THE MOVING PICTURE GIRLS AT ROCKY RANCH
Great Days Among the Cowboys
LAURA LEE HOPE
Author of "The Moving Picture Girls," "The Moving Picture Girls Under the Palms," "The Outdoor Girls Series," "The Bobbsey Twins Series," Etc.
The Goldsmith Publishing Co. Cleveland Made in U. S. A.
Copyright, 1914, by Grosset & Dunlap
Press of The Commercial Bookbinding Co. Cleveland
I THE SPY 1
II WESTERN PLANS 13
III A DARING FEAT 23
IV A CLOUD OF SMOKE 32
V A MIX-UP 42
VI THE AUTO SMASH 49
VII OFF FOR THE WEST 56
VIII THE OIL WELL 66
IX THE RIVALS 72
X THE CYCLONE 78
XI AT ROCKY RANCH 90
XII SUSPICIONS 96
XIII AT THE BRANDING 109
XIV A WARNING 117
XV THE INDIAN RITES 125
XVI PRISONERS 134
XVII THE RESCUE 143
XVIII A RUSH OF STEERS 156
XIX TOO MUCH REALISM 163
XX IN THE OPEN 168
XXI THE BURNING GRASS 178
XXII HEMMED IN 186
XXIII THE ESCAPE 193
XXIV A DISCLOSURE 201
XXV THE ROUND-UP 208
THE MOVING PICTURE GIRLS AT ROCKY RANCH
"Well, Ruth, aren't you almost ready?"
"Just a moment, Alice. I can't seem to get my collar fastened in the back. I wish I'd used the old-fashioned hooks and eyes instead of those new snaps."
"Oh, I think those snaps are just adorable!"
"Oh, Alice DeVere! Using such an extreme expression!"
"What expression, Ruth?"
"'Adorable!' You sometimes accuse me of using slang, and there you go——"
"'Adorable' isn't slang," retorted Alice.
"Oh, isn't it though? Since when?"
"There you go yourself! You're as bad as I am."
"Well, it must be associating with you, then," sighed Ruth.
"No, Ruth, it's this moving picture business. It just makes you use words that mean something, and not those that are merely sign-posts. I'm glad to see that you are getting—sensible. But never mind about that. Are you ready to go to the studio? I'm sure we'll be late."
"Oh, please help me with this collar. I wish I'd made this waist with the new low-cut effect. Not too low, of course," Ruth added hastily, as she caught a surprised glance from her sister.
Two girls were in a room about which were strewn many articles of feminine adornment. Yet it was not an untidy apartment. True, dresser drawers did yawn and disclose their contents, and closet doors gaped at one, showing a collection of shoes and skirts. But then the occupants of the room might have been forgiven, for they were in haste to keep an appointment.
"There, Ruth," finally exclaimed the younger of the two girls—yet she was not so much younger—not more than two years. "I think your collar is perfectly sweet."
"It's good of you to say so. You know I got it at that little French shop around the corner, but sewed some of that Mexican drawn lace on to make it a bit higher. Now I'm sorry I did, for I had to put in those snap fasteners instead of hooks. And if you don't get them to fit exactly they come loose. It's like when the film doesn't come right on the screen, and the piano player sounds a discord to call the operator's attention to it."
"You've hit it, sister mine."
"Oh, Alice! There you go again. 'Hit it!'"
"You'd say 'hit it' at a baseball game," Alice retorted.
"Oh, yes, I suppose so. But we're not at one," objected the older girl, as she finished buttoning her gloves, and took up her parasol, which she shook out, to make sure that it would open easily when needed.
"There, I think I'm ready," announced Alice, as she slipped on a light jacket, for, though it was spring, the two rivers of New York sent rather chilling breezes across the city, and a light waist was rather conducive to colds.
"Have you the key?" asked the older girl, as she paused for a moment on the threshold of the private hall of the apartment house. She had tied her veil rather tightly at the back, knotting it and fastening it with a little gold pin, and now she pulled it away from her cheeks, to relieve the tension.
"Yes, I have it, Ruth. Oh, don't make such funny faces! Anyone would think you were posing."
"Well, I'm not—but this veil—tickles."
"Serves you right for trying to be so stylish."
"It's proper to have a certain amount of style, Alice, dear. I wish I could induce you to have more of it."
"I have enough, thank you. Let's don't talk dress any more, or we'll have a tiff before we get to the moving picture studio, and there are some long and trying scenes ahead of us to-day."
"So there are. I wonder if daddy took his key?"
"Wait, and I'll look on his dresser."
The younger girl went back into the apartment for a moment, while her sister stepped across the corridor and tapped lightly at an opposite door.
"Has Russ gone?" she asked the pleasant-faced woman who answered.
"Yes, Ruth. A little while ago. He was going to call for you girls, but I knew you were dressing, for Alice came in to borrow some pins, so I told him not to wait."
"That's right. We'll see him at the studio."
"You're coming in to supper to-night, you know."
"Oh, yes, Mrs. Dalwood. Daddy wouldn't miss that for anything!" laughed Ruth, as she turned to wait for her sister. "Of course he says our cooking is the best he ever had since poor mamma left us," Ruth went on, "but I just know he relishes yours a great deal more."
"Oh, you're just saying that, Ruth!" objected the neighbor.
"Indeed I'm not. You should hear him talk, for days afterward, about your clam chowder." She laughed genially.
"Well, he does seem to relish that," admitted Mrs. Dalwood.
"What's that?" asked Alice, as she came out.
"We're speaking of clam chowder, and how fond daddy is of Mrs. Dalwood's recipe," said Ruth.
"Oh, yes, indeed! I should think he'd be ashamed to look a clam in the face—that is, if a clam has a face," laughed Alice. "It's awfully good of you, Mrs. Dalwood, to make it for him so often."
"Well, I'm always glad when a man enjoys his meals," declared Mrs. Dalwood, who, being a widow, knew what the lack of proper home life meant.
"I'm afraid we're imposing on you," suggested Alice, as she started down the stairs. "You have us over to tea so often, and we seldom invite you."
"Now don't be thinking that, my dear!" exclaimed the neighbor. "I know what it is when you have to pose so much for moving pictures.
"My boy Russ tells me what long hours you put in, and how hard you work. And it's trouble enough to get up a meal these days, and have anything left to pay the rent. So I'm only too glad when you can come in and enjoy the victuals with us. I cook too much anyhow, and of late Russ seems to have lost his appetite."
"I fancy I know why," laughed Alice, with a roguish glance at her sister.
"Alice!" protested Ruth, in shocked tones. "Don't you dare——"
"I was only going to say that he has not seemed well since coming back from Florida—what was the harm in that?" Alice wanted to know.
"Oh!" murmured Ruth. "Do come on," she added, as if she feared her fun-loving sister might say something embarrassing.
"Russ will be better soon, Mrs. Dalwood," Alice called as she and her sister went down the stairway of the apartment house.
"What makes you think so?" asked his mother. "Not but what I'm glad to hear you say that, for really he hasn't eaten at all well lately."
"We're going on the road again, I hear," went on Alice. "The whole moving picture company is to be taken off somewhere, and a lot of films made. Russ always likes that, and I'm sure his appetite will come back as soon as we start traveling. It always does."
"You are getting to be a close observer," remarked Ruth, with just the hint of sarcasm in her voice. "Oh, Alice, do finish buttoning your gloves in the house!" she exclaimed. "It looks so careless to go out fussing with them."
"All right, sister mine. Anything to keep peace in the family!" laughed the younger girl.
Together they went down the street, a charming picture of youth and happiness.
A little later they entered the studio of the Comet Film Company, a concern engaged in the business of making moving pictures, from posing them with actors and actresses, and the suitable "properties," to the leasing of the completed films to the various theaters throughout the country.
Alice and Ruth DeVere, of whom you will hear more later, with their father, were engaged in this work, and very interesting and profitable they found it.
As the girls entered the studio they were greeted by a number of other players, and an elderly gentleman, with a bearing and carriage that revealed the schooling of many years behind the footlights, came forward.
"I was just wondering where you were," he said with a smile. His voice was husky and hoarse, and indicated that he had some throat affection. In fact, that same throat trouble was the cause of Hosmer DeVere being in moving picture work instead of in the legitimate drama, in which he had formerly been a leading player.
"We stopped a moment to speak to Mrs. Dalwood," explained Ruth.
"Clam chowder," added Alice, with a laugh. "She's going to have it this evening, Daddy."
"Good!" he exclaimed, rubbing his hands together in a manner that indicated gratification. "I was just hungry for some."
"You always seem able to eat that," laughed Alice. "I must learn how to make it."
"I wish you would!" exclaimed her father, earnestly. "Then when we are on the road I can have some, now and then."
"Oh, you are hopeless!" laughed Alice. "Here is your latch-key, Daddy," she went on, handing it to him. "You left it on your dresser, and as Ruth and I are going shopping when we get through here, I thought you might want it."
"Thank you, I probably shall. I am going home from here to study a new part."
The scene in the studio of the moving picture concern was a lively one. Men were moving about whole "rooms"—or, at least they appeared as such on the film. Others were setting various parts of the stage, electricians were adjusting the powerful lights, cameras were being set up on their tripods, and operators were at the handles, grinding away, for several plays were being made at once.
"Just in time, Ruth and Alice!" called Russ Dalwood, who was one of the chief camera men. "Your scene goes on in ten minutes. You have just time to dress."
"It's that 'Quaker Maid;' isn't it?" asked Ruth, for she and her sisters took part in so many plays that often it was hard to remember which particular one was to be filmed.
"That's it," said Russ. "Don't forget your bonnets!" he laughed as he focused the camera.
"All ready now!" called Mr. Pertell, the manager of the company, and also the chief stage director, a little later. "Take your places, if you please! Mr. DeVere, you are not in this until the second scene. Mr. Bunn, you'll not need your high hat in this act."
"But I thought you said——" began an elderly actor, of the type known as "Hams," from their insatiable desire to portray the character of Hamlet.
