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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Moving Picture Girls At Rocky Ranch: Great Days Among The Cowboys - Chapter 12. Suspicions
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The Moving Picture Girls At Rocky Ranch: Great Days Among The Cowboys - Chapter 12. Suspicions Post by :ConvGT Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1662

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The Moving Picture Girls At Rocky Ranch: Great Days Among The Cowboys - Chapter 12. Suspicions

CHAPTER XII. SUSPICIONS

On came that rushing, swirling, swaying dust-cloud, and out of it continued to come those nerve-racking shouts, yells and shrill screams, accompanied by a fusillade of pistol shots.

"Can anything have occurred to gain us the anger of any of the inhabitants of this place?" asked Mr. DeVere, as he looked about apprehensively, and then at his daughters.

"It sounds like a lot of cowboys," spoke Alice. "At least I've read that's how they act when they paint the town red."

"Oh, Alice!" cried Ruth. "What language!"

"I used it merely in the technical sense," was the retort. "I believe they do not actually use red paint."

"Oh, what shall we do? What shall we do?" cried Miss Pennington.

"I'm going back to New York at once!" sobbed Miss Dixon. "Make that train come back!" she cried to the lone station agent, who, with a set grin on his face, was looking alternately from the group of picture players to the approaching dust cloud that concealed so many weird noises.

But the train was far down the track.

"We must do something!" insisted Mr. Sneed, nervously pacing up and down. "We men must organize and protect the ladies. I think we had better get inside the station and try to hold it against the savages. Pop, you have some guns in the baggage; have you not?"

"Yep!" answered the property man; "but they ain't loaded, and before we could git 'em out those fellers will be here."

"Well, we must protect the ladies at any cost!" insisted Mr. Sneed. "Come with us, we will protect you!" he shouted as he hurried inside the little shed that answered for the station. Probably he wanted to go first to prepare the place for the others. At any rate he was first inside.

"Whoop-ee!"

"Ki-yi!"

"Rah!"

"Bang! Bang! Bang!"

That is the way it sounded. The noise grew louder. The dust-cloud was at the station now. And then, with a fusillade of shots that was well-nigh deafening, the cause of it all came to a sudden stop.

The dust settled and blew away. The cloud parted to reveal several wagons drawn by small but muscular horses. Surrounding the vehicles were half a score of cowboys of the regulation type, save that they did not wear the "chaps," or sheepskin breeches, so often seen in moving picture depictions of the "wild west." Probably the weather was too hot for them, or these cowboys may have gotten rid of them because the garments figured so often in the "movies."

"Cowboys!" cried Russ, with a laugh. "And we thought they were going to attack us!"

"It's one on us, all right," spoke Paul.

"But I have often read of cowboys going on a--on a rampage, I believe it is called--or is it stampede?" asked Miss Dixon, as she stood behind Paul.

"Rampage is right," he informed her.

"Well, maybe that's what they're on now, and they will shoot us after all," she resumed. "Oh, there's one looking right at me!" and she covered her face with her be-ringed hands.

"Probably he hasn't seen a pretty girl in a long time," said Paul, for Miss Dixon was pretty, in a way.

"Oh!" she exclaimed again--and took down her hands.

"And one of them is loading his pistol!" cried Miss Pennington. "Oh, dear!"

"I guess they'll have to load up all around after the shots they fired," laughed Russ. "I wonder what in the world it's all about, anyhow?"

He learned a moment later.

One of the cowboys, evidently the leader, rode his fiery little horse up to the station platform, and taking off his broad-brimmed hat with a flourish and a bow, asked:

"Is this the moving picture outfit?"

"It is," said Mr. Pertell.

"I reckoned that I'd read your brand right," the cowboy went on. "Welcome to Rocky Ranch!"

"But where is it?" asked Alice, and then she blushed at her own boldness, for the glance of the half-score of cowboys was instantly drawn in her direction, and bold admiration shone in their eyes.

"It isn't far from here, Miss," was the answer. "It lies just over that little rise. You can't see it. We've come to take you out there. That's why we brung the wagons, and some of the boys thought they'd like to ride in and see you, seein' as how the round-up is over and we ain't so terrible rushed with work."

"We heard you coming," said Mr. Pertell. "Some of the ladies were a little apprehensive."

"I don't quite get you," spoke the cowboy.

"I say some of the ladies were a bit timid on account of the firing."

