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The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

Part 2 out of 8

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Among these importunate signs was one that had caught the attention of
the family by its pictures. It showed two very pretty little birds
building themselves a home; and Marija had asked an acquaintance to read
it to her, and told them that it related to the furnishing of a house.
"Feather your nest," it ran--and went on to say that it could furnish
all the necessary feathers for a four-room nest for the ludicrously
small sum of seventy-five dollars. The particularly important thing
about this offer was that only a small part of the money need be had
at once--the rest one might pay a few dollars every month. Our friends
had to have some furniture, there was no getting away from that; but their
little fund of money had sunk so low that they could hardly get to sleep
at night, and so they fled to this as their deliverance. There was more
agony and another paper for Elzbieta to sign, and then one night when
Jurgis came home, he was told the breathless tidings that the furniture
had arrived and was safely stowed in the house: a parlor set of four
pieces, a bedroom set of three pieces, a dining room table and four
chairs, a toilet set with beautiful pink roses painted all over it,
an assortment of crockery, also with pink roses--and so on. One of
the plates in the set had been found broken when they unpacked it,
and Ona was going to the store the first thing in the morning to make
them change it; also they had promised three saucepans, and there had
only two come, and did Jurgis think that they were trying to cheat them?

The next day they went to the house; and when the men came from work
they ate a few hurried mouthfuls at Aniele's, and then set to work at
the task of carrying their belongings to their new home. The distance
was in reality over two miles, but Jurgis made two trips that night,
each time with a huge pile of mattresses and bedding on his head,
with bundles of clothing and bags and things tied up inside. Anywhere
else in Chicago he would have stood a good chance of being arrested;
but the policemen in Packingtown were apparently used to these informal
movings, and contented themselves with a cursory examination now and then.
It was quite wonderful to see how fine the house looked, with all the
things in it, even by the dim light of a lamp: it was really home,
and almost as exciting as the placard had described it. Ona was fairly
dancing, and she and Cousin Marija took Jurgis by the arm and escorted
him from room to room, sitting in each chair by turns, and then insisting
that he should do the same. One chair squeaked with his great weight,
and they screamed with fright, and woke the baby and brought everybody
running. Altogether it was a great day; and tired as they were, Jurgis
and Ona sat up late, contented simply to hold each other and gaze in
rapture about the room. They were going to be married as soon as they
could get everything settled, and a little spare money put by; and this
was to be their home--that little room yonder would be theirs!

It was in truth a never-ending delight, the fixing up of this house.
They had no money to spend for the pleasure of spending, but there were
a few absolutely necessary things, and the buying of these was a perpetual
adventure for Ona. It must always be done at night, so that Jurgis
could go along; and even if it were only a pepper cruet, or half a dozen
glasses for ten cents, that was enough for an expedition. On Saturday
night they came home with a great basketful of things, and spread them
out on the table, while every one stood round, and the children climbed
up on the chairs, or howled to be lifted up to see. There were sugar
and salt and tea and crackers, and a can of lard and a milk pail, and a
scrubbing brush, and a pair of shoes for the second oldest boy, and a can
of oil, and a tack hammer, and a pound of nails. These last were to be
driven into the walls of the kitchen and the bedrooms, to hang things on;
and there was a family discussion as to the place where each one was to
be driven. Then Jurgis would try to hammer, and hit his fingers because
the hammer was too small, and get mad because Ona had refused to let him
pay fifteen cents more and get a bigger hammer; and Ona would be invited
to try it herself, and hurt her thumb, and cry out, which necessitated the
thumb's being kissed by Jurgis. Finally, after every one had had a try,
the nails would be driven, and something hung up. Jurgis had come home
with a big packing box on his head, and he sent Jonas to get another that
he had bought. He meant to take one side out of these tomorrow, and put
shelves in them, and make them into bureaus and places to keep things for
the bedrooms. The nest which had been advertised had not included feathers
for quite so many birds as there were in this family.

They had, of course, put their dining table in the kitchen, and the
dining room was used as the bedroom of Teta Elzbieta and five of her
children. She and the two youngest slept in the only bed, and the
other three had a mattress on the floor. Ona and her cousin dragged a
mattress into the parlor and slept at night, and the three men and the
oldest boy slept in the other room, having nothing but the very level
floor to rest on for the present. Even so, however, they slept soundly--
it was necessary for Teta Elzbieta to pound more than once on the at a
quarter past five every morning. She would have ready a great pot full
of steaming black coffee, and oatmeal and bread and smoked sausages;
and then she would fix them their dinner pails with more thick slices
of bread with lard between them--they could not afford butter--and some
onions and a piece of cheese, and so they would tramp away to work.

This was the first time in his life that he had ever really worked,
it seemed to Jurgis; it was the first time that he had ever had anything
to do which took all he had in him. Jurgis had stood with the rest up
in the gallery and watched the men on the killing beds, marveling at their
speed and power as if they had been wonderful machines; it somehow never
occurred to one to think of the flesh-and-blood side of it--that is, not
until he actually got down into the pit and took off his coat. Then he saw
things in a different light, he got at the inside of them. The pace they
set here, it was one that called for every faculty of a man--from the
instant the first steer fell till the sounding of the noon whistle, and
again from half-past twelve till heaven only knew what hour in the late
afternoon or evening, there was never one instant's rest for a man, for his
hand or his eye or his brain. Jurgis saw how they managed it; there were
portions of the work which determined the pace of the rest, and for these
they had picked men whom they paid high wages, and whom they changed
frequently. You might easily pick out these pacemakers, for they worked
under the eye of the bosses, and they worked like men possessed. This was
called "speeding up the gang," and if any man could not keep up with the
pace, there were hundreds outside begging to try.

Yet Jurgis did not mind it; he rather enjoyed it. It saved him the
necessity of flinging his arms about and fidgeting as he did in most work.
He would laugh to himself as he ran down the line, darting a glance now
and then at the man ahead of him. It was not the pleasantest work one
could think of, but it was necessary work; and what more had a man the
right to ask than a chance to do something useful, and to get good pay
for doing it?

So Jurgis thought, and so he spoke, in his bold, free way; very much
to his surprise, he found that it had a tendency to get him into trouble.
For most of the men here took a fearfully different view of the thing.
He was quite dismayed when he first began to find it out--that most of
the men hated their work. It seemed strange, it was even terrible, when
you came to find out the universality of the sentiment; but it was
certainly the fact--they hated their work. They hated the bosses and
they hated the owners; they hated the whole place, the whole neighborhood--
even the whole city, with an all-inclusive hatred, bitter and fierce.
Women and little children would fall to cursing about it; it was rotten,
rotten as hell--everything was rotten. When Jurgis would ask them what
they meant, they would begin to get suspicious, and content themselves
with saying, "Never mind, you stay here and see for yourself."

One of the first problems that Jurgis ran upon was that of the unions.
He had had no experience with unions, and he had to have it explained
to him that the men were banded together for the purpose of fighting
for their rights. Jurgis asked them what they meant by their rights,
a question in which he was quite sincere, for he had not any idea of any
rights that he had, except the right to hunt for a job, and do as he was
told when he got it. Generally, however, this harmless question would
only make his fellow workingmen lose their tempers and call him a fool.
There was a delegate of the butcher-helpers' union who came to see Jurgis
to enroll him; and when Jurgis found that this meant that he would have
to part with some of his money, he froze up directly, and the delegate,
who was an Irishman and only knew a few words of Lithuanian, lost his
temper and began to threaten him. In the end Jurgis got into a fine rage,
and made it sufficiently plain that it would take more than one Irishman
to scare him into a union. Little by little he gathered that the main
thing the men wanted was to put a stop to the habit of "speeding-up";
they were trying their best to force a lessening of the pace, for there
were some, they said, who could not keep up with it, whom it was killing.
But Jurgis had no sympathy with such ideas as this--he could do the work
himself, and so could the rest of them, he declared, if they were good
for anything. If they couldn't do it, let them go somewhere else.
Jurgis had not studied the books, and he would not have known how to
pronounce "laissez faire"; but he had been round the world enough to know
that a man has to shift for himself in it, and that if he gets the worst
of it, there is nobody to listen to him holler.

Yet there have been known to be philosophers and plain men who swore by
Malthus in the books, and would, nevertheless, subscribe to a relief fund
in time of a famine. It was the same with Jurgis, who consigned the
unfit to destruction, while going about all day sick at heart because of
his poor old father, who was wandering somewhere in the yards begging for
a chance to earn his bread. Old Antanas had been a worker ever since he
was a child; he had run away from home when he was twelve, because his
father beat him for trying to learn to read. And he was a faithful man,
too; he was a man you might leave alone for a month, if only you had made
him understand what you wanted him to do in the meantime. And now here
he was, worn out in soul and body, and with no more place in the world
than a sick dog. He had his home, as it happened, and some one who would
care for him it he never got a job; but his son could not help thinking,
suppose this had not been the case. Antanas Rudkus had been into every
building in Packingtown by this time, and into nearly every room; he had
stood mornings among the crowd of applicants till the very policemen had
come to know his face and to tell him to go home and give it up. He had
been likewise to all the stores and saloons for a mile about, begging
for some little thing to do; and everywhere they had ordered him out,
sometimes with curses, and not once even stopping to ask him a question.

So, after all, there was a crack in the fine structure of Jurgis' faith
in things as they are. The crack was wide while Dede Antanas was hunting
a job--and it was yet wider when he finally got it. For one evening the
old man came home in a great state of excitement, with the tale that he
had been approached by a man in one of the corridors of the pickle rooms
of Durham's, and asked what he would pay to get a job. He had not known
what to make of this at first; but the man had gone on with matter-of-fact
frankness to say that he could get him a job, provided that he were
willing to pay one-third of his wages for it. Was he a boss? Antanas
had asked; to which the man had replied that that was nobody's business,
but that he could do what he said.

Jurgis had made some friends by this time, and he sought one of them and
asked what this meant. The friend, who was named Tamoszius Kuszleika,
was a sharp little man who folded hides on the killing beds, and he
listened to what Jurgis had to say without seeming at all surprised.
They were common enough, he said, such cases of petty graft. It was
simply some boss who proposed to add a little to his income. After Jurgis
had been there awhile he would know that the plants were simply honeycombed
with rottenness of that sort--the bosses grafted off the men, and they
grafted off each other; and some day the superintendent would find out
about the boss, and then he would graft off the boss. Warming to the
subject, Tamoszius went on to explain the situation. Here was Durham's,
for instance, owned by a man who was trying to make as much money out
of it as he could, and did not care in the least how he did it; and
underneath him, ranged in ranks and grades like an army, were managers
and superintendents and foremen, each one driving the man next below
him and trying to squeeze out of him as much work as possible. And all
the men of the same rank were pitted against each other; the accounts
of each were kept separately, and every man lived in terror of losing
his job, if another made a better record than he. So from top to bottom
the place was simply a seething caldron of jealousies and hatreds; there
was no loyalty or decency anywhere about it, there was no place in it
where a man counted for anything against a dollar. And worse than there
being no decency, there was not even any honesty. The reason for that?
Who could say? It must have been old Durham in the beginning; it was a
heritage which the self-made merchant had left to his son, along with
his millions.

Jurgis would find out these things for himself, if he stayed there long
enough; it was the men who had to do all the dirty jobs, and so there
was no deceiving them; and they caught the spirit of the place, and did
like all the rest. Jurgis had come there, and thought he was going to
make himself useful, and rise and become a skilled man; but he would soon
find out his error--for nobody rose in Packingtown by doing good work.
You could lay that down for a rule--if you met a man who was rising in
Packingtown, you met a knave. That man who had been sent to Jurgis'
father by the boss, he would rise; the man who told tales and spied upon
his fellows would rise; but the man who minded his own business and did his
work--why, they would "speed him up" till they had worn him out, and then
they would throw him into the gutter.

Jurgis went home with his head buzzing. Yet he could not bring himself
to believe such things--no, it could not be so. Tamoszius was simply
another of the grumblers. He was a man who spent all his time fiddling;
and he would go to parties at night and not get home till sunrise,
and so of course he did not feel like work. Then, too, he was a puny
little chap; and so he had been left behind in the race, and that was
why he was sore. And yet so many strange things kept coming to Jurgis'
notice every day!