"I know I did," said Mr. Pertell, sharply. "But I have had to change my mind. You are to take the part of a plumber, and you come to fix a burst water pipe. So get your overalls and your kit. You have a plumber's kit; haven't you, Pop?" the manager called to Pop Snooks, the property man, who was obliged, on short notice, to provide anything from a diamond ring to a rustic bridge.
"All right for the plumber!" called Pop. "Have it for you in a minute."
"And, Mr. Sneed," called the manager to another actor. "You are supposed to be the householder whose water pipe has burst. You try to putty it up and you get soaked. Go over there in the far corner, where the tank is; we don't want water running into this Quaker scene."
"Oh, I get all wet; do I?" asked Mr. Sneed, in no very pleasant tones.
"That's what you do!"
"Well, all I've got to say is that I wish you'd give some of these tank dramas to someone else. I'm getting tired of being soaked."
"You haven't been really wet since the trip to Florida," declared Mr. Pertell. "Lively now, we have no time to lose. Come on, Russ!" he called to the young operator. "You're to film the Quaker scenario. I'll have Johnson make the water pipe scene. All ready, ladies and gentlemen!"
Various plays were going on at once in different parts of the studio. Ruth and Alice DeVere took their places in one where a Quaker story was being portrayed. Later they posed in a church scene, in which a number of extra people, or "supers," were engaged to represent the congregation.
Mr. Pertell, once he had the various scenes going, took a moment in which to rest, for he was a very busy man. He sat down near Alice, who, for the time being, was out of the scene. But hardly had the manager stretched out in a chair, resting one shirt-sleeved arm over the back, when he started up, and looked intently toward one corner of the studio.
"I wonder why he is going in there?" observed the manager, half aloud.
"Who?" asked Alice, for the moving picture company was like one big family, in a way.
"That new man," went on Mr. Pertell. "Harry Wilson, he said his name was. Now he's going into the proof room, where he has no business. I must look into this. I wonder, after all, if there could be any truth in that warning I received the other day."
"What warning?" asked Alice.
"About a rival film company trying to discover some of the secrets of our success. I must look into this."
He sprang from his chair and hurried across the big studio toward the room where the films were first shown privately, to correct any defects, mechanical or artistic. It was there that the initial performance, so to speak, was given.
Before Mr. Pertell reached the room, where the projection machine was installed, the man of whom he had spoken had entered. And, just as the manager reached the door, the same man came violently out, impelled by a vigorous push from one of the operators, who at the same time cried:
"Get out of here, you spy! What do you mean by sneaking in here, trying to get our secrets? Get out! Where's Mr. Pertell? I'll tell him about you."
"What is it, Walsh? What is the trouble?" exclaimed Mr. Pertell, as he hastened toward the proving room, where the films were tested before being "released."
"This man, Mr. Pertell! This fellow you hired as a comedy actor. He came in here just now, and I caught him starting to take notes of the first film of our new play."
"You did!" cried the manager sharply.
"Yes. He came in when it was dark; but the film broke, and I turned on the light. Then I caught him!"
"That's not so—you did not!"
The accused man—the spy he had been called—stood facing them all, the picture of injured innocence. Ruth, Alice and some of the other women members of the company drew aside, a little frightened at the prospect of trouble.
And trouble seemed imminent, for it was easy to see that Mr. Pertell was very angry. As for the other, his face was white with either anger or fear—perhaps the latter.
"I saw you taking notes of the action on that film!" cried James Walsh, the testing room expert.
"And I say you did not!" asserted Harry Wilson, the new player, hired a few days before as a "comic relief." The other members of the company knew very little of him, and he had attracted small attention until this episode. During a period when he was not engaged in one of the plays he had gone into the room, permission to enter which was not often granted, even to favored members of the Comet Film concern—at least until after the release of the film was decided.
"Don't let that man get way!" cried Mr. Pertell, sharply, as he saw Wilson edging toward the hallway. "Lock the doors and we'll search him!"
There was some confusion for a moment, but the doors were locked, and Pop Snooks seized the new actor.
And, while preparations are being made to search the man I will trespass on the time of my new readers sufficiently to tell them, as briefly as I can, something about the previous books of this series, and of the main characters in this one.
The initial volume was entitled "The Moving Picture Girls; Or, First Appearances in Photo Dramas." The girls were Ruth and Alice DeVere, aged respectively seventeen and fifteen years. Their mother was dead, and they lived with their father, Hosmer DeVere, in the Fenmore Apartment House, New York. Across the hall from them lived Russ Dalwood, a moving picture operator, with his widowed mother, and his brother Billy.
Mr. DeVere was a talented actor in the "legitimate," as it is called to distinguish it from vaudeville and moving pictures. But the recurrence of an old throat ailment made him suddenly so hoarse that he could not speak loud enough to be heard across the footlights. He was already rehearsing for a new play when this happened, and after several trials to make himself audible, he was finally forced to give up his engagement.
This was doubly hard, as the DeVeres were in straitened circumstances at this time, money being very scarce. They had really entered upon a period of "hard times" when Russ, a manly young fellow, whose first acquaintance with the girls had quickly ripened into friendship, made a suggestion.
"Why don't you try moving pictures?" he had said to Mr. DeVere. "You can act, all right, and you won't have to use your voice."
At first the veteran actor was much opposed to to the idea, rather looking down upon moving pictures as "common." But his daughters induced him to try it, and he came to like them very much. The pay, too, was good.
Thus Mr. DeVere became attached to the Comet Film Company. Mr. Frank Pertell, as I have said, was manager, and Russ was his chief operator, though there were several others. There were, too, a number of actors and actresses attached to the company. Besides Ruth, Alice and their father, there were Miss Laura Dixon and Miss Pearl Pennington, former vaudeville stars, between whom and the DeVere girls there was not the best of feeling. Ruth and Alice thought that the two actresses were of a rather too "showy" type, and Miss Pennington and Miss Dixon rather looked down on Alice and Ruth as being "slow" and old-fashioned.
Pop Snooks, as I have intimated, was the efficient property man. Paul Ardite, whom Alice liked very much, was the juvenile leading man.
Wellington Bunn was the "old school" actor already mentioned. He and Pepper Sneed were rather alike in one way—they made many objections when called on to do "stunts" out of the ordinary. Mr. Bunn always wanted to play Shakespearean parts, and Mr. Sneed was always fearful that something was going to happen.
Of a contrasting disposition was Carl Switzer, the jolly German comedian. Nothing came amiss to him, and he was always ready for whatever was on the program, making a joke of even hard and dangerous work.
Mrs. Maguire was the "mother" of the company. She often played "old woman" parts, and her two grandchildren, Tommy and Nellie, were sometimes used in child sketches.
Ruth and Alice really got into moving picture work by accident. One day two extra actresses failed to appear when needed, and Mr. Pertell, who was in a hurry, appealed to Mr. DeVere to allow his daughters to "fill in." They did so well that they were engaged permanently, and very much did they like their work.
Alice was like her dead mother, happy, full of life and jollity, and her brown eyes generally sparkled with laughter. She was a rather matter-of-fact nature, whereas Ruth was more romantic. Ruth was a deal like her father, inclined to look on the more serious side of life. But her blue eyes could be laughing and jolly, too, and between the two girls there was really not so much difference after all.
Soon after getting into moving picture work they became aware of a bold attempt to get away from Russ Dalwood an invention he had made for a camera. How Ruth and Alice frustrated this, and how they "made good," as Mr. Pertell put it, in an important drama, is fully told in the first book.
The second volume was entitled "The Moving Picture Girls at Oak Farm; Or, Queer Happenings While Taking Rural Plays." The manager had made the acquaintance of Sandy Apgar in New York. Sandy managed his father's farm, in New Jersey, and Mr. Pertell took his entire company there, to make a series of farm dramas.
A curious mystery developed at once, and did not end until the discovery of a certain secret room, in which was concealed a treasure that was of the utmost benefit to the Apgar family.
"The Moving Picture Girls Snowbound; Or, The Proof on the Film," was the third book. To get a series of dramas in which snow and ice effects would form the background, Mr. Pertell took his company of players to the backwoods of New England. There they had rather more snow than they expected, and were caught in a blizzard.
Also Ruth and Alice made a curious discovery concerning a dishonest man, and not only frustrated his plans to swindle a certain company, but also were able to save their father from paying a debt the second time. In addition they took part in many important plays.
From the cold bleakness of New England to the balmy air of Florida was a change that Ruth and Alice experienced later, for on their return to New York from the backwoods the members of the company were sent to the peninsular state.
In "The Moving Picture Girls Under the Palms; Or, Lost in the Wilds of Florida," is related what happened when the company went South.
Exciting incidents occurred from the first, when the ship caught fire, and, even as it burned, Russ "filmed" it.
But the company reached St. Augustine safely, and then came busy times, making various moving picture dramas.
How the two sisters learned of the plight of the two girls whom they knew slightly, and how after getting lost themselves on one of the sluggish rivers of interior Florida, Ruth and Alice were able to render a great service to the Madison girls—this you may read in the fourth volume.
The company had come back to New York in the spring, and now nearly all the members were assembled at the studio, when the incident narrated in the first chapter took place.
"Here it is!" cried Mr. Pertell, as, slipping his hand into the pocket of the accused actor, he brought forth a crumpled paper.
"And wasn't he making notes, just as I said, of our new big play?" demanded Walsh.
"That's what he was!" exclaimed the manager as he quickly scanned the crumpled document. "He didn't have time to make many notes, though."
"No, I was too quick for him!" declared the tester.
Harry Wilson had no more to say. His bravado deserted him and he was now in abject fear.
"What have you to say for yourself?" demanded Mr. Pertell, angrily.
The other did not answer.
"Now, you get out of here!" ordered the manager, "and never come back."
"I'll not go until I get what is coming to me," was the sullen retort.
"If you got what is coming to you it would be arrest!" declared Walsh.
"I want my money!" mumbled Wilson.
"Here is an order on the cashier for it," said Mr. Pertell. "Get it and—go!"
