The Coming Out of Maggie by O Henry
Every Saturday night the Clover Leaf Social Club gave a hop in the
hall of the Give and Take Athletic Association on the East Side. In
order to attend one of these dances you must be a member of the Give
and Take--or, if you belong to the division that starts off with the
right foot in waltzing, you must work in Rhinegold's paper-box
factory. Still, any Clover Leaf was privileged to escort or be
escorted by an outsider to a single dance. But mostly each Give and
Take brought the paper-box girl that he affected; and few strangers
could boast of having shaken a foot at the regular hops.
Maggie Toole, on account of her dull eyes, broad mouth and left-
handed style of footwork in the twostep, went to the dances with
Anna McCarty and her "fellow." Anna and Maggie worked side by side
in the factory, and were the greatest chums ever. So Anna always
made Jimmy Burns take her by Maggie's house every Saturday night so
that her friend could go to the dance with them.
The Give and Take Athletic Association lived up to its name. The
hall of the association in Orchard street was fitted out with muscle-
making inventions. With the fibres thus builded up the members were
wont to engage the police and rival social and athletic organisations
in joyous combat. Between these more serious occupations the
Saturday night hop with the paper-box factory girls came as a
refining influence and as an efficient screen. For sometimes the tip
went 'round, and if you were among the elect that tiptoed up the dark
back stairway you might see as neat and satisfying a little welter-
weight affair to a finish as ever happened inside the ropes.
On Saturdays Rhinegold's paper-box factory closed at 3 P. M. On one
such afternoon Anna and Maggie walked homeward together. At Maggie's
door Anna said, as usual: "Be ready at seven, sharp, Mag; and Jimmy
and me'll come by for you."
But what was this? Instead of the customary humble and grateful
thanks from the non-escorted one there was to be perceived a high-
poised head, a prideful dimpling at the corners of a broad mouth, and
almost a sparkle in a dull brown eye.
"Thanks, Anna," said Maggie; "but you and Jimmy needn't bother to-
night. I've a gentleman friend that's coming 'round to escort me to
The comely Anna pounced upon her friend, shook her, chided and
beseeched her. Maggie Toole catch a fellow! Plain, dear, loyal,
unattractive Maggie, so sweet as a chum, so unsought for a two-step
or a moonlit bench in the little park. How was it? When did it
happen? Who was it?
"You'll see to-night," said Maggie, flushed with the wine of the
first grapes she had gathered in Cupid's vineyard. "He's swell all
right. He's two inches taller than Jimmy, and an up-to-date dresser.
I'll introduce him, Anna, just as soon as we get to the hall."
Anna and Jimmy were among the first Clover Leafs to arrive that
evening. Anna's eyes were brightly fixed upon the door of the hall
to catch the first glimpse of her friend's "catch."
At 8:30 Miss Toole swept into the hall with her escort. Quickly her
triumphant eye discovered her chum under the wing of her faithful
"Oh, gee!" cried Anna, "Mag ain't made a hit--oh, no! Swell fellow?
well, I guess! Style? Look at 'um."
"Go as far as you like," said Jimmy, with sandpaper in his voice.
"Cop him out if you want him. These new guys always win out with the
push. Don't mind me. He don't squeeze all the limes, I guess. Huh!"
"Shut up, Jimmy. You know what I mean. I'm glad for Mag. First
fellow she ever had. Oh, here they come."
Across the floor Maggie sailed like a coquettish yacht convoyed by a
stately cruiser. And truly, her companion justified the encomiums
of the faithful chum. He stood two inches taller than the average
Give and Take athlete; his dark hair curled; his eyes and his teeth
flashed whenever he bestowed his frequent smiles. The young men of
the Clover Leaf Club pinned not their faith to the graces of person
as much as they did to its prowess, its achievements in hand-to-hand
conflicts, and its preservation from the legal duress that constantly
menaced it. The member of the association who would bind a paperbox
maiden to his conquering chariot scorned to employ Beau Brumme1 airs.
They were not considered honourable methods of warfare. The swelling
biceps, the coat straining at its buttons over the chest, the air of
conscious conviction of the supereminence of the male in the
cosmogony of creation, even a calm display of bow legs as subduing
and enchanting agents in the gentle tourneys of Cupid--these were the
approved arms and ammunition of the Clover Leaf gallants. They
viewed, then, genuflexions and alluring poses of this visitor with
their chins at a new angle.
