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- T. Tembarom - 10/104 -
"How did you get in here?"
"I came in because I saw a policeman. He wouldn't understand. He would have stopped me. I must not be stopped. I MUST not."
"Where were you going? " asked Tembarom, not knowing what else to say.
"Home! My God! man, home!" and he fell to shuddering again. He put his arm against the boarding and dropped his head against it. The low, hideous sobbing tore him again.
T. Tembarom could not stand it. In his newsboy days he had never been able to stand starved dogs and homeless cats. Mrs. Bowse was taking care of a wretched dog for him at the present moment. He had not wanted the poor brute,--he was not particularly fond of dogs,-- but it had followed him home, and after he had given it a bone or so, it had licked its chops and turned up its eyes at him with such abject appeal that he had not been able to turn it into the streets again. He was unsentimental, but ruled by primitive emotions. Also he had a sudden recollection of a night when as a little fellow he had gone into a vacant lot and cried as like this as a child could. It was a bad night when some "tough" big boys had turned him out of a warm corner in a shed, and he had had nowhere to go, and being a friendly little fellow, the unfriendliness had hit him hard. The boys had not seen him crying, but he remembered it. He drew near, and put his hand on the shaking shoulder.
"Say, don't do that," he said. "I'll help you to remember."
He scarcely knew why he said it. There was something in the situation and in the man himself which was compelling. He was not of the tramp order. His wet clothes had been decent, and his broken, terrified voice was neither coarse nor nasal. He lifted his head and caught Tembarom's arm, clutching it with desperate fingers.
"Could you?" he poured forth the words. "Could you? I'm not quite mad. Something happened. If I could be quiet! Don't let them stop me! My God! my God! my God! I can't say it. It's not far away, but it won't come back. You're a good fellow; if you're human, help me! help me! help me!" He clung to Tembarom with hands which shook; his eyes were more abject than the starved dog's; he choked, and awful tears rolled down his cheeks. "Only help me," he cried--"just help, help, help-- for a while. Perhaps not long. It would come back." He made a horrible effort. "Listen! My name--I am--I am--it's--"
He was down on the ground again, groveling. His efforts had failed. Tembarom, overwrought himself, caught at him and dragged him up.
"Make a fight," he said. "You can't lie down like that. You've got to put up a fight. It'll come back. I tell you it will. You've had a clip on the head or something. Let me call an ambulance and take you to the hospital."
The next moment he was sorry he had said the words, the man's terror was so ill to behold. He grew livid with it, and uttered a low animal cry.
"Don't drop dead over it," said Tembarom, rather losing his head. "I won't do it, though what in thunder I'm going to do with you I don't know. You can't stay here."
"For God's sake!" said the man. "For God's sake!" He put his shaking hand on Tembarom again, and looked at him with a bewildered scrutiny. "I'm not afraid of you," he said; "I don't know why. There's something all right about you. If you'll stand by me--you'd stand by a man, I'd swear. Take me somewhere quiet. Let me get warm and think."
"The less you think now the better," answered Tembarom. "You want a bed and a bath and a night's rest. I guess I've let myself in for it. You brush off and brace yourself and come with me."
There was the hall bedroom and the red-cotton comfort for one night at least, and Mrs. Bowse was a soft-hearted woman. If she'd heard the fellow sobbing behind the fence, she'd have been in a worse fix than he was. Women were kinder-hearted than men, anyhow. The way the fellow's voice sounded when he said, "Help me, help me, help me!" sounded as though he was in hell. "Made me feel as if I was bracing up a chap that was going to be electrocuted," he thought, feeling sickish again. "I've not got backbone enough to face that sort of thing. Got to take him somewhere."
They were walking toward the "L" together, and he was wondering what he should say to Mrs. Bowse when he saw his companion fumbling under his coat at the back as though he was in search of something. His hands being unsteady, it took him some moments to get at what he wanted. He evidently had a belt or a hidden pocket. He got something out and stopped under a street light to show it to Tembarom. His hands still shook when he held them out, and his look was a curious, puzzled, questioning one. What he passed over to Tembarom was a roll of money. Tembarom rather lost his breath as he saw the number on two five-hundred-dollar bills, and of several hundreds, besides twenties, tens, and fives.
"Take it--keep it," he said. "It will pay."
