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After Nick visits Ole Andreson at his rooming house to warn him about the killers who were planning to ambush him, Nick runs into Mrs. Bell, who apparently has been waiting to intercept him on his way out. She proves to be a very talkative type of woman, and she talks about nothing but Ole Andreson. A significant part of the conversation goes like this:
“He’s been in his room all day,” the land-lady said down-stairs. “I guess he don’t feel well. I said to him: ‘Mr. Andreson, you ought to go out and take a walk on a nice fall day like this,’ but he didn’t feel like it.”
“He doesn’t want to go out.”
“I’m sorry he don’t feel well,” the woman said. “He’s an awfully nice man. He was in the ring, you know.”
“I know it.”
“You’d never know it except for the way his face is,” the woman said. They stood talking just inside the street door. “He’s just as gentle.”
The tone of her voice when she says, “He’s just as gentle” shows that this lonely widow is in love with Ole. She has few opportunities to meet single men, and he seems like the answer to her prayers. That is why she keeps talking about him and why she has somehow managed to get into his room to tell him that he ought to take a walk on such a nice fall day. She does not tell Nick what else she might have said to Ole, but she undoubtedly offered to bring him something to eat if he wasn't feeling well, acting on the principle that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
Hemingway takes pains to show that Nick and Mrs. Bell are complete strangers. He calls her Mrs. Hirsch by mistake. The fact that she talks this much to a stranger and apparently takes such a great interest in Ole suggests that she has been talking to other people about the nice ex-prizefighter who is living in the rooming-house. She has probably told everybody about him at her church and at all the places where she shops. Any of these people, or others, could have gotten word back to the man in Chicago who wants Ole killed. That is how he might know Ole is living in Summit and even his address.
The "friend" in Chicago would, of course, have to send somebody to Summit to confirm the information. That agent would go to Mrs. Hirsch’s rooming-house to inquire about vacancies and rental rates, and he would probably find himself talking to Mrs. Bell, who would gladly tell him everything she knew—or thought she knew—about Ole. The agent would only have to mention something about boxing to get her gushing.
Mrs. Bell is the kind of woman who would always be asking Ole personal questions, trying to establish a relationship. He hasn’t been out of his room all day, yet she has gotten in there on some pretext, and she has undoubtedly offered to bring him some chicken-noodle soup if he isn’t feeling well. She would always know when to expect him to return home--and she would always manage to be doing something by the front door when he entered. She would ask him what he had had for dinner, and if he should ever tell her he hadn’t eaten, she would be sure to offer him something cooked with her own hands.
Ole is not interested in this lonely, needy, bell-shaped, simple-minded woman. He would tell he had just eaten at Henry’s lunch-room regardless of whether he had eaten or not. This is the only way she could have gotten the idea that he eats at Henry’s every night at six o'clock when in fact he only eats there on occasions.
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