been of the wilderness; but their lives were after a pattern.，
Merton listened loftily to this village talk, gossip of a rural sport who got a peach on and started something--And the poker game in the back room of the City Drug Store! What diversions were these for one who had a future? Let these clods live out their dull lives in their own way. But not Merton Gill, who held aloof from their low sports, studied faithfully the lessons in his film-acting course, and patiently bided his time.
He presently sauntered to the post office, where the mail was being distributed. Here he found the sight-seers who had returned from the treat of No. 4's flight, and many of the less enterprising citizens who had merely come down for their mail. Gashwiler was among these, smoking one of his choice cigars. He was not allowed to smoke in the house. Merton, knowing this prohibition, strictly enforced by Mrs. Gashwiler, threw his employer a glance of honest pity. Briefly he permitted himself a vision of his own future home--a palatial bungalow in distant Hollywood, with expensive cigars in elaborate humidors and costly gold-tipped cigarettes in silver things on low tables. One might smoke freely there in every room.
Under more of the Elmer Huff sort of gossip, and the rhythmic clump of the cancelling stamp back of the drawers and boxes, he allowed himself a further glimpse of this luxurious interior. He sat on a low couch, among soft cushions, a magnificent bearskin rug beneath his feet. He smoked one of the costly cigarettes and chatted with a young lady interviewer from Photo Land.
"You ask of my wife," he was saying. "But she is more than a wife-- she is my best pal, and, I may add, she is also my severest critic."
He broke off here, for an obsequious Japanese butler entered with a tray of cooling drinks. The tray would be gleaming silver, but he was uncertain about the drinks; something with long straws in them, probably. But as to anything alcoholic, now--While he was trying to determine this the general-delivery window was opened and the interview had to wail. But, anyway, you could smoke where you wished in that house, and Gashwiler couldn't smoke any closer to his house than the front porch. Even trying it there he would be nagged, and fussily asked why he didn't go out to the barn. He was a poor fish, Gashwiler; a country storekeeper without a future. A clod!
Merton, after waiting in line, obtained his mail, consisting of three magazines--Photo Land, Silver Screenings, and Camera. As he stepped away he saw that Miss Tessie Kearns stood three places back in the line. He waited at the door for her. Miss Kearns was the one soul in Simsbury who understood him. He had confided to her all his vast ambitions; she had sympathized with them, and her never-failing encouragement had done not a little to stiffen his resolution at odd times when the haven of Hollywood seemed all too distant. A certain community of ambitions had been the foundation of this sympathy between the two, for Tessie Kearns meant to become a scenario writer of eminence, and, like Merton, she was now both studying and practising a difficult art. She conducted the millinery and dressmaking establishment next to the Gashwiler Emporium, but found time, as did Merton, for the worthwhile things outside her narrow life.
She was a slight, spare little figure, sedate and mouselike, of middle age and, to the village, of a quiet, sober way of thought. But, known only to Merton, her real life was one of terrific adventure, involving crime of the most atrocious sort, and contact not only with the great and good, but with loathsome denizens of the underworld who would commit any deed for hire. Some of her scenarios would have profoundly shocked the good people of Simsbury, and she often suffered tremors of apprehension at the thought that one of them might be enacted at the Bijou Palace right there on Fourth Street, with her name brazenly announced as author. Suppose it were Passion's Perils! She would surely have to leave town after that! She would be too ashamed to stay. Still she would be proud, also, for by that time they would be calling her to Hollywood itself. Of course nothing so distressing--or so grand--had happened yet, for none of her dramas had been accepted; but she was coming on. It might happen any time.
She joined Merton, a long envelope in her hand and a brave little smile on her pinched face.
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