The Moving Picture Girls at Oak Farm - or, Queer Happenings While Taking Rural Plays
by Laura Lee Hope
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Queer Happenings While Taking Rural Plays



Author Of "The Moving Picture Girls," "The Moving Picture Girls Snowbound," "The Outdoor Girls of Deepdale," "The Bobbsey Twins," Etc.


The World Syndicate Publishing Co. Cleveland New York Made in U. S. A. Copyright, 1914, by Grosset & Dunlap

Press of The Commercial Bookbinding Co. Cleveland































"All aboard for Oak Farm!"

"Are we all here; nobody missing?"

"What a relief to get out of the hot city, with summer coming on!"

"Yes, I'm so glad we can go!"

These were only a few of the expressions that came from a motley assemblage of persons as they stood in a train shed in Hoboken, one June morning. Motley indeed was the gathering, and more than one traveler paused to give a second look at the little group. Perhaps a brief list of them may not be out of place.

There were four pretty girls, two of the innocent type that can so easily forget their own good looks; two not so ingenuous, fully aware that they had certain charms, and anxious that they be given full credit for them.

Then there was a man, with rather long black hair, upon which perched, rather than fitted, a tall silk hat that had lost its first sheen. If ever "actor" was written in a man's make-up it was in the case of this personage. Beside him stood, attired much the same, but in garments that fitted him better, another who was obviously of the theater, as were the two girls who were so aware of their own good looks.

Add to this two or three young men, at least two of whom seemed to hover near the two girls who were innocently unaware of their beauty; a bustling gentleman who seemed nervous lest some of the party get lost, a motherly-looking woman, with two children who were here, there and everywhere; another man who looked as though all the milk and cream in the world had turned sour, and finally one on whose round German face there was a gladsome smile, which seemed perpetual—and you have the main characters.

No, there was one other—a genial man who seemed to be constantly trying to solve some puzzle, and taking pleasure in it.

And these personages were waiting for a train. That was evident. You might have puzzled over their occupation and destination, as many other travelers did, and the problem would not have been solved, perhaps, until you had a glimpse of the markings on their trunks. But when you noted the words: "Comet Film Company," you understood.

"Oh, won't it be just delightful, Ruth!" exclaimed one of the younger girls.

"It certainly will, Alice. I'm just crazy to get out where I can gather new-laid eggs and know they are fresh!"

"Little housekeeper!" exclaimed the man standing beside the one who looked as though he dreamed of nothing else but "Hamlet."

"Well, Daddy dear, won't it be just fine to have fresh eggs?" demanded the one addressed as Ruth. "If Alice thinks it's easy to get them in the city——"

"Now Ruth DeVere, you know I was only chaffing!" exclaimed Alice. "But I don't believe you'll get much chance to gather eggs, Ruth."

"Why not?"

"Those two youngsters will claim that as one of their daily—chores—I believe they're called on a farm," and with laughing brown eyes she motioned to the boy and girl who, at that moment, were playing tag around the motherly-looking woman.

"Oh, yes, I suppose Tommy and Nellie will be after them," agreed Ruth. "But I can go with them."

"And jump off the beam in the barn down into the hay! Won't that be fun!" cried Alice. "I haven't done that—not in years, when we went once to grandfather's farm. Oh, for a good jump into the fragrant hay!"

"Why, Alice, you wouldn't do that; would you?" asked Ruth, as she straightened her sailor.

"She may—and you may all have to!" spoke the man who seemed in charge of this odd theatrical company.

"How is that, Mr. Pertell?" asked Ruth.

"Well, you know we're going to make moving pictures of all sorts of rural scenes that will fit in the plays, and jumping into a haymow may be one of them," he laughed.

"I refuse to do any such foolishness as that!" broke in the tragic actor. "I have demeaned myself enough already in this farce and travesty of acting, and to jump into a haymow—ye gods! Never!" and he seemed to shudder.

"Oh, I guess you'll do it, Mr. Bunn, or give up your place to someone who will," said Mr. Frank Pertell, the manager, calmly.

The tragic actor sighed, and said nothing.

"Huh! Yes! Jumping around in barns! Some of us will break our arms or legs, that's certain!" exclaimed the man who looked as though all the world were sad. "I know some accident will happen to us yet."

"Oh, cheer up, Mr. Sneed. The worst is yet to come, Sir Knight of the Doleful Countenance!" exclaimed a fresh-faced young man who carried under his arm a small box, from which projected a handle and a small tube. The initiated would have known it at once as a camera for taking moving pictures. "It will be jolly out there at Oak Farm, I'm sure."

"That's right, Russ! Don't let Mr. Sneed get gloomy on such a fine day!" whispered Alice DeVere. "But when is our train coming?"

"It will be made up soon," Russ Dalwood answered. "Perhaps it is ready now. I'll go and inquire."

The two girls, before spoken of as being too well aware of their own good looks, were talking together at one side of the big concrete platform beneath the train shed. As they strolled about and talked, one of them, from time to time, applied a chamois to her already well-powdered nose, and took occasional glimpses of herself in the tiny mirror imbedded in the top of the box that contained her "beautifier." Occasionally the two would glance at Alice and Ruth, and make remarks.

"Train will soon be ready for us," announced Russ Dalwood, coming back to join the rest of the theatrical troupe which, instead of presenting plays in a theater, posed for them before the clicking eye of the camera, the films later to be shown to thousands in the chain of moving picture playhouses which took the Comet Company's service. "We can go aboard in five minutes!" Russ added.

"That's good," sighed Ruth. "There's is nothing so tiresome as waiting. Which track will it be on, Russ?"

"Number thirteen!"

"What! Great Scott! Track thirteen! I'm not going!" cried Pepper Sneed, who had come to be known as the "grouch" of the company.

"Not going! Why not, I'd like to know?" demanded Mr. Pertell.

"Why—track thirteen—that's unlucky, you know. Something is sure to happen!"

"Well, as we have to get to Beatonville, where Oak Farm is located, and as this is the only road that goes there, I'm afraid we'll have to take that train, whether it's on track thirteen or not," declared Mr. Pertell. "Unless," he added with gentle sarcasm, "you can get the company to switch it to another track."

Mr. Sneed did not answer, but later Paul Ardite, who was one of the younger members of the company, saw the actor tieing a knot in his watch chain, and tossing a penny into a rubbish heap.

"What in the world are you doing that for?" demanded Paul.

"Trying to break the hoodoo!" exclaimed Mr. Sneed. "To start out to do new film work on track thirteen! Whew! That's terrible!"

But Paul only laughed.

"Now, is everyone here?" asked Mr. Pertell a little later, when a railroad man, through a megaphone, announced the make-up of the train.

"It seems so," remarked Mr. DeVere, who spoke in a hoarse and husky whisper, difficult to understand. In fact, as you will learn later, it was this affliction that had caused him to be acting for moving pictures instead of in the legitimate drama.

Mr. Pertell took a rapid survey of his little company, and then went off to make sure that the trunks containing the various costumes had been properly checked.

"Funny thing about Beatonville," remarked Russ to Ruth.

"Why so?" she asked.

"Oh, every time I inquired of the brakeman, or starter, where the train for that place left from, they'd laugh. I thought there must be some joke, and I asked about it."

"Was there?"

"Well, not much of one. It seems that Beatonville is about the last place in Jersey that anyone ever heads for. I guess it must consist of the depot and one house—the one where the agent lives. There is only one train a day and the place is so lonesome, the starter said, that the engineer hates to stop there."

"Oh, well, we aren't going there for pleasure—we're going to work," put in Ruth. "Besides, Oak Farm isn't exactly in Beatonville; is it, Russ?"

"No, a few miles out, I believe. Well, it will be a rest for us after the rush of the city, anyhow."

"All aboard!" called a brakeman, and the Comet Film Company, bag and baggage, started for the train that was to take them to new scenes of activity.

"Why do you carry your camera, Russ?" asked Ruth, when she and her sister were seated near the young man, on whom devolved the duty of "filming," or taking, the various scenes of the plays it was planned to produce.

"Oh, I didn't know but what I might see something to 'shoot' it at," he answered, with a laugh. "You know Mr. Pertell sometimes sends films to the Moving Picture Weekly Newspaper—scenes of current events. I might catch one for him on the way."

"I see. Have you ever been to Oak Farm, Russ?"

"Yes, I went up there when Mr. Pertell looked it over to see if it would do for our new rural dramas."

"What sort of a place is it?" asked Alice.

"Very nice—for a farm."

"Isn't there something queer about it?" asked Ruth. "I mean wasn't there some sort of a mystery connected with Sandy Apgar, the young farmer who works it? You know we met him in New York," she added to Alice.

"Yes, I remember."

"Mystery?" spoke Russ, musingly. "Well, I believe there is something wrong about the place—not exactly a mystery, though. Maybe it's some sort of trouble. Well, here we go!"

The train had started out into the "wilds of Jersey," as Wellington Bunn, the tragic actor, put it. It was about forty miles to Beatonville, the trip occupying nearly two hours, for the train was not a fast one. The members of the company conversed on various topics in regard to some of the projected plays.

The train had stopped at a small station, and was gathering speed when there suddenly came such an application of the air brakes as to cause several persons in the aisle to fall. Others slid from their seats, or were thrown against the backs of the seats in front of them.

"What is it?"

"What's the matter?"

"An accident—let's get out!"

