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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Moving Picture Girls In War Plays: The Sham Battles At Oak Farm - Chapter 18. "What Can We Do?"
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The Moving Picture Girls In War Plays: The Sham Battles At Oak Farm - Chapter 18. 'What Can We Do?' Post by :wfelixb Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1066

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The Moving Picture Girls In War Plays: The Sham Battles At Oak Farm - Chapter 18. "What Can We Do?"

CHAPTER XVIII. "WHAT CAN WE DO?"

"You poor dear!" cried Alice, and she knelt down on the floor beside Estelle and put her arms about the weeping girl. Ruth, too, with an expression of sympathy, stroked the bowed head.

"We want so much to help you," Ruth murmured.

"Let me get you something," begged Alice. "Some smelling salts--some ammonia--shall I call any one--the doctor----?"

"No, I--I'll be all right presently," said Estelle in a broken voice. "Just let me alone a little while--I mean stay with me--talk to me--tell me something. I want to get control of my nerves."

Ruth did not seem to know what to say, but Alice pulled a small bottle from her pocket, and held it under Estelle's nose.

"It's the loveliest new scent," she said. "I bought a sample in town."

Estelle burst into a laugh, rather a hysterical laugh, it is true, but a laugh nevertheless. It showed that the strain and tension were relaxing to some extent.

"Isn't it sweet?" Alice asked.

"It is, dear. Let me smell it again. It makes me feel better," and Estelle breathed in deep of the odorous scent.

"How silly I was to give way like that," she went on. "But I simply couldn't help it. This has been going on for so long, and it got so I couldn't stand it another minute. How would you like it not to know who you are?"

"Not very much, I'm afraid," said Ruth, softly.

"That, in a way, is why it has been such a relief to be in the moving pictures," Estelle went on. "I could be so many different characters, and, at times, I thought perhaps, by chance, I might be cast for the very part I have lost--cast for my real self, as it were."

"You must have had a hard time," said Alice.

"I haven't told you half the story yet," Estelle went on. "Would you like to hear the rest?"

"Indeed we would!" exclaimed Ruth. "Not from any idle curiosity, but because we want to help you."

"And I do need some one to help me," murmured Estelle. "I am all alone in the world."

"You must have relatives somewhere!" insisted Alice.

"None that I ever heard of. But then, who knows what might have happened in the life that is a blank to me--in the life that lies beyond that impenetrable wall of the past?

"But I mustn't get hysterical again. Just let me think for a moment, so I may tell you my story clearly. I shall be all right in a moment or two."

"Let me make you a cup of tea," proposed Ruth. "I'll make some for all of us," and presently the little kettle was steaming over the spirit lamp, and the girls were sipping the fragrant beverage.

"Thank you. That was good!" murmured Estelle. "I feel better now. I'll tell the rest of my miserable story to you."

"Don't make it too miserable," and Alice tried to make her laugh a gay one.

"I won't--not any more so than I can help. I think it will do me good to let you share the mystery with me."

"Then it is a mystery?" asked Ruth.

"Somewhat, yes. You may think it strange, but I can not think back more than three years--four at the most. I am not at all certain of the time. But go back as far as I can, all I remember is that I was on a large steamer."

"On the ocean?" asked Alice.

"No, on the Great Lakes. I was going to Cleveland, which I learned when I asked one of the officers."

"And didn't you know where you were going before you asked?" Ruth questioned.

"I hadn't the least idea, my dear. I might just as well have been going to Europe. In fact, when I first looked out and saw the water, I thought I was on the ocean."

"But where did you come from, what were you doing there, where were your people?" cried Ruth.

"That's it, my dear. Where were they? I didn't know. No one knew. All I could grasp was the fact that I was there on the boat."

"Alone?"

"Yes, all alone."

"But who bought your ticket--who engaged your stateroom?" questioned Ruth.

"That is the queer part of it. I did it myself. When I first became conscious that I was in a strange place I was so shocked that I wanted to scream--to cry out--to ask all sorts of questions. Then I realized if I did that I might be taken for an insane person and be locked up. So I just shut myself in my stateroom and did some thinking.

"The first thing I wanted to know was how I got on the steamer, but how to find that out without asking questions that the steamship people would think peculiar, was a puzzle to me. Finally, I decided to pretend to want to change my room, and when I went to the purser I asked him if that was the only room to be had.

