Lite's Pupil Demonstrates

Jean awoke to hear the businesslike buzzing of an automobile coming up

from the gate. Evidently they were going to make pictures there at the

house, which did not suit her plans at all. She intended to spend the

early morning writing the first few chapters of that book which to her

inexperience seemed a simple task, and to leave before these people

arrived. As it was, she was fairly caught. There was no chance of

escaping unnoticed, unless she slipped out and up the bluff afoot, and

that would not have helped her in the least, since Pard was in the


From behind the curtains she watched them for a few minutes. Robert

Grant Burns wore a light overcoat, which made him look pudgier than

ever, and he scowled a good deal over some untidy-looking papers in his

hands, and conferred with Pete Lowry in a dissatisfied tone, though his

words were indistinguishable. Muriel Gay watched the two covertly, it

seemed to Jean, and she also looked dissatisfied over something.

Burns and the camera man walked down toward the stables, studying the

bluff and the immediate surroundings, and still talking together. Lee

Milligan, with his paint-shaded eyes and his rouged lips and heavily

pencilled eyebrows, came up and stood close to Muriel, who was sitting

now upon the bench near Jean's window.

"Burns ought to cut out those scenes, Gay," he began sympathetically.

"You can't do any more than you did yesterday. And believe me, you put

it over in good style. I don't see what he wants more than you did."

"What he wants," said Muriel Gay dispiritedly, "is for me to pull off

stunts like that girl. I never saddled a horse in my life till he

ordered me to do it in the scene yesterday. Why didn't he tell me far

enough ahead so I could rehearse the business? Latigo! It sounds like

some Spanish dish with grated cheese on top. I don't believe he knows

himself what he meant."

"He's getting nutty on Western dope," sympathized Lee Milligan. "I

don't see where this country's got anything on Griffith Park for

atmosphere, anyway. What did he want to come away up here in this

God-forsaken country for? What is there TO it, more than he could get

within an hour's ride of Los Angeles?"

"I should worry about the country," said Muriel despondently, "if

somebody would kindly tell me what looping up your latigo means. Burns

says that he's got to retake that saddling scene just as soon as the

horses get here. It looks just as simple," she added spitefully, "as

climbing to the top of the Berry Building tower and doing a leap to a

passing airship. In fact, I'd choose the leap."

A warm impulse of helpfulness stirred Jean. She caught up her hat,

buckled her gun belt around her from pure habit, tucked a few loose

strands of hair into place, and went out where they were.

"If you'll come down to the stable with me," she drawled, while they

were staring their astonishment at her unexpected appearance before

them, "I'll show you how to saddle up. Pard's awfully patient about

being fussed with; you can practice on him. He's mean about taking the

bit, though, unless you know just how to take hold of him. Come on."

The three of them,--Muriel Gay and her mother and Lee Milligan,--stared

at Jean without speaking. To her it seemed perfectly natural that she

should walk up and offer to help the girl; to them it seemed not so

natural. For a minute the product of the cities and the product of the

open country studied each other curiously.

"Come on," urged Jean in her lazily friendly drawl. "It's simple

enough, once you get the hang of it." And she smiled before she added,

"A latigo is just the strap that fastens the cinch. I'll show you."

"I'll bet Bobby Burns doesn't know that," said Muriel Gay, and got up

from the bench. "It's awfully good of you; Mr. Burns is so--"

"I noticed that," said Jean, while Muriel was waiting for a word that

would relieve her feelings without being too blunt.

Burns and Pete Lowry and the assistant had gone down the coulee, still

studying the bluff closely. "I've got to ride down that bluff," Muriel

informed Jean, her eyes following her director gloomily. "He asked me

last night if I could throw a rope. I don't know what for; it's an

extra punch he wants to put in this picture somewhere. I wish to

goodness they wouldn't let him write his own scenarios; he just lies

awake nights, lately, thinking up impossible scenes so he can bully us

afterwards. He's simply gone nutty on the subject of punches."

