Jimmie did not return home for
a number of days after the fight
with Pete in the saloon. When
he did, he approached with extreme
He found his mother raving.
Maggie had not returned home.
The parent continually wondered
how her daughter could come to
such a pass. She had never considered
Maggie as a pearl dropped unstained
into Rum Alley from Heaven, but
she could not conceive how it
was possible for her daughter
to fall so low as to bring disgrace
upon her family. She was terrific
in denunciation of the girl's
The fact that
the neighbors talked of it,
maddened her. When
women came in, and in the course
of their conversation casually
asked, "Where's Maggie dese days?" the
mother shook her fuzzy head at
them and appalled them with curses.
Cunning hints inviting confidence
she rebuffed with violence.
"An' wid all deh bringin' up
she had, how could she?" moaningly
she asked of her son. "Wid all
deh talkin' wid her I did an'
deh t'ings I tol' her to remember?
When a girl is bringed up deh
way I bringed up Maggie, how
kin she go teh deh devil?"
Jimmie was transfixed by these
questions. He could not conceive
how under the circumstances his
mother's daughter and his sister
could have been so wicked.
His mother took a drink from
a squdgy bottle that sat on the
table. She continued her lament.
"She had a
bad heart, dat girl did, Jimmie.
She was wicked teh
deh heart an' we never knowed
Jimmie nodded, admitting the
"We lived in
deh same house wid her an'
I brought her up
an' we never knowed how bad she
Jimmie nodded again.
"Wid a home like dis an' a
mudder like me, she went teh
deh bad," cried the mother, raising
One day, Jimmie came home,
sat down in a chair and began
to wriggle about with a new and
strange nervousness. At last
he spoke shamefacedly.
dis t'ing queers us! See? We're
An' maybe it 'ud be better if
I--well, I t'ink I kin look 'er
up an'--maybe it 'ud be better
if I fetched her home an'--"
The mother started from her
chair and broke forth into a
storm of passionate anger.
'er come an' sleep under deh
same roof wid her mudder
agin! Oh, yes, I will, won't
I? Sure? Shame on yehs, Jimmie
Johnson, for sayin' such a t'ing
teh yer own mudder--teh yer own
mudder! Little did I t'ink when
yehs was a babby playin' about
me feet dat ye'd grow up teh
say sech a t'ing teh yer mudder--yer
own mudder. I never taut--"
Sobs choked her and interrupted
"Dere ain't nottin' teh raise
sech hell about," said Jimmie. "I
on'y says it 'ud be better if
we keep dis t'ing dark, see?
It queers us! See?"
laughed a laugh that seemed
to ring through the
city and be echoed and re-echoed
by countless other laughs. "Oh,
yes, I will, won't I! Sure!"
"Well, yeh must take me fer
a damn fool," said Jimmie, indignant
at his mother for mocking him. "I
didn't say we'd make 'er inteh
a little tin angel, ner nottin',
but deh way it is now she can
queer us! Don' che see?"
git tired of deh life atter
a while an' den she'll
wanna be a-comin' home, won'
she, deh beast! I'll let 'er
in den, won' I?"
"Well, I didn' mean none of
dis prod'gal bus'ness anyway," explained
"It wasn't no prod'gal dauter,
yeh damn fool," said the mother. "It
was prod'gal son, anyhow."
"I know dat," said
For a time they sat in silence.
The mother's eyes gloated on
a scene her imagination could
call before her. Her lips were
set in a vindictive smile.
cry, won' she, an' carry on,
an' tell how Pete,
or some odder feller, beats 'er
an' she'll say she's sorry an'
all dat an' she ain't happy,
she ain't, an' she wants to come
home agin, she does."
With grim humor, the mother
imitated the possible wailing
notes of the daughter's voice.
"Den I'll take
'er in, won't I, deh beast.
She kin cry 'er
two eyes out on deh stones of
deh street before I'll dirty
deh place wid her. She abused
an' ill-treated her own mudder--her
own mudder what loved her an'
she'll never git anodder chance
dis side of hell."
Jimmie thought he had a great
idea of women's frailty, but
he could not understand why any
of his kin should be victims.
"Damn her," he
Again he wondered
vaguely if some of the women
of his acquaintance
had brothers. Nevertheless, his
mind did not for an instant confuse
himself with those brothers nor
his sister with theirs. After
the mother had, with great difficulty,
suppressed the neighbors, she
went among them and proclaimed
her grief. "May Gawd forgive
dat girl," was her continual
cry. To attentive ears she recited
the whole length and breadth
of her woes.
'er up deh way a dauter oughta
be bringed up an'
dis is how she served me! She
went teh deh devil deh first
chance she got! May Gawd forgive
for drunkenness she used the
story of her daughter's
downfall with telling effect
upon the police justices. Finally
one of them said to her, peering
down over his spectacles: "Mary,
the records of this and other
courts show that you are the
mother of forty-two daughters
who have been ruined. The case
is unparalleled in the annals
of this court, and this court
The mother went through life
shedding large tears of sorrow.
Her red face was a picture of
Of course Jimmie publicly damned
his sister that he might appear
on a higher social plane. But,
arguing with himself, stumbling
about in ways that he knew not,
he, once, almost came to a conclusion
that his sister would have been
more firmly good had she better
known why. However, he felt that
he could not hold such a view.
He threw it hastily aside.