Hastily writing on a slip of paper, he tendered it to the actor, who took it without a word, and slunk off. The others watched him curiously. It was something they had never before witnessed—an attempt to gain possession of the secrets of the company—for a moving picture concern guards its films jealously, until they are "released," or ready for reproduction.
"Curious," remarked Mr. Pertell, "but I had a distrust of that chap from the first. Do any of you know him?"
"I acted mit him vunce in der Universal company, but he dit not stay long," said Mr. Switzer.
"Probably he was up to some underhand work," observed Walsh.
"I wonder what his object was?" went on the manager. "He evidently wasn't doing this for himself." Idly he turned over the scrap of paper on which the other had been making notes in the testing room. Then the manager uttered a cry of surprise.
"Ha! The International Picture Company! This is part of one of their letter heads. So Wilson was working for them! They very likely sent him here to get a position, and instructed him to steal some of our secrets and ideas, if he could. The scoundrel!"
"He didn't see much!" chuckled Walsh. "The film broke after a few feet had been run off, and I switched on the lights. He didn't see a great deal."
"No, his notes show that," said the manager. "But only for that accident he might have learned of our plans and given our rivals information sufficient to spoil our big play."
"Have you new plans?" asked Mr. DeVere, who was on very friendly terms with the manager.
"Yes, we are going to make a big three-reel play, called 'East and West,' and while some of the scenes will be laid in New York, the main ones will be filmed out beyond the Mississippi. One of the most important New York scenes has already been made. It was this one which was being tested when Wilson went in there. Had he seen it all he might have guessed at the rest of our plans and our rivals, the International people, would have been able to get ahead of us. They are always on the alert to take the ideas of other concerns. But I think I'll beat them this time."
"So we are to go West; eh?" queried Mr. DeVere.
"Yes, out on what prairies are left, in some rather wild sections, and I think we will make the best views we have yet had," responded Mr. Pertell. "Now, if you please, ladies and gentlemen, take your places, and go on with your acts. I am sorry this interruption distracted you."
A DARING FEAT
"Oh, Ruth, did you hear? We are to go out West!"
"Are you glad, Alice?"
"Indeed I am. Why, we can see Indians and cowboys, and ride bucking broncos and all that. Oh, it's perfectly delightful!" and Alice, who had been taking down her jacket, held it in her arms, as one might clasp a dancing partner, and swept about the now almost deserted studio in a hesitation waltz.
"Can't I come in on that?" cried Paul Ardite, as he began to whistle, keeping time with Alice's steps.
"No, indeed, I'm too tired," she answered, with a laugh. "Oh, but to think of going West! I've always wanted to!"
"Alice always says that, whenever a new location is decided on," observed Ruth, with a quiet smile.
The work of the day was over, and most of the players had gone home. Ruth and Alice were waiting for their father, who was in Mr. Pertell's office. They had intended going shopping, thinking Mr. DeVere would be detained, but he had said he would be with them directly.
And the two girls had brought up the subject of the new line of work, broached by Mr. Pertell in mentioning the matter of the spy.
"I hope nothing comes of that incident," said Mr. DeVere, as he came from the manager's office, while Ruth and Alice finished their preparations for the street.
"I hope not, either," returned the manager, slipping into his coat, for, like many busy men, he worked best in his shirt sleeves. "Yet I don't like it, and I am frank to confess that the International concern has more than once tried to get the best of me by underhand work. I don't like it. I must keep track of that Wilson. Good night, ladies. Good night, Mr. DeVere."
The good nights were returned and then the two girls, with their father, Russ and Paul, went out.
"That was an unfortunate occurrence," remarked Mr. DeVere.
"Oh, Daddy! How hoarse you are!" exclaimed Ruth, laying a daintily-gloved hand on his shoulder. "You must use your throat spray as soon as you get home."
"I will. My throat is a little raw. There was considerable dust in the studio to-day. I like work in the open air best."
"So do I," confessed Alice. "Now, Daddy, you must stop talking," and she shook her finger at him. "You listen—we'll talk."
"You mean you will," laughed Ruth, for Alice generally did her own, and part of Ruth's share also.
They walked on, talking at intervals of the incident of the spy and again of the prospective trip to the West.
"Do you know just where we are going, Russ?" asked Ruth, as she kept pace with him.
"Not exactly," he replied, stealing a glance at the girl beside him, for she was a picture fair to look upon with her almost golden hair blown about her face by the light breeze, while her blue eyes looked into the more sober gray ones of Russ. "I believe Mr. Pertell intends to go to several places, so as to get varied views. I know we are to go to a ranch, for one thing."
"Fine!" exclaimed Alice, with almost boyish enthusiasm, as she walked at the side of Paul. "Daddy, do you want me to become a cowgirl?" she asked, turning to Mr. DeVere, who was in the rear.
"I guess if you wanted to be one, you would whether I wanted you to or not," he replied, with an indulgent smile. "You have a way with you!"
"Hasn't she, though!" agreed Paul.
They reached the apartment house where the DeVeres and Russ lived. Paul came in for a little while, but declined an invitation to stay to tea.
"I've got quite a piece of work on for to-morrow," he said, as he left.
"What is it?" asked Alice.
"There's to be a new play, 'An Inventor's Troubles,' and one of the inventions is a sort of rope fire escape. There's a rope, coiled in a metal case. You take it to your hotel room with you, and in case of fire you fasten the case to the window casing, grab one end of the rope, and jump. The rope is supposed to pay out slowly, by means of friction pulleys, and you come safely to the ground."
"Did you invent that?" asked Ruth, who had not heard all that was said.
"Oh, no, some fellow did, and the city authorities are going to give him a chance to demonstrate it before they will recommend it to hotel proprietors. And I'm to be the 'goat,' if you will allow me to say so."
"How?" asked Alice.
"I'm to come down on the rope from the tenth story of some building. This will serve as the city test, and at the same time Mr. Pertell has fixed up a story in which the fire escape scene figures. I've got to study up a little bit before to-morrow."
"It—it isn't dangerous; is it?" asked Alice, and she rather faltered over the words.
"Not if the thing works," replied Paul, with a shrug of his shoulders. "That is, if the rope doesn't break, or pay out so fast that I hit the pavement with a bump."
"Oh, is it as dangerous as that?" exclaimed Alice, looking at Paul intently.
"Don't worry," and he smiled. "I guess the apparatus has been tested before. I'm getting used to risks in this business."
"What time to-morrow is it?" queried Ruth.
"Right after lunch," Russ responded. "I've got to film him."
"Then I'm coming to see you!" declared Alice. "I'm off directly after lunch. I haven't much on for to-morrow."
"Oh, Alice! You wouldn't go!" cried her sister.
"Of course I would, my dear!"
"But suppose something—happened?" Ruth went on in a low voice, as Russ and Paul started out together.
"All the more reason why I should be there!" declared Alice, promptly, and Ruth looked at her with a new light of understanding in her eyes. And then she looked at Paul, who waved his hand gaily at the younger girl.
"Dear little sister," murmured Ruth. "I wonder——?"
"I'll look for you there," called Paul, as he went on down the hall.
"And I'll be there," promised Alice.
"Do you feel better now, Daddy?" asked Ruth, in their rooms.
"Much better—yes, my dear. That new spray the doctor gave me seems to work wonders. And my throat is really better since our trip South. I feel quite encouraged."
It was after supper in the DeVere apartment. The two girls were seated at the sitting-room table with their father, who was looking over a new play in which he had a part. Alice was reading a newspaper and Ruth mending a pair of stockings.
"Well, there's one good thing about going out West," finally remarked the younger girl, as she tossed aside the paper, and caught up a hairpin which her vigorous motion had caused to slip out of her brown tresses.
"What's that—you won't have to fuss so about dress?" asked Ruth, for her sister did not share her ideas on this subject.
"No, but if we do go there won't be any trouble about that International company trying to steal Mr. Pertell's secrets."
"I don't know about that," observed Mr. DeVere, slowly. "If they are after his big drama they may even follow us out West."
"Oh, I hope not!" exclaimed Ruth, pausing with extended needle. "I don't like trouble."
"There may be no trouble," her father assured her, with a smile. "In fact, now that the spy is detected, the whole affair may be closed. I hope so, for Mr. Pertell works hard to get up new ideas, and to have some other concern step in, and rob him of the fruits of his labor, would be unjust indeed."
Rehearsals and the filming of plays in the Comet studio were over the next morning about eleven o'clock.
"Come on," said Paul to Ruth and Alice. "I'm to get a bonus on account of the fire escape stunt, and I'll take you girls out to lunch. Come along, Russ. It's extra money and we might as well enjoy it."
"You are too extravagant!" chided Ruth.
"Oh, I like to be—when I have the chance," Paul laughed. "It isn't often I do."
"Well, then, we may as well help you out," agreed Russ. "Right after lunch we'll give you a chance to show us what you can do on that patent rope."
The little meal was a merry one, in spite of the fact that the two girls were a little nervous about going to see Paul descend from the tenth story of a building on a slender rope. Ruth had finally consented to accompany her sister.
Together they went to the place where the test was to take place. It was a tall office structure, and, as word of what was afoot had spread, quite a throng had gathered.
Mr. Pertell had made arrangements with the authorities to have Paul work in a little theatrical business in connection with the test, and the inventor of the fire escape was also to be in the moving pictures.
There was a little preliminary scene, as part of the projected play, and then Paul went into the building with the inventor to prepare for his thrilling descent.
The apparatus seemed simple. It was a round, metallic case, inside of which was coiled a stout rope. At the end was a broad leather strap, intended to be fastened about the person who was to make the jump. The case, and the coil of rope, were to be fastened to a hook at the side of the window. Then Paul was to jump out, and trust to the slow uncoiling of the rope to lower him safely.
"Are you all ready?" asked the inventor, after he had explained the apparatus.
"As ready as I ever shall be," answered Paul a little nervously. He looked down to the ground. It seemed a long way off.
