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Justice in the By-Ways, a Tale of Life online

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extensive acquaintance with the most distinguished of the Bar.

The Judge suggests to Mr. Stubbs that it would be as well to waive
the charge against the clergyman. Somewhat the worse for his night
in the guard-house, Parson Patterson comes forward and commences in
the most unintelligible manner to explain the whole affair, when the
Judge very blandly interrupts by inquiring if he is a member of the
clergy at this moment. "Welle," returns the parson, with
characteristic drawl, "can't zactly say I am." The natural seediness
of the parson excites suspicion, nevertheless he is scrupulous of
his white cravat, and preserves withal a strictly clerical aspect.
Having paused a few moments and exchanged glances with the Judge, he
continues: "I do nigger preaching on Sunday-that is (Parson
Patterson corrects himself), I hold forth, here and there-we are all
flesh and blood-on plantations when I have a demand for my services.
Our large planters hold it good policy to encourage the piety of
their property."

"You make a good thing of it?" inquires the Judge, jocosely. The
parson replies, with much meekness of manner, that business is not
so good as it was, planters having got it into their heads that
sermons can be got at a very low figure. Here he commences to
explain his singular position. He happened to meet an old and
much-esteemed friend, whom he accompanied home, and while spending
the evening conversing on spiritual matters-it was best not to
lie-he took a little too much. On his way to the hotel he selected
Beresford street as a short cut, and being near the house where he
was unfortunately found when the shooting took place, he ran into it
to escape the police - "

"Don't believe a word he says," interrupts Madame Ashley, springing
suddenly to her feet, and commencing to pour out her phials of wrath
on the head of the poor parson, whom she accuses of being a
suspicious and extremely unprofitable frequenter of her house, which
she describes as exceedingly respectable. "Your Honor can bear me
out in what I say!" pursues Madame, bowing with an air of
exultation, as the sheriff demands order.

"A sorry lot, these plantation preachers! Punish him right soundly,
your honor. It is not the first time he has damaged the
respectability of my house!" again interrupts Madame Ashley. His
Honor replies only with a blush. Mr. Snivel, who watches with
quisical countenance, over the bar, enjoys the joke wonderfully.

Order being restored, the Judge turns to address the parson.

"I see, my friend-I always address my prisoners familiarly-you place
but little value on the fact of your being a clergyman, on the
ground that you only preach to slaves. This charge brought against
you is a grave one-I assure you! And I cannot incline to the view
you take of your profession. I may not be as erudite as some;
however, I hold it that the ignorant and not the learned have most
need of good example."

"Aye! I always told the old reprobate so," interposes Madam Ashley,
with great fervor.

"A charge," resumes the Judge, "quite sufficient to warrant me in
committing you to durance vile, might be preferred. You may thank my
generosity that it is not. These houses, as you know, Mr. Patterson,
are not only dangerous, but damaging to men of potent morality like

"But, your Honor knows they are much frequented," meekly drawls the

"It affords no palliation," sharply responds the Judge, his face
crimsoning with blushes. "Mark ye, my friend of the clergy, these
places make sad destruction of our young men. Indeed I may say with
becoming sincerity and truth, that they spread a poison over the
community, and act as the great enemy of our social system."

"Heigh ho!" ejaculates Madame Ashley, to the great delight of the
throng assembled, "Satan has come to rebuke sin." Madame bids his
Honor a very polite good morning, and takes her departure, looking
disdainfully over her shoulder as she disappears out of the door.

Not a little disturbed in his equanimity, the Judge pursues his
charge. "The clergy ought to keep their garments clear of such
places, for being the source of all evil, the effect on the
community is not good-I mean when such things are brought to light!
I would address you frankly and admonish you to go no more into such
places. Let your ways merit the approbation of those to whom you
preach the Gospel. You can go. Henceforth, live after the ways of
the virtuous."

Parson Patterson thanks his Honor, begs to assure him of his
innocence, and seems only too anxious to get away. His Honor bows to
Mr. Patterson, Mr. Patterson returns it, and adds another for the
audience, whereupon the court adjourns, and so ends the episode. His
Honor takes Mr. Snivel's arm, and together they proceed to the "most
convenient" saloon, where, over a well-compounded punch, "the bench
and the bar" compliment each other on the happy disposal of such
vexatious cases.



