There is no doubt that John Merrick was eccentric. It is generally conceded that a rich man may indulge in eccentricities, provided he maintains a useful position in society, and Mr. Merrick’s peculiarities only served to render him the more interesting to those who knew him best. He did astonishing things in a most matter-of-fact way and acted more on impulse than on calm reflection; so it is not to be wondered at that the queer little man’s nieces had imbibed some of his queerness. Being by nature lively and aggressive young women, whose eager interest in life would not permit them to be idle, they encountered many interesting experiences.
They had just come from a long visit to Louise at the ranch and after conferring gravely together had decided to hide themselves in Hollywood, where they might spend a quiet and happy winter in wandering over the hills, in boating or bathing in the ocean or motoring over the hundreds of miles of splendid boulevards of this section.
Singularly enough, their choice of a retreat was also the choice of a score or more of motion picture makers, who had discovered Hollywood before them and were utilizing the brilliant sunshine and clear atmosphere in the production of their films, which were supplied to picture theatres throughout the United States and Europe. Appreciating the value of such a monster industry, the authorities permitted the cameras to be set up on the public streets or wherever there was an appropriate scene to serve for a background to the photo-plays. It was no unusual sight to see troops of cowboys and Indians racing through the pretty village or to find the cameraman busy before the imposing residence of a millionaire or the vine-covered bungalow of a more modest citizen. No one seemed to resent such action, for Californians admire the motion picture as enthusiastically as do the inhabitants of the Eastern states, so the girls’ “adventure” was really a common incident.
AN OBJECT LESSON
It was the following afternoon when Uncle John captured his casual acquaintance, Mr. Otis Werner, in the office of the hotel and dragged the motion picture man away to his rooms to be introduced to his nieces.
“Here, my dears, is Mr. Werner,” he began, as he threw open the door of their apartment and escorted his companion in. “He is one of those picture makers, you’ll remember, and—and—”
He paused abruptly, for Beth was staring at Mr. Werner with a frown on her usually placid features, while Patsy was giggling hysterically. Mr. Werner, a twinkle of amusement in his eye, bowed with exaggerated deference.
“Dear me!” said Uncle John. “Is—is anything wrong!”
“No; it’s all right, Uncle,” declared Patsy, striving to control a fresh convulsion of laughter. “Only—this is the same dreadful manager who dragged us into his picture yesterday.”