chapter 13 during this time that jurgis was lookingfor work occurred the death of little kristoforas, one of the children of tetaelzbieta. both kristoforas and his brother, juozapas,were cripples, the latter having lost one leg by having it run over, and kristoforashaving congenital dislocation of the hip, which made it impossible for him ever towalk. he was the last of teta elzbieta'schildren, and perhaps he had been intended by nature to let her know that she had hadenough. at any rate he was wretchedly sick andundersized; he had the rickets, and though
he was over three years old, he was nobigger than an ordinary child of one. all day long he would crawl around thefloor in a filthy little dress, whining and fretting; because the floor was full ofdrafts he was always catching cold, and snuffling because his nose ran. this made him a nuisance, and a source ofendless trouble in the family. for his mother, with unnatural perversity,loved him best of all her children, and made a perpetual fuss over him--would lethim do anything undisturbed, and would burst into tears when his fretting drovejurgis wild. and now he died.
perhaps it was the smoked sausage he hadeaten that morning--which may have been made out of some of the tubercular porkthat was condemned as unfit for export. at any rate, an hour after eating it, thechild had begun to cry with pain, and in another hour he was rolling about on thefloor in convulsions. little kotrina, who was all alone with him,ran out screaming for help, and after a while a doctor came, but not untilkristoforas had howled his last howl. no one was really sorry about this exceptpoor elzbieta, who was inconsolable. jurgis announced that so far as he wasconcerned the child would have to be buried by the city, since they had no money for afuneral; and at this the poor woman almost
went out of her senses, wringing her handsand screaming with grief and despair. her child to be buried in a pauper's grave!and her stepdaughter to stand by and hear it said without protesting! it was enough to make ona's father rise upout of his grave to rebuke her! if it had come to this, they might as wellgive up at once, and be buried all of them together!...in the end marija said that shewould help with ten dollars; and jurgis being still obdurate, elzbieta went in tears and begged the money from theneighbors, and so little kristoforas had a mass and a hearse with white plumes on it,and a tiny plot in a graveyard with a
wooden cross to mark the place. the poor mother was not the same for monthsafter that; the mere sight of the floor where little kristoforas had crawled aboutwould make her weep. he had never had a fair chance, poor littlefellow, she would say. he had been handicapped from his birth. if only she had heard about it in time, sothat she might have had that great doctor to cure him of his lameness!...some timeago, elzbieta was told, a chicago billionaire had paid a fortune to bring a great european surgeon over to cure hislittle daughter of the same disease from
which kristoforas had suffered. and because this surgeon had to have bodiesto demonstrate upon, he announced that he would treat the children of the poor, apiece of magnanimity over which the papers became quite eloquent. elzbieta, alas, did not read the papers,and no one had told her; but perhaps it was as well, for just then they would not havehad the carfare to spare to go every day to wait upon the surgeon, nor for that matter anybody with the time to take the child. all this while that he was seeking forwork, there was a dark shadow hanging over
jurgis; as if a savage beast were lurkingsomewhere in the pathway of his life, and he knew it, and yet could not helpapproaching the place. there are all stages of being out of workin packingtown, and he faced in dread the prospect of reaching the lowest. there is a place that waits for the lowestman--the fertilizer plant! the men would talk about it in awe-strickenwhispers. not more than one in ten had ever reallytried it; the other nine had contented themselves with hearsay evidence and a peepthrough the door. there were some things worse than evenstarving to death.
they would ask jurgis if he had workedthere yet, and if he meant to; and jurgis would debate the matter with himself. as poor as they were, and making all thesacrifices that they were, would he dare to refuse any sort of work that was offered tohim, be it as horrible as ever it could? would he dare to go home and eat bread thathad been earned by ona, weak and complaining as she was, knowing that he hadbeen given a chance, and had not had the nerve to take it?--and yet he might argue that way with himself all day, and oneglimpse into the fertilizer works would send him away again shuddering.
he was a man, and he would do his duty; hewent and made application--but surely he was not also required to hope for success!the fertilizer works of durham's lay away from the rest of the plant. few visitors ever saw them, and the few whodid would come out looking like dante, of whom the peasants declared that he had beeninto hell. to this part of the yards came all the"tankage" and the waste products of all sorts; here they dried out the bones,--andin suffocating cellars where the daylight never came you might see men and women and children bending over whirling machines andsawing bits of bone into all sorts of
shapes, breathing their lungs full of thefine dust, and doomed to die, every one of them, within a certain definite time. here they made the blood into albumen, andmade other foul-smelling things into things still more foul-smelling. in the corridors and caverns where it wasdone you might lose yourself as in the great caves of kentucky. in the dust and the steam the electriclights would shine like far-off twinkling stars--red and blue-green and purple stars,according to the color of the mist and the brew from which it came.
for the odors of these ghastly charnelhouses there may be words in lithuanian, but there are none in english.the person entering would have to summon his courage as for a cold-water plunge. he would go in like a man swimming underwater; he would put his handkerchief over his face, and begin to cough and choke; andthen, if he were still obstinate, he would find his head beginning to ring, and the veins in his forehead to throb, untilfinally he would be assailed by an overpowering blast of ammonia fumes, andwould turn and run for his life, and come out half-dazed.
on top of this were the rooms where theydried the "tankage," the mass of brown stringy stuff that was left after the wasteportions of the carcasses had had the lard and tallow dried out of them. this dried material they would then grindto a fine powder, and after they had mixed it up well with a mysterious butinoffensive brown rock which they brought in and ground up by the hundreds of carloads for that purpose, the substancewas ready to be put into bags and sent out to the world as any one of a hundreddifferent brands of standard bone phosphate.
and then the farmer in maine or californiaor texas would buy this, at say twenty-five dollars a ton, and plant it with his corn;and for several days after the operation the fields would have a strong odor, and the farmer and his wagon and the veryhorses that had hauled it would all have it too. in packingtown the fertilizer is pure,instead of being a flavoring, and instead of a ton or so spread out on several acresunder the open sky, there are hundreds and thousands of tons of it in one building, heaped here and there in haystack piles,covering the floor several inches deep, and
filling the air with a choking dust thatbecomes a blinding sandstorm when the wind stirs. it was to this building that jurgis camedaily, as if dragged by an unseen hand. the month of may was an exceptionally coolone, and his secret prayers were granted; but early in june there came a record-breaking hot spell, and after that there were men wanted in the fertilizer mill. the boss of the grinding room had come toknow jurgis by this time, and had marked him for a likely man; and so when he cameto the door about two o'clock this breathless hot day, he felt a sudden spasm
of pain shoot through him--the bossbeckoned to him! in ten minutes more jurgis had pulled offhis coat and overshirt, and set his teeth together and gone to work.here was one more difficulty for him to meet and conquer! his labor took him about one minute tolearn. before him was one of the vents of the millin which the fertilizer was being ground-- rushing forth in a great brown river, witha spray of the finest dust flung forth in clouds. jurgis was given a shovel, and along withhalf a dozen others it was his task to
shovel this fertilizer into carts. that others were at work he knew by thesound, and by the fact that he sometimes collided with them; otherwise they might aswell not have been there, for in the blinding dust storm a man could not see sixfeet in front of his face. when he had filled one cart he had to gropearound him until another came, and if there was none on hand he continued to grope tillone arrived. in five minutes he was, of course, a massof fertilizer from head to feet; they gave him a sponge to tie over his mouth, so thathe could breathe, but the sponge did not prevent his lips and eyelids from caking upwith it and his ears from filling solid.
he looked like a brown ghost at twilight--from hair to shoes he became the color of the building and of everything in it, andfor that matter a hundred yards outside it. the building had to be left open, and whenthe wind blew durham and company lost a great deal of fertilizer. working in his shirt sleeves, and with thethermometer at over a hundred, the phosphates soaked in through every pore ofjurgis' skin, and in five minutes he had a headache, and in fifteen was almost dazed. the blood was pounding in his brain like anengine's throbbing; there was a frightful pain in the top of his skull, and he couldhardly control his hands.
still, with the memory of his four months'siege behind him, he fought on, in a frenzy of determination; and half an hour later hebegan to vomit--he vomited until it seemed as if his inwards must be torn into shreds. a man could get used to the fertilizermill, the boss had said, if he would make up his mind to it; but jurgis now began tosee that it was a question of making up his stomach. at the end of that day of horror, he couldscarcely stand. he had to catch himself now and then, andlean against a building and get his bearings.
most of the men, when they came out, madestraight for a saloon--they seemed to place fertilizer and rattlesnake poison in oneclass. but jurgis was too ill to think ofdrinking--he could only make his way to the street and stagger on to a car. he had a sense of humor, and later on, whenhe became an old hand, he used to think it fun to board a streetcar and see whathappened. now, however, he was too ill to notice it--how the people in the car began to gasp and sputter, to put their handkerchiefs totheir noses, and transfix him with furious glances.
jurgis only knew that a man in front of himimmediately got up and gave him a seat; and that half a minute later the two people oneach side of him got up; and that in a full minute the crowded car was nearly empty-- those passengers who could not get room onthe platform having gotten out to walk. of course jurgis had made his home aminiature fertilizer mill a minute after entering. the stuff was half an inch deep in hisskin--his whole system was full of it, and it would have taken a week not merely ofscrubbing, but of vigorous exercise, to get it out of him.
