The Outcast Manufacturers

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited Mr. X

B.W. Dodge and Company


      MISS GUFFY was in the back room, taking gymnastic lessons; Mrs. Birtwhistle was sitting on the sofa, looking at a broom.
      Loud talking and loud laughing out on the stoop; shouts up the stairs, and shouts across the street-- the Miss Dunphys! Mrs. Birtwhistle ran to the hall and then returned to the room with her nieces-- Miss Emma Dunphy in the same white dress; Miss Katie Dunphy in the same terra-cotta dress and the potted-palm hat.
      "It's yourselves! And where have you been keeping yourselves? Did I ever know it to fail? Somebody always coming when the rooms looks their worst! 'Tis Birt's own words to me, 'Delia, if you ever want company, and feel lonesome, muss up the rooms is all you got to do, and there'll be somebody sure to come.' And how are you?"
      "Fine and strong, and I eats everything," said Katie. "I don't know that I ought to speak to either of you. Where've you been keeping yourselves?"
      The Miss Dunphys piling bundles on the sofa, taking off their hats. "'Tis true, Birt, we don't get down often, but we thinks of ye, just the same. And how is Mr. Birt and the lot of ye? And this one and meself is wondering have you accommodations for the two of us. Faith, we're playing the lady again!"
      "Then did you lose your work? Have I accommodations for you, you're asking me? Go 'long with you! Upon me soul, if I didn't have, I soon would have, if I had to put himself out to make room for you."
      "And how is himself? Yes, we've come to stay a while. 'Twas the grand smash-up we had with our lady this morning." Emma's hat off-- face round and pale as an arc-light-- big black bow on the top on the top of her head; big black bow at her throat; but lighter, bow showing one of its wings from the back of her head-- three big, shadowed moths playing around an arc-light.
      "We're taking a rest," said Katie. Under the foliage of her hat, her hair had looked smooth, but with shedding of the verdure, her hair was unkempt and falling in strands over her face-- exposure of an unsuspected, weather-beaten bird's nest in a tree become deciduous. "Then himself is out for a walk, is he? And is there any sign of things improving?"
      "He's worse than ever. 'Tis Coney Island, now, my dears. But does his wife get to Coney Island for a glimpse of the ocean? Coney Island, how are you! "'Tis in the wash-tub her only sight of sea foam. My heart 'tis heavy in me when I look around and see how we are, and ne'er the ghost of a sign of improvement."
      "Faith," said Emma, "I'd soon send him about his business, if he didn't do better than that by me. Let ye leave him and come with us, and the three of us start out in the morning."
      "Oh, no!" said Mrs. Birtwhistle.
      "But you say there's no sign of bettering!"
      "Him? All day 'tis up on the broad old lazy back. Get him this, and get him that. The foolish girls you'd ever be to marry the best man living. I was a lunatic myself, but don't let youse be."
      "'Tis not all sunshine is marriage, and I see enough to show me that, though you're the lucky woman the brats never came. You're the foolish woman, and I'm telling it for your own good, and you've gone to pieces something terrible living here, and was it my own sister, this one, I couldn't advise you better nor to leave him."
      "Think so?" said Mrs. Birtwhistle. "I don't see any such change as all that. I'm looking as bad as all that? You imagine it. But leave him? No. I love him. I love him and I'll stick to him, just the same, as it's a wife's place to do, and there'll never be another woman in my place while I'm living. Sometimes I hate him so I have to scream at him, I hate him so, but was the worst to come, I'd gladly go out and scrub on my knees till my arms fell off, so's he wouldn't be lacking in comforts."
      "Well, if she isn't the oddity!"
      "If she isn't the odd thing!"
      "So you're not working?" said Mrs. Birtwhistle. "Is it any harm to ask what befell you?"
      "I'll not be called out of my name by nobody!" said Emma Dunphy, sitting on the sofa beside her sister; both gloomy.
      "And who was it miscalled ye?"
      "Faith, properly, nobody," said Katie. "She'd better not! But, by the black looks of her, she might as well called us thieves and be done with it, and you had good patience, upstairs, putting up with her black looks, Emma."
