T. Tembarom
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse


by Frances Hodgson Burnett


The boys at the Brooklyn public school which he attended did not know what the "T." stood for. He would never tell them. All he said in reply to questions was: "It don't stand for nothin'. You've gotter have a' 'nitial, ain't you?" His name was, in fact, an almost inevitable school-boy modification of one felt to be absurd and pretentious. His Christian name was Temple, which became "Temp." His surname was Barom, so he was at once "Temp Barom." In the natural tendency to avoid waste of time it was pronounced as one word, and the letter p being superfluous and cumbersome, it easily settled itself into "Tembarom," and there remained. By much less inevitable processes have surnames evolved themselves as centuries rolled by. Tembarom liked it, and soon almost forgot he had ever been called anything else.

His education really began when he was ten years old. At that time his mother died of pneumonia, contracted by going out to sew, at seventy-five cents a day, in shoes almost entirely without soles, when the remains of a blizzard were melting in the streets. As, after her funeral, there remained only twenty-five cents in the shabby bureau which was one of the few articles furnishing the room in the tenement in which they lived together, Tembarom sleeping on a cot, the world spread itself before him as a place to explore in search of at least one meal a day. There was nothing to do but to explore it to the best of his ten-year-old ability.

His father had died two years before his mother, and Tembarom had vaguely felt it a relief. He had been a resentful, domestically tyrannical immigrant Englishman, who held in contempt every American trait and institution. He had come over to better himself, detesting England and the English because there was "no chance for a man there," and, transferring his dislikes and resentments from one country to another, had met with no better luck than he had left behind him. This he felt to be the fault of America, and his family, which was represented solely by Tembarom and his mother, heard a good deal about it, and also, rather contradictorily, a good deal about the advantages and superiority of England, to which in the course of six months he became gloomily loyal. It was necessary, in fact, for him to have something with which to compare the United States unfavorably. The effect he produced on Tembarom was that of causing him, when he entered the public school round the corner, to conceal with determination verging on duplicity the humiliating fact that if he had not been born in Brooklyn he might have been born in England. England was not popular among the boys in the school. History had represented the country to them in all its tyrannical rapacity and bloodthirsty oppression of the humble free-born. The manly and admirable attitude was to say, "Give me liberty or give me death"— and there was the Fourth of July.

Though Tembarom and his mother had been poor enough while his father lived, when he died the returns from his irregular odd jobs no longer came in to supplement his wife's sewing, and add an occasional day or two of fuller meals, in consequence of which they were oftener than ever hungry and cold, and in desperate trouble about the rent of their room. Tembarom, who was a wiry, enterprising little fellow, sometimes found an odd job himself. He carried notes and parcels when any one would trust him with them, he split old boxes into kindling- wood, more than once he "minded" a baby when its mother left its perambulator outside a store. But at eight or nine years of age one's pay is in proportion to one's size. Tembarom, however, had neither his father's bitter eye nor his mother's discouraged one. Something different from either had been reincarnated in him from some more cheerful past. He had an alluring grin instead—a grin which curled up his mouth and showed his sound, healthy, young teeth,—a lot of them,—and people liked to see them.

At the beginning of the world it is only recently reasonable to suppose human beings were made with healthy bodies and healthy minds. That of course was the original scheme of the race. It would not have been worth while to create a lot of things aimlessly ill made. A journeyman carpenter would not waste his time in doing it, if he knew any better. Given the power to make a man, even an amateur would make him as straight as he could, inside and out. Decent vanity would compel him to do it. He would be ashamed to show the thing and admit he had done it, much less people a world with millions of like proofs of incompetence. Logically considered, the race was built straight and clean and healthy and happy. How, since then, it has developed in multitudinous less sane directions, and lost its normal straightness and proportions, I am, singularly enough, not entirely competent to explain with any degree of satisfactory detail. But it cannot be truthfully denied that this has rather generally happened. There are human beings who are not beautiful, there are those who are not healthy, there are those who hate people and things with much waste of physical and mental energy, there are people who are not unwilling to do others an ill turn by word or deed, and there are those who do not believe that the original scheme of the race was ever a decent one.

This is all abnormal and unintelligent, even the not being beautiful, and sometimes one finds oneself called upon passionately to resist a temptation to listen to an internal hint that the whole thing is aimless. Upon this tendency one may as well put one's foot firmly, as it leads nowhere. At such times it is supporting to call to mind a certain undeniable fact which ought to loom up much larger in our philosophical calculations. No one has ever made a collection of statistics regarding the enormous number of perfectly sane, kind, friendly, decent creatures who form a large proportion of any mass of human beings anywhere and everywhere—people who are not vicious or cruel or depraved, not as a result of continual self-control, but simply because they do not want to be, because it is more natural and agreeable to be exactly the opposite things; people who do not tell lies because they could not do it with any pleasure, and would, on the contrary, find the exertion an annoyance and a bore; people whose manners and morals are good because their natural preference lies in that direction. There are millions of them who in most essays on life and living are virtually ignored because they do none of the things which call forth eloquent condemnation or brilliant cynicism. It has not yet become the fashion to record them. When one reads a daily newspaper filled with dramatic elaborations of crimes and unpleasantness, one sometimes wishes attention might be called to them —to their numbers, to their decencies, to their normal lack of any desire to do violence and their equally normal disposition to lend a hand. One is inclined to feel that the majority of persons do not believe in their existence. But if an accident occurs in the street, there are always several of them who appear to spring out of the earth to give human sympathy and assistance; if a national calamity, physical or social, takes place, the world suddenly seems full of them. They are the thousands of Browns, Joneses, and Robinsons who, massed together, send food to famine-stricken countries, sustenance to earthquake-devastated regions, aid to wounded soldiers or miners or flood-swept homelessness. They are the ones who have happened naturally to continue to grow straight and carry out the First Intention. They really form the majority; if they did not, the people of the earth would have eaten one another alive centuries ago. But though this is surely true, a happy cynicism totally disbelieves in their existence. When a combination of circumstances sufficiently dramatic brings one of them into prominence, he is either called an angel or a fool. He is neither. He is only a human creature who is normal.

After this manner Tembarom was wholly normal. He liked work and rejoiced in good cheer, when he found it, however attenuated its form. He was a good companion, and even at ten years old a practical person. He took his loose coppers from the old bureau drawer, and remembering that he had several times helped Jake Hutchins to sell his newspapers, he went forth into the world to find and consult him as to the investment of his capital.

"Where are you goin', Tem?" a woman who lived in the next room said when she met him on the stairs. "What you goin' to do?"

"I'm goin' to sell newspapers if I can get some with this," he replied, opening his hand to show her the extent of his resources.

She was almost as poor as he was, but not quite. She looked him over curiously for a moment, and then fumbled in her pocket. She drew out two ten-cent pieces and considered them, hesitating. Then she looked again at him. That normal expression in his nice ten-year-old eyes had its suggestive effect.

"You take this," she said, handing him the two pieces. "It'll help you to start."

"I'll bring it back, ma'am," said Tem. "Thank you, Mis' Hullingworth."

In about two weeks' time he did bring it back. That was the beginning. He lived through all the experiences a small boy waif and stray would be likely to come in contact with. The abnormal class treated him ill, and the normal class treated him well. He managed to get enough food to eat to keep him from starvation. Sometimes he slept under a roof and much oftener out-of-doors. He preferred to sleep out- of-doors more than half of the year, and the rest of the time he did what he could. He saw and learned many strange things, but was not undermined by vice because he unconsciously preferred decency. He sold newspapers and annexed any old job which appeared on the horizon. The education the New York streets gave him was a liberal one. He became accustomed to heat and cold and wet weather, but having sound lungs and a tough little body combined with the normal tendencies already mentioned, he suffered no more physical deterioration than a young Indian would suffer. After selling newspapers for two years he got a place as "boy" in a small store. The advance signified by steady employment was inspiring to his energies. He forged ahead, and got a better job and better pay as he grew older. By the time he was fifteen he shared a small bedroom with another boy. In whatsoever quarter he lived, friends seemed sporadic. Other boy's congregated about him. He did not know he had any effect at all, but his effect, in fact, was rather like that of a fire in winter or a cool breeze in summer. It was natural to gather where it prevailed.

There came a time when he went to a night class to learn stenography. Great excitement had been aroused among the boys he knew best by a rumor that there were "fellows" who could earn a hundred dollars a week "writing short." Boyhood could not resist the florid splendor of the idea. Four of them entered the class confidently looking forward to becoming the recipients of four hundred a month in the course of six weeks. One by one they dropped off, until only Tembarom remained, slowly forging ahead. He had never meant anything else but to get on in the world—to get as far as he could. He kept at his "short," and by the time he was nineteen it helped him to a place in a newspaper office. He took dictation from a nervous and harried editor, who, when he was driven to frenzy by overwork and incompetencies, found that the long-legged, clean youth with the grin never added fuel to the flame of his wrath. He was a common young man, who was not marked by special brilliancy of intelligence, but he had a clear head and a good temper, and a queer aptitude for being able to see himself in the other man's shoes—his difficulties and moods. This ended in his being tried with bits of new work now and then. In an emergency he was once sent out to report the details of a fire. What he brought back was usable, and his elation when he found he had actually "made good" was ingenuous enough to spur Galton, the editor, into trying him again.

