Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Bobby in Movieland
Author: Finn, Francis J. (Francis James)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bobby in Movieland" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



http://www.pgdpcanada.net



                           BOBBY IN MOVIELAND



                     _FATHER FINN’S FAMOUS STORIES_
                   _Each volume with a Frontispiece_,

           CANDLES’ BEAMS. Short Stories
           SUNSHINE AND FRECKLES
           LORD BOUNTIFUL
           ON THE RUN
           BOBBY IN MOVIELAND
           FACING DANGER
           HIS LUCKIEST YEAR. A Sequel to “Lucky Bob”
           LUCKY BOB
           PERCY WYNN; or, Making a Boy of Him
           TOM PLAYFAIR; or, Making a Start
           HARRY DEE; or, Working It Out
           CLAUDE LIGHTFOOT; or, How the Problem Was Solved
           ETHELRED PRESTON; or, The Adventures of a Newcomer
           THAT FOOTBALL GAME; and What Came of It
           THAT OFFICE BOY
           CUPID OF CAMPION
           THE FAIRY OF THE SNOWS
           THE BEST FOOT FORWARD; AND OTHER STORIES
           MOSTLY BOYS. SHORT STORIES
           HIS FIRST AND LAST APPEARANCE
           BUT THY LOVE AND THY GRACE



[Illustration: In perfect good faith Bobby stepped forward, passed the
director, saying as he went, “Excuse me, sir,” and ignoring Compton and
the “lady” and “gentleman,” strode over to the bellhop. —_Page 69._]



                                 BOBBY
                              IN MOVIELAND

                                   BY
                         FRANCIS J. FINN, S.J.

                Author of “Percy Wynn,” “Tom Playfair,”
                           “Harry Dee,” etc.

                             [Illustration]

                     NEW YORK, CINCINNATI, CHICAGO
                           BENZIGER BROTHERS



                 COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY BENZIGER BROTHERS


                Printed in the United States of America.



                                CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                                               PAGE
      I IN WHICH THE FIRST CHAPTER IS WITHIN A LITTLE OF BEING THE       9
          LAST
     II TENDING TO SHOW THAT MISFORTUNES NEVER COME SINGLY              18
    III IT NEVER RAINS BUT IT POURS                                     31
     IV MRS. VERNON ALL BUT ABANDONS HOPE                               44
      V A NEW WAY OF BREAKING INTO THE MOVIES                           58
     VI BOBBY ENDEAVORS TO SHOW THE ASTONISHED COMPTON HOW TO BEHAVE    72
    VII THE END OF A DAY OF SURPRISES                                   81
   VIII BOBBY MEETS AN ENEMY ON THE BOULEVARD AND A FRIEND IN THE       92
          LANTRY STUDIO
     IX SHOWING THAT IMITATION IS NOT ALWAYS THE SINCEREST FLATTERY,   104
          AND RETURNING TO THE MISADVENTURES OF BOBBY’S MOTHER
      X BOBBY, ASSISTED BY PEGGY, DEMONSTRATES A METHOD OF OBSERVING   114
          SILENCE, AND CELEBRATES A RED-LETTER DAY
     XI THE END OF ONE SCENARIO AND THE OUTLINING OF COMPTON’S GREAT   128
          IDEA
    XII BOBBY BECOMES FAMOUS OVERNIGHT                                 138
   XIII BERNADETTE’S TEMPERAMENT DELAYS THE SCENARIO, AND MRS. VERNON  150
          MAKES TWO CHILDREN HAPPY
    XIV MRS. VERNON ATTENDS A MOVING-PICTURE SHOW AND FINDS IN IT A    160
          GREAT LESSON UNTHOUGHT OF BY THE AUTHOR
     XV COMPTON’S GREAT SCENARIO IS FINISHED NOT A MOMENT TOO SOON     166
    XVI CONTAINING NOTHING BUT HAPPY EXPLANATIONS AND A STILL HAPPIER  180
          LOVE SCENE
   XVII THE FOUR CHILDREN AROUSE SUSPICION, UNTIL WITH THE MOST        196
          MOMENTOUS EVENT IN THIS NARRATIVE, ALL IS MADE CLEAR



                           Bobby in Movieland



                               CHAPTER I
    IN WHICH THE FIRST CHAPTER IS WITHIN A LITTLE OF BEING THE LAST


“Say, ma; honest, I don’t want to go in. Just all I want is to take off
my shoes and socks and walk where the water just comes up to my ankles.”

As the speaker, a boy of eight, was dressed in the fashion common to the
youth of Los Angeles and its environment, it is but fair to state that
with the taking off of shoes and socks the process of disrobing was
really far advanced.

“My mother has let me take mine off,” put in a bare-legged little girl.
“We won’t go into the water really at all, Mrs. Vernon. Oh, please let
Bobby come along.”

The time was morning—a clear, golden, flower-scented morning in early
July. The place was the sandy shore of Long Beach. There were few
bathers about, as it was Monday, when the week-enders had returned to
their several occupations, while the pleasure-seekers living or lodging
there were resting from the strenuous gayety of Sunday.

Mrs. Vernon, a beautiful young woman, in half-mourning, was strolling
with her only child and the girl, an acquaintance made on the train,
along the sands. They were all transients, presently to take a train
north.

Bobby Vernon was a highly interesting child to look at. Rather small for
his age, he was lithe and shapely. His complexion was delicately fair,
his chestnut hair rather long. All these things were enough to attract
attention; but above and beyond these were the features. Blue eyes,
cupid mouth, a sensitive upper lip, an eloquent, chubby little nose—all
had this in common that they were expressive of his every passing
thought and emotion. He had a face, in a word, at once speaking and
engaging.

The girl, Peggy Sansone, a year or two older, was a brunette, a decided
contrast. She was a chance acquaintance, made by Bobby on the Pullman,
with the result that, once they had exchanged a few words, there was no
more sleeping during the daylight hours for the other occupants of that
car.

Mrs. Vernon felt in her heart it would be more prudent to refuse the
request. She feared that she was making a mistake. But she was just then
preoccupied and sad. Now, sadness is weakening.

“Well, Bobby, if I give you permission, you won’t go far? And you’ll be
back at the station in half an hour, and won’t get lost?”

“I know the way back to the station,” volunteered the girl. “And I’ll
promise you to see him back myself. You know, I’ve got my watch.” Here
Peggy, with the sweet vanity of childhood, held up for view her dainty
wrist watch.

“Whoopee!” cried Bobby, jumping into his mother’s arms, planting a kiss
on her brow, dropping down to the sand and, apparently all in one
motion, taking off shoes and socks.

Light-heartedly, hand in hand with the girl, he pattered down the sands
to the water. The two little ones radiated joy and youth and life. To
them the coming half-hour was to be, so they thought, “a little bit of
heaven.” The girl had no premonition of the saddest day of her
childhood; the boy no thought of the forces of earth and water that were
about to change so strangely his and his mother’s life.

It has already been observed that it was a day of golden sunshine; but
to one conversant with the waters of Long Beach there was something
ominous about the face of the changing sea. It was not high tide; but
the surf was showing its milk-white teeth in a beauty profuse and cruel,
with the cruelty of the sea which takes and returns no more, while the
rollers swept in with a violence and a height that were unusual. The
life savers were watchful and uneasy. To the two children, however, the
white-lipped ocean was as bland and as gay as the sunshine.

As their feet were covered by an incoming roller the girl screamed and
Bobby danced—both for the same reason, for sheer joy. Hand in hand they
pattered along, making their way further and further into the pathway of
the breakers. In a few minutes they had advanced along the shore to a
spot where they were apparently alone.

Then began a series of daring ventures.

“Say!” said Bobby. “This is the first time in all my life that I ever
put my feet in the Pacific Ocean. But I know how to swim, all right, and
I’m not a bit afraid.” As Bobby spoke he was moving slowly out into the
water, which was now nearly up to his knees.

“Hold on! You’re going too far,” said the girl, releasing Bobby’s hand
and slipping back. “I’ve been in often, but I’m afraid just the same.”

“Girls are cowards,” Bobby announced. “Come on, Peggy; I’ll take care of
you.”

Peggy by way of return fastened her large, beautiful dark eyes in hero
worship upon her companion. Nevertheless, instead of accepting his
invitation, she drew back a few steps more.

“Now remember, Bobby, you told your mother you were only going
ankle-deep. You’re up to your knees now.”

“That’s so,” said Bobby, pausing and turning his back upon the incoming
waves. “I ought not to break my word. Say, Peggy”—here Bobby’s face
threw itself, every feature of it, into a splendor of enthusiasm—“do
you think it would be wrong if I were to fall over and float? Then I
wouldn’t be more than ankle-deep anyhow.”

Peggy’s large eyes grew larger in glorious admiration.

Now Bobby being very human—even as you and I—was not insensible to the
girl’s expression. It spurred him on to do something really daring. He
was tempted at that moment to forget his mother’s words and to go boldly
out and meet the breakers in their might. For a few minutes there was a
clean-cut battle in the lad’s soul between love of praise and the still,
small voice we call conscience; as a consequence of which Bobby’s
features twisted and curled and darkened. The battle was a short one,
and it is only fair to say that the still, small voice scored a victory.

However, the breakers were not interested in such a fight though it may
have appealed with supreme interest to all the choirs of angels. The
conflict over, Bobby’s eyes grew bright, and all the sprites of innocent
gayety showed themselves at once in his every feature.

“Peggy,” he began, “you are right. A promise is a promise—always. And
then I made it to my mother. I would like to show you a thing or two,
but—Why, what’s the matter?”

Her expression startled him. If ever tragedy and horror were expressed
by the eyes, Bobby saw these emotions in the beautiful orbs of Peggy.
Her face had lost its rich southern hue, fear was in her pose and in
every feature, but Bobby saw only the tragedy of the eyes. They were
unforgettable.

“Bobby!” she gasped. “Run! run!” And the child followed her own advice.

Bobby, infected by her terror, turned. But it was too late. Close upon
him curled and roared a huge roller, a white-crested wave. In the moment
he looked upon it Bobby saw the rollers in a new light. A few moments
before they were gay, frolicsome things, showing their teeth in
laughter. Now they were strange, strong monsters foaming at the mouth.

“Oh!” cried Bobby in horror. He said no more; for as he spoke, the wave
caught him, spun him around, pulled him down, raised him up, and carried
him off in its strong, uncountable arms towards the deep sea. Bobby
kicked and struggled; but he was swept on as though he were a toy.

Peggy, meanwhile having run back twenty or thirty paces, turned, and
wringing her hands, scanned the troubled waters. She saw no sign of the
boy.

Peggy was young and timid. Upon her came an unreasoning fear. Bobby was
drowned and maybe it was her fault! Maybe she would be hanged for
murder! And how could she face a bereaved and already widowed mother?
For the first and only time in her life Peggy ardently wished she were
dead. Then, looking neither to left nor right, she ran back along the
shore.

Bobby was drowned! But she would tell no one. For the moment a wild
thought of running away entered her soul. And she would have run away if
she only knew whither to fly.

Still running, she wept and she prayed. She ceased her flight only when
she came to the spot where her tiny shoes and socks lay beside those of
Bobby’s. Then she sat down and gave loose to her grief. When the first
fierce desolation and agony had passed, she put on her shoes and began
to think.

Suddenly her drawn face relaxed. Her mother! Had she not always brought
her griefs to that tender, loving soul? She would seek her at once and
tell all. She glanced at her watch. Forty-five minutes had passed! She
had exceeded her time by a quarter of an hour. It was nearly train time.
There was not a second to be lost.

As she rose to her feet something unusual had occurred. The ground
beneath her seemed to be swinging up and down.

Peggy was a native. In normal circumstances she would have been normally
excited; but in her present condition she hardly noticed that she was in
the throes of an earthquake.

So calmly ignoring the shouts of men and the hysteria of women who came
running out in hundreds from house and hotel, Peggy went forward at a
smart trot to bring the awful tidings to Mrs. Sansone, her mother.



                               CHAPTER II
           TENDING TO SHOW THAT MISFORTUNES NEVER COME SINGLY


To natives of Los Angeles, or to those who have spent some years in that
beautiful city—so beautiful that one could easily vision Adam and Eve
as its occupants before the Fall—an earthquake tremor is just something
more than of passing interest. They remain “unusual calm” when the house
shakes, the pictures flap upon the wall, and the crockery rattles in
noisy unrest. They regard their earthquakes as tamed creatures—not more
formidable, practically speaking, than “a thing of noise and fury,
signifying nothing.” When visitors show agitation at the coming of an
earth tremor, these old inhabitants—and five years’ residence in Los
Angeles makes one something little short of a patriarch—are almost
scandalized. Should these strangers go the way that leads to hysteria,
the old inhabitants grow properly indignant, and point out that all the
tremors in the history of Los Angeles County are as nothing, in point of
damage, as compared to one solitary cyclone of the Middle West. No doubt
they are right.

However, to a stranger these pranks of mother earth are fraught with
terror. Many men and women are not only frightened, but actually become
sick. Dizziness and nausea are not uncommon, although the cause be only
a slight tremor of but three or four seconds’ duration.

Among those affected on this day, so momentous in her life and that of
her only child, was Mrs. Barbara Vernon. When the shock came she was
resting on the sands under the shade of one of those gigantic umbrellas
rented out at the beaches as a protection from the ardent rays of the
sun. Beside her sat Mrs. Sansone, Peggy’s mother.

“Oh, my God!” cried Mrs. Vernon, jumping to her feet and clasping her
hands. She would have run straight into the ocean had not Mrs. Sansone
laid upon her a restraining hand.

“My dear,” said the old inhabitant, “don’t be frightened. It’s really
nothing at all. We who live here don’t mind it in the least.” She patted
Mrs. Vernon’s beautiful cheek as she continued: “Why, my little Peggy
sees nothing in them. The last time we had an earthquake shock Peggy
said that the earth was trying to do the shimmy.”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Vernon, “I’m feeling so ill! Let me lean on you, dear. I
feel as though I should faint.”

The sympathetic right arm of Mrs. Sansone wound itself about the other’s
waist.

“Many strangers are so affected,” she said. “But really there’s nothing
to fear. God is here with us right now.”

Mrs. Barbara Vernon unobtrusively made the sign of the cross.

“Thank you,” she said. “My fear is gone; but I feel sick, sick.”

“Lean on my arm, Mrs. Vernon. I will bring you to our Pullman, where you
can lie down and rest quietly.”

“But the children!” objected Barbara.

“Leave that to me. At the worst, Peggy knows the way, and she is really
a very punctual little girl.”

They had walked but a few paces, when an automobile, moving along the
sands, came abreast of them and stopped. The driver, its sole occupant,
leaned out.

“Beg pardon,” he said removing his hat, “but I fear one of you ladies is
rather indisposed. Anything I can do for you?”

“Indeed you can,” replied Mrs. Sansone very promptly. “This lady is
suffering from nausea. The earthquake is something new to her. You would
do us a great favor by bringing us to the railroad station.”

“Favor! It will be an immense pleasure to me.” As he spoke the young man
jumped out, threw open the door of the tonneau, and, hat in hand, helped
the two women in. He was rather a striking personality, thin almost to
emaciation, and despite the smile now upon his features, with a face
melancholy to the point of pathos.

“Los Angeles,” he remarked as he seated himself at the wheel, “would be
the most perfect place in the world if the earth hereabouts would only
keep sober. If I had my way,” he continued, in a voice only less
pathetic than his countenance, “I’d give the earth the pledge for life.
It’s a perfect country when it’s sober.”

Mrs. Sansone laughed.

“Even at that,” continued the melancholy man, allowing himself the
indulgence of a slight smile, “what does it amount to, a little bit of
an earthquake like that? It is merely a fly in the amber.”

“I agree with you absolutely,” said Mrs. Sansone.

“Which means you’re a native. That other lady—”

“Mrs. Barbara Vernon,” interpolated Mrs. Sansone.

“Thank you, glad to meet you, ma’am,” said the stranger, turning his
head and smiling ungrudgingly. “You, I take it, don’t see it as we do.
Instead of a fly in the amber, you regard it rather as a shark in a
swimming pool.”

“It is very kind of you,” said Barbara, “to go out of your way for me. I
can’t tell you how I appreciate your goodness. I shall pray for you.”

The driver’s face changed from melancholy to reverence.

“Please remember that,” he said. As he spoke he thought of the great
Thackeray’s great words on the preciousness of living on in the heart of
one good woman.

Had Barbara been his own mother he could not have been more attentive.
He helped her from the car, placed her in her section, and furtively
slipping a dollar into the porter’s responsive fist, got that
functionary into a state of useful and eager activity which would have
filled, had he seen it, the Pullman superintendent’s heart with wild
delight.

“Can’t I get you a physician, Mrs. Vernon?” pleaded the stranger.

“I need none, thank you. You have done infinitely more than I had any
right to expect.”

“Well, then, I am going to leave you in the hands of this lady—”

“Mrs. Estelle Sansone,” supplied the owner of that name.

“Thank you, Mrs. Sansone. I am glad to know your name. And,” he
continued, turning upon Barbara the most melancholy eyes she had ever
seen, while taking reverently her proffered hand, “I beg you, Mrs.
Vernon, to remember me in—in—to remember me as you said.”

“Indeed and indeed I will. God bless you!”

“Amen,” answered the young man thickly. His face twitched, he paused as
though about to speak, and then suddenly turned and left the car.

“Isn’t he strange!” ejaculated Barbara. “I never saw a more melancholy
face.”

“He is very strange,” assented Mrs. Sansone.

There was a depth of meaning in her words, unsuspected by Barbara, for
the kind Italian woman had recognized the good Samaritan. This
melancholy man was, in her estimation, the greatest screen comedian in
the world.

“And,” continued Barbara, when the porter had placed a second pillow
under her head, “with all his melancholy, he is so kind and so good!”

“I don’t understand,” commented the Italian. Again the depth of this
remark was lost upon Barbara. For Mrs. Sansone knew much of the gossip
concerning the great comedian. She knew that he had figured in many
episodes which, to say the least, were anything but savory. And now she
had met the man in a few intimate moments and seen him kind, gentle,
gracious, and with a reverence for a good woman and a good woman’s
prayers that had filled her with a feeling akin to awe. As she
ministered lovingly to Barbara she meditated upon these opposing truths,
and so meditating took a new lesson in the school of experience, a
lesson the fruits of which are wisdom.

“I am anxious about my boy,” said Barbara opening her eyes and
endeavoring vainly to sit up.

Mrs. Sansone threw a quick glance about the car. Her gaze rested
presently upon an elderly woman whose face was eminently kindly. She was
every inch a matron. Mrs. Estelle Sansone stepped over to her.

“Pardon me,” she said, “but the lady over there is quite ill, and she is
worrying about her little boy, who should have been back by this time. I
don’t like to leave her alone while I go in search—”

“And,” broke in the other, “you want some one to take your place? I
thank you for asking me. I’ve been a widow for nearly fourteen years,
and since my husband’s death I have worked as nurse in the Northwestern
Railroad’s emergency ward in Chicago.”

“Why, I couldn’t have made a better choice,” cried Mrs. Sansone.

“It’s my first real pleasure trip—mine and my daughter’s—since my
widowhood,” continued the woman, “but the pleasures of travel are as
nothing compared with waiting on any good woman in distress.”

The introductions were quickly made, and Mrs. Sansone left the car,
feeling that Barbara was in hands better far than her own.

She looked about the station. The clock indicated that in about five
minutes the train would start. Mrs. Sansone grew anxious. She hurried
along the platform, looking eagerly on every side for some sign of the
children. A glance towards the beach rewarded her searching. Peggy, her
hair streaming in the wind, was running towards her. Mrs. Sansone’s
heart sank. Where was the boy? A sense of calamity seized her. She too
ran to meet the child.

“Oh, mother, mother!” cried Peggy, throwing her arms about Mrs. Sansone
and bursting into a new agony of grief.

“Dearest,” crooned Mrs. Sansone, raising the child to her bosom, “tell
me! What has become of Bobby?”

“Oh, mother! I am afraid!”

“Tell the truth, darling. No matter what—it is your mother who listens.
She will understand; she will not scold.”

“Bobby is drowned!”

“Oh, blessed Mary!” cried Mrs. Sansone, restoring Peggy to the sands and
clasping her hands in dismay. “I can’t believe it! Tell me, dear, how it
happened.”

“Bobby was wading, and he was trying to be obedient. He got out too far,
and I reminded him of his promise to his mother. And he said he was
going to keep his promise. And just while he was talking to me a big
roller came on him—you see, his back was turned—and that roller
knocked him down and pulled him out, and when I looked—”

Here Peggy fell to weeping again.

“What, dear? Tell me quick.”

“He was gone.”

“And were there none around to go to his help?”

“We were alone.”

“And did you call for help?”

“No, mother. I just ran away.”

“And you said nothing, dearest?”

“No. I was afraid they would think I was a murderer.”

Mrs. Sansone had long walked the paths of wisdom. She knew how common it
was for little children, witnesses to a drowning or a like calamity, to
fly from the scene and in fear keep silent. She understood.

“You were frightened, dearest. If you were older, you would have called
for help. But you are not to blame. God help us! Now, Peggy, come with
me. Or stay—I must break the news to his poor mother.”

“And tell her,” said Peggy sobbingly, “that his last words were how he
must always keep his promises, especially those he made to his mother.”

Then Mrs. Sansone wept. It was a bitter moment.

“All aboard!” cried one of the trainmen.

Peggy and her mother were just in time to mount the platform when the
train started.

Then, with love and pity and all manner of gentleness, Mrs. Sansone told
the pitiful story. When the full horror of it was grasped by Barbara,
she asked for her crucifix, gazed upon it fixedly for several seconds,
kissed it, and fell into a faint.

Then it was that all that was matronly shone forth in Mrs. Feehan. Then
it was that she and Mrs. Sansone, never for a moment neglecting the sick
woman, mingled their tears and their grief. The porter, the gayest,
chattiest porter in that section of the Pullman service, was their
willing slave. He too became a partner in their sorrow. In fact, every
passenger on the car and every employee of the road on duty duly caught
the spirit of sympathy, and before Barbara came to, dry-eyed and almost
despairing, lines and telephones were busy in a vain endeavor to get any
possible light on the drowning.