      "There was some little trinket in the house missing," said Emma; "some little gimcrack trifle that you and me'd not give a second thought to. Not that we was accused, in so many words, of taking it, but her manner was that impulsive-- wasn't it, Katie? 'Twas that stiff she might as well came right out and accused us. Indeed, and I did have the good patience, Katie, but wouldn't was I to go through it all again."
      "And what has a poor girl but her name for honesty? Indeed, it wouldn't be well for her did she come right out and accuse us; but the bare suspicion of it was more than the two of us, who wouldn't touch a farthing's worth not ours, could stand. 'Tis a bad mind those have who are so ready with their accusations of others."
      "'Tis plain how they get their own money, by robbing and thieving, or it wouldn't be in their minds so."
      "And I've heard said, and could give the name of the party told me, that her old father is in jail this very moment for robbing a bank."
      "Then was it anything of much value?" asked Mrs. Birtwhistle.
      The Miss Dunphys looking at each other. A humorous look came upon their gloomy, stolid faces. Emma smiled-- the flashing of the spark in an arc-light. "'Tis there, itself!" pointing to the figurine on the mantelpiece.
      "Ho! Ho!" laughed Katie, beating her knees.
      "Oh, but I'm sorry you got into trouble through us, girls! How bad she felt over a bit of brass like that!"
      "Indeed, dear, and that's how they make their money, caring over trifles that you and me'd think naught about," said Emma, again looking at the bronze and smiling broadly; Katie squeezing her knees, holding her face to one side, eyes screwed tight shut-- her silent way of laughing.
      "Well," said Emma, "we may as well pay you in advance. Ye might as well have it as anybody, and we pays our way wherever we go."
      "'Tis time when I ask for it," said Mrs. Birtwhistle.
      "Sure, dear, we knows that, but to save you the asking; and you're welcome to all we got."
      "And a bit of our hearts we'd give you, would it do you any good. You're all we got, you and himself, though he's not our own flesh and blood, and you are, dear. Do you need something for yourself, let alone providing for the lot of us? We says, the two of us, 'We'll leave in the bundles first, and then take Aunt Delia out with us for a bit of fur for her neck, or a hat for her head.' Would ye come out and see is there anything in the store windows would become ye, dear?"
      "Indeed, and no such thing! A girl out of work needs all her money. I'll be going out soon and lay in the supper, but not another step will I stir!"
      "Then we'll all go out this evening. Maybe 'tis gloves you need; we'll find something in the store windows-- bad luck to us!" Emma lamented. "We came away in too much of a hurry. There's a lovely leg of lamb in the ice box. Bad luck to us for our hurry, but we was that indignant and insulted. And how's Guffy? She's the queer thing; I don't see why you keep her. 'Tis not as if she was your own flesh and blood; she's naught to you."
      Mrs. Birtwhistle touching the tips of her fingers to her shoulders; then her arms out straight; then arms tip straight-- one hand pointing toward the broken-down blue curtains. "Would ye whist! 'tis gyminastics! 'tis physical cultivation, now, my dears!"
      "And what the divil is gyminastics?"
      "'Tis agricultural lessons," said the other sister. "You are the dense one, Katie. Don't you read the papers? Every night I reads 'Beauty Hints.' And she's always advising of agricultural lessons. So the humpy one's improving her figure? You must, sometimes, have all you can do to get along with her, Birt."
      "Seven eggs on the shelf by the boiler!" lamented Katie. "Ye might better had them than leave them behind to those had plenty. Emma, will you ever forget us going away and leaving seven eggs on the shelf by the boiler?"
      "Indeed, and she is the cross-grained creature!" said Mrs. Birtwhistle, drawing up her chair confidentially by her nieces. "Pursuing to her, but she's got stung some time in her life so bad she hates the world, she do, and has always the evil word for everybody. Was I telling you the time the two of us went over to the Island to see old Ellen? And, because I proposed a glass of beer on the way-- oh, hoity-toity! no such thing! 'twould not be her would go into any strange saloon, no matter how respectable-looking. Oh, hoity-toity! the stretch of her neck, like a cocky-doodle-do! But I'm as good as she ever thought of being. I don't believe in no such nonsense."
