Merton of the Movies
Of Shattered Illusions
The next morning he sat a long time in the genial sunlight watching carpenters
finish a scaffolding beside the pool that had once floated logs to a sawmill. The
scaffolding was a stout affair supporting an immense tank that would, evidently
for some occult reason important to screen art, hold a great deal of water. The
sawmill was gone; at one end of the pool rode a small sail-boat with one mast, its
canvas flapping idly in a gentle breeze. Its deck was littered with rigging upon
which two men worked. They seemed to be getting things shipshape for a cruise.
When he had tired of this he started off toward the High Gear Dance Hall.
Something all day had been drawing him there against his will. He hesitated to
believe it was the Montague girl's kindly manner toward him the day before, yet
he could identify no other influence. Probably it was that. Yet he didn't want to
face her again, even if for a moment she had quit trying to be funny, even if for a
moment her eyes had searched his quite earnestly, her broad, amiable face
glowing with that sudden friendly concern. It had been hard to withstand this
yesterday; he had been in actual danger of confiding to her that engagements of
late were not plentiful--something like that. And it would be harder to-day. Even
the collar would make it harder to resist the confidence that he was not at this
time overwhelmed with offers for his art.
He had for what seemed like an interminable stretch of time been solitary and an
outlaw. It was something to have been spoken to by a human being who
expressed ever so fleeting an interest in his affairs, even by someone as
inconsequent, as negligible in the world of screen artistry as this lightsome minx
who, because of certain mental infirmities, could never hope for the least
enviable eminence in a profession demanding seriousness of purpose. Still it
would be foolish to go again to the set where she was. She might think he was
So he passed the High Gear, where a four-horse stage, watched by two
cameras, was now releasing its passengers who all appeared to be direct from
New York, and walked on to an outdoor set that promised entertainment. This
was the narrow street of some quaint European village, Scotch he soon saw from
the dress of its people. A large automobile was invading this remote hamlet to
the dismay of its inhabitants. Rehearsed through a megaphone they scurried
within doors at its approach, ancient men hobbling on sticks and frantic mothers
grabbing their little ones from the path of the monster. Two trial trips he saw the
car make the length of the little street.
At its lower end, brooding placidly, was an ancient horse rather recalling Dexter
in his generously exposed bones and the jaded droop of his head above a low
stone wall. Twice the car sped by him, arousing no sign of apprehension nor
even of interest. He paid it not so much as the tribute of a raised eyelid.
The car went back to the head of the street where its entrance would be made.
"All right--ready!" came the megaphoned order. Again the peaceful street was
thrown into panic by this snorting dragon from the outer world. The old men
hobbled affrightedly within doors, the mothers saved their children. And this time,