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- T. Tembarom - 20/104 -
"What do I want with a girl out of a magazine?" he cried. "Where should I hang her up?"
She was not unfeeling, but unshaken and she went on:
"I should look like a housemaid among them. How would you feel with a wife of that sort, when the other sort was about?"
"I should feel like a king, that's what I should feel like," he replied indignantly.
"I shouldn't feel like a queen. I should feel MISERABLE."
She sat with her little feet dangling, and her hands folded in her lap. Her infantile blue eyes held him as the Ancient Mariner had been held. He could not get away from the clear directness of them. He did not want to exactly, but she frightened him more and more.
"I should be ashamed," she proceeded. "I should feel as if I had taken an advantage. What you've got to do is to find out something no one else can find out for you, Mr. Temple Barholm."
"How can I find it out without you? It was you who put me on to the wedding-cake; you can put me on to other things."
"Because I've lived in the place," she answered unswervingly. "I know how funny it is for any one to think of me being Mrs. Temple Barholm. You don't."
"You bet I don't," he answered; "but I'll tell you what I do know, and that's how funny it is that I should be Mr. Temple Barholm. I've got on to that all right, all right. Have you?"
She looked at him with a reflection that said much. She took him in with a judicial summing up of which it must be owned an added respect was part. She had always believed he had more sense than most young men, and now she knew it.
"When a person's clever enough to see things for himself, he's generally clever enough to manage them," she replied.
He knelt down beside the trunk and took both her hands in his. He held them fast and rather hard.
"Are you throwing me down for good, Little Ann?" he said. "If you are, I can't stand it, I won't stand it."
"If you care about me like that, you'll do what I tell you," she interrupted, and she slipped down from the top of her trunk. "I know what Mother would say. She'd say, 'Ann, you give that young man a chance.' And I'm going to give you one. I've said all I'm going to, Mr. Temple Barholm."
He took both her elbows and looked at her closely, feeling a somewhat awed conviction.
" I - believe - you have," he said.
And here the sound of Mr. Hutchinson's loud and stertorous breathing ceased, and he waked up, and came to the door to find out what Ann was doing.
"What are you two talking about?" he asked. "People think when they whisper it's not going to disturb anybody, but it's worse than shouting in a man's ear."
Tembarom walked into the room.
"I've been asking Little Ann to marry me," he announced, "and she won't."
He sat down in a chair helplessly, and let his head fall into his hands.
"Eh!" exclaimed Hutchinson. He turned and looked at Ann disturbedly. "I thought a bit ago tha didn't deny but what tha'd took to him?"
"I didn't, Father," she answered. "I don't change my mind that quick. I - would have been willing to say 'Yes' when you wouldn't have been willing to let me. I didn't know he was Mr. Temple Barholm then."
Hutchinson rubbed the back of his head, reddening and rather bristling.
"Dost tha think th' Temple Barholms would look down on thee?"
"I should look down on myself if I took him up at his first words, when he's all upset with excitement, and hasn't had time to find out what things mean. I'm--well, I 'm too fond of him, Father."
Hutchinson gave her a long, steady look.
"You are? " he said.
"Yes, I am."
Tembarom lifted his head, and looked at her, too.
"Are you?" he asked.
She put her hands behind her back, and returned his look with the calm of ages.
"I'm not going to argue about it," she answered. "Arguing's silly."
His involuntary rising and standing before her was a sort of unconscious tribute of respect.
"I know that," he owned. "I know you. That's why I take it like this. But I want you to tell me one thing. If this hadn't happened, if I'd only had twenty dollars a week, would you have taken me?"
"If you'd had fifteen, and Father could have spared me, I'd have taken you. Fifteen dollars a week is three pounds two and sixpence, and I've known curates' wives that had to bring up families on less. It wouldn't go as far in New York as it would in the country in England, but we could have made it do--until you got more. I know you, too, Mr. Temple Barholm."
He turned to her father, and saw in his florid countenance that which spurred him to bold disclosure.
"Say," he put it to him, as man to man, "she stands there and says a thing like that, and she expects a fellow not to jerk her into his arms and squeeze the life out of her! I daren't do it, and I'm not going to try; but--well, you said her mother was like her, and I guess you know what I'm up against."
Hutchinson's grunting chuckle contained implications of exultant tenderness and gratified paternal pride.
"She's th' very spit and image of her mother," he said, "and she had th' sense of ten women rolled into one, and th' love of twenty. You let her be, and you're as safe as th' Rock of Ages."
"Do you think I don't know that?" answered Tembarom, his eyes shining almost to moisture. "But what hits me, by thunder! is that I've lost the chance of seeing her work out that fifteen-dollar-a-week proposition, and it drives me crazy."
"I should have downright liked to try it," said Little Ann, with speculative reflection, and while she knitted her brows in lovely consideration of the attractive problem, several previously unknown dimples declared themselves about her mouth.
"Ann," Tembarom ventured, "if I go to Temple Barholm and try it a year and learn all about it---"
"It would take more than a year," said Ann.
"Don't make it two," Tembarom pleaded. "I'll sit up at night with wet towels round my head to learn; I'll spend fourteen hours a day with girls that look like the pictures in the `Ladies' Pictorial', or whatever it is in England; I'll give them every chance in life, if you'll let me off afterward. There must be another lost heir somewhere; let's dig him up and then come back to little old New York and be happy. Gee! Ann,"--letting himself go and drawing nearer to her,-- "how happy we could be in one of those little flats in Harlem!"
She was a warm little human thing, and a tender one, and when he came close to her, glowing with tempestuous boyish eagerness, her eyes grew bluer because they were suddenly wet, and she was obliged to move softly back.
"Yes," she said; "I know those little flats. Any one could---" She stopped herself, because she had been going to reveal. what a home a woman could make in rooms like the compartments in a workbox. She knew and saw it all. She drew back a little again, but she put out a hand and laid it on his sleeve.
"When you've had quite time enough to find out, and know what the other thing means, I'll do whatever you want me to do," she said. "It won't matter what it is. I'll do it."
"She means that," Hutchinson mumbled unsteadily, turning aside. "Same as her mother would have meant it. And she means it in more ways than one."
And so she did. The promise included quite firmly the possibility of not unnatural changes in himself such as young ardor could not foresee, even the possibility of his new life withdrawing him entirely from the plane on which rapture could materialize on twenty dollars a week in a flat in Harlem.
Type as exotic as Tembarom's was to his solicitor naturally suggested problems. Mr. Palford found his charge baffling because, according to ordinary rules, a young man so rudimentary should have presented no problems not perfectly easy to explain. It was herein that he was exotic. Mr. Palford, who was not given to subtle analysis of differences in character and temperament, argued privately that an English youth who had been brought up in the streets would have been one of two or three things. He would have been secretly terrified and resentful, roughly awkward and resentful, or boastfully delighted and
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