as it was, he could be compared withnothing known to men, save that newest discovery of the savants, a substance whichemits energy for an unlimited time, without being itself in the least diminished inpower. he smelled so that he made all the food atthe table taste, and set the whole family to vomiting; for himself it was three daysbefore he could keep anything upon his stomach--he might wash his hands, and use a knife and fork, but were not his mouth andthroat filled with the poison? and still jurgis stuck it out! in spite of splitting headaches he wouldstagger down to the plant and take up his
stand once more, and begin to shovel in theblinding clouds of dust. and so at the end of the week he was afertilizer man for life--he was able to eat again, and though his head never stoppedaching, it ceased to be so bad that he could not work. so there passed another summer. it was a summer of prosperity, all over thecountry, and the country ate generously of packing house products, and there wasplenty of work for all the family, in spite of the packers' efforts to keep asuperfluity of labor. they were again able to pay their debts andto begin to save a little sum; but there
were one or two sacrifices they consideredtoo heavy to be made for long--it was too bad that the boys should have to sellpapers at their age. it was utterly useless to caution them andplead with them; quite without knowing it, they were taking on the tone of their newenvironment. they were learning to swear in volubleenglish; they were learning to pick up cigar stumps and smoke them, to pass hoursof their time gambling with pennies and dice and cigarette cards; they were learning the location of all the houses ofprostitution on the "levee," and the names of the "madames" who kept them, and thedays when they gave their state banquets,
which the police captains and the bigpoliticians all attended. if a visiting "country customer" were toask them, they could show him which was "hinkydink's" famous saloon, and could evenpoint out to him by name the different gamblers and thugs and "hold-up men" whomade the place their headquarters. and worse yet, the boys were getting out ofthe habit of coming home at night. what was the use, they would ask, ofwasting time and energy and a possible carfare riding out to the stockyards everynight when the weather was pleasant and they could crawl under a truck or into anempty doorway and sleep exactly as well? so long as they brought home a half dollarfor each day, what mattered it when they
brought it? but jurgis declared that from this toceasing to come at all would not be a very long step, and so it was decided thatvilimas and nikalojus should return to school in the fall, and that instead elzbieta should go out and get some work,her place at home being taken by her younger daughter. little kotrina was like most children ofthe poor, prematurely made old; she had to take care of her little brother, who was acripple, and also of the baby; she had to cook the meals and wash the dishes and
clean house, and have supper ready when theworkers came home in the evening. she was only thirteen, and small for herage, but she did all this without a murmur; and her mother went out, and after trudginga couple of days about the yards, settled down as a servant of a "sausage machine." elzbieta was used to working, but she foundthis change a hard one, for the reason that she had to stand motionless upon her feetfrom seven o'clock in the morning till half-past twelve, and again from one tillhalf-past five. for the first few days it seemed to herthat she could not stand it--she suffered almost as much as jurgis had from thefertilizer, and would come out at sundown
with her head fairly reeling. besides this, she was working in one of thedark holes, by electric light, and the dampness, too, was deadly--there werealways puddles of water on the floor, and a sickening odor of moist flesh in the room. the people who worked here followed theancient custom of nature, whereby the ptarmigan is the color of dead leaves inthe fall and of snow in the winter, and the chameleon, who is black when he lies upon a stump and turns green when he moves to aleaf. the men and women who worked in thisdepartment were precisely the color of the
"fresh country sausage" they made. the sausage-room was an interesting placeto visit, for two or three minutes, and provided that you did not look at thepeople; the machines were perhaps the most wonderful things in the entire plant. presumably sausages were once chopped andstuffed by hand, and if so it would be interesting to know how many workers hadbeen displaced by these inventions. on one side of the room were the hoppers,into which men shoveled loads of meat and wheelbarrows full of spices; in these greatbowls were whirling knives that made two thousand revolutions a minute, and when the
meat was ground fine and adulterated withpotato flour, and well mixed with water, it was forced to the stuffing machines on theother side of the room. the latter were tended by women; there wasa sort of spout, like the nozzle of a hose, and one of the women would take a longstring of "casing" and put the end over the nozzle and then work the whole thing on, as one works on the finger of a tight glove. this string would be twenty or thirty feetlong, but the woman would have it all on in a jiffy; and when she had several on, shewould press a lever, and a stream of sausage meat would be shot out, taking thecasing with it as it came.
thus one might stand and see appear,miraculously born from the machine, a wriggling snake of sausage of incrediblelength. in front was a big pan which caught thesecreatures, and two more women who seized them as fast as they appeared and twistedthem into links. this was for the uninitiated the mostperplexing work of all; for all that the woman had to give was a single turn of thewrist; and in some way she contrived to give it so that instead of an endless chain of sausages, one after another, there grewunder her hands a bunch of strings, all dangling from a single center.
it was quite like the feat of aprestidigitator--for the woman worked so fast that the eye could literally notfollow her, and there was only a mist of motion, and tangle after tangle of sausagesappearing. in the midst of the mist, however, thevisitor would suddenly notice the tense set face, with the two wrinkles graven in theforehead, and the ghastly pallor of the cheeks; and then he would suddenlyrecollect that it was time he was going on. the woman did not go on; she stayed rightthere--hour after hour, day after day, year after year, twisting sausage links andracing with death. it was piecework, and she was apt to have afamily to keep alive; and stern and
ruthless economic laws had arranged it thatshe could only do this by working just as she did, with all her soul upon her work, and with never an instant for a glance atthe well-dressed ladies and gentlemen who came to stare at her, as at some wild beastin a menagerie. > chapter 14 with one member trimming beef in a cannery,and another working in a sausage factory, the family had a first-hand knowledge ofthe great majority of packingtown swindles. for it was the custom, as they found,whenever meat was so spoiled that it could
not be used for anything else, either tocan it or else to chop it up into sausage. with what had been told them by jonas, whohad worked in the pickle rooms, they could now study the whole of the spoiled-meatindustry on the inside, and read a new and grim meaning into that old packingtown jest--that they use everything of the pigexcept the squeal. jonas had told them how the meat that wastaken out of pickle would often be found sour, and how they would rub it up withsoda to take away the smell, and sell it to be eaten on free-lunch counters; also of all the miracles of chemistry which theyperformed, giving to any sort of meat,
fresh or salted, whole or chopped, anycolor and any flavor and any odor they chose. in the pickling of hams they had aningenious apparatus, by which they saved time and increased the capacity of theplant--a machine consisting of a hollow needle attached to a pump; by plunging this needle into the meat and working with hisfoot, a man could fill a ham with pickle in a few seconds. and yet, in spite of this, there would behams found spoiled, some of them with an odor so bad that a man could hardly bear tobe in the room with them.
to pump into these the packers had a secondand much stronger pickle which destroyed the odor--a process known to the workers as"giving them thirty per cent." also, after the hams had been smoked, therewould be found some that had gone to the bad. formerly these had been sold as "numberthree grade," but later on some ingenious person had hit upon a new device, and nowthey would extract the bone, about which the bad part generally lay, and insert inthe hole a white-hot iron. after this invention there was no longernumber one, two, and three grade--there was only number one grade.
the packers were always originating suchschemes--they had what they called "boneless hams," which were all the oddsand ends of pork stuffed into casings; and "california hams," which were the shoulders, with big knuckle joints, andnearly all the meat cut out; and fancy "skinned hams," which were made of theoldest hogs, whose skins were so heavy and coarse that no one would buy them--that is, until they had been cooked and chopped fineand labeled "head cheese!" it was only when the whole ham was spoiledthat it came into the department of elzbieta.
cut up by the two-thousand-revolutions-a-minute flyers, and mixed with half a ton of other meat, no odor that ever was in a hamcould make any difference. there was never the least attention paid towhat was cut up for sausage; there would come all the way back from europe oldsausage that had been rejected, and that was moldy and white--it would be dosed with borax and glycerine, and dumped into thehoppers, and made over again for home consumption. there would be meat that had tumbled out onthe floor, in the dirt and sawdust, where the workers had tramped and spit uncountedbillions of consumption germs.
there would be meat stored in great pilesin rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of ratswould race about on it. it was too dark in these storage places tosee well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of meat and sweep off handfulsof the dried dung of rats. these rats were nuisances, and the packerswould put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread, and meatwould go into the hoppers together. this is no fairy story and no joke; themeat would be shoveled into carts, and the man who did the shoveling would not troubleto lift out a rat even when he saw one-- there were things that went into the
sausage in comparison with which a poisonedrat was a tidbit. there was no place for the men to washtheir hands before they ate their dinner, and so they made a practice of washing themin the water that was to be ladled into the sausage. there were the butt-ends of smoked meat,and the scraps of corned beef, and all the odds and ends of the waste of the plants,that would be dumped into old barrels in the cellar and left there. under the system of rigid economy which thepackers enforced, there were some jobs that it only paid to do once in a long time, andamong these was the cleaning out of the
waste barrels. every spring they did it; and in thebarrels would be dirt and rust and old nails and stale water--and cartload aftercartload of it would be taken up and dumped into the hoppers with fresh meat, and sentout to the public's breakfast. some of it they would make into "smoked"sausage--but as the smoking took time, and was therefore expensive, they would callupon their chemistry department, and preserve it with borax and color it withgelatine to make it brown. all of their sausage came out of the samebowl, but when they came to wrap it they would stamp some of it "special," and forthis they would charge two cents more a
pound. such were the new surroundings in whichelzbieta was placed, and such was the work she was compelled to do. it was stupefying, brutalizing work; itleft her no time to think, no strength for anything. she was part of the machine she tended, andevery faculty that was not needed for the machine was doomed to be crushed out ofexistence. there was only one mercy about the cruelgrind--that it gave her the gift of insensibility.little by little she sank into a torpor--
she fell silent. she would meet jurgis and ona in theevening, and the three would walk home together, often without saying a word. ona, too, was falling into a habit ofsilence--ona, who had once gone about singing like a bird. she was sick and miserable, and often shewould barely have strength enough to drag herself home. and there they would eat what they had toeat, and afterward, because there was only their misery to talk of, they would crawlinto bed and fall into a stupor and never
stir until it was time to get up again, and dress by candlelight, and go back to themachines. they were so numbed that they did not evensuffer much from hunger, now; only the children continued to fret when the foodran short. yet the soul of ona was not dead--the soulsof none of them were dead, but only sleeping; and now and then they wouldwaken, and these were cruel times. the gates of memory would roll open--oldjoys would stretch out their arms to them, old hopes and dreams would call to them,and they would stir beneath the burden that lay upon them, and feel its foreverimmeasurable weight.
they could not even cry out beneath it; butanguish would seize them, more dreadful than the agony of death. it was a thing scarcely to be spoken--athing never spoken by all the world, that will not know its own defeat.they were beaten; they had lost the game, they were swept aside. it was not less tragic because it was sosordid, because it had to do with wages and grocery bills and rents. they had dreamed of freedom; of a chance tolook about them and learn something; to be decent and clean, to see their child growup to be strong.
and now it was all gone--it would never be! they had played the game and they had lost. six years more of toil they had to facebefore they could expect the least respite, the cessation of the payments upon thehouse; and how cruelly certain it was that they could never stand six years of such alife as they were living! they were lost, they were going down--andthere was no deliverance for them, no hope; for all the help it gave them the vast cityin which they lived might have been an ocean waste, a wilderness, a desert, atomb. so often this mood would come to ona, inthe nighttime, when something wakened her;
she would lie, afraid of the beating of herown heart, fronting the blood-red eyes of the old primeval terror of life. once she cried aloud, and woke jurgis, whowas tired and cross. after that she learned to weep silently--their moods so seldom came together now! it was as if their hopes were buried inseparate graves. jurgis, being a man, had troubles of hisown. there was another specter following him. he had never spoken of it, nor would heallow any one else to speak of it--he had never acknowledged its existence tohimself.
