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   Chapter 5 INSPIRATION

Ruth Fielding in the Great Northwest; Or, The Indian Girl Star of the Movies By Alice B. Emerson Characters: 10405

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

It was on the verge of evening, and a keen and searching wind was blowing across the ruffled Lumano, when Helen Cameron's car and its three occupants came in sight of the old Red Mill. Mercy Curtis had been dropped at the Cheslow railway station, where she had the "second trick" as telegraph operator.

For the last few miles of the journey from the Wild West Show there had been a good-natured, wordy battle between Ruth and Helen as to which of the twain was to have Jennie Stone for the night.

"Her trunk is at my house," Helen declared. "So now!"

"But her toilet bag is at the farmhouse. And, anyway, I could easily lend her pajamas."

"She could never get into a suit of yours, you know very well, Ruth Fielding!" exclaimed Helen.

"I'd get one of Uncle Jabez's long flannel nightgowns for her, then," giggled Ruth.

"Look here! I don't seem to be in such great favor with either of you, after all," interposed the plump girl. "One would think I was a freak. And I prefer my own night apparel in any case."

"Then you'll come home with me," Helen announced.

"But I have things at Ruth's house, just as she says," said Jennie.

At the moment the car wheeled around the turn in the road and Helen stopped it at the gate before the old, shingled farmhouse which was connected by a passage with the grist mill. A light flashed in the window and at once the place looked very inviting. A door opened upon the side porch, and to the girls' nostrils was wafted a most delicious odor of frying cakes.

"That settles it!" ejaculated Jennie Stone, and immediately sprang out of the car. "I'm as hungry as a bear. I'll see you to-morrow, Nell, if you'll ride over. But don't come too near mealtime. I never could withstand Aunt Alvirah's cooking. M-mm! Griddle-cakes-with lashin's of butter and sugar on 'em, I wager."

"Dear me!" sighed Helen, as Ruth, too, got out, laughing. "You are incurable, Jennie. Your goddess is your tummy."

But the plump girl was not at all abashed. She ran up the walk on to the porch and warmly greeted the little old woman who stood in the doorway.

"How-do, Jennie. Oh, my back and oh, my bones! Be careful, child! I'm kinder tottery to-day, and no mistake. Coming in, Helen Cameron?"

"Not to-night, Aunt Alvirah," replied the girl, starting the car again. "Good-night, all."

"And here's my pretty!" crooned Aunt Alvirah, putting up her thin arms to encircle Ruth's neck as the girl came in. "It does seem good to have you home again. Your Uncle Jabez (who is softer-hearted than you would suppose) is just as glad to have you home as I am, to be sure."

They had a merry supper in the wide, home-like kitchen, for even the miller when he came in was cheerful. He had had a good day at the grist mill. The cash-box was heavy that night, but he did not retire to his room to count his receipts as early as usual. The chatter of the two girls kept the old man interested.

"It is a shame that the Indian agent should let a girl like Wonota sign a contract with that Dakota Joe. Anybody might see, to look at him, that he was a bad man," Jennie Stone said with vehemence at one point in the discussion.

"I am not much troubled over that point for the girl," said Ruth. "She says she has already written to the agent at the Three Rivers Station, Oklahoma, telling him how badly Fenbrook treats her. That will soon be over. She will get her release."

"I shouldn't wonder," said Uncle Jabez, "that if a gal can fire a gun like you say she can, there ain't much reason to worry about her. She can take care of herself with that showman."

"But suppose she should be tempted to do something really desperate!" cried Ruth. "I hope nothing like that will happen. She is really a savage by instinct."

"And a pretty one," agreed Jennie, thoughtfully.

"Shucks! Pretty is as pretty does," said Aunt Alvirah. "I didn't s'pose there was any real wild Injuns left."

"You'd think she was wild," chuckled Jennie, "if you'd seen her draw bead on that Dakota Joe person."

"All that is not so much to the point," pursued Ruth. "I know that the girl wants to earn money-not alone for her mere living. She could go back to the reservation and live very comfortably without working-much. The Osage Nation is not at all poverty stricken and it holds its property ill community fashion."

"What makes her travel around in such a foolish way, then?" Aunt Alvirah asked.

"She wants ready cash. She wants it for a good purpose, too," explained Ruth thoughtfully. "You see, this girl's father is Chief Totantora, a leading figure in the Osage Nation. The year before Germany began the war he was traveling with a Wild West Show in Europe. The show was in the interior of Germany when war came and the frontiers were closed.

"Once only did Wonota hear from her father. He was then in a detention camp, for, being a good American, he refused to bow down to Hun gods-"

"I should say he had a right to call himself an American, if anybody has," said Jennie quickly.

"And he is not the only Indian who proved his loyalty to a Government that, perhaps, has not always treated the original Americans justly," Ruth remarked.

