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CHAPTER VI THE BUTTING BULL
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 r?le 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.



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