He tried to persuade his father to have nothing to do with the offer.
But old Antanas had begged until he was worn out, and all his courage
was gone; he wanted a job, any sort of a job. So the next day he went
and found the man who had spoken to him, and promised to bring him
a third of all he earned; and that same day he was put to work in Durham's
cellars. It was a "pickle room," where there was never a dry spot to
stand upon, and so he had to take nearly the whole of his first week's
earnings to buy him a pair of heavy-soled boots. He was a "squeedgie" man;
his job was to go about all day with a long-handled mop, swabbing up the
floor. Except that it was damp and dark, it was not an unpleasant job,
in summer.

Now Antanas Rudkus was the meekest man that God ever put on earth; and so
Jurgis found it a striking confirmation of what the men all said, that
his father had been at work only two days before he came home as bitter
as any of them, and cursing Durham's with all the power of his soul.
For they had set him to cleaning out the traps; and the family sat round
and listened in wonder while he told them what that meant. It seemed
that he was working in the room where the men prepared the beef for
canning, and the beef had lain in vats full of chemicals, and men with
great forks speared it out and dumped it into trucks, to be taken to
the cooking room. When they had speared out all they could reach, they
emptied the vat on the floor, and then with shovels scraped up the
balance and dumped it into the truck. This floor was filthy, yet they
set Antanas with his mop slopping the "pickle" into a hole that
connected with a sink, where it was caught and used over again forever;
and if that were not enough, there was a trap in the pipe, where all the
scraps of meat and odds and ends of refuse were caught, and every few
days it was the old man's task to clean these out, and shovel their
contents into one of the trucks with the rest of the meat!

This was the experience of Antanas; and then there came also Jonas and
Marija with tales to tell. Marija was working for one of the independent
packers, and was quite beside herself and outrageous with triumph over
the sums of money she was making as a painter of cans. But one day she
walked home with a pale-faced little woman who worked opposite to her,
Jadvyga Marcinkus by name, and Jadvyga told her how she, Marija, had
chanced to get her job. She had taken the place of an Irishwoman who
had been working in that factory ever since any one could remember.
For over fifteen years, so she declared. Mary Dennis was her name,
and a long time ago she had been seduced, and had a little boy; he was
a cripple, and an epileptic, but still he was all that she had in the
world to love, and they had lived in a little room alone somewhere back
of Halsted Street, where the Irish were. Mary had had consumption,
and all day long you might hear her coughing as she worked; of late
she had been going all to pieces, and when Marija came, the "forelady"
had suddenly decided to turn her off. The forelady had to come up to
a certain standard herself, and could not stop for sick people, Jadvyga
explained. The fact that Mary had been there so long had not made any
difference to her--it was doubtful if she even knew that, for both the
forelady and the superintendent were new people, having only been there
two or three years themselves. Jadvyga did not know what had become of
the poor creature; she would have gone to see her, but had been sick
herself. She had pains in her back all the time, Jadvyga explained,
and feared that she had womb trouble. It was not fit work for a woman,
handling fourteen-pound cans all day.

It was a striking circumstance that Jonas, too, had gotten his job by the
misfortune of some other person. Jonas pushed a truck loaded with hams
from the smoke rooms on to an elevator, and thence to the packing rooms.
The trucks were all of iron, and heavy, and they put about threescore hams
on each of them, a load of more than a quarter of a ton. On the uneven
floor it was a task for a man to start one of these trucks, unless he was
a giant; and when it was once started he naturally tried his best to keep
it going. There was always the boss prowling about, and if there was a
second's delay he would fall to cursing; Lithuanians and Slovaks and such,
who could not understand what was said to them, the bosses were wont to
kick about the place like so many dogs. Therefore these trucks went for
the most part on the run; and the predecessor of Jonas had been jammed
against the wall by one and crushed in a horrible and nameless manner.

All of these were sinister incidents; but they were trifles compared to
what Jurgis saw with his own eyes before long. One curious thing he had
noticed, the very first day, in his profession of shoveler of guts; which
was the sharp trick of the floor bosses whenever there chanced to come
a "slunk" calf. Any man who knows anything about butchering knows that
the flesh of a cow that is about to calve, or has just calved, is not fit
for food. A good many of these came every day to the packing houses--and,
of course, if they had chosen, it would have been an easy matter for the
packers to keep them till they were fit for food. But for the saving of
time and fodder, it was the law that cows of that sort came along with
the others, and whoever noticed it would tell the boss, and the boss would
start up a conversation with the government inspector, and the two would
stroll away. So in a trice the carcass of the cow would be cleaned out,
and entrails would have vanished; it was Jurgis' task to slide them
into the trap, calves and all, and on the floor below they took out
these "slunk" calves, and butchered them for meat, and used even the skins
of them.

One day a man slipped and hurt his leg; and that afternoon, when the
last of the cattle had been disposed of, and the men were leaving,
Jurgis was ordered to remain and do some special work which this injured
man had usually done. It was late, almost dark, and the government
inspectors had all gone, and there were only a dozen or two of men on
the floor. That day they had killed about four thousand cattle, and these
cattle had come in freight trains from far states, and some of them had
got hurt. There were some with broken legs, and some with gored sides;
there were some that had died, from what cause no one could say; and they
were all to be disposed of, here in darkness and silence. "Downers," the
men called them; and the packing house had a special elevator upon which
they were raised to the killing beds, where the gang proceeded to handle
them, with an air of businesslike nonchalance which said plainer than
any words that it was a matter of everyday routine. It took a couple of
hours to get them out of the way, and in the end Jurgis saw them go into
the chilling rooms with the rest of the meat, being carefully scattered
here and there so that they could not be identified. When he came home
that night he was in a very somber mood, having begun to see at last
how those might be right who had laughed at him for his faith in America.

Chapter 6

Jurgis and Ona were very much in love; they had waited a long time--
it was now well into the second year, and Jurgis judged everything by
the criterion of its helping or hindering their union. All his thoughts
were there; he accepted the family because it was a part of Ona. And he
was interested in the house because it was to be Ona's home. Even the
tricks and cruelties he saw at Durham's had little meaning for him just
then, save as they might happen to affect his future with Ona.

The marriage would have been at once, if they had had their way;
but this would mean that they would have to do without any wedding
feast, and when they suggested this they came into conflict with the
old people. To Teta Elzbieta especially the very suggestion was an
affliction. What! she would cry. To be married on the roadside like
a parcel of beggars! No! No!--Elzbieta had some traditions behind her;
she had been a person of importance in her girlhood--had lived on a big
estate and had servants, and might have married well and been a lady,
but for the fact that there had been nine daughters and no sons in the
family. Even so, however, she knew what was decent, and clung to her
traditions with desperation. They were not going to lose all caste,
even if they had come to be unskilled laborers in Packingtown; and that
Ona had even talked of omitting a Yeselija was enough to keep her
stepmother lying awake all night. It was in vain for them to say that
they had so few friends; they were bound to have friends in time, and then
the friends would talk about it. They must not give up what was right
for a little money--if they did, the money would never do them any good,
they could depend upon that. And Elzbieta would call upon Dede Antanas
to support her; there was a fear in the souls of these two, lest this
journey to a new country might somehow undermine the old home virtues of
their children. The very first Sunday they had all been taken to mass;
and poor as they were, Elzbieta had felt it advisable to invest a little
of her resources in a representation of the babe of Bethlehem, made in
plaster, and painted in brilliant colors. Though it was only a foot high,
there was a shrine with four snow-white steeples, and the Virgin standing
with her child in her arms, and the kings and shepherds and wise men
bowing down before him. It had cost fifty cents; but Elzbieta had a
feeling that money spent for such things was not to be counted too
closely, it would come back in hidden ways. The piece was beautiful
on the parlor mantel, and one could not have a home without some sort
of ornament.

The cost of the wedding feast would, of course, be returned to them;
but the problem was to raise it even temporarily. They had been in
the neighborhood so short a time that they could not get much credit,
and there was no one except Szedvilas from whom they could borrow even
a little. Evening after evening Jurgis and Ona would sit and figure the
expenses, calculating the term of their separation. They could not
possibly manage it decently for less than two hundred dollars, and even
though they were welcome to count in the whole of the earnings of Marija
and Jonas, as a loan, they could not hope to raise this sum in less than
four or five months. So Ona began thinking of seeking employment herself,
saying that if she had even ordinarily good luck, she might be able to
take two months off the time. They were just beginning to adjust
themselves to this necessity, when out of the clear sky there fell a
thunderbolt upon them--a calamity that scattered all their hopes to the
four winds.

About a block away from them there lived another Lithuanian family,
consisting of an elderly widow and one grown son; their name was
Majauszkis, and our friends struck up an acquaintance with them before
long. One evening they came over for a visit, and naturally the first
subject upon which the conversation turned was the neighborhood and its
history; and then Grandmother Majauszkiene, as the old lady was called,
proceeded to recite to them a string of horrors that fairly froze their
blood. She was a wrinkled-up and wizened personage--she must have been
eighty--and as she mumbled the grim story through her toothless gums,
she seemed a very old witch to them. Grandmother Majauszkiene had lived
in the midst of misfortune so long that it had come to be her element,
and she talked about starvation, sickness, and death as other people
might about weddings and holidays.

The thing came gradually. In the first place as to the house they had
bought, it was not new at all, as they had supposed; it was about fifteen
years old, and there was nothing new upon it but the paint, which was so
bad that it needed to be put on new every year or two. The house was one
of a whole row that was built by a company which existed to make money
by swindling poor people. The family had paid fifteen hundred dollars
for it, and it had not cost the builders five hundred, when it was new.
Grandmother Majauszkiene knew that because her son belonged to a political
organization with a contractor who put up exactly such houses. They used
the very flimsiest and cheapest material; they built the houses a dozen
at a time, and they cared about nothing at all except the outside shine.
The family could take her word as to the trouble they would have, for she
had been through it all--she and her son had bought their house in exactly
the same way. They had fooled the company, however, for her son was a
skilled man, who made as high as a hundred dollars a month, and as he had
had sense enough not to marry, they had been able to pay for the house.

Grandmother Majauszkiene saw that her friends were puzzled at this remark;
they did not quite see how paying for the house was "fooling the company."
Evidently they were very inexperienced. Cheap as the houses were, they
were sold with the idea that the people who bought them would not be able
to pay for them. When they failed--if it were only by a single month--
they would lose the house and all that they had paid on it, and then
the company would sell it over again. And did they often get a chance
to do that? Dieve! (Grandmother Majauszkiene raised her hands.) They did
it--how often no one could say, but certainly more than half of the time.
They might ask any one who knew anything at all about Packingtown as to
that; she had been living here ever since this house was built, and she
could tell them all about it. And had it ever been sold before?
Susimilkie! Why, since it had been built, no less than four families
that their informant could name had tried to buy it and failed. She would
tell them a little about it.

The first family had been Germans. The families had all been of different
nationalities--there had been a representative of several races that had
displaced each other in the stockyards. Grandmother Majauszkiene had
come to America with her son at a time when so far as she knew there was
only one other Lithuanian family in the district; the workers had all
been Germans then--skilled cattle butchers that the packers had brought
from abroad to start the business. Afterward, as cheaper labor had come,
these Germans had moved away. The next were the Irish--there had been
six or eight years when Packingtown had been a regular Irish city.
There were a few colonies of them still here, enough to run all the
unions and the police force and get all the graft; but most of those
who were working in the packing houses had gone away at the next drop
in wages--after the big strike. The Bohemians had come then, and after
them the Poles. People said that old man Durham himself was responsible
for these immigrations; he had sworn that he would fix the people of
Packingtown so that they would never again call a strike on him, and so
he had sent his agents into every city and village in Europe to spread
the tale of the chances of work and high wages at the stockyards.
The people had come in hordes; and old Durham had squeezed them tighter
and tighter, speeding them up and grinding them to pieces and sending
for new ones. The Poles, who had come by tens of thousands, had been
driven to the wall by the Lithuanians, and now the Lithuanians were
giving way to the Slovaks. Who there was poorer and more miserable than
the Slovaks, Grandmother Majauszkiene had no idea, but the packers would
find them, never fear. It was easy to bring them, for wages were really
much higher, and it was only when it was too late that the poor people
found out that everything else was higher too. They were like rats in
a trap, that was the truth; and more of them were piling in every day.
By and by they would have their revenge, though, for the thing was
getting beyond human endurance, and the people would rise and murder
the packers. Grandmother Majauszkiene was a socialist, or some such
strange thing; another son of hers was working in the mines of Siberia,
and the old lady herself had made speeches in her time--which made her
seem all the more terrible to her present auditors.

