...presenting "maiden effort"
A new movie serial featuring one of the most amusing groups of people you've ever met on or off the screen
SAMUEL HOPKINS ADAMS
RAIN DRIBBLED from the well-rubbered figure of the young man on the dock and plashed into a lake the color of cold lead. With a patient gesture he raised his line to examine the undisturbed worm. He lowered it in another spot with an expression denoting resignation rather than expectancy. Why should any of God’s creatures with a grain of sense be abroad on a day like this, even a fish?
Something hooted at him from the dim expanse of water. He did not need to see the loon in order to identify its derisive personality. But he did make out, through the misty pall, the outline of another idiot—the characterization was his instinctive own—sitting very still in a boat off the mouth of the inlet. Well, maybe the fishing was better over there. It couldn’t be worse. He sloshed wetly into a skiff and covered the half mile in leisurely strokes.
The other idiot was seated amidships with his spine humped and his chin in his hands. Neither slicker, rubber coat nor headgear protected him from the quiet persistence of the downpour. He seemed engrossed in his own thoughts. From his appearance they could not have been pleasant ones. The newcomer gave the conventional freshwater greeting.
“Uh?” He started sharply, half rose, and slumped back. “Luck,” he repeated dully. “Who are you?”
“Well, Kelsey Hare, can’t you see that I’m fishing here?”
The stranger’s arrogance might have stirred Kelsey to resentment had it not been too much trouble to resent anything. He observed that there was neither rod, line nor net in the other boat, and put a pertinent question—or was it impertinent?
The other quite plainly regarded it as impertinent. “That’s my business,” he stated.
“Maybe you’ve come out here to commit suicide,” surmised Kelsey Hare hopefully.
‘And just how would that be any affair of yours?”
“Then I’d jump in and gallantly rescue you.”
“Angel of Providence and all that sort of thing, eh?” “Not specially. Just for something to do. New interest in life, you know.”
“Much as I dislike to disappoint you, I’m not going to commit suicide.”
“Oh, well, then, neither will I.”
“Don’t let me deter you,” said the stranger politely, “if you were considering it.”
“I did consider it. Quite seriously for a while. Only, it calls for so much effort. What’s your idea; would you rather be bored or drown yourself?”
“I’d have to have time on that. When did you think of doing it?”
“Quite a while ago. I’ve rather lost interest in the idea now. In fact I’ve rather lost interest in everything. Effect of flu. Ever have flu?”
“It leaves you fíat and stale on everything.”
“I’ve had a kind of a hate on everything, myself,” admitted the other.
“You look it. Has it occurred to you that this weather isn’t improving any?
I’m staying over at Slater’s Inn. How about rowing back with me and exchanging sorrows?”
At this point the sky really opened up and showed what it could do. Above the downpour the stranger shouted:
“My place is the nearest cover.
They rowed at speed to the opposite shore, where an ancient stone mansion stood, solid and solemn, a stone’s throw back from the lake.
“That’s my joint.” He hauled Kelsey’s boat up the strand. “Where the mortgage doesn’t cover it, it leaks.
Otherwise you’re welcome.”
Shoulder to shoulder against the torrent they crossed a country road to a ruinous gate covered with honeysuckle in bloom half obscuring this inscription:
Holmesholm Private Property
Kindly Help to Keep it That Way MEANING YOU!
Jared M. Holmes, Owner.
“Nice sense of hospitality you’ve got,” observed the guest.
‘That’s my late uncle. I’m Martin Holmes. He left the place to me unencumbered with anything except debt and taxes. I was busted when I took over. Since then I’ve been doing rather less well.”
THEY ENTERED the house, which gave the effect of making a gallant last stand against decay and dissolution. In its bleak disarray, Kelsey Hare read much.
“Well, it’s still here,” was his comment. “Sticking it out against adversity. The house, I mean.” •
“I know what you mean,” returned the owner. “Now I’ll ask you one. You say you’re bored with life. Would you rather be bored or broke?”
Kelsey considered the problem. “I should think being broke would at least keep you from being bored. It would me.”
“Probably you’ve never been broke.” “Probably you’ve never been bored.” “Haven’t had time to be,” answered Holmes with a sour grin. “Too busy trying to make an unsuccessful living.” Illogically Kelsey felt as if he had known this man, whose name he had learned only five minutes earlier, quite long and well. He said hesitantly and more seriously;
“You’ll probably think I’m a butt-in if I pry into your affairs any further, but is it only money?”
“Just as a sporting experiment, how about my lending you some? And how much?”
“I don’t borrow.” It was said with finality. “Besides, why should you?” “Why, I hardly know. Except that today’s the first time since my convalescence that I’ve taken the slightest interest in anything but my precious
self. I owe you one for that. But if you won’t, you won’t.” Kelsey strolled about the room, threw a log into the roaring Dutch fireplace before which their coats hung, passed before a littered table supporting a typewriter with a halfwritten sheet still in it, and sat down. “I like this place,” he decided. “I’ve got to put in a couple of months of quiet somewhere. Doc’s orders. Why not here?”
“Want to buy?”
“No. Could you use a lodger?”
“I believe you still suspect me of planning the wellknown Rash Act,” returned Holmes with a sardonic grin. “You needn’t concern yourself, Big Brother. The most desperate thing I ’ve got in mind is to chuck my typewriter down the well, hitch my wagon to the alphabet and go on relief.” He looked at his guest with eyes that had become suddenly haggard. “I’ve got to the point where 1 can’t even work any more.” he muttered. “What have you got to say to that, Big Brother?”
“If you call me Big Brother again I’ll crown you,” returned Kelsey cheerfully. “You think you’re up against it, do you? You don’t even know' w'hat worry is.”
“All right,” said the other between set teeth. “What’s your sad story? And if it doesn’t make me cry, I’m liable to take a sock at you.”
“Listen intently. I’m an architect, w'ith a big New York firm. They’ve got a client who’s reeking with money: one of these crusty wise-guys that likes to do things he doesn’t know how to do, to prove that he can if he wants to. He’s figuring on a country house, built to his own design. All he wants of us is advice on price and incidentals. So he brings in his blueprints, all neat and nice and drawn to scale, and sticks ’em under the big boss’s nose. ‘There!’ says he. ‘What do you think of that? Is there any of your bright young men could do as w'ell?’ The chief looks it over. ‘Very pretty,’ he says. ‘But I notice one omission.’ ‘Omission? What is it?’ ‘You haven’t put in any stairs,’ says the boss. ‘Eh?’says Old Stuffshirt. ‘Oh! So I haven’t. Well, anyone can put in stairs. Have one of your young smart boys attend to it.’