"Oh, shucks! That ain't nothin'! The boys was feelin' a little bit frisky, I reckon, and they maybe did let out a few whoops. But land love you! Mustn't mind a little thing like that. Still, if it's goin' to cause any uneasiness among the females, why I'll tell the boys to cut out all----"

"Oh, no, really we don't mind it!" declared Alice, impulsively, and again she blushed as the broadside of eyes was trained in her direction.

"Do be quiet!" whispered Ruth. "I don't know what they'll think of you," and she adjusted her dainty lace cuffs, brushing some engine cinders from them.

"I don't care," Alice retorted, "if they're going to be cowboys let them be natural."

The same thought must have been in the mind of Mr. Pertell, for he said:

"Don't put yourselves out on our account, gentlemen. We don't want you to change your ways or customs just because we have come. We want to get moving pictures of the ranch and the cowboys, and we want them true to life. The ladies will soon get used to the firing. We have gone through worse things than that."

"Well, I sure am glad to hear you say so," was the hearty response. "You see it's jest plumb natural for a cow-puncher to shoot off his gun, and it would come a bit hard to stop. But I reckon the boys has had enough for to-day. Now, who's the boss of this outfit?"

"I guess I am," replied Mr. Pertell. "I'll introduce you to the different ones when I get a chance. Just now I think we are all anxious to get to the ranch."

"All right, jest as you say. My name is Batso--Pete Batso, and I'm foreman of Rocky Ranch. The Circle and Dot is our brand--you can see it on the ponies," and he showed on the flank of his mount a circle burned in the hide--a circle in the center of which was a dot. Each ranch owner brands, with a hot iron, all his cattle, that he may pick out his own when they mix with another bunch at the grazing. Each ranch has a different brand, and they consist of simple marks and symbols, each one being properly registered in case of lawsuits.

"Now then," went on Foreman Pete, "if you're ready we'll start. The boys will stow away your traps in one of the wagons, and if you'll distribute yourselves in the other wagons we'll git along. I could have brought horses for all of you, but I wasn't sure how many could ride."

"Very few of us do, I'm afraid," observed Mr. Pertell.

"But I'm going to learn!" exclaimed Alice, promptly, and this time, when the eyes were turned toward her, she smiled back at the owners thereof.

"I'll be very pleased to show you how, Miss," declared the foreman, with a low bow to the girl. Alice blushed, and Ruth looked annoyed; but Mr. DeVere smiled indulgently. He understood Alice.

Trunks, valises and the various properties Pop Snooks had provided for the different plays were put in the wagon and then in the other vehicles the players themselves took their places.

"All ready?" asked Pete Batso.

"All ready," answered Mr. Pertell.

"Let her go!" cried the foreman, and the cavalcade started off to the whooping and yelling accompaniment of the cowboys, though this time they did not fire their revolvers.

The pace was fast. In fact, everything out in the West seemed to be fast. No one walked who could, by any means, get a horse, and the horses, or cow ponies, seemed to be always on the trot or gallop when they were not standing still. A slow walk seemed to be the one thing they could not do. Even the teams attached to the wagons were off at the same fast pace.

It was a little breathless at first, but the players soon became used to it, and liked it. The rapid motion made a cooling breeze.

Rocky Ranch was located in a fine part of the country. The land was rolling, with occasional wide, level stretches. About two miles away was a timber belt, through which ran a stream of good water, and about eight miles to the west was a chain of hills, reaching finally into mountains, with an occasional _mesa_, or flat, table-like, isolated hill.

The ranch owner, Mr. Haladay Norton, possessed many cattle, which roamed about his broad acres. There were a number of ranch buildings, and accommodations for all the players, as well as for the necessary help in the line of cowboys. In fact, it was one of the largest and best ranches in that part of the country, which is the reason Mr. Pertell selected it for his purposes.

For some time, as the players rode along with the cowboy escort, they saw no signs of habitation. Off in the distance were dark moving bunches, that the foreman said were some of the Rocky Ranch cattle, and farther off could be seen the foothills.

Then, as the dust blew away, and the cavalcade topped a little rise, they all saw, nestled in a sort of hollow, or swale, a group of red buildings.

"There you are!" cried Pete Batso, pointing with gloved hand toward the collection. "That's Rocky Ranch, and I kin smell supper cookin' right now."

"Some nose you got!" observed a blue-eyed cowboy riding close to the wagon containing Alice and Ruth.

