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The Golden Fleecer



[ CONTINUED FROM PAGE 67 ^



He seemed too young and too good looking
to have knowti many lonely moments, but tbe
youthful sincerity with which he said it gave
Elsa an odd little thriU.

"Last night I couldn't sleep for thinking
about you — Please don't laugh at me," he
begged, for Elsa'slips had cun'ed in an unbeliev-
ing smile. "Oh, I know I shouldn't tell you this
when I've only just met you but — "

And then he went on, impulsively, to say the
things which every woman loves to hear and
which Elsa had not heard for some time.
While he was talkiag Elsa was thinking:

"This is really the most thrilling thing that
has happened to me in ages. It's just what
I've been needing. What a perfectly intrigu-
ing mouth he has. Such expressive eyes, too.
I wonder if he has ever thought of going on
the screen?"

Afterwards, when she dropped him off at the
Spanish bungalow court where he Uved, and
he persuaded her to come in for just a moment,
she learned that he had.

"You see I had a bit of success on the stage
in London, and then came the war — " He
paused and Elsa noticed a certain sadness,
which she found very appealing, had crept
into his blue eyes. ".Afterwards, when I got
out of a hospital, I couldn't seem to get a
thing. I was awfully up against it — finally had
to take a horrible dancing job in the south of
France—" he shuddered at the recollection.

"y/'OV ought to be good in pictures," Elsa

-*■ said sincerely.

"Do you think so?" he asked eagerly. "Tell
me why. I would value your opinion so much."

"Well, for one thing, you're different. I
think people are getting tired of Latin types."
She paused to insert a cigarette into a slender
onyx holder. "Women would like you."
She smiled kno%vingly. "And after all, isn't
it women who measure the popularity of male
stars? Look at Valentino."

"Oh, I say, if you could only help me!
You've no idea how difficult it is to get a hear-
ing when one is absolutely unknown."

For a moment Jason's eagerness, the flame
of ambition which kindled in his eyes, put
Elsa on her guard. "So," she said to herself,
"it is not Elsa Delmar whose favor he courts —
it is Mrs. George Delmar, the wife of the
famous director." But as she raised her eyes
again to meet his ardent look, she dismissed
the thought as unworthy. He was so young
and shy, and it was so plain that he adored her!

When Elsa said goodbye she had promised
to speak to George about Jason as soon as he
returned from location.

Now Elsa had no intention of letting this
flirtation get out of bounds. She knew of
course that it was playing with fire to go to
Jason's bungalow so often (there had been
several repetitions of her first visit) but then
it had been a long time since Elsa had played
with fire and it gave her a very delightful
sense of warmth. Besides, she told herself, it
was much safer to go there than to have him
come to her. One could never be absolutely
sure of one's ser%'ants. She was very careful
to park her car some little distance from the
entrance. But in spite of this precaution, each
time she hurried along the hedge-bordered
walk leading to Jason's door, she always
had the feeling she was skirting a volcano.

'T'HE cheaply furnished bungalow was a poor
-'■ setting for Jason but it was the best he could
afford, he told her. Elsa was tempted to sug-
gest a quaint little Norman studio which she
knew about, but men were odd about things
like that and she could not be sure just how he
would accept it. In fact, she had not been able
to figure Jason at all. His restrairit quite
batBed her. It is true that she had held him



off — at first. Still, flirtations always progressed
toward something. As a rule Elsa had had to
apply the brakes long before this.

And then one night it happened.

Elsa was on her way to a party and had
followed a sudden impulse — or perhaps it was
feminine intuition — to stop in to see Jason.
She found the room dark, except for the
flickering of the candles which Jason had
lighted. She slipped off her ermine wrap and
stood revealed in evening dress — a shimmery,
silvery dress, created by an artist, to tease the
eye and ensnare the senses.

