The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

Chapter One


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Wendy Plotkin


H-Urban Seminar on the History of Community Organizing & Community-Based




The Jungle


Upton Sinclair



Chapter 1



It was four o'clock when the ceremony was over and the carriages began

to arrive. There had been a crowd following all the way, owing to the

exuberance of Marija Berczynskas. The occasion rested heavily upon

Marija's broad shoulders--it was her task to see that all things went

in due form, and after the best home traditions; and, flying wildly

hither and thither, bowling every one out of the way, and scolding and

exhorting all day with her tremendous voice, Marija was too eager to

see that others conformed to the proprieties to consider them herself.

She had left the church last of all, and, desiring to arrive first at

the hall, had issued orders to the coachman to drive faster. When that

personage had developed a will of his own in the matter, Marija had

flung up the window of the carriage, and, leaning out, proceeded to

tell him her opinion of him, first in Lithuanian, which he did not

understand, and then in Polish, which he did. Having the advantage of

her in altitude, the driver had stood his ground and even ventured to

attempt to speak; and the result had been a furious altercation, which,

continuing all the way down Ashland Avenue, had added a new swarm of

urchins to the cortege at each side street for half a mile.


This was unfortunate, for already there was a throng before the door.

The music had started up, and half a block away you could hear the dull

"broom, broom" of a cello, with the squeaking of two fiddles which vied

with each other in intricate and altitudinous gymnastics. Seeing the

throng, Marija abandoned precipitately the debate concerning the

ancestors of her coachman, and, springing from the moving carriage,

plunged in and proceeded to clear a way to the hall. Once within, she

turned and began to push the other way, roaring, meantime, "Eik! Eik!

Uzdaryk-duris!" in tones which made the orchestral uproar sound like

fairy music.


"Z. Graiczunas, Pasilinksminimams darzas. Vynas. Sznapsas. Wines and

Liquors. Union Headquarters"--that was the way the signs ran. The

reader, who perhaps has never held much converse in the language of

far-off Lithuania, will be glad of the explanation that the place was

the rear room of a saloon in that part of Chicago known as "back of the

yards." This information is definite and suited to the matter of fact;

but how pitifully inadequate it would have seemed to one who understood

that it was also the supreme hour of ecstasy in the life of one of

God's gentlest creatures, the scene of the wedding feast and the

joy-transfiguration of little Ona Lukoszaite!


She stood in the doorway, shepherded by Cousin Marija, breathless from

pushing through the crowd, and in her happiness painful to look upon.

There was a light of wonder in her eyes and her lids trembled, and her

otherwise wan little face was flushed. She wore a muslin dress,

conspicuously white, and a stiff little veil coming to her shoulders.

There were five pink paper roses twisted in the veil, and eleven bright

green rose leaves. There were new white cotton gloves upon her hands,

and as she stood staring about her she twisted them together

feverishly. It was almost too much for her--you could see the pain of

too great emotion in her face, and all the tremor of her form. She was

so young--not quite sixteen--and small for her age, a mere child; and

she had just been married--and married to Jurgis,* (*Pronounced

Yoorghis) of all men, to Jurgis Rudkus, he with the white flower in the

buttonhole of his new black suit, he with the mighty shoulders and the

giant hands.


Ona was blue-eyed and fair, while Jurgis had great black eyes with

beetling brows, and thick black hair that curled in waves about his

ears--in short, they were one of those incongruous and impossible

married couples with which Mother Nature so often wills to confound all

prophets, before and after. Jurgis could take up a

two-hundred-and-fifty-pound quarter of beef and carry it into a car

without a stagger, or even a thought; and now he stood in a far corner,

frightened as a hunted animal, and obliged to moisten his lips with his

tongue each time before he could answer the congratulations of his



Gradually there was effected a separation between the spectators and

the guests--a separation at least sufficiently complete for working

purposes. There was no time during the festivities which ensued when

there were not groups of onlookers in the doorways and the corners; and

if any one of these onlookers came sufficiently close, or looked

sufficiently hungry, a chair was offered him, and he was invited to the

feast. It was one of the laws of the veselija that no one goes hungry;

and, while a rule made in the forests of Lithuania is hard to apply in

the stockyards district of Chicago, with its quarter of a million

inhabitants, still they did their best, and the children who ran in

from the street, and even the dogs, went out again happier. A charming

informality was one of the characteristics of this celebration. The

men wore their hats, or, if they wished, they took them off, and their

coats with them; they ate when and where they pleased, and moved as

often as they pleased. There were to be speeches and singing, but no

one had to listen who did not care to; if he wished, meantime, to speak

or sing himself, he was perfectly free. The resulting medley of sound

distracted no one, save possibly alone the babies, of which there were

present a number equal to the total possessed by all the guests

invited. There was no other place for the babies to be, and so part of

the preparations for the evening consisted of a collection of cribs and

carriages in one corner. In these the babies slept, three or four

together, or wakened together, as the case might be. Those who were

still older, and could reach the tables, marched about munching

contentedly at meat bones and bologna sausages.



