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The Jungle Upton Sinclair

Chapter 18

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"We couldn't promise, Jurgis," protested Marija. "We had no money-- we have scarcely been able to keep alive."

"But I can work," Jurgis exclaimed. "I can earn money!"

"Yes," she answered--"but we thought you were in jail. How could we know when you would return? They will not work for nothing."

Marija went on to tell how she had tried to find a midwife, and how they had demanded ten, fifteen, even twenty-five dollars, and that in cash. "And I had only a quarter," she said. "I have spent every cent of my money--all that I had in the bank; and I owe the doctor who has been coming to see me, and he has stopped because he thinks I don't mean to pay him. And we owe Aniele for two weeks' rent, and she is nearly starving, and is afraid of being turned out. We have been borrowing and begging to keep alive, and there is nothing more we can do--"

"And the children?" cried Jurgis.

"The children have not been home for three days, the weather has been so bad. They could not know what is happening--it came suddenly, two months before we expected it."

Jurgis was standing by the table, and he caught himself with his hand; his head sank and his arms shook--it looked as if he were going to collapse. Then suddenly Aniele got up and came hobbling toward him, fumbling in her skirt pocket. She drew out a dirty rag, in one corner of which she had something tied.

"Here, Jurgis!" she said, "I have some money. Palauk! See!"

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She unwrapped it and counted it out--thirty-four cents. "You go, now," she said, "and try and get somebody yourself. And maybe the rest can help--give him some money, you; he will pay you back some day, and it will do him good to have something to think about, even if he doesn't succeed. When he comes back, maybe it will be over."

And so the other women turned out the contents of their pocketbooks; most of them had only pennies and nickels, but they gave him all. Mrs. Olszewski, who lived next door, and had a husband who was a skilled cattle butcher, but a drinking man, gave nearly half a dollar, enough to raise the whole sum to a dollar and a quarter. Then Jurgis thrust it into his pocket, still holding it tightly in his fist, and started away at a run.

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The Jungle
Upton Sinclair

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