The Pit HTML version

Chapter III
On a certain Monday morning, about a month later, Curtis Jadwin descended
from his office in the Rookery Building, and turning southward, took his way
toward the brokerage and commission office of Gretry, Converse and Co., on the
ground floor of the Board of Trade Building, only a few steps away.
It was about nine o'clock; the weather was mild, the sun shone. La Salle Street
swarmed with the multitudinous life that seethed about the doors of the
innumerable offices of brokers and commission men of the neighbourhood. To
the right, in the peristyle of the Illinois Trust Building, groups of clerks, of
messengers, of brokers, of clients, and of depositors formed and broke
incessantly. To the left, where the facade of the Board of Trade blocked the
street, the activity was astonishing, and in and out of the swing doors of its
entrance streamed an incessant tide of coming and going. All the life of the
neighbourhood seemed to centre at this point--the entrance of the Board of
Trade. Two currents that trended swiftly through La Salle and Jackson streets,
and that fed, or were fed by, other tributaries that poured in through Fifth Avenue
and through Clarke and Dearborn streets, met at this point--one setting in, the
other out. The nearer the currents the greater their speed. Men--mere flotsam in
the flood--as they turned into La Salle Street from Adams or from Monroe, or
even from as far as Madison, seemed to accelerate their pace as they
approached. At the Illinois Trust the walk became a stride, at the Rookery the
stride was almost a trot. But at the corner of Jackson Street, the Board of Trade
now merely the width of the street away, the trot became a run, and young men
and boys, under the pretence of escaping the trucks and wagons of the cobbles,
dashed across at a veritable gallop, flung themselves panting into the entrance of
the Board, were engulfed in the turmoil of the spot, and disappeared with a
sudden fillip into the gloom of the interior.
Often Jadwin had noted the scene, and, unimaginative though he was, had long
since conceived the notion of some great, some resistless force within the Board
of Trade Building that held the tide of the streets within its grip, alternately
drawing it in and throwing it forth. Within there, a great whirlpool, a pit of roaring
waters spun and thundered, sucking in the life tides of the city, sucking them in
as into the mouth of some tremendous cloaca, the maw of some colossal sewer;
then vomiting them forth again, spewing them up and out, only to catch them in
the return eddy and suck them in afresh.
Thus it went, day after day. Endlessly, ceaselessly the Pit, enormous, thundering,
sucked in and spewed out, sending the swirl of its mighty central eddy far out
through the city's channels. Terrible at the centre, it was, at the circumference,
gentle, insidious and persuasive, the send of the flowing so mild, that to embark
upon it, yielding to the influence, was a pleasure that seemed all devoid of risk.
But the circumference was not bounded by the city. All through the Northwest, all