F. Colburn Adams.

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

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and through crime only did he see the means of securing to himself
the cherished object of his love.

"I am not dead to your friendship, but I am too sad at heart to make
any pledge that involves Anna, at this moment. We met in
wretchedness, came up in neglect and crime, sealed our love with the
hard seal of suffering. Oh! what a history of misery my heart could
unfold, if it had but a tongue!" George replies, in subdued accents,
as a tear courses down his cheek.

Extending his hand, with an air of encouragement, Mr. Soloman says
nothing in the world would so much interest him as a history of the
relations existing between George and Anna. Their tastes, aims, and
very natures, are different. To him their connection is clothed in



A BOTTLE of wine, and the mild, persuasive manner of Mr. Snivel, so
completely won over George's confidence, that, like one of that
class always too ready to give out their heart-achings at the touch
of sympathy, and too easily betrayed through misplaced confidence,
he commences relating his history. That of Anna is identified with
it. "We will together proceed to New York, for it is there, among
haunts of vice and depravity - "

"In depth of degradation they have no counterpart on our globe," Mr.
Soloman interrupts, filling his glass.

"We came up together-knew each other, but not ourselves. That was
our dark age." George pauses for a moment.

"Bless you," again interrupts Mr. Soloman, tipping his glass very
politely, "I never-that is, when I hear our people who get
themselves laced into narrow-stringed Calvinism, and long-founded
foreign missions, talk-think much could have come of the dark ages.
I speak after the manner of an attorney, when I say this. We hear a
deal of the dark ages, the crimes of the dark ages, the dark
idolatry of darker Africa. My word for it, and it's something, if
they had anything darker in Sodom; if they had in Babylon a state of
degradation more hardened of crime; if in Egypt there existed a
benightedness more stubbornly opposed to the laws of God-than is to
be found in that New York; that city of merchant princes with
princely palaces; that modern Pompeii into which a mighty commerce
teems its mightier gold, where a coarse throng revel in coarser
luxury, where a thousand gaudy churches rear heavenward their
gaudier steeples, then I have no pity for Sodom, not a tear to shed
over fallen Babylon, and very little love for Egypt." Mr. Snivel
concludes, saying - "proceed, young man."

"Of my mother I know nothing. My father (I mean the man I called
father, but who they said was not my father, though he was the only
one that cared anything for me) was Tom English, who used to live
here and there with me about the Points. He was always looking in at
Paddy Pie's, in Orange street, and Paddy Pie got all his money, and
then Paddy Pie and him quarrelled, and we were turned out of Paddy
Pie's house. So we used to lodge here and there, in the cellars
about the Points, in 'Cut Throat Alley,' or 'Cow Bay,' or
'Murderer's Alley,' or in 'The House of the Nine Nations,' or
wherever we could get a sixpenny rag to lay down upon. Nobody but
English seemed to care for me, and English cared for nobody but me.
And English got thick with Mrs. McCarty and her three daughters - they
kept the Rookery in 'Cow Bay,' which we used to get to up a long
pair of stairs outside, and which God knows I never want to think of
again, - where sometimes fourteen or fifteen of us, men and women,
used to sleep in a little room Mrs. McCarty paid eight dollars a
month for. And Mr. Crown, who always seemed a cross sort of man, and
was agent for all the houses on the Points I thought, used to say
she had it too cheap. And English got to thinking a good deal of
Mrs. McCarty, and Mrs. McCarty's daughters got to thinking a good
deal of him. And Boatswain Bill, who lived at the house of the 'Nine
Nations'-the house they said had a bottomless pit-and English used
to fight a deal about the Miss McCartys, and Bill one night threw
English over the high stoop, down upon the pavement, and broke his
arms. They said it was a wonder it hadn't a broken his neck.
Fighting Mary (Mary didn't go by that name then) came up and took
English's part, and whipped Boatswain Bill, and said she'd whip the
whole house of the 'Nine Nations' if it had spunk enough in it to
come on. But no one dare have a set-to with Mary. Mary used to drink
a deal of gin, and say-'this gin and the devil 'll get us all one of
these days. I wonder if Mr. Crown 'll sell bad gin to his highness
when he gets him?" Well, Bill was sent up for six months, so the
McCartys had peace in the house, and Mrs. McCarty got him little
things, and did for English until his arms got well. Then he got a
little money, (I don't know how he got it,) and Paddy Pie made good
friends with him, and got him from the Rookery, and then all his
money. I used to think all the money in the Points found its way
either to the house of Paddy Pie, or the Bottomless Pit at the house
of the 'Nine Nations,' and all the clothes to the sign of the 'Three
Martyrs,' which the man with the eagle face kept round the corner.

