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   Chapter 15 TRANSFORMING A MOUNTAIN

Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 7556

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


If Jeanne carried her heart in her mouth as she passed through the gate and walked out on the lot of that "Little Bit of Hollywood" in Chicago that day, neither her face nor her feet betrayed her. She was smiling. Her feet moved in a sort of rhythmic motion that was almost a dance.

"Come over here." She steered Jensie, who was at her side, into the shadow of the stadium for spectators.

Before the stadium, a proper distance off, a liberal section of a mountain had been reproduced. This was surprisingly real with trees, bushes, grass and rocks. Real flowers were in bloom.

This did not astonish Jeanne. She had become accustomed to the magic of Chicago scenery. It came and went, she knew that well enough. Four months before this greatest of all Fairs had opened there had not been a tree nor even a shrub upon its grounds. And now, there they were, hundreds of trees, some towering fifty feet in air, thousands of shrubs, miles of hedges.

"Magic," Jeanne murmured.

"It's very beautiful." Jensie's voice was low. "A very beautiful mountain. But it's not Big Black Mountain."

"Why? Tell me!" Jeanne's voice was eager.

Jensie did tell her. For a full quarter of an hour Jeanne listened, and not a word escaped her.

When at last a short chubby man, who walked with a slight limp, appeared at the foot of the mountain she was ready. That Lorena LeMar was capable of an imperious manner befitting a queen, she knew well enough. She was Lorena LeMar now. She would be imperious.

"Ah! Miss LeMar!" The little man gripped the tips of her fingers. "What a day!" he enthused. "It is so bright, like a child with a washed face. And look! What a mountain I have got for you!"

Jeanne looked into his bright little eyes. She was shaking at the knees, but her voice was steady.

"It's a very pretty mountain, Mr. Soloman. But it's not right."

"What's this? Not right, you say?" He stared in unfeigned astonishment.

"This story," she went on, "is about Big Black Mountain. You have pines, young pines all over it. There are no pines on Big Black Mountain. There is mountain ivy, rhododendrons and dogwood in bloom. That's the title, 'When the Dogwood Is in Bloom.' Where is it? Not a twig!"

"But Miss LeMar, you know-"

"Yes, I know." Jeanne was going fast now. "You think the story can never be on the screen. What of that? These people who come to see pictures taken, many of them have traveled in the mountains of Kentucky and Virginia. They will look at your mountain and laugh."

"Laugh? Laugh at me! At Abe Soloman!" The little director fairly danced. "I shall have it changed. You shall have your way, your ivy and your dogwood and what was it you said?"

"Rhododendrons."

"Yes, and your dogwood, all over the lot."

"Oh, thanks, Mr. Soloman." The queen held out an imaginary sceptre.

"And Mr. Soloman," Jeanne had intended going no further that day, but an irresistible impulse carried her on, "we can make a success of this picture, a real big success!"

The small eyes gave her a look that bored like a gimlet into her very soul. Had he guessed? Had she betrayed herself? She felt that her trembling knees would betray her. Too late now. She took a fresh start.

"It's a truly beautiful story. All it lacks is contrast. When this mountain is done over it will do. We-we can shoot the indoor scenes in some fine home. I-I have rich friends."

"Indoor scenes? Miss LeMar, there are no indoor scenes."

"Oh, but Mr. Soloman!" In her eagerness Jeanne had her hand on the little man's shoulder. "There must be indoor scenes. All this, this outside beauty and simplicity is fine, but there must be a palace, silks, gold, grandeur, just for contrast.

"When Zola, the little mountain girl, gets to Louisville in a box car

she must be taken up by rich people who live in a grand house. They must dress her up in gowns, silk gowns and all that."

Jeanne was running down like an eight-day alarm clock, but the little man did not appear to notice it. Before he caught up with her she was off again.

"These people!" She waved a hand at the half-filled stadium. "They come from everywhere. If they see a little bit of a feature picture shot, they'll want to see the finished picture. That's natural. Put up a big sign where they can see it. 'The picture now being made is WHEN THE DOGWOOD IS IN BLOOM. See it in your home theater next month.' And won't they be there?"

"And how!" the little man muttered hoarsely, as he gripped her hand hard. "Miss LeMar, you are a vunder! A vunder! How did you ever get that vay?"

Not daring to utter another word, Jeanne fled precipitately from the spot.

As she rested in the shadow of the stadium, trying in vain to still her wildly beating heart, momentous questions crowded her brain. Had she gotten away with it? Had she truly? It seemed impossible.

"He's a Jew, Mr. Soloman is a Jew. And whoever deceived a Jew? They are the keenest people living. I didn't know he was a Jew. If I had known-"

If she had known, what then? Would she have refused? She did not know.

"There's nothing for it now but to go on until some one shouts: 'Stop!'" she assured herself as her mind sobered and her heart ceased its wild flutter.

She was still very much in the doldrums when, hours later, she sat wrapped in a satin bathrobe, looking out at the city by night.

"If I only were not so impulsive!" she was saying to Florence. "I meant to unfold my bright ideas one at a time. And there I blurted them out all at once, like some little child.

"And now," she sighed, "he says there'll be nothing more done on the picture for two days.

"Nothing more!" Her tone took on a bitter tinge. "Nothing has been done. We went through the motions and the dialogue to-day; did it just the best we knew how, too! The camera men seemed to be making shots. But it was all a fake. People in the stadium got a big kick out of it. But it made me feel all sick inside.

"The others in the cast are so fine, too." Her voice changed. "This boy who's playing the part of an Italian riding into the mountains on a donkey is a dear. Just a kid, but such smooth cheeks, such big eyes, such black hair!

"And he's nice! Not hard as steel the way you expect movie men to be. He told me this was the first real part he'd ever been in, and oh, how he did want it to be a success! But he'd heard it was all set to be a flop."

"And did you tell him you were going to make it a grand success?"

"No, I-" Jeanne's voice trailed off. "I-I couldn't. I-"

"You need more faith," Florence said quietly. "Did you ever think, Jeanne, that nothing really worth while is ever accomplished without a tremendous amount of faith? You must believe in things and in people. You must believe that this picture is awfully worth while. You must believe in Mr. Soloman and your young Italian. Most of all, you must believe in yourself! Faith! That's a grand word!"

"Yes. And I will have faith!" Springing to her feet, Jeanne went into such a wild whirl as set her blood racing and brought her back to her place at last with cheeks as rosy as those of her little Kentucky mountain friend.

"Do you know what?" she whispered, as if afraid of being overheard. "Jensie told me the old hearse at the back of the Tavern was in its place as usual this morning!"

"Of course. What did you expect?"

"But there were horses!" Jeanne's tone carried conviction. "There were two black horses. I saw them. And there was a coffin! I saw that too. And the horses were hauling the hearse away!"

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