ON the corner of Anthony street and the Points,

Now Worth street and Mission Place. in New York, there stands, like
a grim savage, the house of the Nine Nations, a dingy wooden
tenement, that for twenty years has threatened to tumble away from
its more upright neighbor, and before which the stranger wayfarer is
seen to stop and contemplate. In a neighborhood redolent of crime,
there it stands, its vices thick upon its head, exciting in the mind
of the observer its association with some dark and terrible deed. On
the one side, opens that area of misery, mud and sombre walls,
called "Cow Bay;" on the other a triangular plot, reeking with the
garbage of the miserable cellars that flank it, and in which swarms
of wasting beings seek a hiding-place, inhale pestilential air, and
die. Gutters running with seething matter; homeless outcasts
sitting, besotted, on crazy door-steps; the vicious, with savage
visage, and keen, watchful eye, loitering at the doors of filthy
"groceries;" the sickly and neglected child crawling upon the
side-pave, or seeking a crust to appease its hunger-all are found
here, gasping, in rags, a breath of air by day, or seeking a
shelter, at night, in dens so abject that the world can furnish no
counterpart. And this forlorn picture of dilapidated houses,
half-clad, squabbish women, blistered-faced men, and sickly
children, the house of the Nine Nations overlooks. And yet this
house, to the disgrace of an opulent people be it said, is but the
sample of an hundred others standing in the same neighborhood.

With its basement-doors opening into its bottomless pit; with its
continual outgoing and ingoing of sooty and cruel-visaged denizens;
with its rickety old steps leading to the second story; with its
battered windows, begrimed walls, demolished shutters, clapboards
hanging at sixes and sevens-with its suspicious aspect; - there it
stands, with its distained sign over the doors of its bottomless
pit. You may read on this sign, that a gentleman from Ireland, who
for convenience' sake we will call Mr. Krone, is licensed to sell
imported and other liquors.

Indeed the house of the Nine Nations would seem to say within
itself: "I am mother of this banquet of death you behold with your
eyes." There it stands, its stream of poison hurrying its victims to
the grave; its little dark passages leading to curious
hiding-places; its caving roof, and its ominous-looking back
platform, overlooking the dead walls of Murderers' Yard. How it
mocks your philanthropy, your regal edifices, your boasted
charities-your gorgeous churches! Everybody but the corporation
knows the house of the Nine Nations, a haunt for wasted prostitutes,
assassins, burglars, thieves-every grade of criminals known to
depraved nature. The corporation would seem either to have a
charming sympathy for it, or to look upon it with that good-natured
indifference so happily illustrated while eating its oysters and
drinking its whiskey. An empty-headed corporation is sure always to
have its hands very full, which is the case with yours at this
moment. Having the people's money to waste, its own ambition to
serve, and its hat to fill with political waste paper-what more
would you ask of it?

The man of the house of the Nine Nations, you ought to know, makes
criminals by the hundred, deluges your alms houses with paupers, and
makes your Potters' field reek with his victims: for this he is
become rich. Mr. Krone is an intimate friend of more than one
Councilman, and a man of much measure in the political world-that
is, Mr. Krone is a politician-maker. When you say there exists too
close an intimacy between the pugilist and the politician, Mr. Krone
will bet twenty drinks with any one of his customers that he can
prove such doctrines at fault. He can secure the election of his
favorite candidate with the same facility that he can make an
hundred paupers per week. You may well believe him a choice flower
in the bouquet of the corporation; we mean the corporation that
banquets and becomes jubilant while assassins stab their victims in
the broad street-that becomes befogged while bands of ruffians
disgrace the city with their fiendish outrages-that makes presidents
and drinks whiskey when the city would seem given over to the
swell-mobsman-when no security is offered to life, and wholesale
harlotry, flaunting with naked arms and bared bosoms, passes along
in possession of Broadway by night.

It is the night succeeding the day Lady Swiggs discovered, at the
house of the Foreign Missions, the loss of her cherished donations.
As this is a world of disappointments, Lady Swiggs resigns herself
to this most galling of all, and with her Milton firmly grasped in
her hand, may be seen in a little room at Sister Scudder's, rocking
herself in the arm-chair, and wondering if Brother Spyke has
captured the robber-wretch. A chilly wind howls, and a drizzling
rain falls thick over the dingy dwellings of the Points, which,
sullen and dark, seem in a dripping mood. A glimmering light, here
and there, throws curious shadows over the liquid streets. Now the
drenched form of some half-naked and homeless being is reflected,
standing shivering in the entrance to some dark and narrow alley;
then the half-crazed inebriate hurries into the open door of a
dismal cellar, or seeks eagerly a shelter for his bewildered head,
in some suspicious den. Flashing through the shadow of the police
lamp, in "Cow Bay," a forlorn female is seen, a bottle held tightly
under her shawl. Sailing as it were into the bottomless pit of the
house of the Nine Nations, then suddenly returning with the drug,
seeking the cheerless garret of her dissolute partner, and there
striving to blunt her feelings against the horrors of starvation.

