Tuesday, October 23, 2007


The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

The Jungle
Upton Sinclair
Chapter 1
It was four o'clock when the ceremony was over and the carriages began
to arrive. There had been a crowd following all the way, owing to the
exuberance of Marija Berczynskas. The occasion rested heavily upon
Marija's broad shoulders--it was her task to see that all things went
in due form, and after the best home traditions; and, flying wildly
hither and thither, bowling every one out of the way, and scolding and
exhorting all day with her tremendous voice, Marija was too eager to
see that others conformed to the proprieties to consider them herself.
She had left the church last of all, and, desiring to arrive first at
the hall, had issued orders to the coachman to drive faster. When that
personage had developed a will of his own in the matter, Marija had
flung up the window of the carriage, and, leaning out, proceeded to tell
him her opinion of him, first in Lithuanian, which he did not understand,
and then in Polish, which he did. Having the advantage of her in altitude,
the driver had stood his ground and even ventured to attempt to speak;
and the result had been a furious altercation, which, continuing all the
way down Ashland Avenue, had added a new swarm of urchins to the cortege
at each side street for half a mile.
This was unfortunate, for already there was a throng before the door.
The music had started up, and half a block away you could hear the dull
"broom, broom" of a cello, with the squeaking of two fiddles which vied
with each other in intricate and altitudinous gymnastics. Seeing the
throng, Marija abandoned precipitately the debate concerning the ancestors
of her coachman, and, springing from the moving carriage, plunged in and
proceeded to clear a way to the hall. Once within, she turned and began
to push the other way, roaring, meantime, "Eik! Eik! Uzdaryk-duris!"
in tones which made the orchestral uproar sound like fairy music.
"Z. Graiczunas, Pasilinksminimams darzas. Vynas. Sznapsas. Wines and
Liquors. Union Headquarters"--that was the way the signs ran. The reader,
who perhaps has never held much converse in the language of far-off
Lithuania, will be glad of the explanation that the place was the rear
room of a saloon in that part of Chicago known as "back of the yards."
This information is definite and suited to the matter of fact; but how
pitifully inadequate it would have seemed to one who understood that it
was also the supreme hour of ecstasy in the life of one of God's gentlest
creatures, the scene of the wedding feast and the joy-transfiguration
of little Ona Lukoszaite!
She stood in the doorway, shepherded by Cousin Marija, breathless from
pushing through the crowd, and in her happiness painful to look upon.
There was a light of wonder in her eyes and her lids trembled, and her
otherwise wan little face was flushed. She wore a muslin dress,
conspicuously white, and a stiff little veil coming to her shoulders.
There were five pink paper roses twisted in the veil, and eleven bright
green rose leaves. There were new white cotton gloves upon her hands,
and as she stood staring about her she twisted them together feverishly.
It was almost too much for her--you could see the pain of too great emotion
in her face, and all the tremor of her form. She was so young--not quite
sixteen--and small for her age, a mere child; and she had just been
married--and married to Jurgis,* (*Pronounced Yoorghis) of all men,
to Jurgis Rudkus, he with the white flower in the buttonhole of his new
black suit, he with the mighty shoulders and the giant hands.
Ona was blue-eyed and fair, while Jurgis had great black eyes with beetling
brows, and thick black hair that curled in waves about his ears--in short,
they were one of those incongruous and impossible married couples with which
Mother Nature so often wills to confound all prophets, before and after.
Jurgis could take up a two-hundred-and-fifty-pound quarter of beef and
carry it into a car without a stagger, or even a thought; and now he stood
in a far corner, frightened as a hunted animal, and obliged to moisten his
lips with his tongue each time before he could answer the congratulations
of his friends.
Gradually there was effected a separation between the spectators and the
guests--a separation at least sufficiently complete for working purposes.
There was no time during the festivities which ensued when there were not
groups of onlookers in the doorways and the corners; and if any one of
these onlookers came sufficiently close, or looked sufficiently hungry,
a chair was offered him, and he was invited to the feast. It was one of
the laws of the veselija that no one goes hungry; and, while a rule made
in the forests of Lithuania is hard to apply in the stockyards district of
Chicago, with its quarter of a million inhabitants, still they did their
best, and the children who ran in from the street, and even the dogs, went
out again happier. A charming informality was one of the characteristics
of this celebration. The men wore their hats, or, if they wished, they
took them off, and their coats with them; they ate when and where they
pleased, and moved as often as they pleased. There were to be speeches
and singing, but no one had to listen who did not care to; if he wished,
meantime, to speak or sing himself, he was perfectly free. The resulting
medley of sound distracted no one, save possibly alone the babies, of which
there were present a number equal to the total possessed by all the guests
invited. There was no other place for the babies to be, and so part of
the preparations for the evening consisted of a collection of cribs and
carriages in one corner. In these the babies slept, three or four together,
or wakened together, as the case might be. Those who were still older,
and could reach the tables, marched about munching contentedly at meat bones
and bologna sausages.
The room is about thirty feet square, with whitewashed walls, bare save for
a calendar. a picture of a race horse, and a family tree in a gilded frame.
To the right there is a door from the saloon, with a few loafers in the
doorway, and in the corner beyond it a bar, with a presiding genius clad
in soiled white, with waxed black mustaches and a carefully oiled curl
plastered against one side of his forehead. In the opposite corner are
two tables, filling a third of the room and laden with dishes and cold
viands, which a few of the hungrier guests are already munching. At the
head, where sits the bride, is a snow-white cake, with an Eiffel tower of
constructed decoration, with sugar roses and two angels upon it, and a
generous sprinkling of pink and green and yellow candies. Beyond opens
a door into the kitchen, where there is a glimpse to be had of a range with
much steam ascending from it, and many women, old and young, rushing hither
and thither. In the corner to the left are the three musicians, upon a
little platform, toiling heroically to make some impression upon the hubbub;
also the babies, similarly occupied, and an open window whence the populace
imbibes the sights and sounds and odors.
Suddenly some of the steam begins to advance, and, peering through it,
you discern Aunt Elizabeth, Ona's stepmother--Teta Elzbieta, as they call
her--bearing aloft a great platter of stewed duck. Behind her is Kotrina,
making her way cautiously, staggering beneath a similar burden; and half a
minute later there appears old Grandmother Majauszkiene, with a big yellow
bowl of smoking potatoes, nearly as big as herself. So, bit by bit, the
feast takes form--there is a ham and a dish of sauerkraut, boiled rice,
macaroni, bologna sausages, great piles of penny buns, bowls of milk, and
foaming pitchers of beer. There is also, not six feet from your back,
the bar, where you may order all you please and do not have to pay for it.
"Eiksz! Graicziau!" screams Marija Berczynskas, and falls to work herself--
for there is more upon the stove inside that will be spoiled if it be
not eaten.
So, with laughter and shouts and endless badinage and merriment, the guests
take their places. The young men, who for the most part have been huddled
near the door, summon their resolution and advance; and the shrinking
Jurgis is poked and scolded by the old folks until he consents to seat
himself at the right hand of the bride. The two bridesmaids, whose
insignia of office are paper wreaths, come next, and after them the rest
of the guests, old and young, boys and girls. The spirit of the occasion
takes hold of the stately bartender, who condescends to a plate of stewed
duck; even the fat policeman--whose duty it will be, later in the evening,
to break up the fights--draws up a chair to the foot of the table. And the
children shout and the babies yell, and every one laughs and sings and
chatters--while above all the deafening clamor Cousin Marija shouts orders
to the musicians.
The musicians--how shall one begin to describe them? All this time they
have been there, playing in a mad frenzy--all of this scene must be read,
or said, or sung, to music. It is the music which makes it what it is;
it is the music which changes the place from the rear room of a saloon
in back of the yards to a fairy place, a wonderland, a little comer of
the high mansions of the sky.
The little person who leads this trio is an inspired man. His fiddle is
out of tune, and there is no rosin on his bow, but still he is an inspired
man--the hands of the muses have been laid upon him. He plays like one
possessed by a demon, by a whole horde of demons. You can feel them in
the air round about him, capering frenetically; with their invisible feet
they set the pace, and the hair of the leader of the orchestra rises on end,
and his eyeballs start from their sockets, as he toils to keep up with them.
Tamoszius Kuszleika is his name, and he has taught himself to play the
violin by practicing all night, after working all day on the "killing beds."
He is in his shirt sleeves, with a vest figured with faded gold horseshoes,
and a pink-striped shirt, suggestive of peppermint candy. A pair of
military trousers, light blue with a yellow stripe, serve to give that
suggestion of authority proper to the leader of a band. He is only about
five feet high, but even so these trousers are about eight inches short
of the ground. You wonder where he can have gotten them or rather you
would wonder, if the excitement of being in his presence left you time to
think of such things.
For he is an inspired man. Every inch of him is inspired--you might
almost say inspired separately. He stamps with his feet, he tosses his
head, he sways and swings to and fro; he has a wizened-up little face,
irresistibly comical; and, when he executes a turn or a flourish, his brows
knit and his lips work and his eyelids wink--the very ends of his necktie
bristle out. And every now and then he turns upon his companions, nodding,
signaling, beckoning frantically--with every inch of him appealing,
imploring, in behalf of the muses and their call.
For they are hardly worthy of Tamoszius, the other two members of the
orchestra. The second violin is a Slovak, a tall, gaunt man with blackrimmed
spectacles and the mute and patient look of an overdriven mule;
he responds to the whip but feebly, and then always falls back into his
old rut. The third man is very fat, with a round, red, sentimental nose,
and he plays with his eyes turned up to the sky and a look of infinite
yearning. He is playing a bass part upon his cello, and so the excitement
is nothing to him; no matter what happens in the treble, it is his task to
saw out one long-drawn and lugubrious note after another, from four o'clock
in the afternoon until nearly the same hour next morning, for his third of
the total income of one dollar per hour.
Before the feast has been five minutes under way, Tamoszius Kuszleika
has risen in his excitement; a minute or two more and you see that he is
beginning to edge over toward the tables. His nostrils are dilated and
his breath comes fast--his demons are driving him. He nods and shakes
his head at his companions, jerking at them with his violin, until at last
the long form of the second violinist also rises up. In the end all three
of them begin advancing, step by step, upon the banqueters, Valentinavyczia,
he cellist, bumping along with his instrument between notes. Finally all
three are gathered at the foot of the tables, and there Tamoszius mounts
upon a stool.
Now he is in his glory, dominating the scene. Some of the people are
eating, some are laughing and talking--but you will make a great mistake
if you think there is one of them who does not hear him. His notes are
never true, and his fiddle buzzes on the low ones and squeaks and
scratches on the high; but these things they heed no more than they heed
the dirt and noise and squalor about them--it is out of this material that
they have to build their lives, with it that they have to utter their souls.
And this is their utterance; merry and boisterous, or mournful and wailing,
or passionate and rebellious, this music is their music, music of home.
It stretches out its arms to them, they have only to give themselves up.
Chicago and its saloons and its slums fade away--there are green meadows
and sunlit rivers, mighty forests and snowclad hills. They behold home
landscapes and childhood scenes returning; old loves and friendships begin
to waken, old joys and griefs to laugh and weep. Some fall back and close
their eyes, some beat upon the table. Now and then one leaps up with a cry
and calls for this song or that; and then the fire leaps brighter in
Tamoszius' eyes, and he flings up his fiddle and shouts to his companions,
and away they go in mad career. The company takes up the choruses, and men
and women cry out like all possessed; some leap to their feet and stamp upon
the floor, lifting their glasses and pledging each other. Before long it
occurs to some one to demand an old wedding song, which celebrates the
beauty of the bride and the joys of love. In the excitement of this
masterpiece Tamoszius Kuszleika begins to edge in between the tables,
making his way toward the head, where sits the bride. There is not a foot
of space between the chairs of the guests, and Tamoszius is so short that
he pokes them with his bow whenever he reaches over for the low notes;
but still he presses in, and insists relentlessly that his companions
must follow. During their progress, needless to say, the sounds of the
cello are pretty well extinguished; but at last the three are at the head,
and Tamoszius takes his station at the right hand of the bride and begins
to pour out his soul in melting strains.
Little Ona is too excited to eat. Once in a while she tastes a little
something, when Cousin Marija pinches her elbow and reminds her; but, for
the most part, she sits gazing with the same fearful eyes of wonder.
Teta Elzbieta is all in a flutter, like a hummingbird; her sisters, too,
keep running up behind her, whispering, breathless. But Ona seems
scarcely to hear them--the music keeps calling, and the far-off look
comes back, and she sits with her hands pressed together over her heart.
Then the tears begin to come into her eyes; and as she is ashamed to wipe
them away, and ashamed to let them run down her cheeks, she turns and
shakes her head a little, and then flushes red when she sees that Jurgis
is watching her. When in the end Tamoszius Kuszleika has reached her side,
and is waving his magic wand above her, Ona's cheeks are scarlet, and she
looks as if she would have to get up and run away.
In this crisis, however, she is saved by Marija Berczynskas, whom the
muses suddenly visit. Marija is fond of a song, a song of lovers' parting;
she wishes to hear it, and, as the musicians do not know it, she has risen,
and is proceeding to teach them. Marija is short, but powerful in build.
She works in a canning factory, and all day long she handles cans of beef
that weigh fourteen pounds. She has a broad Slavic face, with prominent
red cheeks. When she opens her mouth, it is tragical, but you cannot help
thinking of a horse. She wears a blue flannel shirt-waist, which is now
rolled up at the sleeves, disclosing her brawny arms; she has a carving
fork in her hand, with which she pounds on the table to mark the time.
As she roars her song, in a voice of which it is enough to say that it
leaves no portion of the room vacant, the three musicians follow her,
laboriously and note by note, but averaging one note behind; thus they
toil through stanza after stanza of a lovesick swain's lamentation: --
"Sudiev' kvietkeli, tu brangiausis;
Sudiev' ir laime, man biednam,
Matau--paskyre teip Aukszcziausis,
Jog vargt ant svieto reik vienam!"
When the song is over, it is time for the speech, and old Dede Antanas
rises to his feet. Grandfather Anthony, Jurgis' father, is not more than
sixty years of age, but you would think that he was eighty. He has been
only six months in America, and the change has not done him good. In his
manhood he worked in a cotton mill, but then a coughing fell upon him,
and he had to leave; out in the country the trouble disappeared, but he
has been working in the pickle rooms at Durham's, and the breathing of
the cold, damp air all day has brought it back. Now as he rises he is
seized with a coughing fit, and holds himself by his chair and turns away
his wan and battered face until it passes.
Generally it is the custom for the speech at a veselija to be taken out
of one of the books and learned by heart; but in his youthful days Dede
Antanas used to be a scholar, and really make up all the love letters
of his friends. Now it is understood that he has composed an original
speech of congratulation and benediction, and this is one of the events
of the day. Even the boys, who are romping about the room, draw near and
listen, and some of the women sob and wipe their aprons in their eyes.
It is very solemn, for Antanas Rudkus has become possessed of the idea
that he has not much longer to stay with his children. His speech leaves
them all so tearful that one of the guests, Jokubas Szedvilas, who keeps
a delicatessen store on Halsted Street, and is fat and hearty, is moved
to rise and say that things may not be as bad as that, and then to go on
and make a little speech of his own, in which he showers congratulations
and prophecies of happiness upon the bride and groom, proceeding to
particulars which greatly delight the young men, but which cause Ona
to blush more furiously than ever. Jokubas possesses what his wife
complacently describes as "poetiszka vaidintuve"--a poetical imagination.
Now a good many of the guests have finished, and, since there is no
pretense of ceremony, the banquet begins to break up. Some of the men
gather about the bar; some wander about, laughing and singing; here and
there will be a little group, chanting merrily, and in sublime indifference
to the others and to the orchestra as well. Everybody is more or less
restless--one would guess that something is on their minds. And so it
proves. The last tardy diners are scarcely given time to finish, before
the tables and the debris are shoved into the corner, and the chairs and
the babies piled out of the way, and the real celebration of the evening
begins. Then Tamoszius Kuszleika, after replenishing himself with a pot
of beer, returns to his platform, and, standing up, reviews the scene;
he taps authoritatively upon the side of his violin, then tucks it
carefully under his chin, then waves his bow in an elaborate flourish,
and finally smites the sounding strings and closes his eyes, and floats
away in spirit upon the wings of a dreamy waltz. His companion follows,
but with his eyes open, watching where he treads, so to speak; and finally
Valentinavyczia, after waiting for a little and beating with his foot to
get the time, casts up his eyes to the ceiling and begins to saw--"Broom!
broom! broom!"
The company pairs off quickly, and the whole room is soon in motion.
Apparently nobody knows how to waltz, but that is nothing of any
consequence--there is music, and they dance, each as he pleases, just
as before they sang. Most of them prefer the "two-step," especially
the young, with whom it is the fashion. The older people have dances
from home, strange and complicated steps which they execute with grave
solemnity. Some do not dance anything at all, but simply hold each other's
hands and allow the undisciplined joy of motion to express itself with
their feet. Among these are Jokubas Szedvilas and his wife, Lucija, who
together keep the delicatessen store, and consume nearly as much as they
sell; they are too fat to dance, but they stand in the middle of the floor,
holding each other fast in their arms, rocking slowly from side to side and
grinning seraphically, a picture of toothless and perspiring ecstasy.
Of these older people many wear clothing reminiscent in some detail
of home--an embroidered waistcoat or stomacher, or a gaily colored
handkerchief, or a coat with large cuffs and fancy buttons. All these
things are carefully avoided by the young, most of whom have learned to
speak English and to affect the latest style of clothing. The girls wear
ready-made dresses or shirt waists, and some of them look quite pretty.
Some of the young men you would take to be Americans, of the type of
clerks, but for the fact that they wear their hats in the room. Each of
these younger couples affects a style of its own in dancing. Some hold
each other tightly, some at a cautious distance. Some hold their hands
out stiffly, some drop them loosely at their sides. Some dance springily,
some glide softly, some move with grave dignity. There are boisterous
couples, who tear wildly about the room, knocking every one out of
their way. There are nervous couples, whom these frighten, and who cry,
"Nusfok! Kas yra?" at them as they pass. Each couple is paired for the
evening--you will never see them change about. There is Alena Jasaityte,
for instance, who has danced unending hours with Juozas Raczius, to whom
she is engaged. Alena is the beauty of the evening, and she would be really
beautiful if she were not so proud. She wears a white shirtwaist, which
represents, perhaps, half a week's labor painting cans. She holds her skirt
with her hand as she dances, with stately precision, after the manner of the
grandes dames. Juozas is driving one of Durham's wagons, and is making big
wages. He affects a "tough" aspect, wearing his hat on one side and keeping
a cigarette in his mouth all the evening. Then there is Jadvyga Marcinkus,
who is also beautiful, but humble. Jadvyga likewise paints cans, but then
she has an invalid mother and three little sisters to support by it, and
so she does not spend her wages for shirtwaists. Jadvyga is small and
delicate, with jet-black eyes and hair, the latter twisted into a little
knot and tied on the top of her head. She wears an old white dress which
she has made herself and worn to parties for the past five years; it is
high-waisted--almost under her arms, and not very becoming,--but that
does not trouble Jadvyga, who is dancing with her Mikolas. She is small,
while he is big and powerful; she nestles in his arms as if she would hide
herself from view, and leans her head upon his shoulder. He in turn has
clasped his arms tightly around her, as if he would carry her away; and so
she dances, and will dance the entire evening, and would dance forever,
in ecstasy of bliss. You would smile, perhaps, to see them--but you would
not smile if you knew all the story. This is the fifth year, now, that
Jadvyga has been engaged to Mikolas, and her heart is sick. They would
have been married in the beginning, only Mikolas has a father who is drunk
all day, and he is the only other man in a large family. Even so they might
have managed it (for Mikolas is a skilled man) but for cruel accidents which
have almost taken the heart out of them. He is a beef-boner, and that is
a dangerous trade, especially when you are on piecework and trying to earn
a bride. Your hands are slippery, and your knife is slippery, and you are
toiling like mad, when somebody happens to speak to you, or you strike a
bone. Then your hand slips up on the blade, and there is a fearful gash.
And that would not be so bad, only for the deadly contagion. The cut may
heal, but you never can tell. Twice now; within the last three years,
Mikolas has been lying at home with blood poisoning--once for three months
and once for nearly seven. The last time, too, he lost his job, and that
meant six weeks more of standing at the doors of the packing houses, at six
o'clock on bitter winter mornings, with a foot of snow on the ground and
more in the air. There are learned people who can tell you out of the
statistics that beef-boners make forty cents an hour, but, perhaps, these
people have never looked into a beef-boner's hands.
When Tamoszius and his companions stop for a rest, as perforce they
must, now and then, the dancers halt where they are and wait patiently.
They never seem to tire; and there is no place for them to sit down if
they did. It is only for a minute, anyway, for the leader starts up
again, in spite of all the protests of the other two. This time it
is another sort of a dance, a Lithuanian dance. Those who prefer to,
go on with the two-step, but the majority go through an intricate series
of motions, resembling more fancy skating than a dance. The climax of
it is a furious prestissimo, at which the couples seize hands and begin
a mad whirling. This is quite irresistible, and every one in the room
joins in, until the place becomes a maze of flying skirts and bodies
quite dazzling to look upon. But the sight of sights at this moment
is Tamoszius Kuszleika. The old fiddle squeaks and shrieks in protest,
but Tamoszius has no mercy. The sweat starts out on his forehead, and he
bends over like a cyclist on the last lap of a race. His body shakes and
throbs like a runaway steam engine, and the ear cannot follow the flying
showers of notes--there is a pale blue mist where you look to see his
bowing arm. With a most wonderful rush he comes to the end of the tune,
and flings up his hands and staggers back exhausted; and with a final
shout of delight the dancers fly apart, reeling here and there, bringing
up against the walls of the room.
After this there is beer for every one, the musicians included, and the
revelers take a long breath and prepare for the great event of the
evening, which is the acziavimas. The acziavimas is a ceremony which,
once begun, will continue for three or four hours, and it involves one
uninterrupted dance. The guests form a great ring, locking hands, and,
when the music starts up, begin to move around in a circle. In the center
stands the bride, and, one by one, the men step into the enclosure and
dance with her. Each dances for several minutes--as long as he pleases;
it is a very merry proceeding, with laughter and singing, and when the
guest has finished, he finds himself face to face with Teta Elzbieta,
who holds the hat. Into it he drops a sum of money--a dollar, or perhaps
five dollars, according to his power, and his estimate of the value of
the privilege. The guests are expected to pay for this entertainment;
if they be proper guests, they will see that there is a neat sum left over
for the bride and bridegroom to start life upon.
Most fearful they are to contemplate, the expenses of this entertainment.
They will certainly be over two hundred dollars and maybe three hundred;
and three hundred dollars is more than the year's income of many a person
in this room. There are able-bodied men here who work from early morning
until late at night, in ice-cold cellars with a quarter of an inch of
water on the floor--men who for six or seven months in the year never
see the sunlight from Sunday afternoon till the next Sunday morning--
and who cannot earn three hundred dollars in a year. There are little
children here, scarce in their teens, who can hardly see the top of the
work benches--whose parents have lied to get them their places--and who
do not make the half of three hundred dollars a year, and perhaps not
even the third of it. And then to spend such a sum, all in a single day
of your life, at a wedding feast! (For obviously it is the same thing,
whether you spend it at once for your own wedding, or in a long time,
at the weddings of all your friends.)
It is very imprudent, it is tragic--but, ah, it is so beautiful! Bit by
bit these poor people have given up everything else; but to this they
cling with all the power of their souls--they cannot give up the
veselija! To do that would mean, not merely to be defeated, but to
acknowledge defeat--and the difference between these two things is what
keeps the world going. The veselija has come down to them from a far-off
time; and the meaning of it was that one might dwell within the cave and
gaze upon shadows, provided only that once in his lifetime he could break
his chains, and feel his wings, and behold the sun; provided that once in
his lifetime he might testify to the fact that life, with all its cares
and its terrors, is no such great thing after all, but merely a bubble
upon the surface of a river, a thing that one may toss about and play
with as a juggler tosses his golden balls, a thing that one may quaff,
like a goblet of rare red wine. Thus having known himself for the master
of things, a man could go back to his toil and live upon the memory all
his days.
Endlessly the dancers swung round and round--when they were dizzy they
swung the other way. Hour after hour this had continued--the darkness
had fallen and the room was dim from the light of two smoky oil lamps.
The musicians had spent all their fine frenzy by now, and played only
one tune, wearily, ploddingly. There were twenty bars or so of it, and
when they came to the end they began again. Once every ten minutes or
so they would fail to begin again, but instead would sink back exhausted;
a circumstance which invariably brought on a painful and terrifying scene,
that made the fat policeman stir uneasily in his sleeping place behind
the door.
It was all Marija Berczynskas. Marija was one of those hungry souls who
cling with desperation to the skirts of the retreating muse. All day long
she had been in a state of wonderful exaltation; and now it was leaving--
and she would not let it go. Her soul cried out in the words of Faust,
"Stay, thou art fair!" Whether it was by beer, or by shouting, or by music,
or by motion, she meant that it should not go. And she would go back to
the chase of it--and no sooner be fairly started than her chariot would
be thrown off the track, so to speak, by the stupidity of those thrice
accursed musicians. Each time, Marija would emit a howl and fly at them,
shaking her fists in their faces, stamping upon the floor, purple and
incoherent with rage. In vain the frightened Tamoszius would attempt
to speak, to plead the limitations of the flesh; in vain would the puffing
and breathless ponas Jokubas insist, in vain would Teta Elzbieta implore.
"Szalin!" Marija would scream. "Palauk! isz kelio! What are you paid for,
children of hell?" And so, in sheer terror, the orchestra would strike up
again, and Marija would return to her place and take up her task.
She bore all the burden of the festivities now. Ona was kept up by her
excitement, but all of the women and most of the men were tired--the soul
of Marija was alone unconquered. She drove on the dancers--what had once
been the ring had now the shape of a pear, with Marija at the stem, pulling
one way and pushing the other. shouting, stamping, singing, a very volcano
of energy. Now and then some one coming in or out would leave the door
open, and the night air was chill; Marija as she passed would stretch out
her foot and kick the doorknob, and slam would go the door! Once this
procedure was the cause of a calamity of which Sebastijonas Szedvilas was
the hapless victim. Little Sebastijonas, aged three, had been wandering
about oblivious to all things, holding turned up over his mouth a bottle
of liquid known as "pop," pink-colored, ice-cold, and delicious. Passing
through the doorway the door smote him full, and the shriek which followed
brought the dancing to a halt. Marija, who threatened horrid murder a
hundred times a day, and would weep over the injury of a fly, seized
little Sebastijonas in her arms and bid fair to smother him with kisses.
There was a long rest for the orchestra, and plenty of refreshments, while
Marija was making her peace with her victim, seating him upon the bar,
and standing beside him and holding to his lips a foaming schooner of beer.
In the meantime there was going on in another corner of the room an
anxious conference between Teta Elzbieta and Dede Antanas, and a few of
the more intimate friends of the family. A trouble was come upon them.
The veselija is a compact, a compact not expressed, but therefore only the
more binding upon all. Every one's share was different--and yet every one
knew perfectly well what his share was, and strove to give a little more.
Now, however, since they had come to the new country, all this was changing;
it seemed as if there must be some subtle poison in the air that one
breathed here--it was affecting all the young men at once. They would
come in crowds and fill themselves with a fine dinner, and then sneak off.
One would throw another's hat out of the window, and both would go out to
get it, and neither could be seen again. Or now and then half a dozen of
them would get together and march out openly, staring at you, and making fun
of you to your face. Still others, worse yet, would crowd about the bar,
and at the expense of the host drink themselves sodden, paying not the
least attention to any one, and leaving it to be thought that either they
had danced with the bride already, or meant to later on.
All these things were going on now, and the family was helpless with
dismay. So long they had toiled, and such an outlay they had made!
Ona stood by, her eyes wide with terror. Those frightful bills--how they
had haunted her, each item gnawing at her soul all day and spoiling her
rest at night. How often she had named them over one by one and figured
on them as she went to work--fifteen dollars for the hall, twenty-two
dollars and a quarter for the ducks, twelve dollars for the musicians,
five dollars at the church, and a blessing of the Virgin besides--and so
on without an end! Worst of all was the frightful bill that was still
to come from Graiczunas for the beer and liquor that might be consumed.
One could never get in advance more than a guess as to this from a
saloonkeeper--and then, when the time came he always came to you scratching
his head and saying that he had guessed too low, but that he had done his
best--your guests had gotten so very drunk. By him you were sure to be
cheated unmercifully, and that even though you thought yourself the dearest
of the hundreds of friends he had. He would begin to serve your guests
out of a keg that was half full, and finish with one that was half empty,
and then you would be charged for two kegs of beer. He would agree to
serve a certain quality at a certain price, and when the time came you
and your friends would be drinking some horrible poison that could not be
described. You might complain, but you would get nothing for your pains
but a ruined evening; while, as for going to law about it, you might as
well go to heaven at once. The saloonkeeper stood in with all the big
politics men in the district; and when you had once found out what it
meant to get into trouble with such people, you would know enough to pay
what you were told to pay and shut up.
What made all this the more painful was that it was so hard on the few
that had really done their best. There was poor old ponas Jokubas, for
instance--he had already given five dollars, and did not every one know
that Jokubas Szedvilas had just mortgaged his delicatessen store for two
hundred dollars to meet several months' overdue rent? And then there was
withered old poni Aniele--who was a widow, and had three children, and the
rheumatism besides, and did washing for the tradespeople on Halsted Street
at prices it would break your heart to hear named. Aniele had given the
entire profit of her chickens for several months. Eight of them she owned,
and she kept them in a little place fenced around on her backstairs.
All day long the children of Aniele were raking in the dump for food for
these chickens; and sometimes, when the competition there was too fierce,
you might see them on Halsted Street walking close to the gutters, and with
their mother following to see that no one robbed them of their finds.
Money could not tell the value of these chickens to old Mrs. Jukniene--
she valued them differently, for she had a feeling that she was getting
something for nothing by means of them--that with them she was getting the
better of a world that was getting the better of her in so many other ways.
So she watched them every hour of the day, and had learned to see like an
owl at night to watch them then. One of them had been stolen long ago,
and not a month passed that some one did not try to steal another. As the
frustrating of this one attempt involved a score of false alarms, it will
be understood what a tribute old Mrs. Jukniene brought, just because Teta
Elzbieta had once loaned her some money for a few days and saved her from
being turned out of her house.
More and more friends gathered round while the lamentation about these
things was going on. Some drew nearer, hoping to overhear the conversation,
who were themselves among the guilty--and surely that was a thing to try
the patience of a saint. Finally there came Jurgis, urged by some one,
and the story was retold to him. Jurgis listened in silence, with his
great black eyebrows knitted. Now and then there would come a gleam
underneath them and he would glance about the room. Perhaps he would have
liked to go at some of those fellows with his big clenched fists; but then,
doubtless, he realized how little good it would do him. No bill would be
any less for turning out any one at this time; and then there would be the
scandal--and Jurgis wanted nothing except to get away with Ona and to let
the world go its own way. So his hands relaxed and he merely said quietly:
"It is done, and there is no use in weeping, Teta Elzbieta." Then his look
turned toward Ona, who stood close to his side, and he saw the wide look
of terror in her eyes. "Little one," he said, in a low voice, "do not
worry--it will not matter to us. We will pay them all somehow. I will
work harder." That was always what Jurgis said. Ona had grown used to
it as the solution of all difficulties--"I will work harder!" He had
said that in Lithuania when one official had taken his passport from him,
and another had arrested him for being without it, and the two had divided
a third of his belongings. He had said it again in New York, when the
smooth-spoken agent had taken them in hand and made them pay such high
prices, and almost prevented their leaving his place, in spite of their
paying. Now he said it a third time, and Ona drew a deep breath; it was
so wonderful to have a husband, just like a grown woman--and a husband who
could solve all problems, and who was so big and strong!
The last sob of little Sebastijonas has been stifled, and the orchestra
has once more been reminded of its duty. The ceremony begins again--but
there are few now left to dance with, and so very soon the collection is
over and promiscuous dances once more begin. It is now after midnight,
however, and things are not as they were before. The dancers are dull
and heavy--most of them have been drinking hard, and have long ago passed
the stage of exhilaration. They dance in monotonous measure, round after
round, hour after hour, with eyes fixed upon vacancy, as if they were
only half conscious, in a constantly growing stupor. The men grasp the
women very tightly, but there will be half an hour together when neither
will see the other's face. Some couples do not care to dance, and have
retired to the corners, where they sit with their arms enlaced. Others,
who have been drinking still more, wander about the room, bumping into
everything; some are in groups of two or three, singing, each group
its own song. As time goes on there is a variety of drunkenness, among
the younger men especially. Some stagger about in each other's arms,
whispering maudlin words--others start quarrels upon the slightest pretext,
and come to blows and have to be pulled apart. Now the fat policeman wakens
definitely, and feels of his club to see that it is ready for business.
He has to be prompt--for these two-o'clock-in-the-morning fights, if they
once get out of hand, are like a forest fire, and may mean the whole
reserves at the station. The thing to do is to crack every fighting head
that you see, before there are so many fighting heads that you cannot
crack any of them. There is but scant account kept of cracked heads in
back of the yards, for men who have to crack the heads of animals all day
seem to get into the habit, and to practice on their friends, and even on
their families, between times. This makes it a cause for congratulation
that by modern methods a very few men can do the painfully necessary work
of head-cracking for the whole of the cultured world.
There is no fight that night--perhaps because Jurgis, too, is watchful--
even more so than the policeman. Jurgis has drunk a great deal, as any
one naturally would on an occasion when it all has to be paid for, whether
it is drunk or not; but he is a very steady man, and does not easily lose
his temper. Only once there is a tight shave--and that is the fault of
Marija Berczynskas. Marija has apparently concluded about two hours ago
that if the altar in the corner, with the deity in soiled white, be not
the true home of the muses, it is, at any rate, the nearest substitute on
earth attainable. And Marija is just fighting drunk when there come to her
ears the facts about the villains who have not paid that night. Marija goes
on the warpath straight off, without even the preliminary of a good cursing,
and when she is pulled off it is with the coat collars of two villains in
her hands. Fortunately, the policeman is disposed to be reasonable, and so
it is not Marija who is flung out of the place.
All this interrupts the music for not more than a minute or two. Then again
the merciless tune begins--the tune that has been played for the last
half-hour without one single change. It is an American tune this time,
one which they have picked up on the streets; all seem to know the words
of it--or, at any rate, the first line of it, which they hum to themselves,
over and over again without rest: "In the good old summertime--in the good
old summertime! In the good old summertime--in the good old summertime!"
There seems to be something hypnotic about this, with its endlessly
recurring dominant. It has put a stupor upon every one who hears it,
as well as upon the men who are playing it. No one can get away from it,
or even think of getting away from it; it is three o'clock in the morning,
and they have danced out all their joy, and danced out all their strength,
and all the strength that unlimited drink can lend them--and still there
is no one among them who has the power to think of stopping. Promptly at
seven o'clock this same Monday morning they will every one of them have to
be in their places at Durham's or Brown's or Jones's, each in his working
clothes. If one of them be a minute late, he will be docked an hour's pay,
and if he be many minutes late, he will be apt to find his brass check
turned to the wall, which will send him out to join the hungry mob that
waits every morning at the gates of the packing houses, from six o'clock
until nearly half-past eight. There is no exception to this rule, not even
little Ona--who has asked for a holiday the day after her wedding day,
a holiday without pay, and been refused. While there are so many who are
anxious to work as you wish, there is no occasion for incommoding yourself
with those who must work otherwise.
Little Ona is nearly ready to faint--and half in a stupor herself, because
of the heavy scent in the room. She has not taken a drop, but every one
else there is literally burning alcohol, as the lamps are burning oil;
some of the men who are sound asleep in their chairs or on the floor are
reeking of it so that you cannot go near them. Now and then Jurgis gazes
at her hungrily--he has long since forgotten his shyness; but then the
crowd is there, and he still waits and watches the door, where a carriage
is supposed to come. It does not, and finally he will wait no longer,
but comes up to Ona, who turns white and trembles. He puts her shawl about
her and then his own coat. They live only two blocks away, and Jurgis does
not care about the carriage.
There is almost no farewell--the dancers do not notice them, and all of the
children and many of the old folks have fallen asleep of sheer exhaustion.
Dede Antanas is asleep, and so are the Szedvilases, husband and wife,
the former snoring in octaves. There is Teta Elzbieta, and Marija, sobbing
loudly; and then there is only the silent night, with the stars beginning
to pale a little in the east. Jurgis, without a word, lifts Ona in his
arms, and strides out with her, and she sinks her head upon his shoulder
with a moan. When he reaches home he is not sure whether she has fainted
or is asleep, but when he has to hold her with one hand while he unlocks
the door, he sees that she has opened her eyes.
"You shall not go to Brown's today, little one," he whispers, as he climbs
the stairs; and she catches his arm in terror, gasping: "No! No! I dare
not! It will ruin us!"
But he answers her again: "Leave it to me; leave it to me. I will earn
more money--I will work harder."
Chapter 2
Jurgis talked lightly about work, because he was young. They told him
stories about the breaking down of men, there in the stockyards of
Chicago, and of what had happened to them afterward--stories to make
your flesh creep, but Jurgis would only laugh. He had only been there
four months, and he was young, and a giant besides. There was too much
health in him. He could not even imagine how it would feel to be beaten.
"That is well enough for men like you," he would say, "silpnas, puny
fellows--but my back is broad."
Jurgis was like a boy, a boy from the country. He was the sort of man the
bosses like to get hold of, the sort they make it a grievance they cannot
get hold of. When he was told to go to a certain place, he would go there
on the run. When he had nothing to do for the moment, he would stand round
fidgeting, dancing, with the overflow of energy that was in him. If he
were working in a line of men, the line always moved too slowly for him,
and you could pick him out by his impatience and restlessness. That was
why he had been picked out on one important occasion; for Jurgis had stood
outside of Brown and Company's "Central Time Station" not more than half
an hour, the second day of his arrival in Chicago, before he had been
beckoned by one of the bosses. Of this he was very proud, and it made him
more disposed than ever to laugh at the pessimists. In vain would they all
tell him that there were men in that crowd from which he had been chosen
who had stood there a month--yes, many months--and not been chosen yet.
"Yes," he would say, "but what sort of men? Broken-down tramps and goodfor-
nothings, fellows who have spent all their money drinking, and want to
get more for it. Do you want me to believe that with these arms"--and he
would clench his fists and hold them up in the air, so that you might see
the rolling muscles--that with these arms people will ever let me starve?"
"It is plain," they would answer to this, "that you have come from the
country, and from very far in the country." And this was the fact,
for Jurgis had never seen a city, and scarcely even a fair-sized town,
until he had set out to make his fortune in the world and earn his right
to Ona. His father, and his father's father before him, and as many
ancestors back as legend could go, had lived in that part of Lithuania
known as Brelovicz, the Imperial Forest. This is a great tract of a
hundred thousand acres, which from time immemorial has been a hunting
preserve of the nobility. There are a very few peasants settled in it,
holding title from ancient times; and one of these was Antanas Rudkus,
who had been reared himself, and had reared his children in turn, upon
half a dozen acres of cleared land in the midst of a wilderness. There had
been one son besides Jurgis, and one sister. The former had been drafted
into the army; that had been over ten years ago, but since that day nothing
had ever been heard of him. The sister was married, and her husband had
bought the place when old Antanas had decided to go with his son.
It was nearly a year and a half ago that Jurgis had met Ona, at a horse
fair a hundred miles from home. Jurgis had never expected to get married--
he had laughed at it as a foolish trap for a man to walk into; but here,
without ever having spoken a word to her, with no more than the exchange
of half a dozen smiles, he found himself, purple in the face with
embarrassment and terror, asking her parents to sell her to him for his
wife--and offering his father's two horses he had been sent to the fair
to sell. But Ona's father proved as a rock--the girl was yet a child,
and he was a rich man, and his daughter was not to be had in that way.
So Jurgis went home with a heavy heart, and that spring and summer toiled
and tried hard to forget. In the fall, after the harvest was over, he saw
that it would not do, and tramped the full fortnight's journey that lay
between him and Ona.
He found an unexpected state of affairs--for the girl's father had died,
and his estate was tied up with creditors; Jurgis' heart leaped as he
realized that now the prize was within his reach. There was Elzbieta
Lukoszaite, Teta, or Aunt, as they called her, Ona's stepmother, and there
were her six children, of all ages. There was also her brother Jonas,
a dried-up little man who had worked upon the farm. They were people of
great consequence, as it seemed to Jurgis, fresh out of the woods; Ona
knew how to read, and knew many other things that he did not know, and now
the farm had been sold, and the whole family was adrift--all they owned in
the world being about seven hundred rubles which is half as many dollars.
They would have had three times that, but it had gone to court, and the
judge had decided against them, and it had cost the balance to get him to
change his decision.
Ona might have married and left them, but she would not, for she loved
Teta Elzbieta. It was Jonas who suggested that they all go to America,
where a friend of his had gotten rich. He would work, for his part,
and the women would work, and some of the children, doubtless--they
would live somehow. Jurgis, too, had heard of America. That was
a country where, they said, a man might earn three rubles a day;
and Jurgis figured what three rubles a day would mean, with prices as
they were where he lived, and decided forthwith that he would go to
America and marry, and be a rich man in the bargain. In that country,
rich or poor, a man was free, it was said; he did not have to go into
the army, he did not have to pay out his money to rascally officials--
he might do as he pleased, and count himself as good as any other man.
So America was a place of which lovers and young people dreamed. If one
could only manage to get the price of a passage, he could count his
troubles at an end.
It was arranged that they should leave the following spring, and meantime
Jurgis sold himself to a contractor for a certain time, and tramped nearly
four hundred miles from home with a gang of men to work upon a railroad
in Smolensk. This was a fearful experience, with filth and bad food
and cruelty and overwork; but Jurgis stood it and came out in fine trim,
and with eighty rubles sewed up in his coat. He did not drink or fight,
because he was thinking all the time of Ona; and for the rest, he was
a quiet, steady man, who did what he was told to, did not lose his temper
often, and when he did lose it made the offender anxious that he should
not lose it again. When they paid him off he dodged the company gamblers
and dramshops, and so they tried to kill him; but he escaped, and tramped
it home, working at odd jobs, and sleeping always with one eye open.
So in the summer time they had all set out for America. At the last
moment there joined them Marija Berczynskas, who was a cousin of Ona's.
Marija was an orphan, and had worked since childhood for a rich farmer
of Vilna, who beat her regularly. It was only at the age of twenty
that it had occurred to Marija to try her strength, when she had risen
up and nearly murdered the man, and then come away.
There were twelve in all in the party, five adults and six children--
and Ona, who was a little of both. They had a hard time on the passage;
there was an agent who helped them, but he proved a scoundrel, and got
them into a trap with some officials, and cost them a good deal of their
precious money, which they clung to with such horrible fear. This happened
to them again in New York--for, of course, they knew nothing about the
country, and had no one to tell them, and it was easy for a man in a blue
uniform to lead them away, and to take them to a hotel and keep them there,
and make them pay enormous charges to get away. The law says that the
rate card shall be on the door of a hotel, but it does not say that it
shall be in Lithuanian.
It was in the stockyards that Jonas' friend had gotten rich, and so to
Chicago the party was bound. They knew that one word, Chicago and that
was all they needed to know, at least, until they reached the city.
Then, tumbled out of the cars without ceremony, they were no better off
than before; they stood staring down the vista of Dearborn Street, with
its big black buildings towering in the distance, unable to realize that
they had arrived, and why, when they said "Chicago," people no longer
pointed in some direction, but instead looked perplexed, or laughed,
or went on without paying any attention. They were pitiable in their
helplessness; above all things they stood in deadly terror of any sort
of person in official uniform, and so whenever they saw a policeman they
would cross the street and hurry by. For the whole of the first day
they wandered about in the midst of deafening confusion, utterly lost;
and it was only at night that, cowering in the doorway of a house,
they were finally discovered and taken by a policeman to the station.
In the morning an interpreter was found, and they were taken and put upon
a car, and taught a new word--"stockyards." Their delight at discovering
that they were to get out of this adventure without losing another share
of their possessions it would not be possible to describe.
They sat and stared out of the window. They were on a street which seemed
to run on forever, mile after mile--thirty-four of them, if they had known
it--and each side of it one uninterrupted row of wretched little two-story
frame buildings. Down every side street they could see, it was the same--
never a hill and never a hollow, but always the same endless vista of ugly
and dirty little wooden buildings. Here and there would be a bridge
crossing a filthy creek, with hard-baked mud shores and dingy sheds and
docks along it; here and there would be a railroad crossing, with a tangle
of switches, and locomotives puffing, and rattling freight cars filing by;
here and there would be a great factory, a dingy building with innumerable
windows in it, and immense volumes of smoke pouring from the chimneys,
darkening the air above and making filthy the earth beneath. But after
each of these interruptions, the desolate procession would begin again--the
procession of dreary little buildings.
A full hour before the party reached the city they had begun to note the
perplexing changes in the atmosphere. It grew darker all the time, and
upon the earth the grass seemed to grow less green. Every minute, as the
train sped on, the colors of things became dingier; the fields were grown
parched and yellow, the landscape hideous and bare. And along with the
thickening smoke they began to notice another circumstance, a strange,
pungent odor. They were not sure that it was unpleasant, this odor;
some might have called it sickening, but their taste in odors was not
developed, and they were only sure that it was curious. Now, sitting in
the trolley car, they realized that they were on their way to the home
of it--that they had traveled all the way from Lithuania to it. It was
now no longer something far off and faint, that you caught in whiffs;
you could literally taste it, as well as smell it--you could take hold
of it, almost, and examine it at your leisure. They were divided in their
opinions about it. It was an elemental odor, raw and crude; it was rich,
almost rancid, sensual, and strong. There were some who drank it in as if
it were an intoxicant; there were others who put their handkerchiefs to
their faces. The new emigrants were still tasting it, lost in wonder,
when suddenly the car came to a halt, and the door was flung open, and a
voice shouted--"Stockyards!"
They were left standing upon the corner, staring; down a side street
there were two rows of brick houses, and between them a vista: half a
dozen chimneys, tall as the tallest of buildings, touching the very
sky--and leaping from them half a dozen columns of smoke, thick, oily,
and black as night. It might have come from the center of the world,
this smoke, where the fires of the ages still smolder. It came as if
self-impelled, driving all before it, a perpetual explosion. It was
inexhaustible; one stared, waiting to see it stop, but still the great
streams rolled out. They spread in vast clouds overhead, writhing, curling;
then, uniting in one giant river, they streamed away down the sky,
stretching a black pall as far as the eye could reach.
Then the party became aware of another strange thing. This, too, like
the color, was a thing elemental; it was a sound, a sound made up of ten
thousand little sounds. You scarcely noticed it at first--it sunk into
your consciousness, a vague disturbance, a trouble. It was like the
murmuring of the bees in the spring, the whisperings of the forest; it
suggested endless activity, the rumblings of a world in motion. It was
only by an effort that one could realize that it was made by animals,
that it was the distant lowing of ten thousand cattle, the distant
grunting of ten thousand swine.
They would have liked to follow it up, but, alas, they had no time for
adventures just then. The policeman on the corner was beginning to
watch them; and so, as usual, they started up the street. Scarcely had
they gone a block, however, before Jonas was heard to give a cry, and began
pointing excitedly across the street. Before they could gather the meaning
of his breathless ejaculations he had bounded away, and they saw him enter
a shop, over which was a sign: "J. Szedvilas, Delicatessen." When he came
out again it was in company with a very stout gentleman in shirt sleeves
and an apron, clasping Jonas by both hands and laughing hilariously.
Then Teta Elzbieta recollected suddenly that Szedvilas had been the name
of the mythical friend who had made his fortune in America. To find that
he had been making it in the delicatessen business was an extraordinary
piece of good fortune at this juncture; though it was well on in the
morning, they had not breakfasted, and the children were beginning to
Thus was the happy ending to a woeful voyage. The two families literally
fell upon each other's necks--for it had been years since Jokubas Szedvilas
had met a man from his part of Lithuania. Before half the day they were
lifelong friends. Jokubas understood all the pitfalls of this new world,
and could explain all of its mysteries; he could tell them the things
they ought to have done in the different emergencies--and what was still
more to the point, he could tell them what to do now. He would take them
to poni Aniele, who kept a boardinghouse the other side of the yards;
old Mrs. Jukniene, he explained, had not what one would call choice
accommodations, but they might do for the moment. To this Teta Elzbieta
hastened to respond that nothing could be too cheap to suit them just
then; for they were quite terrified over the sums they had had to expend.
A very few days of practical experience in this land of high wages had
been sufficient to make clear to them the cruel fact that it was also a
land of high prices, and that in it the poor man was almost as poor as in
any other corner of the earth; and so there vanished in a night all the
wonderful dreams of wealth that had been haunting Jurgis. What had made
the discovery all the more painful was that they were spending, at American
prices, money which they had earned at home rates of wages--and so were
really being cheated by the world! The last two days they had all but
starved themselves--it made them quite sick to pay the prices that the
railroad people asked them for food.
Yet, when they saw the home of the Widow Jukniene they could not but
recoil, even so. ln all their journey they had seen nothing so bad
as this. Poni Aniele had a four-room flat in one of that wilderness of
two-story frame tenements that lie "back of the yards." There were four
such flats in each building, and each of the four was a "boardinghouse"
for the occupancy of foreigners--Lithuanians, Poles, Slovaks, or Bohemians.
Some of these places were kept by private persons, some were cooperative.
There would be an average of half a dozen boarders to each room--sometimes
there were thirteen or fourteen to one room, fifty or sixty to a flat.
Each one of the occupants furnished his own accommodations--that is,
a mattress and some bedding. The mattresses would be spread upon the
floor in rows--and there would be nothing else in the place except a stove.
It was by no means unusual for two men to own the same mattress in common,
one working by day and using it by night, and the other working at night
and using it in the daytime. Very frequently a lodging house keeper would
rent the same beds to double shifts of men.
Mrs. Jukniene was a wizened-up little woman, with a wrinkled face.
Her home was unthinkably filthy; you could not enter by the front
door at all, owing to the mattresses, and when you tried to go up the
backstairs you found that she had walled up most of the porch with old
boards to make a place to keep her chickens. It was a standing jest of
the boarders that Aniele cleaned house by letting the chickens loose in
the rooms. Undoubtedly this did keep down the vermin, but it seemed
probable, in view of all the circumstances, that the old lady regarded it
rather as feeding the chickens than as cleaning the rooms. The truth was
that she had definitely given up the idea of cleaning anything, under
pressure of an attack of rheumatism, which had kept her doubled up in
one corner of her room for over a week; during which time eleven of her
boarders, heavily in her debt, had concluded to try their chances of
employment in Kansas City. This was July, and the fields were green.
One never saw the fields, nor any green thing whatever, in Packingtown;
but one could go out on the road and "hobo it," as the men phrased it,
and see the country, and have a long rest, and an easy time riding on
the freight cars.
Such was the home to which the new arrivals were welcomed. There was
nothing better to be had--they might not do so well by looking further,
for Mrs. Jukniene had at least kept one room for herself and her three
little children, and now offered to share this with the women and the
girls of the party. They could get bedding at a secondhand store, she
explained; and they would not need any, while the weather was so hot--
doubtless they would all sleep on the sidewalk such nights as this, as did
nearly all of her guests. "Tomorrow," Jurgis said, when they were left
alone, "tomorrow I will get a job, and perhaps Jonas will get one also;
and then we can get a place of our own."
Later that afternoon he and Ona went out to take a walk and look about them,
to see more of this district which was to be their home. In back of the
yards the dreary two-story frame houses were scattered farther apart,
and there were great spaces bare--that seemingly had been overlooked by the
great sore of a city as it spread itself over the surface of the prairie.
These bare places were grown up with dingy, yellow weeds, hiding
innumerable tomato cans; innumerable children played upon them, chasing
one another here and there, screaming and fighting. The most uncanny
thing about this neighborhood was the number of the children; you thought
there must be a school just out, and it was only after long acquaintance
that you were able to realize that there was no school, but that these
were the children of the neighborhood--that there were so many children
to the block in Packingtown that nowhere on its streets could a horse and
buggy move faster than a walk!
It could not move faster anyhow, on account of the state of the streets.
Those through which Jurgis and Ona were walking resembled streets less
than they did a miniature topographical map. The roadway was commonly
several feet lower than the level of the houses, which were sometimes
joined by high board walks; there were no pavements--there were mountains
and valleys and rivers, gullies and ditches, and great hollows full of
stinking green water. In these pools the children played, and rolled
about in the mud of the streets; here and there one noticed them digging
in it, after trophies which they had stumbled on. One wondered about this,
as also about the swarms of flies which hung about the scene, literally
blackening the air, and the strange, fetid odor which assailed one's
nostrils, a ghastly odor, of all the dead things of the universe.
It impelled the visitor to questions and then the residents would explain,
quietly, that all this was "made" land, and that it had been "made" by
using it as a dumping ground for the city garbage. After a few years the
unpleasant effect of this would pass away, it was said; but meantime,
in hot weather--and especially when it rained--the flies were apt to
be annoying. Was it not unhealthful? the stranger would ask, and the
residents would answer, "Perhaps; but there is no telling."
A little way farther on, and Jurgis and Ona, staring open-eyed and
wondering, came to the place where this "made" ground was in process
of making. Here was a great hole, perhaps two city blocks square,
and with long files of garbage wagons creeping into it. The place had
an odor for which there are no polite words; and it was sprinkled over
with children, who raked in it from dawn till dark. Sometimes visitors
from the packing houses would wander out to see this "dump," and they
would stand by and debate as to whether the children were eating the food
they got, or merely collecting it for the chickens at home. Apparently
none of them ever went down to find out.
Beyond this dump there stood a great brickyard, with smoking chimneys.
First they took out the soil to make bricks, and then they filled it
up again with garbage, which seemed to Jurgis and Ona a felicitous
arrangement, characteristic of an enterprising country like America.
A little way beyond was another great hole, which they had emptied and
not yet filled up. This held water, and all summer it stood there,
with the near-by soil draining into it, festering and stewing in the sun;
and then, when winter came, somebody cut the ice on it, and sold it to
the people of the city. This, too, seemed to the newcomers an economical
arrangement; for they did not read the newspapers, and their heads were
not full of troublesome thoughts about "germs."
They stood there while the sun went down upon this scene, and the sky
in the west turned blood-red, and the tops of the houses shone like fire.
Jurgis and Ona were not thinking of the sunset, however--their backs
were turned to it, and all their thoughts were of Packingtown, which
they could see so plainly in the distance. The line of the buildings
stood clear-cut and black against the sky; here and there out of the
mass rose the great chimneys, with the river of smoke streaming away to
the end of the world. It was a study in colors now, this smoke; in the
sunset light it was black and brown and gray and purple. All the sordid
suggestions of the place were gone--in the twilight it was a vision of
power. To the two who stood watching while the darkness swallowed it up,
it seemed a dream of wonder, with its talc of human energy, of things being
done, of employment for thousands upon thousands of men, of opportunity
and freedom, of life and love and joy. When they came away, arm in arm,
Jurgis was saying, "Tomorrow I shall go there and get a job!"
Chapter 3
In his capacity as delicatessen vender, Jokubas Szedvilas had many
acquaintances. Among these was one of the special policemen employed
by Durham, whose duty it frequently was to pick out men for employment.
Jokubas had never tried it, but he expressed a certainty that he could
get some of his friends a job through this man. It was agreed, after
consultation, that he should make the effort with old Antanas and
with Jonas. Jurgis was confident of his ability to get work for himself,
unassisted by any one. As we have said before, he was not mistaken
in this. He had gone to Brown's and stood there not more than half
an hour before one of the bosses noticed his form towering above
the rest, and signaled to him. The colloquy which followed was brief
and to the point:
"Speak English?"
"No; Lit-uanian." (Jurgis had studied this word carefully.)
"Je." (A nod.)
"Worked here before?"
"No 'stand."
(Signals and gesticulations on the part of the boss. Vigorous
shakes of the head by Jurgis.)
"Shovel guts?"
"No 'stand." (More shakes of the head.)
"Zarnos. Pagaiksztis. Szluofa!" (Imitative motions.)
"See door. Durys?" (Pointing.)
"To-morrow, seven o'clock. Understand? Rytoj! Prieszpietys! Septyni!"
"Dekui, tamistai!" (Thank you, sir.) And that was all. Jurgis turned
away, and then in a sudden rush the full realization of his triumph
swept over him, and he gave a yell and a jump, and started off on a run.
He had a job! He had a job! And he went all the way home as if upon
wings, and burst into the house like a cyclone, to the rage of the
numerous lodgers who had just turned in for their daily sleep.
Meantime Jokubas had been to see his friend the policeman, and received
encouragement, so it was a happy party. There being no more to be done
that day, the shop was left under the care of Lucija, and her husband
sallied forth to show his friends the sights of Packingtown. Jokubas did
this with the air of a country gentleman escorting a party of visitors
over his estate; he was an old-time resident, and all these wonders had
grown up under his eyes, and he had a personal pride in them. The packers
might own the land, but he claimed the landscape, and there was no one to
say nay to this.
They passed down the busy street that led to the yards. It was still
early morning, and everything was at its high tide of activity.
A steady stream of employees was pouring through the gate--employees
of the higher sort, at this hour, clerks and stenographers and such.
For the women there were waiting big two-horse wagons, which set off
at a gallop as fast as they were filled. In the distance there was heard
again the lowing of the cattle, a sound as of a far-off ocean calling.
They followed it, this time, as eager as children in sight of a circus
menagerie--which, indeed, the scene a good deal resembled. They crossed
the railroad tracks, and then on each side of the street were the pens
full of cattle; they would have stopped to look, but Jokubas hurried
them on, to where there was a stairway and a raised gallery, from which
everything could be seen. Here they stood, staring, breathless with wonder.
There is over a square mile of space in the yards, and more than half
of it is occupied by cattle pens; north and south as far as the eye can
reach there stretches a sea of pens. And they were all filled--so many
cattle no one had ever dreamed existed in the world. Red cattle, black,
white, and yellow cattle; old cattle and young cattle; great bellowing
bulls and little calves not an hour born; meek-eyed milch cows and fierce,
long-horned Texas steers. The sound of them here was as of all the
barnyards of the universe; and as for counting them--it would have taken
all day simply to count the pens. Here and there ran long alleys, blocked
at intervals by gates; and Jokubas told them that the number of these gates
was twenty-five thousand. Jokubas had recently been reading a newspaper
article which was full of statistics such as that, and he was very proud
as he repeated them and made his guests cry out with wonder. Jurgis too
had a little of this sense of pride. Had he not just gotten a job, and
become a sharer in all this activity, a cog in this marvelous machine?
Here and there about the alleys galloped men upon horseback, booted,
and carrying long whips; they were very busy, calling to each other,
and to those who were driving the cattle. They were drovers and stock
raisers, who had come from far states, and brokers and commission
merchants, and buyers for all the big packing houses.
Here and there they would stop to inspect a bunch of cattle, and there
would be a parley, brief and businesslike. The buyer would nod or drop
his whip, and that would mean a bargain; and he would note it in his
little book, along with hundreds of others he had made that morning.
Then Jokubas pointed out the place where the cattle were driven to be
weighed, upon a great scale that would weigh a hundred thousand pounds at
once and record it automatically. It was near to the east entrance that
they stood, and all along this east side of the yards ran the railroad
tracks, into which the cars were run, loaded with cattle. All night long
this had been going on, and now the pens were full; by tonight they would
all be empty, and the same thing would be done again.
"And what will become of all these creatures?" cried Teta Elzbieta.
"By tonight," Jokubas answered, "they will all be killed and cut up;
and over there on the other side of the packing houses are more
railroad tracks, where the cars come to take them away."
There were two hundred and fifty miles of track within the yards, their
guide went on to tell them. They brought about ten thousand head of
cattle every day, and as many hogs, and half as many sheep--which meant
some eight or ten million live creatures turned into food every year.
One stood and watched, and little by little caught the drift of the tide,
as it set in the direction of the packing houses. There were groups of
cattle being driven to the chutes, which were roadways about fifteen feet
wide, raised high above the pens. In these chutes the stream of animals
was continuous; it was quite uncanny to watch them, pressing on to their
fate, all unsuspicious a very river of death. Our friends were not
poetical, and the sight suggested to them no metaphors of human destiny;
they thought only of the wonderful efficiency of it all. The chutes into
which the hogs went climbed high up--to the very top of the distant
buildings; and Jokubas explained that the hogs went up by the power of
their own legs, and then their weight carried them back through all the
processes necessary to make them into pork.
"They don't waste anything here," said the guide, and then he laughed
and added a witticism, which he was pleased that his unsophisticated
friends should take to be his own: "They use everything about the hog
except the squeal." In front of Brown's General Office building there
grows a tiny plot of grass, and this, you may learn, is the only bit
of green thing in Packingtown; likewise this jest about the hog and his
squeal, the stock in trade of all the guides, is the one gleam of humor
that you will find there.
After they had seen enough of the pens, the party went up the street,
to the mass of buildings which occupy the center of the yards. These
buildings, made of brick and stained with innumerable layers of
Packingtown smoke, were painted all over with advertising signs, from
which the visitor realized suddenly that he had come to the home of many
of the torments of his life. It was here that they made those products
with the wonders of which they pestered him so--by placards that defaced
the landscape when he traveled, and by staring advertisements in the
newspapers and magazines--by silly little jingles that he could not get
out of his mind, and gaudy pictures that lurked for him around every
street corner. Here was where they made Brown's Imperial Hams and Bacon,
Brown's Dressed Beef, Brown's Excelsior Sausages! Here was the
headquarters of Durham's Pure Leaf Lard, of Durham's Breakfast Bacon,
Durham's Canned Beef, Potted Ham, Deviled Chicken, Peerless Fertilizer!
Entering one of the Durham buildings, they found a number of other visitors
waiting; and before long there came a guide, to escort them through the
place. They make a great feature of showing strangers through the packing
plants, for it is a good advertisement. But Ponas Jokubas whispered
maliciously that the visitors did not see any more than the packers
wanted them to. They climbed a long series of stairways outside of the
building, to the top of its five or six stories. Here was the chute,
with its river of hogs, all patiently toiling upward; there was a place
for them to rest to cool off, and then through another passageway they
went into a room from which there is no returning for hogs.
It was a long, narrow room, with a gallery along it for visitors. At the
head there was a great iron wheel, about twenty feet in circumference,
with rings here and there along its edge. Upon both sides of this wheel
there was a narrow space, into which came the hogs at the end of their
journey; in the midst of them stood a great burly Negro, bare-armed and
bare-chested. He was resting for the moment, for the wheel had stopped
while men were cleaning up. In a minute or two, however, it began slowly
to revolve, and then the men upon each side of it sprang to work. They had
chains which they fastened about the leg of the nearest hog, and the other
end of the chain they hooked into one of the rings upon the wheel. So, as
the wheel turned, a hog was suddenly jerked off his feet and borne aloft.
At the same instant the car was assailed by a most terrifying shriek;
the visitors started in alarm, the women turned pale and shrank back.
The shriek was followed by another, louder and yet more agonizing--
for once started upon that journey, the hog never came back; at the
top of the wheel he was shunted off upon a trolley, and went sailing
down the room. And meantime another was swung up, and then another,
and another, until there was a double line of them, each dangling by
a foot and kicking in frenzy--and squealing. The uproar was appalling,
perilous to the eardrums; one feared there was too much sound for the room
to hold--that the walls must give way or the ceiling crack. There were
high squeals and low squeals, grunts, and wails of agony; there would
come a momentary lull, and then a fresh outburst, louder than ever,
surging up to a deafening climax. It was too much for some of the
visitors--the men would look at each other, laughing nervously, and the
women would stand with hands clenched, and the blood rushing to their
faces, and the tears starting in their eyes.
Meantime, heedless of all these things, the men upon the floor were going
about their work. Neither squeals of hogs nor tears of visitors made any
difference to them; one by one they hooked up the hogs, and one by one
with a swift stroke they slit their throats. There was a long line of hogs,
with squeals and lifeblood ebbing away together; until at last each started
again, and vanished with a splash into a huge vat of boiling water.
It was all so very businesslike that one watched it fascinated. It was
porkmaking by machinery, porkmaking by applied mathematics. And yet
somehow the most matter-of-fact person could not help thinking of the
hogs; they were so innocent, they came so very trustingly; and they were
so very human in their protests--and so perfectly within their rights!
They had done nothing to deserve it; and it was adding insult to injury,
as the thing was done here, swinging them up in this cold-blooded,
impersonal way, without a pretense of apology, without the homage of
a tear. Now and then a visitor wept, to be sure; but this slaughtering
machine ran on, visitors or no visitors. It was like some horrible crime
committed in a dungeon, all unseen and unheeded, buried out of sight and
of memory.
One could not stand and watch very long without becoming philosophical,
without beginning to deal in symbols and similes, and to hear the hog
squeal of the universe. Was it permitted to believe that there was
nowhere upon the earth, or above the earth, a heaven for hogs, where
they were requited for all this suffering? Each one of these hogs was a
separate creature. Some were white hogs, some were black; some were brown,
some were spotted; some were old, some young; some were long and lean,
some were monstrous. And each of them had an individuality of his own,
a will of his own, a hope and a heart's desire; each was full of selfconfidence,
of self-importance, and a sense of dignity. And trusting and
strong in faith he had gone about his business, the while a black shadow
hung over him and a horrid Fate waited in his pathway. Now suddenly
it had swooped upon him, and had seized him by the leg. Relentless,
remorseless, it was; all his protests, his screams, were nothing to it--
it did its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings, had simply
no existence at all; it cut his throat and watched him gasp out his life.
And now was one to believe that there was nowhere a god of hogs, to whom
this hog personality was precious, to whom these hog squeals and agonies
had a meaning? Who would take this hog into his arms and comfort him,
reward him for his work well done, and show him the meaning of his
sacrifice? Perhaps some glimpse of all this was in the thoughts of our
humble-minded Jurgis, as he turned to go on with the rest of the party,
and muttered: "Dieve--but I'm glad I'm not a hog!"
The carcass hog was scooped out of the vat by machinery, and then it
fell to the second floor, passing on the way through a wonderful machine
with numerous scrapers, which adjusted themselves to the size and shape
of the animal, and sent it out at the other end with nearly all of its
bristles removed. It was then again strung up by machinery, and sent
upon another trolley ride; this time passing between two lines of men,
who sat upon a raised platform, each doing a certain single thing to
the carcass as it came to him. One scraped the outside of a leg;
another scraped the inside of the same leg. One with a swift stroke cut
the throat; another with two swift strokes severed the head, which fell
to the floor and vanished through a hole. Another made a slit down
the body; a second opened the body wider; a third with a saw cut the
breastbone; a fourth loosened the entrails; a fifth pulled them out--
and they also slid through a hole in the floor. There were men to scrape
each side and men to scrape the back; there were men to clean the carcass
inside, to trim it and wash it. Looking down this room, one saw, creeping
slowly, a line of dangling hogs a hundred yards in length; and for every
yard there was a man, working as if a demon were after him. At the end of
this hog's progress every inch of the carcass had been gone over several
times; and then it was rolled into the chilling room, where it stayed for
twenty-four hours, and where a stranger might lose himself in a forest of
freezing hogs.
Before the carcass was admitted here, however, it had to pass a government
inspector, who sat in the doorway and felt of the glands in the neck for
tuberculosis. This government inspector did not have the manner of a man
who was worked to death; he was apparently not haunted by a fear that the
hog might get by him before he had finished his testing. If you were a
sociable person, he was quite willing to enter into conversation with you,
and to explain to you the deadly nature of the ptomaines which are found in
tubercular pork; and while he was talking with you you could hardly be so
ungrateful as to notice that a dozen carcasses were passing him untouched.
This inspector wore a blue uniform, with brass buttons, and he gave an
atmosphere of authority to the scene, and, as it were, put the stamp of
official approval upon the things which were done in Durham's.
Jurgis went down the line with the rest of the visitors, staring
openmouthed, lost in wonder. He had dressed hogs himself in the forest
of Lithuania; but he had never expected to live to see one hog dressed
by several hundred men. It was like a wonderful poem to him, and he took
it all in guilelessly--even to the conspicuous signs demanding immaculate
cleanliness of the employees. Jurgis was vexed when the cynical Jokubas
translated these signs with sarcastic comments, offering to take them to
the secret rooms where the spoiled meats went to be doctored.
The party descended to the next floor, where the various waste materials
were treated. Here came the entrails, to be scraped and washed clean for
sausage casings; men and women worked here in the midst of a sickening
stench, which caused the visitors to hasten by, gasping. To another room
came all the scraps to be "tanked," which meant boiling and pumping off
the grease to make soap and lard; below they took out the refuse, and this,
too, was a region in which the visitors did not linger. In still other
places men were engaged in cutting up the carcasses that had been through
the chilling rooms. First there were the "splitters," the most expert
workmen in the plant, who earned as high as fifty cents an hour, and did
not a thing all day except chop hogs down the middle. Then there were
"cleaver men," great giants with muscles of iron; each had two men to
attend him--to slide the half carcass in front of him on the table,
and hold it while he chopped it, and then turn each piece so that he might
chop it once more. His cleaver had a blade about two feet long, and he
never made but one cut; he made it so neatly, too, that his implement
did not smite through and dull itself--there was just enough force for a
perfect cut, and no more. So through various yawning holes there slipped
to the floor below--to one room hams, to another forequarters, to another
sides of pork. One might go down to this floor and see the pickling rooms,
where the hams were put into vats, and the great smoke rooms, with their
airtight iron doors. In other rooms they prepared salt pork--there were
whole cellars full of it, built up in great towers to the ceiling. In yet
other rooms they were putting up meats in boxes and barrels, and wrapping
hams and bacon in oiled paper, sealing and labeling and sewing them.
From the doors of these rooms went men with loaded trucks, to the platform
where freight cars were waiting to be filled; and one went out there and
realized with a start that he had come at last to the ground floor of this
enormous building.
Then the party went across the street to where they did the killing of
beef--where every hour they turned four or five hundred cattle into meat.
Unlike the place they had left, all this work was done on one floor;
and instead of there being one line of carcasses which moved to the
workmen, there were fifteen or twenty lines, and the men moved from one
to another of these. This made a scene of intense activity, a picture of
human power wonderful to watch. It was all in one great room, like a
circus amphitheater, with a gallery for visitors running over the center.
Along one side of the room ran a narrow gallery, a few feet from
the floor; into which gallery the cattle were driven by men with goads
which gave them electric shocks. Once crowded in here, the creatures
were prisoned, each in a separate pen, by gates that shut, leaving them
no room to turn around; and while they stood bellowing and plunging,
over the top of the pen there leaned one of the "knockers," armed with
a sledge hammer, and watching for a chance to deal a blow. The room
echoed with the thuds in quick succession, and the stamping and kicking
of the steers. The instant the animal had fallen, the "knocker" passed
on to another; while a second man raised a lever, and the side of the
pen was raised, and the animal, still kicking and struggling, slid out
to the "killing bed." Here a man put shackles about one leg, and pressed
another lever, and the body was jerked up into the air. There were
fifteen or twenty such pens, and it was a matter of only a couple of
minutes to knock fifteen or twenty cattle and roll them out. Then once
more the gates were opened, and another lot rushed in; and so out of
each pen there rolled a steady stream of carcasses, which the men upon
the killing beds had to get out of the way.
The manner in which they did this was something to be seen and never
forgotten. They worked with furious intensity, literally upon the run--
at a pace with which there is nothing to be compared except a football
game. It was all highly specialized labor, each man having his task
to do; generally this would consist of only two or three specific cuts,
and he would pass down the line of fifteen or twenty carcasses, making
these cuts upon each. First there came the "butcher," to bleed them;
this meant one swift stroke, so swift that you could not see it--only the
flash of the knife; and before you could realize it, the man had darted
on to the next line, and a stream of bright red was pouring out upon the
floor. This floor was half an inch deep with blood, in spite of the best
efforts of men who kept shoveling it through holes; it must have made
the floor slippery, but no one could have guessed this by watching the
men at work.
The carcass hung for a few minutes to bleed; there was no time lost,
however, for there were several hanging in each line, and one was always
ready. It was let down to the ground, and there came the "headsman,"
whose task it was to sever the head, with two or three swift strokes.
Then came the "floorsman," to make the first cut in the skin; and then
another to finish ripping the skin down the center; and then half a dozen
more in swift succession, to finish the skinning. After they were through,
the carcass was again swung up; and while a man with a stick examined the
skin, to make sure that it had not been cut, and another rolled it tip
and tumbled it through one of the inevitable holes in the floor, the beef
proceeded on its journey. There were men to cut it, and men to split it,
and men to gut it and scrape it clean inside. There were some with hose
which threw jets of boiling water upon it, and others who removed the feet
and added the final touches. In the end, as with the hogs, the finished
beef was run into the chilling room, to hang its appointed time.
The visitors were taken there and shown them, all neatly hung in rows,
labeled conspicuously with the tags of the government inspectors--and
some, which had been killed by a special process, marked with the sign
of the kosher rabbi, certifying that it was fit for sale to the orthodox.
And then the visitors were taken to the other parts of the building,
to see what became of each particle of the waste material that had
vanished through the floor; and to the pickling rooms, and the salting
rooms, the canning rooms, and the packing rooms, where choice meat was
prepared for shipping in refrigerator cars, destined to be eaten in all
the four corners of civilization. Afterward they went outside, wandering
about among the mazes of buildings in which was done the work auxiliary
to this great industry. There was scarcely a thing needed in the business
that Durham and Company did not make for themselves. There was a great
steam power plant and an electricity plant. There was a barrel factory,
and a boiler-repair shop. There was a building to which the grease was
piped, and made into soap and lard; and then there was a factory for
making lard cans, and another for making soap boxes. There was a building
in which the bristles were cleaned and dried, for the making of hair
cushions and such things; there was a building where the skins were dried
and tanned, there was another where heads and feet were made into glue,
and another where bones were made into fertilizer. No tiniest particle
of organic matter was wasted in Durham's. Out of the horns of the
cattle they made combs, buttons, hairpins, and imitation ivory; out of
the shinbones and other big bones they cut knife and toothbrush handles,
and mouthpieces for pipes; out of the hoofs they cut hairpins and
buttons, before they made the rest into glue. From such things as feet,
knuckles, hide clippings, and sinews came such strange and unlikely
products as gelatin, isinglass, and phosphorus, bone black, shoe blacking,
and bone oil. They had curled-hair works for the cattle tails, and a
"wool pullery" for the sheepskins; they made pepsin from the stomachs
of the pigs, and albumen from the blood, and violin strings from the
ill-smelling entrails. When there was nothing else to be done with
a thing, they first put it into a tank and got out of it all the tallow
and grease, and then they made it into fertilizer. All these industries
were gathered into buildings near by, connected by galleries and
railroads with the main establishment; and it was estimated that they
had handled nearly a quarter of a billion of animals since the founding
of the plant by the elder Durham a generation and more ago. If you
counted with it the other big plants--and they were now really all
one--it was, so Jokubas informed them, the greatest aggregation of labor
and capital ever gathered in one place. It employed thirty thousand men;
it suppported directly two hundred and fifty thousand people in its
neighborhood, and indirectly it supported half a million. It sent its
products to every country in the civilized world, and it furnished the
food for no less than thirty million people!
To all of these things our friends would listen openmouthed--it seemed
to them impossible of belief that anything so stupendous could have been
devised by mortal man. That was why to Jurgis it seemed almost profanity
to speak about the place as did Jokubas, skeptically; it was a thing as
tremendous as the universe--the laws and ways of its working no more than
the universe to be questioned or understood. All that a mere man could do,
it seemed to Jurgis, was to take a thing like this as he found it, and do
as he was told; to be given a place in it and a share in its wonderful
activities was a blessing to be grateful for, as one was grateful for the
sunshine and the rain. Jurgis was even glad that he had not seen the
place before meeting with his triumph, for he felt that the size of it
would have overwhelmed him. But now he had been admitted--he was a part
of it all! He had the feeling that this whole huge establishment had
taken him under its protection, and had become responsible for his welfare.
So guileless was he, and ignorant of the nature of business, that he did
not even realize that he had become an employee of Brown's, and that Brown
and Durham were supposed by all the world to be deadly rivals--were even
required to be deadly rivals by the law of the land, and ordered to try
to ruin each other under penalty of fine and imprisonment!
Chapter 4
Promptly at seven the next morning Jurgis reported for work. He came to
the door that had been pointed out to him, and there he waited for nearly
two hours. The boss had meant for him to enter, but had not said this,
and so it was only when on his way out to hire another man that he came
upon Jurgis. He gave him a good cursing, but as Jurgis did not understand
a word of it he did not object. He followed the boss, who showed him
where to put his street clothes, and waited while he donned the working
clothes he had bought in a secondhand shop and brought with him in a
bundle; then he led him to the "killing beds." The work which Jurgis was
to do here was very simple, and it took him but a few minutes to learn it.
He was provided with a stiff besom, such as is used by street sweepers,
and it was his place to follow down the line the man who drew out the
smoking entrails from the carcass of the steer; this mass was to be swept
into a trap, which was then closed, so that no one might slip into it.