A CLOUD OF SMOKE
Below, in the crowd that had gathered to watch the test, were Ruth and Alice. Russ, of course, was there with his moving picture camera, and Paul saw the little lens-tube aimed in his direction, like the muzzle of some new weapon.
"Now, don't get nervous," directed the inventor, after he had explained the mechanism to Paul, and also to the city officials who had gathered to pass upon its merits.
"You can't make me nervous," declared the young actor. "I've gone through too much in this moving picture business, though I will admit I never jumped from such a height before."
"Don't look down," the inventor warned him. "You won't get dizzy then. And don't think of the height. With this apparatus it is impossible to get hurt. You will go down like a feather."
"That's comforting to know," laughed Paul. "Well, I may as well start, I guess."
The belt was adjusted about him, and as it was done in the open window Russ was able to get views of it, and of all that went on. Then Paul got out on the sill. There he paused a moment.
"I—I can't bear to look at him!" murmured Ruth.
"Don't be silly," exclaimed Alice.
"But suppose—suppose something happens?"
"Don't be a Mr. Sneed!" retorted her sister, with a laugh. "I don't believe anything will happen, and if—if he should fall—see!" and she pointed to where a detachment of city firemen stood ready with their life net.
"Oh, I didn't notice them before," confessed Ruth. "That makes it safer."
"All ready down there, Russ?" shouted Paul, through a megaphone. "Shall I go?"
"Jump! I'm all ready for you," was the answer.
Paul paused but for a moment, and then he jumped from the sill, and out away from the building. The coil of rope in the metal case had been swung out from the side of the structure on an arm, so as to enable Paul to clear the lower window ledges.
For the first few feet he went down like a shot, and for one horrible moment he felt that something had gone wrong. In fact the crowd did also, for there was a hoarse shout of alarm.
"Oh!" gasped Ruth, faintly.
"I—I——" began Alice, as she, too, turned aside her head. Then someone yelled:
"It's all right!"
Alice looked then.
She saw Paul descending as the rope payed out. He was coming down gradually.
"That will make a good film," commented Russ to Mr. Pertell, for the manager had come to witness the fire escape scene.
"Indeed it will."
Paul came down several stories, and the success of the apparatus seemed assured when, at about the fourth story from the ground, something suddenly went wrong.
Once more the young actor shot downward and this time it seemed that he would be seriously injured.
Russ felt that he must rush forward to save his friend, but he had an inborn instinct to stick to his camera—an instinct that probably every moving picture operator has, even though he does violence to his own feelings.
"He'll be hurt!" several in the crowd cried.
Ruth and Alice both turned aside their heads again, but there was no need for alarm.
For the firemen, at the word of command from their captain, had rushed forward with the life net. They were standing only a few feet away from where Paul dangled in the air, but even at that they were only just in time.
Paul fell into it heavily, for the mechanism depended on to check the speed at which the rope payed out, did not work. But the firemen knew just how to handle a situation of that sort, and they held firmly to the net. It sagged under the impact of Paul's body, but he bounded upward again in an instant, and then was helped out of the net and to his feet.
"Mighty lucky you fellows were here," observed the young actor, as the cheers of the crowd died down.
"I was afraid something like that might happen," spoke the fire captain. "I've seen too many accidents with these patent escapes to take any chances. Now there's another inventor who will have to make quite a few changes in his apparatus."
The man who had patented the fire escape had been in a frenzy of fear when he saw Paul slipping, and, now that he knew the young actor was safe, he began to explain how something unforeseen had occurred, and that it would never happen again.
"Did you get that, Russ?" the manager wanted to know, for he thought the operator, in his anxiety over Paul, might have forgotten to turn the handle of the machine.
"Every move," was the reassuring answer. "It will make a dandy film. But I'm mighty glad it turned out as it did."
"So am I," said the manager. "I guess that will be about all for Paul to-day. His nerves must be on edge."
Paul declared that they were not, however, and wanted to go on with the rest of the film, which included the showing of other, but less dangerous, inventions.
"No, you take the rest of the day off," directed the manager. "There is no great rush about this."
The crowd pressed curiously about Paul and the others of the moving picture company, and, as Ruth and Alice were getting hemmed in, Mr. Pertell called a taxicab and sent them home in it.
"Report at the studio to-morrow," he called.
"Did you have any more trouble with that spy?" asked Alice, as the vehicle moved away.
"No," he answered. "I guess they'll quit, now that they know I have found them out."
The next day Paul finished with his invention-film, being required to do a number of "funny stunts," such as shaving with a new safety razor that did anything but what it was intended for; trying a new wardrobe trunk, that unexpectedly closed up with him inside of it, and such things as that. Some of the inventions were real, and others were "faked" for the occasion, to make a "comic" film.
But nothing as risky as the rope escape was tried, though probably had Paul been required to go through an equally hazardous feat he would not have balked. Moving picture actors often take very big chances, and the public, looking at the finished film, little realize it.
"I have something for you to-day I think you'll like," said Mr. Pertell to Ruth and Alice, as they reported at the studio.
"I hope it is outdoor stuff," ventured Alice. "It is just glorious to-day!"
Moving picture work is referred to as "stuff." Thus scenes at a river or lake are "water stuff," and if a play should take place in a desert the action would be termed "desert stuff," and so on.
"Well, I'm sorry, but only part of it, and a very little at that, is outdoor stuff," replied Mr. Pertell. "The action of this play takes place in a shirt waist factory. And I've got the use of a real factory where you two girls will pose and go through the 'business.' You're to be shirt waist operators, and I'll explain the story to you later."
"I can't sew very well," confessed Alice, "and I never made but one shirt waist in my life—I couldn't wear it after it was done," she added.
"You don't really have to sew," explained Mr. Pertell. "It is all machine work, anyhow. You and Ruth will sit at the machines in the factory with the other girls. Miss Pennington and Miss Dixon are also to be operators, but you two are the main characters. The machines work by a small electric motor, and all you have to do is to push some cloth along under the needle. You can do that."
"I guess so," agreed Alice.
"The forewoman will rehearse you a bit," Mr. Pertell went on. "The scene at the machines only takes a few moments—just a little strip of film. Then the scene changes to another part of the factory. I think it will make a good film. The story is called 'The Eye of a Needle.' It's really quite clever and by a new writer. I think it will make a hit."
Ruth and Alice, as well as the others, were told more in detail what action the play required, and the next day they were ready for their parts. They went to the factory accompanied by the two former vaudeville actresses, and by Russ and Paul. The latter was to take the part of one of the male employees of the concern.
Ruth and Alice found themselves in a room filled with sewing machines, at which sat girls and women busily engaged in stitching on shirt waists. There was the hum of the small electric motors that operated the machines, and the click and hum of the machines themselves.
A murmur ran around the room on the entrance of the players, but the operators had been told what to expect and what to do. They were to be in the pictures, too.
Ruth and Alice, with Miss Pennington and Miss Dixon, were given machines close to the camera, as they were the principal characters, and interest centered in them.
"Just guide the cloth through under the needle," the forewoman explained, as she started the motors on the girls' machines.
"Ready!" called Mr. Pertell to Russ, who stood beside the camera. The action of the play began, as Russ clicked away at the handle of his machine.
Suddenly a girl screamed.
"Oh, what is it?" demanded Miss Pennington, jumping up.
"Sit down! You'll spoil the film!" cried Mr. Pertell.
There was a little confusion for a moment.
"It's only one of the girls who has run a needle into her finger," the forewoman explained. "It often happens. We take care of them right here."
"All right—get that in, Russ," suggested Mr. Pertell. "It will make it seem much more natural."
The girl's injury was a slight one, and Russ got on the film the action of her being attended in the room set aside for the treatment of injured employes.
"I'll have something written in the script to fit to that," said Mr. Pertell, as the action of the play resumed.
The plot of the little drama called upon Miss Pennington to write a note to Alice, pretending that it came from a young man, whose name the former vaudeville performer was supposed to forge. Alice was to "register" certain emotions, and to show the note to Ruth. Then Miss Dixon came into the scene, the sewing machines were deserted and, for a moment, there was an excited conference.
Considerable dramatic action was called for, and this was well done by the girls, while the real operatives looked on in simulated surprise as they kept at their work.
The play was almost over, when from a far corner of the room came a startled cry.
"Someone else hurt with a needle, I wonder?" queried Paul, as he stood near Alice's machine.
"I hope not," she answered.
And then the whole room was thrown into panic as the cry broke out:
"Fire! Fire! The building is on fire!"
Shrill screams drowned out the rest of the alarm, but as Ruth, Alice and the others of the moving picture company looked around they saw a cloud of smoke at the rear of the big room.
"Stand still! Don't rush! Form in line!"
Sharp and crisp came the words of the forewoman. The screaming of the girls ceased almost instantly.
Clang! sounded a big gong through the room. Clang! Clang!
"Fire drill!" called the efficient forewoman, and afterward Ruth and Alice felt what a blessing it was she kept her wits about her. "Fire drill! Form in line and march to the fire escapes!"
"Oh! Oh, I know I'm going to faint!" cried Miss Pennington. "This is a regular fire trap! All shirt waist factories are. I am going to faint!"
"Miss Dixon, just—slap her!" called Alice.
"Oh, Alice!" remonstrated Ruth, looking about with frightened eyes.
"It's the only way to bring her to her senses!" retorted the younger girl. And to the eternal credit of Miss Dixon be it said that she did slap her friend Miss Pennington, and she slapped her with sufficient energy to prevent the fainting fit, even as a sip of aromatic spirits of ammonia might have done.
"Fire drill! Form lines! March!" again called the forewoman, with the coolness a veteran fireman might have envied.
"Can't we get our wraps?" asked one of the workers.
"No! You can come back for them," was the answer.
"But it—it's a real fire!" someone cried. "Our things will be burned up!"
"It isn't a fire at all—it's only a drill!" insisted the forewoman. "And, even if it were real, and your things were burned, the company would replace them for you.
"To the fire escapes! March!"
In spite of the forewoman's assertion that it was only a fire drill the pall of smoke in the corner of the room spread apace, and there was the smell of fire, as well as the crackle of flames.