“But,” cried Barbara when she became fully conscious of the dark
tragedy, “I must go back! I cannot go on without my boy!”

The conductor was summoned.

“I can let you off, lady,” he explained. “But I doubt whether you can
get any means of returning at this point. Besides, when we arrive at the
next station, we may expect an answer concerning the child. In that way
you will get word quicker than if you were to return at once.”

“Mrs. Vernon,” urged the nurse, “it would be the worst thing you could
do to return. You are physically unfit just now to walk or make any kind
of exertion. You need several hours of complete rest. If you take my
advice, you will go on and not attempt to leave the car until the shock
has passed and your strength returns.”

“But I must go back—I must!” cried Barbara hysterically. As she spoke
she suddenly rose and took a few quick steps. But the effort was too
much. She staggered, and despite her efforts fell back into the arms of
the kind matron.



                              CHAPTER III
                      IT NEVER RAINS BUT IT POURS


But Bobby was not drowned. Peggy and he, as the wave caught him, were
not alone. Seated on the ledge of a cliff, hidden almost completely from
view, a bather, tall and plump, once a professional life-saver, had been
watching the two children carefully. He had noted the roller even before
Peggy. He was at a considerable distance from the children; but as Peggy
turned to fly he was dashing, diagonally, across the beach. It was
nothing for him, tall and strong of limb, to plunge into the water, to
reach the very spot where Bobby had disappeared, and when Bobby’s head
came to the surface, to take a few strong strokes, reach the unconscious
boy, and bring him almost without effort to the shore.

Bobby, I say, was unconscious; and the rescuer, for a moment, doubted
whether the little lad was alive. Paying no attention, therefore, to the
fleeing Peggy, the man, experienced in such matters, endeavored to
restore the lad to consciousness. Bobby had swallowed much salt water.
It was the work of a few moments to remedy that trouble. Then the man
put himself to the task of getting the boy to breathe. In the shade of
the cliff he labored long and arduously. Almost a quarter of an hour
passed before Bobby’s face showed the slightest sign of life. Eventually
he began to breathe.

“Hey, boy! you’re doing fine,” cried the man. “Come on now, and wake
up.”

Adjured in such like terms at least twenty times, Bobby at length opened
his eyes upon a world which he had almost left for good.

“Howdy, Johnny? Are you awake?”

Bobby looked gravely at his companion and, the inspection completed,
asked, as he closed his eyes again:

“Where am I?”

“Right here at Long Beach,” came the answer. “Here, let me put my coat
about you. You look pretty cold. How do you feel?”

“I guess so,” answered Bobby, not even opening his eyes.

Then the rescuer took the child, wrapped as he was in the heavy coat,
and folded him to his bosom. He held the boy tight. Bobby soon began to
warm up.

“Where am I?” he inquired once more, opening his eyes as he spoke.

“I told you we were at Long Beach, didn’t I?”

“Maybe you did. Say, didn’t you pull me out of the water?”

“I did, and not a second too soon, either. Now look here, Johnny. The
color is coming back to your face. But you must get that chill out of
you. Here, you must stretch your legs. Take my hand.”

Bobby at first was barely able to walk. But gradually his strength
returned, his strength and his smile. But neither lasted long.

“Say! I’m getting so tired!” he remarked after a few quick turns. “Would
you mind if I lie down?”

The man laid Bobby down upon the sands, once more wrapping him, as he
did so, tightly in the coat. Bobby promptly turned on his side and,
resting his head upon his right arm, fell asleep.

“My!” apostrophized the man, after a long contemplation. “I never saw
such an interesting face.”

“Did you say something, sir?” asked Bobby, opening his eyes.

“I said a mouthful,” came the answer. “But look you, boy; you are weaker
than you ought to be. What you need is brandy.”

“I don’t drink,” objected Bobby.

“None of us drink just now, for that matter,” the man dryly observed.
“Just the same, you need a bit of brandy. Now will you remain here till
I come back? I may be gone ten or fifteen minutes.”

“Just now, sir, I don’t want to go anywhere. Oh, I’ll stay, all right.”

And Bobby meant it. Nevertheless he did not stay.

The man had hardly disappeared from view when Bobby sat up and stretched
himself. Then he arose and went through the same process. Bobby was
feeling once more that he was alive. Throwing off the coat, he quickly
put on his proper garments, already perfectly dry. Then Bobby bethought
him of his shoes. It would be easy to recover them and return within a
few minutes. Accordingly, with his light step and easy grace quite
restored, he trotted along the shore; and even as he moved, the events
that had led up to his mischance began to return to his memory—the
horrified eyes of Peggy, the big wave coming upon him, and then? What
was it happened next? At the moment he could recall no more. Seating
himself, he put on shoes and stockings, when all of a sudden as he
arose, the awful memory, unbidden, returned. Once more he felt the
waves’ might, once more he felt himself whirled and tossed about like a
cork, once more he choked as the water forced itself into his gaping
mouth. Here his memory ended. Bobby was more frightened by the memory
than he had been by the actual happening.

And just then, when the horror of it all had seized upon him, the ground
beneath his feet began to oscillate. This was the last straw. Bobby
could bear no more. The sea but a short time before had tried to swallow
him up; now it was the land itself that would devour him.

Utterly panic-stricken, urged on by a blind instinct in which reason had
no share, the little fellow ran at a speed born of fear away from that
awful beach. As it happened, there were stairs at that point leading up
to the cliff. Bobby took them two at a time. Ocean Avenue was thronged
just then with people, strangers in California, who failed, naturally
enough, to see anything of humor in an earthquake. Under normal
circumstances Bobby, flying at full speed along a highway, would have
attracted more than a little attention. But the circumstances were not
normal, and the fear which urged Bobby onwards was the same fear which
in a measure possessed nearly all of those whom with flying feet he
passed.

Bobby had always been a good runner. On this occasion he surpassed
himself. On he went until he was alone on the open road; on past
orchards of oranges, peaches, lemons, pears and plums. The ground at
every step was, as he felt, growing firmer beneath his feet; and once
away from the outskirts of Ocean Beach he began to slacken his pace. It
was then that the sharp tooting of a horn behind him caused him to turn;
an automobile was bearing down upon him.

Bobby, putting on full speed once more, darted to the left side of the
road, which at this point sharply curved, only to find another machine
bearing upon him swiftly from the opposite direction. There seemed to be
no chance of escape. Nevertheless Bobby jumped for his life, landing on
hands and knees at the side of the road, while the oncoming machine, now
fairly upon him, swung desperately away. It passed within an inch of the
boy’s feet as he flew through the air. Bobby did not arise. He collapsed
where he had fallen. The machine which had nearly done for him came to a
halt full thirty yards up the road, where from it descended a highly
excited young man, who, more than emulating Bobby’s burst of speed, ran
quickly and picked up the lad in his arms.

“Say, little fellow, you’re not hurt, are you? Now don’t say you’re
hurt. It was a close call, but I never touched you.”

But Bobby’s head hung limp, his eyes remained closed.

The man grew pale with fear. Possibly he had frightened the child to
death. Gazing with extreme compassion upon the delicate features of the
sensitive face, he groaned aloud and, as though his burden weighed
nothing, sprinted back to his machine. There he laid the boy on the
front seat, and, getting out a water bottle from the tonneau, removed
the stopper and dashed a goodly portion of water into the child’s face.

The effect was immediate. Bobby sat up, and looking into the frightened
face of his new aggressor, opened his mouth and bawled. Bobby, to do him
justice, was a manly little fellow, and manly little fellows of seven or
eight are not in the habit of bawling. But he had been through a fearful
series of ordeals. He was no longer himself. Panic had entered into his
very soul. The sea had tried to get him; the earth, lining itself up
with the sea, had shaken beneath his feet; and when he ran from one
automobile, another had borne down upon him to such effect that only by
a marvel short of the miraculous had he escaped with his life. So Bobby
went on bawling.

This exhibition of tears and lungs had a very disconcerting effect on
the young man. He was, as the reader has a right to know, John Compton,
a promising comedian, engaged recently by a moving-picture company, the
head members of which counted upon his becoming shortly one of the
leading film comedians of the country. On that very day he had started
in upon his second picture. But an hour before he had rehearsed part of
the opening scene; and he would have still been rehearsing at that very
moment had it not happened that the property man was not on time with
the completion of an indoor set; as a consequence of which the director
had called off further rehearsal till two o’clock that afternoon. Not
thinking it worth his while to disturb his make-up, John Compton had
jumped into his automobile and gone out for a spin, with his face
painted a sickly yellow and eyebrows fiercely exaggerated. Bobby had
never before seen a moving-picture actor in his war paint. No wonder
that he continued to bawl; no wonder that he refused to be comforted.

Mr. Compton was at his wits’ end. It was useless to advise the boy to
calm himself. To be heard Compton would be obliged to bellow at the top
of his voice. And why not? It was an inspiration. Standing outside his
own machine, John Compton planted his hands upon his knees, and stooping
till his face was on a level with Bobby’s, opened his mouth, a not
inconsiderable one, and bawled, too, with all the energy of desperation.

At the awful sound Bobby, opening his eyes to their widest, ceased his
outcries and, with his mouth still wide open, stared in incredulous
amazement at John Compton. This gentleman, having stopped momentarily
for breath, started his strange performance once more. But there was a
different tone to the second attempt. Mr. Compton, gaining courage
through success, was beginning to perceive a certain humor in the
situation; and into his bawling went that sense of humor. The suspicion
of a grin came upon the boy’s face. Inspired by this, Compton entered
upon a third attempt, which really succeeded in being a clever
caricature of Bobby’s bawling.

The boy grinned.

“Never say die,” said the comedian, smiling pleasantly and winking.

“I’ll say so!” returned Bob, and reproduced to a nicety Compton’s
identical wink.

Compton’s perplexity was entirely gone. He liked Bobby from the first;
but with that wink he loved him. So, light of heart, John Compton forced
his features into the exaggerated smile which, in the opinion of his
director, would, when once known, be worth a fortune, and Bobby for the
first time since the roller came upon him burst into a laugh, clear,
silvery—sweeter, dearer at that moment to Compton than all the music
that had ever charmed his ears.

“Hey! Do it again,” cried Bobby, standing up and wearing an air of
seraphic joy. Mr. Compton accepted the encore gratefully, but lost his
great smile almost instantaneously when Bobby, allowing for a smaller
mouth and more delicate features, reproduced the million-dollar grin.

“Upon my word!” exclaimed the thoroughly amazed comedian. “I must say I
like you.”

“And I like you.”

“In fact, I like you very much.”

“And I like you very much.”

“What’s your name, little screecher?”

“Bobby Vernon.”

“I like that name very much. Mine is John Compton.”

“And I like that name very much. Say, come in and sit with me.”

“One moment. Where are you from?”

“Cincinnati.”

Compton, starting slightly, looked at the boy’s features searchingly.

“Say, Bobby, what was your mother’s maiden name—her name before she was
married, you know?”

“Barbara Carberry.”

Compton buried his face in his hands. When he raised his head presently,
he discovered Bobby weeping. Stepping into the car, Compton took Bobby
in his arms and, gazing once more upon the child’s face, stooped over
and kissed him.

“I knew your mother once,” he said quietly.

“And you like her?” asked Bobby eagerly.

“Like her! That’s no name for it. Tell me all about her.”

It was the thought of his mother that had set Bobby to weeping again. No
wonder, then, that as he proceeded to recount the events of that morning
he was forced sobbing to halt in his narration several times until he
had mastered his grief. No child in deep trouble ever had a more
sympathetic listener. While Bobby went on with his tale of woe, Compton,
deeply attentive, was speeding at the rate of forty-five miles an hour
for Los Angeles.

“You see,” he had explained to Bobby, “if I don’t hurry, I’ll be late
for that two o’clock rehearsal.”

He stopped once on the road at a telephone station.

“Bobby,” he said when he had returned from the booth, “I’ve made
inquiries. Your mother took sick. They say there was an earthquake.”

“I should say there was! Didn’t I tell you how it started me to running
till I ran into you?

“That’s true. In fact, I believe there was an earthquake. Seems to me I
noticed one myself; but I was so busy thinking about my part in the new
production that I didn’t pay much attention to it. Well, anyhow, it made
your mother sick. It often does affect strangers that way. And they
brought her to her car; and before she knew what happened I reckon the
old train started off to bring her to San Luis Obispo without you.”

Bobby’s sensitive upper lip quivered.

“Here, now, don’t you cry. I’ve sent a telegram which will catch her at
San Luis Obispo, telling her that you are with me and that I will keep
you safe and sound till I hear from her. Cheer up, Bobby! You’ll get
word to-morrow. There’s nothing to worry about.”

Mr. Compton was a bad prophet. Bobby did not get word. In fact, owing to
the flood of telegrams consequent upon the earthquake, Compton’s message
was delayed nearly twenty-four hours, and though it duly reached San
Luis Obispo it was never delivered. Barbara Vernon was not there to
receive it.



                               CHAPTER IV
                   MRS. VERNON ALL BUT ABANDONS HOPE


John Compton had vainly attempted to get any details in regard to
Bobby’s rescue. It had been a bad day for swimmers at Long Beach. The
waters had been unusually rough, and in consequence several bathers were
drowned and nearly a score in imminent danger rescued. Over the
telephone he got a complete list of those whom the life-savers had
brought safely in, but in that list was no name in any wise
corresponding with that of Bobby Vernon. Had not the earthquake come
along at the wrong moment, Bobby would not, unconsciously breaking his
promise, have run away, and Mrs. Vernon would not have been whisked into
the Pullman and been borne northward on the wings of steam. No; Bobby
would have waited and Mrs. Vernon would have remained. They would have
come together very shortly, and this story would not, failing that
earthquake, be worth the writing.

Nor would Mrs. Vernon have gone on toward San Luis Obispo utterly broken
in spirit. In reply to telegrams and long-distance telephone calls made
by Mrs. Sansone and the big-hearted nurse, they learned that no boy
corresponding to hers had been rescued, and that it was impossible at
the moment to give any adequate report of those who had met death in the
angry waters.

As for Bobby’s rescuer, when he returned to the beach and failed to find
the boy awaiting him, he was highly disgusted. The boy had broken his
promise and gone off without so much as a word of thanks. Being a
native, so to speak, it did not occur to him that an earthquake might
put a lone little lad into a panic. Meditating grimly on the
ungratefulness of mankind in general and of a certain small boy in
particular, he turned himself with a glum face to the bathing house. He
was already long overdue in the city, and putting the incident out of
his mind as an unpleasant memory, he went his way, telling no man of his
morning’s adventure. Thus it came about that Bobby’s rescue was recorded
only in heaven.

Thus too it came about that Barbara Vernon gave up all hope of her son’s
having been rescued. He was dead, and she was alone in the world. In
vain did Mrs. Sansone beg her to hope; equally in vain did Mrs. Feehan
fold her to her generous heart and whisper in her ear those sweet
nothings which love makes more valuable in such circumstances than
pearls of great price. Mrs. Vernon, dry-eyed and with set face, speaking
nothing, apparently hearing nothing, gazed into vacancy. Even Mrs.
Feehan, whose hope was as strong as her love, began to lose courage.
Something must be done or the poor bereaved widow might go mad.

Resigning the unhappy lady to the care of the Italian, Mrs. Feehan
walked through the car, scanning quickly the face of each passenger.
Disappointed in her inspection, she went into the next car, and as she
entered, the smile returned to her face.

Seated in a section near her entry was a venerable priest. His thick
spectacles failed to conceal the kindly old eyes; while the large, red,
weather-beaten face seemed somehow to tell the tale of myriad deeds of
consolation and kindness. To look upon him with unprejudiced eyes was by
way of loving him. He was sitting with folded hands.

“Oh, Father,” exclaimed the nurse, “pardon me for disturbing you. But
there is a woman in the next car who, I fear, will go mad unless some
one can reach her. She is a widow, and her only boy has just been
drowned. She is a devout Catholic, and I am almost certain that if any
one can bring her out of her despair a Catholic priest can do it. I’ve
dealt with a number of like cases, and I know it.”

The priest arose, and, as Mrs. Feehan observed, slipped his beads,
concealed in his folded hands, into his pocket.

“I’ll talk to her, my good woman, and while I talk, do you pray.”

As they entered the car the porter met them.

“You will find the lady in the drawing-room. I put her in there myself.”

“You’re a trump!” said the priest, patting the porter on the back.

Mrs. Vernon, as they entered, was showing once more some signs of
improvement. She was gazing not without a touch of tenderness down upon
the tear-stained, almost despairing face of the beautiful little child
Peggy, who on her knees was imploring forgiveness.

“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Vernon. I lost my wits. But do forgive me.”

“She’s as good a girl as I know,” said the priest. “How are you, Peggy?”

“Oh, Father Galligan, ask her to forgive me!”

“I don’t know what it’s all about,” said the priest, “but I’m sure
little Peggy would not wilfully do anything wrong. As you expect God’s
help, my dear lady, in this trying hour, send this child away in peace
and quiet.”

Mrs. Vernon raised herself up and threw her arms about the little one’s
neck.

“There’s nothing to forgive, little dear. But pray, pray for me.”

“I think, madam,” observed the priest, “that if ever you were fit to
receive all that comes with the blessing of the Church now is the time.
Here, Peggy, kneel down and pray; and you too, Mrs. Sansone. And you
too,” he added, addressing himself to the nurse; “though I’m thinking
that Peggy’s prayers are worth all yours and mine put together. Now,
speed her up, Peggy, while I recite the Gospel of St. John.”

It was, in all seriousness, an exquisite prayer-meeting. If angels can
be influenced by human beauty, delicate innocence, and the awful faith
of childhood, legions of them must have pressed about the great White
Throne to tell the wondrous tale of Peggy’s praying. It is doubtful,
also, whether they could have been insensible to the ardent petitions of
the nurse and Peggy’s mother. However this may be, one thing is certain:
the authorized prayer of a priest uttered in the name of the Church has
an efficacy behind it which pierces high heaven. Such a prayer goes
flying upward, winged by the power of that Church, in whose name it is
uttered.

“Now,” said Father Galligan, closing his little book and gesturing the
suppliants to rise from their knees, “you may all go outside and talk
about your neighbors; and the more you talk about them the
better—provided you speak of their good qualities. This lady is going
to entertain me.”

“Well, we’ve all got to go now anyhow,” said Mrs. Sansone. “Los Angeles
is our home, and Mrs. Feehan with her dear little daughter is stopping
to visit a relation—”

“But if you say the word, Father,” put in Mrs. Feehan, “I’ll go on and
see Mrs. Vernon through.”

“I don’t think it will be necessary,” said the Father. “Take your
holiday and God bless you all. And don’t you forget, Peggy, to go to
communion every day you can. You need it, dear child.”

“Indeed I won’t forget, Father. Good-by, Mrs. Vernon. You are just
lovely, and I’ll pray for you every day and for Bobby.”

As Peggy left the compartment the priest lightly laid his hand on the
child’s raven-black hair and blessed her.

“Poor child!” he remarked to Mrs. Vernon. “She’s as lovely now and as
good as an angel. But she has the fatal gift of beauty, and she’s going
to grow up. Lovely, untainted children—and the world is full of
them—quite upset me. I don’t want them to die and I don’t want them to
grow up. Confound original sin anyway!”

“I’m sure my little boy is in heaven. But I am a mother. Oh, how I want
him! I can’t give him up!”

“You don’t know what you can do. None of us knows till we try. Remember,
there is a faith that moves mountains.”

“Thank you so much, Father,” said Mrs. Vernon. “A moment ago I was
tempted to take my life.”

“I’m sure the angels didn’t notice it, and so it won’t go on the
recording book. You have had a great sorrow. But listen to the words of
an old priest who has spent his priestly life of forty-three years
supping with sorrow—other people’s mainly. When God sends us a great
sorrow, He sends us a great strength, if we will only accept it. And
more: if we bear our sorrows in simple faith, somehow, somewhere, God
will turn our sorrow into joy.”

“Ah, Father, He can never give me back my son!”

“I don’t know about that,” demurred the Father, taking a pinch of snuff.
“Didn’t Christ say, ‘Out of these stones I can raise up children to
Abraham?’ Never say can’t when you’re talking about God.”

“I see, Father; you want of me the deepest faith.”

“Exactly, my good woman, the faith that moves mountains. ‘Earth has no
sorrow that heaven cannot heal.’”

“Father, I will try.” As she finished these words, Mrs. Vernon fell to
weeping.

“Good for you!” commented the priest. “What alarmed me most when I first
saw you was the fact of your being so dry-eyed. But let us talk about
something else. You don’t belong out here.”

“No, Father. I come from Cincinnati. My name is Barbara Vernon. Almost
two years ago I lost my husband. He died a good death; but he was a poor
business man, and the thing that bothered him most at his last hour was
that he had neglected to renew his life insurance. It lapsed just two
weeks before the day of his death.”

“An artist, possibly?”

“I think you might call him so, Father. He was an actor, and, if God had
given him a longer life, would have become a playwright. He was engaged
on the third and last act of a play when he took sick. I am confident,
not only on my own judgment, but on the authority of several critics,
that had he lived to complete it he would have made a fortune.”

“These artists are all alike,” commented the priest. “They see
everything in the heavens above and the waters under the earth but their
own interests. They all die uninsured—most of them, anyhow. But what
brings you out here?”

“The hope of straightening out my affairs. You see, my husband, on the
strength of his play, borrowed twenty-five hundred dollars on a note
which falls due September the first. I want to pay it. I feel it is my
duty. He borrowed from a friend who now needs the money. I have been
teaching elocution to private pupils ever since my husband’s death, and
have managed to put aside seven hundred dollars. Three months ago it
became clear to me that I could not possibly get the full amount
together. Now, there happens to live in San Luis Obispo a wealthy
relation of mine, an uncle whom I have not seen since I was a little
girl. He was very fond of me then, and he more than once asked me to
call on him if I were ever in trouble.”

“You did very well to come, Mrs. Vernon. He lives, you say, in San Luis
Obispo?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Perhaps I know him. I spent three years at San Luis. In fact, I was
there all of last year.”

