To Double For Muriel Gay





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."





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