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Merton of the Movies

18.
Five Reels-500 Laughs
It occurred to him the next morning that he might have taken too lightly Sarah's
foreboding of illness. Reviewing her curious behaviour he thought it possible she
might be in for something serious.
But a midday telephone call at the Montague home brought assurances from the
mother that quieted this fear. Sarah complained of not feeling well, and was
going to spend a quiet day at home. But Mrs. Montague was certain it was
nothing serious. No; she had no temperature. No fever at all. She was just having
a spell of thinking about things, sort of grouchy like. She had been grouchy to
both her parents. Probably because she wasn't working. No, she said she
wouldn't come to the telephone. She also said she was in a bad way and might
pass out any minute. But that was just her kidding. It was kind of Mr. Gill to call
up. He wasn't to worry.
He continued to worry, however, until the nearness of his screen debut drove
Sarah to the back of his mind. Undoubtedly it was just her nonsense. And in the
meantime, that long--baffled wish to see himself in a serious drama was about to
be gratified in fullest measure. He was glad the girl had not suggested that she
be with him on this tremendous occasion. He wanted to be quite alone, solitary in
the crowd, free to enjoy his own acting without pretense of indifference.
The Pattersons, of course, were another matter. He had told them of his
approaching debut and they were making an event of it. They would attend,
though he would not sit with them. Mr. Patterson in his black suit, his wife in
society raiment, would sit downstairs and would doubtless applaud their lodger;
but he would be remote from them; in a far corner of the topmost gallery, he first
thought, for Hearts on Fire was to be shown in one of the big down-town theatres
where a prominent member of its cast could lose himself.
He had told the Pattersons a little about the story. It was pretty pathetic in spots,
he said, but it all came right in the end, and there were some good Western
scenes. When the Pattersons said he must be very good in it, he found himself
unable to achieve the light fashion of denial and protestation that would have
become him. He said he had struggled to give the world something better and
finer. For a moment he was moved to confess that Mrs. Patterson, in the course
of his struggles, had come close to losing ten dollars, but he mastered the wild
impulse. Some day, after a few more triumphs, he might laughingly confide this
to her.
The day was long. Slothfully it dragged hours that seemed endless across the
company of shining dreams that he captained. He was early at the theatre, first of
early comers, and entered quickly, foregoing even a look at the huge lithographs
in front that would perhaps show his very self in some gripping scene.
With an empty auditorium to choose from, he compromised on a balcony seat.
Down below would doubtless be other members of the company, probably Baird
himself, and he did not wish to be recognized. He must be alone with his triumph.
And the loftier gallery would be too far away.
 
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