The Outcast Manufacturers

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited Mr. X

B.W. Dodge and Company


      WHEN Sim returned to the office of the Universal Manufacturing Company, commercial activity was about as when he had left it. Mrs. Birtwhistle was not in the room. Mr. Birtwhistle, on his back, was, with thumbs and forefingers, making rhomboids at the ceiling; Mr. Parker was doing nothing; Miss Guffy, glancing out the window, suddenly held herself as straight as she could, head far back-- and, in disdainful bitterness:
      "Oh, mercy! but how fine! She do think herself the real thing, but if she could only see herself as others see her! Oh, hoity-toity! if she only knew how all the men, women and children in the street are laughing at her."
      "Don't be so bitter!" said Mr. Parker brightly.
      "Go 'long with you!" replied Miss Guffy, laughing good-naturedly.
      "Ah, Rakes, my son, what was said? What did they say, Rakes, my son?" asked Mr. Birtwhistle, with hands on his chest, fingers interlocked.
      "I don't know," said Sim glumly.
      "Thought it a little unusual, maybe?"
      "Oh, very! Couldn't get over it! They said it was very honest of you, and praised--"
      "I don't want praise. I never did a thing in my life for praise. I always do according to my own view of right and wrong, and never gave any consideration to what may be thought of me. They thought it a little remarkable, hey?"
      "Couldn't get over it! But do you know a big-headed fellow, whose coat and pants are too short, who comes here?"
      "Can't say I ever noticed. Why?"
      "If he values his big face any," ferociously, "he'll keep out of my way! I'm always polite to everybody, and everybody's got to be the same to me. That's my way, that is! I don't care what anybody thinks of me, either, I don't. Oh, this fellow got gay with me, and-- oh, I'm not the kind always telling what they'd do! But if Mrs. McKicker wasn't there, I'd have shown him--"
      "The impertinence of him!" cried Miss Guffy. "The audacity of him! Now dare he! The cheek he's got! You can't tell who you'll meet nowadays. I'm sure you am indeed a perfect gentleman, Mr. Rakes. He must be one of Mr. McKicker's political friends; Mr. McKicker's a great politician."
      "But they were a little impressed, were they?"
      "I said to him-- just like this! He was sitting here, and here I was standing-- I said to him: 'Look here, my friend, you speak or I'll speak; we can't both speak at once, so you shut up!" Ferocious Sim! drooping eyelids, like nails of thumbs turned down-- habet! "I don't care what I say to anybody when I get going. I'm not looking for trouble over every trifle, but I won't be imposed upon. I like business talk and business ways," said Sim looking waveringly at Mr. Birtwhistle. "If I'm engaged to do anything, I want to know what the wages will be and-- all that, you know."
      "Indeed you do, man, dear-- sure you're only a boy!' said Miss Guffy; "but indeed you do not!" Mrs. Birtwhistle returning to the room.
      Mrs. Birtwhistle, pleasantly, to Sim: "Sure, why don't you take your reading matter out to some park, Mr. Rakes? 'Tis stuffy here, and you might as well be enjoying the air."
      "No; I'm going to make a study of this." Sim at his table, before a pile of advertising matter.
      "Or, let ye go down to the river and read it over."
      "No, thank you, Mrs. Birtwhistle. I've started here, you see."
      "My! but you will have your own way, Mr. Rakes. Then take off your coat and be comfortable."
      "Oh, that's all right-- thank you. I'm all right as I am."
      "Sure, take off your coat and be comfortable," said Miss Guffy.
      "No. I'm all right, thanks."
      "And you'll not take your coat off?"
      "No; never mind me, thanks. I'm alright."
      "Ain't he the obstinate thing!" said Miss Guffy. Sim flushing a little, as if obstinacy were the noblest of human qualities, and he flattered that obstinacy should be observed in him.
      "Keep out of your neighbors', you," said Mr. Birtwhistle to Mrs. Birtwhistle.
