THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS ON THE COAST
Or Showing Up the Perils of the Deep
Author of "The Tom Swift Series," "The Moving Picture Boys," "The Moving Picture Boys in the West," Etc.
New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers
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BOOKS BY VICTOR APPLETON
THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS SERIES 12mo. Illustrated. Price, per volume, 40 cents, postpaid
THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS IN THE WEST THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS ON THE COAST THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS IN THE JUNGLE THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS IN EARTHQUAKE LAND
THE TOM SWIFT SERIES 12mo. Illustrated. Price, per volume, 40 cents, postpaid
TOM SWIFT AND HIS MOTOR CYCLE TOM SWIFT AND HIS MOTOR BOAT TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIRSHIP TOM SWIFT AND HIS SUBMARINE BOAT TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RUNABOUT TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RIFLE TOM SWIFT AND HIS SKY RACER TOM SWIFT IN THE CAVES OF ICE TOM SWIFT AMONG THE DIAMOND MAKERS TOM SWIFT AND HIS WIRELESS MESSAGE TOM SWIFT IN THE CITY OF GOLD TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIR GLIDER TOM SWIFT IN CAPTIVITY TOM SWIFT AND HIS WIZARD CAMERA TOM SWIFT AND HIS GREAT SEARCHLIGHT TOM SWIFT AND HIS GIANT CANNON
GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS—NEW YORK
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Copyright, 1913, by Grosset & Dunlap
THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS ON THE COAST
I AN UNEXPECTED ATTACK 1 II A DARING RAID 12 III THE PURSUIT 23 IV BACK TO BIG B 29 V A NEW KIND OF DRAMA 40 VI ON THE COAST 46 VII AT THE LIGHTHOUSE 56 VIII BLAKE LEARNS A SECRET 62 IX AT PRACTICE 71 X TO SAN FRANCISCO 79 XI A STRANGE CHARGE 87 XII ON A LONG VOYAGE 93 XIII A MIMIC FIRE 101 XIV ATTACKED BY A SWORDFISH 111 XV SUSPICIOUS ACTIONS 119 XVI JOE SUSPECTS SOMETHING 127 XVII AFTER THE WRECKERS 134 XVIII FAILURE 144 XIX ON THE TRAIL 151 XX THE DISCOVERY 158 XXI THE CAPTURE 164 XXII A LIFE GUARD'S ALARM 171 XXIII THE DOOMED VESSEL 181 XXIV OUT OF THE WRECK 187 XXV A NEW QUEST 201
THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS ON THE COAST
AN UNEXPECTED ATTACK
"Well, Blake, it doesn't seem possible that we have succeeded; does it?" and the lad who asked the question threw one leg over the saddle of his pony, to ride side fashion for a while, as a rest and change.
"No, Joe, it doesn't," answered another youth. "But we sure have got some dandy films in those boxes!" and he looked back on some laden burros that were following the cow ponies across a stretch of Arizona desert.
"Well, all I've got to say," remarked the cowboy, the third member of the trio; "is that taking moving pictures is about as strenuous work as rounding up or branding cattle."
"I guess you don't quite believe that, Hank; do you?" asked Blake Stewart. "You haven't seen us work so very hard; have you?"
"Work hard? I should say I have," answered Hank Selby. "Why, the time those Indians charged our cave, and Joe and I, and Munson and his crowd were getting ready to fire point-blank at them, there you stood, with bullets whizzing near you more than once, grinding away at the handle of your moving picture camera as hard as you could. Hard work—huh!"
"But we got the films," declared Blake, not caring to go too deeply into an argument. "And I'm anxious to see how they will develop."
"So am I," declared Joe. "I wonder what will be next on the program?"
"Why, you're going to look for your father; aren't you, Joe—your father whom you haven't seen since you were a little chap—whom you can't even remember?" and Blake looked sharply at his chum and partner, Joe Duncan.
"That's what I am, Blake, just as soon as I can get to the coast. But I mean, what will we do after that? Go back to New York?"
"I suppose so, and take up our trade of making moving picture films for whoever wants them. It will be a rather tame life after the excitement we have had out here."
"That's what. But maybe it will be good for a change."
The two moving picture boys, I might explain briefly, were on their way to Flagstaff, Arizona, after having gone out into the wilds, with a cowboy guide, Hank Selby, to make moving picture films of some Moqui Indians who had broken away from their reservation, to indulge in some of their weird dances and ceremonies.
While making these films, the boys and their companion, who were hidden in a cave where the Indians could not see them, saw the redmen about to torture, as they thought, four white prisoners. Joe and Blake recognized these men as their business rivals, who were also trying to get some moving picture films of the Indians, to secure a prize of a thousand dollars, offered by a New York geographical and ethnological society.
To fire on the Indians, and thus save the white captives, meant that Joe, Blake and Hank would disclose their position in the cave, but there was nothing else to do, and they did it.
The white captives, unexpectedly freed, came rushing toward the shelter, with the savages after them, and it looked as if there would be a fierce fight. In spite of this Blake held his ground, taking picture after picture.
And, in the nick of time, a troop of United States cavalry came dashing up to capture the renegade Indians, who surrendered; Blake also getting pictures of the dash of the troopers.
Unexpectedly in the company was a Sergeant Duncan who proved to be a half-uncle of Joe Duncan, and the sergeant was able to tell the lad where his long-lost father was last heard from, since Joe had only lately learned that his parent was living.
And so, after their strenuous time in getting pictures of the Indians, the boys were on their way to Big B ranch, where Hank Selby was employed, and whence they had started to find the hidden savages.
But Flagstaff was the real temporary headquarters of the lads, since there was located a theatrical company, engaged in doing some moving picture dramas based on Western life, and Joe and Blake had been hired to "film" those plays.
They had been given a little time off to make an attempt to get views of the Indians at their ceremonies, and they expected to resume, for a time, making films of more peaceful scenes among their theatrical friends.
"Yes, we sure did have a strenuous time," remarked Blake, as they rode along at an easy pace. "And how those Indians threw down their guns, and gave in, when the troopers charged against them!"
"That's right," agreed Joe. "And those bugle notes, when they started to gallop, telling us that help was on the way, was the sweetest music I ever heard."
"Same here," came from Hank. "But say, if it's all the same to you boys, I think we might as well camp here and have grub. This looks like good water and there's enough grazing for the critters to-night. Then we can push on early in the morning, and in a couple of days more we ought to make Big B ranch."
"It seems to take us longer coming back than it did going," remarked Blake, as he slid from his pony, and pulled the reins over the animal's head as a signal for it not to wander. "I thought we'd sure come in sight of the ranch to-day."
"Oh, it's farther than that," said Hank, as he looked about for wood with which to make a fire. "I guess you were so anxious to get on the trail of the Indians on your way out that you didn't notice how much ground you covered. And it was quite a few miles, believe me!"
"I do!" said Joe, with half a groan. "I'm sore and stiff from so much saddle riding. I'm not used to it."
"Oh, you'll limber up soon," said Hank, cheerfully. "Now, if you boys will get the water, and break out the grub, I'll get supper. It'll soon be dark."
The lads busied themselves, and soon a cheerful little blaze was going, while the tired horses and burros, relieved of the burden of saddles and packs, were rolling luxuriously around at the length of their tether ropes.
"I wonder if all the Moquis and Navajos who skipped off their reservations have been driven back?" asked Joe, as they were about ready to eat.
"What makes you ask that?" inquired Blake quickly, and with a curious look at his chum.
"Oh, no special reason. But you know Captain Marsh, of the troop in which my uncle, Sergeant Duncan, was enlisted, said he had rounded up several bands of 'em, and I was just thinking that——"
"That maybe there were some more running around loose that we could make pictures of; is that it, Joe?"
"Well, yes. You know that society offered a prize of a thousand dollars for the best reel of ceremonial dances, but there were smaller prizes for ordinary pictures of Indians in various activities. I thought maybe we could get some of those."
"I'm afraid not—not on this trip, at least," spoke Blake. "I don't believe there is ten feet of unexposed film left, and that wouldn't make much of a reel. We used up all we brought with us making those cowboy pictures, the forest fire and the time the bear chased Hank, besides the Indian views. Nothing more doing in the camera line until we get back to Flagstaff."
"Oh, well, I was just wondering," spoke Joe, and he gazed off across the uneven stretch of country. But there was that in his voice and glance which did not bear out his unconcerned words.
However, Blake was too much occupied in getting supper just then to pay much attention to his chum, for the lad was hungry—as, indeed, his companions also seemed to be, for they attacked the simple provender with eagerness when Hank announced that it was ready.
The evening was setting in when they had finished, and, bringing up a pail of fresh water, in case they should get thirsty during the hours of darkness, and placing the saddles and packs in a compact mass, the three proceeded to spend the night in the open.
And yet not exactly without shelter, either, for they had with them small dog-tents, as they are called, that afford considerable protection against the night winds and dew. And, with a fire glowing at their feet, the travelers were far from being uncomfortable.
A pile of wood had been collected near the blaze, and while nothing was said about standing watch, it was understood that if any of them roused in the night he was to pile fuel on the embers, not only to keep up the genial heat, but to drive off any prowling beasts that might try to raid their stock of provisions.
"Well, I'm going to turn in," finally announced Blake. "I'm dead tired."
"And I'm with you," added Joe.
Hank said nothing, but the boys watched him as he walked some little distance from the camp, to a slight elevation. On this he stood, gazing off into the distance.
"I wonder what he's looking for?" queried Joe.
"I—I hardly know," replied Blake.
And yet, in his heart, each lad was aware of something that he hesitated to put into words. Presently Hank came back, and as the firelight shone on his face his expression betrayed no anxiety—in fact, no emotion of any kind.
"Did—did you see anything, Hank?" asked Blake.
"No—nothing. Snooze away. I think—I'll have a pipe before I go to bed," and he sat down on a small box and looked into the glowing embers.
Soon afterward, Joe, looking from his small shelter tent, saw Hank fingering his big revolver, spinning the cylinder, and testing the mechanism.