      "You had a right to march right in and leave her waiting or follying you. Did you ever know the beat of her? You'd think it a compliment she's paying us when she does go out to get a pint of beer."
      "A bag of rice in the corner by the ice-cream freezer!" said Katie gloomily.
      "But wait while I'm telling you, my dears, and I don't care the snap of my finger if she's rubbering to every word of it. Coming back from the Island, we meets a woman, a black stranger to us, mind you, and when we lands, this woman, a black stranger we never laid eyes on before, she says, 'This water does make a body dry. Would you two ladies join me in a glass of beer?'
      "'We would, and with pleasure!' says Guffy. And I looked at her. I opened fire on her then, let me tell you."
      "The cheek of her! Is that a cabbage on the table? Oh, isn't it lovely! Isn't it the grand head! I do like it with pork; I think it's grand. Give me a feed of cabbage, and I makes the grandest dinner off of it. But she said that? If it was me, I'd slap her face, I would."
      "I have to burst out, 'You drink with a stranger, Miss Guffy, but when I ask you I can parch till doomsday, can't I?'"
      "And what did she say to that?"
      "'Ha! ha! ha!' she laughs, and makes me no answer. She begrudges to see anybody happy, and that's the whole to it. If there's a word in the house, she's watching to see it come to blows, and's so sore at every little thing happens. Ah, sure, she's only a little crotchety, and has her little ways--"
      "Sure, everybody has. She's a willing, poor thing."
      "Always so obliging. Indeed, and I likes Miss Guffy. From the first I lay my eyes on her I takes a fancy to her. She's so obliging, the poor thing!"
      "She is, and I must give her her merit. She'd do anything in the world for you-- but, well, knock it out of you the next moment."
      "Wouldn't she, though! Oh, Emma, I'll never forgive myself coming away in such a hurry! Do you mind the half of the chicken- pie on the second shelf of the ice box?"
      "No; but the side of bacon that Birt and himself might as well of had. But it is the young gentleman still with you, Birt? Faith, ever since, Katie's been talking me dumb and deaf about him. About what lovely hands he has, and his finger-nails so epicured. Faith, I scarce remember what he even looks like, but Katie do be admiring his necktie and his cuff-buttons and the pointed shoes he wears and the crease of his pantaloons and the handkerchief in his pocket, ever since, she do!"
      "Ho! ho!" cried Katie, beating her knees. "'Tis no such thing, for was he to come in this moment, I'd not remember him."
      "He's off of the same piece with the others of them. He's about as much good, for all the work he does, not saying he's not very pleasant and agreeable. But I don't know; she can be so nice sometimes-- but always waiting to give you the stab, if she can; always saying she don't wish it for the world, of course, but the next time himself raises money he'll light out and I'll see the last of him."
      "If she told me that, me with my temper, I'd slap her face and slam the door on her. The hell of a cheek she has! And who is she and where'd she come from? She'd better never hold up her snoot to nobody--"
      Mrs. Birtwhistle whispering warningly.
      "What? Oh! oh, Guffy, sure, and if it isn't yourself! Katie, if here isn't Miss Guffy!"
      "And how are you?" asked Miss Guffy, running to kiss Miss Katie. Miss Emma running to kiss Miss Guffy-- Miss Guffy in a sky-blue waist and a light-green skirt, spotted with yellow. "Sure, Miss Guffy, you're looking better every time we comes here."
      "Guffy,"said Mrs. Birtwhistle, "we've been riddling you pretty good, and it's no more than fair to give you your turn at me--"
      "Sure, girl, dear," humbly, listlessly, "who'd be bothering even mentioning the likes of poor Guffy? Ye never once thought of me is more likely."
      "Oh, didn't we? Well, perhaps not; I was but joking. But, ladies, you can have me up before the jury, now, because I must go out and see about my supper."
      "Indeed," said Emma-- her look of compressed vacancy, "if I can't say anything good about people, I say naught at all."
      "Same here!" said Katie. "If I can't say good of folks, I closes my trap."
      "I must get my supper," said Mrs. Birtwhistle, going away-- running back, pretending to listen to learn whether the "riddling" had begun-- out again-- darting back. "What? Oh, I'm that and this, am I?" then away and down the stoop.