The room is about thirty feet square, with whitewashed walls, bare save

for a calendar. a picture of a race horse, and a family tree in a

gilded frame. To the right there is a door from the saloon, with a few

loafers in the doorway, and in the corner beyond it a bar, with a

presiding genius clad in soiled white, with waxed black mustaches and a

carefully oiled curl plastered against one side of his forehead. In

the opposite corner are two tables, filling a third of the room and

laden with dishes and cold viands, which a few of the hungrier guests

are already munching. At the head, where sits the bride, is a

snow-white cake, with an Eiffel tower of constructed decoration, with

sugar roses and two angels upon it, and a generous sprinkling of pink

and green and yellow candies. Beyond opens a door into the kitchen,

where there is a glimpse to be had of a range with much steam ascending

from it, and many women, old and young, rushing hither and thither. In

the corner to the left are the three musicians, upon a little platform,

toiling heroically to make some impression upon the hubbub; also the

babies, similarly occupied, and an open window whence the populace

imbibes the sights and sounds and odors.


Suddenly some of the steam begins to advance, and, peering through it,

you discern Aunt Elizabeth, Ona's stepmother--Teta Elzbieta, as they

call her--bearing aloft a great platter of stewed duck. Behind her is

Kotrina, making her way cautiously, staggering beneath a similar

burden; and half a minute later there appears old Grandmother

Majauszkiene, with a big yellow bowl of smoking potatoes, nearly as big

as herself. So, bit by bit, the feast takes form--there is a ham and a

dish of sauerkraut, boiled rice, macaroni, bologna sausages, great

piles of penny buns, bowls of milk, and foaming pitchers of beer.

There is also, not six feet from your back, the bar, where you may

order all you please and do not have to pay for it. "Eiksz!

Graicziau!" screams Marija Berczynskas, and falls to work herself-- for

there is more upon the stove inside that will be spoiled if it be not



So, with laughter and shouts and endless badinage and merriment, the

guests take their places. The young men, who for the most part have

been huddled near the door, summon their resolution and advance; and

the shrinking Jurgis is poked and scolded by the old folks until he

consents to seat himself at the right hand of the bride. The two

bridesmaids, whose insignia of office are paper wreaths, come next, and

after them the rest of the guests, old and young, boys and girls. The

spirit of the occasion takes hold of the stately bartender, who

condescends to a plate of stewed duck; even the fat policeman--whose

duty it will be, later in the evening, to break up the fights--draws up

a chair to the foot of the table. And the children shout and the

babies yell, and every one laughs and sings and chatters--while above

all the deafening clamor Cousin Marija shouts orders to the musicians.


The musicians--how shall one begin to describe them? All this time

they have been there, playing in a mad frenzy--all of this scene must

be read, or said, or sung, to music. It is the music which makes it

what it is; it is the music which changes the place from the rear room

of a saloon in back of the yards to a fairy place, a wonderland, a

little comer of the high mansions of the sky.


The little person who leads this trio is an inspired man. His fiddle

is out of tune, and there is no rosin on his bow, but still he is an

inspired man--the hands of the muses have been laid upon him. He plays

like one possessed by a demon, by a whole horde of demons. You can

feel them in the air round about him, capering frenetically; with their

invisible feet they set the pace, and the hair of the leader of the

orchestra rises on end, and his eyeballs start from their sockets, as

he toils to keep up with them.


Tamoszius Kuszleika is his name, and he has taught himself to play the

violin by practicing all night, after working all day on the "killing

beds." He is in his shirt sleeves, with a vest figured with faded gold

horseshoes, and a pink-striped shirt, suggestive of peppermint candy.

A pair of military trousers, light blue with a yellow stripe, serve to

give that suggestion of authority proper to the leader of a band. He

is only about five feet high, but even so these trousers are about

eight inches short of the ground. You wonder where he can have gotten

them or rather you would wonder, if the excitement of being in his

presence left you time to think of such things.


For he is an inspired man. Every inch of him is inspired--you might

almost say inspired separately. He stamps with his feet, he tosses his

head, he sways and swings to and fro; he has a wizened-up little face,

irresistibly comical; and, when he executes a turn or a flourish, his

brows knit and his lips work and his eyelids wink--the very ends of his

necktie bristle out. And every now and then he turns upon his

companions, nodding, signaling, beckoning frantically--with every inch

of him appealing, imploring, in behalf of the muses and their call.