yet the battle with it took all the manhoodthat he had--and once or twice, alas, a little more.jurgis had discovered drink. he was working in the steaming pit of hell;day after day, week after week--until now, there was not an organ of his body that didits work without pain, until the sound of ocean breakers echoed in his head day and night, and the buildings swayed and dancedbefore him as he went down the street. and from all the unending horror of thisthere was a respite, a deliverance--he could drink! he could forget the pain, he could slip offthe burden; he would see clearly again, he
would be master of his brain, of histhoughts, of his will. his dead self would stir in him, and hewould find himself laughing and cracking jokes with his companions--he would be aman again, and master of his life. it was not an easy thing for jurgis to takemore than two or three drinks. with the first drink he could eat a meal,and he could persuade himself that that was economy; with the second he could eatanother meal--but there would come a time when he could eat no more, and then to pay for a drink was an unthinkableextravagance, a defiance of the age-long instincts of his hunger-haunted class.
one day, however, he took the plunge, anddrank up all that he had in his pockets, and went home half "piped," as the menphrase it. he was happier than he had been in a year;and yet, because he knew that the happiness would not last, he was savage, too withthose who would wreck it, and with the world, and with his life; and then again, beneath this, he was sick with the shame ofhimself. afterward, when he saw the despair of hisfamily, and reckoned up the money he had spent, the tears came into his eyes, and hebegan the long battle with the specter. it was a battle that had no end, that nevercould have one.
but jurgis did not realize that veryclearly; he was not given much time for reflection. he simply knew that he was always fighting.steeped in misery and despair as he was, merely to walk down the street was to beput upon the rack. there was surely a saloon on the corner--perhaps on all four corners, and some in the middle of the block as well; and eachone stretched out a hand to him each one had a personality of its own, allurementsunlike any other. going and coming--before sunrise and afterdark--there was warmth and a glow of light, and the steam of hot food, and perhapsmusic, or a friendly face, and a word of
good cheer. jurgis developed a fondness for having onaon his arm whenever he went out on the street, and he would hold her tightly, andwalk fast. it was pitiful to have ona know of this--itdrove him wild to think of it; the thing was not fair, for ona had never tasteddrink, and so could not understand. sometimes, in desperate hours, he wouldfind himself wishing that she might learn what it was, so that he need not be ashamedin her presence. they might drink together, and escape fromthe horror--escape for a while, come what would.
so there came a time when nearly all theconscious life of jurgis consisted of a struggle with the craving for liquor. he would have ugly moods, when he hated onaand the whole family, because they stood in his way.he was a fool to have married; he had tied himself down, had made himself a slave. it was all because he was a married manthat he was compelled to stay in the yards; if it had not been for that he might havegone off like jonas, and to hell with the packers. there were few single men in the fertilizermill--and those few were working only for a
chance to escape. meantime, too, they had something to thinkabout while they worked,--they had the memory of the last time they had beendrunk, and the hope of the time when they would be drunk again. as for jurgis, he was expected to bringhome every penny; he could not even go with the men at noontime--he was supposed to sitdown and eat his dinner on a pile of fertilizer dust. this was not always his mood, of course; hestill loved his family. but just now was a time of trial.
poor little antanas, for instance--who hadnever failed to win him with a smile-- little antanas was not smiling just now,being a mass of fiery red pimples. he had had all the diseases that babies areheir to, in quick succession, scarlet fever, mumps, and whooping cough in thefirst year, and now he was down with the measles. there was no one to attend him but kotrina;there was no doctor to help him, because they were too poor, and children did notdie of the measles--at least not often. now and then kotrina would find time to sobover his woes, but for the greater part of the time he had to be left alone,barricaded upon the bed.
the floor was full of drafts, and if hecaught cold he would die. at night he was tied down, lest he shouldkick the covers off him, while the family lay in their stupor of exhaustion. he would lie and scream for hours, almostin convulsions; and then, when he was worn out, he would lie whimpering and wailing inhis torment. he was burning up with fever, and his eyeswere running sores; in the daytime he was a thing uncanny and impish to behold, aplaster of pimples and sweat, a great purple lump of misery. yet all this was not really as cruel as itsounds, for, sick as he was, little antanas
was the least unfortunate member of thatfamily. he was quite able to bear his sufferings--it was as if he had all these complaints to show what a prodigy of health he was. he was the child of his parents' youth andjoy; he grew up like the conjurer's rosebush, and all the world was his oyster. in general, he toddled around the kitchenall day with a lean and hungry look--the portion of the family's allowance that fellto him was not enough, and he was unrestrainable in his demand for more. antanas was but little over a year old, andalready no one but his father could manage
him. it seemed as if he had taken all of hismother's strength--had left nothing for those that might come after him. ona was with child again now, and it was adreadful thing to contemplate; even jurgis, dumb and despairing as he was, could notbut understand that yet other agonies were on the way, and shudder at the thought ofthem. for ona was visibly going to pieces. in the first place she was developing acough, like the one that had killed old dede antanas.
she had had a trace of it ever since thatfatal morning when the greedy streetcar corporation had turned her out into therain; but now it was beginning to grow serious, and to wake her up at night. even worse than that was the fearfulnervousness from which she suffered; she would have frightful headaches and fits ofaimless weeping; and sometimes she would come home at night shuddering and moaning, and would fling herself down upon the bedand burst into tears. several times she was quite beside herselfand hysterical; and then jurgis would go half-mad with fright.
elzbieta would explain to him that it couldnot be helped, that a woman was subject to such things when she was pregnant; but hewas hardly to be persuaded, and would beg and plead to know what had happened. she had never been like this before, hewould argue--it was monstrous and unthinkable. it was the life she had to live, theaccursed work she had to do, that was killing her by inches. she was not fitted for it--no woman wasfitted for it, no woman ought to be allowed to do such work; if the world could notkeep them alive any other way it ought to
kill them at once and be done with it. they ought not to marry, to have children;no workingman ought to marry--if he, jurgis, had known what a woman was like, hewould have had his eyes torn out first. so he would carry on, becoming halfhysterical himself, which was an unbearable thing to see in a big man; ona would pullherself together and fling herself into his arms, begging him to stop, to be still, that she would be better, it would be allright. so she would lie and sob out her grief uponhis shoulder, while he gazed at her, as helpless as a wounded animal, the target ofunseen enemies.
chapter 15 the beginning of these perplexing thingswas in the summer; and each time ona would promise him with terror in her voice thatit would not happen again--but in vain. each crisis would leave jurgis more andmore frightened, more disposed to distrust elzbieta's consolations, and to believethat there was some terrible thing about all this that he was not allowed to know. once or twice in these outbreaks he caughtona's eye, and it seemed to him like the eye of a hunted animal; there were brokenphrases of anguish and despair now and then, amid her frantic weeping.
it was only because he was so numb andbeaten himself that jurgis did not worry more about this. but he never thought of it, except when hewas dragged to it--he lived like a dumb beast of burden, knowing only the moment inwhich he was. the winter was coming on again, moremenacing and cruel than ever. it was october, and the holiday rush hadbegun. it was necessary for the packing machinesto grind till late at night to provide food that would be eaten at christmasbreakfasts; and marija and elzbieta and ona, as part of the machine, began workingfifteen or sixteen hours a day.
there was no choice about this--whateverwork there was to be done they had to do, if they wished to keep their places;besides that, it added another pittance to their incomes. so they staggered on with the awful load.they would start work every morning at seven, and eat their dinners at noon, andthen work until ten or eleven at night without another mouthful of food. jurgis wanted to wait for them, to helpthem home at night, but they would not think of this; the fertilizer mill was notrunning overtime, and there was no place for him to wait save in a saloon.
each would stagger out into the darkness,and make her way to the corner, where they met; or if the others had already gone,would get into a car, and begin a painful struggle to keep awake. when they got home they were always tootired either to eat or to undress; they would crawl into bed with their shoes on,and lie like logs. if they should fail, they would certainlybe lost; if they held out, they might have enough coal for the winter.a day or two before thanksgiving day there came a snowstorm. it began in the afternoon, and by eveningtwo inches had fallen.
jurgis tried to wait for the women, butwent into a saloon to get warm, and took two drinks, and came out and ran home toescape from the demon; there he lay down to wait for them, and instantly fell asleep. when he opened his eyes again he was in themidst of a nightmare, and found elzbieta shaking him and crying out.at first he could not realize what she was saying--ona had not come home. what time was it, he asked.it was morning--time to be up. ona had not been home that night!and it was bitter cold, and a foot of snow on the ground.
jurgis sat up with a start.marija was crying with fright and the children were wailing in sympathy--littlestanislovas in addition, because the terror of the snow was upon him. jurgis had nothing to put on but his shoesand his coat, and in half a minute he was out of the door. then, however, he realized that there wasno need of haste, that he had no idea where to go. it was still dark as midnight, and thethick snowflakes were sifting down-- everything was so silent that he could hearthe rustle of them as they fell.
in the few seconds that he stood therehesitating he was covered white. he set off at a run for the yards, stoppingby the way to inquire in the saloons that were open. ona might have been overcome on the way; orelse she might have met with an accident in the machines. when he got to the place where she workedhe inquired of one of the watchmen--there had not been any accident, so far as theman had heard. at the time office, which he found alreadyopen, the clerk told him that ona's check had been turned in the night before,showing that she had left her work.
after that there was nothing for him to dobut wait, pacing back and forth in the snow, meantime, to keep from freezing. already the yards were full of activity;cattle were being unloaded from the cars in the distance, and across the way the "beef-luggers" were toiling in the darkness, carrying two-hundred-pound quarters ofbullocks into the refrigerator cars. before the first streaks of daylight therecame the crowding throngs of workingmen, shivering, and swinging their dinner pailsas they hurried by. jurgis took up his stand by the time-officewindow, where alone there was light enough for him to see; the snow fell so quick thatit was only by peering closely that he
could make sure that ona did not pass him. seven o'clock came, the hour when the greatpacking machine began to move. jurgis ought to have been at his place inthe fertilizer mill; but instead he was waiting, in an agony of fear, for ona. it was fifteen minutes after the hour whenhe saw a form emerge from the snow mist, and sprang toward it with a cry. it was she, running swiftly; as she sawhim, she staggered forward, and half fell into his outstretched arms."what has been the matter?" he cried, anxiously.
