Maggie: A Girl of the StreetsMaggie: A Girl of the StreetsChapter IChapter IIChapter IIIChapter IVChapter VChapter VIChapter VIIChapter VIIIChapter IXChapter XChapter XIChapter XIIChapter XIIIChapter XIVChapter XVChapter XVIChapter XVIIChapter XVIIIChapter XIXCopyright
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
A very little boy stood upon a heap of gravel for the honor of Rum
Alley. He was throwing stones at howling urchins from Devil's Row
who were circling madly about the heap and pelting at him.
His infantile countenance was livid with fury. His small body was
writhing in the delivery of great, crimson oaths.
"Run, Jimmie, run! Dey'll get yehs," screamed a retreating Rum
"Naw," responded Jimmie with a valiant roar, "dese micks can't make
Howls of renewed wrath went up from Devil's Row throats. Tattered
gamins on the right made a furious assault on the gravel heap. On
their small, convulsed faces there shone the grins of true
assassins. As they charged, they threw stones and cursed in shrill
The little champion of Rum Alley stumbled precipitately down the
other side. His coat had been torn to shreds in a scuffle, and his
hat was gone. He had bruises on twenty parts of his body, and blood
was dripping from a cut in his head. His wan features wore a look
of a tiny, insane demon.
On the ground, children from Devil's Row closed in on their
antagonist. He crooked his left arm defensively about his head and
fought with cursing fury. The little boys ran to and fro, dodging,
hurling stones and swearing in barbaric trebles.
From a window of an apartment house that upreared its form from
amid squat, ignorant stables, there leaned a curious woman. Some
laborers, unloading a scow at a dock at the river, paused for a
moment and regarded the fight. The engineer of a passive tugboat
hung lazily to a railing and watched. Over on the Island, a worm of
yellow convicts came from the shadow of a building and crawled
slowly along the river's bank.
A stone had smashed into Jimmie's mouth. Blood was bubbling over
his chin and down upon his ragged shirt. Tears made furrows on his
dirt-stained cheeks. His thin legs had begun to tremble and turn
weak, causing his small body to reel. His roaring curses of the
first part of the fight had changed to a blasphemous chatter.
In the yells of the whirling mob of Devil's Row children there were
notes of joy like songs of triumphant savagery. The little boys
seemed to leer gloatingly at the blood upon the other child's
Down the avenue came boastfully sauntering a lad of sixteen years,
although the chronic sneer of an ideal manhood already sat upon his
lips. His hat was tipped with an air of challenge over his eye.
Between his teeth, a cigar stump was tilted at the angle of
defiance. He walked with a certain swing of the shoulders which
appalled the timid. He glanced over into the vacant lot in which
the little raving boys from Devil's Row seethed about the shrieking
and tearful child from Rum Alley.
"Gee!" he murmured with interest. "A scrap. Gee!"
He strode over to the cursing circle, swinging his shoulders in a
manner which denoted that he held victory in his fists. He
approached at the back of one of the most deeply engaged of the
Devil's Row children.
"Ah, what deh hell," he said, and smote the deeply-engaged one on
the back of the head. The little boy fell to the ground and gave a
hoarse, tremendous howl. He scrambled to his feet, and perceiving,
evidently, the size of his assailant, ran quickly off, shouting
alarms. The entire Devil's Row party followed him. They came to a
stand a short distance away and yelled taunting oaths at the boy
with the chronic sneer. The latter, momentarily, paid no attention
"What deh hell, Jimmie?" he asked of the small champion.
Jimmie wiped his blood-wet features with his sleeve.
"Well, it was dis way, Pete, see! I was goin' teh lick dat Riley
kid and dey all pitched on me."
