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CHAPTER X THE BARN DANCE
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.

"That's it! Come right over here!" the young moving picture operator called. "I'm getting a dandy film! That's it, Paul, a little more to the left! That's the finest rescue scene I ever got! It's great acting!"

"Why—why you—you don't mean to say you're filming us!" cried Paul, for he was now in shallow water and could stand upright, holding Alice in his arms.

"Of course I'm filming you!" exclaimed Russ. "Do you think I'd let an act like this get past me? Not much!" and he continued to grind away at the crank of his machine, which he had hastily set up on the edge of the stream, where he commanded a good view of those in the water.

"But this isn't acting!" said Paul, ready to laugh, now that the danger was over. "This is real! Alice fell in, and I went in after her. It's the real thing!"

"Great Scott!" cried Russ. "I thought you were rehearsing for some play, and as I came along I thought I might as well get the scene, even if it was only a rehearsal. For I had plenty of film left, and sometimes the rehearsal comes out better than the real thing. And so it was an accident?"

"Of course it was," answered Paul. "But as long as you've got it on the film I suppose there's no help for it."

"It's a fine scene, all right," went on Russ, "and Mr. Pertell can work it into some of his plays." He ceased operating the camera now, as Paul and Alice were too close.

"Are you much hurt?" asked the young rescuer, anxiously, as he looked for a grassy spot whereon to place his burden.

"No—no," returned Alice, "I was more frightened than hurt. Will you please cut that line?" she asked, pointing to the tangle of the fish cord around her feet.

In an instant Paul had out his knife, and cut the string.

"Well, you two are pretty wet," said Russ. "How did it happen?"

"The bank gave way with us," explained Paul. "It's too bad, Alice. That dress is spoiled, I'm afraid," he added, ruefully.

"It doesn't matter," she answered. She could laugh now, but she could not repress a shudder as she looked back at the deep water of the eddy. They were on the other side of the stream now.

"It was an old one, Paul," Alice went on, "and I can save it to do some more water-scenes with. For probably, after Mr. Pertell hears that Russ has the basis for a drama with someone in it being saved from drowning, he'll want the rest, and we may have to do some more swimming."

"I wouldn't mind in the least," he said; "but next time I hope, for your own sake, you don't get entangled in a fish line."

"That was pretty risky," said Russ. "But you two had better be getting back to the farmhouse now, and into some dry things."

"Indeed, yes," agreed Alice. "I'm sure I must look like a fright. Papa will be so worried, and Ruth, too. I wish I could slip in the back way so they wouldn't see me until I had time to change."

"I'll manage it," spoke Russ. "I'll go on ahead, and if any of our folks are in the back I'll bring them around to the front and hold them there while you slip in. I guess, Paul, you don't care to be seen in that rig; do you?"

"I should say not! That water was certainly wet!"

He had taken off his coat and was wringing it out, while Alice managed to get some of the water from the lower part of her skirts.

"Then you aren't going to swim back?" asked Russ.

"I should say not!" exclaimed Paul, with energy. "Isn't there a bridge somewhere around here, where we can cross?"

"About half a mile down," answered Russ, "I came that way."

"Are you sure you're all right, and able to walk, Alice?" Paul inquired, anxiously. "If not, I could go for a carriage. That is, if you will wait."

"Of course I can walk," she answered, promptly, as she tried to arrange her hair in some sort of order.

"Don't worry about that," said Paul, quickly. "It looks nicer that way."

"As if I would believe that!" she challenged. "Well, if we're going, let's go. Don't forget, Russ, what you promised about getting us in the rear entrance. I wouldn't have Miss Pennington and Miss Dixon see me this way for anything—I'd never hear the last of it!"

"Does your head hurt?" asked Paul, coming closer to examine the spot where the floating log had hit Alice.

"Just a little," she admitted. "It's lucky, though, that my hair is so thick."

They set off, Paul and Alice following Russ, who went on ahead with his moving picture camera.

"I certainly have a fine film," he said, "but I don't believe I would have taken it if I had known it was the real thing in the way of a rescue. I'd have jumped in and given a hand myself."

"It was very good of you, Paul," murmured Alice, but when he looked into her eyes she turned her own gaze away.

"I—I wouldn't have missed the opportunity of saving you for—for anything," he said, softly.

On the way to the farmhouse, over the bridge and along the country road, a few passing farmers turned to gaze curiously at the two dripping figures, and one grizzled man, seeing the camera Russ carried, and knowing moving picture actors were at Oak Farm, said, loudly enough to be heard:

"Wa'al, by hickory! Some folks is purtty hard put t' airn a livin' now-a-days! Jumpin' in th' water t' have pictures made of 'em. G'lang there!" and he drove on with his bony horse and ricketty wagon.