“His name, Father, is Pedro Alvarez.”

The start which the priest gave was almost imperceptible. Not for
nothing had he heard over four hundred thousand confessions.

“Do you know him, Father?”

“I do.”

“And is he well?”

“I am just wondering,” mused the priest evasively, “whether he has much
money. He was wealthy once, but he lost heavily on some oil
investments.”

“But is he well, Father?”

“It is two months,” pursued the priest, “since I was in residence at San
Luis Obispo.”

At this moment the train stopped at a small station, and there was heard
a commotion without.

“There’s something wrong, I fear,” said the Father, glad of an
opportunity to change the subject. He now regretted that he had bidden
Mrs. Feehan take her holiday at Los Angeles.

“Reverend,” said the porter, entering suddenly, “there’s a man at the
station who’s been injured by a freight, and he is calling for a priest.
He may die any moment.”

“Excuse me,” said Father Galligan, rising quickly. “When I come back I
have something to tell you.”

Father Galligan did not return. The dying man needed him, and Mrs.
Vernon saw the priest no more. He only came and went, and touched her
life into a higher faith.

That evening Mrs. Vernon stepped off the car at San Luis Obispo. The
station was almost deserted. However, she had little trouble in getting
information about Alvarez, once very prominent in the city. He was dead.
He had died seven months before almost penniless and prepared by Father
Galligan. This it was that Father Galligan had intended telling her.

The train, while Mrs. Vernon was getting this information, departed.

The poor woman was almost beside herself. Wringing her hands, she paced
up and down the deserted platform, calling upon the Mother of Sorrows to
come to her aid. Five minutes or more passed when she was interrupted.

“I beg your pardon, Miss,” said a plainly dressed man to whose hands
were clinging a girl of twelve and a boy who evidently was her younger
brother; “but do you know anything about nursing?”

The man’s face was troubled and eager. The two children had been
recently crying. Indeed, so it seemed to Mrs. Vernon, it had been a day
of calamity.

“I took nearly two years’ course of training.”

“Oh!” cried the girl, breaking into a smile.

“Then for the love of God, come to my help. My wife will die unless she
gets good nursing. The doctor has said it. Look at these two children.
Think of them without a mother. I’m a ranchman living thirty miles from
here. Money is no object. Name your own terms. I know you won’t refuse.
All afternoon I’ve looked and looked for a nurse. Before you say no,
look at these little ones.”

“Please!” cried the girl, clasping her hands.

“Come on!” entreated the boy, catching her arm.

Could the Mother of Sorrows have sent them?

“I hardly know how to refuse you, sir; but my own little boy has this
day been taken from me by drowning, carried out by the undertow at Long
Beach. I was not with him at the time, and I must go back and find
whether his body has been recovered.”

The ranchman took a careful and appraising look at Barbara.

“Madam,” he said, “I think I understand. I know how you feel. But let me
make a suggestion. You are in no condition to return to Long Beach; nor
would you know what to do when you got there. Now, I’m familiar with the
place and the conditions. I have, in fact, some influence there. Now
I’ll tell you what I’ll do. If for the sake of saving my dear wife’s
life you will come with me, I’ll take you at once to our home and will
return in time to get the next train to Long Beach. And I promise you
that I will do all that you could do and more, to learn anything,
however trivial it may seem, concerning your boy. Oh, madam, for the
love of God, give your consent. I am sure He has sent you to us.”

“Please, ma’am,” implored the girl.

“My mama needs you,” added the boy.

“In God’s name!” said the ranchman.

Taking everything into consideration, Barbara Vernon could not resist
these sweet children, this fond husband, and so a few minutes later she
was on her way in the ranchman’s machine to enter upon a new phase of
life.

Thus it fell that when the telegram from John Compton reached San Luis
Obispo the following afternoon no claimant for it could be discovered.



                               CHAPTER V
                 A NEW WAY OF BREAKING INTO THE MOVIES


Your true cloister of to-day is a moving-picture studio. The sign “No
Admittance,” or some wording of similar meaning, greets the stranger at
every door. There is, too, at each entry a dragon on guard, sometimes in
the guise of a gracious but firm young woman, sometimes, it may be, in
that of a forbidding old man; but no matter how various be the form of
these dragons, they are there to see that you don’t go in. To enter
without the Open Sesame incurs an excommunication seldom incurred, for
the reason that the dragons are always on duty.

As John Compton, holding the hand of Bobby, made to enter the sacred
precincts of the Lantry Studio at the entryway provided for the actors,
the man on guard cast a severe and forbidding look at the youth.

“You know my orders,” he grumbled, still gazing at Bobby while
addressing Compton.

“Sure I do. But this boy is an aunt of mine—er—that is, an uncle. Oh,
dash it! what am I talking about? He’s my little nephew, Bobby Compton.”

“Why don’t you get it right?” observed a bright young lady, one of the
“stars,” as she passed through the sacred gate. “Don’t you think, on
second thought, Mr. Compton, that he’s your grandfather? He looks more
like that than an aunt of yours.”

The surly keeper of the gate perceived the joke. It was on record that
he had seen through a joke on three distinct occasions during his two
years of guardianship. To-day he scored for the fourth time. Bobby as an
aunt was really funny. But as a grandfather! The keeper dropped his pipe
and lost his scowl, and holding up both hands, palms outward, roared
with laughter. He was still in the throes of his mammoth mirth when
Compton pushed through the stile—I know no better word for it—and drew
Bobby after him. The cloister was violated.

Now, Bobby had by this time wearied of holding Compton’s hand. Moreover
he had noticed a certain peculiarity in Compton’s walk which he desired
to study to better advantage. So, loosening his hold, and saying, “I’ll
follow you,” he dropped behind his newly-discovered uncle.

Mr. Compton, dressed for his part in the rehearsal, wore a nondescript
jacket and a vest of startling color. Into the armholes of this vest his
thumbs were thrust, the free fingers of his hand extended and waving in
unison at each step. Bobby had already studied this peculiarity. Now he
was to study the secret of Compton’s strides. They were, to begin with,
notably long strides. But most striking of all was the part his feet
played. The right foot at each step was turned in, the left out. In
justice to Mr. Compton, this was not his proper gait. He was practicing
for his part. Bobby, however, liked it. In fact, he liked anything
connected with John Compton, and because John Compton did it Bobby saw
nothing funny in it at all. It was easy for Bobby to insert his real
thumbs into imaginary armholes and to wiggle his fingers with each step.
It was not so easy, by reason of the shortness of his legs, for Bobby to
catch his uncle’s stride. But he thought it worth while, and he did it.
Then Bobby, with surprisingly little difficulty, got his feet to working
as though one were going in one direction and the other in another; and
so serenely moved on the procession of two, a spectacle for angels and
Miss Bernadette Vivian, the young star who had brought to life once more
the gate-keeper’s sense of humor.

It was Bernadette’s turn to laugh.

“Look,” she cried to a busy and jaded-looking official, who was hurrying
past her with a sheaf of papers in his hands and a lead pencil in his
mouth. “Set your eyes on that boy. That’s Compton’s aunt or
grandfather—he’s not quite clear which—and of the two, I think, with
all respect to Compton, the aunt is the better comedian.”

The official looked and grinned.

“Maybe you’re right,” he observed, removing the pencil from his mouth.
“You’re working with Compton. Keep your eye on the kid. We may need him
if he’s not engaged already.”

“Come on here, Bobby; you take my hand,” said Compton, turning sharply
and detecting his understudy in action. Another man might have been
annoyed, Compton was tickled beyond measure.

Threading their way through a maze of sets and scenery, among which busy
men—carpenters, electricians, secretaries and what not—were winding in
what appeared to be inextricable confusion, they finally arrived at a
set arranged to represent the lobby of a hotel.

To the left was a cigar counter, and beyond it an exit, or, possibly, an
entryway to some other part of the hotel. The rest, save for a bellhop’s
bench, was space. Seated or lounging about were several actors; among
them a young lady dressed as a salesgirl; a boy of about Bobby’s size,
though evidently several years older, gay in the buttons and livery of a
bellhop; a young man in society clothes; and finally a young woman who
was evidently a lady.

Hurrying from one to the other of these and speaking quickly certain
instructions, was a young man whose intense face expressed infinite
patience and strong, though jaded, energy. He was tired—had been tired
for six months—but had no time to diagnose the symptoms. This was the
stage director, Mr. Joseph Heneman.

“Halloa, John! Glad you’ve come. Everything’s set, and we’re going to
move like a house afire. Who’s that fine little boy with you?”

“I’m his aunt,” said Bobby seriously.

Heneman nearly exploded on the spot.

“You young screech-owl!” said Compton, turning a severe face, though his
eyes twinkled, upon Bobby. “Who taught you how to lie?”

“You said I was your aunt,” countered Bobby.

“Your uncle—nephew, I mean. This young monkey,” he went on, addressing
the manager, the vision of Bobby’s latest mimicry still vivid in his
memory, “is my nephew, Bobby Compton.”

“Why, I didn’t know you had a nephew,” said Heneman, still laughing. As
he spoke he shook hands with the interesting youth.

“Neither did I till a while ago,” chuckled Compton. “Fact is I adopted
him and christened him on the way in. It’s a long story, but he’s in my
charge now. He’ll sit still and watch us working. Won’t you, Bobby?”

“I’ll watch you working all right,” said Compton’s new relation. Bobby
had no intention of sitting still.

“Halloa, aunty!” said Bernadette, suddenly appearing on the scene, and
smiling at Bobby, showing in the act a perfect and shining set of teeth.

“How do you do?” returned Bobby, bowing gravely. “You’ve got it wrong,
though. He’s my uncle. He says so himself, and he ought to know.”

Before the rehearsal began every one there heard the story from the fair
lady’s cupid-painted lips of the circumstances connected with Bobby’s
admission into the Lantry cloister. The story filled with joy all the
listeners save one. The bellhop did not even smile. The fact is, the
bellhop, yielding to a long-fought temptation, had obtained a quid of
tobacco from a stage carpenter, had indulged in his first and probably
his last chew, and was just now filled with feelings of wild regret and
a desire to lie down in some obscure spot and die.

As a result of Bernadette’s story every one, excepting of course the
unhappy bellhop, was in a state of almost hilarious good humor when the
rehearsal was called; in such humor that even when the star halted
everything for several minutes by insisting that one of her shoes was
improperly laced—though to the naked eye there was nothing out of
order—and having her attendant do it all over again, no one grumbled.

Mr. Heneman had counted on going on with the rehearsal “like a house
afire.” He had reckoned without his host, and the host was the bellhop.

Before going further it may be well to observe that a picture in the
making is far from resembling a picture in the viewing. The former is a
very slow process. It may require a whole day to produce what one sees
on the screen in three or four seconds. Before the camera men “shoot”
there may be a dozen or more rehearsals; and the shooting may be
repeated seven or eight times.

“Ready!” cried Mr. Heneman. “Positions!”

At the word the salesgirl got behind the cigar counter and, to make
everybody understand that she was only a salesgirl, proceeded to chew
gum violently. In real life saleswomen sometimes do chew gum; but it is
rare to discover one who makes it an almost violent physical exercise.
Standing to the right of the saleslady—in the lobby—the young man in
the dresscoat, facing the young lady with not enough clothes on her back
to make a bookmark, began offering such original remarks as the state of
the weather generally evokes. Back of them all, in an alcove near the
exit, sat the bellhop, gloom and desolation upon his face.

“Here, you! Don’t stand so the lady can’t be seen. Let the lady turn a
little to the right. That’s it. Go on and talk, both of you, and smile
as if you were each saying awfully witty things. Bellhop, hold up your
head! You look like a drowned rat. Look tough; you’re looking dismal.”
Here the director paused, and while the camera men were placing their
machines in position, and their assistants were arranging reflectors,
and an electrician, perched on high above the shooting line, arranged a
powerful light over the head of the salesgirl, he went over to the
bellhop, showed him how to sit, how to hold his hands, cross his legs
and drop one corner of his mouth. There was some improvement.

“Now, once more!” ordered the director. “Positions! Smile, you two.
Talk, talk! Don’t overdo that chewing-gum stuff. Give a yawn, bellhop.
Good! Now come on, Compton.”

From off scene to the right enters Compton. He is befuddled with liquor,
and on his face is an expression of utmost stupidity. It is doubtful,
indeed, if any live human being could be as stupid as he looked. In his
right hand he is balancing a cane with a crook. His walk is a marvel of
indecision. He hasn’t the least idea, apparently, as to whither he is
going.

Bobby, just back of the director, is watching all this with breathless
interest. Previous to Compton’s entrance he had assumed the attitude and
pose of the “lady,” arms akimbo, head thrown back and a full smile. Upon
Compton’s appearance Bobby could at first hardly restrain the exuberance
of his delight. The highest admiration often expresses itself in
imitation. To the amazement and amusement of several actors stationed
behind him, the lad with scarcely an effort threw his features into a
close replica of Compton’s.

“He’s as good a nut as Compton,” observed an old actor to a companion.

“I’ll say so!” rejoined the other.

Compton almost jostled the young lady in his onward progress. As it was,
the crook of his cane caught upon her elbow and hung there. Without his
cane, Compton showed a dim consciousness of feeling that something was
wrong. He felt his clothes, his pockets, his face, and then looking for
the nonce dimly intelligent, turned around, removed the cane from its
improvised hook, raised his hat, dropped it, stooped to get the cane,
picked it up, reached for his hat, dropped the cane, and so on. It was
simple fun, but made worth while by the manner of the actor. Bobby by
this time had a stick and a hat, and without knowing it was giving a
capital performance for the exclusive benefit of sixteen actors and
several outsiders.

“Hey, salesgirl!” ordered Heneman, “call the bellhop, and tell him to
request with all possible politeness the gentleman in liquor to leave
the premises.”

The bellhop came at her call, received her message, and strode towards
Compton.

“Get back there and do it again!” bawled the director. “You walk as
though you were going to church or to your grandmother’s funeral. Turn
your shoulders in, drop your mouth, swing your arms. Just imagine you’re
going to lick somebody.”

The bellhop tried again, with no sign of improvement. Again and again he
failed. No moving-picture actor in that studio, it is probable, ever
received such minute directions. But they were all lost on him. However,
they were not lost on Bobby. Utterly unconscious of the attention he was
exciting, Bobby was following out to the letter every hint coming from
Heneman’s mouth.

Among the spectators was a wag. The parts he always figured in were
tragic or romantic roles, but in real life he was the most notorious
practical joker in the Lantry Studio.

“See here, Johnny,” he said, whispering into the boy’s ear. “Would you
like to do an act of kindness?”

“Sure,” said Bobby.

“I’ve been watching you for some time. You know how that bellhop should
do his part. Go and show him. It’s no use telling him how. He doesn’t
understand. But you just go and show him.”

“Will it be all right?” asked Bobby.

“An act of kindness is always right,” answered the wag, with tragic
solemnity. “Look; he’s starting now, and he’s worse than ever. Don’t
tell any one I suggested your showing him. Keep it a dead secret. Now,
go to it.”

In perfect good faith Bobby stepped forward, passed the director, saying
as he went, “Excuse me, sir,” and ignoring Compton and the “lady” and
“gentleman,” strode over to the bellhop. All this, happening though it
did in a few seconds, produced an unheard-of effect. The saleslady
stopped chewing, the lady and gentleman ceased smiling, Compton looked
surprised and intelligent, the director let his jaw drop, and the
audience, now swollen to double its size, pressed forward to the
cameras. The bellhop himself put on a human expression of inquiry. As
Bobby came face to face with the victim every one on the stage seemed to
be momentarily paralyzed.

“You poor fish,” said Bob, kindness and energy ringing in his accents,
“just let me show you. It’s so easy!”

The bellhop sank back into his seat.

“Now look,” continued Bobby. The left-hand corner of his mouth sagged,
his shoulders bent in, and with a walk and a swerve redolent of the old
Bowery, Bobby advanced towards Compton, whose eyes were protruding.

“You boob!” announced Bobby. “You are politely requested to make a noise
like a train and rattle out of here. Get me?” And as Bobby, not in the
way of kindness, laid his hand on Compton, cheers and laughter and
hand-clapping disturbed scandalously the quiet of the Lantry cloister.

Bobby, nothing disconcerted, bowed, laying his hand over his heart, and
smiled affably. But when the star, Bernadette, came running over, her
face beaming with delight, and exclaimed, “Aunty, I’m going to kiss you
for that,” he blanched and fled to Compton’s arms.

There was a pause and a deliberation. Compton and the manager conferred
together for five minutes. The result of their talk was that Bobby was
hired on the spot and the victim of tobacco given a vacation till
further notice.

Thus did Bobby Vernon “break into the movies.”



                               CHAPTER VI
      BOBBY ENDEAVORS TO SHOW THE ASTONISHED COMPTON HOW TO BEHAVE


“Well,” observed John Compton as, holding Bobby’s hand, he sauntered
along that Bagdad of a street, Hollywood Boulevard, “you’ve scored the
first time at the bat, Bobby. You’re under a contract at thirty-five
dollars a week, and a bonus of two hundred dollars if you make good.”

“I like to make money,” cried Bobby.

“Oh, you do? Have you made much?”

“No. I never made a cent in my life; but I like to, just the same.”

“Are you fond of money?”

Bobby did not make an immediate reply. He was trying, not
unsuccessfully, to “take off” the mincing gait of a young lady in front
of him, who, considering the tightness of her skirt and the height of
her truncated cone heels, was doing very well.

“No. I don’t care for money; but mother needs it. Say, this is a nice
place. I like flowers, lots of them, and nice white houses and palm
trees and bright sunshine.”

“All these things,” observed John Compton “are our long suit in
Hollywood. If there ever was a paradise on earth, it must have been
here.”

“Is that all you know?” inquired the lad, his lip curling in scorn.
“Why, of course there was a paradise! Didn’t you ever study catechism?”

“Well—er, no.”

“That’s all right,” said Bobby, relaxing from scorn to benevolence,
“I’ll teach you myself.”

“Upon my word!” ejaculated Compton, and fell into meditation, from which
he was presently aroused by the strange behavior of the people on the
street. Were they staring and laughing at him? Turning, he discovered
Bobby, a little to the rear of him, doing the Bowery walk and wearing a
face becoming a hardened pickpocket.

“See here, you young imp! You’re giving our show away.”

“Oh, I never thought of that!” cried Bobby, putting on the air of a
Sunday-school superintendent. “I just can’t help it,” he went on. “I
just love to act.”

“Why, have you ever acted before?”

“No; but I just love to.”

“Did you ever see a church more charmingly situated?” asked the
comedian.

They were passing the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, a church hardly
to be seen from the sidewalk. It stood well back from the street, hidden
by large palms, pepper trees, and a profusion of flowers and foliage.

“Is that a Catholic church?” the boy inquired.

“It certainly is.”

“Let’s go in and pay a visit,” suggested the lad.

“I don’t go to church,” returned Compton.

Once more Bobby’s lip curled.

“You must be crazy,” he said. “Now, you come on in.”

Bobby, it was clear, was in no mood for argument. Catching Compton by
the hand, he led that astonished young man along the lovely path towards
the church.

“What’s that sign about up there?” asked Bobby.

“It says,” answered Compton, “that it was here or in the immediate
vicinity that Father Junipero Serra said the Mass of the Holy Cross.”

“I’ve heard of him and read a book about him,” said Bobby. “He must have
been a great man.”

“Yes?” interrogated the skeptic. “I’ve heard it said that the Mass of
the Holy Cross is the same as the Mass of the Holy Wood; and that’s the
reason we call this section Hollywood.”

“I like that name now more than ever, uncle.”

On entering the vestibule Bobby hunted for and quickly found the
holy-water font. Dipping his finger in, he devoutly made the sign of the
cross, while Mr. Compton gazed at him as though he were seeing for the
first time an unusually occult rite.

Bobby motioned him; then pointed to the font. Compton came forward
obediently enough, but he would not or could not understand what the
child further expected.

“Here!” whispered Bobby, with unsmiling face. And catching Mr. Compton’s
reluctant right hand, he dipped its index finger in the font.

“Now say what I say,” he adjured.

Standing on tiptoe, Bobby placed the captive finger on Compton’s
forehead, brought it down to the breast, then to the left and the right
shoulder, while Compton, his face red as a Los Angeles geranium,
repeated after his young mentor, “In the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

“You’ll do it better next time,” remarked Bobby consolingly.

“Now come on!” And Bobby, pushing the comedian in front of him,
proceeded fully half way up the center aisle.

“Now you genuflect,” he whispered.

“Eh?” said Compton, looking like the “nut” he played.

“Sh-h-h!” warned Bobby. “Look.”

And Bobby bent his right knee, holding himself quite erect, till it
touched the floor. “Now do that.”

Compton made the effort; and Compton, who could turn handsprings and
bend the crab and stop a grounder and catch a fly with a grace that had
won the hearts of the fair sex in many a city, bent his knee with the
effect of one suffering from locomotor ataxia.

Once more Bobby’s lip curled. He was minded to make Mr. Compton do it
again, but on second thought changed his mind.

“Get in that pew,” he whispered, in manifest disgust.

There was nothing for Compton to do but obey. Bobby followed after him
and, a second time signing himself with the sign of the cross, knelt
down. Compton, looking, as he felt, inexpressibly stupid, seated
himself.

Bobby stared at him severely, arose, and catching his friend by the arm
coaxed him to his knees.

Once more Bobby made an elaborate sign of the cross, during the
performance of which the comedian, leaning back, braced himself
comfortably against the end of the seat. It came home to Bobby by this
time that he was “instructing the ignorant.” He must do it in all
kindness. After all, it might not be Compton’s fault. So, smiling
sweetly but with the severe restraint proper to a church where the Lord
of all was present in the tabernacle, he reached forward a tiny hand,
applied it to the small of Compton’s back, and pressed forward till
Compton was kneeling erect.

“That’s the proper way to kneel,” he whispered kindly. “Now just keep
that way, and say your prayers.”

