Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
by Stephen Crane
A very little boy stood upon a heap of gravel for the honor of Rum
Alley. He was throwing stones at howling urchins from Devil's Row who
were circling madly about the heap and pelting at him.
His infantile countenance was livid with fury. His small body was
writhing in the delivery of great, crimson oaths.
“Run, Jimmie, run! Dey'll get yehs,” screamed a retreating Rum Alley
“Naw,” responded Jimmie with a valiant roar, “dese micks can't make
Howls of renewed wrath went up from Devil's Row throats. Tattered
gamins on the right made a furious assault on the gravel heap. On their
small, convulsed faces there shone the grins of true assassins. As they
charged, they threw stones and cursed in shrill chorus.
The little champion of Rum Alley stumbled precipitately down the
other side. His coat had been torn to shreds in a scuffle, and his hat
was gone. He had bruises on twenty parts of his body, and blood was
dripping from a cut in his head. His wan features wore a look of a
tiny, insane demon.
On the ground, children from Devil's Row closed in on their
antagonist. He crooked his left arm defensively about his head and
fought with cursing fury. The little boys ran to and fro, dodging,
hurling stones and swearing in barbaric trebles.
From a window of an apartment house that upreared its form from amid
squat, ignorant stables, there leaned a curious woman. Some laborers,
unloading a scow at a dock at the river, paused for a moment and
regarded the fight. The engineer of a passive tugboat hung lazily to a
railing and watched. Over on the Island, a worm building and crawled
slowly along the river's bank.
A stone had smashed into Jimmie's mouth. Blood was bubbling over his
chin and down upon his ragged shirt. Tears made furrows on his
dirt-stained cheeks. His thin legs had begun to tremble and turn weak,
causing his small body to reel. His roaring curses of the first part of
the fight had changed to a blasphemous chatter.
In the yells of the whirling mob of Devil's Row children there were
notes of joy like songs of triumphant savagery. The little boys seemed
to leer gloatingly at the blood upon the other child's face.
Down the avenue came boastfully sauntering a lad of sixteen years,
although the chronic sneer of an ideal manhood already sat upon his
lips. His hat was tipped with an air of challenge over his eye. Between
his teeth, a cigar stump was tilted at the angle of defiance. He walked
with a certain swing of the shoulders which appalled the timid. He
glanced over into the vacant lot in which the little raving boys from
Devil's Row seethed about the shrieking and tearful child from Rum
“Gee!” he murmured with interest. “A scrap. Gee!”
He strode over to the cursing circle, swinging his shoulders in a
manner which denoted that he held victory in his fists. He approached
at the back of one of the most deeply engaged of the Devil's Row
“Ah, what deh hell,” he said, and smote the deeply-engaged one on
the back of the head. The little boy fell to the ground and gave a
hoarse, tremendous howl. He scrambled to his feet, and perceiving,
evidently, the size of his assailant, ran quickly off, shouting alarms.
The entire Devil's Row party followed him. They came to a stand a short
distance away and yelled taunting oaths at the boy with the chronic
sneer. The latter, momentarily, paid no attention to them.
“What deh hell, Jimmie?” he asked of the small champion.
Jimmie wiped his blood-wet features with his sleeve.
“Well, it was dis way, Pete, see! I was goin' teh lick dat Riley kid
and dey all pitched on me.”
Some Rum Alley children now came forward. The party stood for a
moment exchanging vainglorious remarks with Devil's Row. A few stones
were thrown at long distances, and words of challenge passed between
small warriors. Then the Rum Alley contingent turned slowly in the
direction of their home street. They began to give, each to each,
distorted versions of the fight. Causes of retreat in particular cases
were magnified. Blows dealt in the fight were enlarged to catapultian
power, and stones thrown were alleged to have hurtled with infinite
accuracy. Valor grew strong again, and the little boys began to swear
with great spirit.
“Ah, we blokies kin lick deh hull damn Row,” said a child,
Little Jimmie was striving to stanch the flow of blood from his cut
lips. Scowling, he turned upon the speaker.
“Ah, where deh hell was yeh when I was doin' all deh fightin?” he
demanded. “Youse kids makes me tired.”
“Ah, go ahn,” replied the other argumentatively.
Jimmie replied with heavy contempt. “Ah, youse can't fight, Blue
Billie! I kin lick yeh wid one han'.”
“Ah, go ahn,” replied Billie again.
“Ah,” said Jimmie threateningly.
“Ah,” said the other in the same tone.
They struck at each other, clinched, and rolled over on the cobble
“Smash 'im, Jimmie, kick deh damn guts out of 'im,” yelled Pete, the
lad with the chronic sneer, in tones of delight.
The small combatants pounded and kicked, scratched and tore. They
began to weep and their curses struggled in their throats with sobs.
The other little boys clasped their hands and wriggled their legs in
excitement. They formed a bobbing circle about the pair.
A tiny spectator was suddenly agitated.
“Cheese it, Jimmie, cheese it! Here comes yer fader,” he yelled.
The circle of little boys instantly parted. They drew away and
waited in ecstatic awe for that which was about to happen. The two
little boys fighting in the modes of four thousand years ago, did not
hear the warning.
Up the avenue there plodded slowly a man with sullen eyes. He was
carrying a dinner pail and smoking an apple-wood pipe.
As he neared the spot where the little boys strove, he regarded them
listlessly. But suddenly he roared an oath and advanced upon the
“Here, you Jim, git up, now, while I belt yer life out, you damned
He began to kick into the chaotic mass on the ground. The boy Billie
felt a heavy boot strike his head. He made a furious effort and
disentangled himself from Jimmie. He tottered away, damning.
Jimmie arose painfully from the ground and confronting his father,
began to curse him. His parent kicked him. “Come home, now,” he cried,
“an' stop yer jawin', er I'll lam the everlasting head off yehs.”
They departed. The man paced placidly along with the apple- wood
emblem of serenity between his teeth. The boy followed a dozen feet in
the rear. He swore luridly, for he felt that it was degradation for one
who aimed to be some vague soldier, or a man of blood with a sort of
sublime license, to be taken home by a father.
Eventually they entered into a dark region where, from a careening
building, a dozen gruesome doorways gave up loads of babies to the
street and the gutter. A wind of early autumn raised yellow dust from
cobbles and swirled it against an hundred windows. Long streamers of
garments fluttered from fire-escapes. In all unhandy places there were
buckets, brooms, rags and bottles. In the street infants played or
fought with other infants or sat stupidly in the way of vehicles.
Formidable women, with uncombed hair and disordered dress, gossiped
while leaning on railings, or screamed in frantic quarrels. Withered
persons, in curious postures of submission to something, sat smoking
pipes in obscure corners. A thousand odors of cooking food came forth
to the street. The building quivered and creaked from the weight of
humanity stamping about in its bowels.
A small ragged girl dragged a red, bawling infant along the crowded
ways. He was hanging back, baby-like, bracing his wrinkled, bare legs.
The little girl cried out: “Ah, Tommie, come ahn. Dere's Jimmie and
fader. Don't be a-pullin' me back.”
She jerked the baby's arm impatiently. He fell on his face, roaring.
With a second jerk she pulled him to his feet, and they went on. With
the obstinacy of his order, he protested against being dragged in a
chosen direction. He made heroic endeavors to keep on his legs,
denounce his sister and consume a bit of orange peeling which he chewed
between the times of his infantile orations.
As the sullen-eyed man, followed by the blood-covered boy, drew
near, the little girl burst into reproachful cries. “Ah, Jimmie, youse
bin fightin' agin.”
The urchin swelled disdainfully.
“Ah, what deh hell, Mag. See?”
The little girl upbraided him, “Youse allus fightin', Jimmie, an'
yeh knows it puts mudder out when yehs come home half dead, an' it's
like we'll all get a poundin'.”
She began to weep. The babe threw back his head and roared at his
“Ah, what deh hell!” cried Jimmie. Shut up er I'll smack yer mout'.
As his sister continued her lamentations, he suddenly swore and
struck her. The little girl reeled and, recovering herself, burst into
tears and quaveringly cursed him. As she slowly retreated her brother
advanced dealing her cuffs. The father heard and turned about.
“Stop that, Jim, d'yeh hear? Leave yer sister alone on the street.
It's like I can never beat any sense into yer damned wooden head.”
The urchin raised his voice in defiance to his parent and continued
his attacks. The babe bawled tremendously, protesting with great
violence. During his sister's hasty manoeuvres, he was dragged by the
Finally the procession plunged into one of the gruesome doorways.
They crawled up dark stairways and along cold, gloomy halls. At last
the father pushed open a door and they entered a lighted room in which
a large woman was rampant.
She stopped in a career from a seething stove to a pan-covered
table. As the father and children filed in she peered at them.
“Eh, what? Been fightin' agin, by Gawd!” She threw herself upon
Jimmie. The urchin tried to dart behind the others and in the scuffle
the babe, Tommie, was knocked down. He protested with his usual
vehemence, because they had bruised his tender shins against a table
The mother's massive shoulders heaved with anger. Grasping the
urchin by the neck and shoulder she shook him until he rattled. She
dragged him to an unholy sink, and, soaking a rag in water, began to
scrub his lacerated face with it. Jimmie screamed in pain and tried to
twist his shoulders out of the clasp of the huge arms.
The babe sat on the floor watching the scene, his face in
contortions like that of a woman at a tragedy. The father, with a
newly-ladened pipe in his mouth, crouched on a backless chair near the
stove. Jimmie's cries annoyed him. He turned about and bellowed at his
“Let the damned kid alone for a minute, will yeh, Mary? Yer allus
poundin' 'im. When I come nights I can't git no rest 'cause yer allus
poundin' a kid. Let up, d'yeh hear? Don't be allus poundin' a kid.”
The woman's operations on the urchin instantly increased in
violence. At last she tossed him to a corner where he limply lay
cursing and weeping.
The wife put her immense hands on her hips and with a chieftain-like
stride approached her husband.
“Ho,” she said, with a great grunt of contempt. “An' what in the
devil are you stickin' your nose for?”
The babe crawled under the table and, turning, peered out
cautiously. The ragged girl retreated and the urchin in the corner drew
his legs carefully beneath him.
The man puffed his pipe calmly and put his great mudded boots on the
back part of the stove.
“Go teh hell,” he murmured, tranquilly.
The woman screamed and shook her fists before her husband's eyes.
The rough yellow of her face and neck flared suddenly crimson. She
began to howl.
He puffed imperturbably at his pipe for a time, but finally arose
and began to look out at the window into the darkening chaos of back
“You've been drinkin', Mary,” he said. “You'd better let up on the
bot', ol' woman, or you'll git done.”
“You're a liar. I ain't had a drop,” she roared in reply.
They had a lurid altercation, in which they damned each other's
souls with frequence.
The babe was staring out from under the table, his small face
working in his excitement.
The ragged girl went stealthily over to the corner where the urchin
“Are yehs hurted much, Jimmie?” she whispered timidly.
“Not a damn bit! See?” growled the little boy.
“Will I wash deh blood?”
“When I catch dat Riley kid I'll break 'is face! Dat's right! See?”
He turned his face to the wall as if resolved to grimly bide his
In the quarrel between husband and wife, the woman was victor. The
man grabbed his hat and rushed from the room, apparently determined
upon a vengeful drunk. She followed to the door and thundered at him as
he made his way down stairs.
She returned and stirred up the room until her children were bobbing
about like bubbles.
“Git outa deh way,” she persistently bawled, waving feet with their
dishevelled shoes near the heads of her children. She shrouded herself,
puffing and snorting, in a cloud of steam at the stove, and eventually
extracted a frying-pan full of potatoes that hissed.
She flourished it. “Come teh yer suppers, now,” she cried with
sudden exasperation. “Hurry up, now, er I'll help yeh!”
The children scrambled hastily. With prodigious clatter they
arranged themselves at table. The babe sat with his feet dangling high
from a precarious infant chair and gorged his small stomach. Jimmie
forced, with feverish rapidity, the grease-enveloped pieces between his
wounded lips. Maggie, with side glances of fear of interruption, ate
like a small pursued tigress.
The mother sat blinking at them. She delivered reproaches, swallowed
potatoes and drank from a yellow-brown bottle. After a time her mood
changed and she wept as she carried little Tommie into another room and
laid him to sleep with his fists doubled in an old quilt of faded red
and green grandeur. Then she came and moaned by the stove. She rocked
to and fro upon a chair, shedding tears and crooning miserably to the
two children about their “poor mother” and “yer fader, damn 'is soul.”
The little girl plodded between the table and the chair with a
dish-pan on it. She tottered on her small legs beneath burdens of
Jimmie sat nursing his various wounds. He cast furtive glances at
his mother. His practised eye perceived her gradually emerge from a
muddled mist of sentiment until her brain burned in drunken heat. He
Maggie broke a plate.
The mother started to her feet as if propelled.
“Good Gawd,” she howled. Her eyes glittered on her child with sudden
hatred. The fervent red of her face turned almost to purple. The little
boy ran to the halls, shrieking like a monk in an earthquake.
He floundered about in darkness until he found the stairs. He
stumbled, panic-stricken, to the next floor. An old woman opened a
door. A light behind her threw a flare on the urchin's quivering face.
“Eh, Gawd, child, what is it dis time? Is yer fader beatin' yer
mudder, or yer mudder beatin' yer fader?”
Jimmie and the old woman listened long in the hall. Above the
muffled roar of conversation, the dismal wailings of babies at night,
the thumping of feet in unseen corridors and rooms, mingled with the
sound of varied hoarse shoutings in the street and the rattling of
wheels over cobbles, they heard the screams of the child and the roars
of the mother die away to a feeble moaning and a subdued bass
The old woman was a gnarled and leathery personage who could don, at
will, an expression of great virtue. She possessed a small music-box
capable of one tune, and a collection of “God bless yehs” pitched in
assorted keys of fervency. Each day she took a position upon the stones
of Fifth Avenue, where she crooked her legs under her and crouched
immovable and hideous, like an idol. She received daily a small sum in
pennies. It was contributed, for the most part, by persons who did not
make their homes in that vicinity.