They called her back to the story of the house. The German family
had been a good sort. To be sure there had been a great many of them,
which was a common failing in Packingtown; but they had worked hard,
and the father had been a steady man, and they had a good deal more
than half paid for the house. But he had been killed in an elevator
accident in Durham's.

Then there had come the Irish, and there had been lots of them, too;
the husband drank and beat the children--the neighbors could hear them
shrieking any night. They were behind with their rent all the time,
but the company was good to them; there was some politics back of that,
Grandmother Majauszkiene could not say just what, but the Laffertys
had belonged to the "War Whoop League," which was a sort of political
club of all the thugs and rowdies in the district; and if you belonged
to that, you could never be arrested for anything. Once upon a time
old Lafferty had been caught with a gang that had stolen cows from
several of the poor people of the neighborhood and butchered them in
an old shanty back of the yards and sold them. He had been in jail only
three days for it, and had come out laughing, and had not even lost his
place in the packing house. He had gone all to ruin with the drink,
however, and lost his power; one of his sons, who was a good man,
had kept him and the family up for a year or two, but then he had got
sick with consumption.

That was another thing, Grandmother Majauszkiene interrupted herself--
this house was unlucky. Every family that lived in it, some one was
sure to get consumption. Nobody could tell why that was; there must
be something about the house, or the way it was built--some folks said
it was because the building had been begun in the dark of the moon.
There were dozens of houses that way in Packingtown. Sometimes there
would be a particular room that you could point out--if anybody slept
in that room he was just as good as dead. With this house it had been
the Irish first; and then a Bohemian family had lost a child of it--
though, to be sure, that was uncertain, since it was hard to tell what
was the matter with children who worked in the yards. In those days
there had been no law about the age of children--the packers had worked
all but the babies. At this remark the family looked puzzled, and
Grandmother Majauszkiene again had to make an explanation--that it was
against the law for children to work before they were sixteen. What was
the sense of that? they asked. They had been thinking of letting little
Stanislovas go to work. Well, there was no need to worry, Grandmother
Majauszkiene said--the law made no difference except that it forced
people to lie about the ages of their children. One would like to know
what the lawmakers expected them to do; there were families that had no
possible means of support except the children, and the law provided them
no other way of getting a living. Very often a man could get no work in
Packingtown for months, while a child could go and get a place easily;
there was always some new machine, by which the packers could get as
much work out of a child as they had been able to get out of a man,
and for a third of the pay.

To come back to the house again, it was the woman of the next family
that had died. That was after they had been there nearly four years,
and this woman had had twins regularly every year--and there had been
more than you could count when they moved in. After she died the man
would go to work all day and leave them to shift for themselves--the
neighbors would help them now and then, for they would almost freeze
to death. At the end there were three days that they were alone,
before it was found out that the father was dead. He was a "floorsman"
at Jones's, and a wounded steer had broken loose and mashed him against
a pillar. Then the children had been taken away, and the company had
sold the house that very same week to a party of emigrants.

So this grim old women went on with her tale of horrors. How much
of it was exaggeration--who could tell? It was only too plausible.
There was that about consumption, for instance. They knew nothing about
consumption whatever, except that it made people cough; and for two weeks
they had been worrying about a coughing-spell of Antanas. It seemed to
shake him all over, and it never stopped; you could see a red stain
wherever he had spit upon the floor.

And yet all these things were as nothing to what came a little later.
They had begun to question the old lady as to why one family had been
unable to pay, trying to show her by figures that it ought to have been
possible; and Grandmother Majauszkiene had disputed their figures--
"You say twelve dollars a month; but that does not include the interest."

Then they stared at her. "Interest!" they cried.

"Interest on the money you still owe," she answered.

"But we don't have to pay any interest!" they exclaimed, three or four
at once. "We only have to pay twelve dollars each month."

And for this she laughed at them. "You are like all the rest," she said;
"they trick you and eat you alive. They never sell the houses without
interest. Get your deed, and see."

Then, with a horrible sinking of the heart, Teta Elzbieta unlocked her
bureau and brought out the paper that had already caused them so many
agonies. Now they sat round, scarcely breathing, while the old lady,
who could read English, ran over it. "Yes," she said, finally, "here it
is, of course: 'With interest thereon monthly, at the rate of seven per
cent per annum.'"

And there followed a dead silence. "What does that mean?" asked Jurgis
finally, almost in a whisper.

"That means," replied the other, "that you have to pay them seven dollars
next month, as well as the twelve dollars."

Then again there was not a sound. It was sickening, like a nightmare,
in which suddenly something gives way beneath you, and you feel yourself
sinking, sinking, down into bottomless abysses. As if in a flash of
lightning they saw themselves--victims of a relentless fate, cornered,
trapped, in the grip of destruction. All the fair structure of their
hopes came crashing about their ears.--And all the time the old woman
was going on talking. They wished that she would be still; her voice
sounded like the croaking of some dismal raven. Jurgis sat with his
hands clenched and beads of perspiration on his forehead, and there was
a great lump in Ona's throat, choking her. Then suddenly Teta Elzbieta
broke the silence with a wail, and Marija began to wring her hands and
sob, "Ai! Ai! Beda man!"

All their outcry did them no good, of course. There sat Grandmother
Majauszkiene, unrelenting, typifying fate. No, of course it was not fair,
but then fairness had nothing to do with it. And of course they had not
known it. They had not been intended to know it. But it was in the deed,
and that was all that was necessary, as they would find when the time came.

Somehow or other they got rid of their guest, and then they passed a
night of lamentation. The children woke up and found out that something
was wrong, and they wailed and would not be comforted. In the morning,
of course, most of them had to go to work, the packing houses would not
stop for their sorrows; but by seven o'clock Ona and her stepmother were
standing at the door of the office of the agent. Yes, he told them,
when he came, it was quite true that they would have to pay interest.
And then Teta Elzbieta broke forth into protestations and reproaches,
so that the people outside stopped and peered in at the window. The agent
was as bland as ever. He was deeply pained, he said. He had not told
them, simply because he had supposed they would understand that they had
to pay interest upon their debt, as a matter of course.

So they came away, and Ona went down to the yards, and at noontime saw
Jurgis and told him. Jurgis took it stolidly--he had made up his mind
to it by this time. It was part of fate; they would manage it somehow--
he made his usual answer, "I will work harder." It would upset their
plans for a time; and it would perhaps be necessary for Ona to get work
after all. Then Ona added that Teta Elzbieta had decided that little
Stanislovas would have to work too. It was not fair to let Jurgis and
her support the family--the family would have to help as it could.
Previously Jurgis had scouted this idea, but now knit his brows and
nodded his head slowly--yes, perhaps it would be best; they would all
have to make some sacrifices now.

So Ona set out that day to hunt for work; and at night Marija came home
saying that she had met a girl named Jasaityte who had a friend that
worked in one of the wrapping rooms in Brown's, and might get a place
for Ona there; only the forelady was the kind that takes presents--it
was no use for any one to ask her for a place unless at the same time
they slipped a ten-dollar bill into her hand. Jurgis was not in the
least surprised at this now--he merely asked what the wages of the place
would be. So negotiations were opened, and after an interview Ona came
home and reported that the forelady seemed to like her, and had said that,
while she was not sure, she thought she might be able to put her at work
sewing covers on hams, a job at which she would earn as much as eight or
ten dollars a week. That was a bid, so Marija reported, after consulting
her friend; and then there was an anxious conference at home. The work
was done in one of the cellars, and Jurgis did not want Ona to work in
such a place; but then it was easy work, and one could not have everything.
So in the end Ona, with a ten-dollar bill burning a hole in her palm, had
another interview with the forelady.

Meantime Teta Elzbieta had taken Stanislovas to the priest and gotten
a certificate to the effect that he was two years older than he was;
and with it the little boy now sallied forth to make his fortune in
the world. It chanced that Durham had just put in a wonderful new
lard machine, and when the special policeman in front of the time
station saw Stanislovas and his document, he smiled to himself and
told him to go--"Czia! Czia!" pointing. And so Stanislovas went down
a long stone corridor, and up a flight of stairs, which took him into
a room lighted by electricity, with the new machines for filling lard
cans at work in it. The lard was finished on the floor above, and it
came in little jets, like beautiful, wriggling, snow-white snakes of
unpleasant odor. There were several kinds and sizes of jets, and after
a certain precise quantity had come out, each stopped automatically,
and the wonderful machine made a turn, and took the can under another jet,
and so on, until it was filled neatly to the brim, and pressed tightly,
and smoothed off. To attend to all this and fill several hundred cans
of lard per hour, there were necessary two human creatures, one of whom
knew how to place an empty lard can on a certain spot every few seconds,
and the other of whom knew how to take a full lard can off a certain spot
every few seconds and set it upon a tray.

And so, after little Stanislovas had stood gazing timidly about him for
a few minutes, a man approached him, and asked what he wanted, to which
Stanislovas said, "Job." Then the man said "How old?" and Stanislovas
answered, "Sixtin." Once or twice every year a state inspector would
come wandering through the packing plants, asking a child here and
there how old he was; and so the packers were very careful to comply
with the law, which cost them as much trouble as was now involved in
the boss's taking the document from the little boy, and glancing at it,
and then sending it to the office to be filed away. Then he set some one
else at a different job, and showed the lad how to place a lard can every
time the empty arm of the remorseless machine came to him; and so was
decided the place in the universe of little Stanislovas, and his destiny
till the end of his days. Hour after hour, day after day, year after
year, it was fated that he should stand upon a certain square foot of
floor from seven in the morning until noon, and again from half-past
twelve till half-past five, making never a motion and thinking never a
thought, save for the setting of lard cans. In summer the stench of the
warm lard would be nauseating, and in winter the cans would all but freeze
to his naked little fingers in the unheated cellar. Half the year it would
be dark as night when he went in to work, and dark as night again when he
came out, and so he would never know what the sun looked like on weekdays.
And for this, at the end of the week, he would carry home three dollars to
his family, being his pay at the rate of five cents per hour--just about
his proper share of the total earnings of the million and three-quarters of
children who are now engaged in earning their livings in the United States.

And meantime, because they were young, and hope is not to be stifled before
its time, Jurgis and Ona were again calculating; for they had discovered
that the wages of Stanislovas would a little more than pay the interest,
which left them just about as they had been before! It would be but fair
to them to say that the little boy was delighted with his work, and at the
idea of earning a lot of money; and also that the two were very much in
love with each other.

Chapter 7

All summer long the family toiled, and in the fall they had money enough
for Jurgis and Ona to be married according to home traditions of decency.
In the latter part of November they hired a hall, and invited all their
new acquaintances, who came and left them over a hundred dollars in debt.

It was a bitter and cruel experience, and it plunged them into an agony
of despair. Such a time, of all times, for them to have it, when their
hearts were made tender! Such a pitiful beginning it was for their
married life; they loved each other so, and they could not have the
briefest respite! It was a time when everything cried out to them that
they ought to be happy; when wonder burned in their hearts, and leaped
into flame at the slightest breath. They were shaken to the depths
of them, with the awe of love realized--and was it so very weak of them
that they cried out for a little peace? They had opened their hearts,
like flowers to the springtime, and the merciless winter had fallen
upon them. They wondered if ever any love that had blossomed in the
world had been so crushed and trampled!

Over them, relentless and savage, there cracked the lash of want;
the morning after the wedding it sought them as they slept, and drove
them out before daybreak to work. Ona was scarcely able to stand with
exhaustion; but if she were to lose her place they would be ruined,
and she would surely lose it if she were not on time that day. They all
had to go, even little Stanislovas, who was ill from overindulgence in
sausages and sarsaparilla. All that day he stood at his lard machine,
rocking unsteadily, his eyes closing in spite of him; and he all but
lost his place even so, for the foreman booted him twice to waken him.

It was fully a week before they were all normal again, and meantime,
with whining children and cross adults, the house was not a pleasant
place to live in. Jurgis lost his temper very little, however, all
things considered. It was because of Ona; the least glance at her was
always enough to make him control himself. She was so sensitive--she
was not fitted for such a life as this; and a hundred times a day,
when he thought of her, he would clench his hands and fling himself
again at the task before him. She was too good for him, he told himself,
and he was afraid, because she was his. So long he had hungered to
possess her, but now that the time had come he knew that he had not
earned the right; that she trusted him so was all her own simple
goodness, and no virtue of his. But he was resolved that she should
never find this out, and so was always on the watch to see that he did not
betray any of his ugly self; he would take care even in little matters,
such as his manners, and his habit of swearing when things went wrong.
The tears came so easily into Ona's eyes, and she would look at him so
appealingly--it kept Jurgis quite busy making resolutions, in addition
to all the other things he had on his mind. It was true that more things
were going on at this time in the mind of Jurgis than ever had in all his
life before.

