And so the other women turned out the contents of their pocketbooks; most of them had only pennies and nickels, but they gave him all. Mrs. Olszewski, who lived next door, and had a husband who was a skilled cattle butcher, but a drinking man, gave nearly half a dollar, enough to raise the whole sum to a dollar and a quarter. Then Jurgis thrust it into his pocket, still holding it tightly in his fist, and started away at a run.
“Madame Haupt Hebamme”, ran a sign, swinging from a second-story window over a saloon on the avenue; at a side door was another sign, with a hand pointing up a dingy flight of stairs. Jurgis went up them, three at a time.
Madame Haupt was frying pork and onions, and had her door half open to let out the smoke. When he tried to knock upon it, it swung open the rest of the way, and he had a glimpse of her, with a black bottle turned up to her lips. Then he knocked louder, and she started and put it away. She was a Dutchwoman, enormously fat—when she walked she rolled like a small boat on the ocean, and the dishes in the cupboard jostled each other. She wore a filthy blue wrapper, and her teeth were black.
“Vot is it?” she said, when she saw Jurgis.
He had run like mad all the way and was so out of breath he could hardly speak. His hair was flying and his eyes wild—he looked like a man that had risen from the tomb. “My wife!” he panted. “Come quickly!” Madame Haupt set the frying pan to one side and wiped her hands on her wrapper.
“You vant me to come for a case?” she inquired.
“Yes,” gasped Jurgis.
“I haf yust come back from a case,” she said. “I haf had no time to eat my dinner. Still—if it is so bad—”
“Yes—it is!” cried he. “Vell, den, perhaps—vot you pay?”
“I—I—how much do you want?” Jurgis stammered.
“Tventy-five dollars.” His face fell. “I can’t pay that,” he said.
The woman was watching him narrowly. “How much do you pay?” she demanded.
“Must I pay now—right away?”
“Yes; all my customers do.”
“I—I haven’t much money,” Jurgis began in an agony of dread. “I’ve been in—in trouble—and my money is gone. But I’ll pay you—every cent—just as soon as I can; I can work—”
“Vot is your work?”
“I have no place now. I must get one. But I—”
“How much haf you got now?”
He could hardly bring himself to reply. When he said “A dollar and a quarter,” the woman laughed in his face.
“I vould not put on my hat for a dollar and a quarter,” she said.
“It’s all I’ve got,” he pleaded, his voice breaking. “I must get some one—my wife will die. I can’t help it—I—”
Madame Haupt had put back her pork and onions on the stove. She turned to him and answered, out of the steam and noise: “Git me ten dollars cash, und so you can pay me the rest next mont’.”