Once, when a lady had dropped her purse on the sidewalk, the gnarled
woman had grabbed it and smuggled it with great dexterity beneath her
cloak. When she was arrested she had cursed the lady into a partial
swoon, and with her aged limbs, twisted from rheumatism, had almost
kicked the stomach out of a huge policeman whose conduct upon that
occasion she referred to when she said: “The police, damn 'em.”
“Eh, Jimmie, it's cursed shame,” she said. “Go, now, like a dear an'
buy me a can, an' if yer mudder raises 'ell all night yehs can sleep
Jimmie took a tendered tin-pail and seven pennies and departed. He
passed into the side door of a saloon and went to the bar. Straining up
on his toes he raised the pail and pennies as high as his arms would
let him. He saw two hands thrust down and take them. Directly the same
hands let down the filled pail and he left.
In front of the gruesome doorway he met a lurching figure. It was
his father, swaying about on uncertain legs.
“Give me deh can. See?” said the man, threateningly.
“Ah, come off! I got dis can fer dat ol' woman an' it 'ud be dirt
teh swipe it. See?” cried Jimmie.
The father wrenched the pail from the urchin. He grasped it in both
hands and lifted it to his mouth. He glued his lips to the under edge
and tilted his head. His hairy throat swelled until it seemed to grow
near his chin. There was a tremendous gulping movement and the beer was
The man caught his breath and laughed. He hit his son on the head
with the empty pail. As it rolled clanging into the street, Jimmie
began to scream and kicked repeatedly at his father's shins.
“Look at deh dirt what yeh done me,” he yelled. “Deh ol' woman 'ill
be raisin' hell.”
He retreated to the middle of the street, but the man did not
pursue. He staggered toward the door.
“I'll club hell outa yeh when I ketch yeh,” he shouted, and
During the evening he had been standing against a bar drinking
whiskies and declaring to all comers, confidentially: “My home reg'lar
livin' hell! Damndes' place! Reg'lar hell! Why do I come an' drin'
whisk' here thish way? 'Cause home reg'lar livin' hell!”
Jimmie waited a long time in the street and then crept warily up
through the building. He passed with great caution the door of the
gnarled woman, and finally stopped outside his home and listened.
He could hear his mother moving heavily about among the furniture of
the room. She was chanting in a mournful voice, occasionally
interjecting bursts of volcanic wrath at the father, who, Jimmie
judged, had sunk down on the floor or in a corner.
“Why deh blazes don' chere try teh keep Jim from fightin'? I'll
break her jaw,” she suddenly bellowed.
The man mumbled with drunken indifference. “Ah, wha' deh hell. W'a's
odds? Wha' makes kick?”
“Because he tears 'is clothes, yeh damn fool,” cried the woman in
The husband seemed to become aroused. “Go teh hell,” he thundered
fiercely in reply. There was a crash against the door and something
broke into clattering fragments. Jimmie partially suppressed a howl and
darted down the stairway. Below he paused and listened. He heard howls
and curses, groans and shrieks, confusingly in chorus as if a battle
were raging. With all was the crash of splintering furniture. The eyes
of the urchin glared in fear that one of them would discover him.
Curious faces appeared in doorways, and whispered comments passed to
and fro. “Ol' Johnson's raisin' hell agin.”
Jimmie stood until the noises ceased and the other inhabitants of
the tenement had all yawned and shut their doors. Then he crawled
upstairs with the caution of an invader of a panther den. Sounds of
labored breathing came through the broken door-panels. He pushed the
door open and entered, quaking.
A glow from the fire threw red hues over the bare floor, the cracked
and soiled plastering, and the overturned and broken furniture.
In the middle of the floor lay his mother asleep. In one corner of
the room his father's limp body hung across the seat of a chair.
The urchin stole forward. He began to shiver in dread of awakening
his parents. His mother's great chest was heaving painfully. Jimmie
paused and looked down at her. Her face was inflamed and swollen from
drinking. Her yellow brows shaded eye- lids that had brown blue. Her
tangled hair tossed in waves over her forehead. Her mouth was set in
the same lines of vindictive hatred that it had, perhaps, borne during
the fight. Her bare, red arms were thrown out above her head in
positions of exhaustion, something, mayhap, like those of a sated
The urchin bended over his mother. He was fearful lest she should
open her eyes, and the dread within him was so strong, that he could
not forbear to stare, but hung as if fascinated over the woman's grim
Suddenly her eyes opened. The urchin found himself looking straight
into that expression, which, it would seem, had the power to change his
blood to salt. He howled piercingly and fell backward.
The woman floundered for a moment, tossed her arms about her head as
if in combat, and again began to snore.
Jimmie crawled back in the shadows and waited. A noise in the next
room had followed his cry at the discovery that his mother was awake.
He grovelled in the gloom, the eyes from out his drawn face riveted
upon the intervening door.
He heard it creak, and then the sound of a small voice came to him.
“Jimmie! Jimmie! Are yehs dere?” it whispered. The urchin started. The
thin, white face of his sister looked at him from the door-way of the
other room. She crept to him across the floor.
The father had not moved, but lay in the same death-like sleep. The
mother writhed in uneasy slumber, her chest wheezing as if she were in
the agonies of strangulation. Out at the window a florid moon was
peering over dark roofs, and in the distance the waters of a river
The small frame of the ragged girl was quivering. Her features were
haggard from weeping, and her eyes gleamed from fear. She grasped the
urchin's arm in her little trembling hands and they huddled in a
corner. The eyes of both were drawn, by some force, to stare at the
woman's face, for they thought she need only to awake and all fiends
would come from below.
They crouched until the ghost-mists of dawn appeared at the window,
drawing close to the panes, and looking in at the prostrate, heaving
body of the mother.
The babe, Tommie, died. He went away in a white, insignificant
coffin, his small waxen hand clutching a flower that the girl, Maggie,
had stolen from an Italian.
She and Jimmie lived.
The inexperienced fibres of the boy's eyes were hardened at an early
age. He became a young man of leather. He lived some red years without
laboring. During that time his sneer became chronic. He studied human
nature in the gutter, and found it no worse than he thought he had
reason to believe it. He never conceived a respect for the world,
because he had begun with no idols that it had smashed.
He clad his soul in armor by means of happening hilariously in at a
mission church where a man composed his sermons of “yous.” While they
got warm at the stove, he told his hearers just where he calculated
they stood with the Lord. Many of the sinners were impatient over the
pictured depths of their degradation. They were waiting for
A reader of words of wind-demons might have been able to see the
portions of a dialogue pass to and fro between the exhorter and his
“You are damned,” said the preacher. And the reader of sounds might
have seen the reply go forth from the ragged people: “Where's our
Jimmie and a companion sat in a rear seat and commented upon the
things that didn't concern them, with all the freedom of English
gentlemen. When they grew thirsty and went out their minds confused the
speaker with Christ.
Momentarily, Jimmie was sullen with thoughts of a hopeless altitude
where grew fruit. His companion said that if he should ever meet God he
would ask for a million dollars and a bottle of beer.
Jimmie's occupation for a long time was to stand on streetcorners
and watch the world go by, dreaming blood-red dreams at the passing of
pretty women. He menaced mankind at the intersections of streets.
On the corners he was in life and of life. The world was going on
and he was there to perceive it.
He maintained a belligerent attitude toward all well-dressed men. To
him fine raiment was allied to weakness, and all good coats covered
faint hearts. He and his order were kings, to a certain extent, over
the men of untarnished clothes, because these latter dreaded, perhaps,
to be either killed or laughed at.
Above all things he despised obvious Christians and ciphers with the
chrysanthemums of aristocracy in their button-holes. He considered
himself above both of these classes. He was afraid of neither the devil
nor the leader of society.
When he had a dollar in his pocket his satisfaction with existence
was the greatest thing in the world. So, eventually, he felt obliged to
work. His father died and his mother's years were divided up into
periods of thirty days.
He became a truck driver. He was given the charge of a painstaking
pair of horses and a large rattling truck. He invaded the turmoil and
tumble of the down-town streets and learned to breathe maledictory
defiance at the police who occasionally used to climb up, drag him from
his perch and beat him.
In the lower part of the city he daily involved himself in hideous
tangles. If he and his team chanced to be in the rear he preserved a
demeanor of serenity, crossing his legs and bursting forth into yells
when foot passengers took dangerous dives beneath the noses of his
champing horses. He smoked his pipe calmly for he knew that his pay was
If in the front and the key-truck of chaos, he entered terrifically
into the quarrel that was raging to and fro among the drivers on their
high seats, and sometimes roared oaths and violently got himself
After a time his sneer grew so that it turned its glare upon all
things. He became so sharp that he believed in nothing. To him the
police were always actuated by malignant impulses and the rest of the
world was composed, for the most part, of despicable creatures who were
all trying to take advantage of him and with whom, in defense, he was
obliged to quarrel on all possible occasions. He himself occupied a
down-trodden position that had a private but distinct element of
grandeur in its isolation.
The most complete cases of aggravated idiocy were, to his mind,
rampant upon the front platforms of all the street cars. At first his
tongue strove with these beings, but he eventually was superior. He
became immured like an African cow. In him grew a majestic contempt for
those strings of street cars that followed him like intent bugs.
He fell into the habit, when starting on a long journey, of fixing
his eye on a high and distant object, commanding his horses to begin,
and then going into a sort of a trance of observation. Multitudes of
drivers might howl in his rear, and passengers might load him with
opprobrium, he would not awaken until some blue policeman turned red
and began to frenziedly tear bridles and beat the soft noses of the
When he paused to contemplate the attitude of the police toward
himself and his fellows, he believed that they were the only men in the
city who had no rights. When driving about, he felt that he was held
liable by the police for anything that might occur in the streets, and
was the common prey of all energetic officials. In revenge, he resolved
never to move out of the way of anything, until formidable
circumstances, or a much larger man than himself forced him to it.
Foot-passengers were mere pestering flies with an insane disregard
for their legs and his convenience. He could not conceive their
maniacal desires to cross the streets. Their madness smote him with
eternal amazement. He was continually storming at them from his throne.
He sat aloft and denounced their frantic leaps, plunges, dives and
When they would thrust at, or parry, the noses of his champing
horses, making them swing their heads and move their feet, disturbing a
solid dreamy repose, he swore at the men as fools, for he himself could
perceive that Providence had caused it clearly to be written, that he
and his team had the unalienable right to stand in the proper path of
the sun chariot, and if they so minded, obstruct its mission or take a
And, perhaps, if the god-driver had an ungovernable desire to step
down, put up his flame-colored fists and manfully dispute the right of
way, he would have probably been immediately opposed by a scowling
mortal with two sets of very hard knuckles.
It is possible, perhaps, that this young man would have derided, in
an axle-wide alley, the approach of a flying ferry boat. Yet he
achieved a respect for a fire engine. As one charged toward his truck,
he would drive fearfully upon a sidewalk, threatening untold people
with annihilation. When an engine would strike a mass of blocked
trucks, splitting it into fragments, as a blow annihilates a cake of
ice, Jimmie's team could usually be observed high and safe, with whole
wheels, on the sidewalk. The fearful coming of the engine could break
up the most intricate muddle of heavy vehicles at which the police had
been swearing for the half of an hour.
A fire engine was enshrined in his heart as an appalling thing that
he loved with a distant dog-like devotion. They had been known to
overturn street-cars. Those leaping horses, striking sparks from the
cobbles in their forward lunge, were creatures to be ineffably admired.
The clang of the gong pierced his breast like a noise of remembered
When Jimmie was a little boy, he began to be arrested. Before he
reached a great age, he had a fair record.
He developed too great a tendency to climb down from his truck and
fight with other drivers. He had been in quite a number of
miscellaneous fights, and in some general barroom rows that had become
known to the police. Once he had been arrested for assaulting a
Chinaman. Two women in different parts of the city, and entirely
unknown to each other, caused him considerable annoyance by breaking
forth, simultaneously, at fateful intervals, into wailings about
marriage and support and infants.
Nevertheless, he had, on a certain star-lit evening, said
wonderingly and quite reverently: “Deh moon looks like hell, don't it?”
The girl, Maggie, blossomed in a mud puddle. She grew to be a most
rare and wonderful production of a tenement district, a pretty girl.
None of the dirt of Rum Alley seemed to be in her veins. The
philosophers up-stairs, down-stairs and on the same floor, puzzled over
When a child, playing and fighting with gamins in the street, dirt
disguised her. Attired in tatters and grime, she went unseen.
There came a time, however, when the young men of the vicinity said:
“Dat Johnson goil is a puty good looker.” About this period her brother
remarked to her: “Mag, I'll tell yeh dis! See? Yeh've edder got teh go
teh hell or go teh work!” Whereupon she went to work, having the
feminine aversion of going to hell.
By a chance, she got a position in an establishment where they made
collars and cuffs. She received a stool and a machine in a room where
sat twenty girls of various shades of yellow discontent. She perched on
the stool and treadled at her machine all day, turning out collars, the
name of whose brand could be noted for its irrelevancy to anything in
connection with collars. At night she returned home to her mother.
Jimmie grew large enough to take the vague position of head of the
family. As incumbent of that office, he stumbled up-stairs late at
night, as his father had done before him. He reeled about the room,
swearing at his relations, or went to sleep on the floor.
The mother had gradually arisen to that degree of fame that she
could bandy words with her acquaintances among the police- justices.
Court-officials called her by her first name. When she appeared they
pursued a course which had been theirs for months. They invariably
grinned and cried out: “Hello, Mary, you here again?” Her grey head
wagged in many a court. She always besieged the bench with voluble
excuses, explanations, apologies and prayers. Her flaming face and
rolling eyes were a sort of familiar sight on the island. She measured
time by means of sprees, and was eternally swollen and dishevelled.
One day the young man, Pete, who as a lad had smitten the Devil's
Row urchin in the back of the head and put to flight the antagonists of
his friend, Jimmie, strutted upon the scene. He met Jimmie one day on
the street, promised to take him to a boxing match in Williamsburg, and
called for him in the evening.
Maggie observed Pete.