Before anyone could do anything, though, there was a terrific smash, and amid the wild tooting of a whistle could be heard the crashing and splintering of wood. Then the train came to a stop with a jerk that further scattered the frightened passengers.

"A smash-up!"

"A collision!"

"Oh, let's get out of here!"

No one could tell who was saying these things. They were shouted over and over again.

Russ Dalwood picked himself up from the floor of the car. A glance told him that no member of the company had been more than jarred or shaken, for their car was intact, and no windows were broken.

He helped Alice back to her seat, from which she had slid. Ruth had risen to her feet. Russ caught up his camera and made for the door.

"Oh, where are you going?" cried Alice, nervously clutching her leather purse. "Is any one hurt?"

"I don't know—I'm going to see," answered Russ. "And I'm going to film this smash. I may be able to get some good pictures for our newspaper service, Mr. Pertell," he added, as he hurried out.



After the first crash, the sudden stop, and the terrified cries, a silence followed that was almost as startling and nerve-racking as the accident had been.

Then benumbed senses gradually came back to their owners, and the passengers began to take stock of themselves and their surroundings.

"Is anybody hurt?" demanded Mr. Pertell, as he surveyed the interior of the car.

"We seem to be all right," replied Mr. DeVere, hoarsely, as he noted where his two daughters were standing together, their arms about each other.

"Py gracious, dot vos a smash, all right!" exclaimed Carl Switzer, the comedian of the company. "I pelief me dot I haf busted——"

"Not your leg—don't say you have broken your leg!" cried Mrs. Maguire, as she clasped her two grandchildren in her arms. Nellie, the little girl, was crying, from having bumped her nose against the back of a seat.

"No, t'ank my lucky stars I haf not broken my leg. It iss only my shoe-lace!" exclaimed Mr. Switzer, triumphantly, as he held it up, dangling.

"Luck!" grunted Mr. Sneed in gloomy tones. "Is there any such thing as good luck? I knew something would happen when we started out on track thirteen. This company is doomed—I can see that."

"Well, then, please keep it to yourself," requested Mr. Pertell, sharply. "You are getting on the nerves of the ladies, Sneed!"

For Miss Pearl Pennington, and her friend Miss Laura Dixon—the two rather flashily-pretty girls mentioned before—were crying hysterically.

"It doesn't seem to be a very bad smash," went on Mr. Pertell. "Suppose we go out and see what caused it? I hope none of our baggage has been damaged."

"Oh, let's go out and see Russ taking moving pictures of the wreck!" proposed Alice, as she brushed off her blue suit.

"Are you sure you're all right?" asked Ruth, anxiously.

"Oh, certainly! Not hurt at all. Just jolted up a bit. Come on. You too, Daddy!"

Indeed the whole theatrical company, as well as the other passengers, made for the doors of the car. And while they are going out to see the extent of the damage I will take just a moment to make my new readers somewhat better acquainted with the characters of this story.

To begin with the moving picture girls themselves, they were Ruth and Alice DeVere, aged seventeen and fifteen respectively, the daughters of Hosmer DeVere, formerly a well known actor. As told in the first volume, "The Moving Picture Girls; Or, First Appearances in Photo Dramas," Mr. DeVere's voice had suddenly given out, when he was rehearsing for a part in a new play.

This came particularly hard, as he had been without an engagement for some time, and finances were low. The DeVere family lived in the Fenmore Apartment on one of the West Sixtieth streets of New York City. They were, in fact, about to be dispossessed for non-payment of rent when Mr. DeVere experienced a return of an old throat affection, making it impossible for him to speak his lines.

He was replaced in the character, and matters looked black indeed. Across the hall from the DeVere family lived Russ Dalwood, a moving picture operator, with his widowed mother and brother, Billy. Russ learned of the distress of his neighbors, and suggested that as Mr. DeVere could act he might get a place with a moving picture company that produced picture dramas. In this work he would not need to speak very much.

At first Mr. DeVere would not hear of it, as he was an actor of some reputation in the "legitimate." But finally he yielded and became a member of the Comet Film Company. How his two daughters joined the company, through a mere accident, and how they made fame for themselves, you will find set down in the book; also how they aided Russ greatly when it seemed as if a valuable patent he had perfected, for an attachment to a moving picture camera, was in danger of being stolen.

Toward the close of that story you may learn how Mr. Pertell became acquainted with a young farmer named Sandy Apgar, who was working a large farm for his aged father, near Beatonville, in New Jersey. It happened that Mr. Pertell was contemplating the filming of a number of rural plays, and he made arrangements with Mr. Apgar to use the farm as a background for the scenes. The company would also live and board at the farmhouse, which was a large, old-fashioned home.

The players were on their way there when the accident occurred.

To go a little more into detail about the two girls, and the others, I might say that Ruth was tall, with deep blue eyes and light hair. She was rather inclined to be romantic, too, as might be suspected.

Alice was just the opposite—plump, jolly, always laughing or joking, and with a wealth of brown hair, and eyes like hazel nuts. She was very like her dead mother, while Ruth was more like her father in character.

Mr. Pertell was the manager and owner of the Comet Film Company, and I have already mentioned the principal players. Ruth and Alice were the newest members. Miss Pennington and Miss Dixon were from the vaudeville stage, and you could see this without being told. They were a bit jealous of the DeVere girls.

Mrs. Maguire, who was billed as "Cora Ashleigh," was generally played in "old woman parts." And she played them well. Her two grandchildren, Tommy and Nellie, occasionally had small parts in the plays. Mr. Switzer was the comedian, and, opposite to him, was Pepper Sneed, the "grouch." Wellington Bunn seemed always to have a grievance because he had not made a success in Shakespeare.

Pop Snooks was the "Old Reliable" property man of the company, and what he could not manufacture in the way of "props" at short notice was hardly worth mentioning.

The company of moving picture players and the other train passengers found a scene of desolation awaiting them as they alighted. But it was not as bad as might have been expected, and no one had been killed. In fact, no one was hurt, save the fireman and engineer of the passenger train, and they only slightly.

What had happened was this: A freight train, on a siding, had overrun a switch, and one of the cars encroached on the main line tracks. The passenger engine had "side-swiped" it, as the railroad term has it. That is, the engine had struck a glancing blow, and had been derailed. The baggage car, directly behind the engine, had been smashed, but a quick survey on the part of Mr. Pertell showed that the company's baggage had not been damaged.

The wreck was bad enough, however, and meant a delay until the track was cleared. The members of the company, and the other passengers, gathered about, looking on while the railroad men held a consultation as to what was best to be done.

"Look, there's Russ, taking pictures!" exclaimed Ruth, pointing to him. The young operator had gone to the baggage car and obtained the tripod of his camera. This he had set up in an advantageous position, and was industriously grinding away at the handle, taking pictures of the wreck on the moving strip of celluloid.

"This will be all right for our newspaper service!" he called to Mr. Pertell.

"That's right! Good work, Russ! But this will mean a delay in getting to Oak Farm."

However, there was no help for it. One of the trainmen went to the nearest station to telephone for the wrecking crew. Fortunately it was not necessary to bring one out from Hoboken, since at Dover, a station some miles down the line, such an equipment was kept. And a little later the wrecking crew was on the scene.

"I'll get some fine pictures now!" exulted Russ. "I'm glad I'm here, though I wouldn't want a railroad collision to happen every day. We might not get off so lucky next time."

"Luck! Don't mention luck!" grumbled Mr. Sneed. "The idea of starting out on track thirteen! I told you something would happen."

"Den you vas not disappointmented alretty yet!" laughed Mr. Switzer.

The work of getting the engine back on the track was comparatively easy, and it was found that the train could proceed, since the running gear of the baggage car was intact.

The train was almost ready to go on again, when a woman, flashily dressed, and wearing many diamonds, came bustling up from the parlor car.

"Is my dog safe?" she inquired of the baggageman. "Is he hurt?"

"No'm, he's all right; or he was a little while ago," the man answered. "He was tied in the corner, just where you told me to put him. I guess he's there yet. His end of the car wasn't hit. But he howled a lot."

"Poor Rex! Let me see him." The lady went to the open door of the baggage car, and looked in. "Why, he's gone!" she cried. "My dog—my darling dog—is gone!"

"Can't be!" exclaimed the trainman. "He was tied right there a minute ago."

He jumped into the shattered car and looked about.

"Is he there?" cried the woman.

"No, ma'am, he's gone," was the answer. "But I don't see how it could be."

"Did he break loose?" the lady asked, with much eagerness.

"No, the strap is gone, and he couldn't possibly untie the knot I put in it. Someone has taken him, ma'am."

"Then this company is responsible, and I shall sue it!" the lady cried, bristling with what might be righteous anger. "My dog was a valuable one. Rex III has taken prize after prize, and I was on my way with him to a dog show now. Oh, Rex! Who could have taken you?" and she seemed genuinely distressed.

"What kind of a dog was he?" asked Alice, for she loved animals.

"A collie—a most beautiful collie. He had a pink bow on, and here it is! Oh, how I loved him! We were inseparable! And now he is gone!" and tears filled the lady's eyes.



Despite the excitement and hard work caused by the wreck, many of the trainmen had time to look for the missing dog. This was after the conductor had been appealed to by Mrs. Delamont, the owner of the prize animal.

And it appeared, from the deferential attitude of the conductor, that Mrs. Delamont was a person of some importance. Her husband was one of the directors of the railroad, and she was much interested in prize dogs.

But a careful search failed to disclose the missing Rex III. An examination of the car revealed nothing, and the baggage man was sure he had tied such a knot in the dog's leash that the animal could not have worked it loose.

"Besides," said Mrs. Delamont, "Rex would not leave me. Someone must have taken him."

"That's what I think," agreed the baggageman.

And this was very possible, as many strangers had been attracted to the scene of the wreck. Mrs. Delamont offered a reward of a hundred dollars for the return of her prize dog, and this spurred a number of volunteer searchers to work.

They scurried about the fields near the scene of the accident, but in spite of enticing calls and whistles no Rex answered.

"I'm afraid he is gone," said Alice, who had taken quite a liking to Mrs. Delamont, in spite of the lady's rather "loud" dress and manners.

"Oh, I must find him!" exclaimed Mrs. Delamont. "I shall have to advertise," she went on. "This is not the first time he has been taken. He is such a fine-looking dog that many are attracted to him. And he is so friendly! Oh, Rex, where are you?"

But Rex III was not to be found, and the trainmen could no longer delay. A last search was made in the surrounding fields, and then the passengers went back to their cars. A substitute engineer and fireman had come with the wrecking crew.

Mrs. Delamont made many inquiries as to whether anyone had seen her dog being led away, but no one had, and lamenting over her loss, and dwelling on the fine qualities and value of her pet, she resumed her seat in the parlor car.

"Well, I sure did get some fine pictures," remarked Russ, as he came back to the others of the film company. "It will be something for our newspaper service, all right."

"We'll send them back to New York from the next station," said Mr. Pertell, "and wire that they're on the way. They can develop and print them there."

In the first book of this series I have described the mechanical part of moving pictures, how they are made and prepared for projection on the screen. To briefly sum it up, I might say that the pictures, or negatives, are taken on a continuous strip of celluloid film in a specially prepared camera, which takes views at the rate of sixteen per second. Then, after this long strip of negative is developed, a positive, as it is called, is made, and this is run through the projecting machine in the theatre. Thus, by means of powerful lenses, and intense lights, the miniature pictures, less than an inch in width, are enlarged to life size.

In order to make sure that the passengers should reach their destinations the train that had been in the wreck was stopped at the next important station. There a new baggage car was put on, and another engine. Russ took advantage of the delay to send back, by express, the film he had made of the collision, at the same time telegraphing the manager of the film studio to expect the reel.

The journey to Beatonville was then taken up again, and proceeded without further accident. The train was somewhat delayed, and when it drew up at the small station Ruth, Alice and the others looked out eagerly to see what sort of place it was.

"It isn't as bad as you said, Russ!" exclaimed Ruth. "I see two houses, anyhow."

"Not many more, though," he answered, with a laugh.

Beatonville was a typical country railroad town, and quite a crowd of depot loungers gathered around as the theatrical company alighted.

As the train went on its way again Alice caught a glimpse of Mrs. Delamont at one of the windows in the parlor car. The owner of the missing Rex III waved her hand in friendly farewell to the girl.

"I wish I could find her dog," thought Alice. "It's too bad to have a pet and lose him."

"I don't like dogs!" exclaimed Ruth. "I'm always afraid they'll bite me."

Alice laughed at her sister's nervousness.

"There's Sandy!" exclaimed Russ, pointing to a young farmer who was holding the heads of two horses attached to a large "carryall."

"Come on!" called Mr. Pertell to his players. "I expect you're all hungry, on account of the delay. Have you anything to eat out at your place?" he called to Sandy.

"Yep. Ma's been bakin' an' cookin' for th' last week!" was the comforting answer. "We're all ready for you. I'm going to take you over in this rig, and I've got another wagon for your trunks and stuff. Have a good journey?"

"Good! Bah! A smash-up!" growled Mr. Sneed. "But we might have expected it—starting out on track thirteen."

"Yah! But ve are all right now, alretty yet!" laughed Mr. Switzer.

Ruth, Alice and the others looked about them with interest. It was a typical country landscape—a little valley nestling amid the green hills.

"Oh, I know I'm going to like it here," murmured Ruth. "It is so restful!"

"Restful! Yes! I should say it was!" exclaimed Pearl Pennington, as she bent a stick of chewing gum, preparatory to enjoying it. "I know what I'll do, all right!"

"What, dear?" asked her friend Laura Dixon, with lazy interest. "What'll you do?"

"I'll be going back to little old New York in about a week. This place has got on my nerves already. Ugh! Isn't it quiet!"

It certainly was, after the departure of the train. There was none of the various noises of New York. Even the horses seemed ready to go to sleep as they stood lazily at the shafts or poles of the vehicles they drew.

"Come on!" cried Sandy, hospitably. "It's quite a little drive out to our farm, and I know your folks must be tired and hungry."

"Hungry! That's no name for it!" voiced Miss Dixon. "Have you any lobsters, Mr. Apgar?"

"Lobsters? No'm. They don't raise none of them birds out here. But we got chicken."

"Oh, listen to him, Pearl!" exclaimed Miss Dixon. "He thinks a lobster is a bird."

"Don't mind them," said Paul Ardite to Sandy, in a low voice. "It hasn't been many years that they could afford lobster. Chicken for mine, every time."

"Well, they do say ma cooks th' best chicken around here," spoke Sandy, proudly. "She done it in Southern style this time."

"Say no more!" exclaimed Mr. DeVere. "Sandy, you are a gentleman and a scholar. How long will it take us to get to your farm?"

"About half an hour."

"That's twenty-nine minutes too long, since you have mentioned chicken in Southern style. But do your best."

Seated in the comfortable carryall, the members of the moving picture company began their trip to Oak Farm. The way lay along a pleasant country road, and in the distance could be seen the cool, green hills.

It was early June, and, all about, the farmers were doing their work. The air was sweet with the scent of flowers and the green woods, for the road led past several forest patches where the wind swept pleasantly through the swaying trees.

"Oh, it is just lovely here!" sighed Ruth, as she removed her hat and let the gentle wind blow about her hair. "I know I shall love it. And, Daddy dear, maybe it will do your voice good."

"Perhaps it will, daughter," he agreed. "However, since we are doing so well in moving pictures, I have not the desire I had at first to get back to the boards. I am becoming content in this line."

"I'm glad," said Alice, "for I like it very much. Oh, it is lovely here, Ruth!"

"Just fine, I call it!" exclaimed Russ. "The air is so clear. I'm sure we'll get fine pictures here."

"I know we'll die of loneliness," grumbled Miss Pennington. "I wish we hadn't come, Laura."

"So do I, but there's no help for it now," replied Miss Dixon.

Rumbling behind the carryall was the farm wagon containing the trunks, and in less than the half-hour stipulated by Sandy, Oak Farm was reached. Ruth, Alice and their father fell in love with the place at first sight. Mr. Pertell and Russ had seen it before, and most of the others admired it.

There was a big, old-fashioned farmhouse, setting back from the road, and fronted by a wide stretch of green lawn. The house was white, with green shutters, and was well kept. Back of it were barns and other farm buildings, some of which were rather dilapidated.

"Welcome to Oak Farm!" cried Sandy. "There's Pa Felix and Ma Nance lookin' for ye! Here they are, Ma!" he called. "All ready for your chicken."

"Bring 'em right in!" the mother invited, cordially.

Ruth and Alice liked the farmer's wife at once. There was a stoop to her shoulders that told of many weary days of work, and she looked worn and tired, but there was a bright welcome in her eyes as she greeted the visitors. "Pa Felix," as Sandy called his father, was rather old and feeble.

"Come right in and make yourselves to home," urged Mrs. Apgar. "Your rooms is all ready for ye!"

"Where is the bell-boy?" asked Miss Pennington, with uptilted head and powdered nose. "I want him to take my valise to my room at once. And I shall want a bath before dinner."

"Isn't she horrid, to try to put on such airs here?" said Alice to Ruth, nodding in the direction of the vaudeville actress.

"Yes. She only does it to make trouble."

Sandy and his father were talking together in low tones in one corner of the big parlor.

"You didn't get any word; did you?" asked the old man.

"No, Pa. There wasn't no letter."

"Then we won't git th' money."

"It don't look so."

"And we'll have to lose th' place?"

"I—I'm afraid so," replied Sandy.

"Gosh! That—that's hard, in my old age," said the elderly farmer, softly. "I hoped your ma and I'd be able to end our days here. But I guess it ain't to be. However, this company will help us pay some of the claims. We'll do the best we can, Sandy."

"That's what we will!"

Alice wondered what secret trouble could be worrying the farmer and his son. Mrs. Apgar, too, had an anxious look on her face, but she tried to make her visitors feel at home.



Oak Farm was a most delightful place. Ruth and Alice agreed to this even before the first meal was served. They stood at the window of their room—a large one with two beds—and gazed across the green meadows, off to the greener woodland and then to the distant hills which girt the valley holding Oak Farm in its clasp.

The hills were purple now with the coming of night—a deep purple like the depth of a woodland violet—and their tops were shrouded in mist.

At the foot of the hills ran a little river, and now it looked like some ribbon of silver, twining in and out amid the green carpet of the fields.

"Oh, isn't it beautiful—just beautiful!" sighed Ruth.

"Do you mean the odor of that fried chicken?" asked Alice, with a frank laugh, as she let down her hair, preparatory to putting it up again, in the general process of "dressing." "It is delightful; but I would hardly call it 'beautiful.'"

"Oh, you know what I mean!" returned Ruth, not turning from the window which gave a view of the distant hills. "I'm speaking of the scenery."

