"Gee whizz!" he exclaimed through his teeth, "I shall have to take my boot off and try to fix it."
To accomplish this he leaned against the boarding and Miss Evangeline St. Clair being "Rent Asunder" in the midst of the wedding service. He cautiously removed his boot, and finding a hole in his sock in the place where the blister had rubbed off, he managed to protect the raw spot by pulling the sock over it. Then he drew on his boot again.
"That'll be better," he said, with a long breath.
As he stood on his feet again he started involuntarily. This was not because the blister had hurt him, but because he had heard behind him a startling sound.
"What's that?" broke from him. "What's that?"
He turned and listened, feeling his heart give a quick thump. In the darkness of the utterly empty street the thing was unnatural enough to make any man jump. He had heard it between two gusts of wind, and through another he heard it again - an uncanny, awful sobbing, broken by a hopeless wail of words.
"I can't remember! I can't- remember! 0 my God !"
And it was not a woman's voice or a child's; it was a man's, and there was an eerie sort of misery in it which made Tembarom feel rather sick. He had never heard a man sobbing before. He belonged to a class which had no time for sobs. This sounded ghastly.
"Good Lord!" he said, "the fellow's crying! A man!"
The sound came directly behind him. There was not a human being in sight. Even policemen do not loiter in empty streets.
"Hello!" he cried. "Where are you?"
But the low, horrible sound went on, and no answer came. His physical sense of the presence of the blister was blotted out by the abnormal thrill of the moment. One had to find out about a thing like that- one just had to. One could not go on and leave it behind uninvestigated in the dark and emptiness of a street no one was likely to pass through. He listened more intently. Yes, it was just behind him.
"He's in the lot behind the fence," he said. "How did he get there?"
He began to walk along the boarding to find a gap. A few yards farther on he came upon a broken place in the inclosure - a place where boards had sagged until they fell down, or had perhaps been pulled down by boys who wanted to get inside. He went through it, and found lie was in the usual vacant lot long given up to rubbish. When he stood still a moment he heard the sobbing again, and followed the sound to the place behind the boarding against which he had supported himself when he took off his boot.
A man was lying on the ground with his arms flung out. The street lamp outside the boarding cast light enough to reveal him. Tembarom felt as though he had suddenly found himself taking part in a melodrama,-" The Streets of New York," for choice,-though no melodrama had ever given him this slightly shaky feeling. But when a fellow looked up against it as hard as this, what you had to do was to hold your nerve and make him feel he was going to be helped. The normal human thing spoke loud in him.
"Hello, old man!" he said with cheerful awkwardness. "What's hit you?"
The man started and scrambled to his feet as though he were frightened. He was wet, unshaven, white and shuddering, piteous to look at. He stared with wild eyes, his chest heaving.
"What's up?" said Tembarom.
The man's breath caught itself.
"I don't remember." There was a touch of horror in his voice, though he was evidently making an effort to control him-self. "I can't - I can't remember." "What's your name? You remember that?" Tembarom put it to him.
"N-n-no !" agonizingly. "If I could! If I could!"
"How did you get in here?"
"I came in because I saw a policeman. He wouldn't understand. He would have stopped me. I must not be stopped. I MUST not."
"Where were you going? " asked Tembarom, not knowing what else to say.
"Home! My God! man, home!" and he fell to shuddering again. He put his arm against the boarding and dropped his head against it. The low, hideous sobbing tore him again.
T. Tembarom could not stand it. In his newsboy days he had never been able to stand starved dogs and homeless cats. Mrs. Bowse was taking care of a wretched dog for him at the present moment. He had not wanted the poor brute,—he was not particularly fond of dogs,— but it had followed him home, and after he had given it a bone or so, it had licked its chops and turned up its eyes at him with such abject appeal that he had not been able to turn it into the streets again. He was unsentimental, but ruled by primitive emotions. Also he had a sudden recollection of a night when as a little fellow he had gone into a vacant lot and cried as like this as a child could. It was a bad night when some "tough" big boys had turned him out of a warm corner in a shed, and he had had nowhere to go, and being a friendly little fellow, the unfriendliness had hit him hard. The boys had not seen him crying, but he remembered it. He drew near, and put his hand on the shaking shoulder.
"Say, don't do that," he said. "I'll help you to remember."
He scarcely knew why he said it. There was something in the situation and in the man himself which was compelling. He was not of the tramp order. His wet clothes had been decent, and his broken, terrified voice was neither coarse nor nasal. He lifted his head and caught Tembarom's arm, clutching it with desperate fingers.
"Could you?" he poured forth the words. "Could you? I'm not quite mad. Something happened. If I could be quiet! Don't let them stop me! My God! my God! my God! I can't say it. It's not far away, but it won't come back. You're a good fellow; if you're human, help me! help me! help me!" He clung to Tembarom with hands which shook; his eyes were more abject than the starved dog's; he choked, and awful tears rolled down his cheeks. "Only help me," he cried—"just help, help, help— for a while. Perhaps not long. It would come back." He made a horrible effort. "Listen! My name—I am—I am—it's—"
He was down on the ground again, groveling. His efforts had failed. Tembarom, overwrought himself, caught at him and dragged him up.
"Make a fight," he said. "You can't lie down like that. You've got to put up a fight. It'll come back. I tell you it will. You've had a clip on the head or something. Let me call an ambulance and take you to the hospital."
The next moment he was sorry he had said the words, the man's terror was so ill to behold. He grew livid with it, and uttered a low animal cry.
"Don't drop dead over it," said Tembarom, rather losing his head. "I won't do it, though what in thunder I'm going to do with you I don't know. You can't stay here."
"For God's sake!" said the man. "For God's sake!" He put his shaking hand on Tembarom again, and looked at him with a bewildered scrutiny. "I'm not afraid of you," he said; "I don't know why. There's something all right about you. If you'll stand by me—you'd stand by a man, I'd swear. Take me somewhere quiet. Let me get warm and think."
"The less you think now the better," answered Tembarom. "You want a bed and a bath and a night's rest. I guess I've let myself in for it. You brush off and brace yourself and come with me."
There was the hall bedroom and the red-cotton comfort for one night at least, and Mrs. Bowse was a soft-hearted woman. If she'd heard the fellow sobbing behind the fence, she'd have been in a worse fix than he was. Women were kinder-hearted than men, anyhow. The way the fellow's voice sounded when he said, "Help me, help me, help me!" sounded as though he was in hell. "Made me feel as if I was bracing up a chap that was going to be electrocuted," he thought, feeling sickish again. "I've not got backbone enough to face that sort of thing. Got to take him somewhere."
They were walking toward the "L" together, and he was wondering what he should say to Mrs. Bowse when he saw his companion fumbling under his coat at the back as though he was in search of something. His hands being unsteady, it took him some moments to get at what he wanted. He evidently had a belt or a hidden pocket. He got something out and stopped under a street light to show it to Tembarom. His hands still shook when he held them out, and his look was a curious, puzzled, questioning one. What he passed over to Tembarom was a roll of money. Tembarom rather lost his breath as he saw the number on two five-hundred-dollar bills, and of several hundreds, besides twenties, tens, and fives.
"Take it—keep it," he said. "It will pay."
"Hully gee!" cried Tembarom, aghast. "Don't go giving away your whole pile to the first fellow you meet. I don't want it."
"Take it." The stranger put his hand on his shoulder, the abject look in his eyes harrowingly like the starved dog's again.
"There's something all right about you. You'll help me."
"If I don't take it for you, some one will knock you upon the head for it." Tembarom hesitated, but the next instant he stuffed it all in his pocket, incited thereto by the sound of a whizzing roar.
"There's the 'L' coming," he cried; "run for all you're worth." And they fled up the street and up the steps, and caught it without a second to spare.
At about the time Tembarom made his rush to catch the "L" Joseph Hutchinson was passing through one of his periodical fits of infuriated discouragement. Little Ann knew they would occur every two or three days, and she did not wonder at them. Also she knew that if she merely sat still and listened as she sewed, she would be doing exactly what her mother would have done and what her father would find a sort of irritated comfort in. There was no use in citing people's villainies and calling them names unless you had an audience who would seem to agree to the justice of your accusations.
So Mr. Hutchinson charged up and down the room, his face red, and his hands thrust in his coat pockets. He was giving his opinions of America and Americans, and he spoke with his broadest Manchester accent, and threw in now and then a word or so of Lancashire dialect to add roughness and strength, the angrier a Manchester man being, the broader and therefore the more forcible his accent. "Tha" is somehow a great deal more bitter or humorous or affectionate than the mere ordinary "You" or "Yours."
"'Merica," he bellowed - "dang 'Merica! I says - an' dang 'Mericans. Goin' about th' world braggin' an' boastin' about their sharpness an' their open-'andedness. 'Go to 'Merica,' folks'll tell you, 'with an invention, and there's dozens of millionaires ready to put money in it.' Fools!"
"Now, Father," - Little Ann's voice was as maternal as her mother's had been, - "now, Father, love, don't work yourself up into a passion. You know it's not good for you." "I don't need to work myself up into one. I'm in one. A man sells everything he owns to get to 'Merica, an' when he gets there what does he find? He canna' get near a millionaire. He's pushed here an scuffled there, an' told this chap can't see him, an' that chap isn't interested, an' he must wait his chance to catch this one. An' he waits an' waits, an' goes up in elevators an' stands on one leg in lobbies, till he's broke' down an' sick of it, an' has to go home to England steerage."
Little Ann looked up from her sewing. He had been walking furiously for half an hour, and had been tired to begin with. She had heard his voice break roughly as he said the last words. He threw himself astride a chair and, crossing his arms on the back of it, dropped his head on them. Her mother never allowed this. Her idea was that women were made to tide over such moments for the weaker sex. Far had it been from the mind of Mrs. Hutchinson to call it weaker. "But there's times, Ann, when just for a bit they're just like children. They need comforting without being let to know they are being comforted. You know how it is when your back aches, and some one just slips a pillow under it in the right place without saying anything. That's what women can do if they've got heads. It needs a head."
