Above her protests Jurgis heard Ona again; he was almost out of his mind. It was all new to him, raw and horrible—it had fallen upon him like a lightning stroke. When little Antanas was born he had been at work, and had known nothing about it until it was over; and now he was not to be controlled. The frightened women were at their wits’ end; one after another they tried to reason with him, to make him understand that this was the lot of woman. In the end they half drove him out into the rain, where he began to pace up and down, bareheaded and frantic. Because he could hear Ona from the street, he would first go away to escape the sounds, and then come back because he could not help it. At the end of a quarter of an hour he rushed up the steps again, and for fear that he would break in the door they had to open it and let him in.
There was no arguing with him. They could not tell him that all was going well—how could they know, he cried—why, she was dying, she was being torn to pieces! Listen to her—listen! Why, it was monstrous—it could not be allowed—there must be some help for it! Had they tried to get a doctor? They might pay him afterward—they could promise—
“We couldn’t promise, Jurgis,” protested Marija. “We had no money—we have scarcely been able to keep alive.”
“But I can work,” Jurgis exclaimed. “I can earn money!”
“Yes,” she answered—“but we thought you were in jail. How could we know when you would return? They will not work for nothing.”
Marija went on to tell how she had tried to find a midwife, and how they had demanded ten, fifteen, even twenty-five dollars, and that in cash. “And I had only a quarter,” she said. “I have spent every cent of my money—all that I had in the bank; and I owe the doctor who has been coming to see me, and he has stopped because he thinks I don’t mean to pay him. And we owe Aniele for two weeks’ rent, and she is nearly starving, and is afraid of being turned out. We have been borrowing and begging to keep alive, and there is nothing more we can do—”
“And the children?” cried Jurgis.
“The children have not been home for three days, the weather has been so bad. They could not know what is happening—it came suddenly, two months before we expected it.”
Jurgis was standing by the table, and he caught himself with his hand; his head sank and his arms shook—it looked as if he were going to collapse. Then suddenly Aniele got up and came hobbling toward him, fumbling in her skirt pocket. She drew out a dirty rag, in one corner of which she had something tied.
“Here, Jurgis!” she said, “I have some money. Palauk! See!”
She unwrapped it and counted it out—thirty-four cents. “You go, now,” she said, “and try and get somebody yourself. And maybe the rest can help—give him some money, you; he will pay you back some day, and it will do him good to have something to think about, even if he doesn’t succeed. When he comes back, maybe it will be over.”