With the Help of the Tiger

With the Help of the Tiger  (1916) 
by William MacLeod Raine

Extracted from McBride's magazine, March 1916, pp. 94–101. Accompanying illustrations may be omitted.


By William MacLeod Raine

THE old man wanted results. Billie McRobert got them. That was one of several reasons why he considered “Mac” his most efficient director. Billie was a plump, pink little dynamo of energy. He never let difficulties stump him. The word impossible was not in his large and sometimes vitriolic vocabulary.

When one of the scenarios in the big serial, “For Life and Love,” called for East Indian sets and blown-in-the-bottle Hindus and a few jungle man-eaters for good measure, Billie did not throw up his hands and quit. He motored down to the Imperial Valley with Pete Murray, his camera man, gave it the once-over on his way to El Centro, and wired orders to Don Cameron, assistant director of the Achilles Company, to bring on the outfit, plus one jungle in a freight car and one scheduled bill of live goods from the Lunar Zoo as per instructions previously given.

Meanwhile Mac burned up the roads of the Imperial Valley on a search for locations. He decided on the Gauntier ranch for the principal sets.

“Just what I want,” he told Murray on the way back to town. “I'll borrow the cotton fields and the natives and the cane brake for the jungle scenes.”

“Not a chance, Mac. You're out of luck this time. I can see that leather-faced old superintendent go up in the air when you tell him all you want is the loan of the ranch for a week, including the brown boys and the right to romp through his cotton fields with a few tigers and elephants and about a hundred beaters.”

“I'm willing to pay him for any damage we do. Sure he'll be reasonable.”

“You have another guess coming. I didn't notice him rising to your bait when you insinuated you'd like to take some pictures of him bossing the men at the ranch so his posterity could see their noble ancestor in action. This is one time when that persuasive grin doesn't buy you anything, Mac.”

The director's arm sawed up and down as he pumped air vigorously. He always drove as if he were trying to break the road record.

Presently he grunted a retort. “Bet you a dinner at the Barbara Worth we work on the ranch.”

“You're on. I never saw such a bear for getting his own way, but you're up against it this time. The old beggar—what's his name? Simons?—isn't coming through with any favors.”

McRobert was of that opinion himself. He went into a state of rumination from which he emerged only in time to ask some questions of the hotel clerk after they had reached town. What he gathered in the way of information took him on an after-dinner call to a rose-covered bungalow in a residence suburb. He was going over the head of the superintendent to the owner.

The maid showed him to a seat on the porch while she carried in his card, for in the interior towns of California the entertaining of guests is done under the open sky.

A young woman came out upon the screened porch, a card in her hand. As he rose to meet her the director saw that she was little and dark and slender, with a dash of dull salmon red under the brown satin of her cheeks. He read class in the poise of the small well-shaped head, just as he did temper in the rather querulous expression of the vivid face.

“Mr. McRobert?” she asked, looking into his eyes with frank directness. “I am Miss Gauntier.”

“You own the Gauntier ranch?”


“I want to borrow it.”

Her black eyebrows, knitted in delicate crescents of inquiry, relaxed to give way to a smile. Jean Gauntier could be blunt herself and she did not resent it in others.

“Will you promise to return it?”

“In good condition. We pay for all repairs.”

“Where do you want to take it?” She spoke in a quick, clear voice, cutting off the words crisply.

“All over the world-—Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australasia.”

Glints of amusement sparkled in the dark gypsy eyes.

“Have you a magic carpet on which to carry it—or what?”

“I'm going to carry it in a box more wonderful than Aladdin's lamp.”

“Dear me! This sounds like the black art. Are you a necromancer?” she murmured incredulously.

“At my magic wand cities rise and fall, villains commit crime and are punished, romances blossom and fade, the world laughs and weeps and rejoices,” he boasted calmly.

The girl shook her dusky head. Her heavy hair was parted low over her forehead, and under the moon the waves were so black that blue lights glinted from it.

“You sound like an impostor. If not, I can't guess the answer to the riddle. Is your box big enough to hold so large a ranch?”

“All of it I want.”

“Perhaps you had better sit down again and tell me about it,” she suggested.

He did, persuasively. She listened, eyes fixed keenly on him. Before he had finished she gave an answer.

