From The Jungle
Jurgis got up, wild with rage, but the door was shut and the
great castle was dark and impregnable. Then the icy teeth of the
blast bit into him, and he turned and went away at a run.
When he stopped again it was because he was coming to frequented
streets and did not wish to attract attention. In spite of that
last humiliation, his heart was thumping fast with triumph.
He had come out ahead on that deal! He put his hand into his
trousers' pocket every now and then, to make sure that the
precious hundred-dollar bill was still there.
Yet he was in a plight--a curious and even dreadful plight, when
he came to realize it. He had not a single cent but that one
bill! And he had to find some shelter that night he had to
Jurgis spent half an hour walking and debating the problem.
There was no one he could go to for help--he had to manage it all
alone. To get it changed in a lodging-house would be to take his
life in his hands--he would almost certainly be robbed, and
perhaps murdered, before morning. He might go to some hotel or
railroad depot and ask to have it changed; but what would they
think, seeing a "bum" like him with a hundred dollars? He would
probably be arrested if he tried it; and what story could he
tell? On the morrow Freddie Jones would discover his loss,
and there would be a hunt for him, and he would lose his money.
The only other plan he could think of was to try in a saloon.
He might pay them to change it, if it could not be done otherwise.
He began peering into places as he walked; he passed several as
being too crowded--then finally, chancing upon one where the
bartender was all alone, he gripped his hands in sudden
resolution and went in.
"Can you change me a hundred-dollar bill?" he demanded.
The bartender was a big, husky fellow, with the jaw of a prize
fighter, and a three weeks' stubble of hair upon it. He stared
at Jurgis. "What's that youse say?" he demanded.
"I said, could you change me a hundred-dollar bill?"
"Where'd youse get it?" he inquired incredulously.
"Never mind," said Jurgis; "I've got it, and I want it changed.
I'll pay you if you'll do it."
The other stared at him hard. "Lemme see it," he said.
"Will you change it?" Jurgis demanded, gripping it tightly in his
"How the hell can I know if it's good or not?" retorted the
bartender. "Whatcher take me for, hey?"
Then Jurgis slowly and warily approached him; he took out the
bill, and fumbled it for a moment, while the man stared at him
with hostile eyes across the counter. Then finally he handed it
The other took it, and began to examine it; he smoothed it
between his fingers, and held it up to the light; he turned it
over, and upside down, and edgeways. It was new and rather
stiff, and that made him dubious. Jurgis was watching him like a
cat all the time.
"Humph," he said, finally, and gazed at the stranger, sizing him
up--a ragged, ill-smelling tramp, with no overcoat and one arm in
a sling--and a hundred-dollar bill! "Want to buy anything?" he
"Yes," said Jurgis, "I'll take a glass of beer."
"All right," said the other, "I'll change it." And he put the
bill in his pocket, and poured Jurgis out a glass of beer,
and set it on the counter. Then he turned to the cash register,
and punched up five cents, and began to pull money out of the drawer.
Finally, he faced Jurgis, counting it out--two dimes, a quarter,
and fifty cents. "There," he said.
For a second Jurgis waited, expecting to see him turn again. "My
ninety-nine dollars," he said.
"What ninety-nine dollars?" demanded the bartender.
"My change!" he cried--"the rest of my hundred!"
"Go on," said the bartender, "you're nutty!"
And Jurgis stared at him with wild eyes. For an instant horror
reigned in him--black, paralyzing, awful horror, clutching him at
the heart; and then came rage, in surging, blinding floods--
he screamed aloud, and seized the glass and hurled it at the other's
head. The man ducked, and it missed him by half an inch; he rose
again and faced Jurgis, who was vaulting over the bar with his
one well arm, and dealt him a smashing blow in the face, hurling
him backward upon the floor. Then, as Jurgis scrambled to his
feet again and started round the counter after him, he shouted at
the top of his voice, "Help! help!"
