Part 1 out of 8
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
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
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 black-
rimmed 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!
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
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
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."
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 good-
for-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
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!"
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:
"No; Lit-uanian." (Jurgis had studied this word carefully.)
"Je." (A nod.)
"Worked here before?"
(Signals and gesticulations on the part of the boss. Vigorous
shakes of the head by Jurgis.)
"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
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 self-
confidence, 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
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
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!
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
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 seventy-
five 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-for-
nothing 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.
"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
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."