"English used to say in one of his troubled fits, 'I'd like to be a
respectable man, and get out of this, if there was a chance, and do
something for you, George. There's no chance, you see.' And when we
went into Broadway, which we did now and then, and saw what another
world it was, and how rich everything looked, English used to shake
his head and say, 'they don't know how we live, George.'

"Paddy Pie soon quarrelled with English, and being penniless again
we had to shift for ourselves. English didn't like to go back to
Mrs. McCarty, so we used to sleep at Mrs. Sullivan's cellar in 'Cut
Throat Alley.' And Mrs. Sullivan's cellar was only about twelve feet
by twenty, and high enough to stand up in, and wet enough for
anything, and so overrun with rats and vermin that we couldn't
sleep. There were nine rag-beds in the cellar, which as many as
twenty-three would sometimes sleep on, or, if they were not too
tipsy, try to sleep on. And folks used to come into the cellar at
night, and be found dead in the morning. This made such a fuss in
the neighborhood (there was always a fuss when Old Bones, the
coroner, was about), and frightened so many, that Mrs. Sullivan
couldn't get lodgers for weeks. She used to nail no end of
horse-shoes over the door to keep out the ghosts of them that died
last. But it was a long while before her lodgers got courage enough
to come back. Then we went to the house of the Blazers, in 'Cow
Bay,' and used to lodge there with Yellow Bill. They said Bill was a
thief by profession; but I wasn't old enough to be a judge. Little
Lizza Rock, the nondescript, as people called her, used to live at
the Blazers. Poor Lizza had a hard time of it, and used to sigh and
say she wished she was dead. Nobody thought of her, she said, and
she was nothing because she was deformed, and a cripple. She was
about four feet high, had a face like a bull-dog, and a swollen
chest, and a hunchback, a deformed leg, and went with a crutch. She
never combed her hair, and what few rags she had on her back hung in
filth. What few shillings she got were sure to find their way either
into Bill's pocket, or send her tipsy into the 'Bottomless Pit' of
the house of the 'Nine Nations.' There was in the Bottomless Pit a
never-ending stream of gin that sent everybody to the Tombs, and
from the Tombs to the grave. But Lizza was good to me, and used to
take care of me, and steal little things for me from old Dan
Sullivan, who begged in Broadway, and let Yellow Bill get his money,
by getting him tipsy. And I got to liking Lizza, for we both seemed
to have no one in the world who cared for us but English. And there
was always some trouble between the Blazers and the people at the
house of the 'Nine Nations.'

"Well, English was hard to do for some time, and through necessity,
which he said a deal about, we were driven out of every place we had
sought shelter in. And English did something they sent him up for a
twelve-month for, and I was left to get on as I could. I was took in
by 'Hard-Fisted Sall,' who always wore a knuckle-duster, and used to
knock everybody down she met, and threatened a dozen times to whip
Mr. Fitzgerald, the detective, and used to rob every one she took in
tow, and said if she could only knock down and rob the whole
pumpkin-headed corporation she should die easy, for then she would
know she had done a good thing for the public, whose money they were
squandering without once thinking how the condition of such wretches
as herself could be bettered.

"English died before he had been up two months. And death reconciled
the little difficulty between him and the McCartys; and old Mrs.
McCarty's liking for him came back, and she went crying to the
Bellevue and begged them, saying she was his mother, to let her take
his body away and bury it. They let her have it, and she brought it
away to the rookery, in a red coffin, and got a clean sheet of the
Blazers, and hung it up beside the coffin, and set four candles on a
table, and a little cross between them, and then borrowed a Bible
with a cross on it, and laid it upon the coffin. Then they sent for
me. I cried and kissed poor English, for poor English was the only
father I knew, and he was good to me. I never shall forget what I
saw in that little room that night. I found a dozen friends and the
McCartys there, forming a half-circle of curious and demoniacal
faces, peering over the body of English, whose face, I thought,
formed the only repose in the picture. There were two small
pictures-one of the Saviour, and the other of Kossuth-hung at the
head and feet of the corpse; and the light shed a lurid paleness
over the living and the dead. And detective Fitzgerald and another
gentleman looked in.