Jurgis seized a bottle off the counter as he ran; and as the
bartender made a leap he hurled the missile at him with all his
force. It just grazed his head, and shivered into a thousand
pieces against the post of the door. Then Jurgis started back,
rushing at the man again in the middle of the room. This time,
in his blind frenzy, he came without a bottle, and that was all
the bartender wanted--he met him halfway and floored him with a
sledgehammer drive between the eyes. An instant later the screen
doors flew open, and two men rushed in--just as Jurgis was
getting to his feet again, foaming at the mouth with rage,
and trying to tear his broken arm out of its bandages.
"Look out!" shouted the bartender. "He's got a knife!" Then,
seeing that the two were disposed to join the fray, he made
another rush at Jurgis, and knocked aside his feeble defense and
sent him tumbling again; and the three flung themselves upon him,
rolling and kicking about the place.
A second later a policeman dashed in, and the bartender yelled
once more--"Look out for his knife!" Jurgis had fought himself
half to his knees, when the policeman made a leap at him, and
cracked him across the face with his club. Though the blow
staggered him, the wild-beast frenzy still blazed in him, and he
got to his feet, lunging into the air. Then again the club
descended, full upon his head, and he dropped like a log to the
The policeman crouched over him, clutching his stick, waiting for
him to try to rise again; and meantime the barkeeper got up, and
put his hand to his head. "Christ!" he said, "I thought I was
done for that time. Did he cut me?"
"Don't see anything, Jake," said the policeman. "What's the
matter with him?"
"Just crazy drunk," said the other. "A lame duck, too--but he
'most got me under the bar. Youse had better call the wagon,
"No," said the officer. "He's got no more fight in him, I
guess--and he's only got a block to go." He twisted his hand in
Jurgis's collar and jerked at him. "Git up here, you!" he
But Jurgis did not move, and the bartender went behind the bar,
and after stowing the hundred-dollar bill away in a safe hiding
place, came and poured a glass of water over Jurgis. Then, as
the latter began to moan feebly, the policeman got him to his
feet and dragged him out of the place. The station house was
just around the corner, and so in a few minutes Jurgis was in a
He spent half the night lying unconscious, and the balance
moaning in torment, with a blinding headache and a racking
thirst. Now and then he cried aloud for a drink of water,
but there was no one to hear him. There were others in that same
station house with split heads and a fever; there were hundreds
of them in the great city, and tens of thousands of them in the
great land, and there was no one to hear any of them.
In the morning Jurgis was given a cup of water and a piece of
bread, and then hustled into a patrol wagon and driven to the
nearest police court. He sat in the pen with a score of others
until his turn came.
The bartender--who proved to be a well-known bruiser--was called
to the stand, He took the oath and told his story. The prisoner
had come into his saloon after midnight, fighting drunk, and had
ordered a glass of beer and tendered a dollar bill in payment.
He had been given ninety-five cents' change, and had demanded
ninety-nine dollars more, and before the plaintiff could even
answer had hurled the glass at him and then attacked him with a
bottle of bitters, and nearly wrecked the place.
Then the prisoner was sworn--a forlorn object, haggard and
unshorn, with an arm done up in a filthy bandage, a cheek and
head cut, and bloody, and one eye purplish black and entirely
closed. "What have you to say for yourself?" queried the
"Your Honor," said Jurgis, "I went into his place and asked the
man if he could change me a hundred-dollar bill. And he said he
would if I bought a drink. I gave him the bill and then he
wouldn't give me the change."
The magistrate was staring at him in perplexity. "You gave him a
hundred-dollar bill!" he exclaimed.
"Yes, your Honor," said Jurgis.
"Where did you get it?"
"A man gave it to me, your Honor."
"A man? What man, and what for?"
"A young man I met upon the street, your Honor. I had been
There was a titter in the courtroom; the officer who was holding
Jurgis put up his hand to hide a smile, and the magistrate smiled
without trying to hide it. "It's true, your Honor!" cried
"You had been drinking as well as begging last night, had you
not?" inquired the magistrate. "No, your Honor--" protested
"You had not had anything to drink?"
"Why, yes, your Honor, I had--"
"What did you have?"