"That's all right, Bow Backus; but I kin, all the same," asserted Pete. "We call him Bow Backus because he's got such crooked legs, from ridin' a horse so much," the foreman explained in a low voice to Mr. DeVere, who sat with his daughters. "Most every cow-puncher gets bow-legged after a while, but Backus is the worst I ever see. You could almost roll a barrel through him when he stands up. That feller next to him is Baldy Johnson," he went on. "His head is like a billiard ball, or an ostrich egg. He's tried all the hair restorers on the market; but they don't do no good. He'll ask you if you ever heard of one he ain't tried, as soon as he gets on speakin' terms with you."

"What odd characters," observed Ruth.

"Aren't they? But delightfully quaint--I like them!" her sister exclaimed.

"Oh, so do I. It's so different from what we've seen. I know we shall have fine times out here."

A little later the cowboy whom the foreman had designated as Baldy Johnson, spurred up beside the wagon in which Mr. Bunn rode. The actor had taken off his hat, and his rather thick and heavy hair was blown about.

"Whoop-ee! Look at that!" cried Baldy, in evident admiration. "I say, no offense, stranger," he went on, "but what brand do you use?"

"Brand?" queried the actor, much puzzled.

"Yes. What sort of stuff do you use on your hair? You've got a fine bunch there. I'd like to get next. Look at me!" and he pulled off his hat and showed a head shiny and bald.

"I--I don't use any," faltered Mr. Bunn, for he saw the cowboy taking a revolver from its holster, and the actor evidently thought he was to be "held up" then and there, and perhaps scalped.

"Too bad. I wish you did, and could tell me what to use," sighed Baldy, and then, with a whoop he raised his gun in the air and fired. Instantly all the other cowboys were doing the same thing, as their horses broke into a fast gallop. Miss Pennington and Miss Dixon screamed, but they need have had no fears, for it was but a repetition of the scene at the station. The cow-punchers were merely celebrating their return to the ranch.

"Glad to see you all," Mr. Norton, the owner, greeted them as he came out to welcome the party. He had met Mr. Pertell in Chicago, where arrangements for the use of the ranch had been made.

Introductions were soon over, and then, under the direction of Mrs. Norton, who proved to be a motherly, home-like sort of person, the ladies of the company were taken to their quarters, and the men shown to theirs.

"You won't find marble halls and electric elevators here," laughed the ranch owner. "In fact, everything's on the ground floor; but you'll find some comforts. I want you to have a good time while you're here. You'll find us a bit rough, perhaps; but you'll find us ready to do our best for you."

"I'm sure of it," agreed Mr. Pertell, heartily.

The players had scarcely removed the dust of travel, and freshened themselves, before the mellow notes of a gong sounded through the air, and at the same time a strident voice cried;

"Glub leady! Glub leady!"

"What in the world is that?" asked Alice.

"That's the Chinese cook, Ling Foo, announcing that grub, or supper, is ready," replied Mr. Norton, with a laugh. "This way to the dining room."

As the company, the members of which were to eat by themselves, filed out, Russ, who was walking beside Mr. Pertell, saw a familiar looking box on a bench.

"Look!" he exclaimed to the manager.

"A moving picture camera!" was the surprised comment. "Is that one of yours left out by mistake?"

"No, mine are in the room with the other props."

"But that's a camera, sure enough, though the lens has been taken off. I wonder how that got here," and he looked anxiously at the young operator.

"I'll ask Mr. Norton," Russ volunteered, and, as the ranch proprietor came along at that moment, Russ had his chance.

"That? Oh, that belongs to a new man I hired the other day," said the ranchman.

"What sort of a man is he?" asked Mr. Pertell, suspiciously.

"Well, not as good a sort as I thought he was. He knows a little about cow-punching; but not much. Still, I was short of help and had to put him on."

"What--what does he do with that?" asked Russ, pointing to the camera out on the bench.

"That? Oh he says that's an electric battery. He uses it for rheumatism; but I haven't seen him work it yet. He said it was out of order, and he's tinkering with it the last few days. Why?"

"Oh, I was just--just wondering," returned Russ, evasively.

Then, as he passed on to the dining room, he saw, through a window, a man hurry up to the bench and remove the camera. Russ could not recall ever having seen this man.

"There's something queer about this," said Mr. Pertell to his operator. "What would a cowboy be doing with a moving picture camera?"

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