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«The Jungle By Upton Sinclair Chapter 17 At seven o’clock the next morning Jurgis was let out to get water to wash his cell—a duty which he ...»

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The Jungle


Upton Sinclair

Chapter 17

At seven o’clock the next morning Jurgis was let out to get water to

wash his cell—a duty which he performed faithfully, but which most of

the prisoners were accustomed to shirk, until their cells became so filthy

that the guards interposed. Then he had more “duffers and dope,” and

afterward was allowed three hours for exercise, in a long, cementwalked court roofed with glass. Here were all the inmates of the jail

crowded together. At one side of the court was a place for visitors, cut off by two heavy wire screens, a foot apart, so that nothing could be passed in to the prisoners; here Jurgis watched anxiously, but there came no one to see him.

Soon after he went back to his cell, a keeper opened the door to let in another prisoner. He was a dapper young fellow, with a light brown mustache and blue eyes, and a graceful figure. He nodded to Jurgis, and then, as the keeper closed the door upon him, began gazing critically about him.

“Well, pal,” he said, as his glance encountered Jurgis again, “good morning.” “Good morning,” said Jurgis.

“A rum go for Christmas, eh?” added the other.

The Jungle: Chapter 17 by Upton Sinclair Jurgis nodded.

The newcomer went to the bunks and inspected the blankets; he lifted up the mattress, and then dropped it with an exclamation. “My God!” he said, “that’s the worst yet.” He glanced at Jurgis again. “Looks as if it hadn’t been slept in last night.

Couldn’t stand it, eh?” “I didn’t want to sleep last night,” said Jurgis.

“When did you come in?” “Yesterday.” The other had another look around, and then wrinkled up his nose.

“There’s the devil of a stink in here,” he said, suddenly. “What is it?” “It’s me,” said Jurgis.

“You?” “Yes, me.” “Didn’t they make you wash?” “Yes, but this don’t wash.” “What is it?” “Fertilizer.” “Fertilizer! The deuce! What are you?” Created for Lit2Go on the web at etc.usf.edu The Jungle: Chapter 17 by Upton Sinclair “I work in the stockyards—at least I did until the other day. It’s in my clothes.” “That’s a new one on me,” said the newcomer. “I thought I’d been up against ‘em all. What are you in for?” “I hit my boss.” “Oh—that’s it. What did he do?” “He—he treated me mean.” “I see. You’re what’s called an honest workingman!” “What are you?” Jurgis asked.

“I?” The other laughed. “They say I’m a cracksman,” he said.

“What’s that?” asked Jurgis.

“Safes, and such things,” answered the other.

“Oh,” said Jurgis, wonderingly, and stated at the speaker in awe. “You mean you break into them—you—you—” “Yes,” laughed the other, “that’s what they say.” He did not look to be over twenty-two or three, though, as Jurgis found afterward, he was thirty. He spoke like a man of education, like what the world calls a “gentleman.” “Is that what you’re here for?” Jurgis inquired.

–  –  –

“What’s your name?” the young fellow continued after a pause. “My name’s Duane—Jack Duane. I’ve more than a dozen, but that’s my company one.” He seated himself on the floor with his back to the wall and his legs crossed, and went on talking easily; he soon put Jurgis on a friendly footing—he was evidently a man of the world, used to getting on, and not too proud to hold conversation with a mere laboring man. He drew Jurgis out, and heard all about his life all but the one unmentionable thing; and then he told stories about his own life. He was a great one for stories, not always of the choicest. Being sent to jail had apparently not disturbed his cheerfulness; he had “done time” twice before, it seemed, and he took it all with a frolic welcome. What with women and wine and the excitement of his vocation, a man could afford to rest now and then.

Naturally, the aspect of prison life was changed for Jurgis by the arrival of a cell mate. He could not turn his face to the wall and sulk, he had to speak when he was spoken to; nor could he help being interested in the conversation of Duane—the first educated man with whom he had ever talked. How could he help listening with wonder while the other told of midnight ventures and perilous escapes, of feastings and orgies, of fortunes squandered in a night? The young fellow had an amused contempt for Jurgis, as a sort of working mule; he, too, had felt the world’s injustice, but instead of bearing it patiently, he had struck back, and struck hard. He was striking all the time—there was war between him and society. He was a genial freebooter, living off the enemy, without fear or shame. He was not always victorious, but then defeat did not mean annihilation, and need not break his spirit.

