The Outcast Manufacturers
A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book
Edited Mr. X
The Miss Dunphys piling bundles on the sofa; taking off their hats. "And this one and meself is wondering have you accommodations for the two of us. Faith, we're playing the lady again."
"Then you did lose your work? Have I accommodations for you? 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 for 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 of light — big, black bow at her throat; big black bow on the top of her head — big moths and an arc light
"We're taking a rest," said Katie. Under the foliage of her hat, her hair had looked smooth, but with the shedding of her verdure, there was a great deal of unkemptness — exposure of a weather-beaten bird's nest in a tree become deciduous. "Then himself is out for a walk, is be? And is there any sign of improving?"
"A ghost of a sign now and then, and then that's the last of it. My heart 'tis heavy. The foolish girls you'd be ever to marry the best man living. I was a lunatic myself, but don't let youse be. There's be no more waiting just another week or just another month. I'll put my shoulder to my own wheel and leave him forever, and, if I was rolling in plenty, not so much as a crumb of it would he ever get, and all I wish his is all the sorrows of the world piled on him, like he's brought me to, and not a crumb would he get was he famished with the hunger. It would be my joy to see him famishing. Then I would have the one good laugh of my life."
"You're the foolish woman, and I'm glad you're getting some sense at last, 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 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 the good patience putting up with her black looks, Emma."
"There was some little trinket in the house missing; 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 our own, could stand. 'Tis a bad mind those has who is 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 you 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 looked at each other; humorous looks came upon their stolid faces. "'Tis there, itself!" pointing to the figurine on the mantelpiece.
"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 Katie, squeezing her knees, rigidly holding her face to one side, her eyes screwed tight shut — her silent way of laughing.
"Well," said Emma," we may as well pay you in advance. We pays our way wherever we goes."
"'Tis time when I ask for it."
"Sure, dear, we knows that, but to save you the asking; and you're welcome to all we've got."
"And a bit of our hearts we'd give you, would that 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. We says, the two of us: 'We'll leave in our bundles first, and then take Aunt Delia out with us for a bit of fur for her neck, or a hat for her head.'"
"Indeed, and no such thing! A girl out of work needs all her money. I'll be going out right away now, to lay in the supper, but not another step will I stir."
"Then we'll all go out this evening. May be 'tis gloves you needs: we'll find something in the store windows. Bad luck to us! We come away in too such 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 keeps her. 'Tis not as if she was your own flesh and blood: she's naught to you."
Mrs. Birtwhistle touching her lips with a finger, then pointing toward the back rooms.
"Seven eggs on the shelf by the boiler!" lamented Katie. "Ye might better have them than leave them behind to those has 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 her chair close to 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-doo! 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 fingers, 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 do make a body dry. Would you ladies join me in a glass of beer?'
"'We would, and with pleasure,' says Guffy. And I looked at her. I opened fire then, let me tell you."
"The cheek of her! Is that a cabbage on the table? Oh, isn't it lovely! Isn't it a 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 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 of it. If there's a word in the house, she's watching, hoping it'll come to blows, and's so sore at every little thing happening. 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 lays my eyes on her I takes a fancy to her. She's so obliging, the poor thing!"
"She is that, 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 a chicken pie on the second shelf in the ice box?"
"No, but the side of bacon. But is the young gentleman still with you? Faith, ever since, Katie's been talking me deef and dumb about him: about the lovely hands he has, and his finger-nails so epicured. Faith, I scarcely remember what he even looks like, but Katie do be so 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 such good, not saying he's not very pleasant and agreeable. There was just the same sense in offering him a job here that Mr. McKicker would have if he hired an elevator-boy for this tenement. 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 leave me to the waves of the world."
"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, here's Miss Guffy!"
"And how are you?" Miss Guffy running to kiss Miss Katie — Miss Emma running to kiss Miss Guffy — Miss Guffy in shabby old sky-blue and green spotted with yellow.
"Guffy," said Mrs. Birtwhistle, "we've been riddling you pretty good, and now I've got to go out, it's no more than fair to give you your turn — "
"Sure, girl, dear," humbly, listlessly, "who'd be bothered even mentioning the likes of poor Guffy? Ye never once thought of me is more likely."
"Well, perhaps not: I was but joking. But, ladies, you can have me up before the jury now, because I must do my bit of marketing.'
"Indeed," said Emma, "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," Mrs. Birtwhistle going out, coming back, pretending to listen, to learn whether the "riddling" had begun.
"Such spirits she has! I don't see how she bears up so under her troubles. Such spirits she has! 'Tis a delight for this one and meself 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 of saying anything? 'Tis no news what he is. Are ye off for the afternoon? Not left, have you? What's happened 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 our good jobs, where the other help dassn't say 'boo' to us, and a woman in to do the flannels. Not a farthing's worth not our own did we ever lay our hands on for ourselves, but to brighten up the rooms a bit for herself we went and done it. 'Tis nature for our own, in us."
