The Jungle eBook

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

Poor Jurgis might have been expected to make a successful beggar.  He was just out of the hospital, and desperately sick-looking, and with a helpless arm; also he had no overcoat, and shivered pitifully.  But, alas, it was again the case of the honest merchant, who finds that the genuine and unadulterated article is driven to the wall by the artistic counterfeit.  Jurgis, as a beggar, was simply a blundering amateur in competition with organized and scientific professionalism.  He was just out of the hospital—­but the story was worn threadbare, and how could he prove it?  He had his arm in a sling—­and it was a device a regular beggar’s little boy would have scorned.  He was pale and shivering—­but they were made up with cosmetics, and had studied the art of chattering their teeth.  As to his being without an overcoat, among them you would meet men you could swear had on nothing but a ragged linen duster and a pair of cotton trousers—­so cleverly had they concealed the several suits of all-wool underwear beneath.  Many of these professional mendicants had comfortable homes, and families, and thousands of dollars in the bank; some of them had retired upon their earnings, and gone into the business of fitting out and doctoring others, or working children at the trade.  There were some who had both their arms bound tightly to their sides, and padded stumps in their sleeves, and a sick child hired to carry a cup for them.  There were some who had no legs, and pushed themselves upon a wheeled platform—­some who had been favored with blindness, and were led by pretty little dogs.  Some less fortunate had mutilated themselves or burned themselves, or had brought horrible sores upon themselves with chemicals; you might suddenly encounter upon the street a man holding out to you a finger rotting and discolored with gangrene—­or one with livid scarlet wounds half escaped from their filthy bandages.  These desperate ones were the dregs of the city’s cesspools, wretches who hid at night in the rain-soaked cellars of old ramshackle tenements, in “stale-beer dives” and opium joints, with abandoned women in the last stages of the harlot’s progress—­women who had been kept by Chinamen and turned away at last to die.  Every day the police net would drag hundreds of them off the streets, and in the detention hospital you might see them, herded together in a miniature inferno, with hideous, beastly faces, bloated and leprous with disease, laughing, shouting, screaming in all stages of drunkenness, barking like dogs, gibbering like apes, raving and tearing themselves in delirium.

Chapter 24

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The Jungle from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.