"where have you been?"it was several seconds before she could get breath to answer him."i couldn't get home," she exclaimed. "the snow--the cars had stopped." "but where were you then?" he demanded."i had to go home with a friend," she panted--"with jadvyga." jurgis drew a deep breath; but then henoticed that she was sobbing and trembling- -as if in one of those nervous crises thathe dreaded so. "but what's the matter?" he cried. "what has happened?""oh, jurgis, i was so frightened!" she
said, clinging to him wildly."i have been so worried!" they were near the time station window, andpeople were staring at them. jurgis led her away."how do you mean?" he asked, in perplexity. "i was afraid--i was just afraid!" sobbedona. "i knew you wouldn't know where i was, andi didn't know what you might do. i tried to get home, but i was so tired. oh, jurgis, jurgis!"he was so glad to get her back that he could not think clearly about anythingelse. it did not seem strange to him that sheshould be so very much upset; all her
fright and incoherent protestations did notmatter since he had her back. he let her cry away her tears; and then,because it was nearly eight o'clock, and they would lose another hour if theydelayed, he left her at the packing house door, with her ghastly white face and herhaunted eyes of terror. there was another brief interval. christmas was almost come; and because thesnow still held, and the searching cold, morning after morning jurgis half carriedhis wife to her post, staggering with her through the darkness; until at last, onenight, came the end. it lacked but three days of the holidays.
about midnight marija and elzbieta camehome, exclaiming in alarm when they found that ona had not come. the two had agreed to meet her; and, afterwaiting, had gone to the room where she worked; only to find that the ham-wrappinggirls had quit work an hour before, and left. there was no snow that night, nor was itespecially cold; and still ona had not come!something more serious must be wrong this time. they aroused jurgis, and he sat up andlistened crossly to the story.
she must have gone home again with jadvyga,he said; jadvyga lived only two blocks from the yards, and perhaps she had been tired. nothing could have happened to her--andeven if there had, there was nothing could be done about it until morning. jurgis turned over in his bed, and wassnoring again before the two had closed the door.in the morning, however, he was up and out nearly an hour before the usual time. jadvyga marcinkus lived on the other sideof the yards, beyond halsted street, with her mother and sisters, in a singlebasement room--for mikolas had recently
lost one hand from blood poisoning, andtheir marriage had been put off forever. the door of the room was in the rear,reached by a narrow court, and jurgis saw a light in the window and heard somethingfrying as he passed; he knocked, half expecting that ona would answer. instead there was one of jadvyga's littlesisters, who gazed at him through a crack in the door."where's ona?" he demanded; and the child looked at him in perplexity. "ona?" she said."yes," said jurgis, "isn't she here?" "no," said the child, and jurgis gave astart.
a moment later came jadvyga, peering overthe child's head. when she saw who it was, she slid aroundout of sight, for she was not quite dressed. jurgis must excuse her, she began, hermother was very ill-- "ona isn't here?"jurgis demanded, too alarmed to wait for her to finish. "why, no," said jadvyga."what made you think she would be here? had she said she was coming?""no," he answered. "but she hasn't come home--and i thoughtshe would be here the same as before."
"as before?" echoed jadvyga, in perplexity."the time she spent the night here," said jurgis. "there must be some mistake," she answered,quickly. "ona has never spent the night here."he was only half able to realize the words. "why--why--" he exclaimed. "two weeks ago.jadvyga! she told me so the night it snowed, and shecould not get home." "there must be some mistake," declared thegirl, again; "she didn't come here." he steadied himself by the door-sill; andjadvyga in her anxiety--for she was fond of
ona--opened the door wide, holding herjacket across her throat. "are you sure you didn't misunderstandher?" she cried. "she must have meant somewhere else.she--" "she said here," insisted jurgis. "she told me all about you, and how youwere, and what you said. are you sure?you haven't forgotten? you weren't away?" "no, no!" she exclaimed--and then came apeevish voice--"jadvyga, you are giving the baby a cold.shut the door!"
jurgis stood for half a minute more,stammering his perplexity through an eighth of an inch of crack; and then, as there wasreally nothing more to be said, he excused himself and went away. he walked on half dazed, without knowingwhere he went. ona had deceived him!she had lied to him! and what could it mean--where had she been? where was she now?he could hardly grasp the thing--much less try to solve it; but a hundred wildsurmises came to him, a sense of impending calamity overwhelmed him.
because there was nothing else to do, hewent back to the time office to watch again. he waited until nearly an hour after seven,and then went to the room where ona worked to make inquiries of ona's "forelady." the "forelady," he found, had not yet come;all the lines of cars that came from downtown were stalled--there had been anaccident in the powerhouse, and no cars had been running since last night. meantime, however, the ham-wrappers wereworking away, with some one else in charge of them.
the girl who answered jurgis was busy, andas she talked she looked to see if she were being watched. then a man came up, wheeling a truck; heknew jurgis for ona's husband, and was curious about the mystery. "maybe the cars had something to do withit," he suggested--"maybe she had gone down-town.""no," said jurgis, "she never went down- town." "perhaps not," said the man.jurgis thought he saw him exchange a swift glance with the girl as he spoke, and hedemanded quickly.
"what do you know about it?" but the man had seen that the boss waswatching him; he started on again, pushing his truck."i don't know anything about it," he said, over his shoulder. "how should i know where your wife goes?"then jurgis went out again and paced up and down before the building.all the morning he stayed there, with no thought of his work. about noon he went to the police station tomake inquiries, and then came back again for another anxious vigil.finally, toward the middle of the
afternoon, he set out for home once more. he was walking out ashland avenue.the streetcars had begun running again, and several passed him, packed to the stepswith people. the sight of them set jurgis to thinkingagain of the man's sarcastic remark; and half involuntarily he found himselfwatching the cars--with the result that he gave a sudden startled exclamation, andstopped short in his tracks. then he broke into a run.for a whole block he tore after the car, only a little ways behind. that rusty black hat with the drooping redflower, it might not be ona's, but there
was very little likelihood of it.he would know for certain very soon, for she would get out two blocks ahead. he slowed down, and let the car go on.she got out: and as soon as she was out of sight on the side street jurgis broke intoa run. suspicion was rife in him now, and he wasnot ashamed to shadow her: he saw her turn the corner near their home, and then he ranagain, and saw her as she went up the porch steps of the house. after that he turned back, and for fiveminutes paced up and down, his hands clenched tightly and his lips set, his mindin a turmoil.
then he went home and entered. as he opened the door, he saw elzbieta, whohad also been looking for ona, and had come home again.she was now on tiptoe, and had a finger on her lips. jurgis waited until she was close to him."don't make any noise," she whispered, hurriedly."what's the matter'?" he asked. "ona is asleep," she panted. "she's been very ill.i'm afraid her mind's been wandering, she was lost on the street all night, andi've only just succeeded in getting her
quiet.""when did she come in?" he asked. "soon after you left this morning," saidelzbieta. "and has she been out since?""no, of course not. she's so weak, jurgis, she--" and he set his teeth hard together."you are lying to me," he said. elzbieta started, and turned pale."why!" she gasped. "what do you mean?" but jurgis did not answer.he pushed her aside, and strode to the bedroom door and opened it.ona was sitting on the bed.
she turned a startled look upon him as heentered. he closed the door in elzbieta's face, andwent toward his wife. "where have you been?" he demanded. she had her hands clasped tightly in herlap, and he saw that her face was as white as paper, and drawn with pain. she gasped once or twice as she tried toanswer him, and then began, speaking low, and swiftly."jurgis, i--i think i have been out of my mind. i started to come last night, and i couldnot find the way.
i walked--i walked all night, i think, and--and i only got home--this morning." "you needed a rest," he said, in a hardtone. "why did you go out again?" he was looking her fairly in the face, andhe could read the sudden fear and wild uncertainty that leaped into her eyes. "i--i had to go to--to the store," shegasped, almost in a whisper, "i had to go-- ""you are lying to me," said jurgis. then he clenched his hands and took a steptoward her. "why do you lie to me?" he cried, fiercely."what are you doing that you have to lie to
me?" "jurgis!" she exclaimed, starting up infright. "oh, jurgis, how can you?""you have lied to me, i say!" he cried. "you told me you had been to jadvyga'shouse that other night, and you hadn't. you had been where you were last night--somewheres downtown, for i saw you get off the car. where were you?"it was as if he had struck a knife into her.she seemed to go all to pieces. for half a second she stood, reeling andswaying, staring at him with horror in her
eyes; then, with a cry of anguish, shetottered forward, stretching out her arms to him. but he stepped aside, deliberately, and lether fall. she caught herself at the side of the bed,and then sank down, burying her face in her hands and bursting into frantic weeping. there came one of those hysterical crisesthat had so often dismayed him. ona sobbed and wept, her fear and anguishbuilding themselves up into long climaxes. furious gusts of emotion would comesweeping over her, shaking her as the tempest shakes the trees upon the hills;all her frame would quiver and throb with
them--it was as if some dreadful thing rose up within her and took possession of her,torturing her, tearing her. this thing had been wont to set jurgisquite beside himself; but now he stood with his lips set tightly and his handsclenched--she might weep till she killed herself, but she should not move him thistime--not an inch, not an inch. because the sounds she made set his bloodto running cold and his lips to quivering in spite of himself, he was glad of thediversion when teta elzbieta, pale with fright, opened the door and rushed in; yethe turned upon her with an oath. "go out!" he cried, "go out!"
and then, as she stood hesitating, about tospeak, he seized her by the arm, and half flung her from the room, slamming the doorand barring it with a table. then he turned again and faced ona, crying--"now, answer me!" yet she did not hear him--she was still inthe grip of the fiend. jurgis could see her outstretched hands,shaking and twitching, roaming here and there over the bed at will, like livingthings; he could see convulsive shudderings start in her body and run through herlimbs. she was sobbing and choking--it was as ifthere were too many sounds for one throat, they came chasing each other, like wavesupon the sea.