"This way, girls," called Mr. Pertell to his four actresses. "Here's a fire escape over here."
"Excuse me," said the forewoman, firmly. "But please have your company follow my girls. They know just which way to go, and if your actresses make any change it may result in confusion, and——"
"I understand," responded Mr. Pertell, at once. "Girls, consider yourselves shirt waist operatives, and do as the others do," he concluded. He stood aside, as a sailor might on a sinking ship, when the order "women and children first" is given. Paul took his place at the manager's side, waving his hand reassuringly to Ruth and Alice.
"Oh—Oh, must we go with them? Can't we go to that fire escape?" faltered Miss Pennington, who seemed to have entirely recovered from her desire to faint.
"That is for the operatives on the upper floor," explained the forewoman. "If you will follow my girls you will be all right. There are plenty of fire escapes for all."
"Come on!" called Alice, as she marched behind the nearest shirt waist girls. "There is no danger—and plenty of time."
"That's the way to talk!" declared the forewoman, admiringly.
But, even as she spoke, there was a burst of flame through the cloud of smoke. Several girls screamed and those nearest the fire hung back.
"Steady! Go on! There is no danger!" the forewoman called.
"Are you getting this, Russ?" asked Mr. Pertell of the young camera expert.
"Every move!" was the enthusiastic answer. "It's too good a chance to miss, and I guess there is really no danger."
He continued to grind away at the camera while the girls, now in orderly array, marched to the fire escapes and so down and out of the building. Ruth, Alice and the two other actresses went with them. And not until the last girl had left the room did the forewoman make a move toward the escape.
"You gentlemen will please leave now," she said.
"After you," returned Mr. Pertell, with a look of admiration in his eyes.
"No," she said, firmly. "The rules of the fire drill require that I leave the room last. You will please go first."
"But, my dear young lady!" exclaimed the manager, "this is not a drill—it is a real fire!"
"I know it," she said, quietly. "But that makes no difference. I must leave last. You will kindly go ahead."
"I guess we'll have to, Russ," remarked the manager. "But I don't like it."
"Those are the rules," insisted the forewoman, and she would not go out on the fire escape until Russ, Paul and Mr. Pertell had preceded her.
By this time the street below was filled with fire apparatus, puffing, clanging and whistling. And not until the girls were down and out of the building did they realize what a big fire it was. For the entire structure was now ablaze.
Fortunately the same efficient fire drill instituted by the forewoman on the floor where Ruth and Alice had been prevailed in other parts of the building, and not a life was lost, though there were many narrow escapes.
And you may well believe that Russ did not miss this opportunity to get moving pictures. Of course the plot of the play had been spoiled by the fire, but a far better drama than the one originally planned was afterward made of it.
As the building continued to burn Russ found that he was not going to have film enough. He sent Paul for a new supply and also to telephone for another operator from the Comet studio, so that pictures of the big fire from various viewpoints might be secured.
And it was a big fire—one of the largest in New York in many years, but aside from a few persons who received minor injuries there was none seriously hurt. The Comet concern scored heavily in making films of the blaze.
"Well, that was one exciting day, yesterday," remarked Russ the next morning at the studio. "I never worked so hard, not even when we were lost in Florida."
"I had a premonition something would happen," declared Mr. Sneed, as he was making up for his part in a play. "When I got up yesterday morning I stepped on my collar button, and that's always a sure sign something will happen."
"It's sometimes a sign you'll be late for rehearsal if you don't find the collar button," laughed Paul.
Orders for the day's work were issued, and Paul, Ruth, Alice and Mr. Bunn found that they had to go to the Grand Central Terminal where, once before, some film pictures had been made.
"There is quite a complicated plot to this play," explained Mr. Pertell, in issuing his instructions. "Mr. Bunn has some valuable papers, and Paul, as the villain, takes them from his pocket in the station. That starts the action."
Fully instructed what to do, the moving picture girls, with Paul and Russ, went up to Forty-second street.
As the use of the train platforms was not required in this act of the play nothing was said to the station authorities, but Mr. Bunn, with Alice and Ruth, mingled with the crowds, as though they were ordinary travelers.
The operator began taking the necessary pictures, and then came Paul's "cue" to abstract the papers.
He had done it successfully from Mr. Bunn's pocket, seemingly without the knowledge of the actor, and Paul was going on with the rest of the "business," when a policeman stepped up and clapping his hand on Paul's shoulder exclaimed:
"I want you, young man! I saw you take those papers. You're under arrest!"
"But—but it's for the movies!" cried Paul, not wishing the scene spoiled.
"Tell that to the taxicab man! I've heard that yarn before! You come with me. And you too," he added to Mr. Bunn. "I want you for a witness. You've been robbed!"
THE AUTO SMASH
"The scene will be spoiled!" exclaimed Alice, as she saw a crowd surge up when the officer grasped Paul.
"Too bad!" declared Ruth.
"Keep away—get back, please!" cried Russ, as he saw his camera screened by the throng.
"You come along with me!" the officer kept insisting to Paul, dragging him along toward the doors of the station. "Hi, Jim!" he called to a man in plain clothes, evidently a detective. "Grab the other fellow; will you? I've got the pickpocket!" and he nodded to Mr. Bunn, who could not seem to understand that from a simulated robbery it had turned out to be a "real" one.
"I tell you we're moving picture actors!" Paul cried. "There has been no theft!"
"And you expect me to believe that!" sneered the policeman. "You can't get away with that story."
"Well, there's the man who is taking the pictures!" Paul went on, pointing to Russ, who, with a look of chagrin on his face, stood idle beside the camera. He did not want to take a film with this scene in it, for the whole plot of the story would have to be changed to make the policeman fit in.
"Yes, I see him," agreed the officer, nodding at Russ, "and I guess he's in the game with you. I'll take him into custody, too."
"Yes, and you'll get yourself into a whole lot of trouble!" said Paul, vigorously. "You're making a mistake!"
"I'll take that chance," observed the officer, with evident disbelief.
"What's it all about?" asked the detective, sauntering up, while Alice and Ruth, rather alarmed at the turn of affairs, shrank back out of sight behind the crowd, that was increasing every second.
"Pickpocket!" spoke the policeman, laconically. "I saw him rob that elderly gentleman," and he pointed to Mr. Bunn. "And then this fellow has the nerve to say he was only doing a moving picture stunt."
"That's right, and he could see for himself, if he'd take the trouble to look," retorted the young actor. "There's our camera man over there," and he nodded toward Russ. The detective glanced in the same direction, and then a smile came over his somewhat shrewd face, as Russ nodded to him.
"Hello, Dalwood!" exclaimed the detective. Then to the officer—"I guess he's right, Kelly, and you're wrong. I know that young fellow at the camera. He's been at headquarters once or twice helping our rogues' gallery men when their cameras needed fixing."
"Is—is that so?" faltered the officer, and his hold on Paul relaxed.
"That's right," the detective went on. "I guess you've sort of mixed things up, Kelly."
"That's what he has," said Russ. "But if he'll let things go on, and keep this crowd back, I think we can still make the film."
"Oh, I'll do that!" the policeman replied hastily, willing to make amends for the trouble he had caused. "Then it wasn't a case of pocket picking at all?"
"No, we're making a moving picture film," Paul explained. "I took these papers—they're worthless, as you can see," and he showed that the bundle he had extracted from Mr. Bunn's pocket consisted only of some circulars, and blank pieces of paper with imposing looking seals on. But on the film they would appear to be valuable documents.
"Huh! That's a new one on me!" the officer exclaimed. "Now, you people move back!" he cried, "and give 'em a chance to take their pictures. Move back there!"
Affairs had turned in the direction of our friends, and a little later Russ was able to complete the film, from the point where the policeman had stepped in and spoiled it. The small portion that was of no use, however, could be cut out when the film was developed, and the audiences would never be the wiser.
Again Paul went on with his acting from the point where he had been interrupted, and Ruth, Alice and Mr. Bunn did their share. Eventually the film was made.
"Something new every day!" laughed Paul, as they were coming away from the terminal. "I wonder what will happen next?"
"As long as you don't have to go up in an airship you'll be all right," observed Alice, trying to keep a refractory wisp of hair from coming down into her eyes.
"That's right," agreed Paul, "and yet I wouldn't be surprised to get orders to go up to the clouds any day. In fact, I'm pretty sure we've got to take a queer auto trip soon."
"Is that so? When? Where?" demanded Ruth, pausing a moment to look at a shop window where some lingerie was temptingly displayed.
"I don't know the particulars. I happened to overhear Mr. Pertell talking to Pop Snooks about it. I expect it will be given out in a few days, before Russ has to film it."
The next few days were filled with work for the moving picture actors and actresses. There was much to be done before the Western trip was undertaken, and many of the films made had a bearing on the new play "East and West."
"My idea," announced Mr. Pertell, in explaining some matters to his company, "is to portray briefly the story of the East and West, and to show how the civilization of the East made its way West. I want to show the various sports and industries of both sections, as well as various phases of life and science. Automobiling will be one and——"
"Don't say airships!" interrupted Mr. Sneed.
"That's just what I was going to say," finished Mr. Pertell, with a smile. "I will want some of you to take a trip in an airship. But that will come later."
"I'll never go up!" declared the "grouch."
"Well, we'll settle that later," the manager went on. "Just at present I am going to have some automobile pictures made, and in one of them an auto containing you young ladies," he looked at Ruth and Alice, "goes to smash down a steep hill and over a cliff."
"Oh!" cried Ruth, clutching at her heart.
"How exciting!" exclaimed Alice, apparently not in the least disturbed.
"Yes," said Mr. Pertell, with a smile. "But don't worry. This will be a 'substitute' film. That is, you'll be in the auto up to a certain point. The chauffeur loses control of it, and it starts to run away down hill. Then it is stopped, the camera is closed for a moment until we substitute an old auto for the real one in which you are. There are dummy figures in the old auto, and they are the ones that go to smash over the cliff. Think you can work that, Russ?"
