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   Chapter 8 JEANNE’S DOUBLE

Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 10725

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


On reaching the Tavern Jeanne found herself in a high state of agitation. The hour was late. How late? This she could not tell. Had she missed her appointment? Would the movie queen be gone? She caught her breath at the thought. Something had told her that this meeting meant an open door, one more great opportunity.

"Oh!" she breathed as, dropping into a chair, she looked at the clock. "It lacks ten minutes of the hour."

Her eyes roved the room. "They are not here."

"Tea," she said to the waitress, "very black tea, one large pot of tea."

After that experience in the great dome she felt in need of this mild stimulant.

She was in a state of mellow glow imparted by the tea, when Florence ushered into the now all but empty room a person who on the instant brought a gasp from Jeanne's pink lips.

For a full moment Jeanne and the stranger stared at one another in amazement.

"You," said Jeanne at last, "must be I."

"No," said the other quite positively, "it is you who are to be some one else. You are to be Lorena LeMar. That is what we are here to talk about.

"Waiter," she ordered, "bring us coffee, very black."

"One demi-tasse," Jeanne murmured.

It was only after the golden-haired movie star had drained the last drop of her coffee piping hot, that she turned to Jeanne.

"You see, I-"

"Won't you-all draw your chairs up to the fire?" It was Jensie Crider, the rosy-cheeked mountain girl, who stood beside them. "You see everyone is gone. There is a cool breeze from the lake. The fire is so cheerful!"

"Yes, yes, let us do that!" Jeanne exclaimed quickly, touched by the girl's simple kindness. "Yes, we shall do that, and you, my dear, shall sit with us."

"But this-" Miss LeMar's tone suggested caution. "This is to be something of a secret."

"This," Jeanne said in a sharp whisper, "does not matter. In the mountains secrets are kept as nowhere else in the world. Jensie is from the mountains. It is not so?" She turned to Jensie.

"It most certainly is true," Jensie agreed.

"Oh, well then-" Lorena LeMar moved toward the fire.

"You see," she threw out a petulant hand as they gathered about the fire, "I am on the lot over there in what they call 'Little Hollywood.' Five days from now I am to begin a picture-you know, show the people how it's done. There are seats for thousands out there, and all that. Bah! I don't like seats. And I hate people about, when I am making a picture!"

"But people, an audience!" Jeanne murmured, "That is wonderful!"

"Glad you like it. Not for me!" Miss LeMar tossed her head.

"And now," she went on, "comes the opportunity of a lifetime. My opportunity. Rodney McBride, one of the richest men in Chicago, is making up a yachting party to go north. Think of it! A yacht a hundred and forty feet long! Singing, dancing, drinking! Oh, yi! yi! Moonlit waters. Mackinac Island, the Soo Canal, Isle Royale in Lake Superior, speed boats, sailboats and all that!" She sprang to her feet in a gesture of great impatience. "Think of giving up all that just to work out there on the lot with five thousand people staring at you!"

"But think of having your name on the electric signs all over the country!" Jeanne murmured.

"Nix!" Miss LeMar stamped her foot. "When it's all over the thing's sure to be scrapped. The picture's too big for the lot.

"They've shot some fine little stories out there, short ones; but not this. No! No!" Again she stamped her foot.

"I thought-" Her tone changed as she dropped into a chair. "I thought that since you are my double, so perfectly, and since you'd been in light opera, you might-" she cleared her throat-"you might be willing to take my place on-on the lot."

"As Lorena LeMar?" Jeanne stared at her in unbelief.

"As Lorena LeMar. It wouldn't be hard, really." The movie star's tone was eager. "All you'd have to do would be to study the script, get the continuity and the lines, then just go on and-and do your bit.

"And really," she half apologized, "it's not as if the thing would ever get across. It never will. One of those natural things, not spicy at all-don't you know? And besides, there's the lot-it's too small. It could only be done properly in Hollywood, really."

Jeanne looked at Florence. Florence was gazing at the fire. Jeanne knew what that meant. Florence was saying to herself: "She's off again! First it was light opera, then grand opera; now it's to be the movies."

"Tell me," Jeanne's tone was little more than a whisper, "the story of this movie."

"The story," Miss LeMar said lightly, "doesn't amount to much. As I've told you, it may never get as far as a preview."

"I must know," Jeanne murmured.

"Oh, it's just one of those mountain things." Miss LeMar's tone was light. "The side of Big Black Mountain; that's the place, I think."

"Big Black Mountain!" Jensie, who had listened quietly until now, exclaimed. "That's my home!" Her cheek turned crimson.

"And down there somewhere Lincoln was born!" said Jeanne. There was a touch of reverence in her tone.

All this was lost on Lorena LeMar. "It's a love story, of course," she went on. "Boy and girl standing on the side of a mountain. Springtime. Trees in bloom. Apple trees, I guess."

"Dogwood," Jensie corrected. She was leaning forward eagerly.

