F. Colburn Adams.

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

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into which, and out of which a never-ending platoon of the rising
generation crawl and toddle, keep up a cheap serenade, and like
rats, scamper away at the sight of a stranger; and on the other, by
the back of the brick house with the negro-headed front. At the
sides are two broken-down board fences, and forming a sort of
net-work across the cove, are an innumerable quantity of unoccupied
clothes-lines, which would seem only to serve the mischievous
propensities of young negroes and the rats. There is any quantity of
rubbish in 'Scorpion Cove,' and any amount of disease-breeding
cesspools; but the corporation never heard of 'Scorpion Cove,' and
wouldn't look into it if it had. If you ask me how it came to be
called 'Scorpion Cove,' I will tell you. The brick house at one end
was occupied by negroes; and the progeny of these negroes swarmed
over the cove, and were called scorpions. The old house of the
verandas at the other end, and which had an air of being propped up
after a shock of paralysis, was inhabited by twenty or more
families, of the Teutonic race, whose numerous progeny, called the
hedge-hogs, were more than a match for the scorpions, and with that
jealousy of each other which animates these races did the scorpions
and hedge-hogs get at war. In the morning the scorpions would crawl
up through holes in the cellar, through broken windows, through the
trap-doors, down the long stairway that wound from the second and
third stories over the broken pavilion, and from nobody could tell
where-for they came, it seems, from every rat-hole, and with rolling
white eyes, marshalled themselves for battle. The hedgehogs
mustering in similar strength, and springing up from no one could
tell where, would set upon the scorpions, and after a goodly amount
of wallowing in the mire, pulling hair and wool, scratching faces
and pommeling noses, the scorpions being alternately the victors and
vanquished, the war would end at the appearance of Hag Zogbaum, who,
with her broom, would cause the scorpions to beat a hasty retreat.
The hedge-hogs generally came off victorious, for they were the
stronger race. But the old hedge-hogs got much shattered in time by
the broadsides of the two Gibraltars, which sent them broadside on
into the Tombs. And this passion of the elder hedge-hogs for getting
into the Tombs, caused by degrees a curtailing of the younger
hedge-hogs. And this falling off in the forces of the foe,
singularly inspirited the scorpions, who mustered courage, and after
a series of savage battles, in which there was a notorious amount of
wool-pulling gained the day. And this is how 'Scorpion Cove' got its

"Hag Zogbaum lived in the cellar of the house with the verandas; and
old Dan Sullivan and the rats had possession of the garret. In the
cellar of this woman, whose trade was the fostering of crime in
children as destitute as myself, there was a bar and a back cellar,
where as many as twenty boys and girls slept on straw and were
educated in vice. She took me into her nursery, and I was glad to
get there, for I had no other place to go.

"In the morning we were sent out to pilfer, to deceive the
credulous, and to decoy others to the den. Some were instructed by
Hag Zogbaum to affect deaf and dumb, to plead the starving condition
of our parents, to, in a word, enlist the sympathies of the
credulous with an hundred different stories. We were all stimulated
by a premium being held out to the most successful. Some were sent
out to steal pieces of iron, brass, copper, and old junk; and these
Hag Zogbaum would sell or give to the man who kept the junk-shop in
Stanton street, known as the rookery at the corner. (This man lived
with Hag Zogbaum.) We returned at night with our booty, and re-
ceived our wages in gin or beer. The unsuccessful were set down as
victims of bad luck. Now and then the old woman would call us a
miserable lot of wretches she was pestered to take care of. At one
time there were in this den of wretchedness fifteen girls from seven
to eleven years old, and seven boys under eleven-all being initiated
into the by-ways of vice and crime. Among the girls were Italians,
Germans, Irish, and-shall I say it?-Americans! It was curious to see
what means the old hag would resort to for the purpose of improving
their features after they had arrived at a certain age. She had a
purpose in this; and that purpose sprang from that traffic in
depravity caused by the demands of a depraved society, a theme on
her lips continually."



