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Aunt Jane's Nieces Out West by Edith Van Dyne

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Aunt Jane's Nieces Out West

By Edith Van Dyne
































"This is getting to be an amazing old world," said a young girl, still in
her "teens," as she musingly leaned her chin on her hand.

"It has always been an amazing old world, Beth," said another girl who
was sitting on the porch railing and swinging her feet in the air.

"True, Patsy," was the reply; "but the people are doing such peculiar
things nowadays."

"Yes, yes!" exclaimed a little man who occupied a reclining chair within
hearing distance; "that is the way with you young folks--always
confounding the world with its people."

"Don't the people make the world, Uncle John?" asked Patricia Doyle,
looking at him quizzically.

"No, indeed; the world could get along very well without its people; but
the people--"

"To be sure; they need the world," laughed Patsy, her blue eyes
twinkling so that they glorified her plain, freckled face.

"Nevertheless," said Beth de Graf, soberly, "I think the people have
struck a rapid pace these days and are growing bold and impudent. The law
appears to allow them too much liberty. After our experience of this
morning I shall not be surprised at anything that happens--especially in
this cranky state of California."

"To what experience do you allude, Beth?" asked Uncle John, sitting up
straight and glancing from one to another of his two nieces. He was a
genial looking, round-faced man, quite bald and inclined to be a trifle
stout; yet his fifty-odd years sat lightly upon him.

"Why, we had quite an adventure this morning," said Patsy, laughing
again at the recollection, and answering her uncle because Beth
hesitated to. "For my part, I think it was fun, and harmless fun, at
that; but Beth was scared out of a year's growth. I admit feeling a
little creepy at the time, myself; but it was all a joke and really we
ought not to mind it at all."

"Tell me all about it, my dear!" said Mr. Merrick, earnestly, for
whatever affected his beloved nieces was of prime importance to him.

"We were taking our morning stroll along the streets," began Patsy, "when
on turning a corner we came upon a crowd of people who seemed to be
greatly excited. Most of them were workmen in flannel shirts, their
sleeves rolled up, their hands grimy with toil. These stood before a
brick building that seemed like a factory, while from its doors other
crowds of workmen and some shopgirls were rushing into the street and
several policemen were shaking their clubs and running here and there in
a sort of panic. At first Beth and I stopped and hesitated to go on, but
as the sidewalk seemed open and fairly free I pulled Beth along, thinking
we might discover what the row was about. Just as we got opposite the
building a big workman rushed at us and shouted: 'Go back--go back! The
wall is falling.'

"Well, Uncle, you can imagine our dismay. We both screamed, for we
thought our time had come, for sure. My legs were so weak that Beth had
to drag me away and her face was white as a sheet and full of terror.
Somehow we managed to stagger into the street, where a dozen men caught
us and hurried us away. I hardly thought we were in a safe place when the
big workman cried: 'There, young ladies; that will do. Your expression
was simply immense and if this doesn't turn out to be the best film of
the year, I'll miss my guess! Your terror-stricken features will make a
regular hit, for the terror wasn't assumed, you know. Thank you very much
for happening along just then.'"

Patsy stopped her recital to laugh once more, with genuine merriment, but
her cousin Beth seemed annoyed and Uncle John was frankly bewildered.

"But--what--what--was it all about?" he inquired.

"Why, they were taking a moving picture, that was all, and the workmen
and shopgirls and policemen were all actors. There must have been a
hundred of them, all told, and when we recovered from our scare I could
hear the machine beside me clicking away as it took the picture."

"Did the wall fall?" asked Uncle John.

"Not just then. They first got the picture of the rush-out and the
panic, and then they stopped the camera and moved the people to a safe
distance away. We watched them set up some dummy figures of girls and
workmen, closer in, and then in some way they toppled over the big brick
wall. It fell into the street with a thundering crash, but only the
dummies were buried under the debris."

Mr. Merrick drew a long breath.

"It's wonderful!" he exclaimed. "Why, it must have cost a lot of money to
ruin such a building--and all for the sake of a picture!"

"That's what I said to the manager," replied Patsy; "but he told us the
building was going to be pulled down, anyhow, and a better one built in
its place; so he invented a picture story to fit the falling walls and it
didn't cost him so much as one might think. So you see, Uncle, we are in
that picture--big as life and scared stiff--and I'd give a lot to see how
we look when we're positively terror-stricken."

"It will cost you just ten cents," remarked Beth, with a shrug; "that is,
if the picture proves good enough to be displayed at one of those horrid
little theatres."

"One?" said Uncle John. "One thousand little theatres, most likely, will
show the picture, and perhaps millions of spectators will see you and
Patsy running from the falling wall."

"Dear me!" wailed Patsy. "That's more fame than I bargained for. Do
millions go to see motion pictures, Uncle?"

"I believe so. The making of these pictures is getting to be an enormous
industry. I was introduced to Otis Werner, the other day, and he told me
a good deal about it. Werner is with one of the big concerns here--the
Continental, I think--and he's a very nice and gentlemanly fellow. I'll
introduce you to him, some time, and he'll tell you all the wonders of
the motion picture business."

"I haven't witnessed one of those atrocious exhibitions for months,"
announced Beth; "nor have I any desire to see one again."

"Not our own special picture?" asked Patsy reproachfully.

"They had no right to force us into their dreadful drama," protested
Beth. "Motion pictures are dreadfully tiresome things--comedies and
tragedies alike. They are wild and weird in conception, quite unreal and
wholly impossible. Of course the scenic pictures, and those recording
historical events, are well enough in their way, but I cannot understand
how so many cheap little picture theatres thrive."

"They are the poor people's solace and recreation," declared Mr. Merrick.
"The picture theatre has become the laboring man's favorite resort. It
costs him but five or ten cents and it's the sort of show he can
appreciate. I'm told the motion picture is considered the saloon's worst
enemy, for many a man is taking his wife and children to a picture
theatre evenings instead of joining a gang of his fellows before the bar,
as he formerly did."

"That is the best argument in their favor I have ever heard," admitted
Beth, who was strong on temperance; "but I hope, Uncle, you are not
defending the insolent methods of those picture-makers."

"Not at all, my dear. I consider the trapping of innocent bystanders to
be--eh--er--highly reprehensible, and perhaps worse. If I can discover
what picture manager was guilty of the act, I shall--shall--"

"What, Uncle?"

"I shall hint that he owes you an apology," he concluded, rather lamely.

Beth smiled scornfully.

"Meantime," said she, "two very respectable girls, who are not actresses,
will be exhibited before the critical eyes of millions of stupid workmen,
reformed drunkards, sad-faced women and wiggling children--not in
dignified attitudes, mind you, but scurrying from what they supposed was
an imminent danger."

"I hope it will do the poor things good to see us," retorted Patsy. "To
be strictly honest, Beth, we were not trapped at all; we were the victims
of circumstances. When I remember how quick-witted and alert that manager
was, to catch us unawares and so add to the value of his picture, I can
quite forgive the fellow his audacity."

"It wasn't audacity so much as downright impudence!" persisted Beth.

"I quite agree with you," said Mr. Merrick. "Do you wish me to buy that
film and prevent the picture's being shown?"

"Oh, no!" cried Patsy in protest. "I'm dying to see how we look. I
wouldn't have that picture sidetracked for anything."

"And you, Beth?"

"Really, Uncle John, the thing is not worth worrying over," replied his
niece. "I am naturally indignant at being drawn into such a thing against
my will, but I doubt if anyone who knows us, or whose opinion we value,
will ever visit a moving picture theatre or see this film. The common
people will not recognize us, of course."

You must not think Beth de Graf was snobbish or aristocratic because of
this speech, which her cousin Patsy promptly denounced as "snippy." Beth
was really a lovable and sunny-tempered girl, very democratic in her
tastes in spite of the fact that she was the possessor of an unusual
fortune. She was out of sorts to-day, resentful of the fright she had
endured that morning and in the mood to say harsh things.

Even Patricia Doyle had been indignant, at first; but Patsy's judgment
was clearer than her cousin's and her nature more responsive. She quickly
saw the humorous side of their adventure and could enjoy the recollection
of her momentary fear.

These two girls were spending the winter months in the glorious climate
of Southern California, chaperoned by their uncle and guardian, John
Merrick. They had recently established themselves at a cosy hotel in
Hollywood, which is a typical California village, yet a suburb of the
great city of Los Angeles. A third niece, older and now married--Louise
Merrick Weldon--lived on a ranch between Los Angeles and San Diego, which
was one reason why Uncle John and his wards had located in this pleasant

To observe this trio--the simple, complacent little man and his two young
nieces--no stranger would suspect them to be other than ordinary
tourists, bent on escaping the severe Eastern winter; but in New York the
name of John Merrick was spoken with awe in financial circles, where his
many millions made him an important figure. He had practically retired
from active business and his large investments were managed by his
brother-in-law, Major Gregory Doyle, who was Miss Patsy's father and sole
surviving parent. All of Mr. Merrick's present interest in life centered
in his three nieces, and because Louise was happily married and had now
an establishment of her own--including a rather new but very remarkable
baby--Uncle John was drawn closer to the two younger nieces and devoted
himself wholly to their welfare.