"I had a bottle of something--I don't know what it was--something
There was again a laugh round the courtroom, stopping suddenly as
the magistrate looked up and frowned. "Have you ever been
arrested before?" he asked abruptly.
The question took Jurgis aback. "I--I--" he stammered.
"Tell me the truth, now!" commanded the other, sternly.
"Yes, your Honor," said Jurgis.
"Only once, your Honor."
"For knocking down my boss, your Honor. I was working in the
stockyards, and he--"
"I see," said his Honor; "I guess that will do. You ought to
stop drinking if you can't control yourself. Ten days and costs.
Jurgis gave vent to a cry of dismay, cut off suddenly by the
policeman, who seized him by the collar. He was jerked out of
the way, into a room with the convicted prisoners, where he sat
and wept like a child in his impotent rage. It seemed monstrous
to him that policemen and judges should esteem his word as
nothing in comparison with the bartender's--poor Jurgis could not
know that the owner of the saloon paid five dollars each week to
the policeman alone for Sunday privileges and general favors--
nor that the pugilist bartender was one of the most trusted henchmen
of the Democratic leader of the district, and had helped only a
few months before to hustle out a record-breaking vote as a
testimonial to the magistrate, who had been made the target of
odious kid-gloved reformers.
Jurgis was driven out to the Bridewell for the second time. In
his tumbling around he had hurt his arm again, and so could not
work, but had to be attended by the physician. Also his head and
his eye had to be tied up--and so he was a pretty-looking object
when, the second day after his arrival, he went out into the
exercise court and encountered--Jack Duane!
The young fellow was so glad to see Jurgis that he almost hugged
him. "By God, if it isn't 'the Stinker'!" he cried. "And what
is it--have you been through a sausage machine?"
"No," said Jurgis, "but I've been in a railroad wreck and a
fight." And then, while some of the other prisoners gathered
round he told his wild story; most of them were incredulous,
but Duane knew that Jurgis could never have made up such a yarn
"Hard luck, old man," he said, when they were alone; "but maybe
it's taught you a lesson."
"I've learned some things since I saw you last," said Jurgis
mournfully. Then he explained how he had spent the last summer,
"hoboing it," as the phrase was. "And you?" he asked finally.
"Have you been here ever since?"
"Lord, no!" said the other. "I only came in the day before
yesterday. It's the second time they've sent me up on a
trumped-up charge--I've had hard luck and can't pay them what
they want. Why don't you quit Chicago with me, Jurgis?"
"I've no place to go," said Jurgis, sadly.
"Neither have I," replied the other, laughing lightly. "But
we'll wait till we get out and see."
In the Bridewell Jurgis met few who had been there the last time,
but he met scores of others, old and young, of exactly the same
sort. It was like breakers upon a beach; there was new water,
but the wave looked just the same. He strolled about and talked
with them, and the biggest of them told tales of their prowess,
while those who were weaker, or younger and inexperienced,
gathered round and listened in admiring silence. The last time
he was there, Jurgis had thought of little but his family;
but now he was free to listen to these men, and to realize that he
was one of them--that their point of view was his point of view,
and that the way they kept themselves alive in the world was the
way he meant to do it in the future.
And so, when he was turned out of prison again, without a penny
in his pocket, he went straight to Jack Duane. He went full of
humility and gratitude; for Duane was a gentleman, and a man with
a profession--and it was remarkable that he should be willing to
throw in his lot with a humble workingman, one who had even been
a beggar and a tramp. Jurgis could not see what help he could be
to him; but he did not understand that a man like himself--who
could be trusted to stand by any one who was kind to him--was as
rare among criminals as among any other class of men.
The address Jurgis had was a garret room in the Ghetto district,
the home of a pretty little French girl, Duane's mistress, who
sewed all day, and eked out her living by prostitution. He had
gone elsewhere, she told Jurgis--he was afraid to stay there now,
on account of the police. The new address was a cellar dive,
whose proprietor said that he had never heard of Duane; but after
he had put Jurgis through a catechism he showed him a back stairs
which led to a "fence" in the rear of a pawnbroker's shop, and
thence to a number of assignation rooms, in one of which Duane
Duane was glad to see him; he was without a cent of money,
he said, and had been waiting for Jurgis to help him get some.
He explained his plan--in fact he spent the day in laying bare to
his friend the criminal world of the city, and in showing him how
he might earn himself a living in it. That winter he would have
a hard time, on account of his arm, and because of an unwonted
fit of activity of the police; but so long as he was unknown to
them he would be safe if he were careful. Here at "Papa"
Hanson's (so they called the old man who kept the dive) he might
rest at ease, for "Papa" Hanson was "square"--would stand by him
so long as he paid, and gave him an hour's notice if there were
to be a police raid. Also Rosensteg, the pawnbroker, would buy
anything he had for a third of its value, and guarantee to keep
it hidden for a year.
There was an oil stove in the little cupboard of a room, and they
had some supper; and then about eleven o'clock at night they
sallied forth together, by a rear entrance to the place, Duane
armed with a slingshot. They came to a residence district,
and he sprang up a lamppost and blew out the light, and then the two
dodged into the shelter of an area step and hid in silence.
Pretty soon a man came by, a workingman--and they let him go.
Then after a long interval came the heavy tread of a policeman,
and they held their breath till he was gone. Though half-frozen,
they waited a full quarter of an hour after that--and then again
came footsteps, walking briskly. Duane nudged Jurgis, and the
instant the man had passed they rose up. Duane stole out as
silently as a shadow, and a second later Jurgis heard a thud and
a stifled cry. He was only a couple of feet behind, and he
leaped to stop the man's mouth, while Duane held him fast by the
arms, as they had agreed. But the man was limp and showed a
tendency to fall, and so Jurgis had only to hold him by the
collar, while the other, with swift fingers, went through his
pockets--ripping open, first his overcoat, and then his coat,
and then his vest, searching inside and outside, and transferring the
contents into his own pockets. At last, after feeling of the
man's fingers and in his necktie, Duane whispered, "That's all!"
and they dragged him to the area and dropped him in. Then Jurgis
went one way and his friend the other, walking briskly.
The latter arrived first, and Jurgis found him examining the
"swag." There was a gold watch, for one thing, with a chain and
locket; there was a silver pencil, and a matchbox, and a handful
of small change, and finally a cardcase. This last Duane opened
feverishly--there were letters and checks, and two
theater-tickets, and at last, in the back part, a wad of bills.
He counted them--there was a twenty, five tens, four fives, and
three ones. Duane drew a long breath. "That lets us out!" he
After further examination, they burned the cardcase and its
contents, all but the bills, and likewise the picture of a little
girl in the locket. Then Duane took the watch and trinkets
downstairs, and came back with sixteen dollars. "The old
scoundrel said the case was filled," he said. "It's a lie, but
he knows I want the money."
They divided up the spoils, and Jurgis got as his share
fifty-five dollars and some change. He protested that it was too
much, but the other had agreed to divide even. That was a good
haul, he said, better than average.
When they got up in the morning, Jurgis was sent out to buy a
paper; one of the pleasures of committing a crime was the reading
about it afterward. "I had a pal that always did it," Duane
remarked, laughing--"until one day he read that he had left three
thousand dollars in a lower inside pocket of his party's vest!"
There was a half-column account of the robbery--it was evident
that a gang was operating in the neighborhood, said the paper,
for it was the third within a week, and the police were
apparently powerless. The victim was an insurance agent, and he
had lost a hundred and ten dollars that did not belong to him.
He had chanced to have his name marked on his shirt, otherwise he
would not have been identified yet. His assailant had hit him
too hard, and he was suffering from concussion of the brain;
and also he had been half-frozen when found, and would lose three
fingers on his right hand. The enterprising newspaper reporter
had taken all this information to his family, and told how they
had received it.
