Merton of the Movies

9. More Ways Than One
Early he was up to bathe and shave. He shaved close to make it last longer, until
his tender face reddened under the scraping. Probably he would not find another
cabin in which a miner would part with his beard for an Eastern trip. Probably he
would have to go to the barber the next time. He also succeeded, with soap and
water, in removing a stain from his collar. It was still a decent collar; not
immaculate, perhaps, but entirely possible.
This day he took eggs with his breakfast, intending to wheedle his appetite with a
lighter second meal than it had demanded the day before. He must see if this
would not average better on the day's overhead.
After breakfast he was irresistibly drawn to view the moving picture of his old
home being dismantled. He knew now that he might stand brazenly there without
possible criticism. He found Jimmy and a companion property-boy already busy.
Much of the furniture was outside to be carted away. Jimmy, as Merton lolled idly
in the doorway, emptied the blackened coffee pot into the ashes of the fireplace
and then proceeded to spoon into the same refuse heap half a kettle of beans
upon which the honest miners had once feasted. The watcher deplored that he
had not done more than taste the beans when he had taken his final survey of
the place this morning. They had been good beans, but to do more than taste
them would have been stealing. Now he saw them thrown away and regretted
that he could not have known what their fate was to be. There had been enough
of them to save him a day's expenses.
He stood aside as the two boys brought out the cooking utensils, the rifle, the
miners' tools, to stow them in a waiting handcart. When they had loaded this
vehicle they trundled it on up the narrow street of the Western town. Yet they
went only a little way, halting before one of the street's largest buildings. A sign
above its wooden porch flaunted the name Crystal Palace Hotel. They unlocked
its front door and took the things from the cart inside.
From the street the watcher could see them stowing these away. The room
appeared to contain a miscellaneous collection of articles needed in the ruder
sort of photodrama. Emptying their cart, they returned with it to the cabin for
another load. Merton Gill stepped to the doorway and peered in from apparently
idle curiosity. He could see a row of saddles on wooden supports; there were
kitchen stoves, lamps, painted chairs, and heavy earthenware dishes on shelves.
His eyes wandered over these articles until they came to rest upon a pile of
blankets at one side of the room. They were neatly folded, and they were many.
Down before the cabin he could see the handcart being reloaded by Jimmie and
his helper. Otherwise the street was empty. The young man at the doorway
stepped lightly in and regarded the windows on either side of the door. He
sauntered to the street and appeared to be wondering what he would examine
next in this curious world. He passed Jimmie and the other boy returning with the
last load from the cabin. He noted at the top of the load the mattress on which he
had lain for three nights and the blankets that had warmed him. But he was