then her voice would begin to rise intoscreams, louder and louder until it broke in wild, horrible peals of laughter. jurgis bore it until he could bear it nolonger, and then he sprang at her, seizing her by the shoulders and shaking her,shouting into her ear: "stop it, i say! stop it!" she looked up at him, out of her agony;then she fell forward at his feet. she caught them in her hands, in spite ofhis efforts to step aside, and with her face upon the floor lay writhing. it made a choking in jurgis' throat to hearher, and he cried again, more savagely than
before: "stop it, i say!" this time she heeded him, and caught herbreath and lay silent, save for the gasping sobs that wrenched all her frame. for a long minute she lay there, perfectlymotionless, until a cold fear seized her husband, thinking that she was dying.suddenly, however, he heard her voice, faintly: "jurgis! jurgis!""what is it?" he said. he had to bend down to her, she was soweak. she was pleading with him, in brokenphrases, painfully uttered: "have faith in
me!believe me!" "believe what?" he cried. "believe that i--that i know best--that ilove you! and do not ask me--what you did.oh, jurgis, please, please! it is for the best--it is--" he started to speak again, but she rushedon frantically, heading him off. "if you will only do it!if you will only--only believe me! it wasn't my fault--i couldn't help it--itwill be all right--it is nothing--it is no harm.oh, jurgis--please, please!"
she had hold of him, and was trying toraise herself to look at him; he could feel the palsied shaking of her hands and theheaving of the bosom she pressed against she managed to catch one of his hands andgripped it convulsively, drawing it to her face, and bathing it in her tears. "oh, believe me, believe me!" she wailedagain; and he shouted in fury, "i will not!" but still she clung to him, wailing aloudin her despair: "oh, jurgis, think what you are doing!it will ruin us--it will ruin us! oh, no, you must not do it!
no, don't, don't do it.you must not do it! it will drive me mad--it will kill me--no,no, jurgis, i am crazy--it is nothing. you do not really need to know. we can be happy--we can love each otherjust the same. oh, please, please, believe me!"her words fairly drove him wild. he tore his hands loose, and flung her off. "answer me," he cried."god damn it, i say--answer me!" she sank down upon the floor, beginning tocry again. it was like listening to the moan of adamned soul, and jurgis could not stand it.
he smote his fist upon the table by hisside, and shouted again at her, "answer me!" she began to scream aloud, her voice likethe voice of some wild beast: "ah! ah! i can't!i can't do it!" "why can't you do it?" he shouted. "i don't know how!"he sprang and caught her by the arm, lifting her up, and glaring into her face."tell me where you were last night!" he panted. "quick, out with it!"then she began to whisper, one word at a
time: "i--was in--a house--downtown--""what house? what do you mean?" she tried to hide her eyes away, but heheld her. "miss henderson's house," she gasped.he did not understand at first. "miss henderson's house," he echoed. and then suddenly, as in an explosion, thehorrible truth burst over him, and he reeled and staggered back with a scream. he caught himself against the wall, and puthis hand to his forehead, staring about him, and whispering, "jesus!jesus!"
an instant later he leaped at her, as shelay groveling at his feet. he seized her by the throat."tell me!" he gasped, hoarsely. "quick! who took you to that place?"she tried to get away, making him furious; he thought it was fear, of the pain of hisclutch--he did not understand that it was the agony of her shame. still she answered him, "connor.""connor," he gasped. "who is connor?""the boss," she answered. "the man--"
he tightened his grip, in his frenzy, andonly when he saw her eyes closing did he realize that he was choking her.then he relaxed his fingers, and crouched, waiting, until she opened her lids again. his breath beat hot into her face."tell me," he whispered, at last, "tell me about it."she lay perfectly motionless, and he had to hold his breath to catch her words. "i did not want--to do it," she said; "itried--i tried not to do it. i only did it--to save us.it was our only chance." again, for a space, there was no sound buthis panting.
ona's eyes closed and when she spoke againshe did not open them. "he told me--he would have me turned off. he told me he would--we would all of uslose our places. we could never get anything to do--here--again. he--he meant it--he would have ruined us." jurgis' arms were shaking so that he couldscarcely hold himself up, and lurched forward now and then as he listened."when--when did this begin?" he gasped. "at the very first," she said. she spoke as if in a trance."it was all--it was their plot--miss
henderson's plot.she hated me. and he--he wanted me. he used to speak to me--out on theplatform. then he began to--to make love to me.he offered me money. he begged me--he said he loved me. then he threatened me.he knew all about us, he knew we would starve.he knew your boss--he knew marija's. he would hound us to death, he said--thenhe said if i would--if i--we would all of us be sure of work--always.then one day he caught hold of me--he would
not let go--he--he--" "where was this?""in the hallway--at night--after every one had gone.i could not help it. i thought of you--of the baby--of motherand the children. i was afraid of him--afraid to cry out."a moment ago her face had been ashen gray, now it was scarlet. she was beginning to breathe hard again.jurgis made not a sound. "that was two months ago.then he wanted me to come--to that house. he wanted me to stay there.
he said all of us--that we would not haveto work. he made me come there--in the evenings.i told you--you thought i was at the factory. then--one night it snowed, and i couldn'tget back. and last night--the cars were stopped.it was such a little thing--to ruin us all. i tried to walk, but i couldn't. i didn't want you to know.it would have--it would have been all right.we could have gone on--just the same--you need never have known about it.
he was getting tired of me--he would havelet me alone soon. i am going to have a baby--i am gettingugly. he told me that--twice, he told me, lastnight. he kicked me--last night--too.and now you will kill him--you--you will kill him--and we shall die." all this she had said without a quiver; shelay still as death, not an eyelid moving. and jurgis, too, said not a word.he lifted himself by the bed, and stood up. he did not stop for another glance at her,but went to the door and opened it. he did not see elzbieta, crouchingterrified in the corner.
he went out, hatless, leaving the streetdoor open behind him. the instant his feet were on the sidewalkhe broke into a run. he ran like one possessed, blindly,furiously, looking neither to the right nor he was on ashland avenue before exhaustioncompelled him to slow down, and then, noticing a car, he made a dart for it anddrew himself aboard. his eyes were wild and his hair flying, andhe was breathing hoarsely, like a wounded bull; but the people on the car did notnotice this particularly--perhaps it seemed natural to them that a man who smelled as jurgis smelled should exhibit an aspect tocorrespond.
they began to give way before him as usual. the conductor took his nickel gingerly,with the tips of his fingers, and then left him with the platform to himself.jurgis did not even notice it--his thoughts were far away. within his soul it was like a roaringfurnace; he stood waiting, waiting, crouching as if for a spring. he had some of his breath back when the carcame to the entrance of the yards, and so he leaped off and started again, racing atfull speed. people turned and stared at him, but he sawno one--there was the factory, and he
bounded through the doorway and down thecorridor. he knew the room where ona worked, and heknew connor, the boss of the loading-gang outside.he looked for the man as he sprang into the room. the truckmen were hard at work, loading thefreshly packed boxes and barrels upon the cars.jurgis shot one swift glance up and down the platform--the man was not on it. but then suddenly he heard a voice in thecorridor, and started for it with a bound. in an instant more he fronted the boss.he was a big, red-faced irishman, coarse-
featured, and smelling of liquor. he saw jurgis as he crossed the threshold,and turned white. he hesitated one second, as if meaning torun; and in the next his assailant was upon he put up his hands to protect his face,but jurgis, lunging with all the power of his arm and body, struck him fairly betweenthe eyes and knocked him backward. the next moment he was on top of him,burying his fingers in his throat. to jurgis this man's whole presence reekedof the crime he had committed; the touch of his body was madness to him--it set everynerve of him a-tremble, it aroused all the demon in his soul.
it had worked its will upon ona, this greatbeast--and now he had it, he had it! it was his turn now! things swam blood before him, and hescreamed aloud in his fury, lifting his victim and smashing his head upon thefloor. the place, of course, was in an uproar;women fainting and shrieking, and men rushing in. jurgis was so bent upon his task that heknew nothing of this, and scarcely realized that people were trying to interfere withhim; it was only when half a dozen men had seized him by the legs and shoulders and
were pulling at him, that he understoodthat he was losing his prey. in a flash he had bent down and sunk histeeth into the man's cheek; and when they tore him away he was dripping with blood,and little ribbons of skin were hanging in his mouth. they got him down upon the floor, clingingto him by his arms and legs, and still they could hardly hold him. he fought like a tiger, writhing andtwisting, half flinging them off, and starting toward his unconscious enemy. but yet others rushed in, until there was alittle mountain of twisted limbs and
bodies, heaving and tossing, and workingits way about the room. in the end, by their sheer weight, theychoked the breath out of him, and then they carried him to the company police station,where he lay still until they had summoned a patrol wagon to take him away. chapter 16 when jurgis got up again he went quietlyenough. he was exhausted and half-dazed, andbesides he saw the blue uniforms of the policemen. he drove in a patrol wagon with half adozen of them watching him; keeping as far
away as possible, however, on account ofthe fertilizer. then he stood before the sergeant's deskand gave his name and address, and saw a charge of assault and battery enteredagainst him. on his way to his cell a burly policemancursed him because he started down the wrong corridor, and then added a kick whenhe was not quick enough; nevertheless, jurgis did not even lift his eyes--he had lived two years and a half in packingtown,and he knew what the police were. it was as much as a man's very life wasworth to anger them, here in their inmost lair; like as not a dozen would pile on tohim at once, and pound his face into a
pulp. it would be nothing unusual if he got hisskull cracked in the melee--in which case they would report that he had been drunkand had fallen down, and there would be no one to know the difference or to care. so a barred door clanged upon jurgis and hesat down upon a bench and buried his face in his hands.he was alone; he had the afternoon and all of the night to himself. at first he was like a wild beast that hasglutted itself; he was in a dull stupor of satisfaction.
he had done up the scoundrel pretty well--not as well as he would have if they had given him a minute more, but pretty well,all the same; the ends of his fingers were still tingling from their contact with thefellow's throat. but then, little by little, as his strengthcame back and his senses cleared, he began to see beyond his momentary gratification;that he had nearly killed the boss would not help ona--not the horrors that she had borne, nor the memory that would haunt herall her days. it would not help to feed her and herchild; she would certainly lose her place, while he--what was to happen to him godonly knew.