Two men stand, an umbrella over their heads, at the corner, in the
glare of the bottomless pit, which is in a blaze of light, and
crowded with savage-faced figures, of various ages and colors, - all
habited in the poison-seller's uniform of rags. "I don't think
you'll find him here, sir," says one, addressing the other, who is
tall and slender of person, and singularly timid. "God knows I am a
stranger here. To-morrow I leave for Antioch," is the reply,
delivered in nervous accents. The one is Brother Syngleton Spyke,
the other Mr. Detective Fitzgerald, a man of more than middle
stature, with compact figure, firmly-knit limbs, and an expression
of countenance rather pleasant.

"You see, sir, this Toddleworth is a harmless creature, always aims
to be obliging and civil. I don't, sir-I really don't think he'll
steal. But one can't tell what a man will do who is driven to such
straits as the poor devils here are. We rather like Toddleworth at
the station, look upon him as rather wanting in the head, and for
that reason rather incline to favor him. I may say we now and then
let him 'tie up' all night in the station. And for this he seems
very thankful. I may say," continues Mr. Fitzgerald, touching the
visor of his cap, "that he always repays with kindness any little
attention we may extend to him at the station, and at times seems
too anxious to make it his home. We give him a shirt and a few
shillings now and then; and when we want to be rid of him we begin
to talk about fashionable wives. He is sure to go then. Can't stand
such a topic, I assure you, sir, and is sure togo off in a huff when
Sergeant Pottle starts it."

They enter the great door of the bottomless pit; the young
missionary hesitates. His countenance changes, his eyes scan
steadily over the scene. A room some sixty feet by twenty opens to
his astonished eyes. Its black, boarded walls, and bare beams, are
enlivened here and there with extravagant pictures of notorious
pugilists, show-bills, and illustrated advertisements of lascivious
books, in which the murder of an unfortunate woman is the principal
feature. Slippery mud covers the floor. Mr. Krone sits on an empty
whiskey-barrel, his stunted features betraying the hardened avarice
of his character. He smokes his black pipe, folds his arms
deliberately, discoursing of the affairs of the nation to two
stupefied negroes and one blear-eyed son of the Emerald Isle. Three
uncouth females, with hair hanging matted over their faces, and
their features hidden in distortion, stand cooling their bared limbs
at a running faucet just inside the door, to the left. A group of
half-naked negroes lie insensible on the floor, to the right. A
little further on two prostrate females, shivering, and reeking of
gin, sleep undisturbed by the profanity that is making the very air
resound. "The gin gets a-many of us," is the mournful cry of many a
wasting inebriate. Mr. Krone, however, will tell you he has no
sympathy with such cries. You arraign, and perhaps punish, the
apothecary who sells by mistake his deadly drug. With a
philosophical air, Mr. Krone will tell you he deals out his poison
without scruple, fills alms-houses without a pang of remorse, and
proves that a politician-maker may do much to degrade society and
remain in high favor with his friends of the bench of justice. On
one side of the dungeon-like place stands a rickety old counter,
behind which three savage-faced men stand, filling and serving
incessant potions of deleterious liquor to the miserable beings,
haggard and ragged, crowding to be first served. Behind the bar, or
counter, rises a pyramid of dingy shelves, on which are arranged
little painted kegs, labelled, and made bright by the glaring gas-
light reflected upon them. On the opposite side, on rows of slab
benches, sit a group of motley beings, - the young girl and the old
man, the negro and the frail white, - half sleeping, half conscious;
all imbibing the stifling draught.

Like revelling witches in rags, and seen through the bedimmed
atmosphere at the further end of the den, are half-frantic men,
women, and girls, now sitting at deal tables, playing for drinks,
now jostling, jeering, and profaning in wild disorder. A girl of
sixteen, wasted and deformed with dissipation, approaches Brother
Spyke, extends her blanched hand, and importunes him for gin. He
shudders, and shrinks from her touch, as from a reptile. A look of
scorn, and she turns from him, and is lost among the grotesque crowd
in the distance.

