Sunday, October 28, 2007


McTeague A Story of San Francisco by Frank Norris

A Story of San Francisco
by Frank Norris
It was Sunday, and, according to his custom on that day,
McTeague took his dinner at two in the afternoon at the car
conductors' coffee-joint on Polk Street. He had a thick
gray soup; heavy, underdone meat, very hot, on a cold plate;
two kinds of vegetables; and a sort of suet pudding, full of
strong butter and sugar. On his way back to his office, one
block above, he stopped at Joe Frenna's saloon and bought a
pitcher of steam beer. It was his habit to leave the
pitcher there on his way to dinner.
Once in his office, or, as he called it on his signboard,
"Dental Parlors," he took off his coat and shoes, unbuttoned
his vest, and, having crammed his little stove full of coke,
lay back in his operating chair at the bay window, reading
the paper, drinking his beer, and smoking his huge porcelain
pipe while his food digested; crop-full, stupid, and warm.
By and by, gorged with steam beer, and overcome by the heat
of the room, the cheap tobacco, and the effects of his heavy
meal, he dropped off to sleep. Late in the afternoon his
canary bird, in its gilt cage just over his head, began to
sing. He woke slowly, finished the rest of his beer--very
flat and stale by this time--and taking down his concertina
from the bookcase, where in week days it kept the company of
seven volumes of "Allen's Practical Dentist," played upon it
some half-dozen very mournful airs.
McTeague looked forward to these Sunday afternoons as a
period of relaxation and enjoyment. He invariably spent
them in the same fashion. These were his only pleasures--to
eat, to smoke, to sleep, and to play upon his concertina.
The six lugubrious airs that he knew, always carried him
back to the time when he was a car-boy at the Big Dipper
Mine in Placer County, ten years before. He remembered the
years he had spent there trundling the heavy cars of ore
in and out of the tunnel under the direction of his father.
For thirteen days of each fortnight his father was a steady,
hard-working shift-boss of the mine. Every other Sunday he
became an irresponsible animal, a beast, a brute, crazy with
McTeague remembered his mother, too, who, with the help of
the Chinaman, cooked for forty miners. She was an
overworked drudge, fiery and energetic for all that, filled
with the one idea of having her son rise in life and enter a
profession. The chance had come at last when the father
died, corroded with alcohol, collapsing in a few hours. Two
or three years later a travelling dentist visited the mine
and put up his tent near the bunk-house. He was more or
less of a charlatan, but he fired Mrs. McTeague's ambition,
and young McTeague went away with him to learn his
profession. He had learnt it after a fashion, mostly by
watching the charlatan operate. He had read many of the
necessary books, but he was too hopelessly stupid to get
much benefit from them.
Then one day at San Francisco had come the news of his
mother's death; she had left him some money--not much, but
enough to set him up in business; so he had cut loose from
the charlatan and had opened his "Dental Parlors" on Polk
Street, an "accommodation street" of small shops in the
residence quarter of the town. Here he had slowly collected
a clientele of butcher boys, shop girls, drug clerks, and
car conductors. He made but few acquaintances. Polk Street
called him the "Doctor" and spoke of his enormous strength.
For McTeague was a young giant, carrying his huge shock of
blond hair six feet three inches from the ground; moving his
immense limbs, heavy with ropes of muscle, slowly,
ponderously. His hands were enormous, red, and covered with
a fell of stiff yellow hair; they were hard as wooden
mallets, strong as vises, the hands of the old-time car-boy.
Often he dispensed with forceps and extracted a refractory
tooth with his thumb and finger. His head was square-cut,
angular; the jaw salient, like that of the carnivora.
McTeague's mind was as his body, heavy, slow to act,
sluggish. Yet there was nothing vicious about the man.
Altogether he suggested the draught horse, immensely
strong, stupid, docile, obedient.
When he opened his "Dental Parlors," he felt that his life
was a success, that he could hope for nothing better. In
spite of the name, there was but one room. It was a corner
room on the second floor over the branch post-office, and
faced the street. McTeague made it do for a bedroom as well,
sleeping on the big bed-lounge against the wall opposite the
window. There was a washstand behind the screen in the
corner where he manufactured his moulds. In the round bay
window were his operating chair, his dental engine, and the
movable rack on which he laid out his instruments. Three
chairs, a bargain at the second-hand store, ranged
themselves against the wall with military precision
underneath a steel engraving of the court of Lorenzo de'
Medici, which he had bought because there were a great many
figures in it for the money. Over the bed-lounge hung a
rifle manufacturer's advertisement calendar which he never
used. The other ornaments were a small marble-topped centre
table covered with back numbers of "The American System of
Dentistry," a stone pug dog sitting before the little stove,
and a thermometer. A stand of shelves occupied one corner,
filled with the seven volumes of "Allen's Practical
Dentist." On the top shelf McTeague kept his concertina and
a bag of bird seed for the canary. The whole place exhaled
a mingled odor of bedding, creosote, and ether.
But for one thing, McTeague would have been perfectly
contented. Just outside his window was his signboard--a
modest affair--that read: "Doctor McTeague. Dental Parlors.
Gas Given"; but that was all. It was his ambition, his
dream, to have projecting from that corner window a huge
gilded tooth, a molar with enormous prongs, something
gorgeous and attractive. He would have it some day, on that
he was resolved; but as yet such a thing was far beyond his
When he had finished the last of his beer, McTeague slowly
wiped his lips and huge yellow mustache with the side of his
hand. Bull-like, he heaved himself laboriously up, and,
going to the window, stood looking down into the street.
The street never failed to interest him. It was one of
those cross streets peculiar to Western cities, situated in
the heart of the residence quarter, but occupied by small
tradespeople who lived in the rooms above their shops.
There were corner drug stores with huge jars of red, yellow,
and green liquids in their windows, very brave and gay;
stationers' stores, where illustrated weeklies were tacked
upon bulletin boards; barber shops with cigar stands in
their vestibules; sad-looking plumbers' offices; cheap
restaurants, in whose windows one saw piles of unopened
oysters weighted down by cubes of ice, and china pigs and
cows knee deep in layers of white beans. At one end of the
street McTeague could see the huge power-house of the cable
line. Immediately opposite him was a great market; while
farther on, over the chimney stacks of the intervening
houses, the glass roof of some huge public baths glittered
like crystal in the afternoon sun. Underneath him the
branch post-office was opening its doors, as was its custom
between two and three o'clock on Sunday afternoons. An
acrid odor of ink rose upward to him. Occasionally a cable
car passed, trundling heavily, with a strident whirring of
jostled glass windows.
On week days the street was very lively. It woke to its
work about seven o'clock, at the time when the newsboys made
their appearance together with the day laborers. The
laborers went trudging past in a straggling file--plumbers'
apprentices, their pockets stuffed with sections of lead
pipe, tweezers, and pliers; carpenters, carrying nothing but
their little pasteboard lunch baskets painted to imitate
leather; gangs of street workers, their overalls soiled with
yellow clay, their picks and long-handled shovels over their
shoulders; plasterers, spotted with lime from head to foot.
This little army of workers, tramping steadily in one
direction, met and mingled with other toilers of a different
description--conductors and "swing men" of the cable company
going on duty; heavy-eyed night clerks from the drug stores
on their way home to sleep; roundsmen returning to the
precinct police station to make their night report, and
Chinese market gardeners teetering past under their heavy
baskets. The cable cars began to fill up; all along the
street could be seen the shopkeepers taking down their
Between seven and eight the street breakfasted. Now and
then a waiter from one of the cheap restaurants crossed from
one sidewalk to the other, balancing on one palm a tray
covered with a napkin. Everywhere was the smell of coffee
and of frying steaks. A little later, following in the path
of the day laborers, came the clerks and shop girls, dressed
with a certain cheap smartness, always in a hurry, glancing
apprehensively at the power-house clock. Their employers
followed an hour or so later--on the cable cars for the most
part whiskered gentlemen with huge stomachs, reading the
morning papers with great gravity; bank cashiers and
insurance clerks with flowers in their buttonholes.
At the same time the school children invaded the street,
filling the air with a clamor of shrill voices, stopping at
the stationers' shops, or idling a moment in the doorways of
the candy stores. For over half an hour they held
possession of the sidewalks, then suddenly disappeared,
leaving behind one or two stragglers who hurried along with
great strides of their little thin legs, very anxious and
Towards eleven o'clock the ladies from the great avenue a
block above Polk Street made their appearance, promenading
the sidewalks leisurely, deliberately. They were at their
morning's marketing. They were handsome women, beautifully
dressed. They knew by name their butchers and grocers and
vegetable men. From his window McTeague saw them in front
of the stalls, gloved and veiled and daintily shod, the
subservient provision men at their elbows, scribbling
hastily in the order books. They all seemed to know one
another, these grand ladies from the fashionable avenue.
Meetings took place here and there; a conversation was
begun; others arrived; groups were formed; little impromptu
receptions were held before the chopping blocks of butchers'
stalls, or on the sidewalk, around boxes of berries and
From noon to evening the population of the street was of
a mixed character. The street was busiest at that time;
a vast and prolonged murmur arose--the mingled shuffling of
feet, the rattle of wheels, the heavy trundling of cable
cars. At four o'clock the school children once more swarmed
the sidewalks, again disappearing with surprising
suddenness. At six the great homeward march commenced; the
cars were crowded, the laborers thronged the sidewalks, the
newsboys chanted the evening papers. Then all at once the
street fell quiet; hardly a soul was in sight; the sidewalks
were deserted. It was supper hour. Evening began; and one
by one a multitude of lights, from the demoniac glare of the
druggists' windows to the dazzling blue whiteness of the
electric globes, grew thick from street corner to street
corner. Once more the street was crowded. Now there was no
thought but for amusement. The cable cars were loaded with
theatre-goers--men in high hats and young girls in furred
opera cloaks. On the sidewalks were groups and couples--the
plumbers' apprentices, the girls of the ribbon counters, the
little families that lived on the second stories over their
shops, the dressmakers, the small doctors, the harnessmakers--
all the various inhabitants of the street were
abroad, strolling idly from shop window to shop window,
taking the air after the day's work. Groups of girls
collected on the corners, talking and laughing very loud,
making remarks upon the young men that passed them. The
tamale men appeared. A band of Salvationists began to sing
before a saloon.
Then, little by little, Polk Street dropped back to
solitude. Eleven o'clock struck from the power-house clock.
Lights were extinguished. At one o'clock the cable stopped,
leaving an abrupt silence in the air. All at once it seemed
very still. The ugly noises were the occasional footfalls of
a policeman and the persistent calling of ducks and geese in
the closed market. The street was asleep.
Day after day, McTeague saw the same panorama unroll itself.
The bay window of his "Dental Parlors" was for him a point
of vantage from which he watched the world go past.
On Sundays, however, all was changed. As he stood in the
bay window, after finishing his beer, wiping his lips, and
looking out into the street, McTeague was conscious of
the difference. Nearly all the stores were closed. No
wagons passed. A few people hurried up and down the
sidewalks, dressed in cheap Sunday finery. A cable car went
by; on the outside seats were a party of returning
picnickers. The mother, the father, a young man, and a
young girl, and three children. The two older people held
empty lunch baskets in their laps, while the bands of the
children's hats were stuck full of oak leaves. The girl
carried a huge bunch of wilting poppies and wild flowers.
As the car approached McTeague's window the young man got up
and swung himself off the platform, waving goodby to the
party. Suddenly McTeague recognized him.
"There's Marcus Schouler," he muttered behind his mustache.
Marcus Schouler was the dentist's one intimate friend. The
acquaintance had begun at the car conductors' coffee-joint,
where the two occupied the same table and met at every meal.
Then they made the discovery that they both lived in the
same flat, Marcus occupying a room on the floor above
McTeague. On different occasions McTeague had treated
Marcus for an ulcerated tooth and had refused to accept
payment. Soon it came to be an understood thing between
them. They were "pals."
McTeague, listening, heard Marcus go up-stairs to his room
above. In a few minutes his door opened again. McTeague
knew that he had come out into the hall and was leaning over
the banisters.
"Oh, Mac!" he called. McTeague came to his door.
"Hullo! 'sthat you, Mark?"
"Sure," answered Marcus. "Come on up."
"You come on down."
"No, come on up."
"Oh, you come on down."
"Oh, you lazy duck!" retorted Marcus, coming down the
"Been out to the Cliff House on a picnic," he explained as
he sat down on the bed-lounge, "with my uncle and his
people--the Sieppes, you know. By damn! it was hot," he
suddenly vociferated. "Just look at that! Just look at
that!" he cried, dragging at his limp collar. "That's the
third one since morning; it is--it is, for a fact--and you
got your stove going." He began to tell about the picnic,
talking very loud and fast, gesturing furiously, very
excited over trivial details. Marcus could not talk without
getting excited.
"You ought t'have seen, y'ought t'have seen. I tell you, it
was outa sight. It was; it was, for a fact."
"Yes, yes," answered McTeague, bewildered, trying to follow.
"Yes, that's so."
In recounting a certain dispute with an awkward bicyclist,
in which it appeared he had become involved, Marcus quivered
with rage. "'Say that again,' says I to um. 'Just say that
once more, and'"--here a rolling explosion of oaths--
"'you'll go back to the city in the Morgue wagon. Ain't I
got a right to cross a street even, I'd like to know,
without being run down--what?' I say it's outrageous. I'd
a knifed him in another minute. It was an outrage. I say
it was an OUTRAGE."
"Sure it was," McTeague hastened to reply. "Sure, sure."
"Oh, and we had an accident," shouted the other, suddenly
off on another tack. "It was awful. Trina was in the swing
there--that's my cousin Trina, you know who I mean--and she
fell out. By damn! I thought she'd killed herself; struck
her face on a rock and knocked out a front tooth. It's a
wonder she didn't kill herself. It IS a wonder; it is,
for a fact. Ain't it, now? Huh? Ain't it? Y'ought t'have
McTeague had a vague idea that Marcus Schouler was stuck on
his cousin Trina. They "kept company" a good deal; Marcus
took dinner with the Sieppes every Saturday evening at their
home at B Street station, across the bay, and Sunday
afternoons he and the family usually made little excursions
into the suburbs. McTeague began to wonder dimly how it was
that on this occasion Marcus had not gone home with his
cousin. As sometimes happens, Marcus furnished the
explanation upon the instant.
"I promised a duck up here on the avenue I'd call for his
dog at four this afternoon."
Marcus was Old Grannis's assistant in a little dog
hospital that the latter had opened in a sort of alley just
off Polk Street, some four blocks above Old Grannis lived in
one of the back rooms of McTeague's flat. He was an
Englishman and an expert dog surgeon, but Marcus Schouler
was a bungler in the profession. His father had been a
veterinary surgeon who had kept a livery stable near by, on
California Street, and Marcus's knowledge of the diseases of
domestic animals had been picked up in a haphazard way, much
after the manner of McTeague's education. Somehow he
managed to impress Old Grannis, a gentle, simple-minded old
man, with a sense of his fitness, bewildering him with a
torrent of empty phrases that he delivered with fierce
gestures and with a manner of the greatest conviction.
"You'd better come along with me, Mac," observed Marcus.
"We'll get the duck's dog, and then we'll take a little
walk, huh? You got nothun to do. Come along."
McTeague went out with him, and the two friends proceeded up
to the avenue to the house where the dog was to be found.
It was a huge mansion-like place, set in an enormous garden
that occupied a whole third of the block; and while Marcus
tramped up the front steps and rang the doorbell boldly, to
show his independence, McTeague remained below on the
sidewalk, gazing stupidly at the curtained windows, the
marble steps, and the bronze griffins, troubled and a little
confused by all this massive luxury.
After they had taken the dog to the hospital and had left
him to whimper behind the wire netting, they returned to
Polk Street and had a glass of beer in the back room of Joe
Frenna's corner grocery.
Ever since they had left the huge mansion on the avenue,
Marcus had been attacking the capitalists, a class which he
pretended to execrate. It was a pose which he often
assumed, certain of impressing the dentist. Marcus had
picked up a few half-truths of political economy--it was
impossible to say where--and as soon as the two had settled
themselves to their beer in Frenna's back room he took up
the theme of the labor question. He discussed it at the
top of his voice, vociferating, shaking his fists, exciting
himself with his own noise. He was continually making use
of the stock phrases of the professional politician--phrases
he had caught at some of the ward "rallies" and
"ratification meetings." These rolled off his tongue with
incredible emphasis, appearing at every turn of his
conversation--"Outraged constituencies," "cause of labor,"
"wage earners," "opinions biased by personal interests,"
"eyes blinded by party prejudice." McTeague listened to
him, awestruck.
"There's where the evil lies," Marcus would cry. "The
masses must learn self-control; it stands to reason. Look at
the figures, look at the figures. Decrease the number of
wage earners and you increase wages, don't you? don't you?"
Absolutely stupid, and understanding never a word, McTeague
would answer:
"Yes, yes, that's it--self-control--that's the word."
"It's the capitalists that's ruining the cause of labor,"
shouted Marcus, banging the table with his fist till the
beer glasses danced; "white-livered drones, traitors, with
their livers white as snow, eatun the bread of widows and
orphuns; there's where the evil lies."
Stupefied with his clamor, McTeague answered, wagging his
"Yes, that's it; I think it's their livers."
Suddenly Marcus fell calm again, forgetting his pose all in
an instant.
"Say, Mac, I told my cousin Trina to come round and see you
about that tooth of her's. She'll be in to-morrow, I
After his breakfast the following Monday morning, McTeague
looked over the appointments he had written down in the
book-slate that hung against the screen. His writing was
immense, very clumsy, and very round, with huge, fullbellied
l's and h's. He saw that he had made an appointment
at one o'clock for Miss Baker, the retired dressmaker, a
little old maid who had a tiny room a few doors down the
hall. It adjoined that of Old Grannis.
Quite an affair had arisen from this circumstance. Miss
Baker and Old Grannis were both over sixty, and yet it was
current talk amongst the lodgers of the flat that the two
were in love with each other . Singularly enough, they were
not even acquaintances; never a word had passed between
them. At intervals they met on the stairway; he on his way
to his little dog hospital, she returning from a bit of
marketing in the street. At such times they passed each
other with averted eyes, pretending a certain preoccupation,
suddenly seized with a great embarrassment, the
timidity of a second childhood. He went on about his
business, disturbed and thoughtful. She hurried up to her
tiny room, her curious little false curls shaking with her
agitation, the faintest suggestion of a flush coming and
going in her withered cheeks. The emotion of one of these
chance meetings remained with them during all the rest of
the day.
Was it the first romance in the lives of each? Did Old
Grannis ever remember a certain face amongst those that he
had known when he was young Grannis--the face of some palehaired
girl, such as one sees in the old cathedral towns of
England? Did Miss Baker still treasure up in a seldom
opened drawer or box some faded daguerreotype, some strange
old-fashioned likeness, with its curling hair and high
stock? It was impossible to say.
Maria Macapa, the Mexican woman who took care of the
lodgers' rooms, had been the first to call the flat's
attention to the affair, spreading the news of it from room
to room, from floor to floor. Of late she had made a great
discovery; all the women folk of the flat were yet vibrant
with it. Old Grannis came home from his work at four
o'clock, and between that time and six Miss Baker would sit
in her room, her hands idle in her lap, doing nothing,
listening, waiting. Old Grannis did the same, drawing his
arm-chair near to the wall, knowing that Miss Baker was upon
the other side, conscious, perhaps, that she was thinking of
him; and there the two would sit through the hours of the
afternoon, listening and waiting, they did not know exactly
for what, but near to each other, separated only by the thin
partition of their rooms. They had come to know each
other's habits. Old Grannis knew that at quarter of five
precisely Miss Baker made a cup of tea over the oil stove on
the stand between the bureau and the window. Miss Baker
felt instinctively the exact moment when Old Grannis took
down his little binding apparatus from the second shelf of
his clothes closet and began his favorite occupation of
binding pamphlets--pamphlets that he never read, for all
In his "Parlors" McTeague began his week's work. He glanced
in the glass saucer in which he kept his sponge-gold, and
noticing that he had used up all his pellets, set about
making some more. In examining Miss Baker's teeth at the
preliminary sitting he had found a cavity in one of the
incisors. Miss Baker had decided to have it filled with
gold. McTeague remembered now that it was what is called a
"proximate case," where there is not sufficient room to fill
with large pieces of gold. He told himself that he should
have to use "mats" in the filling. He made some dozen of
these "mats" from his tape of non-cohesive gold, cutting it
transversely into small pieces that could be inserted
edgewise between the teeth and consolidated by packing.
After he had made his "mats" he continued with the other
kind of gold fillings, such as he would have occasion to use
during the week; "blocks" to be used in large proximal
cavities, made by folding the tape on itself a number of
times and then shaping it with the soldering pliers;
"cylinders" for commencing fillings, which he formed by
rolling the tape around a needle called a "broach," cutting
it afterwards into different lengths. He worked slowly,
mechanically, turning the foil between his fingers with the
manual dexterity that one sometimes sees in stupid persons.
His head was quite empty of all thought, and he did not
whistle over his work as another man might have done. The
canary made up for his silence, trilling and chittering
continually, splashing about in its morning bath, keeping up
an incessant noise and movement that would have been
maddening to any one but McTeague, who seemed to have no
nerves at all.
After he had finished his fillings, he made a hook broach
from a bit of piano wire to replace an old one that he had
lost. It was time for his dinner then, and when he returned
from the car conductors' coffee-joint, he found Miss Baker
waiting for him.
The ancient little dressmaker was at all times willing to
talk of Old Grannis to anybody that would listen, quite
unconscious of the gossip of the flat. McTeague found her
all a-flutter with excitement. Something extraordinary had
happened. She had found out that the wall-paper in Old
Grannis's room was the same as that in hers.
"It has led me to thinking, Doctor McTeague," she exclaimed,
shaking her little false curls at him. "You know my room is
so small, anyhow, and the wall-paper being the same--the
pattern from my room continues right into his--I declare, I
believe at one time that was all one room. Think of it, do
you suppose it was? It almost amounts to our occupying the
same room. I don't know--why, really--do you think I should
speak to the landlady about it? He bound pamphlets last
night until half-past nine. They say that he's the younger
son of a baronet; that there are reasons for his not coming
to the title; his stepfather wronged him cruelly."
No one had ever said such a thing. It was preposterous to
imagine any mystery connected with Old Grannis. Miss Baker
had chosen to invent the little fiction, had created the
title and the unjust stepfather from some dim memories of
the novels of her girlhood.
She took her place in the operating chair. McTeague
began the filling. There was a long silence. It was
impossible for McTeague to work and talk at the same time.
He was just burnishing the last "mat" in Miss Baker's tooth,
when the door of the "Parlors" opened, jangling the bell
which he had hung over it, and which was absolutely
unnecessary. McTeague turned, one foot on the pedal of his
dental engine, the corundum disk whirling between his
It was Marcus Schouler who came in, ushering a young girl of
about twenty.
"Hello, Mac," exclaimed Marcus; "busy? Brought my cousin
round about that broken tooth."
McTeague nodded his head gravely.
"In a minute," he answered.
Marcus and his cousin Trina sat down in the rigid chairs
underneath the steel engraving of the Court of Lorenzo de'
Medici. They began talking in low tones. The girl looked
about the room, noticing the stone pug dog, the rifle
manufacturer's calendar, the canary in its little gilt
prison, and the tumbled blankets on the unmade bed-lounge
against the wall. Marcus began telling her about McTeague.
"We're pals," he explained, just above a whisper. "Ah,
Mac's all right, you bet. Say, Trina, he's the strongest
duck you ever saw. What do you suppose? He can pull out
your teeth with his fingers; yes, he can. What do you think
of that? With his fingers, mind you; he can, for a fact.
Get on to the size of him, anyhow. Ah, Mac's all right!"
Maria Macapa had come into the room while he had been
speaking. She was making up McTeague's bed. Suddenly Marcus
exclaimed under his breath: "Now we'll have some fun. It's
the girl that takes care of the rooms. She's a greaser, and
she's queer in the head. She ain't regularly crazy, but
I don't know, she's queer. Y'ought to hear her go on about
a gold dinner service she says her folks used to own. Ask
her what her name is and see what she'll say." Trina shrank
back, a little frightened.
"No, you ask," she whispered.
"Ah, go on; what you 'fraid of?" urged Marcus. Trina
shook her head energetically, shutting her lips together.
"Well, listen here," answered Marcus, nudging her; then
raising his voice, he said:
"How do, Maria?" Maria nodded to him over her shoulder as
she bent over the lounge.
"Workun hard nowadays, Maria?"
"Pretty hard."
"Didunt always have to work for your living, though, did
you, when you ate offa gold dishes?" Maria didn't answer,
except by putting her chin in the air and shutting her eyes,
as though to say she knew a long story about that if she had
a mind to talk. All Marcus's efforts to draw her out on the
subject were unavailing. She only responded by movements of
her head.
"Can't always start her going," Marcus told his cousin.
"What does she do, though, when you ask her about her name?"
"Oh, sure," said Marcus, who had forgotten. "Say, Maria,
what's your name?"
"Huh?" asked Maria, straightening up, her hands on he hips.
"Tell us your name," repeated Marcus.
"Name is Maria--Miranda--Macapa." Then, after a pause, she
added, as though she had but that moment thought of it, "Had
a flying squirrel an' let him go."
Invariably Maria Macapa made this answer. It was not always
she would talk about the famous service of gold plate, but a
question as to her name never failed to elicit the same
strange answer, delivered in a rapid undertone: "Name is
Maria--Miranda--Macapa." Then, as if struck with an after
thought, "Had a flying squirrel an' let him go."
Why Maria should associate the release of the mythical
squirrel with her name could not be said. About Maria the
flat knew absolutely nothing further than that she was
Spanish-American. Miss Baker was the oldest lodger in the
flat, and Maria was a fixture there as maid of all work
when she had come. There was a legend to the effect that
Maria's people had been at one time immensely wealthy in
Central America.
Maria turned again to her work. Trina and Marcus watched
her curiously. There was a silence. The corundum burr in
McTeague's engine hummed in a prolonged monotone. The
canary bird chittered occasionally. The room was warm, and
the breathing of the five people in the narrow space made
the air close and thick. At long intervals an acrid odor of
ink floated up from the branch post-office immediately
Maria Macapa finished her work and started to leave. As she
passed near Marcus and his cousin she stopped, and drew a
bunch of blue tickets furtively from her pocket. "Buy a
ticket in the lottery?" she inquired, looking at the girl.
"Just a dollar."
"Go along with you, Maria," said Marcus, who had but thirty
cents in his pocket. "Go along; it's against the law."
"Buy a ticket," urged Maria, thrusting the bundle toward
Trina. "Try your luck. The butcher on the next block won
twenty dollars the last drawing."
Very uneasy, Trina bought a ticket for the sake of being rid
of her. Maria disappeared.
"Ain't she a queer bird?" muttered Marcus. He was much
embarrassed and disturbed because he had not bought the
ticket for Trina.
But there was a sudden movement. McTeague had just finished
with Miss Baker.
"You should notice," the dressmaker said to the dentist, in
a low voice, "he always leaves the door a little ajar in the
afternoon." When she had gone out, Marcus Schouler brought
Trina forward.
"Say, Mac, this is my cousin, Trina Sieppe." The two shook
hands dumbly, McTeague slowly nodding his huge head with its
great shock of yellow hair. Trina was very small and
prettily made. Her face was round and rather pale; her eyes
long and narrow and blue, like the half-open eyes of a
little baby; her lips and the lobes of her tiny ears
were pale, a little suggestive of anaemia; while across the
bridge of her nose ran an adorable little line of freckles.
But it was to her hair that one's attention was most
attracted. Heaps and heaps of blue-black coils and braids,
a royal crown of swarthy bands, a veritable sable tiara,
heavy, abundant, odorous. All the vitality that should have
given color to her face seemed to have been absorbed by this
marvellous hair. It was the coiffure of a queen that
shadowed the pale temples of this little bourgeoise. So
heavy was it that it tipped her head backward, and the
position thrust her chin out a little. It was a charming
poise, innocent, confiding, almost infantile.
She was dressed all in black, very modest and plain. The
effect of her pale face in all this contrasting black was
almost monastic.
"Well," exclaimed Marcus suddenly, "I got to go. Must get
back to work. Don't hurt her too much, Mac. S'long,
McTeague and Trina were left alone. He was embarrassed,
troubled. These young girls disturbed and perplexed him.
He did not like them, obstinately cherishing that intuitive
suspicion of all things feminine--the perverse dislike of an
overgrown boy. On the other hand, she was perfectly at her
ease; doubtless the woman in her was not yet awakened; she
was yet, as one might say, without sex. She was almost like
a boy, frank, candid, unreserved.
She took her place in the operating chair and told him what
was the matter, looking squarely into his face. She had
fallen out of a swing the afternoon of the preceding day;
one of her teeth had been knocked loose and the other
altogether broken out.
McTeague listened to her with apparent stolidity, nodding
his head from time to time as she spoke. The keenness of
his dislike of her as a woman began to be blunted. He
thought she was rather pretty, that he even liked her
because she was so small, so prettily made, so good natured
and straightforward.
"Let's have a look at your teeth," he said, picking up his
mirror. "You better take your hat off." She leaned back in
her chair and opened her mouth, showing the rows of
little round teeth, as white and even as the kernels on an
ear of green corn, except where an ugly gap came at the
McTeague put the mirror into her mouth, touching one and
another of her teeth with the handle of an excavator. By
and by he straightened up, wiping the moisture from the
mirror on his coat-sleeve.
"Well, Doctor," said the girl, anxiously, "it's a dreadful
disfigurement, isn't it?" adding, "What can you do about
"Well," answered McTeague, slowly, looking vaguely about on
the floor of the room, "the roots of the broken tooth are
still in the gum; they'll have to come out, and I guess I'll
have to pull that other bicuspid. Let me look again. Yes,"
he went on in a moment, peering into her mouth with the
mirror, "I guess that'll have to come out, too." The tooth
was loose, discolored, and evidently dead. "It's a curious
case," McTeague went on. "I don't know as I ever had a
tooth like that before. It's what's called necrosis. It
don't often happen. It'll have to come out sure."
Then a discussion was opened on the subject, Trina sitting
up in the chair, holding her hat in her lap; McTeague
leaning against the window frame his hands in his pockets,
his eyes wandering about on the floor. Trina did not want
the other tooth removed; one hole like that was bad enough;
but two--ah, no, it was not to be thought of.
But McTeague reasoned with her, tried in vain to make her
understand that there was no vascular connection between the
root and the gum. Trina was blindly persistent, with the
persistency of a girl who has made up her mind.
McTeague began to like her better and better, and after a
while commenced himself to feel that it would be a pity to
disfigure such a pretty mouth. He became interested;
perhaps he could do something, something in the way of a
crown or bridge. "Let's look at that again," he said,
picking up his mirror. He began to study the situation very
carefully, really desiring to remedy the blemish.
It was the first bicuspid that was missing, and though part
of the root of the second (the loose one) would remain
after its extraction, he was sure it would not be strong
enough to sustain a crown. All at once he grew obstinate,
resolving, with all the strength of a crude and primitive
man, to conquer the difficulty in spite of everything. He
turned over in his mind the technicalities of the case. No,
evidently the root was not strong enough to sustain a crown;
besides that, it was placed a little irregularly in the
arch. But, fortunately, there were cavities in the two
teeth on either side of the gap--one in the first molar and
one in the palatine surface of the cuspid; might he not
drill a socket in the remaining root and sockets in the
molar and cuspid, and, partly by bridging, partly by
crowning, fill in the gap? He made up his mind to do it.
Why he should pledge himself to this hazardous case McTeague
was puzzled to know. With most of his clients he would have
contented himself with the extraction of the loose tooth and
the roots of the broken one. Why should he risk his
reputation in this case? He could not say why.
It was the most difficult operation he had ever performed.
He bungled it considerably, but in the end he succeeded
passably well. He extracted the loose tooth with his
bayonet forceps and prepared the roots of the broken one as
if for filling, fitting into them a flattened piece of
platinum wire to serve as a dowel. But this was only the
beginning; altogether it was a fortnight's work. Trina came
nearly every other day, and passed two, and even three,
hours in the chair.
By degrees McTeague's first awkwardness and suspicion
vanished entirely. The two became good friends. McTeague
even arrived at that point where he could work and talk to
her at the same time--a thing that had never before been
possible for him.
Never until then had McTeague become so well acquainted with
a girl of Trina's age. The younger women of Polk Street--
the shop girls, the young women of the soda fountains, the
waitresses in the cheap restaurants--preferred another
dentist, a young fellow just graduated from the college, a
poser, a rider of bicycles, a man about town, who wore
astonishing waistcoats and bet money on greyhound
coursing. Trina was McTeague's first experience. With her
the feminine element suddenly entered his little world. It
was not only her that he saw and felt, it was the woman, the
whole sex, an entire new humanity, strange and alluring,
that he seemed to have discovered. How had he ignored it so
long? It was dazzling, delicious, charming beyond all
words. His narrow point of view was at once enlarged and
confused, and all at once he saw that there was something
else in life besides concertinas and steam beer. Everything
had to be made over again. His whole rude idea of life had
to be changed. The male virile desire in him tardily
awakened, aroused itself, strong and brutal. It was
resistless, untrained, a thing not to be held in leash an
Little by little, by gradual, almost imperceptible degrees,
the thought of Trina Sieppe occupied his mind from day to
day, from hour to hour. He found himself thinking of her
constantly; at every instant he saw her round, pale face;
her narrow, milk-blue eyes; her little out-thrust chin; her
heavy, huge tiara of black hair. At night he lay awake for
hours under the thick blankets of the bed-lounge, staring
upward into the darkness, tormented with the idea of her,
exasperated at the delicate, subtle mesh in which he found
himself entangled. During the forenoons, while he went
about his work, he thought of her. As he made his plasterof-
paris moulds at the washstand in the corner behind the
screen he turned over in his mind all that had happened, all
that had been said at the previous sitting. Her little
tooth that he had extracted he kept wrapped in a bit of
newspaper in his vest pocket. Often he took it out and held
it in the palm of his immense, horny hand, seized with some
strange elephantine sentiment, wagging his head at it,
heaving tremendous sighs. What a folly!
At two o'clock on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays Trina
arrived and took her place in the operating chair. While at
his work McTeague was every minute obliged to bend closely
over her; his hands touched her face, her cheeks, her
adorable little chin; her lips pressed against his fingers.
She breathed warmly on his forehead and on his eyelids,
while the odor of her hair, a charming feminine perfume,
sweet, heavy, enervating, came to his nostrils, so
penetrating, so delicious, that his flesh pricked and
tingled with it; a veritable sensation of faintness passed
over this huge, callous fellow, with his enormous bones and
corded muscles. He drew a short breath through his nose;
his jaws suddenly gripped together vise-like.
But this was only at times--a strange, vexing spasm, that
subsided almost immediately. For the most part, McTeague
enjoyed the pleasure of these sittings with Trina with a
certain strong calmness, blindly happy that she was there.
This poor crude dentist of Polk Street, stupid, ignorant,
vulgar, with his sham education and plebeian tastes, whose
only relaxations were to eat, to drink steam beer, and to
play upon his concertina, was living through his first
romance, his first idyl. It was delightful. The long hours
he passed alone with Trina in the "Dental Parlors," silent,
only for the scraping of the instruments and the pouring of
bud-burrs in the engine, in the foul atmosphere, overheated
by the little stove and heavy with the smell of ether,
creosote, and stale bedding, had all the charm of secret
appointments and stolen meetings under the moon.
By degrees the operation progressed. One day, just after
McTeague had put in the temporary gutta-percha fillings and
nothing more could be done at that sitting, Trina asked him
to examine the rest of her teeth. They were perfect, with
one exception--a spot of white caries on the lateral surface
of an incisor. McTeague filled it with gold, enlarging the
cavity with hard-bits and hoe-excavators, and burring in
afterward with half-cone burrs. The cavity was deep, and
Trina began to wince and moan. To hurt Trina was a positive
anguish for McTeague, yet an anguish which he was obliged to
endure at every hour of the sitting. It was harrowing--he
sweated under it--to be forced to torture her, of all women
in the world; could anything be worse than that?
"Hurt?" he inquired, anxiously.
She answered by frowning, with a sharp intake of breath,
putting her fingers over her closed lips and nodding her
head. McTeague sprayed the tooth with glycerite of
tannin, but without effect. Rather than hurt her he found
himself forced to the use of anaesthesia, which he hated.
He had a notion that the nitrous oxide gas was dangerous, so
on this occasion, as on all others, used ether.
He put the sponge a half dozen times to Trina's face, more
nervous than he had ever been before, watching the symptoms
closely. Her breathing became short and irregular; there
was a slight twitching of the muscles. When her thumbs
turned inward toward the palms, he took the sponge away.
She passed off very quickly, and, with a long sigh, sank
back into the chair.
McTeague straightened up, putting the sponge upon the rack
behind him, his eyes fixed upon Trina's face. For some time
he stood watching her as she lay there, unconscious and
helpless, and very pretty. He was alone with her, and she
was absolutely without defense.
Suddenly the animal in the man stirred and woke; the evil
instincts that in him were so close to the surface leaped to
life, shouting and clamoring.
It was a crisis--a crisis that had arisen all in an instant;
a crisis for which he was totally unprepared. Blindly, and
without knowing why, McTeague fought against it, moved by an
unreasoned instinct of resistance. Within him, a certain
second self, another better McTeague rose with the brute;
both were strong, with the huge crude strength of the man
himself. The two were at grapples. There in that cheap and
shabby "Dental Parlor" a dreaded struggle began. It was the
old battle, old as the world, wide as the world--the sudden
panther leap of the animal, lips drawn, fangs aflash,
hideous, monstrous, not to be resisted, and the simultaneous
arousing of the other man, the better self that cries,
"Down, down," without knowing why; that grips the monster;
that fights to strangle it, to thrust it down and back.
Dizzied and bewildered with the shock, the like of which he
had never known before, McTeague turned from Trina, gazing
bewilderedly about the room. The struggle was bitter; his
teeth ground themselves together with a little rasping
sound; the blood sang in his ears; his face flushed scarlet;
his hands twisted themselves together like the knotting of
cables. The fury in him was as the fury of a young bull in
the heat of high summer. But for all that he shook his huge
head from time to time, muttering:
"No, by God! No, by God!"
Dimly he seemed to realize that should he yield now he would
never be able to care for Trina again. She would never be
the same to him, never so radiant, so sweet, so adorable;
her charm for him would vanish in an instant. Across her
forehead, her little pale forehead, under the shadow of her
royal hair, he would surely see the smudge of a foul ordure,
the footprint of the monster. It would be a sacrilege, an
abomination. He recoiled from it, banding all his strength
to the issue.
"No, by God! No, by God!"
He turned to his work, as if seeking a refuge in it. But as
he drew near to her again, the charm of her innocence and
helplessness came over him afresh. It was a final protest
against his resolution. Suddenly he leaned over and kissed
her, grossly, full on the mouth. The thing was done before
he knew it. Terrified at his weakness at the very moment he
believed himself strong, he threw himself once more into his
work with desperate energy. By the time he was fastening
the sheet of rubber upon the tooth, he had himself once more
in hand. He was disturbed, still trembling, still vibrating
with the throes of the crisis, but he was the master; the
animal was downed, was cowed for this time, at least.
But for all that, the brute was there. Long dormant, it was
now at last alive, awake. From now on he would feel its
presence continually; would feel it tugging at its chain,
watching its opportunity. Ah, the pity of it! Why could he
not always love her purely, cleanly? What was this
perverse, vicious thing that lived within him, knitted to
his flesh?
Below the fine fabric of all that was good in him ran the
foul stream of hereditary evil, like a sewer. The vices and
sins of his father and of his father's father, to the third
and fourth and five hundredth generation, tainted him.
The evil of an entire race flowed in his veins. Why should
it be? He did not desire it. Was he to blame?
But McTeague could not understand this thing. It had faced
him, as sooner or later it faces every child of man; but its
significance was not for him. To reason with it was beyond
him. He could only oppose to it an instinctive stubborn
resistance, blind, inert.
McTeague went on with his work. As he was rapping in the
little blocks and cylinders with the mallet, Trina slowly
came back to herself with a long sigh. She still felt a
little confused, and lay quiet in the chair. There was a
long silence, broken only by the uneven tapping of the
hardwood mallet. By and by she said, "I never felt a
thing," and then she smiled at him very prettily beneath the
rubber dam. McTeague turned to her suddenly, his mallet in
one hand, his pliers holding a pellet of sponge-gold in the
other. All at once he said, with the unreasoned simplicity
and directness of a child: "Listen here, Miss Trina, I like
you better than any one else; what's the matter with us
getting married?"
Trina sat up in the chair quickly, and then drew back from
him, frightened and bewildered.
"Will you? Will you?" said McTeague. "Say, Miss Trina,
will you?"
"What is it? What do you mean?" she cried, confusedly, her
words muffled beneath the rubber.
"Will you?" repeated McTeague.
"No, no," she exclaimed, refusing without knowing why,
suddenly seized with a fear of him, the intuitive feminine
fear of the male. McTeague could only repeat the same thing
over and over again. Trina, more and more frightened at his
huge hands--the hands of the old-time car-boy--his immense
square-cut head and his enormous brute strength, cried out:
"No, no," behind the rubber dam, shaking her head violently,
holding out her hands, and shrinking down before him in the
operating chair. McTeague came nearer to her, repeating the
same question. "No, no," she cried, terrified. Then, as
she exclaimed, "Oh, I am sick," was suddenly taken with a
fit of vomiting. It was the not unusual after effect of the
ether, aided now by her excitement and nervousness.
McTeague was checked. He poured some bromide of potassium
into a graduated glass and held it to her lips.
"Here, swallow this," he said.
Once every two months Maria Macapa set the entire flat in
commotion. She roamed the building from garret to cellar,
searching each corner, ferreting through every old box and
trunk and barrel, groping about on the top shelves of
closets, peering into rag-bags, exasperating the lodgers
with her persistence and importunity. She was collecting
junks, bits of iron, stone jugs, glass bottles, old sacks,
and cast-off garments. It was one of her perquisites. She
sold the junk to Zerkow, the rags-bottles-sacks man, who
lived in a filthy den in the alley just back of the flat,
and who sometimes paid her as much as three cents a pound.
The stone jugs, however, were worth a nickel. The money
that Zerkow paid her, Maria spent on shirt waists and dotted
blue neckties, trying to dress like the girls who tended the
soda-water fountain in the candy store on the corner. She
was sick with envy of these young women. They were in the
world, they were elegant, they were debonair, they had their
"young men."
On this occasion she presented herself at the door of Old
Grannis's room late in the afternoon. His door stood a
little open. That of Miss Baker was ajar a few inches. The
two old people were "keeping company" after their fashion.
"Got any junk, Mister Grannis?" inquired Maria, standing
in the door, a very dirty, half-filled pillowcase over one
"No, nothing--nothing that I can think of, Maria," replied
Old Grannis, terribly vexed at the interruption, yet not
wishing to be unkind. "Nothing I think of. Yet, however--
perhaps--if you wish to look."
He sat in the middle of the room before a small pine table.
His little binding apparatus was before him. In his fingers
was a huge upholsterer's needle threaded with twine, a bradawl
lay at his elbow, on the floor beside him was a great
pile of pamphlets, the pages uncut. Old Grannis bought the
"Nation" and the "Breeder and Sportsman." In the latter he
occasionally found articles on dogs which interested him.
The former he seldom read. He could not afford to subscribe
regularly to either of the publications, but purchased their
back numbers by the score, almost solely for the pleasure he
took in binding them.
"What you alus sewing up them books for, Mister Grannis?"
asked Maria, as she began rummaging about in Old Grannis's
closet shelves. "There's just hundreds of 'em in here on
yer shelves; they ain't no good to you."
"Well, well," answered Old Grannis, timidly, rubbing his
chin, "I--I'm sure I can't quite say; a little habit, you
know; a diversion, a--a--it occupies one, you know. I don't
smoke; it takes the place of a pipe, perhaps."
"Here's this old yellow pitcher," said Maria, coming out of
the closet with it in her hand. "The handle's cracked; you
don't want it; better give me it."
Old Grannis did want the pitcher; true, he never used it
now, but he had kept it a long time, and somehow he held to
it as old people hold to trivial, worthless things that they
have had for many years.
"Oh, that pitcher--well, Maria, I--I don't know. I'm
afraid--you see, that pitcher----"
"Ah, go 'long," interrupted Maria Macapa, "what's the good
of it?"
"If you insist, Maria, but I would much rather--" he rubbed
his chin, perplexed and annoyed, hating to refuse, and
wishing that Maria were gone.
"Why, what's the good of it?" persisted Maria. He could
give no sufficient answer. "That's all right," she
asserted, carrying the pitcher out.
"Ah--Maria--I say, you--you might leave the door--ah, don't
quite shut it--it's a bit close in here at times." Maria
grinned, and swung the door wide. Old Grannis was horribly
embarrassed; positively, Maria was becoming unbearable.
"Got any junk?" cried Maria at Miss Baker's door. The
little old lady was sitting close to the wall in her
rocking-chair; her hands resting idly in her lap.
"Now, Maria," she said plaintively, "you are always after
junk; you know I never have anything laying 'round like
It was true. The retired dressmaker's tiny room was a
marvel of neatness, from the little red table, with its
three Gorham spoons laid in exact parallels, to the decorous
geraniums and mignonettes growing in the starch box at the
window, underneath the fish globe with its one venerable
gold fish. That day Miss Baker had been doing a bit of
washing; two pocket handkerchiefs, still moist, adhered to
the window panes, drying in the sun.
"Oh, I guess you got something you don't want," Maria went
on, peering into the corners of the room. "Look-a-here what
Mister Grannis gi' me," and she held out the yellow pitcher.
Instantly Miss Baker was in a quiver of confusion. Every
word spoken aloud could be perfectly heard in the next room.
What a stupid drab was this Maria! Could anything be more
trying than this position?
"Ain't that right, Mister Grannis?" called Maria; "didn't
you gi' me this pitcher?" Old Grannis affected not to hear;
perspiration stood on his forehead; his timidity overcame
him as if he were a ten-year-old schoolboy. He half rose
from his chair, his fingers dancing nervously upon his chin.
Maria opened Miss Baker's closet unconcernedly. "What's the
matter with these old shoes?" she exclaimed, turning about
with a pair of half-worn silk gaiters in her hand. They
were by no means old enough to throw away, but Miss
Baker was almost beside herself. There was no telling what
might happen next. Her only thought was to be rid of Maria.
"Yes, yes, anything. You can have them; but go, go. There's
nothing else, not a thing."
Maria went out into the hall, leaving Miss Baker's door wide
open, as if maliciously. She had left the dirty pillow-case
on the floor in the hall, and she stood outside, between the
two open doors, stowing away the old pitcher and the halfworn
silk shoes. She made remarks at the top of her voice,
calling now to Miss Baker, now to Old Grannis. In a way she
brought the two old people face to face. Each time they
were forced to answer her questions it was as if they were
talking directly to each other.
"These here are first-rate shoes, Miss Baker. Look here,
Mister Grannis, get on to the shoes Miss Baker gi' me. You
ain't got a pair you don't want, have you? You two people
have less junk than any one else in the flat. How do you
manage, Mister Grannis? You old bachelors are just like old
maids, just as neat as pins. You two are just alike--you
and Mister Grannis--ain't you, Miss Baker?"
Nothing could have been more horribly constrained, more
awkward. The two old people suffered veritable torture.
When Maria had gone, each heaved a sigh of unspeakable
relief. Softly they pushed to their doors, leaving open a
space of half a dozen inches. Old Grannis went back to his
binding. Miss Baker brewed a cup of tea to quiet her
nerves. Each tried to regain their composure, but in vain.
Old Grannis's fingers trembled so that he pricked them with
his needle. Miss Baker dropped her spoon twice. Their
nervousness would not wear off. They were perturbed, upset.
In a word, the afternoon was spoiled.
Maria went on about the flat from room to room. She had
already paid Marcus Schouler a visit early that morning
before he had gone out. Marcus had sworn at her, excitedly
vociferating; "No, by damn! No, he hadn't a thing for her;
he hadn't, for a fact. It was a positive persecution. Every
day his privacy was invaded. He would complain to the
landlady, he would. He'd move out of the place." In the
end he had given Maria seven empty whiskey flasks, an iron
grate, and ten cents--the latter because he said she wore
her hair like a girl he used to know.
After coming from Miss Baker's room Maria knocked at
McTeague's door. The dentist was lying on the bed-lounge in
his stocking feet, doing nothing apparently, gazing up at
the ceiling, lost in thought.
Since he had spoken to Trina Sieppe, asking her so abruptly
to marry him, McTeague had passed a week of torment. For
him there was no going back. It was Trina now, and none
other. It was all one with him that his best friend,
Marcus, might be in love with the same girl. He must have
Trina in spite of everything; he would have her even in
spite of herself. He did not stop to reflect about the
matter; he followed his desire blindly, recklessly, furious
and raging at every obstacle. And she had cried "No, no!"
back at him; he could not forget that. She, so small and
pale and delicate, had held him at bay, who was so huge, so
immensely strong.
Besides that, all the charm of their intimacy was gone.
After that unhappy sitting, Trina was no longer frank and
straight-forward. Now she was circumspect, reserved,
distant. He could no longer open his mouth; words failed
him. At one sitting in particular they had said but goodday
and good-by to each other. He felt that he was clumsy
and ungainly. He told himself that she despised him.
But the memory of her was with him constantly. Night after
night he lay broad awake thinking of Trina, wondering about
her, racked with the infinite desire of her. His head burnt
and throbbed. The palms of his hands were dry. He dozed
and woke, and walked aimlessly about the dark room, bruising
himself against the three chairs drawn up "at attention"
under the steel engraving, and stumbling over the stone pug
dog that sat in front of the little stove.
Besides this, the jealousy of Marcus Schouler harassed him.
Maria Macapa, coming into his "Parlor" to ask for junk,
found him flung at length upon the bed-lounge, gnawing at
his fingers in an excess of silent fury. At lunch that
day Marcus had told him of an excursion that was planned for
the next Sunday afternoon. Mr. Sieppe, Trina's father,
belonged to a rifle club that was to hold a meet at
Schuetzen Park across the bay. All the Sieppes were going;
there was to be a basket picnic. Marcus, as usual, was
invited to be one of the party. McTeague was in agony. It
was his first experience, and he suffered all the worse for
it because he was totally unprepared. What miserable
complication was this in which he found himself involved?
It seemed so simple to him since he loved Trina to take her
straight to himself, stopping at nothing, asking no
questions, to have her, and by main strength to carry her
far away somewhere, he did not know exactly where, to some
vague country, some undiscovered place where every day was
"Got any junk?"
"Huh? What? What is it?" exclaimed McTeague, suddenly
rousing up from the lounge. Often Maria did very well in
the "Dental Parlors." McTeague was continually breaking
things which he was too stupid to have mended; for him
anything that was broken was lost. Now it was a cuspidor,
now a fire-shovel for the little stove, now a China shaving
"Got any junk?"
"I don't know--I don't remember," muttered McTeague. Maria
roamed about the room, McTeague following her in his huge
stockinged feet. All at once she pounced upon a sheaf of
old hand instruments in a coverless cigar-box, pluggers,
hard bits, and excavators. Maria had long coveted such a
find in McTeague's "Parlor," knowing it should be somewhere
about. The instruments were of the finest tempered steel
and really valuable.
"Say, Doctor, I can have these, can't I?" exclaimed Maria.
"You got no more use for them." McTeague was not at all sure
of this. There were many in the sheaf that might be
repaired, reshaped.
"No, no," he said, wagging his head. But Maria Macapa,
knowing with whom she had to deal, at once let loose a
torrent of words. She made the dentist believe that he had
no right to withhold them, that he had promised to save
them for her. She affected a great indignation, pursing her
lips and putting her chin in the air as though wounded in
some finer sense, changing so rapidly from one mood to
another, filling the room with such shrill clamor, that
McTeague was dazed and benumbed.
"Yes, all right, all right," he said, trying to make himself
heard. "It WOULD be mean. I don't want 'em." As he
turned from her to pick up the box, Maria took advantage of
the moment to steal three "mats" of sponge-gold out of the
glass saucer. Often she stole McTeague's gold, almost under
his very eyes; indeed, it was so easy to do so that there
was but little pleasure in the theft. Then Maria took
herself off. McTeague returned to the sofa and flung
himself upon it face downward.
A little before supper time Maria completed her search. The
flat was cleaned of its junk from top to bottom. The dirty
pillow-case was full to bursting. She took advantage of the
supper hour to carry her bundle around the corner and up
into the alley where Zerkow lived.
When Maria entered his shop, Zerkow had just come in from
his daily rounds. His decrepit wagon stood in front of his
door like a stranded wreck; the miserable horse, with its
lamentable swollen joints, fed greedily upon an armful of
spoiled hay in a shed at the back.
The interior of the junk shop was dark and damp, and foul
with all manner of choking odors. On the walls, on the
floor, and hanging from the rafters was a world of debris,
dust-blackened, rust-corroded. Everything was there, every
trade was represented, every class of society; things of
iron and cloth and wood; all the detritus that a great city
sloughs off in its daily life. Zerkow's junk shop was the
last abiding-place, the almshouse, of such articles as had
outlived their usefulness.
Maria found Zerkow himself in the back room, cooking some
sort of a meal over an alcohol stove. Zerkow was a Polish
Jew--curiously enough his hair was fiery red. He was a dry,
shrivelled old man of sixty odd. He had the thin, eager,
cat-like lips of the covetous; eyes that had grown keen as
those of a lynx from long searching amidst muck and
debris; and claw-like, prehensile fingers--the fingers of a
man who accumulates, but never disburses. It was impossible
to look at Zerkow and not know instantly that greed--
inordinate, insatiable greed--was the dominant passion of
the man. He was the Man with the Rake, groping hourly in
the muck-heap of the city for gold, for gold, for gold. It
was his dream, his passion; at every instant he seemed to
feel the generous solid weight of the crude fat metal in his
palms. The glint of it was constantly in his eyes; the
jangle of it sang forever in his ears as the jangling of
"Who is it? Who is it?" exclaimed Zerkow, as he heard
Maria's footsteps in the outer room. His voice was faint,
husky, reduced almost to a whisper by his prolonged habit of
street crying.
"Oh, it's you again, is it?" he added, peering through the
gloom of the shop. "Let's see; you've been here before,
ain't you? You're the Mexican woman from Polk Street.
Macapa's your name, hey?"
Maria nodded. "Had a flying squirrel an' let him go," she
muttered, absently. Zerkow was puzzled; he looked at her
sharply for a moment, then dismissed the matter with a
movement of his head.
"Well, what you got for me?" he said. He left his supper to
grow cold, absorbed at once in the affair.
Then a long wrangle began. Every bit of junk in Maria's
pillow-case was discussed and weighed and disputed. They
clamored into each other's faces over Old Grannis's cracked
pitcher, over Miss Baker's silk gaiters, over Marcus
Schouler's whiskey flasks, reaching the climax of
disagreement when it came to McTeague's instruments.
"Ah, no, no!" shouted Maria. "Fifteen cents for the lot! I
might as well make you a Christmas present! Besides, I got
some gold fillings off him; look at um."
Zerkow drew a quick breath as the three pellets suddenly
flashed in Maria's palm. There it was, the virgin metal,
the pure, unalloyed ore, his dream, his consuming desire.
His fingers twitched and hooked themselves into his
palms, his thin lips drew tight across his teeth.
"Ah, you got some gold," he muttered, reaching for it.
Maria shut her fist over the pellets. "The gold goes with
the others," she declared. "You'll gi' me a fair price for
the lot, or I'll take um back."
In the end a bargain was struck that satisfied Maria.
Zerkow was not one who would let gold go out of his house.
He counted out to her the price of all her junk, grudging
each piece of money as if it had been the blood of his
veins. The affair was concluded.
But Zerkow still had something to say. As Maria folded up
the pillow-case and rose to go, the old Jew said:
"Well, see here a minute, we'll--you'll have a drink before
you go, won't you? Just to show that it's all right between
us." Maria sat down again.
"Yes, I guess I'll have a drink," she answered.
Zerkow took down a whiskey bottle and a red glass tumbler
with a broken base from a cupboard on the wall. The two
drank together, Zerkow from the bottle, Maria from the
broken tumbler. They wiped their lips slowly, drawing
breath again. There was a moment's silence.
"Say," said Zerkow at last, "how about those gold dishes you
told me about the last time you were here?"
"What gold dishes?" inquired Maria, puzzled.
"Ah, you know," returned the other. "The plate your father
owned in Central America a long time ago. Don't you know,
it rang like so many bells? Red gold, you know, like
"Ah," said Maria, putting her chin in the air as if she knew
a long story about that if she had a mind to tell it. "Ah,
yes, that gold service."
"Tell us about it again," said Zerkow, his bloodless lower
lip moving against the upper, his claw-like fingers feeling
about his mouth and chin. "Tell us about it; go on."
He was breathing short, his limbs trembled a little. It was
as if some hungry beast of prey had scented a quarry. Maria
still refused, putting up her head, insisting that she had
to be going.
"Let's have it," insisted the Jew. "Take another
drink." Maria took another swallow of the whiskey. "Now, go
on," repeated Zerkow; "let's have the story." Maria squared
her elbows on the deal table, looking straight in front of
her with eyes that saw nothing.
"Well, it was this way," she began. "It was when I was
little. My folks must have been rich, oh, rich into the
millions--coffee, I guess--and there was a large house, but
I can only remember the plate. Oh, that service of plate!
It was wonderful. There were more than a hundred pieces,
and every one of them gold. You should have seen the sight
when the leather trunk was opened. It fair dazzled your
eyes. It was a yellow blaze like a fire, like a sunset;
such a glory, all piled up together, one piece over the
other. Why, if the room was dark you'd think you could see
just the same with all that glitter there. There wa'n't a
piece that was so much as scratched; every one was like a
mirror, smooth and bright, just like a little pool when the
sun shines into it. There was dinner dishes and soup
tureens and pitchers; and great, big platters as long as
that and wide too; and cream-jugs and bowls with carved
handles, all vines and things; and drinking mugs, every one
a different shape; and dishes for gravy and sauces; and then
a great, big punch-bowl with a ladle, and the bowl was all
carved out with figures and bunches of grapes. Why, just
only that punch-bowl was worth a fortune, I guess. When all
that plate was set out on a table, it was a sight for a king
to look at. Such a service as that was! Each piece was
heavy, oh, so heavy! and thick, you know; thick, fat gold,
nothing but gold--red, shining, pure gold, orange red--and
when you struck it with your knuckle, ah, you should have
heard! No church bell ever rang sweeter or clearer. It was
soft gold, too; you could bite into it, and leave the dent
of your teeth. Oh, that gold plate! I can see it just as
plain--solid, solid, heavy, rich, pure gold; nothing but
gold, gold, heaps and heaps of it. What a service that was!"
Maria paused, shaking her head, thinking over the vanished
splendor. Illiterate enough, unimaginative enough on all
other subjects, her distorted wits called up this picture
with marvellous distinctness. It was plain she saw the
plate clearly. Her description was accurate, was almost
Did that wonderful service of gold plate ever exist outside
of her diseased imagination? Was Maria actually remembering
some reality of a childhood of barbaric luxury? Were her
parents at one time possessed of an incalculable fortune
derived from some Central American coffee plantation, a
fortune long since confiscated by armies of
insurrectionists, or squandered in the support of
revolutionary governments?
It was not impossible. Of Maria Macapa's past prior to the
time of her appearance at the "flat" absolutely nothing
could be learned. She suddenly appeared from the unknown, a
strange woman of a mixed race, sane on all subjects but that
of the famous service of gold plate; but unusual, complex,
mysterious, even at her best.
But what misery Zerkow endured as he listened to her tale!
For he chose to believe it, forced himself to believe it,
lashed and harassed by a pitiless greed that checked at no
tale of treasure, however preposterous. The story ravished
him with delight. He was near someone who had possessed
this wealth. He saw someone who had seen this pile of gold.
He seemed near it; it was there, somewhere close by, under
his eyes, under his fingers; it was red, gleaming,
ponderous. He gazed about him wildly; nothing, nothing but
the sordid junk shop and the rust-corroded tins. What
exasperation, what positive misery, to be so near to it and
yet to know that it was irrevocably, irretrievably lost! A
spasm of anguish passed through him. He gnawed at his
bloodless lips, at the hopelessness of it, the rage, the
fury of it.
"Go on, go on," he whispered; "let's have it all over again.
Polished like a mirror, hey, and heavy? Yes, I know, I
know. A punch-bowl worth a fortune. Ah! and you saw it,
you had it all!"
Maria rose to go. Zerkow accompanied her to the door,
urging another drink upon her.
"Come again, come again," he croaked. "Don't wait till
you've got junk; come any time you feel like it, and tell me
more about the plate."
He followed her a step down the alley.
"How much do you think it was worth?" he inquired,
"Oh, a million dollars," answered Maria, vaguely.
When Maria had gone, Zerkow returned to the back room of the
shop, and stood in front of the alcohol stove, looking down
into his cold dinner, preoccupied, thoughtful.
"A million dollars," he muttered in his rasping, guttural
whisper, his finger-tips wandering over his thin, cat-like
lips. "A golden service worth a million dollars; a punchbowl
worth a fortune; red gold plates, heaps and piles.
The days passed. McTeague had finished the operation on
Trina's teeth. She did not come any more to the "Parlors."
Matters had readjusted themselves a little between the two
during the last sittings. Trina yet stood upon her reserve,
and McTeague still felt himself shambling and ungainly in
her presence; but that constraint and embarrassment that had
followed upon McTeague's blundering declaration broke up
little by little. In spite of themselves they were
gradually resuming the same relative positions they had
occupied when they had first met.
But McTeague suffered miserably for all that. He never
would have Trina, he saw that clearly. She was too good for
him; too delicate, too refined, too prettily made for him,
who was so coarse, so enormous, so stupid. She was for
someone else--Marcus, no doubt--or at least for some finergrained
man. She should have gone to some other dentist;
the young fellow on the corner, for instance, the poser, the
rider of bicycles, the courser of grey-hounds. McTeague
began to loathe and to envy this fellow. He spied upon him
going in and out of his office, and noted his salmon-pink
neckties and his astonishing waistcoats.
One Sunday, a few days after Trina's last sitting, McTeague
met Marcus Schouler at his table in the car conductors'
coffee-joint, next to the harness shop.
"What you got to do this afternoon, Mac?" inquired the
other, as they ate their suet pudding.
"Nothing, nothing," replied McTeague, shaking his head. His
mouth was full of pudding. It made him warm to eat, and
little beads of perspiration stood across the bridge of his
nose. He looked forward to an afternoon passed in his
operating chair as usual. On leaving his "Parlors" he had
put ten cents into his pitcher and had left it at Frenna's
to be filled.
"What do you say we take a walk, huh?" said Marcus. "Ah,
that's the thing--a walk, a long walk, by damn! It'll be
outa sight. I got to take three or four of the dogs out for
exercise, anyhow. Old Grannis thinks they need ut. We'll
walk out to the Presidio."
Of late it had become the custom of the two friends to take
long walks from time to time. On holidays and on those
Sunday afternoons when Marcus was not absent with the
Sieppes they went out together, sometimes to the park,
sometimes to the Presidio, sometimes even across the bay.
They took a great pleasure in each other's company, but
silently and with reservation, having the masculine horror
of any demonstration of friendship.
They walked for upwards of five hours that afternoon, out
the length of California Street, and across the Presidio
Reservation to the Golden Gate. Then they turned, and,
following the line of the shore, brought up at the Cliff
House. Here they halted for beer, Marcus swearing that his
mouth was as dry as a hay-bin. Before starting on their
walk they had gone around to the little dog hospital, and
Marcus had let out four of the convalescents, crazed with
joy at the release.
"Look at that dog," he cried to McTeague, showing him a
finely-bred Irish setter. "That's the dog that belonged
to the duck on the avenue, the dog we called for that day.
I've bought 'um. The duck thought he had the distemper, and
just threw 'um away. Nothun wrong with 'um but a little
catarrh. Ain't he a bird? Say, ain't he a bird? Look at
his flag; it's perfect; and see how he carries his tail on a
line with his back. See how stiff and white his whiskers
are. Oh, by damn! you can't fool me on a dog. That dog's a
At the Cliff House the two sat down to their beer in a quiet
corner of the billiard-room. There were but two players.
Somewhere in another part of the building a mammoth musicbox
was jangling out a quickstep. From outside came the
long, rhythmical rush of the surf and the sonorous barking
of the seals upon the seal rocks. The four dogs curled
themselves down upon the sanded floor.
"Here's how," said Marcus, half emptying his glass. "Ah-h!"
he added, with a long breath, "that's good; it is, for a
For the last hour of their walk Marcus had done nearly all
the talking. McTeague merely answering him by uncertain
movements of the head. For that matter, the dentist had
been silent and preoccupied throughout the whole afternoon.
At length Marcus noticed it. As he set down his glass with
a bang he suddenly exclaimed:
"What's the matter with you these days, Mac? You got a bean
about somethun, hey? Spit ut out."
"No, no," replied McTeague, looking about on the floor,
rolling his eyes; "nothing, no, no."
"Ah, rats!" returned the other. McTeague kept silence. The
two billiard players departed. The huge music-box struck
into a fresh tune.
"Huh!" exclaimed Marcus, with a short laugh, "guess you're
in love."
McTeague gasped, and shuffled his enormous feet under the
"Well, somethun's bitun you, anyhow," pursued Marcus.
"Maybe I can help you. We're pals, you know. Better tell
me what's up; guess we can straighten ut out. Ah, go
on; spit ut out."
The situation was abominable. McTeague could not rise to
it. Marcus was his best friend, his only friend. They were
"pals" and McTeague was very fond of him. Yet they were
both in love, presumably, with the same girl, and now Marcus
would try and force the secret out of him; would rush
blindly at the rock upon which the two must split, stirred
by the very best of motives, wishing only to be of service.
Besides this, there was nobody to whom McTeague would have
better preferred to tell his troubles than to Marcus, and
yet about this trouble, the greatest trouble of his life, he
must keep silent; must refrain from speaking of it to Marcus
above everybody.
McTeague began dimly to feel that life was too much for him.
How had it all come about? A month ago he was perfectly
content; he was calm and peaceful, taking his little
pleasures as he found them. His life had shaped itself;
was, no doubt, to continue always along these same lines. A
woman had entered his small world and instantly there was
discord. The disturbing element had appeared. Wherever the
woman had put her foot a score of distressing complications
had sprung up, like the sudden growth of strange and
puzzling flowers.
"Say, Mac, go on; let's have ut straight," urged Marcus,
leaning toward him. "Has any duck been doing you dirt?" he
cried, his face crimson on the instant.
"No," said McTeague, helplessly.
"Come along, old man," persisted Marcus; "let's have ut.
What is the row? I'll do all I can to help you."
It was more than McTeague could bear. The situation had got
beyond him. Stupidly he spoke, his hands deep in his
pockets, his head rolled forward.
"It's--it's Miss Sieppe," he said.
"Trina, my cousin? How do you mean?" inquired Marcus
"I--I--I don' know," stammered McTeague, hopelessly
"You mean," cried Marcus, suddenly enlightened, "that
you are--that you, too."
McTeague stirred in his chair, looking at the walls of the
room, avoiding the other's glance. He nodded his head, then
suddenly broke out:
"I can't help it. It ain't my fault, is it?"
Marcus was struck dumb; he dropped back in his chair
breathless. Suddenly McTeague found his tongue.
"I tell you, Mark, I can't help it. I don't know how it
happened. It came on so slow that I was, that--that--that
it was done before I knew it, before I could help myself. I
know we're pals, us two, and I knew how--how you and Miss
Sieppe were. I know now, I knew then; but that wouldn't
have made any difference. Before I knew it--it--it--there I
was. I can't help it. I wouldn't 'a' had ut happen for
anything, if I could 'a' stopped it, but I don' know, it's
something that's just stronger than you are, that's all.
She came there--Miss Sieppe came to the parlors there three
or four times a week, and she was the first girl I had ever
known,--and you don' know! Why, I was so close to her I
touched her face every minute, and her mouth, and smelt her
hair and her breath--oh, you don't know anything about it.
I can't give you any idea. I don' know exactly myself; I
only know how I'm fixed. I--I--it's been done; it's too
late, there's no going back. Why, I can't think of anything
else night and day. It's everything. It's--it's--oh, it's
everything! I--I--why, Mark, it's everything--I can't
explain." He made a helpless movement with both hands.
Never had McTeague been so excited; never had he made so
long a speech. His arms moved in fierce, uncertain
gestures, his face flushed, his enormous jaws shut together
with a sharp click at every pause. It was like some
colossal brute trapped in a delicate, invisible mesh,
raging, exasperated, powerless to extricate himself.
Marcus Schouler said nothing. There was a long silence.
Marcus got up and walked to the window and stood looking
out, but seeing nothing. "Well, who would have thought of
this?" he muttered under his breath. Here was a fix.
Marcus cared for Trina. There was no doubt in his mind
about that. He looked forward eagerly to the Sunday
afternoon excursions. He liked to be with Trina. He, too,
felt the charm of the little girl--the charm of the small,
pale forehead; the little chin thrust out as if in
confidence and innocence; the heavy, odorous crown of black
hair. He liked her immensely. Some day he would speak; he
would ask her to marry him. Marcus put off this matter of
marriage to some future period; it would be some time--a
year, perhaps, or two. The thing did not take definite
shape in his mind. Marcus "kept company" with his cousin
Trina, but he knew plenty of other girls. For the matter of
that, he liked all girls pretty well. Just now the
singleness and strength of McTeague's passion startled him.
McTeague would marry Trina that very afternoon if she would
have him; but would he--Marcus? No, he would not; if it
came to that, no, he would not. Yet he knew he liked Trina.
He could say--yes, he could say--he loved her. She was his
"girl." The Sieppes acknowledged him as Trina's "young
man." Marcus came back to the table and sat down sideways
upon it.
"Well, what are we going to do about it, Mac?" he said.
"I don' know," answered McTeague, in great distress. "I
don' want anything to--to come between us, Mark."
"Well, nothun will, you bet!" vociferated the other. "No,
sir; you bet not, Mac."
Marcus was thinking hard. He could see very clearly that
McTeague loved Trina more than he did; that in some strange
way this huge, brutal fellow was capable of a greater
passion than himself, who was twice as clever. Suddenly
Marcus jumped impetuously to a resolution.
"Well, say, Mac," he cried, striking the table with his
fist, "go ahead. I guess you--you want her pretty bad. I'll
pull out; yes, I will. I'll give her up to you, old man."
The sense of his own magnanimity all at once overcame
Marcus. He saw himself as another man, very noble, selfsacrificing;
he stood apart and watched this second self
with boundless admiration and with infinite pity. He
was so good, so magnificent, so heroic, that he almost
sobbed. Marcus made a sweeping gesture of resignation,
throwing out both his arms, crying:
"Mac, I'll give her up to you. I won't stand between you."
There were actually tears in Marcus's eyes as he spoke.
There was no doubt he thought himself sincere. At that
moment he almost believed he loved Trina conscientiously,
that he was sacrificing himself for the sake of his friend.
The two stood up and faced each other, gripping hands. It
was a great moment; even McTeague felt the drama of it.
What a fine thing was this friendship between men! the
dentist treats his friend for an ulcerated tooth and refuses
payment; the friend reciprocates by giving up his girl.
This was nobility. Their mutual affection and esteem
suddenly increased enormously. It was Damon and Pythias; it
was David and Jonathan; nothing could ever estrange them.
Now it was for life or death.
"I'm much obliged," murmured McTeague. He could think of
nothing better to say. "I'm much obliged," he repeated;
"much obliged, Mark."
"That's all right, that's all right," returned Marcus
Schouler, bravely, and it occurred to him to add, "You'll be
happy together. Tell her for me--tell her---tell her----"
Marcus could not go on. He wrung the dentist's hand
It had not appeared to either of them that Trina might
refuse McTeague. McTeague's spirits rose at once. In
Marcus's withdrawal he fancied he saw an end to all his
difficulties. Everything would come right, after all. The
strained, exalted state of Marcus's nerves ended by putting
him into fine humor as well. His grief suddenly changed to
an excess of gaiety. The afternoon was a success. They
slapped each other on the back with great blows of the open
palms, and they drank each other's health in a third round
of beer.
Ten minutes after his renunciation of Trina Sieppe, Marcus
astounded McTeague with a tremendous feat.
"Looka here, Mac. I know somethun you can't do. I'll bet
you two bits I'll stump you." They each put a quarter on
the table. "Now watch me," cried Marcus. He caught up
a billiard ball from the rack, poised it a moment in front
of his face, then with a sudden, horrifying distension of
his jaws crammed it into his mouth, and shut his lips over
For an instant McTeague was stupefied, his eyes bulging.
Then an enormous laugh shook him. He roared and shouted,
swaying in his chair, slapping his knee. What a josher was
this Marcus! Sure, you never could tell what he would do
next. Marcus slipped the ball out, wiped it on the
tablecloth, and passed it to McTeague.
"Now let's see you do it."
McTeague fell suddenly grave. The matter was serious. He
parted his thick mustaches and opened his enormous jaws like
an anaconda. The ball disappeared inside his mouth. Marcus
applauded vociferously, shouting, "Good work!" McTeague
reached for the money and put it in his vest pocket, nodding
his head with a knowing air.
Then suddenly his face grew purple, his jaws moved
convulsively, he pawed at his cheeks with both hands. The
billiard ball had slipped into his mouth easily enough; now,
however, he could not get it out again.
It was terrible. The dentist rose to his feet, stumbling
about among the dogs, his face working, his eyes starting.
Try as he would, he could not stretch his jaws wide enough
to slip the ball out. Marcus lost his wits, swearing at the
top of his voice. McTeague sweated with terror;
inarticulate sounds came from his crammed mouth; he waved
his arms wildly; all the four dogs caught the excitement and
began to bark. A waiter rushed in, the two billiard players
returned, a little crowd formed. There was a veritable
All at once the ball slipped out of McTeague's jaws as
easily as it had gone in. What a relief! He dropped into a
chair, wiping his forehead, gasping for breath.
On the strength of the occasion Marcus Schouler invited the
entire group to drink with him.
By the time the affair was over and the group dispersed it
was after five. Marcus and McTeague decided they would
ride home on the cars. But they soon found this impossible.
The dogs would not follow. Only Alexander, Marcus's new
setter, kept his place at the rear of the car. The other
three lost their senses immediately, running wildly about
the streets with their heads in the air, or suddenly
starting off at a furious gallop directly away from the car.
Marcus whistled and shouted and lathered with rage in vain.
The two friends were obliged to walk. When they finally
reached Polk Street, Marcus shut up the three dogs in the
hospital. Alexander he brought back to the flat with him.
There was a minute back yard in the rear, where Marcus had
made a kennel for Alexander out of an old water barrel.
Before he thought of his own supper Marcus put Alexander to
bed and fed him a couple of dog biscuits. McTeague had
followed him to the yard to keep him company. Alexander
settled to his supper at once, chewing vigorously at the
biscuit, his head on one side.
"What you going to do about this--about that--about--about
my cousin now, Mac?" inquired Marcus.
McTeague shook his head helplessly. It was dark by now and
cold. The little back yard was grimy and full of odors.
McTeague was tired with their long walk. All his uneasiness
about his affair with Trina had returned. No, surely she
was not for him. Marcus or some other man would win her in
the end. What could she ever see to desire in him--in him,
a clumsy giant, with hands like wooden mallets? She had
told him once that she would not marry him. Was that not
"I don' know what to do, Mark," he said.
"Well, you must make up to her now," answered Marcus. "Go
and call on her."
McTeague started. He had not thought of calling on her.
The idea frightened him a little.
"Of course," persisted Marcus, "that's the proper caper.
What did you expect? Did you think you was never going to
see her again?"
"I don' know, I don' know," responded the dentist, looking
stupidly at the dog.
"You know where they live," continued Marcus Schouler.
"Over at B Street station, across the bay. I'll take you
over there whenever you want to go. I tell you what, we'll
go over there Washington's Birthday. That's this next
Wednesday; sure, they'll be glad to see you." It was good of
Marcus. All at once McTeague rose to an appreciation of
what his friend was doing for him. He stammered:
"Say, Mark--you're--you're all right, anyhow."
"Why, pshaw!" said Marcus. "That's all right, old man. I'd
like to see you two fixed, that's all. We'll go over
Wednesday, sure."
They turned back to the house. Alexander left off eating
and watched them go away, first with one eye, then with the
other. But he was too self-respecting to whimper. However,
by the time the two friends had reached the second landing
on the back stairs a terrible commotion was under way in the
little yard. They rushed to an open window at the end of the
hall and looked down.
A thin board fence separated the flat's back yard from that
used by the branch post-office. In the latter place lived a
collie dog. He and Alexander had smelt each other out,
blowing through the cracks of the fence at each other.
Suddenly the quarrel had exploded on either side of the
fence. The dogs raged at each other, snarling and barking,
frantic with hate. Their teeth gleamed. They tore at the
fence with their front paws. They filled the whole night
with their clamor.
"By damn!" cried Marcus, "they don't love each other. Just
listen; wouldn't that make a fight if the two got together?
Have to try it some day."
Wednesday morning, Washington's Birthday, McTeague rose very
early and shaved himself. Besides the six mournful
concertina airs, the dentist knew one song. Whenever he
shaved, he sung this song; never at any other time. His
voice was a bellowing roar, enough to make the window sashes
rattle. Just now he woke up all the lodgers in his hall
with it. It was a lamentable wail:
"No one to love, none to caress,
Left all alone in this world's wilderness."
As he paused to strop his razor, Marcus came into his room,
half-dressed, a startling phantom in red flannels.
Marcus often ran back and forth between his room and the
dentist's "Parlors" in all sorts of undress. Old Miss Baker
had seen him thus several times through her half-open door,
as she sat in her room listening and waiting. The old
dressmaker was shocked out of all expression. She was
outraged, offended, pursing her lips, putting up her head.
She talked of complaining to the landlady. "And Mr. Grannis
right next door, too. You can understand how trying it is
for both of us." She would come out in the hall after one
of these apparitions, her little false curls shaking,
talking loud and shrill to any one in reach of her voice.
"Well," Marcus would shout, "shut your door, then, if you
don't want to see. Look out, now, here I come again. Not
even a porous plaster on me this time."
On this Wednesday morning Marcus called McTeague out into
the hall, to the head of the stairs that led down to the
street door.
"Come and listen to Maria, Mac," said he.
Maria sat on the next to the lowest step, her chin
propped by her two fists. The red-headed Polish Jew, the
ragman Zerkow, stood in the doorway. He was talking
"Now, just once more, Maria," he was saying. "Tell it to us
just once more." Maria's voice came up the stairway in a
monotone. Marcus and McTeague caught a phrase from time to
"There were more than a hundred pieces, and every one of
them gold--just that punch-bowl was worth a fortune-thick,
fat, red gold."
"Get onto to that, will you?" observed Marcus. "The old
skin has got her started on the plate. Ain't they a pair
for you?"
"And it rang like bells, didn't it?" prompted Zerkow.
"Sweeter'n church bells, and clearer."
"Ah, sweeter'n bells. Wasn't that punch-bowl awful heavy?"
"All you could do to lift it."
"I know. Oh, I know," answered Zerkow, clawing at his lips.
"Where did it all go to? Where did it go?"
Maria shook her head.
"It's gone, anyhow."
"Ah, gone, gone! Think of it! The punch-bowl gone, and the
engraved ladle, and the plates and goblets. What a sight it
must have been all heaped together!"
"It was a wonderful sight."
"Yes, wonderful; it must have been."
On the lower steps of that cheap flat, the Mexican woman and
the red-haired Polish Jew mused long over that vanished,
half-mythical gold plate.
Marcus and the dentist spent Washington's Birthday across
the bay. The journey over was one long agony to McTeague.
He shook with a formless, uncertain dread; a dozen times he
would have turned back had not Marcus been with him. The
stolid giant was as nervous as a schoolboy. He fancied that
his call upon Miss Sieppe was an outrageous affront. She
would freeze him with a stare; he would be shown the door,
would be ejected, disgraced.
As they got off the local train at B Street station they
suddenly collided with the whole tribe of Sieppes--the
mother, father, three children, and Trina--equipped for
one of their eternal picnics. They were to go to Schuetzen
Park, within walking distance of the station. They were
grouped about four lunch baskets. One of the children, a
little boy, held a black greyhound by a rope around its
neck. Trina wore a blue cloth skirt, a striped shirt waist,
and a white sailor; about her round waist was a belt of
imitation alligator skin.
At once Mrs. Sieppe began to talk to Marcus. He had written
of their coming, but the picnic had been decided upon after
the arrival of his letter. Mrs. Sieppe explained this to
him. She was an immense old lady with a pink face and
wonderful hair, absolutely white. The Sieppes were a
German-Swiss family.
"We go to der park, Schuetzen Park, mit alle dem childern, a
little eggs-kursion, eh not soh? We breathe der freshes
air, a celubration, a pignic bei der seashore on. Ach, dot
wull be soh gay, ah?"
"You bet it will. It'll be outa sight," cried Marcus,
enthusiastic in an instant. "This is m' friend Doctor
McTeague I wrote you about, Mrs. Sieppe."
"Ach, der doktor," cried Mrs. Sieppe.
McTeague was presented, shaking hands gravely as Marcus
shouldered him from one to the other.
Mr. Sieppe was a little man of a military aspect, full of
importance, taking himself very seriously. He was a member
of a rifle team. Over his shoulder was slung a Springfield
rifle, while his breast was decorated by five bronze medals.
Trina was delighted. McTeague was dumfounded. She appeared
positively glad to see him.
"How do you do, Doctor McTeague," she said, smiling at him
and shaking his hand. "It's nice to see you again. Look,
see how fine my filling is." She lifted a corner of her lip
and showed him the clumsy gold bridge.
Meanwhile, Mr. Sieppe toiled and perspired. Upon him
devolved the responsibility of the excursion. He seemed to
consider it a matter of vast importance, a veritable
"Owgooste!" he shouted to the little boy with the black
greyhound, "you will der hound und basket number three
carry. Der tervins," he added, calling to the two smallest
boys, who were dressed exactly alike, "will releef one
unudder mit der camp-stuhl und basket number four. Dat is
comprehend, hay? When we make der start, you childern will
in der advance march. Dat is your orders. But we do not
start," he exclaimed, excitedly; "we remain. Ach Gott,
Selina, who does not arrive."
Selina, it appeared, was a niece of Mrs. Sieppe's. They were
on the point of starting without her, when she suddenly
arrived, very much out of breath. She was a slender,
unhealthy looking girl, who overworked herself giving
lessons in hand-painting at twenty-five cents an hour.
McTeague was presented. They all began to talk at once,
filling the little station-house with a confusion of
"Attention!" cried Mr. Sieppe, his gold-headed cane in one
hand, his Springfield in the other. "Attention! We
depart." The four little boys moved off ahead; the
greyhound suddenly began to bark, and tug at his leash. The
others picked up their bundles.
"Vorwarts!" shouted Mr. Sieppe, waving his rifle and
assuming the attitude of a lieutenant of infantry leading a
charge. The party set off down the railroad track.
Mrs. Sieppe walked with her husband, who constantly left her
side to shout an order up and down the line. Marcus
followed with Selina. McTeague found himself with Trina at
the end of the procession.
"We go off on these picnics almost every week," said Trina,
by way of a beginning, "and almost every holiday, too. It
is a custom."
"Yes, yes, a custom," answered McTeague, nodding; "a custom
--that's the word."
"Don't you think picnics are fine fun, Doctor McTeague?" she
continued. "You take your lunch; you leave the dirty city
all day; you race about in the open air, and when lunchtime
comes, oh, aren't you hungry? And the woods and the grass
smell so fine!"
"I don' know, Miss Sieppe," he answered, keeping his eyes
fixed on the ground between the rails. "I never went on
a picnic."
"Never went on a picnic?" she cried, astonished. "Oh,
you'll see what fun we'll have. In the morning father and
the children dig clams in the mud by the shore, an' we bake
them, and--oh, there's thousands of things to do."
"Once I went sailing on the bay," said McTeague. "It was in
a tugboat; we fished off the heads. I caught three
"I'm afraid to go out on the bay," answered Trina, shaking
her head, "sailboats tip over so easy. A cousin of mine,
Selina's brother, was drowned one Decoration Day. They
never found his body. Can you swim, Doctor McTeague?"
"I used to at the mine."
"At the mine? Oh, yes, I remember, Marcus told me you were a
miner once."
"I was a car-boy; all the car-boys used to swim in the
reservoir by the ditch every Thursday evening. One of them
was bit by a rattlesnake once while he was dressing. He was
a Frenchman, named Andrew. He swelled up and began to
"Oh, how I hate snakes! They're so crawly and graceful--
but, just the same, I like to watch them. You know that
drug store over in town that has a showcase full of live
"We killed the rattler with a cart whip."
"How far do you think you could swim? Did you ever try?
D'you think you could swim a mile?"
"A mile? I don't know. I never tried. I guess I could."
"I can swim a little. Sometimes we all go out to the
Crystal Baths."
"The Crystal Baths, huh? Can you swim across the tank?"
"Oh, I can swim all right as long as papa holds my chin up.
Soon as he takes his hand away, down I go. Don't you hate
to get water in your ears?"
"Bathing's good for you."
"If the water's too warm, it isn't. It weakens you."
Mr. Sieppe came running down the tracks, waving his cane.
"To one side," he shouted, motioning them off the track;
"der drain gomes." A local passenger train was just passing
B Street station, some quarter of a mile behind them.
The party stood to one side to let it pass. Marcus put a
nickel and two crossed pins upon the rail, and waved his hat
to the passengers as the train roared past. The children
shouted shrilly. When the train was gone, they all rushed
to see the nickel and the crossed pins. The nickel had been
jolted off, but the pins had been flattened out so that they
bore a faint resemblance to opened scissors. A great
contention arose among the children for the possession of
these "scissors." Mr. Sieppe was obliged to intervene. He
reflected gravely. It was a matter of tremendous moment.
The whole party halted, awaiting his decision.
"Attend now," he suddenly exclaimed. "It will not be soh
soon. At der end of der day, ven we shall have home
gecommen, den wull it pe adjudge, eh? A REward of merit
to him who der bes' pehaves. It is an order. Vorwarts!"
"That was a Sacramento train," said Marcus to Selina as they
started off; "it was, for a fact."
"I know a girl in Sacramento," Trina told McTeague. "She's
forewoman in a glove store, and she's got consumption."
"I was in Sacramento once," observed McTeague, "nearly eight
years ago."
"Is it a nice place--as nice as San Francisco?"
"It's hot. I practised there for a while."
"I like San Francisco," said Trina, looking across the bay
to where the city piled itself upon its hills.
"So do I," answered McTeague. "Do you like it better than
living over here?"
"Oh, sure, I wish we lived in the city. If you want to go
across for anything it takes up the whole day."
"Yes, yes, the whole day--almost."
"Do you know many people in the city? Do you know anybody
named Oelbermann? That's my uncle. He has a wholesale toy
store in the Mission. They say he's awful rich."
"No, I don' know him."
"His stepdaughter wants to be a nun. Just fancy! And Mr.
Oelbermann won't have it. He says it would be just like
burying his child. Yes, she wants to enter the convent
of the Sacred Heart. Are you a Catholic, Doctor McTeague?"
"No. No, I--"
"Papa is a Catholic. He goes to Mass on the feast days once
in a while. But mamma's Lutheran."
"The Catholics are trying to get control of the schools,"
observed McTeague, suddenly remembering one of Marcus's
political tirades.
"That's what cousin Mark says. We are going to send the
twins to the kindergarten next month."
"What's the kindergarten?"
"Oh, they teach them to make things out of straw and
toothpicks--kind of a play place to keep them off the
"There's one up on Sacramento Street, not far from Polk
Street. I saw the sign."
"I know where. Why, Selina used to play the piano there."
"Does she play the piano?"
"Oh, you ought to hear her. She plays fine. Selina's very
accomplished. She paints, too."
"I can play on the concertina."
"Oh, can you? I wish you'd brought it along. Next time you
will. I hope you'll come often on our picnics. You'll see
what fun we'll have."
"Fine day for a picnic, ain't it? There ain't a cloud."
"That's so," exclaimed Trina, looking up, "not a single
cloud. Oh, yes; there is one, just over Telegraph Hill."
"That's smoke."
"No, it's a cloud. Smoke isn't white that way."
"'Tis a cloud."
"I knew I was right. I never say a thing unless I'm pretty
"It looks like a dog's head."
"Don't it? Isn't Marcus fond of dogs?"
"He got a new dog last week--a setter."
"Did he?"
"Yes. He and I took a lot of dogs from his hospital out
for a walk to the Cliff House last Sunday, but we had to
walk all the way home, because they wouldn't follow. You've
been out to the Cliff House?"
"Not for a long time. We had a picnic there one Fourth of
July, but it rained. Don't you love the ocean?"
"Yes--yes, I like it pretty well."
"Oh, I'd like to go off in one of those big sailing ships.
Just away, and away, and away, anywhere. They're different
from a little yacht. I'd love to travel."
"Sure; so would I."
"Papa and mamma came over in a sailing ship. They were
twenty-one days. Mamma's uncle used to be a sailor. He was
captain of a steamer on Lake Geneva, in Switzerland."
"Halt!" shouted Mr. Sieppe, brandishing his rifle. They had
arrived at the gates of the park. All at once McTeague
turned cold. He had only a quarter in his pocket. What was
he expected to do--pay for the whole party, or for Trina and
himself, or merely buy his own ticket? And even in this
latter case would a quarter be enough? He lost his wits,
rolling his eyes helplessly. Then it occurred to him to
feign a great abstraction, pretending not to know that the
time was come to pay. He looked intently up and down the
tracks; perhaps a train was coming. "Here we are," cried
Trina, as they came up to the rest of the party, crowded
about the entrance. "Yes, yes," observed McTeague, his head
in the air.
"Gi' me four bits, Mac," said Marcus, coming up. "Here's
where we shell out."
"I--I--I only got a quarter," mumbled the dentist,
miserably. He felt that he had ruined himself forever with
Trina. What was the use of trying to win her? Destiny was
against him. "I only got a quarter," he stammered. He was
on the point of adding that he would not go in the park.
That seemed to be the only alternative.
"Oh, all right!" said Marcus, easily. "I'll pay for you,
and you can square with me when we go home."
They filed into the park, Mr. Sieppe counting them off
as they entered.
"Ah," said Trina, with a long breath, as she and McTeague
pushed through the wicket, "here we are once more, Doctor."
She had not appeared to notice McTeague's embarrassment.
The difficulty had been tided over somehow. Once more
McTeague felt himself saved.
"To der beach!" shouted Mr. Sieppe. They had checked their
baskets at the peanut stand. The whole party trooped down
to the seashore. The greyhound was turned loose. The
children raced on ahead.
From one of the larger parcels Mrs. Sieppe had drawn forth a
small tin steamboat--August's birthday present--a gaudy
little toy which could be steamed up and navigated by means
of an alcohol lamp. Her trial trip was to be made this
"Gi' me it, gi' me it," shouted August, dancing around his
"Not soh, not soh," cried Mr. Sieppe, bearing it aloft. "I
must first der eggsperimunt make."
"No, no!" wailed August. "I want to play with ut."
"Obey!" thundered Mr. Sieppe. August subsided. A little
jetty ran part of the way into the water. Here, after a
careful study of the directions printed on the cover of the
box, Mr. Sieppe began to fire the little boat.
"I want to put ut in the wa-ater," cried August.
"Stand back!" shouted his parent. "You do not know so well
as me; dere is dandger. Mitout attention he will
"I want to play with ut," protested August, beginning to
"Ach, soh; you cry, bube!" vociferated Mr. Sieppe. "Mommer,"
addressing Mrs. Sieppe, "he will soh soon be ge-whipt, eh?"
"I want my boa-wut," screamed August, dancing.
"Silence!" roared Mr. Sieppe. The little boat began to hiss
and smoke.
"Soh," observed the father, "he gommence. Attention! I put
him in der water." He was very excited. The perspiration
dripped from the back of his neck. The little boat was
launched. It hissed more furiously than ever. Clouds
of steam rolled from it, but it refused to move.
"You don't know how she wo-rks," sobbed August.
"I know more soh mudge as der grossest liddle fool as you,"
cried Mr. Sieppe, fiercely, his face purple.
"You must give it sh--shove!" exclaimed the boy.
"Den he eggsplode, idiot!" shouted his father. All at once
the boiler of the steamer blew up with a sharp crack. The
little tin toy turned over and sank out of sight before any
one could interfere.
"Ah--h! Yah! Yah!" yelled August. "It's go-one!"
Instantly Mr. Sieppe boxed his ears. There was a lamentable
scene. August rent the air with his outcries; his father
shook him till his boots danced on the jetty, shouting into
his face:
"Ach, idiot! Ach, imbecile! Ach, miserable! I tol' you he
eggsplode. Stop your cry. Stop! It is an order. Do you
wish I drow you in der water, eh? Speak. Silence, bube!
Mommer, where ist mein stick? He will der grossest whippun
ever of his life receive."
Little by little the boy subsided, swallowing his sobs,
knuckling his eyes, gazing ruefully at the spot where the
boat had sunk. "Dot is better soh," commented Mr. Sieppe,
finally releasing him. "Next dime berhaps you will your
fat'er better pelief. Now, no more. We will der glams gedig,
Mommer, a fire. Ach, himmel! we have der pfeffer
The work of clam digging began at once, the little boys
taking off their shoes and stockings. At first August
refused to be comforted, and it was not until his father
drove him into the water with his gold-headed cane that he
consented to join the others.
What a day that was for McTeague! What a never-to-beforgotten
day! He was with Trina constantly. They laughed
together--she demurely, her lips closed tight, her little
chin thrust out, her small pale nose, with its adorable
little freckles, wrinkling; he roared with all the force of
his lungs, his enormous mouth distended, striking sledgehammer
blows upon his knee with his clenched fist.
The lunch was delicious. Trina and her mother made a
clam chowder that melted in one's mouth. The lunch baskets
were emptied. The party were fully two hours eating. There
were huge loaves of rye bread full of grains of chickweed.
There were weiner-wurst and frankfurter sausages. There was
unsalted butter. There were pretzels. There was cold
underdone chicken, which one ate in slices, plastered with a
wonderful kind of mustard that did not sting. There were
dried apples, that gave Mr. Sieppe the hiccoughs. There
were a dozen bottles of beer, and, last of all, a crowning
achievement, a marvellous Gotha truffle. After lunch came
tobacco. Stuffed to the eyes, McTeague drowsed over his
pipe, prone on his back in the sun, while Trina, Mrs.
Sieppe, and Selina washed the dishes. In the afternoon Mr.
Sieppe disappeared. They heard the reports of his rifle on
the range. The others swarmed over the park, now around the
swings, now in the Casino, now in the museum, now invading
the merry-go-round.
At half-past five o'clock Mr. Sieppe marshalled the party
together. It was time to return home.
The family insisted that Marcus and McTeague should take
supper with them at their home and should stay over night.
Mrs. Sieppe argued they could get no decent supper if they
went back to the city at that hour; that they could catch an
early morning boat and reach their business in good time.
The two friends accepted.
The Sieppes lived in a little box of a house at the foot of
B Street, the first house to the right as one went up from
the station. It was two stories high, with a funny red
mansard roof of oval slates. The interior was cut up into
innumerable tiny rooms, some of them so small as to be
hardly better than sleeping closets. In the back yard was a
contrivance for pumping water from the cistern that
interested McTeague at once. It was a dog-wheel, a huge
revolving box in which the unhappy black greyhound spent
most of his waking hours. It was his kennel; he slept in
it. From time to time during the day Mrs. Sieppe appeared
on the back doorstep, crying shrilly, "Hoop, hoop!" She
threw lumps of coal at him, waking him to his work.
They were all very tired, and went to bed early. After
great discussion it was decided that Marcus would sleep upon
the lounge in the front parlor. Trina would sleep with
August, giving up her room to McTeague. Selina went to her
home, a block or so above the Sieppes's. At nine o'clock
Mr. Sieppe showed McTeague to his room and left him to
himself with a newly lighted candle.
For a long time after Mr. Sieppe had gone McTeague stood
motionless in the middle of the room, his elbows pressed
close to his sides, looking obliquely from the corners of
his eyes. He hardly dared to move. He was in Trina's room.
It was an ordinary little room. A clean white matting was
on the floor; gray paper, spotted with pink and green
flowers, covered the walls. In one corner, under a white
netting, was a little bed, the woodwork gayly painted with
knots of bright flowers. Near it, against the wall, was a
black walnut bureau. A work-table with spiral legs stood by
the window, which was hung with a green and gold window
curtain. Opposite the window the closet door stood ajar,
while in the corner across from the bed was a tiny washstand
with two clean towels.
And that was all. But it was Trina's room. McTeague was in
his lady's bower; it seemed to him a little nest, intimate,
discreet. He felt hideously out of place. He was an
intruder; he, with his enormous feet, his colossal bones,
his crude, brutal gestures. The mere weight of his limbs,
he was sure, would crush the little bed-stead like an
Then, as this first sensation wore off, he began to feel the
charm of the little chamber. It was as though Trina were
close by, but invisible. McTeague felt all the delight of
her presence without the embarrassment that usually
accompanied it. He was near to her--nearer than he had ever
been before. He saw into her daily life, her little ways
and manners, her habits, her very thoughts. And was there
not in the air of that room a certain faint perfume that he
knew, that recalled her to his mind with marvellous
As he put the candle down upon the bureau he saw her hairbrush
lying there. Instantly he picked it up, and, without
knowing why, held it to his face. With what a delicious
odor was it redolent! That heavy, enervating odor of her
hair--her wonderful, royal hair! The smell of that little
hairbrush was talismanic. He had but to close his eyes to
see her as distinctly as in a mirror. He saw her tiny,
round figure, dressed all in black--for, curiously enough,
it was his very first impression of Trina that came back to
him now--not the Trina of the later occasions, not the Trina
of the blue cloth skirt and white sailor. He saw her as he
had seen her the day that Marcus had introduced them: saw
her pale, round face; her narrow, half-open eyes, blue like
the eyes of a baby; her tiny, pale ears, suggestive of
anaemia; the freckles across the bridge of her nose; her
pale lips; the tiara of royal black hair; and, above all,
the delicious poise of the head, tipped back as though by
the weight of all that hair--the poise that thrust out her
chin a little, with the movement that was so confiding, so
innocent, so nearly infantile.
McTeague went softly about the room from one object to
another, beholding Trina in everything he touched or looked
at. He came at last to the closet door. It was ajar. He
opened it wide, and paused upon the threshold.
Trina's clothes were hanging there--skirts and waists,
jackets, and stiff white petticoats. What a vision! For an
instant McTeague caught his breath, spellbound. If he had
suddenly discovered Trina herself there, smiling at him,
holding out her hands, he could hardly have been more
overcome. Instantly he recognized the black dress she had
worn on that famous first day. There it was, the little
jacket she had carried over her arm the day he had terrified
her with his blundering declaration, and still others, and
others--a whole group of Trinas faced him there. He went
farther into the closet, touching the clothes gingerly,
stroking them softly with his huge leathern palms. As he
stirred them a delicate perfume disengaged itself from the
folds. Ah, that exquisite feminine odor! It was not only
her hair now, it was Trina herself--her mouth, her hands,
her neck; the indescribably sweet, fleshly aroma that was a
part of her, pure and clean, and redolent of youth and
freshness. All at once, seized with an unreasoned impulse,
McTeague opened his huge arms and gathered the little
garments close to him, plunging his face deep amongst them,
savoring their delicious odor with long breaths of luxury
and supreme content.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The picnic at Schuetzen Park decided matters. McTeague
began to call on Trina regularly Sunday and Wednesday
afternoons. He took Marcus Schouler's place. Sometimes
Marcus accompanied him, but it was generally to meet Selina
by appointment at the Sieppes's house.
But Marcus made the most of his renunciation of his cousin.
He remembered his pose from time to time. He made McTeague
unhappy and bewildered by wringing his hand, by venting
sighs that seemed to tear his heart out, or by giving
evidences of an infinite melancholy. "What is my life!" he
would exclaim. "What is left for me? Nothing, by damn!"
And when McTeague would attempt remonstrance, he would cry:
"Never mind, old man. Never mind me. Go, be happy. I
forgive you."
Forgive what? McTeague was all at sea, was harassed with
the thought of some shadowy, irreparable injury he had done
his friend.
"Oh, don't think of me!" Marcus would exclaim at other
times, even when Trina was by. "Don't think of me; I don't
count any more. I ain't in it." Marcus seemed to take
great pleasure in contemplating the wreck of his life.
There is no doubt he enjoyed himself hugely during these
The Sieppes were at first puzzled as well over this change
of front.
"Trina has den a new younge man," cried Mr. Sieppe. "First
Schouler, now der doktor, eh? What die tevil, I say!"
Weeks passed, February went, March came in very rainy,
putting a stop to all their picnics and Sunday excursions.
One Wednesday afternoon in the second week in March
McTeague came over to call on Trina, bringing his
concertina with him, as was his custom nowadays. As he got
off the train at the station he was surprised to find Trina
waiting for him.
"This is the first day it hasn't rained in weeks," she
explained, "an' I thought it would be nice to walk."
"Sure, sure," assented McTeague.
B Street station was nothing more than a little shed. There
was no ticket office, nothing but a couple of whittled and
carven benches. It was built close to the railroad tracks,
just across which was the dirty, muddy shore of San
Francisco Bay. About a quarter of a mile back from the
station was the edge of the town of Oakland. Between the
station and the first houses of the town lay immense salt
flats, here and there broken by winding streams of black
water. They were covered with a growth of wiry grass,
strangely discolored in places by enormous stains of orange
Near the station a bit of fence painted with a cigar
advertisement reeled over into the mud, while under its lee
lay an abandoned gravel wagon with dished wheels. The
station was connected with the town by the extension of B
Street, which struck across the flats geometrically
straight, a file of tall poles with intervening wires
marching along with it. At the station these were headed by
an iron electric-light pole that, with its supports and
outriggers, looked for all the world like an immense
grasshopper on its hind legs.
Across the flats, at the fringe of the town, were the dump
heaps, the figures of a few Chinese rag-pickers moving over
them. Far to the left the view was shut off by the immense
red-brown drum of the gas-works; to the right it was bounded
by the chimneys and workshops of an iron foundry.
Across the railroad tracks, to seaward, one saw the long
stretch of black mud bank left bare by the tide, which was
far out, nearly half a mile. Clouds of sea-gulls were
forever rising and settling upon this mud bank; a wrecked
and abandoned wharf crawled over it on tottering legs; close
in an old sailboat lay canted on her bilge.
But farther on, across the yellow waters of the bay,
beyond Goat Island, lay San Francisco, a blue line of hills,
rugged with roofs and spires. Far to the westward opened
the Golden Gate, a bleak cutting in the sand-hills, through
which one caught a glimpse of the open Pacific.
The station at B Street was solitary; no trains passed at
this hour; except the distant rag-pickers, not a soul was in
sight. The wind blew strong, carrying with it the mingled
smell of salt, of tar, of dead seaweed, and of bilge. The
sky hung low and brown; at long intervals a few drops of
rain fell.
Near the station Trina and McTeague sat on the roadbed of
the tracks, at the edge of the mud bank, making the most out
of the landscape, enjoying the open air, the salt marshes,
and the sight of the distant water. From time to time
McTeague played his six mournful airs upon his concertina.
After a while they began walking up and down the tracks,
McTeague talking about his profession, Trina listening, very
interested and absorbed, trying to understand.
"For pulling the roots of the upper molars we use the cowhorn
forceps," continued the dentist, monotonously. "We get
the inside beak over the palatal roots and the cow-horn beak
over the buccal roots--that's the roots on the outside, you
see. Then we close the forceps, and that breaks right
through the alveolus--that's the part of the socket in the
jaw, you understand."
At another moment he told her of his one unsatisfied desire.
"Some day I'm going to have a big gilded tooth outside my
window for a sign. Those big gold teeth are beautiful,
beautiful--only they cost so much, I can't afford one just
"Oh, it's raining," suddenly exclaimed Trina, holding out
her palm. They turned back and reached the station in a
drizzle. The afternoon was closing in dark and rainy. The
tide was coming back, talking and lapping for miles along
the mud bank. Far off across the flats, at the edge of the
town, an electric car went by, stringing out a long row of
diamond sparks on the overhead wires.
"Say, Miss Trina," said McTeague, after a while, "what's the
good of waiting any longer? Why can't us two get married?"
Trina still shook her head, saying "No" instinctively,
in spite of herself.
"Why not?" persisted McTeague. "Don't you like me well
"Then why not?"
"Ah, come on," he said, but Trina still shook her head.
"Ah, come on," urged McTeague. He could think of nothing
else to say, repeating the same phrase over and over again
to all her refusals.
"Ah, come on! Ah, come on!"
Suddenly he took her in his enormous arms, crushing down her
struggle with his immense strength. Then Trina gave up, all
in an instant, turning her head to his. They kissed each
other, grossly, full in the mouth.
A roar and a jarring of the earth suddenly grew near and
passed them in a reek of steam and hot air. It was the
Overland, with its flaming headlight, on its way across the
The passage of the train startled them both. Trina
struggled to free herself from McTeague. "Oh, please!
please!" she pleaded, on the point of tears. McTeague
released her, but in that moment a slight, a barely
perceptible, revulsion of feeling had taken place in him.
The instant that Trina gave up, the instant she allowed him
to kiss her, he thought less of her. She was not so
desirable, after all. But this reaction was so faint, so
subtle, so intangible, that in another moment he had doubted
its occurrence. Yet afterward it returned. Was there not
something gone from Trina now? Was he not disappointed in
her for doing that very thing for which he had longed? Was
Trina the submissive, the compliant, the attainable just the
same, just as delicate and adorable as Trina the
inaccessible? Perhaps he dimly saw that this must be so,
that it belonged to the changeless order of things--the man
desiring the woman only for what she withholds; the woman
worshipping the man for that which she yields up to him.
With each concession gained the man's desire cools; with
every surrender made the woman's adoration increases. But
why should it be so?
Trina wrenched herself free and drew back from McTeague, her
little chin quivering; her face, even to the lobes of her
pale ears, flushed scarlet; her narrow blue eyes brimming.
Suddenly she put her head between her hands and began to
"Say, say, Miss Trina, listen--listen here, Miss Trina,"
cried McTeague, coming forward a step.
"Oh, don't!" she gasped, shrinking. "I must go home," she
cried, springing to her feet. "It's late. I must. I must.
Don't come with me, please. Oh, I'm so--so,"--she could not
find any words. "Let me go alone," she went on. "You may--
you come Sunday. Good-by."
"Good-by," said McTeague, his head in a whirl at this
sudden, unaccountable change. "Can't I kiss you again?"
But Trina was firm now. When it came to his pleading--a
mere matter of words--she was strong enough.
"No, no, you must not!" she exclaimed, with energy. She was
gone in another instant. The dentist, stunned, bewildered,
gazed stupidly after her as she ran up the extension of B
Street through the rain.
But suddenly a great joy took possession of him. He had won
her. Trina was to be for him, after all. An enormous smile
distended his thick lips; his eyes grew wide, and flashed;
and he drew his breath quickly, striking his mallet-like
fist upon his knee, and exclaiming under his breath:
"I got her, by God! I got her, by God!" At the same time
he thought better of himself; his self-respect increased
enormously. The man that could win Trina Sieppe was a man
of extraordinary ability.
Trina burst in upon her mother while the latter was setting
a mousetrap in the kitchen.
"Oh, mamma!"
"Eh? Trina? Ach, what has happun?"
Trina told her in a breath.
"Soh soon?" was Mrs. Sieppe's first comment. "Eh, well,
what you cry for, then?"
"I don't know," wailed Trina, plucking at the end of her
"You loaf der younge doktor?"
"I don't know."
"Well, what for you kiss him?"
"I don't know."
"You don' know, you don' know? Where haf your sensus gone,
Trina? You kiss der doktor. You cry, and you don' know.
Is ut Marcus den?"
"No, it's not Cousin Mark."
"Den ut must be der doktor."
Trina made no answer.
"I--I guess so."
"You loaf him?"
"I don't know."
Mrs. Sieppe set down the mousetrap with such violence that
it sprung with a sharp snap.
No, Trina did not know. "Do I love him? Do I love him?" A
thousand times she put the question to herself during the
next two or three days. At night she hardly slept, but lay
broad awake for hours in her little, gayly painted bed, with
its white netting, torturing herself with doubts and
questions. At times she remembered the scene in the
station with a veritable agony of shame, and at other times
she was ashamed to recall it with a thrill of joy. Nothing
could have been more sudden, more unexpected, than that
surrender of herself. For over a year she had thought that
Marcus would some day be her husband. They would be
married, she supposed, some time in the future, she did not
know exactly when; the matter did not take definite shape in
her mind. She liked Cousin Mark very well. And then
suddenly this cross-current had set in; this blond giant had
appeared, this huge, stolid fellow, with his immense, crude
strength. She had not loved him at first, that was certain.
The day he had spoken to her in his "Parlors" she had only
been terrified. If he had confined himself to merely
speaking, as did Marcus, to pleading with her, to wooing her
at a distance, forestalling her wishes, showing her little
attentions, sending her boxes of candy, she could have
easily withstood him. But he had only to take her in his
arms, to crush down her struggle with his enormous strength,
to subdue her, conquer her by sheer brute force, and she
gave up in an instant.
But why--why had she done so? Why did she feel the desire,
the necessity of being conquered by a superior strength?
Why did it please her? Why had it suddenly thrilled her
from head to foot with a quick, terrifying gust of passion,
the like of which she had never known? Never at his best
had Marcus made her feel like that, and yet she had always
thought she cared for Cousin Mark more than for any one
When McTeague had all at once caught her in his huge arms,
something had leaped to life in her--something that had
hitherto lain dormant, something strong and overpowering.
It frightened her now as she thought of it, this second self
that had wakened within her, and that shouted and clamored
for recognition. And yet, was it to be feared? Was it
something to be ashamed of? Was it not, after all, natural,
clean, spontaneous? Trina knew that she was a pure girl;
knew that this sudden commotion within her carried with it
no suggestion of vice.
Dimly, as figures seen in a waking dream, these ideas
floated through Trina's mind. It was quite beyond her
to realize them clearly; she could not know what they meant.
Until that rainy day by the shore of the bay Trina had lived
her life with as little self-consciousness as a tree. She
was frank, straightforward, a healthy, natural human being,
without sex as yet. She was almost like a boy. At once
there had been a mysterious disturbance. The woman within
her suddenly awoke.
Did she love McTeague? Difficult question. Did she choose
him for better or for worse, deliberately, of her own free
will, or was Trina herself allowed even a choice in the
taking of that step that was to make or mar her life? The
Woman is awakened, and, starting from her sleep, catches
blindly at what first her newly opened eyes light upon. It
is a spell, a witchery, ruled by chance alone, inexplicable
--a fairy queen enamored of a clown with ass's ears.
McTeague had awakened the Woman, and, whether she would or
no, she was his now irrevocably; struggle against it as she
would, she belonged to him, body and soul, for life or for
death. She had not sought it, she had not desired it. The
spell was laid upon her. Was it a blessing? Was it a
curse? It was all one; she was his, indissolubly, for evil
or for good.
And he? The very act of submission that bound the woman to
him forever had made her seem less desirable in his eyes.
Their undoing had already begun. Yet neither of them was to
blame. From the first they had not sought each other.
Chance had brought them face to face, and mysterious
instincts as ungovernable as the winds of heaven were at
work knitting their lives together. Neither of them had
asked that this thing should be--that their destinies, their
very souls, should be the sport of chance. If they could
have known, they would have shunned the fearful risk. But
they were allowed no voice in the matter. Why should it all
It had been on a Wednesday that the scene in the B Street
station had taken place. Throughout the rest of the week,
at every hour of the day, Trina asked herself the same
question: "Do I love him? Do I really love him? Is this
what love is like?" As she recalled McTeague--recalled
his huge, square-cut head, his salient jaw, his shock of
yellow hair, his heavy, lumbering body, his slow wits--she
found little to admire in him beyond his physical strength,
and at such moments she shook her head decisively. "No,
surely she did not love him." Sunday afternoon, however,
McTeague called. Trina had prepared a little speech for
him. She was to tell him that she did not know what had
been the matter with her that Wednesday afternoon; that she
had acted like a bad girl; that she did not love him well
enough to marry him; that she had told him as much once
McTeague saw her alone in the little front parlor. The
instant she appeared he came straight towards her. She saw
what he was bent upon doing. "Wait a minute," she cried,
putting out her hands. "Wait. You don't understand. I
have got something to say to you." She might as well have
talked to the wind. McTeague put aside her hands with a
single gesture, and gripped her to him in a bearlike embrace
that all but smothered her. Trina was but a reed before that
giant strength. McTeague turned her face to his and kissed
her again upon the mouth. Where was all Trina's resolve
then? Where was her carefully prepared little speech?
Where was all her hesitation and torturing doubts of the
last few days? She clasped McTeague's huge red neck with
both her slender arms; she raised her adorable little chin
and kissed him in return, exclaiming: "Oh, I do love you! I
do love you!" Never afterward were the two so happy as at
that moment.
A little later in that same week, when Marcus and McTeague
were taking lunch at the car conductors' coffee-joint, the
former suddenly exclaimed:
"Say, Mac, now that you've got Trina, you ought to do more
for her. By damn! you ought to, for a fact. Why don't you
take her out somewhere--to the theatre, or somewhere? You
ain't on to your job."
Naturally, McTeague had told Marcus of his success with
Trina. Marcus had taken on a grand air.
"You've got her, have you? Well, I'm glad of it, old man. I
am, for a fact. I know you'll be happy with her. I
know how I would have been. I forgive you; yes, I forgive
you, freely."
McTeague had not thought of taking Trina to the theatre.
"You think I ought to, Mark?" he inquired, hesitating.
Marcus answered, with his mouth full of suet pudding:
"Why, of course. That's the proper caper."
"Well--well, that's so. The theatre--that's the word."
"Take her to the variety show at the Orpheum. There's a
good show there this week; you'll have to take Mrs. Sieppe,
too, of course," he added. Marcus was not sure of himself
as regarded certain proprieties, nor, for that matter, were
any of the people of the little world of Polk Street. The
shop girls, the plumbers' apprentices, the small
tradespeople, and their like, whose social position was not
clearly defined, could never be sure how far they could go
and yet preserve their "respectability." When they wished
to be "proper," they invariably overdid the thing. It was
not as if they belonged to the "tough" element, who had no
appearances to keep up. Polk Street rubbed elbows with the
"avenue" one block above. There were certain limits which
its dwellers could not overstep; but unfortunately for them,
these limits were poorly defined. They could never be sure
of themselves. At an unguarded moment they might be taken
for "toughs," so they generally erred in the other
direction, and were absurdly formal. No people have a
keener eye for the amenities than those whose social
position is not assured.
"Oh, sure, you'll have to take her mother," insisted Marcus.
"It wouldn't be the proper racket if you didn't."
McTeague undertook the affair. It was an ordeal. Never in
his life had he been so perturbed, so horribly anxious. He
called upon Trina the following Wednesday and made
arrangements. Mrs. Sieppe asked if little August might be
included. It would console him for the loss of his
"Sure, sure," said McTeague. "August too--everybody," he
added, vaguely.
"We always have to leave so early," complained Trina, "in
order to catch the last boat. Just when it's becoming
At this McTeague, acting upon a suggestion of Marcus
Schouler's, insisted they should stay at the flat over
night. Marcus and the dentist would give up their rooms to
them and sleep at the dog hospital. There was a bed there
in the sick ward that old Grannis sometimes occupied when a
bad case needed watching. All at once McTeague had an idea,
a veritable inspiration.
"And we'll--we'll--we'll have--what's the matter with having
something to eat afterward in my "Parlors?"
"Vairy goot," commented Mrs. Sieppe. "Bier, eh? And some
"Oh, I love tamales!" exclaimed Trina, clasping her
McTeague returned to the city, rehearsing his instructions
over and over. The theatre party began to assume tremendous
proportions. First of all, he was to get the seats, the
third or fourth row from the front, on the left-hand side,
so as to be out of the hearing of the drums in the
orchestra; he must make arrangements about the rooms with
Marcus, must get in the beer, but not the tamales; must buy
for himself a white lawn tie--so Marcus directed; must look
to it that Maria Macapa put his room in perfect order; and,
finally, must meet the Sieppes at the ferry slip at halfpast
seven the following Monday night.
The real labor of the affair began with the buying of the
tickets. At the theatre McTeague got into wrong entrances;
was sent from one wicket to another; was bewildered,
confused; misunderstood directions; was at one moment
suddenly convinced that he had not enough money with him,
and started to return home. Finally he found himself at the
box-office wicket.
"Is it here you buy your seats?"
"How many?"
"Is it here--"
"What night do you want 'em? Yes, sir, here's the place."
McTeague gravely delivered himself of the formula he had
been reciting for the last dozen hours.
"I want four seats for Monday night in the fourth row from
the front, and on the right-hand side."
"Right hand as you face the house or as you face the
stage?" McTeague was dumfounded.
"I want to be on the right-hand side," he insisted,
stolidly; adding, "in order to be away from the drums."
"Well, the drums are on the right of the orchestra as you
face the stage," shouted the other impatiently; "you want to
the left, then, as you face the house."
"I want to be on the right-hand side," persisted the
Without a word the seller threw out four tickets with a
magnificent, supercilious gesture.
"There's four seats on the right-hand side, then, and you're
right up against the drums."
"But I don't want to be near the drums," protested McTeague,
beginning to perspire.
"Do you know what you want at all?" said the ticket seller
with calmness, thrusting his head at McTeague. The dentist
knew that he had hurt this young man's feelings.
"I want--I want," he stammered. The seller slammed down a
plan of the house in front of him and began to explain
excitedly. It was the one thing lacking to complete
McTeague's confusion.
"There are your seats," finished the seller, shoving the
tickets into McTeague's hands. "They are the fourth row
from the front, and away from the drums. Now are you
"Are they on the right-hand side? I want on the right--no,
I want on the left. I want--I don' know, I don' know."
The seller roared. McTeague moved slowly away, gazing
stupidly at the blue slips of pasteboard. Two girls took
his place at the wicket. In another moment McTeague came
back, peering over the girls' shoulders and calling to the
"Are these for Monday night?"
The other disdained reply. McTeague retreated again
timidly, thrusting the tickets into his immense wallet. For
a moment he stood thoughtful on the steps of the entrance.
Then all at once he became enraged, he did not know exactly
why; somehow he felt himself slighted. Once more he came
back to the wicket.
"You can't make small of me," he shouted over the girls'
shoulders; "you--you can't make small of me. I'll thump you
in the head, you little--you little--you little--little--
little pup." The ticket seller shrugged his shoulders
wearily. "A dollar and a half," he said to the two girls.
McTeague glared at him and breathed loudly. Finally he
decided to let the matter drop. He moved away, but on the
steps was once more seized with a sense of injury and
outraged dignity.
"You can't make small of me," he called back a last time,
wagging his head and shaking his fist. "I will--I will--I
will--yes, I will." He went off muttering.
At last Monday night came. McTeague met the Sieppes at the
ferry, dressed in a black Prince Albert coat and his best
slate-blue trousers, and wearing the made-up lawn necktie
that Marcus had selected for him. Trina was very pretty in
the black dress that McTeague knew so well. She wore a pair
of new gloves. Mrs. Sieppe had on lisle-thread mits, and
carried two bananas and an orange in a net reticule. "For
Owgooste," she confided to him. Owgooste was in a
Fauntleroy "costume" very much too small for him. Already
he had been crying.
"Woult you pelief, Doktor, dot bube has torn his stockun
alreatty? Walk in der front, you; stop cryun. Where is dot
At the door of the theatre McTeague was suddenly seized with
a panic terror. He had lost the tickets. He tore through
his pockets, ransacked his wallet. They were nowhere to be
found. All at once he remembered, and with a gasp of relief
removed his hat and took them out from beneath the
The party entered and took their places. It was absurdly
early. The lights were all darkened, the ushers stood under
the galleries in groups, the empty auditorium echoing with
their noisy talk. Occasionally a waiter with his tray and
clean white apron sauntered up and doun the aisle. Directly
in front of them was the great iron curtain of the stage,
painted with all manner of advertisements. From behind this
came a noise of hammering and of occasional loud voices.
While waiting they studied their programmes. First was
an overture by the orchestra, after which came "The
Gleasons, in their mirth-moving musical farce, entitled
'McMonnigal's Court-ship.'" This was to be followed by "The
Lamont Sisters, Winnie and Violet, serio-comiques and skirt
dancers." And after this came a great array of other
"artists" and "specialty performers," musical wonders,
acrobats, lightning artists, ventriloquists, and last of
all, "The feature of the evening, the crowning scientific
achievement of the nineteenth century, the kinetoscope."
McTeague was excited, dazzled. In five years he had not
been twice to the theatre. Now he beheld himself inviting
his "girl" and her mother to accompany him. He began to
feel that he was a man of the world. He ordered a cigar.
Meanwhile the house was filling up. A few side brackets
were turned on. The ushers ran up and down the aisles,
stubs of tickets between their thumb and finger, and from
every part of the auditorium could be heard the sharp clapclapping
of the seats as the ushers flipped them down. A
buzz of talk arose. In the gallery a street gamin whistled
shrilly, and called to some friends on the other side of the
"Are they go-wun to begin pretty soon, ma?" whined Owgooste
for the fifth or sixth time; adding, "Say, ma, can't I have
some candy?" A cadaverous little boy had appeared in their
aisle, chanting, "Candies, French mixed candies, popcorn,
peanuts and candy." The orchestra entered, each man
crawling out from an opening under the stage, hardly larger
than the gate of a rabbit hutch. At every instant now the
crowd increased; there were but few seats that were not
taken. The waiters hurried up and down the aisles, their
trays laden with beer glasses. A smell of cigar-smoke
filled the air, and soon a faint blue haze rose from all
corners of the house.
"Ma, when are they go-wun to begin?" cried Owgooste. As he
spoke the iron advertisement curtain rose, disclosing the
curtain proper underneath. This latter curtain was quite an
affair. Upon it was painted a wonderful picture. A flight
of marble steps led down to a stream of water; two white
swans, their necks arched like the capital letter S,
floated about. At the head of the marble steps were two
vases filled with red and yellow flowers, while at the foot
was moored a gondola. This gondola was full of red velvet
rugs that hung over the side and trailed in the water. In
the prow of the gondola a young man in vermilion tights held
a mandolin in his left hand, and gave his right to a girl in
white satin. A King Charles spaniel, dragging a leadingstring
in the shape of a huge pink sash, followed the girl.
Seven scarlet roses were scattered upon the two lowest
steps, and eight floated in the water.
"Ain't that pretty, Mac?" exclaimed Trina, turning to the
"Ma, ain't they go-wun to begin now-wow?" whined Owgooste.
Suddenly the lights all over the house blazed up. "Ah!"
said everybody all at once.
"Ain't ut crowdut?" murmured Mr. Sieppe. Every seat was
taken; many were even standing up.
"I always like it better when there is a crowd," said Trina.
She was in great spirits that evening. Her round, pale face
was positively pink.
The orchestra banged away at the overture, suddenly
finishing with a great flourish of violins. A short pause
followed. Then the orchestra played a quick-step strain,
and the curtain rose on an interior furnished with two red
chairs and a green sofa. A girl in a short blue dress and
black stockings entered in a hurry and began to dust the two
chairs. She was in a great temper, talking very fast,
disclaiming against the "new lodger." It appeared that this
latter never paid his rent; that he was given to late hours.
Then she came down to the footlights and began to sing in a
tremendous voice, hoarse and flat, almost like a man's. The
chorus, of a feeble originality, ran:
"Oh, how happy I will be,
When my darling's face I'll see;
Oh, tell him for to meet me in the moonlight,
Down where the golden lilies bloom."
The orchestra played the tune of this chorus a second
time, with certain variations, while the girl danced to it.
She sidled to one side of the stage and kicked, then sidled
to the other and kicked again. As she finished with the
song, a man, evidently the lodger in question, came in.
Instantly McTeague exploded in a roar of laughter. The man
was intoxicated, his hat was knocked in, one end of his
collar was unfastened and stuck up into his face, his watchchain
dangled from his pocket, and a yellow satin slipper
was tied to a button-hole of his vest; his nose was
vermilion, one eye was black and blue. After a short
dialogue with the girl, a third actor appeared. He was
dressed like a little boy, the girl's younger brother. He
wore an immense turned-down collar, and was continually
doing hand-springs and wonderful back somersaults. The
"act" devolved upon these three people; the lodger making
love to the girl in the short blue dress, the boy playing
all manner of tricks upon him, giving him tremendous digs in
the ribs or slaps upon the back that made him cough, pulling
chairs from under him, running on all fours between his legs
and upsetting him, knocking him over at inopportune moments.
Every one of his falls was accentuated by a bang upon the
bass drum. The whole humor of the "act" seemed to consist
in the tripping up of the intoxicated lodger.
This horse-play delighted McTeague beyond measure. He
roared and shouted every time the lodger went down, slapping
his knee, wagging his head. Owgooste crowed shrilly,
clapping his hands and continually asking, "What did he say,
ma? What did he say?" Mrs. Sieppe laughed immoderately, her
huge fat body shaking like a mountain of jelly. She
exclaimed from time to time, "Ach, Gott, dot fool!" Even
Trina was moved, laughing demurely, her lips closed, putting
one hand with its new glove to her mouth.
The performance went on. Now it was the "musical marvels,"
two men extravagantly made up as negro minstrels, with
immense shoes and plaid vests. They seemed to be able to
wrestle a tune out of almost anything--glass bottles, cigarbox
fiddles, strings of sleigh-bells, even graduated brass
tubes, which they rubbed with resined fingers. McTeague
was stupefied with admiration .
"That's what you call musicians," he announced gravely.
"Home, Sweet Home," played upon a trombone. Think of that!
Art could go no farther.
The acrobats left him breathless. They were dazzling young
men with beautifully parted hair, continually making
graceful gestures to the audience. In one of them the
dentist fancied he saw a strong resemblance to the boy who
had tormented the intoxicated lodger and who had turned such
marvellous somersaults. Trina could not bear to watch their
antics. She turned away her head with a little shudder.
"It always makes me sick," she explained.
The beautiful young lady, "The Society Contralto," in
evening dress, who sang the sentimental songs, and carried
the sheets of music at which she never looked, pleased
McTeague less. Trina, however, was captivated. She grew
pensive over
"You do not love me--no;
Bid me good-by and go;"
and split her new gloves in her enthusiasm when it was
"Don't you love sad music, Mac?" she murmured.
Then came the two comedians. They talked with fearful
rapidity; their wit and repartee seemed inexhaustible.
"As I was going down the street yesterday--"
"Ah! as YOU were going down the street--all right."
"I saw a girl at a window----"
"YOU saw a girl at a window."
"And this girl she was a corker----"
"Ah! as YOU were going down the street yesterday YOU
saw a girl at a window, and this girl she was a corker. All
right, go on."
The other comedian went on. The joke was suddenly evolved.
A certain phrase led to a song, which was sung with
lightning rapidity, each performer making precisely the same
gestures at precisely the same instant. They were
irresistible. McTeague, though he caught but a third of the
jokes, could have listened all night.
After the comedians had gone out, the iron advertisement
curtain was let down.
"What comes now?" said McTeague, bewildered.
"It's the intermission of fifteen minutes now."
The musicians disappeared through the rabbit hutch, and the
audience stirred and stretched itself. Most of the young
men left their seats.
During this intermission McTeague and his party had
"refreshments." Mrs. Sieppe and Trina had Queen Charlottes,
McTeague drank a glass of beer, Owgooste ate the orange and
one of the bananas. He begged for a glass of lemonade,
which was finally given him.
"Joost to geep um quiet," observed Mrs. Sieppe.
But almost immediately after drinking his lemonade Owgooste
was seized with a sudden restlessness. He twisted and
wriggled in his seat, swinging his legs violently, looking
about him with eyes full of a vague distress. At length,
just as the musicians were returning, he stood up and
whispered energetically in his mother's ear. Mrs. Sieppe
was exasperated at once.
"No, no," she cried, reseating him brusquely.
The performance was resumed. A lightning artist appeared,
drawing caricatures and portraits with incredible swiftness.
He even went so far as to ask for subjects from the
audience, and the names of prominent men were shouted to him
from the gallery. He drew portraits of the President, of
Grant, of Washington, of Napoleon Bonaparte, of Bismarck, of
Garibaldi, of P. T. Barnum.
And so the evening passed. The hall grew very hot, and the
smoke of innumerable cigars made the eyes smart. A thick
blue mist hung low over the heads of the audience. The air
was full of varied smells--the smell of stale cigars, of
flat beer, of orange peel, of gas, of sachet powders, and of
cheap perfumery.
One "artist" after another came upon the stage. McTeague's
attention never wandered for a minute. Trina and her
mother enjoyed themselves hugely. At every moment they made
comments to one another, their eyes never leaving the stage.
"Ain't dot fool joost too funny?"
"That's a pretty song. Don't you like that kind of a song?"
"Wonderful! It's wonderful! Yes, yes, wonderful! That's
the word."
Owgooste, however, lost interest. He stood up in his place,
his back to the stage, chewing a piece of orange peel and
watching a little girl in her father's lap across the aisle,
his eyes fixed in a glassy, ox-like stare. But he was
uneasy. He danced from one foot to the other, and at
intervals appealed in hoarse whispers to his mother, who
disdained an answer.
"Ma, say, ma-ah," he whined, abstractedly chewing his orange
peel, staring at the little girl.
"Ma-ah, say, ma." At times his monotonous plaint reached
his mother's consciousness. She suddenly realized what this
was that was annoying her.
"Owgooste, will you sit down?" She caught him up all at
once, and jammed him down into his place. "Be quiet, den;
loog; listun at der yunge girls."
Three young women and a young man who played a zither
occupied the stage. They were dressed in Tyrolese costume;
they were yodlers, and sang in German about "mountain tops"
and "bold hunters" and the like. The yodling chorus was a
marvel of flute-like modulations. The girls were really
pretty, and were not made up in the least. Their "turn" had
a great success. Mrs. Sieppe was entranced. Instantly she
remembered her girlhood and her native Swiss village.
"Ach, dot is heavunly; joost like der old country. Mein
gran'mutter used to be one of der mos' famous yodlers. When
I was leedle, I haf seen dem joost like dat."
"Ma-ah," began Owgooste fretfully, as soon as the yodlers
had departed. He could not keep still an instant; he
twisted from side to side, swinging his legs with incredible
"Ma-ah, I want to go ho-ome."
"Pehave!" exclaimed his mother, shaking him by the arm;
"loog, der leedle girl is watchun you. Dis is der last dime
I take you to der blay, you see."
"I don't ca-are; I'm sleepy." At length, to their great
relief, he went to sleep, his head against his mother's arm.
The kinetoscope fairly took their breaths away.
"What will they do next?" observed Trina, in amazement.
"Ain't that wonderful, Mac?"
McTeague was awe-struck.
"Look at that horse move his head," he cried excitedly,
quite carried away. "Look at that cable car coming--and the
man going across the street. See, here comes a truck.
Well, I never in all my life! What would Marcus say to
"It's all a drick!" exclaimed Mrs. Sieppe, with sudden
conviction. "I ain't no fool; dot's nothun but a drick."
"Well, of course, mamma," exclaimed Trina, "it's----"
But Mrs. Sieppe put her head in the air.
"I'm too old to be fooled," she persisted. "It's a drick."
Nothing more could be got out of her than this.
The party stayed to the very end of the show, though the
kinetoscope was the last number but one on the programme,
and fully half the audience left immediately afterward.
However, while the unfortunate Irish comedian went through
his "act" to the backs of the departing people, Mrs. Sieppe
woke Owgooste, very cross and sleepy, and began getting her
"things together." As soon as he was awake Owgooste began
fidgeting again.
"Save der brogramme, Trina," whispered Mrs. Sieppe. "Take
ut home to popper. Where is der hat of Owgooste? Haf you
got mein handkerchief, Trina?"
But at this moment a dreadful accident happened to Owgooste;
his distress reached its climax; his fortitude collapsed.
What a misery! It was a veritable catastrophe, deplorable,
lamentable, a thing beyond words! For a moment he gazed
wildly about him, helpless and petrified with astonishment
and terror. Then his grief found utterance, and the closing
strains of the orchestra were mingled with a prolonged wail
of infinite sadness.
"Owgooste, what is ut?" cried his mother eyeing him with
dawning suspicion; then suddenly, "What haf you done? You
haf ruin your new Vauntleroy gostume!" Her face blazed;
without more ado she smacked him soundly. Then it was that
Owgooste touched the limit of his misery, his unhappiness,
his horrible discomfort; his utter wretchedness was
complete. He filled the air with his doleful outcries. The
more he was smacked and shaken, the louder he wept.
"What--what is the matter?" inquired McTeague.
Trina's face was scarlet. "Nothing, nothing," she exclaimed
hastily, looking away. "Come, we must be going. It's about
over." The end of the show and the breaking up of the
audience tided over the embarrassment of the moment.
The party filed out at the tail end of the audience.
Already the lights were being extinguished and the ushers
spreading druggeting over the upholstered seats.
McTeague and the Sieppes took an uptown car that would bring
them near Polk Street. The car was crowded; McTeague and
Owgooste were obliged to stand. The little boy fretted to
be taken in his mother's lap, but Mrs. Sieppe emphatically
On their way home they discussed the performance.
"I--I like best der yodlers."
"Ah, the soloist was the best--the lady who sang those sad
"Wasn't--wasn't that magic lantern wonderful, where the
figures moved? Wonderful--ah, wonderful! And wasn't that
first act funny, where the fellow fell down all the time?
And that musical act, and the fellow with the burnt-cork
face who played 'Nearer, My God, to Thee' on the beer
They got off at Polk Street and walked up a block to the
flat. The street was dark and empty; opposite the flat, in
the back of the deserted market, the ducks and geese were
calling persistently.
As they were buying their tamales from the half-breed
Mexican at the street corner, McTeague observed:
"Marcus ain't gone to bed yet. See, there's a light in his
window. There!" he exclaimed at once, "I forgot the
doorkey. Well, Marcus can let us in."
Hardly had he rung the bell at the street door of the flat
when the bolt was shot back. In the hall at the top of the
long, narrow staircase there was the sound of a great
scurrying. Maria Macapa stood there, her hand upon the rope
that drew the bolt; Marcus was at her side; Old Grannis was
in the background, looking over their shoulders; while
little Miss Baker leant over the banisters, a strange man in
a drab overcoat at her side. As McTeague's party stepped
into the doorway a half-dozen voices cried:
"Yes, it's them."
"Is that you, Mac?"
"Is that you, Miss Sieppe?"
"Is your name Trina Sieppe?"
Then, shriller than all the rest, Maria Macapa screamed:
"Oh, Miss Sieppe, come up here quick. Your lottery ticket
has won five thousand dollars!"
"What nonsense!" answered Trina.
"Ach Gott! What is ut?" cried Mrs. Sieppe,
misunderstanding, supposing a calamity.
"What--what--what," stammered the dentist, confused by the
lights, the crowded stairway, the medley of voices. The
party reached the landing. The others surrounded them.
Marcus alone seemed to rise to the occasion.
"Le' me be the first to congratulate you," he cried,
catching Trina's hand. Every one was talking at once.
"Miss Sieppe, Miss Sieppe, your ticket has won five thousand
dollars," cried Maria. "Don't you remember the lottery
ticket I sold you in Doctor McTeague's office?"
"Trina!" almost screamed her mother. "Five tausend thalers!
five tausend thalers! If popper were only here!"
"What is it--what is it?" exclaimed McTeague, rolling his
"What are you going to do with it, Trina?" inquired Marcus.
"You're a rich woman, my dear," said Miss Baker, her little
false curls quivering with excitement, "and I'm glad for
your sake. Let me kiss you. To think I was in the room
when you bought the ticket!"
"Oh, oh!" interrupted Trina, shaking her head, "there is a
mistake. There must be. Why--why should I win five
thousand dollars? It's nonsense!"
"No mistake, no mistake," screamed Maria. "Your number was
400,012. Here it is in the paper this evening. I remember
it well, because I keep an account."
"But I know you're wrong," answered Trina, beginning to
tremble in spite of herself. "Why should I win?"
"Eh? Why shouldn't you?" cried her mother.
In fact, why shouldn't she? The idea suddenly occurred to
Trina. After all, it was not a question of effort or merit
on her part. Why should she suppose a mistake? What if it
were true, this wonderful fillip of fortune striking in
there like some chance-driven bolt?
"Oh, do you think so?" she gasped.
The stranger in the drab overcoat came forward.
"It's the agent," cried two or three voices, simultaneously.
"I guess you're one of the lucky ones, Miss Sieppe," he
said. I suppose you have kept your ticket."
"Yes, yes; four three oughts twelve--I remember."
"That's right," admitted the other. "Present your ticket at
the local branch office as soon as possible--the address is
printed on the back of the ticket--and you'll receive a
check on our bank for five thousand dollars. Your number
will have to be verified on our official list, but there's
hardly a chance of a mistake. I congratulate you."
All at once a great shrill of gladness surged up in Trina.
She was to possess five thousand dollars. She was carried
away with the joy of her good fortune, a natural,
spontaneous joy--the gaiety of a child with a new and
wonderful toy.
"Oh, I've won, I've won, I've won!" she cried, clapping her
hands. "Mamma, think of it. I've won five thousand
dollars, just by buying a ticket. Mac, what do you say to
that? I've got five thousand dollars. August, do you hear
what's happened to sister?"
"Kiss your mommer, Trina," suddenly commanded Mrs. Sieppe.
"What efer will you do mit all dose money, eh, Trina?"
"Huh!" exclaimed Marcus. "Get married on it for one thing.
Thereat they all shouted with laughter. McTeague grinned,
and looked about sheepishly. "Talk about luck," muttered
Marcus, shaking his head at the dentist; then suddenly he
"Well, are we going to stay talking out here in the hall all
night? Can't we all come into your 'Parlors,' Mac?"
"Sure, sure," exclaimed McTeague, hastily unlocking his
"Efery botty gome," cried Mrs. Sieppe, genially. "Ain't ut
so, Doktor?"
"Everybody," repeated the dentist. "There's--there's some
"We'll celebrate, by damn!" exclaimed Marcus. "It ain't
every day you win five thousand dollars. It's only Sundays
and legal holidays." Again he set the company off into a
gale of laughter. Anything was funny at a time like this.
In some way every one of them felt elated. The wheel of
fortune had come spinning close to them. They were near to
this great sum of money. It was as though they too had won.
"Here's right where I sat when I bought that ticket," cried
Trina, after they had come into the "Parlors," and Marcus
had lit the gas. "Right here in this chair." She sat down
in one of the rigid chairs under the steel engraving.
"And, Marcus, you sat here----"
"And I was just getting out of the operating chair,"
interposed Miss Baker.
"Yes, yes. That's so; and you," continued Trina, pointing
to Maria, "came up and said, 'Buy a ticket in the lottery;
just a dollar.' Oh, I remember it just as plain as though
it was yesterday, and I wasn't going to at first----"
"And don't you know I told Maria it was against the law?"
"Yes, I remember, and then I gave her a dollar and put the
ticket in my pocketbook. It's in my pocketbook now at home
in the top drawer of my bureau--oh, suppose it should be
stolen now," she suddenly exclaimed.
"It's worth big money now," asserted Marcus.
"Five thousand dollars. Who would have thought it? It's
wonderful." Everybody started and turned. It was McTeague.
He stood in the middle of the floor, wagging his huge head.
He seemed to have just realized what had happened.
"Yes, sir, five thousand dollars!" exclaimed Marcus, with a
sudden unaccountable mirthlessness. "Five thousand dollars!
Do you get on to that? Cousin Trina and you will be rich
"At six per cent, that's twenty-five dollars a month,"
hazarded the agent.
"Think of it. Think of it," muttered McTeague. He went
aimlessly about the room, his eyes wide, his enormous hands
"A cousin of mine won forty dollars once," observed Miss
Baker. "But he spent every cent of it buying more tickets,
and never won anything."
Then the reminiscences began. Maria told about the butcher
on the next block who had won twenty dollars the last
drawing. Mrs. Sieppe knew a gasfitter in Oakland who had won
several times; once a hundred dollars. Little Miss Baker
announced that she had always believed that lotteries were
wrong; but, just the same, five thousand was five thousand.
"It's all right when you win, ain't it, Miss Baker?"
observed Marcus, with a certain sarcasm. What was the
matter with Marcus? At moments he seemed singularly out of
But the agent was full of stories. He told his experiences,
the legends and myths that had grown up around the history
of the lottery; he told of the poor newsboy with a dying
mother to support who had drawn a prize of fifteen thousand;
of the man who was driven to suicide through want, but who
held (had he but known it) the number that two days after
his death drew the capital prize of thirty thousand dollars;
of the little milliner who for ten years had played the
lottery without success, and who had one day declared that
she would buy but one more ticket and then give up trying,
and of how this last ticket had brought her a fortune upon
which she could retire; of tickets that had been lost or
destroyed, and whose numbers had won fabulous sums at the
drawing; of criminals, driven to vice by poverty, and who
had reformed after winning competencies; of gamblers who
played the lottery as they would play a faro bank, turning
in their winnings again as soon as made, buying thousands of
tickets all over the country; of superstitions as to
terminal and initial numbers, and as to lucky days of
purchase; of marvellous coincidences--three capital prizes
drawn consecutively by the same town; a ticket bought by a
millionaire and given to his boot-black, who won a thousand
dollars upon it; the same number winning the same amount an
indefinite number of times; and so on to infinity.
Invariably it was the needy who won, the destitute and
starving woke to wealth and plenty, the virtuous toiler
suddenly found his reward in a ticket bought at a hazard;
the lottery was a great charity, the friend of the people, a
vast beneficent machine that recognized neither rank nor
wealth nor station.
The company began to be very gay. Chairs and tables were
brought in from the adjoining rooms, and Maria was sent out
for more beer and tamales, and also commissioned to buy a
bottle of wine and some cake for Miss Baker, who abhorred
The "Dental Parlors" were in great confusion. Empty beer
bottles stood on the movable rack where the instruments were
kept; plates and napkins were upon the seat of the
operating chair and upon the stand of shelves in the corner,
side by side with the concertina and the volumes of "Allen's
Practical Dentist." The canary woke and chittered crossly,
his feathers puffed out; the husks of tamales littered the
floor; the stone pug dog sitting before the little stove
stared at the unusual scene, his glass eyes starting from
their sockets.
They drank and feasted in impromptu fashion. Marcus
Schouler assumed the office of master of ceremonies; he was
in a lather of excitement, rushing about here and there,
opening beer bottles, serving the tamales, slapping McTeague
upon the back, laughing and joking continually. He made
McTeague sit at the head of the table, with Trina at his
right and the agent at his left; he--when he sat down at
all--occupied the foot, Maria Macapa at his left, while next
to her was Mrs. Sieppe, opposite Miss Baker. Owgooste had
been put to bed upon the bed-lounge.
"Where's Old Grannis?" suddenly exclaimed Marcus. Sure
enough, where had the old Englishman gone? He had been
there at first.
"I called him down with everybody else," cried Maria Macapa,
"as soon as I saw in the paper that Miss Sieppe had won. We
all came down to Mr. Schouler's room and waited for you to
come home. I think he must have gone back to his room.
I'll bet you'll find him sewing up his books."
"No, no," observed Miss Baker, "not at this hour."
Evidently the timid old gentleman had taken advantage of the
confusion to slip unobtrusively away.
"I'll go bring him down," shouted Marcus; "he's got to join
Miss Baker was in great agitation.
"I--I hardly think you'd better," she murmured; "he--he--I
don't think he drinks beer."
"He takes his amusement in sewin' up books," cried Maria.
Marcus brought him down, nevertheless, having found him just
preparing for bed.
"I--I must apologize," stammered Old Grannis, as he stood
in the doorway. "I had not quite expected--I--find--
find myself a little unprepared." He was without collar and
cravat, owing to Marcus Schouler's precipitate haste. He
was annoyed beyond words that Miss Baker saw him thus.
Could anything be more embarrassing?
Old Grannis was introduced to Mrs. Sieppe and to Trina as
Marcus's employer. They shook hands solemnly.
"I don't believe that he an' Miss Baker have ever been
introduced," cried Maria Macapa, shrilly, "an' they've been
livin' side by side for years."
The two old people were speechless, avoiding each other's
gaze. It had come at last; they were to know each other, to
talk together, to touch each other's hands.
Marcus brought Old Grannis around the table to little Miss
Baker, dragging him by the coat sleeve, exclaiming: "Well, I
thought you two people knew each other long ago. Miss
Baker, this is Mr. Grannis; Mr. Grannis, this is Miss
Baker." Neither spoke. Like two little children they faced
each other, awkward, constrained, tongue-tied with
embarrassment. Then Miss Baker put out her hand shyly. Old
Grannis touched it for an instant and let it fall.
"Now you know each other," cried Marcus, "and it's about
time." For the first time their eyes met; Old Grannis
trembled a little, putting his hand uncertainly to his chin.
Miss Baker flushed ever so slightly, but Maria Macapa passed
suddenly between them, carrying a half empty beer bottle.
The two old people fell back from one another, Miss Baker
resuming her seat.
"Here's a place for you over here, Mr. Grannis," cried
Marcus, making room for him at his side. Old Grannis
slipped into the chair, withdrawing at once from the
company's notice. He stared fixedly at his plate and did
not speak again. Old Miss Baker began to talk volubly
across the table to Mrs. Sieppe about hot-house flowers and
medicated flannels.
It was in the midst of this little impromptu supper that the
engagement of Trina and the dentist was announced. In a
pause in the chatter of conversation Mrs. Sieppe leaned
forward and, speaking to the agent, said:
"Vell, you know also my daughter Trina get married bretty
soon. She and der dentist, Doktor McTeague, eh, yes?"
There was a general exclamation.
"I thought so all along," cried Miss Baker, excitedly. "The
first time I saw them together I said, 'What a pair!'"
"Delightful!" exclaimed the agent, "to be married and win a
snug little fortune at the same time."
"So--So," murmured Old Grannis, nodding at his plate.
"Good luck to you," cried Maria.
"He's lucky enough already," growled Marcus under his
breath, relapsing for a moment into one of those strange
moods of sullenness which had marked him throughout the
Trina flushed crimson, drawing shyly nearer her mother.
McTeague grinned from ear to ear, looking around from one to
another, exclaiming "Huh! Huh!"
But the agent rose to his feet, a newly filled beer glass in
his hand. He was a man of the world, this agent. He knew
life. He was suave and easy. A diamond was on his little
"Ladies and gentlemen," he began. There was an instant
silence. "This is indeed a happy occasion. I--I am glad to
be here to-night; to be a witness to such good fortune; to
partake in these--in this celebration. Why, I feel almost as
glad as if I had held four three oughts twelve myself; as if
the five thousand were mine instead of belonging to our
charming hostess. The good wishes of my humble self go out
to Miss Sieppe in this moment of her good fortune, and I
think--in fact, I am sure I can speak for the great
institution, the great company I represent. The company
congratulates Miss Sieppe. We--they--ah--They wish her every
happiness her new fortune can procure her. It has been my
duty, my--ah--cheerful duty to call upon the winners of
large prizes and to offer the felicitation of the company.
I have, in my experience, called upon many such; but never
have I seen fortune so happily bestowed as in this case.
The company have dowered the prospective bride. I am
sure I but echo the sentiments of this assembly when I wish
all joy and happiness to this happy pair, happy in the
possession of a snug little fortune, and happy--happy in--"
he finished with a sudden inspiration--"in the possession of
each other; I drink to the health, wealth, and happiness of
the future bride and groom. Let us drink standing up."
They drank with enthusiasm. Marcus was carried away with
the excitement of the moment.
"Outa sight, outa sight," he vociferated, clapping his
hands. "Very well said. To the health of the bride.
McTeague, McTeague, speech, speech!"
In an instant the whole table was clamoring for the dentist
to speak. McTeague was terrified; he gripped the table with
both hands, looking wildly about him.
"Speech, speech!" shouted Marcus, running around the table
and endeavoring to drag McTeague up.
"No--no--no," muttered the other. "No speech." The company
rattled upon the table with their beer glasses, insisting
upon a speech. McTeague settled obstinately into his chair,
very red in the face, shaking his head energetically.
"Ah, go on!" he exclaimed; "no speech."
"Ah, get up and say somethun, anyhow," persisted Marcus;
"you ought to do it. It's the proper caper."
McTeague heaved himself up; there was a burst of applause;
he looked slowly about him, then suddenly sat down again,
shaking his head hopelessly.
"Oh, go on, Mac," cried Trina.
"Get up, say somethun, anyhow, cried Marcus, tugging at his
arm; "you GOT to."
Once more McTeague rose to his feet.
"Huh!" he exclaimed, looking steadily at the table. Then he
"I don' know what to say--I--I--I ain't never made a speech
before; I--I ain't never made a speech before. But I'm glad
Trina's won the prize--"
"Yes, I'll bet you are," muttered Marcus.
"I--I--I'm glad Trina's won, and I--I want to--I want
to--I want to--want to say that--you're--all--welcome, an'
drink hearty, an' I'm much obliged to the agent. Trina and
I are goin' to be married, an' I'm glad everybody's here tonight,
an' you're--all--welcome, an' drink hearty, an' I
hope you'll come again, an' you're always welcome--an'--I--
an'--an'--That's--about--all--I--gotta say." He sat down,
wiping his forehead, amidst tremendous applause.
Soon after that the company pushed back from the table and
relaxed into couples and groups. The men, with the
exception of Old Grannis, began to smoke, the smell of their
tobacco mingling with the odors of ether, creosote, and
stale bedding, which pervaded the "Parlors." Soon the
windows had to be lowered from the top. Mrs. Sieppe and
old Miss Baker sat together in the bay window exchanging
confidences. Miss Baker had turned back the overskirt of
her dress; a plate of cake was in her lap; from time to time
she sipped her wine with the delicacy of a white cat. The
two women were much interested in each other. Miss Baker
told Mrs. Sieppe all about Old Grannis, not forgetting the
fiction of the title and the unjust stepfather.
"He's quite a personage really," said Miss Baker.
Mrs. Sieppe led the conversation around to her children.
"Ach, Trina is sudge a goote girl," she said; "always gay,
yes, und sing from morgen to night. Und Owgooste, he is soh
smart also, yes, eh? He has der genius for machines, always
making somethun mit wheels und sbrings."
"Ah, if--if--I had children," murmured the little old maid a
trifle wistfully, "one would have been a sailor; he would
have begun as a midshipman on my brother's ship; in time he
would have been an officer. The other would have been a
landscape gardener."
"Oh, Mac!" exclaimed Trina, looking up into the dentist's
face, "think of all this money coming to us just at this
very moment. Isn't it wonderful? Don't it kind of scare
"Wonderful, wonderful!" muttered McTeague, shaking his head.
"Let's buy a lot of tickets," he added, struck with an idea.
"Now, that's how you can always tell a good cigar,"
observed the agent to Marcus as the two sat smoking at the
end of the table. "The light end should be rolled to a
"Ah, the Chinese cigar-makers," cried Marcus, in a passion,
brandishing his fist. "It's them as is ruining the cause of
white labor. They are, they are for a FACT. Ah, the
rat-eaters! Ah, the white-livered curs!"
Over in the corner, by the stand of shelves, Old Grannis was
listening to Maria Macapa. The Mexican woman had been
violently stirred over Trina's sudden wealth; Maria's mind
had gone back to her younger days. She leaned forward, her
elbows on her knees, her chin in her hands, her eyes wide
and fixed. Old Grannis listened to her attentively.
"There wa'n't a piece that was so much as scratched," Maria
was saying. "Every piece was just like a mirror, smooth and
bright; oh, bright as a little sun. Such a service as that
was--platters and soup tureens and an immense big punchbowl.
Five thousand dollars, what does that amount to? Why,
that punch-bowl alone was worth a fortune."
"What a wonderful story!" exclaimed Old Grannis, never for
an instant doubting its truth. "And it's all lost now, you
"Lost, lost," repeated Maria.
"Tut, tut! What a pity! What a pity!"
Suddenly the agent rose and broke out with:
"Well, I must be going, if I'm to get any car."
He shook hands with everybody, offered a parting cigar to
Marcus, congratulated McTeague and Trina a last time, and
bowed himself out.
"What an elegant gentleman," commented Miss Baker.
"Ah," said Marcus, nodding his head, "there's a man of the
world for you. Right on to himself, by damn!"
The company broke up.
"Come along, Mac," cried Marcus; "we're to sleep with the
dogs to-night, you know."
The two friends said "Good-night" all around and departed
for the little dog hospital.
Old Grannis hurried to his room furtively, terrified
lest he should again be brought face to face with Miss
Baker. He bolted himself in and listened until he heard her
foot in the hall and the soft closing of her door. She was
there close beside him; as one might say, in the same room;
for he, too, had made the discovery as to the similarity of
the wallpaper. At long intervals he could hear a faint
rustling as she moved about. What an evening that had been
for him! He had met her, had spoken to her, had touched her
hand; he was in a tremor of excitement. In a like manner
the little old dressmaker listened and quivered. HE was
there in that same room which they shared in common,
separated only by the thinnest board partition. He was
thinking of her, she was almost sure of it. They were
strangers no longer; they were acquaintances, friends. What
an event that evening had been in their lives!
Late as it was, Miss Baker brewed a cup of tea and sat down
in her rocking chair close to the partition; she rocked
gently, sipping her tea, calming herself after the emotions
of that wonderful evening.
Old Grannis heard the clinking of the tea things and smelt
the faint odor of the tea. It seemed to him a signal, an
invitation. He drew his chair close to his side of the
partition, before his work-table. A pile of half-bound
"Nations" was in the little binding apparatus; he threaded
his huge upholsterer's needle with stout twine and set to
It was their tete-a-tete. Instinctively they felt each
other's presence, felt each other's thought coming to them
through the thin partition. It was charming; they were
perfectly happy. There in the stillness that settled over
the flat in the half hour after midnight the two old people
"kept company," enjoying after their fashion their little
romance that had come so late into the lives of each.
On the way to her room in the garret Maria Macapa paused
under the single gas-jet that burned at the top of the well
of the staircase; she assured herself that she was alone,
and then drew from her pocket one of McTeague's "tapes" of
non-cohesive gold. It was the most valuable steal she
had ever yet made in the dentist's "Parlors." She told
herself that it was worth at least a couple of dollars.
Suddenly an idea occurred to her, and she went hastily to a
window at the end of the hall, and, shading her face with
both hands, looked down into the little alley just back of
the flat. On some nights Zerkow, the red-headed Polish Jew,
sat up late, taking account of the week's ragpicking. There
was a dim light in his window now.
Maria went to her room, threw a shawl around her head, and
descended into the little back yard of the flat by the back
stairs. As she let herself out of the back gate into the
alley, Alexander, Marcus's Irish setter, woke suddenly with
a gruff bark. The collie who lived on the other side of the
fence, in the back yard of the branch post-office, answered
with a snarl. Then in an instant the endless feud between
the two dogs was resumed. They dragged their respective
kennels to the fence, and through the cracks raged at each
other in a frenzy of hate; their teeth snapped and gleamed;
the hackles on their backs rose and stiffened. Their
hideous clamor could have been heard for blocks around. What
a massacre should the two ever meet!
Meanwhile, Maria was knocking at Zerkow's miserable hovel.
"Who is it? Who is it?" cried the rag-picker from within,
in his hoarse voice, that was half whisper, starting
nervously, and sweeping a handful of silver into his drawer.
"It's me, Maria Macapa;" then in a lower voice, and as if
speaking to herself, "had a flying squirrel an' let him go."
"Ah, Maria," cried Zerkow, obsequiously opening the door.
"Come in, come in, my girl; you're always welcome, even as
late as this. No junk, hey? But you're welcome for all
that. You'll have a drink, won't you?" He led her into his
back room and got down the whiskey bottle and the broken red
After the two had drunk together Maria produced the gold
"tape." Zerkow's eyes glittered on the instant. The sight
of gold invariably sent a qualm all through him; try as he
would, he could not repress it. His fingers trembled and
clawed at his mouth; his breath grew short.
"Ah, ah, ah!" he exclaimed, "give it here, give it here;
give it to me, Maria. That's a good girl, come give it to
They haggled as usual over the price, but to-night Maria was
too excited over other matters to spend much time in
bickering over a few cents.
"Look here, Zerkow," she said as soon as the transfer was
made, "I got something to tell you. A little while ago I
sold a lottery ticket to a girl at the flat; the drawing was
in this evening's papers. How much do you suppose that girl
has won?"
"I don't know. How much? How much?"
"Five thousand dollars."
It was as though a knife had been run through the Jew; a
spasm of an almost physical pain twisted his face--his
entire body. He raised his clenched fists into the air, his
eyes shut, his teeth gnawing his lip.
"Five thousand dollars," he whispered; "five thousand
dollars. For what? For nothing, for simply buying a ticket;
and I have worked so hard for it, so hard, so hard. Five
thousand dollars, five thousand dollars. Oh, why couldn't
it have come to me?" he cried, his voice choking, the tears
starting to his eyes; "why couldn't it have come to me? To
come so close, so close, and yet to miss me--me who have
worked for it, fought for it, starved for it, am dying for
it every day. Think of it, Maria, five thousand dollars,
all bright, heavy pieces----"
"Bright as a sunset," interrupted Maria, her chin propped on
her hands. "Such a glory, and heavy. Yes, every piece was
heavy, and it was all you could do to lift the punch-bowl.
Why, that punch-bowl was worth a fortune alone----"
"And it rang when you hit it with your knuckles, didn't it?"
prompted Zerkow, eagerly, his lips trembling, his fingers
hooking themselves into claws.
"Sweeter'n any church bell," continued Maria.
"Go on, go on, go on," cried Zerkow, drawing his chair
closer, and shutting his eyes in ecstasy.
"There were more than a hundred pieces, and every one of
them gold----"
"Ah, every one of them gold."
"You should have seen the sight when the leather trunk was
opened. There wa'n't a piece that was so much as scratched;
every one was like a mirror, smooth and bright, polished so
that it looked black--you know how I mean."
"Oh, I know, I know," cried Zerkow, moistening his lips.
Then he plied her with questions--questions that covered
every detail of that service of plate. It was soft, wasn't
it? You could bite into a plate and leave a dent? The
handles of the knives, now, were they gold, too? All the
knife was made from one piece of gold, was it? And the
forks the same? The interior of the trunk was quilted, of
course? Did Maria ever polish the plates herself? When the
company ate off this service, it must have made a fine
noise--these gold knives and forks clinking together upon
these gold plates.
"Now, let's have it all over again, Maria," pleaded Zerkow.
"Begin now with 'There were more than a hundred pieces, and
every one of them gold.' Go on, begin, begin, begin!"
The red-headed Pole was in a fever of excitement. Maria's
recital had become a veritable mania with him. As he
listened, with closed eyes and trembling lips, he fancied he
could see that wonderful plate before him, there on the
table, under his eyes, under his hand, ponderous, massive,
gleaming. He tormented Maria into a second repetition of
the story--into a third. The more his mind dwelt upon it,
the sharper grew his desire. Then, with Maria's refusal to
continue the tale, came the reaction. Zerkow awoke as from
some ravishing dream. The plate was gone, was irretrievably
lost. There was nothing in that miserable room but grimy
rags and rust-corroded iron. What torment! what agony! to
be so near--so near, to see it in one's distorted fancy as
plain as in a mirror. To know every individual piece as an
old friend; to feel its weight; to be dazzled by its
glitter; to call it one's own, own; to have it to oneself,
hugged to the breast; and then to start, to wake, to come
down to the horrible reality.
"And you, YOU had it once," gasped Zerkow, clawing at
her arm; "you had it once, all your own. Think of it,
and now it's gone."
"Gone for good and all."
"Perhaps it's buried near your old place somewhere."
"It's gone--gone--gone," chanted Maria in a monotone.
Zerkow dug his nails into his scalp, tearing at his red
"Yes, yes, it's gone, it's gone--lost forever! Lost
Marcus and the dentist walked up the silent street and
reached the little dog hospital. They had hardly spoken on
the way. McTeague's brain was in a whirl; speech failed him.
He was busy thinking of the great thing that had happened
that night, and was trying to realize what its effect would
be upon his life--his life and Trina's. As soon as they had
found themselves in the street, Marcus had relapsed at once
to a sullen silence, which McTeague was too abstracted to
They entered the tiny office of the hospital with its red
carpet, its gas stove, and its colored prints of famous dogs
hanging against the walls. In one corner stood the iron bed
which they were to occupy.
"You go on an' get to bed, Mac," observed Marcus. "I'll take
a look at the dogs before I turn in."
He went outside and passed along into the yard, that was
bounded on three sides by pens where the dogs were kept. A
bull terrier dying of gastritis recognized him and began to
whimper feebly.
Marcus paid no attention to the dogs. For the first time
that evening he was alone and could give vent to his
thoughts. He took a couple of turns up and down the yard,
then suddenly in a low voice exclaimed:
"You fool, you fool, Marcus Schouler! If you'd kept Trina
you'd have had that money. You might have had it yourself.
You've thrown away your chance in life--to give up the girl,
yes--but this," he stamped his foot with rage--"to throw
five thousand dollars out of the window--to stuff it into
the pockets of someone else, when it might have been
yours, when you might have had Trina AND the money--and
all for what? Because we were pals . Oh, 'pals' is all
right--but five thousand dollars--to have played it right
into his hands--God DAMN the luck!"
The next two months were delightful. Trina and McTeague saw
each other regularly, three times a week. The dentist went
over to B Street Sunday and Wednesday afternoons as usual;
but on Fridays it was Trina who came to the city. She spent
the morning between nine and twelve o'clock down town, for
the most part in the cheap department stores, doing the
weekly shopping for herself and the family. At noon she
took an uptown car and met McTeague at the corner of Polk
Street. The two lunched together at a small uptown hotel
just around the corner on Sutter Street. They were given a
little room to themselves. Nothing could have been more
delicious. They had but to close the sliding door to shut
themselves off from the whole world.
Trina would arrive breathless from her raids upon the
bargain counters, her pale cheeks flushed, her hair blown
about her face and into the corners of her lips, her
mother's net reticule stuffed to bursting. Once in their
tiny private room, she would drop into her chair with a
little groan.
"Oh, MAC, I am so tired; I've just been all OVER
town. Oh, it's good to sit down. Just think, I had to stand
up in the car all the way, after being on my feet the whole
blessed morning. Look here what I've bought. Just things
and things. Look, there's some dotted veiling I got for
myself; see now, do you think it looks pretty?"--she spread
it over her face--"and I got a box of writing paper, and a
roll of crepe paper to make a lamp shade for the front
parlor; and--what do you suppose--I saw a pair of Nottingham
lace curtains for FORTY-NINE CENTS; isn't that cheap?
and some chenille portieres for two and a half. Now what
have YOU been doing since I last saw you? Did Mr. Heise
finally get up enough courage to have his tooth pulled yet?"
Trina took off her hat and veil and rearranged her hair
before the looking-glass.
"No, no--not yet. I went down to the sign painter's
yesterday afternoon to see about that big gold tooth for a
sign. It costs too much; I can't get it yet a while.
There's two kinds, one German gilt and the other French
gilt; but the German gilt is no good."
McTeague sighed, and wagged his head. Even Trina and the
five thousand dollars could not make him forget this one
unsatisfied longing.
At other times they would talk at length over their plans,
while Trina sipped her chocolate and McTeague devoured huge
chunks of butterless bread. They were to be married at the
end of May, and the dentist already had his eye on a couple
of rooms, part of the suite of a bankrupt photographer.
They were situated in the flat, just back of his "Parlors,"
and he believed the photographer would sublet them
McTeague and Trina had no apprehensions as to their
finances. They could be sure, in fact, of a tidy little
income. The dentist's practice was fairly good, and they
could count upon the interest of Trina's five thousand
dollars. To McTeague's mind this interest seemed woefully
small. He had had uncertain ideas about that five thousand
dollars; had imagined that they would spend it in some
lavish fashion; would buy a house, perhaps, or would furnish
their new rooms with overwhelming luxury--luxury that
implied red velvet carpets and continued feasting. The oldtime
miner's idea of wealth easily gained and quickly spent
persisted in his mind. But when Trina had begun to talk of
investments and interests and per cents, he was troubled and
not a little disappointed. The lump sum of five
thousand dollars was one thing, a miserable little twenty or
twenty-five a month was quite another; and then someone else
had the money.
"But don't you see, Mac," explained Trina, "it's ours just
the same. We could get it back whenever we wanted it; and
then it's the reasonable way to do. We mustn't let it turn
our heads, Mac, dear, like that man that spent all he won in
buying more tickets. How foolish we'd feel after we'd spent
it all! We ought to go on just the same as before; as if we
hadn't won. We must be sensible about it, mustn't we?"
"Well, well, I guess perhaps that's right," the dentist
would answer, looking slowly about on the floor.
Just what should ultimately be done with the money was the
subject of endless discussion in the Sieppe family. The
savings bank would allow only three per cent., but Trina's
parents believed that something better could be got.
"There's Uncle Oelbermann," Trina had suggested, remembering
the rich relative who had the wholesale toy store in the
Mr. Sieppe struck his hand to his forehead. "Ah, an idea,"
he cried. In the end an agreement was made. The money was
invested in Mr. Oelbermann's business. He gave Trina six per
Invested in this fashion, Trina's winning would bring in
twenty-five dollars a month. But, besides this, Trina had
her own little trade. She made Noah's ark animals for Uncle
Oelbermann's store. Trina's ancestors on both sides were
German-Swiss, and some long-forgotten forefather of the
sixteenth century, some worsted-leggined wood-carver of the
Tyrol, had handed down the talent of the national industry,
to reappear in this strangely distorted guise.
She made Noah's ark animals, whittling them out of a block
of soft wood with a sharp jack-knife, the only instrument
she used. Trina was very proud to explain her work to
McTeague as he had already explained his own to her.
"You see, I take a block of straight-grained pine and cut
out the shape, roughly at first, with the big blade; then I
go over it a second time with the little blade, more
carefully; then I put in the ears and tail with a drop of
glue, and paint it with a 'non-poisonous' paint--Vandyke
brown for the horses, foxes, and cows; slate gray for the
elephants and camels; burnt umber for the chickens, zebras,
and so on; then, last, a dot of Chinese white for the eyes,
and there you are, all finished. They sell for nine cents a
dozen. Only I can't make the manikins."
"The manikins?"
"The little figures, you know--Noah and his wife, and Shem,
and all the others."
It was true. Trina could not whittle them fast enough and
cheap enough to compete with the turning lathe, that could
throw off whole tribes and peoples of manikins while she was
fashioning one family. Everything else, however, she made--
the ark itself, all windows and no door; the box in which
the whole was packed; even down to pasting on the label,
which read, "Made in France." She earned from three to four
dollars a week.
The income from these three sources, McTeague's profession,
the interest of the five thousand dollars, and Trina's
whittling, made a respectable little sum taken altogether.
Trina declared they could even lay by something, adding to
the five thousand dollars little by little.
It soon became apparent that Trina would be an
extraordinarily good housekeeper. Economy was her strong
point. A good deal of peasant blood still ran undiluted in
her veins, and she had all the instinct of a hardy and
penurious mountain race--the instinct which saves without
any thought, without idea of consequence--saving for the
sake of saving, hoarding without knowing why. Even McTeague
did not know how closely Trina held to her new-found wealth.
But they did not always pass their luncheon hour in this
discussion of incomes and economies. As the dentist came to
know his little woman better she grew to be more and more of
a puzzle and a joy to him. She would suddenly interrupt a
grave discourse upon the rents of rooms and the cost of
light and fuel with a brusque outburst of affection that set
him all a-tremble with delight. All at once she would
set down her chocolate, and, leaning across the narrow
table, would exclaim:
"Never mind all that! Oh, Mac, do you truly, really love
me--love me BIG?"
McTeague would stammer something, gasping, and wagging his
head, beside himself for the lack of words.
"Old bear," Trina would answer, grasping him by both huge
ears and swaying his head from side to side. "Kiss me,
then. Tell me, Mac, did you think any less of me that first
time I let you kiss me there in the station? Oh, Mac, dear,
what a funny nose you've got, all full of hairs inside; and,
Mac, do you know you've got a bald spot--" she dragged his
head down towards her--"right on the top of your head."
Then she would seriously kiss the bald spot in question,
"That'll make the hair grow."
Trina took an infinite enjoyment in playing with McTeague's
great square-cut head, rumpling his hair till it stood on
end, putting her fingers in his eyes, or stretching his ears
out straight, and watching the effect with her head on one
side. It was like a little child playing with some
gigantic, good-natured Saint Bernard.
One particular amusement they never wearied of. The two
would lean across the table towards each other, McTeague
folding his arms under his breast. Then Trina, resting on
her elbows, would part his mustache-the great blond mustache
of a viking--with her two hands, pushing it up from his
lips, causing his face to assume the appearance of a Greek
mask. She would curl it around either forefinger, drawing
it to a fine end. Then all at once McTeague would make a
fearful snorting noise through his nose. Invariably--though
she was expecting this, though it was part of the game--
Trina would jump with a stifled shriek. McTeague would
bellow with laughter till his eyes watered. Then they would
recommence upon the instant, Trina protesting with a nervous
"Now--now--now, Mac, DON'T; you SCARE me so."
But these delicious tete-a-tetes with Trina were offset
by a certain coolness that Marcus Schouler began to
affect towards the dentist. At first McTeague was unaware
of it; but by this time even his slow wits began to perceive
that his best friend--his "pal"--was not the same to him as
formerly. They continued to meet at lunch nearly every day
but Friday at the car conductors' coffee-joint. But Marcus
was sulky; there could be no doubt about that. He avoided
talking to McTeague, read the paper continually, answering
the dentist's timid efforts at conversation in gruff
monosyllables. Sometimes, even, he turned sideways to the
table and talked at great length to Heise the harness-maker,
whose table was next to theirs. They took no more long
walks together when Marcus went out to exercise the dogs.
Nor did Marcus ever again recur to his generosity in
renouncing Trina.
One Tuesday, as McTeague took his place at the table in the
coffee-joint, he found Marcus already there.
"Hello, Mark," said the dentist, "you here already?"
"Hello," returned the other, indifferently, helping himself
to tomato catsup. There was a silence. After a long while
Marcus suddenly looked up.
"Say, Mac," he exclaimed, "when you going to pay me that
money you owe me?"
McTeague was astonished.
"Huh? What? I don't--do I owe you any money, Mark?"
"Well, you owe me four bits," returned Marcus, doggedly. "I
paid for you and Trina that day at the picnic, and you never
gave it back."
"Oh--oh!" answered McTeague, in distress. "That's so,
that's so. I--you ought to have told me before. Here's
your money, and I'm obliged to you."
"It ain't much," observed Marcus, sullenly. "But I need all
I can get now-a-days."
"Are you--are you broke?" inquired McTeague.
"And I ain't saying anything about your sleeping at the
hospital that night, either," muttered Marcus, as he
pocketed the coin.
"Well--well--do you mean--should I have paid for that?"
"Well, you'd 'a' had to sleep SOMEWHERES, wouldn't
you?" flashed out Marcus. "You 'a' had to pay half a dollar
for a bed at the flat."
"All right, all right," cried the dentist, hastily, feeling
in his pockets. "I don't want you should be out anything on
my account, old man. Here, will four bits do?"
"I don't WANT your damn money," shouted Marcus in a
sudden rage, throwing back the coin. "I ain't no beggar."
McTeague was miserable. How had he offended his pal?
"Well, I want you should take it, Mark," he said, pushing it
towards him.
"I tell you I won't touch your money," exclaimed the other
through his clenched teeth, white with passion. "I've been
played for a sucker long enough."
"What's the matter with you lately, Mark?" remonstrated
McTeague. "You've got a grouch about something. Is there
anything I've done?"
"Well, that's all right, that's all right," returned Marcus
as he rose from the table. "That's all right. I've been
played for a sucker long enough, that's all. I've been
played for a sucker long enough." He went away with a
parting malevolent glance.
At the corner of Polk Street, between the flat and the car
conductors' coffee-joint, was Frenna's. It was a corner
grocery; advertisements for cheap butter and eggs, painted
in green marking-ink upon wrapping paper, stood about on the
sidewalk outside. The doorway was decorated with a huge
Milwaukee beer sign. Back of the store proper was a bar
where white sand covered the floor. A few tables and chairs
were scattered here and there. The walls were hung with
gorgeously-colored tobacco advertisements and colored
lithographs of trotting horses. On the wall behind the bar
was a model of a full-rigged ship enclosed in a bottle.
It was at this place that the dentist used to leave his
pitcher to be filled on Sunday afternoons. Since his
engagement to Trina he had discontinued this habit.
However, he still dropped into Frenna's one or two
nights in the week. He spent a pleasant hour there, smoking
his huge porcelain pipe and drinking his beer. He never
joined any of the groups of piquet players around the
tables. In fact, he hardly spoke to anyone but the
bartender and Marcus.
For Frenna's was one of Marcus Schouler's haunts; a great
deal of his time was spent there. He involved himself in
fearful political and social discussions with Heise the
harness-maker, and with one or two old German, habitues
of the place. These discussions Marcus carried on, as was
his custom, at the top of his voice, gesticulating fiercely,
banging the table with his fists, brandishing the plates and
glasses, exciting himself with his own clamor.
On a certain Saturday evening, a few days after the scene at
the coffee-joint, the dentist bethought him to spend a quiet
evening at Frenna's. He had not been there for some time,
and, besides that, it occurred to him that the day was his
birthday. He would permit himself an extra pipe and a few
glasses of beer. When McTeague entered Frenna's back room by
the street door, he found Marcus and Heise already installed
at one of the tables. Two or three of the old Germans sat
opposite them, gulping their beer from time to time. Heise
was smoking a cigar, but Marcus had before him his fourth
whiskey cocktail. At the moment of McTeague's entrance
Marcus had the floor.
"It can't be proven," he was yelling. "I defy any sane
politician whose eyes are not blinded by party prejudices,
whose opinions are not warped by a personal bias, to
substantiate such a statement. Look at your facts, look at
your figures. I am a free American citizen, ain't I? I pay
my taxes to support a good government, don't I? It's a
contract between me and the government, ain't it? Well,
then, by damn! if the authorities do not or will not afford
me protection for life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness, then my obligations are at an end; I withhold my
taxes. I do--I do--I say I do. What?" He glared about
him, seeking opposition.
"That's nonsense," observed Heise, quietly. "Try it
once; you'll get jugged." But this observation of the
harness-maker's roused Marcus to the last pitch of frenzy.
"Yes, ah, yes!" he shouted, rising to his feet, shaking his
finger in the other's face. "Yes, I'd go to jail; but
because I--I am crushed by a tyranny, does that make the
tyranny right? Does might make right?"
"You must make less noise in here, Mister Schouler," said
Frenna, from behind the bar.
"Well, it makes me mad," answered Marcus, subsiding into a
growl and resuming his chair. "Hullo, Mac."
"Hullo, Mark."
But McTeague's presence made Marcus uneasy, rousing in him
at once a sense of wrong. He twisted to and fro in his
chair, shrugging first one shoulder and then another.
Quarrelsome at all times, the heat of the previous
discussion had awakened within him all his natural
combativeness. Besides this, he was drinking his fourth
McTeague began filling his big porcelain pipe. He lit it,
blew a great cloud of smoke into the room, and settled
himself comfortably in his chair. The smoke of his cheap
tobacco drifted into the faces of the group at the adjoining
table, and Marcus strangled and coughed. Instantly his eyes
"Say, for God's sake," he vociferated, "choke off on that
pipe! If you've got to smoke rope like that, smoke it in a
crowd of muckers; don't come here amongst gentlemen."
"Shut up, Schouler!" observed Heise in a low voice.
McTeague was stunned by the suddenness of the attack. He
took his pipe from his mouth, and stared blankly at Marcus;
his lips moved, but he said no word. Marcus turned his back
on him, and the dentist resumed his pipe.
But Marcus was far from being appeased. McTeague could not
hear the talk that followed between him and the harnessmaker,
but it seemed to him that Marcus was telling Heise of
some injury, some grievance, and that the latter was trying
to pacify him. All at once their talk grew louder. Heise
laid a retaining hand upon his companion's coat sleeve,
but Marcus swung himself around in his chair, and, fixing
his eyes on McTeague, cried as if in answer to some
protestation on the part of Heise:
"All I know is that I've been soldiered out of five thousand
McTeague gaped at him, bewildered. He removed his pipe from
his mouth a second time, and stared at Marcus with eyes full
of trouble and perplexity.
"If I had my rights," cried Marcus, bitterly, "I'd have part
of that money. It's my due--it's only justice." The
dentist still kept silence.
"If it hadn't been for me," Marcus continued, addressing
himself directly to McTeague, "you wouldn't have had a cent
of it--no, not a cent. Where's my share, I'd like to know?
Where do I come in? No, I ain't in it any more. I've been
played for a sucker, an' now that you've got all you can out
of me, now that you've done me out of my girl and out of my
money, you give me the go-by. Why, where would you have
been TO-DAY if it hadn't been for me?" Marcus shouted
in a sudden exasperation, "You'd a been plugging teeth at
two bits an hour. Ain't you got any gratitude? Ain't you
got any sense of decency?"
"Ah, hold up, Schouler," grumbled Heise. "You don't want to
get into a row."
"No, I don't, Heise," returned Marcus, with a plaintive,
aggrieved air. "But it's too much sometimes when you think
of it. He stole away my girl's affections, and now that
he's rich and prosperous, and has got five thousand dollars
that I might have had, he gives me the go-by; he's played me
for a sucker. Look here," he cried, turning again to
McTeague, "do I get any of that money?"
"It ain't mine to give," answered McTeague. "You're drunk,
that's what you are."
"Do I get any of that money?" cried Marcus, persistently.
The dentist shook his head. "No, you don't get any of it."
"Now--NOW," clamored the other, turning to the harnessmaker,
as though this explained everything. "Look at that,
look at that. Well, I've done with you from now on."
Marcus had risen to his feet by this time and made as if to
leave, but at every instant he came back, shouting his
phrases into McTeague's face, moving off again as he spoke
the last words, in order to give them better effect.
"This settles it right here. I've done with you. Don't you
ever dare speak to me again"--his voice was shaking with
fury--"and don't you sit at my table in the restaurant
again. I'm sorry I ever lowered myself to keep company with
such dirt. Ah, one-horse dentist! Ah, ten-cent zincplugger--
hoodlum--MUCKER! Get your damn smoke outa my
Then matters reached a sudden climax. In his agitation the
dentist had been pulling hard on his pipe, and as Marcus for
the last time thrust his face close to his own, McTeague, in
opening his lips to reply, blew a stifling, acrid cloud
directly in Marcus Schouler's eyes. Marcus knocked the pipe
from his fingers with a sudden flash of his hand; it spun
across the room and broke into a dozen fragments in a far
McTeague rose to his feet, his eyes wide. But as yet he was
not angry, only surprised, taken all aback by the suddenness
of Marcus Schouler's outbreak as well as by its
unreasonableness. Why had Marcus broken his pipe? What did
it all mean, anyway? As he rose the dentist made a vague
motion with his right hand. Did Marcus misinterpret it as a
gesture of menace? He sprang back as though avoiding a
blow. All at once there was a cry. Marcus had made a quick,
peculiar motion, swinging his arm upward with a wide and
sweeping gesture; his jack-knife lay open in his palm; it
shot forward as he flung it, glinted sharply by McTeague's
head, and struck quivering into the wall behind.
A sudden chill ran through the room; the others stood
transfixed, as at the swift passage of some cold and deadly
wind. Death had stooped there for an instant, had stooped
and past, leaving a trail of terror and confusion. Then the
door leading to the street slammed; Marcus had disappeared.
Thereon a great babel of exclamation arose. The tension
of that all but fatal instant snapped, and speech
became once more possible.
"He would have knifed you."
"Narrow escape."
"What kind of a man do you call THAT?"
"'Tain't his fault he ain't a murderer."
"I'd have him up for it."
"And they two have been the greatest kind of friends."
"He didn't touch you, did he?"
"What a--what a devil! What treachery! A regular greaser
"Look out he don't stab you in the back. If that's the kind
of man he is, you never can tell."
Frenna drew the knife from the wall.
"Guess I'll keep this toad-stabber," he observed. "That
fellow won't come round for it in a hurry; goodsized blade,
too." The group examined it with intense interest.
"Big enough to let the life out of any man," observed Heise.
"What--what--what did he do it for?" stammered McTeague. "I
got no quarrel with him."
He was puzzled and harassed by the strangeness of it all.
Marcus would have killed him; had thrown his knife at him in
the true, uncanny "greaser" style. It was inexplicable.
McTeague sat down again, looking stupidly about on the
floor. In a corner of the room his eye encountered his
broken pipe, a dozen little fragments of painted porcelain
and the stem of cherry wood and amber.
At that sight his tardy wrath, ever lagging behind the
original affront, suddenly blazed up. Instantly his huge
jaws clicked together.
"He can't make small of ME," he exclaimed, suddenly.
"I'll show Marcus Schouler--I'll show him--I'll----"
He got up and clapped on his hat.
"Now, Doctor," remonstrated Heise, standing between him and
the door, "don't go make a fool of yourself."
"Let 'um alone," joined in Frenna, catching the dentist
by the arm; "he's full, anyhow."
"He broke my pipe," answered McTeague.
It was this that had roused him. The thrown knife, the
attempt on his life, was beyond his solution; but the
breaking of his pipe he understood clearly enough.
"I'll show him," he exclaimed.
As though they had been little children, McTeague set Frenna
and the harness-maker aside, and strode out at the door like
a raging elephant. Heise stood rubbing his shoulder.
"Might as well try to stop a locomotive," he muttered. "The
man's made of iron."
Meanwhile, McTeague went storming up the street toward the
flat, wagging his head and grumbling to himself. Ah, Marcus
would break his pipe, would he? Ah, he was a zinc-plugger,
was he? He'd show Marcus Schouler. No one should make small
of him. He tramped up the stairs to Marcus's room. The
door was locked. The dentist put one enormous hand on the
knob and pushed the door in, snapping the wood-work, tearing
off the lock. Nobody--the room was dark and empty. Never
mind, Marcus would have to come home some time that night.
McTeague would go down and wait for him in his "Parlors."
He was bound to hear him as he came up the stairs.
As McTeague reached his room he stumbled over, in the
darkness, a big packing-box that stood in the hallway just
outside his door. Puzzled, he stepped over it, and lighting
the gas in his room, dragged it inside and examined it.
It was addressed to him. What could it mean? He was
expecting nothing. Never since he had first furnished his
room had packing-cases been left for him in this fashion.
No mistake was possible. There were his name and address
unmistakably. "Dr. McTeague, dentist--Polk Street, San
Francisco, Cal.," and the red Wells Fargo tag.
Seized with the joyful curiosity of an overgrown boy, he
pried off the boards with the corner of his fireshovel. The
case was stuffed full of excelsior. On the top lay an
envelope addressed to him in Trina's handwriting. He
opened it and read, "For my dear Mac's birthday, from
Trina;" and below, in a kind of post-script, "The man will
be round to-morrow to put it in place." McTeague tore away
the excelsior. Suddenly he uttered an exclamation.
It was the Tooth--the famous golden molar with its huge
prongs--his sign, his ambition, the one unrealized dream of
his life; and it was French gilt, too, not the cheap German
gilt that was no good. Ah, what a dear little woman was
this Trina, to keep so quiet, to remember his birthday!
"Ain't she--ain't she just a--just a JEWEL," exclaimed
McTeague under his breath, "a JEWEL--yes, just a
JEWEL; that's the word."
Very carefully he removed the rest of the excelsior, and
lifting the ponderous Tooth from its box, set it upon the
marble-top centre table. How immense it looked in that
little room! The thing was tremendous, overpowering--the
tooth of a gigantic fossil, golden and dazzling. Beside it
everything seemed dwarfed. Even McTeague himself, big boned
and enormous as he was, shrank and dwindled in the presence
of the monster. As for an instant he bore it in his hands,
it was like a puny Gulliver struggling with the molar of
some vast Brobdingnag.
The dentist circled about that golden wonder, gasping with
delight and stupefaction, touching it gingerly with his
hands as if it were something sacred. At every moment his
thought returned to Trina. No, never was there such a
little woman as his--the very thing he wanted--how had she
remembered? And the money, where had that come from? No
one knew better than he how expensive were these signs; not
another dentist on Polk Street could afford one. Where,
then, had Trina found the money? It came out of her five
thousand dollars, no doubt.
But what a wonderful, beautiful tooth it was, to be sure,
bright as a mirror, shining there in its coat of French
gilt, as if with a light of its own! No danger of that
tooth turning black with the weather, as did the cheap
German gilt impostures. What would that other dentist, that
poser, that rider of bicycles, that courser of
greyhounds, say when he should see this marvellous molar run
out from McTeague's bay window like a flag of defiance? No
doubt he would suffer veritable convulsions of envy; would
be positively sick with jealousy. If McTeague could only
see his face at the moment!
For a whole hour the dentist sat there in his little
"Parlor," gazing ecstatically at his treasure, dazzled,
supremely content. The whole room took on a different
aspect because of it. The stone pug dog before the little
stove reflected it in his protruding eyes; the canary woke
and chittered feebly at this new gilt, so much brighter than
the bars of its little prison. Lorenzo de' Medici, in the
steel engraving, sitting in the heart of his court, seemed
to ogle the thing out of the corner of one eye, while the
brilliant colors of the unused rifle manufacturer's calendar
seemed to fade and pale in the brilliance of this greater
At length, long after midnight, the dentist started to go to
bed, undressing himself with his eyes still fixed on the
great tooth. All at once he heard Marcus Schouler's foot on
the stairs; he started up with his fists clenched, but
immediately dropped back upon the bed-lounge with a gesture
of indifference.
He was in no truculent state of mind now. He could not
reinstate himself in that mood of wrath wherein he had left
the corner grocery. The tooth had changed all that. What
was Marcus Schouler's hatred to him, who had Trina's
affection? What did he care about a broken pipe now that he
had the tooth? Let him go. As Frenna said, he was not worth
it. He heard Marcus come out into the hall, shouting
aggrievedly to anyone within sound of his voice:
"An' now he breaks into my room--into my room, by damn! How
do I know how many things he's stolen? It's come to stealing
from me, now, has it?" He went into his room, banging his
splintered door.
McTeague looked upward at the ceiling, in the direction of
the voice, muttering:
"Ah, go to bed, you."
He went to bed himself, turning out the gas, but leaving the
window-curtains up so that he could see the tooth the
last thing before he went to sleep and the first thing as he
arose in the morning.
But he was restless during the night. Every now and then he
was awakened by noises to which he had long since become
accustomed. Now it was the cackling of the geese in the
deserted market across the street; now it was the stoppage
of the cable, the sudden silence coming almost like a shock;
and now it was the infuriated barking of the dogs in the
back yard--Alec, the Irish setter, and the collie that
belonged to the branch post-office raging at each other
through the fence, snarling their endless hatred into each
other's faces. As often as he woke, McTeague turned and
looked for the tooth, with a sudden suspicion that he had
only that moment dreamed the whole business. But he always
found it--Trina's gift, his birthday from his little woman--
a huge, vague bulk, looming there through the half darkness
in the centre of the room, shining dimly out as if with some
mysterious light of its own.
Trina and McTeague were married on the first day of June, in
the photographer's rooms that the dentist had rented. All
through May the Sieppe household had been turned upside
down. The little box of a house vibrated with excitement
and confusion, for not only were the preparations for
Trina's marriage to be made, but also the preliminaries were
to be arranged for the hegira of the entire Sieppe family.
They were to move to the southern part of the State the
day after Trina's marriage, Mr. Sieppe having bought a third
interest in an upholstering business in the suburbs of Los
Angeles. It was possible that Marcus Schouler would go with
Not Stanley penetrating for the first time into the Dark
Continent, not Napoleon leading his army across the Alps,
was more weighted with responsibility, more burdened with
care, more overcome with the sense of the importance of his
undertaking, than was Mr. Sieppe during this period of
preparation. From dawn to dark, from dark to early dawn, he
toiled and planned and fretted, organizing and reorganizing,
projecting and devising. The trunks were lettered, A, B, and
C, the packages and smaller bundles numbered. Each member
of the family had his especial duty to perform, his
particular bundles to oversee. Not a detail was forgotten--
fares, prices, and tips were calculated to two places of
decimals. Even the amount of food that it would be
necessary to carry for the black greyhound was determined.
Mrs. Sieppe was to look after the lunch, "der gomisariat."
Mr. Sieppe would assume charge of the checks, the money, the
tickets, and, of course, general supervision. The twins
would be under the command of Owgooste, who, in turn, would
report for orders to his father.
Day in and day out these minutiae were rehearsed. The
children were drilled in their parts with a military
exactitude; obedience and punctuality became cardinal
virtues. The vast importance of the undertaking was
insisted upon with scrupulous iteration. It was a
manoeuvre, an army changing its base of operations, a
veritable tribal migration.
On the other hand, Trina's little room was the centre around
which revolved another and different order of things. The
dressmaker came and went, congratulatory visitors invaded
the little front parlor, the chatter of unfamiliar voices
resounded from the front steps; bonnet-boxes and yards of
dress-goods littered the beds and chairs; wrapping paper,
tissue paper, and bits of string strewed the floor; a pair
of white satin slippers stood on a corner of the toilet
table; lengths of white veiling, like a snow-flurry,
buried the little work-table; and a mislaid box of
artificial orange blossoms was finally discovered behind the
The two systems of operation often clashed and tangled. Mrs.
Sieppe was found by her harassed husband helping Trina with
the waist of her gown when she should have been slicing cold
chicken in the kitchen. Mr. Sieppe packed his frock coat,
which he would have to wear at the wedding, at the very
bottom of "Trunk C." The minister, who called to offer his
congratulations and to make arrangements, was mistaken for
the expressman.
McTeague came and went furtively, dizzied and made uneasy by
all this bustle. He got in the way; he trod upon and tore
breadths of silk; he tried to help carry the packing-boxes,
and broke the hall gas fixture; he came in upon Trina and
the dress-maker at an ill-timed moment, and retiring
precipitately, overturned the piles of pictures stacked in
the hall.
There was an incessant going and coming at every moment of
the day, a great calling up and down stairs, a shouting from
room to room, an opening and shutting of doors, and an
intermittent sound of hammering from the laundry, where Mr.
Sieppe in his shirt sleeves labored among the packing-boxes.
The twins clattered about on the carpetless floors of the
denuded rooms. Owgooste was smacked from hour to hour, and
wept upon the front stairs; the dressmaker called over the
banisters for a hot flatiron; expressmen tramped up and down
the stairway. Mrs. Sieppe stopped in the preparation of the
lunches to call "Hoop, Hoop" to the greyhound, throwing
lumps of coal. The dog-wheel creaked, the front door bell
rang, delivery wagons rumbled away, windows rattled--the
little house was in a positive uproar.
Almost every day of the week now Trina was obliged to run
over to town and meet McTeague. No more philandering over
their lunch now-a-days. It was business now. They haunted
the house-furnishing floors of the great department houses,
inspecting and pricing ranges, hardware, china, and the
like. They rented the photographer's rooms furnished, and
fortunately only the kitchen and dining-room utensils had to
be bought.
The money for this as well as for her trousseau came
out of Trina's five thousand dollars. For it had been
finally decided that two hundred dollars of this amount
should be devoted to the establishment of the new household.
Now that Trina had made her great winning, Mr. Sieppe no
longer saw the necessity of dowering her further, especially
when he considered the enormous expense to which he would be
put by the voyage of his own family.
It had been a dreadful wrench for Trina to break in upon her
precious five thousand. She clung to this sum with a
tenacity that was surprising; it had become for her a thing
miraculous, a god-from-the-machine, suddenly descending upon
the stage of her humble little life; she regarded it as
something almost sacred and inviolable. Never, never should
a penny of it be spent. Before she could be induced to part
with two hundred dollars of it, more than one scene had been
enacted between her and her parents.
Did Trina pay for the golden tooth out of this two hundred?
Later on, the dentist often asked her about it, but Trina
invariably laughed in his face, declaring that it was her
secret. McTeague never found out.
One day during this period McTeague told Trina about his
affair with Marcus. Instantly she was aroused.
"He threw his knife at you! The coward! He wouldn't of dared
stand up to you like a man. Oh, Mac, suppose he HAD hit
"Came within an inch of my head," put in McTeague, proudly.
"Think of it!" she gasped; "and he wanted part of my money.
Well, I do like his cheek; part of my five thousand! Why,
it's mine, every single penny of it. Marcus hasn't the least
bit of right to it. It's mine, mine.--I mean, it's ours,
Mac, dear."
The elder Sieppes, however, made excuses for Marcus. He had
probably been drinking a good deal and didn't know what he
was about. He had a dreadful temper, anyhow. Maybe he only
wanted to scare McTeague.
The week before the marriage the two men were reconciled.
Mrs. Sieppe brought them together in the front parlor
of the B Street house.
"Now, you two fellers, don't be dot foolish. Schake hands
und maig ut oop, soh."
Marcus muttered an apology. McTeague, miserably
embarrassed, rolled his eyes about the room, murmuring,
"That's all right--that's all right--that's all right."
However, when it was proposed that Marcus should be
McTeague's best man, he flashed out again with renewed
violence. Ah, no! ah, NO! He'd make up with the
dentist now that he was going away, but he'd be damned--yes,
he would--before he'd be his best man. That was rubbing it
in. Let him get Old Grannis.
"I'm friends with um all right," vociferated Marcus, "but
I'll not stand up with um. I'll not be ANYBODY'S best
man, I won't."
The wedding was to be very quiet; Trina preferred it that
way. McTeague would invite only Miss Baker and Heise the
harness-maker. The Sieppes sent cards to Selina, who was
counted on to furnish the music; to Marcus, of course; and
to Uncle Oelbermann.
At last the great day, the first of June, arrived. The
Sieppes had packed their last box and had strapped the last
trunk. Trina's two trunks had already been sent to her new
home--the remodelled photographer's rooms. The B Street
house was deserted; the whole family came over to the city
on the last day of May and stopped over night at one of the
cheap downtown hotels. Trina would be married the following
evening, and immediately after the wedding supper the
Sieppes would leave for the South.
McTeague spent the day in a fever of agitation, frightened
out of his wits each time that Old Grannis left his elbow.
Old Grannis was delighted beyond measure at the prospect of
acting the part of best man in the ceremony. This wedding
in which he was to figure filled his mind with vague ideas
and half-formed thoughts. He found himself continually
wondering what Miss Baker would think of it. During all
that day he was in a reflective mood.
"Marriage is a--a noble institution, is it not, Doctor?" he
observed to McTeague. "The--the foundation of society.
It is not good that man should be alone. No, no," he added,
pensively, "it is not good."
"Huh? Yes, yes," McTeague answered, his eyes in the air,
hardly hearing him. "Do you think the rooms are all right?
Let's go in and look at them again."
They went down the hall to where the new rooms were
situated, and the dentist inspected them for the twentieth
The rooms were three in number--first, the sitting-room,
which was also the dining-room; then the bedroom, and back
of this the tiny kitchen.
The sitting-room was particularly charming. Clean matting
covered the floor, and two or three bright colored rugs were
scattered here and there. The backs of the chairs were hung
with knitted worsted tidies, very gay. The bay window
should have been occupied by Trina's sewing machine, but
this had been moved to the other side of the room to give
place to a little black walnut table with spiral legs,
before which the pair were to be married. In one corner
stood the parlor melodeon, a family possession of the
Sieppes, but given now to Trina as one of her parents'
wedding presents. Three pictures hung upon the walls. Two
were companion pieces. One of these represented a little
boy wearing huge spectacles and trying to smoke an enormous
pipe. This was called "I'm Grandpa," the title being
printed in large black letters; the companion picture was
entitled "I'm Grandma," a little girl in cap and "specs,"
wearing mitts, and knitting. These pictures were hung on
either side of the mantelpiece. The other picture was quite
an affair, very large and striking. It was a colored
lithograph of two little golden-haired girls in their nightgowns.
They were kneeling down and saying their prayers;
their eyes--very large and very blue--rolled upward. This
picture had for name, "Faith," and was bordered with a red
plush mat and a frame of imitation beaten brass.
A door hung with chenille portieres--a bargain at two
dollars and a half--admitted one to the bedroom. The
bedroom could boast a carpet, three-ply ingrain, the design
being bunches of red and green flowers in yellow
baskets on a white ground. The wall-paper was admirable--
hundreds and hundreds of tiny Japanese mandarins, all
identically alike, helping hundreds of almond-eyed ladies
into hundreds of impossible junks, while hundreds of bamboo
palms overshadowed the pair, and hundreds of long-legged
storks trailed contemptuously away from the scene. This room
was prolific in pictures. Most of them were framed colored
prints from Christmas editions of the London "Graphic" and
"Illustrated News," the subject of each picture inevitably
involving very alert fox terriers and very pretty moon-faced
little girls.
Back of the bedroom was the kitchen, a creation of Trina's,
a dream of a kitchen, with its range, its porcelain-lined
sink, its copper boiler, and its overpowering array of
flashing tinware. Everything was new; everything was
Maria Macapa and a waiter from one of the restaurants in the
street were to prepare the wedding supper here. Maria had
already put in an appearance. The fire was crackling in the
new stove, that smoked badly; a smell of cooking was in the
air. She drove McTeague and Old Grannis from the room with
great gestures of her bare arms.
This kitchen was the only one of the three rooms they had
been obliged to furnish throughout. Most of the sittingroom
and bedroom furniture went with the suite; a few pieces
they had bought; the remainder Trina had brought over from
the B Street house.
The presents had been set out on the extension table in the
sitting-room. Besides the parlor melodeon, Trina's parents
had given her an ice-water set, and a carving knife and fork
with elk-horn handles. Selina had painted a view of the
Golden Gate upon a polished slice of redwood that answered
the purposes of a paper weight. Marcus Schouler--after
impressing upon Trina that his gift was to HER, and not
to McTeague--had sent a chatelaine watch of German silver;
Uncle Oelbermann's present, however, had been awaited with a
good deal of curiosity. What would he send? He was very
rich; in a sense Trina was his protege. A couple of
days before that upon which the wedding was to take
place, two boxes arrived with his card. Trina and
McTeague, assisted by Old Grannis, had opened them. The
first was a box of all sorts of toys.
"But what--what--I don't make it out," McTeague had
exclaimed. "Why should he send us toys? We have no need of
toys." Scarlet to her hair, Trina dropped into a chair and
laughed till she cried behind her handkerchief.
"We've no use of toys," muttered McTeague, looking at her in
perplexity. Old Grannis smiled discreetly, raising a
tremulous hand to his chin.
The other box was heavy, bound with withes at the edges, the
letters and stamps burnt in.
"I think--I really think it's champagne," said Old Grannis
in a whisper. So it was. A full case of Monopole. What a
wonder! None of them had seen the like before. Ah, this
Uncle Oelbermann! That's what it was to be rich. Not one
of the other presents produced so deep an impression as
After Old Grannis and the dentist had gone through the
rooms, giving a last look around to see that everything was
ready, they returned to McTeague's "Parlors." At the door
Old Grannis excused himself.
At four o'clock McTeague began to dress, shaving himself
first before the hand-glass that was hung against the
woodwork of the bay window. While he shaved he sang with
strange inappropriateness:
"No one to love, none to Caress,
Left all alone in this world's wilderness."
But as he stood before the mirror, intent upon his shaving,
there came a roll of wheels over the cobbles in front of the
house. He rushed to the window. Trina had arrived with her
father and mother. He saw her get out, and as she glanced
upward at his window, their eyes met.
Ah, there she was. There she was, his little woman, looking
up at him, her adorable little chin thrust upward with that
familiar movement of innocence and confidence. The
dentist saw again, as if for the first time, her small, pale
face looking out from beneath her royal tiara of black hair;
he saw again her long, narrow blue eyes; her lips, nose, and
tiny ears, pale and bloodless, and suggestive of anaemia, as
if all the vitality that should have lent them color had
been sucked up into the strands and coils of that wonderful
As their eyes met they waved their hands gayly to each
other; then McTeague heard Trina and her mother come up the
stairs and go into the bedroom of the photographer's suite,
where Trina was to dress.
No, no; surely there could be no longer any hesitation. He
knew that he loved her. What was the matter with him, that
he should have doubted it for an instant? The great
difficulty was that she was too good, too adorable, too
sweet, too delicate for him, who was so huge, so clumsy, so
There was a knock at the door. It was Old Grannis. He was
dressed in his one black suit of broadcloth, much wrinkled;
his hair was carefully brushed over his bald forehead.
"Miss Trina has come," he announced, "and the minister. You
have an hour yet."
The dentist finished dressing. He wore a suit bought for
the occasion--a ready made "Prince Albert" coat too short in
the sleeves, striped "blue" trousers, and new patent leather
shoes--veritable instruments of torture. Around his collar
was a wonderful necktie that Trina had given him; it was of
salmon-pink satin; in its centre Selina had painted a knot
of blue forget-me-nots.
At length, after an interminable period of waiting, Mr.
Sieppe appeared at the door.
"Are you reatty?" he asked in a sepulchral whisper. "Gome,
den." It was like King Charles summoned to execution. Mr.
Sieppe preceded them into the hall, moving at a funereal
pace. He paused. Suddenly, in the direction of the sittingroom,
came the strains of the parlor melodeon. Mr. Sieppe
flung his arm in the air.
"Vowaarts!" he cried.
He left them at the door of the sitting-room, he
himself going into the bedroom where Trina was waiting,
entering by the hall door. He was in a tremendous state of
nervous tension, fearful lest something should go wrong. He
had employed the period of waiting in going through his part
for the fiftieth time, repeating what he had to say in a low
voice. He had even made chalk marks on the matting in the
places where he was to take positions.
The dentist and Old Grannis entered the sitting-room; the
minister stood behind the little table in the bay window,
holding a book, one finger marking the place; he was rigid,
erect, impassive. On either side of him, in a semi-circle,
stood the invited guests. A little pock-marked gentleman in
glasses, no doubt the famous Uncle Oelbermann; Miss Baker,
in her black grenadine, false curls, and coral brooch;
Marcus Schouler, his arms folded, his brows bent, grand and
gloomy; Heise the harness-maker, in yellow gloves, intently
studying the pattern of the matting; and Owgooste, in his
Fauntleroy "costume," stupefied and a little frightened,
rolling his eyes from face to face. Selina sat at the parlor
melodeon, fingering the keys, her glance wandering to the
chenille portieres. She stopped playing as McTeague and Old
Grannis entered and took their places. A profound silence
ensued. Uncle Oelbermann's shirt front could be heard
creaking as he breathed. The most solemn expression
pervaded every face.
All at once the portieres were shaken violently. It was a
signal. Selina pulled open the stops and swung into the
wedding march.
Trina entered. She was dressed in white silk, a crown of
orange blossoms was around her swarthy hair--dressed high
for the first time--her veil reached to the floor. Her face
was pink, but otherwise she was calm. She looked quietly
around the room as she crossed it, until her glance rested
on McTeague, smiling at him then very prettily and with
perfect self-possession.
She was on her father's arm. The twins, dressed exactly
alike, walked in front, each carrying an enormous bouquet of
cut flowers in a "lace-paper" holder. Mrs. Sieppe followed
in the rear. She was crying; her handkerchief was rolled
into a wad. From time to time she looked at the train
of Trina's dress through her tears. Mr. Sieppe marched his
daughter to the exact middle of the floor, wheeled at right
angles, and brought her up to the minister. He stepped back
three paces, and stood planted upon one of his chalk marks,
his face glistening with perspiration.
Then Trina and the dentist were married. The guests stood
in constrained attitudes, looking furtively out of the
corners of their eyes. Mr. Sieppe never moved a muscle;
Mrs. Sieppe cried into her handkerchief all the time. At
the melodeon Selina played "Call Me Thine Own," very softly,
the tremulo stop pulled out. She looked over her shoulder
from time to time. Between the pauses of the music one
could hear the low tones of the minister, the responses of
the participants, and the suppressed sounds of Mrs. Sieppe's
weeping. Outside the noises of the street rose to the
windows in muffled undertones, a cable car rumbled past, a
newsboy went by chanting the evening papers; from somewhere
in the building itself came a persistent noise of sawing.
