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Title: Out of Mulberry Street - Stories of Tenement life in New York City
Author: Riis, Jacob A. (Jacob August), 1849-1914
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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OUT OF MULBERRY STREET

JACOB·A·RIIS



[Illustration: Merry Christmas in the Tenements.]



  Out of Mulberry Street

  Stories of tenement
  life in New York City


  By Jacob A. Riis

  Author of "How the Other Half Lives,"
  "The Children of the Poor," etc.


  New York
  The Century Co.
  1898



  Copyright, 1897, 1898,
  By THE CENTURY CO.


  THE DE VINNE PRESS.



CONTENTS


                                              PAGE

  MERRY CHRISTMAS IN THE TENEMENTS               1

  'TWAS LIZA'S DOINGS                           47

  THE DUBOURQUES, FATHER AND SON                60

  ABE'S GAME OF JACKS                           67

  A LITTLE PICTURE                              71

  A DREAM OF THE WOODS                          73

  A HEATHEN BABY                                80

  HE KEPT HIS TRYST                             86

  JOHN GAVIN, MISFIT                            91

  IN THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL                    96

  NIGGER MARTHA'S WAKE                         106

  A CHIP FROM THE MAELSTROM                    114

  SARAH JOYCE'S HUSBANDS                       118

  THE CAT TOOK THE KOSHER MEAT                 122

  FIRE IN THE BARRACKS                         126

  A WAR ON THE GOATS                           129

  ROVER'S LAST FIGHT                           135

  WHEN THE LETTER CAME                         142

  THE KID                                      147

  LOST CHILDREN                                151

  THE SLIPPER-MAKER'S FAST                     162

  PAOLO'S AWAKENING                            166

  THE LITTLE DOLLAR'S CHRISTMAS JOURNEY        182

  A PROPOSAL ON THE ELEVATED                   199

  DEATH COMES TO CAT ALLEY                     205

  WHY IT HAPPENED                              210

  THE CHRISTENING IN BOTTLE ALLEY              213

  IN THE MULBERRY STREET COURT                 219

  SPOONING IN DYNAMITE ALLEY                   223

  HEROES WHO FIGHT FIRE                        229



PREFACE


Since I wrote "How the Other Half Lives" I have been asked many times upon
what basis of experience, of fact, I built that account of life in New
York tenements. These stories contain the answer. They are from the daily
grist of the police hopper in Mulberry street, at which I have been
grinding for twenty years. They are reprinted from the columns of my
newspaper, and from the magazines as a contribution to the discussion of
the lives and homes of the poor, which in recent years has done much to
better their lot, and is yet to do much more when we have all come to
understand each other. In this discussion only facts are of value, and
these stories are true. In the few instances in which I have taken the
ordering of events into my own hands, it is chiefly their sequence with
which I have interfered. The facts themselves remain as I found them.

J. A. R.

301 MULBERRY STREET.



OUT OF MULBERRY STREET



MERRY CHRISTMAS IN THE TENEMENTS


It was just a sprig of holly, with scarlet berries showing against the
green, stuck in, by one of the office boys probably, behind the sign that
pointed the way up to the editorial rooms. There was no reason why it
should have made me start when I came suddenly upon it at the turn of the
stairs; but it did. Perhaps it was because that dingy hall, given over to
dust and drafts all the days of the year, was the last place in which I
expected to meet with any sign of Christmas; perhaps it was because I
myself had nearly forgotten the holiday. Whatever the cause, it gave me
quite a turn.

I stood, and stared at it. It looked dry, almost withered. Probably it had
come a long way. Not much holly grows about Printing-House Square, except
in the colored supplements, and that is scarcely of a kind to stir tender
memories. Withered and dry, this did. I thought, with a twinge of
conscience, of secret little conclaves of my children, of private views of
things hidden from mama at the bottom of drawers, of wild flights when
papa appeared unbidden in the door, which I had allowed for once to pass
unheeded. Absorbed in the business of the office, I had hardly thought of
Christmas coming on, until now it was here. And this sprig of holly on the
wall that had come to remind me,--come nobody knew how far,--did it grow
yet in the beech-wood clearings, as it did when I gathered it as a boy,
tracking through the snow? "Christ-thorn" we called it in our Danish
tongue. The red berries, to our simple faith, were the drops of blood that
fell from the Saviour's brow as it drooped under its cruel crown upon the
cross.