“So the boss sends for me. ‘Here’s a job for you, Kelsey. Outfit Mr. Slimpf’s house with stairs. These are Mr. Slimpf’s own plans; did ’em all himself and is perfectly
satisfied with them. Aren’t you, Mr. Sümpf?’ T won’t have them altered in any respect,’ says the old bird. ‘Just put in the stairs wherever convenient, but without altering my architecture. Good day to you.’ Just like that.
“This was in February. By June 1 the job was done and I was in hospital climbing up and down stairs. Stairs that started at one end of nowhere and stopped at the other. They said it was flu, and threw in a sop in the form of nerve-exhaustion. Well, all right; it was flu. When I got up, the doc sent me to the quietest place he knew of, and told me not to talk to people and to stop thinking about myself, and I’d be all right. Says he! I haven’t been up or down a flight of stairs since, and I never w-ant to. Now. Got a ground-floor room you could rent me?”
“Go and pack your things,” said Martin Holmes. “I’ll row ’em over.”
IN THE two weeks following, the young men put in a fair share of their time quarrelling like old friends. The chief subject of argument was Holmes’ stubborn refusal to accept a loan. It was Kelsey Hare’s opinion, frequently and
forcefully reiterated, that until the writer went away for a long rest, he would do no good. To which Holmes grumpily retorted that he would go away and take a rest after he had sold something and not before, which brought it all on again. Borrow he would not; he’d take to the open road first. Meantime, he returned to his work, but with little heart in it.
A hot and misty July morning found the author early at his machine. From the adjoining bathroom came sounds of vigorous splashing interspersed with lyrical outbursts. The machine quit with a jingle, a click and a bang.
“Hey. blast you ! Do you have to sing?”
The clicking was resumed but almost immediately abandoned again. “I’d rather you’d sing than whistle,” said the operator with rising anguish.
"Sorry. Forgot I was a guest.” The occupant
of the tub could be heard emerging. A rhythmic snapping was substituted for the interrupted music.
“Oh. my gosh, Kelse! What are you doing now?” “Stropping my razor. You don’t expect me to hum off my whiskers, do you?”
“I’ll wait,” said the typist with what was obviously an attempt at Christian resignation.
“Not on my account. Your typing doesn’t bother me a bit.”
“I’ll wait.” repeated Holmes. “Until you’re all through. Then, for Pete’s sweet sake, a little quiet ! Just a couple of hours, till 1 finish this infernal chapter. After that, do your worst. Sing. Whistle. Yell. Snore. Drum on the table. Play the mouth organ. Indulge all your blithe propensities for assorted cacophony. But not this morning.”
“Temper.” sighed the other. “Product of frazzled nerves. Proves what I’ve said right along, that what you need—” “Don’t tell me again what I need,” barked the badgered toiler.
Kelsey came through the door, wiping the remains of lather from his face. “This early morning stuff.” he began, “can’t be too good for a man in your condit— Hey ! What’s this?” he broke off, staring down at a newspaper picture of a girl’s tilted face. “Why haven’t you told me about this. Mart? Secret stuff. So that’s your real trouble, is it?” “That floozie? I should say not!”
“Floozie? This says she is supposed to be a prominent Park Avenue deb.”
“Prominent Park Avenue kitchen mechanic, more likely. I’ll bet the only Park Avenue debut she ever made was out from behind the ashcan.”
“Then what’s the idea in cherishing her photograph?” “Cherishing your left hind leg. It suggested a story to me. That’s why I cut it out.”
“ ‘Latest of the Mystery Beauties to be Chosen,’ ” he read. “What’s a mystery beauty. Mart?”
For answer Holmes snatched up a magazine and hurled it at his interrupter’s head. It was neatly caught. “Read the inside cover.”
THE ADVERTISEMENT indicated set forth that Purity Pictures, Inc., was seeking Undeveloped Genius to match the Undiscovered Beauty which another of its Nation-Wide Contests was expected to reveal. The two, when found, would be united in one of Purity Pictures’ Unparalleled Productions. To this end A. Leon Snydacker, President of Purity Pictures, Inc., would pay $15,000 for the best novel, suitable to picturization, by a hitherto unpublished author, and the prospective Queen of American Beauty would be starred in it.
“That’s one of the Undiscovered Beauties,” snarled Holmes. “She wins. I lose.”
“Meaning that you entered that mug of yours in the
“No. you fishcake. I sent in a story for the $15,000 prize. It was my magnum opus, rewritten to suit movie requirements. And what happens? Back it comes and socks me in the jaw.” He made a furious gesture toward an envelope, bulging fatly on the mantel. Kelsey’s glance followed. “But you haven’t opened it.”
“I can smell a rejection slip through a stone wall. Open it, yourself, if you don’t believe me.”
Kelsey did so. A pink pai>er fell out. “ *The reading jury regrets to report —’ ” he began.
“What did I tell you!” grunted the author.
His companion read the title page. “ ‘Love Beyond Sin’
by Templeton Sayles. Is that your pseudonym?”
“It’s the one I was saving for the magnum opus,” was the sullen reply.
‘‘So this is Maggie the Ope, is it?”
“It is not. It’s Maggie the Ope’s slightly illegitimate offspring, Flossie the Flop.” He snatched the package from Kelsey’s hands. His face worked. “Did you ever see a child murdered?” he snarled.
“Huh?” said Kelsey, startled.
“Murdered. Slaughtered in cold blood. Torn limb from limb.
Massacred by an infuriated parent,” shouted Holmes. “Watch.”
He slammed the parcel to the floor with such violence that the sheets scattered far and wide. He then danced among the ruins.
“Hey-hey!” protested his guest.
“What’s the idea?”
“I’m through. Fed up. Sick of the whole rotten business. Just a washout.” He sat down and nursed his head in his hands.
“Mind if I take a look?” Receiving no answer, Kelsey patiently garnered the scattered sheaves of literature. “It’s a swell title, anyway,” he opined. “ ‘Love Beyond Sin.’ What does it mean?”
“It doesn’t mean anything,” said the author drearily. “It’s a movie title.”
The other dropjx'd into a chair and began to read. “This doesn’t seem to me any worse than some of your other stuff,” he observed presently, presumably in a spirit of encouragement.
“Thanks for the kick in the pants.
You might get the sense of it better if you didn’t skip from page 34 to 107.”
“I take ’em as they come,” was the airy response. “You’ve got plenty of action here.”
“Action, mystery, threat, suspense, sex, local color, blood, surprise, sentiment, mother love, bunk, tripe and ollagawallah. I manufactured it to pattern. And it doesn’t even draw a mention.”
“You certainly can ladle it out!” commented his admiring reader. “How about this? ‘Featherston fixed her with his coolest stare. “I know all about women,” said he, and his voice rang like a bugle, bearing challenge and reproof.’ Say, Mart, how do you get reproof out of a bugle?”
“Don’t read that foosh to me,” yelled its author.