half the night he paced the floor,wrestling with this nightmare; and when he was exhausted he lay down, trying to sleep,but finding instead, for the first time in his life, that his brain was too much forhim. in the cell next to him was a drunken wife-beater and in the one beyond a yelling maniac. at midnight they opened the station houseto the homeless wanderers who were crowded about the door, shivering in the winterblast, and they thronged into the corridor outside of the cells. some of them stretched themselves out onthe bare stone floor and fell to snoring,
others sat up, laughing and talking,cursing and quarreling. the air was fetid with their breath, yet inspite of this some of them smelled jurgis and called down the torments of hell uponhim, while he lay in a far corner of his cell, counting the throbbings of the bloodin his forehead. they had brought him his supper, which was"duffers and dope"--being hunks of dry bread on a tin plate, and coffee, called"dope" because it was drugged to keep the prisoners quiet. jurgis had not known this, or he would haveswallowed the stuff in desperation; as it was, every nerve of him was a-quiver withshame and rage.
toward morning the place fell silent, andhe got up and began to pace his cell; and then within the soul of him there rose up afiend, red-eyed and cruel, and tore out the strings of his heart. it was not for himself that he suffered--what did a man who worked in durham's fertilizer mill care about anything thatthe world might do to him! what was any tyranny of prison comparedwith the tyranny of the past, of the thing that had happened and could not berecalled, of the memory that could never be effaced! the horror of it drove him mad; hestretched out his arms to heaven, crying
out for deliverance from it--and there wasno deliverance, there was no power even in heaven that could undo the past. it was a ghost that would not drown; itfollowed him, it seized upon him and beat him to the ground. ah, if only he could have foreseen it--butthen, he would have foreseen it, if he had not been a fool! he smote his hands upon his forehead,cursing himself because he had ever allowed ona to work where she had, because he hadnot stood between her and a fate which every one knew to be so common.
he should have taken her away, even if itwere to lie down and die of starvation in the gutters of chicago's streets!and now--oh, it could not be true; it was too monstrous, too horrible. it was a thing that could not be faced; anew shuddering seized him every time he tried to think of it.no, there was no bearing the load of it, there was no living under it. there would be none for her--he knew thathe might pardon her, might plead with her on his knees, but she would never look himin the face again, she would never be his wife again.
the shame of it would kill her--there couldbe no other deliverance, and it was best that she should die. this was simple and clear, and yet, withcruel inconsistency, whenever he escaped from this nightmare it was to suffer andcry out at the vision of ona starving. they had put him in jail, and they wouldkeep him here a long time, years maybe. and ona would surely not go to work again,broken and crushed as she was. and elzbieta and marija, too, might losetheir places--if that hell fiend connor chose to set to work to ruin them, theywould all be turned out. and even if he did not, they could notlive--even if the boys left school again,
they could surely not pay all the billswithout him and ona. they had only a few dollars now--they hadjust paid the rent of the house a week ago, and that after it was two weeks overdue.so it would be due again in a week! they would have no money to pay it then--and they would lose the house, after all their long, heartbreaking struggle.three times now the agent had warned him that he would not tolerate another delay. perhaps it was very base of jurgis to bethinking about the house when he had the other unspeakable thing to fill his mind;yet, how much he had suffered for this house, how much they had all of themsuffered!
it was their one hope of respite, as longas they lived; they had put all their money into it--and they were working people, poorpeople, whose money was their strength, the very substance of them, body and soul, the thing by which they lived and for lack ofwhich they died. and they would lose it all; they would beturned out into the streets, and have to hide in some icy garret, and live or die asbest they could! jurgis had all the night--and all of manymore nights--to think about this, and he saw the thing in its details; he lived itall, as if he were there. they would sell their furniture, and thenrun into debt at the stores, and then be
refused credit; they would borrow a littlefrom the szedvilases, whose delicatessen store was tottering on the brink of ruin; the neighbors would come and help them alittle--poor, sick jadvyga would bring a few spare pennies, as she always did whenpeople were starving, and tamoszius kuszleika would bring them the proceeds ofa night's fiddling. so they would struggle to hang on until hegot out of jail--or would they know that he was in jail, would they be able to find outanything about him? would they be allowed to see him--or was itto be part of his punishment to be kept in ignorance about their fate?
his mind would hang upon the worstpossibilities; he saw ona ill and tortured, marija out of her place, little stanislovasunable to get to work for the snow, the whole family turned out on the street. god almighty! would they actually let themlie down in the street and die? would there be no help even then--wouldthey wander about in the snow till they froze? jurgis had never seen any dead bodies inthe streets, but he had seen people evicted and disappear, no one knew where; andthough the city had a relief bureau, though there was a charity organization society in
the stockyards district, in all his lifethere he had never heard of either of them. they did not advertise their activities,having more calls than they could attend to without that. --so on until morning. then he had another ride in the patrolwagon, along with the drunken wife-beater and the maniac, several "plain drunks" and"saloon fighters," a burglar, and two men who had been arrested for stealing meatfrom the packing houses. along with them he was driven into a large,white-walled room, stale-smelling and crowded.
in front, upon a raised platform behind arail, sat a stout, florid-faced personage, with a nose broken out in purple blotches.our friend realized vaguely that he was about to be tried. he wondered what for--whether or not hisvictim might be dead, and if so, what they would do with him. hang him, perhaps, or beat him to death--nothing would have surprised jurgis, who knew little of the laws. yet he had picked up gossip enough to haveit occur to him that the loud-voiced man upon the bench might be the notoriousjustice callahan, about whom the people of
packingtown spoke with bated breath. "pat" callahan--"growler" pat, as he hadbeen known before he ascended the bench-- had begun life as a butcher boy and abruiser of local reputation; he had gone into politics almost as soon as he had learned to talk, and had held two officesat once before he was old enough to vote. if scully was the thumb, pat callahan wasthe first finger of the unseen hand whereby the packers held down the people of thedistrict. no politician in chicago ranked higher intheir confidence; he had been at it a long time--had been the business agent in thecity council of old durham, the self-made
merchant, way back in the early days, when the whole city of chicago had been up atauction. "growler" pat had given up holding cityoffices very early in his career--caring only for party power, and giving the restof his time to superintending his dives and brothels. of late years, however, since his childrenwere growing up, he had begun to value respectability, and had had himself made amagistrate; a position for which he was admirably fitted, because of his strong conservatism and his contempt for"foreigners."
jurgis sat gazing about the room for anhour or two; he was in hopes that some one of the family would come, but in this hewas disappointed. finally, he was led before the bar, and alawyer for the company appeared against connor was under the doctor's care, thelawyer explained briefly, and if his honor would hold the prisoner for a week--"threehundred dollars," said his honor, promptly. jurgis was staring from the judge to thelawyer in perplexity. "have you any one to go on your bond?"demanded the judge, and then a clerk who stood at jurgis' elbow explained to himwhat this meant. the latter shook his head, and before herealized what had happened the policemen
were leading him away again. they took him to a room where otherprisoners were waiting and here he stayed until court adjourned, when he had anotherlong and bitterly cold ride in a patrol wagon to the county jail, which is on the north side of the city, and nine or tenmiles from the stockyards. here they searched jurgis, leaving him onlyhis money, which consisted of fifteen cents. then they led him to a room and told him tostrip for a bath; after which he had to walk down a long gallery, past the gratedcell doors of the inmates of the jail.
this was a great event to the latter--thedaily review of the new arrivals, all stark naked, and many and diverting were thecomments. jurgis was required to stay in the bathlonger than any one, in the vain hope of getting out of him a few of his phosphatesand acids. the prisoners roomed two in a cell, butthat day there was one left over, and he was the one.the cells were in tiers, opening upon galleries. his cell was about five feet by seven insize, with a stone floor and a heavy wooden bench built into it.
there was no window--the only light camefrom windows near the roof at one end of the court outside. there were two bunks, one above the other,each with a straw mattress and a pair of gray blankets--the latter stiff as boardswith filth, and alive with fleas, bedbugs, and lice. when jurgis lifted up the mattress hediscovered beneath it a layer of scurrying roaches, almost as badly frightened ashimself. here they brought him more "duffers anddope," with the addition of a bowl of soup. many of the prisoners had their mealsbrought in from a restaurant, but jurgis
had no money for that. some had books to read and cards to play,with candles to burn by night, but jurgis was all alone in darkness and silence. he could not sleep again; there was thesame maddening procession of thoughts that lashed him like whips upon his naked back. when night fell he was pacing up and downhis cell like a wild beast that breaks its teeth upon the bars of its cage. now and then in his frenzy he would flinghimself against the walls of the place, beating his hands upon them.
they cut him and bruised him--they werecold and merciless as the men who had built them.in the distance there was a church-tower bell that tolled the hours one by one. when it came to midnight jurgis was lyingupon the floor with his head in his arms, listening.instead of falling silent at the end, the bell broke into a sudden clangor. jurgis raised his head; what could thatmean--a fire? god!suppose there were to be a fire in this jail!
but then he made out a melody in theringing; there were chimes. and they seemed to waken the city--allaround, far and near, there were bells, ringing wild music; for fully a minutejurgis lay lost in wonder, before, all at once, the meaning of it broke over him--that this was christmas eve! christmas eve--he had forgotten itentirely! there was a breaking of floodgates, a whirlof new memories and new griefs rushing into his mind. in far lithuania they had celebratedchristmas; and it came to him as if it had been yesterday--himself a little child,with his lost brother and his dead father
in the cabin--in the deep black forest, where the snow fell all day and all nightand buried them from the world. it was too far off for santa claus inlithuania, but it was not too far for peace and good will to men, for the wonder-bearing vision of the christ child. and even in packingtown they had notforgotten it--some gleam of it had never failed to break their darkness. last christmas eve and all christmas dayjurgis had toiled on the killing beds, and ona at wrapping hams, and still they hadfound strength enough to take the children for a walk upon the avenue, to see the
store windows all decorated with christmastrees and ablaze with electric lights. in one window there would be live geese, inanother marvels in sugar--pink and white canes big enough for ogres, and cakes withcherubs upon them; in a third there would be rows of fat yellow turkeys, decorated with rosettes, and rabbits and squirrelshanging; in a fourth would be a fairyland of toys--lovely dolls with pink dresses,and woolly sheep and drums and soldier hats. nor did they have to go without their shareof all this, either. the last time they had had a big basketwith them and all their christmas marketing
to do--a roast of pork and a cabbage andsome rye bread, and a pair of mittens for ona, and a rubber doll that squeaked, and a little green cornucopia full of candy to behung from the gas jet and gazed at by half a dozen pairs of longing eyes. even half a year of the sausage machinesand the fertilizer mill had not been able to kill the thought of christmas in them;there was a choking in jurgis' throat as he recalled that the very night ona had not come home teta elzbieta had taken him asideand shown him an old valentine that she had picked up in a paper store for three cents--dingy and shopworn, but with bright
colors, and figures of angels and doves. she had wiped all the specks off this, andwas going to set it on the mantel, where the children could see it. great sobs shook jurgis at this memory--they would spend their christmas in misery and despair, with him in prison and ona illand their home in desolation. ah, it was too cruel! why at least had they not left him alone--why, after they had shut him in jail, must they be ringing christmas chimes in hisears! but no, their bells were not ringing forhim--their christmas was not meant for him,
they were simply not counting him at all. he was of no consequence--he was flungaside, like a bit of trash, the carcass of some animal.it was horrible, horrible! his wife might be dying, his baby might bestarving, his whole family might be perishing in the cold--and all the whilethey were ringing their christmas chimes! and the bitter mockery of it--all this waspunishment for him! they put him in a place where the snowcould not beat in, where the cold could not eat through his bones; they brought himfood and drink--why, in the name of heaven, if they must punish him, did they not put
his family in jail and leave him outside--why could they find no better way to punish him than to leave three weak women and sixhelpless children to starve and freeze? that was their law, that was their justice! jurgis stood upright; trembling withpassion, his hands clenched and his arms upraised, his whole soul ablaze with hatredand defiance. ten thousand curses upon them and theirlaw! their justice--it was a lie, it was a lie,a hideous, brutal lie, a thing too black and hateful for any world but a world ofnightmares. it was a sham and a loathsome mockery.
