The Outcast Manufacturers
A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book
Edited Mr. X
"Any luck girls?" asked Mrs. Birtwhistle.
"Oh, no end of good Christian homes, if we'd go there!" said Emma. "Plenty of places where we'd have kind treatment and be one of the family, but not for me! No! No!" Emma's round head shaking so rapidly that it seemed to revolve — Emma standing up, white and slim; her head like a big ball on a fountain-top.
"Don't you like being treated kindly?" asked Sim.
"If any lady says 'Good Christian home and treated like one of the family' I know what that means."
"Indeed you do, girl, dear; fourteen dollars a month. May the divil fly away with their good Christian homes, may God forgive me for saying such a thing!"
Mr. Birtwhistle was reading letter, and was laughing heartily.
"I didn't hear the postman," asked Sim.
Mr. Birtwhistle laughed. "I knew it!" cried Mrs. Birtwhistle, reading over his shoulder. "I knew it, because I dreamed of silver last night. I never knew it to fail. Guffy, didn't I tell you I dreamed of silver?"
"We're dispossessed," said Mr. Birtwhistle. "Sim, it's about time you got up and gave someone else the sofa."
"Merciful Jesus! What have we done? What have we done?" cried Miss Guffy.
"What'll we do?" asked Mrs. Birtwhistle. "Anyway, it's no surprise to us."
"You shut up!" Mr. Birtwhistle savagely. "Don't you speak to me! What'll we do, you fool? What does anybody do?"
"Or old shoes," Katie Dunphy was saying; "there's always a disappointment when you dream of old shoes."
"It's the rottenest insult ever offered! The miserable old creature! May she never have a day's luck for it! I think it is a disgrace, I do, indeed — a man of your age and the business ability you say you've got, to be dispossessed for a few miserable dollars that we wouldn't throw to a dog! She's a stinking old scut, she is, with all the time we've been good tenants here. Shall I get some chopped meat, or will you have bread and cheese for supper?"
Miss Guffy was crying. Miss Guffy was sobbing a little. "Sure, the two of yez, I can't but feel 'tis all my fault, some way."
"Guffy, whatever put that in your head?"
"I can't but feel it; I can't because 'tis like bad luck has marked me for its own, and where'er I go do but bring misfortune with me. I wouldn't wish it for the world! For the world I wouldn't wish to bring bad luck to youse."
"Guffy, that's silly talk."
"It may be," sighs, head drooping, to the higher shoulder, "for I am but a silly one anyway." And then, hysterically — "I was born to misfortune! Think of what Stevie brought down on me, and that was only one case. For a year afterwards, I went down on my knees every morning--"
"Oh, Guffy, don't pray curses down on anybody."
"What? Don't what? I prayed to God the next meal would strangle him. I prayed every penny he took from me would be a curse to him; that, did he have childer of his own, they would turn agin his in his old age, or they'd be overlooked in their infancy. Oh, you might as well be the biggest strumpet in New York! Worse than I got, and up so early, come rain, or come shine, to my hard day's work — was I the biggest strumpet in New York, worse couldn't befall me.
"Sure," head again drooping , languidly, manner again listless, "one time I did think the tide had turned, when Joe comes home and pays me the twenty-eight dollars he owes me — but no tide turns long for Guffy. He then runs up thirty-six dollars on me.
"It was at that time Mr. Eagen had given me his sixty dollars to hold for him till the next day, when the bank would open. I have it in the bureau drawer. I'm alone in the kitchen, with Stevie and little Edie, the sister's childer, all of my own left to me, and Stevie grown up, the fine big lad, able to take care of himself and ease the strain on me. On the table I have the pails, all in a row, to send the supper over to the men in the gas house; two eggs, slices of ham, bread and butter, and a can of tea in each pail, and each pail with a ticket and the man's name on it. Thinks I to myself, I'll run out and get a bit of steak for ourselves for to throw on the coals. Stevie's not there when I comes back. I wonder at this, for 'tis him will bring the pails over to the gas house. I'm wondering, and I'm looking to see his overcoat gone from the nail on the door. I don't know what comes over me, but my hand goes to my heart; I'm running to the bureau drawer. hold for him till the next day, when the bank would open. I have it in the bureau drawer.