"Well, it's easy enough to learn how to saddle a horse," Jean told

Muriel cheerfully. "First you want to put on the bridle--"

"Burns told me to put on the saddle first; and then he cuts the scene

just as I pick up the bridle. The trouble is to get the saddle on

right, and then--that latigo dope!"

"But you ought to bridle him first," Jean insisted. "Supposing you just

got the saddle on, and your horse got startled and ran off? If you

have the bridle on, even if you haven't the reins, you can grab them

when he jumps."

"Well, that isn't the way Burns directed the scene yesterday," Muriel

Gay contended. "The scene ends where I pick up the bridle."

"Then Robert Grant Burns doesn't know. I've seen men put on the bridle

last; but it's wrong. Lite Avery, and everybody who knows--"

Muriel Gay looked at Jean with a weary impatience. "What I have to do,"

she stated, "is what Burns tells me to do. I should worry about it's

being right or wrong; I'm not the producer."

Jean faced her, frowning a little. Then she laughed, hung the bridle

back on the rusty spike, and took down the saddle blanket. "We'll play

I'm Robert Grant Burns," she said. "I'll tell you what to do: Lay the

blanket on straight,--it's shaped to Pard's back, so that ought to be

easy,--with the front edge coming forward to his withers; that's not

right. Maybe I had better do it first, and show you. Then you'll get

the idea."

So Jean, with the best intention in the world, saddled Pard, and

wondered what there was about so simple a process that need puzzle any

one. When she had tightened the cinch and looped up the latigo, and

explained to Muriel just what she was doing, she immediately unsaddled

him and laid the saddle down upon its side, with the blanket folded

once on top, and stepped close to the manger.

"If your saddle isn't hanging up, that's the way it should be put on

the ground," she said. "Now you do it. It's easy."

It was easy for Jean, but Muriel did not find it so simple. Jean went

through the whole performance a second time, though she was beginning

to feel that nature had never fitted her for a teacher of young ladies.

Muriel, she began to suspect, rather resented the process of being

taught. In another minute Muriel confirmed the suspicion.

"I think I've got it now," she said coolly. "Thank you ever so much."

Robert Grant Burns returned then, and close behind him rode Gil Huntley

and those other desperados who had helped to brand the calf that other

day. Gil was leading a little sorrel with a saddle on,--Muriel's horse

evidently. Jean had started back to the house and her own affairs, but

she lingered with a very human curiosity to see what they were all

going to do.

She did not know that Robert Grant Burns was perfectly conscious of her

presence even when he seemed busiest, and was studying her covertly

even when he seemed not to notice her at all. Of his company, Pete

Lowry was the only one who did know it, but that was because Pete

himself was trained in the art of observation. Pete also knew why Burns

was watching Jean and studying her slightest movement and expression;

and that was why Pete kept smiling that little, hidden smile of his,

while he made ready for the day's work and explained to Jean the

mechanical part of making moving-pictures.

"I'd rather work with live things," said Jean after a while. "But I

can see where this must be rather fascinating, too."

"This is working with live things, if anybody wants to know," Pete

declared. "Wait till you see Burns in action; handling bronks is easy

compared to--"

"About where does the side line come, Pete?" Burns interrupted. "If

Gil stands here and holds the horse for that close-up saddling--" He

whirled upon Gil Huntley. "Lead that sorrel up here," he commanded.

"We'll have to cut off his head so the halter won't show. Now, how's


This was growing interesting. Jean backed to a convenient pile of old

corral posts and sat down to watch, with her chin in her palms, and her

mind weaving shuttle-wise back and forth from one person to another,

fitting them all into the pattern which made the whole. She watched

Robert Grant Burns walking back and forth, growling and chuckling by

turns as things pleased him or did not please him. She watched Muriel

Gay walk to a certain spot which Burns had previously indicated, show

sudden and uncalled-for fear and haste, and go through a pantomime of

throwing the saddle on the sorrel.