The girls had not been rich when their fairy godfather first found them.
Indeed, each of them had been energetically earning, or preparing to
earn, a livelihood. Now, when their uncle's generosity had made them
wealthy, they almost regretted those former busy days of poverty, being
obliged to discover new interests in life in order to keep themselves
occupied and contented. All three were open-handed and open-hearted,
sympathetic to the unfortunate and eager to assist those who needed
money, as many a poor girl and worthy young fellow could testify. In all
their charities they were strongly supported by Mr. Merrick, whose
enormous income permitted him to indulge in many benevolences. None gave
ostentatiously, for they were simple, kindly folk who gave for the pure
joy of giving and begrudged all knowledge of their acts to anyone outside
their own little circle.

There is no doubt that John Merrick was eccentric. It is generally
conceded that a rich man may indulge in eccentricities, provided he
maintains a useful position in society, and Mr. Merrick's peculiarities
only served to render him the more interesting to those who knew him
best. He did astonishing things in a most matter-of-fact way and acted
more on impulse than on calm reflection; so it is not to be wondered at
that the queer little man's nieces had imbibed some of his queerness.
Being by nature lively and aggressive young women, whose eager interest
in life would not permit them to be idle, they encountered many
interesting experiences.

They had just come from a long visit to Louise at the ranch and after
conferring gravely together had decided to hide themselves in Hollywood,
where they might spend a quiet and happy winter in wandering over the
hills, in boating or bathing in the ocean or motoring over the hundreds
of miles of splendid boulevards of this section.

Singularly enough, their choice of a retreat was also the choice of a
score or more of motion picture makers, who had discovered Hollywood
before them and were utilizing the brilliant sunshine and clear
atmosphere in the production of their films, which were supplied to
picture theatres throughout the United States and Europe. Appreciating
the value of such a monster industry, the authorities permitted the
cameras to be set up on the public streets or wherever there was an
appropriate scene to serve for a background to the photo-plays. It was no
unusual sight to see troops of cowboys and Indians racing through the
pretty village or to find the cameraman busy before the imposing
residence of a millionaire or the vine-covered bungalow of a more modest
citizen. No one seemed to resent such action, for Californians admire the
motion picture as enthusiastically as do the inhabitants of the Eastern
states, so the girls' "adventure" was really a common incident.



It was the following afternoon when Uncle John captured his casual
acquaintance, Mr. Otis Werner, in the office of the hotel and dragged the
motion picture man away to his rooms to be introduced to his nieces.

"Here, my dears, is Mr. Werner," he began, as he threw open the door of
their apartment and escorted his companion in. "He is one of those
picture makers, you'll remember, and--and--"

He paused abruptly, for Beth was staring at Mr. Werner with a frown on
her usually placid features, while Patsy was giggling hysterically. Mr.
Werner, a twinkle of amusement in his eye, bowed with exaggerated

"Dear me!" said Uncle John. "Is--is anything wrong!"

"No; it's all right, Uncle," declared Patsy, striving to control a fresh
convulsion of laughter. "Only--this is the same dreadful manager who
dragged us into his picture yesterday."

"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Werner; "I'm not a manager; I'm merely what
is called in our profession a 'producer,' or a 'stage director.'"

"Well, you're the man, anyhow," asserted Patsy. "So what have you to say
for yourself, sir?"

"If you were annoyed, I humbly apologize," he returned. "Perhaps I was
unintentionally rude to frighten you in that way, but my excuse lies in
our subservience to the demands of our art. We seldom hesitate at
anything which tends to give our pictures the semblance of reality."

"_Art_, did you say, Mr. Werner?" It was Beth who asked this and there
was a bit of a sneer in her tone.

"It is really art--art of the highest character," he replied warmly. "Do
you question it, Miss--Miss--"

"Miss de Graf. I suppose, to be fair, I must admit that the photography
is art; but the subjects of your pictures, I have observed, are far from
artistic. Such a picture, for instance, as you made yesterday can have
little value to anyone."

"Little value! Why, Miss de Graf, you astonish me," he exclaimed. "I
consider that picture of the falling wall one of my greatest
triumphs--and I've been making pictures for years. Aside from its
realism, its emotional nature--'thrills,' we call it--this picture
conveys a vivid lesson that ought to prove of great benefit to humanity."

Beth was looking at him curiously now. Patsy was serious and very
attentive. As Uncle John asked his visitor to be seated his voice
betrayed the interest he felt in the conversation.

"Of course we saw only a bit of the picture," said Patsy Doyle. "What was
it all about, Mr. Werner?"

"We try," said he, slowly and impressively, as if in love with his
theme, "to give to our pictures an educational value, as well as to
render them entertaining. Some of them contain a high moral lesson;
others, a warning; many, an incentive to live purer and nobler lives.
All of our plots are conceived with far more thought than you may
suppose. Underlying many of our romances and tragedies are moral
injunctions which are involuntarily absorbed by the observers, yet of so
subtle a nature that they are not suspected. We cannot preach except by
suggestion, for people go to our picture shows to be amused. If we
hurled righteousness at them they would soon desert us, and we would be
obliged to close up shop."

"I must confess that this is, to me, a most novel presentation of the
subject," said Beth, more graciously. "Personally, I care little for your
pictures; but I can understand how travel scenes and scientific or
educational subjects might be of real benefit to the people."

"I can't understand anyone's being indifferent to the charm of motion
pictures," he responded, somewhat reproachfully.

"Why, at first they struck me as wonderful," said the girl. "They were
such a novel invention that I went to see them from pure curiosity. But,
afterward, the subjects presented in the pictures bored me. The drama
pictures were cheap and common, the comedy scenes worse; so I kept away
from the picture theatres."

"Educational pictures," said Mr. Werner, musingly, "have proved a
failure, as I hinted, except when liberally interspersed with scenes of
action and human interest. The only financial failures among the host of
motion picture theatres, so far as I have observed, are those that have
attempted to run travel scenes and educational films exclusively. There
are so few people with your--eh--culture and--and--elevated tastes, you
see, when compared with the masses."

"But tell us about _our_ picture," pleaded Patsy. "What lesson can that
falling wall possibly convey?"

"I'll be glad to explain that," he eagerly replied, "for I am quite proud
of it, I assure you. There are many buildings throughout our larger
cities that were erected as cheaply as possible and without a single
thought for the safety of their tenants. So many disasters have resulted
from this that of late years building inspectors have been appointed in
every locality to insist on proper materials and mechanical efficiency
in the erection of all classes of buildings. These inspectors, however,
cannot tear the old buildings down to see if they are safe, and paint and
plaster cover a multitude of sins of unscrupulous builders. Usually the
landlord or owner knows well the condition of his property and in many
cases refuses to put it into such shape as to insure the safety of his
tenants. Greed, false economy and heartless indifference to the welfare
of others are unfortunately too prevalent among the wealthy class. No
ordinary argument could induce owners to expend money in strengthening or
rebuilding their income-producing properties. But I get after them in my
picture with a prod that ought to rouse them to action.

"The picture opens with a scene in the interior of a factory. Men, girls
and boys are employed. The foreman observes a warning crack in the wall
and calls the proprietor's attention to it. In this case the manufacturer
is the owner of the building, but he refuses to make repairs. His
argument is that the wall has stood for many years and so is likely to
stand for many more; it would be a waste of money to repair the old
shell. Next day the foreman shows him that the crack has spread and
extended along the wall in an alarming manner but still the owner will
not act. The workmen counsel together seriously. They dare not desert
their jobs, for they must have money to live. They send a petition to the
owner, who becomes angry and swears he won't be driven to a useless
expense by his own employees. In the next scene the manufacturer's
daughter--his only child--having heard that the building was unsafe,
comes to her father's office to plead with him to change his mind and
make the needed repairs. Although he loves this daughter next to his
money he resents her interference in a business matter, and refuses. Her
words, however, impress him so strongly that he calls her back from the
door to kiss her and say that he will give the matter further thought,
for her sake.

"As she leaves the office there is a cry of terror from the factory and
the working people come rushing out of the now tottering building. That
was when you two young ladies came walking up the street and were dragged
out of danger by the foreman of the shop--in other words, by myself. The
owner's daughter, bewildered by the confusion, hesitates what to do or
which way to turn, and as she stands upon the sidewalk she is crushed by
the falling wall, together with several of her father's employees."

"How dreadful!" exclaimed Patsy.

"Of course no one was actually hurt," he hastened to say; "for we used
dummy figures for the wall to fall upon. In the final scene the bereaved
father suddenly realizes that he has been working and accumulating only
for this beloved child--the child whose life he has sacrificed by his
miserly refusal to protect his workmen. His grief is so intense that no
one who follows the story of this picture will ever hesitate to repair a
building promptly, if he learns it is unsafe. Do you now understand the
lesson taught, young ladies?"

Mr. Werner's dramatic recital had strongly impressed the two girls, while
Uncle John was visibly affected.

"I'm very glad," said the little man fervently, "that none of my money is
in factories or other buildings that might prove unsafe. It would make
my life miserable if I thought I was in any way responsible for such a
catastrophe as you have pictured."

"It seems to me," observed Patsy, "that your story is unnecessarily
cruel, Mr. Werner."

"Then you do not understand human nature," he retorted; "or, at least,
that phase of human nature I have aimed at. Those indifferent rich men
are very hard to move and you must figuratively hit them squarely between
the eyes to make them even wink."

They were silent for a time, considering this novel aspect of the picture
business. Then Beth asked:

"Can you tell us, sir, when and where we shall be able to see this

"It will be released next Monday."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that we, as manufacturers, supply certain agencies in all the
large cities, who in turn rent our films to the many picture theatres.
When a picture is ready, we send copies to all our agencies and set a
day when they may release it, or give it to their customers to use. In
this way the picture will be shown in all parts of the United States on
the same day--in this case, next Monday."

