He came to life the next morning,
shivering under his blankets. It must be cold
outside. He glanced at his watch and reached for
another blanket, throwing it over himself and tucking
it in at the foot. Then he lay down again to
screen a tense bit of action that had occurred late
the night before. He had plunged through the streets
for an hour, after leaving the pool, striving to recover
from the twin shocks he had suffered. Then, returning
to his hotel, he became aware that The Hazards of
Hortense were still on. He could hear the roar
of the aeroplane propeller and see the lights over
the low buildings that lined his street.
Miserably he was drawn back to the
spot where the most important of all his visions had
been rent to tatters. He went to the end of the
pool where he had stood before. Mr. Rosenblatt-hardly
could he bring his mind to utter the hideous syllables-was
still dissatisfied with the sea’s might.
He wanted bigger billows and meant to have them if
the company stayed on the set all night. He was
saying as much with peevish inflections. Merton
stood warming himself over the fire that still glowed
in the brazier.
To him from somewhere beyond the scaffold
came now the Montague girl and Jimmie. The girl
was in her blanket, and Jimmie bore a pitcher, two
tin cups, and a package of sandwiches. They came
to the fire and Jimmie poured coffee for the girl.
He produced sugar from a pocket.
“Help yourself, James,”
said the girl, and Jimmie poured coffee for himself.
They ate sandwiches as they drank. Merton drew
a little back from the fire. The scent of the
hot coffee threatened to make him forget he was not
only a successful screen actor but a gentleman.
“Did you have to do it again?” he asked.
“I had to do it twice again,”
said the girl from over her tin cup. “They’re
developing the strips now, then they’ll run them
in the projection room, and they won’t suit
Sig one little bit, and I’ll have to do it some
more. I’ll be swimming here till daylight
She now shot that familiar glance
of appraisal at Merton. “Have a sandwich
and some coffee, Kid-give him your cup, Jimmie.”
It was Merton Gill’s great moment,
a heart-gripping climax to a two-days’ drama
that had at no time lacked tension. Superbly he
arose to it. Consecrated to his art, Clifford
Armytage gave the public something better and finer.
He drew himself up and spoke lightly, clearly, with
“No, thanks-I couldn’t
eat a mouthful.” The smile with which he
accompanied the simple words might be enigmatic, it
might hint of secret sorrows, but it was plain enough
that these could not ever so distantly relate to a
need for food.
Having achieved this sensational triumph,
with all the quietness of method that should distinguish
the true artist, he became seized with stage fright
amounting almost to panic. He was moved to snatch
the sandwich that Jimmie now proffered, the cup that
he had refilled with coffee. Yet there was but
a moment of confusion. Again he wielded an iron
restraint. But he must leave the stage. He
could not tarry there after his big scene, especially
under that piercing glance of the girl. Somehow
there was incredulity in it.
“Well, I guess I’ll have
to be going,” he remarked jauntily, and turned
for his exit.
“Say, Kid.” The girl halted him a
dozen feet away.
“Say, listen here. This
is on the level. I want to have a talk with you
to-morrow. You’ll be on the lot, won’t
He seemed to debate this momentarily,
then replied, “Oh, yes. I’ll be around
here somewhere.” “Well, remember,
now. If I don’t run into you, you come
down to that set where I was working to-day. See?
I got something to say to you.”
“All right. I’ll
probably see you sometime during the day.”
He had gone on to his hotel.
But he had no intention of seeing the Montague girl
on the morrow, nor of being seen by her. He would
keep out of that girl’s way whatever else he
did. She would ask him if everything was jake,
and where was his overcoat, and a lot of silly questions
about matters that should not concern her.
He was in two minds about the girl
now. Beneath an unreasonable but very genuine
resentment that she should have doubled for Beulah
Baxter-as if she had basely cheated him of his most
cherished ideal-there ran an undercurrent of reluctant
but very profound admiration for her prowess.
She had done some thrilling things and seemed to make
nothing of it. Through this admiration there
ran also a thread of hostility because he, himself,
would undoubtedly be afraid to attempt her lightest
exploit. Not even the trifling feat he had just
witnessed, for he had never learned to swim.
But he clearly knew, despite this confusion, that he
was through with the girl. He must take more pains
to avoid her. If met by chance, she must be snubbed-up-staged,
as she would put it.
Under his blankets now, after many
appealing close-ups of the sandwich which Jimmie had
held out to him, he felt almost sorry that he had not
taken the girl’s food. All his being, save
that part consecrated to his art, had cried out for
it. Art, had triumphed, and now he was near to
regretting that it had not been beaten down. No
good thinking about it, though.
He reached again for his watch.
It was seven-thirty and time to be abroad. Once
more he folded his blankets and placed them on the
pile, keeping an alert glance, the while, for another
possible bit of the delicious bread. He found
nothing of this sort. The Crystal Palace Hotel
was bare of provender. Achieving a discreet retirement
from the hostelry he stood irresolute in the street.
This morning there was no genial sun to warm him.