"Oh, yes, I've done those trick pictures before. Where are you going to plant the smash?"
"Oh, over in Jersey. There are several places in the Orange Mountains that will answer. Near Eagle Rock is a good place."
"All right," agreed the young operator. "I'll be ready whenever you are. But where are you going to get the auto that goes to smash, Mr. Pertell?"
"Oh, I bought a second-hand one cheap. It's now being painted and fixed up to look as much like the good one as possible."
A few days later all was in readiness for taking the auto smash film. The story to be depicted was part of the big "East and West" drama. Ruth and Alice were supposed to be pursued by persons in another auto, and in the smash both girls were to be "injured."
The two automobiles were on hand at the appointed time on a steep slope of the Orange Mountains, where the road turned suddenly near a steep cliff. It was over this cliff that the "smash" would occur.
The auto that would really come to grief was an old rattletrap of a machine, but it would serve the purpose well enough for the film, since only a momentary glimpse of it, and that showing it going at full speed, would be given. The dummy figures, made up to look like Ruth and Alice, were in readiness.
"Now, girls, take your places, if you please," said Mr. Pertell, waving Ruth and Alice toward their car.
"Oh, I'm so nervous!" exclaimed Ruth.
"What about?" asked her sister, as she buttoned her jacket, for the wind was sharp on the hillside.
"Oh, suppose our car doesn't stop in time? Suppose we go over the cliff, instead of the stuffed figures?"
"Don't suppose anything of the kind!" cried Alice, gaily. "Come on—they're waiting for us."
OFF FOR THE WEST
Ruth and Alice, taking their places in what might be termed the "regular" auto, were told just what to do. They were supposed to be escaping from their pursuers, who were in another auto that was to come up from the rear.
Then their chauffeur, in an endeavor to make speed, would go too fast, would not be able to make the turn in the road, and would go over the cliff. But, at the proper time, the dummies and the old auto would be substituted.
"All ready now?" asked Mr. Pertell, when he had carefully repeated his instructions to the girls.
"All ready," answered Alice, and Ruth nodded, though a bit doubtfully. She was really nervous, although she tried not to show it too plainly.
"All ready here," answered Russ, who was beside the camera.
"Then go!" cried the manager, and the auto started.
In order to give the idea of a long chase Russ had to set up his camera in several different places. He changed from one stretch of road to another, the auto being brought to a stop, to wait until he was ready, and then started up again.
But the public saw none of this when the film was exhibited, for only motion was shown, the various sections of the celluloid being joined together in such a way as to preserve the continuity.
"Now ready for the big scene," called Mr. Pertell, after one of these stops. "It's going very well."
Ruth and Alice who, with Paul, were in the regular auto, had shown or "registered" all sorts of emotions during the chase. Sometimes the pursuing auto would be almost up to the one in front, and again it would lag far behind, in order to conform to the requirements of the script, or the story of the film play.
"You will run your car up to here," said Mr. Pertell to the chauffeur of the machine containing Ruth, Alice and Paul. "Then you will stop, and the substitution will be made. Come on with as much speed as is safe, right to this mark," and he indicated a stone in the highway.
"And be sure you do stop!" exclaimed Paul, with a short laugh. "That's rather too near the edge of the cliff to suit me."
"I know it is," agreed Mr. Pertell, "It has to be. I only want a few feet of the film showing the actual smash. If it runs too long the public may see the dummies too plainly. I want this as real an accident as it's possible to have it."
"It seems like tempting Providence," murmured Ruth.
"Don't get 'Sneedified'," was the retort of Alice.
Russ had set up his camera to get views of the auto coming down the steep slope, and now, at his signal that all was in readiness, the chauffeur of the car started it again.
"Business! Business!" called Mr. Pertell to the moving picture girls and Paul, meaning that they were to use the proper gestures, and register the desired emotions to coincide with the play.
On rushed the auto, straight toward the dangerous turn in the road. Paul, who had risen to his feet, was talking vigorously to Ruth and Alice, as called for in the scenario. Now and then he would look back, as though to see if the other car was coming.
Suddenly, as the auto was dashing down hill, there came a snap as if some metal part had broken, and the car's speed was quickly increased.
"What is it? Oh, what has happened?" cried Ruth, springing to her feet. But she was at once tossed back on the seat, owing to the swaying of the car, which was going very fast.
"Something's broken!" cried Paul.
"Yes, the foot brake. But I have the emergency one still!" the chauffeur yelled.
"Is there any danger? Shall we jump?" demanded Alice.
"No! Sit still!" the chauffeur cried. "I'll stop her in time, I think."
It was evident the car was beyond control. There was no need of pretending this.
"Look out!" warned Russ, who in his excitement did not forget to work the camera.
"Stop! Stop!" yelled Mr. Pertell. "You're going too far—you'll go over the cliff!"
The chauffeur realized this as well as any one, and he was pulling with all his strength on the emergency brake lever.
"I've got to stop her!" he panted through his clenched teeth. "I've got to stop her!"
Ruth and Alice were in a frenzy of fear now, and Paul, standing up in the swaying auto, and holding to the back of the front seat, was trying desperately to think of some plan whereby he could save the girls.
The car was now at the turn. Now it was beyond the marking stone specified by Mr. Pertell.
"They'll go over the cliff!" shouted Mr. Sneed, who was to take part in the play later.
Mr. Pertell rushed forward as though he would halt the auto by getting in front and pushing it back, and for one wild moment it looked as though there would be a veritable tragedy. But with a last desperate pull on the brake lever, while the metal bands shrilly protested against such strenuous work, the car came to a slow stop.
And so near was it to the fence railing off the descent over the cliff—which fence was, later, to be crashed into by the make-believe auto—so near was the girls' car to this fence that the front wheels bent one of the rails.
"A close call!" said Russ, and his voice was unsteady as he stepped away from the camera.
Ruth and Alice were pale, and Paul, too, had lost some of his color. But it was Alice who first relieved the strain of the situation.
"A miss is as good as a mile," she said, and tried to laugh, but it was not easy.
"There must be some defect in that brake connection," the chauffeur said, as he got out to look at it.
"Well, as long as we're all right, the film will be so much the better," observed Paul, as he alighted from the car. "It will look realistic enough; won't it, Russ?"
"Indeed it will. I thought sure you were goners; but I kept on grinding away. It will be realistic enough for even Mr. Pertell, I think," and he glanced at the manager.
"I'm awfully sorry this occurred," declared the latter. "I assure you ladies that I never would willingly have let you run such a risk."
"Oh, we know that," responded Ruth, quickly. "It was no one's fault. Only I'm glad daddy wasn't here to see us," she added in a low voice to her sister.
"So am I!" was the reply.
"Now then, you had better get back to New York," went on Mr. Pertell. "This ends the scenes in Jersey, and your nerves must be pretty well shattered," he said, looking at the two girls.
"Oh, I want to stay and watch the other auto go to smash," Alice cried. "That will be something worth seeing, especially as no one will be hurt, except the dummies."
"I'll stay, too," said Ruth. "It will be novel to see ourselves as stuffed figures."
Preparations were now made for having the second auto plunge over the cliff. This car was set in the exact position the other had occupied when brought to a stop. The dummy figures were put in, veils effectually concealing the faces. Then the motor was started.
Meanwhile Russ had taken his camera to the foot of the cliff where he could get a view of the car plunging over, and smashing.
"All ready!" came the signal. By means of long wires, which would not show in the finished picture, the gears were thrown in, and the brakes released.
"There she goes!" cried Russ.
The car containing the dummies started off at a fast rate. It crashed through the fence, just as the other car might have done, and the next instant was hurtling through the air.
It turned partly over, one of the dummy figures—that of Ruth—toppled out—and a moment later, with a crash that could be heard a long distance, the auto was crumpled into a shapeless mass at the foot of the cliff.
Russ got every detail of this, and when the wrecked auto caught fire from the burst gasoline tank it added to the effectiveness of the scene, though that feature had not been counted on.
Then several men came rushing up. They had been stationed in readiness for just that purpose, and they picked up the figures of the dummies.
That ended the scene, for the next act took place in a hospital, whither Ruth, Alice and Paul were supposed to be carried. That would be a studio scene, and filmed later.
"Well, that's over," said Mr. Pertell, with a sigh of relief, as he and his company of players prepared to return to New York. A throng of curious bystanders, attracted by the actors and actresses, gathered about the burning auto at the foot of the cliff. As it was of no further service it was left there.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen," announced Mr. Pertell to his assembled company a few days after the auto film had been made, "I am ready now to tell you something of my plans for the Western trip. Arrangements have been about completed, and we leave in a few days."
"Where are we going?" asked Mr. DeVere.
"Our first destination will be a place called Rocky Ranch," the manager went on. "It is a typical Western place, with some broad prairie stretches, and yet near enough to the mountains for diversified scenes. There will be cowboy and Indian pictures to be made, and——"
"Wild Indians?" Mr. Sneed wanted to know.
"Not wild enough to scalp you," returned the manager.
"And can I have a gun?" little Tommy cried.
"Indeed and you won't!" said his grandmother, quickly.
"Well, you can be cowboy and have a lasso," promised the manager.
"Oh, goodie!" Tommy exclaimed, dancing about in delight.
"In this play," went on Mr. Pertell, "I want to get scenes showing our progress West, so we will be rather longer on the trip than otherwise. We will wait over on some trains, to make views in particularly good spots. So you may get ready for the journey. Our Eastern scenes are all made, and I want to thank and congratulate you all on their success. It was the good acting of all of you that made the films what they are."
Preparations for the big trip went on apace. Properties and baggage were gotten in readiness, and Ruth and Alice spent days going over their clothes, to decide what to take and what to leave behind.
"Though if I'm to be a cowgirl, and ride ponies, I don't suppose I'll want this," said Alice, holding up a filmy white dress.
"Better take it," advised Ruth, who was seated tailor-fashion before a trunk, which she was packing.
"It crushes too easily," objected the other.
