The Jungle eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 445 pages of information about The Jungle.

This was not always his mood, of course; he still loved his family.  But just now was a time of trial.  Poor little Antanas, for instance—­who had never failed to win him with a smile—­little Antanas was not smiling just now, being a mass of fiery red pimples.  He had had all the diseases that babies are heir to, in quick succession, scarlet fever, mumps, and whooping cough in the first year, and now he was down with the measles.  There was no one to attend him but Kotrina; there was no doctor to help him, because they were too poor, and children did not die of the measles—­at least not often.  Now and then Kotrina would find time to sob over his woes, but for the greater part of the time he had to be left alone, barricaded upon the bed.  The floor was full of drafts, and if he caught cold he would die.  At night he was tied down, lest he should kick the covers off him, while the family lay in their stupor of exhaustion.  He would lie and scream for hours, almost in convulsions; and then, when he was worn out, he would lie whimpering and wailing in his torment.  He was burning up with fever, and his eyes were running sores; in the daytime he was a thing uncanny and impish to behold, a plaster of pimples and sweat, a great purple lump of misery.

Yet all this was not really as cruel as it sounds, for, sick as he was, little Antanas was the least unfortunate member of that family.  He was quite able to bear his sufferings—­it was as if he had all these complaints to show what a prodigy of health he was.  He was the child of his parents’ youth and joy; he grew up like the conjurer’s rosebush, and all the world was his oyster.  In general, he toddled around the kitchen all day with a lean and hungry look—­the portion of the family’s allowance that fell to him was not enough, and he was unrestrainable in his demand for more.  Antanas was but little over a year old, and already no one but his father could manage him.

It seemed as if he had taken all of his mother’s strength—­had left nothing for those that might come after him.  Ona was with child again now, and it was a dreadful thing to contemplate; even Jurgis, dumb and despairing as he was, could not but understand that yet other agonies were on the way, and shudder at the thought of them.

For Ona was visibly going to pieces.  In the first place she was developing a cough, like the one that had killed old Dede Antanas.  She had had a trace of it ever since that fatal morning when the greedy streetcar corporation had turned her out into the rain; but now it was beginning to grow serious, and to wake her up at night.  Even worse than that was the fearful nervousness from which she suffered; she would have frightful headaches and fits of aimless weeping; and sometimes she would come home at night shuddering and moaning, and would fling herself down upon the bed and burst into tears.  Several times she was quite beside herself and hysterical; and then Jurgis would go half-mad with fright.  Elzbieta would

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The Jungle from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.