Part 5 out of 8
was, anyway, that a man should slave to make harvesting machines
for the country, only to be turned out to starve for doing his
duty too well!
It took him two days to get over this heartsickening
disappointment. He did not drink anything, because Elzbieta got
his money for safekeeping, and knew him too well to be in the
least frightened by his angry demands. He stayed up in the
garret however, and sulked--what was the use of a man's hunting a
job when it was taken from him before he had time to learn the
work? But then their money was going again, and little Antanas
was hungry, and crying with the bitter cold of the garret.
Also Madame Haupt, the midwife, was after him for some money.
So he went out once more.
For another ten days he roamed the streets and alleys of the huge
city, sick and hungry, begging for any work. He tried in stores
and offices, in restaurants and hotels, along the docks and in
the railroad yards, in warehouses and mills and factories where
they made products that went to every corner of the world. There
were often one or two chances--but there were always a hundred
men for every chance, and his turn would not come. At night he
crept into sheds and cellars and doorways--until there came a
spell of belated winter weather, with a raging gale, and the
thermometer five degrees below zero at sundown and falling all
night. Then Jurgis fought like a wild beast to get into the big
Harrison Street police station, and slept down in a corridor,
crowded with two other men upon a single step.
He had to fight often in these days to fight for a place near the
factory gates, and now and again with gangs on the street. He
found, for instance, that the business of carrying satchels for
railroad passengers was a pre-empted one--whenever he essayed it,
eight or ten men and boys would fall upon him and force him to
run for his life. They always had the policeman "squared," and
so there was no use in expecting protection.
That Jurgis did not starve to death was due solely to the
pittance the children brought him. And even this was never
certain. For one thing the cold was almost more than the
children could bear; and then they, too, were in perpetual peril
from rivals who plundered and beat them. The law was against
them, too--little Vilimas, who was really eleven, but did not
look to be eight, was stopped on the streets by a severe old lady
in spectacles, who told him that he was too young to be working
and that if he did not stop selling papers she would send a
truant officer after him. Also one night a strange man caught
little Kotrina by the arm and tried to persuade her into a dark
cellarway, an experience which filled her with such terror that
she was hardly to be kept at work.
At last, on a Sunday, as there was no use looking for work,
Jurgis went home by stealing rides on the cars. He found that
they had been waiting for him for three days--there was a chance
of a job for him.
It was quite a story. Little Juozapas, who was near crazy with
hunger these days, had gone out on the street to beg for himself.
Juozapas had only one leg, having been run over by a wagon when a
little child, but he had got himself a broomstick, which he put
under his arm for a crutch. He had fallen in with some other
children and found the way to Mike Scully's dump, which lay three
or four blocks away. To this place there came every day many
hundreds of wagonloads of garbage and trash from the lake front,
where the rich people lived; and in the heaps the children raked
for food--there were hunks of bread and potato peelings and apple
cores and meat bones, all of it half frozen and quite unspoiled.
Little Juozapas gorged himself, and came home with a newspaper
full, which he was feeding to Antanas when his mother came in.
Elzbieta was horrified, for she did not believe that the food out
of the dumps was fit to eat. The next day, however, when no harm
came of it and Juozapas began to cry with hunger, she gave in and
said that he might go again. And that afternoon he came home
with a story of how while he had been digging away with a stick,
a lady upon the street had called him. A real fine lady,
the little boy explained, a beautiful lady; and she wanted to know
all about him, and whether he got the garbage for chickens,
and why he walked with a broomstick, and why Ona had died, and how
Jurgis had come to go to jail, and what was the matter with
Marija, and everything. In the end she had asked where he lived,
and said that she was coming to see him, and bring him a new
crutch to walk with. She had on a hat with a bird upon it,
Juozapas added, and a long fur snake around her neck.
She really came, the very next morning, and climbed the ladder to
the garret, and stood and stared about her, turning pale at the
sight of the blood stains on the floor where Ona had died. She
was a "settlement worker," she explained to Elzbieta--she lived
around on Ashland Avenue. Elzbieta knew the place, over a feed
store; somebody had wanted her to go there, but she had not cared
to, for she thought that it must have something to do with
religion, and the priest did not like her to have anything to do
with strange religions. They were rich people who came to live
there to find out about the poor people; but what good they
expected it would do them to know, one could not imagine. So
spoke Elzbieta, naively, and the young lady laughed and was
rather at a loss for an answer--she stood and gazed about her,
and thought of a cynical remark that had been made to her, that
she was standing upon the brink of the pit of hell and throwing
in snowballs to lower the temperature.
Elzbieta was glad to have somebody to listen, and she told all
their woes--what had happened to Ona, and the jail, and the loss
of their home, and Marija's accident, and how Ona had died, and
how Jurgis could get no work. As she listened the pretty young
lady's eyes filled with tears, and in the midst of it she burst
into weeping and hid her face on Elzbieta's shoulder, quite
regardless of the fact that the woman had on a dirty old wrapper
and that the garret was full of fleas. Poor Elzbieta was ashamed
of herself for having told so woeful a tale, and the other had to
beg and plead with her to get her to go on. The end of it was
that the young lady sent them a basket of things to eat, and left
a letter that Jurgis was to take to a gentleman who was
superintendent in one of the mills of the great steelworks in
South Chicago. "He will get Jurgis something to do," the young
lady had said, and added, smiling through her tears--"If he
doesn't, he will never marry me."
The steel-works were fifteen miles away, and as usual it was so
contrived that one had to pay two fares to get there. Far and
wide the sky was flaring with the red glare that leaped from rows
of towering chimneys--for it was pitch dark when Jurgis arrived.
The vast works, a city in themselves, were surrounded by a
stockade; and already a full hundred men were waiting at the gate
where new hands were taken on. Soon after daybreak whistles
began to blow, and then suddenly thousands of men appeared,
streaming from saloons and boardinghouses across the way, leaping
from trolley cars that passed--it seemed as if they rose out of
the ground, in the dim gray light. A river of them poured in
through the gate--and then gradually ebbed away again, until
there were only a few late ones running, and the watchman pacing
up and down, and the hungry strangers stamping and shivering.
Jurgis presented his precious letter. The gatekeeper was surly,
and put him through a catechism, but he insisted that he knew
nothing, and as he had taken the precaution to seal his letter,
there was nothing for the gatekeeper to do but send it to the
person to whom it was addressed. A messenger came back to say
that Jurgis should wait, and so he came inside of the gate,
perhaps not sorry enough that there were others less fortunate
watching him with greedy eyes. The great mills were getting
under way--one could hear a vast stirring, a rolling and rumbling
and hammering. Little by little the scene grew plain: towering,
black buildings here and there, long rows of shops and sheds,
little railways branching everywhere, bare gray cinders underfoot
and oceans of billowing black smoke above. On one side of the
grounds ran a railroad with a dozen tracks, and on the other side
lay the lake, where steamers came to load.
Jurgis had time enough to stare and speculate, for it was two
hours before he was summoned. He went into the office building,
where a company timekeeper interviewed him. The superintendent
was busy, he said, but he (the timekeeper) would try to find
Jurgis a job. He had never worked in a steel mill before? But
he was ready for anything? Well, then, they would go and see.
So they began a tour, among sights that made Jurgis stare amazed.
He wondered if ever he could get used to working in a place like
this, where the air shook with deafening thunder, and whistles
shrieked warnings on all sides of him at once; where miniature
steam engines came rushing upon him, and sizzling, quivering,
white-hot masses of metal sped past him, and explosions of fire
and flaming sparks dazzled him and scorched his face. Then men
in these mills were all black with soot, and hollow-eyed and
gaunt; they worked with fierce intensity, rushing here and there,
and never lifting their eyes from their tasks. Jurgis clung to
his guide like a scared child to its nurse, and while the latter
hailed one foreman after another to ask if they could use another
unskilled man, he stared about him and marveled.
He was taken to the Bessemer furnace, where they made billets of
steel--a domelike building, the size of a big theater. Jurgis
stood where the balcony of the theater would have been,
and opposite, by the stage, he saw three giant caldrons, big enough
for all the devils of hell to brew their broth in, full of
something white and blinding, bubbling and splashing, roaring as
if volcanoes were blowing through it--one had to shout to be
heard in the place. Liquid fire would leap from these caldrons
and scatter like bombs below--and men were working there, seeming
careless, so that Jurgis caught his breath with fright. Then a
whistle would toot, and across the curtain of the theater would
come a little engine with a carload of something to be dumped
into one of the receptacles; and then another whistle would toot,
down by the stage, and another train would back up--and suddenly,
without an instant's warning, one of the giant kettles began to
tilt and topple, flinging out a jet of hissing, roaring flame.
Jurgis shrank back appalled, for he thought it was an accident;
there fell a pillar of white flame, dazzling as the sun, swishing
like a huge tree falling in the forest. A torrent of sparks
swept all the way across the building, overwhelming everything,
hiding it from sight; and then Jurgis looked through the fingers
of his hands, and saw pouring out of the caldron a cascade of
living, leaping fire, white with a whiteness not of earth,
scorching the eyeballs. Incandescent rainbows shone above it,
blue, red, and golden lights played about it; but the stream
itself was white, ineffable. Out of regions of wonder it
streamed, the very river of life; and the soul leaped up at the
sight of it, fled back upon it, swift and resistless, back into
far-off lands, where beauty and terror dwell. Then the great
caldron tilted back again, empty, and Jurgis saw to his relief
that no one was hurt, and turned and followed his guide out into
They went through the blast furnaces, through rolling mills where
bars of steel were tossed about and chopped like bits of cheese.
All around and above giant machine arms were flying, giant wheels
were turning, great hammers crashing; traveling cranes creaked
and groaned overhead, reaching down iron hands and seizing iron
prey--it was like standing in the center of the earth, where the
machinery of time was revolving.
By and by they came to the place where steel rails were made; and
Jurgis heard a toot behind him, and jumped out of the way of a
car with a white-hot ingot upon it, the size of a man's body.
There was a sudden crash and the car came to a halt, and the
ingot toppled out upon a moving platform, where steel fingers and
arms seized hold of it, punching it and prodding it into place,
and hurrying it into the grip of huge rollers. Then it came out
upon the other side, and there were more crashings and
clatterings, and over it was flopped, like a pancake on a
gridiron, and seized again and rushed back at you through another
squeezer. So amid deafening uproar it clattered to and fro,
growing thinner and flatter and longer. The ingot seemed almost
a living thing; it did not want to run this mad course, but it
was in the grip of fate, it was tumbled on, screeching and
clanking and shivering in protest. By and by it was long and
thin, a great red snake escaped from purgatory; and then, as it
slid through the rollers, you would have sworn that it was
alive--it writhed and squirmed, and wriggles and shudders passed
out through its tail, all but flinging it off by their violence.