For they are hardly worthy of Tamoszius, the other two members of the

orchestra. The second violin is a Slovak, a tall, gaunt man with

black- rimmed spectacles and the mute and patient look of an overdriven

mule; he responds to the whip but feebly, and then always falls back

into his old rut. The third man is very fat, with a round, red,

sentimental nose, and he plays with his eyes turned up to the sky and a

look of infinite yearning. He is playing a bass part upon his cello,

and so the excitement is nothing to him; no matter what happens in the

treble, it is his task to saw out one long-drawn and lugubrious note

after another, from four o'clock in the afternoon until nearly the same

hour next morning, for his third of the total income of one dollar per



Before the feast has been five minutes under way, Tamoszius Kuszleika

has risen in his excitement; a minute or two more and you see that he

is beginning to edge over toward the tables. His nostrils are dilated

and his breath comes fast--his demons are driving him. He nods and

shakes his head at his companions, jerking at them with his violin,

until at last the long form of the second violinist also rises up. In

the end all three of them begin advancing, step by step, upon the

banqueters, Valentinavyczia, he cellist, bumping along with his

instrument between notes. Finally all three are gathered at the foot

of the tables, and there Tamoszius mounts upon a stool.


Now he is in his glory, dominating the scene. Some of the people are

eating, some are laughing and talking--but you will make a great

mistake if you think there is one of them who does not hear him. His

notes are never true, and his fiddle buzzes on the low ones and squeaks

and scratches on the high; but these things they heed no more than they

heed the dirt and noise and squalor about them--it is out of this

material that they have to build their lives, with it that they have to

utter their souls. And this is their utterance; merry and boisterous,

or mournful and wailing, or passionate and rebellious, this music is

their music, music of home. It stretches out its arms to them, they

have only to give themselves up. Chicago and its saloons and its slums

fade away--there are green meadows and sunlit rivers, mighty forests

and snowclad hills. They behold home landscapes and childhood scenes

returning; old loves and friendships begin to waken, old joys and

griefs to laugh and weep. Some fall back and close their eyes, some

beat upon the table. Now and then one leaps up with a cry and calls

for this song or that; and then the fire leaps brighter in Tamoszius'

eyes, and he flings up his fiddle and shouts to his companions, and

away they go in mad career. The company takes up the choruses, and men

and women cry out like all possessed; some leap to their feet and stamp

upon the floor, lifting their glasses and pledging each other. Before

long it occurs to some one to demand an old wedding song, which

celebrates the beauty of the bride and the joys of love. In the

excitement of this masterpiece Tamoszius Kuszleika begins to edge in

between the tables, making his way toward the head, where sits the

bride. There is not a foot of space between the chairs of the guests,

and Tamoszius is so short that he pokes them with his bow whenever he

reaches over for the low notes; but still he presses in, and insists

relentlessly that his companions must follow. During their progress,

needless to say, the sounds of the cello are pretty well extinguished;

but at last the three are at the head, and Tamoszius takes his station

at the right hand of the bride and begins to pour out his soul in

melting strains.


Little Ona is too excited to eat. Once in a while she tastes a little

something, when Cousin Marija pinches her elbow and reminds her; but,

for the most part, she sits gazing with the same fearful eyes of

wonder. Teta Elzbieta is all in a flutter, like a hummingbird; her

sisters, too, keep running up behind her, whispering, breathless. But

Ona seems scarcely to hear them--the music keeps calling, and the

far-off look comes back, and she sits with her hands pressed together

over her heart. Then the tears begin to come into her eyes; and as she

is ashamed to wipe them away, and ashamed to let them run down her

cheeks, she turns and shakes her head a little, and then flushes red

when she sees that Jurgis is watching her. When in the end Tamoszius

Kuszleika has reached her side, and is waving his magic wand above her,

Ona's cheeks are scarlet, and she looks as if she would have to get up

and run away.


In this crisis, however, she is saved by Marija Berczynskas, whom the

muses suddenly visit. Marija is fond of a song, a song of lovers'

parting; she wishes to hear it, and, as the musicians do not know it,

she has risen, and is proceeding to teach them. Marija is short, but

powerful in build. She works in a canning factory, and all day long

she handles cans of beef that weigh fourteen pounds. She has a broad

Slavic face, with prominent red cheeks. When she opens her mouth, it

is tragical, but you cannot help thinking of a horse. She wears a blue

flannel shirt-waist, which is now rolled up at the sleeves, disclosing

her brawny arms; she has a carving fork in her hand, with which she

pounds on the table to mark the time. As she roars her song, in a

voice of which it is enough to say that it leaves no portion of the

room vacant, the three musicians follow her, laboriously and note by

note, but averaging one note behind; thus they toil through stanza

after stanza of a lovesick swain's lamentation: --


"Sudiev' kvietkeli, tu brangiausis;

Sudiev' ir laime, man biednam,

Matau--paskyre teip Aukszcziausis,

Jog vargt ant svieto reik vienam!"


