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To Double For Muriel Gay








From: Jean Of The Lazy A

While she breakfasted unsatisfactorily upon soda crackers and a bottle
of olives which happened to have been left over from a previous
luncheon, Jean meditated deeply upon the proper beginning of a book.
The memory of last night came to her vividly, and she smiled while she
fished with a pair of scissors for an olive. She would start the book
off weirdly with mysterious sounds in an empty room. That, she argued,
should fix firmly the interest of the reader right at the start.

By the time she had fished the olive from the bottle, however, her
thoughts swung from the artistic to the material aspect of those
mysterious footsteps. What had the man wanted or expected to find?
She set down the olive bottle impulsively and went out and around to
the kitchen door and opened it. In spite of herself, she shuddered as
she went in, and she walked close to the wall until she was well past
the brown stain on the floor. She went to the old-fashioned cupboard
and examined the contents of the drawers and looked into a cigar-box
which stood open upon the top. She went into her father's bedroom and
looked through everything, which did not take long, since the room had
little left in it. She went into the living-room, also depressingly
dusty and forlorn, but try as she would to think of some article that
might have been left there and was now wanted by some one, she could
imagine no reason whatever for that nocturnal visit. At the same time,
there must have been a reason. Men of that country did not ride abroad
during the still hours of the night just for the love of riding. Most
of them went to bed at dark and slept until dawn.

She went out, intending to go back to her literary endeavors; if she
never started that book, certainly it would never make her rich, and
she would never be able to make war upon circumstances. She thought of
her father with a twinge of remorse because she had wasted so much time
this morning, and she scarcely glanced toward the picture-people down
by the corrals, so she did not see that Robert Grant Burns turned to
look at her and then started hurriedly up the path to the house.

"Say," he called, just before she disappeared around the corner. "Wait
a minute. I want to talk to you."

Jean waited, and the fat man came up breathing hard because of his
haste in the growing heat of the forenoon.

"Say, I'd like to use you in a few scenes," he began abruptly when he
reached her. "Gay can't put over the stuff I want; and I'd like to
have you double for her in some riding and roping scenes. You're about
the same size and build, and I'll get you a blond wig for close-ups,
like that saddling scene. I believe you've got it in you to make good
on the screen; anyway, the practice you'll get doubling for Gay won't
do you any harm."

Jean looked at him, tempted to consent for the fun there would be in
it. "I'd like to," she told him after a little silence. "I really
would love it. But I've got some work that I must do."

"Let the work wait," urged Burns, relieved because she showed no
resentment against the proposal. "I want to get this picture made.
It's going to be a hummer. There's punch to it, or there will be, if--"

"But you see," Jean's drawl slipped across his eager, domineering
voice, "I have to earn some money, lots of it. There's something I
need it for. It's--important."

"You'll earn money at this," he told her bluntly. "You didn't think I'd
ask you to work for nothing, I hope. I ain't that cheap. It's like
this: If you'll work in this picture and put over what I want, it'll
be feature stuff. I'll pay accordingly. Of course, I can't say just
how much,--this is just a try-out; you understand that. But if you can
deliver the goods, I'll see that you get treated right. Some producers
might play the cheap game just because you're green; but I ain't that
kind, and my company ain't that kind. I'm out after results."
Involuntarily his eyes turned toward the bluff. "There's a ride down
the bluff that I want, and a roping--say, can you throw a rope?"

Jean laughed. "Lite Avery says I can," she told him, "and Lite Avery
can almost write his name in the air with a rope."

"If you can make that dash down the bluff, and do the roping I want,
why--Lord! You'll have to be working a gold mine to beat what I'd be
willing to pay for the stuff."

"There's no place here in the coulee where you can ride down the
bluff," Jean informed him, "except back of the house, and that's out of
sight. Farther over there's a kind of trail that a good horse can
handle. I came down it on a run, once, with Pard. A man was drowning,
over here in the creek, and I was up on the bluff and happened to see
him and his horse turn over,--it was during the high water. So I made
a run down off the point, and got to him in time to rope him out. You
might use that trail."

