The Outcast Manufacturers

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited Mr. X

B.W. Dodge and Company


      A FEW days later. Mrs. Maheffy's rooms. Front room, with its walls, green as cemetery grass, and the white-netting-covered, long pictures, like tombstones laid flat by a wind-storm perhaps. Then the kitchen -- the red of calico, and the green of its walls -- inside of a gouged watermelon; scraped to the green of the rind in spots, and the red tissue of it untouched in other spots. A table in the kitchen; a front-room table in a line with it, line broken by the curtained doorway; tables covered with newspapers for tablecloths. In the doorway stood Miss Emma Dunphy, not at all trying to attract Sim's attention, of course; but she seemed not displeased with the effect of a red curtain wound around her white length; round, pale face, like the ball surmounting a barber's pole; red curtain in a spiral around her white slimness. Katie Dunphy rather suggested a Skye terrier planted in a flower-pot; broad-shouldered form, in terra cotta, tapering toward her feet; no neck to mention; face above the rim of the flower-pot; strands of hair down over her face. Mrs. Maheffy was out in the hall. Infant on the front-room floor; Miss Maheffy on the front-room floor, shrieking:
      "How does the cat get down the fire escape? The roof fell and broke the horse! I went to confession and gave the father two cents, and he gave me one back to buy a bicycle!" Messrs. Rakes, Birtwhistle and Parker sitting in a row against the west wall. Mr. Maheffy standing at the east window, back turned, hands upon window framing; standing as if dismally gazing out a cell door. Hat on the back of his head; his coat loose on his sloping shoulders, and in a furrow between his sharp shoulder-blades; hat and coat hanging loose upon him, as if upon a nail. Something was cooking on the kitchen stove, but social relations had taken Mrs. Maheffy to the hall. There seemed to be a little trouble on hand; nothing out of the ordinary; Mrs. Maheffy was crying to the top floor, with only her ordinary vigor:
      "Oh. I'm Irish, am I? Well, the Irish pays their coal bills! Pay your coal bill! Pay your coal bill!" Mrs. Maheffy returning to her front room, carrying a broom like a spear, and a dish-pan like a shield. She looked at her guests, and her eyes widened; in the act of leaning her Amazonian weapons against an east-wall barrel, she picked them up and charged again into the hall:
      "See here, ma'am, you're making a great mistake, if you think I'm afraid of you! Go soak my head? Oh, so lady-like! Let me tell you, I could always keep my head above water. Such a lady!" She returned to her barrel-armory, looking a fit consort for Uncle Sam, not only in her undoubted independence, but in a red-and-white-striped wrapper, and a blue-and-white-checked apron.
      Emma, drawing the red-curtain spiral tighter around her, said: "You don't have to go out in the hall, Mrs. Maheffy, it you mean any slurs on me. I'm sure I could always keep my head above water, too. You might better come right out direct with what you mean for me, ma'am."
      "If I'm not the unfortunate woman! If I'm not persecuted with you, Emma! For you know well 'twas the impudence of that person up top that was occupying me. They're such a rough class here!" -- hand to her heart "I do lose my temper with them, and never used to the likes, before we came here, but a piano in every room, and never bought coal by the bag, but a ton of red-ash. It begins in my feet, and rolls up to my poor heart, that begins to beat in my throat, till, if I didn't scream, I'd suffocate. I was always delicate like that. I was so delicate, when a child, my mother despaired ever raising me, but could never control me. Nobody couldn't. Maheffy? Ah, a man's word should be law in his own home -- You've let the fish burn on me! Katie Dunphy -- Maheffy, you stood there and let the fish burn on me!" running into the kitchen.
      Mr. Maheffy turning around to look toward the kitchen -- his dismal gaze resting upon his guests -- he turned sadly back to the window. Whereupon Sim laughed and nudged Mr. Birtwhistle, who whispered: "Stop, Sim!"
      "And this heifer," cried Mrs. Maheffy, is standing in the very doorway, and letting the fish burn on me!"
      "You call me a heifer?" demanded Emma. "That's like when Mr. Donovan came to call on us one evening, Katie. We was that mad at him! We was out. There was three in help, and he says to the other girl: 'Where's the two heifers gone?' Wasn't we mad, Katie? The cheek of him! What business of his was it where we'd gone?"