When the song is over, it is time for the speech, and old Dede Antanas

rises to his feet. Grandfather Anthony, Jurgis' father, is not more

than sixty years of age, but you would think that he was eighty. He

has been only six months in America, and the change has not done him

good. In his manhood he worked in a cotton mill, but then a coughing

fell upon him, and he had to leave; out in the country the trouble

disappeared, but he has been working in the pickle rooms at Durham's,

and the breathing of the cold, damp air all day has brought it back.

Now as he rises he is seized with a coughing fit, and holds himself by

his chair and turns away his wan and battered face until it passes.


Generally it is the custom for the speech at a veselija to be taken out

of one of the books and learned by heart; but in his youthful days Dede

Antanas used to be a scholar, and really make up all the love letters

of his friends. Now it is understood that he has composed an original

speech of congratulation and benediction, and this is one of the events

of the day. Even the boys, who are romping about the room, draw near

and listen, and some of the women sob and wipe their aprons in their

eyes. It is very solemn, for Antanas Rudkus has become possessed of

the idea that he has not much longer to stay with his children. His

speech leaves them all so tearful that one of the guests, Jokubas

Szedvilas, who keeps a delicatessen store on Halsted Street, and is fat

and hearty, is moved to rise and say that things may not be as bad as

that, and then to go on and make a little speech of his own, in which

he showers congratulations and prophecies of happiness upon the bride

and groom, proceeding to particulars which greatly delight the young

men, but which cause Ona to blush more furiously than ever. Jokubas

possesses what his wife complacently describes as "poetiszka

vaidintuve"--a poetical imagination.


Now a good many of the guests have finished, and, since there is no

pretense of ceremony, the banquet begins to break up. Some of the men

gather about the bar; some wander about, laughing and singing; here and

there will be a little group, chanting merrily, and in sublime

indifference to the others and to the orchestra as well. Everybody is

more or less restless--one would guess that something is on their

minds. And so it proves. The last tardy diners are scarcely given

time to finish, before the tables and the debris are shoved into the

corner, and the chairs and the babies piled out of the way, and the

real celebration of the evening begins. Then Tamoszius Kuszleika,

after replenishing himself with a pot of beer, returns to his platform,

and, standing up, reviews the scene; he taps authoritatively upon the

side of his violin, then tucks it carefully under his chin, then waves

his bow in an elaborate flourish, and finally smites the sounding

strings and closes his eyes, and floats away in spirit upon the wings

of a dreamy waltz. His companion follows, but with his eyes open,

watching where he treads, so to speak; and finally Valentinavyczia,

after waiting for a little and beating with his foot to get the time,

casts up his eyes to the ceiling and begins to saw--"Broom! broom!



The company pairs off quickly, and the whole room is soon in motion.

Apparently nobody knows how to waltz, but that is nothing of any

consequence--there is music, and they dance, each as he pleases, just

as before they sang. Most of them prefer the "two-step," especially

the young, with whom it is the fashion. The older people have dances

from home, strange and complicated steps which they execute with grave

solemnity. Some do not dance anything at all, but simply hold each

other's hands and allow the undisciplined joy of motion to express

itself with their feet. Among these are Jokubas Szedvilas and his

wife, Lucija, who together keep the delicatessen store, and consume

nearly as much as they sell; they are too fat to dance, but they stand

in the middle of the floor, holding each other fast in their arms,

rocking slowly from side to side and grinning seraphically, a picture

of toothless and perspiring ecstasy.


Of these older people many wear clothing reminiscent in some detail of

home--an embroidered waistcoat or stomacher, or a gaily colored

handkerchief, or a coat with large cuffs and fancy buttons. All these

things are carefully avoided by the young, most of whom have learned to

speak English and to affect the latest style of clothing. The girls

wear ready-made dresses or shirt waists, and some of them look quite

pretty. Some of the young men you would take to be Americans, of the

type of clerks, but for the fact that they wear their hats in the room.

Each of these younger couples affects a style of its own in dancing.

Some hold each other tightly, some at a cautious distance. Some hold

their hands out stiffly, some drop them loosely at their sides. Some

dance springily, some glide softly, some move with grave dignity.

There are boisterous couples, who tear wildly about the room, knocking

every one out of their way. There are nervous couples, whom these

frighten, and who cry, "Nusfok! Kas yra?" at them as they pass. Each

couple is paired for the evening--you will never see them change about.

There is Alena Jasaityte, for instance, who has danced unending hours

with Juozas Raczius, to whom she is engaged. Alena is the beauty of

the evening, and she would be really beautiful if she were not so

proud. She wears a white shirtwaist, which represents, perhaps, half a

week's labor painting cans. She holds her skirt with her hand as she

dances, with stately precision, after the manner of the grandes dames.

Juozas is driving one of Durham's wagons, and is making big wages. He

affects a "tough" aspect, wearing his hat on one side and keeping a

cigarette in his mouth all the evening. Then there is Jadvyga

Marcinkus, who is also beautiful, but humble. Jadvyga likewise paints

cans, but then she has an invalid mother and three little sisters to

support by it, and so she does not spend her wages for shirtwaists.

Jadvyga is small and delicate, with jet-black eyes and hair, the latter

twisted into a little knot and tied on the top of her head. She wears

an old white dress which she has made herself and worn to parties for

the past five years; it is high-waisted--almost under her arms, and not

very becoming,--but that does not trouble Jadvyga, who is dancing with

her Mikolas. She is small, while he is big and powerful; she nestles

in his arms as if she would hide herself from view, and leans her head

upon his shoulder. He in turn has clasped his arms tightly around her,

as if he would carry her away; and so she dances, and will dance the

entire evening, and would dance forever, in ecstasy of bliss. You

would smile, perhaps, to see them--but you would not smile if you knew

all the story. This is the fifth year, now, that Jadvyga has been

engaged to Mikolas, and her heart is sick. They would have been

married in the beginning, only Mikolas has a father who is drunk all

day, and he is the only other man in a large family. Even so they might

have managed it (for Mikolas is a skilled man) but for cruel accidents

which have almost taken the heart out of them. He is a beef-boner, and

that is a dangerous trade, especially when you are on piecework and

trying to earn a bride. Your hands are slippery, and your knife is

slippery, and you are toiling like mad, when somebody happens to speak

to you, or you strike a bone. Then your hand slips up on the blade,

and there is a fearful gash. And that would not be so bad, only for

the deadly contagion. The cut may heal, but you never can tell. Twice

now; within the last three years, Mikolas has been lying at home with

blood poisoning--once for three months and once for nearly seven. The

last time, too, he lost his job, and that meant six weeks more of

standing at the doors of the packing houses, at six o'clock on bitter

winter mornings, with a foot of snow on the ground and more in the air.

There are learned people who can tell you out of the statistics that

beef-boners make forty cents an hour, but, perhaps, these people have

never looked into a beef-boner's hands.


When Tamoszius and his companions stop for a rest, as perforce they

must, now and then, the dancers halt where they are and wait patiently.

They never seem to tire; and there is no place for them to sit down if

they did. It is only for a minute, anyway, for the leader starts up

again, in spite of all the protests of the other two. This time it is

another sort of a dance, a Lithuanian dance. Those who prefer to, go

on with the two-step, but the majority go through an intricate series

of motions, resembling more fancy skating than a dance. The climax of

it is a furious prestissimo, at which the couples seize hands and begin

a mad whirling. This is quite irresistible, and every one in the room

joins in, until the place becomes a maze of flying skirts and bodies

quite dazzling to look upon. But the sight of sights at this moment is

Tamoszius Kuszleika. The old fiddle squeaks and shrieks in protest,

but Tamoszius has no mercy. The sweat starts out on his forehead, and

he bends over like a cyclist on the last lap of a race. His body

shakes and throbs like a runaway steam engine, and the ear cannot

follow the flying showers of notes--there is a pale blue mist where you

look to see his bowing arm. With a most wonderful rush he comes to the

end of the tune, and flings up his hands and staggers back exhausted;

and with a final shout of delight the dancers fly apart, reeling here

and there, bringing up against the walls of the room.


After this there is beer for every one, the musicians included, and the

revelers take a long breath and prepare for the great event of the

evening, which is the acziavimas. The acziavimas is a ceremony which,

once begun, will continue for three or four hours, and it involves one

uninterrupted dance. The guests form a great ring, locking hands, and,

when the music starts up, begin to move around in a circle. In the

center stands the bride, and, one by one, the men step into the

enclosure and dance with her. Each dances for several minutes--as long

as he pleases; it is a very merry proceeding, with laughter and

singing, and when the guest has finished, he finds himself face to face

with Teta Elzbieta, who holds the hat. Into it he drops a sum of

money--a dollar, or perhaps five dollars, according to his power, and

his estimate of the value of the privilege. The guests are expected to

pay for this entertainment; if they be proper guests, they will see

that there is a neat sum left over for the bride and bridegroom to

start life upon.


Most fearful they are to contemplate, the expenses of this

entertainment. They will certainly be over two hundred dollars and

maybe three hundred; and three hundred dollars is more than the year's

income of many a person in this room. There are able-bodied men here

who work from early morning until late at night, in ice-cold cellars

with a quarter of an inch of water on the floor--men who for six or

seven months in the year never see the sunlight from Sunday afternoon

till the next Sunday morning-- and who cannot earn three hundred

dollars in a year. There are little children here, scarce in their

teens, who can hardly see the top of the work benches--whose parents

have lied to get them their places--and who do not make the half of

three hundred dollars a year, and perhaps not even the third of it.