"HAVING served well the offices of felons and impostors, Hag Zogbaum
would instruct her girls in the mysteries of licentiousness. When
they reached a certain age, their personal appearance was improved,
and one by one they were passed into the hands of splendidly-
dressed ladies, as we then took them to be, who paid a sum for them
to Hag Zogbaum, and took them away; and that was the last we saw of
them. They had no desire to remain in their miserable abode, and
were only too glad to get away from it. In most cases they were
homeless and neglected orphans; and knowing no better condition,
fell easy victims to the snares set for them.

"It was in this dark, cavern-like den - in this mysterious caldron of
precocious depravity, rioting unheeded in the very centre of a great
city, whose boasted wealth and civilization it might put to shame,
if indeed it were capable of shame, I first met the child of beauty,
Anna Bonard. Yes! - the Anna Bonard you now see at the house of Madame
Flamingo. At that time she was but seven years old - a child of
uncommon beauty and aptness, of delicate but well-proportioned
features, of middle stature, and a face that care might have made
charming beyond comparison. But vice hardens, corrodes, and gives a
false hue to the features. Anna said she was an orphan. How far
this was true I know not. A mystery shrouded the way in which she
fell into the hands of Hag Zogbaum. Hag Zogbaum said she got her of
an apple-woman; and the apple-woman kept a stand in West street, but
never would disclose how she came by Anna. And Mr. Tom Toddleworth,
who was the chronicle of the Points, and used to look into 'Scorpion
Cove' now and then, and inquire about Anna, as if he had a sort of
interest in her, they said knew all about her. But if he did, he
always kept it a secret between himself and Hag Zogbaum.

"She was always of a melancholy turn, used to say life was but a
burden to her-that she could see nothing in the future that did not
seem dark and tortuous. The lot into which she was cast of necessity
others might have mistaken for that which she had chosen. It was
not. The hard hand of necessity had forced her into this quicksand
of death; the indifference of a naturally generous community, robbed
her of the light of intelligence, and left her a helpless victim in
the hands of this cultivator of vice. How could she, orphan as she
was called, and unencouraged, come to be a noble and
generous-hearted woman? No one offered her the means to come up and
ornament her sex; but tyrannical society neither forgets her
misfortunes nor forgives her errors. Once seal the death-warrant of
a woman's errors, and you have none to come forward and cancel it;
the tomb only removes the seal. Anna took a liking to me, and was
kind to me, and looked to me to protect her. And I loved her, and
our love grew up, and strengthened; and being alike neglected in the
world, our condition served as the strongest means of cementing our

"Hag Zogbaum then sent Anna away to the house up the alley, in
Elizabeth street, where she sent most of her girls when they had
reached the age of eleven and twelve. Hag Zogbaum had many places
for her female pupils. The very best looking always went a while to
the house in the alley; the next best looking were sure to find
their way into the hands of Miss Brown, in Little Water street, and
Miss Brown, they said, sold them to the fairies of the South, who
dressed them in velvet and gold; and the 'scrubs,' as the old woman
used to call the rest, got, by some mysterious process, into the
hands of Paddy Pie and Tim Branahan, who kept shantees in Orange

"Anna had been away some time, and Mr. Tom Toddleworth had several
times been seen to look in and inquire for her. Mr. Toddleworth said
he had a ripping bid for her. At that time I was ignorant of its
meaning. Harry Rooney and me were sent to the house in Elizabeth
street, one morning, to bring Anna and another girl home. The house
was large, and had an air of neatness about it that contrasted
strangely with the den in 'Scorpion Cove.' We rang the bell and
inquired for the girls, who, after waiting nearly an hour, were sent
down to us, clean and neatly dressed. In Anna the change was so
great, that though I had loved her, and thought of her day and night
during her absence, I scarce recognized her. So glad did she seem to
see me that she burst into tears, flung her arms about my neck, and
kissed me with the fondness of a sister. Then she recounted with
childlike enthusiasm the kind treatment she had received at the
house of Madame Harding (for such it was called), between whom and
Hag Zogbaum there was carried on a species of business I am not
inclined to designate here. Two kind and splendidly-dressed ladies,
Anna said, called to see them nearly every day, and were going to
take them away, that they might live like fairies all the rest of
their lives.

