Jimmie had an idea it wasn't common courtesy for a friend to come to one's home and ruin one's sister. But he was not sure how much Pete knew about the rules of politeness.
The following night he returned home from work at rather a late hour in the evening. In passing through the halls he came upon the gnarled and leathery old woman who possessed the music box. She was grinning in the dim light that drifted through dust-stained panes. She beckoned to him with a smudged forefinger.
"Ah, Jimmie, what do yehs t'ink I got onto las' night. It was deh funnies' t'ing I ever saw," she cried, coming close to him and leering. She was trembling with eagerness to tell her tale. "I was by me door las' night when yer sister and her jude feller came in late, oh, very late. An' she, the dear, she was a-cryin' as if her heart would break, she was. It was deh funnies' t'ing I ever saw. An' right out here by me door she asked him did he love her, did he. An' she was a-cryin' as if her heart would break, poor t'ing. An' him, I could see by deh way what he said it dat she had been askin' orften, he says: 'Oh, hell, yes,' he says, says he, 'Oh, hell, yes.'"
Storm-clouds swept over Jimmie's face, but he turned from the leathery old woman and plodded on up-stairs.
"Oh, hell, yes," called she after him. She laughed a laugh that was like a prophetic croak. "'Oh, hell, yes,' he says, says he, 'Oh, hell, yes.'"
There was no one in at home. The rooms showed that attempts had been made at tidying them. Parts of the wreckage of the day before had been repaired by an unskilful hand. A chair or two and the table, stood uncertainly upon legs. The floor had been newly swept. Too, the blue ribbons had been restored to the curtains, and the lambrequin, with its immense sheaves of yellow wheat and red roses of equal size, had been returned, in a worn and sorry state, to its position at the mantel. Maggie's jacket and hat were gone from the nail behind the door.
Jimmie walked to the window and began to look through the blurred glass. It occurred to him to vaguely wonder, for an instant, if some of the women of his acquaintance had brothers.
Suddenly, however, he began to swear.
"But he was me frien'! I brought 'im here! Dat's deh hell of it!"
He fumed about the room, his anger gradually rising to the furious pitch.
"I'll kill deh jay! Dat's what I'll do! I'll kill deh jay!"
He clutched his hat and sprang toward the door. But it opened and his mother's great form blocked the passage.
"What deh hell's deh matter wid yeh?" exclaimed she, coming into the rooms.
Jimmie gave vent to a sardonic curse and then laughed heavily.
"Well, Maggie's gone teh deh devil! Dat's what! See?"
"Eh?" said his mother.
"Maggie's gone teh deh devil! Are yehs deaf?" roared Jimmie, impatiently.
"Deh hell she has," murmured the mother, astounded.
Jimmie grunted, and then began to stare out at the window. His mother sat down in a chair, but a moment later sprang erect and delivered a maddened whirl of oaths. Her son turned to look at her as she reeled and swayed in the middle of the room, her fierce face convulsed with passion, her blotched arms raised high in imprecation.
"May Gawd curse her forever," she shrieked. "May she eat nothin' but stones and deh dirt in deh street. May she sleep in deh gutter an' never see deh sun shine agin. Deh damn—"
"Here, now," said her son. "Take a drop on yourself."
The mother raised lamenting eyes to the ceiling.
"She's deh devil's own chil', Jimmie," she whispered. "Ah, who would t'ink such a bad girl could grow up in our fambly, Jimmie, me son. Many deh hour I've spent in talk wid dat girl an' tol' her if she ever went on deh streets I'd see her damned. An' after all her bringin' up an' what I tol' her and talked wid her, she goes teh deh bad, like a duck teh water."
The tears rolled down her furrowed face. Her hands trembled.
"An' den when dat Sadie MacMallister next door to us was sent teh deh devil by dat feller what worked in deh soap-factory, didn't I tell our Mag dat if she—"
"Ah, dat's annuder story," interrupted the brother. "Of course, dat Sadie was nice an' all dat—but—see—it ain't dessame as if—well, Maggie was diff'ent—see—she was diff'ent."
He was trying to formulate a theory that he had always unconsciously held, that all sisters, excepting his own, could advisedly be ruined.
He suddenly broke out again. "I'll go t'ump hell outa deh mug what did her deh harm. I'll kill 'im! He t'inks he kin scrap, but when he gits me a-chasin' 'im he'll fin' out where he's wrong, deh damned duffer. I'll wipe up deh street wid 'im."
In a fury he plunged out of the doorway. As he vanished the mother raised her head and lifted both hands, entreating.
"May Gawd curse her forever," she cried.
In the darkness of the hallway Jimmie discerned a knot of women talking volubly. When he strode by they paid no attention to him.
"She allus was a bold thing," he heard one of them cry in an eager voice. "Dere wasn't a feller come teh deh house but she'd try teh mash 'im. My Annie says deh shameless t'ing tried teh ketch her feller, her own feller, what we useter know his fader."
"I could a' tol' yehs dis two years ago," said a woman, in a key of triumph. "Yessir, it was over two years ago dat I says teh my ol' man, I says, 'Dat Johnson girl ain't straight,' I says. 'Oh, hell,' he says. 'Oh, hell.' 'Dat's all right,' I says, 'but I know what I knows,' I says, 'an' it 'ill come out later. You wait an' see,' I says, 'you see.'"
"Anybody what had eyes could see dat dere was somethin' wrong wid dat girl. I didn't like her actions."
On the street Jimmie met a friend. "What deh hell?" asked the latter.
Jimmie explained. "An' I'll t'ump 'im till he can't stand."
"Oh, what deh hell," said the friend. "What's deh use! Yeh'll git pulled in! Everybody 'ill be onto it! An' ten plunks! Gee!"
Jimmie was determined. "He t'inks he kin scrap, but he'll fin' out diff'ent."
"Gee," remonstrated the friend. "What deh hell?"