"Isn't that very quick?"

"Yes. The picture we took yesterday will to-night be shipped, all
complete and ready to run, to forty-four different centers."

"And will any picture theatre in Hollywood or Los Angeles show it?"

"Certainly. It will be at the Globe Theatre in Los Angeles and at the
Isis Theatre in Hollywood, for the entire week."

"We shall certainly see it," announced Uncle John.

When Mr. Werner had gone they conversed for some time on the subject of
motion pictures, and the man's remarkable statement concerning them.

"I had no idea," Beth confessed, "that the industry of making pictures is
so extensive and involves so much thought and detail."

"And money," added Uncle John. "It must be a great expense just to
employ that army of actors."

"I suppose Mr. Werner, being a theatrical man, has drawn the long bow in
his effort to impress us," said Patsy. "I've been thinking over some of
the pictures I've seen recently and I can't imagine a moral, however
intangible or illusive, in connection with any of them. But perhaps I
wasn't observant enough. The next time I go to a picture show I shall
study the plays more carefully."



On Saturday they were treated to a genuine surprise, for when the omnibus
drew up before the hotel entrance it brought Arthur Weldon and his
girl-wife, Louise, who was Uncle John's eldest niece. It also brought
"the Cherub," a wee dimpled baby hugged closely in the arms of Inez, its
Mexican nurse.

Patsy and Beth shrieked in ecstasy as they rushed forward to smother
"Toodlums," as they irreverently called the Cherub, with kisses. Inez, a
handsome, dark-eyed girl, relinquished her burden cheerfully to the two
adoring "aunties," while Uncle John kissed Louise and warmly shook the
hand of her youthful husband.

"What in the world induced you to abandon your beloved ranch?" inquired
Mr. Merrick.

"Don't ask me, sir!" replied Arthur, laughing at the elder gentleman's
astonishment. He was a trim young fellow, with a clean-cut, manly face
and frank, winning manners.

"It's sort of between hay and grass with us, you know," he explained.
"Walnuts all marketed and oranges not ready for the pickers. All our
neighbors have migrated, this way or that, for their regular winter
vacations, and after you all left, Louise and I began to feel lonely. So
at breakfast this morning we decided to flit. At ten o'clock we caught
the express, and here we are--in time for lunch. I hope it's ready,
Uncle John."

It was; but they must get their rooms and settle the baby in her new
quarters before venturing to enter the dining room. So they were late for
the midday meal and found themselves almost the only guests in the great
dining hall.

As they sat at table, chatting merrily together, Arthur asked:

"What are you staring at, Patsy?"

"A lovely girl," said she. "One of the loveliest girls I have ever seen.
Don't look around, Arthur; it might attract their attention."

"How many girls are there?"

"Two; and a lady who seems to be their mother. The other girl is pretty,
too, but much younger than her sister--or friend, for they do not
resemble one another much. They came in a few minutes ago and are seated
at the table in the opposite corner."

"New arrivals, I suppose," remarked Uncle John, who from his position
could observe the group.

"No," said Patsy; "their waitress seems to know them well. But I've never
before seen them in the hotel."

"We are always early at meal time," explained Beth, "and to-day these
people are certainly late. But they _are_ pretty girls, Patsy. For once I
concur in your judgment."

"You arouse my curiosity," said Arthur, speaking quietly, so as not to be
overheard in the far corner. "If I hear more ecstatic praises of these
girls I shall turn around and stare them out of countenance."

"Don't," said Louise. "I'm glad your back is toward them, Arthur, for it
preserves you from the temptation to flirt."

"Oh, as for that, I do not need to turn around in order to see pretty
girls," he replied.

"Thank you, Arthur," said Patsy, making a face at him. "Look me over all
you like, and flirt if you want to. I'm sure Louise won't object."

"Really, Patsy, you're not bad to look at," he retorted, eyeing her
critically. "Aside from your red hair, the pug nose and the freckles, you
have many excellent qualities. If you didn't squint--"


"What do you call that affection of your eyes?"

"That," she said, calmly eating her dessert, "was a glance of
scorn--burning, bitter scorn!"

"I maintain it was a squint," declared Arthur.

"That isn't her only expression," announced Uncle John, who loved these
little exchanges of good-humored banter. "On Monday I will show you Patsy
as a terror-stricken damsel in distress."

"Also Beth, still more distressful," added Patsy; and then they told
Louise and Arthur about the picture.

"Fine!" he cried. "I'm deeply gratified that my own relatives--"

"By marriage."

"I am gratified that my secondhand cousins have been so highly honored.
I'd rather see a good moving picture than the best play ever produced."

"You'll see a good one this time," asserted Patsy, "for we are the

"I think that unscrupulous Mr. Werner deserves a reprimand," said Louise.

"Oh, he apologized," explained Beth. "But I'm sure he'd take the same
liberty again if he had the chance."

"He admits that his love of art destroys his sense of propriety,"
said Patsy.

As they rose from the table Arthur deliberately turned to view the party
in the other corner, and then to the amazement of his friends he coolly
walked over and shook the elder lady's hand with evident pleasure. Next
moment he was being introduced to the two girls. The three cousins and
their Uncle John walked out of the dining hall and awaited Arthur Weldon
in the lobby.

"It is some old acquaintance, of course," said Louise. "Arthur knows a
tremendous lot of people and remembers everyone he ever has met."

When he rejoined them he brought the lady and the two beautiful girls
with him, introducing Mrs. Montrose as one of his former acquaintances in
New York, where she had been a near neighbor to the Weldons. The girls,
who proved to be her nieces instead of her daughters, were named Maud and
Florence Stanton, Maud being about eighteen years of age and Florence
perhaps fifteen. Maud's beauty was striking, as proved by Patsy's
admiration at first sight; Florence was smaller and darker, yet very
dainty and witching, like a Dresden shepherdess.

The sisters proved rather shy at this first meeting, being content to
exchange smiles with the other girls, but their aunt was an easy
conversationalist and rambled on about the delights of Hollywood and
southern California until they were all in a friendly mood. Among other
things Mrs. Montrose volunteered the statement that they had been at the
hotel for several weeks, but aside from that remark disclosed little of
their personal affairs. Presently the three left the hotel and drove
away in an automobile, having expressed a wish to meet their new friends
again and become better acquainted with them.

"I was almost startled at running across Mrs. Montrose out here," said
Arthur. "After father's death, when I gave up the old home, I lost track
of the Montroses; but I seem to remember that old Montrose went to the
happy hunting grounds and left a widow, but no children. I imagine these
people are wealthy, as Montrose was considered a successful banker. I'll
write to Duggins and inquire about them."

"Duggins seems to know everything," remarked Louise.

"He keeps pretty good track of New York people, especially of the old
families," replied her husband.

"I can't see what their history matters to us," observed Patsy. "I like
to take folks as I find them, without regard to their antecedents or
finances. Certainly those Stanton girls are wonderfully attractive and

But now the baby claimed their attention and the rest of that day was
passed in "visiting" and cuddling the wee Toodlums, who seemed to know
her girl aunties and greeted them with friendly coos and dimpled smiles.

On Sunday they took a motor trip through the mountain boulevards and on
their way home passed the extensive enclosure of the Continental Film
Company. A thriving village has been built up at this place, known as
Film City, for many of those employed by the firm prefer to live close to
their work. Another large "plant" of the same concern is located in the
heart of Hollywood.

As they passed through Film City Uncle John remarked:

"We are invited to visit this place and witness the making of a motion
picture. I believe it would prove an interesting sight."

"Let us go, by all means," replied Arthur. "I am greatly interested in
this new industry, which seems to me to be still in its infancy. The
development of the moving picture is bound to lead to some remarkable
things in the future, I firmly believe."

"So do I," said Uncle John. "They'll combine the phonograph with the
pictures, for one thing, so that the players, instead of being silent,
will speak as clearly as in real life. Then we'll have the grand operas,
by all the most famous singers, elaborately staged; and we'll be able to
see and hear them for ten cents, instead of ten dollars. It will be the
same with the plays of the greatest actors."

"That would open up a curious complication," asserted Louise. "The operas
would only be given once, before the camera and the recorder. Then what
would happen to all the high-priced opera singers?"

"They would draw royalties on all their productions, instead of
salaries," replied Arthur.

"Rather easy for the great artists!" observed Patsy. "One
performance--and the money rolling in for all time to come."

"Well, they deserve it," declared Beth. "And think of what the public
would gain! Instead of having to suffer during the performances of
incompetent actors and singers, as we do to-day, the whole world would be
able to see and hear the best talent of the ages for an insignificant
fee. I hope your prediction will come true, Uncle John."

"It's bound to," he replied, with confidence. "I've read somewhere that
Edison and others have been working on these lines for years, and
although they haven't succeeded yet, anything possible in mechanics is
bound to be produced in time."



The picture, which was entitled "The Sacrifice," proved--to use Patsy's
words--"a howling success." On Monday afternoons the little theatres are
seldom crowded, so Mr. Merrick's party secured choice seats where they
could observe every detail of the photography. The girls could not wait
for a later performance, so eager were they to see themselves in a motion
picture, nor were they disappointed to find they were a mere incident in
the long roll of film.

