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The Jungle Upton Sinclair

Chapter 27

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"How long have you been living here?" he asked.

"Nearly a year," she answered.

"Why did you come?"

"I had to live," she said; "and I couldn't see the children starve."

He paused for a moment, watching her. "You were out of work?" he asked, finally.

"I got sick," she replied. "and after that I had no money. And then Stanislovas died--"

"Stanislovas dead!"

"Yes," said Marija, "I forgot. You didn't know about it."

"How did he die?"

"Rats killed him," she answered.

Jurgis gave a gasp. "Rats killed him!"

"Yes," said the other; she was bending over, lacing her shoes as she spoke. "He was working in an oil factory--at least he was hired by the men to get their beer. He used to carry cans on a long pole; and he'd drink a little out of each can, and one day he drank too much, and fell asleep in a corner, and got locked up in the place all night. When they found him the rats had killed him and eaten him nearly all up."

Jurgis sat, frozen with horror. Marija went on lacing up her shoes. There was a long silence.

Suddenly a big policeman came to the door. "Hurry up, there," he said.

"As quick as I can," said Marija, and she stood up and began putting on her corsets with feverish haste.

"Are the rest of the people alive?" asked Jurgis, finally.

"Yes," she said.

"Where are they?"

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"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.

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The Jungle
Upton Sinclair

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