“All right I’ll read it to myself. I think I’ll read all of it.”
“Then you’re a hog for punishment. Better chuck it into the fire.”
“Aren’t you going to sell it somewhere else?”
“Where? I’d take a plugged nickel for it this minute.” “Haven’t got one on me at the moment. But I’ll consider your proposition.”
“Consider it out in the barn, will you, Kelse?” He adjusted his machine.
BEARING HIS burden to the barn, the guest settled down to serious perusal. It was pretty awful, he decided. Yet through the murk and fume of highfalutin verbiage there thrust the structure of an authentic and lively, if somewhat threadbare plot. Whether it was saleable or not, the reader lacked any basis of judgment. It did not matter. He had something else in mind. Martin Holmes was going to get his much needed vacation if strategy, flattery and a little judicious mendacity could bring it about.
It was mid-afternoon when Kelsey trotted back to the house with Flossie the Flop beneath his arm.
“Loud cries of ‘Author! Author!’ ” said he.
“Have I at last found my Public?” demanded Holmes satirically.
“I’ve read it all. And I really think you’ve got something.”
The author regarded him with affectionate pity. “Then all I have to say is that as an editorial reader you’re a rising young architect.”
“Nuts to architecture ! I’m off it for a couple of months, by orders. As my naturally active intellect has to have something to bite on, I’ve decided to go in for literary speculation.” He tapped the manuscript. “I’m buying.” “You’ve bought. Hand over the nickel.”
“No; I’m serious. I’m buying, for five hundred dollars.” “You’re crazy.”
“Allright. I’m crazy. But my cheque isn’t.”
“You offer to pay me five hundred dollars for this thing? Say it again.”
“Never mind. I’m convinced. What’s in your mind to do now?”
“Well, I can see quite a little work to be done on it.”
“Rewrite me, huh?” The author laughed shortly. “You can’t hurt my feelings.”
“There’s another point. Most of the action is local.”
“Correct. Laid right here.”
“I feel that I can work better right here on the spot.”
“So I’ll give you another hundred for the rent of the house. But I don’t want you around. You’re too noisy. And too nervous. You’d be a disturbing element. Hope you don’t mind my saying so.”
Holmes cackled. “All right, old bean. Rub it in. I can stand it. You couldn’t hold me with a log-chain, anyway. I’m off for the deep blue sea and way stations by the first boat, which ought to be about tomorrow. Mind you, about that story; you’re buying a stoomer. I may never again be able to look you square in your sweet and simple-minded face, but I’m just too tired to resist your subtle temptations. You’ve bought something.”
“I think so,” answered Kelsey contentedly.
“You’ve bought a whole bag of tricks. Not only several jxmnds of typewritten glub, but a name and personality to go with it. Templeton Sayles, seignior of the magnificent estate of Holmesholm. That’s you, my lad, till further notice. Exit Mr. Kelsey Hare, rich and once respectable young architect. Enter Templeton Sayles, and believe me he’s some personage to live up to. Don’t you feel an effect of black mustache and deep, compelling eyes; long cape, and rich Havana seegar, about that name? Wait a minute. I got up a character sketch of my other self to go with the manuscript in case it was accepted. That was a condition of the contest. I made Templeton out a devil of a feller. It ought to be in the manuscript somewhere. No? Too bad. It might have helped you to a fuller realization of who you are.”
“Maybe you modelled him on the hero of your story, Malden Featherston. There’s a chap ! I can fairly see him in a noble pose, bugling forth his battle cry, ‘I know all about women.’ ”
“Oh, cut it !”
“Not at all. There’s one of the deathless lines of modem literature. And what a depth of psychology! Any woman would fall for it. I’m going to try it on the next one I meet, with bugle obbligato, of course. In fact, Mart, I’ve decided to adopt Featherston as my model. That flu attack left me with a sort of low and melancholic opinion of myself.”
“I hadn’t noticed it.”
“Well, it did. I need a new character to build up my self-esteem and Featherston’s the lad for me.”
“Okay. You’ve bought him, too, Mr. Templeton Sayles.”
“About Sayles, now. You haven’t left any loose ends of him dangling around, have you? Any secret commitments or lovelorn maidens? He’s got to come before this court with clean hands. And I’ve got to have full control of him from now on.”
“He’s all yours. I resign any right, title or claim on him. My word is my bond that I’ll never admit to any connection with such a person. Too bad we can’t find that autobiographical skit of mine, though. Very spirited. I’ve got to pack. Hi! You!”
RESPONSIVE to this summons, a creature swarthy, - squat and hairy appeared. Martin Holmes’ combination cook, valet, maid, gardener and man-of-all-work had been acquired from a bread line. His name was approximately Glunk. His nationality was conjectured to be Patagonian because, as his employer pointed out, nothing less was compatible with the essential improbability of his personality. His manners were abrupt and his habit of speech parsimonious.
“Listen, you,” Holmes addressed him. “I leave tomorrow for a couple of months. Understand?”
“Good lad. Mr. Hare—pardon !—Mr. Templeton Sayles, here, is your boss till I come back. Get it?”
“Correct. Pack my things.”
“Just a second,” expostulated the tenant. “How am I going to know what he means?”
“That’s easy. Whatever he says always means yes until he says something else. You’ll be a couple of pals in no time. I’m off by the late train. Heaven send you luck with Flossie the Flop. And don’t do anything that Templeton Sayles would be ashamed of.”
Thus began Kelsey Hare’s new life as an author. All adult persons with enough education to read and write, cherish the ineradicable belief that they can write fiction. Contemplating the manuscript of “Love Beyond Sin.” the new Templeton Sayles decided that he might as well carry out the bluff he had made to the real author and have a crack at it.
The first reminder of his altered personality came on the
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Continued from page 10—Starts on page 7
morning following his friend’s departure, in the form of a night letter addressed “Templeton Sayles, Esq., Moldavia, N.Y.” Hoping to hear from Holmes in New York and get some address to which he could forward the message, he stuck it upon the mantel, unopened. When no such information arrived, he forgot all about it.
An envelope similarly addressed, which arrived on the second morning, he did open, since it was in Martin Holmes’ own handwriting. Within was the newspaper photograph of the girl whom they had discussed, with a typed inscription across it:
“Miss Adelina Ashcan, K.M., the Park Avenue debutter. For inspiration in your monumental work. I don’t need her any longer. M. H.
P.S. In case of visitors, of which you are likely to have some, don’t let them scare you out of your character.”
The new-fledged Templeton Sayles dropped the pictured girl into the wastebasket. Thence, on his cleaning rounds,
Glunk rescued her and set her on the desk. Templeton threw her into the fireplace. Glunk extracting her, propped her up on the mantel. His new boss caught him at it. “Do you like that picture, Glunk?” “Urgck.”