"Oh, yes, I suppose it is beautiful," agreed Alice, who, truth to tell, was not gifted with a very strong aesthetic sense. "But I suppose Mr. Pertell came here because it was so practical for the rural dramas."

"Beauty counts in them, too," said Ruth, softly. "Oh, just look at the purple light on those hills, Alice!"

"Can't, my dear. I've dropped a hairpin and I can't see it in the dark. Gracious, I never thought! We won't have any electric lights here, and no gas. I wonder if we'll have to go back to candle days."

"They weren't so bad," observed Ruth. "I think it must have been fine in the Colonial days, to have the candles all aglow, and——"

"Candle fiddlesticks!" exclaimed Alice, who could be very outspoken at times. "Give me an incandescent light, every time. It's getting dark here. I wonder what system of illumination they have?"

"Kerosene lamps," replied Ruth. "There's one on the mantel. I'll light it."

"Do, that's a dear. I've dropped another hairpin, and I need every one."

There was silence in the bedroom of the old-fashioned country house for a space. Ruth lighted the lamp, and drew down the window shades.

The girls freshened themselves up after their journey, and prepared to descend to the dining room. From the kitchen came more delicious odors as Mrs. Apgar and her helper finished preparing the evening meal.

Scattered about, in other apartments of the big farmhouse, were the other members of the film theatrical company. Mr. DeVere had been given a room near his daughters', and they could hear him talking in his husky voice to Mr. Pertell, who was across the hall.

"When are they going to begin taking the pictures?" asked Ruth, as she helped Alice hook up a waist that fastened in the back.

"Oh, not for some days yet, I fancy," was the answer. "Mr. Pertell will have to look around, and pick out the best backgrounds for the different scenes. I wonder what sort of parts I'll get? Something funny, I hope; like tumbling into the river and being rescued."

"Alice! You wouldn't want anything like that!" cried Ruth, much shocked.

"Wouldn't I, though! Just give me a chance. I can swim, you know!"

"Yes, I know, but tumbling into the river—with your clothes on—it might be dangerous!"

"Oh, well, if we're in the moving picture business we will have to learn to take chances. I read in the paper the other day how a couple leaped from the Brooklyn Bridge with a parachute—a man and woman."

"Yes, I know; but we're not going to do anything like that! Papa wouldn't let us."

"No, I suppose not," and Alice sighed as though she really wanted to indulge in some such daring "stunt" as a bridge leap.

"I know one part you're going to have, Ruth," went on Alice, as she surveyed herself in the glass.

"What is it?" asked Ruth, eagerly. "Shall I like it?"

"I think you will, dear. It's laid in an old mill—there is one on Oak Farm, I believe. You're to be imprisoned in it, and your lover rides up—probably on one of those silly milk-white steeds I object to—and rescues you—breaks down the door in fact—and gets you just as you are about to be bound on the mill wheel."

"Really, Alice?" cried Ruth, clasping her hands in delight, for she dearly loved a romantic role.

"Really and truly—truly rural, I call it."

"How did you hear of it?"

"Oh, I overheard daddy and Mr. Pertell talking about it. Mr. Pertell asked daddy if he'd object to your taking a part like that."

"And what did dad say?"

"Oh, he agreed to it, as long as you weren't in danger. But I want something funny. I believe I'm to be a sort of 'cut-up' country maid, in some of the plays. I'm to upset the milk pails, tie a tin can to the calf's tail, hide under the sofa, when your country 'beaus' come to see you, and all that."

"Oh, Alice!"

"That's all right—I just love parts like that. None of the love business for me!"

"I should say not—you're entirely too young!" exclaimed Ruth, with sudden dignity.

"Pooh! You're not so old! Oh, there goes the supper bell. Come on! I'm starved!"

The entire theatrical troupe gathered about the table, and a merry party it was. That Mrs. Apgar was a good cook was one of the first matters voted on, and there was not a dissenting voice. It was well that there was plenty of chicken, for nearly everyone had more than the first helping.

"Ach! But I'm glad that I came here!" announced Mr. Switzer, as he passed his plate for more. "Ven I get so old dot I can vork no more, I am coming here!" and he leaned back with a contented sigh.

Even Pepper Sneed smiled graciously, and for once seemed to have no fault to find, and no dire prediction to make.

"The meal is very good," he said to Pop Snooks, the property man.

"Glad you think so—even if we did come out on track thirteen," was the reply. "I think that accident was the best thing that could happen. It delayed us so we all had fine appetites."

After supper the members of the company went on the broad veranda, to sit in the dusk of the evening and listen to the call of the night insects.

"We'll all have a day or so of rest," Mr. Pertell said. "That is, you folks will, while I lay out my plans and decide what we are to make first. Russ, I'll want you, the first thing in the morning, to take a walk around the farm with me, and we'll decide on which are the best backgrounds."

"Oh, may I come!" cried Alice, before Ruth could restrain her.

"Why, yes, I guess so," answered the manager, slowly. "Only we'll probably do a deal of walking."

"I don't tire easily," Alice replied.

"Oh, by the way, Mr. Apgar," said Mr. Pertell after a pause, turning to the farmer, "I am planning one play that has a barn-burning incident in it. Have you some old barn on the premises I could set fire to."

"Good land!" exclaimed the farmer, starting from his chair. "Set fire to a barn! Why th' idea! Th' sheriff will git after you, sure pop. That's arson, man!"

"Oh, no, not the way I'd do it," laughed the manager. "I'd be willing to pay you for the barn, so no one would lose anything. Haven't you some such building on the place—one that isn't of much use?"

"Wa'al, I reckon there might be," was the slow answer, as if the farmer could not understand the strange proposition. "But as fer settin' fire to it; wa'al, I reckon you'll have to git permission of th' mortgagee. You see we're in trouble about this place. Sandy, maybe you'd better tell him," and he turned to his son.



For a moment or two Mr. Pertell seemed rather embarrassed. He feared he had forced some unpleasant secret from the farmer, and he did not want to hurt his feelings. Then, too, he remembered that Sandy had hinted at some trouble at the farm. This was probably it, and it had to do with money.

"Perhaps you would rather not talk about it," suggested the manager, after a pause. He and Sandy were at one end of the porch now, the others having gone in. Felix Apgar, preferring to let his son do the talking, had risen from his chair, and was going slowly down the gravel walk to close the gate lest some stray cow wander in from the highway and eat his wife's favorite flowers.

"Oh, I reckon I might jest as well tell you," spoke Sandy, slowly. "It's bound to come out sooner or later, and then everybody in Beatonville will hear of our trouble."

"Then it is trouble?" asked Mr. Pertell.

"That's what it is."

"If I could do anything to help," suggested the manager, "I would be glad to."

"No, I don't reckon you could, unless you wanted to invest quite a sum of money in this farm," returned the young man.

"Well, I'm afraid I'm hardly ready to do that," declared Mr. Pertell. "Farming isn't in my line, and I've got about all my spare funds invested in the moving picture business. But if a loan would help you——"

"That's th' trouble!" interrupted Sandy. "We've got too much of a loan now, and we can't pay it off. Th' place is 'mortgaged up to th' handle,' as they say out this way. That's why pa couldn't give you permission to burn a barn.

"We have an old shack, that's almost toppling over, and it would be better burned and out of th' way. But I guess Squire Blasdell would object if you sot fire to it. The squire pretty near owns our place with this mortgage; or, rather with th' mortgages of folks he represents. He's a lawyer," he added simply. "But maybe if you paid him what he thought the barn was wuth he'd let you fire it."

"Then I'll have to talk to him," went on Mr. Pertell. "I need a barn-burning in one scene. It will be very effective, I think."

"Gosh! But you movin' picture fellers certainly do things," commented Sandy. "You hire yachts to make believe take a trip to Europe, and now you're wantin' to burn a barn! I never heard tell th' like of such doin's."

"Oh, that's nothing to what some of them do," remarked the manager. "Why, some of my competitors have bought old steamboats, taken them out in mid-ocean, and set fire to them, just to get a rescue picture."

"Get out!" cried Sandy, clearly incredulous.

"That's a fact," declared Mr. Pertell. "And, more than once, some of them have bought old locomotives and coaches, and set them going toward each other on the same track, to make a railroad collision."

"Do you mean it?" cried Sandy.

"I certainly do. Why, one manager actually burned up a whole mining town just to get a good picture. He destroyed more than twenty shacks. Of course they weren't very elaborate ones, but he got a fine effect."

"Wa'al, then I reckon burnin' one barn isn't so wonderful," observed Sandy.

"No, indeed. And I'll see Squire Blasdell the first thing in the morning to get my plans ready for this. But I'm sorry to hear of your trouble, Sandy, I sure am. What caused it; did the crops fail?"

"No, we've always had pretty good crops, or we wouldn't stay here," answered the young farmer. "But I don't reckon we'll be able to stay here much longer. It will be hard for pa and ma, too. They don't want to leave—it will break 'em all up. They've lived here all their lives, and they counted on dyin' and bein' buried here. But I reckon they won't now."

"Why not? Are you about to be put off the farm?"

"We will be, by fall, unless I can raise four thousand dollars—and I can't do that, nohow," said Sandy, sadly.

"That's too bad," spoke the manager, sympathetically. "How did it all come about? That is, if you don't mind telling me."