A high fog overcast the sky, and the air was chill.
At intervals he shivered violently. For no reason,
except that he had there last beheld actual food,
he went back to the pool.
Evidently Mr. Rosenblatt had finally
been appeased. The place was deserted and lay
bare and ugly in the dull light. The gallant ship
of the night before was seen to be a poor, flimsy
make-shift. No wonder Mr. Rosenblatt had wished
billows to engulf it and mist to shroud it. He
sat on a beam lying at the ship end of the pool and
stared moodily at the pitiful make-believe.
He rounded his shoulders and pulled
up the collar of his coat. He knew he should
be walking, but doubted his strength. The little
walk to the pool had made him strangely breathless.
He wondered how long people were in starving to death.
He had read of fasters who went for weeks without
food, but he knew he was not of this class. He
lacked talent for it. Doubtless another day would
finish him. He had no heart now for visions of
the Gashwiler table. He descended tragically to
recalling that last meal at the drug store-the bowl
of soup with its gracious burden of rich, nourishing
He began to alter the scenario of
his own life. Suppose he had worked two more
weeks for Gashwiler. That would have given him
thirty dollars. Suppose he had worked a month.
He could have existed a long time on sixty dollars.
Suppose he had even stuck it out for one week more-fifteen
dollars at this moment! He began to see a breakfast,
the sort of meal to be ordered by a hungry man with
fifteen dollars to squander.
The shivering seized him again and
he heard his teeth rattle. He must move from
this spot, forever now to be associated with black
disillusion. He arose from his seat and was dismayed
to hear a hail from the Montague girl. Was he
never to be free from her? She was poised at
a little distance, one hand raised to him, no longer
the drenched victim of a capricious Rosenblatt, but
the beaming, joyous figure of one who had triumphed
over wind and wave. He went almost sullenly to
her while she waited. No good trying to escape
her for a minute or so.
“Hello, old Trouper! You’re
just in time to help me hunt for something.”
She was in the familiar street suit now, a skirt and
jacket of some rough brown goods and a cloth hat that
kept close to her small head above hair that seemed
of no known shade whatever, though it was lighter
than dark. She flashed a smile at him from her
broad mouth as he came up, though her knowing gray
eyes did not join in this smile. He knew instantly
that she was taking him in.
This girl was wise beyond her years,
he thought, but one even far less knowing could hardly
have been in two minds about his present abject condition.
The pushed-up collar of his coat did not entirely hide
the once-white collar beneath it, the beard had reached
its perhaps most distressing stage of development,
and the suit was rumpled out of all the nattiness
for which it had been advertised. Even the plush
hat had lost its smart air.
Then he plainly saw that the girl
would, for the moment at least, ignore these phenomena.
She laughed again, and this time the eyes laughed,
too. “C’mon over and help me hunt
for that bar pin I lost. It must be at this end,
because I know I had it on when I went into the drink.
Maybe it’s in the pool, but maybe I lost it
after I got out. It’s one of Baxter’s
that she wore in the scene just ahead of last night,
and she’ll have to have it again to-day.
Now ” She began to search the ground
around the cold brazier. “It might be along
here.” He helped her look. Pretty soon
he would remember an engagement and get away.
The search at the end of the pool proved fruitless.
The girl continued to chatter. They had worked
until one-thirty before that grouch of a Rosenblatt
would call it a day. At that she’d rather
do water stuff than animal stuff-especially lions.
“Lions? I should think so!” He replied
to this. “Dangerous, isn’t it?”
“Oh, it ain’t that.
They’re nothing to be afraid of if you know ’em,
but they’re so hot and smelly when you have
to get close to ’em. Anything I really
hate, it’s having to get up against a big, hot,
hairy, smelly lion.”
He murmured a sympathetic phrase and
extended his search for the lost pin to the side of
the pool. Almost under the scaffold he saw the
shine of precious stones and called to her as he picked
up the pin, a bar pin splendidly set with diamonds.
He was glad that he had found it for her. It
must have cost a great deal of money and she would
doubtless be held responsible for its safe-keeping.
She came dancing to him. “Say,
that’s fine-your eyes are working, ain’t
they? I might ‘a’ been set back a
good six dollars if you hadn’t found that.”
She took the bauble and fastened it inside her jacket.
So the pin, too, had been a tawdry makeshift.
Nothing was real any more. As she adjusted the
pin he saw his moment for escape. With a gallant
striving for the true Clifford Armytage manner he
raised the plush hat.
“Well, I’m glad you found
Mrs. Rosenblatt’s pin-and I guess I’ll
be getting on.”
The manner must have been defective.
She looked through him and said with great firmness,
“Nothing like that, old pippin.” Again
he was taken with a violent fit of shivering.
He could not meet her eyes. He was turning away
when she seized him by the wrist. Her grip was
amazingly forceful. He doubted if he could break
away even with his stoutest effort. He stood
miserably staring at the ground. Suddenly the
girl reached up to pat his shoulder. He shivered
again and she continued to pat it. When his teeth
had ceased to be castanets she spoke:
“Listen here, old Kid, you can’t
fool any one, so quit trying. Don’t you
s’pose I’ve seen ’em like you before?
