Part 6 out of 8
cracked him across the face with his club. Though the blow
staggered him, the wild-beast frenzy still blazed in him, and he
got to his feet, lunging into the air. Then again the club
descended, full upon his head, and he dropped like a log to the
The policeman crouched over him, clutching his stick, waiting for
him to try to rise again; and meantime the barkeeper got up, and
put his hand to his head. "Christ!" he said, "I thought I was
done for that time. Did he cut me?"
"Don't see anything, Jake," said the policeman. "What's the
matter with him?"
"Just crazy drunk," said the other. "A lame duck, too--but he
'most got me under the bar. Youse had better call the wagon,
"No," said the officer. "He's got no more fight in him, I
guess--and he's only got a block to go." He twisted his hand in
Jurgis's collar and jerked at him. "Git up here, you!" he
But Jurgis did not move, and the bartender went behind the bar,
and after stowing the hundred-dollar bill away in a safe hiding
place, came and poured a glass of water over Jurgis. Then, as
the latter began to moan feebly, the policeman got him to his
feet and dragged him out of the place. The station house was
just around the corner, and so in a few minutes Jurgis was in a
He spent half the night lying unconscious, and the balance
moaning in torment, with a blinding headache and a racking
thirst. Now and then he cried aloud for a drink of water,
but there was no one to hear him. There were others in that same
station house with split heads and a fever; there were hundreds
of them in the great city, and tens of thousands of them in the
great land, and there was no one to hear any of them.
In the morning Jurgis was given a cup of water and a piece of
bread, and then hustled into a patrol wagon and driven to the
nearest police court. He sat in the pen with a score of others
until his turn came.
The bartender--who proved to be a well-known bruiser--was called
to the stand, He took the oath and told his story. The prisoner
had come into his saloon after midnight, fighting drunk, and had
ordered a glass of beer and tendered a dollar bill in payment.
He had been given ninety-five cents' change, and had demanded
ninety-nine dollars more, and before the plaintiff could even
answer had hurled the glass at him and then attacked him with a
bottle of bitters, and nearly wrecked the place.
Then the prisoner was sworn--a forlorn object, haggard and
unshorn, with an arm done up in a filthy bandage, a cheek and
head cut, and bloody, and one eye purplish black and entirely
closed. "What have you to say for yourself?" queried the
"Your Honor," said Jurgis, "I went into his place and asked the
man if he could change me a hundred-dollar bill. And he said he
would if I bought a drink. I gave him the bill and then he
wouldn't give me the change."
The magistrate was staring at him in perplexity. "You gave him a
hundred-dollar bill!" he exclaimed.
"Yes, your Honor," said Jurgis.
"Where did you get it?"
"A man gave it to me, your Honor."
"A man? What man, and what for?"
"A young man I met upon the street, your Honor. I had been
There was a titter in the courtroom; the officer who was holding
Jurgis put up his hand to hide a smile, and the magistrate smiled
without trying to hide it. "It's true, your Honor!" cried
"You had been drinking as well as begging last night, had you
not?" inquired the magistrate. "No, your Honor--" protested
"You had not had anything to drink?"
"Why, yes, your Honor, I had--"
"What did you have?"
"I had a bottle of something--I don't know what it was--something
There was again a laugh round the courtroom, stopping suddenly as
the magistrate looked up and frowned. "Have you ever been
arrested before?" he asked abruptly.
The question took Jurgis aback. "I--I--" he stammered.
"Tell me the truth, now!" commanded the other, sternly.
"Yes, your Honor," said Jurgis.
"Only once, your Honor."
"For knocking down my boss, your Honor. I was working in the
stockyards, and he--"
"I see," said his Honor; "I guess that will do. You ought to
stop drinking if you can't control yourself. Ten days and costs.
Jurgis gave vent to a cry of dismay, cut off suddenly by the
policeman, who seized him by the collar. He was jerked out of
the way, into a room with the convicted prisoners, where he sat
and wept like a child in his impotent rage. It seemed monstrous
to him that policemen and judges should esteem his word as
nothing in comparison with the bartender's--poor Jurgis could not
know that the owner of the saloon paid five dollars each week to
the policeman alone for Sunday privileges and general favors--
nor that the pugilist bartender was one of the most trusted henchmen
of the Democratic leader of the district, and had helped only a
few months before to hustle out a record-breaking vote as a
testimonial to the magistrate, who had been made the target of
odious kid-gloved reformers.
Jurgis was driven out to the Bridewell for the second time. In
his tumbling around he had hurt his arm again, and so could not
work, but had to be attended by the physician. Also his head and
his eye had to be tied up--and so he was a pretty-looking object
when, the second day after his arrival, he went out into the
exercise court and encountered--Jack Duane!
The young fellow was so glad to see Jurgis that he almost hugged
him. "By God, if it isn't 'the Stinker'!" he cried. "And what
is it--have you been through a sausage machine?"
"No," said Jurgis, "but I've been in a railroad wreck and a
fight." And then, while some of the other prisoners gathered
round he told his wild story; most of them were incredulous,
but Duane knew that Jurgis could never have made up such a yarn
"Hard luck, old man," he said, when they were alone; "but maybe
it's taught you a lesson."
"I've learned some things since I saw you last," said Jurgis
mournfully. Then he explained how he had spent the last summer,
"hoboing it," as the phrase was. "And you?" he asked finally.
"Have you been here ever since?"
"Lord, no!" said the other. "I only came in the day before
yesterday. It's the second time they've sent me up on a
trumped-up charge--I've had hard luck and can't pay them what
they want. Why don't you quit Chicago with me, Jurgis?"
"I've no place to go," said Jurgis, sadly.
"Neither have I," replied the other, laughing lightly. "But
we'll wait till we get out and see."
In the Bridewell Jurgis met few who had been there the last time,
but he met scores of others, old and young, of exactly the same
sort. It was like breakers upon a beach; there was new water,
but the wave looked just the same. He strolled about and talked
with them, and the biggest of them told tales of their prowess,
while those who were weaker, or younger and inexperienced,
gathered round and listened in admiring silence. The last time
he was there, Jurgis had thought of little but his family;
but now he was free to listen to these men, and to realize that he
was one of them--that their point of view was his point of view,
and that the way they kept themselves alive in the world was the
way he meant to do it in the future.
And so, when he was turned out of prison again, without a penny
in his pocket, he went straight to Jack Duane. He went full of
humility and gratitude; for Duane was a gentleman, and a man with
a profession--and it was remarkable that he should be willing to
throw in his lot with a humble workingman, one who had even been
a beggar and a tramp. Jurgis could not see what help he could be
to him; but he did not understand that a man like himself--who
could be trusted to stand by any one who was kind to him--was as
rare among criminals as among any other class of men.
The address Jurgis had was a garret room in the Ghetto district,
the home of a pretty little French girl, Duane's mistress, who
sewed all day, and eked out her living by prostitution. He had
gone elsewhere, she told Jurgis--he was afraid to stay there now,
on account of the police. The new address was a cellar dive,
whose proprietor said that he had never heard of Duane; but after
he had put Jurgis through a catechism he showed him a back stairs
which led to a "fence" in the rear of a pawnbroker's shop, and
thence to a number of assignation rooms, in one of which Duane
Duane was glad to see him; he was without a cent of money,
he said, and had been waiting for Jurgis to help him get some.
He explained his plan--in fact he spent the day in laying bare to
his friend the criminal world of the city, and in showing him how
he might earn himself a living in it. That winter he would have
a hard time, on account of his arm, and because of an unwonted
fit of activity of the police; but so long as he was unknown to
them he would be safe if he were careful. Here at "Papa"
Hanson's (so they called the old man who kept the dive) he might
rest at ease, for "Papa" Hanson was "square"--would stand by him
so long as he paid, and gave him an hour's notice if there were
to be a police raid. Also Rosensteg, the pawnbroker, would buy
anything he had for a third of its value, and guarantee to keep
it hidden for a year.
There was an oil stove in the little cupboard of a room, and they
had some supper; and then about eleven o'clock at night they
sallied forth together, by a rear entrance to the place, Duane
armed with a slingshot. They came to a residence district,
and he sprang up a lamppost and blew out the light, and then the two
dodged into the shelter of an area step and hid in silence.
Pretty soon a man came by, a workingman--and they let him go.
Then after a long interval came the heavy tread of a policeman,
and they held their breath till he was gone. Though half-frozen,
they waited a full quarter of an hour after that--and then again
came footsteps, walking briskly. Duane nudged Jurgis, and the
instant the man had passed they rose up. Duane stole out as
silently as a shadow, and a second later Jurgis heard a thud and
a stifled cry. He was only a couple of feet behind, and he
leaped to stop the man's mouth, while Duane held him fast by the
arms, as they had agreed. But the man was limp and showed a
tendency to fall, and so Jurgis had only to hold him by the
collar, while the other, with swift fingers, went through his
pockets--ripping open, first his overcoat, and then his coat,
and then his vest, searching inside and outside, and transferring the
contents into his own pockets. At last, after feeling of the
man's fingers and in his necktie, Duane whispered, "That's all!"
and they dragged him to the area and dropped him in. Then Jurgis
went one way and his friend the other, walking briskly.
The latter arrived first, and Jurgis found him examining the
"swag." There was a gold watch, for one thing, with a chain and
locket; there was a silver pencil, and a matchbox, and a handful
of small change, and finally a cardcase. This last Duane opened
feverishly--there were letters and checks, and two
theater-tickets, and at last, in the back part, a wad of bills.
He counted them--there was a twenty, five tens, four fives, and
three ones. Duane drew a long breath. "That lets us out!" he
After further examination, they burned the cardcase and its
contents, all but the bills, and likewise the picture of a little
girl in the locket. Then Duane took the watch and trinkets
downstairs, and came back with sixteen dollars. "The old
scoundrel said the case was filled," he said. "It's a lie, but
he knows I want the money."
They divided up the spoils, and Jurgis got as his share
fifty-five dollars and some change. He protested that it was too
much, but the other had agreed to divide even. That was a good
haul, he said, better than average.
When they got up in the morning, Jurgis was sent out to buy a
paper; one of the pleasures of committing a crime was the reading
about it afterward. "I had a pal that always did it," Duane
remarked, laughing--"until one day he read that he had left three
thousand dollars in a lower inside pocket of his party's vest!"
There was a half-column account of the robbery--it was evident
that a gang was operating in the neighborhood, said the paper,
for it was the third within a week, and the police were
apparently powerless. The victim was an insurance agent, and he
had lost a hundred and ten dollars that did not belong to him.
He had chanced to have his name marked on his shirt, otherwise he
would not have been identified yet. His assailant had hit him
too hard, and he was suffering from concussion of the brain;
and also he had been half-frozen when found, and would lose three
fingers on his right hand. The enterprising newspaper reporter
had taken all this information to his family, and told how they
had received it.
Since it was Jurgis's first experience, these details naturally
caused him some worriment; but the other laughed coolly--it was
the way of the game, and there was no helping it. Before long
Jurgis would think no more of it than they did in the yards of
knocking out a bullock. "It's a case of us or the other fellow,
and I say the other fellow, every time," he observed.
"Still," said Jurgis, reflectively, "he never did us any harm."
"He was doing it to somebody as hard as he could, you can be sure
of that," said his friend.
Duane had already explained to Jurgis that if a man of their
trade were known he would have to work all the time to satisfy
the demands of the police. Therefore it would be better for
Jurgis to stay in hiding and never be seen in public with his
pal. But Jurgis soon got very tired of staying in hiding. In a
couple of weeks he was feeling strong and beginning to use his
arm, and then he could not stand it any longer. Duane, who had
done a job of some sort by himself, and made a truce with the
powers, brought over Marie, his little French girl, to share with
him; but even that did not avail for long, and in the end he had
to give up arguing, and take Jurgis out and introduce him to the
saloons and "sporting houses" where the big crooks and "holdup
men" hung out.
And so Jurgis got a glimpse of the high-class criminal world of
Chicago. The city, which was owned by an oligarchy of
businessmen, being nominally ruled by the people, a huge army of
graft was necessary for the purpose of effecting the transfer of
power. Twice a year, in the spring and fall elections, millions
of dollars were furnished by the businessmen and expended by this
army; meetings were held and clever speakers were hired, bands
played and rockets sizzled, tons of documents and reservoirs of
drinks were distributed, and tens of thousands of votes were
bought for cash. And this army of graft had, of course, to be
maintained the year round. The leaders and organizers were
maintained by the businessmen directly--aldermen and legislators
by means of bribes, party officials out of the campaign funds,
lobbyists and corporation lawyers in the form of salaries,
contractors by means of jobs, labor union leaders by subsidies,
and newspaper proprietors and editors by advertisements. The
rank and file, however, were either foisted upon the city, or
else lived off the population directly. There was the police
department, and the fire and water departments, and the whole
balance of the civil list, from the meanest office boy to the
head of a city department; and for the horde who could find no
room in these, there was the world of vice and crime, there was
license to seduce, to swindle and plunder and prey. The law
forbade Sunday drinking; and this had delivered the saloon-
keepers into the hands of the police, and made an alliance
between them necessary. The law forbade prostitution; and this
had brought the "madames" into the combination. It was the same
with the gambling-house keeper and the poolroom man, and the same
with any other man or woman who had a means of getting "graft,"
and was willing to pay over a share of it: the green-goods man
and the highwayman, the pickpocket and the sneak thief, and the
receiver of stolen goods, the seller of adulterated milk, of
stale fruit and diseased meat, the proprietor of unsanitary
tenements, the fake doctor and the usurer, the beggar and the
"pushcart man," the prize fighter and the professional slugger,
the race-track "tout," the procurer, the white-slave agent, and
the expert seducer of young girls. All of these agencies of
corruption were banded together, and leagued in blood brotherhood
with the politician and the police; more often than not they were
one and the same person,--the police captain would own the
brothel he pretended to raid, the politician would open his
headquarters in his saloon. "Hinkydink" or "Bathhouse John,"
or others of that ilk, were proprietors of the most notorious dives
in Chicago, and also the "gray wolves" of the city council,
who gave away the streets of the city to the businessmen; and those
who patronized their places were the gamblers and prize fighters
who set the law at defiance, and the burglars and holdup men who
kept the whole city in terror. On election day all these powers
of vice and crime were one power; they could tell within one per
cent what the vote of their district would be, and they could
change it at an hour's notice.
A month ago Jurgis had all but perished of starvation upon the
streets; and now suddenly, as by the gift of a magic key, he had
entered into a world where money and all the good things of life
came freely. He was introduced by his friend to an Irishman
named "Buck" Halloran, who was a political "worker" and on the
inside of things. This man talked with Jurgis for a while, and
then told him that he had a little plan by which a man who looked
like a workingman might make some easy money; but it was a
private affair, and had to be kept quiet. Jurgis expressed
himself as agreeable, and the other took him that afternoon
(it was Saturday) to a place where city laborers were being paid off.
The paymaster sat in a little booth, with a pile of envelopes
before him, and two policemen standing by. Jurgis went,
according to directions, and gave the name of "Michael
O'Flaherty," and received an envelope, which he took around the
corner and delivered to Halloran, who was waiting for him in a
saloon. Then he went again; and gave the name of "Johann
Schmidt," and a third time, and give the name of "Serge
Reminitsky." Halloran had quite a list of imaginary workingmen,
and Jurgis got an envelope for each one. For this work he
received five dollars, and was told that he might have it every
week, so long as he kept quiet. As Jurgis was excellent at
keeping quiet, he soon won the trust of "Buck" Halloran, and was
introduced to others as a man who could be depended upon.
This acquaintance was useful to him in another way, also before
long Jurgis made his discovery of the meaning of "pull," and just
why his boss, Connor, and also the pugilist bartender, had been
able to send him to jail. One night there was given a ball, the
"benefit" of "One-eyed Larry," a lame man who played the violin
in one of the big "high-class" houses of prostitution on Clark
Street, and was a wag and a popular character on the "Levee."
This ball was held in a big dance hall, and was one of the
occasions when the city's powers of debauchery gave themselves up
to madness. Jurgis attended and got half insane with drink,
and began quarreling over a girl; his arm was pretty strong by then,
and he set to work to clean out the place, and ended in a cell in
the police station. The police station being crowded to the
doors, and stinking with "bums," Jurgis did not relish staying
there to sleep off his liquor, and sent for Halloran, who called
up the district leader and had Jurgis bailed out by telephone at
four o'clock in the morning. When he was arraigned that same
morning, the district leader had already seen the clerk of the
court and explained that Jurgis Rudkus was a decent fellow, who
had been indiscreet; and so Jurgis was fined ten dollars and the
fine was "suspended"--which meant that he did not have to pay for
it, and never would have to pay it, unless somebody chose to
bring it up against him in the future.
Among the people Jurgis lived with now money was valued according
to an entirely different standard from that of the people of
Packingtown; yet, strange as it may seem, he did a great deal
less drinking than he had as a workingman. He had not the same
provocations of exhaustion and hopelessness; he had now something
to work for, to struggle for. He soon found that if he kept his
wits about him, he would come upon new opportunities; and being
naturally an active man, he not only kept sober himself, but
helped to steady his friend, who was a good deal fonder of both
wine and women than he.
One thing led to another. In the saloon where Jurgis met "Buck"
Halloran he was sitting late one night with Duane, when a
"country customer" (a buyer for an out-of-town merchant) came in,
a little more than half "piped." There was no one else in the
place but the bartender, and as the man went out again Jurgis and
Duane followed him; he went round the corner, and in a dark place
made by a combination of the elevated railroad and an unrented
building, Jurgis leaped forward and shoved a revolver under his
nose, while Duane, with his hat pulled over his eyes, went
through the man's pockets with lightning fingers. They got his
watch and his "wad," and were round the corner again and into the
saloon before he could shout more than once. The bartender, to
whom they had tipped the wink, had the cellar door open for them,
and they vanished, making their way by a secret entrance to a
brothel next door. From the roof of this there was access to
three similar places beyond. By means of these passages the
customers of any one place could be gotten out of the way, in
case a falling out with the police chanced to lead to a raid;
and also it was necessary to have a way of getting a girl out of
reach in case of an emergency. Thousands of them came to Chicago
answering advertisements for "servants" and "factory hands," and
found themselves trapped by fake employment agencies, and locked
up in a bawdyhouse. It was generally enough to take all their
clothes away from them; but sometimes they would have to be
"doped" and kept prisoners for weeks; and meantime their parents
might be telegraphing the police, and even coming on to see why
nothing was done. Occasionally there was no way of satisfying
them but to let them search the place to which the girl had been
For his help in this little job, the bartender received twenty
out of the hundred and thirty odd dollars that the pair secured;
and naturally this put them on friendly terms with him, and a few
days later he introduced them to a little "sheeny" named
Goldberger, one of the "runners" of the "sporting house" where
they had been hidden. After a few drinks Goldberger began, with
some hesitation, to narrate how he had had a quarrel over his
best girl with a professional "cardsharp," who had hit him in the
jaw. The fellow was a stranger in Chicago, and if he was found
some night with his head cracked there would be no one to care
very much. Jurgis, who by this time would cheerfully have
cracked the heads of all the gamblers in Chicago, inquired what
would be coming to him; at which the Jew became still more
confidential, and said that he had some tips on the New Orleans
races, which he got direct from the police captain of the
district, whom he had got out of a bad scrape, and who "stood in"
with a big syndicate of horse owners. Duane took all this in at
once, but Jurgis had to have the whole race-track situation
explained to him before he realized the importance of such an
There was the gigantic Racing Trust. It owned the legislatures
in every state in which it did business; it even owned some of
the big newspapers, and made public opinion--there was no power
in the land that could oppose it unless, perhaps, it were the
Poolroom Trust. It built magnificent racing parks all over the
country, and by means of enormous purses it lured the people to
come, and then it organized a gigantic shell game, whereby it
plundered them of hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
Horse racing had once been a sport, but nowadays it was a
business; a horse could be "doped" and doctored, undertrained or
overtrained; it could be made to fall at any moment--or its gait
could be broken by lashing it with the whip, which all the
spectators would take to be a desperate effort to keep it in the
lead. There were scores of such tricks; and sometimes it was the
owners who played them and made fortunes, sometimes it was the
jockeys and trainers, sometimes it was outsiders, who bribed
them--but most of the time it was the chiefs of the trust. Now
for instance, they were having winter racing in New Orleans and a
syndicate was laying out each day's program in advance, and its
agents in all the Northern cities were "milking" the poolrooms.
The word came by long-distance telephone in a cipher code, just a
little while before each race; and any man who could get the
secret had as good as a fortune. If Jurgis did not believe it,
he could try it, said the little Jew--let them meet at a certain
house on the morrow and make a test. Jurgis was willing, and so
was Duane, and so they went to one of the high-class poolrooms
where brokers and merchants gambled (with society women in a
private room), and they put up ten dollars each upon a horse
called "Black Beldame," a six to one shot, and won. For a secret
like that they would have done a good many sluggings--but the
next day Goldberger informed them that the offending gambler had
got wind of what was coming to him, and had skipped the town.
There were ups and downs at the business; but there was always a
living, inside of a jail, if not out of it. Early in April the
city elections were due, and that meant prosperity for all the
powers of graft. Jurgis, hanging round in dives and gambling
houses and brothels, met with the heelers of both parties,
and from their conversation he came to understand all the ins and
outs of the game, and to hear of a number of ways in which he
could make himself useful about election time. "Buck" Halloran
was a "Democrat," and so Jurgis became a Democrat also; but he
was not a bitter one--the Republicans were good fellows, too,
and were to have a pile of money in this next campaign. At the last
election the Republicans had paid four dollars a vote to the
Democrats' three; and "Buck" Halloran sat one night playing cards
with Jurgis and another man, who told how Halloran had been
charged with the job voting a "bunch" of thirty-seven newly
landed Italians, and how he, the narrator, had met the Republican
worker who was after the very same gang, and how the three had
effected a bargain, whereby the Italians were to vote half and
half, for a glass of beer apiece, while the balance of the fund
went to the conspirators!
Not long after this, Jurgis, wearying of the risks and
vicissitudes of miscellaneous crime, was moved to give up the
career for that of a politician. Just at this time there was a
tremendous uproar being raised concerning the alliance between
the criminals and the police. For the criminal graft was one in
which the businessmen had no direct part--it was what is called a
"side line," carried by the police. "Wide open" gambling and
debauchery made the city pleasing to "trade," but burglaries and
holdups did not. One night it chanced that while Jack Duane was
drilling a safe in a clothing store he was caught red-handed by
the night watchman, and turned over to a policeman, who chanced
to know him well, and who took the responsibility of letting him
make his escape. Such a howl from the newspapers followed this
that Duane was slated for sacrifice, and barely got out of town
in time. And just at that juncture it happened that Jurgis was
introduced to a man named Harper whom he recognized as the night
watchman at Brown's, who had been instrumental in making him an
American citizen, the first year of his arrival at the yards.
The other was interested in the coincidence, but did not remember
Jurgis--he had handled too many "green ones" in his time, he
said. He sat in a dance hall with Jurgis and Halloran until one
or two in the morning, exchanging experiences. He had a long
story to tell of his quarrel with the superintendent of his
department, and how he was now a plain workingman, and a good
union man as well. It was not until some months afterward that
Jurgis understood that the quarrel with the superintendent had
been prearranged, and that Harper was in reality drawing a salary
of twenty dollars a week from the packers for an inside report of
his union's secret proceedings. The yards were seething with
agitation just then, said the man, speaking as a unionist. The
people of Packingtown had borne about all that they would bear,
and it looked as if a strike might begin any week.
After this talk the man made inquiries concerning Jurgis, and a
couple of days later he came to him with an interesting
proposition. He was not absolutely certain, he said, but he
thought that he could get him a regular salary if he would come
to Packingtown and do as he was told, and keep his mouth shut.
Harper--"Bush" Harper, he was called--was a right-hand man of
Mike Scully, the Democratic boss of the stockyards; and in the
coming election there was a peculiar situation. There had come
to Scully a proposition to nominate a certain rich brewer who
lived upon a swell boulevard that skirted the district, and who
coveted the big badge and the "honorable" of an alderman. The
brewer was a Jew, and had no brains, but he was harmless, and
would put up a rare campaign fund. Scully had accepted the
offer, and then gone to the Republicans with a proposition. He
was not sure that he could manage the "sheeny," and he did not
mean to take any chances with his district; let the Republicans
nominate a certain obscure but amiable friend of Scully's, who
was now setting tenpins in the cellar of an Ashland Avenue
saloon, and he, Scully, would elect him with the "sheeny's"
money, and the Republicans might have the glory, which was more
than they would get otherwise. In return for this the
Republicans would agree to put up no candidate the following
year, when Scully himself came up for reelection as the other
alderman from the ward. To this the Republicans had assented
at once; but the hell of it was--so Harper explained--that the
Republicans were all of them fools--a man had to be a fool to be
a Republican in the stockyards, where Scully was king. And they
didn't know how to work, and of course it would not do for the
Democratic workers, the noble redskins of the War Whoop League,
to support the Republican openly. The difficulty would not have
been so great except for another fact--there had been a curious
development in stockyards politics in the last year or two, a new
party having leaped into being. They were the Socialists; and it
was a devil of a mess, said "Bush" Harper. The one image which
the word "Socialist" brought to Jurgis was of poor little
Tamoszius Kuszleika, who had called himself one, and would go out
with a couple of other men and a soap-box, and shout himself
hoarse on a street corner Saturday nights. Tamoszius had tried
to explain to Jurgis what it was all about, but Jurgis, who was
not of an imaginative turn, had never quire got it straight; at
present he was content with his companion's explanation that the
Socialists were the enemies of American institutions--could not
be bought, and would not combine or make any sort of a "dicker."
Mike Scully was very much worried over the opportunity which his
last deal gave to them--the stockyards Democrats were furious at
the idea of a rich capitalist for their candidate, and while they
were changing they might possibly conclude that a Socialist
firebrand was preferable to a Republican bum. And so right here
was a chance for Jurgis to make himself a place in the world,
explained "Bush" Harper; he had been a union man, and he was
known in the yards as a workingman; he must have hundreds of
acquaintances, and as he had never talked politics with them he
might come out as a Republican now without exciting the least
suspicion. There were barrels of money for the use of those who
could deliver the goods; and Jurgis might count upon Mike Scully,
who had never yet gone back on a friend. Just what could he do?
Jurgis asked, in some perplexity, and the other explained in
detail. To begin with, he would have to go to the yards and
work, and he mightn't relish that; but he would have what he
earned, as well as the rest that came to him. He would get
active in the union again, and perhaps try to get an office, as
he, Harper, had; he would tell all his friends the good points of
Doyle, the Republican nominee, and the bad ones of the "sheeny";
and then Scully would furnish a meeting place, and he would start
the "Young Men's Republican Association," or something of that
sort, and have the rich brewer's best beer by the hogshead, and
fireworks and speeches, just like the War Whoop League. Surely
Jurgis must know hundreds of men who would like that sort of fun;
and there would be the regular Republican leaders and workers to
help him out, and they would deliver a big enough majority on
When he had heard all this explanation to the end, Jurgis
demanded: "But how can I get a job in Packingtown? I'm
At which "Bush" Harper laughed. "I'll attend to that all right,"
And the other replied, "It's a go, then; I'm your man." So Jurgis
went out to the stockyards again, and was introduced to the
political lord of the district, the boss of Chicago's mayor. It
was Scully who owned the brickyards and the dump and the ice
pond--though Jurgis did not know it. It was Scully who was to
blame for the unpaved street in which Jurgis's child had been
drowned; it was Scully who had put into office the magistrate who
had first sent Jurgis to jail; it was Scully who was principal
stockholder in the company which had sold him the ramshackle
tenement, and then robbed him of it. But Jurgis knew none of
these things--any more than he knew that Scully was but a tool
and puppet of the packers. To him Scully was a mighty power, the
"biggest" man he had ever met.
He was a little, dried-up Irishman, whose hands shook. He had a
brief talk with his visitor, watching him with his ratlike eyes,
and making up his mind about him; and then he gave him a note to
Mr. Harmon, one of the head managers of Durham's--
"The bearer, Jurgis Rudkus, is a particular friend of mine, and I
would like you to find him a good place, for important reasons.
He was once indiscreet, but you will perhaps be so good as to
Mr. Harmon looked up inquiringly when he read this. "What does
he mean by 'indiscreet'?" he asked.
"I was blacklisted, sir," said Jurgis.
At which the other frowned. "Blacklisted?" he said. "How do you
mean?" And Jurgis turned red with embarrassment.
He had forgotten that a blacklist did not exist. "I--that is--I
had difficulty in getting a place," he stammered.
"What was the matter?"
"I got into a quarrel with a foreman--not my own boss, sir--and
"I see," said the other, and meditated for a few moments. "What
do you wish to do?" he asked.
"Anything, sir," said Jurgis--"only I had a broken arm this
winter, and so I have to be careful."
"How would it suit you to be a night watchman?"
"That wouldn't do, sir. I have to be among the men at night."
"I see--politics. Well, would it suit you to trim hogs?"
"Yes, sir," said Jurgis.
And Mr. Harmon called a timekeeper and said, "Take this man to
Pat Murphy and tell him to find room for him somehow."
And so Jurgis marched into the hog-killing room, a place where,
in the days gone by, he had come begging for a job. Now he
walked jauntily, and smiled to himself, seeing the frown that
came to the boss's face as the timekeeper said, "Mr. Harmon says
to put this man on." It would overcrowd his department and spoil
the record he was trying to make--but he said not a word except
And so Jurgis became a workingman once more; and straightway he
sought out his old friends, and joined the union, and began to
"root" for "Scotty" Doyle. Doyle had done him a good turn once,
he explained, and was really a bully chap; Doyle was a workingman
himself, and would represent the workingmen--why did they want to
vote for a millionaire "sheeny," and what the hell had Mike
Scully ever done for them that they should back his candidates
all the time? And meantime Scully had given Jurgis a note to the
Republican leader of the ward, and he had gone there and met the
crowd he was to work with. Already they had hired a big hall,
with some of the brewer's money, and every night Jurgis brought
in a dozen new members of the "Doyle Republican Association."
Pretty soon they had a grand opening night; and there was a brass
band, which marched through the streets, and fireworks and bombs
and red lights in front of the hall; and there was an enormous
crowd, with two overflow meetings--so that the pale and trembling
candidate had to recite three times over the little speech which
one of Scully's henchmen had written, and which he had been a
month learning by heart. Best of all, the famous and eloquent
Senator Spareshanks, presidential candidate, rode out in an
automobile to discuss the sacred privileges of American
citizenship, and protection and prosperity for the American
workingman. His inspiriting address was quoted to the extent of
half a column in all the morning newspapers, which also said that
it could be stated upon excellent authority that the unexpected
popularity developed by Doyle, the Republican candidate for
alderman, was giving great anxiety to Mr. Scully, the chairman of
the Democratic City Committee.
The chairman was still more worried when the monster torchlight
procession came off, with the members of the Doyle Republican
Association all in red capes and hats, and free beer for every
voter in the ward--the best beer ever given away in a political
campaign, as the whole electorate testified. During this parade,
and at innumerable cart-tail meetings as well, Jurgis labored
tirelessly. He did not make any speeches--there were lawyers and
other experts for that--but he helped to manage things;
distributing notices and posting placards and bringing out the
crowds; and when the show was on he attended to the fireworks and
the beer. Thus in the course of the campaign he handled many
hundreds of dollars of the Hebrew brewer's money, administering
it with naive and touching fidelity. Toward the end, however,
he learned that he was regarded with hatred by the rest of the
"boys," because he compelled them either to make a poorer showing
than he or to do without their share of the pie. After that
Jurgis did his best to please them, and to make up for the time
he had lost before he discovered the extra bungholes of the
He pleased Mike Scully, also. On election morning he was out at
four o'clock, "getting out the vote"; he had a two-horse carriage
to ride in, and he went from house to house for his friends, and
escorted them in triumph to the polls. He voted half a dozen
times himself, and voted some of his friends as often; he brought
bunch after bunch of the newest foreigners--Lithuanians, Poles,
Bohemians, Slovaks--and when he had put them through the mill he
turned them over to another man to take to the next polling
place. When Jurgis first set out, the captain of the precinct
gave him a hundred dollars, and three times in the course of the
day he came for another hundred, and not more than twenty-five
out of each lot got stuck in his own pocket. The balance all
went for actual votes, and on a day of Democratic landslides they
elected "Scotty" Doyle, the ex-tenpin setter, by nearly a
thousand plurality--and beginning at five o'clock in the
afternoon, and ending at three the next morning, Jurgis treated
himself to a most unholy and horrible "jag." Nearly every one
else in Packingtown did the same, however, for there was
universal exultation over this triumph of popular government,
this crushing defeat of an arrogant plutocrat by the power of the
After the elections Jurgis stayed on in Packingtown and kept his
job. The agitation to break up the police protection of
criminals was continuing, and it seemed to him best to "lay low"
for the present. He had nearly three hundred dollars in the
bank, and might have considered himself entitled to a vacation;
but he had an easy job, and force of habit kept him at it.
Besides, Mike Scully, whom he consulted, advised him that
something might "turn up" before long.
Jurgis got himself a place in a boardinghouse with some congenial
friends. He had already inquired of Aniele, and learned that
Elzbieta and her family had gone downtown, and so he gave no
further thought to them. He went with a new set, now, young
unmarried fellows who were "sporty." Jurgis had long ago cast off
his fertilizer clothing, and since going into politics he had
donned a linen collar and a greasy red necktie. He had some
reason for thinking of his dress, for he was making about eleven
dollars a week, and two-thirds of it he might spend upon his
pleasures without ever touching his savings.
Sometimes he would ride down-town with a party of friends to the
cheap theaters and the music halls and other haunts with which
they were familiar. Many of the saloons in Packingtown had pool
tables, and some of them bowling alleys, by means of which he
could spend his evenings in petty gambling. Also, there were
cards and dice. One time Jurgis got into a game on a Saturday
night and won prodigiously, and because he was a man of spirit he
stayed in with the rest and the game continued until late Sunday
afternoon, and by that time he was "out" over twenty dollars. On
Saturday nights, also, a number of balls were generally given in
Packingtown; each man would bring his "girl" with him, paying
half a dollar for a ticket, and several dollars additional for
drinks in the course of the festivities, which continued until
three or four o'clock in the morning, unless broken up by
fighting. During all this time the same man and woman would
dance together, half-stupefied with sensuality and drink.
Before long Jurgis discovered what Scully had meant by something
"turning up." In May the agreement between the packers and the
unions expired, and a new agreement had to be signed.
Negotiations were going on, and the yards were full of talk of a
strike. The old scale had dealt with the wages of the skilled
men only; and of the members of the Meat Workers' Union about
two-thirds were unskilled men. In Chicago these latter were
receiving, for the most part, eighteen and a half cents an hour,
and the unions wished to make this the general wage for the next
year. It was not nearly so large a wage as it seemed--in the
course of the negotiations the union officers examined time
checks to the amount of ten thousand dollars, and they found that
the highest wages paid had been fourteen dollars a week, and the
lowest two dollars and five cents, and the average of the whole,
six dollars and sixty-five cents. And six dollars and sixty-five
cents was hardly too much for a man to keep a family on,
considering the fact that the price of dressed meat had increased
nearly fifty per cent in the last five years, while the price of
"beef on the hoof" had decreased as much, it would have seemed
that the packers ought to be able to pay it; but the packers were
unwilling to pay it--they rejected the union demand, and to show
what their purpose was, a week or two after the agreement expired
they put down the wages of about a thousand men to sixteen and a
half cents, and it was said that old man Jones had vowed he would
put them to fifteen before he got through. There were a million
and a half of men in the country looking for work, a hundred
thousand of them right in Chicago; and were the packers to let
the union stewards march into their places and bind them to a
contract that would lose them several thousand dollars a day for
a year? Not much!
All this was in June; and before long the question was submitted
to a referendum in the unions, and the decision was for a strike.
It was the same in all the packing house cities; and suddenly the
newspapers and public woke up to face the gruesome spectacle of a
meat famine. All sorts of pleas for a reconsideration were made,
but the packers were obdurate; and all the while they were
reducing wages, and heading off shipments of cattle, and rushing
in wagonloads of mattresses and cots. So the men boiled over,
and one night telegrams went out from the union headquarters to
all the big packing centers--to St. Paul, South Omaha, Sioux
City, St. Joseph, Kansas City, East St. Louis, and New
York--and the next day at noon between fifty and sixty thousand
men drew off their working clothes and marched out of the
factories, and the great "Beef Strike" was on.
Jurgis went to his dinner, and afterward he walked over to see
Mike Scully, who lived in a fine house, upon a street which had
been decently paved and lighted for his especial benefit. Scully
had gone into semiretirement, and looked nervous and worried.
"What do you want?" he demanded, when he saw Jurgis.
"I came to see if maybe you could get me a place during the
strike," the other replied.
And Scully knit his brows and eyed him narrowly. In that
morning's papers Jurgis had read a fierce denunciation of the
packers by Scully, who had declared that if they did not treat
their people better the city authorities would end the matter by
tearing down their plants. Now, therefore, Jurgis was not a
little taken aback when the other demanded suddenly, "See here,
Rudkus, why don't you stick by your job?"
Jurgis started. "Work as a scab?" he cried.
"Why not?" demanded Scully. "What's that to you?"
"But--but--" stammered Jurgis. He had somehow taken it for
granted that he should go out with his union. "The packers need
good men, and need them bad," continued the other, "and they'll
treat a man right that stands by them. Why don't you take your
chance and fix yourself?"
"But," said Jurgis, "how could I ever be of any use to you--in
"You couldn't be it anyhow," said Scully, abruptly.
"Why not?" asked Jurgis.
"Hell, man!" cried the other. "Don't you know you're a
Republican? And do you think I'm always going to elect
Republicans? My brewer has found out already how we served him,
and there is the deuce to pay."
Jurgis looked dumfounded. He had never thought of that aspect of
it before. "I could be a Democrat," he said.
"Yes," responded the other, "but not right away; a man can't
change his politics every day. And besides, I don't need
you--there'd be nothing for you to do. And it's a long time to
election day, anyhow; and what are you going to do meantime?"
"I thought I could count on you," began Jurgis.
"Yes," responded Scully, "so you could--I never yet went back on
a friend. But is it fair to leave the job I got you and come to
me for another? I have had a hundred fellows after me today,
and what can I do? I've put seventeen men on the city payroll to
clean streets this one week, and do you think I can keep that up
forever? It wouldn't do for me to tell other men what I tell
you, but you've been on the inside, and you ought to have sense
enough to see for yourself. What have you to gain by a strike?"
"I hadn't thought," said Jurgis.
"Exactly," said Scully, "but you'd better. Take my word for it,
the strike will be over in a few days, and the men will be
beaten; and meantime what you can get out of it will belong to
you. Do you see?"
And Jurgis saw. He went back to the yards, and into the
workroom. The men had left a long line of hogs in various stages
of preparation, and the foreman was directing the feeble efforts
of a score or two of clerks and stenographers and office boys to
finish up the job and get them into the chilling rooms. Jurgis
went straight up to him and announced, "I have come back to work,
The boss's face lighted up. "Good man!" he cried. "Come ahead!"
"Just a moment," said Jurgis, checking his enthusiasm. "I think
I ought to get a little more wages."
"Yes," replied the other, "of course. What do you want?"
Jurgis had debated on the way. His nerve almost failed him now,
but he clenched his hands. "I think I ought to have' three
dollars a day," he said.
"All right," said the other, promptly; and before the day was out
our friend discovered that the clerks and stenographers and
office boys were getting five dollars a day, and then he could
have kicked himself!
So Jurgis became one of the new "American heroes," a man whose
virtues merited comparison with those of the martyrs of Lexington
and Valley Forge. The resemblance was not complete, of course,
for Jurgis was generously paid and comfortably clad, and was
provided with a spring cot and a mattress and three substantial
meals a day; also he was perfectly at ease, and safe from all
peril of life and limb, save only in the case that a desire for
beer should lead him to venture outside of the stockyards gates.
And even in the exercise of this privilege he was not left
unprotected; a good part of the inadequate police force of
Chicago was suddenly diverted from its work of hunting criminals,
and rushed out to serve him. The police, and the strikers also,
were determined that there should be no violence; but there was
another party interested which was minded to the contrary--and
that was the press. On the first day of his life as a
strikebreaker Jurgis quit work early, and in a spirit of bravado
he challenged three men of his acquaintance to go outside and get
a drink. They accepted, and went through the big Halsted Street
gate, where several policemen were watching, and also some union
pickets, scanning sharply those who passed in and out. Jurgis
and his companions went south on Halsted Street; past the hotel,
and then suddenly half a dozen men started across the street
toward them and proceeded to argue with them concerning the error
of their ways. As the arguments were not taken in the proper
spirit, they went on to threats; and suddenly one of them jerked
off the hat of one of the four and flung it over the fence. The
man started after it, and then, as a cry of "Scab!" was raised
and a dozen people came running out of saloons and doorways,
a second man's heart failed him and he followed. Jurgis and the
fourth stayed long enough to give themselves the satisfaction of
a quick exchange of blows, and then they, too, took to their
heels and fled back of the hotel and into the yards again.
Meantime, of course, policemen were coming on a run, and as a
crowd gathered other police got excited and sent in a riot call.