She watched Lee Milligan carry the saddle up and throw it down upon the

ground, with skirts curled under and stirrups sprawling.

"Oh, don't leave it that way," she remonstrated. "Lay it on its side!

You'll have the skirts kinked so it never will set right."

Muriel Gay gasped and looked from her to Robert Grant Burns. For

betraying your country and your flag is no crime at all compared with

telling your director what he must do.

"Bring that saddle over here," commanded Burns, indicating another spot

eighteen inches from the first. "And don't slop it down like it was a

bundle of old clothes. Lay it on its side. How many times have I got

to tell you a thing before it soaks into your mind?" Not by tone or

look or manner did he betray any knowledge that Jean had spoken, and

Muriel decided that he could not have heard.

Lee Milligan moved the saddle and placed it upon its side, and Burns

went to the camera and eyed the scene critically for its photographic

value. He fumbled the script in his hands, cocked an eye upward at the

sun, stepped back, and gave a last glance to make sure that nothing

could be bettered by altering the detail.

"How's Gil; outside the line, Pete? All right. Now, Miss Gay,

remember, you're in a hurry, and you're worried half to death. You've

just time enough to get there if you use every second. You were crying

when the letter-scene closed, and this is about five minutes

afterwards; you just had time enough to catch your horse and lead him

out here to saddle him. Register a sob when you turn to pick up the

saddle. You ought to do this all right without rehearsing. Get into

the scene and start your action at the same time. Pete, you pick it up

just as she gets to the horse's shoulder and starts to turn. Don't

forget that sob, Gay. Ready? Camera!"

Jean was absorbed, fascinated by this glimpse into a new and very busy

little world,--the world of moving-picture makers. She leaned forward

and watched every moment, every little detail. "Grab the horn with

your right hand, Miss Gay!" she cried involuntarily, when Muriel

stooped and started to pick up the saddle.

"Don't--oh, it looks as if you were picking up a wash-boiler! I told


"Register that sob!" bawled Robert Grant Burns, shooting a glance at

Jean and stepping from one foot to the other like a fat gobbler in

fresh-fallen snow.

Muriel registered that sob and a couple more before she succeeded in

heaving the saddle upon the back of the flinching sorrel. Because she

took up the saddle by horn and cantle instead of doing it as Jean had

taught her, she bungled its adjustment upon the horse's back. Then the

sorrel began to dance away from her, and Robert Grant Burns swore under

his breath.

"Stop the camera!" he barked and waddled irately up to Muriel. "This,"

he observed ironically, "is drama, Miss Gay. We are not making

slap-stick comedy to-day; and you needn't give an imitation of boosting

a barrel over a fence."

Tears that were real slipped down over the rouge and grease paint on

Muriel's cheeks. "Why don't you make that girl stop butting in?" she

flashed unexpectedly. "I'm not accustomed to working under two


She registered another sob which the camera never got.

This brought Jean over to where she could lay her hand contritely upon

the girl's shoulder. "I'm awfully sorry," she drawled with perfect

sincerity. "I didn't mean to rattle you; but you know you never in the

world could throw the stirrup over free, the way you had hold of the

saddle. I thought--"

Burns turned heavily around and looked at Jean, as though he had

something in his mind to say to her; but, whatever that something may

have been, he did not say it. Jean looked at him questioningly and

walked back to the pile of posts.

"I won't butt in any more," she called out to Muriel. "Only, it does

look so simple!" She rested her elbows on her knees again, dropped her

chin into her palms, and concentrated her mind upon the subject of

picture-plays in the making.

Muriel recovered her composure, stood beside Gil Huntley at the horse's

head just outside the range of the camera, waited for the word of

command from Burns, and rushed into the saddle scene. Burns shouted

"Sob!" and Muriel sobbed with her face toward the camera. Burns

commanded her to pick up the saddle, and Muriel picked up the saddle

and flung it spitefully upon the back of the sorrel.

