IN THE FACE OF all his handicaps, Jurgis was obliged to make the price of a lodging, and of a drink every hour or two, under penalty of freezing to death. Day after day he roamed about in the arctic cold, his soul filled full of bitterness and despair. He saw the world of civilization then more plainly than ever he had seen it before; a world in which nothing counted but brutal might, an order devised by those who possessed it for the subjugation of those who did not. He was one of the latter; and all outdoors, all life, was to him one colossal prison, which he paced like a pent-up tiger, trying one bar after another, and finding them all beyond his power. He had lost in the fierce battle of greed, and so was doomed to be exterminated; and all society was busied to see that he did not escape the sentence. Everywhere that he turned were prison-bars, and hostile eyes following him; the well-fed, sleek policemen, from whose glances he shrank, and who seemed to grip their clubs more tightly when they saw him; the saloon-keepers, who never ceased to watch him while he was in their places, who were jealous of every moment he lingered after he had paid his money; the hurrying throngs upon the streets, who were deaf to his entreaties, oblivious of his very existence—and savage and contemptuous when he forced himself upon them. They had their own affairs, and there was no place for him among them. There was no place for him anywhere—every direction he turned his gaze, this fact was forced upon him. Everything was built to express it to him: the residences, with their heavy walls and bolted doors, and basement-windows barred with iron; the great warehouses filled with the products of the whole world, and guarded by iron shutters and heavy gates; the banks with their unthinkable billions of wealth, all buried in safes and vaults of steel.
And then one day there befell Jurgis the one adventure of his life. It was late at night, and he had failed to get the price of a lodging. Snow was falling, and he had been out so long that he was covered with it, and was chilled to the bone. He was working among the theatre crowds, flitting here and there, taking large chances with the police, in his desperation half hoping to be arrested. When he saw a blue-coat start toward him, however, his heart failed him, and he dashed down a side street and fled a couple of blocks. When he stopped again he saw a man coming toward him, and placed himself in his path.
“Please, sir,” he began, in the usual formula, “will you give me the price of a lodging? I've had a broken arm, and I can't work, and I've not a cent in my pocket. I'm an honest working-man, sir, and I never begged before! It's not my fault, sir—”
Jurgis usually went on until he was interrupted, but this man did not interrupt, and so at last he came to a breathless stop. The other had halted, and Jurgis suddenly noticed that he stood a little unsteadily. “Whuzzat you say?” he queried suddenly, in a thick voice.
Jurgis began again, speaking more slowly and distinctly; before he was half through the other put out his hand and rested it upon his shoulder. “Poor ole chappie!” he said. “Been up—hic—up—against it, hey?”
Then he lurched toward Jurgis, and the hand upon his shoulder became an arm about his neck. “Up against it myself, ole sport,” he said. “She's a hard ole world.”
They were close to a lamp post, and Jurgis got a glimpse of the other. He was a young fellow—not much over eighteen, with a handsome boyish face. He wore a silk hat and a rich soft overcoat with a fur collar; and he smiled at Jurgis with benignant sympathy. “I'm hard up, too, my goo' fren',” he said. “I've got cruel parents, or I'd set you up. Whuzzamatter whizyer?”
“I've been in the hospital.”
“Hospital!” exclaimed the young fellow, still smiling sweetly, “thass too bad! Same's my Aunt Polly—hic—my Aunt Polly's in the hospital, too—ole auntie's been havin' twins! Whuzzamatter whiz you?”
“I've got a broken arm—” Jurgis began.
“So,” said the other, sympathetically. “That ain't so bad—you get over that. I wish somebody'd break my arm, ole chappie—damfidon't! Then they's treat me better—hic—hole me up, ole sport! Whuzzit you wamme do?”
“I'm hungry, sir,” said Jurgis.
“Hungry! Why don't you hassome supper?”
“I've got no money, sir.”
“No money! Ho, ho—less be chums, ole boy—jess like me! No money, either,—a'most busted! Why don't you go home, then, same's me?”
“I haven't any home,” said Jurgis.
