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Merton of the Movies
Harry Leon Wilson
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The Tragic Comedian
Penetrating the Holden lot he was relieved to find that he created no immediate
sensation. People did not halt to point derisive fingers at him; he had half feared
they would. As he approached the office building he was almost certain he saw
Baird turn in ahead of him. Yet when he entered the outer room of the Buckeye
offices a young woman looked up from her typewriter to tell him that Mr. Baird
was not in.
She was a serious-eyed young woman of a sincere manner; she spoke with
certainty of tone. Mr. Baird was not only out, but he would not be in for several
days. His physician had ordered him to a sanitarium.
The young woman resumed her typing; she did not again, glance up. The caller
seemed to consider waiting on a chance that she had been misinformed. He was
now sure he had seen Baird enter the building, and the door of his private office
was closed. The caller idled outside the railing, absently regarding stills of past
Buckeye atrocities that had been hung upon the walls of the office by someone
with primitive tastes in decoration. He was debating a direct challenge of the
young woman's veracity.
What would she say if told that the caller meant to wait right there until Mr. Baird
should convalesce? He managed some appraising side- glances at her as she
bent over her machine. She seemed to believe he had already gone.
Then he did go. No good talking that way to a girl. If it had been a man. now--
"You tell Mr. Baird that Mr. Gill's got to see him as soon as possible about
something important," he directed from the open door.
The young woman raised her serious eyes to his and nodded. She resumed her
work. The door closed. Upon its closing the door of Baird's private office opened
noiselessly to a crack that sufficed for the speaking voice at very moderate pitch
"Get Miss Montague on the 'phone," directed the voice. The door closed
noiselessly. Beyond it Mr. Baird was presently speaking in low, sweet tones.
"'Lo, Sister! Listen; that squirrel just boiled in here, and I ducked him. I told the
girl I wasn't to be in unless he was laughing all over, and he wasn't doing the
least little thing that was anywheres near laughing. See what I mean? It's up to
you now. You started it; you got to finish it. I've irised out. Get me?"
On the steps outside the rebuffed Merton Gill glanced at his own natty wrist-
watch, bought with some of the later wages of his shame. It was the luncheon
hour; mechanically he made his way to the cafeteria. He had ceased to rehearse
the speech a doughtier Baird would now have been hearing.
Instead he roughly drafted one that Sarah Nevada Montague could not long
evade. Even on her dying bed she would be compelled to listen. The practising
orator with bent head mumbled as he walked. He still mumbled as he indicated a
choice of foods at the cafeteria counter; he continued to be thus absorbed as he
found a table near the centre of the room.