There was a sound so like a giggle that it really could not have been
anything else proceeding from the back of the church, and three young
ladies, their handkerchiefs at their mouths, incontinently left the
church. Several other worshipers left, clearly for the same reason. Only
one worshiper remained, a man whose romances had thrilled hundreds of
thousands of readers. Restraining his features, he tiptoed up the aisle,
and knelt at an angle where he could see Bobby’s face.

In no wise realizing that he had emptied the church, Bobby for the third
time crossed himself and, undisturbed by Compton, began to pray. It had
been for Compton a day of many surprises. But now it was a moment of
astonishment. Glancing sidewise, he took in Bobby’s face. Just a few
minutes before, he had reprehended Bobby for wearing the air of a
criminal; and now—-he was looking upon the face of an angel! And there
was a difference, too, of another kind, as Compton at once realized.
Looking like a criminal, Bobby was acting; looking like an angel Bobby
was himself, his natural self touched by faith into something strange
and rare. The boy’s eyes, large, earnest, beseeching, were fastened upon
the tabernacle; his lips were moving in a silent eloquence. His head,
erect, was motionless. So, for that matter, was his whole person—all
save those eloquent lips. At that moment, as Compton felt, there existed
for Bobby only two persons, God and himself. For the first time in his
life Compton was seized with a sense of the supernatural. He bowed his
head upon his hands and looked no more. It was the most sacred moment of
his life. If Compton did not pray orally, he did something better. He
meditated.

The eminent author saw the vision, too. He had stayed for curiosity’s
sake; he remained to pray. Like Compton, the vision of lovely faith—and
what is there out of heaven so lovely as the faith of a child?—quite
overcame him. He gazed no more, but, lowering his eyes, prayed with a
new devotion.

“I saw a little boy praying in church,” he said to his wife an hour
later, “and I understood as I never understood before that saying of our
Lord’s, ‘Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the
kingdom of heaven.’”

Several minutes passed. A light touch brought Compton out of a virgin
land of thought. Bobby, tranquil and with a subdued cheerfulness, was
motioning him out.

“Watch!” whispered Bobby, and genuflected. “Now try it again. Fine!”

At the vestibule five minutes were spent, by which time Compton really
knew how to make the sign of the cross.

“Bobby,” he said, as they got outside, “that’s my first visit to a
Catholic church, and I’ll never forget it as long as I live.”



                              CHAPTER VII
                     THE END OF A DAY OF SURPRISES


“Well, here we are, young man,” announced Compton half an hour later and
turned into a rather pretentious apartment building.

“It looks very fine from the outside,” commented Bobby.

“And I think you’ll like it inside, too,” returned Compton as they
entered the elevator.

Compton had an apartment on the third floor—sitting room, bathroom,
bedroom and guest chamber. Bobby examined the suite with manifest
delight. Everything was modern and in a sense elegant. If there were
anything lacking to John Compton’s comfort, John Compton did not know
it, nor did Bobby discover it. Bobby’s critical faculty was not as yet
strongly developed. He had nevertheless an abundance of enthusiasm which
he was not slow in expressing, and which failed him only in his survey
of the pictures and photographs clustered thickly upon the walls of the
sitting room. They were, with the exception of several photographs of
Compton himself, all women, mainly actresses and all in every variety of
dress and the contrary.

“Say, are all your friends women?” exclaimed the youth.

Compton colored and looked uneasy.

“_You’re_ my friend,” he replied.

“There’s something queer about a lot of these pictures,” the boy went
on. “I don’t like them.”

Mr. Compton changed the subject. Within twenty-four hours, nevertheless,
a good many of those pictures found their way to a place where they
properly belonged, and were seen no more in the land of sunshine.

“By the way, Bobby,” he resumed presently, “You haven’t said a word
about your mother to-day.”

“I know it,” said Bobby cheerfully.

“Well, I have bad news to tell you.”

“I’ll bet you haven’t.”

“That telegram I sent may not be received by her.”

“No?”

“No. It was delayed. A lot of messages were delayed. You know, it was to
have been delivered to her at the station at San Luis Obispo. But
there’s no knowing whether it will be forwarded in time to catch her.”

“Look here, uncle; I’ll tell you a secret. I have prayed, and I’m
sure—I just know—my prayer is all right. No harm will come to my
mother. She is safe; and she will come back when God wants her to.”

“You seem to be on intimate terms with the Almighty!”

“With who?”

“With God.”

“Why not?” inquired Bobby simply. “Don’t you believe in prayer?”

“Upon my word!” gasped the comedian. “I could have answered that
question easily enough yesterday; but now I don’t know what I believe
and what I don’t.”

What gem of wisdom might have dropped from Bobby’s lips in commenting
upon this strange declaration was lost forever when the janitor of the
building suddenly entered the room.

“Beg pardon, sir. I wasn’t sure you were here. But I think there’s some
mistake. There’s a wagon down below with some furniture and a lot of
stuff directed to you, and you—not being a family man—”

“Correct, Johnson. All the same, send them up. There’s no mistake. You
see, this boy is Bobby Compton, and he’s going to stay with me. He’s a
cousin of mine.”

“Oh, I say!” cried Bobby. “If I’m your aunt or your nephew, I want to
know how I’m your cousin.”

“Johnson,” said Compton magnificently, “when I say cousin I always mean
nephew. It’s the habit of a lifetime.”

“Oh,” observed Johnson, scratching his head. “Well, I’ll bring them
things up anyhow.”

“Well,” sighed Compton, throwing himself back in his chair, crossing his
legs, and cupping his hands behind his head, “I’m glad that’s settled. I
was afraid they wouldn’t come.”

Bobby took the chair facing his uncle, crossed his legs, and cupped his
hands behind his head.

“Afraid what wouldn’t come, uncle?”

“Never you mind, little monkey. Just wait.”

Bobby’s patience was not sorely tried. Up the stairs toiled four men
just then, Johnson in the lead, all laden with bundles and various
articles of furniture.

“This way, boys,” said Compton, opening the door to the guestroom. “Just
wait one moment, Bobby.” And Compton, having seen to each one’s getting
through, entered himself and closed the door. He was out a moment later,
holding in his hand an attractively bound book.

“Have you ever read ‘Through the Desert,’ by Sienkiewicz, Bobby?”

“No. But I just love any good story.”

“Here, take it. I’ll be busy for a while. The book is yours.”

“Mine for good?” cried Bobby, raising his eyes from the charming
frontispiece.

“Of course.”

“Uncle, you’re a dandy!”

The dandy blushingly withdrew, and Bobby forthwith entered into that
fairyland of childhood to be found in few books as in the one in his
hand. Perhaps one of the strangest phenomena of child life is the power
of complete absorption so many little ones possess when they read a good
story. People may come and go, laugh, talk and carry on in various ways,
while the child buried in his book follows the windings of the story as
though he were alone on a desert island. Now for fully three quarters of
an hour there went on in the guestroom a moving of furniture, loud
hammering, excited conversation, and all manner of noises. But to
Bobby’s ears came no sound, and time itself stood still.

When the four men, followed by Mr. Compton, the latter breathing hard
and perspiring freely, issued forth, Bobby, seated in a chair with his
legs curled under him, was buried in the precious volume. The four men
gratefully received various coins and went their way, leaving Mr.
Compton gazing wonderingly at the juvenile bookworm. So far as Bobby was
concerned, he might without interruption have gone on gazing
indefinitely.

“Bobby!” he finally called.

Bobby’s eyes remained fastened on the page.

“Bobby!” he bawled.

The boy raised his eyes.

“Oh, it’s great!” he said. “I’ve read fifty-four pages.”

“You have read enough. Come, I want to show you your room.”

“All right, uncle,” returned the boy, wistfully laying down the story.
“You’ve stopped me in a most exciting part.”

Throwing open the guestroom door, Compton said, “Walk in; it’s all
yours.”

With an attempt at enthusiasm, Bobby complied. In a moment the forced
enthusiasm became genuine. A small shining brass bed, a snow-white
counterpane, a case of books filled with the best juveniles, an electric
railroad, a baseball equipment, a tiny rocker, an easy chair, and a
variety of games—all these and more charmed his eyes into a new
brightness and marshaled out upon his features a myriad elves of
happiness.

Before Mr. Compton could prepare for the worst Bobby jumped into his
arms and caught him a kiss square upon his unprepared mouth.

For two hours Bobby flitted from toy to game, from game to book. He was
possibly at that moment the happiest boy in the State of California.

“Now, look you, Bobby, it’s ten o’clock. Don’t you think you might give
that bed a tryout?”

“Why, I never thought of that! Gee, but I’m tired!”

Mr. Compton thought, as he closed the door upon his ward, that his
dealings with the boy were over till morning. He was mistaken.
Presently, clad in rainbow pajamas, Bobby came forth.

“Now I’m ready,” he declared.

“Well, if you’re ready, why don’t you go to bed?”

“Ready,” explained the child, with reproach in his eyes, “for my night
prayers.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the comedian. “I never thought of that!”

The lad’s curling lip warned Mr. Compton that his remark was not
particularly happy.

“Of course, of course!” he added hastily. “How very absent-minded I am
getting! By all means, Bobby, go on and say your prayers.”

As Mr. Compton thus spoke he was lying restfully on a lounge, a cigar in
his mouth, a newspaper in his hands, and, within easy reach, a glass
filled almost to the brim with a golden liquid. What was his surprise,
thus situated, when Bobby plumped down on his knees and, planting his
elbows in the softest part of the comedian’s anatomy, made the sign of
the cross and recited the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Acts. And
he did not stop there. Raising his sweet voice a little higher, and
glancing during the first line about the walls of the room, Bobby
recited:

    “_Angel of God, my guardian dear,_
     _To whom His love commits me here._
     _Ever this night he at my side,_
     _To light, to guard, to rule, to guide._”

Mr. Compton, whose cigar had gone out, laid aside his paper, and
forgetting his drink, glanced behind him, almost expecting to see
hovering over him some bright and glorious creature of another world.
Bobby went on: “May the soul of my dear papa and all the souls of the
faithful departed rest in peace. Amen. God bless mamma—and God
bless—uncle!”

Compton dropped his cigar.

“And,” continued Bobby, raising beautiful and loving eyes to the
ceiling, “Oh, blessed Saviour bring back my mamma to me!”

Here Bobby broke down utterly.

“Steady, Bobby! You know what you told me. Didn’t you say God will bring
her back?”

Bobby at these words mastered his tears, made the sign of the cross, and
answered as he rose: “And I say so still. Good-night, uncle.”

Bobby leaned over with pursed lips. Compton was perspiring. He raised
his head, which was enough for Bobby, who gave him a hearty smack
resembling in sound the explosion of a mild firecracker.

About eleven o’clock that night Compton tiptoed into the guestroom. The
moon’s silvery rays revealed clearly the sleeping lad. How sweet and
calm looked the innocent face in the magic light!

“Is there an angel watching over him?” the man asked himself.
Twenty-four hours earlier he would have considered it a silly question,
but now—

He stooped lower and gazed more intently upon the child’s face. Was that
a tear upon the cheek? He felt the pillow. It was wet in places.

“What a brave little chap he is!” he commented. “He’s feeling his
separation from his mother dreadfully. But he keeps it to himself.”

Once more Compton gazed. And then for a moment he saw another
face—sweet, noble—the face of Bobby’s mother as he had known her in
her early teens.

“Ah,” he considered, “she was the sweetest woman that ever came into my
life! What a fool I was not to have taken her advice! I left her for the
husks of swine.”

Compton bent down, and with trembling lips touched the boy, lightly,
reverently on the brow, and with a suppressed sigh turned away to give
to sleep the last hour of the most remarkable day of his life.



                              CHAPTER VIII
BOBBY MEETS AN ENEMY ON THE BOULEVARD AND A FRIEND IN THE LANTRY STUDIO


It was a little after eight of the clock on the following morning that
the comedian took his way along the boulevard towards the Lantry studio.
Bobby’s eyes were dancing with mischief; the soul of the weather, gay
and bland, had entered into him. As he went his way he dispensed lavish
smiles to right and left, and poor indeed was he in human feeling who
failed to return smile for smile. Many a passer-by craned his neck,
having passed Bobby, to take an admiring look at the tiny dispenser of
joy who, attired in black broadcloth knickerbockers, a vest of the same
material cut away generously from the breast and decked with two shining
buttons where it met at the waist, a white shirt foaming into frills,
the sleeves of which were held up above the wrists by two bewitching
white ribbons, was really rather like to a lily of the field than
Solomon clothed in all his glory.

Of course Hollywood, like all known civilized places where men do
congregate, had its array of camera fiends.

“I beg your pardon,” said one of these, a tall severe-looking man with
dark glasses, “but would you mind my snap-shotting you?”

Bobby turned, folded his hands, and grinned.

“Shoot,” he said.

“Thank you,” said the man, his severe mien drowned in a wave of smiles
almost as gay as Bobby’s.

We have all heard of St. Francis preaching a sermon simply by walking in
silence through a thronged city. Does not many an innocent child as he
goes his happy way, smiling and wondering, preach a sermon that has for
its theme the charm of candid innocence, and the strange and alluring
possibility of every one who is so minded to become, by taking himself
in hand, a child again? And is it not true that such little children
bring a man’s thoughts regretfully and humbly back to the days when he
too was young, unsophisticated and unspoiled?

“You’re getting quite popular, Bobby,” observed Compton as they resumed
their way. “Everybody seems to like you.”

“So do I,” returned Bobby.

“What’s that?”

“I like everybody, too.”

“Out of the mouths of children,” Mr. Compton murmured to himself.

“I didn’t quite hear you, uncle.”

“I was saying,” translated the elder, “that whether you knew it or not
you have given the true secret of popularity.”

“Have we time to go in?” asked Bobby as they neared the Church of the
Blessed Sacrament.

“Why, yes, and I’ll be glad to go in with you.”

Mr. Compton’s sign of the cross was beyond criticism, his genuflection
not so bad; also, he knelt straight, and, in a word, showed the outward
signs of intelligence so lacking on the occasion of his first visit.

“I say, uncle,” Bobby remarked as they came out, “you’ve improved a lot.
You didn’t look around a bit.”

“Why should I?”

“People often do, you know, when they’re praying; but it’s not right.
Did you notice me looking around at the walls when I said the prayer
‘Angel of God’ last night?”

“Now that you come to speak of it, I believe I did.”

“There was a reason.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Compton, in a tone at once exclamatory and
interrogatory.

“Yes. At home when I came to that prayer I always looked at the picture
of the guardian angel which hung just above mamma’s head.”

“And you looked around my walls among the pictures to see whether you
could find a picture of the guardian angel, eh?”

“Yes, uncle; but I didn’t find a picture anything like one.”

“I should say not!” said Compton with energy. “But, Bobby, I was glad
last night when you prayed for me. I hope you’ll keep it up.”

“Aha!” cried Bobby dramatically, jumping in front of his uncle and
shaking a triumphant finger at him. “So you do believe in prayer.”

“In your prayers, Bobby. Put that finger down and stop your jigging;
everybody is looking at us.”

As a matter of fact, Bobby had achieved a feat seldom achieved on the
Hollywood Boulevard. He had, unintentionally of course, excited the
attention of nearly every one he had encountered. Now on the gay and
festive Hollywood Boulevard, be it known, all varieties of dress and
action are to be seen, and nobody seems to bother about them. In the
solemn watches of the night cavalcades of cowboys on horseback may come
clattering along, shooting in the real sense of the word, and shouting.
Possibly some light sleeper may rouse sufficiently to grasp the
situation. Turning in his bed, he remarks: “There go them moving-picture
fellers again,” and resumes his interrupted slumbers. There’s an old
man, white-bearded, redfaced from exposure, bare-footed, clad in a
modern substitute for the garments of St. John, and wearing a staff. He
is frequently seen on the street, but nobody seems to be concerned so
much as to take a second look.

I forgot to say that this imitation St. John the Baptist goes
bareheaded. Practically all the men on the boulevard go bareheaded. I
myself, I dare say, could patrol that famous thoroughfare in cassock and
biretta without exciting any further comment than, “I wonder what
picture that fellow’s made up for.” Painted ladies—painted so profusely
that their own mothers would not know them—would there escape comment
or criticism. It would be taken for granted that they were actresses.
The camera would mitigate their extravagance, and their presentment on
the screen would be entirely lacking the grossness of their real
flesh-and-blood appearances. But Bobby, gay and smiling, taking off now
the stride of his uncle, now the gait of a passing flapper, woke the
street from its passive acquiescence in all things queer.

It remained for Bobby to create a sensation. He did so, and in the
following way.

Mr. Compton, excusing himself and inviting the festive youth to survey
the scenery and fill his soul with its beauty, had passed into a shop to
renew his supply of cigars. He delayed a few moments, very excusably, to
tell a friend what a wonderful find his nephew was.

Now, since their leaving the Hollywood Catholic church, there had been
shadowing Bobby, Chucky Snuff, bellhop of yesterday’s play. It had never
occurred to Chucky that Bobby’s attempt to help him had been made in the
way of kindness. Quite otherwise. In justice to the younger set of
moving-picture actors, it should be stated that Chucky Snuff was not up
to form. He was, as the girls said, mean. Nobody liked him. A fond
father and a foolish mother had accounted him, in his tender years, a
swan; and they so petted and spoiled him as to develop him—allowing for
difference of sex—into a goose. At the age of ten Chucky was stunted
and blasé.

Taking advantage of Compton’s disappearance, Chucky picked up a piece of
wood and hastened to overtake Bobby.

“Why, halloa!” said Bobby as Chucky, running in front of him, blocked
the way.

By way of return the other put on a face which, had he assumed it in the
rehearsal, might have saved him his position.

“There!” he said, placing the wood on his right shoulder, “you knock
that chip off my shoulder!”

Bobby’s smile left him, and all the elves of merriment. Perplexity
wrinkled his brow. The aggressor was much encouraged. Bobby, he judged,
was a coward.

“Go on,” he urged. “I’m going to knock your block off, you big stiff. Do
you hear me? Go on and knock it off!”

Bobby perceived that he was in for it. His mind, as usual, worked
quickly. It came back to him then how his father had once said, “My son,
never indulge in vulgar fist-fighting if you can possibly help yourself;
but if you must, it’s a capital thing to get in the first blow.”
Accordingly, no sooner had his opponent ceased his adjuration than
Bobby’s left hand lightly swept the chip away, while at the same moment
his right shot out with what force he could put into it, and landed
squarely on the tip of the other’s chin.

Pain, astonishment, vast astonishment, swept over the face of Chucky
Snuff. He turned, and with a howl which really attracted attention
dashed away for parts unknown.

“Fine work! Excellent!” exclaimed a haughty young man with a
close-trimmed mustache and severely aristocratic features as he caught
Bobby’s hand, while an admiring audience gathered round to listen avidly
to one of the matinee idols of filmdom. “That was splendidly done. That
other fellow played the tough to a nicety. The way he had his chin stuck
out and the way you landed on it was perfect. Say, it was perfectly
rehearsed! You can shoot it right away. Where’s the camera man?”

“Why, that wasn’t acting,” Bobby explained. “That was a real scrap.”

“Oh!” said the actor, deeply chagrined and departing forthwith; and the
disappointed spectators, realizing that there was to be no encore,
melted away. Thus in Hollywood are real life and reel life confounded.

When John Compton, airily smoking, returned, Bobby was rubbing a skinned
knuckle, the cause of which, on inquiry, he explained.

“My fault!” acknowledged the comedian. “You’re in my care and I should
not leave you alone. However, perhaps it’s just as well. I know young
Chucky Snuff pretty well, and I’m sure he’ll not bother you again.”

Presently Bobby, on his way in the mazes of the Lantry Studio to put
himself into the bellhop’s clothes, came upon a little miss seated
dolefully in a chair, her head buried in her hands, her shoulders bowed,
and dejection in her entire pose. She was dressed like a princess. The
elegance of her attire, however, did not impress Bobby; it was her hair,
raven-black in a wealth of curls. Where had he seen that hair before? He
looked at the hands. They were dark. A light came to him.

“Halloa, Peggy!”

At the words the girl raised her head, and her large wondrously
beautiful eyes rested upon Bobby. With a gasp, she sprang from her
chair, while her eyes grew larger and larger. Fear and wonder shone from
them.

“Don’t you know me, Peggy?” asked the boy, smiling radiantly.

Wonder and fear in those eyes changed to a joy that was nothing less
than bliss.

“Oh, Bobby! You’re alive!”

“I’ll say so!”

“Bobby!” she screamed, and threw her arms about his neck.

“Oh, I say!” protested the highly embarrassed youth, “cut out the rough
stuff.”

“But, Bobby,” continued Peggy, whose face was irradiated with joy, “I
saw you drown myself!”

“You did not. A nice, big man came and fished me out.”

“Oh, thank God! Last night I couldn’t sleep a wink thinking of you and
your poor mother. Where is she, Bobby?”

“I wish I knew, Peggy. Didn’t you see her last?”

Then Peggy told Bobby her side of the story.

“And so my mother thinks I’m drowned! I never thought of that, Peggy.
But I’ll tell Uncle Compton, and he’ll find where she is and let her
know that I’m alive.”

“Uncle Compton! Why, is he your uncle?”

“I don’t know; it all depends. First I was his aunt, and then his uncle,
and then his grandfather. He said so himself. Anyhow, I call him uncle.
He’s a dandy.”

“Isn’t he, though!” exclaimed Peggy. “I just love him. He’s so kind to
children. You know, Bobby, I work with him.”

“What!” cried Bobby, picking up the chair which Peggy in rising had
upset, and seating himself. “Why, yesterday you never said a word to me
about your being in the movies.”

“I didn’t think it would interest you. I’m in his new play, and there’s
an awfully tough bellhop in it who takes a fancy to me, and I reform
him.”

Bobby took in a deep breath, and expelled it in a sort of whistle.

“I’m the bellhop,” he said, lowering his eyes, turning down a corner of
his mouth, drawing in and upward his shoulders.

“Bobby!” panted Peggy, “let me have that chair.”

Bobby, changing back to himself, arose and helped Peggy to seat herself.
Peggy was faint with joy.

“Say,” cried the boy, “we’ll have dead loads of fun.”

“Oh!” said Peggy.

“And we’ll make it go.”

“I know it,” said Peggy. “Just then you looked like the kind of bellhop
I’d like to reform. But tell me how you got here.”