      "Where was I? Now you're so smart-- where was I?"
      "Tunnans! and you've been taking snuff with her. You can't be with such people out being low yourself."
      "That's a lie!" replied Mrs. Birtwhistle, rubbing her nose. "Anyway, you keep a tight watch on your wife, don't you? This might as well be State's prison! You do as you please, and then spy on a woman! Where was I? Who was I with?"
      "If you were a nice little woman"-- indolently, indifferently-- "you wouldn't even speak to such cattle, but would attract better people."
      "I would? Where am I to find better people in this hole you make me live in? How am I to attract them? Will I run out in the street and grab them and drag them in here? Oh, yes, and say, 'Come here! I'm just the nice sort of person would attract you!"
      "Well"-- indolently-- "she is a nice sort of person-- sometimes. Isn't she, Miss Guffy?"
      "Oh, you!" then, after a moment: "Do you care particular for the evening paper? Oh, you! Well, I can be nice when you are, and then only; and, 'pon my soul, when you're ugly I can be just as ugly."
      "You should have a mind of your own, and not be according to the way some one else is."
      "Oh, no, I'm whatever way you make me. You can have a good home, and everything nice and homelike, if you want to. Indeed, I have a mind of my own-- I'm whatever you make me."
      "Well, I must be a pretty inferior kind of a sculptor or molder most of the time, then."
      "You! You couldn't sculpture anything!"
      "Come sit down," said Mr. Birtwhistle; "I've got some great plans." He moved toward the wall, and she sat beside him, smoothing his hair-- slovenliness and dirt and the walls with the smoke stains. The matronly little girl came into the room. She was lugging a pallid infant, with a mouth sagging to one side and tongue protruding, in one of the hands clasping the infant she held a rag with a needle and thread dangling from it. "Mamma's coming down, Mrs. Birtwhistle!" going to the chair that Mrs. Melody had sat in, behind Sim, squirming and twisting in it, to have the infant upon one knee so that, with needle and thread, she could go on hemming the irregular-shaped rag. "Hush! my little baby's asleep, and you mustn't wake him." Infant with protruding tongue, eyes wide open, staring up at the ceiling.
      Mrs. Tunnan! Clean, pink wrapper; frowsy hair; greenish eyes, buxomness; double-barreled effect of her large nostrils under an upturned nose.
      "I just run out on him," said Mrs. Tunnan-- expressionless greenish eyes; stolid face; lips rounding into a little tube with each slow, deliberate word. "I hit him a clip with the chair. Did you hear us, Mr. Birtwhistle? Sure, you must have heard us, and why am I asking?"
      Mr. Birtwhistle, grumbling, drew up his legs behind his wife's back, legs down to the floor, so that he was sitting beside Mrs. Birtwhistle, making room at her other side for Mrs. Tunnan-- heavy dark nostrils of Mrs. Tunnan; nose like a tiny model of a subway entrance; nostrils almost perpendicular and shaped like soles of tiny feet; soles of the feet of a fairy, rest of him investigating within.
      "You're looking fine, Mrs. Tunnan!" said Mr. Birtwhistle.
      "Go 'way! what's that he's saying, Mrs. Birtwhistle?" Mrs. Tunnan standing up, looking into the mirror over the sofa. "Go 'way! 'tis that I have good corsets on," looking steadfastly at her reflection, smoothing down her pink sides; then:
      "And is that the lad, Mr. Birtwhistle? How are you, sir?" to Sim. "And the sleepy look you have! You sleep too late!" Sim laughing confusedly. "And are you late landed? Sure he's not Irish, but Yankee. Your eyes is glued together with the sleep. Would ye get up earlier of a morning!"
      "Thanks," laughed Sim, not feeling resentment when confusion was upon him; "I'll take your advice."
      "But I'm glad you're not drinking, Mr. Birtwhistle, for I have no money to treat." Mrs. Birtwhistle nudging Mr. Birtwhistle; Mr. Birtwhistle muttering "No!"
      "Goodness!" said the little Tunnan girl; "this great lump of a child has the life dragged out of me!"