"Something's up!" whispered Joe to himself. "I wonder if it can be that he saw——"
He did not finish the sentence, for just then Hank put away the weapon and soon the aromatic odor of burning tobacco filled the night air.
"Oh, pshaw!" exclaimed the lad. "I'm foolish to worry about nothing; I'm going to sleep!" and he turned over, and closed his eyes. But, somehow, sleep would not come at once. Even with his eyes closed he could fancy the figure of the cowboy guide sitting by the fire.
Blake seemed to be less uneasy than did his chum. If he saw Hank by the fire he made no mention of it, and from his tent came no movement that showed he was awake.
Presently Joe began to speculate on the new experience he felt would come to him, if he succeeded in locating his father.
"It really doesn't seem possible—that I'm going to have folks at last," murmured Joe. "And maybe not only a father, but brothers and sisters—Uncle Bill Duncan said he didn't know. I may have more than Blake, if I keep on," and then, with more pleasurable thoughts than worrying about an indefinable something, the lad finally lost himself in slumber.
The camp was still. Even Hank had crawled into his little tent, after a final pipe. He did not get to sleep soon, and had either of the boys been awake they would have seen him come out several times before midnight, and stalk about, peering off into the darkness.
Then, after looking to the tether ropes of the animals, he would go back to the small shelters, throw some embers on the fire, and drop off into a doze. For the cowboy was a light sleeper, and the least sound awakened him.
"I guess there'll be nothing doing," he whispered to himself after one of these little observations. "I thought I saw some signs just about dusk, but maybe it was some slinking coyote, or a big jack rabbit. Anyhow, if—if anything does happen it won't come during darkness; that is, unless it's some of them half-breed or Mexican rustlers, and I don't believe they've been around these diggings lately. I'm going to snooze."
Soon his heavy breathing told that he slept, and several hours passed before he again awoke. If he had made one other observation, probably he would have seen that which would have aroused his suspicions, for, about an hour after midnight, there was an uneasy movement among the animals.
And in the starlight, which in a measure made the night less black, several shadowy, slinking forms might have been observed creeping toward the camp and the pile of provisions and supplies, among the latter of which were the boxes containing the valuable films of the moving pictures.
It was Hank, as might have been expected, who awakened. One of the burros, always an excitable, nervous beast, capered about and uttered a shrill whinny as if in fright.
Hank was out of his tent in an instant. Leaping to his feet he blazed away with his revolver. Its flash lit up the darkness, and was at once answered by half a dozen other flashes.
"Come on, boys!" yelled Hank. "They're after us! I wasn't mistaken, after all! I did see some of 'em sneaking around! Lively, now!" and he blazed away again.
"What is it?" cried Blake.
"Indians! They're after our horses!" yelled the cowboy, as the two lads joined him.
A DARING RAID
"Where are they?"
"Which way shall we shoot?"
Joe and Blake questioned thus by turn as they leaped to Hank's side. They were in darkness now, for the cowboy had ceased shooting, and those who had come to attack had likewise allowed their weapons to become silent. As a matter of fact, Hank Selby had only fired in the air, if possible to frighten off the Indians, and it seemed that the redmen had done the same, since there was no whine of bullets over the head of the guide.
"What is it?" asked Blake, fingering the rifle he had caught up as he rushed from the tent.
"Indians," replied Hank, in a low voice. "It's probably some band of Moquis or Navajos, who escaped being rounded up as the others were. Probably they were chased so hard, or were so surprised at one of their camps, that they had to leave without their ponies. And they do hate to walk. They saw our animals and tried to get 'em, but I was suspicious all along."
"But where are they now?" asked Joe, peering out into the darkness. "I can't see a thing, and our animals seem to be all there."
"The beggars dropped down, and are hiding," said the cowboy. "They didn't like the quick way I fired on 'em, I guess; though, land knows! I don't want to hurt any of 'em if I can help it. They don't know just what to do, and they're biding their time."
"Did they get any of our horses—or things?" asked Blake, anxiously, his thoughts on the valuable films.
"Not as yet," replied Hank. "But this thing isn't over with. They'll come back, once they decide it's worth while. We've got to get ready for 'em."
"How?" asked Blake.
"Well, we've got to pile our stuff up as a sort of shelter, and then we've got to bring in the animals. It won't do to have the imps run off with 'em, and that's what they're aiming to do."
"But won't it be risky to go out there in the darkness to bring in the ponies and burros?" asked Joe. "You say the Indians are concealed out there."
"So I believe they are," replied Hank. "But I fancy my shooting drove 'em back a bit, even though I did fire in the air, or so high over their heads that they couldn't be harmed. So I guess we can make a move out there without getting hurt. Anyhow, it's got to be done, and, as I know more about such business than you boys, having been at it longer, I'll just attend to that. You'd better make the best sort of breastworks you can. For, though I don't believe these beggars will actually shoot to hurt, still it's best to be on the safe side. Be cautious, now."
And, while Hank is thus preparing to secure the pack and saddle animals, and the boys to gather the boxes and bales into a compact mass, I will take just a few moments to tell you more about the moving picture lads than I have yet done.
In the first book of this series, entitled "The Moving Picture Boys; Or, The Perils of a Great City Depicted," I introduced to you Joe Duncan and Blake Stewart. At that time they lived in the village of Fayetteburg, in the central part of New York State. Blake worked on the farm of his uncle, Jonathan Haverstraw, while Joe was hired boy for Zachariah Bradley. And it happened that they both lost their places at the same time.
Blake's uncle decided to retire to a Home for the Aged, and Mr. Bradley said he could no longer afford to pay Joe any wages. The boys did not know what to do until they made the acquaintance of Mr. Calvert Hadley, a moving picture photographer. The latter had come to Fayetteburg with a theatrical company to get some views in a country drama that was being enacted, some of the scenes being laid in the nearby city of Syracuse.
Blake and Joe watched a mimic rescue scene in the creek, thinking it real, and later Mr. Hadley offered them work as his assistants in New York. He was employed by the Film Theatrical Company, to make its moving pictures.
The boys jumped at the chance. Before the little country drama was over, however, an accident occurred, in full view of the moving picture camera. Mrs. Betty Randolph, a wealthy Southern lady, was run into, while riding in her carriage, by a reckless autoist. Mrs. Randolph offered a reward for the arrest of this man, who escaped in the confusion, and urged the two boys to try to effect his capture.
They said they would, and how they went to New York, learned the moving picture business, and helped Mr. Hadley get films for his "moving picture newspaper," is all set down in the first book.
The perils of taking views in a great city, at fires, elevated railroad accidents, burning vessels, of divers at work, in making educational films—all this is told.
Eventually, while making scenes at a thrilling balloon ascension, Joe and Blake discovered the reckless autoist and gave chase in a car. They caught him, too, and got the reward, with which they purchased some moving picture cameras, and went into business on their own account. They made films to order, and were often employed by Mr. Hadley or by Mr. Ringold, head of the Film Theatrical Company.
This company consisted of a number of actors and actresses who were engaged to enact various sorts of plays and dramas before the camera.
Among them was Henry Robertson, who did "juvenile leads"; Harris Levinberg, the "villain"; Miss Nellie Shay, the leading lady, and Miss Birdie Lee, who did girls' parts. Last, but not least, was Christopher Cutler Piper—known variously as "C. C." or "Gloomy." He preferred to be called just C. C., not liking his two first names, but he was so often looking on the dark side of life, and predicting direful happenings that never came to pass, that he was often dubbed "Gloomy." However, he was the comedian of the troupe, and could utter the most unhappy expressions while doing the most comical acting.
It was not all easy sailing for the two lads. One man—James Munson, a rival moving picture proprietor—often made trouble for them, and once put them in no little danger.
After having helped Mr. Hadley make a success of his moving picture newspaper, by means of which current happenings, and accidents, were nightly thrown on a screen in various theatres, Joe and Blake, as I said, went into business for themselves.
In the second volume of the series, entitled "The Moving Picture Boys in the West; Or, Taking Scenes Among the Cowboys and Indians," our heroes had an entirely different series of adventures.
Mr. Ringold decided to take his theatrical troupe to Arizona, there to make films for a number of Western dramas. He asked the boys if they would like to join Mr. Hadley in doing this work. At the same time a New York scientific society, engaged in preserving records, pictures and photographic reproductions of the Indians, made a prize offer for the best film showing the redmen in their ceremonial dances. The time was particularly ripe for this, as a band of the Moquis, as well as several tribes of Navajos, had broken from the government reservations to indulge in their strange rites.
As the boys found that they could do the two things—take the views of the Indians, and make the theatrical pictures—they accepted the offer.
Just before they left, however, Joe received a strange letter. It was from a man signing himself Sam Houston Reed, who stated that he had met a man who was looking for a Joe Duncan. Joe, who had known there was some mystery about his early life, was overjoyed at the prospect of finding some "folks," and wished very much to meet Mr. Reed. But the latter had neglected to date, or put any heading on his letter. All there was to go by was part of a postmark, which showed it came from Arizona, and Mr. Reed also mentioned Big B ranch.
However, the moving picture boys and the theatrical company started West. On the way the boys had a glimpse of their rivals, also hastening to get the Indian views.
How they got to Flagstaff, made many views there, and then how Joe and Blake started to find the place where the runaway Indians were hidden away, doing their mysterious dances—all this is told in the second volume.
Eventually they reached Big B ranch, only to find that Mr. Reed, like a rolling stone, had gone. However, some of the cowboys remembered him, and had heard him talk of having met a certain Bill Duncan, whose half-brother, Nate, was looking for a lost son. It was supposed that this Nate Duncan was Joe's father.
As nothing toward finding Mr. Duncan could then be done, Joe and Blake kept on toward the Indian country. A cowboy, Hank Selby, offered to accompany them, and they were glad he did.
They had many adventures before getting on the track of the Indians, and when they found them in a secret valley, and, concealed in a cave, began taking moving pictures, they discovered, as I have said, four white men in danger of torture.
