley were both safe. The latter was repeating, over and over and in much anxiety:
"You are all right, Ruth! I've got you. You are all right."
The girl herself was quite breathless. Copley held her in rather a close embrace, and for a much longer time than appeared necessary—to Tom Cameron at least. Tom had got around the table just too late to be of any assistance.
"We see you've got her, 'Lasses," Tom observed, rather tartly. "The close-up is shot. Break away."
His words started the laughter—and there was much relief expressed in the laughter in which all about the table joined. People are apt to laugh when serious danger is over. But it might have been observed by his friends at another time that Tom Cameron was not usually tart or unkind of speech.
Ruth said nothing, and Chess Copley flushed hotly. Jennie had got up with Henri in the moment of excitement, and now she quickly seized her goblet of grape-juice in which the party had previously toasted the bride and groom, and raised the glass on high.
"Hear! Hear!" cried Ann Hicks. "The bride speaks."
"This is a good omen," declared Jennie clinging to Henri's arm. "Our Ruth was wounded in France and has been in danger on many occasions, as we all know. Never has she more gracefully escaped disaster, nor been aided by a more chivalrous cavalier. Drink! Drink to Ruth Fielding and to Chessleigh Copley! They are two very lucky people, for that ceiling might have cracked their crowns."
They drank the toast—most of them with much laughter.
"Some orator, Jennie," commented Helen. "We are just beginning to appreciate you."
"You will all be sorry that you did not treat me better—especially as a chee-ild," returned the plump bride, with mock solemnity. "Think! Think how you all used to abuse my—my appetite at Briarwood Hall. It is only Mammy Rose who is kind to me," and she pointed to the old colored woman's gift that had a place of honor before her own plate and that of Major Marchand's.
"Let me give a toast," cried Helen gaily. "Let us drink to Jennie's appetite—long may it wave."
"Goodness me! Don't speak of waves and appetite in the same breath, I beg. Remember we are going directly aboard ship from the house and—and I never was a good sailor. Waves! Ugh!"
The fun went on while the serving people swept up the debris and removed those dishes that had been covered with dust.
Aside, Ruth, taking for the moment little part in the chatter and merriment, for she had received a considerable shock, stood talking with Copley. Ruth had given him her hand again and Chess clung to it rather more warmly—so the watchful Tom thought—than was needful. But the girl felt that she really had a great deal to thank Copley for.
"Jennie in her fun spoke quite truly," Ruth said in a low voice. "You are a friend in need."
"And I hope you consider me a friend indeed, Ruth," rejoined the young fellow.
"I certainly do," agreed the girl of the Red Mill with her customary frank smile.
"I—I am afraid," Chess added, "that I am not considered in that light by all your friends, Ruth. Helen Cameron hasn't spoken to me to-day."
"No? Is it serious?"
"It is serious when a fellow gets turned down—snubbed—and not a word of explanation offered. And, in the words of the old song, we were 'companions once, but strangers now'."
"Oh, don't mind. Helen usually gets over the mollygrubs very quickly."
Chess turned to see the other Cameron twin eyeing him with no great favor.
However, the throng of guests who were invited to the reception began coming in, and for the next two hours the parlors were crowded with the many friends of the plump girl, who, as Helen had said, found this the greatest day of her life, and there was little time for much individual chat, though, it seemed to Tom, Chess Copley kept as close as possible to Ruth's side.
It was after Jennie had gone to put on her traveling dress, and the immediate wedding party, who were to accompany the bridal couple to the dock to see them embark, were hurrying out of the room to put on street clothes that Tom, in a low voice, demanded of Chess:
"What are you trying to do—put a label on Ruth? Don't forget she belongs to all of us."
Chess Copley had not won his commission in the war and wore only a sergeant's chevrons. But the war was over and he could tell his captain just what he thought of him. And he did.
"Do you know what you are, Tom Cameron?" he drawled, smiling a hard little smile. "You are a regular dog in the manger, and I'm frank to tell you so!"
RICE AND OLD SHOES
"It is the greatest day in a girl's life," declared Helen Cameron, sitting on the edge of one of the twin beds in the room she and Ruth occupied while they were at the Stone house. She buckled her fingers around her knee to hold one limb crossed over the other—a very mannish and independent position. "I don't know that I ever envied Heavy before in my life. But she has got something now that we haven't, Ruth."
"Cat's foot!" exclaimed Ann Hicks from her chair. "Who'd want a Frenchman for a husband?"
Ruth laughed. "Not to say that Major Marchand is not a fine fellow, I agree with Ann that I don't want a husband. Not—right—now!"
"Oh! Very well," said Helen complacently. "But if you thought you'd never be able to get one——"
"Shucks!" exclaimed Ann. "As though our Ruth couldn't have all she wants if she wants them."
"I really wish you would not speak plurally of them, Ann," cried Ruth, laughing. "You will make me feel like the Queen of the Amazons. They say she keeps a masculine harem—like a bey, or a sultan, or something of that kind."
"Be serious," rejoined Helen. "I mean what I say. Jennie's great day has arrived. And she is the first of all our old bunch that went to Briarwood—and surely of those who went to Ardmore College—to fetter herself to a man for life."
"Well, I shall never be fettered, even if I am married," observed Ann. "I'd like to see myself!"
"If the right man comes riding by, Ann, even you will change your mind," Ruth said softly.
"Then I suppose the right man has never ridden up to the Red Mill and asked for you?" demanded Helen, with a glance at her chum that was rather piercing.
"Perhaps he has," said Ruth composedly, "but I wasn't at home. Aunt Alvirah thinks I am almost never at home. And, girls, as I told you yesterday, I am going soon on another journey."
"Oh, Ruth, I've been thinking of that!" Helen rejoined, with a sudden access of interest and excitement. "To the Thousand Islands! And at the loveliest time of all the year up there."
"And that is only the truth," said one of the other bridesmaids. "We spent last summer there."
"The Copleys always go," Helen remarked quietly.
"No! Do you mean it?" cried Ruth, showing some surprise. "Well, indeed."
"So you will see a lot more of 'Lasses Copley," remarked Ann.
"I shall be glad if Chess Copley is there when and where we make this picture, for I think he is very nice," was Ruth's composed reply.
"Oh, he's nice enough," agreed Helen, rather grumblingly however. "I've got nothing to say against Chess—as a general thing."
"And you don't seem to say much for him," put in the Western girl curiously.
But Helen said nothing further on that topic. Ruth broke in, answering one of the other girls who spoke of the forthcoming picture Ruth was going to make for the Alectrion Corporation.
"Of course our famous Wonota is going to be in the picture. For she is famous already. 'Brighteyes' appeared for two successive weeks in one of the big Broadway picture houses and we are making a lot of money out of its distribution.
"But we know Wonota is a find for another very unmistakable reason," she added.
"What is that?" asked Helen.
"Other producers have begun to make Wonota and her father offers. For Chief Totantora has become interested in the movie business too. Mr. Hammond used Totantora in a picture he made in Oklahoma in the spring; one in which Wonota did not appear. She was off at school at the time. We are going to make of the princess a cultivated and cultured young lady before we get through with her," and Ruth laughed.
"A Red Indian!" cried somebody.
"That makes no difference," said Ruth placidly. "She is amenable to white customs, and is really a very smart girl. And she has a lovely disposition."
"Especially," put in Helen, who remembered the occasion clearly, "when she wanted to shoot Dakota Joe Fenbrook when he treated her so unkindly in his Wild West show. But, I wanted to shoot him myself," she added, frankly. "Especially after he tried to hurt Ruth."
"Never mind him," said her chum at that. "Joe Fenbrook is in the penitentiary now, and he is not bothering us. But other people are bothering Mr. Hammond about Wonota."
"How?" asked Helen.
"Why, as I said, there are other picture producers who have seen 'Brighteyes' and would like to get the chief and his daughter under contract. They have told Totantora that, as the contract with his daughter was made while she was not of age, it can be broken. Of course, the Indian agent agreed to the contract; but after Totantora returned from Europe, where he had been held a prisoner in Germany during the war, the guardianship of Wonota reverted to her father once more.
"It is rather a complicated matter," went on Ruth, "and it is giving Mr. Hammond and his lawyers some trouble. There is a man named Bilby, who has been a picture producer in a small way, who seems to have some influence with the head of the Government Bureau of Indian Affairs. He seems to have financial backing, too, and claims to have secured a series of stories in which Wonota might be featured to advantage. And he certainly has offered Totantora and the girl much more money than Mr. Hammond would be willing to risk in a star who may, after all, prove merely a flash in the pan."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Ann. "I thought she was a sure-fire hit."
"No amateur screen actress—and that is all Wonota is as yet—is ever a 'sure-fire hit', as you call it," said the practical Ruth. "Many a producer has been badly bitten by tying up a new actor or actress to a long-time contract. Because a girl films well and is successful in one part, is not an assurance that she can learn to be a really great actress before the camera.
"In 'Brighteyes' Wonota merely played herself. I was successful in fitting my story to her individuality. But she cannot always play the same part. In this story we are about to do on the St. Lawrence, she will be called upon to delineate a character quite different from that of the heroine of 'Brighteyes.'"
"Dear me, Ruth," sighed Helen, "what a business woman you are getting to be. Your career has really begun—and so promisingly. While I can't do a thing but play the fiddle a little, daub a little at batik, and crochet!"
"And make most delightful fudge!" cried Jennie Stone, just then coming into the room in her traveling dress, fresh from the hands of her maid and Aunt Kate. "How do I look, girls?"
The bride's appearance drove everything else out of her friends' minds for the time being. It was two o'clock and the automobiles were at the door. The bridal couple, attended by bridesmaids, the best man, the ushers, and other close friends, departed for the dock amid showers of rice and a bombardment of old shoes which littered Madison Avenue for half a block and kept even the policemen on special duty for the occasion, dodging!
They all trooped aboard the steamship where arrangements had been made to have the passports of the bride and groom examined.
Mr. Stone had done everything well, as he always did. The bridal suite was banked with flowers. Even the orchestra belonging to the ship had been engaged specially to play. A second, though brief, reception was held here.
The ship's siren sent a stuttering blast into the air that seemed to shake the skyscrapers opposite the dock. The young folks trooped back to the pier. Tom did his best to escort Ruth; but to his amazement and anger Chess Copley pushed in front of him and Ruth took the sergeant's arm.
Helen came along and grabbed her brother with a fierce little pinch. Her eyes sparkled while his smouldered.
"I guess we are relegated to the second row, Tommy-boy," she whispered. "I do not see what has got into Ruth."
"It's not Ruth. The gall of that 'Lasses!" muttered the slangy Tom.
"So you think he is at fault?" rejoined his sister. "Oh, Tommy-boy! you do not know 'us girls'—no indeed you do not."
It was a gay enough party on the dock that watched the big ship back out and being turned in the stream by the fussy tugs. The bride and groom shouted until they were hoarse, and waved their hands and handkerchiefs as long as they could be seen from the dock.
If Helen and Tom Cameron were either, or both, offended by Ruth, they did not show it to the general company. As for the girl of the Red Mill, she enjoyed herself immensely; and she particularly liked Chess Copley's company.
It was not that she felt any less kindly toward Tom; but Tom had disappointed her. He seemed to have changed greatly during this past winter while she had been so busy with her moving pictures.
Instead of settling down with his father in the offices of the great drygoods house from which Mr. Cameron's fortune had come, Tom, abetted by Helen, had become almost a social butterfly in New York.
But Chess Copley, although no sober-sides, had thrown himself heart and soul into the real estate business and had already made a tidy sum during the six months that had ensued since his discharge from the army.
It was true, Chess was looking forward to taking a vacation at the Thousand Islands with his family. He told Ruth so with enthusiasm, and hoped to see her again at that resort. But Chess, Ruth felt, had earned his vacation, while Tom remained a mere idler.
Chess accompanied the Cheslow young people to the Grand Central Terminal when they left the dock and there bade Ruth good-bye.
"I shall see you in a fortnight at the Thousand Islands," he assured her, and shook hands again. "I shall look forward to it, believe me!"
Tom hung about, gloomy enough, even after they boarded the train. But the girls were gay and chattering when they entered their compartment. Ann Hicks was going home with Helen for a brief visit, although she would be unable to go elsewhere with them during the early part of the summer, owing to previous engagements.
"I am determined to go to the St. Lawrence with you, Ruth," declared Helen. "And I know Tommy-boy is aching to go."
"I thought," said Ruth rather gravely, "that he might really take to business this summer. Doesn't your father need him?"
"Plenty of time for work, Tommy thinks," rejoined Tom's sister gaily.
But Ruth did not smile.
The old, shingled Red Mill, which Jabez Potter had revamped each spring with mineral paint, was as brilliant a landmark on the bank of the Lumano River as ever it had been. In fact, it seemed as though Ben, the hired man, had got the red of the shingles and the trim a little redder and the blinds a little greener this last spring than ever they had been before.
Overshadowed by great elms, with the yard grass growing thick and lush right up to the bark of the trees, the surroundings of the mill and farmhouse connected with it (at least, all of those surroundings that could be seen from the Cheslow road), were attractive indeed.
Although the old house seemed quite as it always had been from without, many changes had been made inside since first Ruth Fielding had stepped out of Dr. Davison's chaise to approach her great-uncle's habitation.
At that time Ruth had been less than a mote in the eye of Uncle Jabez. She was merely an annoyance to the miller at that time. Since then, however, she had many and many a time proved a blessing to him. Nor did Jabez Potter refuse to acknowledge this—on occasion.
When Ruth began to do over the interior of the old house, however, Uncle Jabez protested. The house and mill had been built a hundred and fifty years before—if not longer ago. It was sacrilege to touch a crooked rafter or a hammered nail of the entire structure.
But Ruth insisted that she be allowed to make her own rooms under the roof more comfortable and modern. Ruth had seen old New England farmhouses rebuilt in the most attractive way one could imagine without disturbing their ancient exterior appearance. She gathered ideas from books and magazines, and then went about replanning the entire inside of the mill farmhouse. But she began the actual rejuvenation of the aspect of the structure in her own rooms, and had had all the work done since her return from the war zone the year before.
She now had a bedroom, a sitting room, a dressing room and bathroom up under the roof, all in white (Helen said "like a hospital"), and when one opened Ruth's outer door and stepped into her suite it seemed as though one entered an entirely different house. And if it was a girl who entered—as Wonota, the Osage princess, did on a certain June day soon after Jennie Stone's marriage—she could not suppress a cry of delight.
Wonota had stayed before at the Red Mill for a time; but then the workmen had not completed Ruth's new nest. And although Wonota had been born in a wigwam on the plains and had spent her childhood in a log cabin with a turf roof, she could appreciate "pretty things" quite as keenly as any girl of Ruth's acquaintance.
That was why Ruth—as well as Mr. Hammond of the Alectrion Film Corporation—believed that the Indian girl would in time become a successful screen actress. Wonota, though her skin was copper-colored, liked to dress in up-to-date clothes (and did so) and enjoyed the refinements of civilization as much as any white girl of her age.
"It is so pretty here, Miss Ruth," she said to her mentor. "May I sleep in the other bed off your sitting room? It is sweet of you. How foolish of people wanting to see on the screen how poor Indians live in their ignorance. I would rather learn to play the part of a very rich New York lady, and have servants and motor-cars and go to the opera and wear a diamond necklace."
Ruth laughed at her, but good-naturedly.
"All girls are the same, I suppose, under the skin," she said. "But we each should try to do the things we can do best. Learn to play the parts the director assigns you to the very best of your ability. Doing that will bring you, quicker than anything else, to the point where you can wear diamonds and ride in your own motor-car and go to the opera. What does your father, Chief Totantora, say to your new ideas, Wonota?"
