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- T. Tembarom - 4/104 -
"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.
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