The Outcast Manufacturers

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited Mr. X

B.W. Dodge and Company


      "TO WORK!" said Mr. Birtwhistle.
      The yellow river, combing itself against a series of piers. Tugboats daubing smoke against the Palisades. Men piling lumber in Twelfth Avenue; women on the roofs of scow cabins, hanging out clothes; men bending up and down over windlasses; an idle old street-sweeper, in white, sauntering, trailing a broom behind him; men asleep on stringpieces of piers, hats over their faces, their coats wrapped around paving-stones for pillows; coal barges and brisk scows unloading; brick-dust in the air, on shirts, on faces; brick-dust on a cargo of coal, like rouge on the check of a negress.
      Messrs. Rakes, Parker and Birtwhistle standing on a pier, looking about them.
      "To work!" said Mr. Birtwhistle.
      "Don't!" said Sim; "there's bad luck in that."
      "My heart's broken!" said Mr. Birtwhistle.
      "I wonder," said Sim, "how long we'll last in the next place?"
      "No," said Mr. Birtwhistle, "I wonder where the next place will be?"
      Running toward them was a well-grown boy, chased by a stiff-jointed man in a dirty shirt-- boy looking back, laughing, waving his hand, imitating the man's stiff-jointed way of running-- finally permitting himself to be caught: "Well, what are you going to do about it?"
      "I'll show you what I'll do about it!"-- not very fiercely.
      "Let him go," advised Mr. Birtwhistle.
      "You only make it worse by paying any attention to them." Boy released, and walking away, stiff-legged, looking back, laughing and mocking.
      A man with a round face tanned as brown as a pancake; a little yellow mustache and yellow eyebrows-- syrup splashed on a well-done pancake.
      "I'd broken his head wasn't it for you! They jump on my cargo, and spill it into the river. That's my boat over there"-- pointing up the pier to a gravel scow.
      "You only get yourself in trouble by noticing them," said melancholy Mr. Birtwhistle with little interest in anything.
      "They jump on the cargo and run over the decks, so I can't take a nap," said the pancake man, stamping up and down to indicate the noise that he had to endure.
      "Yes?" asked Mr. Birtwhistle, having no conversational impulses.
      "Yes; I been laying here a week now. I work for Mr. Wolvers. Maybe, you know him?"
      "He's a very fine man, and gives me lines and brooms whenever I ask for them. I thought maybe you knew him. He's a millionaire fifteen times over."
      "Ho, Sim!" cried Mr. Birtwhistle, laughing. "Do I know any millionaires fifteen times over?"
      "I didn't know but what you might be here inspecting the scows, sir."
      "Well, well, Sim! I-- ah-- still have my appearance left, it seems!" said Mr. Birtwhistle, folding his arms, looking broad and imposing-- battered yellowish hat; coat faded green-- broad and imposing.
      "Excuse me, sir!"
      "Not at all-- Captain--"
      "Ah, Captain Anderson! My name is Birtwhistle, late of-- ah, well! Captain, this is Mr. Rakes, a young man from the rural districts. What would New York be without its influx from the rural districts?" Sim rubbing his face with one hand, languidly holding out the other hand.
      "Mr. Parker, Captain Anderson."
      "What?" said Mr. Parker.
      Captain Anderson, folding his arms, rubbing his hands on the sides of his shirt: "Excuse me! my hands are dirty."
      "My dear fellow! would you apologize for that? The wealth of our nation depends upon the hands that are not in parlor condition. Honest toil, Captain! honest toil! Shall we have a little drink? Boys, anything the matter with a little drink?"
      "'My shirt; it's pretty dirty. Yes, only my shirt's pretty dirty."
      "Why my son, that's honest toil again! Tut! tut! nothing to be ashamed of!" said Mr. Birtwhistle, turning and walking down the pier, with the air of one confident that where he led others would follow.
      The rear room of a Twelfth Avenue saloon-- large, round tallies, each spread with white oilcloth. Captain Anderson-- straw hat, dirty shirt, stiff knees-- coming into the room, holding the door open for Mr. Birtwhistle coming in-- broadly-- hand waving, as if meaning: "I'm accustomed to having doors held open for me; nevertheless I make it a rule to acknowledge all courtesies." Captain letting the door slam upon Messrs. Rakes and Parker, running ahead to a white table, to draw out a chair for Mr. Birtwhistle, taking an opposite chair himself, half sitting, half rising, shuffling, then standing, waiting for Mr. Birtwhistle to sit-- Mr. Birtwhistle, with knuckles on hips, looking around, mildly interested in this resort of the common people.