Since it was Jurgis's first experience, these details naturally
caused him some worriment; but the other laughed coolly--it was
the way of the game, and there was no helping it. Before long
Jurgis would think no more of it than they did in the yards of
knocking out a bullock. "It's a case of us or the other fellow,
and I say the other fellow, every time," he observed.
"Still," said Jurgis, reflectively, "he never did us any harm."
"He was doing it to somebody as hard as he could, you can be sure
of that," said his friend.
Duane had already explained to Jurgis that if a man of their
trade were known he would have to work all the time to satisfy
the demands of the police. Therefore it would be better for
Jurgis to stay in hiding and never be seen in public with his
pal. But Jurgis soon got very tired of staying in hiding. In a
couple of weeks he was feeling strong and beginning to use his
arm, and then he could not stand it any longer. Duane, who had
done a job of some sort by himself, and made a truce with the
powers, brought over Marie, his little French girl, to share with
him; but even that did not avail for long, and in the end he had
to give up arguing, and take Jurgis out and introduce him to the
saloons and "sporting houses" where the big crooks and "holdup men" hung out.
And so Jurgis got a glimpse of the high-class criminal world of
Chicago. The city, which was owned by an oligarchy of
businessmen, being nominally ruled by the people, a huge army of
graft was necessary for the purpose of effecting the transfer of
power. Twice a year, in the spring and fall elections, millions
of dollars were furnished by the businessmen and expended by this
army; meetings were held and clever speakers were hired, bands
played and rockets sizzled, tons of documents and reservoirs of
drinks were distributed, and tens of thousands of votes were
bought for cash. And this army of graft had, of course, to be
maintained the year round. The leaders and organizers were
maintained by the businessmen directly--aldermen and legislators
by means of bribes, party officials out of the campaign funds,
lobbyists and corporation lawyers in the form of salaries,
contractors by means of jobs, labor union leaders by subsidies,
and newspaper proprietors and editors by advertisements. The
rank and file, however, were either foisted upon the city, or
else lived off the population directly. There was the police
department, and the fire and water departments, and the whole
balance of the civil list, from the meanest office boy to the
head of a city department; and for the horde who could find no
room in these, there was the world of vice and crime, there was
license to seduce, to swindle and plunder and prey. The law
forbade Sunday drinking; and this had delivered the saloon-
keepers into the hands of the police, and made an alliance
between them necessary. The law forbade prostitution; and this
had brought the "madames" into the combination. It was the same
with the gambling-house keeper and the poolroom man, and the same
with any other man or woman who had a means of getting "graft,"
and was willing to pay over a share of it: the green-goods man
and the highwayman, the pickpocket and the sneak thief, and the
receiver of stolen goods, the seller of adulterated milk, of
stale fruit and diseased meat, the proprietor of unsanitary
tenements, the fake doctor and the usurer, the beggar and the
"pushcart man," the prize fighter and the professional slugger,
the race-track "tout," the procurer, the white-slave agent, and
the expert seducer of young girls. All of these agencies of
corruption were banded together, and leagued in blood brotherhood
with the politician and the police; more often than not they were
one and the same person,--the police captain would own the
brothel he pretended to raid, the politician would open his
headquarters in his saloon. "Hinkydink" or "Bathhouse John,"
or others of that ilk, were proprietors of the most notorious dives
in Chicago, and also the "gray wolves" of the city council,
who gave away the streets of the city to the businessmen; and those
who patronized their places were the gamblers and prize fighters
who set the law at defiance, and the burglars and holdup men who
kept the whole city in terror. On election day all these powers
of vice and crime were one power; they could tell within one per
cent what the vote of their district would be, and they could
change it at an hour's notice.
A month ago Jurgis had all but perished of starvation upon the
streets; and now suddenly, as by the gift of a magic key, he had
entered into a world where money and all the good things of life
came freely. He was introduced by his friend to an Irishman
named "Buck" Halloran, who was a political "worker" and on the
inside of things. This man talked with Jurgis for a while, and
then told him that he had a little plan by which a man who looked
like a workingman might make some easy money; but it was a
private affair, and had to be kept quiet. Jurgis expressed
himself as agreeable, and the other took him that afternoon
(it was Saturday) to a place where city laborers were being paid off.