“No home! Stranger in the city, hey? Goo' God, thass bad! Better come home wiz me—yes, by Harry, thass the trick, you'll come home an' hassome supper—hic—wiz me! Awful lonesome—nobody home! Guv'ner gone abroad—Bubby on's honeymoon—Polly havin' twins—every damn soul gone away! Nuff—hic—nuff to drive a feller to drink, I say! Only ole Ham standin' by, passin' plates—damfican eat like that, no sir! The club for me every time, my boy, I say. But then they won't lemme sleep there—guv'ner's orders, by Harry—home every night, sir! Ever hear anythin' like that? ‘Every mornin’ do?' I asked him. ‘No, sir, every night, or no allowance at all, sir.’ Thass my guv'ner—hic—hard as nails, by Harry! Tole ole Ham to watch me, too—servants spyin' on me—whuzyer think that, my fren'? A nice, quiet—hic—goodhearted young feller like me, an' his daddy can't go to Europe—hup!—an' leave him in peace! Ain't that a shame, sir? An' I gotter go home every evenin' an' miss all the fun, by Harry! Thass whuzzamatter now—thass why I'm here! Hadda come away an' leave Kitty—hic—left her cryin', too—whujja think of that, ole sport? ‘Lemme go, Kittens,’ says I—‘come early an’ often—I go where duty—hic—calls me. Farewell, farewell, my own true love—farewell, fare-wehell, my-own-true-love!'”
This last was a song, and the young gentleman's voice rose mournful and wailing, while he swung upon Jurgis's neck. The latter was glancing about nervously, lest some one should approach. They were still alone, however.
“But I came all right, all right,” continued the youngster, aggressively, “I can—hic—I can have my own way when I want it, by Harry—Freddie Jones is a hard man to handle when he gets goin'! ‘No, sir,’ says I, ‘by thunder, and I don't need anybody goin’ home with me, either—whujja take me for, hey? Think I'm drunk, dontcha, hey?—I know you! But I'm no more drunk than you are, Kittens,' says I to her. And then says she, ‘Thass true, Freddie dear’ (she's a smart one, is Kitty), ‘but I'm stayin’ in the flat, an' you're goin' out into the cold, cold night!' ‘Put it in a pome, lovely Kitty,’ says I. ‘No jokin’, Freddie, my boy,' says she. ‘Lemme call a cab now, like a good dear’—but I can call my own cabs, dontcha fool yourself—and I know what I'm a-doin', you bet! Say, my fren', whatcha say—willye come home an' see me, an' hassome supper? Come 'long like a good feller—don't be haughty! You're up against it, same as me, an' you can unnerstan' a feller; your heart's in the right place, by Harry—come 'long, ole chappie, an' we'll light up the house, an' have some fizz, an' we'll raise hell, we will—whoop-la! S'long's I'm inside the house I can do as I please—the guv'ner's own very orders, b'God! Hip! hip!”
They had started down the street, arm in arm, the young man pushing Jurgis along, half dazed. Jurgis was trying to think what to do—he knew he could not pass any crowded place with his new acquaintance without attracting attention and being stopped. It was only because of the falling snow that people who passed here did not notice anything wrong.
Suddenly, therefore, Jurgis stopped. “Is it very far?” he inquired.
“Not very,” said the other, “Tired, are you, though? Well, we'll ride—whatcha say? Good! Call a cab!”
And then, gripping Jurgis tight with one hand, the young fellow began searching his pockets with the other. “You call, ole sport, an' I'll pay,” he suggested. “How's that, hey?”
And he pulled out from somewhere a big roll of bills. It was more money than Jurgis had ever seen in his life before, and he stared at it with startled eyes.
“Looks like a lot, hey?” said Master Freddie, fumbling with it. “Fool you, though, ole chappie—they're all little ones! I'll be busted in one week more, sure thing—word of honor. An' not a cent more till the first—hic—guv'ner's orders—hic—not a cent, by Harry! Nuff to set a feller crazy, it is. I sent him a cable, this af'noon—thass one reason more why I'm goin' home. ‘Hangin’ on the verge of starvation,' I says—‘for the honor of the family—hic—sen’ me some bread. Hunger will compel me to join you.—Freddie.' Thass what I wired him, by Harry, an' I mean it—I'll run away from school, b'God, if he don't sen' me some.”
After this fashion the young gentleman continued to prattle on—and meantime Jurgis was trembling with excitement. He might grab that wad of bills and be out of sight in the darkness before the other could collect his wits. Should he do it? What better had he to hope for, if he waited longer? But Jurgis had never committed a crime in his life, and now he hesitated half a second too long. “Freddie” got one bill loose, and then stuffed the rest back into his trousers' pocket.