“My information points in quite another direction. However, leave her. She can stay there as long as she doesn’t interfere with my work.”
In his fresh absorption, the new-born Templeton Sayles forgot her as completely as he had the night letter which she now completely concealed.
■pLSEWHERE on the map that same picture was making plenty of trouble for three other people.
Above the breakfast table where sat the trio, brooded the silence of an overnight dissension.
“It was a mistake to let her go,” boomed Mr. Robert Van Stratten.
“It was,” agreed his wife. She gloomed at their niece with eyes as faded as the hangings in the stiff and shabby old room of what had once been Cuylerville’s most famous house.
“I had a grand time,” said the girl, dimpling.
“And spent all your money,” added Mrs. Van Stratten.
“Every cent of it,” was the cheerful reply.
“Was that wise?”
“It was fun.”
“And what have you got to show for it?” argued Mr. Van Stratten severely.
“A lot of clothes of the kind I’ve been dying for.”
“And your name in the papers. I should think you might at least try to keep out of print after that disgraceful college episode last year.”
“Cheap and vulgar exhibitionism,” mumbled the husband. The Van Straitens cherished a profound aversion to all publicity.
The girl winced. “It wasn’t my fault.”
“And now you wish to adopt the most vulgar and public of all professions, the stage,” said her aunt.
“Only as a costume designer. I’ve got to do something to support myself.”
“We are not exactly paupers,” stated her uncle stiffly.
“No-o-o. But I know you’re hard up, Uncle Rob. It isn’t fair for me to be living on you.”
“Since we are your legal guardians, it is perfectly proper that you should be living with us. We ask only that you behave with reasonable discretion and abstain from involving our name in distasteful publicity, such as last week’s. One hardly supposes that you were forced to have your picture in the group of typical deb beauties, endorsing a new kind of digestive tablet. ‘Typical deb beauties!’ ” Mrs. Van
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Continued from page 26
Stratten repeated the injurious newspaper phrase with a snort. “And in a New York paper.” As if that magnified the offense.
“Oh, well, my dear; it’s natural enough that the papers should like to get her picture,” granted Mr. Van Stratten. “The child isn’t bad looking, after all.”
“It was f»r one of Aunt Marcia’s pet charities,” pointed out the accused. “What could I do? I was visiting her.”
“I cannot approve of your idea of accepting employment,” said the austere Mrs. Van Stratten.
“What, am 1 expected to do? Stick here in Cuylerville?”
“What more suitable place? There are as advantageous marriages to be made here as elsewhere. Cuylerville has at least its share of wealth and tradition. I see no reason why, in spite of the regrettable notoriety in which you have been involved, with its cheapening effect, you might not marry well.”
The girl reddened. “I don’t want to marry well. I don’t want to marry at all. When you say ‘marry well,’ I suppose you’re thinking of Liggett Morse.”
“Only that he’s nearly forty and hasn’t grown up yet.”
“You have not lacked for other opportunities,” pointed out Mr. Van Stratten, “had you cared to avail yourself of them.”
THE ARRIVAL of the morning paper interrupted these amenities. The girl addressed herself to her coffee. Mr. Van Stratten, turning to the editorial page, brought opposite to her eyes a sight which fixed them in amazement. There was a gasp and a burble in which the coffee figured as sub-agent.
“Sorry,” apologized the culprit distractedly. “Uncle Robert, may I take the paper for a moment?”
“Why?” demanded Mrs. Van Stratten. “Robert, give me the paper.” She took one look and dropped it like something venomous. From the welter of print there had leapt to her scandalized recognition a gay, young face, only too familiar. “Marian Norman Van Stratten! What is this?” “It’s me,” said the girl. As the photographic reproduction was spread across three columns, there seemed little use in denying it.
“That I can see for myself,” commented her aunt grimly. “But what is the meaning of it?”
“If you would let me look at the paper, perhaps I could tell more about it.”
Mrs. Van Stratten laid a heavy hand upon the pictorial offense. “Have you sought out this indecent notoriety by sending your photograph to the newspaper?” she demanded.
“I haven’t sent any photograph to any newspaper. Which one is it?”
“It is an enlarged—a monstrously enlarged—version of the snapshot that Keeler Smith took at the riding club.” “Then I simply can’t imagine—” A flash of realization transfigured her. “Liggy !” she cried.
With the word she bolted into the adjoining study. A moment after they heard her vehemently calling for the Cuylerville Country Club.
Resource was never lacking to Mrs. Van Stratten. Upstairs there was an extension line. Mounting with speed, she stealthily lifted the receiver in time to overhear this colloquy :
“I wish to speak to Mr. Liggett Morse ...Liggy? That you?”
“I dunno. Wait till I get awake and I’ll tell you. . Who is it?”
“Who? Oh! Marne. Well, hello, my sweet. Love me this morning?”
“No? Hoped you’d called up to say that you did. If not, why not?”
“Have you seen the morning paper?” “This morning’s paper? Who d’you think you’re talking to; the night watchman? Why, it’s hardly dawn.”
“It’s nearly nine. While you’re dressing
you’d better have one sent up to your room.”
“Oh! What’s all the blood pressure about?”
“Liggy, I want you to get into your clothes as fast as you can and come right over here.”
“Sounds like international complications,” said the unimpressed Mr. Morse. “What’s the rest of the bad news?”
“Come and get it.”
“But, darling, why not—”
“I think someone is listening in.” Mrs. Van Stratten gave an involuntary and startled snort. “Hear her? Well, are you coming or not?”
“I’ll be over in fifteen minutes.”
HE BETTERED his promise by a few seconds, not having even paused to look at the paper. A family conclave received—it would be too much to say that they welcomed—him, Mrs. Van Stratten in charge.
“Sit down, if you please, Liggett.”
He obeyed, not without apprehension. “What’s the charge?” he asked.
“I wish to put a seiious question to you in regard to my niece and I shall expect the fullest frankness.”
Mr. Morse assumed an air of great if deceptive candor. “That’s me,” he averred. “Open as the day. Always ready to act the perfect gentleman. My intentions toward your sweet and gentle young niece are strictly honorable.”
“Oh, do shut your silly face,” said the sweet and gentle young niece.
“What light can you throw upon this?” Mrs. Van Stratten extended the newspaper.
The visitor stared at it with an expression which, from a smolder of surprise, blazed into a flame of exultation.
“Whee-ee-ee! Yoopdedoodle! Hi-yi-yii-i-i! Hooray, huzzah, and wow!” he vociferated. Grabbing Marne about the waist he whirled her into a wild dance. “Goat !” she said, breaking loose.
Liggy continued his dance, solo. “I win,” he jubilated. “Oh, do I win !”
“Kindly stop that at once and explain.” Mrs. Van Stratten’s manner was peremptory.