Trina and McTeague knelt. The dentist's knees thudded on
the floor and he presented to view the soles of his shoes,
painfully new and unworn, the leather still yellow, the
brass nail heads still glittering. Trina sank at his side
very gracefully, setting her dress and train with a little
gesture of her free hand. The company bowed their heads,
Mr. Sieppe shutting his eyes tight. But Mrs. Sieppe took
advantage of the moment to stop crying and make furtive
gestures towards Owgooste, signing him to pull down his
coat. But Owgooste gave no heed; his eyes were starting
from their sockets, his chin had dropped upon his lace
collar, and his head turned vaguely from side to side with a
continued and maniacal motion.
All at once the ceremony was over before any one expected
it. The guests kept their positions for a moment, eyeing one
another, each fearing to make the first move, not quite
certain as to whether or not everything were finished. But
the couple faced the room, Trina throwing back her veil.
She--perhaps McTeague as well--felt that there was a certain
inadequateness about the ceremony. Was that all there was
to it? Did just those few muttered phrases make them
man and wife? It had been over in a few moments, but it had
bound them for life. Had not something been left out? Was
not the whole affair cursory, superficial? It was
But Trina had no time to dwell upon this. Marcus Schouler,
in the manner of a man of the world, who knew how to act in
every situation, stepped forward and, even before Mr. or
Mrs. Sieppe, took Trina's hand.
"Let me be the first to congratulate Mrs. McTeague," he
said, feeling very noble and heroic. The strain of the
previous moments was relaxed immediately, the guests crowded
around the pair, shaking hands--a babel of talk arose.
"Owgooste, WILL you pull down your goat, den?"
"Well, my dear, now you're married and happy. When I first
saw you two together, I said, 'What a pair!' We're to be
neighbors now; you must come up and see me very often and
we'll have tea together."
"Did you hear that sawing going on all the time? I declare
it regularly got on my nerves."
Trina kissed her father and mother, crying a little herself
as she saw the tears in Mrs. Sieppe's eyes.
Marcus came forward a second time, and, with an air of great
gravity, kissed his cousin upon the forehead. Heise was
introduced to Trina and Uncle Oelbermann to the dentist.
For upwards of half an hour the guests stood about in
groups, filling the little sitting-room with a great chatter
of talk. Then it was time to make ready for supper.
This was a tremendous task, in which nearly all the guests
were obliged to assist. The sitting-room was transformed
into a dining-room. The presents were removed from the
extension table and the table drawn out to its full length.
The cloth was laid, the chairs--rented from the dancing
academy hard by--drawn up, the dishes set out, and the two
bouquets of cut flowers taken from the twins under their
shrill protests, and "arranged" in vases at either end of
the table.
There was a great coming and going between the kitchen
and the sitting-room. Trina, who was allowed to do
nothing, sat in the bay window and fretted, calling to her
mother from time to time:
"The napkins are in the right-hand drawer of the pantry."
"Yes, yes, I got um. Where do you geep der zoup blates?"
"The soup plates are here already."
"Say, Cousin Trina, is there a corkscrew? What is home
without a corkscrew?"
"In the kitchen-table drawer, in the left-hand corner."
"Are these the forks you want to use, Mrs. McTeague?"
"No, no, there's some silver forks. Mamma knows where."
They were all very gay, laughing over their mistakes,
getting in one another's way, rushing into the sitting-room,
their hands full of plates or knives or glasses, and darting
out again after more. Marcus and Mr. Sieppe took their
coats off. Old Grannis and Miss Baker passed each other in
the hall in a constrained silence, her grenadine brushing
against the elbow of his wrinkled frock coat. Uncle
Oelbermann superintended Heise opening the case of champagne
with the gravity of a magistrate. Owgooste was assigned the
task of filling the new salt and pepper canisters of red and
blue glass.
In a wonderfully short time everything was ready. Marcus
Schouler resumed his coat, wiping his forehead, and
"I tell you, I've been doing CHORES for MY board."
"To der table!" commanded Mr. Sieppe.
The company sat down with a great clatter, Trina at the
foot, the dentist at the head, the others arranged
themselves in haphazard fashion. But it happened that
Marcus Schouler crowded into the seat beside Selina, towards
which Old Grannis was directing himself. There was but one
other chair vacant, and that at the side of Miss Baker. Old
Grannis hesitated, putting his hand to his chin. However,
there was no escape. In great trepidation he sat down
beside the retired dressmaker. Neither of them spoke. Old
Grannis dared not move, but sat rigid, his eyes riveted on
his empty soup plate.
All at once there was a report like a pistol. The men
started in their places. Mrs. Sieppe uttered a muffled
shriek. The waiter from the cheap restaurant, hired as
Maria's assistant, rose from a bending posture, a champagne
bottle frothing in his hand; he was grinning from ear to
"Don't get scairt," he said, reassuringly, "it ain't
When all their glasses had been filled, Marcus proposed the
health of the bride, "standing up." The guests rose and
drank. Hardly one of them had ever tasted champagne before.
The moment's silence after the toast was broken by McTeague
exclaiming with a long breath of satisfaction: "That's the
best beer I ever drank."
There was a roar of laughter. Especially was Marcus tickled
over the dentist's blunder; he went off in a very spasm of
mirth, banging the table with his fist, laughing until his
eyes watered. All through the meal he kept breaking out
into cackling imitations of McTeague's words: "That's the
best BEER I ever drank. Oh, Lord, ain't that a break!"
What a wonderful supper that was! There was oyster soup;
there were sea bass and barracuda; there was a gigantic
roast goose stuffed with chestnuts; there were egg-plant and
sweet potatoes--Miss Baker called them "yams." There was
calf's head in oil, over which Mr. Sieppe went into
ecstasies; there was lobster salad; there were rice pudding,
and strawberry ice cream, and wine jelly, and stewed prunes,
and cocoanuts, and mixed nuts, and raisins, and fruit, and
tea, and coffee, and mineral waters, and lemonade.
For two hours the guests ate; their faces red, their elbows
wide, the perspiration beading their foreheads. All around
the table one saw the same incessant movement of jaws and
heard the same uninterrupted sound of chewing. Three times
Heise passed his plate for more roast goose. Mr. Sieppe
devoured the calf's head with long breaths of contentment;
McTeague ate for the sake of eating, without choice;
everything within reach of his hands found its way into his
enormous mouth.
There was but little conversation, and that only of the
food; one exchanged opinions with one's neighbor as to the
soup, the egg-plant, or the stewed prunes. Soon the
room became very warm, a faint moisture appeared upon the
windows, the air was heavy with the smell of cooked food.
At every moment Trina or Mrs. Sieppe urged some one of the
company to have his or her plate refilled. They were
constantly employed in dishing potatoes or carving the goose
or ladling gravy. The hired waiter circled around the
room, his limp napkin over his arm, his hands full of plates
and dishes. He was a great joker; he had names of his own
for different articles of food, that sent gales of laughter
around the table. When he spoke of a bunch of parsley as
"scenery," Heise all but strangled himself over a mouthful
of potato. Out in the kitchen Maria Macapa did the work of
three, her face scarlet, her sleeves rolled up; every now
and then she uttered shrill but unintelligible outcries,
supposedly addressed to the waiter.
"Uncle Oelbermann," said Trina, "let me give you another
helping of prunes."
The Sieppes paid great deference to Uncle Oelbermann, as
indeed did the whole company. Even Marcus Schouler lowered
his voice when he addressed him. At the beginning of the
meal he had nudged the harness-maker and had whispered
behind his hand, nodding his head toward the wholesale toy
dealer, "Got thirty thousand dollars in the bank; has, for a
"Don't have much to say," observed Heise.
"No, no. That's his way; never opens his face."
As the evening wore on, the gas and two lamps were lit. The
company were still eating. The men, gorged with food, had
unbuttoned their vests. McTeague's cheeks were distended,
his eyes wide, his huge, salient jaw moved with a machinelike
regularity; at intervals he drew a series of short
breaths through his nose. Mrs. Sieppe wiped her forehead
with her napkin.
"Hey, dere, poy, gif me some more oaf dat--what you call--
That was how the waiter had spoken of the champagne--
"bubble-water." The guests had shouted applause, "Outa
sight." He was a heavy josher was that waiter.
Bottle after bottle was opened, the women stopping
their ears as the corks were drawn. All of a sudden the
dentist uttered an exclamation, clapping his hand to his
nose, his face twisting sharply.
"Mac, what is it?" cried Trina in alarm.
"That champagne came to my nose," he cried, his eyes
watering. "It stings like everything."
"Great BEER, ain't ut?" shouted Marcus.
"Now, Mark," remonstrated Trina in a low voice. "Now, Mark,
you just shut up; that isn't funny any more. I don't want
you should make fun of Mac. He called it beer on purpose.
I guess HE knows."
Throughout the meal old Miss Baker had occupied herself
largely with Owgooste and the twins, who had been given a
table by themselves--the black walnut table before which the
ceremony had taken place. The little dressmaker was
continually turning about in her place, inquiring of the
children if they wanted for anything; inquiries they rarely
answered other than by stare, fixed, ox-like,
Suddenly the little dressmaker turned to Old Grannis and
"I'm so very fond of little children."
"Yes, yes, they're very interesting. I'm very fond of them,
The next instant both of the old people were overwhelmed
with confusion. What! They had spoken to each other after
all these years of silence; they had for the first time
addressed remarks to each other.
The old dressmaker was in a torment of embarrassment. How
was it she had come to speak? She had neither planned nor
wished it. Suddenly the words had escaped her, he had
answered, and it was all over--over before they knew it.
Old Grannis's fingers trembled on the table ledge, his heart
beat heavily, his breath fell short. He had actually talked
to the little dressmaker. That possibility to which he had
looked forward, it seemed to him for years--that
companionship, that intimacy with his fellow-lodger,
that delightful acquaintance which was only to ripen at some
far distant time, he could not exactly say when--behold, it
had suddenly come to a head, here in this over-crowded,
over-heated room, in the midst of all this feeding,
surrounded by odors of hot dishes, accompanied by the sounds
of incessant mastication. How different he had imagined it
would be! They were to be alone--he and Miss Baker--in the
evening somewhere, withdrawn from the world, very quiet,
very calm and peaceful. Their talk was to be of their
lives, their lost illusions, not of other people's children.
The two old people did not speak again. They sat there side
by side, nearer than they had ever been before, motionless,
abstracted; their thoughts far away from that scene of
feasting. They were thinking of each other and they were
conscious of it. Timid, with the timidity of their second
childhood, constrained and embarrassed by each other's
presence, they were, nevertheless, in a little Elysium of
their own creating. They walked hand in hand in a delicious
garden where it was always autumn; together and alone they
entered upon the long retarded romance of their commonplace
and uneventful lives.
At last that great supper was over, everything had been
eaten; the enormous roast goose had dwindled to a very
skeleton. Mr. Sieppe had reduced the calf's head to a mere
skull; a row of empty champagne bottles--"dead soldiers," as
the facetious waiter had called them--lined the mantelpiece.
Nothing of the stewed prunes remained but the juice, which
was given to Owgooste and the twins. The platters were as
clean as if they had been washed; crumbs of bread, potato
parings, nutshells, and bits of cake littered the table;
coffee and ice-cream stains and spots of congealed gravy
marked the position of each plate. It was a devastation, a
pillage; the table presented the appearance of an abandoned
"Ouf," cried Mrs. Sieppe, pushing back, "I haf eatun und
eatun, ach, Gott, how I haf eatun!"
"Ah, dot kaf's het," murmured her husband, passing his
tongue over his lips.
The facetious waiter had disappeared. He and Maria
Macapa foregathered in the kitchen. They drew up to the
washboard of the sink, feasting off the remnants of the
supper, slices of goose, the remains of the lobster salad,
and half a bottle of champagne. They were obliged to drink
the latter from teacups.
"Here's how," said the waiter gallantly, as he raised his
tea-cup, bowing to Maria across the sink. "Hark," he added,
"they're singing inside."
The company had left the table and had assembled about the
melodeon, where Selina was seated. At first they attempted
some of the popular songs of the day, but were obliged to
give over as none of them knew any of the words beyond the
first line of the chorus. Finally they pitched upon
"Nearer, My God, to Thee," as the only song which they all
knew. Selina sang the "alto," very much off the key; Marcus
intoned the bass, scowling fiercely, his chin drawn into his
collar. They sang in very slow time. The song became a
dirge, a lamentable, prolonged wail of distress:
"Nee-rah, my Gahd, to Thee,
Nee-rah to Thee-ah."
At the end of the song, Uncle Oelbermann put on his hat
without a word of warning. Instantly there was a hush. The
guests rose.
"Not going so soon, Uncle Oelbermann?" protested Trina,
politely. He only nodded. Marcus sprang forward to help
him with his overcoat. Mr. Sieppe came up and the two men
shook hands.
Then Uncle Oelbermann delivered himself of an oracular
phrase. No doubt he had been meditating it during the
supper. Addressing Mr. Sieppe, he said:
"You have not lost a daughter, but have gained a son."
These were the only words he had spoken the entire evening.
He departed; the company was profoundly impressed.
About twenty minutes later, when Marcus Schouler was
entertaining the guests by eating almonds, shells and
all, Mr. Sieppe started to his feet, watch in hand.
"Haf-bast elevun," he shouted. "Attention! Der dime haf
arrive, shtop eferyting. We depart."
This was a signal for tremendous confusion. Mr. Sieppe
immediately threw off his previous air of relaxation, the
calf's head was forgotten, he was once again the leader of
vast enterprises.
"To me, to me," he cried. "Mommer, der tervins, Owgooste."
He marshalled his tribe together, with tremendous commanding
gestures. The sleeping twins were suddenly shaken into a
dazed consciousness; Owgooste, whom the almond-eating of
Marcus Schouler had petrified with admiration, was smacked
to a realization of his surroundings.
Old Grannis, with a certain delicacy that was one of his
characteristics, felt instinctively that the guests--the
mere outsiders--should depart before the family began its
leave-taking of Trina. He withdrew unobtrusively, after a
hasty good-night to the bride and groom. The rest followed
almost immediately.
"Well, Mr. Sieppe," exclaimed Marcus, "we won't see each
other for some time." Marcus had given up his first
intention of joining in the Sieppe migration. He spoke in a
large way of certain affairs that would keep him in San
Francisco till the fall. Of late he had entertained
ambitions of a ranch life, he would breed cattle, he had a
little money and was only looking for some one "to go in
with." He dreamed of a cowboy's life and saw himself in an
entrancing vision involving silver spurs and untamed
bronchos. He told himself that Trina had cast him off, that
his best friend had "played him for a sucker," that the
"proper caper" was to withdraw from the world entirely.
"If you hear of anybody down there," he went on, speaking to
Mr. Sieppe, "that wants to go in for ranching, why just let
me know."
"Soh, soh," answered Mr. Sieppe abstractedly, peering about
for Owgooste's cap.
Marcus bade the Sieppes farewell. He and Heise went out
together. One heard them, as they descended the
stairs, discussing the possibility of Frenna's place being
still open.
Then Miss Baker departed after kissing Trina on both cheeks.
Selina went with her. There was only the family left.
Trina watched them go, one by one, with an increasing
feeling of uneasiness and vague apprehension. Soon they
would all be gone.
"Well, Trina," exclaimed Mr. Sieppe, "goot-py; perhaps you
gome visit us somedime."
Mrs. Sieppe began crying again.
"Ach, Trina, ven shall I efer see you again?"
Tears came to Trina's eyes in spite of herself. She put her
arms around her mother.
"Oh, sometime, sometime," she cried. The twins and Owgooste
clung to Trina's skirts, fretting and whimpering.
McTeague was miserable. He stood apart from the group, in a
corner. None of them seemed to think of him; he was not of
"Write to me very often, mamma, and tell me about
everything--about August and the twins."
"It is dime," cried Mr. Sieppe, nervously. "Goot-py, Trina.
Mommer, Owgooste, say goot-py, den we must go. Goot-py,
Trina." He kissed her. Owgooste and the twins were lifted
up. "Gome, gome," insisted Mr. Sieppe, moving toward the
"Goot-py, Trina," exclaimed Mrs. Sieppe, crying harder than
ever. "Doktor--where is der doktor--Doktor, pe goot to her,
eh? pe vairy goot, eh, won't you? Zum day, Dokter, you vill
haf a daughter, den you know berhaps how I feel, yes."
They were standing at the door by this time. Mr. Sieppe,
half way down the stairs, kept calling "Gome, gome, we miss
der drain."
Mrs. Sieppe released Trina and started down the hall, the
twins and Owgooste following. Trina stood in the doorway,
looking after them through her tears. They were going,
going. When would she ever see them again? She was to be
left alone with this man to whom she had just been married.
A sudden vague terror seized her; she left McTeague and
ran down the hall and caught her mother around the neck.
"I don't WANT you to go," she whispered in her mother's
ear, sobbing. "Oh, mamma, I--I'm 'fraid."
"Ach, Trina, you preak my heart. Don't gry, poor leetle
girl." She rocked Trina in her arms as though she were a
child again. "Poor leetle scairt girl, don' gry--soh--soh--
soh, dere's nuttun to pe 'fraid oaf. Dere, go to your
hoasban'. Listen, popper's galling again; go den; goot-by."
She loosened Trina's arms and started down the stairs. Trina
leaned over the banisters, straining her eyes after her
"What is ut, Trina?"
"Oh, good-by, good-by."
"Gome, gome, we miss der drain."
"Mamma, oh, mamma!"
"What is ut, Trina?"
"Goot-py, leetle daughter."
"Good-by, good-by, good-by."
The street door closed. The silence was profound.
For another moment Trina stood leaning over the banisters,
looking down into the empty stairway. It was dark. There
was nobody. They--her father, her mother, the children--had
left her, left her alone. She faced about toward the rooms
--faced her husband, faced her new home, the new life that
was to begin now.
The hall was empty and deserted. The great flat around her
seemed new and huge and strange; she felt horribly alone.
Even Maria and the hired waiter were gone. On one of the
floors above she heard a baby crying. She stood there an
instant in the dark hall, in her wedding finery, looking
about her, listening. From the open door of the sittingroom
streamed a gold bar of light.
She went down the hall, by the open door of the sittingroom,
going on toward the hall door of the bedroom.
As she softly passed the sitting-room she glanced hastily
in. The lamps and the gas were burning brightly, the chairs
were pushed back from the table just as the guests had left
them, and the table itself, abandoned, deserted,
presented to view the vague confusion of its dishes, its
knives and forks, its empty platters and crumpled napkins.
The dentist sat there leaning on his elbows, his back toward
her; against the white blur of the table he looked colossal.
Above his giant shoulders rose his thick, red neck and mane
of yellow hair. The light shone pink through the gristle of
his enormous ears.
Trina entered the bedroom, closing the door after her. At
the sound, she heard McTeague start and rise.
"Is that you, Trina?"
She did not answer; but paused in the middle of the room,
holding her breath, trembling.
The dentist crossed the outside room, parted the chenille
portieres, and came in. He came toward her quickly, making
as if to take her in his arms. His eyes were alight.
"No, no," cried Trina, shrinking from him. Suddenly seized
with the fear of him--the intuitive feminine fear of the
male--her whole being quailed before him. She was terrified
at his huge, square-cut head; his powerful, salient jaw; his
huge, red hands; his enormous, resistless strength.
"No, no--I'm afraid," she cried, drawing back from him to
the other side of the room.
"Afraid?" answered the dentist in perplexity. "What are you
afraid of, Trina? I'm not going to hurt you. What are you
afraid of?"
What, indeed, was Trina afraid of? She could not tell. But
what did she know of McTeague, after all? Who was this man
that had come into her life, who had taken her from her home
and from her parents, and with whom she was now left alone
here in this strange, vast flat?
"Oh, I'm afraid. I'm afraid," she cried.
McTeague came nearer, sat down beside her and put one arm
around her.
"What are you afraid of, Trina?" he said, reassuringly. "I
don't want to frighten you."
She looked at him wildly, her adorable little chin
quivering, the tears brimming in her narrow blue eyes.
Then her glance took on a certain intentness, and she peered
curiously into his face, saying almost in a whisper:
"I'm afraid of YOU."
But the dentist did not heed her. An immense joy seized
upon him--the joy of possession. Trina was his very own
now. She lay there in the hollow of his arm, helpless and
very pretty.
Those instincts that in him were so close to the surface
suddenly leaped to life, shouting and clamoring, not to be
resisted. He loved her. Ah, did he not love her? The
smell of her hair, of her neck, rose to him.
Suddenly he caught her in both his huge arms, crushing down
her struggle with his immense strength, kissing her full
upon the mouth. Then her great love for McTeague suddenly
flashed up in Trina's breast; she gave up to him as she had
done before, yielding all at once to that strange desire of
being conquered and subdued. She clung to him, her hands
clasped behind his neck, whispering in his ear:
"Oh, you must be good to me--very, very good to me, dear--
for you're all that I have in the world now."
That summer passed, then the winter. The wet season began
in the last days of September and continued all through
October, November, and December. At long intervals would
come a week of perfect days, the sky without a cloud, the
air motionless, but touched with a certain nimbleness, a
faint effervescence that was exhilarating. Then,
without warning, during a night when a south wind blew, a
gray scroll of cloud would unroll and hang high over the
city, and the rain would come pattering down again, at first
in scattered showers, then in an uninterrupted drizzle.
All day long Trina sat in the bay window of the sitting-room
that commanded a view of a small section of Polk Street. As
often as she raised her head she could see the big market, a
confectionery store, a bell-hanger's shop, and, farther on,
above the roofs, the glass skylights and water tanks of the
big public baths. In the nearer foreground ran the street
itself; the cable cars trundled up and down, thumping
heavily over the joints of the rails; market carts by the
score came and went, driven at a great rate by preoccupied
young men in their shirt sleeves, with pencils behind their
ears, or by reckless boys in blood-stained butcher's aprons.
Upon the sidewalks the little world of Polk Street swarmed
and jostled through its daily round of life. On fine days
the great ladies from the avenue, one block above, invaded
the street, appearing before the butcher stalls, intent upon
their day's marketing. On rainy days their servants--the
Chinese cooks or the second girls--took their places. These
servants gave themselves great airs, carrying their big
cotton umbrellas as they had seen their mistresses carry
their parasols, and haggling in supercilious fashion with
the market men, their chins in the air.
The rain persisted. Everything in the range of Trina's
vision, from the tarpaulins on the market-cart horses to the
panes of glass in the roof of the public baths, looked
glazed and varnished. The asphalt of the sidewalks shone
like the surface of a patent leather boot; every hollow in
the street held its little puddle, that winked like an eye
each time a drop of rain struck into it.
Trina still continued to work for Uncle Oelbermann. In the
mornings she busied herself about the kitchen, the bedroom,
and the sitting-room; but in the afternoon, for two or three
hours after lunch, she was occupied with the Noah's ark
animals. She took her work to the bay window, spreading out
a great square of canvas underneath her chair, to catch the
chips and shavings, which she used afterwards for lighting
fires. One after another she caught up the little
blocks of straight-grained pine, the knife flashed between
her fingers, the little figure grew rapidly under her touch,
was finished and ready for painting in a wonderfully short
time, and was tossed into the basket that stood at her
But very often during that rainy winter after her marriage
Trina would pause in her work, her hands falling idly into
her lap, her eyes--her narrow, pale blue eyes--growing wide
and thoughtful as she gazed, unseeing, out into the rainwashed
She loved McTeague now with a blind, unreasoning love that
admitted of no doubt or hesitancy. Indeed, it seemed to her
that it was only AFTER her marriage with the dentist
that she had really begun to love him. With the absolute
final surrender of herself, the irrevocable, ultimate
submission, had come an affection the like of which she had
never dreamed in the old B Street days. But Trina loved her
husband, not because she fancied she saw in him any of those
noble and generous qualities that inspire affection. The
dentist might or might not possess them, it was all one with
Trina. She loved him because she had given herself to him
freely, unreservedly; had merged her individuality into his;
she was his, she belonged to him forever and forever.
Nothing that he could do (so she told herself), nothing that
she herself could do, could change her in this respect.
McTeague might cease to love her, might leave her, might
even die; it would be all the same, SHE WAS HIS.
But it had not been so at first. During those long, rainy
days of the fall, days when Trina was left alone for hours,
at that time when the excitement and novelty of the
honeymoon were dying down, when the new household was
settling into its grooves, she passed through many an hour
of misgiving, of doubt, and even of actual regret.
Never would she forget one Sunday afternoon in particular.
She had been married but three weeks. After dinner she and
little Miss Baker had gone for a bit of a walk to take
advantage of an hour's sunshine and to look at some
wonderful geraniums in a florist's window on Sutter Street.
They had been caught in a shower, and on returning to the
flat the little dressmaker had insisted on fetching
Trina up to her tiny room and brewing her a cup of strong
tea, "to take the chill off." The two women had chatted over
their teacups the better part of the afternoon, then Trina
had returned to her rooms. For nearly three hours McTeague
had been out of her thoughts, and as she came through their
little suite, singing softly to herself, she suddenly came
upon him quite unexpectedly. Her husband was in the "Dental
Parlors," lying back in his operating chair, fast asleep.
The little stove was crammed with coke, the room was
overheated, the air thick and foul with the odors of ether,
of coke gas, of stale beer and cheap tobacco. The dentist
sprawled his gigantic limbs over the worn velvet of the
operating chair; his coat and vest and shoes were off, and
his huge feet, in their thick gray socks, dangled over the
edge of the foot-rest; his pipe, fallen from his half-open
mouth, had spilled the ashes into his lap; while on the
floor, at his side stood the half-empty pitcher of steam
beer. His head had rolled limply upon one shoulder, his
face was red with sleep, and from his open mouth came a
terrific sound of snoring.
For a moment Trina stood looking at him as he lay thus,
prone, inert, half-dressed, and stupefied with the heat of
the room, the steam beer, and the fumes of the cheap
tobacco. Then her little chin quivered and a sob rose to
her throat; she fled from the "Parlors," and locking herself
in her bedroom, flung herself on the bed and burst into an
agony of weeping. Ah, no, ah, no, she could not love him.
It had all been a dreadful mistake, and now it was
irrevocable; she was bound to this man for life. If it was
as bad as this now, only three weeks after her marriage, how
would it be in the years to come? Year after year, month
after month, hour after hour, she was to see this same face,
with its salient jaw, was to feel the touch of those
enormous red hands, was to hear the heavy, elephantine tread
of those huge feet--in thick gray socks. Year after year,
day after day, there would be no change, and it would last
all her life. Either it would be one long continued
revulsion, or else--worse than all--she would come to be
content with him, would come to be like him, would sink to
the level of steam beer and cheap tobacco, and all her
pretty ways, her clean, trim little habits, would be
forgotten, since they would be thrown away upon her stupid,
brutish husband. "Her husband!" THAT, was her husband
in there--she could yet hear his snores--for life, for life.
A great despair seized upon her. She buried her face in the
pillow and thought of her mother with an infinite longing.
Aroused at length by the chittering of the canary, McTeague
had awakened slowly. After a while he had taken down his
concertina and played upon it the six very mournful airs
that he knew.
Face downward upon the bed, Trina still wept. Throughout
that little suite could be heard but two sounds, the
lugubrious strains of the concertina and the noise of
stifled weeping.
That her husband should be ignorant of her distress seemed
to Trina an additional grievance. With perverse
inconsistency she began to wish him to come to her, to
comfort her. He ought to know that she was in trouble, that
she was lonely and unhappy.
"Oh, Mac," she called in a trembling voice. But the
concertina still continued to wail and lament. Then Trina
wished she were dead, and on the instant jumped up and ran
into the "Dental Parlors," and threw herself into her
husband's arms, crying: "Oh, Mac, dear, love me, love me
big! I'm so unhappy."
"What--what--what--" the dentist exclaimed, starting up
bewildered, a little frightened.
"Nothing, nothing, only LOVE me, love me always and
But this first crisis, this momentary revolt, as much a
matter of high-strung feminine nerves as of anything else,
passed, and in the end Trina's affection for her "old bear"
grew in spite of herself. She began to love him more and
more, not for what he was, but for what she had given up to
him. Only once again did Trina undergo a reaction against
her husband, and then it was but the matter of an instant,
brought on, curiously enough, by the sight of a bit of egg
on McTeague's heavy mustache one morning just after
Then, too, the pair had learned to make concessions, little
by little, and all unconsciously they adapted their
modes of life to suit each other. Instead of sinking to
McTeague's level as she had feared, Trina found that she
could make McTeague rise to hers, and in this saw a solution
of many a difficult and gloomy complication.
For one thing, the dentist began to dress a little better,
Trina even succeeding in inducing him to wear a high silk
hat and a frock coat of a Sunday. Next he relinquished his
Sunday afternoon's nap and beer in favor of three or four
hours spent in the park with her--the weather permitting.
So that gradually Trina's misgivings ceased, or when they
did assail her, she could at last meet them with a shrug of
the shoulders, saying to herself meanwhile, "Well, it's done
now and it can't be helped; one must make the best of it."
During the first months of their married life these nervous
relapses of hers had alternated with brusque outbursts of
affection when her only fear was that her husband's love did
not equal her own. Without an instant's warning, she would
clasp him about the neck, rubbing her cheek against his,
"Dear old Mac, I love you so, I love you so. Oh, aren't we
happy together, Mac, just us two and no one else? You love
me as much as I love you, don't you, Mac? Oh, if you
shouldn't--if you SHOULDN'T."
But by the middle of the winter Trina's emotions,
oscillating at first from one extreme to another, commenced
to settle themselves to an equilibrium of calmness and
placid quietude. Her household duties began more and more to
absorb her attention, for she was an admirable housekeeper,
keeping the little suite in marvellous good order and
regulating the schedule of expenditure with an economy that
often bordered on positive niggardliness. It was a passion
with her to save money. In the bottom of her trunk, in the
bedroom, she hid a brass match-safe that answered the
purposes of a savings bank. Each time she added a quarter or
a half dollar to the little store she laughed and sang with
a veritable childish delight; whereas, if the butcher or
milkman compelled her to pay an overcharge she was unhappy
for the rest of the day. She did not save this money
for any ulterior purpose, she hoarded instinctively, without
knowing why, responding to the dentist's remonstrances with:
"Yes, yes, I know I'm a little miser, I know it."
Trina had always been an economical little body, but it was
only since her great winning in the lottery that she had
become especially penurious. No doubt, in her fear lest
their great good luck should demoralize them and lead to
habits of extravagance, she had recoiled too far in the
other direction. Never, never, never should a penny of that
miraculous fortune be spent; rather should it be added to.
It was a nest egg, a monstrous, roc-like nest egg, not so
large, however, but that it could be made larger. Already
by the end of that winter Trina had begun to make up the
deficit of two hundred dollars that she had been forced to
expend on the preparations for her marriage.
McTeague, on his part, never asked himself now-a-days
whether he loved Trina the wife as much as he had loved
Trina the young girl. There had been a time when to kiss
Trina, to take her in his arms, had thrilled him from head
to heel with a happiness that was beyond words; even the
smell of her wonderful odorous hair had sent a sensation of
faintness all through him. That time was long past now.
Those sudden outbursts of affection on the part of his
little woman, outbursts that only increased in vehemence the
longer they lived together, puzzled rather than pleased him.
He had come to submit to them good-naturedly, answering her
passionate inquiries with a "Sure, sure, Trina, sure I love
you. What--what's the matter with you?"
There was no passion in the dentist's regard for his wife.
He dearly liked to have her near him, he took an enormous
pleasure in watching her as she moved about their rooms,
very much at home, gay and singing from morning till night;
and it was his great delight to call her into the "Dental
Parlors" when a patient was in the chair and, while he held
the plugger, to have her rap in the gold fillings with the
little box-wood mallet as he had taught her. But that
tempest of passion, that overpowering desire that had
suddenly taken possession of him that day when he had given
her ether, again when he had caught her in his arms in
the B Street station, and again and again during the early
days of their married life, rarely stirred him now. On the
other hand, he was never assailed with doubts as to the
wisdom of his marriage.
McTeague had relapsed to his wonted stolidity. He never
questioned himself, never looked for motives, never went to
the bottom of things. The year following upon the summer of
his marriage was a time of great contentment for him; after
the novelty of the honeymoon had passed he slipped easily
into the new order of things without a question. Thus his
life would be for years to come. Trina was there; he was
married and settled. He accepted the situation. The little
animal comforts which for him constituted the enjoyment of
life were ministered to at every turn, or when they were
interfered with--as in the case of his Sunday afternoon's
nap and beer--some agreeable substitute was found. In her
attempts to improve McTeague--to raise him from the stupid
animal life to which he had been accustomed in his bachelor
days--Trina was tactful enough to move so cautiously and
with such slowness that the dentist was unconscious of any
process of change. In the matter of the high silk hat, it
seemed to him that the initiative had come from himself.
Gradually the dentist improved under the influence of his
little wife. He no longer went abroad with frayed cuffs
about his huge red wrists--or worse, without any cuffs at
all. Trina kept his linen clean and mended, doing most of
his washing herself, and insisting that he should change his
flannels--thick red flannels they were, with enormous bone
buttons--once a week, his linen shirts twice a week, and his
collars and cuffs every second day. She broke him of the
habit of eating with his knife, she caused him to substitute
bottled beer in the place of steam beer, and she induced him
to take off his hat to Miss Baker, to Heise's wife, and to
the other women of his acquaintance. McTeague no longer
spent an evening at Frenna's. Instead of this he brought a
couple of bottles of beer up to the rooms and shared it with
Trina. In his "Parlors" he was no longer gruff and
indifferent to his female patients; he arrived at that stage
where he could work and talk to them at the same time;
he even accompanied them to the door, and held it open for
them when the operation was finished, bowing them out with
great nods of his huge square-cut head.
Besides all this, he began to observe the broader, larger
interests of life, interests that affected him not as an
individual, but as a member of a class, a profession, or a
political party. He read the papers, he subscribed to a
dental magazine; on Easter, Christmas, and New Year's he
went to church with Trina. He commenced to have opinions,
convictions--it was not fair to deprive tax-paying women of
the privilege to vote; a university education should not be
a prerequisite for admission to a dental college; the
Catholic priests were to be restrained in their efforts to
gain control of the public schools.
But most wonderful of all, McTeague began to have ambitions
--very vague, very confused ideas of something better--ideas
for the most part borrowed from Trina. Some day, perhaps,
he and his wife would have a house of their own. What a
dream! A little home all to themselves, with six rooms and a
bath, with a grass plat in front and calla-lilies. Then
there would be children. He would have a son, whose name
would be Daniel, who would go to High School, and perhaps
turn out to be a prosperous plumber or house painter. Then
this son Daniel would marry a wife, and they would all live
together in that six-room-and-bath house; Daniel would have
little children. McTeague would grow old among them all.
The dentist saw himself as a venerable patriarch surrounded
by children and grandchildren.
So the winter passed. It was a season of great happiness
for the McTeagues; the new life jostled itself into its
grooves. A routine began.
On weekdays they rose at half-past six, being awakened by
the boy who brought the bottled milk, and who had
instructions to pound upon the bedroom door in passing.
Trina made breakfast--coffee, bacon and eggs, and a roll of
Vienna bread from the bakery. The breakfast was eaten in
the kitchen, on the round deal table covered with the shiny
oilcloth table-spread tacked on. After breakfast the
dentist immediately betook himself to his "Parlors" to meet
his early morning appointments--those made with the clerks
and shop girls who stopped in for half an hour on their way
to their work.
Trina, meanwhile, busied herself about the suite, clearing
away the breakfast, sponging off the oilcloth table-spread,
making the bed, pottering about with a broom or duster or
cleaning rag. Towards ten o'clock she opened the windows to
air the rooms, then put on her drab jacket, her little round
turban with its red wing, took the butcher's and grocer's
books from the knife basket in the drawer of the kitchen
table, and descended to the street, where she spent a
delicious hour--now in the huge market across the way, now
in the grocer's store with its fragrant aroma of coffee and
spices, and now before the counters of the haberdasher's,
intent on a bit of shopping, turning over ends of veiling,
strips of elastic, or slivers of whalebone. On the street
she rubbed elbows with the great ladies of the avenue in
their beautiful dresses, or at intervals she met an
acquaintance or two--Miss Baker, or Heise's lame wife, or
Mrs. Ryer. At times she passed the flat and looked up at
the windows of her home, marked by the huge golden molar
that projected, flashing, from the bay window of the
"Parlors." She saw the open windows of the sitting-room,
the Nottingham lace curtains stirring and billowing in the
draft, and she caught sight of Maria Macapa's towelled head
as the Mexican maid-of-all-work went to and fro in the
suite, sweeping or carrying away the ashes. Occasionally in
the windows of the "Parlors" she beheld McTeague's rounded
back as he bent to his work. Sometimes, even, they saw each
other and waved their hands gayly in recognition.
By eleven o'clock Trina returned to the flat, her brown net
reticule--once her mother's--full of parcels. At once she
set about getting lunch--sausages, perhaps, with mashed
potatoes; or last evening's joint warmed over or made into a
stew; chocolate, which Trina adored, and a side dish or two
--a salted herring or a couple of artichokes or a salad. At
half-past twelve the dentist came in from the "Parlors,"
bringing with him the smell of creosote and of ether.
They sat down to lunch in the sitting-room. They told each
other of their doings throughout the forenoon; Trina showed
her purchases, McTeague recounted the progress of an
operation. At one o'clock they separated, the dentist
returning to the "Parlors," Trina settling to her work on
the Noah's ark animals. At about three o'clock she put this
work away, and for the rest of the afternoon was variously
occupied--sometimes it was the mending, sometimes the wash,
sometimes new curtains to be put up, or a bit of carpet to
be tacked down, or a letter to be written, or a visit--
generally to Miss Baker--to be returned. Towards five
o'clock the old woman whom they had hired for that purpose
came to cook supper, for even Trina was not equal to the
task of preparing three meals a day.
This woman was French, and was known to the flat as
Augustine, no one taking enough interest in her to inquire
for her last name; all that was known of her was that she
was a decayed French laundress, miserably poor, her trade
long since ruined by Chinese competition. Augustine cooked
well, but she was otherwise undesirable, and Trina lost
patience with her at every moment. The old French woman's
most marked characteristic was her timidity. Trina could
scarcely address her a simple direction without Augustine
quailing and shrinking; a reproof, however gentle, threw her
into an agony of confusion; while Trina's anger promptly
reduced her to a state of nervous collapse, wherein she lost
all power of speech, while her head began to bob and nod
with an incontrollable twitching of the muscles, much like
the oscillations of the head of a toy donkey. Her timidity
was exasperating, her very presence in the room unstrung the
nerves, while her morbid eagerness to avoid offence only
served to develop in her a clumsiness that was at times
beyond belief. More than once Trina had decided that she
could no longer put up with Augustine but each time she had
retained her as she reflected upon her admirably cooked
cabbage soups and tapioca puddings, and--which in Trina's
eyes was her chiefest recommendation--the pittance for which
she was contented to work.
Augustine had a husband. He was a spirit-medium--a
"professor." At times he held seances in the larger
rooms of the flat, playing vigorously upon a mouth-organ and
invoking a familiar whom he called "Edna," and whom he
asserted was an Indian maiden.
The evening was a period of relaxation for Trina and
McTeague. They had supper at six, after which McTeague
smoked his pipe and read the papers for half an hour, while
Trina and Augustine cleared away the table and washed the
dishes. Then, as often as not, they went out together. One
of their amusements was to go "down town" after dark and
promenade Market and Kearney Streets. It was very gay; a
great many others were promenading there also. All of the
stores were brilliantly lighted and many of them still open.
They walked about aimlessly, looking into the shop windows.
Trina would take McTeague's arm, and he, very much
embarrassed at that, would thrust both hands into his
pockets and pretend not to notice. They stopped before the
jewellers' and milliners' windows, finding a great delight
in picking out things for each other, saying how they would
choose this and that if they were rich. Trina did most of
the talking. McTeague merely approving by a growl or a
movement of the head or shoulders; she was interested in the
displays of some of the cheaper stores, but he found an
irresistible charm in an enormous golden molar with four
prongs that hung at a corner of Kearney Street. Sometimes
they would look at Mars or at the moon through the street
telescopes or sit for a time in the rotunda of a vast
department store where a band played every evening.
Occasionally they met Heise the harness-maker and his wife,
with whom they had become acquainted. Then the evening was
concluded by a four-cornered party in the Luxembourg, a
quiet German restaurant under a theatre. Trina had a tamale
and a glass of beer, Mrs. Heise (who was a decayed writing
teacher) ate salads, with glasses of grenadine and currant
syrups. Heise drank cocktails and whiskey straight, and
urged the dentist to join him. But McTeague was obstinate,
shaking his head. "I can't drink that stuff," he said. "It
don't agree with me, somehow; I go kinda crazy after
two glasses." So he gorged himself with beer and
frankfurter sausages plastered with German mustard.
When the annual Mechanic's Fair opened, McTeague and Trina
often spent their evenings there, studying the exhibits
carefully (since in Trina's estimation education meant
knowing things and being able to talk about them). Wearying
of this they would go up into the gallery, and, leaning
over, look down into the huge amphitheatre full of light and
color and movement.
There rose to them the vast shuffling noise of thousands of
feet and a subdued roar of conversation like the sound of a
great mill. Mingled with this was the purring of distant
machinery, the splashing of a temporary fountain, and the
rhythmic jangling of a brass band, while in the piano
exhibit a hired performer was playing upon a concert grand
with a great flourish. Nearer at hand they could catch ends
of conversation and notes of laughter, the noise of moving
dresses, and the rustle of stiffly starched skirts. Here
and there school children elbowed their way through the
crowd, crying shrilly, their hands full of advertisement
pamphlets, fans, picture cards, and toy whips, while the air
itself was full of the smell of fresh popcorn.
They even spent some time in the art gallery. Trina's
cousin Selina, who gave lessons in hand painting at two bits
an hour, generally had an exhibit on the walls, which they
were interested to find. It usually was a bunch of yellow
poppies painted on black velvet and framed in gilt. They
stood before it some little time, hazarding their opinions,
and then moved on slowly from one picture to another. Trina
had McTeague buy a catalogue and made a duty of finding the
title of every picture. This, too, she told McTeague, as a
kind of education one ought to cultivate. Trina professed
to be fond of art, having perhaps acquired a taste for
painting and sculpture from her experience with the Noah's
ark animals.
"Of course," she told the dentist, "I'm no critic, I only
know what I like." She knew that she liked the "Ideal
Heads," lovely girls with flowing straw-colored hair and
immense, upturned eyes. These always had for title,
"Reverie," or "An Idyll," or "Dreams of Love."
"I think those are lovely, don't you, Mac?" she said.
"Yes, yes," answered McTeague, nodding his head, bewildered,
trying to understand. "Yes, yes, lovely, that's the word.
Are you dead sure now, Trina, that all that's hand-painted
just like the poppies?"
Thus the winter passed, a year went by, then two. The
little life of Polk Street, the life of small traders, drug
clerks, grocers, stationers, plumbers, dentists, doctors,
spirit-mediums, and the like, ran on monotonously in its
accustomed grooves. The first three years of their married
life wrought little change in the fortunes of the McTeagues.
In the third summer the branch post-office was moved from
the ground floor of the flat to a corner farther up the
street in order to be near the cable line that ran mail
cars. Its place was taken by a German saloon, called a
"Wein Stube," in the face of the protests of every female
lodger. A few months later quite a little flurry of
excitement ran through the street on the occasion of "The
Polk Street Open Air Festival," organized to celebrate the
introduction there of electric lights. The festival lasted
three days and was quite an affair. The street was garlanded
with yellow and white bunting; there were processions and
"floats" and brass bands. Marcus Schouler was in his
element during the whole time of the celebration. He was
one of the marshals of the parade, and was to be seen at
every hour of the day, wearing a borrowed high hat and
cotton gloves, and galloping a broken-down cab-horse over
the cobbles. He carried a baton covered with yellow and
white calico, with which he made furious passes and
gestures. His voice was soon reduced to a whisper by
continued shouting, and he raged and fretted over trifles
till he wore himself thin. McTeague was disgusted with him.
As often as Marcus passed the window of the flat the dentist
would mutter:
"Ah, you think you're smart, don't you?"
The result of the festival was the organizing of a body
known as the "Polk Street Improvement Club," of which Marcus
was elected secretary. McTeague and Trina often heard
of him in this capacity through Heise the harness-maker.
Marcus had evidently come to have political aspirations. It
appeared that he was gaining a reputation as a maker of
speeches, delivered with fiery emphasis, and occasionally
reprinted in the "Progress," the organ of the club--
"outraged constituencies," "opinions warped by personal
bias," "eyes blinded by party prejudice," etc.
Of her family, Trina heard every fortnight in letters from
her mother. The upholstery business which Mr. Sieppe had
bought was doing poorly, and Mrs. Sieppe bewailed the day
she had ever left B Street. Mr. Sieppe was losing money
every month. Owgooste, who was to have gone to school, had
been forced to go to work in "the store," picking waste.
Mrs. Sieppe was obliged to take a lodger or two. Affairs
were in a very bad way. Occasionally she spoke of Marcus.
Mr. Sieppe had not forgotten him despite his own troubles,
but still had an eye out for some one whom Marcus could "go
in with" on a ranch.
It was toward the end of this period of three years that
Trina and McTeague had their first serious quarrel. Trina
had talked so much about having a little house of their own
at some future day, that McTeague had at length come to
regard the affair as the end and object of all their labors.
For a long time they had had their eyes upon one house in
particular. It was situated on a cross street close by,
between Polk Street and the great avenue one block above,
and hardly a Sunday afternoon passed that Trina and McTeague
did not go and look at it. They stood for fully half an
hour upon the other side of the street, examining every
detail of its exterior, hazarding guesses as to the
arrangement of the rooms, commenting upon its immediate
neighborhood--which was rather sordid. The house was a
wooden two-story arrangement, built by a misguided
contractor in a sort of hideous Queen Anne style, all
scrolls and meaningless mill work, with a cheap imitation of
stained glass in the light over the door. There was a
microscopic front yard full of dusty calla-lilies. The
front door boasted an electric bell. But for the McTeagues
it was an ideal home. Their idea was to live in this little
house, the dentist retaining merely his office in the
flat. The two places were but around the corner from each
other, so that McTeague could lunch with his wife, as usual,
and could even keep his early morning appointments and
return to breakfast if he so desired.
However, the house was occupied. A Hungarian family lived
in it. The father kept a stationery and notion "bazaar"
next to Heise's harness-shop on Polk Street, while the
oldest son played a third violin in the orchestra of a
theatre. The family rented the house unfurnished for
thirty-five dollars, paying extra for the water.
But one Sunday as Trina and McTeague on their way home from
their usual walk turned into the cross street on which the
little house was situated, they became promptly aware of an
unwonted bustle going on upon the sidewalk in front of it.
A dray was back against the curb, an express wagon drove
away loaded with furniture; bedsteads, looking-glasses, and
washbowls littered the sidewalks. The Hungarian family were
moving out.
"Oh, Mac, look!" gasped Trina.
"Sure, sure," muttered the dentist.
After that they spoke but little. For upwards of an hour
the two stood upon the sidewalk opposite, watching intently
all that went forward, absorbed, excited.
On the evening of the next day they returned and visited the
house, finding a great delight in going from room to room
and imagining themselves installed therein. Here would be
the bedroom, here the dining-room, here a charming little
parlor. As they came out upon the front steps once more they
met the owner, an enormous, red-faced fellow, so fat that
his walking seemed merely a certain movement of his feet by
which he pushed his stomach along in front of him. Trina
talked with him a few moments, but arrived at no
understanding, and the two went away after giving him their
address. At supper that night McTeague said:
"Huh--what do you think, Trina?"
Trina put her chin in the air, tilting back her heavy tiara
of swarthy hair.
"I am not so sure yet. Thirty-five dollars and the
water extra. I don't think we can afford it, Mac."
"Ah, pshaw!" growled the dentist, "sure we can."
"It isn't only that," said Trina, "but it'll cost so much to
make the change."
"Ah, you talk's though we were paupers. Ain't we got five
thousand dollars?"
Trina flushed on the instant, even to the lobes of her tiny
pale ears, and put her lips together.
"Now, Mac, you know I don't want you should talk like that.
That money's never, never to be touched."
"And you've been savun up a good deal, besides," went on
McTeague, exasperated at Trina's persistent economies. "How
much money have you got in that little brass match-safe in
the bottom of your trunk? Pretty near a hundred dollars, I
guess--ah, sure." He shut his eyes and nodded his great
head in a knowing way.
Trina had more than that in the brass match-safe in
question, but her instinct of hoarding had led her to keep
it a secret from her husband. Now she lied to him with
prompt fluency.
"A hundred dollars! What are you talking of, Mac? I've not
got fifty. I've not got THIRTY."
"Oh, let's take that little house," broke in McTeague. "We
got the chance now, and it may never come again. Come on,
Trina, shall we? Say, come on, shall we, huh?"
"We'd have to be awful saving if we did, Mac."
"Well, sure, I say let's take it."
"I don't know," said Trina, hesitating. "Wouldn't it be
lovely to have a house all to ourselves? But let's not
decide until to-morrow."
The next day the owner of the house called. Trina was out
at her morning's marketing and the dentist, who had no one
in the chair at the time, received him in the "Parlors."
Before he was well aware of it, McTeague had concluded the
bargain. The owner bewildered him with a world of phrases,
made him believe that it would be a great saving to
move into the little house, and finally offered it to him
"water free."
"All right, all right," said McTeague, "I'll take it."
The other immediately produced a paper.
"Well, then, suppose you sign for the first month's rent,
and we'll call it a bargain. That's business, you know,"
and McTeague, hesitating, signed.
"I'd like to have talked more with my wife about it first,"
he said, dubiously.
"Oh, that's all right," answered the owner, easily. "I
guess if the head of the family wants a thing, that's
McTeague could not wait until lunch time to tell the news to
Trina. As soon as he heard her come in, he laid down the
plaster-of-paris mould he was making and went out into the
kitchen and found her chopping up onions.
"Well, Trina," he said, "we got that house. I've taken it."
"What do you mean?" she answered, quickly. The dentist told
"And you signed a paper for the first month's rent?"
"Sure, sure. That's business, you know."
"Well, why did you DO it?" cried Trina. "You might have
asked ME something about it. Now, what have you done?
I was talking with Mrs. Ryer about that house while I was
out this morning, and she said the Hungarians moved out
because it was absolutely unhealthy; there's water been
standing in the basement for months. And she told me, too,"
Trina went on indignantly, "that she knew the owner, and she
was sure we could get the house for thirty if we'd bargain
for it. Now what have you gone and done? I hadn't made up
my mind about taking the house at all. And now I WON'T
take it, with the water in the basement and all."
"Well--well," stammered McTeague, helplessly, "we needn't go
in if it's unhealthy."
"But you've signed a PAPER," cried Trina, exasperated.
"You've got to pay that first month's rent, anyhow--to
forfeit it. Oh, you are so stupid! There's thirtyfive
dollars just thrown away. I SHAN'T go into that
house; we won't move a FOOT out of here. I've changed
my mind about it, and there's water in the basement
"Well, I guess we can stand thirty-five dollars," mumbled
the dentist, "if we've got to."
"Thirty-five dollars just thrown out of the window," cried
Trina, her teeth clicking, every instinct of her parsimony
aroused. "Oh, you the thick-wittedest man that I ever knew.
Do you think we're millionaires? Oh, to think of losing
thirty-five dollars like that." Tears were in her eyes,
tears of grief as well as of anger. Never had McTeague seen
his little woman so aroused. Suddenly she rose to her feet
and slammed the chopping-bowl down upon the table. "Well,
I won't pay a nickel of it," she exclaimed.
"Huh? What, what?" stammered the dentist, taken all aback by
her outburst.
"I say that you will find that money, that thirty-five
dollars, yourself."
"It's your stupidity got us into this fix, and you'll be the
one that'll suffer by it."
"I can't do it, I WON'T do it. We'll--we'll share and
share alike. Why, you said--you told me you'd take the
house if the water was free."
"I NEVER did. I NEVER did. How can you stand there
and say such a thing?"
"You did tell me that," vociferated McTeague, beginning to
get angry in his turn.
"Mac, I didn't, and you know it. And what's more, I won't
pay a nickel. Mr. Heise pays his bill next week, it's
forty-three dollars, and you can just pay the thirty-five
out of that."
"Why, you got a whole hundred dollars saved up in your
match-safe," shouted the dentist, throwing out an arm with
an awkward gesture. "You pay half and I'll pay half, that's
only fair."
"No, no, NO," exclaimed Trina. "It's not a hundred
dollars. You won't touch it; you won't touch my money, I
tell you."
"Ah, how does it happen to be yours, I'd like to know?"
"It's mine! It's mine! It's mine!" cried Trina, her face
scarlet, her teeth clicking like the snap of a closing
"It ain't any more yours than it is mine."
"Every penny of it is mine."
"Ah, what a fine fix you'd get me into," growled the
dentist. "I've signed the paper with the owner; that's
business, you know, that's business, you know; and now you
go back on me. Suppose we'd taken the house, we'd 'a' shared
the rent, wouldn't we, just as we do here?"
Trina shrugged her shoulders with a great affectation of
indifference and began chopping the onions again.
"You settle it with the owner," she said. "It's your
affair; you've got the money." She pretended to assume a
certain calmness as though the matter was something that no
longer affected her. Her manner exasperated McTeague all
the more.
"No, I won't; no, I won't; I won't either," he shouted.
"I'll pay my half and he can come to you for the other
half." Trina put a hand over her ear to shut out his
"Ah, don't try and be smart," cried McTeague. "Come, now,
yes or no, will you pay your half?"
"You heard what I said."
"Will you pay it?"
"Miser!" shouted McTeague. "Miser! you're worse than old
Zerkow. All right, all right, keep your money. I'll pay
the whole thirty-five. I'd rather lose it than be such a
miser as you."
"Haven't you got anything to do," returned Trina, "instead
of staying here and abusing me?"
"Well, then, for the last time, will you help me out?"
Trina cut the heads of a fresh bunch of onions and gave no
"Huh? will you?"
"I'd like to have my kitchen to myself, please," she said in
a mincing way, irritating to a last degree. The
dentist stamped out of the room, banging the door behind
For nearly a week the breach between them remained unhealed.
Trina only spoke to the dentist in monosyllables, while he,
exasperated at her calmness and frigid reserve, sulked in
his "Dental Parlors," muttering terrible things beneath his
mustache, or finding solace in his concertina, playing his
six lugubrious airs over and over again, or swearing
frightful oaths at his canary. When Heise paid his bill,
McTeague, in a fury, sent the amount to the owner of the
little house.
There was no formal reconciliation between the dentist and
his little woman. Their relations readjusted themselves
inevitably. By the end of the week they were as amicable as
ever, but it was long before they spoke of the little house
again. Nor did they ever revisit it of a Sunday afternoon.
A month or so later the Ryers told them that the owner
himself had moved in. The McTeagues never occupied that
little house.
But Trina suffered a reaction after the quarrel. She began
to be sorry she had refused to help her husband, sorry she
had brought matters to such an issue. One afternoon as she
was at work on the Noah's ark animals, she surprised herself
crying over the affair. She loved her "old bear" too much
to do him an injustice, and perhaps, after all, she had been
in the wrong. Then it occurred to her how pretty it would be
to come up behind him unexpectedly, and slip the money,
thirty-five dollars, into his hand, and pull his huge head
down to her and kiss his bald spot as she used to do in the
days before they were married.
Then she hesitated, pausing in her work, her knife dropping
into her lap, a half-whittled figure between her fingers.
If not thirty-five dollars, then at least fifteen or
sixteen, her share of it. But a feeling of reluctance, a
sudden revolt against this intended generosity, arose in
"No, no," she said to herself. "I'll give him ten dollars.
I'll tell him it's all I can afford. It IS all I can
She hastened to finish the figure of the animal she was then
at work upon, putting in the ears and tail with a drop
of glue, and tossing it into the basket at her side. Then
she rose and went into the bedroom and opened her trunk,
taking the key from under a corner of the carpet where she
kept it hid.
At the very bottom of her trunk, under her bridal dress, she
kept her savings. It was all in change--half dollars and
dollars for the most part, with here and there a gold piece.
Long since the little brass match-box had overflowed. Trina
kept the surplus in a chamois-skin sack she had made from an
old chest protector. Just now, yielding to an impulse which
often seized her, she drew out the match-box and the chamois
sack, and emptying the contents on the bed, counted them
carefully. It came to one hundred and sixty-five dollars,
all told. She counted it and recounted it and made little
piles of it, and rubbed the gold pieces between the folds of
her apron until they shone.
"Ah, yes, ten dollars is all I can afford to give Mac," said
Trina, "and even then, think of it, ten dollars--it will be
four or five months before I can save that again. But, dear
old Mac, I know it would make him feel glad, and perhaps,"
she added, suddenly taken with an idea, "perhaps Mac will
refuse to take it."
She took a ten-dollar piece from the heap and put the rest
away. Then she paused:
"No, not the gold piece," she said to herself. "It's too
pretty. He can have the silver." She made the change and
counted out ten silver dollars into her palm. But what a
difference it made in the appearance and weight of the
little chamois bag! The bag was shrunken and withered, long
wrinkles appeared running downward from the draw-string. It
was a lamentable sight. Trina looked longingly at the ten
broad pieces in her hand. Then suddenly all her intuitive
desire of saving, her instinct of hoarding, her love of
money for the money's sake, rose strong within her.
"No, no, no," she said. "I can't do it. It may be mean,
but I can't help it. It's stronger than I." She returned
the money to the bag and locked it and the brass match-box
in her trunk, turning the key with a long breath of
She was a little troubled, however, as she went back
into the sitting-room and took up her work.
"I didn't use to be so stingy," she told herself. "Since I
won in the lottery I've become a regular little miser. It's
growing on me, but never mind, it's a good fault, and,
anyhow, I can't help it."
On that particular morning the McTeagues had risen a half
hour earlier than usual and taken a hurried breakfast in the
kitchen on the deal table with its oilcloth cover. Trina
was house-cleaning that week and had a presentiment of a
hard day's work ahead of her, while McTeague remembered a
seven o'clock appointment with a little German shoemaker.
At about eight o'clock, when the dentist had been in his
office for over an hour, Trina descended upon the bedroom, a
towel about her head and the roller-sweeper in her hand.
She covered the bureau and sewing machine with sheets, and
unhooked the chenille portieres between the bedroom and the
sitting-room. As she was tying the Nottingham lace curtains
at the window into great knots, she saw old Miss Baker on
the opposite sidewalk in the street below, and raising the
sash called down to her.
"Oh, it's you, Mrs. McTeague," cried the retired dressmaker,
facing about, her head in the air. Then a long conversation
was begun, Trina, her arms folded under her breast, her
elbows resting on the window ledge, willing to be idle for a
moment; old Miss Baker, her market-basket on her arm, her
hands wrapped in the ends of her worsted shawl against
the cold of the early morning. They exchanged phrases,
calling to each other from window to curb, their breath
coming from their lips in faint puffs of vapor, their voices
shrill, and raised to dominate the clamor of the waking
street. The newsboys had made their appearance on the
street, together with the day laborers. The cable cars had
begun to fill up; all along the street could be seen the
shopkeepers taking down their shutters; some were still
breakfasting. Now and then a waiter from one of the cheap
restaurants crossed from one sidewalk to another, balancing
on one palm a tray covered with a napkin.
"Aren't you out pretty early this morning, Miss Baker?"
called Trina.
"No, no," answered the other. "I'm always up at half-past
six, but I don't always get out so soon. I wanted to get a
nice head of cabbage and some lentils for a soup, and if you
don't go to market early, the restaurants get all the best."
"And you've been to market already, Miss Baker?"
"Oh, my, yes; and I got a fish--a sole--see." She drew the
sole in question from her basket.
"Oh, the lovely sole!" exclaimed Trina.
"I got this one at Spadella's; he always has good fish on
Friday. How is the doctor, Mrs. McTeague?"
"Ah, Mac is always well, thank you, Miss Baker."
"You know, Mrs. Ryer told me," cried the little dressmaker,
moving forward a step out of the way of a "glass-put-in"
man, "that Doctor McTeague pulled a tooth of that Catholic
priest, Father--oh, I forget his name--anyhow, he pulled his
tooth with his fingers. Was that true, Mrs. McTeague?"
"Oh, of course. Mac does that almost all the time now,
'specially with front teeth. He's got a regular reputation
for it. He says it's brought him more patients than even
the sign I gave him," she added, pointing to the big golden
molar projecting from the office window.
"With his fingers! Now, think of that," exclaimed Miss
Baker, wagging her head. "Isn't he that strong! It's just
wonderful. Cleaning house to-day?" she inquired,
glancing at Trina's towelled head.
"Um hum," answered Trina. "Maria Macapa's coming in to help
pretty soon."
At the mention of Maria's name the little old dressmaker
suddenly uttered an exclamation.
"Well, if I'm not here talking to you and forgetting
something I was just dying to tell you. Mrs. McTeague, what
ever in the world do you suppose? Maria and old Zerkow,
that red-headed Polish Jew, the rag-bottles-sacks man, you
know, they're going to be married."
"No!" cried Trina, in blank amazement. "You don't mean it."
"Of course I do. Isn't it the funniest thing you ever heard
"Oh, tell me all about it," said Trina, leaning eagerly from
the window. Miss Baker crossed the street and stood just
beneath her.
"Well, Maria came to me last night and wanted me to make her
a new gown, said she wanted something gay, like what the
girls at the candy store wear when they go out with their
young men. I couldn't tell what had got into the girl,
until finally she told me she wanted something to get
married in, and that Zerkow had asked her to marry him, and
that she was going to do it. Poor Maria! I guess it's the
first and only offer she ever received, and it's just turned
her head."
"But what DO those two see in each other?" cried Trina.
"Zerkow is a horror, he's an old man, and his hair is red
and his voice is gone, and then he's a Jew, isn't he?"
"I know, I know; but it's Maria's only chance for a husband,
and she don't mean to let it pass. You know she isn't quite
right in her head, anyhow. I'm awfully sorry for poor
Maria. But I can't see what Zerkow wants to marry her
for. It's not possible that he's in love with Maria, it's
out of the question. Maria hasn't a sou, either, and I'm
just positive that Zerkow has lots of money."
"I'll bet I know why," exclaimed Trina, with sudden
conviction; "yes, I know just why. See here, Miss Baker,
you know how crazy old Zerkow is after money and gold
and those sort of things."
"Yes, I know; but you know Maria hasn't----"
"Now, just listen. You've heard Maria tell about that
wonderful service of gold dishes she says her folks used to
own in Central America; she's crazy on that subject, don't
you know. She's all right on everything else, but just
start her on that service of gold plate and she'll talk you
deaf. She can describe it just as though she saw it, and
she can make you see it, too, almost. Now, you see, Maria
and Zerkow have known each other pretty well. Maria goes to
him every two weeks or so to sell him junk; they got
acquainted that way, and I know Maria's been dropping in to
see him pretty often this last year, and sometimes he comes
here to see her. He's made Maria tell him the story of that
plate over and over and over again, and Maria does it and is
glad to, because he's the only one that believes it. Now
he's going to marry her just so's he can hear that story
every day, every hour. He's pretty near as crazy on the
subject as Maria is. They're a pair for you, aren't they?
Both crazy over a lot of gold dishes that never existed.
Perhaps Maria'll marry him because it's her only chance to
get a husband, but I'm sure it's more for the reason that
she's got some one to talk to now who believes her story.
Don't you think I'm right?"
"Yes, yes, I guess you're right," admitted Miss Baker.
"But it's a queer match anyway you put it," said Trina,
"Ah, you may well say that," returned the other, nodding her
head. There was a silence. For a long moment the dentist's
wife and the retired dressmaker, the one at the window, the
other on the sidewalk, remained lost in thought, wondering
over the strangeness of the affair.
But suddenly there was a diversion. Alexander, Marcus
Schouler's Irish setter, whom his master had long since
allowed the liberty of running untrammelled about the
neighborhood, turned the corner briskly and came trotting
along the sidewalk where Miss Baker stood. At the same
moment the Scotch collie who had at one time belonged
to the branch post-office issued from the side door of a
house not fifty feet away. In an instant the two enemies
had recognized each other. They halted abruptly, their fore
feet planted rigidly. Trina uttered a little cry.
"Oh, look out, Miss Baker. Those two dogs hate each other
just like humans. You best look out. They'll fight sure."
Miss Baker sought safety in a nearby vestibule, whence she
peered forth at the scene, very interested and curious.
Maria Macapa's head thrust itself from one of the top-story
windows of the flat, with a shrill cry. Even McTeague's
huge form appeared above the half curtains of the "Parlor"
windows, while over his shoulder could be seen the face of
the "patient," a napkin tucked in his collar, the rubber dam
depending from his mouth. All the flat knew of the feud
between the dogs, but never before had the pair been brought
face to face.
Meanwhile, the collie and the setter had drawn near to each
other; five feet apart they paused as if by mutual consent.
The collie turned sidewise to the setter; the setter
instantly wheeled himself flank on to the collie. Their
tails rose and stiffened, they raised their lips over their
long white fangs, the napes of their necks bristled, and
they showed each other the vicious whites of their eyes,
while they drew in their breaths with prolonged and rasping
snarls. Each dog seemed to be the personification of fury
and unsatisfied hate. They began to circle about each other
with infinite slowness, walking stiffed-legged and upon the
very points of their feet. Then they wheeled about and
began to circle in the opposite direction. Twice they
repeated this motion, their snarls growing louder. But
still they did not come together, and the distance of five
feet between them was maintained with an almost mathematical
precision. It was magnificent, but it was not war. Then
the setter, pausing in his walk, turned his head slowly from
his enemy. The collie sniffed the air and pretended an
interest in an old shoe lying in the gutter. Gradually and
with all the dignity of monarchs they moved away from each
other. Alexander stalked back to the corner of the street.
The collie paced toward the side gate whence he had
issued, affecting to remember something of great importance.
They disappeared. Once out of sight of one another they
began to bark furiously.
"Well, I NEVER!" exclaimed Trina in great disgust. "The
way those two dogs have been carrying on you'd 'a' thought
they would 'a' just torn each other to pieces when they had
the chance, and here I'm wasting the whole morning----" she
closed her window with a bang.
"Sick 'im, sick 'im," called Maria Macapa, in a vain attempt
to promote a fight.
Old Miss Baker came out of the vestibule, pursing her lips,
quite put out at the fiasco. "And after all that fuss," she
said to herself aggrievedly.
The little dressmaker bought an envelope of nasturtium seeds
at the florist's, and returned to her tiny room in the flat.
But as she slowly mounted the first flight of steps she
suddenly came face to face with Old Grannis, who was coming
down. It was between eight and nine, and he was on his way
to his little dog hospital, no doubt. Instantly Miss Baker
was seized with trepidation, her curious little false curls
shook, a faint--a very faint--flush came into her withered
cheeks, and her heart beat so violently under the worsted
shawl that she felt obliged to shift the market-basket to
her other arm and put out her free hand to steady herself
against the rail.
On his part, Old Grannis was instantly overwhelmed with
confusion. His awkwardness seemed to paralyze his limbs,
his lips twitched and turned dry, his hand went tremblingly
to his chin. But what added to Miss Baker's miserable
embarrassment on this occasion was the fact that the old
Englishman should meet her thus, carrying a sordid marketbasket
full of sordid fish and cabbage. It seemed as if a
malicious fate persisted in bringing the two old people face
to face at the most inopportune moments.
Just now, however, a veritable catastrophe occurred. The
little old dressmaker changed her basket to her other arm at
precisely the wrong moment, and Old Grannis, hastening to
pass, removing his hat in a hurried salutation, struck it
with his fore arm, knocking it from her grasp, and
sending it rolling and bumping down the stairs. The sole
fell flat upon the first landing; the lentils scattered
themselves over the entire flight; while the cabbage,
leaping from step to step, thundered down the incline and
brought up against the street door with a shock that
reverberated through the entire building.
The little retired dressmaker, horribly vexed, nervous and
embarrassed, was hard put to it to keep back the tears. Old
Grannis stood for a moment with averted eyes, murmuring:
"Oh, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry. I--I really--I beg your
pardon, really--really."
Marcus Schouler, coming down stairs from his room, saved the
"Hello, people," he cried. "By damn! you've upset your
basket--you have, for a fact. Here, let's pick um up." He
and Old Grannis went up and down the flight, gathering up
the fish, the lentils, and the sadly battered cabbage.
Marcus was raging over the pusillanimity of Alexander, of
which Maria had just told him.
"I'll cut him in two--with the whip," he shouted. "I will,
I will, I say I will, for a fact. He wouldn't fight, hey?
I'll give um all the fight he wants, nasty, mangy cur. If
he won't fight he won't eat. I'm going to get the butcher's
bull pup and I'll put um both in a bag and shake um up. I
will, for a fact, and I guess Alec will fight. Come along,
Mister Grannis," and he took the old Englishman away.
Little Miss Baker hastened to her room and locked herself
in. She was excited and upset during all the rest of the
day, and listened eagerly for Old Grannis's return that
evening. He went instantly to work binding up "The Breeder
and Sportsman," and back numbers of the "Nation." She heard
him softly draw his chair and the table on which he had
placed his little binding apparatus close to the wall. At
once she did the same, brewing herself a cup of tea. All
through that evening the two old people "kept company" with
each other, after their own peculiar fashion. "Setting out
with each other" Miss Baker had begun to call it. That they
had been presented, that they had even been forced to
talk together, had made no change in their relative
positions. Almost immediately they had fallen back into
their old ways again, quite unable to master their timidity,
to overcome the stifling embarrassment that seized upon them
when in each other's presence. It was a sort of hypnotism,
a thing stronger than themselves. But they were not
altogether dissatisfied with the way things had come to be.
It was their little romance, their last, and they were
living through it with supreme enjoyment and calm
Marcus Schouler still occupied his old room on the floor
above the McTeagues. They saw but little of him, however.
At long intervals the dentist or his wife met him on the
stairs of the flat. Sometimes he would stop and talk with
Trina, inquiring after the Sieppes, asking her if Mr. Sieppe
had yet heard of any one with whom he, Marcus, could "go in
with on a ranch." McTeague, Marcus merely nodded to. Never
had the quarrel between the two men been completely patched
up. It did not seem possible to the dentist now that Marcus
had ever been his "pal," that they had ever taken long walks
together. He was sorry that he had treated Marcus gratis
for an ulcerated tooth, while Marcus daily recalled the fact
that he had given up his "girl" to his friend--the girl who
had won a fortune--as the great mistake of his life. Only
once since the wedding had he called upon Trina, at a time
when he knew McTeague would be out. Trina had shown him
through the rooms and had told him, innocently enough, how
gay was their life there. Marcus had come away fairly sick
with envy; his rancor against the dentist--and against
himself, for that matter--knew no bounds. "And you might
'a' had it all yourself, Marcus Schouler," he muttered to
himself on the stairs. "You mushhead, you damn fool!"
Meanwhile, Marcus was becoming involved in the politics of
his ward. As secretary of the Polk Street Improvement Club
--which soon developed into quite an affair and began to
assume the proportions of a Republican political machine--he
found he could make a little, a very little more than enough
to live on. At once he had given up his position as Old
Grannis's assistant in the dog hospital. Marcus felt
that he needed a wider sphere. He had his eye upon a place
connected with the city pound. When the great railroad
strike occurred, he promptly got himself engaged as deputysheriff,
and spent a memorable week in Sacramento, where he
involved himself in more than one terrible melee with the
strikers. Marcus had that quickness of temper and
passionate readiness to take offence which passes among his
class for bravery. But whatever were his motives, his
promptness to face danger could not for a moment be doubted.
After the strike he returned to Polk Street, and throwing
himself into the Improvement Club, heart, soul, and body,
soon became one of its ruling spirits. In a certain local
election, where a huge paving contract was at stake, the
club made itself felt in the ward, and Marcus so managed his
cards and pulled his wires that, at the end of the matter,
he found himself some four hundred dollars to the good.
When McTeague came out of his "Parlors" at noon of the day
upon which Trina had heard the news of Maria Macapa's
intended marriage, he found Trina burning coffee on a shovel
in the sitting-room. Try as she would, Trina could never
quite eradicate from their rooms a certain faint and
indefinable odor, particularly offensive to her. The smell
of the photographer's chemicals persisted in spite of all
Trina could do to combat it. She burnt pastilles and
Chinese punk, and even, as now, coffee on a shovel, all to
no purpose. Indeed, the only drawback to their delightful
home was the general unpleasant smell that pervaded it--a
smell that arose partly from the photographer's chemicals,
partly from the cooking in the little kitchen, and partly
from the ether and creosote of the dentist's "Parlors."
As McTeague came in to lunch on this occasion, he found the
table already laid, a red cloth figured with white flowers
was spread, and as he took his seat his wife put down the
shovel on a chair and brought in the stewed codfish and the
pot of chocolate. As he tucked his napkin into his enormous
collar, McTeague looked vaguely about the room, rolling his
During the three years of their married life the McTeagues
had made but few additions to their furniture, Trina
declaring that they could not afford it. The sittingroom
could boast of but three new ornaments. Over the
melodeon hung their marriage certificate in a black frame.
It was balanced upon one side by Trina's wedding bouquet
under a glass case, preserved by some fearful unknown
process, and upon the other by the photograph of Trina and
the dentist in their wedding finery. This latter picture
was quite an affair, and had been taken immediately after
the wedding, while McTeague's broadcloth was still new, and
before Trina's silks and veil had lost their stiffness. It
represented Trina, her veil thrown back, sitting very
straight in a rep armchair, her elbows well in at her sides,
holding her bouquet of cut flowers directly before her. The
dentist stood at her side, one hand on her shoulder, the
other thrust into the breast of his "Prince Albert," his
chin in the air, his eyes to one side, his left foot forward
in the attitude of a statue of a Secretary of State.
"Say, Trina," said McTeague, his mouth full of codfish,
"Heise looked in on me this morning. He says 'What's the
matter with a basket picnic over at Schuetzen Park next
Tuesday?' You know the paper-hangers are going to be in the
"Parlors" all that day, so I'll have a holiday. That's what
made Heise think of it. Heise says he'll get the Ryers to go
too. It's the anniversary of their wedding day. We'll ask
Selina to go; she can meet us on the other side. Come on,
let's go, huh, will you?"
Trina still had her mania for family picnics, which had been
one of the Sieppes most cherished customs; but now there
were other considerations.
"I don't know as we can afford it this month, Mac," she
said, pouring the chocolate. "I got to pay the gas bill
next week, and there's the papering of your office to be
paid for some time."
"I know, I know," answered her husband. "But I got a new
patient this week, had two molars and an upper incisor
filled at the very first sitting, and he's going to bring
his children round. He's a barber on the next block."
"Well you pay half, then," said Trina. "It'll cost three or
four dollars at the very least; and mind, the Heises pay
their own fare both ways, Mac, and everybody gets their
OWN lunch. Yes," she added, after a pause, "I'll write
and have Selina join us. I haven't seen Selina in months.
I guess I'll have to put up a lunch for her, though,"
admitted Trina, "the way we did last time, because she lives
in a boarding-house now, and they make a fuss about putting
up a lunch."
They could count on pleasant weather at this time of the
year--it was May--and that particular Tuesday was all that
could be desired. The party assembled at the ferry slip at
nine o'clock, laden with baskets. The McTeagues came last
of all; Ryer and his wife had already boarded the boat.
They met the Heises in the waiting-room.
"Hello, Doctor," cried the harness-maker as the McTeagues
came up. "This is what you'd call an old folks' picnic, all
married people this time."
The party foregathered on the upper deck as the boat
started, and sat down to listen to the band of Italian
musicians who were playing outside this morning because of
the fineness of the weather.
"Oh, we're going to have lots of fun," cried Trina. "If
it's anything I do love it's a picnic. Do you remember our
first picnic, Mac?"
"Sure, sure," replied the dentist; "we had a Gotha truffle."
"And August lost his steamboat, put in Trina, "and papa
smacked him. I remember it just as well."
"Why, look there," said Mrs. Heise, nodding at a figure
coming up the companion-way. "Ain't that Mr. Schouler?"
It was Marcus, sure enough. As he caught sight of the party
he gaped at them a moment in blank astonishment, and then
ran up, his eyes wide.
"Well, by damn!" he exclaimed, excitedly. "What's up?
Where you all going, anyhow? Say, ain't ut queer we should
all run up against each other like this?" He made great
sweeping bows to the three women, and shook hands with
"Cousin Trina," adding, as he turned to the men of the
party, "Glad to see you, Mister Heise. How do, Mister
Ryer?" The dentist, who had formulated some sort of
reserved greeting, he ignored completely. McTeague
settled himself in his seat, growling inarticulately
behind his mustache.
"Say, say, what's all up, anyhow?" cried Marcus again.
"It's a picnic," exclaimed the three women, all speaking at
once; and Trina added, "We're going over to the same old
Schuetzen Park again. But you're all fixed up yourself,
Cousin Mark; you look as though you were going somewhere
In fact, Marcus was dressed with great care. He wore a new
pair of slate-blue trousers, a black "cutaway," and a white
lawn "tie" (for him the symbol of the height of elegance).
He carried also his cane, a thin wand of ebony with a gold
head, presented to him by the Improvement Club in
"recognition of services."
"That's right, that's right," said Marcus, with a grin.
"I'm takun a holiday myself to-day. I had a bit of business
to do over at Oakland, an' I thought I'd go up to B Street
afterward and see Selina. I haven't called on----"
But the party uttered an exclamation.
"Why, Selina is going with us."
"She's going to meet us at the Schuetzen Park station"
explained Trina.
Marcus's business in Oakland was a fiction. He was crossing
the bay that morning solely to see Selina. Marcus had
"taken up with" Selina a little after Trina had married, and
had been "rushing" her ever since, dazzled and attracted by
her accomplishments, for which he pretended a great respect.
At the prospect of missing Selina on this occasion, he was
genuinely disappointed. His vexation at once assumed the
form of exasperation against McTeague. It was all the
dentist's fault. Ah, McTeague was coming between him and
Selina now as he had come between him and Trina. Best look
out, by damn! how he monkeyed with him now. Instantly his
face flamed and he glanced over furiously at the dentist,
who, catching his eye, began again to mutter behind his
"Well, say," began Mrs. Ryer, with some hesitation, looking
to Ryer for approval, "why can't Marcus come along with us?"
"Why, of course," exclaimed Mrs. Heise, disregarding her
husband's vigorous nudges. "I guess we got lunch
enough to go round, all right; don't you say so, Mrs.
Thus appealed to, Trina could only concur.
"Why, of course, Cousin Mark," she said; "of course, come
along with us if you want to."
"Why, you bet I will," cried Marcus, enthusiastic in an
instant. "Say, this is outa sight; it is, for a fact; a
picnic--ah, sure--and we'll meet Selina at the station."
Just as the boat was passing Goat Island, the harness-maker
proposed that the men of the party should go down to the bar
on the lower deck and shake for the drinks. The idea had an
immediate success.
"Have to see you on that," said Ryer.
"By damn, we'll have a drink! Yes, sir, we will, for a
"Sure, sure, drinks, that's the word."
At the bar Heise and Ryer ordered cocktails, Marcus called
for a "creme Yvette" in order to astonish the others. The
dentist spoke for a glass of beer.
"Say, look here," suddenly exclaimed Heise as they took
their glasses. "Look here, you fellahs," he had turned to
Marcus and the dentist. "You two fellahs have had a grouch
at each other for the last year or so; now what's the matter
with your shaking hands and calling quits?"
McTeague was at once overcome with a great feeling of
magnanimity. He put out his great hand.
"I got nothing against Marcus," he growled.
"Well, I don't care if I shake," admitted Marcus, a little
shamefacedly, as their palms touched. "I guess that's all
"That's the idea," exclaimed Heise, delighted at his
success. "Come on, boys, now let's drink." Their elbows
crooked and they drank silently.
Their picnic that day was very jolly. Nothing had changed
at Schuetzen Park since the day of that other memorable
Sieppe picnic four years previous. After lunch the men took
themselves off to the rifle range, while Selina, Trina, and
the other two women put away the dishes. An hour later the
men joined them in great spirits. Ryer had won the
impromptu match which they had arranged, making quite a
wonderful score, which included three clean bulls' eyes,
while McTeague had not been able even to hit the target
Their shooting match had awakened a spirit of rivalry in the
men, and the rest of the afternoon was passed in athletic
exercises between them. The women sat on the slope of the
grass, their hats and gloves laid aside, watching the men as
they strove together. Aroused by the little feminine cries
of wonder and the clapping of their ungloved palms, these
latter began to show off at once. They took off their coats
and vests, even their neckties and collars, and worked
themselves into a lather of perspiration for the sake of
making an impression on their wives. They ran hundred-yard
sprints on the cinder path and executed clumsy feats on the
rings and on the parallel bars. They even found a huge
round stone on the beach and "put the shot" for a while. As
long as it was a question of agility, Marcus was easily the
best of the four; but the dentist's enormous strength, his
crude, untutored brute force, was a matter of wonder for the
entire party. McTeague cracked English walnuts--taken from
the lunch baskets--in the hollow of his arm, and tossed the
round stone a full five feet beyond their best mark. Heise
believed himself to be particularly strong in the wrists,
but the dentist, using but one hand, twisted a cane out of
Heise's two with a wrench that all but sprained the harnessmaker's
arm. Then the dentist raised weights and chinned
himself on the rings till they thought he would never tire.
His great success quite turned his head; he strutted back
and forth in front of the women, his chest thrown out, and
his great mouth perpetually expanded in a triumphant grin.
As he felt his strength more and more, he began to abuse it;
he domineered over the others, gripping suddenly at their
arms till they squirmed with pain, and slapping Marcus on
the back so that he gasped and gagged for breath. The
childish vanity of the great fellow was as undisguised as
that of a schoolboy. He began to tell of wonderful feats of
strength he had accomplished when he was a young man. Why,
at one time he had knocked down a half-grown heifer with
a blow of his fist between the eyes, sure, and the
heifer had just stiffened out and trembled all over and died
without getting up.
McTeague told this story again, and yet again. All through
the afternoon he could be overheard relating the wonder to
any one who would listen, exaggerating the effect of his
blow, inventing terrific details. Why, the heifer had just
frothed at the mouth, and his eyes had rolled up--ah, sure,
his eyes rolled up just like that--and the butcher had said
his skull was all mashed in--just all mashed in, sure,
that's the word--just as if from a sledge-hammer.
Notwithstanding his reconciliation with the dentist on the
boat, Marcus's gorge rose within him at McTeague's boasting
swagger. When McTeague had slapped him on the back, Marcus
had retired to some little distance while he recovered his
breath, and glared at the dentist fiercely as he strode up
and down, glorying in the admiring glances of the women.
"Ah, one-horse dentist," he muttered between his teeth.
"Ah, zinc-plugger, cow-killer, I'd like to show you once,
you overgrown mucker, you--you--COW-KILLER!"
When he rejoined the group, he found them preparing for a
wrestling bout.
"I tell you what," said Heise, "we'll have a tournament.
Marcus and I will rastle, and Doc and Ryer, and then the
winners will rastle each other."
The women clapped their hands excitedly. This would be
exciting. Trina cried:
"Better let me hold your money, Mac, and your keys, so as
you won't lose them out of your pockets." The men gave
their valuables into the keeping of their wives and promptly
set to work.
The dentist thrust Ryer down without even changing his grip;
Marcus and the harness-maker struggled together for a few
moments till Heise all at once slipped on a bit of turf and
fell backwards. As they toppled over together, Marcus
writhed himself from under his opponent, and, as they
reached the ground, forced down first one shoulder and then
the other.
"All right, all right," panted the harness-maker, goodnaturedly,
"I'm down. It's up to you and Doc now," he
added, as he got to his feet.
The match between McTeague and Marcus promised to be
interesting. The dentist, of course, had an enormous
advantage in point of strength, but Marcus prided himself on
his wrestling, and knew something about strangle-holds and
half-Nelsons. The men drew back to allow them a free space
as they faced each other, while Trina and the other women
rose to their feet in their excitement.
"I bet Mac will throw him, all the same," said Trina.
"All ready!" cried Ryer.
The dentist and Marcus stepped forward, eyeing each other
cautiously. They circled around the impromptu ring. Marcus
watching eagerly for an opening. He ground his teeth,
telling himself he would throw McTeague if it killed him.
Ah, he'd show him now. Suddenly the two men caught at each
other; Marcus went to his knees. The dentist threw his vast
bulk on his adversary's shoulders and, thrusting a huge palm
against his face, pushed him backwards and downwards. It
was out of the question to resist that enormous strength.
Marcus wrenched himself over and fell face downward on the
McTeague rose on the instant with a great laugh of
"You're down!" he exclaimed.
Marcus leaped to his feet.
"Down nothing," he vociferated, with clenched fists. "Down
nothing, by damn! You got to throw me so's my shoulders
McTeague was stalking about, swelling with pride.
"Hoh, you're down. I threw you. Didn't I throw him, Trina?
Hoh, you can't rastle ME."
Marcus capered with rage.
"You didn't! you didn't! you didn't! and you can't! You got
to give me another try."
The other men came crowding up. Everybody was talking at
"He's right."
"You didn't throw him."
"Both his shoulders at the same time."
Trina clapped and waved her hand at McTeague from where she
stood on the little slope of lawn above the wrestlers.
Marcus broke through the group, shaking all over with
excitement and rage.
"I tell you that ain't the WAY to rastle. You've got to
throw a man so's his shoulders touch. You got to give me
another bout."
"That's straight," put in Heise, "both his shoulders down at
the same time. Try it again. You and Schouler have another
McTeague was bewildered by so much simultaneous talk. He
could not make out what it was all about. Could he have
offended Marcus again?
"What? What? Huh? What is it?" he exclaimed in
perplexity, looking from one to the other.
"Come on, you must rastle me again," shouted Marcus.
"Sure, sure," cried the dentist. "I'll rastle you again.
I'll rastle everybody," he cried, suddenly struck with an
idea. Trina looked on in some apprehension.
"Mark gets so mad," she said, half aloud.
"Yes," admitted Selina. "Mister Schouler's got an awful
quick temper, but he ain't afraid of anything."
"All ready!" shouted Ryer.
This time Marcus was more careful. Twice, as McTeague
rushed at him, he slipped cleverly away. But as the dentist
came in a third time, with his head bowed, Marcus, raising
himself to his full height, caught him with both arms around
the neck. The dentist gripped at him and rent away the
sleeve of his shirt. There was a great laugh.
"Keep your shirt on," cried Mrs. Ryer.
The two men were grappling at each other wildly. The party
could hear them panting and grunting as they labored and
struggled. Their boots tore up great clods of turf.
Suddenly they came to the ground with a tremendous shock.
But even as they were in the act of falling, Marcus,
like a very eel, writhed in the dentist's clasp and fell
upon his side. McTeague crashed down upon him like the
collapse of a felled ox.
"Now, you gotta turn him on his back," shouted Heise to the
dentist. "He ain't down if you don't."
With his huge salient chin digging into Marcus's shoulder,
the dentist heaved and tugged. His face was flaming, his
huge shock of yellow hair fell over his forehead, matted
with sweat. Marcus began to yield despite his frantic
efforts. One shoulder was down, now the other began to go;
gradually, gradually it was forced over. The little
audience held its breath in the suspense of the moment.
Selina broke the silence, calling out shrilly:
"Ain't Doctor McTeague just that strong!"
Marcus heard it, and his fury came instantly to a head.
Rage at his defeat at the hands of the dentist and before
Selina's eyes, the hate he still bore his old-time "pal" and
the impotent wrath of his own powerlessness were suddenly
"God damn you! get off of me," he cried under his breath,
spitting the words as a snake spits its venom. The little
audience uttered a cry. With the oath Marcus had twisted
his head and had bitten through the lobe of the dentist's
ear. There was a sudden flash of bright-red blood.
Then followed a terrible scene. The brute that in McTeague
lay so close to the surface leaped instantly to life,
monstrous, not to be resisted. He sprang to his feet with a
shrill and meaningless clamor, totally unlike the ordinary
bass of his speaking tones. It was the hideous yelling of a
hurt beast, the squealing of a wounded elephant. He framed
no words; in the rush of high-pitched sound that issued from
his wide-open mouth there was nothing articulate. It was
something no longer human; it was rather an echo from the
Sluggish enough and slow to anger on ordinary occasions,
McTeague when finally aroused became another man. His rage
was a kind of obsession, an evil mania, the drunkenness of
passion, the exalted and perverted fury of the Berserker,
blind and deaf, a thing insensate.
As he rose he caught Marcus's wrist in both his hands.
He did not strike, he did not know what he was doing. His
only idea was to batter the life out of the man before him,
to crush and annihilate him upon the instant. Gripping his
enemy in his enormous hands, hard and knotted, and covered
with a stiff fell of yellow hair--the hands of the old-time
car-boy--he swung him wide, as a hammer-thrower swings his
hammer. Marcus's feet flipped from the ground, he spun
through the air about McTeague as helpless as a bundle of
clothes. All at once there was a sharp snap, almost like
the report of a small pistol. Then Marcus rolled over and
over upon the ground as McTeague released his grip; his arm,
the one the dentist had seized, bending suddenly, as though
a third joint had formed between wrist and elbow. The arm
was broken.
But by this time every one was crying out at once. Heise
and Ryan ran in between the two men. Selina turned her head
away. Trina was wringing her hands and crying in an agony of
"Oh, stop them, stop them! Don't let them fight. Oh, it's
too awful."
"Here, here, Doc, quit. Don't make a fool of yourself,"
cried Heise, clinging to the dentist. "That's enough now.
LISTEN to me, will you?"
"Oh, Mac, Mac," cried Trina, running to her husband. "Mac,
dear, listen; it's me, it's Trina, look at me, you----"
"Get hold of his other arm, will you, Ryer?" panted Heise.
"Mac, Mac," cried Trina, her arms about his neck.
"For God's sake, hold up, Doc, will you?" shouted the
harness-maker. "You don't want to kill him, do you?"
Mrs. Ryer and Heise's lame wife were filling the air with
their outcries. Selina was giggling with hysteria. Marcus,
terrified, but too brave to run, had picked up a jagged
stone with his left hand and stood on the defensive. His
swollen right arm, from which the shirt sleeve had been
torn, dangled at his side, the back of the hand twisted
where the palm should have been. The shirt itself was a
mass of grass stains and was spotted with the dentist's
But McTeague, in the centre of the group that struggled
to hold him, was nigh to madness. The side of his face, his
neck, and all the shoulder and breast of his shirt were
covered with blood. He had ceased to cry out, but kept
muttering between his gripped jaws, as he labored to tear
himself free of the retaining hands:
"Ah, I'll kill him! Ah, I'll kill him! I'll kill him!
Damn you, Heise," he exclaimed suddenly, trying to strike
the harness-maker, "let go of me, will you!"
Little by little they pacified him, or rather (for he paid
but little attention to what was said to him) his bestial
fury lapsed by degrees. He turned away and let fall his
arms, drawing long breaths, and looking stupidly about him,
now searching helplessly upon the ground, now gazing vaguely
into the circle of faces about him. His ear bled as though
it would never stop.
"Say, Doctor," asked Heise, "what's the best thing to do?"
"Huh?" answered McTeague. "What--what do you mean? What is
"What'll we do to stop this bleeding here?"
McTeague did not answer, but looked intently at the bloodstained
bosom of his shirt.
"Mac," cried Trina, her face close to his, "tell us
something--the best thing we can do to stop your ear
"Collodium," said the dentist.
"But we can't get to that right away; we--"
"There's some ice in our lunch basket," broke in Heise. "We
brought it for the beer; and take the napkins and make a
"Ice," muttered the dentist, "sure, ice, that's the word."
Mrs. Heise and the Ryers were looking after Marcus's broken
arm. Selina sat on the slope of the grass, gasping and
sobbing. Trina tore the napkins into strips, and, crushing
some of the ice, made a bandage for her husband's head.'
The party resolved itself into two groups; the Ryers and
Mrs. Heise bending over Marcus, while the harness-maker and
Trina came and went about McTeague, sitting on the ground,
his shirt, a mere blur of red and white, detaching itself
violently from the background of pale-green grass. Between
the two groups was the torn and trampled bit of turf, the
wrestling ring; the picnic baskets, together with empty beer
bottles, broken egg-shells, and discarded sardine tins, were
scattered here and there. In the middle of the improvised
wrestling ring the sleeve of Marcus's shirt fluttered
occasionally in the sea breeze.
Nobody was paying any attention to Selina. All at once she
began to giggle hysterically again, then cried out with a
peal of laughter:
"Oh, what a way for our picnic to end!"
"Now, then, Maria," said Zerkow, his cracked, strained voice
just rising above a whisper, hitching his chair closer to
the table, "now, then, my girl, let's have it all over
again. Tell us about the gold plate--the service. Begin
with, 'There were over a hundred pieces and every one of
them gold.'"
"I don't know what you're talking about, Zerkow," answered
Maria. "There never was no gold plate, no gold service. I
guess you must have dreamed it."
Maria and the red-headed Polish Jew had been married about a
month after the McTeague's picnic which had ended in such
lamentable fashion. Zerkow had taken Maria home to his
wretched hovel in the alley back of the flat, and the flat
had been obliged to get another maid of all work. Time
passed, a month, six months, a whole year went by. At
length Maria gave birth to a child, a wretched, sickly
child, with not even strength enough nor wits enough to
cry. At the time of its birth Maria was out of her mind,
and continued in a state of dementia for nearly ten days.
She recovered just in time to make the arrangements for the
baby's burial. Neither Zerkow nor Maria was much affected
by either the birth or the death of this little child.
Zerkow had welcomed it with pronounced disfavor, since it
had a mouth to be fed and wants to be provided for. Maria
was out of her head so much of the time that she could
scarcely remember how it looked when alive. The child was a
mere incident in their lives, a thing that had come
undesired and had gone unregretted. It had not even a name;
a strange, hybrid little being, come and gone within a
fortnight's time, yet combining in its puny little body the
blood of the Hebrew, the Pole, and the Spaniard.
But the birth of this child had peculiar consequences.
Maria came out of her dementia, and in a few days the
household settled itself again to its sordid regime and
Maria went about her duties as usual. Then one evening,
about a week after the child's burial, Zerkow had asked
Maria to tell him the story of the famous service of gold
plate for the hundredth time.
Zerkow had come to believe in this story infallibly. He was
immovably persuaded that at one time Maria or Maria's people
had possessed these hundred golden dishes. In his perverted
mind the hallucination had developed still further. Not
only had that service of gold plate once existed, but it
existed now, entire, intact; not a single burnished golden
piece of it was missing. It was somewhere, somebody had it,
locked away in that leather trunk with its quilted lining
and round brass locks. It was to be searched for and
secured, to be fought for, to be gained at all hazards.
Maria must know where it was; by dint of questioning, Zerkow
would surely get the information from her. Some day, if only
he was persistent, he would hit upon the right combination
of questions, the right suggestion that would disentangle
Maria's confused recollections. Maria would tell him where
the thing was kept, was concealed, was buried, and he would
go to that place and secure it, and all that wonderful gold
would be his forever and forever. This service of plate had
come to be Zerkow's mania.
On this particular evening, about a week after the
child's burial, in the wretched back room of the Junk shop,
Zerkow had made Maria sit down to the table opposite him--
the whiskey bottle and the red glass tumbler with its broken
base between them--and had said:
"Now, then, Maria, tell us that story of the gold dishes
Maria stared at him, an expression of perplexity coming into
her face.
"What gold dishes?" said she.
"The ones your people used to own in Central America. Come
on, Maria, begin, begin." The Jew craned himself forward,
his lean fingers clawing eagerly at his lips.
"What gold plate?" said Maria, frowning at him as she drank
her whiskey. "What gold plate? I don' know what you're
talking about, Zerkow."
Zerkow sat back in his chair, staring at her.
"Why, your people's gold dishes, what they used to eat off
of. You've told me about it a hundred times."
"You're crazy, Zerkow," said Maria. "Push the bottle here,
will you?"
"Come, now," insisted Zerkow, sweating with desire, "come,
now, my girl, don't be a fool; let's have it, let's have it.
Begin now, 'There were more'n a hundred pieces, and every
one of 'em gold.' Oh, YOU know; come on, come on."
"I don't remember nothing of the kind," protested Maria,
reaching for the bottle. Zerkow snatched it from her.
"You fool!" he wheezed, trying to raise his broken voice to
a shout. "You fool! Don't you dare try an' cheat ME, or
I'll DO for you. You know about the gold plate, and you
know where it is." Suddenly he pitched his voice at the
prolonged rasping shout with which he made his street cry.
He rose to his feet, his long, prehensile fingers curled
into fists. He was menacing, terrible in his rage. He
leaned over Maria, his fists in her face.
"I believe you've got it!" he yelled. "I believe you've got
it, an' are hiding it from me. Where is it, where is it? Is
it here?" he rolled his eyes wildly about the room.
"Hey? hey?" he went on, shaking Maria by the shoulders.
"Where is it? Is it here? Tell me where it is. Tell me,
or I'll do for you!"
"It ain't here," cried Maria, wrenching from him. "It ain't
anywhere. What gold plate? What are you talking about? I
don't remember nothing about no gold plate at all."
No, Maria did not remember. The trouble and turmoil of her
mind consequent upon the birth of her child seemed to have
readjusted her disordered ideas upon this point. Her mania
had come to a crisis, which in subsiding had cleared her
brain of its one illusion. She did not remember. Or it was
possible that the gold plate she had once remembered had had
some foundation in fact, that her recital of its splendors
had been truth, sound and sane. It was possible that now
her FORGETFULNESS of it was some form of brain trouble,
a relic of the dementia of childbirth. At all events Maria
did not remember; the idea of the gold plate had passed
entirely out of her mind, and it was now Zerkow who labored
under its hallucination. It was now Zerkow, the raker of
the city's muck heap, the searcher after gold, that saw that
wonderful service in the eye of his perverted mind. It was
he who could now describe it in a language almost eloquent.
Maria had been content merely to remember it; but Zerkow's
avarice goaded him to a belief that it was still in
existence, hid somewhere, perhaps in that very house, stowed
away there by Maria. For it stood to reason, didn't it,
that Maria could not have described it with such wonderful
accuracy and such careful detail unless she had seen it
recently--the day before, perhaps, or that very day, or that
very hour, that very HOUR?
"Look out for yourself," he whispered, hoarsely, to his
wife. "Look out for yourself, my girl. I'll hunt for it,
and hunt for it, and hunt for it, and some day I'll find it
--I will, you'll see--I'll find it, I'll find it; and if
I don't, I'll find a way that'll make you tell me where it
is. I'll make you speak--believe me, I will, I will, my
girl--trust me for that."
And at night Maria would sometimes wake to find Zerkow
gone from the bed, and would see him burrowing into
some corner by the light of his dark-lantern and would hear
him mumbling to himself: "There were more'n a hundred
pieces, and every one of 'em gold--when the leather trunk
was opened it fair dazzled your eyes--why, just that punchbowl
was worth a fortune, I guess; solid, solid, heavy,
rich, pure gold, nothun but gold, gold, heaps and heaps of
it--what a glory! I'll find it yet, I'll find it. It's
here somewheres, hid somewheres in this house."
At length his continued ill success began to exasperate him.
One day he took his whip from his junk wagon and thrashed
Maria with it, gasping the while, "Where is it, you beast?
Where is it? Tell me where it is; I'll make you speak."
"I don' know, I don' know," cried Maria, dodging his blows.
"I'd tell you, Zerkow, if I knew; but I don' know nothing
about it. How can I tell you if I don' know?"
Then one evening matters reached a crisis. Marcus Schouler
was in his room, the room in the flat just over McTeague's
"Parlors" which he had always occupied. It was between
eleven and twelve o'clock. The vast house was quiet; Polk
Street outside was very still, except for the occasional
whirr and trundle of a passing cable car and the persistent
calling of ducks and geese in the deserted market directly
opposite. Marcus was in his shirt sleeves, perspiring and
swearing with exertion as he tried to get all his belongings
into an absurdly inadequate trunk. The room was in great
confusion. It looked as though Marcus was about to move.
He stood in front of his trunk, his precious silk hat in its
hat-box in his hand. He was raging at the perverseness of a
pair of boots that refused to fit in his trunk, no matter
how he arranged them.
"I've tried you SO, and I've tried you SO," he
exclaimed fiercely, between his teeth, "and you won't go."
He began to swear horribly, grabbing at the boots with his
free hand. "Pretty soon I won't take you at all; I won't,
for a fact."
He was interrupted by a rush of feet upon the back stairs
and a clamorous pounding upon his door. He opened it to let
in Maria Macapa, her hair dishevelled and her eyes starting
with terror.
"Oh, MISTER Schouler," she gasped, "lock the door
quick. Don't let him get me. He's got a knife, and he says
sure he's going to do for me, if I don't tell him where it
"Who has? What has? Where is what?" shouted Marcus,
flaming with excitement upon the instant. He opened the
door and peered down the dark hall, both fists clenched,
ready to fight--he did not know whom, and he did not know
"It's Zerkow," wailed Maria, pulling him back into the room
and bolting the door, "and he's got a knife as long as
THAT. Oh, my Lord, here he comes now! Ain't that him?
Zerkow was coming up the stairs, calling for Maria.
"Don't you let him get me, will you, Mister Schouler?"
gasped Maria.
"I'll break him in two," shouted Marcus, livid with rage.
"Think I'm afraid of his knife?"
"I know where you are," cried Zerkow, on the landing
outside. "You're in Schouler's room. What are you doing in
Schouler's room at this time of night? Come outa there; you
oughta be ashamed. I'll do for you yet, my girl. Come outa
there once, an' see if I don't."
"I'll do for you myself, you dirty Jew," shouted Marcus,
unbolting the door and running out into the hall.
"I want my wife," exclaimed the Jew, backing down the
stairs. "What's she mean by running away from me and going
into your room?"
"Look out, he's got a knife!" cried Maria through the crack
of the door.
"Ah, there you are. Come outa that, and come back home,"
exclaimed Zerkow.
"Get outa here yourself," cried Marcus, advancing on him
angrily. "Get outa here."
"Maria's gota come too."
"Get outa here," vociferated Marcus, "an' put up that knife.
I see it; you needn't try an' hide it behind your leg.
Give it to me, anyhow," he shouted suddenly, and before
Zerkow was aware, Marcus had wrenched it away. "Now, get
outa here."
Zerkow backed away, peering and peeping over Marcus's
"I want Maria."
"Get outa here. Get along out, or I'll PUT you out."
The street door closed. The Jew was gone.
"Huh!" snorted Marcus, swelling with arrogance. "Huh!
Think I'm afraid of his knife? I ain't afraid of
ANYBODY," he shouted pointedly, for McTeague and his wife,
roused by the clamor, were peering over the banisters from
the landing above. "Not of anybody," repeated Marcus.
Maria came out into the hall.
"Is he gone? Is he sure gone?"
"What was the trouble?" inquired Marcus, suddenly.
"I woke up about an hour ago," Maria explained, "and Zerkow
wasn't in bed; maybe he hadn't come to bed at all. He was
down on his knees by the sink, and he'd pried up some boards
off the floor and was digging there. He had his darklantern.
He was digging with that knife, I guess, and all
the time he kept mumbling to himself, 'More'n a hundred
pieces, an' every one of 'em gold; more'n a hundred pieces,
an' every one of 'em gold.' Then, all of a sudden, he caught
sight of me. I was sitting up in bed, and he jumped up and
came at me with his knife, an' he says, 'Where is it? Where
is it? I know you got it hid somewhere. Where is it? Tell
me or I'll knife you.' I kind of fooled him and kept him
off till I got my wrapper on, an' then I run out. I didn't
dare stay."
"Well, what did you tell him about your gold dishes for in
the first place?" cried Marcus.
"I never told him," protested Maria, with the greatest
energy. "I never told him; I never heard of any gold dishes.
I don' know where he got the idea; he must be crazy."
By this time Trina and McTeague, Old Grannis, and little
Miss Baker--all the lodgers on the upper floors of the flat
--had gathered about Maria. Trina and the dentist, who had
gone to bed, were partially dressed, and Trina's enormous
mane of black hair was hanging in two thick braids far down
her back. But, late as it was, Old Grannis and the
retired dressmaker had still been up and about when Maria
had aroused them.
"Why, Maria," said Trina, "you always used to tell us about
your gold dishes. You said your folks used to have them."
"Never, never, never!" exclaimed Maria, vehemently. "You
folks must all be crazy. I never HEARD of any gold
"Well," spoke up Miss Baker, "you're a queer girl, Maria;
that's all I can say." She left the group and returned to
her room. Old Grannis watched her go from the corner of his
eye, and in a few moments followed her, leaving the group as
unnoticed as he had joined it. By degrees the flat quieted
down again. Trina and McTeague returned to their rooms.
"I guess I'll go back now," said Maria. "He's all right
now. I ain't afraid of him so long as he ain't got his
"Well, say," Marcus called to her as she went down stairs,
"if he gets funny again, you just yell out; I'LL hear
you. I won't let him hurt you."
Marcus went into his room again and resumed his wrangle with
the refractory boots. His eye fell on Zerkow's knife, a
long, keen-bladed hunting-knife, with a buckhorn handle.
"I'll take you along with me," he exclaimed, suddenly.
"I'll just need you where I'm going."
Meanwhile, old Miss Baker was making tea to calm her nerves
after the excitement of Maria's incursion. This evening she
went so far as to make tea for two, laying an extra place on
the other side of her little teatable, setting out a cup and
saucer and one of the Gorham silver spoons. Close upon the
other side of the partition Old Grannis bound uncut numbers
of the "Nation."
"Do you know what I think, Mac?" said Trina, when the couple
had returned to their rooms. "I think Marcus is going
"What? What?" muttered the dentist, very sleepy and stupid,
"what you saying? What's that about Marcus?"
"I believe Marcus has been packing up, the last two or three
days. I wonder if he's going away."
"Who's going away?" said McTeague, blinking at her.
"Oh, go to bed," said Trina, pushing him goodnaturedly.
"Mac, you're the stupidest man I ever knew."
But it was true. Marcus was going away. Trina received a
letter the next morning from her mother. The carpetcleaning
and upholstery business in which Mr. Sieppe had
involved himself was going from bad to worse. Mr. Sieppe
had even been obliged to put a mortgage upon their house.
Mrs. Sieppe didn't know what was to become of them all. Her
husband had even begun to talk of emigrating to New Zealand.
Meanwhile, she informed Trina that Mr. Sieppe had finally
come across a man with whom Marcus could "go in with on a
ranch," a cattle ranch in the southeastern portion of the
State. Her ideas were vague upon the subject, but she knew
that Marcus was wildly enthusiastic at the prospect, and was
expected down before the end of the month. In the meantime,
could Trina send them fifty dollars?
"Marcus IS going away, after all, Mac," said Trina to
her husband that day as he came out of his "Parlors" and sat
down to the lunch of sausages, mashed potatoes, and
chocolate in the sitting-room.
"Huh?" said the dentist, a little confused. "Who's going
away? Schouler going away? Why's Schouler going away?"
Trina explained. "Oh!" growled McTeague, behind his thick
mustache, "he can go far before I'LL stop him."
"And, say, Mac," continued Trina, pouring the chocolate,
"what do you think? Mamma wants me--wants us to send her
fifty dollars. She says they're hard up."
"Well," said the dentist, after a moment, "well, I guess we
can send it, can't we?"
"Oh, that's easy to say," complained Trina, her little chin
in the air, her small pale lips pursed. "I wonder if mamma
thinks we're millionaires?"
"Trina, you're getting to be regular stingy," muttered
McTeague. "You're getting worse and worse every day."
"But fifty dollars is fifty dollars, Mac. Just think how
long it takes you to earn fifty dollars. Fifty dollars!
That's two months of our interest."
"Well," said McTeague, easily, his mouth full of mashed
potato, "you got a lot saved up."
Upon every reference to that little hoard in the brass
match-safe and chamois-skin bag at the bottom of her trunk,
Trina bridled on the instant.
"Don't TALK that way, Mac. 'A lot of money.' What do
you call a lot of money? I don't believe I've got fifty
dollars saved."
"Hoh!" exclaimed McTeague. "Hoh! I guess you got nearer a
hundred AN' fifty. That's what I guess YOU got."
"I've NOT, I've NOT," declared Trina, "and you know
I've not. I wish mamma hadn't asked me for any money. Why
can't she be a little more economical? I manage all
right. No, no, I can't possibly afford to send her fifty."
"Oh, pshaw! What WILL you do, then?" grumbled her
"I'll send her twenty-five this month, and tell her I'll
send the rest as soon as I can afford it."
"Trina, you're a regular little miser," said McTeague.
"I don't care," answered Trina, beginning to laugh. "I
guess I am, but I can't help it, and it's a good fault."
Trina put off sending this money for a couple of weeks, and
her mother made no mention of it in her next letter. "Oh, I
guess if she wants it so bad," said Trina, "she'll speak
about it again." So she again postponed the sending of it.
Day by day she put it off. When her mother asked her for it
a second time, it seemed harder than ever for Trina to part
with even half the sum requested. She answered her mother,
telling her that they were very hard up themselves for that
month, but that she would send down the amount in a few
"I'll tell you what we'll do, Mac," she said to her husband,
"you send half and I'll send half; we'll send twenty-five
dollars altogether. Twelve and a half apiece. That's an
idea. How will that do?"
"Sure, sure," McTeague had answered, giving her the money.
Trina sent McTeague's twelve dollars, but never sent the
twelve that was to be her share. One day the dentist
happened to ask her about it.
"You sent that twenty-five to your mother, didn't you?" said
"Oh, long ago," answered Trina, without thinking.
In fact, Trina never allowed herself to think very much of
this affair. And, in fact, another matter soon came to
engross her attention.
One Sunday evening Trina and her husband were in their
sitting-room together. It was dark, but the lamp had not
been lit. McTeague had brought up some bottles of beer from
the "Wein Stube" on the ground floor, where the branch postoffice
used to be. But they had not opened the beer. It
was a warm evening in summer. Trina was sitting on
McTeague's lap in the bay window, and had looped back the
Nottingham curtains so the two could look out into the
darkened street and watch the moon coming up over the glass
roof of the huge public baths. On occasions they sat like
this for an hour or so, "philandering," Trina cuddling
herself down upon McTeague's enormous body, rubbing her
cheek against the grain of his unshaven chin, kissing the
bald spot on the top of his head, or putting her fingers
into his ears and eyes. At times, a brusque access of
passion would seize upon her, and, with a nervous little
sigh, she would clasp his thick red neck in both her small
arms and whisper in his ear:
"Do you love me, Mac, dear? Love me BIG, BIG?
Sure, do you love me as much as you did when we were
Puzzled, McTeague would answer: "Well, you know it, don't
you, Trina?"
"But I want you to SAY so; say so always and always."
"Well, I do, of course I do."
"Say it, then."
"Well, then, I love you."
"But you don't say it of your own accord."
"Well, what--what--what--I don't understand," stammered the
dentist, bewildered.
There was a knock on the door. Confused and
embarrassed, as if they were not married, Trina scrambled
off McTeague's lap, hastening to light the lamp, whispering,
"Put on your coat, Mac, and smooth your hair," and making
gestures for him to put the beer bottles out of sight. She
opened the door and uttered an exclamation.
"Why, Cousin Mark!" she said. McTeague glared at him,
struck speechless, confused beyond expression. Marcus
Schouler, perfectly at his ease, stood in the doorway,
smiling with great affability.
"Say," he remarked, "can I come in?"
Taken all aback, Trina could only answer:
"Why--I suppose so. Yes, of course--come in."
"Yes, yes, come in," exclaimed the dentist, suddenly,
speaking without thought. "Have some beer?" he added,
struck with an idea.
"No, thanks, Doctor," said Marcus, pleasantly.
McTeague and Trina were puzzled. What could it all mean?
Did Marcus want to become reconciled to his enemy? "I
know." Trina said to herself. "He's going away, and he
wants to borrow some money. He won't get a penny, not a
penny." She set her teeth together hard.
"Well," said Marcus, "how's business, Doctor?"
"Oh," said McTeague, uneasily, "oh, I don' know. I guess--I
guess," he broke off in helpless embarrassment. They had
all sat down by now. Marcus continued, holding his hat and
his cane--the black wand of ebony with the gold top
presented to him by the "Improvement Club."
"Ah!" said he, wagging his head and looking about the
sitting-room, "you people have got the best fixed rooms in
the whole flat. Yes, sir; you have, for a fact." He
glanced from the lithograph framed in gilt and red plush--
the two little girls at their prayers--to the "I'm Grandpa"
and "I'm Grandma" pictures, noted the clean white matting
and the gay worsted tidies over the chair backs, and
appeared to contemplate in ecstasy the framed
photograph of McTeague and Trina in their wedding finery.
"Well, you two are pretty happy together, ain't you?" said
he, smiling good-humoredly.
"Oh, we don't complain," answered Trina.
"Plenty of money, lots to do, everything fine, hey?"
"We've got lots to do," returned Trina, thinking to head him
off, "but we've not got lots of money."
But evidently Marcus wanted no money.
"Well, Cousin Trina," he said, rubbing his knee, "I'm going
"Yes, mamma wrote me; you're going on a ranch."
"I'm going in ranching with an English duck," corrected
Marcus. "Mr. Sieppe has fixed things. We'll see if we can't
raise some cattle. I know a lot about horses, and he's
ranched some before--this English duck. And then I'm going
to keep my eye open for a political chance down there. I
got some introductions from the President of the Improvement
Club. I'll work things somehow, oh, sure."
"How long you going to be gone?" asked Trina.
Marcus stared.
"Why, I ain't EVER coming back," he vociferated. "I'm
going to-morrow, and I'm going for good. I come to say
Marcus stayed for upwards of an hour that evening. He
talked on easily and agreeably, addressing himself as much
to McTeague as to Trina. At last he rose.
"Well, good-by, Doc."
"Good-by, Marcus," returned McTeague. The two shook hands.
"Guess we won't ever see each other again," continued
Marcus. "But good luck to you, Doc. Hope some day you'll
have the patients standing in line on the stairs."
"Huh! I guess so, I guess so," said the dentist.
"Good-by, Cousin Trina."
"Good-by, Marcus," answered Trina. "You be sure to
remember me to mamma, and papa, and everybody. I'm
going to make two great big sets of Noah's ark animals for
the twins on their next birthday; August is too old for
toys. But you can tell the twins that I'll make them some
great big animals. Good-by, success to you, Marcus."
"Good-by, good-by. Good luck to you both."
"Good-by, Cousin Mark."
"Good-by, Marcus."
He was gone.
One morning about a week after Marcus had left for the
southern part of the State, McTeague found an oblong letter
thrust through the letter-drop of the door of his "Parlors."
The address was typewritten. He opened it. The letter had
been sent from the City Hall and was stamped in one corner
with the seal of the State of California, very official; the
form and file numbers superscribed.
McTeague had been making fillings when this letter arrived.
He was in his "Parlors," pottering over his movable rack
underneath the bird cage in the bay window. He was making
"blocks" to be used in large proximal cavities and
"cylinders" for commencing fillings. He heard the postman's
step in the hall and saw the envelopes begin to shuttle
themselves through the slit of his letter-drop. Then came
the fat oblong envelope, with its official seal, that
dropped flatwise to the floor with a sodden, dull impact.
The dentist put down the broach and scissors and gathered
up his mail. There were four letters altogether. One
was for Trina, in Selina's "elegant" handwriting; another
was an advertisement of a new kind of operating chair for
dentists; the third was a card from a milliner on the next
block, announcing an opening; and the fourth, contained in
the fat oblong envelope, was a printed form with blanks left
for names and dates, and addressed to McTeague, from an
office in the City Hall. McTeague read it through
laboriously. "I don' know, I don' know," he muttered,
looking stupidly at the rifle manufacturer's calendar. Then
he heard Trina, from the kitchen, singing as she made a
clattering noise with the breakfast dishes. "I guess I'll
ask Trina about it," he muttered.
He went through the suite, by the sitting-room, where the
sun was pouring in through the looped backed Nottingham
curtains upon the clean white matting and the varnished
surface of the melodeon, passed on through the bedroom, with
its framed lithographs of round-cheeked English babies and
alert fox terriers, and came out into the brick-paved
kitchen. The kitchen was clean as a new whistle; the
freshly blackened cook stove glowed like a negro's hide; the
tins and porcelain-lined stew-pans might have been of silver
and of ivory. Trina was in the centre of the room, wiping
off, with a damp sponge, the oilcloth table-cover, on which
they had breakfasted. Never had she looked so pretty.
Early though it was, her enormous tiara of swarthy hair was
neatly combed and coiled, not a pin was so much as loose.
She wore a blue calico skirt with a white figure, and a belt
of imitation alligator skin clasped around her small,
firmly-corseted waist; her shirt waist was of pink linen, so
new and crisp that it crackled with every movement, while
around the collar, tied in a neat knot, was one of
McTeague's lawn ties which she had appropriated. Her
sleeves were carefully rolled up almost to her shoulders,
and nothing could have been more delicious than the sight of
her small round arms, white as milk, moving back and forth
as she sponged the table-cover, a faint touch of pink coming
and going at the elbows as they bent and straightened. She
looked up quickly as her husband entered, her narrow eyes
alight, her adorable little chin in the air; her lips
rounded and opened with the last words of her song, so
that one could catch a glint of gold in the fillings of her
upper teeth.
The whole scene--the clean kitchen and its clean brick
floor; the smell of coffee that lingered in the air; Trina
herself, fresh as if from a bath, and singing at her work;
the morning sun, striking obliquely through the white muslin
half-curtain of the window and spanning the little kitchen
with a bridge of golden mist--gave off, as it were, a note
of gayety that was not to be resisted. Through the opened
top of the window came the noises of Polk Street, already
long awake. One heard the chanting of street cries, the
shrill calling of children on their way to school, the merry
rattle of a butcher's cart, the brisk noise of hammering, or
the occasional prolonged roll of a cable car trundling
heavily past, with a vibrant whirring of its jostled glass
and the joyous clanging of its bells.
"What is it, Mac, dear?" said Trina.
McTeague shut the door behind him with his heel and handed
her the letter. Trina read it through. Then suddenly her
small hand gripped tightly upon the sponge, so that the
water started from it and dripped in a little pattering
deluge upon the bricks.
The letter--or rather printed notice--informed McTeague that
he had never received a diploma from a dental college, and
that in consequence he was forbidden to practise his
profession any longer. A legal extract bearing upon the
case was attached in small type.
"Why, what's all this?" said Trina, calmly, without thought
as yet.
"I don' know, I don' know," answered her husband.
"You can't practise any longer," continued Trina,--"'is
herewith prohibited and enjoined from further continuing----
'" She re-read the extract, her forehead lifting and
puckering. She put the sponge carefully away in its wire
rack over the sink, and drew up a chair to the table,
spreading out the notice before her. "Sit down," she said to
McTeague. "Draw up to the table here, Mac, and let's see
what this is."
"I got it this morning," murmured the dentist. "It just now
came. I was making some fillings--there, in the
'Parlors,' in the window--and the postman shoved it through
the door. I thought it was a number of the 'American System
of Dentistry' at first, and when I'd opened it and looked at
it I thought I'd better----"
"Say, Mac," interrupted Trina, looking up from the notice,
"DIDN'T you ever go to a dental college?"
"Huh? What? What?" exclaimed McTeague.
"How did you learn to be a dentist? Did you go to a
"I went along with a fellow who came to the mine once. My
mother sent me. We used to go from one camp to another. I
sharpened his excavators for him, and put up his notices in
the towns--stuck them up in the post-offices and on the
doors of the Odd Fellows' halls. He had a wagon."
"But didn't you never go to a college?"
"Huh? What? College? No, I never went. I learned from
the fellow."
Trina rolled down her sleeves. She was a little paler than
usual. She fastened the buttons into the cuffs and said:
"But do you know you can't practise unless you're graduated
from a college? You haven't the right to call yourself,
McTeague stared a moment; then:
"Why, I've been practising ten years. More--nearly twelve."
"But it's the law."
"What's the law?"
"That you can't practise, or call yourself doctor, unless
you've got a diploma."
"What's that--a diploma?"
"I don't know exactly. It's a kind of paper that--that--oh,
Mac, we're ruined." Trina's voice rose to a cry.
"What do you mean, Trina? Ain't I a dentist? Ain't I a
doctor? Look at my sign, and the gold tooth you gave me.
Why, I've been practising nearly twelve years."
Trina shut her lips tightly, cleared her throat, and
pretended to resettle a hair-pin at the back of her head.
"I guess it isn't as bad as that," she said, very quietly.
"Let's read this again. 'Herewith prohibited and
enjoined from further continuing----'" She read to the end.
"Why, it isn't possible," she cried. "They can't mean--oh,
Mac, I do believe--pshaw!" she exclaimed, her pale face
flushing. "They don't know how good a dentist you are.
What difference does a diploma make, if you're a first-class
dentist? I guess that's all right. Mac, didn't you ever go
to a dental college?"
"No," answered McTeague, doggedly. "What was the good? I
learned how to operate; wa'n't that enough?"
"Hark," said Trina, suddenly. "Wasn't that the bell of your
office?" They had both heard the jangling of the bell that
McTeague had hung over the door of his "Parlors." The
dentist looked at the kitchen clock.
"That's Vanovitch," said he. "He's a plumber round on
Sutter Street. He's got an appointment with me to have a
bicuspid pulled. I got to go back to work." He rose.
"But you can't," cried Trina, the back of her hand upon her
lips, her eyes brimming. "Mac, don't you see? Can't you
understand? You've got to stop. Oh, it's dreadful!
Listen." She hurried around the table to him and caught his
arm in both her hands.
"Huh?" growled McTeague, looking at her with a puzzled
"They'll arrest you. You'll go to prison. You can't work--
can't work any more. We're ruined."
Vanovitch was pounding on the door of the sitting-room.
"He'll be gone in a minute," exclaimed McTeague.
"Well, let him go. Tell him to go; tell him to come again."
"Why, he's got an APPOINTMENT with me," exclaimed
McTeague, his hand upon the door.
Trina caught him back. "But, Mac, you ain't a dentist any
longer; you ain't a doctor. You haven't the right to work.
You never went to a dental college."
"Well, suppose I never went to a college, ain't I a dentist
just the same? Listen, he's pounding there again. No, I'm
going, sure."
"Well, of course, go," said Trina, with sudden reaction.
"It ain't possible they'll make you stop. If you're a
good dentist, that's all that's wanted. Go on, Mac; hurry,
before he goes."
McTeague went out, closing the door. Trina stood for a
moment looking intently at the bricks at her feet. Then she
returned to the table, and sat down again before the notice,
and, resting her head in both her fists, read it yet another
time. Suddenly the conviction seized upon her that it was
all true. McTeague would be obliged to stop work, no matter
how good a dentist he was. But why had the authorities at
the City Hall waited this long before serving the notice?
All at once Trina snapped her fingers, with a quick flash of
"It's Marcus that's done it," she cried.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was like a clap of thunder. McTeague was stunned,
stupefied. He said nothing. Never in his life had he been
so taciturn. At times he did not seem to hear Trina when she
spoke to him, and often she had to shake him by the shoulder
to arouse his attention. He would sit apart in his
"Parlors," turning the notice about in his enormous clumsy
fingers, reading it stupidly over and over again. He
couldn't understand. What had a clerk at the City Hall to
do with him? Why couldn't they let him alone?
"Oh, what's to become of us NOW?" wailed Trina. "What's
to become of us now? We're paupers, beggars--and all so
sudden." And once, in a quick, inexplicable fury, totally
unlike anything that McTeague had noticed in her before, she
had started up, with fists and teeth shut tight, and had
cried, "Oh, if you'd only KILLED Marcus Schouler that
time he fought you!"
McTeague had continued his work, acting from sheer force of
habit; his sluggish, deliberate nature, methodical,
obstinate, refusing to adapt itself to the new conditions.
"Maybe Marcus was only trying to scare us," Trina had said.
"How are they going to know whether you're practising or
"I got a mould to make to-morrow," McTeague said, "and
Vanovitch, that plumber round on Sutter Street, he's
coming again at three."
"Well, you go right ahead," Trina told him, decisively; "you
go right ahead and make the mould, and pull every tooth in
Vanovitch's head if you want to. Who's going to know?
Maybe they just sent that notice as a matter of form. Maybe
Marcus got that paper and filled it in himself."
The two would lie awake all night long, staring up into the
dark, talking, talking, talking.
"Haven't you got any right to practise if you've not been to
a dental college, Mac? Didn't you ever go?" Trina would ask
again and again.
"No, no," answered the dentist, "I never went. I learnt
from the fellow I was apprenticed to. I don' know anything
about a dental college. Ain't I got a right to do as I
like?" he suddenly exclaimed.
"If you know your profession, isn't that enough?" cried
"Sure, sure," growled McTeague. "I ain't going to stop for
"You go right on," Trina said, "and I bet you won't hear
another word about it."
"Suppose I go round to the City Hall and see them," hazarded
"No, no, don't you do it, Mac," exclaimed Trina. "Because,
if Marcus has done this just to scare you, they won't know
anything about it there at the City Hall; but they'll begin
to ask you questions, and find out that you never HAD
graduated from a dental college, and you'd be just as bad
off as ever."
"Well, I ain't going to quit for just a piece of paper,"
declared the dentist. The phrase stuck to him. All day
long he went about their rooms or continued at his work in
the "Parlors," growling behind his thick mustache: "I ain't
going to quit for just a piece of paper. No, I ain't going
to quit for just a piece of paper. Sure not."
The days passed, a week went by, McTeague continued his
work as usual. They heard no more from the City Hall,
but the suspense of the situation was harrowing. Trina was
actually sick with it. The terror of the thing was ever at
their elbows, going to bed with them, sitting down with them
at breakfast in the kitchen, keeping them company all
through the day. Trina dared not think of what would be
their fate if the income derived from McTeague's practice
was suddenly taken from them. Then they would have to fall
back on the interest of her lottery money and the pittance
she derived from the manufacture of the Noah's ark animals,
a little over thirty dollars a month. No, no, it was not to
be thought of. It could not be that their means of
livelihood was to be thus stricken from them.
A fortnight went by. "I guess we're all right, Mac," Trina
allowed herself to say. "It looks as though we were all
right. How are they going to tell whether you're practising
or not?"
That day a second and much more peremptory notice was served
upon McTeague by an official in person. Then suddenly Trina
was seized with a panic terror, unreasoned, instinctive. If
McTeague persisted they would both be sent to a prison, she
was sure of it; a place where people were chained to the
wall, in the dark, and fed on bread and water.
"Oh, Mac, you've got to quit," she wailed. "You can't go
on. They can make you stop. Oh, why didn't you go to a
dental college? Why didn't you find out that you had to
have a college degree? And now we're paupers, beggars.
We've got to leave here--leave this flat where I've been--
where WE'VE been so happy, and sell all the pretty
things; sell the pictures and the melodeon, and--Oh, it's
too dreadful!"
"Huh? Huh? What? What?" exclaimed the dentist,
bewildered. "I ain't going to quit for just a piece of
paper. Let them put me out. I'll show them. They--they
can't make small of me."
"Oh, that's all very fine to talk that way, but you'll have
to quit."
"Well, we ain't paupers," McTeague suddenly exclaimed, an
idea entering his mind. "We've got our money yet. You've
got your five thousand dollars and the money you've been
saving up. People ain't paupers when they've got over
five thousand dollars."
"What do you mean, Mac?" cried Trina, apprehensively.
"Well, we can live on THAT money until--until--until--"
he broke off with an uncertain movement of his shoulders,
looking about him stupidly.
"Until WHEN?" cried Trina. "There ain't ever going to
be any 'until.' We've got the INTEREST of that five
thousand and we've got what Uncle Oelbermann gives me, a
little over thirty dollars a month, and that's all we've
got. You'll have to find something else to do."
"What will I find to do?"
What, indeed? McTeague was over thirty now, sluggish and
slow-witted at best. What new trade could he learn at this
Little by little Trina made the dentist understand the
calamity that had befallen them, and McTeague at last began
cancelling his appointments. Trina gave it out that he was
"Not a soul need know what's happened to us," she said to
her husband.
But it was only by slow degrees that McTeague abandoned his
profession. Every morning after breakfast he would go into
his "Parlors" as usual and potter about his instruments, his
dental engine, and his washstand in the corner behind his
screen where he made his moulds. Now he would sharpen a
"hoe" excavator, now he would busy himself for a whole hour
making "mats" and "cylinders." Then he would look over his
slate where he kept a record of his appointments.
One day Trina softly opened the door of the "Parlors" and
came in from the sitting-room. She had not heard McTeague
moving about for some time and had begun to wonder what he
was doing. She came in, quietly shutting the door behind
McTeague had tidied the room with the greatest care. The
volumes of the "Practical Dentist" and the "American System
of Dentistry" were piled upon the marble-top centre-table in
rectangular blocks. The few chairs were drawn up against
the wall under the steel engraving of "Lorenzo de'
Medici" with more than usual precision. The dental engine
and the nickelled trimmings of the operating chair had been
furbished till they shone, while on the movable rack in the
bay window McTeague had arranged his instruments with the
greatest neatness and regularity. "Hoe" excavators,
pluggers, forceps, pliers, corundum disks and burrs, even
the boxwood mallet that Trina was never to use again, all
were laid out and ready for immediate use.
McTeague himself sat in his operating chair, looking
stupidly out of the windows, across the roofs opposite, with
an unseeing gaze, his red hands lying idly in his lap.
Trina came up to him. There was something in his eyes that
made her put both arms around his neck and lay his huge head
with its coarse blond hair upon her shoulder.
"I--I got everything fixed," he said. "I got everything
fixed an' ready. See, everything ready an' waiting, an'--
an'--an' nobody comes, an' nobody's ever going to come any
more. Oh, Trina!" He put his arms about her and drew her
down closer to him.
"Never mind, dear; never mind," cried Trina, through her
tears. "It'll all come right in the end, and we'll be poor
together if we have to. You can sure find something else to
do. We'll start in again."
"Look at the slate there," said McTeague, pulling away from
her and reaching down the slate on which he kept a record of
his appointments. "Look at them. There's Vanovitch at two
on Wednesday, and Loughhead's wife Thursday morning, and
Heise's little girl Thursday afternoon at one-thirty; Mrs.
Watson on Friday, and Vanovitch again Saturday morning
early--at seven. That's what I was to have had, and they
ain't going to come. They ain't ever going to come any
Trina took the little slate from him and looked at it
"Rub them out," she said, her voice trembling; "rub it all
out;" and as she spoke her eyes brimmed again, and a great
tear dropped on the slate. "That's it," she said; "that's
the way to rub it out, by me crying on it." Then she
passed her fingers over the tear-blurred writing and washed
the slate clean. "All gone, all gone," she said.
"All gone," echoed the dentist. There was a silence. Then
McTeague heaved himself up to his full six feet two, his
face purpling, his enormous mallet-like fists raised over
his head. His massive jaw protruded more than ever, while
his teeth clicked and grated together; then he growled:
"If ever I meet Marcus Schouler--" he broke off abruptly,
the white of his eyes growing suddenly pink.
"Oh, if ever you DO," exclaimed Trina, catching her
"Well, what do you think?" said Trina.
She and McTeague stood in a tiny room at the back of the
flat and on its very top floor. The room was whitewashed.
It contained a bed, three cane-seated chairs, and a wooden
washstand with its washbowl and pitcher. From its single
uncurtained window one looked down into the flat's dirty
back yard and upon the roofs of the hovels that bordered the
alley in the rear. There was a rag carpet on the floor. In
place of a closet some dozen wooden pegs were affixed to the
wall over the washstand. There was a smell of cheap soap
and of ancient hair-oil in the air.
"That's a single bed," said Trina, "but the landlady says
she'll put in a double one for us. You see----"
"I ain't going to live here," growled McTeague.
"Well, you've got to live somewhere," said Trina,
impatiently. "We've looked Polk Street over, and this
is the only thing we can afford."
"Afford, afford," muttered the dentist. "You with your five
thousand dollars, and the two or three hundred you got saved
up, talking about 'afford.' You make me sick."
"Now, Mac," exclaimed Trina, deliberately, sitting down in
one of the cane-seated chairs; "now, Mac, let's have this
"Well, I don't figure on living in one room," growled the
dentist, sullenly. "Let's live decently until we can get a
fresh start. We've got the money."
"Who's got the money?"
"WE'VE got it."
"Well, it's all in the family. What's yours is mine, and
what's mine is yours, ain't it?"
"No, it's not; no, it's not," cried Trina, vehemently.
"It's all mine, mine. There's not a penny of it belongs to
anybody else. I don't like to have to talk this way to you,
but you just make me. We're not going to touch a penny of
my five thousand nor a penny of that little money I managed
to save--that seventy-five."
"That TWO hundred, you mean."
"That SEVENTY-FIVE. We're just going to live on the
interest of that and on what I earn from Uncle Oelbermann--
on just that thirty-one or two dollars."
"Huh! Think I'm going to do that, an' live in such a room
as this?"
Trina folded her arms and looked him squarely in the face.
"Well, what ARE you going to do, then?"
"I say, what ARE you going to do? You can go on and
find something to do and earn some more money, and THEN
we'll talk."
"Well, I ain't going to live here."
"Oh, very well, suit yourself. I'M going to live here."
"You'll live where I TELL you," the dentist suddenly
cried, exasperated at the mincing tone she affected.
"Then YOU'LL pay the rent," exclaimed Trina, quite
as angry as he.
"Are you my boss, I'd like to know? Who's the boss, you or
"Who's got the MONEY, I'd like to know?" cried Trina,
flushing to her pale lips. "Answer me that, McTeague,
who's got the money?"
"You make me sick, you and your money. Why, you're a
miser. I never saw anything like it. When I was
practising, I never thought of my fees as my own; we lumped
everything in together."
"Exactly; and I'M doing the working now. I'm working
for Uncle Oelbermann, and you're not lumping in ANYTHING
now. I'm doing it all. Do you know what I'm doing,
McTeague? I'm supporting you."
"Ah, shut up; you make me sick."
"You got no RIGHT to talk to me that way. I won't let
you. I--I won't have it." She caught her breath. Tears
were in her eyes.
"Oh, live where you like, then," said McTeague, sullenly.
"Well, shall we take this room then?"
"All right, we'll take it. But why can't you take a little
of your money an'--an'--sort of fix it up?"
"Not a penny, not a single penny."
"Oh, I don't care WHAT you do." And for the rest of the
day the dentist and his wife did not speak.
This was not the only quarrel they had during these days
when they were occupied in moving from their suite and in
looking for new quarters. Every hour the question of money
came up. Trina had become more niggardly than ever since the
loss of McTeague's practice. It was not mere economy with
her now. It was a panic terror lest a fraction of a cent of
her little savings should be touched; a passionate eagerness
to continue to save in spite of all that had happened.
Trina could have easily afforded better quarters than the
single whitewashed room at the top of the flat, but she made
McTeague believe that it was impossible.
"I can still save a little," she said to herself, after the
room had been engaged; "perhaps almost as much as ever.
I'll have three hundred dollars pretty soon, and Mac thinks
it's only two hundred. It's almost two hundred and fifty;
and I'll get a good deal out of the sale."
But this sale was a long agony. It lasted a week.
Everything went--everything but the few big pieces that went
with the suite, and that belonged to the photographer. The
melodeon, the chairs, the black walnut table before which
they were married, the extension table in the sitting-room,
the kitchen table with its oilcloth cover, the framed
lithographs from the English illustrated papers, the very
carpets on the floors. But Trina's heart nearly broke when
the kitchen utensils and furnishings began to go. Every
pot, every stewpan, every knife and fork, was an old friend.
How she had worked over them! How clean she had kept them!
What a pleasure it had been to invade that little brickpaved
kitchen every morning, and to wash up and put to
rights after breakfast, turning on the hot water at the
sink, raking down the ashes in the cook-stove, going and
coming over the warm bricks, her head in the air, singing at
her work, proud in the sense of her proprietorship and her
independence! How happy had she been the day after her
marriage when she had first entered that kitchen and knew
that it was all her own! And how well she remembered her
raids upon the bargain counters in the house-furnishing
departments of the great down-town stores! And now it was
all to go. Some one else would have it all, while she was
relegated to cheap restaurants and meals cooked by hired
servants. Night after night she sobbed herself to sleep at
the thought of her past happiness and her present
wretchedness. However, she was not alone in her unhappiness.
"Anyhow, I'm going to keep the steel engraving an' the stone
pug dog," declared the dentist, his fist clenching. When it
had come to the sale of his office effects McTeague had
rebelled with the instinctive obstinacy of a boy, shutting
his eyes and ears. Only little by little did Trina induce
him to part with his office furniture. He fought over every
article, over the little iron stove, the bed-lounge, the
marble-topped centre table, the whatnot in the corner,
the bound volumes of "Allen's Practical Dentist," the rifle
manufacturer's calendar, and the prim, military chairs. A
veritable scene took place between him and his wife before
he could bring himself to part with the steel engraving of
"Lorenzo de' Medici and His Court" and the stone pug dog
with its goggle eyes.
"Why," he would cry, "I've had 'em ever since--ever since I
BEGAN; long before I knew you, Trina. That steel
engraving I bought in Sacramento one day when it was
raining. I saw it in the window of a second-hand store, and
a fellow GAVE me that stone pug dog. He was a druggist.
It was in Sacramento too. We traded. I gave him a shavingmug
and a razor, and he gave me the pug dog."
There were, however, two of his belongings that even Trina
could not induce him to part with.
"And your concertina, Mac," she prompted, as they were
making out the list for the second-hand dealer. "The
concertina, and--oh, yes, the canary and the bird cage."
"Mac, you MUST be reasonable. The concertina would
bring quite a sum, and the bird cage is as good as new.
I'll sell the canary to the bird-store man on Kearney
"If you're going to make objections to every single thing,
we might as well quit. Come, now, Mac, the concertina and
the bird cage. We'll put them in Lot D."
"You'll have to come to it sooner or later. I'M giving
up everything. I'm going to put them down, see."
And she could get no further than that. The dentist did not
lose his temper, as in the case of the steel engraving or
the stone pug dog; he simply opposed her entreaties and
persuasions with a passive, inert obstinacy that nothing
could move. In the end Trina was obliged to submit.
McTeague kept his concertina and his canary, even going so
far as to put them both away in the bedroom, attaching
to them tags on which he had scrawled in immense round
letters, "Not for Sale."
One evening during that same week the dentist and his wife
were in the dismantled sitting-room. The room presented
the appearance of a wreck. The Nottingham lace curtains
were down. The extension table was heaped high with dishes,
with tea and coffee pots, and with baskets of spoons and
knives and forks. The melodeon was hauled out into the
middle of the floor, and covered with a sheet marked "Lot
A," the pictures were in a pile in a corner, the chenille
portieres were folded on top of the black walnut table. The
room was desolate, lamentable. Trina was going over the
inventory; McTeague, in his shirt sleeves, was smoking his
pipe, looking stupidly out of the window. All at once there
was a brisk rapping at the door.
"Come in," called Trina, apprehensively. Now-a-days at
every unexpected visit she anticipated a fresh calamity.
The door opened to let in a young man wearing a checked
suit, a gay cravat, and a marvellously figured waistcoat.
Trina and McTeague recognized him at once. It was the
Other Dentist, the debonair fellow whose clients were the
barbers and the young women of the candy stores and sodawater
fountains, the poser, the wearer of waistcoats, who
bet money on greyhound races.
"How'do?" said this one, bowing gracefully to the McTeagues
as they stared at him distrustfully.
"How'do? They tell me, Doctor, that you are going out of
the profession."
McTeague muttered indistinctly behind his mustache and
glowered at him.
"Well, say," continued the other, cheerily, "I'd like to
talk business with you. That sign of yours, that big golden
tooth that you got outside of your window, I don't suppose
you'll have any further use for it. Maybe I'd buy it if we
could agree on terms."
Trina shot a glance at her husband. McTeague began to
glower again.
"What do you say?" said the Other Dentist.
"I guess not," growled McTeague
"What do you say to ten dollars?"
"Ten dollars!" cried Trina, her chin in the air.
"Well, what figure DO you put on it?"
Trina was about to answer when she was interrupted by
"You go out of here."
"Hey? What?"
"You go out of here."
The other retreated toward the door.
"You can't make small of me. Go out of here."
McTeague came forward a step, his great red fist clenching.
The young man fled. But half way down the stairs he paused
long enough to call back:
"You don't want to trade anything for a diploma, do you?"
McTeague and his wife exchanged looks.
"How did he know?" exclaimed Trina, sharply. They had
invented and spread the fiction that McTeague was merely
retiring from business, without assigning any reason. But
evidently every one knew the real cause. The humiliation
was complete now. Old Miss Baker confirmed their suspicions
on this point the next day. The little retired dressmaker
came down and wept with Trina over her misfortune, and did
what she could to encourage her. But she too knew that
McTeague had been forbidden by the authorities from
practising. Marcus had evidently left them no loophole of
"It's just like cutting off your husband's hands, my dear,"
said Miss Baker. "And you two were so happy. When I first
saw you together I said, 'What a pair!'"
Old Grannis also called during this period of the breaking
up of the McTeague household.
"Dreadful, dreadful," murmured the old Englishman, his hand
going tremulously to his chin. "It seems unjust; it does.
But Mr. Schouler could not have set them on to do it. I
can't quite believe it of him."
"Of Marcus!" cried Trina. "Hoh! Why, he threw his knife at
Mac one time, and another time he bit him, actually bit him
with his teeth, while they were wrestling just for fun.
Marcus would do anything to injure Mac."
"Dear, dear," returned Old Grannis, genuinely pained. "I
had always believed Schouler to be such a good fellow."
"That's because you're so good yourself, Mr. Grannis,"
responded Trina.
"I tell you what, Doc," declared Heise the harness-maker,
shaking his finger impressively at the dentist, "you must
fight it; you must appeal to the courts; you've been
practising too long to be debarred now. The statute of
limitations, you know."
"No, no," Trina had exclaimed, when the dentist had repeated
this advice to her. "No, no, don't go near the law courts.
I know them. The lawyers take all your money, and you
lose your case. We're bad off as it is, without lawing
about it."
Then at last came the sale. McTeague and Trina, whom Miss
Baker had invited to her room for that day, sat there side
by side, holding each other's hands, listening nervously to
the turmoil that rose to them from the direction of their
suite. From nine o'clock till dark the crowds came and
went. All Polk Street seemed to have invaded the suite,
lured on by the red flag that waved from the front windows.
It was a fete, a veritable holiday, for the whole
neighborhood. People with no thought of buying presented
themselves. Young women--the candy-store girls and
florist's apprentices--came to see the fun, walking arm in
arm from room to room, making jokes about the pretty
lithographs and mimicking the picture of the two little
girls saying their prayers.
"Look here," they would cry, "look here what she used for
curtains--NOTTINGHAM lace, actually! Whoever thinks of
buying Nottingham lace now-a-days? Say, don't that JAR
"And a melodeon," another one would exclaim, lifting the
sheet. "A melodeon, when you can rent a piano for a dollar a
week; and say, I really believe they used to eat in the
"Dollarn-half, dollarn-half, dollarn-half, give me two,"
intoned the auctioneer from the second-hand store. By noon
the crowd became a jam. Wagons backed up to the curb
outside and departed heavily laden. In all directions
people could be seen going away from the house,
carrying small articles of furniture--a clock, a water
pitcher, a towel rack. Every now and then old Miss Baker,
who had gone below to see how things were progressing,
returned with reports of the foray.
"Mrs. Heise bought the chenille portieres. Mister Ryer made
a bid for your bed, but a man in a gray coat bid over him.
It was knocked down for three dollars and a half. The
German shoe-maker on the next block bought the stone pug
dog. I saw our postman going away with a lot of the
pictures. Zerkow has come, on my word! the rags-bottlessacks
man; he's buying lots; he bought all Doctor McTeague's
gold tape and some of the instruments. Maria's there too.
That dentist on the corner took the dental engine, and
wanted to get the sign, the big gold tooth," and so on and
so on. Cruelest of all, however, at least to Trina, was
when Miss Baker herself began to buy, unable to resist a
bargain. The last time she came up she carried a bundle of
the gay tidies that used to hang over the chair backs.
"He offered them, three for a nickel," she explained to
Trina, "and I thought I'd spend just a quarter. You don't
mind, now, do you, Mrs. McTeague?"
"Why, no, of course not, Miss Baker," answered Trina,
"They'll look very pretty on some of my chairs," went on the
little old dressmaker, innocently. "See." She spread one
of them on a chair back for inspection. Trina's chin
"Oh, VERY pretty," she answered.
At length that dreadful day was over. The crowd dispersed.
Even the auctioneer went at last, and as he closed the door
with a bang, the reverberation that went through the suite
gave evidence of its emptiness.
"Come," said Trina to the dentist, "let's go down and look--
take a last look."
They went out of Miss Baker's room and descended to the
floor below. On the stairs, however, they were met by Old
Grannis. In his hands he carried a little package. Was it
possible that he too had taken advantage of their
misfortunes to join in the raid upon the suite?
"I went in," he began, timidly, "for--for a few moments.
This"--he indicated the little package he carried--"this was
put up. It was of no value but to you. I--I ventured to
bid it in. I thought perhaps"--his hand went to his chin,
"that you wouldn't mind; that--in fact, I bought it for you
--as a present. Will you take it?" He handed the package
to Trina and hurried on. Trina tore off the wrappings.
It was the framed photograph of McTeague and his wife in
their wedding finery, the one that had been taken
immediately after the marriage. It represented Trina
sitting very erect in a rep armchair, holding her wedding
bouquet straight before her, McTeague standing at her side,
his left foot forward, one hand upon her shoulder, and the
other thrust into the breast of his "Prince Albert" coat, in
the attitude of a statue of a Secretary of State.
"Oh, it WAS good of him, it WAS good of him," cried
Trina, her eyes filling again. "I had forgotten to put it
away. Of course it was not for sale."
They went on down the stairs, and arriving at the door of
the sitting-room, opened it and looked in. It was late in
the afternoon, and there was just light enough for the
dentist and his wife to see the results of that day of sale.
Nothing was left, not even the carpet. It was a pillage, a
devastation, the barrenness of a field after the passage of
a swarm of locusts. The room had been picked and stripped
till only the bare walls and floor remained. Here where
they had been married, where the wedding supper had taken
place, where Trina had bade farewell to her father and
mother, here where she had spent those first few hard months
of her married life, where afterward she had grown to be
happy and contented, where she had passed the long hours of
the afternoon at her work of whittling, and where she and
her husband had spent so many evenings looking out of the
window before the lamp was lit--here in what had been her
home, nothing was left but echoes and the emptiness of
complete desolation. Only one thing remained. On the wall
between the windows, in its oval glass frame, preserved by
some unknown and fearful process, a melancholy relic of a
vanished happiness, unsold, neglected, and forgotten, a
thing that nobody wanted, hung Trina's wedding bouquet.
Then the grind began. It would have been easier for the
McTeagues to have faced their misfortunes had they befallen
them immediately after their marriage, when their love for
each other was fresh and fine, and when they could have
found a certain happiness in helping each other and sharing
each other's privations. Trina, no doubt, loved her husband
more than ever, in the sense that she felt she belonged to
him. But McTeague's affection for his wife was dwindling a
little every day--HAD been dwindling for a long time, in
fact. He had become used to her by now. She was part of
the order of the things with which he found himself
surrounded. He saw nothing extraordinary about her; it was
no longer a pleasure for him to kiss her and take her in his
arms; she was merely his wife. He did not dislike her; he
did not love her. She was his wife, that was all. But he
sadly missed and regretted all those little animal comforts
which in the old prosperous life Trina had managed to find
for him. He missed the cabbage soups and steaming chocolate
that Trina had taught him to like; he missed his good
tobacco that Trina had educated him to prefer; he missed the
Sunday afternoon walks that she had caused him to substitute
in place of his nap in the operating chair; and he
missed the bottled beer that she had induced him to
drink in place of the steam beer from Frenna's. In the end
he grew morose and sulky, and sometimes neglected to answer
his wife when she spoke to him. Besides this, Trina's
avarice was a perpetual annoyance to him. Oftentimes when a
considerable alleviation of this unhappiness could have been
obtained at the expense of a nickel or a dime, Trina refused
the money with a pettishness that was exasperating.
"No, no," she would exclaim. "To ride to the park Sunday
afternoon, that means ten cents, and I can't afford it."
"Let's walk there, then."
"I've got to work."
"But you've worked morning and afternoon every day this
"I don't care, I've got to work."
There had been a time when Trina had hated the idea of
McTeague drinking steam beer as common and vulgar.
"Say, let's have a bottle of beer to-night. We haven't had
a drop of beer in three weeks."
"We can't afford it. It's fifteen cents a bottle."
"But I haven't had a swallow of beer in three weeks."
"Drink STEAM beer, then. You've got a nickel. I gave
you a quarter day before yesterday."
"But I don't like steam beer now."
It was so with everything. Unfortunately, Trina had
cultivated tastes in McTeague which now could not be
gratified. He had come to be very proud of his silk hat and
"Prince Albert" coat, and liked to wear them on Sundays.
Trina had made him sell both. He preferred "Yale mixture"
in his pipe; Trina had made him come down to "Mastiff," a
five-cent tobacco with which he was once contented, but now
abhorred. He liked to wear clean cuffs; Trina allowed him a
fresh pair on Sundays only. At first these deprivations
angered McTeague. Then, all of a sudden, he slipped back
into the old habits (that had been his before he knew Trina)
with an ease that was surprising. Sundays he dined at the
car conductors' coffee-joint once more, and spent the
afternoon lying full length upon the bed, crop-full,
stupid, warm, smoking his huge pipe, drinking his steam
beer, and playing his six mournful tunes upon his
concertina, dozing off to sleep towards four o'clock.
The sale of their furniture had, after paying the rent and
outstanding bills, netted about a hundred and thirty
dollars. Trina believed that the auctioneer from the secondhand
store had swindled and cheated them and had made a
great outcry to no effect. But she had arranged the affair
with the auctioneer herself, and offset her disappointment
in the matter of the sale by deceiving her husband as to the
real amount of the returns. It was easy to lie to McTeague,
who took everything for granted; and since the occasion of
her trickery with the money that was to have been sent to
her mother, Trina had found falsehood easier than ever.
"Seventy dollars is all the auctioneer gave me," she told
her husband; "and after paying the balance due on the rent,
and the grocer's bill, there's only fifty left."
"Only fifty?" murmured McTeague, wagging his head, "only
fifty? Think of that."
"Only fifty," declared Trina. Afterwards she said to
herself with a certain admiration for her cleverness:
"Couldn't save sixty dollars much easier than that," and she
had added the hundred and thirty to the little hoard in the
chamois-skin bag and brass match-box in the bottom of her
In these first months of their misfortunes the routine of
the McTeagues was as follows: They rose at seven and
breakfasted in their room, Trina cooking the very meagre
meal on an oil stove. Immediately after breakfast Trina sat
down to her work of whittling the Noah's ark animals, and
McTeague took himself off to walk down town. He had by the
greatest good luck secured a position with a manufacturer of
surgical instruments, where his manual dexterity in the
making of excavators, pluggers, and other dental
contrivances stood him in fairly good stead. He lunched at
a sailor's boarding-house near the water front, and in the
afternoon worked till six. He was home at six-thirty, and
he and Trina had supper together in the "ladies' dining
parlor," an adjunct of the car conductors' coffeejoint.
Trina, meanwhile, had worked at her whittling all
day long, with but half an hour's interval for lunch, which
she herself prepared upon the oil stove. In the evening
they were both so tired that they were in no mood for
conversation, and went to bed early, worn out, harried,
nervous, and cross.
Trina was not quite so scrupulously tidy now as in the old
days. At one time while whittling the Noah's ark animals
she had worn gloves. She never wore them now. She still
took pride in neatly combing and coiling her wonderful black
hair, but as the days passed she found it more and more
comfortable to work in her blue flannel wrapper. Whittlings
and chips accumulated under the window where she did her
work, and she was at no great pains to clear the air of the
room vitiated by the fumes of the oil stove and heavy with
the smell of cooking. It was not gay, that life. The room
itself was not gay. The huge double bed sprawled over
nearly a fourth of the available space; the angles of
Trina's trunk and the washstand projected into the room from
the walls, and barked shins and scraped elbows. Streaks and
spots of the "non-poisonous" paint that Trina used were upon
the walls and wood-work. However, in one corner of the
room, next the window, monstrous, distorted, brilliant,
shining with a light of its own, stood the dentist's sign,
the enormous golden tooth, the tooth of a Brobdingnag.
One afternoon in September, about four months after the
McTeagues had left their suite, Trina was at her work by the
window. She had whittled some half-dozen sets of animals,
and was now busy painting them and making the arks. Little
pots of "non-poisonous" paint stood at her elbow on the
table, together with a box of labels that read, "Made in
France." Her huge clasp-knife was stuck into the under side
of the table. She was now occupied solely with the brushes
and the glue pot. She turned the little figures in her
fingers with a wonderful lightness and deftness, painting
the chickens Naples yellow, the elephants blue gray, the
horses Vandyke brown, adding a dot of Chinese white for the
eyes and sticking in the ears and tail with a drop of glue.
The animals once done, she put together and painted the
arks, some dozen of them, all windows and no doors, each one
opening only by a lid which was half the roof. She had all
the work she could handle these days, for, from this time
till a week before Christmas, Uncle Oelbermann could take as
many "Noah's ark sets" as she could make.
Suddenly Trina paused in her work, looking expectantly
toward the door. McTeague came in.
"Why, Mac," exclaimed Trina. "It's only three o'clock. What
are you home so early for? Have they discharged you?"
"They've fired me," said McTeague, sitting down on the bed.
"Fired you! What for?"
"I don' know. Said the times were getting hard an' they had
to let me go."
Trina let her paint-stained hands fall into her lap.
"OH!" she cried. "If we don't have the HARDEST luck
of any two people I ever heard of. What can you do now? Is
there another place like that where they make surgical
"Huh? No, I don' know. There's three more."
"Well, you must try them right away. Go down there right
"Huh? Right now? No, I'm tired. I'll go down in the
"Mac," cried Trina, in alarm, "what are you thinking of?
You talk as though we were millionaires. You must go down
this minute. You're losing money every second you sit
there." She goaded the huge fellow to his feet again,
thrust his hat into his hands, and pushed him out of the
door, he obeying the while, docile and obedient as a big
cart horse. He was on the stairs when she came running
after him.
"Mac, they paid you off, didn't they, when they discharged
"Then you must have some money. Give it to me."
The dentist heaved a shoulder uneasily.
"No, I don' want to."
"I've got to have that money. There's no more oil for
the stove, and I must buy some more meal tickets to-night."
"Always after me about money," muttered the dentist; but he
emptied his pockets for her, nevertheless.
"I--you've taken it all," he grumbled. "Better leave me
something for car fare. It's going to rain."
"Pshaw! You can walk just as well as not. A big fellow
like you 'fraid of a little walk; and it ain't going to
Trina had lied again both as to the want of oil for the
stove and the commutation ticket for the restaurant. But
she knew by instinct that McTeague had money about him, and
she did not intend to let it go out of the house. She
listened intently until she was sure McTeague was gone.
Then she hurriedly opened her trunk and hid the money in the
chamois bag at the bottom.
The dentist presented himself at every one of the makers of
surgical instruments that afternoon and was promptly turned
away in each case. Then it came on to rain, a fine, cold
drizzle, that chilled him and wet him to the bone. He had
no umbrella, and Trina had not left him even five cents for
car fare. He started to walk home through the rain. It was
a long way to Polk Street, as the last manufactory he had
visited was beyond even Folsom Street, and not far from the
city front.
By the time McTeague reached Polk Street his teeth were
chattering with the cold. He was wet from head to foot. As
he was passing Heise's harness shop a sudden deluge of rain
overtook him and he was obliged to dodge into the vestibule
for shelter. He, who loved to be warm, to sleep and to be
well fed, was icy cold, was exhausted and footsore from
tramping the city. He could look forward to nothing better
than a badly-cooked supper at the coffee-joint--hot meat on
a cold plate, half done suet pudding, muddy coffee, and bad
bread, and he was cold, miserably cold, and wet to the bone.
All at once a sudden rage against Trina took possession of
him. It was her fault. She knew it was going to rain, and
she had not let him have a nickel for car fare--she who had
five thousand dollars. She let him walk the streets in the
cold and in the rain. "Miser," he growled behind his
mustache. "Miser, nasty little old miser. You're worse
than old Zerkow, always nagging about money, money, and you
got five thousand dollars. You got more, an' you live in
that stinking hole of a room, and you won't drink any decent
beer. I ain't going to stand it much longer. She knew it
was going to rain. She KNEW it. Didn't I TELL her?
And she drives me out of my own home in the rain, for me to
get money for her; more money, and she takes it. She took
that money from me that I earned. 'Twasn't hers; it was
mine, I earned it--and not a nickel for car fare. She don't
care if I get wet and get a cold and DIE. No, she
don't, as long as she's warm and's got her money." He
became more and more indignant at the picture he made of
himself. "I ain't going to stand it much longer," he
"Why, hello, Doc. Is that you?" exclaimed Heise, opening
the door of the harness shop behind him. "Come in out of
the wet. Why, you're soaked through," he added as he and
McTeague came back into the shop, that reeked of oiled
leather. "Didn't you have any umbrella? Ought to have
taken a car."
"I guess so--I guess so," murmured the dentist, confused.
His teeth were chattering.
"YOU'RE going to catch your death-a-cold," exclaimed
Heise. "Tell you what," he said, reaching for his hat, "come
in next door to Frenna's and have something to warm you up.
I'll get the old lady to mind the shop." He called Mrs.
Heise down from the floor above and took McTeague into Joe
Frenna's saloon, which was two doors above his harness shop.
"Whiskey and gum twice, Joe," said he to the barkeeper as he
and the dentist approached the bar.
"Huh? What?" said McTeague. "Whiskey? No, I can't drink
whiskey. It kind of disagrees with me."
"Oh, the hell!" returned Heise, easily. "Take it as
medicine. You'll get your death-a-cold if you stand round
soaked like that. Two whiskey and gum, Joe."
McTeague emptied the pony glass at a single enormous gulp.
"That's the way," said Heise, approvingly. "Do you good."
He drank his off slowly.
"I'd--I'd ask you to have a drink with me, Heise," said
the dentist, who had an indistinct idea of the amenities of
the barroom, "only," he added shamefacedly, "only--you see,
I don't believe I got any change." His anger against Trina,
heated by the whiskey he had drank, flamed up afresh. What
a humiliating position for Trina to place him in, not to
leave him the price of a drink with a friend, she who had
five thousand dollars!
"Sha! That's all right, Doc," returned Heise, nibbling on a
grain of coffee. "Want another? Hey? This my treat. Two
more of the same, Joe."
McTeague hesitated. It was lamentably true that whiskey did
not agree with him; he knew it well enough. However, by
this time he felt very comfortably warm at the pit of his
stomach. The blood was beginning to circulate in his
chilled finger-tips and in his soggy, wet feet. He had had
a hard day of it; in fact, the last week, the last month,
the last three or four months, had been hard. He deserved a
little consolation. Nor could Trina object to this. It
wasn't costing a cent. He drank again with Heise.
"Get up here to the stove and warm yourself," urged Heise,
drawing up a couple of chairs and cocking his feet upon the
guard. The two fell to talking while McTeague's draggled
coat and trousers smoked.
"What a dirty turn that was that Marcus Schouler did you!"
said Heise, wagging his head. "You ought to have fought
that, Doc, sure. You'd been practising too long." They
discussed this question some ten or fifteen minutes and then
Heise rose.
"Well, this ain't earning any money. I got to get back to
the shop." McTeague got up as well, and the pair started
for the door. Just as they were going out Ryer met them.
"Hello, hello," he cried. "Lord, what a wet day! You two
are going the wrong way. You're going to have a drink with
me. Three whiskey punches, Joe."
"No, no," answered McTeague, shaking his head. "I'm going
back home. I've had two glasses of whiskey already."
"Sha!" cried Heise, catching his arm. "A strapping big chap
like you ain't afraid of a little whiskey."
"Well, I--I--I got to go right afterwards," protested
About half an hour after the dentist had left to go down
town, Maria Macapa had come in to see Trina. Occasionally
Maria dropped in on Trina in this fashion and spent an hour
or so chatting with her while she worked. At first Trina
had been inclined to resent these intrusions of the Mexican
woman, but of late she had begun to tolerate them. Her day
was long and cheerless at the best, and there was no one to
talk to. Trina even fancied that old Miss Baker had come to
be less cordial since their misfortune. Maria retailed to
her all the gossip of the flat and the neighborhood, and,
which was much more interesting, told her of her troubles
with Zerkow.
Trina said to herself that Maria was common and vulgar, but
one had to have some diversion, and Trina could talk and
listen without interrupting her work. On this particular
occasion Maria was much excited over Zerkow's demeanor of
"He's gettun worse an' worse," she informed Trina as she sat
on the edge of the bed, her chin in her hand. "He says he
knows I got the dishes and am hidun them from him. The
other day I thought he'd gone off with his wagon, and I was
doin' a bit of ir'ning, an' by an' by all of a sudden I saw
him peeping at me through the crack of the door. I never
let on that I saw him, and, honest, he stayed there over two
hours, watchun everything I did. I could just feel his eyes
on the back of my neck all the time. Last Sunday he took
down part of the wall, 'cause he said he'd seen me making
figures on it. Well, I was, but it was just the wash list.
All the time he says he'll kill me if I don't tell."
"Why, what do you stay with him for?" exclaimed Trina. "I'd
be deathly 'fraid of a man like that; and he did take a
knife to you once."
"Hoh! HE won't kill me, never fear. If he'd kill me
he'd never know where the dishes were; that's what HE
"But I can't understand, Maria; you told him about those
gold dishes yourself."
"Never, never! I never saw such a lot of crazy folks as
you are."
"But you say he hits you sometimes."
"Ah!" said Maria, tossing her head scornfully, "I ain't
afraid of him. He takes his horsewhip to me now and then,
but I can always manage. I say, 'If you touch me with that,
then I'll NEVER tell you.' Just pretending, you know,
and he drops it as though it was red hot. Say, Mrs.
McTeague, have you got any tea? Let's make a cup of tea
over the stove."
"No, no," cried Trina, with niggardly apprehension; "no, I
haven't got a bit of tea." Trina's stinginess had increased
to such an extent that it had gone beyond the mere hoarding
of money. She grudged even the food that she and McTeague
ate, and even brought away half loaves of bread, lumps of
sugar, and fruit from the car conductors' coffee-joint. She
hid these pilferings away on the shelf by the window, and
often managed to make a very creditable lunch from them,
enjoying the meal with the greater relish because it cost
her nothing.
"No, Maria, I haven't got a bit of tea," she said, shaking
her head decisively. "Hark, ain't that Mac?" she added, her
chin in the air. "That's his step, sure."
"Well, I'm going to skip," said Maria. She left hurriedly,
passing the dentist in the hall just outside the door.
"Well?" said Trina interrogatively as her husband entered.
McTeague did not answer. He hung his hat on the hook behind
the door and dropped heavily into a chair.
"Well," asked Trina, anxiously, "how did you make out, Mac?"
Still the dentist pretended not to hear, scowling fiercely
at his muddy boots.
"Tell me, Mac, I want to know. Did you get a place? Did
you get caught in the rain?"
"Did I? Did I?" cried the dentist, sharply, an alacrity in
his manner and voice that Trina had never observed before.
"Look at me. Look at me," he went on, speaking with an
unwonted rapidity, his wits sharp, his ideas succeeding
each other quickly. "Look at me, drenched through,
shivering cold. I've walked the city over. Caught in the
rain! Yes, I guess I did get caught in the rain, and it
ain't your fault I didn't catch my death-a-cold; wouldn't
even let me have a nickel for car fare."
"But, Mac," protested Trina, "I didn't know it was going to
The dentist put back his head and laughed scornfully. His
face was very red, and his small eyes twinkled. "Hoh! no,
you didn't know it was going to rain. Didn't I TELL you
it was?" he exclaimed, suddenly angry again. "Oh, you're a
DAISY, you are. Think I'm going to put up with your
foolishness ALL the time? Who's the boss, you or I?"
"Why, Mac, I never saw you this way before. You talk like a
different man."
"Well, I AM a different man," retorted the dentist,
savagely. "You can't make small of me ALWAYS."
"Well, never mind that. You know I'm not trying to make
small of you. But never mind that. Did you get a place?"
"Give me my money," exclaimed McTeague, jumping up briskly.
There was an activity, a positive nimbleness about the huge
blond giant that had never been his before; also his
stupidity, the sluggishness of his brain, seemed to be
unusually stimulated.
"Give me my money, the money I gave you as I was going
"I can't," exclaimed Trina. "I paid the grocer's bill with
it while you were gone."
"Don't believe you."
"Truly, truly, Mac. Do you think I'd lie to you? Do you
think I'd lower myself to do that?"
"Well, the next time I earn any money I'll keep it myself."
"But tell me, Mac, DID you get a place?"
McTeague turned his back on her.
"Tell me, Mac, please, did you?"
The dentist jumped up and thrust his face close to
hers, his heavy jaw protruding, his little eyes twinkling
"No," he shouted. "No, no, NO. Do you hear? NO."
Trina cowered before him. Then suddenly she began to sob
aloud, weeping partly at his strange brutality, partly at
the disappointment of his failure to find employment.
McTeague cast a contemptuous glance about him, a glance that
embraced the dingy, cheerless room, the rain streaming down
the panes of the one window, and the figure of his weeping
"Oh, ain't this all FINE?" he exclaimed. "Ain't it
"It's not my fault," sobbed Trina.
"It is too," vociferated McTeague. "It is too. We could
live like Christians and decent people if you wanted to.
You got more'n five thousand dollars, and you're so damned
stingy that you'd rather live in a rat hole--and make me
live there too--before you'd part with a nickel of it. I
tell you I'm sick and tired of the whole business."
An allusion to her lottery money never failed to rouse
"And I'll tell you this much too," she cried, winking back
the tears. "Now that you're out of a job, we can't afford
even to live in your rat hole, as you call it. We've got to
find a cheaper place than THIS even."
"What!" exclaimed the dentist, purple with rage. "What, get
into a worse hole in the wall than this? Well, we'll
SEE if we will. We'll just see about that. You're going
to do just as I tell you after this, Trina McTeague," and
once more he thrust his face close to hers.
"I know what's the matter," cried Trina, with a half
sob; "I know, I can smell it on your breath. You've been
drinking whiskey."
"Yes, I've been drinking whiskey," retorted her husband.
"I've been drinking whiskey. Have you got anything to say
about it? Ah, yes, you're RIGHT, I've been drinking
whiskey. What have YOU got to say about my drinking
whiskey? Let's hear it."
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" sobbed Trina, covering her face with her
hands. McTeague caught her wrists in one palm and
pulled them down. Trina's pale face was streaming with
tears; her long, narrow blue eyes were swimming; her
adorable little chin upraised and quivering.
"Let's hear what you got to say," exclaimed McTeague.
"Nothing, nothing," said Trina, between her sobs.
"Then stop that noise. Stop it, do you hear me? Stop it."
He threw up his open hand threateningly. "STOP!" he
Trina looked at him fearfully, half blinded with weeping.
Her husband's thick mane of yellow hair was disordered and
rumpled upon his great square-cut head; his big red ears
were redder than ever; his face was purple; the thick
eyebrows were knotted over the small, twinkling eyes; the
heavy yellow mustache, that smelt of alcohol, drooped over
the massive, protruding chin, salient, like that of the
carnivora; the veins were swollen and throbbing on his thick
red neck; while over her head Trina saw his upraised palm,
callused, enormous.
"Stop!" he exclaimed. And Trina, watching fearfully, saw
the palm suddenly contract into a fist, a fist that was hard
as a wooden mallet, the fist of the old-time car-boy. And
then her ancient terror of him, the intuitive fear of the
male, leaped to life again. She was afraid of him. Every
nerve of her quailed and shrank from him. She choked back
her sobs, catching her breath.
"There," growled the dentist, releasing her, "that's more
like. Now," he went on, fixing her with his little eyes,
"now listen to me. I'm beat out. I've walked the city
over--ten miles, I guess--an' I'm going to bed, an' I don't
want to be bothered. You understand? I want to be let
alone." Trina was silent.
"Do you HEAR?" he snarled.
"Yes, Mac."
The dentist took off his coat, his collar and necktie,
unbuttoned his vest, and slipped his heavy-soled boots from
his big feet. Then he stretched himself upon the bed and
rolled over towards the wall. In a few minutes the sound of
his snoring filled the room.
Trina craned her neck and looked at her husband over the
footboard of the bed. She saw his red, congested face;
the huge mouth wide open; his unclean shirt, with its frayed
wristbands; and his huge feet encased in thick woollen
socks. Then her grief and the sense of her unhappiness
returned more poignant than ever. She stretched her arms
out in front of her on her work-table, and, burying her face
in them, cried and sobbed as though her heart would break.
The rain continued. The panes of the single window ran with
sheets of water; the eaves dripped incessantly. It grew
darker. The tiny, grimy room, full of the smells of cooking
and of "non-poisonous" paint, took on an aspect of
desolation and cheerlessness lamentable beyond words. The
canary in its little gilt prison chittered feebly from time
to time. Sprawled at full length upon the bed, the dentist
snored and snored, stupefied, inert, his legs wide apart,
his hands lying palm upward at his sides.
At last Trina raised her head, with a long, trembling
breath. She rose, and going over to the washstand, poured
some water from the pitcher into the basin, and washed her
face and swollen eyelids, and rearranged her hair.
Suddenly, as she was about to return to her work, she was
struck with an idea.
"I wonder," she said to herself, "I wonder where he got the
money to buy his whiskey." She searched the pockets of his
coat, which he had flung into a corner of the room, and even
came up to him as he lay upon the bed and went through the
pockets of his vest and trousers. She found nothing.
"I wonder," she murmured, "I wonder if he's got any
money he don't tell me about. I'll have to look out for
A week passed, then a fortnight, then a month. It was a
month of the greatest anxiety and unquietude for Trina.
McTeague was out of a job, could find nothing to do; and
Trina, who saw the impossibility of saving as much money as
usual out of her earnings under the present conditions, was
on the lookout for cheaper quarters. In spite of his
outcries and sulky resistance Trina had induced her husband
to consent to such a move, bewildering him with a torrent of
phrases and marvellous columns of figures by which she
proved conclusively that they were in a condition but one
remove from downright destitution.
The dentist continued idle. Since his ill success with the
manufacturers of surgical instruments he had made but two
attempts to secure a job. Trina had gone to see Uncle
Oelbermann and had obtained for McTeague a position in the
shipping department of the wholesale toy store. However, it
was a position that involved a certain amount of ciphering,
and McTeague had been obliged to throw it up in two days.
Then for a time they had entertained a wild idea that a
place on the police force could be secured for McTeague. He
could pass the physical examination with flying colors, and
Ryer, who had become the secretary of the Polk Street
Improvement Club, promised the requisite political "pull."
If McTeague had shown a certain energy in the matter the
attempt might have been successful; but he was too
stupid, or of late had become too listless to exert himself
greatly, and the affair resulted only in a violent quarrel
with Ryer.
McTeague had lost his ambition. He did not care to better
his situation. All he wanted was a warm place to sleep and
three good meals a day. At the first--at the very first--he
had chafed at his idleness and had spent the days with his
wife in their one narrow room, walking back and forth with
the restlessness of a caged brute, or sitting motionless for
hours, watching Trina at her work, feeling a dull glow of
shame at the idea that she was supporting him. This feeling
had worn off quickly, however. Trina's work was only hard
when she chose to make it so, and as a rule she supported
their misfortunes with a silent fortitude.
Then, wearied at his inaction and feeling the need of
movement and exercise, McTeague would light his pipe and
take a turn upon the great avenue one block above Polk
Street. A gang of laborers were digging the foundations for
a large brownstone house, and McTeague found interest and
amusement in leaning over the barrier that surrounded the
excavations and watching the progress of the work. He came
to see it every afternoon; by and by he even got to know the
foreman who superintended the job, and the two had long
talks together. Then McTeague would return to Polk Street
and find Heise in the back room of the harness shop, and
occasionally the day ended with some half dozen drinks of
whiskey at Joe Frenna's saloon.
It was curious to note the effect of the alcohol upon the
dentist. It did not make him drunk, it made him vicious.
So far from being stupefied, he became, after the fourth
glass, active, alert, quick-witted, even talkative; a
certain wickedness stirred in him then; he was intractable,
mean; and when he had drunk a little more heavily than
usual, he found a certain pleasure in annoying and
exasperating Trina, even in abusing and hurting her.
It had begun on the evening of Thanksgiving Day, when Heise
had taken McTeague out to dinner with him. The dentist on
this occasion had drunk very freely. He and Heise had
returned to Polk Street towards ten o'clock, and Heise
at once suggested a couple of drinks at Frenna's.
"All right, all right," said McTeague. "Drinks, that's the
word. I'll go home and get some money and meet you at
Trina was awakened by her husband pinching her arm.
"Oh, Mac," she cried, jumping up in bed with a little
scream, "how you hurt! Oh, that hurt me dreadfully."
"Give me a little money," answered the dentist, grinning,
and pinching her again.
"I haven't a cent. There's not a--oh, MAC, will you
stop? I won't have you pinch me that way."
"Hurry up," answered her husband, calmly, nipping the flesh
of her shoulder between his thumb and finger. "Heise's
waiting for me." Trina wrenched from him with a sharp
intake of breath, frowning with pain, and caressing her
"Mac, you've no idea how that hurts. Mac, STOP!"
"Give me some money, then."
In the end Trina had to comply. She gave him half a dollar
from her dress pocket, protesting that it was the only piece
of money she had.
"One more, just for luck," said McTeague, pinching her
again; "and another."
"How can you--how CAN you hurt a woman so!" exclaimed
Trina, beginning to cry with the pain.
"Ah, now, CRY," retorted the dentist. "That's right,
CRY. I never saw such a little fool." He went out,
slamming the door in disgust.
But McTeague never became a drunkard in the generally
received sense of the term. He did not drink to excess more
than two or three times in a month, and never upon any
occasion did he become maudlin or staggering. Perhaps his
nerves were naturally too dull to admit of any excitation;
perhaps he did not really care for the whiskey, and only
drank because Heise and the other men at Frenna's did.
Trina could often reproach him with drinking too much; she
never could say that he was drunk. The alcohol had its
effect for all that. It roused the man, or rather the brute
in the man, and now not only roused it, but goaded it to
evil. McTeague's nature changed. It was not only the
alcohol, it was idleness and a general throwing off of the
good influence his wife had had over him in the days of
their prosperity. McTeague disliked Trina. She was a
perpetual irritation to him. She annoyed him because she
was so small, so prettily made, so invariably correct and
precise. Her avarice incessantly harassed him. Her
industry was a constant reproach to him. She seemed to
flaunt her work defiantly in his face. It was the red flag
in the eyes of the bull. One time when he had just come
back from Frenna's and had been sitting in the chair near
her, silently watching her at her work, he exclaimed all of
a sudden:
"Stop working. Stop it, I tell you. Put 'em away. Put 'em
all away, or I'll pinch you."
"But why--why?" Trina protested.
The dentist cuffed her ears. "I won't have you work." He
took her knife and her paint-pots away, and made her sit
idly in the window the rest of the afternoon.
It was, however, only when his wits had been stirred with
alcohol that the dentist was brutal to his wife. At other
times, say three weeks of every month, she was merely an
incumbrance to him. They often quarrelled about Trina's
money, her savings. The dentist was bent upon having at
least a part of them. What he would do with the money once
he had it, he did not precisely know. He would spend it in
royal fashion, no doubt, feasting continually, buying
himself wonderful clothes. The miner's idea of money quickly
gained and lavishly squandered, persisted in his mind. As
for Trina, the more her husband stormed, the tighter she
drew the strings of the little chamois-skin bag that she hid
at the bottom of her trunk underneath her bridal dress. Her
five thousand dollars invested in Uncle Oelbermann's
business was a glittering, splendid dream which came to her
almost every hour of the day as a solace and a compensation
for all her unhappiness.
At times, when she knew that McTeague was far from
home, she would lock her door, open her trunk, and pile all
her little hoard on her table. By now it was four hundred
and seven dollars and fifty cents. Trina would play with
this money by the hour, piling it, and repiling it, or
gathering it all into one heap, and drawing back to the
farthest corner of the room to note the effect, her head on
one side. She polished the gold pieces with a mixture of
soap and ashes until they shone, wiping them carefully on
her apron. Or, again, she would draw the heap lovingly
toward her and bury her face in it, delighted at the smell
of it and the feel of the smooth, cool metal on her cheeks.
She even put the smaller gold pieces in her mouth, and
jingled them there. She loved her money with an intensity
that she could hardly express. She would plunge her small
fingers into the pile with little murmurs of affection, her
long, narrow eyes half closed and shining, her breath coming
in long sighs.
"Ah, the dear money, the dear money," she would whisper. "I
love you so! All mine, every penny of it. No one shall
ever, ever get you. How I've worked for you! How I've
slaved and saved for you! And I'm going to get more; I'm
going to get more, more, more; a little every day."
She was still looking for cheaper quarters. Whenever she
could spare a moment from her work, she would put on her hat
and range up and down the entire neighborhood from Sutter to
Sacramento Streets, going into all the alleys and bystreets,
her head in the air, looking for the "Rooms-to-let" sign.
But she was in despair. All the cheaper tenements were
occupied. She could find no room more reasonable than the
one she and the dentist now occupied.
As time went on, McTeague's idleness became habitual. He
drank no more whiskey than at first, but his dislike for
Trina increased with every day of their poverty, with every
day of Trina's persistent stinginess. At times--fortunately
rare he was more than ever brutal to her. He would box her
ears or hit her a great blow with the back of a hair-brush,
or even with his closed fist. His old-time affection
for his "little woman," unable to stand the test of
privation, had lapsed by degrees, and what little of it was
left was changed, distorted, and made monstrous by the
The people about the house and the clerks at the provision
stores often remarked that Trina's fingertips were swollen
and the nails purple as though they had been shut in a door.
Indeed, this was the explanation she gave. The fact of the
matter was that McTeague, when he had been drinking, used to
bite them, crunching and grinding them with his immense
teeth, always ingenious enough to remember which were the
sorest. Sometimes he extorted money from her by this means,
but as often as not he did it for his own satisfaction.
And in some strange, inexplicable way this brutality made
Trina all the more affectionate; aroused in her a morbid,
unwholesome love of submission, a strange, unnatural
pleasure in yielding, in surrendering herself to the will of
an irresistible, virile power.
Trina's emotions had narrowed with the narrowing of her
daily life. They reduced themselves at last to but two, her
passion for her money and her perverted love for her husband
when he was brutal. She was a strange woman during these
Trina had come to be on very intimate terms with Maria
Macapa, and in the end the dentist's wife and the maid of
all work became great friends. Maria was constantly in and
out of Trina's room, and, whenever she could, Trina threw a
shawl over her head and returned Maria's calls. Trina could
reach Zerkow's dirty house without going into the street.
The back yard of the flat had a gate that opened into a
little inclosure where Zerkow kept his decrepit horse and
ramshackle wagon, and from thence Trina could enter directly
into Maria's kitchen. Trina made long visits to Maria
during the morning in her dressing-gown and curl papers, and
the two talked at great length over a cup of tea served on
the edge of the sink or a corner of the laundry table. The
talk was all of their husbands and of what to do when they
came home in aggressive moods.
"You never ought to fight um," advised Maria. "It only
makes um worse. Just hump your back, and it's soonest
They told each other of their husbands' brutalities, taking
a strange sort of pride in recounting some particularly
savage blow, each trying to make out that her own husband
was the most cruel. They critically compared each other's
bruises, each one glad when she could exhibit the worst.
They exaggerated, they invented details, and, as if proud of
their beatings, as if glorying in their husbands'
mishandling, lied to each other, magnifying their own
maltreatment. They had long and excited arguments as to
which were the most effective means of punishment, the
rope's ends and cart whips such as Zerkow used, or the fists
and backs of hair-brushes affected by McTeague. Maria
contended that the lash of the whip hurt the most; Trina,
that the butt did the most injury.
Maria showed Trina the holes in the walls and the loosened
boards in the flooring where Zerkow had been searching for
the gold plate. Of late he had been digging in the back
yard and had ransacked the hay in his horse-shed for the
concealed leather chest he imagined he would find. But he
was becoming impatient, evidently.
"The way he goes on," Maria told Trina, "is somethun
dreadful. He's gettun regularly sick with it--got a fever
every night--don't sleep, and when he does, talks to
himself. Says 'More'n a hundred pieces, an' every one of
'em gold. More'n a hundred pieces, an' every one of 'em
gold.' Then he'll whale me with his whip, and shout, 'You
know where it is. Tell me, tell me, you swine, or I'll do
for you.' An' then he'll get down on his knees and whimper,
and beg me to tell um where I've hid it. He's just gone plum
crazy. Sometimes he has regular fits, he gets so mad, and
rolls on the floor and scratches himself."
One morning in November, about ten o'clock, Trina pasted a
"Made in France" label on the bottom of a Noah's ark, and
leaned back in her chair with a long sigh of relief. She
had just finished a large Christmas order for Uncle
Oelbermann, and there was nothing else she could do that
morning. The bed had not yet been made, nor had the
breakfast things been washed. Trina hesitated for a moment,
then put her chin in the air indifferently.
"Bah!" she said, "let them go till this afternoon. I don't
care WHEN the room is put to rights, and I know Mac
don't." She determined that instead of making the bed or
washing the dishes she would go and call on Miss Baker on
the floor below. The little dressmaker might ask her to
stay to lunch, and that would be something saved, as the
dentist had announced his intention that morning of taking a
long walk out to the Presidio to be gone all day.
But Trina rapped on Miss Baker's door in vain that morning.
She was out. Perhaps she was gone to the florist's to buy
some geranium seeds. However, Old Grannis's door stood a
little ajar, and on hearing Trina at Miss Baker's room, the
old Englishman came out into the hall.
"She's gone out," he said, uncertainly, and in a half
whisper, "went out about half an hour ago. I--I think she
went to the drug store to get some wafers for the goldfish."
"Don't you go to your dog hospital any more, Mister
Grannis?" said Trina, leaning against the balustrade in the
hall, willing to talk a moment.
Old Grannis stood in the doorway of his room, in his carpet
slippers and faded corduroy jacket that he wore when at
"Why--why," he said, hesitating, tapping his chin
thoughtfully. "You see I'm thinking of giving up the little
"Giving it up?"
"You see, the people at the book store where I buy my
pamphlets have found out--I told them of my contrivance for
binding books, and one of the members of the firm came up to
look at it. He offered me quite a sum if I would sell him
the right of it--the--patent of it--quite a sum. In fact--
in fact--yes, quite a sum, quite." He rubbed his chin
tremulously and looked about him on the floor.
"Why, isn't that fine?" said Trina, good-naturedly. "I'm
very glad, Mister Grannis. Is it a good price?"
"Quite a sum--quite. In fact, I never dreamed of
having so much money."
"Now, see here, Mister Grannis," said Trina, decisively, "I
want to give you a good piece of advice. Here are you and
Miss Baker----" The old Englishman started nervously--"You
and Miss Baker, that have been in love with each other for----"
"Oh, Mrs. McTeague, that subject--if you would please--Miss
Baker is such an estimable lady."
"Fiddlesticks!" said Trina. "You're in love with each
other, and the whole flat knows it; and you two have been
living here side by side year in and year out, and you've
never said a word to each other. It's all nonsense. Now, I
want you should go right in and speak to her just as soon as
she comes home, and say you've come into money and you want
her to marry you."
"Impossible--impossible!" exclaimed the old Englishman,
alarmed and perturbed. "It's quite out of the question. I
wouldn't presume."
"Well, do you love her, or not?"
"Really, Mrs. McTeague, I--I--you must excuse me. It's a
matter so personal--so--I--Oh, yes, I love her. Oh, yes,
indeed," he exclaimed, suddenly.
"Well, then, she loves you. She told me so."
"She did. She said those very words."
Miss Baker had said nothing of the kind--would have died
sooner than have made such a confession; but Trina had drawn
her own conclusions, like every other lodger of the flat,
and thought the time was come for decided action.
"Now you do just as I tell you, and when she comes home, go
right in and see her, and have it over with. Now, don't say
another word. I'm going; but you do just as I tell you."
Trina turned about and went down-stairs. She had decided,
since Miss Baker was not at home, that she would run over
and see Maria; possibly she could have lunch there. At any
rate, Maria would offer her a cup of tea.
Old Grannis stood for a long time just as Trina had
left him, his hands trembling, the blood coming and going in
his withered cheeks.
"She said, she--she--she told her--she said that--that----"
he could get no farther.
Then he faced about and entered his room, closing the door
behind him. For a long time he sat in his armchair, drawn
close to the wall in front of the table on which stood his
piles of pamphlets and his little binding apparatus.
"I wonder," said Trina, as she crossed the yard back of
Zerkow's house, "I wonder what rent Zerkow and Maria pay for
this place. I'll bet it's cheaper than where Mac and I are."
Trina found Maria sitting in front of the kitchen stove, her
chin upon her breast. Trina went up to her. She was dead.
And as Trina touched her shoulder, her head rolled sideways
and showed a fearful gash in her throat under her ear. All
the front of her dress was soaked through and through.
Trina backed sharply away from the body, drawing her hands
up to her very shoulders, her eyes staring and wide, an
expression of unutterable horror twisting her face.
"Oh-h-h!" she exclaimed in a long breath, her voice hardly
rising above a whisper. "Oh-h, isn't that horrible!"
Suddenly she turned and fled through the front part of the
house to the street door, that opened upon the little alley.
She looked wildly about her. Directly across the way a
butcher's boy was getting into his two-wheeled cart drawn up
in front of the opposite house, while near by a peddler of
wild game was coming down the street, a brace of ducks in
his hand.
"Oh, say--say," gasped Trina, trying to get her voice, "say,
come over here quick."
The butcher's boy paused, one foot on the wheel, and stared.
Trina beckoned frantically.
"Come over here, come over here quick."
The young fellow swung himself into his seat.
"What's the matter with that woman?" he said, half aloud.
"There's a murder been done," cried Trina, swaying in
the doorway.
The young fellow drove away, his head over his shoulder,
staring at Trina with eyes that were fixed and absolutely
devoid of expression.
"What's the matter with that woman?" he said again to
himself as he turned the corner.
Trina wondered why she didn't scream, how she could keep
from it--how, at such a moment as this, she could remember
that it was improper to make a disturbance and create a
scene in the street. The peddler of wild game was looking
at her suspiciously. It would not do to tell him. He would
go away like the butcher's boy.
"Now, wait a minute," Trina said to herself, speaking aloud.
She put her hands to her head. "Now, wait a minute. It
won't do for me to lose my wits now. What must I do?" She
looked about her. There was the same familiar aspect of
Polk Street. She could see it at the end of the alley. The
big market opposite the flat, the delivery carts rattling up
and down, the great ladies from the avenue at their morning
shopping, the cable cars trundling past, loaded with
passengers. She saw a little boy in a flat leather cap
whistling and calling for an unseen dog, slapping his small
knee from time to time. Two men came out of Frenna's
saloon, laughing heartily. Heise the harness-maker stood in
the vestibule of his shop, a bundle of whittlings in his
apron of greasy ticking. And all this was going on, people
were laughing and living, buying and selling, walking about
out there on the sunny sidewalks, while behind her in there
--in there--in there----
Heise started back from the sudden apparition of a whitelipped
woman in a blue dressing-gown that seemed to rise up
before him from his very doorstep.
"Well, Mrs. McTeague, you did scare me, for----"
"Oh, come over here quick." Trina put her hand to her neck;
swallowing something that seemed to be choking her.
"Maria's killed--Zerkow's wife--I found her."
"Get out!" exclaimed Heise, "you're joking."
"Come over here--over into the house--I found her--she's
Heise dashed across the street on the run, with Trina at his
heels, a trail of spilled whittlings marking his course.
The two ran down the alley. The wild-game peddler, a woman
who had been washing down the steps in a neighboring house,
and a man in a broad-brimmed hat stood at Zerkow's doorway,
looking in from time to time, and talking together. They
seemed puzzled.
"Anything wrong in here?" asked the wild-game peddler as
Heise and Trina came up. Two more men stopped on the corner
of the alley and Polk Street and looked at the group. A
woman with a towel round her head raised a window opposite
Zerkow's house and called to the woman who had been washing
the steps, "What is it, Mrs. Flint?"
Heise was already inside the house. He turned to Trina,
panting from his run.
"Where did you say--where was it--where?"
"In there," said Trina, "farther in--the next room." They
burst into the kitchen.
"LORD!" ejaculated Heise, stopping a yard or so from the
body, and bending down to peer into the gray face with its
brown lips.
"By God! he's killed her."
"Zerkow, by God! he's killed her. Cut her throat. He
always said he would."
"He's killed her. Her throat's cut. Good Lord, how she did
bleed! By God! he's done for her in good shape this time."
"Oh, I told her--I TOLD her," cried Trina.
"He's done for her SURE this time."
"She said she could always manage--Oh-h! It's horrible."
"He's done for her sure this trip. Cut her throat.
LORD, how she has BLED! Did you ever see so much--
that's murder--that's cold-blooded murder. He's killed
her. Say, we must get a policeman. Come on."
They turned back through the house. Half a dozen people--
the wild-game peddler, the man with the broad-brimmed hat,
the washwoman, and three other men--were in the front room
of the junk shop, a bank of excited faces surged at the
door. Beyond this, outside, the crowd was packed solid from
one end of the alley to the other. Out in Polk Street the
cable cars were nearly blocked and were bunting a way slowly
through the throng with clanging bells. Every window had
its group. And as Trina and the harness-maker tried to
force the way from the door of the junk shop the throng
suddenly parted right and left before the passage of two
blue-coated policemen who clove a passage through the press,
working their elbows energetically. They were accompanied
by a third man in citizen's clothes.
Heise and Trina went back into the kitchen with the two
policemen, the third man in citizen's clothes cleared the
intruders from the front room of the junk shop and kept the
crowd back, his arm across the open door.
"Whew!" whistled one of the officers as they came out into
the kitchen, "cutting scrape? By George! SOMEBODY'S
been using his knife all right." He turned to the other
officer. "Better get the wagon. There's a box on the
second corner south. Now, then," he continued, turning to
Trina and the harness-maker and taking out his note-book and
pencil, "I want your names and addresses."
It was a day of tremendous excitement for the entire street.
Long after the patrol wagon had driven away, the crowd
remained. In fact, until seven o'clock that evening groups
collected about the door of the junk shop, where a policeman
stood guard, asking all manner of questions, advancing all
manner of opinions.
"Do you think they'll get him?" asked Ryer of the policeman.
A dozen necks craned forward eagerly.
"Hoh, we'll get him all right, easy enough," answered the
other, with a grand air.
"What? What's that? What did he say?" asked the
people on the outskirts of the group. Those in front passed
the answer back.
"He says they'll get him all right, easy enough."
The group looked at the policeman admiringly.
"He's skipped to San Jose."
Where the rumor started, and how, no one knew. But every
one seemed persuaded that Zerkow had gone to San Jose.
"But what did he kill her for? Was he drunk?"
"No, he was crazy, I tell you--crazy in the head. Thought
she was hiding some money from him."
Frenna did a big business all day long. The murder was the
one subject of conversation. Little parties were made up in
his saloon--parties of twos and threes--to go over and have
a look at the outside of the junk shop. Heise was the most
important man the length and breadth of Polk Street; almost
invariably he accompanied these parties, telling again and
again of the part he had played in the affair.
"It was about eleven o'clock. I was standing in front of
the shop, when Mrs. McTeague--you know, the dentist's wife--
came running across the street," and so on and so on.
The next day came a fresh sensation. Polk Street read of it
in the morning papers. Towards midnight on the day of the
murder Zerkow's body had been found floating in the bay near
Black Point. No one knew whether he had drowned himself or
fallen from one of the wharves. Clutched in both his hands
was a sack full of old and rusty pans, tin dishes--fully a
hundred of them--tin cans, and iron knives and forks,
collected from some dump heap.
"And all this," exclaimed Trina, "on account of a set of
gold dishes that never existed."
One day, about a fortnight after the coroner's inquest had
been held, and when the excitement of the terrible affair
was calming down and Polk Street beginning to resume its
monotonous routine, Old Grannis sat in his clean, well-kept
little room, in his cushioned armchair, his hands lying idly
upon his knees. It was evening; not quite time to light the
lamps. Old Grannis had drawn his chair close to the wall--
so close, in fact, that he could hear Miss Baker's grenadine
brushing against the other side of the thin partition, at
his very elbow, while she rocked gently back and forth, a
cup of tea in her hands.
Old Grannis's occupation was gone. That morning the bookselling
firm where he had bought his pamphlets had taken his
little binding apparatus from him to use as a model. The
transaction had been concluded. Old Grannis had received
his check. It was large enough, to be sure, but when all
was over, he returned to his room and sat there sad and
unoccupied, looking at the pattern in the carpet and
counting the heads of the tacks in the zinc guard that was
fastened to the wall behind his little stove. By and by he
heard Miss Baker moving about. It was five o'clock, the time
when she was accustomed to make her cup of tea and "keep
company" with him on her side of the partition. Old Grannis
drew up his chair to the wall near where he knew she was
sitting. The minutes passed; side by side, and separated by
only a couple of inches of board, the two old people sat
there together, while the afternoon grew darker.
But for Old Grannis all was different that evening. There
was nothing for him to do. His hands lay idly in his lap.
His table, with its pile of pamphlets, was in a far corner
of the room, and, from time to time, stirred with an
uncertain trouble, he turned his head and looked at it
sadly, reflecting that he would never use it again. The
absence of his accustomed work seemed to leave something out
of his life. It did not appear to him that he could be the
same to Miss Baker now; their little habits were
disarranged, their customs broken up. He could no longer
fancy himself so near to her. They would drift apart now,
and she would no longer make herself a cup of tea and "keep
company" with him when she knew that he would never again
sit before his table binding uncut pamphlets. He had sold
his happiness for money; he had bartered all his tardy
romance for some miserable banknotes. He had not foreseen
that it would be like this. A vast regret welled up within
him. What was that on the back of his hand? He wiped it
dry with his ancient silk handkerchief.
Old Grannis leant his face in his hands. Not only did an
inexplicable regret stir within him, but a certain great
tenderness came upon him. The tears that swam in his faded
blue eyes were not altogether those of unhappiness. No,
this long-delayed affection that had come upon him in his
later years filled him with a joy for which tears seemed to
be the natural expression. For thirty years his eyes had
not been wet, but tonight he felt as if he were young again.
He had never loved before, and there was still a part of him
that was only twenty years of age. He could not tell
whether he was profoundly sad or deeply happy; but he was
not ashamed of the tears that brought the smart to his eyes
and the ache to his throat. He did not hear the timid
rapping on his door, and it was not until the door itself
opened that he looked up quickly and saw the little retired
dressmaker standing on the threshold, carrying a cup of tea
on a tiny Japanese tray. She held it toward him.
"I was making some tea," she said, "and I thought you would
like to have a cup."
Never after could the little dressmaker understand how she
had brought herself to do this thing. One moment she had
been sitting quietly on her side of the partition, stirring
her cup of tea with one of her Gorham spoons. She was
quiet, she was peaceful. The evening was closing down
tranquilly. Her room was the picture of calmness and order.
The geraniums blooming in the starch boxes in the window,
the aged goldfish occasionally turning his iridescent flank
to catch a sudden glow of the setting sun. The next moment
she had been all trepidation. It seemed to her the most
natural thing in the world to make a steaming cup of tea and
carry it in to Old Grannis next door. It seemed to her that
he was wanting her, that she ought to go to him. With the
brusque resolve and intrepidity that sometimes seizes upon
very timid people--the courage of the coward greater than
all others--she had presented herself at the old
Englishman's half-open door, and, when he had not heeded her
knock, had pushed it open, and at last, after all these
years, stood upon the threshold of his room. She had found
courage enough to explain her intrusion.
"I was making some tea, and I thought you would like to have
a cup."
Old Grannis dropped his hands upon either arm of his chair,
and, leaning forward a little, looked at her blankly. He
did not speak.
The retired dressmaker's courage had carried her thus far;
now it deserted her as abruptly as it had come. Her cheeks
became scarlet; her funny little false curls trembled with
her agitation. What she had done seemed to her indecorous
beyond expression. It was an enormity. Fancy, she had gone
into his room, INTO HIS ROOM--Mister Grannis's room.
She had done this--she who could not pass him on the stairs
without a qualm. What to do she did not know. She stood, a
fixture, on the threshold of his room, without even
resolution enough to beat a retreat. Helplessly, and with a
little quaver in her voice, she repeated obstinately:
"I was making some tea, and I thought you would like to have
a cup of tea." Her agitation betrayed itself in the
repetition of the word. She felt that she could not hold
the tray out another instant. Already she was trembling so
that half the tea was spilled.
Old Grannis still kept silence, still bending forward,
with wide eyes, his hands gripping the arms of his chair.
Then with the tea-tray still held straight before her, the
little dressmaker exclaimed tearfully:
"Oh, I didn't mean--I didn't mean--I didn't know it would
seem like this. I only meant to be kind and bring you some
tea; and now it seems SO improper. I--I--I'm SO
ashamed! I don't know what you will think of me. I--" she
caught her breath--"improper"--she managed to exclaim,
"unlady-like--you can never think well of me--I'll go. I'll
go." She turned about.
"Stop," cried Old Grannis, finding his voice at last. Miss
Baker paused, looking at him over her shoulder, her eyes
very wide open, blinking through her tears, for all the
world like a frightened child.
"Stop," exclaimed the old Englishman, rising to his feet.
"I didn't know it was you at first. I hadn't dreamed--I
couldn't believe you would be so good, so kind to me. Oh,"
he cried, with a sudden sharp breath, "oh, you ARE kind.
I--I--you have--have made me very happy."
"No, no," exclaimed Miss Baker, ready to sob. "It was
unlady-like. You will--you must think ill of me." She
stood in the hall. The tears were running down her cheeks,
and she had no free hand to dry them.
"Let me--I'll take the tray from you," cried Old Grannis,
coming forward. A tremulous joy came upon him. Never in
his life had he been so happy. At last it had come--come
when he had least expected it. That which he had longed for
and hoped for through so many years, behold, it was come tonight.
He felt his awkwardness leaving him. He was almost
certain that the little dressmaker loved him, and the
thought gave him boldness. He came toward her and took the
tray from her hands, and, turning back into the room with
it, made as if to set it upon his table. But the piles of
his pamphlets were in the way. Both of his hands were
occupied with the tray; he could not make a place for it on
the table. He stood for a moment uncertain, his
embarrassment returning.
"Oh, won't you--won't you please--" He turned his head,
looking appealingly at the little old dressmaker.
"Wait, I'll help you," she said. She came into the room, up
to the table, and moved the pamphlets to one side.
"Thanks, thanks," murmured Old Grannis, setting down the
"Now--now--now I will go back," she exclaimed, hurriedly.
"No--no," returned the old Englishman. "Don't go, don't go.
I've been so lonely to-night--and last night too--all this
year--all my life," he suddenly cried.
"I--I--I've forgotten the sugar."
"But I never take sugar in my tea."
"But it's rather cold, and I've spilled it--almost all of
"I'll drink it from the saucer." Old Grannis had drawn up
his armchair for her.
"Oh, I shouldn't. This is--this is SO--You must think
ill of me." Suddenly she sat down, and resting her elbows
on the table, hid her face in her hands.
"Think ILL of you?" cried Old Grannis, "think ILL of
you? Why, you don't know--you have no idea--all these
years--living so close to you, I--I--" he paused suddenly.
It seemed to him as if the beating of his heart was choking
"I thought you were binding your books to-night," said Miss
Baker, suddenly, "and you looked tired. I thought you
looked tired when I last saw you, and a cup of tea, you
know, it--that--that does you so much good when you're
tired. But you weren't binding books."
"No, no," returned Old Grannis, drawing up a chair and
sitting down. "No, I--the fact is, I've sold my apparatus;
a firm of booksellers has bought the rights of it."
"And aren't you going to bind books any more?" exclaimed the
little dressmaker, a shade of disappointment in her manner.
"I thought you always did about four o'clock. I used to
hear you when I was making tea."
It hardly seemed possible to Miss Baker that she was
actually talking to Old Grannis, that the two were really
chatting together, face to face, and without the dreadful
embarrassment that used to overwhelm them both when they met
on the stairs. She had often dreamed of this, but had always
put it off to some far-distant day. It was to come
gradually, little by little, instead of, as now, abruptly
and with no preparation. That she should permit herself the
indiscretion of actually intruding herself into his room had
never so much as occurred to her. Yet here she was, IN
HIS ROOM, and they were talking together, and little by
little her embarrassment was wearing away.
"Yes, yes, I always heard you when you were making tea,"
returned the old Englishman; "I heard the tea things. Then
I used to draw my chair and my work-table close to the wall
on my side, and sit there and work while you drank your tea
just on the other side; and I used to feel very near to you
then. I used to pass the whole evening that way."
"And, yes--yes--I did too," she answered. "I used to make
tea just at that time and sit there for a whole hour."
"And didn't you sit close to the partition on your side?
Sometimes I was sure of it. I could even fancy that I could
hear your dress brushing against the wall-paper close beside
me. Didn't you sit close to the partition?"
"I--I don't know where I sat."
Old Grannis shyly put out his hand and took hers as it lay
upon her lap.
"Didn't you sit close to the partition on your side?" he
"No--I don't know--perhaps--sometimes. Oh, yes," she
exclaimed, with a little gasp, "Oh, yes, I often did."
Then Old Grannis put his arm about her, and kissed her faded
cheek, that flushed to pink upon the instant.
After that they spoke but little. The day lapsed slowly
into twilight, and the two old people sat there in the gray
evening, quietly, quietly, their hands in each other's
hands, "keeping company," but now with nothing to separate
them. It had come at last. After all these years they
were together; they understood each other. They stood at
length in a little Elysium of their own creating. They
walked hand in hand in a delicious garden where it was
always autumn. Far from the world and together they entered
upon the long retarded romance of their commonplace and
uneventful lives.
That same night McTeague was awakened by a shrill scream,
and woke to find Trina's arms around his neck. She was
trembling so that the bed-springs creaked.
"Huh?" cried the dentist, sitting up in bed, raising his
clinched fists. "Huh? What? What? What is it? What is
"Oh, Mac," gasped his wife, "I had such an awful dream. I
dreamed about Maria. I thought she was chasing me, and I
couldn't run, and her throat was--Oh, she was all covered
with blood. Oh-h, I am so frightened!"
Trina had borne up very well for the first day or so after
the affair, and had given her testimony to the coroner with
far greater calmness than Heise. It was only a week later
that the horror of the thing came upon her again. She was
so nervous that she hardly dared to be alone in the daytime,
and almost every night woke with a cry of terror, trembling
with the recollection of some dreadful nightmare. The
dentist was irritated beyond all expression by her
nervousness, and especially was he exasperated when her
cries woke him suddenly in the middle of the night. He
would sit up in bed, rolling his eyes wildly, throwing out
his huge fists--at what, he did not know--exclaiming, "What
what--" bewildered and hopelessly confused. Then when
he realized that it was only Trina, his anger kindled
"Oh, you and your dreams! You go to sleep, or I'll give you
a dressing down." Sometimes he would hit her a great thwack
with his open palm, or catch her hand and bite the tips of
her fingers. Trina would lie awake for hours afterward,
crying softly to herself. Then, by and by, "Mac," she would
say timidly.
"Mac, do you love me?"
"Huh? What? Go to sleep."
"Don't you love me any more, Mac?"
"Oh, go to sleep. Don't bother me."
"Well, do you LOVE me, Mac?"
"I guess so."
"Oh, Mac, I've only you now, and if you don't love me, what
is going to become of me?"
"Shut up, an' let me go to sleep."
"Well, just tell me that you love me."
The dentist would turn abruptly away from her, burying his
big blond head in the pillow, and covering up his ears with
the blankets. Then Trina would sob herself to sleep.
The dentist had long since given up looking for a job.
Between breakfast and supper time Trina saw but little of
him. Once the morning meal over, McTeague bestirred
himself, put on his cap--he had given up wearing even a hat
since his wife had made him sell his silk hat--and went out.
He had fallen into the habit of taking long and solitary
walks beyond the suburbs of the city. Sometimes it was to
the Cliff House, occasionally to the Park (where he would
sit on the sun-warmed benches, smoking his pipe and reading
ragged ends of old newspapers), but more often it was to the
Presidio Reservation. McTeague would walk out to the end of
the Union Street car line, entering the Reservation at the
terminus, then he would work down to the shore of the bay,
follow the shore line to the Old Fort at the Golden Gate,
and, turning the Point here, come out suddenly upon the full
sweep of the Pacific. Then he would follow the beach
down to a certain point of rocks that he knew. Here he
would turn inland, climbing the bluffs to a rolling grassy
down sown with blue iris and a yellow flower that he did not
know the name of. On the far side of this down was a broad,
well-kept road. McTeague would keep to this road until he
reached the city again by the way of the Sacramento Street
car line. The dentist loved these walks. He liked to be
alone. He liked the solitude of the tremendous, tumbling
ocean; the fresh, windy downs; he liked to feel the gusty
Trades flogging his face, and he would remain for hours
watching the roll and plunge of the breakers with the
silent, unreasoned enjoyment of a child. All at once he
developed a passion for fishing. He would sit all day
nearly motionless upon a point of rocks, his fish-line
between his fingers, happy if he caught three perch in
twelve hours. At noon he would retire to a bit of level
turf around an angle of the shore and cook his fish, eating
them without salt or knife or fork. He thrust a pointed
stick down the mouth of the perch, and turned it slowly over
the blaze. When the grease stopped dripping, he knew that
it was done, and would devour it slowly and with tremendous
relish, picking the bones clean, eating even the head. He
remembered how often he used to do this sort of thing when
he was a boy in the mountains of Placer County, before he
became a car-boy at the mine. The dentist enjoyed himself
hugely during these days. The instincts of the old-time
miner were returning. In the stress of his misfortune
McTeague was lapsing back to his early estate.
One evening as he reached home after such a tramp, he was
surprised to find Trina standing in front of what had been
Zerkow's house, looking at it thoughtfully, her finger on
her lips.
"What you doing here'?" growled the dentist as he came up.
There was a "Rooms-to-let" sign on the street door of the
"Now we've found a place to move to," exclaimed Trina.
"What?" cried McTeague. "There, in that dirty house, where
you found Maria?"
"I can't afford that room in the flat any more, now that you
can't get any work to do."
"But there's where Zerkow killed Maria--the very house
--an' you wake up an' squeal in the night just thinking of
"I know. I know it will be bad at first, but I'll get used
to it, an' it's just half again as cheap as where we are
now. I was looking at a room; we can have it dirt cheap.
It's a back room over the kitchen. A German family are
going to take the front part of the house and sublet the
rest. I'm going to take it. It'll be money in my pocket."
"But it won't be any in mine," vociferated the dentist,
angrily. "I'll have to live in that dirty rat hole just
so's you can save money. I ain't any the better off for
"Find work to do, and then we'll talk," declared Trina.
"I'M going to save up some money against a rainy day; and if
I can save more by living here I'm going to do it, even if
it is the house Maria was killed in. I don't care."
"All right," said McTeague, and did not make any further
protest. His wife looked at him surprised. She could not
understand this sudden acquiescence. Perhaps McTeague was
so much away from home of late that he had ceased to care
where or how he lived. But this sudden change troubled her
a little for all that.
The next day the McTeagues moved for a second time. It did
not take them long. They were obliged to buy the bed from
the landlady, a circumstance which nearly broke Trina's
heart; and this bed, a couple of chairs, Trina's trunk, an
ornament or two, the oil stove, and some plates and kitchen
ware were all that they could call their own now; and this
back room in that wretched house with its grisly memories,
the one window looking out into a grimy maze of back yards
and broken sheds, was what they now knew as their home.
The McTeagues now began to sink rapidly lower and lower.
They became accustomed to their surroundings. Worst of all,
Trina lost her pretty ways and her good looks. The combined
effects of hard work, avarice, poor food, and her husband's
brutalities told on her swiftly. Her charming little figure
grew coarse, stunted, and dumpy. She who had once been of a
catlike neatness, now slovened all day about the room
in a dirty flannel wrapper, her slippers clap-clapping after
her as she walked. At last she even neglected her hair, the
wonderful swarthy tiara, the coiffure of a queen, that
shaded her little pale forehead. In the morning she braided
it before it was half combed, and piled and coiled it about
her head in haphazard fashion. It came down half a dozen
times a day; by evening it was an unkempt, tangled mass, a
veritable rat's nest.
Ah, no, it was not very gay, that life of hers, when one had
to rustle for two, cook and work and wash, to say nothing of
paying the rent. What odds was it if she was slatternly,
dirty, coarse? Was there time to make herself look
otherwise, and who was there to be pleased when she was all
prinked out? Surely not a great brute of a husband who bit
you like a dog, and kicked and pounded you as though you
were made of iron. Ah, no, better let things go, and take
it as easy as you could. Hump your back, and it was soonest
The one room grew abominably dirty, reeking with the odors
of cooking and of "non-poisonous" paint. The bed was not
made until late in the afternoon, sometimes not at all.
Dirty, unwashed crockery, greasy knives, sodden fragments of
yesterday's meals cluttered the table, while in one corner
was the heap of evil-smelling, dirty linen. Cockroaches
appeared in the crevices of the woodwork, the wall-paper
bulged from the damp walls and began to peel. Trina had
long ago ceased to dust or to wipe the furniture with a bit
of rag. The grime grew thick upon the window panes and in
the corners of the room. All the filth of the alley invaded
their quarters like a rising muddy tide.
Between the windows, however, the faded photograph of the
couple in their wedding finery looked down upon the
wretchedness, Trina still holding her set bouquet straight
before her, McTeague standing at her side, his left foot
forward, in the attitude of a Secretary of State; while near
by hung the canary, the one thing the dentist clung to
obstinately, piping and chittering all day in its little
gilt prison.
And the tooth, the gigantic golden molar of French gilt,
enormous and ungainly, sprawled its branching prongs in
one corner of the room, by the footboard of the bed. The
McTeague's had come to use it as a sort of substitute for a
table. After breakfast and supper Trina piled the plates
and greasy dishes upon it to have them out of the way.
One afternoon the Other Dentist, McTeague's old-time rival,
the wearer of marvellous waistcoats, was surprised out of
all countenance to receive a visit from McTeague. The Other
Dentist was in his operating room at the time, at work upon
a plaster-of-paris mould. To his call of "'Come right in.
Don't you see the sign, 'Enter without knocking'?" McTeague
came in. He noted at once how airy and cheerful was the
room. A little fire coughed and tittered on the hearth, a
brindled greyhound sat on his haunches watching it intently,
a great mirror over the mantle offered to view an array of
actresses' pictures thrust between the glass and the frame,
and a big bunch of freshly-cut violets stood in a glass bowl
on the polished cherrywood table. The Other Dentist came
forward briskly, exclaiming cheerfully:
"Oh, Doctor--Mister McTeague, how do? how do?"
The fellow was actually wearing a velvet smoking jacket. A
cigarette was between his lips; his patent leather boots
reflected the firelight. McTeague wore a black surah
neglige shirt without a cravat; huge buckled brogans, hobnailed,
gross, encased his feet; the hems of his trousers
were spotted with mud; his coat was frayed at the sleeves
and a button was gone. In three days he had not shaved; his
shock of heavy blond hair escaped from beneath the visor of
his woollen cap and hung low over his forehead. He stood
with awkward, shifting feet and uncertain eyes before the
dapper young fellow who reeked of the barber shop, and whom
he had once ordered from his rooms.
"What can I do for you this morning, Mister McTeague?
Something wrong with the teeth, eh?"
"No, no." McTeague, floundering in the difficulties of his
speech, forgot the carefully rehearsed words with which he
had intended to begin this interview.
"I want to sell you my sign," he said, stupidly. "That big
tooth of French gilt--YOU know--that you made an
offer for once."
"Oh, I don't want that now," said the other loftily. "I
prefer a little quiet signboard, nothing pretentious--just
the name, and "Dentist" after it. These big signs are
vulgar. No, I don't want it."
McTeague remained, looking about on the floor, horribly
embarrassed, not knowing whether to go or to stay.
"But I don't know," said the Other Dentist, reflectively.
"If it will help you out any--I guess you're pretty hard up
--I'll--well, I tell you what--I'll give you five dollars for
"All right, all right."
On the following Thursday morning McTeague woke to hear the
eaves dripping and the prolonged rattle of the rain upon the
"Raining," he growled, in deep disgust, sitting up in bed,
and winking at the blurred window.
"It's been raining all night," said Trina. She was already
up and dressed, and was cooking breakfast on the oil stove.
McTeague dressed himself, grumbling, "Well, I'll go, anyhow.
The fish will bite all the better for the rain."
"Look here, Mac," said Trina, slicing a bit of bacon as
thinly as she could. "Look here, why don't you bring some
of your fish home sometime?"
"Huh!" snorted the dentist, "so's we could have 'em for
breakfast. Might save you a nickel, mightn't it?"
"Well, and if it did! Or you might fish for the market.
The fisherman across the street would buy 'em of you."
"Shut up!" exclaimed the dentist, and Trina obediently
"Look here," continued her husband, fumbling in his trousers
pocket and bringing out a dollar, "I'm sick and tired of
coffee and bacon and mashed potatoes. Go over to the market
and get some kind of meat for breakfast. Get a steak, or
chops, or something.
"Why, Mac, that's a whole dollar, and he only gave you five
for your sign. We can't afford it. Sure, Mac. Let me put
that money away against a rainy day. You're just as
well off without meat for breakfast."
"You do as I tell you. Get some steak, or chops, or
"Please, Mac, dear."
"Go on, now. I'll bite your fingers again pretty soon."
The dentist took a step towards her, snatching at her hand.
"All right, I'll go," cried Trina, wincing and shrinking.
"I'll go."
She did not get the chops at the big market, however.
Instead, she hurried to a cheaper butcher shop on a side
street two blocks away, and bought fifteen cents' worth of
chops from a side of mutton some two or three days old. She
was gone some little time.
"Give me the change," exclaimed the dentist as soon as she
returned. Trina handed him a quarter; and when McTeague was
about to protest, broke in upon him with a rapid stream of
talk that confused him upon the instant. But for that
matter, it was never difficult for Trina to deceive the
dentist. He never went to the bottom of things. He would
have believed her if she had told him the chops had cost a
"There's sixty cents saved, anyhow," thought Trina, as she
clutched the money in her pocket to keep it from rattling.
Trina cooked the chops, and they breakfasted in silence.
"Now," said McTeague as he rose, wiping the coffee from his
thick mustache with the hollow of his palm, "now I'm going
fishing, rain or no rain. I'm going to be gone all day."
He stood for a moment at the door, his fish-line in his
hand, swinging the heavy sinker back and forth. He looked
at Trina as she cleared away the breakfast things.
"So long," said he, nodding his huge square-cut head. This
amiability in the matter of leave taking was unusual. Trina
put the dishes down and came up to him, her little chin,
once so adorable, in the air:
"Kiss me good-by, Mac," she said, putting her arms around
his neck. "You DO love me a little yet, don't you,
Mac? We'll be happy again some day. This is hard times
now, but we'll pull out. You'll find something to do pretty
"I guess so," growled McTeague, allowing her to kiss
The canary was stirring nimbly in its cage, and just now
broke out into a shrill trilling, its little throat bulging
and quivering. The dentist stared at it. "Say," he remarked
slowly, "I think I'll take that bird of mine along."
"Sell it?" inquired Trina.
"Yes, yes, sell it."
"Well, you ARE coming to your senses at last," answered
Trina, approvingly. "But don't you let the bird-store man
cheat you. That's a good songster; and with the cage, you
ought to make him give you five dollars. You stick out for
that at first, anyhow."
McTeague unhooked the cage and carefully wrapped it in an
old newspaper, remarking, "He might get cold. Well, so
long," he repeated, "so long."
"Good-by, Mac."
When he was gone, Trina took the sixty cents she had stolen
from him out of her pocket and recounted it. "It's sixty
cents, all right," she said proudly. "But I DO believe
that dime is too smooth." She looked at it critically. The
clock on the power-house of the Sutter Street cable struck
eight. "Eight o'clock already," she exclaimed. "I must get
to work." She cleared the breakfast things from the table,
and drawing up her chair and her workbox began painting the
sets of Noah's ark animals she had whittled the day before.
She worked steadily all the morning. At noon she lunched,
warming over the coffee left from breakfast, and frying a
couple of sausages. By one she was bending over her table
again. Her fingers--some of them lacerated by McTeague's
teeth--flew, and the little pile of cheap toys in the basket
at her elbow grew steadily.
"Where DO all the toys go to?" she murmured. "The
thousands and thousands of these Noah's arks that I have
made--horses and chickens and elephants--and always there
never seems to be enough. It's a good thing for me that
children break their things, and that they all have to
have birthdays and Christmases." She dipped her brush into
a pot of Vandyke brown and painted one of the whittled toy
horses in two strokes. Then a touch of ivory black with a
small flat brush created the tail and mane, and dots of
Chinese white made the eyes. The turpentine in the paint
dried it almost immediately, and she tossed the completed
little horse into the basket.
At six o'clock the dentist had not returned. Trina waited
until seven, and then put her work away, and ate her supper
"I wonder what's keeping Mac," she exclaimed as the clock
from the power-house on Sutter Street struck half-past
seven. "I KNOW he's drinking somewhere," she cried,
apprehensively. "He had the money from his sign with him."
At eight o'clock she threw a shawl over her head and went
over to the harness shop. If anybody would know where
McTeague was it would be Heise. But the harness-maker had
seen nothing of him since the day before.
"He was in here yesterday afternoon, and we had a drink or
two at Frenna's. Maybe he's been in there to-day."
"Oh, won't you go in and see?" said Trina. "Mac always came
home to his supper--he never likes to miss his meals--and
I'm getting frightened about him."
Heise went into the barroom next door, and returned with no
definite news. Frenna had not seen the dentist since he had
come in with the harness-maker the previous afternoon.
Trina even humbled herself to ask of the Ryers--with whom
they had quarrelled--if they knew anything of the dentist's
whereabouts, but received a contemptuous negative.
"Maybe he's come in while I've been out," said Trina to
herself. She went down Polk Street again, going towards the
flat. The rain had stopped, but the sidewalks were still
glistening. The cable cars trundled by, loaded with
theatregoers. The barbers were just closing their shops.
The candy store on the corner was brilliantly lighted and
was filling up, while the green and yellow lamps from the
drug store directly opposite threw kaleidoscopic reflections
deep down into the shining surface of the asphalt. A
band of Salvationists began to play and pray in front
of Frenna's saloon. Trina hurried on down the gay street,
with its evening's brilliancy and small activities, her
shawl over her head, one hand lifting her faded skirt from
off the wet pavements. She turned into the alley, entered
Zerkow's old home by the ever-open door, and ran up-stairs
to the room. Nobody.
"Why, isn't this FUNNY," she exclaimed, half aloud,
standing on the threshold, her little milk-white forehead
curdling to a frown, one sore finger on her lips. Then a
great fear seized upon her. Inevitably she associated the
house with a scene of violent death.
"No, no," she said to the darkness, "Mac is all right.
HE can take care of himself." But for all that she had a
clear-cut vision of her husband's body, bloated with seawater,
his blond hair streaming like kelp, rolling inertly
in shifting waters.
"He couldn't have fallen off the rocks," she declared
firmly. "There--THERE he is now." She heaved a great
sigh of relief as a heavy tread sounded in the hallway
below. She ran to the banisters, looking over, and calling,
"Oh, Mac! Is that you, Mac?" It was the German whose
family occupied the lower floor. The power-house clock
struck nine.
"My God, where is Mac?" cried Trina, stamping her foot.
She put the shawl over her head again, and went out and
stood on the corner of the alley and Polk Street, watching
and waiting, craning her neck to see down the street. Once,
even, she went out upon the sidewalk in front of the flat
and sat down for a moment upon the horse-block there. She
could not help remembering the day when she had been driven
up to that horse-block in a hack. Her mother and father and
Owgooste and the twins were with her. It was her wedding
day. Her wedding dress was in a huge tin trunk on the
driver's seat. She had never been happier before in all her
life. She remembered how she got out of the hack and stood
for a moment upon the horse-block, looking up at McTeague's
windows. She had caught a glimpse of him at his shaving,
the lather still on his cheek, and they had waved their
hands at each other. Instinctively Trina looked up at the
flat behind her; looked up at the bay window where her
husband's "Dental Parlors" had been. It was all dark; the
windows had the blind, sightless appearance imparted by
vacant, untenanted rooms. A rusty iron rod projected
mournfully from one of the window ledges.
"There's where our sign hung once," said Trina. She turned
her head and looked down Polk Street towards where the Other
Dentist had his rooms, and there, overhanging the street
from his window, newly furbished and brightened, hung the
huge tooth, her birthday present to her husband, flashing
and glowing in the white glare of the electric lights like a
beacon of defiance and triumph.
"Ah, no; ah, no," whispered Trina, choking back a sob.
"Life isn't so gay. But I wouldn't mind, no I wouldn't mind
anything, if only Mac was home all right." She got up from
the horse-block and stood again on the corner of the alley,
watching and listening.
It grew later. The hours passed. Trina kept at her post.
The noise of approaching footfalls grew less and less
frequent. Little by little Polk Street dropped back into
solitude. Eleven o'clock struck from the power-house clock;
lights were extinguished; at one o'clock the cable stopped,
leaving an abrupt and numbing silence in the air. All at
once it seemed very still. The only noises were the
occasional footfalls of a policeman and the persistent
calling of ducks and geese in the closed market across the
way. The street was asleep.
When it is night and dark, and one is awake and alone, one's
thoughts take the color of the surroundings; become gloomy,
sombre, and very dismal. All at once an idea came to Trina,
a dark, terrible idea; worse, even, than the idea of
McTeague's death.
"Oh, no," she cried. "Oh, no. It isn't true. But suppose
She left her post and hurried back to the house.
"No, no," she was saying under her breath, "it isn't
possible. Maybe he's even come home already by another way.
But suppose--suppose--suppose."
She ran up the stairs, opened the door of the room, and
paused, out of breath. The room was dark and empty. With
cold, trembling fingers she lighted the lamp, and, turning
about, looked at her trunk. The lock was burst.
"No, no, no," cried Trina, "it's not true; it's not true."
She dropped on her knees before the trunk, and tossed back
the lid, and plunged her hands down into the corner
underneath her wedding dress, where she always kept the
savings. The brass match-safe and the chamois-skin bag were
there. They were empty.
Trina flung herself full length upon the floor, burying her
face in her arms, rolling her head from side to side. Her
voice rose to a wail.
"No, no, no, it's not true; it's not true; it's not true.
Oh, he couldn't have done it. Oh, how could he have done
it? All my money, all my little savings--and deserted me.
He's gone, my money's gone, my dear money--my dear, dear
gold pieces that I've worked so hard for. Oh, to have
deserted me--gone for good--gone and never coming back--gone
with my gold pieces. Gone-gone--gone. I'll never see them
again, and I've worked so hard, so so hard for him--for
them. No, no, NO, it's not true. It IS true. What
will become of me now? Oh, if you'll only come back you can
have all the money--half of it. Oh, give me back my money.
Give me back my money, and I'll forgive you. You can leave
me then if you want to. Oh, my money. Mac, Mac, you've
gone for good. You don't love me any more, and now I'm a
beggar. My money's gone, my husband's gone, gone, gone,
Her grief was terrible. She dug her nails into her scalp,
and clutching the heavy coils of her thick black hair tore
it again and again. She struck her forehead with her
clenched fists. Her little body shook from head to foot with
the violence of her sobbing. She ground her small teeth
together and beat her head upon the floor with all her
Her hair was uncoiled and hanging a tangled, dishevelled
mass far below her waist; her dress was torn; a spot of
blood was upon her forehead; her eyes were swollen; her
cheeks flamed vermilion from the fever that raged in
her veins. Old Miss Baker found her thus towards five
o'clock the next morning.
What had happened between one o'clock and dawn of that
fearful night Trina never remembered. She could only recall
herself, as in a picture, kneeling before her broken and
rifled trunk, and then--weeks later, so it seemed to her--
she woke to find herself in her own bed with an iced bandage
about her forehead and the little old dressmaker at her
side, stroking her hot, dry palm.
The facts of the matter were that the German woman who lived
below had been awakened some hours after midnight by the
sounds of Trina's weeping. She had come upstairs and into
the room to find Trina stretched face downward upon the
floor, half-conscious and sobbing, in the throes of an
hysteria for which there was no relief. The woman,
terrified, had called her husband, and between them they had
got Trina upon the bed. Then the German woman happened to
remember that Trina had friends in the big flat near by, and
had sent her husband to fetch the retired dressmaker, while
she herself remained behind to undress Trina and put her to
bed. Miss Baker had come over at once, and began to cry
herself at the sight of the dentist's poor little wife. She
did not stop to ask what the trouble was, and indeed it
would have been useless to attempt to get any coherent
explanation from Trina at that time. Miss Baker had sent
the German woman's husband to get some ice at one of the
"all-night" restaurants of the street; had kept cold, wet
towels on Trina's head; had combed and recombed her
wonderful thick hair; and had sat down by the side of the
bed, holding her hot hand, with its poor maimed fingers,
waiting patiently until Trina should be able to speak.
Towards morning Trina awoke--or perhaps it was a mere
regaining of consciousness--looked a moment at Miss Baker,
then about the room until her eyes fell upon her trunk with
its broken lock. Then she turned over upon the pillow and
began to sob again. She refused to answer any of the little
dressmaker's questions, shaking her head violently, her face
hidden in the pillow.
By breakfast time her fever had increased to such a point
that Miss Baker took matters into her own hands and had the
German woman call a doctor. He arrived some twenty
minutes later. He was a big, kindly fellow who lived over
the drug store on the corner. He had a deep voice and a
tremendous striding gait less suggestive of a physician than
of a sergeant of a cavalry troop.
By the time of his arrival little Miss Baker had divined
intuitively the entire trouble. She heard the doctor's
swinging tramp in the entry below, and heard the German
woman saying:
"Righd oop der stairs, at der back of der halle. Der room
mit der door oppen."
Miss Baker met the doctor at the landing, she told him in a
whisper of the trouble.
"Her husband's deserted her, I'm afraid, doctor, and took
all of her money--a good deal of it. It's about killed the
poor child. She was out of her head a good deal of the
night, and now she's got a raging fever."
The doctor and Miss Baker returned to the room and entered,
closing the door. The big doctor stood for a moment looking
down at Trina rolling her head from side to side upon the
pillow, her face scarlet, her enormous mane of hair spread
out on either side of her. The little dressmaker remained
at his elbow, looking from him to Trina.
"Poor little woman!" said the doctor; "poor little woman!"
Miss Baker pointed to the trunk, whispering:
"See, there's where she kept her savings. See, he broke the
"Well, Mrs. McTeague," said the doctor, sitting down by the
bed, and taking Trina's wrist, "a little fever, eh?"
Trina opened her eyes and looked at him, and then at Miss
Baker. She did not seem in the least surprised at the
unfamiliar faces. She appeared to consider it all as a
matter of course.
"Yes," she said, with a long, tremulous breath, "I have a
fever, and my head--my head aches and aches."
The doctor prescribed rest and mild opiates. Then his eye
fell upon the fingers of Trina's right hand. He looked at
them sharply. A deep red glow, unmistakable to a
physician's eyes, was upon some of them, extending from
the finger tips up to the second knuckle.
"Hello," he exclaimed, "what's the matter here?" In fact
something was very wrong indeed. For days Trina had noticed
it. The fingers of her right hand had swollen as never
before, aching and discolored. Cruelly lacerated by
McTeague's brutality as they were, she had nevertheless gone
on about her work on the Noah's ark animals, constantly in
contact with the "non-poisonous" paint. She told as much to
the doctor in answer to his questions. He shook his head
with an exclamation.
"Why, this is blood-poisoning, you know," he told her; "the
worst kind. You'll have to have those fingers amputated,
beyond a doubt, or lose the entire hand--or even worse."
"And my work!" exclaimed Trina.
One can hold a scrubbing-brush with two good fingers and the
stumps of two others even if both joints of the thumb are
gone, but it takes considerable practice to get used to it.
Trina became a scrub-woman. She had taken council of
Selina, and through her had obtained the position of caretaker
in a little memorial kindergarten over on Pacific
Street. Like Polk Street, it was an accommodation street,
but running through a much poorer and more sordid quarter.
Trina had a little room over the kindergarten schoolroom.
It was not an unpleasant room. It looked out upon a sunny
little court floored with boards and used as the children's
playground. Two great cherry trees grew here, the leaves
almost brushing against the window of Trina's room and
filtering the sunlight so that it fell in round golden spots
upon the floor of the room. "Like gold pieces," Trina said
to herself.
Trina's work consisted in taking care of the kindergarten
rooms, scrubbing the floors, washing the windows, dusting
and airing, and carrying out the ashes. Besides this she
earned some five dollars a month by washing down the front
steps of some big flats on Washington Street, and by
cleaning out vacant houses after the tenants had left. She
saw no one. Nobody knew her. She went about her work from
dawn to dark, and often entire days passed when she did not
hear the sound of her own voice. She was alone, a solitary,
abandoned woman, lost in the lowest eddies of the great
city's tide--the tide that always ebbs.
When Trina had been discharged from the hospital after the
operation on her fingers, she found herself alone in the
world, alone with her five thousand dollars. The interest
of this would support her, and yet allow her to save a
But for a time Trina had thought of giving up the fight
altogether and of joining her family in the southern part of
the State. But even while she hesitated about this she
received a long letter from her mother, an answer to one she
herself had written just before the amputation of her righthand
fingers--the last letter she would ever be able to
write. Mrs. Sieppe's letter was one long lamentation; she
had her own misfortunes to bewail as well as those of her
daughter. The carpet-cleaning and upholstery business had
failed. Mr. Sieppe and Owgooste had left for New Zealand
with a colonization company, whither Mrs. Sieppe and the
twins were to follow them as soon as the colony established
itself. So far from helping Trina in her ill fortune, it
was she, her mother, who might some day in the near future
be obliged to turn to Trina for aid. So Trina had given up
the idea of any help from her family. For that matter she
needed none. She still had her five thousand, and Uncle
Oelbermann paid her the interest with a machine-like
regularity. Now that McTeague had left her, there was one
less mouth to feed; and with this saving, together with the
little she could earn as scrub-woman, Trina could
almost manage to make good the amount she lost by being
obliged to cease work upon the Noah's ark animals.
Little by little her sorrow over the loss of her precious
savings overcame the grief of McTeague's desertion of her.
Her avarice had grown to be her one dominant passion; her
love of money for the money's sake brooded in her heart,
driving out by degrees every other natural affection. She
grew thin and meagre; her flesh clove tight to her small
skeleton; her small pale mouth and little uplifted chin grew
to have a certain feline eagerness of expression; her long,
narrow eyes glistened continually, as if they caught and
held the glint of metal. One day as she sat in her room,
the empty brass match-box and the limp chamois bag in her
hands, she suddenly exclaimed:
"I could have forgiven him if he had only gone away and left
me my money. I could have--yes, I could have forgiven him
even THIS"--she looked at the stumps of her fingers.
"But now," her teeth closed tight and her eyes flashed,
The empty bag and the hollow, light match-box troubled her.
Day after day she took them from her trunk and wept over
them as other women weep over a dead baby's shoe. Her four
hundred dollars were gone, were gone, were gone. She would
never see them again. She could plainly see her husband
spending her savings by handfuls; squandering her beautiful
gold pieces that she had been at such pains to polish with
soap and ashes. The thought filled her with an unspeakable
anguish. She would wake at night from a dream of McTeague
revelling down her money, and ask of the darkness, "How much
did he spend to-day? How many of the gold pieces are left?
Has he broken either of the two twenty-dollar pieces yet?
What did he spend it for?"
The instant she was out of the hospital Trina had begun to
save again, but now it was with an eagerness that amounted
at times to a veritable frenzy. She even denied herself
lights and fuel in order to put by a quarter or so, grudging
every penny she was obliged to spend. She did her own
washing and cooking. Finally she sold her wedding dress,
that had hitherto lain in the bottom of her trunk.
The day she moved from Zerkow's old house, she came suddenly
upon the dentist's concertina under a heap of old clothes in
the closet. Within twenty minutes she had sold it to the
dealer in second-hand furniture, returning to her room with
seven dollars in her pocket, happy for the first time since
McTeague had left her.
But for all that the match-box and the bag refused to fill
up; after three weeks of the most rigid economy they
contained but eighteen dollars and some small change. What
was that compared with four hundred? Trina told herself
that she must have her money in hand. She longed to see
again the heap of it upon her work-table, where she could
plunge her hands into it, her face into it, feeling the
cool, smooth metal upon her cheeks. At such moments she
would see in her imagination her wonderful five thousand
dollars piled in columns, shining and gleaming somewhere at
the bottom of Uncle Oelbermann's vault. She would look at
the paper that Uncle Oelbermann had given her, and tell
herself that it represented five thousand dollars. But in
the end this ceased to satisfy her, she must have the money
itself. She must have her four hundred dollars back again,
there in her trunk, in her bag and her match-box, where she
could touch it and see it whenever she desired.
At length she could stand it no longer, and one day
presented herself before Uncle Oelbermann as he sat in his
office in the wholesale toy store, and told him she wanted
to have four hundred dollars of her money.
"But this is very irregular, you know, Mrs. McTeague," said
the great man. "Not business-like at all."
But his niece's misfortunes and the sight of her poor maimed
hand appealed to him. He opened his check-book. "You
understand, of course," he said, "that this will reduce the
amount of your interest by just so much."
"I know, I know. I've thought of that," said Trina.
"Four hundred, did you say?" remarked Uncle Oelbermann,
taking the cap from his fountain pen.
"Yes, four hundred," exclaimed Trina, quickly, her eyes
Trina cashed the check and returned home with the money--all
in twenty-dollar pieces as she had desired--in an ecstasy of
delight. For half of that night she sat up playing with her
money, counting it and recounting it, polishing the duller
pieces until they shone. Altogether there were twenty
twenty-dollar gold pieces.
"Oh-h, you beauties!" murmured Trina, running her palms over
them, fairly quivering with pleasure. "You beauties!
IS there anything prettier than a twenty-dollar gold piece?
You dear, dear money! Oh, don't I LOVE you! Mine, mine,
mine--all of you mine."
She laid them out in a row on the ledge of the table, or
arranged them in patterns--triangles, circles, and squares--
or built them all up into a pyramid which she afterward
overthrew for the sake of hearing the delicious clink of the
pieces tumbling against each other. Then at last she put
them away in the brass match-box and chamois bag, delighted
beyond words that they were once more full and heavy.
Then, a few days after, the thought of the money still
remaining in Uncle Oelbermann's keeping returned to her. It
was hers, all hers--all that four thousand six hundred. She
could have as much of it or as little of it as she chose.
She only had to ask. For a week Trina resisted, knowing
very well that taking from her capital was proportionately
reducing her monthly income. Then at last she yielded.
"Just to make it an even five hundred, anyhow," she told
herself. That day she drew a hundred dollars more, in
twenty-dollar gold pieces as before. From that time Trina
began to draw steadily upon her capital, a little at a time.
It was a passion with her, a mania, a veritable mental
disease; a temptation such as drunkards only know.
It would come upon her all of a sudden. While she was about
her work, scrubbing the floor of some vacant house; or in
her room, in the morning, as she made her coffee on the oil
stove, or when she woke in the night, a brusque access
of cupidity would seize upon her. Her cheeks flushed, her
eyes glistened, her breath came short. At times she would
leave her work just as it was, put on her old bonnet of
black straw, throw her shawl about her, and go straight to
Uncle Oelbermann's store and draw against her money. Now it
would be a hundred dollars, now sixty; now she would content
herself with only twenty; and once, after a fortnight's
abstinence, she permitted herself a positive debauch of five
hundred. Little by little she drew her capital from Uncle
Oelbermann, and little by little her original interest of
twenty-five dollars a month dwindled.
One day she presented herself again in the office of the
whole-sale toy store.
"Will you let me have a check for two hundred dollars, Uncle
Oelbermann?" she said.
The great man laid down his fountain pen and leaned back in
his swivel chair with great deliberation.
"I don't understand, Mrs. McTeague," he said. "Every week
you come here and draw out a little of your money. I've told
you that it is not at all regular or business-like for me to
let you have it this way. And more than this, it's a great
inconvenience to me to give you these checks at unstated
times. If you wish to draw out the whole amount let's have
some understanding. Draw it in monthly installments of,
say, five hundred dollars, or else," he added, abruptly,
"draw it all at once, now, to-day. I would even prefer it
that way. Otherwise it's--it's annoying. Come, shall I
draw you a check for thirty-seven hundred, and have it over
and done with?"
"No, no," cried Trina, with instinctive apprehension,
refusing, she did not know why. "No, I'll leave it with
you. I won't draw out any more."
She took her departure, but paused on the pavement outside
the store, and stood for a moment lost in thought, her eyes
beginning to glisten and her breath coming short. Slowly
she turned about and reentered the store; she came back into
the office, and stood trembling at the corner of Uncle
Oelbermann's desk. He looked up sharply. Twice Trina
tried to get her voice, and when it did come to her, she
could hardly recognize it. Between breaths she said:
"Yes, all right--I'll--you can give me--will you give me a
check for thirty-seven hundred? Give me ALL of my
A few hours later she entered her little room over the
kindergarten, bolted the door with shaking fingers, and
emptied a heavy canvas sack upon the middle of her bed.
Then she opened her trunk, and taking thence the brass
match-box and chamois-skin bag added their contents to the
pile. Next she laid herself upon the bed and gathered the
gleaming heaps of gold pieces to her with both arms, burying
her face in them with long sighs of unspeakable delight.
It was a little past noon, and the day was fine and warm.
The leaves of the huge cherry trees threw off a certain
pungent aroma that entered through the open window, together
with long thin shafts of golden sunlight. Below, in the
kindergarten, the children were singing gayly and marching
to the jangling of the piano. Trina heard nothing, saw
nothing. She lay on her bed, her eyes closed, her face
buried in a pile of gold that she encircled with both her
Trina even told herself at last that she was happy once
more. McTeague became a memory--a memory that faded a little
every day--dim and indistinct in the golden splendor of five
thousand dollars.
"And yet," Trina would say, "I did love Mac, loved him
dearly, only a little while ago. Even when he hurt me, it
only made me love him more. How is it I've changed so
sudden? How COULD I forget him so soon? It must be
because he stole my money. That is it. I couldn't forgive
anyone that--no, not even my MOTHER. And I never--
never--will forgive him."
What had become of her husband Trina did not know. She
never saw any of the old Polk Street people. There was no
way she could have news of him, even if she had cared to
have it. She had her money, that was the main thing. Her
passion for it excluded every other sentiment. There it was
in the bottom of her trunk, in the canvas sack, the
chamois-skin bag, and the little brass match-safe. Not a
day passed that Trina did not have it out where she could
see and touch it. One evening she had even spread all the
gold pieces between the sheets, and had then gone to bed,
stripping herself, and had slept all night upon the money,
taking a strange and ecstatic pleasure in the touch of the
smooth flat pieces the length of her entire body.
One night, some three months after she had come to live at
the kindergarten, Trina was awakened by a sharp tap on the
pane of the window. She sat up quickly in bed, her heart
beating thickly, her eyes rolling wildly in the direction of
her trunk. The tap was repeated. Trina rose and went
fearfully to the window. The little court below was bright
with moonlight, and standing just on the edge of the shadow
thrown by one of the cherry trees was McTeague. A bunch of
half-ripe cherries was in his hand. He was eating them and
throwing the pits at the window. As he caught sight of her,
he made an eager sign for her to raise the sash. Reluctant
and wondering, Trina obeyed, and the dentist came quickly
forward. He was wearing a pair of blue overalls; a navyblue
flannel shirt without a cravat; an old coat, faded,
rain-washed, and ripped at the seams; and his woollen cap.
"Say, Trina," he exclaimed, his heavy bass voice pitched
just above a whisper, "let me in, will you, huh? Say, will
you? I'm regularly starving, and I haven't slept in a
Christian bed for two weeks."
At sight at him standing there in the moonlight, Trina could
only think of him as the man who had beaten and bitten her,
had deserted her and stolen her money, had made her suffer
as she had never suffered before in all her life. Now that
he had spent the money that he had stolen from her, he was
whining to come back--so that he might steal more, no doubt.
Once in her room he could not help but smell out her five
thousand dollars. Her indignation rose.
"No," she whispered back at him. "No, I will not let you
"But listen here, Trina, I tell you I am starving,
"Hoh!" interrupted Trina scornfully. "A man can't
starve with four hundred dollars, I guess."
"Well--well--I--well--" faltered the dentist. "Never mind
now. Give me something to eat, an' let me in an' sleep.
I've been sleeping in the Plaza for the last ten nights, and
say, I--Damn it, Trina, I ain't had anything to eat since--"
"Where's the four hundred dollars you robbed me of when you
deserted me?" returned Trina, coldly.
"Well, I've spent it," growled the dentist. "But you
CAN'T see me starve, Trina, no matter what's happened.
Give me a little money, then."
"I'll see you starve before you get any more of MY
The dentist stepped back a pace and stared up at her wonderstricken.
His face was lean and pinched. Never had the jaw
bone looked so enormous, nor the square-cut head so huge.
The moonlight made deep black shadows in the shrunken
"Huh?" asked the dentist, puzzled. "What did you say?"
"I won't give you any money--never again--not a cent."
"But do you know that I'm hungry?"
"Well, I've been hungry myself. Besides, I DON'T
believe you."
"Trina, I ain't had a thing to eat since yesterday morning;
that's God's truth. Even if I did get off with your money,
you CAN'T see me starve, can you? You can't see me walk
the streets all night because I ain't got a place to sleep.
Will you let me in? Say, will you? Huh?"
"Well, will you give me some money then--just a little?
Give me a dollar. Give me half a dol--Say, give me a
DIME, an' I can get a cup of coffee."
The dentist paused and looked at her with curious
intentness, bewildered, nonplussed.
"Say, you--you must be crazy, Trina. I--I--wouldn't let a
DOG go hungry."
"Not even if he'd bitten you, perhaps."
The dentist stared again.
There was another pause. McTeague looked up at her in
silence, a mean and vicious twinkle coming into his small
eyes. He uttered a low exclamation, and then checked
"Well, look here, for the last time. I'm starving. I've got
nowhere to sleep. Will you give me some money, or something
to eat? Will you let me in?"
Trina could fancy she almost saw the brassy glint in her
husband's eyes. He raised one enormous lean fist. Then he
"If I had hold of you for a minute, by God, I'd make you
dance. An' I will yet, I will yet. Don't you be afraid of
He turned about, the moonlight showing like a layer of snow
upon his massive shoulders. Trina watched him as he passed
under the shadow of the cherry trees and crossed the little
court. She heard his great feet grinding on the board
flooring. He disappeared.
Miser though she was, Trina was only human, and the echo of
the dentist's heavy feet had not died away before she began
to he sorry for what she had done. She stood by the open
window in her nightgown, her finger upon her lips.
"He did looked pinched," she said half aloud. "Maybe he
WAS hungry. I ought to have given him something. I wish I
had, I WISH I had. Oh," she cried, suddenly, with a
frightened gesture of both hands, "what have I come to be
that I would see Mac--my husband--that I would see him
starve rather than give him money? No, no. It's too
dreadful. I WILL give him some. I'll send it to him
to-morrow. Where?--well, he'll come back." She leaned from
the window and called as loudly as she dared, "Mac, oh,
Mac." There was no answer.
When McTeague had told Trina he had been without food for
nearly two days he was speaking the truth. The week before
he had spent the last of the four hundred dollars in the bar
of a sailor's lodging-house near the water front, and since
that time had lived a veritable hand-to-mouth existence.
He had spent her money here and there about the city in
royal fashion, absolutely reckless of the morrow, feasting
and drinking for the most part with companions he
picked up heaven knows where, acquaintances of twenty-four
hours, whose names he forgot in two days. Then suddenly he
found himself at the end of his money. He no longer had any
friends. Hunger rode him and rowelled him. He was no
longer well fed, comfortable. There was no longer a warm
place for him to sleep. He went back to Polk Street in the
evening, walking on the dark side of the street, lurking in
the shadows, ashamed to have any of his old-time friends see
him. He entered Zerkow's old house and knocked at the door
of the room Trina and he had occupied. It was empty.
Next day he went to Uncle Oelbermann's store and asked news
of Trina. Trina had not told Uncle Oelbermann of McTeague's
brutalities, giving him other reasons to explain the loss of
her fingers; neither had she told him of her husband's
robbery. So when the dentist had asked where Trina could be
found, Uncle Oelbermann, believing that McTeague was seeking
a reconciliation, had told him without hesitation, and, he
"She was in here only yesterday and drew out the balance of
her money. She's been drawing against her money for the
last month or so. She's got it all now, I guess."
"Ah, she's got it all."
The dentist went away from his bootless visit to his wife
shaking with rage, hating her with all the strength of a
crude and primitive nature. He clenched his fists till his
knuckles whitened, his teeth ground furiously upon one
"Ah, if I had hold of you once, I'd make you dance. She had
five thousand dollars in that room, while I stood there, not
twenty feet away, and told her I was starving, and she
wouldn't give me a dime to get a cup of coffee with; not a
dime to get a cup of coffee. Oh, if I once get my hands on
you!" His wrath strangled him. He clutched at the darkness
in front of him, his breath fairly whistling between his
That night he walked the streets until the morning,
wondering what now he was to do to fight the wolf away. The
morning of the next day towards ten o'clock he was on
Kearney Street, still walking, still tramping the streets,
since there was nothing else for him to do. By and by
he paused on a corner near a music store, finding a
momentary amusement in watching two or three men loading a
piano upon a dray. Already half its weight was supported by
the dray's backboard. One of the men, a big mulatto, almost
hidden under the mass of glistening rosewood, was guiding
its course, while the other two heaved and tugged in the
rear. Something in the street frightened the horses and they
shied abruptly. The end of the piano was twitched sharply
from the backboard. There was a cry, the mulatto staggered
and fell with the falling piano, and its weight dropped
squarely upon his thigh, which broke with a resounding
An hour later McTeague had found his job. The music store
engaged him as handler at six dollars a week. McTeague's
enormous strength, useless all his life, stood him in good
stead at last.
He slept in a tiny back room opening from the storeroom of
the music store. He was in some sense a watchman as well as
handler, and went the rounds of the store twice every night.
His room was a box of a place that reeked with odors of
stale tobacco smoke. The former occupant had papered the
walls with newspapers and had pasted up figures cut out from
the posters of some Kiralfy ballet, very gaudy. By the one
window, chittering all day in its little gilt prison, hung
the canary bird, a tiny atom of life that McTeague still
clung to with a strange obstinacy.
McTeague drank a good deal of whiskey in these days, but the
only effect it had upon him was to increase the viciousness
and bad temper that had developed in him since the beginning
of his misfortunes. He terrorized his fellow-handlers,
powerful men though they were. For a gruff word, for an
awkward movement in lading the pianos, for a surly look or a
muttered oath, the dentist's elbow would crook and his hand
contract to a mallet-like fist. As often as not the blow
followed, colossal in its force, swift as the leap of the
piston from its cylinder.
His hatred of Trina increased from day to day. He'd make
her dance yet. Wait only till he got his hands upon her.
She'd let him starve, would she? She'd turn him out of
doors while she hid her five thousand dollars in the bottom
of her trunk. Aha, he would see about that some day.
She couldn't make small of him. Ah, no. She'd dance all
right--all right. McTeague was not an imaginative man by
nature, but he would lie awake nights, his clumsy wits
galloping and frisking under the lash of the alcohol, and
fancy himself thrashing his wife, till a sudden frenzy of
rage would overcome him, and he would shake all over,
rolling upon the bed and biting the mattress.
On a certain day, about a week after Christmas of that year,
McTeague was on one of the top floors of the music store,
where the second-hand instruments were kept, helping to move
about and rearrange some old pianos. As he passed by one of
the counters he paused abruptly, his eye caught by an object
that was strangely familiar.
"Say," he inquired, addressing the clerk in charge, "say,
where'd this come from?"
"Why, let's see. We got that from a second-hand store up on
Polk Street, I guess. It's a fairly good machine; a little
tinkering with the stops and a bit of shellac, and we'll
make it about's good as new. Good tone. See." And the
clerk drew a long, sonorous wail from the depths of
McTeague's old concertina.
"Well, it's mine," growled the dentist.
The other laughed. "It's yours for eleven dollars."
"It's mine," persisted McTeague. "I want it."
"Go 'long with you, Mac. What do you mean?"
"I mean that it's mine, that's what I mean. You got no
right to it. It was STOLEN from me, that's what I
mean," he added, a sullen anger flaming up in his little
The clerk raised a shoulder and put the concertina on an
upper shelf.
"You talk to the boss about that; t'ain't none of my affair.
If you want to buy it, it's eleven dollars."
The dentist had been paid off the day before and had four
dollars in his wallet at the moment. He gave the money to
the clerk.
"Here, there's part of the money. You--you put that
concertina aside for me, an' I'll give you the rest in a
week or so--I'll give it to you tomorrow," he
exclaimed, struck with a sudden idea.
McTeague had sadly missed his concertina. Sunday afternoons
when there was no work to be done, he was accustomed to lie
flat on his back on his springless bed in the little room in
the rear of the music store, his coat and shoes off, reading
the paper, drinking steam beer from a pitcher, and smoking
his pipe. But he could no longer play his six lugubrious
airs upon his concertina, and it was a deprivation. He
often wondered where it was gone. It had been lost, no
doubt, in the general wreck of his fortunes. Once, even,
the dentist had taken a concertina from the lot kept by the
music store. It was a Sunday and no one was about. But he
found he could not play upon it. The stops were arranged
upon a system he did not understand.
Now his own concertina was come back to him. He would buy
it back. He had given the clerk four dollars. He knew
where he would get the remaining seven.
The clerk had told him the concertina had been sold on Polk
Street to the second-hand store there. Trina had sold it.
McTeague knew it. Trina had sold his concertina--had stolen
it and sold it--his concertina, his beloved concertina, that
he had had all his life. Why, barring the canary, there was
not one of all his belongings that McTeague had cherished
more dearly. His steel engraving of "Lorenzo de' Medici and
his Court" might be lost, his stone pug dog might go, but
his concertina!
"And she sold it--stole it from me and sold it. Just
because I happened to forget to take it along with me. Well,
we'll just see about that. You'll give me the money to buy
it back, or----"
His rage loomed big within him. His hatred of Trina came
back upon him like a returning surge. He saw her small,
prim mouth, her narrow blue eyes, her black mane of hair,
and up-tilted chin, and hated her the more because of them.
Aha, he'd show her; he'd make her dance. He'd get that
seven dollars from her, or he'd know the reason why. He
went through his work that day, heaving and hauling at the
ponderous pianos, handling them with the ease of a lifting
crane, impatient for the coming of evening, when he could be
left to his own devices. As often as he had a moment
to spare he went down the street to the nearest saloon and
drank a pony of whiskey. Now and then as he fought and
struggled with the vast masses of ebony, rosewood, and
mahogany on the upper floor of the music store, raging and
chafing at their inertness and unwillingness, while the
whiskey pirouetted in his brain, he would mutter to himself:
"An' I got to do this. I got to work like a dray horse
while she sits at home by her stove and counts her money--
and sells my concertina."
Six o'clock came. Instead of supper, McTeague drank some
more whiskey, five ponies in rapid succession. After supper
he was obliged to go out with the dray to deliver a concert
grand at the Odd Fellows' Hall, where a piano "recital" was
to take place.
"Ain't you coming back with us?" asked one of the handlers
as he climbed upon the driver's seat after the piano had
been put in place.
"No, no," returned the dentist; "I got something else to
do." The brilliant lights of a saloon near the City Hall
caught his eye. He decided he would have another drink of
whiskey. It was about eight o'clock.
The following day was to be a fete day at the
kindergarten, the Christmas and New Year festivals combined.
All that afternoon the little two-story building on Pacific
Street had been filled with a number of grand ladies of the
Kindergarten Board, who were hanging up ropes of evergreen
and sprays of holly, and arranging a great Christmas tree
that stood in the centre of the ring in the schoolroom. The
whole place was pervaded with a pungent, piney odor. Trina
had been very busy since the early morning, coming and going
at everybody's call, now running down the street after
another tack-hammer or a fresh supply of cranberries, now
tying together the ropes of evergreen and passing them up to
one of the grand ladies as she carefully balanced herself on
a step-ladder. By evening everything was in place. As the
last grand lady left the school, she gave Trina an extra
dollar for her work, and said:
"Now, if you'll just tidy up here, Mrs. McTeague, I think
that will be all. Sweep up the pine needles here--you
see they are all over the floor--and look through all the
rooms, and tidy up generally. Good night--and a Happy New
Year," she cried pleasantly as she went out.
Trina put the dollar away in her trunk before she did
anything else and cooked herself a bit of supper. Then she
came downstairs again.
The kindergarten was not large. On the lower floor were but
two rooms, the main schoolroom and another room, a
cloakroom, very small, where the children hung their hats
and coats. This cloakroom opened off the back of the main
schoolroom. Trina cast a critical glance into both of these
rooms. There had been a great deal of going and coming in
them during the day, and she decided that the first thing to
do would be to scrub the floors. She went up again to her
room overhead and heated some water over her oil stove;
then, re-descending, set to work vigorously.
By nine o'clock she had almost finished with the schoolroom.
She was down on her hands and knees in the midst of a
steaming muck of soapy water. On her feet were a pair of
man's shoes fastened with buckles; a dirty cotton gown, damp
with the water, clung about her shapeless, stunted figure.
From time to time she sat back on her heels to ease the
strain of her position, and with one smoking hand, white and
parboiled with the hot water, brushed her hair, already
streaked with gray, out of her weazened, pale face and the
corners of her mouth.
It was very quiet. A gas-jet without a globe lit up the
place with a crude, raw light. The cat who lived on the
premises, preferring to be dirty rather than to be wet, had
got into the coal scuttle, and over its rim watched her
sleepily with a long, complacent purr.
All at once he stopped purring, leaving an abrupt silence in
the air like the sudden shutting off of a stream of water,
while his eyes grew wide, two lambent disks of yellow in the
heap of black fur.
"Who is there?" cried Trina, sitting back on her heels. In
the stillness that succeeded, the water dripped from her
hands with the steady tick of a clock. Then a brutal
fist swung open the street door of the schoolroom and
McTeague came in. He was drunk; not with that drunkenness
which is stupid, maudlin, wavering on its feet, but with
that which is alert, unnaturally intelligent, vicious,
perfectly steady, deadly wicked. Trina only had to look
once at him, and in an instant, with some strange sixth
sense, born of the occasion, knew what she had to expect.
She jumped up and ran from him into the little cloakroom.
She locked and bolted the door after her, and leaned her
weight against it, panting and trembling, every nerve
shrinking and quivering with the fear of him.
McTeague put his hand on the knob of the door outside and
opened it, tearing off the lock and bolt guard, and sending
her staggering across the room.
"Mac," she cried to him, as he came in, speaking with horrid
rapidity, cringing and holding out her hands, "Mac, listen.
Wait a minute--look here--listen here. It wasn't my fault.
I'll give you some money. You can come back. I'll do
ANYTHING you want. Won't you just LISTEN to me? Oh,
don't! I'll scream. I can't help it, you know. The people
will hear."
McTeague came towards her slowly, his immense feet dragging
and grinding on the floor; his enormous fists, hard as
wooden mallets, swinging at his sides. Trina backed from him
to the corner of the room, cowering before him, holding her
elbow crooked in front of her face, watching him with
fearful intentness, ready to dodge.
"I want that money," he said, pausing in front of her.
"What money?" cried Trina.
"I want that money. You got it--that five thousand dollars.
I want every nickel of it! You understand?"
"I haven't it. It isn't here. Uncle Oelbermann's got it."
"That's a lie. He told me that you came and got it. You've
had it long enough; now I want it. Do you hear?"
"Mac, I can't give you that money. I--I WON'T give it
to you," Trina cried, with sudden resolution.
"Yes, you will. You'll give me every nickel of it."
"No, NO."
"You ain't going to make small of me this time. Give me
that money."
"For the last time, will you give me that money?"
"You won't, huh? You won't give me it? For the last time."
"No, NO."
Usually the dentist was slow in his movements, but now the
alcohol had awakened in him an ape-like agility. He kept
his small eyes upon her, and all at once sent his fist into
the middle of her face with the suddenness of a relaxed
Beside herself with terror, Trina turned and fought him
back; fought for her miserable life with the exasperation
and strength of a harassed cat; and with such energy and
such wild, unnatural force, that even McTeague for the
moment drew back from her. But her resistance was the one
thing to drive him to the top of his fury. He came back at
her again, his eyes drawn to two fine twinkling points, and
his enormous fists, clenched till the knuckles whitened,
raised in the air.
Then it became abominable.
In the schoolroom outside, behind the coal scuttle, the cat
listened to the sounds of stamping and struggling and the
muffled noise of blows, wildly terrified, his eyes bulging
like brass knobs. At last the sounds stopped on a sudden;
he heard nothing more. Then McTeague came out, closing the
door. The cat followed him with distended eyes as he
crossed the room and disappeared through the street door.
The dentist paused for a moment on the sidewalk, looking
carefully up and down the street. It was deserted and
quiet. He turned sharply to the right and went down a narrow
passage that led into the little court yard behind the
school. A candle was burning in Trina's room. He went up
by the outside stairway and entered.
The trunk stood locked in one corner of the room. The
dentist took the lid-lifter from the little oil stove, put
it underneath the lock-clasp and wrenched it open.
Groping beneath a pile of dresses he found the chamois-skin
bag, the little brass match-box, and, at the very bottom,
carefully thrust into one corner, the canvas sack crammed to
the mouth with twenty-dollar gold pieces. He emptied the
chamois-skin bag and the matchbox into the pockets of his
trousers. But the canvas sack was too bulky to hide about
his clothes. "I guess I'll just naturally have to carry
YOU," he muttered. He blew out the candle, closed the
door, and gained the street again.
The dentist crossed the city, going back to the music store.
It was a little after eleven o'clock. The night was
moonless, filled with a gray blur of faint light that seemed
to come from all quarters of the horizon at once. From time
to time there were sudden explosions of a southeast wind at
the street corners. McTeague went on, slanting his head
against the gusts, to keep his cap from blowing off,
carrying the sack close to his side. Once he looked
critically at the sky.
"I bet it'll rain to-morrow," he muttered, "if this wind
works round to the south."
Once in his little den behind the music store, he washed his
hands and forearms, and put on his working clothes, blue
overalls and a jumper, over cheap trousers and vest. Then
he got together his small belongings--an old campaign hat, a
pair of boots, a tin of tobacco, and a pinchbeck bracelet
which he had found one Sunday in the Park, and which he
believed to be valuable. He stripped his blanket from his
bed and rolled up in it all these objects, together with the
canvas sack, fastening the roll with a half hitch such as
miners use, the instincts of the old-time car-boy coming
back to him in his present confusion of mind. He changed his
pipe and his knife--a huge jackknife with a yellowed bone
handle--to the pockets of his overalls.
Then at last he stood with his hand on the door, holding up
the lamp before blowing it out, looking about to make sure
he was ready to go. The wavering light woke his canary. It
stirred and began to chitter feebly, very sleepy and cross
at being awakened. McTeague started, staring at it, and
reflecting. He believed that it would be a long time before
anyone came into that room again. The canary would be days
without food; it was likely it would starve, would die
there, hour by hour, in its little gilt prison. McTeague
resolved to take it with him. He took down the cage,
touching it gently with his enormous hands, and tied a
couple of sacks about it to shelter the little bird from the
sharp night wind.
Then he went out, locking all the doors behind him, and
turned toward the ferry slips. The boats had ceased running
hours ago, but he told himself that by waiting till four
o'clock he could get across the bay on the tug that took
over the morning papers.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Trina lay unconscious, just as she had fallen under the last
of McTeague's blows, her body twitching with an occasional
hiccough that stirred the pool of blood in which she lay
face downward. Towards morning she died with a rapid series
of hiccoughs that sounded like a piece of clockwork running
The thing had been done in the cloakroom where the
kindergarten children hung their hats and coats. There was
no other entrance except by going through the main
schoolroom. McTeague going out had shut the door of the
cloakroom, but had left the street door open; so when the
children arrived in the morning, they entered as usual.
About half-past eight, two or three five-year-olds, one a
little colored girl, came into the schoolroom of the
kindergarten with a great chatter of voices, going across to
the cloakroom to hang up their hats and coats as they had
been taught.
Half way across the room one of them stopped and put her
small nose in the air, crying, "Um-o-o, what a funnee
smell!" The others began to sniff the air as well, and one,
the daughter of a butcher, exclaimed, "'Tsmells like my pa's
shop," adding in the next breath, "Look, what's the matter
with the kittee?"
In fact, the cat was acting strangely. He lay quite flat on
the floor, his nose pressed close to the crevice under the
door of the little cloakroom, winding his tail slowly
back and forth, excited, very eager. At times he would draw
back and make a strange little clacking noise down in his
"Ain't he funnee?" said the little girl again. The cat
slunk swiftly away as the children came up. Then the
tallest of the little girls swung the door of the little
cloakroom wide open and they all ran in.
The day was very hot, and the silence of high noon lay close
and thick between the steep slopes of the canyons like an
invisible, muffling fluid. At intervals the drone of an
insect bored the air and trailed slowly to silence again.
Everywhere were pungent, aromatic smells. The vast,
moveless heat seemed to distil countless odors from the
brush--odors of warm sap, of pine needles, and of tar-weed,
and above all the medicinal odor of witch hazel. As far as
one could look, uncounted multitudes of trees and manzanita
bushes were quietly and motionlessly growing, growing,
growing. A tremendous, immeasurable Life pushed steadily
heavenward without a sound, without a motion. At turns of
the road, on the higher points, canyons disclosed themselves
far away, gigantic grooves in the landscape, deep blue in
the distance, opening one into another, ocean-deep, silent,
huge, and suggestive of colossal primeval forces held in
reserve. At their bottoms they were solid, massive; on
their crests they broke delicately into fine serrated edges
where the pines and redwoods outlined their million of tops
against the high white horizon. Here and there the
mountains lifted themselves out of the narrow river
beds in groups like giant lions rearing their heads after
drinking. The entire region was untamed. In some places
east of the Mississippi nature is cosey, intimate, small,
and homelike, like a good-natured housewife. In Placer
County, California, she is a vast, unconquered brute of the
Pliocene epoch, savage, sullen, and magnificently
indifferent to man.
But there were men in these mountains, like lice on
mammoths' hides, fighting them stubbornly, now with
hydraulic "monitors," now with drill and dynamite, boring
into the vitals of them, or tearing away great yellow
gravelly scars in the flanks of them, sucking their blood,
extracting gold.
Here and there at long distances upon the canyon sides rose
the headgear of a mine, surrounded with its few unpainted
houses, and topped by its never-failing feather of black
smoke. On near approach one heard the prolonged thunder of
the stamp-mill, the crusher, the insatiable monster,
gnashing the rocks to powder with its long iron teeth,
vomiting them out again in a thin stream of wet gray mud.
Its enormous maw, fed night and day with the car-boys'
loads, gorged itself with gravel, and spat out the gold,
grinding the rocks between its jaws, glutted, as it were,
with the very entrails of the earth, and growling over its
endless meal, like some savage animal, some legendary
dragon, some fabulous beast, symbol of inordinate and
monstrous gluttony.
McTeague had left the Overland train at Colfax, and the same
afternoon had ridden some eight miles across the mountains
in the stage that connects Colfax with Iowa Hill. Iowa Hill
was a small one-street town, the headquarters of the mines
of the district. Originally it had been built upon the
summit of a mountain, but the sides of this mountain have
long since been "hydrau-licked" away, so that the town now
clings to a mere back bone, and the rear windows of the
houses on both sides of the street look down over sheer
precipices, into vast pits hundreds of feet deep.
The dentist stayed over night at the Hill, and the next
morning started off on foot farther into the mountains. He
still wore his blue overalls and jumper; his woollen
cap was pulled down over his eye; on his feet were hobnailed
boots he had bought at the store in Colfax; his
blanket roll was over his back; in his left hand swung the
bird cage wrapped in sacks.
Just outside the town he paused, as if suddenly remembering
"There ought to be a trail just off the road here," he
muttered. "There used to be a trail--a short cut."
The next instant, without moving from his position, he saw
where it opened just before him. His instinct had halted
him at the exact spot. The trail zigzagged down the abrupt
descent of the canyon, debouching into a gravelly river bed.
"Indian River," muttered the dentist. "I remember--I
remember. I ought to hear the Morning Star's stamps from
here." He cocked his head. A low, sustained roar, like a
distant cataract, came to his ears from across the river.
"That's right," he said, contentedly. He crossed the river
and regained the road beyond. The slope rose under his
feet; a little farther on he passed the Morning Star mine,
smoking and thundering. McTeague pushed steadily on. The
road rose with the rise of the mountain, turned at a sharp
angle where a great live-oak grew, and held level for nearly
a quarter of a mile. Twice again the dentist left the road
and took to the trail that cut through deserted hydraulic
pits. He knew exactly where to look for these trails; not
once did his instinct deceive him. He recognized familiar
points at once. Here was Cold Canyon, where invariably,
winter and summer, a chilly wind was blowing; here was where
the road to Spencer's branched off; here was Bussy's old
place, where at one time there were so many dogs; here was
Delmue's cabin, where unlicensed whiskey used to be sold;
here was the plank bridge with its one rotten board; and
here the flat overgrown with manzanita, where he once had
shot three quail.
At noon, after he had been tramping for some two hours, he
halted at a point where the road dipped suddenly. A little
to the right of him, and flanking the road, an enormous
yellow gravel-pit like an emptied lake gaped to heaven.
Farther on, in the distance, a canyon zigzagged toward
the horizon, rugged with pine-clad mountain crests. Nearer
at hand, and directly in the line of the road, was an
irregular cluster of unpainted cabins. A dull, prolonged
roar vibrated in the air. McTeague nodded his head as if
"That's the place," he muttered.
He reshouldered his blanket roll and descended the road. At
last he halted again. He stood before a low one-story
building, differing from the others in that it was painted.
A verandah, shut in with mosquito netting, surrounded it.
McTeague dropped his blanket roll on a lumber pile outside,
and came up and knocked at the open door. Some one called
to him to come in.
McTeague entered, rolling his eyes about him, noting the
changes that had been made since he had last seen this
place. A partition had been knocked down, making one big
room out of the two former small ones. A counter and
railing stood inside the door. There was a telephone on the
wall. In one corner he also observed a stack of surveyor's
instruments; a big drawing-board straddled on spindle legs
across one end of the room, a mechanical drawing of some
kind, no doubt the plan of the mine, unrolled upon it; a
chromo representing a couple of peasants in a ploughed field
(Millet's "Angelus") was nailed unframed upon the wall, and
hanging from the same wire nail that secured one of its
corners in place was a bullion bag and a cartridge belt with
a loaded revolver in the pouch.
The dentist approached the counter and leaned his elbows
upon it. Three men were in the room--a tall, lean young
man, with a thick head of hair surprisingly gray, who was
playing with a half-grown great Dane puppy; another fellow
about as young, but with a jaw almost as salient as
McTeague's, stood at the letter-press taking a copy of a
letter; a third man, a little older than the other two, was
pottering over a transit. This latter was massively built,
and wore overalls and low boots streaked and stained and
spotted in every direction with gray mud. The dentist
looked slowly from one to the other; then at length, "Is the
foreman about?" he asked.
The man in the muddy overalls came forward.
"What you want?"
He spoke with a strong German accent.
The old invariable formula came back to McTeague on the
"What's the show for a job?"
At once the German foreman became preoccupied, looking
aimlessly out of the window. There was a silence.
"You hev been miner alretty?"
"Yes, yes."
"Know how to hendle pick'n shov'le?"
"Yes, I know."
The other seemed unsatisfied. "Are you a 'cousin Jack'?"
The dentist grinned. This prejudice against Cornishmen he
remembered too.
"No. American."
"How long sence you mine?"
"Oh, year or two."
"Show your hends." McTeague exhibited his hard, callused
"When ken you go to work? I want a chuck-tender on der
"I can tend a chuck. I'll go on to-night."
"What's your name?"
The dentist started. He had forgotten to be prepared for
"Huh? What?"
"What's the name?"
McTeague's eye was caught by a railroad calendar hanging
over the desk. There was no time to think.
"Burlington," he said, loudly.
The German took a card from a file and wrote it down.
"Give dis card to der boarding-boss, down at der boardinghaus,
den gome find me bei der mill at sex o'clock, und I
set you to work."
Straight as a homing pigeon, and following a blind and
unreasoned instinct, McTeague had returned to the Big Dipper
mine. Within a week's time it seemed to him as though
he had never been away. He picked up his life again exactly
where he had left it the day when his mother had sent him
away with the travelling dentist, the charlatan who had set
up his tent by the bunk house. The house McTeague had once
lived in was still there, occupied by one of the shift
bosses and his family. The dentist passed it on his way to
and from the mine.
He himself slept in the bunk house with some thirty others
of his shift. At half-past five in the evening the cook at
the boarding-house sounded a prolonged alarm upon a crowbar
bent in the form of a triangle, that hung upon the porch of
the boarding-house. McTeague rose and dressed, and with his
shift had supper. Their lunch-pails were distributed to
them. Then he made his way to the tunnel mouth, climbed
into a car in the waiting ore train, and was hauled into the
Once inside, the hot evening air turned to a cool dampness,
and the forest odors gave place to the smell of stale
dynamite smoke, suggestive of burning rubber. A cloud of
steam came from McTeague's mouth; underneath, the water
swashed and rippled around the car-wheels, while the light
from the miner's candlesticks threw wavering blurs of pale
yellow over the gray rotting quartz of the roof and walls.
Occasionally McTeague bent down his head to avoid the
lagging of the roof or the projections of an overhanging
shute. From car to car all along the line the miners called
to one another as the train trundled along, joshing and
A mile from the entrance the train reached the breast where
McTeague's gang worked. The men clambered from the cars and
took up the labor where the day shift had left it, burrowing
their way steadily through a primeval river bed.
The candlesticks thrust into the crevices of the gravel
strata lit up faintly the half dozen moving figures befouled
with sweat and with wet gray mould. The picks struck into
the loose gravel with a yielding shock. The long-handled
shovels clinked amidst the piles of bowlders and scraped
dully in the heaps of rotten quartz. The Burly drill boring
for blasts broke out from time to time in an irregular
chug-chug, chug-chug, while the engine that pumped the water
from the mine coughed and strangled at short intervals.
McTeague tended the chuck. In a way he was the assistant of
the man who worked the Burly. It was his duty to replace
the drills in the Burly, putting in longer ones as the hole
got deeper and deeper. From time to time he rapped the
drill with a pole-pick when it stuck fast or fitchered.
Once it even occurred to him that there was a resemblance
between his present work and the profession he had been
forced to abandon. In the Burly drill he saw a queer
counterpart of his old-time dental engine; and what were the
drills and chucks but enormous hoe excavators, hard bits,
and burrs? It was the same work he had so often performed
in his "Parlors," only magnified, made monstrous, distorted,
and grotesqued, the caricature of dentistry.
He passed his nights thus in the midst of the play of crude
and simple forces--the powerful attacks of the Burly drills;
the great exertions of bared, bent backs overlaid with
muscle; the brusque, resistless expansion of dynamite; and
the silent, vast, Titanic force, mysterious and slow, that
cracked the timbers supporting the roof of the tunnel, and
that gradually flattened the lagging till it was thin as
The life pleased the dentist beyond words. The still,
colossal mountains took him back again like a returning
prodigal, and vaguely, without knowing why, he yielded to
their influence--their immensity, their enormous power,
crude and blind, reflecting themselves in his own nature,
huge, strong, brutal in its simplicity. And this, though he
only saw the mountains at night. They appeared far different
then than in the daytime. At twelve o'clock he came out of
the mine and lunched on the contents of his dinner-pail,
sitting upon the embankment of the track, eating with both
hands, and looking around him with a steady ox-like gaze.
The mountains rose sheer from every side, heaving their
gigantic crests far up into the night, the black peaks
crowding together, and looking now less like beasts than
like a company of cowled giants. In the daytime they
were silent; but at night they seemed to stir and rouse
themselves. Occasionally the stamp-mill stopped, its thunder
ceasing abruptly. Then one could hear the noises that the
mountains made in their living. From the canyon, from the
crowding crests, from the whole immense landscape, there
rose a steady and prolonged sound, coming from all sides at
once. It was that incessant and muffled roar which
disengages itself from all vast bodies, from oceans, from
cities, from forests, from sleeping armies, and which is
like the breathing of an infinitely great monster, alive,
McTeague returned to his work. At six in the morning his
shift was taken off, and he went out of the mine and back to
the bunk house. All day long he slept, flung at length upon
the strong-smelling blankets--slept the dreamless sleep of
exhaustion, crushed and overpowered with the work, flat and
prone upon his belly, till again in the evening the cook
sounded the alarm upon the crowbar bent into a triangle.
Every alternate week the shifts were changed. The second
week McTeague's shift worked in the daytime and slept at
night. Wednesday night of this second week the dentist woke
suddenly. He sat up in his bed in the bunk house, looking
about him from side to side; an alarm clock hanging on the
wall, over a lantern, marked half-past three.
"What was it?" muttered the dentist. "I wonder what it
was." The rest of the shift were sleeping soundly, filling
the room with the rasping sound of snoring. Everything was
in its accustomed place; nothing stirred. But for all that
McTeague got up and lit his miner's candlestick and went
carefully about the room, throwing the light into the dark
corners, peering under all the beds, including his own.
Then he went to the door and stepped outside. The night was
warm and still; the moon, very low, and canted on her side
like a galleon foundering. The camp was very quiet; nobody
was in sight. "I wonder what it was," muttered the dentist.
"There was something--why did I wake up? Huh?" He made a
circuit about the bunk house, unusually alert, his small
eyes twinkling rapidly, seeing everything. All was
quiet. An old dog who invariably slept on the steps of the
bunk house had not even wakened. McTeague went back to bed,
but did not sleep.
"There was SOMETHING," he muttered, looking in a puzzled
way at his canary in the cage that hung from the wall at his
bedside; "something. What was it? There is something
NOW. There it is again--the same thing." He sat up in bed
with eyes and ears strained. "What is it? I don' know what
it is. I don' hear anything, an' I don' see anything. I
feel something--right now; feel it now. I wonder--I don'
know--I don' know."
Once more he got up, and this time dressed himself. He made
a complete tour of the camp, looking and listening, for what
he did not know. He even went to the outskirts of the camp
and for nearly half an hour watched the road that led into
the camp from the direction of Iowa Hill. He saw nothing;
not even a rabbit stirred. He went to bed.
But from this time on there was a change. The dentist grew
restless, uneasy. Suspicion of something, he could not say
what, annoyed him incessantly. He went wide around sharp
corners. At every moment he looked sharply over his
shoulder. He even went to bed with his clothes and cap on,
and at every hour during the night would get up and prowl
about the bunk house, one ear turned down the wind, his eyes
gimleting the darkness. From time to time he would murmur:
"There's something. What is it? I wonder what it is."
What strange sixth sense stirred in McTeague at this time?
What animal cunning, what brute instinct clamored for
recognition and obedience? What lower faculty was it that
roused his suspicion, that drove him out into the night a
score of times between dark and dawn, his head in the air,
his eyes and ears keenly alert?
One night as he stood on the steps of the bunk house,
peering into the shadows of the camp, he uttered an
exclamation as of a man suddenly enlightened. He turned
back into the house, drew from under his bed the blanket
roll in which he kept his money hid, and took the
canary down from the wall. He strode to the door and
disappeared into the night. When the sheriff of Placer
County and the two deputies from San Francisco reached the
Big Dipper mine, McTeague had been gone two days.
"Well," said one of the deputies, as he backed the horse
into the shafts of the buggy in which the pursuers had
driven over from the Hill, "we've about as good as got him.
It isn't hard to follow a man who carries a bird cage with
him wherever he goes."
McTeague crossed the mountains on foot the Friday and
Saturday of that week, going over through Emigrant Gap,
following the line of the Overland railroad. He reached
Reno Monday night. By degrees a vague plan of action
outlined itself in the dentist's mind.
"Mexico," he muttered to himself. "Mexico, that's the
place. They'll watch the coast and they'll watch the Eastern
trains, but they won't think of Mexico."
The sense of pursuit which had harassed him during the last
week of his stay at the Big Dipper mine had worn off, and he
believed himself to be very cunning.
"I'm pretty far ahead now, I guess," he said. At Reno he
boarded a south-bound freight on the line of the Carson and
Colorado railroad, paying for a passage in the caboose.
"Freights don' run on schedule time," he muttered, "and a
conductor on a passenger train makes it his business to
study faces. I'll stay with this train as far as it goes."
The freight worked slowly southward, through western
Nevada, the country becoming hourly more and more desolate
and abandoned. After leaving Walker Lake the sage-brush
country began, and the freight rolled heavily over tracks
that threw off visible layers of heat. At times it stopped
whole half days on sidings or by water tanks, and the
engineer and fireman came back to the caboose and played
poker with the conductor and train crew. The dentist sat
apart, behind the stove, smoking pipe after pipe of cheap
tobacco. Sometimes he joined in the poker games. He had
learned poker when a boy at the mine, and after a few deals
his knowledge returned to him; but for the most part he was
taciturn and unsociable, and rarely spoke to the others
unless spoken to first. The crew recognized the type, and
the impression gained ground among them that he had "done
for" a livery-stable keeper at Truckee and was trying to get
down into Arizona.
McTeague heard two brakemen discussing him one night as they
stood outside by the halted train. "The livery-stable
keeper called him a bastard; that's what Picachos told me,"
one of them remarked, "and started to draw his gun; an' this
fellar did for him with a hayfork. He's a horse doctor,
this chap is, and the livery-stable keeper had got the law
on him so's he couldn't practise any more, an' he was sore
about it."
Near a place called Queen's the train reentered California,
and McTeague observed with relief that the line of track
which had hitherto held westward curved sharply to the south
again. The train was unmolested; occasionally the crew
fought with a gang of tramps who attempted to ride the brake
beams, and once in the northern part of Inyo County, while
they were halted at a water tank, an immense Indian buck,
blanketed to the ground, approached McTeague as he stood on
the roadbed stretching his legs, and without a word
presented to him a filthy, crumpled letter. The letter was
to the effect that the buck Big Jim was a good Indian and
deserving of charity; the signature was illegible. The
dentist stared at the letter, returned it to the buck, and
regained the train just as it started. Neither had spoken;
the buck did not move from his position, and fully five
minutes afterward, when the slow-moving freight was
miles away, the dentist looked back and saw him still
standing motionless between the rails, a forlorn and
solitary point of red, lost in the immensity of the
surrounding white blur of the desert.
At length the mountains began again, rising up on either
side of the track; vast, naked hills of white sand and red
rock, spotted with blue shadows. Here and there a patch of
green was spread like a gay table-cloth over the sand. All
at once Mount Whitney leaped over the horizon. Independence
was reached and passed; the freight, nearly emptied by now,
and much shortened, rolled along the shores of Owen Lake.
At a place called Keeler it stopped definitely. It was the
terminus of the road.
The town of Keeler was a one-street town, not unlike Iowa
Hill--the post-office, the bar and hotel, the Odd Fellows'
Hall, and the livery stable being the principal buildings.
"Where to now?" muttered McTeague to himself as he sat on
the edge of the bed in his room in the hotel. He hung the
canary in the window, filled its little bathtub, and watched
it take its bath with enormous satisfaction. "Where to
now?" he muttered again. "This is as far as the railroad
goes, an' it won' do for me to stay in a town yet a while;
no, it won' do. I got to clear out. Where to? That's the
word, where to? I'll go down to supper now"--He went on
whispering his thoughts aloud, so that they would take more
concrete shape in his mind--"I'll go down to supper now, an'
then I'll hang aroun' the bar this evening till I get the
lay of this land. Maybe this is fruit country, though it
looks more like a cattle country. Maybe it's a mining
country. If it's a mining country," he continued, puckering
his heavy eyebrows, "if it's a mining country, an' the mines
are far enough off the roads, maybe I'd better get to the
mines an' lay quiet for a month before I try to get any
farther south."
He washed the cinders and dust of a week's railroading from
his face and hair, put on a fresh pair of boots, and went
down to supper. The dining-room was of the invariable type
of the smaller interior towns of California. There was but
one table, covered with oilcloth; rows of benches
answered for chairs; a railroad map, a chromo with a gilt
frame protected by mosquito netting, hung on the walls,
together with a yellowed photograph of the proprietor in
Masonic regalia. Two waitresses whom the guests--all men--
called by their first names, came and went with large trays.
Through the windows outside McTeague observed a great number
of saddle horses tied to trees and fences. Each one of
these horses had a riata on the pommel of the saddle. He
sat down to the table, eating his thick hot soup, watching
his neighbors covertly, listening to everything that was
said. It did not take him long to gather that the country
to the east and south of Keeler was a cattle country.
Not far off, across a range of hills, was the Panamint
Valley, where the big cattle ranges were. Every now and
then this name was tossed to and fro across the table in the
flow of conversation--"Over in the Panamint." "Just going
down for a rodeo in the Panamint." "Panamint brands." "Has
a range down in the Panamint." Then by and by the remark,
"Hoh, yes, Gold Gulch, they're down to good pay there.
That's on the other side of the Panamint Range. Peters came
in yesterday and told me."
McTeague turned to the speaker.
"Is that a gravel mine?" he asked.
"No, no, quartz."
"I'm a miner; that's why I asked."
"Well I've mined some too. I had a hole in the ground
meself, but she was silver; and when the skunks at
Washington lowered the price of silver, where was I?
Fitchered, b'God!"
"I was looking for a job."
"Well, it's mostly cattle down here in the Panamint, but
since the strike over at Gold Gulch some of the boys have
gone prospecting. There's gold in them damn Panamint
Mountains. If you can find a good long 'contact' of country
rocks you ain't far from it. There's a couple of fellars
from Redlands has located four claims around Gold Gulch.
They got a vein eighteen inches wide, an' Peters says
you can trace it for more'n a thousand feet. Were you
thinking of prospecting over there?"
"Well, well, I don' know, I don' know."
"Well, I'm going over to the other side of the range day
after t'morrow after some ponies of mine, an' I'm going to
have a look around. You say you've been a miner?"
"Yes, yes."
"If you're going over that way, you might come along and see
if we can't find a contact, or copper sulphurets, or
something. Even if we don't find color we may find silverbearing
galena." Then, after a pause, "Let's see, I didn't
catch your name."
"Huh? My name's Carter," answered McTeague, promptly. Why
he should change his name again the dentist could not say.
"Carter" came to his mind at once, and he answered without
reflecting that he had registered as "Burlington" when he
had arrived at the hotel.
"Well, my name's Cribbens," answered the other. The two
shook hands solemnly.
"You're about finished?" continued Cribbens, pushing back.
"Le's go out in the bar an' have a drink on it."
"Sure, sure," said the dentist.
The two sat up late that night in a corner of the barroom
discussing the probability of finding gold in the Panamint
hills. It soon became evident that they held differing
theories. McTeague clung to the old prospector's idea that
there was no way of telling where gold was until you
actually saw it. Cribbens had evidently read a good many
books upon the subject, and had already prospected in
something of a scientific manner.
"Shucks!" he exclaimed. "Gi' me a long distinct contact
between sedimentary and igneous rocks, an' I'll sink a shaft
without ever SEEING 'color.'"
The dentist put his huge chin in the air. "Gold is where
you find it," he returned, doggedly.
"Well, it's my idea as how pardners ought to work along
different lines," said Cribbens. He tucked the corners of
his mustache into his mouth and sucked the tobacco juice
from them. For a moment he was thoughtful, then he blew
out his mustache abruptly, and exclaimed:
"Say, Carter, le's make a go of this. You got a little cash
I suppose--fifty dollars or so?"
"Huh ? Yes--I--I--"
"Well, I got about fifty. We'll go pardners on the
proposition, an' we'll dally 'round the range yonder an' see
what we can see. What do you say?"
"Sure, sure," answered the dentist.
"Well, it's a go then, hey?"
"That's the word."
"Well, le's have a drink on it."
They drank with profound gravity.
They fitted out the next day at the general merchandise
store of Keeler--picks, shovels, prospectors' hammers, a
couple of cradles, pans, bacon, flour, coffee, and the like,
and they bought a burro on which to pack their kit.
"Say, by jingo, you ain't got a horse," suddenly exclaimed
Cribbens as they came out of the store. "You can't get
around this country without a pony of some kind."
Cribbens already owned and rode a buckskin cayuse that had
to be knocked in the head and stunned before it could be
saddled. "I got an extry saddle an' a headstall at the
hotel that you can use," he said, "but you'll have to get a
In the end the dentist bought a mule at the livery stable
for forty dollars. It turned out to be a good bargain,
however, for the mule was a good traveller and seemed
actually to fatten on sage-brush and potato parings. When
the actual transaction took place, McTeague had been obliged
to get the money to pay for the mule out of the canvas sack.
Cribbens was with him at the time, and as the dentist
unrolled his blankets and disclosed the sack, whistled in
"An' me asking you if you had fifty dollars!" he exclaimed.
"You carry your mine right around with you, don't you?"
"Huh, I guess so," muttered the dentist. "I--I just sold a
claim I had up in El Dorado County," he added.
At five o'clock on a magnificent May morning the
"pardners" jogged out of Keeler, driving the burro before
them. Cribbens rode his cayuse, McTeague following in his
rear on the mule.
"Say," remarked Cribbens, "why in thunder don't you leave
that fool canary behind at the hotel? It's going to be in
your way all the time, an' it will sure die. Better break
its neck an' chuck it."
"No, no," insisted the dentist. "I've had it too long. I'll
take it with me."
"Well, that's the craziest idea I ever heard of," remarked
Cribbens, "to take a canary along prospecting. Why not kid
gloves, and be done with it?"
They travelled leisurely to the southeast during the day,
following a well-beaten cattle road, and that evening camped
on a spur of some hills at the head of the Panamint Valley
where there was a spring. The next day they crossed the
Panamint itself.
"That's a smart looking valley," observed the dentist.
"NOW you're talking straight talk," returned Cribbens,
sucking his mustache. The valley was beautiful, wide,
level, and very green. Everywhere were herds of cattle,
scarcely less wild than deer. Once or twice cowboys passed
them on the road, big-boned fellows, picturesque in their
broad hats, hairy trousers, jingling spurs, and revolver
belts, surprisingly like the pictures McTeague remembered to
have seen. Everyone of them knew Cribbens, and almost
invariably joshed him on his venture.
"Say, Crib, ye'd best take a wagon train with ye to bring
your dust back."
Cribbens resented their humor, and after they had passed,
chewed fiercely on his mustache.
"I'd like to make a strike, b'God! if it was only to get
the laugh on them joshers."
By noon they were climbing the eastern slope of the Panamint
Range. Long since they had abandoned the road; vegetation
ceased; not a tree was in sight. They followed faint cattle
trails that led from one water hole to another. By degrees
these water holes grew dryer and dryer, and at three
o'clock Cribbens halted and filled their canteens.
"There ain't any TOO much water on the other side," he
observed grimly.
"It's pretty hot," muttered the dentist, wiping his
streaming forehead with the back of his hand.
"Huh!" snorted the other more grimly than ever. The
motionless air was like the mouth of a furnace. Cribbens's
pony lathered and panted. McTeague's mule began to droop
his long ears. Only the little burro plodded resolutely on,
picking the trail where McTeague could see but trackless
sand and stunted sage. Towards evening Cribbens, who was in
the lead, drew rein on the summit of the hills.
Behind them was the beautiful green Panamint Valley, but
before and below them for miles and miles, as far as the eye
could reach, a flat, white desert, empty even of sage-brush,
unrolled toward the horizon. In the immediate foreground a
broken system of arroyos, and little canyons tumbled down to
meet it. To the north faint blue hills shouldered
themselves above the horizon.
"Well," observed Cribbens, "we're on the top of the Panamint
Range now. It's along this eastern slope, right below us
here, that we're going to prospect. Gold Gulch"--he pointed
with the butt of his quirt--"is about eighteen or nineteen
miles along here to the north of us. Those hills way over
yonder to the northeast are the Telescope hills."
"What do you call the desert out yonder?" McTeague's eyes
wandered over the illimitable stretch of alkali that
stretched out forever and forever to the east, to the north,
and to the south.
"That," said Cribbens, "that's Death Valley."
There was a long pause. The horses panted irregularly, the
sweat dripping from their heaving bellies. Cribbens and the
dentist sat motionless in their saddles, looking out over
that abominable desolation, silent, troubled.
"God!" ejaculated Cribbens at length, under his breath, with
a shake of his head. Then he seemed to rouse himself.
"Well," he remarked, "first thing we got to do now is to
find water."
This was a long and difficult task. They descended
into one little canyon after another, followed the course of
numberless arroyos, and even dug where there seemed
indications of moisture, all to no purpose. But at length
McTeague's mule put his nose in the air and blew once or
twice through his nostrils.
"Smells it, the son of a gun!" exclaimed Cribbens. The
dentist let the animal have his head, and in a few minutes
he had brought them to the bed of a tiny canyon where a thin
stream of brackish water filtered over a ledge of rocks.
"We'll camp here," observed Cribbens, "but we can't turn the
horses loose. We'll have to picket 'em with the lariats. I
saw some loco-weed back here a piece, and if they get to
eating that, they'll sure go plum crazy. The burro won't
eat it, but I wouldn't trust the others."
A new life began for McTeague. After breakfast the
"pardners" separated, going in opposite directions along the
slope of the range, examining rocks, picking and chipping at
ledges and bowlders, looking for signs, prospecting.
McTeague went up into the little canyons where the streams
had cut through the bed rock, searching for veins of quartz,
breaking out this quartz when he had found it, pulverizing
and panning it. Cribbens hunted for "contacts," closely
examining country rocks and out-crops, continually on the
lookout for spots where sedimentary and igneous rock came
One day, after a week of prospecting, they met unexpectedly
on the slope of an arroyo. It was late in the afternoon.
"Hello, pardner," exclaimed Cribbens as he came down to
where McTeague was bending over his pan. "What luck?"
The dentist emptied his pan and straightened up. "Nothing,
nothing. You struck anything?"
"Not a trace. Guess we might as well be moving towards
camp." They returned together, Cribbens telling the dentist
of a group of antelope he had seen.
"We might lay off to-morrow, an' see if we can plug a couple
of them fellers. Antelope steak would go pretty well after
beans an' bacon an' coffee week in an' week out."
McTeague was answering, when Cribbens interrupted him
with an exclamation of profound disgust. "I thought we were
the first to prospect along in here, an' now look at that.
Don't it make you sick?"
He pointed out evidences of an abandoned prospector's camp
just before them--charred ashes, empty tin cans, one or two
gold-miner's pans, and a broken pick. "Don't that make you
sick?" muttered Cribbens, sucking his mustache furiously.
"To think of us mushheads going over ground that's been
covered already! Say, pardner, we'll dig out of here tomorrow.
I've been thinking, anyhow, we'd better move to the
south; that water of ours is pretty low."
"Yes, yes, I guess so," assented the dentist. "There ain't
any gold here."
"Yes, there is," protested Cribbens doggedly; "there's gold
all through these hills, if we could only strike it. I tell
you what, pardner, I got a place in mind where I'll bet no
one ain't prospected--least not very many. There don't very
many care to try an' get to it. It's over on the other side
of Death Valley. It's called Gold Mountain, an' there's only
one mine been located there, an' it's paying like a nitrate
bed. There ain't many people in that country, because it's
all hell to get into. First place, you got to cross Death
Valley and strike the Armagosa Range fur off to the south.
Well, no one ain't stuck on crossing the Valley, not if they
can help it. But we could work down the Panamint some
hundred or so miles, maybe two hundred, an' fetch around by
the Armagosa River, way to the south'erd. We could prospect
on the way. But I guess the Armagosa'd be dried up at this
season. Anyhow," he concluded, "we'll move camp to the
south to-morrow. We got to get new feed an' water for the
horses. We'll see if we can knock over a couple of antelope
to-morrow, and then we'll scoot."
"I ain't got a gun," said the dentist; "not even a revolver.
"Wait a second," said Cribbens, pausing in his scramble down
the side of one of the smaller gulches. "Here's some slate
here; I ain't seen no slate around here yet. Let's see
where it goes to."
McTeague followed him along the side of the gulch. Cribbens
went on ahead, muttering to himself from time to time:
"Runs right along here, even enough, and here's water too.
Didn't know this stream was here; pretty near dry, though.
Here's the slate again. See where it runs, pardner?"
"Look at it up there ahead," said McTeague. "It runs right
up over the back of this hill."
"That's right," assented Cribbens. "Hi!" he shouted
suddenly, "HERE'S A 'CONTACT,' and here it is again, and
there, and yonder. Oh, look at it, will you? That's granodiorite
on slate. Couldn't want it any more distinct than
that. GOD! if we could only find the quartz between the
two now."
"Well, there it is," exclaimed McTeague. "Look on ahead
there; ain't that quartz?"
"You're shouting right out loud," vociferated Cribbens,
looking where McTeague was pointing. His face went suddenly
pale. He turned to the dentist, his eyes wide.
"By God, pardner," he exclaimed, breathlessly. "By God--"
he broke off abruptly.
"That's what you been looking for, ain't it?" asked the
"LOOKING for! LOOKING for!" Cribbens checked
himself . "That's SLATE all right, and that's granodiorite,
I know"--he bent down and examined the rock--
"and here's the quartz between 'em; there can't be no
mistake about that. Gi' me that hammer," he cried,
excitedly. "Come on, git to work. Jab into the quartz with
your pick; git out some chunks of it." Cribbens went down on
his hands and knees, attacking the quartz vein furiously.
The dentist followed his example, swinging his pick with
enormous force, splintering the rocks at every stroke.
Cribbens was talking to himself in his excitement.
"Got you THIS time, you son of a gun! By God! I guess
we got you THIS time, at last. Looks like it, anyhow.
GET a move on, pardner. There ain't anybody 'round, is
there? Hey?" Without looking, he drew his revolver and
threw it to the dentist. "Take the gun an' look around,
pardner. If you see any son of a gun ANYWHERE, PLUG
him. This yere's OUR claim. I guess we got it THIS
tide, pardner. Come on." He gathered up the chunks of
quartz he had broken out, and put them in his hat and
started towards their camp. The two went along with great
strides, hurrying as fast as they could over the uneven
"I don' know," exclaimed Cribbens, breathlessly, "I don'
want to say too much. Maybe we're fooled. Lord, that damn
camp's a long ways off. Oh, I ain't goin' to fool along
this way. Come on, pardner." He broke into a run.
McTeague followed at a lumbering gallop. Over the scorched,
parched ground, stumbling and tripping over sage-brush and
sharp-pointed rocks, under the palpitating heat of the
desert sun, they ran and scrambled, carrying the quartz
lumps in their hats.
"See any 'COLOR' in it, pardner?" gasped Cribbens. "I
can't, can you? 'Twouldn't be visible nohow, I guess.
Hurry up. Lord, we ain't ever going to get to that camp."
Finally they arrived. Cribbens dumped the quartz fragments
into a pan.
"You pestle her, pardner, an' I'll fix the scales."
McTeague ground the lumps to fine dust in the iron mortar
while Cribbens set up the tiny scales and got out the
"spoons" from their outfit.
"That's fine enough," Cribbens exclaimed, impatiently. "Now
we'll spoon her. Gi' me the water."
Cribbens scooped up a spoonful of the fine white powder and
began to spoon it carefully. The two were on their hands
and knees upon the ground, their heads close together, still
panting with excitement and the exertion of their run.
"Can't do it," exclaimed Cribbens, sitting back on his
heels, "hand shakes so. YOU take it, pardner. Careful,
McTeague took the horn spoon and began rocking it gently in
his huge fingers, sluicing the water over the edge a little
at a time, each movement washing away a little more of the
powdered quartz. The two watched it with the intensest
"Don't see it yet; don't see it yet," whispered Cribbens,
chewing his mustache. "LEETLE faster, pardner.
That's the ticket. Careful, steady, now; leetle more,
leetle more. Don't see color yet, do you?"
The quartz sediment dwindled by degrees as McTeague spooned
it steadily. Then at last a thin streak of a foreign
substance began to show just along the edge. It was yellow.
Neither spoke. Cribbens dug his nails into the sand, and
ground his mustache between his teeth. The yellow streak
broadened as the quartz sediment washed away. Cribbens
"We got it, pardner. That's gold."
McTeague washed the last of the white quartz dust away, and
let the water trickle after it. A pinch of gold, fine as
flour, was left in the bottom of the spoon.
"There you are," he said. The two looked at each other.
Then Cribbens rose into the air with a great leap and a yell
that could have been heard for half a mile.
"Yee-e-ow! We GOT it, we struck it. Pardner, we got
it. Out of sight. We're millionaires." He snatched up his
revolver and fired it with inconceivable rapidity. "PUT
it there, old man," he shouted, gripping McTeague's palm.
"That's gold, all right," muttered McTeague, studying the
contents of the spoon.
"You bet your great-grandma's Cochin-China Chessy cat it's
gold," shouted Cribbens. "Here, now, we got a lot to do.
We got to stake her out an' put up the location notice.
We'll take our full acreage, you bet. You--we haven't
weighed this yet. Where's the scales?" He weighed the pinch
of gold with shaking hands. "Two grains," he cried.
"That'll run five dollars to the ton. Rich, it's rich; it's
the richest kind of pay, pardner. We're millionaires. Why
don't you say something? Why don't you get excited? Why
don't you run around an' do something?"
"Huh!" said McTeague, rolling his eyes. "Huh! I know, I
know, we've struck it pretty rich."
"Come on," exclaimed Cribbens, jumping up again. "We'll
stake her out an' put up the location notice. Lord, suppose
anyone should have come on her while we've been away." He
reloaded his revolver deliberately. "We'll drop
HIM all right, if there's anyone fooling round there; I'll
tell you those right now. Bring the rifle, pardner, an' if
you see anyone, PLUG him, an' ask him what he wants
They hurried back to where they had made their discovery.
"To think," exclaimed Cribbens, as he drove the first stake,
"to think those other mushheads had their camp within
gunshot of her and never located her. Guess they didn't
know the meaning of a 'contact.' Oh, I knew I was solid on
They staked out their claim, and Cribbens put up the notice
of location. It was dark before they were through.
Cribbens broke off some more chunks of quarts in the vein.
"I'll spoon this too, just for the fun of it, when I get
home," he explained, as they tramped back to the camp.
"Well," said the dentist, "we got the laugh on those
"Have we?" shouted Cribbens. "HAVE we? Just wait and
see the rush for this place when we tell 'em about it down
in Keeler. Say, what'll we call her?"
"I don' know, I don' know."
"We might call her the 'Last Chance.' 'Twas our last
chance, wasn't it? We'd 'a' gone antelope shooting
tomorrow, and the next day we'd 'a'--say, what you stopping
for?" he added, interrupting himself. "What's up?"
The dentist had paused abruptly on the crest of a canyon.
Cribbens, looking back, saw him standing motionless in his
"What's up?" asked Cribbens a second time.
McTeague slowly turned his head and looked over one
shoulder, then over the other. Suddenly he wheeled sharply
about, cocking the Winchester and tossing it to his
shoulder. Cribbens ran back to his side, whipping out his
"What is it?" he cried. "See anybody?" He peered on ahead
through the gathering twilight.
"No, no."
"Hear anything?"
"No, didn't hear anything."
"What is it then? What's up?"
"I don' know, I don' know," muttered the dentist, lowering
the rifle. "There was something."
"Something--didn't you notice?"
"Notice what?"
"I don' know. Something--something or other."
"Who? What? Notice what? What did you see?"
The dentist let down the hammer of the rifle.
"I guess it wasn't anything," he said rather foolishly.
"What d'you think you saw--anybody on the claim?"
"I didn't see anything. I didn't hear anything either. I
had an idea, that's all; came all of a sudden, like that.
Something, I don' know what."
"I guess you just imagined something. There ain't anybody
within twenty miles of us, I guess."
"Yes, I guess so, just imagined it, that's the word."
Half an hour later they had the fire going. McTeague was
frying strips of bacon over the coals, and Cribbens was
still chattering and exclaiming over their great strike.
All at once McTeague put down the frying-pan.
"What's that?" he growled.
"Hey? What's what?" exclaimed Cribbens, getting up.
"Didn't you notice something?"
"Off there." The dentist made a vague gesture toward the
eastern horizon. "Didn't you hear something--I mean see
something--I mean--"
"What's the matter with you, pardner?"
"Nothing. I guess I just imagined it."
But it was not imagination. Until midnight the partners lay
broad awake, rolled in their blankets under the open sky,
talking and discussing and making plans. At last Cribbens
rolled over on his side and slept. The dentist could not
What! It was warning him again, that strange sixth sense,
that obscure brute instinct. It was aroused again and
clamoring to be obeyed. Here, in these desolate barren
hills, twenty miles from the nearest human being, it stirred
and woke and rowelled him to be moving on. It had goaded
him to flight from the Big Dipper mine, and he had obeyed.
But now it was different; now he had suddenly become rich;
he had lighted on a treasure--a treasure far more valuable
than the Big Dipper mine itself. How was he to leave that?
He could not move on now. He turned about in his blankets.
No, he would not move on. Perhaps it was his fancy, after
all. He saw nothing, heard nothing. The emptiness of
primeval desolation stretched from him leagues and leagues
upon either hand. The gigantic silence of the night lay
close over everything, like a muffling Titanic palm. Of what
was he suspicious? In that treeless waste an object could be
seen at half a day's journey distant. In that vast silence
the click of a pebble was as audible as a pistol-shot. And
yet there was nothing, nothing.
The dentist settled himself in his blankets and tried to
sleep. In five minutes he was sitting up, staring into the
blue-gray shimmer of the moonlight, straining his ears,
watching and listening intently. Nothing was in sight. The
browned and broken flanks of the Panamint hills lay quiet
and familiar under the moon. The burro moved its head with a
clinking of its bell; and McTeagues mule, dozing on three
legs, changed its weight to another foot, with a long
breath. Everything fell silent again.
"What is it?" muttered the dentist. "If I could only see
something, hear something."
He threw off the blankets, and, rising, climbed to the
summit of the nearest hill and looked back in the direction
in which he and Cribbens had travelled a fortnight before.
For half an hour he waited, watching and listening in vain.
But as he returned to camp, and prepared to roll his
blankets about him, the strange impulse rose in him again
abruptly, never so strong, never so insistent. It seemed as
though he were bitted and ridden; as if some unseen hand
were turning him toward the east; some unseen heel spurring
him to precipitate and instant flight.
Flight from what? "No," he muttered under his breath. "Go
now and leave the claim, and leave a fortune! What a fool
I'd be, when I can't see anything or hear anything. To
leave a fortune! No, I won't. No, by God!" He drew
Cribbens's Winchester toward him and slipped a cartridge
into the magazine.
"No," he growled. "Whatever happens, I'm going to stay. If
anybody comes--" He depressed the lever of the rifle, and
sent the cartridge clashing into the breech.
"I ain't going to sleep," he muttered under his mustache.
"I can't sleep; I'll watch." He rose a second time,
clambered to the nearest hilltop and sat down, drawing the
blanket around him, and laying the Winchester across his
knees. The hours passed. The dentist sat on the hilltop a
motionless, crouching figure, inky black against the pale
blur of the sky. By and by the edge of the eastern horizon
began to grow blacker and more distinct in out-line. The
dawn was coming. Once more McTeague felt the mysterious
intuition of approaching danger; an unseen hand seemed
reining his head eastward; a spur was in his flanks that
seemed to urge him to hurry, hurry, hurry. The influence
grew stronger with every moment. The dentist set his great
jaws together and held his ground.
"No," he growled between his set teeth. "No, I'll stay."
He made a long circuit around the camp, even going as far as
the first stake of the new claim, his Winchester cocked, his
ears pricked, his eyes alert. There was nothing; yet as
plainly as though it were shouted at the very nape of his
neck he felt an enemy. It was not fear. McTeague was not
"If I could only SEE something--somebody," he muttered,
as he held the cocked rifle ready, "I--I'd show him."
He returned to camp. Cribbens was snoring. The burro had
come down to the stream for its morning drink. The mule was
awake and browsing. McTeague stood irresolutely by the cold
ashes of the camp-fire, looking from side to side with all
the suspicion and wariness of a tracked stag. Stronger and
stronger grew the strange impulse. It seemed to him that on
the next instant he MUST perforce wheel sharply eastward
and rush away headlong in a clumsy, lumbering gallop. He
fought against it with all the ferocious obstinacy of his
simple brute nature.
"Go, and leave the mine? Go and leave a million
dollars? No, NO, I won't go. No, I'll stay. Ah," he
exclaimed, under his breath, with a shake of his huge head,
like an exasperated and harassed brute, "ah, show yourself,
will you?" He brought the rifle to his shoulder and covered
point after point along the range of hills to the west.
"Come on, show yourself. Come on a little, all of you. I
ain't afraid of you; but don't skulk this way. You ain't
going to drive me away from my mine. I'm going to stay."
An hour passed. Then two. The stars winked out, and the
dawn whitened. The air became warmer. The whole east,
clean of clouds, flamed opalescent from horizon to zenith,
crimson at the base, where the earth blackened against it;
at the top fading from pink to pale yellow, to green, to
light blue, to the turquoise iridescence of the desert sky.
The long, thin shadows of the early hours drew backward like
receding serpents, then suddenly the sun looked over the
shoulder of the world, and it was day.
At that moment McTeague was already eight miles away from
the camp, going steadily eastward. He was descending the
lowest spurs of the Panamint hills, following an old and
faint cattle trail. Before him he drove his mule, laden
with blankets, provisions for six days, Cribben's rifle, and
a canteen full of water. Securely bound to the pommel of
the saddle was the canvas sack with its precious five
thousand dollars, all in twenty-dollar gold pieces. But
strange enough in that horrid waste of sand and sage was the
object that McTeague himself persistently carried--the
canary in its cage, about which he had carefully wrapped a
couple of old flour-bags.
At about five o'clock that morning McTeague had crossed
several trails which seemed to be converging, and, guessing
that they led to a water hole, had followed one of them and
had brought up at a sort of small sundried sink which
nevertheless contained a little water at the bottom. He had
watered the mule here, refilled the canteen, and drank deep
himself. He had also dampened the old flour-sacks around
the bird cage to protect the little canary as far as
possible from the heat that he knew would increase now with
every hour. He had made ready to go forward again, but
had paused irresolute again, hesitating for the last time.
"I'm a fool," he growled, scowling back at the range behind
him. "I'm a fool. What's the matter with me? I'm just
walking right away from a million dollars. I know it's
there. No, by God!" he exclaimed, savagely, "I ain't going
to do it. I'm going back. I can't leave a mine like that."
He had wheeled the mule about, and had started to return on
his tracks, grinding his teeth fiercely, inclining his head
forward as though butting against a wind that would beat him
back. "Go on, go on," he cried, sometimes addressing the
mule, sometimes himself. "Go on, go back, go back. I
WILL go back." It was as though he were climbing a hill
that grew steeper with every stride. The strange impelling
instinct fought his advance yard by yard. By degrees the
dentist's steps grew slower; he stopped, went forward again
cautiously, almost feeling his way, like someone approaching
a pit in the darkness. He stopped again, hesitating,
gnashing his teeth, clinching his fists with blind fury.
Suddenly he turned the mule about, and once more set his
face to the eastward.
"I can't," he cried aloud to the desert; "I can't, I can't.
It's stronger than I am. I CAN'T go back. Hurry now,
hurry, hurry, hurry."
He hastened on furtively, his head and shoulders bent. At
times one could almost say he crouched as he pushed forward
with long strides; now and then he even looked over his
shoulder. Sweat rolled from him, he lost his hat, and the
matted mane of thick yellow hair swept over his forehead and
shaded his small, twinkling eyes. At times, with a vague,
nearly automatic gesture, he reached his hand forward, the
fingers prehensile, and directed towards the horizon, as if
he would clutch it and draw it nearer; and at intervals he
muttered, "Hurry, hurry, hurry on, hurry on." For now at
last McTeague was afraid.
His plans were uncertain. He remembered what Cribbens had
said about the Armagosa Mountains in the country on the
other side of Death Valley. It was all hell to get into
that country, Cribbens had said, and not many men went
there, because of the terrible valley of alkali that
barred the way, a horrible vast sink of white sand and salt
below even the sea level, the dry bed, no doubt, of some
prehistoric lake. But McTeague resolved to make a circuit
of the valley, keeping to the south, until he should strike
the Armagosa River. He would make a circuit of the valley
and come up on the other side. He would get into that
country around Gold Mountain in the Armagosa hills, barred
off from the world by the leagues of the red-hot alkali of
Death Valley. "They" would hardly reach him there. He
would stay at Gold Mountain two or three months, and then
work his way down into Mexico.
McTeague tramped steadily forward, still descending the
lower irregularities of the Panamint Range. By nine o'clock
the slope flattened out abruptly; the hills were behind him;
before him, to the east, all was level. He had reached the
region where even the sand and sage-brush begin to dwindle,
giving place to white, powdered alkali. The trails were
numerous, but old and faint; and they had been made by
cattle, not by men. They led in all directions but one--
north, south, and west; but not one, however faint, struck
out towards the valley.
"If I keep along the edge of the hills where these trails
are," muttered the dentist, "I ought to find water up in the
arroyos from time to time."
At once he uttered an exclamation. The mule had begun to
squeal and lash out with alternate hoofs, his eyes rolling,
his ears flattened. He ran a few steps, halted, and
squealed again. Then, suddenly wheeling at right angles, set
off on a jog trot to the north, squealing and kicking from
time to time. McTeague ran after him shouting and swearing,
but for a long time the mule would not allow himself to be
caught. He seemed more bewildered than frightened.
"He's eatun some of that loco-weed that Cribbens spoke
about," panted McTeague. "Whoa, there; steady, you." At
length the mule stopped of his own accord, and seemed to
come to his senses again. McTeague came up and took the
bridle rein, speaking to him and rubbing his nose.
"There, there, what's the matter with you?" The mule
was docile again. McTeague washed his mouth and set forward
once more.
The day was magnificent. From horizon to horizon was one
vast span of blue, whitening as it dipped earthward. Miles
upon miles to the east and southeast the desert unrolled
itself, white, naked, inhospitable, palpitating and
shimmering under the sun, unbroken by so much as a rock or
cactus stump. In the distance it assumed all manner of
faint colors, pink, purple, and pale orange. To the west
rose the Panamint Range, sparsely sprinkled with gray sagebrush;
here the earths and sands were yellow, ochre, and
rich, deep red, the hollows and canyons picked out with
intense blue shadows. It seemed strange that such
barrenness could exhibit this radiance of color, but nothing
could have been more beautiful than the deep red of the
higher bluffs and ridges, seamed with purple shadows,
standing sharply out against the pale-blue whiteness of the
By nine o'clock the sun stood high in the sky. The heat was
intense; the atmosphere was thick and heavy with it.
McTeague gasped for breath and wiped the beads of
perspiration from his forehead, his cheeks, and his neck.
Every inch and pore of his skin was tingling and pricking
under the merciless lash of the sun's rays.
"If it gets much hotter," he muttered, with a long breath,
"if it gets much hotter, I--I don' know--" He wagged his
head and wiped the sweat from his eyelids, where it was
running like tears.
The sun rose higher; hour by hour, as the dentist tramped
steadily on, the heat increased. The baked dry sand
crackled into innumerable tiny flakes under his feet. The
twigs of the sage-brush snapped like brittle pipestems as he
pushed through them. It grew hotter. At eleven the earth
was like the surface of a furnace; the air, as McTeague
breathed it in, was hot to his lips and the roof of his
mouth. The sun was a disk of molten brass swimming in the
burnt-out blue of the sky. McTeague stripped off his
woollen shirt, and even unbuttoned his flannel
undershirt, tying a handkerchief loosely about his neck.
"Lord!" he exclaimed. "I never knew it COULD get as hot
as this."
The heat grew steadily fiercer; all distant objects were
visibly shimmering and palpitating under it. At noon a
mirage appeared on the hills to the northwest. McTeague
halted the mule, and drank from the tepid water in the
canteen, dampening the sack around the canary's cage. As
soon as he ceased his tramp and the noise of his crunching,
grinding footsteps died away, the silence, vast,
illimitable, enfolded him like an immeasurable tide. From
all that gigantic landscape, that colossal reach of baking
sand, there arose not a single sound. Not a twig rattled,
not an insect hummed, not a bird or beast invaded that huge
solitude with call or cry. Everything as far as the eye
could reach, to north, to south, to east, and west, lay
inert, absolutely quiet and moveless under the remorseless
scourge of the noon sun. The very shadows shrank away,
hiding under sage-bushes, retreating to the farthest nooks
and crevices in the canyons of the hills. All the world was
one gigantic blinding glare, silent, motionless. "If it
gets much hotter," murmured the dentist again, moving his
head from side to side, "if it gets much hotter, I don' know
what I'll do."
Steadily the heat increased. At three o'clock it was even
more terrible than it had been at noon.
"Ain't it EVER going to let up?" groaned the dentist,
rolling his eyes at the sky of hot blue brass. Then, as he
spoke, the stillness was abruptly stabbed through and
through by a shrill sound that seemed to come from all sides
at once. It ceased; then, as McTeague took another forward
step, began again with the suddenness of a blow, shriller,
nearer at hand, a hideous, prolonged note that brought both
man and mule to an instant halt.
"I know what THAT is," exclaimed the dentist. His eyes
searched the ground swiftly until he saw what he expected he
should see--the round thick coil, the slowly waving clovershaped
head and erect whirring tail with its vibrant
For fully thirty seconds the man and snake remained
looking into each other's eyes. Then the snake uncoiled and
swiftly wound from sight amidst the sagebrush. McTeague
drew breath again, and his eyes once more beheld the
illimitable leagues of quivering sand and alkali.
"Good Lord! What a country!" he exclaimed. But his voice
was trembling as he urged forward the mule once more.
Fiercer and fiercer grew the heat as the afternoon advanced.
At four McTeague stopped again. He was dripping at every
pore, but there was no relief in perspiration. The very
touch of his clothes upon his body was unendurable. The
mule's ears were drooping and his tongue lolled from his
mouth. The cattle trails seemed to be drawing together
toward a common point; perhaps a water hole was near by.
"I'll have to lay up, sure," muttered the dentist. "I ain't
made to travel in such heat as this."
He drove the mule up into one of the larger canyons and
halted in the shadow of a pile of red rock. After a long
search he found water, a few quarts, warm and brackish, at
the bottom of a hollow of sunwracked mud; it was little more
than enough to water the mule and refill his canteen. Here
he camped, easing the mule of the saddle, and turning him
loose to find what nourishment he might. A few hours later
the sun set in a cloudless glory of red and gold, and the
heat became by degrees less intolerable. McTeague cooked
his supper, chiefly coffee and bacon, and watched the
twilight come on, revelling in the delicious coolness of the
evening. As he spread his blankets on the ground he
resolved that hereafter he would travel only at night,
laying up in the daytime in the shade of the canyons. He
was exhausted with his terrible day's march. Never in his
life had sleep seemed so sweet to him.
But suddenly he was broad awake, his jaded senses all alert.
"What was that?" he muttered. "I thought I heard something
--saw something."
He rose to his feet, reaching for the Winchester. Desolation
lay still around him. There was not a sound but his own
breathing; on the face of the desert not a grain of sand was
in motion. McTeague looked furtively and quickly from
side to side, his teeth set, his eyes rolling. Once more
the rowel was in his flanks, once more an unseen hand reined
him toward the east. After all the miles of that dreadful
day's flight he was no better off than when he started. If
anything, he was worse, for never had that mysterious
instinct in him been more insistent than now; never had the
impulse toward precipitate flight been stronger; never had
the spur bit deeper. Every nerve of his body cried aloud
for rest; yet every instinct seemed aroused and alive,
goading him to hurry on, to hurry on.
"What IS it, then? What is it?" he cried, between his
teeth. "Can't I ever get rid of you? Ain't I EVER going
to shake you off? Don' keep it up this way. Show
yourselves. Let's have it out right away. Come on. I
ain't afraid if you'll only come on; but don't skulk this
way." Suddenly he cried aloud in a frenzy of exasperation,
"Damn you, come on, will you? Come on and have it out."
His rifle was at his shoulder, he was covering bush after
bush, rock after rock, aiming at every denser shadow. All
at once, and quite involuntarily, his forefinger crooked,
and the rifle spoke and flamed. The canyons roared back the
echo, tossing it out far over the desert in a rippling,
widening wave of sound.
McTeague lowered the rifle hastily, with an exclamation of
"You fool," he said to himself, "you fool. You've done it
now. They could hear that miles away. You've done it now."
He stood listening intently, the rifle smoking in his hands.
The last echo died away. The smoke vanished, the vast
silence closed upon the passing echoes of the rifle as the
ocean closes upon a ship's wake. Nothing moved; yet
McTeague bestirred himself sharply, rolling up his blankets,
resaddling the mule, getting his outfit together again.
From time to time he muttered:
"Hurry now; hurry on. You fool, you've done it now. They
could hear that miles away. Hurry now. They ain't far off
As he depressed the lever of the rifle to reload it, he
found that the magazine was empty. He clapped his hands to
his sides, feeling rapidly first in one pocket, then in
another. He had forgotten to take extra cartridges
with him. McTeague swore under his breath as he flung the
rifle away. Henceforth he must travel unarmed.
A little more water had gathered in the mud hole near which
he had camped. He watered the mule for the last time and
wet the sacks around the canary's cage. Then once more he
set forward.
But there was a change in the direction of McTeague's
flight. Hitherto he had held to the south, keeping upon the
very edge of the hills; now he turned sharply at right
angles. The slope fell away beneath his hurrying feet; the
sage-brush dwindled, and at length ceased; the sand gave
place to a fine powder, white as snow; and an hour after he
had fired the rifle his mule's hoofs were crisping and
cracking the sun-baked flakes of alkali on the surface of
Death Valley.
Tracked and harried, as he felt himself to be, from one
camping place to another, McTeague had suddenly resolved to
make one last effort to rid himself of the enemy that seemed
to hang upon his heels. He would strike straight out into
that horrible wilderness where even the beasts were afraid.
He would cross Death Valley at once and put its arid wastes
between him and his pursuer.
"You don't dare follow me now," he muttered, as he hurried
on. "Let's see you come out HERE after me."
He hurried on swiftly, urging the mule to a rapid racking
walk. Towards four o'clock the sky in front of him began to
flush pink and golden. McTeague halted and breakfasted,
pushing on again immediately afterward. The dawn flamed and
glowed like a brazier, and the sun rose a vast red-hot coal
floating in fire. An hour passed, then another, and another.
It was about nine o'clock. Once more the dentist paused,
and stood panting and blowing, his arms dangling, his eyes
screwed up and blinking as he looked about him.
Far behind him the Panamint hills were already but blue
hummocks on the horizon. Before him and upon either side,
to the north and to the east and to the south, stretched
primordial desolation. League upon league the infinite
reaches of dazzling white alkali laid themselves out like an
immeasurable scroll unrolled from horizon to horizon; not a
bush, not a twig relieved that horrible monotony. Even the
sand of the desert would have been a welcome sight; a single
clump of sage-brush would have fascinated the eye; but this
was worse than the desert. It was abominable, this hideous
sink of alkali, this bed of some primeval lake lying so far
below the level of the ocean. The great mountains of Placer
County had been merely indifferent to man; but this awful
sink of alkali was openly and unreservedly iniquitous and
McTeague had told himself that the heat upon the lower
slopes of the Panamint had been dreadful; here in Death
Valley it became a thing of terror. There was no longer any
shadow but his own. He was scorched and parched from head to
heel. It seemed to him that the smart of his tortured body
could not have been keener if he had been flayed.
"If it gets much hotter," he muttered, wringing the sweat
from his thick fell of hair and mustache, "if it gets much
hotter, I don' know what I'll do." He was thirsty, and
drank a little from his canteen. "I ain't got any too much
water," he murmured, shaking the canteen. "I got to get out
of this place in a hurry, sure."
By eleven o'clock the heat had increased to such an extent
that McTeague could feel the burning of the ground come
pringling and stinging through the soles of his boots.
Every step he took threw up clouds of impalpable alkali
dust, salty and choking, so that he strangled and coughed
and sneezed with it.
"LORD! what a country!" exclaimed the dentist.
An hour later, the mule stopped and lay down, his jaws wide
open, his ears dangling. McTeague washed his mouth with a
handful of water and for a second time since sunrise wetted
the flour-sacks around the bird cage. The air was quivering
and palpitating like that in the stoke-hold of a steamship.
The sun, small and contracted, swam molten overhead.
"I can't stand it," said McTeague at length. "I'll have to
stop and make some kinda shade."
The mule was crouched upon the ground, panting rapidly,
with half-closed eyes. The dentist removed the saddle, and
unrolling his blanket, propped it up as best he could
between him and the sun. As he stooped down to crawl
beneath it, his palm touched the ground. He snatched it
away with a cry of pain. The surface alkali was oven-hot;
he was obliged to scoop out a trench in it before he dared
to lie down.
By degrees the dentist began to doze. He had had little or
no sleep the night before, and the hurry of his flight under
the blazing sun had exhausted him. But his rest was broken;
between waking and sleeping, all manner of troublous images
galloped through his brain. He thought he was back in the
Panamint hills again with Cribbens. They had just
discovered the mine and were returning toward camp.
McTeague saw himself as another man, striding along over the
sand and sagebrush. At once he saw himself stop and wheel
sharply about, peering back suspiciously. There was
something behind him; something was following him. He
looked, as it were, over the shoulder of this other
McTeague, and saw down there, in the half light of the
canyon, something dark crawling upon the ground, an
indistinct gray figure, man or brute, he did not know. Then
he saw another, and another; then another. A score of
black, crawling objects were following him, crawling from
bush to bush, converging upon him. "THEY" were after
him, were closing in upon him, were within touch of his
hand, were at his feet--WERE AT HIS THROAT.
McTeague jumped up with a shout, oversetting the blanket.
There was nothing in sight. For miles around, the alkali
was empty, solitary, quivering and shimmering under the
pelting fire of the afternoon's sun.
But once more the spur bit into his body, goading him on.
There was to be no rest, no going back, no pause, no stop.
Hurry, hurry, hurry on. The brute that in him slept so
close to the surface was alive and alert, and tugging to be
gone. There was no resisting that instinct. The brute felt
an enemy, scented the trackers, clamored and struggled and
fought, and would not be gainsaid.
"I CAN'T go on," groaned McTeague, his eyes
sweeping the horizon behind him, "I'm beat out. I'm dog
tired. I ain't slept any for two nights." But for all that
he roused himself again, saddled the mule, scarcely less
exhausted than himself, and pushed on once more over the
scorching alkali and under the blazing sun.
From that time on the fear never left him, the spur never
ceased to bite, the instinct that goaded him to fight never
was dumb; hurry or halt, it was all the same. On he went,
straight on, chasing the receding horizon; flagellated with
heat; tortured with thirst; crouching over; looking
furtively behind, and at times reaching his hand forward,
the fingers prehensile, grasping, as it were, toward the
horizon, that always fled before him.
The sun set upon the third day of McTeague's flight, night
came on, the stars burned slowly into the cool dark purple
of the sky. The gigantic sink of white alkali glowed like
snow. McTeague, now far into the desert, held steadily on,
swinging forward with great strides. His enormous strength
held him doggedly to his work. Sullenly, with his huge jaws
gripping stolidly together, he pushed on. At midnight he
"Now," he growled, with a certain desperate defiance, as
though he expected to be heard, "now, I'm going to lay up
and get some sleep. You can come or not."
He cleared away the hot surface alkali, spread out his
blanket, and slept until the next day's heat aroused him.
His water was so low that he dared not make coffee now, and
so breakfasted without it. Until ten o'clock he tramped
forward, then camped again in the shade of one of the rare
rock ledges, and "lay up" during the heat of the day. By
five o'clock he was once more on the march.
He travelled on for the greater part of that night, stopping
only once towards three in the morning to water the mule
from the canteen. Again the red-hot day burned up over the
horizon. Even at six o'clock it was hot.
"It's going to be worse than ever to-day," he groaned. "I
wish I could find another rock to camp by. Ain't I ever
going to get out of this place?"
There was no change in the character of the desert.
Always the same measureless leagues of white-hot alkali
stretched away toward the horizon on every hand. Here and
there the flat, dazzling surface of the desert broke and
raised into long low mounds, from the summit of which
McTeague could look for miles and miles over its horrible
desolation. No shade was in sight. Not a rock, not a stone
broke the monotony of the ground. Again and again he
ascended the low unevennesses, looking and searching for a
camping place, shading his eyes from the glitter of sand and
He tramped forward a little farther, then paused at length
in a hollow between two breaks, resolving to make camp
Suddenly there was a shout.
"Hands up. By damn, I got the drop on you!"
McTeague looked up.
It was Marcus.
Within a month after his departure from San Francisco,
Marcus had "gone in on a cattle ranch" in the Panamint
Valley with an Englishman, an acquaintance of Mr. Sieppe's.
His headquarters were at a place called Modoc, at the lower
extremity of the valley, about fifty miles by trail to the
south of Keeler.
His life was the life of a cowboy. He realized his former
vision of himself, booted, sombreroed, and revolvered,
passing his days in the saddle and the better part of his
nights around the poker tables in Modoc's one saloon. To
his intense satisfaction he even involved himself in a
gun fight that arose over a disputed brand, with the result
that two fingers of his left hand were shot away.
News from the outside world filtered slowly into the
Panamint Valley, and the telegraph had never been built
beyond Keeler. At intervals one of the local papers of
Independence, the nearest large town, found its way into the
cattle camps on the ranges, and occasionally one of the
Sunday editions of a Sacramento journal, weeks old, was
passed from hand to hand. Marcus ceased to hear from the
Sieppes. As for San Francisco, it was as far from him as
was London or Vienna.
One day, a fortnight after McTeague's flight from San
Francisco, Marcus rode into Modoc, to find a group of men
gathered about a notice affixed to the outside of the Wells-
Fargo office. It was an offer of reward for the arrest and
apprehension of a murderer. The crime had been committed in
San Francisco, but the man wanted had been traced as far as
the western portion of Inyo County, and was believed at that
time to be in hiding in either the Pinto or Panamint hills,
in the vicinity of Keeler.
Marcus reached Keeler on the afternoon of that same day.
Half a mile from the town his pony fell and died from
exhaustion. Marcus did not stop even to remove the saddle.
He arrived in the barroom of the hotel in Keeler just after
the posse had been made up. The sheriff, who had come down
from Independence that morning, at first refused his offer
of assistance. He had enough men already--too many, in
fact. The country travelled through would be hard, and it
would be difficult to find water for so many men and horses.
"But none of you fellers have ever seen um," vociferated
Marcus, quivering with excitement and wrath. "I know um
well. I could pick um out in a million. I can identify um,
and you fellers can't. And I knew--I knew--good GOD! I
knew that girl--his wife--in Frisco. She's a cousin of
mine, she is--she was--I thought once of--This thing's a
personal matter of mine--an' that money he got away with,
that five thousand, belongs to me by rights. Oh, never
mind, I'm going along. Do you hear?" he shouted, his fists
raised, "I'm going along, I tell you. There ain't a
man of you big enough to stop me. Let's see you try and
stop me going. Let's see you once, any two of you." He
filled the barroom with his clamor.
"Lord love you, come along, then," said the sheriff.
The posse rode out of Keeler that same night. The keeper of
the general merchandise store, from whom Marcus had borrowed
a second pony, had informed them that Cribbens and his
partner, whose description tallied exactly with that given
in the notice of reward, had outfitted at his place with a
view to prospecting in the Panamint hills. The posse
trailed them at once to their first camp at the head of the
valley. It was an easy matter. It was only necessary to
inquire of the cowboys and range riders of the valley if
they had seen and noted the passage of two men, one of whom
carried a bird cage.
Beyond this first camp the trail was lost, and a week was
wasted in a bootless search around the mine at Gold Gulch,
whither it seemed probable the partners had gone. Then a
travelling peddler, who included Gold Gulch in his route,
brought in the news of a wonderful strike of gold-bearing
quartz some ten miles to the south on the western slope of
the range. Two men from Keeler had made a strike, the
peddler had said, and added the curious detail that one of
the men had a canary bird in a cage with him.
The posse made Cribbens's camp three days after the
unaccountable disappearance of his partner. Their man was
gone, but the narrow hoof prints of a mule, mixed with those
of huge hob-nailed boots, could be plainly followed in the
sand. Here they picked up the trail and held to it steadily
till the point was reached where, instead of tending
southward it swerved abruptly to the east. The men could
hardly believe their eyes.
"It ain't reason," exclaimed the sheriff. "What in thunder
is he up to? This beats me. Cutting out into Death Valley
at this time of year."
"He's heading for Gold Mountain over in the Armagosa, sure."
The men decided that this conjecture was true. It was the
only inhabited locality in that direction. A
discussion began as to the further movements of the posse.
"I don't figure on going into that alkali sink with no eight
men and horses," declared the sheriff. "One man can't carry
enough water to take him and his mount across, let alone
EIGHT. No, sir. Four couldn't do it. No, THREE
couldn't. We've got to make a circuit round the valley and
come up on the other side and head him off at Gold Mountain.
That's what we got to do, and ride like hell to do it, too."
But Marcus protested with all the strength of his lungs
against abandoning the trail now that they had found it. He
argued that they were but a day and a half behind their man
now. There was no possibility of their missing the trail--
as distinct in the white alkali as in snow. They could make
a dash into the valley, secure their man, and return long
before their water failed them. He, for one, would not give
up the pursuit, now that they were so close. In the haste
of the departure from Keeler the sheriff had neglected to
swear him in. He was under no orders. He would do as he
"Go on, then, you darn fool," answered the sheriff. "We'll
cut on round the valley, for all that. It's a gamble he'll
be at Gold Mountain before you're half way across. But if
you catch him, here"--he tossed Marcus a pair of handcuffs--
"put 'em on him and bring him back to Keeler."
Two days after he had left the posse, and when he was
already far out in the desert, Marcus's horse gave out. In
the fury of his impatience he had spurred mercilessly
forward on the trail, and on the morning of the third day
found that his horse was unable to move. The joints of his
legs seemed locked rigidly. He would go his own length,
stumbling and interfering, then collapse helplessly upon the
ground with a pitiful groan. He was used up.
Marcus believed himself to be close upon McTeague now. The
ashes at his last camp had still been smoldering. Marcus
took what supplies of food and water he could carry, and
hurried on. But McTeague was farther ahead than he had
guessed, and by evening of his third day upon the desert
Marcus, raging with thirst, had drunk his last mouthful
of water and had flung away the empty canteen.
"If he ain't got water with um," he said to himself as he
pushed on, "If he ain't got water with um, by damn! I'll be
in a bad way. I will, for a fact."
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
At Marcus's shout McTeague looked up and around him. For the
instant he saw no one. The white glare of alkali was still
unbroken. Then his swiftly rolling eyes lighted upon a head
and shoulder that protruded above the low crest of the break
directly in front of him. A man was there, lying at full
length upon the ground, covering him with a revolver. For a
few seconds McTeague looked at the man stupidly, bewildered,
confused, as yet without definite thought. Then he noticed
that the man was singularly like Marcus Schouler. It
WAS Marcus Schouler. How in the world did Marcus Schouler
come to be in that desert? What did he mean by pointing a
pistol at him that way? He'd best look out or the pistol
would go off. Then his thoughts readjusted themselves with
a swiftness born of a vivid sense of danger. Here was the
enemy at last, the tracker he had felt upon his footsteps.
Now at length he had "come on" and shown himself, after all
those days of skulking. McTeague was glad of it. He'd show
him now. They two would have it out right then and there.
His rifle! He had thrown it away long since. He was
helpless. Marcus had ordered him to put up his hands. If
he did not, Marcus would kill him. He had the drop on him.
McTeague stared, scowling fiercely at the levelled pistol.
He did not move.
"Hands up!" shouted Marcus a second time. "I'll give you
three to do it in. One, two----"
Instinctively McTeague put his hands above his head.
Marcus rose and came towards him over the break.
"Keep 'em up," he cried. "If you move 'em once I'll kill
you, sure."
He came up to McTeague and searched him, going through
his pockets; but McTeague had no revolver; not even a
hunting knife.
"What did you do with that money, with that five thousand
"It's on the mule," answered McTeague, sullenly.
Marcus grunted, and cast a glance at the mule, who was
standing some distance away, snorting nervously, and from
time to time flattening his long ears.
"Is that it there on the horn of the saddle, there in that
canvas sack?" Marcus demanded.
"Yes, that's it."
A gleam of satisfaction came into Marcus's eyes, and under
his breath he muttered:
"Got it at last."
He was singularly puzzled to know what next to do. He had
got McTeague. There he stood at length, with his big hands
over his head, scowling at him sullenly. Marcus had caught
his enemy, had run down the man for whom every officer in
the State had been looking. What should he do with him now?
He couldn't keep him standing there forever with his hands
over his head.
"Got any water?" he demanded.
"There's a canteen of water on the mule."
Marcus moved toward the mule and made as if to reach the
bridle-rein. The mule squealed, threw up his head, and
galloped to a little distance, rolling his eyes and
flattening his ears.
Marcus swore wrathfully.
"He acted that way once before," explained McTeague, his
hands still in the air. "He ate some loco-weed back in the
hills before I started."
For a moment Marcus hesitated. While he was catching the
mule McTeague might get away. But where to, in heaven's
name? A rat could not hide on the surface of that
glistening alkali, and besides, all McTeague's store of
provisions and his priceless supply of water were on the
mule. Marcus ran after the mule, revolver in hand, shouting
and cursing. But the mule would not be caught. He
acted as if possessed, squealing, lashing out, and galloping
in wide circles, his head high in the air.
"Come on," shouted Marcus, furious, turning back to
McTeague. "Come on, help me catch him. We got to catch him.
All the water we got is on the saddle."
McTeague came up.
"He's eatun some loco-weed," he repeated. "He went kinda
crazy once before."
"If he should take it into his head to bolt and keep on
Marcus did not finish. A sudden great fear seemed to widen
around and inclose the two men. Once their water gone, the
end would not be long.
"We can catch him all right," said the dentist. "I caught
him once before."
"Oh, I guess we can catch him," answered Marcus,
Already the sense of enmity between the two had weakened in
the face of a common peril. Marcus let down the hammer of
his revolver and slid it back into the holster.
The mule was trotting on ahead, snorting and throwing up
great clouds of alkali dust. At every step the canvas sack
jingled, and McTeague's bird cage, still wrapped in the
flour-bags, bumped against the saddlepads. By and by the
mule stopped, blowing out his nostrils excitedly.
"He's clean crazy," fumed Marcus, panting and swearing.
"We ought to come up on him quiet," observed McTeague.
"I'll try and sneak up," said Marcus; "two of us would scare
him again. You stay here."
Marcus went forward a step at a time. He was almost within
arm's length of the bridle when the mule shied from him
abruptly and galloped away.
Marcus danced with rage, shaking his fists, and swearing
horribly. Some hundred yards away the mule paused and began
blowing and snuffing in the alkali as though in search of
feed. Then, for no reason, he shied again, and started
off on a jog trot toward the east.
"We've GOT to follow him," exclaimed Marcus as McTeague
came up. "There's no water within seventy miles of here."
Then began an interminable pursuit. Mile after mile, under
the terrible heat of the desert sun, the two men followed
the mule, racked with a thirst that grew fiercer every hour.
A dozen times they could almost touch the canteen of water,
and as often the distraught animal shied away and fled
before them. At length Marcus cried:
"It's no use, we can't catch him, and we're killing
ourselves with thirst. We got to take our chances." He drew
his revolver from its holster, cocked it, and crept forward.
"Steady, now," said McTeague; "it won' do to shoot through
the canteen."
Within twenty yards Marcus paused, made a rest of his left
forearm and fired.
"You GOT him," cried McTeague. "No, he's up again.
Shoot him again. He's going to bolt."
Marcus ran on, firing as he ran. The mule, one foreleg
trailing, scrambled along, squealing and snorting. Marcus
fired his last shot. The mule pitched forward upon his
head, then, rolling sideways, fell upon the canteen,
bursting it open and spilling its entire contents into the
Marcus and McTeague ran up, and Marcus snatched the battered
canteen from under the reeking, bloody hide. There was no
water left. Marcus flung the canteen from him and stood up,
facing McTeague. There was a pause.
"We're dead men," said Marcus.
McTeague looked from him out over the desert. Chaotic
desolation stretched from them on either hand, flaming and
glaring with the afternoon heat. There was the brazen sky
and the leagues upon leagues of alkali, leper white. There
was nothing more. They were in the heart of Death Valley.
"Not a drop of water," muttered McTeague; "not a drop of
"We can drink the mule's blood," said Marcus. "It's
been done before. But--but--" he looked down at the
quivering, gory body--"but I ain't thirsty enough for that
"Where's the nearest water?"
"Well, it's about a hundred miles or more back of us in the
Panamint hills," returned Marcus, doggedly. "We'd be crazy
long before we reached it. I tell you, we're done for, by
damn, we're DONE for. We ain't ever going to get outa
"Done for?" murmured the other, looking about stupidly.
"Done for, that's the word. Done for? Yes, I guess we're
done for."
"What are we going to do NOW?" exclaimed Marcus,
sharply, after a while.
"Well, let's--let's be moving along--somewhere."
"WHERE, I'd like to know? What's the good of moving
"What's the good of stopping here?"
There was a silence.
"Lord, it's hot," said the dentist, finally, wiping his
forehead with the back of his hand. Marcus ground his
"Done for," he muttered; "done for."
"I never WAS so thirsty," continued McTeague. "I'm that
dry I can hear my tongue rubbing against the roof of my
"Well, we can't stop here," said Marcus, finally; "we got to
go somewhere. We'll try and get back, but it ain't no
manner of use. Anything we want to take along with us from
the mule? We can----"
Suddenly he paused. In an instant the eyes of the two
doomed men had met as the same thought simultaneously rose
in their minds. The canvas sack with its five thousand
dollars was still tied to the horn of the saddle.
Marcus had emptied his revolver at the mule, and though he
still wore his cartridge belt, he was for the moment as
unarmed as McTeague.
"I guess," began McTeague coming forward a step, "I guess,
even if we are done for, I'll take--some of my truck along."
"Hold on," exclaimed Marcus, with rising aggressiveness.
"Let's talk about that. I ain't so sure about who
that--who that money belongs to."
"Well, I AM, you see," growled the dentist.
The old enmity between the two men, their ancient hate, was
flaming up again.
"Don't try an' load that gun either," cried McTeague, fixing
Marcus with his little eyes.
"Then don't lay your finger on that sack," shouted the
other. "You're my prisoner, do you understand? You'll do as
I say." Marcus had drawn the handcuffs from his pocket, and
stood ready with his revolver held as a club. "You
soldiered me out of that money once, and played me for a
sucker, an' it's my turn now. Don't you lay your finger on
that sack."
Marcus barred McTeague's way, white with passion. McTeague
did not answer. His eyes drew to two fine, twinkling
points, and his enormous hands knotted themselves into
fists, hard as wooden mallets. He moved a step nearer to
Marcus, then another.
Suddenly the men grappled, and in another instant were
rolling and struggling upon the hot white ground. McTeague
thrust Marcus backward until he tripped and fell over the
body of the dead mule. The little bird cage broke from the
saddle with the violence of their fall, and rolled out upon
the ground, the flour-bags slipping from it. McTeague tore
the revolver from Marcus's grip and struck out with it
blindly. Clouds of alkali dust, fine and pungent, enveloped
the two fighting men, all but strangling them.
McTeague did not know how he killed his enemy, but all at
once Marcus grew still beneath his blows. Then there was a
sudden last return of energy. McTeague's right wrist was
caught, something licked upon it, then the struggling body
fell limp and motionless with a long breath.
As McTeague rose to his feet, he felt a pull at his right
wrist; something held it fast. Looking down, he saw that
Marcus in that last struggle had found strength to handcuff
their wrists together. Marcus was dead now; McTeague was
locked to the body. All about him, vast interminable,
stretched the measureless leagues of Death Valley.
McTeague remained stupidly looking around him, now at the
distant horizon, now at the ground, now at the half-dead
canary chittering feebly in its little gilt prison.

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