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Chapter 12


Chapter XII

In a hall of irregular shape sat Pete and Maggie drinking
beer.  A submissive orchestra dictated to by a spectacled man with
frowsy hair and a dress suit, industriously followed the bobs of
his head and the waves of his baton.  A ballad singer, in a dress
of flaming scarlet, sang in the inevitable voice of brass.  When
she vanished, men seated at the tables near the front applauded
loudly, pounding the polished wood with their beer glasses.  She
returned attired in less gown, and sang again.  She received
another enthusiastic encore.  She reappeared in still less gown and
danced.  The deafening rumble of glasses and clapping of hands that
followed her exit indicated an overwhelming desire to have her come
on for the fourth time, but the curiosity of the audience was not
gratified.

Maggie was pale.  From her eyes had been plucked all look of
self-reliance.  She leaned with a dependent air toward her
companion.  She was timid, as if fearing his anger or displeasure.
She seemed to beseech tenderness of him.

Pete's air of distinguished valor had grown upon him until it
threatened stupendous dimensions.  He was infinitely gracious to
the girl.  It was apparent to her that his condescension was a marvel.

He could appear to strut even while sitting still and he showed that
he was a lion of lordly characteristics by the air with which he spat.

With Maggie gazing at him wonderingly, he took pride in commanding
the waiters who were, however, indifferent or deaf.

"Hi, you, git a russle on yehs!  What deh hell yehs lookin' at?
Two more beehs, d'yeh hear?"

He leaned back and critically regarded the person of a girl
with a straw-colored wig who upon the stage was flinging her heels
in somewhat awkward imitation of a well-known danseuse.

At times Maggie told Pete long confidential tales of her
former home life, dwelling upon the escapades of the other members
of the family and the difficulties she had to combat in order to
obtain a degree of comfort.  He responded in tones of philanthropy.
He pressed her arm with an air of reassuring proprietorship.

"Dey was damn jays," he said, denouncing the mother and brother.

The sound of the music which, by the efforts of the frowsy-
headed leader, drifted to her ears through the smoke-filled
atmosphere, made the girl dream.  She thought of her former
Rum Alley environment and turned to regard Pete's strong protecting
fists.  She thought of the collar and cuff manufactory and the
eternal moan of the proprietor: "What een hell do you sink I pie
fife dolla a week for?  Play?  No, py damn."  She contemplated
Pete's man-subduing eyes and noted that wealth and prosperity was
indicated by his clothes.  She imagined a future, rose-tinted,
because of its distance from all that she previously had experienced.

As to the present she perceived only vague reasons to be
miserable.  Her life was Pete's and she considered him worthy of
the charge.  She would be disturbed by no particular apprehensions,
so long as Pete adored her as he now said he did.  She did not feel
like a bad woman.  To her knowledge she had never seen any better.

At times men at other tables regarded the girl furtively.
Pete, aware of it, nodded at her and grinned.  He felt proud.

"Mag, yer a bloomin' good-looker," he remarked, studying her
face through the haze.  The men made Maggie fear, but she blushed
at Pete's words as it became apparent to her that she was the apple
of his eye.

Grey-headed men, wonderfully pathetic in their dissipation,
stared at her through clouds.  Smooth-cheeked boys, some of them
with faces of stone and mouths of sin, not nearly so pathetic as
the grey heads, tried to find the girl's eyes in the smoke wreaths.
Maggie considered she was not what they thought her.  She confined
her glances to Pete and the stage.

The orchestra played negro melodies and a versatile drummer
pounded, whacked, clattered and scratched on a dozen machines to
make noise.

Those glances of the men, shot at Maggie from under half-closed lids,
made her tremble.  She thought them all to be worse men than Pete.

"Come, let's go," she said.

As they went out Maggie perceived two women seated at a table
with some men.  They were painted and their cheeks had lost their
roundness.  As she passed them the girl, with a shrinking movement,
drew back her skirts.

Stephen Crane

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