On one of those tired Arrowhead nights, inwardly debating the possible discourtesy of an early bedding after ten wet miles of trout stream, I came again and again to this compelling face of the sad smile and the glad tears. It recalled an ideal feminine head much looked at in my nonage. It was lithographed mostly in pink and was labeled “Tempest and Sunshine.” So I loitered by the big table, dreaming upon the poignant perfections of this idol of a strange new art. I dreamed until awakened by the bustling return of my hostess, Mrs. Lysander John Pettengill, who paused beside me to build an after-dinner cigarette, herself glancing meantime at the flawless face on the magazine cover. I perceived instantly that she also had been caught by its not too elusive charm.
“A beautiful face,” I said.
Ma Pettengill took the magazine from me and studied the dainty thing.
“Yes, he’s certainly beautiful,” she assented. “He’s as handsome as a Greek goddess.” Thus did the woman ambiguously praise that famous screen star, J. Harold Armytage. “And the money he makes! His salary is one of them you see compared with the President’s so as to make the latter seem a mere trifle. That’s a funny thing. I bet at least eighteen million grown people in this country never did know how much they was paying their president till they saw it quoted beside some movie star’s salary in a piece that tells how he’s getting about four times what we pay the man in the White House. Ain’t it a great business, though! Here’s this horrible male beauty that would have to be mighty careful to escape extermination if he was anything but an actor. Being that, however, he not only eludes the vengeance of a sickened populace, but he can come out and be raw about it. Here, let me show you.”
She turned to the page where J. Harold Armytage began to print a choice few of the letters he daily received from admirers of the reputedly frailer sex. She now read me one of these with lamentable efforts of voice to satirize its wooing note: “My darling! I saw that dear face of yours again to-night in All For Love! So noble and manly you were in the sawmill scene where first you turn upon the scoundrelly millionaire father of the girl you love, then save him from the dynamite bomb of the strikers at the risk of your own. Oh, my dearest! Something tells me your heart is as pure and sweet as your acting, that your dear face could not mask an evil thought. Oh, my man of all the world! If only you and I together might—”
It seemed enough. Ma Pettengill thought so too. The others were not unlike it. The woman then read me a few of the replies of J. Harold Armytage to his unknown worshippers. The famous star was invariably modest and dignified in these. Tactfully, as a gentleman must in any magazine of wide circulation, he deprecated the worship of these adoring ones and kindly sought to persuade them that he was but a man—not a god, even if he did chance to receive one of the largest salaries in the business. The rogue! No god—with the glorious lines of his face there on the cover to controvert this awkward disclaimer! His beauty flaunted to famished hearts, what avail to protest weakly that they should put away his image or even to hint, as now and again he was stern enough to do, that their frankness bordered on the unmaidenly?