"A friend of mine, Mr. Terry O'Sullivan," was Maggie's formula of
introduction. She led him around the room, presenting him to each
new-arriving Clover Leaf. Almost was she pretty now, with the unique
luminosity in her eyes that comes to a girl with her first suitor and
a kitten with its first mouse.
"Maggie Toole's got a fellow at last," was the word that went round
among the paper-box girls. "Pipe Mag's floor-walker"--thus the Give
and Takes expressed their indifferent contempt.
Usually at the weekly hops Maggie kept a spot on the wall warm with
her back. She felt and showed so much gratitude whenever a self-
sacrificing partner invited her to dance that his pleasure was
cheapened and diminished. She had even grown used to noticing Anna
joggle the reluctant Jimmy with her elbow as a signal for him to
invite her chum to walk over his feet through a two-step.
But to-night the pumpkin had turned to a coach and six. Terry
O'Sullivan was a victorious Prince Charming, and Maggie Toole winged
her first butterfly flight. And though our tropes of fairyland be
mixed with those of entomology they shall not spill one drop of
ambrosia from the rose-crowned melody of Maggie's one perfect night.
The girls besieged her for introductions to her "fellow." The Clover
Leaf young men, after two years of blindness, suddenly perceived
charms in Miss Toole. They flexed their compelling muscles before
her and bespoke her for the dance.
Thus she scored; but to Terry O'Sullivan the honours of the evening
fell thick and fast. He shook his curls; he smiled and went easily
through the seven motions for acquiring grace in your own room before
an open window ten minutes each day. He danced like a faun; he
introduced manner and style and atmosphere; his words came trippingly
upon his tongue, and--he waltzed twice in succession with the paper-
box girl that Dempsey Donovan brought.
Dempsey was the leader of the association. He wore a dress suit, and
could chin the bar twice with one hand. He was one of "Big Mike"
O'Sullivan's lieutenants, and was never troubled by trouble. No cop
dared to arrest him. Whenever be broke a pushcart man's head or shot
a member of the Heinrick B. Sweeney Outing and Literary Association
in the kneecap, an officer would drop around and say:
"The Cap'n 'd like to see ye a few minutes round to the office whin
ye have time, Dempsey, me boy."
But there would be sundry gentlemen there with large gold fob chains
and black cigars; and somebody would tell a funny story, and then
Dempsey would go back and work half an hour with the sixpound
dumbbells. So, doing a tight-rope act on a wire stretched across
Niagara was a safe terpsichorean performance compared with waltzing
twice with Dempsey Donovan's paper-box girl. At 10 o'clock the jolly
round face of "Big Mike" O'Sullivan shone at the door for five
minutes upon the scene. He always looked in for five minutes, smiled
at the girls and handed out real perfectos to the delighted boys.
Dempsey Donovan was at his elbow instantly, talking rapidly. "Big
Mike" looked carefully at the dancers, smiled, shook his head and
The music stopped. The dancers scattered to the chairs along the
walls. Terry O'Sullivan, with his entrancing bow, relinquished a
pretty girl in blue to her partner and started back to find Maggie.
Dempsey intercepted him in the middle of the floor.
Some fine instinct that Rome must have bequeathed to us caused nearly
every one to turn and look at them--there was a subtle feeling that
two gladiators had met in the arena. Two or three Give and Takes
with tight coat sleeves drew nearer.
"One moment, Mr. O'Sullivan," said Dempsey. "I hope you're enjoying
yourself. Where did you say you live?"
The two gladiators were well matched. Dempsey had, perhaps, ten
pounds of weight to give away. The O'Sullivan had breadth with
quickness. Dempsey had a glacial eye, a dominating slit of a mouth,
an indestructible jaw, a complexion like a belle's and the coolness
of a champion. The visitor showed more fire in his contempt and less
control over his conspicuous sneer. They were enemies by the law
written when the rocks were molten. They were each too splendid, too
mighty, too incomparable to divide pre-eminence. One only must
"I live on Grand," said O'Sullivan, insolently; "and no trouble to
find me at home. Where do you live?"
Dempsey ignored the question.
"You say your name's O'Sullivan," he went on. "Well, 'Big Mike' says
he never saw you before."
"Lots of things he never saw," said the favourite of the hop.
"As a rule," went on Dempsey, huskily sweet, "O'Sullivans in this
district know one another. You escorted one of our lady members
here, and we want chance to make good. If you've got a family tree
let's see a few historical O'Sullivan buds come out on it. Or do you
want us to dig it out of you by the roots?"