      "Sure, give me your bundle, you poor child!" Mrs. Tunnan taking the staring, silent infant, sitting, wrestling it from knee to knee.
      "'Tis not the first clip I've given him! We were married scarce on three days," lips slowly forming different-shaped, short tubes, "when he comes home to me at two in the morning. 'Lizzie,' he says, 'cook me them pork chops,' is the salute be gives me. 'I'll pork chop you, at two in the morning,' I says to him. 'Then, Lizzie,' he says, 'the easiest way is the best!' to me in my bed; and he ups with a chair and throws it in on top of me. 'Then this time, 'tis no lie you're telling, my fine bucco!' I says. 'The easiest way is always the best!' and leave him stretched for dead from the pasting I give him, at two in the morning." General amusement; Sim laughing a loud, ingratiating laugh.
      "'Twas me honeymoon" said Mrs. Tunnan sentimentally.
      Shrill whistling in an upper hall. The Birtwhistle' next-door neighbor calling up the stairs, "You mustn't think she's always here, Mr. Tunnan. I haven't set eyes on her all morning!"
      "He's calling me," said Mrs. Tunnan, imperturbably. "Did you hear the two of us scrapping, Mr. Birtwhistle? Faith, you must of! And Mrs. McKicker comes in to us. 'Upon me faith,' I says to her, 'when I'm as old as you I'll settle down, but now I'll enjoy life, I will!' making out to give Looey another clip. 'And do you call me old?' she says. 'Sure, you're old, you with your face wrinkled like a bit of fried bacon."
      Miss Guffy clapping her hands and crooning: "And what did the old thing say to that, Mrs. Tunnan?"
      Whistling in the upper hall, and cries of "Lizzie! Lizzie!" Mrs. Maheffy's next-door neighbor calling up the stairs, "As I live and breathe, I haven't seen her since yesterday, Mr. Tunnan! Indeed, and I have plenty to do and all I can do without having callers. I should say I have enough to do!"
      "Lizzie! Lizzie!" a door slamming furiously.
      "He wants me," said Mrs. Tunnan, her face expressionless. "He's that uneasy if I'm a moment out of his sight."
      "They, all are," said Mrs. Birtwhistle.
      "Oh, the men!" exclaimed Miss Guffy. "I hate them! I suppose I'd marry, like the rest, if it was God's will, but I hate them! I never saw the man that was worth my old shoes. You couldn't give a snap of your fingers for the lot of them, all in a bunch together."
      Mr. Parker jumping up, seizing Miss Guffy around the neck. "You'd have me in a minute, you know you would, Miss Guffy! Tell the truth!" Miss Guffy giggling, pushing him away, "I would, indeed! the prize I'd win! 'Twould be indeed the happy day for me. Go back to your work, like a nice man-- the prize I'd win, and wouldn't I be lucky!" Mr. Parker back to his chair, crouching dull-eyed over the dusty typewriter.
      "To work!" said Mr. Birtwhistle, sitting up straight-- chest falling, his back curving against the wall again. "Well, what was said, Rakes? They were a little astonished, were they? The truth is, I ought have waited a month. Truth is, I need that dollar. I almost admit I ought have waited till next month-- I'm satisfied!"
      "Would make a big fellow of himself!" said Mrs. Birtwhistle. "But if he knew how everybody can see right through him!"
      Mr. Tunnan coming into the room Wedge-shaped face; round, yellow cheeks that converged toward a red nose; cheeks like the convex sides of old yellow saucers, with a radish pinched between them.
      "Mr. Birtwhistle, please!" Mr. Tunnan whining, excusing himself, explaining himself. To the little girl he shouted, "What do you sit there for, when Mr. Birtwhistle hasn't no chair?" roughly slapping the back of her head.
      Said Mr. Birtwhistle, "Let her alone! What do you want?"
      "That's no way to speak to Mr. Tunnan!" broke in Mrs. Birtwhistle.
      "Oh, Tunnan! Tunnan? that's pretty good! Who's Tunnan? How many times have I got to put him out of here? What did I tell you, the last time you stuck your face in here, Tunnan?"
      "Oh, Mr. Birtwhistle, please! Please, Mr. Birtwhistle!"
