Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- T. Tembarom - 3/104 -
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."
"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.
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 104
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything