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CHAPTER XVIII GOING TO SCHOOL
Fortunately for the German actor, he had been far enough away when the tree came down, so that only the top part of it, consisting of little branches and leaves, fell on him. In fact, he was not even knocked down by the impact, but stood up right in the midst of the foliage, his frightened blue eyes and rumpled light hair standing out from amid the maze of green in a curious fashion.

"Vot for you do dot to me?" demanded Mr. Switzer of the grouchy actor who had chopped the tree. "Dot vos not in the act; vos it, Mr. Pertell?"

"No, but as long as you're not hurt we'll leave it in. It will make a little variety. Why didn't you get out of the way?"

"Nobody tolt me to. I t'ought Herr Sneed knowed vot he vos doin' by der tree yet! Vhy shoult I get der vay oudt?"

"Well, I knew something would happen when I tried to chop a tree," grumbled the author of the mischief.

"As long as it's nothing very bad we'll forgive you," went on the manager.

"Und I forgif him, too," spoke the German. "Only he must now use his axe again und get me out of dis. I am helt fast yet!"

This was true enough, for the branches, though not heavy enough to have caused any injury, were quite thick, and fairly hemmed Mr. Switzer in.

"Better let me lop off a few," suggested Sandy, and they agreed that as the chopping would have to be done quite close to the imprisoned one, a more expert hand had better do it.

Sandy quickly had cut a way so the actor could emerge, and at Mr. Pertell's suggestion Russ made moving pictures of it.

"I'll have a new scene written in the play to fit this," the manager said. "Mr. Bunn, I think you might climb that tree over there," and he indicated one within range of the camera.

"Climb a tree! Me!" exclaimed the actor. "What for, pray?"

"Well, I'll have a scene fixed up to indicate that the party gets lost in the woods, and you climb a tree to see if you can spy any landmarks to lead them out of their plight. Just shin up that tree, if you please, and put your hand over your eyes when you get up high enough to see across the tops of the other trees. You know—register that you are looking for the path."

"I refuse to do it!" cried Wellington Bunn. "To climb a tree is beneath my dignity."

"Then climb a tree and get above it," suggested the manager, drily. "You've got to climb; I want you in this scene."

The tall actor groaned, but there was no help for it. Up he went, not without many misgivings and grunts, for he was not an athlete.

"I say!" he cried, when part way up, "if I fall and get hurt you'll have to pay me damages, Mr. Pertell."

"You won't get hurt much," was the not very comforting answer. "And you won't fall, if you keep a tight hold with your arms and legs. But if you do, there's lots of soft moss at the foot of the tree."

"Oh, this life! This terrible life!" groaned Mr. Bunn. "Why did I ever go into moving pictures?"

No one answered him. Perhaps they thought the reason was that he had outlived his drawing powers in the legitimate drama.

Finally he reached the top of the tree, and pretended to be looking for a path for the lost ones, while Russ, always at the camera, successfully filmed him.

"That's enough—come on down," ordered Mr. Pertell. Mr. Bunn came down more quickly than he went up, and the last few feet he slid down so rapidly that he scratched his hands, and tore his trousers.

"You'll have to pay for them," he said, ruefully, as he looked at the rent.

"Put it in your expense bill," suggested the manager. "We'll do anything in reason. And now let's get back before anything else happens. Is to-day Friday, the thirteenth?" he asked with a smile, for really a number of occurrences out of the ordinary had taken place. Fortunately, however, none of the accidents was serious, and no films were spoiled.

Several days passed, one or two of them rather lazy ones, for the weather grew hotter and Mr. Pertell did not want to overburden his players. Russ and Paul took advantage of the little holiday to pay several visits to the cabin in the woods, but they saw no traces of the mysterious man.

"I have something new for you to-day," remarked the manager one morning to the actors and actresses.

"Water scenes?" asked Russ, with a sly glance at Alice.

"No, this is on dry land. You're going to school for a change."

"Going to school!" they all echoed.

"Yes. I've a new play, and some of the scenes take place in a school room. I'll only want the younger ones in this, though. Miss Ruth and Miss Alice, Paul and Tommy and Nellie."

"Only the younger ones! Well, I like that!" sniffed Miss Pennington, powdering her nose. "As if we were old maids!"

"The idea!" gasped Miss Dixon. "Those DeVere girls think they are the whole show!"

"I should say they did!"

But it was not the fault of Alice and Ruth that they were young and pretty.

"It won't be a very large class—with just us five in it," remarked Paul.

"Oh, I'm going to use some of the regular school children," said the manager. "I've made arrangements with the teacher. We're to go to the schoolhouse this afternoon. Here are your parts—it's a simple little thing," he added, as he distributed the typewritten sheets. "Study 'em a bit, we'll have a little rehearsal, and then we'll film it."

It was not as easy as Mr. Pertell had thought it would be to get the little scenes in the country school. His own players were all right, but the regular school children were either too bashful or too bold—particularly some of the boys. And, just as one side of the room would get quiet, and Russ would be ready to grind out the film, the other side would break out into disorder caused by some mischievous boy.

The children did not really mean to cause trouble, but it was a new thing for them to be made subjects for moving pictures. They would persist in staring straight at the camera, instead of pretending to study their lessons as they should have done.

But finally they were induced to go properly through their little scene, and the action of the play began. At one part Alice was to go to the blackboard to do a sum in arithmetic, and Paul was to pass her a little love note. This was to be intercepted by Ruth, and then the trouble began—trouble of a jealous nature, all being woven into a little country romance that had its start in the schoolhouse.

All was going well, and Russ was clicking merrily away at the camera, when suddenly one of the real pupils—a red-haired boy—cried at the top of his voice:

"Bees! Look out for the bees! There's a swarm of bees headed this way!"

And through the open windows of the school there came a curious humming sound.


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