As Jurgis came in, the first cattle of the morning were just making their
appearance; and so, with scarcely time to look about him, and none to
speak to any one, he fell to work. It was a sweltering day in July,
and the place ran with steaming hot blood--one waded in it on the floor.
The stench was almost overpowering, but to Jurgis it was nothing. His
whole soul was dancing with joy--he was at work at last! He was at work
and earning money! All day long he was figuring to himself. He was paid
the fabulous sum of seventeen and a half cents an hour; and as it proved
a rush day and he worked until nearly seven o'clock in the evening, he went
home to the family with the tidings that he had earned more than a dollar
and a half in a single day!
At home, also, there was more good news; so much of it at once that there
was quite a celebration in Aniele's hall bedroom. Jonas had been to have
an interview with the special policeman to whom Szedvilas had introduced
him, and had been taken to see several of the bosses, with the result that
one had promised him a job the beginning of the next week. And then there
was Marija Berczynskas, who, fired with jealousy by the success of Jurgis,
had set out upon her own responsibility to get a place. Marija had nothing
to take with her save her two brawny arms and the word "job," laboriously
learned; but with these she had marched about Packingtown all day, entering
every door where there were signs of activity. Out of some she had been
ordered with curses; but Marija was not afraid of man or devil, and asked
every one she saw--visitors and strangers, or workpeople like herself,
and once or twice even high and lofty office personages, who stared at
her as if they thought she was crazy. In the end, however, she had reaped
her reward. In one of the smaller plants she had stumbled upon a room
where scores of women and girls were sitting at long tables preparing
smoked beef in cans; and wandering through room after room, Marija came
at last to the place where the sealed cans were being painted and labeled,
and here she had the good fortune to encounter the "forelady." Marija did
not understand then, as she was destined to understand later, what there
was attractive to a "forelady" about the combination of a face full of
boundless good nature and the muscles of a dray horse; but the woman had
told her to come the next day and she would perhaps give her a chance to
learn the trade of painting cans. The painting of cans being skilled
piecework, and paying as much as two dollars a day, Marija burst in upon
the family with the yell of a Comanche Indian, and fell to capering about
the room so as to frighten the baby almost into convulsions.
Better luck than all this could hardly have been hoped for; there was only
one of them left to seek a place. Jurgis was determined that Teta Elzbieta
should stay at home to keep house, and that Ona should help her. He would
not have Ona working--he was not that sort of a man, he said, and she was
not that sort of a woman. It would be a strange thing if a man like him
could not support the family, with the help of the board of Jonas and
Marija. He would not even hear of letting the children go to work--there
were schools here in America for children, Jurgis had heard, to which
they could go for nothing. That the priest would object to these schools
was something of which he had as yet no idea, and for the present his mind
was made up that the children of Teta Elzbieta should have as fair a chance
as any other children. The oldest of them, little Stanislovas, was but
thirteen, and small for his age at that; and while the oldest son of
Szedvilas was only twelve, and had worked for over a year at Jones's, Jurgis
would have it that Stanislovas should learn to speak English, and grow up
to be a skilled man.
So there was only old Dede Antanas; Jurgis would have had him rest too,
but he was forced to acknowledge that this was not possible, and, besides,
the old man would not hear it spoken of--it was his whim to insist that
he was as lively as any boy. He had come to America as full of hope as
the best of them; and now he was the chief problem that worried his son.
For every one that Jurgis spoke to assured him that it was a waste of time
to seek employment for the old man in Packingtown. Szedvilas told him
that the packers did not even keep the men who had grown old in their
own service--to say nothing of taking on new ones. And not only was it
the rule here, it was the rule everywhere in America, so far as he knew.
To satisfy Jurgis he had asked the policeman, and brought back the message
that the thing was not to be thought of. They had not told this to old
Anthony, who had consequently spent the two days wandering about from
one part of the yards to another, and had now come home to hear about
the triumph of the others, smiling bravely and saying that it would be
his turn another day.
Their good luck, they felt, had given them the right to think about
a home; and sitting out on the doorstep that summer evening, they held
consultation about it, and Jurgis took occasion to broach a weighty
subject. Passing down the avenue to work that morning he had seen two
boys leaving an advertisement from house to house; and seeing that there
were pictures upon it, Jurgis had asked for one, and had rolled it up and
tucked it into his shirt. At noontime a man with whom he had been talking
had read it to him and told him a little about it, with the result that
Jurgis had conceived a wild idea.
He brought out the placard, which was quite a work of art. It was nearly
two feet long, printed on calendered paper, with a selection of colors so
bright that they shone even in the moonlight. The center of the placard
was occupied by a house, brilliantly painted, new, and dazzling. The roof
of it was of a purple hue, and trimmed with gold; the house itself was
silvery, and the doors and windows red. It was a two-story building, with
a porch in front, and a very fancy scrollwork around the edges; it was
complete in every tiniest detail, even the doorknob, and there was a
hammock on the porch and white lace curtains in the windows. Underneath
this, in one corner, was a picture of a husband and wife in loving embrace;
in the opposite corner was a cradle, with fluffy curtains drawn over it,
and a smiling cherub hovering upon silver-colored wings. For fear that
the significance of all this should be lost, there was a label, in Polish,
Lithuanian, and German--"Dom. Namai. Heim." "Why pay rent?" the
linguistic circular went on to demand. "Why not own your own home?
Do you know that you can buy one for less than your rent? We have built
thousands of homes which are now occupied by happy families."--So it became
eloquent, picturing the blissfulness of married life in a house with
nothing to pay. It even quoted "Home, Sweet Home," and made bold to
translate it into Polish--though for some reason it omitted the Lithuanian
of this. Perhaps the translator found it a difficult matter to be
sentimental in a language in which a sob is known as a gukcziojimas and
a smile as a nusiszypsojimas.
Over this document the family pored long, while Ona spelled out its contents.
It appeared that this house contained four rooms, besides a basement, and
that it might be bought for fifteen hundred dollars, the lot and all.
Of this, only three hundred dollars had to be paid down, the balance being
paid at the rate of twelve dollars a month. These were frightful sums,
but then they were in America, where people talked about such without fear.
They had learned that they would have to pay a rent of nine dollars a month
for a flat, and there was no way of doing better, unless the family of
twelve was to exist in one or two rooms, as at present. If they paid rent,
of course, they might pay forever, and be no better off; whereas, if they
could only meet the extra expense in the beginning, there would at last
come a time when they would not have any rent to pay for the rest of
their lives.
They figured it up. There was a little left of the money belonging to
Teta Elzbieta, and there was a little left to Jurgis. Marija had about
fifty dollars pinned up somewhere in her stockings, and Grandfather Anthony
had part of the money he had gotten for his farm. If they all combined,
they would have enough to make the first payment; and if they had
employment, so that they could be sure of the future, it might really
prove the best plan. It was, of course, not a thing even to be talked
of lightly; it was a thing they would have to sift to the bottom. And yet,
on the other hand, if they were going to make the venture, the sooner they
did it the better, for were they not paying rent all the time, and living
in a most horrible way besides? Jurgis was used to dirt--there was nothing
could scare a man who had been with a railroad gang, where one could gather
up the fleas off the floor of the sleeping room by the handful. But that
sort of thing would not do for Ona. They must have a better place of some
sort soon--Jurgis said it with all the assurance of a man who had just
made a dollar and fifty-seven cents in a single day. Jurgis was at a loss
to understand why, with wages as they were, so many of the people of this
district should live the way they did.
The next day Marija went to see her "forelady," and was told to report
the first of the week, and learn the business of can-painter. Marija went
home, singing out loud all the way, and was just in time to join Ona and
her stepmother as they were setting out to go and make inquiry concerning
the house. That evening the three made their report to the men--the thing
was altogether as represented in the circular, or at any rate so the agent
had said. The houses lay to the south, about a mile and a half from the
yards; they were wonderful bargains, the gentleman had assured them--
personally, and for their own good. He could do this, so he explained
to them, for the reason that he had himself no interest in their sale--
he was merely the agent for a company that had built them. These were
the last, and the company was going out of business, so if any one wished
to take advantage of this wonderful no-rent plan, he would have to be
very quick. As a matter of fact there was just a little uncertainty as
to whether there was a single house left; for the agent had taken so many
people to see them, and for all he knew the company might have parted with
the last. Seeing Teta Elzbieta's evident grief at this news, he added,
after some hesitation, that if they really intended to make a purchase,
he would send a telephone message at his own expense, and have one of the
houses kept. So it had finally been arranged--and they were to go and
make an inspection the following Sunday morning.
That was Thursday; and all the rest of the week the killing gang at
Brown's worked at full pressure, and Jurgis cleared a dollar seventyfive
every day. That was at the rate of ten and one-half dollars a week,
or forty-five a month. Jurgis was not able to figure, except it was a
very simple sum, but Ona was like lightning at such things, and she worked
out the problem for the family. Marija and Jonas were each to pay sixteen
dollars a month board, and the old man insisted that he could do the same
as soon as he got a place--which might be any day now. That would make
ninety-three dollars. Then Marija and Jonas were between them to take a
third share in the house, which would leave only eight dollars a month
for Jurgis to contribute to the payment. So they would have eighty-five
dollars a month--or, supposing that Dede Antanas did not get work at once,
seventy dollars a month--which ought surely to be sufficient for the
support of a family of twelve.
An hour before the time on Sunday morning the entire party set out.
They had the address written on a piece of paper, which they showed to
some one now and then. It proved to be a long mile and a half, but they
walked it, and half an hour or so later the agent put in an appearance.
He was a smooth and florid personage, elegantly dressed, and he spoke
their language freely, which gave him a great advantage in dealing with
them. He escorted them to the house, which was one of a long row of the
typical frame dwellings of the neighborhood, where architecture is a
luxury that is dispensed with. Ona's heart sank, for the house was not
as it was shown in the picture; the color scheme was different, for one
thing, and then it did not seem quite so big. Still, it was freshly
painted, and made a considerable show. It was all brand-new, so the
agent told them, but he talked so incessantly that they were quite
confused, and did not have time to ask many questions. There were all
sorts of things they had made up their minds to inquire about, but when
the time came, they either forgot them or lacked the courage. The other
houses in the row did not seem to be new, and few of them seemed to be
occupied. When they ventured to hint at this, the agent's reply was that
the purchasers would be moving in shortly. To press the matter would have
seemed to be doubting his word, and never in their lives had any one of
them ever spoken to a person of the class called "gentleman" except with
deference and humility.
The house had a basement, about two feet below the street line, and a
single story, about six feet above it, reached by a flight of steps.
In addition there was an attic, made by the peak of the roof, and having
one small window in each end. The street in front of the house was
unpaved and unlighted, and the view from it consisted of a few exactly
similar houses, scattered here and there upon lots grown up with dingy
brown weeds. The house inside contained four rooms, plastered white;
the basement was but a frame, the walls being unplastered and the floor
not laid. The agent explained that the houses were built that way, as the
purchasers generally preferred to finish the basements to suit their own
taste. The attic was also unfinished--the family had been figuring that
in case of an emergency they could rent this attic, but they found that
there was not even a floor, nothing but joists, and beneath them the lath
and plaster of the ceiling below. All of this, however, did not chill
their ardor as much as might have been expected, because of the volubility
of the agent. There was no end to the advantages of the house, as he
set them forth, and he was not silent for an instant; he showed them
everything, down to the locks on the doors and the catches on the windows,
and how to work them. He showed them the sink in the kitchen, with
running water and a faucet, something which Teta Elzbieta had never in
her wildest dreams hoped to possess. After a discovery such as that it
would have seemed ungrateful to find any fault, and so they tried to shut
their eyes to other defects.
Still, they were peasant people, and they hung on to their money by
instinct; it was quite in vain that the agent hinted at promptness--
they would see, they would see, they told him, they could not decide until
they had had more time. And so they went home again, and all day and
evening there was figuring and debating. It was an agony to them to have
to make up their minds in a matter such as this. They never could agree
all together; there were so many arguments upon each side, and one would
be obstinate, and no sooner would the rest have convinced him than it
would transpire that his arguments had caused another to waver. Once,
in the evening, when they were all in harmony, and the house was as good
as bought, Szedvilas came in and upset them again. Szedvilas had no use
for property owning. He told them cruel stories of people who had been
done to death in this "buying a home" swindle. They would be almost sure
to get into a tight place and lose all their money; and there was no end
of expense that one could never foresee; and the house might be good-fornothing
from top to bottom--how was a poor man to know? Then, too, they
would swindle you with the contract--and how was a poor man to understand
anything about a contract? It was all nothing but robbery, and there was
no safety but in keeping out of it. And pay rent? asked Jurgis. Ah, yes,
to be sure, the other answered, that too was robbery. It was all robbery,
for a poor man. After half an hour of such depressing conversation, they
had their minds quite made up that they had been saved at the brink of a
precipice; but then Szedvilas went away, and Jonas, who was a sharp little
man, reminded them that the delicatessen business was a failure, according
to its proprietor, and that this might account for his pessimistic views.
Which, of course, reopened the subject!
The controlling factor was that they could not stay where they were--they
had to go somewhere. And when they gave up the house plan and decided
to rent, the prospect of paying out nine dollars a month forever they
found just as hard to face. All day and all night for nearly a whole
week they wrestled with the problem, and then in the end Jurgis took the
responsibility. Brother Jonas had gotten his job, and was pushing a truck
in Durham's; and the killing gang at Brown's continued to work early and
late, so that Jurgis grew more confident every hour, more certain of his
mastership. It was the kind of thing the man of the family had to decide
and carry through, he told himself. Others might have failed at it, but he
was not the failing kind--he would show them how to do it. He would work
all day, and all night, too, if need be; he would never rest until the
house was paid for and his people had a home. So he told them, and so in
the end the decision was made.
They had talked about looking at more houses before they made the purchase;
but then they did not know where any more were, and they did not know any
way of finding out. The one they had seen held the sway in their thoughts;
whenever they thought of themselves in a house, it was this house that
they thought of. And so they went and told the agent that they were ready
to make the agreement. They knew, as an abstract proposition, that in
matters of business all men are to be accounted liars; but they could not
but have been influenced by all they had heard from the eloquent agent,
and were quite persuaded that the house was something they had run a risk
of losing by their delay. They drew a deep breath when he told them that
they were still in time.
They were to come on the morrow, and he would have the papers all
drawn up. This matter of papers was one in which Jurgis understood
to the full the need of caution; yet he could not go himself--every one
told him that he could not get a holiday, and that he might lose his job
by asking. So there was nothing to be done but to trust it to the women,
with Szedvilas, who promised to go with them. Jurgis spent a whole
evening impressing upon them the seriousness of the occasion--and then
finally, out of innumerable hiding places about their persons and in their
baggage, came forth the precious wads of money, to be done up tightly in a
little bag and sewed fast in the lining of Teta Elzbieta's dress.
Early in the morning they sallied forth. Jurgis had given them so many
instructions and warned them against so many perils, that the women were
quite pale with fright, and even the imperturbable delicatessen vender,
who prided himself upon being a businessman, was ill at ease. The agent
had the deed all ready, and invited them to sit down and read it; this
Szedvilas proceeded to do--a painful and laborious process, during which
the agent drummed upon the desk. Teta Elzbieta was so embarrassed that
the perspiration came out upon her forehead in beads; for was not this
reading as much as to say plainly to the gentleman's face that they
doubted his honesty? Yet Jokubas Szedvilas read on and on; and presently
there developed that he had good reason for doing so. For a horrible
suspicion had begun dawning in his mind; he knitted his brows more and
more as he read. This was not a deed of sale at all, so far as he could
see--it provided only for the renting of the property! It was hard to
tell, with all this strange legal jargon, words he had never heard before;
but was not this plain--"the party of the first part hereby covenants and
agrees to rent to the said party of the second part!" And then again--
"a monthly rental of twelve dollars, for a period of eight years and four
months!" Then Szedvilas took off his spectacles, and looked at the agent,
and stammered a question.
The agent was most polite, and explained that that was the usual formula;
that it was always arranged that the property should be merely rented.
He kept trying to show them something in the next paragraph; but Szedvilas
could not get by the word "rental"--and when he translated it to Teta
Elzbieta, she too was thrown into a fright. They would not own the home
at all, then, for nearly nine years! The agent, with infinite patience,
began to explain again; but no explanation would do now. Elzbieta had
firmly fixed in her mind the last solemn warning of Jurgis: "If there is
anything wrong, do not give him the money, but go out and get a lawyer."
It was an agonizing moment, but she sat in the chair, her hands clenched
like death, and made a fearful effort, summoning all her powers, and gasped
out her purpose.
Jokubas translated her words. She expected the agent to fly into a
passion, but he was, to her bewilderment, as ever imperturbable; he even
offered to go and get a lawyer for her, but she declined this. They went
a long way, on purpose to find a man who would not be a confederate.
Then let any one imagine their dismay, when, after half an hour, they
came in with a lawyer, and heard him greet the agent by his first name!
They felt that all was lost; they sat like prisoners summoned to hear
the reading of their death warrant. There was nothing more that they
could do--they were trapped! The lawyer read over the deed, and when
he had read it he informed Szedvilas that it was all perfectly regular,
that the deed was a blank deed such as was often used in these sales.
And was the price as agreed? the old man asked--three hundred dollars
down, and the balance at twelve dollars a month, till the total of
fifteen hundred dollars had been paid? Yes, that was correct. And it
was for the sale of such and such a house--the house and lot and everything?
Yes,--and the lawyer showed him where that was all written. And it was
all perfectly regular--there were no tricks about it of any sort? They
were poor people, and this was all they had in the world, and if there
was anything wrong they would be ruined. And so Szedvilas went on,
asking one trembling question after another, while the eyes of the women
folks were fixed upon him in mute agony. They could not understand what
he was saying, but they knew that upon it their fate depended. And when
at last he had questioned until there was no more questioning to be done,
and the time came for them to make up their minds, and either close the
bargain or reject it, it was all that poor Teta Elzbieta could do to keep
from bursting into tears. Jokubas had asked her if she wished to sign;
he had asked her twice--and what could she say? How did she know if this
lawyer were telling the truth--that he was not in the conspiracy? And yet,
how could she say so--what excuse could she give? The eyes of every one
in the room were upon her, awaiting her decision; and at last, half blind
with her tears, she began fumbling in her jacket, where she had pinned the
precious money. And she brought it out and unwrapped it before the men.
All of this Ona sat watching, from a corner of the room, twisting her
hands together, meantime, in a fever of fright. Ona longed to cry out
and tell her stepmother to stop, that it was all a trap; but there seemed
to be something clutching her by the throat, and she could not make a sound.
And so Teta Elzbieta laid the money on the table, and the agent picked it
up and counted it, and then wrote them a receipt for it and passed them
the deed. Then he gave a sigh of satisfaction, and rose and shook hands
with them all, still as smooth and polite as at the beginning. Ona had
a dim recollection of the lawyer telling Szedvilas that his charge was a
dollar, which occasioned some debate, and more agony; and then, after they
had paid that, too, they went out into the street, her stepmother clutching
the deed in her hand. They were so weak from fright that they could not
walk, but had to sit down on the way.
So they went home, with a deadly terror gnawing at their souls; and that
evening Jurgis came home and heard their story, and that was the end.
Jurgis was sure that they had been swindled, and were ruined; and he
tore his hair and cursed like a madman, swearing that he would kill
the agent that very night. In the end he seized the paper and rushed
out of the house, and all the way across the yards to Halsted Street.
He dragged Szedvilas out from his supper, and together they rushed to
consult another lawyer. When they entered his office the lawyer sprang up,
for Jurgis looked like a crazy person, with flying hair and bloodshot eyes.
His companion explained the situation, and the lawyer took the paper and
began to read it, while Jurgis stood clutching the desk with knotted hands,
trembling in every nerve.
Once or twice the lawyer looked up and asked a question of Szedvilas;
the other did not know a word that he was saying, but his eyes were
fixed upon the lawyer's face, striving in an agony of dread to read
his mind. He saw the lawyer look up and laugh, and he gave a gasp;
the man said something to Szedvilas, and Jurgis turned upon his friend,
his heart almost stopping.
"Well?" he panted.
"He says it is all right," said Szedvilas.
"All right!"
"Yes, he says it is just as it should be." And Jurgis, in his relief,
sank down into a chair.
"Are you sure of it?" he gasped, and made Szedvilas translate question
after question. He could not hear it often enough; he could not ask
with enough variations. Yes, they had bought the house, they had really
bought it. It belonged to them, they had only to pay the money and it
would be all right. Then Jurgis covered his face with his hands, for
there were tears in his eyes, and he felt like a fool. But he had had
such a horrible fright; strong man as he was, it left him almost too weak
to stand up.
The lawyer explained that the rental was a form--the property was said
to be merely rented until the last payment had been made, the purpose
being to make it easier to turn the party out if he did not make the
payments. So long as they paid, however, they had nothing to fear, the
house was all theirs.
Jurgis was so grateful that he paid the half dollar the lawyer asked
without winking an eyelash, and then rushed home to tell the news to
the family. He found Ona in a faint and the babies screaming, and the
whole house in an uproar--for it had been believed by all that he had
gone to murder the agent. It was hours before the excitement could be
calmed; and all through that cruel night Jurgis would wake up now and
then and hear Ona and her stepmother in the next room, sobbing softly
to themselves.
Chapter 5
They had bought their home. It was hard for them to realize that the
wonderful house was theirs to move into whenever they chose. They spent
all their time thinking about it, and what they were going to put into it.
As their week with Aniele was up in three days, they lost no time in
getting ready. They had to make some shift to furnish it, and every
instant of their leisure was given to discussing this.
A person who had such a task before him would not need to look very far
in Packingtown--he had only to walk up the avenue and read the signs,
or get into a streetcar, to obtain full information as to pretty much
everything a human creature could need. It was quite touching, the
zeal of people to see that his health and happiness were provided for.
Did the person wish to smoke? There was a little discourse about cigars,
showing him exactly why the Thomas Jefferson Five-cent Perfecto was the
only cigar worthy of the name. Had he, on the other hand, smoked too much?
Here was a remedy for the smoking habit, twenty-five doses for a quarter,
and a cure absolutely guaranteed in ten doses. In innumerable ways such
as this, the traveler found that somebody had been busied to make smooth
his paths through the world, and to let him know what had been done for him.
In Packingtown the advertisements had a style all of their own, adapted to
the peculiar population. One would be tenderly solicitous. "Is your wife
pale?" it would inquire. "Is she discouraged, does she drag herself about
the house and find fault with everything? Why do you not tell her to try
Dr. Lanahan's Life Preservers?" Another would be jocular in tone,
slapping you on the back, so to speak. "Don't be a chump!" it would
exclaim. "Go and get the Goliath Bunion Cure." "Get a move on you!"
would chime in another. "It's easy, if you wear the Eureka Two-fifty Shoe."
Among these importunate signs was one that had caught the attention of
the family by its pictures. It showed two very pretty little birds
building themselves a home; and Marija had asked an acquaintance to read
it to her, and told them that it related to the furnishing of a house.
"Feather your nest," it ran--and went on to say that it could furnish
all the necessary feathers for a four-room nest for the ludicrously
small sum of seventy-five dollars. The particularly important thing
about this offer was that only a small part of the money need be had
at once--the rest one might pay a few dollars every month. Our friends
had to have some furniture, there was no getting away from that; but their
little fund of money had sunk so low that they could hardly get to sleep
at night, and so they fled to this as their deliverance. There was more
agony and another paper for Elzbieta to sign, and then one night when
Jurgis came home, he was told the breathless tidings that the furniture
had arrived and was safely stowed in the house: a parlor set of four
pieces, a bedroom set of three pieces, a dining room table and four
chairs, a toilet set with beautiful pink roses painted all over it,
an assortment of crockery, also with pink roses--and so on. One of
the plates in the set had been found broken when they unpacked it,
and Ona was going to the store the first thing in the morning to make
them change it; also they had promised three saucepans, and there had
only two come, and did Jurgis think that they were trying to cheat them?
The next day they went to the house; and when the men came from work
they ate a few hurried mouthfuls at Aniele's, and then set to work at
the task of carrying their belongings to their new home. The distance
was in reality over two miles, but Jurgis made two trips that night,
each time with a huge pile of mattresses and bedding on his head,
with bundles of clothing and bags and things tied up inside. Anywhere
else in Chicago he would have stood a good chance of being arrested;
but the policemen in Packingtown were apparently used to these informal
movings, and contented themselves with a cursory examination now and then.
It was quite wonderful to see how fine the house looked, with all the
things in it, even by the dim light of a lamp: it was really home,
and almost as exciting as the placard had described it. Ona was fairly
dancing, and she and Cousin Marija took Jurgis by the arm and escorted
him from room to room, sitting in each chair by turns, and then insisting
that he should do the same. One chair squeaked with his great weight,
and they screamed with fright, and woke the baby and brought everybody
running. Altogether it was a great day; and tired as they were, Jurgis
and Ona sat up late, contented simply to hold each other and gaze in
rapture about the room. They were going to be married as soon as they
could get everything settled, and a little spare money put by; and this
was to be their home--that little room yonder would be theirs!
It was in truth a never-ending delight, the fixing up of this house.
They had no money to spend for the pleasure of spending, but there were
a few absolutely necessary things, and the buying of these was a perpetual
adventure for Ona. It must always be done at night, so that Jurgis
could go along; and even if it were only a pepper cruet, or half a dozen
glasses for ten cents, that was enough for an expedition. On Saturday
night they came home with a great basketful of things, and spread them
out on the table, while every one stood round, and the children climbed
up on the chairs, or howled to be lifted up to see. There were sugar
and salt and tea and crackers, and a can of lard and a milk pail, and a
scrubbing brush, and a pair of shoes for the second oldest boy, and a can
of oil, and a tack hammer, and a pound of nails. These last were to be
driven into the walls of the kitchen and the bedrooms, to hang things on;
and there was a family discussion as to the place where each one was to
be driven. Then Jurgis would try to hammer, and hit his fingers because
the hammer was too small, and get mad because Ona had refused to let him
pay fifteen cents more and get a bigger hammer; and Ona would be invited
to try it herself, and hurt her thumb, and cry out, which necessitated the
thumb's being kissed by Jurgis. Finally, after every one had had a try,
the nails would be driven, and something hung up. Jurgis had come home
with a big packing box on his head, and he sent Jonas to get another that
he had bought. He meant to take one side out of these tomorrow, and put
shelves in them, and make them into bureaus and places to keep things for
the bedrooms. The nest which had been advertised had not included feathers
for quite so many birds as there were in this family.
They had, of course, put their dining table in the kitchen, and the
dining room was used as the bedroom of Teta Elzbieta and five of her
children. She and the two youngest slept in the only bed, and the
other three had a mattress on the floor. Ona and her cousin dragged a
mattress into the parlor and slept at night, and the three men and the
oldest boy slept in the other room, having nothing but the very level
floor to rest on for the present. Even so, however, they slept soundly--
it was necessary for Teta Elzbieta to pound more than once on the at a
quarter past five every morning. She would have ready a great pot full
of steaming black coffee, and oatmeal and bread and smoked sausages;
and then she would fix them their dinner pails with more thick slices
of bread with lard between them--they could not afford butter--and some
onions and a piece of cheese, and so they would tramp away to work.
This was the first time in his life that he had ever really worked,
it seemed to Jurgis; it was the first time that he had ever had anything
to do which took all he had in him. Jurgis had stood with the rest up
in the gallery and watched the men on the killing beds, marveling at their
speed and power as if they had been wonderful machines; it somehow never
occurred to one to think of the flesh-and-blood side of it--that is, not
until he actually got down into the pit and took off his coat. Then he saw
things in a different light, he got at the inside of them. The pace they
set here, it was one that called for every faculty of a man--from the
instant the first steer fell till the sounding of the noon whistle, and
again from half-past twelve till heaven only knew what hour in the late
afternoon or evening, there was never one instant's rest for a man, for his
hand or his eye or his brain. Jurgis saw how they managed it; there were
portions of the work which determined the pace of the rest, and for these
they had picked men whom they paid high wages, and whom they changed
frequently. You might easily pick out these pacemakers, for they worked
under the eye of the bosses, and they worked like men possessed. This was
called "speeding up the gang," and if any man could not keep up with the
pace, there were hundreds outside begging to try.
Yet Jurgis did not mind it; he rather enjoyed it. It saved him the
necessity of flinging his arms about and fidgeting as he did in most work.
He would laugh to himself as he ran down the line, darting a glance now
and then at the man ahead of him. It was not the pleasantest work one
could think of, but it was necessary work; and what more had a man the
right to ask than a chance to do something useful, and to get good pay
for doing it?
So Jurgis thought, and so he spoke, in his bold, free way; very much
to his surprise, he found that it had a tendency to get him into trouble.
For most of the men here took a fearfully different view of the thing.
He was quite dismayed when he first began to find it out--that most of
the men hated their work. It seemed strange, it was even terrible, when
you came to find out the universality of the sentiment; but it was
certainly the fact--they hated their work. They hated the bosses and
they hated the owners; they hated the whole place, the whole neighborhood--
even the whole city, with an all-inclusive hatred, bitter and fierce.
Women and little children would fall to cursing about it; it was rotten,
rotten as hell--everything was rotten. When Jurgis would ask them what
they meant, they would begin to get suspicious, and content themselves
with saying, "Never mind, you stay here and see for yourself."
One of the first problems that Jurgis ran upon was that of the unions.
He had had no experience with unions, and he had to have it explained
to him that the men were banded together for the purpose of fighting
for their rights. Jurgis asked them what they meant by their rights,
a question in which he was quite sincere, for he had not any idea of any
rights that he had, except the right to hunt for a job, and do as he was
told when he got it. Generally, however, this harmless question would
only make his fellow workingmen lose their tempers and call him a fool.
There was a delegate of the butcher-helpers' union who came to see Jurgis
to enroll him; and when Jurgis found that this meant that he would have
to part with some of his money, he froze up directly, and the delegate,
who was an Irishman and only knew a few words of Lithuanian, lost his
temper and began to threaten him. In the end Jurgis got into a fine rage,
and made it sufficiently plain that it would take more than one Irishman
to scare him into a union. Little by little he gathered that the main
thing the men wanted was to put a stop to the habit of "speeding-up";
they were trying their best to force a lessening of the pace, for there
were some, they said, who could not keep up with it, whom it was killing.
But Jurgis had no sympathy with such ideas as this--he could do the work
himself, and so could the rest of them, he declared, if they were good
for anything. If they couldn't do it, let them go somewhere else.
Jurgis had not studied the books, and he would not have known how to
pronounce "laissez faire"; but he had been round the world enough to know
that a man has to shift for himself in it, and that if he gets the worst
of it, there is nobody to listen to him holler.
Yet there have been known to be philosophers and plain men who swore by
Malthus in the books, and would, nevertheless, subscribe to a relief fund
in time of a famine. It was the same with Jurgis, who consigned the
unfit to destruction, while going about all day sick at heart because of
his poor old father, who was wandering somewhere in the yards begging for
a chance to earn his bread. Old Antanas had been a worker ever since he
was a child; he had run away from home when he was twelve, because his
father beat him for trying to learn to read. And he was a faithful man,
too; he was a man you might leave alone for a month, if only you had made
him understand what you wanted him to do in the meantime. And now here
he was, worn out in soul and body, and with no more place in the world
than a sick dog. He had his home, as it happened, and some one who would
care for him it he never got a job; but his son could not help thinking,
suppose this had not been the case. Antanas Rudkus had been into every
building in Packingtown by this time, and into nearly every room; he had
stood mornings among the crowd of applicants till the very policemen had
come to know his face and to tell him to go home and give it up. He had
been likewise to all the stores and saloons for a mile about, begging
for some little thing to do; and everywhere they had ordered him out,
sometimes with curses, and not once even stopping to ask him a question.
So, after all, there was a crack in the fine structure of Jurgis' faith
in things as they are. The crack was wide while Dede Antanas was hunting
a job--and it was yet wider when he finally got it. For one evening the
old man came home in a great state of excitement, with the tale that he
had been approached by a man in one of the corridors of the pickle rooms
of Durham's, and asked what he would pay to get a job. He had not known
what to make of this at first; but the man had gone on with matter-of-fact
frankness to say that he could get him a job, provided that he were
willing to pay one-third of his wages for it. Was he a boss? Antanas
had asked; to which the man had replied that that was nobody's business,
but that he could do what he said.
Jurgis had made some friends by this time, and he sought one of them and
asked what this meant. The friend, who was named Tamoszius Kuszleika,
was a sharp little man who folded hides on the killing beds, and he
listened to what Jurgis had to say without seeming at all surprised.
They were common enough, he said, such cases of petty graft. It was
simply some boss who proposed to add a little to his income. After Jurgis
had been there awhile he would know that the plants were simply honeycombed
with rottenness of that sort--the bosses grafted off the men, and they
grafted off each other; and some day the superintendent would find out
about the boss, and then he would graft off the boss. Warming to the
subject, Tamoszius went on to explain the situation. Here was Durham's,
for instance, owned by a man who was trying to make as much money out
of it as he could, and did not care in the least how he did it; and
underneath him, ranged in ranks and grades like an army, were managers
and superintendents and foremen, each one driving the man next below
him and trying to squeeze out of him as much work as possible. And all
the men of the same rank were pitted against each other; the accounts
of each were kept separately, and every man lived in terror of losing
his job, if another made a better record than he. So from top to bottom
the place was simply a seething caldron of jealousies and hatreds; there
was no loyalty or decency anywhere about it, there was no place in it
where a man counted for anything against a dollar. And worse than there
being no decency, there was not even any honesty. The reason for that?
Who could say? It must have been old Durham in the beginning; it was a
heritage which the self-made merchant had left to his son, along with
his millions.
Jurgis would find out these things for himself, if he stayed there long
enough; it was the men who had to do all the dirty jobs, and so there
was no deceiving them; and they caught the spirit of the place, and did
like all the rest. Jurgis had come there, and thought he was going to
make himself useful, and rise and become a skilled man; but he would soon
find out his error--for nobody rose in Packingtown by doing good work.
You could lay that down for a rule--if you met a man who was rising in
Packingtown, you met a knave. That man who had been sent to Jurgis'
father by the boss, he would rise; the man who told tales and spied upon
his fellows would rise; but the man who minded his own business and did his
work--why, they would "speed him up" till they had worn him out, and then
they would throw him into the gutter.
Jurgis went home with his head buzzing. Yet he could not bring himself
to believe such things--no, it could not be so. Tamoszius was simply
another of the grumblers. He was a man who spent all his time fiddling;
and he would go to parties at night and not get home till sunrise,
and so of course he did not feel like work. Then, too, he was a puny
little chap; and so he had been left behind in the race, and that was
why he was sore. And yet so many strange things kept coming to Jurgis'
notice every day!
He tried to persuade his father to have nothing to do with the offer.
But old Antanas had begged until he was worn out, and all his courage
was gone; he wanted a job, any sort of a job. So the next day he went
and found the man who had spoken to him, and promised to bring him
a third of all he earned; and that same day he was put to work in Durham's
cellars. It was a "pickle room," where there was never a dry spot to
stand upon, and so he had to take nearly the whole of his first week's
earnings to buy him a pair of heavy-soled boots. He was a "squeedgie" man;
his job was to go about all day with a long-handled mop, swabbing up the
floor. Except that it was damp and dark, it was not an unpleasant job,
in summer.
Now Antanas Rudkus was the meekest man that God ever put on earth; and so
Jurgis found it a striking confirmation of what the men all said, that
his father had been at work only two days before he came home as bitter
as any of them, and cursing Durham's with all the power of his soul.
For they had set him to cleaning out the traps; and the family sat round
and listened in wonder while he told them what that meant. It seemed
that he was working in the room where the men prepared the beef for
canning, and the beef had lain in vats full of chemicals, and men with
great forks speared it out and dumped it into trucks, to be taken to
the cooking room. When they had speared out all they could reach, they
emptied the vat on the floor, and then with shovels scraped up the
balance and dumped it into the truck. This floor was filthy, yet they
set Antanas with his mop slopping the "pickle" into a hole that
connected with a sink, where it was caught and used over again forever;
and if that were not enough, there was a trap in the pipe, where all the
scraps of meat and odds and ends of refuse were caught, and every few
days it was the old man's task to clean these out, and shovel their
contents into one of the trucks with the rest of the meat!
This was the experience of Antanas; and then there came also Jonas and
Marija with tales to tell. Marija was working for one of the independent
packers, and was quite beside herself and outrageous with triumph over
the sums of money she was making as a painter of cans. But one day she
walked home with a pale-faced little woman who worked opposite to her,
Jadvyga Marcinkus by name, and Jadvyga told her how she, Marija, had
chanced to get her job. She had taken the place of an Irishwoman who
had been working in that factory ever since any one could remember.
For over fifteen years, so she declared. Mary Dennis was her name,
and a long time ago she had been seduced, and had a little boy; he was
a cripple, and an epileptic, but still he was all that she had in the
world to love, and they had lived in a little room alone somewhere back
of Halsted Street, where the Irish were. Mary had had consumption,
and all day long you might hear her coughing as she worked; of late
she had been going all to pieces, and when Marija came, the "forelady"
had suddenly decided to turn her off. The forelady had to come up to
a certain standard herself, and could not stop for sick people, Jadvyga
explained. The fact that Mary had been there so long had not made any
difference to her--it was doubtful if she even knew that, for both the
forelady and the superintendent were new people, having only been there
two or three years themselves. Jadvyga did not know what had become of
the poor creature; she would have gone to see her, but had been sick
herself. She had pains in her back all the time, Jadvyga explained,
and feared that she had womb trouble. It was not fit work for a woman,
handling fourteen-pound cans all day.
It was a striking circumstance that Jonas, too, had gotten his job by the
misfortune of some other person. Jonas pushed a truck loaded with hams
from the smoke rooms on to an elevator, and thence to the packing rooms.
The trucks were all of iron, and heavy, and they put about threescore hams
on each of them, a load of more than a quarter of a ton. On the uneven
floor it was a task for a man to start one of these trucks, unless he was
a giant; and when it was once started he naturally tried his best to keep
it going. There was always the boss prowling about, and if there was a
second's delay he would fall to cursing; Lithuanians and Slovaks and such,
who could not understand what was said to them, the bosses were wont to
kick about the place like so many dogs. Therefore these trucks went for
the most part on the run; and the predecessor of Jonas had been jammed
against the wall by one and crushed in a horrible and nameless manner.
All of these were sinister incidents; but they were trifles compared to
what Jurgis saw with his own eyes before long. One curious thing he had
noticed, the very first day, in his profession of shoveler of guts; which
was the sharp trick of the floor bosses whenever there chanced to come
a "slunk" calf. Any man who knows anything about butchering knows that
the flesh of a cow that is about to calve, or has just calved, is not fit
for food. A good many of these came every day to the packing houses--and,
of course, if they had chosen, it would have been an easy matter for the
packers to keep them till they were fit for food. But for the saving of
time and fodder, it was the law that cows of that sort came along with
the others, and whoever noticed it would tell the boss, and the boss would
start up a conversation with the government inspector, and the two would
stroll away. So in a trice the carcass of the cow would be cleaned out,
and entrails would have vanished; it was Jurgis' task to slide them
into the trap, calves and all, and on the floor below they took out
these "slunk" calves, and butchered them for meat, and used even the skins
of them.
One day a man slipped and hurt his leg; and that afternoon, when the
last of the cattle had been disposed of, and the men were leaving,
Jurgis was ordered to remain and do some special work which this injured
man had usually done. It was late, almost dark, and the government
inspectors had all gone, and there were only a dozen or two of men on
the floor. That day they had killed about four thousand cattle, and these
cattle had come in freight trains from far states, and some of them had
got hurt. There were some with broken legs, and some with gored sides;
there were some that had died, from what cause no one could say; and they
were all to be disposed of, here in darkness and silence. "Downers," the
men called them; and the packing house had a special elevator upon which
they were raised to the killing beds, where the gang proceeded to handle
them, with an air of businesslike nonchalance which said plainer than
any words that it was a matter of everyday routine. It took a couple of
hours to get them out of the way, and in the end Jurgis saw them go into
the chilling rooms with the rest of the meat, being carefully scattered
here and there so that they could not be identified. When he came home
that night he was in a very somber mood, having begun to see at last
how those might be right who had laughed at him for his faith in America.
Chapter 6
Jurgis and Ona were very much in love; they had waited a long time--
it was now well into the second year, and Jurgis judged everything by
the criterion of its helping or hindering their union. All his thoughts
were there; he accepted the family because it was a part of Ona. And he
was interested in the house because it was to be Ona's home. Even the
tricks and cruelties he saw at Durham's had little meaning for him just
then, save as they might happen to affect his future with Ona.
The marriage would have been at once, if they had had their way;
but this would mean that they would have to do without any wedding
feast, and when they suggested this they came into conflict with the
old people. To Teta Elzbieta especially the very suggestion was an
affliction. What! she would cry. To be married on the roadside like
a parcel of beggars! No! No!--Elzbieta had some traditions behind her;
she had been a person of importance in her girlhood--had lived on a big
estate and had servants, and might have married well and been a lady,
but for the fact that there had been nine daughters and no sons in the
family. Even so, however, she knew what was decent, and clung to her
traditions with desperation. They were not going to lose all caste,
even if they had come to be unskilled laborers in Packingtown; and that
Ona had even talked of omitting a Yeselija was enough to keep her
stepmother lying awake all night. It was in vain for them to say that
they had so few friends; they were bound to have friends in time, and then
the friends would talk about it. They must not give up what was right
for a little money--if they did, the money would never do them any good,
they could depend upon that. And Elzbieta would call upon Dede Antanas
to support her; there was a fear in the souls of these two, lest this
journey to a new country might somehow undermine the old home virtues of
their children. The very first Sunday they had all been taken to mass;
and poor as they were, Elzbieta had felt it advisable to invest a little
of her resources in a representation of the babe of Bethlehem, made in
plaster, and painted in brilliant colors. Though it was only a foot high,
there was a shrine with four snow-white steeples, and the Virgin standing
with her child in her arms, and the kings and shepherds and wise men
bowing down before him. It had cost fifty cents; but Elzbieta had a
feeling that money spent for such things was not to be counted too
closely, it would come back in hidden ways. The piece was beautiful
on the parlor mantel, and one could not have a home without some sort
of ornament.
The cost of the wedding feast would, of course, be returned to them;
but the problem was to raise it even temporarily. They had been in
the neighborhood so short a time that they could not get much credit,
and there was no one except Szedvilas from whom they could borrow even
a little. Evening after evening Jurgis and Ona would sit and figure the
expenses, calculating the term of their separation. They could not
possibly manage it decently for less than two hundred dollars, and even
though they were welcome to count in the whole of the earnings of Marija
and Jonas, as a loan, they could not hope to raise this sum in less than
four or five months. So Ona began thinking of seeking employment herself,
saying that if she had even ordinarily good luck, she might be able to
take two months off the time. They were just beginning to adjust
themselves to this necessity, when out of the clear sky there fell a
thunderbolt upon them--a calamity that scattered all their hopes to the
four winds.
About a block away from them there lived another Lithuanian family,
consisting of an elderly widow and one grown son; their name was
Majauszkis, and our friends struck up an acquaintance with them before
long. One evening they came over for a visit, and naturally the first
subject upon which the conversation turned was the neighborhood and its
history; and then Grandmother Majauszkiene, as the old lady was called,
proceeded to recite to them a string of horrors that fairly froze their
blood. She was a wrinkled-up and wizened personage--she must have been
eighty--and as she mumbled the grim story through her toothless gums,
she seemed a very old witch to them. Grandmother Majauszkiene had lived
in the midst of misfortune so long that it had come to be her element,
and she talked about starvation, sickness, and death as other people
might about weddings and holidays.
The thing came gradually. In the first place as to the house they had
bought, it was not new at all, as they had supposed; it was about fifteen
years old, and there was nothing new upon it but the paint, which was so
bad that it needed to be put on new every year or two. The house was one
of a whole row that was built by a company which existed to make money
by swindling poor people. The family had paid fifteen hundred dollars
for it, and it had not cost the builders five hundred, when it was new.
Grandmother Majauszkiene knew that because her son belonged to a political
organization with a contractor who put up exactly such houses. They used
the very flimsiest and cheapest material; they built the houses a dozen
at a time, and they cared about nothing at all except the outside shine.
The family could take her word as to the trouble they would have, for she
had been through it all--she and her son had bought their house in exactly
the same way. They had fooled the company, however, for her son was a
skilled man, who made as high as a hundred dollars a month, and as he had
had sense enough not to marry, they had been able to pay for the house.
Grandmother Majauszkiene saw that her friends were puzzled at this remark;
they did not quite see how paying for the house was "fooling the company."
Evidently they were very inexperienced. Cheap as the houses were, they
were sold with the idea that the people who bought them would not be able
to pay for them. When they failed--if it were only by a single month--
they would lose the house and all that they had paid on it, and then
the company would sell it over again. And did they often get a chance
to do that? Dieve! (Grandmother Majauszkiene raised her hands.) They did
it--how often no one could say, but certainly more than half of the time.
They might ask any one who knew anything at all about Packingtown as to
that; she had been living here ever since this house was built, and she
could tell them all about it. And had it ever been sold before?
Susimilkie! Why, since it had been built, no less than four families
that their informant could name had tried to buy it and failed. She would
tell them a little about it.
The first family had been Germans. The families had all been of different
nationalities--there had been a representative of several races that had
displaced each other in the stockyards. Grandmother Majauszkiene had
come to America with her son at a time when so far as she knew there was
only one other Lithuanian family in the district; the workers had all
been Germans then--skilled cattle butchers that the packers had brought
from abroad to start the business. Afterward, as cheaper labor had come,
these Germans had moved away. The next were the Irish--there had been
six or eight years when Packingtown had been a regular Irish city.
There were a few colonies of them still here, enough to run all the
unions and the police force and get all the graft; but most of those
who were working in the packing houses had gone away at the next drop
in wages--after the big strike. The Bohemians had come then, and after
them the Poles. People said that old man Durham himself was responsible
for these immigrations; he had sworn that he would fix the people of
Packingtown so that they would never again call a strike on him, and so
he had sent his agents into every city and village in Europe to spread
the tale of the chances of work and high wages at the stockyards.
The people had come in hordes; and old Durham had squeezed them tighter
and tighter, speeding them up and grinding them to pieces and sending
for new ones. The Poles, who had come by tens of thousands, had been
driven to the wall by the Lithuanians, and now the Lithuanians were
giving way to the Slovaks. Who there was poorer and more miserable than
the Slovaks, Grandmother Majauszkiene had no idea, but the packers would
find them, never fear. It was easy to bring them, for wages were really
much higher, and it was only when it was too late that the poor people
found out that everything else was higher too. They were like rats in
a trap, that was the truth; and more of them were piling in every day.
By and by they would have their revenge, though, for the thing was
getting beyond human endurance, and the people would rise and murder
the packers. Grandmother Majauszkiene was a socialist, or some such
strange thing; another son of hers was working in the mines of Siberia,
and the old lady herself had made speeches in her time--which made her
seem all the more terrible to her present auditors.
They called her back to the story of the house. The German family
had been a good sort. To be sure there had been a great many of them,
which was a common failing in Packingtown; but they had worked hard,
and the father had been a steady man, and they had a good deal more
than half paid for the house. But he had been killed in an elevator
accident in Durham's.
Then there had come the Irish, and there had been lots of them, too;
the husband drank and beat the children--the neighbors could hear them
shrieking any night. They were behind with their rent all the time,
but the company was good to them; there was some politics back of that,
Grandmother Majauszkiene could not say just what, but the Laffertys
had belonged to the "War Whoop League," which was a sort of political
club of all the thugs and rowdies in the district; and if you belonged
to that, you could never be arrested for anything. Once upon a time
old Lafferty had been caught with a gang that had stolen cows from
several of the poor people of the neighborhood and butchered them in
an old shanty back of the yards and sold them. He had been in jail only
three days for it, and had come out laughing, and had not even lost his
place in the packing house. He had gone all to ruin with the drink,
however, and lost his power; one of his sons, who was a good man,
had kept him and the family up for a year or two, but then he had got
sick with consumption.
That was another thing, Grandmother Majauszkiene interrupted herself--
this house was unlucky. Every family that lived in it, some one was
sure to get consumption. Nobody could tell why that was; there must
be something about the house, or the way it was built--some folks said
it was because the building had been begun in the dark of the moon.
There were dozens of houses that way in Packingtown. Sometimes there
would be a particular room that you could point out--if anybody slept
in that room he was just as good as dead. With this house it had been
the Irish first; and then a Bohemian family had lost a child of it--
though, to be sure, that was uncertain, since it was hard to tell what
was the matter with children who worked in the yards. In those days
there had been no law about the age of children--the packers had worked
all but the babies. At this remark the family looked puzzled, and
Grandmother Majauszkiene again had to make an explanation--that it was
against the law for children to work before they were sixteen. What was
the sense of that? they asked. They had been thinking of letting little
Stanislovas go to work. Well, there was no need to worry, Grandmother
Majauszkiene said--the law made no difference except that it forced
people to lie about the ages of their children. One would like to know
what the lawmakers expected them to do; there were families that had no
possible means of support except the children, and the law provided them
no other way of getting a living. Very often a man could get no work in
Packingtown for months, while a child could go and get a place easily;
there was always some new machine, by which the packers could get as
much work out of a child as they had been able to get out of a man,
and for a third of the pay.
To come back to the house again, it was the woman of the next family
that had died. That was after they had been there nearly four years,
and this woman had had twins regularly every year--and there had been
more than you could count when they moved in. After she died the man
would go to work all day and leave them to shift for themselves--the
neighbors would help them now and then, for they would almost freeze
to death. At the end there were three days that they were alone,
before it was found out that the father was dead. He was a "floorsman"
at Jones's, and a wounded steer had broken loose and mashed him against
a pillar. Then the children had been taken away, and the company had
sold the house that very same week to a party of emigrants.
So this grim old women went on with her tale of horrors. How much
of it was exaggeration--who could tell? It was only too plausible.
There was that about consumption, for instance. They knew nothing about
consumption whatever, except that it made people cough; and for two weeks
they had been worrying about a coughing-spell of Antanas. It seemed to
shake him all over, and it never stopped; you could see a red stain
wherever he had spit upon the floor.
And yet all these things were as nothing to what came a little later.
They had begun to question the old lady as to why one family had been
unable to pay, trying to show her by figures that it ought to have been
possible; and Grandmother Majauszkiene had disputed their figures--
"You say twelve dollars a month; but that does not include the interest."
Then they stared at her. "Interest!" they cried.
"Interest on the money you still owe," she answered.
"But we don't have to pay any interest!" they exclaimed, three or four
at once. "We only have to pay twelve dollars each month."
And for this she laughed at them. "You are like all the rest," she said;
"they trick you and eat you alive. They never sell the houses without
interest. Get your deed, and see."
Then, with a horrible sinking of the heart, Teta Elzbieta unlocked her
bureau and brought out the paper that had already caused them so many
agonies. Now they sat round, scarcely breathing, while the old lady,
who could read English, ran over it. "Yes," she said, finally, "here it
is, of course: 'With interest thereon monthly, at the rate of seven per
cent per annum.'"
And there followed a dead silence. "What does that mean?" asked Jurgis
finally, almost in a whisper.
"That means," replied the other, "that you have to pay them seven dollars
next month, as well as the twelve dollars."
Then again there was not a sound. It was sickening, like a nightmare,
in which suddenly something gives way beneath you, and you feel yourself
sinking, sinking, down into bottomless abysses. As if in a flash of
lightning they saw themselves--victims of a relentless fate, cornered,
trapped, in the grip of destruction. All the fair structure of their
hopes came crashing about their ears.--And all the time the old woman
was going on talking. They wished that she would be still; her voice
sounded like the croaking of some dismal raven. Jurgis sat with his
hands clenched and beads of perspiration on his forehead, and there was
a great lump in Ona's throat, choking her. Then suddenly Teta Elzbieta
broke the silence with a wail, and Marija began to wring her hands and
sob, "Ai! Ai! Beda man!"
All their outcry did them no good, of course. There sat Grandmother
Majauszkiene, unrelenting, typifying fate. No, of course it was not fair,
but then fairness had nothing to do with it. And of course they had not
known it. They had not been intended to know it. But it was in the deed,
and that was all that was necessary, as they would find when the time came.
Somehow or other they got rid of their guest, and then they passed a
night of lamentation. The children woke up and found out that something
was wrong, and they wailed and would not be comforted. In the morning,
of course, most of them had to go to work, the packing houses would not
stop for their sorrows; but by seven o'clock Ona and her stepmother were
standing at the door of the office of the agent. Yes, he told them,
when he came, it was quite true that they would have to pay interest.
And then Teta Elzbieta broke forth into protestations and reproaches,
so that the people outside stopped and peered in at the window. The agent
was as bland as ever. He was deeply pained, he said. He had not told
them, simply because he had supposed they would understand that they had
to pay interest upon their debt, as a matter of course.
So they came away, and Ona went down to the yards, and at noontime saw
Jurgis and told him. Jurgis took it stolidly--he had made up his mind
to it by this time. It was part of fate; they would manage it somehow--
he made his usual answer, "I will work harder." It would upset their
plans for a time; and it would perhaps be necessary for Ona to get work
after all. Then Ona added that Teta Elzbieta had decided that little
Stanislovas would have to work too. It was not fair to let Jurgis and
her support the family--the family would have to help as it could.
Previously Jurgis had scouted this idea, but now knit his brows and
nodded his head slowly--yes, perhaps it would be best; they would all
have to make some sacrifices now.
So Ona set out that day to hunt for work; and at night Marija came home
saying that she had met a girl named Jasaityte who had a friend that
worked in one of the wrapping rooms in Brown's, and might get a place
for Ona there; only the forelady was the kind that takes presents--it
was no use for any one to ask her for a place unless at the same time
they slipped a ten-dollar bill into her hand. Jurgis was not in the
least surprised at this now--he merely asked what the wages of the place
would be. So negotiations were opened, and after an interview Ona came
home and reported that the forelady seemed to like her, and had said that,
while she was not sure, she thought she might be able to put her at work
sewing covers on hams, a job at which she would earn as much as eight or
ten dollars a week. That was a bid, so Marija reported, after consulting
her friend; and then there was an anxious conference at home. The work
was done in one of the cellars, and Jurgis did not want Ona to work in
such a place; but then it was easy work, and one could not have everything.
So in the end Ona, with a ten-dollar bill burning a hole in her palm, had
another interview with the forelady.
Meantime Teta Elzbieta had taken Stanislovas to the priest and gotten
a certificate to the effect that he was two years older than he was;
and with it the little boy now sallied forth to make his fortune in
the world. It chanced that Durham had just put in a wonderful new
lard machine, and when the special policeman in front of the time
station saw Stanislovas and his document, he smiled to himself and
told him to go--"Czia! Czia!" pointing. And so Stanislovas went down
a long stone corridor, and up a flight of stairs, which took him into
a room lighted by electricity, with the new machines for filling lard
cans at work in it. The lard was finished on the floor above, and it
came in little jets, like beautiful, wriggling, snow-white snakes of
unpleasant odor. There were several kinds and sizes of jets, and after
a certain precise quantity had come out, each stopped automatically,
and the wonderful machine made a turn, and took the can under another jet,
and so on, until it was filled neatly to the brim, and pressed tightly,
and smoothed off. To attend to all this and fill several hundred cans
of lard per hour, there were necessary two human creatures, one of whom
knew how to place an empty lard can on a certain spot every few seconds,
and the other of whom knew how to take a full lard can off a certain spot
every few seconds and set it upon a tray.
And so, after little Stanislovas had stood gazing timidly about him for
a few minutes, a man approached him, and asked what he wanted, to which
Stanislovas said, "Job." Then the man said "How old?" and Stanislovas
answered, "Sixtin." Once or twice every year a state inspector would
come wandering through the packing plants, asking a child here and
there how old he was; and so the packers were very careful to comply
with the law, which cost them as much trouble as was now involved in
the boss's taking the document from the little boy, and glancing at it,
and then sending it to the office to be filed away. Then he set some one
else at a different job, and showed the lad how to place a lard can every
time the empty arm of the remorseless machine came to him; and so was
decided the place in the universe of little Stanislovas, and his destiny
till the end of his days. Hour after hour, day after day, year after
year, it was fated that he should stand upon a certain square foot of
floor from seven in the morning until noon, and again from half-past
twelve till half-past five, making never a motion and thinking never a
thought, save for the setting of lard cans. In summer the stench of the
warm lard would be nauseating, and in winter the cans would all but freeze
to his naked little fingers in the unheated cellar. Half the year it would
be dark as night when he went in to work, and dark as night again when he
came out, and so he would never know what the sun looked like on weekdays.
And for this, at the end of the week, he would carry home three dollars to
his family, being his pay at the rate of five cents per hour--just about
his proper share of the total earnings of the million and three-quarters of
children who are now engaged in earning their livings in the United States.
And meantime, because they were young, and hope is not to be stifled before
its time, Jurgis and Ona were again calculating; for they had discovered
that the wages of Stanislovas would a little more than pay the interest,
which left them just about as they had been before! It would be but fair
to them to say that the little boy was delighted with his work, and at the
idea of earning a lot of money; and also that the two were very much in
love with each other.
Chapter 7
All summer long the family toiled, and in the fall they had money enough
for Jurgis and Ona to be married according to home traditions of decency.
In the latter part of November they hired a hall, and invited all their
new acquaintances, who came and left them over a hundred dollars in debt.
It was a bitter and cruel experience, and it plunged them into an agony
of despair. Such a time, of all times, for them to have it, when their
hearts were made tender! Such a pitiful beginning it was for their
married life; they loved each other so, and they could not have the
briefest respite! It was a time when everything cried out to them that
they ought to be happy; when wonder burned in their hearts, and leaped
into flame at the slightest breath. They were shaken to the depths
of them, with the awe of love realized--and was it so very weak of them
that they cried out for a little peace? They had opened their hearts,
like flowers to the springtime, and the merciless winter had fallen
upon them. They wondered if ever any love that had blossomed in the
world had been so crushed and trampled!
Over them, relentless and savage, there cracked the lash of want;
the morning after the wedding it sought them as they slept, and drove
them out before daybreak to work. Ona was scarcely able to stand with
exhaustion; but if she were to lose her place they would be ruined,
and she would surely lose it if she were not on time that day. They all
had to go, even little Stanislovas, who was ill from overindulgence in
sausages and sarsaparilla. All that day he stood at his lard machine,
rocking unsteadily, his eyes closing in spite of him; and he all but
lost his place even so, for the foreman booted him twice to waken him.
It was fully a week before they were all normal again, and meantime,
with whining children and cross adults, the house was not a pleasant
place to live in. Jurgis lost his temper very little, however, all
things considered. It was because of Ona; the least glance at her was
always enough to make him control himself. She was so sensitive--she
was not fitted for such a life as this; and a hundred times a day,
when he thought of her, he would clench his hands and fling himself
again at the task before him. She was too good for him, he told himself,
and he was afraid, because she was his. So long he had hungered to
possess her, but now that the time had come he knew that he had not
earned the right; that she trusted him so was all her own simple
goodness, and no virtue of his. But he was resolved that she should
never find this out, and so was always on the watch to see that he did not
betray any of his ugly self; he would take care even in little matters,
such as his manners, and his habit of swearing when things went wrong.
The tears came so easily into Ona's eyes, and she would look at him so
appealingly--it kept Jurgis quite busy making resolutions, in addition
to all the other things he had on his mind. It was true that more things
were going on at this time in the mind of Jurgis than ever had in all his
life before.
He had to protect her, to do battle for her against the horror he saw
about them. He was all that she had to look to, and if he failed she
would be lost; he would wrap his arms about her, and try to hide her
from the world. He had learned the ways of things about him now. It was
a war of each against all, and the devil take the hindmost. You did not
give feasts to other people, you waited for them to give feasts to you.
You went about with your soul full of suspicion and hatred; you understood
that you were environed by hostile powers that were trying to get your
money, and who used all the virtues to bait their traps with. The storekeepers
plastered up their windows with all sorts of lies to entice you;
the very fences by the wayside, the lampposts and telegraph poles, were
pasted over with lies. The great corporation which employed you lied
to you, and lied to the whole country--from top to bottom it was nothing
but one gigantic lie.
So Jurgis said that he understood it; and yet it was really pitiful,
for the struggle was so unfair--some had so much the advantage!
Here he was, for instance, vowing upon his knees that he would save
Ona from harm, and only a week later she was suffering atrociously,
and from the blow of an enemy that he could not possibly have thwarted.
There came a day when the rain fell in torrents; and it being December,
to be wet with it and have to sit all day long in one of the cold cellars
of Brown's was no laughing matter. Ona was a working girl, and did not
own waterproofs and such things, and so Jurgis took her and put her on
the streetcar. Now it chanced that this car line was owned by gentlemen
who were trying to make money. And the city having passed an ordinance
requiring them to give transfers, they had fallen into a rage; and first
they had made a rule that transfers could be had only when the fare was
paid; and later, growing still uglier, they had made another--that the
passenger must ask for the transfer, the conductor was not allowed to
offer it. Now Ona had been told that she was to get a transfer; but it
was not her way to speak up, and so she merely waited, following the
conductor about with her eyes, wondering when he would think of her.
When at last the time came for her to get out, she asked for the transfer,
and was refused. Not knowing what to make of this, she began to argue
with the conductor, in a language of which he did not understand a word.
After warning her several times, he pulled the bell and the car went
on--at which Ona burst into tears. At the next corner she got out,
of course; and as she had no more money, she had to walk the rest of
the way to the yards in the pouring rain. And so all day long she sat
shivering, and came home at night with her teeth chattering and pains
in her head and back. For two weeks afterward she suffered cruelly--
and yet every day she had to drag herself to her work. The forewoman was
especially severe with Ona, because she believed that she was obstinate
on account of having been refused a holiday the day after her wedding.
Ona had an idea that her "forelady" did not like to have her girls
marry--perhaps because she was old and ugly and unmarried herself.
There were many such dangers, in which the odds were all against them.
Their children were not as well as they had been at home; but how could
they know that there was no sewer to their house, and that the drainage
of fifteen years was in a cesspool under it? How could they know that
the pale-blue milk that they bought around the corner was watered,
and doctored with formaldehyde besides? When the children were not
well at home, Teta Elzbieta would gather herbs and cure them; now she
was obliged to go to the drugstore and buy extracts--and how was she to
know that they were all adulterated? How could they find out that their
tea and coffee, their sugar and flour, had been doctored; that their
canned peas had been colored with copper salts, and their fruit jams with
aniline dyes? And even if they had known it, what good would it have
done them, since there was no place within miles of them where any other
sort was to be had? The bitter winter was coming, and they had to save
money to get more clothing and bedding; but it would not matter in the
least how much they saved, they could not get anything to keep them warm.
All the clothing that was to be had in the stores was made of cotton and
shoddy, which is made by tearing old clothes to pieces and weaving the
fiber again. If they paid higher prices, they might get frills and
fanciness, or be cheated; but genuine quality they could not obtain for
love nor money. A young friend of Szedvilas', recently come from abroad,
had become a clerk in a store on Ashland Avenue, and he narrated with
glee a trick that had been played upon an unsuspecting countryman by
his boss. The customer had desired to purchase an alarm clock, and the
boss had shown him two exactly similar, telling him that the price of
one was a dollar and of the other a dollar seventy-five. Upon being
asked what the difference was, the man had wound up the first halfway
and the second all the way, and showed the customer how the latter
made twice as much noise; upon which the customer remarked that he was
a sound sleeper, and had better take the more expensive clock!
There is a poet who sings that
"Deeper their heart grows and nobler their bearing,
Whose youth in the fires of anguish hath died."
But it was not likely that he had reference to the kind of anguish that
comes with destitution, that is so endlessly bitter and cruel, and yet
so sordid and petty, so ugly, so humiliating--unredeemed by the slightest
touch of dignity or even of pathos. It is a kind of anguish that poets
have not commonly dealt with; its very words are not admitted into the
vocabulary of poets--the details of it cannot be told in polite society
at all. How, for instance, could any one expect to excite sympathy among
lovers of good literature by telling how a family found their home alive
with vermin, and of all the suffering and inconvenience and humiliation
they were put to, and the hard-earned money they spent, in efforts to get
rid of them? After long hesitation and uncertainty they paid twenty-five
cents for a big package of insect powder--a patent preparation which
chanced to be ninety-five per cent gypsum, a harmless earth which had
cost about two cents to prepare. Of course it had not the least effect,
except upon a few roaches which had the misfortune to drink water after
eating it, and so got their inwards set in a coating of plaster of Paris.
The family, having no idea of this, and no more money to throw away,
had nothing to do but give up and submit to one more misery for the rest
of their days.
Then there was old Antanas. The winter came, and the place where he
worked was a dark, unheated cellar, where you could see your breath
all day, and where your fingers sometimes tried to freeze. So the
old man's cough grew every day worse, until there came a time when it
hardly ever stopped, and he had become a nuisance about the place.
Then, too, a still more dreadful thing happened to him; he worked in
a place where his feet were soaked in chemicals, and it was not long
before they had eaten through his new boots. Then sores began to break
out on his feet, and grow worse and worse. Whether it was that his blood
was bad, or there had been a cut, he could not say; but he asked the men
about it, and learned that it was a regular thing--it was the saltpeter.
Every one felt it, sooner or later, and then it was all up with him,
at least for that sort of work. The sores would never heal--in the end
his toes would drop off, if he did not quit. Yet old Antanas would not
quit; he saw the suffering of his family, and he remembered what it had
cost him to get a job. So he tied up his feet, and went on limping about
and coughing, until at last he fell to pieces, all at once and in a heap,
like the One-Horse Shay. They carried him to a dry place and laid him
on the floor, and that night two of the men helped him home. The poor
old man was put to bed, and though he tried it every morning until the
end, he never could get up again. He would lie there and cough and cough,
day and night, wasting away to a mere skeleton. There came a time when
there was so little flesh on him that the bones began to poke through--
which was a horrible thing to see or even to think of. And one night
he had a choking fit, and a little river of blood came out of his mouth.
The family, wild with terror, sent for a doctor, and paid half a dollar
to be told that there was nothing to be done. Mercifully the doctor did
not say this so that the old man could hear, for he was still clinging
to the faith that tomorrow or next day he would be better, and could go
back to his job. The company had sent word to him that they would keep
it for him--or rather Jurgis had bribed one of the men to come one Sunday
afternoon and say they had. Dede Antanas continued to believe it, while
three more hemorrhages came; and then at last one morning they found him
stiff and cold. Things were not going well with them then, and though
it nearly broke Teta Elzbieta's heart, they were forced to dispense with
nearly all the decencies of a funeral; they had only a hearse, and one
hack for the women and children; and Jurgis, who was learning things fast,
spent all Sunday making a bargain for these, and he made it in the
presence of witnesses, so that when the man tried to charge him for all
sorts of incidentals, he did not have to pay. For twenty-five years old
Antanas Rudkus and his son had dwelt in the forest together, and it was
hard to part in this way; perhaps it was just as well that Jurgis had to
give all his attention to the task of having a funeral without being
bankrupted, and so had no time to indulge in memories and grief.
Now the dreadful winter was come upon them. In the forests, all summer
long, the branches of the trees do battle for light, and some of them
lose and die; and then come the raging blasts, and the storms of snow
and hail, and strew the ground with these weaker branches. Just so it
was in Packingtown; the whole district braced itself for the struggle
that was an agony, and those whose time was come died off in hordes.
All the year round they had been serving as cogs in the great packing
machine; and now was the time for the renovating of it, and the replacing
of damaged parts. There came pneumonia and grippe, stalking among them,
seeking for weakened constitutions; there was the annual harvest of those
whom tuberculosis had been dragging down. There came cruel, cold, and
biting winds, and blizzards of snow, all testing relentlessly for failing
muscles and impoverished blood. Sooner or later came the day when the
unfit one did not report for work; and then, with no time lost in waiting,
and no inquiries or regrets, there was a chance for a new hand.
The new hands were here by the thousands. All day long the gates of the
packing houses were besieged by starving and penniless men; they came,
literally, by the thousands every single morning, fighting with each
other for a chance for life. Blizzards and cold made no difference
to them, they were always on hand; they were on hand two hours before the
sun rose, an hour before the work began. Sometimes their faces froze,
sometimes their feet and their hands; sometimes they froze all together--
but still they came, for they had no other place to go. One day Durham
advertised in the paper for two hundred men to cut ice; and all that day
the homeless and starving of the city came trudging through the snow from
all over its two hundred square miles. That night forty score of them
crowded into the station house of the stockyards district--they filled
the rooms, sleeping in each other's laps, toboggan fashion, and they
piled on top of each other in the corridors, till the police shut the
doors and left some to freeze outside. On the morrow, before daybreak,
there were three thousand at Durham's, and the police reserves had to be
sent for to quell the riot. Then Durham's bosses picked out twenty of
the biggest; the "two hundred" proved to have been a printer's error.
Four or five miles to the eastward lay the lake, and over this the bitter
winds came raging. Sometimes the thermometer would fall to ten or twenty
degrees below zero at night, and in the morning the streets would be
piled with snowdrifts up to the first-floor windows. The streets through
which our friends had to go to their work were all unpaved and full of
deep holes and gullies; in summer, when it rained hard, a man might have
to wade to his waist to get to his house; and now in winter it was no
joke getting through these places, before light in the morning and after
dark at night. They would wrap up in all they owned, but they could not
wrap up against exhaustion; and many a man gave out in these battles with
the snowdrifts, and lay down and fell asleep.
And if it was bad for the men, one may imagine how the women and children
fared. Some would ride in the cars, if the cars were running; but when
you are making only five cents an hour, as was little Stanislovas, you
do not like to spend that much to ride two miles. The children would
come to the yards with great shawls about their ears, and so tied up
that you could hardly find them--and still there would be accidents.
One bitter morning in February the little boy who worked at the lard
machine with Stanislovas came about an hour late, and screaming with pain.
They unwrapped him, and a man began vigorously rubbing his ears; and as
they were frozen stiff, it took only two or three rubs to break them
short off. As a result of this, little Stanislovas conceived a terror of
the cold that was almost a mania. Every morning, when it came time to
start for the yards, he would begin to cry and protest. Nobody knew quite
how to manage him, for threats did no good--it seemed to be something that
he could not control, and they feared sometimes that he would go into
convulsions. In the end it had to be arranged that he always went with
Jurgis, and came home with him again; and often, when the snow was deep,
the man would carry him the whole way on his shoulders. Sometimes Jurgis
would be working until late at night, and then it was pitiful, for there
was no place for the little fellow to wait, save in the doorways or in
a corner of the killing beds, and he would all but fall asleep there,
and freeze to death.
There was no heat upon the killing beds; the men might exactly as well
have worked out of doors all winter. For that matter, there was very
little heat anywhere in the building, except in the cooking rooms and
such places--and it was the men who worked in these who ran the most
risk of all, because whenever they had to pass to another room they
had to go through ice-cold corridors, and sometimes with nothing on
above the waist except a sleeveless undershirt. On the killing beds
you were apt to be covered with blood, and it would freeze solid; if you
leaned against a pillar, you would freeze to that, and if you put your
hand upon the blade of your knife, you would run a chance of leaving
your skin on it. The men would tie up their feet in newspapers and old
sacks, and these would be soaked in blood and frozen, and then soaked
again, and so on, until by nighttime a man would be walking on great
lumps the size of the feet of an elephant. Now and then, when the bosses
were not looking, you would see them plunging their feet and ankles into
the steaming hot carcass of the steer, or darting across the room to the
hot-water jets. The cruelest thing of all was that nearly all of them--
all of those who used knives--were unable to wear gloves, and their arms
would be white with frost and their hands would grow numb, and then of
course there would be accidents. Also the air would be full of steam,
from the hot water and the hot blood, so that you could not see five feet
before you; and then, with men rushing about at the speed they kept up
on the killing beds, and all with butcher knives, like razors, in their
hands-- well, it was to be counted as a wonder that there were not more
men slaughtered than cattle.
And yet all this inconvenience they might have put up with, if only it
had not been for one thing--if only there had been some place where they
might eat. Jurgis had either to eat his dinner amid the stench in which
he had worked, or else to rush, as did all his companions, to any one of
the hundreds of liquor stores which stretched out their arms to him.
To the west of the yards ran Ashland Avenue, and here was an unbroken
line of saloons--"Whiskey Row," they called it; to the north was Fortyseventh
Street, where there were half a dozen to the block, and at the
angle of the two was "Whiskey Point," a space of fifteen or twenty acres,
and containing one glue factory and about two hundred saloons.
One might walk among these and take his choice: "Hot pea-soup and boiled
cabbage today." "Sauerkraut and hot frankfurters. Walk in." "Bean soup
and stewed lamb. Welcome." All of these things were printed in many
languages, as were also the names of the resorts, which were infinite
in their variety and appeal. There was the "Home Circle" and the
"Cosey Corner"; there were "Firesides" and "Hearthstones" and "Pleasure
Palaces" and "Wonderlands" and "Dream Castles" and "Love's Delights."
Whatever else they were called, they were sure to be called "Union
Headquarters," and to hold out a welcome to workingmen; and there was
always a warm stove, and a chair near it, and some friends to laugh
and talk with. There was only one condition attached,--you must drink.
If you went in not intending to drink, you would be put out in no time,
and if you were slow about going, like as not you would get your head
split open with a beer bottle in the bargain. But all of the men
understood the convention and drank; they believed that by it they were
getting something for nothing--for they did not need to take more than
one drink, and upon the strength of it they might fill themselves up with
a good hot dinner. This did not always work out in practice, however,
for there was pretty sure to be a friend who would treat you, and then
you would have to treat him. Then some one else would come in--and,
anyhow, a few drinks were good for a man who worked hard. As he went
back he did not shiver so, he had more courage for his task; the deadly
brutalizing monotony of it did not afflict him so,--he had ideas while
he worked, and took a more cheerful view of his circumstances. On the
way home, however, the shivering was apt to come on him again; and so
he would have to stop once or twice to warm up against the cruel cold.
As there were hot things to eat in this saloon too, he might get home
late to his supper, or he might not get home at all. And then his
wife might set out to look for him, and she too would feel the cold;
and perhaps she would have some of the children with her--and so a
whole family would drift into drinking, as the current of a river drifts
downstream. As if to complete the chain, the packers all paid their men
in checks, refusing all requests to pay in coin; and where in Packingtown
could a man go to have his check cashed but to a saloon, where he could
pay for the favor by spending a part of the money?
From all of these things Jurgis was saved because of Ona. He never
would take but the one drink at noontime; and so he got the reputation
of being a surly fellow, and was not quite welcome at the saloons,
and had to drift about from one to another. Then at night he would
go straight home, helping Ona and Stanislovas, or often putting the
former on a car. And when he got home perhaps he would have to trudge
several blocks, and come staggering back through the snowdrifts with a
bag of coal upon his shoulder. Home was not a very attractive place--
at least not this winter. They had only been able to buy one stove,
and this was a small one, and proved not big enough to warm even the
kitchen in the bitterest weather. This made it hard for Teta Elzbieta
all day, and for the children when they could not get to school. At night
they would sit huddled round this stove, while they ate their supper off
their laps; and then Jurgis and Jonas would smoke a pipe, after which
they would all crawl into their beds to get warm, after putting out the
fire to save the coal. Then they would have some frightful experiences
with the cold. They would sleep with all their clothes on, including
their overcoats, and put over them all the bedding and spare clothing
they owned; the children would sleep all crowded into one bed, and yet
even so they could not keep warm. The outside ones would be shivering
and sobbing, crawling over the others and trying to get down into the
center, and causing a fight. This old house with the leaky weatherboards
was a very different thing from their cabins at home, with great thick
walls plastered inside and outside with mud; and the cold which came
upon them was a living thing, a demon-presence in the room. They would
waken in the midnight hours, when everything was black; perhaps they would
hear it yelling outside, or perhaps there would be deathlike stillness--
and that would be worse yet. They could feel the cold as it crept in
through the cracks, reaching out for them with its icy, death-dealing
fingers; and they would crouch and cower, and try to hide from it, all
in vain. It would come, and it would come; a grisly thing, a specter
born in the black caverns of terror; a power primeval, cosmic, shadowing
the tortures of the lost souls flung out to chaos and destruction. It was
cruel iron-hard; and hour after hour they would cringe in its grasp,
alone, alone. There would be no one to hear them if they cried out;
there would be no help, no mercy. And so on until morning--when they
would go out to another day of toil, a little weaker, a little nearer
to the time when it would be their turn to be shaken from the tree.
Chapter 8
Yet even by this deadly winter the germ of hope was not to be kept from
sprouting in their hearts. It was just at this time that the great
adventure befell Marija.
The victim was Tamoszius Kuszleika, who played the violin. Everybody
laughed at them, for Tamoszius was petite and frail, and Marija could
have picked him up and carried him off under one arm. But perhaps that
was why she fascinated him; the sheer volume of Marija's energy was
overwhelming. That first night at the wedding Tamoszius had hardly taken
his eyes off her; and later on, when he came to find that she had really
the heart of a baby, her voice and her violence ceased to terrify him,
and he got the habit of coming to pay her visits on Sunday afternoons.