How they rescued them, how the troopers came, and how one turned out to be Bill Duncan, Joe's half-uncle, I have mentioned in this book as well as in the second volume. And, on their way back to Big B ranch and to Flagstaff, the night attack had taken place.
"How are you making out, Blake?" asked Joe, as he worked at stacking up the boxes and bales into a sort of rude breastwork near the shelter tents.
"All right, Joe," was the answer. "I hope Hank makes the animals safe."
"He doesn't seem to be having much trouble. I can't see any of the Indians now."
"No, they're probably hiding down in the grass, waiting for a chance to make a raid. I wonder how many there are?"
"Quite a bunch, I should say, from the shooting. Here comes Hank now."
As he spoke, the cowboy appeared, leading by their long tether ropes the riding ponies and the pack animals. The steeds showed signs of their recent excitement. Had it not been for the alarm they gave they might have been stolen without our friends being any the wiser.
"See any of 'em, Hank?" questioned Joe.
"No, but they're there, all right. Boys, there may be some hot work ahead of us. You want to get ready for it."
"Do—do you think they'll shoot?" asked Blake.
"Well, they'll do their best to get our things away from us," was the answer. "They're desperate, I'm afraid."
Hank busied himself tethering the steeds nearer the temporary camp, while Joe and Blake finished their labors in building a defense against the possible rush of the redmen.
This was hardly finished, and they had scarcely collected a pile of brush to make a bright fire, if necessary, when there arose all around fierce shouts. At the same time there was a fusillade of shots; but, as far as could be seen, all the Indians were firing in the air.
"Look out!" yelled Hank. "They're going to rush us!"
Before he ceased speaking there was the sound of many feet running forward. The shooting and shouting redoubled in volume, and the restless animals tried to break loose.
"The imps!" cried Hank. "They're trying to stampede our animals, just as they did the cattle that time. Look out, boys!"
But nothing could be done against such numbers. The camp was overwhelmed in a daring raid, and though the boys and Hank did all they could, firing wildly in the air, they could not stand off the attack. Strangely enough, no effort was made to mistreat the boys or their companion. The Indians simply rushed over them and made for the pile of goods in the rear of the tents. They did not even seem to be after the horses.
"Stop 'em!" cried Blake. "They'll take all our things!"
"Our cameras!" yelled Joe. "They may break 'em!"
Hank had all he could do to restrain the wild steeds, which sought to break loose.
The rush was over almost as quickly as it had started. Off into the darkness disappeared the Indians, their shooting and yelling growing fainter and fainter.
"I saved the horses!" cried Hank.
"Yes, but they got a lot of our stuff!" exclaimed Blake. "Joe, throw some wood on the fire, so we can see what is missing!"
Blazing up brightly, after Joe had thrown some light sticks on the embers, the fire revealed a much disordered camp. The Indians had rushed over it as a squad of football players might tear through a rival eleven, leaving devastation in their wake. The only consolation was that Hank had managed to prevent the animals from stampeding, and the possession of their ponies, in a country where foot travel is almost out of the question, was a big factor.
"But they got almost everything else," said Blake, as he looked about the temporary camp.
"They made for the grub, that's sure," spoke Joe. "I guess they were hungry."
"But why they didn't try harder to make off with the horses is what I can't understand," spoke Blake, as he continued to make an examination of the damage done. "I thought that was what they were after."
"They were," declared Hank; "but I guess they realized that taking horses is a pretty serious crime out here. They knew that all sorts of efforts would be made to recapture 'em, and by men who would not be as gentle with 'em as Uncle Sam's soldiers. So I guess they decided to pass up the horses and only take some grub. That isn't so serious, especially as the poor beggars are probably well-nigh starving, having been away from their regular rations so long. Well, it might be worse, I suppose. They will hardly come back to-night, and I guess we can get a little rest when I picket these animals out again. We got off pretty lucky, I take it, for there was sure a big bunch of them."
"Lucky?" cried Blake. "I should say not. Look here!" and he pointed to the upset pile of boxes and bales, only a few of which were now left. "We have had the worst kind of bad luck!"
"How's that?" demanded Joe, hurrying to the side of his chum. The fire was brighter now. "What did they take?"
"Our reels of exposed film, for one thing!" cried Blake.
"What! Not our prize Indian pictures?" gasped Joe.
"That's what they did, Joe! Every one of those films we worked so hard to get is gone!"
"But what could the Indians want with them?" asked Joe. "They don't know how to develop 'em, and, even if they did, they would be of no use. They can't know what they are, but if the least ray of light gets into the boxes it means that the films are ruined!"
"That's right," assented Blake, hopelessly. "What can we do?"
"They probably didn't know they were taking your films, boys," spoke Hank, who had finished making fast the horses. "They very likely thought the boxes held some new kind of food, and they just grabbed up anything they could get their hands on. I reckon the beggars are nearly starving, and that's what made 'em so bold. You'll notice they didn't once fire at us—only up in the air. They just wanted to scare us."
"And they took our films, thinking they were something good to eat," murmured Blake.
"Yes. I'm not saying, though, that they didn't hope to stampede the animals; but they went wrong on that calculation, if they had it in mind."
"They have our films," continued Joe, in a sort of daze, so suddenly had the events of the last half-hour occurred. "What can we do?"
"Chase after 'em and get our stuff back!" exclaimed Blake, quickly. "I'm not going to stand that loss. They can have the grub if they want it, but I'm going to get back those films that we went to such trouble, and so much danger, to snap."
"But how are you going to do it?" asked Joe.
"Start in pursuit!" cried his chum with energy. "Come on, Hank, you can follow an Indian trail; can't you?"
"I sure can, when it's as broad as the one they'll be likely to leave. But not now."
"Why not?" asked Blake.
For answer the cowboy guide waved his hand toward the darkness all about. There seemed to be a haze over the sky, obscuring the stars.
"It would be worse than useless to start out on the chase now," said Hank. "We can't do anything until morning."
"But they'll be too far away then," objected Blake. "And, while it might do little harm if they opened those film boxes in the darkness, it sure would spoil every picture we took to have them exposed in daylight. Let's go now!" and he started toward the animals.
"No," and Hank shook his head. "I don't think you need worry about not catching those fellers in daylight," he went on. "They won't go far before stopping to eat the stuff they took from us. Then they'll have a sleep and start on the trail by daylight. We can do the same, and I think we can catch up with them. It would be risky to start out at night in a country we know so little about. We'll have to wait."
Blake sighed, but there was no help for it. The upset camp was put in some kind of shape, the horses were again looked to, and the fire once more replenished. The travelers carried an unusually large supply of provisions, and though most of these had been taken, there was still enough food left for a day or two. In that time they might be able to get more, if they could not recapture their own from the Indians.
"We'll start the first thing in the morning, as soon as it is light enough to see," decided Hank. "And now, if it's all the same to you boys, I'm going to have a bite to eat. That excitement made me hungry."
"Same here," confessed Joe, and soon they were all satisfying their appetites.
"Oh, but I do hope we can catch up with them and take those films away from 'em," murmured Blake, as he again sought his tent.
"We will," declared Joe, with conviction. "If we have to, I'll get word to my soldier uncle and have the troops chase 'em."
"The only trouble is that it might be too late," spoke Blake. "I'm afraid of the films getting light-struck. But I guess all we can do is to wait and trust to luck."
There was no further alarm that night, and after a hasty breakfast, eaten when it was hardly light enough to see, the remaining supplies and provisions were packed and the ponies saddled.
"I guess we can start now," exclaimed Hank, as he leaped to his steed. "It will soon be lighter. Forward, march!"
BACK TO "BIG B."
"Well, we haven't caught up to 'em yet," remarked Joe Duncan, about noon the next day, when they stopped for a little lunch and to allow the horses to drink at a water hole and rest.
"No, the beggars keep well ahead of us," agreed Blake, shading his eyes with his hand and gazing off across the hot, sunlit stretch that lay before them. "Oh, if they have opened those film boxes!" he exclaimed hopelessly.
"They have ponies, and that's more than I calculated on," remarked Hank. "I thought when they raided our camp that they were after our animals, and when they didn't take 'em I thought it was because they were afraid of being chased as horse-thieves by a sheriff's posse. Now I see they didn't want our mounts, as they had plenty of their own. It was grub they were after, and they got it."
"And our picture films," added Blake. "Don't forget that."
"That was only a mistake, I tell you," insisted Hank, "though, for that matter, the Indians wouldn't hesitate to take 'em just for fun, if they thought they could make trouble that way."
"And they will make a heap of trouble, too, I'm afraid," spoke Blake.
"Here now!" called Joe, in jollier tones. "Don't come any of that C. C. Piper business, Blake. Look on the bright side."
"Well, I suppose I ought to, but it's hard work."
They had traveled all that morning, hoping to come up with the roving band of Indians. But they had had no success.
Hank did pick up the trail of the raiders soon after starting out. The Indians had left their horses tethered some distance from the camp, and had crept up afoot, probably having spied Blake, Joe and Hank from afar the previous evening. And though the moccasined feet of the savages left little trace on the hard and sun-baked earth, there was enough "sign" for so experienced a trailer as was Hank to pick up.
Thus he had been led to where the horses had been left, and after that it was easy enough to follow the marks of the hoofs.
"There are about twenty-five in this band, as near as I can make out," said Hank, "and every one of 'em has a horse of some sort. Pretty good travelers, too, I take it, since our animals were fresh and we haven't been able to come up to 'em yet, though we've kept up a pretty fair gait. But we'll get 'em yet."
"If only it isn't too late," spoke Blake, whose one fear was that the valuable picture films would be spoiled. "Let's hurry on."
"Another little rest will do the horses good," said the cowboy guide. "Then we can push on so much the faster. Our horses are our best friends, and we've got to treat 'em right if we want the best service out of them. Another half-hour and we'll push on."
And, though Blake fretted and fumed at the delay, he knew it would not be best to insist on having his way. Soon, however, they were in the saddle again and once more in pursuit.