There was no rest for it until it was cold and black--and then it
needed only to be cut and straightened to be ready for a
It was at the end of this rail's progress that Jurgis got his
chance. They had to be moved by men with crowbars, and the boss
here could use another man. So he took off his coat and set to
work on the spot.
It took him two hours to get to this place every day and cost him
a dollar and twenty cents a week. As this was out of the
question, he wrapped his bedding in a bundle and took it with
him, and one of his fellow workingmen introduced him to a Polish
lodginghouse, where he might have the privilege of sleeping upon
the floor for ten cents a night. He got his meals at free-lunch
counters, and every Saturday night he went home--bedding and
all--and took the greater part of his money to the family.
Elzbieta was sorry for this arrangement, for she feared that it
would get him into the habit of living without them, and once a
week was not very often for him to see his baby; but there was no
other way of arranging it. There was no chance for a woman at
the steelworks, and Marija was now ready for work again, and
lured on from day to day by the hope of finding it at the yards.
In a week Jurgis got over his sense of helplessness and
bewilderment in the rail mill. He learned to find his way about
and to take all the miracles and terrors for granted, to work
without hearing the rumbling and crashing. From blind fear he
went to the other extreme; he became reckless and indifferent,
like all the rest of the men, who took but little thought of
themselves in the ardor of their work. It was wonderful, when
one came to think of it, that these men should have taken an
interest in the work they did--they had no share in it--they were
paid by the hour, and paid no more for being interested. Also
they knew that if they were hurt they would be flung aside and
forgotten--and still they would hurry to their task by dangerous
short cuts, would use methods that were quicker and more
effective in spite of the fact that they were also risky. His
fourth day at his work Jurgis saw a man stumble while running in
front of a car, and have his foot mashed off, and before he had
been there three weeks he was witness of a yet more dreadful
accident. There was a row of brick furnaces, shining white
through every crack with the molten steel inside. Some of these
were bulging dangerously, yet men worked before them, wearing
blue glasses when they opened and shut the doors. One morning as
Jurgis was passing, a furnace blew out, spraying two men with a
shower of liquid fire. As they lay screaming and rolling upon
the ground in agony, Jurgis rushed to help them, and as a result
he lost a good part of the skin from the inside of one of his
hands. The company doctor bandaged it up, but he got no other
thanks from any one, and was laid up for eight working days
without any pay.
Most fortunately, at this juncture, Elzbieta got the long-awaited
chance to go at five o'clock in the morning and help scrub the
office floors of one of the packers. Jurgis came home and
covered himself with blankets to keep warm, and divided his time
between sleeping and playing with little Antanas. Juozapas was
away raking in the dump a good part of the time, and Elzbieta and
Marija were hunting for more work.
Antanas was now over a year and a half old, and was a perfect
talking machine. He learned so fast that every week when Jurgis
came home it seemed to him as if he had a new child. He would
sit down and listen and stare at him, and give vent to delighted
exclamations--"Palauk! Muma! Tu mano szirdele!" The little
fellow was now really the one delight that Jurgis had in the
world--his one hope, his one victory. Thank God, Antanas was a
boy! And he was as tough as a pine knot, and with the appetite
of a wolf. Nothing had hurt him, and nothing could hurt him; he
had come through all the suffering and deprivation
unscathed--only shriller-voiced and more determined in his grip
upon life. He was a terrible child to manage, was Antanas, but
his father did not mind that--he would watch him and smile to
himself with satisfaction. The more of a fighter he was the
better--he would need to fight before he got through.
Jurgis had got the habit of buying the Sunday paper whenever he
had the money; a most wonderful paper could be had for only five
cents, a whole armful, with all the news of the world set forth
in big headlines, that Jurgis could spell out slowly, with the
children to help him at the long words. There was battle and
murder and sudden death--it was marvelous how they ever heard
about so many entertaining and thrilling happenings; the stories
must be all true, for surely no man could have made such things
up, and besides, there were pictures of them all, as real as
life. One of these papers was as good as a circus, and nearly as
good as a spree--certainly a most wonderful treat for a workingman,
who was tired out and stupefied, and had never had any
education, and whose work was one dull, sordid grind, day
after day, and year after year, with never a sight of a green
field nor an hour's entertainment, nor anything but liquor to
stimulate his imagination. Among other things, these papers had
pages full of comical pictures, and these were the main joy in
life to little Antanas. He treasured them up, and would drag
them out and make his father tell him about them; there were all
sorts of animals among them, and Antanas could tell the names of
all of them, lying upon the floor for hours and pointing them out
with his chubby little fingers. Whenever the story was plain
enough for Jurgis to make out, Antanas would have it repeated to
him, and then he would remember it, prattling funny little
sentences and mixing it up with other stories in an irresistible
fashion. Also his quaint pronunciation of words was such a
delight--and the phrases he would pick up and remember, the most
outlandish and impossible things! The first time that the little
rascal burst out with "God damn," his father nearly rolled off
the chair with glee; but in the end he was sorry for this, for
Antanas was soon "God-damning" everything and everybody.
And then, when he was able to use his hands, Jurgis took his
bedding again and went back to his task of shifting rails. It
was now April, and the snow had given place to cold rains, and
the unpaved street in front of Aniele's house was turned into a
canal. Jurgis would have to wade through it to get home, and if
it was late he might easily get stuck to his waist in the mire.
But he did not mind this much--it was a promise that summer was
coming. Marija had now gotten a place as beef-trimmer in one of
the smaller packing plants; and he told himself that he had
learned his lesson now, and would meet with no more accidents--
so that at last there was prospect of an end to their long agony.
They could save money again, and when another winter came they
would have a comfortable place; and the children would be off the
streets and in school again, and they might set to work to nurse
back into life their habits of decency and kindness. So once
more Jurgis began to make plans and dream dreams.
And then one Saturday night he jumped off the car and started
home, with the sun shining low under the edge of a bank of clouds
that had been pouring floods of water into the mud-soaked street.
There was a rainbow in the sky, and another in his breast--for he
had thirty-six hours' rest before him, and a chance to see his
family. Then suddenly he came in sight of the house, and noticed
that there was a crowd before the door. He ran up the steps and
pushed his way in, and saw Aniele's kitchen crowded with excited
women. It reminded him so vividly of the time when he had come
home from jail and found Ona dying, that his heart almost stood
still. "What's the matter?" he cried.
A dead silence had fallen in the room, and he saw that every one
was staring at him. "What's the matter?" he exclaimed again.
And then, up in the garret, he heard sounds of wailing, in
Marija's voice. He started for the ladder--and Aniele seized him
by the arm. "No, no!" she exclaimed. "Don't go up there!"
"What is it?" he shouted.
And the old woman answered him weakly: "It's Antanas. He's dead.
He was drowned out in the street!"
Jurgis took the news in a peculiar way. He turned deadly pale,
but he caught himself, and for half a minute stood in the middle
of the room, clenching his hands tightly and setting his teeth.
Then he pushed Aniele aside and strode into the next room and
climbed the ladder.
In the corner was a blanket, with a form half showing beneath it;
and beside it lay Elzbieta, whether crying or in a faint, Jurgis
could not tell. Marija was pacing the room, screaming and
wringing her hands. He clenched his hands tighter yet, and his
voice was hard as he spoke.
"How did it happen?" he asked.
Marija scarcely heard him in her agony. He repeated the
question, louder and yet more harshly. "He fell off the
sidewalk!" she wailed. The sidewalk in front of the house was a
platform made of half-rotten boards, about five feet above the
level of the sunken street.
"How did he come to be there?" he demanded.
"He went--he went out to play," Marija sobbed, her voice choking
her. "We couldn't make him stay in. He must have got caught in
"Are you sure that he is dead?" he demanded.
"Ai! ai!" she wailed. "Yes; we had the doctor."
Then Jurgis stood a few seconds, wavering. He did not shed a
tear. He took one glance more at the blanket with the little
form beneath it, and then turned suddenly to the ladder and
climbed down again. A silence fell once more in the room as he
entered. He went straight to the door, passed out, and started
down the street.
When his wife had died, Jurgis made for the nearest saloon, but
he did not do that now, though he had his week's wages in his
pocket. He walked and walked, seeing nothing, splashing through
mud and water. Later on he sat down upon a step and hid his face
in his hands and for half an hour or so he did not move. Now and
then he would whisper to himself: "Dead! Dead!"
Finally, he got up and walked on again. It was about sunset, and
he went on and on until it was dark, when he was stopped by a
railroad crossing. The gates were down, and a long train of
freight cars was thundering by. He stood and watched it; and all
at once a wild impulse seized him, a thought that had been
lurking within him, unspoken, unrecognized, leaped into sudden
life. He started down the track, and when he was past the
gate-keeper's shanty he sprang forward and swung himself on to
one of the cars.
By and by the train stopped again, and Jurgis sprang down and ran
under the car, and hid himself upon the truck. Here he sat, and
when the train started again, he fought a battle with his soul.
He gripped his hands and set his teeth together--he had not wept,
and he would not--not a tear! It was past and over, and he was
done with it--he would fling it off his shoulders, be free of it,
the whole business, that night. It should go like a black,
hateful nightmare, and in the morning he would be a new man. And
every time that a thought of it assailed him--a tender memory, a
trace of a tear--he rose up, cursing with rage, and pounded it
He was fighting for his life; he gnashed his teeth together in
his desperation. He had been a fool, a fool! He had wasted his
life, he had wrecked himself, with his accursed weakness; and now
he was done with it--he would tear it out of him, root and
branch! There should be no more tears and no more tenderness;
he had had enough of them--they had sold him into slavery! Now he
was going to be free, to tear off his shackles, to rise up and
fight. He was glad that the end had come--it had to come some
time, and it was just as well now. This was no world for women
and children, and the sooner they got out of it the better for
them. Whatever Antanas might suffer where he was, he could
suffer no more than he would have had he stayed upon earth.
And meantime his father had thought the last thought about him that
he meant to; he was going to think of himself, he was going to
fight for himself, against the world that had baffled him and
So he went on, tearing up all the flowers from the garden of his
soul, and setting his heel upon them. The train thundered
deafeningly, and a storm of dust blew in his face; but though it
stopped now and then through the night, he clung where he was--
he would cling there until he was driven off, for every mile that he
got from Packingtown meant another load from his mind.
Whenever the cars stopped a warm breeze blew upon him, a breeze
laden with the perfume of fresh fields, of honeysuckle and
clover. He snuffed it, and it made his heart beat wildly--he was
out in the country again! He was going to live in the country!
When the dawn came he was peering out with hungry eyes, getting
glimpses of meadows and woods and rivers. At last he could stand
it no longer, and when the train stopped again he crawled out.
