The Outcast Manufacturers
A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book
Edited Mr. X
B.W. Dodge and Company
"ASBURY," said Mr. Birtwhistle, "I'm worried about your future."
Room that, had been the office of the Universal Manufacturing Company; blue ingrain carpet on
the floor; a roll-top desk by the east window; walls covered with paper, white paper with little
gilt stars; Mr. Birtwhistle lying on a leather lounge against the west wall, feet in slippers with
pink and purple eagles on them, one pink and purple eagle out on the carpet. Evening.
Stove in the second room, behind portières, and Mrs. Birtwhistle coming from the stove, intent
upon something in a pan, touching it with a finger tip, finger tip going to her mouth-- Mrs.
Birtwhistle in a black skirt and a blue silk waist-- her two little teeth like two little glasses of
milk on a pantry shelf.
Sim, coatless, coming from an inner room, rubbing his face with a towel, throwing the towel on
"Sim, pick that towel right up. You mustn't think, Sim, just because you're working that you can
have everything your own way-- and you, too! if you're going to keep things nice, do so!" Mr.
Birtwhistle's pink and purple eagles had moved to a newspaper on the floor. "Move your feet!"
cried Mrs. Birtwhistle, seizing a corner of the newspaper; Mr. Birtwhistle groaning and not
moving. "May the divil pull the hoofs off of you!"-- paper parting, a fragment of it still under
the slippers; Mrs. Birtwhistle setting down the pan and lifting the foot, causing groans, and: "Get
me a match!"
"Match!" moaned Mr. Birtwhistle, making a tent with his forefingers, building an encampment
with his other fingers. "Many!"-- to Sim, who handed him a match.
"Want me to strike it for you?"
"If so kind!"
"Don't you do it, Sim!"
"I'd see myself!"
"He's got to wait on himself. It's not a woman's place to be picking after him all day. I wish they
hadn't given us that couch. Our own was no good, but I'd rather have what belongs to me. There's
not one thing belonging to us we'd lost if I'd been here. I don't want new tables and new chairs; I
want my own. But no, and no reasoning with you! Come, Sim; come, everybody, except your
wife! Yes, go to Coney Island, but I guess you know the consequences now!"
"If you don't stop that!"
"You!" said Mrs. Birtwhistle contemptuously-- Mrs. Birtwhistle, then looking at something in a
pan field in her left hand-- right forefinger tip dipping into it. "After supper I must sprinkle
down my wash so I can iron to-morrow. Such washes as I see here! Some of the woman never
use a bit of blueing. Such washes! most or them yellow from soda."
"But, Birt," said Sim, "all these new plans aren't clear to me yet. You must have known what you
were talking about to get Mr. McKicker to put up money for you. That desk alone must have cost
more than I'd think anybody, would invest with you. There wasn't any desk here when I went
away this morning."
"It's a good scheme, with money in it, Sim."
"Yes," said Mrs. Birtwhistle, "I believe in him this time, Sim-- Mr. McKicker does."
"I'll succeed this time, Sim. I will, because at last I have a wife who has faith in me."
"Yes, I know all that-- but go on."
"To-morrow I shall take the first step toward starting my course of teaching by correspondence."
"How to succeed in the mail-order business."
"As you said before-- but, Birt, you failed in the mail-order business--"
"Exactly! I'm going to be a teacher of it."
"He's bound to succeed," said Mrs. Birtwhistle.
"I hope so, of course. Why are you so sure."
"Mr. McKicker says so."
"Yes!" Mr. Birtwhistle getting up from the sofa-- going to a chair behind the desk-- waving
toward the sofa-- Sim and Asbury and Mrs. Birtwhistle sitting on the sofa. "But make it short,"
said Mrs. Birtwhistle. "I have all kinds of work, and the girls may be here any moment."
"Oh, yes, cut it short! cut it short! There's one thing I don't like, Delia. There's one side to all this
that doesn't please me."
"Would you like ham and eggs, Sim?" asked Mrs. Birtwhistle. "Upon my soul, it's enough to
drive one distracted thinking what to get for breakfast."
"At least I am worthy of attention, when I speak," said
Mr. Birtwhistle, sitting up so straight that his shirt bosom, coat off, and his flat face were in an
unbroken line. "At least let there be common politeness when I am speaking."