Back to the long ago wandered my thoughts: to the moss-grown beech in
which I cut my name and that of a little girl with yellow curls, of
blessed memory, with the first jack-knife I ever owned; to the story-book
with the little fir-tree that pined because it was small, and because the
hare jumped over it, and would not be content though the wind and the sun
kissed it, and the dews wept over it and told it to rejoice in its young
life; and that was so proud when, in the second year, the hare had to go
round it, because then it knew it was getting big,--Hans Christian
Andersen's story that we loved above all the rest; for we knew the tree
right well, and the hare; even the tracks it left in the snow we had seen.
Ah, those were the Yule-tide seasons, when the old Domkirke shone with a
thousand wax candles on Christmas eve; when all business was laid aside to
let the world make merry one whole week; when big red apples were roasted
on the stove, and bigger doughnuts were baked within it for the long
feast! Never such had been known since. Christmas to-day is but a name, a
memory.

A door slammed below, and let in the noises of the street. The holly
rustled in the draft. Some one going out said, "A Merry Christmas to you
all!" in a big, hearty voice. I awoke from my reverie to find myself back
in New York with a glad glow at the heart. It was not true. I had only
forgotten. It was myself that had changed, not Christmas. That was here,
with the old cheer, the old message of good-will, the old royal road to
the heart of mankind. How often had I seen its blessed charity, that never
corrupts, make light in the hovels of darkness and despair! how often
watched its spirit of self sacrifice and devotion in those who had,
besides themselves, nothing to give! and as often the sight had made whole
my faith in human nature. No! Christmas was not of the past, its spirit
not dead. The lad who fixed the sprig of holly on the stairs knew it; my
reporter's note-book bore witness to it. Witness of my contrition for the
wrong I did the gentle spirit of the holiday, here let the book tell the
story of one Christmas in the tenements of the poor:

       *       *       *       *       *

It is evening in Grand street. The shops east and west are pouring forth
their swarms of workers. Street and sidewalk are filled with an eager
throng of young men and women, chatting gaily, and elbowing the jam of
holiday shoppers that linger about the big stores. The street-cars labor
along, loaded down to the steps with passengers carrying bundles of every
size and odd shape. Along the curb a string of peddlers hawk penny toys in
push-carts with noisy clamor, fearless for once of being moved on by the
police. Christmas brings a two weeks' respite from persecution even to
the friendless street-fakir. From the window of one brilliantly lighted
store a bevy of mature dolls in dishabille stretch forth their arms
appealingly to a troop of factory-hands passing by. The young men chaff
the girls, who shriek with laughter and run. The policeman on the corner
stops beating his hands together to keep warm, and makes a mock attempt to
catch them, whereat their shrieks rise shriller than ever. "Them stockin's
o' yourn'll be the death o' Santa Claus!" he shouts after them, as they
dodge. And they, looking back, snap saucily, "Mind yer business, freshy!"
But their laughter belies their words. "They gin it to ye straight that
time," grins the grocer's clerk, come out to snatch a look at the crowds;
and the two swap holiday greetings.

At the corner, where two opposing tides of travel form an eddy, the line
of push-carts debouches down the darker side-street. In its gloom their
torches burn with a fitful glare that wakes black shadows among the
trusses of the railroad structure overhead. A woman, with worn shawl drawn
tightly about head and shoulders, bargains with a peddler for a monkey on
a stick and two cents' worth of flitter-gold. Five ill-clad youngsters
flatten their noses against the frozen pane of the toy-shop, in ecstasy at
something there, which proves to be a milk-wagon, with driver, horses, and
cans that can be unloaded. It is something their minds can grasp. One
comes forth with a penny goldfish of pasteboard clutched tightly in his
hand, and, casting cautious glances right and left, speeds across the way
to the door of a tenement, where a little girl stands waiting. "It's yer
Chris'mas, Kate," he says, and thrusts it into her eager fist. The black
doorway swallows them up.