"Oh, you forgot the blanket!" exclaimed Jean, and stopped herself with

her hand over her too-impulsive mouth, just as Burns stopped the camera.

The director bowed his head and shook it twice slowly and with much

meaning. He did not say anything at all; no one said anything. Gil

Huntley looked at Jean and tried to catch her eye, so that he might

give her some greeting, or at least a glance of understanding. But

Jean was wholly concerned with the problem which confronted Muriel. It

was a shame, she thought, to expect a girl,--and when she had reached

that far she straightway put the thought into speech, as was her habit.

"It's a shame to expect that girl to do something she doesn't know how

to do," she said suddenly to Robert Grant Burns. "Work at something

else, why don't you, and let me take her somewhere and show her how?

It's simple--"

"Get up and show her now," snapped Burns, with some sarcasm and a good

deal of exasperation. "You seem determined to get into the foreground

somehow; get up and go through that scene and show us how a girl gets a

saddle on a horse."

Jean sat still for ten seconds and deliberated while she looked from

him to the horse. Again she made a picture that drove its elusive

quality of individuality straight to the professional soul of Robert

Grant Burns.

"I will if you'll let me do it the right way," she said, just when he

was thinking she would not answer him. She did not wait for his

assurance, once she had decided to accept the challenge, or the

invitation; she did not quite know which he had meant it to be.

"I'm going to bridle him first though," she informed him. "And you can

tell that star villain to back out of the way. I don't need him."

Still Burns did not say anything. He was watching her, studying her,

measuring her, seeing her as she would have looked upon the screen. It

was his habit to leave people alone until they betrayed their

limitations or proved their talent; after that, if they remained under

his direction, he drove them as far as their limitations would permit.

Jean went first and placed the saddle to her liking upon the ground.

"You want me to act just as if you were going to take a picture of it,

don't you?" she asked Burns over her shoulder. She was not sure

whether he nodded, but she acted upon the supposition that he did, and

took the lead-rope from Gil's hand.

"Shall I be hurried and worried--and shall I sob?" she asked, with the

little smile at the corners of her eyes and just easing the line of her


Robert Grant Burns seemed to make a quick decision. "Sure," he said.

"You saw the action as Miss Gay went through it. Do as she did; only

we'll let you have your own ideas of saddling the horse." He turned

his head toward Pete and made a very slight gesture, and Pete grinned.

"All ready? Start the action!" After that he did not help her by a

single suggestion. He tapped Pete upon the shoulder, and stood with his

feet far apart and his hands on his hips, watching her very intently.

Jean was plainly startled, just at first, by the business-like tone in

which he gave the signal. Then she laughed a little. "Oh, I forgot.

I must be hurried and worried--and I must sob," she corrected herself.

So she hurried, and every movement she made counted for something

accomplished. She picked up the bridle and shortened her hold upon the

lead rope, and discovered that the sorrel had a trick of throwing up

his head and backing away from the bit. She knew how to deal with that

habit, however; but in her haste she forgot to look as worried as

Muriel had looked, and so appeared to her audience as being merely

determined. She got the bridle on, and then she saddled the sorrel.

And for good measure she picked up the reins, caught the stirrup and

went up, pivoting the horse upon his hind feet as though she meant to

dash madly off into the distance. But she only went a couple of rods

before she pulled him up sharply and dismounted.

"That didn't take me long, did it?" she asked. "I could have hurried a

lot more if I had known the horse." Then she stopped dead still and

looked at Robert Grant Burns.

"Oh, my goodness, I forgot to sob!" she gasped. And she caught her hat

brim and pulling her Stetson more firmly down upon her head, turned and

ran up the path to the house, and shut herself into her room.

Lite Comes Out Of The Background Little Black Shack's All Burnt Up facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail