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The Jungle Upton Sinclair

Chapter 24

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They had started down the street, arm in arm, the young man pushing Jurgis along, half dazed. Jurgis was trying to think what to do--he knew he could not pass any crowded place with his new acquaintance without attracting attention and being stopped. It was only because of the falling snow that people who passed here did not notice anything wrong.

Suddenly, therefore, Jurgis stopped. "Is it very far?" he inquired.

"Not very," said the other, "Tired, are you, though? Well, we'll ride--whatcha say? Good! Call a cab!"

And then, gripping Jurgis tight with one hand, the young fellow began searching his pockets with the other. "You call, ole sport, an' I'll pay," he suggested. "How's that, hey?"

And he pulled out from somewhere a big roll of bills. It was more money than Jurgis had ever seen in his life before, and he stared at it with startled eyes.

"Looks like a lot, hey?" said Master Freddie, fumbling with it. "Fool you, though, ole chappie--they're all little ones! I'll be busted in one week more, sure thing--word of honor. An' not a cent more till the first--hic--guv'ner's orders--hic--not a cent, by Harry! Nuff to set a feller crazy, it is. I sent him a cable, this af'noon--thass one reason more why I'm goin' home. 'Hangin' on the verge of starvation,' I says--'for the honor of the family--hic--sen' me some bread. Hunger will compel me to join you--Freddie.' Thass what I wired him, by Harry, an' I mean it--I'll run away from school, b'God, if he don't sen' me some."

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After this fashion the young gentleman continued to prattle on--and meantime Jurgis was trembling with excitement. He might grab that wad of bills and be out of sight in the darkness before the other could collect his wits. Should he do it? What better had he to hope for, if he waited longer? But Jurgis had never committed a crime in his life, and now he hesitated half a second too long. "Freddie" got one bill loose, and then stuffed the rest back into his trousers' pocket.

"Here, ole man," he said, "you take it." He held it out fluttering. They were in front of a saloon; and by the light of the window Jurgis saw that it was a hundred-dollar bill! "You take it," the other repeated. "Pay the cabbie an' keep the change--I've got--hic--no head for business! Guv'ner says so hisself, an' the guv'ner knows--the guv'ner's got a head for business, you bet! 'All right, guv'ner,' I told him, 'you run the show, and I'll take the tickets!' An' so he set Aunt Polly to watch me--hic--an' now Polly's off in the hospital havin' twins, an' me out raisin' Cain! Hello, there! Hey! Call him!"

A cab was driving by; and Jurgis sprang and called, and it swung round to the curb. Master Freddie clambered in with some difficulty, and Jurgis had started to follow, when the driver shouted: "Hi, there! Get out--you!"

Jurgis hesitated, and was half obeying; but his companion broke out: "Whuzzat? Whuzzamatter wiz you, hey?"

And the cabbie subsided, and Jurgis climbed in. Then Freddie gave a number on the Lake Shore Drive, and the carriage started away. The youngster leaned back and snuggled up to Jurgis, murmuring contentedly; in half a minute he was sound asleep, Jurgis sat shivering, speculating as to whether he might not still be able to get hold of the roll of bills. He was afraid to try to go through his companion's pockets, however; and besides the cabbie might be on the watch. He had the hundred safe, and he would have to be content with that.

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The Jungle
Upton Sinclair

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