Across the narrow yard, in the basement of the rear house, the lights of a
Christmas tree show against the grimy window-pane. The hare would never
have gone around it, it is so very small. The two children are busily
engaged fixing the goldfish upon one of its branches. Three little candles
that burn there shed light upon a scene of utmost desolation. The room is
black with smoke and dirt. In the middle of the floor oozes an oil-stove
that serves at once to take the raw edge off the cold and to cook the
meals by. Half the window-panes are broken, and the holes stuffed with
rags. The sleeve of an old coat hangs out of one, and beats drearily upon
the sash when the wind sweeps over the fence and rattles the rotten
shutters. The family wash, clammy and gray, hangs on a clothes-line
stretched across the room. Under it, at a table set with cracked and empty
plates, a discouraged woman sits eying the children's show gloomily. It is
evident that she has been drinking. The peaked faces of the little ones
wear a famished look. There are three--the third an infant, put to bed in
what was once a baby-carriage. The two from the street are pulling it
around to get the tree in range. The baby sees it, and crows with delight.
The boy shakes a branch, and the goldfish leaps and sparkles in the
candle-light.

"See, sister!" he pipes; "see Santa Claus!" And they clap their hands in
glee. The woman at the table wakes out of her stupor, gazes around her,
and bursts into a fit of maudlin weeping.

The door falls to. Five flights up, another opens upon a bare attic room
which a patient little woman is setting to rights. There are only three
chairs, a box, and a bedstead in the room, but they take a deal of careful
arranging. The bed hides the broken plaster in the wall through which the
wind came in; each chair-leg stands over a rat-hole, at once to hide it
and to keep the rats out. One is left; the box is for that. The plaster of
the ceiling is held up with pasteboard patches. I know the story of that
attic. It is one of cruel desertion. The woman's husband is even now
living in plenty with the creature for whom he forsook her, not a dozen
blocks away, while she "keeps the home together for the childer." She
sought justice, but the lawyer demanded a retainer; so she gave it up, and
went back to her little ones. For this room that barely keeps the winter
wind out she pays four dollars a month, and is behind with the rent. There
is scarce bread in the house; but the spirit of Christmas has found her
attic. Against a broken wall is tacked a hemlock branch, the leavings of
the corner grocer's fitting-block; pink string from the packing-counter
hangs on it in festoons. A tallow dip on the box furnishes the
illumination. The children sit up in bed, and watch it with shining eyes.

"We're having Christmas!" they say.

The lights of the Bowery glow like a myriad twinkling stars upon the
ceaseless flood of humanity that surges ever through the great highway of
the homeless. They shine upon long rows of lodging-houses, in which
hundreds of young men, cast helpless upon the reef of the strange city,
are learning their first lessons of utter loneliness; for what desolation
is there like that of the careless crowd when all the world rejoices? They
shine upon the tempter, setting his snares there, and upon the missionary
and the Salvation Army lass, disputing his catch with him; upon the police
detective going his rounds with coldly observant eye intent upon the
outcome of the contest; upon the wreck that is past hope, and upon the
youth pausing on the verge of the pit in which the other has long ceased
to struggle. Sights and sounds of Christmas there are in plenty in the
Bowery. Juniper and tamarack and fir stand in groves along the busy
thoroughfare, and garlands of green embower mission and dive impartially.
Once a year the old street recalls its youth with an effort. It is true
that it is largely a commercial effort--that the evergreen, with an
instinct that is not of its native hills, haunts saloon-corners by
preference; but the smell of the pine-woods is in the air, and--Christmas
is not too critical--one is grateful for the effort. It varies with the
opportunity. At "Beefsteak John's" it is content with artistically
embalming crullers and mince-pies in green cabbage under the window lamp.
Over yonder, where the mile-post of the old lane still stands,--in its
unhonored old age become the vehicle of publishing the latest "sure cure"
to the world,--a florist, whose undenominational zeal for the holiday and
trade outstrips alike distinction of creed and property, has transformed
the sidewalk and the ugly railroad structure into a veritable bower,
spanning it with a canopy of green, under which dwell with him, in
neighborly good-will, the Young Men's Christian Association and the
Gentile tailor next door.

In the next block a "turkey-shoot" is in progress. Crowds are trying their
luck at breaking the glass balls that dance upon tiny jets of water in
front of a marine view with the moon rising, yellow and big, out of a
silver sea. A man-of-war, with lights burning aloft, labors under a rocky
coast. Groggy sailormen, on shore leave, make unsteady attempts upon the
dancing balls. One mistakes the moon for the target, but is discovered in
season. "Don't shoot that," says the man who loads the guns; "there's a
lamp behind it." Three scared birds in the window-recess try vainly to
snatch a moment's sleep between shots and the trains that go roaring
over-head on the elevated road. Roused by the sharp crack of the rifles,
they blink at the lights in the street, and peck moodily at a crust in
their bed of shavings.

The dime-museum gong clatters out its noisy warning that "the lecture" is
about to begin. From the concert-hall, where men sit drinking beer in
clouds of smoke, comes the thin voice of a short-skirted singer warbling,
"Do they think of me at home?" The young fellow who sits near the door,
abstractedly making figures in the wet track of the "schooners," buries
something there with a sudden restless turn, and calls for another beer.
Out in the street a band strikes up. A host with banners advances,
chanting an unfamiliar hymn. In the ranks marches a cripple on crutches.
Newsboys follow, gaping. Under the illuminated clock of the Cooper
Institute the procession halts, and the leader, turning his face to the
sky, offers a prayer. The passing crowds stop to listen. A few bare their
heads. The devoted group, the flapping banners, and the changing
torchlight on upturned faces, make a strange, weird picture. Then the
drum-beat, and the band files into its barracks across the street. A few
of the listeners follow, among them the lad from the concert-hall, who
slinks shamefacedly in when he thinks no one is looking.

Down at the foot of the Bowery is the "pan-handlers' beat," where the
saloons elbow one another at every step, crowding out all other business
than that of keeping lodgers to support them. Within call of it, across
the square, stands a church which, in the memory of men yet living, was
built to shelter the fashionable Baptist audiences of a day when Madison
Square was out in the fields, and Harlem had a foreign sound. The
fashionable audiences are gone long since. To-day the church, fallen into
premature decay, but still handsome in its strong and noble lines, stands
as a missionary outpost in the land of the enemy, its builders would have
said, doing a greater work than they planned. To-night is the Christmas
festival of its English-speaking Sunday-school, and the pews are filled.
The banners of United Italy, of modern Hellas, of France and Germany and
England, hang side by side with the Chinese dragon and the starry
flag--signs of the cosmopolitan character of the congregation. Greek and
Roman Catholics, Jews and joss-worshipers, go there; few Protestants, and
no Baptists. It is easy to pick out the children in their seats by
nationality, and as easy to read the story of poverty and suffering that
stands written in more than one mother's haggard face, now beaming with
pleasure at the little ones' glee. A gaily decorated Christmas tree has
taken the place of the pulpit. At its foot is stacked a mountain of
bundles, Santa Claus's gifts to the school. A self-conscious young man
with soap-locks has just been allowed to retire, amid tumultuous applause,
after blowing "Nearer, my God, to thee" on his horn until his cheeks
swelled almost to bursting. A trumpet ever takes the Fourth Ward by storm.
A class of little girls is climbing upon the platform. Each wears a
capital letter on her breast, and has a piece to speak that begins with
the letter; together they spell its lesson. There is momentary
consternation: one is missing. As the discovery is made, a child pushes
past the doorkeeper, hot and breathless. "I am in 'Boundless Love,'" she
says, and makes for the platform, where her arrival restores confidence
and the language.

