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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Moving Picture Girls At Rocky Ranch: Great Days Among The Cowboys - Chapter 4. A Cloud Of Smoke
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The Moving Picture Girls At Rocky Ranch: Great Days Among The Cowboys - Chapter 4. A Cloud Of Smoke Post by :Ronald Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1130

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The Moving Picture Girls At Rocky Ranch: Great Days Among The Cowboys - Chapter 4. A Cloud Of Smoke

CHAPTER IV. A CLOUD OF SMOKE

Below, in the crowd that had gathered to watch the test, were Ruth and Alice. Russ, of course, was there with his moving picture camera, and Paul saw the little lens-tube aimed in his direction, like the muzzle of some new weapon.

"Now, don't get nervous," directed the inventor, after he had explained the mechanism to Paul, and also to the city officials who had gathered to pass upon its merits.

"You can't make me nervous," declared the young actor. "I've gone through too much in this moving picture business, though I will admit I never jumped from such a height before."

"Don't look down," the inventor warned him. "You won't get dizzy then. And don't think of the height. With this apparatus it is impossible to get hurt. You will go down like a feather."

"That's comforting to know," laughed Paul. "Well, I may as well start, I guess."

The belt was adjusted about him, and as it was done in the open window Russ was able to get views of it, and of all that went on. Then Paul got out on the sill. There he paused a moment.

"I--I can't bear to look at him!" murmured Ruth.

"Don't be silly," exclaimed Alice.

"But suppose--suppose something happens?"

"Don't be a Mr. Sneed!" retorted her sister, with a laugh. "I don't believe anything will happen, and if--if he should fall--see!" and she pointed to where a detachment of city firemen stood ready with their life net.

"Oh, I didn't notice them before," confessed Ruth. "That makes it safer."

"All ready down there, Russ?" shouted Paul, through a megaphone. "Shall I go?"

"Jump! I'm all ready for you," was the answer.

Paul paused but for a moment, and then he jumped from the sill, and out away from the building. The coil of rope in the metal case had been swung out from the side of the structure on an arm, so as to enable Paul to clear the lower window ledges.

For the first few feet he went down like a shot, and for one horrible moment he felt that something had gone wrong. In fact the crowd did also, for there was a hoarse shout of alarm.

"Oh!" gasped Ruth, faintly.

"I--I----" began Alice, as she, too, turned aside her head. Then someone yelled:

"It's all right!"

Alice looked then.

She saw Paul descending as the rope payed out. He was coming down gradually.

"That will make a good film," commented Russ to Mr. Pertell, for the manager had come to witness the fire escape scene.

"Indeed it will."

Paul came down several stories, and the success of the apparatus seemed assured when, at about the fourth story from the ground, something suddenly went wrong.

Once more the young actor shot downward and this time it seemed that he would be seriously injured.

Russ felt that he must rush forward to save his friend, but he had an inborn instinct to stick to his camera--an instinct that probably every moving picture operator has, even though he does violence to his own feelings.

"He'll be hurt!" several in the crowd cried.

Ruth and Alice both turned aside their heads again, but there was no need for alarm.

For the firemen, at the word of command from their captain, had rushed forward with the life net. They were standing only a few feet away from where Paul dangled in the air, but even at that they were only just in time.

Paul fell into it heavily, for the mechanism depended on to check the speed at which the rope payed out, did not work. But the firemen knew just how to handle a situation of that sort, and they held firmly to the net. It sagged under the impact of Paul's body, but he bounded upward again in an instant, and then was helped out of the net and to his feet.

"Mighty lucky you fellows were here," observed the young actor, as the cheers of the crowd died down.

"I was afraid something like that might happen," spoke the fire captain. "I've seen too many accidents with these patent escapes to take any chances. Now there's another inventor who will have to make quite a few changes in his apparatus."

The man who had patented the fire escape had been in a frenzy of fear when he saw Paul slipping, and, now that he knew the young actor was safe, he began to explain how something unforeseen had occurred, and that it would never happen again.

"Did you get that, Russ?" the manager wanted to know, for he thought the operator, in his anxiety over Paul, might have forgotten to turn the handle of the machine.

"Every move," was the reassuring answer. "It will make a dandy film. But I'm mighty glad it turned out as it did."

"So am I," said the manager. "I guess that will be about all for Paul to-day. His nerves must be on edge."

Paul declared that they were not, however, and wanted to go on with the rest of the film, which included the showing of other, but less dangerous, inventions.

"No, you take the rest of the day off," directed the manager. "There is no great rush about this."

The crowd pressed curiously about Paul and the others of the moving picture company, and, as Ruth and Alice were getting hemmed in, Mr. Pertell called a taxicab and sent them home in it.

