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The Jungle Upton Sinclair

Chapter 28

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After breakfast Jurgis was driven to the court, which was crowded with the prisoners and those who had come out of curiosity or in the hope of recognizing one of the men and getting a case for blackmail. The men were called up first, and reprimanded in a bunch, and then dismissed; but, Jurgis to his terror, was called separately, as being a suspicious-looking case. It was in this very same court that he had been tried, that time when his sentence had been "suspended"; it was the same judge, and the same clerk. The latter now stared at Jurgis, as if he half thought that he knew him; but the judge had no suspicions--just then his thoughts were upon a telephone message he was expecting from a friend of the police captain of the district, telling what disposition he should make of the case of "Polly" Simpson, as the "madame" of the house was known. Meantime, he listened to the story of how Jurgis had been looking for his sister, and advised him dryly to keep his sister in a better place; then he let him go, and proceeded to fine each of the girls five dollars, which fines were paid in a bunch from a wad of bills which Madame Polly extracted from her stocking.

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Jurgis waited outside and walked home with Marija. The police had left the house, and already there were a few visitors; by evening the place would be running again, exactly as if nothing had happened. Meantime, Marija took Jurgis upstairs to her room, and they sat and talked. By daylight, Jurgis was able to observe that the color on her cheeks was not the old natural one of abounding health; her complexion was in reality a parchment yellow, and there were black rings under her eyes.

"Have you been sick?" he asked.

"Sick?" she said. "Hell!" (Marija had learned to scatter her conversation with as many oaths as a longshoreman or a mule driver.) "How can I ever be anything but sick, at this life?"

She fell silent for a moment, staring ahead of her gloomily. "It's morphine," she said, at last. "I seem to take more of it every day."

"What's that for?" he asked.

"It's the way of it; I don't know why. If it isn't that, it's drink. If the girls didn't booze they couldn't stand it any time at all. And the madame always gives them dope when they first come, and they learn to like it; or else they take it for headaches and such things, and get the habit that way. I've got it, I know; I've tried to quit, but I never will while I'm here."

"How long are you going to stay?" he asked.

"I don't know," she said. "Always, I guess. What else could I do?"

"Don't you save any money?"

"Save!" said Marija. "Good Lord, no! I get enough, I suppose, but it all goes. I get a half share, two dollars and a half for each customer, and sometimes I make twenty-five or thirty dollars a night, and you'd think I ought to save something out of that! But then I am charged for my room and my meals--and such prices as you never heard of; and then for extras, and drinks--for everything I get, and some I don't. My laundry bill is nearly twenty dollars each week alone--think of that! Yet what can I do? I either have to stand it or quit, and it would be the same anywhere else. It's all I can do to save the fifteen dollars I give Elzbieta each week, so the children can go to school."

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The Jungle
Upton Sinclair

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