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The Jungle Upton Sinclair

Chapter 17

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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, cement-walked 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.

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?"


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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.


"Yes, me."

"Didn't they make you wash?"

"Yes, but this don't wash."

"What is it?"


"Fertilizer! The deuce! What are you?"

"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--"

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The Jungle
Upton Sinclair

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