      "Be one of us, Captain"-- the band wave. "Young man! oh, young man!" calling to the bartender-- barroom in front. All four around the table; Messrs. Rakes and Parker sitting opposite-- Mr. Birtwhistle broadly occupying one chair, drawing a chair from the other white table to his right side, drawing up another chair to his left side-- leaning back, arms spread out on the backs of chairs. "Well, young man, the Captain and myself will have whisky-- full-grown man's drink, Captain! These young men will have beer." Sim rubbing his face; Asbury Parker lolling, his back to the barroom, his bundle of letters on the table in front of him.
      Then Mr. Birtwhistle's arms were to his sides-- he had noticed the frayed ends of his greenish sleeves-- very much subdued, he was answering a call from the bartender: "Oh, anything will do for us. We're not particular"-- chin down in his dirty collar.
      Bartender in a white shirt and white apron and violet suspenders, coming in from the bar, leaning far back, swinging two glasses in each hand, in jaunty, little spirals, smartly putting down the glasses-- Mr. Birtwhistle sitting close to the table, paying him, trying to have only his hand show above the table. Bartender going away, swinging the money in a jaunty little spiral.
      "What was you saying, mister?" asked the Captain.
      "You've got me"-- gloomily, sleeve ends under the table. "Nothing worth listening to, I guess." Mumbling: "Nothing much, I guess."
      "I like to hear him talk," said the Captain to Sim. "I like to hear anybody talk that knows what they're talking about. I could listen for hours and not a word out of me when I meet any one that does know something."
      "Oh. Captain!"
      Captain to Asbury: "He's been to college. You can see that." Asbury lolling, twitching his fingers to a cat.
      "Really, I'm not a college man, you know," said Mr. Birtwhistle, sitting up. "Of course, the little colleges out West don't count--"
      "Now, now, Birt!" said Sim; "you know you're not a college man!"
      "My young friend"--the waving renewing-- "did I say I was? Merely in passing--"
      "En passant!" said Sim jealously.
      "Don't be interrupting him! Let him talk."
      "Exactly! En passant, I merely remarked that the little colleges out West are not very important. An education is nothing to boast of, but an advantage to be grateful for--"
      "Birt!" said Sim, dipping his finger in the circle of moisture under his glass, and marking moisture on the table, "can you prove that the sum of the angles of a triangle equals two right angles?"
      "Don't be interrupting him so!" said the Captain, leaning on both elbows, listening to Mr. Birtwhistle eagerly. "Can't you let him talk? I could listen all day. It's not once in five years I have a chance."
      "Oh, rats!" said Sim, pushing back in his chair. "Asbury, you're fearfully particular of those old letters of yours. Throw them away." Asbury having picked up his little bundle when Sim drew angles.
      "What? Oh, these? They're from my wife."
      "What! Birt, did you hear--"
      "Can't you let him talk!"
      "Oh, talk! talk! He'll talk, all right. Asbury, you are the closest fellow I ever knew. First I ever knew you were married."
      "Is it?" said Asbury.
      "Hi! bring us a drink!" the Captain was calling. The white bartender, with his violet stripes.
      "Take your time, Captain! We've hardly downed this."
      "And cigars! bring us cigars!"-- excitedly.
      "Wolvers! let me see," Mr. Birtwhistle was saying-- right hand between buttons of his coat, like the statue of a statesman. "One meets so many people about town. Sim, do I know anybody named Wolvers?"
      "I don't know who you know," answered Sim sulkily.
      "This"-- a wave to Sim-- "is a young man who was in my employ once. I found him a very efficient young man; he was manager of one of my departments-- ah, well!"
      "Don't be a fool, Birt!" said Sim, kicking the legs of Mr. Birtwhistle's chair-- bartender leaning far back in his walking-- a box of cigars rotating in front of him.
      Captain's hand fluttering over the box, fingers twitching and withdrawn, hand painting that Mr. Birtwhistle should be served first.
      "Smoke up, captain," said Sim. "You must consider yourself one of us---"
      "I'll take care of myself!"
      Sim's hand drooping in its imitation wave. Sim looking discomfited: "No! is that right, Asbury, what you told me?"
      "And have another drink. I've got the money, Mr. Birtwhistle. Have anything you want."
      "My dear fellow!"
      "Have anything you want, Mr. Birtwhistle."
      "But, my dear fellow, you are crowding us. What's your hurry?"
      "If it wasn't for the boat, I'd make a day of it, but maybe they're jumping on my cargo. I haven't got no deck cabin or I'd invite you around. I live down in the hold."