"Mrs. Birtwhistle, I couldn't describe to you! The money's gone. I couldn't describe to you, because the next thing I knew the men was throwing dippers of water over me. I'm running up to the police station, crying like mad, and I don't know what the people must've thought of me. A detective comes back with me. Sure, what good are they? The detective fools and fiddles around, expecting five or ten dollars for himself, before he'd do anything.
"Mr. Eagen comes home for supper. I says, 'Mr. Eagen, you had a right to put your money in the bank.' What else I said to him, I don't know and never will know. I gave him twelve weeks' board, and 'twas that left me where I couldn't pay the butcher, nor the rent, and had to sell out for a few paltry dollars.
"Oh, as sure as God, Mrs. Birtwhistle, bad luck has marked me, and, before my birth, seen me coming. For three weeks Edie went barefoot, and comes crying to me, telling me what other childer said to her, and me having to pretend to the neighbors she would go barefoot, and there was no keeping the shoes and stockings on her, till I borried fifty cents from the woman on the second floor and gets a second-hand pair for her."
"Ah, sure, but you poor thing, I wish I'd known it!" said Katie.
"Then she's down with the scarlet fever, when I thought I couldn't stand another thing. She lies here, like this, like a scarlet rag, in my arms, with the deliriums, and no doctor, saying, 'What's that auntie?' 'Rush, darling, there's nothing; you're only imagining it.' 'No, auntie, there's something in the room.' 'Sure, sweetheart, what could harm you, and your auntie here by you?'
"Oh, Jesus, Mary and Joseph! I'll go crazy! I've worked so hard, and, if I'd been the biggest strumpet in New York, I'd be rolling in wealth today. I see the floors over the way is to be idle, too. Sure, how can they keep tenants, and never a bit of repairing? Oh, it seems the harder you try, the worse your luck is!"
"She's had a fierce time of it, Asbury," said Sim.
"Has she?" said Asbury.
"Mr. Birtwhistle, you and Mrs. Birtwhistle, the two of yez, is the only ones ever good to poor Guffy, that you took off of the streets when there wasn't a shoe to her foot, nor an extra shirt on her back. Thank God for that! There's been someone good to her —
"Then I'll repay you! I'll run like mad up and down the streets of New York, shrieking what has befallen you. I'll call it out on the streets and the housetops; I'll see is there one kind heart, or one speck of Christian feeling in all this big city. Don't stop me. No, no, Mr. Rakes, let me go! If she has to go shrieking it in the streets and squares of New York, Guffy will get the means to pay back a teeny mite of her debt to the two of yez. Don't stop me!" running from the room.
"If I ever seen such oddities!" exclaimed Emma.
Said Katie: "I likes to see gratitude. And you certainly always was good to her, like me and Emma said a hundred times to her. You was good to her, and I likes to see gratitude."
Open door that had let out Miss Guffy, letting in Mrs. Tunnan — a suspicion one has that Mrs. Tunnan had not just arrived at exactly the same moment. "Go 'long with you!" Mrs. Tunnan was saying, in response to a pleasantry from Mr. Birtwhistle; "'Tis a way I have of pinching me cheeks that makes me so handsome, Mr. Birtwhistle. But me cheeks was always so. Lord save us, girl!" to Miss Emma Dunphy; "You're a ghost; you haven't an ounce of blood in your body! Whoever had the bringing up of you must have starved you!"
"I eats everything," said Katie.
"Indeed, ma'am," replied Emma, flaring, "whoever had the bringing up of me fed me and taught me manners, too!"
"Must have starved you," repeated Mrs. Tunnan. "Yes, me cheeks was always so, and I've never lost me blush like some after a few years in this country. When you don't feed a child she's never any good to you, but grows up that pale and sickly., Come in here, Ida!" Little Tunnan girl coming into the room shyly, a finger in her mouth, no longer having friendly, little ways, but awed by people who had suddenly become important.
