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Merton of the Movies

6. Under The Glass Tops
He approached the office of the Holden studios the following morning with a new
air of assurance. Formerly the mere approach had been an adventure; the look
through the gate, the quick glimpse of the privileged ones who entered, the
mingling, later, with the hopeful and the near-hopeless ones who waited. But now
his feeling was that he had, somehow, become a part of that higher life beyond
the gate. He might linger outside at odd moments, but rightfully he belonged
inside. His novitiate had passed. He was one of those who threw knives or
battled at the sawmill with the persecuter of golden- haired innocence, or lured
beautiful women from their homes. He might be taken, he thought, for an actor
resting between pictures.
At the gate he suffered a momentary regret at an error of tactics committed the
evening before. Instead of leaving the lot by the office he should have left by the
gate. He should have strolled to this exit in a leisurely manner and stopped, just
inside the barrier, for a chat with the watchman; a chat, beginning with the gift of
a cigar, which should have impressed his appearance upon that person. He
should have remarked casually that he had had a hard day on Stage Number
Four, and must now be off to a good night's rest because of the equally hard day
to-morrow. Thus he could now have approached the gate with confidence and
passed freely in, with a few more pleasant words to the watchman who would
have no difficulty in recalling him.
But it was vain to wish this. For all the watchman knew this young man had never
been beyond the walls of the forbidden city, nor would he know any reason why
the besieger should not forever be kept outside. He would fix that next time.
He approached the window of the casting office with mingled emotions. He did
not hope to find his friend again stricken with headache, but if it chanced that she
did suffer he hoped to be the first to learn of it. Was he not fortified with the
potent Eezo wafers, and a new menthol pencil, even with an additional remedy of
tablets that the druggist had strongly recommended? It was, therefore, not with
any actual, crude disappointment that he learned of his friend's perfect well-
being. She smiled pleasantly at him, the telephone receiver at one ear. "Nothing
to-day, dear," she said and put down the instrument.
Yes, the headache was gone, vanquished by his remedies. She was fine, thank
you. No, the headaches didn't come often. It might be weeks before she had
another attack. No, of course she couldn't be certain of this. And indeed she
would be sure to let him know at the very first sign of their recurrence.
He looked over his patient with real anxiety, a solicitude from the bottom of which
he was somehow unable to expel the last trace of a lingering hope that would
have dismayed the little woman--not hope, exactly, but something almost like it
which he would only translate to himself as an earnest desire that he might be at
hand when the dread indisposition did attack her. Just now there could be no
doubt that she was free from pain.
He thanked her profusely for her courtesy of the day before. He had seen
wonderful things. He had learned a lot. And he wanted to ask her something,