The paymaster sat in a little booth, with a pile of envelopes
before him, and two policemen standing by. Jurgis went,
according to directions, and gave the name of "Michael
O'Flaherty," and received an envelope, which he took around the
corner and delivered to Halloran, who was waiting for him in a
saloon. Then he went again; and gave the name of "Johann
Schmidt," and a third time, and give the name of "Serge
Reminitsky." Halloran had quite a list of imaginary workingmen,
and Jurgis got an envelope for each one. For this work he
received five dollars, and was told that he might have it every
week, so long as he kept quiet. As Jurgis was excellent at
keeping quiet, he soon won the trust of "Buck" Halloran, and was
introduced to others as a man who could be depended upon.
This acquaintance was useful to him in another way, also before
long Jurgis made his discovery of the meaning of "pull," and just
why his boss, Connor, and also the pugilist bartender, had been
able to send him to jail. One night there was given a ball, the
"benefit" of "One-eyed Larry," a lame man who played the violin
in one of the big "high-class" houses of prostitution on Clark
Street, and was a wag and a popular character on the "Levee."
This ball was held in a big dance hall, and was one of the
occasions when the city's powers of debauchery gave themselves up
to madness. Jurgis attended and got half insane with drink,
and began quarreling over a girl; his arm was pretty strong by then,
and he set to work to clean out the place, and ended in a cell in
the police station. The police station being crowded to the
doors, and stinking with "bums," Jurgis did not relish staying
there to sleep off his liquor, and sent for Halloran, who called
up the district leader and had Jurgis bailed out by telephone at
four o'clock in the morning. When he was arraigned that same
morning, the district leader had already seen the clerk of the
court and explained that Jurgis Rudkus was a decent fellow, who
had been indiscreet; and so Jurgis was fined ten dollars and the
fine was "suspended"--which meant that he did not have to pay for
it, and never would have to pay it, unless somebody chose to
bring it up against him in the future.
Among the people Jurgis lived with now money was valued according
to an entirely different standard from that of the people of
Packingtown; yet, strange as it may seem, he did a great deal
less drinking than he had as a workingman. He had not the same
provocations of exhaustion and hopelessness; he had now something
to work for, to struggle for. He soon found that if he kept his
wits about him, he would come upon new opportunities; and being
naturally an active man, he not only kept sober himself, but
helped to steady his friend, who was a good deal fonder of both
wine and women than he.
One thing led to another. In the saloon where Jurgis met "Buck"
Halloran he was sitting late one night with Duane, when a
"country customer" (a buyer for an out-of-town merchant) came in,
a little more than half "piped." There was no one else in the
place but the bartender, and as the man went out again Jurgis and
Duane followed him; he went round the corner, and in a dark place
made by a combination of the elevated railroad and an unrented
building, Jurgis leaped forward and shoved a revolver under his
nose, while Duane, with his hat pulled over his eyes, went
through the man's pockets with lightning fingers. They got his
watch and his "wad," and were round the corner again and into the
saloon before he could shout more than once. The bartender, to
whom they had tipped the wink, had the cellar door open for them,
and they vanished, making their way by a secret entrance to a
brothel next door. From the roof of this there was access to
three similar places beyond. By means of these passages the
customers of any one place could be gotten out of the way, in
case a falling out with the police chanced to lead to a raid;
and also it was necessary to have a way of getting a girl out of
reach in case of an emergency. Thousands of them came to Chicago
answering advertisements for "servants" and "factory hands," and
found themselves trapped by fake employment agencies, and locked
up in a bawdyhouse. It was generally enough to take all their
clothes away from them; but sometimes they would have to be
"doped" and kept prisoners for weeks; and meantime their parents
might be telegraphing the police, and even coming on to see why
nothing was done. Occasionally there was no way of satisfying
them but to let them search the place to which the girl had been
The Jungle Chapter 25 - Part 2