"The chief, my father, says nothing when I talk like that to him. He is too much of an old-fashioned Indian, I fear. He is staying at a country hotel up the road; but he would not sleep in the room they gave him (and then he rolled up in his blanket on the floor) until they agreed to let him take out the sashes from all three windows. He says that white people have white faces because they sleep in stale air."
"Perhaps he is more than half right," rejoined Ruth, although she laughed too. "Some white folks even in this age are afraid of the outdoor air as a sleeping tonic, and prefer to drug themselves with shut-in air in their bedrooms."
"But one can have pretty things and nice things, and still remain in health," sighed Wonota.
Ruth agreed with this. The girl of the Red Mill tried, too, in every way to encourage the Indian maiden to learn and profit by the better things to be gained by association with the whites.
There were several days to wait before Mr. Hammond was ready to send Mr. Hooley, the director, and the company selected for the making of Ruth's new picture to the Thousand Islands. Meanwhile Ruth herself had many preparations to make and she could not be all the time with her visitor.
As in that past time when she had visited the Red Mill, Wonota was usually content to sit with Aunt Alvirah and make beadwork while the old woman knitted.
"She's a contented creeter, my pretty," the old woman said to Ruth. "Red or white, I never see such a quiet puss. And she jumps and runs to wait on me like you do.
"Oh, my back! and oh, my bones!" exclaimed Aunt Alvirah, rising cautiously with the aid of a cane she now depended upon. "My rheumatism don't seem any better, and I have had it long enough, seems to me, for it to get better," she added.
"Poor dear!" said Ruth. "Don't the new medicine do any good?"
"Lawsy me, child! I've drenched myself with doctor's stuff till I'm ashamed to look a medicine bottle in the face. My worn out old carcass can't be helped much by any drugs at all. I guess, as my poor old mother used to say, the only sure cure for rheumatics is graveyard mould."
"Oh, Aunt Alvirah!"
"I don't say it complainingly," declared the little old woman, smiling quite cheerfully. "But I tell Jabez Potter he might as well make up his mind to seeing my corner of his hearth empty one of these days. And he'll miss me, too, cantankerous as he is sometimes."
But Uncle Jabez was seldom "cantankerous" nowadays when Ruth was at home. To the miller's mind his great-niece had proved herself to be of the true Potter blood, although her name was Fielding.
Ruth was a money-maker. He had to wink pretty hard over the fact that she was likewise a money spender! But one girl—and a young one at that—could scarcely be expected (and so the old miller admitted) to combine all the virtues which were worth while in human development.
"Keep a-making of it, Niece Ruth," Uncle Jabez advised earnestly. "You never can tell when you are going to want more or when your ability to make money is going to stop. I'd sell the Red Mill or give up and never grind another grist for nobody, if I didn't feel that perhaps by next year I should have to stop, anyway—and another year won't much matter."
"You get so little pleasure out of life, Uncle Jabez," Ruth once said in answer to this statement of the old man.
"Shucks! Don't you believe it. I don't know no better fun than watching the corn in the hopper or the stuns go round and round while the meal flour runs out of the spout below, warm and nice-smellin'. The millin' business is just as pretty a business as there is in the world—when once you git used to the dust. No doubt of it."
"I can see, Uncle Jabez, that you find it so," said Ruth, but rather doubtfully.
"Of course it is," said the old man stoutly. "You get fun out of running about the country and looking at things and seeing how other folks live and work. And that's all right for you. You make money out of it. But what would I get out of gadding about?"
"A broader outlook on life, Uncle Jabez."
"I don't want no broader outlook. I don't need nothing of the kind. Nor does Alviry Boggs, though she's got to talking a dreadful lot lately about wanting to ride around in an automobile. At her age, too!"
"You should own a car, Uncle Jabez," urged Ruth.
"Now, stop that! Stop that, Niece Ruth! I won't hear to no such foolishness. You show me how I can make money riding up and down the Lumano in a pesky motor-car, and maybe I'll do like Alviry wants me to, and buy one of the contraptions." "Hullo, now!" added the miller suddenly. "Who might this be?"
Ruth turned to see one of the very motor-cars that Uncle Jabez so scorned (or pretended to) stopping before the wide door of the mill itself.
But as it was the man driving the roadster, rather than the car itself, Uncle Jabez had spoken of, Ruth gave her attention to him. He was a ruddy, tubby little man in a pin-check black and white suit, faced with silk on lapels and pockets—it really gave him a sort of minstrel-like appearance as though he should likewise have had his face corked—and he wore in a puffed maroon scarf a stone that flashed enough for half a dozen ordinary diamonds—whether it really was of the first water or not.
This man hopped out from back of the wheel of the roadster and came briskly up the graveled rise from the road to the door of the mill. He favored Ruth with a side glance and half smile that the girl of the Red Mill thought (she had seen plenty of such men) revealed his character very clearly. But he spoke to Uncle Jabez.
"I say, Pop, is this the place they call the Red Mill?"
"I calkerlate it is," agreed the miller dryly. "Leastways, it's the only Red Mill I ever heard tell on."
"I reckoned I'd got to the right dump," said the visitor cheerfully. "I understand there's an Injun girl stopping here? Is that so?"
Uncle Jabez glanced at Ruth and got her permission to speak before he answered:
"I don't know as it's any of your business, Mister; but the Princess Wonota, of the Osage Nation, is stopping here just now. What might be your business with her?"
"So she calls herself a 'princess' does she?" returned the man, grinning again at Ruth in an offensive way. "Well, I have managed a South Sea Island chief, a pair of Circassian twins, and a bunch of Eskimos, in my time. I guess I know how to act in the presence of Injun royalty. Trot her out."
"Trot who out?" asked the miller calmly, but with eyes that flashed under his penthouse brows. "Wonota ain't no horse. Did you think she was?"
"I know what she is," returned the man promptly. "It's what she is going to be that interests me. I'm Bilby—Horatio Bilby. Maybe you've heard of me?"
"I have," said Ruth rather sharply.
At once Mr. Bilby's round, dented, brown hat came off and he bowed profoundly.
"Happy to make your acquaintance, Miss," he said.
"You haven't made it yet—near as I can calkerlate," gruffly said Uncle Jabez. "And it's mebbe a question if you get much acquainted with Wonota. What's your business with her, anyway?"
"I'll show you, old gent," said Bilby, taking a number of important looking papers from his pocket. "I have come here to get this princess, as you call her. The Indian Department has sent me. She is a ward of the Government, as you perhaps know. It seems she is held under a false form of contract to a moving picture corporation, and Wonota's friends have applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to look into the matter and get at the rights of the business."
Ruth uttered a cry of amazement; but Uncle Jabez said calmly enough:
"And what have you got to do with it all, Mister—if I may be so curious as to ask?"
"The girl is given into my charge while her affairs are being looked into," said Mr. Horatio Bilby, with an explanatory flourish which included both the miller and Ruth in its sweeping gesture.
TROUBLE IN PROSPECT
Ruth Fielding wished that Mr. Hammond was within reach; but she knew he was already on his way to the Thousand Islands, for which she herself expected to start the next day with Wonota and her father. She had not heard much about this Bilby; but what she had learned—together with what she now saw of him—impressed her not at all in his favor.
In any event she was not willing to accept either Horatio Bilby or his declaration at face value. And she was glad to see that the hardheaded old miller was not much impressed by the man, either.
"I don't know much about this business, Mister," said Uncle Jabez, with much calmness. "But it strikes me that you'd better see the girl's father."
"What girl's father?" demanded the visitor, and now he seemed surprised.
"Wonota's. Chief Totantora is the name he goes by. It strikes me that he ought to have a deal more to say about the girl than any Government department."
"Why, he's nothing but a blanket Injun!" ejaculated Bilby, with disgust.
"Mebbe so," rejoined Uncle Jabez. "But his wearing a blanket (though I never see him with it on; he wears pants and a shirt when he comes here) don't figger none at all. He still remains the girl's father."
