McTeague HTML version
One can hold a scrubbing-brush with two good fingers and the stumps of two
others even if both joints of the thumb are gone, but it takes considerable
practice to get used to it.
Trina became a scrub-woman. She had taken council of Selina, and through her
had obtained the position of caretaker in a little memorial kindergarten over on
Pacific Street. Like Polk Street, it was an accommodation street, but running
through a much poorer and more sordid quarter. Trina had a little room over the
kindergarten schoolroom. It was not an unpleasant room. It looked out upon a
sunny little court floored with boards and used as the children's playground. Two
great cherry trees grew here, the leaves almost brushing against the window of
Trina's room and filtering the sunlight so that it fell in round golden spots upon the
floor of the room. "Like gold pieces," Trina said to herself.
Trina's work consisted in taking care of the kindergarten rooms, scrubbing the
floors, washing the windows, dusting and airing, and carrying out the ashes.
Besides this she earned some five dollars a month by washing down the front
steps of some big flats on Washington Street, and by cleaning out vacant houses
after the tenants had left. She saw no one. Nobody knew her. She went about
her work from dawn to dark, and often entire days passed when she did not hear
the sound of her own voice. She was alone, a solitary, abandoned woman, lost in
the lowest eddies of the great city's tide—the tide that always ebbs.
When Trina had been discharged from the hospital after the operation on her
fingers, she found herself alone in the world, alone with her five thousand dollars.
The interest of this would support her, and yet allow her to save a little.
But for a time Trina had thought of giving up the fight altogether and of joining her
family in the southern part of the State. But even while she hesitated about this
she received a long letter from her mother, an answer to one she herself had
written just before the amputation of her right-hand fingers—the last letter she
would ever be able to write. Mrs. Sieppe's letter was one long lamentation; she
had her own misfortunes to bewail as well as those of her daughter. The carpet-
cleaning and upholstery business had failed. Mr. Sieppe and Owgooste had left
for New Zealand with a colonization company, whither Mrs. Sieppe and the twins
were to follow them as soon as the colony established itself. So far from helping
Trina in her ill fortune, it was she, her mother, who might some day in the near
future be obliged to turn to Trina for aid. So Trina had given up the idea of any
help from her family. For that matter she needed none. She still had her five
thousand, and Uncle Oelbermann paid her the interest with a machine-like
regularity. Now that McTeague had left her, there was one less mouth to feed;
and with this saving, together with the little she could earn as scrub-woman,