“You can have the ranch—if you'll take its owner, too.”

McRobert groaned in spirit. Was there a woman under thirty in all California who did not want to work in motion pictures?

“Certainly,” he evaded. “I'll have a film run off showing you in your rose garden and on the porch an—”

“You know that isn't what I want,” she broke in imperiously. “I want to get in a real play, to take part in it just like any actress does.”

The director leaned forward and beat the palm of his plump hand with a forefinger. “You think you do, but you don't, Miss Gauntier. My company works. I keep it on the jump. The girls do exactly what I say, no matter how difficult it is. I'm a slave-driver. Understand?”

“Yes, my lord,” she mocked.

He appreciated the hint of rebellion in the slant of the piquant, impudent little face, but it did not stop him.

“Listen! Last week we were doing a desert island stunt. An extra girl lay on a raft and was washed among the big rocks by the surf while we took the scene. For half an hour she was beaten about and half drowned before I was satisfied, and next day we had to do a retake because a sailboat showed in the distance. She went through it again without a word. Are you ready to do that?”

“Try me.”

He opened up another line of attack. “Up at your ranch you are a great lady, but with the Achilles you'll be only the latest extra. They will call you Gauntier—no prefix, no title. How'll you like that?”

“I'm not expecting to be your leading woman. I've got a little sense,” she told him.

The director had to have the ranch. He gave way abruptly. “All right. You get a try-out, Miss Gauntier,” he told her a little grimly. “Hope you enjoy it. But remember, you proposed this. If you don't like it, don't blame me. Have you had any experience? What can you do?”

She threw off all responsibility gaily with a little shrug of the shoulders and a lift of her bare brown arms.

“Not the least. And I don't know what I can do. That's up to you to find out, isn't it?”

He took up her challenge with a dogged grin. “All right. I'll soon know.”

McRobert had cured more than one amateur actress of the disease of moving-picturitis. This young woman would have to take her medicine like the others.


ALL right there. Camera!” McRobert, in flannels and a Panama hat tilted back from a round, perspiring face, clapped his hands to draw attention.

“Now, boys, action! Look away, Steve. Call Marie's notice to Brady. Wave your hands, Marie—both of 'em—over your head—laugh—run out of the picture. Keep looking at Brady, boys. Come into the picture, Miss Gauntier. Quicker! Register anger. Stamp your foot. Choke up. Lift your clenched fists. Bring 'em down slowly. Stand frozen. Now—over you go!”

Jean Gauntier pitched forward in a faint and struck the ground at full length. The camera man presently stopped winding the machine. Mac turned away without a second glance at the young woman who was rising to her feet. She had done a good fall without spoiling it by trying to save herself. But that is all in the day's work for a motion picture actress.

“Where now, Mac?” asked Cameron, checking off scene 44 on his scenario carbon.

“Back to the big ditch for the village scene. Shoot the girls down in the big car, Don. I'll take Marie and Pete and Max with me. Beat it, everybody.”

The camera man, walking beside McRobert to the car, grinned at his chief. He was an Irish youth and took the liberties of his race.

“You're certainly putting Gauntier through a course of sprouts, Mac. Beats the band how she sticks it out. That fall of hers was a peach—went over like a log.”

McRobert looked with a reluctant chagrined admiration toward Jean Gauntier, who was climbing into the big bus automobile.

“She's as game a little kid as I ever saw. Thought I was a sure cure for these rich amateur would-be screen artists, but nothing fazes this girl. Honest, I think she'd jump off the roof of a house if I told her to.”

The provocative effrontery of her demurely saucy face had been a challenge to Billie McRobert. Whatever he had given her to do had been done without protest. Indeed, the little mocking devils of defiance in her dark eyes had seemed to ask why he did not set her at something really hard. Amused and interested at her pluck, he watched her without appearing to do so. She asked no favors and he gave none. Some perversity of admiration stimulated him to put difficulties in her way. He wanted to find how far she would go without demur.

In one way at least she had scored on him. The scenario called for a half-breed Hindu girl as a foil to Marie Albright, the leading woman. She was to be a slender, eager young creature with wild and primitive emotions stirring in her untutored heart, The actress selected for the part had fallen sick and had been forced to return to Los Angeles. In Jean Gauntier the director had the type he wanted. Her mobile face told the very story he wished. It reflected quick and ardent impulses and in certain moods suggested the shadow of impending tragedy.

