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Merton of the Movies

8. Clifford Armytage, The Outlaw
Dawn brought the wide stretches of the Holden lot into gray relief. It lightened the
big yellow stages and crept down the narrow street of the Western town where
only the ghosts of dead plays stalked. It burnished the rich fronts of the Fifth
Avenue mansions and in the next block illumined the rough sides of a miner's
cabin.
With more difficulty it seeped through the blurred glass of the one window in this
structure and lightened the shadows of its interior to a pale gray. The long-
handled frying-pan rested on the hearth where the little girl had left it. The dishes
of the overnight meal were still on the table; the vacant chairs sprawled about it;
and the rifle was in its place above the rude mantel; the picks and shovels
awaited the toil of a new day. All seemed as it had been when the director had
closed the door upon it the previous night.
But then the blankets in the lower bunk were seen to heave and to be thrust back
from the pale face of Merton Gill. An elbow came into play, and the head was
raised. A gaze still vague with sleep travelled about the room in dull alarm. He
was waking up in his little room at the Patterson house and he couldn't make it
look right. He rubbed his eyes vigorously and pushed himself farther up. His mind
resumed its broken threads. He was where he had meant to be from the moment
he had spied the blankets in those bunks.
In quicker alarm, now, he reached for his watch. Perhaps he had slept too late
and would be discovered--arrested, jailed! He found his watch on the floor beside
the bunk. Seven o'clock. He was safe. He could dress at leisure, and presently
be an early-arriving actor on the Holden lot. He wondered how soon he could get
food at the cafeteria. Sleeping in this mountain cabin had cursed him with a
ravenous appetite, as if he had indeed been far off in the keen air of the North
Woods.
He crept from the warm blankets, and from under the straw mattress-- in which
one of the miners had hidden the pouch of nuggets--he took his newly pressed
trousers. Upon a low bench across the room was a battered tin wash--basin, a
bucket of water brought by the little girl from the spring, and a bar of yellow soap.
He made a quick toilet, and at seven-thirty, a good hour before the lot would
wake up, he was dressed and at the door.
It might be chancy, opening that door; so he peered through a narrow crack at
first, listening intently. He could hear nothing and no one was in sight. He pushed
the latch--string through its hole, then opened the door enough to emit his
slender shape.
A moment later, ten feet from the closed door, he stood at ease, scanning the log
cabin as one who, passing by, had been attracted by its quaint architecture. Then
glancing in both directions to be again sure that he was unobserved, he walked
away from his new home.
He did not slink furtively. He took the middle of the street and there was a bit of
swagger to his gait. He felt rather set up about this adventure. He reached what
might have been called the lot's civic centre and cast a patronizing eye along the
 
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