"Suppose you mind your own business," suggested O'Sullivan, blandly.
Dempsey's eye brightened. He held up an inspired forefinger as
though a brilliant idea had struck him.
"I've got it now," he said cordially. "It was just a little mistake.
You ain't no O'Sullivan. You are a ring-tailed monkey. Excuse us
for not recognising you at first."
O'Sullivan's eye flashed. He made a quick movement, but Andy Geoghan
was ready and caught his arm.
Dempsey nodded at Andy and William McMahan, the secretary of the
club, and walked rapidly toward a door at the rear of the hall. Two
other members of the Give and Take Association swiftly joined the
little group. Terry O'Sullivan was now in the hands of the Board of
Rules and Social Referees. They spoke to him briefly and softly, and
conducted him out through the same door at the rear.
This movement on the part of the Clover Leaf members requires a word
of elucidation. Back of the association hall was a smaller room
rented by the club. In this room personal difficulties that arose on
the ballroom floor were settled, man to man, with the weapons of
nature, under the supervision of the board. No lady could say that
she had witnessed a fight at a Clover Leaf hop in several years. Its
gentlemen members guaranteed that.
So easily and smoothly had Dempsey and the board done their
preliminary work that many in the hall had not noticed the checking
of the fascinating O'Sullivan's social triumph. Among these was
Maggie. She looked about for her escort.
"Smoke up!" said Rose Cassidy. "Wasn't you on? Demps Donovan picked
a scrap with your Lizzie-boy, and they've waltzed out to the
slaughter room with him. How's my hair look done up this way, Mag?"
Maggie laid a hand on the bosom of her cheesecloth waist.
"Gone to fight with Dempsey!" she said, breathlessly. "They've got
to be stopped. Dempsey Donovan can't fight him. Why, he'll--he'll
"Ah, what do you care?" said Rosa. "Don't some of 'em fight every
But Maggie was off, darting her zig-zag way through the maze of
dancers. She burst through the rear door into the dark hall and then
threw her solid shoulder against the door of the room of single
combat. It gave way, and in the instant that she entered her eye
caught the scene--the Board standing about with open watches; Dempsey
Donovan in his shirt sleeves dancing, light-footed, with the wary
grace of the modern pugilist, within easy reach of his adversary;
Terry O'Sullivan standing with arms folded and a murderous look in
his dark eyes. And without slacking the speed of her entrance she
leaped forward with a scream--leaped in time to catch and hang upon
the arm of O'Sullivan that was suddenly uplifted, and to whisk from
it the long, bright stiletto that he had drawn from his bosom.
The knife fell and rang upon the floor. Cold steel drawn in the
rooms of the Give and Take Association! Such a thing had never
happened before. Every one stood motionless for a minute. Andy
Geoghan kicked the stiletto with the toe of his shoe curiously, like
an antiquarian who has come upon some ancient weapon unknown to his
And then O'Sullivan hissed something unintelligible between his
teeth. Dempsey and the board exchanged looks. And then Dempsey
looked at O'Sullivan without anger, as one looks at a stray dog, and
nodded his head in the direction of the door.
"The back stairs, Giuseppi," he said, briefly. "Somebody'11 pitch
your hat down after you."
Maggie walked up to Dempsey Donovan. There was a brilliant spot of
red in her cheeks, down which slow tears were running. But she
looked him bravely in the eye.
"I knew it, Dempsey," she said, as her eyes grew dull even in their
tears. "I knew he was a Guinea. His name's Tony Spinelli. I
hurried in when they told me you and him was scrappin'. Them Guineas
always carries knives. But you don't understand, Dempsey. I never
had a fellow in my life. I got tired of comin' with Anna and Jimmy
every night, so I fixed it with him to call himself O'Sullivan, and
brought him along. I knew there'd be nothin' doin' for him if he
came as a Dago. I guess I'll resign from the club now."
Dempsey turned to Andy Geoghan.
"Chuck that cheese slicer out of the window," he said, "and tell 'em
inside that Mr. O'Sullivan has had a telephone message to go down to
And then he turned back to Maggie.
"Say, Mag," he said, "I'll see you home. And how about next Saturday
night? Will you come to the hop with me if I call around for you?"
It was remarkable how quickly Maggie's eyes could change from dull to
a shining brown.
"With you, Dempsey?" she stammered. "Say--will a duck swim?"