To Tembarom this was a magnificent experience. The literary suggestion implied by being "on a newspaper" was more than he had hoped for. If you have sold newspapers, and slept in a barrel or behind a pile of lumber in a wood-yard, to report a fire in a street- car shed seems a flight of literature. He applied himself to the careful study of newspapers—their points of view, their style of phrasing. He believed them to be perfect. To attain ease in expressing himself in their elevated language he felt to be the summit of lofty ambition. He had no doubts of the exaltation of his ideal. His respect and confidence almost made Galton cry at times, because they recalled to him days when he had been nineteen and had regarded New York journalists with reverence. He liked Tembarom more and more. It actually soothed him to have him about, and he fell into giving him one absurd little chance after another. When he brought in "stuff" which bore too evident marks of utter ignorance, he actually touched it up and used it, giving him an enlightening, ironical hint or so. Tembarom always took the hints with gratitude. He had no mistaken ideas of his own powers. Galton loomed up before him a sort of god, and though the editor was a man with a keen, though wearied, brain and a sense of humor, the situation was one naturally productive of harmonious relations. He was of the many who unknowingly came in out of the cold and stood in the glow of Tembarom's warm fire, or took refuge from the heat in his cool breeze. He did not know of the private, arduous study of journalistic style, and it was not unpleasing to see that the nice young cub was gradually improving. Through pure modest fear or ridicule, Tembarom kept to himself his vaulting ambition. He practised reports of fires, weddings, and accidents in his hall bedroom.

A hall bedroom in a third-rate boarding-house is not a cheerful place, but when Tembarom vaguely felt this, he recalled the nights spent in empty trucks and behind lumber-piles, and thought he was getting spoiled by luxury. He told himself that he was a fellow who always had luck. He did not know, neither did any one else, that his luck would have followed him if he had lived in a coal-hole. It was the concomitant of his normal build and outlook on life. Mrs. Bowse, his hard-worked landlady, began by being calmed down by his mere bearing when he came to apply for his room and board. She had a touch of grippe, and had just emerged from a heated affray with a dirty cook, and was inclined to battle when he presented himself. In a few minutes she was inclined to battle no longer. She let him have the room. Cantankerous restrictions did not ruffle him.

"Of course what you say GOES," he said, giving her his friendly grin. "Any one that takes boarders has GOT to be careful. You're in for a bad cold, ain't you?"

"I've got grippe again, that's what I've got," she almost snapped.

"Did you ever try Payson's 'G. Destroyer'? G stands for grippe, you know. Catchy name, ain't it? They say the man that invented it got ten thousand dollars for it. 'G. Destroyer.' You feel like you have to find out what it means when you see it up on a boarding. I'm just over grippe myself, and I've got half a bottle in my pocket. You carry it about with you, and swallow one every half-hour. You just try it. It set me right in no time."

He took the bottle out of his waistcoat pocket and handed it to her. She took it and turned it over.

"You're awful good-natured,"—She hesitated,—"but I ain't going to take your medicine. I ought to go and get some for myself. How much does it cost?"

"It's on the bottle; but it's having to get it for yourself that's the matter. You won't have time, and you'll forget it."

"That's true enough," said Mrs. Bowse, looking at him sharply. "I guess you know something about boarding-houses."

"I guess I know something about trying to earn three meals a day—or two of them. It's no merry jest, whichever way you do it."


When he took possession of his hall bedroom the next day and came down to his first meal, all the boarders looked at him interestedly. They had heard of the G. Destroyer from Mrs. Bowse, whose grippe had disappeared. Jim Bowles and Julius Steinberger looked at him because they were about his own age, and shared a hall bedroom on his floor; the young woman from the notion counter in a down-town department store looked at him because she was a young woman; the rest of the company looked at him because a young man in a hall bedroom might or might not be noisy or objectionable, and the incident of the G. Destroyer sounded good-natured. Mr. Joseph Hutchinson, the stout and discontented Englishman from Manchester, looked him over because the mere fact that he was a new-comer had placed him by his own rash act in the position of a target for criticism. Mr. Hutchinson had come to New York because he had been told that he could find backers among profuse and innumerable multi- millionaires for the invention which had been the haunting vision of his uninspiring life. He had not been met with the careless rapture which had been described to him, and he was becoming violently antagonistic to American capital and pessimistic in his views of American institutions. Like Tembarom's father, he was the resentful Englishman.

"I don't think much o' that chap," he said in what he considered an undertone to his daughter, who sat beside him and tried to manage that he should not be infuriated by waiting for butter and bread and second helpings. A fine, healthy old feudal feeling that servants should be roared at if they did not "look sharp" when he wanted anything was one of his salient characteristics.

"Wait a bit, Father; we don't know anything about him yet," Ann Hutchinson murmured quietly, hoping that his words had been lost in the clatter of knives and forks and dishes.

As Tembarom had taken his seat, he had found that, when he looked across the table, he looked directly at Miss Hutchinson; and before the meal ended he felt that he was in great good luck to be placed opposite an object of such singular interest. He knew nothing about "types," but if he had been of those who do, he would probably have said to himself that she was of a type apart. As it was, he merely felt that she was of a kind one kept looking at whether one ought to or not. She was a little thing of that exceedingly light slimness of build which makes a girl a childish feather-weight. Few girls retain it after fourteen or fifteen. A wind might supposably have blown her away, but one knew it would not, because she was firm and steady on her small feet. Ordinary strength could have lifted her with one hand, and would have been tempted to do it. She had a slim, round throat, and the English daisy face it upheld caused it to suggest to the mind the stem of a flower. The roundness of her cheek, in and out of which totally unexpected dimples flickered, and the forget-me-not blueness of her eyes, which were large and rather round also, made her look like a nice baby of singularly serious and observing mind. She looked at one as certain awe-inspiring things in perambulators look at one— with a far and clear silence of gaze which passes beyond earthly obstacles and reserves a benign patience with follies. Tembarom felt interestedly that one really might quail before it, if one had anything of an inferior quality to hide. And yet it was not a critical gaze at all. She wore a black dress with a bit of white collar, and she had so much soft, red hair that he could not help recalling one or two women who owned the same quantity and seemed able to carry it only as a sort of untidy bundle. Hers looked entirely under control, and yet was such a wonder of burnished fullness that it tempted the hand to reach out and touch it. It became Tembarom's task during the meal to keep his eyes from turning too often toward it and its owner.

If she had been a girl who took things hard, she might have taken her father very hard indeed. But opinions and feelings being solely a matter of points of view, she was very fond of him, and, regarding him as a sacred charge and duty, took care of him as though she had been a reverentially inclined mother taking care of a boisterous son. When his roar was heard, her calm little voice always fell quietly on indignant ears the moment it ceased. It was her part in life to act as a palliative: her mother, whose well-trained attitude toward the ruling domestic male was of the early Victorian order, had lived and died one. A nicer, warmer little woman had never existed. Joseph Hutchinson had adored and depended on her as much as he had harried her. When he had charged about like a mad bull because he could not button his collar, or find the pipe he had mislaid in his own pocket, she had never said more than "Now, Mr. Hutchinson," or done more than leave her sewing to button the collar with soothing fingers, and suggest quietly that sometimes he DID chance to carry his pipe about with him. She was of the class which used to call its husband by a respectful surname. When she died she left him as a sort of legacy to her daughter, spending the last weeks of her life in explaining affectionately all that "Father" needed to keep him quiet and make him comfortable.

Little Ann had never forgotten a detail, and had even improved upon some of them, as she happened to be cleverer than her mother, and had, indeed, a far-seeing and clear young mind of her own. She had been called "Little Ann" all her life. This had held in the first place because her mother's name had been Ann also, and after her mother's death the diminutive had not fallen away from her. People felt it belonged to her not because she was especially little, though she was a small, light person, but because there was an affectionate humor in the sound of it.

Despite her hard needs, Mrs. Bowse would have faced the chance of losing two boarders rather than have kept Mr. Joseph Hutchinson but for Little Ann. As it was, she kept them both, and in the course of three months the girl was Little Ann to almost every one in the house. Her normalness took the form of an instinct which amounted to genius for seeing what people ought to have, and in some occult way filling in bare or trying places.

"She's just a wonder, that girl," Mrs. Bowse said to one boarder after another.