"'Who's here to-night?' says Fitzgerald, in a friendly sort of way.

"'God love ye, Mr. Fitzgerald, poor English is gone! Indeed, then,
it was the will of the Lord, and He's taken him from us-poor
English!' says Mrs. McCarty. And Fitzgerald, and the gentleman with
him, entered the den, and they shuddered and sat down at the sight
of the face in the coffin. 'Sit down, Mr. Fitzgerald, do! - and may
the Lord love ye! There was a deal of good in poor English. He's
gone-so he is!' said Mrs. McCarty, begging them to sit down, and
excuse the disordered state of her few rags. She had a hard struggle
to live, God knows. They took off their hats, and sat a few minutes
in solemn silence. The rags moved at the gentleman's side, which
made him move towards the door. 'What is there, my good woman?' he
inquired. 'She's a blessed child, Mr. Fitzgerald knows that same:'
says Mrs. McCarty, turning down the rags and revealing the wasted
features of her youngest girl, a child eleven years old, sinking in
death. 'God knows she'll be better in heaven, and herself won't be
long out of it,' Mrs. McCarty twice repeated, maintaining a singular
indifference to the hand of death, already upon the child. The
gentleman left some money to buy candles for poor English, and with
Mr. Fitzgerald took himself away.

"Near midnight, the tall black figure of solemn-faced Father
Flaherty stalked in. He was not pleased with the McCartys, but went
to the side of the dying child, fondled her little wasted hand in
his own, and whispered a prayer for her soul. Never shall I forget
how innocently she looked in his face while he parted the little
ringlets that curled over her brow, and told her she would soon have
a better home in a better world. Then he turned to poor English, and
the cross, and the candles, and the pictures, and the living faces
that gave such a ghastliness to the picture. Mrs. McCarty brought
him a basin of water, over which he muttered, and made it holy. Then
he again muttered some unintelligible sentences, and sprinkled the
water over the dying child, over the body of poor English, and over
the living-warning Mrs. McCarty and her daughters, as he pointed to
the coffin. Then he knelt down, and they all knelt down, and he
prayed for the soul of poor English, and left. What holy water then
was left, Mrs. McCarty placed near the door, to keep the ghosts out.

"The neighbors at the Blazers took a look in, and a few friends at
the house of the 'Nine Nations' took a look in, and 'Fighting Mary,'
of Murderer's Alley, took a look in, and before Father Flaherty had
got well out of 'Cow Bay,' it got to be thought a trifle of a wake
would console Mrs. McCarty's distracted feelings. 'Hard-fisted Sall'
came to take a last look at poor English; and she said she would
spend her last shilling over poor English, and having one, it would
get a drop, and a drop dropped into the right place would do Mrs.
McCarty a deal of good.

"And Mrs. McCarty agreed that it wouldn't be amiss, and putting with
Sall's shilling the money that was to get the candles, I was sent to
the 'Bottomless Pit' at the house of the 'Nine Nations,' where Mr.
Crown had a score with the old woman, and fetched away a quart of
his gin, which they said was getting the whole of them. The McCartys
took a drop, and the girls took a drop, and the neighbors took a
drop, and they all kept taking drops, and the drops got the better
of them all. One of the Miss McCartys got to having words with
'Fighting Mary,' about an old affair in which poor English was
concerned, and the words got to blows, when Mr. Flanegan at the
Blazers stepped in to make peace. But the whole house got into a
fight, and the lights were put out, the corpse knocked over, and the
child (it was found dead in the morning) suffocated with the weight
of bodies felled in the melee. The noise and cries of murder brought
the police rushing in, and most of them were dragged off to the
Station; and the next day being Sunday, I wandered homeless and
friendless into Sheriff street. Poor English was taken in charge by
the officers. They kept him over Monday to see if any one would come
up and claim him. No one came for him; no one knew more of him than
that he went by the name of English; no one ever heard him say where
he came from-he never said a word about my mother, or whether he had
a relation in the world. He was carted off to Potter's Field and
buried. That was the last of poor English.