He had to protect her, to do battle for her against the horror he saw
about them. He was all that she had to look to, and if he failed she
would be lost; he would wrap his arms about her, and try to hide her
from the world. He had learned the ways of things about him now. It was
a war of each against all, and the devil take the hindmost. You did not
give feasts to other people, you waited for them to give feasts to you.
You went about with your soul full of suspicion and hatred; you understood
that you were environed by hostile powers that were trying to get your
money, and who used all the virtues to bait their traps with. The store-
keepers plastered up their windows with all sorts of lies to entice you;
the very fences by the wayside, the lampposts and telegraph poles, were
pasted over with lies. The great corporation which employed you lied
to you, and lied to the whole country--from top to bottom it was nothing
but one gigantic lie.

So Jurgis said that he understood it; and yet it was really pitiful,
for the struggle was so unfair--some had so much the advantage!
Here he was, for instance, vowing upon his knees that he would save
Ona from harm, and only a week later she was suffering atrociously,
and from the blow of an enemy that he could not possibly have thwarted.
There came a day when the rain fell in torrents; and it being December,
to be wet with it and have to sit all day long in one of the cold cellars
of Brown's was no laughing matter. Ona was a working girl, and did not
own waterproofs and such things, and so Jurgis took her and put her on
the streetcar. Now it chanced that this car line was owned by gentlemen
who were trying to make money. And the city having passed an ordinance
requiring them to give transfers, they had fallen into a rage; and first
they had made a rule that transfers could be had only when the fare was
paid; and later, growing still uglier, they had made another--that the
passenger must ask for the transfer, the conductor was not allowed to
offer it. Now Ona had been told that she was to get a transfer; but it
was not her way to speak up, and so she merely waited, following the
conductor about with her eyes, wondering when he would think of her.
When at last the time came for her to get out, she asked for the transfer,
and was refused. Not knowing what to make of this, she began to argue
with the conductor, in a language of which he did not understand a word.
After warning her several times, he pulled the bell and the car went
on--at which Ona burst into tears. At the next corner she got out,
of course; and as she had no more money, she had to walk the rest of
the way to the yards in the pouring rain. And so all day long she sat
shivering, and came home at night with her teeth chattering and pains
in her head and back. For two weeks afterward she suffered cruelly--
and yet every day she had to drag herself to her work. The forewoman was
especially severe with Ona, because she believed that she was obstinate
on account of having been refused a holiday the day after her wedding.
Ona had an idea that her "forelady" did not like to have her girls
marry--perhaps because she was old and ugly and unmarried herself.

There were many such dangers, in which the odds were all against them.
Their children were not as well as they had been at home; but how could
they know that there was no sewer to their house, and that the drainage
of fifteen years was in a cesspool under it? How could they know that
the pale-blue milk that they bought around the corner was watered,
and doctored with formaldehyde besides? When the children were not
well at home, Teta Elzbieta would gather herbs and cure them; now she
was obliged to go to the drugstore and buy extracts--and how was she to
know that they were all adulterated? How could they find out that their
tea and coffee, their sugar and flour, had been doctored; that their
canned peas had been colored with copper salts, and their fruit jams with
aniline dyes? And even if they had known it, what good would it have
done them, since there was no place within miles of them where any other
sort was to be had? The bitter winter was coming, and they had to save
money to get more clothing and bedding; but it would not matter in the
least how much they saved, they could not get anything to keep them warm.
All the clothing that was to be had in the stores was made of cotton and
shoddy, which is made by tearing old clothes to pieces and weaving the
fiber again. If they paid higher prices, they might get frills and
fanciness, or be cheated; but genuine quality they could not obtain for
love nor money. A young friend of Szedvilas', recently come from abroad,
had become a clerk in a store on Ashland Avenue, and he narrated with
glee a trick that had been played upon an unsuspecting countryman by
his boss. The customer had desired to purchase an alarm clock, and the
boss had shown him two exactly similar, telling him that the price of
one was a dollar and of the other a dollar seventy-five. Upon being
asked what the difference was, the man had wound up the first halfway
and the second all the way, and showed the customer how the latter
made twice as much noise; upon which the customer remarked that he was
a sound sleeper, and had better take the more expensive clock!

There is a poet who sings that

"Deeper their heart grows and nobler their bearing,
Whose youth in the fires of anguish hath died."

But it was not likely that he had reference to the kind of anguish that
comes with destitution, that is so endlessly bitter and cruel, and yet
so sordid and petty, so ugly, so humiliating--unredeemed by the slightest
touch of dignity or even of pathos. It is a kind of anguish that poets
have not commonly dealt with; its very words are not admitted into the
vocabulary of poets--the details of it cannot be told in polite society
at all. How, for instance, could any one expect to excite sympathy among
lovers of good literature by telling how a family found their home alive
with vermin, and of all the suffering and inconvenience and humiliation
they were put to, and the hard-earned money they spent, in efforts to get
rid of them? After long hesitation and uncertainty they paid twenty-five
cents for a big package of insect powder--a patent preparation which
chanced to be ninety-five per cent gypsum, a harmless earth which had
cost about two cents to prepare. Of course it had not the least effect,
except upon a few roaches which had the misfortune to drink water after
eating it, and so got their inwards set in a coating of plaster of Paris.
The family, having no idea of this, and no more money to throw away,
had nothing to do but give up and submit to one more misery for the rest
of their days.

Then there was old Antanas. The winter came, and the place where he
worked was a dark, unheated cellar, where you could see your breath
all day, and where your fingers sometimes tried to freeze. So the
old man's cough grew every day worse, until there came a time when it
hardly ever stopped, and he had become a nuisance about the place.
Then, too, a still more dreadful thing happened to him; he worked in
a place where his feet were soaked in chemicals, and it was not long
before they had eaten through his new boots. Then sores began to break
out on his feet, and grow worse and worse. Whether it was that his blood
was bad, or there had been a cut, he could not say; but he asked the men
about it, and learned that it was a regular thing--it was the saltpeter.
Every one felt it, sooner or later, and then it was all up with him,
at least for that sort of work. The sores would never heal--in the end
his toes would drop off, if he did not quit. Yet old Antanas would not
quit; he saw the suffering of his family, and he remembered what it had
cost him to get a job. So he tied up his feet, and went on limping about
and coughing, until at last he fell to pieces, all at once and in a heap,
like the One-Horse Shay. They carried him to a dry place and laid him
on the floor, and that night two of the men helped him home. The poor
old man was put to bed, and though he tried it every morning until the
end, he never could get up again. He would lie there and cough and cough,
day and night, wasting away to a mere skeleton. There came a time when
there was so little flesh on him that the bones began to poke through--
which was a horrible thing to see or even to think of. And one night
he had a choking fit, and a little river of blood came out of his mouth.
The family, wild with terror, sent for a doctor, and paid half a dollar
to be told that there was nothing to be done. Mercifully the doctor did
not say this so that the old man could hear, for he was still clinging
to the faith that tomorrow or next day he would be better, and could go
back to his job. The company had sent word to him that they would keep
it for him--or rather Jurgis had bribed one of the men to come one Sunday
afternoon and say they had. Dede Antanas continued to believe it, while
three more hemorrhages came; and then at last one morning they found him
stiff and cold. Things were not going well with them then, and though
it nearly broke Teta Elzbieta's heart, they were forced to dispense with
nearly all the decencies of a funeral; they had only a hearse, and one
hack for the women and children; and Jurgis, who was learning things fast,
spent all Sunday making a bargain for these, and he made it in the
presence of witnesses, so that when the man tried to charge him for all
sorts of incidentals, he did not have to pay. For twenty-five years old
Antanas Rudkus and his son had dwelt in the forest together, and it was
hard to part in this way; perhaps it was just as well that Jurgis had to
give all his attention to the task of having a funeral without being
bankrupted, and so had no time to indulge in memories and grief.

Now the dreadful winter was come upon them. In the forests, all summer
long, the branches of the trees do battle for light, and some of them
lose and die; and then come the raging blasts, and the storms of snow
and hail, and strew the ground with these weaker branches. Just so it
was in Packingtown; the whole district braced itself for the struggle
that was an agony, and those whose time was come died off in hordes.
All the year round they had been serving as cogs in the great packing
machine; and now was the time for the renovating of it, and the replacing
of damaged parts. There came pneumonia and grippe, stalking among them,
seeking for weakened constitutions; there was the annual harvest of those
whom tuberculosis had been dragging down. There came cruel, cold, and
biting winds, and blizzards of snow, all testing relentlessly for failing
muscles and impoverished blood. Sooner or later came the day when the
unfit one did not report for work; and then, with no time lost in waiting,
and no inquiries or regrets, there was a chance for a new hand.

The new hands were here by the thousands. All day long the gates of the
packing houses were besieged by starving and penniless men; they came,
literally, by the thousands every single morning, fighting with each
other for a chance for life. Blizzards and cold made no difference
to them, they were always on hand; they were on hand two hours before the
sun rose, an hour before the work began. Sometimes their faces froze,
sometimes their feet and their hands; sometimes they froze all together--
but still they came, for they had no other place to go. One day Durham
advertised in the paper for two hundred men to cut ice; and all that day
the homeless and starving of the city came trudging through the snow from
all over its two hundred square miles. That night forty score of them
crowded into the station house of the stockyards district--they filled
the rooms, sleeping in each other's laps, toboggan fashion, and they
piled on top of each other in the corridors, till the police shut the
doors and left some to freeze outside. On the morrow, before daybreak,
there were three thousand at Durham's, and the police reserves had to be
sent for to quell the riot. Then Durham's bosses picked out twenty of
the biggest; the "two hundred" proved to have been a printer's error.

Four or five miles to the eastward lay the lake, and over this the bitter
winds came raging. Sometimes the thermometer would fall to ten or twenty
degrees below zero at night, and in the morning the streets would be
piled with snowdrifts up to the first-floor windows. The streets through
which our friends had to go to their work were all unpaved and full of
deep holes and gullies; in summer, when it rained hard, a man might have
to wade to his waist to get to his house; and now in winter it was no
joke getting through these places, before light in the morning and after
dark at night. They would wrap up in all they owned, but they could not
wrap up against exhaustion; and many a man gave out in these battles with
the snowdrifts, and lay down and fell asleep.

And if it was bad for the men, one may imagine how the women and children
fared. Some would ride in the cars, if the cars were running; but when
you are making only five cents an hour, as was little Stanislovas, you
do not like to spend that much to ride two miles. The children would
come to the yards with great shawls about their ears, and so tied up
that you could hardly find them--and still there would be accidents.
One bitter morning in February the little boy who worked at the lard
machine with Stanislovas came about an hour late, and screaming with pain.
They unwrapped him, and a man began vigorously rubbing his ears; and as
they were frozen stiff, it took only two or three rubs to break them
short off. As a result of this, little Stanislovas conceived a terror of
the cold that was almost a mania. Every morning, when it came time to
start for the yards, he would begin to cry and protest. Nobody knew quite
how to manage him, for threats did no good--it seemed to be something that
he could not control, and they feared sometimes that he would go into
convulsions. In the end it had to be arranged that he always went with
Jurgis, and came home with him again; and often, when the snow was deep,
the man would carry him the whole way on his shoulders. Sometimes Jurgis
would be working until late at night, and then it was pitiful, for there
was no place for the little fellow to wait, save in the doorways or in
a corner of the killing beds, and he would all but fall asleep there,
and freeze to death.

There was no heat upon the killing beds; the men might exactly as well
have worked out of doors all winter. For that matter, there was very
little heat anywhere in the building, except in the cooking rooms and
such places--and it was the men who worked in these who ran the most
risk of all, because whenever they had to pass to another room they
had to go through ice-cold corridors, and sometimes with nothing on
above the waist except a sleeveless undershirt. On the killing beds
you were apt to be covered with blood, and it would freeze solid; if you
leaned against a pillar, you would freeze to that, and if you put your
hand upon the blade of your knife, you would run a chance of leaving
your skin on it. The men would tie up their feet in newspapers and old
sacks, and these would be soaked in blood and frozen, and then soaked
again, and so on, until by nighttime a man would be walking on great
lumps the size of the feet of an elephant. Now and then, when the bosses
were not looking, you would see them plunging their feet and ankles into
the steaming hot carcass of the steer, or darting across the room to the
hot-water jets. The cruelest thing of all was that nearly all of them--
all of those who used knives--were unable to wear gloves, and their arms
would be white with frost and their hands would grow numb, and then of
course there would be accidents. Also the air would be full of steam,
from the hot water and the hot blood, so that you could not see five feet
before you; and then, with men rushing about at the speed they kept up
on the killing beds, and all with butcher knives, like razors, in their
hands-- well, it was to be counted as a wonder that there were not more
men slaughtered than cattle.