"She's just a wonder," Jim Bowles and Julius Steinberger murmured to each other in rueful confidence, as they tilted their chairs against the wall of their hall bedroom and smoked. Each of the shabby and poverty-stricken young men had of course fallen hopelessly in love with her at once. This was merely human and inevitable, but realizing in the course of a few weeks that she was too busy taking care of her irritable, boisterous old Manchester father, and everybody else, to have time to be made love to even by young men who could buy new boots when the old ones had ceased to be water-tight, they were obliged to resign themselves to the, after all, comforting fact that she became a mother to them, not a sister. She mended their socks and sewed buttons on for them with a firm frankness which could not be persuaded into meaning anything more sentimental than a fixed habit of repairing anything which needed it, and which, while at first bewildering in its serenity, ended by reducing the two youths to a dust of devotion.

"She's a wonder, she is," they sighed when at every weekend they found their forlorn and scanty washing resting tidily on their bed.

In the course of a week, more or less, Tembarom's feeling for her would have been exactly that of his two hall-bedroom neighbors, but that his nature, though a practical one, was not inclined to any supine degree of resignation. He was a sensible youth, however, and gave no trouble. Even Joseph Hutchinson, who of course resented furiously any "nonsense" of which his daughter and possession was the object, became sufficiently mollified by his good spirits and ready good nature to refrain from open conversational assault.

"I don't mind that chap as much as I did at first," he admitted reluctantly to Little Ann one evening after a good dinner and a comfortable pipe. "He's not such a fool as he looks."

Tembarom was given, as Little Ann was, to seeing what people wanted. He knew when to pass the mustard and other straying condiments. He picked up things which. dropped inconveniently, he did not interrupt the remarks of his elders and betters, and several times when he chanced to be in the hall, and saw Mr. Hutchinson, in irritable, stout Englishman fashion, struggling into his overcoat, he sprang forward with a light, friendly air and helped him. 'He did not do it with ostentatious politeness or with the manner of active youth giving generous aid to elderly avoirdupois. He did it as though it occurred to him as a natural result of being on the spot.

It took Mrs. Bowse and her boarding-house less than a week definitely to like him. Every night when he sat down to dinner he brought news with him- news and jokes and new slang. Newspaper-office anecdote and talk gave a journalistic air to the gathering when he was present, and there was novelty in it. Soon every one was intimate with him, and interested in what he was doing. Galton's good-natured patronage of him was a thing to which no one was indifferent. It was felt to be the right thing in the right place. When he came home at night it became the custom to ask him questions as to the bits of luck which befell him. He became " T. T." instead of Mr. Tembarom, except to Joseph Hutchinson and his 'daughter. Hutchinson called him Tembarom, but Little Ann said " Mr. Tembarom " with quaint frequency when she spoke to him.

"Landed anything to-day, T. T. ? " some one would ask almost every evening, and the interest in his relation of the day's adventures increased from week to week. Little Ann never asked questions and seldom made comments, but she always listened attentively. She had gathered, and guessed from what she had gathered, a rather definite idea of what his hard young life had been. He did not tell pathetic stories about himself, but he and Jim Bowles and Julius Steinberger had become fast friends, and the genial smoking of cheap tobacco in hall bedrooms tends to frankness of relation, and the various ways in which each had found himself "up against it" in the course of their brief years supplied material for anecdotal talk.

"But it's bound to be easier from now on," he would say. "I've got the 'short' down pretty fine - not fine enough to make big money, but enough to hold down a job with Galton. He's mighty good to me. If I knew more, I believe he'd give me a column to take care of—Up-town Society column perhaps. A fellow named Biker's got it. Twenty per. Goes on a bust twice a month, the fool. Gee! I wish I had his job!"

Mrs. Bowse's house was provided with a parlor in which her boarders could sit in the evening when so inclined. It was a fearsome room, which, when the dark, high-ceilinged hall was entered, revealed depths of dingy gloom which appeared splashed in spots with incongruous brilliancy of color. This effect was produced by richly framed department-store chromo lithographs on the walls, aided by lurid cushion-covers, or "tidies" representing Indian maidens or chieftains in full war paint, or clusters of poppies of great boldness of hue. They had either been Christmas gifts bestowed upon Mrs. Bowse or department-store bargains of her own selection, purchased with thrifty intent. The red-and-green plush upholstered walnut chairs arid sofa had been acquired by her when the bankruptcy of a neighboring boarding-house brought them within her means. They were no longer very red or very green, and the cheerfully hopeful design of the tidies and cushions had been to conceal worn places and stains. The mantelpiece was adorned by a black-walnut-and-gold-framed mirror, and innumerable vases of the ornate ninety-eight-cents order. The centerpiece held a large and extremely soiled spray of artificial wistaria. The end of the room was rendered attractive by a tent-like cozy-corner built of savage weapons and Oriental cotton stuffs long ago become stringy and almost leprous in hue. The proprietor of the bankrupt boarding-house had been "artistic." But Mrs. Bowse was a good-enough soul whose boarders liked her and her house, and when the gas was lighted and some one played "rag-time" on the second-hand pianola, they liked the parlor.

Little Ann did not often appear in it, but now and then she came down with her bit of sewing,—she always had a "bit of sewing,"—and she sat in the cozy-corner listening to the talk or letting some one confide troubles to her. Sometimes it was the New England widow, Mrs. Peck, who looked like a spinster school-ma'am, but who had a married son with a nice wife who lived in Harlem and drank heavily. She used to consult with Little Ann as to the possible wisdom of putting a drink deterrent privately in his tea. Sometimes it was Mr. Jakes, a depressed little man whose wife had left him, for no special reason he could discover. Oftenest perhaps it was Julius Steinberger or Jim Bowles who did their ingenuous best to present themselves to her as energetic, if not successful, young business men, not wholly unworthy of attention and always breathing daily increasing devotion. Sometimes it was Tembarom, of whom her opinion had never been expressed, but who seemed to have made friends with her. She liked to hear about the newspaper office and Mr. Galton, and never was uninterested in his hopes of "making good." She seemed to him the wisest and most direct and composed person he had ever known. She spoke with the broad, flat, friendly Manchester accent, and when she let drop a suggestion, it carried a delightfully sober conviction with it, because what she said was generally a revelation of logical mental argument concerning details she had gathered through her little way of listening and saying nothing whatever.

"If Mr. Biker drinks, he won't keep his place," she said to Tembarom one night. "Perhaps you might get it yourself, if you persevere."

Tembarom reddened a little. He really reddened through joyous excitement.

"Say, I didn't know you knew a thing about that," he answered. "You're a regular wonder. You scarcely ever say anything, but the way you get on to things gets me."

"Perhaps if I talked more I shouldn't notice as much," she said, turning her bit of sewing round and examining it. "I never was much of a talker. Father's a good talker, and Mother and me got into the way of listening. You do if you live with a good talker."

Tembarom looked at the girl with a male gentleness, endeavoring to subdue open expression of the fact that he was convinced that she was as thoroughly aware of her father's salient characteristics as she was of other things.

"You do," said Tembarom. Then picking up her scissors, which had dropped from her lap, and politely returning them, he added anxiously: "To think of you remembering Biker! I wonder, if I ever did get his job, if I could hold it down?"

"Yes," decided Little Ann; "you could. I've noticed you're that kind of person, Mr. Tembarom."

"Have you?" he said elatedly. "Say, honest Injun?"


"I shall be getting stuck on myself if you encourage me like that," he said, and then, his face falling, he added, "Biker graduated at Princeton."

"I don't know much about society," Little Ann remarked,— "I never saw any either up-town or down-town or in the country, —but I shouldn't think you'd have to have a college education to write the things you see about it in the newspaper paragraphs."

Tembarom grinned.

"They're not real high-brow stuff, are they," he said. "'There was a brilliant gathering on Tuesday evening at the house of Mr. Jacob Sturtburger at 79 Two Hundredth Street on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter Miss Rachel Sturtburger to Mr. Eichenstein. The bride was attired in white peau de cygne trimmed with duchess lace.'"

Little Ann took him up. "I don't know what peau de cygne is, and I daresay the bride doesn't. I've never been to anything but a village school, but I could make up paragraphs like that myself."

"That's the up-town kind," said Tembarom. "The down-town ones wear their mothers' point-lace wedding-veils some-times, but they're not much different. Say, I believe I could do it if I had luck."

"So do I," returned Little Ann.

Tembarom looked down at the carpet, thinking the thing over. Ann went on sewing.

"That's the way with you," he said presently: "you put things into a fellow's head. You've given me a regular boost, Little Ann."

It is not unlikely that but for the sensible conviction in her voice he would have felt less bold when, two weeks later, Biker, having gone upon a "bust " too prolonged, was dismissed with-out benefit of clergy, and Galton desperately turned to Tembarom with anxious question in his eye.

"Do you think you could take this job?" he said.