Upon the top of the car was a brakeman, who shook his fist and
swore; Jurgis waved his hand derisively, and started across the
Only think that he had been a countryman all his life; and for
three long years he had never seen a country sight nor heard a
country sound! Excepting for that one walk when he left jail,
when he was too much worried to notice anything, and for a few
times that he had rested in the city parks in the winter time
when he was out of work, he had literally never seen a tree!
And now he felt like a bird lifted up and borne away upon a gale;
he stopped and stared at each new sight of wonder--at a herd of
cows, and a meadow full of daisies, at hedgerows set thick with
June roses, at little birds singing in the trees.
Then he came to a farm-house, and after getting himself a stick
for protection, he approached it. The farmer was greasing a
wagon in front of the barn, and Jurgis went to him. "I would
like to get some breakfast, please," he said.
"Do you want to work?" said the farmer.
"No," said Jurgis. "I don't."
"Then you can't get anything here," snapped the other.
"I meant to pay for it," said Jurgis.
"Oh," said the farmer; and then added sarcastically, "We don't
serve breakfast after 7 A.M."
"I am very hungry," said Jurgis gravely; "I would like to buy
"Ask the woman," said the farmer, nodding over his shoulder. The
"woman" was more tractable, and for a dime Jurgis secured two
thick sandwiches and a piece of pie and two apples. He walked
off eating the pie, as the least convenient thing to carry. In a
few minutes he came to a stream, and he climbed a fence and
walked down the bank, along a woodland path. By and by he found
a comfortable spot, and there he devoured his meal, slaking his
thirst at the stream. Then he lay for hours, just gazing and
drinking in joy; until at last he felt sleepy, and lay down in
the shade of a bush.
When he awoke the sun was shining hot in his face. He sat up and
stretched his arms, and then gazed at the water sliding by.
There was a deep pool, sheltered and silent, below him, and a
sudden wonderful idea rushed upon him. He might have a bath!
The water was free, and he might get into it--all the way into
it! It would be the first time that he had been all the way into
the water since he left Lithuania!
When Jurgis had first come to the stockyards he had been as clean
as any workingman could well be. But later on, what with
sickness and cold and hunger and discouragement, and the
filthiness of his work, and the vermin in his home, he had given
up washing in winter, and in summer only as much of him as would
go into a basin. He had had a shower bath in jail, but nothing
since--and now he would have a swim!
The water was warm, and he splashed about like a very boy in his
glee. Afterward he sat down in the water near the bank, and
proceeded to scrub himself--soberly and methodically, scouring
every inch of him with sand. While he was doing it he would do
it thoroughly, and see how it felt to be clean. He even scrubbed
his head with sand, and combed what the men called "crumbs" out
of his long, black hair, holding his head under water as long as
he could, to see if he could not kill them all. Then, seeing
that the sun was still hot, he took his clothes from the bank
and proceeded to wash them, piece by piece; as the dirt and grease
went floating off downstream he grunted with satisfaction and
soused the clothes again, venturing even to dream that he might
get rid of the fertilizer.
He hung them all up, and while they were drying he lay down in
the sun and had another long sleep. They were hot and stiff as
boards on top, and a little damp on the underside, when he
awakened; but being hungry, he put them on and set out again.
He had no knife, but with some labor he broke himself a good stout
club, and, armed with this, he marched down the road again.
Before long he came to a big farmhouse, and turned up the lane
that led to it. It was just suppertime, and the farmer was
washing his hands at the kitchen door. "Please, sir," said
Jurgis, "can I have something to eat? I can pay." To which the
farmer responded promptly, "We don't feed tramps here. Get out!"
Jurgis went without a word; but as he passed round the barn he
came to a freshly ploughed and harrowed field, in which the
farmer had set out some young peach trees; and as he walked he
jerked up a row of them by the roots, more than a hundred trees
in all, before he reached the end of the field. That was his
answer, and it showed his mood; from now on he was fighting,
and the man who hit him would get all that he gave, every time.
Beyond the orchard Jurgis struck through a patch of woods, and
then a field of winter grain, and came at last to another road.
Before long he saw another farmhouse, and, as it was beginning
to cloud over a little, he asked here for shelter as well as food.
Seeing the farmer eying him dubiously, he added, "I'll be glad
to sleep in the barn."
"Well, I dunno," said the other. "Do you smoke?"
"Sometimes," said Jurgis, "but I'll do it out of doors." When the
man had assented, he inquired, "How much will it cost me? I
haven't very much money."
"I reckon about twenty cents for supper," replied the farmer. "I
won't charge ye for the barn."
So Jurgis went in, and sat down at the table with the farmer's
wife and half a dozen children. It was a bountiful meal--there
were baked beans and mashed potatoes and asparagus chopped and
stewed, and a dish of strawberries, and great, thick slices of
bread, and a pitcher of milk. Jurgis had not had such a feast
since his wedding day, and he made a mighty effort to put in his
twenty cents' worth.
They were all of them too hungry to talk; but afterward they sat
upon the steps and smoked, and the farmer questioned his guest.
When Jurgis had explained that he was a workingman from Chicago,
and that he did not know just whither he was bound, the other
said, "Why don't you stay here and work for me?"
"I'm not looking for work just now," Jurgis answered.
"I'll pay ye good," said the other, eying his big form--"a dollar
a day and board ye. Help's terrible scarce round here."
"Is that winter as well as summer?" Jurgis demanded quickly.
"N--no," said the farmer; "I couldn't keep ye after November--I
ain't got a big enough place for that."
"I see," said the other, "that's what I thought. When you get
through working your horses this fall, will you turn them out in
the snow?" (Jurgis was beginning to think for himself nowadays.)
"It ain't quite the same," the farmer answered, seeing the point.
"There ought to be work a strong fellow like you can find to do,
in the cities, or some place, in the winter time."
"Yes," said Jurgis, "that's what they all think; and so they
crowd into the cities, and when they have to beg or steal to
live, then people ask 'em why they don't go into the country,
where help is scarce." The farmer meditated awhile.
"How about when your money's gone?" he inquired, finally.
"You'll have to, then, won't you?"
"Wait till she's gone," said Jurgis; "then I'll see."
He had a long sleep in the barn and then a big breakfast of
coffee and bread and oatmeal and stewed cherries, for which the
man charged him only fifteen cents, perhaps having been
influenced by his arguments. Then Jurgis bade farewell, and went
on his way.
Such was the beginning of his life as a tramp. It was seldom he
got as fair treatment as from this last farmer, and so as time
went on he learned to shun the houses and to prefer sleeping in
the fields. When it rained he would find a deserted building,
if he could, and if not, he would wait until after dark and then,
with his stick ready, begin a stealthy approach upon a barn.
Generally he could get in before the dog got scent of him, and
then he would hide in the hay and be safe until morning; if not,
and the dog attacked him, he would rise up and make a retreat in
battle order. Jurgis was not the mighty man he had once been,
but his arms were still good, and there were few farm dogs he
needed to hit more than once.
Before long there came raspberries, and then blackberries, to
help him save his money; and there were apples in the orchards
and potatoes in the ground--he learned to note the places and
fill his pockets after dark. Twice he even managed to capture a
chicken, and had a feast, once in a deserted barn and the other
time in a lonely spot alongside of a stream. When all of these
things failed him he used his money carefully, but without worry
--for he saw that he could earn more whenever he chose. Half an
hour's chopping wood in his lively fashion was enough to bring
him a meal, and when the farmer had seen him working he would
sometimes try to bribe him to stay.
But Jurgis was not staying. He was a free man now, a buccaneer.
The old wanderlust had got into his blood, the joy of the unbound
life, the joy of seeking, of hoping without limit. There were
mishaps and discomforts--but at least there was always something
new; and only think what it meant to a man who for years had been
penned up in one place, seeing nothing but one dreary prospect of
shanties and factories, to be suddenly set loose beneath the open
sky, to behold new landscapes, new places, and new people every
hour! To a man whose whole life had consisted of doing one
certain thing all day, until he was so exhausted that he could
only lie down and sleep until the next day--and to be now his own
master, working as he pleased and when he pleased, and facing a
new adventure every hour!
Then, too, his health came back to him, all his lost youthful
vigor, his joy and power that he had mourned and forgotten!
It came with a sudden rush, bewildering him, startling him; it was
as if his dead childhood had come back to him, laughing and
calling! What with plenty to eat and fresh air and exercise that
was taken as it pleased him, he would waken from his sleep and
start off not knowing what to do with his energy, stretching his
arms, laughing, singing old songs of home that came back to him.
Now and then, of course, he could not help but think of little
Antanas, whom he should never see again, whose little voice he
should never hear; and then he would have to battle with himself.
Sometimes at night he would waken dreaming of Ona, and stretch
out his arms to her, and wet the ground with his tears. But in
the morning he would get up and shake himself, and stride away
again to battle with the world.
He never asked where he was nor where he was going; the country
was big enough, he knew, and there was no danger of his coming to
the end of it. And of course he could always have company for
the asking--everywhere he went there were men living just as he
lived, and whom he was welcome to join. He was a stranger at the
business, but they were not clannish, and they taught him all
their tricks--what towns and villages it was best to keep away
from, and how to read the secret signs upon the fences, and when
to beg and when to steal, and just how to do both. They laughed
at his ideas of paying for anything with money or with work--for
they got all they wanted without either. Now and then Jurgis
camped out with a gang of them in some woodland haunt, and
foraged with them in the neighborhood at night. And then among
them some one would "take a shine" to him, and they would go off
together and travel for a week, exchanging reminiscences.
Of these professional tramps a great many had, of course, been
shiftless and vicious all their lives. But the vast majority of
them had been workingmen, had fought the long fight as Jurgis
had, and found that it was a losing fight, and given up. Later
on he encountered yet another sort of men, those from whose ranks
the tramps were recruited, men who were homeless and wandering,
but still seeking work--seeking it in the harvest fields. Of
these there was an army, the huge surplus labor army of society;
called into being under the stern system of nature, to do the
casual work of the world, the tasks which were transient and
irregular, and yet which had to be done. They did not know that
they were such, of course; they only knew that they sought the
job, and that the job was fleeting. In the early summer they
would be in Texas, and as the crops were ready they would follow
north with the season, ending with the fall in Manitoba. Then
they would seek out the big lumber camps, where there was winter
work; or failing in this, would drift to the cities, and live
upon what they had managed to save, with the help of such
transient work as was there the loading and unloading of
steamships and drays, the digging of ditches and the shoveling
of snow. If there were more of them on hand than chanced to be
needed, the weaker ones died off of cold and hunger, again
according to the stern system of nature.
It was in the latter part of July, when Jurgis was in Missouri,
that he came upon the harvest work. Here were crops that men had
worked for three or four months to prepare, and of which they
would lose nearly all unless they could find others to help them
for a week or two. So all over the land there was a cry for
labor--agencies were set up and all the cities were drained of
men, even college boys were brought by the carload, and hordes of
frantic farmers would hold up trains and carry off wagonloads of
men by main force. Not that they did not pay them well--any man
could get two dollars a day and his board, and the best men could
get two dollars and a half or three.