Jurgis knew nothing of this, but went back to "Packers' Avenue,"
and in front of the "Central Time Station" he saw one of his
companions, breathless and wild with excitement, narrating to an
ever growing throng how the four had been attacked and surrounded
by a howling mob, and had been nearly torn to pieces. While he
stood listening, smiling cynically, several dapper young men
stood by with notebooks in their hands, and it was not more than
two hours later that Jurgis saw newsboys running about with
armfuls of newspapers, printed in red and black letters six
VIOLENCE IN THE YARDS! STRIKEBREAKERS SURROUNDED BY FRENZIED MOB!
If he had been able to buy all of the newspapers of the United
States the next morning, he might have discovered that his
beer-hunting exploit was being perused by some two score millions
of people, and had served as a text for editorials in half the
staid and solemn businessmen's newspapers in the land.
Jurgis was to see more of this as time passed. For the present,
his work being over, he was free to ride into the city, by a
railroad direct from the yards, or else to spend the night in a
room where cots had been laid in rows. He chose the latter,
but to his regret, for all night long gangs of strikebreakers kept
arriving. As very few of the better class of workingmen could be
got for such work, these specimens of the new American hero
contained an assortment of the criminals and thugs of the city,
besides Negroes and the lowest foreigners-Greeks, Roumanians,
Sicilians, and Slovaks. They had been attracted more by the
prospect of disorder than, by the big wages; and they made the
night hideous with singing and carousing, and only went to sleep
when the time came for them to get up to work.
In the morning before Jurgis had finished his breakfast, "Pat"
Murphy ordered him to one of the superintendents, who questioned
him as to his experience in the work of the killing room. His
heart began to thump with excitement, for he divined instantly
that his hour had come--that he was to be a boss!
Some of the foremen were union members, and many who were not had
gone out with the men. It was in the killing department that the
packers had been left most in the lurch, and precisely here that
they could least afford it; the smoking and canning and salting
of meat might wait, and all the by-products might be wasted--but
fresh meats must be had, or the restaurants and hotels and
brownstone houses would feel the pinch, and then "public opinion"
would take a startling turn.
An opportunity such as this would not come twice to a man; and
Jurgis seized it. Yes, he knew the work, the whole of it, and he
could teach it to others. But if he took the job and gave
satisfaction he would expect to keep it--they would not turn him
off at the end of the strike? To which the superintendent
replied that he might safely trust Durham's for that--they
proposed to teach these unions a lesson, and most of all those
foremen who had gone back on them. Jurgis would receive five
dollars a day during the strike, and twenty-five a week after it
So our friend got a pair of "slaughter pen" boots and "jeans,"
and flung himself at his task. It was a weird sight, there on
the killing beds--a throng of stupid black Negroes, and
foreigners who could not understand a word that was said to them,
mixed with pale-faced, hollow-chested bookkeepers and clerks,
half-fainting for the tropical heat and the sickening stench of
fresh blood--and all struggling to dress a dozen or two cattle in
the same place where, twenty-four hours ago, the old killing gang
had been speeding, with their marvelous precision, turning out
four hundred carcasses every hour!
The Negroes and the "toughs" from the Levee did not want to work,
and every few minutes some of them would feel obliged to retire
and recuperate. In a couple of days Durham and Company had
electric fans up to cool off the rooms for them, and even couches
for them to rest on; and meantime they could go out and find a
shady corner and take a "snooze," and as there was no place for
any one in particular, and no system, it might be hours before
their boss discovered them. As for the poor office employees,
they did their best, moved to it by terror; thirty of them had
been "fired" in a bunch that first morning for refusing to serve,
besides a number of women clerks and typewriters who had declined
to act as waitresses.
It was such a force as this that Jurgis had to organize. He did
his best, flying here and there, placing them in rows and showing
them the tricks; he had never given an order in his life before,
but he had taken enough of them to know, and he soon fell into
the spirit of it, and roared and stormed like any old stager.
He had not the most tractable pupils, however. "See hyar, boss,"
a big black "buck" would begin, "ef you doan' like de way Ah does
dis job, you kin get somebody else to do it." Then a crowd would
gather and listen, muttering threats. After the first meal
nearly all the steel knives had been missing, and now every Negro
had one, ground to a fine point, hidden in his boots.
There was no bringing order out of such a chaos, Jurgis soon
discovered; and he fell in with the spirit of the thing--there
was no reason why he should wear himself out with shouting. If
hides and guts were slashed and rendered useless there was no way
of tracing it to any one; and if a man lay off and forgot to come
back there was nothing to be gained by seeking him, for all the
rest would quit in the meantime. Everything went, during the
strike, and the packers paid. Before long Jurgis found that the
custom of resting had suggested to some alert minds the
possibility of registering at more than one place and earning
more than one five dollars a day. When he caught a man at this
he "fired" him, but it chanced to be in a quiet corner, and the
man tendered him a ten-dollar bill and a wink, and he took them.
Of course, before long this custom spread, and Jurgis was soon
making quite a good income from it.
In the face of handicaps such as these the packers counted
themselves lucky if they could kill off the cattle that had been
crippled in transit and the hogs that had developed disease.
Frequently, in the course of a two or three days' trip, in hot
weather and without water, some hog would develop cholera, and
die; and the rest would attack him before he had ceased kicking,
and when the car was opened there would be nothing of him left
but the bones. If all the hogs in this carload were not killed
at once, they would soon be down with the dread disease, and
there would be nothing to do but make them into lard. It was the
same with cattle that were gored and dying, or were limping with
broken bones stuck through their flesh--they must be killed, even
if brokers and buyers and superintendents had to take off their
coats and help drive and cut and skin them. And meantime, agents
of the packers were gathering gangs of Negroes in the country
districts of the far South, promising them five dollars a day and
board, and being careful not to mention there was a strike;
already carloads of them were on the way, with special rates from
the railroads, and all traffic ordered out of the way. Many
towns and cities were taking advantage of the chance to clear out
their jails and workhouses--in Detroit the magistrates would
release every man who agreed to leave town within twenty-four
hours, and agents of the packers were in the courtrooms to ship
them right. And meantime trainloads of supplies were coming in
for their accommodation, including beer and whisky, so that they
might not be tempted to go outside. They hired thirty young
girls in Cincinnati to "pack fruit," and when they arrived put
them at work canning corned beef, and put cots for them to sleep
in a public hallway, through which the men passed. As the gangs
came in day and night, under the escort of squads of police,
they stowed away in unused workrooms and storerooms, and in the car
sheds, crowded so closely together that the cots touched. In
some places they would use the same room for eating and sleeping,
and at night the men would put their cots upon the tables, to
keep away from the swarms of rats.
But with all their best efforts, the packers were demoralized.
Ninety per cent of the men had walked out; and they faced the
task of completely remaking their labor force--and with the price
of meat up thirty per cent, and the public clamoring for a
settlement. They made an offer to submit the whole question at
issue to arbitration; and at the end of ten days the unions
accepted it, and the strike was called off. It was agreed that
all the men were to be re-employed within forty-five days, and
that there was to be "no discrimination against union men."
This was an anxious time for Jurgis. If the men were taken back
"without discrimination," he would lose his present place. He
sought out the superintendent, who smiled grimly and bade him
"wait and see." Durham's strikebreakers were few of them leaving.
Whether or not the "settlement" was simply a trick of the packers
to gain time, or whether they really expected to break the strike
and cripple the unions by the plan, cannot be said; but that
night there went out from the office of Durham and Company a
telegram to all the big packing centers, "Employ no union
leaders." And in the morning, when the twenty thousand men
thronged into the yards, with their dinner pails and working
clothes, Jurgis stood near the door of the hog-trimming room,
where he had worked before the strike, and saw a throng of eager
men, with a score or two of policemen watching them; and he saw a
superintendent come out and walk down the line, and pick out man
after man that pleased him; and one after another came, and there
were some men up near the head of the line who were never
picked--they being the union stewards and delegates, and the men
Jurgis had heard making speeches at the meetings. Each time, of
course, there were louder murmurings and angrier looks. Over
where the cattle butchers were waiting, Jurgis heard shouts and
saw a crowd, and he hurried there. One big butcher, who was
president of the Packing Trades Council, had been passed over
five times, and the men were wild with rage; they had appointed a
committee of three to go in and see the superintendent, and the
committee had made three attempts, and each time the police had
clubbed them back from the door. Then there were yells and
hoots, continuing until at last the superintendent came to the
door. "We all go back or none of us do!" cried a hundred voices.
And the other shook his fist at them, and shouted, "You went out
of here like cattle, and like cattle you'll come back!"
Then suddenly the big butcher president leaped upon a pile of
stones and yelled: "It's off, boys. We'll all of us quit again!"
And so the cattle butchers declared a new strike on the spot;
and gathering their members from the other plants, where the same
trick had been played, they marched down Packers' Avenue, which
was thronged with a dense mass of workers, cheering wildly. Men
who had already got to work on the killing beds dropped their
tools and joined them; some galloped here and there on horseback,
shouting the tidings, and within half an hour the whole of
Packingtown was on strike again, and beside itself with fury.
There was quite a different tone in Packingtown after this--the
place was a seething caldron of passion, and the "scab" who
ventured into it fared badly. There were one or two of these
incidents each day, the newspapers detailing them, and always
blaming them upon the unions. Yet ten years before, when there
were no unions in Packingtown, there was a strike, and national
troops had to be called, and there were pitched battles fought at
night, by the light of blazing freight trains. Packingtown was
always a center of violence; in "Whisky Point," where there were
a hundred saloons and one glue factory, there was always
fighting, and always more of it in hot weather. Any one who had
taken the trouble to consult the station house blotter would have
found that there was less violence that summer than ever
before--and this while twenty thousand men were out of work,
and with nothing to do all day but brood upon bitter wrongs.
There was no one to picture the battle the union leaders were
fighting--to hold this huge army in rank, to keep it from
straggling and pillaging, to cheer and encourage and guide a
hundred thousand people, of a dozen different tongues, through
six long weeks of hunger and disappointment and despair.
Meantime the packers had set themselves definitely to the task of
making a new labor force. A thousand or two of strikebreakers
were brought in every night, and distributed among the various
plants. Some of them were experienced workers,--butchers,
salesmen, and managers from the packers' branch stores, and a few
union men who had deserted from other cities; but the vast
majority were "green" Negroes from the cotton districts of the
far South, and they were herded into the packing plants like
sheep. There was a law forbidding the use of buildings as
lodginghouses unless they were licensed for the purpose,
and provided with proper windows, stairways, and fire escapes;
but here, in a "paint room," reached only by an enclosed "chute,"
a room without a single window and only one door, a hundred men
were crowded upon mattresses on the floor. Up on the third story
of the "hog house" of Jones's was a storeroom, without a window,
into which they crowded seven hundred men, sleeping upon the bare
springs of cots, and with a second shift to use them by day. And
when the clamor of the public led to an investigation into these
conditions, and the mayor of the city was forced to order the
enforcement of the law, the packers got a judge to issue an
injunction forbidding him to do it!