Tembarom's heart, as he believed at the time, jumped into his throat.

"What do you think, Mr. Galton?" he asked.

"It isn't a thing to think about," was Galton's answer. "It's a thing I must be sure of."

"Well," said Tembarom, "if you give it to me, I'll put up a mighty hard fight before I fall down."

Galton considered him, scrutinizing keenly his tough, long-built body, his sharp, eager, boyish face, and especially his companionable grin.

"We'll let it go at that," he decided. "You'll make friends up in Harlem, and you won't find it hard to pick up news. We can at least try it."

Tembarom's heart jumped into his throat again, and he swallowed it once more. He was glad he was not holding his hat in his hand because he knew he would have forgotten himself and thrown it up into the air.

"Thank you, Mr. Galton," he said, flushing tremendously. "I'd like to tell you how I appreciate your trusting me, but I don't know how. Thank you, sir."

When he appeared in Mrs. Bowse's dining-room that evening there was a glow of elation about him and a swing in his entry which attracted all eyes at once. For some unknown reason everybody looked at him, and, meeting his eyes, detected the presence of some new exultation.

"Landed anything, T. T.?" Jim Bowles cried out. "You look it."

"Sure I look it," Tembarom answered, taking his napkin out of its ring with an unconscious flourish. "I've landed the up-town society page—landed it, by gee!"

A good-humored chorus of ejaculatory congratulation broke forth all round the table.

"Good business!" "Three cheers for T. T.!" "Glad of it!" "Here's luck!" said one after another.

They were all pleased, and it was generally felt that Galton had shown sense and done the right thing again. Even Mr. Hutchinson rolled about in his chair and grunted his approval.

After dinner Tembarom, Jim Bowles, and Julius Steinberger went up- stairs together and filled the hall bedroom with clouds of tobacco- smoke, tilting their chairs against the wall, smoking their pipes furiously, flushed and talkative, working themselves up with the exhilarated plannings of youth. Jim Bowles and Julius had been down on their luck for several weeks, and that "good old T. T." should come in with this fairy-story was an actual stimulus. If you have never in your life been able to earn more than will pay for your food and lodging, twenty dollars looms up large. It might be the beginning of anything.

"First thing is to get on to the way to do it," argued Tembarom. "I don't know the first thing. I've got to think it out. I couldn't ask Biker. He wouldn't tell me, anyhow."

"He's pretty mad, I guess," said Steinberger.

"Mad as hops," Tembarom answered. "As I was coming down-stairs from Galton's room he was standing in the hall talking to Miss Dooley, and he said: 'That Tembarom fellow's going to do it! He doesn't know how to spell. I should like to see his stuff come in.' He said it loud, because he wanted me to hear it, and he sort of laughed through his nose."

"Say, T. T., can you spell?" Jim inquired thoughtfully.

"Spell? Me? No," Tembarom owned with unshaken good cheer. "What I've got to do is to get a tame dictionary and keep it chained to the leg of my table. Those words with two m's or two l's in them get me right down on the mat. But the thing that looks biggest to me is how to find out where the news is, and the name of the fellow that'll put me on to it. You can't go up a man's front steps and ring the bell and ask him if he's going to be married or buried or have a pink tea."

"Wasn't that a knock at the door?" said Steinberger.

It was a knock, and Tembarom jumped up and threw the door open, thinking Mrs. Bowse might have come on some household errand. But it was Little Ann Hutchinson instead of Mrs. Bowse, and there was a threaded needle stuck into the front of her dress, and she had on a thimble.

"I want Mr. Bowles's new socks," she said maternally. "I promised I'd mark them for him."

Bowles and Steinberger sprang from their chairs, and came forward in the usual comfortable glow of pleasure at sight of her.

"What do you think of that for all the comforts of a home?" said Tembarom. "As if it wasn't enough for a man to have new socks without having marks put on them! What are your old socks made of anyhow— solid gold? Burglars ain't going to break in and steal them."

"They won't when I've marked them, Mr. Tembarom," answered Little Ann, looking up at him with sober, round, for-get-me-not blue eyes, but with a deep dimple breaking out near her lip; "but all three pairs would not come home from the wash if I didn't."

"Three pairs!" ejaculated Tembarom. "He's got three pairs of socks! New? That's what's been the matter with him for the last week. Don't you mark them for him, Little Ann. 'Tain't good for a man to have everything."

"Here they are," said Jim, bringing them forward. "Twenty-five marked down to ten at Tracy's. Are they pretty good?"

Little Ann looked them over with the practised eye of a connoisseur of bargains.

"They'd be about a shilling in Manchester shops," she decided, "and they might be put down to sixpence. They're good enough to take care of."

She was not the young woman who is ready for prolonged lively conversation in halls and at bedroom doors, and she had turned away with the new socks in her hand when Tembarom, suddenly inspired, darted after her.

"Say, I've just thought of something," he exclaimed eagerly. "It's something I want to ask you."

"What is it?"

"It's about the society-page lay-out." He hesitated. "I wonder if it'd be rushing you too much if —say," he suddenly broke off, and standing with his hands in his pockets, looked down at her with anxious admiration, "I believe you just know about everything."

"No, I don't, Mr. Tembarom; but I'm very glad about the page. Everybody's glad."

One of the chief difficulties Tembarom found facing him when he talked to Little Ann was the difficulty of resisting an awful temptation to take hold of her—to clutch her to his healthy, tumultuous young breast and hold her there firmly. He was half ashamed of himself when he realized it, but he knew that his venial weakness was shared by Jim Bowles and Steinberger and probably others. She was so slim and light and soft, and the serious frankness of her eyes and the quaint air of being a sort of grown-up child of astonishing intelligence produced an effect it was necessary to combat with.

"What I wanted to say," he put it to her, "was that I believe if you'd just let me talk this thing out to you it'd do me good. I believe you'd help me to get somewhere. I've got to fix up a scheme for getting next the people who have things happening to them that I can make society stuff out of, you know. Biker didn't make a hit of it, but, gee! I've just got to. I've got to."

"Yes," answered Little Ann, her eyes fixed on him thoughtfully; "you've got to, Mr. Tembarom."

"There's not a soul in the parlor. Would you mind coming down and sitting there while I talk at you and try to work things out? You could go on with your marking."

She thought it over a minute.

"I'll do it if Father can spare me," she made up her mind. "I'll go and ask him."

She went to ask him, and returned in two or three minutes with her small sewing-basket in her hand.

"He can spare me," she said. "He's reading his paper, and doesn't want to talk."

They went down-stairs together and found the room empty. Tembarom turned up the lowered gas, and Little Ann sat down in the cozy-corner with her work-basket on her knee. Tembarom drew up a chair and sat down opposite to her. She threaded a needle and took up one of Jim's new socks.

"Now," she said.

"It's like this," he explained. "The page is a new deal, anyhow. There didn't used to be an up-town society column at all. It was all Fifth Avenue and the four hundred; but ours isn't a fashionable paper, and their four hundred ain't going to buy it to read their names in it. They'd rather pay to keep out of it. Uptown's growing like smoke, and there's lots of people up that way that'd like their friends to read about their weddings and receptions, and would buy a dozen copies to send away when their names were in. There's no end of women and girls that'd like to see their clothes described and let their friends read the descriptions. They'd buy the paper, too, you bet. It'll be a big circulation-increaser. It's Galton's idea, and he gave the job to Biker because he thought an educated fellow could get hold of people. But somehow he couldn't. Seems as if they didn't like him. He kept getting turned down. The page has been mighty poor— no pictures of brides or anything. Galton's been sick over it. He'd been sure it'd make a hit. Then Biker's always drinking more or less, and he's got the swell head, anyhow. I believe that's the reason he couldn't make good with the up-towners."

"Perhaps he was too well educated, Mr. Tembarom," said Little Ann. She was marking a letter J in red cotton, and her outward attention was apparently wholly fixed on her work.

"Say, now," Tembarom broke out, "there's where you come in. You go on working as if there was nothing but that sock in New York, but I guess you've just hit the dot. Perhaps that was it. He wanted to do Fifth Avenue work anyway, and he didn't go at Harlem right. He put on Princeton airs when he asked questions. Gee! a fellow can't put on any kind of airs when he's the one that's got to ask."

"You'll get on better," remarked Little Ann. "You've got a friendly way and you've a lot of sense. I've noticed it."

Her head was bent over the red J and she still looked at it and not at Tembarom. This was not coyness, but simple, calm absorption. If she had not been making the J, she would have sat with her hands folded in her lap, and gazed at the young man with undisturbed attention.

"Have you?" said Tembarom, gratefully. "That gives me another boost, Little Ann. What a man seems to need most is just plain twenty-cents- a-yard sense. Not that I ever thought I had the dollar kind. I'm not putting on airs."

