McTeague HTML version

That summer passed, then the winter. The wet season began in the last days of
September and continued all through October, November, and December. At
long intervals would come a week of perfect days, the sky without a cloud, the air
motionless, but touched with a certain nimbleness, a faint effervescence that was
exhilarating. Then, without warning, during a night when a south wind blew, a
gray scroll of cloud would unroll and hang high over the city, and the rain would
come pattering down again, at first in scattered showers, then in an uninterrupted
All day long Trina sat in the bay window of the sitting-room that commanded a
view of a small section of Polk Street. As often as she raised her head she could
see the big market, a confectionery store, a bell-hanger's shop, and, farther on,
above the roofs, the glass skylights and water tanks of the big public baths. In the
nearer foreground ran the street itself; the cable cars trundled up and down,
thumping heavily over the joints of the rails; market carts by the score came and
went, driven at a great rate by preoccupied young men in their shirt sleeves, with
pencils behind their ears, or by reckless boys in blood-stained butcher's aprons.
Upon the sidewalks the little world of Polk Street swarmed and jostled through its
daily round of life. On fine days the great ladies from the avenue, one block
above, invaded the street, appearing before the butcher stalls, intent upon their
day's marketing. On rainy days their servants—the Chinese cooks or the second
girls—took their places. These servants gave themselves great airs, carrying
their big cotton umbrellas as they had seen their mistresses carry their parasols,
and haggling in supercilious fashion with the market men, their chins in the air.
The rain persisted. Everything in the range of Trina's vision, from the tarpaulins
on the market-cart horses to the panes of glass in the roof of the public baths,
looked glazed and varnished. The asphalt of the sidewalks shone like the surface
of a patent leather boot; every hollow in the street held its little puddle, that
winked like an eye each time a drop of rain struck into it.
Trina still continued to work for Uncle Oelbermann. In the mornings she busied
herself about the kitchen, the bedroom, and the sitting-room; but in the afternoon,
for two or three hours after lunch, she was occupied with the Noah's ark animals.
She took her work to the bay window, spreading out a great square of canvas
underneath her chair, to catch the chips and shavings, which she used
afterwards for lighting fires. One after another she caught up the little blocks of
straight-grained pine, the knife flashed between her fingers, the little figure grew
rapidly under her touch, was finished and ready for painting in a wonderfully short
time, and was tossed into the basket that stood at her elbow.