There was no place to entertain company except in the kitchen, in the
midst of the family, and Tamoszius would sit there with his hat between
his knees, never saying more than half a dozen words at a time, and turning
red in the face before he managed to say those; until finally Jurgis would
clap him upon the back, in his hearty way, crying, "Come now, brother,
give us a tune." And then Tamoszius' face would light up and he would
get out his fiddle, tuck it under his chin, and play. And forthwith
the soul of him would flame up and become eloquent--it was almost an
impropriety, for all the while his gaze would be fixed upon Marija's face,
until she would begin to turn red and lower her eyes. There was no
resisting the music of Tamoszius, however; even the children would sit
awed and wondering, and the tears would run down Teta Elzbieta's cheeks.
A wonderful privilege it was to be thus admitted into the soul of a man
of genius, to be allowed to share the ecstasies and the agonies of his
inmost life.
Then there were other benefits accruing to Marija from this friendship--
benefits of a more substantial nature. People paid Tamoszius big money
to come and make music on state occasions; and also they would invite
him to parties and festivals, knowing well that he was too good-natured
to come without his fiddle, and that having brought it, he could be made
to play while others danced. Once he made bold to ask Marija to accompany
him to such a party, and Marija accepted, to his great delight--after which
he never went anywhere without her, while if the celebration were given by
friends of his, he would invite the rest of the family also. In any case
Marija would bring back a huge pocketful of cakes and sandwiches for the
children, and stories of all the good things she herself had managed to
consume. She was compelled, at these parties, to spend most of her time
at the refreshment table, for she could not dance with anybody except
other women and very old men; Tamoszius was of an excitable temperament,
and afflicted with a frantic jealousy, and any unmarried man who ventured
to put his arm about the ample waist of Marija would be certain to throw
the orchestra out of tune.
It was a great help to a person who had to toil all the week to be able
to look forward to some such relaxation as this on Saturday nights.
The family was too poor and too hardworked to make many acquaintances;
in Packingtown, as a rule, people know only their near neighbors and
shopmates, and so the place is like a myriad of little country villages.
But now there was a member of the family who was permitted to travel and
widen her horizon; and so each week there would be new personalities to
talk about,--how so-and-so was dressed, and where she worked, and what
she got, and whom she was in love with; and how this man had jilted his
girl, and how she had quarreled with the other girl, and what had passed
between them; and how another man beat his wife, and spent all her earnings
upon drink, and pawned her very clothes. Some people would have scorned
this talk as gossip; but then one has to talk about what one knows.
It was one Saturday night, as they were coming home from a wedding,
that Tamoszius found courage, and set down his violin case in the street
and spoke his heart; and then Marija clasped him in her arms. She told
them all about it the next day, and fairly cried with happiness, for she
said that Tamoszius was a lovely man. After that he no longer made love
to her with his fiddle, but they would sit for hours in the kitchen,
blissfully happy in each other's arms; it was the tacit convention of
the family to know nothing of what was going on in that corner.
They were planning to be married in the spring, and have the garret
of the house fixed up, and live there. Tamoszius made good wages;
and little by little the family were paying back their debt to Marija,
so she ought soon to have enough to start life upon--only, with her
preposterous softheartedness, she would insist upon spending a good part
of her money every week for things which she saw they needed. Marija was
really the capitalist of the party, for she had become an expert can
painter by this time--she was getting fourteen cents for every hundred
and ten cans, and she could paint more than two cans every minute.
Marija felt, so to speak, that she had her hand on the throttle, and the
neighborhood was vocal with her rejoicings.
Yet her friends would shake their heads and tell her to go slow; one could
not count upon such good fortune forever--there were accidents that always
happened. But Marija was not to be prevailed upon, and went on planning
and dreaming of all the treasures she was going to have for her home;
and so, when the crash did come, her grief was painful to see.
For her canning factory shut down! Marija would about as soon have
expected to see the sun shut down--the huge establishment had been to
her a thing akin to the planets and the seasons. But now it was shut!
And they had not given her any explanation, they had not even given her
a day's warning; they had simply posted a notice one Saturday that all
hands would be paid off that afternoon, and would not resume work for
at least a month! And that was all that there was to it--her job was gone!
It was the holiday rush that was over, the girls said in answer to
Marija's inquiries; after that there was always a slack. Sometimes the
factory would start up on half time after a while, but there was no
telling--it had been known to stay closed until way into the summer.
The prospects were bad at present, for truckmen who worked in the
storerooms said that these were piled up to the ceilings, so that the
firm could not have found room for another week's output of cans. And they
had turned off three-quarters of these men, which was a still worse sign,
since it meant that there were no orders to be filled. It was all a
swindle, can-painting, said the girls--you were crazy with delight because
you were making twelve or fourteen dollars a week, and saving half of it;
but you had to spend it all keeping alive while you were out, and so your
pay was really only half what you thought.
Marija came home, and because she was a person who could not rest without
danger of explosion, they first had a great house cleaning, and then she
set out to search Packingtown for a job to fill up the gap. As nearly all
the canning establishments were shut down, and all the girls hunting work,
it will be readily understood that Marija did not find any. Then she took
to trying the stores and saloons, and when this failed she even traveled
over into the far-distant regions near the lake front, where lived the
rich people in great palaces, and begged there for some sort of work that
could be done by a person who did not know English.
The men upon the killing beds felt also the effects of the slump which
had turned Marija out; but they felt it in a different way, and a way
which made Jurgis understand at last all their bitterness. The big packers
did not turn their hands off and close down, like the canning factories;
but they began to run for shorter and shorter hours. They had always
required the men to be on the killing beds and ready for work at seven
o'clock, although there was almost never any work to be done till the
buyers out in the yards had gotten to work, and some cattle had come over
the chutes. That would often be ten or eleven o'clock, which was bad
enough, in all conscience; but now, in the slack season, they would
perhaps not have a thing for their men to do till late in the afternoon.
And so they would have to loaf around, in a place where the thermometer
might be twenty degrees below zero! At first one would see them running
about, or skylarking with each other, trying to keep warm; but before the
day was over they would become quite chilled through and exhausted, and,
when the cattle finally came, so near frozen that to move was an agony.
And then suddenly the place would spring into activity, and the merciless
"speeding-up" would begin!
There were weeks at a time when Jurgis went home after such a day as
this with not more than two hours' work to his credit--which meant about
thirty- five cents. There were many days when the total was less than
half an hour, and others when there was none at all. The general average
was six hours a day, which meant for Jurgis about six dollars a week;
and this six hours of work would be done after standing on the killing bed
till one o'clock, or perhaps even three or four o'clock, in the afternoon.
Like as not there would come a rush of cattle at the very end of the day,
which the men would have to dispose of before they went home, often working
by electric light till nine or ten, or even twelve or one o'clock, and
without a single instant for a bite of supper. The men were at the mercy
of the cattle. Perhaps the buyers would be holding off for better prices--
if they could scare the shippers into thinking that they meant to buy
nothing that day, they could get their own terms. For some reason the
cost of fodder for cattle in the yards was much above the market price--
and you were not allowed to bring your own fodder! Then, too, a number of
cars were apt to arrive late in the day, now that the roads were blocked
with snow, and the packers would buy their cattle that night, to get them
cheaper, and then would come into play their ironclad rule, that all
cattle must be killed the same day they were bought. There was no use
kicking about this--there had been one delegation after another to see
the packers about it, only to be told that it was the rule, and that
there was not the slightest chance of its ever being altered. And so
on Christmas Eve Jurgis worked till nearly one o'clock in the morning,
and on Christmas Day he was on the killing bed at seven o'clock.
All this was bad; and yet it was not the worst. For after all the hard
work a man did, he was paid for only part of it. Jurgis had once been
among those who scoffed at the idea of these huge concerns cheating;
and so now he could appreciate the bitter irony of the fact that it
was precisely their size which enabled them to do it with impunity.
ne of the rules on the killing beds was that a man who was one minute
late was docked an hour; and this was economical, for he was made to
work the balance of the hour--he was not allowed to stand round and wait.
And on the other hand if he came ahead of time he got no pay for that--
though often the bosses would start up the gang ten or fifteen minutes
before the whistle. And this same custom they carried over to the end of
the day; they did not pay for any fraction of an hour--for "broken time."
A man might work full fifty minutes, but if there was no work to fill out
the hour, there was no pay for him. Thus the end of every day was a sort
of lottery--a struggle, all but breaking into open war between the bosses
and the men, the former trying to rush a job through and the latter
trying to stretch it out. Jurgis blamed the bosses for this, though the
truth to be told it was not always their fault; for the packers kept them
frightened for their lives--and when one was in danger of falling behind
the standard, what was easier than to catch up by making the gang work
awhile "for the church"? This was a savage witticism the men had, which
Jurgis had to have explained to him. Old man Jones was great on missions
and such things, and so whenever they were doing some particularly
disreputable job, the men would wink at each other and say, "Now we're
working for the church!"
One of the consequences of all these things was that Jurgis was no
longer perplexed when he heard men talk of fighting for their rights.
He felt like fighting now himself; and when the Irish delegate of the
butcher-helpers' union came to him a second time, he received him in
a far different spirit. A wonderful idea it now seemed to Jurgis,
this of the men--that by combining they might be able to make a stand
and conquer the packers! Jurgis wondered who had first thought of it;
and when he was told that it was a common thing for men to do in America,
he got the first inkling of a meaning in the phrase "a free country."
The delegate explained to him how it depended upon their being able to
get every man to join and stand by the organization, and so Jurgis
signified that he was willing to do his share. Before another month
was by, all the working members of his family had union cards, and wore
their union buttons conspicuously and with pride. For fully a week they
were quite blissfully happy, thinking that belonging to a union meant an
end to all their troubles.
But only ten days after she had joined, Marija's canning factory closed
down, and that blow quite staggered them. They could not understand why
the union had not prevented it, and the very first time she attended a
meeting Marija got up and made a speech about it. It was a business
meeting, and was transacted in English, but that made no difference to
Marija; she said what was in her, and all the pounding of the chairman's
gavel and all the uproar and confusion in the room could not prevail.
Quite apart from her own troubles she was boiling over with a general
sense of the injustice of it, and she told what she thought of the
packers, and what she thought of a world where such things were allowed
to happen; and then, while the echoes of the hall rang with the shock of
her terrible voice, she sat down again and fanned herself, and the meeting
gathered itself together and proceeded to discuss the election of a
recording secretary.
Jurgis too had an adventure the first time he attended a union meeting,
but it was not of his own seeking. Jurgis had gone with the desire to
get into an inconspicuous corner and see what was done; but this attitude
of silent and open-eyed attention had marked him out for a victim.
Tommy Finnegan was a little Irishman, with big staring eyes and a wild
aspect, a "hoister" by trade, and badly cracked. Somewhere back in the
far-distant past Tommy Finnegan had had a strange experience, and the
burden of it rested upon him. All the balance of his life he had done
nothing but try to make it understood. When he talked he caught his
victim by the buttonhole, and his face kept coming closer and closer--
which was trying, because his teeth were so bad. Jurgis did not mind that,
only he was frightened. The method of operation of the higher intelligences
was Tom Finnegan's theme, and he desired to find out if Jurgis had ever
considered that the representation of things in their present similarity
might be altogether unintelligible upon a more elevated plane. There were
assuredly wonderful mysteries about the developing of these things; and
then, becoming confidential, Mr. Finnegan proceeded to tell of some
discoveries of his own. "If ye have iver had onything to do wid
shperrits," said he, and looked inquiringly at Jurgis, who kept shaking
his head. "Niver mind, niver mind," continued the other, "but their
influences may be operatin' upon ye; it's shure as I'm tellin' ye, it's
them that has the reference to the immejit surroundin's that has the most
of power. It was vouchsafed to me in me youthful days to be acquainted
with shperrits" and so Tommy Finnegan went on, expounding a system of
philosophy, while the perspiration came out on Jurgis' forehead, so great
was his agitation and embarrassment. In the end one of the men, seeing
his plight, came over and rescued him; but it was some time before he was
able to find any one to explain things to him, and meanwhile his fear
lest the strange little Irishman should get him cornered again was enough
to keep him dodging about the room the whole evening.
He never missed a meeting, however. He had picked up a few words of
English by this time, and friends would help him to understand. They
were often very turbulent meetings, with half a dozen men declaiming
at once, in as many dialects of English; but the speakers were all
desperately in earnest, and Jurgis was in earnest too, for he understood
that a fight was on, and that it was his fight. Since the time of his
disillusionment, Jurgis had sworn to trust no man, except in his own
family; but here he discovered that he had brothers in affliction,
and allies. Their one chance for life was in union, and so the struggle
became a kind of crusade. Jurgis had always been a member of the church,
because it was the right thing to be, but the church had never touched
him, he left all that for the women. Here, however, was a new religion--
one that did touch him, that took hold of every fiber of him; and with all
the zeal and fury of a convert he went out as a missionary. There were
many nonunion men among the Lithuanians, and with these he would labor
and wrestle in prayer, trying to show them the right. Sometimes they
would be obstinate and refuse to see it, and Jurgis, alas, was not always
patient! He forgot how he himself had been blind, a short time ago--
after the fashion of all crusaders since the original ones, who set out
to spread the gospel of Brotherhood by force of arms.
Chapter 9
One of the first consequences of the discovery of the union was that
Jurgis became desirous of learning English. He wanted to know what
was going on at the meetings, and to be able to take part in them,
and so he began to look about him, and to try to pick up words.
The children, who were at school, and learning fast, would teach him
a few; and a friend loaned him a little book that had some in it,
and Ona would read them to him. Then Jurgis became sorry that he
could not read himself; and later on in the winter, when some one
told him that there was a night school that was free, he went and
enrolled. After that, every evening that he got home from the yards
in time, he would go to the school; he would go even if he were in
time for only half an hour. They were teaching him both to read and
to speak English--and they would have taught him other things, if only
he had had a little time.
Also the union made another great difference with him--it made him
begin to pay attention to the country. It was the beginning of democracy
with him. It was a little state, the union, a miniature republic;
its affairs were every man's affairs, and every man had a real say
about them. In other words, in the union Jurgis learned to talk politics.
In the place where he had come from there had not been any politics--
in Russia one thought of the government as an affliction like the
lightning and the hail. "Duck, little brother, duck," the wise old
peasants would whisper; "everything passes away." And when Jurgis had
first come to America he had supposed that it was the same. He had heard
people say that it was a free country--but what did that mean? He found
that here, precisely as in Russia, there were rich men who owned everything;
and if one could not find any work, was not the hunger he began to feel
the same sort of hunger?
When Jurgis had been working about three weeks at Brown's, there had come
to him one noontime a man who was employed as a night watchman, and who
asked him if he would not like to take out naturalization papers and
become a citizen. Jurgis did not know what that meant, but the man
explained the advantages. In the first place, it would not cost him
anything, and it would get him half a day off, with his pay just the
same; and then when election time came he would be able to vote--and
there was something in that. Jurgis was naturally glad to accept, and so
the night watchman said a few words to the boss, and he was excused for
the rest of the day. When, later on, he wanted a holiday to get married
he could not get it; and as for a holiday with pay just the same--what
power had wrought that miracle heaven only knew! However, he went with
the man, who picked up several other newly landed immigrants, Poles,
Lithuanians, and Slovaks, and took them all outside, where stood a great
four-horse tallyho coach, with fifteen or twenty men already in it.
It was a fine chance to see the sights of the city, and the party had a
merry time, with plenty of beer handed up from inside. So they drove
downtown and stopped before an imposing granite building, in which they
interviewed an official, who had the papers all ready, with only the names
to be filled in. So each man in turn took an oath of which he did not
understand a word, and then was presented with a handsome ornamented
document with a big red seal and the shield of the United States upon it,
and was told that he had become a citizen of the Republic and the equal
of the President himself.
A month or two later Jurgis had another interview with this same man,
who told him where to go to "register." And then finally, when election
day came, the packing houses posted a notice that men who desired to vote
might remain away until nine that morning, and the same night watchman
took Jurgis and the rest of his flock into the back room of a saloon,
and showed each of them where and how to mark a ballot, and then gave
each two dollars, and took them to the polling place, where there was
a policeman on duty especially to see that they got through all right.
Jurgis felt quite proud of this good luck till he got home and met Jonas,
who had taken the leader aside and whispered to him, offering to vote
three times for four dollars, which offer had been accepted.
And now in the union Jurgis met men who explained all this mystery
to him; and he learned that America differed from Russia in that its
government existed under the form of a democracy. The officials who
ruled it, and got all the graft, had to be elected first; and so
there were two rival sets of grafters, known as political parties,
and the one got the office which bought the most votes. Now and then,
the election was very close, and that was the time the poor man came in.
In the stockyards this was only in national and state elections, for in
local elections the Democratic Party always carried everything. The ruler
of the district was therefore the Democratic boss, a little Irishman
named Mike Scully. Scully held an important party office in the state,
and bossed even the mayor of the city, it was said; it was his boast
that he carried the stockyards in his pocket. He was an enormously rich
man--he had a hand in all the big graft in the neighborhood. It was
Scully, for instance, who owned that dump which Jurgis and Ona had seen
the first day of their arrival. Not only did he own the dump, but he
owned the brick factory as well, and first he took out the clay and made
it into bricks, and then he had the city bring garbage to fill up the
hole, so that he could build houses to sell to the people. Then, too,
he sold the bricks to the city, at his own price, and the city came and
got them in its own wagons. And also he owned the other hole near by,
where the stagnant water was; and it was he who cut the ice and sold it;
and what was more, if the men told truth, he had not had to pay any
taxes for the water, and he had built the icehouse out of city lumber,
and had not had to pay anything for that. The newspapers had got hold of
that story, and there had been a scandal; but Scully had hired somebody
to confess and take all the blame, and then skip the country. It was said,
too, that he had built his brick-kiln in the same way, and that the workmen
were on the city payroll while they did it; however, one had to press
closely to get these things out of the men, for it was not their business,
and Mike Scully was a good man to stand in with. A note signed by him
was equal to a job any time at the packing houses; and also he employed
a good many men himself, and worked them only eight hours a day, and paid
them the highest wages. This gave him many friends--all of whom he had
gotten together into the "War Whoop League," whose clubhouse you might
see just outside of the yards. It was the biggest clubhouse, and the
biggest club, in all Chicago; and they had prizefights every now and then,
and cockfights and even dogfights. The policemen in the district all
belonged to the league, and instead of suppressing the fights, they sold
tickets for them. The man that had taken Jurgis to be naturalized was
one of these "Indians," as they were called; and on election day there
would be hundreds of them out, and all with big wads of money in their
pockets and free drinks at every saloon in the district. That was another
thing, the men said--all the saloon-keepers had to be "Indians," and
to put up on demand, otherwise they could not do business on Sundays,
nor have any gambling at all. In the same way Scully had all the jobs
in the fire department at his disposal, and all the rest of the city
graft in the stockyards district; he was building a block of flats
somewhere up on Ashland Avenue, and the man who was overseeing it for
him was drawing pay as a city inspector of sewers. The city inspector
of water pipes had been dead and buried for over a year, but somebody was
still drawing his pay. The city inspector of sidewalks was a barkeeper
at the War Whoop Cafe--and maybe he could make it uncomfortable for any
tradesman who did not stand in with Scully!
Even the packers were in awe of him, so the men said. It gave them
pleasure to believe this, for Scully stood as the people's man, and
boasted of it boldly when election day came. The packers had wanted
a bridge at Ashland Avenue, but they had not been able to get it till
they had seen Scully; and it was the same with "Bubbly Creek," which
the city had threatened to make the packers cover over, till Scully
had come to their aid. "Bubbly Creek" is an arm of the Chicago River,
and forms the southern boundary of the yards: all the drainage of the
square mile of packing houses empties into it, so that it is really a
great open sewer a hundred or two feet wide. One long arm of it is blind,
and the filth stays there forever and a day. The grease and chemicals
that are poured into it undergo all sorts of strange transformations,
which are the cause of its name; it is constantly in motion, as if huge
fish were feeding in it, or great leviathans disporting themselves in its
depths. Bubbles of carbonic acid gas will rise to the surface and burst,
and make rings two or three feet wide. Here and there the grease and
filth have caked solid, and the creek looks like a bed of lava; chickens
walk about on it, feeding, and many times an unwary stranger has started
to stroll across, and vanished temporarily. The packers used to leave
the creek that way, till every now and then the surface would catch on
fire and burn furiously, and the fire department would have to come and
put it out. Once, however, an ingenious stranger came and started to
gather this filth in scows, to make lard out of; then the packers took
the cue, and got out an injunction to stop him, and afterward gathered it
themselves. The banks of "Bubbly Creek" are plastered thick with hairs,
and this also the packers gather and clean.
And there were things even stranger than this, according to the gossip of
the men. The packers had secret mains, through which they stole billions
of gallons of the city's water. The newspapers had been full of this
scandal--once there had even been an investigation, and an actual
uncovering of the pipes; but nobody had been punished, and the thing
went right on. And then there was the condemned meat industry, with its
endless horrors. The people of Chicago saw the government inspectors in
Packingtown, and they all took that to mean that they were protected from
diseased meat; they did not understand that these hundred and sixty-three
inspectors had been appointed at the request of the packers, and that
they were paid by the United States government to certify that all the
diseased meat was kept in the state. They had no authority beyond that;
for the inspection of meat to be sold in the city and state the whole
force in Packingtown consisted of three henchmen of the local political
(*Rules and Regulations for the Inspection of Livestock and Their Products.
United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Industries,
Order No. 125:--
Section 1. Proprietors of slaughterhouses, canning, salting, packing,
or rendering establishments engaged in the slaughtering of cattle,
sheep. or swine, or the packing of any of their products, the carcasses
or products of which are to become subjects of interstate or foreign
commerce, shall make application to the Secretary of Agriculture for
inspection of said animals and their products....
Section 15. Such rejected or condemned animals shall at once be removed
by the owners from the pens containing animals which have been inspected
and found to be free from disease and fit for human food, and shall be
disposed of in accordance with the laws, ordinances, and regulations of
the state and municipality in which said rejected or condemned animals
are located....
Section 25. A microscopic examination for trichinae shall be made of
all swine products exported to countries requiring such examination.
No microscopic examination will be made of hogs slaughtered for interstate
trade, but this examination shall be confined to those intended for the
export trade.)
And shortly afterward one of these, a physician, made the discovery that
the carcasses of steers which had been condemned as tubercular by the
government inspectors, and which therefore contained ptomaines, which are
deadly poisons, were left upon an open platform and carted away to be
sold in the city; and so he insisted that these carcasses be treated
with an injection of kerosene--and was ordered to resign the same week!
So indignant were the packers that they went farther, and compelled the
mayor to abolish the whole bureau of inspection; so that since then
there has not been even a pretense of any interference with the graft.
There was said to be two thousand dollars a week hush money from the
tubercular steers alone; and as much again from the hogs which had
died of cholera on the trains, and which you might see any day being
loaded into boxcars and hauled away to a place called Globe, in Indiana,
where they made a fancy grade of lard.
Jurgis heard of these things little by little, in the gossip of those
who were obliged to perpetrate them. It seemed as if every time you met
a person from a new department, you heard of new swindles and new crimes.
There was, for instance, a Lithuanian who was a cattle butcher for the
plant where Marija had worked, which killed meat for canning only; and to
hear this man describe the animals which came to his place would have been
worthwhile for a Dante or a Zola. It seemed that they must have agencies
all over the country, to hunt out old and crippled and diseased cattle
to be canned. There were cattle which had been fed on "whisky-malt,"
the refuse of the breweries, and had become what the men called "steerly"--
which means covered with boils. It was a nasty job killing these, for when
you plunged your knife into them they would burst and splash foul-smelling
stuff into your face; and when a man's sleeves were smeared with blood,
and his hands steeped in it, how was he ever to wipe his face, or to clear
his eyes so that he could see? It was stuff such as this that made the
"embalmed beef" that had killed several times as many United States
soldiers as all the bullets of the Spaniards; only the army beef, besides,
was not fresh canned, it was old stuff that had been lying for years in
the cellars.
Then one Sunday evening, Jurgis sat puffing his pipe by the kitchen stove,
and talking with an old fellow whom Jonas had introduced, and who worked
in the canning rooms at Durham's; and so Jurgis learned a few things about
the great and only Durham canned goods, which had become a national
institution. They were regular alchemists at Durham's; they advertised a
mushroom-catsup, and the men who made it did not know what a mushroom
looked like. They advertised "potted chicken,"--and it was like the
boardinghouse soup of the comic papers, through which a chicken had
walked with rubbers on. Perhaps they had a secret process for making
chickens chemically--who knows? said Jurgis' friend; the things that went
into the mixture were tripe, and the fat of pork, and beef suet, and hearts
of beef, and finally the waste ends of veal, when they had any. They put
these up in several grades, and sold them at several prices; but the
contents of the cans all came out of the same hopper. And then there
was "potted game" and "potted grouse," "potted ham," and "deviled ham"--
de-vyled, as the men called it. "De-vyled" ham was made out of the waste
ends of smoked beef that were too small to be sliced by the machines;
and also tripe, dyed with chemicals so that it would not show white;
and trimmings of hams and corned beef; and potatoes, skins and all;
and finally the hard cartilaginous gullets of beef, after the tongues
had been cut out. All this ingenious mixture was ground up and flavored
with spices to make it taste like something. Anybody who could invent a
new imitation had been sure of a fortune from old Durham, said Jurgis'
informant; but it was hard to think of anything new in a place where
so many sharp wits had been at work for so long; where men welcomed
tuberculosis in the cattle they were feeding, because it made them fatten
more quickly; and where they bought up all the old rancid butter left over
in the grocery stores of a continent, and "oxidized" it by a forced-air
process, to take away the odor, rechurned it with skim milk, and sold it
in bricks in the cities! Up to a year or two ago it had been the custom
to kill horses in the yards--ostensibly for fertilizer; but after long
agitation the newspapers had been able to make the public realize that
the horses were being canned. Now it was against the law to kill horses
in Packingtown, and the law was really complied with--for the present,
at any rate. Any day, however, one might see sharp-horned and shaggyhaired
creatures running with the sheep and yet what a job you would have
to get the public to believe that a good part of what it buys for lamb
and mutton is really goat's flesh!
There was another interesting set of statistics that a person might have
gathered in Packingtown--those of the various afflictions of the workers.
When Jurgis had first inspected the packing plants with Szedvilas, he had
marveled while he listened to the tale of all the things that were made
out of the carcasses of animals, and of all the lesser industries that
were maintained there; now he found that each one of these lesser
industries was a separate little inferno, in its way as horrible as the
killing beds, the source and fountain of them all. The workers in each
of them had their own peculiar diseases. And the wandering visitor might
be skeptical about all the swindles, but he could not be skeptical about
these, for the worker bore the evidence of them about on his own person--
generally he had only to hold out his hand.
There were the men in the pickle rooms, for instance, where old Antanas
had gotten his death; scarce a one of these that had not some spot of
horror on his person. Let a man so much as scrape his finger pushing
a truck in the pickle rooms, and he might have a sore that would put
him out of the world; all the joints in his fingers might be eaten by
the acid, one by one. Of the butchers and floorsmen, the beef-boners
and trimmers, and all those who used knives, you could scarcely find a
person who had the use of his thumb; time and time again the base of it
had been slashed, till it was a mere lump of flesh against which the man
pressed the knife to hold it. The hands of these men would be crisscrossed
with cuts, until you could no longer pretend to count them or to
trace them. They would have no nails,--they had worn them off pulling
hides; their knuckles were swollen so that their fingers spread out like
a fan. There were men who worked in the cooking rooms, in the midst of
steam and sickening odors, by artificial light; in these rooms the germs
of tuberculosis might live for two years, but the supply was renewed
every hour. There were the beef-luggers, who carried two-hundred-pound
quarters into the refrigerator-cars; a fearful kind of work, that began
at four o'clock in the morning, and that wore out the most powerful men
in a few years. There were those who worked in the chilling rooms, and
whose special disease was rheumatism; the time limit that a man could
work in the chilling rooms was said to be five years. There were the
wool-pluckers, whose hands went to pieces even sooner than the hands of
the pickle men; for the pelts of the sheep had to be painted with acid
to loosen the wool, and then the pluckers had to pull out this wool with
their bare hands, till the acid had eaten their fingers off. There were
those who made the tins for the canned meat; and their hands, too, were
a maze of cuts, and each cut represented a chance for blood poisoning.
Some worked at the stamping machines, and it was very seldom that one
could work long there at the pace that was set, and not give out and
forget himself and have a part of his hand chopped off. There were the
"hoisters," as they were called, whose task it was to press the lever
which lifted the dead cattle off the floor. They ran along upon a rafter,
peering down through the damp and the steam; and as old Durham's architects
had not built the killing room for the convenience of the hoisters, at every
few feet they would have to stoop under a beam, say four feet above the one
they ran on; which got them into the habit of stooping, so that in a few
years they would be walking like chimpanzees. Worst of any, however, were
the fertilizer men, and those who served in the cooking rooms. These people
could not be shown to the visitor,--for the odor of a fertilizer man would
scare any ordinary visitor at a hundred yards, and as for the other men,
who worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were
open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that
they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never
enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,--sometimes they would be
overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the
world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard!
Chapter 10
During the early part of the winter the family had had money enough
to live and a little over to pay their debts with; but when the
earnings of Jurgis fell from nine or ten dollars a week to five or six,
there was no longer anything to spare. The winter went, and the
spring came, and found them still living thus from hand to mouth,
hanging on day by day, with literally not a month's wages between
them and starvation. Marija was in despair, for there was still
no word about the reopening of the canning factory, and her savings
were almost entirely gone. She had had to give up all idea of
marrying then; the family could not get along without her--though for
that matter she was likely soon to become a burden even upon them,
for when her money was all gone, they would have to pay back what
they owed her in board. So Jurgis and Ona and Teta Elzbieta would
hold anxious conferences until late at night, trying to figure how
they could manage this too without starving.
Such were the cruel terms upon which their life was possible,
that they might never have nor expect a single instant's respite
from worry, a single instant in which they were not haunted by the
thought of money. They would no sooner escape, as by a miracle,
from one difficulty, than a new one would come into view. In addition
to all their physical hardships, there was thus a constant strain
upon their minds; they were harried all day and nearly all night by
worry and fear. This was in truth not living; it was scarcely even
existing, and they felt that it was too little for the price they paid.
They were willing to work all the time; and when people did their best,
ought they not to be able to keep alive?
There seemed never to be an end to the things they had to buy and to
the unforeseen contingencies. Once their water pipes froze and burst;
and when, in their ignorance, they thawed them out, they had a
terrifying flood in their house. It happened while the men were away,
and poor Elzbieta rushed out into the street screaming for help,
for she did not even know whether the flood could be stopped, or whether
they were ruined for life. It was nearly as bad as the latter, they
found in the end, for the plumber charged them seventy-five cents
an hour, and seventy-five cents for another man who had stood and
watched him, and included all the time the two had been going and
coming, and also a charge for all sorts of material and extras.
And then again, when they went to pay their January's installment on
the house, the agent terrified them by asking them if they had had the
insurance attended to yet. In answer to their inquiry he showed them
a clause in the deed which provided that they were to keep the house
insured for one thousand dollars, as soon as the present policy ran out,
which would happen in a few days. Poor Elzbieta, upon whom again fell
the blow, demanded how much it would cost them. Seven dollars, the man
said; and that night came Jurgis, grim and determined, requesting that
the agent would be good enough to inform him, once for all, as to all
the expenses they were liable for. The deed was signed now, he said,
with sarcasm proper to the new way of life he had learned--the deed was
signed, and so the agent had no longer anything to gain by keeping quiet.
And Jurgis looked the fellow squarely in the eye, and so the fellow
wasted no time in conventional protests, but read him the deed.
They would have to renew the insurance every year; they would have to
pay the taxes, about ten dollars a year; they would have to pay the
water tax, about six dollars a year--(Jurgis silently resolved to
shut off the hydrant). This, besides the interest and the monthly
installments, would be all--unless by chance the city should happen
to decide to put in a sewer or to lay a sidewalk. Yes, said the agent,
they would have to have these, whether they wanted them or not, if the
city said so. The sewer would cost them about twenty-two dollars,
and the sidewalk fifteen if it were wood, twenty-five if it were cement.
So Jurgis went home again; it was a relief to know the worst, at any rate,
so that he could no more be surprised by fresh demands. He saw now
how they had been plundered; but they were in for it, there was no
turning back. They could only go on and make the fight and win--
for defeat was a thing that could not even be thought of.
When the springtime came, they were delivered from the dreadful cold,
and that was a great deal; but in addition they had counted on the
money they would not have to pay for coal--and it was just at this
time that Marija's board began to fail. Then, too, the warm weather
brought trials of its own; each season had its trials, as they found.
In the spring there were cold rains, that turned the streets into
canals and bogs; the mud would be so deep that wagons would sink
up to the hubs, so that half a dozen horses could not move them.
Then, of course, it was impossible for any one to get to work with
dry feet; and this was bad for men that were poorly clad and shod,
and still worse for women and children. Later came midsummer, with the
stifling heat, when the dingy killing beds of Durham's became a very
purgatory; one time, in a single day, three men fell dead from sunstroke.
All day long the rivers of hot blood poured forth, until, with the sun
beating down, and the air motionless, the stench was enough to knock
a man over; all the old smells of a generation would be drawn out by
this heat--for there was never any washing of the walls and rafters
and pillars, and they were caked with the filth of a lifetime.
The men who worked on the killing beds would come to reek with foulness,
so that you could smell one of them fifty feet away; there was simply
no such thing as keeping decent, the most careful man gave it up in
the end, and wallowed in uncleanness. There was not even a place
where a man could wash his hands, and the men ate as much raw blood as
food at dinnertime. When they were at work they could not even wipe off
their faces--they were as helpless as newly born babes in that respect;
and it may seem like a small matter, but when the sweat began to run
down their necks and tickle them, or a fly to bother them, it was a
torture like being burned alive. Whether it was the slaughterhouses
or the dumps that were responsible, one could not say, but with the
hot weather there descended upon Packingtown a veritable Egyptian plague
of flies; there could be no describing this--the houses would be black
with them. There was no escaping; you might provide all your doors
and windows with screens, but their buzzing outside would be like
the swarming of bees, and whenever you opened the door they would
rush in as if a storm of wind were driving them.
Perhaps the summertime suggests to you thoughts of the country,
visions of green fields and mountains and sparkling lakes. It had
no such suggestion for the people in the yards. The great packing
machine ground on remorselessly, without thinking of green fields;
and the men and women and children who were part of it never saw
any green thing, not even a flower. Four or five miles to the east
of them lay the blue waters of Lake Michigan; but for all the good
it did them it might have been as far away as the Pacific Ocean.
They had only Sundays, and then they were too tired to walk.
They were tied to the great packing machine, and tied to it for life.
The managers and superintendents and clerks of Packingtown were all
recruited from another class, and never from the workers; they scorned
the workers, the very meanest of them. A poor devil of a bookkeeper
who had been working in Durham's for twenty years at a salary of
six dollars a week, and might work there for twenty more and do
no better, would yet consider himself a gentleman, as far removed
as the poles from the most skilled worker on the killing beds;
he would dress differently, and live in another part of the town,
and come to work at a different hour of the day, and in every way
make sure that he never rubbed elbows with a laboring man. Perhaps
this was due to the repulsiveness of the work; at any rate, the people
who worked with their hands were a class apart, and were made to feel it.
In the late spring the canning factory started up again, and so
once more Marija was heard to sing, and the love-music of Tamoszius
took on a less melancholy tone. It was not for long, however;
for a month or two later a dreadful calamity fell upon Marija.
Just one year and three days after she had begun work as a can-painter,
she lost her job.
It was a long story. Marija insisted that it was because of her
activity in the union. The packers, of course, had spies in all
the unions, and in addition they made a practice of buying up
a certain number of the union officials, as many as they thought
they needed. So every week they received reports as to what was
going on, and often they knew things before the members of the
union knew them. Any one who was considered to be dangerous by them
would find that he was not a favorite with his boss; and Marija had
been a great hand for going after the foreign people and preaching
to them. However that might be, the known facts were that a few
weeks before the factory closed, Marija had been cheated out of her
pay for three hundred cans. The girls worked at a long table,
and behind them walked a woman with pencil and notebook, keeping count
of the number they finished. This woman was, of course, only human,
and sometimes made mistakes; when this happened, there was no
redress--if on Saturday you got less money than you had earned,
you had to make the best of it. But Marija did not understand this,
and made a disturbance. Marija's disturbances did not mean anything,
and while she had known only Lithuanian and Polish, they had done no harm,
for people only laughed at her and made her cry. But now Marija was
able to call names in English, and so she got the woman who made the
mistake to disliking her. Probably, as Marija claimed, she made
mistakes on purpose after that; at any rate, she made them, and the
third time it happened Marija went on the warpath and took the matter
first to the forelady, and when she got no satisfaction there, to the
superintendent. This was unheard-of presumption, but the superintendent
said he would see about it, which Marija took to mean that she was
going to get her money; after waiting three days, she went to see
the superintendent again. This time the man frowned, and said that he
had not had time to attend to it; and when Marija, against the advice
and warning of every one, tried it once more, he ordered her back to
her work in a passion. Just how things happened after that Marija was
not sure, but that afternoon the forelady told her that her services
would not be any longer required. Poor Marija could not have been
more dumfounded had the woman knocked her over the head; at first she
could not believe what she heard, and then she grew furious and swore
that she would come anyway, that her place belonged to her. In the end
she sat down in the middle of the floor and wept and wailed.
It was a cruel lesson; but then Marija was headstrong--she should
have listened to those who had had experience. The next time she
would know her place, as the forelady expressed it; and so Marija
went out, and the family faced the problem of an existence again.
It was especially hard this time, for Ona was to be confined before long,
and Jurgis was trying hard to save up money for this. He had heard
dreadful stories of the midwives, who grow as thick as fleas in
Packingtown; and he had made up his mind that Ona must have a
man-doctor. Jurgis could be very obstinate when he wanted to,
and he was in this case, much to the dismay of the women, who felt
that a man-doctor was an impropriety, and that the matter really
belonged to them. The cheapest doctor they could find would charge
them fifteen dollars, and perhaps more when the bill came in;
and here was Jurgis, declaring that he would pay it, even if he had
to stop eating in the meantime!
Marija had only about twenty-five dollars left. Day after day she
wandered about the yards begging a job, but this time without hope
of finding it. Marija could do the work of an able-bodied man,
when she was cheerful, but discouragement wore her out easily,
and she would come home at night a pitiable object. She learned
her lesson this time, poor creature; she learned it ten times over.
All the family learned it along with her--that when you have once
got a job in Packingtown, you hang on to it, come what will.
Four weeks Marija hunted, and half of a fifth week. Of course she
stopped paying her dues to the union. She lost all interest in the
union, and cursed herself for a fool that she had ever been dragged
into one. She had about made up her mind that she was a lost soul,
when somebody told her of an opening, and she went and got a place
as a "beef-trimmer." She got this because the boss saw that she
had the muscles of a man, and so he discharged a man and put Marija
to do his work, paying her a little more than half what he had been
paying before.
When she first came to Packingtown, Marija would have scorned such
work as this. She was in another canning factory, and her work
was to trim the meat of those diseased cattle that Jurgis had been
told about not long before. She was shut up in one of the rooms
where the people seldom saw the daylight; beneath her were the
chilling rooms, where the meat was frozen, and above her were
the cooking rooms; and so she stood on an ice-cold floor, while her
head was often so hot that she could scarcely breathe. Trimming beef
off the bones by the hundred-weight, while standing up from early
morning till late at night, with heavy boots on and the floor
always damp and full of puddles, liable to be thrown out of work
indefinitely because of a slackening in the trade, liable again
to be kept overtime in rush seasons, and be worked till she trembled
in every nerve and lost her grip on her slimy knife, and gave herself
a poisoned wound--that was the new life that unfolded itself before Marija.
But because Marija was a human horse she merely laughed and went
at it; it would enable her to pay her board again, and keep the
family going. And as for Tamoszius--well, they had waited a long time,
and they could wait a little longer. They could not possibly get
along upon his wages alone, and the family could not live without hers.
He could come and visit her, and sit in the kitchen and hold her hand,
and he must manage to be content with that. But day by day the
music of Tamoszius' violin became more passionate and heartbreaking;
and Marija would sit with her hands clasped and her cheeks wet and
all her body atremble, hearing in the wailing melodies the voices
of the unborn generations which cried out in her for life.
Marija's lesson came just in time to save Ona from a similar fate.
Ona, too, was dissatisfied with her place, and had far more reason
than Marija. She did not tell half of her story at home, because she
saw it was a torment to Jurgis, and she was afraid of what he might do.
For a long time Ona had seen that Miss Henderson, the forelady in
her department, did not like her. At first she thought it was the
old-time mistake she had made in asking for a holiday to get married.
Then she concluded it must be because she did not give the forelady
a present occasionally--she was the kind that took presents from
the girls, Ona learned, and made all sorts of discriminations in favor
of those who gave them. In the end, however, Ona discovered that
it was even worse than that. Miss Henderson was a newcomer, and it was
some time before rumor made her out; but finally it transpired that
she was a kept woman, the former mistress of the superintendent of
a department in the same building. He had put her there to keep
her quiet, it seemed--and that not altogether with success, for once
or twice they had been heard quarreling. She had the temper of a hyena,
and soon the place she ran was a witch's caldron. There were some
of the girls who were of her own sort, who were willing to toady
to her and flatter her; and these would carry tales about the rest,
and so the furies were unchained in the place. Worse than this,
the woman lived in a bawdyhouse downtown, with a coarse, red-faced
Irishman named Connor, who was the boss of the loading-gang outside,
and would make free with the girls as they went to and from their work.
In the slack seasons some of them would go with Miss Henderson to
this house downtown--in fact, it would not be too much to say that
she managed her department at Brown's in conjunction with it.
Sometimes women from the house would be given places alongside of
decent girls, and after other decent girls had been turned off to
make room for them. When you worked in this woman's department
the house downtown was never out of your thoughts all day--there were
always whiffs of it to be caught, like the odor of the Packingtown
rendering plants at night, when the wind shifted suddenly. There would
be stories about it going the rounds; the girls opposite you would be
telling them and winking at you. In such a place Ona would not have
stayed a day, but for starvation; and, as it was, she was never sure
that she could stay the next day. She understood now that the real
reason that Miss Henderson hated her was that she was a decent
married girl; and she knew that the talebearers and the toadies
hated her for the same reason, and were doing their best to make her
life miserable.
But there was no place a girl could go in Packingtown, if she was
particular about things of this sort; there was no place in it
where a prostitute could not get along better than a decent girl.
Here was a population, low-class and mostly foreign, hanging always
on the verge of starvation, and dependent for its opportunities of
life upon the whim of men every bit as brutal and unscrupulous as
the old-time slave drivers; under such circumstances immorality
was exactly as inevitable, and as prevalent, as it was under the
system of chattel slavery. Things that were quite unspeakable
went on there in the packing houses all the time, and were taken
for granted by everybody; only they did not show, as in the old
slavery times, because there was no difference in color between
master and slave.
One morning Ona stayed home, and Jurgis had the man-doctor,
according to his whim, and she was safely delivered of a fine baby.
It was an enormous big boy, and Ona was such a tiny creature herself,
that it seemed quite incredible. Jurgis would stand and gaze at the
stranger by the hour, unable to believe that it had really happened.
The coming of this boy was a decisive event with Jurgis. It made
him irrevocably a family man; it killed the last lingering impulse
that he might have had to go out in the evenings and sit and talk
with the men in the saloons. There was nothing he cared for now
so much as to sit and look at the baby. This was very curious,
for Jurgis had never been interested in babies before. But then,
this was a very unusual sort of a baby. He had the brightest
little black eyes, and little black ringlets all over his head;
he was the living image of his father, everybody said--and Jurgis
found this a fascinating circumstance. It was sufficiently perplexing
that this tiny mite of life should have come into the world at all
in the manner that it had; that it should have come with a comical
imitation of its father's nose was simply uncanny.
Perhaps, Jurgis thought, this was intended to signify that it was
his baby; that it was his and Ona's, to care for all its life.
Jurgis had never possessed anything nearly so interesting--a baby was,
when you came to think about it, assuredly a marvelous possession.
It would grow up to be a man, a human soul, with a personality all
its own, a will of its own! Such thoughts would keep haunting Jurgis,
filling him with all sorts of strange and almost painful excitements.
He was wonderfully proud of little Antanas; he was curious about all
the details of him--the washing and the dressing and the eating and
the sleeping of him, and asked all sorts of absurd questions. It took
him quite a while to get over his alarm at the incredible shortness
of the little creature's legs.
Jurgis had, alas, very little time to see his baby; he never felt
the chains about him more than just then. When he came home at night,
the baby would be asleep, and it would be the merest chance if he awoke
before Jurgis had to go to sleep himself. Then in the morning there
was no time to look at him, so really the only chance the father
had was on Sundays. This was more cruel yet for Ona, who ought
to have stayed home and nursed him, the doctor said, for her own
health as well as the baby's; but Ona had to go to work, and leave him
for Teta Elzbieta to feed upon the pale blue poison that was called
milk at the corner grocery. Ona's confinement lost her only a
week's wages--she would go to the factory the second Monday, and the
best that Jurgis could persuade her was to ride in the car, and let
him run along behind and help her to Brown's when she alighted.
After that it would be all right, said Ona, it was no strain sitting
still sewing hams all day; and if she waited longer she might find
that her dreadful forelady had put some one else in her place.
That would be a greater calamity than ever now, Ona continued,
on account of the baby. They would all have to work harder now
on his account. It was such a responsibility--they must not have
the baby grow up to suffer as they had. And this indeed had been
the first thing that Jurgis had thought of himself--he had clenched
his hands and braced himself anew for the struggle, for the sake of
that tiny mite of human possibility.
And so Ona went back to Brown's and saved her place and a week's wages;
and so she gave herself some one of the thousand ailments that women
group under the title of "womb trouble," and was never again a well
person as long as she lived. It is difficult to convey in words all
that this meant to Ona; it seemed such a slight offense, and the
punishment was so out of all proportion, that neither she nor any one
else ever connected the two. "Womb trouble" to Ona did not mean
a specialist's diagnosis, and a course of treatment, and perhaps
an operation or two; it meant simply headaches and pains in the back,
and depression and heartsickness, and neuralgia when she had to go to
work in the rain. The great majority of the women who worked in
Packingtown suffered in the same way, and from the same cause,
so it was not deemed a thing to see the doctor about; instead Ona
would try patent medicines, one after another, as her friends told
her about them. As these all contained alcohol, or some other
stimulant, she found that they all did her good while she took them;
and so she was always chasing the phantom of good health, and losing
it because she was too poor to continue.
Chapter 11
During the summer the packing houses were in full activity again,
and Jurgis made more money. He did not make so much, however, as
he had the previous summer, for the packers took on more hands.
There were new men every week, it seemed--it was a regular system;
and this number they would keep over to the next slack season,
so that every one would have less than ever. Sooner or later,
by this plan, they would have all the floating labor of Chicago
trained to do their work. And how very cunning a trick was that!
The men were to teach new hands, who would some day come and break
their strike; and meantime they were kept so poor that they could
not prepare for the trial!
But let no one suppose that this superfluity of employees meant
easier work for any one! On the contrary, the speeding-up seemed to
be growing more savage all the time; they were continually inventing
new devices to crowd the work on--it was for all the world like the
thumbscrew of the medieval torture chamber. They would get new
pacemakers and pay them more; they would drive the men on with new
machinery--it was said that in the hog-killing rooms the speed at
which the hogs moved was determined by clockwork, and that it was
increased a little every day. In piecework they would reduce the time,
requiring the same work in a shorter time, and paying the same wages;
and then, after the workers had accustomed themselves to this new speed,
they would reduce the rate of payment to correspond with the reduction
in time! They had done this so often in the canning establishments
that the girls were fairly desperate; their wages had gone down by
a full third in the past two years, and a storm of discontent was
brewing that was likely to break any day. Only a month after Marija
had become a beef-trimmer the canning factory that she had left posted
a cut that would divide the girls' earnings almost squarely in half;
and so great was the indignation at this that they marched out without
even a parley, and organized in the street outside. One of the
girls had read somewhere that a red flag was the proper symbol for
oppressed workers, and so they mounted one, and paraded all about
the yards, yelling with rage. A new union was the result of this
outburst, but the impromptu strike went to pieces in three days,
owing to the rush of new labor. At the end of it the girl who had
carried the red flag went downtown and got a position in a great
department store, at a salary of two dollars and a half a week.
Jurgis and Ona heard these stories with dismay, for there was no telling
when their own time might come. Once or twice there had been rumors
that one of the big houses was going to cut its unskilled men to fifteen
cents an hour, and Jurgis knew that if this was done, his turn would
come soon. He had learned by this time that Packingtown was really
not a number of firms at all, but one great firm, the Beef Trust.
And every week the managers of it got together and compared notes,
and there was one scale for all the workers in the yards and one
standard of efficiency. Jurgis was told that they also fixed the
price they would pay for beef on the hoof and the price of all
dressed meat in the country; but that was something he did not
understand or care about.
The only one who was not afraid of a cut was Marija, who
congratulated herself, somewhat naively, that there had been one
in her place only a short time before she came. Marija was getting
to be a skilled beef-trimmer, and was mounting to the heights again.
During the summer and fall Jurgis and Ona managed to pay her back the
last penny they owed her, and so she began to have a bank account.
Tamoszius had a bank account also, and they ran a race, and began
to figure upon household expenses once more.
The possession of vast wealth entails cares and responsibilities,
however, as poor Marija found out. She had taken the advice of a friend
and invested her savings in a bank on Ashland Avenue. Of course she
knew nothing about it, except that it was big and imposing--what
possible chance has a poor foreign working girl to understand the
banking business, as it is conducted in this land of frenzied finance?
So Marija lived in a continual dread lest something should happen
to her bank, and would go out of her way mornings to make sure that
it was still there. Her principal thought was of fire, for she had
deposited her money in bills, and was afraid that if they were burned
up the bank would not give her any others. Jurgis made fun of her
for this, for he was a man and was proud of his superior knowledge,
telling her that the bank had fireproof vaults, and all its millions
of dollars hidden safely away in them.
However, one morning Marija took her usual detour, and, to her horror
and dismay, saw a crowd of people in front of the bank, filling the
avenue solid for half a block. All the blood went out of her face
for terror. She broke into a run, shouting to the people to ask what
was the matter, but not stopping to hear what they answered, till she had
come to where the throng was so dense that she could no longer advance.
There was a "run on the bank," they told her then, but she did not
know what that was, and turned from one person to another, trying in
an agony of fear to make out what they meant. Had something gone wrong
with the bank? Nobody was sure, but they thought so. Couldn't she get
her money? There was no telling; the people were afraid not, and they
were all trying to get it. It was too early yet to tell anything--
the bank would not open for nearly three hours. So in a frenzy of
despair Marija began to claw her way toward the doors of this building,
through a throng of men, women, and children, all as excited as
herself. It was a scene of wild confusion, women shrieking and
wringing their hands and fainting, and men fighting and trampling
down everything in their way. In the midst of the melee Marija
recollected that she did not have her bankbook, and could not get
her money anyway, so she fought her way out and started on a run
for home. This was fortunate for her, for a few minutes later the
police reserves arrived.
In half an hour Marija was back, Teta Elzbieta with her, both of them
breathless with running and sick with fear. The crowd was now formed
in a line, extending for several blocks, with half a hundred policemen
keeping guard, and so there was nothing for them to do but to take
their places at the end of it. At nine o'clock the bank opened and
began to pay the waiting throng; but then, what good did that do
Marija, who saw three thousand people before her--enough to take out
the last penny of a dozen banks?
To make matters worse a drizzling rain came up, and soaked them
to the skin; yet all the morning they stood there, creeping slowly
toward the goal--all the afternoon they stood there, heartsick,
seeing that the hour of closing was coming, and that they were going
to be left out. Marija made up her mind that, come what might,
she would stay there and keep her place; but as nearly all did
the same, all through the long, cold night, she got very little
closer to the bank for that. Toward evening Jurgis came; he had
heard the story from the children, and he brought some food and
dry wraps, which made it a little easier.
The next morning, before daybreak, came a bigger crowd than ever,
and more policemen from downtown. Marija held on like grim death,
and toward afternoon she got into the bank and got her money--all in
big silver dollars, a handkerchief full. When she had once got her
hands on them her fear vanished, and she wanted to put them back again;
but the man at the window was savage, and said that the bank would
receive no more deposits from those who had taken part in the run.
So Marija was forced to take her dollars home with her, watching to
right and left, expecting every instant that some one would try to
rob her; and when she got home she was not much better off. Until she
could find another bank there was nothing to do but sew them up in her
clothes, and so Marija went about for a week or more, loaded down with
bullion, and afraid to cross the street in front of the house, because
Jurgis told her she would sink out of sight in the mud. Weighted this
way she made her way to the yards, again in fear, this time to see
if she had lost her place; but fortunately about ten per cent of the
working people of Packingtown had been depositors in that bank,
and it was not convenient to discharge that many at once. The cause
of the panic had been the attempt of a policeman to arrest a drunken
man in a saloon next door, which had drawn a crowd at the hour the people
were on their way to work, and so started the "run."
About this time Jurgis and Ona also began a bank account. Besides
having paid Jonas and Marija, they had almost paid for their furniture,
and could have that little sum to count on. So long as each of them
could bring home nine or ten dollars a week, they were able to get
along finely. Also election day came round again, and Jurgis made half
a week's wages out of that, all net profit. It was a very close election
that year, and the echoes of the battle reached even to Packingtown.
The two rival sets of grafters hired halls and set off fireworks and
made speeches, to try to get the people interested in the matter.
Although Jurgis did not understand it all, he knew enough by this time
to realize that it was not supposed to be right to sell your vote.
However, as every one did it, and his refusal to join would not have
made the slightest difference in the results, the idea of refusing would
have seemed absurd, had it ever come into his head.
Now chill winds and shortening days began to warn them that the winter
was coming again. It seemed as if the respite had been too short--
they had not had time enough to get ready for it; but still it came,
inexorably, and the hunted look began to come back into the eyes
of little Stanislovas. The prospect struck fear to the heart of
Jurgis also, for he knew that Ona was not fit to face the cold and
the snowdrifts this year. And suppose that some day when a blizzard
struck them and the cars were not running, Ona should have to give up,
and should come the next day to find that her place had been given to
some one who lived nearer and could be depended on?
It was the week before Christmas that the first storm came, and then
the soul of Jurgis rose up within him like a sleeping lion. There were
four days that the Ashland Avenue cars were stalled, and in those days,
for the first time in his life, Jurgis knew what it was to be really
opposed. He had faced difficulties before, but they had been
child's play; now there was a death struggle, and all the furies
were unchained within him. The first morning they set out two hours
before dawn, Ona wrapped all in blankets and tossed upon his shoulder
like a sack of meal, and the little boy, bundled nearly out of sight,
hanging by his coat-tails. There was a raging blast beating in his face,
and the thermometer stood below zero; the snow was never short of his
knees, and in some of the drifts it was nearly up to his armpits.
It would catch his feet and try to trip him; it would build itself
into a wall before him to beat him back; and he would fling himself
into it, plunging like a wounded buffalo, puffing and snorting in rage.
So foot by foot he drove his way, and when at last he came to Durham's
he was staggering and almost blind, and leaned against a pillar,
gasping, and thanking God that the cattle came late to the killing
beds that day. In the evening the same thing had to be done again;
and because Jurgis could not tell what hour of the night he would
get off, he got a saloon-keeper to let Ona sit and wait for him in
a corner. Once it was eleven o'clock at night, and black as the pit,
but still they got home.
That blizzard knocked many a man out, for the crowd outside begging
for work was never greater, and the packers would not wait long for
any one. When it was over, the soul of Jurgis was a song, for he
had met the enemy and conquered, and felt himself the master of
his fate.--So it might be with some monarch of the forest that has
vanquished his foes in fair fight, and then falls into some cowardly
trap in the night-time.
A time of peril on the killing beds was when a steer broke loose.
Sometimes, in the haste of speeding-up, they would dump one of
the animals out on the floor before it was fully stunned, and it
would get upon its feet and run amuck. Then there would be a yell
of warning--the men would drop everything and dash for the nearest
pillar, slipping here and there on the floor, and tumbling over
each other. This was bad enough in the summer, when a man could see;
in wintertime it was enough to make your hair stand up, for the room
would be so full of steam that you could not make anything out five
feet in front of you. To be sure, the steer was generally blind and
frantic, and not especially bent on hurting any one; but think of
the chances of running upon a knife, while nearly every man had one
in his hand! And then, to cap the climax, the floor boss would come
rushing up with a rifle and begin blazing away!
It was in one of these melees that Jurgis fell into his trap. That is
the only word to describe it; it was so cruel, and so utterly not to
be foreseen. At first he hardly noticed it, it was such a slight
accident--simply that in leaping out of the way he turned his ankle.
There was a twinge of pain, but Jurgis was used to pain, and did not
coddle himself. When he came to walk home, however, he realized that
it was hurting him a great deal; and in the morning his ankle was
swollen out nearly double its size, and he could not get his foot into
his shoe. Still, even then, he did nothing more than swear a little,
and wrapped his foot in old rags, and hobbled out to take the car.
It chanced to be a rush day at Durham's, and all the long morning
he limped about with his aching foot; by noontime the pain was so great
that it made him faint, and after a couple of hours in the afternoon
he was fairly beaten, and had to tell the boss. They sent for the
company doctor, and he examined the foot and told Jurgis to go home
to bed, adding that he had probably laid himself up for months by
his folly. The injury was not one that Durham and Company could be
held responsible for, and so that was all there was to it, so far as
the doctor was concerned.
Jurgis got home somehow, scarcely able to see for the pain, and with
an awful terror in his soul, Elzbieta helped him into bed and bandaged
his injured foot with cold water and tried hard not to let him see
her dismay; when the rest came home at night she met them outside and
told them, and they, too, put on a cheerful face, saying it would only
be for a week or two, and that they would pull him through.
When they had gotten him to sleep, however, they sat by the kitchen fire
and talked it over in frightened whispers. They were in for a siege,
that was plainly to be seen. Jurgis had only about sixty dollars in
the bank, and the slack season was upon them. Both Jonas and Marija
might soon be earning no more than enough to pay their board, and besides
that there were only the wages of Ona and the pittance of the little boy.
There was the rent to pay, and still some on the furniture; there was
the insurance just due, and every month there was sack after sack of coal.
It was January, midwinter, an awful time to have to face privation.
Deep snows would come again, and who would carry Ona to her work now?
She might lose her place--she was almost certain to lose it. And then
little Stanislovas began to whimper--who would take care of him?
It was dreadful that an accident of this sort, that no man can help,
should have meant such suffering. The bitterness of it was the daily
food and drink of Jurgis. It was of no use for them to try to
deceive him; he knew as much about the situation as they did, and he
knew that the family might literally starve to death. The worry of it
fairly ate him up--he began to look haggard the first two or three
days of it. In truth, it was almost maddening for a strong man
like him, a fighter, to have to lie there helpless on his back.
It was for all the world the old story of Prometheus bound. As Jurgis
lay on his bed, hour after hour there came to him emotions that he
had never known before. Before this he had met life with a welcome--
it had its trials, but none that a man could not face. But now,
in the nighttime, when he lay tossing about, there would come stalking
into his chamber a grisly phantom, the sight of which made his flesh
curl and his hair to bristle up. It was like seeing the world fall
away from underneath his feet; like plunging down into a bottomless
abyss into yawning caverns of despair. It might be true, then,
after all, what others had told him about life, that the best powers
of a man might not be equal to it! It might be true that, strive as
he would, toil as he would, he might fail, and go down and be destroyed!
The thought of this was like an icy hand at his heart; the thought
that here, in this ghastly home of all horror, he and all those who
were dear to him might lie and perish of starvation and cold,
and there would be no ear to hear their cry, no hand to help them!
It was true, it was true,--that here in this huge city, with its
stores of heaped-up wealth, human creatures might be hunted down and
destroyed by the wild-beast powers of nature, just as truly as ever
they were in the days of the cave men!
Ona was now making about thirty dollars a month, and Stanislovas
about thirteen. To add to this there was the board of Jonas and
Marija, about forty-five dollars. Deducting from this the rent,
interest, and installments on the furniture, they had left sixty
dollars, and deducting the coal, they had fifty. They did without
everything that human beings could do without; they went in old and
ragged clothing, that left them at the mercy of the cold, and when the
children's shoes wore out, they tied them up with string. Half invalid
as she was, Ona would do herself harm by walking in the rain and cold
when she ought to have ridden; they bought literally nothing but
food--and still they could not keep alive on fifty dollars a month.
They might have done it, if only they could have gotten pure food,
and at fair prices; or if only they had known what to get--if they
had not been so pitifully ignorant! But they had come to a new country,
where everything was different, including the food. They had always
been accustomed to eat a great deal of smoked sausage, and how could
they know that what they bought in America was not the same--that its
color was made by chemicals, and its smoky flavor by more chemicals,
and that it was full of "potato flour" besides? Potato flour is the
waste of potato after the starch and alcohol have been extracted;
it has no more food value than so much wood, and as its use as a food
adulterant is a penal offense in Europe, thousands of tons of it are
shipped to America every year. It was amazing what quantities of
food such as this were needed every day, by eleven hungry persons.
A dollar sixty-five a day was simply not enough to feed them, and there
was no use trying; and so each week they made an inroad upon the pitiful
little bank account that Ona had begun. Because the account was in
her name, it was possible for her to keep this a secret from her
husband, and to keep the heartsickness of it for her own.
It would have been better if Jurgis had been really ill; if he had
not been able to think. For he had no resources such as most
invalids have; all he could do was to lie there and toss about from
side to side. Now and then he would break into cursing, regardless
of everything; and now and then his impatience would get the better
of him, and he would try to get up, and poor Teta Elzbieta would
have to plead with him in a frenzy. Elzbieta was all alone with him
the greater part of the time. She would sit and smooth his forehead
by the hour, and talk to him and try to make him forget. Sometimes it
would be too cold for the children to go to school, and they would
have to play in the kitchen, where Jurgis was, because it was the
only room that was half warm. These were dreadful times, for Jurgis
would get as cross as any bear; he was scarcely to be blamed, for he
had enough to worry him, and it was hard when he was trying to take
a nap to be kept awake by noisy and peevish children.
Elzbieta's only resource in those times was little Antanas; indeed,
it would be hard to say how they could have gotten along at all if
it had not been for little Antanas. It was the one consolation of
Jurgis' long imprisonment that now he had time to look at his baby.
Teta Elzbieta would put the clothesbasket in which the baby slept
alongside of his mattress, and Jurgis would lie upon one elbow and
watch him by the hour, imagining things. Then little Antanas would
open his eyes--he was beginning to take notice of things now; and he
would smile--how he would smile! So Jurgis would begin to forget
and be happy because he was in a world where there was a thing so
beautiful as the smile of little Antanas, and because such a world
could not but be good at the heart of it. He looked more like his
father every hour, Elzbieta would say, and said it many times a day,
because she saw that it pleased Jurgis; the poor little terror-stricken
woman was planning all day and all night to soothe the prisoned giant
who was intrusted to her care. Jurgis, who knew nothing about the
agelong and everlasting hypocrisy of woman, would take the bait and
grin with delight; and then he would hold his finger in front of
little Antanas' eyes, and move it this way and that, and laugh with
glee to see the baby follow it. There is no pet quite so fascinating
as a baby; he would look into Jurgis' face with such uncanny seriousness,
and Jurgis would start and cry: "Palauk! Look, Muma, he knows his papa!
He does, he does! Tu mano szirdele, the little rascal!"
Chapter 12
For three weeks after his injury Jurgis never got up from bed. It was
a very obstinate sprain; the swelling would not go down, and the pain
still continued. At the end of that time, however, he could contain
himself no longer, and began trying to walk a little every day,
laboring to persuade himself that he was better. No arguments could
stop him, and three or four days later he declared that he was going
back to work. He limped to the cars and got to Brown's, where he
found that the boss had kept his place--that is, was willing to
turn out into the snow the poor devil he had hired in the meantime.
Every now and then the pain would force Jurgis to stop work, but he
stuck it out till nearly an hour before closing. Then he was forced
to acknowledge that he could not go on without fainting; it almost
broke his heart to do it, and he stood leaning against a pillar and
weeping like a child. Two of the men had to help him to the car,
and when he got out he had to sit down and wait in the snow till some
one came along.
So they put him to bed again, and sent for the doctor, as they ought
to have done in the beginning. It transpired that he had twisted a
tendon out of place, and could never have gotten well without attention.
Then he gripped the sides of the bed, and shut his teeth together,
and turned white with agony, while the doctor pulled and wrenched
away at his swollen ankle. When finally the doctor left, he told
him that he would have to lie quiet for two months, and that if he
went to work before that time he might lame himself for life.
Three days later there came another heavy snowstorm, and Jonas and
Marija and Ona and little Stanislovas all set out together, an hour
before daybreak, to try to get to the yards. About noon the last two
came back, the boy screaming with pain. His fingers were all frosted,
it seemed. They had had to give up trying to get to the yards,
and had nearly perished in a drift. All that they knew how to do
was to hold the frozen fingers near the fire, and so little Stanislovas
spent most of the day dancing about in horrible agony, till Jurgis
flew into a passion of nervous rage and swore like a madman, declaring
that he would kill him if he did not stop. All that day and night
the family was half-crazed with fear that Ona and the boy had lost
their places; and in the morning they set out earlier than ever,
after the little fellow had been beaten with a stick by Jurgis.
There could be no trifling in a case like this, it was a matter of
life and death; little Stanislovas could not be expected to realize
that he might a great deal better freeze in the snowdrift than lose
his job at the lard machine. Ona was quite certain that she would find
her place gone, and was all unnerved when she finally got to Brown's,
and found that the forelady herself had failed to come, and was therefore
compelled to be lenient.
One of the consequences of this episode was that the first joints of
three of the little boy's fingers were permanently disabled, and another
that thereafter he always had to be beaten before he set out to work,
whenever there was fresh snow on the ground. Jurgis was called upon
to do the beating, and as it hurt his foot he did it with a vengeance;
but it did not tend to add to the sweetness of his temper. They say that
the best dog will turn cross if he be kept chained all the time, and it
was the same with the man; he had not a thing to do all day but lie and
curse his fate, and the time came when he wanted to curse everything.
This was never for very long, however, for when Ona began to cry,
Jurgis could not stay angry. The poor fellow looked like a homeless
ghost, with his cheeks sunken in and his long black hair straggling
into his eyes; he was too discouraged to cut it, or to think about
his appearance. His muscles were wasting away, and what were left
were soft and flabby. He had no appetite, and they could not afford
to tempt him with delicacies. It was better, he said, that he should
not eat, it was a saving. About the end of March he had got hold of
Ona's bankbook, and learned that there was only three dollars left
to them in the world.
But perhaps the worst of the consequences of this long siege was that
they lost another member of their family; Brother Jonas disappeared.
One Saturday night he did not come home, and thereafter all their
efforts to get trace of him were futile. It was said by the boss
at Durham's that he had gotten his week's money and left there.
That might not be true, of course, for sometimes they would say that
when a man had been killed; it was the easiest way out of it for
all concerned. When, for instance, a man had fallen into one of
the rendering tanks and had been made into pure leaf lard and peerless
fertilizer, there was no use letting the fact out and making his
family unhappy. More probable, however, was the theory that Jonas
had deserted them, and gone on the road, seeking happiness. He had
been discontented for a long time, and not without some cause.
He paid good board, and was yet obliged to live in a family where
nobody had enough to eat. And Marija would keep giving them all
her money, and of course he could not but feel that he was called
upon to do the same. Then there were crying brats, and all sorts
of misery; a man would have had to be a good deal of a hero to stand
it all without grumbling, and Jonas was not in the least a hero--he was
simply a weatherbeaten old fellow who liked to have a good supper and
sit in the corner by the fire and smoke his pipe in peace before he
went to bed. Here there was not room by the fire, and through the
winter the kitchen had seldom been warm enough for comfort. So, with
the springtime, what was more likely than that the wild idea of
escaping had come to him? Two years he had been yoked like a horse
to a half-ton truck in Durham's dark cellars, with never a rest,
save on Sundays and four holidays in the year, and with never a word
of thanks--only kicks and blows and curses, such as no decent dog
would have stood. And now the winter was over, and the spring winds
were blowing--and with a day's walk a man might put the smoke of
Packingtown behind him forever, and be where the grass was green and
the flowers all the colors of the rainbow!
But now the income of the family was cut down more than one-third,
and the food demand was cut only one-eleventh, so that they were
worse off than ever. Also they were borrowing money from Marija,
and eating up her bank account, and spoiling once again her hopes
of marriage and happiness. And they were even going into debt to
Tamoszius Kuszleika and letting him impoverish himself. Poor Tamoszius
was a man without any relatives, and with a wonderful talent besides,
and he ought to have made money and prospered; but he had fallen
in love, and so given hostages to fortune, and was doomed to be
dragged down too.
So it was finally decided that two more of the children would have
to leave school. Next to Stanislovas, who was now fifteen, there was
a girl, little Kotrina, who was two years younger, and then two boys,
Vilimas, who was eleven, and Nikalojus, who was ten. Both of these
last were bright boys, and there was no reason why their family
should starve when tens of thousands of children no older were
earning their own livings. So one morning they were given a quarter
apiece and a roll with a sausage in it, and, with their minds top-heavy
with good advice, were sent out to make their way to the city and
learn to sell newspapers. They came back late at night in tears,
having walked for the five or six miles to report that a man had
offered to take them to a place where they sold newspapers, and had
taken their money and gone into a store to get them, and nevermore
been seen. So they both received a whipping, and the next moming
set out again. This time they found the newspaper place, and procured
their stock; and after wandering about till nearly noontime, saying
"Paper?" to every one they saw, they had all their stock taken away
and received a thrashing besides from a big newsman upon whose
territory they had trespassed. Fortunately, however, they had
already sold some papers, and came back with nearly as much as they
started with.
After a week of mishaps such as these, the two little fellows began
to learn the ways of the trade--the names of the different papers,
and how many of each to get, and what sort of people to offer them to,
and where to go and where to stay away from. After this, leaving home
at four o'clock in the morning, and running about the streets, first
with morning papers and then with evening, they might come home late
at night with twenty or thirty cents apiece--possibly as much as
forty cents. From this they had to deduct their carfare, since the
distance was so great; but after a while they made friends, and learned
still more, and then they would save their carfare. They would get
on a car when the conductor was not looking, and hide in the crowd;
and three times out of four he would not ask for their fares, either
not seeing them, or thinking they had already paid; or if he did ask,
they would hunt through their pockets, and then begin to cry, and either
have their fares paid by some kind old lady, or else try the trick
again on a new car. All this was fair play, they felt. Whose fault
was it that at the hours when workingmen were going to their work
and back, the cars were so crowded that the conductors could not
collect all the fares? And besides, the companies were thieves,
people said--had stolen all their franchises with the help of
scoundrelly politicians!
Now that the winter was by, and there was no more danger of snow,
and no more coal to buy, and another room warm enough to put the
children into when they cried, and enough money to get along from
week to week with, Jurgis was less terrible than he had been.
A man can get used to anything in the course of time, and Jurgis
had gotten used to lying about the house. Ona saw this, and was
very careful not to destroy his peace of mind, by letting him know
how very much pain she was suffering. It was now the time of the
spring rains, and Ona had often to ride to her work, in spite of
the expense; she was getting paler every day, and sometimes, in spite
of her good resolutions, it pained her that Jurgis did not notice it.
She wondered if he cared for her as much as ever, if all this misery
was not wearing out his love. She had to be away from him all the time,
and bear her own troubles while he was bearing his; and then, when she
came home, she was so worn out; and whenever they talked they had
only their worries to talk of--truly it was hard, in such a life,
to keep any sentiment alive. The woe of this would flame up in Ona
sometimes--at night she would suddenly clasp her big husband in her
arms and break into passionate weeping, demanding to know if he really
loved her. Poor Jurgis, who had in truth grown more matter-of-fact,
under the endless pressure of penury, would not know what to make of
these things, and could only try to recollect when he had last been
cross; and so Ona would have to forgive him and sob herself to sleep.
The latter part of April Jurgis went to see the doctor, and was given
a bandage to lace about his ankle, and told that he might go back
to work. It needed more than the permission of the doctor, however,
for when he showed up on the killing floor of Brown's, he was told
by the foreman that it had not been possible to keep his job for him.
Jurgis knew that this meant simply that the foreman had found some one
else to do the work as well and did not want to bother to make a change.
He stood in the doorway, looking mournfully on, seeing his friends
and companions at work, and feeling like an outcast. Then he went
out and took his place with the mob of the unemployed.
This time, however, Jurgis did not have the same fine confidence,
nor the same reason for it. He was no longer the finest-looking
man in the throng, and the bosses no longer made for him; he was
thin and haggard, and his clothes were seedy, and he looked miserable.
And there were hundreds who looked and felt just like him, and who
had been wandering about Packingtown for months begging for work.
This was a critical time in Jurgis' life, and if he had been a weaker
man he would have gone the way the rest did. Those out-of-work
wretches would stand about the packing houses every morning till the
police drove them away, and then they would scatter among the saloons.
Very few of them had the nerve to face the rebuffs that they would
encounter by trying to get into the buildings to interview the bosses;
if they did not get a chance in the morning, there would be nothing
to do but hang about the saloons the rest of the day and night.
Jurgis was saved from all this--partly, to be sure, because it was
pleasant weather, and there was no need to be indoors; but mainly
because he carried with him always the pitiful little face of his wife.
He must get work, he told himself, fighting the battle with despair
every hour of the day. He must get work! He must have a place again
and some money saved up, before the next winter came.
But there was no work for him. He sought out all the members of his
union--Jurgis had stuck to the union through all this--and begged them
to speak a word for him. He went to every one he knew, asking for
a chance, there or anywhere. He wandered all day through the buildings;
and in a week or two, when he had been all over the yards, and into
every room to which he had access, and learned that there was not
a job anywhere, he persuaded himself that there might have been
a change in the places he had first visited, and began the round
all over; till finally the watchmen and the "spotters" of the
companies came to know him by sight and to order him out with threats.
Then there was nothing more for him to do but go with the crowd in
the morning, and keep in the front row and look eager, and when he
failed, go back home, and play with little Kotrina and the baby.
The peculiar bitterness of all this was that Jurgis saw so plainly
the meaning of it. In the beginning he had been fresh and strong,
and he had gotten a job the first day; but now he was second-hand,
a damaged article, so to speak, and they did not want him. They had
got the best of him--they had worn him out, with their speeding-up
and their carelessness, and now they had thrown him away! And Jurgis
would make the acquaintance of others of these unemployed men and find
that they had all had the same experience. There were some, of course,
who had wandered in from other places, who had been ground up in other
mills; there were others who were out from their own fault--some,
for instance, who had not been able to stand the awful grind without
drink. The vast majority, however, were simply the worn-out parts
of the great merciless packing machine; they had toiled there, and kept
up with the pace, some of them for ten or twenty years, until finally
the time had come when they could not keep up with it any more.
Some had been frankly told that they were too old, that a sprier man
was needed; others had given occasion, by some act of carelessness
or incompetence; with most, however, the occasion had been the same
as with Jurgis. They had been overworked and underfed so long,
and finally some disease had laid them on their backs; or they had cut
themselves, and had blood poisoning, or met with some other accident.
When a man came back after that, he would get his place back only by
the courtesy of the boss. To this there was no exception, save when
the accident was one for which the firm was liable; in that case they
would send a slippery lawyer to see him, first to try to get him to
sign away his claims, but if he was too smart for that, to promise
him that he and his should always be provided with work. This promise
they would keep, strictly and to the letter--for two years. Two years
was the "statute of limitations," and after that the victim could not sue.
What happened to a man after any of these things, all depended upon
the circumstances. If he were of the highly skilled workers, he would
probably have enough saved up to tide him over. The best paid men,
the "splitters," made fifty cents an hour, which would be five or
six dollars a day in the rush seasons, and one or two in the dullest.
A man could live and save on that; but then there were only half
a dozen splitters in each place, and one of them that Jurgis knew
had a family of twenty-two children, all hoping to grow up to be
splitters like their father. For an unskilled man, who made ten
dollars a week in the rush seasons and five in the dull, it all
depended upon his age and the number he had dependent upon him.
An unmarried man could save, if he did not drink, and if he was
absolutely selfish--that is, if he paid no heed to the demands of
his old parents, or of his little brothers and sisters, or of any
other relatives he might have, as well as of the members of his union,
and his chums, and the people who might be starving to death next door.
Chapter 13
During this time that Jurgis was looking for work occurred the
death of little Kristoforas, one of the children of Teta Elzbieta.
