Wednesday morning, Washington's Birthday, McTeague rose very early and
shaved himself. Besides the six mournful concertina airs, the dentist knew one
song. Whenever he shaved, he sung this song; never at any other time. His voice
was a bellowing roar, enough to make the window sashes rattle. Just now he
woke up all the lodgers in his hall with it. It was a lamentable wail:
"No one to love, none to caress,
Left all alone in this world's wilderness."
As he paused to strop his razor, Marcus came into his room, half-dressed, a
startling phantom in red flannels.
Marcus often ran back and forth between his room and the dentist's "Parlors" in
all sorts of undress. Old Miss Baker had seen him thus several times through her
half-open door, as she sat in her room listening and waiting. The old dressmaker
was shocked out of all expression. She was outraged, offended, pursing her lips,
putting up her head. She talked of complaining to the landlady. "And Mr. Grannis
right next door, too. You can understand how trying it is for both of us." She
would come out in the hall after one of these apparitions, her little false curls
shaking, talking loud and shrill to any one in reach of her voice.
"Well," Marcus would shout, "shut your door, then, if you don't want to see. Look
out, now, here I come again. Not even a porous plaster on me this time."
On this Wednesday morning Marcus called McTeague out into the hall, to the
head of the stairs that led down to the street door.
"Come and listen to Maria, Mac," said he.
Maria sat on the next to the lowest step, her chin propped by her two fists. The
red-headed Polish Jew, the ragman Zerkow, stood in the doorway. He was
"Now, just once more, Maria," he was saying. "Tell it to us just once more."
Maria's voice came up the stairway in a monotone. Marcus and McTeague
caught a phrase from time to time.
"There were more than a hundred pieces, and every one of them gold—just that
punch-bowl was worth a fortune-thick, fat, red gold."
"Get onto to that, will you?" observed Marcus. "The old skin has got her started
on the plate. Ain't they a pair for you?"