Robert Grant Burns stood and stared at her as though he did not see her
at all. In truth, he was seeing with his professional eyes a picture
of that dash down the bluff. He was seeing a "close-up" of Jean
whirling her loop and lassoing the drowning man just as he had given up
hope and was going under for the third time. Lee Milligan was the
drowning man! and the agony of his eyes, and the tenseness of Jean's
face, made Robert Grant Burns draw a long breath.

"Lord, what feature-stuff that would make!" he said under his breath.
"I'll write a scenario around that rescue scene." Whereupon he caught
himself. It is not well for a director to permit his enthusiasm to
carry him into injudicious speech. He chuckled to hide his eagerness.
"Well, you can show me that location," he said, "and we'll get to work.
You'll have to use the sorrel, of course; but I guess he'll be all
right. This saddling scene will have to wait till I send for a wig.
You can change clothes with Miss Gay and get by all right at a
distance, just as you are. A little make-up, maybe; she'll fix that.
Come on, let's get to work. And don't worry about the salary; I'll
tell you to-night what it'll be, after I see you work."

When he was in that mood, Robert Grant Burns swept everything before
him. He swept Jean into his plans before she had really made up her
mind whether to accept his offer or stick to her literary efforts. He
had Muriel Gay up at the house and preparing to change clothes with
Jean, and he had Lee Milligan started for town in the machine with the
key to Burns' emergency wardrobe trunk, before Jean realized that she
was actually going to do things for the camera to make into a picture.

"I'm glad you are going to double in that ride down the bluff, anyway,"
Muriel declared, while she blacked Jean's brows and put shadows around
her eyes. "I could have done it, of course; but mamma is so nervous
about my getting hurt that I hate to do anything risky like that. It
upsets her for days."

"There isn't much risk in riding down the bluff," said Jean carelessly.
"Not if you've got a good horse. I wonder if that sorrel is rope broke.
Have you ever roped off him?"

"No," said Muriel, "I haven't." She might have added that she never
roped off any horse, but she did not.

"I'll have to try him out and see what he's like, before I try to rope
for a picture. I wonder if there'll be time now?" Jean was pleasantly
excited over this new turn of events. She had dreamed of doing many
things, but never of helping to make moving pictures. She was eager and
full of curiosity, like a child invited to play a new and fascinating
game, and she kept wondering what Lite would have to say about her
posing for moving pictures. Try to stop her, probably,--and fail, as
usual!

When she went out to where the others were grouped in the shade, she
gave no sign of any inner excitement or perturbation. She went
straight up to Burns and waited for his verdict.

"Do I look like Miss Gay?" she drawled.

The keen eyes of Burns half closed while he studied her.

"No, I can't say that you do," he said after a moment. "Walk off
toward the corrals,--and, say! Mount the sorrel and start off like you
were in a deuce of a hurry. That'll be one scene, and I'd like to see
how you do it when you can have your own way about it, and how close up
we can make it and have you pass for Gay."

"How far shall I ride?" Jean's eyes had a betraying light of interest.

"Oh--to the gate, maybe. Can you get a long shot down the trail to the
gate, Pete, and keep skyline in the scene?"

Pete moved the camera, fussed and squinted, and then nodded his head.
"Sure, I can. But you'll have to make it right away, or else wait till
to-morrow. The sun's getting around pretty well in front."

"We'll take it right after this rehearsal, if the girl can put the
stuff over right," Burns muttered. "And she can, or I'm badly
mistaken. Pete, that girl's--" He stopped short, because the shadow of
Lee Milligan was moving up to them. "All right, Miss--say, what's your
name, anyway?" He was told, and went on briskly. "Miss Douglas, just
start from off that way,--about where that round rock is. You'll come
into the scene a little beyond. Hurry straight up to the sorrel and
mount and ride off. Your lover is going to be trapped by the bandits,
and you've just heard it and are hurrying to save him. Get the idea?
Now let's see you do it."

