Merton of the Movies

Merton of the Movies

MERTON OF THE MOVIES HARRY LEON WILSON To George Ade CONTENTS I. DIRTY WORK AT THE BORDER II. THAT NIGHT--THE APARTMENTS OF CLIFFORD ARMYTAGE III. WESTERN STUFF IV. THE WATCHER AT THE GATE V. A BREACH IN THE CITY WALLS VI. UNDER THE GLASS TOPS VII. "NOTHING TO-DAY DEAR!" VIII. CLIFFORD ARMYTAGE THE OUTLAW IX. MORE WAYS THAN ONE X. OF SHATTERED ILLUSIONS XI. THE MONTAGUE GIRL INTERVENES XII. ALIAS HAROLD PARMALEE XIII. GENIUS COMES INTO ITS OWN XIV. OUT THERE WHERE MEN ARE MEN XV. A NEW TRAIL XVI. OF SARAH NEVADA MONTAGUE XVII. MISS MONTAGUE USES HER OWN FACE XVIII. "FIVE REELS--500 LAUGHS" XIX. THE TRAGIC COMEDIAN XX. ONWARD AND UPWARD CHAPTER I DIRTY WORK AT THE BORDER At the very beginning of the tale there comes a moment of puzzled hesitation. One way of approach is set beside another for choice and a third contrived for better choice. Still the puzzle persists all because the one precisely right way might seem--shall we say intense high keyed clamorous? Yet if one way is the only right way why pause? Courage! Slightly dazed though certain let us be on into the shrill thick of it. So then-- Out there in the great open spaces where men are men a clash of primitive hearts and the coming of young love into its own! Well had it been for Estelle St. Clair if she had not wandered from the Fordyce ranch. A moment's delay in the arrival of Buck Benson a second of fear in that brave heart and hers would have been a fate worse than death. Had she not been warned of Snake le Vasquez the outlaw--his base threat to win her by fair means or foul? Had not Buck Benson himself that strong silent man of the open begged her to beware of the half-breed? Perhaps she had resented the hint of mastery in Benson's cool quiet tones as he said "Miss St. Clair ma'am I beg you not to endanger your welfare by permitting the advances of this viper. He bodes no good to such as you." Perhaps--who knows?--Estelle St. Clair had even thought to trifle with the feelings of Snake le Vasquez then to scorn him for his presumption. Although the beautiful New York society girl had remained unsullied in the midst of a city's profligacy she still liked "to play with fire" as she laughingly said and at the quiet words of Benson--Two-Gun Benson his comrades of the border called him--she had drawn herself to her full height facing him in all her blond young beauty and pouted adorably as she replied "Thank you! But I can look out for myself." Yet she had wandered on her pony farther than she meant to and was not without trepidation at the sudden appearance of the picturesque halfbreed his teeth flashing in an evil smile as he swept off his broad sombrero to her. Above her suddenly beating heart she sought to chat gayly while the quick eyes of the outlaw took in the details of the smart riding costume that revealed every line of her lithe young figure. But suddenly she chilled under his hot glance that now spoke all too plainly. "I must return to my friends" she faltered. "They will be anxious." But the fellow laughed with a sinister leer. "No--ah no the lovely senorita will come with me" he replied; but there was the temper of steel in his words. For Snake le Vasquez on the border where human life was lightly held was known as the Slimy Viper. Of all the evil men in that inferno Snake was the foulest. Steeped in vice he feared neither God nor man and respected no woman. And now Estelle St. Clair drawing-room pet pampered darling of New York society which she ruled with an iron hand from her father's Fifth Avenue mansion regretted bitterly that she had not given heed to honest Buck Benson. Her prayers threats entreaties were in vain. Despite her struggles the blows her small fists rained upon the scoundrel's taunting face she was borne across the border on over the mesa toward the lair of the outlaw. "Have you no mercy?" she cried again and again. "Can you not see that I loathe and despise you foul fiend that you are? Ah. God in heaven is there no help at hand?" The outlaw remained deaf to these words that should have melted a heart of stone. At last over the burning plain was seen the ruined hovel to which the scoundrel was dragging his fair burden. It was but the work of a moment to dismount and bear her half-fainting form within the den. There he faced her repellent with evil intentions. "Ha senorita you are a beautiful wildcat yes? But Snake le Vasquez will tame you! Ha ha!" laughed he carelessly. With a swift movement the beautiful girl sought to withdraw the small silver-mounted revolver without which she never left the ranch. But Snake le Vasquez with a muttered oath was too quick for her. He seized the toy and contemptuously hurled it across his vile den. ...