      Whereupon Sim laughed boisterously, but most of his mirth was caused by the melancholy of Mr. Maheffy's loose coat and sharp shoulder-blades -- Mr. Birtwhistle drawing away from Sim, muttering to him.
      "Hello, Katie, old girl!" Katie passing him-- Sim grabbing her, dragging her to sit on his lap, tumbling her hair more untidily over her face.
      "You let my sister alone!" cried Emma laughing, running to him.
      "Ah, go on! I'd hug you, too, if you were a little younger!"
      Whereupon Emma went back to the curtains-- handkerchief to her eyes -- Sim grinning to Mr. Parker. "What's the matter, Emma?" then, "Oh, be mad as you like!-- resentfully. Then, jumping up: "I'll make you laugh! I'll make you laugh!" Emma shrieking: "Mrs. Maheffy!" Mrs. Maheffy : "If I leave this frying-pan across the two of yez!" Emma: "You go away, now! Help me, Mrs. Maheffy!" Sim making friends again by tumbling her hair worse than Katie's.
      "You just wait!" said Sim boastfully. "I'll have it out with McKicker. He'll regret ever making me his enemy. Emma, I know it's wrong of me, but I never forgive an injury."
      "Indeed, Mr. Sim, you're very strong, you are, but you shouldn't use your strength on poor, defenseless girls, you shouldn't."
      Sim nudging her and pointing toward Mr. Maheffy; both of them laughing-- Mr. Birtwhistle shaking his head warningly-- Mr. Parker leaning back, with his head against the wall.
      "Would ye come to yer dinner!" snapped Mrs. Maheffy in the kitchen. "Come on, come on, and get that over with, for the divil himself wouldn't feed you-- Maheffy!"
      "I must say, Mrs. Maheffy," said Emma, "I'm not accustomed to being called that way to dinner, but used to the best of everything and nothing warmed over, and if we're too much trouble to you-- and I speak for this one, too--"
      "I'm persecuted! I'm persecuted with you, girl!"wailed Mrs. Maheffy. "Was I addressing myself to you or Maheffy? Faith, then, would your ladyship condescend so far as to be notified respectfully that dinner is served, ma'am?"
      "Oh, I know! I'm not dense, ma'am!" But then she was taking Sim's arm, walking around the front-room table in pretended stateliness, pretending to hold up a train-- Katie crying: "Ho! ho! and are you going to leave me neglected, Mr. Parker? Go 'way, you're me uncle! What would I be doing going to dinner with a married man? Would you neglect me, Mr. Parker?" Mr. Parker pulling his arm away from her. Emma sighing: "Sure, all the best men is married."
      "Oh, are they?" said Mr. Birtwhistle, clumsily holding the back of a chair, unable to take any part in playfulness and pretending.
      Miss Maheffy, the Senator, Mrs. Maheffy, and Mr. Parker in the kitchen. Emma and Sim at the west side of the front-room table; Mr. Birtwhistle and Katie opposite; a chair for Mr. Maheffy at the doorway end of this table.
      "Where'd your wife go, Birt?" asked Sim.
      "Hey? Oh!" said Mr. Birtwhistle, sitting awkwardly, sitting straight, face as if pressed against an undertaker's window, stiffly taking, with his chair, little hops nearer the table. Mrs. Maheffy circulating from one room to the other.
      "And isn't Mr. Maheffy coming to his dinner, ma'am?" asked Katie.
      "He'll come when he feels like it."
      "Oh, my gracious!"
      Mr. Maheffy turning from the window, whistling sadly at the ceiling, going to his chair at the end of the table. "Oh, you waited for me, I see!" he said, speaking with motionless lips. Fried fish on a plate before him, and sitting far under the table, he furiously slashed the fish into fine bits before eating.
      "We're very short of knives," said Mrs. Maheffy, blundering like a bumblebee around the front-room table. "The old man uses them for stove-pokers."
      "Sure, Mrs. Maheffy, ma'am," said Katie, "what do you make work for yourself for? We can eat the vegetables off of the same plates."