Little Ann got up and went to the chair. She began to run her fingers caressingly through the thick, grizzled hair.
"There, Father, love, there!" she said. "We are going back to England, at any rate, aren't we? And grandmother will be so glad to have us with her in her cottage. And America's only one place."
"I tried it first, dang it!" jerked out Hutchinson. "Every one told me to do it." He quoted again with derisive scorn: "'You go to 'Merica. 'Merica's the place for a chap like you. 'Merica's the place for inventions.' Liars!"
Little Ann went on rubbing the grizzled head lovingly.
"Well, now we're going back to try England. You never did really try England. And you know how beautiful it'll be in the country, with the primroses in bloom and the young lambs in the fields." The caressing hand grew even softer. "And you're not going to forget how mother believed in the invention; you can't do that."
Hutchinson lifted his head and looked at her.
"Eh, Ann," he said, "you are a comfortable little body. You've got a way with you just like your poor mother had. You always say the right thing to help a chap pull himself together. Your mother did believe in it, didn't she?"
She had, indeed, believed in it, though her faith was founded more upon confidence in "Mr. Hutchinson" than in any profound knowledge of the mechanical appliance his inspiration would supply. She knew it had something important to do with locomotive engines, and she knew that if railroad magnates would condescend to consider it, her husband was sure that fortune would flow in. She had lived with the "invention," as it was respectfully called, for years.
"That she did," answered Little Ann. "And before she died she said to me: 'Little Ann,' she said, 'there's one thing you must never let your father do. You must never let him begin not to believe in his invention. Your father's a clever man, and it's a clever invention, and it'll make his fortune yet. You must remind him how I believed in it and how sure I was.'"
Hutchinson rubbed his hands thoughtfully. He had heard this before, but it did him good to hear it again.
"She said that, did she?" he found vague comfort in saying. "She said that?"
"Yes, she did, Father. It was the very day before she died."
"Well, she never said anything she hadn't thought out," he said in slow retrospection. "And she had a good head of her own. Eh, she was a wonderful woman, she was, for sticking to things. That was th' Lancashire in her. Lancashire folks knows their own minds."
"Mother knew hers," said Ann. "And she always said you knew yours. Come and sit in your own chair, Father, and have your paper."
She had tided him past the worst currents without letting him slip into them.
"I like folks that knows their own minds," he said as he sat down and took his paper from her. "You know yours, Ann; and there's that Tembarom chap. He knows his. I've been noticing that chap." There was a certain pleasure in using a tone of amiable patronage. "He's got a way with him that's worth money to him in business, if he only knew it."
"I don't think he knows he's got a way," Little Ann said. "His way is just him."
"He just gets over people with it, like he got over me. I was ready to knock his head off first time he spoke to me. I was ready to knock anybody's head off that day. I'd just had that letter from Hadman. He made me sick wi' the way he pottered an' played the fool about the invention. He believed in it right enough, but he hadn't the courage of a mouse. He wasn't goin' to be the first one to risk his money. Him, with all he has! He's the very chap to be able to set it goin'. If I could have got some one else to put up brass, it'd have started him. It's want o' backbone, that's the matter wi' Hadman an' his lot."
"Some of these days some of them 're going to get their eyes open," said Little Ann, "and then the others will be sorry. Mr. Tembarom says they'll fall over themselves to get in on the ground floor."
"That's New York," he said. "He's a rum chap. But he thinks a good bit of the invention. I've talked it over with him, because I've wanted to talk, and the one thing I've noticed about Tembarom is that he can keep his mouth shut."
"But he talks a good deal," said Ann.
"That's the best of it. You'd think he was telling all he knows, and he's not by a fat lot. He tells you what you'll like to hear, and he's not sly; but he can keep a shut mouth. That's Lancashire. Some folks can't do it even when they want to."
"His father came from England."
"That's where the lad's sense comes from. Perhaps he's Lancashire. He had a lot of good ideas about the way to get at Hadman."
A knock at the door broke in upon them. Mrs. Bowse presented herself, wearing a novel expression on her face. It was at once puzzled and not altogether disagreeably excited.
"I wish you would come down into the dining-room, Little Ann." She hesitated. " Mr. Tembaron's brought home such a queer man. He picked him up ill in the street. He wants me to let him stay with him for the night, anyhow. I don't think he's crazy, but I guess he's lost his memory. Queerest thing I ever saw. He doesn't know his name or anything."
"See here," broke out Hutchinson, dropping his hands and his paper on his knee, "I'm not going to have Ann goin' down stairs to quiet lunatics."
"He's as quiet as a child," Mrs. Bowse protested. "There's something pitiful about him, he seems so frightened. He's drenched to the skin."
"Call an ambulance and send him to the hospital," advised Hutchinson.
"That's what Mr. Tembarom says he can't do. It frightens him to death to speak of it. He just clings to Mr. Tembarom sort of awful, as if he thinks he'll save his life. But that isn't all," she added in an amazed tone; "he's given Mr. Tembarom more than two thousand dollars."
"What!" shouted Hutchinson, bounding to his feet quite unconsciously.
"What!" exclaimed Little Ann.
"Just you come and look at it," answered Mrs. Bowse, nodding her head. "There's over two thousand dollars in bills spread out on the table in the dining-room this minute. He had it in a belt pocket, and he dragged it out in the street and would make Mr. Tembarom take it. Do come and tell us what to do."
"I'd get him to take off his wet clothes and get into bed, and drink some hot spirits and water first," said Little Ann. "Wouldn't you, Mrs. Bowse?"
Hutchinson got up, newspaper in hand.
"I say, I'd like to go down and have a look at that chap myself," he announced.
"If he's so frightened, perhaps—" Little Ann hesitated.
"That's it," put in Mrs. Bowse. "He's so nervous it'd make him worse to see another man. You'd better wait, Mr. Hutchinson."
Hutchinson sat down rather grumpily, and Mrs. Bowse and Little Ann went down the stairs together.
"I feel real nervous myself," said Mrs. Bowse, "it's so queer. But he's not crazy. He's quiet enough."
As they neared the bottom of the staircase Little Ann could see over the balustrade into the dining-room. The strange man was sitting by the table, his disordered, black-haired head on his arm. He looked like an exhausted thing. Tembarom was sitting by him, and was talking in an encouraging voice. He had laid a hand on one of the stranger's. On the table beside them was spread a number of bills which had evidently just been counted.
"Here's the ladies," said Tembarom.
The stranger lifted his head and, having looked, rose and stood upright, waiting. It was the involuntary, mechanical action of a man who had been trained among gentlemen.
"It's Mrs. Bowse again, and she's brought Miss Hutchinson down with her. Miss Hutchinson always knows what to do," explained Tembarom in his friendly voice.
The man bowed, and his bewildered eyes fixed themselves on Little Ann.
"Thank you," he said. "It's very kind of you. I—I am— in great trouble."
Little Ann went to him and smiled her motherly smile at him.
"You're very wet," she said. "You'll take a bad cold if you're not careful. Mrs. Bowse thinks you ought to go right to bed and have something hot to drink."
"It seems a long time since I was in bed," he answered her.
"I'm very tired. Thank you." He drew a weary, sighing breath, but he didn't move his eyes from the girl's face. Perhaps the cessation of action in certain cells of his brain had increased action in others. He looked as though he were seeing something in Little Ann's face which might not have revealed itself so clearly to the more normal gaze.
He moved slightly nearer to her. He was a tall man, and had to look down at her.
"What is your name?" he asked anxiously. "Names trouble me."
It was Ann who drew a little nearer to him now. She had to look up, and the soft, absorbed kindness in her eyes might, Tembarom thought, have soothed a raging lion, it was so intent on its purpose.
"My name is Ann Hutchinson; but never you mind about it now," she said. "I'll tell it to you again. Let Mr. Tembarom take you up-stairs to bed. You'll be better in the morning." And because his hollow eyes rested on her so fixedly she put her hand on his wet sleeve.
"You're wet through," she said. "That won't do."
He looked down at her hand and then at her face again.
"Help me," he pleaded, "just help me. I don't know what's happened. Have I gone mad? "
"No," she answered; "not a bit. It'll all come right after a while; you'll see."
"Will it, will it?" he begged, and then suddenly his eyes were full of tears. It was a strange thing to see him in his bewildered misery try to pull himself together, and bite his shaking lips as though he vaguely remembered that he was a man. "I beg pardon," he faltered: "I suppose I'm ill."
"I don't know where to put him," Mrs. Bowse was saying half aside; "I've not got a room empty."
"Put him in my bed and give me a shake-down on the floor," said Tembarom. "That'll be all right. He doesn't want me to leave him, anyhow."
He turned to the money on the table.
"Say," he said to his guest, "there's two thousand five hundred dollars here. We've counted it to make sure. That's quite some money. And it's yours—"
The stranger looked disturbed and made a nervous gesture.
"Don't, don't!" he broke in. "Keep it. Some one took the rest. This was hidden. It will pay."
"You see he isn't real' out of his mind," Mrs. Bowse murmured feelingly.
"No, not real' out of it," said Tembarom. "Say,"—as an inspiration occurred to him, —"I guess maybe Miss Hutchinson will keep it. Will you, Little Ann? You can give it to him when he wants it."
"It's a good bit of money," said Little Ann, soberly; "but I can put it in a bank and pay Mrs. Bowse his board every week. Yes, I'll take it. Now he must go to bed. It's a comfortable little room," she said to the stranger, "and Mrs. Bowse will make you a hot milk-punch. That'll be nourishing."
"Thank you," murmured the man, still keeping his yearning eyes on her. "Thank you."