Just at this time the mayor was boasting that he had put an end
to gambling and prize fighting in the city; but here a swarm of
professional gamblers had leagued themselves with the police to
fleece the strikebreakers; and any night, in the big open space
in front of Brown's, one might see brawny Negroes stripped to the
waist and pounding each other for money, while a howling throng
of three or four thousand surged about, men and women, young
white girls from the country rubbing elbows with big buck Negroes
with daggers in their boots, while rows of woolly heads peered
down from every window of the surrounding factories. The
ancestors of these black people had been savages in Africa; and
since then they had been chattel slaves, or had been held down by
a community ruled by the traditions of slavery. Now for the
first time they were free--free to gratify every passion, free to
wreck themselves. They were wanted to break a strike, and when
it was broken they would be shipped away, and their present
masters would never see them again; and so whisky and women were
brought in by the carload and sold to them, and hell was let
loose in the yards. Every night there were stabbings and
shootings; it was said that the packers had blank permits, which
enabled them to ship dead bodies from the city without troubling
the authorities. They lodged men and women on the same floor;
and with the night there began a saturnalia of debauchery--scenes
such as never before had been witnessed in America. And as the
women were the dregs from the brothels of Chicago, and the men
were for the most part ignorant country Negroes, the nameless
diseases of vice were soon rife; and this where food was being
handled which was sent out to every corner of the civilized
The "Union Stockyards" were never a pleasant place; but now they
were not only a collection of slaughterhouses, but also the
camping place of an army of fifteen or twenty thousand human
beasts. All day long the blazing midsummer sun beat down upon
that square mile of abominations: upon tens of thousands of
cattle crowded into pens whose wooden floors stank and steamed
contagion; upon bare, blistering, cinder-strewn railroad tracks,
and huge blocks of dingy meat factories, whose labyrinthine
passages defied a breath of fresh air to penetrate them; and
there were not merely rivers of hot blood, and car-loads of moist
flesh, and rendering vats and soap caldrons, glue factories and
fertilizer tanks, that smelt like the craters of hell--there were
also tons of garbage festering in the sun, and the greasy laundry
of the workers hung out to dry, and dining rooms littered with
food and black with flies, and toilet rooms that were open sewers.
And then at night, when this throng poured out into the streets
to play--fighting, gambling, drinking and carousing, cursing and
screaming, laughing and singing, playing banjoes and dancing!
They were worked in the yards all the seven days of the week, and
they had their prize fights and crap games on Sunday nights as
well; but then around the corner one might see a bonfire blazing,
and an old, gray-headed Negress, lean and witchlike, her hair
flying wild and her eyes blazing, yelling and chanting of the
fires of perdition and the blood of the "Lamb," while men and
women lay down upon the ground and moaned and screamed in
convulsions of terror and remorse.
Such were the stockyards during the strike; while the unions
watched in sullen despair, and the country clamored like a greedy
child for its food, and the packers went grimly on their way.
Each day they added new workers, and could be more stern with the
old ones--could put them on piecework, and dismiss them if they
did not keep up the pace. Jurgis was now one of their agents in
this process; and he could feel the change day by day, like the
slow starting up of a huge machine. He had gotten used to being
a master of men; and because of the stifling heat and the stench,
and the fact that he was a "scab" and knew it and despised
himself. He was drinking, and developing a villainous temper,
and he stormed and cursed and raged at his men, and drove them
until they were ready to drop with exhaustion.
Then one day late in August, a superintendent ran into the place
and shouted to Jurgis and his gang to drop their work and come.
They followed him outside, to where, in the midst of a dense
throng, they saw several two-horse trucks waiting, and three
patrol-wagon loads of police. Jurgis and his men sprang upon one
of the trucks, and the driver yelled to the crowd, and they went
thundering away at a gallop. Some steers had just escaped from
the yards, and the strikers had got hold of them, and there would
be the chance of a scrap!
They went out at the Ashland Avenue gate, and over in the
direction of the "dump." There was a yell as soon as they were
sighted, men and women rushing out of houses and saloons as they
galloped by. There were eight or ten policemen on the truck,
however, and there was no disturbance until they came to a place
where the street was blocked with a dense throng. Those on the
flying truck yelled a warning and the crowd scattered pell-mell,
disclosing one of the steers lying in its blood. There were a
good many cattle butchers about just then, with nothing much to
do, and hungry children at home; and so some one had knocked out
the steer--and as a first-class man can kill and dress one in a
couple of minutes, there were a good many steaks and roasts
already missing. This called for punishment, of course; and the
police proceeded to administer it by leaping from the truck and
cracking at every head they saw. There were yells of rage and
pain, and the terrified people fled into houses and stores,
or scattered helter-skelter down the street. Jurgis and his gang
joined in the sport, every man singling out his victim, and
striving to bring him to bay and punch him. If he fled into a
house his pursuer would smash in the flimsy door and follow him
up the stairs, hitting every one who came within reach, and
finally dragging his squealing quarry from under a bed or a pile
of old clothes in a closet.
Jurgis and two policemen chased some men into a bar-room. One of
them took shelter behind the bar, where a policeman cornered him
and proceeded to whack him over the back and shoulders, until he
lay down and gave a chance at his head. The others leaped a
fence in the rear, balking the second policeman, who was fat;
and as he came back, furious and cursing, a big Polish woman,
the owner of the saloon, rushed in screaming, and received a poke in
the stomach that doubled her up on the floor. Meantime Jurgis,
who was of a practical temper, was helping himself at the bar;
and the first policeman, who had laid out his man, joined him,
handing out several more bottles, and filling his pockets
besides, and then, as he started to leave, cleaning off all the
balance with a sweep of his club. The din of the glass crashing
to the floor brought the fat Polish woman to her feet again,
but another policeman came up behind her and put his knee into
her back and his hands over her eyes--and then called to his
companion, who went back and broke open the cash drawer and
filled his pockets with the contents. Then the three went
outside, and the man who was holding the woman gave her a shove
and dashed out himself. The gang having already got the carcass
on to the truck, the party set out at a trot, followed by screams
and curses, and a shower of bricks and stones from unseen
enemies. These bricks and stones would figure in the accounts of
the "riot" which would be sent out to a few thousand newspapers
within an hour or two; but the episode of the cash drawer would
never be mentioned again, save only in the heartbreaking legends
It was late in the afternoon when they got back, and they dressed
out the remainder of the steer, and a couple of others that had
been killed, and then knocked off for the day. Jurgis went
downtown to supper, with three friends who had been on the other
trucks, and they exchanged reminiscences on the way. Afterward
they drifted into a roulette parlor, and Jurgis, who was never
lucky at gambling, dropped about fifteen dollars. To console
himself he had to drink a good deal, and he went back to
Packingtown about two o'clock in the morning, very much the worse
for his excursion, and, it must be confessed, entirely deserving
the calamity that was in store for him.
As he was going to the place where he slept, he met a painted-
cheeked woman in a greasy "kimono," and she put her arm about his
waist to steady him; they turned into a dark room they were
passing--but scarcely had they taken two steps before suddenly a
door swung open, and a man entered, carrying a lantern. "Who's
there?" he called sharply. And Jurgis started to mutter some
reply; but at the same instant the man raised his light, which
flashed in his face, so that it was possible to recognize him.
Jurgis stood stricken dumb, and his heart gave a leap like a mad
thing. The man was Connor!
Connor, the boss of the loading gang! The man who had seduced
his wife--who had sent him to prison, and wrecked his home,
ruined his life! He stood there, staring, with the light shining
full upon him.
Jurgis had often thought of Connor since coming back to
Packingtown, but it had been as of something far off, that no
longer concerned him. Now, however, when he saw him, alive and
in the flesh, the same thing happened to him that had happened
before--a flood of rage boiled up in him, a blind frenzy seized
him. And he flung himself at the man, and smote him between the
eyes--and then, as he fell, seized him by the throat and began to
pound his head upon the stones.
The woman began screaming, and people came rushing in. The
lantern had been upset and extinguished, and it was so dark they
could not see a thing; but they could hear Jurgis panting, and
hear the thumping of his victim's skull, and they rushed there
and tried to pull him off. Precisely as before, Jurgis came away
with a piece of his enemy's flesh between his teeth; and,
as before, he went on fighting with those who had interfered with
him, until a policeman had come and beaten him into
And so Jurgis spent the balance of the night in the stockyards
station house. This time, however, he had money in his pocket,
and when he came to his senses he could get something to drink,
and also a messenger to take word of his plight to "Bush" Harper.
Harper did not appear, however, until after the prisoner, feeling
very weak and ill, had been hailed into court and remanded at
five hundred dollars' bail to await the result of his victim's
injuries. Jurgis was wild about this, because a different
magistrate had chanced to be on the bench, and he had stated that
he had never been arrested before, and also that he had been
attacked first--and if only someone had been there to speak a
good word for him, he could have been let off at once.
But Harper explained that he had been downtown, and had not got
the message. "What's happened to you?" he asked.
"I've been doing a fellow up," said Jurgis, "and I've got to get
five hundred dollars' bail."
"I can arrange that all right," said the other--"though it may
cost you a few dollars, of course. But what was the trouble?"
"It was a man that did me a mean trick once," answered Jurgis.
"Who is he?"
"He's a foreman in Brown's or used to be. His name's Connor."
And the other gave a start. "Connor!" he cried. "Not Phil
"Yes," said Jurgis, "that's the fellow. Why?"
"Good God!" exclaimed the other, ''then you're in for it, old
man! I can't help you!"
"Not help me! Why not?"
"Why, he's one of Scully's biggest men--he's a member of the
War-Whoop League, and they talked of sending him to the
legislature! Phil Connor! Great heavens!"
Jurgis sat dumb with dismay.
"Why, he can send you to Joliet, if he wants to!" declared the
"Can't I have Scully get me off before he finds out about it?"
asked Jurgis, at length.
"But Scully's out of town," the other answered. "I don't even
know where he is--he's run away to dodge the strike."
That was a pretty mess, indeed. Poor Jurgis sat half-dazed. His
pull had run up against a bigger pull, and he was down and out!
"But what am I going to do?'' he asked, weakly.