"The trail is getting fresher," declared Hank, about four o'clock that afternoon. "Their horses are tiring, I guess, and ours seem to be holding out pretty well."
"Which means——" began Joe.
"That we may get up to them before dark," went on the cowboy. "And then we'll see what happens."
"Will they run, do you think?" inquired Blake.
"They will as long as their horses hold out, for they must know that this ghost-dance business is about over and that most of their friends are back on the reservations. But when we come up to them——" and the cowboy paused and significantly examined his revolver.
"Does it mean a fight?" went on Blake, and he could not restrain a catch in his breath. It was one thing to have an Indian fight with some shelter, but different out in the open.
"Well, I hardly think it will be what you might call regular and up-to-date fighting," replied Hank. "They may fire their guns and revolvers at us to try and frighten us back, but I don't actually believe that they'll make trouble. They know the punishment would be too serious. And I believe a lot of those Indians have only blank cartridges that they had when they were in some Wild West show. I know there was mighty little whining of bullets, for all the shooting they did last night. But, at the same time," he went on, "it's best to be prepared for emergencies."
They continued on, and the boys had now become so used to the signs of the Indian trail that they could note the changes almost as well as could Hank.
Here they could see where a rest was made, and again where some animal went out of the beaten path. Bits of the Indians' finery, too, were noted every once in a while—a bit of gaudy bead trimming, a discarded moccasin or some dyed feathers.
"I do hope we come up with them before dark," said Joe. "If we have to stay out on the trail all night, and part of next day, we may find nothing left of our things and the pack burros when we reach camp again."
In order to make better time our friends had left behind, at the place where the Indians had raided them, the pack animals, their cameras, a few films not taken by the Indians, and as much of their provisions as they thought would not be needed on the trail.
"I think this evening will end it," declared Hank. "We might push on a little faster, as the going is good right here."
The horses were urged to greater speed, and they responded gamely. They seemed to realize the necessity for haste, and took advantage of the momentary betterment in the surface over which they were traveling.
The sun was sinking lower and lower in the west and the shadows were lengthening. Eagerly the boys and the cowboy scout peered ahead, straining their eyes for a glimpse of those whom they were pursuing. Then there came a bit of rough ground, and the pace was slower. Next followed a little rise, and, as this was topped, Blake, who had taken the lead for a short distance, uttered a cry and pointed forward with eager hand.
"What is it?" cried Joe and Hank together.
"There they are!" yelled Blake. "The Indians! Right below us! Come on!"
Riding to his side, the others saw a sharp descent, then a level plain stretching away for many miles. And moving slowly over this plain was a band of about twenty-five Indians, mounted on ponies that seemed scarcely able to move.
"That's them!" cried Hank, as he dug his heels into the sides of his horse. "At 'em, boys! A short, swift gallop will bring us up to 'em now, and then—well, we'll see what will happen!"
"Come on!" yelled Blake, and side by side the trio rode down into the valley, their animals seeming to take on new strength as they saw their quarry before them.
"They've noticed us!" exclaimed Blake.
"That's right!" agreed Hank. "Well, now to see if we can catch 'em!"
A movement amid the stragglers of the band told that they had glimpsed the approach of the whites. There was a distant shout, and at once the whole party was galloping off.
"They'll distance us!" cried Blake. "They're going to get away!"
"Not very far," was Hank's opinion. "Their horses are about done up. This is a last spurt."
His trained eye had shown him that the Indians were using quirts and their heels to spur the tired animals to a last burst of speed. True, the ponies did leap ahead for a few minutes; but not even the wild shouting of the redmen, the frantic beating of their steeds, and the firing of their guns could make the wearied muscles of the ponies respond for long.
The spurt lasted only a few seconds, and then came a noticeable slowing down. On the contrary, the horses of our friends, though they had traveled far and hard, were in better condition and much fresher.
"Come on!" cried Hank, rising in his stirrups and swinging his hat around his head, while he sent forth yells of defiance. "Come on, boys! We have 'em!"
He, too, began to shoot, but in the air as before, and the boys followed his example. Their horses were shortening the distance between the two parties.
Suddenly one of the Indians was observed to toss something from him. It fell to the ground and rolled to one side of the trail.
"What's that?" cried Joe.
"One of the boxes of exposed film!" cried Blake. "They know what we're after. Oh, if only it isn't damaged!"
"We can soon tell!" cried Hank, taking the lead. Then he yelled, between reports of his revolver:
"Hi there! you red beggars, give up! Drop that stuff you took from our camp! You haven't any of the grub left, I suppose, but we want those pictures! Drop 'em!"
Whether his talk was understood, or not, was not known; but others of the Indians began tossing away either boxes of film or other things—aside from food—which they had taken from the camp. They never stopped their horses, though, but ever urged on the tired beasts.
"Here's the first reel!" cried Blake, as he came up to where it lay. Quickly dismounting, he picked it up.
"Not hurt a bit!" he cried exultantly; "and the seals haven't been broken, showing that it hasn't been opened."
"Good!" cried Hank. "You go slow and pick up what you can, and Joe and I will chase after the Indians. Evidently they're going to run for it."
And it did seem so. The Indians never paused, but continued to toss away article after article. They seemed afraid of the consequences should they be caught with anything belonging to the whites in their possession. They may have taken Hank and the boys for the advance-guard of a sheriff's posse, and, knowing they had been doing wrong, were afraid. At any rate they made no stand.
"I've got 'em all!" finally yelled Blake.
"Then there's no use chasing after 'em any farther," said Hank. "Hold on, Joe," for the boy was pushing on.
The horses of the pursuers were pulled down to a walk. The Indians noticed this at once, and, seeming to realize that the chase was over, they halted, and, turning, gazed in a body at the moving picture boys and their cowboy guide.
"Had enough, I reckon," murmured Hank. "I guess you can't go on much farther. Well, we'll turn back a ways and put some miles between us, so you won't try any of your tricks again, and then we'll go into camp ourselves. Got everything, Blake?"
"Yes, every reel of film, and not one has been opened, by good luck. Maybe they thought it was powerful 'medicine,' and didn't want to run any chances."
"We don't care, as long as we have 'em back," remarked Joe, gleefully. "And now for a good rest."
They turned back, and as they did so the Indians gave a last shout of defiance and began to make camp for themselves. It was as if a lot of schoolboys, playing truant, had been rounded up, and as a last indication of defiance had given their class yell.
"Good riddance to you," remarked Hank. "I don't want to see you again for a good many years."
Collecting the things the Indians had thrown away, our friends rode on until dark, and then, out of sight of the roving redmen, they made a simple camp. They stood guard by turns, but there was no night alarm. The next day they reached the place where they had picketed the pack animals. Nothing had been disturbed.
"And now for Big B ranch!" exclaimed Blake, when once more the little cavalcade was under way.
"And glad enough I'll be to see it!" said Hank; "though I sure will miss you fellows."
"The same here," echoed Joe, and Blake nodded in accord.
They traveled on for another day, finding good water and plenty of grazing for the steeds. Their provisions ran a bit low, for the Indians had helped themselves liberally, but they managed to shoot some small game.
And, on the second day after parting from the Indians, they topped a rise, from the height of which Hank cried:
"There she is, boys!"
"What?" asked Blake.
"Big B ranch! We're back in civilization again!"
A NEW KIND OF DRAMA
"And so you really got what you went for; eh, boys?" asked Mr. Alden, proprietor of Big B ranch, as the trio rode in. "Well, you had luck."
"Both kinds—good and bad," remarked Hank, as he told how, after getting the rare films, they had nearly been lost again.
"And you rescued your enemies, too? What became of Munson?"
"Oh, he and his crowd went off by themselves," explained Blake. "They felt badly about us beating them."
"I've got a surprise for you, Joe," went on the proprietor.
"What sort?" asked the lad, eagerly; "is my father——?"
"No, not that; but Sam Reed is back here again, and he can tell you what you want to know. He came the day after you left."
"But I did better than that!" exclaimed Joe. "I met my uncle, and I'm soon going to find my father, I hope," and he related his meeting with the trooper.
"Good!" cried Mr. Alden. "Here comes Sam now. I told him you might be along soon," and he turned to introduce a rather shiftless-looking cowboy who sauntered up.
"Pleased to meet you," said Sam Reed. "I never cal'lated when I writ that there letter that I'd ever see you in flesh and blood. I've got your pictures, though," and he showed those that had appeared in a magazine, giving an account of the work of Joe and Blake.
As might have been expected, Sam knew nothing of Joe's father. The best the cowboy had hoped to do was to put the boy on the track of Mr. William Duncan, and, considering that Joe's uncle, as I shall call him—though he was really only a half-uncle—had enlisted in the army, Mr. Reed would probably have had hard work to carry out his plans.
"Well, I'm glad you met your relative, anyhow," said Sam to Joe; "and I wish you luck in looking for your father. So he's somewhere on the southern California coast?"
"Yes, in one of the lighthouses," explained Joe. "My uncle didn't know exactly where, but I can easily find out from the government office when I get on the coast."
The boys were made welcome again at Big B ranch, and talked over once more the exciting time that had happened to them there when the Indians stampeded the cattle.
"Here are the films you left with me," said Mr. Alden, giving the boys those they had made of the cattle stampede and of the cowboys doing their stunts. "And so you got other good ones?"
"Yes, fine ones," replied Blake. "And we must soon be getting back to Flagstaff. We have stayed away longer than we meant to, and Mr. Hadley and Mr. Ringold may need our services."
But the boys at the ranch would not hear of their starting for a few days, and so Joe and Blake stayed on, being royally entertained. They witnessed a round-up and the branding of cattle, but could get no pictures, as their films were all used up. However, the subjects had often been filmed before, so there was no great regret.
Then came a time when they had to say farewell, and they turned their horses' heads toward Flagstaff. The cowboys gave them a parting salute of cheers and blank cartridges, riding madly around meanwhile.
"It reminds me of the Indian attack," said Blake.
