[Specially written for Economic Pictures, Limited, whose Manager has had the good fortune to pick up for a mere song (or, to be more accurate, for a few notes) several thousand miles of discarded cinema films from a bankrupt company. The films comprise the well-known “Baresark Basil, the Pride of the Ranch” (two miles long), “The Foiler Foiled” (one mile, three furlongs, two rods, poles or perches), “The Blood-stained Vest” (fragment–eighteen inches), “A Maniac’s Revenge” (5,000 feet), “The Life of the Common Mosquito” (six legs), and so forth.]
Twenty-five years before our film opens, Andrew Bellingham, a young man just about to enter his father’s business, was spending a holiday in a little fishing village in Cornwall. The daughter of the sheep-farmer with whom he lodged was a girl of singular beauty, and Andrew’s youthful blood was quickly stirred to admiration. Carried away by his passion for her, he–
[MANAGER. Just a reminder that Mr. T.P. O’Connor has to pass this before it can be produced.]–he married her–
[MANAGER. Oh, I beg pardon.]–and for some weeks they lived happily together. One day he informed Jessie that he would have to go back to his work in London, and that it might be a year or more before he could acknowledge her openly as his wife to his rich and proud parents. Jessie was prostrated with grief; and late that afternoon her hat and fringe-net were discovered by the edge of the waters. Realizing at once that she must have drowned herself in her distress, Andrew took an affecting farewell of her father and the sheep, and returned to London. A year later he married a distant cousin, and soon rose to a condition of prosperity. At the time our film begins to unwind, he was respected by everybody in the City, a widower, and the father of a beautiful girl of eighteen called Hyacinth.
[MANAGER. Now we’re off. What do we start with?]
On the sunny side of Fenchurch Street–
[MANAGER. Ah, then I suppose we’d better keep back the Rescue from the Alligator and the Plunge down Niagara in a Barrel.]
–Andrew Bellingham was dozing in his office. Suddenly he awoke to find a strange man standing over him.
“Who are you?” asked Mr. Bellingham. “What do you want?”
“My name is Jasper,” was the answer, “and I have some information to give you.” He bent down and hissed, “Your first wife is still alive!”
Andrew started up in obvious horror. “My daughter,” he gasped, “my little Hyacinth! She must never know.”
“Listen. Your wife is in Spain–
[MANAGER. Don’t waste her. Make it somewhere where there are sharks.
AUTHOR. It’s all right, she’s dead really.]–and she will not trouble you. Give me a thousand pounds and you shall have these; and he held out a packet containing the marriage certificate, a photograph of Jessie’s father dipping a sheep, a receipted bill for a pair of white gloves, size 9-1/2, two letters signed “Your own loving little Andy Pandy,” and a peppermint with “Jess” on it in pink. Once these are locked up in your safe, no one need ever know that you were married in Cornwall twenty-five years ago.”
Without a moment’s hesitation Mr. Bellingham took a handful of bank notes from his pocketbook, and the exchange was made. At all costs he must preserve his little Hyacinth from shame. Now she need never know. With a forced smile he bowed Jasper out, placed the packet in his safe and returned to his desk.
But his mysterious visitor was not done with yet. As soon as the door had closed behind him Jasper re-entered softly, drugged Andrew hastily, and took possession again of the compromising documents. By the time Mr. Bellingham had regained his senses the thief was away. A hue-and-cry was raised, police whistles were blown, and Richard Harrington, Mr. Bellingham’s private secretary, was smartly arrested.
At the trial things looked black against Richard. He was poor and he was in love with Hyacinth; the chain of evidence was complete. In spite of his impassioned protest from the dock, in spite of Hyacinth’s dramatic swoon in front of the solicitor’s table, the judge with great solemnity passed sentence of twenty years’ penal servitude. A loud “Hear, hear” from the gallery rang through the court, and, looking up, Mr. Bellingham caught the sardonic eye of the mysterious Jasper.
Richard had been in prison a month before the opportunity for his escape occurred. For a month he had been hewing stone in Portland, black despair at his heart. Then, like lightning, he saw his chance and took it. The warders were off guard for a moment. Hastily lifting his pickaxe–
[MANAGER. Sorry, but it’s a spade in the only prison film we’ve got.]
Hastily borrowing a spade from a comrade who was digging potatoes, he struck several of his gaolers down, and, dodging the shots of others who hurried to the scene, he climbed the prison wall and dashed for freedom.
Reaching Weymouth at nightfall, he made his way to the house which Hyacinth had taken in order to be near him, and, suitably disguised, travelled up to London with her in the powerful motor which she had kept ready. “At last, my love, we are together,” he murmured as they neared Wimbledon. But he had spoken a moment too soon. An aeroplane swooped down upon them, and Hyacinth was snatched from his arms and disappeared with her captors into the clouds.
Richard’s first act on arriving in London was to go to Mr. Bellingham’s house. Andrew was out, but a note lying on his study carpet, “Meet me at the Old Windmill to-night,”gave him a clue. On receipt of this note Andrew had gone to the rendezvous, and it was no surprise to him when Jasper stepped out and offered to sell him a packet containing a marriage certificate, a photograph of an old gentleman dipping a sheep, a peppermint lozenge with “Jess” on it, and various other documents for a thousand pounds.
“You villain,” cried Andrew, “even at the trial I suspected you,” and he rushed at him fiercely.