"How should I know?" said the other. "I shouldn't even dare to
get bail for you--why, I might ruin myself for life!"
Again there was silence. "Can't you do it for me," Jurgis asked,
"and pretend that you didn't know who I'd hit?"
"But what good would that do you when you came to stand trial?"
asked Harper. Then he sat buried in thought for a minute or two.
"There's nothing--unless it's this," he said. "I could have your
bail reduced; and then if you had the money you could pay it and
"How much will it be?" Jurgis asked, after he had had this
explained more in detail.
"I don't know," said the other. "How much do you own?"
"I've got about three hundred dollars," was the answer.
"Well," was Harper's reply, "I'm not sure, but I'll try and get
you off for that. I'll take the risk for friendship's sake--for
I'd hate to see you sent to state's prison for a year or two."
And so finally Jurgis ripped out his bankbook--which was sewed up
in his trousers--and signed an order, which "Bush" Harper wrote,
for all the money to be paid out. Then the latter went and got
it, and hurried to the court, and explained to the magistrate
that Jurgis was a decent fellow and a friend of Scully's, who had
been attacked by a strike-breaker. So the bail was reduced to
three hundred dollars, and Harper went on it himself; he did not
tell this to Jurgis, however--nor did he tell him that when the
time for trial came it would be an easy matter for him to avoid
the forfeiting of the bail, and pocket the three hundred dollars
as his reward for the risk of offending Mike Scully! All that he
told Jurgis was that he was now free, and that the best thing he
could do was to clear out as quickly as possible; and so Jurgis
overwhelmed with gratitude and relief, took the dollar and
fourteen cents that was left him out of all his bank account,
and put it with the two dollars and quarter that was left from his
last night's celebration, and boarded a streetcar and got off at
the other end of Chicago.
Poor Jurgis was now an outcast and a tramp once more. He was
crippled--he was as literally crippled as any wild animal which
has lost its claws, or been torn out of its shell. He had been
shorn, at one cut, of all those mysterious weapons whereby he had
been able to make a living easily and to escape the consequences
of his actions. He could no longer command a job when he wanted
it; he could no longer steal with impunity--he must take his
chances with the common herd. Nay worse, he dared not mingle
with the herd--he must hide himself, for he was one marked out
for destruction. His old companions would betray him, for the
sake of the influence they would gain thereby; and he would be
made to suffer, not merely for the offense he had committed,
but for others which would be laid at his door, just as had been
done for some poor devil on the occasion of that assault upon the
"country customer" by him and Duane.
And also he labored under another handicap now. He had acquired
new standards of living, which were not easily to be altered.
When he had been out of work before, he had been content if he
could sleep in a doorway or under a truck out of the rain, and if
he could get fifteen cents a day for saloon lunches. But now he
desired all sorts of other things, and suffered because he had to
do without them. He must have a drink now and then, a drink for
its own sake, and apart from the food that came with it. The
craving for it was strong enough to master every other
consideration--he would have it, though it were his last nickel
and he had to starve the balance of the day in consequence.
Jurgis became once more a besieger of factory gates. But never
since he had been in Chicago had he stood less chance of getting
a job than just then. For one thing, there was the economic
crisis, the million or two of men who had been out of work in the
spring and summer, and were not yet all back, by any means. And
then there was the strike, with seventy thousand men and women
all over the country idle for a couple of months--twenty thousand
in Chicago, and many of them now seeking work throughout the
city. It did not remedy matters that a few days later the strike
was given up and about half the strikers went back to work;
for every one taken on, there was a "scab" who gave up and fled.
The ten or fifteen thousand "green" Negroes, foreigners, and
criminals were now being turned loose to shift for themselves.
Everywhere Jurgis went he kept meeting them, and he was in an
agony of fear lest some one of them should know that he was
"wanted." He would have left Chicago, only by the time he had
realized his danger he was almost penniless; and it would be
better to go to jail than to be caught out in the country in the
At the end of about ten days Jurgis had only a few pennies left;
and he had not yet found a job--not even a day's work at
anything, not a chance to carry a satchel. Once again, as when
he had come out of the hospital, he was bound hand and foot, and
facing the grisly phantom of starvation. Raw, naked terror
possessed him, a maddening passion that would never leave him,
and that wore him down more quickly than the actual want of food.
He was going to die of hunger! The fiend reached out its scaly
arms for him--it touched him, its breath came into his face; and
he would cry out for the awfulness of it, he would wake up in the
night, shuddering, and bathed in perspiration, and start up and
flee. He would walk, begging for work, until he was exhausted;
he could not remain still--he would wander on, gaunt and haggard,
gazing about him with restless eyes. Everywhere he went, from
one end of the vast city to the other, there were hundreds of
others like him; everywhere was the sight of plenty and the
merciless hand of authority waving them away. There is one kind
of prison where the man is behind bars, and everything that he
desires is outside; and there is another kind where the things
are behind the bars, and the man is outside.
When he was down to his last quarter, Jurgis learned that before
the bakeshops closed at night they sold out what was left at half
price, and after that he would go and get two loaves of stale
bread for a nickel, and break them up and stuff his pockets with
them, munching a bit from time to time. He would not spend a
penny save for this; and, after two or three days more, he even
became sparing of the bread, and would stop and peer into the ash
barrels as he walked along the streets, and now and then rake out
a bit of something, shake it free from dust, and count himself
just so many minutes further from the end.
So for several days he had been going about, ravenous all the
time, and growing weaker and weaker, and then one morning he had
a hideous experience, that almost broke his heart. He was
passing down a street lined with warehouses, and a boss offered
him a job, and then, after he had started to work, turned him off
because he was not strong enough. And he stood by and saw
another man put into his place, and then picked up his coat, and
walked off, doing all that he could to keep from breaking down
and crying like a baby. He was lost! He was doomed! There was
no hope for him! But then, with a sudden rush, his fear gave
place to rage. He fell to cursing. He would come back there
after dark, and he would show that scoundrel whether he was good
for anything or not!
He was still muttering this when suddenly, at the corner, he came
upon a green-grocery, with a tray full of cabbages in front of
it. Jurgis, after one swift glance about him, stooped and seized
the biggest of them, and darted round the corner with it. There
was a hue and cry, and a score of men and boys started in chase
of him; but he came to an alley, and then to another branching
off from it and leading him into another street, where he fell
into a walk, and slipped his cabbage under his coat and went off
unsuspected in the crowd. When he had gotten a safe distance
away he sat down and devoured half the cabbage raw, stowing the
balance away in his pockets till the next day.
Just about this time one of the Chicago newspapers, which made
much of the "common people," opened a "free-soup kitchen" for the
benefit of the unemployed. Some people said that they did this
for the sake of the advertising it gave them, and some others
said that their motive was a fear lest all their readers should
be starved off; but whatever the reason, the soup was thick and
hot, and there was a bowl for every man, all night long. When
Jurgis heard of this, from a fellow "hobo," he vowed that he
would have half a dozen bowls before morning; but, as it proved,
he was lucky to get one, for there was a line of men two blocks
long before the stand, and there was just as long a line when the
place was finally closed up.
This depot was within the danger line for Jurgis--in the "Levee"
district, where he was known; but he went there, all the same,
for he was desperate, and beginning to think of even the
Bridewell as a place of refuge. So far the weather had been
fair, and he had slept out every night in a vacant lot; but now
there fell suddenly a shadow of the advancing winter, a chill
wind from the north and a driving storm of rain. That day Jurgis
bought two drinks for the sake of the shelter, and at night he
spent his last two pennies in a "stale-beer dive." This was a
place kept by a Negro, who went out and drew off the old dregs of
beer that lay in barrels set outside of the saloons; and after he
had doctored it with chemicals to make it "fizz," he sold it for
two cents a can, the purchase of a can including the privilege of
sleeping the night through upon the floor, with a mass of
degraded outcasts, men and women.
All these horrors afflicted Jurgis all the more cruelly, because
he was always contrasting them with the opportunities he had
lost. For instance, just now it was election time again--within
five or six weeks the voters of the country would select a
President; and he heard the wretches with whom he associated
discussing it, and saw the streets of the city decorated with
placards and banners--and what words could describe the pangs of
grief and despair that shot through him?
For instance, there was a night during this cold spell. He had
begged all day, for his very life, and found not a soul to heed
him, until toward evening he saw an old lady getting off a
streetcar and helped her down with her umbrellas and bundles and
then told her his "hard-luck story," and after answering all her
suspicious questions satisfactorily, was taken to a restaurant
and saw a quarter paid down for a meal. And so he had soup and
bread, and boiled beef and potatoes and beans, and pie and
coffee, and came out with his skin stuffed tight as a football.
And then, through the rain and the darkness, far down the street
he saw red lights flaring and heard the thumping of a bass drum;
and his heart gave a leap, and he made for the place on the
run--knowing without the asking that it meant a political
The campaign had so far been characterized by what the newspapers
termed "apathy." For some reason the people refused to get
excited over the struggle, and it was almost impossible to get
them to come to meetings, or to make any noise when they did
come. Those which had been held in Chicago so far had proven
most dismal failures, and tonight, the speaker being no less a
personage than a candidate for the vice-presidency of the nation,
the political managers had been trembling with anxiety. But a
merciful providence had sent this storm of cold rain--and now all
it was necessary to do was to set off a few fireworks, and thump
awhile on a drum, and all the homeless wretches from a mile
around would pour in and fill the hall! And then on the morrow
the newspapers would have a chance to report the tremendous
ovation, and to add that it had been no "silk-stocking" audience,
either, proving clearly that the high tariff sentiments of the
distinguished candidate were pleasing to the wage-earners of the
So Jurgis found himself in a large hall, elaborately decorated
with flags and bunting; and after the chairman had made his
little speech, and the orator of the evening rose up, amid an
uproar from the band--only fancy the emotions of Jurgis upon
making the discovery that the personage was none other than the
famous and eloquent Senator Spareshanks, who had addressed the
"Doyle Republican Association" at the stockyards, and helped to
elect Mike Scully's tenpin setter to the Chicago Board of
In truth, the sight of the senator almost brought the tears into
Jurgis's eyes. What agony it was to him to look back upon those
golden hours, when he, too, had a place beneath the shadow of the
plum tree! When he, too, had been of the elect, through whom the
country is governed--when he had had a bung in the campaign
barrel for his own! And this was another election in which the
Republicans had all the money; and but for that one hideous
accident he might have had a share of it, instead of being where
The eloquent senator was explaining the system of protection; an
ingenious device whereby the workingman permitted the
manufacturer to charge him higher prices, in order that he might
receive higher wages; thus taking his money out of his pocket
with one hand, and putting a part of it back with the other.