"Oh, no. I don't mind," answered the young farmer, in rather hopeless tones. "You see father had a brother—Uncle Isaac he was, and he was quite a business man, in a way. He used to farm it, but he gave that up, and went into other schemes. I never knew rightly what they were, but he used to make money—at least he must have got it somehow, for he didn't work.

"Well, one time, several years ago, he came to pa and borrowed quite a sum—more than five thousand dollars I've heard pa say it was. He and ma had inherited most of it only a short time before from pa's granduncle Nathan and they decided to keep it ready to pay off th' mortgage, but 'fore pa could do that Uncle Isaac come and borrowed it."

"But why did your uncle need to borrow money when he had so much of his own?" asked Mr. Pertell, curiously.

"Wa'al, there was some business deal on. I never understood th' right of it, and I don't believe pa did, either. All I know is that Uncle Isaac got pa's money. I believe he wanted to go into some scheme—Uncle Isaac did—and didn't have quite enough cash. He promised to pay pa back in a few weeks, and give him big interest for the use of the money.

"Pa set quite a store by Uncle Isaac, and so he let him have th' money that ought to have gone to pay off th' mortgage. And then things went wrong. Uncle Isaac died before he could pay pa back th' money, and from then on things went from bad to worse, until now we're goin' to lose th' farm."

"But my dear man!" exclaimed Mr. Pertell, "if your uncle owed your father money, and your father had a note, or any paper to prove his claim, he could collect from your uncle's estate."

"That's th' trouble," said Sandy. "There wasn't no estate."

"But he must have left something! What became of the money he got from your father?"

"Nobody knew. You see poor Uncle Isaac went crazy before he died, and was put in th' asylum. In fact, that's where he died. He was clean out of his mind."

"But did you try to find what he had done with the money? I should have thought you could do that."

"We did try, and even got a lawyer to try," replied Sandy. "But it was no use. Uncle Isaac would only laugh at us. Poor fellow, he meant all right, but his head give way. He wouldn't have cheated pa for the world. It was jest an accident—that's all."

"You see he was near our threshing machine one day when there was an accident. Somethin' broke and Uncle Isaac was hit on th' head. Not hard enough to kill him, but it made him forget things, and he died that way."

"But couldn't you tell from the papers he left where he had invested the money—his own, as well as your father's?"

"That's th' odd part of it. We couldn't find a scrap of paper, nor a dollar, among his things. You see Uncle Isaac was queer, even before he went crazy. He didn't believe in banks, and he used to hide his papers and money in all sorts of out-of-the-way places. He lived all alone—an old bachelor."

"Did you search for his things?" asked Mr. Pertell, who was much impressed by Sandy's story.

"Oh, yes! We searched all over!" exclaimed Sandy. "But we couldn't find a thing. It's too bad, for Uncle Isaac never would have done it for th' world, if he had been in his right mind."

"No, I suppose not," agreed Mr. Pertell. "Have you any papers to show that your father let him have the money?"

"Oh, yes, we've got a note. But it's no good. Uncle Isaac is dead, and he didn't leave nothin'. We've searched all over, and couldn't find a thing. No, I reckon th' only thing to do is to lose the farm. But it will come hard on pa and ma—it surely will."

Mr. Pertell said nothing. There was little he could say to make the sad lot of the Apgar family any easier. The manager wished he could provide the money himself, but, as he had said, he had invested all his surplus cash in the moving picture business. The taking of the rural dramas was going to cost considerable, too, and there would be the added expense of burning the barn.

Mr. Pertell was paying a fair price for the use of the farm, and for the board and lodging of his company. This would, in a measure, help the Apgars, but it would not be anywhere near enough to save the place.

"Well, it certainly is too bad," agreed the manager. "When I see Squire Blasdell to ask permission to burn the barn, I'll see if he won't wait a bit about foreclosing. Then perhaps we can think up some other plan—or we may even help you find the money," he added, hopefully.

"There ain't much chance of that," returned Sandy. "We've hunted high and low for that money, or for any papers to tell where it might be. As for Squire Blasdell, he's harder than flint. He wouldn't wait a day after th' money was due. No, we've got to lose the farm."

Truly there seemed no way out, but Mr. Pertell was not one to give up easily. He made up his mind that when he got the chance he would see some of his friends in New York. He might be able to induce one of them to provide the money, and take up the mortgage, holding it until it could be paid off gradually. But he said nothing of this now, for he did not want to raise false hopes.

"Well, I reckon I'll turn in," announced Sandy, after a bit. "I'm not used to staying up late. Is everything all right?"

"Oh, yes, indeed—very nice," replied the manager. "I'm going to start in planning to-morrow."

Sandy arose to go in, and, as he did so he peered out toward the road. The moon had risen and it was quite light. Mr. Pertell saw a dark figure slouching along the highway.

"That you, 'Bige?" called Sandy, evidently thinking he saw some neighbor. But the man in the road did not answer. Instead he broke into a run, as though frightened.

"That's queer!" exclaimed Sandy. "I'm going to see who that is."

"I'm with you!" declared the manager, and they hurried down the gravel path.



Speeding to the front gate the theatrical man and the young farmer darted down the moonlit road. It was a straight highway, and the white dust added to the effect of the moon, that was now well over the trees.

But, to the surprise of the two men, no figure was in sight. As they reached the highway it was deserted, though it had been but a few seconds since Sandy had seen and called to the man in the road.

"He—he's gone!" gasped Sandy.

"So he is. Must have slipped to one side," agreed the manager. "Do you want to get him? Who was he?"

"That's jest what I don't know. First I thought he was 'Bige Tapper, who lives down th' road a piece. But 'Bige would have answered."

"But this fellow didn't, so he couldn't have been your friend," spoke Mr. Pertell. "And why should he have run when you hailed him?"

"That's what I can't understand," replied Sandy. "It's sort of suspicious; ain't it?"

"It surely is. Come on, let's have a look."

Together they went down the road in the direction taken by the mysterious stranger. But, though they looked on both sides, and peered amid the bushes, they saw no one. They called out, demanding to know who had gone past the house; but of course, in case the man was a suspicious character, they could hardly have expected an answer.

Their shouts, though, brought out Paul, who had not yet gone to bed, and he joined in the search.

"Who do you think he was?" the moving picture actor asked of Sandy, when they had given up the attempt to find the man.

"Oh, he might be some tramp. There's been chicken thieves around lately, and maybe he was lookin' for a chance to sneak into our hen-house."

"Well, I guess you've scared him off, at any rate," said the manager.

"There's an idea for a film," said Paul, with a laugh. "We can have a chicken-stealing. The thief gets caught in a bear trap, and can't get loose—farmer comes out with gun—chase over the fields and all that."

"Good!" cried Mr. Pertell. "We'll try something of that sort. I'm glad you mentioned it."

"Gosh!" exclaimed Sandy, admiringly. "You fellers would make a picture out of anything, I guess."

"That's what we would!" laughed Mr. Pertell.

They came back from the unsuccessful man hunt, and soon quiet settled down over Oak Farm.

"I only wish I could help them," mused Mr. Pertell as he retired. Yet he was destined to help them, and in a most surprising manner.

Yielding to the wish of Sandy, Paul and the manager said nothing the next morning of the chase after the man.

"It might only worry pa and ma," said the kind-hearted but simple-minded young farmer. "And they've got troubles enough as it is."

"They certainly have," agreed Mr. Pertell. "Nothing was disturbed last night, though; was there?"

"No, all th' hens seem to be around. I can't imagine who that fellow was. He must have had a guilty conscience, or he wouldn't have run when I hailed him," Sandy said.

The day was given over, on the part of the manager and Russ, to selecting the most favorable spots for the taking of scenes in the rural dramas. A good background, and places where the lighting effects would be proper for exposing the films, were essentials. Some scenes were to be laid in the village proper, and when the moving picture manager and his photographer went about, making notes of likely spots, they were watched curiously by the village loungers.

Mr. Pertell paid a visit to Squire Blasdell in reference to getting permission to burn the old barn on the Apgar place.

"Well, you can do it if you pay me my price," said the crabbed man, who was a local judge and lawyer, acting for several clients.

The price was sufficiently high, Mr. Pertell thought, but he had no choice.

"That's a valuable barn!" said the squire.

"It's only fit for kindling wood," protested the manager. "And that's what I propose to use it for."

"Well, it's a sin to burn down a building like that," went on the squire. "But this is a queer world, anyhow. And I want my money in advance."

He was so unpleasant about the matter that, after arranging for the destruction of the barn, Mr. Pertell left without carrying out his half-formed resolution of asking for more time for the payment of the Apgar mortgage.

"I'd better try to find some other way of helping them," thought the manager. "If I said they were in hard circumstances the squire might get suspicious and foreclose at once. Then I would have to take my company away, and I couldn't get the rural dramas. No, I'll wait a while. But I would like to help Sandy and his folks."

During the two days that Mr. Pertell and Russ were mapping out the locations of the various scenes for the plays, the others of the company were becoming familiar with Oak Farm, and the delightfully quaint house where they were to remain all summer.

There were many little nooks where one could spend a quiet hour with a book, and there was good fishing in the stream that, in times past, had furnished power for the old grist mill. The mill was now in ruins, but it was very picturesque, and Mr. Pertell planned to make it the scene of several little plays.

Three days after the arrival at Oak Farm, matters were in readiness for filming the first play. It was a simple little drama, concerning a country girl and boy, and Alice and Paul Ardite were the chief characters.

This was something of a blow to Miss Laura Dixon, who had counted on being with Paul in the play. Miss Dixon rather liked Paul, but since the advent of Alice he had become more and more interested in the latter.