"T JUST came by for a minute to — " but she
-'• got no further than that, for looking up at
Jason she saw that something had crept into
his eyes which had never been there before.
She drew back self-consciously, as though to
reach for her wrap. But a little outsUpped
word which she had not meant to utter, a
gesture which betrayed her, and in one swift
second she was in Jason's arms.

^'Please, Jason — you mustn't. There are
eyes, ears — everywhere — "

Elsa knew her HoUywood — knew that it
takes one small ounce of fact to make many
pounds of fiction. She could hear them saying:
"Have you heard the latest? Elsa Delmar is
having an affair with that handsome young
Jason Castle."

She tried weakly to push him away but his
lips, so strong, so sweet, were pressed against
hers.

"Oh, my darling," he whispered. "I need
you so — "

In the end, it was his need of her that caused
Elsa to throw caution out of the window.

It was not long before everybody was say-
ing: "Doesn't Elsa Delmar look marvelous
these days?"

To these compliments Elsa smiled wisely
and said nothing. She could never remember
having felt so absolutely alhc. E\-ery hour
she could steal was spent with Jason, and on
the days when some important social engage-
ment prevented their rendezvous she never
failed to send him tender little notes. Jason
loved those little notes, he told her.

Sometimes they drove to the beach in
Elsa's car and sat for hours on the Palisades,
watching the ships like tiny specks on the far
distant horizon. Elsa liked best, when she
could manage it, to drive to the beach at
night, when the water shimmered hke oiled
sUk, and she could lie in Jason's arms while he
told her of places he had seen — Paris, Monte
Carlo, Bucharest. Whenever their conversa-
tion turned to pictures, which it often did, for
Jason was working occasionally, he would re-
mind her of her promise to speak to her hus-
band about him.

" JUST be patient, darling. I'll know when
•J the right moment comes. George is broad-
minded but — " She left the sentence in mid-air
for Jason himself to finish.

Onenight, when they were having their coffee,
Elsa said to George, apropos of nothing at all:

"Isn't it odd that there are so few really
attractive blond men on the screen?"

"I could use one in my next picture," said
George, ashing his cigar in his coffee cup, a
habit which always rather annoyed Elsa
though she never mentioned it.

"For the lead?" she asked, trying to make
her interest appear very casual.

"Yes — opposite Dalmores."

Now it is often said of women drivers that
you can never anticipate what their next move
vnW be. The same is true of women in love.
Elsa had begun the conversation with the in-
tention of asking George to give Jason a
chance, without,' of course, hinting that she
had any personal interest in him. She felt



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27



that Jason was really a potential star and once
he was established it would be rather thrilling
to have him referred to as "Elsa Dclmar's
discovery." But with the mention of Donna
Dalmores, that torrid importation who al-
ready had several Hollywood casualties
chalked up to her credit, Elsa's question con-
gealed on her Ups.

SHE thought of Jason, her beautiful, blond
Jason, playing opposite the sultry Donna.
The way the Continental actress abandoned
herself to love scenes was common gossip. It
was a matter of professional pride with her that
no man could resist her. " I have but to pout ze
red mouth — .10," Donna had been heard to
remark. Would Jason be able to resist her?
Or rather, could she herself hold him, once he
knew Donna?

No — she would not chance it. She knew her
limitations. She heard George's voice from a
long way off, for her mind had been back in
the Spanish bungalow.

"Did you have somebody in mind?"

"No, darling." Elsa quickly lighted the
cigarette which she had been idly twirling
between her fingers. "I merely remarked that
it is odd there are so few blond men in
pictures."

E.\cuse for Elsa there may have been none.
Morals, however, are often a matter of geog-
raphy. Elsa, remember, was living in the
emotional center of the world; in a fantastic
community where love-making is looked .upon
as a legitimate business; where love dramas
are manufactured for world consumption just
as cars are manufactured in Detroit. It is only
natural that private Uves should be influenced
by professional lives.

Elsa considered that her private life was no
one's afifair but her own. She confided in no
one and congratulated herself that no breath
of scandal had touched her. She felt that she
had really been very clever about it. The
trouble with most women was that they did
not use their heads. Her greatest difficulty
now was with Jason himself. He was becoming
rather insistent that she persuade George to
give him a part in his new picture.

