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|The Jungle||Upton Sinclair|
|Page 4 of 8||
Jurgis took hold of the railing of the steps, for he was a little unsteady. "What--what are you doing here?" he managed to gasp.
"Go on!" said the boy.
"You--" Jurgis tried again. "What do you want here?"
"Me?" answered the boy, angrily. "I live here."
"You live here!" Jurgis panted. He turned white and clung more tightly to the railing. "You live here! Then where's my family?"
The boy looked surprised. "Your family!" he echoed.
And Jurgis started toward him. "I--this is my house!" he cried.
"Come off!" said the boy; then suddenly the door upstairs opened, and he called: "Hey, ma! Here's a fellow says he owns this house."
A stout Irishwoman came to the top of the steps. "What's that?" she demanded.
Jurgis turned toward her. "Where is my family?" he cried, wildly. "I left them here! This is my home! What are you doing in my home?"
The woman stared at him in frightened wonder, she must have thought she was dealing with a maniac--Jurgis looked like one. "Your home!" she echoed.
"My home!" he half shrieked. "I lived here, I tell you."
"You must be mistaken," she answered him. "No one ever lived here. This is a new house. They told us so. They--"
"What have they done with my family?" shouted Jurgis, frantically.
A light had begun to break upon the woman; perhaps she had had doubts of what "they" had told her. "I don't know where your family is," she said. "I bought the house only three days ago, and there was nobody here, and they told me it was all new. Do you really mean you had ever rented it?"
"Rented it!" panted Jurgis. "I bought it! I paid for it! I own it! And they--my God, can't you tell me where my people went?"
She made him understand at last that she knew nothing. Jurgis' brain was so confused that he could not grasp the situation. It was as if his family had been wiped out of existence; as if they were proving to be dream people, who never had existed at all. He was quite lost--but then suddenly he thought of Grandmother Majauszkiene, who lived in the next block. She would know! He turned and started at a run.
Grandmother Majauszkiene came to the door herself. She cried out when she saw Jurgis, wild-eyed and shaking. Yes, yes, she could tell him. The family had moved; they had not been able to pay the rent and they had been turned out into the snow, and the house had been repainted and sold again the next week. No, she had not heard how they were, but she could tell him that they had gone back to Aniele Jukniene, with whom they had stayed when they first came to the yards. Wouldn't Jurgis come in and rest? It was certainly too bad--if only he had not got into jail--
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