So he was taken up to the fourth floor and put into Tembarom's bed. The hot milk-punch seemed to take the chill out of him, and when, by lying on his pillow and gazing at the shakedown on the floor as long as he could keep his eyes open, he had convinced himself that Tembarom was going to stay with him, he fell asleep.
Little Ann went back to her father carrying a roll of bills in her hands. It was a roll of such size that Hutchinson started up in his chair and stared at the sight of it.
"Is that the money?" he exclaimed. "What are you going to do with it? What have you found out, lass?"
"Yes, this is it," she answered. "Mr. Tembarom asked me to take care of it. I'm going to put it in the bank. But we haven't found out anything."
His was the opening incident of the series of extraordinary and altogether incongruous events which took place afterwards, as it appeared to T. Tembarom, like scenes in a play in which he had become involved in a manner which one might be inclined to regard humorously and make jokes about, because it was a thousand miles away from anything like real life. That was the way it struck him. The events referred to, it was true, were things one now and then read about in newspapers, but while the world realized that they were actual occurrences, one rather regarded them, when their parallels were reproduced in books and plays, as belonging alone to the world of pure and highly romantic fiction.
"I guess the reason why it seems that way," he summed it up to Hutchinson and Little Ann, after the worst had come to the worst, "is because we've not only never known any one it's happened to, but we've never known any one that's known any one it's happened to. I've got to own up that it makes me feel as if the fellows'd just yell right out laughing when they heard it."
The stranger's money had been safely deposited in a bank, and the stranger himself still occupied Tembarom's bedroom. He slept a great deal and was very quiet. With great difficulty Little Ann had persuaded him to let a doctor see him, and the doctor had been much interested in his case. He had expected to find some signs of his having received accidentally or otherwise a blow upon the head, but on examination he found no scar or wound. The condition he was in was frequently the result of concussion of the brain, sometimes of prolonged nervous strain or harrowing mental shock. Such cases occurred not infrequently. Quiet and entire freedom from excitement would do more for such a condition than anything else. If he was afraid of strangers, by all means keep them from him. Tembarom had been quite right in letting him think he would help him to remember, and that somehow he would in the end reach the place he had evidently set out to go to. Nothing must be allowed to excite him. It was well he had had money on his person and that he had fallen into friendly hands. A city hospital would not have been likely to help him greatly. The restraint of its necessary discipline might have alarmed him.
So long as he was persuaded that Tembarom was not going to desert him, he was comparatively calm, though sunk in a piteous and tormented melancholy. His worst hours were when he sat alone in the hall bedroom, with his face buried in his hands. He would so sit without moving or speaking, and Little Ann discovered that at these times he was trying to remember. Sometimes he would suddenly rise and walk about the little room, muttering, with woe in his eyes. Ann, who saw how hard this was for him, found also that to attempt to check or distract him was even worse. When, sitting in her father's room, which was on the other side of the wall, she heard his fretted, hurried pacing feet, her face lost its dimpled cheerfulness. She wondered if her mother would not have discovered some way of clearing the black cloud distracting his brain. Nothing would induce him to go down to the boarders' dining-room for his meals, and the sight of a servant alarmed him so that it was Ann who took him the scant food he would eat. As the time of her return to England with her father drew near, she wondered what Mr. Tembarom would do without her services. It was she who suggested that they must have a name for him, and the name of a part of Manchester had provided one. There was a place called Strangeways, and one night when, in talking to her father, she referred to it in Tembarom's presence, he suddenly seized upon it.
"Strangeways," he said. "That'd make a good-enough name for him. Let's call him Mr. Strangeways. I don't like the way the fellows have of calling him 'the Freak.'"
So the name had been adopted, and soon became an established fact.
"The way I feel about him," Tembarom said, "is that the fellow's not a bit of a joke. What I see is that he's up against about the toughest proposition I've ever known. Gee! that fellow's not crazy. He's worse. If he was out-and-out dippy and didn't know it, he'd be all right. Likely as not he'd be thinking he was the Pope of Rome or Anna Held. What knocks him out is that he's just right enough to know he's wrong, and to be trying to get back. He reminds me of one of those chaps the papers tell about sometimes—fellows that go to work in livery-stables for ten years and call themselves Bill Jones, and then wake up some morning and remember they're some high-browed minister of the gospel named the Rev. James Cadwallader."
When the curtain drew up on Tembarom's amazing drama, Strangeways had been occupying his bed nearly three weeks, and he himself had been sleeping on a cot Mrs. Bowse had put up for him in his room. The Hutchinsons were on the point of sailing for England—steerage—on the steamship Transatlantic, and Tembarom was secretly torn into fragments, though he had done well with the page and he was daring to believe that at the end of the month Galton would tell him he had "made good" and the work would continue indefinitely.
If that happened, he would be raised to "twenty-five per" and would be a man of means. If the Hutchinsons had not been going away, he would have been floating in clouds of rose color. If he could persuade Little Ann to take him in hand when she'd had time to "try him out," even Hutchinson could not utterly flout a fellow who was making his steady twenty-five per on a big paper, and was on such terms with his boss that he might get other chances. Gee! but he was a fellow that luck just seemed to chase, anyhow! Look at the other chaps, lots of 'em, who knew twice as much as he did, and had lived in decent homes and gone to school and done their darned best, too, and then hadn't been able to get there! It didn't seem fair somehow that he should run into such pure luck.
The day arrived when Galton was to give his decision. Tembarom was going to hand in his page, and while he was naturally a trifle nervous, his nervousness would have been a hopeful and not unpleasant thing but that the Transatlantic sailed in two days, and in the Hutchinson's rooms Little Ann was packing her small trunk and her father's bigger one, which held more models and drawings than clothing. Hutchinson was redder in the face than usual, and indignant condemnation of America and American millionaires possessed his soul. Everybody was rather depressed. One boarder after another had wakened to a realization that, with the passing of Little Ann, Mrs. Bowse's establishment, even with the parlor, the cozy-corner, and the second- hand pianola to support it, would be a deserted-seeming thing. Mrs. Bowse felt the tone of low spirits about the table, and even had a horrible secret fear that certain of her best boarders might decide to go elsewhere, merely to change surroundings from which they missed something. Her eyes were a little red, and she made great efforts to keep things going.
"I can only keep the place up when I've no empty rooms, "she had said to Mrs. Peck, "but I'd have boarded her free if her father would have let her stay. But he wouldn't, and, anyway, she'd no more let him go off alone than she'd jump off Brooklyn Bridge."
It had been arranged that partly as a farewell banquet and partly to celebrate Galton's decision about the page, there was to be an oyster stew that night in Mr. Hutchinson's room, which was distinguished as a bed-sitting-room. Tembarom had diplomatically suggested it to Mr. Hutchinson. It was to be Tembarom's oyster supper, and somehow he managed to convey that it was only a proper and modest tribute to Mr. Hutchinson himself. First-class oyster stew and pale ale were not so bad when properly suggested, therefore Mr. Hutchinson consented. Jim Bowles and Julius Steinberger were to come in to share the feast, and Mrs. Bowse had promised to prepare.
It was not an inspiring day for Little Ann. New York had seemed a bewildering and far too noisy place for her when she had come to it directly from her grandmother's cottage in the English village, where she had spent her last three months before leaving England. The dark rooms of the five-storied boarding-house had seemed gloomy enough to her, and she had found it much more difficult to adjust herself to her surroundings than she could have been induced to admit to her father. At first his temper and the open contempt for American habits and institutions which he called "speaking his mind" had given her a great deal of careful steering through shoals to do. At the outset the boarders had resented him, and sometimes had snapped back their own views of England and courts. Violent and disparaging argument had occasionally been imminent, and Mrs. Bowse had worn an ominous look. Their rooms had in fact been "wanted" before their first week had come to an end, and Little Ann herself scarcely knew how she had tided over that situation. But tide it over she did, and by supernatural effort and watchfulness she contrived to soothe Mrs. Bowse until she had been in the house long enough to make friends with people and aid her father to realize that, if they went elsewhere, they might find only the same class of boarders, and there would be the cost of moving to consider. She had beguiled an armchair from Mrs. Bowse, and had re- covered it herself with a remnant of crimson stuff secured from a miscellaneous heap at a marked-down sale at a department store. She had arranged his books and papers adroitly and had kept them in their places so that he never felt himself obliged to search for any one of them. With many little contrivances she had given his bed-sitting-room a look of comfort and established homeliness, and he had even begun to like it.
"Tha't just like tha mother, Ann," he had said. "She'd make a railway station look as if it had been lived in."
Then Tembarom had appeared, heralded by Mrs. Bowse and the G. Destroyer, and the first time their eyes had met across the table she had liked him. The liking had increased. There was that in his boyish cheer and his not-too-well-fed-looking face which called forth maternal interest. As she gradually learned what his life had been, she felt a thrilled anxiety to hear day by day how he was getting on. She listened for details, and felt it necessary to gather herself together in the face of a slight depression when hopes of Galton were less high than usual. His mending was mysteriously done, and in time he knew with amazed gratitude that he was being "looked after." His first thanks were so awkward, but so full of appreciation of unaccustomed luxury, that they almost brought tears to her eyes, since they so clearly illuminated the entire novelty of any attention whatever.
"I just don't know what to say," he said, shuffling from one foot to another, though his nice grin was at its best. "I've never had a woman do anything for me since I was ten. I guess women do lots of things for most fellows; but, then, they're mothers and sisters and aunts. I appreciate it like—like thunder. I feel as if I was Rockefeller, Miss Ann."
