Merton of the Movies
2. That Night--The Apartments Of Clifford Armytage
Merton Gill mealed at the Gashwiler home. He ate his supper in moody silence,
holding himself above the small gossip of the day that engaged Amos and his
wife. What to him meant the announcement that Amos expected a new line of
white goods on the morrow, or Mrs. Gashwiler's version of a regrettable incident
occurring at that afternoon's meeting of the Entre Nous Five Hundred Club, in
which the score had been juggled adversely to Mrs. Gashwiler, resulting in the
loss of the first prize, a handsome fern dish, and concerning which Mrs.
Gashwiler had thought it best to speak her mind? What importance could he
attach to the disclosure of Metta Judson, the Gashwiler hired girl, who chatted
freely during her appearances with food, that Doc Cummins had said old
Grandma Foutz couldn't last out another day; that the Peter Swansons were
sending clear to Chicago for Tilda's trousseau; and that Jeff Murdock had
arrested one of the Giddings boys, but she couldn't learn if it was Ferd or Gus, for
being drunk as a fool and busting up a bazaar out at the Oak Grove
schoolhouse, and the fighting was something terrible.
Scarcely did he listen to these petty recitals. He ate in silence, and when he had
finished the simple meal he begged to be excused. He begged this in a lofty,
detached, somewhat weary manner, as a man of the world, excessively bored at
the dull chatter but still the fastidious gentleman, might have begged it, breaking
into one of the many repetitions by his hostess of just what she had said to Mrs.
Judge Ellis. He was again Clifford Armytage, enacting a polished society man
among yokels. He was so impressive, after rising, in his bow to Mrs. Gashwiler
that Amos regarded him with a kindling suspicion.
"Say!" he called, as Merton in the hallway plucked his rakish plush hat from the
mirrored rack. "You remember, now, no more o' that skylarkin' with them
dummies! Them things cost money."
Merton paused. He wished to laugh sarcastically, a laugh of withering scorn. He
wished to reply in polished tones, "Skylarkin'! You poor, dull clod, what do you
know of my ambitions, my ideals? You, with your petty life devoted to gaining a
few paltry dollars!" But he did not say this, or even register the emotion that
would justly accompany such a subtitle. He merely rejoined, "All right, sir, I'm not
going to touch them," and went quickly out. "Darned old grouch!" he muttered as
he went down the concrete walk to the Gashwiler front gate.
Here he turned to regard the two-story brick house and the square of lawn with a
concrete deer on one side of the walk, balanced by a concrete deer on the other.
Before the gate was the cast-iron effigy of a small Negro in fantastic uniform,
holding an iron ring aloft. The Gashwiler carriage horse had been tethered to this
in the days before the Gashwiler touring car had been acquired.
"Dwelling of a country storekeeper!" muttered Merton. "That's all you are!"
This was intended to be scornful. Merton meant that on the screen it would be
recognized as this and nothing more. It could not be taken for the mansion of a
rich banker, or the country home of a Wall Street magnate. He felt that he had