“Here, ole man,” he said, “you take it.” He held it out fluttering. They were in front of a saloon; and by the light of the window Jurgis saw that it was a hundred-dollar bill!
“You take it,” the other repeated. “Pay the cabbie an' keep the change— I've got—hic—no head for business! Guv'ner says so hisself, an' the guv'ner knows—the guv'ner's got a head for business, you bet! ‘All right, guv'ner,’ I told him, ‘you run the show, and I'll take the tickets!’ An' so he set Aunt Polly to watch me—hic—an' now Polly's off in the hospital havin' twins, an' me out raisin' Cain! Hello, there! Hey! Call him!”
A cab was driving by; and Jurgis sprang and called, and it swung round to the curb. Master Freddie clambered in with some difficulty, and Jurgis had started to follow, when the driver shouted: “Hi, there! Get out—you!”
Jurgis hesitated, and was half obeying; but his companion broke out: “Whuzzat? Whuzzamatter wiz you, hey?”
And the cabbie subsided, and Jurgis climbed in. Then Freddie gave a number on the Lake Shore Drive, and the carriage started away. The youngster leaned back and snuggled up to Jurgis, murmuring contentedly; in half a minute he was sound asleep, Jurgis sat shivering, speculating as to whether he might not still be able to get hold of the roll of bills. He was afraid to try to go through his companion's pockets, however; and besides, the cabbie might be on the watch. He had the hundred safe, and he would have to be content with that.
At the end of half an hour or so the cab stopped. They were out on the water-front, and from the east a freezing gale was blowing off the ice-bound lake. “Here we are,” called the cabbie, and Jurgis awakened his companion.
Master Freddie sat up with a start.
“Hello!” he said. “Where are we? Whuzzis? Who are you, hey? Oh, yes, sure nuff! Mos' forgot you—hic—ole chappie! Home, are we? Lessee! Br-r-r—it's cold! Yes—come 'long—we're home—be it ever so—hic— humble!”
Before them there loomed an enormous granite pile, set far back from the street, and occupying a whole block. By the light of the driveway lamps Jurgis could see that it had towers and huge gables, like a mediæval castle. He thought that the young fellow must have made a mistake—it was inconceivable to him that any person could have a home like a hotel or the city hall. But he followed in silence, and they went up the long flight of steps, arm in arm.
“There's a button here, ole sport,” said Master Freddie. “Hole my arm while I find her! Steady, now—oh, yes, here she is! Saved!”
A bell rang, and in a few seconds the door was opened. A man in blue livery stood holding it, and gazing before him, silent as a statue.
They stood for a moment blinking in the light. Then Jurgis felt his companion pulling, and he stepped in, and the blue automaton closed the door. Jurgis's heart was beating wildly; it was a bold thing for him to do—into what strange unearthly place he was venturing he had no idea. Aladdin entering his cave could not have been more excited.
The place where he stood was dimly lighted; but he could see a vast hall, with pillars fading into the darkness above, and a great staircase opening at the far end of it. The floor was of tesselated marble, smooth as glass, and from the walls strange shapes loomed out, woven into huge portières in rich, harmonious colors, or gleaming from paintings, wonderful and mysterious-looking in the half-light, purple and red and golden, like sunset glimmers in a shadowy forest.
The man in livery had moved silently toward them; Master Freddie took off his hat and handed it to him, and then, letting go of Jurgis's arm, tried to get out of his overcoat. After two or three attempts he accomplished this, with the lackey's help; and meantime a second man had approached, a tall and portly personage, solemn as an executioner. He bore straight down upon Jurgis, who shrank away nervously; he seized him by the arm without a word, and started toward the door with him. Then suddenly came Master Freddie's voice, “Hamilton! My fren' will remain wiz me.”
The man paused and half released Jurgis. “Come 'long, ole chappie,” said the other, and Jurgis started toward him.
“Master Frederick!” exclaimed the man.
“See that the cabbie—hic—is paid,” was the other's response; and he linked his arm in Jurgis's. Jurgis was about to say, “I have the money for him,” but he restrained himself. The stout man in uniform signalled to the other, who went out to the cab, while he followed Jurgis and his young master.