"Fold it around some heavier things," suggested Ruth, "and don't put it in the trunk until the last thing. Oh, I believe I've put my suede slippers in the bottom, and I'll want them to-night. Well, I'll have to dig 'em out, I guess," she sighed.
"No, there they are!" cried Alice, fishing them out from under a pile of stockings. "What have you in them?" she asked her sister, as she saw the slippers were filled with something.
"I always stuff the toes with old stockings," said Ruth. "It keeps them out almost as well as if I used shoe-trees."
"Good idea," laughed her sister.
The packing was over, the trunks were at the station and also was gathered there the moving picture company.
"Ho, for the West!" cried Russ, who was standing with Paul, Ruth and Alice.
"All aboard!" called Mr. Pertell. And, as they moved off toward the train Russ, turning, saw a man staring after the players.
"Look!" said the young operator, in a low voice to Mr. Pertell, "that International Film Company spy—Wilson—is keeping tabs on us!"
THE OIL WELL
Mr. Pertell paused and looked back. There on the depot platform stood the man he had caught in his testing room taking notes of the films of the big drama.
"Those fellows mean business!" the manager commented. "They are trying to get my best ideas, I think. It's a wonder they wouldn't originate something themselves!"
"I'd like to have it out with him," declared Russ.
"It would only make trouble," responded the manager. "I think I can stop them in another way. I'll try legal means first, and if they don't work—well, perhaps we can put up some kind of a game on them."
"Let me have a hand in it," begged the young operator. "I want to pay my respects to that fellow."
Wilson, for so it was, had by this time seen that he was observed, and he slunk out of sight behind a pillar. Then, as Mr. Pertell and Russ went to take their places in the coach with the others, a truck, piled with the baggage of the company, came along.
The spy darted out from behind the pillar and with a quick glance noted the destination as shown on the checks.
"So that was his game!" cried Russ. "I'll put a stop to that, all right!"
"It's too late. He's seen, and, anyhow, he could have found out," called Mr. Pertell. But Russ did not stay to hear, for he had made a rush toward the fellow.
He was too late, however, and perhaps it was just as well, as Russ was a bit hot-headed, and there might have been a scene. Wilson, seeing Russ coming, hastily thrust into his pocket a card on which he had evidently been copying the name of the place to which the trunks had been checked, and ran away.
"Come back, Russ," called Mr. Pertell. "You'll miss the train!" for the warning whistle had sounded.
"I wish I had caught him," panted the young operator as he returned. "I never saw a fellow with such nerve."
"His company is in bad shape," said Mr. Pertell. "They have been losing money, and their films are not taking well. They have not much of a company of players, and I suppose they think they can use some of our ideas, and maybe some of our actors and actresses."
"How do you mean—by hiring them away from you?" asked Russ.
"Well, they might do that, though I don't believe the International people will pay the salaries my people are getting. So I think none of them would leave. Even if more money were offered I think my friends would stand by me. But what I meant was that we'll have to be on the watch to see that they don't actually take some of our films."
"You mean after I have made the reels?"
"No, they might even try, on the sly, to film the action of our players when we're going through some scene."
"Whew!" whistled Russ. "If they do that you could have them arrested."
"Well, be on the watch—that's all."
None of the other members of the company had seen the spy, and Russ and the manager said nothing about him. The train pulled out of the station, and thus the Western trip was begun.
Mr. Pertell planned to stop off with his company at several places and make films along the way. This was in accord with his idea of showing a big drama indicating the development of this country from East to West. The rush of the gold seekers, and the advance of the farmers to take up Government claims, were to be depicted, along with many other scenes.
One stop was made in the coal mining regions of Pennsylvania, near Scranton, and there some fine films were obtained. In one scene Ruth and Alice were shown in the interior of a mine, with the black coal all about them. Powerful electric lights gave the necessary illumination.
"I'd like to get a scene showing an explosion," said Russ, as they left the coal regions.
"Why, Russ Dalwood!" cried Ruth. "I'm surprised at you!"
"Oh, I don't mean by accident," he replied, quickly. "In fact, a little one would do. And I don't want one to happen on my account. But if there's going to be an accident I wish I could be on hand to film it."
"Oh, that's different," said Ruth, with a smile. "But I'm glad there is no accident."
Three days had been spent in and around Scranton, and now the moving picture players were ready to start off again. Mr. Pertell was reconsidering some plans he and Russ had talked over, and it had not been definitely decided what to do as yet.
"We'll just keep on," said the manager, "and perhaps something will turn up to give me an idea for a novel film."
They had taken a train on a small branch line of the railroad to connect with a through express, and about an hour after starting, and when about half-way to the junction, they came to a sudden stop.
"Ha! An accident!" cried Russ, reaching for the small camera he kept for emergencies.
"Wait, I'll come with you," said the manager. "We may be able to make it into a film."
But when they got on the outside, followed by several of the members of the company, they saw no signs of anything wrong. There was no other train in sight, so there could have been no collision, and their own train was safely on the track. Off to one side, however, gathered about a tall structure of wood, was a knot of people.
"What's the matter?" asked Russ of one of the trainmen.
"They're going to shoot an oil well over there," was the answer, "and it's so close to the track that they signalled us to stop."
"Why didn't they wait until we got past?" asked Mr. DeVere who, with his daughters, had gone out to see what caused the delay.
"Why, they had already lowered the charge of nitro-glycerine into the well," the brakeman explained, "and something has gone wrong. The shot didn't go off, and they're afraid it may at any minute. So they're holding us back a little while."
"Is that an oil well?" asked Alice, pointing to the tall, wooden structure.
"That's the derrick, by which the drill is worked—yes, Miss," the brakeman said. "They bore down through the sand and rock until they think they're close to the oil. Then they blow out what rock and earth remains, with nitro-glycerine. The well may be a 'spouter,' or they may have to pump. Can't tell until after they fire the shot. I guess she's going off!" he added quickly. "Look at 'em run!"
"I've got my idea!" exclaimed Mr. Pertell. "We'll have a film of boring for oil. That will fit in well with my big drama. Get the company together, Pop," he said to the property man. "And, Russ, get ready to film the shooting of the oil well."
Though there was a rush of spectators away from the oil well it appeared to be a false alarm, for nothing happened, and Mr. Pertell, who was afraid the well would "spout" before he could get his company of players on the scene, was relieved when he heard one of the workmen call:
"False alarm. She isn't going off yet."
"Now hurry and get around the well," urged the manager. "I want some of you grouped near it when the oil spouts up."
"Won't it be dangerous?" asked Mr. Sneed. "I don't want to be blown up by nitro-glycerine."
"You needn't get too close," returned Mr. Pertell. "I just want the spouting well as a background."
"It will be all right if you keep about thirty feet back," said one of the well borers.
"How do you shoot a well?" asked Paul, while Russ was getting ready his camera.
"By using nitro-glycerine," was the answer. "This explosive comes in tin cans, about ten feet long and about five inches in diameter. We lower these cannisters down into the iron pipe that extends to the bottom of the well."
"How deep?" queried Alice.
"Oh, a well may run anywhere from three hundred to three thousand feet, or even more. This one is about one thousand. We have about a hundred quarts of nitro-glycerine down in the pipes now; but it hasn't gone off yet."
"Can you—er—tell me when it will go off?" asked Mr. Sneed, looking about him nervously.
"Any minute, if not sooner," replied the oil man, with a smile. "Oh, don't run—you're safe here," he added, as Mr. Sneed began to move away. At the same time Claude Towne, the "swell" of the company, exclaimed:
"I'm not going to stay here and get this new suit spoiled by the oil." He was very careful of his attire.
"Oh, the oil won't spray as far as this," the workman assured him.
"How do they explode the glycerine?" asked Mr. DeVere.
"Well, the old plan used to be to drop an iron weight called a 'go-devil,' down on top of the cannisters containing the explosive. The top can was fitted with a firing head, and when the iron weight hit this, after a long fall, it would explode, and the concussion would set off the rest of the glycerine."
"But this time we tried a new plan. We used a 'go-devil-squib.' That's a sort of torpedo, holding about a quart of the glycerine, and it has a firing head of its own. We drop that down the pipe and when it hits on the top cannister it goes off, and sets off the rest of the explosive. But, somehow, it didn't work this time. The charge missed fire, so now we're going to drop down an old fashioned 'go-devil' and see what happens."
Mr. Pertell asked, and readily obtained, permission to make moving pictures of the shooting of the well, and was also accorded the privilege of posing his company at the scene when the well did "spout."
"I'll have to think up some sort of a scenario to go with it," the manager said.
"Have some poor man get rich suddenly by striking oil on his land," suggested Russ, "and then show what he does with his money. You can easily get the later scenes."
"Good idea—I will," exclaimed the manager. "We'll use this as the first, or opening, scene in—let me see, we'll call it 'The Rise and Fall of the Kerosene King.' How's that?"
"Good!" cried Mr. DeVere.
"All right. Paul, you'll be the king. But you'll have to start as a poor lad, and those good clothes won't do. Slip on a pair of greasy overalls—borrow them from one of the men—then you'll look more natural."
Paul was soon fitted out as one of the oil men, and then, after a brief rehearsal, the improvised drama was ready to be taken on the sensitive film. A few preliminary scenes were made by Russ, and then, as word was given that the iron weight was about to be dropped on the cans of glycerine in the well-pipes, Mr. Pertell got his company as close to the derrick as was safe. Then, while Russ clicked away at the camera, one of the workmen called:
"Let her go!"
A man dropped the iron weight down the pipe and ran.
"Look out, everybody!" he cried as he sprang away.
"Are we safe here?" Mr. Sneed asked anxiously.
"You're all right," one of the workmen assured him.
"Oh, I'm so nervous!" faltered Ruth.
"No need of it," answered Alice, as she leaned forward to watch the spouting of the oil from the well.
There was a dull rumble beneath the surface of the earth. The ground seemed to heave and shake. It trembled, and Miss Pennington and Miss Dixon looked at each other with frightened eyes.
"It—it's like an earthquake," observed Ruth.