"I don't care!" exclaimed Miss Dixon, as she flounced into the room she shared with Miss Pennington. "I'm not going to stay with this company any more, with those two amateurs taking all the best parts."

"It is a shame," agreed Miss Pennington. "I just can't bear that Ruth DeVere, with her blue eyes. She can use them very effectively, too."

"Indeed she can! What do you say if we look for another engagement? I just hate the country."

"So do I, with all the bugs and things. But, really, I can't go. I got Mr. Pertell to give me an advance on my salary, and I can't leave him now. Besides, other places aren't so easy to get. Look here," and she held out a copy of a dramatic paper which contained an unusual number of "cards" of performers who were "at liberty." That is, they had no work, but were anxious for some.

"Summer is a bad time for quitting a sure place," went on Miss Pennington. "We'll just have to stick, Laura."

"I suppose so. But I can't bear those two girls!"

"Neither can I!"

But Alice and Ruth concerned themselves very little with their jealous rivals, though they were aware of the feeling against them. Alice and Paul acquitted themselves well in the little play.

There was only one difficulty—Mr. Bunn, as usual.

He and Mr. Sneed had been cast as farm hands to fill in the background of the play. When the former Shakespearean player learned that he was to wear overalls and carry a hoe over his shoulder, he rebelled.

"What! I play that character?" he cried. "A clod—a country bumpkin? Never! I will go back to New York first!"

"Very well; go!" exclaimed Mr. Pertell, who occasionally became exasperated over the actor's objections. "Only don't come back looking for an engagement with this company."

Wellington Bunn, striking a tragic attitude, was silent a moment. Then he said, very quietly:

"Where is that hoe?"

With Mr. Sneed it was different. He did not so much care what character he played, but he was always "looking for trouble." Even in the simple character of a country farmer he was apprehensive.

"I don't know how to use a hoe," he protested. "I'm sure to do the wrong thing with it. I know something will happen!"

"How can something happen?" asked Mr. Pertell. "All you have to do is to stand in a row of corn, and dig up the dirt with the hoe. You're only in the scene about two minutes. Surely you can hill corn!"

"I never did it."

"I'll show you," offered Sandy, good-naturedly.

"Say!" cried Russ, "why not put Sandy in the picture, too?"

"Good idea!" exclaimed Mr. Pertell. "Sandy, get a hoe!"

"What! Me in movin' pictures? Why, I never acted in my life."

"So much the better. You'll be all the more natural!" said the manager. "Get in the focus, Sandy!"

And the young farmer did. The scene seemed to be going very well, and Paul and Alice in the role of country sweethearts made an effective picture in the green cornfield.

In the background Mr. Bunn, Mr. Sneed and Sandy were industriously hoeing corn. Suddenly the "grouchy" actor dropped his hoe, and pulling up one foot so that he could hold it in his hands, he cried out:

"There! I knew something would happen! I cut my foot with that old hoe!"

"Cut that out, Russ!" called the manager, sharply. "We don't want that in the scene."

"I stopped the camera," answered the operator.

An examination disclosed the fact that Mr. Sneed was not hurt at all. His shoe had not even been cut by the hoe, which had slipped off a stone because of his clumsiness.

"Go on with the play," ordered Mr. Pertell. "And let's have no more nonsense."

Paul and Alice resumed their places. They assumed as nearly as possible the pose they had when the break occurred. Russ began to turn the handle of the camera. Sandy had to be excused for a time to look after some farm work.

Later, when the pictures would be developed and printed, enough of the film could be cut out so that the audience, looking at the screen, would know nothing of what had occurred.

There are many trick pictures made, and many times little accidents occur in filming a play. But by the judicious use of the knife, and the fitting together of the severed film, all pictures not wanted are eliminated.

In the case of trick pictures, or when some accident scene is shown, the camera takes views up to a certain point with real persons posing before it. Then the mechanism is stopped, "dummies" are substituted for real personages, and the taking of the film goes on. So the little "break" caused by Mr. Sneed could be covered up.

"But I knew something would happen," he said. "That hoodoo of coming out on track thirteen is still after us," and he limped along the row of corn.

The scene was almost over, when a movement was observed amid the waving stalks, back of where Paul and Alice were posing.

"Who's that!" cried Mr. Pertell, sharply, from his place beside Russ at the camera. "Keep back, whoever you are. Don't get into the picture—you'll spoil it."

An instant later there was a bellow, as of a score of automobile horns, and an immense black bull came rushing through the corn, heading directly for Paul and Alice.

"Oh!" screamed Alice, as Paul caught her in his arms.



"Russ! Daddy! Somebody save Alice!" cried Ruth, from her place near the young moving picture operator. "Can't someone do something?"

"Get a pitchfork!"

"Go at him with those hoes!"

"Throw stones at him!"

This was some of the advice from the others of the moving picture company, as they stood grouped back of the camera, where they had been watching the filming of the last scene in the little drama.

Meanwhile, of course, Russ had stopped the camera, for he did not want to include the bull in the picture, no provision having been made for the creature by the author who furnished the "scenario," or "screed."

The animal had "butted into" the scene in a most uncalled-for manner, and now was butting its massive head against the frail green stalks of corn, knocking them aside, pawing the dirt and shaking its head at the frightened players.

For a moment, after their first outcries, the players were silent. Alice, who had shown just the least inclination to faint, now stood upright again, and with a vivid blush, released herself from Paul's arms.

"I—I'm all right now," she said, softly, straightening out her shirtwaist.

"You won't be if that bull comes for us," he answered. "Here, get behind me. I'll see if I can scare him off."

"Oh, no! Don't!" she begged. "That might make him worse. See, he is quiet now."

And indeed the animal had not moved much beyond the spot where he had broken through the rows of corn to interrupt the moving pictures.

"Something's got to be done," said Mr. Pertell, in a quiet voice. "I think it will be best if none of you moves. Keep your places, and I'll see if I can't slide out back of Russ, and get help—or at least a weapon to drive the bull away. A fence rail would do. Russ, stand still. You make a good screen for me now, and the bull can't see me. He may make a jump if he sees any of us moving. Such creatures often do, I understand."

It seemed the best plan to follow, but there was no need of trying it, for at that instant Sandy Apgar, who had returned, and who had heard the cries, came bursting in on the scene.

For a moment, at seeing this new figure, and supposing, perhaps, that it was a more active enemy than the others, the bull made as if to leap forward, with lowered horns. But, fortunately, the young farmer had an effective weapon in a pitchfork. Its sharp tines Sandy held toward the bull, pricking the creature slightly. This was too much for the beast, and with a bellow of pain, instead of rage, as before, he turned, and with drooping tail crashed his way through the corn, as he had come.

"Pesky gritter!" exclaimed Mr. Switzer, in his strong German accent. "He nearly gafe me heart disease. Feel how he thumps inside my west," he appealed to Mr. Sneed.

"Ha! What do I care about your heart!" exclaimed the "grouch," inconsiderately. "My foot will be lame for a week where I hit it. This is getting worse and worse—I suppose you'll be turning wild tigers and lions loose on us next!" he cried in a highly aggrieved tone to Mr. Pertell.

"This wasn't my fault," said the manager. "I did not invite the bull here."

"No, I guess nobody did," laughed Sandy. "But I hope he didn't hurt any of you."

"No, he only scared us," said Ruth, who had gone to the side of her sister.

"I can't understand how he got out," went on the young farmer. "He's kept in a field with a strong fence, and th' gate is always locked. Th' hired man knows better than to let him out, too."

"It might be a good idea to see that he is put back in his enclosure," suggested Mr. DeVere. "I'm sure we'll all feel safer if we know he isn't roaming about the place when we pose for more pictures."

"Indeed we will," agreed Mr. Pertell. "I can see you all looking around nervously, instead of paying attention to the play, if that bull isn't locked up."

"I'll attend to it right away," promised Sandy. "He's dangerous enough, but he's afraid of this pitchfork. I can always manage him with that. I'll go see how he got out. I don't understand it."

"I'll go with you," volunteered Russ. "We'll have to make the last bit of this scene over," he went on, to Mr. Pertell.

"Yes, I suppose so," agreed the manager.

"And they'll want a little time to get over the scare so they can pose properly," went on Russ, nodding at Alice and Paul, who, as well as the others who filled in the background of the picture, were somewhat disturbed.

"Yes, it will be just as well to take a breathing space," said Mr. Pertell. "But don't run into danger, Russ. We've got lots of plays yet to film."

"I won't," laughed the young operator, and as he went off after Sandy, Ruth gazed after him with rather anxious eyes.

"I knew something like this would happen!" exclaimed Mr. Sneed, gloomily. "That track thirteen——"

"Say, if you don't drop that you can look for another place!" cried the manager, sharply. "Everything that happens you blame on that silly superstition."

"And things aren't done happening yet, either," went on the "grouchy" actor, but he took care not to let the manager hear him.

"To what low estate have I fallen!" soliloquized Wellington Bunn, wiping his heated brow. He was wearing a slouch hat, instead of his beloved silk one, and was attired in shabby garments, as befitted his character of a farmhand. "The idea of a man who has played the immortal Shakespearean characters falling so low as to consort with wild bulls. Ah, it is pitiful—pitiful!" he murmured.

"You didn't consort mit dat bull very much!" put in Mr. Switzer, with a cheerful laugh. "I saw you trying to git behint a corn stalk, to consort mit 'im alretty yet!"