"Well, anyway, there's the girl, about

sixteen, and a boy about eighteen. Lovers. Boy's going away. They're saying good-bye. No clinches. Too bashful for that. Just a touch of the hand. Girl throws her apron over her eyes after he's gone-that sort of thing.

"The girl-her name's Zola Setser-hears some one singing. She listens. She looks. A donkey appears around the rough path. An Italian, with big brown eyes and all that, rides the donkey bareback. He is singing 'O Sole Mio.'

"She listens and watches. A horse comes into view. A downcast sort of woman is riding the horse; two ragged children are hanging on behind.

"Of a sudden there comes the clatter of hoofs and a fat youth, dressed to kill, all leggings, silver spurs, you know, comes dashing along on a blooded horse. He bumps into the woman, knocks the children off the horse, bumps into the Italian and sends him sprawling.

"'Damn poor white trash!' the fat youth swears, as he leaps from his saddle. 'Damn Dago!'" Miss LeMar waved her hands.

"The mountain girl's dog," Lorena LeMar's voice went on, "a long-eared sort of hound, comes out barking. The fat youth gives the poor hound a kick that sends him away with a wild howl.

"Then he puts on a grand air, and favors the beautiful Zola with a flattering smile while he asks the way to Pounding Mill Creek.

"Zola tells him the way. But you can see she'd much rather shoot him.

"'Damn poor white trash!' the Italian repeats, picking himself up from the dust after the fat youth has ridden on. 'Damn Dago!' Everybody like us, eh? Ha! Getta 'long fine. I gotta ten dolla', gotta one donkey. What say we start a coal mine?'

"Zola laughs at the joke.

"But the Italian is serious. He makes good his word and starts a mine. Zola's father owns some rough land full of coal. He and this Italian, Tony Riccordio, join as partners.

"And that," Miss LeMar yawned, "is what you might call the first act."

"It's a fine beginning," Florence enthused. "And I suppose the mine prospers. Zola marries the dark-eyed Italian, and they live happily ever after."

"No, no, you're wrong. That's too simple." Lorena LeMar took a fresh start. "They mine coal and ship it. The fat youth from the outside, who is supposed to be rich, mines coal and ships it too.

"But there is intrigue in Louisville. Tony Riccordio has his coal held on the rails. Costs pile up. He is about to go into bankruptcy and Zola's papa with him.

"So Zola hides in a load of soft coal and rides to Louisville. The switchmen dig her out and wash her up. When they see what a swell looker she is, they swear allegiance to her cause, and the day is won.

"Zola goes back. There is a dance. Mountmorris Mortimer, the fat youth, insults Zola. Tony throws him over a cliff-not a very high cliff. Only two ribs are broken. They ship him out in a freight car.

"It turns out that Mountmorris has lost all his money. His mine closes. Tony gets rich-"

"And he marries-" Jeanne put a hand over Florence's mouth.

"No," Miss LeMar smiled, "the handsome mountain boy Zola was telling good-bye in the beginning comes back. He and Zola go into a clinch. Tony adds his blessing, sells his share in the mine, stuffs his pockets with money and goes riding back over the mountains, singing 'O Sole Mio'.

"That," Miss LeMar added with a drawl, "is the drift of the story. Of course there's a lot more to it. But you can see. What do you say? Is it a go? I'll see that you get five hundred dollars a week. Two full weeks if you'll only do it."

"Five hundred dollars for just one week!" It was Jensie, the little mountain girl who spoke in a whisper.

"That, dearie," Lorena LeMar favored her with a smile, "is nothing, just nothing at all.

"I'm sorry," she half apologised to Jeanne. "It's all I can spare just now."

"Oh, it-it's all right." One could see plainly enough that Jeanne was not thinking of the money at all, but of the strange circumstances that had brought this unusual opportunity to her door.

"To be some one else for two whole weeks," she was saying to herself. "To forget that Petite Jeanne lives at all. To act in the movies when one has never crossed a movie lot before. It seems quite impossible. And yet-"

"It sounds like a beautiful story," she murmured after a time.

"It is beautiful!" Jensie exclaimed. "But they could make it so much more beautiful if they only knew."

"Knew what?" Miss LeMar opened her eyes wide.

"Knew the mountains."

"But that-" The movie star's voice was low, almost sad. There was about the little mountain girl an all but irresistible appeal. "That does not matter. It's only an exhibition. It'll never go on the screen."

"It could be made very beautiful," Jeanne repeated musingly. Then suddenly a new light sprang into her eyes.

"All right, I'll do it!"

"Wonderful!" Miss LeMar leaped to her feet.

"I shall have to see a great deal of you in the next few days," Jeanne insisted. "I must copy your character."

"See me all you like, so long as I can get off on that yacht cruise. Good-night. I'll be seeing you." The great movie star, Lorena LeMar, was away, leaving in her wake surprise, anticipation, eager hope and blank despair.

"Why did I say 'yes'?" Jeanne murmured at last. "Who in the world could ever do that?"

"Only one person," Florence smiled. "And her name is Petite Jeanne."

But could she?

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