He sat on a table in the Johnson home and dangled his checked legs
with an enticing nonchalance. His hair was curled down over his
forehead in an oiled bang. His rather pugged nose seemed to revolt from
contact with a bristling moustache of short, wire-like hairs. His blue
double-breasted coat, edged with black braid, buttoned close to a red
puff tie, and his patent-leather shoes looked like murder-fitted
His mannerisms stamped him as a man who had a correct sense of his
personal superiority. There was valor and contempt for circumstances in
the glance of his eye. He waved his hands like a man of the world, who
dismisses religion and philosophy, and says “Fudge.” He had certainly
seen everything and with each curl of his lip, he declared that it
amounted to nothing. Maggie thought he must be a very elegant and
He was telling tales to Jimmie.
Maggie watched him furtively, with half-closed eyes, lit with a
“Hully gee! Dey makes me tired,” he said. “Mos' e'ry day some farmer
comes in an' tries teh run deh shop. See? But dey gits t'rowed right
out! I jolt dem right out in deh street before dey knows where dey is!
“Sure,” said Jimmie.
“Dere was a mug come in deh place deh odder day wid an idear he wus
goin' teh own deh place! Hully gee, he wus goin' teh own deh place! I
see he had a still on an' I didn' wanna giv 'im no stuff, so I says:
'Git deh hell outa here an' don' make no trouble,' I says like dat!
See? 'Git deh hell outa here an' don' make no trouble'; like dat. 'Git
deh hell outa here,' I says. See?”
Jimmie nodded understandingly. Over his features played an eager
desire to state the amount of his valor in a similar crisis, but the
“Well, deh blokie he says: 'T'hell wid it! I ain' lookin' for no
scrap,' he says (See?), 'but' he says, 'I'm 'spectable cit'zen an' I
wanna drink an' purtydamnsoon, too.' See? 'Deh hell,' I says. Like dat!
'Deh hell,' I says. See? 'Don' make no trouble,' I says. Like dat.
'Don' make no trouble.' See? Den deh mug he squared off an' said he was
fine as silk wid his dukes (See?) an' he wanned a drink damnquick.
Dat's what he said. See?”
“Sure,” repeated Jimmie.
Pete continued. “Say, I jes' jumped deh bar an' deh way I plunked
dat blokie was great. See? Dat's right! In deh jaw! See? Hully gee, he
t'rowed a spittoon true deh front windee. Say, I taut I'd drop dead.
But deh boss, he comes in after an' he says, 'Pete, yehs done jes'
right! Yeh've gota keep order an' it's all right.' See? 'It's all
right,' he says. Dat's what he said.”
The two held a technical discussion.
“Dat bloke was a dandy,” said Pete, in conclusion, “but he hadn'
oughta made no trouble. Dat's what I says teh dem: 'Don' come in here
an' make no trouble,' I says, like dat. 'Don' make no trouble.' See?”
As Jimmie and his friend exchanged tales descriptive of their
prowess, Maggie leaned back in the shadow. Her eyes dwelt wonderingly
and rather wistfully upon Pete's face. The broken furniture, grimey
walls, and general disorder and dirt of her home of a sudden appeared
before her and began to take a potential aspect. Pete's aristocratic
person looked as if it might soil. She looked keenly at him,
occasionally, wondering if he was feeling contempt. But Pete seemed to
be enveloped in reminiscence.
“Hully gee,” said he, “dose mugs can't phase me. Dey knows I kin
wipe up deh street wid any t'ree of dem.”
When he said, “Ah, what deh hell,” his voice was burdened with
disdain for the inevitable and contempt for anything that fate might
compel him to endure.
Maggie perceived that here was the beau ideal of a man. Her dim
thoughts were often searching for far away lands where, as God says,
the little hills sing together in the morning. Under the trees of her
dream-gardens there had always walked a lover.
Pete took note of Maggie.
“Say, Mag, I'm stuck on yer shape. It's outa sight,” he said,
parenthetically, with an affable grin.
As he became aware that she was listening closely, he grew still
more eloquent in his descriptions of various happenings in his career.
It appeared that he was invincible in fights.
“Why,” he said, referring to a man with whom he had had a
misunderstanding, “dat mug scrapped like a damn dago. Dat's right. He
was dead easy. See? He tau't he was a scrapper. But he foun' out
diff'ent! Hully gee.”
He walked to and fro in the small room, which seemed then to grow
even smaller and unfit to hold his dignity, the attribute of a supreme
warrior. That swing of the shoulders that had frozen the timid when he
was but a lad had increased with his growth and education at the ratio
of ten to one. It, combined with the sneer upon his mouth, told mankind
that there was nothing in space which could appall him. Maggie
marvelled at him and surrounded him with greatness. She vaguely tried
to calculate the altitude of the pinnacle from which he must have
looked down upon her.
“I met a chump deh odder day way up in deh city,” he said. “I was
goin' teh see a frien' of mine. When I was a-crossin' deh street deh
chump runned plump inteh me, an' den he turns aroun' an' says, 'Yer
insolen' ruffin,' he says, like dat. 'Oh, gee,' I says, 'oh, gee, go
teh hell and git off deh eart',' I says, like dat. See? 'Go teh hell
an' git off deh eart',' like dat. Den deh blokie he got wild. He says I
was a contempt'ble scoun'el, er somet'ing like dat, an' he says I was
doom' teh everlastin' pe'dition an' all like dat. 'Gee,' I says, 'gee!
Deh hell I am,' I says. 'Deh hell I am,' like dat. An' den I slugged
With Jimmie in his company, Pete departed in a sort of a blaze of
glory from the Johnson home. Maggie, leaning from the window, watched
him as he walked down the street.
Here was a formidable man who disdained the strength of a world full
of fists. Here was one who had contempt for brass- clothed power; one
whose knuckles could defiantly ring against the granite of law. He was
The two men went from under the glimmering street-lamp and passed
Turning, Maggie contemplated the dark, dust-stained walls, and the
scant and crude furniture of her home. A clock, in a splintered and
battered oblong box of varnished wood, she suddenly regarded as an
abomination. She noted that it ticked raspingly. The almost vanished
flowers in the carpet-pattern, she conceived to be newly hideous. Some
faint attempts she had made with blue ribbon, to freshen the appearance
of a dingy curtain, she now saw to be piteous.
She wondered what Pete dined on.
She reflected upon the collar and cuff factory. It began to appear
to her mind as a dreary place of endless grinding. Pete's elegant
occupation brought him, no doubt, into contact with people who had
money and manners. it was probable that he had a large acquaintance of
pretty girls. He must have great sums of money to spend.
To her the earth was composed of hardships and insults. She felt
instant admiration for a man who openly defied it. She thought that if
the grim angel of death should clutch his heart, Pete would shrug his
shoulders and say: “Oh, ev'ryt'ing goes.”
She anticipated that he would come again shortly. She spent some of
her week's pay in the purchase of flowered cretonne for a lambrequin.
She made it with infinite care and hung it to the slightly-careening
mantel, over the stove, in the kitchen. She studied it with painful
anxiety from different points in the room. She wanted it to look well
on Sunday night when, perhaps, Jimmie's friend would come. On Sunday
night, however, Pete did not appear.
Afterward the girl looked at it with a sense of humiliation. She was
now convinced that Pete was superior to admiration for lambrequins.
A few evenings later Pete entered with fascinating innovations in
his apparel. As she had seen him twice and he had different suits on
each time, Maggie had a dim impression that his wardrobe was
“Say, Mag,” he said, “put on yer bes' duds Friday night an' I'll
take yehs teh deh show. See?”
He spent a few moments in flourishing his clothes and then vanished,
without having glanced at the lambrequin.
Over the eternal collars and cuffs in the factory Maggie spent the
most of three days in making imaginary sketches of Pete and his daily
environment. She imagined some half dozen women in love with him and
thought he must lean dangerously toward an indefinite one, whom she
pictured with great charms of person, but with an altogether
She thought he must live in a blare of pleasure. He had friends, and
people who were afraid of him.
She saw the golden glitter of the place where Pete was to take her.
An entertainment of many hues and many melodies where she was afraid
she might appear small and mouse-colored.
Her mother drank whiskey all Friday morning. With lurid face and
tossing hair she cursed and destroyed furniture all Friday afternoon.
When Maggie came home at half-past six her mother lay asleep amidst the
wreck of chairs and a table. Fragments of various household utensils
were scattered about the floor. She had vented some phase of drunken
fury upon the lambrequin. It lay in a bedraggled heap in the corner.
“Hah,” she snorted, sitting up suddenly, “where deh hell yeh been?
Why deh hell don' yeh come home earlier? Been loafin' 'round deh
streets. Yer gettin' teh be a reg'lar devil.”
When Pete arrived Maggie, in a worn black dress, was waiting for him
in the midst of a floor strewn with wreckage. The curtain at the window
had been pulled by a heavy hand and hung by one tack, dangling to and
fro in the draft through the cracks at the sash. The knots of blue
ribbons appeared like violated flowers. The fire in the stove had gone
out. The displaced lids and open doors showed heaps of sullen grey
ashes. The remnants of a meal, ghastly, like dead flesh, lay in a
corner. Maggie's red mother, stretched on the floor, blasphemed and
gave her daughter a bad name.
An orchestra of yellow silk women and bald-headed men on an elevated
stage near the centre of a great green-hued hall, played a popular
waltz. The place was crowded with people grouped about little tables. A
battalion of waiters slid among the throng, carrying trays of beer
glasses and making change from the inexhaustible vaults of their
trousers pockets. Little boys, in the costumes of French chefs, paraded
up and down the irregular aisles vending fancy cakes. There was a low
rumble of conversation and a subdued clinking of glasses. Clouds of
tobacco smoke rolled and wavered high in air about the dull gilt of the
The vast crowd had an air throughout of having just quitted labor.
Men with calloused hands and attired in garments that showed the wear
of an endless trudge for a living, smoked their pipes contentedly and
spent five, ten, or perhaps fifteen cents for beer. There was a mere
sprinkling of kid-gloved men who smoked cigars purchased elsewhere. The
great body of the crowd was composed of people who showed that all day
they strove with their hands. Quiet Germans, with maybe their wives and
two or three children, sat listening to the music, with the expressions
of happy cows. An occasional party of sailors from a war-ship, their
faces pictures of sturdy health, spent the earlier hours of the evening
at the small round tables. Very infrequent tipsy men, swollen with the
value of their opinions, engaged their companions in earnest and
confidential conversation. In the balcony, and here and there below,
shone the impassive faces of women. The nationalities of the Bowery
beamed upon the stage from all directions.
Pete aggressively walked up a side aisle and took seats with Maggie
at a table beneath the balcony.
Leaning back he regarded with eyes of superiority the scene before
them. This attitude affected Maggie strongly. A man who could regard
such a sight with indifference must be accustomed to very great things.
It was obvious that Pete had been to this place many times before,
and was very familiar with it. A knowledge of this fact made Maggie
feel little and new.
He was extremely gracious and attentive. He displayed the
consideration of a cultured gentleman who knew what was due.
“Say, what deh hell? Bring deh lady a big glass! What deh hell use
is dat pony?”
“Don't be fresh, now,” said the waiter, with some warmth, as he
“Ah, git off deh eart',” said Pete, after the other's retreating
Maggie perceived that Pete brought forth all his elegance and all
his knowledge of high-class customs for her benefit. Her heart warmed
as she reflected upon his condescension.
The orchestra of yellow silk women and bald-headed men gave vent to
a few bars of anticipatory music and a girl, in a pink dress with short
skirts, galloped upon the stage. She smiled upon the throng as if in
acknowledgment of a warm welcome, and began to walk to and fro, making
profuse gesticulations and singing, in brazen soprano tones, a song,
the words of which were inaudible. When she broke into the swift
rattling measures of a chorus some half-tipsy men near the stage joined
in the rollicking refrain and glasses were pounded rhythmically upon
the tables. People leaned forward to watch her and to try to catch the
words of the song. When she vanished there were long rollings of
Obedient to more anticipatory bars, she reappeared amidst the
half-suppressed cheering of the tipsy men. The orchestra plunged into
dance music and the laces of the dancer fluttered and flew in the glare
of gas jets. She divulged the fact that she was attired in some half
dozen skirts. It was patent that any one of them would have proved
adequate for the purpose for which skirts are intended. An occasional
man bent forward, intent upon the pink stockings. Maggie wondered at
the splendor of the costume and lost herself in calculations of the
cost of the silks and laces.
The dancer's smile of stereotyped enthusiasm was turned for ten
minutes upon the faces of her audience. In the finale she fell into
some of those grotesque attitudes which were at the time popular among
the dancers in the theatres up-town, giving to the Bowery public the
phantasies of the aristocratic theatre-going public, at reduced rates.
“Say, Pete,” said Maggie, leaning forward, “dis is great.”
“Sure,” said Pete, with proper complacence.
A ventriloquist followed the dancer. He held two fantastic dolls on
his knees. He made them sing mournful ditties and say funny things
about geography and Ireland.
“Do dose little men talk?” asked Maggie.
“Naw,” said Pete, “it's some damn fake. See?”
Two girls, on the bills as sisters, came forth and sang a duet that
is heard occasionally at concerts given under church auspices. They
supplemented it with a dance which of course can never be seen at
concerts given under church auspices.
After the duettists had retired, a woman of debatable age sang a
negro melody. The chorus necessitated some grotesque waddlings supposed
to be an imitation of a plantation darkey, under the influence,
probably, of music and the moon. The audience was just enthusiastic
enough over it to have her return and sing a sorrowful lay, whose lines
told of a mother's love and a sweetheart who waited and a young man who
was lost at sea under the most harrowing circumstances. From the faces
of a score or so in the crowd, the self-contained look faded. Many
heads were bent forward with eagerness and sympathy. As the last
distressing sentiment of the piece was brought forth, it was greeted by
that kind of applause which rings as sincere.
As a final effort, the singer rendered some verses which described a
vision of Britain being annihilated by America, and Ireland bursting
her bonds. A carefully prepared crisis was reached in the last line of
the last verse, where the singer threw out her arms and cried, “The
star-spangled banner.” Instantly a great cheer swelled from the throats
of the assemblage of the masses. There was a heavy rumble of booted
feet thumping the floor. Eyes gleamed with sudden fire, and calloused
hands waved frantically in the air.