"Certainly, I did not wish to be trampled on," replied Mr. Bunn, with dignity—that is, with as much dignity as he could muster under the circumstances. "Oh, to what low estate have I fallen! A mere country bumpkin—I, who once played Hamlet!"

The others were recovering their spirits, now that the danger was over. Sandy and Russ followed the trail of the bull through the corn, and soon they had him before the gate of his own enclosure.

"That gate is open!" exclaimed the young farmer. "I don't see how it happened. There is something wrong here."

The bull was driven in, and then an examination disclosed the fact that the lock of the gate had been broken; by a stone, evidently, for a shattered rock lay on the ground nearby.

"This is strange," murmured Sandy. "Someone has done this on purpose, I don't like it—after what happened the other night."

"What was that?" asked Russ.

"Why, Mr. Pertell and I saw a suspicious-looking man out in the road, and we chased him," and he told of the circumstance.

"And you think he broke this lock to let the bull out?" asked the moving picture operator.

"Well, he might have, but I can't think what his object would be, unless he wanted to spoil some of your moving pictures. Have you got any enemies?"

Russ thought of Simp Wolley and Bud Briskett, who had tried to get his invention, as told in the preceding volume, "The Moving Picture Girls," but they were in jail, as far as he knew. Clearly there was some mystery here, but it was not to be solved at once.

The gate was made as secure as possible, and Sandy said he would get a new lock that day.

"I reckon you folks don't want old Nero buttin' in on you again," he said to Russ.

"Indeed we don't!" answered the young operator. He was puzzled over Sandy's suggestion as to whether or not some enemy had loosed the dangerous animal.

A little later the end of the interrupted scene was filmed again, and then the actors and actresses were at liberty for the rest of the day.

"I declare, Laura!" exclaimed Miss Pennington, "I'm so nervous about that bull that I don't want any more farm plays."

"Me, either," returned her chum. "But really, the summer is a bad time to change. I think we'll have to stay with Mr. Pertell; but I can't bear this company since those DeVere girls came in."

"Nor can I. They give themselves such airs!"

Which was manifestly unfair to Ruth and Alice, but neither Miss Pennington nor Miss Dixon was over-burdened with fairness.

At first Russ had an idea of speaking to Mr. DeVere about Sandy's theory concerning who might have let loose the bull; but, on second thoughts, he decided not to. The actor had not been so well of late, his voice troubling him considerably, though he managed to go through his parts with credit.

"I'd tell Ruth or Alice," reflected Russ, "only I don't like to bother them. They helped me save my patent, and they know how to do things in an emergency. But I guess I'll wait."

For the next day Mr. Pertell had planned a little drama which gave Mr. Bunn a chance to appear in his favorite roles—some Shakespearean characters. The plot, or at least the first part of it, had to do with Mr. Bunn coming up to the farmhouse in a frock coat, and his favorite tall hat. He was to assume the character of a theatrical man, who, after obtaining board at a country home, fell in love with the daughter of the house through teaching her some roles from Shakespeare's plays, several characters of which Mr. Bunn himself was to assume.

All was ready for the first part of the play, and Russ began filming the initial scene, where the actor comes up the gravel walk leading to the Apgar farmhouse. Mr. Bunn had given his silk hat an extra brushing, and it glistened bravely in the sun. To make the scene contain a little more life, Mr. Pertell had stationed Mr. Switzer at one of the front flower beds, with a garden hose to spray the blooms.

Up the walk came the actor, grave and dignified. Russ was grinding away at the handle of the moving picture camera.

Suddenly a dog wormed his way in under the hedge from the road, and, probably meaning no mischief, ran for Mr. Switzer, barking joyously, and leaping about.

"Hi dere! Look out, you! Don't you nip my legs!" cried the German. He sprang to one side, and, naturally, forgot all about the spurting hose he held.

In an instant the stream was directed full at Mr. Bunn, deluging him with water, which descended in a shower on his precious silk hat, the drops falling from the brim copiously.

"Here! What—what do you mean? You—you——" began the Shakespearean actor, and then his words were muffled, for the stream from the hose struck him full in the mouth!



"Quick, Russ! Get that!" cried Mr. Pertell, with a laugh. "Don't miss a single motion."

"Do you mean it?" cried the astonished operator. He had ceased, for a moment, to grind on the handle, for he supposed the scene was spoiled.

"Surely I mean it!" cried the manager. "I'll change this and make a comic film of it. Go on, Switzer. Soak him some more! Use that hose for all its worth!"

"Vot! You means dot I vet him all ofer?"

"Certainly I do. Wet him well!"

"I—I protest! I shall not permit——" began Wellington Bunn, but again he was silenced by the volume of water in his mouth. He waved his arms about wildly. He took off his silk hat, probably intending to protect it, but Mr. Switzer had now fully entered into the spirit of the affair, and sent a stream into the hat, filling it as he would a pail.

"Oh, this is awful! This is terrible! I must protest——"

Swish! went the water into his mouth again, and his protest was silenced.

"Go on!" encouraged Mr. Pertell. "This is great! This will make a fine comic film. Soak him thoroughly, Switzer."

"Oh, yah! Sure, I soak him goot!"

"And you, Mr. Bunn! Don't get so far over. You'll get out of range of the camera. Can you film him, Russ?"

"Surely. I'm getting every bit of it."

"That's right! We need every move. A little more life in it, Mr. Bunn! Act as though you didn't like to be soaked!"

"Like it! Of course I don't like it!" cried the actor. "I—hate it! And my hat—my silk hat——"

Again the relentless stream of water stopped him.

"I'll buy you a new hat!" promised Mr. Pertell, choking with laughter. "This is worth it! Lively, Mr. Bunn! Jump around a little. Switzer, don't miss him, but don't wet the camera. And that dog! Get him in it, too!"

"Vot! Maybe he bites my legs yet already!" objected the German. "I likes not dot beast! Und my legs——"

"Oh, I'll get a doctor if he bites you!" promised the manager. "See him get into the action! This will be a great picture. I'll have to get a story that it will fit in."

But at last even the enthusiastic manager was satisfied with the water scene, and he allowed the almost exhausted Mr. Bunn a rest.

"Look at me—look at me!" groaned the actor, as he gazed down at his suit, which dripped water at every point.

"Wait now; don't go away!" objected Mr. Pertell. "I want to get you in another scene now. Come around to the barn."

"What! Film me in this water-soaked suit!" protested Mr. Bunn.

"Certainly. I am going to make a whole reel of you."

"But my hat! Look at my hat! Ruined! Utterly ruined!"

"All the better. I want you in the character of a broken-down actor now, and you wouldn't look the part with a new and shiny tile. Put a couple of dents in it, Mr. Bunn!"

"Oh, you are heartless! Heartless!" cried the actor, as he completed the demolition of his cherished headpiece.

"Isn't it killing, Ruth?" asked Alice, who had come out with her sister to see the fun.

"Funny, yes. But I feel rather sorry for Mr. Bunn."

"Oh, he's getting paid for it. And it's so warm to-day that I almost wish Mr. Switzer would turn the hose on me!"

"Alice DeVere!"

"Well, I do! It is very warm. It must be terrible in the city. Come on out to the barn, and let's see what the next act will be."

The next scene, which Mr. Pertell had thought of on the spur of the moment, required Mr. Bunn to fall into the horse trough, and the actor, after strenuously objecting, finally yielded. He fell into the big hollowed-out log that served to hold the water for the farm animals, making a mighty splash as the camera clicked.

Then came other scenes that, later, would be added to and made into a short reel of "comics." Horse-play though it was, the manager knew that it would at least round out a program, and cause roars of delight from the children, who must be catered to as well as the grown-ups.

"Well, I think that will do for the time being," said Mr. Pertell at length. "You may go and get dry, Mr. Bunn, and, later, we will film the original play, where you come to the farmhouse and do the Shakespearean scenes."

"That will be a relief from this buffoonery," remarked the actor. "But how am I to do it in—this?" and he held out the silk hat, now much the worse for what it had gone through.

"Oh, I'll supply a new hat. Trot along and get dried out. I guess you'll have to have your suit pressed. Possibly there is a tailor in the village."

Mr. Bunn went off by himself, rather sulkily. Mr. Switzer was in high good humor at the fun he had had with the hose.

"Good joke!" laughed Paul. Then he made his way to the side of Alice, and made an engagement to walk to the village with her that evening.

"This is the barn I intend to burn in one of our big rural plays," said Mr. Pertell to Mr. DeVere, who, with his daughters, had strolled out to the ancient structure.

"What sort of a scene will it be a part of?" asked the actor.

"A rescue. One of the young ladies—or possibly two of them—will be saved from the burning barn. The play is not completed yet, but I have that much of it worked out. Let us look at the interior and see how it is suited to our needs."

As the little party entered they heard, off in one corner, a noise as though someone was running across the sagging floor, which contained many loose boards.

"Who is there?" called Mr. Pertell, suddenly, while Ruth and Alice drew back, close to the side of their father.

There was no answer.

"I'm sure I heard someone," said Mr. Pertell.

"So did I," agreed Alice. "Perhaps it was a cow or a horse."

"No, the old barn is not in use," returned the manager. "I think we had better tell Sandy——"

"What is it you want to tell me?" asked the young farmer himself, as he appeared in the doorway.

"We heard someone in the barn," explained the manager. "We were looking at it, to get ready for our moving picture play, and we evidently surprised someone. Does anyone stay here?"

