In the background, as they stood entwined, the poor demented old mother was seen. With mop and bucket she was cleansing the side of a cliff, but there was a happier look on the worn old face.
"Glance around and see her," railed Baird. "Then explain to the girl that you will always protect your mother, no matter what happens. That's it. Now the clench--kiss her--slow! That's it. Cut!"
Merton's part in the drama was ended. He knew that the company worked in the hills another week and there were more close-ups to take in the dance-hall, but he was not needed in these. Baird congratulated him warmly.
"Fine work, my boy! You've done your first picture, and with Miss Montague as your leading lady I feel that you're going to land ace- high with your public. Now all you got to do for a couple of weeks is to take it easy while we finish up some rough ends of this piece. Then we'll be ready to start on the new one. It's pretty well doped out, and there's a big part in it for you--big things to be done in a big way, see what I mean."
"Well, I'm glad I suited you," Merton replied. "I tried to give the best that was in me to a sincere interpretation of that fine part. And it was a great surprise to me. I never thought I'd be working for you, Mr. Baird, and of course I wouldn't have been if you had kept on doing those comedies. I never would have wanted to work in one of them." "Of course not," agreed Baird cordially. "I realized that you were a serious artist, and you came in the nick of time, just when I was wanting to be serious myself, to get away from that slap-stick stuff into something better and finer. You came when I needed you. And, look here, Merton, I signed you on at forty a week--"
"Yes, sir: I was glad to get it."
"Well, I'm going to give you more. From the beginning of the new picture you're on the payroll at seventy-five a week. No, no, not a word--" as Merton would have thanked him. "You're earning the money. And for the picture after that--well, if you keep on giving the best that's in you, it will be a whole lot more. Now take a good rest till we're ready for you."
At last he had won. Suffering and sacrifice had told. And Baird had spoken of the Montague girl as his leading lady--quite as if he were a star. And seventy-five dollars a week! A sum Gashwiler had made him work five weeks for. Now he had something big to write to his old friend, Tessie Kearns. She might spread the news in Simsbury, he thought. He contrived a close-up of Gashwiler hearing it, of Mrs. Gashwiler hearing it, of Metta Judson hearing it.