"So ye couldn't pay yer rent? 'Tis very little, and was you much of a man, you'd scrape up that much, Mr. Birtwhistle; but you're too fond of the sofa; up on your back and the pussy cat on your boozum. But sure, 'tis a thing likely to happen anybody. Ye were telling Mrs. Maheffy, at the door, Mr. Birtwhistle?
"How well Mrs. Maheffy stays away from us!" said Mrs. Birtwhistle, bitterly. "'Tis very neighborly of you, Mrs. Tunnan. Here's the letter we got from the McKickers."
Mrs. Tunnan, with her infant held head downward, under her arm, reading the letter. "This is? This letter a dispossess? Ho! Ho!"
"'Tis not worth the paper it's written on, woman."
"Have you ever known of any dispossess cases, Mrs. Tunnan?"
"I'd not say that, Mrs. Birtwhistle, but I've had a wee bit experience, and knows the wee bit that I've heard tell. Sure, the old divils is writing you this to save expenses. It cost from two-fifty to eight dollars for the regular notice, according to the fees of the Marshall. You know, Mrs. Birtwhistle, the landlord has to put everything out in the street, in perfect order, or you can collect on him. 'Tis often the good plan, Mr. Birtwhistle, to loosen up the back of a mirror, so's it will fall out on him, and that makes a little for you to start life anew on."
"What I hate most," said Mr. Birtwhistle, "is to have these old things seen put out on the street. I wonder if we couldn't furnish up the rooms, on the installment plan, just so as to be dispossessed in good style. What becomes of the furniture then, Mrs. Tunnan? You seem to know."
"Sure," rather less deliberately, "I know very little of them cases, except, if you don't move your furniture, the Bureau of Encumbrances moves it for you."
"Well — well, to the City Yard. I only knows what I heard. 'Tis all only hearsay with me. But you must go down and see about it."
"See who and go where?"
"This is the Eighth District, so you must go down to the Eighth District Court — Twenty-third Street, isn't it? I don't be sure. Someone was telling me."
"We can't pay the rent," said Mr. Birtwhistle, "and I don't see how it's to be done, but to go away properly, we'll have to have at least three cabs."
"You talk like a fool!" angrily from Mrs. Birtwhistle.
"Yes, I have to, or how'd you know what I'm saying?"
"Ye can get a week's time from his honor. The thought of that, together with the expenses ye can bring on them, puts you where you can go up to the old divils and say: 'Would you pay me ten dollars to move out immediate and orderly?' 'I'd see ye in blazes first!' 'Ye would, and small blame to ye, but would five dollars be too much to be asking?' 'That's more like it: now be a nice man and don't make no disturbance, and here's your money.' Anyway, it comes to me, like in a dream, I heard tell of such arrangements. Come here, Ida, you divil! Take your hand out of your mouth. Cry, Ida! Cry, you divil, for the ladies and gentlemen! Would you cry, you divil! I wants to show how you can do it. For sure, Mrs. Birtwhistle, Looey is that distressful over what has happened ye. 'I have no money,' says poor Looey — sure, Mrs. Birtwhistle, you'd feel for him, the way he's took what's happened ye. 'I have no money,' he says, stamping up and down like on gone mad, 'but I tell you, Lizzie, what you can do. Lizzie,' says poor Looey, 'let ye go down to them and say, 'Silver and gold have I none,' is Looey's own words to me, 'but my own flesh and blood I offer you glad and freely.' Then, Mrs. Birtwhistle, Looey sends me down to offer you his two flesh-and-bloods, to go down to the Eighth District Court, and for all his honor knows, they're your own, and you're a poor widdy. Ida, ye divil, remember them words. At 'poor widdy-lady' ye rubs yer eyes with yer fist; or, if she says the old man is in the hospital, ye holler. Cry, Ida, and show how you can do it — ain't the childer the obstinate things! But she'll cry something piteous for you when the time comes."
"Oh, Mrs. Tunnan, I'm very much obliged to you, and it's so good of you to come down to us — how well Mrs. Maheffy, and her we've known the longest, keeps mighty still and away from us!"