"I guess you don't know, Pop, that these Injuns are all wards of Uncle Sam."
"Mebbe so," again observed the miller. "And I have sometimes thought that Uncle Sam ain't always been any too good to his red relations. However, that isn't to the point. The girl's here. She's sort of in my care while she is here. Unless Chief Totantora shows up and asks to have her handed over to you, I calkerlate you won't get her."
"See here, my man!" exclaimed Bilby, at once becoming blusterous, "you'll get into trouble with the Government if you interfere with me."
"That doesn't scare me none," was the prompt reply of Jabez Potter. "Right now the Government of the United States don't look so important to me as our local constable. I guess to get possession of the girl you will have to bring an officer with you to certify to all this you say you are. Until you do, I might as well tell you, first as last, that you ain't got a chance—not a chance!—to even see Wonota."
Mr. Bilby grew even redder in the face than nature seemed to have intended him to be. And his little greenish-gray eyes sparkled angrily.
"You'll get into trouble, old man," he threatened.
"Don't you let that bother you none," rejoined the miller. "I've had so much trouble in my life that I'm sort of used to it, as you might say. Now, if that is all you got to offer, you might as well get back into that go-cart of yours and drive on."
Mr. Potter turned on his heel and went back into the mill, beckoning to Ruth to come with him. She did so—for a little way at least; but she soon stopped to peer out and watch the man, Bilby.
When they were, as he thought, out of hearing, he gave vent to several grunts, kicked a pebble across the road, and scowled ferociously. He said something about "these rubes are smarter than they used to be." He seemed convinced that he could do nothing further in the matter he had come upon. Not at this time, it was quite plain.
He turned and climbed into the roadster. But he did not drive back toward Cheslow; instead he went up the river road, and Ruth Fielding remembered that Wonota's father was stopping at the country inn which was only three or four miles up that road.
"But nothing can happen because of that, of course," the girl thought, as she entered the passage that led to the farmhouse from the mill. "Wonota is perfectly safe here, and surely Totantora can take care of himself with that little fat man, or with anybody else!"
She entered the kitchen expecting to find the Indian girl at work with Aunt Alvirah in the old woman's sunny corner of the great room. The old woman was alone, however.
"Where is Wonota?" Ruth asked.
Before Aunt Alvirah could reply an automobile siren echoed outside of the house. Aunt Alvirah was smiling and waving at somebody and Ruth hurried to the window to look out.
"Here's Helen come for you, my pretty, in that beautiful big car of hers," said Aunt Alvirah. "Isn't it fine to be rich?"
"Wait till I make a few more pictures, Aunty, and we'll have a car too. If Uncle Jabez won't buy one, I've made up my mind to get a car if it's only to take you to drive once in a while."
"It wouldn't hurt Jabez Potter to buy a car," declared the old woman. "She's coming in Ruthie. Oh, my back! and oh, my bones!" she murmured, as she got up to receive the visitor.
Helen swept into the house gaily. She always had a kiss for the little old woman who thought her, next to Ruth, the finest girl who ever lived.
"You're always a sight for anyone to look on with pleasure, Helen Cameron," said Aunt Alvirah. "And you're mighty smart in that long coat and cap."
"And do you put on your coat and bonnet, Aunty," cried Helen, patting her wrinkled cheek. "I've come to take you for a spin. And Ruth, too."
"There's Wonota," suggested Ruth.
"Of course. The princess shall join us," Helen cried merrily. "Where is she? Tell her to leave her everlasting beadwork long enough to ride in the white man's motor-car."
"I suppose," said Ruth, starting for the stairway, "Wonota must be up in her own room."
"No, no!" Aunt Alvirah called from her bedroom, to which she had hobbled for her cloak and bonnet. "I was just about to tell you, my pretty. Wonota has gone out."
"Where did she go?" and Ruth suddenly turned back, and with surprise if not exactly with a feeling of alarm.
"She said she would walk up the road to see her father. She is quite fond of her father, I believe," added Aunt Alvirah, coming back with her wrap and bonnet. "Of course, Indians have family feelings, if they do seem to hide 'em so well."
"I am sorry she went out alone," murmured Ruth.
"Pooh! she isn't a child. And she'll not lose her way, that's sure," laughed Helen. "Anyway, we'll overtake her and give her a ride. Chief Totantora, too, if he will deign to step into the white man's car."
Ruth said no more. But after the visit of Bilby to the mill she could not help but feel some little anxiety. She remembered that Dakota Joe, in whose show Wonota had once worked, had tried his best to make trouble for her and Mr. Hammond because of the Osage maiden; and this Bilby was plainly a much shrewder person than the Westerner had been.
She and Helen aided Aunt Alvirah out to the car. It was a heavy, seven passenger machine; but Helen could drive it as well as Tom himself.
"And Tommy-boy," she explained as she tucked the robe about Aunt Alvirah before following Ruth into the front seat, "went to town to-day with father."
"I hope he will really get down to work now," said Ruth softly, as Helen began to manipulate the levers.
"Pooh!" exclaimed Helen carelessly. "Work was made for slaves. And Tom had a hard time over in France. I tell dad he ought not to expect Tommy-boy to really work for a long, long time to come."
"Do you think that is right, Helen?" admonished her chum. "Idleness was never good for anybody."
"It isn't as though Tom was poor. He hasn't got to toil and delve in an old office—"
"You know it isn't that," cried Ruth warmly. "But he should make good use of his time. And your father needs him. He ought to be idle now, not Tom."
"Grandmother Grunt!" laughed Helen. "You're twice as old as Aunt Alvirah right now."
"After what we have been through—after what the world has been through for five years—we all ought to be at work," said Ruth rather severely. "And Tom is no exception."
"Why, I never knew you to be hard on Tommy-boy before!" pouted Tom's sister.
"Perhaps I never had occasion to be hard on him before," Ruth answered. "He is only one of many. Especially many of those who were over there in France. They seem to be so unsettled and—and so careless for the future."
"Regular female Simon Legree, you are, Ruthie Fielding."
"But when Tom first came back he was as eager as he could be to get to business and to begin a business career. And lately, it seems to me, he's had an awful slump in his ambition. I never saw the like."
"Oh, bother!" muttered Helen, and started the car.
The car shot ahead, and in five minutes they passed the country inn, but saw nothing of either Wonota or the Indian chief. In a cove below the river bank, however, Ruth caught a glimpse of a small motor-boat with two men in it. And backed into a wood's path near the highway was a small motor-car.
Was it the smart roadster Mr. Horatio Bilby had driven to the Red Mill? Ruth could not be sure. But she did not enjoy the ride with Helen and Aunt Alvirah very much for thinking of the possibility of its being Mr. Bilby's car so close to the inn where Chief Totantora was stopping.
The ride in Helen's car was enjoyable, especially for Aunt Alvirah. How that old lady did smile and (as she herself laughingly said) "gabble" her delight! Being shut inside the house so much, the broader sight of the surrounding country and the now peacefully flowing Lumano River was indeed a treat.
Helen drove up the river and over the Long Bridge, where she halted the car for a time that they might look both up and down the stream. And it was from this point that Ruth again caught a glimpse of the motor-boat she had before spied near the roadside inn.
There was but one man in it now, and the boat was moored to the root of a big tree that overhung the little cove. Not that there was anything astonishing or suspicious in the appearance of the boat. Merely, it was there and seemed to have no particular business there. And the girl of the Red Mill recalled that Mr. Horatio Bilby's motor-car was backed into the bushes near that spot.
Had Mr. Bilby, who had announced that his business in this vicinity was to obtain possession of Wonota, anything to do with the men in the boat? The thought may have been but an idle suggestion in Ruth's mind.
Intuition was strong in Ruth Fielding, however. Somehow, the abandoned car being there near the inn where Totantora was staying and to which Wonota had gone to see her father, and the unidentified motor-boat lurking at the river's edge in the same vicinity, continued to rap an insistent warning at the door of the girl's mind.