Both Kristoforas and his brother, Juozapas, were cripples, the latter
having lost one leg by having it run over, and Kristoforas having
congenital dislocation of the hip, which made it impossible for him
ever to walk. He was the last of Teta Elzbieta's children, and
perhaps he had been intended by nature to let her know that she had
had enough. At any rate he was wretchedly sick and undersized;
he had the rickets, and though he was over three years old, he was
no bigger than an ordinary child of one. All day long he would
crawl around the floor in a filthy little dress, whining and fretting;
because the floor was full of drafts he was always catching cold,
and snuffling because his nose ran. This made him a nuisance, and a
source of endless 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 let him do anything undisturbed,
and would burst into tears when his fretting drove Jurgis wild.
And now he died. Perhaps it was the smoked sausage he had eaten that
morning--which may have been made out of some of the tubercular pork
that was condemncd as unfit for export. At any rate, an hour after
eating it, the child had begun to cry with pain, and in another hour
he was rolling about on the floor in convulsions. Little Kotrina,
who was all alone with him, ran out screaming for help, and after a
while a doctor came, but not until Kristoforas had howled his last howl.
No one was really sorry about this except poor Elzbieta, who was
inconsolable. Jurgis announced that so far as he was concerned
the child would have to be buried by the city, since they had no
money for a funeral; and at this the poor woman almost went out of
her senses, wringing her hands and 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 up out of his grave to rebuke her! If it had come
to this, they might as well give up at once, and be buried all of
them together!. . . In the end Marija said that she would help
with ten dollars; and Jurgis being still obdurate, Elzbieta went
in tears and begged the money from the neighbors, 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 months after that; the mere
sight of the floor where little Kristoforas had crawled about would
make her weep. He had never had a fair chance, poor little fellow,
she would say. He had been handicapped from his birth. If only she
had heard about it in time, so that she might have had that great
doctor to cure him of his lameness!. . . Some time ago, Elzbieta
was told, a Chicago billionaire had paid a fortune to bring a great
European surgeon over to cure his little daughter of the same disease
from which Kristoforas had suffered. And because this surgeon had
to have bodies to demonstrate upon, he announced that he would treat
the children of the poor, a piece 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 have had 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 for work, there was a dark shadow
hanging over Jurgis; as if a savage beast were lurking somewhere in the
pathway of his life, and he knew it, and yet could not help approaching
the place. There are all stages of being out of work in Packingtown,
and he faced in dread the prospect of reaching the lowest. There is
a place that waits for the lowest man--the fertilizer plant!
The men would talk about it in awe-stricken whispers. Not more than
one in ten had ever really tried it; the other nine had contented
themselves with hearsay evidence and a peep through the door.
There were some things worse than even starving to death. They would
ask Jurgis if he had worked there yet, and if he meant to; and Jurgis
would debate the matter with himself. As poor as they were, and making
all the sacrifices that they were, would he dare to refuse any sort
of work that was offered to him, be it as horrible as ever it could?
Would he dare to go home and eat bread that had been earned by Ona,
weak and complaining as she was, knowing that he had been given
a chance, and had not had the nerve to take it?--And yet he might
argue that way with himself all day, and one glimpse into the
fertilizer works would send him away again shuddering. He was a man,
and he would do his duty; he went 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 who did would come out
looking like Dante, of whom the peasants declared that he had been
into hell. To this part of the yards came all the "tankage" and
the waste products of all sorts; here they dried out the bones,--and
in suffocating cellars where the daylight never came you might see
men and women and children bending over whirling machines and sawing
bits of bone into all sorts of shapes, breathing their lungs full
of the fine dust, and doomed to die, every one of them, within a
certain definite time. Here they made the blood into albumen,
and made other foul-smelling things into things still more foul-smelling.
In the corridors and caverns where it was done you might lose yourself
as in the great caves of Kentucky. In the dust and the steam the
electric lights 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 charnel
houses 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 under water;
he would put his handkerchief over his face, and begin to cough and
choke; and then, if he were still obstinate, he would find his head
beginning to ring, and the veins in his forehead to throb, until
finally he would be assailed by an overpowering blast of ammonia fumes,
and would turn and run for his life, and come out half-dazed.
On top of this were the rooms where they dried the "tankage," the mass
of brown stringy stuff that was left after the waste portions of the
carcasses had had the lard and tallow dried out of them. This dried
material they would then grind to a fine powder, and after they had
mixed it up well with a mysterious but inoffensive brown rock which
they brought in and ground up by the hundreds of carloads for that
purpose, the substance was ready to be put into bags and sent out
to the world as any one of a hundred different brands of standard
bone phosphate. And then the farmer in Maine or California or 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 very horses
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 acres under 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 that becomes a blinding sandstorm when
the wind stirs.
It was to this building that Jurgis came daily, as if dragged by
an unseen hand. The month of May was an exceptionally cool one,
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 to know Jurgis by this time,
and had marked him for a likely man; and so when he came to the door
about two o'clock this breathless hot day, he felt a sudden spasm
of pain shoot through him--the boss beckoned to him! In ten minutes
more Jurgis had pulled off his 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 to learn. Before him was one
of the vents of the mill in which the fertilizer was being ground--
rushing forth in a great brown river, with a spray of the finest
dust flung forth in clouds. Jurgis was given a shovel, and along
with half a dozen others it was his task to shovel this fertilizer
into carts. That others were at work he knew by the sound, and by
the fact that he sometimes collided with them; otherwise they might
as well not have been there, for in the blinding dust storm a man
could not see six feet in front of his face. When he had filled
one cart he had to grope around him until another came, and if there
was none on hand he continued to grope till one arrived. In five
minutes he was, of course, a mass of fertilizer from head to feet;
they gave him a sponge to tie over his mouth, so that he could breathe,
but the sponge did not prevent his lips and eyelids from caking up
with 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, and for that matter a hundred yards outside it.
The building had to be left open, and when the wind blew Durham and
Company lost a great deal of fertilizer.
Working in his shirt sleeves, and with the thermometer at over
a hundred, the phosphates soaked in through every pore of Jurgis'
skin, and in five minutes he had a headache, and in fifteen was
almost dazed. The blood was pounding in his brain like an engine's
throbbing; there was a frightful pain in the top of his skull,
and he could hardly 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 he began to vomit--he vomited
until it seemed as if his inwards must be torn into shreds. A man
could get used to the fertilizer mill, the boss had said, if he would
make up his mind to it; but Jurgis now began to see that it was
a question of making up his stomach.
At the end of that day of horror, he could scarcely stand. He had
to catch himself now and then, and lean against a building and get
his bearings. Most of the men, when they came out, made straight
for a saloon--they seemed to place fertilizer and rattlesnake poison
in one class. But Jurgis was too ill to think of drinking--he could
only make his way to the street and stagger on to a car. He had a
sense of humor, and later on, when he became an old hand, he used to
think it fun to board a streetcar and see what happened. Now, however,
he was too ill to notice it--how the people in the car began to gasp
and sputter, to put their handkerchiefs to their noses, and transfix
him with furious glances. Jurgis only knew that a man in front of
him immediately got up and gave him a seat; and that half a minute
later the two people on each side of him got up; and that in a full
minute the crowded car was nearly empty--those passengers who could
not get room on the platform having gotten out to walk.
Of course Jurgis had made his home a miniature fertilizer mill a
minute after entering. The stuff was half an inch deep in his skin--
his whole system was full of it, and it would have taken a week not
merely of scrubbing, but of vigorous exercise, to get it out of him.
As it was, he could be compared with nothing known to men, save that
newest discovery of the savants, a substance which emits energy for
an unlimited time, without being itself in the least diminished
in power. He smelled so that he made all the food at the table taste,
and set the whole family to vomiting; for himself it was three days
before he could keep anything upon his stomach--he might wash his hands,
and use a knife and fork, but were not his mouth and throat filled
with the poison?
And still Jurgis stuck it out! In spite of splitting headaches he
would stagger down to the plant and take up his stand once more,
and begin to shovel in the blinding clouds of dust. And so at the
end of the week he was a fertilizer man for life--he was able to
eat again, and though his head never stopped aching, it ceased to
be so bad that he could not work.
So there passed another summer. It was a summer of prosperity,
all over the country, and the country ate generously of packing
house products, and there was plenty of work for all the family,
in spite of the packers' efforts to keep a superfluity of labor.
They were again able to pay their debts and to begin to save a
little sum; but there were one or two sacrifices they considered
too heavy to be made for long--it was too bad that the boys should
have to sell papers at their age. It was utterly useless to caution
them and plead with them; quite without knowing it, they were taking
on the tone of their new environment. They were learning to swear
in voluble English; they were learning to pick up cigar stumps and
smoke them, to pass hours of their time gambling with pennies and
dice and cigarette cards; they were learning the location of all
the houses of prostitution on the "Levee," and the names of the
"madames" who kept them, and the days when they gave their state
banquets, which the police captains and the big politicians all
attended. If a visiting "country customer" were to ask them,
they could show him which was "Hinkydink's" famous saloon, and could
even point out to him by name the different gamblers and thugs and
"hold-up men" who made the place their headquarters. And worse yet,
the boys were getting out of the habit of coming home at night.
What was the use, they would ask, of wasting time and energy and
a possible carfare riding out to the stockyards every night when
the weather was pleasant and they could crawl under a truck or into
an empty doorway and sleep exactly as well? So long as they brought
home a half dollar for each day, what mattered it when they brought it?
But Jurgis declared that from this to ceasing to come at all would
not be a very long step, and so it was decided that Vilimas 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 of the poor, prematurely made old;
she had to take care of her little brother, who was a cripple, and also
of the baby; she had to cook the meals and wash the dishes and
clean house, and have supper ready when the workers came home in
the evening. She was only thirteen, and small for her age, but she
did all this without a murmur; and her mother went out, and after
trudging a couple of days about the yards, settled down as a servant
of a "sausage machine."
Elzbieta was used to working, but she found this change a hard one,
for the reason that she had to stand motionless upon her feet from
seven o'clock in the morning till half-past twelve, and again from
one till half-past five. For the first few days it seemed to her
that she could not stand it--she suffered almost as much as Jurgis
had from the fertilizer, and would come out at sundown with her head
fairly reeling. Besides this, she was working in one of the dark holes,
by electric light, and the dampness, too, was deadly--there were
always puddles of water on the floor, and a sickening odor of moist
flesh in the room. The people who worked here followed the ancient
custom of nature, whereby the ptarmigan is the color of dead leaves
in the 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 a leaf.
The men and women who worked in this department were precisely the
color of the "fresh country sausage" they made.
The sausage-room was an interesting place to visit, for two or
three minutes, and provided that you did not look at the people;
the machines were perhaps the most wonderful things in the entire plant.
Presumably sausages were once chopped and stuffed by hand, and if so
it would be interesting to know how many workers had been 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 great bowls were whirling knives that made two thousand
revolutions a minute, and when the meat was ground fine and adulterated
with potato flour, and well mixed with water, it was forced to the
stuffing machines on the other side of the room. The latter were
tended by women; there was a sort of spout, like the nozzle of a hose,
and one of the women would take a long string 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 feet long, but the woman would have it all on in a jiffy;
and when she had several on, she would press a lever, and a stream
of sausage meat would be shot out, taking the casing with it as it came.
Thus one might stand and see appear, miraculously born from the
machine, a wriggling snake of sausage of incredible length. In front
was a big pan which caught these creatures, and two more women who
seized them as fast as they appeared and twisted them into links.
This was for the uninitiated the most perplexing work of all; for all
that the woman had to give was a single turn of the wrist; and in
some way she contrived to give it so that instead of an endless chain
of sausages, one after another, there grew under her hands a bunch
of strings, all dangling from a single center. It was quite like
the feat of a prestidigitator--for the woman worked so fast that
the eye could literally not follow her, and there was only a mist
of motion, and tangle after tangle of sausages appearing. In the
midst of the mist, however, the visitor would suddenly notice the
tense set face, with the two wrinkles graven in the forehead, and the
ghastly pallor of the cheeks; and then he would suddenly recollect
that it was time he was going on. The woman did not go on; she stayed
right there--hour after hour, day after day, year after year, twisting
sausage links and racing with death. It was piecework, and she was apt
to have a family to keep alive; and stern and ruthless economic laws
had arranged it that she 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
at the well-dressed ladies and gentlemen who came to stare at her,
as at some wild beast in 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 of the
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 to can it or else to chop it up
into sausage. With what had been told them by Jonas, who had worked
in the pickle rooms, they could now study the whole of the spoiled-meat
industry on the inside, and read a new and grim meaning into that old
Packingtown jest--that they use everything of the pig except the squeal.
Jonas had told them how the meat that was taken out of pickle would
often be found sour, and how they would rub it up with soda to take
away the smell, and sell it to be eaten on free-lunch counters;
also of all the miracles of chemistry which they performed, giving
to any sort of meat, fresh or salted, whole or chopped, any color
and any flavor and any odor they chose. In the pickling of hams
they had an ingenious apparatus, by which they saved time and
increased the capacity of the plant--a machine consisting of a hollow
needle attached to a pump; by plunging this needle into the meat
and working with his foot, a man could fill a ham with pickle in
a few seconds. And yet, in spite of this, there would be hams
found spoiled, some of them with an odor so bad that a man could
hardly bear to be in the room with them. To pump into these the
packers had a second and 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, there would be found some that had
gone to the bad. Formerly these had been sold as "Number Three Grade,"
but later on some ingenious person had hit upon a new device, and now
they would extract the bone, about which the bad part generally lay,
and insert in the hole a white-hot iron. After this invention there
was no longer Number One, Two, and Three Grade--there was only Number
One Grade. The packers were always originating such schemes--they had
what they called "boneless hams," which were all the odds and ends of
pork stuffed into casings; and "California hams," which were the
shoulders, with big knuckle joints, and nearly all the meat cut out;
and fancy "skinned hams," which were made of the oldest hogs, whose
skins were so heavy and coarse that no one would buy them--that is,
until they had been cooked and chopped fine and labeled "head cheese!"
It was only when the whole ham was spoiled that it came into the
department of Elzbieta. Cut up by the two-thousand-revolutionsa-
minute flyers, and mixed with half a ton of other meat, no odor
that ever was in a ham could make any difference. There was never
the least attention paid to what was cut up for sausage; there would
come all the way back from Europe old sausage that had been rejected,
and that was moldy and white--it would be dosed with borax and
glycerine, and dumped into the hoppers, and made over again for home
consumption. There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor,
in the dirt and sawdust, where the workers had tramped and spit
uncounted billions of consumption germs. There would be meat stored
in great piles in rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip
over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it. It was too dark
in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over
these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats.
These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread
out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread, and meat would
go into the hoppers together. This is no fairy story and no joke;
the meat would be shoveled into carts, and the man who did the
shoveling would not trouble to lift out a rat even when he saw one--
there were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which
a poisoned rat was a tidbit. There was no place for the men to wash
their hands before they ate their dinner, and so they made a practice
of washing them in 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 the packers enforced, there were some
jobs that it only paid to do once in a long time, and among these
was the cleaning out of the waste barrels. Every spring they did it;
and in the barrels would be dirt and rust and old nails and stale
water--and cartload after cartload of it would be taken up and dumped
into the hoppers with fresh meat, and sent out 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 call upon their
chemistry department, and preserve it with borax and color it with
gelatine to make it brown. All of their sausage came out of the
same bowl, but when they came to wrap it they would stamp some of
it "special," and for this they would charge two cents more a pound.
Such were the new surroundings in which Elzbieta was placed, and such was
the work she was compelled to do. It was stupefying, brutalizing work;
it left her no time to think, no strength for anything. She was part
of the machine she tended, and every faculty that was not needed for
the machine was doomed to be crushed out of existence. There was
only one mercy about the cruel grind--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 the evening, and the three
would walk home together, often without saying a word. Ona, too,
was falling into a habit of silence--Ona, who had once gone about
singing like a bird. She was sick and miserable, and often she would
barely have strength enough to drag herself home. And there they
would eat what they had to eat, and afterward, because there was
only their misery to talk of, they would crawl into 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 the machines. They were so numbed
that they did not even suffer much from hunger, now; only the children
continued to fret when the food ran short.
Yet the soul of Ona was not dead--the souls of none of them were dead,
but only sleeping; and now and then they would waken, and these were
cruel times. The gates of memory would roll open--old joys 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
forever immeasurable weight. They could not even cry out beneath it;
but anguish would seize them, more dreadful than the agony of death.
It was a thing scarcely to be spoken--a thing 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 so sordid, because it had to do
with wages and grocery bills and rents. They had dreamed of freedom;
of a chance to look about them and learn something; to be decent
and clean, to see their child grow up 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 face before they could expect the
least respite, the cessation of the payments upon the house; and how
cruelly certain it was that they could never stand six years of such
a life as they were living! They were lost, they were going down--
and there was no deliverance for them, no hope; for all the help it
gave them the vast city in which they lived might have been an ocean
waste, a wilderness, a desert, a tomb. So often this mood would come
to Ona, in the nighttime, when something wakened her; she would lie,
afraid of the beating of her own heart, fronting the blood-red eyes
of the old primeval terror of life. Once she cried aloud, and woke
Jurgis, who was 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 in separate graves.
Jurgis, being a man, had troubles of his own. There was another
specter following him. He had never spoken of it, nor would he allow
any one else to speak of it--he had never acknowledged its existence
to himself. Yet the battle with it took all the manhood that 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 did its
work without pain, until the sound of ocean breakers echoed in his
head day and night, and the buildings swayed and danced before him
as he went down the street. And from all the unending horror of
this there was a respite, a deliverance--he could drink! He could
forget the pain, he could slip off the burden; he would see clearly
again, he would be master of his brain, of his thoughts, of his will.
His dead self would stir in him, and he would find himself laughing
and cracking jokes with his companions--he would be a man again,
and master of his life.
It was not an easy thing for Jurgis to take more 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 eat another meal--but
there would come a time when he could eat no more, and then to pay
for a drink was an unthinkable extravagance, a defiance of the agelong
instincts of his hunger-haunted class. One day, however, he took
the plunge, and drank up all that he had in his pockets, and went
home half "piped," as the men phrase 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 with those who would wreck it, and with
the world, and with his life; and then again, beneath this, he was
sick with the shame of himself. Afterward, when he saw the despair
of his family, and reckoned up the money he had spent, the tears came
into his eyes, and he began the long battle with the specter.
It was a battle that had no end, that never could have one. But Jurgis
did not realize that very clearly; 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 be put 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 each one stretched out a hand to him each one had a
personality of its own, allurements unlike any other. Going and
coming--before sunrise and after dark--there was warmth and a glow
of light, and the steam of hot food,and perhaps music, or a friendly
face, and a word of good cheer. Jurgis developed a fondness for
having Ona on his arm whenever he went out on the street, and he would
hold her tightly, and walk fast. It was pitiful to have Ona know
of this--it drove him wild to think of it; the thing was not fair,
for Ona had never tasted drink, and so could not understand.
Sometimes, in despeate hours, he would find himself wishing that
she might learn what it was, so that he need not be ashamed in
her presence. They might drink together, and escape from the horror--
escape for a while, come what would.
So there came a time when nearly all the conscious life of Jurgis
consisted of a struggle with the craving for liquor. He would have
ugly moods, when he hated Ona and 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 man that he was compelled to stay in the yards; if it had
not been for that he might have gone off like Jonas, and to hell
with the packers. There were few single men in the fertilizer mill--
and those few were working only for a chance to escape. Meantime, too,
they had something to think about while they worked,--they had the
memory of the last time they had been drunk, and the hope of the time
when they would be drunk again. As for Jurgis, he was expected to bring
home every penny; he could not even go with the men at noontime--he was
supposed to sit down and eat his dinner on a pile of fertilizer dust.
This was not always his mood, of course; he still loved his family.
But just now was a time of trial. Poor little Antanas, for instance--
who had never 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 are heir to, in quick succession,
scarlet fever, mumps, and whooping cough in the first 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 not die of the measles--at least not often. Now and
then Kotrina would find time to sob over 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 he caught cold he would die.
At night he was tied down, lest he should kick the covers off him,
while the family lay in their stupor of exhaustion. He would lie
and scream for hours, almost in convulsions; and then, when he was
worn out, he would lie whimpering and wailing in his torment. He was
burning up with fever, and his eyes were running sores; in the daytime
he was a thing uncanny and impish to behold, a plaster of pimples
and sweat, a great purple lump of misery.
Yet all this was not really as cruel as it sounds, for, sick as he was,
little Antanas was the least unfortunate member of that family.
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 and joy; he grew up like the conjurer's
rosebush, and all the world was his oyster. In general, he toddled
around the kitchen all day with a lean and hungry look--the portion
of the family's allowance that fell to him was not enough, and he was
unrestrainable in his demand for more. Antanas was but little over
a year old, and already no one but his father could manage him.
It seemed as if he had taken all of his mother's strength--had left
nothing for those that might come after him. Ona was with child
again now, and it was a dreadful thing to contemplate; even Jurgis,
dumb and despairing as he was, could not but understand that yet
other agonies were on the way, and shudder at the thought of them.
For Ona was visibly going to pieces. In the first place she was
developing a cough, like the one that had killed old Dede Antanas.
She had had a trace of it ever since that fatal morning when the greedy
streetcar corporation had turned her out into the rain; but now it was
beginning to grow serious, and to wake her up at night. Even worse
than that was the fearful nervousness from which she suffered;
she would have frightful headaches and fits of aimless weeping;
and sometimes she would come home at night shuddering and moaning,
and would fling herself down upon the bed and burst into tears.
Several times she was quite beside herself and hysterical; and then
Jurgis would go half-mad with fright. Elzbieta would explain to him
that it could not be helped, that a woman was subject to such things
when she was pregnant; but he was hardly to be persuaded, and would
beg and plead to know what had happened. She had never been like
this before, he would argue--it was monstrous and unthinkable.
It was the life she had to live, the accursed work she had to do,
that was killing her by inches. She was not fitted for it--no woman
was fitted for it, no woman ought to be allowed to do such work;
if the world could not keep 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, he would have had his eyes torn out first. So he
would carry on, becoming half hysterical himself, which was an
unbearable thing to see in a big man; Ona would pull herself together
and fling herself into his arms, begging him to stop, to be still,
that she would be better, it would be all right. So she would lie
and sob out her grief upon his shoulder, while he gazed at her,
as helpless as a wounded animal, the target of unseen enemies.
Chapter 15
The beginning of these perplexing things was in the summer; and each
time Ona would promise him with terror in her voice that it would not
happen again--but in vain. Each crisis would leave Jurgis more and
more frightened, more disposed to distrust Elzbieta's consolations,
and to believe that there was some terrible thing about all this
that he was not allowed to know. Once or twice in these outbreaks he
caught Ona's eye, and it seemed to him like the eye of a hunted animal;
there were broken phrases of anguish and despair now and then, amid her
frantic weeping. It was only because he was so numb and beaten himself
that Jurgis did not worry more about this. But he never thought of it,
except when he was dragged to it--he lived like a dumb beast of burden,
knowing only the moment in which he was.
The winter was coming on again, more menacing and cruel than ever.
It was October, and the holiday rush had begun. It was necessary
for the packing machines to grind till late at night to provide food
that would be eaten at Christmas breakfasts; and Marija and Elzbieta
and Ona, as part of the machine, began working fifteen or sixteen
hours a day. There was no choice about this--whatever work 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, and then work until ten or
eleven at night without another mouthful of food. Jurgis wanted to
wait for them, to help them home at night, but they would not think
of this; the fertilizer mill was not running 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
too tired 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
certainly be 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 evening two inches had fallen. Jurgis tried
to wait for the women, but went into a saloon to get warm, and took
two drinks, and came out and ran home to escape from the demon;
there he lay down to wait for them, and instantly fell asleep.
When he opened his eyes again he was in the midst 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--little Stanislovas in addition,
because the terror of the snow was upon him. Jurgis had nothing
to put on but his shoes and his coat, and in half a minute he was
out of the door. Then, however, he realized that there was no need
of haste, that he had no idea where to go. It was still dark as
midnight, and the thick snowflakes were sifting down--everything was
so silent that he could hear the rustle of them as they fell. In the
few seconds that he stood there hesitating he was covered white.
He set off at a run for the yards, stopping by the way to inquire in
the saloons that were open. Ona might have been overcome on the way;
or else she might have met with an accident in the machines. When he
got to the place where she worked he inquired of one of the watchmen--
there had not been any accident, so far as the man had heard. At the
time office, which he found already open, 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 do but 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 of bullocks into
the refrigerator cars. Before the first streaks of daylight there
came the crowding throngs of workingmen, shivering, and swinging
their dinner pails as they hurried by. Jurgis took up his stand
by the time-office window, where alone there was light enough for
him to see; the snow fell so quick that it was only by peering
closely that he could make sure that Ona did not pass him.
Seven o'clock came, the hour when the great packing machine began
to move. Jurgis ought to have been at his place in the fertilizer
mill; but instead he was waiting, in an agony of fear, for Ona.
It was fifteen minutes after the hour when he saw a form emerge from
the snow mist, and sprang toward it with a cry. It was she, running
swiftly; as she saw him, 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 scconds 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 he noticed that she was sobbing
and trembling--as if in one of those nervous crises that he 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, and people were staring at them.
Jurgis led her away. "How do you mean?" he asked, in perplexity.
"I was afraid--I was just afraid!" sobbed Ona. "I knew you wouldn't
know where I was, and I 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
anything else. It did not seem strange to him that she should be
so very much upset; all her fright and incoherent protestations did
not matter since he had her back. He let her cry away her tears;
and then, hecause it was nearly eight o'clock, and they would lose
another hour if they delayed, he left her at the packing house door,
with her ghastly white face and her haunted eyes of terror.
There was another brief interval. Christmas was almost come; and because
the snow still held, and the searching cold, morning after morning
Jurgis hall carried his wife to her post, staggering with her through
the darkness; until at last, one night, came the end.
It lacked but three days of the holidays. About midnight Marija and
Elzbieta came home, exclaiming in alarm when they found that Ona
had not come. The two had agreed to meet her; and, after waiting,
had gone to the room where she worked; only to find that the
ham-wrapping girls had quit work an hour before, and left. There was
no snow that night, nor was it especially cold; and still Ona had
not come! Something more serious must be wrong this time.
They aroused Jurgis, and he sat up and listened 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--and even if there had, there was
nothing could be done about it until morning. Jurgis turned over
in his bed, and was snoring 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 side of the yards,
beyond Halsted Street, with her mother and sisters, in a single
basement room--for Mikolas had recently lost one hand from blood
poisoning, and their 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 something frying as he passed;
he knocked, half expecting that Ona would answer.
Instead there was one of Jadvyga's little sisters, who gazed at him
through a crack in thc 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 a start. A moment later came
Jadvyga, peering over the child's head. When she saw who it was,
she slid around out of sight, for she was not quite dressed.
Jurgis must excuse her, she began, her mother 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 thought she
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 she
could not get home."
"There must be some mistake," declared the girl, again; "she didn't
come here."
He steadied himself by the doorsill; and Jadvyga in her anxiety--for
she was fond of Ona--opened the door wide, holding her jacket across
her throat. "Are you sure you didn't misunderstand her?" she cried.
"She must have meant somewhere else. She--"
"She said here," insisted Jurgis. "She told me all about you, and how
you were, and what you said. Are you sure? You haven't forgotten?
You weren't away?"
"No, no!" she exclaimed--and then came a peevish 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 was really nothing more to be said,
he excused himself and went away.
He walked on half dazed, without knowing where 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 wild surmises came to him,
a sense of impending calamity overwhelmed him.
Because there was nothing else to do, he went 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 an accident
in the powerhouse, and no cars had been running since last night.
Meantime, however, the ham-wrappers were working away, with some one
else in charge of them. The girl who answered Jurgis was busy,
and as she talked she looked to see if she were being watched.
Then a man came up, wheeling a truck; he knew Jurgis for Ona's husband,
and was curious about the mystery.
"Maybe the cars had something to do with it," 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 he demanded quickly.
"What do you know about it?"
But the man had seen that the boss was watching 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 to make inquiries, and then
came back again for another anxious vigil. Finally, toward the middle
of the alternoon, 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 steps with people.
The sight of them set Jurgis to thinking again of the man's sarcastic
remark; and half involuntarily he found himself watching the cars--
with the result that he gave a sudden startled exclamation, and stopped
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
red flower, 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 into a run. Suspicion was rife in him now, and he was
not ashamed to shadow her: he saw her turn the corner near their home,
and then he ran again, and saw her as she went up the porch steps
of the house. After that he turned back, and for five minutes paced
up and down, his hands clenched tightly and his lips set, his mind
in a turmoil. Then he went home and entered.
As he opened the door, he saw Elzbieta, who had 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, Jurgis.
She was lost on the street all night, and I've only just succeeded
in getting her quiet."
"When did she come in?" he asked.
"Soon after you left this morning," said Elzbieta.
"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
he entered. He closed the door in Elzbieta's face, and went toward
his wife. "Where have you been?" he demanded.
She had her hands clasped tightly in her lap, and he saw that her
face was as white as paper, and drawn with pain. She gasped once or
twice as she tried to answer 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 could not 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 hard tone. "Why did you go out again?"
He was looking her fairly in the face, and he could read the sudden
fear and wild uncertainty that leaped into her eyes. "I--I had to
go to--to the store," she gasped, almost in a whisper, "I had to go--"
"You are lying to me," said Jurgis. Then he clenched his hands and
took a step toward 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 in fright. "Oh, Jurgis, how
can you?"
"You have lied to me, I say!" he cried. "You told me you had been
to Jadvyga's house 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 and swaying,
staring at him with horror in her eyes; then, with a cry of anguish,
she tottered forward, stretching out her arms to him. But he stepped
aside, deliberately, and let her 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 crises that had so often
dismayed him. Ona sobbed and wept, her fear and anguish building
themselves up into long climaxes. Furious gusts of emotion would
come sweeping 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 Jurgis
quite beside himself; but now he stood with his lips set tightly and
his hands clenched--she might weep till she killed herself, but she
should not move him this time--not an inch, not an inch. Because the
sounds she made set his blood to running cold and his lips to quivering
in spite of himself, he was glad of the diversion when Teta Elzbieta,
pale with fright, opened the door and rushed in; yet he turned upon
her with an oath. "Go out!" he cried, "go out!" And then, as she
stood hesitating, about to speak, he seized her by the arm, and half
flung her from the room, slamming the door and 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 in the grip of the fiend.
Jurgis could see her outstretched hands, shaking and twitching,
roaming here and there over the bed at will, like living things;
he could see convulsive shudderings start in her body and run through
her limbs. She was sobbing and choking--it was as if there were too
many sounds for one throat, they came chasing each other, like waves
upon the sea. Then her voice would begin to rise into screams,
louder and louder until it broke in wild, horrible peals of laughter.
Jurgis bore it until he could bear it no longer, 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 of his efforts
to step aside, and with her face upon the floor lay writhing. It
made a choking in Jurgis' throat to hear her, and he cried again,
more savagely than before: "Stop it, I say!"
This time she heeded him, and caught her breath and lay silent,
save for the gasping sobs that wrenched all her frame. For a long
minute she lay there, perfectly motionless, 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 so weak. She was pleading
with him, in broken phrases, painfully uttered: "Have faith in me!
Believe me!"
"Believe what?" he cried.
"Believe that I--that I know best--that I love 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 rushed on 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--it will be all right--it is
nothing--it is no harm. Oh, Jurgis--please, please!"
She had hold of him, and was trying to raise herself to look at him;
he could feel the palsied shaking of her hands and the heaving of the
bosom she pressed against him. She managed to catch one of his hands
and gripped it convulsively, drawing it to her face, and bathing it
in her tears. "Oh, believe me, believe me!" she wailed again; and he
shouted in fury, "I will not!"
But still she clung to him, wailing aloud in 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 other just 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 to cry again. It was like
listening to the moan of a damned soul, and Jurgis could not stand it.
He smote his fist upon the table by his side, and shouted again at her,
"Answer me!"
She began to scream aloud, her voice like the 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--
"What house? What do you mean?"
She tried to hide her eyes away, but he held 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, the horrible
truth burst over him, and he reeled and staggered back with a scream.
He caught himself against the wall, and put his hand to his forehead,
staring about him, and whispering, "Jesus! Jesus!"
An instant later he leaped at her, as she lay 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 his clutch--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, and only 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; "I tried--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 but his panting. Ona's eyes
closed and when she spoke again she did not open them. "He told me--
he would have me turned off. He told me he would--we would all of us
lose 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 could scarcely 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 the platform.
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--then he 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 mother and 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
have to 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't get 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 have let
me alone soon. I am going to have a baby--I am getting ugly. He told
me that--twice, he told me, last night. 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; she lay 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,
crouching terrified in the corner. He went out, hatless, leaving
the street door open behind him. The instant his feet were on the
sidewalk he broke into a run.
He ran like one possessed, blindly, furiously, looking neither to the
right nor left. He was on Ashland Avenue before exhaustion compelled
him to slow down, and then, noticing a car, he made a dart for it
and drew himself aboard. His eyes were wild and his hair flying,
and he was breathing hoarsely, like a wounded bull; but the people
on the car did not notice this particularly--perhaps it seemed natural
to them that a man who smelled as Jurgis smelled should exhibit an
aspect to correspond. 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
roaring furnace; he stood waiting, waiting, crouching as if for a spring.
He had some of his breath back when the car came to the entrance of
the yards, and so he leaped off and started again, racing at full speed.
People turned and stared at him, but he saw no one--there was the
factory, and he bounded through the doorway and down the corridor.
He knew the room where Ona worked, and he knew 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 the freshly 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 the corridor, 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 to run; and in the next his
assailant was upon him. He put up his hands to protect his face,
but Jurgis, lunging with all the power of his arm and body, struck him
fairly between the 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 reeked of the crime he had committed;
the touch of his body was madness to him--it set every nerve of him
atremble, it aroused all the demon in his soul. It had worked its
will upon Ona, this great beast--and now he had it, he had it! It was
his turn now! Things swam blood before him, and he screamed aloud
in his fury, lifting his victim and smashing his head upon the floor.
The place, of course, was in an uproar; women fainting and shrieking,
and men rushing in. Jurgis was so bent upon his task that he knew
nothing of this, and scarcely realized that people were trying to
interfere with him; it was only when half a dozen men had seized him
by the legs and shoulders and were pulling at him, that he understood
that he was losing his prey. In a flash he had bent down and sunk his
teeth 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, clinging to him by his arms and legs,
and still they could hardly hold him. He fought like a tiger, writhing
and twisting, half flinging them off, and starting toward his
unconscious enemy. But yet others rushed in, until there was a
little mountain of twisted limbs and bodies, heaving and tossing,
and working its way about the room. In the end, by their sheer weight,
they choked 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 quietly enough. He was exhausted
and half-dazed, and besides he saw the blue uniforms of the policemen.
He drove in a patrol wagon with half a dozen of them watching him;
keeping as far away as possible, however, on account of the fertilizer.
Then he stood before the sergeant's desk and gave his name and address,
and saw a charge of assault and battery entered against him. On his
way to his cell a burly policeman cursed him because he started down
the wrong corridor, and then added a kick when he 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 was worth to anger them, here in their
inmost lair; like as not a dozen would pile on to him at once, and pound
his face into a pulp. It would be nothing unusual if he got his skull
cracked in the melee--in which case they would report that he had been
drunk and had fallen down, and there would be no one to know the
difference or to care.
So a barred door clanged upon Jurgis and he sat 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 has glutted 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 the fellow's throat. But then,
little by little, as his strength came 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 her all her days. It would not help
to feed her and her child; she would certainly lose her place, while
he--what was to happen to him God only 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
for him. 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
house to the homeless wanderers who were crowded about the door,
shivering in the winter blast, and they thronged into the corridor
outside of the cells. Some of them stretched themselves out on the
bare stone floor and fell to snoring, others sat up, laughing and
talking, cursing and quarreling. The air was fetid with their breath,
yet in spite of this some of them smelled Jurgis and called down the
torments of hell upon him, while he lay in a far corner of his cell,
counting the throbbings of the blood in 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 have swallowed the stuff in desperation; as it was,
every nerve of him was aquiver with shame and rage. Toward morning
the place fell silent, and he got up and began to pace his cell;
and then within the soul of him there rose up a fiend, 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 that the world might
do to him! What was any tyranny of prison compared with the tyranny
of the past, of the thing that had happened and could not be recalled,
of the memory that could never be effaced! The horror of it drove
him mad; he stretched out his arms to heaven, crying out for deliverance
from it--and there was no deliverance, there was no power even in
heaven that could undo the past. It was a ghost that would not drown;
it followed him, it seized upon him and beat him to the ground.
Ah, if only he could have foreseen it--but then, 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 had not stood between her and a fate which
every one knew to be so common. He should have taken her away, even if
it were 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; a new 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 that he might pardon her, might plead with her on his
knees, but she would never look him in the face again, she would
never be his wife again. The shame of it would kill her--there
could be no other deliverance, and it was best that she should die.
This was simple and clear, and yet, with cruel inconsistency,
whenever he escaped from this nightmare it was to suffer and cry out
at the vision of Ona starving. They had put him in jail, and they
would keep 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 lose their places--if that hell fiend Connor
chose to set to work to ruin them, they would all be turned out.
And even if he did not, they could not live--even if the boys left
school again, they could surely not pay all the bills without him
and Ona. They had only a few dollars now--they had just 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 be thinking 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 them suffered! It was their
one hope of respite, as long as they lived; they had put all their
money into it--and they were working people, poor people, whose money
was their strength, the very substance of them, body and soul,
the thing by which they lived and for lack of which they died.
And they would lose it all; they would be turned out into the streets,
and have to hide in some icy garret, and live or die as best they could!
Jurgis had all the night--and all of many more nights--to think about
this, and he saw the thing in its details; he lived it all, as if he
were there. They would sell their furniture, and then run into debt
at the stores, and then be refused credit; they would borrow a little
from the Szedvilases, whose delicatessen store was tottering on the
brink of ruin; the neighbors would come and help them a little--poor,
sick Jadvyga would bring a few spare pennies, as she always did when
people were starving, and Tamoszius Kuszleika would bring them the
proceeds of a night's fiddling. So they would struggle to hang on
until he got out of jail--or would they know that he was in jail,
would they be able to find out anything about him? Would they be
allowed to see him--or was it to be part of his punishment to be kept
in ignorance about their fate?
His mind would hang upon the worst possibilities; he saw Ona ill and
tortured, Marija out of her place, little Stanislovas unable to get
to work for the snow, the whole family turned out on the street.
God Almighty! would they actually let them lie down in the street
and die? Would there be no help even then--would they wander about
in the snow till they froze? Jurgis had never seen any dead bodies
in the streets, but he had seen people evicted and disappear, no one
knew where; and though the city had a relief bureau, though there
was a charity organization society in the stockyards district, in all
his life there 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 patrol
wagon, 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 meat from 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 a rail, 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 his victim 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 have it occur to him that
the loud-voiced man upon the bench might be the notorious Justice
Callahan, about whom the people of Packingtown spoke with bated breath.
"Pat" Callahan--"Growler" Pat, as he had been known before he
ascended the bench--had begun life as a butcher boy and a bruiser
of local reputation; he had gone into politics almost as soon as
he had learned to talk, and had held two offices at once before
he was old enough to vote. If Scully was the thumb, Pat Callahan
was the first finger of the unseen hand whereby the packers held
down the people of the district. No politician in Chicago ranked
higher in their confidence; he had been at it a long time--had been
the business agent in the city council of old Durham, the self-made
merchant, way back in the early days, when the whole city of Chicago
had been up at auction. "Growler" Pat had given up holding city
offices very early in his career--caring only for party power,
and giving the rest of his time to superintending his dives and
brothels. Of late years, however, since his children were growing up,
he had begun to value respectability, and had had himself made a
magistrate; 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 an hour or two; he was in
hopes that some one of the family would come, but in this he was
disappointed. Finally, he was led before the bar, and a lawyer for
the company appeared against him. Connor was under the doctor's care,
the lawyer explained briefly, and if his Honor would hold the prisoner
for a week--"Three hundred dollars," said his Honor, promptly.
Jurgis was staring from the judge to the lawyer 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 him what this meant.
The latter shook his head, and before he realized what had happened
the policemen were leading him away again. They took him to a room
where other prisoners were waiting and here he stayed until court
adjourned, when he had another long and bitterly cold ride in a
patrol wagon to the county jail, which is on the north side of
the city, and nine or ten miles from the stockyards.
Here they searched Jurgis, leaving him only his money, which
consisted of fifteen cents. Then they led him to a room and told
him to strip for a bath; after which he had to walk down a long
gallery, past the grated cell doors of the inmates of the jail.
This was a great event to the latter--the daily review of the new
arrivals, all stark naked, and many and diverting were the comments.
Jurgis was required to stay in the bath longer than any one, in the
vain hope of getting out of him a few of his phosphates and acids.
The prisoners roomed two in a cell, but that 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 in size, with a stone floor and a heavy wooden
bench built into it. There was no window--the only light came from
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 boards with filth, and alive
with fleas, bedbugs, and lice. When Jurgis lifted up the mattress
he discovered beneath it a layer of scurrying roaches, almost as
badly frightened as himself.
Here they brought him more "duffers and dope," with the addition of
a bowl of soup. Many of the prisoners had their meals brought 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 the same maddening procession of thoughts that lashed him
like whips upon his naked back. When night fell he was pacing up
and down his cell like a wild beast that breaks its teeth upon the
bars of its cage. Now and then in his frenzy he would fling himself
against the walls of the place, beating his hands upon them. They cut
him and bruised him--they were cold 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 lying upon 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 that mean--a fire? God! Suppose there were to be a fire
in this jail! But then he made out a melody in the ringing;
there were chimes. And they seemed to waken the city--all around,
far and near, there were bells, ringing wild music; for fully a minute
Jurgis 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 it entirely! There was a breaking
of floodgates, a whirl of new memories and new griefs rushing into
his mind. In far Lithuania they had celebrated Christmas; 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 night and buried
them from the world. It was too far off for Santa Claus in Lithuania,
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 not forgotten it--some gleam of it had never failed to break
their darkness. Last Christmas Eve and all Christmas Day Jurgis
had toiled on the killing beds, and Ona at wrapping hams, and still
they had found strength enough to take the children for a walk upon
the avenue, to see the store windows all decorated with Christmas trees
and ablaze with electric lights. In one window there would be live
geese, in another marvels in sugar--pink and white canes big enough
for ogres, and cakes with cherubs upon them; in a third there would be
rows of fat yellow turkeys, decorated with rosettes, and rabbits and
squirrels hanging; 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 share of all this, either.
The last time they had had a big basket with them and all their
Christmas marketing to do--a roast of pork and a cabbage and some
rye bread, and a pair of mittens for Ona, and a rubber doll that
squeaked, and a little green cornucopia full of candy to be hung
from the gas jet and gazed at by half a dozen pairs of longing eyes.
Even half a year of the sausage machines and 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 aside and 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, and was
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 ill
and 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 his ears!
But no, their bells were not ringing for him--their Christmas was not
meant for him, they were simply not counting him at all. He was of
no consequence--he was flung aside, like a bit of trash, the carcass
of some animal. It was horrible, horrible! His wife might be dying,
his baby might be starving, his whole family might be perishing in
the cold--and all the while they were ringing their Christmas chimes!
And the bitter mockery of it--all this was punishment for him!
They put him in a place where the snow could not beat in, where the
cold could not eat through his bones; they brought him food 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 six
helpless children to starve and freeze? That was their law, that was
their justice!
Jurgis stood upright; trembling with passion, his hands clenched and
his arms upraised, his whole soul ablaze with hatred and defiance.
Ten thousand curses upon them and their law! 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 of nightmares. 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, reckless and unrestrained! They had ground him beneath
their heel, they had devoured all his substance; they had murdered
his old father, they had broken and wrecked his wife, they had crushed
and cowed his whole family; and now they were through with him,
they had no further use for him--and because he had interfered
with them, had gotten in their way, this was what they had done
to him! They had put him behind bars, as if he had been a wild
beast, a thing without sense or reason, without rights, without
affections, without feelings. Nay, they would not even have treated
a beast as they had treated him! Would any man in his senses have
trapped a wild thing in its lair, and left its young behind to die?
These midnight hours were fateful ones to Jurgis; in them was
the beginning of his rebellion, of his outlawry and his unbelief.
He had no wit to trace back the social crime to its far sources--
he could not say that it was the thing men have called "the system"
that was crushing him to the earth that it was the packers, his masters,
who had bought up the law of the land, and had dealt out their brutal
will to him from the seat of justice. He only knew that he was wronged,
and that the world had wronged him; that the law, that society, with all
its powers, had declared itself his foe. And every hour his soul grew
blacker, every hour 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 Man
That wastes and withers there;
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the Warder is Despair.
So wrote a poet, to whom the world had dealt its justice--
I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
Is 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 Man
Ever should look upon!
Chapter 17
At seven o'clock the next morning Jurgis was let out to get water
to wash his cell--a duty which he performed faithfully, but which
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," and afterward was allowed three hours for exercise,
in a long, cement-walked court roofed with glass. Here were all the
inmates of the jail crowded together. At one side of the court was
a place for visitors, cut off by two heavy wire screens, a foot apart,
so that nothing could be passed in to the prisoners; here Jurgis
watched anxiously, but there came no one to see him.
Soon after he went back to his cell, a keeper opened the door to let
in another prisoner. He was a dapper young fellow, with a light
brown mustache and blue eyes, and a graceful figure. He nodded
to Jurgis, and then, as the keeper 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 and inspected the blankets; he lifted
up the mattress, and then dropped it with an exclamation. "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," said Jurgis.
"When did you come in?"
The other had another look around, and then wrinkled up his nose.
"There's the devil of a stink in here," he said, suddenly. "What is it?"
"It's me," said Jurgis.
"Yes, me."
"Didn't they make you wash?"
"Yes, but this don't wash."
"What is it?"
"Fertilizer! The deuce! What are you?"
"I work in the stockyards--at least I did until 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 the other.
"Oh," said Jurgis, wonderingly, and stated at the speaker in awe.
"You mean you break into them--you--you--"
"Yes," laughed the other, "that's what they say."
He did not look to be over twenty-two or three, though, as Jurgis
found afterward, he was thirty. He spoke like a man of education,
like what the 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 his back to the wall
and his legs crossed, and went on talking easily; he soon put Jurgis
on a friendly footing--he was evidently a man of the world, used to
getting on, and not too proud to hold conversation with a mere
laboring man. He drew Jurgis out, and heard all about his life all
but the one unmentionable thing; and then he told stories about his
own life. He was a great one for stories, not always of the choicest.
Being sent to jail had apparently not disturbed his cheerfulness;
he had "done time" twice before, it seemed, and he took it all with
a frolic welcome. What with women and wine and the excitement of
his vocation, a man could afford to rest now and then.
Naturally, the aspect of prison life was changed for Jurgis by the
arrival of a cell mate. He could not turn his face to the wall
and sulk, he had to speak when he was spoken to; nor could he help
being interested in the conversation of Duane--the first educated
man with whom he had ever talked. How could he help listening with
wonder while the other told of midnight ventures and perilous escapes,
of feastings and orgies, of fortunes squandered in a night? The young
fellow had an amused contempt for Jurgis, as a sort of working mule;
he, too, had felt the world's injustice, but instead of bearing it
patiently, he had struck back, and struck hard. He was striking all
the time--there was war between him and society. He was a genial
freebooter, living off the enemy, without fear or shame. He was not
always victorious, but then defeat 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 do but talk
and nothing to talk of but themselves. Jack Duane was from the East;
he was a college-bred man--had been studying electrical engineering.
Then his father had met with misfortune in business and killed himself;
and there had been his mother and a younger brother and sister.
Also, there was an invention of Duane's; Jurgis could not understand
it clearly, but it had to do with telegraphing, and it was a very
important thing--there were fortunes in it, millions upon millions
of dollars. And Duane had been robbed of it by a great company,
and got tangled up in lawsuits and lost all his money. Then somebody
had given him a tip on a horse 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 to safebreaking--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 not often--he didn't
allow it. Thinking about it would make it no better. This wasn't
a world in which a man had any business with a family; sooner or
later Jurgis would find that out also, and give up the fight and
shift for himself.
Jurgis was so transparently what he pretended to be that his cell mate
was as open with him as a child; it was pleasant to tell him adventures,
he was so full of wonder and admiration, he was so new to the ways
of the country. Duane did not even bother to keep back names and
places--he told all his triumphs and his failures, his loves and
his griefs. Also he introduced Jurgis to many of the other 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 by it, and he took it with a goodnatured grin.
Our friend had caught now and then a whiff from the sewers over
which he lived, but this was the first time that he had ever been
splashed by their filth. This jail was a Noah's ark of the city's
crime--there were murderers, "hold-up men" and burglars, embezzlers,
counterfeiters and 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 innocent men too poor to give bail; old men,
and boys literally not yet in their teens. They were the drainage
of the great festering ulcer of society; they were hideous to look
upon, sickening to talk to. All life had turned to rottenness and
stench 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;
they had been everywhere and tried everything. They could tell the
whole hateful story of it, set forth the inner soul of a city in
which justice and honor, women's bodies and men's souls, were for
sale in the marketplace, and human beings writhed and fought and
fell upon each other like wolves in a pit; in which lusts were
raging fires, and men were fuel, and humanity was festering and
stewing and wallowing in its own corruption. Into this wild-beast
tangle these men had been born without their consent, they had taken
part in it because they could not help it; that they were in jail
was no disgrace to them, for the game had never been fair, the dice
were loaded. They were swindlers and thieves of pennies and dimes,
and they had been trapped and put out of the way by the swindlers
and thieves of millions of dollars.
To most of this Jurgis tried not to listen. They frightened him
with their savage mockery; and all the while his heart was far away,
where his loved ones were calling. Now and then in the midst of it
his thoughts would take flight; and then the tears would come into
his eyes--and he would be called back by the jeering laughter of
his companions.
He spent a week in this company, and during all that time he had
no word from his home. He paid one of his fifteen cents for a
postal card, and his companion wrote a note to the family, telling
them where he was and when he would be tried. There came no answer
to it, however, and at last, the day before New Year's, Jurgis bade
good-by to Jack Duane. The latter gave him his address, or rather
the address of his mistress, and made Jurgis promise to look him up.
"Maybe I could help you out of a hole some day," 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 he entered the room was Teta
Elzbieta and little Kotrina, looking pale and frightened, seated far
in the rear. His heart began to pound, but he did not dare 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 was full 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 his features for
the bandages that swathed him, but he knew the burly figure.
It was Connor! A trembling seized him, and his limbs bent as 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 off his enemy. The fellow
was still alive, which was a disappointment, in one way; and yet it
was pleasant to see him, all in penitential plasters. He and the
company lawyer, who was with him, came and took seats within the
judge's railing; and a minute later the clerk called 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 the witness chair, took the oath,
and told his story. The wife of the prisoner had been employed in
a department near him, and had been discharged for impudence to him.
Half an hour later he had been violently attacked, 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?" he asked.
"Him?" inquired Jurgis, pointing at the boss.
"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 to speak English for practical purposes, but these had
never included the statement that some one had intimidated and
seduced his wife. He tried once or twice, stammering and balking,
to the annoyance of the judge, who was gasping from the odor of
fertilizer. Finally, the prisoner made it understood that his
vocabulary was inadequate, and there stepped up a dapper young man
with waxed mustaches, bidding him speak in any language he knew.
Jurgis began; supposing that he would be given time, he explained
how the boss had taken advantage of his wife's position to make
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 certain hour,
interrupted with the remark: "Oh, I see. Well, if he made love to
your wife, why didn't she complain to the superintendent or leave
the place?"
Jurgis hesitated, somewhat taken aback; he began 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, "Is there
any truth in this story, Mr. Connor?"
"Not a particle, your Honor," said the boss. "It is very unpleasant--
they tell some such tale 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 pretty roughly. Thirty days and costs.
Next case."
Jurgis had been listening in perplexity. It was only when the
policeman who had him by the arm turned and started to lead him away
that he realized that sentence had been passed. He gazed round him
wildly. "Thirty days!" he panted and then he whirled upon the judge.
"What will my family do?" he cried frantically. "I have a wife and baby,
sir, and they have no money--my God, they will starve to death!"
"You would have done well to think about them before you committed
the assault," said the judge dryly, as he turned to look at the
next prisoner.
Jurgis would have spoken again, but the policeman had seized him by
the collar and was twisting it, and a second policeman was making
for him with evidently hostile intentions. So he let them lead
him away. Far down the room he saw Elzbieta and Kotrina, 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 up the struggle. They thrust him into a cell room,
where other prisoners were waiting; and as soon as court had adjourned
they led him down with 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 than the county jail; all the smaller fry out of the
latter had been sifted into it--the petty thieves and swindlers,
the brawlers and vagrants. For his cell mate Jurgis had an Italian
fruit seller who had refused to pay his graft to the policeman,
and been arrested for carrying a large pocketknife; as he did not
understand a word of English our friend was glad when he left.
He gave place to a Norwegian sailor, who had lost half an ear in
a drunken brawl, and who proved to be quarrelsome, cursing Jurgis
because he moved in his bunk and caused the roaches to drop upon
the lower one. It would have been quite intolerable, staying in
a cell with this wild beast, but for the fact that all day long
the prisoners 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 him that
there was a visitor to see him. Jurgis turned white, and so weak
at the knees that he could hardly leave his cell.
The man led him down the corridor and a flight of steps to the
visitors' room, which was barred like a cell. Through the grating
Jurgis could see some one sitting in a chair; and as he came into the
room the person started up, and he saw that it was little Stanislovas.
At the sight of some one from home the big fellow nearly went to
pieces--he had to steady himself by a chair, and he put his other 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 the
keeper 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; there were 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 boy went on, breathlessly.
"She won't eat anything, and she cries all the time. She won't tell
what is the matter and she won't go to work at all. Then a long time
ago the man came for the rent. 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?" cried Jurgis.
"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 is nearly all gone, too,
and we can't pay the rent and the interest on the house; and we have
no coal and nothing more to eat, and the man at the store, he says--"
The little fellow stopped again, beginning to whimper. "Go on!"
the other panted in frenzy--"Go on!"
"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 to work."
"God!" Jurgis half shouted, and he took a step toward the child.
There was an old hatred between them because of the snow--ever since
that dreadful morning when the boy had had his fingers frozen and
Jurgis had had to beat him to send him to work. Now he clenched
his hands, looking as if he would try to break through the grating.
"You little villain," he cried, "you didn't try!"
"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--"
"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,
"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
about this, 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 us now. So I've got to go downtown and sell
papers with the rest of the boys and Kotrina--"
"Yes, she's been selling papers, too. She does best, because she's
a girl. Only the cold is so bad--it's terrible coming home at night,
Jurgis. Sometimes they can't come home at all--I'm going to try to
find them tonight and sleep where they do, it's so late and it's such
a long ways home. I've had to walk, and I didn't know where it was--
I don't know how to get back, either. Only mother said I must come,
because you would want to know, and maybe somebody would help your
family when they had put you in jail so you couldn't work. And I
walked all day to get here--and I only had a piece of bread for
breakfast, Jurgis. Mother hasn't any work either, because the
sausage department is shut down; and she goes and begs at houses
with a basket, and people give her food. Only she didn't get much
yesterday; it was too cold for her fingers, and today she was crying--"
So little Stanislovas went on, sobbing as he talked; and Jurgis stood,
gripping the table tightly, saying not a word, but feeling that his
head would burst; it was like having weights piled upon him, one after
another, crushing the life out of him. He struggled and fought
within himself--as if in some terrible nightmare, in which a man
suffers an agony, and cannot lift his hand, nor cry out, but feels
that he is going mad, that his brain is on fire--
Just when it seemed to him that another turn 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 his hand into
his pocket and drew it out, shaking. "Here," he said, holding out
the fourteen cents. "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 other noticed
that he walked unsteadily as he passed out of sight.
For a minute or so Jurgis stood clinging to his chair, reeling and
swaying; then the keeper touched him on the arm, and he turned and
went back to breaking stone.
Chapter 18
Jurgis did not get out of the Bridewell quite as soon as he had
expected. To his sentence there were added "court costs" of a dollar
and a half--he was supposed to pay for the trouble of putting him
in jail, and not having the money, was obliged to work it off by
three days more of toil. Nobody had taken the trouble to tell him
this--only after counting the days and looking forward to the end
in an agony of impatience, when the hour came that he expected to
be free he found himself still set at the stone heap, and laughed
at when he ventured to protest. Then he concluded he must have
counted wrong; but as another day passed, he gave up all hope--
and was sunk in the depths of despair, when one morning after
breakfast a keeper came to him with the word that his time was up
at last. So he doffed his prison garb, and put on his old fertilizer
clothing, and heard the door of the prison clang behind him.
He stood upon the steps, bewildered; he could hardly believe that
it was true,--that the sky was above him again and the open street
before him; that he was a free man. But then the cold began to
strike through his clothes, and he started quickly away.
There had been a heavy snow, and now a thaw had set in; fine sleety
rain was falling, driven by a wind that pierced Jurgis to the bone.
He had not stopped for his-overcoat when he set out to "do up" Connor,
and so his rides in the patrol wagons had been cruel experiences;
his clothing was old and worn thin, and it never had been very warm.
Now as he trudged on the rain soon wet it through; there were six inches
of watery slush on the sidewalks, so that his feet would soon have
been soaked, even had there been no holes in his shoes.
Jurgis had had enough to eat in the jail, and the work had been
the least trying of any that he had done since he came to Chicago;
but even so, he had not grown strong--the fear and grief that had
preyed upon his mind had worn him thin. Now he shivered and shrunk
from the rain, hiding his hands in his pockets and hunching his
shoulders together. The Bridewell grounds were on the outskirts
of the city and the country around them was unsettled and wild--
on one side was the big drainage canal, and on the other a maze of
railroad tracks, and so the wind had full sweep.
After walking a ways, Jurgis met a little ragamuffin whom he hailed:
"Hey, sonny!" The boy cocked one eye at him--he knew that Jurgis
was a "jailbird" by his shaven head. "Wot yer want?" he queried.
"How do you go to the stockyards?" Jurgis demanded.
"I don't go," replied the boy.
Jurgis hesitated a moment, nonplussed. Then he said, "I mean which
is the way?"
"Why don't yer say so then?" was the response, and the boy pointed
to the northwest, across the tracks. "That way."
"How far is it?" Jurgis asked. "I dunno," said the other.
"Mebbe twenty miles or so."
"Twenty miles!" Jurgis echoed, and his face fell. He had to walk
every foot of it, for they had turned him out of jail without a penny
in his pockets.
Yet, when he once got started, and his blood had warmed with walking,
he forgot everything in the fever of his thoughts. All the dreadful
imaginations that had haunted him in his cell now rushed into his
mind at once. The agony was almost over--he was going to find out;
and he clenched his hands in his pockets as he strode, following his
flying desire, almost at a run. Ona--the baby--the family--the house--
he would know the truth about them all! And he was coming to the
rescue--he was free again! His hands were his own, and he could
help them, he could do battle for them against the world.
For an hour or so he walked thus, and then he began to look about him.
He seemed to be leaving the city altogether. The street was turning
into a country road, leading out to the westward; there were
snow-covered fields on either side of him. Soon he met a farmer
driving a two-horse wagon loaded with straw, and he stopped him.
"Is this the way to the stockyards?" he asked.
The farmer scratched his head. "I dunno jest where they be," he said.
"But they're in the city somewhere, and you're going dead away from
it now."
Jurgis looked dazed. "I was told this was the way," he said.
"Who told you?"
"A boy."
"Well, mebbe he was playing a joke on ye. The best thing ye kin do
is to go back, and when ye git into town ask a policeman. I'd take
ye in, only I've come a long ways an' I'm loaded heavy. Git up!"
So Jurgis turned and followed, and toward the end of the morning
he began to see Chicago again. Past endless blocks of two-story
shanties he walked, along wooden sidewalks and unpaved pathways
treacherous with deep slush holes. Every few blocks there would be
a railroad crossing on the level with the sidewalk, a deathtrap for
the unwary; long freight trains would be passing, the cars clanking
and crashing together, and Jurgis would pace about waiting, burning up
with a fever of impatience. Occasionally the cars would stop for
some minutes, and wagons and streetcars would crowd together waiting,
the drivers swearing at each other, or hiding beneath umbrellas out
of the rain; at such times Jurgis would dodge under the gates and run
across the tracks and between the cars, taking his life into his hands.
He crossed a long bridge over a river frozen solid and covered
with slush. Not even on the river bank was the snow white--the rain
which fell was a diluted solution of smoke, and Jurgis' hands and
face were streaked with black. Then he came into the business
part of the city, where the streets were sewers of inky blackness,
with horses sleeping and plunging, and women and children flying
across in panic-stricken droves. These streets were huge canyons
formed by towering black buildings, echoing with the clang of car
gongs and the shouts of drivers; the people who swarmed in them were
as busy as ants--all hurrying breathlessly, never stopping to look at
anything nor at each other. The solitary trampish-looking foreigner,
with water-soaked clothing and haggard face and anxious eyes, was as
much alone as he hurried past them, as much unheeded and as lost,
as if he had been a thousand miles deep in a wilderness.
A policeman gave him his direction and told him that he had five miles
to go. He came again to the slum districts, to avenues of saloons
and cheap stores, with long dingy red factory buildings, and coalyards
and railroad tracks; and then Jurgis lifted up his head and began
to sniff the air like a startled animal--scenting the far-off odor
of home. It was late afternoon then, and he was hungry, but the dinner
invitations hung out of the saloons were not for him.
So he came at last to the stockyards, to the black volcanoes of smoke
and the lowing cattle and the stench. Then, seeing a crowded car,
his impatience got the better of him and he jumped aboard, hiding
behind another man, unnoticed by the conductor. In ten minutes more
he had reached his street, and home.
He was half running as he came round the corner. There was the house,
at any rate--and then suddenly he stopped and stared. What was the
matter with the house?
Jurgis looked twice, bewildered; then he glanced at the house next
door and at the one beyond--then at the saloon on the corner.
Yes, it was the right place, quite certainly--he had not made
any mistake. But the house--the house was a different color!
He came a couple of steps nearer. Yes; it had been gray and now it
was yellow! The trimmings around the windows had been red, and now
they were green! It was all newly painted! How strange it made it seem!
Jurgis went closer yet, but keeping on the other side of the street.
A sudden and horrible spasm of fear had come over him. His knees
were shaking beneath him, and his mind was in a whirl. New paint on
the house, and new weatherboards, where the old had begun to rot off,
and the agent had got after them! New shingles over the hole in
the roof, too, the hole that had for six months been the bane of his
soul--he having no money to have it fixed and no time to fix it himself,
and the rain leaking in, and overflowing the pots and pans he put to
catch it, and flooding the attic and loosening the plaster. And now
it was fixed! And the broken windowpane replaced! And curtains in
the windows! New, white curtains, stiff and shiny!
Then suddenly the front door opened. Jurgis stood, his chest heaving
as he struggled to catch his breath. A boy had come out, a stranger
to him; a big, fat, rosy-cheeked youngster, such as had never been
seen in his home before.
Jurgis stared at the boy, fascinated. He came down the steps
whistling, kicking off the snow. He stopped at the foot, and picked
up some, and then leaned against the railing, making a snowball.
A moment later he looked around and saw Jurgis, and their eyes met;
it was a hostile glance, the boy evidently thinking that the other
had suspicions of the snowball. When Jurgis started slowly across
the street toward him, he gave a quick glance about, meditating
retreat, but then he concluded to stand his ground.
Jurgis took hold of the railing of the steps, for he was a little
unsteady. "What--what are you doing here?" he managed to gasp.
"Go on!" said the boy.
"You--" Jurgis tried again. "What do you want here?"
"Me?" answered the boy, angrily. "I live here."
"You live here!" Jurgis panted. He turned white and clung more
tightly to the railing. "You live here! Then where's my family?"
The boy looked surprised. "Your family!" he echoed.
And Jurgis started toward him. "I--this is my house!" he cried.
"Come off!" said the boy; then suddenly the door upstairs opened,
and he called: "Hey, ma! Here's a fellow says he owns this house."
A stout Irishwoman came to the top of the steps. "What's that?"
she demanded.
Jurgis turned toward her. "Where is my family?" he cried, wildly.
"I left them here! This is my home! What are you doing in my home?"
The woman stared at him in frightened wonder, she must have thought
she was dealing with a maniac--Jurgis looked like one. "Your home!"
she echoed.
"My home!" he half shrieked. "I lived here, I tell you."
"You must be mistaken," she answered him. "No one ever lived here.
This is a new house. They told us so. They--"
"What have they done with my family?" shouted Jurgis, frantically.
A light had begun to break upon the woman; perhaps she had had doubts
of what "they" had told her. "I don't know where your family is,"
she said. "I bought the house only three days ago, and there was
nobody here, and they told me it was all new. Do you really mean
you had ever rented it?"
"Rented it!" panted Jurgis. "I bought it! I paid for it! I own it!
And they--my God, can't you tell me where my people went?"
She made him understand at last that she knew nothing. Jurgis' brain
was so confused that he could not grasp the situation. It was as if
his family had been wiped out of existence; as if they were proving
to be dream people, who never had existed at all. He was quite
lost--but then suddenly he thought of Grandmother Majauszkiene,
who lived in the next block. She would know! He turned and
started at a run.
Grandmother Majauszkiene came to the door herself. She cried out when
she saw Jurgis, wild-eyed and shaking. Yes, yes, she could tell him.
The family had moved; they had not been able to pay the rent and they
had been turned out into the snow, and the house had been repainted
and sold again the next week. No, she had not heard how they were,
but she could tell him that they had gone back to Aniele Jukniene,
with whom they had stayed when they first came to the yards.
Wouldn't Jurgis come in and rest? It was certainly too bad--if only
he had not got into jail--
And so Jurgis turned and staggered away. He did not go very far
round the corner he gave out completely, and sat down on the steps
of a saloon, and hid his face in his hands, and shook all over with dry,
racking sobs.
Their home! Their home! They had lost it! Grief, despair, rage,
overwhelmed him--what was any imagination of the thing to this
heartbreaking, crushing reality of it--to the sight of strange people
living in his house, hanging their curtains to his windows, staring
at him with hostile eyes! It was monstrous, it was unthinkable--
they could not do it--it could not be true! Only think what he
had suffered for that house--what miseries they had all suffered
for it--the price they had paid for it!
The whole long agony came back to him. Their sacrifices in the
beginning, their three hundred dollars that they had scraped
together, all they owned in the world, all that stood between them
and starvation! And then their toil, month by month, to get together
the twelve dollars, and the interest as well, and now and then the
taxes, and the other charges, and the repairs, and what not! Why,
they had put their very souls into their payments on that house,
they had paid for it with their sweat and tears--yes, more, with their
very lifeblood. Dede Antanas had died of the struggle to earn that
money--he would have been alive and strong today if he had not had
to work in Durham's dark cellars to earn his share. And Ona, too,
had given her health and strength to pay for it--she was wrecked and
ruined because of it; and so was he, who had been a big, strong man
three years ago, and now sat here shivering, broken, cowed, weeping
like a hysterical child. Ah! they had cast their all into the fight;
and they had lost, they had lost! All that they had paid was gone--
every cent of it. And their house was gone--they were back where
they had started from, flung out into the cold to starve and freeze!
Jurgis could see all the truth now--could see himself, through the
whole long course of events, the victim of ravenous vultures that
had torn into his vitals and devoured him; of fiends that had
racked and tortured him, mocking him, meantime, jeering in his face.
Ah, God, the horror of it, the monstrous, hideous, demoniacal
wickedness of it! He and his family, helpless women and children,
struggling to live, ignorant and defenseless and forlorn as they
were--and the enemies that had been lurking for them, crouching upon
their trail and thirsting for their blood! That first lying circular,
that smooth-tongued slippery agent! That trap of the extra payments,
the interest, and all the other charges that they had not the means
to pay, and would never have attempted to pay! And then all the
tricks of the packers, their masters, the tyrants who ruled them--
the shutdowns and the scarcity of work, the irregular hours and
the cruel speeding-up, the lowering of wages, the raising of prices!
The mercilessness of nature about them, of heat and cold, rain and snow;
the mercilessness of the city, of the country in which they lived,
of its laws and customs that they did not understand! All of these
things had worked together for the company that had marked them for
its prey and was waiting for its chance. And now, with this last
hideous injustice, its time had come, and it had turned them out
bag and baggage, and taken their house and sold it again! And they
could do nothing, they were tied hand and foot--the law was against
them, the whole machinery of society was at their oppressors' command!
If Jurgis so much as raised a hand against them, back he would go
into that wild-beast pen from which he had just escaped!
To get up and go away was to give up, to acknowledge defeat, to leave
the strange family in possession; and Jurgis might have sat shivering
in the rain for hours before he could do that, had it not been for
the thought of his family. It might be that he had worse things yet
to learn--and so he got to his feet and started away, walking on,
wearily, half-dazed.
To Aniele's house, in back of the yards, was a good two miles;
the distance had never seemed longer to Jurgis, and when he saw
the familiar dingy-gray shanty his heart was beating fast. He ran
up the steps and began to hammer upon the door.
The old woman herself came to open it. She had shrunk all up with
her rheumatism since Jurgis had seen her last, and her yellow
parchment face stared up at him from a little above the level of
the doorknob. She gave a start when she saw him. "Is Ona here?"
he cried, breathlessly.
"Yes," was the answer, "she's here."
"How--" Jurgis began, and then stopped short, clutching convulsively
at the side of the door. From somewhere within the house had come
a sudden cry, a wild, horrible scream of anguish. And the voice
was Ona's. For a moment Jurgis stood half-paralyzed with fright;
then he bounded past the old woman and into the room.
It was Aniele's kitchen, and huddled round the stove were half a
dozen women, pale and frightened. One of them started to her feet
as Jurgis entered; she was haggard and frightfully thin, with one
arm tied up in bandages--he hardly realized that it was Marija.
He looked first for Ona; then, not seeing her, he stared at the women,
expecting them to speak. But they sat dumb, gazing back at him,
panic-stricken; and a second later came another piercing scream.
It was from the rear of the house, and upstairs. Jurgis bounded to
a door of the room and flung it open; there was a ladder leading
through a trap door to the garret, and he was at the foot of it when
suddenly he heard a voice behind him, and saw Marija at his heels.
She seized him by the sleeve with her good hand, panting wildly,
"No, no, Jurgis! Stop!"
"What do you mean?" he gasped.
"You mustn't go up," she cried.
Jurgis was half-crazed with bewilderment and fright. "What's the
matter?" he shouted. "What is it?"
Marija clung to him tightly; he could hear Ona sobbing and moaning
above, and he fought to get away and climb up, without waiting for
her reply. "No, no," she rushed on. "Jurgis! You mustn't go up!
It's--it's the child!"
"The child?" he echoed in perplexity. "Antanas?"
Marija answered him, in a whisper: "The new one!"
And then Jurgis went limp, and caught himself on the ladder. He stared
at her as if she were a ghost. "The new one!" he gasped. "But it
isn't time," he added, wildly.
Marija nodded. "I know," she said; "but it's come."
And then again came Ona's scream, smiting him like a blow in the face,
making him wince and turn white. Her voice died away into a wail--
then he heard her sobbing again, "My God--let me die, let me die!"
And Marija hung her arms about him, crying: "Come out! Come away!"
She dragged him back into the kitchen, half carrying him, for he had
gone all to pieces. It was as if the pillars of his soul had fallen
in--he was blasted with horror. In the room he sank into a chair,
trembling like a leaf, Marija still holding him, and the women staring
at him in dumb, helpless fright.
And then again Ona cried out; he could hear it nearly as plainly here,
and he staggered to his feet. "How long has this been going on?"
he panted.
"Not very long," Marija answered, and then, at a signal from Aniele,
she rushed on: "You go away, Jurgis you can't help--go away and come
back later. It's all right--it's--"
"Who's with her?" Jurgis demanded; and then, seeing Marija hesitating,
he cried again, "Who's with her?"
"She's--she's all right," she answered. "Elzbieta's with her."
"But the doctor!" he panted. "Some one who knows!"
He seized Marija by the arm; she trembled, and her voice sank beneath
a whisper as she replied, "We--we have no money." Then, frightened
at the look on his face, she exclaimed: "It's all right, Jurgis!
You don't understand--go away--go away! Ah, if you only had waited!"
Above her protests Jurgis heard Ona again; he was almost out of
his mind. It was all new to him, raw and horrible--it had fallen
upon him like a lightning stroke. When little Antanas was born he
had been at work, and had known nothing about it until it was over;
and now he was not to be controlled. The frightened women were at
their wits' end; one after another they tried to reason with him,
to make him understand that this was the lot of woman. In the end
they half drove him out into the rain, where he began to pace up
and down, bareheaded and frantic. Because he could hear Ona from
the street, he would first go away to escape the sounds, and then
come back because he could not help it. At the end of a quarter
of an hour he rushed up the steps again, and for fear that he would
break in the door they had to open it and let him in.
There was no arguing with him. They could not tell him that all
was going well--how could they know, he cried--why, she was dying,
she was being torn to pieces! Listen to her--listen! Why, it was
monstrous--it could not be allowed--there must be some help for it!
Had they tried to get a doctor? They might pay him afterward--they
could promise--
"We couldn't promise, Jurgis," protested Marija. "We had no money--
we have scarcely been able to keep alive."
"But I can work," Jurgis exclaimed. "I can earn money!"
"Yes," she answered--"but we thought you were in jail. How could we
know when you would return? They will not work for nothing."
Marija went on to tell how she had tried to find a midwife, and how
they had demanded ten, fifteen, even twenty-five dollars, and that
in cash. "And I had only a quarter," she said. "I have spent every
cent of my money--all that I had in the bank; and I owe the doctor
who has been coming to see me, and he has stopped because he thinks
I don't mean to pay him. And we owe Aniele for two weeks' rent,
and she is nearly starving, and is afraid of being turned out.
We have been borrowing and begging to keep alive, and there is nothing
more we can do--"
"And the children?" cried Jurgis.
"The children have not been home for three days, the weather has been
so bad. They could not know what is happening--it came suddenly,
two months before we expected it."
Jurgis was standing by the table, and he caught himself with his hand;
his head sank and his arms shook--it looked as if he were going to
collapse. Then suddenly Aniele got up and came hobbling toward him,
fumbling in her skirt pocket. She drew out a dirty rag, in one corner
of which she had something tied.
"Here, Jurgis!" she said, "I have some money. Palauk! See!"
She unwrapped it and counted it out--thirty-four cents. "You go, now,"
she said, "and try and get somebody yourself. And maybe the rest can
help--give him some money, you; he will pay you back some day, and it
will do him good to have something to think about, even if he doesn't
succeed. When he comes back, maybe it will be over."
And so the other women turned out the contents of their pocketbooks;
most of them had only pennies and nickels, but they gave him all.
Mrs. Olszewski, who lived next door, and had a husband who was a
skilled cattle butcher, but a drinking man, gave nearly half a dollar,
enough to raise the whole sum to a dollar and a quarter. Then Jurgis
thrust it into his pocket, still holding it tightly in his fist,
and started away at a run.
Chapter 19
"Madame Haupt, Hebamme, ran a sign, swinging from a second-story
window over a saloon on the avenue; at a side door was another sign,
with a hand pointing up a dingy flight of stairs. Jurgis went up them,
three at a time.
Madame Haupt was frying pork and onions, and had her door half open
to let out the smoke. When he tried to knock upon it, it swung open
the rest of the way, and he had a glimpse of her, with a black bottle
turned up to her lips. Then he knocked louder, and she started and
put it away. She was a Dutchwoman, enormously fat--when she walked
she rolled like a small boat on the ocean, and the dishes in the
cupboard jostled each other. She wore a filthy blue wrapper, and her
teeth were black.
"Vot is it?" she said, when she saw Jurgis.
He had run like mad all the way and was so out of breath he could
hardly speak. His hair was flying and his eyes wild--he looked
like a man that had risen from the tomb. "My wife!" he panted.
"Come quickly!" Madame Haupt set the frying pan to one side and
wiped her hands on her wrapper.
"You vant me to come for a case?" she inquired.
"Yes," gasped Jurgis.
"I haf yust come back from a case," she said. "I haf had no time to
eat my dinner. Still--if it is so bad--"
"Yes--it is!" cried he. "Vell, den, perhaps--vot you pay?"
"I--I--how much do you want?" Jurgis stammered.
"Tventy-five dollars." His face fell. "I can't pay that," he said.
The woman was watching him narrowly. "How much do you pay?" she demanded.
"Must I pay now--right away?"
"Yes; all my customers do."
"I--I haven't much money," Jurgis began in an agony of dread.
"I've been in--in trouble--and my money is gone. But I'll pay you--
every cent--just as soon as I can; I can work--"
"Vot is your work?"
"I have no place now. I must get one. But I--"
"How much haf you got now?"
He could hardly bring himself to reply. When he said "A dollar and
a quarter," the woman laughed in his face.
"I vould not put on my hat for a dollar and a quarter," she said.
"It's all I've got," he pleaded, his voice breaking. "I must get
some one--my wife will die. I can't help it--I--"
Madame Haupt had put back her pork and onions on the stove. She turned
to him and answered, out of the steam and noise: "Git me ten dollars
cash, und so you can pay me the rest next mont'."
"I can't do it--I haven't got it!" Jurgis protested. "I tell you I
have only a dollar and a quarter."
The woman turned to her work. "I don't believe you," she said.