"'Why no, Miss,' he said, 'but when you came on board and I told you what rooms I had, you insisted on taking that one.' That was enough for me. I realized then that I had come on board alone, and of my own volition, though I had not any recollection of having done so, and I knew no more of where I came from than you do now."

"How very strange!" murmured Alice. "And what did you do?"

"Well, I pretended that I had been tired and had not made a wise choice of a room, and asked the purser to give me another.

"'I thought, when you picked it out, you wouldn't like that one,' he said to me, 'but you looked like a young lady who was used to having her own way, so I did not interfere.'

"That was another bit of information. Evidently, I looked prosperous, a fact that was borne out when I examined my purse. I had a considerable sum in it, and the large valise I found in my room was filled with expensive clothes and fittings. Yet where I had obtained it or my money or my clothes I could not tell for the life of me. All I knew was that I was there on board the ship."

"And did you change your stateroom?" asked Ruth.

"Yes; the purser gave me another one. And then I sat down and tried to puzzle it out. Why was I going to Cleveland? I knew no one there, and yet I had bought a ticket to that port--or some one had bought it for me."

"Did that occur to you?" asked Alice. "That some one might have had an object in getting you out of the way."

"Well, if they had, they took a very public and expensive method of doing it," Estelle said. "I was on one of the best boats on Lake Erie, and I had plenty of money."

"Did you find in what name your room was taken?" asked Ruth. "That might have given you a clue."

"The name given was Estelle Brown," was the answer. "I gave that name myself, for I recognized my handwriting on the envelope in which I sealed some of my jewelry before handing it to the purser to put in his safe. Estelle Brown was the name I gave."

"And was it yours?" asked Alice.

"I haven't any reason to believe that it was not. In fact, as I looked back then, and as I look back now, the name Estelle Brown seems to be my very own--it is associated closely with me. So I'm sure I'm Estelle Brown--that is the only part I am sure about."

"But what did you do?" asked Ruth. "Didn't you make some inquiries?"

"I did; as soon as I reached Cleveland. At first I hoped that my memory would come back to me when I reached that place. I thought I might recognize some of the buildings. In fact, I hoped it would prove to be my home, from which I had, perhaps, wandered in a fit of illness.

"But it was of no help to me. I might just as well have been in San Francisco or New York for all that the place was familiar to me. So I gave that up. Then I began to look over the papers to see if any Estelle Brown was missing. But there was nothing to that effect in the news columns. All the while I was getting more and more worried.

"I went to a good hotel in Cleveland and stayed two or three days. Then I happened to think that perhaps my clothes might offer some clue. I examined them all carefully, and the only thing I found was the name of a Boston firm on a toilet set. At once it flashed on me that I belonged in Boston. I seemed to have a dim recollection of a big monument in the midst of a green park, of narrow, crooked streets and historical buildings.

"Then, in a flash it came to me--I did belong in Boston. How I had come from there I could not guess, but I was sure I lived there. So I bought a ticket for there and went as fast as the train could take me.

"But my hopes were dashed. Even the sight of Bunker Hill monument did not bring the elusive memory, nor did viewing the other places of historic interest. Yet, somewhere in the back of my brain, I was sure I had been in that city before. I went to the place where my toilet set was bought, but the man had sold out and the new owner could give me no information.

"I did not know what to do. My money was running low, and I had not a friend to whom to turn. I happened to go in to see some moving pictures, and the idea came to me that perhaps I could act. I had rather a good face, so some one had hinted."

"You do photograph beautifully," said Alice.

"That's what one of the managers in Boston told me when I applied to him," said Estelle. "He gave me a small part, and then I learned that New York was really the place to go to get in the movies, so I came on, with a letter to a manager from the Boston firm.

"It must have been my face that got me my first engagement, for now I know I couldn't act. But, somehow or other, I made good, and then I got this engagement with Mr. Pertell.

"And that is my story. You can see what a strange one it is--for me not to know who I am. I'm almost ashamed to admit it, and that is why I have been avoiding all references to my past. But now I have told you, what do you think?"

"I think it's just terrible!" cried Alice. "The idea! Not to know who you are."

"The question is," said Ruth, "what can we do to help you? This must not be allowed to go any further. Valuable time is being lost. We want to help you, Estelle. What can we do? We must try to find out who you are."

"Yes, but how can you?" asked the strange girl.

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