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|Maggie: A Girl of the Streets||Stephen Crane|
|Page 1 of 2||
A forlorn woman went along a lighted avenue. The street was filled with people desperately bound on missions. An endless crowd darted at the elevated station stairs and the horse cars were thronged with owners of bundles.
The pace of the forlorn woman was slow. She was apparently searching for some one. She loitered near the doors of saloons and watched men emerge from them. She scanned furtively the faces in the rushing stream of pedestrians. Hurrying men, bent on catching some boat or train, jostled her elbows, failing to notice her, their thoughts fixed on distant dinners.
The forlorn woman had a peculiar face. Her smile was no smile. But when in repose her features had a shadowy look that was like a sardonic grin, as if some one had sketched with cruel forefinger indelible lines about her mouth.
Jimmie came strolling up the avenue. The woman encountered him with an aggrieved air.
"Oh, Jimmie, I've been lookin' all over fer yehs--," she began.
Jimmie made an impatient gesture and quickened his pace.
"Ah, don't bodder me! Good Gawd!" he said, with the savageness of a man whose life is pestered.
The woman followed him along the sidewalk in somewhat the manner of a suppliant.
"But, Jimmie," she said, "yehs told me ye'd--"
Jimmie turned upon her fiercely as if resolved to make a last stand for comfort and peace.
"Say, fer Gawd's sake, Hattie, don' foller me from one end of deh city teh deh odder. Let up, will yehs! Give me a minute's res', can't yehs? Yehs makes me tired, allus taggin' me. See? Ain' yehs got no sense. Do yehs want people teh get onto me? Go chase yerself, fer Gawd's sake."
The woman stepped closer and laid her fingers on his arm. "But, look-a-here--"
Jimmie snarled. "Oh, go teh hell."
He darted into the front door of a convenient saloon and a moment later came out into the shadows that surrounded the side door. On the brilliantly lighted avenue he perceived the forlorn woman dodging about like a scout. Jimmie laughed with an air of relief and went away.
When he arrived home he found his mother clamoring. Maggie had returned. She stood shivering beneath the torrent of her mother's wrath.
"Well, I'm damned," said Jimmie in greeting.
His mother, tottering about the room, pointed a quivering forefinger.
"Lookut her, Jimmie, lookut her. Dere's yer sister, boy. Dere's yer sister. Lookut her! Lookut her!"
She screamed in scoffing laughter.
The girl stood in the middle of the room. She edged about as if unable to find a place on the floor to put her feet.
"Ha, ha, ha," bellowed the mother. "Dere she stands! Ain' she purty? Lookut her! Ain' she sweet, deh beast? Lookut her! Ha, ha, lookut her!"
She lurched forward and put her red and seamed hands upon her daughter's face. She bent down and peered keenly up into the eyes of the girl.
"Oh, she's jes' dessame as she ever was, ain' she? She's her mudder's purty darlin' yit, ain' she? Lookut her, Jimmie! Come here, fer Gawd's sake, and lookut her."
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|Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
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