"Dot is all to try to sheat me. Vot is de reason a big man like
you has got only a dollar und a quarter?"
"I've just been in jail," Jurgis cried--he was ready to get down upon
his knees to the woman--"and I had no money before, and my family has
almost starved."
"Vere is your friends, dot ought to help you?"
"They are all poor," he answered. "They gave me this. I have done
everything I can--"
"Haven't you got notting you can sell?"
"I have nothing, I tell you--I have nothing," he cried,
"Can't you borrow it, den? Don't your store people trust you?"
Then, as he shook his head, she went on: "Listen to me--if you git
me you vill be glad of it. I vill save your wife und baby for you,
and it vill not seem like mooch to you in de end. If you loose dem
now how you tink you feel den? Und here is a lady dot knows her
business--I could send you to people in dis block, und dey vould
tell you--"
Madame Haupt was pointing her cooking-fork at Jurgis persuasively;
but her words were more than he could bear. He flung up his hands
with a gesture of despair and turned and started away. "It's no use,"
he exclaimed--but suddenly he heard the woman's voice behind him again--
"I vill make it five dollars for you."
She followed behind him, arguing with him. "You vill be foolish not
to take such an offer," she said. "You von't find nobody go out on
a rainy day like dis for less. Vy, I haf never took a case in my life
so sheap as dot. I couldn't pay mine room rent--"
Jurgis interrupted her with an oath of rage. "If I haven't got it,"
he shouted, "how can I pay it? Damn it, I would pay you if I could,
but I tell you I haven't got it. I haven't got it! Do you hear me
I haven't got it!"
He turned and started away again. He was halfway down the stairs
before Madame Haupt could shout to him: "Vait! I vill go mit you!
Come back!"
He went back into the room again.
"It is not goot to tink of anybody suffering," she said, in a
melancholy voice. "I might as vell go mit you for noffing as vot
you offer me, but I vill try to help you. How far is it?"
"Three or four blocks from here."
"Tree or four! Und so I shall get soaked! Gott in Himmel, it ought
to be vorth more! Vun dollar und a quarter, und a day like dis!--
But you understand now--you vill pay me de rest of twenty-five
dollars soon?"
"As soon as I can."
"Some time dis mont'?"
"Yes, within a month," said poor Jurgis. "Anything! Hurry up!"
"Vere is de dollar und a quarter?" persisted Madame Haupt, relentlessly.
Jurgis put the money on the table and the woman counted it and stowed
it away. Then she wiped her greasy hands again and proceeded to
get ready, complaining all the time; she was so fat that it was
painful for her to move, and she grunted and gasped at every step.
She took off her wrapper without even taking the trouble to turn her
back to Jurgis, and put on her corsets and dress. Then there was
a black bonnet which had to be adjusted carefully, and an umbrella
which was mislaid, and a bag full of necessaries which had to be
collected from here and there--the man being nearly crazy with
anxiety in the meantime. When they were on the street he kept about
four paces ahead of her, turning now and then, as if he could hurry
her on by the force of his desire. But Madame Haupt could only go
so far at a step, and it took all her attention to get the needed
breath for that.
They came at last to the house, and to the group of frightened women
in the kitchen. It was not over yet, Jurgis learned--he heard Ona
crying still; and meantime Madame Haupt removed her bonnet and laid
it on the mantelpiece, and got out of her bag, first an old dress
and then a saucer of goose grease, which she proceeded to rub upon
her hands. The more cases this goose grease is used in, the better
luck it brings to the midwife, and so she keeps it upon her kitchen
mantelpiece or stowed away in a cupboard with her dirty clothes,
for months, and sometimes even for years.
Then they escorted her to the ladder, and Jurgis heard her give an
exclamation of dismay. "Gott in Himmel, vot for haf you brought me
to a place like dis? I could not climb up dot ladder. I could not
git troo a trap door! I vill not try it--vy, I might kill myself
already. Vot sort of a place is dot for a woman to bear a child in--
up in a garret, mit only a ladder to it? You ought to be ashamed of
yourselves!" Jurgis stood in the doorway and listened to her scolding,
half drowning out the horrible moans and screams of Ona.
At last Aniele succeeded in pacifying her, and she essayed the ascent;
then, however, she had to be stopped while the old woman cautioned
her about the floor of the garret. They had no real floor--they had
laid old boards in one part to make a place for the family to live;
it was all right and safe there, but the other part of the garret had
only the joists of the floor, and the lath and plaster of the ceiling
below, and if one stepped on this there would be a catastrophe.
As it was half dark up above, perhaps one of the others had best go up
first with a candle. Then there were more outcries and threatening,
until at last Jurgis had a vision of a pair of elephantine legs
disappearing through the trap door, and felt the house shake as
Madame Haupt started to walk. Then suddenly Aniele came to him and
took him by the arm.
"Now," she said, "you go away. Do as I tell you--you have done all
you can, and you are only in the way. Go away and stay away."
"But where shall I go?" Jurgis asked, helplessly.
"I don't know where," she answered. "Go on the street, if there is
no other place--only go! And stay all night!"
In the end she and Marija pushed him out of the door and shut it
behind him. It was just about sundown, and it was turning cold--
the rain had changed to snow, and the slush was freezing. Jurgis
shivered in his thin clothing, and put his hands into his pockets
and started away. He had not eaten since morning, and he felt weak
and ill; with a sudden throb of hope he recollected he was only a few
blocks from the saloon where he had been wont to eat his dinner.
They might have mercy on him there, or he might meet a friend. He set
out for the place as fast as he could walk.
"Hello, Jack," said the saloonkeeper, when he entered--they call all
foreigners and unskilled men "Jack" in Packingtown. "Where've you been?"
Jurgis went straight to the bar. "I've been in jail," he said,
"and I've just got out. I walked home all the way, and I've not
a cent, and had nothing to eat since this morning. And I've lost
my home, and my wife's ill, and I'm done up."
The saloonkeeper gazed at him, with his haggard white face and
his blue trembling lips. Then he pushed a big bottle toward him.
"Fill her up!" he said.
Jurgis could hardly hold the bottle, his hands shook so.
"Don't be afraid," said the saloonkeeper, "fill her up!"
So Jurgis drank a large glass of whisky, and then turned to the
lunch counter, in obedience to the other's suggestion. He ate all
he dared, stuffing it in as fast as he could; and then, after trying
to speak his gratitude, he went and sat down by the big red stove
in the middle of the room.
It was too good to last, however--like all things in this hard world.
His soaked clothing began to steam, and the horrible stench of
fertilizer to fill the room. In an hour or so the packing houses
would be closing and the men coming in from their work; and they
would not come into a place that smelt of Jurgis. Also it was
Saturday night, and in a couple of hours would come a violin and
a cornet, and in the rear part of the saloon the families of the
neighborhood would dance and feast upon wienerwurst and lager,
until two or three o'clock in the morning. The saloon-keeper coughed
once or twice, and then remarked, "Say, Jack, I'm afraid you'll have
to quit."
He was used to the sight of human wrecks, this saloonkeeper; he "fired"
dozens of them every night, just as haggard and cold and forlorn as
this one. But they were all men who had given up and been counted out,
while Jurgis was still in the fight, and had reminders of decency
about him. As he got up meekly, the other reflected that he had
always been a steady man, and might soon be a good customer again.
"You've been up against it, I see," he said. "Come this way."
In the rear of the saloon were the cellar stairs. There was a door
above and another below, both safely padlocked, making the stairs
an admirable place to stow away a customer who might still chance
to have money, or a political light whom it was not advisable to
kick out of doors.
So Jurgis spent the night. The whisky had only half warmed him,
and he could not sleep, exhausted as he was; he would nod forward,
and then start up, shivering with the cold, and begin to remember
again. Hour after hour passed, until he could only persuade himself
that it was not morning by the sounds of music and laughter and singing
that were to be heard from the room. When at last these ceased,
he expected that he would be turned out into the street; as this did
not happen, he fell to wondering whether the man had forgotten him.
In the end, when the silence and suspense were no longer to be borne,
he got up and hammered on the door; and the proprietor came, yawning
and rubbing his eyes. He was keeping open all night, and dozing
between customers.
"I want to go home," Jurgis said. "I'm worried about my wife--I can't
wait any longer."
"Why the hell didn't you say so before?" said the man. "I thought
you didn't have any home to go to." Jurgis went outside. It was
four o'clock in the morning, and as black as night. There were three
or four inches of fresh snow on the ground, and the flakes were falling
thick and fast. He turned toward Aniele's and started at a run.
There was a light burning in the kitchen window and the blinds
were drawn. The door was unlocked and Jurgis rushed in.
Aniele, Marija, and the rest of the women were huddled about the stove,
exactly as before; with them were several newcomers, Jurgis noticed--
also he noticed that the house was silent.
"Well?" he said.
No one answered him, they sat staring at him with their pale faces.
He cried again: "Well?"
And then, by the light of the smoky lamp, he saw Marija who sat
nearest him, shaking her head slowly. "Not yet," she said.
And Jurgis gave a cry of dismay. "Not yet?"
Again Marija's head shook. The poor fellow stood dumfounded. "I don't
hear her," he gasped.
"She's been quiet a long time," replied the other.
There was another pause--broken suddenly by a voice from the attic:
"Hello, there!"
Several of the women ran into the next room, while Marija sprang
toward Jurgis. "Wait here!" she cried, and the two stood, pale and
trembling, listening. In a few moments it became clear that Madame
Haupt was engaged in descending the ladder, scolding and exhorting
again, while the ladder creaked in protest. In a moment or two she
reached the ground, angry and breathless, and they heard her coming
into the room. Jurgis gave one glance at her, and then turned white
and reeled. She had her jacket off, like one of the workers on the
killing beds. Her hands and arms were smeared with blood, and blood
was splashed upon her clothing and her face.
She stood breathing hard, and gazing about her; no one made a sound.
"I haf done my best," she began suddenly. "I can do noffing more--
dere is no use to try."
Again there was silence.
"It ain't my fault," she said. "You had ought to haf had a doctor,
und not vaited so long--it vas too late already ven I come." Once more
there was deathlike stillness. Marija was clutching Jurgis with all
the power of her one well arm.
Then suddenly Madame Haupt turned to Aniele. "You haf not got
something to drink, hey?" she queried. "Some brandy?"
Aniele shook her head.
"Herr Gott!" exclaimed Madame Haupt. "Such people! Perhaps you vill
give me someting to eat den--I haf had noffing since yesterday morning,
und I haf vorked myself near to death here. If I could haf known it
vas like dis, I vould never haf come for such money as you gif me."
At this moment she chanced to look round, and saw Jurgis: She shook
her finger at him. "You understand me," she said, "you pays me dot
money yust de same! It is not my fault dat you send for me so late
I can't help your vife. It is not my fault if der baby comes mit
one arm first, so dot I can't save it. I haf tried all night,
und in dot place vere it is not fit for dogs to be born, und mit
notting to eat only vot I brings in mine own pockets."
Here Madame Haupt paused for a moment to get her breath; and Marija,
seeing the beads of sweat on Jurgis's forehead, and feeling the
quivering of his frame, broke out in a low voice: "How is Ona?"
"How is she?" echoed Madame Haupt. "How do you tink she can be ven
you leave her to kill herself so? I told dem dot ven they send for
de priest. She is young, und she might haf got over it, und been
vell und strong, if she had been treated right. She fight hard,
dot girl--she is not yet quite dead."
And Jurgis gave a frantic scream. "Dead!"
"She vill die, of course," said the other angrily. "Der baby is
dead now."
The garret was lighted by a candle stuck upon a board; it had almost
burned itself out, and was sputtering and smoking as Jurgis rushed
up the ladder. He could make out dimly in one corner a pallet of
rags and old blankets, spread upon the floor; at the foot of it was
a crucifix, and near it a priest muttering a prayer. In a far corner
crouched Elzbieta, moaning and wailing. Upon the pallet lay Ona.
She was covered with a blanket, but he could see her shoulders and
one arm lying bare; she was so shrunken he would scarcely have known
her--she was all but a skeleton, and as white as a piece of chalk.
Her eyelids were closed, and she lay still as death. He staggered
toward her and fell upon his knees with a cry of anguish: "Ona! Ona!"
She did not stir. He caught her hand in his, and began to clasp it
frantically, calling: "Look at me! Answer me! It is Jurgis come
back--don't you hear me?"
There was the faintest quivering of the eyelids, and he called again
in frenzy: "Ona! Ona!"
Then suddenly her eyes opened one instant. One instant she looked
at him--there was a flash of recognition between them, he saw her
afar off, as through a dim vista, standing forlorn. He stretched out
his arms to her, he called her in wild despair; a fearful yearning
surged up in him, hunger for her that was agony, desire that was a
new being born within him, tearing his heartstrings, torturing him.
But it was all in vain--she faded from him, she slipped back and
was gone. And a wail of anguish burst from him, great sobs shook
all his frame, and hot tears ran down his cheeks and fell upon her.
He clutched her hands, he shook her, he caught her in his arms and
pressed her to him but she lay cold and still--she was gone--she was gone!
The word rang through him like the sound of a bell, echoing in the far
depths of him, making forgotten chords to vibrate, old shadowy fears
to stir--fears of the dark, fears of the void, fears of annihilation.
She was dead! She was dead! He would never see her again, never hear
her again! An icy horror of loneliness seized him; he saw himself
standing apart and watching all the world fade away from him--a world
of shadows, of fickle dreams. He was like a little child, in his
fright and grief; he called and called, and got no answer, and his
cries of despair echoed through the house, making the women downstairs
draw nearer to each other in fear. He was inconsolable, beside
himself--the priest came and laid his hand upon his shoulder and
whispered to him, but he heard not a sound. He was gone away himself,
stumbling through the shadows, and groping after the soul that had fled.
So he lay. The gray dawn came up and crept into the attic.
The priest left, the women left, and he was alone with the still,
white figure--quieter now, but moaning and shuddering, wrestling with
the grisly fiend. Now and then he would raise himself and stare at
the white mask before him, then hide his eyes because he could not
bear it. Dead! dead! And she was only a girl, she was barely
eighteen! Her life had hardly begun--and here she lay murdered--
mangled, tortured to death!
It was morning when he rose up and came down into the kitchen--
haggard and ashen gray, reeling and dazed. More of the neighbors
had come in, and they stared at him in silence as he sank down upon
a chair by the table and buried his face in his arms.
A few minutes later the front door opened; a blast of cold and snow
rushed in, and behind it little Kotrina, breathless from running,
and blue with the cold. "I'm home again!" she exclaimed. "I could
And then, seeing Jurgis, she stopped with an exclamation. Looking
from one to another she saw that something had happened, and she asked,
in a lower voice: "What's the matter?"
Before anyone could reply, Jurgis started up; he went toward her,
walking unsteadily. "Where have you been?" he demanded.
"Selling papers with the boys," she said. "The snow--"
"Have you any money?" he demanded.
"How much?"
"Nearly three dollars, Jurgis."
"Give it to me."
Kotrina, frightened by his manner, glanced at the others. "Give it
to me!" he commanded again, and she put her hand into her pocket and
pulled out a lump of coins tied in a bit of rag. Jurgis took it
without a word, and went out of the door and down the street.
Three doors away was a saloon. "Whisky," he said, as he entered,
and as the man pushed him some, he tore at the rag with his teeth
and pulled out half a dollar. "How much is the bottle?" he said.
"I want to get drunk."
Chapter 20
But a big man cannot stay drunk very long on three dollars. That was
Sunday morning, and Monday night Jurgis came home, sober and sick,
realizing that he had spent every cent the family owned, and had not
bought a single instant's forgetfulness with it.
Ona was not yet buried; but the police had been notified, and on the
morrow they would put the body in a pine coffin and take it to the
potter's field. Elzbieta was out begging now, a few pennies from
each of the neighbors, to get enough to pay for a mass for her;
and the children were upstairs starving to death, while he,
good-for-nothing rascal, had been spending their money on drink.
So spoke Aniele, scornfully, and when he started toward the fire
she added the information that her kitchen was no longer for him
to fill with his phosphate stinks. She had crowded all her boarders
into one room on Ona's account, but now he could go up in the garret
where he belonged--and not there much longer, either, if he did not
pay her some rent.
Jurgis went without a word, and, stepping over half a dozen sleeping
boarders in the next room, ascended the ladder. It was dark up above;
they could not afford any light; also it was nearly as cold as outdoors.
In a corner, as far away from the corpse as possible, sat Marija,
holding little Antanas in her one good arm and trying to soothe him
to sleep. In another corner crouched poor little Juozapas, wailing
because he had had nothing to eat all day. Marija said not a word
to Jurgis; he crept in like a whipped cur, and went and sat down
by the body.
Perhaps he ought to have meditated upon the hunger of the children,
and upon his own baseness; but he thought only of Ona, he gave himself
up again to the luxury of grief. He shed no tears, being ashamed
to make a sound; he sat motionless and shuddering with his anguish.
He had never dreamed how much he loved Ona, until now that she was gone;
until now that he sat here, knowing that on the morrow they would
take her away, and that he would never lay eyes upon her again--never
all the days of his life. His old love, which had been starved
to death, beaten to death, awoke in him again; the floodgates of
memory were lifted--he saw all their life together, saw her as he
had seen her in Lithuania, the first day at the fair, beautiful as
the flowers, singing like a bird. He saw her as he had married her,
with all her tenderness, with her heart of wonder; the very words
she had spoken seemed to ring now in his ears, the tears she had shed
to be wet upon his cheek. The long, cruel battle with misery and
hunger had hardened and embittered him, but it had not changed her--
she had been the same hungry soul to the end, stretching out her arms
to him, pleading with him, begging him for love and tenderness.
And she had suffered--so cruelly she had suffered, such agonies,
such infamies--ah, God, the memory of them was not to be borne.
What a monster of wickedness, of heartlessness, he had been!
Every angry word that he had ever spoken came back to him and cut
him like a knife; every selfish act that he had done--with what
torments he paid for them now! And such devotion and awe as welled
up in his soul--now that it could never be spoken, now that it was
too late, too late! His bosom-was choking with it, bursting with it;
he crouched here in the darkness beside her, stretching out his arms
to her--and she was gone forever, she was dead! He could have
screamed aloud with the horror and despair of it; a sweat of agony
beaded his forehead, yet he dared not make a sound--he scarcely dared
to breathe, because of his shame and loathing of himself.
Late at night came Elzbieta, having gotten the money for a mass,
and paid for it in advance, lest she should be tempted too sorely
at home. She brought also a bit of stale rye bread that some one
had given her, and with that they quieted the children and got them
to sleep. Then she came over to Jurgis and sat down beside him.
She said not a word of reproach--she and Marija had chosen that
course before; she would only plead with him, here by the corpse of
his dead wife. Already Elzbieta had choked down her tears, grief
being crowded out of her soul by fear. She had to bury one of her
children--but then she had done it three times before, and each time
risen up and gone back to take up the battle for the rest. Elzbieta
was one of the primitive creatures: like the angleworm, which goes
on living though cut in half; like a hen, which, deprived of her
chickens one by one, will mother the last that is left her. She did
this because it was her nature--she asked no questions about the
justice of it, nor the worth-whileness of life in which destruction
and death ran riot.
And this old common-sense view she labored to impress upon Jurgis,
pleading with him with tears in her eyes. Ona was dead, but the
others were left and they must be saved. She did not ask for her
own children. She and Marija could care for them somehow, but there
was Antanas, his own son. Ona had given Antanas to him--the little
fellow was the only remembrance of her that he had; he must treasure
it and protect it, he must show himself a man. He knew what Ona would
have had him do, what she would ask of him at this moment, if she
could speak to him. It was a terrible thing that she should have
died as she had; but the life had been too hard for her, and she
had to go. It was terrible that they were not able to bury her,
that he could not even have a day to mourn her--but so it was.
Their fate was pressing; they had not a cent, and the children would
perish--some money must be had. Could he not be a man for Ona's sake,
and pull himself together? In a little while they would be out of
danger--now that they had given up the house they could live more
cheaply, and with all the children working they could get along,
if only he would not go to pieces. So Elzbieta went on, with feverish
intensity. It was a struggle for life with her; she was not afraid
that Jurgis would go on drinking, for he had no money for that,
but she was wild with dread at the thought that he might desert them,
might take to the road, as Jonas had done.
But with Ona's dead body beneath his eyes, Jurgis could not well
think of treason to his child. Yes, he said, he would try, for the
sake of Antanas. He would give the little fellow his chance--would
get to work at once, yes, tomorrow, without even waiting for Ona to be
buried. They might trust him, he would keep his word, come what might.
And so he was out before daylight the next morning, headache,
heartache, and all. He went straight to Graham's fertilizer mill,
to see if he could get back his job. But the boss shook his head
when he saw him--no, his place had been filled long ago, and there
was no room for him.
"Do you think there will be?" Jurgis asked. "I may have to wait."
"No," said the other, "it will not be worth your while to wait--there
will be nothing for you here."
Jurgis stood gazing at him in perplexity. "What is the matter?"
he asked. "Didn't I do my work?"
The other met his look with one of cold indifference, and answered,
"There will be nothing for you here, I said."
Jurgis had his suspicions as to the dreadful meaning of that incident,
and he went away with a sinking at the heart. He went and took his
stand with the mob of hungry wretches who were standing about in
the snow before the time station. Here he stayed, breakfastless,
for two hours, until the throng was driven away by the clubs of
the police. There was no work for him that day.
Jurgis had made a good many acquaintances in his long services at the
yards--there were saloonkeepers who would trust him for a drink and a
sandwich, and members of his old union who would lend him a dime at
a pinch. It was not a question of life and death for him, therefore;
he might hunt all day, and come again on the morrow, and try hanging
on thus for weeks, like hundreds and thousands of others. Meantime,
Teta Elzbieta would go and beg, over in the Hyde Park district,
and the children would bring home enough to pacify Aniele, and keep
them all alive.
It was at the end of a week of this sort of waiting, roaming about
in the bitter winds or loafing in saloons, that Jurgis stumbled on
a chance in one of the cellars of Jones's big packing plant. He saw
a foreman passing the open doorway, and hailed him for a job.
"Push a truck?" inquired the man, and Jurgis answered, "Yes, sir!"
before the words were well out of his mouth.
"What's your name?" demanded the other.
"Jurgis Rudkus."
"Worked in the yards before?"
"Two places--Brown's killing beds and Durham's fertilizer mill."
"Why did you leave there?"
"The first time I had an accident, and the last time I was sent up
for a month."
"I see. Well, I'll give you a trial. Come early tomorrow and ask
for Mr. Thomas."
So Jurgis rushed home with the wild tidings that he had a job--that
the terrible siege was over. The remnants of the family had quite
a celebration that night; and in the morning Jurgis was at the place
half an hour before the time of opening. The foreman came in shortly
afterward, and when he saw Jurgis he frowned.
"Oh," he said, "I promised you a job, didn't I?"
"Yes, sir," said Jurgis.
"Well, I'm sorry, but I made a mistake. I can't use you."
Jurgis stared, dumfounded. "What's the matter?" he gasped.
"Nothing," said the man, "only I can't use you."
There was the same cold, hostile stare that he had had from the boss
of the fertilizer mill. He knew that there was no use in saying
a word, and he turned and went away.
Out in the saloons the men could tell him all about the meaning of it;
they gazed at him with pitying eyes--poor devil, he was blacklisted!
What had he done? they asked--knocked down his boss? Good heavens,
then he might have known! Why, he stood as much chance of getting
a job in Packingtown as of being chosen mayor of Chicago. Why had
he wasted his time hunting? They had him on a secret list in every
office, big and little, in the place. They had his name by this time
in St. Louis and New York, in Omaha and Boston, in Kansas City and
St. Joseph. He was condemned and sentenced, without trial and
without appeal; he could never work for the packers again--he could
not even clean cattle pens or drive a truck in any place where they
controlled. He might try it, if he chose, as hundreds had tried it,
and found out for themselves. He would never be told anything about it;
he would never get any more satisfaction than he had gotten just now;
but he would always find when the time came that he was not needed.
It would not do for him to give any other name, either--they had
company "spotters" for just that purpose, and he wouldn't keep a job
in Packingtown three days. It was worth a fortune to the packers to
keep their blacklist effective, as a warning to the men and a means
of keeping down union agitation and political discontent.
Jurgis went home, carrying these new tidings to the family council.
It was a most cruel thing; here in this district was his home,
such as it was, the place he was used to and the friends he knew--
and now every possibility of employment in it was closed to him.
There was nothing in Packingtown but packing houses; and so it was
the same thing as evicting him from his home.
He and the two women spent all day and half the night discussing it.
It would be convenient, downtown, to the children's place of work;
but then Marija was on the road to recovery, and had hopes of getting
a job in the yards; and though she did not see her old-time lover
once a month, because of the misery of their state, yet she could
not make up her mind to go away and give him up forever. Then, too,
Elzbieta had heard something about a chance to scrub floors in
Durham's offices and was waiting every day for word. In the end
it was decided that Jurgis should go downtown to strike out for
himself, and they would decide after he got a job. As there was
no one from whom he could borrow there, and he dared not beg for
fear of being arrested, it was arranged that every day he should
meet one of the children and be given fifteen cents of their earnings,
upon which he could keep going. Then all day he was to pace the
streets with hundreds and thousands of other homeless wretches
inquiring at stores, warehouses, and factories for a chance; and at
night he was to crawl into some doorway or underneath a truck,
and hide there until midnight, when he might get into one of the
station houses, and spread a newspaper upon the floor, and lie down
in the midst of a throng of "bums" and beggars, reeking with alcohol
and tobacco, and filthy with vermin and disease.
So for two weeks more Jurgis fought with the demon of despair.
Once he got a chance to load a truck for half a day, and again he
carried an old woman's valise and was given a quarter. This let
him into a lodginghouse on several nights when he might otherwise
have frozen to death; and it also gave him a chance now and then
to buy a newspaper in the morning and hunt up jobs while his rivals
were watching and waiting for a paper to be thrown away. This, however,
was really not the advantage it seemed, for the newspaper advertisements
were a cause of much loss of precious time and of many weary journeys.
A full half of these were "fakes," put in by the endless variety of
establishments which preyed upon the helpless ignorance of the
unemployed. If Jurgis lost only his time, it was because he had
nothing else to lose; whenever a smooth-tongued agent would tell
him of the wonderful positions he had on hand, he could only shake
his head sorrowfully and say that he had not the necessary dollar
to deposit; when it was explained to him what "big money" he and all
his family could make by coloring photographs, he could only promise
to come in again when he had two dollars to invest in the outfit.
In the end Jurgis got a chance through an accidental meeting with
an old-time acquaintance of his union days. He met this man on his
way to work in the giant factories of the Harvester Trust; and his
friend told him to come along and he would speak a good word for him
to his boss, whom he knew well. So Jurgis trudged four or five miles,
and passed through a waiting throng of unemployed at the gate under
the escort of his friend. His knees nearly gave way beneath him when
the foreman, after looking him over and questioning him, told him
that he could find an opening for him.
How much this accident meant to Jurgis he realized only by stages;
for he found that the harvester works were the sort of place to
which philanthropists and reformers pointed with pride. It had
some thought for its employees; its workshops were big and roomy,
it provided a restaurant where the workmen could buy good food
at cost, it had even a reading room, and decent places where its
girl-hands could rest; also the work was free from many of the
elements of filth and repulsiveness that prevailed at the stockyards.
Day after day Jurgis discovered these things--things never expected
nor dreamed of by him--until this new place came to seem a kind of
a heaven to him.
It was an enormous establishment, covering a hundred and sixty acres
of ground, employing five thousand people, and turning out over
three hundred thousand machines every year--a good part of all the
harvesting and mowing machines used in the country. Jurgis saw very
little of it, of course--it was all specialized work, the same as at
the stockyards; each one of the hundreds of parts of a mowing machine
was made separately, and sometimes handled by hundreds of men.
Where Jurgis worked there was a machine which cut and stamped a
certain piece of steel about two square inches in size; the pieces
came tumbling out upon a tray, and all that human hands had to do
was to pile them in regular rows, and change the trays at intervals.
This was done by a single boy, who stood with eyes and thought
centered upon it, and fingers flying so fast that the sounds of the
bits of steel striking upon each other was like the music of an
express train as one hears it in a sleeping car at night. This was
"piece-work," of course; and besides it was made certain that the boy
did not idle, by setting the machine to match the highest possible
speed of human hands. Thirty thousand of these pieces he handled
every day, nine or ten million every year--how many in a lifetime
it rested with the gods to say. Near by him men sat bending over
whirling grindstones, putting the finishing touches to the steel
knives of the reaper; picking them out of a basket with the right
hand, pressing first one side and then the other against the stone
and finally dropping them with the left hand into another basket.
One of these men told Jurgis that he had sharpened three thousand
pieces of steel a day for thirteen years. In the next room were
wonderful machines that ate up long steel rods by slow stages,
cutting them off, seizing the pieces, stamping heads upon them,
grinding them and polishing them, threading them, and finally
dropping them into a basket, all ready to bolt the harvesters
together. From yet another machine came tens of thousands of steel
burs to fit upon these bolts. In other places all these various
parts were dipped into troughs of paint and hung up to dry, and then
slid along on trolleys to a room where men streaked them with red
and yellow, so that they might look cheerful in the harvest fields.
Jurgis's friend worked upstairs in the casting rooms, and his task
was to make the molds of a certain part. He shoveled black sand
into an iron receptacle and pounded it tight and set it aside to
harden; then it would be taken out, and molten iron poured into it.
This man, too, was paid by the mold--or rather for perfect castings,
nearly half his work going for naught. You might see him, along with
dozens of others, toiling like one possessed by a whole community
of demons; his arms working like the driving rods of an engine,
his long, black hair flying wild, his eyes starting out, the sweat
rolling in rivers down his face. When he had shoveled the mold full
of sand, and reached for the pounder to pound it with, it was after
the manner of a canoeist running rapids and seizing a pole at sight
of a submerged rock. All day long this man would toil thus, his whole
being centered upon the purpose of making twenty-three instead of
twenty-two and a half cents an hour; and then his product would be
reckoned up by the census taker, and jubilant captains of industry
would boast of it in their banquet halls, telling how our workers
are nearly twice as efficient as those of any other country. If we
are the greatest nation the sun ever shone upon, it would seem to be
mainly because we have been able to goad our wage-earners to this
pitch of frenzy; though there are a few other things that are great
among us including our drink-bill, which is a billion and a quarter
of dollars a year, and doubling itself every decade.
There was a machine which stamped out the iron plates, and then
another which, with a mighty thud, mashed them to the shape of the
sitting-down portion of the American farmer. Then they were piled
upon a truck, and it was Jurgis's task to wheel them to the room
where the machines were "assembled." This was child's play for him,
and he got a dollar and seventy-five cents a day for it; on Saturday
he paid Aniele the seventy-five cents a week he owed her for the use
of her garret, and also redeemed his overcoat, which Elzbieta had
put in pawn when he was in jail.
This last was a great blessing. A man cannot go about in midwinter
in Chicago with no overcoat and not pay for it, and Jurgis had to
walk or ride five or six miles back and forth to his work. lt so
happened that half of this was in one direction and half in another,
necessitating a change of cars; the law required that transfers be
given at all intersecting points, but the railway corporation had
gotten round this by arranging a pretense at separate ownership.
So whenever he wished to ride, he had to pay ten cents each way,
or over ten per cent of his income to this power, which had gotten
its franchises long ago by buying up the city council, in the face
of popular clamor amounting almost to a rebellion. Tired as he felt
at night, and dark and bitter cold as it was in the morning, Jurgis
generally chose to walk; at the hours other workmen were traveling,
the streetcar monopoly saw fit to put on so few cars that there
would be men hanging to every foot of the backs of them and often
crouching upon the snow-covered roof. Of course the doors could
never be closed, and so the cars were as cold as outdoors; Jurgis,
like many others, found it better to spend his fare for a drink and
a free lunch, to give him strength to walk.
These, however, were all slight matters to a man who had escaped from
Durham's fertilizer mill. Jurgis began to pick up heart again and
to make plans. He had lost his house but then the awful load of
the rent and interest was off his shoulders, and when Marija was
well again they could start over and save. In the shop where he
worked was a man, a Lithuanian like himself, whom the others spoke
of in admiring whispers, because of the mighty feats he was performing.
All day he sat at a machine turning bolts; and then in the evening
he went to the public school to study English and learn to read.
In addition, because he had a family of eight children to support
and his earnings were not enough, on Saturdays and Sundays he served
as a watchman; he was required to press two buttons at opposite ends
of a building every five minutes, and as the walk only took him two
minutes, he had three minutes to study between each trip. Jurgis felt
jealous of this fellow; for that was the sort of thing he himself
had dreamed of, two or three years ago. He might do it even yet,
if he had a fair chance--he might attract attention and become
a skilled man or a boss, as some had done in this place. Suppose
that Marija could get a job in the big mill where they made binder
twine--then they would move into this neighborhood, and he would
really have a chance. With a hope like that, there was some use
in living; to find a place where you were treated like a human being--
by God! he would show them how he could appreciate it. He laughed
to himself as he thought how he would hang on to this job!
And then one afternoon, the ninth of his work in the place, when he
went to get his overcoat he saw a group of men crowded before a
placard on the door, and when he went over and asked what it was,
they told him that beginning with the morrow his department of the
harvester works would be closed until further notice!
Chapter 21
That was the way they did it! There was not half an hour's
warning--the works were closed! It had happened that way before,
said the men, and it would happen that way forever. They had
made all the harvesting machines that the world needed, and now
they had to wait till some wore out! It was nobody's fault--
that was the way of it; and thousands of men and women were turned out
in the dead of winter, to live upon their savings if they had
any, and otherwise to die. So many tens of thousands already in
the city, homeless and begging for work, and now several thousand
more added to them!
Jurgis walked home-with his pittance of pay in his pocket,
heartbroken, overwhelmed. One more bandage had been torn from
his eyes, one more pitfall was revealed to him! Of what help was
kindness and decency on the part of employers--when they could
not keep a job for him, when there were more harvesting machines
made than the world was able to buy! What a hellish mockery it
was, anyway, that a man should slave to make harvesting machines
for the country, only to be turned out to starve for doing his
duty too well!
It took him two days to get over this heartsickening
disappointment. He did not drink anything, because Elzbieta got
his money for safekeeping, and knew him too well to be in the
least frightened by his angry demands. He stayed up in the
garret however, and sulked--what was the use of a man's hunting a
job when it was taken from him before he had time to learn the
work? But then their money was going again, and little Antanas
was hungry, and crying with the bitter cold of the garret.
Also Madame Haupt, the midwife, was after him for some money.
So he went out once more.
For another ten days he roamed the streets and alleys of the huge
city, sick and hungry, begging for any work. He tried in stores
and offices, in restaurants and hotels, along the docks and in
the railroad yards, in warehouses and mills and factories where
they made products that went to every corner of the world. There
were often one or two chances--but there were always a hundred
men for every chance, and his turn would not come. At night he
crept into sheds and cellars and doorways--until there came a
spell of belated winter weather, with a raging gale, and the
thermometer five degrees below zero at sundown and falling all
night. Then Jurgis fought like a wild beast to get into the big
Harrison Street police station, and slept down in a corridor,
crowded with two other men upon a single step.
He had to fight often in these days to fight for a place near the
factory gates, and now and again with gangs on the street. He
found, for instance, that the business of carrying satchels for
railroad passengers was a pre-empted one--whenever he essayed it,
eight or ten men and boys would fall upon him and force him to
run for his life. They always had the policeman "squared," and
so there was no use in expecting protection.
That Jurgis did not starve to death was due solely to the
pittance the children brought him. And even this was never
certain. For one thing the cold was almost more than the
children could bear; and then they, too, were in perpetual peril
from rivals who plundered and beat them. The law was against
them, too--little Vilimas, who was really eleven, but did not
look to be eight, was stopped on the streets by a severe old lady
in spectacles, who told him that he was too young to be working
and that if he did not stop selling papers she would send a
truant officer after him. Also one night a strange man caught
little Kotrina by the arm and tried to persuade her into a dark
cellarway, an experience which filled her with such terror that
she was hardly to be kept at work.
At last, on a Sunday, as there was no use looking for work,
Jurgis went home by stealing rides on the cars. He found that
they had been waiting for him for three days--there was a chance
of a job for him.
It was quite a story. Little Juozapas, who was near crazy with
hunger these days, had gone out on the street to beg for himself.
Juozapas had only one leg, having been run over by a wagon when a
little child, but he had got himself a broomstick, which he put
under his arm for a crutch. He had fallen in with some other
children and found the way to Mike Scully's dump, which lay three
or four blocks away. To this place there came every day many
hundreds of wagonloads of garbage and trash from the lake front,
where the rich people lived; and in the heaps the children raked
for food--there were hunks of bread and potato peelings and apple
cores and meat bones, all of it half frozen and quite unspoiled.
Little Juozapas gorged himself, and came home with a newspaper
full, which he was feeding to Antanas when his mother came in.
Elzbieta was horrified, for she did not believe that the food out
of the dumps was fit to eat. The next day, however, when no harm
came of it and Juozapas began to cry with hunger, she gave in and
said that he might go again. And that afternoon he came home
with a story of how while he had been digging away with a stick,
a lady upon the street had called him. A real fine lady,
the little boy explained, a beautiful lady; and she wanted to know
all about him, and whether he got the garbage for chickens,
and why he walked with a broomstick, and why Ona had died, and how
Jurgis had come to go to jail, and what was the matter with
Marija, and everything. In the end she had asked where he lived,
and said that she was coming to see him, and bring him a new
crutch to walk with. She had on a hat with a bird upon it,
Juozapas added, and a long fur snake around her neck.
She really came, the very next morning, and climbed the ladder to
the garret, and stood and stared about her, turning pale at the
sight of the blood stains on the floor where Ona had died. She
was a "settlement worker," she explained to Elzbieta--she lived
around on Ashland Avenue. Elzbieta knew the place, over a feed
store; somebody had wanted her to go there, but she had not cared
to, for she thought that it must have something to do with
religion, and the priest did not like her to have anything to do
with strange religions. They were rich people who came to live
there to find out about the poor people; but what good they
expected it would do them to know, one could not imagine. So
spoke Elzbieta, naively, and the young lady laughed and was
rather at a loss for an answer--she stood and gazed about her,
and thought of a cynical remark that had been made to her, that
she was standing upon the brink of the pit of hell and throwing
in snowballs to lower the temperature.
Elzbieta was glad to have somebody to listen, and she told all
their woes--what had happened to Ona, and the jail, and the loss
of their home, and Marija's accident, and how Ona had died, and
how Jurgis could get no work. As she listened the pretty young
lady's eyes filled with tears, and in the midst of it she burst
into weeping and hid her face on Elzbieta's shoulder, quite
regardless of the fact that the woman had on a dirty old wrapper
and that the garret was full of fleas. Poor Elzbieta was ashamed
of herself for having told so woeful a tale, and the other had to
beg and plead with her to get her to go on. The end of it was
that the young lady sent them a basket of things to eat, and left
a letter that Jurgis was to take to a gentleman who was
superintendent in one of the mills of the great steelworks in
South Chicago. "He will get Jurgis something to do," the young
lady had said, and added, smiling through her tears--"If he
doesn't, he will never marry me."
The steel-works were fifteen miles away, and as usual it was so
contrived that one had to pay two fares to get there. Far and
wide the sky was flaring with the red glare that leaped from rows
of towering chimneys--for it was pitch dark when Jurgis arrived.
The vast works, a city in themselves, were surrounded by a
stockade; and already a full hundred men were waiting at the gate
where new hands were taken on. Soon after daybreak whistles
began to blow, and then suddenly thousands of men appeared,
streaming from saloons and boardinghouses across the way, leaping
from trolley cars that passed--it seemed as if they rose out of
the ground, in the dim gray light. A river of them poured in
through the gate--and then gradually ebbed away again, until
there were only a few late ones running, and the watchman pacing
up and down, and the hungry strangers stamping and shivering.
Jurgis presented his precious letter. The gatekeeper was surly,
and put him through a catechism, but he insisted that he knew
nothing, and as he had taken the precaution to seal his letter,
there was nothing for the gatekeeper to do but send it to the
person to whom it was addressed. A messenger came back to say
that Jurgis should wait, and so he came inside of the gate,
perhaps not sorry enough that there were others less fortunate
watching him with greedy eyes. The great mills were getting
under way--one could hear a vast stirring, a rolling and rumbling
and hammering. Little by little the scene grew plain: towering,
black buildings here and there, long rows of shops and sheds,
little railways branching everywhere, bare gray cinders underfoot
and oceans of billowing black smoke above. On one side of the
grounds ran a railroad with a dozen tracks, and on the other side
lay the lake, where steamers came to load.
Jurgis had time enough to stare and speculate, for it was two
hours before he was summoned. He went into the office building,
where a company timekeeper interviewed him. The superintendent
was busy, he said, but he (the timekeeper) would try to find
Jurgis a job. He had never worked in a steel mill before? But
he was ready for anything? Well, then, they would go and see.
So they began a tour, among sights that made Jurgis stare amazed.
He wondered if ever he could get used to working in a place like
this, where the air shook with deafening thunder, and whistles
shrieked warnings on all sides of him at once; where miniature
steam engines came rushing upon him, and sizzling, quivering,
white-hot masses of metal sped past him, and explosions of fire
and flaming sparks dazzled him and scorched his face. Then men
in these mills were all black with soot, and hollow-eyed and
gaunt; they worked with fierce intensity, rushing here and there,
and never lifting their eyes from their tasks. Jurgis clung to
his guide like a scared child to its nurse, and while the latter
hailed one foreman after another to ask if they could use another
unskilled man, he stared about him and marveled.
He was taken to the Bessemer furnace, where they made billets of
steel--a domelike building, the size of a big theater. Jurgis
stood where the balcony of the theater would have been,
and opposite, by the stage, he saw three giant caldrons, big enough
for all the devils of hell to brew their broth in, full of
something white and blinding, bubbling and splashing, roaring as
if volcanoes were blowing through it--one had to shout to be
heard in the place. Liquid fire would leap from these caldrons
and scatter like bombs below--and men were working there, seeming
careless, so that Jurgis caught his breath with fright. Then a
whistle would toot, and across the curtain of the theater would
come a little engine with a carload of something to be dumped
into one of the receptacles; and then another whistle would toot,
down by the stage, and another train would back up--and suddenly,
without an instant's warning, one of the giant kettles began to
tilt and topple, flinging out a jet of hissing, roaring flame.
Jurgis shrank back appalled, for he thought it was an accident;
there fell a pillar of white flame, dazzling as the sun, swishing
like a huge tree falling in the forest. A torrent of sparks
swept all the way across the building, overwhelming everything,
hiding it from sight; and then Jurgis looked through the fingers
of his hands, and saw pouring out of the caldron a cascade of
living, leaping fire, white with a whiteness not of earth,
scorching the eyeballs. Incandescent rainbows shone above it,
blue, red, and golden lights played about it; but the stream
itself was white, ineffable. Out of regions of wonder it
streamed, the very river of life; and the soul leaped up at the
sight of it, fled back upon it, swift and resistless, back into
far-off lands, where beauty and terror dwell. Then the great
caldron tilted back again, empty, and Jurgis saw to his relief
that no one was hurt, and turned and followed his guide out into
the sunlight.
They went through the blast furnaces, through rolling mills where
bars of steel were tossed about and chopped like bits of cheese.
All around and above giant machine arms were flying, giant wheels
were turning, great hammers crashing; traveling cranes creaked
and groaned overhead, reaching down iron hands and seizing iron
prey--it was like standing in the center of the earth, where the
machinery of time was revolving.
By and by they came to the place where steel rails were made; and
Jurgis heard a toot behind him, and jumped out of the way of a
car with a white-hot ingot upon it, the size of a man's body.
There was a sudden crash and the car came to a halt, and the
ingot toppled out upon a moving platform, where steel fingers and
arms seized hold of it, punching it and prodding it into place,
and hurrying it into the grip of huge rollers. Then it came out
upon the other side, and there were more crashings and
clatterings, and over it was flopped, like a pancake on a
gridiron, and seized again and rushed back at you through another
squeezer. So amid deafening uproar it clattered to and fro,
growing thinner and flatter and longer. The ingot seemed almost
a living thing; it did not want to run this mad course, but it
was in the grip of fate, it was tumbled on, screeching and
clanking and shivering in protest. By and by it was long and
thin, a great red snake escaped from purgatory; and then, as it
slid through the rollers, you would have sworn that it was
alive--it writhed and squirmed, and wriggles and shudders passed
out through its tail, all but flinging it off by their violence.
There was no rest for it until it was cold and black--and then it
needed only to be cut and straightened to be ready for a
It was at the end of this rail's progress that Jurgis got his
chance. They had to be moved by men with crowbars, and the boss
here could use another man. So he took off his coat and set to
work on the spot.
It took him two hours to get to this place every day and cost him
a dollar and twenty cents a week. As this was out of the
question, he wrapped his bedding in a bundle and took it with
him, and one of his fellow workingmen introduced him to a Polish
lodginghouse, where he might have the privilege of sleeping upon
the floor for ten cents a night. He got his meals at free-lunch
counters, and every Saturday night he went home--bedding and
all--and took the greater part of his money to the family.
Elzbieta was sorry for this arrangement, for she feared that it
would get him into the habit of living without them, and once a
week was not very often for him to see his baby; but there was no
other way of arranging it. There was no chance for a woman at
the steelworks, and Marija was now ready for work again, and
lured on from day to day by the hope of finding it at the yards.
In a week Jurgis got over his sense of helplessness and
bewilderment in the rail mill. He learned to find his way about
and to take all the miracles and terrors for granted, to work
without hearing the rumbling and crashing. From blind fear he
went to the other extreme; he became reckless and indifferent,
like all the rest of the men, who took but little thought of
themselves in the ardor of their work. It was wonderful, when
one came to think of it, that these men should have taken an
interest in the work they did--they had no share in it--they were
paid by the hour, and paid no more for being interested. Also
they knew that if they were hurt they would be flung aside and
forgotten--and still they would hurry to their task by dangerous
short cuts, would use methods that were quicker and more
effective in spite of the fact that they were also risky. His
fourth day at his work Jurgis saw a man stumble while running in
front of a car, and have his foot mashed off, and before he had
been there three weeks he was witness of a yet more dreadful
accident. There was a row of brick furnaces, shining white
through every crack with the molten steel inside. Some of these
were bulging dangerously, yet men worked before them, wearing
blue glasses when they opened and shut the doors. One morning as
Jurgis was passing, a furnace blew out, spraying two men with a
shower of liquid fire. As they lay screaming and rolling upon
the ground in agony, Jurgis rushed to help them, and as a result
he lost a good part of the skin from the inside of one of his
hands. The company doctor bandaged it up, but he got no other
thanks from any one, and was laid up for eight working days
without any pay.
Most fortunately, at this juncture, Elzbieta got the long-awaited
chance to go at five o'clock in the morning and help scrub the
office floors of one of the packers. Jurgis came home and
covered himself with blankets to keep warm, and divided his time
between sleeping and playing with little Antanas. Juozapas was
away raking in the dump a good part of the time, and Elzbieta and
Marija were hunting for more work.
Antanas was now over a year and a half old, and was a perfect
talking machine. He learned so fast that every week when Jurgis
came home it seemed to him as if he had a new child. He would
sit down and listen and stare at him, and give vent to delighted
exclamations--"Palauk! Muma! Tu mano szirdele!" The little
fellow was now really the one delight that Jurgis had in the
world--his one hope, his one victory. Thank God, Antanas was a
boy! And he was as tough as a pine knot, and with the appetite
of a wolf. Nothing had hurt him, and nothing could hurt him; he
had come through all the suffering and deprivation
unscathed--only shriller-voiced and more determined in his grip
upon life. He was a terrible child to manage, was Antanas, but
his father did not mind that--he would watch him and smile to
himself with satisfaction. The more of a fighter he was the
better--he would need to fight before he got through.
Jurgis had got the habit of buying the Sunday paper whenever he
had the money; a most wonderful paper could be had for only five
cents, a whole armful, with all the news of the world set forth
in big headlines, that Jurgis could spell out slowly, with the
children to help him at the long words. There was battle and
murder and sudden death--it was marvelous how they ever heard
about so many entertaining and thrilling happenings; the stories
must be all true, for surely no man could have made such things
up, and besides, there were pictures of them all, as real as
life. One of these papers was as good as a circus, and nearly as
good as a spree--certainly a most wonderful treat for a workingman,
who was tired out and stupefied, and had never had any
education, and whose work was one dull, sordid grind, day
after day, and year after year, with never a sight of a green
field nor an hour's entertainment, nor anything but liquor to
stimulate his imagination. Among other things, these papers had
pages full of comical pictures, and these were the main joy in
life to little Antanas. He treasured them up, and would drag
them out and make his father tell him about them; there were all
sorts of animals among them, and Antanas could tell the names of
all of them, lying upon the floor for hours and pointing them out
with his chubby little fingers. Whenever the story was plain
enough for Jurgis to make out, Antanas would have it repeated to
him, and then he would remember it, prattling funny little
sentences and mixing it up with other stories in an irresistible
fashion. Also his quaint pronunciation of words was such a
delight--and the phrases he would pick up and remember, the most
outlandish and impossible things! The first time that the little
rascal burst out with "God damn," his father nearly rolled off
the chair with glee; but in the end he was sorry for this, for
Antanas was soon "God-damning" everything and everybody.
And then, when he was able to use his hands, Jurgis took his
bedding again and went back to his task of shifting rails. It
was now April, and the snow had given place to cold rains, and
the unpaved street in front of Aniele's house was turned into a
canal. Jurgis would have to wade through it to get home, and if
it was late he might easily get stuck to his waist in the mire.
But he did not mind this much--it was a promise that summer was
coming. Marija had now gotten a place as beef-trimmer in one of
the smaller packing plants; and he told himself that he had
learned his lesson now, and would meet with no more accidents--
so that at last there was prospect of an end to their long agony.
They could save money again, and when another winter came they
would have a comfortable place; and the children would be off the
streets and in school again, and they might set to work to nurse
back into life their habits of decency and kindness. So once
more Jurgis began to make plans and dream dreams.
And then one Saturday night he jumped off the car and started
home, with the sun shining low under the edge of a bank of clouds
that had been pouring floods of water into the mud-soaked street.
There was a rainbow in the sky, and another in his breast--for he
had thirty-six hours' rest before him, and a chance to see his
family. Then suddenly he came in sight of the house, and noticed
that there was a crowd before the door. He ran up the steps and
pushed his way in, and saw Aniele's kitchen crowded with excited
women. It reminded him so vividly of the time when he had come
home from jail and found Ona dying, that his heart almost stood
still. "What's the matter?" he cried.
A dead silence had fallen in the room, and he saw that every one
was staring at him. "What's the matter?" he exclaimed again.
And then, up in the garret, he heard sounds of wailing, in
Marija's voice. He started for the ladder--and Aniele seized him
by the arm. "No, no!" she exclaimed. "Don't go up there!"
"What is it?" he shouted.
And the old woman answered him weakly: "It's Antanas. He's dead.
He was drowned out in the street!"
Chapter 22
Jurgis took the news in a peculiar way. He turned deadly pale,
but he caught himself, and for half a minute stood in the middle
of the room, clenching his hands tightly and setting his teeth.
Then he pushed Aniele aside and strode into the next room and
climbed the ladder.
In the corner was a blanket, with a form half showing beneath it;
and beside it lay Elzbieta, whether crying or in a faint, Jurgis
could not tell. Marija was pacing the room, screaming and
wringing her hands. He clenched his hands tighter yet, and his
voice was hard as he spoke.
"How did it happen?" he asked.
Marija scarcely heard him in her agony. He repeated the
question, louder and yet more harshly. "He fell off the
sidewalk!" she wailed. The sidewalk in front of the house was a
platform made of half-rotten boards, about five feet above the
level of the sunken street.
"How did he come to be there?" he demanded.
"He went--he went out to play," Marija sobbed, her voice choking
her. "We couldn't make him stay in. He must have got caught in
the mud!"
"Are you sure that he is dead?" he demanded.
"Ai! ai!" she wailed. "Yes; we had the doctor."
Then Jurgis stood a few seconds, wavering. He did not shed a
tear. He took one glance more at the blanket with the little
form beneath it, and then turned suddenly to the ladder and
climbed down again. A silence fell once more in the room as he
entered. He went straight to the door, passed out, and started
down the street.
When his wife had died, Jurgis made for the nearest saloon, but
he did not do that now, though he had his week's wages in his
pocket. He walked and walked, seeing nothing, splashing through
mud and water. Later on he sat down upon a step and hid his face
in his hands and for half an hour or so he did not move. Now and
then he would whisper to himself: "Dead! Dead!"
Finally, he got up and walked on again. It was about sunset, and
he went on and on until it was dark, when he was stopped by a
railroad crossing. The gates were down, and a long train of
freight cars was thundering by. He stood and watched it; and all
at once a wild impulse seized him, a thought that had been
lurking within him, unspoken, unrecognized, leaped into sudden
life. He started down the track, and when he was past the
gate-keeper's shanty he sprang forward and swung himself on to
one of the cars.
By and by the train stopped again, and Jurgis sprang down and ran
under the car, and hid himself upon the truck. Here he sat, and
when the train started again, he fought a battle with his soul.
He gripped his hands and set his teeth together--he had not wept,
and he would not--not a tear! It was past and over, and he was
done with it--he would fling it off his shoulders, be free of it,
the whole business, that night. It should go like a black,
hateful nightmare, and in the morning he would be a new man. And
every time that a thought of it assailed him--a tender memory, a
trace of a tear--he rose up, cursing with rage, and pounded it
He was fighting for his life; he gnashed his teeth together in
his desperation. He had been a fool, a fool! He had wasted his
life, he had wrecked himself, with his accursed weakness; and now
he was done with it--he would tear it out of him, root and
branch! There should be no more tears and no more tenderness;
he had had enough of them--they had sold him into slavery! Now he
was going to be free, to tear off his shackles, to rise up and
fight. He was glad that the end had come--it had to come some
time, and it was just as well now. This was no world for women
and children, and the sooner they got out of it the better for
them. Whatever Antanas might suffer where he was, he could
suffer no more than he would have had he stayed upon earth.
And meantime his father had thought the last thought about him that
he meant to; he was going to think of himself, he was going to
fight for himself, against the world that had baffled him and
tortured him!
So he went on, tearing up all the flowers from the garden of his
soul, and setting his heel upon them. The train thundered
deafeningly, and a storm of dust blew in his face; but though it
stopped now and then through the night, he clung where he was--
he would cling there until he was driven off, for every mile that he
got from Packingtown meant another load from his mind.
Whenever the cars stopped a warm breeze blew upon him, a breeze
laden with the perfume of fresh fields, of honeysuckle and
clover. He snuffed it, and it made his heart beat wildly--he was
out in the country again! He was going to live in the country!
When the dawn came he was peering out with hungry eyes, getting
glimpses of meadows and woods and rivers. At last he could stand
it no longer, and when the train stopped again he crawled out.
Upon the top of the car was a brakeman, who shook his fist and
swore; Jurgis waved his hand derisively, and started across the
Only think that he had been a countryman all his life; and for
three long years he had never seen a country sight nor heard a
country sound! Excepting for that one walk when he left jail,
when he was too much worried to notice anything, and for a few
times that he had rested in the city parks in the winter time
when he was out of work, he had literally never seen a tree!
And now he felt like a bird lifted up and borne away upon a gale;
he stopped and stared at each new sight of wonder--at a herd of
cows, and a meadow full of daisies, at hedgerows set thick with
June roses, at little birds singing in the trees.
Then he came to a farm-house, and after getting himself a stick
for protection, he approached it. The farmer was greasing a
wagon in front of the barn, and Jurgis went to him. "I would
like to get some breakfast, please," he said.
"Do you want to work?" said the farmer.
"No," said Jurgis. "I don't."
"Then you can't get anything here," snapped the other.
"I meant to pay for it," said Jurgis.
"Oh," said the farmer; and then added sarcastically, "We don't
serve breakfast after 7 A.M."
"I am very hungry," said Jurgis gravely; "I would like to buy
some food."
"Ask the woman," said the farmer, nodding over his shoulder. The
"woman" was more tractable, and for a dime Jurgis secured two
thick sandwiches and a piece of pie and two apples. He walked
off eating the pie, as the least convenient thing to carry. In a
few minutes he came to a stream, and he climbed a fence and
walked down the bank, along a woodland path. By and by he found
a comfortable spot, and there he devoured his meal, slaking his
thirst at the stream. Then he lay for hours, just gazing and
drinking in joy; until at last he felt sleepy, and lay down in
the shade of a bush.
When he awoke the sun was shining hot in his face. He sat up and
stretched his arms, and then gazed at the water sliding by.
There was a deep pool, sheltered and silent, below him, and a
sudden wonderful idea rushed upon him. He might have a bath!
The water was free, and he might get into it--all the way into
it! It would be the first time that he had been all the way into
the water since he left Lithuania!
When Jurgis had first come to the stockyards he had been as clean
as any workingman could well be. But later on, what with
sickness and cold and hunger and discouragement, and the
filthiness of his work, and the vermin in his home, he had given
up washing in winter, and in summer only as much of him as would
go into a basin. He had had a shower bath in jail, but nothing
since--and now he would have a swim!
The water was warm, and he splashed about like a very boy in his
glee. Afterward he sat down in the water near the bank, and
proceeded to scrub himself--soberly and methodically, scouring
every inch of him with sand. While he was doing it he would do
it thoroughly, and see how it felt to be clean. He even scrubbed
his head with sand, and combed what the men called "crumbs" out
of his long, black hair, holding his head under water as long as
he could, to see if he could not kill them all. Then, seeing
that the sun was still hot, he took his clothes from the bank
and proceeded to wash them, piece by piece; as the dirt and grease
went floating off downstream he grunted with satisfaction and
soused the clothes again, venturing even to dream that he might
get rid of the fertilizer.
He hung them all up, and while they were drying he lay down in
the sun and had another long sleep. They were hot and stiff as
boards on top, and a little damp on the underside, when he
awakened; but being hungry, he put them on and set out again.
He had no knife, but with some labor he broke himself a good stout
club, and, armed with this, he marched down the road again.
Before long he came to a big farmhouse, and turned up the lane
that led to it. It was just suppertime, and the farmer was
washing his hands at the kitchen door. "Please, sir," said
Jurgis, "can I have something to eat? I can pay." To which the
farmer responded promptly, "We don't feed tramps here. Get out!"
Jurgis went without a word; but as he passed round the barn he
came to a freshly ploughed and harrowed field, in which the
farmer had set out some young peach trees; and as he walked he
jerked up a row of them by the roots, more than a hundred trees
in all, before he reached the end of the field. That was his
answer, and it showed his mood; from now on he was fighting,
and the man who hit him would get all that he gave, every time.
Beyond the orchard Jurgis struck through a patch of woods, and
then a field of winter grain, and came at last to another road.
Before long he saw another farmhouse, and, as it was beginning
to cloud over a little, he asked here for shelter as well as food.
Seeing the farmer eying him dubiously, he added, "I'll be glad
to sleep in the barn."
"Well, I dunno," said the other. "Do you smoke?"
"Sometimes," said Jurgis, "but I'll do it out of doors." When the
man had assented, he inquired, "How much will it cost me? I
haven't very much money."
"I reckon about twenty cents for supper," replied the farmer. "I
won't charge ye for the barn."
So Jurgis went in, and sat down at the table with the farmer's
wife and half a dozen children. It was a bountiful meal--there
were baked beans and mashed potatoes and asparagus chopped and
stewed, and a dish of strawberries, and great, thick slices of
bread, and a pitcher of milk. Jurgis had not had such a feast
since his wedding day, and he made a mighty effort to put in his
twenty cents' worth.
They were all of them too hungry to talk; but afterward they sat
upon the steps and smoked, and the farmer questioned his guest.
When Jurgis had explained that he was a workingman from Chicago,
and that he did not know just whither he was bound, the other
said, "Why don't you stay here and work for me?"
"I'm not looking for work just now," Jurgis answered.
"I'll pay ye good," said the other, eying his big form--"a dollar
a day and board ye. Help's terrible scarce round here."
"Is that winter as well as summer?" Jurgis demanded quickly.
"N--no," said the farmer; "I couldn't keep ye after November--I
ain't got a big enough place for that."
"I see," said the other, "that's what I thought. When you get
through working your horses this fall, will you turn them out in
the snow?" (Jurgis was beginning to think for himself nowadays.)
"It ain't quite the same," the farmer answered, seeing the point.
"There ought to be work a strong fellow like you can find to do,
in the cities, or some place, in the winter time."
"Yes," said Jurgis, "that's what they all think; and so they
crowd into the cities, and when they have to beg or steal to
live, then people ask 'em why they don't go into the country,
where help is scarce." The farmer meditated awhile.
"How about when your money's gone?" he inquired, finally.
"You'll have to, then, won't you?"
"Wait till she's gone," said Jurgis; "then I'll see."
He had a long sleep in the barn and then a big breakfast of
coffee and bread and oatmeal and stewed cherries, for which the
man charged him only fifteen cents, perhaps having been
influenced by his arguments. Then Jurgis bade farewell, and went
on his way.
Such was the beginning of his life as a tramp. It was seldom he
got as fair treatment as from this last farmer, and so as time
went on he learned to shun the houses and to prefer sleeping in
the fields. When it rained he would find a deserted building,
if he could, and if not, he would wait until after dark and then,
with his stick ready, begin a stealthy approach upon a barn.
Generally he could get in before the dog got scent of him, and
then he would hide in the hay and be safe until morning; if not,
and the dog attacked him, he would rise up and make a retreat in
battle order. Jurgis was not the mighty man he had once been,
but his arms were still good, and there were few farm dogs he
needed to hit more than once.
Before long there came raspberries, and then blackberries, to
help him save his money; and there were apples in the orchards
and potatoes in the ground--he learned to note the places and
fill his pockets after dark. Twice he even managed to capture a
chicken, and had a feast, once in a deserted barn and the other
time in a lonely spot alongside of a stream. When all of these
things failed him he used his money carefully, but without worry
--for he saw that he could earn more whenever he chose. Half an
hour's chopping wood in his lively fashion was enough to bring
him a meal, and when the farmer had seen him working he would
sometimes try to bribe him to stay.
But Jurgis was not staying. He was a free man now, a buccaneer.
The old wanderlust had got into his blood, the joy of the unbound
life, the joy of seeking, of hoping without limit. There were
mishaps and discomforts--but at least there was always something
new; and only think what it meant to a man who for years had been
penned up in one place, seeing nothing but one dreary prospect of
shanties and factories, to be suddenly set loose beneath the open
sky, to behold new landscapes, new places, and new people every
hour! To a man whose whole life had consisted of doing one
certain thing all day, until he was so exhausted that he could
only lie down and sleep until the next day--and to be now his own
master, working as he pleased and when he pleased, and facing a
new adventure every hour!
Then, too, his health came back to him, all his lost youthful
vigor, his joy and power that he had mourned and forgotten!
It came with a sudden rush, bewildering him, startling him; it was
as if his dead childhood had come back to him, laughing and
calling! What with plenty to eat and fresh air and exercise that
was taken as it pleased him, he would waken from his sleep and
start off not knowing what to do with his energy, stretching his
arms, laughing, singing old songs of home that came back to him.
Now and then, of course, he could not help but think of little
Antanas, whom he should never see again, whose little voice he
should never hear; and then he would have to battle with himself.
Sometimes at night he would waken dreaming of Ona, and stretch
out his arms to her, and wet the ground with his tears. But in
the morning he would get up and shake himself, and stride away
again to battle with the world.
He never asked where he was nor where he was going; the country
was big enough, he knew, and there was no danger of his coming to
the end of it. And of course he could always have company for
the asking--everywhere he went there were men living just as he
lived, and whom he was welcome to join. He was a stranger at the
business, but they were not clannish, and they taught him all
their tricks--what towns and villages it was best to keep away
from, and how to read the secret signs upon the fences, and when
to beg and when to steal, and just how to do both. They laughed
at his ideas of paying for anything with money or with work--for
they got all they wanted without either. Now and then Jurgis
camped out with a gang of them in some woodland haunt, and
foraged with them in the neighborhood at night. And then among
them some one would "take a shine" to him, and they would go off
together and travel for a week, exchanging reminiscences.
Of these professional tramps a great many had, of course, been
shiftless and vicious all their lives. But the vast majority of
them had been workingmen, had fought the long fight as Jurgis
had, and found that it was a losing fight, and given up. Later
on he encountered yet another sort of men, those from whose ranks
the tramps were recruited, men who were homeless and wandering,
but still seeking work--seeking it in the harvest fields. Of
these there was an army, the huge surplus labor army of society;
called into being under the stern system of nature, to do the
casual work of the world, the tasks which were transient and
irregular, and yet which had to be done. They did not know that
they were such, of course; they only knew that they sought the
job, and that the job was fleeting. In the early summer they
would be in Texas, and as the crops were ready they would follow
north with the season, ending with the fall in Manitoba. Then
they would seek out the big lumber camps, where there was winter
work; or failing in this, would drift to the cities, and live
upon what they had managed to save, with the help of such
transient work as was there the loading and unloading of
steamships and drays, the digging of ditches and the shoveling
of snow. If there were more of them on hand than chanced to be
needed, the weaker ones died off of cold and hunger, again
according to the stern system of nature.
It was in the latter part of July, when Jurgis was in Missouri,
that he came upon the harvest work. Here were crops that men had
worked for three or four months to prepare, and of which they
would lose nearly all unless they could find others to help them
for a week or two. So all over the land there was a cry for
labor--agencies were set up and all the cities were drained of
men, even college boys were brought by the carload, and hordes of
frantic farmers would hold up trains and carry off wagonloads of
men by main force. Not that they did not pay them well--any man
could get two dollars a day and his board, and the best men could
get two dollars and a half or three.
The harvest-fever was in the very air, and no man with any spirit
in him could be in that region and not catch it. Jurgis joined a
gang and worked from dawn till dark, eighteen hours a day, for
two weeks without a break. Then he had a sum of money that would
have been a fortune to him in the old days of misery--but what
could he do with it now? To be sure he might have put it in a
bank, and, if he were fortunate, get it back again when he wanted
it. But Jurgis was now a homeless man, wandering over a
continent; and what did he know about banking and drafts and
letters of credit? If he carried the money about with him, he
would surely be robbed in the end; and so what was there for him
to do but enjoy it while he could? On a Saturday night he
drifted into a town with his fellows; and because it was raining,
and there was no other place provided for him, he went to a
saloon. And there were some who treated him and whom he had to
treat, and there was laughter and singing and good cheer;
and then out of the rear part of the saloon a girl's face,
red-cheeked and merry, smiled at Jurgis, and his heart thumped
suddenly in his throat. He nodded to her, and she came and sat
by him, and they had more drink, and then he went upstairs into a
room with her, and the wild beast rose up within him and
screamed, as it has screamed in the Jungle from the dawn of time.
And then because of his memories and his shame, he was glad when
others joined them, men and women; and they had more drink and
spent the night in wild rioting and debauchery. In the van of
the surplus-labor army, there followed another, an army of women,
they also struggling for life under the stern system of nature.
Because there were rich men who sought pleasure, there had been
ease and plenty for them so long as they were young and
beautiful; and later on, when they were crowded out by others
younger and more beautiful, they went out to follow upon the
trail of the workingmen. Sometimes they came of themselves,
and the saloon-keepers shared with them; or sometimes they were
handled by agencies, the same as the labor army. They were in
the towns in harvest time, near the lumber camps in the winter,
in the cities when the men came there; if a regiment were
encamped, or a railroad or canal being made, or a great
exposition getting ready, the crowd of women were on hand, living
in shanties or saloons or tenement rooms, sometimes eight or ten
of them together.
In the morning Jurgis had not a cent, and he went out upon the
road again. He was sick and disgusted, but after the new plan of
his life, he crushed his feelings down. He had made a fool of
himself, but he could not help it now--all he could do was to see
that it did not happen again. So he tramped on until exercise
and fresh air banished his headache, and his strength and joy
returned. This happened to him every time, for Jurgis was still
a creature of impulse, and his pleasures had not yet become
business. It would be a long time before he could be like the
majority of these men of the road, who roamed until the hunger
for drink and for women mastered them, and then went to work with
a purpose in mind, and stopped when they had the price of a
On the contrary, try as he would, Jurgis could not help being
made miserable by his conscience. It was the ghost that would
not down. It would come upon him in the most unexpected
places--sometimes it fairly drove him to drink.
One night he was caught by a thunderstorm, and he sought shelter
in a little house just outside of a town. It was a working-man's
home, and the owner was a Slav like himself, a new emigrant from
White Russia; he bade Jurgis welcome in his home language, and
told him to come to the kitchen-fire and dry himself. He had no
bed for him, but there was straw in the garret, and he could make
out. The man's wife was cooking the supper, and their children
were playing about on the floor. Jurgis sat and exchanged
thoughts with him about the old country, and the places where
they had been and the work they had done. Then they ate, and
afterward sat and smoked and talked more about America, and how
they found it. In the middle of a sentence, however, Jurgis
stopped, seeing that the woman had brought a big basin of water
and was proceeding to undress her youngest baby. The rest had
crawled into the closet where they slept, but the baby was to
have a bath, the workingman explained. The nights had begun to
be chilly, and his mother, ignorant as to the climate in America,
had sewed him up for the winter; then it had turned warm again,
and some kind of a rash had broken out on the child. The doctor
had said she must bathe him every night, and she, foolish woman,
believed him.
Jurgis scarcely heard the explanation; he was watching the baby.
He was about a year old, and a sturdy little fellow, with soft
fat legs, and a round ball of a stomach, and eyes as black as
coals. His pimples did not seem to bother him much, and he was
wild with glee over the bath, kicking and squirming and chuckling
with delight, pulling at his mother's face and then at his own
little toes. When she put him into the basin he sat in the midst
of it and grinned, splashing the water over himself and squealing
like a little pig. He spoke in Russian, of which Jurgis knew
some; he spoke it with the quaintest of baby accents--and every
word of it brought back to Jurgis some word of his own dead
little one, and stabbed him like a knife. He sat perfectly
motionless, silent, but gripping his hands tightly, while a storm
gathered in his bosom and a flood heaped itself up behind his
eyes. And in the end he could bear it no more, but buried his
face in his hands and burst into tears, to the alarm and
amazement of his hosts. Between the shame of this and his woe
Jurgis could not stand it, and got up and rushed out into the
He went on and on down the road, finally coming to a black woods,
where he hid and wept as if his heart would break. Ah, what
agony was that, what despair, when the tomb of memory was rent
open and the ghosts of his old life came forth to scourge him!
What terror to see what he had been and now could never be--to
see Ona and his child and his own dead self stretching out their
arms to him,calling to him across a bottomless abyss--and to know
that they were gone from him forever, and he writhing and
suffocating in the mire of his own vileness!
Chapter 23
Early in the fall Jurgis set out for Chicago again. All the joy
went out of tramping as soon as a man could not keep warm in the
hay; and, like many thousands of others, he deluded himself with
the hope that by coming early he could avoid the rush. He
brought fifteen dollars with him, hidden away in one of his
shoes, a sum which had been saved from the saloon-keepers, not so
much by his conscience, as by the fear which filled him at the
thought of being out of work in the city in the winter time.
He traveled upon the railroad with several other men, hiding in
freight cars at night, and liable to be thrown off at any time,
regardless of the speed of the train. When he reached the city
he left the rest, for he had money and they did not, and he meant
to save himself in this fight. He would bring to it all the
skill that practice had brought him, and he would stand, whoever
fell. On fair nights he would sleep in the park or on a truck or
an empty barrel or box, and when it was rainy or cold he would
stow himself upon a shelf in a ten-cent lodginghouse, or pay
three cents for the privileges of a "squatter" in a tenement
hallway. He would eat at free lunches, five cents a meal, and
never a cent more--so he might keep alive for two months and
more, and in that time he would surely find a job. He would have
to bid farewell to his summer cleanliness, of course, for he
would come out of the first night's lodging with his clothes
alive with vermin. There was no place in the city where he could
wash even his face, unless he went down to the lake front--
and there it would soon be all ice.
First he went to the steel mill and the harvester works, and
found that his places there had been filled long ago. He was
careful to keep away from the stockyards--he was a single man
now, he told himself, and he meant to stay one, to have his wages
for his own when he got a job. He began the long, weary round of
factories and warehouses, tramping all day, from one end of the
city to the other, finding everywhere from ten to a hundred men
ahead of him. He watched the newspapers, too--but no longer was
he to be taken in by smooth-spoken agents. He had been told of
all those tricks while "on the road."
In the end it was through a newspaper that he got a job, after
nearly a month of seeking. It was a call for a hundred laborers,
and though he thought it was a "fake," he went because the place
was near by. He found a line of men a block long, but as a wagon
chanced to come out of an alley and break the line, he saw his
chance and sprang to seize a place. Men threatened him and tried
to throw him out, but he cursed and made a disturbance to attract
a policeman, upon which they subsided, knowing that if the latter
interfered it would be to "fire" them all.
An hour or two later he entered a room and confronted a big
Irishman behind a desk.
"Ever worked in Chicago before?" the man inquired; and whether it
was a good angel that put it into Jurgis's mind, or an intuition
of his sharpened wits, he was moved to answer, "No, sir."
"Where do you come from?"
"Kansas City, sir."
"Any references?"
"No, sir. I'm just an unskilled man. I've got good arms."
"I want men for hard work--it's all underground, digging tunnels
for telephones. Maybe it won't suit you."
"I'm willing, sir--anything for me. What's the pay?"
"Fifteen cents an hour."
"I'm willing, sir."
"All right; go back there and give your name."
So within half an hour he was at work, far underneath the streets
of the city. The tunnel was a peculiar one for telephone wires;
it was about eight feet high, and with a level floor nearly as
wide. It had innumerable branches--a perfect spider web beneath
the city; Jurgis walked over half a mile with his gang to the
place where they were to work. Stranger yet, the tunnel was
lighted by electricity, and upon it was laid a double-tracked,
narrow-gauge railroad!
But Jurgis was not there to ask questions, and he did not give
the matter a thought. It was nearly a year afterward that he
finally learned the meaning of this whole affair. The City
Council had passed a quiet and innocent little bill allowing a
company to construct telephone conduits under the city streets;
and upon the strength of this, a great corporation had proceeded
to tunnel all Chicago with a system of railway freight-subways.
In the city there was a combination of employers, representing
hundreds of millions of capital, and formed for the purpose of
crushing the labor unions. The chief union which troubled it was
the teamsters'; and when these freight tunnels were completed,
connecting all the big factories and stores with the railroad
depots, they would have the teamsters' union by the throat.
Now and then there were rumors and murmurs in the Board of Aldermen,
and once there was a committee to investigate--but each time
another small fortune was paid over, and the rumors died away;
until at last the city woke up with a start to find the work
completed. There was a tremendous scandal, of course; it was
found that the city records had been falsified and other crimes
committed, and some of Chicago's big capitalists got into
jail--figuratively speaking. The aldermen declared that they had
had no idea of it all, in spite of the fact that the main
entrance to the work had been in the rear of the saloon of one of
It was in a newly opened cut that Jurgis worked, and so he knew
that he had an all-winter job. He was so rejoiced that he
treated himself to a spree that night, and with the balance of
his money he hired himself a place in a tenement room, where he
slept upon a big homemade straw mattress along with four other
workingmen. This was one dollar a week, and for four more he got
his food in a boardinghouse near his work. This would leave him
four dollars extra each week, an unthinkable sum for him. At the
outset he had to pay for his digging tools, and also to buy a
pair of heavy boots, since his shoes were falling to pieces,
and a flannel shirt, since the one he had worn all summer was in
shreds. He spent a week meditating whether or not he should also
buy an overcoat. There was one belonging to a Hebrew collar
button peddler, who had died in the room next to him, and which
the landlady was holding for her rent; in the end, however,
Jurgis decided to do without it, as he was to be underground by
day and in bed at night.
This was an unfortunate decision, however, for it drove him more
quickly than ever into the saloons. From now on Jurgis worked
from seven o'clock until half-past five, with half an hour for
dinner; which meant that he never saw the sunlight on weekdays.
In the evenings there was no place for him to go except a
barroom; no place where there was light and warmth, where he
could hear a little music or sit with a companion and talk.
He had now no home to go to; he had no affection left in his
life--only the pitiful mockery of it in the camaraderie of vice.
On Sundays the churches were open--but where was there a church
in which an ill-smelling workingman, with vermin crawling upon
his neck, could sit without seeing people edge away and look
annoyed? He had, of course, his corner in a close though
unheated room, with a window opening upon a blank wall two feet
away; and also he had the bare streets, with the winter gales
sweeping through them; besides this he had only the saloons--and,
of course, he had to drink to stay in them. If he drank now and
then he was free to make himself at home, to gamble with dice or
a pack of greasy cards, to play at a dingy pool table for money,
or to look at a beer-stained pink "sporting paper," with pictures
of murderers and half-naked women. It was for such pleasures as
these that he spent his money; and such was his life during the
six weeks and a half that he toiled for the merchants of Chicago,
to enable them to break the grip of their teamsters' union.