"Mr. Galton knows the kind you have. I suppose that's why he gave you the page." The words, spoken in the shrewd-sounding Manchester accent, were neither flattering nor unflattering; they were merely impartial.

"Well, now I've got it, I can't fall down," said Tembarom. "I've got to find out for myself how to get next to the people I want to talk to. I've got to find out who to get next to."

Little Ann put in the final red stitch of the letter J and laid the sock neatly folded on the basket.

"I've just been thinking something, Mr. Tembarom," she said. "Who makes the wedding-cakes?"

He gave a delighted start.

"Gee!" he broke out, "the wedding-cakes!"

"Yes," Little Ann proceeded, "they'd have to have wedding-cakes, and perhaps if you went to the shops where they're sold and could make friends with the people, they'd tell you whom they were selling them to, and you could get the addresses and go and find out things."

Tembarom, glowing with admiring enthusiasm, thrust out his hand.

"Little Ann, shake! " he said. " You've given me the whole show, just like I thought you would. You're just the limit."

"Well, a wedding-cake's the next thing after the bride," she answered.

Her practical little head had given him the practical lead. The mere wedding-cake opened up vistas. Confectioners supplied not only weddings, but refreshments for receptions and dances. Dances suggested the "halls" in which they were held. You could get information at such places. Then there were the churches, and the florists who decorated festal scenes. Tembarom's excitement grew as he talked. One plan led to another; vistas opened on all sides. It all began to look so easy that he could not understand how Biker could possibly have gone into such a land of promise, and returned embittered and empty-handed.

"He thought too much of himself and too little of other people," Little Ann summed him up in her unsevere, reasonable voice. "That's so silly."

Tembarom tried not to look at her affectionately, but his voice was affectionate as well as admiring, despite him.

"The way you get on to a thing just in three words!" he said. "Daniel Webster ain't in it."

"I dare say if you let the people in the shops know that you come from a newspaper, it'll be a help," she went on with ingenuous worldly wisdom. "They'll think it'll be a kind of advertisement. And so it will. You get some neat cards printed with your name and Sunday Earth on them."

"Gee!" Tembarom ejaculated, slapping his knee, "there's another! You think of every darned thing, don't you?"

She stopped a moment to look at him.

"You'd have thought of it all yourself after a bit," she said. She was not of those unseemly women whose intention it is manifestly to instruct the superior man. She had been born in a small Manchester street and trained by her mother, whose own training had evolved through affectionately discreet conjugal management of Mr. Hutchinson.

"Never you let a man feel set down when you want him to see a thing reasonable, Ann," she had said. "You never get on with them if you do. They can't stand it. The Almighty seemed to make 'em that way. They've always been masters, and it don't hurt any woman to let 'em be, if she can help 'em to think reasonable. Just you make a man feel comfortable in his mind and push him the reasonable way. But never you shove him, Ann. If you do, he'll just get all upset-like. Me and your father have been right-down happy together, but we never should have been if I hadn't thought that out before we was married two weeks. Perhaps it's the Almighty's will, though I never was as sure of the Almighty's way of thinking as some are."

Of course Tembarom felt soothed and encouraged, though he belonged to the male development which is not automatically infuriated at a suspicion of female readiness of logic.

"Well, I might have got on to it in time," he answered, still trying not to look affectionate, "but I've no time to spare. Gee! but I'm glad you're here!"

"I sha'n't be here very long." There was a shade of patient regret in her voice. "Father's got tired of trying America. He's been disappointed too often. He's going back to England."

"Back to England!" Tembarom cried out forlornly, "Oh Lord! What shall we all do without you, Ann?"

"You'll do as you did before we came," said Little Ann.

"No, we sha'n't. We can't. I can't anyhow." He actually got up from his chair and began to walk about, with his hands thrust deep in his pockets.

Little Ann began to put her first stitches into a red B. No human being could have told what she thought.

"We mustn't waste time talking about that," she said. "Let us talk about the page. There are dressmakers, you know. If you could make friends with a dressmaker or two they'd tell you what the wedding things were really made of. Women do like their clothes to be described right."


His work upon the page began the following week. When the first morning of his campaign opened with a tumultuous blizzard, Jim Bowles and Julius Steinberger privately sympathized with him as they dressed in company, but they heard him whistling in his own hall bedroom as he put on his clothes, and to none of the three did it occur that time could be lost because the weather was inhuman. Blinding snow was being whirled through the air by a wind which had bellowed across the bay, and torn its way howling through the streets, maltreating people as it went, snatching their breath out of them, and leaving them gaspingly clutching at hats and bending their bodies before it. Street-cars went by loaded from front to back platform, and were forced from want of room to whizz heartlessly by groups waiting anxiously at street corners.

Tembarom saw two or three of them pass in this way, leaving the waiting ones desperately huddled together behind them. He braced himself and whistled louder as he buttoned his celluloid collar.

"I'm going to get up to Harlem all the same," he said. "The 'L' will be just as jammed, but there'll be a place somewhere, and I'll get it."

His clothes were the outwardly decent ones of a young man who must perforce seek cheap clothing-stores, and to whom a ten-dollar "hand- me-down" is a source of exultant rejoicing. With the aid of great care and a straight, well-formed young body, he managed to make the best of them; but they were not to be counted upon for warmth even in ordinarily cold weather. His overcoat was a specious covering, and was not infrequently odorous of naphtha.

"You've got to know something about first aid to the wounded if you live on ten per," he had said once to Little Ann. "A suit of clothes gets to be an emergency-case mighty often if it lasts three years."

"Going up to Harlem to-day, T. T.?" his neighbor at table asked him as he sat down to breakfast.

"Right there," he answered. "I've ordered the limousine round, with the foot-warmer and fur rugs."

"I guess a day wouldn't really matter much," said Mrs. Bowse, good- naturedly. "Perhaps it might be better to-morrow."

"And perhaps it mightn't," said Tembarom, eating "break-fast-food" with a cheerful appetite. "What you can't be stone-cold sure of to- morrow you drive a nail in to-day."

He ate a tremendous breakfast as a discreet precautionary measure. The dark dining-room was warm, and the food was substantial. It was comfortable in its way.

"You'd better hold the hall door pretty tight when you go out, and don't open it far," said Mrs. Bowse as he got up to go. "There's wind enough to upset things."

Tembarom went out in the hall, and put on his insufficient overcoat. He buttoned it across his chest, and turned its collar up to his ears. Then he bent down to turn up the bottoms of his trousers.

"A pair of arctics would be all to the merry right here," he said, and then he stood upright and saw Little Ann coming down the staircase holding in her hand a particularly ugly tar-tan-plaid woolen neck-scarf of the kind known in England as a "comforter."

"If you are going out in this kind of weather," she said in her serene, decided little voice, "you'd better wrap this comforter right round your neck, Mr. Tembarom. It's one of Father's, and he can spare it because he's got another, and, besides, he's not going out."

Tembarom took it with a sudden emotional perception of the fact that he was being taken care of in an abnormally luxurious manner.

"Now, I appreciate that," he said. "The thing about you. Little Ann, is that you never make a wrong guess about what a fellow needs, do you?"

"I'm too used to taking care of Father not to see things," she answered.

"What you get on to is how to take care of the whole world —initials on a fellow's socks and mufflers round his neck." His eyes looked remarkably bright. "If a person were taking care of the whole world, he'd have a lot to do," was her sedate reception of the remark. "You'd better put that twice round your neck, Mr. Tembarom."

She put up her hand to draw the end of the scarf over his shoulder, and Tembarom stood still at once, as though he were a little boy being dressed for school. He looked down at her round cheek, and watched one of the unexpected dimples reveal itself in a place where dimples are not usually anticipated. It was coming out because she was smiling a small, observing smile. It was an almost exciting thing to look at, and he stood very still indeed. A fellow who did not own two pairs of boots would be a fool not to keep quiet.

"You haven't told me I oughtn't to go out till the blizzard lets up," he said presently.

"No, I haven't, Mr. Tembarom," she answered. "You're one of the kind that mean to do a thing when they've made up their minds. It'll be a nice bit of money if you can keep the page."

"Galton said he'd give me a chance to try to make good," said Tembarom. "And if it's the hit he thinks it ought to be, he'll raise me ten. Thirty per. Vanastorbilts won't be in it. I think I'll get married," he added, showing all his attractive teeth at once.

"I wouldn't do that," she said. "It wouldn't be enough to depend on. New York's an expensive place."

She drew back and looked him over. "That'll keep you much warmer," she decided. "Now you can go. I've been looking in the telephone-book for confectioners, and I've written down these addresses." She handed him a slip of paper.

Tembarom caught his breath.

"Hully gee!" he exclaimed, "there never were TWO of you made! One used up all there was of it. How am I going to thank you, anyhow!"

"I do hope you'll be able to keep the page," she said. "I do that, Mr. Tembarom."