"Report at the studio to-morrow," he called.

"Did you have any more trouble with that spy?" asked Alice, as the vehicle moved away.

"No," he answered. "I guess they'll quit, now that they know I have found them out."

The next day Paul finished with his invention-film, being required to do a number of "funny stunts," such as shaving with a new safety razor that did anything but what it was intended for; trying a new wardrobe trunk, that unexpectedly closed up with him inside of it, and such things as that. Some of the inventions were real, and others were "faked" for the occasion, to make a "comic" film.

But nothing as risky as the rope escape was tried, though probably had Paul been required to go through an equally hazardous feat he would not have balked. Moving picture actors often take very big chances, and the public, looking at the finished film, little realize it.

"I have something for you to-day I think you'll like," said Mr. Pertell to Ruth and Alice, as they reported at the studio.

"I hope it is outdoor stuff," ventured Alice. "It is just glorious to-day!"

Moving picture work is referred to as "stuff." Thus scenes at a river or lake are "water stuff," and if a play should take place in a desert the action would be termed "desert stuff," and so on.

"Well, I'm sorry, but only part of it, and a very little at that, is outdoor stuff," replied Mr. Pertell. "The action of this play takes place in a shirt waist factory. And I've got the use of a real factory where you two girls will pose and go through the 'business.' You're to be shirt waist operators, and I'll explain the story to you later."

"I can't sew very well," confessed Alice, "and I never made but one shirt waist in my life--I couldn't wear it after it was done," she added.

"You don't really have to sew," explained Mr. Pertell. "It is all machine work, anyhow. You and Ruth will sit at the machines in the factory with the other girls. Miss Pennington and Miss Dixon are also to be operators, but you two are the main characters. The machines work by a small electric motor, and all you have to do is to push some cloth along under the needle. You can do that."

"I guess so," agreed Alice.

"The forewoman will rehearse you a bit," Mr. Pertell went on. "The scene at the machines only takes a few moments--just a little strip of film. Then the scene changes to another part of the factory. I think it will make a good film. The story is called 'The Eye of a Needle.' It's really quite clever and by a new writer. I think it will make a hit."

Ruth and Alice, as well as the others, were told more in detail what action the play required, and the next day they were ready for their parts. They went to the factory accompanied by the two former vaudeville actresses, and by Russ and Paul. The latter was to take the part of one of the male employees of the concern.

Ruth and Alice found themselves in a room filled with sewing machines, at which sat girls and women busily engaged in stitching on shirt waists. There was the hum of the small electric motors that operated the machines, and the click and hum of the machines themselves.

A murmur ran around the room on the entrance of the players, but the operators had been told what to expect and what to do. They were to be in the pictures, too.

Ruth and Alice, with Miss Pennington and Miss Dixon, were given machines close to the camera, as they were the principal characters, and interest centered in them.

"Just guide the cloth through under the needle," the forewoman explained, as she started the motors on the girls' machines.

"Ready!" called Mr. Pertell to Russ, who stood beside the camera. The action of the play began, as Russ clicked away at the handle of his machine.

Suddenly a girl screamed.

"Oh, what is it?" demanded Miss Pennington, jumping up.

"Sit down! You'll spoil the film!" cried Mr. Pertell.

There was a little confusion for a moment.

"It's only one of the girls who has run a needle into her finger," the forewoman explained. "It often happens. We take care of them right here."

"All right--get that in, Russ," suggested Mr. Pertell. "It will make it seem much more natural."

The girl's injury was a slight one, and Russ got on the film the action of her being attended in the room set aside for the treatment of injured employes.

"I'll have something written in the script to fit to that," said Mr. Pertell, as the action of the play resumed.

The plot of the little drama called upon Miss Pennington to write a note to Alice, pretending that it came from a young man, whose name the former vaudeville performer was supposed to forge. Alice was to "register" certain emotions, and to show the note to Ruth. Then Miss Dixon came into the scene, the sewing machines were deserted and, for a moment, there was an excited conference.

Considerable dramatic action was called for, and this was well done by the girls, while the real operatives looked on in simulated surprise as they kept at their work.

The play was almost over, when from a far corner of the room came a startled cry.

"Someone else hurt with a needle, I wonder?" queried Paul, as he stood near Alice's machine.

"I hope not," she answered.

And then the whole room was thrown into panic as the cry broke out:

"Fire! Fire! The building is on fire!"

Shrill screams drowned out the rest of the alarm, but as Ruth, Alice and the others of the moving picture company looked around they saw a cloud of smoke at the rear of the big room.

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