As thoughts of Pete came to
Maggie's mind, she began to have
an intense dislike for all of
"What deh hell ails yeh? What
makes yeh be allus fixin' and
fussin'? Good Gawd," her mother
would frequently roar at her.
She began to note, with more
interest, the well-dressed women
she met on the avenues. She envied
elegance and soft palms. She
craved those adornments of person
which she saw every day on the
street, conceiving them to be
allies of vast importance to
Studying faces, she thought
many of the women and girls she
chanced to meet, smiled with
serenity as though forever cherished
and watched over by those they
The air in the collar and cuff
establishment strangled her.
She knew she was gradually and
surely shrivelling in the hot,
stuffy room. The begrimed windows
rattled incessantly from the
passing of elevated trains. The
place was filled with a whirl
of noises and odors.
She wondered as she regarded
some of the grizzled women in
the room, mere mechanical contrivances
sewing seams and grinding out,
with heads bended over their
work, tales of imagined or real
girlhood happiness, past drunks,
the baby at home, and unpaid
wages. She speculated how long
her youth would endure. She began
to see the bloom upon her cheeks
She imagined herself, in an
exasperating future, as a scrawny
woman with an eternal grievance.
Too, she thought Pete to be a
very fastidious person concerning
the appearance of women.
She felt she would love to
see somebody entangle their fingers
in the oily beard of the fat
foreigner who owned the establishment.
He was a detestable creature.
He wore white socks with low
shoes. When he tired of this
amusement he would go to the
mummies and moralize over them.
Usually he submitted with silent
dignity to all which he had to
go through, but, at times, he
was goaded into comment.
"What deh hell," he demanded
once. "Look at all dese little
jugs! Hundred jugs in a row!
Ten rows in a case an' 'bout
a t'ousand cases! What deh blazes
use is dem?"
Evenings during the week he
took her to see plays in which
the brain-clutching heroine was
rescued from the palatial home
of her guardian, who is cruelly
after her bonds, by the hero
with the beautiful sentiments.
The latter spent most of his
time out at soak in pale-green
snow storms, busy with a nickel-plated
revolver, rescuing aged strangers
herself in sympathy with the
wanderers swooning in
snow storms beneath happy-hued
church windows. And a choir within
singing "Joy to the World." To
Maggie and the rest of the audience
this was transcendental realism.
Joy always within, and they,
like the actor, inevitably without.
Viewing it, they hugged themselves
in ecstatic pity of their imagined
or real condition.
The girl thought the arrogance
and granite-heartedness of the
magnate of the play was very
accurately drawn. She echoed
the maledictions that the occupants
of the gallery showered on this
individual when his lines compelled
him to expose his extreme selfishness.
Shady persons in the audience
revolted from the pictured villainy
of the drama. With untiring zeal
they hissed vice and applauded
virtue. Unmistakably bad men
evinced an apparently sincere
admiration for virtue.
The loud gallery was overwhelmingly
with the unfortunate and the
oppressed. They encouraged the
struggling hero with cries, and
jeered the villain, hooting and
calling attention to his whiskers.
When anybody died in the pale-green
snow storms, the gallery mourned.
They sought out the painted misery
and hugged it as akin.
In the hero's erratic march
from poverty in the first act,
to wealth and triumph in the
final one, in which he forgives
all the enemies that he has left,
he was assisted by the gallery,
which applauded his generous
and noble sentiments and confounded
the speeches of his opponents
by making irrelevant but very
sharp remarks. Those actors who
were cursed with villainy parts
were confronted at every turn
by the gallery. If one of them
rendered lines containing the
most subtile distinctions between
right and wrong, the gallery
was immediately aware if the
actor meant wickedness, and denounced
The last act was a triumph
for the hero, poor and of the
masses, the representative of
the audience, over the villain
and the rich man, his pockets
stuffed with bonds, his heart
packed with tyrannical purposes,
imperturbable amid suffering.
Maggie always departed with
raised spirits from the showing
places of the melodrama. She
rejoiced at the way in which
the poor and virtuous eventually
surmounted the wealthy and wicked.
The theatre made her think. She
wondered if the culture and refinement
she had seen imitated, perhaps
grotesquely, by the heroine on
the stage, could be acquired
by a girl who lived in a tenement
house and worked in a shirt factory.