They went down the great hall, and then turned. Before them were two huge doors.
“Hamilton,” said Master Freddie.
“Well, sir?” said the other.
“Whuzzamatter wizze dinin'-room doors?”
“Nothing is the matter, sir.”
“Then why dontcha openum?”
The man rolled them back; another vista lost itself in the darkness. “Lights,” commanded Master Freddie; and the butler pressed a button, and a flood of brilliant incandescence streamed from above, half blinding Jurgis. He stared; and little by little he made out the great apartment, with a domed ceiling from which the light poured, and walls that were one enormous painting—nymphs and dryads dancing in a flower-strewn glade—Diana with her hounds and horses, dashing headlong through a mountain streamlet—a group of maidens bathing in a forest-pool—all life-size, and so real that Jurgis thought that it was some work of enchantment, that he was in a dream-palace. Then his eye passed to the long table in the centre of the hall, a table black as ebony, and gleaming with wrought silver and gold. In the centre of it was a huge carven bowl, with the glistening gleam of ferns and the red and purple of rare orchids, glowing from a light hidden somewhere in their midst.
“This's the dinin'-room,” observed Master Freddie. “How you like it, hey, ole sport?”
He always insisted on having an answer to his remarks, leaning over Jurgis and smiling into his face. Jurgis liked it.
“Rummy ole place to feed in all 'lone, though,” was Freddie's comment— “rummy's hell! Whuzya think, hey?” Then another idea occurred to him and he went on, without waiting: “Maybe you never saw anythin—hic—like this 'fore? Hey, ole chappie?”
“No,” said Jurgis.
“Come from country, maybe—hey?”
“Yes,” said Jurgis.
“Aha! I thosso! Lossa folks from country never saw such a place. Guv'ner brings 'em—free show—hic—reg'lar circus! Go home tell folks about it. Ole man Jones's place—Jones the packer—beef-trust man. Made it all out of hogs, too, damn ole scoundrel. Now we see where our pennies go—rebates, an' private-car lines—hic—by Harry! Bully place, though—worth seein' ! Ever hear of Jones the packer, hey, ole chappie?”
Jurgis had started involuntarily; the other, whose sharp eyes missed nothing, demanded: “Whuzzamatter, hey? Heard of him?”
And Jurgis managed to stammer out: “I have worked for him in the yards.”
“What!” cried Master Freddie, with a yell. “You! In the yards? Ho, ho! Why, say, thass good! Shake hands on it, ole man—by Harry! Guv'ner ought to be here—glad to see you. Great fren's with the men, guv'ner—labor an' capital, commun'ty 'f int'rests, an' all that—hic! Funny things happen in this world, don't they, ole man? Hamilton, lemme interduce you—fren' the family—ole fren' the guv'ner's—works in the yards. Come to spend the night wiz me, Hamilton—have a hot time. My fren', Mr.—whuzya name, ole chappie? Tell us your name.”
“My fren', Mr. Rudnose, Hamilton—shake han's.”
The stately butler bowed his head, but made not a sound; and suddenly Master Freddie pointed an eager finger at him. “I know whuzzamatter wiz you, Hamilton—lay you a dollar I know! You think—hic—you think I'm drunk! Hey, now?”
And the butler again bowed his head. “Yes, sir,” he said, at which Master Freddie hung tightly upon Jurgis's neck and went into a fit of laughter. “Hamilton, you damn ole scoundrel,” he roared, “I'll 'scharge you for impudence, you see 'f I don't! Ho, ho, ho! I'm drunk! Ho, ho!”
The two waited until his fit had spent itself, to see what new whim would seize him. “Whatcha wanta do?” he queried suddenly. “Wanta see the place, ole chappie? Wamme play the guv'ner—show you roun'? State parlors—Looee Cans—Looee Sez—chairs cost three thousand apiece. Tea-room—Maryanntnet—picture of shepherds dancing—Ruysdael—twenty-three thousan'! Ball-room—balc'ny pillars—hic—imported—special ship—sixty-eight thousan'! Ceilin' painted in Rome—whuzzat feller's name, Hamilton—Mattatoni? Macaroni? Then this place—silver bowl—Benvenuto Cellini—rummy ole Dago! An' the organ—thirty thousan' dollars, sir—starter up, Hamilton, let Mr. Rednose hear it. No—never mind—clean forgot—says he's hungry, Hamilton—less have some supper. Only—hic—don't less have it here—come up to my place, ole sport—nice an' cosy. This way—steady now, don't slip on the floor. Hamilton, we'll have a cole spread, an' some fizz—don't leave out the fizz, by Harry. We'll have some of the eighteen-thirty Madeira. Hear me, sir?”