After a few moments' rest, the orchestra played crashingly, and a
small fat man burst out upon the stage. He began to roar a song and
stamp back and forth before the foot-lights, wildly waving a glossy
silk hat and throwing leers, or smiles, broadcast. He made his face
into fantastic grimaces until he looked like a pictured devil on a
Japanese kite. The crowd laughed gleefully. His short, fat legs were
never still a moment. He shouted and roared and bobbed his shock of red
wig until the audience broke out in excited applause.
Pete did not pay much attention to the progress of events upon the
stage. He was drinking beer and watching Maggie.
Her cheeks were blushing with excitement and her eyes were
glistening. She drew deep breaths of pleasure. No thoughts of the
atmosphere of the collar and cuff factory came to her.
When the orchestra crashed finally, they jostled their way to the
sidewalk with the crowd. Pete took Maggie's arm and pushed a way for
her, offering to fight with a man or two.
They reached Maggie's home at a late hour and stood for a moment in
front of the gruesome doorway.
“Say, Mag,” said Pete, “give us a kiss for takin' yeh teh deh show,
Maggie laughed, as if startled, and drew away from him.
“Naw, Pete,” she said, “dat wasn't in it.”
“Ah, what deh hell?” urged Pete.
The girl retreated nervously.
“Ah, what deh hell?” repeated he.
Maggie darted into the hall, and up the stairs. She turned and
smiled at him, then disappeared.
Pete walked slowly down the street. He had something of an
astonished expression upon his features. He paused under a lamp- post
and breathed a low breath of surprise.
“Gawd,” he said, “I wonner if I've been played fer a duffer.”
As thoughts of Pete came to Maggie's mind, she began to have an
intense dislike for all of her dresses.
“What deh hell ails yeh? What makes yeh be allus fixin' and fussin'?
Good Gawd,” her mother would frequently roar at her.
She began to note, with more interest, the well-dressed women she
met on the avenues. She envied elegance and soft palms. She craved
those adornments of person which she saw every day on the street,
conceiving them to be allies of vast importance to women.
Studying faces, she thought many of the women and girls she chanced
to meet, smiled with serenity as though forever cherished and watched
over by those they loved.
The air in the collar and cuff establishment strangled her. She knew
she was gradually and surely shrivelling in the hot, stuffy room. The
begrimed windows rattled incessantly from the passing of elevated
trains. The place was filled with a whirl of noises and odors.
She wondered as she regarded some of the grizzled women in the room,
mere mechanical contrivances sewing seams and grinding out, with heads
bended over their work, tales of imagined or real girlhood happiness,
past drunks, the baby at home, and unpaid wages. She speculated how
long her youth would endure. She began to see the bloom upon her cheeks
She imagined herself, in an exasperating future, as a scrawny woman
with an eternal grievance. Too, she thought Pete to be a very
fastidious person concerning the appearance of women.
She felt she would love to see somebody entangle their fingers in
the oily beard of the fat foreigner who owned the establishment. He was
a detestable creature. He wore white socks with low shoes. When he
tired of this amusement he would go to the mummies and moralize over
Usually he submitted with silent dignity to all which he had to go
through, but, at times, he was goaded into comment.
“What deh hell,” he demanded once. “Look at all dese little jugs!
Hundred jugs in a row! Ten rows in a case an' 'bout a t'ousand cases!
What deh blazes use is dem?”
Evenings during the week he took her to see plays in which the
brain-clutching heroine was rescued from the palatial home of her
guardian, who is cruelly after her bonds, by the hero with the
beautiful sentiments. The latter spent most of his time out at soak in
pale-green snow storms, busy with a nickel-plated revolver, rescuing
aged strangers from villains.
Maggie lost herself in sympathy with the wanderers swooning in snow
storms beneath happy-hued church windows. And a choir within singing
“Joy to the World.” To Maggie and the rest of the audience this was
transcendental realism. Joy always within, and they, like the actor,
inevitably without. Viewing it, they hugged themselves in ecstatic pity
of their imagined or real condition.
The girl thought the arrogance and granite-heartedness of the
magnate of the play was very accurately drawn. She echoed the
maledictions that the occupants of the gallery showered on this
individual when his lines compelled him to expose his extreme
Shady persons in the audience revolted from the pictured villainy of
the drama. With untiring zeal they hissed vice and applauded virtue.
Unmistakably bad men evinced an apparently sincere admiration for
The loud gallery was overwhelmingly with the unfortunate and the
oppressed. They encouraged the struggling hero with cries, and jeered
the villain, hooting and calling attention to his whiskers. When
anybody died in the pale-green snow storms, the gallery mourned. They
sought out the painted misery and hugged it as akin.
In the hero's erratic march from poverty in the first act, to wealth
and triumph in the final one, in which he forgives all the enemies that
he has left, he was assisted by the gallery, which applauded his
generous and noble sentiments and confounded the speeches of his
opponents by making irrelevant but very sharp remarks. Those actors who
were cursed with villainy parts were confronted at every turn by the
gallery. If one of them rendered lines containing the most subtile
distinctions between right and wrong, the gallery was immediately aware
if the actor meant wickedness, and denounced him accordingly.
The last act was a triumph for the hero, poor and of the masses, the
representative of the audience, over the villain and the rich man, his
pockets stuffed with bonds, his heart packed with tyrannical purposes,
imperturbable amid suffering.
Maggie always departed with raised spirits from the showing places
of the melodrama. She rejoiced at the way in which the poor and
virtuous eventually surmounted the wealthy and wicked. The theatre made
her think. She wondered if the culture and refinement she had seen
imitated, perhaps grotesquely, by the heroine on the stage, could be
acquired by a girl who lived in a tenement house and worked in a shirt
A group of urchins were intent upon the side door of a saloon.
Expectancy gleamed from their eyes. They were twisting their fingers in
“Here she comes,” yelled one of them suddenly.
The group of urchins burst instantly asunder and its individual
fragments were spread in a wide, respectable half circle about the
point of interest. The saloon door opened with a crash, and the figure
of a woman appeared upon the threshold. Her grey hair fell in knotted
masses about her shoulders. Her face was crimsoned and wet with
perspiration. Her eyes had a rolling glare.
“Not a damn cent more of me money will yehs ever get, not a damn
cent. I spent me money here fer t'ree years an' now yehs tells me
yeh'll sell me no more stuff! T'hell wid yeh, Johnnie Murckre!
'Disturbance'? Disturbance be damned! T'hell wid yeh, Johnnie—”
The door received a kick of exasperation from within and the woman
lurched heavily out on the sidewalk.
The gamins in the half-circle became violently agitated. They began
to dance about and hoot and yell and jeer. Wide dirty grins spread over
The woman made a furious dash at a particularly outrageous cluster
of little boys. They laughed delightedly and scampered off a short
distance, calling out over their shoulders to her. She stood tottering
on the curb-stone and thundered at them.
“Yeh devil's kids,” she howled, shaking red fists. The little boys
whooped in glee. As she started up the street they fell in behind and
marched uproariously. Occasionally she wheeled about and made charges
on them. They ran nimbly out of reach and taunted her.
In the frame of a gruesome doorway she stood for a moment cursing
them. Her hair straggled, giving her crimson features a look of
insanity. Her great fists quivered as she shook them madly in the air.
The urchins made terrific noises until she turned and disappeared.
Then they filed quietly in the way they had come.
The woman floundered about in the lower hall of the tenement house
and finally stumbled up the stairs. On an upper hall a door was opened
and a collection of heads peered curiously out, watching her. With a
wrathful snort the woman confronted the door, but it was slammed
hastily in her face and the key was turned.
She stood for a few minutes, delivering a frenzied challenge at the
“Come out in deh hall, Mary Murphy, damn yeh, if yehs want a row.
Come ahn, yeh overgrown terrier, come ahn.”
She began to kick the door with her great feet. She shrilly defied
the universe to appear and do battle. Her cursing trebles brought heads
from all doors save the one she threatened. Her eyes glared in every
direction. The air was full of her tossing fists.
“Come ahn, deh hull damn gang of yehs, come ahn,” she roared at the
spectators. An oath or two, cat-calls, jeers and bits of facetious
advice were given in reply. Missiles clattered about her feet.
“What deh hell's deh matter wid yeh?” said a voice in the gathered
gloom, and Jimmie came forward. He carried a tin dinner- pail in his
hand and under his arm a brown truckman's apron done in a bundle. “What
deh hell's wrong?” he demanded.
“Come out, all of yehs, come out,” his mother was howling. “Come ahn
an' I'll stamp her damn brains under me feet.”
“Shet yer face, an' come home, yeh damned old fool,” roared Jimmie
at her. She strided up to him and twirled her fingers in his face. Her
eyes were darting flames of unreasoning rage and her frame trembled
with eagerness for a fight.
“T'hell wid yehs! An' who deh hell are yehs? I ain't givin' a snap
of me fingers fer yehs,” she bawled at him. She turned her huge back in
tremendous disdain and climbed the stairs to the next floor.
Jimmie followed, cursing blackly. At the top of the flight he seized
his mother's arm and started to drag her toward the door of their room.
“Come home, damn yeh,” he gritted between his teeth.
“Take yer hands off me! Take yer hands off me,” shrieked his mother.
She raised her arm and whirled her great fist at her son's face.
Jimmie dodged his head and the blow struck him in the back of the neck.
“Damn yeh,” gritted he again. He threw out his left hand and writhed
his fingers about her middle arm. The mother and the son began to sway
and struggle like gladiators.
“Whoop!” said the Rum Alley tenement house. The hall filled with
“Hi, ol' lady, dat was a dandy!”
“T'ree to one on deh red!”
“Ah, stop yer damn scrappin'!”
The door of the Johnson home opened and Maggie looked out. Jimmie
made a supreme cursing effort and hurled his mother into the room. He
quickly followed and closed the door. The Rum Alley tenement swore
disappointedly and retired.
The mother slowly gathered herself up from the floor. Her eyes
glittered menacingly upon her children.
“Here, now,” said Jimmie, “we've had enough of dis. Sit down, an'
don' make no trouble.”
He grasped her arm, and twisting it, forced her into a creaking
“Keep yer hands off me,” roared his mother again.
“Damn yer ol' hide,” yelled Jimmie, madly. Maggie shrieked and ran
into the other room. To her there came the sound of a storm of crashes
and curses. There was a great final thump and Jimmie's voice cried:
“Dere, damn yeh, stay still.” Maggie opened the door now, and went
warily out. “Oh, Jimmie.”
He was leaning against the wall and swearing. Blood stood upon
bruises on his knotty fore-arms where they had scraped against the
floor or the walls in the scuffle. The mother lay screeching on the
floor, the tears running down her furrowed face.
Maggie, standing in the middle of the room, gazed about her. The
usual upheaval of the tables and chairs had taken place. Crockery was
strewn broadcast in fragments. The stove had been disturbed on its
legs, and now leaned idiotically to one side. A pail had been upset and
water spread in all directions.
The door opened and Pete appeared. He shrugged his shoulders. “Oh,
Gawd,” he observed.
He walked over to Maggie and whispered in her ear. “Ah, what deh
hell, Mag? Come ahn and we'll have a hell of a time.”
The mother in the corner upreared her head and shook her tangled
“Teh hell wid him and you,” she said, glowering at her daughter in
the gloom. Her eyes seemed to burn balefully. “Yeh've gone teh deh
devil, Mag Johnson, yehs knows yehs have gone teh deh devil. Yer a
disgrace teh yer people, damn yeh. An' now, git out an' go ahn wid dat
doe-faced jude of yours. Go teh hell wid him, damn yeh, an' a good
riddance. Go teh hell an' see how yeh likes it.”
Maggie gazed long at her mother.
“Go teh hell now, an' see how yeh likes it. Git out. I won't have
sech as yehs in me house! Get out, d'yeh hear! Damn yeh, git out!”
The girl began to tremble.
At this instant Pete came forward. “Oh, what deh hell, Mag, see,”
whispered he softly in her ear. “Dis all blows over. See? Deh ol' woman
'ill be all right in deh mornin'. Come ahn out wid me! We'll have a
hell of a time.”
The woman on the floor cursed. Jimmie was intent upon his bruised
fore-arms. The girl cast a glance about the room filled with a chaotic
mass of debris, and at the red, writhing body of her mother.
“Go teh hell an' good riddance.”
Jimmie had an idea it wasn't common courtesy for a friend to come to
one's home and ruin one's sister. But he was not sure how much Pete
knew about the rules of politeness.
The following night he returned home from work at rather a late hour
in the evening. In passing through the halls he came upon the gnarled
and leathery old woman who possessed the music box. She was grinning in
the dim light that drifted through dust- stained panes. She beckoned to
him with a smudged forefinger.
“Ah, Jimmie, what do yehs t'ink I got onto las' night. It was deh
funnies' t'ing I ever saw,” she cried, coming close to him and leering.
She was trembling with eagerness to tell her tale. “I was by me door
las' night when yer sister and her jude feller came in late, oh, very
late. An' she, the dear, she was a-cryin' as if her heart would break,
she was. It was deh funnies' t'ing I ever saw. An' right out here by me
door she asked him did he love her, did he. An' she was a-cryin' as if
her heart would break, poor t'ing. An' him, I could see by deh way what
he said it dat she had been askin' orften, he says: 'Oh, hell, yes,' he
says, says he, 'Oh, hell, yes.'“
Storm-clouds swept over Jimmie's face, but he turned from the
leathery old woman and plodded on up-stairs.
“Oh, hell, yes,” called she after him. She laughed a laugh that was
like a prophetic croak. “'Oh, hell, yes,' he says, says he, 'Oh, hell,
There was no one in at home. The rooms showed that attempts had been
made at tidying them. Parts of the wreckage of the day before had been
repaired by an unskilful hand. A chair or two and the table, stood
uncertainly upon legs. The floor had been newly swept. Too, the blue
ribbons had been restored to the curtains, and the lambrequin, with its
immense sheaves of yellow wheat and red roses of equal size, had been
returned, in a worn and sorry state, to its position at the mantel.
Maggie's jacket and hat were gone from the nail behind the door.
Jimmie walked to the window and began to look through the blurred
glass. It occurred to him to vaguely wonder, for an instant, if some of
the women of his acquaintance had brothers.
Suddenly, however, he began to swear.
“But he was me frien'! I brought 'im here! Dat's deh hell of it!”