In a short time she had become "Little Ann" to him, as to the rest, and they began to know each other very well. Jim Bowles and Julius Steinberger had not been able to restrain themselves at first from making slangy, yearning love to her, but Tembarom had been different. He had kept himself well in hand. Yes, she had liked T. Tembarom, and as she packed the trunks she realized that the Atlantic Ocean was three thousand miles across, and when two people who had no money were separated by it, they were likely to remain so. Rich people could travel, poor people couldn't. You just stayed where things took you, and you mustn't be silly enough to expect things to happen in your class of life—things like seeing people again. Your life just went on. She kept herself very busy, and did not allow her thoughts any latitude. It would vex her father very much if he thought she had really grown fond of America and was rather sorry to go away. She had finished her packing before evening, and the trunks were labeled and set aside, some in the outside hall and some in the corner of the room. She had sat down with some mending on her lap, and Hutchinson was walking about the room with the restlessness of the traveler whose approaching journey will not let him settle himself anywhere.
"I'll lay a shilling you've got everything packed and ready, and put just where a chap can lay his hands on it," he said.
"Yes, Father. Your tweed cap's in the big pocket of your thick top- coat, and there's an extra pair of spectacles and your pipe and tobacco in the small one."
"And off we go back to England same as we came!" He rubbed his head, and drew a big, worried sigh. "Where's them going?" he asked, pointing to some newly laundered clothing on a side table. "You haven't forgotten 'em, have you?"
"No, Father. It's just some of the young men's washing. I thought I'd take time to mend them up a bit before I went to bed."
"That's like tha mother, too—taking care of everybody. What did these chaps do before you came?"
"Sometimes they tried to sew on a button or so themselves, but oftener they went without. Men make poor work of sewing. It oughtn't to be expected of them."
Hutchinson stopped and looked her and her mending over with a touch of curiosity.
"Some of them's Tembarom's?" he asked.
Little Ann held up a pair of socks.
"These are. He does wear them out, poor fellow. It's tramping up and down the streets to save car-fare does it. He's never got a heel to his name. But he's going to be able to buy some new ones next week."
Hutchinson began his tramp again.
"He'll miss thee, Little Ann; but so'll the other lads, for that matter."
"He'll know to-night whether Mr. Galton's going to let him keep his work. I do hope he will. I believe he'd begin to get on."
"Well,"—Hutchinson was just a little grudging even at this comparatively lenient moment,—"I believe the chap'll get on myself. He's got pluck and he's sharp. I never saw him make a poor mouth yet."
"Neither did I," answered Ann.
A door leading into Tembarom's hall bedroom opened on to Hutchinson's. They both heard some one inside the room knock at it. Hutchinson turned and listened, jerking his head toward the sound.
"There's that poor chap again," he said. "He's wakened and got restless. What's Tembarom going to do with him, I'd like to know? The money won't last forever."
"Shall I let him in, Father? I dare say he's got restless because Mr. Tembarom's not come in."
"Aye, we'll let him in. He won't have thee long. He can't do no harm so long as I'm here."
Little Ann went to the door and opened it. She spoke quietly.
"Do you want to come in here, Mr. Strangeways?"
The man came in. He was clean, but still unshaven, and his clothes looked as though he had been lying down. He looked round the room anxiously.
"Where has he gone?" he demanded in an overstrung voice. "Where is he?" He caught at Ann's sleeve in a sudden access of nervous fear. "What shall I do if he's gone?"
Hutchinson moved toward him.
"'Ere, 'ere," he said, "don't you go catchin' hold of ladies. What do you want?"
I've forgotten his name now. What shall I do if I can't remember?" faltered Strangeways.
Little Ann patted his arm comfortingly.
"There, there, now! You've not really forgotten it. It's just slipped your memory. You want Mr. Tembarom—Mr. T. Tembarom."
"Oh, thank you, thank you. That's it. Yes, Tembarom. He said T. Tembarom. He said he wouldn't throw me over."
Little Ann led him to a seat and made him sit down. She answered him with quiet decision.
"Well, if he said he wouldn't, he won't. Will he, Father?"
"No, he won't." There was rough good nature in Hutchinson's admission. He paused after it to glance at Ann. "You think a lot of that lad, don't you, Ann?"
"Yes, I do, Father," she replied undisturbedly. "He's one you can trust, too. He's up-town at his work," she explained to Strangeways. "He'll be back before long. He's giving us a bit of a supper in here because we're going away."
Strangeways grew nervous again.
"But he won't go with you? T. Tembarom won't go?"
"No, no; he's not going. He'll stay here," she said soothingly. He had evidently not observed the packed and labeled trunks when he came in. He seemed suddenly to see them now, and rose in distress.
"Whose are these? You said he wasn't going?"
Ann took hold of his arm and led him to the corner.
"They are not Mr. Tembarom's trunks," she explained. "They are father's and mine. Look on the labels. Joseph Hutchinson, Liverpool. Ann Hutchinson, Liverpool."
He looked at them closely in a puzzled way. He read a label aloud in a dragging voice.
"Ann Hutchinson, Liverpool. What's—what's Liverpool?
"Oh, come," encouraged Little Ann, "you know that. It's a place in England. We're going back to England."
He stood and gazed fixedly before him. Then he began to rub his fingers across his forehead. Ann knew the straining look in his eyes. He was making that horrible struggle to get back somewhere through the darkness which shut him in. It was so painful a thing to see that even Hutchinson turned slightly away.
"Don't!" said Little Ann, softly, and tried to draw him away.
He caught his breath convulsively once or twice, and his voice dragged out words again, as though he were dragging them from bottomless depths.
"Going—back—to—England—back to England—to England."
He dropped into a chair near by, his arms thrown over its back, and broke, as his face fell upon them, into heavy, deadly sobbing—the kind of sobbing Tembarom had found it impossible to stand up against. Hutchinson whirled about testily.
"Dang it!" he broke out, "I wish Tembarom'd turn up. What are we to do?" He didn't like it himself. It struck him as unseemly.
But Ann went to the chair, and put her hands on the shuddering shoulder, bending over the soul-wrung creature, the wisdom of centuries in the soft, expostulatory voice which seemed to reach the very darkness he was lost in. It was a wisdom of which she was wholly unaware, but it had been born with her, and was the building of her being.
"'Sh! 'S-h-h!" she said. "You mustn't do that. Mr. Tembarom wouldn't like you to do it. He'll be in directly. 'Sh! 'Sh, now!" And simple as the words were, their soothing reached him. The wildness of his sobs grew less.
"See here," Hutchinson protested, "this won't do, my man. I won't have it, Ann. I'm upset myself, what with this going back and everything. I can't have a chap coming and crying like that there. It upsets me worse than ever. And you hangin' over him! It won't do."
Strangeways lifted his head from his arms and looked at him.
"Aye, I mean what I say," Hutchinson added fretfully.
Strangeways got up from the chair. When he was not bowed or slouching it was to be seen that he was a tall man with square shoulders. Despite his unshaven, haggard face, he had a sort of presence.
"I'll go back to my room," he said. "I forgot. I ought not to be here."
Neither Hutchinson nor Little Ann had ever seen any one do the thing he did next. When Ann went with him to the door of the hall bedroom, he took her hand, and bowing low before her, lifted it gently to his lips.
Hutchinson stared at him as he turned into the room and closed the door behind him.
"Well, I've read of lords and ladies doin' that in books," he said, "but I never thought I should see a chap do it myself."
Little Ann went back to her mending, looking very thoughtful.
"Father," she said, after a few moments, "England made him come near to remembering something."
"New York'll come near making me remember a lot of things when I'm out of it," said Mr. Hutchinson, sitting down heavily in his chair and rubbing his head. "Eh, dang it! dang it!"
"Don't you let it, Father," advised Little Ann. "There's never any good in thinking things over."
"You're not as cheerful yourself as you let on," he said. "You've not got much color to-day, my lass."
She rubbed one cheek a little, trying to laugh.
"I shall get it back when we go and stay with grandmother. It's just staying indoors so much. Mr. Tembarom won't be long now; I'll get up and set the table. The things are on a tray outside."
As she was going out of the room, Jim Bowles and Julius Steinberger appeared at the door.
"May we come in?" Jim asked eagerly. "We're invited to the oyster stew, and it's time old T. T. was here. Julius and me are just getting dippy waiting up-stairs to hear if he's made good with Galton."
"Well, now, you sit down and be quiet a bit, or you'll be losing your appetites," advised Ann.
"You can't lose a thing the size of mine," answered Jim, "any more than you could lose the Metropolitan Opera-house."
Ann turned her head and paused as though she were listening. She heard footsteps in the lower hall.
"He's coming now," she announced. "I know his step. He's tired. Don't go yet, you two," she added as the pair prepared to rush to meet him. "When any one's that tired he wants to wash his face, and talk when he's ready. If you'll just go back to your room I'll call you when I've set the table."
She felt that she wanted a little more quiet during the next few minutes than she could have if they remained and talked at the top of elated voices. She had not quite realized how anxiously she had been waiting all day for the hour when she would hear exactly what had happened. If he was all right, it would be a nice thing to remember when she was in England. In this moderate form she expressed herself mentally. "It would be a nice thing to remember." She spread the cloth on the table and began to lay out the plates. Involuntarily she found herself stopping to glance at the hall bedroom door and listen rather intently.
"I hope he's got it. I do that. I'm sure he has. He ought to."
Hutchinson looked over at her. She was that like her mother, that lass!
"You're excited, Ann," he said.
"Yes, Father, I am—a bit. He's—he's washing his face now." Sounds of splashing water could be heard through the intervening door.
Hutchinson watched her with some uneasiness.
"You care a lot for that lad," he said.
She did not look fluttered. Her answer was quite candid.
"I said I did, Father. He's taking off his boots."
"You know every sound he makes, and you're going away Saturday, and you'll never see him again."
"That needn't stop me caring. It never did any one any harm to care for one of his sort."
"But it can't come to anything," Hutchinson began to bluster. "It won't do—"
"He's coming to the door, he's turning the handle," said Little Ann.
Tembarom came in. He was fresh with recent face-washing, and his hair was damp, so that a short lock curled and stood up. He had been up- town making frantic efforts for hours, but he had been making them in a spirit of victorious relief, and he did not look tired at all.