"Helen, let's go back," she said suddenly, as her chum was about to let in the clutch again. "Turn around—do."
"What for?" asked Helen wonderingly, yet seeing something in the expression of Ruth's face that made her more than curious.
"I—I feel that everything isn't right with Wonota."
Ruth, in low tones, told her chum her fears—told of Bilby's call at the mill—mentioned the fact that the Indian girl was probably at this time at the roadside inn and that the rival moving picture producer was perhaps there likewise.
"What do you know about that!" gasped Helen. "Is there going to be a real fight for the possession of Wonota, do you think?"
"And for Totantora too, perhaps. For he figures importantly in this picture we are about to make up on the St. Lawrence."
"Fine!" exclaimed Helen Cameron. "There is going to be something doing besides picture making. Why, Ruth! you couldn't keep me from going with you to-morrow. And I know Tommy-boy will be crazy to be in it, too."
Ruth made an appealing gesture as Helen began to back and turn the car.
"Don't frighten Aunt Alvirah," she whispered.
Helen was delighted with any prospect for action. It must be confessed that she did not think much about disappointment or trouble accruing to other people in any set of circumstances; she never had been particularly thoughtful for others. But she was brave to the point of recklessness, and she was at once excited regarding the suggested danger to her chum's plans.
Bilby had already, Ruth understood, offered more money to Wonota and Totantora for their services than Mr. Hammond thought it wise to risk in the venture. And, after all, the temptation of money was great in the minds of the Indians. It might be that Bilby could get them away from Ruth's care. And then what would the Alectrion Film Corporation do about this next picture that had been planned?
Aunt Alvirah made no complaint as to how or where the car went—as long as it went somewhere. She admitted she liked to travel fast. Having been for so many years crippled by that enemy, rheumatism, she seemed to find some compensation in the speed of Helen's car.
The inn was several miles away from the Long Bridge; but the road was fairly straight, and as the car went over the ridges they could now and then catch glimpses of the hotel. On the right were cornfields, the dark green blades only six or eight inches high; and scattered over them the omnipresent scarecrows which, in the spring, add at least picturesqueness to the New England landscape.
Above the purring of the motor Aunt Alvirah raised her voice to remark to the chums on the front seat:
"I don't see it now—did it fall down?"
"Did what fall down, Aunty?" asked Ruth, who, though troubled as she was by her suspicions, could not ignore the little old woman.
"That scarecrow I see coming up. I thought 'twas a gal picking up stones in that field—the one this side of the hotel. It had a sunbonnet on, and it was just as natural! But it's gone."
"I don't see any scarecrow there," admitted Ruth, turning to look.
At that moment, however, the car she had seen parked in the bushes wheeled out into the highway ahead of them. It started on past the hotel. There was another figure beside that of the tubby Horatio Bilby on the seat. Ruth recognized Bilby at once.
"Who's that?" asked Helen, slowing down involuntarily.
"That's the man I spoke of," explained Ruth, "I—I wonder who it is that's with him?"
"A girl!" exclaimed Helen. "Do you suppose he has got Wonota?"
"Wonota—with a sunbonnet on?" cried her chum.
"I bet he's running away with Wonota!" cried Helen, and started to speed up after the other car.
Ruth laid a quick hand on her chum's arm.
"Wait! Stop!" she cried. "See what a curiously acting thing that is he has got beside him? Is—It can't be a girl, Helen!"
"It certainly isn't a boy," declared her friend, with exasperation. "He'll get away from us. That is a fast car he is driving."
"Wait!" exclaimed Ruth again, and as Helen brought her machine to an abrupt stop Aunt Alvirah was heard saying:
"Now, ain't that reediculous? Ain't it reediculous?"
"What is ridiculous?" asked Helen, looking back with a smile at the little old woman while Ruth opened the door and leaped out to the side of the road nearest the river.
"Why, where are your eyes, Helen Cameron?" demanded Aunt Alvirah. "There's that scarecrow now. That feller is a-running away with it!"
Helen flashed another look along the road. The figure beside Bilby on the seat had been set upright again. Now the girl saw that it was nothing but a figure. It was no girl at all!
"What under the sun, Ruth—"
But Ruth was not in hearing. She had dashed into the bushes and to the spot where she had previously seen the roadster belonging to Horatio Bilby parked. The bushes were trampled all about. Here and there were bits of torn cloth hanging to the thorns. Yonder was a slipper with rather a high heel. She recognized it as one belonging to Wonota, the Osage girl, and picked it up. The Indian maid was really attempting the fads, as well as the fancies, in apparel of her white sisters!
But what had become of the girl herself? She certainly would not have removed one of her pumps and thrown it away. Like Aunt Alvirah and Helen, Ruth knew that the figure beside Bilby in the car was not the missing Indian girl. He had attempted to use the scarecrow he had stolen from the cornfield across the road to bewilder anybody who might pursue him.
And this very attempt of the rival picture producer to foul his trail impressed Ruth that something serious regarding Wonota and her father was afoot. If the Indian girl had not gone with Bilby, where had she gone? And where was Totantora?
Ruth could not believe that either Wonota or her father would prove faithless to their contract with Mr. Hammond—not intentionally, at least. She hesitated there in the trampled bushes for a moment, wondering if she ought not first to go on to the hotel and make inquiries.
Then she heard something thrashing in the bushes not far away. She started, peering all about, listening. The noise led her to the head of a gully that sloped down toward the river's edge. It was bush-bestrewn and the way was rough. Ruth plunged down the slant of it, and behind the first clump of brush she came upon a man struggling on the ground.
His ankles and his wrists were lashed, and when the girl turned him over she was amazed to see that he was most cruelly gagged with a piece of stick and a handkerchief.
"Totantora!" she screamed. "What is the matter? Where is Wonota?"
His glaring eyes seemed almost popping from their sockets. His copper-colored face was a mask of demoniacal rage. His dignity as an Indian and his feelings as a father had been outraged. Yet, Ruth was positive that the figure in the roadster beside Horatio Bilby was not Wonota, the chief's daughter.
Her strong and nimble fingers had gone to work almost at once upon the cord that held the Indians wrists. She loosened them in a few moments.
Totantora leaped to his feet, drew a clasp-knife from the pocket of his trousers, snapped it open, and slashed through the cords about his ankles.
"Where is Wonota? What has happened?" Ruth cried.
The Indian slashed the handkerchief that held the gag in place, dragged it out, and cast it away. He made no reply to Ruth's question, but lifting up his head sent a long and quavering cry through the grove—a cry that might have been the war-whoop of his tribe generations before.
However, Ruth knew it was a signal to his daughter that he was free and was in pursuit. If Wonota was where she could hear!
Speaking not at all to the anxious Ruth, Totantora started down the gully to the riverside. The girl followed him, running almost as wildly as did the Indian chief.
Bounding out into the more open grove at the edge of the stream, Totantora uttered another savage yell. Ruth heard, too, the put, put, put, of a motor-boat. When she reached the water the boat she had previously observed was some few yards from the bank. There were two men in it now, and Ruth saw at first glance that Wonota, likewise bound and gagged, lay propped up against the small over-decked part of the launch.
The Indian chief halted not even to kick off his moccasins. He ran to the edge of the bank and, the water being deep, dived on a long slant into the river. He rose almost instantly to the surface, and with a long, swift side-stroke followed after the motor craft, which was now gaining speed.
Up in the Big North Woods Ruth Fielding had seen loons dive and swim (and of all the feathered tribe, loons are the master divers) and she had wondered at the birds' mastery of the water. But no loon ever seemed more at home in that element than did the Indian chief.
Totantora tore through the water after the escaping motor-boat as though he, too, were propelled by a motor. And his motor was more powerful, in a short race at least, than that driving the launch in which Wonota was held prisoner.