"I" HEAR they are looking for a leading man
-'■ for Dalmores," he said. " I ought to be ideal
for that."

Elsa admitted that he would be.

"But you see I have to handle George very
carefully," she explained. "If he thought I
was trying to sell him the idea of using you in a
picture he might become suspicious. And
we don't want that, do we, dear?"

Jason agreed that of course they didn't. He
confided, however, that he was really awfully
up against it and that he had to get something
soon.

"Just trust me to know the right moment
to speak to George about you," she tried to
placate him. Elsa was thinking that perhaps
when the Dalmores picture was finished might
be a very opportune time to speak to George
about Jason.

But a few days later something happened
which caused her to change her mind about
that.

She and George were at dinner.

"I saw your car parked on Argyle Street
this afternoon," he said casually. "I thought
you were going to Ona Munsell's party."

Elsa was engaged in spearing an oyster in
her cocktail.

"I did — but I had to drop in at the dress-
maker's," she quickly alibied herself, trying
to remember whether any of the dressmaker's
bills, giving her proper address, were on
George's desk.

"That Rolls-Royce of yours is rather con-
spicuous you know," added George.

It was just a little thing, of course, and per-
haps George's words carried no hidden mean-
ing. Still, his remark had given Elsa a start.

The next day when Jason telephoned at the
usual time the maid told him that Mrs. Del-
mar was not in.

"What did he say?" Elsa asked from the



bathtub where she had been coaching the
maid on the conversation.

"He says, Madame, that it is very important
that he see you today," the maid answered
without change of e.xpression.

But Elsa did not see Jason that day nor the
next. Two or three times she took up the
telephone to call him, then changed her mind
What if George had heard something to arouse
his suspicions? Suppose he were having her
watched? She could not, she told herself,
afford to take any chances. It had been a very
pleasant interlude while it lasted but Elsa
knew which side her bread was buttered on.
She knew, too, that there were some things
which George simply would not stand for.
Newspaper notoriety, for instance. The time
had come, she wisely decided, to ring down
the curtain on Jason.

She failed, however, to take into considera-
tion the fact that Jason might have some ideas
on the matter himself. Consequently, when
the butler announced one evening a week
later that Mr. Castle was waiting in the draw-
ing room, Elsa simply went cold all over.
Whatever had possessed Jason to come to her?
Her first impulse was to refuse to see him, but
on second thought she decided it might be
better to get it over with. She would be very
sweet, very charming, but she would make it
plain that everything was ended.

" TlUT you can't end it — like this," Jason said
■'-'when she had explained the matter to him.

"No?" Elsa lifted her finely arched brows.
Something told her that Jason was going to be
difficult. "Why not?" she asked.

"Perhaps you have forgotten, my dear Elsa,
that you made a promise — a promise which you
have not yet kept."

"I'm sorry about that, Jason — I really am —
but you see George has heard something —
about you and me, I mean. I wouldn't dare
ask him now."

"I see," he said thoughtfully. "You love
your husband then?"

"Of course I do."

"And you wouldn't want him to know that
you had been — shall we say, indiscreet?"

Elsa stared at him a little dazedly. This
was a new Jason she was facing. What was he
driving at? Her nervous fingers twisted the
long string of jade beads which hung about her
neck.

"Naturally, I wouldn't want him to know — "
Elsa flushed a little. She wished he would not
look at her like that. She glanced toward the
mantel. The little ivory clock pointed to
almost six. George might be coming any
minute. She must get rid of Jason as quickly
as possible.

"Then perhaps you would be %vilUng to pay
— to keep that knowledge from him."

"Why, what do you mean?" demanded
Elsa, knowing of course exactly what he
meant.

"I mean, my dear, that foolish women some-
times have to pay for the foolish letters they
write." He took from his pocket a httle packet
of letters. Elsa's heart seemed to do a nose
dive toward her stomach as she caught sight
of the tall vertical writing.