      "Indeed!"-- haughtily-- "you find us as we always live; we always have separate dishes for the vegetables. Please don't say plates to me, Miss Dunphy. Call them dishes. I couldn't eat a thing, at the thought of plates to eat off of."
      "I eats everything," said Katie, with half a knife blade in her mouth. Then, with a spoon handle, she violently stirred her cup of tea. "Ah, the fish is grand! And do you like eels? I put in a feed of them once, and they went back on me the night long. Does Mr. Maheffy like fish? 'Tis halibut steak; 'tis nice." Sim trying to catch Mr. Birtwhistle's glance to wink at him; Mr. Birtwhistle's eyes to the table.
      "It ought to be," said Mrs. Maheffy; " 'tis dearer than beefsteak."
      "How much was it, ma'am?"
      "'Twas eighteen cents the pound; and steak is fifteen."
      "And what do you pay for the tomatoes?"
      "Maheffy!" shrieked Mrs. Maheffy; "well, Maheffy, if you're through with the tomatoes, pass them along."
      "Oh, yes!" Mr. Maheffy's chin almost to the table. "If I'm through! How well you don't ask me if I want any first." He held a spoon poised and whistled sadly.
      "'Tis grand! I'm enjoying every bit of it!' said Katie, speaking into her tea cup, which, drained, was like a white muzzle over her mouth and nose. "'Tis lovely! I enjoys what I gets here; I don't deny it, Mrs. Maheffy. Your fish is lovely, Mrs. Maheffy." Emma and Sim sportively putting too much sugar into each other's tea cups; Emma shrieking: "Make him stop, Mrs. Maheffy!" Mr. Birtwhistle as silent as Mr. Parker.
      "'Tis like anybody else's fish, Miss Dunphy."
      "No, but 'tis so soft and firm, 'tis! That's a beautiful wrapper you have on, ma'am. Did some one give it to you?"
      "You may be so fortunate as to have things given to you. I bought this."
      "And how much was it?"
      "Maheffy!" screamed Mrs. Maheffy. "Well, Maheffy, sit up straight!" She seemed distracted, ran half way around the table, picked up her shield and her spear, and ran out in the hall:
      "I'm Irish, am I? Then let me tell you that's the highest feather in my cap. And you? God knows what you sprung from! And your brother stole Mrs. Ramsay's clock before he was sent to the Protectory! I'm Irish? 'Tis me proud boast I am!"-- backing into the room, throwing her weapons toward the barrels.
      "How much was it, ma'am?"
      "Maheffy!" shrieked Mrs. Maheffy, "pass the bread, why don't you? I don't remember, Miss Dunphy; 'tis so long since I bought it. Maheffy, do you hear me?"
      "Was it at a sale, ma'am? There's lots of bargains got by watching the advertisements. Was it over on the avenue?"
      Sim joggling Emma's elbow so that she could not drink her tea. "Mrs. Maheffy! Make him stop, Mrs. Maheffy!"
      Here Mrs. Maheffy, who had edged to the doorway behind Mr. Maheffy, having the bowl of a table spoon firm in her flat, drove the handle of the table spoon into the furrow between Mr. Maheffy's shoulder-blades. Mr. Maheffy's head shot up, and his pointed shoulders drooped. He looked around wrathfully, but then seemed to exclaim, "Oh!" and looked as if he understood something.
      "Well, Miss Dunphy," he said-- Katie, like a squirrel with a nut, having a saucer of tea in both hands, both elbows on the table-- "what I would say is, did you get any encouragement at the office to-day?" Katie slid the saucerful of tea down her throat-- back of her hand across her mouth.
      "'Tis the same old good home and kind treatment-- oh, my references!" springing up. 'Oh, yes, they're on the mantelpiece. I'd not like to lose them."
      "No trouble," said Sim politely.
      "He can write five different hands," said Katie, awed.
      Mrs. Maheffy stood in the doorway; fist on her hip; spoon in the fist, thumb braced far up the handle-- a jab! Mr. Maheffy's head flying back; the back of his hand clapping against his tormented spine. "What the--" he scowled and he wriggled in his chair.
      "Well"-- hesitatingly-- "I hope you'll soon get some encouragement. Nobody's happy unless they're working!"---scowling, wriggling and rubbing his back with the back of his hand.