If it could not be said that the dancer stopped, he at least slowed down. “It’s perfectly simple,” said he. “Marne’s in the money.”
“In the money? She is in this disgusting paper. And we wish to know how she got there.”
“Just a little sporting proposition,” responded the eternally juvenile Mr. Morse. “You see, Mrs. Van Stratten, Purity Pictures got up this Grand National Photographic Competition—”
“What is Purity Pictures, if you please?” “Hollywood’s latest. Didn’t you—” “And how came Marian’s picture in such a competition?”
“I sent it in.” answered Liggy, offering her his most guileless smile.
“And you gave it to him, Marian, knowing for what purpose he wished it?” “I never! I let him have the picture months ago to stop his sobbing on my shoulder. I never dreamed that—”
“Then, as I understand it, Liggett, you took the unpardonable liberty of using a private photograph in this outrageous manner.”
“Oh, come off, Mrs. Van Stratten,” protested the accused. “You don’t understand.”
“I shall not come off,” retorted the lady with bristling dignity. “And I do understand.”
“It’s more than I do,” said Marne. “What do you mean, you win, Liggy? What do you win?”
“Fifteen hundred sweet round roulaks, so far.”
“You sold my niece’s picture for fifteen hundred dollars?”
“Of course I didn’t sell it. A bunch of us at the club got gassing about movie stars and professional beauties, and I said we had a gal right here that could spot any of ’em five goals and—”
“Oh, do pipe down, Liggy.”
“So some chap said how could we prove it, and some other goofer dug up a magazine with this Purity Pictures crack in it, and I said I’d make book on it.”
“Make book?” y
“Yes. ma’am. Take bets, you know. I got twenty-to-one that Marne wouldn’t show, and two-hundred-to-one that she wouldn’t win. On the first bet I clean up fifteen hundred. If she comes through on the final, the papers’ll be so full of it that Marne’ll have to marry me to save my fair young name.” i
“I should be interested to be informed as to the purpose and terms of this extraordinary enterprise.” This was Mr. Van Stratten’s contribution to the debate.
“Sure to you, sir. Purity Pictures is looking for a new national beauty to play up. The idea is this. You send in a photograph with a key number and key letter. Anybody can enter. Out of the lot a jury of beauty experts or long-odds pickers, or house painters or something, choose out ten for the finals. And here’s our little Marne in the ten.”
“With her picture displayed for Tom, Dick and Harry to stare at, like some vulgar public creature.”
“They’ll get an eyeful,” returned the unabashed experimentalist. “What’s the harm, anyway? And look at the swell spot she’s in. Only nine other contestants between her and glory, and I’ll bet she can make any of ’em look like an also ran.”
“Liggett Morse, do you for an instant suppose that I will permit my niece, my niece, brought up as she has been with every safeguard of refinement and care, to take part in any such nauseating exhibition as this?”
Then came the bombshell. “I think it would be rathei fun,” said the safeguarded and refined niece.
“Atta girl !”
AFTER A SERIES of fishy gasps the ■ aunt managed to recover her faculty of speech. “We sail for Europe on the first available boat,” she made announcement.
“Now, see what you’ve done, you big prune !” said Marne with a virulent look at her suitor.
Liggy appealed to the higher justice. “There’s gratitude for you! I give her a chance that a queen would jump off her throne to grab. And what do I get for it? The boot.”
“Yes, Mrs. Van Stratten.”
“Kindly leave this house at once.” “What did I say! The boot!” repeated the offender grievously. “From one and all. Oh, very well, then. Good morning to you. And hardly that.”
“I don’t want to go to Europe,” said Marne with decision.
“Nevertheless you will go. And you will remain until this scandal, this new scandal—blows over.” The aunt made an impressive exit, leaving the printed cause of the turmoil on the table.
Possessing herself of it, Marne withdrew her woes to the seclusion of a distant summer house. There she spread out the paper upon her knees.
“Grin, dam you !” she apostrophized the picture. “You aren’t being dragged off to Europe like a tin dog on a string.” She considered the face. “You really aren’t so bad looking. In fact, you’re quite pretty. And what does it get you? Trouble. Dam Liggy!”
As if summoned by the invocation, that invincible spirit crawled through the hedge which guarded the privacies of the place.
“Hello, sweet. Still love me? The answer is yes. No? All right, the answer is no. We’ll pass that for another point. Are you going to be a sport?”
“As follows. I stand to win ten thousand healthy young smackers on your lovely face. What about it?”
“Well, what about it?”
“Haven’t you read that piece in the paper?”
“I was just reading it.”
“Come to A. Leon Snydacker yet?” “Yes. Who is he?”
“You have been kept unspotted from this great, rough world. A. Leon is boss of Purity Pictures.”
“That’s where you sent my photograph, isn’t it?”
“Pree-sousely. The ten chosen beauties, of which you are one, meet next week at the Snydacker offices in New York to flaunt their competitive maps before the judges. You’re at least a one-to-ten chance, and I’ve got the fat end of two-hundred-to-one against you. Is that high finance or is poppa a nickel-in-the-slot machine?”
“But, Liggy,” protested the girl, half fascinated. “I wouldn’t have a chance.” “Sa-a-a-ay! You don’t half know yourself. Come on ! You’d like to try it, wouldn’t you?” he wheedled.
“I’d love it!”
“Then we’re set.”
“But how could I? Auntie’d have a fit.”
“Auntie’s had her season’s fit. What made her take this so hard, anyway?” “We—ell,” answered the gill reluctantly, “there was that little bust-up of mine in college that the reporters got hold of.” “Oh, yes. You eloped with the hockey coach, didn’t you? Or was it the chaplain?” “Don’t bleat. I didn’t elope with anybody. It was just bad luck getting caught out of bounds. So I don’t see how that makes me a moral leper.”
“I expect it was getting into the papers that gave it the touch of leprosy,” said Liggy shrewdly. “Anyway, there’s nothing moral about my proposition. Pure finance. Will you take a shot at this Purity Pictures racket?”
“On what? I haven’t a cent. And you heard what auntie said. By next week I’ll be on the broad Atlantic’s heaving bosom. Thanks to you,” she concluded acidly.
“Phooey to the broad Atlantic! I’ll finance the jaunt. Now, calm yourself. I’m not making passes. This is a business proposition between the pair of us. Out of fifteen hundred I’ve already won I reinvest a hundred or whatever you want—pass it over to you for expenses—to win ten grand. Why, just look at it as a percentage proposition.”
“It all sounds batty to me.”
“Wait till you hear the rest. If you win out, you’re set for life. They make you star of the new picture Snydacker is putting out. It’s all part of the same deal.” “Me? A star? What picture?” asked the dazed girl.