In a work thus carried out, not much thought was given to the
welfare of the laborers. On an average, the tunneling cost a
life a day and several manglings; it was seldom, however, that
more than a dozen or two men heard of any one accident. The work
was all done by the new boring machinery, with as little blasting
as possible; but there would be falling rocks and crushed
supports, and premature explosions--and in addition all the
dangers of railroading. So it was that one night, as Jurgis was
on his way out with his gang, an engine and a loaded car dashed
round one of the innumerable right-angle branches and struck him
upon the shoulder, hurling him against the concrete wall and
knocking him senseless.
When he opened his eyes again it was to the clanging of the bell
of an ambulance. He was lying in it, covered by a blanket, and
it was threading its way slowly through the holiday-shopping
crowds. They took him to the county hospital, where a young
surgeon set his arm; then he was washed and laid upon a bed in a
ward with a score or two more of maimed and mangled men.
Jurgis spent his Christmas in this hospital, and it was the
pleasantest Christmas he had had in America. Every year there
were scandals and investigations in this institution, the
newspapers charging that doctors were allowed to try fantastic
experiments upon the patients; but Jurgis knew nothing of
this--his only complaint was that they used to feed him upon
tinned meat, which no man who had ever worked in Packingtown
would feed to his dog. Jurgis had often wondered just who ate
the canned corned beef and "roast beef" of the stockyards; now he
began to understand--that it was what you might call "graft
meat," put up to be sold to public officials and contractors,
and eaten by soldiers and sailors, prisoners and inmates of
institutions, "shantymen" and gangs of railroad laborers.
Jurgis was ready to leave the hospital at the end of two weeks.
This did not mean that his arm was strong and that he was able to
go back to work, but simply that he could get along without
further attention, and that his place was needed for some one
worse off than he. That he was utterly helpless, and had no
means of keeping himself alive in the meantime, was something
which did not concern the hospital authorities, nor any one else
in the city.
As it chanced, he had been hurt on a Monday, and had just paid
for his last week's board and his room rent, and spent nearly all
the balance of his Saturday's pay. He had less than seventy-five
cents in his pockets, and a dollar and a half due him for the
day's work he had done before he was hurt. He might possibly
have sued the company, and got some damages for his injuries,
but he did not know this, and it was not the company's business to
tell him. He went and got his pay and his tools, which he left
in a pawnshop for fifty cents. Then he went to his landlady,
who had rented his place and had no other for him; and then to his
boardinghouse keeper, who looked him over and questioned him.
As he must certainly be helpless for a couple of months, and had
boarded there only six weeks, she decided very quickly that it
would not be worth the risk to keep him on trust.
So Jurgis went out into the streets, in a most dreadful plight.
It was bitterly cold, and a heavy snow was falling, beating into
his face. He had no overcoat, and no place to go, and two
dollars and sixty-five cents in his pocket, with the certainty
that he could not earn another cent for months. The snow meant
no chance to him now; he must walk along and see others
shoveling, vigorous and active--and he with his left arm bound to
his side! He could not hope to tide himself over by odd jobs of
loading trucks; he could not even sell newspapers or carry
satchels, because he was now at the mercy of any rival. Words
could not paint the terror that came over him as he realized all
this. He was like a wounded animal in the forest; he was forced
to compete with his enemies upon unequal terms. There would be
no consideration for him because of his weakness--it was no one's
business to help him in such distress, to make the fight the
least bit easier for him. Even if he took to begging, he would
be at a disadvantage, for reasons which he was to discover in
good time.
In the beginning he could not think of anything except getting
out of the awful cold. He went into one of the saloons he had
been wont to frequent and bought a drink, and then stood by the
fire shivering and waiting to be ordered out. According to an
unwritten law, the buying a drink included the privilege of
loafing for just so long; then one had to buy another drink or
move on. That Jurgis was an old customer entitled him to a
somewhat longer stop; but then he had been away two weeks,
and was evidently "on the bum." He might plead and tell his
"hard luck story," but that would not help him much; a saloon-keeper
who was to be moved by such means would soon have his place
jammed to the doors with "hoboes" on a day like this.
So Jurgis went out into another place, and paid another nickel.
He was so hungry this time that he could not resist the hot beef
stew, an indulgence which cut short his stay by a considerable
time. When he was again told to move on, he made his way to a
"tough" place in the "Levee" district, where now and then he had
gone with a certain rat-eyed Bohemian workingman of his
acquaintance, seeking a woman. It was Jurgis's vain hope that
here the proprietor would let him remain as a "sitter." In
low-class places, in the dead of winter, saloon-keepers would
often allow one or two forlorn-looking bums who came in covered
with snow or soaked with rain to sit by the fire and look
miserable to attract custom. A workingman would come in, feeling
cheerful after his day's work was over, and it would trouble him
to have to take his glass with such a sight under his nose; and
so he would call out: "Hello, Bub, what's the matter? You look
as if you'd been up against it!" And then the other would begin
to pour out some tale of misery, and the man would say, "Come
have a glass, and maybe that'll brace you up." And so they would
drink together, and if the tramp was sufficiently
wretched-looking, or good enough at the "gab," they might have
two; and if they were to discover that they were from the same
country, or had lived in the same city or worked at the same
trade, they might sit down at a table and spend an hour or two in
talk--and before they got through the saloon-keeper would have
taken in a dollar. All of this might seem diabolical, but the
saloon-keeper was in no wise to blame for it. He was in the same
plight as the manufacturer who has to adulterate and misrepresent
his product. If he does not, some one else will; and the
saloon-keeper, unless he is also an alderman, is apt to be in debt to
the big brewers, and on the verge of being sold out.
The market for "sitters" was glutted that afternoon, however,
and there was no place for Jurgis. In all he had to spend six
nickels in keeping a shelter over him that frightful day, and
then it was just dark, and the station houses would not open
until midnight! At the last place, however, there was a
bartender who knew him and liked him, and let him doze at one of
the tables until the boss came back; and also, as he was going
out, the man gave him a tip--on the next block there was a
religious revival of some sort, with preaching and singing,
and hundreds of hoboes would go there for the shelter and warmth.
Jurgis went straightway, and saw a sign hung out, saying that the
door would open at seven-thirty; then he walked, or half ran,
a block, and hid awhile in a doorway and then ran again, and so on
until the hour. At the end he was all but frozen, and fought his
way in with the rest of the throng (at the risk of having his arm
broken again), and got close to the big stove.
By eight o'clock the place was so crowded that the speakers ought
to have been flattered; the aisles were filled halfway up, and at
the door men were packed tight enough to walk upon. There were
three elderly gentlemen in black upon the platform, and a young
lady who played the piano in front. First they sang a hymn, and
then one of the three, a tall, smooth-shaven man, very thin, and
wearing black spectacles, began an address. Jurgis heard
smatterings of it, for the reason that terror kept him awake--
he knew that he snored abominably, and to have been put out just
then would have been like a sentence of death to him.
The evangelist was preaching "sin and redemption," the infinite
grace of God and His pardon for human frailty. He was very much
in earnest, and he meant well, but Jurgis, as he listened, found
his soul filled with hatred. What did he know about sin and
suffering--with his smooth, black coat and his neatly starched
collar, his body warm, and his belly full, and money in his
pocket--and lecturing men who were struggling for their lives,
men at the death grapple with the demon powers of hunger and
cold!--This, of course, was unfair; but Jurgis felt that these
men were out of touch with the life they discussed, that they
were unfitted to solve its problems; nay, they themselves were
part of the problem--they were part of the order established that
was crushing men down and beating them! They were of the
triumphant and insolent possessors; they had a hall, and a fire,
and food and clothing and money, and so they might preach to
hungry men, and the hungry men must be humble and listen! They
were trying to save their souls--and who but a fool could fail to
see that all that was the matter with their souls was that they
had not been able to get a decent existence for their bodies?
At eleven the meeting closed, and the desolate audience filed out
into the snow, muttering curses upon the few traitors who had got
repentance and gone up on the platform. It was yet an hour
before the station house would open, and Jurgis had no
overcoat--and was weak from a long illness. During that hour he
nearly perished. He was obliged to run hard to keep his blood
moving at all--and then he came back to the station house and
found a crowd blocking the street before the door! This was in
the month of January, 1904, when the country was on the verge of
"hard times," and the newspapers were reporting the shutting down
of factories every day--it was estimated that a million and a
half men were thrown out of work before the spring. So all the
hiding places of the city were crowded, and before that station
house door men fought and tore each other like savage beasts.
When at last the place was jammed and they shut the doors, half
the crowd was still outside; and Jurgis, with his helpless arm,
was among them. There was no choice then but to go to a
lodginghouse and spend another dime. It really broke his heart
to do this, at half-past twelve o'clock, after he had wasted the
night at the meeting and on the street. He would be turned out
of the lodginghouse promptly at seven they had the shelves which
served as bunks so contrived that they could be dropped, and any
man who was slow about obeying orders could be tumbled to the
This was one day, and the cold spell lasted for fourteen of them.
At the end of six days every cent of Jurgis' money was gone;
and then he went out on the streets to beg for his life.
He would begin as soon as the business of the city was moving.
He would sally forth from a saloon, and, after making sure there
was no policeman in sight, would approach every likely-looking
person who passed him, telling his woeful story and pleading for
a nickel or a dime. Then when he got one, he would dart round
the corner and return to his base to get warm; and his victim,
seeing him do this, would go away, vowing that he would never
give a cent to a beggar again. The victim never paused to ask
where else Jurgis could have gone under the circumstances--where
he, the victim, would have gone. At the saloon Jurgis could not
only get more food and better food than he could buy in any
restaurant for the same money, but a drink in the bargain to warm
him up. Also he could find a comfortable seat by a fire, and
could chat with a companion until he was as warm as toast. At
the saloon, too, he felt at home. Part of the saloon-keeper's
business was to offer a home and refreshments to beggars in
exchange for the proceeds of their foragings; and was there any
one else in the whole city who would do this--would the victim
have done it himself?
Poor Jurgis might have been expected to make a successful beggar.
He was just out of the hospital, and desperately sick-looking,
and with a helpless arm; also he had no overcoat, and shivered
pitifully. But, alas, it was again the case of the honest
merchant, who finds that the genuine and unadulterated article is
driven to the wall by the artistic counterfeit. Jurgis, as a
beggar, was simply a blundering amateur in competition with
organized and scientific professionalism. He was just out of the
hospital--but the story was worn threadbare, and how could he
prove it? He had his arm in a sling--and it was a device a
regular beggar's little boy would have scorned. He was pale and
shivering--but they were made up with cosmetics, and had studied
the art of chattering their teeth. As to his being without an
overcoat, among them you would meet men you could swear had on
nothing but a ragged linen duster and a pair of cotton
trousers--so cleverly had they concealed the several suits of
all-wool underwear beneath. Many of these professional
mendicants had comfortable homes, and families, and thousands of
dollars in the bank; some of them had retired upon their
earnings, and gone into the business of fitting out and doctoring
others, or working children at the trade. There were some who
had both their arms bound tightly to their sides, and padded
stumps in their sleeves, and a sick child hired to carry a cup
for them. There were some who had no legs, and pushed themselves
upon a wheeled platform--some who had been favored with
blindness, and were led by pretty little dogs. Some less
fortunate had mutilated themselves or burned themselves, or had
brought horrible sores upon themselves with chemicals; you might
suddenly encounter upon the street a man holding out to you a
finger rotting and discolored with gangrene--or one with livid
scarlet wounds half escaped from their filthy bandages. These
desperate ones were the dregs of the city's cesspools, wretches
who hid at night in the rain-soaked cellars of old ramshackle
tenements, in "stale-beer dives" and opium joints, with abandoned
women in the last stages of the harlot's progress--women who had
been kept by Chinamen and turned away at last to die. Every day
the police net would drag hundreds of them off the streets, and
in the detention hospital you might see them, herded together in
a miniature inferno, with hideous, beastly faces, bloated and
leprous with disease, laughing, shouting, screaming in all stages
of drunkenness, barking like dogs, gibbering like apes, raving
and tearing themselves in delirium.
Chapter 24
In the face of all his handicaps, Jurgis was obliged to make the
price of a lodging, and of a drink every hour or two, under
penalty of freezing to death. Day after day he roamed about in
the arctic cold, his soul filled full of bitterness and despair.
He saw the world of civilization then more plainly than ever he
had seen it before; a world in which nothing counted but brutal
might, an order devised by those who possessed it for the
subjugation of those who did not. He was one of the latter; and
all outdoors, all life, was to him one colossal prison, which he
paced like a pent-up tiger, trying one bar after another, and
finding them all beyond his power. He had lost in the fierce
battle of greed, and so was doomed to be exterminated; and all
society was busied to see that he did not escape the sentence.
Everywhere that he turned were prison bars, and hostile eyes
following him; the well-fed, sleek policemen, from whose glances
he shrank, and who seemed to grip their clubs more tightly when
they saw him; the saloon-keepers, who never ceased to watch him
while he was in their places, who were jealous of every moment he
lingered after he had paid his money; the hurrying throngs upon
the streets, who were deaf to his entreaties, oblivious of his
very existence--and savage and contemptuous when he forced
himself upon them. They had their own affairs, and there was no
place for him among them. There was no place for him anywhere
--every direction he turned his gaze, this fact was forced upon
him: Everything was built to express it to him: the residences,
with their heavy walls and bolted doors, and basement windows
barred with iron; the great warehouses filled with the products
of the whole world, and guarded by iron shutters and heavy gates;
the banks with their unthinkable billions of wealth, all buried
in safes and vaults of steel.
And then one day there befell Jurgis the one adventure of his
life. It was late at night, and he had failed to get the price
of a lodging. Snow was falling, and he had been out so long that
he was covered with it, and was chilled to the bone. He was
working among the theater crowds, flitting here and there, taking
large chances with the police, in his desperation half hoping to
be arrested. When he saw a bluecoat start toward him, however,
his heart failed him, and he dashed down a side street and fled a
couple of blocks. When he stopped again he saw a man coming
toward him, and placed himself in his path.
"Please, sir," he began, in the usual formula, "will you give me
the price of a lodging? I've had a broken arm, and I can't work,
and I've not a cent in my pocket. I'm an honest working-man,
sir, and I never begged before! It's not my fault, sir--"
Jurgis usually went on until he was interrupted, but this man did
not interrupt, and so at last he came to a breathless stop. The
other had halted, and Jurgis suddenly noticed that he stood a
little unsteadily. "Whuzzat you say?" he queried suddenly, in a
thick voice.
Jurgis began again, speaking more slowly and distinctly; before
he was half through the other put out his hand and rested it upon
his shoulder. "Poor ole chappie!" he said. "Been
up--hic--up--against it, hey?"
Then he lurched toward Jurgis, and the hand upon his shoulder
became an arm about his neck. "Up against it myself, ole sport,"
he said. "She's a hard ole world."
They were close to a lamppost, and Jurgis got a glimpse of the
other. He was a young fellow--not much over eighteen, with a
handsome boyish face. He wore a silk hat and a rich soft
overcoat with a fur collar; and he smiled at Jurgis with
benignant sympathy. "I'm hard up, too, my goo' fren'," he said.
"I've got cruel parents, or I'd set you up. Whuzzamatter
"I've been in the hospital."
"Hospital!" exclaimed the young fellow, still smiling sweetly,
"thass too bad! Same's my Aunt Polly--hic--my Aunt Polly's in
the hospital, too--ole auntie's been havin' twins! Whuzzamatter
whiz you?"
"I've got a broken arm--" Jurgis began.
"So," said the other, sympathetically. "That ain't so bad--you
get over that. I wish somebody'd break my arm, ole chappie--
damfidon't! Then they'd treat me better--hic--hole me up, ole
sport! Whuzzit you wammme do?"
"I'm hungry, sir," said Jurgis.
"Hungry! Why don't you hassome supper?"
"I've got no money, sir."
"No money! Ho, ho--less be chums, ole boy--jess like me! No
money, either--a'most busted! Why don't you go home, then,
same's me?"
"I haven't any home," said Jurgis.
"No home! Stranger in the city, hey? Goo' God, thass bad!
Better come home wiz me--yes, by Harry, thass the trick, you'll
come home an' hassome supper--hic--wiz me! Awful
lonesome--nobody home! Guv'ner gone abroad--Bubby on's
honeymoon--Polly havin' twins--every damn soul gone away!
Nuff--hic--nuff to drive a feller to drink, I say! Only ole Ham
standin' by, passin' plates--damfican eat like that, no sir! The
club for me every time, my boy, I say. But then they won't lemme
sleep there--guv'ner's orders, by Harry--home every night, sir!
Ever hear anythin' like that? 'Every mornin' do?' I asked him.
'No, sir, every night, or no allowance at all, sir.' Thass my
guv'ner--'nice as nails, by Harry! Tole ole Ham to watch me,
too--servants spyin' on me--whuzyer think that, my fren'? A
nice, quiet--hic--goodhearted young feller like me, an' his daddy
can't go to Europe--hup!--an' leave him in peace! Ain't that a
shame, sir? An' I gotter go home every evenin' an' miss all the
fun, by Harry! Thass whuzzamatter now--thass why I'm here!
Hadda come away an' leave Kitty--hic--left her cryin',
too--whujja think of that, ole sport? 'Lemme go, Kittens,'
says I--'come early an' often--I go where duty--hic--calls me.
Farewell, farewell, my own true love--farewell, farewehell,
my--own true--love!'"
This last was a song, and the young gentleman's voice rose
mournful and wailing, while he swung upon Jurgis's neck. The
latter was glancing about nervously, lest some one should
approach. They were still alone, however.
"But I came all right, all right," continued the youngster,
aggressively, "I can--hic--I can have my own way when I want it,
by Harry--Freddie Jones is a hard man to handle when he gets
goin'! 'No, sir,' says I, 'by thunder, and I don't need anybody
goin' home with me, either--whujja take me for, hey? Think I'm
drunk, dontcha, hey?--I know you! But I'm no more drunk than you
are, Kittens,' says I to her. And then says she, 'Thass true,
Freddie dear' (she's a smart one, is Kitty), 'but I'm stayin' in
the flat, an' you're goin' out into the cold, cold night!' 'Put
it in a pome, lovely Kitty,' says I. 'No jokin', Freddie, my
boy,' says she. 'Lemme call a cab now, like a good dear'--but I
can call my own cabs, dontcha fool yourself--and I know what I'm
a-doin', you bet! Say, my fren', whatcha say--willye come home
an' see me, an' hassome supper? Come 'long like a good
feller--don't be haughty! You're up against it, same as me, an'
you can unerstan' a feller; your heart's in the right place, by
Harry--come 'long, ole chappie, an' we'll light up the house, an'
have some fizz, an' we'll raise hell, we will--whoop-la!
S'long's I'm inside the house I can do as I please--the guv'ner's
own very orders, b'God! Hip! hip!"
They had started down the street, arm in arm, the young man
pushing Jurgis along, half dazed. Jurgis was trying to think
what to do--he knew he could not pass any crowded place with his
new acquaintance without attracting attention and being stopped.
It was only because of the falling snow that people who passed
here did not notice anything wrong.
Suddenly, therefore, Jurgis stopped. "Is it very far?" he
"Not very," said the other, "Tired, are you, though? Well, we'll
ride--whatcha say? Good! Call a cab!"
And then, gripping Jurgis tight with one hand, the young fellow
began searching his pockets with the other. "You call, ole
sport, an' I'll pay," he suggested. "How's that, hey?"
And he pulled out from somewhere a big roll of bills. It was
more money than Jurgis had ever seen in his life before, and he
stared at it with startled eyes.
"Looks like a lot, hey?" said Master Freddie, fumbling with it.
"Fool you, though, ole chappie--they're all little ones! I'll be
busted in one week more, sure thing--word of honor. An' not a
cent more till the first--hic--guv'ner's orders--hic--not a cent,
by Harry! Nuff to set a feller crazy, it is. I sent him a
cable, this af'noon--thass one reason more why I'm goin' home.
'Hangin' on the verge of starvation,' I says--'for the honor of
the family--hic--sen' me some bread. Hunger will compel me to
join you--Freddie.' Thass what I wired him, by Harry, an' I mean
it--I'll run away from school, b'God, if he don't sen' me some."
After this fashion the young gentleman continued to prattle
on--and meantime Jurgis was trembling with excitement. He might
grab that wad of bills and be out of sight in the darkness before
the other could collect his wits. Should he do it? What better
had he to hope for, if he waited longer? But Jurgis had never
committed a crime in his life, and now he hesitated half a second
too long. "Freddie" got one bill loose, and then stuffed the
rest back into his trousers' pocket.
"Here, ole man," he said, "you take it." He held it out
fluttering. They were in front of a saloon; and by the light of
the window Jurgis saw that it was a hundred-dollar bill! "You
take it," the other repeated. "Pay the cabbie an' keep the
change--I've got--hic--no head for business! Guv'ner says so
hisself, an' the guv'ner knows--the guv'ner's got a head for
business, you bet! 'All right, guv'ner,' I told him, 'you run
the show, and I'll take the tickets!' An' so he set Aunt Polly
to watch me--hic--an' now Polly's off in the hospital havin'
twins, an' me out raisin' Cain! Hello, there! Hey! Call him!"
A cab was driving by; and Jurgis sprang and called, and it swung
round to the curb. Master Freddie clambered in with some
difficulty, and Jurgis had started to follow, when the driver
shouted: "Hi, there! Get out--you!"
Jurgis hesitated, and was half obeying; but his companion broke
out: "Whuzzat? Whuzzamatter wiz you, hey?"
And the cabbie subsided, and Jurgis climbed in. Then Freddie
gave a number on the Lake Shore Drive, and the carriage started
away. The youngster leaned back and snuggled up to Jurgis,
murmuring contentedly; in half a minute he was sound asleep,
Jurgis sat shivering, speculating as to whether he might not
still be able to get hold of the roll of bills. He was afraid to
try to go through his companion's pockets, however; and besides
the cabbie might be on the watch. He had the hundred safe, and
he would have to be content with that.
At the end of half an hour or so the cab stopped. They were out
on the waterfront, and from the east a freezing gale was blowing
off the ice-bound lake. "Here we are," called the cabbie, and
Jurgis awakened his companion.
Master Freddie sat up with a start.
"Hello!" he said. "Where are we? Whuzzis? Who are you, hey?
Oh, yes, sure nuff! Mos' forgot you--hic--ole chappie! Home,
are we? Lessee! Br-r-r--it's cold! Yes--come 'long--we're
home--it ever so--hic--humble!"
Before them there loomed an enormous granite pile, set far back
from the street, and occupying a whole block. By the light of
the driveway lamps Jurgis could see that it had towers and huge
gables, like a medieval castle. He thought that the young fellow
must have made a mistake--it was inconceivable to him that any
person could have a home like a hotel or the city hall. But he
followed in silence, and they went up the long flight of steps,
arm in arm.
"There's a button here, ole sport," said Master Freddie. "Hole
my arm while I find her! Steady, now--oh, yes, here she is!
A bell rang, and in a few seconds the door was opened. A man in
blue livery stood holding it, and gazing before him, silent as a
They stood for a moment blinking in the light. Then Jurgis felt
his companion pulling, and he stepped in, and the blue automaton
closed the door. Jurgis's heart was beating wildly; it was a
bold thing for him to do--into what strange unearthly place he
was venturing he had no idea. Aladdin entering his cave could
not have been more excited.
The place where he stood was dimly lighted; but he could see a
vast hall, with pillars fading into the darkness above, and a
great staircase opening at the far end of it. The floor was of
tesselated marble, smooth as glass, and from the walls strange
shapes loomed out, woven into huge portieres in rich, harmonious
colors, or gleaming from paintings, wonderful and
mysterious-looking in the half-light, purple and red and golden,
like sunset glimmers in a shadowy forest.
The man in livery had moved silently toward them; Master Freddie
took off his hat and handed it to him, and then, letting go of
Jurgis' arm, tried to get out of his overcoat. After two or
three attempts he accomplished this, with the lackey's help,
and meantime a second man had approached, a tall and portly
personage, solemn as an executioner. He bore straight down upon
Jurgis, who shrank away nervously; he seized him by the arm
without a word, and started toward the door with him. Then
suddenly came Master Freddie's voice, "Hamilton! My fren' will
remain wiz me."
The man paused and half released Jurgis. "Come 'long ole
chappie," said the other, and Jurgis started toward him.
"Master Frederick!" exclaimed the man.
"See that the cabbie--hic--is paid," was the other's response;
and he linked his arm in Jurgis'. Jurgis was about to say,
"I have the money for him," but he restrained himself. The stout
man in uniform signaled to the other, who went out to the cab,
while he followed Jurgis and his young master.
They went down the great hall, and then turned. Before them were
two huge doors.
"Hamilton," said Master Freddie.
"Well, sir?" said the other.
"Whuzzamatter wizze dinin'-room doors?"
"Nothing is the matter, sir."
"Then why dontcha openum?"
The man rolled them back; another vista lost itself in the
darkness. "Lights," commanded Master Freddie; and the butler
pressed a button, and a flood of brilliant incandescence streamed
from above, half-blinding Jurgis. He stared; and little by
little he made out the great apartment, with a domed ceiling from
which the light poured, and walls that were one enormous
painting--nymphs and dryads dancing in a flower-strewn
glade--Diana with her hounds and horses, dashing headlong through
a mountain streamlet--a group of maidens bathing in a forest
pool--all life-size, and so real that Jurgis thought that it was
some work of enchantment, that he was in a dream palace. Then
his eye passed to the long table in the center of the hall,
a table black as ebony, and gleaming with wrought silver and gold.
In the center of it was a huge carven bowl, with the glistening
gleam of ferns and the red and purple of rare orchids, glowing
from a light hidden somewhere in their midst.
"This's the dinin' room," observed Master Freddie. "How you like
it, hey, ole sport?"
He always insisted on having an answer to his remarks, leaning
over Jurgis and smiling into his face. Jurgis liked it.
"Rummy ole place to feed in all 'lone, though," was Freddie's
comment--"rummy's hell! Whuzya think, hey?" Then another idea
occurred to him and he went on, without waiting: "Maybe you never
saw anythin--hic--like this 'fore? Hey, ole chappie?"
"No," said Jurgis.
"Come from country, maybe--hey?"
"Yes," said Jurgis.
"Aha! I thosso! Lossa folks from country never saw such a
place. Guv'ner brings 'em--free show--hic--reg'lar circus!
Go home tell folks about it. Ole man lones's place--lones the
packer--beef-trust man. Made it all out of hogs, too, damn ole
scoundrel. Now we see where our pennies go--rebates, an' private
car lines--hic--by Harry! Bully place, though--worth seein' !
Ever hear of lones the packer, hey, ole chappie?"
Jurgis had started involuntarily; the other, whose sharp eyes
missed nothing, demanded: "Whuzzamatter, hey? Heard of him?"
And Jurgis managed to stammer out: "I have worked for him in the
"What!" cried Master Freddie, with a yell. "You! In the yards?
Ho, ho! Why, say, thass good! Shake hands on it, ole man--by
Harry! Guv'ner ought to be here--glad to see you. Great fren's
with the men, guv'ner--labor an' capital, commun'ty 'f int'rests,
an' all that--hic! Funny things happen in this world, don't
they, ole man? Hamilton, lemme interduce you--fren' the
family--ole fren' the guv'ner's--works in the yards. Come to
spend the night wiz me, Hamilton--have a hot time. Me fren',
Mr.--whuzya name, ole chappie? Tell us your name."
"Rudkus--Jurgis Rudkus."
"My fren', Mr. Rednose, Hamilton--shake han's."
The stately butler bowed his head, but made not a sound; and
suddenly Master Freddie pointed an eager finger at him. "I know
whuzzamatter wiz you, Hamilton--lay you a dollar I know! You
think--hic--you think I'm drunk! Hey, now?"
And the butler again bowed his head. "Yes, sir," he said, at
which Master Freddie hung tightly upon Jurgis's neck and went
into a fit of laughter. "Hamilton, you damn ole scoundrel," he
roared, "I'll 'scharge you for impudence, you see 'f I don't!
Ho, ho, ho! I'm drunk! Ho, ho!"
The two waited until his fit had spent itself, to see what new
whim would seize him. "Whatcha wanta do?" he queried suddenly.
"Wanta see the place, ole chappie? Wamme play the guv'ner--show
you roun'? State parlors--Looee Cans--Looee Sez--chairs cost
three thousand apiece. Tea room Maryanntnet--picture of
shepherds dancing--Ruysdael--twenty-three thousan'!
Ballroom--balc'ny pillars--hic--imported--special
ship--sixty-eight thousan'! Ceilin' painted in Rome--whuzzat
feller's name, Hamilton--Mattatoni? Macaroni? Then this
place--silver bowl--Benvenuto Cellini--rummy ole Dago! An' the
organ--thirty thousan' dollars, sir--starter up, Hamilton, let
Mr. Rednose hear it. No--never mind--clean forgot--says he's
hungry, Hamilton--less have some supper. Only--hic--don't less
have it here--come up to my place, ole sport--nice an' cosy.
This way--steady now, don't slip on the floor. Hamilton, we'll
have a cole spread, an' some fizz--don't leave out the fizz, by
Harry. We'll have some of the eighteen-thirty Madeira. Hear me,
"Yes, sir," said the butler, "but, Master Frederick, your father
left orders--"
And Master Frederick drew himself up to a stately height. "My
father's orders were left to me--hic--an' not to you," he said.
Then, clasping Jurgis tightly by the neck, he staggered out of
the room; on the way another idea occurred to him, and he asked:
"Any--hic--cable message for me, Hamilton?"
"No, sir," said the butler.
"Guv'ner must be travelin'. An' how's the twins, Hamilton?"
"They are doing well, sir."
"Good!" said Master Freddie; and added fervently: "God bless 'em,
the little lambs!"
They went up the great staircase, one step at a time; at the top
of it there gleamed at them out of the shadows the figure of a
nymph crouching by a fountain, a figure ravishingly beautiful,
the flesh warm and glowing with the hues of life. Above was a
huge court, with domed roof, the various apartments opening into
it. The butler had paused below but a few minutes to give
orders, and then followed them; now he pressed a button, and the
hall blazed with light. He opened a door before them, and then
pressed another button, as they staggered into the apartment.
It was fitted up as a study. In the center was a mahogany table,
covered with books, and smokers' implements; the walls were
decorated with college trophies and colors--flags, posters,
photographs and knickknacks--tennis rackets, canoe paddles, golf
clubs, and polo sticks. An enormous moose head, with horns six
feet across, faced a buffalo head on the opposite wall, while
bear and tiger skins covered the polished floor. There were
lounging chairs and sofas, window seats covered with soft
cushions of fantastic designs; there was one corner fitted in
Persian fashion, with a huge canopy and a jeweled lamp beneath.
Beyond, a door opened upon a bedroom, and beyond that was a
swimming pool of the purest marble, that had cost about forty
thousand dollars.
Master Freddie stood for a moment or two, gazing about him; then
out of the next room a dog emerged, a monstrous bulldog, the most
hideous object that Jurgis had ever laid eyes upon. He yawned,
opening a mouth like a dragon's; and he came toward the young
man, wagging his tail. "Hello, Dewey!" cried his master. "Been
havin' a snooze, ole boy? Well, well--hello there,
whuzzamatter?" (The dog was snarling at Jurgis.) "Why,
Dewey--this' my fren', Mr. Rednose--ole fren' the guv'ner's!
Mr. Rednose, Admiral Dewey; shake han's--hic. Ain't he a daisy,
though--blue ribbon at the New York show--eighty-five hundred at
a clip! How's that, hey?"
The speaker sank into one of the big armchairs, and Admiral Dewey
crouched beneath it; he did not snarl again, but he never took
his eyes off Jurgis. He was perfectly sober, was the Admiral.
The butler had closed the door, and he stood by it, watching
Jurgis every second. Now there came footsteps outside, and,
as he opened the door a man in livery entered, carrying a folding
table, and behind him two men with covered trays. They stood
like statues while the first spread the table and set out the
contents of the trays upon it. There were cold pates, and thin
slices of meat, tiny bread and butter sandwiches with the crust
cut off, a bowl of sliced peaches and cream (in January), little
fancy cakes, pink and green and yellow and white, and half a
dozen ice-cold bottles of wine.
"Thass the stuff for you!" cried Master Freddie, exultantly,
as he spied them. "Come 'long, ole chappie, move up."
And he seated himself at the table; the waiter pulled a cork,
and he took the bottle and poured three glasses of its contents in
succession down his throat. Then he gave a long-drawn sigh, and
cried again to Jurgis to seat himself.
The butler held the chair at the opposite side of the table,
and Jurgis thought it was to keep him out of it; but finally he
understand that it was the other's intention to put it under him,
and so he sat down, cautiously and mistrustingly. Master Freddie
perceived that the attendants embarrassed him, and he remarked
with a nod to them, "You may go."
They went, all save the butler.
"You may go too, Hamilton," he said.
"Master Frederick--" the man began.
"Go!" cried the youngster, angrily. "Damn you, don't you hear me?"
The man went out and closed the door; Jurgis, who was as sharp as
he, observed that he took the key out of the lock, in order that
he might peer through the keyhole.
Master Frederick turned to the table again. "Now," he said, "go
for it."
Jurgis gazed at him doubtingly. "Eat!" cried the other. "Pile
in, ole chappie!"
"Don't you want anything?" Jurgis asked.
"Ain't hungry," was the reply--"only thirsty. Kitty and me had
some candy--you go on."
So Jurgis began, without further parley. He ate as with two
shovels, his fork in one hand and his knife in the other; when he
once got started his wolf-hunger got the better of him, and he
did not stop for breath until he had cleared every plate.
"Gee whiz!" said the other, who had been watching him in wonder.
Then he held Jurgis the bottle. "Lessee you drink now," he said;
and Jurgis took the bottle and turned it up to his mouth, and a
wonderfully unearthly liquid ecstasy poured down his throat,
tickling every nerve of him, thrilling him with joy. He drank
the very last drop of it, and then he gave vent to a long-drawn
"Good stuff, hey?" said Freddie, sympathetically; he had leaned
back in the big chair, putting his arm behind his head and gazing
at Jurgis.
And Jurgis gazed back at him. He was clad in spotless evening
dress, was Freddie, and looked very handsome--he was a beautiful
boy, with light golden hair and the head of an Antinous. He
smiled at Jurgis confidingly, and then started talking again,
with his blissful insouciance. This time he talked for ten
minutes at a stretch, and in the course of the speech he told
Jurgis all of his family history. His big brother Charlie was in
love with the guileless maiden who played the part of "Little
Bright-Eyes" in "The Kaliph of Kamskatka." He had been on the
verge of marrying her once, only "the guv'ner" had sworn to
disinherit him, and had presented him with a sum that would
stagger the imagination, and that had staggered the virtue of
"Little Bright-Eyes." Now Charlie had got leave from college,
and had gone away in his automobile on the next best thing to a
honeymoon. "The guv'ner" had made threats to disinherit another
of his children also, sister Gwendolen, who had married an
Italian marquis with a string of titles and a dueling record.
They lived in his chateau, or rather had, until he had taken to
firing the breakfast dishes at her; then she had cabled for help,
and the old gentleman had gone over to find out what were his
Grace's terms. So they had left Freddie all alone, and he with
less than two thousand dollars in his pocket. Freddie was up in
arms and meant serious business, as they would find in the
end--if there was no other way of bringing them to terms he would
have his "Kittens" wire that she was about to marry him, and see
what happened then.
So the cheerful youngster rattled on, until he was tired out.
He smiled his sweetest smile at Jurgis, and then he closed his eyes,
sleepily. Then he opened them again, and smiled once more, and
finally closed them and forgot to open them.
For several minutes Jurgis sat perfectly motionless, watching
him, and reveling in the strange sensation of the champagne.
Once he stirred, and the dog growled; after that he sat almost
holding his breath--until after a while the door of the room
opened softly, and the butler came in.
He walked toward Jurgis upon tiptoe, scowling at him; and Jurgis
rose up, and retreated, scowling back. So until he was against
the wall, and then the butler came close, and pointed toward the
door. "Get out of here!" he whispered.
Jurgis hesitated, giving a glance at Freddie, who was snoring
softly. "If you do, you son of a--" hissed the butler, "I'll
mash in your face for you before you get out of here!"
And Jurgis wavered but an instant more. He saw "Admiral Dewey"
coming up behind the man and growling softly, to back up his
threats. Then he surrendered and started toward the door.
They went out without a sound, and down the great echoing
staircase, and through the dark hall. At the front door he
paused, and the butler strode close to him.
"Hold up your hands," he snarled. Jurgis took a step back,
clinching his one well fist.
"What for?" he cried; and then understanding that the fellow
proposed to search him, he answered, "I'll see you in hell
"Do you want to go to jail?" demanded the butler, menacingly.
"I'll have the police--"
"Have 'em!" roared Jurgis, with fierce passion. "But you won't
put your hands on me till you do! I haven't touched anything in
your damned house, and I'll not have you touch me!"
So the butler, who was terrified lest his young master should
waken, stepped suddenly to the door, and opened it. "Get out of
here!" he said; and then as Jurgis passed through the opening, he
gave him a ferocious kick that sent him down the great stone
steps at a run, and landed him sprawling in the snow at the
Chapter 25
Jurgis got up, wild with rage, but the door was shut and the
great castle was dark and impregnable. Then the icy teeth of the
blast bit into him, and he turned and went away at a run.
When he stopped again it was because he was coming to frequented
streets and did not wish to attract attention. In spite of that
last humiliation, his heart was thumping fast with triumph.
He had come out ahead on that deal! He put his hand into his
trousers' pocket every now and then, to make sure that the
precious hundred-dollar bill was still there.
Yet he was in a plight--a curious and even dreadful plight, when
he came to realize it. He had not a single cent but that one
bill! And he had to find some shelter that night he had to
change it!
Jurgis spent half an hour walking and debating the problem.
There was no one he could go to for help--he had to manage it all
alone. To get it changed in a lodging-house would be to take his
life in his hands--he would almost certainly be robbed, and
perhaps murdered, before morning. He might go to some hotel or
railroad depot and ask to have it changed; but what would they
think, seeing a "bum" like him with a hundred dollars? He would
probably be arrested if he tried it; and what story could he
tell? On the morrow Freddie Jones would discover his loss,
and there would be a hunt for him, and he would lose his money.
The only other plan he could think of was to try in a saloon.
He might pay them to change it, if it could not be done otherwise.
He began peering into places as he walked; he passed several as
being too crowded--then finally, chancing upon one where the
bartender was all alone, he gripped his hands in sudden
resolution and went in.
"Can you change me a hundred-dollar bill?" he demanded.
The bartender was a big, husky fellow, with the jaw of a prize
fighter, and a three weeks' stubble of hair upon it. He stared
at Jurgis. "What's that youse say?" he demanded.
"I said, could you change me a hundred-dollar bill?"
"Where'd youse get it?" he inquired incredulously.
"Never mind," said Jurgis; "I've got it, and I want it changed.
I'll pay you if you'll do it."
The other stared at him hard. "Lemme see it," he said.
"Will you change it?" Jurgis demanded, gripping it tightly in his
"How the hell can I know if it's good or not?" retorted the
bartender. "Whatcher take me for, hey?"
Then Jurgis slowly and warily approached him; he took out the
bill, and fumbled it for a moment, while the man stared at him
with hostile eyes across the counter. Then finally he handed it
The other took it, and began to examine it; he smoothed it
between his fingers, and held it up to the light; he turned it
over, and upside down, and edgeways. It was new and rather
stiff, and that made him dubious. Jurgis was watching him like a
cat all the time.
"Humph," he said, finally, and gazed at the stranger, sizing him
up--a ragged, ill-smelling tramp, with no overcoat and one arm in
a sling--and a hundred-dollar bill! "Want to buy anything?" he
"Yes," said Jurgis, "I'll take a glass of beer."
"All right," said the other, "I'll change it." And he put the
bill in his pocket, and poured Jurgis out a glass of beer,
and set it on the counter. Then he turned to the cash register,
and punched up five cents, and began to pull money out of the drawer.
Finally, he faced Jurgis, counting it out--two dimes, a quarter,
and fifty cents. "There," he said.
For a second Jurgis waited, expecting to see him turn again. "My
ninety-nine dollars," he said.
"What ninety-nine dollars?" demanded the bartender.
"My change!" he cried--"the rest of my hundred!"
"Go on," said the bartender, "you're nutty!"
And Jurgis stared at him with wild eyes. For an instant horror
reigned in him--black, paralyzing, awful horror, clutching him at
the heart; and then came rage, in surging, blinding floods--
he screamed aloud, and seized the glass and hurled it at the other's
head. The man ducked, and it missed him by half an inch; he rose
again and faced Jurgis, who was vaulting over the bar with his
one well arm, and dealt him a smashing blow in the face, hurling
him backward upon the floor. Then, as Jurgis scrambled to his
feet again and started round the counter after him, he shouted at
the top of his voice, "Help! help!"
Jurgis seized a bottle off the counter as he ran; and as the
bartender made a leap he hurled the missile at him with all his
force. It just grazed his head, and shivered into a thousand
pieces against the post of the door. Then Jurgis started back,
rushing at the man again in the middle of the room. This time,
in his blind frenzy, he came without a bottle, and that was all
the bartender wanted--he met him halfway and floored him with a
sledgehammer drive between the eyes. An instant later the screen
doors flew open, and two men rushed in--just as Jurgis was
getting to his feet again, foaming at the mouth with rage,
and trying to tear his broken arm out of its bandages.
"Look out!" shouted the bartender. "He's got a knife!" Then,
seeing that the two were disposed to join the fray, he made
another rush at Jurgis, and knocked aside his feeble defense and
sent him tumbling again; and the three flung themselves upon him,
rolling and kicking about the place.
A second later a policeman dashed in, and the bartender yelled
once more--"Look out for his knife!" Jurgis had fought himself
half to his knees, when the policeman made a leap at him, and
cracked him across the face with his club. Though the blow
staggered him, the wild-beast frenzy still blazed in him, and he
got to his feet, lunging into the air. Then again the club
descended, full upon his head, and he dropped like a log to the
The policeman crouched over him, clutching his stick, waiting for
him to try to rise again; and meantime the barkeeper got up, and
put his hand to his head. "Christ!" he said, "I thought I was
done for that time. Did he cut me?"
"Don't see anything, Jake," said the policeman. "What's the
matter with him?"
"Just crazy drunk," said the other. "A lame duck, too--but he
'most got me under the bar. Youse had better call the wagon,
"No," said the officer. "He's got no more fight in him, I
guess--and he's only got a block to go." He twisted his hand in
Jurgis's collar and jerked at him. "Git up here, you!" he
But Jurgis did not move, and the bartender went behind the bar,
and after stowing the hundred-dollar bill away in a safe hiding
place, came and poured a glass of water over Jurgis. Then, as
the latter began to moan feebly, the policeman got him to his
feet and dragged him out of the place. The station house was
just around the corner, and so in a few minutes Jurgis was in a
He spent half the night lying unconscious, and the balance
moaning in torment, with a blinding headache and a racking
thirst. Now and then he cried aloud for a drink of water,
but there was no one to hear him. There were others in that same
station house with split heads and a fever; there were hundreds
of them in the great city, and tens of thousands of them in the
great land, and there was no one to hear any of them.
In the morning Jurgis was given a cup of water and a piece of
bread, and then hustled into a patrol wagon and driven to the
nearest police court. He sat in the pen with a score of others
until his turn came.
The bartender--who proved to be a well-known bruiser--was called
to the stand, He took the oath and told his story. The prisoner
had come into his saloon after midnight, fighting drunk, and had
ordered a glass of beer and tendered a dollar bill in payment.
He had been given ninety-five cents' change, and had demanded
ninety-nine dollars more, and before the plaintiff could even
answer had hurled the glass at him and then attacked him with a
bottle of bitters, and nearly wrecked the place.
Then the prisoner was sworn--a forlorn object, haggard and
unshorn, with an arm done up in a filthy bandage, a cheek and
head cut, and bloody, and one eye purplish black and entirely
closed. "What have you to say for yourself?" queried the
"Your Honor," said Jurgis, "I went into his place and asked the
man if he could change me a hundred-dollar bill. And he said he
would if I bought a drink. I gave him the bill and then he
wouldn't give me the change."
The magistrate was staring at him in perplexity. "You gave him a
hundred-dollar bill!" he exclaimed.
"Yes, your Honor," said Jurgis.
"Where did you get it?"
"A man gave it to me, your Honor."
"A man? What man, and what for?"
"A young man I met upon the street, your Honor. I had been
There was a titter in the courtroom; the officer who was holding
Jurgis put up his hand to hide a smile, and the magistrate smiled
without trying to hide it. "It's true, your Honor!" cried
Jurgis, passionately.
"You had been drinking as well as begging last night, had you
not?" inquired the magistrate. "No, your Honor--" protested
Jurgis. "I--"
"You had not had anything to drink?"
"Why, yes, your Honor, I had--"
"What did you have?"
"I had a bottle of something--I don't know what it was--something
that burned--"
There was again a laugh round the courtroom, stopping suddenly as
the magistrate looked up and frowned. "Have you ever been
arrested before?" he asked abruptly.
The question took Jurgis aback. "I--I--" he stammered.
"Tell me the truth, now!" commanded the other, sternly.
"Yes, your Honor," said Jurgis.
"How often?"
"Only once, your Honor."
"What for?"
"For knocking down my boss, your Honor. I was working in the
stockyards, and he--"
"I see," said his Honor; "I guess that will do. You ought to
stop drinking if you can't control yourself. Ten days and costs.
Next case."
Jurgis gave vent to a cry of dismay, cut off suddenly by the
policeman, who seized him by the collar. He was jerked out of
the way, into a room with the convicted prisoners, where he sat
and wept like a child in his impotent rage. It seemed monstrous
to him that policemen and judges should esteem his word as
nothing in comparison with the bartender's--poor Jurgis could not
know that the owner of the saloon paid five dollars each week to
the policeman alone for Sunday privileges and general favors--
nor that the pugilist bartender was one of the most trusted henchmen
of the Democratic leader of the district, and had helped only a
few months before to hustle out a record-breaking vote as a
testimonial to the magistrate, who had been made the target of
odious kid-gloved reformers.
Jurgis was driven out to the Bridewell for the second time. In
his tumbling around he had hurt his arm again, and so could not
work, but had to be attended by the physician. Also his head and
his eye had to be tied up--and so he was a pretty-looking object
when, the second day after his arrival, he went out into the
exercise court and encountered--Jack Duane!
The young fellow was so glad to see Jurgis that he almost hugged
him. "By God, if it isn't 'the Stinker'!" he cried. "And what
is it--have you been through a sausage machine?"
"No," said Jurgis, "but I've been in a railroad wreck and a
fight." And then, while some of the other prisoners gathered
round he told his wild story; most of them were incredulous,
but Duane knew that Jurgis could never have made up such a yarn
as that.
"Hard luck, old man," he said, when they were alone; "but maybe
it's taught you a lesson."
"I've learned some things since I saw you last," said Jurgis
mournfully. Then he explained how he had spent the last summer,
"hoboing it," as the phrase was. "And you?" he asked finally.
"Have you been here ever since?"
"Lord, no!" said the other. "I only came in the day before
yesterday. It's the second time they've sent me up on a
trumped-up charge--I've had hard luck and can't pay them what
they want. Why don't you quit Chicago with me, Jurgis?"
"I've no place to go," said Jurgis, sadly.
"Neither have I," replied the other, laughing lightly. "But
we'll wait till we get out and see."
In the Bridewell Jurgis met few who had been there the last time,
but he met scores of others, old and young, of exactly the same
sort. It was like breakers upon a beach; there was new water,
but the wave looked just the same. He strolled about and talked
with them, and the biggest of them told tales of their prowess,
while those who were weaker, or younger and inexperienced,
gathered round and listened in admiring silence. The last time
he was there, Jurgis had thought of little but his family;
but now he was free to listen to these men, and to realize that he
was one of them--that their point of view was his point of view,
and that the way they kept themselves alive in the world was the
way he meant to do it in the future.
And so, when he was turned out of prison again, without a penny
in his pocket, he went straight to Jack Duane. He went full of
humility and gratitude; for Duane was a gentleman, and a man with
a profession--and it was remarkable that he should be willing to
throw in his lot with a humble workingman, one who had even been
a beggar and a tramp. Jurgis could not see what help he could be
to him; but he did not understand that a man like himself--who
could be trusted to stand by any one who was kind to him--was as
rare among criminals as among any other class of men.
The address Jurgis had was a garret room in the Ghetto district,
the home of a pretty little French girl, Duane's mistress, who
sewed all day, and eked out her living by prostitution. He had
gone elsewhere, she told Jurgis--he was afraid to stay there now,
on account of the police. The new address was a cellar dive,
whose proprietor said that he had never heard of Duane; but after
he had put Jurgis through a catechism he showed him a back stairs
which led to a "fence" in the rear of a pawnbroker's shop, and
thence to a number of assignation rooms, in one of which Duane
was hiding.
Duane was glad to see him; he was without a cent of money,
he said, and had been waiting for Jurgis to help him get some.
He explained his plan--in fact he spent the day in laying bare to
his friend the criminal world of the city, and in showing him how
he might earn himself a living in it. That winter he would have
a hard time, on account of his arm, and because of an unwonted
fit of activity of the police; but so long as he was unknown to
them he would be safe if he were careful. Here at "Papa"
Hanson's (so they called the old man who kept the dive) he might
rest at ease, for "Papa" Hanson was "square"--would stand by him
so long as he paid, and gave him an hour's notice if there were
to be a police raid. Also Rosensteg, the pawnbroker, would buy
anything he had for a third of its value, and guarantee to keep
it hidden for a year.
There was an oil stove in the little cupboard of a room, and they
had some supper; and then about eleven o'clock at night they
sallied forth together, by a rear entrance to the place, Duane
armed with a slingshot. They came to a residence district,
and he sprang up a lamppost and blew out the light, and then the two
dodged into the shelter of an area step and hid in silence.
Pretty soon a man came by, a workingman--and they let him go.
Then after a long interval came the heavy tread of a policeman,
and they held their breath till he was gone. Though half-frozen,
they waited a full quarter of an hour after that--and then again
came footsteps, walking briskly. Duane nudged Jurgis, and the
instant the man had passed they rose up. Duane stole out as
silently as a shadow, and a second later Jurgis heard a thud and
a stifled cry. He was only a couple of feet behind, and he
leaped to stop the man's mouth, while Duane held him fast by the
arms, as they had agreed. But the man was limp and showed a
tendency to fall, and so Jurgis had only to hold him by the
collar, while the other, with swift fingers, went through his
pockets--ripping open, first his overcoat, and then his coat,
and then his vest, searching inside and outside, and transferring the
contents into his own pockets. At last, after feeling of the
man's fingers and in his necktie, Duane whispered, "That's all!"
and they dragged him to the area and dropped him in. Then Jurgis
went one way and his friend the other, walking briskly.
The latter arrived first, and Jurgis found him examining the
"swag." There was a gold watch, for one thing, with a chain and
locket; there was a silver pencil, and a matchbox, and a handful
of small change, and finally a cardcase. This last Duane opened
feverishly--there were letters and checks, and two
theater-tickets, and at last, in the back part, a wad of bills.
He counted them--there was a twenty, five tens, four fives, and
three ones. Duane drew a long breath. "That lets us out!" he
After further examination, they burned the cardcase and its
contents, all but the bills, and likewise the picture of a little
girl in the locket. Then Duane took the watch and trinkets
downstairs, and came back with sixteen dollars. "The old
scoundrel said the case was filled," he said. "It's a lie, but
he knows I want the money."
They divided up the spoils, and Jurgis got as his share
fifty-five dollars and some change. He protested that it was too
much, but the other had agreed to divide even. That was a good
haul, he said, better than average.
When they got up in the morning, Jurgis was sent out to buy a
paper; one of the pleasures of committing a crime was the reading
about it afterward. "I had a pal that always did it," Duane
remarked, laughing--"until one day he read that he had left three
thousand dollars in a lower inside pocket of his party's vest!"
There was a half-column account of the robbery--it was evident
that a gang was operating in the neighborhood, said the paper,
for it was the third within a week, and the police were
apparently powerless. The victim was an insurance agent, and he
had lost a hundred and ten dollars that did not belong to him.
He had chanced to have his name marked on his shirt, otherwise he
would not have been identified yet. His assailant had hit him
too hard, and he was suffering from concussion of the brain;
and also he had been half-frozen when found, and would lose three
fingers on his right hand. The enterprising newspaper reporter
had taken all this information to his family, and told how they
had received it.
Since it was Jurgis's first experience, these details naturally
caused him some worriment; but the other laughed coolly--it was
the way of the game, and there was no helping it. Before long
Jurgis would think no more of it than they did in the yards of
knocking out a bullock. "It's a case of us or the other fellow,
and I say the other fellow, every time," he observed.
"Still," said Jurgis, reflectively, "he never did us any harm."
"He was doing it to somebody as hard as he could, you can be sure
of that," said his friend.
Duane had already explained to Jurgis that if a man of their
trade were known he would have to work all the time to satisfy
the demands of the police. Therefore it would be better for
Jurgis to stay in hiding and never be seen in public with his
pal. But Jurgis soon got very tired of staying in hiding. In a
couple of weeks he was feeling strong and beginning to use his
arm, and then he could not stand it any longer. Duane, who had
done a job of some sort by himself, and made a truce with the
powers, brought over Marie, his little French girl, to share with
him; but even that did not avail for long, and in the end he had
to give up arguing, and take Jurgis out and introduce him to the
saloons and "sporting houses" where the big crooks and "holdup
men" hung out.
And so Jurgis got a glimpse of the high-class criminal world of
Chicago. The city, which was owned by an oligarchy of
businessmen, being nominally ruled by the people, a huge army of
graft was necessary for the purpose of effecting the transfer of
power. Twice a year, in the spring and fall elections, millions
of dollars were furnished by the businessmen and expended by this
army; meetings were held and clever speakers were hired, bands
played and rockets sizzled, tons of documents and reservoirs of
drinks were distributed, and tens of thousands of votes were
bought for cash. And this army of graft had, of course, to be
maintained the year round. The leaders and organizers were
maintained by the businessmen directly--aldermen and legislators
by means of bribes, party officials out of the campaign funds,
lobbyists and corporation lawyers in the form of salaries,
contractors by means of jobs, labor union leaders by subsidies,
and newspaper proprietors and editors by advertisements. The
rank and file, however, were either foisted upon the city, or
else lived off the population directly. There was the police
department, and the fire and water departments, and the whole
balance of the civil list, from the meanest office boy to the
head of a city department; and for the horde who could find no
room in these, there was the world of vice and crime, there was
license to seduce, to swindle and plunder and prey. The law
forbade Sunday drinking; and this had delivered the saloonkeepers
into the hands of the police, and made an alliance
between them necessary. The law forbade prostitution; and this
had brought the "madames" into the combination. It was the same
with the gambling-house keeper and the poolroom man, and the same
with any other man or woman who had a means of getting "graft,"
and was willing to pay over a share of it: the green-goods man
and the highwayman, the pickpocket and the sneak thief, and the
receiver of stolen goods, the seller of adulterated milk, of
stale fruit and diseased meat, the proprietor of unsanitary
tenements, the fake doctor and the usurer, the beggar and the
"pushcart man," the prize fighter and the professional slugger,
the race-track "tout," the procurer, the white-slave agent, and
the expert seducer of young girls. All of these agencies of
corruption were banded together, and leagued in blood brotherhood
with the politician and the police; more often than not they were
one and the same person,--the police captain would own the
brothel he pretended to raid, the politician would open his
headquarters in his saloon. "Hinkydink" or "Bathhouse John,"
or others of that ilk, were proprietors of the most notorious dives
in Chicago, and also the "gray wolves" of the city council,
who gave away the streets of the city to the businessmen; and those
who patronized their places were the gamblers and prize fighters
who set the law at defiance, and the burglars and holdup men who
kept the whole city in terror. On election day all these powers
of vice and crime were one power; they could tell within one per
cent what the vote of their district would be, and they could
change it at an hour's notice.
A month ago Jurgis had all but perished of starvation upon the
streets; and now suddenly, as by the gift of a magic key, he had
entered into a world where money and all the good things of life
came freely. He was introduced by his friend to an Irishman
named "Buck" Halloran, who was a political "worker" and on the
inside of things. This man talked with Jurgis for a while, and
then told him that he had a little plan by which a man who looked
like a workingman might make some easy money; but it was a
private affair, and had to be kept quiet. Jurgis expressed
himself as agreeable, and the other took him that afternoon
(it was Saturday) to a place where city laborers were being paid off.
The paymaster sat in a little booth, with a pile of envelopes
before him, and two policemen standing by. Jurgis went,
according to directions, and gave the name of "Michael
O'Flaherty," and received an envelope, which he took around the
corner and delivered to Halloran, who was waiting for him in a
saloon. Then he went again; and gave the name of "Johann
Schmidt," and a third time, and give the name of "Serge
Reminitsky." Halloran had quite a list of imaginary workingmen,
and Jurgis got an envelope for each one. For this work he
received five dollars, and was told that he might have it every
week, so long as he kept quiet. As Jurgis was excellent at
keeping quiet, he soon won the trust of "Buck" Halloran, and was
introduced to others as a man who could be depended upon.
This acquaintance was useful to him in another way, also before
long Jurgis made his discovery of the meaning of "pull," and just
why his boss, Connor, and also the pugilist bartender, had been
able to send him to jail. One night there was given a ball, the
"benefit" of "One-eyed Larry," a lame man who played the violin
in one of the big "high-class" houses of prostitution on Clark
Street, and was a wag and a popular character on the "Levee."
This ball was held in a big dance hall, and was one of the
occasions when the city's powers of debauchery gave themselves up
to madness. Jurgis attended and got half insane with drink,
and began quarreling over a girl; his arm was pretty strong by then,
and he set to work to clean out the place, and ended in a cell in
the police station. The police station being crowded to the
doors, and stinking with "bums," Jurgis did not relish staying
there to sleep off his liquor, and sent for Halloran, who called
up the district leader and had Jurgis bailed out by telephone at
four o'clock in the morning. When he was arraigned that same
morning, the district leader had already seen the clerk of the
court and explained that Jurgis Rudkus was a decent fellow, who
had been indiscreet; and so Jurgis was fined ten dollars and the
fine was "suspended"--which meant that he did not have to pay for
it, and never would have to pay it, unless somebody chose to
bring it up against him in the future.
Among the people Jurgis lived with now money was valued according
to an entirely different standard from that of the people of
Packingtown; yet, strange as it may seem, he did a great deal
less drinking than he had as a workingman. He had not the same
provocations of exhaustion and hopelessness; he had now something
to work for, to struggle for. He soon found that if he kept his
wits about him, he would come upon new opportunities; and being
naturally an active man, he not only kept sober himself, but
helped to steady his friend, who was a good deal fonder of both
wine and women than he.
One thing led to another. In the saloon where Jurgis met "Buck"
Halloran he was sitting late one night with Duane, when a
"country customer" (a buyer for an out-of-town merchant) came in,
a little more than half "piped." There was no one else in the
place but the bartender, and as the man went out again Jurgis and
Duane followed him; he went round the corner, and in a dark place
made by a combination of the elevated railroad and an unrented
building, Jurgis leaped forward and shoved a revolver under his
nose, while Duane, with his hat pulled over his eyes, went
through the man's pockets with lightning fingers. They got his
watch and his "wad," and were round the corner again and into the
saloon before he could shout more than once. The bartender, to
whom they had tipped the wink, had the cellar door open for them,
and they vanished, making their way by a secret entrance to a
brothel next door. From the roof of this there was access to
three similar places beyond. By means of these passages the
customers of any one place could be gotten out of the way, in
case a falling out with the police chanced to lead to a raid;
and also it was necessary to have a way of getting a girl out of
reach in case of an emergency. Thousands of them came to Chicago
answering advertisements for "servants" and "factory hands," and
found themselves trapped by fake employment agencies, and locked
up in a bawdyhouse. It was generally enough to take all their
clothes away from them; but sometimes they would have to be
"doped" and kept prisoners for weeks; and meantime their parents
might be telegraphing the police, and even coming on to see why
nothing was done. Occasionally there was no way of satisfying
them but to let them search the place to which the girl had been
For his help in this little job, the bartender received twenty
out of the hundred and thirty odd dollars that the pair secured;
and naturally this put them on friendly terms with him, and a few
days later he introduced them to a little "sheeny" named
Goldberger, one of the "runners" of the "sporting house" where
they had been hidden. After a few drinks Goldberger began, with
some hesitation, to narrate how he had had a quarrel over his
best girl with a professional "cardsharp," who had hit him in the
jaw. The fellow was a stranger in Chicago, and if he was found
some night with his head cracked there would be no one to care
very much. Jurgis, who by this time would cheerfully have
cracked the heads of all the gamblers in Chicago, inquired what
would be coming to him; at which the Jew became still more
confidential, and said that he had some tips on the New Orleans
races, which he got direct from the police captain of the
district, whom he had got out of a bad scrape, and who "stood in"
with a big syndicate of horse owners. Duane took all this in at
once, but Jurgis had to have the whole race-track situation
explained to him before he realized the importance of such an
There was the gigantic Racing Trust. It owned the legislatures
in every state in which it did business; it even owned some of
the big newspapers, and made public opinion--there was no power
in the land that could oppose it unless, perhaps, it were the
Poolroom Trust. It built magnificent racing parks all over the
country, and by means of enormous purses it lured the people to
come, and then it organized a gigantic shell game, whereby it
plundered them of hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
Horse racing had once been a sport, but nowadays it was a
business; a horse could be "doped" and doctored, undertrained or
overtrained; it could be made to fall at any moment--or its gait
could be broken by lashing it with the whip, which all the
spectators would take to be a desperate effort to keep it in the
lead. There were scores of such tricks; and sometimes it was the
owners who played them and made fortunes, sometimes it was the
jockeys and trainers, sometimes it was outsiders, who bribed
them--but most of the time it was the chiefs of the trust. Now
for instance, they were having winter racing in New Orleans and a
syndicate was laying out each day's program in advance, and its
agents in all the Northern cities were "milking" the poolrooms.
The word came by long-distance telephone in a cipher code, just a
little while before each race; and any man who could get the
secret had as good as a fortune. If Jurgis did not believe it,
he could try it, said the little Jew--let them meet at a certain
house on the morrow and make a test. Jurgis was willing, and so
was Duane, and so they went to one of the high-class poolrooms
where brokers and merchants gambled (with society women in a
private room), and they put up ten dollars each upon a horse
called "Black Beldame," a six to one shot, and won. For a secret
like that they would have done a good many sluggings--but the
next day Goldberger informed them that the offending gambler had
got wind of what was coming to him, and had skipped the town.
There were ups and downs at the business; but there was always a
living, inside of a jail, if not out of it. Early in April the
city elections were due, and that meant prosperity for all the
powers of graft. Jurgis, hanging round in dives and gambling
houses and brothels, met with the heelers of both parties,
and from their conversation he came to understand all the ins and
outs of the game, and to hear of a number of ways in which he
could make himself useful about election time. "Buck" Halloran
was a "Democrat," and so Jurgis became a Democrat also; but he
was not a bitter one--the Republicans were good fellows, too,
and were to have a pile of money in this next campaign. At the last
election the Republicans had paid four dollars a vote to the
Democrats' three; and "Buck" Halloran sat one night playing cards
with Jurgis and another man, who told how Halloran had been
charged with the job voting a "bunch" of thirty-seven newly
landed Italians, and how he, the narrator, had met the Republican
worker who was after the very same gang, and how the three had
effected a bargain, whereby the Italians were to vote half and
half, for a glass of beer apiece, while the balance of the fund
went to the conspirators!
Not long after this, Jurgis, wearying of the risks and
vicissitudes of miscellaneous crime, was moved to give up the
career for that of a politician. Just at this time there was a
tremendous uproar being raised concerning the alliance between
the criminals and the police. For the criminal graft was one in
which the businessmen had no direct part--it was what is called a
"side line," carried by the police. "Wide open" gambling and
debauchery made the city pleasing to "trade," but burglaries and
holdups did not. One night it chanced that while Jack Duane was
drilling a safe in a clothing store he was caught red-handed by
the night watchman, and turned over to a policeman, who chanced
to know him well, and who took the responsibility of letting him
make his escape. Such a howl from the newspapers followed this
that Duane was slated for sacrifice, and barely got out of town
in time. And just at that juncture it happened that Jurgis was
introduced to a man named Harper whom he recognized as the night
watchman at Brown's, who had been instrumental in making him an
American citizen, the first year of his arrival at the yards.
The other was interested in the coincidence, but did not remember
Jurgis--he had handled too many "green ones" in his time, he
said. He sat in a dance hall with Jurgis and Halloran until one
or two in the morning, exchanging experiences. He had a long
story to tell of his quarrel with the superintendent of his
department, and how he was now a plain workingman, and a good
union man as well. It was not until some months afterward that
Jurgis understood that the quarrel with the superintendent had
been prearranged, and that Harper was in reality drawing a salary
of twenty dollars a week from the packers for an inside report of
his union's secret proceedings. The yards were seething with
agitation just then, said the man, speaking as a unionist. The
people of Packingtown had borne about all that they would bear,
and it looked as if a strike might begin any week.
After this talk the man made inquiries concerning Jurgis, and a
couple of days later he came to him with an interesting
proposition. He was not absolutely certain, he said, but he
thought that he could get him a regular salary if he would come
to Packingtown and do as he was told, and keep his mouth shut.
Harper--"Bush" Harper, he was called--was a right-hand man of
Mike Scully, the Democratic boss of the stockyards; and in the
coming election there was a peculiar situation. There had come
to Scully a proposition to nominate a certain rich brewer who
lived upon a swell boulevard that skirted the district, and who
coveted the big badge and the "honorable" of an alderman. The
brewer was a Jew, and had no brains, but he was harmless, and
would put up a rare campaign fund. Scully had accepted the
offer, and then gone to the Republicans with a proposition. He
was not sure that he could manage the "sheeny," and he did not
mean to take any chances with his district; let the Republicans
nominate a certain obscure but amiable friend of Scully's, who
was now setting tenpins in the cellar of an Ashland Avenue
saloon, and he, Scully, would elect him with the "sheeny's"
money, and the Republicans might have the glory, which was more
than they would get otherwise. In return for this the
Republicans would agree to put up no candidate the following
year, when Scully himself came up for reelection as the other
alderman from the ward. To this the Republicans had assented
at once; but the hell of it was--so Harper explained--that the
Republicans were all of them fools--a man had to be a fool to be
a Republican in the stockyards, where Scully was king. And they
didn't know how to work, and of course it would not do for the
Democratic workers, the noble redskins of the War Whoop League,
to support the Republican openly. The difficulty would not have
been so great except for another fact--there had been a curious
development in stockyards politics in the last year or two, a new
party having leaped into being. They were the Socialists; and it
was a devil of a mess, said "Bush" Harper. The one image which
the word "Socialist" brought to Jurgis was of poor little
Tamoszius Kuszleika, who had called himself one, and would go out
with a couple of other men and a soap-box, and shout himself
hoarse on a street corner Saturday nights. Tamoszius had tried
to explain to Jurgis what it was all about, but Jurgis, who was
not of an imaginative turn, had never quire got it straight; at
present he was content with his companion's explanation that the
Socialists were the enemies of American institutions--could not
be bought, and would not combine or make any sort of a "dicker."
Mike Scully was very much worried over the opportunity which his
last deal gave to them--the stockyards Democrats were furious at
the idea of a rich capitalist for their candidate, and while they
were changing they might possibly conclude that a Socialist
firebrand was preferable to a Republican bum. And so right here
was a chance for Jurgis to make himself a place in the world,
explained "Bush" Harper; he had been a union man, and he was
known in the yards as a workingman; he must have hundreds of
acquaintances, and as he had never talked politics with them he
might come out as a Republican now without exciting the least
suspicion. There were barrels of money for the use of those who
could deliver the goods; and Jurgis might count upon Mike Scully,
who had never yet gone back on a friend. Just what could he do?
Jurgis asked, in some perplexity, and the other explained in
detail. To begin with, he would have to go to the yards and
work, and he mightn't relish that; but he would have what he
earned, as well as the rest that came to him. He would get
active in the union again, and perhaps try to get an office, as
he, Harper, had; he would tell all his friends the good points of
Doyle, the Republican nominee, and the bad ones of the "sheeny";
and then Scully would furnish a meeting place, and he would start
the "Young Men's Republican Association," or something of that
sort, and have the rich brewer's best beer by the hogshead, and
fireworks and speeches, just like the War Whoop League. Surely
Jurgis must know hundreds of men who would like that sort of fun;
and there would be the regular Republican leaders and workers to
help him out, and they would deliver a big enough majority on
election day.
When he had heard all this explanation to the end, Jurgis
demanded: "But how can I get a job in Packingtown? I'm
At which "Bush" Harper laughed. "I'll attend to that all right,"
he said.
And the other replied, "It's a go, then; I'm your man." So Jurgis
went out to the stockyards again, and was introduced to the
political lord of the district, the boss of Chicago's mayor. It
was Scully who owned the brickyards and the dump and the ice
pond--though Jurgis did not know it. It was Scully who was to
blame for the unpaved street in which Jurgis's child had been
drowned; it was Scully who had put into office the magistrate who
had first sent Jurgis to jail; it was Scully who was principal
stockholder in the company which had sold him the ramshackle
tenement, and then robbed him of it. But Jurgis knew none of
these things--any more than he knew that Scully was but a tool
and puppet of the packers. To him Scully was a mighty power, the
"biggest" man he had ever met.
He was a little, dried-up Irishman, whose hands shook. He had a
brief talk with his visitor, watching him with his ratlike eyes,
and making up his mind about him; and then he gave him a note to
Mr. Harmon, one of the head managers of Durham's--
"The bearer, Jurgis Rudkus, is a particular friend of mine, and I
would like you to find him a good place, for important reasons.
He was once indiscreet, but you will perhaps be so good as to
overlook that."
Mr. Harmon looked up inquiringly when he read this. "What does
he mean by 'indiscreet'?" he asked.
"I was blacklisted, sir," said Jurgis.
At which the other frowned. "Blacklisted?" he said. "How do you
mean?" And Jurgis turned red with embarrassment.
He had forgotten that a blacklist did not exist. "I--that is--I
had difficulty in getting a place," he stammered.
"What was the matter?"
"I got into a quarrel with a foreman--not my own boss, sir--and
struck him."
"I see," said the other, and meditated for a few moments. "What
do you wish to do?" he asked.
"Anything, sir," said Jurgis--"only I had a broken arm this
winter, and so I have to be careful."
"How would it suit you to be a night watchman?"
"That wouldn't do, sir. I have to be among the men at night."
"I see--politics. Well, would it suit you to trim hogs?"
"Yes, sir," said Jurgis.
And Mr. Harmon called a timekeeper and said, "Take this man to
Pat Murphy and tell him to find room for him somehow."
And so Jurgis marched into the hog-killing room, a place where,
in the days gone by, he had come begging for a job. Now he
walked jauntily, and smiled to himself, seeing the frown that
came to the boss's face as the timekeeper said, "Mr. Harmon says
to put this man on." It would overcrowd his department and spoil
the record he was trying to make--but he said not a word except
"All right."
And so Jurgis became a workingman once more; and straightway he
sought out his old friends, and joined the union, and began to
"root" for "Scotty" Doyle. Doyle had done him a good turn once,
he explained, and was really a bully chap; Doyle was a workingman
himself, and would represent the workingmen--why did they want to
vote for a millionaire "sheeny," and what the hell had Mike
Scully ever done for them that they should back his candidates
all the time? And meantime Scully had given Jurgis a note to the
Republican leader of the ward, and he had gone there and met the
crowd he was to work with. Already they had hired a big hall,
with some of the brewer's money, and every night Jurgis brought
in a dozen new members of the "Doyle Republican Association."
Pretty soon they had a grand opening night; and there was a brass
band, which marched through the streets, and fireworks and bombs
and red lights in front of the hall; and there was an enormous
crowd, with two overflow meetings--so that the pale and trembling
candidate had to recite three times over the little speech which
one of Scully's henchmen had written, and which he had been a
month learning by heart. Best of all, the famous and eloquent
Senator Spareshanks, presidential candidate, rode out in an
automobile to discuss the sacred privileges of American
citizenship, and protection and prosperity for the American
workingman. His inspiriting address was quoted to the extent of
half a column in all the morning newspapers, which also said that
it could be stated upon excellent authority that the unexpected
popularity developed by Doyle, the Republican candidate for
alderman, was giving great anxiety to Mr. Scully, the chairman of
the Democratic City Committee.
The chairman was still more worried when the monster torchlight
procession came off, with the members of the Doyle Republican
Association all in red capes and hats, and free beer for every
voter in the ward--the best beer ever given away in a political
campaign, as the whole electorate testified. During this parade,
and at innumerable cart-tail meetings as well, Jurgis labored
tirelessly. He did not make any speeches--there were lawyers and
other experts for that--but he helped to manage things;
distributing notices and posting placards and bringing out the
crowds; and when the show was on he attended to the fireworks and
the beer. Thus in the course of the campaign he handled many
hundreds of dollars of the Hebrew brewer's money, administering
it with naive and touching fidelity. Toward the end, however,
he learned that he was regarded with hatred by the rest of the
"boys," because he compelled them either to make a poorer showing
than he or to do without their share of the pie. After that
Jurgis did his best to please them, and to make up for the time
he had lost before he discovered the extra bungholes of the
campaign barrel.
He pleased Mike Scully, also. On election morning he was out at
four o'clock, "getting out the vote"; he had a two-horse carriage
to ride in, and he went from house to house for his friends, and
escorted them in triumph to the polls. He voted half a dozen
times himself, and voted some of his friends as often; he brought
bunch after bunch of the newest foreigners--Lithuanians, Poles,
Bohemians, Slovaks--and when he had put them through the mill he
turned them over to another man to take to the next polling
place. When Jurgis first set out, the captain of the precinct
gave him a hundred dollars, and three times in the course of the
day he came for another hundred, and not more than twenty-five
out of each lot got stuck in his own pocket. The balance all
went for actual votes, and on a day of Democratic landslides they
elected "Scotty" Doyle, the ex-tenpin setter, by nearly a
thousand plurality--and beginning at five o'clock in the
afternoon, and ending at three the next morning, Jurgis treated
himself to a most unholy and horrible "jag." Nearly every one
else in Packingtown did the same, however, for there was
universal exultation over this triumph of popular government,
this crushing defeat of an arrogant plutocrat by the power of the
common people.
Chapter 26
After the elections Jurgis stayed on in Packingtown and kept his
job. The agitation to break up the police protection of
criminals was continuing, and it seemed to him best to "lay low"
for the present. He had nearly three hundred dollars in the
bank, and might have considered himself entitled to a vacation;
but he had an easy job, and force of habit kept him at it.
Besides, Mike Scully, whom he consulted, advised him that
something might "turn up" before long.
Jurgis got himself a place in a boardinghouse with some congenial
friends. He had already inquired of Aniele, and learned that
Elzbieta and her family had gone downtown, and so he gave no
further thought to them. He went with a new set, now, young
unmarried fellows who were "sporty." Jurgis had long ago cast off
his fertilizer clothing, and since going into politics he had
donned a linen collar and a greasy red necktie. He had some
reason for thinking of his dress, for he was making about eleven
dollars a week, and two-thirds of it he might spend upon his
pleasures without ever touching his savings.
Sometimes he would ride down-town with a party of friends to the
cheap theaters and the music halls and other haunts with which
they were familiar. Many of the saloons in Packingtown had pool
tables, and some of them bowling alleys, by means of which he
could spend his evenings in petty gambling. Also, there were
cards and dice. One time Jurgis got into a game on a Saturday
night and won prodigiously, and because he was a man of spirit he
stayed in with the rest and the game continued until late Sunday
afternoon, and by that time he was "out" over twenty dollars. On
Saturday nights, also, a number of balls were generally given in
Packingtown; each man would bring his "girl" with him, paying
half a dollar for a ticket, and several dollars additional for
drinks in the course of the festivities, which continued until
three or four o'clock in the morning, unless broken up by
fighting. During all this time the same man and woman would
dance together, half-stupefied with sensuality and drink.
Before long Jurgis discovered what Scully had meant by something
"turning up." In May the agreement between the packers and the
unions expired, and a new agreement had to be signed.
Negotiations were going on, and the yards were full of talk of a
strike. The old scale had dealt with the wages of the skilled
men only; and of the members of the Meat Workers' Union about
two-thirds were unskilled men. In Chicago these latter were
receiving, for the most part, eighteen and a half cents an hour,
and the unions wished to make this the general wage for the next
year. It was not nearly so large a wage as it seemed--in the
course of the negotiations the union officers examined time
checks to the amount of ten thousand dollars, and they found that
the highest wages paid had been fourteen dollars a week, and the
lowest two dollars and five cents, and the average of the whole,
six dollars and sixty-five cents. And six dollars and sixty-five
cents was hardly too much for a man to keep a family on,
considering the fact that the price of dressed meat had increased
nearly fifty per cent in the last five years, while the price of
"beef on the hoof" had decreased as much, it would have seemed
that the packers ought to be able to pay it; but the packers were
unwilling to pay it--they rejected the union demand, and to show
what their purpose was, a week or two after the agreement expired
they put down the wages of about a thousand men to sixteen and a
half cents, and it was said that old man Jones had vowed he would
put them to fifteen before he got through. There were a million
and a half of men in the country looking for work, a hundred
thousand of them right in Chicago; and were the packers to let
the union stewards march into their places and bind them to a
contract that would lose them several thousand dollars a day for
a year? Not much!