Say, boy, I was trouping while you played with marbles.
You’re up against it. Now, c’mon” with
the arm at his shoulder she pulled him about to face
her-"c’mon and be nice-tell mother all about
The late Clifford Armytage was momentarily
menaced by a complete emotional overthrow. Another
paroxysm of shivering perhaps averted this humiliation.
The girl dropped his wrist, turned, stooped, and did
something. He recalled the scene in the gambling
hell, only this time she fronted away from the camera.
When she faced him again he was not surprised to see
bills in her hand. It could only have been the
chill he suffered that kept him from blushing.
She forced the bills into his numb fingers and he
stared at them blankly. “I can’t take
these,” he muttered.
“There, now, there, now!
Be easy. Naturally I know you’re all right
or I wouldn’t give up this way. You’re
just having a run of hard luck. The Lord knows,
I’ve been helped out often enough in my time.
Say, listen, I’ll never forget when I went out
as a kid with Her First False Step-they had lions
in that show. It was a frost from the start.
No salaries, no nothing. I got a big laugh one
day when I was late at rehearsal. The manager
says: ‘You’re fined two dollars, Miss
Montague.’ I says, ’All right, Mr.
Gratz, but you’ll have to wait till I can write
home for the money.’ Even Gratz had to laugh.
Anyway, the show went bust and I never would ‘a’
got any place if two or three parties hadn’t
of helped me out here and there, just the same as
I’m doing with you this minute. So don’t
“Well-you see-I don’t ”
He broke off from nervous weakness. In his mind
was a jumble of incongruous sentences and he seemed
unable to manage any of them.
The girl now sent a clean shot through
his armour. “When’d you eat last?”
He looked at the ground again in painful
embarrassment. Even in the chill air he was beginning
to feel hot. “I don’t remember,”
he said at last quite honestly.
“That’s what I thought.
You go eat. Go to Mother Haggin’s, that
cafeteria just outside the gate. She has better
breakfast things than the place on the lot.”
Against his will the vision of a breakfast enthralled
him, yet even under this exaltation an instinct of
the wariest caution survived.
“I’ll go to the one on
the lot, I guess. If I went out to the other one
I couldn’t get in again.”
She smiled suddenly, with puzzling
lights in her eyes. “Well, of all things!
You want to get in again, do you? Say, wouldn’t
that beat the hot place a mile? You want to get
in again? All right, Old-timer, I’ll go
out with you and after you’ve fed I’ll
cue you on to the lot again.”
“Well-if it ain’t taking
you out of your way.” He knew that the girl
was somehow humouring him, as if he were a sick child.
She knew, and he knew, that the lot was no longer
any place for him until he could be rightly there.
“No, c’mon, I’ll
stay by you.” They walked up the street
of the Western village. The girl had started
at a brisk pace and he was presently breathless.
“I guess I’ll have to
rest a minute,” he said. They were now before
the Crystal Palace Hotel and he sat on the steps.
“All in, are you? Well, take it easy.”
He was not only all in, but his mind
still played with incongruous sentences. He heard
himself saying things that must sound foolish.
“I’ve slept in here a
lot,” he volunteered. The girl went to look
through one of the windows.
“Blankets!” she exclaimed.
“Well, you got the makings of a trouper in you,
I’ll say that. Where else did you sleep?”
“Well, there were two miners
had a nice cabin down the street here with bunks and
blankets, and they had a fight, and half a kettle of
beans and some bread, and one of them shaved and I
used his razor, but I haven’t shaved since because
I only had twenty cents day before yesterday, and
anyway they might think I was growing them for a part,
the way your father did, but I moved up here when
I saw them put the blankets in, and I was careful
and put them back every morning. I didn’t
do any harm, do you think? And I got the rest
of the beans they’d thrown into the fireplace,
and if I’d only known it I could have brought
my razor and overcoat and some clean collars, but
somehow you never seem to know when ”
He broke off, eyeing her vaguely.
He had little notion what he had been saying or what
he would say next.
“This is going to be good,”
said the Montague girl. “I can see that
from here. But now you c’mon-we’ll
walk slow-and you tell me the rest when you’ve
had a little snack.”
She even helped him to rise, with
a hand under his elbow, though he was quick to show
her that he had not needed this help. “I
can walk all right,” he assured her.
“Of course you can. You’re
as strong as a horse. But we needn’t go
too fast.” She took his arm in a friendly
way as they completed the journey to the outside cafeteria.
At this early hour they were the only
patrons of the place. Miss Montague, a little
with the air of a solicitous nurse, seated her charge
at a corner table and took the place opposite him.
“What’s it going to be?” she demanded.
Visions of rich food raced madly through
his awakened mind, wide platters heaped with sausage
and steaks and ham and corned-beef hash.
