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- T. Tembarom - 104/104 -
daisy pinkness of her cheeks was amazing.
"Hello!" called out Tembarom at sight of her. "Are you there yet? I don't believe it."
"Yes, I'm here," she answered, dimpling at him.
"Not you!" he said. "You couldn't be! You've melted away. Let's see." And he slid his parcels down on the cot and lifted her up in the air as if she had been a baby. "How can I tell, anyhow?" he laughed out. "You don't weigh anything, and when a fellow squeezes you he's got to look out what he's doing."
He did not seem to "look out" particularly when he caught her to him in a hug into which she appeared charmingly to melt. She made herself part of it, with soft arms which went at once round his neck and held him.
"Say!" he broke forth when he set her down. "Do you think I'm not glad to get back?"
"No, I don't, Tem," she answered, "I know how glad you are by the way I'm glad myself."
"You know just everything!" he ejaculated, looking her over, "just every darned thing--God bless you! But don't you melt away, will you? That's what I'm afraid of. I'll do any old thing on earth if you'll just stay."
That was his great joke,--though she knew it was not so great a joke as it seemed,--that he would not believe that she was real, and believed that she might disappear at any moment. They had been married three weeks, and she still knew when she saw him pause to look at her that he would suddenly seize and hold her fast, trying to laugh, sometimes not with entire success.
"Do you know how long it was? Do you know how far away that big place was from everything in the world?" he had said once. "And me holding on and gritting my teeth? And not a soul to open my mouth to! The old duke was the only one who understood, anyhow. He'd been there."
"I'll stay," she answered now, standing before him as he sat down on the end of the "couch." She put a firm, warm-palmed little hand on each side of his face, and held it between them as she looked deep into his eyes. "You look at me, Tem--and see."
"I believe it now," he said, "but I shan't in fifteen minutes."
"We're both right-down silly," she said, her soft, cosy laugh breaking out. "Look round this room and see what we've got to do. Let's begin this minute. Did you get the groceries?"
He sprang up and began to go over his packages triumphantly.
"Tea, coffee, sugar, pepper, salt, beefsteak," he called out.
"We can't have beefsteak often," she said, soberly, "if we're going to do it on fifteen a week."
"Good Lord, no!" he gave back to her, hilariously. "But this is a Fifth Avenue feed."
"Let's take them into the kitchen and put them into the cupboard, and untie the pots and pans." She was suddenly quite absorbed and businesslike. "We must make the room tidy and tack down the carpet, and then cook the dinner."
He followed her and obeyed her like an enraptured boy. The wonder of her was that, despite its unarranged air, the tiny place was already cleared and set for action. She had done it all before she had swept out the undiscovered corners. Everything was near the spot to which it belonged. There was nothing to move or drag out of the way.
"I got it all ready to put straight," she said, "but I wanted you to finish it with me. It wouldn't have seemed right if I'd done it without you. It wouldn't have been as much OURS."
Then came active service. She was like a small general commanding an army of one. They put things on shelves; they hung things on hooks; they found places in which things belonged; they set chairs and tables straight; and then, after dusting and polishing them, set them at a more imposing angle; they unrolled the little green carpet and tacked down its corners; and transformed the cot into a "couch" by covering it with what Tracy's knew as a "throw" and adorning one end of it with cotton-stuffed cushions. They hung little photogravures on the walls and strung up some curtains before the good-sized window, which looked down from an enormous height at the top of four-storied houses, and took in beyond them the river and the shore beyond. Because there was no fireplace Tembarom knocked up a shelf, and, covering it with a scarf (from Tracy's), set up some inoffensive ornaments on it and flanked them with photographs of Jem Temple Barholm, Lady Joan in court dress, Miss Alicia in her prettiest cap, and the great house with its huge terrace and the griffins.
"Ain't she a looker?" Tembarom said of Lady Joan. "And ain't Jem a looker, too? Gee! they're a pair. Jem thinks this honeymoon stunt of ours is the best thing he ever heard of-- us fixing ourselves up here just like we would have done if nothing had ever happened, and we'd HAD to do it on fifteen per. Say," throwing an arm about her, "are you getting as much fun out of it as if we HAD to, as if I might lose my job any minute, and we might get fired out of here because we couldn't pay the rent? I believe you'd rather like to think I might ring you into some sort of trouble, so that you could help me to get you out of it."
That's nonsense," she answered, with a sweet, untruthful little face. "I shouldn't be very sensible if I wasn't glad you COULDN'T lose your job. Father and I are your job now."
He laughed aloud. This was the innocent, fantastic truth of it. They had chosen to do this thing--to spend their honey-moon in this particular way, and there was no reason why they should not. The little dream which had been of such unattainable proportions in the days of Mrs. Bowse's boarding-house could be realized to its fullest. No one in the St. Francesca apartments knew that the young honey- mooners in the five-roomed apartment were other than Mr. and Mrs. T. Barholm, as recorded on the tablet of names in the entrance. Hutchinson knew, and Miss Alicia knew, and Jem Temple Barholm, and Lady Joan. The Duke of Stone knew, and thought the old-fashionedness of the idea quite the last touch of modernity.
"Did you see any one who knew you when you were out?" Little Ann asked.
"No, and if I had they wouldn't have believed they'd seen me, because the papers told them that Mr. and Mrs. Temple Barholm are spending their honeymoon motoring through Spain in their ninety-horse-power Panhard."
"Let's go and get dinner," said Little Ann.
They went into the doll's-house kitchen and cooked the dinner. Little Ann broiled steak and fried potato chips, and T. Tembarom produced a wonderful custard pie he had bought at a confectioner's. He set the table, and put a bunch of yellow daisies in the middle of it.
"We couldn't do it every day on fifteen per week," he said. "If we wanted flowers we should have to grow them in old tomato-cans."
Little Ann took off her chorister's-gown apron and her kerchief, and patted and touched up her hair. She was pink to her ears, and had several new dimples; and when she sat down opposite him, as she had sat that first night at Mrs. Bowse's boarding-house supper, Tembarom stared at her and caught his breath.
"You ARE there?" he said, "ain't you?"
"Yes, I am," she answered.
When they had cleared the table and washed the dishes, and had left the toy kitchen spick and span, the ten million lights in New York were lighted and casting their glow above the city. Tembarom sat down on the Adams chair before the window and took Little Ann on his knee. She was of the build which settles comfortably and with ease into soft curves whose nearness is a caress. Looked down at from the fourteenth story of the St. Francesca apartments, the lights strung themselves along lines of streets, crossing and recrossing one another; they glowed and blazed against masses of buildings, and they hung at enormous heights in mid-air here and there, apparently without any support. Everywhere was the glow and dazzle of their brilliancy of light, with the distant bee hum of a nearing elevated train, at intervals gradually deepening into a roar. The river looked miles below them, and craft with sparks or blaze of light went slowly or swiftly to and fro.
"It's like a dream," said Little Ann, after a long silence. "And we are up here like birds in a nest."
He gave her a closer grip.
"Miss Alicia once said that when I was almost down and out," he said. "It gave me a jolt. She said a place like this would be like a nest. Wherever we go,--and we'll have to go to lots of places and live in lots of different ways,--we'll keep this place, and some time we'll bring her here and let her try it. I've just got to show her New York."
"Yes, let us keep it," said Little Ann, drowsily, "just for a nest."
There was another silence, and the lights on the river far below still twinkled or blazed as they drifted to and fro.
"You are there, ain't you?" said Tembarom in a half-whisper.
"Yes--I am," murmured Little Ann.
But she had had a busy day, and when he looked down at her, she hung softly against his shoulder, fast asleep.
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