Withal he was a goodhearted fellow—too much so, it appeared. His story came out, not in the first day, nor the second, but in the long hours that dragged by, in which they had nothing to do but talk and nothing to talk of but themselves. Jack Duane was from the East; he was a collegebred man—had been studying electrical engineering. Then his father had met with misfortune in business and killed himself; and there had been Created for Lit2Go on the web at etc.usf.edu

The Jungle: Chapter 17 by Upton Sinclair

his mother and a younger brother and sister. Also, there was an invention of Duane’s; Jurgis could not understand it clearly, but it had to do with telegraphing, and it was a very important thing—there were fortunes in it, millions upon millions of dollars. And Duane had been robbed of it by a great company, and got tangled up in lawsuits and lost all his money.

Then somebody had given him a tip on a horse race, and he had tried to retrieve his fortune with another person’s money, and had to run away, and all the rest had come from that. The other asked him what had led him to safebreaking—to Jurgis a wild and appalling occupation to think about. A man he had met, his cell mate had replied—one thing leads to another. Didn’t he ever wonder about his family, Jurgis asked.

Sometimes, the other answered, but not often—he didn’t allow it.

Thinking about it would make it no better. This wasn’t a world in which a man had any business with a family; sooner or later Jurgis would find that out also, and give up the fight and shift for himself.

Jurgis was so transparently what he pretended to be that his cell mate was as open with him as a child; it was pleasant to tell him adventures, he was so full of wonder and admiration, he was so new to the ways of the country. Duane did not even bother to keep back names and places— he told all his triumphs and his failures, his loves and his griefs. Also he introduced Jurgis to many of the other prisoners, nearly half of whom he knew by name. The crowd had already given Jurgis a name—they called him “he stinker.” This was cruel, but they meant no harm by it, and he took it with a goodnatured grin.

Our friend had caught now and then a whiff from the sewers over which he lived, but this was the first time that he had ever been splashed by their filth. This jail was a Noah’s ark of the city’s crime—there were murderers, “hold-up men” and burglars, embezzlers, counterfeiters and forgers, bigamists, “shoplifters,” “confidence men,” petty thieves and pickpockets, gamblers and procurers, brawlers, beggars, tramps and drunkards; they were black and white, old and young, Americans and natives of every nation under the sun. There were hardened criminals Created for Lit2Go on the web at etc.usf.edu

The Jungle: Chapter 17 by Upton Sinclair

and innocent men too poor to give bail; old men, and boys literally not yet in their teens. They were the drainage of the great festering ulcer of society; they were hideous to look upon, sickening to talk to. All life had turned to rottenness and stench in them—love was a beastliness, joy was a snare, and God was an imprecation. They strolled here and there about the courtyard, and Jurgis listened to them. He was ignorant and they were wise; they had been everywhere and tried everything. They could tell the whole hateful story of it, set forth the inner soul of a city in which justice and honor, women’s bodies and men’s souls, were for sale in the marketplace, and human beings writhed and fought and fell upon each other like wolves in a pit; in which lusts were raging fires, and men were fuel, and humanity was festering and stewing and wallowing in its own corruption. Into this wild-beast tangle these men had been born without their consent, they had taken part in it because they could not help it; that they were in jail was no disgrace to them, for the game had never been fair, the dice were loaded. They were swindlers and thieves of pennies and dimes, and they had been trapped and put out of the way by the swindlers and thieves of millions of dollars.

To most of this Jurgis tried not to listen. They frightened him with their savage mockery; and all the while his heart was far away, where his loved ones were calling. Now and then in the midst of it his thoughts would take flight; and then the tears would come into his eyes—and he would be called back by the jeering laughter of his companions.