And then to spend such a sum, all in a single day of your life, at a

wedding feast! (For obviously it is the same thing, whether you spend

it at once for your own wedding, or in a long time, at the weddings of

all your friends.)


It is very imprudent, it is tragic--but, ah, it is so beautiful! Bit

by bit these poor people have given up everything else; but to this

they cling with all the power of their souls--they cannot give up the

veselija! To do that would mean, not merely to be defeated, but to

acknowledge defeat--and the difference between these two things is what

keeps the world going. The veselija has come down to them from a

far-off time; and the meaning of it was that one might dwell within the

cave and gaze upon shadows, provided only that once in his lifetime he

could break his chains, and feel his wings, and behold the sun;

provided that once in his lifetime he might testify to the fact that

life, with all its cares and its terrors, is no such great thing after

all, but merely a bubble upon the surface of a river, a thing that one

may toss about and play with as a juggler tosses his golden balls, a

thing that one may quaff, like a goblet of rare red wine. Thus having

known himself for the master of things, a man could go back to his toil

and live upon the memory all his days.



Endlessly the dancers swung round and round--when they were dizzy they

swung the other way. Hour after hour this had continued--the darkness

had fallen and the room was dim from the light of two smoky oil lamps.

The musicians had spent all their fine frenzy by now, and played only

one tune, wearily, ploddingly. There were twenty bars or so of it, and

when they came to the end they began again. Once every ten minutes or

so they would fail to begin again, but instead would sink back

exhausted; a circumstance which invariably brought on a painful and

terrifying scene, that made the fat policeman stir uneasily in his

sleeping place behind the door.


It was all Marija Berczynskas. Marija was one of those hungry souls

who cling with desperation to the skirts of the retreating muse. All

day long she had been in a state of wonderful exaltation; and now it

was leaving-- and she would not let it go. Her soul cried out in the

words of Faust, "Stay, thou art fair!" Whether it was by beer, or by

shouting, or by music, or by motion, she meant that it should not go.

And she would go back to the chase of it--and no sooner be fairly

started than her chariot would be thrown off the track, so to speak, by

the stupidity of those thrice accursed musicians. Each time, Marija

would emit a howl and fly at them, shaking her fists in their faces,

stamping upon the floor, purple and incoherent with rage. In vain the

frightened Tamoszius would attempt to speak, to plead the limitations

of the flesh; in vain would the puffing and breathless ponas Jokubas

insist, in vain would Teta Elzbieta implore. "Szalin!" Marija would

scream. "Palauk! isz kelio! What are you paid for, children of

hell?" And so, in sheer terror, the orchestra would strike up again,

and Marija would return to her place and take up her task.


She bore all the burden of the festivities now. Ona was kept up by her

excitement, but all of the women and most of the men were tired--the

soul of Marija was alone unconquered. She drove on the dancers--what

had once been the ring had now the shape of a pear, with Marija at the

stem, pulling one way and pushing the other. shouting, stamping,

singing, a very volcano of energy. Now and then some one coming in or

out would leave the door open, and the night air was chill; Marija as

she passed would stretch out her foot and kick the doorknob, and slam

would go the door! Once this procedure was the cause of a calamity of

which Sebastijonas Szedvilas was the hapless victim. Little

Sebastijonas, aged three, had been wandering about oblivious to all

things, holding turned up over his mouth a bottle of liquid known as

"pop," pink-colored, ice-cold, and delicious. Passing through the

doorway the door smote him full, and the shriek which followed brought

the dancing to a halt. Marija, who threatened horrid murder a hundred

times a day, and would weep over the injury of a fly, seized little

Sebastijonas in her arms and bid fair to smother him with kisses.

There was a long rest for the orchestra, and plenty of refreshments,

while Marija was making her peace with her victim, seating him upon the

bar, and standing beside him and holding to his lips a foaming schooner

of beer.


In the meantime there was going on in another corner of the room an

anxious conference between Teta Elzbieta and Dede Antanas, and a few of

the more intimate friends of the family. A trouble was come upon them.

The veselija is a compact, a compact not expressed, but therefore only

the more binding upon all. Every one's share was different--and yet

every one knew perfectly well what his share was, and strove to give a

little more. Now, however, since they had come to the new country, all

this was changing; it seemed as if there must be some subtle poison in

the air that one breathed here--it was affecting all the young men at

once. They would come in crowds and fill themselves with a fine

dinner, and then sneak off. One would throw another's hat out of the

window, and both would go out to get it, and neither could be seen

again. Or now and then half a dozen of them would get together and

march out openly, staring at you, and making fun of you to your face.

Still others, worse yet, would crowd about the bar, and at the expense

of the host drink themselves sodden, paying not the least attention to

any one, and leaving it to be thought that either they had danced with

the bride already, or meant to later on.


All these things were going on now, and the family was helpless with

dismay. So long they had toiled, and such an outlay they had made!