The story of the photo-play was gripping in its intensity, and since Mr.
Werner had clearly explained the lesson it conveyed, they followed the
plot with rapt attention. In the last scene their entrance and exit was
transitory, but they were obliged to admit that their features were
really expressive of fear. The next instant the wall fell, burying its
victims, and this rather bewildered them when they remembered that fully
half an hour had elapsed while the dummies were being placed in position,
the real people removed from danger and preparations made to topple over
the wall from the inside of the building. But the camera had been
inactive during that period and so cleverly had the parts of the picture
been united that no pause whatever was observable to the spectators.

"My! what a stuffy place," exclaimed Louise, as they emerged into the
light of day. "I cannot understand why it is necessary to have these
moving picture theatres so gloomy and uncomfortable."

"It isn't necessary," replied Uncle John. "It's merely a habit the
builders have acquired. There seemed to be a total lack of ventilation in
that place."

"No one expects much for ten cents," Arthur reminded him. "If the
pictures are good the public will stand for anything in the matter of

"Did you notice," said Patsy, slowly, "how many children there were in
that theatre?"

"Yes, indeed," answered Beth. "The pictures seem to be an ideal
amusement for children. I do not suppose they can understand all the
dramas and love stories, but the pictures entertain them, whatever the
theme may be."

"They are not allowed to go unless accompanied by a parent or guardian,"
Arthur stated; "but I saw a group of eleven under the care of one
cheery-looking old lady, so I suppose the little ones evade the law in
that way."

On Tuesday forenoon they drove to the office of the Continental Film
Manufacturing Company and inquired for Mr. Werner. Every approach to the
interior of the big stockade was closely guarded in order to prevent the
curious from intruding, but Werner at once hurried out to greet them and
escorted them into the enclosure.

"You are just in time," said he, "to witness one of the scenes in our
great picture, 'Samson and Delilah.' They're getting it on now, so you
must hurry if you want to see the work. It's really the biggest thing our
firm has ever turned out."

They passed a group of low but extensive frame buildings, threading
their way between them until finally they emerged within a large open
space where huge frames covered with canvas were propped up in broad
daylight and apparently in great disorder. Huddled here and there were
groups of people wearing Oriental costumes of the Bible days, their
skins stained brown, the make-up on their faces showing hideously in the
strong light. A herd of meek donkeys, bearing burdens of faggots, was
tethered near by.

"Follow me closely," cautioned their guide, "so you will not step over
the 'dead line' and get yourselves in the picture."

"What is the 'dead line'?" inquired Uncle John.

"The line that marks the limit of the camera's scope. Outside of that you
are quite safe. You will notice it is plainly marked in chalk."

They passed around to the front and were amazed at the picture disclosed
by the reverse of the gaunt, skeleton-like framework. For now was
displayed Solomon's temple in all its magnificence, with huge pillars
supporting a roof that seemed as solid and substantial as stone and
mortar could make it.

The perspective was wonderful, for they could follow a line of vision
through the broad temple to a passage beyond, along which was
approaching a procession of priests, headed by dancing girls and
musicians beating tomtoms and playing upon reeds. The entire scene was
barbaric in its splendor and so impressive that they watched it
spellbound, awed and silent.

Yet here beside them was the motion-picture camera, clicking steadily
away and operated by a man in his shirt-sleeves who watched the scene
with sharp eyes, now frowning and now nodding approval. Beside him at
times, but rushing from one point to another just outside the chalk-marks
that indicated the "dead line," was the director of this production, who
shouted commands in a nervous, excited manner and raged and tore his hair
when anything went wrong.

Something went very wrong presently, for the director blew a shrill blast
on his whistle and suddenly everything stopped short. The camera man
threw a cloth over his lenses and calmly lighted a cigarette. The
procession halted in uncertainty and became a disordered rabble; but the
director sprang into the open space and shouted at his actors and
actresses in evident ill temper.

"There it is again!" he cried. "Five hundred feet of good film, ruined by
the stupidity of one person. Get out of that priest's robe, Higgins, and
let Jackson take your place. Where's Jackson, anyhow?"

"Here," answered a young man, stepping out from a group of spectators.

"Do you know the work? Can you lead that procession into the temple so
they will leave room for Delilah to enter, and not crowd her off the
platform?" asked the director.

Jackson merely nodded as he scrambled into the priest's robe which the
discomfited Higgins resigned to him. Evidently the bungling actor was in
disgrace, for he was told to go to the office and get his pay and then
"clear out."

So now the procession was sent back into the passage and rearranged in
proper order; the signal was given to begin and in an instant the camera
renewed its clicking as the operator slowly revolved the handle that
carried the long strip of film past the lenses. The musicians played, the
girls danced, the procession slowly emerged from the passage.

This time it advanced properly and came to a halt just at the head of the
staircase leading up to the entrance to the temple.

"Delilah!" shouted the director, and now appeared a beautiful girl who
made a low obeisance to the chief priest.

"Why--goodness me!" cried Patsy. "It's--it's Maud Stanton!"

"Nonsense!" returned Arthur, sharply; and then he looked again and drew a
long breath; for unless it were indeed the elder niece of Mrs. Montrose,
there must be two girls in the world identically alike.

Mr. Werner settled the question by quietly remarking: "Of course it's
Maud Stanton. She's our bright, particular star, you know, and the public
would resent it if she didn't appear as the heroine of all our best

"An actress!" exclaimed Arthur. "I--I didn't know that."

"She and her sister Flo are engaged by us regularly," replied Werner,
with an air of pride. "They cost us a lot of money, as you may imagine,
but we can't afford to let any competitor have them."

If Arthur Weldon felt any chagrin at this, discovery it was not in the
least shared by the others of his party. Beth was admiring the young
girl's grace and dignity; Patsy was delighted by her loveliness in the
fleecy, picturesque costume she wore; Louise felt pride in the fact that
she had been introduced to "a real actress," while Uncle John wondered
what adverse fortune had driven this beautiful, refined girl to pose
before a motion picture camera.

They soon discovered Florence Stanton in the picture, too, among the
dancing girls; so there could be no mistake of identity. Mrs. Montrose
was not visible during the performance; but afterward, when Samson had
pulled down the pillars of the temple and it had fallen in ruins, when
the "show" was over and the actors trooping away to their
dressing-rooms, then the visitors were ushered into the main office of
the establishment to meet Mr. Goldstein, the manager, and seated by the
window was the aunt of the two girls, placidly reading a book. She looked
up with a smile as they entered.

"Did you see the play?" she asked. "And isn't it grand and impressive? I
hope you liked Maud's 'Delilah.' The poor child has worked so hard to
create the character."

They assured her the girl was perfect in her part, after which Mr.
Merrick added: "I'm astonished you did not go out to see the play

She laughed at his earnestness.

"It's an old story to me," she replied, "for I have watched Maud rehearse
her part many times. Also it is probable that some--if not all--of the
scenes of 'Samson and Delilah' will be taken over and over, half a dozen
times, before the director is satisfied."

"The performance seemed quite perfect to-day," said Uncle John. "I
suppose, Mrs. Montrose, you do not--er--er--act, yourself?"

"Oh. I have helped out, sometimes, when a matronly personation is
required, but my regular duties keep me busily engaged in the office."

"May we ask what those duties are?" said Louise.

"I'm the reader of scenarios."

"Dear me!" exclaimed Patsy. "I'm sure we don't know any more than we
did before."

"A 'scenario,'" said the lady, "is a description of the plot for a
photo-play. It is in manuscript form and hundreds of scenarios are
submitted to us from every part of the country, and by people in all
walks of life."

"I shouldn't think you could use so many," said Beth.

"We can't, my dear," responded the lady, laughing at her simplicity. "The
majority of the scenarios we receive haven't a single idea that is worth
considering. In most of the others the ideas are stolen, or duplicated
from some other picture-play. Once in a while, however, we find a plot of
real merit, and then we accept it and pay the author for it."

"How much?" inquired Arthur.

"So little that I am ashamed to tell you. Ideas are the foundation of
our business, and without them we could not make successful films; but
when Mr. Goldstein buys an idea he pays as little for it as possible, and
the poor author usually accepts the pittance with gratitude."

"We were a little surprised," Uncle John ventured to say, "to find you
connected with this--er--institution. I suppose it's all right; but those
girls--your nieces--"

"Yes, they are motion picture actresses, and I am a play reader. It is
our profession, Mr. Merrick, and we earn our living in this way. To be
frank with you, I am very proud of the fact that my girls are popular
favorites with the picture theatre audiences."

"That they are, Mrs. Montrose!" said Goldstein, the manager, a lean
little man, earnestly endorsing the statement; "and that makes them the
highest priced stars in all our fourteen companies of players. But
they're worth every cent we pay 'em--and I hope ev'rybody's satisfied."

Mrs. Montrose paid little deference to the manager. "He is only a detail
man," she explained when Goldstein had gone way, "but of course it is
necessary to keep these vast and diverse interests running smoothly, and
the manager has enough details on his mind to drive an ordinary mortal
crazy. The successful scenario writers, who conceive our best plays, are
the real heart of this business, and the next to them in importance are
the directors, or producers, who exercise marvelous cleverness in staging
the work of the authors."

"I suppose," remarked Arthur Weldon, "it is very like a theatre."

"Not so like as you might imagine," was the reply. "We employ scenery,
costumes and actors, but not in ways theatrical, for all our work is
subservient to the camera's eye and the requirements of photography."

While they were conversing, the two Stanton girls entered the office,
having exchanged their costumes for street clothes and washed the make-up
from their faces, which were now fresh and animated.