      "Sit ye down, Looey; 'tis but Mr. Birtwhistle's way of speaking, and you ought to know him by this time. I'm sure Looey's as good as any one else around here."
      "Will you have a light, Mr. Birtwhistle?" said Mr. Tunnan, striking a match, holding the flame to a cigarette in Mr. Birtwhistle's mouth, Mr. Birtwhistle permitting him to hold the match, but not puffing the cigarette. Mr. Tunnan holding the match until he burned his fingers. Mr. Birtwhistle striking a match of his own. Then:
      "Well, sit down, Tunnan, but if you start any of your cursing or dirty stories, out you go!"
      "Mr. Birtwhistle, please!" and Mr. Tunnan to Sim:
      "Do you want a light, mister?" offering Sim a lighted match.
      "No! No, thanks."
      Lighted match held to his cigarette. For a moment, as if admiring Mr. Birtwhistle's way, Sim ignored the offered light, looking toward Mr. Birtwhistle, as if for approbation; then came squirming and twisting in his chair, and his weak, silly, little laugh. "Thanks!" said Sim, courteous for no higher reason than his inability to offend.
      "He needn't of hit the back of my head!" the little girl was complaining, Mr. Tunnan turning to her furiously, raising his hand as if to strike her again.
      "Be still, you!" Mrs. Tunnan dragging from knee to knee the silent, staring infant. "Ida, you better be still! Ida, you killed your little brother, you know. Be thinking of that, Ida; you rolled over on your little brother, Benny, in your sleep, and smothered him to death. You know you did, Ida, and when you think of killing your little brother Benny, you'd better not have a word to say.
      "That do keep her quiet. The childer is the divil!" said Mrs. Tunnan to Mrs. Birtwhistle in an undertone. Little girl, with forearm over her eyes, starting toward the door, but glancing at Mrs. Birtwhistle.
      "Come here. darling!" Mrs. Birtwhistle's arms out to her. "Come here, darling; you couldn't help it, and it's nothing to your shame that's cast up at you so!" Little girl running to her, falling on her knees, head in Mrs. Birtwhistle's lap.
      "There! there! darling; don't you cry."
      "Oh, I wish!" sobbing in Mrs. Birtwhistle's lap-- "oh, I wish I was grown up and big! I'd leave them!"
      "It's a shame, Mrs. Tunnan! a shame for you to talk to the child so!"
      "Don't you mix into other people's affairs!" said Mr. Birtwhistle.
      "So?" Mrs. Tunnan astonished, holding her lips for a moment tube-shaped, without speaking, but her face expressing feeling of no kind. "It do keep her quiet, it do. Go out and play, Ida, and don't have no such carryings-on; a big girl like you, whining and crying so!" Little girl clinging to Mrs. Birtwhistle's lap, Mrs. Birtwhistle softly stroking her hair: "Darling, don't you cry!"
      Mrs. McKicker looking in the doorway. Mrs. McKicker wearing a hat gay with red roses-- an effect like that of a stern gray shaft of a ruined temple, straight and lonely in a Grecian plain, and made burlesque by some mocking hand that had placed millinery on top of it. Mrs. McKicker seemed to have come upon business, but Mr. Birtwhistle fascinated her. Mr. Birtwhistle leaning back against the wall, his pink-and-purple eagles stretched out on the floor.
      "The most sensible man in New York!" Mrs. McKicker cried. "I like to see a man who doesn't believe in killing himself. That's right." She drew back in the hall-- gay hat reappearing: "The most sensible man in New York! Ida, do you want to come shopping with me?" Little girl up from her knees and running out in the hall.
      "Heavens above! such a hat!" from Miss Guffy, who was still folding catalogs on a lapboard. "Oh, I wish I had money and could dress! I'd make that woman turn green with envy if I had the clothes. It'd be my joy to make that woman turn green!"
      "Sit over here, Looey!" said Mrs. Tunnan. Mr. Tunnan going to the west window-sill, cringing past Mr. Birtwhistle, as if a ball-player had knocked a foul into a tree above him-- shoulders and head cringing, as if he knew not where the ball would land.
