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The Jungle Upton Sinclair

Chapter 17

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"I did--I did!" wailed Stanislovas, shrinking from him in terror. "I tried all day--two days. Elzbieta was with me, and she couldn't either. We couldn't walk at all, it was so deep. And we had nothing to eat, and oh, it was so cold! I tried, and then the third day Ona went with me--"


"Yes. She tried to get to work, too. She had to. We were all starving. But she had lost her place--"

Jurgis reeled, and gave a gasp. "She went back to that place?" he screamed. "She tried to," said Stanislovas, gazing at him in perplexity. "Why not, Jurgis?"

The man breathed hard, three or four times. "Go--on," he panted, finally.

"I went with her," said Stanislovas, "but Miss Henderson wouldn't take her back. And Connor saw her and cursed her. He was still bandaged up--why did you hit him, Jurgis?" (There was some fascinating mystery about this, the little fellow knew; but he could get no satisfaction.)

Jurgis could not speak; he could only stare, his eyes starting out. "She has been trying to get other work," the boy went on; "but she's so weak she can't keep up. And my boss would not take me back, either--Ona says he knows Connor, and that's the reason; they've all got a grudge against us now. So I've got to go downtown and sell papers with the rest of the boys and Kotrina--"


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"Yes, she's been selling papers, too. She does best, because she's a girl. Only the cold is so bad--it's terrible coming home at night, Jurgis. Sometimes they can't come home at all--I'm going to try to find them tonight and sleep where they do, it's so late and it's such a long ways home. I've had to walk, and I didn't know where it was-- I don't know how to get back, either. Only mother said I must come, because you would want to know, and maybe somebody would help your family when they had put you in jail so you couldn't work. And I walked all day to get here--and I only had a piece of bread for breakfast, Jurgis. Mother hasn't any work either, because the sausage department is shut down; and she goes and begs at houses with a basket, and people give her food. Only she didn't get much yesterday; it was too cold for her fingers, and today she was crying--"

So little Stanislovas went on, sobbing as he talked; and Jurgis stood, gripping the table tightly, saying not a word, but feeling that his head would burst; it was like having weights piled upon him, one after another, crushing the life out of him. He struggled and fought within himself--as if in some terrible nightmare, in which a man suffers an agony, and cannot lift his hand, nor cry out, but feels that he is going mad, that his brain is on fire--

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The Jungle
Upton Sinclair

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