If there had been a touch of coquetry in her earnest, sober, round, little face she would have been less distractingly alluring, but there was no shade of anything but a sort of softly motherly anxiety in the dropped note of her voice, and it was almost more than flesh and blood at twenty-five could stand. Tembarom made a hasty, involuntary move toward her, but it was only a slight one, and it was scarcely perceptible before he had himself in hand and hurriedly twisted his muffler tighter, showing his teeth again cheerily.

"You keep on hoping it all day without a let-up," he said. "And tell Mr. Hutchinson I'm obliged to him, please. Get out of the way, Little Ann, while I go out. The wind might blow you and the hat-stand up- stairs."

He opened the door and dashed down the high steps into the full blast of the blizzard. He waited at the street corner while three overcrowded cars whizzed past him, ignoring his signals because there was not an inch of space left in them for another passenger. Then he fought his way across two or three blocks to the nearest "L" station. He managed to wedge himself into a train there, and then at least he was on his way. He was thinking hard and fast, but through all his planning the warm hug of the tartan comforter round his neck kept Little Ann near him. He had been very thankful for the additional warmth as the whirling snow and wind had wrought their will with him while he waited for the cars at the street corner. On the "L" train he saw her serious eyes and heard the motherly drop in her voice as she said, "I do hope you'll be able to keep the page. I do that, Mr. Tembarom." It made him shut his hands hard as they hung in his overcoat pockets for warmth, and it made him shut his sound teeth strongly.

"Gee! I've got to!" his thoughts said for him. "If I make it, perhaps my luck will have started. When a man's luck gets started, every darned thing's to the good."

The "L" had dropped most of its crowd when it reached the up-town station among the hundredth streets which was his destination. He tightened his comforter, tucked the ends firmly into the front of his overcoat, and started out along the platform past the office, and down the steep, iron steps, already perilous with freezing snow. He had to stop to get his breath when he reached the street, but he did not stop long. He charged forth again along the pavement, looking closely at the shop-windows. There were naturally but few passers-by, and the shops were not important-looking; but they were open, and he could see that the insides of them looked comfortable in contrast with the blizzard-ruled street. He could not see both sides of the street as he walked up one side of the block without coming upon a confectioner's. He crossed at the corner and turned back on the other side. Presently he saw that a light van was standing before one place, backed up against the sidewalk to receive parcels, its shuddering horse holding its head down and bracing itself with its forelegs against the wind. At any rate, something was going on there, and he hurried forward to find out what it was. The air was so thick with myriads of madly flying bits of snow, which seemed whirled in all directions in the air, that he could not see anything definite even a few yards away. When he reached the van he found that he had also reached his confectioner. The sign over the window read "M. Munsberg, Confectionery. Cakes. Ice-Cream. Weddings, Balls and Receptions."

"Made a start, anyhow," said Tembarom.

He turned into the store, opening the door carefully, and thereby barely escaping being blown violently against a stout, excited, middle-aged little Jew who was bending over a box he was packing. This was evidently Mr. Munsberg, who was extremely busy, and even the modified shock upset his temper.

"Vhere you goin'?" he cried out. "Can't you look vhere you're goin'?"

Tembarom knew this was not a good beginning, but his natural mental habit of vividly seeing the other man's point of view helped him after its usual custom. His nice grin showed itself.

"I wasn't going; I was coming," he said. "Beg pardon. The wind's blowing a hundred miles an hour."

A good-looking young woman, who was probably Mrs. Munsberg, was packing a smaller box behind the counter. Tembarom lifted his hat, and she liked it.

"He didn't do it a bit fresh," she said later. "Kind o' nice." She spoke to him with professional politeness.

"Is there anything you want?" she asked.

Tembarom glanced at the boxes and packages standing about and at Munsberg, who had bent over his packing again. Here was an occasion for practical tact.

"I've blown in at the wrong time," he said. "You're busy getting things out on time. I'll just wait.. Gee! I'm glad to be inside. I want to speak to Mr. Munsberg."

Mr. Munsberg jerked himself upright irascibly, and broke forth in the accent of the New York German Jew.

"If you comin' in here to try to sell somedings, young man, joost you let that same vind vat blew you in blow you right out pretty quick. I'm not buyin' nodings. I'm busy."

"I'm not selling a darned thing," answered Tembarom, with undismayed cheer.

"You vant someding?" jerked out Munsberg.

"Yes, I want something," Tembarom answered, " but it's nothing any one has to pay for. I'm only a newspaper man." He felt a glow of pride as he said the words. He was a newspaper man even now. "Don't let me stop you a minute. I'm in luck to get inside anywhere and sit down. Let me wait."

Mrs. Munsberg read the Sunday papers and revered them. She also knew the value of advertisement. She caught her husband's eye and hurriedly winked at him.

"It's awful outside. 'T won't do harm if he waits—if he ain't no agent," she put in.

"See," said Tembarom, handing over one of the cards which had been Little Ann's businesslike inspiration.

"T. Tembarom. New York Sunday Earth," read Munsberg, rather grudgingly. He looked at T. Tembarom, and T. Tembarom looked back at him. The normal human friendliness in the sharp boyish face did it.

"Vell," he said, making another jerk toward a chair, "if you ain't no agent, you can vait."

"Thank you," said Tembarom, and sat down. He had made another start, anyhow.

After this the packing went on fast and furious. A youth appeared from the back of the store, and ran here and there as he was ordered. Munsberg and his wife filled wooden and cardboard boxes with small cakes and larger ones, with sandwiches and salads, candies and crystallized fruits. Into the larger box was placed a huge cake with an icing temple on the top of it, with silver doves adorning it outside and in. There was no mistaking the poetic significance of that cake. Outside the blizzard whirled clouds of snow-particles through the air, and the van horse kept his head down and his forelegs braced. His driver had long since tried to cover him with a blanket which the wind continually tore loose from its fastenings, and flapped about the creature's sides. Inside the store grew hot. There was hurried moving about, banging of doors, excited voices, irascible orders given and countermanded. Tembarom found out in five minutes that the refreshments were for a wedding reception to be held at a place known as "The Hall," and the goods must be sent out in time to be ready for the preparations for the wedding supper that night.

"If I knew how to handle it, I could get stuff for a column just sitting here," he thought. He kept both eyes and ears open. He was sharp enough to realize that the mere sense of familiarity with detail which he was gaining was material in itself. Once or twice he got up and lent a hand with a box in his casual way, and once or twice he saw that he could lift some-thing down or up for Mrs. Munsberg, who was a little woman. The natural casualness of his way of jumping up to do the things prevented any suspicion of officiousness, and also prevented his waiting figure from beginning to wear the air of a superfluous object in the way. He waited a long time, and circumstances so favored him as to give him a chance or so. More than once exactly the right moment presented itself when he could interject an apposite remark. Twice he made Munsberg laugh, and twice Mrs. Munsberg voluntarily addressed him.

At last the boxes and parcels ware all carried out and stored in the van, after strugglings with the opening and shutting of doors, and battlings with outside weather.

When this was all over, Munsberg came back into the store, knocking his hands together and out of breath.

"Dot's all right," he said. " It'll all be there plenty time. Vouldn't have fell down on that order for tventy-vive dollars. Dot temple on the cake was splendid. Joseph he done it fine."

"He never done nothin' no finer," Mrs. Munsberg said. "It looked as good as anything on Fift' Avenoo."

Both were relieved and pleased with themselves, their store, and their cake-decorator. Munsberg spoke to Tembarom in the manner of a man who, having done a good thing, does not mind talking about it.

"Dot was a big order," he remarked.

"I should smile," answered Tembarom. "I'd like to know whose going to get outside all that good stuff. That wedding-cake took the tart away from anything I've ever seen. Which of the four hundred's going to eat it?"

"De man vot ordered dot cake," Munsberg swaggered, "he's not got to vorry along on vun million nor two. He owns de biggest brewery in New York, I guess in America. He's Schwartz of Schwartz & Kapfer."

"Well, he 's got it to burn!" said Tembarom.

"He's a mighty good man," went on Munsberg. " He's mighty fond of his own people. He made his first money in Harlem, and he had a big fight to get it; but his own people vas good to him, an' he's never forgot it. He's built a fine house here, an' his girls is fine girls. De vun's goin' to be married to-night her name's Rachel, an' she's goin' to marry a nice feller, Louis Levy. Levy built the big entertainment- hall vhere the reception's goin' to be. It's decorated vith two thousand dollars' worth of bride roses an' lilies of de valley an' smilax. All de up-town places vas bought out, an' den Schwartz vent down Fift' Avenoo."

The right moment had plainly arrived.

"Say, Mr. Munsberg," Tembarom broke forth, "you're giving me just what I wanted to ask you for. I'm the new up-town society reporter for the Sunday Earth, and I came in here to see if you wouldn't help me to get a show at finding out who was going to have weddings and society doings. I didn't know just how to start."