He fumed about the room, his anger gradually rising to the furious
“I'll kill deh jay! Dat's what I'll do! I'll kill deh jay!”
He clutched his hat and sprang toward the door. But it opened and
his mother's great form blocked the passage.
“What deh hell's deh matter wid yeh?” exclaimed she, coming into the
Jimmie gave vent to a sardonic curse and then laughed heavily.
“Well, Maggie's gone teh deh devil! Dat's what! See?”
“Eh?” said his mother.
“Maggie's gone teh deh devil! Are yehs deaf?” roared Jimmie,
“Deh hell she has,” murmured the mother, astounded.
Jimmie grunted, and then began to stare out at the window. His
mother sat down in a chair, but a moment later sprang erect and
delivered a maddened whirl of oaths. Her son turned to look at her as
she reeled and swayed in the middle of the room, her fierce face
convulsed with passion, her blotched arms raised high in imprecation.
“May Gawd curse her forever,” she shrieked. “May she eat nothin' but
stones and deh dirt in deh street. May she sleep in deh gutter an'
never see deh sun shine agin. Deh damn—”
“Here, now,” said her son. “Take a drop on yourself.”
The mother raised lamenting eyes to the ceiling.
“She's deh devil's own chil', Jimmie,” she whispered. “Ah, who would
t'ink such a bad girl could grow up in our fambly, Jimmie, me son. Many
deh hour I've spent in talk wid dat girl an' tol' her if she ever went
on deh streets I'd see her damned. An' after all her bringin' up an'
what I tol' her and talked wid her, she goes teh deh bad, like a duck
The tears rolled down her furrowed face. Her hands trembled.
“An' den when dat Sadie MacMallister next door to us was sent teh
deh devil by dat feller what worked in deh soap-factory, didn't I tell
our Mag dat if she—”
“Ah, dat's annuder story,” interrupted the brother. “Of course, dat
Sadie was nice an' all dat—but—see—it ain't dessame as if—well,
Maggie was diff'ent—see—she was diff'ent.”
He was trying to formulate a theory that he had always unconsciously
held, that all sisters, excepting his own, could advisedly be ruined.
He suddenly broke out again. “I'll go t'ump hell outa deh mug what
did her deh harm. I'll kill 'im! He t'inks he kin scrap, but when he
gits me a-chasin' 'im he'll fin' out where he's wrong, deh damned
duffer. I'll wipe up deh street wid 'im.”
In a fury he plunged out of the doorway. As he vanished the mother
raised her head and lifted both hands, entreating.
“May Gawd curse her forever,” she cried.
In the darkness of the hallway Jimmie discerned a knot of women
talking volubly. When he strode by they paid no attention to him.
“She allus was a bold thing,” he heard one of them cry in an eager
voice. “Dere wasn't a feller come teh deh house but she'd try teh mash
'im. My Annie says deh shameless t'ing tried teh ketch her feller, her
own feller, what we useter know his fader.”
“I could a' tol' yehs dis two years ago,” said a woman, in a key of
triumph. “Yessir, it was over two years ago dat I says teh my ol' man,
I says, 'Dat Johnson girl ain't straight,' I says. 'Oh, hell,' he says.
'Oh, hell.' 'Dat's all right,' I says, 'but I know what I knows,' I
says, 'an' it 'ill come out later. You wait an' see,' I says, 'you
“Anybody what had eyes could see dat dere was somethin' wrong wid
dat girl. I didn't like her actions.”
On the street Jimmie met a friend. “What deh hell?” asked the
Jimmie explained. “An' I'll t'ump 'im till he can't stand.”
“Oh, what deh hell,” said the friend. “What's deh use! Yeh'll git
pulled in! Everybody 'ill be onto it! An' ten plunks! Gee!”
Jimmie was determined. “He t'inks he kin scrap, but he'll fin' out
“Gee,” remonstrated the friend. “What deh hell?”
On a corner a glass-fronted building shed a yellow glare upon the
pavements. The open mouth of a saloon called seductively to passengers
to enter and annihilate sorrow or create rage.
The interior of the place was papered in olive and bronze tints of
imitation leather. A shining bar of counterfeit massiveness extended
down the side of the room. Behind it a great mahogany-appearing
sideboard reached the ceiling. Upon its shelves rested pyramids of
shimmering glasses that were never disturbed. Mirrors set in the face
of the sideboard multiplied them. Lemons, oranges and paper napkins,
arranged with mathematical precision, sat among the glasses. Many-hued
decanters of liquor perched at regular intervals on the lower shelves.
A nickel-plated cash register occupied a position in the exact centre
of the general effect. The elementary senses of it all seemed to be
opulence and geometrical accuracy.
Across from the bar a smaller counter held a collection of plates
upon which swarmed frayed fragments of crackers, slices of boiled ham,
dishevelled bits of cheese, and pickles swimming in vinegar. An odor of
grasping, begrimed hands and munching mouths pervaded.
Pete, in a white jacket, was behind the bar bending expectantly
toward a quiet stranger. “A beeh,” said the man. Pete drew a
foam-topped glassful and set it dripping upon the bar.
At this moment the light bamboo doors at the entrance swung open and
crashed against the siding. Jimmie and a companion entered. They
swaggered unsteadily but belligerently toward the bar and looked at
Pete with bleared and blinking eyes.
“Gin,” said Jimmie.
“Gin,” said the companion.
Pete slid a bottle and two glasses along the bar. He bended his head
sideways as he assiduously polished away with a napkin at the gleaming
wood. He had a look of watchfulness upon his features.
Jimmie and his companion kept their eyes upon the bartender and
conversed loudly in tones of contempt.
“He's a dindy masher, ain't he, by Gawd?” laughed Jimmie.
“Oh, hell, yes,” said the companion, sneering widely. “He's great,
he is. Git onto deh mug on deh blokie. Dat's enough to make a feller
turn hand-springs in 'is sleep.”
The quiet stranger moved himself and his glass a trifle further away
and maintained an attitude of oblivion.
“Gee! ain't he hot stuff!”
“Git onto his shape! Great Gawd!”
“Hey,” cried Jimmie, in tones of command. Pete came along slowly,
with a sullen dropping of the under lip.
“Well,” he growled, “what's eatin' yehs?”
“Gin,” said Jimmie.
“Gin,” said the companion.
As Pete confronted them with the bottle and the glasses, they
laughed in his face. Jimmie's companion, evidently overcome with
merriment, pointed a grimy forefinger in Pete's direction.
“Say, Jimmie,” demanded he, “what deh hell is dat behind deh bar?”
“Damned if I knows,” replied Jimmie. They laughed loudly. Pete put
down a bottle with a bang and turned a formidable face toward them. He
disclosed his teeth and his shoulders heaved restlessly.
“You fellers can't guy me,” he said. “Drink yer stuff an' git out
an' don' make no trouble.”
Instantly the laughter faded from the faces of the two men and
expressions of offended dignity immediately came.
“Who deh hell has said anyt'ing teh you,” cried they in the same
The quiet stranger looked at the door calculatingly.
“Ah, come off,” said Pete to the two men. “Don't pick me up for no
jay. Drink yer rum an' git out an' don' make no trouble.”
“Oh, deh hell,” airily cried Jimmie.
“Oh, deh hell,” airily repeated his companion.
“We goes when we git ready! See!” continued Jimmie.
“Well,” said Pete in a threatening voice, “don' make no trouble.”
Jimmie suddenly leaned forward with his head on one side. He snarled
like a wild animal.
“Well, what if we does? See?” said he.
Dark blood flushed into Pete's face, and he shot a lurid glance at
“Well, den we'll see whose deh bes' man, you or me,” he said.
The quiet stranger moved modestly toward the door.
Jimmie began to swell with valor.
“Don' pick me up fer no tenderfoot. When yeh tackles me yeh tackles
one of deh bes' men in deh city. See? I'm a scrapper, I am. Ain't dat
“Sure, Mike,” responded his companion in tones of conviction.
“Oh, hell,” said Pete, easily. “Go fall on yerself.”
The two men again began to laugh.
“What deh hell is dat talkin'?” cried the companion.
“Damned if I knows,” replied Jimmie with exaggerated contempt.
Pete made a furious gesture. “Git outa here now, an' don' make no
trouble. See? Youse fellers er lookin' fer a scrap an' it's damn likely
yeh'll fin' one if yeh keeps on shootin' off yer mout's. I know yehs!
See? I kin lick better men dan yehs ever saw in yer lifes. Dat's right!
See? Don' pick me up fer no stuff er yeh might be jolted out in deh
street before yeh knows where yeh is. When I comes from behind dis bar,
I t'rows yehs bote inteh deh street. See?”
“Oh, hell,” cried the two men in chorus.
The glare of a panther came into Pete's eyes. “Dat's what I said!
He came through a passage at the end of the bar and swelled down
upon the two men. They stepped promptly forward and crowded close to
They bristled like three roosters. They moved their heads
pugnaciously and kept their shoulders braced. The nervous muscles about
each mouth twitched with a forced smile of mockery.
“Well, what deh hell yer goin' teh do?” gritted Jimmie.
Pete stepped warily back, waving his hands before him to keep the
men from coming too near.
“Well, what deh hell yer goin' teh do?” repeated Jimmie's ally. They
kept close to him, taunting and leering. They strove to make him
attempt the initial blow.
“Keep back, now! Don' crowd me,” ominously said Pete.
Again they chorused in contempt. “Oh, hell!”
In a small, tossing group, the three men edged for positions like
frigates contemplating battle.
“Well, why deh hell don' yeh try teh t'row us out?” cried Jimmie and
his ally with copious sneers.
The bravery of bull-dogs sat upon the faces of the men. Their
clenched fists moved like eager weapons.
The allied two jostled the bartender's elbows, glaring at him with
feverish eyes and forcing him toward the wall.
Suddenly Pete swore redly. The flash of action gleamed from his
eyes. He threw back his arm and aimed a tremendous, lightning- like
blow at Jimmie's face. His foot swung a step forward and the weight of
his body was behind his fist. Jimmie ducked his head, Bowery-like, with
the quickness of a cat. The fierce, answering blows of him and his ally
crushed on Pete's bowed head.
The quiet stranger vanished.
The arms of the combatants whirled in the air like flails. The faces
of the men, at first flushed to flame-colored anger, now began to fade
to the pallor of warriors in the blood and heat of a battle. Their lips
curled back and stretched tightly over the gums in ghoul-like grins.
Through their white, gripped teeth struggled hoarse whisperings of
oaths. Their eyes glittered with murderous fire.
Each head was huddled between its owner's shoulders, and arms were
swinging with marvelous rapidity. Feet scraped to and fro with a loud
scratching sound upon the sanded floor. Blows left crimson blotches
upon pale skin. The curses of the first quarter minute of the fight
died away. The breaths of the fighters came wheezingly from their lips
and the three chests were straining and heaving. Pete at intervals gave
vent to low, labored hisses, that sounded like a desire to kill.
Jimmie's ally gibbered at times like a wounded maniac. Jimmie was
silent, fighting with the face of a sacrificial priest. The rage of
fear shone in all their eyes and their blood-colored fists swirled.
At a tottering moment a blow from Pete's hand struck the ally and he
crashed to the floor. He wriggled instantly to his feet and grasping
the quiet stranger's beer glass from the bar, hurled it at Pete's head.
High on the wall it burst like a bomb, shivering fragments flying in
all directions. Then missiles came to every man's hand. The place had
heretofore appeared free of things to throw, but suddenly glass and
bottles went singing through the air. They were thrown point blank at
bobbing heads. The pyramid of shimmering glasses, that had never been
disturbed, changed to cascades as heavy bottles were flung into them.
Mirrors splintered to nothing.
The three frothing creatures on the floor buried themselves in a
frenzy for blood. There followed in the wake of missiles and fists some
unknown prayers, perhaps for death.
The quiet stranger had sprawled very pyrotechnically out on the
sidewalk. A laugh ran up and down the avenue for the half of a block.
“Dey've trowed a bloke inteh deh street.”
People heard the sound of breaking glass and shuffling feet within
the saloon and came running. A small group, bending down to look under
the bamboo doors, watching the fall of glass, and three pairs of
violent legs, changed in a moment to a crowd.
A policeman came charging down the sidewalk and bounced through the
doors into the saloon. The crowd bended and surged in absorbing anxiety
Jimmie caught first sight of the on-coming interruption. On his feet
he had the same regard for a policeman that, when on his truck, he had
for a fire engine. He howled and ran for the side door.
The officer made a terrific advance, club in hand. One comprehensive
sweep of the long night stick threw the ally to the floor and forced
Pete to a corner. With his disengaged hand he made a furious effort at
Jimmie's coat-tails. Then he regained his balance and paused.
“Well, well, you are a pair of pictures. What in hell yeh been up
Jimmie, with his face drenched in blood, escaped up a side street,
pursued a short distance by some of the more law-loving, or excited
individuals of the crowd.
Later, from a corner safely dark, he saw the policeman, the ally and
the bartender emerge from the saloon. Pete locked the doors and then
followed up the avenue in the rear of the crowd- encompassed policeman
and his charge.
On first thoughts Jimmie, with his heart throbbing at battle heat,
started to go desperately to the rescue of his friend, but he halted.
“Ah, what deh hell?” he demanded of himself.
In a hall of irregular shape sat Pete and Maggie drinking beer. A
submissive orchestra dictated to by a spectacled man with frowsy hair
and a dress suit, industriously followed the bobs of his head and the
waves of his baton. A ballad singer, in a dress of flaming scarlet,
sang in the inevitable voice of brass. When she vanished, men seated at
the tables near the front applauded loudly, pounding the polished wood
with their beer glasses. She returned attired in less gown, and sang
again. She received another enthusiastic encore. She reappeared in
still less gown and danced. The deafening rumble of glasses and
clapping of hands that followed her exit indicated an overwhelming
desire to have her come on for the fourth time, but the curiosity of
the audience was not gratified.
Maggie was pale. From her eyes had been plucked all look of
self-reliance. She leaned with a dependent air toward her companion.
She was timid, as if fearing his anger or displeasure. She seemed to
beseech tenderness of him.