The harvest-fever was in the very air, and no man with any spirit
in him could be in that region and not catch it. Jurgis joined a
gang and worked from dawn till dark, eighteen hours a day, for
two weeks without a break. Then he had a sum of money that would
have been a fortune to him in the old days of misery--but what
could he do with it now? To be sure he might have put it in a
bank, and, if he were fortunate, get it back again when he wanted
it. But Jurgis was now a homeless man, wandering over a
continent; and what did he know about banking and drafts and
letters of credit? If he carried the money about with him, he
would surely be robbed in the end; and so what was there for him
to do but enjoy it while he could? On a Saturday night he
drifted into a town with his fellows; and because it was raining,
and there was no other place provided for him, he went to a
saloon. And there were some who treated him and whom he had to
treat, and there was laughter and singing and good cheer;
and then out of the rear part of the saloon a girl's face,
red-cheeked and merry, smiled at Jurgis, and his heart thumped
suddenly in his throat. He nodded to her, and she came and sat
by him, and they had more drink, and then he went upstairs into a
room with her, and the wild beast rose up within him and
screamed, as it has screamed in the Jungle from the dawn of time.
And then because of his memories and his shame, he was glad when
others joined them, men and women; and they had more drink and
spent the night in wild rioting and debauchery. In the van of
the surplus-labor army, there followed another, an army of women,
they also struggling for life under the stern system of nature.
Because there were rich men who sought pleasure, there had been
ease and plenty for them so long as they were young and
beautiful; and later on, when they were crowded out by others
younger and more beautiful, they went out to follow upon the
trail of the workingmen. Sometimes they came of themselves,
and the saloon-keepers shared with them; or sometimes they were
handled by agencies, the same as the labor army. They were in
the towns in harvest time, near the lumber camps in the winter,
in the cities when the men came there; if a regiment were
encamped, or a railroad or canal being made, or a great
exposition getting ready, the crowd of women were on hand, living
in shanties or saloons or tenement rooms, sometimes eight or ten
of them together.
In the morning Jurgis had not a cent, and he went out upon the
road again. He was sick and disgusted, but after the new plan of
his life, he crushed his feelings down. He had made a fool of
himself, but he could not help it now--all he could do was to see
that it did not happen again. So he tramped on until exercise
and fresh air banished his headache, and his strength and joy
returned. This happened to him every time, for Jurgis was still
a creature of impulse, and his pleasures had not yet become
business. It would be a long time before he could be like the
majority of these men of the road, who roamed until the hunger
for drink and for women mastered them, and then went to work with
a purpose in mind, and stopped when they had the price of a
On the contrary, try as he would, Jurgis could not help being
made miserable by his conscience. It was the ghost that would
not down. It would come upon him in the most unexpected
places--sometimes it fairly drove him to drink.
One night he was caught by a thunderstorm, and he sought shelter
in a little house just outside of a town. It was a working-man's
home, and the owner was a Slav like himself, a new emigrant from
White Russia; he bade Jurgis welcome in his home language, and
told him to come to the kitchen-fire and dry himself. He had no
bed for him, but there was straw in the garret, and he could make
out. The man's wife was cooking the supper, and their children
were playing about on the floor. Jurgis sat and exchanged
thoughts with him about the old country, and the places where
they had been and the work they had done. Then they ate, and
afterward sat and smoked and talked more about America, and how
they found it. In the middle of a sentence, however, Jurgis
stopped, seeing that the woman had brought a big basin of water
and was proceeding to undress her youngest baby. The rest had
crawled into the closet where they slept, but the baby was to
have a bath, the workingman explained. The nights had begun to
be chilly, and his mother, ignorant as to the climate in America,
had sewed him up for the winter; then it had turned warm again,
and some kind of a rash had broken out on the child. The doctor
had said she must bathe him every night, and she, foolish woman,
Jurgis scarcely heard the explanation; he was watching the baby.
He was about a year old, and a sturdy little fellow, with soft
fat legs, and a round ball of a stomach, and eyes as black as
coals. His pimples did not seem to bother him much, and he was
wild with glee over the bath, kicking and squirming and chuckling
with delight, pulling at his mother's face and then at his own
little toes. When she put him into the basin he sat in the midst
of it and grinned, splashing the water over himself and squealing
like a little pig. He spoke in Russian, of which Jurgis knew
some; he spoke it with the quaintest of baby accents--and every
word of it brought back to Jurgis some word of his own dead
little one, and stabbed him like a knife. He sat perfectly
motionless, silent, but gripping his hands tightly, while a storm
gathered in his bosom and a flood heaped itself up behind his
eyes. And in the end he could bear it no more, but buried his
face in his hands and burst into tears, to the alarm and
amazement of his hosts. Between the shame of this and his woe
Jurgis could not stand it, and got up and rushed out into the
He went on and on down the road, finally coming to a black woods,
where he hid and wept as if his heart would break. Ah, what
agony was that, what despair, when the tomb of memory was rent
open and the ghosts of his old life came forth to scourge him!
What terror to see what he had been and now could never be--to
see Ona and his child and his own dead self stretching out their
arms to him,calling to him across a bottomless abyss--and to know
that they were gone from him forever, and he writhing and
suffocating in the mire of his own vileness!
Early in the fall Jurgis set out for Chicago again. All the joy
went out of tramping as soon as a man could not keep warm in the
hay; and, like many thousands of others, he deluded himself with
the hope that by coming early he could avoid the rush. He
brought fifteen dollars with him, hidden away in one of his
shoes, a sum which had been saved from the saloon-keepers, not so
much by his conscience, as by the fear which filled him at the
thought of being out of work in the city in the winter time.
He traveled upon the railroad with several other men, hiding in
freight cars at night, and liable to be thrown off at any time,
regardless of the speed of the train. When he reached the city
he left the rest, for he had money and they did not, and he meant
to save himself in this fight. He would bring to it all the
skill that practice had brought him, and he would stand, whoever
fell. On fair nights he would sleep in the park or on a truck or
an empty barrel or box, and when it was rainy or cold he would
stow himself upon a shelf in a ten-cent lodginghouse, or pay
three cents for the privileges of a "squatter" in a tenement
hallway. He would eat at free lunches, five cents a meal, and
never a cent more--so he might keep alive for two months and
more, and in that time he would surely find a job. He would have
to bid farewell to his summer cleanliness, of course, for he
would come out of the first night's lodging with his clothes
alive with vermin. There was no place in the city where he could
wash even his face, unless he went down to the lake front--
and there it would soon be all ice.
First he went to the steel mill and the harvester works, and
found that his places there had been filled long ago. He was
careful to keep away from the stockyards--he was a single man
now, he told himself, and he meant to stay one, to have his wages
for his own when he got a job. He began the long, weary round of
factories and warehouses, tramping all day, from one end of the
city to the other, finding everywhere from ten to a hundred men
ahead of him. He watched the newspapers, too--but no longer was
he to be taken in by smooth-spoken agents. He had been told of
all those tricks while "on the road."
In the end it was through a newspaper that he got a job, after
nearly a month of seeking. It was a call for a hundred laborers,
and though he thought it was a "fake," he went because the place
was near by. He found a line of men a block long, but as a wagon
chanced to come out of an alley and break the line, he saw his
chance and sprang to seize a place. Men threatened him and tried
to throw him out, but he cursed and made a disturbance to attract
a policeman, upon which they subsided, knowing that if the latter
interfered it would be to "fire" them all.
An hour or two later he entered a room and confronted a big
Irishman behind a desk.
"Ever worked in Chicago before?" the man inquired; and whether it
was a good angel that put it into Jurgis's mind, or an intuition
of his sharpened wits, he was moved to answer, "No, sir."
"Where do you come from?"
"Kansas City, sir."
"No, sir. I'm just an unskilled man. I've got good arms."
"I want men for hard work--it's all underground, digging tunnels
for telephones. Maybe it won't suit you."
"I'm willing, sir--anything for me. What's the pay?"
"Fifteen cents an hour."
"I'm willing, sir."
"All right; go back there and give your name."
So within half an hour he was at work, far underneath the streets
of the city. The tunnel was a peculiar one for telephone wires;
it was about eight feet high, and with a level floor nearly as
wide. It had innumerable branches--a perfect spider web beneath
the city; Jurgis walked over half a mile with his gang to the
place where they were to work. Stranger yet, the tunnel was
lighted by electricity, and upon it was laid a double-tracked,
But Jurgis was not there to ask questions, and he did not give
the matter a thought. It was nearly a year afterward that he
finally learned the meaning of this whole affair. The City
Council had passed a quiet and innocent little bill allowing a
company to construct telephone conduits under the city streets;
and upon the strength of this, a great corporation had proceeded
to tunnel all Chicago with a system of railway freight-subways.
In the city there was a combination of employers, representing
hundreds of millions of capital, and formed for the purpose of
crushing the labor unions. The chief union which troubled it was
the teamsters'; and when these freight tunnels were completed,
connecting all the big factories and stores with the railroad
depots, they would have the teamsters' union by the throat.
Now and then there were rumors and murmurs in the Board of Aldermen,
and once there was a committee to investigate--but each time
another small fortune was paid over, and the rumors died away;
until at last the city woke up with a start to find the work
completed. There was a tremendous scandal, of course; it was
found that the city records had been falsified and other crimes
committed, and some of Chicago's big capitalists got into
jail--figuratively speaking. The aldermen declared that they had
had no idea of it all, in spite of the fact that the main
entrance to the work had been in the rear of the saloon of one of
It was in a newly opened cut that Jurgis worked, and so he knew
that he had an all-winter job. He was so rejoiced that he
treated himself to a spree that night, and with the balance of
his money he hired himself a place in a tenement room, where he
slept upon a big homemade straw mattress along with four other
workingmen. This was one dollar a week, and for four more he got
his food in a boardinghouse near his work. This would leave him
four dollars extra each week, an unthinkable sum for him. At the
outset he had to pay for his digging tools, and also to buy a
pair of heavy boots, since his shoes were falling to pieces,
and a flannel shirt, since the one he had worn all summer was in
shreds. He spent a week meditating whether or not he should also
buy an overcoat. There was one belonging to a Hebrew collar
button peddler, who had died in the room next to him, and which
the landlady was holding for her rent; in the end, however,
Jurgis decided to do without it, as he was to be underground by
day and in bed at night.
This was an unfortunate decision, however, for it drove him more
quickly than ever into the saloons. From now on Jurgis worked
from seven o'clock until half-past five, with half an hour for
dinner; which meant that he never saw the sunlight on weekdays.
In the evenings there was no place for him to go except a
barroom; no place where there was light and warmth, where he
could hear a little music or sit with a companion and talk.