In the audience the befrocked visitor from up-town sits cheek by jowl
with the pigtailed Chinaman and the dark-browed Italian. Up in the
gallery, farthest from the preacher's desk and the tree, sits a Jewish
mother with three boys, almost in rags. A dingy and threadbare shawl
partly hides her poor calico wrap and patched apron. The woman shrinks in
the pew, fearful of being seen; her boys stand upon the benches, and
applaud with the rest. She endeavors vainly to restrain them. "Tick,
tick!" goes the old clock over the door through which wealth and fashion
went out long years ago, and poverty came in.

Tick, tick! the world moves, with us--without; without or with. She is the
yesterday, they the to-morrow. What shall the harvest be?

Loudly ticked the old clock in time with the doxology, the other day, when
they cleared the tenants out of Gotham Court down here in Cherry street,
and shut the iron doors of Single and Double Alley against them. Never did
the world move faster or surer toward a better day than when the wretched
slum was seized by the health-officers as a nuisance unfit longer to
disgrace a Christian city. The snow lies deep in the deserted passageways,
and the vacant floors are given over to evil smells, and to the rats that
forage in squads, burrowing in the neglected sewers. The "wall of wrath"
still towers above the buildings in the adjoining Alderman's Court, but
its wrath at last is wasted.

It was built by a vengeful Quaker, whom the alderman had knocked down in a
quarrel over the boundary-line, and transmitted its legacy of hate to
generations yet unborn; for where it stood it shut out sunlight and air
from the tenements of Alderman's Court. And at last it is to go, Gotham
Court and all; and to the going the wall of wrath has contributed its
share, thus in the end atoning for some of the harm it wrought. Tick! old
clock; the world moves. Never yet did Christmas seem less dark on Cherry
Hill than since the lights were put out in Gotham Court forever.

In "the Bend" the philanthropist undertaker who "buries for what he can
catch on the plate" hails the Yule-tide season with a pyramid of green
made of two coffins set on end. It has been a good day, he says
cheerfully, putting up the shutters; and his mind is easy. But the "good
days" of the Bend are over, too. The Bend itself is all but gone. Where
the old pigsty stood, children dance and sing to the strumming of a
cracked piano-organ propelled on wheels by an Italian and his wife. The
park that has come to take the place of the slum will curtail the
undertaker's profits, as it has lessened the work of the police. Murder
was the fashion of the day that is past. Scarce a knife has been drawn
since the sunlight shone into that evil spot, and grass and green shrubs
took the place of the old rookeries. The Christmas gospel of peace and
good-will moves in where the slum moves out. It never had a chance before.

The children follow the organ, stepping in the slush to the
music,--bareheaded and with torn shoes, but happy,--across the Five Points
and through "the Bay,"--known to the directory as Baxter street,--to "the
Divide," still Chatham street to its denizens though the aldermen have
rechristened it Park Row. There other delegations of Greek and Italian
children meet and escort the music on its homeward trip. In one of the
crooked streets near the river its journey comes to an end. A battered
door opens to let it in. A tallow dip burns sleepily on the creaking
stairs. The water runs with a loud clatter in the sink: it is to keep it
from freezing. There is not a whole window-pane in the hall. Time was
when this was a fine house harboring wealth and refinement. It has neither
now. In the old parlor down-stairs a knot of hard-faced men and women sit
on benches about a deal table, playing cards. They have a jug between
them, from which they drink by turns. On the stump of a mantel-shelf a
lamp burns before a rude print of the Mother of God. No one pays any heed
to the hand-organ man and his wife as they climb to their attic. There is
a colony of them up there--three families in four rooms.

