The two women screamed, though they had been expecting that swift drawing of Jean's gun and the shot that seemed to sound the instant her hand dropped. Gil stiffened, and his hand flew up to his temple. His eyes became two staring questions that bored into the soul of Jean. His hand dropped to his side, and his head sagged forward. He lurched, tried to steady himself and then went down limply.
Jean dropped her gun and darted toward him, her face like chalk, as she turned it for one horrified instant toward Burns. She went down on her knees and lifted Gil's head, looking at the red blotch on his temple and the trickle that ran down his cheek. She laid his head down with a gentleness wholly unconscious, and looked again at Burns. "I've killed him," she said in a small, dry, flat voice. She put out her hands gropingly and fell forward across Gil's inert body. It was the first time in her life that Jean had ever fainted.
"Stop the camera!" Burns croaked tardily, and Pete stopped turning. Pete had that little, twisted grin on his face, and he was perfectly calm and self-possessed.
"You sure got the punch that time, Burns," he remarked unfeelingly, while he held his palm over the lens and gave the crank another turn or two to divide that scene from the next.
"She's fainted! She's hit him!" cried Burns, and waddled over to where the two of them lay. The two women drew farther away, clinging to each other with excited exclamations.
And then Gil Huntley lifted himself carefully so as not to push Jean upon the ground, and when he was sitting up, he took her in his arms with some remorse and a good deal of tenderness.
"How was that for a punch?" he inquired of his director. "I didn't tell her I was going to furnish the blood-sponge; I thought it might rattle her. I never thought she'd take it so hard--"
Robert Grant Burns stopped and looked at him in heavy silence. "Good Lord!" he snapped out at last. "I dunno whether to fire you off the job--or raise your salary! You got the punch, all right. And the chances are you've ruined her nerve for shooting, into the bargain." He stood looking down perturbedly at Gil, who was smoothing Jean's hair back from her forehead after the manner of men who feel tenderly toward the woman who cries or faints in their presence. "I'm after the punch every time," Burns went on ruefully, "but there's no use being a hog about it. Where's that water-bag, Lee? Go get it out of the machine. Say! Can't you women do something besides stand there and howl? Nobody's hurt, or going to be."