Before the men who had abducted the Osage maiden could get their boat out of the little cove, Totantora reached the stern of it. He rose breast high in the water and clutched the gunwale with one hand. One of the men swung at him with a boathook; but the other picked up his canvas coat and managed to smother the chief's head and face in it for a minute.
Totantora flung himself backward and dragged the canvas coat out of the man's hand. Indeed, he came near to dragging the man himself into the water.
The coat did not retard the Indian much. He grabbed it with both hands, spread it abroad, and then plunged with it under the stern of the motor-boat. At once the propeller ceased turning and the boat lost headway. Totantora had fouled the propeller blades with the canvas jacket, and the abductors could not get away.
The Indian lunged for the gunwale of the boat again. One of the men was now attending to the mechanism. The other beat at Totantora's hands with the boathook.
In a flash the chief let go of the rail with one hand and seized the staff of the implement. One powerful jerk, and he wrenched the boathook from the white man's grasp. The latter fell sprawling into the bottom of the boat. With a display of muscle-power at which Ruth could not but marvel, Totantora raised himself over the gunwale of the boat and scrambled into it.
The second white man turned on him, but the Indian met him stooping, seized him around the waist, and tossed him, seemingly with scarcely an effort, into the water. The other abductor scrambled forward to get out of his reach. The chief bent for a minute over his daughter, and then Ruth saw that the girl was free and that she stood up, unhurt. It was all over so quickly that it left Ruth breathless.
"Miss Ruth! Miss Ruth!" cried the Indian girl. "I am all right. My father, Chief Totantora, would not let these bad white men carry me away a captive."
Ruth waved her hand to the younger girl. But she watched the white man who was swimming for the shore. She was not afraid of him—any more than the Indian chief was fearful of the other white man perched in the bow of the motor-boat.
The swimmer reached the bank, caught hold of an overhanging bush, and dragged himself out of the river. He was a hang-dog looking sort of fellow, anyway; and in his saturated condition his appearance was not improved. He lay panting for a minute like an expiring fish, and Ruth looked down at him perhaps more contemptuously than she realized.
"Well, who you looking at?" he growled at length.
"I suppose I am looking at one of Mr. Horatio Bilby's choice assistants," Ruth returned scornfully.
"Huh? What do you know about Bilby?" demanded the fellow, evidently much surprised.
"I know nothing very good of him, I am sure," the girl of the Red Mill replied coolly. "And I am quite confident that you are a fit companion for him."
The fellow sat up and leered at her.
"I ain't such a mighty fine sight just now, I guess," he said. "But there are worse than me. I didn't know there were any white folks interested in this business."
"You make a perfectly proper distinction," Ruth told him. "Bilby is not a white man—not in his business ethics I am sure. I want to warn you that those Indians have powerful friends and you would do well to have nothing more to do with them."
"I get you," growled the fellow. "But take it from me; that Injun don't need no friends. He can take care of himself. He's as strong as a bull."
"And with a temper you would best not ruffle. I do not know what Bilby's scheme was, or how he got you into it. But take my advice and keep out of any further association with Bilby in this matter."
"You don't have to warn me and my partner," said the fellow. "We got enough right now. Is he coming ashore?"
He turned to look at the boat, and then leaped to his feet in some fear. Totantora, by leaning well over the stern of the boat, had dragged the torn coat out of the propeller, and now he was coolly examining the mechanism with the evident idea of starting the boat. The Indian seemed familiar with the driving power of such a craft.
"I think he will bring his daughter ashore," Ruth said composedly. "If I were you I would not cross him further."
"I ain't going to, Miss," said the fellow, now on his feet. "I see Jim is keeping as far away from him as he can. Jim can't swim."
"Go aside somewhere. When they reach the bank I will try to take Totantora and the girl away with me. Do nothing to cross him, for the temper of an Indian is not easily quelled. It just simmers and may break out again at any time."
"Believe me," said the fellow, starting off through the bushes, "I ain't aiming to have another run-in with him. Not with my bare hands. I hope he don't smash the boat, that's all."
"I will do all I can to pacify Totantora," said Ruth, and she really was somewhat anxious on this point, for the grim countenance of the Indian chief threatened further reprisal.
He was busy with the engine for a time; but by and by the regular popping of the exhaust revealed the fact that everything was all right with it. The boat described a circle and came back into the cove and to the place where Ruth stood on the bank.
The second white man, who was younger and looked less like a drowned rat, remained in the bow, staring back in apprehension at the Indian. The moment he could do so, this man leaped ashore.
"Say nothing to him," advised Ruth. "I will try to take them both away. And, as I have warned your companion, have nothing more to do with Bilby or his schemes. These Indians are my friends, and they have other friends who are much more powerful than I am, I can assure you."
"Yes, Miss," said the man, politely enough. "I don't want to mix in with that redskin. I guess not!"
Wonota stepped ashore and Ruth gave her the shoe she had lost. Her father followed her. He turned as though to set the boat adrift, but Ruth laid her hand upon his wet sleeve.
"Let it alone, Totantora. I hope you will be advised by me. We will go right away from here. Instead of waiting until to-morrow, let us leave here to-night and start for the North."
Wonota said something to her father in their own tongue, and he looked at Ruth more peacefully.
"White lady is always my friend, I know; and Wonota's friend," he observed. "But these bad men tried to steal Wonota."
"Tell me how it happened," Ruth put in, hoping to change his trend of thought and determination.
"I will tell you, my friend," said the Indian girl. "A little fat man came in a car when Chief Totantora and I were walking in the road. He got us to sit down yonder and talk to him. He is one of those who have tried to get Chief Totantora and me to go away from you to make pictures. He offers much money. And while we talked, those other two men crept up behind us and they all seized Chief Totantora and me. We were bound and our mouths closed before we knew how many, or how few, our enemies were. Then my father was left in the wood and I was carried to the boat. I do not know what became of the little fat man."
"I saw him drive away," Ruth said. "It made me suspicious. I had already seen and talked with the fat man, whose name is Bilby. Don't forget that name, Wonota."
"I will remember," said the Indian girl, composedly.
"He may make some other attempt to get possession of you. Some attempt by aid of the courts."
"The white man's law is very strange," muttered Totantora.
"But we will get ahead of Bilby before he can do anything else," Ruth went on. "Miss Cameron's car is outside in the road. Go to the hotel and change your clothes, Totantora, and I will take both you and Wonota back to the Red Mill. Until we get away for the North I shall not want you out of my sight."
The Indian shook himself much as a dog might. A lighter expression flickered over his dark face.
"I shall not suffer cold from a wetting," he said. "It is nothing. I have nothing at the hotel. We will go now."
"Come on, then," rejoined Ruth, promptly. "It is best that we get away before Bilby can learn that his plan to make Wonota a captive miscarried. Hurry!"
She swept them in her earnestness out to the road where Helen and Aunt Alvirah saw them with considerable surprise—particularly because of the saturated condition of the Indian.
"I declare, Ruth!" cried Helen, "you do manage to get into such perfectly lovely rows. What is the matter?"
But Ruth postponed all explanation for a later time. On their way back to the Red Mill she did explain to Helen, however, that she intended to take the two Indians to Cheslow and get a train for Albany that evening.
"I will fool Bilby and whoever is aiding him. We will get away."
"If you go to-night, so do I!" exclaimed her chum. "You can't lose me, Ruth Fielding. I can see that we are going to have perfectly scrumptious times before this picture you are going to make is finished."
"I hope we'll fool Bilby—leave him behind," sighed Ruth.
"The worst of it is, we must leave Tommy-boy behind," said Tom's twin. "Won't he be sore when he hears about it!"
AT CHIPPEWA BAY
Helen pronounced that exodus from the Red Mill "some hustle;" and really it was but a brief time that Ruth allowed for packing, dressing, and getting to Cheslow for the eight-forty-five train, bound north. This was a through train with sleeping cars, and stopped at Cheslow only on special occasions. Ruth determined that this was one of those occasions.