And yet all this inconvenience they might have put up with, if only it
had not been for one thing--if only there had been some place where they
might eat. Jurgis had either to eat his dinner amid the stench in which
he had worked, or else to rush, as did all his companions, to any one of
the hundreds of liquor stores which stretched out their arms to him.
To the west of the yards ran Ashland Avenue, and here was an unbroken
line of saloons--"Whiskey Row," they called it; to the north was Forty-
seventh Street, where there were half a dozen to the block, and at the
angle of the two was "Whiskey Point," a space of fifteen or twenty acres,
and containing one glue factory and about two hundred saloons.

One might walk among these and take his choice: "Hot pea-soup and boiled
cabbage today." "Sauerkraut and hot frankfurters. Walk in." "Bean soup
and stewed lamb. Welcome." All of these things were printed in many
languages, as were also the names of the resorts, which were infinite
in their variety and appeal. There was the "Home Circle" and the
"Cosey Corner"; there were "Firesides" and "Hearthstones" and "Pleasure
Palaces" and "Wonderlands" and "Dream Castles" and "Love's Delights."
Whatever else they were called, they were sure to be called "Union
Headquarters," and to hold out a welcome to workingmen; and there was
always a warm stove, and a chair near it, and some friends to laugh
and talk with. There was only one condition attached,--you must drink.
If you went in not intending to drink, you would be put out in no time,
and if you were slow about going, like as not you would get your head
split open with a beer bottle in the bargain. But all of the men
understood the convention and drank; they believed that by it they were
getting something for nothing--for they did not need to take more than
one drink, and upon the strength of it they might fill themselves up with
a good hot dinner. This did not always work out in practice, however,
for there was pretty sure to be a friend who would treat you, and then
you would have to treat him. Then some one else would come in--and,
anyhow, a few drinks were good for a man who worked hard. As he went
back he did not shiver so, he had more courage for his task; the deadly
brutalizing monotony of it did not afflict him so,--he had ideas while
he worked, and took a more cheerful view of his circumstances. On the
way home, however, the shivering was apt to come on him again; and so
he would have to stop once or twice to warm up against the cruel cold.
As there were hot things to eat in this saloon too, he might get home
late to his supper, or he might not get home at all. And then his
wife might set out to look for him, and she too would feel the cold;
and perhaps she would have some of the children with her--and so a
whole family would drift into drinking, as the current of a river drifts
downstream. As if to complete the chain, the packers all paid their men
in checks, refusing all requests to pay in coin; and where in Packingtown
could a man go to have his check cashed but to a saloon, where he could
pay for the favor by spending a part of the money?

From all of these things Jurgis was saved because of Ona. He never
would take but the one drink at noontime; and so he got the reputation
of being a surly fellow, and was not quite welcome at the saloons,
and had to drift about from one to another. Then at night he would
go straight home, helping Ona and Stanislovas, or often putting the
former on a car. And when he got home perhaps he would have to trudge
several blocks, and come staggering back through the snowdrifts with a
bag of coal upon his shoulder. Home was not a very attractive place--
at least not this winter. They had only been able to buy one stove,
and this was a small one, and proved not big enough to warm even the
kitchen in the bitterest weather. This made it hard for Teta Elzbieta
all day, and for the children when they could not get to school. At night
they would sit huddled round this stove, while they ate their supper off
their laps; and then Jurgis and Jonas would smoke a pipe, after which
they would all crawl into their beds to get warm, after putting out the
fire to save the coal. Then they would have some frightful experiences
with the cold. They would sleep with all their clothes on, including
their overcoats, and put over them all the bedding and spare clothing
they owned; the children would sleep all crowded into one bed, and yet
even so they could not keep warm. The outside ones would be shivering
and sobbing, crawling over the others and trying to get down into the
center, and causing a fight. This old house with the leaky weatherboards
was a very different thing from their cabins at home, with great thick
walls plastered inside and outside with mud; and the cold which came
upon them was a living thing, a demon-presence in the room. They would
waken in the midnight hours, when everything was black; perhaps they would
hear it yelling outside, or perhaps there would be deathlike stillness--
and that would be worse yet. They could feel the cold as it crept in
through the cracks, reaching out for them with its icy, death-dealing
fingers; and they would crouch and cower, and try to hide from it, all
in vain. It would come, and it would come; a grisly thing, a specter
born in the black caverns of terror; a power primeval, cosmic, shadowing
the tortures of the lost souls flung out to chaos and destruction. It was
cruel iron-hard; and hour after hour they would cringe in its grasp,
alone, alone. There would be no one to hear them if they cried out;
there would be no help, no mercy. And so on until morning--when they
would go out to another day of toil, a little weaker, a little nearer
to the time when it would be their turn to be shaken from the tree.

Chapter 8

Yet even by this deadly winter the germ of hope was not to be kept from
sprouting in their hearts. It was just at this time that the great
adventure befell Marija.

The victim was Tamoszius Kuszleika, who played the violin. Everybody
laughed at them, for Tamoszius was petite and frail, and Marija could
have picked him up and carried him off under one arm. But perhaps that
was why she fascinated him; the sheer volume of Marija's energy was
overwhelming. That first night at the wedding Tamoszius had hardly taken
his eyes off her; and later on, when he came to find that she had really
the heart of a baby, her voice and her violence ceased to terrify him,
and he got the habit of coming to pay her visits on Sunday afternoons.
There was no place to entertain company except in the kitchen, in the
midst of the family, and Tamoszius would sit there with his hat between
his knees, never saying more than half a dozen words at a time, and turning
red in the face before he managed to say those; until finally Jurgis would
clap him upon the back, in his hearty way, crying, "Come now, brother,
give us a tune." And then Tamoszius' face would light up and he would
get out his fiddle, tuck it under his chin, and play. And forthwith
the soul of him would flame up and become eloquent--it was almost an
impropriety, for all the while his gaze would be fixed upon Marija's face,
until she would begin to turn red and lower her eyes. There was no
resisting the music of Tamoszius, however; even the children would sit
awed and wondering, and the tears would run down Teta Elzbieta's cheeks.
A wonderful privilege it was to be thus admitted into the soul of a man
of genius, to be allowed to share the ecstasies and the agonies of his
inmost life.

Then there were other benefits accruing to Marija from this friendship--
benefits of a more substantial nature. People paid Tamoszius big money
to come and make music on state occasions; and also they would invite
him to parties and festivals, knowing well that he was too good-natured
to come without his fiddle, and that having brought it, he could be made
to play while others danced. Once he made bold to ask Marija to accompany
him to such a party, and Marija accepted, to his great delight--after which
he never went anywhere without her, while if the celebration were given by
friends of his, he would invite the rest of the family also. In any case
Marija would bring back a huge pocketful of cakes and sandwiches for the
children, and stories of all the good things she herself had managed to
consume. She was compelled, at these parties, to spend most of her time
at the refreshment table, for she could not dance with anybody except
other women and very old men; Tamoszius was of an excitable temperament,
and afflicted with a frantic jealousy, and any unmarried man who ventured
to put his arm about the ample waist of Marija would be certain to throw
the orchestra out of tune.

It was a great help to a person who had to toil all the week to be able
to look forward to some such relaxation as this on Saturday nights.
The family was too poor and too hardworked to make many acquaintances;
in Packingtown, as a rule, people know only their near neighbors and
shopmates, and so the place is like a myriad of little country villages.
But now there was a member of the family who was permitted to travel and
widen her horizon; and so each week there would be new personalities to
talk about,--how so-and-so was dressed, and where she worked, and what
she got, and whom she was in love with; and how this man had jilted his
girl, and how she had quarreled with the other girl, and what had passed
between them; and how another man beat his wife, and spent all her earnings
upon drink, and pawned her very clothes. Some people would have scorned
this talk as gossip; but then one has to talk about what one knows.

It was one Saturday night, as they were coming home from a wedding,
that Tamoszius found courage, and set down his violin case in the street
and spoke his heart; and then Marija clasped him in her arms. She told
them all about it the next day, and fairly cried with happiness, for she
said that Tamoszius was a lovely man. After that he no longer made love
to her with his fiddle, but they would sit for hours in the kitchen,
blissfully happy in each other's arms; it was the tacit convention of
the family to know nothing of what was going on in that corner.

They were planning to be married in the spring, and have the garret
of the house fixed up, and live there. Tamoszius made good wages;
and little by little the family were paying back their debt to Marija,
so she ought soon to have enough to start life upon--only, with her
preposterous softheartedness, she would insist upon spending a good part
of her money every week for things which she saw they needed. Marija was
really the capitalist of the party, for she had become an expert can
painter by this time--she was getting fourteen cents for every hundred
and ten cans, and she could paint more than two cans every minute.
Marija felt, so to speak, that she had her hand on the throttle, and the
neighborhood was vocal with her rejoicings.

Yet her friends would shake their heads and tell her to go slow; one could
not count upon such good fortune forever--there were accidents that always
happened. But Marija was not to be prevailed upon, and went on planning
and dreaming of all the treasures she was going to have for her home;
and so, when the crash did come, her grief was painful to see.

For her canning factory shut down! Marija would about as soon have
expected to see the sun shut down--the huge establishment had been to
her a thing akin to the planets and the seasons. But now it was shut!
And they had not given her any explanation, they had not even given her
a day's warning; they had simply posted a notice one Saturday that all
hands would be paid off that afternoon, and would not resume work for
at least a month! And that was all that there was to it--her job was gone!

It was the holiday rush that was over, the girls said in answer to
Marija's inquiries; after that there was always a slack. Sometimes the
factory would start up on half time after a while, but there was no
telling--it had been known to stay closed until way into the summer.
The prospects were bad at present, for truckmen who worked in the
storerooms said that these were piled up to the ceilings, so that the
firm could not have found room for another week's output of cans. And they
had turned off three-quarters of these men, which was a still worse sign,
since it meant that there were no orders to be filled. It was all a
swindle, can-painting, said the girls--you were crazy with delight because
you were making twelve or fourteen dollars a week, and saving half of it;
but you had to spend it all keeping alive while you were out, and so your
pay was really only half what you thought.

Marija came home, and because she was a person who could not rest without
danger of explosion, they first had a great house cleaning, and then she
set out to search Packingtown for a job to fill up the gap. As nearly all
the canning establishments were shut down, and all the girls hunting work,
it will be readily understood that Marija did not find any. Then she took
to trying the stores and saloons, and when this failed she even traveled
over into the far-distant regions near the lake front, where lived the
rich people in great palaces, and begged there for some sort of work that
could be done by a person who did not know English.

The men upon the killing beds felt also the effects of the slump which
had turned Marija out; but they felt it in a different way, and a way
which made Jurgis understand at last all their bitterness. The big packers
did not turn their hands off and close down, like the canning factories;
but they began to run for shorter and shorter hours. They had always
required the men to be on the killing beds and ready for work at seven
o'clock, although there was almost never any work to be done till the
buyers out in the yards had gotten to work, and some cattle had come over
the chutes. That would often be ten or eleven o'clock, which was bad
enough, in all conscience; but now, in the slack season, they would
perhaps not have a thing for their men to do till late in the afternoon.
And so they would have to loaf around, in a place where the thermometer
might be twenty degrees below zero! At first one would see them running
about, or skylarking with each other, trying to keep warm; but before the
day was over they would become quite chilled through and exhausted, and,
when the cattle finally came, so near frozen that to move was an agony.
And then suddenly the place would spring into activity, and the merciless
"speeding-up" would begin!