"Oh, Aunt Jane!" cried Flo, running to Mrs. Montrose, "we're dismissed
for the day. Mr. McNeil intends to develop the films before we do
anything more, and Maud and I want to spend the afternoon at the beach."

The lady smiled indulgently as Maud quietly supported her sister's
appeal, the while greeting her acquaintances of yesterday with her sweet,
girlish charm of manner.

"A half-holiday is quite unusual with us," she explained, "for it is the
custom to hold us in readiness from sunrise to sunset, in case our
services are required. An actress in a motion picture concern is the
slave of her profession, but we don't mind the work so much as we do
waiting around for orders."

"Suppose we all drive to the beach together," suggested Mr. Merrick. "We
will try to help you enjoy your holiday and it will be a rich treat to us
to have your society."

"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed Patsy Doyle. "I'm just crazy over this motion
picture business and I want to ask you girls a thousand questions
about it."

They graciously agreed to the proposition and at once made preparations
for the drive. Mrs. Montrose had her own automobile, but the party
divided, the four young girls being driven by Mr. Merrick's chauffeur in
his machine, while Uncle John, Arthur and Louise rode with Mrs. Montrose.

It did not take the young people long to become acquainted, and the air
of restraint that naturally obtained in the first moments gradually wore
away. They were all in good spirits, anticipating a jolly afternoon at
the ocean resorts, so when they discovered themselves to be congenial
companions they lost no time in stilted phrases but were soon chattering
away as if they had known one another for years.



"It must be fine to be an actress," said Patsy Doyle, with enthusiasm.
"If I had the face or the figure or the ability--all of which I sadly
lack--I'd be an actress myself."

"I suppose," replied Maud Stanton, thoughtfully, "it is as good a
profession for a girl as any other. But the life is not one of play, by
any means. We work very hard during the rehearsals and often I have
become so weary that I feared I would drop to the ground in sheer
exhaustion. Flo did faint, once or twice, during our first engagement
with the Pictograph Company; but we find our present employers more
considerate, and we have gained more importance than we had in the

"It is dreadfully confining, though," remarked Florence, with a sigh.
"Our hours are worse than those of shopgirls, for the early morning sun
is the best part of the day for our work. Often we are obliged to reach
the studio at dawn. To be sure, we have the evenings to ourselves, but we
are then too tired to enjoy them."

"Did you choose, this profession for amusement, or from necessity?"
inquired Beth, wondering if the question sounded impertinent.

"Stern necessity," answered Maud with a smile. "We had our living to

"Could not your aunt assist you?" asked Patsy.

"Aunt Jane? Why, she is as poor as we are."

"Arthur Weldon used to know the Montroses," said Beth, "and be believed
Mr. Montrose left his widow a fortune."

"He didn't leave a penny," asserted Florence. "Uncle was a stock gambler,
and when he died he was discovered to be bankrupt."

"I must explain to you," said Maud, "that our father and mother were both
killed years ago in a dreadful automobile accident. Father left a small
fortune to be divided between Flo and me, and appointed Uncle George our
guardian. We were sent to a girls' school and nicely provided for until
uncle's death, when it was found he had squandered our little inheritance
as well as his own money."

"That was hard luck," said Patsy sympathetically.

"I am not so sure of that," returned the girl musingly. "Perhaps we are
happier now than if we had money. Our poverty gave us dear Aunt Jane for
a companion and brought us into a field of endeavor that has proved

"But how in the world did you ever decide to become actresses, when so
many better occupations are open to women?" inquired Beth.

"Are other occupations so much better? A motion picture actress is quite
different from the stage variety, you know. Our performances are all
privately conducted, and although the camera is recording our actions it
is not like being stared at by a thousand critical eyes."

"A million eyes stare at the pictures," asserted Patsy.

"But we are not there to be embarrassed by them," laughed Flo.

"We have but one person to please," continued Maud, "and that is the
director. If at first the scene is not satisfactory, we play it again and
again, until it is quite correct. To us this striving for perfection is
an art. We actors are mere details of an artistic conception. We have now
been in Hollywood for five months, yet few people who casually notice us
at the hotel or on the streets have any idea that we act for the
'movies.' Sometimes we appear publicly in the streets, in characteristic
costume, and proceed to enact our play where all may observe us; but
there are so many picture companies in this neighborhood that we are no
longer looked upon as a novelty and the people passing by pay little
attention to us."

"Were you in that picture of the falling wall?" asked Beth.

"No. We were rehearsing for 'Samson and Delilah.' But sometimes we
are called upon to do curious things. One night, not long ago, a big
residence burned down in the foothills back of our hotel. At the
first alarm of fire one of the directors wakened us and we jumped
into our clothes and were whisked in an automobile to the scene of
the conflagration. The camera-man was already there and, while we
had to dodge the fire-fighters and the hose men, both Flo and I
managed to be 'saved from the flames' by some of our actors--not
once, but several times."

"It must have been thrilling!" gasped Patsy.

"It was exciting, at the moment," confessed Maud. "One of the pictures
proved very dramatic, so an author wrote a story where at the climax a
girl was rescued from the flames by her lover, and we took our time to
act the several scenes that led up to the fire. The completed picture was
a great success, I'm told."

"Those directors must be wonderfully enterprising fellows," said Beth.

"They are, indeed, constantly on the lookout for effects. Every incident
that occurs in real life is promptly taken advantage of. The camera-men
are everywhere, waiting for their chance. Often their pictures prove of
no value and are destroyed, but sometimes the scenes they catch are very
useful to work into a picture play. A few weeks ago I was shipwrecked on
the ocean and saved by clinging to a raft. That was not pleasant and I
caught a severe cold by being in the water too long; but I was chosen
because I can swim. Such incidents are merely a part of our game--a game
where personal comfort is frequently sacrificed to art. Once Flo leaped
over a thirty-foot precipice and was caught in a net at the bottom. The
net was, of course, necessary, but when the picture was displayed her
terrible leap was followed by a view of her mangled body at the bottom of
the canyon."

"How did they manage to do that?" asked Patsy.

"Stopped the camera, cut off the piece of film showing her caught by the
net, and substituted a strip on which was recorded Flo's body lying among
the jagged rocks, where it had been carefully and comfortably arranged.
We do a lot of deceptive tricks of that sort, and sometimes I myself
marvel at the natural effects obtained."

"It must be more interesting than stage acting."

"I believe it is. But we've never been on the stage," said Maud.

"How did you happen to get started in such a queer business?"
inquired Patsy.

"Well, after we found ourselves poor and without resources we began
wondering what we could do to earn money. A friend of Aunt Jane's knew a
motion picture maker who wanted fifty young girls for a certain picture
and would pay each of them five dollars a day. Flo and I applied for the
job and earned thirty dollars between us; but then the manager thought he
would like to employ us regularly, and with Auntie to chaperon us we
accepted the engagement. The first few weeks we merely appeared among the
rabble--something like chorus girls, you see--but then we were given
small parts and afterward more important ones. When we discovered our own
value to the film makers Auntie managed to get us better engagements, so
we've acted for three different concerns during the past two years, while
Aunt Jane has become noted as a clever judge of the merits of scenarios."

"Do both of you girls play star parts?" Beth inquired.

"Usually. Flo is considered the best 'child actress' in the business, but
when there is no child part she makes herself useful in all sorts of
ways. To-day, for instance, you saw her among the dancing girls. I do
the ingenue, or young girl parts, which are very popular just now. I did
not want to act 'Delilah,' for I thought I was not old enough; but Mr.
McNeil wanted me in the picture and so I made myself took as mature as

"You were ideal!" cried Patsy, admiringly.

The young girl blushed at this praise, but said deprecatingly:

"I doubt if I could ever be a really great actress; but then, I do not
intend to act for many more years. Our salary is very liberal at present,
as Goldstein grudgingly informed you, and we are saving money. As soon as
we think we have acquired enough to live on comfortably we shall abandon
acting and live as other girls do."

"The fact is," added Flo, "no one will employ us when we have lost our
youth. So we are taking advantage of these few fleeting years to make hay
while the sun shines."

"Do many stage actresses go into the motion picture business?"
asked Beth.

"A few, but all are not competent," replied Maud. "In the 'silent drama'
facial expression and the art of conveying information by a gesture is of
paramount importance. In other words, action must do the talking and
explain everything. I am told that some comedians, like 'Bunny' and
Sterling Mace, were failures on the stage, yet in motion pictures they
are great favorites. On the other hand, some famous stage actors can do
nothing in motion pictures."

On their arrival at Santa Monica Mr. Merrick invited the party to be his
guests at luncheon, which was served in a cosy restaurant overlooking
the ocean. And then, although at this season it was bleak winter back
East, all but Uncle John and Aunt Jane took a bath in the surf of the
blue Pacific, mingling with hundreds of other bathers who were enjoying
the sport.

Mrs. Montrose and Uncle John sat on the sands to watch the merry scene,
while the young people swam and splashed about, and they seemed--as Miss
Patsy slyly observed--to "get on very well together."

"And that is very creditable to your aunt," she observed to Maud Stanton,
who was beside her in the water, "for Uncle John is rather shy in the
society of ladies and they find him hard to entertain."

"He seems like a dear old gentleman," said Maud.

"He is, indeed, the dearest in all the world. And, if he likes your Aunt
Jane, that is evidence that she is all right, too; for Uncle John's
intuition never fails him in the selection of friends. He--"

"Dear me!" cried Maud; "there's someone in trouble, I'm sure."