"Yes," assented Joe. "I wonder if we'll go through another scare like that?"
"I hope not," spoke his chum; but, though they did not know it, they were destined to face many more perils in the pursuit of their chosen calling.
The ride to Flagstaff from Big B ranch was without incident. It was through a fairly well settled part of the country, as settlements go in Arizona, and they made it in good time. Joe often talked about the strange fate that had put him on the track of his father.
"I wonder what kind of a man he'll be?" he often said to his chum.
"The best ever!" Blake would answer; "that is, if he's anything like you—and I think he must be."
"That's very nice of you, and I hope he does turn out to be what I wish him to be. I can't even picture him in my mind, though."
"Well, I should think he'd be something like your uncle—even if they were only half-brothers."
"If he is, I suppose it will be all right, though Uncle Bill is a little too wild to suit me. I'd want my father to be more settled in life."
"Well, it won't be a great while before you know," consoled Blake.
The boys received a royal welcome from Mr. Hadley and the members of the theatrical troupe.
"Oh, but it's good to see you back!" exclaimed Birdie Lee to Blake, as she shook hands with him, and if he held her fingers a little longer than was necessary I'm sure it's none of our affair.
"So you didn't get scalped, after all?" remarked C. C., gloomily, as he surveyed the boys. "Well, you will next time, or else they will hold you as captives."
"Oh, stop it, Gloomy!" called Miss Shay. "What do you want to spoil their welcome for, just as we have a little spread arranged for them?" for she had gotten one up on the spur of the moment, on sighting the boys.
"A spread, eh? Humph, I know I'll get indigestion if I eat any of it. Oh, life isn't worth living, anyhow!" and he sighed heavily and proceeded to practice making new comical faces at himself in a looking-glass.
"Well, I'm glad you boys are back," said Mr. Ringold a little later at the impromptu feast, at which C. C. ate as much as anyone and with seemingly as good an appetite. "Yes," went on the theatrical manager, "I shall need you and Mr. Hadley right along, now. I am going to produce a new kind of drama."
"I—er—I'm afraid I can't be with you," said Joe, hesitatingly. "I am at last on the track of my father, and I must find him."
"Where is he?" asked Mr. Ringold, when the lad had told his story.
"Somewhere on the Southern California coast. In a lighthouse—just where I can't say. But I am going there, and so you will have to get some one else, Mr. Ringold, to take my place. Blake can stay here, of course, and make moving pictures, but I——"
"I'm going with you," said his chum, simply.
There was a moment's silence, and then the theatrical manager exclaimed:
"Well, say, this just fits in all right. There's no need for any of us to be separated, for I intend taking my whole company to the coast to get a new series of sea dramas. The Southern California coast will suit me as well as any.
"Joe, you can't shake me that way. We'll all go together, and you'll have plenty of chance to locate your father!"
ON THE COAST
The announcement of Mr. Ringold was followed by a silence, during which Joe and Blake looked at each other. It seemed like too much good fortune to learn that they would still have the company of their friends in this new quest.
"Do you really mean that?" asked Joe. "You're not saying it just to help us out; are you, Mr. Ringold?"
"No. What makes you think that?"
"Because it seems too good to be true. I wouldn't like anything better than to go with your company and make pictures."
"The same here," added Blake.
"And if, at the same time, I can locate my father," went on Joe, "so much the better, though I don't imagine I will have any trouble finding him, once I can communicate with the government lighthouse board, and learn where he is stationed. They have a list of all employees, I imagine."
"Yes, I think so," spoke Mr. Hadley. "As you say, it will be easy to locate him. And, boys, I'm very glad you're going to be with us again. I wouldn't like to break in two new lads, and we will certainly need three photographers to take all the scenes in the sea dramas that are planned."
"Will we have to go very far to sea?" asked Macaroni, who was among those who had greeted the moving picture boys. The lads' thin assistant had been kept busy assisting Mr. Hadley while they were after the Indians. "Because if it's very far out on the ocean wave I don't believe I want to go; I'm very easily made seasick."
"Oh, we can arrange to keep you near shore," said the theatrical man, with a laugh.
"He may be drowned, even near shore," put in C. C., with his most gloomy voice; though he was, at the same time, practicing some new facial contortions that were sending the women members of the troupe into spasms of laughter.
"Oh, there you go, Gloomy!" exclaimed Mr. Hadley. "First we know you'll be saying we'll all be smashed in a train wreck going to the coast; or, if not, that we'll be carried off by a tidal wave as soon as we get there."
"It might happen," spoke the gloomy comedian, as though both accidents were possible at the same time.
"And it may rain—but not to-day," put in Miss Shay, with a look at the hot, cloudless sky.
"Then it's all settled," went on Mr. Ringold. "It is understood, Joe, that you can have considerable time, if you need it, to locate your father. The dramas I intend to film will extend over a considerable time, and they can be made whenever it is most convenient. After all, I think it is a good thing that we are going to the Southern California coast. The climate there will be just what we want, and the sunlight will be almost constant."
"I'm sure I'm much obliged to you," said Joe. "This trip after the Indian films cost us more than we counted on, and we'll be glad of a chance to make more money. We're down pretty low; aren't we, Blake?"
"I'm afraid so. But then, we may get that prize money, and that will help a lot."
"That's so," put in Mr. Hadley. "You had better have those films developed, and send them to the geographical society. I wouldn't ship them undeveloped, for they might be light-struck. You were lucky the Indians didn't spoil them."
The boys decided to do this, and during the next few days the reels of moving pictures were developed, and some positives printed from them. While the lads had been after the Indians Mr. Ringold had sent for a complete, though small, moving picture outfit, and with this some of the pictures were thrown on a screen.
"They're the finest I've ever seen!" declared Mr. Hadley, after inspecting them critically. "That charge of the soldiers can't be beaten, and as for the Indian dances, they are as plain as if we were right on the ground. You'll get the prize, I'm sure; especially since you're the only ones who got any views, as I understand it."
Mr. Hadley proved a good prophet, for in due time, after the films reached New York, came a letter from the geographical society, enclosing a substantial check for the two boys.
The films were excellent, it was stated, and just what were needed. One other concern, aside from Mr. Munson's, and the one the latter mentioned, which had gone to Indian land, had succeeded in getting a few views of the Indians in another part of the State, but they were nowhere near as good as those Blake and Joe had secured after such trouble and risk. The attempt to get phonographic records had been a failure, the officers of the society wrote, though another attempt would be made if ever the Indians again broke from their reservations.
"And if they do," spoke Blake, "I'm not going to chase after them."
"Me, either," decided Joe. "I've had enough. Now the sooner we can get to the coast the better I'll like it. Just think, my father must be as anxious to see me as I am to find him; but as near as I can understand it, he doesn't even know that I am alive. Think of that!"
"It is rather hard," said Blake, sympathetically. "But it won't be long now. I heard Mr. Ringold say we would start soon."
There were a few scenes in some of the dramas enacted in Arizona that yet needed to be filmed, and Joe and Blake helped with this work, Macaroni assisting them and Mr. Hadley.
"And after this, nearly all our work will have to do with the sea," said the theatrical man. "I want to depict it in all its phases; showing it calm, and during a storm, the delights of it, as well as the perils of the deep."
Before leaving Flagstaff it was decided to give a few exhibitions of some of the moving pictures, so that the residents there, and a number of the cowboys and Indians who had taken part in the plays, might see how they looked on the screen. A suitable building was obtained, and it was crowded at every performance.
The Indians were at first frightened, thinking it was some new and powerful kind of "medicine" that might have a bad effect on them. With one accord, when the film the boys had taken, showing the charge of the soldiers on the Moquis, was put on, the redmen rushed from the building. And it was some time before they could be induced to return.
"Say, there's my uncle, as plain as anything!" exclaimed Joe, when the excitement had calmed down, and the reel was run over again. "There's Sergeant Duncan, close to Captain Marsh!" and he indicated where the trooper was riding beside the commander of the cavalry.
"That's right," agreed Blake, as the pictures flickered over the screen, the figures being almost life size. "And he looks like you, too."
"I wonder if my father looks like that?" said Joe, softly.
There were busy days ahead of them all now, and there was much work to be done in transporting all the "properties" to the coast, and arranging to move the picture outfit, the cameras and the entire company. The boys had little leisure, but Joe managed to get a letter off to the government lighthouse board, asking for news of his father, Nathaniel Duncan.
In reply he got a communication stating that a Mr. Duncan was stationed as assistant keeper at a light near San Diego, and not far from Point Loma.
"That's where we want to head for, then," said Joe, as he talked the matter over with his chum. "I wonder if that will suit Mr. Ringold?"
It did, as the theatrical manager stated, when the subject was broached to him. Accordingly arrangements were made to ship everything there.
The day came to bid farewell to Flagstaff, which had been the stopping place of the theatrical troupe for several months. They had made many friends, and the Indians had become so used to taking their parts in the dramas, and in getting good pay for it, that they were very sorry to see the "palefaces" leave. So, too, were the cowboys, many of whom had become very friendly with our heroes and the theatrical people.
"But we've got to go," said Blake, as he shook hands with his acquaintances.
"Indeed, if we didn't leave soon," said Joe, "I'd be tempted to start off by myself. I've sent a letter to my dad, telling him all about how strangely I found him, and I'm just aching to see him. I guess he'll be pretty well surprised to get it."
"I should imagine so," agreed Blake.
"One last round-up to say good-bye!" cried one of the cowboys, as the party started away from the quarters they had occupied. "Everybody get in on this. Whoop her up, boys!"
He leaped to his steed, flourished his hat, and began riding around in a circle, firing his big revolver at intervals.
"That's the ticket!" shouted the others, as they followed his example.
Soon two score of the light-hearted chaps were riding around the little crowd of the boys and their friends, saluting them, and saying farewell in this lively fashion.
"Whoop her up!"
"Never say die!"
"Come again, and we'll exterminate a whole band of redskins for you!"
"And have a cattle stampede made to order any day you want!"
These were only a few of the many expressions from the cowboys.