"I've got it!" he cried out the moment he entered. "I've got it, by jingo! The job's mine for keeps."
"Galton's give it to you out and out?" Hutchinson was slightly excited himself.
"He's in the bulliest humor you ever saw. He says I've done first- rate, and if I go on, he'll run me up to thirty."
"Well, I'm danged glad of it, lad, that I am!" Hutchinson gave in handsomely. "You put backbone into it."
Little Ann stood near, smiling. Her smile met Tembarom's.
"I know you're glad, Little Ann," he said. "I'd never have got there but for you. It was up to me, after the way you started me."
"You know I'm glad without me telling you," she answered. "I'm RIGHTDOWN glad."
And it was at this moment that Mrs. Bowse came into the room.
"It's too bad it's happened just now," she said, much flustered. "That's the way with things. The stew'll spoil, but he says it's real important."
Tembarom caught at both her hands and shook them.
"I've got it, Mrs. Bowse. Here's your society reporter! The best- looking boarder you've got is going to be able to pay his board steady."
"I'm as glad as can be, and so will everybody be. I knew you'd get it. But this gentleman's been here twice to-day. He says he really must see you."
"Let him wait," Hutchinson ordered. "What's the chap want? The stew won't be fit to eat."
"No, it won't," answered Mrs. Bowse; "but he seems to think he's not the kind to be put off. He says it's more Mr. Tembarom's business than his. He looked real mad when I showed him into the parlor, where they were playing the pianola. He asked wasn't there a private room where you could talk."
A certain flurried interest in the manner of Mrs. Bowse, a something not usually awakened by inopportune callers, an actual suggestion of the possible fact that she was not as indifferent as she was nervous, somewhat awakened Mr. Hutchinson's curiosity.
"Look here," he volunteered," if he's got any real business, he can't talk over to the tune of the pianola you can bring him up here, Tembarom. I'll see he don't stay long if his business isn't worth talkin' about. He'll see the table set for supper, and that'll hurry him."
"Oh, gee I wish he hadn't come!" said Tembarom. "I'll just go down and see what he wants. No one's got any swell private business with me."
"You bring him up if he has," said Hutchinson. "We'd like to hear about it."
Tembarom ran down the stairs quickly.
No one had ever wanted to see him on business before. There was something important-sounding about it; perhaps things were starting up for him in real earnest. It might be a message from Galton, though he could not believe that he had at this early stage reached such a distinction. A ghastly thought shot a bolt at him, but he shook himself free of it.
"He's not a fellow to go back on his word, anyhow," he insisted.
There were more boarders than usual in the parlor. The young woman from the notion counter had company; and one of her guests was playing "He sut'nly was Good to Me" on the pianola with loud and steady tread of pedal.
The new arrival had evidently not thought it worth his while to commit himself to permanency by taking a seat. He was standing not far from the door with a businesslike-looking envelop in one hand and a pince- nez in the other, with which Tembarom saw he was rather fretfully tapping the envelop as he looked about him. He was plainly taking in the characteristics of the room, and was not leniently disposed toward them. His tailor was clearly an excellent one, with entirely correct ideas as to the cut and material which exactly befitted an elderly gentleman of some impressiveness in the position, whatsoever it happened to be, which he held. His face was not of a friendly type, and his eyes held cold irritation discreetly restrained by businesslike civility. Tembarom vaguely felt the genialities of the oyster supper assume a rather fourth-rate air.
The caller advanced and spoke first.
"Mr. Tembarom?" he inquired.
"Yes," Tembarom answered, "I'm T. Tembarom."
"T.," repeated the stranger, with a slightly puzzled expression. "Ah, yes; I see. I beg pardon."
In that moment Tembarom felt that he was looked over, taken in, summed up, and without favor. The sharp, steady eye, however, did not seem to have moved from his face. At the same time it had aided him to realize that he was, to this well-dressed person at least, a too exhilarated young man wearing a ten-dollar "hand-me-down."
"My name is Palford," he said concisely. "That will convey nothing to you. I am of the firm of Palford & Grimby of Lincoln's Inn. This is my card."
Tembarom took the card and read that Palford & Grimby were "solicitors," and he was not sure that he knew exactly what "solicitors" were.
"Lincoln's Inn?" he hesitated. "That's not in New York, is it?"
"No, Mr. Tembarom; in London. I come from England."
"You must have had bad weather crossing," said Tembarom, with amiable intent. Somehow Mr. Palford presented a more unyielding surface than he was accustomed to. And yet his hard courtesy was quite perfect.
"I have been here some weeks."
"I hope you like New York. Won't you have a seat?"
The young lady from the notion counter and her friends began to sing the chorus of "He sut'nly was Good to Me" with quite professional negro accent.
"That's just the way May Irwin done it," one of them laughed.
Mr. Palford glanced at the performers. He did not say whether he liked New York or not.
"I asked your landlady if we could not see each other in a private room," he said. "It would not be possible to talk quietly here."
"We shouldn't have much of a show," answered Tembarom, inwardly wishing he knew what was going to happen. "But there are no private rooms in the house. We can be quieter than this, though, if we go up stairs to Mr. Hutchinson's room. He said I could bring you."
"That would be much better," replied Mr. Palford.
Tembarom led him out of the room, up the first steep and narrow flight of stairs, along the narrow hall to the second, up that, down another hall to the third, up the third, and on to the fourth. As he led the way he realized again that the worn carpets, the steep narrowness, and the pieces of paper unfortunately stripped off the wall at intervals, were being rather counted against him. This man had probably never been in a place like this before in his life, and he didn't take to it.
At the Hutchinsons' door he stopped and explained:
"We were going to have an oyster stew here because the Hutchinsons are going away; but Mr. Hutchinson said we could come up."
"Very kind of Mr. Hutchinson, I'm sure."
Despite his stiffly collected bearing, Mr. Palford looked perhaps slightly nervous when he was handed into the bed-sitting-room, and found himself confronting Hutchinson and Little Ann and the table set for the oyster stew. It is true that he had never been in such a place in his life, that for many reasons he was appalled, and that he was beset by a fear that he might be grotesquely compelled by existing circumstances to accept these people's invitation, if they insisted upon his sitting down with them and sharing their oyster stew. One could not calculate on what would happen among these unknown quantities. It might be their idea of boarding-house politeness. And how could one offend them? God forbid that the situation should intensify itself in such an absurdly trying manner! What a bounder the unfortunate young man was! His own experience had not been such as to assist him to any realistic enlightenment regarding him, even when he had seen the society page and had learned that he had charge of it.
"Let me make you acquainted with Mr. and Miss Hutchinson," Tembarom introduced. "This is Mr. Palford, Mr. Hutchinson."
Hutchinson, half hidden behind his newspaper, jerked his head and grunted:
"Glad to see you, sir."
Mr. Palford bowed, and took the chair Tembarom presented.
"I am much obliged to you, Mr. Hutchinson, for allowing me to come to your room. I have business to discuss with Mr. Tembarom, and the pianola was being played down-stairs—rather loudly."
"They do it every night, dang 'em! Right under my bed," growled Hutchinson. "You're an Englishman, aren't you?"
"So am I, thank God! " Hutchinson devoutly gave forth.
Little Ann rose from her chair, sewing in hand.
"Father'll come and sit with me in my room," she said.
Hutchinson looked grumpy. He did not intend to leave the field clear and the stew to its fate if he could help it. He gave Ann a protesting frown.
"I dare say Mr. Palford doesn't mind us," he said. "We're not strangers."
"Not in the least," Palford protested. "Certainly not. If you are old friends, you may be able to assist us."
"Well, I don't know about that," Hutchinson answered, "We've not known him long, but we know him pretty well. You come from London, don't you? "
"Yes. From Lincoln's Inn Fields."
"Law?" grunted Hutchinson.
"Yes. Of the firm of Palford & Grimby."
Hutchinson moved in his chair involuntarily. There was stimulation to curiosity in this. This chap was a regular top sawyer—clothes, way of pronouncing his words, manners, everything. No mistaking him—old family solicitor sort of chap. What on earth could he have to say to Tembarom? Tembarom himself had sat down and could not be said to look at his ease.
"I do not intrude without the excuse of serious business," Palford explained to him. "A great deal of careful research and inquiry has finally led me here. I am compelled to believe I have followed the right clue, but I must ask you a few questions. Your name is not really Tembarom, is it?"
Hutchinson looked at Tembarom sharply.
"Not Tembarom? What does he mean, lad?"
Tembarom's grin was at once boyish and ashamed.
"Well, it is in one way," he answered, "and it isn't in another. The fellows at school got into the way of calling me that way,—to save time, I guess,—and I got to like it. They'd have guyed my real name. Most of them never knew it. I can't see why any one ever called a child by such a fool name, anyhow."
"What was it exactly?"
Tembarom looked almost sheepish.
"It sounds like a thing in a novel. It was Temple Temple Barholm. Two Temples, by gee! As if one wasn't enough!"
Joseph Hutchinson dropped his paper and almost started from his chair. His red face suddenly became so much redder that he looked a trifle apoplectic.
"Temple Barholm does tha say?" he cried out.
Mr. Palford raised his hand and checked him, but with a suggestion of stiff apology.
"If you will kindly allow me. Did you ever hear your father refer to a place called Temple Barholm?" he inquired.
Tembarom reflected as though sending his thoughts backward into a pretty thoroughly forgotten and ignored past. There had been no reason connected with filial affection which should have caused him to recall memories of his father. They had not liked each other. He had known that he had been resented and looked down upon as a characteristically American product. His father had more than once said he was a "common American lad," and he had known he was.
"Seems to me," he said at last, "that once when he was pretty mad at his luck I heard him grumbling about English laws, and he said some of his distant relations were swell people who would never think of speaking to him,—perhaps didn't know he was alive,—and they lived in a big way in a place that was named after the family. He never saw it or them, and he said that was the way in England—one fellow got everything and the rest were paupers like himself. He'd always been poor."