"Come in, Antonio," says the tenant of the double flat,--the one with two
rooms,--"come and keep Christmas." Antonio enters, cap in hand. In the
corner by the dormer-window a "crib" has been fitted up in commemoration
of the Nativity. A soap-box and two hemlock branches are the elements. Six
tallow candles and a night-light illuminate a singular collection of
rarities, set out with much ceremonial show. A doll tightly wrapped in
swaddling-clothes represents "the Child." Over it stands a
ferocious-looking beast, easily recognized as a survival of the last
political campaign,--the Tammany tiger,--threatening to swallow it at a
gulp if one as much as takes one's eyes off it. A miniature Santa Claus,
a pasteboard monkey, and several other articles of bric-à-brac of the kind
the tenement affords, complete the outfit. The background is a picture of
St. Donato, their village saint, with the Madonna "whom they worship
most." But the incongruity harbors no suggestion of disrespect. The
children view the strange show with genuine reverence, bowing and crossing
themselves before it. There are five, the oldest a girl of seventeen, who
works for a sweater, making three dollars a week. It is all the money that
comes in, for the father has been sick and unable to work eight months and
the mother has her hands full: the youngest is a baby in arms. Three of
the children go to a charity school, where they are fed, a great help, now
the holidays have come to make work slack for sister. The rent is six
dollars--two weeks' pay out of the four. The mention of a possible chance
of light work for the man brings the daughter with her sewing from the
adjoining room, eager to hear. That would be Christmas indeed! "Pietro!"
She runs to the neighbors to communicate the joyful tidings. Pietro comes,
with his new-born baby, which he is tending while his wife lies ill, to
look at the maestro, so powerful and good. He also has been out of work
for months, with a family of mouths to fill, and nothing coming in. His
children are all small yet, but they speak English.

"What," I say, holding a silver dime up before the oldest, a smart little
chap of seven--"what would you do if I gave you this?"

"Get change," he replies promptly. When he is told that it is his own, to
buy toys with, his eyes open wide with wondering incredulity. By degrees
he understands. The father does not. He looks questioningly from one to
the other. When told, his respect increases visibly for "the rich
gentleman."

They were villagers of the same community in southern Italy, these people
and others in the tenements thereabouts, and they moved their patron saint
with them. They cluster about his worship here, but the worship is more
than an empty form. He typifies to them the old neighborliness of home,
the spirit of mutual help, of charity, and of the common cause against the
common enemy. The community life survives through their saint in the far
city to an unsuspected extent. The sick are cared for; the dreaded
hospital is fenced out. There are no Italian evictions. The saint has
paid the rent of this attic through two hard months; and here at his
shrine the Calabrian village gathers, in the persons of these three, to do
him honor on Christmas eve.

Where the old Africa has been made over into a modern Italy, since King
Humbert's cohorts struck the up-town trail, three hundred of the little
foreigners are having an uproarious time over their Christmas tree in the
Children's Aid Society's school. And well they may, for the like has not
been seen in Sullivan street in this generation. Christmas trees are
rather rarer over here than on the East Side, where the German leavens the
lump with his loyalty to home traditions. This is loaded with silver and
gold and toys without end, until there is little left of the original
green. Santa Claus's sleigh must have been upset in a snow-drift over
here, and righted by throwing the cargo overboard, for there is at least a
wagon-load of things that can find no room on the tree. The appearance of
"teacher" with a double armful of curly-headed dolls in red, yellow, and
green Mother-Hubbards, doubtful how to dispose of them, provokes a shout
of approval, which is presently quieted by the principal's bell. School
is "in" for the preliminary exercises. Afterward there are to be the tree
and ice-cream for the good children. In their anxiety to prove their title
clear, they sit so straight, with arms folded, that the whole row bends
over backward. The lesson is brief, the answers to the point.

"What do we receive at Christmas?" the teacher wants to know. The whole
school responds with a shout, "Dolls and toys!" To the question, "Why do
we receive them at Christmas?" the answer is not so prompt. But one
youngster from Thompson street holds up his hand. He knows. "Because we
always get 'em," he says; and the class is convinced: it is a fact. A baby
wails because it cannot get the whole tree at once. The "little
mother"--herself a child of less than a dozen winters--who has it in
charge cooes over it, and soothes its grief with the aid of a
surreptitious sponge-cake evolved from the depths of teacher's pocket.
Babies are encouraged in these schools, though not originally included in
their plan, as often the one condition upon which the older children can
be reached. Some one has to mind the baby, with all hands out at work.

The school sings "Santa Lucia" and "Children of the Heavenly King," and
baby is lulled to sleep.

"Who is this King?" asks the teacher, suddenly, at the end of a verse.
Momentary stupefaction. The little minds are on ice-cream just then; the
lad nearest the door has telegraphed that it is being carried up in pails.
A little fellow on the back seat saves the day. Up goes his brown fist.