All this was in June; and before long the question was submitted
to a referendum in the unions, and the decision was for a strike.
It was the same in all the packing house cities; and suddenly the
newspapers and public woke up to face the gruesome spectacle of a
meat famine. All sorts of pleas for a reconsideration were made,
but the packers were obdurate; and all the while they were
reducing wages, and heading off shipments of cattle, and rushing
in wagonloads of mattresses and cots. So the men boiled over,
and one night telegrams went out from the union headquarters to
all the big packing centers--to St. Paul, South Omaha, Sioux
City, St. Joseph, Kansas City, East St. Louis, and New
York--and the next day at noon between fifty and sixty thousand
men drew off their working clothes and marched out of the
factories, and the great "Beef Strike" was on.
Jurgis went to his dinner, and afterward he walked over to see
Mike Scully, who lived in a fine house, upon a street which had
been decently paved and lighted for his especial benefit. Scully
had gone into semiretirement, and looked nervous and worried.
"What do you want?" he demanded, when he saw Jurgis.
"I came to see if maybe you could get me a place during the
strike," the other replied.
And Scully knit his brows and eyed him narrowly. In that
morning's papers Jurgis had read a fierce denunciation of the
packers by Scully, who had declared that if they did not treat
their people better the city authorities would end the matter by
tearing down their plants. Now, therefore, Jurgis was not a
little taken aback when the other demanded suddenly, "See here,
Rudkus, why don't you stick by your job?"
Jurgis started. "Work as a scab?" he cried.
"Why not?" demanded Scully. "What's that to you?"
"But--but--" stammered Jurgis. He had somehow taken it for
granted that he should go out with his union. "The packers need
good men, and need them bad," continued the other, "and they'll
treat a man right that stands by them. Why don't you take your
chance and fix yourself?"
"But," said Jurgis, "how could I ever be of any use to you--in
"You couldn't be it anyhow," said Scully, abruptly.
"Why not?" asked Jurgis.
"Hell, man!" cried the other. "Don't you know you're a
Republican? And do you think I'm always going to elect
Republicans? My brewer has found out already how we served him,
and there is the deuce to pay."
Jurgis looked dumfounded. He had never thought of that aspect of
it before. "I could be a Democrat," he said.
"Yes," responded the other, "but not right away; a man can't
change his politics every day. And besides, I don't need
you--there'd be nothing for you to do. And it's a long time to
election day, anyhow; and what are you going to do meantime?"
"I thought I could count on you," began Jurgis.
"Yes," responded Scully, "so you could--I never yet went back on
a friend. But is it fair to leave the job I got you and come to
me for another? I have had a hundred fellows after me today,
and what can I do? I've put seventeen men on the city payroll to
clean streets this one week, and do you think I can keep that up
forever? It wouldn't do for me to tell other men what I tell
you, but you've been on the inside, and you ought to have sense
enough to see for yourself. What have you to gain by a strike?"
"I hadn't thought," said Jurgis.
"Exactly," said Scully, "but you'd better. Take my word for it,
the strike will be over in a few days, and the men will be
beaten; and meantime what you can get out of it will belong to
you. Do you see?"
And Jurgis saw. He went back to the yards, and into the
workroom. The men had left a long line of hogs in various stages
of preparation, and the foreman was directing the feeble efforts
of a score or two of clerks and stenographers and office boys to
finish up the job and get them into the chilling rooms. Jurgis
went straight up to him and announced, "I have come back to work,
Mr. Murphy."
The boss's face lighted up. "Good man!" he cried. "Come ahead!"
"Just a moment," said Jurgis, checking his enthusiasm. "I think
I ought to get a little more wages."
"Yes," replied the other, "of course. What do you want?"
Jurgis had debated on the way. His nerve almost failed him now,
but he clenched his hands. "I think I ought to have' three
dollars a day," he said.
"All right," said the other, promptly; and before the day was out
our friend discovered that the clerks and stenographers and
office boys were getting five dollars a day, and then he could
have kicked himself!
So Jurgis became one of the new "American heroes," a man whose
virtues merited comparison with those of the martyrs of Lexington
and Valley Forge. The resemblance was not complete, of course,
for Jurgis was generously paid and comfortably clad, and was
provided with a spring cot and a mattress and three substantial
meals a day; also he was perfectly at ease, and safe from all
peril of life and limb, save only in the case that a desire for
beer should lead him to venture outside of the stockyards gates.
And even in the exercise of this privilege he was not left
unprotected; a good part of the inadequate police force of
Chicago was suddenly diverted from its work of hunting criminals,
and rushed out to serve him. The police, and the strikers also,
were determined that there should be no violence; but there was
another party interested which was minded to the contrary--and
that was the press. On the first day of his life as a
strikebreaker Jurgis quit work early, and in a spirit of bravado
he challenged three men of his acquaintance to go outside and get
a drink. They accepted, and went through the big Halsted Street
gate, where several policemen were watching, and also some union
pickets, scanning sharply those who passed in and out. Jurgis
and his companions went south on Halsted Street; past the hotel,
and then suddenly half a dozen men started across the street
toward them and proceeded to argue with them concerning the error
of their ways. As the arguments were not taken in the proper
spirit, they went on to threats; and suddenly one of them jerked
off the hat of one of the four and flung it over the fence. The
man started after it, and then, as a cry of "Scab!" was raised
and a dozen people came running out of saloons and doorways,
a second man's heart failed him and he followed. Jurgis and the
fourth stayed long enough to give themselves the satisfaction of
a quick exchange of blows, and then they, too, took to their
heels and fled back of the hotel and into the yards again.
Meantime, of course, policemen were coming on a run, and as a
crowd gathered other police got excited and sent in a riot call.
Jurgis knew nothing of this, but went back to "Packers' Avenue,"
and in front of the "Central Time Station" he saw one of his
companions, breathless and wild with excitement, narrating to an
ever growing throng how the four had been attacked and surrounded
by a howling mob, and had been nearly torn to pieces. While he
stood listening, smiling cynically, several dapper young men
stood by with notebooks in their hands, and it was not more than
two hours later that Jurgis saw newsboys running about with
armfuls of newspapers, printed in red and black letters six
inches high:
If he had been able to buy all of the newspapers of the United
States the next morning, he might have discovered that his
beer-hunting exploit was being perused by some two score millions
of people, and had served as a text for editorials in half the
staid and solemn businessmen's newspapers in the land.
Jurgis was to see more of this as time passed. For the present,
his work being over, he was free to ride into the city, by a
railroad direct from the yards, or else to spend the night in a
room where cots had been laid in rows. He chose the latter,
but to his regret, for all night long gangs of strikebreakers kept
arriving. As very few of the better class of workingmen could be
got for such work, these specimens of the new American hero
contained an assortment of the criminals and thugs of the city,
besides Negroes and the lowest foreigners-Greeks, Roumanians,
Sicilians, and Slovaks. They had been attracted more by the
prospect of disorder than, by the big wages; and they made the
night hideous with singing and carousing, and only went to sleep
when the time came for them to get up to work.
In the morning before Jurgis had finished his breakfast, "Pat"
Murphy ordered him to one of the superintendents, who questioned
him as to his experience in the work of the killing room. His
heart began to thump with excitement, for he divined instantly
that his hour had come--that he was to be a boss!
Some of the foremen were union members, and many who were not had
gone out with the men. It was in the killing department that the
packers had been left most in the lurch, and precisely here that
they could least afford it; the smoking and canning and salting
of meat might wait, and all the by-products might be wasted--but
fresh meats must be had, or the restaurants and hotels and
brownstone houses would feel the pinch, and then "public opinion"
would take a startling turn.
An opportunity such as this would not come twice to a man; and
Jurgis seized it. Yes, he knew the work, the whole of it, and he
could teach it to others. But if he took the job and gave
satisfaction he would expect to keep it--they would not turn him
off at the end of the strike? To which the superintendent
replied that he might safely trust Durham's for that--they
proposed to teach these unions a lesson, and most of all those
foremen who had gone back on them. Jurgis would receive five
dollars a day during the strike, and twenty-five a week after it
was settled.
So our friend got a pair of "slaughter pen" boots and "jeans,"
and flung himself at his task. It was a weird sight, there on
the killing beds--a throng of stupid black Negroes, and
foreigners who could not understand a word that was said to them,
mixed with pale-faced, hollow-chested bookkeepers and clerks,
half-fainting for the tropical heat and the sickening stench of
fresh blood--and all struggling to dress a dozen or two cattle in
the same place where, twenty-four hours ago, the old killing gang
had been speeding, with their marvelous precision, turning out
four hundred carcasses every hour!
The Negroes and the "toughs" from the Levee did not want to work,
and every few minutes some of them would feel obliged to retire
and recuperate. In a couple of days Durham and Company had
electric fans up to cool off the rooms for them, and even couches
for them to rest on; and meantime they could go out and find a
shady corner and take a "snooze," and as there was no place for
any one in particular, and no system, it might be hours before
their boss discovered them. As for the poor office employees,
they did their best, moved to it by terror; thirty of them had
been "fired" in a bunch that first morning for refusing to serve,
besides a number of women clerks and typewriters who had declined
to act as waitresses.
It was such a force as this that Jurgis had to organize. He did
his best, flying here and there, placing them in rows and showing
them the tricks; he had never given an order in his life before,
but he had taken enough of them to know, and he soon fell into
the spirit of it, and roared and stormed like any old stager.
He had not the most tractable pupils, however. "See hyar, boss,"
a big black "buck" would begin, "ef you doan' like de way Ah does
dis job, you kin get somebody else to do it." Then a crowd would
gather and listen, muttering threats. After the first meal
nearly all the steel knives had been missing, and now every Negro
had one, ground to a fine point, hidden in his boots.
There was no bringing order out of such a chaos, Jurgis soon
discovered; and he fell in with the spirit of the thing--there
was no reason why he should wear himself out with shouting. If
hides and guts were slashed and rendered useless there was no way
of tracing it to any one; and if a man lay off and forgot to come
back there was nothing to be gained by seeking him, for all the
rest would quit in the meantime. Everything went, during the
strike, and the packers paid. Before long Jurgis found that the
custom of resting had suggested to some alert minds the
possibility of registering at more than one place and earning
more than one five dollars a day. When he caught a man at this
he "fired" him, but it chanced to be in a quiet corner, and the
man tendered him a ten-dollar bill and a wink, and he took them.
Of course, before long this custom spread, and Jurgis was soon
making quite a good income from it.
In the face of handicaps such as these the packers counted
themselves lucky if they could kill off the cattle that had been
crippled in transit and the hogs that had developed disease.
Frequently, in the course of a two or three days' trip, in hot
weather and without water, some hog would develop cholera, and
die; and the rest would attack him before he had ceased kicking,
and when the car was opened there would be nothing of him left
but the bones. If all the hogs in this carload were not killed
at once, they would soon be down with the dread disease, and
there would be nothing to do but make them into lard. It was the
same with cattle that were gored and dying, or were limping with
broken bones stuck through their flesh--they must be killed, even
if brokers and buyers and superintendents had to take off their
coats and help drive and cut and skin them. And meantime, agents
of the packers were gathering gangs of Negroes in the country
districts of the far South, promising them five dollars a day and
board, and being careful not to mention there was a strike;
already carloads of them were on the way, with special rates from
the railroads, and all traffic ordered out of the way. Many
towns and cities were taking advantage of the chance to clear out
their jails and workhouses--in Detroit the magistrates would
release every man who agreed to leave town within twenty-four
hours, and agents of the packers were in the courtrooms to ship
them right. And meantime trainloads of supplies were coming in
for their accommodation, including beer and whisky, so that they
might not be tempted to go outside. They hired thirty young
girls in Cincinnati to "pack fruit," and when they arrived put
them at work canning corned beef, and put cots for them to sleep
in a public hallway, through which the men passed. As the gangs
came in day and night, under the escort of squads of police,
they stowed away in unused workrooms and storerooms, and in the car
sheds, crowded so closely together that the cots touched. In
some places they would use the same room for eating and sleeping,
and at night the men would put their cots upon the tables, to
keep away from the swarms of rats.
But with all their best efforts, the packers were demoralized.
Ninety per cent of the men had walked out; and they faced the
task of completely remaking their labor force--and with the price
of meat up thirty per cent, and the public clamoring for a
settlement. They made an offer to submit the whole question at
issue to arbitration; and at the end of ten days the unions
accepted it, and the strike was called off. It was agreed that
all the men were to be re-employed within forty-five days, and
that there was to be "no discrimination against union men."
This was an anxious time for Jurgis. If the men were taken back
"without discrimination," he would lose his present place. He
sought out the superintendent, who smiled grimly and bade him
"wait and see." Durham's strikebreakers were few of them leaving.
Whether or not the "settlement" was simply a trick of the packers
to gain time, or whether they really expected to break the strike
and cripple the unions by the plan, cannot be said; but that
night there went out from the office of Durham and Company a
telegram to all the big packing centers, "Employ no union
leaders." And in the morning, when the twenty thousand men
thronged into the yards, with their dinner pails and working
clothes, Jurgis stood near the door of the hog-trimming room,
where he had worked before the strike, and saw a throng of eager
men, with a score or two of policemen watching them; and he saw a
superintendent come out and walk down the line, and pick out man
after man that pleased him; and one after another came, and there
were some men up near the head of the line who were never
picked--they being the union stewards and delegates, and the men
Jurgis had heard making speeches at the meetings. Each time, of
course, there were louder murmurings and angrier looks. Over
where the cattle butchers were waiting, Jurgis heard shouts and
saw a crowd, and he hurried there. One big butcher, who was
president of the Packing Trades Council, had been passed over
five times, and the men were wild with rage; they had appointed a
committee of three to go in and see the superintendent, and the
committee had made three attempts, and each time the police had
clubbed them back from the door. Then there were yells and
hoots, continuing until at last the superintendent came to the
door. "We all go back or none of us do!" cried a hundred voices.
And the other shook his fist at them, and shouted, "You went out
of here like cattle, and like cattle you'll come back!"
Then suddenly the big butcher president leaped upon a pile of
stones and yelled: "It's off, boys. We'll all of us quit again!"
And so the cattle butchers declared a new strike on the spot;
and gathering their members from the other plants, where the same
trick had been played, they marched down Packers' Avenue, which
was thronged with a dense mass of workers, cheering wildly. Men
who had already got to work on the killing beds dropped their
tools and joined them; some galloped here and there on horseback,
shouting the tidings, and within half an hour the whole of
Packingtown was on strike again, and beside itself with fury.
There was quite a different tone in Packingtown after this--the
place was a seething caldron of passion, and the "scab" who
ventured into it fared badly. There were one or two of these
incidents each day, the newspapers detailing them, and always
blaming them upon the unions. Yet ten years before, when there
were no unions in Packingtown, there was a strike, and national
troops had to be called, and there were pitched battles fought at
night, by the light of blazing freight trains. Packingtown was
always a center of violence; in "Whisky Point," where there were
a hundred saloons and one glue factory, there was always
fighting, and always more of it in hot weather. Any one who had
taken the trouble to consult the station house blotter would have
found that there was less violence that summer than ever
before--and this while twenty thousand men were out of work,
and with nothing to do all day but brood upon bitter wrongs.
There was no one to picture the battle the union leaders were
fighting--to hold this huge army in rank, to keep it from
straggling and pillaging, to cheer and encourage and guide a
hundred thousand people, of a dozen different tongues, through
six long weeks of hunger and disappointment and despair.
Meantime the packers had set themselves definitely to the task of
making a new labor force. A thousand or two of strikebreakers
were brought in every night, and distributed among the various
plants. Some of them were experienced workers,--butchers,
salesmen, and managers from the packers' branch stores, and a few
union men who had deserted from other cities; but the vast
majority were "green" Negroes from the cotton districts of the
far South, and they were herded into the packing plants like
sheep. There was a law forbidding the use of buildings as
lodginghouses unless they were licensed for the purpose,
and provided with proper windows, stairways, and fire escapes;
but here, in a "paint room," reached only by an enclosed "chute,"
a room without a single window and only one door, a hundred men
were crowded upon mattresses on the floor. Up on the third story
of the "hog house" of Jones's was a storeroom, without a window,
into which they crowded seven hundred men, sleeping upon the bare
springs of cots, and with a second shift to use them by day. And
when the clamor of the public led to an investigation into these
conditions, and the mayor of the city was forced to order the
enforcement of the law, the packers got a judge to issue an
injunction forbidding him to do it!
Just at this time the mayor was boasting that he had put an end
to gambling and prize fighting in the city; but here a swarm of
professional gamblers had leagued themselves with the police to
fleece the strikebreakers; and any night, in the big open space
in front of Brown's, one might see brawny Negroes stripped to the
waist and pounding each other for money, while a howling throng
of three or four thousand surged about, men and women, young
white girls from the country rubbing elbows with big buck Negroes
with daggers in their boots, while rows of woolly heads peered
down from every window of the surrounding factories. The
ancestors of these black people had been savages in Africa; and
since then they had been chattel slaves, or had been held down by
a community ruled by the traditions of slavery. Now for the
first time they were free--free to gratify every passion, free to
wreck themselves. They were wanted to break a strike, and when
it was broken they would be shipped away, and their present
masters would never see them again; and so whisky and women were
brought in by the carload and sold to them, and hell was let
loose in the yards. Every night there were stabbings and
shootings; it was said that the packers had blank permits, which
enabled them to ship dead bodies from the city without troubling
the authorities. They lodged men and women on the same floor;
and with the night there began a saturnalia of debauchery--scenes
such as never before had been witnessed in America. And as the
women were the dregs from the brothels of Chicago, and the men
were for the most part ignorant country Negroes, the nameless
diseases of vice were soon rife; and this where food was being
handled which was sent out to every corner of the civilized
The "Union Stockyards" were never a pleasant place; but now they
were not only a collection of slaughterhouses, but also the
camping place of an army of fifteen or twenty thousand human
beasts. All day long the blazing midsummer sun beat down upon
that square mile of abominations: upon tens of thousands of
cattle crowded into pens whose wooden floors stank and steamed
contagion; upon bare, blistering, cinder-strewn railroad tracks,
and huge blocks of dingy meat factories, whose labyrinthine
passages defied a breath of fresh air to penetrate them; and
there were not merely rivers of hot blood, and car-loads of moist
flesh, and rendering vats and soap caldrons, glue factories and
fertilizer tanks, that smelt like the craters of hell--there were
also tons of garbage festering in the sun, and the greasy laundry
of the workers hung out to dry, and dining rooms littered with
food and black with flies, and toilet rooms that were open sewers.
And then at night, when this throng poured out into the streets
to play--fighting, gambling, drinking and carousing, cursing and
screaming, laughing and singing, playing banjoes and dancing!
They were worked in the yards all the seven days of the week, and
they had their prize fights and crap games on Sunday nights as
well; but then around the corner one might see a bonfire blazing,
and an old, gray-headed Negress, lean and witchlike, her hair
flying wild and her eyes blazing, yelling and chanting of the
fires of perdition and the blood of the "Lamb," while men and
women lay down upon the ground and moaned and screamed in
convulsions of terror and remorse.
Such were the stockyards during the strike; while the unions
watched in sullen despair, and the country clamored like a greedy
child for its food, and the packers went grimly on their way.
Each day they added new workers, and could be more stern with the
old ones--could put them on piecework, and dismiss them if they
did not keep up the pace. Jurgis was now one of their agents in
this process; and he could feel the change day by day, like the
slow starting up of a huge machine. He had gotten used to being
a master of men; and because of the stifling heat and the stench,
and the fact that he was a "scab" and knew it and despised
himself. He was drinking, and developing a villainous temper,
and he stormed and cursed and raged at his men, and drove them
until they were ready to drop with exhaustion.
Then one day late in August, a superintendent ran into the place
and shouted to Jurgis and his gang to drop their work and come.
They followed him outside, to where, in the midst of a dense
throng, they saw several two-horse trucks waiting, and three
patrol-wagon loads of police. Jurgis and his men sprang upon one
of the trucks, and the driver yelled to the crowd, and they went
thundering away at a gallop. Some steers had just escaped from
the yards, and the strikers had got hold of them, and there would
be the chance of a scrap!
They went out at the Ashland Avenue gate, and over in the
direction of the "dump." There was a yell as soon as they were
sighted, men and women rushing out of houses and saloons as they
galloped by. There were eight or ten policemen on the truck,
however, and there was no disturbance until they came to a place
where the street was blocked with a dense throng. Those on the
flying truck yelled a warning and the crowd scattered pell-mell,
disclosing one of the steers lying in its blood. There were a
good many cattle butchers about just then, with nothing much to
do, and hungry children at home; and so some one had knocked out
the steer--and as a first-class man can kill and dress one in a
couple of minutes, there were a good many steaks and roasts
already missing. This called for punishment, of course; and the
police proceeded to administer it by leaping from the truck and
cracking at every head they saw. There were yells of rage and
pain, and the terrified people fled into houses and stores,
or scattered helter-skelter down the street. Jurgis and his gang
joined in the sport, every man singling out his victim, and
striving to bring him to bay and punch him. If he fled into a
house his pursuer would smash in the flimsy door and follow him
up the stairs, hitting every one who came within reach, and
finally dragging his squealing quarry from under a bed or a pile
of old clothes in a closet.
Jurgis and two policemen chased some men into a bar-room. One of
them took shelter behind the bar, where a policeman cornered him
and proceeded to whack him over the back and shoulders, until he
lay down and gave a chance at his head. The others leaped a
fence in the rear, balking the second policeman, who was fat;
and as he came back, furious and cursing, a big Polish woman,
the owner of the saloon, rushed in screaming, and received a poke in
the stomach that doubled her up on the floor. Meantime Jurgis,
who was of a practical temper, was helping himself at the bar;
and the first policeman, who had laid out his man, joined him,
handing out several more bottles, and filling his pockets
besides, and then, as he started to leave, cleaning off all the
balance with a sweep of his club. The din of the glass crashing
to the floor brought the fat Polish woman to her feet again,
but another policeman came up behind her and put his knee into
her back and his hands over her eyes--and then called to his
companion, who went back and broke open the cash drawer and
filled his pockets with the contents. Then the three went
outside, and the man who was holding the woman gave her a shove
and dashed out himself. The gang having already got the carcass
on to the truck, the party set out at a trot, followed by screams
and curses, and a shower of bricks and stones from unseen
enemies. These bricks and stones would figure in the accounts of
the "riot" which would be sent out to a few thousand newspapers
within an hour or two; but the episode of the cash drawer would
never be mentioned again, save only in the heartbreaking legends
of Packingtown.
It was late in the afternoon when they got back, and they dressed
out the remainder of the steer, and a couple of others that had
been killed, and then knocked off for the day. Jurgis went
downtown to supper, with three friends who had been on the other
trucks, and they exchanged reminiscences on the way. Afterward
they drifted into a roulette parlor, and Jurgis, who was never
lucky at gambling, dropped about fifteen dollars. To console
himself he had to drink a good deal, and he went back to
Packingtown about two o'clock in the morning, very much the worse
for his excursion, and, it must be confessed, entirely deserving
the calamity that was in store for him.
As he was going to the place where he slept, he met a paintedcheeked
woman in a greasy "kimono," and she put her arm about his
waist to steady him; they turned into a dark room they were
passing--but scarcely had they taken two steps before suddenly a
door swung open, and a man entered, carrying a lantern. "Who's
there?" he called sharply. And Jurgis started to mutter some
reply; but at the same instant the man raised his light, which
flashed in his face, so that it was possible to recognize him.
Jurgis stood stricken dumb, and his heart gave a leap like a mad
thing. The man was Connor!
Connor, the boss of the loading gang! The man who had seduced
his wife--who had sent him to prison, and wrecked his home,
ruined his life! He stood there, staring, with the light shining
full upon him.
Jurgis had often thought of Connor since coming back to
Packingtown, but it had been as of something far off, that no
longer concerned him. Now, however, when he saw him, alive and
in the flesh, the same thing happened to him that had happened
before--a flood of rage boiled up in him, a blind frenzy seized
him. And he flung himself at the man, and smote him between the
eyes--and then, as he fell, seized him by the throat and began to
pound his head upon the stones.
The woman began screaming, and people came rushing in. The
lantern had been upset and extinguished, and it was so dark they
could not see a thing; but they could hear Jurgis panting, and
hear the thumping of his victim's skull, and they rushed there
and tried to pull him off. Precisely as before, Jurgis came away
with a piece of his enemy's flesh between his teeth; and,
as before, he went on fighting with those who had interfered with
him, until a policeman had come and beaten him into
And so Jurgis spent the balance of the night in the stockyards
station house. This time, however, he had money in his pocket,
and when he came to his senses he could get something to drink,
and also a messenger to take word of his plight to "Bush" Harper.
Harper did not appear, however, until after the prisoner, feeling
very weak and ill, had been hailed into court and remanded at
five hundred dollars' bail to await the result of his victim's
injuries. Jurgis was wild about this, because a different
magistrate had chanced to be on the bench, and he had stated that
he had never been arrested before, and also that he had been
attacked first--and if only someone had been there to speak a
good word for him, he could have been let off at once.
But Harper explained that he had been downtown, and had not got
the message. "What's happened to you?" he asked.
"I've been doing a fellow up," said Jurgis, "and I've got to get
five hundred dollars' bail."
"I can arrange that all right," said the other--"though it may
cost you a few dollars, of course. But what was the trouble?"
"It was a man that did me a mean trick once," answered Jurgis.
"Who is he?"
"He's a foreman in Brown's or used to be. His name's Connor."
And the other gave a start. "Connor!" he cried. "Not Phil
"Yes," said Jurgis, "that's the fellow. Why?"
"Good God!" exclaimed the other, ''then you're in for it, old
man! I can't help you!"
"Not help me! Why not?"
"Why, he's one of Scully's biggest men--he's a member of the
War-Whoop League, and they talked of sending him to the
legislature! Phil Connor! Great heavens!"
Jurgis sat dumb with dismay.
"Why, he can send you to Joliet, if he wants to!" declared the
"Can't I have Scully get me off before he finds out about it?"
asked Jurgis, at length.
"But Scully's out of town," the other answered. "I don't even
know where he is--he's run away to dodge the strike."
That was a pretty mess, indeed. Poor Jurgis sat half-dazed. His
pull had run up against a bigger pull, and he was down and out!
"But what am I going to do?'' he asked, weakly.
"How should I know?" said the other. "I shouldn't even dare to
get bail for you--why, I might ruin myself for life!"
Again there was silence. "Can't you do it for me," Jurgis asked,
"and pretend that you didn't know who I'd hit?"
"But what good would that do you when you came to stand trial?"
asked Harper. Then he sat buried in thought for a minute or two.
"There's nothing--unless it's this," he said. "I could have your
bail reduced; and then if you had the money you could pay it and
"How much will it be?" Jurgis asked, after he had had this
explained more in detail.
"I don't know," said the other. "How much do you own?"
"I've got about three hundred dollars," was the answer.
"Well," was Harper's reply, "I'm not sure, but I'll try and get
you off for that. I'll take the risk for friendship's sake--for
I'd hate to see you sent to state's prison for a year or two."
And so finally Jurgis ripped out his bankbook--which was sewed up
in his trousers--and signed an order, which "Bush" Harper wrote,
for all the money to be paid out. Then the latter went and got
it, and hurried to the court, and explained to the magistrate
that Jurgis was a decent fellow and a friend of Scully's, who had
been attacked by a strike-breaker. So the bail was reduced to
three hundred dollars, and Harper went on it himself; he did not
tell this to Jurgis, however--nor did he tell him that when the
time for trial came it would be an easy matter for him to avoid
the forfeiting of the bail, and pocket the three hundred dollars
as his reward for the risk of offending Mike Scully! All that he
told Jurgis was that he was now free, and that the best thing he
could do was to clear out as quickly as possible; and so Jurgis
overwhelmed with gratitude and relief, took the dollar and
fourteen cents that was left him out of all his bank account,
and put it with the two dollars and quarter that was left from his
last night's celebration, and boarded a streetcar and got off at
the other end of Chicago.
Chapter 27
Poor Jurgis was now an outcast and a tramp once more. He was
crippled--he was as literally crippled as any wild animal which
has lost its claws, or been torn out of its shell. He had been
shorn, at one cut, of all those mysterious weapons whereby he had
been able to make a living easily and to escape the consequences
of his actions. He could no longer command a job when he wanted
it; he could no longer steal with impunity--he must take his
chances with the common herd. Nay worse, he dared not mingle
with the herd--he must hide himself, for he was one marked out
for destruction. His old companions would betray him, for the
sake of the influence they would gain thereby; and he would be
made to suffer, not merely for the offense he had committed,
but for others which would be laid at his door, just as had been
done for some poor devil on the occasion of that assault upon the
"country customer" by him and Duane.
And also he labored under another handicap now. He had acquired
new standards of living, which were not easily to be altered.
When he had been out of work before, he had been content if he
could sleep in a doorway or under a truck out of the rain, and if
he could get fifteen cents a day for saloon lunches. But now he
desired all sorts of other things, and suffered because he had to
do without them. He must have a drink now and then, a drink for
its own sake, and apart from the food that came with it. The
craving for it was strong enough to master every other
consideration--he would have it, though it were his last nickel
and he had to starve the balance of the day in consequence.
Jurgis became once more a besieger of factory gates. But never
since he had been in Chicago had he stood less chance of getting
a job than just then. For one thing, there was the economic
crisis, the million or two of men who had been out of work in the
spring and summer, and were not yet all back, by any means. And
then there was the strike, with seventy thousand men and women
all over the country idle for a couple of months--twenty thousand
in Chicago, and many of them now seeking work throughout the
city. It did not remedy matters that a few days later the strike
was given up and about half the strikers went back to work;
for every one taken on, there was a "scab" who gave up and fled.
The ten or fifteen thousand "green" Negroes, foreigners, and
criminals were now being turned loose to shift for themselves.
Everywhere Jurgis went he kept meeting them, and he was in an
agony of fear lest some one of them should know that he was
"wanted." He would have left Chicago, only by the time he had
realized his danger he was almost penniless; and it would be
better to go to jail than to be caught out in the country in the
winter time.
At the end of about ten days Jurgis had only a few pennies left;
and he had not yet found a job--not even a day's work at
anything, not a chance to carry a satchel. Once again, as when
he had come out of the hospital, he was bound hand and foot, and
facing the grisly phantom of starvation. Raw, naked terror
possessed him, a maddening passion that would never leave him,
and that wore him down more quickly than the actual want of food.
He was going to die of hunger! The fiend reached out its scaly
arms for him--it touched him, its breath came into his face; and
he would cry out for the awfulness of it, he would wake up in the
night, shuddering, and bathed in perspiration, and start up and
flee. He would walk, begging for work, until he was exhausted;
he could not remain still--he would wander on, gaunt and haggard,
gazing about him with restless eyes. Everywhere he went, from
one end of the vast city to the other, there were hundreds of
others like him; everywhere was the sight of plenty and the
merciless hand of authority waving them away. There is one kind
of prison where the man is behind bars, and everything that he
desires is outside; and there is another kind where the things
are behind the bars, and the man is outside.
When he was down to his last quarter, Jurgis learned that before
the bakeshops closed at night they sold out what was left at half
price, and after that he would go and get two loaves of stale
bread for a nickel, and break them up and stuff his pockets with
them, munching a bit from time to time. He would not spend a
penny save for this; and, after two or three days more, he even
became sparing of the bread, and would stop and peer into the ash
barrels as he walked along the streets, and now and then rake out
a bit of something, shake it free from dust, and count himself
just so many minutes further from the end.
So for several days he had been going about, ravenous all the
time, and growing weaker and weaker, and then one morning he had
a hideous experience, that almost broke his heart. He was
passing down a street lined with warehouses, and a boss offered
him a job, and then, after he had started to work, turned him off
because he was not strong enough. And he stood by and saw
another man put into his place, and then picked up his coat, and
walked off, doing all that he could to keep from breaking down
and crying like a baby. He was lost! He was doomed! There was
no hope for him! But then, with a sudden rush, his fear gave
place to rage. He fell to cursing. He would come back there
after dark, and he would show that scoundrel whether he was good
for anything or not!
He was still muttering this when suddenly, at the corner, he came
upon a green-grocery, with a tray full of cabbages in front of
it. Jurgis, after one swift glance about him, stooped and seized
the biggest of them, and darted round the corner with it. There
was a hue and cry, and a score of men and boys started in chase
of him; but he came to an alley, and then to another branching
off from it and leading him into another street, where he fell
into a walk, and slipped his cabbage under his coat and went off
unsuspected in the crowd. When he had gotten a safe distance
away he sat down and devoured half the cabbage raw, stowing the
balance away in his pockets till the next day.
Just about this time one of the Chicago newspapers, which made
much of the "common people," opened a "free-soup kitchen" for the
benefit of the unemployed. Some people said that they did this
for the sake of the advertising it gave them, and some others
said that their motive was a fear lest all their readers should
be starved off; but whatever the reason, the soup was thick and
hot, and there was a bowl for every man, all night long. When
Jurgis heard of this, from a fellow "hobo," he vowed that he
would have half a dozen bowls before morning; but, as it proved,
he was lucky to get one, for there was a line of men two blocks
long before the stand, and there was just as long a line when the
place was finally closed up.
This depot was within the danger line for Jurgis--in the "Levee"
district, where he was known; but he went there, all the same,
for he was desperate, and beginning to think of even the
Bridewell as a place of refuge. So far the weather had been
fair, and he had slept out every night in a vacant lot; but now
there fell suddenly a shadow of the advancing winter, a chill
wind from the north and a driving storm of rain. That day Jurgis
bought two drinks for the sake of the shelter, and at night he
spent his last two pennies in a "stale-beer dive." This was a
place kept by a Negro, who went out and drew off the old dregs of
beer that lay in barrels set outside of the saloons; and after he
had doctored it with chemicals to make it "fizz," he sold it for
two cents a can, the purchase of a can including the privilege of
sleeping the night through upon the floor, with a mass of
degraded outcasts, men and women.
All these horrors afflicted Jurgis all the more cruelly, because
he was always contrasting them with the opportunities he had
lost. For instance, just now it was election time again--within
five or six weeks the voters of the country would select a
President; and he heard the wretches with whom he associated
discussing it, and saw the streets of the city decorated with
placards and banners--and what words could describe the pangs of
grief and despair that shot through him?
For instance, there was a night during this cold spell. He had
begged all day, for his very life, and found not a soul to heed
him, until toward evening he saw an old lady getting off a
streetcar and helped her down with her umbrellas and bundles and
then told her his "hard-luck story," and after answering all her
suspicious questions satisfactorily, was taken to a restaurant
and saw a quarter paid down for a meal. And so he had soup and
bread, and boiled beef and potatoes and beans, and pie and
coffee, and came out with his skin stuffed tight as a football.
And then, through the rain and the darkness, far down the street
he saw red lights flaring and heard the thumping of a bass drum;
and his heart gave a leap, and he made for the place on the
run--knowing without the asking that it meant a political
The campaign had so far been characterized by what the newspapers
termed "apathy." For some reason the people refused to get
excited over the struggle, and it was almost impossible to get
them to come to meetings, or to make any noise when they did
come. Those which had been held in Chicago so far had proven
most dismal failures, and tonight, the speaker being no less a
personage than a candidate for the vice-presidency of the nation,
the political managers had been trembling with anxiety. But a
merciful providence had sent this storm of cold rain--and now all
it was necessary to do was to set off a few fireworks, and thump
awhile on a drum, and all the homeless wretches from a mile
around would pour in and fill the hall! And then on the morrow
the newspapers would have a chance to report the tremendous
ovation, and to add that it had been no "silk-stocking" audience,
either, proving clearly that the high tariff sentiments of the
distinguished candidate were pleasing to the wage-earners of the
So Jurgis found himself in a large hall, elaborately decorated
with flags and bunting; and after the chairman had made his
little speech, and the orator of the evening rose up, amid an
uproar from the band--only fancy the emotions of Jurgis upon
making the discovery that the personage was none other than the
famous and eloquent Senator Spareshanks, who had addressed the
"Doyle Republican Association" at the stockyards, and helped to
elect Mike Scully's tenpin setter to the Chicago Board of
In truth, the sight of the senator almost brought the tears into
Jurgis's eyes. What agony it was to him to look back upon those
golden hours, when he, too, had a place beneath the shadow of the
plum tree! When he, too, had been of the elect, through whom the
country is governed--when he had had a bung in the campaign
barrel for his own! And this was another election in which the
Republicans had all the money; and but for that one hideous
accident he might have had a share of it, instead of being where
he was!
The eloquent senator was explaining the system of protection; an
ingenious device whereby the workingman permitted the
manufacturer to charge him higher prices, in order that he might
receive higher wages; thus taking his money out of his pocket
with one hand, and putting a part of it back with the other.
To the senator this unique arrangement had somehow become identified
with the higher verities of the universe. It was because of it
that Columbia was the gem of the ocean; and all her future
triumphs, her power and good repute among the nations, depended
upon the zeal and fidelity with which each citizen held up the
hands of those who were toiling to maintain it. The name of this
heroic company was "the Grand Old Party"--
And here the band began to play, and Jurgis sat up with a violent
start. Singular as it may seem, Jurgis was making a desperate
effort to understand what the senator was saying--to comprehend
the extent of American prosperity, the enormous expansion of
American commerce, and the Republic's future in the Pacific and
in South America, and wherever else the oppressed were groaning.
The reason for it was that he wanted to keep awake. He knew that
if he allowed himself to fall asleep he would begin to snore
loudly; and so he must listen--he must be interested! But he had
eaten such a big dinner, and he was so exhausted, and the hall
was so warm, and his seat was so comfortable! The senator's
gaunt form began to grow dim and hazy, to tower before him and
dance about, with figures of exports and imports. Once his
neighbor gave him a savage poke in the ribs, and he sat up with a
start and tried to look innocent; but then he was at it again,
and men began to stare at him with annoyance, and to call out in
vexation. Finally one of them called a policeman, who came and
grabbed Jurgis by the collar, and jerked him to his feet,
bewildered and terrified. Some of the audience turned to see the
commotion, and Senator Spareshanks faltered in his speech; but a
voice shouted cheerily: "We're just firing a bum! Go ahead, old
sport!" And so the crowd roared, and the senator smiled genially,
and went on; and in a few seconds poor Jurgis found himself
landed out in the rain, with a kick and a string of curses.
He got into the shelter of a doorway and took stock of himself.
He was not hurt, and he was not arrested--more than he had any
right to expect. He swore at himself and his luck for a while,
and then turned his thoughts to practical matters. He had no
money, and no place to sleep; he must begin begging again.
He went out, hunching his shoulders together and shivering at the
touch of the icy rain. Coming down the street toward him was a
lady, well dressed, and protected by an umbrella; and he turned
and walked beside her. "Please, ma'am," he began, "could you
lend me the price of a night's lodging? I'm a poor workingman--"
Then, suddenly, he stopped short. By the light of a street lamp
he had caught sight of the lady's face. He knew her.
It was Alena Jasaityte, who had been the belle of his wedding
feast! Alena Jasaityte, who had looked so beautiful, and danced
with such a queenly air, with Juozas Raczius, the teamster!
Jurgis had only seen her once or twice afterward, for Juozas had
thrown her over for another girl, and Alena had gone away from
Packingtown, no one knew where. And now he met her here!
She was as much surprised as he was. "Jurgis Rudkus!" she
gasped. "And what in the world is the matter with you?"
"I--I've had hard luck," he stammered. "I'm out of work, and
I've no home and no money. And you, Alena--are you married?"
"No," she answered, "I'm not married, but I've got a good place."
They stood staring at each other for a few moments longer.
Finally Alena spoke again. "Jurgis," she said, "I'd help you if
I could, upon my word I would, but it happens that I've come out
without my purse, and I honestly haven't a penny with me: I can
do something better for you, though--I can tell you how to get
help. I can tell you where Marija is."
Jurgis gave a start. "Marija!" he exclaimed.
"Yes," said Alena; "and she'll help you. She's got a place,
and she's doing well; she'll be glad to see you."
It was not much more than a year since Jurgis had left
Packingtown, feeling like one escaped from jail; and it had been
from Marija and Elzbieta that he was escaping. But now, at the
mere mention of them, his whole being cried out with joy. He
wanted to see them; he wanted to go home! They would help
him--they would be kind to him. In a flash he had thought over
the situation. He had a good excuse for running away--his grief
at the death of his son; and also he had a good excuse for not
returning--the fact that they had left Packingtown. "All right,"
he said, "I'll go."
So she gave him a number on Clark Street, adding, "There's no
need to give you my address, because Marija knows it." And Jurgis
set out, without further ado. He found a large brownstone house
of aristocratic appearance, and rang the basement bell. A young
colored girl came to the door, opening it about an inch,
and gazing at him suspiciously.
"What do you want?" she demanded.
"Does Marija Berczynskas live here?" he inquired.
"I dunno," said the girl. "What you want wid her?"
"I want to see her," said he; "she's a relative of mine."
The girl hesitated a moment. Then she opened the door and said,
"Come in." Jurgis came and stood in the hall, and she continued:
"I'll go see. What's yo' name?"
"Tell her it's Jurgis," he answered, and the girl went upstairs.
She came back at the end of a minute or two, and replied, "Dey
ain't no sich person here."
Jurgis's heart went down into his boots. "I was told this was
where she lived!" he cried. But the girl only shook her head.
"De lady says dey ain't no sich person here," she said.
And he stood for a moment, hesitating, helpless with dismay.
Then he turned to go to the door. At the same instant, however,
there came a knock upon it, and the girl went to open it. Jurgis
heard the shuffling of feet, and then heard her give a cry;
and the next moment she sprang back, and past him, her eyes shining
white with terror, and bounded up the stairway, screaming at the
top of her lungs: "Police! Police! We're pinched!"
Jurgis stood for a second, bewildered. Then, seeing blue-coated
forms rushing upon him, he sprang after the Negress. Her cries
had been the signal for a wild uproar above; the house was full
of people, and as he entered the hallway he saw them rushing
hither and thither, crying and screaming with alarm. There were
men and women, the latter clad for the most part in wrappers,
the former in all stages of dishabille. At one side Jurgis caught a
glimpse of a big apartment with plush-covered chairs, and tables
covered with trays and glasses. There were playing cards
scattered all over the floor--one of the tables had been upset,
and bottles of wine were rolling about, their contents running
out upon the carpet. There was a young girl who had fainted,
and two men who were supporting her; and there were a dozen others
crowding toward the front door.
Suddenly, however, there came a series of resounding blows upon
it, causing the crowd to give back. At the same instant a stout
woman, with painted cheeks and diamonds in her ears, came running
down the stairs, panting breathlessly: "To the rear! Quick!"
She led the way to a back staircase, Jurgis following; in the
kitchen she pressed a spring, and a cupboard gave way and opened,
disclosing a dark passageway. "Go in!" she cried to the crowd,
which now amounted to twenty or thirty, and they began to pass
through. Scarcely had the last one disappeared, however, before
there were cries from in front, and then the panic-stricken
throng poured out again, exclaiming: "They're there too! We're
"Upstairs!" cried the woman, and there was another rush of the
mob, women and men cursing and screaming and fighting to be
first. One flight, two, three--and then there was a ladder to
the roof, with a crowd packed at the foot of it, and one man at
the top, straining and struggling to lift the trap door. It was
not to be stirred, however, and when the woman shouted up to
unhook it, he answered: "It's already unhooked. There's somebody
sitting on it!"
And a moment later came a voice from downstairs: "You might as
well quit, you people. We mean business, this time."
So the crowd subsided; and a few moments later several policemen
came up, staring here and there, and leering at their victims.
Of the latter the men were for the most part frightened and
sheepish-looking. The women took it as a joke, as if they were
used to it--though if they had been pale, one could not have
told, for the paint on their cheeks. One black-eyed young girl
perched herself upon the top of the balustrade, and began to kick
with her slippered foot at the helmets of the policemen, until
one of them caught her by the ankle and pulled her down. On the
floor below four or five other girls sat upon trunks in the hall,
making fun of the procession which filed by them. They were
noisy and hilarious, and had evidently been drinking; one of
them, who wore a bright red kimono, shouted and screamed in a
voice that drowned out all the other sounds in the hall--and
Jurgis took a glance at her, and then gave a start, and a cry,
She heard him, and glanced around; then she shrank back and half
sprang to her feet in amazement. "Jurgis!" she gasped.
For a second or two they stood staring at each other. "How did
you come here?" Marija exclaimed.
"I came to see you," he answered.
"Just now."
"But how did you know--who told you I was here?"
"Alena Jasaityte. I met her on the street."
Again there was a silence, while they gazed at each other. The
rest of the crowd was watching them, and so Marija got up and
came closer to him. "And you?" Jurgis asked. "You live here?"
"Yes," said Marija, "I live here." Then suddenly came a hail from
below: "Get your clothes on now, girls, and come along. You'd
best begin, or you'll be sorry--it's raining outside."
"Br-r-r!" shivered some one, and the women got up and entered the
various doors which lined the hallway.
"Come," said Marija, and took Jurgis into her room, which was a
tiny place about eight by six, with a cot and a chair and a
dressing stand and some dresses hanging behind the door. There
were clothes scattered about on the floor, and hopeless confusion
everywhere--boxes of rouge and bottles of perfume mixed with hats
and soiled dishes on the dresser, and a pair of slippers and a
clock and a whisky bottle on a chair.
Marija had nothing on but a kimono and a pair of stockings;
yet she proceeded to dress before Jurgis, and without even taking the
trouble to close the door. He had by this time divined what sort
of a place he was in; and he had seen a great deal of the world
since he had left home, and was not easy to shock--and yet it
gave him a painful start that Marija should do this. They had
always been decent people at home, and it seemed to him that the
memory of old times ought to have ruled her. But then he laughed
at himself for a fool. What was he, to be pretending to decency!
"How long have you been living here?" he asked.
"Nearly a year," she answered.
"Why did you come?"
"I had to live," she said; "and I couldn't see the children
He paused for a moment, watching her. "You were out of work?" he
asked, finally.
"I got sick," she replied. "and after that I had no money. And
then Stanislovas died--"
"Stanislovas dead!"
"Yes," said Marija, "I forgot. You didn't know about it."
"How did he die?"
"Rats killed him," she answered.
Jurgis gave a gasp. "Rats killed him!"
"Yes," said the other; she was bending over, lacing her shoes as
she spoke. "He was working in an oil factory--at least he was
hired by the men to get their beer. He used to carry cans on a
long pole; and he'd drink a little out of each can, and one day
he drank too much, and fell asleep in a corner, and got locked up
in the place all night. When they found him the rats had killed
him and eaten him nearly all up."
Jurgis sat, frozen with horror. Marija went on lacing up her
shoes. There was a long silence.
Suddenly a big policeman came to the door. "Hurry up, there," he
"As quick as I can," said Marija, and she stood up and began
putting on her corsets with feverish haste.
"Are the rest of the people alive?" asked Jurgis, finally.
"Yes," she said.
"Where are they?"
"They live not far from here. They're all right now."
"They are working?" he inquired.
"Elzbieta is," said Marija, "when she can. I take care of them
most of the time--I'm making plenty of money now."
Jurgis was silent for a moment. "Do they know you live here--how
you live?" he asked.
"Elzbieta knows," answered Marija. "I couldn't lie to her. And
maybe the children have found out by this time. It's nothing to
be ashamed of--we can't help it."
"And Tamoszius?" he asked. "Does he know?"
Marija shrugged her shoulders. "How do I know?" she said.
"I haven't seen him for over a year. He got blood poisoning and
lost one finger, and couldn't play the violin any more; and then
he went away."
Marija was standing in front of the glass fastening her dress.
Jurgis sat staring at her. He could hardly believe that she was
the same woman he had known in the old days; she was so quiet--so
hard! It struck fear to his heart to watch her.
Then suddenly she gave a glance at him. "You look as if you had
been having a rough time of it yourself," she said.
"I have," he answered. "I haven't a cent in my pockets, and
nothing to do."
"Where have you been?"
"All over. I've been hoboing it. Then I went back to the
yards--just before the strike." He paused for a moment,
hesitating. "I asked for you," he added. "I found you had gone
away, no one knew where. Perhaps you think I did you a dirty
trick. running away as I did, Marija--"
"No," she answered, "I don't blame you. We never have--any of
us. You did your best--the job was too much for us." She paused
a moment, then added: "We were too ignorant--that was the
trouble. We didn't stand any chance. If I'd known what I know
now we'd have won out."
"You'd have come here?" said Jurgis.
"Yes," she answered; "but that's not what I meant. I meant
you--how differently you would have behaved--about Ona."
Jurgis was silent; he had never thought of that aspect of it.
"When people are starving," the other continued, "and they have
anything with a price, they ought to sell it, I say. I guess you
realize it now when it's too late. Ona could have taken care of
us all, in the beginning." Marija spoke without emotion, as one
who had come to regard things from the business point of view.
"I--yes, I guess so," Jurgis answered hesitatingly. He did not
add that he had paid three hundred dollars, and a foreman's job,
for the satisfaction of knocking down "Phil" Connor a second
The policeman came to the door again just then. "Come on, now,"
he said. "Lively!"
"All right," said Marija, reaching for her hat, which was big
enough to be a drum major's, and full of ostrich feathers.
She went out into the hall and Jurgis followed, the policeman
remaining to look under the bed and behind the door
"What's going to come of this?" Jurgis asked, as they started
down the steps.
"The raid, you mean? Oh, nothing--it happens to us every now and
then. The madame's having some sort of time with the police;
I don't know what it is, but maybe they'll come to terms before
morning. Anyhow, they won't do anything to you. They always let
the men off."
"Maybe so," he responded, "but not me--I'm afraid I'm in for it."
"How do you mean?"
"I'm wanted by the police," he said, lowering his voice, though
of course their conversation was in Lithuanian. "They'll send me
up for a year or two, I'm afraid."
"Hell!" said Marija. "That's too bad. I'll see if I can't get
you off."
Downstairs, where the greater part of the prisoners were now
massed, she sought out the stout personage with the diamond
earrings, and had a few whispered words with her. The latter
then approached the police sergeant who was in charge of the
raid. "Billy," she said, pointing to Jurgis, "there's a fellow
who came in to see his sister. He'd just got in the door when
you knocked. You aren't taking hoboes, are you?"
The sergeant laughed as he looked at Jurgis. "Sorry," he said,
"but the orders are every one but the servants."
So Jurgis slunk in among the rest of the men, who kept dodging
behind each other like sheep that have smelled a wolf. There
were old men and young men, college boys and gray-beards old
enough to be their grandfathers; some of them wore evening
dress--there was no one among them save Jurgis who showed any
signs of poverty.
When the roundup was completed, the doors were opened and the
party marched out. Three patrol wagons were drawn up at the
curb, and the whole neighborhood had turned out to see the sport;
there was much chaffing, and a universal craning of necks. The
women stared about them with defiant eyes, or laughed and joked,
while the men kept their heads bowed, and their hats pulled over
their faces. They were crowded into the patrol wagons as if into
streetcars, and then off they went amid a din of cheers. At the
station house Jurgis gave a Polish name and was put into a cell
with half a dozen others; and while these sat and talked in
whispers, he lay down in a corner and gave himself up to his
Jurgis had looked into the deepest reaches of the social pit,
and grown used to the sights in them. Yet when he had thought of all
humanity as vile and hideous, he had somehow always excepted his
own family. that he had loved; and now this sudden horrible
discovery--Marija a whore, and Elzbieta and the children living
off her shame! Jurgis might argue with himself all he chose,
that he had done worse, and was a fool for caring--but still he
could not get over the shock of that sudden unveiling, he could
not help being sunk in grief because of it. The depths of him
were troubled and shaken, memories were stirred in him that had
been sleeping so long he had counted them dead. Memories of the
old life--his old hopes and his old yearnings, his old dreams of
decency and independence! He saw Ona again, he heard her gentle
voice pleading with him. He saw little Antanas, whom he had
meant to make a man. He saw his trembling old father, who had
blessed them all with his wonderful love. He lived again through
that day of horror when he had discovered Ona's shame--God, how
he had suffered, what a madman he had been! How dreadful it had
all seemed to him; and now, today, he had sat and listened, and
half agreed when Marija told him he had been a fool! Yes--told
him that he ought to have sold his wife's honor and lived by
it!--And then there was Stanislovas and his awful fate--that
brief story which Marija had narrated so calmly, with such dull
indifference! The poor little fellow, with his frostbitten
fingers and his terror of the snow--his wailing voice rang in
Jurgis's ears, as he lay there in the darkness, until the sweat
started on his forehead. Now and then he would quiver with a
sudden spasm of horror, at the picture of little Stanislovas shut
up in the deserted building and fighting for his life with the
All these emotions had become strangers to the soul of Jurgis;
it was so long since they had troubled him that he had ceased to
think they might ever trouble him again. Helpless, trapped,
as he was, what good did they do him--why should he ever have
allowed them to torment him? It had been the task of his recent
life to fight them down, to crush them out of him, never in his
life would he have suffered from them again, save that they had
caught him unawares, and overwhelmed him before he could protect
himself. He heard the old voices of his soul, he saw its old
ghosts beckoning to him, stretching out their arms to him! But
they were far-off and shadowy, and the gulf between them was
black and bottomless; they would fade away into the mists of the
past once more. Their voices would die, and never again would he
hear them--and so the last faint spark of manhood in his soul
would flicker out.
Chapter 28
After breakfast Jurgis was driven to the court, which was crowded
with the prisoners and those who had come out of curiosity or in
the hope of recognizing one of the men and getting a case for
blackmail. The men were called up first, and reprimanded in a
bunch, and then dismissed; but, Jurgis to his terror, was called
separately, as being a suspicious-looking case. It was in this
very same court that he had been tried, that time when his
sentence had been "suspended"; it was the same judge, and the
same clerk. The latter now stared at Jurgis, as if he half
thought that he knew him; but the judge had no suspicions--just
then his thoughts were upon a telephone message he was expecting
from a friend of the police captain of the district, telling what
disposition he should make of the case of "Polly" Simpson, as the
"madame" of the house was known. Meantime, he listened to the
story of how Jurgis had been looking for his sister, and advised
him dryly to keep his sister in a better place; then he let him
go, and proceeded to fine each of the girls five dollars, which
fines were paid in a bunch from a wad of bills which Madame Polly
extracted from her stocking.
Jurgis waited outside and walked home with Marija. The police
had left the house, and already there were a few visitors;
by evening the place would be running again, exactly as if nothing
had happened. Meantime, Marija took Jurgis upstairs to her room,
and they sat and talked. By daylight, Jurgis was able to observe
that the color on her cheeks was not the old natural one of
abounding health; her complexion was in reality a parchment
yellow, and there were black rings under her eyes.
"Have you been sick?" he asked.
"Sick?" she said. "Hell!" (Marija had learned to scatter her
conversation with as many oaths as a longshoreman or a mule
driver.) "How can I ever be anything but sick, at this life?"
She fell silent for a moment, staring ahead of her gloomily.
"It's morphine," she said, at last. "I seem to take more of it
every day."
"What's that for?" he asked.
"It's the way of it; I don't know why. If it isn't that, it's
drink. If the girls didn't booze they couldn't stand it any time
at all. And the madame always gives them dope when they first
come, and they learn to like it; or else they take it for
headaches and such things, and get the habit that way. I've got
it, I know; I've tried to quit, but I never will while I'm here."
"How long are you going to stay?" he asked.
"I don't know," she said. "Always, I guess. What else could I
"Don't you save any money?"
"Save!" said Marija. "Good Lord, no! I get enough, I suppose,
but it all goes. I get a half share, two dollars and a half for
each customer, and sometimes I make twenty-five or thirty dollars
a night, and you'd think I ought to save something out of that!
But then I am charged for my room and my meals--and such prices
as you never heard of; and then for extras, and drinks--for
everything I get, and some I don't. My laundry bill is nearly
twenty dollars each week alone--think of that! Yet what can I
do? I either have to stand it or quit, and it would be the same
anywhere else. It's all I can do to save the fifteen dollars I
give Elzbieta each week, so the children can go to school."
Marija sat brooding in silence for a while; then, seeing that
Jurgis was interested, she went on: "That's the way they keep the
girls--they let them run up debts, so they can't get away. A
young girl comes from abroad, and she doesn't know a word of
English, and she gets into a place like this, and when she wants
to go the madame shows her that she is a couple of hundred
dollars in debt, and takes all her clothes away, and threatens to
have her arrested if she doesn't stay and do as she's told. So
she stays, and the longer she stays, the more in debt she gets.
Often, too, they are girls that didn't know what they were coming
to, that had hired out for housework. Did you notice that little
French girl with the yellow hair, that stood next to me in the
Jurgis answered in the affirmative.
"Well, she came to America about a year ago. She was a store
clerk, and she hired herself to a man to be sent here to work in
a factory. There were six of them, all together, and they were
brought to a house just down the street from here, and this girl
was put into a room alone, and they gave her some dope in her
food, and when she came to she found that she had been ruined.
She cried, and screamed, and tore her hair, but she had nothing
but a wrapper, and couldn't get away, and they kept her half
insensible with drugs all the time, until she gave up. She never
got outside of that place for ten months, and then they sent her
away, because she didn't suit. I guess they'll put her out of
here, too--she's getting to have crazy fits, from drinking
absinthe. Only one of the girls that came out with her got away,
and she jumped out of a second-story window one night. There was
a great fuss about that--maybe you heard of it."
"I did," said Jurgis, "I heard of it afterward." (It had happened
in the place where he and Duane had taken refuge from their
"country customer." The girl had become insane, fortunately for
the police.)
"There's lots of money in it," said Marija--"they get as much as
forty dollars a head for girls, and they bring them from all
over. There are seventeen in this place, and nine different
countries among them. In some places you might find even more.
We have half a dozen French girls--I suppose it's because the
madame speaks the language. French girls are bad, too, the worst
of all, except for the Japanese. There's a place next door
that's full of Japanese women, but I wouldn't live in the same
house with one of them."
Marija paused for a moment or two, and then she added: "Most of
the women here are pretty decent--you'd be surprised. I used to
think they did it because they liked to; but fancy a woman
selling herself to every kind of man that comes, old or young,
black or white--and doing it because she likes to!"
"Some of them say they do," said Jurgis.
"I know," said she; "they say anything. They're in, and they
know they can't get out. But they didn't like it when they
began--you'd find out--it's always misery! There's a little
Jewish girl here who used to run errands for a milliner, and got
sick and lost her place; and she was four days on the streets
without a mouthful of food, and then she went to a place just
around the corner and offered herself, and they made her give up
her clothes before they would give her a bite to eat!"
Marija sat for a minute or two, brooding somberly. "Tell me
about yourself, Jurgis," she said, suddenly. "Where have you
So he told her the long story of his adventures since his flight
from home; his life as a tramp, and his work in the freight
tunnels, and the accident; and then of Jack Duane, and of his
political career in the stockyards, and his downfall and
subsequent failures. Marija listened with sympathy; it was easy
to believe the tale of his late starvation, for his face showed
it all. "You found me just in the nick of time," she said.
"I'll stand by you--I'll help you till you can get some work."
"I don't like to let you--" he began.
"Why not? Because I'm here?"
"No, not that," he said. "But I went off and left you--"
"Nonsense!" said Marija. "Don't think about it. I don't blame
"You must be hungry," she said, after a minute or two. "You stay
here to lunch--I'll have something up in the room."
She pressed a button, and a colored woman came to the door and
took her order. "It's nice to have somebody to wait on you,"
she observed, with a laugh, as she lay back on the bed.
As the prison breakfast had not been liberal, Jurgis had a good
appetite, and they had a little feast together, talking meanwhile
of Elzbieta and the children and old times. Shortly before they
were through, there came another colored girl, with the message
that the "madame" wanted Marija--"Lithuanian Mary," as they
called her here.
"That means you have to go," she said to Jurgis.
So he got up, and she gave him the new address of the family, a
tenement over in the Ghetto district. "You go there," she said.
"They'll be glad to see you."
But Jurgis stood hesitating.
"I--I don't like to," he said. "Honest, Marija, why don't you
just give me a little money and let me look for work first?"
"How do you need money?" was her reply. "All you want is
something to eat and a place to sleep, isn't it?"
"Yes," he said; "but then I don't like to go there after I left
them--and while I have nothing to do, and while you--you--"
"Go on!" said Marija, giving him a push. "What are you
talking?--I won't give you money," she added, as she followed him
to the door, "because you'll drink it up, and do yourself harm.
Here's a quarter for you now, and go along, and they'll be so
glad to have you back, you won't have time to feel ashamed.
So Jurgis went out, and walked down the street to think it over.
He decided that he would first try to get work, and so he put in
the rest of the day wandering here and there among factories and
warehouses without success. Then, when it was nearly dark,
he concluded to go home, and set out; but he came to a restaurant,
and went in and spent his quarter for a meal; and when he came
out he changed his mind--the night was pleasant, and he would
sleep somewhere outside, and put in the morrow hunting, and so
have one more chance of a job. So he started away again, when
suddenly he chanced to look about him, and found that he was
walking down the same street and past the same hall where he had
listened to the political speech the night 'before. There was no
red fire and no band now, but there was a sign out, announcing a
meeting, and a stream of people pouring in through the entrance.
In a flash Jurgis had decided that he would chance it once more,
and sit down and rest while making up his mind what to do. There
was no one taking tickets, so it must be a free show again.
He entered. There were no decorations in the hall this time;
but there was quite a crowd upon the platform, and almost every seat
in the place was filled. He took one of the last, far in the
rear, and straightway forgot all about his surroundings. Would
Elzbieta think that he had come to sponge off her, or would she
understand that he meant to get to work again and do his share?
Would she be decent to him, or would she scold him? If only he
could get some sort of a job before he went--if that last boss
had only been willing to try him!
--Then suddenly Jurgis looked up. A tremendous roar had burst
from the throats of the crowd, which by this time had packed the
hall to the very doors. Men and women were standing up, waving
handkerchiefs, shouting, yelling. Evidently the speaker had
arrived, thought Jurgis; what fools they were making of
themselves! What were they expecting to get out of it
anyhow--what had they to do with elections, with governing the
country? Jurgis had been behind the scenes in politics.
He went back to his thoughts, but with one further fact to reckon
with--that he was caught here. The hall was now filled to the
doors; and after the meeting it would be too late for him to go
home, so he would have to make the best of it outside. Perhaps
it would be better to go home in the morning, anyway, for the
children would be at school, and he and Elzbieta could have a
quiet explanation. She always had been a reasonable person;
and he really did mean to do right. He would manage to persuade her
of it--and besides, Marija was willing, and Marija was furnishing
the money. If Elzbieta were ugly, he would tell her that in so
many words.
So Jurgis went on meditating; until finally, when he had been an
hour or two in the hall, there began to prepare itself a
repetition of the dismal catastrophe of the night before.
Speaking had been going on all the time, and the audience was
clapping its hands and shouting, thrilling with excitement;
and little by little the sounds were beginning to blur in Jurgis's
ears, and his thoughts were beginning to run together, and his
head to wobble and nod. He caught himself many times, as usual,
and made desperate resolutions; but the hall was hot and close,
and his long walk and is dinner were too much for him--in the end
his head sank forward and he went off again.
And then again someone nudged him, and he sat up with his old
terrified start! He had been snoring again, of course! And now
what? He fixed his eyes ahead of him, with painful intensity,
staring at the platform as if nothing else ever had interested
him, or ever could interest him, all his life. He imagined the
angry exclamations, the hostile glances; he imagined the
policeman striding toward him--reaching for his neck. Or was he
to have one more chance? Were they going to let him alone this
time? He sat trembling; waiting--
And then suddenly came a voice in his ear, a woman's voice,gentle
and sweet, "If you would try to listen, comrade, perhaps you
would be interested."
Jurgis was more startled by that than he would have been by the
touch of a policeman. He still kept his eyes fixed ahead, and
did not stir; but his heart gave a great leap. Comrade! Who was
it that called him "comrade"?
He waited long, long; and at last, when he was sure that he was
no longer watched, he stole a glance out of the corner of his
eyes at the woman who sat beside him. She was young and
beautiful; she wore fine clothes, and was what is called a
"lady." And she called him "comrade"!
He turned a little, carefully, so that he could see her better;
then he began to watch her, fascinated. She had apparently
forgotten all about him, and was looking toward the platform.
A man was speaking there--Jurgis heard his voice vaguely; but all
his thoughts were for this woman's face. A feeling of alarm
stole over him as he stared at her. It made his flesh creep.
What was the matter with her, what could be going on, to affect
any one like that? She sat as one turned to stone, her hands
clenched tightly in her lap, so tightly that he could see the
cords standing out in her wrists. There was a look of excitement
upon her face, of tense effort, as of one struggling mightily,
or witnessing a struggle. There was a faint quivering of her
nostrils; and now and then she would moisten her lips with
feverish haste. Her bosom rose and fell as she breathed, and her
excitement seemed to mount higher and higher, and then to sink
away again, like a boat tossing upon ocean surges. What was it?
What was the matter? It must be something that the man was
saying, up there on the platform. What sort of a man was he?
And what sort of thing was this, anyhow?"--So all at once it
occurred to Jurgis to look at the speaker.
It was like coming suddenly upon some wild sight of nature--a
mountain forest lashed by a tempest, a ship tossed about upon a
stormy sea. Jurgis had an unpleasant sensation, a sense of
confusion, of disorder, of wild and meaningless uproar. The man
was tall and gaunt, as haggard as his auditor himself; a thin
black beard covered half of his face, and one could see only two
black hollows where the eyes were. He was speaking rapidly, in
great excitement; he used many gestures--he spoke he moved here
and there upon the stage, reaching with his long arms as if to
seize each person in his audience. His voice was deep, like an
organ; it was some time, however, before Jurgis thought of the
voice--he was too much occupied with his eyes to think of what
the man was saying. But suddenly it seemed as if the speaker had
begun pointing straight at him, as if he had singled him out
particularly for his remarks; and so Jurgis became suddenly aware
of his voice, trembling, vibrant with emotion, with pain and
longing, with a burden of things unutterable, not to be compassed
by words. To hear it was to be suddenly arrested, to be gripped,
"You listen to these things," the man was saying, "and you say,
'Yes, they are true, but they have been that way always.' Or you
say, 'Maybe it will come, but not in my time--it will not help
me.' And so you return to your daily round of toil, you go back
to be ground up for profits in the world-wide mill of economic
might! To toil long hours for another's advantage; to live in
mean and squalid homes, to work in dangerous and unhealthful
places; to wrestle with the specters of hunger and privation,
to take your chances of accident, disease, and death. And each day
the struggle becomes fiercer, the pace more cruel; each day you
have to toil a little harder, and feel the iron hand of
circumstance close upon you a little tighter. Months pass, years
maybe--and then you come again; and again I am here to plead with
you, to know if want and misery have yet done their work with
you, if injustice and oppression have yet opened your eyes! I
shall still be waiting--there is nothing else that I can do.
There is no wilderness where I can hide from these things, there
is no haven where I can escape them; though I travel to the ends
of the earth, I find the same accursed system--I find that all
the fair and noble impulses of humanity, the dreams of poets and
the agonies of martyrs, are shackled and bound in the service of
organized and predatory Greed! And therefore I cannot rest, I
cannot be silent; therefore I cast aside comfort and happiness,
health and good repute--and go out into the world and cry out the
pain of my spirit! Therefore I am not to be silenced by poverty
and sickness, not by hatred and obloquy, by threats and
ridicule--not by prison and persecution, if they should come--not
by any power that is upon the earth or above the earth, that was,
or is, or ever can be created. If I fail tonight, I can only try
tomorrow; knowing that the fault must be mine--that if once the
vision of my soul were spoken upon earth, if once the anguish of
its defeat were uttered in human speech, it would break the
stoutest barriers of prejudice, it would shake the most sluggish
soul to action! It would abash the most cynical, it would
terrify the most selfish; and the voice of mockery would be
silenced, and fraud and falsehood would slink back into their
dens, and the truth would stand forth alone! For I speak with
the voice of the millions who are voiceless! Of them that are
oppressed and have no comforter! Of the disinherited of life,
for whom there is no respite and no deliverance, to whom the
world is a prison, a dungeon of torture, a tomb! With the voice
of the little child who toils tonight in a Southern cotton mill,
staggering with exhaustion, numb with agony, and knowing no hope
but the grave! Of the mother who sews by candlelight in her
tenement garret, weary and weeping, smitten with the mortal
hunger of her babes! Of the man who lies upon a bed of rags,
wrestling in his last sickness and leaving his loved ones to
perish! Of the young girl who, somewhere at this moment, is
walking the streets of this horrible city, beaten and starving,
and making her choice between the brothel and the lake! With the
voice of those, whoever and wherever they may be, who are caught
beneath the wheels of the Juggernaut of Greed! With the voice of
humanity, calling for deliverance! Of the everlasting soul of
Man, arising from the dust; breaking its way out of its
prison--rending the bands of oppression and ignorance--groping
its way to the light!"
The speaker paused. There was an instant of silence, while men
caught their breaths, and then like a single sound there came a
cry from a thousand people. Through it all Jurgis sat still,
motionless and rigid, his eyes fixed upon the speaker; he was
trembling, smitten with wonder.
Suddenly the man raised his hands, and silence fell, and he began
"I plead with you," he said, "whoever you may be, provided that
you care about the truth; but most of all I plead with workingman,
with those to whom the evils I portray are not mere matters
of sentiment, to be dallied and toyed with, and then perhaps put
aside and forgotten--to whom they are the grim and relentless
realities of the daily grind, the chains upon their limbs, the
lash upon their backs, the iron in their souls. To you, workingmen!
To you, the toilers, who have made this land, and have no
voice in its councils! To you, whose lot it is to sow that
others may reap, to labor and obey, and ask no more than the
wages of a beast of burden, the food and shelter to keep you
alive from day to day. It is to you that I come with my message
of salvation, it is to you that I appeal. I know how much it is
to ask of you--I know, for I have been in your place, I have
lived your life, and there is no man before me here tonight who
knows it better. I have known what it is to be a street-waif,
a bootblack, living upon a crust of bread and sleeping in cellar
stairways and under empty wagons. I have known what it is to
dare and to aspire, to dream mighty dreams and to see them
perish--to see all the fair flowers of my spirit trampled into
the mire by the wild-beast powers of my life. I know what is the
price that a working-man pays for knowledge--I have paid for it
with food and sleep, with agony of body and mind, with health,
almost with life itself; and so, when I come to you with a story
of hope and freedom, with the vision of a new earth to be
created, of a new labor to be dared, I am not surprised that I
find you sordid and material, sluggish and incredulous. That I
do not despair is because I know also the forces that are driving
behind you--because I know the raging lash of poverty, the sting
of contempt and mastership, 'the insolence of office and the
spurns.' Because I feel sure that in the crowd that has come to
me tonight, no matter how many may be dull and heedless, no
matter how many may have come out of idle curiosity, or in order
to ridicule--there will be some one man whom pain and suffering
have made desperate, whom some chance vision of wrong and horror
has startled and shocked into attention. And to him my words
will come like a sudden flash of lightning to one who travels in
darkness--revealing the way before him, the perils and the
obstacles--solving all problems, making all difficulties clear!
The scales will fall from his eyes, the shackles will be torn
from his limbs--he will leap up with a cry of thankfulness, he
will stride forth a free man at last! A man delivered from his
self-created slavery! A man who will never more be trapped--whom
no blandishments will cajole, whom no threats will frighten; who
from tonight on will move forward, and not backward, who will
study and understand, who will gird on his sword and take his
place in the army of his comrades and brothers. Who will carry
the good tidings to others, as I have carried them to
him--priceless gift of liberty and light that is neither mine nor
his, but is the heritage of the soul of man! Working-men,
working-men--comrades! open your eyes and look about you! You
have lived so long in the toil and heat that your senses are
dulled, your souls are numbed; but realize once in your lives
this world in which you dwell--tear off the rags of its customs
and conventions--behold it as it is, in all its hideous
nakedness! Realize it, realize it! Realize that out upon the
plains of Manchuria tonight two hostile armies are facing each
other--that now, while we are seated here, a million human beings
may be hurled at each other's throats, striving with the fury of
maniacs to tear each other to pieces! And this in the twentieth
century, nineteen hundred years since the Prince of Peace was
born on earth! Nineteen hundred years that his words have been
preached as divine, and here two armies of men are rending and
tearing each other like the wild beasts of the forest!
Philosophers have reasoned, prophets have denounced, poets have
wept and pleaded--and still this hideous Monster roams at large!
We have schools and colleges, newspapers and books; we have
searched the heavens and the earth, we have weighed and probed
and reasoned--and all to equip men to destroy each other! We
call it War, and pass it by--but do not put me off with
platitudes and conventions--come with me, come with me--realize
it! See the bodies of men pierced by bullets, blown into pieces
by bursting shells! Hear the crunching of the bayonet, plunged
into human flesh; hear the groans and shrieks of agony, see the
faces of men crazed by pain, turned into fiends by fury and hate!
Put your hand upon that piece of flesh--it is hot and
quivering--just now it was a part of a man! This blood is still
steaming--it was driven by a human heart! Almighty God! and
this goes on--it is systematic, organized, premeditated! And we
know it, and read of it, and take it for granted; our papers tell
of it, and the presses are not stopped--our churches know of it,
and do not close their doors--the people behold it, and do not
rise up in horror and revolution!
"Or perhaps Manchuria is too far away for you--come home with me
then, come here to Chicago. Here in this city to-night ten
thousand women are shut up in foul pens, and driven by hunger to
sell their bodies to live. And we know it, we make it a jest!
And these women are made in the image of your mothers, they may
be your sisters, your daughters; the child whom you left at home
tonight, whose laughing eyes will greet you in the morning--that
fate may be waiting for her! To-night in Chicago there are ten
thousand men, homeless and wretched, willing to work and begging
for a chance, yet starving, and fronting in terror the awful
winter cold! Tonight in Chicago there are a hundred thousand
children wearing out their strength and blasting their lives in
the effort to earn their bread! There are a hundred thousand
mothers who are living in misery and squalor, struggling to earn
enough to feed their little ones! There are a hundred thousand
old people, cast off and helpless, waiting for death to take them
from their torments! There are a million people, men and women
and children, who share the curse of the wage-slave; who toil
every hour they can stand and see, for just enough to keep them
alive; who are condemned till the end of their days to monotony
and weariness, to hunger and misery, to heat and cold, to dirt
and disease, to ignorance and drunkenness and vice! And then
turn over the page with me, and gaze upon the other side of the
picture. There are a thousand--ten thousand, maybe--who are the
masters of these slaves, who own their toil. They do nothing to
earn what they receive, they do not even have to ask for it--it
comes to them of itself, their only care is to dispose of it.
They live in palaces, they riot in luxury and extravagance--such
as no words can describe, as makes the imagination reel and
stagger, makes the soul grow sick and faint. They spend hundreds
of dollars for a pair of shoes, a handkerchief, a garter; they
spend millions for horses and automobiles and yachts, for palaces
and banquets, for little shiny stones with which to deck their
bodies. Their life is a contest among themselves for supremacy
in ostentation and recklessness, in the destroying of useful and
necessary things, in the wasting of the labor and the lives of
their fellow creatures, the toil and anguish of the nations,
the sweat and tears and blood of the human race! It is all
theirs--it comes to them; just as all the springs pour into
streamlets, and the streamlets into rivers, and the rivers into
the oceans--so, automatically and inevitably, all the wealth of
society comes to them. The farmer tills the soil, the miner digs
in the earth, the weaver tends the loom, the mason carves the
stone; the clever man invents, the shrewd man directs, the wise
man studies, the inspired man sings--and all the result, the
products of the labor of brain and muscle, are gathered into one
stupendous stream and poured into their laps! The whole of
society is in their grip, the whole labor of the world lies at
their mercy--and like fierce wolves they rend and destroy, like
ravening vultures they devour and tear! The whole power of
mankind belongs to them, forever and beyond recall--do what it
can, strive as it will, humanity lives for them and dies for
them! They own not merely the labor of society, they have bought
the governments; and everywhere they use their raped and stolen
power to intrench themselves in their privileges, to dig wider
and deeper the channels through which the river of profits flows
to them!--And you, workingmen, workingmen! You have been brought
up to it, you plod on like beasts of burden, thinking only of the
day and its pain--yet is there a man among you who can believe
that such a system will continue forever--is there a man here in
this audience tonight so hardened and debased that he dare rise
up before me and say that he believes it can continue forever;
that the product of the labor of society, the means of existence
of the human race, will always belong to idlers and parasites, to
be spent for the gratification of vanity and lust--to be spent
for any purpose whatever, to be at the disposal of any individual
will whatever--that somehow, somewhere, the labor of humanity
will not belong to humanity, to be used for the purposes of
humanity, to be controlled by the will of humanity? And if this
is ever to be, how is it to be--what power is there that will
bring it about? Will it be the task of your masters, do you
think--will they write the charter of your liberties? Will they
forge you the sword of your deliverance, will they marshal you
the army and lead it to the fray? Will their wealth be spent for
the purpose--will they build colleges and churches to teach you,
will they print papers to herald your progress, and organize
political parties to guide and carry on the struggle? Can you
not see that the task is your task--yours to dream, yours to
resolve, yours to execute? That if ever it is carried out, it
will be in the face of every obstacle that wealth and mastership
can oppose--in the face of ridicule and slander, of hatred and
persecution, of the bludgeon and the jail? That it will be by
the power of your naked bosoms, opposed to the rage of
oppression! By the grim and bitter teaching of blind and
merciless affliction! By the painful gropings of the untutored
mind, by the feeble stammerings of the uncultured voice! By the
sad and lonely hunger of the spirit; by seeking and striving and
yearning, by heartache and despairing, by agony and sweat of
blood! It will be by money paid for with hunger, by knowledge
stolen from sleep, by thoughts communicated under the shadow of
the gallows! It will be a movement beginning in the far-off
past, a thing obscure and unhonored, a thing easy to ridicule,
easy to despise; a thing unlovely, wearing the aspect of
vengeance and hate--but to you, the working-man, the wage-slave,
calling with a voice insistent, imperious--with a voice that you
cannot escape, wherever upon the earth you may be! With the
voice of all your wrongs, with the voice of all your desires;
with the voice of your duty and your hope--of everything in the
world that is worth while to you! The voice of the poor,
demanding that poverty shall cease! The voice of the oppressed,
pronouncing the doom of oppression! The voice of power, wrought
out of suffering--of resolution, crushed out of weakness--of joy
and courage, born in the bottomless pit of anguish and despair!
