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|Maggie: A Girl of the Streets||Stephen Crane|
|Page 2 of 3||
As she turned her face toward him Pete beckoned to her hurriedly, intent upon returning with speed to a position behind the bar and to the atmosphere of respectability upon which the proprietor insisted.
Maggie came to him, the anxious look disappearing from her face and a smile wreathing her lips.
"Oh, Pete--," she began brightly.
The bartender made a violent gesture of impatience.
"Oh, my Gawd," cried he, vehemently. "What deh hell do yeh wanna hang aroun' here fer? Do yeh wanna git me inteh trouble?" he demanded with an air of injury.
Astonishment swept over the girl's features. "Why, Pete! yehs tol' me--"
Pete glanced profound irritation. His countenance reddened with the anger of a man whose respectability is being threatened.
"Say, yehs makes me tired. See? What deh hell deh yeh wanna tag aroun' atter me fer? Yeh'll git me inteh trouble wid deh ol' man an' dey'll be hell teh pay! If he sees a woman roun' here he'll go crazy an' I'll lose me job! See? Yer brudder come in here an' raised hell an' deh ol' man hada put up fer it! An' now I'm done! See? I'm done."
The girl's eyes stared into his face. "Pete, don't yeh remem--"
"Oh, hell," interrupted Pete, anticipating.
The girl seemed to have a struggle with herself. She was apparently bewildered and could not find speech. Finally she asked in a low voice: "But where kin I go?"
The question exasperated Pete beyond the powers of endurance. It was a direct attempt to give him some responsibility in a matter that did not concern him. In his indignation he volunteered information.
"Oh, go teh hell," cried he. He slammed the door furiously and returned, with an air of relief, to his respectability.
Maggie went away.
She wandered aimlessly for several blocks. She stopped once and asked aloud a question of herself: "Who?"
A man who was passing near her shoulder, humorously took the questioning word as intended for him.
"Eh? What? Who? Nobody! I didn't say anything," he laughingly said, and continued his way.
Soon the girl discovered that if she walked with such apparent aimlessness, some men looked at her with calculating eyes. She quickened her step, frightened. As a protection, she adopted a demeanor of intentness as if going somewhere.
After a time she left rattling avenues and passed between rows of houses with sternness and stolidity stamped upon their features. She hung her head for she felt their eyes grimly upon her.
Suddenly she came upon a stout gentleman in a silk hat and a chaste black coat, whose decorous row of buttons reached from his chin to his knees. The girl had heard of the Grace of God and she decided to approach this man.
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|Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
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