"No, and I've told the hired men to keep out, for I thought maybe they might disturb something, and spoil it for you."

"And no animals are in here; are they?" asked Mr. DeVere.

"No, not a one," replied Sandy.

"But I heard someone!" declared Mr. Pertell. "Hark! There is the sound again!" he cried, and they all heard a noise as of a heavy body falling.



"Over this way!" cried Mr. Pertell, making a leap toward a distant corner of the barn, which was in deep shadow. "The noise was over there."

"I think it was there," exclaimed Sandy, pointing toward the opposite corner.

"Come, girls, I think you had better go out," suggested Mr. DeVere to his daughters. "There may be trouble."

"I'd like to see it," said Alice, with a laugh.

"Oh, how can you?" exclaimed Ruth. "Come away, dear!"

"Well, I suppose I've got to," and Alice actually sighed. Her "bump of curiosity" was very well developed.

Following each his own belief as to where the noise had come from, Mr. Pertell went to one corner, and Sandy to the other. Mr. DeVere took his daughters outside, and bade them go on toward the house.

"But where are you going, Daddy?" asked Alice, as he turned back.

"They may need help," he replied.

"Oh, I wish we could go!" pleaded Alice. "At least let us stay here and watch!"

"Well, not too near," conceded her father.

But it seemed that the search for the cause of the mysterious noise was to be fruitless. Neither Mr. Pertell nor Sandy could find any person or creature, though they looked thoroughly. There were many nooks and crannies in the old structure, for in its day it had been the main barn on the farm. But it had fallen into decay and others had been built.

There were harness rooms, oat and feed bins, a small room where the former owner had done his "tinkering and odd jobs," and many other places where someone might have hidden. But no one could be found. No farm animal had made the noise, that was evident, for Sandy could account for all the larger stock on the place, and it must have been a body of considerable size the fall of which had startled them.

"Could it have been bats flying about?" asked Mr. DeVere.

"No bat was heavy enough to make that racket," said Sandy, "though there are bats in here. I don't know what it could have been."

"A tramp, perhaps," suggested Mr. Pertell.

"It might have been," admitted the young farmer, as he thought of the smashed lock on the bull's enclosure. "We sometimes have them fellers to bother us; but not so much in summer. They're afraid of bein' put to work."

The three men made a more thorough search of the barn, but could find nothing that looked suspicious.

"Whoever it was must either be here yet, in hiding, or else they got away while we were looking around," said Mr. Pertell. "Unless you believe in ghosts, Sandy."

"Nope. Not a ghost do I believe in. And I hope this won't spoil the barn for you folks to get your pictures from."

"Oh, no, it takes more than a noise to scare a theatrical troupe," laughed the manager. "Well, we'll have to give it up, I suppose."

There seemed to be nothing else to do, and the party returned to the house, the girls joining them on the way back.

"After all, it might have been some loose board, or plank, falling down. The place is nigh tumblin' t' pieces," declared Sandy. "But I'll keep a watch around. I don't want any tramps on this place."

"I might use one in a moving picture," said Mr. Pertell, musingly. What he could not use in a moving picture film was small indeed. "I believe that would make a good scene," he went on. "A tramp comes to beg at the farmhouse. He is told that he must saw a lot of wood, or do something like that. Then, let me see—yes, I'll have him eat first, and then refuse to saw the wood. He thinks the lady of the house is home alone. But he makes a mistake, for she proves to be one who has taken physical culture lessons, and she is a match for the tramp. She stands over him until he saws all the wood.

"That ought to go. I'll cast Mrs. Maguire for the strenuous lady, and Mr. Sneed can be the tramp. He has a sour enough face. That's what I'll do!"

"I can just imagine Mr. Sneed in that role," said Alice to Ruth, with a laugh. "He won't like that a bit!"

"I suppose not. Still, we have to do many things in this moving picture business that we don't like."

"I like every bit of it!" Alice declared. "I think it's all fun!"

"I wish I had your happy way of looking at things!" sighed Ruth. "It is a great help in getting through life."

"Why don't you practice it?" Alice asked. "It's easy, once you start. There are so many funny things in this world."

"And so many sad ones!"

"Bosh!" laughed Alice. "Excuse my slang, sister mine, but you ought to read fewer of those romantic stories, and more joke books. Oh, there goes Paul, and with a fish pole, too. I'm going with him!"

"He hasn't asked you!"

"What of it? I know he'll be glad to have me. Oh, here comes Laura Dixon after him. I'm going to get there first. Paul! Paul!" Alice called, "can't I go fishing, too?"

"Of course!" he cried, his face lighting up with pleasure. "Come along. I've got an extra line and hooks in my pocket, and we can cut a pole along the stream. Come along."

He did not see Miss Dixon, who was behind him, but she saw Alice and heard what was said. For a minute she paused, and then, with a rather vindictive look on her face, turned back.

"Alice!" called Ruth, "I'm not sure father would want you to go. It is getting near supper time."

"Oh, you tell him I just had to go, Ruth dear!"

Mr. DeVere, with Sandy and Mr. Pertell, had gone on ahead.

Ruth shrugged her shoulders. There was little she could do with Alice, once the younger girl had set her mind on anything. And, really, there was no harm in going fishing with Paul. The favorite spot was not far from the farmhouse, and within view of it.

"It's fine of you to come!" said Paul, as he walked along over the meadow with the laughing, brown-eyed girl. "I'm sure we'll have good luck."

"I'm never very lucky at fishing," said Alice. "But I'll watch you."

"No, you've got to fish, too. I'll cut you a light pole."

"And will you bait my hook—I don't like to do that."

"Surely I will."

They walked on, chatting of many things, and as they reached the fishing hole—a deep eddy on the overhanging bank of which they could sit—they saw Russ Dalwood, with his camera, going along the opposite bank.

"What are you doing?" called Paul.

"Oh, just getting some odd scenes here and there of farm work. Mr. Pertell wants to work them into some of the plays. There are some men spraying a potato patch over in the next field, to get rid of the bugs. I'm going to make a scene of that."

"All right. Good luck!" called Alice, pleasantly. "And, if you like, you can take a fishing scene. Paul and I are going to catch some for supper."

"All right, I'll film you on the way back," laughed Russ.

It was a pleasant summer afternoon, and the bank where Alice and Paul took their places was bathed in the golden light of the setting sun.

"The fish ought to bite well to-day," observed Paul, when he had "rigged up" an outfit for Alice.

"Why is to-day better than any other day?" she asked.

"Because the wind is right. 'When the wind's in the west, the fish bite best,' is an old saying. Sandy reminded me of it when I started out to-day."

They tossed in their hooks, and then waited. The water a little way below the eddy flowed over white stones, flecked here and there with green moss. The stream made a pleasant sound, and formed an accompaniment to the songs of the birds which flitted in and out of the willow trees that lined the stream.

At the foot of the bank, on which sat the two fishers, ran the deep eddy, silent, and whirling about in a circular motion, caused by the impact of the brook against the shore, the waters being forced back on themselves. It was a quiet, and rather still pool, and was reputed to contain many fine, large fish.

"I—I think I have a nibble," whispered Alice.

"Be careful—don't jerk up too soon," warned Paul. "Yes, there is one after your bait. See your cork float bob up and down."

"Does that show he's sampling it?"

"Something of that sort, yes. Now, pull in!"

Alice was a bit slow about it, for she had not fished much. Paul, fearing the fish would get away, reached over toward her, and took hold of the pole himself.

As he did so he felt the part of the shelving bank on which they were sitting give away.

"Look out! Throw yourself back!" he cried to Alice. But it was too late, and the next instant they both found themselves sliding down in a little avalanche of earth and stones—into the deep eddy.

"Hold your breath!" Alice heard Paul cry as a last direction, and she obeyed.

The next instant she felt herself in the water, and it closed over her head.

Alice could swim, and, after the plunge into the stream, she did not lose her head. She knew she would come up in a second, even though hampered by her clothes. Her only fear was lest she be entangled in the fish-line. And in another second she knew this was the case. She could feel her feet bound together. But her hands were free, and she had seen expert swimmers make their way through the water with their feet purposely bound.

She struck out with her hands, and found herself rising. Her lungs seemed ready to burst for want of air, for she had not had time to take a full breath.

Then her head shot up out of water, and she could breathe. She shook her head to get the water from her eyes, and saw Paul striking out toward her.

"I'll get you!" he cried, and then he uttered an exclamation of horror, for a log of wood, coming down stream, struck Alice on the head, and all grew black before her.

She felt herself sinking again, and tried to strike out to keep her head above the water, but it seemed impossible. Then she felt herself grasped in a strong arm, and she realized that Paul had come to her rescue.

At the same moment she dimly heard, in her returning consciousness, a voice crying something from the opposite shore.



Alice fought back with all her strength the inclination to faint, and forced her brain to compel her body to do its work. She did her best to aid Paul in the rescue, but he was having a hard struggle. For Alice was rather heavy, and her feet, entangled as they were with the fish line, were of no aid. Then, too, the blow on her head had not been a light one, though it developed later that her heavy hair had prevented the log from bruising her.

"I have you! Don't worry! I'll save you!" she could hear Paul murmuring in her ear. Then her head cleared, and she was able to recognize the voice and make out the words of someone on the opposite bank, toward which Paul was swimming with his burden.

For the voice was the voice of Russ Dalwood, and his words sounded strangely enough under the circumstances.

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