"Oh, yes, the big Mogul, now, Sim! The professor now, Sim! I'm a professor's wife now, Sim."
"I knew him in my youth," said Sim.
"I don't think we care for any more such vulgar badinage"-- the straight line of face and shirt
front. "Delia, the only reason you believe in me is because some one else does. How many years
is it, in which, at least once a day, I have told you I have great ability? It's not from any lack of
my telling you that you never discovered that for yourself. You can't accuse me of withholding
any such information. Then some one else comes along, and, in your hearing, says: 'Behold! Mr.
Birtwhistle is a man of marked abilities!' Whereupon-- behold! you believe in him. Then"--
swelling bosom variegating the line of face and shirt front-- "Mr. Birtwhistle wants no such
belief in him. There's no value nor support in such belief in him."
"No!"-- expression of stern pitilessness-- "don't interrupt me! I've started now. All day I have
repressed this feeling, but I have started now!" Mr. Birtwhistle rising. "This may be our parting
of the ways, Delia--"
"Birt, I only want to say--"
"I am just. I hold justice high. You shall have every opportunity to defend yourself, but now I
shall be heard first. Delia, this is the parting of the ways. Delia"-- Birtwhistle impressively
folding his arms-- "there have been dark times in my life-- I have wanted some little dog, some
miserable little dog from the streets to look at me and believe in me. You never had faith and
you never had belief, when most sorely I needed faith and belief--"
"Birt--" implored Mrs. Birtwhistle. But Mr. Birtwhistle held up a hand, flat palm toward her.
"Birt", said Sim, scowling, wriggling a finger around on his knee, "what's faith and belief but a
picturing of rewards to come? Mrs. Birtwhistle may not have had such beautiful, blind belief in
you-- and I don't see that you've done anything so remarkable, at that!-- may not have--"
"Birt--" Mrs. Birtwhistle was imploring.
"There'll be justice!" Mr. Birtwhistle coldly assured her. "Delia, though this be the parting of the
ways, you shall have justice, and shall be heard in your defense. But, Sim? But what?"
"But," said Asbury Parker, looking vacantly in front of him, "she stood by you, just the same."
"Oh, dear me!" said Mr. Birtwhistle. He sat down. He played with a paper-cutter. "Oh, dear me!
Well, yes--" Sitting straight again; magisterially again:
"Delia, you may speak. What is it you've been trying to say?"
"Birt, I must get to my roast pork! It hasn't been basted in half an hour now."
"Oh, dear me! yes, the roast pork-- Delia--"
"Well! well! well I you know I can't stop another moment now."
"No, but I will be just. I hope if I said anything--"
"Man alive, no one was paying any attention to you. We all know you too well. Asbury, you'll
have to go out and get me five cents' worth of cinnamon to put in the apple-sauce."
"Oh, dear me!" said Mr. Birtwhistle. "Asbury, what you say is very true. I wonder how you came
to say anything very true. I wonder how you happened to say anything at all. Asbury, your future
The postman's whistle out on the front stoop. Sim jumping toward the door-- standing still,
Postman whistling; shouting: "Rakes! Anybody know Rakes? S. D. Rakes?"
"Run, Sim! it's your letter."
"Oh, there's no such hurry."
Mrs. Birtwhistle running out to the stoop; running back with a letter.
"Thanks!" said Sim, tossing the letter on a table.
"Read it, Sim! I'm dying to learn did you-- extricate-- did you extricate yourself." Then Mrs.
Birtwhistle was crying: "It's the girls!" and Mrs. Birtwhistle was exclaiming: "Heavens above us,
what style! 'Tis quality comes to see us!"
"How do you do, Uncle Isaac? You are looking well, Aunt Delia. Pleased to see you again, Mr.
Katie was smooth-haired, tall and slender. Emma's complexion was rosy, and her face was
neither big nor round. Each with arms in long, black gloves; black-gloved hands held together,
waist high, fingers closed upon tiny handkerchiefs-- broad hats with coiled feather-boas that
looked like big, curled-up Angora cats, with fluffy tails hanging down behind; each cat with two
big-headed hatpins, close together, in front, for monstrous eyes.
The Miss Dunphys said nothing, but they meant: "Yes, we've been a little longer in New York;
"Haven't you made a mistake?" asked Mr. Birtwhistle, cordial and joking. "Surely such fine
ladies don't know anybody in this lowly tenement house."