"You don't want me to sob, do you?" Jean looked over her shoulder to
inquire. "Because if I were going to save my lover, I don't believe
I'd want to waste time weeping around all over the place."

Burns chuckled. "You can cut out the sob," he permitted. "Just go
ahead like it was real stuff."

Jean was standing by the rock, ready to start. She looked at Burns
speculatively. "Oh, well, if it were real, I'd run!"

"Go ahead and run then!" Burns commanded.

Run she did, and startled the sorrel so that it took quick work to
catch him.

"Camera! She might not do it like that again, ever!" cried Burns.

She was up in the saddle and gone in a flurry of dusts while Robert
Grant Burns stood with his hands on his hips and watched her gloatingly.

"Lord! But that girl's a find!" he ejaculated, and this time he did
not seem to care who heard him. He cut the scene just as Jean pulled
up at the gate. "See how she set that sorrel down on his haunches?" he
chuckled to Pete. "Talk about feature-stuff; that girl will jump our
releases up ten per cent., Pete, with the punches I can put into Gay's
parts now. How many feet was that scene, twenty-five?"

"Fifteen," corrected Pete. "And every foot with a punch in it. Too
bad she's got to double for Gay. She's got the face for close-up work,
believe me!"

To this tentative remark Robert Grant Burns made no reply whatever. He
went off down the path to meet Jean, critically watching her approach
to see how nearly she resembled Muriel Gay, and how close she could
come to the camera without having the substitution betrayed upon the
screen. Muriel Gay was a leading woman with a certain assured
following among movie audiences. Daring horsewomanship would greatly
increase that following, and therefore the financial returns of these
Western pictures. Burns was her director, and it was to his interest
to build up her popularity. Since the idea first occurred to him,
therefore, of using Jean as a substitute for Muriel in all the scenes
that required nerve and skill in riding, he looked upon her as a double
for Muriel rather than from the viewpoint of her own individual
possibilities on the screen.

"I don't know about your hair," he told her, when she came up to him
and stopped. "We'll run the negative to-night and see how it shows up.
The rest of the scene was all right. I had Pete make it. I'm going to
take some scenes down here by the gate, now, with the boys. I won't
need you till after lunch, probably; then I'll have you make that ride
down off the bluff and some close-up rope work."

"I suppose I ought to ride over to the ranch," Jean said undecidedly.
"And I ought to try out this sorrel if you want me to use him. Would
some other day do just--"

"In the picture business," interrupted Robert Grant Burns
dictatorially, "the working-hours of an actor belong to the director
he's working for. If I use you in pictures, your time will belong to
me on the days when I use you. I'll expect you to be on hand when I
want you; get that?"

"My time," said Jean resolutely, "will belong to you if I consider it
worth my while to let you have it. Otherwise it will belong to me."

Burns chuckled. "Well, we might as well get down to brass tacks and
have things thoroughly understood," he decided. "I'll use you as an
extra to double for Miss Gay where there's any riding stunts and so on.
Miss Gay is a good actress, but she can't ride to amount to anything.
With the clothes and make-up you--impersonate her. See what I mean?
And for straight riding I'll pay you five dollars a day; five dollars
for your time on the days that I want to use you. For any feature
stuff, like that ride down the bluff, and the roping, and the like of
that, it'll be more. Twenty-five dollars for feature-stuff, say, and
five dollars for straight riding. Get me?"

"I do, yes." Jean's drawl gave no hint of her inner elation at the
prospect of earning so much money so easily. What, she wondered, would
Lite say to that?