"Yes, the relation was a distant one. Until this investigation began the family knew nothing of him. The inquiry has been a tiresome one. I trust I am reaching the end of it. We have given nearly two years to following this clue."
"What for?" burst forth Tembarom, sitting upright.
"Because it was necessary to find either George Temple Barholm or his son, if he had one."
"I'm his son, all right, but he died when I was eight years old," Tembarom volunteered. "I don't remember much about him."
"You remember that he was not an American?"
"He was English. Hated it; but he wasn't fond of America."
"Have you any papers belonging to him?"
Tembarom hesitated again.
"There's a few old letters—oh, and one of those glass photographs in a case. I believe it's my grandfather and grandmother, taken when they were married. Him on a chair, you know, and her standing with her hand on his shoulder."
"Can you show them to me?" Palford suggested.
"Sure," Tembarom answered, getting up from his seat "They're in my room. I turned them up yesterday among some other things."
When he left them, Mr. Palford sat gently rubbing his chin. Hutchinson wanted to burst forth with questions, but he looked so remote and acidly dignified that there was a suggestion of boldness in the idea of intruding on his reflections. Hutchinson stared at him and breathed hard and short in his suspense. The stiff old chap was thinking things over and putting things together in his lawyer's way. He was entirely oblivious to his surroundings. Little Ann went on with her mending, but she wore her absorbed look, and it was not a result of her work.
Tembarom came back with some papers in his hand. They were yellowed old letters, and on the top of the package there was a worn daguerreotype-case with broken clasp.
"Here they are," he said, giving them to Palford. "I guess they'd just been married," opening the case. "Get on to her embroidered collar and big breast-pin with his picture in it. That's English enough, isn't it? He'd given it to her for a wedding-present. There's something in one of the letters about it."
It was the letters to which Mr. Palford gave the most attention. He read them and examined post-marks and dates. When he had finished, he rose from his chair with a slightly portentous touch of professional ceremony.
"Yes, those are sufficiently convincing. You are a very fortunate young man. Allow me to congratulate you."
He did not look particularly pleased, though he extended his hand and shook Tembarom's politely. He was rigorously endeavoring to conceal that he found himself called upon to make the best of an extremely bad job. Hutchinson started forward, resting his hands on his knees and glaring with ill-suppressed excitement.
"What's that for?" Tembarom said. He felt rather like a fool. He laughed half nervously. It seemed to be up to him to understand, and he didn't understand in the least.
"You have, through your father's distant relationship, inherited a very magnificent property—the estate of Temple Barholm in Lancashire," Palford began to explain, but Mr. Hutchinson sprang from his chair outright, crushing his paper in his hand.
"Temple Barholm!" he almost shouted, "I dunnot believe thee! Why, it's one of th' oldest places in England and one of th' biggest. Th' Temple Barholms as didn't come over with th' Conqueror was there before him. Some of them was Saxon kings! And him—" pointing a stumpy, red finger disparagingly at Tembarom, aghast and incredulous—"that New York lad that's sold newspapers in the streets—you say he's come into it?"
"Precisely." Mr. Palford spoke with some crispness of diction. Noise and bluster annoyed him. "That is my business here. Mr. Tembarom is, in fact, Mr. Temple Temple Barholm of Temple Barholm, which you seem to have heard of."
"Heard of it! My mother was born in the village an' lives there yet. Art tha struck dumb, lad!" he said almost fiercely to Tembarom. "By Judd! Tha well may be!"
Tembarom was standing holding the back of a chair. He was pale, and had once opened his mouth, and then gulped and shut it. Little Ann had dropped her sewing. His first look had leaped to her, and she had looked back straight into his eyes.
"I'm struck something," he said, his half-laugh slightly unsteady. "Who'd blame me?"
"You'd better sit down," said Little Ann. "Sudden things are upsetting."
He did sit down. He felt rather shaky. He touched himself on his chest and laughed again.
"Me!" he said. "T. T.! Hully gee! It's like a turn at a vaudeville."
The sentiment prevailing in Hutchinson's mind seemed to verge on indignation.
"Thee th' master of Temple Barholm! " he ejaculated. "Why, it stood for seventy thousand pound' a year!"
"It did and it does," said Mr. Palford, curtly. He had less and less taste for the situation. There was neither dignity nor proper sentiment in it. The young man was utterly incapable of comprehending the meaning and proportions of the extraordinary event which had befallen him. It appeared to present to him the aspect of a somewhat slangy New York joke.
"You do not seem much impressed, Mr. Temple Barholm," he said.
"Oh, I'm impressed, all right," answered Tembarom, "but, say, this thing can't be true! You couldn't make it true if you sat up all night to do it."
"When I go into the business details of the matter tomorrow morning you will realize the truth of it," said Mr. Palford. "Seventy thousand pounds a year—and Temple Barholm—are not unsubstantial facts."
"Three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, my lad—that's what it stands for!" put in Mr. Hutchinson.
"Well," said Tembarom, "I guess I can worry along on that if I try hard enough. I mayn't be able to keep myself in the way I've been used to, but I've got to make it do."
Mr. Palford stiffened. He did not know that the garish, flippant- sounding joking was the kind of defense the streets of New York had provided Mr. Temple Barholm with in many an hour when he had been a half-clad newsboy with an empty stomach, and a bundle of unsold newspapers under his arm.
"You are jocular," he said. "I find the New Yorkers are given to being jocular—continuously."
Tembarom looked at him rather searchingly. Palford wouldn't have found it possible to believe that the young man knew all about his distaste and its near approach to disgust, that he knew quite well what he thought of his ten-dollar suit, his ex-newsboy's diction, and his entire incongruousness as a factor in any circumstances connected with dignity and splendor. He would certainly not have credited the fact that though he had not the remotest idea what sort of a place Temple Barholm was, and what sort of men its long line of possessors had been, he had gained a curious knowledge of their significance through the mental attitude of their legal representative when he for a moment failed to conceal his sense of actual revolt.
"It seems sort of like a joke till you get on to it," he said. "But I guess it ain't such a merry jest as it seems."
And then Mr. Palford did begin to observe that he had lost his color entirely; also that he had a rather decent, sharp-cut face, and extremely white and good young teeth, which he showed not unattractively when he smiled. And he smiled frequently, but he was not smiling now.
In the course of the interview given to the explaining of business and legal detail which took place between Mr. Palford and his client the following morning, Tembarom's knowledge of his situation extended itself largely, and at the same time added in a proportionate degree to his sense of his own incongruity as connected with it. He sat at a table in Palford's private sitting-room at the respectable, old- fashioned hotel the solicitor had chosen - sat and listened, and answered questions and asked them, until his head began to feel as though it were crammed to bursting with extraordinary detail.
It was all extraordinary to him. He had had no time for reading and no books to read, and therefore knew little of fiction. He was entirely ignorant of all romance but such as the New York papers provided. This was highly colored, but it did not deal with events connected with the possessors of vast English estates and the details of their habits and customs. His geographical knowledge of Great Britain was simple and largely incorrect. Information concerning its usual conditions and aspects had come to him through talk of international marriages and cup races, and had made but little impression upon him. He liked New York - its noise, its streets, its glare, its Sunday newspapers, with their ever-increasing number of sheets, and pictures of everything on earth which could be photographed. His choice, when he could allow himself a fifty-cent seat at the theater, naturally ran to productions which were farcical or cheerfully musical. He had never reached serious drama, perhaps because he had never had money enough to pay for entrance to anything like half of the "shows" the other fellows recommended. He was totally unprepared for the facing of any kind of drama as connected with himself. The worst of it was that it struck him as being of the nature of farce when regarded from the normal New York point of view. If he had somehow had the luck to come into the possession of money in ways which were familiar to him, - to "strike it rich" in the way of a "big job" or "deal," - he would have been better able to adjust himself to circumstances. He might not have known how to spend his money, but he would have spent it in New York on New York joys. There would have been no foreign remoteness about the thing, howsoever fantastically unexpected such fortune might have been. At any rate, in New York he would have known the names of places and things.
Through a large part of his interview with Palford his elbow rested on the table, and he held his chin with his hand and rubbed it thoughtfully. The last Temple Temple Barholm had been an eccentric and uncompanionable person. He had lived alone and had not married. He had cherished a prejudice against the man who would have succeeded him as next of kin if he had not died young. People had been of the opinion that he had disliked him merely because he did not wish to be reminded that some one else must some day inevitably stand in his shoes, and own the possessions of which he himself was arrogantly fond. There were always more female Temple Barholms than male ones, and the families were small. The relative who had emigrated to Brooklyn had been a comparatively unknown person. His only intercourse with the head of the house had been confined to a begging letter, written from America when his circumstances were at their worst. It was an ill- mannered and ill-expressed letter, which had been considered presuming, and had been answered chillingly with a mere five-pound note, clearly explained as a final charity. This begging letter, which bitterly contrasted the writer's poverty with his indifferent relative's luxuries, had, by a curious trick of chance which preserved it, quite extraordinarily turned up during an examination of apparently unimportant, forgotten papers, and had furnished a clue in the search for next of kin. The writer had greatly annoyed old Mr. Temple Barholm by telling him that he had called his son by his name - "not that there was ever likely to be anything in it for him." But a waif of the New York streets who was known as "Tem" or "Tembarom" was not a link easily attached to any chain, and the search had been long and rather hopeless. It had, however, at last reached Mrs. Bowse's boarding-house and before Mr. Palford sat Mr. Temple Temple Barholm, a cheap young man in cheap clothes, and speaking New York slang with a nasal accent. Mr. Palford, feeling him appalling and absolutely without the pale, was still aware that he stood in the position of an important client of the firm of Palford & Grimby. There was a section of the offices at Lincoln's Inn devoted to documents representing a lifetime of attention to the affairs of the Temple Barholm estates. It was greatly to be hoped that the crass ignorance and commonness of this young outsider would not cause impossible complications.