"When we got home, two ladies were waiting at the den. It was not
the first time we had seen them at the den. Anna recognized them as
the ladies she had seen at Madame Harding's. One was the woman who
so kindly gave me the shilling in the market, when I was cold and
hungry. A lengthy whispering took place between Hag Zogbaum and the
ladies, and we were ordered into the back cellar. I knew the
whispering was about Anna; and watching through the boards I heard
the Hag say Anna was fourteen and nothing less, and saw one of the
ladies draw from her purse numerous pieces of gold, which were
slipped into her hand. In a few minutes more I saw poor little Anna
follow her up the steps that led into 'Scorpion Cove.' When we were
released Hag was serving ragged and dejected-looking men with gin
and beer. Anna, she said when I inquired, had gone to a good home in
the country. I loved her ardently, and being lonesome was not
content with the statement of the old woman. I could not read, but
had begun to think for myself, and something told me all was not
right. For weeks and months I watched at the house in Leonard
street, into which I had followed the woman who gave me the
shilling. But I neither saw her nor the woman. Elegant carriages,
and elegantly-dressed men drove to and from the door, and passed in
and out of the house, and the house seemed to have a deal of
fashionable customers, and that was all I knew of it then.

"As I watched one night, a gentleman came out of the house, took me
by the arm and shook me, said I was a loitering vagrant, that he had
seen me before, and having a suspicious look he would order the
watch to lock me up. He inquired where my home was; and when I told
him it was in 'Scorpion Cove,' he replied he didn't know where that
was. I told him it wasn't much of a home, and he said I ought to
have a better one. It was all very well to say so; but with me the
case was different. That night I met Tom Farley, who was glad to see
me, and told how he got out of the lock-up, and what he thought of
the lock-up, and the jolly old Judge who sent him to the lock-up,
and who he saw in the lock-up, and what mischief was concocted in
the lock-up, and what he got to eat in the lock-up, and how the
lock-up wasn't so bad a place after all.

"The fact was I was inclined to think the lock-up not so bad a place
to get into, seeing how they gave people something good to eat, and
clothes to wear. Tom and me went into business together. We sold
Heralds and Sunday papers, and made a good thing of it, and shared
our earnings, and got enough to eat and some clothes. I took up my
stand in Centre Market, and Tom took up his at Peck Slip. At night
we would meet, count our earnings, and give them to Mr. Crogan, who
kept the cellar in Water street, where we slept. I left Hag Zogbaum,
who we got to calling the wizard. She got all we could earn or
pilfer, and we got nothing for our backs but a few rags, and
unwholesome fish and beer for our bellies. I thought of Anna day and
night; I hoped to meet in Centre Market the woman who took her away.

"I said no one ever looked in at the den in 'Scorpion Cove,' but
there was a kind little man, with sharp black eyes, and black hair,
and an earnest olive-colored face, and an earnester manner about
him, who used to look in now and then, talk kindly to us, and tell
us he wished he had a home for us all, and was rich enough to give
us all enough to eat. He hated Hag Zogbaum, and Hag Zogbaum hated
him; but we all liked him because he was kind to us, and used to
shake his head, and say he would do something for us yet. Hag
Zogbaum said he was always meddling with other people's business. At
other times a man would come along and throw tracts in at the gate
of the alley. We were ignorant of what they were intended for, and
used to try to sell them at the Gibraltars. Nobody wanted them, and
nobody could read at the den, so Hag Zogbaum lighted the fire with
them, and that was the end of them.

"Well, I sold papers for nearly two years, and learned to read a
little by so doing, and got up in the world a little; and being what
was called smart, attracted the attention of a printer in Nassau
street, who took me into his office, and did well by me. My mind was
bent on getting a trade. I knew I could do well for myself with a
trade to lean upon. Two years I worked faithfully at the printer's,
was approaching manhood, and with the facilities it afforded me had
not failed to improve my mind and get a tolerable good knowledge of
the trade. But the image of Anna, and the singular manner in which
she disappeared, made me unhappy.