She hustled Ben, the hired man, off to town ahead, and by the good offices of Mercy Curtis a compartment and berth were obtained on that especial train. Mercy kept the wires hot arranging this for her friend.
Meanwhile, Helen rushed home in her car, packed her trunk and bag, had them loaded into the front of the car, and drove up the road again to the Red Mill where she picked up the two Indians and Ruth. Uncle Jabez and Aunt Alvirah were sorry enough to see Ruth go; but this trip promised not to be a long one, for the picture should be made in five or six weeks.
The Cameron's chauffeur had been instructed by Helen to "burn up the road," for there was none too much time before the train was due, and he did as he was ordered. Indeed, there were ten minutes to spare when they reached the station platform, and the girls spent that time chatting with Mercy Curtis leaning out of her window of the telegraph office.
"So, you are off on your travels again," said the lame girl. "I wish I was a butterfly of fashion, too."
"'Butterfly,'!" scoffed Helen. "Ruth, at least, is no butterfly. She might be called a busy bee with more truth."
"Ah-ha, Miss Helen!" returned Mercy, shaking her finger, "you are the improvident grasshopper—no less."
Helen giggled. "Tom says that that old proverb, 'Go to the ant, thou sluggard;' should read: 'Go to the ant and slug her.' He does not love work any more than I do."
Again Ruth's expression of countenance was one of disapproval, but she made no comment on Tom. The train thundered toward the station, slowing down as though resenting being stopped in its swift career for even a few moments.
Mr. Curtis, the station master, made a point himself of seeing that the baggage of the party was put into the baggage car. The conductor and porter helped the girls aboard, and they found their sections.
Ruth was determined that Wonota should not get out of her sight again, and the Indian girl was to occupy a berth in the stateroom. Totantora was to have had the berth; but when he saw it made up and noted the cramped and narrow quarters offered him, he shook his head decidedly. He spent the night in the porter's little room at the end of the car, and the porter, when he found out Totantora was an Indian chief, did not dare object for fear of being scalped!
The party reached Hammond the following afternoon. Here they alighted instead of at Redwood, the more popular station of those wishing to reach the Thousand Islands by way of the electric road to Alexandria Bay. Ruth and her party were going direct to Chippewa Bay, for it was upon some of the more northern of the fourteen hundred or more isles that constitute the "Thousand Islands" that Mr. Hammond had arranged for the film company's activities at this time.
A big touring car was waiting for the party, for one of the telegrams Ruth had caused to be sent the evening before was to Mr. Hammond, and they were glad to leave the Pullman and get into the open air. Totantora, even, desired to walk to Chippewa Bay, for he was tired of the white man's means of locomotion. Ruth and Wonota would not hear to this.
"I guess we have eluded Bilby," said the girl of the Red Mill; "but I shall not feel that Wonota is safe, Totantora, unless you are near her at all times. You must keep watch of your daughter. She is a valuable possession."
For once Totantora smiled—although it was grimly.
"A squaw did not use to be counted for much in my nation," he said. "But Wonota is not like the old squaws."
"Wonota is quite an up-to-date young woman, let me tell you, Mr Totantora," Helen told him briskly.
The party remained over night at a small hotel at Chippewa Bay; but in the morning Ruth and her companions entered a motor launch and were transported to an island where the film producing company had been established in several bungalows which Mr. Hammond had rented for the time of their stay.
The water between the small islands was as calm as a mill pond; but the party caught glimpses from the launch of the breadth of the St. Lawrence, its Canadian shore being merely a misty blue line that morning. The rocky and wooded islands were extremely beautiful and as romantic in appearance as the wilderness always is. Now and then a privately owned island, improved by landscape gardening into a modern summer estate, offered contrast to the wilder isles.
The girls spent most of the day in getting settled. No work on the new picture could be done for a couple of days, and Helen, naturally, looked for amusement. There were canoes as well as motor boats, and both the chums were fond of canoeing. Wonota, of course, was mistress of the paddle; and with her the two white girls selected a roomy canoe and set out toward evening on a journey of exploration among the closer islands.
One of the largest islands in the group was in sight—Grenadier Island; but that they learned was beyond the American line. They saw it only from a distance, keeping close to the New York shore as they did on this brief voyage. The tall tamaracks and the other trees crowded some of the islands until they seemed veritable jungles.
Some few, however, were bold and precipitous in the extreme. "Just the sort of place for pirate dens and robber caves," Helen declared, shivering gleefully.
"What a romantic puss you are," laughed Ruth.
"Well, those cracks in the rock yonder look so dark and dismal. And there might be dark-skinned men with red bandanas bound around their heads, and knives in their belts, along with the rest of the scenery, Ruthie," complained Helen.
Wonota stared at her. "Do you mean, Miss Helen, that there are cholos—are greasers—in these woods? My geography book that I study shows this country to be far, far from Mexico."
"Oh, my aunt!" chuckled Helen. "She thinks nobody but Mexicans can wear gay handkerchiefs bound about their noble brows. Wait till you see sure-enough pirates—"
"That is perfect nonsense, Wonota," said Ruth, warningly. "Helen is only in fun."
"Ah," said the practical Indian maid, "I understand English—and American; only I do not always grasp the—er—humor, do you call it?"
"Good!" applauded Ruth. "Serves you right, Helen, for your silly nonsense."
"The Indians' fun is different," explained Wonota, not wishing to offend the white girl.
"You are a pair of old sober-sides, that is what is the matter," declared Helen gaily. "Oh, Ruth! drive the canoe ashore yonder—on that rocky beach. Did you ever see such ferns?"
They brought the canoe carefully in to the shore, landing on a sloping rock which was moss-grown above the mark of the last flood. Ruth fastened the tow-rope to the staff of a slender sapling. Wonota got out to help Helen gather some of the more delicately fronded ferns. Ruth turned her back upon them and began climbing what seemed to be a path among the boulders and trees.
This was not a very large island, and it was well out from the American shore, but inside the line between the States and Canada. Although the path Ruth followed seemed well defined, she scarcely thought the island was inhabited.
As they had paddled past it in the canoe there had been no sign of man's presence. It had been left in the state of nature, and nothing, it seemed, had been done to change its appearance from the time that the first white man had seen it.
Some rods up the ascent Ruth came to an open place—a table of rock that might really have been a giant's dining-table, so flat and perfectly shaped it was. She could look down upon Helen and Wonota, and they looked up and called to her.
"Look out for the pirates!" shouted Helen, with laughter.
Ruth waved her hand, smiling, and, crossing the rock, parted the brush and stepped out of sight of her friends. Two steps she took through the clinging bushes when a most surprising figure started up before her.
There was plenty of light, even if the sun had gone down. She was not uncertain at all as to the nature of the figure that confronted her—that of a man.
She saw almost instantly that the old man's brown eyes were more like a child's in expression than like an angry man's. He grinned at her, but the grimace was involuntary or meaningless.
"Hush!" he whispered. "Hush!"
Ruth remained both quiet and speechless, looking into his wrinkled old face calmly. She thought he must be a beggar from his clothing, but she could not imagine him a robber, nor even one of Helen's "pirates." As she said nothing the old man repeated his sibilant warning:
"I am 'hushing' just as hard as I can," whispered the girl in return, and smiling a little now. "Why must I 'hush'?"
"Hush!" he said again, quite as earnestly. "You are in danger of your life, young woman."
"Not from you, I am sure," she returned. "You would not try to hurt me."
"Hush!" he repeated, looking back over his shoulder into the thicker wood. "They may come at any moment now. And although I am their king, they would kill you. You see, kings aren't as powerful now as they used to be before the war."
"So I understand," agreed Ruth soberly. "But who are you king of—or what?"
"I am King of the Pipes," whispered the old man. "You don't know what that means," he added, scanning her puzzled face. "No. And that's the secret. You cannot be told."
"Oh," murmured Ruth, somewhat amused, yet pitying his evident mental state.