"Well, Vito, who is he?"

"McKinley!" shouts the lad, who remembers the election just past; and the
school adjourns for ice-cream.

It is a sight to see them eat it. In a score of such schools, from the
Hook to Harlem, the sight is enjoyed in Christmas week by the men and
women who, out of their own pockets, reimburse Santa Claus for his outlay,
and count it a joy--as well they may; for their beneficence sometimes
makes the one bright spot in lives that have suffered of all wrongs the
most cruel--that of being despoiled of their childhood. Sometimes they are
little Bohemians; sometimes the children of refugee Jews; and again,
Italians, or the descendants of the Irish stock of Hell's Kitchen and
Poverty Row; always the poorest, the shabbiest, the hungriest--the
children Santa Claus loves best to find, if any one will show him the
way. Having so much on hand, he has no time, you see, to look them up
himself. That must be done for him; and it is done. To the teacher in this
Sullivan-street school came one little girl, this last Christmas, with
anxious inquiry if it was true that he came around with toys.

"I hanged my stocking last time," she said, "and he didn't come at all."
In the front house indeed, he left a drum and a doll, but no message from
him reached the rear house in the alley. "Maybe he couldn't find it," she
said soberly. Did the teacher think he would come if she wrote to him? She
had learned to write.

Together they composed a note to Santa Claus, speaking for a doll and a
bell--the bell to play "go to school" with when she was kept home minding
the baby. Lest he should by any chance miss the alley in spite of
directions, little Rosa was invited to hang her stocking, and her
sister's, with the janitor's children's in the school. And lo! on
Christmas morning there was a gorgeous doll, and a bell that was a whole
curriculum in itself, as good as a year's schooling any day! Faith in
Santa Claus is established in that Thompson-street alley for this
generation at least; and Santa Claus, got by hook or by crook into an
Eighth-Ward alley, is as good as the whole Supreme Court bench, with the
Court of Appeals thrown in, for backing the Board of Health against the
slum.

But the ice-cream! They eat it off the seats, half of them kneeling or
squatting on the floor; they blow on it, and put it in their pockets to
carry home to baby. Two little shavers discovered to be feeding each
other, each watching the smack develop on the other's lips as the acme of
his own bliss, are "cousins"; that is why. Of cake there is a double
supply. It is a dozen years since "Fighting Mary," the wildest child in
the Seventh-Avenue school, taught them a lesson there which they have
never forgotten. She was perfectly untamable, fighting everybody in
school, the despair of her teacher, till on Thanksgiving, reluctantly
included in the general amnesty and mince-pie, she was caught cramming the
pie into her pocket, after eying it with a look of pure ecstasy, but
refusing to touch it. "For mother" was her explanation, delivered with a
defiant look before which the class quailed. It is recorded, but not in
the minutes, that the board of managers wept over Fighting Mary, who, all
unconscious of having caused such an astonishing "break," was at that
moment engaged in maintaining her prestige and reputation by fighting the
gang in the next block. The minutes contain merely a formal resolution to
the effect that occasions of mince-pie shall carry double rations
thenceforth. And the rule has been kept--not only in Seventh-Avenue, but
in every industrial school--since. Fighting Mary won the biggest fight of
her troubled life that day, without striking a blow.

It was in the Seventh-Avenue school last Christmas that I offered the
truant class a four-bladed penknife as a prize for whittling out the
truest Maltese cross. It was a class of black sheep, and it was the
blackest sheep of the flock that won the prize. "That awful Savarese,"
said the principal in despair. I thought of Fighting Mary, and bade her
take heart. I regret to say that within a week the hapless Savarese was
black-listed for banking up the school door with snow, so that not even
the janitor could get out and at him.

