McTeague HTML version
One day, about a fortnight after the coroner's inquest had been held, and when
the excitement of the terrible affair was calming down and Polk Street beginning
to resume its monotonous routine, Old Grannis sat in his clean, well-kept little
room, in his cushioned armchair, his hands lying idly upon his knees. It was
evening; not quite time to light the lamps. Old Grannis had drawn his chair close
to the wall—so close, in fact, that he could hear Miss Baker's grenadine brushing
against the other side of the thin partition, at his very elbow, while she rocked
gently back and forth, a cup of tea in her hands.
Old Grannis's occupation was gone. That morning the bookselling firm where he
had bought his pamphlets had taken his little binding apparatus from him to use
as a model. The transaction had been concluded. Old Grannis had received his
check. It was large enough, to be sure, but when all was over, he returned to his
room and sat there sad and unoccupied, looking at the pattern in the carpet and
counting the heads of the tacks in the zinc guard that was fastened to the wall
behind his little stove. By and by he heard Miss Baker moving about. It was five
o'clock, the time when she was accustomed to make her cup of tea and "keep
company" with him on her side of the partition. Old Grannis drew up his chair to
the wall near where he knew she was sitting. The minutes passed; side by side,
and separated by only a couple of inches of board, the two old people sat there
together, while the afternoon grew darker.
But for Old Grannis all was different that evening. There was nothing for him to
do. His hands lay idly in his lap. His table, with its pile of pamphlets, was in a far
corner of the room, and, from time to time, stirred with an uncertain trouble, he
turned his head and looked at it sadly, reflecting that he would never use it again.
The absence of his accustomed work seemed to leave something out of his life.
It did not appear to him that he could be the same to Miss Baker now; their little
habits were disarranged, their customs broken up. He could no longer fancy
himself so near to her. They would drift apart now, and she would no longer
make herself a cup of tea and "keep company" with him when she knew that he
would never again sit before his table binding uncut pamphlets. He had sold his
happiness for money; he had bartered all his tardy romance for some miserable
banknotes. He had not foreseen that it would be like this. A vast regret welled up
within him. What was that on the back of his hand? He wiped it dry with his
ancient silk handkerchief.
Old Grannis leant his face in his hands. Not only did an inexplicable regret stir
within him, but a certain great tenderness came upon him. The tears that swam
in his faded blue eyes were not altogether those of unhappiness. No, this long-
delayed affection that had come upon him in his later years filled him with a joy
for which tears seemed to be the natural expression. For thirty years his eyes
had not been wet, but tonight he felt as if he were young again. He had never