McRobert had hesitated for some time. He was up against two days of idleness for the company unless he gave the part to Miss Gauntier. At last he offered it to her irritably.

“Think you can do it, Miss Gauntier?” he had asked in an offhand way.

Triumph flashed in her eyes. “What do you think, Mr. McRobert?”

“I think I'll have to take a chance if you've got the nerve to do it,” he snapped. “Can't keep the company standing around on one foot for two days till I get someone from Los Angeles. But you'll have to remember you're a savage young Hindu and not a lady. Max is an English officer and he betrays this girl Ameesa. See?”

She nodded.

“You'll be only half dressed—barefoot and barearmed, you know.”

If he expected any objection he was disappointed. Apparently it was a matter of business with her and not of decorum. “Yes,” she said,

“Thought I'd tell you it isn't a pink tea part,” he continued.


“You'll be in scenes with tigers and elephants. There's always some danger in working with animals.”

“Am I to get my costumes from Mr. Cameron? Or shall I have some made?”

“I'll expect you to go through with it if you take the part. Can't have you quitting in the middle,” he growled.

“I understand that, Mr. McRobert,” had been her quiet answer.

And she had lived up to her words. He had been secretly delighted at the intelligence and spirit with which she had registered the part. As yet he had heard no complaints from her about the hardships of her rôle. She was standing the gaff as if she liked it.

But in spite of her disciplined obedience he knew that there was a battle of the spirit on between them. While he put her through the mill without mercy she flashed defiance at him from under her long dark lashes. The girl had set her stubborn little teeth in a resolve not to cry, “Enough.”


MISS GAUNTIER went more than halfway in putting the ranch at the service of the Achilles Company. She made it clear to McRobert that the whole place was his to do with as he pleased, including the time of her employees. More than once at the noon hour her men brought crates of melons to add to the picnic lunch put up by the hotel at El Centro. It was at one of these luncheons that she tossed out carelessly a suggestion, based upon her knowledge of Hindu costumes, that had given a bigger punch to the plot. Billie admitted to himself that the girl was a find to the company.

She knew all the best locations in the valley and was always ready out of business hours to show them to the director. In spite of her manner of aloof indifference McRobert was aware that she was keen on the adventure. He felt the attraction of her charm all the more because it so manifestly ignored his existence. It was the sturdy independence of the slim young thing that stimulated him even more than her dusky good looks. She asked no favors of any man—and least of all men, Billie McRobert.

His will was roused to break her strong young pride and hers to show him there was no danger she would not face if he demanded it of her. He let his plan of campaign develop casually and as a matter of course. At a dinner given the company by Jean under the vine-covered pergola at the big ranch house Miss Albright asked him what costume she was to wear for the scenes next day.

“I won't need you in the morning, Marie. We're going to pull off some riding and animal stuff—scenes with only Max and Ameesa on the stage, except for some of Miss Gauntier's turbaned Hindus.” The director turned to Jean. “You said you could ride, didn't you?”

“I don't remember. I can.”

“You're to do a fall from a galloping horse.”

This was the first she had heard of it, but Jean did not protest even by so much as a flicker of the eyelashes.

“Bareback?” she asked quietly.

“Yes. And afterward you work with one of the tigers.”

“Shall I want both dresses?”

“Yes. The idea is that you're running away into the jungle to escape from meeting Max. You jump on a horse and it throws you when it sees a tiger. The tiger pursues you. As you run you fall down into a little draw and the tiger leaps right over you.”

“Sounds interesting,” laughed the girl.

“Do we get a holiday, too, Mr. McRobert?” asked one of the other women.

“Yes. All but Mrs. Benson. I don't want any unnecessary people about when we do the tiger stuff. The brute has been starved for a couple of days so that he'll follow trail. He'll be in a bad temper.”

Billie did not look at Miss Gauntier as he announced this comforting fact, but he would have gained nothing by it if he had. When some of the extras commiserated with her playfully, she smiled and joked back. Her eyes were shining with excitement.

“Don't you be afraid, Miss Gauntier. I'm going to look after you,” announced Roy Delavan, the animal man.