There were weeks at a time when Jurgis went home after such a day as
this with not more than two hours' work to his credit--which meant about
thirty- five cents. There were many days when the total was less than
half an hour, and others when there was none at all. The general average
was six hours a day, which meant for Jurgis about six dollars a week;
and this six hours of work would be done after standing on the killing bed
till one o'clock, or perhaps even three or four o'clock, in the afternoon.
Like as not there would come a rush of cattle at the very end of the day,
which the men would have to dispose of before they went home, often working
by electric light till nine or ten, or even twelve or one o'clock, and
without a single instant for a bite of supper. The men were at the mercy
of the cattle. Perhaps the buyers would be holding off for better prices--
if they could scare the shippers into thinking that they meant to buy
nothing that day, they could get their own terms. For some reason the
cost of fodder for cattle in the yards was much above the market price--
and you were not allowed to bring your own fodder! Then, too, a number of
cars were apt to arrive late in the day, now that the roads were blocked
with snow, and the packers would buy their cattle that night, to get them
cheaper, and then would come into play their ironclad rule, that all
cattle must be killed the same day they were bought. There was no use
kicking about this--there had been one delegation after another to see
the packers about it, only to be told that it was the rule, and that
there was not the slightest chance of its ever being altered. And so
on Christmas Eve Jurgis worked till nearly one o'clock in the morning,
and on Christmas Day he was on the killing bed at seven o'clock.

All this was bad; and yet it was not the worst. For after all the hard
work a man did, he was paid for only part of it. Jurgis had once been
among those who scoffed at the idea of these huge concerns cheating;
and so now he could appreciate the bitter irony of the fact that it
was precisely their size which enabled them to do it with impunity.
ne of the rules on the killing beds was that a man who was one minute
late was docked an hour; and this was economical, for he was made to
work the balance of the hour--he was not allowed to stand round and wait.
And on the other hand if he came ahead of time he got no pay for that--
though often the bosses would start up the gang ten or fifteen minutes
before the whistle. And this same custom they carried over to the end of
the day; they did not pay for any fraction of an hour--for "broken time."
A man might work full fifty minutes, but if there was no work to fill out
the hour, there was no pay for him. Thus the end of every day was a sort
of lottery--a struggle, all but breaking into open war between the bosses
and the men, the former trying to rush a job through and the latter
trying to stretch it out. Jurgis blamed the bosses for this, though the
truth to be told it was not always their fault; for the packers kept them
frightened for their lives--and when one was in danger of falling behind
the standard, what was easier than to catch up by making the gang work
awhile "for the church"? This was a savage witticism the men had, which
Jurgis had to have explained to him. Old man Jones was great on missions
and such things, and so whenever they were doing some particularly
disreputable job, the men would wink at each other and say, "Now we're
working for the church!"

One of the consequences of all these things was that Jurgis was no
longer perplexed when he heard men talk of fighting for their rights.
He felt like fighting now himself; and when the Irish delegate of the
butcher-helpers' union came to him a second time, he received him in
a far different spirit. A wonderful idea it now seemed to Jurgis,
this of the men--that by combining they might be able to make a stand
and conquer the packers! Jurgis wondered who had first thought of it;
and when he was told that it was a common thing for men to do in America,
he got the first inkling of a meaning in the phrase "a free country."
The delegate explained to him how it depended upon their being able to
get every man to join and stand by the organization, and so Jurgis
signified that he was willing to do his share. Before another month
was by, all the working members of his family had union cards, and wore
their union buttons conspicuously and with pride. For fully a week they
were quite blissfully happy, thinking that belonging to a union meant an
end to all their troubles.

But only ten days after she had joined, Marija's canning factory closed
down, and that blow quite staggered them. They could not understand why
the union had not prevented it, and the very first time she attended a
meeting Marija got up and made a speech about it. It was a business
meeting, and was transacted in English, but that made no difference to
Marija; she said what was in her, and all the pounding of the chairman's
gavel and all the uproar and confusion in the room could not prevail.
Quite apart from her own troubles she was boiling over with a general
sense of the injustice of it, and she told what she thought of the
packers, and what she thought of a world where such things were allowed
to happen; and then, while the echoes of the hall rang with the shock of
her terrible voice, she sat down again and fanned herself, and the meeting
gathered itself together and proceeded to discuss the election of a
recording secretary.

Jurgis too had an adventure the first time he attended a union meeting,
but it was not of his own seeking. Jurgis had gone with the desire to
get into an inconspicuous corner and see what was done; but this attitude
of silent and open-eyed attention had marked him out for a victim.
Tommy Finnegan was a little Irishman, with big staring eyes and a wild
aspect, a "hoister" by trade, and badly cracked. Somewhere back in the
far-distant past Tommy Finnegan had had a strange experience, and the
burden of it rested upon him. All the balance of his life he had done
nothing but try to make it understood. When he talked he caught his
victim by the buttonhole, and his face kept coming closer and closer--
which was trying, because his teeth were so bad. Jurgis did not mind that,
only he was frightened. The method of operation of the higher intelligences
was Tom Finnegan's theme, and he desired to find out if Jurgis had ever
considered that the representation of things in their present similarity
might be altogether unintelligible upon a more elevated plane. There were
assuredly wonderful mysteries about the developing of these things; and
then, becoming confidential, Mr. Finnegan proceeded to tell of some
discoveries of his own. "If ye have iver had onything to do wid
shperrits," said he, and looked inquiringly at Jurgis, who kept shaking
his head. "Niver mind, niver mind," continued the other, "but their
influences may be operatin' upon ye; it's shure as I'm tellin' ye, it's
them that has the reference to the immejit surroundin's that has the most
of power. It was vouchsafed to me in me youthful days to be acquainted
with shperrits" and so Tommy Finnegan went on, expounding a system of
philosophy, while the perspiration came out on Jurgis' forehead, so great
was his agitation and embarrassment. In the end one of the men, seeing
his plight, came over and rescued him; but it was some time before he was
able to find any one to explain things to him, and meanwhile his fear
lest the strange little Irishman should get him cornered again was enough
to keep him dodging about the room the whole evening.

He never missed a meeting, however. He had picked up a few words of
English by this time, and friends would help him to understand. They
were often very turbulent meetings, with half a dozen men declaiming
at once, in as many dialects of English; but the speakers were all
desperately in earnest, and Jurgis was in earnest too, for he understood
that a fight was on, and that it was his fight. Since the time of his
disillusionment, Jurgis had sworn to trust no man, except in his own
family; but here he discovered that he had brothers in affliction,
and allies. Their one chance for life was in union, and so the struggle
became a kind of crusade. Jurgis had always been a member of the church,
because it was the right thing to be, but the church had never touched
him, he left all that for the women. Here, however, was a new religion--
one that did touch him, that took hold of every fiber of him; and with all
the zeal and fury of a convert he went out as a missionary. There were
many nonunion men among the Lithuanians, and with these he would labor
and wrestle in prayer, trying to show them the right. Sometimes they
would be obstinate and refuse to see it, and Jurgis, alas, was not always
patient! He forgot how he himself had been blind, a short time ago--
after the fashion of all crusaders since the original ones, who set out
to spread the gospel of Brotherhood by force of arms.

Chapter 9

One of the first consequences of the discovery of the union was that
Jurgis became desirous of learning English. He wanted to know what
was going on at the meetings, and to be able to take part in them,
and so he began to look about him, and to try to pick up words.
The children, who were at school, and learning fast, would teach him
a few; and a friend loaned him a little book that had some in it,
and Ona would read them to him. Then Jurgis became sorry that he
could not read himself; and later on in the winter, when some one
told him that there was a night school that was free, he went and
enrolled. After that, every evening that he got home from the yards
in time, he would go to the school; he would go even if he were in
time for only half an hour. They were teaching him both to read and
to speak English--and they would have taught him other things, if only
he had had a little time.

Also the union made another great difference with him--it made him
begin to pay attention to the country. It was the beginning of democracy
with him. It was a little state, the union, a miniature republic;
its affairs were every man's affairs, and every man had a real say
about them. In other words, in the union Jurgis learned to talk politics.
In the place where he had come from there had not been any politics--
in Russia one thought of the government as an affliction like the
lightning and the hail. "Duck, little brother, duck," the wise old
peasants would whisper; "everything passes away." And when Jurgis had
first come to America he had supposed that it was the same. He had heard
people say that it was a free country--but what did that mean? He found
that here, precisely as in Russia, there were rich men who owned everything;
and if one could not find any work, was not the hunger he began to feel
the same sort of hunger?

When Jurgis had been working about three weeks at Brown's, there had come
to him one noontime a man who was employed as a night watchman, and who
asked him if he would not like to take out naturalization papers and
become a citizen. Jurgis did not know what that meant, but the man
explained the advantages. In the first place, it would not cost him
anything, and it would get him half a day off, with his pay just the
same; and then when election time came he would be able to vote--and
there was something in that. Jurgis was naturally glad to accept, and so
the night watchman said a few words to the boss, and he was excused for
the rest of the day. When, later on, he wanted a holiday to get married
he could not get it; and as for a holiday with pay just the same--what
power had wrought that miracle heaven only knew! However, he went with
the man, who picked up several other newly landed immigrants, Poles,
Lithuanians, and Slovaks, and took them all outside, where stood a great
four-horse tallyho coach, with fifteen or twenty men already in it.
It was a fine chance to see the sights of the city, and the party had a
merry time, with plenty of beer handed up from inside. So they drove
downtown and stopped before an imposing granite building, in which they
interviewed an official, who had the papers all ready, with only the names
to be filled in. So each man in turn took an oath of which he did not
understand a word, and then was presented with a handsome ornamented
document with a big red seal and the shield of the United States upon it,
and was told that he had become a citizen of the Republic and the equal
of the President himself.

A month or two later Jurgis had another interview with this same man,
who told him where to go to "register." And then finally, when election
day came, the packing houses posted a notice that men who desired to vote
might remain away until nine that morning, and the same night watchman
took Jurgis and the rest of his flock into the back room of a saloon,
and showed each of them where and how to mark a ballot, and then gave
each two dollars, and took them to the polling place, where there was
a policeman on duty especially to see that they got through all right.
Jurgis felt quite proud of this good luck till he got home and met Jonas,
who had taken the leader aside and whispered to him, offering to vote
three times for four dollars, which offer had been accepted.

And now in the union Jurgis met men who explained all this mystery
to him; and he learned that America differed from Russia in that its
government existed under the form of a democracy. The officials who
ruled it, and got all the graft, had to be elected first; and so
there were two rival sets of grafters, known as political parties,
and the one got the office which bought the most votes. Now and then,
the election was very close, and that was the time the poor man came in.
In the stockyards this was only in national and state elections, for in
local elections the Democratic Party always carried everything. The ruler
of the district was therefore the Democratic boss, a little Irishman
named Mike Scully. Scully held an important party office in the state,
and bossed even the mayor of the city, it was said; it was his boast
that he carried the stockyards in his pocket. He was an enormously rich
man--he had a hand in all the big graft in the neighborhood. It was
Scully, for instance, who owned that dump which Jurgis and Ona had seen
the first day of their arrival. Not only did he own the dump, but he
owned the brick factory as well, and first he took out the clay and made
it into bricks, and then he had the city bring garbage to fill up the
hole, so that he could build houses to sell to the people. Then, too,
he sold the bricks to the city, at his own price, and the city came and
got them in its own wagons. And also he owned the other hole near by,
where the stagnant water was; and it was he who cut the ice and sold it;
and what was more, if the men told truth, he had not had to pay any
taxes for the water, and he had built the icehouse out of city lumber,
and had not had to pay anything for that. The newspapers had got hold of
that story, and there had been a scandal; but Scully had hired somebody
to confess and take all the blame, and then skip the country. It was said,
too, that he had built his brick-kiln in the same way, and that the workmen
were on the city payroll while they did it; however, one had to press
closely to get these things out of the men, for it was not their business,
and Mike Scully was a good man to stand in with. A note signed by him
was equal to a job any time at the packing houses; and also he employed
a good many men himself, and worked them only eight hours a day, and paid
them the highest wages. This gave him many friends--all of whom he had
gotten together into the "War Whoop League," whose clubhouse you might
see just outside of the yards. It was the biggest clubhouse, and the
biggest club, in all Chicago; and they had prizefights every now and then,
and cockfights and even dogfights. The policemen in the district all
belonged to the league, and instead of suppressing the fights, they sold
tickets for them. The man that had taken Jurgis to be naturalized was
one of these "Indians," as they were called; and on election day there
would be hundreds of them out, and all with big wads of money in their
pockets and free drinks at every saloon in the district. That was another
thing, the men said--all the saloon-keepers had to be "Indians," and
to put up on demand, otherwise they could not do business on Sundays,
nor have any gambling at all. In the same way Scully had all the jobs
in the fire department at his disposal, and all the rest of the city
graft in the stockyards district; he was building a block of flats
somewhere up on Ashland Avenue, and the man who was overseeing it for
him was drawing pay as a city inspector of sewers. The city inspector
of water pipes had been dead and buried for over a year, but somebody was
still drawing his pay. The city inspector of sidewalks was a barkeeper
at the War Whoop Cafe--and maybe he could make it uncomfortable for any
tradesman who did not stand in with Scully!