"What's the matter?" said Katie, standing, laughing awkwardly, but hands held together upon the
bit of handkerchief.
"The style of us?" said Emma languidly. "You can get anything on the instalment plan
nowadays." Emma rustling to the table, by the curtains, where she sat down, putting down her
handkerchief, upon which to rest her elbow. Asbury winking to Sim, and sitting beside Sim on
the sofa. Katie grinning and awkward, then running to the chair opposite Emma's, sitting with
her elbow on her handkerchief.
"And how's Mr. Rakes?" languidly from Emma-- a long black forefinger against her cheek.
"You are fixed up."
"A little bit," said Mrs. Birtwhistle, in decreasing cordiality. "Sim, read your letter. Don't let us
prevent you." She taking Mr. Birtwhistle's chair behind the roll-top desk-- Mr. Birtwhistle
sauntering toward her-- seeming to hesitate-- patting the top of her head.
"I'll get a pint of beer," said Mr. Birtwhistle, putting on his coat-- very good coat.
"Oswald and me," said Emma, taking off her black jacket-- white waist and yards of chain
about her neck-- folding the jacket on her knee so as to have the silk lining out-- "don't intend
having no pails come in the house. Of course, we will always have something on the ice. How've
you been, Mr. Rakes."
Sim, handing his letter to Asbury: "Who, me? All right."
"They'll be good and cold before anybody comes and drinks them for you, Emma Dunphy," said
Mrs. Birtwhistle-- Mr. Birtwhistle, with the tin pail, leaving the room-- turning to look
warningly at her.
"Is it Oswald?" asked Mrs. Birtwhistle, laughing unpleasantly. " 'Tis news Oswald is to us."
"Conscience sakes alive! I didn't tell you-- I must really break myself of that habit! I'm always
saying 'conscience sakes alive.'"
"Yes?" said Mrs. Birtwhistle. "I've often heard you say a bloody sight worse, Emmaline
"Oh, Oswald?" asked Emma, confused with this charge. "He's my gentleman friend-- oh, no,
nothing's really settled."
"Only the flat picked out," said Katie, "and the day set, and the wedding dress bought, and you
and me's to stand up with them."
"Are we? I hadn't heard," said Mrs. Birtwhistle, glancing at papers in the desk, playing with a
"My conscience, Katie, if Oswald ever seen us in this street"
"What's the matter with this street, Emmaline Josephine? I've seen many the time when you were
glad to come to it."
"Yes, you're as good as gold, Aunt Delia. Katie, ain't I always saying Aunt Delia is as good as
gold? But this part of the city!"
Mrs. Birtwhistle's two white teeth far down on her lower lip. Asbury Parker handing back Sim's
letter-- Sim handing him a folded blue paper that had come with the letter. Mr. Birtwhistle
returning, laughing and joking. Mrs. Birtwhistle rising and silently pouring out beer. The Miss
Dunphys daintily holding their handkerchiefs around their glasses, sipping, glasses held far out
"I'm as good as gold?" said Mrs. Birtwhistle.
"Sure, you're not quarreling with us?" asked Katie.
"Small bit I cares if she is," said Emma. Mr. Birtwhistle standing in front of the sofa, waving his
hands up and down, as if to beat time.
"Emma, of course you cares!"
"I'm very sarcastic," sighed Emma; "I'm always being taken up wrong. Oswald is always advising
me not to be-- oh, no, nothing is settled yet. I was only saying, Uncle Isaac, that this street has
such a bad name--"
"Emma, ye divil don't be putting your foot in it so!" cried Katie.
"That's no lie," said Mr. Birtwhistle.
"I hate airs!" said Mrs. Birtwhistle. "Emma can take that any way she likes."
"Oh, tut! tut!" said Mr. Birtwhistle, going behind his desk, sitting on Mrs. Birtwhistle. "If you
don't keep quiet, I'll smother you."
Mrs. Birtwhistle half smothered, but repeating brokenly: "I hate airs, I do!" Mr. Birtwhistle,
rising: "Stop it now!"
"My sister don't mean a word of it, Birt, dear," pleaded Katie. "Sure, the two of you is all we
have in the world. Oswald, is it? Faith, Emma, there was those knew you long before Oswald
was ever heard of."