“I'm sure you will,” she told him with a gay little nod of thanks.

The director did not know how Jean felt, but he passed an uncomfortable evening and night himself. The more he thought of it the less he liked the prospect. It was all very well for a girl who was in the business to take chances, but he knew that if any accident happened to Jean Gauntier he would never forgive himself. The trouble was that it was now too late to draw back easily. The company had spent ten days on the play and much of this work would go for nothing if another Ameesa must be substituted for Jean. He could, of course, understudy the part in the scene of the fall and dummy her in the tiger-leaping, though it would be hard to do this effectively now that audiences had grown so critical.

The morning after the pergola dinner McRobert came to the ranch disturbed in mind. He wanted to stop Miss Gauntier from working in the animal scenes, but he could not do it without letting her know that she had beaten him. Of course there was no real danger, still—

Jean was in high spirits, keyed up by excitement. The director watched her while he seemed to be busy fussing about the details of the first set. Her motions were light and swift as the dip of a swallow, the ring of her voice clear and sweet as an old song. It came to Billie McRobert suddenly that he did not want to win from this little thoroughbred, that all along he had really hoped she would beat him.

Billie went across to where she stood talking and laughing with the leading man, Max Henley. He drew her aside.

“I'll double you in this fall if you like, Miss Gauntier. There's no need of you taking a chance of a broken bone,” he told her.

The girl's inscrutable smile taunted him. “Would there be less danger for another girl than for me?”

“It's the business of the other girls. It isn't yours,” was his weak answer.

“That's not the way you talked when you hired me,” she thrust at him.

He flushed. “Oh, well! I've a good mind to call it off.”

Her eyes flashed warning. “Don't you dare!”

“All right,” he yielded. “I want you to come into the picture on a slow canter. The machine can be speeded up.”

She nodded shortly and turned back to Henley. Billie, rebuffed, felt a good deal of a fool.

Miss Gauntier did a splendid fall. She ignored the instructions of the director and brought her pony forward fast. McRobert held his breath when the horse shied sideways and the rider pitched to the ground. She lay there for a second in a little crumpled heap, then got to her feet, glanced fearfully at the spot where the tiger was supposed to be, and ran barelegged out of the picture with the supple grace of a fawn.


nO tiger is a safe plaything. McRobert had taken too much animal stuff not to know that there was danger every time one of them was turned into the open with his actors. After consulting with Delavan he decided on Rex as the tiger to take the animal lead in this scenario. The big cat was a lean and dejected creature about as far from an honest-to-goodness man-eater as anything the Lunar Zoo contained. Rex, prodded out of the cage by Delavan, wanted to slink out of sight, but was herded back into the scene by beaters. At the same instant Jim Travis, an extra, crossed in front of the camera with a bleeding chicken, dragged its body along the ground, and ran through the jungle with the bait. The tiger, snarling, moved forward slowly, smelled the blood of the hen, and lifted up its nose.

The camera man was turning the crank and Rex faced him angrily. Its attention distracted by a rock in the ribs heaved by Donovan, Rex scurried into the jungle on the trail of the hen.

“Guess we've got footage enough. Herd him back into the cage,” ordered the director. “Roll the cage forward here, boys. Hustle along with that chicken, Jim. Now, then, Miss Gauntier. You run along here and stumble over this root. See! Like this. You fall full length in that little hollow.... That's the idea. Just like that.... Camera, Pete! Come in, Miss Gauntier, on the run. Down you go.... Fine.”

“That's scene 83, ain't it, Mac?” asked Cameron.

“Yep. We've done 84. Now, 85. All you've got to do is to lie still, Miss Gauntier, in that hollow. Don't move, whatever you do. All we need is a flash of Rex jumping across your body. Bring on that chicken, Jim. Let Rex get a good smell of it. Now put it over there just beyond Miss Gauntier. Better hang it a little higher. Ready, Pete. Get back out of the picture, Jim. I don't want any retake of this. All fixed, Reddy?” He glanced at a big westerner standing beside him with a rifle in his hand. “Open the door, Roy. Camera, Pete!”