The voice of Labor, despised and outraged; a mighty giant, lying
prostrate--mountainous, colossal, but blinded, bound, and
ignorant of his strength. And now a dream of resistance haunts
him, hope battling with fear; until suddenly he stirs, and a
fetter snaps--and a thrill shoots through him, to the farthest
ends of his huge body, and in a flash the dream becomes an act!
He starts, he lifts himself; and the bands are shattered, the
burdens roll off him--he rises--towering, gigantic; he springs to
his feet, he shouts in his newborn exultation--"
And the speaker's voice broke suddenly, with the stress of his
feelings; he stood with his arms stretched out above him, and the
power of his vision seemed to lift him from the floor. The
audience came to its feet with a yell; men waved their arms,
laughing aloud in their excitement. And Jurgis was with them, he
was shouting to tear his throat; shouting because he could not
help it, because the stress of his feeling was more than he could
bear. It was not merely the man's words, the torrent of his
eloquence. It was his presence, it was his voice: a voice with
strange intonations that rang through the chambers of the soul
like the clanging of a bell--that gripped the listener like a
mighty hand about his body, that shook him and startled him with
sudden fright, with a sense of things not of earth, of mysteries
never spoken before, of presences of awe and terror! There was
an unfolding of vistas before him, a breaking of the ground
beneath him, an upheaving, a stirring, a trembling; he felt
himself suddenly a mere man no longer--there were powers within
him undreamed of, there were demon forces contending, agelong
wonders struggling to be born; and he sat oppressed with pain and
joy, while a tingling stole down into his finger tips, and his
breath came hard and fast. The sentences of this man were to
Jurgis like the crashing of thunder in his soul; a flood of
emotions surged up in him--all his old hopes and longings, his
old griefs and rages and despairs. All that he had ever felt in
his whole life seemed to come back to him at once, and with one
new emotion, hardly to be described. That he should have
suffered such oppressions and such horrors was bad enough;
but that he should have been crushed and beaten by them, that he
should have submitted, and forgotten, and lived in peace--ah,
truly that was a thing not to be put into words, a thing not to
be borne by a human creature, a thing of terror and madness!
"What," asks the prophet, "is the murder of them that kill the
body, to the murder of them that kill the soul?" And Jurgis was a
man whose soul had been murdered, who had ceased to hope and to
struggle--who had made terms with degradation and despair; and
now, suddenly, in one awful convulsion, the black and hideous
fact was made plain to him! There was a falling in of all the
pillars of his soul, the sky seemed to split above him--he stood
there, with his clenched hands upraised, his eyes bloodshot, and
the veins standing out purple in his face, roaring in the voice
of a wild beast, frantic, incoherent, maniacal. And when he
could shout no more he still stood there, gasping, and whispering
hoarsely to himself: "By God! By God! By God!"
Chapter 29
The man had gone back to a seat upon the platform, and Jurgis
realized that his speech was over. The applause continued for
several minutes; and then some one started a song, and the crowd
took it up, and the place shook with it. Jurgis had never heard
it, and he could not make out the words, but the wild and
wonderful spirit of it seized upon him--it was the
"Marseillaise!" As stanza after stanza of it thundered forth, he
sat with his hands clasped, trembling in every nerve. He had
never been so stirred in his life--it was a miracle that had been
wrought in him. He could not think at all, he was stunned; yet
he knew that in the mighty upheaval that had taken place in his
soul, a new man had been born. He had been torn out of the jaws
of destruction, he had been delivered from the thraldom of
despair; the whole world had been changed for him--he was free,
he was free! Even if he were to suffer as he had before, even if
he were to beg and starve, nothing would be the same to him; he
would understand it, and bear it. He would no longer be the
sport of circumstances, he would be a man, with a will and a
purpose; he would have something to fight for, something to die
for, if need be! Here were men who would show him and help him;
and he would have friends and allies, he would dwell in the sight
of justice, and walk arm in arm with power.
The audience subsided again, and Jurgis sat back. The chairman
of the meeting came forward and began to speak. His voice
sounded thin and futile after the other's, and to Jurgis it
seemed a profanation. Why should any one else speak, after that
miraculous man--why should they not all sit in silence? The
chairman was explaining that a collection would now be taken up
to defray the expenses of the meeting, and for the benefit of the
campaign fund of the party. Jurgis heard; but he had not a penny
to give, and so his thoughts went elsewhere again.
He kept his eyes fixed on the orator, who sat in an armchair, his
head leaning on his hand and his attitude indicating exhaustion.
But suddenly he stood up again, and Jurgis heard the chairman of
the meeting saying that the speaker would now answer any
questions which the audience might care to put to him. The man
came forward, and some one--a woman--arose and asked about some
opinion the speaker had expressed concerning Tolstoy. Jurgis had
never heard of Tolstoy, and did not care anything about him. Why
should any one want to ask such questions, after an address like
that? The thing was not to talk, but to do; the thing was to get
bold of others and rouse them, to organize them and prepare for
the fight! But still the discussion went on, in ordinary
conversational tones, and it brought Jurgis back to the everyday
world. A few minutes ago he had felt like seizing the hand of
the beautiful lady by his side, and kissing it; he had felt like
flinging his arms about the neck of the man on the other side of
him. And now he began to realize again that he was a "hobo,"
that he was ragged and dirty, and smelled bad, and had no place
to sleep that night!
And so, at last, when the meeting broke up, and the audience
started to leave, poor Jurgis was in an agony of uncertainty.
He had not thought of leaving--he had thought that the vision must
last forever, that he had found comrades and brothers. But now
he would go out, and the thing would fade away, and he would
never be able to find it again! He sat in his seat, frightened
and wondering; but others in the same row wanted to get out, and
so he had to stand up and move along. As he was swept down the
aisle he looked from one person to another, wistfully; they were
all excitedly discussing the address--but there was nobody who
offered to discuss it with him. He was near enough to the door
to feel the night air, when desperation seized him. He knew
nothing at all about that speech he had heard, not even the name
of the orator; and he was to go away--no, no, it was
preposterous, he must speak to some one; he must find that man
himself and tell him. He would not despise him, tramp as he was!
So he stepped into an empty row of seats and watched, and when
the crowd had thinned out, he started toward the platform. The
speaker was gone; but there was a stage door that stood open,
with people passing in and out, and no one on guard. Jurgis
summoned up his courage and went in, and down a hallway, and to
the door of a room where many people were crowded. No one paid
any attention to him, and he pushed in, and in a corner he saw
the man he sought. The orator sat in a chair, with his shoulders
sunk together and his eyes half closed; his face was ghastly
pale, almost greenish in hue, and one arm lay limp at his side.
A big man with spectacles on stood near him, and kept pushing
back the crowd, saying, "Stand away a little, please; can't you
see the comrade is worn out?"
So Jurgis stood watching, while five or ten minutes passed. Now
and then the man would look up, and address a word or two to
those who were near him; and, at last, on one of these occasions,
his glance rested on Jurgis. There seemed to be a slight hint of
inquiry about it, and a sudden impulse seized the other. He
stepped forward.
"I wanted to thank you, sir!" he began, in breathless haste. "I
could not go away without telling you how much--how glad I am I
heard you. I--I didn't know anything about it all--"
The big man with the spectacles, who had moved away, came back at
this moment. "The comrade is too tired to talk to any one--" he
began; but the other held up his hand.
"Wait," he said. "He has something to say to me." And then he
looked into Jurgis's face. "You want to know more about
Socialism?" he asked.
Jurgis started. "I--I--" he stammered. "Is it Socialism? I
didn't know. I want to know about what you spoke of--I want to
help. I have been through all that."
"Where do you live?" asked the other.
"I have no home," said Jurgis, "I am out of work."
"You are a foreigner, are you not?"
"Lithuanian, sir."
The man thought for a moment, and then turned to his friend.
"Who is there, Walters?" he asked. "There is Ostrinski--but he
is a Pole--"
"Ostrinski speaks Lithuanian," said the other. "All right, then;
would you mind seeing if he has gone yet?"
The other started away, and the speaker looked at Jurgis again.
He had deep, black eyes, and a face full of gentleness and pain.
"You must excuse me, comrade," he said. "I am just tired out--I
have spoken every day for the last month. I will introduce you
to some one who will be able to help you as well as I could--"
The messenger had had to go no further than the door, he came
back, followed by a man whom he introduced to Jurgis as "Comrade
Ostrinski." Comrade Ostrinski was a little man, scarcely up to
Jurgis's shoulder, wizened and wrinkled, very ugly, and slightly
lame. He had on a long-tailed black coat, worn green at the
seams and the buttonholes; his eyes must have been weak, for he
wore green spectacles that gave him a grotesque appearance.
But his handclasp was hearty, and he spoke in Lithuanian, which
warmed Jurgis to him.
"You want to know about Socialism?" he said. "Surely. Let us go
out and take a stroll, where we can be quiet and talk some."
And so Jurgis bade farewell to the master wizard, and went out.
Ostrinski asked where he lived, offering to walk in that
direction; and so he had to explain once more that he was without
a home. At the other's request he told his story; how he had
come to America, and what had happened to him in the stockyards,
and how his family had been broken up, and how he had become a
wanderer. So much the little man heard, and then he pressed
Jurgis's arm tightly. "You have been through the mill, comrade!"
he said. "We will make a fighter out of you!"
Then Ostrinski in turn explained his circumstances. He would
have asked Jurgis to his home--but he had only two rooms, and had
no bed to offer. He would have given up his own bed, but his
wife was ill. Later on, when he understood that otherwise Jurgis
would have to sleep in a hallway, he offered him his kitchen
floor, a chance which the other was only too glad to accept.
"Perhaps tomorrow we can do better," said Ostrinski. "We try not
to let a comrade starve."
Ostrinski's home was in the Ghetto district, where he had two
rooms in the basement of a tenement. There was a baby crying as
they entered, and he closed the door leading into the bedroom.
He had three young children, he explained, and a baby had just
come. He drew up two chairs near the kitchen stove, adding that
Jurgis must excuse the disorder of the place, since at such a
time one's domestic arrangements were upset. Half of the kitchen
was given up to a workbench, which was piled with clothing, and
Ostrinski explained that he was a "pants finisher." He brought
great bundles of clothing here to his home, where he and his wife
worked on them. He made a living at it, but it was getting
harder all the time, because his eyes were failing. What would
come when they gave out he could not tell; there had been no
saving anything--a man could barely keep alive by twelve or
fourteen hours' work a day. The finishing of pants did not take
much skill, and anybody could learn it, and so the pay was
forever getting less. That was the competitive wage system; and
if Jurgis wanted to understand what Socialism was, it was there
he had best begin. The workers were dependent upon a job to
exist from day to day, and so they bid against each other, and no
man could get more than the lowest man would consent to work for.
And thus the mass of the people were always in a life-and-death
struggle with poverty. That was "competition," so far as it
concerned the wage-earner, the man who had only his labor to
sell; to those on top, the exploiters, it appeared very
differently, of course--there were few of them, and they could
combine and dominate, and their power would be unbreakable. And
so all over the world two classes were forming, with an unbridged
chasm between them--the capitalist class, with its enormous
fortunes, and the proletariat, bound into slavery by unseen
chains. The latter were a thousand to one in numbers, but they
were ignorant and helpless, and they would remain at the mercy of
their exploiters until they were organized--until they had become
"class-conscious." It was a slow and weary process, but it would
go on--it was like the movement of a glacier, once it was started
it could never be stopped. Every Socialist did his share, and
lived upon the vision of the "good time coming,"--when the
working class should go to the polls and seize the powers of
government, and put an end to private property in the means of
production. No matter how poor a man was, or how much he
suffered, he could never be really unhappy while he knew of that
future; even if he did not live to see it himself, his children
would, and, to a Socialist, the victory of his class was his
victory. Also he had always the progress to encourage him;
here in Chicago, for instance, the movement was growing by leaps and
bounds. Chicago was the industrial center of the country, and
nowhere else were the unions so strong; but their organizations
did the workers little good, for the employers were organized,
also; and so the strikes generally failed, and as fast as the
unions were broken up the men were coming over to the Socialists.
Ostrinski explained the organization of the party, the machinery
by which the proletariat was educating itself. There were
"locals" in every big city and town, and they were being
organized rapidly in the smaller places; a local had anywhere
from six to a thousand members, and there were fourteen hundred
of them in all, with a total of about twenty-five thousand
members, who paid dues to support the organization. "Local Cook
County," as the city organization was called, had eighty branch
locals, and it alone was spending several thousand dollars in the
campaign. It published a weekly in English, and one each in
Bohemian and German; also there was a monthly published in
Chicago, and a cooperative publishing house, that issued a
million and a half of Socialist books and pamphlets every year.
All this was the growth of the last few years--there had been
almost nothing of it when Ostrinski first came to Chicago.
Ostrinski was a Pole, about fifty years of age. He had lived in
Silesia, a member of a despised and persecuted race, and had
taken part in the proletarian movement in the early seventies,
when Bismarck, having conquered France, had turned his policy of
blood and iron upon the "International." Ostrinski himself had
twice been in jail, but he had been young then, and had not
cared. He had had more of his share of the fight, though, for
just when Socialism had broken all its barriers and become the
great political force of the empire, he had come to America, and
begun all over again. In America every one had laughed at the
mere idea of Socialism then--in America all men were free. As if
political liberty made wage slavery any the more tolerable! said
The little tailor sat tilted back in his stiff kitchen chair,
with his feet stretched out upon the empty stove, and speaking in
low whispers, so as not to waken those in the next room. To
Jurgis he seemed a scarcely less wonderful person than the
speaker at the meeting; he was poor, the lowest of the low,
hunger-driven and miserable--and yet how much he knew, how much
he had dared and achieved, what a hero he had been! There were
others like him, too--thousands like him, and all of them
workingmen! That all this wonderful machinery of progress had
been created by his fellows--Jurgis could not believe it, it
seemed too good to be true.
That was always the way, said Ostrinski; when a man was first
converted to Socialism he was like a crazy person--he could not'
understand how others could fail to see it, and he expected to
convert all the world the first week. After a while he would
realize how hard a task it was; and then it would be fortunate
that other new hands kept coming, to save him from settling down
into a rut. Just now Jurgis would have plenty of chance to vent
his excitement, for a presidential campaign was on, and everybody
was talking politics. Ostrinski would take him to the next
meeting of the branch local, and introduce him, and he might join
the party. The dues were five cents a week, but any one who
could not afford this might be excused from paying. The
Socialist party was a really democratic political
organization--it was controlled absolutely by its own membership,
and had no bosses. All of these things Ostrinski explained, as
also the principles of the party. You might say that there was
really but one Socialist principle--that of "no compromise,"
which was the essence of the proletarian movement all over the
world. When a Socialist was elected to office he voted with old
party legislators for any measure that was likely to be of help
to the working class, but he never forgot that these concessions,
whatever they might be, were trifles compared with the great
purpose--the organizing of the working class for the revolution.
So far, the rule in America had been that one Socialist made
another Socialist once every two years; and if they should
maintain the same rate they would carry the country in
1912--though not all of them expected to succeed as quickly as
The Socialists were organized in every civilized nation; it was
an international political party, said Ostrinski, the greatest
the world had ever known. It numbered thirty million of
adherents, and it cast eight million votes. It had started its
first newspaper in Japan, and elected its first deputy in
Argentina; in France it named members of cabinets, and in Italy
and Australia it held the balance of power and turned out
ministries. In Germany, where its vote was more than a third of
the total vote of the empire, all other parties and powers had
united to fight it. It would not do, Ostrinski explained,
for the proletariat of one nation to achieve the victory, for that
nation would be crushed by the military power of the others;
and so the Socialist movement was a world movement, an organization
of all mankind to establish liberty and fraternity. It was the
new religion of humanity--or you might say it was the fulfillment
of the old religion, since it implied but the literal application
of all the teachings of Christ.
Until long after midnight Jurgis sat lost in the conversation of
his new acquaintance. It was a most wonderful experience to
him--an almost supernatural experience. It was like encountering
an inhabitant of the fourth dimension of space, a being who was
free from all one's own limitations. For four years, now, Jurgis
had been wondering and blundering in the depths of a wilderness;
and here, suddenly, a hand reached down and seized him, and
lifted him out of it, and set him upon a mountain-top, from which
he could survey it all--could see the paths from which he had
wandered, the morasses into which he had stumbled, the hiding
places of the beasts of prey that had fallen upon him. There
were his Packingtown experiences, for instance--what was there
about Packingtown that Ostrinski could not explain! To Jurgis
the packers had been equivalent to fate; Ostrinski showed him
that they were the Beef Trust. They were a gigantic combination
of capital, which had crushed all opposition, and overthrown the
laws of the land, and was preying upon the people. Jurgis
recollected how, when he had first come to Packingtown, he had
stood and watched the hog-killing, and thought how cruel and
savage it was, and come away congratulating himself that he was
not a hog; now his new acquaintance showed him that a hog was
just what he had been--one of the packers' hogs. What they
wanted from a hog was all the profits that could be got out of
him; and that was what they wanted from the workingman, and also
that was what they wanted from the public. What the hog thought
of it, and what he suffered, were not considered; and no more was
it with labor, and no more with the purchaser of meat. That was
true everywhere in the world, but it was especially true in
Packingtown; there seemed to be something about the work of
slaughtering that tended to ruthlessness and ferocity--it was
literally the fact that in the methods of the packers a hundred
human lives did not balance a penny of profit. When Jurgis had
made himself familiar with the Socialist literature, as he would
very quickly, he would get glimpses of the Beef Trust from all
sorts of aspects, and he would find it everywhere the same;
it was the incarnation of blind and insensate Greed. It was a
monster devouring with a thousand mouths, trampling with a
thousand hoofs; it was the Great Butcher--it was the spirit of
Capitalism made flesh. Upon the ocean of commerce it sailed as a
pirate ship; it had hoisted the black flag and declared war upon
civilization. Bribery and corruption were its everyday methods.
In Chicago the city government was simply one of its branch
offices; it stole billions of gallons of city water openly, it
dictated to the courts the sentences of disorderly strikers, it
forbade the mayor to enforce the building laws against it. In
the national capital it had power to prevent inspection of its
product, and to falsify government reports; it violated the
rebate laws, and when an investigation was threatened it burned
its books and sent its criminal agents out of the country.
In the commercial world it was a Juggernaut car; it wiped out
thousands of businesses every year, it drove men to madness and
suicide. It had forced the price of cattle so low as to destroy
the stock-raising industry, an occupation upon which whole states
existed; it had ruined thousands of butchers who had refused to
handle its products. It divided the country into districts, and
fixed the price of meat in all of them; and it owned all the
refrigerator cars, and levied an enormous tribute upon all
poultry and eggs and fruit and vegetables. With the millions of
dollars a week that poured in upon it, it was reaching out for
the control of other interests, railroads and trolley lines, gas
and electric light franchises--it already owned the leather and
the grain business of the country. The people were tremendously
stirred up over its encroachments, but nobody had any remedy to
suggest; it was the task of Socialists to teach and organize
them, and prepare them for the time when they were to seize the
huge machine called the Beef Trust, and use it to produce food
for human beings and not to heap up fortunes for a band of
pirates. It was long after midnight when Jurgis lay down upon
the floor of Ostrinski's kitchen; and yet it was an hour before
he could get to sleep, for the glory of that joyful vision of the
people of Packingtown marching in and taking possession of the
Union Stockyards!
Chapter 30
Jurgis had breakfast with Ostrinski and his family, and then he
went home to Elzbieta. He was no longer shy about it--when he
went in, instead of saying all the things he had been planning to
say, he started to tell Elzbieta about the revolution! At first
she thought he was out of his mind, and it was hours before she
could really feel certain that he was himself. When, however,
she had satisfied herself that he was sane upon all subjects
except politics, she troubled herself no further about it.
Jurgis was destined to find that Elzbieta's armor was absolutely
impervious to Socialism. Her soul had been baked hard in the
fire of adversity, and there was no altering it now; life to her
was the hunt for daily bread, and ideas existed for her only as
they bore upon that. All that interested her in regard to this
new frenzy which had seized hold of her son-in-law was whether or
not it had a tendency to make him sober and industrious; and when
she found he intended to look for work and to contribute his
share to the family fund, she gave him full rein to convince her
of anything. A wonderfully wise little woman was Elzbieta;
she could think as quickly as a hunted rabbit, and in half an hour
she had chosen her life-attitude to the Socialist movement. She
agreed in everything with Jurgis, except the need of his paying
his dues; and she would even go to a meeting with him now and
then, and sit and plan her next day's dinner amid the storm.
For a week after he became a convert Jurgis continued to wander
about all day, looking for work; until at last he met with a
strange fortune. He was passing one of Chicago's innumerable
small hotels, and after some hesitation he concluded to go in.
A man he took for the proprietor was standing in the lobby, and he
went up to him and tackled him for a job.
"What can you do?" the man asked.
"Anything, sir," said Jurgis, and added quickly: "I've been out
of work for a long time, sir. I'm an honest man, and I'm strong
and willing--"
The other was eying him narrowly. "Do you drink?" he asked.
"No, sir," said Jurgis.
"Well, I've been employing a man as a porter, and he drinks.
I've discharged him seven times now, and I've about made up my
mind that's enough. Would you be a porter?"
"Yes, sir."
"It's hard work. You'll have to clean floors and wash spittoons
and fill lamps and handle trunks--"
"I'm willing, sir."
"All right. I'll pay you thirty a month and board, and you can
begin now, if you feel like it. You can put on the other
fellow's rig."
And so Jurgis fell to work, and toiled like a Trojan till night.
Then he went and told Elzbieta, and also, late as it was, he paid
a visit to Ostrinski to let him know of his good fortune. Here
he received a great surprise, for when he was describing the
location of the hotel Ostrinski interrupted suddenly, "Not
"Yes," said Jurgis, "that's the name."
To which the other replied, "Then you've got the best boss in
Chicago--he's a state organizer of our party, and one of our
best-known speakers!"
So the next morning Jurgis went to his employer and told him;
and the man seized him by the hand and shook it. "By Jove!" he
cried, "that lets me out. I didn't sleep all last night because
I had discharged a good Socialist!"
So, after that, Jurgis was known to his "boss" as "Comrade
Jurgis," and in return he was expected to call him "Comrade
Hinds." "Tommy" Hinds, as he was known to his intimates, was a
squat little man, with broad shoulders and a florid face,
decorated with gray side whiskers. He was the kindest-hearted
man that ever lived, and the liveliest--inexhaustible in his
enthusiasm, and talking Socialism all day and all night. He was
a great fellow to jolly along a crowd, and would keep a meeting
in an uproar; when once he got really waked up, the torrent of
his eloquence could be compared with nothing save Niagara.
Tommy Hinds had begun life as a blacksmith's helper, and had run
away to join the Union army, where he had made his first
acquaintance with "graft," in the shape of rotten muskets and
shoddy blankets. To a musket that broke in a crisis he always
attributed the death of his only brother, and upon worthless
blankets he blamed all the agonies of his own old age. Whenever
it rained, the rheumatism would get into his joints, and then he
would screw up his face and mutter: "Capitalism, my boy,
capitalism! 'Ecrasez l'infame!'" He had one unfailing remedy
for all the evils of this world, and he preached it to every one;
no matter whether the person's trouble was failure in business,
or dyspepsia, or a quarrelsome mother-in-law, a twinkle would
come into his eyes and he would say, "You know what to do about
it--vote the Socialist ticket!"
Tommy Hinds had set out upon the trail of the Octopus as soon as
the war was over. He had gone into business, and found himself
in competition with the fortunes of those who had been stealing
while he had been fighting. The city government was in their
hands and the railroads were in league with them, and honest
business was driven to the wall; and so Hinds had put all his
savings into Chicago real estate, and set out singlehanded to dam
the river of graft. He had been a reform member of the city
council, he had been a Greenbacker, a Labor Unionist, a Populist,
a Bryanite--and after thirty years of fighting, the year 1896 had
served to convince him that the power of concentrated wealth
could never be controlled, but could only be destroyed. He had
published a pamphlet about it, and set out to organize a party of
his own, when a stray Socialist leaflet had revealed to him that
others had been ahead of him. Now for eight years he had been
fighting for the party, anywhere, everywhere--whether it was a
G.A.R. reunion, or a hotel-keepers' convention, or an
Afro-American businessmen's banquet, or a Bible society picnic,
Tommy Hinds would manage to get himself invited to explain the
relations of Socialism to the subject in hand. After that he
would start off upon a tour of his own, ending at some place
between New York and Oregon; and when he came back from there, he
would go out to organize new locals for the state committee; and
finally he would come home to rest--and talk Socialism in
Chicago. Hinds's hotel was a very hot-bed of the propaganda; all
the employees were party men, and if they were not when they
came, they were quite certain to be before they went away. The
proprietor would get into a discussion with some one in the
lobby, and as the conversation grew animated, others would gather
about to listen, until finally every one in the place would be
crowded into a group, and a regular debate would be under way.
This went on every night--when Tommy Hinds was not there to do
it, his clerk did it; and when his clerk was away campaigning,
the assistant attended to it, while Mrs. Hinds sat behind the
desk and did the work. The clerk was an old crony of the
proprietor's, an awkward, rawboned giant of a man, with a lean,
sallow face, a broad mouth, and whiskers under his chin, the very
type and body of a prairie farmer. He had been that all his
life--he had fought the railroads in Kansas for fifty years,
a Granger, a Farmers' Alliance man, a "middle-of-the-road"
Populist. Finally, Tommy Hinds had revealed to him the wonderful
idea of using the trusts instead of destroying them, and he had
sold his farm and come to Chicago.
That was Amos Struver; and then there was Harry Adams, the
assistant clerk, a pale, scholarly-looking man, who came from
Massachusetts, of Pilgrim stock. Adams had been a cotton
operative in Fall River, and the continued depression in the
industry had worn him and his family out, and he had emigrated to
South Carolina. In Massachusetts the percentage of white
illiteracy is eight-tenths of one per cent, while in South
Carolina it is thirteen and six-tenths per cent; also in South
Carolina there is a property qualification for voters--and for
these and other reasons child labor is the rule, and so the
cotton mills were driving those of Massachusetts out of the
business. Adams did not know this, he only knew that the
Southern mills were running; but when he got there he found that
if he was to live, all his family would have to work, and from
six o'clock at night to six o'clock in the morning. So he had
set to work to organize the mill hands, after the fashion in
Massachusetts, and had been discharged; but he had gotten other
work, and stuck at it, and at last there had been a strike for
shorter hours, and Harry Adams had attempted to address a street
meeting, which was the end of him. In the states of the far
South the labor of convicts is leased to contractors, and when
there are not convicts enough they have to be supplied. Harry
Adams was sent up by a judge who was a cousin of the mill owner
with whose business he had interfered; and though the life had
nearly killed him, he had been wise enough not to murmur, and at
the end of his term he and his family had left the state of South
Carolina--hell's back yard, as he called it. He had no money for
carfare, but it was harvesttime, and they walked one day and
worked the next; and so Adams got at last to Chicago, and joined
the Socialist party. He was a studious man, reserved, and
nothing of an orator; but he always had a pile of books under his
desk in the hotel, and articles from his pen were beginning to
attract attention in the party press.
Contrary to what one would have expected, all this radicalism did
not hurt the hotel business; the radicals flocked to it, and the
commercial travelers all found it diverting. Of late, also, the
hotel had become a favorite stopping place for Western cattlemen.
Now that the Beef Trust had adopted the trick of raising prices
to induce enormous shipments of cattle, and then dropping them
again and scooping in all they needed, a stock raiser was very
apt to find himself in Chicago without money enough to pay his
freight bill; and so he had to go to a cheap hotel, and it was no
drawback to him if there was an agitator talking in the lobby.
These Western fellows were just "meat" for Tommy Hinds--he would
get a dozen of them around him and paint little pictures of "the
System." Of course, it was not a week before he had heard
Jurgis's story, and after that he would not have let his new
porter go for the world. "See here," he would say, in the middle
of an argument, "I've got a fellow right here in my place who's
worked there and seen every bit of it!" And then Jurgis would
drop his work, whatever it was, and come, and the other would
say, "Comrade Jurgis, just tell these gentlemen what you saw on
the killing-beds." At first this request caused poor Jurgis the
most acute agony, and it was like pulling teeth to get him to
talk; but gradually he found out what was wanted, and in the end
he learned to stand up and speak his piece with enthusiasm. His
employer would sit by and encourage him with exclamations and
shakes of the head; when Jurgis would give the formula for
"potted ham," or tell about the condemned hogs that were dropped
into the "destructors" at the top and immediately taken out again
at the bottom, to be shipped into another state and made into
lard, Tommy Hinds would bang his knee and cry, "Do you think a
man could make up a thing like that out of his head?"
And then the hotel-keeper would go on to show how the Socialists
had the only real remedy for such evils, how they alone "meant
business" with the Beef Trust. And when, in answer to this, the
victim would say that the whole country was getting stirred up,
that the newspapers were full of denunciations of it, and the
government taking action against it, Tommy Hinds had a knock-out
blow all ready. "Yes," he would say, "all that is true--but what
do you suppose is the reason for it? Are you foolish enough to
believe that it's done for the public? There are other trusts in
the country just as illegal and extortionate as the Beef Trust:
there is the Coal Trust, that freezes the poor in winter--there
is the Steel Trust, that doubles the price of every nail in your
shoes--there is the Oil Trust, that keeps you from reading at
night--and why do you suppose it is that all the fury of the
press and the government is directed against the Beef Trust?" And
when to this the victim would reply that there was clamor enough
over the Oil Trust, the other would continue: "Ten years ago
Henry D. Lloyd told all the truth about the Standard Oil Company
in his Wealth versus Commonwealth; and the book was allowed to
die, and you hardly ever hear of it. And now, at last, two
magazines have the courage to tackle 'Standard Oil' again, and
what happens? The newspapers ridicule the authors, the churches
defend the criminals, and the government--does nothing. And now,
why is it all so different with the Beef Trust?"
Here the other would generally admit that he was "stuck"; and
Tommy Hinds would explain to him, and it was fun to see his eyes
open. "If you were a Socialist," the hotelkeeper would say, "you
would understand that the power which really governs the United
States today is the Railroad Trust. It is the Railroad Trust
that runs your state government, wherever you live, and that runs
the United States Senate. And all of the trusts that I have
named are railroad trusts--save only the Beef Trust! The Beef
Trust has defied the railroads--it is plundering them day by day
through the Private Car; and so the public is roused to fury, and
the papers clamor for action, and the government goes on the warpath!
And you poor common people watch and applaud the job, and
think it's all done for you, and never dream that it is really
the grand climax of the century-long battle of commercial
competition--the final death grapple between the chiefs of the
Beef Trust and 'Standard Oil,' for the prize of the mastery and
ownership of the United States of America!"
Such was the new home in which Jurgis lived and worked, and in
which his education was completed. Perhaps you would imagine
that he did not do much work there, but that would be a great
mistake. He would have cut off one hand for Tommy Hinds; and to
keep Hinds's hotel a thing of beauty was his joy in life. That
he had a score of Socialist arguments chasing through his brain
in the meantime did not interfere with this; on the contrary,
Jurgis scrubbed the spittoons and polished the banisters all the
more vehemently because at the same time he was wrestling
inwardly with an imaginary recalcitrant. It would be pleasant to
record that he swore off drinking immediately, and all the rest
of his bad habits with it; but that would hardly be exact. These
revolutionists were not angels; they were men, and men who had
come up from the social pit, and with the mire of it smeared over
them. Some of them drank, and some of them swore, and some of
them ate pie with their knives; there was only one difference
between them and all the rest of the populace--that they were men
with a hope, with a cause to fight for and suffer for. There
came times to Jurgis when the vision seemed far-off and pale, and
a glass of beer loomed large in comparison; but if the glass led
to another glass, and to too many glasses, he had something to
spur him to remorse and resolution on the morrow. It was so
evidently a wicked thing to spend one's pennies for drink, when
the working class was wandering in darkness, and waiting to be
delivered; the price of a glass of beer would buy fifty copies of
a leaflet, and one could hand these out to the unregenerate,
and then get drunk upon the thought of the good that was being
accomplished. That was the way the movement had been made, and
it was the only way it would progress; it availed nothing to know
of it, without fighting for it--it was a thing for all, not for a
few! A corollary of this proposition of course was, that any one
who refused to receive the new gospel was personally responsible
for keeping Jurgis from his heart's desire; and this, alas, made
him uncomfortable as an acquaintance. He met some neighbors with
whom Elzbieta had made friends in her neighborhood, and he set
out to make Socialists of them by wholesale, and several times he
all but got into a fight.
It was all so painfully obvious to Jurgis! It was so
incomprehensible how a man could fail to see it! Here were all
the opportunities of the country, the land, and the buildings
upon the land, the railroads, the mines, the factories, and the
stores, all in the hands of a few private individuals, called
capitalists, for whom the people were obliged to work for wages.
The whole balance of what the people produced went to heap up the
fortunes of these capitalists, to heap, and heap again, and yet
again--and that in spite of the fact that they, and every one
about them, lived in unthinkable luxury! And was it not plain
that if the people cut off the share of those who merely "owned,"
the share of those who worked would be much greater? That was as
plain as two and two makes four; and it was the whole of it,
absolutely the whole of it; and yet there were people who could
not see it, who would argue about everything else in the world.
They would tell you that governments could not manage things as
economically as private individuals; they would repeat and repeat
that, and think they were saying something! They could not see
that "economical" management by masters meant simply that they,
the people, were worked harder and ground closer and paid less!
They were wage-earners and servants, at the mercy of exploiters
whose one thought was to get as much out of them as possible;
and they were taking an interest in the process, were anxious lest
it should not be done thoroughly enough! Was it not honestly a
trial to listen to an argument such as that?
And yet there were things even worse. You would begin talking to
some poor devil who had worked in one shop for the last thirty
years, and had never been able to save a penny; who left home
every morning at six o'clock, to go and tend a machine, and come
back at night too tired to take his clothes off; who had never
had a week's vacation in his life, had never traveled, never had
an adventure, never learned anything, never hoped anything--and
when you started to tell him about Socialism he would sniff and
say, "I'm not interested in that--I'm an individualist!" And then
he would go on to tell you that Socialism was "paternalism," and
that if it ever had its way the world would stop progressing. It
was enough to make a mule laugh, to hear arguments like that; and
yet it was no laughing matter, as you found out--for how many
millions of such poor deluded wretches there were, whose lives
had been so stunted by capitalism that they no longer knew what
freedom was! And they really thought that it was "individualism"
for tens of thousands of them to herd together and obey the
orders of a steel magnate, and produce hundreds of millions of
dollars of wealth for him, and then let him give them libraries;
while for them to take the industry, and run it to suit
themselves, and build their own libraries--that would have been
Sometimes the agony of such things as this was almost more than
Jurgis could bear; yet there was no way of escape from it, there
was nothing to do but to dig away at the base of this mountain of
ignorance and prejudice. You must keep at the poor fellow; you
must hold your temper, and argue with him, and watch for your
chance to stick an idea or two into his head. And the rest of
the time you must sharpen up your weapons--you must think out new
replies to his objections, and provide yourself with new facts to
prove to him the folly of his ways.
So Jurgis acquired the reading habit. He would carry in his
pocket a tract or a pamphlet which some one had loaned him, and
whenever he had an idle moment during the day he would plod
through a paragraph, and then think about it while he worked.
Also he read the newspapers, and asked questions about them. One
of the other porters at Hinds's was a sharp little Irishman, who
knew everything that Jurgis wanted to know; and while they were
busy he would explain to him the geography of America, and its
history, its constitution and its laws; also he gave him an idea
of the business system of the country, the great railroads and
corporations, and who owned them, and the labor unions, and the
big strikes, and the men who had led them. Then at night, when
he could get off, Jurgis would attend the Socialist meetings.
During the campaign one was not dependent upon the street corner
affairs, where the weather and the quality of the orator were
equally uncertain; there were hall meetings every night, and one
could hear speakers of national prominence. These discussed the
political situation from every point of view, and all that
troubled Jurgis was the impossibility of carrying off but a small
part of the treasures they offered him.
There was a man who was known in the party as the "Little Giant."
The Lord had used up so much material in the making of his head
that there had not been enough to complete his legs; but he got
about on the platform, and when he shook his raven whiskers the
pillars of capitalism rocked. He had written a veritable
encyclopedia upon the subject, a book that was nearly as big as
himself--And then there was a young author, who came from
California, and had been a salmon fisher, an oyster-pirate, a
longshoreman, a sailor; who had tramped the country and been sent
to jail, had lived in the Whitechapel slums, and been to the
Klondike in search of gold. All these things he pictured in his
books, and because he was a man of genius he forced the world to
hear him. Now he was famous, but wherever he went he still
preached the gospel of the poor. And then there was one who was
known at the "millionaire Socialist." He had made a fortune in
business, and spent nearly all of it in building up a magazine,
which the post office department had tried to suppress, and had
driven to Canada. He was a quiet-mannered man, whom you would
have taken for anything in the world but a Socialist agitator.
His speech was simple and informal--he could not understand why
any one should get excited about these things. It was a process
of economic evolution, he said, and he exhibited its laws and
methods. Life was a struggle for existence, and the strong
overcame the weak, and in turn were overcome by the strongest.
Those who lost in the struggle were generally exterminated; but
now and then they had been known to save themselves by
combination--which was a new and higher kind of strength. It was
so that the gregarious animals had overcome the predaceous; it
was so, in human history, that the people had mastered the kings.
The workers were simply the citizens of industry, and the
Socialist movement was the expression of their will to survive.
The inevitability of the revolution depended upon this fact, that
they had no choice but to unite or be exterminated; this fact,
grim and inexorable, depended upon no human will, it was the law
of the economic process, of which the editor showed the details
with the most marvelous precision.
And later on came the evening of the great meeting of the
campaign, when Jurgis heard the two standard-bearers of his
party. Ten years before there had been in Chicago a strike of a
hundred and fifty thousand railroad employees, and thugs had been
hired by the railroads to commit violence, and the President of
the United States had sent in troops to break the strike, by
flinging the officers of the union into jail without trial. The
president of the union came out of his cell a ruined man; but
also he came out a Socialist; and now for just ten years he had
been traveling up and down the country, standing face to face
with the people, and pleading with them for justice. He was a
man of electric presence, tall and gaunt, with a face worn thin
by struggle and suffering. The fury of outraged manhood gleamed
in it--and the tears of suffering little children pleaded in his
voice. When he spoke he paced the stage, lithe and eager, like a
panther. He leaned over, reaching out for his audience; he
pointed into their souls with an insistent finger. His voice was
husky from much speaking, but the great auditorium was as still
as death, and every one heard him.
And then, as Jurgis came out from this meeting, some one handed
him a paper which he carried home with him and read; and so he
became acquainted with the "Appeal to Reason." About twelve years
previously a Colorado real-estate speculator had made up his mind
that it was wrong to gamble in the necessities of life of human
beings: and so he had retired and begun the publication of a
Socialist weekly. There had come a time when he had to set his
own type, but he had held on and won out, and now his publication
was an institution. It used a carload of paper every week, and
the mail trains would be hours loading up at the depot of the
little Kansas town. It was a four-page weekly, which sold for
less than half a cent a copy; its regular subscription list was a
quarter of a million, and it went to every crossroads post office
in America.
The "Appeal" was a "propaganda" paper. It had a manner all its
own--it was full of ginger and spice, of Western slang and
hustle: It collected news of the doings of the "plutes," and
served it up for the benefit of the "American working-mule."
It would have columns of the deadly parallel--the million dollars'
worth of diamonds, or the fancy pet-poodle establishment of a
society dame, beside the fate of Mrs. Murphy of San Francisco,
who had starved to death on the streets, or of John Robinson,
just out of the hospital, who had hanged himself in New York
because he could not find work. It collected the stories of
graft and misery from the daily press, and made a little pungent
paragraphs out of them. "Three banks of Bungtown, South Dakota,
failed, and more savings of the workers swallowed up!" "The mayor
of Sandy Creek, Oklahoma, has skipped with a hundred thousand
dollars. That's the kind of rulers the old partyites give you!"
"The president of the Florida Flying Machine Company is in jail
for bigamy. He was a prominent opponent of Socialism, which he
said would break up the home!" The "Appeal" had what it called
its "Army," about thirty thousand of the faithful, who did things
for it; and it was always exhorting the "Army" to keep its dander
up, and occasionally encouraging it with a prize competition,
for anything from a gold watch to a private yacht or an eighty-acre
farm. Its office helpers were all known to the "Army" by quaint
titles--"Inky Ike," "the Bald-headed Man," "the Redheaded Girl,"
"the Bulldog," "the Office Goat," and "the One Hoss."
But sometimes, again, the "Appeal" would be desperately serious.
It sent a correspondent to Colorado, and printed pages describing
the overthrow of American institutions in that state. In a
certain city of the country it had over forty of its "Army" in
the headquarters of the Telegraph Trust, and no message of
importance to Socialists ever went through that a copy of it did
not go to the "Appeal." It would print great broadsides during
the campaign; one copy that came to Jurgis was a manifesto
addressed to striking workingmen, of which nearly a million
copies had been distributed in the industrial centers, wherever
the employers' associations had been carrying out their "open
shop" program. "You have lost the strike!" it was headed. "And
now what are you going to do about it?" It was what is called an
"incendiary" appeal--it was written by a man into whose soul the
iron had entered. When this edition appeared, twenty thousand
copies were sent to the stockyards district; and they were taken
out and stowed away in the rear of a little cigar store, and
every evening, and on Sundays, the members of the Packingtown
locals would get armfuls and distribute them on the streets and
in the houses. The people of Packingtown had lost their strike,
if ever a people had, and so they read these papers gladly, and
twenty thousand were hardly enough to go round. Jurgis had
resolved not to go near his old home again, but when he heard of
this it was too much for him, and every night for a week he would
get on the car and ride out to the stockyards, and help to undo
his work of the previous year, when he had sent Mike Scully's
ten-pin setter to the city Board of Aldermen.
It was quite marvelous to see what a difference twelve months had
made in Packingtown--the eyes of the people were getting opened!
The Socialists were literally sweeping everything before them
that election, and Scully and the Cook County machine were at
their wits' end for an "issue." At the very close of the campaign
they bethought themselves of the fact that the strike had been
broken by Negroes, and so they sent for a South Carolina
fire-eater, the "pitchfork senator," as he was called, a man who
took off his coat when he talked to workingmen, and damned and
swore like a Hessian. This meeting they advertised extensively,
and the Socialists advertised it too--with the result that about
a thousand of them were on hand that evening. The "pitchfork
senator" stood their fusillade of questions for about an hour,
and then went home in disgust, and the balance of the meeting was
a strictly party affair. Jurgis, who had insisted upon coming,
had the time of his life that night; he danced about and waved
his arms in his excitement--and at the very climax he broke loose
from his friends, and got out into the aisle, and proceeded to
make a speech himself! The senator had been denying that the
Democratic party was corrupt; it was always the Republicans who
bought the votes, he said--and here was Jurgis shouting
furiously, "It's a lie! It's a lie!" After which he went on to
tell them how he knew it--that he knew it because he had bought
them himself! And he would have told the "pitchfork senator" all
his experiences, had not Harry Adams and a friend grabbed him
about the neck and shoved him into a seat.
Chapter 31
One of the first things that Jurgis had done after he got a job
was to go and see Marija. She came down into the basement of the
house to meet him, and he stood by the door with his hat in his
hand, saying, "I've got work now, and so you can leave here."
But Marija only shook her head. There was nothing else for her
to do, she said, and nobody to employ her. She could not keep
her past a secret--girls had tried it, and they were always found
out. There were thousands of men who came to this place, and
sooner or later she would meet one of them. "And besides,"
Marija added, "I can't do anything. I'm no good--I take dope.
What could you do with me?"
"Can't you stop?" Jurgis cried.
"No," she answered, "I'll never stop. What's the use of talking
about it--I'll stay here till I die, I guess. It's all I'm fit
for." And that was all that he could get her to say--there was no
use trying. When he told her he would not let Elzbieta take her
money, she answered indifferently: "Then it'll be wasted
here--that's all." Her eyelids looked heavy and her face was red
and swollen; he saw that he was annoying her, that she only
wanted him to go away. So he went, disappointed and sad.
Poor Jurgis was not very happy in his home-life. Elzbieta was
sick a good deal now, and the boys were wild and unruly, and very
much the worse for their life upon the streets. But he stuck by
the family nevertheless, for they reminded him of his old
happiness; and when things went wrong he could solace himself
with a plunge into the Socialist movement. Since his life had
been caught up into the current of this great stream, things
which had before been the whole of life to him came to seem of
relatively slight importance; his interests were elsewhere,
in the world of ideas. His outward life was commonplace and
uninteresting; he was just a hotel-porter, and expected to remain
one while he lived; but meantime, in the realm of thought,
his life was a perpetual adventure. There was so much to know--so
many wonders to be discovered! Never in all his life did Jurgis
forget the day before election, when there came a telephone
message from a friend of Harry Adams, asking him to bring Jurgis
to see him that night; and Jurgis went, and met one of the minds
of the movement.
The invitation was from a man named Fisher, a Chicago millionaire
who had given up his life to settlement work, and had a little
home in the heart of the city's slums. He did not belong to the
party, but he was in sympathy with it; and he said that he was to
have as his guest that night the editor of a big Eastern
magazine, who wrote against Socialism, but really did not know
what it was. The millionaire suggested that Adams bring Jurgis
along, and then start up the subject of "pure food," in which the
editor was interested.
Young Fisher's home was a little two-story brick house, dingy and
weather-beaten outside, but attractive within. The room that
Jurgis saw was half lined with books, and upon the walls were
many pictures, dimly visible in the soft, yellow light; it was a
cold, rainy night, so a log fire was crackling in the open
hearth. Seven or eight people were gathered about it when Adams
and his friend arrived, and Jurgis saw to his dismay that three
of them were ladies. He had never talked to people of this sort
before, and he fell into an agony of embarrassment. He stood in
the doorway clutching his hat tightly in his hands, and made a
deep bow to each of the persons as he was introduced; then, when
he was asked to have a seat, he took a chair in a dark corner,
and sat down upon the edge of it, and wiped the perspiration off
his forehead with his sleeve. He was terrified lest they should
expect him to talk.
There was the host himself, a tall, athletic young man, clad in
evening dress, as also was the editor, a dyspeptic-looking
gentleman named Maynard. There was the former's frail young
wife, and also an elderly lady, who taught kindergarten in the
settlement, and a young college student, a beautiful girl with an
intense and earnest face. She only spoke once or twice while
Jurgis was there--the rest of the time she sat by the table in
the center of the room, resting her chin in her hands and
drinking in the conversation. There were two other men, whom
young Fisher had introduced to Jurgis as Mr. Lucas and Mr.
Schliemann; he heard them address Adams as "Comrade," and so he
knew that they were Socialists.
The one called Lucas was a mild and meek-looking little gentleman
of clerical aspect; he had been an itinerant evangelist, it
transpired, and had seen the light and become a prophet of the
new dispensation. He traveled all over the country, living like
the apostles of old, upon hospitality, and preaching upon streetcorners
when there was no hall. The other man had been in the
midst of a discussion with the editor when Adams and Jurgis came
in; and at the suggestion of the host they resumed it after the
interruption. Jurgis was soon sitting spellbound, thinking that
here was surely the strangest man that had ever lived in the
Nicholas Schliemann was a Swede, a tall, gaunt person, with hairy
hands and bristling yellow beard; he was a university man, and
had been a professor of philosophy--until, as he said, he had
found that he was selling his character as well as his time.
Instead he had come to America, where he lived in a garret room
in this slum district, and made volcanic energy take the place of
fire. He studied the composition of food-stuffs, and knew
exactly how many proteids and carbohydrates his body needed;
and by scientific chewing he said that he tripled the value
of all he ate, so that it cost him eleven cents a day. About the first of
July he would leave Chicago for his vacation, on foot; and when
he struck the harvest fields he would set to work for two dollars
and a half a day, and come home when he had another year's
supply--a hundred and twenty-five dollars. That was the nearest
approach to independence a man could make "under capitalism," he
explained; he would never marry, for no sane man would allow
himself to fall in love until after the revolution.
He sat in a big arm-chair, with his legs crossed, and his head so
far in the shadow that one saw only two glowing lights, reflected
from the fire on the hearth. He spoke simply, and utterly
without emotion; with the manner of a teacher setting forth to a
group of scholars an axiom in geometry, he would enunciate such
propositions as made the hair of an ordinary person rise on end.
And when the auditor had asserted his non-comprehension, he would
proceed to elucidate by some new proposition, yet more appalling.
To Jurgis the Herr Dr. Schliemann assumed the proportions of a
thunderstorm or an earthquake. And yet, strange as it might
seem, there was a subtle bond between them, and he could follow
the argument nearly all the time. He was carried over the
difficult places in spite of himself; and he went plunging away
in mad career--a very Mazeppa-ride upon the wild horse
Nicholas Schliemann was familiar with all the universe, and with
man as a small part of it. He understood human institutions, and
blew them about like soap bubbles. It was surprising that so
much destructiveness could be contained in one human mind. Was
it government? The purpose of government was the guarding of
property-rights, the perpetuation of ancient force and modern
fraud. Or was it marriage? Marriage and prostitution were two
sides of one shield, the predatory man's exploitation of the sexpleasure.
The difference between them was a difference of class.
If a woman had money she might dictate her own terms: equality,
a life contract, and the legitimacy--that is, the property-rights--
of her children. If she had no money, she was a proletarian, and
sold herself for an existence. And then the subject became
Religion, which was the Archfiend's deadliest weapon. Government
oppressed the body of the wage-slave, but Religion oppressed his
mind, and poisoned the stream of progress at its source. The
working-man was to fix his hopes upon a future life, while his
pockets were picked in this one; he was brought up to frugality,
humility, obedience--in short to all the pseudo-virtues of
capitalism. The destiny of civilization would be decided in one
final death struggle between the Red International and the Black,
between Socialism and the Roman Catholic Church; while here at
home, "the stygian midnight of American evangelicalism--"
And here the ex-preacher entered the field, and there was a
lively tussle. "Comrade" Lucas was not what is called an
educated man; he knew only the Bible, but it was the Bible
interpreted by real experience. And what was the use, he asked,
of confusing Religion with men's perversions of it? That the
church was in the hands of the merchants at the moment was
obvious enough; but already there were signs of rebellion, and if
Comrade Schliemann could come back a few years from now--
"Ah, yes," said the other, "of course, I have no doubt that in a
hundred years the Vatican will be denying that it ever opposed
Socialism, just as at present it denies that it ever tortured
"I am not defending the Vatican," exclaimed Lucas, vehemently.
"I am defending the word of God--which is one long cry of the
human spirit for deliverance from the sway of oppression. Take
the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Job, which I am
accustomed to quote in my addresses as 'the Bible upon the Beef
Trust'; or take the words of Isaiah--or of the Master himself!
Not the elegant prince of our debauched and vicious art, not the
jeweled idol of our society churches--but the Jesus of the awful
reality, the man of sorrow and pain, the outcast, despised of the
world, who had nowhere to lay his head--"
"I will grant you Jesus," interrupted the other.
"Well, then," cried Lucas, "and why should Jesus have nothing to
do with his church--why should his words and his life be of no
authority among those who profess to adore him? Here is a man
who was the world's first revolutionist, the true founder of the
Socialist movement; a man whose whole being was one flame of
hatred for wealth, and all that wealth stands for,--for the pride
of wealth, and the luxury of wealth, and the tyranny of wealth;
who was himself a beggar and a tramp, a man of the people, an
associate of saloon-keepers and women of the town; who again and
again, in the most explicit language, denounced wealth and the
holding of wealth: 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures on
earth!'--'Sell that ye have and give alms!'--'Blessed are ye
poor, for yours is the kingdom of Heaven!'--'Woe unto you that
are rich, for ye have received your consolation!'--'Verily, I say
unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of
Heaven!' Who denounced in unmeasured terms the exploiters of his
own time: 'Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites!'--
'Woe unto you also, you lawyers!'--'Ye serpents, ye generation of
vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?' Who drove out
the businessmen and brokers from the temple with a whip! Who was
crucified--think of it--for an incendiary and a disturber of the
social order! And this man they have made into the high priest
of property and smug respectability, a divine sanction of all the
horrors and abominations of modern commercial civilization!
Jeweled images are made of him, sensual priests burn incense to
him, and modern pirates of industry bring their dollars, wrung
from the toil of helpless women and children, and build temples
to him, and sit in cushioned seats and listen to his teachings
expounded by doctors of dusty divinity--"
"Bravo!" cried Schliemann, laughing. But the other was in full
career--he had talked this subject every day for five years, and
had never yet let himself be stopped. "This Jesus of Nazareth!"
he cried. "This class-conscious working-man! This union
carpenter! This agitator, law-breaker, firebrand, anarchist!
He, the sovereign lord and master of a world which grinds the
bodies and souls of human beings into dollars--if he could come
into the world this day and see the things that men have made in
his name, would it not blast his soul with horror? Would he not
go mad at the sight of it, he the Prince of Mercy and Love! That
dreadful night when he lay in the Garden of Gethsemane and
writhed in agony until he sweat blood--do you think that he saw
anything worse than he might see tonight upon the plains of
Manchuria, where men march out with a jeweled image of him before
them, to do wholesale murder for the benefit of foul monsters of
sensuality and cruelty? Do you not know that if he were in St.
Petersburg now, he would take the whip with which he drove out
the bankers from his temple--"
Here the speaker paused an instant for breath. "No, comrade,"
said the other, dryly, "for he was a practical man. He would
take pretty little imitation lemons, such as are now being
shipped into Russia, handy for carrying in the pockets, and
strong enough to blow a whole temple out of sight."
Lucas waited until the company had stopped laughing over this;
then he began again: "But look at it from the point of view of
practical politics, comrade. Here is an historical figure whom
all men reverence and love, whom some regard as divine; and who
was one of us--who lived our life, and taught our doctrine. And
now shall we leave him in the hands of his enemies--shall we
allow them to stifle and stultify his example? We have his
words, which no one can deny; and shall we not quote them to the
people, and prove to them what he was, and what he taught, and
what he did? No, no, a thousand times no!--we shall use his
authority to turn out the knaves and sluggards from his ministry,
and we shall yet rouse the people to action!--"
Lucas halted again; and the other stretched out his hand to a
paper on the table. "Here, comrade," he said, with a laugh,
"here is a place for you to begin. A bishop whose wife has just
been robbed of fifty thousand dollars' worth of diamonds! And a
most unctuous and oily of bishops! An eminent and scholarly
bishop! A philanthropist and friend of labor bishop--a Civic
Federation decoy duck for the chloroforming of the wage-workingman!"
To this little passage of arms the rest of the company sat as
spectators. But now Mr. Maynard, the editor, took occasion to
remark, somewhat naively, that he had always understood that
Socialists had a cut-and-dried program for the future of
civilization; whereas here were two active members of the party,
who, from what he could make out, were agreed about nothing at
all. Would the two, for his enlightenment, try to ascertain just
what they had in common, and why they belonged to the same party?
This resulted, after much debating, in the formulating of two
carefully worded propositions: First, that a Socialist believes
in the common ownership and democratic management of the means of
producing the necessities of life; and, second, that a Socialist
believes that the means by which this is to be brought about is
the class conscious political organization of the wage-earners.
Thus far they were at one; but no farther. To Lucas, the
religious zealot, the co-operative commonwealth was the New
Jerusalem, the kingdom of Heaven, which is "within you." To the
other, Socialism was simply a necessary step toward a far-distant
goal, a step to be tolerated with impatience. Schliemann called
himself a "philosophic anarchist"; and he explained that an
anarchist was one who believed that the end of human existence
was the free development of every personality, unrestricted by
laws save those of its own being. Since the same kind of match
would light every one's fire and the same-shaped loaf of bread
would fill every one's stomach, it would be perfectly feasible to
submit industry to the control of a majority vote. There was
only one earth, and the quantity of material things was limited.
Of intellectual and moral things, on the other hand, there was no
limit, and one could have more without another's having less;
hence "Communism in material production, anarchism in
intellectual," was the formula of modern proletarian thought.
As soon as the birth agony was over, and the wounds of society had
been healed, there would be established a simple system whereby
each man was credited with his labor and debited with his
purchases; and after that the processes of production, exchange,
and consumption would go on automatically, and without our being
conscious of them, any more than a man is conscious of the
beating of his heart. And then, explained Schliemann, society
would break up into independent, self-governing communities of
mutually congenial persons; examples of which at present were
clubs, churches, and political parties. After the revolution,
all the intellectual, artistic, and spiritual activities of men
would be cared for by such "free associations"; romantic
novelists would be supported by those who liked to read romantic
novels, and impressionist painters would be supported by those
who liked to look at impressionist pictures--and the same with
preachers and scientists, editors and actors and musicians. If
any one wanted to work or paint or pray, and could find no one to
maintain him, he could support himself by working part of the
time. That was the case at present, the only difference being
that the competitive wage system compelled a man to work all the
time to live, while, after the abolition of privilege and
exploitation, any one would be able to support himself by an
hour's work a day. Also the artist's audience of the present was
a small minority of people, all debased and vulgarized by the
effort it had cost them to win in the commercial battle, of the
intellectual and artistic activities which would result when the
whole of mankind was set free from the nightmare of competition,
we could at present form no conception whatever.
And then the editor wanted to know upon what ground Dr.
Schliemann asserted that it might be possible for a society to
exist upon an hour's toil by each of its members. "Just what,"
answered the other, "would be the productive capacity of society
if the present resources of science were utilized, we have no
means of ascertaining; but we may be sure it would exceed
anything that would sound reasonable to minds inured to the
ferocious barbarities of capitalism. After the triumph of the
international proletariat, war would of course be inconceivable;
and who can figure the cost of war to humanity--not merely the
value of the lives and the material that it destroys, not merely
the cost of keeping millions of men in idleness, of arming and
equipping them for battle and parade, but the drain upon the
vital energies of society by the war attitude and the war terror,
the brutality and ignorance, the drunkenness, prostitution, and
crime it entails, the industrial impotence and the moral
deadness? Do you think that it would be too much to say that two
hours of the working time of every efficient member of a
community goes to feed the red fiend of war?"
And then Schliemann went on to outline some of the wastes of
competition: the losses of industrial warfare; the ceaseless
worry and friction; the vices--such as drink, for instance, the
use of which had nearly doubled in twenty years, as a consequence
of the intensification of the economic struggle; the idle and
unproductive members of the community, the frivolous rich and the
pauperized poor; the law and the whole machinery of repression;
the wastes of social ostentation, the milliners and tailors, the
hairdressers, dancing masters, chefs and lackeys. "You
understand," he said, "that in a society dominated by the fact of
commercial competition, money is necessarily the test of prowess,
and wastefulness the sole criterion of power. So we have, at the
present moment, a society with, say, thirty per cent of the
population occupied in producing useless articles, and one per
cent occupied in destroying them. And this is not all; for the
servants and panders of the parasites are also parasites, the
milliners and the jewelers and the lackeys have also to be
supported by the useful members of the community. And bear in
mind also that this monstrous disease affects not merely the
idlers and their menials, its poison penetrates the whole social
body. Beneath the hundred thousand women of the elite are a
million middle-class women, miserable because they are not of the
elite, and trying to appear of it in public; and beneath them,
in turn, are five million farmers' wives reading 'fashion papers'
and trimming bonnets, and shop-girls and serving-maids selling
themselves into brothels for cheap jewelry and imitation sealskin
robes. And then consider that, added to this competition in
display, you have, like oil on the flames, a whole system of
competition in selling! You have manufacturers contriving tens
of thousands of catchpenny devices, storekeepers displaying them,
and newspapers and magazines filled up with advertisements of
"And don't forget the wastes of fraud," put in young Fisher.
"When one comes to the ultra-modern profession of advertising,"
responded Schliemann--"the science of persuading people to buy
what they do not want--he is in the very center of the ghastly
charnel house of capitalist destructiveness, and he scarcely
knows which of a dozen horrors to point out first. But consider
the waste in time and energy incidental to making ten thousand
varieties of a thing for purposes of ostentation and
snobbishness, where one variety would do for use! Consider all
the waste incidental to the manufacture of cheap qualities of
goods, of goods made to sell and deceive the ignorant; consider
the wastes of adulteration,--the shoddy clothing, the cotton
blankets, the unstable tenements, the ground-cork lifepreservers,
the adulterated milk, the aniline soda water, the
potato-flour sausages--"
"And consider the moral aspects of the thing," put in the
"Precisely," said Schliemann; "the low knavery and the ferocious
cruelty incidental to them, the plotting and the lying and the
bribing, the blustering and bragging, the screaming egotism, the
hurrying and worrying. Of course, imitation and adulteration are
the essence of competition--they are but another form of the
phrase 'to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest.'
A government official has stated that the nation suffers a loss of
a billion and a quarter dollars a year through adulterated foods;
which means, of course, not only materials wasted that might have
been useful outside of the human stomach, but doctors and nurses
for people who would otherwise have been well, and undertakers
for the whole human race ten or twenty years before the proper
time. Then again, consider the waste of time and energy required
to sell these things in a dozen stores, where one would do.
There are a million or two of business firms in the country,
and five or ten times as many clerks; and consider the handling and
rehandling, the accounting and reaccounting, the planning and
worrying, the balancing of petty profit and loss. Consider the
whole machinery of the civil law made necessary by these
processes; the libraries of ponderous tomes, the courts and
juries to interpret them, the lawyers studying to circumvent
them, the pettifogging and chicanery, the hatreds and lies!
Consider the wastes incidental to the blind and haphazard
production of commodities--the factories closed, the workers
idle, the goods spoiling in storage; consider the activities of
the stock manipulator, the paralyzing of whole industries, the
overstimulation of others, for speculative purposes; the
assignments and bank failures, the crises and panics, the
deserted towns and the starving populations! Consider the
energies wasted in the seeking of markets, the sterile trades,
such as drummer, solicitor, bill-poster, advertising agent.
Consider the wastes incidental to the crowding into cities, made
necessary by competition and by monopoly railroad rates; consider
the slums, the bad air, the disease and the waste of vital
energies; consider the office buildings, the waste of time and
material in the piling of story upon story, and the burrowing
underground! Then take the whole business of insurance, the
enormous mass of administrative and clerical labor it involves,
and all utter waste--"
"I do not follow that," said the editor. "The Cooperative
Commonwealth is a universal automatic insurance company and
savings bank for all its members. Capital being the property of
all, injury to it is shared by all and made up by all. The bank
is the universal government credit-account, the ledger in which
every individual's earnings and spendings ate balanced. There is
also a universal government bulletin, in which are listed and
precisely described everything which the commonwealth has for
sale. As no one makes any profit by the sale, there is no longer
any stimulus to extravagance, and no misrepresentation; no
cheating, no adulteration or imitation, no bribery or
"How is the price of an article determined?"
"The price is the labor it has cost to make and deliver it, and
it is determined by the first principles of arithmetic. The
million workers in the nation's wheat fields have worked a
hundred days each, and the total product of the labor is a
billion bushels, so the value of a bushel of wheat is the tenth
part of a farm labor-day. If we employ an arbitrary symbol, and
pay, say, five dollars a day for farm work, then the cost of a
bushel of wheat is fifty cents."
"You say 'for farm work,'" said Mr. Maynard. "Then labor is not
to be paid alike?"
"Manifestly not, since some work is easy and some hard, and we
should have millions of rural mail carriers, and no coal miners.
Of course the wages may be left the same, and the hours varied;
one or the other will have to be varied continually, according as
a greater or less number of workers is needed in any particular
industry. That is precisely what is done at present, except that
the transfer of the workers is accomplished blindly and
imperfectly, by rumors and advertisements, instead of instantly
and completely, by a universal government bulletin."
"How about those occupations in which time is difficult to
calculate? What is the labor cost of a book?"
"Obviously it is the labor cost of the paper, printing, and
binding of it--about a fifth of its present cost."
"And the author?"
"I have already said that the state could not control
intellectual production. The state might say that it had taken a
year to write the book, and the author might say it had taken
thirty. Goethe said that every bon mot of his had cost a purse
of gold. What I outline here is a national, or rather
international, system for the providing of the material needs of
men. Since a man has intellectual needs also, he will work
longer, earn more, and provide for them to his own taste and in
his own way. I live on the same earth as the majority, I wear
the same kind of shoes and sleep in the same kind of bed; but I
do not think the same kind of thoughts, and I do not wish to pay
for such thinkers as the majority selects. I wish such things to
be left to free effort, as at present. If people want to listen
to a certain preacher, they get together and contribute what they
please, and pay for a church and support the preacher, and then
listen to him; I, who do not want to listen to him, stay away,
and it costs me nothing. In the same way there are magazines
about Egyptian coins, and Catholic saints, and flying machines,
and athletic records, and I know nothing about any of them. On
the other hand, if wage slavery were abolished, and I could earn
some spare money without paying tribute to an exploiting
capitalist, then there would be a magazine for the purpose of
interpreting and popularizing the gospel of Friedrich Nietzsche,
the prophet of Evolution, and also of Horace Fletcher, the
inventor of the noble science of clean eating; and incidentally,
perhaps, for the discouraging of long skirts, and the scientific
breeding of men and women, and the establishing of divorce by
mutual consent."
Dr. Schliemann paused for a moment. "That was a lecture," he
said with a laugh, "and yet I am only begun!"
"What else is there?" asked Maynard.
"I have pointed out some of the negative wastes of competition,"
answered the other. "I have hardly mentioned the positive
economies of co-operation. Allowing five to a family, there are
fifteen million families in this country; and at least ten
million of these live separately, the domestic drudge being
either the wife or a wage slave. Now set aside the modern system
of pneumatic house-cleaning, and the economies of co-operative
cooking; and consider one single item, the washing of dishes.
Surely it is moderate to say that the dishwashing for a family of
five takes half an hour a day; with ten hours as a day's work, it
takes, therefore, half a million able-bodied persons--mostly
women to do the dishwashing of the country. And note that this
is most filthy and deadening and brutalizing work; that it is a
cause of anemia, nervousness, ugliness, and ill-temper; of
prostitution, suicide, and insanity; of drunken husbands and
degenerate children--for all of which things the community has
naturally to pay. And now consider that in each of my little
free communities there would be a machine which would wash and
dry the dishes, and do it, not merely to the eye and the touch,
but scientifically--sterilizing them--and do it at a saving of
all the drudgery and nine-tenths of the time! All of these
things you may find in the books of Mrs. Gilman; and then take
Kropotkin's Fields, Factories, and Workshops, and read about the
new science of agriculture, which has been built up in the last
ten years; by which, with made soils and intensive culture, a
gardener can raise ten or twelve crops in a season, and two
hundred tons of vegetables upon a single acre; by which the
population of the whole globe could be supported on the soil now
cultivated in the United States alone! It is impossible to apply
such methods now, owing to the ignorance and poverty of our
scattered farming population; but imagine the problem of
providing the food supply of our nation once taken in hand
systematically and rationally, by scientists! All the poor and
rocky land set apart for a national timber reserve, in which our
children play, and our young men hunt, and our poets dwell! The
most favorable climate and soil for each product selected;
the exact requirements of the community known, and the acreage
figured accordingly; the most improved machinery employed, under
the direction of expert agricultural chemists! I was brought up
on a farm, and I know the awful deadliness of farm work; and I
like to picture it all as it will be after the revolution. To
picture the great potato-planting machine, drawn by four horses,
or an electric motor, ploughing the furrow, cutting and dropping
and covering the potatoes, and planting a score of acres a day!
To picture the great potato-digging machine, run by electricity,
perhaps, and moving across a thousand-acre field, scooping up
earth and potatoes, and dropping the latter into sacks! To every
other kind of vegetable and fruit handled in the same way--apples
and oranges picked by machinery, cows milked by
electricity--things which are already done, as you may know. To
picture the harvest fields of the future, to which millions of
happy men and women come for a summer holiday, brought by special
trains, the exactly needful number to each place! And to
contrast all this with our present agonizing system of
independent small farming,--a stunted, haggard, ignorant man,
mated with a yellow, lean, and sad-eyed drudge, and toiling from
four o'clock in the morning until nine at night, working the
children as soon as they are able to walk, scratching the soil
with its primitive tools, and shut out from all knowledge and
hope, from all their benefits of science and invention, and all
the joys of the spirit--held to a bare existence by competition
in labor, and boasting of his freedom because he is too blind to
see his chains!"
Dr. Schliemann paused a moment. "And then," he continued,
"place beside this fact of an unlimited food supply, the newest
discovery of physiologists, that most of the ills of the human
system are due to overfeeding! And then again, it has been
proven that meat is unnecessary as a food; and meat is obviously
more difficult to produce than vegetable food, less pleasant to
prepare and handle, and more likely to be unclean. But what of
that, so long as it tickles the palate more strongly?"
"How would Socialism change that?" asked the girl-student,
quickly. It was the first time she had spoken.
"So long as we have wage slavery," answered Schliemann, "it
matters not in the least how debasing and repulsive a task may
be, it is easy to find people to perform it. But just as soon as
labor is set free, then the price of such work will begin to
rise. So one by one the old, dingy, and unsanitary factories
will come down--it will be cheaper to build new; and so the
steamships will be provided with stoking machinery, and so the
dangerous trades will be made safe, or substitutes will be found
for their products. In exactly the same way, as the citizens of
our Industrial Republic become refined, year by year the cost of
slaughterhouse products will increase; until eventually those who
want to eat meat will have to do their own killing--and how long
do you think the custom would survive then?--To go on to another
item--one of the necessary accompaniments of capitalism in a
democracy is political corruption; and one of the consequences of
civic administration by ignorant and vicious politicians, is that
preventable diseases kill off half our population. And even if
science were allowed to try, it could do little, because the
majority of human beings are not yet human beings at all, but
simply machines for the creating of wealth for others. They are
penned up in filthy houses and left to rot and stew in misery,
and the conditions of their life make them ill faster than all
the doctors in the world could heal them; and so, of course,
they remain as centers of contagion, poisoning the lives of all of us,
and making happiness impossible for even the most selfish. For
this reason I would seriously maintain that all the medical and
surgical discoveries that science can make in the future will be
of less importance than the application of the knowledge we
already possess, when the disinherited of the earth have
established their right to a human existence."
And here the Herr Doctor relapsed into silence again. Jurgis had
noticed that the beautiful young girl who sat by the center-table
was listening with something of the same look that he himself had
worn, the time when he had first discovered Socialism. Jurgis
would have liked to talk to her, he felt sure that she would have
understood him. Later on in the evening, when the group broke
up, he heard Mrs. Fisher say to her, in a low voice, "I wonder if
Mr. Maynard will still write the same things about Socialism"; to
which she answered, "I don't know--but if he does we shall know
that he is a knave!"
And only a few hours after this came election day--when the long
campaign was over, and the whole country seemed to stand still
and hold its breath, awaiting the issue. Jurgis and the rest of
the staff of Hinds's Hotel could hardly stop to finish their
dinner, before they hurried off to the big hall which the party
had hired for that evening.
But already there were people waiting, and already the telegraph
instrument on the stage had begun clicking off the returns. When
the final accounts were made up, the Socialist vote proved to be
over four hundred thousand--an increase of something like three
hundred and fifty per cent in four years. And that was doing
well; but the party was dependent for its early returns upon
messages from the locals, and naturally those locals which had
been most successful were the ones which felt most like
reporting; and so that night every one in the hall believed that
the vote was going to be six, or seven, or even eight hundred
thousand. Just such an incredible increase had actually been
made in Chicago, and in the state; the vote of the city had been
6,700 in 1900, and now it was 47,000; that of Illinois had been
9,600, and now it was 69,000! So, as the evening waxed, and the
crowd piled in, the meeting was a sight to be seen. Bulletins
would be read, and the people would shout themselves hoarse --
and then some one would make a speech, and there would be more
shouting; and then a brief silence, and more bulletins. There
would come messages from the secretaries of neighboring states,
reporting their achievements; the vote of Indiana had gone from
2,300 to 12,000, of Wisconsin from 7,000 to 28,000; of Ohio from
4,800 to 36,000! There were telegrams to the national office
from enthusiastic individuals in little towns which had made
amazing and unprecedented increases in a single year: Benedict,
Kansas, from 26 to 260; Henderson, Kentucky, from 19 to 111;
Holland, Michigan, from 14 to 208; Cleo, Oklahoma, from 0 to 104;
Martin's Ferry, Ohio, from 0 to 296--and many more of the same
kind. There were literally hundreds of such towns; there would
be reports from half a dozen of them in a single batch of
telegrams. And the men who read the despatches off to the
audience were old campaigners, who had been to the places and
helped to make the vote, and could make appropriate comments:
Quincy, Illinois, from 189 to 831--that was where the mayor had
arrested a Socialist speaker! Crawford County, Kansas, from 285
to 1,975; that was the home of the "Appeal to Reason"! Battle
Creek, Michigan, from 4,261 to 10,184; that was the answer of
labor to the Citizens' Alliance Movement!
And then there were official returns from the various precincts
and wards of the city itself! Whether it was a factory district
or one of the "silk-stocking" wards seemed to make no particular
difference in the increase; but one of the things which surprised
the party leaders most was the tremendous vote that came rolling
in from the stockyards. Packingtown comprised three wards of the
city, and the vote in the spring of 1903 had been 500, and in the
fall of the same year, 1,600. Now, only one year later, it was
over 6,300--and the Democratic vote only 8,800! There were other
wards in which the Democratic vote had been actually surpassed,
and in two districts, members of the state legislature had been
elected. Thus Chicago now led the country; it had set a new
standard for the party, it had shown the workingmen the way!
--So spoke an orator upon the platform; and two thousand pairs of
eyes were fixed upon him, and two thousand voices were cheering
his every sentence. The orator had been the head of the city's
relief bureau in the stockyards, until the sight of misery and
corruption had made him sick. He was young, hungry-looking, full
of fire; and as he swung his long arms and beat up the crowd, to
Jurgis he seemed the very spirit of the revolution. "Organize!
Organize! Organize!"--that was his cry. He was afraid of this
tremendous vote, which his party had not expected, and which it
had not earned. "These men are not Socialists!" he cried. "This
election will pass, and the excitement will die, and people will
forget about it; and if you forget about it, too, if you sink
back and rest upon your oars, we shall lose this vote that we
have polled to-day, and our enemies will laugh us to scorn! It
rests with you to take your resolution--now, in the flush of
victory, to find these men who have voted for us, and bring them
to our meetings, and organize them and bind them to us! We shall
not find all our campaigns as easy as this one. Everywhere in
the country tonight the old party politicians are studying this
vote, and setting their sails by it; and nowhere will they be
quicker or more cunning than here in our own city. Fifty
thousand Socialist votes in Chicago means a municipal-ownership
Democracy in the spring! And then they will fool the voters once
more, and all the powers of plunder and corruption will be swept
into office again! But whatever they may do when they get in,
there is one thing they will not do, and that will be the thing
for which they were elected! They will not give the people of
our city municipal ownership--they will not mean to do it, they
will not try to do it; all that they will do is give our party in
Chicago the greatest opportunity that has ever come to Socialism
in America! We shall have the sham reformers self-stultified and
self-convicted; we shall have the radical Democracy left without
a lie with which to cover its nakedness! And then will begin the
rush that will never be checked, the tide that will never turn
till it has reached its flood--that will be irresistible,
overwhelming--the rallying of the outraged workingmen of Chicago
to our standard! And we shall organize them, we shall drill
them, we shall marshal them for the victory! We shall bear down
the opposition, we shall sweep if before us--and Chicago will be
ours! Chicago will be ours! CHICAGO WILL BE OURS!"

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