Ona stood by, her eyes wide with terror. Those frightful bills--how

they had haunted her, each item gnawing at her soul all day and

spoiling her rest at night. How often she had named them over one by

one and figured on them as she went to work--fifteen dollars for the

hall, twenty-two dollars and a quarter for the ducks, twelve dollars

for the musicians, five dollars at the church, and a blessing of the

Virgin besides--and so on without an end! Worst of all was the

frightful bill that was still to come from Graiczunas for the beer and

liquor that might be consumed. One could never get in advance more

than a guess as to this from a saloonkeeper--and then, when the time

came he always came to you scratching his head and saying that he had

guessed too low, but that he had done his best--your guests had gotten

so very drunk. By him you were sure to be cheated unmercifully, and

that even though you thought yourself the dearest of the hundreds of

friends he had. He would begin to serve your guests out of a keg that

was half full, and finish with one that was half empty, and then you

would be charged for two kegs of beer. He would agree to serve a

certain quality at a certain price, and when the time came you and your

friends would be drinking some horrible poison that could not be

described. You might complain, but you would get nothing for your

pains but a ruined evening; while, as for going to law about it, you

might as well go to heaven at once. The saloonkeeper stood in with all

the big politics men in the district; and when you had once found out

what it meant to get into trouble with such people, you would know

enough to pay what you were told to pay and shut up.


What made all this the more painful was that it was so hard on the few

that had really done their best. There was poor old ponas Jokubas, for

instance--he had already given five dollars, and did not every one know

that Jokubas Szedvilas had just mortgaged his delicatessen store for

two hundred dollars to meet several months' overdue rent? And then

there was withered old poni Aniele--who was a widow, and had three

children, and the rheumatism besides, and did washing for the

tradespeople on Halsted Street at prices it would break your heart to

hear named. Aniele had given the entire profit of her chickens for

several months. Eight of them she owned, and she kept them in a little

place fenced around on her backstairs. All day long the children of

Aniele were raking in the dump for food for these chickens; and

sometimes, when the competition there was too fierce, you might see

them on Halsted Street walking close to the gutters, and with their

mother following to see that no one robbed them of their finds. Money

could not tell the value of these chickens to old Mrs. Jukniene-- she

valued them differently, for she had a feeling that she was getting

something for nothing by means of them--that with them she was getting

the better of a world that was getting the better of her in so many

other ways. So she watched them every hour of the day, and had learned

to see like an owl at night to watch them then. One of them had been

stolen long ago, and not a month passed that some one did not try to

steal another. As the frustrating of this one attempt involved a score

of false alarms, it will be understood what a tribute old Mrs. Jukniene

brought, just because Teta Elzbieta had once loaned her some money for

a few days and saved her from being turned out of her house.


More and more friends gathered round while the lamentation about these

things was going on. Some drew nearer, hoping to overhear the

conversation, who were themselves among the guilty--and surely that was

a thing to try the patience of a saint. Finally there came Jurgis,

urged by some one, and the story was retold to him. Jurgis listened in

silence, with his great black eyebrows knitted. Now and then there

would come a gleam underneath them and he would glance about the room.

Perhaps he would have liked to go at some of those fellows with his big

clenched fists; but then, doubtless, he realized how little good it

would do him. No bill would be any less for turning out any one at

this time; and then there would be the scandal--and Jurgis wanted

nothing except to get away with Ona and to let the world go its own

way. So his hands relaxed and he merely said quietly: "It is done,

and there is no use in weeping, Teta Elzbieta." Then his look turned

toward Ona, who stood close to his side, and he saw the wide look of

terror in her eyes. "Little one," he said, in a low voice, "do not

worry--it will not matter to us. We will pay them all somehow. I will

work harder." That was always what Jurgis said. Ona had grown used to

it as the solution of all difficulties--"I will work harder!" He had

said that in Lithuania when one official had taken his passport from

him, and another had arrested him for being without it, and the two had

divided a third of his belongings. He had said it again in New York,

when the smooth-spoken agent had taken them in hand and made them pay

such high prices, and almost prevented their leaving his place, in

spite of their paying. Now he said it a third time, and Ona drew a

deep breath; it was so wonderful to have a husband, just like a grown

woman--and a husband who could solve all problems, and who was so big

and strong!


The last sob of little Sebastijonas has been stifled, and the orchestra

has once more been reminded of its duty. The ceremony begins

again--but there are few now left to dance with, and so very soon the

collection is over and promiscuous dances once more begin. It is now

after midnight, however, and things are not as they were before. The

dancers are dull and heavy--most of them have been drinking hard, and

have long ago passed the stage of exhilaration. They dance in

monotonous measure, round after round, hour after hour, with eyes fixed

upon vacancy, as if they were only half conscious, in a constantly

growing stupor. The men grasp the women very tightly, but there will

be half an hour together when neither will see the other's face. Some

couples do not care to dance, and have retired to the corners, where

they sit with their arms enlaced. Others, who have been drinking still

more, wander about the room, bumping into everything; some are in

groups of two or three, singing, each group its own song. As time goes

on there is a variety of drunkenness, among the younger men especially.