      "And why not? You've got all the more room there. I've been making some observations along the river front-- along with these young friends of mine-- I believe I mentioned that Mr. Rakes was formerly one of my department managers? I have observed some of the scow cabins, and in those on deck don't see how the people have room even to move around."
      "Yes!"-- eagerly. "In the hold I have more room, anyway. Can I ask what business you was in, mister?"
      "I was a manufacturer!" said Mr. Birtwhistle-- thumb in lapel buttonhole; cigar between fingers-- both hands suddenly going under the table; shoulders drooping-- the frayed coat sleeves.
      "You wasn't! Excuse me, I didn't mean that, mister. But a manufacturer!"
      "Not worth talking about"-- mumbling; "but Mr. Rakes will tell you the same. Won't you, Sim? You know I'm entitled to call myself a manufacturer. Now, can you deny it, Sim? You can ask him, there, and he'll tell you the same."
      "Oh, go on talk! You're doing all the talking," said Sim.
      "Hi! bring us some cigars!"
      "Really, Captain, you're too generous, you know," said Mr. Birtwhistle, groveling. "Yes, it's much better in a hold and having so much room to yourself. Isn't that so, Sim? Room is everything."
      "But perhaps it isn't as healthy."
      "I wish I was tanned like you, Captain. Indeed, I guess you needn't complain on the score of health. I'm far from a strong man, myself. Oh, yes, you're healthy."
      Cigar box again approaching in a spiral. Mr. Birtwhistle reaching out hand fluttering-- unsteady hand; humble Mr. Birtwhistle, unworthy of precedence. Sim reaching toward the box; Captain taking the box and holding it out to Mr. Birtwhistle-- Mr. Birtwhistle sitting straight again. "I hope they're good cigars," said the Captain. "I wouldn't want to offer you any but the best, mister."
      "Oh, I'm not particular as all that"-- affably. Captain holding the box to Sim. "I've got one," sulkily from Sim. "Have another?" "No, I don't want another"-- peevishly. "I don't want one, I tell you!" Then Sim laughing and amiable. "All right! here's to you, old man!"
      "Hi! bring us a drink!"
      "Put that one in your pocket," said Mr. Birtwhistle paternally-- Captain smoking one cigar, holding the other.
      "Yes-- I haven't no pockets"-- slapping his trouser pockets to indicate that a cigar would be crushed in them.
      "Put it behind your ear, then"-- Mr. Birtwhistle's arms out on the backs of chairs.
      Captain putting the cigar behind his ear, but then taking off his hat; cigar in the hat; hat on his head again. "Yes, maybe it's not so healthy, but, as you say, there's more room below. I'm thinking of having the kids with me; they're over to my sister's, in Brooklyn. I hope you'll excuse me, but I must get back to my cargo." All rising; four glasses again in jaunty spirals and tapped down on the table smartly.
      "Well, my son-- Anderson, you say your name is? Anderson, glad to have met you."
      "Yes, I'm glad to have met you," said the Captain, taking off his hat-- cigar falling.
      "Ah, good catch!" Mr. Birtwhistle restoring the cigar-- Captain murmuring and bowing himself away, overcome with so much affability from one of such superiority; and, "Oh, good-by!" remembering Sim and Asbury.
      "What?" said Asbury.
      All three walking up the avenue; Captain Anderson running back to his cargo.
      "Asbury," said Mr. Birtwhistle, "what were you saying to Sim? You're married? You never told me that."
      "If he isn't the close one!" said Sim.
      "When night comes," said Asbury, "we must buy a can of corned beef and go see the Captain again. That's the way we'll get lodgings."
      "Why didn't you stay?" asked Sim. "That little devil of an Angie-- what a temper-- said you were welcome to stay."
      "Me? What do I care?"
      "Upon my word," said Mr. Birtwhistle, "I believe he carries that bundle of letters around with him to sort of suggest a kind of sentiment that makes people sorry for him. Sim and I are put out everywhere, but that's what I believe about you, Asbury."
      "Do you?"
      "Oh, here!" said Sim.
      "Forgive me, Asbury," said Mr. Birtwhistle. "It's your own fault; you're so close and keep within yourself so much I never can regard you as having feelings."
      "Can't you?"
      "I'm sorry I said that, Asbury."
      "Are you?"
      "Oh, my! my!" cried Mr. Birtwhistle.
      "Well," said Sim, "we have lodgings for to-night, anyway; don't for one minute drop that manufacturer's manner of yours, Birt; that will be all we have to depend upon."

Next Chapter


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

Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 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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