A desperate struggle ensued. Breaking free for a moment from the vice-like grip of the other, Jasper leapt with the spring of a panther at one of the sails of the windmill as it came round, and was whirled upwards; with the spring of another panther, Andrew leapt on to the next sail and was whirled after him. At that moment the wind dropped, and the combatants were suspended in mid-air.
It was upon this terrible scene that Richard arrived. Already a crowd was collecting; and, though at present it did not seem greatly alarmed, feeling convinced that it was only assisting at another cinematograph rehearsal, its suspicions might at any moment be aroused. With a shout he dashed into the mill. Seeing him coming Jasper dropped his revolver and slid down the sail into the window. In a moment he reappeared at the door of the mill with Hyacinth under his arm. “Stop him!” cried Richard from underneath a sack of flour. It was no good. Jasper had leapt with his fair burden upon the back of his mustang and was gone….
The usual pursuit followed.
It was the gala night at the Royal Circus. Ricardo Harringtoni, the wonderful new acrobat of whom everybody was talking, stood high above the crowd on his platform. His marvellous performance on the swinging horizontal bar was about to begin. Richard Harrington (for it was he) was troubled. Since he had entered on his new profession–as a disguise from the police who were still searching for him–he had had a vague suspicion that the lion-tamer was dogging him. Who was the lion-tamer? Could it be Jasper?
At that moment the band struck up and Richard leapt lightly on to the swinging bar. With a movement full of grace he let go of the bar and swung on to the opposite platform. And then, even as he was in mid-air, he realized what was happening.
Jasper had let the lion loose!
It was waiting for him.
With a gasping cry Ricardo Harringtoni fainted.
When he recovered consciousness, Richard found himself on the S.S. “Boracic,” which was forging her way through the–
[MANAGER. Somewhere where there are sharks.]
–the Indian Ocean. Mr. Bellingham was bathing his forehead with cooling drinks.
“Forgive me, my boy,” said Mr. Bellingham, “for the wrong I did you. It was Jasper who stole the compromising documents. He refuses to give them back unless I let him marry Hyacinth. What can I do?”
“Where is she?” asked Richard.
“Hidden away no one knows where. Find her, get back the documents for me, and she is yours.”
At that moment a terrible cry rang through the ship, “Man overboard!” Pushing over Mr. Bellingham and running on deck, Richard saw that a woman and her baby were battling for life in the shark-infested waters. In an instant he had plunged in and rescued them. As they were dragged together up the ship’s side he heard her murmur, “Is little Jasper safe?”
“Jasper?” cried Richard.
“Yes, called after his daddy.”
“Where is daddy now?” asked Richard hoarsely.
“Can’t you see the likeness?” whispered Richard to Mr. Bellingham. “It must be. The villain is married to another. But now I will pursue him and get back the papers.” And he left the boat at the next port and boarded one for America.
The search through North and South America for Jasper was protracted. Accompanied sometimes by a band of cowboys, sometimes by a tribe of Indians, Richard scoured the continent for his enemy. There were hours when he would rest awhile and amuse himself by watching the antics of the common mosquito [Manager. Good!] or he would lie at full length and gaze at a bud bursting into flower. [Manager. Excellent!] Then he would leap on to his steed and pursue the trail relentlessly once more.
One night he was dozing by his camp-fire, when he was awakened roughly by strong arms around his neck and Jasper’s hot breath in his ear.
“At last!” cried Jasper, and, knocking Richard heavily on the head with a boot, he picked up his unconscious enemy and carried him to a tributary of the Amazon noted for its alligators. Once there he tied him to a post in mid-stream and rode hastily off to the nearest town, where he spent the evening witnessing the first half of “The Merchant of Venice.” [Manager. Splendid!] But in the morning a surprise awaited him. As he was proceeding along the top of a lonely cliff he was confronted suddenly by the enemy whom he had thought to kill.
“Richard!” he cried, “escaped again!”
“Now, Jasper, I have you.”
With a triumphant cry they rushed at each other; a terrible contest ensued; and then Jasper, with one blow of his palm, hurled his adversary over the precipice.
How many times the two made an end of each other after this the pictures will show. Sometimes Jasper sealed Richard in a barrel and pushed him over Niagara; sometimes Richard tied Jasper to a stake and set light to him; sometimes they would both fall out of a balloon together. But the day of reckoning was at hand.
[Manager. We’ve only got the Burning House and the 1913 Derby left.
It is the evening of the 3rd of June. A cry rends the air suddenly, whistles are blowing, there is a rattling of horses’ hoofs. “Fire! Fire!” Richard, who was passing Soho Square at the time, heard the cry and dashed into the burning house. In a room full of smoke he perceived a cowering woman. Hyacinth! To pick her up was the work of a moment, but how shall he save her? Stay! The telegraph wire! His training at the Royal Circus stood him in good stead. Treading lightly on the swaying wire he carried Hyacinth across to the house opposite.
“At last, my love,” he breathed.
“But the papers,” she cried. “You must get them, or father will not let you marry me.”
Once more he treads the rocking wire; once more he re-crosses, with the papers on his back. Then the house behind him crumbles to the ground, with the wicked Jasper in its ruins….
“Excellent,” said Mr. Bellingham at dinner that evening. “Not only are the papers here, but a full confession by Jasper. My first wife was drowned all the time; he stole the documents from her father. Richard, my boy, when the Home Secretary knows everything he will give you a free pardon. And then you can marry my daughter.”
At these words Hyacinth and Richard were locked in a close embrace. On the next day they all went to the Derby together.
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