"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 thing out to the barrel, it gathers dust.' That's your thanks for anything you ever done for them."
"Oh, I suppose so. There was a lovely leg of lamb we might have brought along, but I wouldn't do it to please them."
"Right, girl, dear. Why should you put yourself out for to please then? And I'm going to tell you another thing."
"Seven eggs, but we wouldn't please them."
"Ye might better be back working and putting your earnings on your 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 to 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 show to me foot and nowheres to lay me head."
"They're not! They're not! Not so!" Emma sputtering like an are light out of order, the bows of ribbon fluttering like suddenly terrified big moths."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 streets, 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. "'Tis God's truth I hadn't a shoe to me foot when they takes me in. What's the little errands I do, except it's the running for the beer I dreads 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 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 says."
"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."
"I'm positive you're positive', girl, dear. And 'tis no lie I'm put about and trod down here. 'Pay me what you owes me' is the thing I'll say to her the minute she comes back — or later. Mrs. Maheffy gets me some work to do tomorrow, and, sure, it comes to very little, but I keeps it, every cent for myself, I keeps it. For the honor of God, don't let on you know where I'll be tomorrow. I keeps it. Guard that like it was my life's blood I'm giving you. There's things I need for the few dimes I'll get. I'll say I got wind of my sister's child I'm trying to find, and went hunting for him."
* * * * *
The weather was cool, though scarcely cool enough for cape- wearing, but Miss Guffy was wearing a cape. "I couldn't get away any sooner," she was saying. "Mrs. Murray took a great fancy to me, and would have me sit talking to her, long after my work was done. But 'tis not worth your while to go out by the half day; and there was a nigger cook, which I always hates to work with; they're such thieves, and you, like enough blamed for their thieving. You can't trust any of them kind; some day they're bound to walk out with everything in the house. They're not civilized, the coons isn't. And the food you gets, Mrs. Birtwhistle! 'Twas noon, Mrs. Murray says to me, 'Mary, you can go down and get your dinner, now.' I go down to the kitchen, and the girl points to the table, and there's one egg and one cold potato and a bit of butter on the side of the plate. 'Where's me dinner?' I says to the girl. ''Tis there' is the answer she makes me. 'Where?' 'Are ye blind not seeing it on the table before you?' 'Then I am blind' I says, going up the stairs, and 'Mrs. Murray,' I says, 'would you have me go on with my work, and no dinner?' 'And had ye not yer dinner?' 'I had not, ma'am.' 'Ye had not? Then that is strange: come down with me.' Down in the kitchen, she says, 'Why, there's your dinner!' 'Oh, no, you'll excuse me, Mrs. Murray, but that is no dinner for a woman doing her work. Indeed I see no dinner there. Then may I make bold to say where is my dinner, ma'am?' 'Will you take a quarter and go buy your dinner?' she asks. 'I will and gladly!' and I goes out but saves the quarter, and here's the seventy-five cents altogether, Mrs. Birtwhistle, and I wish to God it was seventy-five dollars I was bringing home to you."
"If you had any faith in the Universal Manufacturing Company, you wouldn't have gone," grumbled Mr. Birtwhistle.
"Excuse me, sir," said Miss Guffy, humbly; "but would this be of any use to you, Mr. Birtwhistle?" taking a collapsible silk hat from under the cape. "'Twas lying around, and did catch me fancy on the way out."
"Miss Guffy, you oughtn't to do a thing like that. What on earth use have you for an opera hat?"
"It did but catch me fancy, Mr. Birtwhistle. Oh, that's what it is, then? I was wondering. indeed, and if a body didn't help theirselves, they'd never have anything. Could you make use of this, Mrs. Birtwhistle?"
"You divil, you!" exclaimed Mrs. Birtwhistle, admiringly.
"And would you be smoking, Asbury? I'd not be daring to offer these cigars to Mr. Birtwhistle. I don't know what he's thinking of me, as it is; but, indeed, when I get only fifty cents for my six or seven hours slaving, 'tis small blame to me to help myself. I don't suppose these would be of any use to you?" handing out, from under the cape, a box of matches, blueing, a can of baking powder, a knife and fork, tied together.
"Guffy, you're a jewel!"
"Miss Guffy — " began Mr.Birtwhistle.
"Oh, you let Guffy alone; that woman could well afford it."
"Oh, no, ma'am," said Miss Guffy, humbly, "let him speak, ma'am; he's speaking of my own good, and I knows it. Indeed, and I will get into trouble some day, but the bloody rich, as you well say, they can afford it. Yes, indeed, I know you're speaking for my own good, Mr. Birtwhistle — I scarce dare ask you would this come in useful to you," handing out a bright silk necktie.
"Oh, my pride! My pride, and it's as if there were a conspiracy against it! Thanks, Miss Guffy; I do need a necktie."
B.W. Dodge and Company (1909) edition:
Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Pearson's Magazine (American Edition) version:
1 2 3 5
The Pearson's version can be resumed at chapter 9 of the Dodge edition.
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