"You see, he thought the same thing that I did," laughed Russ.

The young moving picture operator was able to draw around to the front of the farmhouse those of the theatrical company who were near the rear, and he managed to keep them there until Paul and Alice had a chance to slip in the side door, and get to their rooms unnoticed. Ruth, however, saw Alice, just as she entered the apartment they shared.

"Oh, my dear girl—you're all wet!" Ruth exclaimed.

"You generally get that way when you fall into the water," remarked Alice, calmly. Then she told of the accident.

"Oh, what a narrow escape!" breathed Ruth, sinking into a chair. "You quite frighten me!"

"You need not be frightened—now—it's all over," and Alice was quite cool about it.

Nothing worse than a slight headache followed her experience in the brook, but as much fuss was made over her, and as many kind inquiries made, after the story became known, as though she had been seriously injured.

Mr. Pertell, after duly saying how sorry he was at the occurrence, expressed his satisfaction over the fact that Russ had made a film of the happening, and at once set to work to devise a plot and play in which it would fit. As Alice had guessed, he had to have other water scenes, and some in which a boat figured, and Paul and Alice were called on again to go through some "stunts," on the mill stream. Thus a pretty little play was made out of what had been an accident. And, more often than once is that really done in the moving picture world.

Rather quiet days followed at Oak Farm. A number of rural plays were acted and filmed, and word came back from New York, where the first films had been sent for development and printing, that the reels were most successful. The one where Mr. Bunn was wet with the hose was particularly good, so said Mr. Pertell's agent.

"But I'll never go through such a thing again," declared the Shakespearean actor.

The affairs of the Apgar family did not improve with time. Squire Blasdell paid several visits to the farm, and one day, seeing Sandy looking particularly gloomy, Ruth asked him what the trouble was.

"The squire is gettin' ready to sell off the farm," he replied. "He's goin' t' foreclose that mortgage. I've tried all the ways I know to raise that four thousand dollars; but I can't!"

"I wish we could help," said Ruth, sympathetically, as she thought of the days of their own poverty, when everything seemed so black.

"I don't reckon anyone can help us," said Sandy. "If only we could find Uncle Isaac's money, and get what belongs to us, we'd be all right; but I guess we can't."

Preparations were under way for a barn dance, which was to be part of a scene in one of the farm plays Mr. Pertell had planned. In order to make it as natural as possible a number of the country folk living near Oak Farm had been asked to take part. Young and old were invited, and all were delighted to come and "have their pictures took." Thus the original theatrical company would be much augmented on this occasion.

The affair was to take place in the old barn, which, later, would be burned in the great drama. And this barn was selected as the dance was to take place at night. For this good illumination would be needed, and special magnesium lamps were sent out from New York, to be lighted inside the barn. In order to run no chances of burning one of the good farm buildings the old one, which now practically belonged to Mr. Pertell, was taken.

"That barn dance will be fun," said Alice to Ruth, the evening on which it was to take place. "There's going to be a country fiddler. Come on out and let's look at the decorations. Sandy has hung up long strings of unshelled ears of corn. It looks just like a real country barn now, for he's moved some of his machinery into it, and there's going to be a real cow there!"

"Mercy, I'm not going to take part, then!" cried Ruth, nervously. "I'm afraid of cows."

"Silly! This one will be tied. And you've got one of the principal parts. You're to dance with the young son of the rich farmer, and fall in love with him, and I'm to be the jealous one, and all that sort of thing, you know."

"Yes, I know. Haven't I been studying my part for the last week? But I know I'll never do that Virginia Reel right. Since we learned the new dances I've forgotten all the old ones."

The two sisters went out to the old structure, but it seemed deserted. They looked in and saw how well Sandy had arranged it to make an effective picture for the camera.

"Come on," invited Alice, humming a tune.

Ruth advanced toward her sister, to take a dancing position, when a noise startled the girls. It was the same sort of noise they had heard before, when their father, Mr. Pertell and Sandy had made an unsuccessful attempt to learn the cause of it.

"What's that?" gasped Ruth.

"I—I don't know," whispered Alice. But she did know—it was that same strange sound, as of a heavy body falling. And this time there was a groan—the girls were sure of this.

Without another word they ran out of the barn, hand in hand toward the farmhouse, intending to give an alarm. And, as they got outside, they saw, running off in the dusk, across the fields, a man who limped as he sped onward.



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