      "When I think of that old thing upstairs, and all the money she's got, it makes me sick!"
      "Sure, here's your only friend!" said Mrs. Tunnan, unbuttoning her wrapper and drawing from her bosom a bag made of ticking, tied around her neck. " 'Tis here is your only friend; your money is your only friend. I've got a friend so long as I got this. Sure, there's no small change in it, or I'd treat"-- bag back to her bosom. "Do you want that carrot on the mantelpiece, Mrs. Birtwhistle? Then I'll take it and be planting it. 'Twill sprout. Did ye ne'er see the plants we got in our back window? And 'tis mortal hard to get good earth for them. I goes up to the Farm School with a bag with me, and reaches under the fence, and scoops up handfuls of dirt for them. We have a lovely geranium, and not one dead leaf off it; but the sun's too hot, and we put an umbrella over it the daytime. I wonder if I ought put in a stick and brace it up, Looey?"
      "The morning-glories we got!" said Mr. Tunnan eagerly. "Every morning the lot of us, kids and all, makes one race to see if it's two, or eight, or twelve blossoms out that morning. Maybe there's fifteen; then the surprise we get! And we got some nice weeds up to Fort George; didn't we, Lizzie?"
      "Sure we did; the four of us up to Fort George, and sitting by the roadside--"
      "I could point you out the very spot by the roadside"' excitedly from Mr. Tunnan.
      "The lot of us!" Mrs. Tunnan's greenish eyes staring, without expression, down toward her tubular lips. "And we brought along a fifteen-cent pound-cake. There was woods around. Looey saw something run across the road, that he swore was no cat."
      "I could point out the very spot to you."
      "And the lovely little plants we brought home with us, as good as ever after being in a glass of water. What ails you, Looey? They were no weeds, Looey. I'm that scared the umbrella will break the geranium. Could I tie it together and stick it with mucilage, did it ever break, Mr. Birtwhistle? Sure, when the first bud was on it the two of us was like it was the first tooth of little Ida."
      "Mrs. Tunnan," said Mrs. Birtwhistle, "'tis very wrong of you to speak to the child the way you do. If she was so unfortunate as to roll over on her little brother, you're darkening her whole life by reminding her of it."
      "Arrah, whist, woman!" very indifferently. "You've got to say something to the childer, or they'll run away with you. 'Twas meself done it one unfortunate night, wasn't it, Looey? A bit of the drop too much, I suppose, and I rolls over on little Benny-- God save his little soul -- meself, and smothers him. 'Twas for the best, perhaps, like I always tells Looey."
      "Mrs. Tunnan! Mrs. Tunnan! you'd be spoiling a child's whole life for what you done yourself!"
      "It makes her behave when I cast it up to her," said Mrs. Tunnan reasonably. "'Always remember that you killed your little brother, Ida,' I says to her, and then there's not a sound out of her. Come, Looey. Will I take the carrot with me, Mrs. Birtwhistle?"
      Silence for a moment. Then: "You're welcome to the carrot, Mrs. Tunnan."
      "Come, mama's; tootsomes!" holding the silent, staring infant against her bag of ticking. In leaving the room: "Sure, Miss Guffy, what do you be leaning over your work so for? That's how you come by the lump on your back. Sure, the little boys calls 'Humpy' after you in the streets. You're deformed, woman; sit up!"
      "I am," said Miss Guffy humbly; "'tis God's will so."
      "Good-by, Mr. Birtwhistle!" said Mr. Tunnan.
      Mr. Birtwhistle looked at him and sneered.
      "Good-by, mister!" to Sim.
      Sim trying to look and to sneer. Sim's look wavering, his sneer changing to a grin; Sim shaking himself in his chair, and saying, roughly, "Oh, you're going?" and down low, for Mr. Birtwhistle's approbation, "That's good!" this very low.
      "Say by-by!" said Mrs. Tunnan to the infant. Infant smiling a flickering, ghastly smile; twitching lips of a galvanized little corpse.
      "Isn't that fellow a dog?" said Mr. Birtwhistle.