To the senator this unique arrangement had somehow become identified
with the higher verities of the universe. It was because of it
that Columbia was the gem of the ocean; and all her future
triumphs, her power and good repute among the nations, depended
upon the zeal and fidelity with which each citizen held up the
hands of those who were toiling to maintain it. The name of this
heroic company was "the Grand Old Party"--
And here the band began to play, and Jurgis sat up with a violent
start. Singular as it may seem, Jurgis was making a desperate
effort to understand what the senator was saying--to comprehend
the extent of American prosperity, the enormous expansion of
American commerce, and the Republic's future in the Pacific and
in South America, and wherever else the oppressed were groaning.
The reason for it was that he wanted to keep awake. He knew that
if he allowed himself to fall asleep he would begin to snore
loudly; and so he must listen--he must be interested! But he had
eaten such a big dinner, and he was so exhausted, and the hall
was so warm, and his seat was so comfortable! The senator's
gaunt form began to grow dim and hazy, to tower before him and
dance about, with figures of exports and imports. Once his
neighbor gave him a savage poke in the ribs, and he sat up with a
start and tried to look innocent; but then he was at it again,
and men began to stare at him with annoyance, and to call out in
vexation. Finally one of them called a policeman, who came and
grabbed Jurgis by the collar, and jerked him to his feet,
bewildered and terrified. Some of the audience turned to see the
commotion, and Senator Spareshanks faltered in his speech; but a
voice shouted cheerily: "We're just firing a bum! Go ahead, old
sport!" And so the crowd roared, and the senator smiled genially,
and went on; and in a few seconds poor Jurgis found himself
landed out in the rain, with a kick and a string of curses.
He got into the shelter of a doorway and took stock of himself.
He was not hurt, and he was not arrested--more than he had any
right to expect. He swore at himself and his luck for a while,
and then turned his thoughts to practical matters. He had no
money, and no place to sleep; he must begin begging again.
He went out, hunching his shoulders together and shivering at the
touch of the icy rain. Coming down the street toward him was a
lady, well dressed, and protected by an umbrella; and he turned
and walked beside her. "Please, ma'am," he began, "could you
lend me the price of a night's lodging? I'm a poor working-
Then, suddenly, he stopped short. By the light of a street lamp
he had caught sight of the lady's face. He knew her.
It was Alena Jasaityte, who had been the belle of his wedding
feast! Alena Jasaityte, who had looked so beautiful, and danced
with such a queenly air, with Juozas Raczius, the teamster!
Jurgis had only seen her once or twice afterward, for Juozas had
thrown her over for another girl, and Alena had gone away from
Packingtown, no one knew where. And now he met her here!
She was as much surprised as he was. "Jurgis Rudkus!" she
gasped. "And what in the world is the matter with you?"
"I--I've had hard luck," he stammered. "I'm out of work, and
I've no home and no money. And you, Alena--are you married?"
"No," she answered, "I'm not married, but I've got a good place."
They stood staring at each other for a few moments longer.
Finally Alena spoke again. "Jurgis," she said, "I'd help you if
I could, upon my word I would, but it happens that I've come out
without my purse, and I honestly haven't a penny with me: I can
do something better for you, though--I can tell you how to get
help. I can tell you where Marija is."
Jurgis gave a start. "Marija!" he exclaimed.
"Yes," said Alena; "and she'll help you. She's got a place,
and she's doing well; she'll be glad to see you."
It was not much more than a year since Jurgis had left
Packingtown, feeling like one escaped from jail; and it had been
from Marija and Elzbieta that he was escaping. But now, at the
mere mention of them, his whole being cried out with joy. He
wanted to see them; he wanted to go home! They would help
him--they would be kind to him. In a flash he had thought over
the situation. He had a good excuse for running away--his grief
at the death of his son; and also he had a good excuse for not
returning--the fact that they had left Packingtown. "All right,"
he said, "I'll go."
So she gave him a number on Clark Street, adding, "There's no
need to give you my address, because Marija knows it." And Jurgis
set out, without further ado. He found a large brownstone house
of aristocratic appearance, and rang the basement bell. A young
colored girl came to the door, opening it about an inch,
and gazing at him suspiciously.
"What do you want?" she demanded.
"Does Marija Berczynskas live here?" he inquired.
"I dunno," said the girl. "What you want wid her?"
"I want to see her," said he; "she's a relative of mine."
The girl hesitated a moment. Then she opened the door and said,
"Come in." Jurgis came and stood in the hall, and she continued:
"I'll go see. What's yo' name?"
"Tell her it's Jurgis," he answered, and the girl went upstairs.
She came back at the end of a minute or two, and replied, "Dey
ain't no sich person here."
Jurgis's heart went down into his boots. "I was told this was
where she lived!" he cried. But the girl only shook her head.
"De lady says dey ain't no sich person here," she said.
And he stood for a moment, hesitating, helpless with dismay.
Then he turned to go to the door. At the same instant, however,
there came a knock upon it, and the girl went to open it. Jurgis
heard the shuffling of feet, and then heard her give a cry;
and the next moment she sprang back, and past him, her eyes shining
white with terror, and bounded up the stairway, screaming at the
top of her lungs: "Police! Police! We're pinched!"
Jurgis stood for a second, bewildered. Then, seeing blue-coated
forms rushing upon him, he sprang after the Negress. Her cries
had been the signal for a wild uproar above; the house was full
of people, and as he entered the hallway he saw them rushing
hither and thither, crying and screaming with alarm. There were
men and women, the latter clad for the most part in wrappers,
the former in all stages of dishabille. At one side Jurgis caught a
glimpse of a big apartment with plush-covered chairs, and tables
covered with trays and glasses. There were playing cards
scattered all over the floor--one of the tables had been upset,
and bottles of wine were rolling about, their contents running
out upon the carpet. There was a young girl who had fainted,
and two men who were supporting her; and there were a dozen others
crowding toward the front door.
Suddenly, however, there came a series of resounding blows upon
it, causing the crowd to give back. At the same instant a stout
woman, with painted cheeks and diamonds in her ears, came running
down the stairs, panting breathlessly: "To the rear! Quick!"
She led the way to a back staircase, Jurgis following; in the
kitchen she pressed a spring, and a cupboard gave way and opened,
disclosing a dark passageway. "Go in!" she cried to the crowd,
which now amounted to twenty or thirty, and they began to pass
through. Scarcely had the last one disappeared, however, before
there were cries from in front, and then the panic-stricken
throng poured out again, exclaiming: "They're there too! We're
"Upstairs!" cried the woman, and there was another rush of the
mob, women and men cursing and screaming and fighting to be
first. One flight, two, three--and then there was a ladder to
the roof, with a crowd packed at the foot of it, and one man at
the top, straining and struggling to lift the trap door. It was
not to be stirred, however, and when the woman shouted up to
unhook it, he answered: "It's already unhooked. There's somebody
sitting on it!"
And a moment later came a voice from downstairs: "You might as
well quit, you people. We mean business, this time."
So the crowd subsided; and a few moments later several policemen
came up, staring here and there, and leering at their victims.
Of the latter the men were for the most part frightened and
sheepish-looking. The women took it as a joke, as if they were
used to it--though if they had been pale, one could not have
told, for the paint on their cheeks. One black-eyed young girl
perched herself upon the top of the balustrade, and began to kick
with her slippered foot at the helmets of the policemen, until
one of them caught her by the ankle and pulled her down. On the
floor below four or five other girls sat upon trunks in the hall,
making fun of the procession which filed by them. They were
noisy and hilarious, and had evidently been drinking; one of
them, who wore a bright red kimono, shouted and screamed in a
voice that drowned out all the other sounds in the hall--and
Jurgis took a glance at her, and then gave a start, and a cry,
She heard him, and glanced around; then she shrank back and half
sprang to her feet in amazement. "Jurgis!" she gasped.
For a second or two they stood staring at each other. "How did
you come here?" Marija exclaimed.
"I came to see you," he answered.
"But how did you know--who told you I was here?"
"Alena Jasaityte. I met her on the street."
Again there was a silence, while they gazed at each other. The
rest of the crowd was watching them, and so Marija got up and
came closer to him. "And you?" Jurgis asked. "You live here?"
"Yes," said Marija, "I live here." Then suddenly came a hail from
below: "Get your clothes on now, girls, and come along. You'd
best begin, or you'll be sorry--it's raining outside."
"Br-r-r!" shivered some one, and the women got up and entered the
various doors which lined the hallway.
"Come," said Marija, and took Jurgis into her room, which was a
tiny place about eight by six, with a cot and a chair and a
dressing stand and some dresses hanging behind the door. There
were clothes scattered about on the floor, and hopeless confusion
everywhere--boxes of rouge and bottles of perfume mixed with hats
and soiled dishes on the dresser, and a pair of slippers and a
clock and a whisky bottle on a chair.
Marija had nothing on but a kimono and a pair of stockings;
yet she proceeded to dress before Jurgis, and without even taking the
trouble to close the door. He had by this time divined what sort
of a place he was in; and he had seen a great deal of the world
since he had left home, and was not easy to shock--and yet it
gave him a painful start that Marija should do this. They had
always been decent people at home, and it seemed to him that the
memory of old times ought to have ruled her. But then he laughed
at himself for a fool. What was he, to be pretending to decency!
"How long have you been living here?" he asked.
"Nearly a year," she answered.
"Why did you come?"
"I had to live," she said; "and I couldn't see the children
He paused for a moment, watching her. "You were out of work?" he
"I got sick," she replied. "and after that I had no money. And
then Stanislovas died--"
"Yes," said Marija, "I forgot. You didn't know about it."
"How did he die?"
"Rats killed him," she answered.
Jurgis gave a gasp. "Rats killed him!"
"Yes," said the other; she was bending over, lacing her shoes as
she spoke. "He was working in an oil factory--at least he was
hired by the men to get their beer. He used to carry cans on a
long pole; and he'd drink a little out of each can, and one day
he drank too much, and fell asleep in a corner, and got locked up
in the place all night. When they found him the rats had killed
him and eaten him nearly all up."
Jurgis sat, frozen with horror. Marija went on lacing up her
shoes. There was a long silence.
Suddenly a big policeman came to the door. "Hurry up, there," he
"As quick as I can," said Marija, and she stood up and began
putting on her corsets with feverish haste.
"Are the rest of the people alive?" asked Jurgis, finally.
"Yes," she said.
"Where are they?"
"They live not far from here. They're all right now."
"They are working?" he inquired.