He had now no home to go to; he had no affection left in his
life--only the pitiful mockery of it in the camaraderie of vice.
On Sundays the churches were open--but where was there a church
in which an ill-smelling workingman, with vermin crawling upon
his neck, could sit without seeing people edge away and look
annoyed? He had, of course, his corner in a close though
unheated room, with a window opening upon a blank wall two feet
away; and also he had the bare streets, with the winter gales
sweeping through them; besides this he had only the saloons--and,
of course, he had to drink to stay in them. If he drank now and
then he was free to make himself at home, to gamble with dice or
a pack of greasy cards, to play at a dingy pool table for money,
or to look at a beer-stained pink "sporting paper," with pictures
of murderers and half-naked women. It was for such pleasures as
these that he spent his money; and such was his life during the
six weeks and a half that he toiled for the merchants of Chicago,
to enable them to break the grip of their teamsters' union.
In a work thus carried out, not much thought was given to the
welfare of the laborers. On an average, the tunneling cost a
life a day and several manglings; it was seldom, however, that
more than a dozen or two men heard of any one accident. The work
was all done by the new boring machinery, with as little blasting
as possible; but there would be falling rocks and crushed
supports, and premature explosions--and in addition all the
dangers of railroading. So it was that one night, as Jurgis was
on his way out with his gang, an engine and a loaded car dashed
round one of the innumerable right-angle branches and struck him
upon the shoulder, hurling him against the concrete wall and
knocking him senseless.
When he opened his eyes again it was to the clanging of the bell
of an ambulance. He was lying in it, covered by a blanket, and
it was threading its way slowly through the holiday-shopping
crowds. They took him to the county hospital, where a young
surgeon set his arm; then he was washed and laid upon a bed in a
ward with a score or two more of maimed and mangled men.
Jurgis spent his Christmas in this hospital, and it was the
pleasantest Christmas he had had in America. Every year there
were scandals and investigations in this institution, the
newspapers charging that doctors were allowed to try fantastic
experiments upon the patients; but Jurgis knew nothing of
this--his only complaint was that they used to feed him upon
tinned meat, which no man who had ever worked in Packingtown
would feed to his dog. Jurgis had often wondered just who ate
the canned corned beef and "roast beef" of the stockyards; now he
began to understand--that it was what you might call "graft
meat," put up to be sold to public officials and contractors,
and eaten by soldiers and sailors, prisoners and inmates of
institutions, "shantymen" and gangs of railroad laborers.
Jurgis was ready to leave the hospital at the end of two weeks.
This did not mean that his arm was strong and that he was able to
go back to work, but simply that he could get along without
further attention, and that his place was needed for some one
worse off than he. That he was utterly helpless, and had no
means of keeping himself alive in the meantime, was something
which did not concern the hospital authorities, nor any one else
in the city.
As it chanced, he had been hurt on a Monday, and had just paid
for his last week's board and his room rent, and spent nearly all
the balance of his Saturday's pay. He had less than seventy-five
cents in his pockets, and a dollar and a half due him for the
day's work he had done before he was hurt. He might possibly
have sued the company, and got some damages for his injuries,
but he did not know this, and it was not the company's business to
tell him. He went and got his pay and his tools, which he left
in a pawnshop for fifty cents. Then he went to his landlady,
who had rented his place and had no other for him; and then to his
boardinghouse keeper, who looked him over and questioned him.
As he must certainly be helpless for a couple of months, and had
boarded there only six weeks, she decided very quickly that it
would not be worth the risk to keep him on trust.
So Jurgis went out into the streets, in a most dreadful plight.
It was bitterly cold, and a heavy snow was falling, beating into
his face. He had no overcoat, and no place to go, and two
dollars and sixty-five cents in his pocket, with the certainty
that he could not earn another cent for months. The snow meant
no chance to him now; he must walk along and see others
shoveling, vigorous and active--and he with his left arm bound to
his side! He could not hope to tide himself over by odd jobs of
loading trucks; he could not even sell newspapers or carry
satchels, because he was now at the mercy of any rival. Words
could not paint the terror that came over him as he realized all
this. He was like a wounded animal in the forest; he was forced
to compete with his enemies upon unequal terms. There would be
no consideration for him because of his weakness--it was no one's
business to help him in such distress, to make the fight the
least bit easier for him. Even if he took to begging, he would
be at a disadvantage, for reasons which he was to discover in
In the beginning he could not think of anything except getting
out of the awful cold. He went into one of the saloons he had
been wont to frequent and bought a drink, and then stood by the
fire shivering and waiting to be ordered out. According to an
unwritten law, the buying a drink included the privilege of
loafing for just so long; then one had to buy another drink or
move on. That Jurgis was an old customer entitled him to a
somewhat longer stop; but then he had been away two weeks,
and was evidently "on the bum." He might plead and tell his
"hard luck story," but that would not help him much; a saloon-keeper
who was to be moved by such means would soon have his place
jammed to the doors with "hoboes" on a day like this.
So Jurgis went out into another place, and paid another nickel.
He was so hungry this time that he could not resist the hot beef
stew, an indulgence which cut short his stay by a considerable
time. When he was again told to move on, he made his way to a
"tough" place in the "Levee" district, where now and then he had
gone with a certain rat-eyed Bohemian workingman of his
acquaintance, seeking a woman. It was Jurgis's vain hope that
here the proprietor would let him remain as a "sitter." In
low-class places, in the dead of winter, saloon-keepers would
often allow one or two forlorn-looking bums who came in covered
with snow or soaked with rain to sit by the fire and look
miserable to attract custom. A workingman would come in, feeling
cheerful after his day's work was over, and it would trouble him
to have to take his glass with such a sight under his nose; and
so he would call out: "Hello, Bub, what's the matter? You look
as if you'd been up against it!" And then the other would begin
to pour out some tale of misery, and the man would say, "Come
have a glass, and maybe that'll brace you up." And so they would
drink together, and if the tramp was sufficiently
wretched-looking, or good enough at the "gab," they might have
two; and if they were to discover that they were from the same
country, or had lived in the same city or worked at the same
trade, they might sit down at a table and spend an hour or two in
talk--and before they got through the saloon-keeper would have
taken in a dollar. All of this might seem diabolical, but the
saloon-keeper was in no wise to blame for it. He was in the same
plight as the manufacturer who has to adulterate and misrepresent
his product. If he does not, some one else will; and the
saloon-keeper, unless he is also an alderman, is apt to be in debt to
the big brewers, and on the verge of being sold out.
The market for "sitters" was glutted that afternoon, however,
and there was no place for Jurgis. In all he had to spend six
nickels in keeping a shelter over him that frightful day, and
then it was just dark, and the station houses would not open
until midnight! At the last place, however, there was a
bartender who knew him and liked him, and let him doze at one of
the tables until the boss came back; and also, as he was going
out, the man gave him a tip--on the next block there was a
religious revival of some sort, with preaching and singing,
and hundreds of hoboes would go there for the shelter and warmth.
Jurgis went straightway, and saw a sign hung out, saying that the
door would open at seven-thirty; then he walked, or half ran,
a block, and hid awhile in a doorway and then ran again, and so on
until the hour. At the end he was all but frozen, and fought his
way in with the rest of the throng (at the risk of having his arm
broken again), and got close to the big stove.
By eight o'clock the place was so crowded that the speakers ought
to have been flattered; the aisles were filled halfway up, and at
the door men were packed tight enough to walk upon. There were
three elderly gentlemen in black upon the platform, and a young
lady who played the piano in front. First they sang a hymn, and
then one of the three, a tall, smooth-shaven man, very thin, and
wearing black spectacles, began an address. Jurgis heard
smatterings of it, for the reason that terror kept him awake--
he knew that he snored abominably, and to have been put out just
then would have been like a sentence of death to him.
The evangelist was preaching "sin and redemption," the infinite
grace of God and His pardon for human frailty. He was very much
in earnest, and he meant well, but Jurgis, as he listened, found
his soul filled with hatred. What did he know about sin and
suffering--with his smooth, black coat and his neatly starched
collar, his body warm, and his belly full, and money in his
pocket--and lecturing men who were struggling for their lives,
men at the death grapple with the demon powers of hunger and
cold!--This, of course, was unfair; but Jurgis felt that these
men were out of touch with the life they discussed, that they
were unfitted to solve its problems; nay, they themselves were
part of the problem--they were part of the order established that
was crushing men down and beating them! They were of the
triumphant and insolent possessors; they had a hall, and a fire,
and food and clothing and money, and so they might preach to
hungry men, and the hungry men must be humble and listen! They
were trying to save their souls--and who but a fool could fail to
see that all that was the matter with their souls was that they
had not been able to get a decent existence for their bodies?
At eleven the meeting closed, and the desolate audience filed out
into the snow, muttering curses upon the few traitors who had got
repentance and gone up on the platform. It was yet an hour
before the station house would open, and Jurgis had no
overcoat--and was weak from a long illness. During that hour he
nearly perished. He was obliged to run hard to keep his blood
moving at all--and then he came back to the station house and
found a crowd blocking the street before the door! This was in
the month of January, 1904, when the country was on the verge of
"hard times," and the newspapers were reporting the shutting down
of factories every day--it was estimated that a million and a
half men were thrown out of work before the spring. So all the
hiding places of the city were crowded, and before that station
house door men fought and tore each other like savage beasts.
When at last the place was jammed and they shut the doors, half
the crowd was still outside; and Jurgis, with his helpless arm,
was among them. There was no choice then but to go to a
lodginghouse and spend another dime. It really broke his heart
to do this, at half-past twelve o'clock, after he had wasted the
night at the meeting and on the street. He would be turned out
of the lodginghouse promptly at seven they had the shelves which
served as bunks so contrived that they could be dropped, and any
man who was slow about obeying orders could be tumbled to the
This was one day, and the cold spell lasted for fourteen of them.
At the end of six days every cent of Jurgis' money was gone;
and then he went out on the streets to beg for his life.
He would begin as soon as the business of the city was moving.
He would sally forth from a saloon, and, after making sure there
was no policeman in sight, would approach every likely-looking
person who passed him, telling his woeful story and pleading for
a nickel or a dime. Then when he got one, he would dart round
the corner and return to his base to get warm; and his victim,
seeing him do this, would go away, vowing that he would never
give a cent to a beggar again. The victim never paused to ask
where else Jurgis could have gone under the circumstances--where
he, the victim, would have gone. At the saloon Jurgis could not
only get more food and better food than he could buy in any
restaurant for the same money, but a drink in the bargain to warm
him up. Also he could find a comfortable seat by a fire, and
could chat with a companion until he was as warm as toast. At
the saloon, too, he felt at home. Part of the saloon-keeper's
business was to offer a home and refreshments to beggars in
exchange for the proceeds of their foragings; and was there any
one else in the whole city who would do this--would the victim
have done it himself?