"On my return from dinner one day I met in Broadway the lady who
took Anna away. The past and its trials flashed across my brain, and
I turned and followed her-found that her home was changed to Mercer
street, and this accounted for my fruitless watching in Leonard

"The love of Anna, that had left its embers smouldering in my bosom,
quickened, and seemed to burn with redoubled ardor. It was my first
and only love; the sufferings of our childhood had made it lasting.
My very emotion rose to action as I saw the woman I knew took her
away. My anxiety to know her fate had no bounds. Dressing myself up
as respectably as it was possible with my means, I took advantage of
a dark and stormy night in the month of November to call at the
house in Mercer street, into which I had traced the lady. I rung the
bell; a sumptuously-dressed woman came to the door, which opened
into a gorgeously-decorated hall. She looked at me with an inquiring
eye and disdainful frown, inquired who I was and what I wanted. I
confess I was nervous, for the dazzling splendor of the mansion
produced in me a feeling of awe rather than admiration. I made known
my mission as best I could; the woman said no such person had ever
resided there. In that moment of disappointment I felt like casting
myself away in despair. The associations of Scorpion Cove, of the
house of the Nine Nations, of the Rookery, of Paddy Pie's-or any
other den in that desert of death that engulphs the Points, seemed
holding out a solace for the melancholy that weighed me down. But
when I got back into Broadway my resolution gained strength, and
with it I wept over the folly of my thoughts.

"Led by curiosity, and the air of comfort pervading the
well-furnished room, and the piously-disposed appearance of the
persons who passed in and out, I had several times looked in at the
house of the 'Foreign Missions,' as we used to call it. A man with a
good-natured face used to sit in the chair, and a wise-looking
little man in spectacles (the Secretary) used to sit a bit below
him, and a dozen or two well-disposed persons of both sexes, with
sharp and anxious countenances, used to sit round in a half circle,
listening. The wise-looking man in the spectacles would, on motion
of some one present, read a long report, which was generally made up
of a list of donations and expenditures for getting up a scheme to
evangelize the world, and get Mr. Singleton Spyke off to Antioch. It
seemed to me as if a deal of time and money was expended on Mr.
Singleton Spyke, and yet Mr. Spyke never got off to Antioch. When
the man of the spectacles got through reading the long paper, and
the good-natured man in the chair got through explaining that the
heavy amount of twenty-odd thousand dollars had been judiciously
expended for the salary of officers of the society, and the getting
Brothers Spurn and Witherspoon off to enlighten the heathen, Brother
Singleton Spyke's mission would come up. Every one agreed that there
ought to be no delay in getting Brother Spyke off to Antioch; but a
small deficiency always stood in the way. And Brother Spyke seemed
spiked to this deficiency; for notwithstanding Mrs. Slocum, who was
reckoned the strongest-minded woman, and best business-man of the
society, always made speeches in favor of Brother Spyke and his
mission (a special one), he never got off to Antioch.