“Yes, sir,” said the butler, “but, Master Frederick, your father left orders—”
And Master Frederick drew himself up to a stately height. “My father's orders were left to me—hic—an' not to you,” he said. Then, clasping Jurgis tightly by the neck, he staggered out of the room; on the way another idea occurred to him, and he asked: “Any—hic—cable message for me, Hamilton?”
“No, sir,” said the butler.
“Guv'ner must be travelin'. An' how's the twins, Hamilton?”
“They are doing well, sir.”
“Good!” said Master Freddie; and added fervently: “God bless 'em, the little lambs!”
They went up the great staircase, one step at a time; at the top of it there gleamed at them out of the shadows the figure of a nymph crouching by a fountain, a figure ravishingly beautiful, the flesh warm and glowing with the hues of life. Above was a huge court, with domed roof, the various apartments opening into it. The butler had paused below but a few minutes to give orders, and then followed them; now he pressed a button, and the hall blazed with light. He opened a door before them, and then pressed another button, as they staggered into the apartment.
It was fitted up as a study. In the centre was a mahogany table, covered with books, and smokers' implements; the walls were decorated with college trophies and colors,—flags, posters, photographs and knickknacks—tennisrackets, canoe-paddles, golf-clubs, and polo-sticks. An enormous moose head, with horns six feet across, faced a buffalo head on the opposite wall, while bear and tiger skins covered the polished floor. There were lounging-chairs and sofas, window-seats covered with soft cushions of fantastic designs; there was one corner fitted in Persian fashion, with a huge canopy and a jewelled lamp beneath. Beyond, a door opened upon a bedroom, and beyond that was a swimming pool of the purest marble, that had cost about forty thousand dollars.
Master Freddie stood for a moment or two, gazing about him; then out of the next room a dog emerged, a monstrous bulldog, the most hideous object that Jurgis had ever laid eyes upon. He yawned, opening a mouth like a dragon's; and he came toward the young man, wagging his tail. “Hello, Dewey!” cried his master. “Been havin' a snooze, ole boy? Well, well—hello there, whuzzamatter?” (The dog was snarling at Jurgis.) “Why, Dewey—this' my fren', Mr. Rednose—ole fren' the guv'ner's! Mr. Rednose, Admiral Dewey; shake han's—hic. Ain't he a daisy, though—blue ribbon at the New York show—eighty-five hundred at a clip! How's that, hey?”
The speaker sank into one of the big arm-chairs, and Admiral Dewey crouched beneath it; he did not snarl again, but he never took his eyes off Jurgis. He was perfectly sober, was the Admiral.
The butler had closed the door, and he stood by it, watching Jurgis every second. Now there came footsteps outside, and, as he opened the door a man in livery entered, carrying a folding-table, and behind him two men with covered trays. They stood like statues while the first spread the table and set out the contents of the trays upon it. There were cold patés, and thin slices of meat, tiny bread and butter sandwiches with the crust cut off, a bowl of sliced peaches and cream (in January), little fancy cakes, pink and green and yellow and white, and half a dozen ice-cold bottles of wine.
“Thass the stuff for you!” cried Master Freddie, exultantly, as he spied them. “Come 'long, ole chappie, move up.”
And he seated himself at the table; the waiter pulled a cork, and he took the bottle and poured three glasses of its contents in succession down his throat. Then he gave a long-drawn sigh, and cried again to Jurgis to seat himself.
The butler held the chair at the opposite side of the table, and Jurgis thought it was to keep him out of it; but finally he understand that it was the other's intention to put it under him, and so he sat down, cautiously and mistrustingly. Master Freddie perceived that the attendants embarrassed him, and he remarked, with a nod to them, “You may go.”
They went, all save the butler.
“You may go too, Hamilton,” he said.
“Master Frederick—” the man began.
“Go!” cried the youngster, angrily. “Damn you, don't you hear me?”