The clicking of the machine began again. Delavan prodded the sulky tiger, which stood glaring at the carcass of the chicken ten feet away. The animal crouched for the spring. Unfortunately an extra jab of the pointed stick distracted its attention at the moment of the leap. Instead of clearing the body of the girl the animal landed exactly upon her.

There was an instant crack of a rifle. The tiger rolled half over. Reddy fired again. McRobert sprang forward and dragged the quivering body from that of the girl. He knelt down and snatched Jean from the ground.

“Are you hurt?” he demanded, his face pallid.

“No... I don't think so,” she answered breathlessly. “What was it? Did it jump on me?”

“My God—Yes! Sure you're not hurt?”

“Sure.” She laughed unsteadily. “I'm a little dizzy. That's all.”

A weight lifted from the heart of the director. He turned away to hide the sudden wave of emotion that surged through him.

“It was your fault, Roy. You jabbed it once too often. I ought to fire you, old scout. Tigers cost money.”

“There's blood back of your shoulder, Miss Gauntier,” said Murray. “It's soaking through the torn cloth.”

McRobert stood rigid.

“Must be a scratch. I hadn't felt it before,” the girl said.

The director stepped quickly toward Miss Gauntier, whirled her round, and looked at the shoulder. He tore away the back of her waist.

“Bring water, someone,” he ordered. “Mrs. Benson, give me a strip from the bottom of your skirt.”

After first aid had been given, McRobert moved toward his car, holding the arm of the young woman.

“We'll beat it to town for a doctor.”

Jean rebelled. “Don't be foolish, Mr. McRobert. It's only a scratch. I'm not going to town in this absurd rig.” She glanced down at the ragged little dress and the bare legs beneath.

“Fiddlesticks! What does it matter? Don't you know there's often poison in the scratch from the claw of such an animal? I'm going to have it cauterized.”

“Are you?” she asked with irony in her low voice. “Is this my shoulder—or yours? I'll attend to that at the proper time. But I'm not going to let my friends in town see me in this costume. That's flat. They'd think I'd gone crazy.”

The eyes of the two fastened and fought. The man knew how obstinate she could be. He changed tactics impulsively.

“I told you I was running this company, Miss Gauntier. And I am.”

He stooped, picked her up and ran with her to the machine. Into the seat beside the driver he dumped her unceremoniously. Before she could jump out the car leaped forward.

He drove furiously, pumping air at every grade.

Jean felt her blood quicken. This grave, anxious man who had abducted her was not the Billie McRobert she knew. Her pulses fluttered. For the first time in her life she felt helpless—and was deliciously intoxicated with the sensation.

The girl stole a shy look at him. He, too, then had been fighting against the attraction that was drawing them together. He, too, cared.

“It isn't a matter of life and death, you know,” she told him with studied lightness, afraid that the silence was too significant. “I'm not the first girl that ever was scratched by a cat.”

“What made you do it?” he blurted out roughly. “Haven't you any sense at all?”

“A little,” she answered saucily.

But her impudence was a fraud. The girl knew that she wanted him to domineer over her. She thrilled to his brusque, imperious demand—she who had gone always her own independent way, mistress of her own actions.

He stormed on. “I was a fool to let you. But you're such a stubborn little devil. You've always got to have your own way. What you need is a guardian to lay the law down to you.”

“I'm no more stubborn than you,” she denied. “And I'd like to see anyone try to lay down the law to me.”

“You're going to see it all right, young woman. There'll be no more of this foolishness.... I'm going to marry you myself, and stop it.”

Their eyes met for a long, breathless moment and swam together. She was surprised, but no more than he, at his impulsive challenge. The force of it lifted her like a great wave and swept her from her feet.

“How absurd!” she protested. “You can't bully me into marrying you. Why, I hardly know you.”

“Lots of time to learn. We'll be married to-night.”

She felt the wash of the breakers against her will. “We'll not.”

“To-night,” he repeated. “I'm going to begin looking after you right away.”

“Don't I have anything to say about it?”

“You can say 'Thank you' if you like,” he grinned.

“Isn't there one little detail you've left out altogether?” she asked derisively, but with eyes like stars in a clear, wintry night. “Do you think it isn't necessary even to pretend—that—that—?”

He laughed, like a boy, in deep delight. “What do you think I'm going to be telling you for the next forty years, you little witch?”

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1954, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 68 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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