there was no justice, there was no right,anywhere in it--it was only force, it was tyranny, the will and the power, recklessand unrestrained! they had ground him beneath their heel,they had devoured all his substance; they had murdered his old father, they hadbroken and wrecked his wife, they had crushed and cowed his whole family; and now they were through with him, they had nofurther use for him--and because he had interfered with them, had gotten in theirway, this was what they had done to him! they had put him behind bars, as if he hadbeen a wild beast, a thing without sense or reason, without rights, without affections,without feelings.
nay, they would not even have treated abeast as they had treated him! would any man in his senses have trapped awild thing in its lair, and left its young behind to die? these midnight hours were fateful ones tojurgis; in them was the beginning of his rebellion, of his outlawry and hisunbelief. he had no wit to trace back the socialcrime to its far sources--he could not say that it was the thing men have called "thesystem" that was crushing him to the earth; that it was the packers, his masters, who had bought up the law of the land, and haddealt out their brutal will to him from the
seat of justice. he only knew that he was wronged, and thatthe world had wronged him; that the law, that society, with all its powers, haddeclared itself his foe. and every hour his soul grew blacker, everyhour he dreamed new dreams of vengeance, of defiance, of raging, frenzied hate. the vilest deeds, like poison weeds,bloom well in prison air; it is only what is good in manthat wastes and withers there; pale anguish keeps the heavy gate,and the warder is despair. so wrote a poet, to whom the world haddealt its justice--
i know not whether laws be right,or whether laws be wrong; all that we know who lie in gaolis that the wall is strong. and they do well to hide their hell,for in it things are done that son of god nor son of manever should look upon! chapter 17 at seven o'clock the next morning jurgiswas let out to get water to wash his cell-- a duty which he performed faithfully, butwhich most of the prisoners were accustomed to shirk, until their cells became so filthy that the guards interposed.
then he had more "duffers and dope," andafterward was allowed three hours for exercise, in a long, cement-walked courtroofed with glass. here were all the inmates of the jailcrowded together. at one side of the court was a place forvisitors, cut off by two heavy wire screens, a foot apart, so that nothingcould be passed in to the prisoners; here jurgis watched anxiously, but there came noone to see him. soon after he went back to his cell, akeeper opened the door to let in another prisoner. he was a dapper young fellow, with a lightbrown mustache and blue eyes, and a
graceful figure. he nodded to jurgis, and then, as thekeeper closed the door upon him, began gazing critically about him."well, pal," he said, as his glance encountered jurgis again, "good morning." "good morning," said jurgis."a rum go for christmas, eh?" added the other.jurgis nodded. the newcomer went to the bunks andinspected the blankets; he lifted up the mattress, and then dropped it with anexclamation. "my god!" he said, "that's the worst yet."
he glanced at jurgis again."looks as if it hadn't been slept in last night.couldn't stand it, eh?" "i didn't want to sleep last night," saidjurgis. "when did you come in?""yesterday." the other had another look around, and thenwrinkled up his nose. "there's the devil of a stink in here," hesaid, suddenly. "what is it?" "it's me," said jurgis."you?" "yes, me.""didn't they make you wash?"
"yes, but this don't wash." "what is it?""fertilizer." "fertilizer!the deuce! what are you?" "i work in the stockyards--at least i diduntil the other day. it's in my clothes.""that's a new one on me," said the newcomer. "i thought i'd been up against 'em all.what are you in for?" "i hit my boss.""oh--that's it.
what did he do?" "he--he treated me mean.""i see. you're what's called an honest workingman!""what are you?" jurgis asked. "i?"the other laughed. "they say i'm a cracksman," he said."what's that?" asked jurgis. "safes, and such things," answered theother. "oh," said jurgis, wonderingly, and statedat the speaker in awe. "you mean you break into them--you--you--"
"yes," laughed the other, "that's what theysay." he did not look to be over twenty-two orthree, though, as jurgis found afterward, he was thirty. he spoke like a man of education, like whatthe world calls a "gentleman." "is that what you're here for?"jurgis inquired. "no," was the answer. "i'm here for disorderly conduct.they were mad because they couldn't get any evidence."what's your name?" the young fellow continued after a pause.
"my name's duane--jack duane.i've more than a dozen, but that's my company one." he seated himself on the floor with hisback to the wall and his legs crossed, and went on talking easily; he soon put jurgison a friendly footing--he was evidently a man of the world, used to getting on, and not too proud to hold conversation with amere laboring man. he drew jurgis out, and heard all about hislife all but the one unmentionable thing; and then he told stories about his ownlife. he was a great one for stories, not alwaysof the choicest.
being sent to jail had apparently notdisturbed his cheerfulness; he had "done time" twice before, it seemed, and he tookit all with a frolic welcome. what with women and wine and the excitementof his vocation, a man could afford to rest now and then. naturally, the aspect of prison life waschanged for jurgis by the arrival of a cell mate. he could not turn his face to the wall andsulk, he had to speak when he was spoken to; nor could he help being interested inthe conversation of duane--the first educated man with whom he had ever talked.
how could he help listening with wonderwhile the other told of midnight ventures and perilous escapes, of feastings andorgies, of fortunes squandered in a night? the young fellow had an amused contempt forjurgis, as a sort of working mule; he, too, had felt the world's injustice, but insteadof bearing it patiently, he had struck back, and struck hard. he was striking all the time--there was warbetween him and society. he was a genial freebooter, living off theenemy, without fear or shame. he was not always victorious, but thendefeat did not mean annihilation, and need not break his spirit.withal he was a goodhearted fellow--too
much so, it appeared. his story came out, not in the first day,nor the second, but in the long hours that dragged by, in which they had nothing to dobut talk and nothing to talk of but themselves. jack duane was from the east; he was acollege-bred man--had been studying electrical engineering. then his father had met with misfortune inbusiness and killed himself; and there had been his mother and a younger brother andsister. also, there was an invention of duane's;jurgis could not understand it clearly, but
it had to do with telegraphing, and it wasa very important thing--there were fortunes in it, millions upon millions of dollars. and duane had been robbed of it by a greatcompany, and got tangled up in lawsuits and lost all his money. then somebody had given him a tip on ahorse race, and he had tried to retrieve his fortune with another person's money,and had to run away, and all the rest had come from that. the other asked him what had led him tosafe-breaking--to jurgis a wild and appalling occupation to think about.a man he had met, his cell mate had
replied--one thing leads to another. didn't he ever wonder about his family,jurgis asked. sometimes, the other answered, but notoften--he didn't allow it. thinking about it would make it no better. this wasn't a world in which a man had anybusiness with a family; sooner or later jurgis would find that out also, and giveup the fight and shift for himself. jurgis was so transparently what hepretended to be that his cell mate was as open with him as a child; it was pleasantto tell him adventures, he was so full of wonder and admiration, he was so new to theways of the country.
duane did not even bother to keep backnames and places--he told all his triumphs and his failures, his loves and his griefs. also he introduced jurgis to many of theother prisoners, nearly half of whom he knew by name.the crowd had already given jurgis a name-- they called him "he stinker." this was cruel, but they meant no harm byit, and he took it with a good-natured grin. our friend had caught now and then a whifffrom the sewers over which he lived, but this was the first time that he had everbeen splashed by their filth.
this jail was a noah's ark of the city'scrime--there were murderers, "hold-up men" and burglars, embezzlers, counterfeitersand forgers, bigamists, "shoplifters," "confidence men," petty thieves and pickpockets, gamblers and procurers,brawlers, beggars, tramps and drunkards; they were black and white, old and young,americans and natives of every nation under the sun. there were hardened criminals and innocentmen too poor to give bail; old men, and boys literally not yet in their teens. they were the drainage of the greatfestering ulcer of society; they were
hideous to look upon, sickening to talk to. all life had turned to rottenness andstench in them--love was a beastliness, joy was a snare, and god was an imprecation.they strolled here and there about the courtyard, and jurgis listened to them. he was ignorant and they were wise; theyhad been everywhere and tried everything. they could tell the whole hateful story ofit, set forth the inner soul of a city in which justice and honor, women's bodies andmen's souls, were for sale in the marketplace, and human beings writhed and fought and fell upon each other like wolvesin a pit; in which lusts were raging fires,
and men were fuel, and humanity wasfestering and stewing and wallowing in its own corruption. into this wild-beast tangle these men hadbeen born without their consent, they had taken part in it because they could nothelp it; that they were in jail was no disgrace to them, for the game had neverbeen fair, the dice were loaded. they were swindlers and thieves of penniesand dimes, and they had been trapped and put out of the way by the swindlers andthieves of millions of dollars. to most of this jurgis tried not to listen. they frightened him with their savagemockery; and all the while his heart was
far away, where his loved ones werecalling. now and then in the midst of it histhoughts would take flight; and then the tears would come into his eyes--and hewould be called back by the jeering laughter of his companions. he spent a week in this company, and duringall that time he had no word from his home. he paid one of his fifteen cents for apostal card, and his companion wrote a note to the family, telling them where he wasand when he would be tried. there came no answer to it, however, and atlast, the day before new year's, jurgis bade good-by to jack duane.