“Between the ax, Peggy,” said Bobby, magnificently, after the manner of
Compton explaining to the janitor. “I’ll tell you between the ax. I’ll
tell you then. I’m now going to dress or I’ll be late.”



                               CHAPTER IX
    SHOWING THAT IMITATION IS NOT ALWAYS THE SINCEREST FLATTERY, AND
            RETURNING TO THE MISADVENTURES OF BOBBY’S MOTHER


There was great headway made on the picture that day. Bernadette,
already in love with Peggy, took Bobby into her affections too. Bobby
and Peggy worked together like the clever and gifted pals they actually
were. Even the “hams” caught the infection of joy, alertness and
enthusiasm.

“Say, old man,” said Heneman, in an aside to Compton, “we’ve got
something unusual here. Every man, woman and child in this picture is
all right from the toes up to the top of the head. None of them are good
just as far as the neck. We’re going to speed this thing up and have it
out in two weeks. We can do it.”

“I never saw Peggy do so well before, and she always was a corking
little actress,” commented Compton.

“It’s Bobby,” explained the director. “He’s got a diffusive sort of pep;
it’s catching. I’ve got a great scene coming. When Bob gets to admiring
Peggy—in the play, I mean—I’m going to have him show his admiration by
imitation. The boy is a born imitator. Of course he’ll have to
caricature it, especially her dancing. It’s going to be the very best
sort of light comedy.”

“If imitation,” mused Compton, “is the beginning, middle and end of all
acting, Bobby will be a star. Between times he’s taking off every
carpenter, electrician or camera man around who happens to have any
peculiarity.”

“I’d like to see him have a part where he could star,” said Heneman. “It
isn’t work to train him. It’s fun.”

The days passed swiftly. Everybody concerned in the production was on
edge to get it through. There were no hitches, no delays. Bobby and
Peggy worked their parts into an importance undreamed of by the author
of the scenario. There was but one unpleasant episode. It happened on
the eighth day. A girl of fifteen enjoying a local reputation for
calisthenics had been secured to give a short exhibition of her grace
and skill. The young miss more than shared the good opinion of her
admirers concerning her own ability, and made no secret of it. While
awaiting her turn she watched the performers at work, with scarcely
veiled contempt. Several of the actors gave her an opportunity to snub
them, and in every case she embraced the opportunity.

“You don’t mean to say,” she observed to Peggy, “that they pay you for
what you’re doing here.”

“They pay me every week.”

“That’s what you call easy money, isn’t it? And I suppose that little
boy there gets paid, too. And all he does is just to be natural. Now,
I’ve studied Delsarte for over five years, and fancy dancing for three;
and when I appear, though it’s only for four or five minutes, I’m
putting into my work the study of a lifetime.” Saying which, the young
lady with elevated brows and haughty carriage turned away to seek some
other person who ought to be snubbed. When it came to elevating brows
and assuming a haughty carriage Bobby Vernon was unusually gifted, as he
forthwith demonstrated to Peggy in a splendid caricature of the follower
of Delsarte. The girl’s mother was on hand and observed Bobby’s private
performance with strong disfavor. She did not like Bobby anyhow. It had
become a personal matter with her that Bobby was drawing a higher salary
than her own accomplished and superior child.

Presently the dear child performed her stunt. It was really good, good
despite a certain superciliousness in the doing. Now Bobby could not
help noticing this defect, and it was so easily imitated. He watched
carefully for some time until he had got a fair idea of a few of the
young miss’s simplest movements; then calling Peggy aside he gave, all
things considered, a very good Delsarte exhibition, with a strong
injection of the supercilious. Peggy’s sweet voice rang out in laughter
which attracted several to the side-show; and Bobby, unconscious of the
addition to his original audience of one, went on, gaining in force of
caricature with each movement. It was when his nose was tiptilted to an
unusual angle and his eyebrows raised as far as he could get them that
the fond mother caught him by the hair and gave him, as she afterwards
triumphantly declared, “a good wooling.” It took the major part of the
spectators to separate the woman from her victim. However, Bobby got a
good lesson. It dawned upon him that in “taking off” people he met he
might give offense. From that day he became a little more careful. Mr.
Compton too, his best friend, let him know that it served him right,
although he did not express the opinion in terms so crude. Bobby
apologized, and sealed the apology with a box of candy. The young miss,
seeing herself as others saw her, received in turn a valuable lesson,
with the result that on repeating her part she did it in a way that
pleased everybody present, including Bobby himself.

Meditating on all this that afternoon, John Compton got a bright idea.

“Bobby,” he said, as they turned homewards, “for the next seven days I
want you to give your evenings to reading while I work.”

“Work?”

“Yes. I’ve just got the idea for a scenario in which you will star. It’s
a sure thing. As I see it now it will be something new and, if it goes
through as I think, you’ll earn enough money to pay off everything your
mother owes.”

“Great!” exclaimed the boy. “Say; you know of course I believe all
right. But don’t you think God is taking His time about answering my
prayers?”

“I thought you said that you left it all to Him,” remonstrated Compton.

“I do, I do. But I do so miss her, especially at night.”

No one knew this better than John Compton. When the boy’s thoughts were
occupied by the day’s work and incidents, he was apparently care-free;
but at night alone, as Compton could testify, his tears were frequent.

“Never mind, Bobby. I’m as sure as you that no real harm has befallen
your mother. And we’re bound to find her. The detective agency I have
put on the case is working hard. Be patient, my boy, and each day of her
absence think that you are working for her.”

While the two were thus conversing the object of their talk was standing
beside the ranchman’s wife. Like her child, love was the great force of
Mrs. Vernon’s life. From the moment she entered the ranchman’s home, her
heart went out to the frail, sweet woman upon whom the hand of death
seemed to have set his seal. She saw at once that nothing but heroic,
constant care and watching would avail. Day after day she gave herself
devotedly to the task of fighting with death for the prize of a single
life. She hardly slept, she ate little, but the very power of love that
had nearly driven her to madness nerved her for an ordeal sublime in its
self-sacrifice.

In those eight days a change had come over Barbara. She was thin,
hollow-eyed, and a waxen pallor had come upon her face. The light lines
of utmost weariness were stamped upon her features. But the chin was
set, the mouth firm. The only relief to her constant vigils were the
visits of the children. They were grateful beyond their years, and their
gratitude manifested itself in little hourly attentions which only love
could have devised. It was but natural that Barbara should return their
affection, and she did so with interest. And in loving them she felt
that she was vicariously spending her love upon her dear lost boy.

Upon this particular afternoon her haggard face, lovely even in its
haggardness, was touched by a new expression—satisfaction. Clearly her
invalid was better. Even as she gazed the doctor entered the room.

“Good day, Doctor Meehan,” she said, “I’m so glad you came. Don’t you
notice a change?”

“Let me look,” responded the doctor, drawing close and peering into the
invalid’s face.

“Halloa!” he exclaimed, and felt her pulse.

Jim Regan, the ranchman, with his two children, Agnes and Louis, had
followed him into the room.

“By George, Regan!” said the doctor, straightening up and turning with a
smile of relief upon the family, “this is no age of miracles. But we
have a near-miracle here. Your wife is no longer ill; she’s
convalescent. All she needs is rest and food and ordinary care. Barbara
Vernon has, with her own hands, dragged her back from the grave. Halloa!
What’s the matter?”

It was Mrs. Vernon who had drawn this question from the doctor. On
hearing the glad news that brought tears and smiles of joy from the
family, Barbara’s face flushed with a sense of relief, went pale again,
and, the suspense over, she would have fallen had not the doctor caught
her in his arms.

He placed her upon a lounge and made a hasty examination.

“I hope this is not a life for a life,” he said presently. “But the sick
person of this house is not your wife, but Barbara Vernon. She’s in for
a long siege, I fear.”

“Doctor,” said the ranchman, “if love or money can help her, I’ll not
fail. Tell me what to do.”

“I like that sort of talk,” said the physician. “She needs a nurse
badly, as badly as your wife needed one. Now, fortunately I have at my
disposal the very nurse I would have had for your wife.”

“Can you send her, doctor?”

“I’ll have her here before nightfall, and she’ll bring the necessary
medicines and directions as to the line of treatment I want carried out
for Barbara, who has collapsed completely. Now mind, it isn’t altogether
her care of your wife that has brought this on. If Barbara Vernon has
not had some terrible nervous shock before you met her, you may tear up
my diploma and put me to carrying a hod. Barbara is threatened with a
serious nervous collapse. Put her to bed at once, and keep her there
till further orders.”

“And what about my wife?” asked Regan.

“The simplest thing in the world. She hardly needs watching at all, and
that jewel of a girl of yours, Agnes, can do all that’s needed to the
queen’s taste.”

“Oh, I love to nurse,” said the girl. “I’ve watched dear Miss Barbara,
and I’ve learned so much. I know I can do it.”

“I believe you, my girl,” said the doctor kindly. “In fact, I’m sure of
you. Now your father and I will carry Barbara to her bedroom, and you
will then care for her till our nurse comes. I’ll lose no time in
getting her.”

So Barbara was put to bed, and many and many a week passed before she
rose from it again.



                               CHAPTER X
 BOBBY, ASSISTED BY PEGGY, DEMONSTRATES A METHOD OF OBSERVING SILENCE,
                    AND CELEBRATES A RED-LETTER DAY


“Say, uncle,” said Bobby one afternoon as the two were returning from a
very successful day’s work at the Lantry Studio, “do you know that Peggy
Sansone goes to communion every morning?”

“Oh, she does, does she?”

“Yes, at the seven-o’clock Mass. She used to go only once a week.”

“Why has she changed?”

“That is what gets me, uncle. She’s going every day in thanksgiving
because I was not drowned.”

“That’s very nice of her.”

“Isn’t it? And she offers up each communion for my mother.”

“I wish there were more Peggies in the world.”

“So do I. Now look, uncle—I want to go to communion, too. I’m old
enough to make my first communion.”

“Sure, Bobby! You just go on and make it. Do you want to do it now?”

“Look here, uncle; I’m—I’m surprised at you.”

“Why, what have I done now?”

“Don’t you know a boy must be prepared, and go to confession and get
permission of the priest to go to communion?”

“You don’t say!”

“Yes. And you can’t go any time. Why, uncle, if I were to go into the
church now and ask for communion the priest would think I was a nut. No,
you must go at Mass in the morning, and be fasting from midnight.”

“What do you mean by communion, Bobby?”

“Don’t you know that? It means the receiving of Our Lord’s body and
blood under the form and appearance of bread.”

“Oh, I remember,” said Compton. “One day on our way down to the studio,
when we went into the church for your visit, the priest came down from
the altar and put small, white, round things on the tongues of some
people who came up near the altar. Is that what you mean?”

“No, I don’t. He comes down and gives them Our Lord, and those small,
white, round things are the form and appearance of bread.”

“And do you really believe that, Bobby?”

“Believe it!” cried Bobby. “Why, of course I do!”

“Please tell me why. You see, Bobby, if an honest man tells me something
about what I don’t see—for instance, that his horse is black—I believe
him. But no matter how honest he is, if he tells me the horse he is
riding on is black and I see the horse is white, how can I accept his
statement?”

“Say, that’s easy,” said Bobby. “Not exactly easy,” he hastened to add,
“till it’s been explained right. You see, before I left Cincinnati I was
in a communion class, and we had the nicest priest, who seemed to love
every child in the class, and there were eighty of us, not one over
eight years. We left Cincinnati just one week before our communion day,
and that is why I haven’t made it. But he taught us a lot, and that is
one of the things he taught us. Do you want me to explain?”

“I certainly do, Bobby.”

“Well, listen. You believe in God, don’t you?”

Compton looked irresolute.

“Say, don’t you?”

“Well, suppose that I do.”

“All right. Now God is the creator of all things. He can make things out
of nothing. Can’t He?”

“Go on, Bobby.”

“Now, if He can create out of nothing, He can make a thing nothing again
if He wants to.”

“That is,” suggested Compton, “He can annihilate.”

“Say,” cried Bobby, highly gratified, “where did you get that word? It’s
the one our priest used, but I couldn’t think of it. It’s easy to teach
you. Now look—stand still here.”

Mr. Compton stood still, facing Bobby.

“You’re here now, aren’t you?”

“That’s certain.”

“Couldn’t God, if He wanted, annihilate you just where you are?”

“Let’s suppose He could.”

“Then there wouldn’t be any John Compton.”

“I see.”

“But if God could annihilate you, couldn’t He leave here where you stand
a form and appearance that would look just exactly like you?”

“That would be a dummy.”

“Now, you hold on, uncle! Couldn’t God put inside that form and
appearance of yours a spirit—an angel maybe—so that your form and
appearance, under the power of that angel, would talk and act exactly
like you?”

“I don’t think an angel would talk and act like me.”

“Say, you’re getting the idea. It isn’t a question whether an angel
would talk and act like you; the question is, could an angel do it?”

“It sounds all right.”

“Now,” said Bobby triumphantly, poking his uncle in the ribs, “suppose
that God just now annihilated you and put an angel in your place, how
could I know it wasn’t you?”

“Why, you just couldn’t know. You would think it was me.”

“Think again, uncle; it’s a hard question. It stumped the whole of our
communion class for five minutes, and I got the right answer, and the
priest gave me a holy picture for answering it.”

Mr. Compton wrinkled his brows in thought.

“There’s one thing sure,” he at length said, “God would know that the
thing in my place was not John Compton.”

“Uncle, you’re getting hot.”

“And therefore,” pursued Compton, speaking slowly, “if God told you—”

“Hurrah!” cried Bobby, clicking his heels together as he jumped into the
air. “You go to the head of the class. I’d know it if God told me.”

“But would you believe it?” objected the elder.

Bobby’s lip curled.

“Say, uncle, didn’t we agree that God could do it?”

“Well, yes.”

“Why shouldn’t we believe Him, then?”

“I guess you’re right. But what’s that got to do with Holy Communion?”

“Listen. At the Last Supper, Christ, who was God, took bread, and
blessed it, and said: ‘Take ye and eat; this is my body.’”

“I remember hearing that.”

“And didn’t the Apostles believe Him?”

“I suppose they did.”

“And yet what Christ held in His hands looked like bread, tasted and
felt and smelt like bread. Was it bread?”

“Yes; I guess it was bread.”

“Now, look here, uncle—who am I to believe, you or Christ?”

“What’s that—Oh, why Christ of course.”

“Well, you say it’s bread, and a whole lot of people say the same thing.
But Christ says it is His body, and His word is worth more than the word
of all the duffers in the world.”

“Let’s walk on,” said Compton, and fell into thought. “Bobby, why do you
want to make your first communion?”

“Because I want to pray for my mother and—and for you, and to get grace
and strength. You know, uncle, it’s the greatest thing in the world.”

“Well, suppose we go in and see a priest?”

“Uncle!” exclaimed Bobby, “you’re all right.”

Father Mallory, a zealous, kindly young priest, received Bobby with a
rare cordiality, and while Compton sat by in respectful attention,
questioned the boy at length.

“Mr. Compton,” said Father Mallory, before ten minutes had quite
elapsed, “this boy is as well prepared as any child I ever met. He has
brains and, what is immeasurably better, faith. Bobby, you may go to
confession, say, three days from now, and then to communion the next
day, Saturday morning.”

“Oh, Father,” said Bobby, “thank you! And may I use that telephone?”

“Certainly.”

“That you, Peggy?—Yes, this is Bobby. Say, I’ve got great news.—No, no
news of my mother, but I know she’s all right.—Guess
again.—No.—You’re getting cold.—Now you’re getting warmer. Oh, say;
I’ll bust if I keep it in any longer. I’m going to make my first
communion next Saturday.”

The two in waiting heard clearly a scream of delight.

“Isn’t it great?” pursued the boy. “And if Father Mallory, who is a
jim-dandy, will let me, I’m going to go every day. Yes, I thought you’d
be glad to know. Good-by.”

“I was talking to Peggy,” explained Bobby as he hung up the receiver.
“She’s mighty glad, too.”

The next three days were crowded ones. Bobby, who had heard of retreats
before first communion, decided that he would try, so far as he could,
to make one.

“Uncle,” he said the next morning, “I’ve been thinking last night, and
I’m going to keep silence for three days.”

“Eh?” cried Compton.

“Yes; I’m going to make a retreat before my first communion—that is, as
much as I can. Of course I’ll work just the same.”

In like manner he conveyed his intentions to Peggy, who thought it a
capital idea. And during these three days the company derived no end of
innocent merriment from the pantomime performances of Peggy and the boy,
who really kept silence, but who nevertheless showed an extraordinary
ability in conveying his emotions by gestures and motions and facial
expression. On the whole, Peggy and Bobby during these three days had
the time of their lives. It must be stated that Bobby more than once
fell from grace, and made an attempt at starting a conversation. But
Peggy, older by two years, was resolute. Up went her finger to the
mouth, while reproach, gentle but sincere, shone from her eyes.

Only once did Peggy fail in her duty as directress of this unusual
retreat. On the third day Bobby handed her a note.

    “Miss Peggy: I go to communion to-morrow at the eight-o’clock
    Mass. This is to let you know. Your pal,

                                                           “BOBBY.”

Peggy in the course of these three days had received twenty-four written
communications from her pal. They were all carefully preserved among her
treasured possessions.

“Oh, Bobby,” she exclaimed on the reading of this, the twenty-fifth,
“may I sit next to you, and go up alongside and receive with you?”

“I was hoping you would ask that,” returned Bobby. “I won’t miss mother
so much.”

And then with bright and flashing eyes they broke into a conversation
which would not interest the reader, but which, I am sure, was listened
to with loving attention by at least two angels. How long they would
have continued is beyond conjecture had not Miss Bernadette Vivian
happened along.

“So you’re talking once more, are you?” she remarked. “Let me in, too,
on this conversation.”

“Oh, I forgot,” said Bobby, looking contrite.

“And so did I,” added Peggy. “Bobby!”

Bobby looked into her reproving eyes and beheld a warning finger at her
lips. They talked no more that day.

During this odd triduum Bobby made it a point on the way home to visit
the Blessed Sacrament. He remained on each occasion for half an hour,
during which time his uncle indulged in conversation with Father
Mallory.

On the last day Bobby made his general confession, while Peggy waited
without on her knees, her eyes fastened on the tabernacle, her lips
moving in prayer that her pal might make it a good one. They parted
wordlessly without the vestibule, though it was a matter of five minutes
before their adieus were completed. Indeed, they might have gone on for
a much longer period in their making of farewells had not a bright-eyed
boy, an acolyte of the church, after watching them for a few minutes in
wide-eyed amazement, called out to a young friend on the sidewalk, “Hey,
Jimmie, come on here quick. There’s a couple of deaf-mutes here talking
the sign language.”

Then they parted.

The next morning the romantic little church at Hollywood had,
considering that it was a week day, an unusual number of worshipers at
the eight-o’clock Mass. The director, Joseph Heneman, was there, and
every actor in the play now nearing completion. Even the exponent of the
Delsarte system, a chastened young lady, was in attendance. Many were
non-Catholics. Many had come to see, but, I firmly believe, all remained
to pray.

Just before the Mass Mr. Compton, looking like the last possibility in
the way of a comedian, walked up the aisle behind Bobby, who, with eyes
cast down and hands clasped in reverence, seemed oblivious, as in fact
he was of course, of everything and every one. Compton saw him into a
seat in the front pew and modestly took his own place in the pew behind.
A few seconds later Peggy appeared. She walked up the aisle rather
briskly. Nor were her eyes cast down. Peggy had business. It was no
difficult task to discover Bobby, and to him she went. Leaning over so
as to bring her head on a line with that of the kneeling boy, she handed
him an ivory-bound prayer-book, her own communion present for the lad.
Then she opened the book and pointed out to Bobby the prayers he should
recite in preparation for his first communion.

Bobby and Peggy were dressed in white; and if ever that color,
emblematic of innocence, was appropriate to any occasion, it was
appropriate to this. To some gazing on the two it was a vision. A
non-Catholic, a man who had scored and been scarred in the battle of
life, whispered to his neighbor:

“How those little ones love each other!”

“You are right,” returned the other. “And it is a love which draws down
in admiration ‘the angels in heaven above,’ and sends ‘the demons down
under the sea’ scattering.”

“That’s just what I mean,” said the first, and—a thing that had not
occurred in his life since early boyhood—fell to praying.

Peggy, having accomplished her mission, now passed over to the opposite
pew, where, kneeling as immobile as a statue, she remained until the
time of communion. The two went up together, and as they passed up to
the communion railing a wave of the supernatural swept over every one
present; and when, having received the Body of the Lord, they arose and
turned, their faces were enough to make an atheist believe in God.

The non-Catholics present were carried away; and they left the church as
though they had seen a vision.

To describe the breakfast, with Bobby at the head and Peggy at the foot,
and every member of the company seated between, would be an anti-climax.
It was a happy party.



                               CHAPTER XI
   THE END OF ONE SCENARIO AND THE OUTLINING OF COMPTON’S GREAT IDEA


On that very day the picture was to be finished. So far the going had
been unusually good, and the wind-up would take but a few hours. It
mattered little, therefore, that the director began work an hour late.
Present at this last rehearsal were a striking-looking boy of eight or
nine and an extremely beautiful girl of seven. Bobby’s eyes rested upon
them, and, as he showed by a grin, he was pleased.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning, Bobby,” said the boy, reaching out the hand of
cordiality. “My name is Francis Mason. I’m in the movies myself. Say, I
saw you make your first communion. It was nice.”

The little girl during this introduction was beaming impartially on
both. It was the sweet smile of trusting youth.

“I was there too, Bobby,” she added. “I’m not a Catholic, but it was
just lovely. My name is Pearl Wright. I’m in the movies, too.”

“We’ve come to see you and Peggy,” smiled Francis.

“Yes,” added Pearl. “We’ve heard a lot about you; and it was very nice
of Mr. Compton to get us in.”

Then Peggy came over, and a fellowship was there and then formed between
the four juvenile stars, which, in the retrospect, will take on all the
glory of romance.

At about eleven o’clock Peggy and Bobby had completed their work. So far
as they were concerned the picture was done. Then it was that Compton
called the four children aside.