"He knows nothing! He knows nothing!" Palford found himself forced to exclaim mentally not once, but a hundred times, in the course of their talk.
There was - this revealed itself as the interview proceeded - just one slight palliation of his impossible benightedness: he was not the kind of young man who, knowing nothing, huffily protects himself by pretending to know everything. He was of an unreserve concerning his ignorance which his solicitor felt sometimes almost struck one in the face. Now and then it quite made one jump. He was singularly free from any vestige of personal vanity. He was also singularly unready to take offense. To the head of the firm of Palford & Grimby, who was not accustomed to lightness of manner, and inclined to the view that a person who made a joke took rather a liberty with him, his tendency to be jocular, even about himself and the estate of Temple Barholm, was irritating and somewhat disrespectful. Mr. Palford did not easily comprehend jokes of any sort; especially was he annoyed by cryptic phraseology and mammoth exaggeration. For instance, be could not in the least compass Mr. Temple Barholm's meaning when he casually remarked that something or other was "all to the merry"; or again, quite as though he believed that he was using reasonable English figures of speech, "The old fellow thought he was the only pebble on the beach." In using the latter expression he had been referring to the late Mr. Temple Barholm; but what on earth was his connection with the sea-shore and pebbles? When confronted with these baffling absurdities, Mr. Palford either said, "I beg pardon," or stiffened and remained silent.
When Tembarom learned that he was the head of one of the oldest families in England, no aspect of the desirable dignity of his position reached him in the least.
"Well," he remarked, "there's quite a lot of us can go back to Adam and Eve."
When he was told that he was lord of the manor of Temple Barholm, he did not know what a manor was.
"What's a manor, and what happens if you're lord of it?" he asked.
He had not heard of William the Conqueror, and did not appear moved to admiration of him, though he owned that he seemed to have "put it over."
"Why didn't he make a republic of it while he was about it?" he said. "But I guess that wasn't his kind. He didn't do all that fighting for his health."
His interest was not alone totally dissevered from the events of past centuries; it was as dissevered from those of mere past years. The habits, customs, and points of view of five years before seemed to have been cast into a vast waste-paper basket as wholly unpractical in connection with present experiences.
"A man that's going to keep up with the procession can't waste time thinking about yesterday. What he's got to do is to keep his eye on what's going to happen the week after next," he summed it up.
Rather to Mr. Palford's surprise, he did not speak lightly, but with a sort of inner seriousness. It suggested that he had not arrived at this conclusion without the aid of sharp experience. Now and then one saw a touch of this profound practical perception in him.
It was not to be denied that he was clear-headed enough where purely practical business detail was concerned. He was at first plainly rather stunned by the proportions presented to him, but his questions were direct and of a common-sense order not to be despised.
"I don't know anything about it yet," he said once. "It's all Dutch to me. I can't calculate in half-crowns and pounds and half pounds, but I'm going to find out. I've got to."
It was extraordinary and annoying to feel that one must explain everything; but this impossible fellow was not an actual fool on all points, and he did not seem to be a weakling. He might learn certain things in time, and at all events one was no further personally responsible for him and his impossibilities than the business concerns of his estate would oblige any legal firm to be. Clients, whether highly desirable or otherwise, were no more than clients. They were not relatives whom one must introduce to one's friends. Thus Mr. Palford, who was not a specially humane or sympathetic person, mentally decided. He saw no pathos in this raw young man, who would presently find himself floundering unaided in waters utterly unknown to him. There was even a touch of bitter amusement in the solicitor's mind as he glanced toward the future.
He explained with detail the necessity for their immediate departure for the other side of the Atlantic. Certain legal formalities which must at once be attended to demanded their presence in England. Foreseeing this, on the day when he had finally felt himself secure as to the identity of his client he had taken the liberty of engaging optionally certain state-rooms on the Adriana, sailing the following Wednesday.
"Subject of course to your approval," he added politely. "But it is imperative that we should be on the spot as early as possible." He did not mention that he himself was abominably tired of his sojourn on alien shores, and wanted to be back in London in his own chambers, with his own club within easy reach.
Tembarom's face changed its expression. He had been looking rather weighted down and fatigued, and he lighted up to eagerness.
"Say," he exclaimed, "why couldn't we go on the Transatlantic on Saturday?"
"It is one of the small, cheap boats," objected Palford.
"The accommodation would be most inferior."
Tembarom leaned forward and touched his sleeve in hasty, boyish appeal.
"I want to go on it," he said; "I want to go steerage."
Palford stared at him.
"You want to go on the Transatlantic! Steerage!" he ejaculated, quite aghast. This was a novel order of madness to reveal itself in the recent inheritor of a great fortune.
Tembarom's appeal grew franker; it took on the note of a too crude young fellow's misplaced confidence.
"You do this for me," he said. "I'd give a farm to go on that boat. The Hutchinsons are sailing on it - Mr. and Miss Hutchinson, the ones you saw at the house last night."
"I - it is really impossible." Mr. Palford hesitated. "As to steerage, my dear Mr. Temple Barholm, you - you can't."
Tembarom got up and stood with his hands thrust deep in his pockets. It seemed to be a sort of expression of his sudden hopeful excitement.
"Why not " he said. "If I own about half of England and have money to burn, I guess I can buy a steerage passage on a nine-day steamer."
"You can buy anything you like," Palford answered stiffly. "It is not a matter of buying. But I should not be conducting myself properly toward you if I allowed it. It would not be - becoming."
"Becoming!" cried Tembarom, "Thunder! It's not a spring bat. I tell you I want to go just that way."
Palford saw abnormal breakers ahead. He felt that he would be glad when be had landed his charge safely at Temple Barholm. Once there, his family solicitor was not called upon to live with him and hobnob with his extraordinary intimates.
"As to buying," he said, still with marked lack of enthusiasm, "instead of taking a steerage passage on the Transatlantic yourself, you might no doubt secure first-class state-rooms for Mr. and Miss Hutchinson on the Adriana, though I seriously advise against it."
Tembarom shook his head.
"You don't know them," he said. "They wouldn't let me. Hutchinson's a queer old fellow and he's had the hardest kind of luck, but he's as proud as they make 'em. Me butt in and offer to pay their passage back, as if they were paupers, just because I've suddenly struck it rich! Hully gee! I guess not. A fellow that's been boosted up in the air all in a minute, as I have, has got to lie pretty low to keep folks from wanting to kick him, anyhow. Hutchinson's a darned sight smarter fellow than I am, and he knows it—and he's Lancashire, you bet." He stopped a minute and flushed. "As to Little Ann," he said— "me make that sort of a break with HER! Well, I should be a fool."
Palford was a cold-blooded and unimaginative person, but a long legal experience had built up within him a certain shrewdness of perception. He had naturally glanced once or twice at the girl sitting still at her mending, and he had observed that she said very little and had a singularly quiet, firm little voice.
"I beg pardon. You are probably right. I had very little conversation with either of them. Miss Hutchinson struck me as having an intelligent face."
"She's a wonder," said Tembarom, devoutly. "She's just a wonder."
"Under the circumstances," suggested Mr. Palford, "it might not be a bad idea to explain to her your idea of the steerage passage. An intelligent girl can often give excellent advice. You will probably have an opportunity of speaking to her tonight. Did you say they were sailing to-morrow?"
To-morrow! That brought it so near that it gave Tembarom a shock. He had known that they sailed on Saturday, and now Saturday had become to-morrow. Things began to surge through his mind—all sorts of things he had no time to think of clearly, though it was true they had darted vaguely about in the delirious excitement of the night, during which he had scarcely slept at all. His face changed again, and the appeal died out of it. He began to look anxious and restless.
"Yes, they're going to-morrow," he answered.
"You see," argued Mr. Palford, with conviction, "how impossible it would be for us to make any arrangements in so few hours. You will excuse my saying," he added punctiliously, "that I could not make the voyage in the steerage."
Tembarom laughed. He thought he saw him doing it.
"That's so," he said. Then, with renewed hope, he added, "Say, I 'm going to try and get them to wait till Wednesday."
"I do not think—" Mr. Palford began, and then felt it wiser to leave things as they were. "But I'm not qualified to give an opinion. I do not know Miss Hutchinson at all."
But the statement was by no means frank. He had a private conviction that he did know her to a certain degree. And he did.
There was a slight awkwardness even to Tembarom in entering the dining-room that evening. He had not seen his fellow boarders, as his restless night had made him sleep later than usual. But Mrs. Bowse had told him of the excitement he had caused.
"They just couldn't eat," she said. "They could do nothing but talk and talk and ask questions; and I had waffles, too, and they got stone-cold."
The babel of friendly outcry which broke out on his entry was made up of jokes, ejaculations, questions, and congratulatory outbursts from all sides.
"Good old T. T.!" "Give him a Harvard yell! Rah! Rah! Rah!" "Lend me fifty-five cents?" "Where's your tiara?" "Darned glad of it!" "Make us a speech!"
"Say, people," said Tembarom, "don't you get me rattled or I can't tell you anything. I'm rattled enough already."
"Well, is it true?" called out Mr. Striper.
"No," Tembarom answered back, sitting down. "It couldn't be; that's what I told Palford. I shall wake up in a minute or two and find myself in a hospital with a peacherino of a trained nurse smoothing 'me piller.' You can't fool ME with a pipe-dream like this. Palford's easier; he's not a New Yorker. He says it IS true, and I can't get out of it."
"Whew! Great Jakes!" A long breath was exhaled all round the table.
"What are you, anyhow?" cried Jim Bowles across the dishes.
Tembarom rested his elbow on the edge of the table and began to check off his points on his fingers.
"I'm this, he said: "I'm Temple Temple Barholm, Esquire, of Temple Barholm, Lancashire, England. At the time of the flood my folks knocked up a house just about where the ark landed, and I guess they've held on to it ever since. I don't know what business they went into, but they made money. Palford swears I've got three hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year. I wasn't going to call the man a liar; but I just missed it, by jings!"