“It hasn’t been announced yet. But it’ll be a scorcher. Purity Pictures always are. And sa-ay! Will you burn a hole in the silver screen !”
“Tell me the rest, Liggy,” said Marne, folding her hands prettily. “I just love fairy stories.”
A LEON SNYDACKER’S nerve pressure was reputed to be the highest in the business. He had inherited, at the age of thirty-two, eight million dollars from a patent-medicine relative, and acquired, as a sequel, a high approval of himself as a man of large affairs. Seeking an investment for his future and a field for his genius, he had selected the motion picture industry.
“I’ll show ’em,” said A. Leon, and hired a special train to transport him to Hollywood.
Three constant principles motivated his rise—speed, sensation and publicity—and the greatest of these was publicity. He counted that day lost in which he did not make a headline. He drove 100 miles an hour and talked 500 words a minute. His mental processes were rapid, violent, and beyond all calculation.
Ón the morning of July 9, Mr. Snydacker sat in his New York sanctum, thinking. Around him buzzed the spurious activities of a Hollywood extension. Nine competitive beauties, summoned to the test, sat in an outer office, waiting the great man’s pleasure. They had already waited fifty minutes over their appointment. A
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door opened and the galaxy of prospective stars was temporarily roused from torpor by the entry of a tenth.
“Good morning,” said she. A few voices answered in kind. The steady sub-succulent rhythm of gum being chewed, punctuated the bored silence again. The late comer found herself a chair. “Am I late?” she enquired perfunctorily.
“Only an hour,” said a sweet little voice as a clock struck twelve. “Cool as a hog on ice,” remarked another.
A rounded young thing rose and slouched across the room. She was a little fluffy, a little flashy, a little untidy, and distinctly beautiful. She appraised the newcomer with sleepy eyes in the depths of which were golden gleams.
“Hello,” and with a smile.
On the end wall ten photographs were set in a large frame. The golden girl examined them. “You’re 3245-D,” she identified. “What’s the name?”
“Marian Van Stratten.”
“Pretty good name. Goes with your type.”
“I’m glad you think so,” smiled its owner. “It’s the only one I’ve got.” She liked the candid, steady look of the other girl and the quirk at the comer of her mouth.
“Oh? I thought it might be a monaker. Mine’s Gloria Glamour. English fashion, with a u.”
A worried-looking man popped in and said hurriedly: “Ladies, report back at
2 p.m. Mr. Snydacker is detained in conference.”
“But my notice said eleven o’clock,” protested Mame to the retiring and unhearing official rear. All the rest maintained the patient silence of pessimism.
“You got here at noon,” pointed out Miss Glamour. “Where do you have a kick coming? The rest of us have been waiting more than an hour.”
“Well, I think it’s rotten.”
“Not used to waiting for ’em, huh? Make ’em wait for you. Swell, if you can get away with it. Let’s eat.”
Marne assented, and followed her companion to a near-by hotel where a number of people stared at them. Until the luncheon was over, her opposite merely chattered. At the end, she leaned across the table.
“What’ll you take to bow off, kid?” “Bow off?”
“You got me. Do you need this job?” “No-o-o. I don’t know that I exactly need it.”
“Well, I do. To keep ahead of the sheriff. This has been a dud season for the beauty business and I’m a beauty girl.” “Yes; I can see that.”
“What I mean is, beauty contests are my line. Have been for twenty years. I won my first prize baby award in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when I was two years old. Then I copped a schoolgirl newspaper medal in Niles, Mich., and after that I was Miss Walla Walla, Texas, Miss Hooper County, Illinois, and finally Miss Southern Ohio. Map of the U. S.; that’s me. But this is the biggest thing I ever tackled, and a win would put me where I want to be. Only I won’t win.”
“Because you will.”
“Me?” cried Marne in stupefaction. “Why, I haven’t a chance.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
Marne began to chuckle. “I came to oblige a friend.”
“A boy friend?” Marne nodded. “I see. He’s putting up for you.”
“Not at—Why, yes. Yes; he is.”
“Then you don't need the money.”
“But it’s too absurd,” cried the girl. “Look at those girls in there. What possible chance would I have—”
“You got this far, didn’t you?”
“On my photograph. And that was an accident.”
“Mebbe. Now lissen, kid. Until you busted into the game I figured myself a right smart bet. This field ain’t so hot.”
“I thought they were lovely. Of course» you ’re lovely, too, ” Mame hastily amended“Mebbe,” allowed the other dispiritedly. “But you got something none of the rest of us has got. That’s what’s going to count. You got class. I know this bird, Snydacker. He’s a sucker for class. Class’ll smack him down every time. He’ll spot you the length of the room. You wait and see. Come on: let’s be getting along.”
IN HIS luxurious sanctum, A. Leon Snydacker awoke from the conference which he always took just after a heavy luncheon, yawned, stretched, rose, threw aside his dressing gown and pressed a button. There entered at the jump the personal assistant to the president in charge of press functions and publicity, Dixon Moberley, familiarly and affectionately known as Moby Dickstein, ex-camera-man, exdirector, and now general factotum for the great man at a fabulous if precarious salary.
“Afternoon, bwana,” said he, using the honorific title which he had bestowed upon his principal, what time the young millionaire had returned from a week’s stop in Cairo, bringing with him an almost life-size photograph of himself in a triumphal attitude, surrounded by dead (and stuffed) lions. The invention of the title was a fine example of the personal assistant’s genius for keeping his job.
A. Leon smiled benignly. “Has that tenth beauty got here yet?”
“Sure, bwana. They’re all here.”
“How late was she?”
“About an hour.”
The magnate frowned. “What kept her? She’s got her nerve.”
“Motor accident,” improvised Moby Dickstein. He made it a practice always to have an answer to his chief’s queries, plausible if possible, but in any case such as he judged that A. Leon would like to hear. He was the perfect yes-man.
“That’s Number 3245-D, ain’t it? The girl on horseback?”
“She looks like she’d have her nerve with her,” mused the magnate of Purity Pictures. “Take-it-or-leave-it sort. Her name is Miss Marian Norman Van Stratten. I had the photograph traced.” “Snappy work, bwana. She’s a humdinger, all right. I wouldn’t be surprised a mite but what the jury would pick her.” “There’s a big game hunter named Van Stratten,” said A. Leon Snydacker reverently. “Scoopy Van Stratten. An—er— acquaintance of mine. Met him at the —er —international matches. Polo, you know. This girl looks as if she might be of that family.”
Moby Dickstein instantly decided that she should be. “I’ll see what I can turn up in the files about her,” said he.
In the time which it took him to smoke two cigarettes he had compiled a satisfactory, even a brilliant social record for his subject, which lost nothing by being purely a work of the imagination. Mr. Snydacker read it with approval.
“Class tells its own story,” he murmured. “If you got the eye to reckonize it when you see it.”