Pete's air of distinguished valor had grown upon him until it
threatened stupendous dimensions. He was infinitely gracious to the
girl. It was apparent to her that his condescension was a marvel.
He could appear to strut even while sitting still and he showed that
he was a lion of lordly characteristics by the air with which he spat.
With Maggie gazing at him wonderingly, he took pride in commanding
the waiters who were, however, indifferent or deaf.
“Hi, you, git a russle on yehs! What deh hell yehs lookin' at? Two
more beehs, d'yeh hear?”
He leaned back and critically regarded the person of a girl with a
straw-colored wig who upon the stage was flinging her heels in somewhat
awkward imitation of a well-known danseuse.
At times Maggie told Pete long confidential tales of her former home
life, dwelling upon the escapades of the other members of the family
and the difficulties she had to combat in order to obtain a degree of
comfort. He responded in tones of philanthropy. He pressed her arm with
an air of reassuring proprietorship.
“Dey was damn jays,” he said, denouncing the mother and brother.
The sound of the music which, by the efforts of the frowsy- headed
leader, drifted to her ears through the smoke-filled atmosphere, made
the girl dream. She thought of her former Rum Alley environment and
turned to regard Pete's strong protecting fists. She thought of the
collar and cuff manufactory and the eternal moan of the proprietor:
“What een hell do you sink I pie fife dolla a week for? Play? No, py
damn.” She contemplated Pete's man-subduing eyes and noted that wealth
and prosperity was indicated by his clothes. She imagined a future,
rose-tinted, because of its distance from all that she previously had
As to the present she perceived only vague reasons to be miserable.
Her life was Pete's and she considered him worthy of the charge. She
would be disturbed by no particular apprehensions, so long as Pete
adored her as he now said he did. She did not feel like a bad woman. To
her knowledge she had never seen any better.
At times men at other tables regarded the girl furtively. Pete,
aware of it, nodded at her and grinned. He felt proud.
“Mag, yer a bloomin' good-looker,” he remarked, studying her face
through the haze. The men made Maggie fear, but she blushed at Pete's
words as it became apparent to her that she was the apple of his eye.
Grey-headed men, wonderfully pathetic in their dissipation, stared
at her through clouds. Smooth-cheeked boys, some of them with faces of
stone and mouths of sin, not nearly so pathetic as the grey heads,
tried to find the girl's eyes in the smoke wreaths. Maggie considered
she was not what they thought her. She confined her glances to Pete and
The orchestra played negro melodies and a versatile drummer pounded,
whacked, clattered and scratched on a dozen machines to make noise.
Those glances of the men, shot at Maggie from under half-closed
lids, made her tremble. She thought them all to be worse men than Pete.
“Come, let's go,” she said.
As they went out Maggie perceived two women seated at a table with
some men. They were painted and their cheeks had lost their roundness.
As she passed them the girl, with a shrinking movement, drew back her
Jimmie did not return home for a number of days after the fight with
Pete in the saloon. When he did, he approached with extreme caution.
He found his mother raving. Maggie had not returned home. The parent
continually wondered how her daughter could come to such a pass. She
had never considered Maggie as a pearl dropped unstained into Rum Alley
from Heaven, but she could not conceive how it was possible for her
daughter to fall so low as to bring disgrace upon her family. She was
terrific in denunciation of the girl's wickedness.
The fact that the neighbors talked of it, maddened her. When women
came in, and in the course of their conversation casually asked,
“Where's Maggie dese days?” the mother shook her fuzzy head at them and
appalled them with curses. Cunning hints inviting confidence she
rebuffed with violence.
“An' wid all deh bringin' up she had, how could she?” moaningly she
asked of her son. “Wid all deh talkin' wid her I did an' deh t'ings I
tol' her to remember? When a girl is bringed up deh way I bringed up
Maggie, how kin she go teh deh devil?”
Jimmie was transfixed by these questions. He could not conceive how
under the circumstances his mother's daughter and his sister could have
been so wicked.
His mother took a drink from a squdgy bottle that sat on the table.
She continued her lament.
“She had a bad heart, dat girl did, Jimmie. She was wicked teh deh
heart an' we never knowed it.”
Jimmie nodded, admitting the fact.
“We lived in deh same house wid her an' I brought her up an' we
never knowed how bad she was.”
Jimmie nodded again.
“Wid a home like dis an' a mudder like me, she went teh deh bad,”
cried the mother, raising her eyes.
One day, Jimmie came home, sat down in a chair and began to wriggle
about with a new and strange nervousness. At last he spoke
“Well, look-a-here, dis t'ing queers us! See? We're queered! An'
maybe it 'ud be better if I—well, I t'ink I kin look 'er up an'—maybe
it 'ud be better if I fetched her home an'—”
The mother started from her chair and broke forth into a storm of
“What! Let 'er come an' sleep under deh same roof wid her mudder
agin! Oh, yes, I will, won't I? Sure? Shame on yehs, Jimmie Johnson,
for sayin' such a t'ing teh yer own mudder—teh yer own mudder! Little
did I t'ink when yehs was a babby playin' about me feet dat ye'd grow
up teh say sech a t'ing teh yer mudder—yer own mudder. I never taut—”
Sobs choked her and interrupted her reproaches.
“Dere ain't nottin' teh raise sech hell about,” said Jimmie. “I on'y
says it 'ud be better if we keep dis t'ing dark, see? It queers us!
His mother laughed a laugh that seemed to ring through the city and
be echoed and re-echoed by countless other laughs. “Oh, yes, I will,
won't I! Sure!”
“Well, yeh must take me fer a damn fool,” said Jimmie, indignant at
his mother for mocking him. “I didn't say we'd make 'er inteh a little
tin angel, ner nottin', but deh way it is now she can queer us! Don'
“Aye, she'll git tired of deh life atter a while an' den she'll
wanna be a-comin' home, won' she, deh beast! I'll let 'er in den, won'
“Well, I didn' mean none of dis prod'gal bus'ness anyway,” explained
“It wasn't no prod'gal dauter, yeh damn fool,” said the mother. “It
was prod'gal son, anyhow.”
“I know dat,” said Jimmie.
For a time they sat in silence. The mother's eyes gloated on a scene
her imagination could call before her. Her lips were set in a
“Aye, she'll cry, won' she, an' carry on, an' tell how Pete, or some
odder feller, beats 'er an' she'll say she's sorry an' all dat an' she
ain't happy, she ain't, an' she wants to come home agin, she does.”
With grim humor, the mother imitated the possible wailing notes of
the daughter's voice.
“Den I'll take 'er in, won't I, deh beast. She kin cry 'er two eyes
out on deh stones of deh street before I'll dirty deh place wid her.
She abused an' ill-treated her own mudder—her own mudder what loved
her an' she'll never git anodder chance dis side of hell.”
Jimmie thought he had a great idea of women's frailty, but he could
not understand why any of his kin should be victims.
“Damn her,” he fervidly said.
Again he wondered vaguely if some of the women of his acquaintance
had brothers. Nevertheless, his mind did not for an instant confuse
himself with those brothers nor his sister with theirs. After the
mother had, with great difficulty, suppressed the neighbors, she went
among them and proclaimed her grief. “May Gawd forgive dat girl,” was
her continual cry. To attentive ears she recited the whole length and
breadth of her woes.
“I bringed 'er up deh way a dauter oughta be bringed up an' dis is
how she served me! She went teh deh devil deh first chance she got! May
Gawd forgive her.”
When arrested for drunkenness she used the story of her daughter's
downfall with telling effect upon the police justices. Finally one of
them said to her, peering down over his spectacles: “Mary, the records
of this and other courts show that you are the mother of forty-two
daughters who have been ruined. The case is unparalleled in the annals
of this court, and this court thinks—”
The mother went through life shedding large tears of sorrow. Her red
face was a picture of agony.
Of course Jimmie publicly damned his sister that he might appear on
a higher social plane. But, arguing with himself, stumbling about in
ways that he knew not, he, once, almost came to a conclusion that his
sister would have been more firmly good had she better known why.
However, he felt that he could not hold such a view. He threw it
In a hilarious hall there were twenty-eight tables and twenty- eight
women and a crowd of smoking men. Valiant noise was made on a stage at
the end of the hall by an orchestra composed of men who looked as if
they had just happened in. Soiled waiters ran to and fro, swooping down
like hawks on the unwary in the throng; clattering along the aisles
with trays covered with glasses; stumbling over women's skirts and
charging two prices for everything but beer, all with a swiftness that
blurred the view of the cocoanut palms and dusty monstrosities painted
upon the walls of the room. A bouncer, with an immense load of business
upon his hands, plunged about in the crowd, dragging bashful strangers
to prominent chairs, ordering waiters here and there and quarreling
furiously with men who wanted to sing with the orchestra.
The usual smoke cloud was present, but so dense that heads and arms
seemed entangled in it. The rumble of conversation was replaced by a
roar. Plenteous oaths heaved through the air. The room rang with the
shrill voices of women bubbling o'er with drink-laughter. The chief
element in the music of the orchestra was speed. The musicians played
in intent fury. A woman was singing and smiling upon the stage, but no
one took notice of her. The rate at which the piano, cornet and violins
were going, seemed to impart wildness to the half-drunken crowd. Beer
glasses were emptied at a gulp and conversation became a rapid chatter.
The smoke eddied and swirled like a shadowy river hurrying toward some
unseen falls. Pete and Maggie entered the hall and took chairs at a
table near the door. The woman who was seated there made an attempt to
occupy Pete's attention and, failing, went away.
Three weeks had passed since the girl had left home. The air of
spaniel-like dependence had been magnified and showed its direct effect
in the peculiar off-handedness and ease of Pete's ways toward her.
She followed Pete's eyes with hers, anticipating with smiles
gracious looks from him.
A woman of brilliance and audacity, accompanied by a mere boy, came
into the place and took seats near them.
At once Pete sprang to his feet, his face beaming with glad
“By Gawd, there's Nellie,” he cried.
He went over to the table and held out an eager hand to the woman.
“Why, hello, Pete, me boy, how are you,” said she, giving him her
Maggie took instant note of the woman. She perceived that her black
dress fitted her to perfection. Her linen collar and cuffs were
spotless. Tan gloves were stretched over her well-shaped hands. A hat
of a prevailing fashion perched jauntily upon her dark hair. She wore
no jewelry and was painted with no apparent paint. She looked
clear-eyed through the stares of the men.
“Sit down, and call your lady-friend over,” she said cordially to
Pete. At his beckoning Maggie came and sat between Pete and the mere
“I thought yeh were gone away fer good,” began Pete, at once. “When
did yeh git back? How did dat Buff'lo bus'ness turn out?”
The woman shrugged her shoulders. “Well, he didn't have as many
stamps as he tried to make out, so I shook him, that's all.”
“Well, I'm glad teh see yehs back in deh city,” said Pete, with
He and the woman entered into a long conversation, exchanging
reminiscences of days together. Maggie sat still, unable to formulate
an intelligent sentence upon the conversation and painfully aware of
She saw Pete's eyes sparkle as he gazed upon the handsome stranger.
He listened smilingly to all she said. The woman was familiar with all
his affairs, asked him about mutual friends, and knew the amount of his
She paid no attention to Maggie, looking toward her once or twice
and apparently seeing the wall beyond.
The mere boy was sulky. In the beginning he had welcomed with
acclamations the additions.
“Let's all have a drink! What'll you take, Nell? And you, Miss
what's-your-name. Have a drink, Mr. ——-, you, I mean.”
He had shown a sprightly desire to do the talking for the company
and tell all about his family. In a loud voice he declaimed on various
topics. He assumed a patronizing air toward Pete. As Maggie was silent,
he paid no attention to her. He made a great show of lavishing wealth
upon the woman of brilliance and audacity.
“Do keep still, Freddie! You gibber like an ape, dear,” said the
woman to him. She turned away and devoted her attention to Pete.
“We'll have many a good time together again, eh?”
“Sure, Mike,” said Pete, enthusiastic at once.
“Say,” whispered she, leaning forward, “let's go over to Billie's
and have a heluva time.”
“Well, it's dis way! See?” said Pete. I got dis lady frien' here.”
“Oh, t'hell with her,” argued the woman.
Pete appeared disturbed.
“All right,” said she, nodding her head at him. “All right for you!
We'll see the next time you ask me to go anywheres with you.”
“Say,” he said, beseechingly, “come wid me a minit an' I'll tell yer
The woman waved her hand.
“Oh, that's all right, you needn't explain, you know. You wouldn't
come merely because you wouldn't come, that's all there is of it.”
To Pete's visible distress she turned to the mere boy, bringing him
speedily from a terrific rage. He had been debating whether it would be
the part of a man to pick a quarrel with Pete, or would he be justified
in striking him savagely with his beer glass without warning. But he
recovered himself when the woman turned to renew her smilings. He
beamed upon her with an expression that was somewhat tipsy and
“Say, shake that Bowery jay,” requested he, in a loud whisper.
“Freddie, you are so droll,” she replied.
Pete reached forward and touched the woman on the arm.
“Come out a minit while I tells yeh why I can't go wid yer. Yer
doin' me dirt, Nell! I never taut ye'd do me dirt, Nell. Come on, will
yer?” He spoke in tones of injury.
“Why, I don't see why I should be interested in your explanations,”
said the woman, with a coldness that seemed to reduce Pete to a pulp.
His eyes pleaded with her. “Come out a minit while I tells yeh.”
The woman nodded slightly at Maggie and the mere boy, “'Scuse me.”
The mere boy interrupted his loving smile and turned a shrivelling
glare upon Pete. His boyish countenance flushed and he spoke, in a
whine, to the woman:
“Oh, I say, Nellie, this ain't a square deal, you know. You aren't
goin' to leave me and go off with that duffer, are you? I should
“Why, you dear boy, of course I'm not,” cried the woman,
affectionately. She bended over and whispered in his ear. He smiled
again and settled in his chair as if resolved to wait patiently.
As the woman walked down between the rows of tables, Pete was at her
shoulder talking earnestly, apparently in explanation. The woman waved
her hands with studied airs of indifference. The doors swung behind
them, leaving Maggie and the mere boy seated at the table.
Maggie was dazed. She could dimly perceive that something stupendous
had happened. She wondered why Pete saw fit to remonstrate with the
woman, pleading for forgiveness with his eyes. She thought she noted an
air of submission about her leonine Pete. She was astounded.