Poor Jurgis might have been expected to make a successful beggar.
He was just out of the hospital, and desperately sick-looking,
and with a helpless arm; also he had no overcoat, and shivered
pitifully. But, alas, it was again the case of the honest
merchant, who finds that the genuine and unadulterated article is
driven to the wall by the artistic counterfeit. Jurgis, as a
beggar, was simply a blundering amateur in competition with
organized and scientific professionalism. He was just out of the
hospital--but the story was worn threadbare, and how could he
prove it? He had his arm in a sling--and it was a device a
regular beggar's little boy would have scorned. He was pale and
shivering--but they were made up with cosmetics, and had studied
the art of chattering their teeth. As to his being without an
overcoat, among them you would meet men you could swear had on
nothing but a ragged linen duster and a pair of cotton
trousers--so cleverly had they concealed the several suits of
all-wool underwear beneath. Many of these professional
mendicants had comfortable homes, and families, and thousands of
dollars in the bank; some of them had retired upon their
earnings, and gone into the business of fitting out and doctoring
others, or working children at the trade. There were some who
had both their arms bound tightly to their sides, and padded
stumps in their sleeves, and a sick child hired to carry a cup
for them. There were some who had no legs, and pushed themselves
upon a wheeled platform--some who had been favored with
blindness, and were led by pretty little dogs. Some less
fortunate had mutilated themselves or burned themselves, or had
brought horrible sores upon themselves with chemicals; you might
suddenly encounter upon the street a man holding out to you a
finger rotting and discolored with gangrene--or one with livid
scarlet wounds half escaped from their filthy bandages. These
desperate ones were the dregs of the city's cesspools, wretches
who hid at night in the rain-soaked cellars of old ramshackle
tenements, in "stale-beer dives" and opium joints, with abandoned
women in the last stages of the harlot's progress--women who had
been kept by Chinamen and turned away at last to die. Every day
the police net would drag hundreds of them off the streets, and
in the detention hospital you might see them, herded together in
a miniature inferno, with hideous, beastly faces, bloated and
leprous with disease, laughing, shouting, screaming in all stages
of drunkenness, barking like dogs, gibbering like apes, raving
and tearing themselves in delirium.
In the face of all his handicaps, Jurgis was obliged to make the
price of a lodging, and of a drink every hour or two, under
penalty of freezing to death. Day after day he roamed about in
the arctic cold, his soul filled full of bitterness and despair.
He saw the world of civilization then more plainly than ever he
had seen it before; a world in which nothing counted but brutal
might, an order devised by those who possessed it for the
subjugation of those who did not. He was one of the latter; and
all outdoors, all life, was to him one colossal prison, which he
paced like a pent-up tiger, trying one bar after another, and
finding them all beyond his power. He had lost in the fierce
battle of greed, and so was doomed to be exterminated; and all
society was busied to see that he did not escape the sentence.
Everywhere that he turned were prison bars, and hostile eyes
following him; the well-fed, sleek policemen, from whose glances
he shrank, and who seemed to grip their clubs more tightly when
they saw him; the saloon-keepers, who never ceased to watch him
while he was in their places, who were jealous of every moment he
lingered after he had paid his money; the hurrying throngs upon
the streets, who were deaf to his entreaties, oblivious of his
very existence--and savage and contemptuous when he forced
himself upon them. They had their own affairs, and there was no
place for him among them. There was no place for him anywhere
--every direction he turned his gaze, this fact was forced upon
him: Everything was built to express it to him: the residences,
with their heavy walls and bolted doors, and basement windows
barred with iron; the great warehouses filled with the products
of the whole world, and guarded by iron shutters and heavy gates;
the banks with their unthinkable billions of wealth, all buried
in safes and vaults of steel.
And then one day there befell Jurgis the one adventure of his
life. It was late at night, and he had failed to get the price
of a lodging. Snow was falling, and he had been out so long that
he was covered with it, and was chilled to the bone. He was
working among the theater crowds, flitting here and there, taking
large chances with the police, in his desperation half hoping to
be arrested. When he saw a bluecoat start toward him, however,
his heart failed him, and he dashed down a side street and fled a
couple of blocks. When he stopped again he saw a man coming
toward him, and placed himself in his path.
"Please, sir," he began, in the usual formula, "will you give me
the price of a lodging? I've had a broken arm, and I can't work,
and I've not a cent in my pocket. I'm an honest working-man,
sir, and I never begged before! It's not my fault, sir--"
Jurgis usually went on until he was interrupted, but this man did
not interrupt, and so at last he came to a breathless stop. The
other had halted, and Jurgis suddenly noticed that he stood a
little unsteadily. "Whuzzat you say?" he queried suddenly, in a
Jurgis began again, speaking more slowly and distinctly; before
he was half through the other put out his hand and rested it upon
his shoulder. "Poor ole chappie!" he said. "Been
up--hic--up--against it, hey?"
Then he lurched toward Jurgis, and the hand upon his shoulder
became an arm about his neck. "Up against it myself, ole sport,"
he said. "She's a hard ole world."
They were close to a lamppost, and Jurgis got a glimpse of the
other. He was a young fellow--not much over eighteen, with a
handsome boyish face. He wore a silk hat and a rich soft
overcoat with a fur collar; and he smiled at Jurgis with
benignant sympathy. "I'm hard up, too, my goo' fren'," he said.
"I've got cruel parents, or I'd set you up. Whuzzamatter
"I've been in the hospital."
"Hospital!" exclaimed the young fellow, still smiling sweetly,
"thass too bad! Same's my Aunt Polly--hic--my Aunt Polly's in
the hospital, too--ole auntie's been havin' twins! Whuzzamatter
"I've got a broken arm--" Jurgis began.
"So," said the other, sympathetically. "That ain't so bad--you
get over that. I wish somebody'd break my arm, ole chappie--
damfidon't! Then they'd treat me better--hic--hole me up, ole
sport! Whuzzit you wammme do?"
"I'm hungry, sir," said Jurgis.
"Hungry! Why don't you hassome supper?"
"I've got no money, sir."
"No money! Ho, ho--less be chums, ole boy--jess like me! No
money, either--a'most busted! Why don't you go home, then,
"I haven't any home," said Jurgis.
"No home! Stranger in the city, hey? Goo' God, thass bad!
Better come home wiz me--yes, by Harry, thass the trick, you'll
come home an' hassome supper--hic--wiz me! Awful
lonesome--nobody home! Guv'ner gone abroad--Bubby on's
honeymoon--Polly havin' twins--every damn soul gone away!
Nuff--hic--nuff to drive a feller to drink, I say! Only ole Ham
standin' by, passin' plates--damfican eat like that, no sir! The
club for me every time, my boy, I say. But then they won't lemme
sleep there--guv'ner's orders, by Harry--home every night, sir!
Ever hear anythin' like that? 'Every mornin' do?' I asked him.
'No, sir, every night, or no allowance at all, sir.' Thass my
guv'ner--'nice as nails, by Harry! Tole ole Ham to watch me,
too--servants spyin' on me--whuzyer think that, my fren'? A
nice, quiet--hic--goodhearted young feller like me, an' his daddy
can't go to Europe--hup!--an' leave him in peace! Ain't that a
shame, sir? An' I gotter go home every evenin' an' miss all the
fun, by Harry! Thass whuzzamatter now--thass why I'm here!
Hadda come away an' leave Kitty--hic--left her cryin',
too--whujja think of that, ole sport? 'Lemme go, Kittens,'
says I--'come early an' often--I go where duty--hic--calls me.
Farewell, farewell, my own true love--farewell, farewehell,
This last was a song, and the young gentleman's voice rose
mournful and wailing, while he swung upon Jurgis's neck. The
latter was glancing about nervously, lest some one should
approach. They were still alone, however.
"But I came all right, all right," continued the youngster,
aggressively, "I can--hic--I can have my own way when I want it,
by Harry--Freddie Jones is a hard man to handle when he gets
goin'! 'No, sir,' says I, 'by thunder, and I don't need anybody
goin' home with me, either--whujja take me for, hey? Think I'm
drunk, dontcha, hey?--I know you! But I'm no more drunk than you
are, Kittens,' says I to her. And then says she, 'Thass true,
Freddie dear' (she's a smart one, is Kitty), 'but I'm stayin' in
the flat, an' you're goin' out into the cold, cold night!' 'Put
it in a pome, lovely Kitty,' says I. 'No jokin', Freddie, my
boy,' says she. 'Lemme call a cab now, like a good dear'--but I
can call my own cabs, dontcha fool yourself--and I know what I'm
a-doin', you bet! Say, my fren', whatcha say--willye come home
an' see me, an' hassome supper? Come 'long like a good
feller--don't be haughty! You're up against it, same as me, an'
you can unerstan' a feller; your heart's in the right place, by
Harry--come 'long, ole chappie, an' we'll light up the house, an'
have some fizz, an' we'll raise hell, we will--whoop-la!
S'long's I'm inside the house I can do as I please--the guv'ner's
own very orders, b'God! Hip! hip!"
They had started down the street, arm in arm, the young man
pushing Jurgis along, half dazed. Jurgis was trying to think
what to do--he knew he could not pass any crowded place with his
new acquaintance without attracting attention and being stopped.
It was only because of the falling snow that people who passed
here did not notice anything wrong.
Suddenly, therefore, Jurgis stopped. "Is it very far?" he
"Not very," said the other, "Tired, are you, though? Well, we'll
ride--whatcha say? Good! Call a cab!"
And then, gripping Jurgis tight with one hand, the young fellow
began searching his pockets with the other. "You call, ole
sport, an' I'll pay," he suggested. "How's that, hey?"
And he pulled out from somewhere a big roll of bills. It was
more money than Jurgis had ever seen in his life before, and he
stared at it with startled eyes.
"Looks like a lot, hey?" said Master Freddie, fumbling with it.
"Fool you, though, ole chappie--they're all little ones! I'll be
busted in one week more, sure thing--word of honor. An' not a
cent more till the first--hic--guv'ner's orders--hic--not a cent,
by Harry! Nuff to set a feller crazy, it is. I sent him a
cable, this af'noon--thass one reason more why I'm goin' home.
'Hangin' on the verge of starvation,' I says--'for the honor of
the family--hic--sen' me some bread. Hunger will compel me to
join you--Freddie.' Thass what I wired him, by Harry, an' I mean
it--I'll run away from school, b'God, if he don't sen' me some."
After this fashion the young gentleman continued to prattle
on--and meantime Jurgis was trembling with excitement. He might
grab that wad of bills and be out of sight in the darkness before
the other could collect his wits. Should he do it? What better
had he to hope for, if he waited longer? But Jurgis had never
committed a crime in his life, and now he hesitated half a second
too long. "Freddie" got one bill loose, and then stuffed the
rest back into his trousers' pocket.