"We seldom got much to eat in the Points, and I had not tasted food
for twenty-four hours. I sat down on the steps of a German grocery,
and was soon ordered away by the keeper. Then I wandered into a
place they called Nightmare's Alley, where three old wooden
buildings with broken-down verandas stood, and were inhabited
principally by butchers. I sat down on the steps of one, and thought
if I only had a mother, or some one to care for me, and give me
something to eat, how happy I should be. And I cried. And a great
red-faced man came out of the house, and took me in, and gave me
something to eat. His name was Mike Mullholland, and he was good to
me, and I liked him, and took his name. And he lived with a
repulsive looking woman, in a little room he paid ten dollars a
month for. He had two big dogs, and worked at day work, in a
slaughter-house in Staunton street. The dogs were known in the
neighborhood as Mullholland's dogs, and with them I used to sleep on
the rags of carpet spread for us in the room with Mullholland and
his wife, who I got to calling mother. This is how I took the name
of Mullholland. I was glad to leave the Points, and felt as if I had
a home. But there was a 'Bottomless Pit' in Sheriff street, and
though not so bad as the one at the house of the "Nine Nations," it
gave out a deal of gin that the Mullhollands had a liking for. I was
continually going for it, and the Mullhollands were continually
drinking it; and the whole neighborhood liked it, and in
'Nightmare's Alley' the undertaker found a profitable business.

"In the morning I went with the dogs to the slaughter-house, and
there fed them, and took care of the fighting cocks, and brought gin
for the men who worked there. In the afternoon I joined the
newsboys, as ragged and neglected as myself, gambled for cents, and
watched the policemen, whom we called the Charleys. I lived with
Mullholland two years, and saw and felt enough to make hardened any
one of my age. One morning there came a loud knocking at the door,
which was followed by the entrance of two officers. The dogs had got
out and bitten a child, and the officers, knowing who owned them,
had come to arrest Mullholland. We were all surprised, for the
officers recognized in Mullholland and the woman two old offenders.
And while they were dragged off to the Tombs, I was left to prey
upon the world as best I could. Again homeless, I wandered about
with urchins as ragged and destitute as myself. It seemed to me that
everybody viewed me as an object of suspicion, for I sought in vain
for employment that would give me bread and clothing. I wanted to be
honest, and would have lived honest; but I could not make people
believe me honest. And when I told who I was, and where I sheltered
myself, I was ordered away. Everybody judged me by the filthy shreds
on my back; nobody had anything for me to do.

"I applied at a grocer's, to sweep his store and go errands. When I
told him where I had lived, he shook his head and ordered me away.
Knowing I could fill a place not unknown to me, I applied at a
butcher's in Mott street; but he pointed his knife-which left a
wound in my feelings-and ordered me away. And I was ordered away
wherever I went. The doors of the Chatham theatre looked too fine
for me. My ragged condition rebuked me wherever I went, and for more
than a week I slept under a cart that stood in Mott street. Then Tom
Farley found me, and took me with him to his cellar, in Elizabeth
street, where we had what I thought a good bed of shavings. Tom sold
Heralds, gambled for cents, and shared with me, and we got along.
Then Tom stole a dog, and the dog got us into a deal of trouble,
which ended with getting us both into the Tombs, where Tom was
locked up. I was again adrift, as we used to call it, and thought of
poor Tom a deal. Every one I met seemed higher up in the world than
I was. But I got into Centre Market, carried baskets, and did what I
could to earn a shilling, and slept in Tom's bed, where there was
some nights fifteen and twenty like myself.

"One morning, while waiting a job, my feet and hands benumbed with
the cold, a beautiful lady slipped a shilling into my hand and
passed on. To one penniless and hungry, it seemed a deal of money.
Necessity had almost driven me to the sign of the 'Three Martyrs,'
to see what the man of the eagle face would give me on my cap, for
they said the man at the 'Three Martyrs' lent money on rags such as
I had. I followed the woman, for there was something so good in the
act that I could not resist it. She entered a fine house in Leonard

"You must now go with me into the den of Hag Zogbaum, in 'Scorpion
Cove;' and 'Scorpion Cove' is in Pell street. Necessity next drove
me there. It is early spring, we will suppose; and being in the
Bowery, we find the streets in its vicinity reeking with putrid
matter, hurling pestilence into the dark dwellings of the unknown
poor, and making thankful the coffin-maker, who in turn thanks a
nonundertaking corporation for the rich harvest. The muck is
everywhere deep enough for hogs and fat aldermen to wallow in, and
would serve well the purposes of a supper-eating corporation, whose
chief business it was to fatten turtles and make Presidents.

