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The Jungle Upton Sinclair

Chapter 15

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Her words fairly drove him wild. He tore his hands loose, and flung her off. "Answer me," he cried. "God damn it, I say--answer me!"

She sank down upon the floor, beginning to cry again. It was like listening to the moan of a damned soul, and Jurgis could not stand it. He smote his fist upon the table by his side, and shouted again at her, "Answer me!"

She began to scream aloud, her voice like the voice of some wild beast: "Ah! Ah! I can't! I can't do it!"

"Why can't you do it?" he shouted.

"I don't know how!"

He sprang and caught her by the arm, lifting her up, and glaring into her face. "Tell me where you were last night!" he panted. "Quick, out with it!"

Then she began to whisper, one word at a time: "I--was in--a house-- downtown--"

"What house? What do you mean?"

She tried to hide her eyes away, but he held her. "Miss Henderson's house," she gasped. He did not understand at first. "Miss Henderson's house," he echoed. And then suddenly, as in an explosion, the horrible truth burst over him, and he reeled and staggered back with a scream. He caught himself against the wall, and put his hand to his forehead, staring about him, and whispering, "Jesus! Jesus!"

An instant later he leaped at her, as she lay groveling at his feet. He seized her by the throat. "Tell me!" he gasped, hoarsely. Quick! Who took you to that place?"

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She tried to get away, making him furious; he thought it was fear, of the pain of his clutch--he did not understand that it was the agony of her shame. Still she answered him, "Connor."

"Connor," he gasped. "Who is Connor?"

"The boss," she answered. "The man--"

He tightened his grip, in his frenzy, and only when he saw her eyes closing did he realize that he was choking her. Then he relaxed his fingers, and crouched, waiting, until she opened her lids again. His breath beat hot into her face.

"Tell me," he whispered, at last, "tell me about it."

She lay perfectly motionless, and he had to hold his breath to catch her words. "I did not want--to do it," she said; "I tried--I tried not to do it. I only did it--to save us. It was our only chance."

Again, for a space, there was no sound but his panting. Ona's eyes closed and when she spoke again she did not open them. "He told me-- he would have me turned off. He told me he would--we would all of us lose our places. We could never get anything to do--here--again. He--he meant it--he would have ruined us."

Jurgis' arms were shaking so that he could scarcely hold himself up, and lurched forward now and then as he listened. "When--when did this begin?" he gasped.

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The Jungle
Upton Sinclair

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