The Jungle By Upton Sinclair Chapter 25

The bartender — who proved to be a well-known bruiser — was called to the stand, He took the oath and told his story. The prisoner had come into his saloon after midnight, fighting drunk, and had ordered a glass of beer and tendered a dollar bill in payment. He had been given ninety-five cents' change, and had demanded ninety-nine dollars more, and before the plaintiff could even answer had hurled the glass at him and then attacked him with a bottle of bitters, and nearly wrecked the place.

Then the prisoner was sworn — a forlorn object, haggard and unshorn, with an arm done up in a filthy bandage, a cheek and head cut, and bloody, and one eye purplish black and entirely closed. "What have you to say for yourself?" queried the magistrate.

"Your Honor," said Jurgis, "I went into his place and asked the man if he could change me a hundred-dollar bill. And he said he would if I bought a drink. I gave him the bill and then he wouldn't give me the change."

The magistrate was staring at him in perplexity. "You gave him a hundred-dollar bill!" he exclaimed.

"Yes, your Honor," said Jurgis.

"Where did you get it?"

"A man gave it to me, your Honor."

"A man? What man, and what for?"

"A young man I met upon the street, your Honor. I had been begging."

There was a titter in the courtroom; the officer who was holding Jurgis put up his hand to hide a smile, and the magistrate smiled without trying to hide it. "It's true, your Honor!" cried Jurgis, passionately.

"You had been drinking as well as begging last night, had you not?" inquired the magistrate. "No, your Honor — " protested Jurgis. "I — "

"You had not had anything to drink?"

"Why, yes, your Honor, I had — "

"What did you have?"

"I had a bottle of something — I don't know what it was — something that burned — "

There was again a laugh round the courtroom, stopping suddenly as the magistrate looked up and frowned. "Have you ever been arrested before?" he asked abruptly.

The question took Jurgis aback. "I — I — " he stammered.

"Tell me the truth, now!" commanded the other, sternly.

"Yes, your Honor," said Jurgis.

"How often?"

"Only once, your Honor."

"What for?"

"For knocking down my boss, your Honor. I was working in the stockyards, and he — "

"I see," said his Honor; "I guess that will do. You ought to stop drinking if you can't control yourself. Ten days and costs. Next case."

Jurgis gave vent to a cry of dismay, cut off suddenly by the policeman, who seized him by the collar. He was jerked out of the way, into a room with the convicted prisoners, where he sat and wept like a child in his impotent rage. It seemed monstrous to him that policemen and judges should esteem his word as nothing in comparison with the bartender's — poor Jurgis could not know that the owner of the saloon paid five dollars each week to the policeman alone for Sunday privileges and general favors — nor that the pugilist bartender was one of the most trusted henchmen of the Democratic leader of the district, and had helped only a few months before to hustle out a record-breaking vote as a testimonial to the magistrate, who had been made the target of odious kid-gloved reformers.

Jurgis was driven out to the Bridewell for the second time. In his tumbling around he had hurt his arm again, and so could not work, but had to be attended by the physician. Also his head and his eye had to be tied up — and so he was a pretty-looking object when, the second day after his arrival, he went out into the exercise court and encountered — Jack Duane!

The young fellow was so glad to see Jurgis that he almost hugged him. "By God, if it isn't 'the Stinker'!" he cried. "And what is it — have you been through a sausage machine?"

"No," said Jurgis, "but I've been in a railroad wreck and a fight." And then, while some of the other prisoners gathered round he told his wild story; most of them were incredulous, but Duane knew that Jurgis could never have made up such a yarn as that.

"Hard luck, old man," he said, when they were alone; "but maybe it's taught you a lesson."

"I've learned some things since I saw you last," said Jurgis mournfully. Then he explained how he had spent the last summer, "hoboing it," as the phrase was. "And you?" he asked finally. "Have you been here ever since?"

"Lord, no!" said the other. "I only came in the day before yesterday. It's the second time they've sent me up on a trumped-up charge — I've had hard luck and can't pay them what they want. Why don't you quit Chicago with me, Jurgis?"

"I've no place to go," said Jurgis, sadly.

"Neither have I," replied the other, laughing lightly. "But we'll wait till we get out and see."

In the Bridewell Jurgis met few who had been there the last time, but he met scores of others, old and young, of exactly the same sort. It was like breakers upon a beach; there was new water, but the wave looked just the same. He strolled about and talked with them, and the biggest of them told tales of their prowess, while those who were weaker, or younger and inexperienced, gathered round and listened in admiring silence. The last time he was there, Jurgis had thought of little but his family; but now he was free to listen to these men, and to realize that he was one of them — that their point of view was his point of view, and that the way they kept themselves alive in the world was the way he meant to do it in the future.

And so, when he was turned out of prison again, without a penny in his pocket, he went straight to Jack Duane. He went full of humility and gratitude; for Duane was a gentleman, and a man with a profession — and it was remarkable that he should be willing to throw in his lot with a humble workingman, one who had even been a beggar and a tramp. Jurgis could not see what help he could be to him; but he did not understand that a man like himself — who could be trusted to stand by any one who was kind to him — was as rare among criminals as among any other class of men.

The address Jurgis had was a garret room in the Ghetto district, the home of a pretty little French girl, Duane's mistress, who sewed all day, and eked out her living by prostitution. He had gone elsewhere, she told Jurgis — he was afraid to stay there now, on account of the police. The new address was a cellar dive, whose proprietor said that he had never heard of Duane; but after he had put Jurgis through a catechism he showed him a back stairs which led to a "fence" in the rear of a pawnbroker's shop, and thence to a number of assignation rooms, in one of which Duane was hiding.

Duane was glad to see him; he was without a cent of money, he said, and had been waiting for Jurgis to help him get some. He explained his plan — in fact he spent the day in laying bare to his friend the criminal world of the city, and in showing him how he might earn himself a living in it. That winter he would have a hard time, on account of his arm, and because of an unwonted fit of activity of the police; but so long as he was unknown to them he would be safe if he were careful. Here at "Papa" Hanson's (so they called the old man who kept the dive) he might rest at ease, for "Papa" Hanson was "square" — would stand by him so long as he paid, and gave him an hour's notice if there were to be a police raid. Also Rosensteg, the pawnbroker, would buy anything he had for a third of its value, and guarantee to keep it hidden for a year.

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