"Say, if they don't kill themselves, they'll make us deaf, with all that noise," predicted C. C.
"This isn't a funeral," declared Mr. Hadley. "It's a jolly occasion, Gloomy Gus!"
"Huh! Jolly? First you know some one will be hurt."
But no one was, in spite of the direful predictions, and soon the cowboys drew off, with final shots from their revolvers, discharging them in the air. The Indians, too, had their share in the farewell, though they were not so demonstrative as were their companions.
"And now for the coast!" cried Blake, as they reached the train.
"And my dad," added Joe, and there was a trace of tears in his eyes, which he did not attempt to conceal. Blake knew just how his chum felt, and he found himself wishing that he, too, was going to find some relative. But he knew the only one he had was his aged uncle.
Little of incident occurred on the trip to San Diego, which had been decided on as headquarters until a suitable location, away from any town, could be selected directly on the ocean beach. I say little of moment, but C. C. was continually predicting that something would happen, from a real hold-up to a train wreck.
"And if that doesn't happen, a bridge will go go down with us," he said.
But nothing of the kind occurred, and finally the boys and their friends reached the coast, going to the boarding place they had engaged.
"And there's the old Pacific!" exclaimed Joe, as he and Blake went down to the shore of the bay on which San Diego stands. "It isn't very rough, however, and Mr. Ringold said he wanted tumbling waves as a background."
"It gets rough at times, though," remarked a fisherman. "Of course, if you want to see big waves you'll have to go beyond this bay. It's pretty well land-locked. Oh, yes, the old Pacific isn't always as peaceful as her name."
AT THE LIGHTHOUSE
The two boys talked for some time with the old fisherman, and then Blake whispered to Joe:
"Why don't you ask him where the lighthouse is where your father is supposed to be, and the best way of getting to it?"
"I will," replied his chum.
"The Rockypoint light?" repeated the fisherman, in response to Joe's inquiry. "Why yes, I know it well. It's only a few miles from here. You can see her flash on a clear night, but you can't make out the house itself, even on a clear day, because she's down behind that spur of coast. From the ocean, though, she's seen easily enough."
"And how can we get there?" asked Blake.
"Well, you can walk right down the beach, though it's a middlin' long tramp; or you can go back to town, and hire a rig."
"We'll walk," decided Joe. "Do you happen to know of a Mr. Duncan there?" He waited anxiously for the answer.
"No, lad, I can't rightly say I do," said the fisherman. "I know the keeper, Harry Stanton, and, now I come to think of it, I did hear the other day that he had a new assistant."
"That's him!" cried Joe, eagerly.
"My father, I hope," was the reply, and in his joy Joe told something of his story.
"Well, you sure have spun a queer yarn," said the old fisherman, "and I wish you all sorts of luck. You'll soon be at the light if you go right down the beach. I'd row you down in my dory, only I've just come in from taking up my nets and I'm sort of tired."
"Oh, we wouldn't think of asking you," put in Blake. "We can easily walk it."
"Some day I'll take you out fishing," promised the man. "And so you're here to get moving pictures; eh? Well, I don't know much about 'em, but you couldn't come to a nicer place than this spot on the coast. And you only have to go a little way to get right where the real surf comes smashing up on the beach. Of course, as I said, we're so land-locked just here that we don't see much of it, even in a storm. Moving pictures; eh? I'd like to see some."
"I guess you can be in them, if you want to," said Blake. "I heard Mr. Ringold say he had one drama that called for a lot of fishermen."
"Me in moving pictures!" cried the old man. "Ho! Ho! I wonder what my wife'd say to that. I've been in lots of queer situations. I've been knocked overboard by a whale, I've been wrecked, and half drowned, and almost starved, but I've never been in a picture, except I once had a tintype taken—that was when I was married," and he chuckled at the remembrance. "These movin' pictures aren't like tintypes; are they?"
"Not much," laughed Joe, as he and Blake moved off in the direction of the lighthouse, calling a good-bye to their new friend. They had told Mr. Hadley, in starting out that morning, that they might not be back until late, for Joe had a half notion that he would try to find the lighthouse that day.
"I wonder what I shall say to him, when I first see him, Blake?" Joe asked, as they trudged along.
"Why—er—I hardly know," replied his chum. "I never found a lost father, myself."
"And I never did, either. I guess I'll just say: 'Hello, Dad; do you know me?'"
"That sounds all right," said Blake. "He sure will be surprised."
The walk was longer than they had thought, and when noon came they still had some distance to go. As they were hungry they sought out a fisherman's cottage, where, for a small sum, they had a fine meal. Starting out again, they turned an intervening point of land about three o'clock, and then came in view of a lighthouse, located on a pile of rocks, not far from the high-water mark.
"That's the place," said Blake, in a low voice.
"Yes," agreed Joe. "It looks comfortable and homelike, too."
Back of the lighthouse was a small garden, and also a flower bed, and a man could be seen working there. His back was toward the boys.
"I—I wonder if that's him—my father?" said Joe, softly. "He seems to be very old," for they had a glimpse of a long white beard, and the man seemed to be bent with the weight of many years.
"Go up and ask," said Blake. "I'll wait here."
"No, I want you to come with me," insisted his chum. "You were with me when I first heard the good news, and now I want you along to hear the conclusion of it. Come on, Blake."
"No, I'd rather not," and nothing Joe could say would induce his chum to accompany him.
Their talk had been carried on in low voices, and the aged man, working in the garden, had apparently not heard them. He continued to hoe away among the rows.
"Well, here goes!" exclaimed Joe, with a sigh. Now that he felt he was at the end of his quest his sensations were almost as sorrowful as joyful. In fact, he did not know exactly how he did feel.
Walking up toward the old man, he paused, and then coughed slightly to attract his attention. The lighthouse keeper turned, surveyed the boy and in a pleasant voice asked:
"If—if you—are you my father?" asked Joe, in trembling voice, holding out his hands.
"Your father!" cried the man in unmistakable surprise. "What is your name?"
"Joe Duncan? Did Duncan have a son?"
"Yes, and I'm the boy!" went on Joe, eagerly, yet a doubt began creeping into his heart. "But are you Mr. Nathaniel Duncan?"
The old man paused a moment, and then said gently:
"No, my boy. I'm Harry Stanton, keeper of Rockypoint light."
"But my father!" exclaimed Joe. "I understood he was here! Where is he?"
"He was here," went on Mr. Stanton, as he leaned on his hoe and looked compassionately at the lad standing before him; "but he went away more than a week ago."
"Gone away!" echoed Joe. "Did he—did he get my letter?"
"I don't know whether it was your letter or not," said the keeper. "One came for him the day after he left. It's here yet. It was from Flagstaff, Arizona, I believe."
"That's my letter!" exclaimed Joe. "And he never got it! Poor Dad, he doesn't yet know that I'm alive!" and he turned away with tears in his eyes.
BLAKE LEARNS A SECRET
Blake, looking on from a little distance, saw Joe turn aside from the aged man.
"That's rather queer," thought the lad. "If that was his father it isn't a very cordial welcome."
As he looked, he saw Joe walking out of the garden.
"Queerer still," Blake mused. "Even if that isn't Mr. Duncan, he must be somewhere around, for lighthouse keepers can't be very far away from their station, as I understand it."
Joe came walking toward his chum. His face showed his disappointment so unmistakably that Blake called out:
"What's the matter, Joe?"
"He's gone—he isn't here! He never got my letter!"
"Where has he gone?" asked Blake, always practical.
"I—I don't know. I didn't ask."
"Look here, Joe!" exclaimed his chum. "I guess you're too excited over this. You let me make some inquiries for you. Suppose he has gone? We may be able to trace him. Men in the lighthouse service get transferred from one place to another just as soldiers do, I imagine. Now you sit down here and look at the sad sea waves, as C. C. would say if he were here, and I'll go tackle that lighthouse keeper. You were too flustered to get any clues, I expect."
"I guess I was," admitted Joe. "When I found he wasn't there I didn't know what to do. I didn't feel like asking any questions."
Blake placed his arm around his chum's shoulder, patted him on the back, and started toward the aged man, who was still leaning on his hoe, looking in mild surprise at the two lads.
"I'll find out all about it," called back Blake.
"Ha! Another boy!" exclaimed Mr. Stanton, as Blake approached. "I didn't know this was going to be visiting day, or I might have put on my other suit," and he laughed genially. "Are you another son of Mr. Duncan?" he asked.
"No," replied Blake. "I'm Joe's chum. We're in the moving picture business together. But he says his father has left, and, as he naturally feels badly, I thought I'd make some inquiries for him, so we can locate him. Do you know where Mr. Duncan went?"
"No—I can't say that I do," was the slow answer. "And so you are chums; eh?"
"Yes, and we have been for some years."
"That's nice. You tell each other all your secrets, I suppose?"
"Well, most of 'em."
"Never hold anything back?"
"Why, what do you mean?" asked Blake, for there seemed to be a strange meaning in the old man's voice.
"I mean, lad," and the lighthouse keeper's tones sank to a whisper; "I mean, if I tell you something, can you keep it from him?"
"Why—yes—I suppose so," spoke Blake, wonderingly. "But what is the matter? Isn't his father here?"
"No, he's gone, just as I told him. But look here—he seems a nice sort of lad, and I didn't want to hurt his feelings. I'd rather tell you, as long as you're his chum, and if you can keep a secret."
He looked to where Joe was sitting on the rocks, watching the waves roll lazily up the beach and break. Joe was far enough off so that the low-voiced conversation could not reach him.
"I can keep a secret if I have to," replied Blake. "But what is it all about? Is Mr. Duncan—is he—dead?"
The old man hesitated, and, for a moment, Blake thought that his guess was correct. Then the aged man said slowly:
"No, my boy, he isn't dead; but maybe, for the sake of his son, he had better be. At any rate, it's better, all around, that he's away from here."
"Why?" asked Blake quickly. "Tell me what you mean!"