"I was only saying," said Emma lamely.
"Have you a nice place?" Mrs. Birtwhistle asked primly, sitting erect.
Emma and Katie looking at each other and laughing. "Will we tell them?"
"Don't be angry with us, Birt, dear!" pleaded Katie. "Sum, Emma's only trying to grig you. You
know you said 'good as gold' about us."
"Indeed, and I never said one word I wouldn't say to your faces. Indeed, Katie, that wasn't never
"Tra-la-la!" sang Mr. Birtwhistle; "all together, Sim and Asbury!"
"Have you nice places?" repeated Mrs. Birtwhistle. "'Tis very nice; 'tis very grand; small family
and three in help"-- Emma looking at her sister and laughing.
"'Tis a judgment on us for not wanting kind, Christian homes," cried Katie. Elbow down from
table; hands on knees. "Ho! ho! Emma!"
"We're sun worshipers at present," said Emma casually.
"Mercy on us!" cried Katie. "It our old mother at home ever knew that!"
"Yes," said Emma; "we're sun worshipers."
"Find it satisfying?" Sim asked.
"I'm not saying we're sun worshipers ourselves, Mr. Rakes, but the family is-- bad luck to us that
we ever turned up our noses at Christian homeses! Still, 'tis all very nice and grand, and three in
help, though. Still, 'tis only a fad, I suppose. There's styles in religions, like everything else.
There's an old Indian-- is it Indian, Katie? 'Tis an old Indian come here, and our family is
converts. Maybe you've heard of him? He's His Highness, the Reverend Doctor Pie Tamish
"Hamish Manthra--" interrupted Katie.
"Maja Ottman-- is it, Katie?"
"Prince of Persia-- "
"Yes," said Katie; "that's part of his name."
"You'll never have a day's luck," said Mrs. Birtwhistle.
"I suppose not," sighed Emma; "but the pay's good."
"We had no picking nor choosing," said Katie. "It was take the first thing that come along, with
us. I'm expecting the ceiling to fall any minute-- but the pay's good. We must breathe like
this"-- deep breaths-- "'tis part of the religion. He's three hundred and forty thousand years old."
"No! no! 'Tis the Mazdazmas is!"
"Yes; the Mazdazmas is."
"What's it all about? Anything in particular?" asked Mr. Birtwhistle.
"The sun," said Emma learnedly, "do be the manifested expression of divine life-- divine life,
"Divine life, Emma; and do stand in the relation to the physical world as your physical body does
to your spiritual entity, but you mustn't eat meat."
"That's right" said Emma. "Mr. Rakes, ideas and actions are controlled according to breathing
"I felt so damn mad!" declared Mrs. Birtwhistle. "I paid sixteen cents a pound for pork, on the
avenue, and here it was twelve on our own block. I felt so damn mad!"
Mr. Birtwhistle strolling to her and rubbing her nose.
"And," said Katie sagely, "wheat being the standard of life-- building tissue-- 'tis tissue,
"'Tis tissue, Katie."
"--tissue, a meal must be in proportion to the elements found in wheat."
"I wonder if I dare put the vegetables out?" said Mrs. Birtwhistle. "Do you think it is coming up
frost? And do you believe all that, Emma?"
"They're very grand and refined people believes it," said Emma. "'Tis very wrong to eat meat; six
ounces of wheat, two of oil. and four of fruit is the perfect daily meal."
"Yes," declared Katie; "they're very grand folks! Sure, you know, if you eats meat, you're in no
condition for to polarize your being through concentration."
"Heavens above us, what is the girl trying to say?"
"Or," demanded Emma, "where is your spiritual discernment for the transmission of ideals?"
"True for you!" Katie agreed.
"Then," said Mrs. Birtwhistle, "I couldn't be offering you a bit of meat-- the roast pork?"
"Six ounces a day," said Emma sternly. "Inhale and count seven; exhale and count eight!"
"We should feed on spiritual thoughts," said Katie. "Is it roast pork, you say?"
"Shame on you, Kate Dunphy! For where's your spirituality flown to? They're the grand, refined
people that lives on the six ounces a day, and ought to know, and all the money they got--"
"And telepathic realization!" suggested Katie.