Even the packers were in awe of him, so the men said. It gave them
pleasure to believe this, for Scully stood as the people's man, and
boasted of it boldly when election day came. The packers had wanted
a bridge at Ashland Avenue, but they had not been able to get it till
they had seen Scully; and it was the same with "Bubbly Creek," which
the city had threatened to make the packers cover over, till Scully
had come to their aid. "Bubbly Creek" is an arm of the Chicago River,
and forms the southern boundary of the yards: all the drainage of the
square mile of packing houses empties into it, so that it is really a
great open sewer a hundred or two feet wide. One long arm of it is blind,
and the filth stays there forever and a day. The grease and chemicals
that are poured into it undergo all sorts of strange transformations,
which are the cause of its name; it is constantly in motion, as if huge
fish were feeding in it, or great leviathans disporting themselves in its
depths. Bubbles of carbonic acid gas will rise to the surface and burst,
and make rings two or three feet wide. Here and there the grease and
filth have caked solid, and the creek looks like a bed of lava; chickens
walk about on it, feeding, and many times an unwary stranger has started
to stroll across, and vanished temporarily. The packers used to leave
the creek that way, till every now and then the surface would catch on
fire and burn furiously, and the fire department would have to come and
put it out. Once, however, an ingenious stranger came and started to
gather this filth in scows, to make lard out of; then the packers took
the cue, and got out an injunction to stop him, and afterward gathered it
themselves. The banks of "Bubbly Creek" are plastered thick with hairs,
and this also the packers gather and clean.

And there were things even stranger than this, according to the gossip of
the men. The packers had secret mains, through which they stole billions
of gallons of the city's water. The newspapers had been full of this
scandal--once there had even been an investigation, and an actual
uncovering of the pipes; but nobody had been punished, and the thing
went right on. And then there was the condemned meat industry, with its
endless horrors. The people of Chicago saw the government inspectors in
Packingtown, and they all took that to mean that they were protected from
diseased meat; they did not understand that these hundred and sixty-three
inspectors had been appointed at the request of the packers, and that
they were paid by the United States government to certify that all the
diseased meat was kept in the state. They had no authority beyond that;
for the inspection of meat to be sold in the city and state the whole
force in Packingtown consisted of three henchmen of the local political

(*Rules and Regulations for the Inspection of Livestock and Their Products.
United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Industries,
Order No. 125:--

Section 1. Proprietors of slaughterhouses, canning, salting, packing,
or rendering establishments engaged in the slaughtering of cattle,
sheep. or swine, or the packing of any of their products, the carcasses
or products of which are to become subjects of interstate or foreign
commerce, shall make application to the Secretary of Agriculture for
inspection of said animals and their products....

Section 15. Such rejected or condemned animals shall at once be removed
by the owners from the pens containing animals which have been inspected
and found to be free from disease and fit for human food, and shall be
disposed of in accordance with the laws, ordinances, and regulations of
the state and municipality in which said rejected or condemned animals
are located....

Section 25. A microscopic examination for trichinae shall be made of
all swine products exported to countries requiring such examination.
No microscopic examination will be made of hogs slaughtered for interstate
trade, but this examination shall be confined to those intended for the
export trade.)

And shortly afterward one of these, a physician, made the discovery that
the carcasses of steers which had been condemned as tubercular by the
government inspectors, and which therefore contained ptomaines, which are
deadly poisons, were left upon an open platform and carted away to be
sold in the city; and so he insisted that these carcasses be treated
with an injection of kerosene--and was ordered to resign the same week!
So indignant were the packers that they went farther, and compelled the
mayor to abolish the whole bureau of inspection; so that since then
there has not been even a pretense of any interference with the graft.
There was said to be two thousand dollars a week hush money from the
tubercular steers alone; and as much again from the hogs which had
died of cholera on the trains, and which you might see any day being
loaded into boxcars and hauled away to a place called Globe, in Indiana,
where they made a fancy grade of lard.

Jurgis heard of these things little by little, in the gossip of those
who were obliged to perpetrate them. It seemed as if every time you met
a person from a new department, you heard of new swindles and new crimes.
There was, for instance, a Lithuanian who was a cattle butcher for the
plant where Marija had worked, which killed meat for canning only; and to
hear this man describe the animals which came to his place would have been
worthwhile for a Dante or a Zola. It seemed that they must have agencies
all over the country, to hunt out old and crippled and diseased cattle
to be canned. There were cattle which had been fed on "whisky-malt,"
the refuse of the breweries, and had become what the men called "steerly"--
which means covered with boils. It was a nasty job killing these, for when
you plunged your knife into them they would burst and splash foul-smelling
stuff into your face; and when a man's sleeves were smeared with blood,
and his hands steeped in it, how was he ever to wipe his face, or to clear
his eyes so that he could see? It was stuff such as this that made the
"embalmed beef" that had killed several times as many United States
soldiers as all the bullets of the Spaniards; only the army beef, besides,
was not fresh canned, it was old stuff that had been lying for years in
the cellars.

Then one Sunday evening, Jurgis sat puffing his pipe by the kitchen stove,
and talking with an old fellow whom Jonas had introduced, and who worked
in the canning rooms at Durham's; and so Jurgis learned a few things about
the great and only Durham canned goods, which had become a national
institution. They were regular alchemists at Durham's; they advertised a
mushroom-catsup, and the men who made it did not know what a mushroom
looked like. They advertised "potted chicken,"--and it was like the
boardinghouse soup of the comic papers, through which a chicken had
walked with rubbers on. Perhaps they had a secret process for making
chickens chemically--who knows? said Jurgis' friend; the things that went
into the mixture were tripe, and the fat of pork, and beef suet, and hearts
of beef, and finally the waste ends of veal, when they had any. They put
these up in several grades, and sold them at several prices; but the
contents of the cans all came out of the same hopper. And then there
was "potted game" and "potted grouse," "potted ham," and "deviled ham"--
de-vyled, as the men called it. "De-vyled" ham was made out of the waste
ends of smoked beef that were too small to be sliced by the machines;
and also tripe, dyed with chemicals so that it would not show white;
and trimmings of hams and corned beef; and potatoes, skins and all;
and finally the hard cartilaginous gullets of beef, after the tongues
had been cut out. All this ingenious mixture was ground up and flavored
with spices to make it taste like something. Anybody who could invent a
new imitation had been sure of a fortune from old Durham, said Jurgis'
informant; but it was hard to think of anything new in a place where
so many sharp wits had been at work for so long; where men welcomed
tuberculosis in the cattle they were feeding, because it made them fatten
more quickly; and where they bought up all the old rancid butter left over
in the grocery stores of a continent, and "oxidized" it by a forced-air
process, to take away the odor, rechurned it with skim milk, and sold it
in bricks in the cities! Up to a year or two ago it had been the custom
to kill horses in the yards--ostensibly for fertilizer; but after long
agitation the newspapers had been able to make the public realize that
the horses were being canned. Now it was against the law to kill horses
in Packingtown, and the law was really complied with--for the present,
at any rate. Any day, however, one might see sharp-horned and shaggy-
haired creatures running with the sheep and yet what a job you would have
to get the public to believe that a good part of what it buys for lamb
and mutton is really goat's flesh!

There was another interesting set of statistics that a person might have
gathered in Packingtown--those of the various afflictions of the workers.
When Jurgis had first inspected the packing plants with Szedvilas, he had
marveled while he listened to the tale of all the things that were made
out of the carcasses of animals, and of all the lesser industries that
were maintained there; now he found that each one of these lesser
industries was a separate little inferno, in its way as horrible as the
killing beds, the source and fountain of them all. The workers in each
of them had their own peculiar diseases. And the wandering visitor might
be skeptical about all the swindles, but he could not be skeptical about
these, for the worker bore the evidence of them about on his own person--
generally he had only to hold out his hand.

There were the men in the pickle rooms, for instance, where old Antanas
had gotten his death; scarce a one of these that had not some spot of
horror on his person. Let a man so much as scrape his finger pushing
a truck in the pickle rooms, and he might have a sore that would put
him out of the world; all the joints in his fingers might be eaten by
the acid, one by one. Of the butchers and floorsmen, the beef-boners
and trimmers, and all those who used knives, you could scarcely find a
person who had the use of his thumb; time and time again the base of it
had been slashed, till it was a mere lump of flesh against which the man
pressed the knife to hold it. The hands of these men would be criss-
crossed with cuts, until you could no longer pretend to count them or to
trace them. They would have no nails,--they had worn them off pulling
hides; their knuckles were swollen so that their fingers spread out like
a fan. There were men who worked in the cooking rooms, in the midst of
steam and sickening odors, by artificial light; in these rooms the germs
of tuberculosis might live for two years, but the supply was renewed
every hour. There were the beef-luggers, who carried two-hundred-pound
quarters into the refrigerator-cars; a fearful kind of work, that began
at four o'clock in the morning, and that wore out the most powerful men
in a few years. There were those who worked in the chilling rooms, and
whose special disease was rheumatism; the time limit that a man could
work in the chilling rooms was said to be five years. There were the
wool-pluckers, whose hands went to pieces even sooner than the hands of
the pickle men; for the pelts of the sheep had to be painted with acid
to loosen the wool, and then the pluckers had to pull out this wool with
their bare hands, till the acid had eaten their fingers off. There were
those who made the tins for the canned meat; and their hands, too, were
a maze of cuts, and each cut represented a chance for blood poisoning.
Some worked at the stamping machines, and it was very seldom that one
could work long there at the pace that was set, and not give out and
forget himself and have a part of his hand chopped off. There were the
"hoisters," as they were called, whose task it was to press the lever
which lifted the dead cattle off the floor. They ran along upon a rafter,
peering down through the damp and the steam; and as old Durham's architects
had not built the killing room for the convenience of the hoisters, at every
few feet they would have to stoop under a beam, say four feet above the one
they ran on; which got them into the habit of stooping, so that in a few
years they would be walking like chimpanzees. Worst of any, however, were
the fertilizer men, and those who served in the cooking rooms. These people
could not be shown to the visitor,--for the odor of a fertilizer man would
scare any ordinary visitor at a hundred yards, and as for the other men,
who worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were
open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that
they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never
enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,--sometimes they would be
overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the
world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard!

Chapter 10

During the early part of the winter the family had had money enough
to live and a little over to pay their debts with; but when the
earnings of Jurgis fell from nine or ten dollars a week to five or six,
there was no longer anything to spare. The winter went, and the
spring came, and found them still living thus from hand to mouth,
hanging on day by day, with literally not a month's wages between
them and starvation. Marija was in despair, for there was still
no word about the reopening of the canning factory, and her savings
were almost entirely gone. She had had to give up all idea of
marrying then; the family could not get along without her--though for
that matter she was likely soon to become a burden even upon them,
for when her money was all gone, they would have to pay back what
they owed her in board. So Jurgis and Ona and Teta Elzbieta would
hold anxious conferences until late at night, trying to figure how
they could manage this too without starving.

Such were the cruel terms upon which their life was possible,
that they might never have nor expect a single instant's respite
from worry, a single instant in which they were not haunted by the
thought of money. They would no sooner escape, as by a miracle,
from one difficulty, than a new one would come into view. In addition
to all their physical hardships, there was thus a constant strain
upon their minds; they were harried all day and nearly all night by
worry and fear. This was in truth not living; it was scarcely even
existing, and they felt that it was too little for the price they paid.
They were willing to work all the time; and when people did their best,
ought they not to be able to keep alive?