      "Such spirits she has!" said Emma. "I don't see how she bears up so under her troubles. Such spirits she has! 'Tis a delight for this one and myself to pass an evening here with the lot of youse."
      "'Tis not always so pleasant here, Miss Dunphy. Indeed, and you're quite right in saying she has a spirit of her own. And as for him, the lazy, good-for-nothing-- but what's the use saying anything? 'Tis no news what he is. And are ye off for the afternoon? Not left, have you?" noticing the bundles. "What's happened to you?"
      "We're too good-hearted," said Emma morosely, pointing to the bronze. "Did we think less of others and more of ourselves, we'd still be holding a good job, where the other help dassn't say 'boo' to us, and a woman in to do the flannels."
      "And broilers for the fricassee, and the grandest cuts of meat, trading with one butcher for sixteen years, who knows just what she wants, and the help getting the same, which was the grandest feeding!"
      "Ah, Katie, 'twas the foolish girls we were, ever taking that old thing that's brought us trouble."
      "And what's your thanks?" asked Miss Guffy. "'Tis 'Take that old brass thing out to the barrel; it gathers dust.' That's your thanks for it."
      "Oh, I suppose so. There was a lovely leg of lamb we might of brought along, but I wouldn't do it to please them."
      "Right, girl, dear. Why should you put yourself out for them? And I'm going to tell you another thing."
      "Seven eggs, but we wouldn't please them."
      "Ye might better be working and putting your earnings on your own backs. 'Ain't the two of them the dowdy things! the regular biddies!' that's your thanks-- God forgive me if I'm telling more than what I ought to."
      "Indeed, you're not, Miss Guffy, we have a right to hear what's said about us, and, if we was less open-handed, it couldn't be said about us. The fool you are, yourself, for them! 'Tis Guffy go here and Guffy go there from morning till night; and what's your thanks for it?"
      "Ah, yes, 'twas always that way with poor Guffy; but they are good to me, Miss Dunphy; they did take me off of the streets when I hadn't a shoe to me foot and nowhere to lay me head."
      "They're not! they're not! not so!" exclaimed Emma, sputtering like an arc-light out of order. "I'm not contradicting anybody, Miss Guffy, when I'm not sure of anything; but when I'm sure I'm positive. Why, they chase you up and down the street, like a mad dog, on their errands. Indeed, I with my temper, I'd not be so easy with them!"
      "Would ye hush?" pleaded Miss Guffy. "In God's name let me at least make out, then, like they're good to me, can't you? What's the little errands I do, except it's going in the saloons I dread sometimes-- like the other night-- was I telling you? A man comes up to me and says, 'Hello! What's your name and address?' he asks me. I thought I'd drop the can in mortification. 'I have for long seen you and admired you from a distance,' he tells me. And there's a grand gentleman standing by; and he steps up, so brave and powerful, and says, 'Step aside and let this lady pass!' he said."
      "Well, that's all right, but you mustn't say they're good to you, Miss Guffy. When I'm sure of anything, I'm positive."
      "Hush! can't you let me make out?" Miss Guffy pleaded. "Sure, never has anybody else been good, but always the harsh word and the sneer for poor Guffy. In God's name, Miss Dunphy, let me at least make out to myself like they're good to me. I'm telling you God's truth, I've been put about and trod down all my life-- then let me make out to myself that at last I've found those who are good to me; and what harm the few errands I goes on? and if it's small pay or the divil a sign of pay, at all, what harm, either, seeing I'm not able to be worth more than the bite I puts in my mouth? She's a good, little soul. He-- he means well. The both of them are good to me. I will have it so. They are!"
      "Well, if everybody isn't the oddities!" exclaimed Miss Katie Dunphy.
      "They're not! It's not so!"cried"Miss Emma Dunphy. "When I'm sure of a thing, I'm positive. They couldn't be good to anybody."
      "They are! I will have it so!" retorted Miss Guffy passionately.

Next Chapter


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

Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 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.

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