The Jungle eBook

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

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.

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Project Gutenberg
The Jungle from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.