"Well, that part's all right then. By feature-stuff, I mean anything I
want you to do to put a punch in the story; anything from riding
bucking horses and shooting--say can you shoot?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Well, I'll have use for that, too, later on. The more stunts you can
pull off, the bigger hits these pictures are going to make. You see
that, of course. And what I've offered you is a pretty good rate; but I
expect to get results. I told you I wasn't any cheap John to work for.
Now get this point, and get it right: I'll expect you to report to me
every morning here, at eight o'clock. I may need you that day and I
may not, but you're to be on hand. If I do need you, you get paid for
that day, whether it's one scene or twenty you're to work in. If I
don't need you that day, you don't get anything. That's what being an
extra means. You start in to-day, and if you make the ride down the
bluff, it'll be twenty-five to-day. But you can't go riding off
somewhere else, and maybe not be here when I want you. You're under my
orders, like the rest of the company. Get that?"

"I'll try it for a week, anyway," she said. "Obeying your orders will
be the hardest part of it, Mr. Burns. I always want to stamp my foot
and say 'I won't' when any one tells me I must do something." She
laughed infectiously. "You'll probably fire me before the week's out,"
she prophesied. "I'll be as meek as possible, but if we
quarrel,--well, you know how sweet-tempered I can be!"

Burns looked at her queerly and laughed. "I'll take a chance on that,"
he said, and went chuckling back to the camera. To have a girl
absolutely ignore his position and authority, and treat him in that
off-hand manner of equality was a new experience to Robert Grant Burns,
terror among photo-players.

Jean went over to where Muriel and her mother were sitting in the
shade, and asked Muriel if she would like to ride Pard out into the
flat beyond the corrals, where she meant to try out the sorrel.

"I'd like to use you, anyway," she added frankly, "to practice on. You
can ride past, you know, and let me rope you. Oh, it won't hurt you;
and there'll be no risk at all," she hastened to assure the other, when
she saw refusal in Muriel's eyes. "I'll not take any turns around the
horn, you know."

"I don't want Muriel taking risks like that," put in Mrs. Gay hastily.
"That's just why Burns is going to have you double for her. A leading
woman can't afford to get hurt. Muriel, you stay here and rest while
you have a chance. Goodness knows it's hard enough, at best, to work
under Burns."

Jean looked at her and turned away. So that was it--a leading woman
could not afford to be hurt! Some one else, who didn't amount to
anything, must take the risks. She had received her first little
lesson in this new business.

She went straight to Burns, interrupted him in coaching his chief
villain for a scene, and asked him if he could spare a man for half an
hour or so. "I want some one to throw a rope over on the run," she
explained naively, "to try out this sorrel."

Burns regarded her somberly; he hated to be interrupted in his work.

"Ain't there anybody else you can rope?" he wanted to know. "Where's
Gay?"

"'A leading woman,'" quoted Jean serenely, "'can't afford to get hurt!'"

Burns chuckled. He knew who was the author of that sentence; he had
heard it before. "Well, if you're as fatal as all that, I can't turn
over my leading man for you to practice on, either," he pointed out to
her. "What's the matter with a calf or something?"

"You won't let me ride out of your sight to round one up," Jean
retorted. "There are no calves handy; that's why I asked for a man."

Whereupon the villains looked at one another queerly, and the chuckle
of their director exploded into a full-lunged laugh.

"I'm going to use all these fellows in a couple of scenes," he told
her. "Can't you practice on a post?"

"I don't have to practice. It's the sorrel I want to try out."
Jean's voice lost a little of its habitual, soft drawl. Really, these
picture-people did seem very dense upon some subjects!

"Well, now look here." Robert Grant Burns caught at the shreds of his
domineering manner. "My part of this business is producing the scenes.
You'll have to attend to the getting-ready part. You--you wouldn't
expect me to help you put on your make-up, would you?"

"No, now that I recognize your limitations, I shall not ask any help
which none of you are able or have the nerve to give," she returned
coolly. "I wish I had Lite here; but I guess Pard and I can handle the
sorrel ourselves. Sorry to have disturbed you."

Robert Grant Burns, his leading man and all his villains stood and
watched her walk away from them to the stable. They watched her lead
Pard out and turn him loose in the biggest corral. When they saw her
take her coiled rope, mount the sorrel and ride in, they went, in a
hurried group, to where they might look into that corral. They watched
her pull the gate shut after her, lean from the saddle, and fasten the
chain hook in its accustomed link. By the time she had widened her
loop and turned to charge down upon unsuspecting Pard, Robert Grant
Burns, his leading man and all his villains were lined up along the
widest space between the corral rails, and Pete Lowry was running over
so as to miss none of the show.