“Say, Mr. Compton,” said Francis, “those two sure know how to act. It
beats anything I ever saw.”

“That’s what I think,” Pearl put in. “I could just look at Peggy and
Bobby all day and all night.”

“You don’t know, children, how glad I am to see you get on so well
together.”

“We’re friends, you see,” smiled Pearl.

“I believe you,” said Compton. “Now come with me.” Saying which he led
them into a set well screened off from observation. “There’s a little
dance in the play, Pearl and Francis, which is done by Peggy and Bobby.
It’s a very pretty thing, and is really the creation of Peggy Sansone.”

“No, no,” dissented the Italian. “I just saw a minuet and a gavotte and
some other dances and pieced them together.”

“It was fine piecing, at any rate, Peggy. Now what I like about it is
that it has all that is lovely you can find in any dance, and expresses
grace and springtime and innocent gayety without the least taint of the
low or the sensual. Now I want you two children to watch Peggy and Bobby
while they do it for your benefit. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

In point of fact he did not return until the word finis, almost two
hours later, had been pronounced. The picture was done. When he returned
he was in the company of Mr. Heneman. Their entrance was not observed;
the four youngsters were too engrossed to be easily aroused. Bobby was
placing Francis in a pose which called for some unusual control of one’s
equilibrium; Peggy was marking a line on the floor, upon which Pearl was
gazing as though it were an exhibit of diamonds.

“Didn’t I tell you?” said Compton triumphantly.

“You were a prophet,” answered the manager, smiling broadly.

“Oh, goody!” cried Peggy, lifting her eyes and spying the visitors.
“You’re just in time. Francis and Pearl, just as soon as we finished,
started to do it themselves.”

“Aha!” said Compton _sotto voce_. “Didn’t I tell you? Imitation!”

“Yes,” added Bobby, “and they came mighty near getting it right the
first time. Didn’t they, Peggy?”

“They did, Bobby.”

“And then,” put in Pearl with dancing eyes, “Peggy started us to making
it a dance for four. And we’ve had such a good time that—”

“That we didn’t miss you at all,” broke in Bobby.

“And,” added Francis, looking at his wrist watch, “we didn’t even notice
it was an hour past dinner time.”

“Look,” said Compton to the director. “Could you, from here to New York,
find four sweeter children?”

“And they’re all first-rate actors, too,” said the manager, who looked
as happy as though he had come into a fortune. “Compton, I think you
have hit upon a big thing.”

“I know it,” said Compton.

The children meanwhile had put their heads together, literally and
figuratively.

“You do it,” said Peggy to Bobby.

“No, you do it. It’s your dance, anyhow.”

“All right,” sighed Peggy. Then advancing to the two elders, she went
on:

“Please, wouldn’t you like to see our little dance?”

“Nothing would please us better,” answered Heneman.

“Thank you. Come on now; we’re going to show them what we’ve learned.”

It is hard to interest a seasoned director in such things, and almost
impossible to secure the interest of a Compton. But there are exceptions
to every rule. For five minutes or more the audience of two was
spellbound.

It was a variation of the original dance, a wonderful variation,
retaining all its grace and beauty and springtime aroma, with little
touches, magical touches, which charmed it into the realms of fairyland.

“By jove,” roared the manager, “that’s simply wonderful! Peggy, you’re a
genius!”

“Listen, children,” said Compton. “You’ve done more than I expected. I
had a bet with the manager that if I put you together, Pearl and Francis
would go to work and pick up that dance. But you’ve done more. You’ve
saved me the trouble of getting up a dance to fit into our new scenario
which we start at the day after to-morrow. It is called ‘Imitation,’ and
you are all four to be in it.”

The children gazed at each other in speechless joy and wonder.

“There are to be four principals: Bobby, Francis, Peggy and Pearl. Mr.
Heneman and myself have chosen you because we know you can act,
and—and—”

“Because we love you,” supplemented Heneman.

Whereupon Pearl and Peggy threw their arms about each other’s necks and
the two boys rolled over in ecstasy.

“So that is what you’ve been working on, uncle?” asked Bobby when he had
finally come once more to his feet.

“Yes. You gave me the idea, Bobby. You know you’re always doing what
other people are doing. You’re always taking somebody off.”

“Like a policeman?” inquired Pearl. “Well,” she went on to explain, “the
policeman on our beat sometimes takes people off. I saw him once
myself.”

While Peggy, drawing Pearl aside, instructed her in the meaning of the
expression on this occasion, Mr. Compton proceeded:

“The idea came to me on the day you took off that Delsarte girl and got
wooled for your pains. It struck me that I could build up a story on the
idea of four entirely different children, different in their
surroundings, their station in life, their education and their
refinement, being brought together. The tenement girl is thrown in with
the daughter of a magnate; and the son of the same magnate is thrown in
with a tough little kid who is by way of developing into a first-rate
pickpocket.”

“Something like the first part of Oliver Twist?” ventured Peggy.

“In a way, yes. But here’s the difference: No children are really bad,
and some who are on the way to wickedness may have splendid qualities.
And that’s the way it is to be in this play. All four children are to
have splendid qualities. Francis will be the tough boy; but he is
naturally kind and brave. Bobby will be the magnate’s son—good, but
sissified. Peggy will be a child of the tenements, rough in her ways and
uncouth. You, Pearl, will be the magnate’s daughter, nice as pie, but
babyish. And you and Peggy will fall to liking each other just the same
as Bobby and Francis. And here’s where the difference comes in from the
story of Oliver Twist. Because you like each other you will each try to
resemble each other. What Peggy admires in Pearl she will try to be; and
Pearl will try to resemble Peggy in her best qualities. You see the
idea?”

“Where’s the action coming in?” asked Francis.

“Oh, that’s another thing. A kidnaper steals the magnate’s two children.
He puts the girl in a tenement in charge of Peggy’s father, and puts the
boy with a friend who is a thief and a maker of thieves. Peggy and
Francis, their children, are won over by love to your side, Bobby. They
help you to escape. Francis and Bobby succeed in escaping first. Then
Francis traces you girls, and he and Bobby contrive to get you free. You
tramp along the road until, footsore and weary, you happen upon the home
of a kind and fairly wealthy married couple. It is there that Peggy and
Pearl, who have long danced together, teach you, and it is there that
Bobby’s and Pearl’s mother unexpectedly arrives, and clasps her children
to her arms, and Francis doesn’t have to pick pockets or Peggy sell
newspapers any more. The magnate and his family find that their boy and
girl have kept all their good qualities and gained many new ones, while,
as for Peggy and Francis, they have so changed that no friend of former
days would know them. And so you live happily ever afterwards.”

“Say, that’s swell!” cried Francis.

“I just love it!” exclaimed Peggy.

“And am I to wear the tenement clothes in the dance?” asked Peggy.

“That’s what I’d like to know, too—about my clothes,” said Bobby.

“Oh, no. The nice gentleman and his wife, once they have seen you
rehearse, dress you up just fit to kill, and all four of you when you do
your dance will look like magnified humming birds.”

“I am so glad to hear that!” said Peggy.

“Did you ever see a girl,” observed the philosophic Francis, “who didn’t
like to fix herself up in her prettiest?”

“You were just as anxious as I was,” flared Peggy.

“Well, it’s going to be great,” said Francis. “I wish we could start in
right now.”

The meeting broke up in happy shouts and merry laughter, and, I believe,
all four in slumber dreamed that night of happy things, not far off, but
coming towards them in the bright hues of romance.



                              CHAPTER XII
                     BOBBY BECOMES FAMOUS OVERNIGHT


“Well, how is your ‘Imitation’ getting along?” asked the head of the
scenario department in the Lantry Studio some three weeks later.

“Getting on!” repeated Compton. “Getting on is no name for it. Do you
know, Moore, that, other things being equal, children are the finest
actors in the world? You see, they are docile. You tell ’em to do a
thing and how to do it; and if they get your meaning that’s enough. Of
course we’re extremely fortunate; we’ve got together four of the
brightest children in or out of movieland. And they are such pals! They
all stand up for each other; they all help each other. Of course they
have a little tiff now and then. Otherwise we wouldn’t know they were
human. We might conclude that they were not descended from Adam.”

“Eh?” said the astonished Moore, taking his pipe out of his mouth.
“Where did you get that sort of talk? I thought you were a giddy pagan,
foolish but harmless.”

“Well,” laughed Compton, reddening slightly, “I hope I’m getting more
sense.”

“You need it,” said Moore dryly, replacing his pipe and puffing
comfortably. “But to return to our mutton—which one of your
heaven-descended quartet is doing best?”

“That,” returned Compton, “is a question which Joe Heneman and myself
discuss every day. Sometimes we think it’s Peggy. Those large, dark eyes
of hers can be so wistful and, on occasion, so tragic. The next day we
settle upon Francis. In dealing with Bobby in the play he can be so
genial and smile upon him with the serene philosophy of one so much
older, so much more intimately acquainted with the ways of the world. By
the time we have settled upon Francis along comes Pearl with the
sweetest smile and the most gracious manner. Bobby is in the running all
the time. In the trick of imitating he leads them all. We haven’t come
yet to the great scene, the scene where he meets his mother after an
absence of four weeks. That, so far as the children are concerned, is
the last scene. I’m confident that Bobby, if he performs it as I think,
will bring tears to the eyes of millions; and if he does he will be the
star of stars.”

“Did you know, Compton, that Bobby made his first screen appearance on
the Broadways of the big cities yesterday?”

“That’s a fact! I had quite forgotten. Yesterday was the day of release.
I hope they’ll like me in it.”

“I don’t think they’ll bother about you. It is Bobby they will like,”
said Moore.

“And I forgot to look at the papers this morning,” mused Compton
regretfully.

“I did not forget, but I haven’t had time. Wait a minute; there may be
something about it.”

Moore returned shortly, wearing a smile and waving the Los Angeles
_Times_.

“Say, that old thing of yours, ‘You Hardly Can Tell,’ has scored a
tremendous hit. Look at these headlines!” And Compton looked and gasped.
These were the headlines:

               WHO IS THE STAR OF “YOU HARDLY CAN TELL?”

 _Bobby Compton the New Juvenile Star or John Compton the Comedian? You
                           Hardly Can Tell._

“Say,” exclaimed Compton, running his eyes down the review itself,
“that’s good stuff! I’m a little jealous of my reputation, but there are
a few persons in the world who may outshine me, and I’m glad of it; and
Bobby is first of all.”

“I think,” said Moore, “that you’ll have plenty of chance to be glad,
then.”

“The boy comes by his gifts honestly,” continued Compton. “His father
was an actor, and as for his mother, though she never appeared upon the
regular stage, she was a wonder, both at the convent school and later in
society, as an amateur actress. Nothing could persuade her to go on the
stage, though she received before her marriage most tempting offers.”

“You know a lot about her,” said Moore incredulously.

“I didn’t live in Los Angeles all my life,” returned Compton.

“Oh, say, uncle,” cried Bobby, all out of breath, “there’s a reporter
man here and he wants to take my picture.”

The two men glanced at each other.

“Behold the entrance to the gates of fame,” exclaimed Moore, airily
waving his pipe.

“Come on, Bobby,” said Compton, “I’ll go with you.”

“Say, uncle, what’s a Lothario?”

“Eh?” queried the amazed comedian.

“A L-o-t-h-a-r-i-o?” spelled the boy.

“Why, that’s the name of a person.”

“Is your name Lothario, uncle?”

“Certainly not. What makes you ask that?”

“Because I heard that new star with the doll face, Bennie Burnside, say
that you were a gay Lothario.”

“Bennie Burnside,” said Compton severely, “on the outside is a fine
figure of a man from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. On
the inside he is absolutely perfect up to and including his neck. He is
a matinee idol.”

“But, uncle, what is a gay Lothario?”

“It is said of the kind of fool who is soon parted from his money; it
means a man whose most earnest endeavor is to make an ass of himself.”

“But you’re not a fool, uncle.”

“Thank you, Bobby. I will try to believe you. Anyhow, I may be a fool
now, but I am not the forty-three varieties of fool I once was.”

Indeed, so great a change had come upon John Compton since the arrival
of Bobby that all the world—the moving-picture world, at any
rate—wondered. Nothing could persuade him to leave his quarters at
night. The dance knew him no more; the hotel lobby, whither a certain
set of foolishly joyous moving-picture men most did congregate, missed
him from his accustomed place. A local magistrate wondered what had
become of him. He had not been fined for speeding in five weeks. In a
word, John Compton had suddenly abandoned his mad quest of pleasure,
and, having abandoned the quest, was cheerier, happier than he had been
since attaining his majority. Compton was known to be a man of more than
ordinary intellect. His friends had for years expected great things of
him. In college days he had given promise of developing into a writer of
taste and imagination. But he had so far disappointed these high
expectations. His pen had been barren, his life had been strewn with
good intentions—till Bobby came.

And now it was so different. He had written a scenario, “Imitation,”
which was new in matter, touching in treatment, and which, in the
opinion of the Lantry Studio critics, gave promise to set a high mark
for other scenario writers. He was already busy upon a second play.
Bobby was almost his sole companion in these days, Bobby and Father
Mallory, for whom he had conceived a strong liking, and whom he visited
regularly every afternoon.

As the two made their way to an office where the reporter was cooling
his heels there came swooping upon them, dressed for their respective
parts, Peggy and Francis and Pearl.

“Hey, Bobby!” “Gee, Bobby!” “Oh, Bobby!” they shouted in a splendid
enthusiasm, “you’re in the headlines.”

They had the morning paper between them, and in each one’s endeavor to
show Bobby the place and the words they damaged the sheet considerably.

“And we’re all so glad!” said Francis, who had himself starred in five
productions.

“We’re proud of you, Bobby,” said Pearl, smiling angelically.

“And we all love you,” chimed in Peggy, “and Mr. Compton,” she
thoughtfully added.

“Just wait until I read this,” said Bobby. And while, moving his mouth
in the slow pronunciation of each word, the lad read his own praises,
Francis, in a dreamy ecstasy, seated himself, absently placing in his
mouth the pipe he was later to use in the production, and gazed upon the
loved one in happy and ungrudging admiration.

“Oh, just wait till they see ‘Imitation,’” said Bobby, after glancing
over the text under the headlines. “Then they’ll have something to write
about. I don’t mean me. I mean you, Peggy, and you, Pearl, and you,
Francis.”

“And just think of the heaps and heaps of fun we’re having,” chortled
Peggy. “People say we’re working during vacation. Do you call this
work?”

“I should say not,” said the other three, one after the other in such
quick succession that their words almost chimed together.

As they went on to chat gayly of their present joy and their future
plans, Compton was in earnest converse with Joe Heneman.

“Look here, Heneman,” he said, “may I offer a suggestion?”

“I’ve known you to do it before and come away with your life.”

“Say, can’t you run the children through their parts right away and hold
up all the other parts till the little ones have finished?”

“Why? What’s the big idea?”

“The big idea is this: the detective agency has a hunch that Mrs. Vernon
is dead. They’ve sent me a story about some woman picked up dead near
San Luis Obispo, and they claim it is Barbara. That is, they claim it’s
Bobby’s mother. When I got that letter two days ago I nearly dropped.”

“Did you tell Bobby?”

“What kind of an idiot do you think I am? Of course I didn’t. And after
the first shock I did not believe a word of it.”

“Why not?”

“I believe that she’s alive, because Bob is certain. You ought to see
that boy pray! Why, that boy has all heaven on his side.”

“Well, I’ll be—” Not finishing his expression of astonishment, Heneman
went on: “But what under the sun has this to do with hurrying the
children through their parts?”

“Why, just this: Bobby’s picture is going into the papers. His mother
will see or hear of it. She’ll trace him up. You know she thinks he’s
dead. She’ll come here, and who can keep her from taking him away?”

“You’re not half as foolish as they say you are,” was Heneman’s
comforting comment. “You’re right, Compton. Let me see. I think with
full time we can get them through by next Monday afternoon.”

“Then go to it,” urged Compton.

At this very moment Barbara Vernon, propped up in bed, pale and weak,
was for the first time since her collapse awakening to the existence of
a world from which she had well-nigh departed.

“Oh, thank God, thank God!” little Agnes was saying. “This is the first
time nurse let me in to see you. And she says you will be all right in a
week or ten days at the most.”

“Agnes, I know I am going to get well. I had such a beautiful dream last
night. My little son, my dear little son, appeared to me. He looked just
as alive as when I last saw him. And he said, ‘Mother, sweet mother,
faith can move mountains.’ And then he pressed his dear lips upon mine
and disappeared. I awoke then, but I felt that he had been with me.”

“And do you now think he is alive?”

“I don’t know, my dear. But I feel so happy. O God, give me the faith
that moves mountains!”

Hereupon entered the nurse, wearing the mien of one who had fought long
and conquered.

“It is a happy day,” she said blithely. “The doctor will be along before
noon, but we don’t need any doctor to tell that you’re getting well. Do
you know, Mrs. Vernon, that you were calling for your little Bobby day
and night all these weeks?”

“Was I?”

“Yes; and it was always in a tone of sadness or of despair. But last
night it was different. You called his name but once, and your voice
sounded as though you were gazing upon some heavenly vision, and your
face grew beautiful and joyous.”

“I understand why,” said Barbara. “Agnes, do you tell her my dream.”

And Agnes, almost word for word, repeated Mrs. Vernon’s account.

“And now,” pursued the smiling invalid, “I’m going, with God’s grace, to
wait in patience and faith till that day ‘when dreams come true.’”

“I think,” observed the nurse, “that there’s a lady outside that would
like to see you. Come in, Mrs. Regan.”

And Mrs. Regan entered and fondly embraced the woman who had saved her
life. Then came Louis and then the father; and all lavished upon the
dear convalescent a wealth of simple, homely love.

“Upon my word!” said Barbara, as, after a few minutes of affectionate
conversation, the visitors reluctantly departed, “I never imagined since
I lost Bobby that I could be so happy.”



                              CHAPTER XIII
BERNADETTE’S TEMPERAMENT DELAYS THE SCENARIO, AND MRS. VERNON MAKES TWO
                             CHILDREN HAPPY


It was Monday, the day on which Mr. Joseph Heneman had counted to finish
all that part of the picture in which the four children were to appear.
And it looked, in the morning, as though he would be right in his
reckoning. But in the closing scene, the scene in which Bobby was to
surpass himself, there came an unexpected hitch, and no other than our
friend, Miss Bernadette Vivian, was the cause.

Like most rising artists, Bernadette was temperamental, which, in other
words, signifies that she was too easily swayed by her feelings. Now it
had happened that on the previous evening she had met a most pleasing
and engaging young man; and with the two it was a case of love at first
sight. On this day, therefore, her shapely head was filled with visions
of orange blossoms, bridal veils and a teasing wonder as to what kind of
engagement ring he would select. With all these matters on her mind, is
it at all surprising that she was in no mood to represent a mother
meeting her lost children?

She was, in this particular scene, to register the agony of separation,
the ecstasy of meeting, and the tears of joy, all of which things Miss
Bernadette signally failed to accomplish. The only thing that could have
brought comfort to her soul and any expression of joy to her face would
be her young man advancing smilingly upon her, holding in his dear hand
a diamond engagement ring. In vain did Heneman expostulate with her; in
vain did Compton remonstrate. In vain, too, did the four children, whom
she really loved, cast upon her glances of friendly reproach. Nothing
could arouse her from “love’s young dream,” than which, we are credibly
informed by a poet, “there’s nothing half so sweet in life.”

Up to this day Bernadette had been ambitious. She was a star in embryo,
and her laurels were in the winning. But the young man whose bright
smile still haunted her was very wealthy. Upon marrying him she would
retire at once.

If Mr. Heneman said things that any proper censor would properly delete,
let it be said in his defense that he said them under his breath; for
the director, as no doubt four guardian angels urged in his behalf at
heaven’s chancery, ever cherished the highest reverence for children.

By four o’clock of that evening the director was unnerved, Compton
almost frantic, the children in ill humor. They were all worn out. And
if the four youthful thespians did quarrel a little and sulk for almost
ten minutes, let it be said in their behalf that before going home they
all abjectly apologized one to the other, and proved once more the truth
of Tennyson’s lines:

    _Oh, blessings on the falling-out_
    _Which all the more endears!_

During all this Miss Bernadette, happily seated and with crossed legs,
powdered her nose, consulted her hand mirror and, for the nonce an
unmitigated flapper, gazed heavenward with a smile that would have been
absolutely idiotic on a young lady less favored of feature. The distress
of all her friends impressed her not in the least. In fact, it never
dawned upon her consciousness that anybody was distressed. Truly, love
is blind.

“Attention, please!” called Heneman when it was nearing five o’clock.
“The weather is rather close and it has been a trying day. Perhaps
that’s the reason we can’t get this reuniting business over. I’m sorry,
but we’ll have to try it over to-morrow at ten. The play is going to be
a big thing, and so far you’ve made it a big thing. But we don’t want an
anti-climax to spoil it all.”

“What kind of an aunty is that?” asked Bobby.

This remark sent them all off in good humor.

Bobby went to confession before going to the suite. He confessed, by the
way, every week, and went with Peggy to communion every morning. Also,
he lingered to make a special and earnest prayer for that falling star,
Bernadette, and I fear that if Bernadette, in the light of what happened
that evening, were to have learned the import of that prayer, she would
have waylaid Bobby and given him a sound spanking.

“O good Lord”—such was the import of Bobby’s prayer—“bring that nice
young lady, Bernadette Vivian, to her senses; and do it in a hurry so
that to-morrow we can shoot that scene the way it ought to be shot, and
be done with it.”

That night the lovers met and there were five minutes of unbroken bliss.
In these five minutes they plighted their troth over and over. Nothing
in the heavens above or the earth beneath or the waters under the earth
could ever dissever their souls. In the next five minutes there arose a
slight difference about the style of the engagement ring; and before the
quarter was quite ended both were in a towering rage and vowed
repeatedly never, never to look upon each other’s face again. Then the
idol of her heart went out and got drunk—a weakness of his of which
Bernadette was entirely ignorant—and left his fond one bathed in tears.