He was trying to "bluff it out." Somehow he felt he had to. He felt it more than ever when a momentary silence fell upon those who sat about the table. It fell when he said "three hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year." No one could find voice to make any remark for a few seconds after that.
"Are you a lord—or a duke?" some one asked after breath had recovered itself. "No, I'm not," he replied with relief. "I just got out from under that; but the Lord knows how I did it."
"What are you going to do first? " said Jim Bowles.
"I've got to go and 'take possession.' That's what Palford calls it. I've been a lost heir for nearly two years, and I've got to show myself."
Hutchinson had not joined the clamor of greeting, but had grunted disapproval more than once. He felt that, as an Englishman, he had a certain dignity to maintain. He knew something about big estates and their owners. He was not like these common New York chaps, who regarded them as Arabian Nights tales to make jokes about. He had grown up as a village boy in proper awe of Temple Barholm. They were ignorant fools, this lot. He had no patience with them. He had left the village and gone to work in Manchester when he was a boy of twelve, but as long as he had remained in his mother's cottage it had been only decent good manners for him to touch his forehead respectfully when a Temple Barholm, or a Temple Barholm guest or carriage or pony phaeton, passed him by. And this chap was Mr. Temple Temple Barholm himself! Lord save us!
Little Ann said nothing at all; but, then, she seldom said anything during meal-times. When the rest of the boarders laughed, she ate her dinner and smiled. Several times, despite her caution, Tembarom caught her eye, and somehow held it a second with his. She smiled at him when this happened; but there was something restless and eager in his look which made her wish to evade it. She knew what he felt, and she knew why he kept up his jokes and never once spoke seriously. She knew he was not comfortable, and did not enjoy talking about hundreds of thousands a year to people who worked hard for ten or twenty "per." To-morrow morning was very near, she kept thinking. To-morrow night she would be lying in her berth in the steerage, or more probably taking care of her father, who would be very uncomfortable.
"What will Galton do? " Mr. Striper asked.
"I don't know," Tembarom answered, and he looked troubled. Three hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year might not be able to give aid to a wounded society page.
"What are you going to do with your Freak? " called out Julius Steinberger.
Tembarom actually started. As things had surged over him, he had had too much to think over. He had not had time to give to his strange responsibility; it had become one nevertheless.
"Are you going to leave him behind when you go to England?"
He leaned forward and put his chin on his hand.
"Why, say," he said, as though he were thinking it out, "he's spoken about England two or three times. He's said he must go there. By jings! I'll take him with me, and see what'll happen."
When Little Ann got up to leave the room he followed her and her father into the hall.
"May I come up and talk it over with you?" he appealed. "I've got to talk to some one who knows something about it. I shall go dotty if I don't. It's too much like a dream."
"Come on up when you're ready," answered Hutchinson. "Ann and me can give you a tip or two."
"I'm going to be putting the last things in the trunks," said Ann, "but I dare say you won't mind that. The express'll be here by eight in the morning."
"0 Lord!" groaned Tembarom.
When he went up to the fourth floor a little later, Hutchinson had fallen into a doze in his chair over his newspaper, and Ann was kneeling by a trunk in the hall, folding small articles tightly, and fitting them into corners. To Tembarom she looked even more than usual like a slight child thing one could snatch up in one's arms and carry about or set on one's knee without feeling her weight at all. An inferior gas-jet on the wall just above her was doing its best with the lot of soft, red hair, which would have been an untidy bundle if it had not been hers.
Tembarom sat down on the trunk next to her.
"0 Little Ann!" he broke out under his breath, lest the sound of his voice might check Hutchinson's steady snoring. "0 Little Ann!"
Ann leaned back, sitting upon her small heels, and looked up at him.
"You're all upset, and it's not to be wondered at, Mr. Temple Barholm," she said.
"Upset! You're going away to-morrow morning! And, for the Lord's sake, don't call me that!" he protested.
"You're going away yourself next Wednesday. And you ARE Mr. Temple Barholm. You'll never be called anything else in England.
"How am I going to stand it?" he protested again. "How could a fellow like me stand it! To be yanked out of good old New York, and set down in a place like a museum, with Central Park round it, and called Mr. Temple Temple Barholm instead of just 'Tem' or 'T. T.'! It's not natural."
"What you must do, Mr. Temple Barholm, is to keep your head clear, that's all," she replied maturely.
"Lord! if I'd got a head like yours!"
She seemed to take him in, with a benign appreciativeness, in his entirety.
"Well, you haven't," she admitted, though quite without disparagement, merely with slight reservation. "But you've got one like your own. And it's a good head—when you try to think steady. Yours is a man's head, and mine's only a woman's."
"It's Little Ann Hutchinson's, by gee!" said Tembarom, with feeling.
"Listen here, Mr. Tem—Temple Barholm," she went on, as nearly disturbed as he had ever seen her outwardly. "It's a wonderful thing that's happened to you. It's like a novel. That splendid place, that splendid name! It seems so queer to think I should ever have talked to a Mr. Temple Barholm as I've talked to you."
He leaned forward a little as though something drew him.
"But"—there was unsteady appeal in his voice—"you have liked me, haven't you, Little Ann?"
Her own voice seemed to drop into an extra quietness that made it remote. She looked down at her hands on her lap.
"Yes, I have liked you. I have told Father I liked you," she answered.
He got up, and made an impetuous rush at his goal.
"Then—say, I'm going in there to wake up Mr. Hutchinson and ask him not to sail to-morrow morning."
"You'd better not wake him up," she answered, smiling; but he saw that her face changed and flushed. "It's not a good time to ask Father anything when he's just been waked up. And we HAVE to go. The express is coming at eight."
"Send it away again; tell 'em you're not going. Tell 'em any old thing. Little Ann, what's the matter with you? Something's the matter. Have I made a break?"
He had felt the remoteness in her even before he had heard it in her dropped voice. It had been vaguely there even when he sat down on the trunk. Actually there was a touch of reserve about her, as though she was keeping her little place with the self-respecting propriety of a girl speaking to a man not of her own world.
"I dare say I've done some fool thing without knowing it. I don't know where I'm at, anyhow," he said woefully.
"Don't look at me like that, Mr. Temple Barholm," she said—"as if I was unkind. I—I'm NOT."
"But you're different," he implored. "I saw it the minute I came up. I ran up-stairs just crazy to talk to you,—yes, crazy to talk to you— and you—well, you were different. Why are you, if you're not mad?"
Then she rose and stood holding one of her neatly rolled packages in her hand. Her eyes were soft and clear, and appealed maternally to his reason.
"Because everything's different. You just think a bit," she answered.
He stared at her a few seconds, and then understanding of her dawned upon him. He made a human young dash at her, and caught her arm.
"What!" he cried out. "You mean this Temple Barholm song and dance makes things different? Not on your life! You're not the girl to work that on me, as if it was my fault. You've got to hear me speak my piece. Ann—you've just got to!"
He had begun to tremble a little, and she herself was not steady; but she put a hand on his arm.
"Don't say anything you've not had time to think about," she said.
"I've been thinking of pretty near nothing else ever since I came here. Just as soon as I looked at you across the table that first day I saw my finish, and every day made me surer. I'd never had any comfort or taking care of,—I didn't know the first thing about it,— and it seemed as if all there was of it in the world was just in YOU."
"Did you think that?" she asked falteringly.
"Did I? That's how you looked to me, and it's how you look now. The way you go about taking care of everybody and just handing out solid little chunks of good sense to every darned fool that needs them, why- -" There was a break in his voice—"why, it just knocked me out the first round." He held her a little away from him, so that he could yearn over her, though he did not know he was yearning. "See, I'd sworn I'd never ask a girl to marry me until I could keep her. Well, you know how it was, Ann. I couldn't have kept a goat, and I wasn't such a fool that I didn't know it. I've been pretty sick when I thought how it was; but I never worried you, did I?"
"No, you didn't."
"I just got busy. I worked like—well, I got busier than I ever was in my life. When I got the page SURE, I let myself go a bit, sort of hoping. And then this Temple Barholm thing hits me."
"That's the thing you've got to think of now," said Little Ann. "I'm going to talk sensible to you."
"Don't, Ann! Good Lord! DON'T!"
"I MUST." She put her last tight roll into the trunk and tried to shut the lid. "Please lock this for me."
He locked it, and then she seated herself on the top of it, though it was rather high for her, and her small feet dangled. Her eyes looked large and moist like a baby's, and she took out a handkerchief and lightly touched them.
"You've made me want to cry a bit," she said, "but I'm not going to."
"Are you going to tell me you don't want me?" he asked, with anxious eyes.
"No, I'm not."
"God bless you!" He was going to make a dash at her again, but pulled himself up because he must. "No, by jings!" he said. "I'm not going to till you let me."
"You see, it's true your head's not like mine," she said reasonably. "Men's heads are mostly not like women's. They're men, of course, and they're superior to women, but they're what I'd call more fluttery- like. Women must remind them of things."
"What—what kind of things?"
"This kind. You see, Grandmother lives near Temple Barholm, and I know what it's like, and you don't. And I've seen what seventy thousand pounds a year means, and you haven't. And you've got to go and find out for yourself."
"What's the matter with you coming along to help me?"
"I shouldn't help you; that's it. I should hold you back. I'm nothing but Ann Hutchinson, and I talk Manchester— and I drop my h's."
"I love to hear you drop your little h's all over the place," he burst forth impetuously. "I love it."
She shook her head.
"The girls that go to garden-parties at Temple Barholm look like those in the 'Ladies' Pictorial', and they've got names and titles same as those in novels."
He answered her in genuine anguish. He had never made any mistake about her character, and she was beginning to make him feel afraid of her in the midst of his adoration.
"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?"