"That I will, lad, and maybe you can figure a way out of the puzzle. I'm an old man, and not as smart as I was, so my brain doesn't work quickly. Maybe you can find a way out. Come inside where we can talk so he won't hear us," and he nodded toward the quiet figure of Joe on the beach.
Blake wondered more than ever what the disclosure might be. He followed the aged man into the living quarters of the house attached to the light tower.
"Sit ye there, lad," went on Mr. Stanton, "and I'll tell you all about it. Maybe you can find a way out."
He paused, as if to gather his thoughts, and then resumed:
"You see I'm pretty old, and I have to have an assistant at this light. I expect soon I'll have to give up altogether. But I'm going to hang on as long as I can. I've had three assistants in the last year, and one of 'em, as you know now, was Nathaniel Duncan, Joe's father. Before him I had a likely young fellow named—ah, well, I've forgotten, and the name doesn't matter much anyhow. But when he left the board sent me this Duncan, and I must say I liked him right well."
"What sort of a man was he?" asked Blake.
"A nice sort of man. He was about middle aged, tall, well built, and strong as a horse. He looked as if he had had trouble, though, and gradually he told me his story. His wife had died when his boy and girl were young——"
"Girl! Was there a girl?" cried Blake. "Has Joe a sister, too?"
"He had—whether he has yet, I don't know," went on Mr. Stanton. "I'll tell you all I know.
"As I said, Nate Duncan seemed to have had lots of sorrow, and he told me how, after his wife died, he had placed the boy and girl in charge of some people, and gone off to the California mines to make some money. When he come back, rich, the children had disappeared, and so had the people he left 'em with. He never could locate 'em, though he tried hard, and so did his half-brother, Bill. But Bill was different from Nate, so I understand. Bill was a reckless sort of chap, while Joe's father was quite steady."
"That's right," spoke Blake, and then he related how Joe had come to get a trace of his father.
"Well," resumed Mr. Stanton, "as I said, Duncan came here, and he and I got along well together. Then there came trouble."
"Trouble? What kind?" asked Joe.
"Trouble with wreckers, lad. The meanest and most wicked kind of trouble there can be on a seacoast. A band of bad men got together and by means of false lights lured small vessels out of their course so they went on the rocks. Then they got what they could when the cargo was washed ashore."
"But what has that got to do with Joe's father?" asked Blake.
"Too much, I'm afraid, lad. It was said that the light here was allowed to go out some nights, so the false light would be more effective."
"Well, Nate Duncan had charge of the light at night after I went off duty. And it was always when I was off duty that the wrecks occurred."
"Do you mean to accuse Joe's father of being in with the wreckers?"
"No, lad. I don't accuse anybody; I'm too old a man to do anything like that. But ugly stories began to be circulated. Government inspectors began to call more often than they used to, inspecting my light—my light, that I've tended nigh onto twenty-five years now. I began to hear rumors that my assistant wasn't altogether straight. He was said to be seen consorting with the wreckers, though it was hard to get proof that the men were wreckers, for they pretended to be fishermen.
"Then come a day when, with my own eyes, I saw Nate Duncan walking along the beach with one of the men who was said to be at the head of the wrecking gang. I could see that they were quarreling, and then Nate knocked the man down. He didn't get up right away, for, as I said, Nate was strong. I knew something would come of that, and I wasn't much surprised when that day Nate disappeared."
"Disappeared?" cried Blake.
"Went off completely, and left me alone at the light. I tended it all night, same as I had done before, many a time, and the next day I reported matters, and I had a new assistant—the same one I have now."
"But that doesn't prove anything," said Blake. "Just because Joe's father, and a man suspected of being a wrecker, had a quarrel, doesn't say that Mr. Duncan was a wrecker, too."
"There's more to it," went on the old man. "The day after Nate Duncan disappeared detectives came here looking for him."
Blake started. There was more to the story than he had suspected. He looked at Mr. Stanton, and glanced out of the window to where Joe still sat.
"So that's why I say maybe it would be better for Joe if his father was dead," went on Mr. Stanton. "Disgrace is a terrible thing, and I couldn't bear to tell Joe, when he asked me about his father."
"But where did he go?" asked Blake. "Didn't he leave any trace at all?"
"Not a trace, lad—folks most generally doesn't when the detectives are after 'em. Hold on, though, I won't say Nate was guilty on my own hook. I'm only telling you what happened. I'd hate to believe he was a wrecker, misusing this light to draw vessels on the dangerous rocks; but it looks black, it looks black."
"Did the detectives actually accuse Mr. Duncan?" asked Blake.
"Well, they as much as did. They said some of the wreckers had been arrested, and had incriminated the assistant light-keeper. But Duncan was smart enough—provided he was guilty—to skip out. As I told Joe, his father left just before the letter from Flagstaff came, so he doesn't know his son is alive. Poor man, I'm sorry for him. He told me how he had searched all over for his children, and at last, becoming tired and discouraged, he took this job just to have something to do, for he's well enough off not to have to work."
"And there's no way of telling where he went?" questioned Blake.
"Nary a one that I know of, lad. As I said, maybe he's better off lost."
"Not for Joe."
"Well, maybe not; but for himself. There are heavy penalties for wrecking, and it's well he wasn't caught, though, as I say, I don't accuse him. Only it looks black, it looks black. If he was innocent why didn't he stay and fight it out? Yes, lad, it looks black."
"I'm afraid so," sighed Blake. "How can I ever tell Joe the news?"
"You mustn't!" exclaimed the old man. "That's just it. You must not tell him. I'd hate to destroy his faith in his father. It would be cruel. That's why I asked if you could keep a secret. You won't tell him; will you?"
"No," said Blake, in a low voice; "I won't tell him."
There was silence between man and boy for a space, and then Blake, understanding how hard it would be to keep the news from Joe, said:
"I'll have to tell him something, Mr. Stanton. Joe will want to know why his father went away, and where. Isn't there any way in which we may get a clue to the direction he took?"
"Wait a minute until I think, lad," said the old man. "It may be that we can find a clue, after all. Nate Duncan left some papers behind. I haven't looked at 'em, not wishing to make trouble, but there may be a clue there. I'll get 'em."
"And I'll call Joe in to go over them with me," said Blake. "He'll want to see them."
"But, mind you, not a word about what I've told you."
"No, I'll keep quiet," promised Blake. "I'll call him in, while you get the papers."
Going to the door of the little cottage, Blake called to his chum.
"What is it?" asked Joe, eagerly. "Was there some mistake? Is my father somewhere around here, after all?"
"Well, we hope to find him," said Blake, with an assurance he did not feel. "Look here, Joe, your father went away rather suddenly, it seems, but you mustn't think anything about that. He's been traveling all over, you know, looking for you and your sister——"
"Sister?" cried Joe.
"Yes, you had a sister, though I can't get much information about her. Neither could your uncle tell you, as you remember."
"That's right. Oh, if I could only find dad and her!" and Joe sighed. "But maybe she isn't alive."
"It's this way," went on Blake, and he told as much of the lighthouse keeper's story as was wise, keeping from Joe all information about the wreckers. "Now, your father may have heard of some new clue about you," continued Joe's chum, "and he may have gone to hunt that up," which was true enough, for with the warning that he was likely to be arrested as a criminal, there may have come to Mr. Duncan some information about his missing children.
"But in that case," asked Joe, "why didn't he leave some word as to where he was going?"
"He may have been in too much of a hurry," suggested Blake, realizing that he was going to have considerable difficulty in keeping Joe from guessing the truth.
"Well, perhaps that's so," agreed the lad. "But maybe Mr. Stanton has some clues."
The lighthouse keeper came downstairs at this moment with a bundle of papers in his hand.
"Here is all I found," he said. "It isn't much, but among the things he left behind is the letter you wrote," and he extended to Joe the missive the lad had penned in such hope at Flagstaff.
"Poor Dad," murmured Joe. "I wonder if he will ever get this?"
Together he and Blake looked over the documents. As the keeper had said, there was not much. Some memoranda, evidently made as different clues came to him; paid bills, some business letters, a few notes, and that was all.
"What's this?" exclaimed Blake, as he read one letter. "It seems to be from some shipping agent in San Francisco, saying he can place—why, Joe, it's to your father, and it says he can have a place as mate any time he wants it. Was he a sailor?" he asked, eagerly, turning to the keeper.
"So I understood."
"Then this is the very thing we're looking for!" cried Blake. "Look, it is dated only a short time before he left. I see now," and he gave the lighthouse keeper a peculiar look, when Joe was not glancing in his direction. "Mr. Duncan got word that he could ship as a mate, and he left in a hurry."
"Maybe so," assented Mr. Stanton.
"Perhaps he had some new clue about you, Joe, or possibly about your sister," suggested Blake, hoping his chum would come to take this view.
"Maybe," assented Joe. "But it's queer he didn't leave some word, or tell someone he was going."
"He may not have had time," went on Blake. "Vessels have to sail in a hurry, lots of times, and he may have had to act quickly."
"It's possible," admitted the keeper.
"Then I'll tell you what we'll do," continued Blake. "We'll go to San Francisco the first chance we get, and see this shipping agent. He may be able to put us on the right track."
"I guess it's the only thing to do," agreed Joe, in despondent tones. "Poor Dad! I nearly found him, and then I lost him again."
They looked over the other papers. None offered as promising a clue as did the agent's letter, and this Joe took with him, also his own to his father.
"Maybe I'll get a chance to deliver it to him myself," he said, with a smile that had little of hope in it.
There was nothing more to be learned at the lighthouse. The boys left, after thanking the keeper, and promising to come and see him again. As they went out Mr. Stanton gave Blake a little sign, warning him not to disclose the secret.
"Well, failure number one," said Joe, as they took a carriage back to San Diego, it being rather late.
"Yes, but we'll win out yet!" declared Blake, with a confidence he did not feel. "We'll find your father and your sister, too."
"I'll have more relations than you, Blake, if I keep on, and can find them," said Joe, after a bit.