She was looking out across the waves, which were fairly high to-day, and
Patsy saw her lean forward and strike out to sea with strokes of
remarkable swiftness. Bathers were scattered thickly along the coast, but
only a few had ventured far out beyond the life-lines, so Patsy naturally
sought an explanation by gazing at those farthest out. At first she was
puzzled, for all the venturesome seemed to be swimming strongly and
composedly; but presently a dark form showed on the crest of a wave--a
struggling form that tossed up its arms despairingly and then

She looked for Maud Stanton and saw her swimming straight out, but still
a long way from the person in distress. Then Patsy, always quick-witted
in emergencies, made a dash for the shore where a small boat was drawn up
on the beach.

"Come, Arthur, quick!" she cried to the young man, who was calmly wading
near the beach, and he caught the note of terror in her voice and
hastened to help push the little craft into the water.

"Jump in!" she panted, "and row as hard as you ever rowed in all
your life."

Young Weldon was prompt to obey. He asked no useless questions but,
realizing that someone was in danger, he pulled a strong, steady oar and
let Patsy steer the boat.

The laughter and merry shouts of the bathers, who were all unaware that a
tragedy was developing close at hand, rang in the girl's ears as she
peered eagerly ahead for a sign to guide her. Now she espied Maud
Stanton, far out beyond the others, circling around and diving into this
wave or that as it passed her.

"Whoever it was," she muttered, half aloud, "is surely done for by this
time. Hurry, Arthur! I'm afraid Maud has exhausted all her strength."

But just then Maud dived again and when she reappeared was holding fast
to something dark and inanimate. A moment later the boat swept to her
side and she said:

"Get him aboard, if you can. Don't mind me; I'm all right."

Arthur reached down and drew a slight, boyish form over the gunwale,
while Patsy clasped Maud's hand and helped the girl over the side. She
was still strong, but panted from her exertions to support the boy.

"Who is it?" inquired Patsy, as Arthur headed the boat for the shore.

Maud shook her head, leaning forward to look at the face of the rescued
one for the first time.

"I've never seen him before," she said. "Isn't it too bad that I reached
him too late?"

Patsy nodded, gazing at the white, delicate profile of the young fellow
as he lay lifeless at her feet. Too late, undoubtedly; and he was a mere
boy, with all the interests of life just unfolding for him.

Their adventure had now been noticed by some of the bathers, who crowded
forward to meet the boat as it grounded on the beach. Uncle John, always
keeping an eye on his beloved nieces, had noted every detail of the
rescue and as a dozen strong men pulled the boat across the sands, beyond
the reach of the surf, the Merrick automobile rolled up beside it.

"Now, then!" cried the little man energetically, and with the assistance
of his chauffeur he lifted the lifeless form into the car.

"The hospital?" said Patsy, nodding approval.

"Yes," he answered. "No; you girls can't come in your wet bathing suits.
I'll do all that can be done."

Even as he spoke the machine whirled away, and looking after it Maud
said, shaking her head mildly: "I fear he's right. Little can be done for
the poor fellow now."

"Oh, lots can be done," returned Patsy; "but perhaps it won't bring him
back to life. Anyhow, it's right to make every attempt, as promptly as
possible, and certainly Uncle John didn't waste any time."

Beth and Florence now joined them and Louise came running up to ask eager

"Who was it, Patsy?"

"We don't know. Some poor fellow who got too far out and had a cramp,
perhaps. Or his strength may have given out. He didn't seem very rugged."

"He was struggling when first I saw him," said Maud. "It seemed dreadful
to watch the poor boy drowning when hundreds of people were laughing and
playing in the water within earshot of him."

"That was the trouble," declared Arthur Weldon. "All those people were
intent on themselves and made so much noise that his cries for help could
not be heard."

The tragedy, now generally known, had the effect of sobering the bathers
and most of them left the water and trooped to the bathhouses to dress.
Mrs. Montrose advised the girls to get their clothes on, as all were
shivering--partly from nervousness--in their wet bathing suits.

They were ready an hour before Mr. Merrick returned, and his long absence
surprised them until they saw his smiling face as he drove up in his car.
It gave them a thrill of hope as in chorus they cried:

"Well--Uncle John?"

"I think he will live," returned the little man, with an air of great
satisfaction. "Anyway, he's alive and breathing now, and the doctors say
there's every reason to expect a rapid recovery."

"Who is he?" they asked, crowding around him.

"A. Jones."

"A--what?" This from Patsy, in a doubtful tone.

"Jones. A. Jones."

"Why, he must have given you an assumed name!"

"He didn't give us any name. As soon as he recovered consciousness he
fell asleep, and I left him slumbering as peacefully as a baby. But we
went through his clothes, hoping to get a trace of his friends, so they
could be notified. His bathing suit is his own, not rented, and the name
'A. Jones' is embroidered on tape and sewn to each piece. Also the key to
bathhouse number twenty-six was tied to his wrist. The superintendent
sent a man for his clothing and we examined that, too. The letters 'A.J.'
were stamped in gold on his pocketbook, and in his cardcase were a number
of cards engraved: 'A. Jones, Sangoa.' But there were no letters, or any
other papers."

"Where is Sangoa?" inquired Beth.

"No one seems to know," confessed Uncle John. "There was plenty of money
in his pocket-book and he has a valuable watch, but no other jewelry.
His clothes were made by a Los Angeles tailor, but when they called him
up by telephone he knew nothing about his customer except that he had
ordered his suit and paid for it in advance. He called for it three days
ago, and carried it away with him, so we have no clue to the boy's
dwelling place."

"Isn't that a little strange--perhaps a little suspicious?" asked
Mrs. Montrose.

"I think not, ma'am," answered Mr. Merrick. "We made these
investigations at the time we still feared he would die, so as to
communicate with any friends or relatives he might have. But after he
passed the crisis so well and fell asleep, the hospital people stopped
worrying about him. He seems like any ordinary, well-to-do young
fellow, and a couple of days in the hospital ought to put him upon his
feet again."

"But Sangoa, Uncle; is that a town or a country?"

"Some out-of-the-way village, I suppose. People are here from every crack
and corner of America, you know."

"It sounds a bit Spanish," commented Arthur. "Maybe he is from Mexico."

"Maybe," agreed Uncle John. "Anyhow, Maud has saved his life, and if it's
worth anything to him he ought to be grateful."

"Never mind that," said Maud, flushing prettily with embarrassment as all
eyes turned upon her, "I'm glad I noticed him in time; but now that he is
all right he need never know who it was that rescued him. And, for that
matter, sir, Patsy Doyle and Mr. Weldon did as much for him as I.
Perhaps they saved us both, while your promptness in getting him to the
hospital was the main factor in saving his life."

"Well, it's all marked down in the hospital books," remarked Uncle John.
"I had to tell the whole story, you see, as a matter of record, and all
our names are there, so none can escape the credit due her--or him."

"In truth," said Mrs. Montrose with a smile, "it really required four of
you to save one slender boy."

"Yes, he needed a lot of saving," laughed Flo. "But," her pretty face
growing more serious, "I believe it was all Fate, and nothing else. Had
we not come to the beach this afternoon, the boy might have drowned; so,
as I suggested the trip, I'm going to take a little credit myself."

"Looking at it in that light," said Patsy, "the moving picture man saved
the boy's life by giving you a half-holiday."

This caused a laugh, for their spirits were now restored to normal. To
celebrate the occasion, Mr. Merrick proposed to take them all into Los
Angeles to dine at a "swell restaurant" before returning to Hollywood.

This little event, in conjunction with the afternoon's adventure, made
them all more intimate, so that when they finally reached home and
separated for the night they felt like old friends rather than recent



There was work for the Stanton girls at the "film factory," as they
called it, next morning, so they had left the hotel before Mr. Merrick's
party assembled at the breakfast table.

"I must telephone the Santa Monica hospital and find out how our patient
is," remarked Uncle John, when the meal was over; but presently he
returned from the telephone booth with a puzzled expression upon his
face. "A. Jones has disappeared!" he announced.

"Disappeared! What do you mean, Uncle?" asked Beth.

"He woke early and declared he was himself again, paid his bill, said
'good morning' to the hospital superintendent and walked away. He
wouldn't answer questions, but kept asking them. The nurse showed him the
book with the record of how he was saved, but she couldn't induce him to
say who he was, where he came from nor where he was going. Seems a little
queer, doesn't it?"

They all confessed that it did.

"However," said Patsy Doyle, "I'm glad he recovered, and I'm sure Maud
will be when she hears the news. The boy has a perfect right to keep his
own counsel, but he might have had the grace to tell us what that initial
'A.' stands for, and where on earth Sangoa is."

"I've been inquiring about Sangoa," announced Arthur, just then joining
the group, "and no one seems wiser than we are. There's no record of such
a town or state in Mexico, or in the United States--so far as I can
discover. The clerk has sent for a map of Alaska, and perhaps we'll find
Sangoa there."

"What does it matter?" inquired Louise.

"Why, we don't like to be stumped," asserted Patsy, "that's all. Here is
a young man from Sangoa, and--"

"Really," interrupted Beth, who was gazing through the window, "I believe
here _is_ the young man from Sangoa!"

"Where?" they all cried, crowding forward to look.

"Coming up the walk. See! Isn't that the same mysterious individual whose
life Maud saved?"

"That's the identical mystery," declared Uncle John. "I suppose he has
come here to look us up and thank us."

"Then, for heaven's sake, girls, pump him and find out where Sangoa is,"
said Arthur hastily, and the next moment a bell boy approached their
party with a card.