      "Good Christian homes, but no wages," said Katie morosely-- Emma holding her fork poised, studying Mr. Maheffy, finally deciding that he meant nothing, then smiling her jack-o'-lantern smile, and deftly turning the conversation to false teeth and granulated eyelids. Mr. Maheffy far under the table again; his head drooping; his pointed shoulders rising.
      Having talked with Mr. Parker, Mrs. Maheffy was sitting, in the kitchen, beside the high-chaired infant; elbow on the table, little finger in her mouth; chewing tip of little finger.
      "You must be prosperous, Mr. Rakes!" said Mrs. Maheffy bitterly, looking out at Sim, who was leaning back, lighting a cigar. "Maheffy smokes a pipe; Maheffy can't afford cigars."
      "Can't he?" said Sim, stretching out a foot to kick Emma's chair, that she should look around and smile with him at this. Mr. Maheffy was smiling-- treacherously, as if to say: "If she's reminding you of anything, I'm not!"
      "Are you in there?"-- some one pushing the hall door wide open. "Is Mrs. Maheffy in there?" asked Mrs. Tunnan. "How's the lot of ye? How are you, Mrs. Maheffy?"
      "I'm failing," said gloomy Mrs. Maheffy, coming from the kitchen. "When I was in private life I was all right, but I'm failing."
      Third-floor door slamming. Tunnan's shrill whistle.
      "He don't like for me to come down here, though not on account of you, ma'am, for he's that sorry you're mad at him, and says he meant no harm, and is after me the day long to bring you down this and do that for you, and he'll share his next load of wood with you alone, if you won't be mad at him, and chop it for you, if you'll only speak to him on the stairs-- but at you, Mr. Birtwhistle. Mrs. Maheffy, I come down to see have you a cold boiled potato for my cat? Failing? You're strong as an ox; the big bones of you!"
      "I'm in delicate health!" said Mrs. Maheffy stoutly. "People won't believe how delicate I am. Look at my bones! You have big bones, but not me. Look at my bones for yourself."
      Shrill whistling; slamming door; cries of "Lizzie! Lizzie!" Then a shout: "No, they wouldn't accept nothing off of me, but will off of Mrs. Maheffy, but not meaning no harm against Mrs. Maheffy. No, not off of me, but will offer others in the house! Lizzie! Lizzie!" violent stamping and kicking on the stairs.
      "He'll never forgive you, Mr. Birtwhistle. No, 'tis you have the big bones, Mrs. Maheffy. Then I'll just be taking up this potato with me in my fingers?"
      "I can ill afford even one potato!" lamented Mrs. Maheffy. "Mrs. Tunnan, are you blind to say I have the big bones? My bones is as slender as a child's. You mustn't say big bones to me, Mrs. Tunnan. Yes, take the potato, though I can ill afford it. And where our own rent is coming from is past me-- indeed, and let them wait! Faith, that's the last thing on earth costs me a thought. They can just wait."
      "She have the big bones!" said Mrs. Tunnan stolidly-- with the cold boiled potato she went away.
      "The impudence to say I have-- oh, dear me, Mr. Rakes!"-- the high, affected voice-- "do put her cat out after her. Oh. dear me, I can't abide a cat around where I'm eating. I can't never respect any creature that eats without no knife or fork.
      "But come on now, Katie and Emma," she added in her rough, hearty way; "if you're through, let the two of ye pile in and clear off them dishes. Up with ye, ye divils, and clear off them dishes!"-- scraping crumbs into a paper containing potato parings; singing, going to the front window, throwing paper, potato parings and all into the street.
      "What in blazes!"-- indignation down in the street.
      "Yes, indeed," sighed Mrs. Maheffy, "when we was in private lift the table was well cleared by this time."
      "Well, I must say, Mrs. Maheffy, if we're the cause of any trouble to you--"
      "Mercy on us, hear the girl!"
      "Let me speak, Mrs. Maheffy! If you don't want us here--"
      "My dear girl, what could have put that into your head? You silly girl! What a notion! Katie, aren't you ashamed of your sister? Has Maheffy said aught to displease you? Upon me soul, if he did, he'll bear from me, but it must be a misunderstanding on your part. Indeed, Maheffy, you'd do better starting to your day's ,work, for 'tis long past your usual hour, than to cause ill feeling. even though I'm sure you didn't mean it. Silly, silly girl! You're as welcome as the flowers in May, the lot of you!"
      "I never enjoyed anything more," said Katie, piling dishes. "Emma, I must write to Nellie about it. I did enjoy my dinner!"
      Miss Dunphys piling dishes; Messrs. Rakes, Birtwhistle and Parker sitting in a row against the west wall; Mr. Maheffy at the east window, as if at a cell grating. Mrs. Maheffy looking at her guests; her hands on her hips.
      "Well, I suppose we're through with that, at least. But I suppose you'll want to eat again, this evening. Sure, the divil himself wouldn't feed you--Maheffy, is your stomach never full, Maheffy? That man eats more than he earns, he do!"
      Whereupon, Mr. Maheffy wheeled around, threw his head back, opened his mouth, snapped his teeth together, and hissed in torment. Then, after a pause:
      "Well, Mr. Parker, you mustn't lose heart, you know. Did you get any encouragement this morning? We can't find everything right off at first, you know."
      "Do you like the babies, Mr. Rakes?" asked Mrs. Maheffy-- the Senator having toddled from the kitchen, standing between Sim's knees.
      "Sure! Hello, Bill!" Senator biting on a bunch of keys, then holding it out to Sim to bite.
      "Well, that will stand you in good stead some day."
      "Oh, yes, I like them-- go to mamma, now! I like to see them around; they look so home- like, you know-- there! mamma's calling!" Senator toddling to his mother; his big blue eyes staring down at his bulging cheeks. "Faith, you can't put him down a moment! I had to dress, this morning, with him on my arm." She took up the impressive-looking infant; tried a cap on his head, which was ridiculous; silk hat more fitting on one of such lofty, dignity. Mrs. Maheffy, her aproned sides slanting wide, was sitting opposite the three gentlemen against the wall, humming a lullaby-- "Da! da! da! just pile the dishes in the pan, Katie. La! la! la! can't you sit down, Maheffy? De! de! de!"-- looking wild-eyed at the three gentlemen, comfortable against the wall. "Oh, but you have the gentleman's life of it-- Maheffy! Oh, but you know how to live without hurting your health!" Tormented Mr. Maheffy again wheeled around, threw his head back and hissed. He stepped toward Mr. Birtwhistle, but then returned, with arms spread out, to gaze down at the street.
      Having piled the dishes, Katie and Emma were sitting on the table-- Miss Maheffy coming from the kitchen-- Miss Maheffy, with no eyebrows, and with ears fastened, with strips of plaster, to her head. "Look, mamma! they're sitting on the table, not doing anything!"
      "Oh!" said Asbury Parker; "any encouragement?"
      "Let's play school," said Miss Maheffy.
      "Faith, and I'd say we don't feel much like playing, with the rent coming on, and no way to meet it-- indeed, and they can just wait! the impatience of them! the fret they're in! They can hold their impatience. Da! da! da! baby! go to sleep!" Mrs. Maheffy glancing at a table spoon, a burly, strong-handled table spoon, sticking out in the pan of dishes on the table, between her and a Miss Dunphy-- Miss Katie Dunphy-- her mouth open; her eyes dismally staring; her lips forming: "I enjoyed every bit of it."
      Mrs. Maheffy saying forlornly: "Keep quiet, lambie; there's nobody here feels like playing. Playing, how are you! She's that fanciful, Mr. Birtwhistle. Ah, in the old days, when we was in private life, she was always playing. Maheffy, can't you sit down? Oh, but 'tis the gentleman's life you lead-- Maheffy, 'tis you I mean! If I hit you a clip alongside the head, miss, you'll keep quiet. Indeed, there's none here feels like playing!" Mrs. Maheffy's hand had been creeping toward the burly table spoon. Her fingers closed upon it. Mrs. Maheffy getting up; moving carelessly toward Mr. Maheffy's furrowed back.
      "No, I didn't," said Asbury Parker.
      "That's all right, Mr. Parker," said Mrs. Maheffy, turning to him. "You can stay here after there's others that's gone. Maheffy will get you hotel work. We consider like you're our own, Mr. Parker." She went on toward the furrowed back of Mr. Maheffy. Emma murmuring to her sister: "In the name of God, let us take anything that comes along to-morrow, for 'tis well taken out of you for the bit you eat here."
      "Now we're playing!" cried Miss Maheffy, waving a ruler. "I'll call the roll, and youse must all say 'Present!' Now, are you ready? Gertie Ryan! Gertie Ryan! Ah, can't you make out? Gertie Ryan! Ah, can't you say 'Present?' Then you want to be taken in to Miss Riley's? You know what she'll do to you. Ah, Make out!"
      "Present!" groaned Katie Dunphy. From Mr. Maheffy came a sharper groan. Mrs. Maheffy was unbending the strong handle of the table spoon. Mr. Maheffy turned from the window. Mrs. Maheffy nudged him, and he said laboriously:
      "Mr. Birtwhistle!"
      "Well?" asked melancholy Mr. Birtwhistle.
      "Ah, no, You mustn't say that. None of youse must dare open your mouths, because I'm Miss Riley coming in, now."
      "Mr. Birtwhistle, you didn't find any work this morning?"
      "I didn't find anything-- yet. I went in a couple of places, but--"
      "They chased me out."
      "How was that?"
      "Oh!"-- Mr. Maheffy turning to his wife-- "They chased him out." Mr. Maheffy whistling.
      "Da! da! da! lambikins, sleep!" Mrs. Maheffy doubled her fist upon the table spoon. "Almighty!" cried Mr. Maheffy, springing away from her.
      "Ah, no, we're playing. Youse mustn't say all that; youse's little boys and girls. Now, I'm Miss Riley! I see the children are very quiet this morning-- but you! Isn't your name Gertie Ryan? Didn't your teacher tell me you're a bad girl? You come along with me," said Miss Maheffy to Katie. "Now cry; you must!"
      "I could, easy," said Katie.
      "I'll look for something else to-morrow," said Mr. Birtwhistle awkwardly.
      Then Mrs. Maheffy's heel pressing upon Mr. Maheffy's toes. "Well, Mr. Birtwhistle, I don't care if you go looking somewheres else, now. Why don't you?"
      Every face turned toward him.
      "But why can't you play with me? Don't you feel like playing with me? Say this after me: 'Over the hills and far away, to grandpa's house we go--'"
      "Over the hills and far away---sure, child, dear, my heart is too heavy within me!"
      I am going, to-morrow," said Mr. Birtwhistle.
      "Why don't you go this second?" Mr. Maheffy having to laugh nervously-- repeating: "This second," having an air of jesting, having an air of not in the least jesting.
      "-- to grandpa's house we go. Here comes the horse to carry the sleigh--"
      "Hush, child!" Emma getting down from the table-- Katie's hands to her eyes.
      "This second?"-- sickly laugh from Mr. Birtwhistle. "I would, only I couldn't get up from this chair in a second, you know. It would take me more than a second to get up from this chair--"
      Then Mrs. Maheffy's heel pressed most emphatically down.
      "That chair was there long before you came; it's able to take care of itself. You don't have to stay to mind the chair for us, you know."
      "Why," said Mr. Birtwhistle, looking at Sim, laughing his sickly laugh, "I believe he's trying to get me."
      "I never enjoyed anything more!" said Katie desperately.
      "Be still, would you, Katie Dunphy!" said Emma. "If you had the spirit of a bug, you wouldn't talk that way. Do you want to be told in so many words to get out? A hint is as good as a word to me. I'm sorry I've been such a trouble to you, Mrs. Maheffy--"
      "Why, girl, what do you mean? What have I said to you? Sure, you take us up wrong, Miss Dunphy!"
      "A word to the wise, Mrs. Maheffy!"
      "May I never stir, but I don't see what ails you!" cried Mrs. Maheffy. "And no one saying one word to you! If this isn't the silliest girl I ever heard of, to take people up so! You can't drop a word with her. If I hit you one clip with this spoon, you'll not be so wrong- headed with me, I'll bet you! Mercy, such a touchy one! And no one even looking at her! Why, the lot of yez-- the lot of yez, hear me"-- dropping the infant to throw her arms cordially wide-- "the lot of yez is as welcome as the flowers in May!"

Next Chapter


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

Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 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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