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- T. Tembarom - 5/104 -
She was marking a letter J in red cotton, and her outward attention was apparently wholly fixed on her work.
"Say, now," Tembarom broke out, "there's where you come in. You go on working as if there was nothing but that sock in New York, but I guess you've just hit the dot. Perhaps that was it. He wanted to do Fifth Avenue work anyway, and he didn't go at Harlem right. He put on Princeton airs when he asked questions. Gee! a fellow can't put on any kind of airs when he's the one that's got to ask."
"You'll get on better," remarked Little Ann. "You've got a friendly way and you've a lot of sense. I've noticed it."
Her head was bent over the red J and she still looked at it and not at Tembarom. This was not coyness, but simple, calm absorption. If she had not been making the J, she would have sat with her hands folded in her lap, and gazed at the young man with undisturbed attention.
"Have you?" said Tembarom, gratefully. "That gives me another boost, Little Ann. What a man seems to need most is just plain twenty-cents- a-yard sense. Not that I ever thought I had the dollar kind. I'm not putting on airs."
"Mr. Galton knows the kind you have. I suppose that's why he gave you the page." The words, spoken in the shrewd-sounding Manchester accent, were neither flattering nor unflattering; they were merely impartial.
"Well, now I've got it, I can't fall down," said Tembarom. "I've got to find out for myself how to get next to the people I want to talk to. I've got to find out who to get next to."
Little Ann put in the final red stitch of the letter J and laid the sock neatly folded on the basket.
"I've just been thinking something, Mr. Tembarom," she said. "Who makes the wedding-cakes?"
He gave a delighted start.
"Gee!" he broke out, "the wedding-cakes!"
"Yes," Little Ann proceeded, "they'd have to have wedding-cakes, and perhaps if you went to the shops where they're sold and could make friends with the people, they'd tell you whom they were selling them to, and you could get the addresses and go and find out things."
Tembarom, glowing with admiring enthusiasm, thrust out his hand.
"Little Ann, shake! " he said. " You've given me the whole show, just like I thought you would. You're just the limit."
"Well, a wedding-cake's the next thing after the bride," she answered.
Her practical little head had given him the practical lead. The mere wedding-cake opened up vistas. Confectioners supplied not only weddings, but refreshments for receptions and dances. Dances suggested the "halls" in which they were held. You could get information at such places. Then there were the churches, and the florists who decorated festal scenes. Tembarom's excitement grew as he talked. One plan led to another; vistas opened on all sides. It all began to look so easy that he could not understand how Biker could possibly have gone into such a land of promise, and returned embittered and empty-handed.
"He thought too much of himself and too little of other people," Little Ann summed him up in her unsevere, reasonable voice. "That's so silly."
Tembarom tried not to look at her affectionately, but his voice was affectionate as well as admiring, despite him.
"The way you get on to a thing just in three words!" he said. "Daniel Webster ain't in it."
"I dare say if you let the people in the shops know that you come from a newspaper, it'll be a help," she went on with ingenuous worldly wisdom. "They'll think it'll be a kind of advertisement. And so it will. You get some neat cards printed with your name and Sunday Earth on them."
"Gee!" Tembarom ejaculated, slapping his knee, "there's another! You think of every darned thing, don't you?"
She stopped a moment to look at him.
"You'd have thought of it all yourself after a bit," she said. She was not of those unseemly women whose intention it is manifestly to instruct the superior man. She had been born in a small Manchester street and trained by her mother, whose own training had evolved through affectionately discreet conjugal management of Mr. Hutchinson.
"Never you let a man feel set down when you want him to see a thing reasonable, Ann," she had said. "You never get on with them if you do. They can't stand it. The Almighty seemed to make 'em that way. They've always been masters, and it don't hurt any woman to let 'em be, if she can help 'em to think reasonable. Just you make a man feel comfortable in his mind and push him the reasonable way. But never you shove him, Ann. If you do, he'll just get all upset-like. Me and your father have been right-down happy together, but we never should have been if I hadn't thought that out before we was married two weeks. Perhaps it's the Almighty's will, though I never was as sure of the Almighty's way of thinking as some are."
Of course Tembarom felt soothed and encouraged, though he belonged to the male development which is not automatically infuriated at a suspicion of female readiness of logic.
"Well, I might have got on to it in time," he answered, still trying not to look affectionate, "but I've no time to spare. Gee! but I'm glad you're here!"
"I sha'n't be here very long." There was a shade of patient regret in her voice. "Father's got tired of trying America. He's been disappointed too often. He's going back to England."
"Back to England!" Tembarom cried out forlornly, "Oh Lord! What shall we all do without you, Ann?"
"You'll do as you did before we came," said Little Ann.
"No, we sha'n't. We can't. I can't anyhow." He actually got up from his chair and began to walk about, with his hands thrust deep in his pockets.
Little Ann began to put her first stitches into a red B. No human being could have told what she thought.
"We mustn't waste time talking about that," she said. "Let us talk about the page. There are dressmakers, you know. If you could make friends with a dressmaker or two they'd tell you what the wedding things were really made of. Women do like their clothes to be described right."
His work upon the page began the following week. When the first morning of his campaign opened with a tumultuous blizzard, Jim Bowles and Julius Steinberger privately sympathized with him as they dressed in company, but they heard him whistling in his own hall bedroom as he put on his clothes, and to none of the three did it occur that time could be lost because the weather was inhuman. Blinding snow was being whirled through the air by a wind which had bellowed across the bay, and torn its way howling through the streets, maltreating people as it went, snatching their breath out of them, and leaving them gaspingly clutching at hats and bending their bodies before it. Street-cars went by loaded from front to back platform, and were forced from want of room to whizz heartlessly by groups waiting anxiously at street corners.
Tembarom saw two or three of them pass in this way, leaving the waiting ones desperately huddled together behind them. He braced himself and whistled louder as he buttoned his celluloid collar.
"I'm going to get up to Harlem all the same," he said. "The 'L' will be just as jammed, but there'll be a place somewhere, and I'll get it."
His clothes were the outwardly decent ones of a young man who must perforce seek cheap clothing-stores, and to whom a ten-dollar "hand- me-down" is a source of exultant rejoicing. With the aid of great care and a straight, well-formed young body, he managed to make the best of them; but they were not to be counted upon for warmth even in ordinarily cold weather. His overcoat was a specious covering, and was not infrequently odorous of naphtha.
"You've got to know something about first aid to the wounded if you live on ten per," he had said once to Little Ann. "A suit of clothes gets to be an emergency-case mighty often if it lasts three years."
"Going up to Harlem to-day, T. T.?" his neighbor at table asked him as he sat down to breakfast.
"Right there," he answered. "I've ordered the limousine round, with the foot-warmer and fur rugs."
"I guess a day wouldn't really matter much," said Mrs. Bowse, good- naturedly. "Perhaps it might be better to-morrow."
"And perhaps it mightn't," said Tembarom, eating "break-fast-food" with a cheerful appetite. "What you can't be stone-cold sure of to- morrow you drive a nail in to-day."
He ate a tremendous breakfast as a discreet precautionary measure. The dark dining-room was warm, and the food was substantial. It was comfortable in its way.
"You'd better hold the hall door pretty tight when you go out, and don't open it far," said Mrs. Bowse as he got up to go. "There's wind enough to upset things."
Tembarom went out in the hall, and put on his insufficient overcoat. He buttoned it across his chest, and turned its collar up to his ears. Then he bent down to turn up the bottoms of his trousers.
"A pair of arctics would be all to the merry right here," he said,
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