"Us? Me? My wife plead in a public courtroom? My wife do no such thing? Mrs. Tunnan, I have no doubt your husband means well, and I never take offense where offense is not meant — go back to your husband and tell him that he little understands Mr. Birtwhistle's character; Mr. Birtwhistle, who may, indeed, be far down in the world, but who, even as you see him in this disastrous moment, has a name to live up to; that must be preserved in its integrity; a name even now known from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunny shores of California. So long as I have comparative youth, perseverance, and industry, I can still hope to restore my name to its honorable position of commercial importance."
"My!" said Sim, admiringly; "He's a great speaker."
"My dear," said Mrs. Birtwhistle, "I wish you would remind me, tonight, to cut my toe-nails; they have the toes of my socks destroyed."
"Well, 'tis none of my offering; 'twas Looey sends me. Lord's sake, girl, why don't you brush your hair? You're a fright. 'Tis your sister, is the other lady? — And the big, round face of her. Did ye trim yer hair different, girl, yer face'd be less like a platter. Come, Ida."
"Indeed," said Emma, when the good woman had gone, "'tis not much you're losing by leaving this house. I'd platter-face her! I should have told her her own child was the starved-looking creature."
"You know," said Mr. Birtwhistle, "that of course what I say is true, under ordinary circumstances, but, on the whole, that is after more mature consideration, you know, is it such a bad idea? You wouldn't have to say much. Just have the children with you. They could look piteous, you know. I think if you went up and spoke to the Tunnans —"
"Then and you'd wait a long time for me to go up and humble myself to them, you would that! Oh, if that isn't too low-down and groveling for me! When you spoke before, I did say you was always a fool, but, in a way, I did admire you for it. I wouldn't have much to say? And just have the children with me? There'll be no children go anywhere with me, nor anybody else, unless Katie and Emma want to come with me; but I'm through with you, the longest day I live. Will you come with me, Katie? Are you coming, Emma, or do you want him to go crawling to you to take children down to a court to plead for him?"
Miss Guffy running into the room, holding up her hand, closing the door, opening it, to look out.
"I'm leaving him, Guffy, and this time it's forever!"
"Oh, the Lord between us and harm, and I left ye so united when I went away! And now what's ailing you? What's happened you? But, whist! But let ye not fall out, now, of all times," she cried, much disturbed.
"I hate him! I hate him and only married him out of pity. God save me, I hate him with all my heart and all my soul. Don't go out, Asbury. And you'll catch cold, sitting with your back to the window, so."
"Would you drive me distracted? Would you have me drop out of me standing?" screamed Miss Guffy. "But wait —"
"You can get out, and the sooner the better, and all the sympathy goes to you, with the audience that is out in the hall, I suppose, no matter how you yell lies about our circumstances. I hope I never do see you again, whining and cursing every time anything goes wrong, and you posing here like a pure, long-suffering angel, as if you weren't the worst rummy on the block. You're a souse. Now yell some more for some more sympathy."
"Ain't it terrible!" said Emma to Katie. "She had a right to let him alone when he was willing to stop."
"Ah, won't you hush? You won't hush, will you? And me trying to tell you what I have for you — here's fifteen dollars!" said Miss Guffy.
"Guffy! Where'd you get it? I don't care; it's too late, now, for all of me. Give it to him. I'm going, this minute."
"Ah, she doesn't mean a word of it. Don't believe her, Mr. Birtwhistle; she do but need a little coaxing. Here's the money — on your life, don't let any of it be seen now. Mind what I bid you! Tomorrow go up to the office and let on a friend loaned it to you, but don't only pay five of it and promise the rest later —"
Mr. McKicker came into the room — head projecting forward from round shoulders; chin so far down on breast of frock coat that neither collar nor necktie was visible. "Good evening, gentlemen and ladies — oh, pardon me," hands clasping below chin, and head in a bobbing bow over them, "I should say ladies first!"
Mrs. McKicker — tall as a column of a Greek temple, seen at a distance; gray hair in opposite scrolls upon her forehead, like the volutes of an Ionic capital. With a harsh, grating, if not stony, sound, Mrs. McKicker cleared her throat. "Come in, Mr. Humphries!" The blue and the brass of a bulky young policeman.