The mere boy occupied himself with cock-tails and a cigar. He was
tranquilly silent for half an hour. Then he bestirred himself and
“Well,” he said, sighing, “I knew this was the way it would be.”
There was another stillness. The mere boy seemed to be musing.
“She was pulling m'leg. That's the whole amount of it,” he said,
suddenly. “It's a bloomin' shame the way that girl does. Why, I've
spent over two dollars in drinks to-night. And she goes off with that
plug-ugly who looks as if he had been hit in the face with a coin-die.
I call it rocky treatment for a fellah like me. Here, waiter, bring me
a cock-tail and make it damned strong.”
Maggie made no reply. She was watching the doors. “It's a mean piece
of business,” complained the mere boy. He explained to her how amazing
it was that anybody should treat him in such a manner. “But I'll get
square with her, you bet. She won't get far ahead of yours truly, you
know,” he added, winking. “I'll tell her plainly that it was bloomin'
mean business. And she won't come it over me with any of her
'now-Freddie-dears.' She thinks my name is Freddie, you know, but of
course it ain't. I always tell these people some name like that,
because if they got onto your right name they might use it sometime.
Understand? Oh, they don't fool me much.”
Maggie was paying no attention, being intent upon the doors. The
mere boy relapsed into a period of gloom, during which he exterminated
a number of cock-tails with a determined air, as if replying defiantly
to fate. He occasionally broke forth into sentences composed of
invectives joined together in a long string.
The girl was still staring at the doors. After a time the mere boy
began to see cobwebs just in front of his nose. He spurred himself into
being agreeable and insisted upon her having a charlotte-russe and a
glass of beer.
“They's gone,” he remarked, “they's gone.” He looked at her through
the smoke wreaths. “Shay, lil' girl, we mightish well make bes' of it.
You ain't such bad-lookin' girl, y'know. Not half bad. Can't come up to
Nell, though. No, can't do it! Well, I should shay not! Nell
fine-lookin' girl! F—i—n—ine. You look damn bad longsider her, but
by y'self ain't so bad. Have to do anyhow. Nell gone. On'y you left.
Not half bad, though.”
Maggie stood up.
“I'm going home,” she said.
The mere boy started.
“Eh? What? Home,” he cried, struck with amazement. “I beg pardon,
did hear say home?”
“I'm going home,” she repeated.
“Great Gawd, what hava struck,” demanded the mere boy of himself,
In a semi-comatose state he conducted her on board an up-town car,
ostentatiously paid her fare, leered kindly at her through the rear
window and fell off the steps.
A forlorn woman went along a lighted avenue. The street was filled
with people desperately bound on missions. An endless crowd darted at
the elevated station stairs and the horse cars were thronged with
owners of bundles.
The pace of the forlorn woman was slow. She was apparently searching
for some one. She loitered near the doors of saloons and watched men
emerge from them. She scanned furtively the faces in the rushing stream
of pedestrians. Hurrying men, bent on catching some boat or train,
jostled her elbows, failing to notice her, their thoughts fixed on
The forlorn woman had a peculiar face. Her smile was no smile. But
when in repose her features had a shadowy look that was like a sardonic
grin, as if some one had sketched with cruel forefinger indelible lines
about her mouth.
Jimmie came strolling up the avenue. The woman encountered him with
an aggrieved air.
“Oh, Jimmie, I've been lookin' all over fer yehs—,” she began.
Jimmie made an impatient gesture and quickened his pace.
“Ah, don't bodder me! Good Gawd!” he said, with the savageness of a
man whose life is pestered.
The woman followed him along the sidewalk in somewhat the manner of
“But, Jimmie,” she said, “yehs told me ye'd—”
Jimmie turned upon her fiercely as if resolved to make a last stand
for comfort and peace.
“Say, fer Gawd's sake, Hattie, don' foller me from one end of deh
city teh deh odder. Let up, will yehs! Give me a minute's res', can't
yehs? Yehs makes me tired, allus taggin' me. See? Ain' yehs got no
sense. Do yehs want people teh get onto me? Go chase yerself, fer
The woman stepped closer and laid her fingers on his arm. “But,
Jimmie snarled. “Oh, go teh hell.”
He darted into the front door of a convenient saloon and a moment
later came out into the shadows that surrounded the side door. On the
brilliantly lighted avenue he perceived the forlorn woman dodging about
like a scout. Jimmie laughed with an air of relief and went away.
When he arrived home he found his mother clamoring. Maggie had
returned. She stood shivering beneath the torrent of her mother's
“Well, I'm damned,” said Jimmie in greeting.
His mother, tottering about the room, pointed a quivering
“Lookut her, Jimmie, lookut her. Dere's yer sister, boy. Dere's yer
sister. Lookut her! Lookut her!”
She screamed in scoffing laughter.
The girl stood in the middle of the room. She edged about as if
unable to find a place on the floor to put her feet.
“Ha, ha, ha,” bellowed the mother. “Dere she stands! Ain' she purty?
Lookut her! Ain' she sweet, deh beast? Lookut her! Ha, ha, lookut her!”
She lurched forward and put her red and seamed hands upon her
daughter's face. She bent down and peered keenly up into the eyes of
“Oh, she's jes' dessame as she ever was, ain' she? She's her
mudder's purty darlin' yit, ain' she? Lookut her, Jimmie! Come here,
fer Gawd's sake, and lookut her.”
The loud, tremendous sneering of the mother brought the denizens of
the Rum Alley tenement to their doors. Women came in the hallways.
Children scurried to and fro.
“What's up? Dat Johnson party on anudder tear?”
“Naw! Young Mag's come home!”
“Deh hell yeh say?”
Through the open door curious eyes stared in at Maggie. Children
ventured into the room and ogled her, as if they formed the front row
at a theatre. Women, without, bended toward each other and whispered,
nodding their heads with airs of profound philosophy. A baby, overcome
with curiosity concerning this object at which all were looking, sidled
forward and touched her dress, cautiously, as if investigating a
red-hot stove. Its mother's voice rang out like a warning trumpet. She
rushed forward and grabbed her child, casting a terrible look of
indignation at the girl.
Maggie's mother paced to and fro, addressing the doorful of eyes,
expounding like a glib showman at a museum. Her voice rang through the
“Dere she stands,” she cried, wheeling suddenly and pointing with
dramatic finger. “Dere she stands! Lookut her! Ain' she a dindy? An'
she was so good as to come home teh her mudder, she was! Ain' she a
beaut'? Ain' she a dindy? Fer Gawd's sake!”
The jeering cries ended in another burst of shrill laughter.
The girl seemed to awaken. “Jimmie—”
He drew hastily back from her.
“Well, now, yer a hell of a t'ing, ain' yeh?” he said, his lips
curling in scorn. Radiant virtue sat upon his brow and his repelling
hands expressed horror of contamination.
Maggie turned and went.
The crowd at the door fell back precipitately. A baby falling down
in front of the door, wrenched a scream like a wounded animal from its
mother. Another woman sprang forward and picked it up, with a
chivalrous air, as if rescuing a human being from an oncoming express
As the girl passed down through the hall, she went before open doors
framing more eyes strangely microscopic, and sending broad beams of
inquisitive light into the darkness of her path. On the second floor
she met the gnarled old woman who possessed the music box.
“So,” she cried, “'ere yehs are back again, are yehs? An' dey've
kicked yehs out? Well, come in an' stay wid me teh-night. I ain' got no
From above came an unceasing babble of tongues, over all of which
rang the mother's derisive laughter.
Pete did not consider that he had ruined Maggie. If he had thought
that her soul could never smile again, he would have believed the
mother and brother, who were pyrotechnic over the affair, to be
responsible for it.
Besides, in his world, souls did not insist upon being able to
smile. “What deh hell?”
He felt a trifle entangled. It distressed him. Revelations and
scenes might bring upon him the wrath of the owner of the saloon, who
insisted upon respectability of an advanced type.
“What deh hell do dey wanna raise such a smoke about it fer?”
demanded he of himself, disgusted with the attitude of the family. He
saw no necessity for anyone's losing their equilibrium merely because
their sister or their daughter had stayed away from home.
Searching about in his mind for possible reasons for their conduct,
he came upon the conclusion that Maggie's motives were correct, but
that the two others wished to snare him. He felt pursued.
The woman of brilliance and audacity whom he had met in the
hilarious hall showed a disposition to ridicule him.
“A little pale thing with no spirit,” she said. “Did you note the
expression of her eyes? There was something in them about pumpkin pie
and virtue. That is a peculiar way the left corner of her mouth has of
twitching, isn't it? Dear, dear, my cloud- compelling Pete, what are
you coming to?”
Pete asserted at once that he never was very much interested in the
girl. The woman interrupted him, laughing.
“Oh, it's not of the slightest consequence to me, my dear young man.
You needn't draw maps for my benefit. Why should I be concerned about
But Pete continued with his explanations. If he was laughed at for
his tastes in women, he felt obliged to say that they were only
temporary or indifferent ones.
The morning after Maggie had departed from home, Pete stood behind
the bar. He was immaculate in white jacket and apron and his hair was
plastered over his brow with infinite correctness. No customers were in
the place. Pete was twisting his napkined fist slowly in a beer glass,
softly whistling to himself and occasionally holding the object of his
attention between his eyes and a few weak beams of sunlight that had
found their way over the thick screens and into the shaded room.
With lingering thoughts of the woman of brilliance and audacity, the
bartender raised his head and stared through the varying cracks between
the swaying bamboo doors. Suddenly the whistling pucker faded from his
lips. He saw Maggie walking slowly past. He gave a great start, fearing
for the previously- mentioned eminent respectability of the place.
He threw a swift, nervous glance about him, all at once feeling
guilty. No one was in the room.
He went hastily over to the side door. Opening it and looking out,
he perceived Maggie standing, as if undecided, on the corner. She was
searching the place with her eyes.
As she turned her face toward him Pete beckoned to her hurriedly,
intent upon returning with speed to a position behind the bar and to
the atmosphere of respectability upon which the proprietor insisted.
Maggie came to him, the anxious look disappearing from her face and
a smile wreathing her lips.
“Oh, Pete—,” she began brightly.
The bartender made a violent gesture of impatience.
“Oh, my Gawd,” cried he, vehemently. “What deh hell do yeh wanna
hang aroun' here fer? Do yeh wanna git me inteh trouble?” he demanded
with an air of injury.
Astonishment swept over the girl's features. “Why, Pete! yehs tol'
Pete glanced profound irritation. His countenance reddened with the
anger of a man whose respectability is being threatened.
“Say, yehs makes me tired. See? What deh hell deh yeh wanna tag
aroun' atter me fer? Yeh'll git me inteh trouble wid deh ol' man an'
dey'll be hell teh pay! If he sees a woman roun' here he'll go crazy
an' I'll lose me job! See? Yer brudder come in here an' raised hell an'
deh ol' man hada put up fer it! An' now I'm done! See? I'm done.”
The girl's eyes stared into his face. “Pete, don't yeh remem—”
“Oh, hell,” interrupted Pete, anticipating.
The girl seemed to have a struggle with herself. She was apparently
bewildered and could not find speech. Finally she asked in a low voice:
“But where kin I go?”
The question exasperated Pete beyond the powers of endurance. It was
a direct attempt to give him some responsibility in a matter that did
not concern him. In his indignation he volunteered information.
“Oh, go teh hell,” cried he. He slammed the door furiously and
returned, with an air of relief, to his respectability.
Maggie went away.
She wandered aimlessly for several blocks. She stopped once and
asked aloud a question of herself: “Who?”
A man who was passing near her shoulder, humorously took the
questioning word as intended for him.
“Eh? What? Who? Nobody! I didn't say anything,” he laughingly said,
and continued his way.
Soon the girl discovered that if she walked with such apparent
aimlessness, some men looked at her with calculating eyes. She
quickened her step, frightened. As a protection, she adopted a demeanor
of intentness as if going somewhere.
After a time she left rattling avenues and passed between rows of
houses with sternness and stolidity stamped upon their features. She
hung her head for she felt their eyes grimly upon her.
Suddenly she came upon a stout gentleman in a silk hat and a chaste
black coat, whose decorous row of buttons reached from his chin to his
knees. The girl had heard of the Grace of God and she decided to
approach this man.
His beaming, chubby face was a picture of benevolence and
kind-heartedness. His eyes shone good-will.
But as the girl timidly accosted him, he gave a convulsive movement
and saved his respectability by a vigorous side-step. He did not risk
it to save a soul. For how was he to know that there was a soul before
him that needed saving?
Upon a wet evening, several months after the last chapter, two
interminable rows of cars, pulled by slipping horses, jangled along a
prominent side-street. A dozen cabs, with coat-enshrouded drivers,
clattered to and fro. Electric lights, whirring softly, shed a blurred
radiance. A flower dealer, his feet tapping impatiently, his nose and
his wares glistening with rain-drops, stood behind an array of roses
and chrysanthemums. Two or three theatres emptied a crowd upon the
storm-swept pavements. Men pulled their hats over their eyebrows and
raised their collars to their ears. Women shrugged impatient shoulders
in their warm cloaks and stopped to arrange their skirts for a walk
through the storm. People having been comparatively silent for two
hours burst into a roar of conversation, their hearts still kindling
from the glowings of the stage.
The pavements became tossing seas of umbrellas. Men stepped forth to
hail cabs or cars, raising their fingers in varied forms of polite
request or imperative demand. An endless procession wended toward
elevated stations. An atmosphere of pleasure and prosperity seemed to
hang over the throng, born, perhaps, of good clothes and of having just
emerged from a place of forgetfulness.
In the mingled light and gloom of an adjacent park, a handful of wet
wanderers, in attitudes of chronic dejection, was scattered among the
A girl of the painted cohorts of the city went along the street. She
threw changing glances at men who passed her, giving smiling
invitations to men of rural or untaught pattern and usually seeming
sedately unconscious of the men with a metropolitan seal upon their
Crossing glittering avenues, she went into the throng emerging from
the places of forgetfulness. She hurried forward through the crowd as
if intent upon reaching a distant home, bending forward in her handsome
cloak, daintily lifting her skirts and picking for her well-shod feet
the dryer spots upon the pavements.