"I dunno," g

rumbled Uncle Jabez. "Injuns is Injuns. You say yourself this gal is pretty wild."

"She is independent, at any rate. She wishes to earn enough money to set afoot a private inquiry for Chief Totantora. For she does not believe he is dead."

"Well, the poor dear," Aunt Alvirah said, "she'd ought to be helped, I haven't a doubt."

"Now, now!" exclaimed the miller, suspiciously. "Charity begins at home. I hope you ain't figgerin' on any foolish waste of money, Niece Ruth."

The latter laughed. "I don't think Wonota would accept charity," she said. "And I have no intention of offering it to her in any case. But I should like to help the girl find her father-indeed I should."

"You'd oughtn't to think you have to help everybody you come 'cross in the world, gal," advised Uncle Jabez, finally picking up the cash-box to retire to his room. "Every tub ought to stand on its own bottom, as I've allus told ye."

When he was gone Aunt Alvirah shook her head sadly.

"Ain't much brotherhood of man in Jabez Potter's idees of life," she said. "He says nobody ever helped him get up in the world, so why should he help others?"

"Of all things!" exclaimed Ruth, with some warmth. "I wonder what he would have done all these years without you to make a home for him here!"

"Tut, tut!" objected the old woman. "'Tain't me that's done for him. I was a poor lone creeter in the poorhouse when Jabez Potter came and took me out. I know that deep down in his old heart there's a flame of charity. Who should know it better?"

"Oh, dear!" cried Ruth. "He keeps it wonderfully well hidden-that flame. He certainly does."

Jennie laughed. "Well, why shouldn't he be cautious? See how many times you have been charitable, Ruth, and seen no gratitude in return."

"Well!" gasped the girl of the Red Mill, in disgust, "is that what we are to be charitable for? For shame!"

"Right you are, my pretty," said Aunt Alvirah. "Doin' one's duty for duty's sake is the way the good Lord intended. And if Jabez Potter is charitable without knowin' it-and he is-all the better. It's charged up to his credit in heaven, I have no doubt."

The girls were tired after their long ride in the keen evening air and they were ready for bed at a comparatively early hour. But after Ruth had got into bed she could not sleep.

Thoughts rioted in her brain. For a week she had felt the inspiration of creative work milling in her mind-that is what she called it. She had promised the president of the Alectrion Film Corporation to think up some unusual story-preferably an outdoor plot-for their next picture. And thus far nothing had formed in her mind that suggested the thing desired.

Outdoor stories had the call on the screen. They had but lately made one on the coast of Maine, the details of which are given in "Ruth Fielding Down East." Earlier in her career as a screen writer the girl of the Red Mill had made a success of a subject which was photographed in the mining country of the West. "Ruth Fielding in the Saddle" tells the story of this venture.

There spun through her half-drowsing brain scenes of the Wild West Show they had attended this day. That was surely "outdoor stuff." Was there anything in what she had seen to-day to suggest a novel scheme for a moving picture?

She turned and tossed. Her eyes would not remain closed. The program of Dakota Joe's Wild West and Frontier Round-Up marched in sequence through her memory. She did not want anything like that in her picture. It was all "old stuff," and the crying need of the film producer is "something new under the sun."

Yet there was color and action in much of the afternoon's performance. Even Dakota Joe himself-as the figure of a villain, for instance-was not to be scorned. And Princess Wonota herself-

If the story was up to date, showing the modern, full-blooded Indian princess in love and action! Ruth suddenly bounded out of bed. She grabbed a warm robe, wrapped herself in it and ran across to Jennie's room.

"Jennie! Jennie! I've got it!" Ruth cried in a loud whisper.

Jennie's only answer was a prolonged and pronounced snore! She was lying on her back.

"Jennie Stone!" exclaimed Ruth, shaking the plump girl by the shoulder.

"Wo-wow-ough! Is it fire?" gasped Jennie, finally aroused.

"No, no! I've got it!" repeated Ruth.

"Well-ell-I hope it isn't catching," said the other rather crossly. "You've spoiled-ow!-my beauty sleep, Ruthie Fielding."

"Listen!" commanded her friend. "I've the greatest idea for a picture. I know Mr. Hammond will be delighted. I am going to get Wonota on contract when she breaks with Dakota Joe. I'll make her the central figure of a big picture. She shall be the leading lady."

"Why, Ruthie Fielding! that's something you have never yet done for me, and I have been your friend for years and years."

"Never mind. When it seems that the time is ripe to screen a story about a pretty, plump girl, you shall have an important part in the production," promised Ruth. "But listen to me-do! I am going to make Princess Wonota an Indian star-"

"I believe you," drawled the plump girl. "I suppose you might call her a 'shooting star'?"

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