"Put her on a horse and she does," Burns conceded gloomily. "But will you tell me what kind of work she'll make of interior scenes, and love scenes, and all that? You've got to have it, to pad out your story. You can't let your leading character do a whole two-- or three-reel picture on horseback. There wouldn't be any contrast. Dewitt don't know that girl the way I do. If he'd had to side-step and scheme and give in the way I've done to keep her working, he wouldn't put her playing straight leads, not until she'd had a year or two of training--"
"Taming is a better word," Pete suggested drily. "There'll be fun when she gets to playing love scenes opposite Lee. You better let him take the heavies, and put Gil in for leads, Burns."
Robert Grant Burns was so cast down by the prospect that he made no attempt to reply, beyond grunting something about preferring to drive a team of balky mules to making Jean do something she did not want to do. But, such is the mind trained to a profession, insensibly he drifted away into the world of his imagination, and began to draw therefrom the first tenuous threads of a plot wherein Jean's peculiar accomplishments were to be featured. Robert Grant Burns had long ago learned to adjust himself to circumstances which in themselves were not to his liking. He adjusted himself now to the idea of making Jean the Western star his employers seemed to think was inevitable.
That night before he went to bed he wrote a play which had in it fifty-two scenes. Thirty-five of them were what is known technically as exteriors. In most of them Jean was to ride on horseback through wild places. The rest were dramatic close-ups. Robert Grant Burns went over it carefully when it was finished, and groaning inwardly he cut out two love scenes which were tense, and which Muriel Gay and Lee Milligan would have "eaten up," as he mentally expressed it. The love interest, he realized bitterly, must be touched upon lightly in his scenarios from now on; which would have lightened appreciably the heart of Lite Avery, if he had only known it, and would have erased from his mind a good many depressing visions of Jean as the film sweetheart of those movie men whom he secretly hated.
Jean did not hesitate five minutes before she signed the contract which Burns presented to her the next morning. She was human, and she had learned enough about the business to see that, speaking from a purely professional point of view, she was extremely fortunate. Not every girl, surely, can hope to jump in a few weeks from the lowly position of an inexperienced "extra" to the supposedly exalted one of leading woman. And to her that hundred dollars a week which the contract insured her looked a fortune. It spelled home to her, and the vindication of her beloved dad, of whom she dared not think sometimes, it hurt her so.
Her book was not progressing as fast as she had expected when she began it. She had been working at it sporadically now for eight weeks, and she had only ten chapters done,--and some of these were terribly short. She had looked through all of the novels that she owned, and had computed the average number of chapters in each; thirty she decided would be a good, conservative number to write. She had even divided those thirty into three parts, and had impartially allotted ten to adventure, ten to mystery and horror, and ten to love- making. Such an arrangement should please everybody, surely, and need only be worked out smoothly to prove most satisfying.
But, as it happened, comedy would creep into the mystery and horror, which she mentally lumped together as agony. Adventure ran riot, and straight love- making chapters made her sleepy, they bored her so. She had tried one or two, and she had found it impossible to concentrate her mind upon them. Instead, she had sat and planned what she would do with the money that was steadily accumulating in the bank; a pitiful little sum, to be sure, to those who count by the thou- sands, but cheering enough to Jean, who had never before had any money of her own.
So she signed the contract and worked that day so light-heartedly that Robert Grant Burns forgot his pessimism. When the light began to fade and grow yellow, and the big automobile went purring down the trail to town, she rode on to the Bar Nothing to find Lite, and tell him how fortune had come and tapped her on the shoulder.