"Even if someone hadn't seen her come out of the room, there's the money in her hand — hem!' harshness and grating.
"May the Lord forgive you, Mrs. McKicker! What should I be doing in your rooms? Could I break down the doors? Have I keys, like a locksmith?" Policeman leaning against one side of the doorway, his club making a slanting bridge up to the other side — policeman leaning and chewing gum.
Miss Guffy had snatched back the money, and stood, her vermilion arms hugging; a crumpled bill in each hand. "Oh, Mrs. McKicker, you'll live to regret this to your dying day. Why should I be in your rooms?"
"Really the strangest thing!" said Mrs. McKicker. Policeman turning, facing the interior of the room; club in both hands behind him, idly tapping his shoulder blades with the club.
"I done it," said Miss Guffy, in her listless way. "I admit I done it," holding out the money. "What's more I don't deny I done it. Would you make trouble for me, Mr. McKicker?"
Mr. McKicker, with a hand upon each lapel of his long coat, smiling and silent.
"Ah, be your own noble self, Mr. McKicker! Would you have sent me up? I'm asking you, Mr. McKicker. Ah, be your own noble self."
"Surely you'll be satisfied to get your money back and not hound a poor woman!" pleaded Mrs. Birtwhistle. "She wouldn't harm a fly. It was all done for us, and not a bit for herself. You wouldn't have the heart, Mrs. McKicker!"
"I want to know," said the policeman, "if you're putting up a holler, ma'am?"
"Oh, are we making a charge?" asked sailing Mrs. McKicker.
"Ah, Mr. McKicker, be your own noble self! I done it. I don't deny I done it, but be your own noble self."
"I make the charge," said Mrs. McKicker; "and it's against this man, too. This man was in the act of taking the money, when we came in. I make a charge of receiving stolen money against him; he has a bad record."
A shrill cry from Mrs. Birtwhistle, "You would? I guess not! Not while I have one breath in my body. Run, Birt! Out the window, Birt!" throwing herself upon the policeman; arms about the policeman's arms, at the elbows. "Nobody shall ever harm you while there's one breath left in my body! Run! Run! Run!" policeman thrusting her away, only to have her bound back; desperate policeman backing toward the hall, waving out his white-gloved hands like a flight of doves against his blue bulk — Mrs. Birtwhistle throwing rings of arms about him, one ring snapping only to clutch in another ring.
Mr. Birtwhistle rescuing the policeman, who thanked him, breathed hard, and chewed gum. "Don't worry about that: he just warned her against 'false arrest' and damages, though I wouldn't touch a cent of money obtained that way, but would take it and save it for poor and
"Yes, arrest me!" Miss Guffy was screaming. "I'm guilty! I must be arrested! Officer, it's your duty to arrest me. aren't you going to arrest me? Then I'll go up to the station house and report you. I done it: I will be arrested!"
"Well, then, if she will insist--" — began Mr. McKicker.
"Oh, you call yourself a man!" cried Mrs. Birtwhistle, darting toward him. "You a man! I'd slap your face for you, good and hard for you, if the policeman wasn't here. Oh, Katie and Emma, see what calls itself a man!" Mr. McKicker sailing, leaning back against the mantelpiece, holding the lapels of his coat. "Emma and Katie, I'd show him, if I was half the man I'd like to be, for only one minute — don't you cause any trouble, Sim. Birt, don't you stir! I beg of you, I beseech of you, don't say a word. For God's sake, Birt, don't you interfere."
"I want that woman arrested," said Mrs. McKicker, leaving the room, sound of her heels marking each determined step — Mr. McKicker following, his hands flat upon his collar bone, finger tips touching, his head in a bobbing bow, over the flat hands — "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen."
"You must arrest me! I'd go, myself, anyway. Officer, you've got to arrest me, or I'll put in a complaint about you. But you'll give me time to put on my hat, won't you?"
"Take your time, lady."