""YOU mean you are blackmailing me?"

■'• There was a little shiver in her voice.

Jason shrugged. "If you wish to call it
that."

At that moment Elsa heard a car turn into
the driveway.

"How much do you want?" she asked
tensely.

"There are ten letters here." He fingered
the packet as though to make sure. "I think
a thousand dollars each would be only fair."

What price indiscretion! She had fooHsh-
ly been thinking in terms of fifty or perhaps
a hundred dollars, but ten thousand! She stared
at him with unbelieving eyes. Could this
coolly demanding person be the tender, ador-
ing Jason she had known — the man in whose
arms she had foohshly tarried — because he
needed her so?



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A shaft of the afternoon sun fell upon his
iDlond head and touched it %vith gold. Incon-
^'ruously enough Elsa thought of that other
Jason who had gone in search of the Golden
Fleece. A gallant quest that. But times had
indeed changed. This Jason was in quest of a
fleece, too, but of a more modern variety.

TTEN thousand doUars! Certainly an exorbi-
-*• tant price to pay for a packet of meaningless
little notes. Still, it might be a small price to
pay for safety. Suppose the thing should get
into the papers. E.xcerpts from some of those
notes paraded through Elsa's mind.

"My own darhng —

Do you have the smallest idea
how I've missed you today?
Yesterday at this time you
held me in your arms. . .

"It is so sweet — so precious —
this love of ours. . . .

"Vou are with me in thought
every minute. ..."

.'Vnd the one where she quoted the popular
song hit —

"You will always be

My necessity" (she remembered she had

underlined that)
"I'd be lost without you."

How perfectly awful it would be to see those
letters on the front page of the morning paper.
She could \'isualize the headhnes — .\ctor
Blackmails Wife of Celeer.\ted Director.
Hollywood Lon'E Tryst Bared. George
would never forgi\e her and Elsa certainly had
no desire to rehnquish her position as Mrs.
George Delmar. Ten thousand was a lot of
money — she would probably ha\e to pawn her
pearls — but at that moment Elsa wanted
safety at any price.

She rose to her feet, trying to register utter
contempt.

"I haven't that much money now — but
I'll bring it to you tomorrow," she promised
recklessly.

".\ check will do, my dear Elsa," he said
suavely.

"But I can't do that. You'll have to trust
me to — "

Before she finished the sentence George was
in the doorway. Elsa, who had always con-
gratulated herself that she used her head,
knew that she was trapped.

"Hello, dear," he greeted her. Then,
noticing Jason who was seated with his back
to the door, he added: "Pardon me for burst-
ing in like this — I didn't know you had com-
pany."

Elsa introduced them. She wondered if
George noticed how odd her voice sounded.
She could feel Httle beads of perspiration
coming out on her hp, though a moment before
she had been shivering. Jason, she noticed
with considerable rcUef, had at least been
considerate enough to slip the packet of letters
into his coat pocket.

"Is this the young man you were telling me
about, Elsa?" inquired George after he had
rung for the butler to bring some cocktails.

"Why — I don't remember," she lied.

"That night we were talking about a blond
man to play opposite Dalmores," he reminded
her.

"Oh, yes." Elsa managed a sickly smile. She
remembered distinctly that she had not
mentioned any particular man. Was George
just being subtle?

MR. CASTLE would be a perfect contrast
for Dalmores. Don't you think so?"
Elsa nodded. This wasn't a bit like George.
"Ha\'e you done any picture work?" he
turned to Jason.

Elsa was left out of the conversation that
followed. Shesat there twistingand untwisting
the jade beads while George outlined the story



for the next Dalmores picture. 'While he
talked, Elsa was thinking: "If George gives



Online LibraryMoving Picture Exhibitors' AssociationPhotoplay (Volume 36 – 37 (Jul. - Dec. 1929)) → online text (page 21 of 145)