The Jungle eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 445 pages of information about The Jungle.
saw her as he had seen her in Lithuania, the first day at the fair, beautiful as the flowers, singing like a bird.  He saw her as he had married her, with all her tenderness, with her heart of wonder; the very words she had spoken seemed to ring now in his ears, the tears she had shed to be wet upon his cheek.  The long, cruel battle with misery and hunger had hardened and embittered him, but it had not changed her—­she had been the same hungry soul to the end, stretching out her arms to him, pleading with him, begging him for love and tenderness.  And she had suffered—­so cruelly she had suffered, such agonies, such infamies—­ah, God, the memory of them was not to be borne.  What a monster of wickedness, of heartlessness, he had been!  Every angry word that he had ever spoken came back to him and cut him like a knife; every selfish act that he had done—­with what torments he paid for them now!  And such devotion and awe as welled up in his soul—­now that it could never be spoken, now that it was too late, too late!  His bosom-was choking with it, bursting with it; he crouched here in the darkness beside her, stretching out his arms to her—­and she was gone forever, she was dead!  He could have screamed aloud with the horror and despair of it; a sweat of agony beaded his forehead, yet he dared not make a sound—­he scarcely dared to breathe, because of his shame and loathing of himself.

Late at night came Elzbieta, having gotten the money for a mass, and paid for it in advance, lest she should be tempted too sorely at home.  She brought also a bit of stale rye bread that some one had given her, and with that they quieted the children and got them to sleep.  Then she came over to Jurgis and sat down beside him.

She said not a word of reproach—­she and Marija had chosen that course before; she would only plead with him, here by the corpse of his dead wife.  Already Elzbieta had choked down her tears, grief being crowded out of her soul by fear.  She had to bury one of her children—­but then she had done it three times before, and each time risen up and gone back to take up the battle for the rest.  Elzbieta was one of the primitive creatures:  like the angleworm, which goes on living though cut in half; like a hen, which, deprived of her chickens one by one, will mother the last that is left her.  She did this because it was her nature—­she asked no questions about the justice of it, nor the worth-whileness of life in which destruction and death ran riot.

And this old common-sense view she labored to impress upon Jurgis, pleading with him with tears in her eyes.  Ona was dead, but the others were left and they must be saved.  She did not ask for her own children.  She and Marija could care for them somehow, but there was Antanas, his own son.  Ona had given Antanas to him—­the little fellow was the only remembrance of her that he had; he must treasure it and protect it, he must show himself a man.  He knew what Ona would have had him do, what she would ask of him

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The Jungle from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.