They looked at the young fellow curiously as he came toward them. He
seemed not more than eighteen years of age and his thin features wore a
tired expression that was not the result of his recent experience but
proved to be habitual. His manner was not languid, however, but rather
composed; at the same time he held himself alert, as if constantly on his
guard. His dress was simple but in good taste and he displayed no
embarrassment as he greeted the party with a low bow.

"Ah," said Uncle John, heartily shaking his hand, "I am delighted to
find you so perfectly recovered."

A slight smile, sad and deprecating, flickered for an instant over his
lips. It gave the boyish face a patient and rather sweet expression as he
slowly replied:

"I am quite myself to-day, sir, and I have come to assure you of my
gratitude for your rescue of me yesterday. Perhaps it wasn't worth all
your bother, but since you generously took the trouble to save me, the
least I can do is to tender you my thanks." Here he looked from one to
another of the three girls and continued: "Please tell me which young
lady swam to my assistance."

"Oh, it was none of us," said Patsy. "Miss Stanton--Maud Stanton--swam
out to you, when she noticed you were struggling, and kept you afloat
until we--until help came."

"And Miss Stanton is not here?"

"Not at present, although she is staying at this hotel."

He gravely considered this information for a moment. As he stood there,
swaying slightly, he appeared so frail and delicate that Uncle John
seized his arm and made him sit down in a big easy chair. The boy sighed,
took a memorandum from his pocket and glanced at it.

"Miss Doyle and Mr. Weldon pulled out in a boat and rescued both Miss
Stanton and me, just as we were about to sink," he said. "Tell me,
please, if either Miss Doyle or Mr. Weldon is present."

"I am Arthur Weldon," said that young gentleman; "but I was merely the
boatman, under command of Miss Doyle, whom I beg to present to you."

A. Jones looked earnestly into Patsy's face. Holding out his hand he
said with his odd smile: "Thank you." Then he turned to shake Arthur's
hand, after which he continued: "I also am indebted to Mr. Merrick for
carrying me to the hospital. The doctor told me that only this prompt
action enabled them to resuscitate me at all. And now, I believe it
would be courteous for me to tell you who I am and how I came to be in
such dire peril."

He paused to look around him questioningly and the interest on every
face was clearly evident. Arthur took this opportunity to introduce Jones
to Louise and Beth and then they all sat down again. Said Uncle John to
the stranger, in his frank and friendly way:

"Tell us as much or as little as you like, my boy. We are not unduly
inquisitive, I assure you."

"Thank you, sir. I am an American, and my name is Jones. That is, I may
claim American parentage, although I was born upon a scarcely known
island in the Pacific which my father purchased from the government of
Uruguay some thirty years ago."

"Sangoa?" asked Arthur.

He seemed surprised at the question but readily answered:

"Yes; Sangoa. My father was a grandnephew of John Paul Jones and very
proud of the connection; but instead of being a sailor he was a
scientist, and he chose to pass his life in retirement from the world."

"Your father is no longer living, then?" said Mr. Merrick.

"He passed away a year ago, on his beloved island. My mother died
several years before him. I began to feel lonely at Sangoa and I was
anxious to visit America, of which my mother had so often told me. So
some months ago I reached San Francisco, since when I have been traveling
over your country--my country, may I call it?--and studying your modern
civilization. In New York I remained fully three months. It is only about
ten days since I returned to this coast."

He stopped abruptly, as if he considered he had told enough. The brief
recital had interested his auditors, but the ensuing pause was rather

"I suppose you have been visiting relatives of your parents," remarked
Uncle John, to ease the situation.

"They--had no relatives that I know of," he returned. "I am quite alone
in the world. You must not suppose I am unaccustomed to the water," he
hastened to add, as if to retreat from an unpleasant subject. "At Sangoa
I have bathed in the sea ever since I can remember anything; but--I am
not in good health. I suffer from indigestion, a chronic condition,
which is my incubus. Yesterday my strength suddenly deserted me and I
became helpless."

"How fortunate it was that Maud noticed you!" exclaimed Patsy, with
generous sympathy.

Again the half sad smile softened his face as he looked at her.

"I am not sure it was wholly fortunate for me," he said, "although I
admit I have no wish to end my uninteresting life by drowning. I am not a
misanthrope, in spite of my bad stomach. The world is more useful to me
than I am to the world, but that is not my fault. Pardon me for talking
so much about myself."

"Oh, we are intensely interested, I assure you," replied Patsy. "If some
of us were indeed the instruments that saved you yesterday, it is a
pleasure to us to know something of the--the man--we saved."

She had almost said "boy," he was such a youthful person, and he knew it
as well as she did.

"I would like to meet Miss Stanton and thank her personally," he
presently resumed. "So, if you have no objection, I think I shall
register at this hotel and take a room. I--I am not very strong yet, but
perhaps Miss Stanton will see me when I have rested a little."

"She won't return before five o'clock," explained Mr. Merrick. "Miss
Stanton is--er--connected with a motion picture company, you know, and is
busy during the day."

He seemed both surprised and perplexed, at first, but after a moment's
thought he said:

"She is an actress, then?"

"Yes; she and her sister. They have with them an aunt, Mrs. Montrose, for

"Thank you. Then I will try to meet them this evening."

As he spoke he rose with some difficulty and bade them adieu. Arthur went
with him to the desk and proffered his assistance, but the young man said
he needed nothing but rest.

"And just think of it," said Patsy, when he had gone. "We don't know yet
what that 'A' stands for!"

"Arthur," suggested Louise.

"Albert," said Beth.

"Or Algernon," added Uncle John with a chuckle.

"But we haven't seen the last of him yet," declared Miss Doyle. "I've a
romance all plotted, of which A. Jones is to be the hero. He will fall in
love with Maud and carry her away to his island!"

"I'm not so sure of that result," observed Uncle John thoughtfully. "It
wouldn't astonish me to have him fall in love with Maud Stanton; we've
all done that, you know; but could Maud--could any girl--be attracted by
a lean, dismal boy with a weak stomach, such as A. Jones?"

"Even with these drawbacks he is quite interesting," asserted Beth.

"He is sure to win her sympathy," said Louise.

"But, above all," declared Patsy, "he has an island, inherited from his
royal daddy. That island would count for a lot, with any girl!"



The girls intercepted Maud Stanton when she returned to the hotel that
evening, and told her all about A. Jones. The tale was finished long
before that dyspeptic youth had wakened from his slumbers. Then they all
dressed for dinner and afterward met in the lobby, where Uncle John told
them he had arranged to have a big round table prepared for the entire
party, including a seat for A. Jones, who might like to join them.

However, the young man did not make his appearance, and as they trooped
into the dining room Patsy said resentfully:

"I believe A. Jones is in a trance and needs rolling on a barrel again."

"He probably found himself too weak to appear in public," replied Flo
Stanton. "I'm sure if I had been all but drowned a few hours ago, I would
prefer bed to society."

"I'm astonished that he summoned energy to visit us at all," declared
Mrs. Montrose. "He may be weak and ill, but at least he is grateful."

"Jones seems a vary gentlemanly young fellow," said Mr. Merrick. "He is a
bit shy and retiring, which is perhaps due to his lonely life on his
island; but I think he has been well brought up."

As they came out from dinner they observed the porters wheeling several
big trunks up the east corridor. The end of each trunk was lettered:
"A. Jones."

"Well," said Beth, with an amused smile, "he intends to stay a while,
anyhow. You'll have a chance to meet him yet, Maud."

"I'm glad of that," answered Maud, "for I am anxious to calculate the
worth of the life I helped to save. Your reports are ambiguous, and I am
undecided whether you are taking the boy seriously or as a joke. From
your description of his personal appearance, I incline to the belief that
under ordinary circumstances I would not look twice at Mr. Jones, but
having been partly instrumental in preserving him to the world, I
naturally feel a proprietary interest in him."

"Of course," said Flo. "He's worth one look, out of pure curiosity; but
it would be dreadful to have him tagging you around, expressing his
everlasting gratitude."

"I don't imagine he'll do that," observed Patsy Doyle. "A. Jones strikes
me as having a fair intellect in a shipwrecked body, and I'll wager a
hatpin against a glove-buttoner that he won't bore you. At the same time
he may not interest you--or any of us--for long, unless he develops
talents we have not discovered. I wonder why he doesn't use his whole
name. That mystic 'A' puzzles me."

"It's an English notion, I suppose," said Mrs. Montrose.

"But he isn't English; he's American."

"Sangoese," corrected Beth.

"Perhaps he doesn't like his name, or is ashamed of it," suggested
Uncle John.

"It may be 'Absalom,'" said Flo. "We once knew an actor named Absalom,
and he always called himself 'A. Judson Keith.' He was a dignified chap,
and when we girls one day called him 'Ab,' he nearly had hysterics."

"Mr. Werner had hysterics to-day," asserted Maud, gravely; "but I didn't
blame him. He sent out a party to ride down a steep hill on horseback, as
part of a film story, and a bad accident resulted. One of the horses
stepped in a gopher hole and fell, and a dozen others piled up on him,
including their riders."

"How dreadful!" was the general exclamation.

"Several of the horses broke their legs and had to be shot," continued
Maud; "but none of the riders was seriously injured except little
Sadie Martin, who was riding a bronco. The poor thing was caught under
one of the animals and the doctor says she won't be able to work again
for months."