"That's right. Well, I wish you luck," and Blake wondered if Joe would be glad he had found his father, after all. "Wrecking is a black business," mused the lad. "But, like Mr. Stanton, I'm not going to think Joe's father guilty until I have to. I wonder, though, if the story is known about San Diego? If it is I'll have trouble keeping it from Joe."
But Joe's chum found he had little to fear on this score, for, on getting back to the quarters of the theatrical troupe, the boys were told that the next day they would all take up their residence in a small seacoast settlement, out on the main ocean beach, away from the land-locked bay and where bigger waves could be pictured.
"And there we'll enact the first of the sea dramas," said Mr. Ringold.
"And all get drowned," murmured C. C., in his gloomiest tone.
"I'll wash your face with snow—the first time it snows in this summer land—if you don't be more cheerful," threatened Miss Shay.
"Well, something will happen, I'm sure," declared C. C. "When do we move?"
"To-morrow," said Mr. Ringold, while Blake and Joe told Mr. Hadley of their poor success in finding Mr. Duncan. The photographer, as did the other members of the company, sympathized with the lad. Mr. Ringold said that as soon as they got settled the boys could go to San Francisco to look up the shipping agent.
The transfer to the small seacoast settlement was a matter of some work, but in a week all was arranged, and the members of the company were settled in a large, comfortable house, close to the beach.
"And now for some rehearsals," said Mr. Ringold, one morning. "One of the scenes calls for a shipwrecked man coming ashore in a small boat. Now, C. C., I guess you'll have to be the man this time, as I need the others for shore parts. Get the cameras ready."
"I—I'm to be shipwrecked; am I?" inquired Mr. Piper. "Do I have to fall overboard?"
"Not unless you want to," said Mr. Ringold, consulting the manuscript of the play.
"Then I'm not going to, for I'll catch my death of cold if I do."
"Hum! I'm glad he didn't have any other objections," murmured the theatrical man. "This is going to be easy."
The preparations were made, it being customary to rehearse the scenes and acts before "filming" them to secure good results. A boat was launched, after some trouble on account of the surf, and with the aid of some fishermen, "C. C. was finally sent to sea," which was a joke, as Blake remarked.
"And now come in with the waves," ordered Mr. Ringold, who was directing the drama. "Hang over the edge of the boat, C. C., and look as if you hadn't had any food or water for a week."
"They say an actor never eats, anyhow," murmured Mr. Hadley, who, with the boys, was ready with the cameras; "so I guess C. C. won't have to pretend much."
"Come on!" cried Mr. Ringold. "Hang more over the side of the boat."
C. C. Piper obeyed orders—too literally, in fact. He leaned so far over that, a moment later, when there came a particularly large wave, the craft slewed sideways, got into the trough, and an instant later capsized.
"He's overboard!" yelled Miss Lee.
"Save him!" cried Miss Shay.
"Stop the cameras," came from Mr. Ringold. "We don't want that in the picture."
"Man overboard!" bawled the fishermen, who were interestedly watching the scene. "Launch the motor boat!"
TO SAN FRANCISCO
For a moment there was excitement, and then the trained men of the sea got into action. Nearby there were several fishing boats, operated by gasoline motors. There were planks at hand, and rollers on which the craft could be launched in the surf, being eased along the slope by releasing a cable rigged to a post some distance away.
It did not take long for the fishermen to launch one of these motor boats, and while C. C. Piper was struggling in the surf, endeavoring as best he could to climb into his overturned boat, they put out to rescue him.
"Do you want that in the picture?" asked Joe, who was at one of the cameras.
"No indeed!" cried Mr. Ringold. "It won't fit in at all! He must drift ashore. We'll have to do all this over again."
"I can see Gloomy doing it," murmured Blake.
At that moment there came a hail from the comedian.
"Hello!" he cried. "Are you going to—gulp—let me—glub—sink out here? Can't some of you——" and the rest was lost amid a series of gurgles as the salty water got in C. C.'s mouth.
"Hold on just a little longer," called one of the fishermen, as he directed the craft toward the struggling actor. "We'll have you out presently."
"You'd—better—hurry—up!" panted the comedian, who might well be excused at this moment from taking a gloomy view of life.
He managed to cling to one side of the dory until the rescuing motor craft reached him. Then he was soon hauled aboard, dripping wet, all but exhausted, and unable to utter a sound save sighs.
"Well, it was too bad," said Mr. Ringold, when C. C. was once more ashore. "I guess we'll have to get you a little larger boat."
"Get me one?" asked the actor, with the accent on the personal pronoun.
"Certainly. We'll have to do this scene over again. I guess we could use one of the fishing boats, though they're a little large. But we can move the cameras back. Take one of those, C. C."
"I guess not."
"I said I guess not. No more for mine!"
"Do you mean to say you won't go on with this act? Are you going to balk as you did in the Indian scene?"
"Say," began C. C., earnestly, as, dripping wet as he was, he strode up to the theatrical man, "I can't swim, and I don't like the water. I told you that the time you took me up in the country, where we found these boys," and he motioned to Blake and Joe, who were looking interestedly on, ready to work the cameras as soon as required.
"And yet," went on Mr. Piper, "you insisted that I jump overboard then and rescue Miss Shay. Now you want me to drift in as a shipwrecked sailor. It's too much, I tell you. There is entirely too much water and tank drama in this business. I know I'll get my death of cold, if I don't drown."
"Oh, can't you look on the bright side?" asked Miss Shay, who was to come into the drama later. "Why, it's so warm I should think you'd like to get into the surf."
"Not for mine!" exclaimed C. C., firmly, and it took some persuasion on the part of the theatrical manager, accompanied by a promise of an increase of salary every time he had to go into the water, to induce C. C. to try the shipwreck scene over again.
This time a larger boat was used, and, though it came near to capsizing, it did not quite go over, though considerable water was shipped. C. C. managed to stay aboard, and the cameras, rapidly clicking, registered each movement of the actor and those who later took part in the drama.
Then some shore scenes were photographed, the supposed shipwrecked persons building a fire, pretending to catch fish from the ocean, and cooking them.
All this the moving picture boys, or Mr. Hadley, faithfully registered on the films, to be later thrown on the screen for the delight of the public.
"I wonder if the folks who look at moving pictures realize how they are made?" said Joe, as they stopped work for the day.
"I don't believe so," answered Blake. "There are tricks in all trades, it's said; but I guess the moving picture business is as full of them as any."
The next two days were busy ones, as a number of elaborate acts had to be filmed, and the boys were kept on the jump from morning to night. Mr. Hadley, also, had all he could do with the camera. There were fishing views to get, scenes on the beach, where a number of children were induced to play at games in the sand, building castles and tunnels, boating incidents and the like.
C. C. did not fall overboard again, though he often was sent out to do some funny stunt that was to be used in the play.
"I wonder when we can go to San Francisco?" queried Joe one afternoon, following a particularly hard day. "I want to see that shipping agent, and ask him if he can give me any clue to my father."
"Maybe we'd better speak to Mr. Ringold," suggested Blake, and they did, with the result that the theatrical man informed them that the end of the week would be free, as he had to wait for some costumes to arrive before he could produce any more dramas.
"I want to get a good wreck scene," he said, "and that is going to be rather hard."
"Will it be a real wreck scene?" asked Joe.
"Yes, as real as we can make it. I'm negotiating now for an old schooner that I can scuttle out at sea. All the company will be aboard, and they'll drift about for a long time without food and water."
"Am I supposed to be in on that?" asked C. C., suspiciously.
"Of course," was the theatrical man's answer. "This is a circus company returning from abroad that is wrecked, and you are the clown. Be as funny as you can."
"Wrecked?" queried C. C.
"And I'm to be funny?"
"Without food and water for days, and I'm expected to be funny!" exclaimed the comedian, with a groan. "Oh, why did I ever get into this business? I'll not do it!"
"Oh you're only supposed to be starving and thirsty," explained Mr. Ringold. "If you want, you can take some sandwiches and cold coffee with you, and have lunch—but don't do it when the cameras are working. It wouldn't look well in the moving pictures to have a note on the screen saying that the shipwrecked persons were starving, and then show you chewing away; would it, now?"
"No, I suppose not," admitted C. C., with a sigh. "Oh, but this is a miserable business, though! I'm sure I'll be drowned before we get through with it!"
"Oh, cheer up!" called Miss Lee, but there seemed to be no need for the advice, for a moment later C. C. broke forth into a comic song.
While the preparations for producing the wreck scene were under way, there was small need for the services of the boys, and they made ready to go to San Francisco.
"Even if he has gone away somewhere," suggested Blake, "he may have left some address where you can reach him."
"Do you think he'll be gone?" asked Joe.
"Well, if he left the lighthouse in a hurry, intending to call on a shipping agent, naturally he wouldn't stay in port long," said Blake. "Besides——" He stopped suddenly, being on the verge of saying something that would give Joe a hint of the truth.
"What is it?" asked his chum, quickly. "What were you going to say, Blake?"
"Yes, you were, I'm sure of it. Blake, is there anything you're holding back from me?"
Joe looked earnestly at his chum.
"I—er—" began Blake—when there came a knock on the door.
"What is it?" called Blake, glad of the interruption.
"Mr. Ringold wants you to get ready to take some scenes to-night," said the voice of Macaroni.
"Scenes at night?" inquired Joe, opening the door, and forgetting the question he had put to his chum.
"Yes," went on their young helper. "Flashlight scenes. He wants you at once."
The boys reported to their superiors, and learned that a smuggling scene, to fit in one of the sea dramas, was to be attempted. By means of powerful flash and electric lights, the current coming over cables from San Diego, it was planned to make views at night.
As this was an unexpected turn to affairs, they had to postpone their trip to San Francisco for a few days. The night pictures came out well, however, and the first of the following week saw Joe and Blake start on their way to the city of the Golden Gate.
A STRANGE CHARGE
"Are you going to take a camera with you, boys?" asked Mr. Ringold, as Joe and Blake were saying good-bye to their friend, preparatory to making a brief stay in San Francisco.