Munsberg gave a sort of grunt. He looked less amiable.

"I s'pose you're used to nothin' but Fift' Avenoo," he said.

Tembarom grinned exactly at the right time again. Not only his good teeth grinned, but his eyes grinned also, if the figure may be used.

"Fifth Avenue!" he laughed. "There's been no Fifth Avenue in mine. I'm not used to anything, but you may bet your life I'm going to get used to Harlem, if you people'll let me. I've just got this job, and I'm dead stuck on it. I want to make it go."

"He's mighty different from Biker," said Mrs. Munsberg in an undertone.

"Vhere's dod oder feller?" inquired Munsberg. "He vas a dam fool, dot oder feller, half corned most de time, an' puttin' on Clarence airs. No one was goin' to give him nothin'. He made folks mad at de start."

"I've got his job," said Tembarom, "and if I can't make it go, the page will be given up. It'll be my fault if that happens, not Harlem's. There's society enough up-town to make a first-class page, and I shall be sick if I can't get on to it."

He had begun to know his people. Munsberg was a good- natured, swaggering little Hebrew.

That the young fellow should make a clean breast of it and claim no down-town superiority, and that he should also have the business insight to realize that he might obtain valuable society items from such a representative confectioner as M. Munsberg, was a situation to incite amiable sentiments.

"Vell, you didn't come to de wrong place," he said. "All de biggest things comes to me, an' I don't mind tellin' you about 'em. 'T ain't goin' to do no harm. Weddings an' things dey ought to be wrote up, anyhow, if dey're done right. It's good for business. Vy don't dey have no pictures of de supper- tables? Dot'd be good."

"There's lots of receptions and weddings this month," said Mrs. Munsberg, becoming agreeably excited. "And there's plenty handsome young girls that'd like their pictures published.

"None of them have been in Sunday papers before, and they'd like it. The four Schwartz girls would make grand pictures. They dress splendid, and their bridesmaids dresses came from the biggest place in Fift' Avenoo."

"Say," exclaimed Tembarom, rising from his chair, "I'm in luck. Luck struck me the minute I turned in here. If you'll tell me where Schwartz lives, and where the hall is, and the church, and just anything else I can use, I'll go out and whoop up a page to beat the band." He was glowing with exultation. "I know I can do it. You've started me off."

Munsberg and his wife began to warm. It was almost as though they had charge of the society page themselves. There was something stimulating in the idea. There was a suggestion of social importance in it. They knew a number of people who would be pleased with the prospect of being in the Sunday Earth. They were of a race which holds together, and they gave not only the names and addresses of prospective entertainers, but those of florists and owners of halls where parties were given.

Mrs. Munsberg gave the name of a dressmaker of whom she shrewdly guessed that she would be amiably ready to talk to a society-page reporter.

"That Biker feller," she said, "got things down all wrong. He called fine white satin 'white nun's-veiling,' and he left out things. Never said nothing about Miss Lewishon's diamond ring what her grandpa gave her for a wedding-present. An' it cost two hundred and fifty."

"Well, I'm a pretty big fool myself," said Tembarom, "but I should have known better than that."

When he opened the door to go, Mrs. Munsberg called after him:

"When you get through, you come back here and tell us what you done. I'll give you a cup of hot coffee."

He returned to Mrs. Bowse's boarding-house so late that night that even Steinberger and Bowles had ended their day. The gas in the hall was turned down to a glimmering point, and the house was silent for the night. Even a cat who stole to him and rubbed herself against his leg miauwed in a sort of abortive whisper, opening her mouth wide, but emitting no sound. When he went cautiously up the staircase he carried his damp overcoat with him, and hung it in company with the tartan muffler close to the heater in the upper hall. Then he laid on his bedside table a package of papers and photographs.

After he had undressed, he dropped heavily into bed, exhausted, but elate.

"I'm dog-tired," he said, "but I guess I've got it going." And almost before the last word had uttered itself he fell into the deep sleep of worn-out youth.


Mrs. Bowse's boarding-house began to be even better pleased with him than before. He had stories to tell, festivities to describe, and cheerful incidents to recount. The boarders assisted vicariously at weddings and wedding receptions, afternoon teas and dances, given in halls. "Up-town" seemed to them largely given to entertainment and hilarity of an enviably prodigal sort. Mrs. Bowse's guests were not of the class which entertains or is entertained, and the details of banquets and ball-dresses and money-spending were not uncheering material for conversation. Such topics suggested the presence and dispensing of a good deal of desirable specie, which in floating about might somehow reach those who needed it most. The impression was that T. Tembarom was having "a good time." It was not his way to relate any incidents which were not of a cheering or laughter- inspiring nature. He said nothing of the times when his luck was bad, when he made blunders, and, approaching the wrong people, was met roughly or grudgingly, and found no resource left but to beat a retreat. He made no mention of his experiences in the blizzard, which continued, and at times nearly beat breath and life out of him as he fought his way through it. Especially he told no story of the morning when, after having labored furiously over the writing of his "stuff" until long after midnight, he had taken it to Galton, and seen his face fall as he looked over it. To battle all day with a blizzard and occasional brutal discouragements, and to sit up half the night tensely absorbed in concentrating one's whole mental equipment upon the doing of unaccustomed work has its effect. As he waited, Tembarom unconsciously shifted from one foot to another, and had actually to swallow a sort of lump in his throat.

"I guess it won't do," he said rather uncertainly as Galton laid a sheet down.

Galton was worn out himself and harried by his nerves.

"No, it won't," he said; and then as he saw Tembarom move to the other foot he added, "Not as it is."

Tembarom braced himself and cleared his throat.

"If," he ventured—" well, you've been mighty easy on me, Mr Galton— and this is a big chance for a fellow like me. If it's too big a chance—why—that's all. But if it's anything I could change and it wouldn't be too much trouble to tell me—"

"There's no time to rewrite it," answered Galton. "It must be handed in to-morrow. It's too flowery. Too many adjectives. I've no time to give you—" He snatched up a blue pencil and began to slash at the paper with it. "Look here— and here—cut out that balderdash—cut this—and this— oh,—" throwing the pencil down,—"you'd have to cut it all out. There's no time." He fell back in his chair with a hopeless movement, and rubbed his forehead nervously with the back of his hand. Ten people more or less were waiting to speak to him; he was worn out with the rush of work. He believed in the page, and did not want to give up his idea; but he didn't know a man to hand it to other than this untrained, eager ignoramus whom he had a queer personal liking for. He was no business of his, a mere stenographer in his office with whom he could be expected to have no relations, and yet a curious sort of friendliness verging on intimacy had developed between them.

"There'd be time if you thought it wouldn't do any harm to give me another chance," said Tembarom. "I can sit up all night. I guess I've caught on to what you DON'T want. I've put in too many fool words. I got them out of other papers, but I don't know how to use them. I guess I've caught on. Would it do any harm if you gave me till to- morrow?"

"No, it wouldn't," said Galton, desperately. "If you can't do it, there's no time to find another man, and the page must be cut out. It's been no good so far. It won't be missed. Take it along."

As he pushed back the papers, he saw the photographs, and picked one up.

"That bride's a good-looking girl. Who are these others? Bridesmaids? You've got a lot of stuff here. Biker couldn't get anything." He glanced up at the young fellow's rather pale face. "I thought you'd make friends. How did you get all this?"

"I beat the streets till I found it," said Tembarom. "I had luck right away. I went into a confectionery store where they make wedding- cakes. A good-natured little Dutchman and his wife kept it, and I talked to them—"

"Got next?" said Galton, grinning a little.

"They gave me addresses, and told me a whole lot of things. I got into the Schwartz wedding reception, and they treated me mighty well. A good many of them were willing to talk. I told them what a big thing the page was going to be, and I—well, I said the more they helped me the finer it would turn out. I said it seemed a shame there shouldn't be an up-town page when such swell entertainments were given. I've got a lot of stuff there."

Galton laughed.

"You'd get it," he said. "If you knew how to handle it, you'd make it a hit. Well, take it along. If it isn't right tomorrow, it's done for."

Tembarom didn't tell stories or laugh at dinner that evening. He said he had a headache. After dinner he bolted upstairs after Little Ann, and caught her before she mounted to her upper floor.

"Will you come and save my life again?" he said. "I'm in the tightest place I ever was in in my life."

"I'll do anything I can, Mr. Tembarom," she answered, and as his face had grown flushed by this time she looked anxious. "You look downright feverish."

"I've got chills as well as fever," he said. "It's the page. It seems like I was going to fall down on it."

She turned back at once.

"No you won't, Mr. Tembarom," she said "I'm just right-down sure you won't."

They went down to the parlor again, and though there were people in it, they found a corner apart, and in less than ten minutes he had told her what had happened.