      In the hall, while still within hearing, Mr. Tunnan was saying: "Oh, he's a nice man! such a fine gentleman is Mr. Birtwhistle! Oh, such a nice man!"
      "Guffy," said Mrs. Birtwhistle, "where's my hat? Guffy, if I never live to do another thing I'm going right down to the Gerry Society to bring it onto these people. They're no fit parents for that dear little girl. Guffy, where's my hat?"
      "You might better stay at home and pick up the room," grumble from Mr. Birtwhistle.
      "I will indeed! I've nothing to do but wait on you morning, noon and night! I do more now than I'm paid for, seeing I get nothing. Guffy, where is the Gerry Society?"
      "Mind your own business!" said Mr. Birtwhistle. "Say, I need that dollar very bad! You don't suppose-- perhaps you'd better go up, my dear, and explain to Mr. McKicker that we'll begin paying the extra dollar next month instead. You'll know how to put it."
      "Indeed and I'll not! Am I always to be the one to do your crawling for you? But I knew how it'd be! Guffy, didn't I tell you? How noble he was? and now he wants his dollar back! What I want to know is, if you're going to get a pint of beer?"
      "Not till the day's work is over!" firmly.
      "Oh, medicine time!" said Mrs. Birtwhistle savagely. "Why should I have my beer dealt out to me at a certain time, like medicine? I want it for dinner time. It's a hell of a note-- oh, excuse me, Mr. Rakes! Guffy can go with the can-- can she? Guffy, you don't mind. Can she? Guffy will take the pail and go down to the corner?"
      "I will, indeed, girl! I would, indeed, only--"
      "Oh, go ahead, then!" said Mr. Birtwhistle. "But this is the last time. No woman must go for beer from my house. In my house no woman must descend to any such tenement plane as that. That may be the custom in the tenements; this is my house, and I am above the tenements. I never had such advantages as you've had, Rakes, but had to work, and work hard, to raise myself to my present position-- yes, I said my present position! It is something to be Mr. Birtwhistle, of the Universal Manufacturing Company-- takes me to tell it!" Mr. Birtwhistle laughing heartily at his own conceit.
      "Indeed I don't mind!" said Miss Guffy; "only, Mrs. Birtwhistle, the little boys do be hollering at me, thinking I'm running for so much beer for myself. Indeed, I'd do anything to serve you-- I'd go nights and gladly--"
      "Let me go!" interrupted Sim.
      "Not at all! I'll go myself! No woman must go for beer from my house! No hurry!" said Mr. Birtwhistle, stretching out on the sofa, accommodating his bumps to indentations in it. "Well, if you don't mind, Rakes." And, drowsily, "To work!"
      "You see," Sim stammering, but forcing himself, "I'm not running errands for you, Mr. Birtwhistle-- I mean I despise running errands for anybody. I'm not getting beer for you, Mr. Birtwhistle-- "
      "Oh, such a time you seem to make over anything, my son!" remarked Mr. Birtwhistle, in amiable irritability.
      "No, but I mean--"
      Mrs. Maheffy appearing, and shouting, in playful roughness:
      "Here! where's my boarder? What have you done with my boarder? Maheffy must get his dinner, too; he thinks be ought to go do a little work to-day. It's his conscience; he thinks he ought to show up to his work, anyway; he's that conscientious!
      "But," said Mrs. Maheffy, in her high, affected voice, " 'tis very coarse, working in an engine-room! When we was first married he had work where he wore white gloves the day long.
      "Here, where's my boarder? Let ye come up to your dinner, Mr. Rakes."

Next Chapter


B.W. Dodge and Company (1909) edition:

Chapter 1 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Pearson's Magazine (American Edition) version:

Chapter 1 2 3 4 5

The Pearson's version can be resumed at chapter 9 of the Dodge edition.

Return to Mr. X's Fortean Web-Site

Communications, (preferably in English), may be sent to Mr. X by electronic mail at or by letters to: Box 1598, Kingston, Ontario K7L 5C8 CANADA.

© X, 2000