It was a bad night for Bobby, too. An inconsiderate friend of Compton’s,
Benny Burnside, meeting Bobby as he returned from confession, asked the
boy whether it was true that his mother was dead.

“Of course she is not dead,” answered Bobby resolutely.

“Oh, I’m so glad to hear it! So that woman they found dead in the woods
at San Luis Obispo was not your mother after all,” continued the admired
one of every flapper in the land. It was he who had said that Compton
was a gay Lothario.

Bobby’s lips quivered.

Thereupon Mr. Benny Burnside told him, not without some embroidery to
make the story more convincing, of the reports of the detective agency
on the case. If Mr. Burnside did not fully convince the lad of his
mother’s death, it was not due to any lack of effort on his part.

Bobby, on retiring, had several sleepless hours. Faith struggled with
alleged fact, and the struggle brought with it agony and tears. But the
boy was not alone in the fight. To his aid he summoned the Mother of
God, his guardian angel, his patron saint. Before midnight confidence
returned; and Bobby, his face still wet with tears, fell into a
dreamless sleep.

On that same day, in the morning hours, Mrs. Barbara Vernon, seated on
the ranchman’s front porch, a deep peace upon her face, touched once
more with the glow of health, looked out calmly upon a world made
strangely beautiful through the magic given only to the eye of the
convalescent. Never, even in the first blush of maidenhood, had she
looked more beautiful. Sickness had etherealized her beauty. Upon her
features was the resignation which, falling short of joy, gives
contentment touched with melancholy.

“Oh, Mrs. Vernon!” cried two eager voices, their owners rushing through
the front door in a race to reach her first. Agnes and Louis were
flushed with unusual excitement. Something big had come into their
lives.

“What is it, my dears? Good news?”

In answer to which, Louis, raising his voice to a shrill pipe, poured
forth a volume of sound as intelligible as though his mouth were
cluttered with pins.

“But what is it?” asked Barbara, breaking into a smile. “I can’t make
out a word you say.”

“Let me talk, Louis,” said Agnes, making sure of the success of this
request by clapping her hand over the excited youth’s mouth, and keeping
it there. “Mrs. Vernon, there’s a matinee at the moving-picture house of
San Luis Obispo this afternoon, and—and—” Here Agnes manifested her
excitement by losing her breath, taking advantage of which, Louis, very
much handicapped by the restraining hand still held over his mouth, made
an effort to say, “Won’t you come?” giving the effect, however, of a
bulldog’s growl.

“And,” continued Agnes, “it’s a swell show. And, oh, Mrs. Vernon,
wouldn’t you like to come with us?”

“I don’t think,” Barbara made answer, “that I am in a mood just yet for
anything like that. I am sure you can go by yourselves.”

The hand of Agnes dropped, as did her jaw. Louis dug his fists into his
eyes. The girl’s lips quivered.

“But if you would like to have me,” amended the convalescent, reading
sympathetically the signs of woe in the children, “why, of course—”

“Whoop-la!” yelled Louis, running at breakneck speed towards the door
and yelling in his flight. “Hey, dad! she’s going to go.”

“Oh, you are so kind, Mrs. Vernon!” cried Agnes. “Just now papa got a
long-distance telephone call from San Luis Obispo. There’s a friend of
his there who went to the picture show last night, and he called dad up
to tell him what a nice, clean picture it was. He says that it’s a
first-run picture. The proprietor of the movie house there generally
uses older runs, but there’s some kind of convention in the town this
week, and so he engaged this new picture and raised the admission price
from twenty to forty cents, and added three matinees. And the man said
that if dad wanted to go he would hold five tickets for us. And dad said
he would go and take ma and us children, provided you would go. Oh,
isn’t that a treat? We’ll start in an hour. Dad thinks that the ride and
a picture like that will do you a lot of good.”

“Why didn’t you let me know at first that you couldn’t go unless I went?
Indeed I’m sure it will make me happy, if for nothing else than that it
will give joy to two of the dearest little children I have ever met.”

And so fifteen minutes later Barbara, Mr. and Mrs. Regan, and the happy
children were speeding onward to San Luis Obispo.



                              CHAPTER XIV
MRS. VERNON ATTENDS A MOVING-PICTURE SHOW AND FINDS IN IT A GREAT LESSON
                       UNTHOUGHT OF BY THE AUTHOR


The lobby of the San Luis Obispo moving-picture house was thronged, and
there was a crush at the ticket office. As Regan and his party pushed
their way to the entrance, the ticket seller was announcing that the
house was sold out.

To get through this unheard-of crowd Mr. Regan was forced to use his
elbows freely. Mrs. Vernon and his family, according to his directions,
followed him in close single file. None of them had an opportunity to
notice the posters and the pictures of various scenes in the much
heralded play. Had the lobby been less thronged, it is doubtful whether
they would have attended the performance.

“To accommodate all,” cried a strong voice as they reached the ticket
taker, “there will be another performance at four o’clock sharp; and
until a quarter to four positively no more seats will be sold.”

At two-thirty to the second, but a few minutes after the Regan party had
seated themselves, the lights went out and the “News of the Week” was
flashed upon the curtain. The assembled crowd, filling every seat, had
not come for the “News of the Week”; hence they were in no wise
disappointed when it was taken off, with most of the news left out. The
manager with a view to the second performance was shortening his
program.

There was a moment’s pause, and then there flashed upon the screen the
words, “You Hardly Can Tell”; whereupon everybody sat up and adjusted
himself for the promised treat.

Perhaps the only exception was Mrs. Vernon. Seated between Agnes and
Louis, she was affectionately watching now one, now the other, and
rejoicing in their eager joy.

The story at the first moved slowly, a close-up being given of a few of
the leading characters, including first and foremost the fair Vivian.

“Isn’t she sweet!” exclaimed Agnes breathlessly.

“She has a nice face,” returned Barbara, raising her eyes momentarily to
the screen and then turning them once more upon Agnes.

Suddenly the girl’s face changed from admiration to merriment.

“Oh, look! Ain’t he funny!”

Mrs. Vernon did look and gasped.

There grinning upon them all with a fatuous face, made still more
fatuous by the arrangement of his hair, was her old friend—and more
than friend—John Compton! There came back vividly to her the memory of
their last meeting, something over ten years ago, when she had parted in
sorrow and he in anger, and, as he said bitterly, forever. She was glad
to see his face once more—glad and disappointed. She had expected more
of him. His name by this time should have been known far and wide, not
as a wearer of the motley, but as a writer, a thinker, a leader of men;
and why had he disappointed her expectations? At the moment a feeling of
remorse came upon her. She meditated.

“I was just. But was I kind? It is true I could never bring myself to
marry a man who refused to believe in God. But was I not brutal in the
way I refused him? Possibly, if I had been gentle and patient, he might
have been brought to the truth. Forgive, O my God, the offenses of a
proud and unthinking youth.” Thus meditating she was suddenly brought
back to the present by a roaring and laughing and stir that were little
short of tumult. Agnes jumped to her feet, and remembering herself, sat
down again exclaiming, “Oh! oh! oh!” Louis had risen uttering yelps of
delight, and remained standing until a justly aggrieved man behind him
dragged him back to his seat.

Mrs. Vernon raised her eyes and saw Bobby Vernon!

“O God! O my God!” she exclaimed, jumping up herself and for a moment on
the point of rushing up the aisle to catch her Bobby in her arms. Her
long discipline of self-restraint, however, asserted itself. She
reseated herself, and catching a hand of Agnes in her own, squeezed it
until the child winced.

Yes, it was her own Bobby. The twisted mouth, the bellhop uniform, the
serio-comic face—these were all, in a way, no matter of surprise to
her; for Bobby, as no one knew better than herself, was a born mimic.
But he was alive! Bobby was alive! “O God!” she whispered, “there is a
faith that can move mountains. Blessed be Thy name!” She followed the
picture now, but in a way almost unheard of. It was to her a long, sweet
meditation. Over and over she murmured, “My son that was dead has come
to life again!” “With God all things are possible.” “Oh, my son, my
son!” Tears coursed down her cheeks, tears of joy incredible. But no one
noticed her. All were absorbed in the play, and when the lights were
turned on and the performance over, Agnes was astounded beyond measure
at Barbara, who embraced her almost violently and said:

“It was the sweetest, most touching thing I ever saw. It has taught me
never to fail in trusting in God.”

Now Agnes thought it was the most mirth-provoking thing she had ever
seen, and, as to trusting in God, that lesson, like the flowers that
bloom in the spring, had nothing to do with the case.

Before leaving the theater Mrs. Vernon, excusing herself, had a few
words privately with the manager.



                               CHAPTER XV
       COMPTON’S GREAT SCENARIO IS FINISHED NOT A MOMENT TOO SOON


Of course the next morning, as Bobby arose and dressed for Mass, gave
with its golden sunshine and balmy air every promise of a perfect day.
This was the only thing to be expected. Los Angeles, as far as Bobby
knew, had only one kind of weather. All the days since his arrival had
been gay, fragrant, cloudless, sunshiny days. The inhabitants of Los
Angeles never bothered to discuss the weather; it was not the fertile
topic of conversation that it is in the East. When they spoke of it, it
was simply to burst forth into paeans of praise, generally expressed in
the exclamation “Isn’t it a wonderful day!” and that always ended
further discussion.

“Good morning, Bobby,” said Mr. Compton, to Bobby’s surprise shaved and
dressed.

“Why, halloa! What got _you_ up?”

“I just thought, Bobby, I’d go along with you to Mass this morning.”

“Oh,” said Bobby, puckering his brows. “I suppose,” he went on after
some close conjecturing, “that you are going to church to pray for the
success of that part that didn’t go right yesterday.”

“That is one of the things I am going to pray for.”

“Anything else, uncle?”

“Bobby,” said Compton, ignoring the question, “did you sleep well last
night?”

“Not at first, uncle.”

“I thought so; you do not look quite up to form.”

“I need Holy Communion, uncle. Then after breakfast—I need that
too—then you watch me!”

“Bobby, I want to ask you another question. Did you hear anything
yesterday that worried you?”

“Oh, it’s all over now, I guess,” evaded the child.

“You were crying last night.”

“Who told you?”

“I thought I heard you moaning, and before I went to sleep I went into
your room. There were stains of tears on your pillow.”

“Uncle, there was a man yesterday, Benny Burnside, who tried to make me
think my mother was dead.”

Mr. Compton squeezed his lips together, and sparks shot from his eyes.

“If all the fools in Los Angeles were sentenced to death and all were
pardoned except one, he’s the one who would go hang. He’s a handsome
creature; but all his beauty isn’t anywhere near enough to make up for
the tremendous vacancy in his head. And did you believe him, Bobby?”

“He almost made me believe. That’s what I was fighting about before I
could get to sleep. But I did feel so mean!”

“There’s no sense, my boy, in giving up hope till you have to.”

“I say, uncle, you were worrying too last night. You don’t look right
yourself.”

As a matter of fact John Compton had passed a long and sleepless night.

“Well, suppose we toddle along,” he said, with a forced smile. So forth
went the two, each struggling for faith against an uneasiness born of a
foolish detective’s rash report.

Francis and Peggy were at Mass and went to communion. They wanted Bobby
to “put it over,” and directed the intention of their communion
accordingly. Pearl, though not a Catholic, was there too. She came to
pray, rather startling the worshipers at her entrance by going up the
aisle and making her prettiest little curtsy before the tabernacle. This
curtsy had won the hearts of many a stranger in the moment of
introduction. No doubt our Lord’s love for her, already great—for the
dear Lord who was once a child loves all children in a special way—went
out to her in a new excess.

Pearl, at the end of Mass, repeated the curtsy, which would have won her
distinction in any earthly court—and why not in the heavenly?—and went
outside, where she continued to smile and bow at the returning
worshipers as though they were all friends of hers. And so far as she
was concerned, so they were, God bless her!

“Good morning, Bobby; good morning, everybody!” she cried, as she shook
the hand of Compton, Bobby, Francis and Peggy, dispensing as she did so
a running stream of smiles. “It’s going to be all right. I just know
it’s going to be all right. Bobby, you’re just sure to put it over.”

“It’s going to be the greatest day of all,” chimed in Francis.

“We’ll be finished before noontime,” added Peggy. “And you’ll see, Mr.
Compton,” she went on, fixing large, earnest, questioning eyes upon
Compton, “that we haven’t been praying for nothing.”

“I believe you, my dear,” returned Compton humbly.

And Peggy, who knew something about Compton’s religious, or rather
irreligious, convictions, wondered.

“I’m hungry,” said Bob.

“So am I,” said Pearl. “You see, I couldn’t go to communion, but I could
fast and I did.”

“Then,” said Compton, greatly cheered by the simple, loving little
company, “we’ll all breakfast at the restaurant right below here.”

The two girls and Francis protested that their mothers would be worried;
whereupon Compton let loose their arrested joy by assuring them that he
would telephone each proper home and make himself responsible for the
whole party.

The breakfast was a success, an abundance of watermelon and cream cakes
being large factors, and off they hopped and danced, light as birds and
immeasurably gayer, to the last rehearsal.

Miss Bernadette Vivian had preceded them. She too had had a white night.
The day before she had confided to the amicable clerk who kept the
visitor’s gate and answered the telephone at the Lantry Studio the story
of her great romance. She had made it clear to that amiable young lady
that her engagement was as good as settled, that her Romeo, in addition
to a personal pulchritude beyond power of words to describe, was as
wealthy as Colossus—meaning, no doubt, Crœsus—that he had four
automobiles and a country villa in addition to a home worth at least
thirty thousand dollars: to all of which the gentle and sympathetic
young lady, discounting each of these statements by at least fifty per
cent, lent an attentive ear. Now it occurred to Vivian that, since there
was no secrecy enjoined, the young lady might make her romance known.
Hence it was that, unable to sleep, she hastened down to the studio
bright and early with her revised version of love’s young dream.

“Do you know,” she said, after an affectionate exchange of greetings,
“that I am thinking seriously of entering a convent?”

“That would be very sweet of you,” said Miss Cortland. “But you don’t
want to break the heart of that young man, do you?”

“That young man,” said Miss Vivian darkly, “has no heart to break!”

“Dear me! Aren’t you going to be engaged to him?”

“We were engaged.”

“But you didn’t tell me that.”

“It only happened last night. We were engaged for over ten minutes.”

“And then?” interrupted Miss Cortland.

“Oh, I’m sick and tired of all men!” ejaculated Vivian, clasping her
hands. “They have no ideals! They are so—so common! I’ve always found
that out before it was too late. I’d like to hear what they’ll say when
I go into a convent.”

“Did you have a quarrel, Vivian?”

“I never quarrel,” returned the young lady with dignity. “We had a
difference of opinion, and I discovered that his ideals were not mine.”

By ideals Miss Vivian must have meant diamonds. The kind she wanted for
her engagement was the kind her swain disliked.

“Well, anyhow, I’ve learnt a good lesson. And, oh, I’m so miserable! I
slept badly, and I feel like going to Ocean Park and throwing myself
into the sea. Upon my word, I believe I will!”

Miss Cortland was minded to point out to the distressed damsel that
throwing herself into the ocean and entering a convent were hardly
compatible; but, thinking better of it, she observed:

“This is your fifth case, isn’t it?”

“My seventh,” retorted Vivian, indignantly, and left the office in a
huff.

To set at rest the minds of Miss Vivian’s many admirers, it may be
stated that she did not enter a convent, nor has the ocean received her
into its insatiable maw. She realizes still that there are lots of good
fish in the sea, and, though she nets one every month or so, she has not
yet caught a fish that quite measures up to her expectations. Her
present romance is now number eleven.

“Say, Bobby,” whispered Francis, as they repaired to the scene of their
final rehearsal, “do you want to shed real tears in the part where you
meet your mother?”

“I’d like to,” returned Bobby.

“Well, I’ve got a trick to do it. It’s a pinch I learned from a fellow.
It doesn’t make a mark, but it will smart like fun and bring the tears.
Now, if you need it, just let me know; we’ve got to put this across.”

As the event proved, Francis was not called upon to reduce Bobby to
tears. Bobby, thinking of his own dear mother, and grieving for her the
more bitterly for the ugly rumor which had left him sleepless, found it
an easy task to imagine Bernadette to be Mrs. Vernon, with the result
that his acting was clearly more perfect than it had been on the
preceding day. As for Vivian, that volatile young lady, a flapper
yesterday, was now persuaded that she was refined by a bitter
experience, that all love leading toward matrimony was vanity and
affliction of spirit, and that children were the most interesting and
lovable things in the world. Thus chastened by these reflections, she
put on a more mature air, diffused an atmosphere of sorrow akin to
despair, and, to the astonishment and delight of Heneman, Compton and
all the players, went through her part in a manner that touched the
hearts of all.

“Great!” cried Heneman. “Now get ready for the camera! Ready? Shoot!”

Pearl, Peggy and Francis were all in the set. Pearl, as the magnate’s
daughter, had already met her mother when Bobby entered. He sees the
magnate’s wife standing palpitating and holding out tender arms. He
stares, breaks into a radiant smile of happiness, cries out “Mother!”
rushes into her arms and weeps upon her bosom.

“Done!” announced Heneman, rubbing his eyes. “It’s perfect.—Why, what’s
the matter, Bobby?”

For Bobby, released from Vivian’s arms, was weeping bitterly.

“Are you ill, my boy?” asked Compton, rushing over and putting an arm
about the lad’s neck.

“I—I was th-thinking of my own dear mother,” sobbed Bobby. As he spoke
he raised his eyes. A moment later they grew wide in astonishment,
wonder and incredulity.

“And there she is!” he exclaimed, darting forward to meet a woman now
hurrying toward him.

In a moment Bobby, weeping and laughing, was rushing into the arms of
his own dear mother.

It was a tensely dramatic moment. Those concerned in the play gazed in
awe; then realizing the tremendous strain thus taken off mother and son,
they entered into the joy of the moment.

Compton was the first to advance and greet the happy mother.

“You remember me, Barbara?”

“Indeed and indeed I do! I was thinking of you yesterday—thinking of
the past. And I have something that I want to say to you.”

“He’s the best man in the world, mamma,” said Bobby enthusiastically.
“He’s treated me as though I were his own son. Why, uncle, why have you
got your head down?”

“I didn’t know it,” said Compton. “But anyhow, I do not feel fit to look
upon your dear mother’s face.”

The impending awkwardness was averted by the quick approach of the three
children.

“Oh, Mrs. Vernon!” exclaimed Peggy, her dark eyes luminous and her olive
complexion alive with rosy emotion, “I’m almost as happy as you!” And
Peggy threw her arms about Barbara’s neck.

“Dear little Peggy,” and Mrs. Vernon returned the embrace.

“And,” Peggy went on, running her words into one another, “you know it
was so stupid of me to tell you Bobby was dead. Oh, I’m so glad!”

“May I kiss you, ma’am?” said Pearl, with her charming smile and her
graceful curtsy as Peggy slipped aside. “I’m one of Bobby’s friends,
too.”

“And I too,” said Francis. And Mrs. Vernon, flushed and radiant, fondly
kissed the two children, who in their expressions of delight fell little
short of Bobby himself.

By this time many of the elders had gathered about the reunited pair,
and all in their various ways extended their felicitations. Bernadette
Vivian was so overcome with emotion that she had to be led away by her
attendant. It was a moment of tension.

“Come, Mrs. Vernon,” whispered Compton; “my automobile is waiting
outside. I am sure you want to get away and have Bobby to yourself.”
Saying which, he conducted her away with her boy still clinging to her,
and was presently whirling homeward.

“But, mother,” said Bobby, resting in her arms, “what became of you?
Uncle John had detectives looking all over for you.”

Mrs. Vernon explained in a few words the reason of her long
disappearance.

“And,” she added, “when I saw you on the screen yesterday, I went to the
manager of the theater and found out where you had been working. He was
most kind. He inquired and learned that a train three hours late would
pass at eleven o’clock that night. He took care of me and saw me aboard.
Mr. Regan and his family wanted to see me off. Bobby, if we wish, we can
have a home with them.”

“Bobby’s not poor,” said Compton. “There’s twenty-four hundred dollars
to his credit in the bank just now.”

“And it’s all yours, mother. I was working for you.”

When they entered John Compton’s suite, Barbara gazed about the
sitting-room in pleased surprise. There was a change in the room since
Bobby’s first entrance there. Most of the photographs were gone, and
most prominent of all the pictures adorning the walls was a beautiful
engraving of a guardian angel tenderly watching his innocent charge, a
little boy, in years and appearance resembling Barbara’s son.

“What!” she exclaimed, blushing prettily. “Do you believe in angels,
John Compton?”

“I do! Indeed I do! And I learned that sweet belief from your own little
boy’s example.”

“Then,” pursued Mrs. Vernon, “then you must believe in God.”

“Barbara,” responded Compton, with a catch in his voice, “it must have
been God who sent your boy to me. He has changed my life. For several
weeks, though Bobby doesn’t know it, I have been receiving instructions
from Father Mallory—”

“What’s that?” cried Bobby eagerly.

“And to-morrow I am to be received into the Catholic Church.”



                              CHAPTER XVI
CONTAINING NOTHING BUT HAPPY EXPLANATIONS AND A STILL HAPPIER LOVE SCENE


The hours that followed were given to mutual explanations. Bobby, at
great length, related his adventures from the time he was carried away
by the breakers to the present moment. Then John Compton gave his
version, pointing out that he had done everything to trace up Mrs.
Vernon and that from his knowledge of Bobby picked up in the first hour
of meeting he had judged that, all things considered, the best way to
watch the lad and keep his mind off the sorrows of separation was to
engage him in moving-picture work.

“Anyhow,” he said, “before I had quite made up my mind to do it, Bobby
settled the question by actually breaking in; and just as soon as I saw
him show Chucky Snuff how to do his part, I don’t think I could well
have chosen any other way of meeting the situation.”

“And now, mother dear,” said Bobby, “we want you to tell everything
about yourself, and don’t leave anything out.”

The eager interest of Bobby and John Compton inspired Barbara to a full
and enthralling narrative of her mischances.

“And to think,” mused Compton, “that all this strange series of events
should have come about just through the most trivial thing in the
world.”

