McTeague HTML version

Once every two months Maria Macapa set the entire flat in commotion. She
roamed the building from garret to cellar, searching each corner, ferreting
through every old box and trunk and barrel, groping about on the top shelves of
closets, peering into rag-bags, exasperating the lodgers with her persistence and
importunity. She was collecting junks, bits of iron, stone jugs, glass bottles, old
sacks, and cast-off garments. It was one of her perquisites. She sold the junk to
Zerkow, the rags-bottles-sacks man, who lived in a filthy den in the alley just
back of the flat, and who sometimes paid her as much as three cents a pound.
The stone jugs, however, were worth a nickel. The money that Zerkow paid her,
Maria spent on shirt waists and dotted blue neckties, trying to dress like the girls
who tended the soda-water fountain in the candy store on the corner. She was
sick with envy of these young women. They were in the world, they were elegant,
they were debonair, they had their "young men."
On this occasion she presented herself at the door of Old Grannis's room late in
the afternoon. His door stood a little open. That of Miss Baker was ajar a few
inches. The two old people were "keeping company" after their fashion.
"Got any junk, Mister Grannis?" inquired Maria, standing in the door, a very dirty,
half-filled pillowcase over one arm.
"No, nothing—nothing that I can think of, Maria," replied Old Grannis, terribly
vexed at the interruption, yet not wishing to be unkind. "Nothing I think of. Yet,
however—perhaps—if you wish to look."
He sat in the middle of the room before a small pine table. His little binding
apparatus was before him. In his fingers was a huge upholsterer's needle
threaded with twine, a brad-awl lay at his elbow, on the floor beside him was a
great pile of pamphlets, the pages uncut. Old Grannis bought the "Nation" and
the "Breeder and Sportsman." In the latter he occasionally found articles on dogs
which interested him. The former he seldom read. He could not afford to
subscribe regularly to either of the publications, but purchased their back
numbers by the score, almost solely for the pleasure he took in binding them.
"What you alus sewing up them books for, Mister Grannis?" asked Maria, as she
began rummaging about in Old Grannis's closet shelves. "There's just hundreds
of 'em in here on yer shelves; they ain't no good to you."
"Well, well," answered Old Grannis, timidly, rubbing his chin, "I—I'm sure I can't
quite say; a little habit, you know; a diversion, a—a—it occupies one, you know. I
don't smoke; it takes the place of a pipe, perhaps."