"This gin," says Mr. Fitzgerald, turning methodically to Brother
Spyke, "they make do for food and clothing. We used to call this the
devil's paradise. As to Krone, we used to call him the devil's
bar-tender. These ragged revellers, you see, beg and steal during
the day, and get gin with it at night. Krone thinks nothing of it!
Lord bless your soul, sir! why, this man is reckoned a tip-top
politician; on an emergency he can turn up such a lot of votes!" Mr.
Fitzgerald, approaching Mr. Krone, says "you're a pretty fellow.
Keeping such a place as this!" The detective playfully strikes the
hat of the other, crowding it over his eyes, and inquiring if he has
seen Tom Toddleworth during the day. Mr. Toddleworth was not seen
during the day. No one in the bottomless pit knows where he may be
found. A dozen husky voices are heard to say, he has no home-stores
himself away anywhere, and may be found everywhere.

Brother Spyke bows, and sighs. Mr. Fitzgerald says: "he is always
harmless-this Toddleworth." As the two searchers are about to
withdraw, the shrunken figure of a woman rushes wildly into the pit.
"Devils! devils! - hideous devils of darkness! here you are-still
hover-hover-hovering; turning midnight into revelling, day into
horrid dreaming!" she shrieks at the top of her voice. Now she
pauses suddenly, and with a demoniacal laugh sets her dull, glassy
eyes on Mr. Krone, then walks round him with clenched fists and
threatening gestures. The politician-maker sits unmoved. Now she
throws her hair about her bare breasts, turns her eyes upward,
imploringly, and approaches Brother Spyke, with hand extended. Her
tale of sorrow and suffering is written in her very look. "She won't
hurt you-never harms anybody;" says Mr. Fitzgerald, methodically,
observing Brother Spyke's timidity.

"No, no, no," she mutters incoherently, "you are not of this
place-you know, like the rich world up-town, little of these
revelling devils. Cling! yes, cling to the wise one-tell him to keep
you from this, and forever be your teacher. Tell him! tell him! oh!
tell him!" She wrings her hands, and having sailed as it were into
the further end of the pit, vaults back, and commences a series of
wild gyrations round Mr. Krone.

"Poor wretch!" says Brother Spyke, complacently, "the gin has dried
up her senses-made her what she is."

"Maniac Munday! Maniac Munday!" suddenly echoes and re-echoes through
the pit. She turns her ear, and with a listless countenance listens
attentively, then breaks out into an hysterical laugh. "Yes! ye
loathsome denizens. Like me, no one seeks you, no one cares for you.
I am poor, poor maniac Munday. The maniac that one fell error
brought to this awful end." Again she lowers her voice, flings her
hair back over her shoulders, and gives vent to her tears. Like one
burdened with sorrow she commences humming an air, that even in this
dark den floats sweetly through the polluted atmosphere. "Well, I am
what I am," she sighs, having paused in her tune. "That one fatal
step-that plighted faith! How bitter to look back." Her bony fingers
wander to her lips, which she commences biting and fretting, as her
countenance becomes pale and corpse-like. Again her reason takes its
flight. She staggers to the drenched counter, holds forth her
bottle, lays her last sixpence tauntingly upon the board, and
watches with glassy eyes the drawing of the poisonous drug.
Meanwhile Mr. Krone, with an imprecation, declares he has power to
elect his candidate to the Senate. The man behind the counter-the
man of savage face, has filled the maniac's bottle, which he pushes
toward her with one hand, as with the other he sweeps her coin into
a drawer. "Oh! save poor maniac Munday-save poor maniac Munday!" the
woman cries, like one in despair, clutching the bottle, and reels
out of the pit.



PALE and hesitating, Brother Spyke says: "I have no passion for
delving into such places; and having seen enough for one night, am
content to leave the search for this vile old man to you." The
valiant missionary addresses Mr. Fitzgerald, who stands with one
foot upon the rickety old steps that lead to the second story of the
House of the Nine Nations.

This morning, Brother Spyke was ready to do battle with the whole
heathen world, to drag it up into light, to evangelize it. Now he
quails before this heathen world, so terribly dark, at his own door.