BACK IN THE human exhibit room there was another period of waiting, this time forty minutes beyond the appointed hour, after which another worried official peered in, said, “All here?” and vanished. “Ready, ladies,” intoned a voice. Everyone stood up as the great man entered in a rush.
Everyone but Number 3245-D. She sat still, regarding with mildly astonished interest the figure that bounced energetically in. Her first untutored thought was that this was some actor who had come, fresh from a costume performance. He wore an open-neck shirt, a pinch-bottle coat with a yellow orchid in the lapel, and swung with commendable nonchalance a polo mallet. He was lean, twitchy, and glossily handsome.
“Now-now-now-now-now!” he deton-
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ated. “Which is which? Come-come! Which is which, I say.”
As this was a difficult question, nobody answered it. His dark, bright eyes darted around the crescent of femininity. They rested upon the one seated figure.
“Whut-whut-whut ! Whut-whut-whut !” he ejaculated. Marne resisted a temptation to warn him that one of his cylinders was missing. He romped over and towered above her
“You were late.”
“I’m afraid I was, a little.”
“A little! Nearly an hour.”
“Sorry,” said the girl with less evidence of contrition than the President of Purity Pictures, Inc., felt to be due to the occasion and himself.
“People do not keep ME waiting.” “I’ve said I was sorry,” returned Marne composedly. “If that isn’t enough, I can always go away again.”
“Whut-whut-whut-whut-whut?” He tried to stare her down. It failed to work. The scrutiny, however, convinced his incredulous soul that this calm child was not susceptible to his particular line of impressiveness. Nor was she bluffing. “Go away?” he echoed. “No; no. Don’t do that.”
“Anyway,” she remarked, with a glance at the clock, “you’ve kept us all waiting. So that rather evens it up, doesn’t it?” “Sweet cheese ’n’ crackers!” breathed Miss Gloria Glamour.
A. Leon Snydacker crossed his feet and stood gracefully leaning upon his implement of sport and class, in an attitude of pensive regard. “I would have waited longer than this,” said he in a solemn tone, “for you. Darr-ling!” he concluded.
“Who? Me?” said Marne, upon whom the endearment produced much the effect of a bomb bursting in air.
“You, indeed! You and no other! You, you, you, you! The type I’ve spent years and millions seeking,” he rhapsodized, keeping a keen eye out to note the effect upon her. He stalked across to the mounted photographs. “Here you are! Here you are! I knew the minute I set eyes on you you were the type. One in a million. One in a hundred millions. The type pre-eminent, only a thousand times more so. Darr-ling!” he appended in
“Would you mind not calling me that?” said Marne. Several startled titters apprised her that this was the wrong thing to have said. Mr. Snydacker got off his mallet and took another posture.
“Why not?” he asked, and there could be no doubt of his surprise.
“I just don’t happen to care for it.” “Whut-whut-whut-whut-whut?” Did she really mean it? Couldn’t she appreciate what a compliment she was being paid? He shook a despairing head, unable to understand this, but yielding to it. “It is intended,” said he stiffly, “in a professional sense. Purely professional.”
A blond goddess edged forward timidly. “Mr. Snydacker.”
“Shush !” The magnate turned his back on her and beckoned to Marne. “This way, Miss Van Straiten.”
“What’d I tell you!” Gloria’s whisper tickled her ear.
“D’you think I’d better go?”
“Go? Leap to it, kid.” She fairly yanked Marian out of her chair and propelled her through the door.
“Well, whaddayah know about that?” A small tawny-red creature broke the silence to voice the general sentiment.
“Looks like a frame-up to me,” contributed a lithe brunette.
GLORIA extracted and lighted a cigarette. “It’s all over, stooges,” she remarked. “ We ’re licked. ’ ’
“Says who?” demanded the brunette. “Yeah; says who? It’s a jury that decides, ain’t it?” put in another aspirant.
“A jury? Oh, sure! And who handpicks the jury?” jeered Gloria.
“I knew it was phony all the time,” asserted the ruddy one.
“I’m going to drag myself out of this joint into the pure and invigorating air of Forty-seventh Street,” announced Gloria.
“We had a chance until that society slicker busted in,” snarled the goddess.
“Let’s wait till she comes out,” suggested someone else ominously.
“/ƒ she comes out.”
“You don’t gang up on any friend of mine,” stated Miss Glamour decisively. “If the rest of you stick, I stick.”
An obstinate immobility settled upon the group. It was broken by the entry of a third worried official.
“Leave names and addresses at Room 607. You will be notified when wanted. Miss Glamour will please remain.”
Gloria was the unmoved recipient of a series of dirty looks as the disappointed eight filed out. Despite a nature inured to philosophical acceptances, she was boiling with curiosity when her new crony emerged, alone.
“You’re telling me !”
“He wants to make me Queen of the Screen. Believe it or not, them was his very words.”
“Why not? What else?”
“Too much and too fast for me to get straight. But there were too many darrlings in it.”
“Kiddo,” said Gloria solemnly, “that bird’ll marry you, if you play your cards right.”
“Don’t raise my hopes only to dash ’em to earth again,” besought the girl with an exaggerated fervor.
"Naturally he’ll try everything else first. Maybe he did. Did he?”
“If he did, it missed me.”
“Icicles for breakfast,” was Miss Glamour’s admiring footnote to this. “Now where do I come in on this? Why is little Gloria invited to park while the rest get the skids?”
“Oh, I fixed that.”
“Smar-tee! But how in heck did you work it?”
“I told Mr. Snydacker I wouldn’t go without you.”
“Just like that ! Go where?”
“Never heard of it.”
“Neither did I.”
“What are we going there for?” “Somewhere in the midst of his leaping around the room I got the name of Templeton Sayles.”
“Never heard of him, either.”
“Neither did I.”
“Ask me, girls.” In the open door stood a fattish young man, with pouchy, piggy eyes and a dormant expression which they later discovered to be a deceptive mask for the quick and jaunty mind within.
“Who might you be, stout-fella-melad?” enquired Gloria, instinctively recognizing a kindred spirit.
“Dixon Moberley, personally representing A. Leon Snydacker until fired. Otherwise known as Moby Dickstein. Moby to you, sisters, as we’re elopin’ together to Moldavia in a couple of days—the eternal triangle. Later A. Leon’ll be along, just to make it a bridge game.”
“Okay, Mr. Blenkinsop. But where’s this Moldavia?”
“Out behind Farmer Jones’ barn, I reckon. That’s one of the things I gotta find out.”
“And what about Mr. Templeton Sayles?” This from Marne.