"Oh, look!" cried Alice.
At that moment something like a dark cloud shot upward from the pipes and spread out, plume-fashion. At the same moment the air was filled with the rank odor of oil and gas.
"She's a spouter! She's a spouter!" cried the men, in delight.
"Cap her up!" came the command.
But it was not easy to do at first, so great was the flow of oil, and considerable had run to waste when the internal pressure of natural gas, which forced out the oil, was reduced sufficiently to allow of the pipe being capped, and the flow of petroleum regulated.
All this time Russ had continued to get pictures of the novel scene, and Paul, as the Kerosene King, went through the act that had been improvised for him, the others of the company doing their share.
"This will make a novel film," said Mr. Pertell in satisfied tones. "I hope you got it all, Russ."
"Every bit. I think the views showing the oil spouting up will be first rate."
"But what are you using two cameras for?" asked Mr. DeVere.
"Two cameras?" repeated Mr. Pertell, questioningly.
"Yes, there's a man over there with another machine," and he pointed to a little hill, not far off, where stood a man working away at the handle of a machine similar to the one Russ was using. And this camera was pointed directly at the oil well and at the Comet players.
"What does that mean?" cried Mr. Pertell. "I didn't order two films made, and besides——"
"That isn't one of our men!" interrupted Russ, as he sprang away from his camera.
"Who is it?" Mr. Pertell wanted to know.
"It's one of our rivals. Someone from the International concern!" cried Russ. "They've followed us to steal some more of our ideas!"
"You're right!" shouted Mr. Pertell. "This will have to stop!"
Together he and Russ, followed by Paul, made a dash in the direction of the rival photographer. But the latter saw them coming, and hastily picking up his machine he ran toward a clump of woods not far off. And by the time his pursuers reached there he was not to be found, though they searched about for some time.
"All aboard!" called the conductor of the way train that had been held up to allow the shooting of the oil well. "All board!"
"Come," summoned Mr. Pertell to his moving picture players. "We'll get along now. That stop was a lucky one for us."
The train could now proceed, all danger from the delayed charge in the well being over. Just what had caused it to "hang fire" was never learned. But the shooting of the well was a success, and as the train pulled out, Paul having gotten rid of his borrowed clothes, the workmen were seen hurrying about, taking care of the valuable flow of petroleum.
"What do you make of the action of that International man?" asked Russ, as he took a seat beside the manager.
"I don't know what to make of those fellows," was the answer. "They must be following us pretty closely; but I don't see how they knew we were going to film the oil well."
"They didn't know it," decided Russ. "They've had a spy on our trail, following us; that's how it was done. You know we saw that fellow Wilson looking at the destination marked on the baggage checks. He probably sent word to the concern and they started out a camera man to follow us. It would have to be someone we hadn't seen before, so of course Wilson himself would not do, though I understand he can operate a machine fairly well."
"I guess you've got the right idea," agreed Mr. Pertell. "This fellow, whoever he was, made inquiries and learned where we were headed for. Then with his camera he simply kept on the same train with us."
"And when we stopped here to get the oil well pictures," resumed Russ, "he trailed along and set up his machine. He got all the benefit of our players' acting and his company wasn't out a cent for salaries or transportation. Of course he probably had as good a right to get pictures of the well as we did."
"But not to film my company!" exclaimed Mr. Pertell, with energy. "I won't stand for that; I'll have a stop put to it!"
"First I'm afraid we'll have to catch him," observed Russ. "He certainly made himself scarce when we ran after him."
"Well, he isn't on this train, that's sure," went on the manager, "and he'll have some trouble picking up our trail after this."
"How's that?" asked Russ.
"Why, I'm going to change our plans. We'll skip the next stop. I was going to go up around the Great Lakes and make part of a drama there, showing the effect the lakes and their trade had on the growth of our country. Now I'll wait until we are on our way back from Rocky Ranch."
"That will be a good idea," agreed the young camera operator. "Those International people must be pretty hard put to it to steal your ideas."
"They are," said Mr. Pertell. "They want to do me an injury. I had some trouble with them years ago, and I won out in a lawsuit. Since then they have been injuring me every chance they could get; but it really amounted to little until lately. Now they are evidently getting desperate, and they are using every means to make trouble for me."
"Well, we'll just have to be on the lookout for them at every turn," Russ declared.
Owing to the decision of Mr. Pertell that he would not, at this time, take his company to the Great Lakes, a change in the route had to be made. This necessitated stopping off for one night at a small country town, where the company put up at the only hotel the place afforded.
"What a miserable place!" exclaimed Miss Pennington, tilting up her head when she entered the office with the others.
"And such a horrid smell!" added Miss Dixon, as she stripped off her long gloves with an air of being used to dining every day at the most exclusive hotels. "I believe they are actually cooking—cabbage, Pearl."
"I agree with you, my dear! Isn't it awful! Can it be—cabbage?"
"Yah! Dot's right!" exclaimed Mr. Switzer, rubbing his hands. "Dot's cabbage, all right—sauerkraut, too. Goot!"
"Ugh!" protested Miss Pennington, making a gesture of annoyance.
"I am glat dot ve come here," went on the German. "I haf not hat any sauerkraut—dot is, not any to mention of—since ve left New York."
"Why, I saw you eating some the other day," laughed Paul, as the odor of cooking cabbage became more pronounced from the hotel kitchen.
"Oh, yes, I hat a leetle—yust enough to know der taste of it," agreed the German, with a genial smile. "But I ain't really hat vot you could call a meal of it."
"You're like a man I heard of," said Russ, joining in the talk. "He was a German farmer, I guess, and when his neighbor asked him if he was putting away any sauerkraut that season the German answered: 'No, ve ain't put none down to speak of dis season. Only yust seven or eight barrels in case of sickness!'"
"Goot! Goot! Dot vos a real German!" laughed Mr. Switzer.
There was sauerkraut for supper that night, and the German actor certainly ate enough to ward off any possible illness. And, in spite of the rather homely character of the hotel, the meal was an excellent one, and the moving picture players were more comfortable in the matter of rooms than they had expected. About the only ones to find fault were Miss Pennington, Miss Dixon, and Mr. Sneed. But they would have had some objection to offer in almost any place, so it did not much matter.
Plans were made for taking a train early next morning, to continue on out West, but something occurred to delay matters, though it resulted in the making of an excellent film.
It was just before everyone was ready for breakfast when Ruth, thinking she heard her sister's knock sharply on the door, opened it.
Instead of confronting Alice, Ruth jumped back in terror as she saw a bear standing upright in the hall opposite her door.
"Oh! Oh!" she screamed as the beast put out his red tongue. "Help! A bear! A bear!" and she slammed her door shut with such energy that she knocked a picture from the wall. Ruth shot home the bolt, and then, in a frenzy of fear, pulled the washstand against the door.
"What is it? Oh, what is it?" cried Alice from her apartment across the corridor. "What is it, Ruth?" for she had heard her sister's frantic appeal, though not catching the words.
"Don't open your door! Don't open you door!" begged Ruth. "There's a bear in the hall!"
"Yes, a great big one!"
But in spite of this Alice did open her door a little. She closed it quickly enough, however, at the sight of the shaggy brown creature and, pounding on the door of her father's room, which connected with hers, she cried;
"Daddy, get help, quick! There's a bear in the hall!"
There was a speaking tube from the actor's apartment to the hotel office, and he was soon transferring his daughter's message down this.
Meanwhile Mr. Sneed, coming out of his room from the lower end of the hall, encountered the beast, and turned back with a yell. He nearly collided with Mr. Towne, who was at that moment coming out of his room, faultlessly attired, even to a heavy walking stick.
"Look out!" cried Mr. Sneed, racing along.
"What is it?" asked Mr. Towne.
"A bear. Look out! Here he comes!"
And, in fact, the bear was shuffling down the hall, his head lolling from side to side, and his red tongue hanging out.
Either Mr. Towne did not hear what Mr. Sneed said, or he was so surprised that he did not think to run, for he stood there and, a moment later, the big beast confronted him. Stretching out his paw the animal took from the nerveless hands of the actor the heavy walking stick, and, shouldering it, began to march around in a circle.
Then the hotel proprietor, having been alarmed by Mr. DeVere, came up on the run. As soon as he saw the bear marching around he broke into a laugh.
"That's a trained bear!" he exclaimed. "It belongs to that Italian who stopped here last night. I made him chain the brute out in the wagon shed, but I guess he got loose. That bear won't hurt you. I've seen him before. Tony, the Italian who owns him, often stops here with him when he's traveling around giving exhibitions. He's real gentle. Down, Bruno!" commanded the hotel man, and the bear, with a grunt, dropped on all fours.
Alice, hearing this talk, opened her door, and then called to Ruth that there was no danger. Mr. Sneed was induced to return, and when Tony himself came to get his escaped pet Mr. Towne's cane was returned to him. The bear had taken it for the pole he was used to performing with.
"You want to chain your bear up tighter, Tony," chided the hotel man as the Italian led Bruno away.
"Ah, yes. Bruno, he ees a very bad-a-de bear! I wheep heem for dese."
"Oh, don't!" pleaded Alice. "He didn't mean anything wrong."
"No, mees, but he very bad, just-a de same. He make-a you to be a-skeert."
"Oh, it's all over now," declared Ruth, who ventured out, seeing that the bear was in leash. "But I was frightened for a moment."
"I don't blame you," said Paul, as he heard what had happened. "Rather an unusual morning caller, Ruth."
"Say! I've got an idea!" cried Mr. Pertell, who had come out by this time. "We'll have a film with the bear in it. A sort of Little Red Riding Hood story for children. Something simple, but it will be great to have a real bear in it. Tony, will you let us use Bruno?"
"Of a course, Signor. I make up for de scare. Bruno he do-a just-a whatever you tell. He very good-a bear—sometimes!" and he shrugged his shoulders, philosophically.
"Very well, then, we'll wait over another train, and I'll get up some little scenario with a bear in it. Mr. Sneed, you will take the part of the bear's keeper, and Miss Alice——"