Some stagger about in each other's arms, whispering maudlin

words--others start quarrels upon the slightest pretext, and come to

blows and have to be pulled apart. Now the fat policeman wakens

definitely, and feels of his club to see that it is ready for business.

He has to be prompt--for these two-o'clock-in-the-morning fights, if

they once get out of hand, are like a forest fire, and may mean the

whole reserves at the station. The thing to do is to crack every

fighting head that you see, before there are so many fighting heads

that you cannot crack any of them. There is but scant account kept of

cracked heads in back of the yards, for men who have to crack the heads

of animals all day seem to get into the habit, and to practice on their

friends, and even on their families, between times. This makes it a

cause for congratulation that by modern methods a very few men can do

the painfully necessary work of head-cracking for the whole of the

cultured world.


There is no fight that night--perhaps because Jurgis, too, is

watchful-- even more so than the policeman. Jurgis has drunk a great

deal, as any one naturally would on an occasion when it all has to be

paid for, whether it is drunk or not; but he is a very steady man, and

does not easily lose his temper. Only once there is a tight shave--and

that is the fault of Marija Berczynskas. Marija has apparently

concluded about two hours ago that if the altar in the corner, with the

deity in soiled white, be not the true home of the muses, it is, at any

rate, the nearest substitute on earth attainable. And Marija is just

fighting drunk when there come to her ears the facts about the villains

who have not paid that night. Marija goes on the warpath straight off,

without even the preliminary of a good cursing, and when she is pulled

off it is with the coat collars of two villains in her hands.

Fortunately, the policeman is disposed to be reasonable, and so it is

not Marija who is flung out of the place.


All this interrupts the music for not more than a minute or two. Then

again the merciless tune begins--the tune that has been played for the

last half-hour without one single change. It is an American tune this

time, one which they have picked up on the streets; all seem to know

the words of it--or, at any rate, the first line of it, which they hum

to themselves, over and over again without rest: "In the good old

summertime--in the good old summertime! In the good old summertime--in

the good old summertime!" There seems to be something hypnotic about

this, with its endlessly recurring dominant. It has put a stupor upon

every one who hears it, as well as upon the men who are playing it. No

one can get away from it, or even think of getting away from it; it is

three o'clock in the morning, and they have danced out all their joy,

and danced out all their strength, and all the strength that unlimited

drink can lend them--and still there is no one among them who has the

power to think of stopping. Promptly at seven o'clock this same Monday

morning they will every one of them have to be in their places at

Durham's or Brown's or Jones's, each in his working clothes. If one of

them be a minute late, he will be docked an hour's pay, and if he be

many minutes late, he will be apt to find his brass check turned to the

wall, which will send him out to join the hungry mob that waits every

morning at the gates of the packing houses, from six o'clock until

nearly half-past eight. There is no exception to this rule, not even

little Ona--who has asked for a holiday the day after her wedding day,

a holiday without pay, and been refused. While there are so many who

are anxious to work as you wish, there is no occasion for incommoding

yourself with those who must work otherwise.


Little Ona is nearly ready to faint--and half in a stupor herself,

because of the heavy scent in the room. She has not taken a drop, but

every one else there is literally burning alcohol, as the lamps are

burning oil; some of the men who are sound asleep in their chairs or on

the floor are reeking of it so that you cannot go near them. Now and

then Jurgis gazes at her hungrily--he has long since forgotten his

shyness; but then the crowd is there, and he still waits and watches

the door, where a carriage is supposed to come. It does not, and

finally he will wait no longer, but comes up to Ona, who turns white

and trembles. He puts her shawl about her and then his own coat. They

live only two blocks away, and Jurgis does not care about the carriage.


There is almost no farewell--the dancers do not notice them, and all of

the children and many of the old folks have fallen asleep of sheer

exhaustion. Dede Antanas is asleep, and so are the Szedvilases,

husband and wife, the former snoring in octaves. There is Teta

Elzbieta, and Marija, sobbing loudly; and then there is only the silent

night, with the stars beginning to pale a little in the east. Jurgis,

without a word, lifts Ona in his arms, and strides out with her, and

she sinks her head upon his shoulder with a moan. When he reaches home

he is not sure whether she has fainted or is asleep, but when he has to

hold her with one hand while he unlocks the door, he sees that she has

opened her eyes.


"You shall not go to Brown's today, little one," he whispers, as he

climbs the stairs; and she catches his arm in terror, gasping: "No!

No! I dare not! It will ruin us!"


But he answers her again: "Leave it to me; leave it to me. I will earn

more money--I will work harder."