The man went out and closed the door; Jurgis, who was as sharp as he, observed that he took the key out of the lock, in order that he might peer through the keyhole.
Master Frederick turned to the table again. “Now,” he said, “go for it.”
Jurgis gazed at him doubtingly. “Eat!” cried the other. “Pile in, ole chappie!”
“Don't you want anything?” Jurgis asked.
“Ain't hungry,” was the reply—“only thirsty. Kitty and me had some candy—you go on.”
So Jurgis began, without further parley. He ate as with two shovels, his fork in one hand and his knife in the other; when he once got started his wolf-hunger got the better of him, and he did not stop for breath until he had cleared every plate. “Gee whiz!” said the other, who had been watching him in wonder.
Then he held Jurgis the bottle. “Lessee you drink now,” he said; and Jurgis took the bottle and turned it up to his mouth, and a wonderfully unearthly liquid ecstasy poured down his throat, tickling every nerve of him, thrilling him with joy. He drank the very last drop of it, and then he gave vent to a long-drawn “Ah!”
“Good stuff, hey?” said Freddie, sympathetically; he had leaned back in the big chair, putting his arm behind his head and gazing at Jurgis.
And Jurgis gazed back at him. He was clad in spotless evening-dress, was Freddie, and looked very handsome—he was a beautiful boy, with light golden hair and the head of an Antinous. He smiled at Jurgis confidingly, and then started talking again, with his blissful insouciance. This time he talked for ten minutes at a stretch, and in the course of the speech he told Jurgis all of his family history. His big brother Charlie was in love with the guileless maiden who played the part of “Little Bright-Eyes” in “The Kaliph of Kamskatka.” He had been on the verge of marrying her once, only “the guv'ner” had sworn to disinherit him, and had presented him with a sum that would stagger the imagination, and that had staggered the virtue of “Little Bright-Eyes.” Now Charlie had got leave from college, and had gone away in his automobile on the next best thing to a honeymoon. “The guv'ner” had made threats to disinherit another of his children also, sister Gwendolen, who had married an Italian marquis with a string of titles and a duelling record. They lived in his chateau, or rather had, until he had taken to firing the breakfast-dishes at her; then she had cabled for help, and the old gentleman had gone over to find out what were his Grace's terms. So they had left Freddie all alone, and he with less than two thousand dollars in his pocket. Freddie was up in arms and meant serious business, as they would find in the end—if there was no other way of bringing them to terms he would have his “Kittens” wire that she was about to marry him, and see what happened then.
So the cheerful youngster rattled on, until he was tired out. He smiled his sweetest smile at Jurgis, and then he closed his eyes, sleepily. Then he opened them again, and smiled once more, and finally closed them and forgot to open them.
For several minutes Jurgis sat perfectly motionless, watching him, and revelling in the strange sensations of the champagne. Once he stirred, and the dog growled; after that he sat almost holding his breath—until after a while the door of the room opened softly, and the butler came in.
He walked toward Jurgis upon tiptoe, scowling at him; and Jurgis rose up, and retreated, scowling back. So until he was against the wall, and then the butler came close, and pointed toward the door. “Get out of here!” he whispered.
Jurgis hesitated, giving a glance at Freddie, who was snoring softly. “If you do, you son of a—” hissed the butler, “I'll mash in your face for you before you get out of here!”
And Jurgis wavered but an instant more. He saw “Admiral Dewey” coming up behind the man and growling softly, to back up his threats. Then he surrendered and started toward the door.
They went out without a sound, and down the great echoing staircase, and through the dark hall. At the front door he paused, and the butler strode close to him.
“Hold up your hands,” he snarled. Jurgis took a step back, clinching his one well fist.
“What for?” he cried; and then understanding that the fellow proposed to search him, he answered, “I'll see you in hell first.”
“Do you want to go to jail?” demanded the butler, menacingly. “I'll have the police—”
“Have 'em!” roared Jurgis, with fierce passion. “But you won't put your hands on me till you do! I haven't touched anything in your damned house, and I'll not have you touch me!”
So the butler, who was terrified lest his young master should waken, stepped suddenly to the door, and opened it. “Get out of here!” he said; and then as Jurgis passed through the opening, he gave him a ferocious kick that sent him down the great stone steps at a run, and landed him sprawling in the snow at the bottom.