"Here, ole man," he said, "you take it." He held it out
fluttering. They were in front of a saloon; and by the light of
the window Jurgis saw that it was a hundred-dollar bill! "You
take it," the other repeated. "Pay the cabbie an' keep the
change--I've got--hic--no head for business! Guv'ner says so
hisself, an' the guv'ner knows--the guv'ner's got a head for
business, you bet! 'All right, guv'ner,' I told him, 'you run
the show, and I'll take the tickets!' An' so he set Aunt Polly
to watch me--hic--an' now Polly's off in the hospital havin'
twins, an' me out raisin' Cain! Hello, there! Hey! Call him!"
A cab was driving by; and Jurgis sprang and called, and it swung
round to the curb. Master Freddie clambered in with some
difficulty, and Jurgis had started to follow, when the driver
shouted: "Hi, there! Get out--you!"
Jurgis hesitated, and was half obeying; but his companion broke
out: "Whuzzat? Whuzzamatter wiz you, hey?"
And the cabbie subsided, and Jurgis climbed in. Then Freddie
gave a number on the Lake Shore Drive, and the carriage started
away. The youngster leaned back and snuggled up to Jurgis,
murmuring contentedly; in half a minute he was sound asleep,
Jurgis sat shivering, speculating as to whether he might not
still be able to get hold of the roll of bills. He was afraid to
try to go through his companion's pockets, however; and besides
the cabbie might be on the watch. He had the hundred safe, and
he would have to be content with that.
At the end of half an hour or so the cab stopped. They were out
on the waterfront, and from the east a freezing gale was blowing
off the ice-bound lake. "Here we are," called the cabbie, and
Jurgis awakened his companion.
Master Freddie sat up with a start.
"Hello!" he said. "Where are we? Whuzzis? Who are you, hey?
Oh, yes, sure nuff! Mos' forgot you--hic--ole chappie! Home,
are we? Lessee! Br-r-r--it's cold! Yes--come 'long--we're
home--it ever so--hic--humble!"
Before them there loomed an enormous granite pile, set far back
from the street, and occupying a whole block. By the light of
the driveway lamps Jurgis could see that it had towers and huge
gables, like a medieval castle. He thought that the young fellow
must have made a mistake--it was inconceivable to him that any
person could have a home like a hotel or the city hall. But he
followed in silence, and they went up the long flight of steps,
arm in arm.
"There's a button here, ole sport," said Master Freddie. "Hole
my arm while I find her! Steady, now--oh, yes, here she is!
A bell rang, and in a few seconds the door was opened. A man in
blue livery stood holding it, and gazing before him, silent as a
They stood for a moment blinking in the light. Then Jurgis felt
his companion pulling, and he stepped in, and the blue automaton
closed the door. Jurgis's heart was beating wildly; it was a
bold thing for him to do--into what strange unearthly place he
was venturing he had no idea. Aladdin entering his cave could
not have been more excited.
The place where he stood was dimly lighted; but he could see a
vast hall, with pillars fading into the darkness above, and a
great staircase opening at the far end of it. The floor was of
tesselated marble, smooth as glass, and from the walls strange
shapes loomed out, woven into huge portieres in rich, harmonious
colors, or gleaming from paintings, wonderful and
mysterious-looking in the half-light, purple and red and golden,
like sunset glimmers in a shadowy forest.
The man in livery had moved silently toward them; Master Freddie
took off his hat and handed it to him, and then, letting go of
Jurgis' arm, tried to get out of his overcoat. After two or
three attempts he accomplished this, with the lackey's help,
and meantime a second man had approached, a tall and portly
personage, solemn as an executioner. He bore straight down upon
Jurgis, who shrank away nervously; he seized him by the arm
without a word, and started toward the door with him. Then
suddenly came Master Freddie's voice, "Hamilton! My fren' will
remain wiz me."
The man paused and half released Jurgis. "Come 'long ole
chappie," said the other, and Jurgis started toward him.
"Master Frederick!" exclaimed the man.
"See that the cabbie--hic--is paid," was the other's response;
and he linked his arm in Jurgis'. Jurgis was about to say,
"I have the money for him," but he restrained himself. The stout
man in uniform signaled to the other, who went out to the cab,
while he followed Jurgis and his young master.
They went down the great hall, and then turned. Before them were
two huge doors.
"Hamilton," said Master Freddie.
"Well, sir?" said the other.
"Whuzzamatter wizze dinin'-room doors?"
"Nothing is the matter, sir."
"Then why dontcha openum?"
The man rolled them back; another vista lost itself in the
darkness. "Lights," commanded Master Freddie; and the butler
pressed a button, and a flood of brilliant incandescence streamed
from above, half-blinding Jurgis. He stared; and little by
little he made out the great apartment, with a domed ceiling from
which the light poured, and walls that were one enormous
painting--nymphs and dryads dancing in a flower-strewn
glade--Diana with her hounds and horses, dashing headlong through
a mountain streamlet--a group of maidens bathing in a forest
pool--all life-size, and so real that Jurgis thought that it was
some work of enchantment, that he was in a dream palace. Then
his eye passed to the long table in the center of the hall,
a table black as ebony, and gleaming with wrought silver and gold.
In the center of it was a huge carven bowl, with the glistening
gleam of ferns and the red and purple of rare orchids, glowing
from a light hidden somewhere in their midst.
"This's the dinin' room," observed Master Freddie. "How you like
it, hey, ole sport?"
He always insisted on having an answer to his remarks, leaning
over Jurgis and smiling into his face. Jurgis liked it.
"Rummy ole place to feed in all 'lone, though," was Freddie's
comment--"rummy's hell! Whuzya think, hey?" Then another idea
occurred to him and he went on, without waiting: "Maybe you never
saw anythin--hic--like this 'fore? Hey, ole chappie?"
"No," said Jurgis.
"Come from country, maybe--hey?"
"Yes," said Jurgis.
"Aha! I thosso! Lossa folks from country never saw such a
place. Guv'ner brings 'em--free show--hic--reg'lar circus!
Go home tell folks about it. Ole man lones's place--lones the
packer--beef-trust man. Made it all out of hogs, too, damn ole
scoundrel. Now we see where our pennies go--rebates, an' private
car lines--hic--by Harry! Bully place, though--worth seein' !
Ever hear of lones the packer, hey, ole chappie?"
Jurgis had started involuntarily; the other, whose sharp eyes
missed nothing, demanded: "Whuzzamatter, hey? Heard of him?"
And Jurgis managed to stammer out: "I have worked for him in the
"What!" cried Master Freddie, with a yell. "You! In the yards?
Ho, ho! Why, say, thass good! Shake hands on it, ole man--by
Harry! Guv'ner ought to be here--glad to see you. Great fren's
with the men, guv'ner--labor an' capital, commun'ty 'f int'rests,
an' all that--hic! Funny things happen in this world, don't
they, ole man? Hamilton, lemme interduce you--fren' the
family--ole fren' the guv'ner's--works in the yards. Come to
spend the night wiz me, Hamilton--have a hot time. Me fren',
Mr.--whuzya name, ole chappie? Tell us your name."
"My fren', Mr. Rednose, Hamilton--shake han's."
The stately butler bowed his head, but made not a sound; and
suddenly Master Freddie pointed an eager finger at him. "I know
whuzzamatter wiz you, Hamilton--lay you a dollar I know! You
think--hic--you think I'm drunk! Hey, now?"
And the butler again bowed his head. "Yes, sir," he said, at
which Master Freddie hung tightly upon Jurgis's neck and went
into a fit of laughter. "Hamilton, you damn ole scoundrel," he
roared, "I'll 'scharge you for impudence, you see 'f I don't!
Ho, ho, ho! I'm drunk! Ho, ho!"
The two waited until his fit had spent itself, to see what new
whim would seize him. "Whatcha wanta do?" he queried suddenly.
"Wanta see the place, ole chappie? Wamme play the guv'ner--show
you roun'? State parlors--Looee Cans--Looee Sez--chairs cost
three thousand apiece. Tea room Maryanntnet--picture of
shepherds dancing--Ruysdael--twenty-three thousan'!
ship--sixty-eight thousan'! Ceilin' painted in Rome--whuzzat
feller's name, Hamilton--Mattatoni? Macaroni? Then this
place--silver bowl--Benvenuto Cellini--rummy ole Dago! An' the
organ--thirty thousan' dollars, sir--starter up, Hamilton, let
Mr. Rednose hear it. No--never mind--clean forgot--says he's
hungry, Hamilton--less have some supper. Only--hic--don't less
have it here--come up to my place, ole sport--nice an' cosy.
This way--steady now, don't slip on the floor. Hamilton, we'll
have a cole spread, an' some fizz--don't leave out the fizz, by
Harry. We'll have some of the eighteen-thirty Madeira. Hear me,
"Yes, sir," said the butler, "but, Master Frederick, your father
And Master Frederick drew himself up to a stately height. "My
father's orders were left to me--hic--an' not to you," he said.
Then, clasping Jurgis tightly by the neck, he staggered out of
the room; on the way another idea occurred to him, and he asked:
"Any--hic--cable message for me, Hamilton?"
"No, sir," said the butler.
"Guv'ner must be travelin'. An' how's the twins, Hamilton?"
"They are doing well, sir."
"Good!" said Master Freddie; and added fervently: "God bless 'em,
the little lambs!"
They went up the great staircase, one step at a time; at the top
of it there gleamed at them out of the shadows the figure of a
nymph crouching by a fountain, a figure ravishingly beautiful,
the flesh warm and glowing with the hues of life. Above was a
huge court, with domed roof, the various apartments opening into
it. The butler had paused below but a few minutes to give
orders, and then followed them; now he pressed a button, and the
hall blazed with light. He opened a door before them, and then
pressed another button, as they staggered into the apartment.
It was fitted up as a study. In the center was a mahogany table,
covered with books, and smokers' implements; the walls were
decorated with college trophies and colors--flags, posters,
photographs and knickknacks--tennis rackets, canoe paddles, golf
clubs, and polo sticks. An enormous moose head, with horns six
feet across, faced a buffalo head on the opposite wall, while
bear and tiger skins covered the polished floor. There were
lounging chairs and sofas, window seats covered with soft
cushions of fantastic designs; there was one corner fitted in
Persian fashion, with a huge canopy and a jeweled lamp beneath.
Beyond, a door opened upon a bedroom, and beyond that was a
swimming pool of the purest marble, that had cost about forty
Master Freddie stood for a moment or two, gazing about him; then
out of the next room a dog emerged, a monstrous bulldog, the most
hideous object that Jurgis had ever laid eyes upon. He yawned,
opening a mouth like a dragon's; and he came toward the young
man, wagging his tail. "Hello, Dewey!" cried his master. "Been
havin' a snooze, ole boy? Well, well--hello there,
whuzzamatter?" (The dog was snarling at Jurgis.) "Why,
Dewey--this' my fren', Mr. Rednose--ole fren' the guv'ner's!