“Steak,” he ventured,
“and something like ham and eggs and some hot
cakes and coffee and ” He broke off.
He was becoming too emotional under this golden spread
of opportunity. The girl glanced up from the
bill of fare and appraised the wild light in his eyes.
“One minute, Kid-let’s
be more restful at first. You know-kind of ease
into the heavy eats. It’ll prob’ly
be better for you.”
“Anything you say,” he
conceded. Her words of caution had stricken him
with a fear that this was a dream; that he would wake
up under blankets back in the Crystal Palace.
It was like that in dreams. You seemed able to
order all sorts of food, but something happened; it
never reached the table. He would take no further
initiative in this scene, whether dream or reality.
“You order something,” he concluded.
His eyes trustfully sought the girl’s.
“Well, I think you’ll
start with one orange, just to kind of hint to the
old works that something good is coming. Then lemme
see” she considered gravely.
“Then I guess about two soft-boiled eggs no,
you can stand three and some dry toast
and some coffee. Maybe a few thin strips of bacon
wouldn’t hurt. We’ll see can you make
the grade.” She turned to give the order
to a waitress. “And shoot the coffee along,
sister. A cup for me, too.”
Her charge shivered again at the mere
mention of coffee. The juncture was critical.
He might still be dreaming, but in another moment he
must know. He closely, even coolly, watched the
two cups of coffee that were placed before them.
He put a benumbed hand around the cup in front of
him and felt it burn. It was too active a sensation
for mere dreaming. He put sugar into the cup
and poured in the cream from a miniature pitcher,
inhaling a very real aroma. Events thus far seemed
normal. He stirred the coffee and started to
raise the cup. Now, after all, it seemed to be
a dream. His hand shook so that the stuff spilled
into the saucer and even out on to the table.
Always in dreams you were thwarted at the last moment.
The Montague girl had noted the trembling
and ineffective hand. She turned her back upon
him to chat with the waitress over by the food counter.
With no eye upon him, he put both hands about the cup
and succeeded in raising it to his lips. The
hands were still shaky, but he managed some sips of
the stuff, and then a long draught that seemed to
scald him. He wasn’t sure if it scalded
or not. It was pretty hot, and fire ran through
him. He drained the cup still holding
it with both hands. It was an amazing sensation
to have one’s hand refuse to obey so simple
an order. Maybe he would always be that way now,
practically a cripple.
The girl turned back to him.
“Atta boy,” she said. “Now take
the orange. And when the toast comes you can
have some more coffee.” A dread load was
off his mind. He did not dream this thing.
He ate the orange, and ate wonderful toast to the
accompaniment of another cup of coffee. The latter
half of this he managed with but one hand, though it
was not yet wholly under control. The three eggs
seemed like but one. He thought they must have
been small eggs. More toast was commanded and
“Easy, easy!” cautioned
his watchful hostess from time to time. “Don’t
wolf it you’ll feel better afterwards.”
“I feel better already,” he announced.
“Well,” the girl eyed
him critically, “you certainly got the main
chandelier lighted up once more.”
A strange exhilaration flooded all
his being. His own thoughts babbled to him, and
he presently began to babble to his new friend.
“You remind me so much of Tessie
Kearns,” he said as he scraped the sides of
the egg cup.
“Oh, she’s a scenario
writer I know. You’re just like her.”
He was now drunk maudlin drunk from
the coffee. Sober, he would have known that no
human beings could be less alike than Tessie Kearns
and the Montague girl. Other walls of his reserve
“Of course I could have written
to Gashwiler and got some money to go back there ”
The girl seemed to search her memory. “I
thought I knew all the tank towns, but that’s
a new one. Where is it?”
“It isn’t a town; it’s
a gentleman I had a position with, and he said he’d
keep it open for me.” He flew to another
thought with the inconsequence of the drunken.
“Say, Kid” He had even caught
that form of address from her “I’ll
tell you. You can keep this watch of mine till
I pay you back this money.” He drew it out.
“It’s a good solid-gold watch and everything.
My uncle Sylvester gave it to me for not smoking,
on my eighteenth birthday. He smoked, himself;
he even drank considerable. He was his own worst
enemy. But you can see it’s a good solid gold
watch and keeps time, and you hold it till I pay you
back, will you?”
The girl took the watch, examining
it carefully, noting the inscription engraved on the
case. There were puzzling glints in her eyes as
she handed it back to him. “No; I’ll
tell you, it’ll be my watch until you pay me
back, but you keep it for me. I haven’t
any place to carry it except the pocket of my jacket,
and I might lose it, and then where’d we be?”
“Well, all right.”
He cheerfully took back the watch. His present
ecstasy would find him agreeable to all proposals.
“And say,” continued the
girl, “what about this Gashweiler, or whatever
his name is? He said he’d take you back,
did he? A farm?”
“No, an emporium and
you forgot his name just the way that lady in the
casting office always does. She’s funny.
