The Outcast Manufacturers

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited Mr. X

B.W. Dodge and Company


      THE hold of a gravel scow. Captain Anderson lying on a cot by the foot of steps leading up to a hatchway, through which early morning stars could be seen. A board flooring, cracks of it wet with bilge water, table in the center of the flooring, a lamp with a moon-like globe on the table; on the walls of the hold, white-painted squares, each with a bat tacked upon it. Sim sitting on a barrel by the table with writing materials before him.
      "I'm the most astonished person in New York City," Mr. Birtwhistle was saying to Asbury Parker, who was sitting on the steps leading up to the hatch. "Did you notice the way I handled those logs, Asbury?"
      "Let me write, will you?" said Sim.
      "Let him write, will you?" said the Captain. "I never seen such a blather as you, Birtwhistle. I hope your uncle won't bear you no ill-will, Mr. Rakes."
      Sim waving his pen-holding hand.
      "Talk about tossing around your half-ton weights!" said Mr. Birtwhistle.
      "Can't you be quiet and let Mr. Rakes alone, Birtwhistle?" said the Captain, lying on back, kicking impatiently. "Mr. Rakes, it must come hard to you to live in a place like this." Sim waving his pen. "I wish I was brought up wealthy. I always got that respect for anybody brought up wealthy; they got something about them that can't be gained unless born to it. I guess you never got no meals like here in your uncle's house, Mr. Rakes." Pen signifying: "Don't mention it."
      "Upon my word, I never dreamed I strong I am."
      "Birtwhistle, you're all blather! Why don't you let Mr. Rakes alone?"
      "Oh, he's all right, Anderson."
      "Yes, Mr. Rakes, but I don't like to see you annoyed so, when you're trying to write. What kind of carpet has your uncle on dining-room floor, sir?"
      "Just like yours here-- hardwood, you know-- polished-- and rugs."
      "I guess when you go back, you won't remember anybody you used to knock around with."
      "Let Mr. Rakes talk, will you?"
      "Oh, he'll talk!"
      "Yes, if you'll let him? And what is it you're talking about? Strength! What's strength? I've got that , so has everybody along the river. Birtwhistle, you only make yourself common when you have what everybody's got. I ain't got no respect, Mr. Rakes, for what everybody's got."
      Sim, pushing paper and pen away from him, said: "I've got myself tangled up in lies so I don't know how I'll extricate myself."
      "Extricate, hey? He can use as good words as you, Birtwhistle."
      "Well, Birt, I'm going down to the pier again. You say you're not going to work--"
      "Sim, I said that as to-day is Saturday and only a half-day, I've another plan. I've got to get money somewhere. I'm going to start in working at anything I can get Monday morning."
      "Well, what's your proposition?"
      "Strength!" said the Captain contemptuously.
      "I've got to get something to sell; pocket-knives, I don't care what, anything so I can get enough money to start up again; the McGuires will trust me. I don't like to go near them looking the way I do-- I'll not let anything interfere I must get something I can sell from them."