Some Rum Alley children now came forward. The party stood for a
moment exchanging vainglorious remarks with Devil's Row. A few
stones were thrown at long distances, and words of challenge passed
between small warriors. Then the Rum Alley contingent turned slowly
in the direction of their home street. They began to give, each to
each, distorted versions of the fight. Causes of retreat in
particular cases were magnified. Blows dealt in the fight were
enlarged to catapultian power, and stones thrown were alleged to
have hurtled with infinite accuracy. Valor grew strong again, and
the little boys began to swear with great spirit.
"Ah, we blokies kin lick deh hull damn Row," said a child,
Little Jimmie was striving to stanch the flow of blood from his cut
lips. Scowling, he turned upon the speaker.
"Ah, where deh hell was yeh when I was doin' all deh fightin?" he
demanded. "Youse kids makes me tired."
"Ah, go ahn," replied the other argumentatively.
Jimmie replied with heavy contempt. "Ah, youse can't fight, Blue
Billie! I kin lick yeh wid one han'."
"Ah, go ahn," replied Billie again.
"Ah," said Jimmie threateningly.
"Ah," said the other in the same tone.
They struck at each other, clinched, and rolled over on the cobble
"Smash 'im, Jimmie, kick deh damn guts out of 'im," yelled Pete,
the lad with the chronic sneer, in tones of delight.
The small combatants pounded and kicked, scratched and tore. They
began to weep and their curses struggled in their throats with
sobs. The other little boys clasped their hands and wriggled their
legs in excitement. They formed a bobbing circle about the
A tiny spectator was suddenly agitated.
"Cheese it, Jimmie, cheese it! Here comes yer fader," he
The circle of little boys instantly parted. They drew away and
waited in ecstatic awe for that which was about to happen. The two
little boys fighting in the modes of four thousand years ago, did
not hear the warning.
Up the avenue there plodded slowly a man with sullen eyes. He was
carrying a dinner pail and smoking an apple-wood pipe.
As he neared the spot where the little boys strove, he regarded
them listlessly. But suddenly he roared an oath and advanced upon
the rolling fighters.
"Here, you Jim, git up, now, while I belt yer life out, you damned
He began to kick into the chaotic mass on the ground. The boy
Billie felt a heavy boot strike his head. He made a furious effort
and disentangled himself from Jimmie. He tottered away,
Jimmie arose painfully from the ground and confronting his father,
began to curse him. His parent kicked him. "Come home, now," he
cried, "an' stop yer jawin', er I'll lam the everlasting head off
They departed. The man paced placidly along with the apple-wood
emblem of serenity between his teeth. The boy followed a dozen feet
in the rear. He swore luridly, for he felt that it was degradation
for one who aimed to be some vague soldier, or a man of blood with
a sort of sublime license, to be taken home by a father.
Eventually they entered into a dark region where, from a careening
building, a dozen gruesome doorways gave up loads of babies to the
street and the gutter. A wind of early autumn raised yellow dust
from cobbles and swirled it against an hundred windows. Long
streamers of garments fluttered from fire-escapes. In all unhandy
places there were buckets, brooms, rags and bottles. In the street
infants played or fought with other infants or sat stupidly in the
way of vehicles. Formidable women, with uncombed hair and
disordered dress, gossiped while leaning on railings, or screamed
in frantic quarrels. Withered persons, in curious postures of
submission to something, sat smoking pipes in obscure corners. A
thousand odors of cooking food came forth to the street. The
building quivered and creaked from the weight of humanity stamping
about in its bowels.
A small ragged girl dragged a red, bawling infant along the crowded
ways. He was hanging back, baby-like, bracing his wrinkled, bare
The little girl cried out: "Ah, Tommie, come ahn. Dere's Jimmie and
fader. Don't be a-pullin' me back."
She jerked the baby's arm impatiently. He fell on his face,
roaring. With a second jerk she pulled him to his feet, and they
went on. With the obstinacy of his order, he protested against
being dragged in a chosen direction. He made heroic endeavors to
keep on his legs, denounce his sister and consume a bit of orange
peeling which he chewed between the times of his infantile
As the sullen-eyed man, followed by the blood-covered boy, drew
near, the little girl burst into reproachful cries. "Ah, Jimmie,
youse bin fightin' agin."