"Hully gee!" cried Tembarom, aghast. "Don't go giving away your whole pile to the first fellow you meet. I don't want it."
"Take it." The stranger put his hand on his shoulder, the abject look in his eyes harrowingly like the starved dog's again.
"There's something all right about you. You'll help me."
"If I don't take it for you, some one will knock you upon the head for it." Tembarom hesitated, but the next instant he stuffed it all in his pocket, incited thereto by the sound of a whizzing roar.
"There's the 'L' coming," he cried; "run for all you're worth." And they fled up the street and up the steps, and caught it without a second to spare.
At about the time Tembarom made his rush to catch the "L" Joseph Hutchinson was passing through one of his periodical fits of infuriated discouragement. Little Ann knew they would occur every two or three days, and she did not wonder at them. Also she knew that if she merely sat still and listened as she sewed, she would be doing exactly what her mother would have done and what her father would find a sort of irritated comfort in. There was no use in citing people's villainies and calling them names unless you had an audience who would seem to agree to the justice of your accusations.
So Mr. Hutchinson charged up and down the room, his face red, and his hands thrust in his coat pockets. He was giving his opinions of America and Americans, and he spoke with his broadest Manchester accent, and threw in now and then a word or so of Lancashire dialect to add roughness and strength, the angrier a Manchester man being, the broader and therefore the more forcible his accent. "Tha" is somehow a great deal more bitter or humorous or affectionate than the mere ordinary "You" or "Yours."
"'Merica," he bellowed - "dang 'Merica! I says - an' dang 'Mericans. Goin' about th' world braggin' an' boastin' about their sharpness an' their open-'andedness. 'Go to 'Merica,' folks'll tell you, 'with an invention, and there's dozens of millionaires ready to put money in it.' Fools!"
"Now, Father," - Little Ann's voice was as maternal as her mother's had been, - "now, Father, love, don't work yourself up into a passion. You know it's not good for you." "I don't need to work myself up into one. I'm in one. A man sells everything he owns to get to 'Merica, an' when he gets there what does he find? He canna' get near a millionaire. He's pushed here an scuffled there, an' told this chap can't see him, an' that chap isn't interested, an' he must wait his chance to catch this one. An' he waits an' waits, an' goes up in elevators an' stands on one leg in lobbies, till he's broke' down an' sick of it, an' has to go home to England steerage."
Little Ann looked up from her sewing. He had been walking furiously for half an hour, and had been tired to begin with. She had heard his voice break roughly as he said the last words. He threw himself astride a chair and, crossing his arms on the back of it, dropped his head on them. Her mother never allowed this. Her idea was that women were made to tide over such moments for the weaker sex. Far had it been from the mind of Mrs. Hutchinson to call it weaker. "But there's times, Ann, when just for a bit they're just like children. They need comforting without being let to know they are being comforted. You know how it is when your back aches, and some one just slips a pillow under it in the right place without saying anything. That's what women can do if they've got heads. It needs a head."
Little Ann got up and went to the chair. She began to run her fingers caressingly through the thick, grizzled hair.
"There, Father, love, there!" she said. "We are going back to England, at any rate, aren't we? And grandmother will be so glad to have us with her in her cottage. And America's only one place."
"I tried it first, dang it!" jerked out Hutchinson. "Every one told me to do it." He quoted again with derisive scorn: "'You go to 'Merica. 'Merica's the place for a chap like you. 'Merica's the place for inventions.' Liars!"
Little Ann went on rubbing the grizzled head lovingly.
"Well, now we're going back to try England. You never did really try England. And you know how beautiful it'll be in the country, with the primroses in bloom and the young lambs in the fields." The caressing hand grew even softer. "And you're not going to forget how mother believed in the invention; you can't do that."
Hutchinson lifted his head and looked at her.
"Eh, Ann," he said, "you are a comfortable little body. You've got a way with you just like your poor mother had. You always say the right thing to help a chap pull himself together. Your mother did believe in it, didn't she?"
She had, indeed, believed in it, though her faith was founded more upon confidence in "Mr. Hutchinson" than in any profound knowledge of the mechanical appliance his inspiration would supply. She knew it had something important to do with locomotive engines, and she knew that if railroad magnates would condescend to consider it, her husband was sure that fortune would flow in. She had lived with the "invention,"
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