      In the early afternoon, Mr. Birtwhistle was returning from downtown. He was walking along the Fifty-second Street pier, toward a crowd of fishermen-- trousers bagged at the knees, and too short, but Mr. Birtwhistle with a clean collar and Sim's black hat band around his yellowish slouch hat; a satchel at his side, hung from a strap over his shoulder.
      Sim running down the pier to meet Mr. Birtwhistle, his black hat pressed down to his eyebrows, his sleepy eyelids winking, like tapping fingernails, in the wind.
      "How'd you make out, Birt?"
      "Didn't expect much, Sim, you know. Did you finish your letter?"
      "I'll have to take Sunday for that, Birt. I don't know how to extricate myself. How'd you make out?"
      "What's the Captain doing with that pole?"
      "He's spearing driftwood. He's a fool."
      "What! tiring of his admiration?"
      "He's a fool!"
      "I had to cut him short, myself. Getting tired, hey?"
      "He'd make you sick. But what success?"
      "Well, what did you expect Sim?" Both walking toward the head of the pier, which was strewn with fish baskets, newspaper bundles, here a bottle of cold tea, there a box of sand worms-- fishermen standing on the stringpiece, their trousers shivering in the wind.
      "Oh, yes-- pocket-knives!"
      "That wouldn't do, then?"
      "They said they were glad to meet me, Sim. They said they didn't do business that way, but were glad to meet me personally."
      "What's in the satchel?"
      "I was desperate, Sim; I had to take anything. After all our business relations, this is the best they would do. I'm going to be a street fakir."
      "Oh, you like that better than working?"
      "Sim, Monday morning I'm going to start at any job I can get, but I must have enough money, this very night, to hire a furnished room somewhere. I'm going to work for my living; I'm going to sell these things to hire a furnished room with."
      "Show us! What is it you're going to sell?"
      "It's the best I could do, Sim. They were very pleasant, and said they were glad to meet me personally, but these are the only goods they'd let me have without a deposit."
      "It must be something you're ashamed of," said Sim, lifting the satchel and opening it.
      "It's the best I could do, Sim."
      Sim drawing out a red and green and orange and purple paper bird on a stick, wing tips connected with a ring that worked up and down the stick. Sim working the wings up and down; bird whistling.
      "What do you call this? Asbury!" Asbury sat on the corner of the pier, hands in his pockets, the end of a fish line in his teeth. Beside him stood the Captain, with a boat book.
      "Let Mr. Parker alone, Rakes," said the Captain. "Youse two are always bothering him."
      Mr. Birtwhistle was snatching the whistle bird. "Don't go showing that around, Sim!"
      "You're ashamed of it yourself," said Sim. He sat on the stringpiece, with his legs hanging over, beside Mr. Parker-- Mr. Birtwhistle sitting beside him-- Captain, a halberdier, with his twelve-foot boat hook, standing behind them-- mustache and eyebrows bright yellow on his sunburned face, like punctures in a rusty pie-plate, held up to lamplight. All four of them cringing and bobbing and jumping, as reckless fishermen, behind them, beside them, and stepping excitedly on them, whirled four hook lines around their heads and one another's heads to cast out in the water.
      "How'd he make out?" asked Asbury Parker.
      "Asbury, he's got down to peddling-- shall I?" Sim gripping the satchel, trying to unbuckle it, motioning to throw it into the river.
      "Don't make it harder for me, Sim. I'm afraid you're a pretty heartless fellow; you don't see why I'm doing this, and what a tremendous effort it will be for me to do it. I think, after all, Asbury has more sentiment than you have." Asbury, with hands in his pockets, end of fish line between his teeth, his bundle of letters between his knees.
      Sim staring at houses atop the Palisades; a green house, vase-shaped; pink houses like little Swiss matchboxes-- Palisade houses like mantelpiece ornaments. "Captain," he said, "my uncle's house is like one of those."
      Captain, not at all impressed, but watching the river for driftwood: "Everybody over there has one of those!"
      "Or not like one of those, but bigger, and with grounds around, Captain."
      "Yeh? And has your uncle a piano?"
      "Of course; everybody has a piano."
      "Can you play?"
      "You know I can't; so why go over that again? I never bothered."
      "Then everybody can have a piano? Then that's nothing for your uncle to have. But everybody can't play the piano? I should say not. Lord! Lord! how Mr. Parker can play! I can hear him yet. I guess it isn't everybody who can do what Mr. Parker can do, Rakes."
      "Do you understand music, Asbury?" Mr. Birtwhistle asked, bending to look past him. "I've known you-- or have looked at you, rather, for some time now, but never knew that! You never told us that you play, Asbury."
      "Can he!" declared the Captain. "Did we go in Riley's and did he play with all his fingers and his elbows, as well!"
      "My uncle's piano--" began Sim.
      "Was like everybody's!" interrupted the Captain contemptuously.
      "I can't stand that fellow!" mumbled Sim. "Birt, throw those things away. I thought you had some pride."
      "You let it alone, Sim!"
      "All right! I thought you had some pride. Don't ever again mention your pride to me."
      "That's all broken down! Oh, everything's all broken down. Sim, I'm going down to the hotel to-night, and I must have money enough to say-- I shall say-- 'Come home!'"
      "You don't need to make a peddler of yourself, Birt. I've got a couple of dollars--
      "Of course. I figure on having them, anyway."
      "First I heard of that. You're welcome."
      "I need more so as to be able to go on, if I don't get a job Monday-- yes, thanks, Sim; I'll make a note of this."
      "Throw that stuff away, Birt. I don't mind manufacturers, but I won't associate with peddlers."
      "I can't make you understand," said Mr. Birtwhistle despairingly. "No one believes in me; no one has faith in me; no one has sympathy-- and yet, away down in you, somewhere, Asbury, there is sentiment. You hide yourself, but away down and covered over you have sentiment somewhere. If I could only feel that you; that I had some one to understand the struggle I'm going through to do, to-night, what Sim derides so!"
      "It's not creditable," mumbled Sim, "to want sympathy and faith and belief so. My admiration is for one who wouldn't give two cents--" Captain digging him in the back with the end of the boat book, for Mr. Parker was about to speak-- Mr. Parker taking the fish line from between his teeth: "Oh, me?"-- fish line between his teeth, hands in pockets again.
      "Mr. Parker don't say much," declared the Captain, "but what he does say is worth listening to."
      "Yes, Asbury, you must have sentiment, or you wouldn't carry that bundle of old letters around with you so."
      Fish line in fingers again: "These are all I got in the world, Birt."
      "It isn't everybody who'd carry around old letters so."
      "But these are from my wife, Birt."
      "Sometimes I feel sorry for you, Asbury."
      "They're not all letters; most of them are postal cards. Yes, Birt--"
      "Go ahead, Asbury."
      "Yes, Birt, if she ever sues me for non-support, I'll come back at her for sending me these defamatory postal cards."
      "Don't I tell you!" cried the admiring Captain. "Mr. Parker don't speak often, but when he does, he's worth listening to!"

Next Chapter


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

Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 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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