Part 5 out of 8
"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
"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
"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,
"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 punch-
bowl 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
"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?"
"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,"
"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
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 dark-
lantern. 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
"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 carpet-
cleaning 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
"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 post-
office 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
"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
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.
"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."
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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 brick-
paved 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 shaving-
mug 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 soda-
water 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
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
"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."
"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,"
"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
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-bottles-
sacks 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 second-
hand 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' coffee-
joint. 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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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