Keeps telling me not to forget the address, when of
course I couldn’t forget the town where I lived,
could I? Of course it’s a little town, but
you wouldn’t forget it when you lived there
a long time not when you got your start
“So you got your start in this town, did you?”
He wanted to talk a lot now.
He prattled of the town and his life there, of the
eight-hour talent-tester and the course in movie-acting.
Of Tessie Kearns and her scenarios, not yet prized
as they were sure to be later. Of Lowell Hardy,
the artistic photographer, and the stills that he
had made of the speaker as Clifford Armytage.
Didn’t she think that was a better stage name
than Merton Gill, which didn’t seem to sound
like so much? Anyway, he wished he had his stills
here to show her. Of course some of them were
just in society parts, the sort of thing that Harold
Parmalee played had she noticed that he
looked a good deal like Harold Parmalee? Lots
of people had.
Tessie Kearns thought he was the dead
image of Parmalee. But he liked Western stuff
better a lot better than cabaret stuff where
you had to smoke one cigarette after another and
he wished she could see the stills in the Buck Benson
outfit, chaps and sombrero and spurs and holster.
He’d never had two guns, but the one he did have
he could draw pretty well. There would be his
hand at his side, and in a flash he would have the
gun in it, ready to shoot from the hip. And roping he’d
need to practise that some. Once he got it smack
over Dexter’s head, but usually it didn’t
go so well.
Probably a new clothesline didn’t
make the best rope too stiff. He could
probably do a lot better with one of those hair ropes
that the real cowboys used. And Metta Judson she
was the best cook anywhere around Simsbury. He
mustn’t forget to write to Metta, and to Tessie
Kearns, to be sure and see The Blight of Broadway when
it came to the Bijou Palace. They would be surprised
to see those close ups that Henshaw had
used him in. And he was in that other picture.
No close-ups in that, still he would show pretty well
in the cage-scene he’d had to smoke
a few cigarettes there, because Arabs smoke all the
time, and he hadn’t been in the later scene
where the girl and the young fellow were in the deserted
tomb all night and he didn’t lay a finger on
her because he was a perfect gentleman.
He didn’t know what he would
do next. Maybe Henshaw would want him in Robinson
Crusoe, Junior, where Friday’s sister turned
out to be the daughter of an English earl with her
monogram tattooed on her left shoulder. He would
ask Henshaw, anyway.
The Montague girl listened attentively
to the long, wandering recital. At times she
would seem to be strongly moved, to tears or something.
But mostly she listened with a sympathetic smile, or
perhaps with a perfectly rigid face, though at such
moments there would be those curious glints of light
far back in her gray eyes. Occasionally she would
prompt him with a question.
In this way she brought out his version
of the Sabbath afternoon experience with Dexter.
He spared none of the details, for he was all frankness
now. He even told how ashamed he had felt having
to lead Dexter home from his scandalous grazing before
the Methodist Church. He had longed to leap upon
the horse and ride him back at a gallop, but he had
been unable to do this because there was nothing from
which to climb on him, and probably he would have
been afraid to gallop the beast, anyway.
This had been one of the bits that
most strangely moved his listener. Her eyes were
moist when he had finished, and some strong emotion
seemed about to overpower her, but she had recovered
command of herself, and become again the sympathetic
provider and counsellor.
He would have continued to talk, apparently,
for the influence of strong drink had not begun to
wane, but the girl at length stopped him.
“Listen here, Merton ”
she began; her voice was choked to a peculiar hoarseness
and she seemed to be threatened with a return of her
late strong emotion. She was plainly uncertain
of her control, fearing to trust herself to speech,
but presently, after efforts which he observed with
warmest sympathy, she seemed to recover her poise.
She swallowed earnestly several times, wiped her moisture dimmed
eyes with her handkerchief, and continued, “It’s
getting late and I’ve got to be over at the
show shop. So I’ll tell you what to do next.
You go out and get a shave and a haircut and then
go home and get cleaned up you said you
had a room and other clothes, didn’t you?”
Volubly he told her about the room
at Mrs. Patterson’s, and, with a brief return
of lucidity, how the sum of ten dollars was now due
this heartless society woman who might insist upon
its payment before he would again enjoy free access
to his excellent wardrobe.
“Well, lemme see ”
She debated a moment, then reached under the table,
fumbled obscurely, and came up with more money.
“Now, here, here’s twenty more besides
that first I gave you, so you can pay the dame her
money and get all fixed up again, fresh suit and clean
collar and a shine and everything. No, no this
is my scene; you stay out.”
He had waved protestingly at sight
of the new money, and now again he blushed.
“That’s all understood,”
she continued. “I’m staking you to
cakes till you get on your feet, see? And I know
you’re honest, so I’m not throwing my
money away. There sink it and forget
it. Now, you go out and do what I said, the barber
first. And lay off the eats until about noon.
You had enough for now. By noon you can stoke
up with meat and potatoes anything you
want that’ll stick to the merry old slats.
And I’d take milk instead of any more coffee.
You’ve thinned down some you’re
not near so plump as Harold Parmalee. Then you
rest up for the balance of the day, and you show here
to-morrow morning about this time. Do you get
it? The Countess’ll let you in. Tell
her I said to, and come over to the office building.
He tried to tell her his gratitude,
but instead he babbled again of how much she was like
Tessie Kearns. They parted at the gate.
With a last wondering scrutiny of
him, a last reminder of her very minute directions,
she suddenly illumined him with rays of a compassion
that was somehow half-laughter. “You poor,
feckless dub!” she pronounced as she turned
from him to dance through the gate. He scarcely
heard the words; her look and tone had been so warming.
Ten minutes later he was telling a
barber that he had just finished a hard week on the
Holden lot, and that he was glad to get the brush off
at last. From the barber’s he hastened to
the Patterson house, rather dreading the encounter
with one to whom he owed so much money. He found
the house locked. Probably both of the Pattersons
had gone out into society. He let himself in
and began to follow the directions of the Montague
girl. The bath, clean linen, the other belted
suit, already pressed, the other shoes, the buttoned,
cloth-topped ones, already polished! He felt
now more equal to the encounter with a heartless society
woman. But, as she did not return, he went out
in obedience to a new hunger.
In the most sumptuous cafeteria he
knew of, one patronized only in his first careless
days of opulence, he ate for a long time. Roast
beef and potatoes he ordered twice, nor did he forget
to drink the milk prescribed by his benefactress.
Plenty of milk would make him more than ever resemble
Harold Parmalee. And he commanded an abundance
of dessert: lemon pie and apple pie and a double
portion of chocolate cake with ice-cream. His
craving for sweets was still unappeased, so at a near-by
drug store he bought a pound box of candy.
The world was again under his feet.
Restored to his rightful domain, he trod it with lightness
and certainty. His mind was still a pleasant
jumble of money and food and the Montague girl.
Miles of gorgeous film flickered across his vision.
An experienced alcoholic would have told him that
he enjoyed a coffee “hang-over.” He
wended a lordly way to the nearest motion-picture
Billed there was the tenth installment
of The Hazards of Hortense. He passed before
the lively portrayal in colours of Hortense driving
a motor car off an open drawbridge. The car was
already halfway between the bridge and the water beneath.
He sneered openly at the announcement: “Beulah
Baxter in the Sensational Surprise Picture of the Century.”
A surprise picture indeed, if those now entering the
theatre could be told what he knew about it!
He considered spreading the news, but decided to retain
the superiority his secret knowledge gave him.
Inside the theatre, eating diligently
from his box of candy, he was compelled to endure
another of the unspeakable Buckeye comedies.
The cross-eyed man was a lifeguard at a beach and there
were social entanglements involving a bearded father,
his daughter in an inconsiderable bathing suit, a
confirmed dipsomaniac, two social derelicts who had
to live by their wits, and a dozen young girls also
arrayed in inconsiderable bathing suits. He could
scarcely follow the chain of events, so illogical
were they, and indeed made little effort to do so.
He felt far above the audience that cackled at these
dreadful buffooneries. One subtitle read:
“I hate to kill him murder is so hard
This sort of thing, he felt more than
ever, degraded an art where earnest people were suffering
and sacrificing in order to give the public something
better and finer. Had he not, himself, that very
day, completed a perilous ordeal of suffering and
sacrifice? And he was asked to laugh at a cross eyed
man posing before a camera that fell to pieces when
the lens was exposed, shattered, presumably, by the
impact of the afflicted creature’s image!
This, surely, was not art such as Clifford Armytage
was rapidly fitting himself, by trial and hardship,
to confer upon the public.
It was with curiously conflicting
emotions that he watched the ensuing Hazards of Hortense.
He had to remind himself that the slim little girl
with the wistful eyes was not only not performing certain
feats of daring that the film exposed, but that she
was Mrs. Sigmund Rosenblatt and crazy about her husband.
Yet the magic had not wholly departed from this wronged
heroine. He thought perhaps this might be because
he now knew, and actually liked, that talkative Montague
girl who would be doing the choice bits of this drama.
Certainly he was loyal to the hand that fed him.
Black Steve and his base crew, hirelings
of the scoundrelly guardian who was “a Power
in Wall Street,” again and again seemed to have
encompassed the ruin, body and soul, of the persecuted
Hortense. They had her prisoner in a foul den
of Chinatown, whence she escaped to balance precariously
upon the narrow cornice of a skyscraper, hundreds of
feet above a crowded thoroughfare. They had her,
as the screen said, “Depressed by the Grim Menace
of Tragedy that Impended in the Shadows.”
They gave her a brief respite in one of those gilded
resorts “Where the Clink of Coin Opens Wide
the Portals of Pleasure, Where Wealth Beckons with
Golden Fingers,” but this was only a trap for
the unsuspecting girl, who was presently, sewed in
a plain sack, tossed from the stern of an ocean liner
far out at sea by creatures who would do anything for
money who, so it was said, were Remorseless
in the Mad Pursuit of Gain.
At certain gripping moments it became
apparent to one of the audience that Mrs. Sigmund
Rosenblatt herself was no longer in jeopardy.
He knew the girl who was, and profoundly admired her
artistry as she fled along the narrow cornice of the
skyscraper. For all purposes she was Beulah Baxter.
He recalled her figure as being not exactly
stubby, but at least not of marked slenderness.
Yet in the distance she was indeed all that an audience
could demand. And she was honest, while Mrs.
Rosenblatt, in the Majestic Theatre at Peoria, Illinois,
had trifled airily with his faith in women and deceived
him by word of mouth.
He applauded loudly at the sensational
finish, when Hortense, driving her motor car at high
speed across the great bridge, ran into the draw,
that opened too late for her to slow down, and plunged
to the cruel waters far below.
Mrs. Rosenblatt would possibly have
been a fool to do this herself. The Montague
girl had been insistent on that point; there were enough
things she couldn’t avoid doing, and all stars
very sensibly had doubles for such scenes when distance
or action permitted. At the same time, he could
never again feel the same toward her. Indeed,
he would never have felt the same even had there been
no Rosenblatt. Art was art!
It was only five o’clock when
he left the picture theatre, but he ate again at the
luxurious cafeteria. He ate a large steak, drank
an immense quantity of milk, and bought another box
of candy on his way to the Patterson home. Lights
were on there, and he went in to face the woman he
had so long kept out of her money. She would probably
greet him coldly and tell him she was surprised at
Yet it seemed that he had been deceived
in this society woman. She was human, after all.
She shook hands with him warmly and said they were
glad to see him back; he must have been out on location,
and she was glad they were not to lose him, because
he was so quiet and regular and not like some other
motion-picture actors she had known.
He told her he had just put in a hard
week on the Holden lot, where things were beginning
to pick up. He was glad she had missed him, and
he certainly had missed his comfortable room, because
the accommodations on the lot were not of the best.
In fact, they were pretty unsatisfactory, if you came
right down to it, and he hoped they wouldn’t
keep him there again. And, oh, yes he
was almost forgetting. Here was ten dollars he
believed there were two weeks’ rent now due.
He passed over the money with rather a Clifford Armytage
Mrs. Patterson accepted the bill almost
protestingly. She hadn’t once thought about
the rent, because she knew he was reliable, and he
was to remember that any time convenient to him would
always suit her in these matters. She did accept
the bill, still she was not the heartless creature
he had supposed her to be.
As he bade her good-night at the door
she regarded him closely and said, “Somehow
you look a whole lot older, Mr. Armytage.”
“I am,” replied Mr. Armytage.
Miss Montague, after parting with
her protege had walked quickly, not without little
recurrent dance steps as if some excess
of joy would ever and again overwhelm her to
the long office building on the Holden lot, where
she entered a door marked “Buckeye Comedies.
Jeff Baird, Manager.” The outer office
was vacant, but through the open door to another room
she observed Baird at his desk, his head bent low over
certain sheets of yellow paper. He was a bulky,
rather phlegmatic looking man, with a parrot-like
crest of gray hair. He did not look up as the
girl entered. She stood a moment as if to control
her excitement, then spoke.
“Jeff, I found a million dollars for you this
“Thanks!” said Mr. Baird,
still not looking up. “Chuck it down in
the coal cellar, will you? We’re littered
with the stuff up here.”
“On the level, Jeff.”
Baird looked up. “On the level?”
“You’ll say so.”
“Well, he’s a small-town
hick that saved up seventy-two dollars to come here
from Goosewallow, Michigan, to go into pictures-took
a correspondence course in screen acting
and all that, and he went broke and slept in a property
room down in the village all last week; no eats at
all for three, four days. I’d noticed him
around the lot on different sets; something about
him that makes you look a second time. I don’t
know what it is-kind of innocent and bug-eyed the way
he’d rubber at things, but all the time like
as if he thought he was someone. Well, I keep
running across him and pretty soon I notice he’s
up against it. He still thinks he’s someone,
and is very up-stage if you start to kid him the least
bit, but the signs are there, all right. He’s
up against it good and hard.
“All last week he got to looking
worse and worse. But he still had his stage presence.
Say, yesterday he looked like the juvenile lead of
a busted road show that has walked in from Albany
and was just standing around on Broadway wondering
who he’d consent to sign up with for forty weeks see
what I mean?-hungry but proud. He was over on
the Baxter set last night while I was doing the water
stuff, and you’d ought to see him freeze me
when I suggested a sandwich and a cup o’ coffee.
It was grand.
“Well, this morning I’m
back for a bar pin of Baxter’s I’d lost,
and there he is again, no overcoat, shivering his
teeth loose, and all in. So I fell for him.
Took him up for some coffee and eggs, staked him to
his room rent, and sent him off to get cleaned and
barbered. But before he went he cut loose and
told me his history from the cradle to Hollywood.
“I’d ‘a’ given
something good if you’d been at the next table.
