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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Moving Picture Girls at Oak Farm » CHAPTER XI THE RUNAWAY MOWING MACHINE
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For a moment those watching the making of the moving picture stood as if paralyzed. The horses, frightened out of their usual calmness by the barking dog, were rushing madly down the field, the mowing machine clicking viciously.

"Hold them in! Hold them in! Pull on the lines!" cried Sandy, who was the first to spring to action. He set off on a run toward the horses.

Russ, too, leaping aside from his camera, started off to the rescue, and the others followed. Mr. DeVere was not in this play, and had remained at the farmhouse.

Ruth, however, not being required in this particular scene, though she would come in the film later, had strolled down the meadow toward a little stream, to gather some flowers.

It was in her direction that the frightened horses were running, and as Ruth heard the shouts, and caught the sound made by the clicking machine, she looked up. Then she saw her sister's danger, and without a thought of her own stepped directly in the path of the oncoming animals, waving up and down, frantically, a bunch of flowers she had gathered.

"Don't do that! Jump to one side!" cried Sandy, who was now nearer the mowing machine. "Look out, Miss DeVere!"

"But I want to stop the horses!" Ruth cried. "I must save Alice!"

"You can't do it that way! They'll run you down, or if they don't the knives will cut you! Jump to one side—I'll try and catch them!"

Ruth had the good sense to obey. She did not really mean to make a grab for the horses, but to stand in their path as long as she could, hoping to make them slacken speed. But she had forgotten about the projecting knives, which, even in their sheath of steel, might seriously injure her.

Alice, white-faced, but still keeping her wits about her, tried to follow the shouted directions, and pull on the reins. But either the horses had the bits in their teeth, or her strength was not enough to bring them to a stop. On they raced, and, as the meadow was a large one, they had plenty of room. Alice might be able to guide them until they tired themselves out, but there was danger that they would turn into a fence, or that the machine would overturn and crush her under it.

She had half a notion to leap from the iron seat, and trust to falling on the soft earth. But she feared she might become entangled in the reins, or that she would slip, and fall under the flying feet of the horses, or even on the clattering set of knives. And of these last she well knew the danger, for Sandy had warned her of them. So she decided she would keep her seat as long as she could.

Sandy was racing up behind her. Above the thud of the horses' hoofs, and the shrill sound of the clicking knives, Alice could hear him coming on, trying to save her. And how she prayed that he would be in time.

The mowing machine was opposite Ruth now, who had stepped back out of the way of harm. And as Alice passed her sister in the machine the latter cried:

"Oh, Alice! If you should be hurt!" There was the sound of tears in her voice.

Alice did not answer. She had all she could do to look after the plunging horses.

Sandy was not at such a disadvantage in his race as at first it would seem. He was light on his feet, and a good runner, though much tramping over plowed fields and rough hills had given him a rather clumsy gait in walking.

But the horses were not built for racing, either, and they were dragging a heavy machine on soft ground. The iron wheels of the reaper were made with projections, to enable them to bite deeper into the earth, and thus turn the gears that operated the knives. And these iron wheels were a heavy drag.

So it is not surprising that, after a comparatively short run, the horses slackened their pace.

"Sit down! I'm comin'!" cried Sandy, and now Alice could hear him panting behind her.

In another instant she felt a jar on the machine, and then someone reached over her shoulder, and took the reins from her hands.

"I'll pull 'em down!" cried Sandy, balancing himself on a part of the machine, back of the seat on which Alice was riding.

The young farmer sawed hard on the lines and this, added to the fact that they had had enough of the hard run, caused the animals to slacken speed. They slowed down to a trot, and then to a walk, finally coming to a halt. And just in time, too, for right in front of them was a big stone fence, into which they might have crashed.

"Oh! Oh dear!" gasped Alice. "I—I think I'm going to faint!"

"Don't! Please don't, Miss!" begged Sandy, more frightened at that prospect, evidently, than he had been at the runaway. "I—I don't know what to do when ladies faint. Really I don't I—I never saw one faint, Miss. Please don't!"

"All right—then I won't," laughed Alice, by an effort conquering her inclination. But she felt a great weakness, now that the strain was over, and she trembled as Sandy helped her down from the machine. In another moment Ruth and the others came up, and Ruth clasped her sister in her arms.

"You poor dear!" she whispered.

"Oh, I'm all right now," said Alice, bravely. "Perhaps there wasn't as much danger as I imagined."

"There was a plenty," spoke Sandy, grimly.

The dog, the cause of all the mischief, had disappeared. The horses were now quiet enough, though breathing hard, and soon they began to nibble at the grass.

"Well, my dear girl, I'm sorry this happened!" exclaimed Mr. Pertell, as he came running up. "I never would have let you go through that scene if I had dreamed of any danger."

"No one could foresee that this was going to happen," returned Alice, who was almost herself again. "I'm all right now, and we'll finish the act, if you please."