"My good shoes!" Miss Guffy was sobbing. "Emma, if he can only wait for me to put on my good shoes — ah, but they're gone — everything's gone." The Miss Dunphys, awed and silent, helping to put on her hat, pinning several thicknesses of veil over her face.
The sound of a gong outside: the grating of wheels against the curb.
Front hall crowded; people all the way up the stairs. A woman exclaiming: "The cheek she has to bring a cop in here!" Someone else —"You keep quiet, Don't you go mixing into this." A girl to another girl: "That was Eddie Hogan you seen me speaking to: he was my first sweetheart."
The policeman and Miss Guffy. The gong clanging.
Mr. Birtwhistle was rushing from windows to curtains, shouting: "Where's my hat? Where's my coat? Have you seen my collar?" Then he sat down. "Somebody ought to go up, just to let her see she has friends, and find what the charge is, but I could never get up there in time now."
"Asbury's gone," said awed and frightened Katie. "Oh, Emma, ain't it terrible! Asbury's gone on the run."
"How could she do it!" cried Mrs. Birtwhistle. "how could she dare to do it! I'd no more go into anybody's rooms! And she was always predicting something evil for me, but now got it herself — why did she ever do such a thing!"
"Sim, there's no use talking about my getting a lawyer. I've got less than a dollar. In tomorrow's mail, of course, there may be a hundred dollars' worth of orders —"
"I hope no one'll think we put her up to that! You see what she's done? She's made it look as if we had something to do with it. How could she be so wicked! But so long as we have peace and unity at home, that's the main thing —"
"Of course we have our little spats at times, but that's nothing."
"A word now and then, but any married couple's apt to have a word at times. We must get out, but we'll stick just as close together. We'll get out tomorrow — but Mrs. Maheffy won't get my tables! She needn't think she'll profit any by us. How well she never came anywhere near us! If we have to tramp the streets, we'll leave as if we didn't care, and stick together."
"Oh, mercy!" from Katie; "I've spilt salt."
"What of it?"
"Oh, mercy! That means bad luck's coming," and, "Well, what are you laughing at?"
The angrily shouted oaths of the paralytic upstairs; the roof over his head leaked, but there was a roof over his head. Scrambling and squeaking of mice: the mice had nests behind baseboards.
"What I had a right to tell her," Emma was saying, "was that she might be plump enough herself, but look at her miserable, skinny, little husband."
Slight knock on the door — door flying open — Mrs. Maheffy coming into the room — Mrs. Maheffy broad, in black, rather more than flecked with the infant.
"Oh, my dears!" Mrs. Maheffy running to the sofa and sitting; "Oh, my heart! Hold the child for me, Mr. Rakes. My heart! How it is going. I'm not a bit of use where there's excitement. Do you see how my hand is going? I couldn't hold it out straight to save me. I feel faint! Stay with Mr. Rakes, baby: mama's not a bit of use with all this excitement.
"And what are you going to do, to say nothing about what is all this about Miss Guffy? And she done it all right! Well, I'm not one of those 'told you so's.' Just the same, she done it.
"But I want ye all to come up to supper with me. That's what I've been about till I could come down invite ye. There's a nice, hot supper waiting, and the places laid for the lot of yez. There's cots for to accommodate yez. The Maheffys ne'er went back on man, woman, or child they were e'er friends with. 'Tis not warm today and cold tomorrow, with the Maheffys, but true to your friends in their hour of trouble. Then let the lot of yez come up and stay with me, and welcome to all I own in the world, till yez can start up again for yerselves. Me rooms, and storage for your furniture, Mrs. Birtwhistle, me purse to the last that's in it, me provisions for the winter, all me belongings, and all the warmth of me heart I offer to ye all, or freely and gladly share with ye!"
"Oh, Mrs. Maheffy —"
"Come up! You're most heartedly welcome!"
"Mrs. Maheffy," began Mrs. Birtwhistle, her voice shaking.
"Not a word from ye, but up with the lot of ye! Up to me own rooms and me own heart, ye divils!"
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 4
The Pearson's version can be resumed at chapter 9 of the Dodge edition.
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