"We have got through the muck of the mucky Bowery. Let us turn to
the left as we ascend the hill from Chatham street, and into a
narrow, winding way, called Doyer's street. Dutch Sophy, then, as
now, sits in all the good nature of her short, fat figure, serving
her customers with ices, at three cents. Her cunning black eyes and
cheerful, ruddy face, enhance the air of pertness that has made her
a favorite with her customers. We will pass the little wooden shop,
where Mr. Saunders makes boots of the latest style, and where old
lapstone, with curious framed spectacles tied over his bleared eyes,
has for the last forty years been seen at the window trimming welts,
and mending every one's sole but his own; we will pass the four
story wooden house that the landlord never paints-that has the
little square windows, and the little square door, and the two
little iron hand rails that curl so crabbedly at the ends, and guard
four crabbeder steps that give ingress and egress to its swarm of
poor but honest tenants; we will pass the shop where a short,
stylish sign tells us Mr. Robertson makes bedsteads; and the little,
slanting house a line of yellow letters on a square of black tin
tells us is a select school for young ladies, and the bright, dainty
looking house with the green shutters, where lives Mr. Vredenburg
the carpenter, who, the neighbors say, has got up in the world, and
paints his house to show that he feels above poor folks-and find we
have reached the sooty and gin-reeking grocery of Mr. Korner, who
sells the devil's elixir to the sootier devils that swarm the
cellars of his neighbors. The faded blue letters, on a strip of wood
nailed to the bricks over his door, tell us he is a dealer in
"Imported and other liquors." Next door to Mr. Korner's tipsy
looking grocery lives Mr. Muffin, the coffin-maker, who has a large
business with the disciples who look in at Korner's. Mrs. Downey, a
decent sort of body, who lives up the alley, and takes sixpenny
lodgers by the dozen, may be seen in great tribulation with her pet
pig, who, every day, much to the annoyance of Mr. Korner, manages to
get out, and into the pool of decaying matter opposite his door,
where he is sure to get stuck, and with his natural propensity,
squeals lustily for assistance. Mrs. Downey, as is her habit, gets
distracted; and having well abused Mr. Korner for his interference
in a matter that can only concern herself and the animal, ventures
to her knees in the mire, and having seized her darling pig by the
two ears, does, with the assistance of a policeman, who kindly takes
him by the tail, extricate his porkship, to the great joy of
herself. The animal scampers, grunting, up the alley, as Mr. Korner,
in his shirt sleeves, throws his broom after him, and the policeman
surlily says he wishes it was the street commissioner.

"We have made the circle of Doyer's street, and find it fortified on
Pell street, with two decrepit wooden buildings, that the demand for
the 'devil's elixir,' has converted into Dutch groceries, their
exteriors presenting the appearance of having withstood a storm of
dilapidated clapboards, broken shutters, red herrings, and onions.
Mr. Voss looks suspiciously through the broken shutters of his
Gibraltar, at his neighbor of the opposite Gibraltar, and is heard
to say of his wares that they are none of the best, and that while
he sells sixpence a pint less, the article is a shilling a pint
better. And there the two Gibraltars stand, apparently infirm,
hurling their unerring missiles, and making wreck of everything in
the neighborhood.

"We have turned down Pell street toward Mott, and on the north side
a light-colored sign, representing a smith in the act of shoeing a
horse, attracts the eye, and tells us the old cavern-like building
over which it swings, is where Mr. Mooney does smithwork and
shoeing. And a little further on, a dash of yellow and white paint
on a little sign-board at the entrance of an alley, guarded on one
side by a broken-down shed, and on the other, by a three-story,
narrow, brick building (from the windows of which trail long
water-stains, and from the broken panes a dozen curious black heads,
of as many curious eyed negroes protrude), tells us somewhat
indefinitely, that Mister Mills, white-washer and wall-colorer, may
be found in the neighborhood, which, judging from outward
appearances, stands much in need of this good man's services. Just
keep your eye on the sign of the white-washer and wall-colorer, and
passing up the sickly alley it tells you Mister Mills may be found
in, you will find yourself (having picked your way over putrid
matter, and placed your perfumed cambric where it will protect your
lungs from the inhalation of pestilential air,) in the cozy area of
'Scorpion Cove.' Scorpion Cove is bounded at one end by a two-story
wooden house, with two decayed and broken verandas in front, and
rickety steps leading here and there to suspicious looking passages,

Online LibraryF. Colburn AdamsJustice in the By-Ways, a Tale of Life → online text (page 7 of 29)