The restless doors of saloons, clashing to and fro, disclosed
animated rows of men before bars and hurrying barkeepers.
A concert hall gave to the street faint sounds of swift,
machine-like music, as if a group of phantom musicians were hastening.
A tall young man, smoking a cigarette with a sublime air, strolled
near the girl. He had on evening dress, a moustache, a chrysanthemum,
and a look of ennui, all of which he kept carefully under his eye.
Seeing the girl walk on as if such a young man as he was not in
existence, he looked back transfixed with interest. He stared glassily
for a moment, but gave a slight convulsive start when he discerned that
she was neither new, Parisian, nor theatrical. He wheeled about hastily
and turned his stare into the air, like a sailor with a search-light.
A stout gentleman, with pompous and philanthropic whiskers, went
stolidly by, the broad of his back sneering at the girl.
A belated man in business clothes, and in haste to catch a car,
bounced against her shoulder. “Hi, there, Mary, I beg your pardon!
Brace up, old girl.” He grasped her arm to steady her, and then was
away running down the middle of the street.
The girl walked on out of the realm of restaurants and saloons. She
passed more glittering avenues and went into darker blocks than those
where the crowd travelled.
A young man in light overcoat and derby hat received a glance shot
keenly from the eyes of the girl. He stopped and looked at her,
thrusting his hands in his pockets and making a mocking smile curl his
lips. “Come, now, old lady,” he said, “you don't mean to tell me that
you sized me up for a farmer?”
A laboring man marched along with bundles under his arms. To her
remarks, he replied: “It's a fine evenin', ain't it?”
She smiled squarely into the face of a boy who was hurrying by with
his hands buried in his overcoat, his blonde locks bobbing on his
youthful temples, and a cheery smile of unconcern upon his lips. He
turned his head and smiled back at her, waving his hands.
“Not this eve—some other eve!”
A drunken man, reeling in her pathway, begain to roar at her. “I
ain' ga no money, dammit,” he shouted, in a dismal voice. He lurched on
up the street, wailing to himself, “Dammit, I ain' ga no money. Damn
ba' luck. Ain' ga no more money.”
The girl went into gloomy districts near the river, where the tall
balck factories shut in the street and only occasional broad beams of
light fell across the pavements from saloons. In front of one of these
places, from whence came the sound of a violin vigorously scraped, the
patter of feet on boards and the ring of loud laughter, there stood a
man with blotched features.
“Ah, there,” said the girl.
“I've got a date,” said the man.
Further on in the darkness she met a ragged being with shifting,
blood-shot eyes and grimey hands. “Ah, what deh hell? Tink I'm a
She went into the blackness of the final block. The shutters of the
tall buildings were closed like grim lips. The structures seemed to
have eyes that looked over her, beyond her, at other things. Afar off
the lights of the avenues glittered as if from an impossible distance.
Street car bells jingled with a sound of merriment.
When almost to the river the girl saw a great figure. On going
forward she perceived it to be a huge fat man in torn and greasy
garments. His gray hair straggled down over his forehead. His small,
bleared eyes, sparkling from amidst great rolls of red fat, swept
eagerly over the girl's upturned face. He laughed, his brown,
disordered teeth gleaming under a gray, grizzled moustache from which
beer-drops dripped. His whole body gently quivered and shook like that
of a dead jelly fish. Chuckling and leering, he followed the girl of
the crimson legions.
At their feet the river appeared a deathly black hue. Some hidden
factory sent up a yellow glare, that lit for a moment the waters
lapping oilily against timbers. The varied sounds of life, made joyous
by distance and seeming unapproachableness, came faintly and died away
In a partitioned-off section of a saloon sat a man with a half dozen
women, gleefully laughing, hovering about him. The man had arrived at
that stage of drunkenness where affection is felt for the universe.
“I'm good f'ler, girls,” he said, convincingly. “I'm damn good
f'ler. An'body treats me right, I allus trea's zem right! See?”
The women nodded their heads approvingly. “To be sure,” they cried
out in hearty chorus. “You're the kind of a man we like, Pete. You're
outa sight! What yeh goin' to buy this time, dear?”
“An't'ing yehs wants, damn it,” said the man in an abandonment of
good will. His countenance shone with the true spirit of benevolence.
He was in the proper mode of missionaries. He would have fraternized
with obscure Hottentots. And above all, he was overwhelmed in
tenderness for his friends, who were all illustrious.
“An't'ing yehs wants, damn it,” repeated he, waving his hands with
beneficent recklessness. “I'm good f'ler, girls, an' if an'body treats
me right I—here,” called he through an open door to a waiter, “bring
girls drinks, damn it. What 'ill yehs have, girls? An't'ing yehs wants,
The waiter glanced in with the disgusted look of the man who serves
intoxicants for the man who takes too much of them. He nodded his head
shortly at the order from each individual, and went.
“Damn it,” said the man, “we're havin' heluva time. I like you
girls! Damn'd if I don't! Yer right sort! See?”
He spoke at length and with feeling, concerning the excellencies of
his assembled friends.
“Don' try pull man's leg, but have a heluva time! Das right! Das way
teh do! Now, if I sawght yehs tryin' work me fer drinks, wouldn' buy
damn t'ing! But yer right sort, damn it! Yehs know how ter treat a
f'ler, an' I stays by yehs 'til spen' las' cent! Das right! I'm good
f'ler an' I knows when an'body treats me right!”
Between the times of the arrival and departure of the waiter, the
man discoursed to the women on the tender regard he felt for all living
things. He laid stress upon the purity of his motives in all dealings
with men in the world and spoke of the fervor of his friendship for
those who were amiable. Tears welled slowly from his eyes. His voice
quavered when he spoke to them.
Once when the waiter was about to depart with an empty tray, the man
drew a coin from his pocket and held it forth.
“Here,” said he, quite magnificently, “here's quar'.”
The waiter kept his hands on his tray.
“I don' want yer money,” he said.
The other put forth the coin with tearful insistence.
“Here, damn it,” cried he, “tak't! Yer damn goo' f'ler an' I wan'
“Come, come, now,” said the waiter, with the sullen air of a man who
is forced into giving advice. “Put yer mon in yer pocket! Yer loaded
an' yehs on'y makes a damn fool of yerself.”
As the latter passed out of the door the man turned pathetically to
“He don' know I'm damn goo' f'ler,” cried he, dismally.
“Never you mind, Pete, dear,” said a woman of brilliance and
audacity, laying her hand with great affection upon his arm. “Never you
mind, old boy! We'll stay by you, dear!”
“Das ri',” cried the man, his face lighting up at the soothing tones
of the woman's voice. “Das ri', I'm damn goo' f'ler an' w'en anyone
trea's me ri', I treats zem ri'! Shee!”
“Sure!” cried the women. “And we're not goin' back on you, old man.”
The man turned appealing eyes to the woman of brilliance and
audacity. He felt that if he could be convicted of a contemptible
action he would die.
“Shay, Nell, damn it, I allus trea's yehs shquare, didn' I? I allus
been goo' f'ler wi' yehs, ain't I, Nell?”
“Sure you have, Pete,” assented the woman. She delivered an oration
to her companions. “Yessir, that's a fact. Pete's a square fellah, he
is. He never goes back on a friend. He's the right kind an' we stay by
him, don't we, girls?”
“Sure,” they exclaimed. Looking lovingly at him they raised their
glasses and drank his health.
“Girlsh,” said the man, beseechingly, “I allus trea's yehs ri',
didn' I? I'm goo' f'ler, ain' I, girlsh?”
“Sure,” again they chorused.
“Well,” said he finally, “le's have nozzer drink, zen.”
“That's right,” hailed a woman, “that's right. Yer no bloomin' jay!
Yer spends yer money like a man. Dat's right.”
The man pounded the table with his quivering fists.
“Yessir,” he cried, with deep earnestness, as if someone disputed
him. “I'm damn goo' f'ler, an' w'en anyone trea's me ri', I allus
trea's—le's have nozzer drink.”
He began to beat the wood with his glass.
“Shay,” howled he, growing suddenly impatient. As the waiter did not
then come, the man swelled with wrath.
“Shay,” howled he again.
The waiter appeared at the door.
“Bringsh drinksh,” said the man.
The waiter disappeared with the orders.
“Zat f'ler damn fool,” cried the man. “He insul' me! I'm ge'man!
Can' stan' be insul'! I'm goin' lickim when comes!”
“No, no,” cried the women, crowding about and trying to subdue him.
“He's all right! He didn't mean anything! Let it go! He's a good
“Din' he insul' me?” asked the man earnestly.
“No,” said they. “Of course he didn't! He's all right!”
“Sure he didn' insul' me?” demanded the man, with deep anxiety in
“No, no! We know him! He's a good fellah. He didn't mean anything.”
“Well, zen,” said the man, resolutely, “I'm go' 'pol'gize!”
When the waiter came, the man struggled to the middle of the floor.
“Girlsh shed you insul' me! I shay damn lie! I 'pol'gize!”
“All right,” said the waiter.
The man sat down. He felt a sleepy but strong desire to straighten
things out and have a perfect understanding with everybody.
“Nell, I allus trea's yeh shquare, din' I? Yeh likes me, don' yehs,
Nell? I'm goo' f'ler?”
“Sure,” said the woman of brilliance and audacity.
“Yeh knows I'm stuck on yehs, don' yehs, Nell?”
“Sure,” she repeated, carelessly.
Overwhelmed by a spasm of drunken adoration, he drew two or three
bills from his pocket, and, with the trembling fingers of an offering
priest, laid them on the table before the woman.
“Yehs knows, damn it, yehs kin have all got, 'cause I'm stuck on
yehs, Nell, damn't, I—I'm stuck on yehs, Nell—buy drinksh—
damn't—we're havin' heluva time—w'en anyone trea's me ri'—I—
damn't, Nell—we're havin' heluva—time.”
Shortly he went to sleep with his swollen face fallen forward on his
The women drank and laughed, not heeding the slumbering man in the
corner. Finally he lurched forward and fell groaning to the floor.
The women screamed in disgust and drew back their skirts.
“Come ahn,” cried one, starting up angrily, “let's get out of here.”
The woman of brilliance and audacity stayed behind, taking up the
bills and stuffing them into a deep, irregularly-shaped pocket. A
guttural snore from the recumbent man caused her to turn and look down
She laughed. “What a damn fool,” she said, and went.
The smoke from the lamps settled heavily down in the little
compartment, obscuring the way out. The smell of oil, stifling in its
intensity, pervaded the air. The wine from an overturned glass dripped
softly down upon the blotches on the man's neck.
In a room a woman sat at a table eating like a fat monk in a
A soiled, unshaven man pushed open the door and entered.
“Well,” said he, “Mag's dead.”
“What?” said the woman, her mouth filled with bread.
“Mag's dead,” repeated the man.
“Deh hell she is,” said the woman. She continued her meal. When she
finished her coffee she began to weep.
“I kin remember when her two feet was no bigger dan yer t'umb, and
she weared worsted boots,” moaned she.
“Well, whata dat?” said the man.
“I kin remember when she weared worsted boots,” she cried.
The neighbors began to gather in the hall, staring in at the weeping
woman as if watching the contortions of a dying dog. A dozen women
entered and lamented with her. Under their busy hands the rooms took on
that appalling appearance of neatness and order with which death is
Suddenly the door opened and a woman in a black gown rushed in with
outstretched arms. “Ah, poor Mary,” she cried, and tenderly embraced
the moaning one.
“Ah, what ter'ble affliction is dis,” continued she. Her vocabulary
was derived from mission churches. “Me poor Mary, how I feel fer yehs!
Ah, what a ter'ble affliction is a disobed'ent chil'.”
Her good, motherly face was wet with tears. She trembled in
eagerness to express her sympathy. The mourner sat with bowed head,
rocking her body heavily to and fro, and crying out in a high, strained
voice that sounded like a dirge on some forlorn pipe.
“I kin remember when she weared worsted boots an' her two feets was
no bigger dan yer t'umb an' she weared worsted boots, Miss Smith,” she
cried, raising her streaming eyes.
“Ah, me poor Mary,” sobbed the woman in black. With low, coddling
cries, she sank on her knees by the mourner's chair, and put her arms
about her. The other women began to groan in different keys.
“Yer poor misguided chil' is gone now, Mary, an' let us hope it's
fer deh bes'. Yeh'll fergive her now, Mary, won't yehs, dear, all her
disobed'ence? All her t'ankless behavior to her mudder an' all her
badness? She's gone where her ter'ble sins will be judged.”
The woman in black raised her face and paused. The inevitable
sunlight came streaming in at the windows and shed a ghastly
cheerfulness upon the faded hues of the room. Two or three of the
spectators were sniffling, and one was loudly weeping. The mourner
arose and staggered into the other room. In a moment she emerged with a
pair of faded baby shoes held in the hollow of her hand.
“I kin remember when she used to wear dem,” cried she. The women
burst anew into cries as if they had all been stabbed. The mourner
turned to the soiled and unshaven man.
“Jimmie, boy, go git yer sister! Go git yer sister an' we'll put deh
boots on her feets!”
“Dey won't fit her now, yeh damn fool,” said the man.
“Go git yer sister, Jimmie,” shrieked the woman, confronting him
The man swore sullenly. He went over to a corner and slowly began to
put on his coat. He took his hat and went out, with a dragging,
The woman in black came forward and again besought the mourner.
“Yeh'll fergive her, Mary! Yeh'll fergive yer bad, bad, chil'! Her
life was a curse an' her days were black an' yeh'll fergive yer bad
girl? She's gone where her sins will be judged.”
“She's gone where her sins will be judged,” cried the other women,
like a choir at a funeral.
“Deh Lord gives and deh Lord takes away,” said the woman in black,
raising her eyes to the sunbeams.
“Deh Lord gives and deh Lord takes away,” responded the others.
“Yeh'll fergive her, Mary!” pleaded the woman in black. The mourner
essayed to speak but her voice gave way. She shook her great shoulders
frantically, in an agony of grief. Hot tears seemed to scald her
quivering face. Finally her voice came and arose like a scream of pain.
“Oh, yes, I'll fergive her! I'll fergive her!”