"Goodness me! And all for the sake of a picture?" cried Patsy
indignantly. "I hope you don't take such risks, Maud."

"No; Flo and I have graduated from what is called 'the bronco bunch,' and
now do platform work entirely. To be sure we assume some minor risks in
that, but nothing to compare with the other lines of business."

"I hope the little girl you mentioned will get well, and has enough money
to tide her over this trouble," said Uncle John anxiously.

"The manager will look after her," returned Mrs. Montrose. "Our people
are very good about that and probably Sadie Martin's salary will continue
regularly until she is able to work again."

"Well," said Beth, drawing a long breath, "I suppose we shall read all
about it in the morning papers."

"Oh, no!" exclaimed Maud and added: "These accidents never get into the
papers. They happen quite often, around Los Angeles, where ten thousand
or more people make their living from motion pictures; but the public is
protected from all knowledge of such disasters, which would detract from
their pleasure in pictures and perhaps render all films unpopular."

"I thought the dear public loved the dare-devil acts," remarked
Arthur Weldon.

"Oh, it does," agreed Mrs. Montrose; "yet those who attend the picture
theatres seem not to consider the action taking place before their eyes
to be real. Here are pictures only--a sort of amplified story book--and
the spectators like them exciting; but if they stopped to reflect that
men and women in the flesh were required to do these dangerous feats for
their entertainment, many would be too horrified to enjoy the scenes. Of
course the makers of the pictures guard their actors in all possible
ways; yet, even so, casualties are bound to occur."

They had retired to a cosy corner of the public drawing room and were
conversing on this interesting topic when they espied A. Jones walking
toward them. The youth was attired in immaculate evening dress, but his
step was slow and dragging and his face pallid.

Arthur and Uncle John drew up an easy chair for him while Patsy performed
the introductions to Mrs. Montrose and her nieces. Very earnestly the boy
grasped the hand of the young girl who had been chiefly responsible for
his rescue, thanking her more by his manner than in his few carefully
chosen words.

As for Maud, she smilingly belittled her effort, saying lightly: "I
know I must not claim that it didn't amount to anything, for your life is
valuable, Mr. Jones, I'm sure. But I had almost nothing to do beyond
calling Patsy Doyle's attention to you and then swimming out to keep you
afloat until help came. I'm a good swimmer, so it was not at all

"Moreover," he added, "you would have done the same thing for anyone in


"I realize that. I am quite a stranger to you. Nevertheless, my gratitude
is your due and I hope you will accept it as the least tribute I can pay
you. Of all that throng of bathers, only you noticed my peril and came to
my assistance."

"Fate!" whispered Flo impressively.

"Nonsense," retorted her sister. "I happened to be the only one looking
out to sea. I think, Mr. Jones, you owe us apologies more than gratitude,
for your folly was responsible for the incident. You were altogether too
venturesome. Such action on this coast, where the surf rolls high and
creates an undertow, is nothing less than foolhardy."

"I'm sure you are right," he admitted. "I did not know this coast, and
foolishly imagined the old Pacific, in which I have sported and played
since babyhood, was my friend wherever I found it."

"I hope you are feeling better and stronger this evening," said Mr.
Merrick. "We expected you to join us at dinner."

"I--I seldom dine in public," he explained, flushing slightly. "My
bill-of-fare is very limited, you know, owing to my--my condition; and so
I carry my food-tablets around with me, wherever I go, and eat them in my
own room."

"Food-tablets!" cried Patsy, horrified.

"Yes. They are really wafers--very harmless--and I am permitted to eat
nothing else."

"No wonder your stomach is bad and you're a living skeleton!" asserted
the girl, with scorn.

"My dear," said Uncle John, gently chiding her, "we must give Mr. Jones
the credit for knowing what is best for him."

"Not me, sir!" protested the boy, in haste. "I'm very ignorant
about--about health, and medicine and the like. But in New York I
consulted a famous doctor, and he told me what to do."

"That's right," nodded the old gentleman, who had never been ill in his
life. "Always take the advice of a doctor, listen to the advice of a
lawyer, and refuse the advise of a banker. That's worldly wisdom."

"Were you ill when you left your home?" inquired Mrs. Montrose, looking
at the young man with motherly sympathy.

"Not when I left the island," he said. "I was pretty well up to that
time. But during the long ocean voyage I was terribly sick, and by the
time we got to San Francisco my stomach was a wreck. Then I tried to eat
the rich food at your restaurants and hotels--we live very plainly in
Sangoa, you know--and by the time I got to New York I was a confirmed
dyspeptic and suffering tortures. Everything I ate disagreed with me. So
I went to a great specialist, who has invented these food tablets for
cases just like mine, and he ordered me to eat nothing else."

"And are you better?" asked Maud.

He hesitated.

"Sometimes I imagine I am. I do not suffer so much pain, but I--I seem
to grow weaker all the time."

"No wonder!" cried Patsy. "If you starve yourself you can't grow strong."

He looked at her with an expression of surprise. Then he asked abruptly:

"What would you advise me to do, Miss Doyle?"

A chorus of laughter greeted this question. Patsy flushed a trifle but
covered her confusion by demanding: "Would you follow my advice?"

He made a little grimace. There was humor in the boy, despite his

"I understand there is a law forbidding suicide," he replied. "But I
asked your advice in an attempt to discover what you thought of my absurd
condition. Now that you call my attention to it, I believe I _am_
starving myself. I need stronger and more nourishing food; and yet the
best specialist in your progressive country has regulated my diet."

"I don't believe much in specialists," asserted Patsy. "If _you_ do, go
ahead and kill yourself, in defiance of the law. According to common
sense you ought to eat plenty of good, wholesome food, but you may be so
disordered--in your interior--that even that would prove fatal. So I
won't recommend it."

"I'm doomed, either way," he said quietly. "I know that."

"_How_ do you know it?" demanded Maud in a tone of resentment.

He was silent a moment. Then he replied:

"I cannot remember how we drifted into this very personal argument. It
seems wrong for me to be talking about myself to those who are
practically strangers, and you will realize how unused I am to the
society of ladies by considering my rudeness in this interview."

"Pshaw!" exclaimed Uncle John; "we are merely considering you as a
friend. You must believe that we are really interested in you," he
continued, laying a kindly hand on the young fellow's shoulder. "You seem
in a bad way, it's true, but your condition is far from desperate.
Patsy's frankness--it's her one fault and her chief virtue--led you to
talk about yourself, and I'm surprised to find you so despondent
and--and--what do you call it, Beth?"


"That's it--pessimistic."

"But you're wrong, sir!" said the boy with a smile; "I may not be elated
over my fatal disease, but neither am I despondent. I force myself to
keep going when I wonder how the miserable machine responds to my urging,
and I shall keep it going, after a fashion, until the final breakdown.
Fate weaves the thread of our lives, I truly believe, and she didn't use
very good material when she started mine. But that doesn't matter," he
added quickly. "I'm trying to do a little good as I go along and not
waste my opportunities. I'm obeying my doctor's orders and facing the
future with all the philosophy I can summon. So now, if you--who have
given me a new lease of life--think I can use it to any better advantage,
I am willing to follow your counsel."

His tone was more pathetic than his words. Maud, as she looked at the boy
and tried to realize that his days were numbered, felt her eyes fill
with tears. Patsy sniffed scornfully, but said nothing. It was Beth who
remarked with an air of unconcern that surprised those who knew her
unsympathetic nature:

"It would be presumptuous for us to interfere, either with Fate or with
Nature. You're probably dead wrong about your condition, for a sick
person has no judgment whatever, but I've noticed the mind has a good
deal to do with one's health. If you firmly believe you're going to die,
why, what can you expect?"

No one cared to contradict this and a pause followed that was growing
awkward when they were all aroused by the sound of hasty footsteps
approaching their corner.



The newcomer proved to be Goldstein, the manager of the Continental.
His face was frowning and severe as he rudely marched up to the group
and, without the formality of a greeting, pointedly addressed the
Stanton girls.

"What does it mean?" he demanded in evident excitement, for his voice
shook and the accusing finger he held out trembled. "How does it happen
that my people, under contract to work for the Continental, are working
for other firms?"

Maud paled and her eyes glistened with resentment as she rose and faced
her manager. Florence pulled her sister's sleeve and said with a forced
laugh: "Sit down, Maud; the man has probably been drinking."

He turned on the young girl fiercely, but now it was Arthur Weldon who
seized the manager's arm and whirled him around.

"Sir, you are intruding," he said sternly. "If you have business with
these ladies, choose the proper time and place to address them."

"I have!" cried Goldstein, blusteringly. "They have treated me
shamefully--unprofessionally! They have played me a trick, and I've the
right to demand why they are working for a rival firm while in my pay."

Mrs. Montrose now arose and said with quiet dignity:

"Mr. Goldstein, you are intruding, as Mr. Weldon says. But you have said
so much to defame my nieces in the eyes of our friends, here assembled,
that you must explain yourself more fully."

The manager seemed astonished by his reception. He looked from one to
another and said more mildly:

"It is easy enough for _me_ to explain, but how can the Stantons explain
their conduct? They are under contract to act exclusively for the
Continental Film Company and I pay them a liberal salary. Yet only
yesterday, when I was kind enough to give them a holiday, they went down
to the beach and posed for a picture for our rivals, the Corona

"You are mistaken, sir!" retorted Arthur. "The young ladies were in our
company the entire afternoon and they did not pose for any picture

"Don't tell me!" cried Goldstein. "I've just seen the picture down town.

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