"Hush!" he said again. "You are in danger. Go away from this place at once, and don't come here again. If my courtiers see you—Ha! Off with her head! I shall have to follow the kingly custom. It is not my fault," he added, in the same low tone, shaking his head mournfully. "We kings have to lead our lives, you know."
"It must be a dreadful life, if you have to order people's heads cut off when they have done you no harm," Ruth ventured.
"But my people would not believe that you would do no harm," he explained. "I can see that you are quite harmless. But they have not the intelligence I possess. You understand?"
"Quite," said Ruth. "And I will go right away. Thank you for your kindness."
"That is right, young woman. Go away. And do not return. It is not safe here."
"Can't—can't I do anything for you?"
"Hush!" warned the old man. "No, I do not think you can. I do not care to divide my power with any consort. And, unless you are of noble blood I could not make you Queen of the Pipes. That would never do. Such a mesalliance would never do. My people would never stand for it—oh, never!"
"I quite understand that," said Ruth, having difficulty to keep from smiling.
"Now go, young woman," the man said pompously. "And do not return."
"I will obey you," said Ruth soberly. "If you are sure I cannot help you."
"Hush!" he warned her again, waving his hand. "They are likely to come at any moment. And then—"
The girl backed through the bushes and stepped upon the table-like rock. She would have bade him good-bye, but he hissed after her another sibilant "hush!" and disappeared as mysteriously as he had come.
Ruth descended to the canoe and waited until they were well away from the island before she said a word to the other girls about the queer old man.
A FILM MYSTERY
"I told you there were pirates there," Helen declared that evening, when she and Ruth were in the room they shared together. Wonota slept in a room adjoining and had already retired.
"I don't think that poor old man was a pirate," returned Ruth, smiling a little.
"Didn't he tell you he was 'king of the pirates'?" demanded Helen.
Ruth laughed outright. "He said he was 'king of the pipes'—whatever that may mean. Poor old fellow!"
"Well, it seems he most certainly had been 'smoking the pipe'—or do they call it 'hitting the pipe'?"
"Don't ask me to aid you with any information on slang," admonished her friend. "I don't suppose he is really king of anything except of a country of his dreams—poor fellow."
"Dear me!" grumbled Helen. "You never will boost romance, Ruth Fielding. Maybe there are pirates on that island."
"Or pipes," said Ruth calmly.
"Never mind. When the boys come I am going to shoo them on to that place."
"What boys?" demanded Ruth in surprise.
"The Copleys arrive to-morrow. And their place is not five miles away from this very spot. We'll get a motor-boat and go down there to-morrow evening and welcome them. I got a telegram from Tom when I came back from canoeing. I forgot to tell you."
"Tom!" exclaimed Ruth, and for perhaps the first time in her life she seemed undesirous of hearing about Tom Cameron.
Helen gave her a somewhat puzzled side glance as she found the telegram and gave it to her chum, who read:
"Vacation begins to-morrow. Will be with you next day. Tom."
Helen giggled. "You can make up your mind that he knows Chess Copley has started for this neck of woods. Tom is becoming Mr. Jealous Jellaby. Did you ever?"
"I am sorry Tom considers it necessary to take a vacation when he has only just begun work with your father, Helen."
"There you go again!" exclaimed her chum. "I don't understand you at all, Ruth Fielding. Tom doesn't have to work."
"It might be better if he did," said Ruth, and refused to discuss the point further that evening.
The next day was just as lovely as that first one. Preparations were under way all over the island Mr. Hammond had rented for the making of the picture which Ruth had written. The continuity was being studied by Mr. Hooley, the director; and the principals had been furnished with their detail.
The ordinary participants in the filming of a picture—the "extras"—seldom know much about the story. They merely appear in certain scenes and do what they are told. As the scenes are not made in sequence these actors of the smaller parts have little idea of the story itself.
Ruth, under the advice of Mr. Hammond, had chosen a certain series of incidents relating to early French-Canadian history, and it began with an allegory of the bringing of the Christian religion to the Indians by the first French priests. This allegory included the landing of the French upon the shore of a rocky island where they were met by the wondering Indians, and Mr. Hooley's assistant had chosen the spot for this scene to be "shot," not far from the place where the company had its headquarters.
Ruth paid little attention to the locations until the moment arrived for the camera work. In fact, after supplying the detailed script she had little to do with the preparation of the picture until the scenes were made. She had never made continuity, as it is called, for that is more or less of a mechanical process and is sure to interfere with the creative faculty of the screen writer.
In the afternoon of this day Helen engaged a motor-boat, and she and Ruth set out for the Copley island, which was some miles away, toward Alexandria Bay. Caretakers and servants had been at work there for some time, it was evident, for the lawns were neatly shaved, the gardens in full growth, and the family were already comfortably settled in their summer home.
Chess Copley must have been on the watch (could it be possible that he had inside information about this early visit of Helen and Ruth?) for he came running down to the dock before the gardener could reach that point to fasten the boat's line.
"Hurrah!" he shouted. "I was just wondering if we would see you girls to-day; and if you hadn't come I should have got out our launch and tried to find your camp this evening."
"Oh, hullo, Chess," Helen said coolly as she stepped ashore, refusing his assistance. "Where are the girls?"
"There they are—waiting for you on the porch," he said, rather subdued it would seem by her bruskness.
Helen started directly for the wide veranda of the villa-like house that topped the higher part of the island. There were several acres of grounds about the Copley house, for the whole island was cultivated to the water's edge. There was nothing wild left in the appearance of the property, save a few of the tall forest trees that had been allowed to stand and some huge boulders almost covered with climbing vines.
Ruth gave Chess her hand—and he squeezed it warmly. She gave him a frank smile, and Chess seemed comforted.
"Nell's dreadfully tart with a fellow," he grumbled. "She's nothing like she used to be. But you are kind, Ruth."
"You should not wear your heart on your sleeve," she told him briskly, as they followed Helen Cameron toward the veranda.
The two girls from the moving picture camp passed a pleasant evening with their New York friends. The Copley girls always managed to gather, Helen declared, "perfectly splendid house parties;" and they had brought with them several companionable girls and young men.
Music and dancing filled the evening, and it was ten o'clock when the two chums from Cheslow sought their motor-boat and set out for the camp on the Chippewa Bay island. Chess Copley had kept by Ruth's side almost all the evening, and although Helen treated him so cavalierly, she seemed provoked at her chum for paying the young man so much attention.
"I don't understand what you see in Chess," she said in a vexed tone to the girl of the Red Mill. "He's nothing much."
"He is pleasant, and you used to like him," said Ruth quietly.
"Humph!" Helen tossed her head. "I found him out. And he's not to be compared with Tommy-boy."
"I quite agree with you—that is, considering Tom as a brother," observed Ruth, and after that refused to be led into further discussion regarding Chess Copley.
It was not often that Ruth and Helen had a disagreement. And this was not really of importance. At least, there was no sign of contention between them in the morning.
To tell the truth, there was so much going on, on this day, that the girls could scarcely have found time to quarrel. The sun was bright and the sky cloudless. It was an ideal day for out-of-door "shots," and the camera men and Mr. Hooley had the whole company astir betimes.
The few real Indians, besides Wonota and Totantora, in the company, and all those "extras" who were dressed as aborigines, got into their costumes before breakfast. Soon after eight o'clock the company got away in barges, with launches to tow them through the quiet waterways.
In a costume play like this that had been planned, the participants naturally make a very brilliant spectacle wherever they appear. But among the islands of Chippewa Bay there were few spectators at this time save the wild fowl.
"And they," Helen said, "might be descendants of the very birds who looked on the actual first appearance of the white man in this wilderness. Isn't it wonderful?"
When Mr. Hooley, megaphone in hand and stationed with the two cameras on one of the decked-over barges, had got his company in position and the action was begun, it was indeed an impressive picture. Of course, a scene is not made off-hand—not even an outdoor pageant like this. The detail must be done over and over again before the cranks of the cameras are turned. It was almost noon before Mr. Hooley dared tell the camera men to "shoot the scene."