"Oh, I thought you were all so terribly busy!" taunted Jean, while her
loop was circling over her head. Pard wheeled just then upon his hind
feet, but the loop settled true over his head and drew tight against
his shoulders.

The sorrel lunged and fought the rope, and snorted and reared. It took
fully two minutes for Jean to force him close enough to Pard so that
she might flip off the loop. Pard himself caught the excitement and
snorted and galloped wildly round and round the enclosure, but Jean did
not mind that; what brought her lips so tightly together was the
performance of the sorrel. While she was coiling her rope, he was
making half-hearted buck jumps across the corral. When she swished the
rope through the air to widen her loop, he reared and whirled. She
jabbed him smartly with the spurs, and he kicked forward at her feet.

"Say," she drawled to Burns, "I don't know what sort of a picture
you're going to make, but if you want any roping done from this horse,
you'll have to furnish meals and beds for your audiences." With that
she was off across the corral at a tearing pace that made the watchers
gasp. The sorrel swung clear of the fence. He came near going down in
a heap, but recovered himself after scrambling along on his knees.
Jean brought him to a stand before Burns.

"I'll have to ask you to raise your price, Mr. Burns, if you want me to
run this animal down the bluff," she stated firmly. "He's just what I
thought he was all along: a ride-around-the-block horse from some
livery stable. When it comes to range work, he doesn't know as much
as--"

"Some people. I get you," Burns cut in drily. "How about that horse of
yours? Would you be willing to let me have the use of him--at so much
per?"

"If I do the riding, yes. Now, since you're here, and don't seem as
busy as you thought you were, I'll show you the difference between this
livery-stable beast and a real rope-horse."

She dismounted and called to Pard, and Pard came to her, stepping
warily because of the sorrel and the rope. "Just to save time, will
one of you boys go and bring my riding outfit from the stable?" she
asked the line at the fence, whereupon the leading man and all the
villains started unanimously to perform that slight service, which
shows pretty well how Jean stood in their estimation.

"Now, that's a real, typical, livery-stable saddle and bridle," she
observed to Burns, pointing scornfully at the sorrel. "I was going to
tell you that I'd hate to be seen in a picture riding that outfit,
anyway. Now, you watch how differently Pard behaves with a rope and
everything. And you watch the sorrel get what's coming to him. Shall
I 'bust' him?"

"You mean throw him?" Burns, in his eagerness, began to climb the
corral fence,--until he heard a rail crack under his weight. "Yes,
BUST him, if you want to. John Jimpson! if you can rope and throw that
sorrel--"

Jean did not reply to that half-finished sentence. She was busy
saddling Pard; now she mounted and widened her loop with a sureness of
the result that flashed a thrill of expectation to her audience. Twice
the loop circled over her head before she flipped it out straight and
true toward the frantic sorrel as he surged by. She caught him fairly
by both front feet and swung Pard half away from him. Pard's muscles
stiffened against the jerk of the rope, and the sorrel went down with a
bump. Pard backed knowingly and braced himself like the trained
rope-horse he was, and Jean looked at Robert Grant Burns and laughed.

"I didn't bust him," she disclaimed whimsically. "He done busted
himself!" She touched Pard with her heel and rode up so that the rope
slackened, and she could throw off the loop. "Did you see how Pard set
himself?" she questioned eagerly. "I could have gotten off and gone
clear away, and Pard would have kept that horse from getting on his
feet. Now you see the difference, don't you? Pard never would have
gone down like that."

"Oh, you'll do," chuckled Robert Grant Burns, "I'll pay you a little
more and use you and your horse together. Call that settled. Come on,
boys, let's get to work."





Next: Pictures And Plans And Mysterious Footsteps

Previous: Lite's Pupil Demonstrates



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