“How’s that, Uncle John?” asked Bobby, nestling in his mother’s arms.

“Why, through a little earth tremor. Of course you, Mrs. Vernon, and
you, Bobby, were not used to it; but actually it doesn’t disturb us who
live here, especially the native-born, as much as a loud clap of
thunder. Three months ago we had an actual thunderstorm here, and there
was one flash of lightning and one clap of thunder like the kind that
are so common in Cincinnati. Now Father Mallory told me that the
children in his school were so frightened that for a moment there was
danger of a panic. And I have no doubt that the children who were most
frightened were natives and, because they were natives, would have
hardly paid any attention to an earth tremor.”

“That is so, Uncle John,” broke in Bobby. “Peggy was at school that day
and she told me all about it. She said that when the thunderclap came
she screamed at the top of her voice, and started for the door. The
Sister got there before her, and blocked her and a dozen other children,
and made them go back to their seats.”

“By the way, Bobby,” said Compton, “did you ever think to ask yourself
why you were carried out by that wave?”

“They all say it was the undertow.”

“Yes; but in ordinary circumstances it would not have caught you, as you
were not far enough out. In my opinion, the sea was affected by the
impending earthquake and that wave was not a normal wave.”

“Well, thank God,” said the mother, “that it is all over.”

“And I,” said Compton, “thank God that it all happened. These days with
Bobby have been the happiest of my life. And also—they have brought you
to my home. And that reminds me; till further notice, Barbara, this
suite is yours. Everything has been arranged. I have taken a room across
the way. You and Bobby are in command in this suite.”

“And you’ll come in any time at all, won’t you, Uncle John?”

“That reminds me,” said Compton. “Please don’t think I am an Indian
giver. But I’m arranging a little party for to-night; and may I use
these rooms? Of course you are both to be among those present.”

“Don’t be absurd, John,” laughed Barbara. “These are your rooms. By
to-morrow I’ll try and arrange to get a place for myself and Bobby.”

“We’ll see about that,” returned Compton, with a meaning in his words
that escaped both his hearers. “To-night, Barbara, we’re going to have
Peggy and Pearl and Francis and their mothers.”

“Great!” cried the boy.

“It is to be a special celebration to honor the successful end of our
play ‘Imitation.’ By the way, wasn’t it a peculiar coincidence that you
should appear just as Bobby finished his part of the scenario?”

“I’m afraid,” returned Mrs. Vernon, “that I’m partly responsible for
that coincidence. The man who so kindly let me in to the Lantrey Studio
casually informed me that Bobby was engaged in finishing up his part of
the picture. I came in, and seeing him working, remained watching and
hiding for ten minutes. It occurred to me that if I came upon Bobby
while he was working he might not be able to act. So I watched my little
boy till all was done.”

“Mother,” said Bobby, “if you had come sooner, you might have ruined
that part. I could never do it again that way, because I was thinking of
you.”

“But there’s another reason for this little party,” Compton went on. “I
want you to meet and to know Bobby’s three pals. I think you will agree
with me that I have managed to keep him in really good company. These
children are innocent, bright and exceptionally good, and that they are
so is due in no small part to their mothers, who are always in
attendance, always with them. And that is why I am inviting the mothers,
too.”

How John Compton managed all the details of this banquet is one of the
secrets of his efficiency. He used the telephone three or four times and
the thing was done. After a two hours’ spin along roads so perfect that
they are the admiration of Eastern travelers, the three returned and
found a table in the sitting-room, laid for a banquet, fragrant with
flowers and fruits, and with a caterer in attendance, who announced that
everything was ready.

“Very good,” said John, glancing approvingly at the preparations. “Be
ready to serve dinner in ten minutes. You’ll excuse me, Barbara; the
three children with their mothers are now gathered together and waiting
for me at the home of Francis Mason. I’ll have them here in a jiffy.”

Compton was true to his word. Ten minutes later gales of light laughter
and happy shouting made known to everybody in the apartment house that
Mr. John Compton was receiving friends.

Take a good meal, season it with love and satisfaction over work well
done, dash it over with the joy of reunion, and you have a banquet fit
for the gods.

The children chattered gayly and, somehow or other, ate very heartily at
the same time. Nothing was allowed to interfere with this latter
function. But as all for the greater part of the meal spoke and laughed
at the same time, it would be impossible, even were it worth while, to
reproduce what they said.

Towards the end, when the babbling and laughter were at their loudest,
Mr. Compton tapped his glass.

“Excuse me for interrupting all of you,” he said, “but I’m afraid, if
you don’t moderate yourselves, that a patrol wagon will drive up and
we’ll all be hauled to the station house for disturbing the peace.”

As Mr. Compton smiled and made a comic face the assembled guests, the
children especially, raised a tirra-lirra of silvery laughter. One would
judge from their enjoyment of it that Mr. Compton had cracked the best
joke in the history of the world.

After a full minute, Mr. Compton tapped his glass again.

“It is a pleasure to try being funny before such an appreciative
audience. But don’t you think it would be worth while to take turns in
talking and not all talk at once?”

Whereupon all present answered together in different phrasings that it
certainly would be worth while.

“Very good; then, Mrs. Vernon, it’s your turn.”

Mrs. Vernon promptly said that the voices of the children were music to
her ears, and that this was an occasion on which children should be both
seen and heard. And so substantially declared the three other happy
mothers.

“Well, then, Francis?” adjured Compton.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Francis, rising and bowing, “I am going to
tell you the story of my life.”

It was upon this declaration that the grown folks broke into laughter,
whereat the little ones wondered where was the joke, anyhow!

“At the age of three years and a half I went into the moving-picture
business. Since that time I have starred in five big productions, not
counting this one. And the finest time I have had in all my life has
been the time that Peggy and Pearl and Bobby have worked with me. In
conclusion, I beg to state that I have been married five times.”

The amazed children joined the startled elders in applause and laughter.

“In moving pictures, I mean,” said Francis, and sat down, the orator of
the day.

“And now, Pearl?” resumed Compton.

Pearl arose smiling and made her curtsy.

“Encore!” cried everybody, led by Compton.

Pearl was always ready to smile and curtsy. Nothing loath she repeated
the performance three times handrunning.

“I want to say,” said Pearl, “that my best love and wishes go to Bobby
and his mother. And, Mr. Compton, Peggy has brought her violin along.
She thought, perhaps, that some one might ask her to play.”

“Fine!” said Compton. “We’ll not forget that. And now, Peggy, it’s your
turn.”

Peggy arose radiant.

“I’ll say what Pearl said,” she declared. “For Bobby and his mother I
have heaps of love. And Pearl has brought along her dancing shoes. She
told me that some one might ask her to dance.”

“Splendid! We’ll have an entertainment presently. Now, Bobby?”

“I say,” cried Bobby, “that Uncle John is the finest man in the world.”

This speech was the hit of the evening.

“Bobby,” said Compton, brushing away in a comic gesture an imaginary
tear—not altogether, imaginary, at that—“you have unmanned me. But now
let’s have a little council of war. First of all, our play is finished
and you’re all out of a job.”

“It’s really school time, anyhow,” said Francis consolingly. “I’ve never
had a regular year at school. How I’d like that!”

“So should I,” said Peggy.

“And I’m old enough to start now,” ended Pearl, “and I think Ma will
allow me to go.”

“Upon my word!” exclaimed the host. “This is the first time in all my
life that I heard a bunch of children expressing a desire to go to
school. Shakespeare has set for all time the picture of the schoolboy
with a snail’s pace trudging unwillingly to school.”

“Ah, ah!” said Pearl’s mother. “But Shakespeare never lived in Los
Angeles and in the days of the moving picture.”

“True,” assented Compton. “All rules fail in Los Angeles, a city which
may rightly be called ‘different.’ I’m glad you are all ready for
school. I’ve got good news for you. ‘Imitation’ has brought me in a
large sum of money. But I don’t think it is really mine at all. Bobby
here, imitating everybody, gave me the first idea—the germ of the
story. Then I got to thinking of what sort of people were most likely to
imitate. There was just one answer—children. Next I thought of you
three, Peggy, Pearl and Francis. After that it was easy to work out the
plot. Now, while I am keeping a comfortable sum for myself, I have here
in my pocket a check for each one of you calling for fifteen hundred
dollars: and that has nothing to do with the salary you draw. I have
already spoken to your mothers, and they are all willing for you to take
nine months’ vacation from moving-picture work and go to school. The
check is intended to pay for your education; and who knows but by next
June I’ll have another scenario for just you four!”

There was a moment of wondering silence.

Then Pearl arose, smiling more engagingly than ever.

“Oh, thank you, dear Uncle Compton,” and curtsied deeper than on any
former occasion.

Bobby next arose, and with a smile not unlike Pearl’s said:

“Oh, thank you, dear Uncle Compton,” and duplicated the curtsy of Pearl.

Francis and Peggy, wondering what the laughter from the grown folks was
all about, each in turn made the selfsame speech in the selfsame way.

Mr. Compton in struggling to keep a straight face while witnessing the
new “Imitation” feared for the moment that he was on the point of an
apoplectic seizure.

“Suppose we say grace,” he suggested.

Within a few minutes, the table was cleared, everybody taking a hand.
The next thing was the entertainment.

“Look here, Mrs. Sansone,” whispered Compton. “Do you and the other
women take the children into Bobby’s room and arrange a program. Besides
Peggy’s violin playing and Pearl’s dancing, we want Bobby and Francis to
do some little stunt, too. Get them ready in fifteen minutes at the
least. Meantime, I want to have a word with Mrs. Vernon.”

Presently the two were alone, standing beneath the picture of the
guardian angel.

“Barbara, you remember your remarking this morning that you had
something to say to me?”

“Distinctly, John. But since that time I have seen and learned so much
that I have ever so many things to say to you.”

“But what was it you intended this morning?”

“This, John: when I saw your face on the screen in San Luis Obispo last
night, I went back to the years when you and I were so much together. I
recalled how I had refused you because I couldn’t bring myself to marry
a man who did not believe in God. I think still that I was right in my
decision, but I feel that I should have been gentler, more patient. I
was young and severe. And last night I felt that, if ever I met you
again, I would try to explain how sorry I was not for what I did, but
for the way in which I did it.”

“And I,” returned Compton, “have been thinking of you always, indeed,
but almost constantly since I picked Bobby up from the roadside, and
I’ve recalled bitterly my leaving you as abruptly and in a temper. Every
night for the past three weeks I have said over and over again Newman’s
‘Lead, Kindly Light,’ and I have over and over reflected each time in
sorrow and, I hope, true contrition on the line, ‘Pride ruled my will:
remember not past years.’ Barbara, my father was an infidel and my
mother never bothered about religion.”

“I should have considered that,” said Barbara.

“However, that only extenuates my conduct. Now, Barbara, I want to ask
you a very serious question. Did you love me in those days?”

“I don’t know, John dear, whether I can make myself plain in answering.
I liked you immensely and I was so close to the border line of love that
it was only by a strong struggle that I didn’t cross it. Had I yielded
to your request that night, love would, I am sure, have come in the
yielding.”

“Oh, what a fool I was!” exclaimed Compton. “I was at the gate of
Paradise and turned my back on it, and went out into the night; and I
have been dwelling in outer darkness since. Barbara, since I left you,
I’ve been no good. I have been light, frivolous, irresponsible. My
career has amounted to nothing. If God gave me any talents, I have
buried them. All this was true till the coming of Bobby. Bobby came and
he brought _you_ back. Before God, I believe I am a changed man. I have
seen the light and to-morrow I will arise and go into my Father’s house.
To-morrow I am to be received into the Church, and on Sunday I go to
Holy Communion. Of course, I do not know the future. How do I know
whether I shall be able to persevere and not go back? But honestly, I
believe I am a changed man. I believe and I hope.”

“I have known faith to move mountains,” observed Barbara.

“Now, Barbara, you know how I love your little boy.”

“And more,” assented Barbara, “I know how he loves you.”

“Taking this into consideration, do you think you could possibly love
me?”

“John,” said Barbara, holding out her hand to him, “there’s no thinking
about it after this wonderful day. I love you with all my heart.”

“Oh, I say,” cried Bobby, a second later, and seeing what he saw
suddenly ceased to speak.

“Come here, Bobby,” said Compton, recovering his composure quickly. “I
want to ask you a question. What relation are you to me?”

“First,” answered Bobby, “you were my aunt; then you were my
grandfather, then you were my nephew. Just at present you are my uncle.”

“And, dear Bobby, how would you like me to be your father?”

Bobby looked at his blushing mother and understood. Catching now one,
now the other, he delivered a hearty kiss and a hug to each, then
throwing himself flat on the floor, he closed his eyes and said softly
but joyously:

“Good night!”



                              CHAPTER XVII
THE FOUR CHILDREN AROUSE SUSPICION, UNTIL WITH THE MOST MOMENTOUS EVENT
                  IN THIS NARRATIVE, ALL IS MADE CLEAR


“Say, folks,” screamed Bobby, arising and rushing into his own room,
“we’re going to have a marriage in our family.”

Then, truly, did pandemonium break loose. There was no need of further
explanation: the situation was too clear; one had but to look on Compton
and Barbara to know that they were betrothed. The three mothers fell
upon Barbara, while the children, who one and all loved the transformed
Compton, smothered that embarrassed young gentleman with hugs and
kisses.

“Attention!” cried Compton as with kind but firm hands he disengaged
himself from the four affectionate aggressors. “Listen, please. Each and
every one of you here present is cordially invited to be present at the
wedding.”

“When?” cried all.

“Let me see,” and Compton, as he spoke, wrinkled the brow of
calculation. “On next Sunday, the banns will be read, also on the second
and third Sunday. Then the wedding will follow on some day of that very
week. What day shall it be, Barbara?”

“Saturday,” she promptly made answer.

“I don’t want to be critical, Barbara, but why put it to the very end of
the week?”

“First, John, Saturday is Our Lady’s day.”

“Good!” said Peggy.

“And secondly, it’s the day when the children are free from school.”

Thereupon the children were by way of initiating a new pandemonium; but
the resourceful Compton, bellowing that it was time for the performance,
bundled them all out of the room and called for the first number.

Peggy played with taste and feeling. She was of Italian blood, of a race
that for art stands, I believe, first and foremost in the modern world;
and her art went into her graceful fingers and returned in the sweet
notes that rippled from her bow. Francis recited and, of course,
acquitted himself to the taste of every one present. Pearl’s dance,
under the circumstances, was an incarnation of spring—a spring of
smiles and youth and fragrant innocence. Then arose Bobby and brought
the spectators out of fairyland.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he announced, “I will now give you a correct
picture of Uncle John when he is shaving himself.”

Standing without any properties of any sort, Bobby dipped an imaginary
brush in imperceptible water, rubbed his face, and then lathered himself
with invisible soap. Next he honed an unseen razor upon a similar strop,
and proceeded to go through the motions of shaving. To such an extent
did he succeed in reproducing the faces Compton was wont to make, that
the victim of all this fun lost two buttons from his vest, both of them
flying off when Bobby went through the motions of cutting himself.

“That settles it,” said Compton, when Bobby had ended his performance
with a caricature of Pearl’s curtsy. “We’ve had enough for to-night. The
hour is early—it’s only ten—but to-morrow I am to be received into the
Catholic Church, and I think I ought to have a little solitude.”

“Are you going to shave?” asked Francis.

“Why?” asked Compton, restraining himself lest he should loose another
button.

“If you were,” answered the youth, “I should like to look on.”

Thereupon the happy party broke up.

“Good night, dear,” said Compton to Barbara, when all had left the room,
including Bobby, who had graciously accompanied the departing guests to
the street. “Aren’t they a wonderful set of children?”

“They show to some degree what God originally intended us all to be,”
said Barbara.

“What a pity that they must all grow up!” said the happy man.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Is it possible,” asked John Compton two weeks later, “that our four
children are getting worldly-minded?”

“I hope not, John,” answered Barbara.

It was a lovely afternoon. The two were seated in Compton’s former
suite, which, since the engagement, had remained Barbara’s and Bobby’s
temporary home.

“Well, they show such an unusual interest in our wedding clothes,”
Compton went on, “that I do not know what to make of it. Every time I go
to my tailor, I discover Bobby and Francis either with him or hovering
about the neighborhood, and they always look guilty when I come upon
them. Once Peggy and Pearl were there, too. I asked the tailor what it
all meant, and he laughed and answered that the children were very much
interested in my bridal garments. I don’t like to see children of their
age making such a fuss about styles.”

“Now that you bring the subject up,” said Barbara, “I recall that Peggy
and Pearl every time they come here—and there’s not a day that they
don’t—ask to see my trousseau, and show an interest that I cannot
account for. They ask all sorts of questions.”

“There’s another thing,” resumed Compton. “Several times I have caught
the four of them discussing something or other with intense earnestness;
but no sooner am I seen than they grow embarrassed and drop their
engrossing subject. For all that, they are, in every other respect, so
lovely, they’re all studying so well, that I can’t bring myself to think
they are getting worldly.”

“And besides, John, Bobby and Peggy and Francis go to communion every
day. Not only that, but they make a longer thanksgiving than most grown
people. They are the last to leave the church; so I can’t imagine
anything wrong about them. And sweet little Pearl, who reminds me of the
Peri at the gate of Paradise, not exactly disconsolate, but wistful,
comes every morning with them, and says her little prayers with all the
reverence and devotion of childish love and innocence.”

“My idea of Paradise,” John meditated, “is a place like Los Angeles,
with beautiful smooth-shaven, green lawns thrown in—flowers and foliage
and sunshine to remain ‘as you were.’ But the inhabitants of this
Paradise are to be all children in their innocence, unalloyed by the
little failings which go to show that they are descended from Adam, and
who are never, never to grow up.”

Then in a body entered the little four, who, after a cordial interchange
of greetings, timidly begged to see the bridal dress.

The betrothed pair looked at each other. They were mystified.

“Say, Uncle John,” said Bobby, who, with Francis, quickly lost interest
in the modiste’s “Creation,” “is it true that you’ve been promoted?”

“I’ve been made a Director for the Lantry Studio, if that’s what you
mean, Bobby, and they have accepted my new scenario at a price bigger
than what they paid for ‘Imitation.’”

“You’re going to be rich, uncle.”

“I don’t know about that. But whether I’m rich or not, you are provided
for, my dear. At least, putting together the money you have earned this
summer with what I have added to it, and turning it into Liberty Bonds,
which I have been able to buy up at a price yielding six per cent on the
investment, the income will yield enough to carry you through your
school-days, and when you are done with classes, the principal will be
intact and enough to give you a fair start in life.”

“But,” objected Bobby, “I thought the money I earned was going to Mama
to help her pay off that debt.”

“You needn’t worry about that, Bobby,” exclaimed Mr. Compton. “Yesterday
your mother sent a check canceling the entire obligation. She wasn’t as
poor as we imagined.”

“And then, John,” put in Barbara, “when you gave me—”

But Compton smiling amiably put his hand over her mouth.

The two girls were still studying the dress.

“Can it be vanity?” the two asked themselves.

All they could do was to suspend judgment.

                 *        *        *        *        *

It was Saturday morning, brighter, more fragrant, more Paradise-like
than any morning, so John and Barbara averred, in the golden weather
history of Los Angeles. The wedding was over, the most notable wedding
ever held in the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. The moving-picture
world was there, the moving-picture world, and his wife and daughters,
and, to a surprising extent, his sons. The church, a bower of beauty,
was filled. All was over, and the happy couple, preceded by a flower
girl, no other than Agnes Regan, by the best man, Mr. J. Heneman, and
supporting the weeping bridesmaid, Bernadette Vivian, were moving in
stately fashion down the aisle. As they left the vestibule, there were,
thank goodness, no showers of rice and other idiotic performances,
idiotic, because out of place at the church. Nevertheless, there was
another form of demonstration. Two camera men from the Lantry Studio
were on hand with their moving-picture cameras, and with them Ben Moore,
the head of the Scenario Department.

“Stop where you are,” commanded Ben. “We’re going to take you.”

“Don’t object, my own,” whispered Compton. “We really owe it to the
Lantry people.—Go on, Ben, and tell us what to do.”

“By the way,” continued the groom, “what on earth has become of the
little four? I haven’t seen or heard of them all the morning.”

“They told me they had permission to go up in the choir loft,” answered
Mrs. Compton. “Bobby left at six, one hour and three-quarters before we
started for church. He had something on his mind.—Well, Ben, why don’t
you go on and shoot?”

“Wait,” said Ben severely.

The groom and bride were standing before the main door of the church,
with the best man and bridesmaid next them on their proper sides.

“Move back, you two men to one side, and you two women to the other to
give place to the procession. Now, boys, shoot,” commanded Ben.

As the bridal party obeyed Moore’s curt injunctions, there issued forth
from the church, Bobby, dressed in every detail like Compton; on his
arm, Peggy, arrayed like Mrs. Compton. Behind them, came Francis,
another Heneman, his arm supporting Pearl, an improved replica of the
fair Bernadette Vivian.

“By George,” cried Compton, never for a moment thinking of the cameras
now in operation. “This explains the whole thing.—The little monkeys!”

The young mischief-makers, well out of the church, placed themselves in
front of the real bridal group, in front of their respective replicas.
Four innocent faces then broke into smiles, while their owners made
Pearl’s famous curtsy to an imaginary audience.

Upon this, Bobby turned and presenting a rose to Compton, said:

“‘_Imitation._’”

“_Is_,” announced Peggy, presenting the flower to Barbara.

“_The Sincerest_,” added Francis, with a rose for Heneman.

“_Flattery_,” ended Pearl, addressing the fair Bernadette.

Then Compton caught Bobby in his arms; and Barbara caught Peggy in her
arms; and Heneman caught Francis in his arms; and Bernadette caught
Pearl in her arms; while the cameras clicked furiously, until they
stopped, and Ben Moore announced that, without rehearsal, they had shot
the finest thing ever seen in any moving picture.

                                THE END.



                 PRINTED BY BENZIGER BROTHERS, NEW YORK



                           TRANSCRIBER NOTES


Mis-spelled words and printer errors have been fixed.

[The end of _Bobby in Movieland_ by Francis J. Finn]





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bobby in Movieland" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home