On that particular morning the McTeagues had risen a half hour earlier than
usual and taken a hurried breakfast in the kitchen on the deal table with its
oilcloth cover. Trina was house-cleaning that week and had a presentiment of a
hard day's work ahead of her, while McTeague remembered a seven o'clock
appointment with a little German shoemaker.
At about eight o'clock, when the dentist had been in his office for over an hour,
Trina descended upon the bedroom, a towel about her head and the roller-
sweeper in her hand. She covered the bureau and sewing machine with sheets,
and unhooked the chenille portieres between the bedroom and the sitting-room.
As she was tying the Nottingham lace curtains at the window into great knots,
she saw old Miss Baker on the opposite sidewalk in the street below, and raising
the sash called down to her.
"Oh, it's you, Mrs. McTeague," cried the retired dressmaker, facing about, her
head in the air. Then a long conversation was begun, Trina, her arms folded
under her breast, her elbows resting on the window ledge, willing to be idle for a
moment; old Miss Baker, her market-basket on her arm, her hands wrapped in
the ends of her worsted shawl against the cold of the early morning. They
exchanged phrases, calling to each other from window to curb, their breath
coming from their lips in faint puffs of vapor, their voices shrill, and raised to
dominate the clamor of the waking street. The newsboys had made their
appearance on the street, together with the day laborers. The cable cars had
begun to fill up; all along the street could be seen the shopkeepers taking down
their shutters; some were still breakfasting. Now and then a waiter from one of
the cheap restaurants crossed from one sidewalk to another, balancing on one
palm a tray covered with a napkin.
"Aren't you out pretty early this morning, Miss Baker?" called Trina.
"No, no," answered the other. "I'm always up at half-past six, but I don't always
get out so soon. I wanted to get a nice head of cabbage and some lentils for a
soup, and if you don't go to market early, the restaurants get all the best."
"And you've been to market already, Miss Baker?"
"Oh, my, yes; and I got a fish—a sole—see." She drew the sole in question from
"Oh, the lovely sole!" exclaimed Trina.