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McTeague

CHAPTER 16
A week passed, then a fortnight, then a month. It was a month of the greatest
anxiety and unquietude for Trina. McTeague was out of a job, could find nothing
to do; and Trina, who saw the impossibility of saving as much money as usual
out of her earnings under the present conditions, was on the lookout for cheaper
quarters. In spite of his outcries and sulky resistance Trina had induced her
husband to consent to such a move, bewildering him with a torrent of phrases
and marvellous columns of figures by which she proved conclusively that they
were in a condition but one remove from downright destitution.
The dentist continued idle. Since his ill success with the manufacturers of
surgical instruments he had made but two attempts to secure a job. Trina had
gone to see Uncle Oelbermann and had obtained for McTeague a position in the
shipping department of the wholesale toy store. However, it was a position that
involved a certain amount of ciphering, and McTeague had been obliged to throw
it up in two days.
Then for a time they had entertained a wild idea that a place on the police force
could be secured for McTeague. He could pass the physical examination with
flying colors, and Ryer, who had become the secretary of the Polk Street
Improvement Club, promised the requisite political "pull." If McTeague had shown
a certain energy in the matter the attempt might have been successful; but he
was too stupid, or of late had become too listless to exert himself greatly, and the
affair resulted only in a violent quarrel with Ryer.
McTeague had lost his ambition. He did not care to better his situation. All he
wanted was a warm place to sleep and three good meals a day. At the first—at
the very first—he had chafed at his idleness and had spent the days with his wife
in their one narrow room, walking back and forth with the restlessness of a caged
brute, or sitting motionless for hours, watching Trina at her work, feeling a dull
glow of shame at the idea that she was supporting him. This feeling had worn off
quickly, however. Trina's work was only hard when she chose to make it so, and
as a rule she supported their misfortunes with a silent fortitude.
Then, wearied at his inaction and feeling the need of movement and exercise,
McTeague would light his pipe and take a turn upon the great avenue one block
above Polk Street. A gang of laborers were digging the foundations for a large
brownstone house, and McTeague found interest and amusement in leaning over
the barrier that surrounded the excavations and watching the progress of the
work. He came to see it every afternoon; by and by he even got to know the
foreman who superintended the job, and the two had long talks together. Then
McTeague would return to Polk Street and find Heise in the back room of the
 
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