"Feeling forlorn, smarting under disappointment, and undecided where
to go after I left the house in Mercer street, I looked in at the
house of the 'Foreign Missions.' Mrs. Slocum, as I had many times
before seen her, was warmly contesting a question concerning Brother
Spyke, with the good-natured man in the chair. It was wrong, she
said, so much money should be expended, and Brother Spyke not got
off to Antioch. So leaving them debating Mr. Spyke's mission to
Antioch, I proceeded back to the house in Mercer street, and
inquired for the landlady of the house. The landlady, the woman that
opened the door said, was engaged. The door was shut in my face, and
I turned away more wounded in my feelings than before. Day and night
I contemplated some plan by which to ascertain Anna's place of
abode, her pursuit in life, her wants. When we parted she could
neither write nor read: I had taken writing lessons, by which I
could communicate tolerably well, while my occupation afforded me
the means of improvement. A few weeks passed (I continued to watch
the house), and I recognized her one afternoon, by her black,
floating hair, sitting at a second-story window of the house in
Mercer street, her back toward me. The sight was like electricity on
my feelings; a transport of joy bore away my thoughts. I gazed, and
continued to gaze upon the object, throwing, as it were, new passion
into my soul. But it turned, and there was a changed face, a face
more lovely, looking eagerly into a book. Looking eagerly into a
book did not betray one who could not read. But there was that in my
heart that prompted me to look on the favorable side of the doubt-to
try a different expedient in gaining admittance to the house. When
night came, I assumed a dress those who look on mechanics as vulgar
people, would have said became a gentleman; and approaching the
house, gained easy admittance. As I was about entering the great
parlors, a familiar but somewhat changed voice at the top of the
circling stairs that led from the hall caught my ear. I paused,
listened, became entranced with suspense. Again it resounded-again
my heart throbbed with joy. It was Anna's voice, so soft and
musical. The woman who opened the door turned from me, and attempted
to hush it. But Anna seemed indifferent to the admonition, for she
tripped buoyantly down stairs, accompanying a gentleman to the door.
I stood before her, a changed person. Her recognition of me was
instantaneous. Her color changed, her lips quivered, her eyes filled
with tears, her very soul seemed fired with emotions she had no
power to resist. 'George Mullholland!' she exclaimed, throwing her
arms about my neck, kissing me, and burying her head in my bosom,
and giving vent to her feelings in tears and quickened sobs-'how I
have thought of you, watched for you, and hoped for the day when we
would meet again and be happy. Oh, George! George! how changed
everything seems since we parted! It seems a long age, and yet our
sufferings, and the fondness for each other that was created in that
suffering, freshens in the mind. Dear, good George-my protector!'
she continued, clinging to me convulsively. I took her in my arms
(the scene created no little excitement in the house) and bore her
away to her chamber, which was chastely furnished, displaying a
correct taste, and otherwise suited to a princess. Having gained her
presence of mind, and become calm, she commenced relating what had
occurred since we parted at Scorpion Cove. I need not relate it at
length here, for it was similar in character to what might be told
by a thousand others if they were not powerless. For months she had
been confined to the house, her love of dress indulged to the
furthest extent, her mind polluted and initiated into the mysteries
of refined licentiousness, her personal appearance scrupulously
regarded, and made to serve the object of which she was a victim in
the hands of the hostess, who made her the worse than slave to a
banker of great respectability in Wall street. This good man and
father was well down in the vale of years, had a mansion on Fifth
Avenue, and an interesting and much-beloved family. He was, in
addition, a prominent member of the commercial community; but his
example to those more ready to imitate the errors of men in high
positions, than to improve by the examples of the virtuous poor, was
not what it should be. Though a child of neglect, and schooled to
licentiousness under the very eye of a generous community, her
natural sensibility recoiled at the thought that she was a mere
object of prey to the passions of one she could not love.

"She resolved to remain in this condition no longer, and escaped to
Savannah with a young man whose acquaintance she had made at the
house in Mercer street. For a time they lived at a respectable
hotel, as husband and wife. But her antecedents got out, and they
got notice to leave. The same fate met them in Charleston, to which
city they removed. Her antecedents seemed to follow her wherever she
went, like haunting spirits seeking her betrayal. She was homeless;
and without a home there was nothing open to her but that vortex of
licentiousness the world seemed pointing her to. Back she went to
the house in Mercer street-was glad to get back; was at least free
from the finger of scorn. Henceforward she associated with various
friends, who sought her because of her transcendent charms. She had
cultivated a natural intelligence, and her manners were such as
might have become one in better society. But her heart's desire was
to leave the house. I took her from it; and for a time I was happy
to find that the contaminating weeds of vice had not overgrown the
more sensitive buds of virtue.

"I provided a small tenement in Centre street, such as my means
would afford, and we started in the world, resolved to live
respectably. But what had maintained me respectably was now found
inadequate to the support of us both. Life in a house of sumptuous
vice had rendered Anna incapable of adapting herself to the extreme
of economy now forced upon us. Anna was taken sick; I was compelled
to neglect my work, and was discharged. Discontent, embarrassment,
and poverty resulted. I struggled to live for six months; but my
prospects, my hopes of gaining an honest living, were gone. I had no
money to join the society, and the trade being dull, could get
nothing to do. Fate seemed driving us to the last stage of distress.
One by one our few pieces of furniture, our clothing, and the few
bits of jewelry Anna had presented her at the house in Mercer
street, found their way to the sign of the Three Martyrs. The man of
the eagle face would always lend something on them, and that
something relieved us for the time. I many times thought, as I
passed the house of the Foreign Missions in Centre street, where
there was such an air of comfort, that if Mrs. Abijah Slocum, and
the good-natured man who sat in the chair, and the wise little man
in the spectacles, would condescend to look in at our little place,
and instead of always talking about getting Mr. Singleton Spyke off

Online LibraryF. Colburn AdamsJustice in the By-Ways, a Tale of Life → online text (page 8 of 29)