While Muriel and Gil Huntley did what they could to bring Jean back to consciousness and composure, Robert Grant Burns paced up and down and debated within himself a subject which might have been called "punch versus prestige." Should he let that scene stand, or should he order a "re-take" because Jean had, after all, done the dramatic part, the "remorse stuff"? Of course, when Pete sent the film in, the trimmers could cut the scene; they probably would cut the scene just where Gil went down in a decidedly realistic heap. But it hurt the professional soul of Robert Grant Burns to retake a scene so compellingly dramatic, because it had been so absolutely real.
Jean was sitting up with her back against the ledge looking rather pale and feeling exceedingly foolish, while Gil Huntley explained to her about the "blood-sponge" and how he had held it concealed in his hand until the right moment, and had used it in the interest of realism and not to frighten her, as she might have reason to suspect. Gil Huntley was showing a marked tendency to repeat himself. He had three times assured her earnestly that he did not mean to scare her so, when the voice of the chief reminded him that this was merely an episode in the day's work. He jumped up and gave his attention to Burns.
"Gil, take that same position you had when you fell. Put a little more blood on your face; you wiped most of it off. That right leg is sprawled out too far. Draw it up a little. Throw out your left arm a little more. Whoa-- Enough is plenty. Now, Gay, you take Jean's gun and hold it down by your side, where her hand dropped right after she fired. You stand right about here, where her tracks are. Get INTO her tracks! We're picking up the scene right where Gil fell. She looked straight into the camera and spoiled the rest, or I'd let it go in. Some acting, if you ask me, seeing it wasn't acting at all." He sent one of his slant-eyed glances toward Jean, who bit her lips and looked away.
"Lean forward a little, and hold that gun like you knew what it was made for, anyway!" He regarded Muriel glumly. "Say! that ain't a stick of candy you're trying to hide in your skirt," he pointed out, with an exasperated, rising inflection at the end of the sentence. "John Jimpson! If I could take you two girls to pieces and make one out of the two of you, I'd have an actress that could play Western leads, maybe!
"Oh, well--thunder! All you can do is put over the action so they'll forget the gun. Say, you drop it the second the camera starts. You pick up the action where Jean dropped the gun and started for Gil. See if you can put it over the way she did. She really thought she'd killed him, remember. You saw the real, honest-to-John, horror-dope that time. Now see how close you can copy it.
"All ready? START your ACTION!" he barked. "Camera!"
Brutally absorbed in his work he might be; callous to the tragedy in Jean's eyes at what might have happened; unfeeling in his greedy seizure of her horror as good "stuff" for Muriel Gay to mimic. Yet the man's energy was dynamic; his callousness was born of his passion for the making of good pictures. He swept even Jean out of the emotional whirlpool and into the calm, steady current of the work they had to do.
He instructed Pete to count as spoiled those fifteen feet of film which recorded Jean's swift horror. But Pete Lowry did not always follow slavishly his instructions. He sent the film in as it was, without comment. Then he and Gil Huntley counted on their fingers the number of days that would probably elapse before they might hope to hear the result, and exchanged knowing glances now and then when Robert Grant Burns seemed especially careful that Jean's face should not be seen by the recording eye of the camera. And they waited; and after awhile they began to show a marked interest in the mail from the west.