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Merton of the Movies

13.
Genius Comes Into Its Own
Merton Gill, enacting the part of a popular screen idol, as in the play of yesterday,
sat at breakfast in his apartments on Stage Number Five. Outwardly he was cool,
wary, unperturbed, as he peeled the shell from a hard-boiled egg and sprinkled
salt upon it. For the breakfast consisted of hard-boiled eggs and potato salad
brought on in a wooden dish.
He had been slightly disturbed by the items of this meal; it was not so elegant a
breakfast as Hubert Throckmorton's, but he had been told by Baird that they
must be a little different.
He had been slightly disturbed, too, at discovering the faithful valet who brought
on the simple repast was the cross--eyed man. Still, the fellow had behaved
respectfully, as a valet should. He had been quietly obsequious of manner,
revealing only a profound admiration for his master and a constant solicitude for
his comfort. Probably he, like Baird, was trying to do something distinctive and
worth while.
Having finished the last egg--glad they had given him no more than three--the
popular screen idol at the prompting of Baird, back by the cameras, arose,
withdrew a metal cigarette case, purchased that very morning with this scene in
view, and selected a cigarette. He stood negligently, as Parmalee had stood,
tapped the end of the cigarette on the side of the case, as Parmalee had done,
lighted a match on the sole of his boot, and idly smoked in the Parmalee manner.
Three times the day before he had studied Parmalee in this bit of business. Now
he idly crossed to the centre-table upon which reposed a large photograph
album. He turned the pages of this, pausing to admire the pictures there
revealed. Baird had not only given him general instructions for this scene, but
now prompted him in low, encouraging tones.
"Turn over slowly; you like 'em all. Now lift the album up and hold it for a better
light on that one. It's one of the best, it pleases you a lot. Look even more
pleased--smile! That's good. Put down the album; turn again, slowly; turn twice
more, that's it; pick it up again. This one is fine--"
Baird took him through the album in this manner, had him close it when all the
leaves were turned, and stand a moment with one hand resting on it. The album
had been empty. It had been deemed best not to inform the actor that later close-
ups of the pages would show him to have been refreshed by studying
photographs of himself--copies, in fact, of the stills of Clifford Armytage at that
moment resting on Baird's desk.
As he stood now, a hand affectionately upon the album, a trace of the fatuously
admiring smile still lingering on his expressive face, a knock sounded upon the
door. "Come in," he called.
The valet entered with the morning mail. This consisted entirely of letters. There
were hundreds of them, and the valet had heaped them in a large clothes-basket
which he now held respectfully in front of him.
The actor motioned him, with an authentic Parmalee gesture, to place them by
the table. The valet obeyed, though spilling many letters from the top of the
 
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