There seemed never to be an end to the things they had to buy and to
the unforeseen contingencies. Once their water pipes froze and burst;
and when, in their ignorance, they thawed them out, they had a
terrifying flood in their house. It happened while the men were away,
and poor Elzbieta rushed out into the street screaming for help,
for she did not even know whether the flood could be stopped, or whether
they were ruined for life. It was nearly as bad as the latter, they
found in the end, for the plumber charged them seventy-five cents
an hour, and seventy-five cents for another man who had stood and
watched him, and included all the time the two had been going and
coming, and also a charge for all sorts of material and extras.
And then again, when they went to pay their January's installment on
the house, the agent terrified them by asking them if they had had the
insurance attended to yet. In answer to their inquiry he showed them
a clause in the deed which provided that they were to keep the house
insured for one thousand dollars, as soon as the present policy ran out,
which would happen in a few days. Poor Elzbieta, upon whom again fell
the blow, demanded how much it would cost them. Seven dollars, the man
said; and that night came Jurgis, grim and determined, requesting that
the agent would be good enough to inform him, once for all, as to all
the expenses they were liable for. The deed was signed now, he said,
with sarcasm proper to the new way of life he had learned--the deed was
signed, and so the agent had no longer anything to gain by keeping quiet.
And Jurgis looked the fellow squarely in the eye, and so the fellow
wasted no time in conventional protests, but read him the deed.
They would have to renew the insurance every year; they would have to
pay the taxes, about ten dollars a year; they would have to pay the
water tax, about six dollars a year--(Jurgis silently resolved to
shut off the hydrant). This, besides the interest and the monthly
installments, would be all--unless by chance the city should happen
to decide to put in a sewer or to lay a sidewalk. Yes, said the agent,
they would have to have these, whether they wanted them or not, if the
city said so. The sewer would cost them about twenty-two dollars,
and the sidewalk fifteen if it were wood, twenty-five if it were cement.

So Jurgis went home again; it was a relief to know the worst, at any rate,
so that he could no more be surprised by fresh demands. He saw now
how they had been plundered; but they were in for it, there was no
turning back. They could only go on and make the fight and win--
for defeat was a thing that could not even be thought of.

When the springtime came, they were delivered from the dreadful cold,
and that was a great deal; but in addition they had counted on the
money they would not have to pay for coal--and it was just at this
time that Marija's board began to fail. Then, too, the warm weather
brought trials of its own; each season had its trials, as they found.
In the spring there were cold rains, that turned the streets into
canals and bogs; the mud would be so deep that wagons would sink
up to the hubs, so that half a dozen horses could not move them.
Then, of course, it was impossible for any one to get to work with
dry feet; and this was bad for men that were poorly clad and shod,
and still worse for women and children. Later came midsummer, with the
stifling heat, when the dingy killing beds of Durham's became a very
purgatory; one time, in a single day, three men fell dead from sunstroke.
All day long the rivers of hot blood poured forth, until, with the sun
beating down, and the air motionless, the stench was enough to knock
a man over; all the old smells of a generation would be drawn out by
this heat--for there was never any washing of the walls and rafters
and pillars, and they were caked with the filth of a lifetime.
The men who worked on the killing beds would come to reek with foulness,
so that you could smell one of them fifty feet away; there was simply
no such thing as keeping decent, the most careful man gave it up in
the end, and wallowed in uncleanness. There was not even a place
where a man could wash his hands, and the men ate as much raw blood as
food at dinnertime. When they were at work they could not even wipe off
their faces--they were as helpless as newly born babes in that respect;
and it may seem like a small matter, but when the sweat began to run
down their necks and tickle them, or a fly to bother them, it was a
torture like being burned alive. Whether it was the slaughterhouses
or the dumps that were responsible, one could not say, but with the
hot weather there descended upon Packingtown a veritable Egyptian plague
of flies; there could be no describing this--the houses would be black
with them. There was no escaping; you might provide all your doors
and windows with screens, but their buzzing outside would be like
the swarming of bees, and whenever you opened the door they would
rush in as if a storm of wind were driving them.

Perhaps the summertime suggests to you thoughts of the country,
visions of green fields and mountains and sparkling lakes. It had
no such suggestion for the people in the yards. The great packing
machine ground on remorselessly, without thinking of green fields;
and the men and women and children who were part of it never saw
any green thing, not even a flower. Four or five miles to the east
of them lay the blue waters of Lake Michigan; but for all the good
it did them it might have been as far away as the Pacific Ocean.
They had only Sundays, and then they were too tired to walk.
They were tied to the great packing machine, and tied to it for life.
The managers and superintendents and clerks of Packingtown were all
recruited from another class, and never from the workers; they scorned
the workers, the very meanest of them. A poor devil of a bookkeeper
who had been working in Durham's for twenty years at a salary of
six dollars a week, and might work there for twenty more and do
no better, would yet consider himself a gentleman, as far removed
as the poles from the most skilled worker on the killing beds;
he would dress differently, and live in another part of the town,
and come to work at a different hour of the day, and in every way
make sure that he never rubbed elbows with a laboring man. Perhaps
this was due to the repulsiveness of the work; at any rate, the people
who worked with their hands were a class apart, and were made to feel it.

In the late spring the canning factory started up again, and so
once more Marija was heard to sing, and the love-music of Tamoszius
took on a less melancholy tone. It was not for long, however;
for a month or two later a dreadful calamity fell upon Marija.
Just one year and three days after she had begun work as a can-painter,
she lost her job.

It was a long story. Marija insisted that it was because of her
activity in the union. The packers, of course, had spies in all
the unions, and in addition they made a practice of buying up
a certain number of the union officials, as many as they thought
they needed. So every week they received reports as to what was
going on, and often they knew things before the members of the
union knew them. Any one who was considered to be dangerous by them
would find that he was not a favorite with his boss; and Marija had
been a great hand for going after the foreign people and preaching
to them. However that might be, the known facts were that a few
weeks before the factory closed, Marija had been cheated out of her
pay for three hundred cans. The girls worked at a long table,
and behind them walked a woman with pencil and notebook, keeping count
of the number they finished. This woman was, of course, only human,
and sometimes made mistakes; when this happened, there was no
redress--if on Saturday you got less money than you had earned,
you had to make the best of it. But Marija did not understand this,
and made a disturbance. Marija's disturbances did not mean anything,
and while she had known only Lithuanian and Polish, they had done no harm,
for people only laughed at her and made her cry. But now Marija was
able to call names in English, and so she got the woman who made the
mistake to disliking her. Probably, as Marija claimed, she made
mistakes on purpose after that; at any rate, she made them, and the
third time it happened Marija went on the warpath and took the matter
first to the forelady, and when she got no satisfaction there, to the
superintendent. This was unheard-of presumption, but the superintendent
said he would see about it, which Marija took to mean that she was
going to get her money; after waiting three days, she went to see
the superintendent again. This time the man frowned, and said that he
had not had time to attend to it; and when Marija, against the advice
and warning of every one, tried it once more, he ordered her back to
her work in a passion. Just how things happened after that Marija was
not sure, but that afternoon the forelady told her that her services
would not be any longer required. Poor Marija could not have been
more dumfounded had the woman knocked her over the head; at first she
could not believe what she heard, and then she grew furious and swore
that she would come anyway, that her place belonged to her. In the end
she sat down in the middle of the floor and wept and wailed.

It was a cruel lesson; but then Marija was headstrong--she should
have listened to those who had had experience. The next time she
would know her place, as the forelady expressed it; and so Marija
went out, and the family faced the problem of an existence again.

It was especially hard this time, for Ona was to be confined before long,
and Jurgis was trying hard to save up money for this. He had heard
dreadful stories of the midwives, who grow as thick as fleas in
Packingtown; and he had made up his mind that Ona must have a
man-doctor. Jurgis could be very obstinate when he wanted to,
and he was in this case, much to the dismay of the women, who felt
that a man-doctor was an impropriety, and that the matter really
belonged to them. The cheapest doctor they could find would charge
them fifteen dollars, and perhaps more when the bill came in;
and here was Jurgis, declaring that he would pay it, even if he had
to stop eating in the meantime!

Marija had only about twenty-five dollars left. Day after day she
wandered about the yards begging a job, but this time without hope
of finding it. Marija could do the work of an able-bodied man,
when she was cheerful, but discouragement wore her out easily,
and she would come home at night a pitiable object. She learned
her lesson this time, poor creature; she learned it ten times over.
All the family learned it along with her--that when you have once
got a job in Packingtown, you hang on to it, come what will.

Four weeks Marija hunted, and half of a fifth week. Of course she
stopped paying her dues to the union. She lost all interest in the
union, and cursed herself for a fool that she had ever been dragged
into one. She had about made up her mind that she was a lost soul,
when somebody told her of an opening, and she went and got a place
as a "beef-trimmer." She got this because the boss saw that she
had the muscles of a man, and so he discharged a man and put Marija
to do his work, paying her a little more than half what he had been
paying before.

When she first came to Packingtown, Marija would have scorned such
work as this. She was in another canning factory, and her work
was to trim the meat of those diseased cattle that Jurgis had been
told about not long before. She was shut up in one of the rooms
where the people seldom saw the daylight; beneath her were the
chilling rooms, where the meat was frozen, and above her were
the cooking rooms; and so she stood on an ice-cold floor, while her
head was often so hot that she could scarcely breathe. Trimming beef
off the bones by the hundred-weight, while standing up from early
morning till late at night, with heavy boots on and the floor
always damp and full of puddles, liable to be thrown out of work
indefinitely because of a slackening in the trade, liable again
to be kept overtime in rush seasons, and be worked till she trembled
in every nerve and lost her grip on her slimy knife, and gave herself
a poisoned wound--that was the new life that unfolded itself before Marija.
But because Marija was a human horse she merely laughed and went
at it; it would enable her to pay her board again, and keep the
family going. And as for Tamoszius--well, they had waited a long time,
and they could wait a little longer. They could not possibly get
along upon his wages alone, and the family could not live without hers.
He could come and visit her, and sit in the kitchen and hold her hand,
and he must manage to be content with that. But day by day the
music of Tamoszius' violin became more passionate and heartbreaking;
and Marija would sit with her hands clasped and her cheeks wet and
all her body atremble, hearing in the wailing melodies the voices
of the unborn generations which cried out in her for life.

Marija's lesson came just in time to save Ona from a similar fate.
Ona, too, was dissatisfied with her place, and had far more reason
than Marija. She did not tell half of her story at home, because she
saw it was a torment to Jurgis, and she was afraid of what he might do.
For a long time Ona had seen that Miss Henderson, the forelady in
her department, did not like her. At first she thought it was the
old-time mistake she had made in asking for a holiday to get married.
Then she concluded it must be because she did not give the forelady
a present occasionally--she was the kind that took presents from
the girls, Ona learned, and made all sorts of discriminations in favor
of those who gave them. In the end, however, Ona discovered that
it was even worse than that. Miss Henderson was a newcomer, and it was
some time before rumor made her out; but finally it transpired that
she was a kept woman, the former mistress of the superintendent of
a department in the same building. He had put her there to keep
her quiet, it seemed--and that not altogether with success, for once
or twice they had been heard quarreling. She had the temper of a hyena,
and soon the place she ran was a witch's caldron. There were some
of the girls who were of her own sort, who were willing to toady
to her and flatter her; and these would carry tales about the rest,
and so the furies were unchained in the place. Worse than this,
the woman lived in a bawdyhouse downtown, with a coarse, red-faced
Irishman named Connor, who was the boss of the loading-gang outside,
and would make free with the girls as they went to and from their work.
In the slack seasons some of them would go with Miss Henderson to
this house downtown--in fact, it would not be too much to say that
she managed her department at Brown's in conjunction with it.
Sometimes women from the house would be given places alongside of
decent girls, and after other decent girls had been turned off to
make room for them. When you worked in this woman's department
the house downtown was never out of your thoughts all day--there were
always whiffs of it to be caught, like the odor of the Packingtown
rendering plants at night, when the wind shifted suddenly. There would
be stories about it going the rounds; the girls opposite you would be
telling them and winking at you. In such a place Ona would not have
stayed a day, but for starvation; and, as it was, she was never sure
that she could stay the next day. She understood now that the real
reason that Miss Henderson hated her was that she was a decent
married girl; and she knew that the talebearers and the toadies
hated her for the same reason, and were doing their best to make her
life miserable.

But there was no place a girl could go in Packingtown, if she was
particular about things of this sort; there was no place in it
where a prostitute could not get along better than a decent girl.
Here was a population, low-class and mostly foreign, hanging always
on the verge of starvation, and dependent for its opportunities of
life upon the whim of men every bit as brutal and unscrupulous as
the old-time slave drivers; under such circumstances immorality
was exactly as inevitable, and as prevalent, as it was under the
system of chattel slavery. Things that were quite unspeakable
went on there in the packing houses all the time, and were taken
for granted by everybody; only they did not show, as in the old
slavery times, because there was no difference in color between
master and slave.

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