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CHAPTER VII THE PLAY OF THE HOSE
"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!



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