I guess he got kind of jagged on the food, see?
He’d tell me anything that run in his mind,
and most of it was good. You’ll say so.
I’ll get him to do it for you sometime.
Of all the funny nuts that make this lot! Well,
take my word for it; that’s all I ask. And
listen here, Jeff I’m down to cases.
There’s something about this kid, like when I
tell you I’d always look at him twice.
And it’s something rich that I won’t let
out for a minute or two. But here’s what
you and me do, right quick:
“The kid was in that cabaret
and gambling-house stuff they shot last week for The
Blight of Broadway, and this something that makes you
look at him must of struck Henshaw the way it did
me, for he let him stay right at the edge of the dance
floor and took a lot of close-ups of him looking tired
to death of the gay night life. Well, you call
up the Victor folks and ask can you get a look at
that stuff because you’re thinking of giving
a part to one of the extras that worked in it.
Maybe we can get into the projection room right away
and you’ll see what I mean. Then I won’t
have to tell you the richest thing about it.
Now!” she took a long breath “will
Baird had listened with mild interest
to the recital, occasionally seeming not to listen
while he altered the script before him. But he
took the telephone receiver from its hook and said
briefly to the girl: “You win. Hello!
Give me the Victor office. Hello! Mr. Baird
The two were presently in the dark
projection room watching the scenes the girl had told
“They haven’t started
cutting yet,” she said delightedly. “All
his close-ups will be in. Goody! There’s
the lad-get him? Ain’t he the actin’est
thing you ever saw? Now wait-you’ll see
Baird watched the film absorbedly.
Three times it was run for the sole purpose of exposing
to this small audience Merton Gill’s notion of
being consumed with ennui among pleasures that had
palled. In the gambling-hall bit it could be
observed that he thought not too well of cigarettes.
“He screens well, too,” remarked the girl.
“Of course I couldn’t be sure of that.”
“He screens all right,” agreed Baird.
“Well, what do you think?”
“I think he looks like the first plume on a
“He looks all of that, but try
again. Who does he remind you of? Catch
this next one in the gambling hell get the
profile and the eyebrows and the chin there!”
“Why ” Baird chuckled.
“I’m a Swede if he don’t look like ”
“You got it!” the girl
broke in excitedly. “I knew you would.
I didn’t at first, this morning, because he
was so hungry and needed a shave, and he darned near
had me bawling when he couldn’t hold his cup
o’ coffee except with two hands. But what
d’you think? pretty soon he tells
me himself that he looks a great deal like Harold
Parmalee and wouldn’t mind playing parts like
Parmalee, though he prefers Western stuff. Wouldn’t
that get you?”
The film was run again so that Baird
could study the Gill face in the light of this new
“He does, he does, he certainly
does if he don’t look like a N company of Parmalee I’ll eat that film.
Say, Flips, you did find something.”
“Oh, I knew it; didn’t I tell you so?”
“But, listen does he know he’s
“Not in a thousand years!
He doesn’t know anything’s funny, near
as I can make him.”
They were out in the light again,
walking slowly back to the Buckeye offices.
“Get this,” said Baird
seriously. “You may think I’m kidding,
but only yesterday I was trying to think if I couldn’t
dig up some guy that looked more like Parmalee than
Parmalee himself does just enough more
to get the laugh, see? And you spring this lad
on me. All he needs is the eyebrows worked up
a little bit. But how about him will
he handle? Because if he will I’ll use
him in the new five-reeler.”
“Will he handle?” Miss
Montague echoed the words with deep emphasis.
“Leave him to me. He’s got to handle.
I already got twenty-five bucks invested in his screen
career. And, Jeff, he’ll be easy to work,
except he don’t know he’s funny. If
he found out he was, it might queer him see
what I mean? He’s one of that kind you
can tell it. How will you use him? He could
never do Buckeye stuff.”
“Sure not. But ain’t
I told you? In this new piece Jack is stage struck
and gets a job as valet to a ham that’s just
about Parmalee’s type, and we show Parmalee
acting in the screen, but all straight stuff, you
understand. Unless he’s a wise guy he’ll
go all through the piece and never get on that it’s
funny. See, his part’s dead straight and
serious in a regular drama, and the less he thinks
he’s funny the bigger scream he’ll be.
He’s got to be Harold Parmalee acting right out,
all over the set, as serious as the lumbago get
what I mean?”
“I got you,” said the
girl, “and you’ll get him to-morrow morning.
I told him to be over with his stills. And he’ll
be serious all the time, make no mistake there.
He’s no wise guy. And one thing, Jeff, he’s
as innocent as a cup custard, so you’ll
have to keep that bunch of Buckeye roughnecks from
riding him. I can tell you that much. Once
they started kidding him, it would be all off.”
“And, besides ”
She hesitated briefly. “Somehow I don’t
want him kidded. I’m pretty hard-boiled,
but he sort of made me feel like a fifty-year-old
mother watching her only boy go out into the rough
“I’ll watch out for that,” said