"To be sure, telepathic realization. And-- "
"And I'm starved with the hunger!" Katie burst out. "Emma Dunphy, and the foolish girls we
were to be the sun worshipers on their six ounces of wheat. 'Tis the hand of judgment I see in
this. No, no, but kind, Christian homes wouldn't do us, so now we're sun worshipers, on their six
ounces of wheat. Birt, dear, seeing you spoke of the roast pork, would you give me a bit of it--
not bothering with no sangwitch, but a bit in my fingers, which I'm fairly licking in advance."
"I'm famished for food!" cried Emma. "If you'd only cut me the smallest little bit!"
Others laughing; Mrs. Birtwhistle saying: "Faith, you'll wait ten minutes longer, and we'll all sit
down together. Sim, are you through keeping your letter to yourself? That isn't very nice."
"You don't want to hear that, do you?"
"You don't want any supper, do you?"
"Oh, me? I've got money!"-- Sim standing up, then pretending to swagger, flourishing a piece of
"He's got a money-order, anyway," said Mr. Birtwhistle.
"What is it?"-- Emma and Katie wanting to know.
Sim holding the letter in one hand-- holding up the other hand in an exaggerated demand for
"'Dear Simmy'-- that's me; I'm Simmy-- 'yours of no date received, and contents noted with
surprise. Though I can't remember ever having said anything definite to you upon the subject,
you are quite right in supposing there was an understanding between us--'"
"Oh, I'm afraid he's going to be severe with you, Sim!"
"'--between us. You write me that you have started out in life, and have failed, which is about
what you were expected to do.'
"Here comes the nice part," said Sim.
"'Simmy, don't try to deceive yourself and me; you have not failed. You started out deliberately
to fail-- a thing I never dreamed of any young man attempting-- and, from your own account,
you have certainly succeeded. No, no, you have not failed, you seem to have made a great
"Got a light, Birt?" asked Sim. "There's a little more about my not writing again till I have
honestly been a failure, and a money-order for just one week's board. I'm thrown down, all right."
"His own uncle, too!" cried Mrs. Birtwhistle. "The mean, miserly old skinflint-- not speaking
disrespectfully of your uncle, Sim-- how could he!"
"What on earth did you write him, Sim?" asked Mr. Birtwhistle.
"Why, you can see for yourself, can't you? I was willing to abide by what would follow, and I'm
just as willing now. Mrs. Birtwhistle, you can have your alarm-clock back; I'll get one for myself
Emma was saying: "Of course he's no beauty-- I'm sure I'm so sorry for you, Mr. Rakes-- of
course he's no beauty."
"No, he's no beauty," said Katie.
"He's not a bad-looking fellow!" said Emma quickly. "You'd never be ashamed to be seen out
with him. Birt, what do you think? Him and me went last week to have our fortunes told. 'You'll
have odd numbers in children,' she told us. I thought I'd dropped. He said he hoped it wouldn't be
eleven. Of course nothing's really settled. The wedding dress is bought, though. Guess what I
paid for it."
"But, Emma, how can I tell without seeing it?"
"Well, say something. How much?"
"I couldn't possibly, without seeing it."
"Say something. Can't you say something?"
"Two hundred dollars?" said Sim.
"Go'long! Where would I get two hundred dollars? It's eighteen-seventy-five, but I hope no one'll
ask me, because I didn't want to tell a lie."
"The really important matter--" said Mr. Birtwhistle thoughtfully.
"Yes," said Emma, "I think Geraldine is a pretty name."
"And do you know a nice young feeler, without no bad habits, for me!" Katie asked.
"No," said Sim, "there's no important matter left; my letter settled all that."
"What?" said Asbury Parker. "My future, Birt? Yes, I suppose somebody's got to worry about
"To get my pupils will not be so hard," said Mr. Birtwhistle. "The really important matter--"
"Yes! Yes! yes!" called Mrs. Birtwhistle; "just keep quiet and it'll be ready in ten minutes, now!"
B.W. Dodge and Company (1909) edition:
Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Pearson's Magazine (American Edition) version:
1 2 3 4 5
The Pearson's version can be resumed at chapter 9 of the Dodge edition.
Return to Mr. X's
Communications, (preferably in English), may be sent to Mr. X by electronic
mail at email@example.com
or by letters to: Box 1598, Kingston, Ontario K7L 5C8 CANADA.
© X, 2000