The urchin swelled disdainfully.
"Ah, what deh hell, Mag. See?"
The little girl upbraided him, "Youse allus fightin', Jimmie, an'
yeh knows it puts mudder out when yehs come home half dead, an'
it's like we'll all get a poundin'."
She began to weep. The babe threw back his head and roared at his
"Ah, what deh hell!" cried Jimmie. "Shut up er I'll smack yer
As his sister continued her lamentations, he suddenly swore and
struck her. The little girl reeled and, recovering herself, burst
into tears and quaveringly cursed him. As she slowly retreated her
brother advanced dealing her cuffs. The father heard and turned
"Stop that, Jim, d'yeh hear? Leave yer sister alone on the street.
It's like I can never beat any sense into yer damned wooden
The urchin raised his voice in defiance to his parent and continued
his attacks. The babe bawled tremendously, protesting with great
violence. During his sister's hasty manoeuvres, he was dragged by
Finally the procession plunged into one of the gruesome doorways.
They crawled up dark stairways and along cold, gloomy halls. At
last the father pushed open a door and they entered a lighted room
in which a large woman was rampant.
She stopped in a career from a seething stove to a pan-covered
table. As the father and children filed in she peered at
"Eh, what? Been fightin' agin, by Gawd!" She threw herself upon
Jimmie. The urchin tried to dart behind the others and in the
scuffle the babe, Tommie, was knocked down. He protested with his
usual vehemence, because they had bruised his tender shins against
a table leg.
The mother's massive shoulders heaved with anger. Grasping the
urchin by the neck and shoulder she shook him until he rattled. She
dragged him to an unholy sink, and, soaking a rag in water, began
to scrub his lacerated face with it. Jimmie screamed in pain and
tried to twist his shoulders out of the clasp of the huge
The babe sat on the floor watching the scene, his face in
contortions like that of a woman at a tragedy. The father, with a
newly-ladened pipe in his mouth, crouched on a backless chair near
the stove. Jimmie's cries annoyed him. He turned about and bellowed
at his wife:
"Let the damned kid alone for a minute, will yeh, Mary? Yer allus
poundin' 'im. When I come nights I can't git no rest 'cause yer
allus poundin' a kid. Let up, d'yeh hear? Don't be allus poundin' a
The woman's operations on the urchin instantly increased in
violence. At last she tossed him to a corner where he limply lay
cursing and weeping.
The wife put her immense hands on her hips and with a
chieftain-like stride approached her husband.
"Ho," she said, with a great grunt of contempt. "An' what in the
devil are you stickin' your nose for?"
The babe crawled under the table and, turning, peered out
cautiously. The ragged girl retreated and the urchin in the corner
drew his legs carefully beneath him.
The man puffed his pipe calmly and put his great mudded boots on
the back part of the stove.
"Go teh hell," he murmured, tranquilly.
The woman screamed and shook her fists before her husband's eyes.
The rough yellow of her face and neck flared suddenly crimson. She
began to howl.
He puffed imperturbably at his pipe for a time, but finally arose
and began to look out at the window into the darkening chaos of
"You've been drinkin', Mary," he said. "You'd better let up on the
bot', ol' woman, or you'll git done."
"You're a liar. I ain't had a drop," she roared in reply.
They had a lurid altercation, in which they damned each other's
souls with frequence.
The babe was staring out from under the table, his small face
working in his excitement.
The ragged girl went stealthily over to the corner where the urchin
"Are yehs hurted much, Jimmie?" she whispered timidly.
"Not a damn bit! See?" growled the little boy.
"Will I wash deh blood?"
"When I catch dat Riley kid I'll break 'is face! Dat's right!
He turned his face to the wall as if resolved to grimly bide his