“He’s the world’s worst threat to susceptible womanhood, by his own say-so. I’ll show you his modest little sketch of himself. English duchesses, French mondaines, American society leaders, Argentine millionairesses—they all fall for him in helpless heaps. He’s left a trail of shattered hearts and smirched reputations across three continents before withdrawing to the seclusion of his superb ancestral estates near Moldavia, to write reminiscences of his super-amorous career.” “Lemme attim,” said Gloria dreamily. “Loathesome toad!” said Marne.
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“I gotta line out to find out more,” Moby Dickstein consulted his watch. “The big fella wants to see you.”
“Can’t we wait until tomorrow?” enquired Marne.
Moby Dickstein’s jaw dropped. “Wait? When A. I,eon wants to see you? Gal ! Are you in your right mind?”
“I’ve been darlinged enough for one day.”
“I could use a couple of those darr-lings if there’s an overflow,” announced Gloria. “Professionally, I mean. Be yourself, kid. Play the game and we’ll all land on Easy Street.”
“But I don’t understand this game,” protested the girl.
“There’s just one rule with A. Leon,” elucidated his representative. “Yes him. Yes him and keep on yessing him. If you can’t yes him, say nothin’ and he’ll yes himself.”
"Oh, well!” allowed Marne resignedly. “I suppose I can stand it for a while.”
THEY FOUND A. Leon Snydacker doing the caged-lion act across his priceless rug, while he absently flicked at imaginary flies with his polo mallet, the gleam of inspiration in his eyes.
“1'h is is going to be the greatest, the very greatest, achievement of my career,” he announced solemnly. “Colossal doesn’t begin to express it. I’m going to put a new type of picture on the screen. It’s going to be the Quintessence of Class. Take that down, Mr. D. You can use it for press stuff. Quintessence of Class. That’s why I’ve been waiting to find somebody like you, darr-ling,” he addressed Mame, “though I didn’t realize it till I saw your photo.”
“Thank you,” said she as he looked expectant.
“Then, says I to myself: This is the Real McCoy. This is Class. She’s a Park Avenue day-bun-tay, if ever I saw one. Ain’t you, darr-ling?”
“Day-bun-tay. You know; what they call a girl when she’s just come out in swell society.”
“That’s the French pronunciation, bwana.” The presidential assistant had jumped into the breach. “The English is debutante.”
“There’s a lotta class to French, too,” said A. Leon. “You are a day-bun-tay, ain’t you?”
Catching a glance of warning and appeal from Gloria, the subject of this searching enquiry committed herself to the extent of replying:
“Something of the sort, I suppose.” “Social Register? Junior League? All that sorta thing?” pursued the president excitedly.
Marne regarded him with astonishment as if he might be under the spell of some strange ailment. “What has all that got to do with a picture contest?” she asked in perfect innocence. But A. Leon was far too intent.
“Go to all the high-toned parties?” he rushed on. “Name in the society column every day? Ain’t that right?”
“How on earth should I know whether my name is there or not?” demanded the girl impatiently. “I don’t read ’em every day.”
“There you are! There you are!” exulted A. Leon. “That’s what it is to belong. She don’t even know or care whether her name is in with the other swells or not. Used to it. It don’t mean a thing to her. While you and me,” he pursued, addressing the others, “we’d give the tails off our shirts to see our names . . . Not but what the reporters are always after me to get news about my big parties in Hollywood,” he amended hastily. “You ought to see some of my big parties, darr-ling,” he told Mame. “There’s nothing like ’em, even in Hollywood.”
“I daresay not.,” assented the girl. “There’s a long piece in one of the society magazines.” he went on, after glancing at Moby Dickstein’s fancy
sketch, “about old Mrs. Van Stratten, the social leader. I suppose she’s maybe your grandmother or something.”
“Do you?” Marne was beginning to be definitely annoyed.
“Oh, I know all about you Van Strattens,” he assured her with enthusiasm.
“Well, it’s more than I do,” returned Marne cheerfully. “Anyway, what does it matter?”
“What does it matter? What does it matter?” shrieked A. Leon, knocking a diamond-set inkwell to the floor with a frenzied swing of his mallet. “She asks me what does it matter! Haven’t I told you I’m going to paralyze ’em with an AllClass production? You’re my star. And,” he added cunningly, “what would you say to having for leading man”—he paused for better effect—“Templeton Sayles, Esquire. ”
“Is he a day-bun-tay, too?” queried Marne wickedly.
“He’s everything. He’s Class with a big C.” A. Leon grabbed and waved aloft the typescript wherein Martin Holmes had given rein to his fevered imagination to compound the shimmering personality of Templeton Sayles out of romance and rainbow and “What the Well-dressed Man Will Wear” in equal parts. “You three are going up there to Moldavia, with Moby, here, in charge. I’ll be along later. Moby’ll get some preliminary press stuff ready. But soft-pedal everything till I’m on the ground. We want to spring this right. It’ll be front-page stuff all over the country. We’ve had a lotta All-Star pictures. That’s old stuff. This’ll be the first All-Class picture. And will they eat it up ! Keep an eye out for settings, Moby. I wouldn’t wonder but what we could shoot a lot of scenes right on Templeton Sayles’ ancestral acres. Might use his racing stable, too. If there ain’t any racing in the story, we’ll have some written in.”
“But what is the story, Mr. Snydacker?” ventured Gloria.
“Story? Story? What’s the story matter ! I can get a hundred stories on five days notice. Come to think of it, I gotta little surprise for you on that story.”
OUT IN THE street Gloria spoke. “How about it, kid? Game?” “Gloria, I’ve always wanted to bust out.”
“Here’s your chance. But what about the family? Got one?”
“Got plenty. They’ll disown me, I expect.”
“Not a hoot.”
A rush of feet behind them was followed by Moby Dickstein’s panting hail:
“Well, baby ! Are you in ! You got your cue, haven’t you?”
“Cue? I don’t know that I have,” answered Marne.
“About the swell Van Straitens.” “What about them?”
“You listen to wisdom oozin’ from my venerable whiskers. We’ll begin with Eric Van Stratten. They call him Scoopy. He’s a cross-country puzzle rider, or somethin’. Know him?”
“Yes; you do. He’s your cousin.”
“Oh! Is he?”
‘Tm tellin’ you. And old Mrs. Van Stratten, the high-society leader. She’s your grandmother.”
Marne stared and grinned. “That ought to be a pleasant surprise to her.”
“Maybe we’d better make her your aunt. Any of the others of that bunch, they’re all first-names to you. See?”
“Take it from Moby, kid,” advised Gloria. “You play this right and you’ve got the world by the tail feathers.”
“So far, I seem to have played it mostly wrong.”
“It’s just like Moby tells you. Be a yes-girl. Every day in every way you get yesser and yesser.”
“There’s got to be a limit somewhere, though, hasn’t there?”
“When it comes time to say No, I’ll tip you off,” promised the wise beauty-girl.
To be Continued