She took the manuscript he handed to her.

"If I was well educated, I should know how to help you," she said, "but I've only been to a common Manchester school. I don't know anything about elegant language. What are these?" pointing to the blue-pencil marks.

Tembarom explained, and she studied the blue slashes with serious attention.

"Well," she said in a few minutes, laying the manuscript down, "I should have cut those words out myself if—if you'd asked me which to take away. They're too showy, Mr. Tembarom."

Tembarom whipped a pencil out of his pocket and held it out.

"Say," he put it to her, "would you take this and draw it through a few of the other showy ones?"

"I should feel as if I was taking too much upon myself," she said. "I don't know anything about it."

"You know a darned sight more than I do," Tembarom argued. "I didn't know they were showy. I thought they were the kind you had to put in newspaper stuff."

She held the sheets of paper on her knee, and bent her head over them. Tembarom watched her dimples flash in and out as she worked away like a child correcting an exercise. Presently he saw she was quite absorbed. Sometimes she stopped and thought, pressing her lips together; sometimes she changed a letter. There was no lightness in her manner. A badly mutilated stocking would have claimed her attention in the same way.

"I think I'd put 'house' there instead of 'mansion' if I were you," she suggested once.

"Put in a whole block of houses if you like," he answered gratefully. "Whatever you say goes. I believe Galton would say the same thing."

She went over sheet after sheet, and though she knew nothing about it, she cut out just what Galton would have cut out. She put the papers together at last and gave them back to Tembarom, getting up from her seat.

"I must go back to father now," she said. "I promised to make him a good cup of coffee over the little oil-stove. If you'll come and knock at the door I'll give you one. It will help you to keep fresh while you work."

Tembarom did not go to bed at all that night, and he looked rather fagged the next morning when he handed back the "stuff" entirely rewritten. He swallowed several times quite hard as he waited for the final verdict.

"You did catch on to what I didn't want," Galton said at last. "You will catch on still more as you get used to the work. And you did get the 'stuff,'"

"That—you mean—that goes?" Tembarom stammered.

"Yes, it goes," answered Galton. "You can turn it in. We'll try the page for a month."

"Gee! Thank the Lord!" said Tembarom, and then he laughed an excited boyish laugh, and the blood came back to his face. He had a whole month before him, and if he had caught on as soon as this, a month would teach him a lot.

He'd work like a dog.

He worked like a healthy young man impelled by a huge enthusiasm, and seeing ahead of him something he had had no practical reason for aspiring to. He went out in all weathers and stayed out to all hours. Whatsoever rebuffs or difficulties he met with he never was even on the verge of losing his nerve. He actually enjoyed himself tremendously at times. He made friends; people began to like to see him. The Munsbergs regarded him as an inspiration of their own.

"He seen my name over de store and come in here first time he vas sent up dis vay to look for t'ings to write," Mr. Munsberg always explained. "Ve vas awful busy—time of the Schwartz vedding, an' dere vas dat blizzard. He owned up he vas new, an' vanted some vun vhat knew to tell him vhat vas goin' on. 'Course I could do it. Me an' my vife give him addresses an' a lot of items. He vorked 'em up good. Dot up-town page is gettin' first-rate. He says he don' know vhat he'd have done if he hadn't turned up here dot day."

Tembarom, having "caught on" to his fault of style, applied himself with vigor to elimination. He kept his tame dictionary chained to the leg of his table—an old kitchen table which Mrs. Bowse scrubbed and put into his hall bedroom, overcrowding it greatly. He turned to Little Ann at moments of desperate uncertainty, but he was man enough to do his work himself. In glorious moments when he was rather sure that Galton was far from unsatisfied with his progress, and Ann had looked more than usually distracting in her aloof and sober alluringness,— it was her entire aloofness which so stirred his blood,—he sometimes stopped scribbling and lost his head for a minute or so, wondering if a fellow ever COULD "get away with it" to the extent of making enough to—but he always pulled himself up in time.

"Nice fool I look, thinking that way!" he would say to himself. "She'd throw me down hard if she knew. But, my Lord! ain't she just a peach!"

It was in the last week of the month of trial which was to decide the permanency of the page that he came upon the man Mrs. Bowse's boarders called his "Freak." He never called him a "freak" himself even at the first. Even his somewhat undeveloped mind felt itself confronted at the outset with something too abnormal and serious, something with a suggestion of the weird and tragic in it.

In this wise it came about:

The week had begun with another blizzard, which after the second day had suddenly changed its mind, and turned into sleet and rain which filled the streets with melted snow, and made walking a fearsome thing. Tembarom had plenty of walking to do. This week's page was his great effort, and was to be a "dandy." Galton must be shown what pertinacity could do.

"I'm going to get into it up to my neck, and then strike out," he said at breakfast on Monday morning.

Thursday was his most strenuous day. The weather had decided to change again, and gusts of sleet were being driven about, which added cold to sloppiness. He had found it difficult to get hold of some details he specially wanted. Two important and extremely good-looking brides had refused to see him because Biker had enraged them in his day. He had slighted the description of their dresses at a dance where they had been the observed of all observers, and had worn things brought from Paris. Tembarom had gone from house to house. He had even searched out aunts whose favor he had won professionally. He had appealed to his dressmaker, whose affection he had by that time fully gained. She was doing work in the brides' houses, and could make it clear that he would not call peau de cygne "Surah silk," nor duchess lace "Baby Irish." But the young ladies enjoyed being besought by a society page. It was something to discuss with one's bridesmaids and friends, to protest that "those interviewers" give a person no peace. "If you don't want to be in the papers, they'll put you in whether you like it or not, however often you refuse them." They kept Tembarom running about, they raised faint hopes, and then went out when he called, leaving no messages, but allowing the servant to hint that if he went up to Two Hundred and Seventy-fifth Street he might chance to find them.

"All right," said Tembarom to the girl, delighting her by lifting his hat genially as he turned to go down the steps. "I'll just keep going. The Sunday Earth can't come out without those photographs in it. I should lose my job."

When at last he ran the brides to cover it was not at Two Hundred and Seventy-fifth Street, but in their own home, to which they had finally returned. They had heard from the servant-girl about what the young gentleman from the Sunday Earth had said, and they were mollified by his proper appreciation of values. Tembarom's dressmaker friend also proffered information.

"I know him myself," she said, "and he's a real nice gentle-manlike young man. He's not a bit like Biker. He doesn't think he knows everything. He came to me from Mrs. Munsberg, just to ask me the names of fashionable materials. He said it was more important than a man knew till he found out" Miss Stuntz chuckled.

"He asked me to lend him some bits of samples so he could learn them off by heart, and know them when he saw them. He's got a pleasant laugh; shows his teeth, and they're real pretty and white; and he just laughed like a boy and said: 'These samples are my alphabet, Miss Stuntz. I'm going to learn to read words of three syllables in them.'"

When late in the evening Tembarom, being let out of the house after his interview, turned down the steps again, he carried with him all he had wanted—information and photographs, even added picturesque details. He was prepared to hand in a fuller and better page than he had ever handed in before. He was in as elated a frame of mind as a young man can be when he is used up with tramping the streets, and running after street-cars, to stand up in them and hang by a strap. He had been wearing a new pair of boots, one of which rubbed his heel and had ended by raising a blister worthy of attention. To reach the nearest "L" station he must walk across town, through several deserted streets in the first stages of being built up, their vacant lots surrounded by high board fencing covered with huge advertising posters. The hall bedroom, with the gas turned up and the cheap, red- cotton comfort on the bed, made an alluring picture as he faced the sleety wind.

"If I cut across to the avenue and catch the 'L,' I'm bound to get there sometime, anyhow," he said as he braced himself and set out on his way.

The blister on his heel had given him a good deal of trouble, and he was obliged to stop a moment to ease it, and he limped when he began to walk again. But he limped as fast as he could, while the sleety rain beat in his face, across one street, down another for a block or so, across another, the melting snow soaking even the new boots as he splashed through it. He bent his head, however, and limped steadily. At this end of the city many of the streets were only scantily built up, and he was passing through one at the corner of which was a big vacant lot. At the other corner a row of cheap houses which had only reached their second story waited among piles of bricks and frozen mortar for the return of the workmen the blizzard had dispersed. It was a desolate-enough thoroughfare, and not a soul was in sight. The vacant lot was fenced in with high boarding plastered over with flaring sheets advertising whiskies, sauces, and theatrical ventures. A huge picture of a dramatically interrupted wedding ceremony done in reds and yellows, and announcing in large letters that Mr. Isaac Simonson presented Miss Evangeline St. Clair in "Rent Asunder," occupied several yards of the boarding. As he reached it, the heel of Tembarom's boot pressed, as it seemed to him, a red-hot coal on the flesh. He had rubbed off the blister. He was obliged to stop a moment again.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse