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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Moving Picture Boys At Panama - Chapter 8. Off For Panama
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The Moving Picture Boys At Panama - Chapter 8. Off For Panama Post by :louis1899 Category :Long Stories Author :Victor Appleton Date :May 2012 Read :484

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The Moving Picture Boys At Panama - Chapter 8. Off For Panama

CHAPTER VIII. OFF FOR PANAMA

There was a moment of silence following Mr. Piper's gloomy prediction, and then Miss Shay, with a laugh, cried out:

"Oh, what a shame! I'd keep still if I couldn't say anything nicer than _that_."

"Not very cheerful; is he?" spoke Joe.

"About the same as usual," commented Blake, drily.

"Well, it's true, just the same!" declared C.C. Piper, with an air of conviction.

"'The truth is not to be spoken--at all times,'" quoted Miss Pierce.

"Good for you!" whispered Joe.

C.C. seemed a little put out at all the criticism leveled at him.

"Ahem!" he exclaimed. "Of course I don't mean that I want to see you boys caught in a landslide--far from it, but--"

"But, if we _are going to be caught that way, you hope there will be moving pictures of it; don't you, C.C.?" laughed Blake. "Now, there's no use trying to get out of it!" he added, as the gloomy actor stuttered and stammered. "We know what you mean. But where is Mr. Ringold; or Mr. Hadley?"

"They're around somewhere," explained Miss Shay, when the other members of the company, with whom they had spent so many happy and exciting days, had offered their greetings. "Are you in such a hurry to see them?" she asked of Blake.

"Oh, not in such an _awful hurry," he answered with a laugh, as Birdie Lee came out of a dressing room, smiling rosily at him.

"I guess not!" laughed Miss Shay.

Soon the interval between the scenes of the drama then being "filmed," or photographed, came to an end. The actors and actresses took their places in a "ball room," that was built on one section of the studio floor.

"Ready!" called the manager to the camera operator, and as the music of an unseen orchestra played, so that the dancing might be in perfect time, the camera began clicking and the action of the play, which included an exciting episode in the midst of the dance, went on. It was a gay scene, for the ladies and gentlemen were dressed in the "height of fashion."

It was necessary to have every detail faithfully reproduced, for the eye of the moving picture camera is more searching, and far-seeing, than any human eye, and records every defect, no matter how small. And when it is recalled that the picture thrown on the screen is magnified many hundred times, a small defect, as can readily be understood, becomes a very large one.

So great care is taken to have everything as nearly perfect as possible. Blake and Joe watched the filming of the drama, recalling the time when they used to turn the handle of the camera at the same work, before they were chosen to go out after bigger pictures--scenes from real life. The operator, a young fellow; whom both Blake and Joe knew, looked around and nodded at them, when he had to stop grinding out the film a moment, to allow the director to correct something that had unexpectedly gone wrong.

"Don't you wish you had this easy job?" the operator asked.

"We may, before we come back from Panama," answered Blake.

A little later Mr. Ringold and Mr. Hadley came in, greeting the two boys, and then began a talk which lasted for some time, and in which all the details of the projected work, as far as they could be arranged in advance, were gone over.

"What we want," said Mr. Hadley, "is a series of pictures about the Canal. It will soon be open for regular traffic, you know, and, in fact some vessels have already gone through it. But the work is not yet finished, and we want you to film the final touches.

"Then, too, there may be accidents--there have been several small ones of late, and, as I wrote you, a man who claims to have made a study of the natural forces in Panama declares a big slide is due soon.

"Of course we won't wish the canal any bad luck, and we don't for a moment want that slide to happen. Only--"

"If it does come you want it filmed!" interrupted Blake, with a laugh.

"That's it, exactly!" exclaimed Mr. Ringold.

"You'll find plenty down there to take pictures of," said Mr. Hadley. "We want scenes along the Canal. Hire a vessel and take moving pictures as you go along in her. Go through the Gatun locks, of course. Scenes as your boat goes in them, and the waters rise, and then go down again, ought to make a corking picture!"

Mr. Hadley was growing enthusiastic.

"Get some jungle scenes to work in also," he directed. "In short, get scenes you think a visitor to the Panama Canal would be interested in seeing. Some of the films will be a feature at the Panama Exposition in California, and we expect to make big money from them, so do your best."

"We will!" promised Joe, and Blake nodded in acquiescence.

"You met the young Spaniard who had a letter of introduction to you; did you not?" asked Mr. Hadley, after a pause.

"Yes," answered Blake. "Met him under rather queer circumstances, too. I guess we hinted at them in our letter."

"A mere mention," responded Mr. Hadley. "I should be glad to hear the details." So Blake and Joe, in turn, told of the runaway.

"What do you think of him--I mean Mr. Alcando?" asked the moving picture man.

"Why, he seems all right," spoke Joe slowly, looking at Blake to give him a chance to say anything if he wanted to. "I like him."

"Glad to hear it!" exclaimed Mr. Hadley heartily. "He came to us well recommended and, as I think I explained, our company is under obligations to concerns he and his friends are interested in, so we were glad to do him a favor. He explained, did he not, that his company wished to show scenes along the line of their railroad, to attract prospective customers?"

"Yes, he told us that," observed Joe.

"What's the matter, Blake, haven't you anything to say?" asked Mr. Hadley in a curious voice, turning to Joe's chum. "How does the Spaniard strike you?"

"Well, he seems all right," was Blake's slow answer. "Only I think--"

"Blake thinks he's an international spy, I guess!" broke in Joe with a laugh. "Tell him about the 'big guns,' Blake."

"What's that?" asked Mr. Hadley, quickly.

Whereupon Blake told of the wind-blown letter and his first suspicions.

"Oh, that's all nonsense!" laughed Mr. Hadley. "We have investigated his credentials, and find them all right. Besides, what object would a South American spy have in finding out details of the defenses at Panama. South America would work to preserve the Canal; not to destroy it. If it were some European nation now, that would be a different story. You don't need to worry, Blake."

"No, I suppose it is foolish. But I'm glad to know you think Mr. Alcando all right. If we've got to live in close companionship with him for several months, it's a comfort to know he is all right. Now when are we to start, how do we go, where shall we make our headquarters and so on?"

"Yes, you will want some detailed information, I expect," agreed the moving picture man. "Well, I'm ready to give it to you. I have already made some arrangements for you. You will take a steamer to Colon, make your headquarters at the Washington Hotel, and from there start out, when you are ready, to get pictures of the Canal and surrounding country. I'll give you letters of introduction, so you will have no trouble in chartering a tug to go through the Canal, and I already have the necessary government permits."

"Then Joe and I had better be packing up for the trip," suggested Blake.

"Yes, the sooner the better. You might call on Mr. Alcando, and ask him when he will be ready. Here is his address in New York," and Mr. Hadley handed Blake a card, naming a certain uptown hotel.

A little later, having seen to their baggage, and handed their particular and favorite cameras over to one of the men of the film company, so that he might give them a thorough overhauling, Blake and Joe went to call on their Spanish friend.

"Aren't you glad to know he isn't a spy, or anything like that?" asked Joe of his chum.

"Yes, of course I am, and yet--"

"Still suspicious I see," laughed Joe. "Better drop it."

Blake did not answer.

Inquiry of the hotel clerk gave Blake and Joe the information that Mr. Alcando was in his room, and, being shown to the apartment by a bell-boy, Blake knocked on the door.

"Who's there? Wait a moment!" came in rather sharp accents from a voice the moving picture boys recognized as that of Mr. Alcando.

"It is Blake Stewart and Joe Duncan," said the former lad. "We have called--"

"I beg your pardon--In one moment I shall be with you--I will let you in!" exclaimed the Spaniard. The boys could hear him moving about in his apartment, they could hear the rattle of papers, and then the door was opened.

There was no one in the room except the young South American railroad man, but there was the odor of a strong cigar in the apartment, and Blake noticed this with surprise for, some time before, Mr. Alcando had said he did not smoke.

The inference was, then, that he had had a visitor, who was smoking when the boys knocked, but there was no sign of the caller then, except in the aroma of the cigar.

He might have gone into one of the other rooms that opened from the one into which the boys looked, for Mr. Alcando had a suite in the hotel. And, after all, it was none of the affair of Blake or Joe, if their new friend had had a caller.

"Only," said Blake to Joe afterward, "why was he in such a hurry to get rid of him, and afraid that we might meet him?"

"I don't know," Joe answered. "It doesn't worry me. You are too suspicious."

"I suppose I am."

Mr. Alcando welcomed the boys, but said nothing about the delay in opening his door, or about the visitor who must have slipped out hastily. The Spaniard was glad to see Blake and Joe, and glad to learn that they would soon start for Panama.

"I have much to do, though, in what little time is left," he said, rapidly arranging some papers on his table. As he did so, Blake caught sight of a small box, with some peculiar metal projections on it, sticking out from amid a pile of papers.

"Yes, much to do," went on Mr. Alcando. And then, either by accident or design, he shoved some papers in such a way that the small box was completely hidden.

"We have just come from Mr. Hadley," explained Joe, and then he and Blake plunged into a mass of details regarding their trip, with which I need not weary you.

Sufficient to say that Mr. Alcando promised to be on hand at the time of the sailing of the steamer for Colon.

In due time, though a day or so later than originally planned, Blake and Joe, with their new Spanish friend, were on hand at the pier. Mr. Alcando had considerable baggage, and he was to be allowed the use of an old moving picture camera with which to "get his hand in." Blake and Joe, of course had their own machines, which had been put in perfect order. There were several of them for different classes of work.

Final instructions were given by Mr. Hadley, good-bys were said, and the boys and Mr. Alcando went aboard.

"I hope you have good luck!" called Birdie Lee to Blake, as she waved her hand to him.

"And so do I," added Mabel Pierce to Joe.

"Thanks!" they made answer in a chorus.

"And--look--out--for--the--big slides!" called Mr. Piper after them, as the steamer swung away from the pier.

"Gloomy to the last!" laughed Blake.

So they were off for Panama, little dreaming of the sensational adventures that awaited them there.

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