He spent a week in this company, and during all that time he had no word from his home. He paid one of his fifteen cents for a postal card, and his companion wrote a note to the family, telling them where he was and when he would be tried. There came no answer to it, however, and at last, the day before New Year’s, Jurgis bade good-by to Jack Duane. The latter gave him his address, or rather the address of his mistress, and Created for Lit2Go on the web at etc.usf.edu

The Jungle: Chapter 17 by Upton Sinclair

made Jurgis promise to look him up. “Maybe I could help you out of a hole some day,” he said, and added that he was sorry to have him go.

Jurgis rode in the patrol wagon back to Justice Callahan’s court for trial.

One of the first things he made out as he entered the room was Teta Elzbieta and little Kotrina, looking pale and frightened, seated far in the rear. His heart began to pound, but he did not dare to try to signal to them, and neither did Elzbieta. He took his seat in the prisoners’ pen and sat gazing at them in helpless agony. He saw that Ona was not with them, and was full of foreboding as to what that might mean. He spent half an hour brooding over this—and then suddenly he straightened up and the blood rushed into his face. A man had come in—Jurgis could not see his features for the bandages that swathed him, but he knew the burly figure. It was Connor! A trembling seized him, and his limbs bent as if for a spring. Then suddenly he felt a hand on his collar, and heard a voice behind him: “Sit down, you son of a—!” He subsided, but he never took his eyes off his enemy. The fellow was still alive, which was a disappointment, in one way; and yet it was pleasant to see him, all in penitential plasters. He and the company lawyer, who was with him, came and took seats within the judge’s railing; and a minute later the clerk called Jurgis’ name, and the policeman jerked him to his feet and led him before the bar, gripping him tightly by the arm, lest he should spring upon the boss.

Jurgis listened while the man entered the witness chair, took the oath, and told his story. The wife of the prisoner had been employed in a department near him, and had been discharged for impudence to him.

Half an hour later he had been violently attacked, knocked down, and almost choked to death. He had brought witnesses—

–  –  –

“Him?” inquired Jurgis, pointing at the boss.

“Yes,” said the judge. “I hit him, sir,” said Jurgis.

“Say ‘your Honor,’” said the officer, pinching his arm hard.

“Your Honor,” said Jurgis, obediently.

“You tried to choke him?” “Yes, sir, your Honor.” “Ever been arrested before?” “No, sir, your Honor.” “What have you to say for yourself?” Jurgis hesitated. What had he to say? In two years and a half he had learned to speak English for practical purposes, but these had never included the statement that some one had intimidated and seduced his wife. He tried once or twice, stammering and balking, to the annoyance of the judge, who was gasping from the odor of fertilizer. Finally, the prisoner made it understood that his vocabulary was inadequate, and there stepped up a dapper young man with waxed mustaches, bidding him speak in any language he knew.

Jurgis began; supposing that he would be given time, he explained how the boss had taken advantage of his wife’s position to make advances to her and had threatened her with the loss of her place. When the interpreter had translated this, the judge, whose calendar was crowded, and whose automobile was ordered for a certain hour, interrupted with the remark: “Oh, I see. Well, if he made love to your wife, why didn’t she complain to the superintendent or leave the place?” Created for Lit2Go on the web at etc.usf.edu

The Jungle: Chapter 17 by Upton Sinclair

Jurgis hesitated, somewhat taken aback; he began to explain that they were very poor—that work was hard to get— “I see,” said Justice Callahan; “so instead you thought you would knock him down.” He turned to the plaintiff, inquiring, “Is there any truth in this story, Mr. Connor?” “Not a particle, your Honor,” said the boss. “It is very unpleasant—they tell some such tale every time you have to discharge a woman—” “Yes, I know,” said the judge. “I hear it often enough. The fellow seems to have handled you pretty roughly. Thirty days and costs. Next case.” Jurgis had been listening in perplexity. It was only when the policeman who had him by the arm turned and started to lead him away that he realized that sentence had been passed. He gazed round him wildly.

“Thirty days!” he panted and then he whirled upon the judge. “What will my family do?” he cried frantically. “I have a wife and baby, sir, and they have no money—my God, they will starve to death!” “You would have done well to think about them before you committed the assault,” said the judge dryly, as he turned to look at the next prisoner.

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