Mr. Rednose, Admiral Dewey; shake han's--hic. Ain't he a daisy,
though--blue ribbon at the New York show--eighty-five hundred at
a clip! How's that, hey?"
The speaker sank into one of the big armchairs, and Admiral Dewey
crouched beneath it; he did not snarl again, but he never took
his eyes off Jurgis. He was perfectly sober, was the Admiral.
The butler had closed the door, and he stood by it, watching
Jurgis every second. Now there came footsteps outside, and,
as he opened the door a man in livery entered, carrying a folding
table, and behind him two men with covered trays. They stood
like statues while the first spread the table and set out the
contents of the trays upon it. There were cold pates, and thin
slices of meat, tiny bread and butter sandwiches with the crust
cut off, a bowl of sliced peaches and cream (in January), little
fancy cakes, pink and green and yellow and white, and half a
dozen ice-cold bottles of wine.
"Thass the stuff for you!" cried Master Freddie, exultantly,
as he spied them. "Come 'long, ole chappie, move up."
And he seated himself at the table; the waiter pulled a cork,
and he took the bottle and poured three glasses of its contents in
succession down his throat. Then he gave a long-drawn sigh, and
cried again to Jurgis to seat himself.
The butler held the chair at the opposite side of the table,
and Jurgis thought it was to keep him out of it; but finally he
understand that it was the other's intention to put it under him,
and so he sat down, cautiously and mistrustingly. Master Freddie
perceived that the attendants embarrassed him, and he remarked
with a nod to them, "You may go."
They went, all save the butler.
"You may go too, Hamilton," he said.
"Master Frederick--" the man began.
"Go!" cried the youngster, angrily. "Damn you, don't you hear me?"
The man went out and closed the door; Jurgis, who was as sharp as
he, observed that he took the key out of the lock, in order that
he might peer through the keyhole.
Master Frederick turned to the table again. "Now," he said, "go
Jurgis gazed at him doubtingly. "Eat!" cried the other. "Pile
in, ole chappie!"
"Don't you want anything?" Jurgis asked.
"Ain't hungry," was the reply--"only thirsty. Kitty and me had
some candy--you go on."
So Jurgis began, without further parley. He ate as with two
shovels, his fork in one hand and his knife in the other; when he
once got started his wolf-hunger got the better of him, and he
did not stop for breath until he had cleared every plate.
"Gee whiz!" said the other, who had been watching him in wonder.
Then he held Jurgis the bottle. "Lessee you drink now," he said;
and Jurgis took the bottle and turned it up to his mouth, and a
wonderfully unearthly liquid ecstasy poured down his throat,
tickling every nerve of him, thrilling him with joy. He drank
the very last drop of it, and then he gave vent to a long-drawn
"Good stuff, hey?" said Freddie, sympathetically; he had leaned
back in the big chair, putting his arm behind his head and gazing
And Jurgis gazed back at him. He was clad in spotless evening
dress, was Freddie, and looked very handsome--he was a beautiful
boy, with light golden hair and the head of an Antinous. He
smiled at Jurgis confidingly, and then started talking again,
with his blissful insouciance. This time he talked for ten
minutes at a stretch, and in the course of the speech he told
Jurgis all of his family history. His big brother Charlie was in
love with the guileless maiden who played the part of "Little
Bright-Eyes" in "The Kaliph of Kamskatka." He had been on the
verge of marrying her once, only "the guv'ner" had sworn to
disinherit him, and had presented him with a sum that would
stagger the imagination, and that had staggered the virtue of
"Little Bright-Eyes." Now Charlie had got leave from college,
and had gone away in his automobile on the next best thing to a
honeymoon. "The guv'ner" had made threats to disinherit another
of his children also, sister Gwendolen, who had married an
Italian marquis with a string of titles and a dueling record.
They lived in his chateau, or rather had, until he had taken to
firing the breakfast dishes at her; then she had cabled for help,
and the old gentleman had gone over to find out what were his
Grace's terms. So they had left Freddie all alone, and he with
less than two thousand dollars in his pocket. Freddie was up in
arms and meant serious business, as they would find in the
end--if there was no other way of bringing them to terms he would
have his "Kittens" wire that she was about to marry him, and see
what happened then.
So the cheerful youngster rattled on, until he was tired out.
He smiled his sweetest smile at Jurgis, and then he closed his eyes,
sleepily. Then he opened them again, and smiled once more, and
finally closed them and forgot to open them.
For several minutes Jurgis sat perfectly motionless, watching
him, and reveling in the strange sensation of the champagne.
Once he stirred, and the dog growled; after that he sat almost
holding his breath--until after a while the door of the room
opened softly, and the butler came in.
He walked toward Jurgis upon tiptoe, scowling at him; and Jurgis
rose up, and retreated, scowling back. So until he was against
the wall, and then the butler came close, and pointed toward the
door. "Get out of here!" he whispered.
Jurgis hesitated, giving a glance at Freddie, who was snoring
softly. "If you do, you son of a--" hissed the butler, "I'll
mash in your face for you before you get out of here!"
And Jurgis wavered but an instant more. He saw "Admiral Dewey"
coming up behind the man and growling softly, to back up his
threats. Then he surrendered and started toward the door.
They went out without a sound, and down the great echoing
staircase, and through the dark hall. At the front door he
paused, and the butler strode close to him.
"Hold up your hands," he snarled. Jurgis took a step back,
clinching his one well fist.
"What for?" he cried; and then understanding that the fellow
proposed to search him, he answered, "I'll see you in hell
"Do you want to go to jail?" demanded the butler, menacingly.
"I'll have the police--"
"Have 'em!" roared Jurgis, with fierce passion. "But you won't
put your hands on me till you do! I haven't touched anything in
your damned house, and I'll not have you touch me!"
So the butler, who was terrified lest his young master should
waken, stepped suddenly to the door, and opened it. "Get out of
here!" he said; and then as Jurgis passed through the opening, he
gave him a ferocious kick that sent him down the great stone
steps at a run, and landed him sprawling in the snow at the
Jurgis got up, wild with rage, but the door was shut and the
great castle was dark and impregnable. Then the icy teeth of the
blast bit into him, and he turned and went away at a run.
When he stopped again it was because he was coming to frequented
streets and did not wish to attract attention. In spite of that
last humiliation, his heart was thumping fast with triumph.
He had come out ahead on that deal! He put his hand into his
trousers' pocket every now and then, to make sure that the
precious hundred-dollar bill was still there.
Yet he was in a plight--a curious and even dreadful plight, when
he came to realize it. He had not a single cent but that one
bill! And he had to find some shelter that night he had to
Jurgis spent half an hour walking and debating the problem.
There was no one he could go to for help--he had to manage it all
alone. To get it changed in a lodging-house would be to take his
life in his hands--he would almost certainly be robbed, and
perhaps murdered, before morning. He might go to some hotel or
railroad depot and ask to have it changed; but what would they
think, seeing a "bum" like him with a hundred dollars? He would
probably be arrested if he tried it; and what story could he
tell? On the morrow Freddie Jones would discover his loss,
and there would be a hunt for him, and he would lose his money.
The only other plan he could think of was to try in a saloon.
He might pay them to change it, if it could not be done otherwise.
He began peering into places as he walked; he passed several as
being too crowded--then finally, chancing upon one where the
bartender was all alone, he gripped his hands in sudden
resolution and went in.
"Can you change me a hundred-dollar bill?" he demanded.
The bartender was a big, husky fellow, with the jaw of a prize
fighter, and a three weeks' stubble of hair upon it. He stared
at Jurgis. "What's that youse say?" he demanded.
"I said, could you change me a hundred-dollar bill?"
"Where'd youse get it?" he inquired incredulously.
"Never mind," said Jurgis; "I've got it, and I want it changed.
I'll pay you if you'll do it."
The other stared at him hard. "Lemme see it," he said.
"Will you change it?" Jurgis demanded, gripping it tightly in his
"How the hell can I know if it's good or not?" retorted the
bartender. "Whatcher take me for, hey?"
Then Jurgis slowly and warily approached him; he took out the
bill, and fumbled it for a moment, while the man stared at him
with hostile eyes across the counter. Then finally he handed it
The other took it, and began to examine it; he smoothed it
between his fingers, and held it up to the light; he turned it
over, and upside down, and edgeways. It was new and rather
stiff, and that made him dubious. Jurgis was watching him like a
cat all the time.
"Humph," he said, finally, and gazed at the stranger, sizing him
up--a ragged, ill-smelling tramp, with no overcoat and one arm in
a sling--and a hundred-dollar bill! "Want to buy anything?" he
"Yes," said Jurgis, "I'll take a glass of beer."
"All right," said the other, "I'll change it." And he put the
bill in his pocket, and poured Jurgis out a glass of beer,
and set it on the counter. Then he turned to the cash register,
and punched up five cents, and began to pull money out of the drawer.
Finally, he faced Jurgis, counting it out--two dimes, a quarter,
and fifty cents. "There," he said.
For a second Jurgis waited, expecting to see him turn again. "My
ninety-nine dollars," he said.
"What ninety-nine dollars?" demanded the bartender.
"My change!" he cried--"the rest of my hundred!"
"Go on," said the bartender, "you're nutty!"
And Jurgis stared at him with wild eyes. For an instant horror
reigned in him--black, paralyzing, awful horror, clutching him at
the heart; and then came rage, in surging, blinding floods--
he screamed aloud, and seized the glass and hurled it at the other's
head. The man ducked, and it missed him by half an inch; he rose
again and faced Jurgis, who was vaulting over the bar with his
one well arm, and dealt him a smashing blow in the face, hurling
him backward upon the floor. Then, as Jurgis scrambled to his
feet again and started round the counter after him, he shouted at
the top of his voice, "Help! help!"
Jurgis seized a bottle off the counter as he ran; and as the
bartender made a leap he hurled the missile at him with all his
force. It just grazed his head, and shivered into a thousand
pieces against the post of the door. Then Jurgis started back,
rushing at the man again in the middle of the room. This time,
in his blind frenzy, he came without a bottle, and that was all
the bartender wanted--he met him halfway and floored him with a
sledgehammer drive between the eyes. An instant later the screen
doors flew open, and two men rushed in--just as Jurgis was
getting to his feet again, foaming at the mouth with rage,
and trying to tear his broken arm out of its bandages.
"Look out!" shouted the bartender. "He's got a knife!" Then,
seeing that the two were disposed to join the fray, he made
another rush at Jurgis, and knocked aside his feeble defense and
sent him tumbling again; and the three flung themselves upon him,
rolling and kicking about the place.
A second later a policeman dashed in, and the bartender yelled
once more--"Look out for his knife!" Jurgis had fought himself
half to his knees, when the policeman made a leap at him, and