|Back||1 2 3 4 5||Next|
"Yes," she said.
"Where are they?"
"They live not far from here. They're all right now."
"They are working?" he inquired.
"Elzbieta is," said Marija, "when she can. I take care of them most of the time--I'm making plenty of money now."
Jurgis was silent for a moment. "Do they know you live here--how you live?" he asked.
"Elzbieta knows," answered Marija. "I couldn't lie to her. And maybe the children have found out by this time. It's nothing to be ashamed of--we can't help it."
"And Tamoszius?" he asked. "Does he know?"
Marija shrugged her shoulders. "How do I know?" she said. "I haven't seen him for over a year. He got blood poisoning and lost one finger, and couldn't play the violin any more; and then he went away."
Marija was standing in front of the glass fastening her dress. Jurgis sat staring at her. He could hardly believe that she was the same woman he had known in the old days; she was so quiet--so hard! It struck fear to his heart to watch her.
Then suddenly she gave a glance at him. "You look as if you had been having a rough time of it yourself," she said.
"I have," he answered. "I haven't a cent in my pockets, and nothing to do."
"Where have you been?"
"All over. I've been hoboing it. Then I went back to the yards--just before the strike." He paused for a moment, hesitating. "I asked for you," he added. "I found you had gone away, no one knew where. Perhaps you think I did you a dirty trick. running away as I did, Marija--"
"No," she answered, "I don't blame you. We never have--any of us. You did your best--the job was too much for us." She paused a moment, then added: "We were too ignorant--that was the trouble. We didn't stand any chance. If I'd known what I know now we'd have won out."
"You'd have come here?" said Jurgis.
"Yes," she answered; "but that's not what I meant. I meant you--how differently you would have behaved--about Ona."
Jurgis was silent; he had never thought of that aspect of it.
"When people are starving," the other continued, "and they have anything with a price, they ought to sell it, I say. I guess you realize it now when it's too late. Ona could have taken care of us all, in the beginning." Marija spoke without emotion, as one who had come to regard things from the business point of view.
"I--yes, I guess so," Jurgis answered hesitatingly. He did not add that he had paid three hundred dollars, and a foreman's job, for the satisfaction of knocking down "Phil" Connor a second time.
The policeman came to the door again just then. "Come on, now," he said. "Lively!"
"All right," said Marija, reaching for her hat, which was big enough to be a drum major's, and full of ostrich feathers. She went out into the hall and Jurgis followed, the policeman remaining to look under the bed and behind the door
"What's going to come of this?" Jurgis asked, as they started down the steps.
"The raid, you mean? Oh, nothing--it happens to us every now and then. The madame's having some sort of time with the police; I don't know what it is, but maybe they'll come to terms before morning. Anyhow, they won't do anything to you. They always let the men off."
"Maybe so," he responded, "but not me--I'm afraid I'm in for it."
"How do you mean?"
"I'm wanted by the police," he said, lowering his voice, though of course their conversation was in Lithuanian. "They'll send me up for a year or two, I'm afraid."
"Hell!" said Marija. "That's too bad. I'll see if I can't get you off."
Downstairs, where the greater part of the prisoners were now massed, she sought out the stout personage with the diamond earrings, and had a few whispered words with her. The latter then approached the police sergeant who was in charge of the raid. "Billy," she said, pointing to Jurgis, "there's a fellow who came in to see his sister. He'd just got in the door when you knocked. You aren't taking hoboes, are you?"
The sergeant laughed as he looked at Jurgis. "Sorry," he said, "but the orders are every one but the servants."
So Jurgis slunk in among the rest of the men, who kept dodging behind each other like sheep that have smelled a wolf. There were old men and young men, college boys and gray-beards old enough to be their grandfathers; some of them wore evening dress--there was no one among them save Jurgis who showed any signs of poverty.
When the roundup was completed, the doors were opened and the party marched out. Three patrol wagons were drawn up at the curb, and the whole neighborhood had turned out to see the sport; there was much chaffing, and a universal craning of necks. The women stared about them with defiant eyes, or laughed and joked, while the men kept their heads bowed, and their hats pulled over their faces. They were crowded into the patrol wagons as if into streetcars, and then off they went amid a din of cheers. At the station house Jurgis gave a Polish name and was put into a cell with half a dozen others; and while these sat and talked in whispers, he lay down in a corner and gave himself up to his thoughts.
Jurgis had looked into the deepest reaches of the social pit, and grown used to the sights in them. Yet when he had thought of all humanity as vile and hideous, he had somehow always excepted his own family. that he had loved; and now this sudden horrible discovery--Marija a whore, and Elzbieta and the children living off her shame! Jurgis might argue with himself all he chose, that he had done worse, and was a fool for caring--but still he could not get over the shock of that sudden unveiling, he could not help being sunk in grief because of it. The depths of him were troubled and shaken, memories were stirred in him that had been sleeping so long he had counted them dead. Memories of the old life--his old hopes and his old yearnings, his old dreams of decency and independence! He saw Ona again, he heard her gentle voice pleading with him. He saw little Antanas, whom he had meant to make a man. He saw his trembling old father, who had blessed them all with his wonderful love. He lived again through that day of horror when he had discovered Ona's shame--God, how he had suffered, what a madman he had been! How dreadful it had all seemed to him; and now, today, he had sat and listened, and half agreed when Marija told him he had been a fool! Yes--told him that he ought to have sold his wife's honor and lived by it!--And then there was Stanislovas and his awful fate--that brief story which Marija had narrated so calmly, with such dull indifference! The poor little fellow, with his frostbitten fingers and his terror of the snow--his wailing voice rang in Jurgis's ears, as he lay there in the darkness, until the sweat started on his forehead. Now and then he would quiver with a sudden spasm of horror, at the picture of little Stanislovas shut up in the deserted building and fighting for his life with the rats!
All these emotions had become strangers to the soul of Jurgis; it was so long since they had troubled him that he had ceased to think they might ever trouble him again. Helpless, trapped, as he was, what good did they do him--why should he ever have allowed them to torment him? It had been the task of his recent life to fight them down, to crush them out of him, never in his life would he have suffered from them again, save that they had caught him unawares, and overwhelmed him before he could protect himself. He heard the old voices of his soul, he saw its old ghosts beckoning to him, stretching out their arms to him! But they were far-off and shadowy, and the gulf between them was black and bottomless; they would fade away into the mists of the past once more. Their voices would die, and never again would he hear them--and so the last faint spark of manhood in his soul would flicker out.
|Back||1 2 3 4 5||Next|
The Jungle -by- Upton Sinclair