the latter gave him his address, or ratherthe address of his mistress, and made jurgis promise to look him up. "maybe i could help you out of a hole someday," he said, and added that he was sorry to have him go.jurgis rode in the patrol wagon back to justice callahan's court for trial. one of the first things he made out as heentered the room was teta elzbieta and little kotrina, looking pale andfrightened, seated far in the rear. his heart began to pound, but he did notdare to try to signal to them, and neither did elzbieta.he took his seat in the prisoners' pen and
sat gazing at them in helpless agony. he saw that ona was not with them, and wasfull of foreboding as to what that might mean. he spent half an hour brooding over this--and then suddenly he straightened up and the blood rushed into his face. a man had come in--jurgis could not see hisfeatures for the bandages that swathed him, but he knew the burly figure.it was connor! a trembling seized him, and his limbs bentas if for a spring. then suddenly he felt a hand on his collar,and heard a voice behind him: "sit down,
you son of a--!" he subsided, but he never took his eyes offhis enemy. the fellow was still alive, which was adisappointment, in one way; and yet it was pleasant to see him, all in penitentialplasters. he and the company lawyer, who was withhim, came and took seats within the judge's railing; and a minute later the clerkcalled jurgis' name, and the policeman jerked him to his feet and led him before the bar, gripping him tightly by the arm,lest he should spring upon the boss. jurgis listened while the man entered thewitness chair, took the oath, and told his
story. the wife of the prisoner had been employedin a department near him, and had been discharged for impudence to him. half an hour later he had been violentlyattacked, knocked down, and almost choked to death.he had brought witnesses-- "they will probably not be necessary,"observed the judge and he turned to jurgis. "you admit attacking the plaintiff?" heasked. "him?" inquired jurgis, pointing at theboss. "yes," said the judge."i hit him, sir," said jurgis.
"say 'your honor,'" said the officer,pinching his arm hard. "your honor," said jurgis, obediently."you tried to choke him?" "yes, sir, your honor." "ever been arrested before?""no, sir, your honor." "what have you to say for yourself?"jurgis hesitated. what had he to say? in two years and a half he had learned tospeak english for practical purposes, but these had never included the statement thatsome one had intimidated and seduced his wife.
he tried once or twice, stammering andbalking, to the annoyance of the judge, who was gasping from the odor of fertilizer. finally, the prisoner made it understoodthat his vocabulary was inadequate, and there stepped up a dapper young man withwaxed mustaches, bidding him speak in any language he knew. jurgis began; supposing that he would begiven time, he explained how the boss had taken advantage of his wife's position tomake advances to her and had threatened her with the loss of her place. when the interpreter had translated this,the judge, whose calendar was crowded, and
whose automobile was ordered for a certainhour, interrupted with the remark: "oh, i see. well, if he made love to your wife, whydidn't she complain to the superintendent or leave the place?" jurgis hesitated, somewhat taken aback; hebegan to explain that they were very poor-- that work was hard to get--"i see," said justice callahan; "so instead you thought you would knock him down." he turned to the plaintiff, inquiring, "isthere any truth in this story, mr. connor?" "not a particle, your honor," said theboss.
"it is very unpleasant--they tell some suchtale every time you have to discharge a woman--""yes, i know," said the judge. "i hear it often enough. the fellow seems to have handled you prettyroughly. thirty days and costs.next case." jurgis had been listening in perplexity. it was only when the policeman who had himby the arm turned and started to lead him away that he realized that sentence hadbeen passed. he gazed round him wildly.
"thirty days!" he panted and then hewhirled upon the judge. "what will my family do?" he criedfrantically. "i have a wife and baby, sir, and they haveno money--my god, they will starve to death!" "you would have done well to think aboutthem before you committed the assault," said the judge dryly, as he turned to lookat the next prisoner. jurgis would have spoken again, but thepoliceman had seized him by the collar and was twisting it, and a second policeman wasmaking for him with evidently hostile intentions.
so he let them lead him away. far down the room he saw elzbieta andkotrina, risen from their seats, staring in fright; he made one effort to go to them,and then, brought back by another twist at his throat, he bowed his head and gave upthe struggle. they thrust him into a cell room, whereother prisoners were waiting; and as soon as court had adjourned they led him downwith them into the "black maria," and drove him away. this time jurgis was bound for the"bridewell," a petty jail where cook county prisoners serve their time.
it was even filthier and more crowded thanthe county jail; all the smaller fry out of the latter had been sifted into it--thepetty thieves and swindlers, the brawlers and vagrants. for his cell mate jurgis had an italianfruit seller who had refused to pay his graft to the policeman, and been arrestedfor carrying a large pocketknife; as he did not understand a word of english our friendwas glad when he left. he gave place to a norwegian sailor, whohad lost half an ear in a drunken brawl, and who proved to be quarrelsome, cursingjurgis because he moved in his bunk and caused the roaches to drop upon the lowerone.
it would have been quite intolerable,staying in a cell with this wild beast, but for the fact that all day long theprisoners were put at work breaking stone. ten days of his thirty jurgis spent thus,without hearing a word from his family; then one day a keeper came and informed himthat there was a visitor to see him. jurgis turned white, and so weak at theknees that he could hardly leave his cell. the man led him down the corridor and aflight of steps to the visitors' room, which was barred like a cell. through the grating jurgis could see someone sitting in a chair; and as he came into the room the person started up, and he sawthat it was little stanislovas.
at the sight of some one from home the bigfellow nearly went to pieces--he had to steady himself by a chair, and he put hisother hand to his forehead, as if to clear away a mist. "well?" he said, weakly.little stanislovas was also trembling, and all but too frightened to speak."they--they sent me to tell you--" he said, with a gulp. "well?"jurgis repeated. he followed the boy's glance to where thekeeper was standing watching them. "never mind that," jurgis cried, wildly.
"how are they?""ona is very sick," stanislovas said; "and we are almost starving.we can't get along; we thought you might be able to help us." jurgis gripped the chair tighter; therewere beads of perspiration on his forehead, and his hand shook."i--can't help you," he said. "ona lies in her room all day," the boywent on, breathlessly. "she won't eat anything, and she cries allthe time. she won't tell what is the matter and shewon't go to work at all. then a long time ago the man came for therent.
he was very cross. he came again last week.he said he would turn us out of the house. and then marija--"a sob choked stanislovas, and he stopped. "what's the matter with marija?" criedjurgis. "she's cut her hand!" said the boy."she's cut it bad, this time, worse than before. she can't work and it's all turning green,and the company doctor says she may--she may have to have it cut off. and marija cries all the time--her money isnearly all gone, too, and we can't pay the
rent and the interest on the house; and wehave no coal and nothing more to eat, and the man at the store, he says--" the little fellow stopped again, beginningto whimper. "go on!" the other panted in frenzy--"goon!" "i--i will," sobbed stanislovas. "it's so--so cold all the time.and last sunday it snowed again--a deep, deep snow--and i couldn't--couldn't get towork." "god!" jurgis half shouted, and he took a steptoward the child.
there was an old hatred between thembecause of the snow--ever since that dreadful morning when the boy had had hisfingers frozen and jurgis had had to beat him to send him to work. now he clenched his hands, looking as if hewould try to break through the grating. "you little villain," he cried, "you didn'ttry!" "i did--i did!" wailed stanislovas,shrinking from him in terror. "i tried all day--two days.elzbieta was with me, and she couldn't either. we couldn't walk at all, it was so deep.and we had nothing to eat, and oh, it was
so cold!i tried, and then the third day ona went with me--" "ona!""yes. she tried to get to work, too.she had to. we were all starving. but she had lost her place--"jurgis reeled, and gave a gasp. "she went back to that place?" he screamed."she tried to," said stanislovas, gazing at him in perplexity. "why not, jurgis?"the man breathed hard, three or four times.
"go--on," he panted, finally."i went with her," said stanislovas, "but miss henderson wouldn't take her back. and connor saw her and cursed her.he was still bandaged up--why did you hit him, jurgis?" (there was some fascinating mystery aboutthis, the little fellow knew; but he could get no satisfaction.)jurgis could not speak; he could only stare, his eyes starting out. "she has been trying to get other work,"the boy went on; "but she's so weak she can't keep up.
and my boss would not take me back, either--ona says he knows connor, and that's the reason; they've all got a grudge against usnow. so i've got to go downtown and sell paperswith the rest of the boys and kotrina--" "kotrina!""yes, she's been selling papers, too. she does best, because she's a girl. only the cold is so bad--it's terriblecoming home at night, jurgis. sometimes they can't come home at all--i'mgoing to try to find them tonight and sleep where they do, it's so late and it's such along ways home. i've had to walk, and i didn't know whereit was--i don't know how to get back,
only mother said i must come, because youwould want to know, and maybe somebody would help your family when they had putyou in jail so you couldn't work. and i walked all day to get here--and ionly had a piece of bread for breakfast, mother hasn't any work either, because thesausage department is shut down; and she goes and begs at houses with a basket, andpeople give her food. only she didn't get much yesterday; it wastoo cold for her fingers, and today she was crying--" so little stanislovas went on, sobbing ashe talked; and jurgis stood, gripping the table tightly, saying not a word, butfeeling that his head would burst; it was
like having weights piled upon him, one after another, crushing the life out ofhim. he struggled and fought within himself--asif in some terrible nightmare, in which a man suffers an agony, and cannot lift hishand, nor cry out, but feels that he is going mad, that his brain is on fire-- just when it seemed to him that anotherturn of the screw would kill him, little stanislovas stopped."you cannot help us?" he said weakly. jurgis shook his head. "they won't give you anything here?"he shook it again.
"when are you coming out?""three weeks yet," jurgis answered. and the boy gazed around him uncertainly. "then i might as well go," he said.jurgis nodded. then, suddenly recollecting, he put hishand into his pocket and drew it out, shaking. "here," he said, holding out the fourteencents. "take this to them."and stanislovas took it, and after a little more hesitation, started for the door. "good-by, jurgis," he said, and the othernoticed that he walked unsteadily as he
passed out of sight. for a minute or so jurgis stood clinging tohis chair, reeling and swaying; then the keeper touched him on the arm, and heturned and went back to breaking stone.