"Oh, no!" cried Mr. Pertell. "I can't allow it. We'll substitute some other scene."

"No," insisted Alice. "I'm not afraid, really, and I think the picture will be a most effective one. Besides, it is almost finished. We can go on from the point where the horses started to run; can't we?" she asked Russ.

"Oh, yes," he agreed, with a look at the manager, "but——"

"Then I'm going to do it!" laughed Alice, gaily. "I'm not going to back out just because the horses got a little frisky. They will be quiet now; won't they, Sandy?" she asked.

"I think so, Miss—yes. That run took all the tucker out of 'em. They'll be quiet now," and he rather backed away from Alice, as though he feared she might, any moment, put into execution her threat to faint.

"Alice, I'm not sure you ought to go on with this," spoke Ruth in a low voice. "Papa might not like it."

"He wouldn't like me to begin a thing and not finish it," was the younger girl's answer. "I'm not afraid, and I do hate to spoil a film. Come, we'll try it over again," and she pluckily insisted on it until, finally, Mr. Pertell gave in.

The horses were driven back to the place from which they had bolted and Alice again took her place on the seat of the mowing machine, while Russ worked the camera. This time everything went well, but Sandy Apgar was near at hand, though out of sight of the camera, to be ready to jump on the instant, if the horses showed any signs of fright.

Paul Ardite, too, was on the watch, Ruth noticed. However, there was no need of these precautions. The horses acted as though they had never had any idea of bolting, and the film was finished.

Mr. DeVere looked grave when told of the accident, and after a moment or two of thought remarked:

"I wonder if I had better let you girls keep on with this moving picture work? It is much more dangerous than I supposed. I am worried about you."

"You needn't be, Daddy dear!" exclaimed Alice, slipping her arm about his neck. "Nothing has happened yet, and I'll be real careful. I should be heartbroken if we had to give it up now. I just love the work; don't you, Ruth?"

"Indeed I do; but twice lately, danger has come to you."

"Well, I'll have one more near-accident and then the 'hoodoo' will be broken, as Mr. Sneed would say. Three times and out, you know the old saying has it."

"Oh, Alice!" cried Ruth. "Do be sensible!"

"Can't, dear! I leave that to you. But, Daddy, you mustn't think of taking us out of moving pictures. Why, some of the best and most important of all the farm dramas are to come yet. There's the one with the burning barn—I wouldn't miss that for anything! Please, Daddy, let us stay. You want to; don't you, Ruth?"

"Oh, yes, of course. Only there seems to be so many dangers about a farm. I used to think a country life was calm and peaceful, but things happen here just as in a city."

"Indeed they do," laughed Alice, "only such different things. It's quite exciting, I think. Mayn't we stay, Daddy?"

"Oh, I suppose so," he consented, rather grudgingly. "But take no more chances."

"Oh, I didn't take the chances," laughed Alice. "The chances took me."

During the next few days several farm scenes were filmed by Russ, and a number of partly finished plays were completed, the reels being sent to New York for development. Word came back that everything was a success, only a few minor errors being made, and these were easily corrected. A few scenes had to be done over.

"But I'm glad it wasn't the one with the hose," said Mr. Bunn, with a sigh. "Really I'd never go through that again."

"Ha! I vould like dot—if I vos on der right side of der hose!" exclaimed Mr. Switzer.

The day had been a busy one, filled with hard work for all before the moving picture camera. When evening came the players were glad of the chance to rest.

"Let's walk down the road," suggested Alice to Ruth. "It is so pretty and restful on the little white bridge, just before you come to the red schoolhouse."

They walked down, arm in arm, talking of many things, and soon were standing on the white bridge that spanned a little stream, which flowed between green banks, fragrant with mint. Here and there were patches of green rushes and beds of the spicy water cress.

"Oh, it's just lovely here!" sighed Ruth. "It is too beautiful. I wish we could share it with some one."

"Here comes someone now, to share it with—a man," spoke Alice, motioning down the road, which was shaded with many trees, through which the moon was now shining, making patches of light and shadow.

"Perhaps it is some of our friends," murmured Ruth. "I believe Russ and Paul started out for a walk before we did."

"That's not two persons; it's only one," declared Alice as she continued to look at the advancing figure. "And see, Ruth, he—he limps!"

She caught her sister's arm as she spoke, and the two girls drew closer together. The same thought came to both.

Was this the man who had run out of the barn?

"I believe it's the same one," whispered Ruth.

"And I'm perfectly positive," answered Alice. "Oh, Ruth, now is our chance!"

"Chance! Chance for what?"

"I mean we can find out who he is, and perhaps solve the mystery."

"Alice DeVere! We're going to do no such thing! We're going to run back home—that man is coming straight toward us!" cried Ruth, and she began to drag Alice away from the bridge.

Meanwhile the limping figure continued to come along the road, going alternately from bright moonlight to shadow as he passed clumps of trees.


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