"You have, sir," says the detective, "seen nuthin' as yet. The
sights are in these 'ere upper dens; but, I may say it, a body wants
nerve. Some of our Aldermen say ye can't see such sights nowhere

The missionary replies, holding tenaciously to his umbrella, "That
may be true; but I fear they will be waiting me at home." Again he
scans inquiringly into the drenched area of the Points; then bidding
the officer good-night, is soon out of sight, on his way into Centre
Street. Reaching the old stoop, the detective touches a spring, and
the shattered door opens into a narrow, gloomy passage, along which
he gropes his way, over a floor cobbled with filth, and against an
atmosphere thick of disease. Now a faint light flashes through a
crevice in the left wall, plays fantastically upon the black surface
of the opposite, then dies away. The detective lights his lantern,
stands a moment with his ear turned, as if listening to the revelry
in the bottomless pit. A door opens to his touch, he enters a
cave-like room-it is the one from out which the light stole so
curiously, and in which all is misery and sadness. A few embers
still burn in a great brick fire-place, shedding a lurid glow over
the damp, filthy walls, the discolored ceiling, and the grotesque
group upon the floor. "You needn't come at this time of night-we are
all honest people;" speaks a massive negro, of savage visage, who
(he is clothed in rags) sits at the left side of the fireplace. He
coaxes the remnant of his fire to cook some coarse food he has
placed in a small, black stew-pan, he watches with steady gaze.
Three white females (we blush to say it), their bare, brawny arms
resting on their knees, and their disfigured faces drooped into
their hands, form an half circle on the opposite side.

"The world don't think nothin' of us down here-we haven't had a bite
to eat to-night," gruffly resumes the negro.

"May them that have riches enjoy them, for to be supperless is no
uncommon thing wid us," interrupts one of the women, gathering about
her the shreds of her tattered garment, parting the matted hair over
her face, and revealing her ghastly features. The detective turns
his light full upon her. "If we live we live, if we die we
die-nobody cares! Look you yonder, Mr. Fitzgerald," continues the
negro, with a sarcastic leer. Turning his light to where the negro
points, the detective casts a glance into the shadow, and there
discovers the rags move. A dozen pair of glassy eyes are seen
peering from out the filthy coverings, over which lean arms and
blanched hands keep up an incessant motion. Here an emaciated and
heart-sick Welsh girl, of thirteen (enciente) lays shivering on the
broken floor; there an half-famished Scotch woman, two moaning
children nestling at her heart, suffers uncovered upon a pallet of
straw. The busy world without would seem not to have a care for her;
the clergy have got the heathen world upon their shoulders. Hunger,
like a grim tyrant, has driven her to seek shelter in this wretched
abode. Despair has made her but too anxious that the grave or prison
walls should close the record of her sorrows. How tightly she with
her right hand presses her babe to her bosom; how appealingly with
her left she asks a pittance of the detective! Will he not save from
death her starving child? He has nothing to give her, turns his
head, answers only with a look of pity, and moves slowly towards the

"You have not been long off the Island, Washington?" inquires the
detective, with an air of familiarity.

"I wish," replies the negro, sullenly, "I was back. An honest man as
I is, can't get on in this world. Necessity makes rascals of better
men than me, Mr. Fitzgerald. Mr. Krone (he's a white man, though)
makes all the politicians for the district, and charges me eight
dollars a month for this hole. Just measure them two things
together, Mr. Fitzgerald: then see if takin' in sixpenny lodgers
pays." Mr. Fitzgerald commences counting them. "You needn't count,"
pursues the negro, uncovering his stew-pan, "there's only eighteen
in to-night. Have twenty, sometimes! Don't get nothin' for that poor
Scotch woman an' her children. Can't get it when they haint got
it-you know that, Mr. Fitzgerald."

The detective inquires if any of them have seen Mr. Toddleworth
to-day. Washington has not seen him, and makes no scruple of saying
he thinks very little of him.

"Faith an' it's hard times with poor Tom," speaks up one of the
women, in a deep brogue. "It was only last night-the same I'm
tellin' is true, God knows-Mrs. McCarty took him to the Rookery-the
divil a mouthful he'd ate durin' the day-and says, bein' a ginerous
sort of body, come, take a drop, an' a bite to ate. Mister
Toddleworth did that same, and thin lay the night on the floor.
To-night-it's the truth, God knows-Tom Downey took him above. An'

Online LibraryF. Colburn AdamsJustice in the By-Ways, a Tale of Life → online text (page 19 of 29)