Within hail of the Sullivan-street school camps a scattered little band,
the Christmas customs of which I had been trying for years to surprise.
They are Indians, a handful of Mohawks and Iroquois, whom some ill wind
has blown down from their Canadian reservation, and left in these
West-Side tenements to eke out such a living as they can weaving mats and
baskets, and threading glass pearls on slippers and pin-cushions, until,
one after another, they have died off and gone to happier hunting-grounds
than Thompson street. There were as many families as one could count on
the fingers of both hands when I first came upon them, at the death of old
Tamenund, the basket-maker. Last Christmas there were seven. I had about
made up my mind that the only real Americans in New York did not keep the
holiday at all, when, one Christmas eve, they showed me how. Just as dark
was setting in, old Mrs. Benoit came from her Hudson-street attic--where
she was known among the neighbors, as old and poor as she, as Mrs. Ben
Wah, and believed to be the relict of a warrior of the name of Benjamin
Wah--to the office of the Charity Organization Society, with a bundle for
a friend who had helped her over a rough spot--the rent, I suppose. The
bundle was done up elaborately in blue cheese-cloth, and contained a lot
of little garments which she had made out of the remnants of blankets and
cloth of her own from a younger and better day. "For those," she said, in
her French patois, "who are poorer than myself"; and hobbled away. I found
out, a few days later, when I took her picture weaving mats in her attic
room, that she had scarcely food in the house that Christmas day and not
the car-fare to take her to church! Walking was bad, and her old limbs
were stiff. She sat by the window through the winter evening, and watched
the sun go down behind the western hills, comforted by her pipe. Mrs. Ben
Wah, to give her her local name, is not really an Indian; but her husband
was one, and she lived all her life with the tribe till she came here. She
is a philosopher in her own quaint way. "It is no disgrace to be poor,"
said she to me, regarding her empty tobacco-pouch; "but it is sometimes a
great inconvenience." Not even the recollection of the vote of censure
that was passed upon me once by the ladies of the Charitable Ten for
surreptitiously supplying an aged couple, the special object of their
charity, with army plug, could have deterred me from taking the hint.

Very likely, my old friend Miss Sherman, in her Broome-street cellar,--it
is always the attic or the cellar,--would object to Mrs. Ben Wah's claim
to being the only real American in my note-book. She is from down East,
and says "stun" for stone. In her youth she was lady's-maid to a general's
wife, the recollection of which military career equally condones the
cellar and prevents her holding any sort of communication with her common
neighbors, who add to the offense of being foreigners the unpardonable one
of being mostly men. Eight cats bear her steady company, and keep alive
her starved affections. I found them on last Christmas eve behind
barricaded doors; for the cold that had locked the water-pipes had brought
the neighbors down to the cellar, where Miss Sherman's cunning had kept
them from freezing. Their tin pans and buckets were even then banging
against her door. "They're a miserable lot," said the old maid, fondling
her cats defiantly; "but let 'em. It's Christmas. Ah!" she added, as one
of the eight stood up in her lap and rubbed its cheek against hers,
"they're innocent. It isn't poor little animals that does the harm. It's
men and women that does it to each other." I don't know whether it was
just philosophy, like Mrs. Ben Wah's, or a glimpse of her story. If she
had one, she kept it for her cats.

In a hundred places all over the city, when Christmas comes, as many
open-air fairs spring suddenly into life. A kind of Gentile Feast of
Tabernacles possesses the tenement districts especially. Green-embowered
booths stand in rows at the curb, and the voice of the tin trumpet is
heard in the land. The common source of all the show is down by the North
River, in the district known as "the Farm." Down there Santa Claus
establishes headquarters early in December and until past New Year. The
broad quay looks then more like a clearing in a pine-forest than a busy
section of the metropolis. The steamers discharge their loads of fir-trees
at the piers until they stand stacked mountain-high, with foot-hills of
holly and ground-ivy trailing off toward the land side. An army-train of
wagons is engaged in carting them away from early morning till late at
night; but the green forest grows, in spite of it all, until in places it
shuts the shipping out of sight altogether. The air is redolent with the
smell of balsam and pine. After nightfall, when the lights are burning in
the busy market, and the homeward-bound crowds with baskets and heavy
burdens of Christmas greens jostle one another with good-natured
banter,--nobody is ever cross down here in the holiday season,--it is
good to take a stroll through the Farm, if one has a spot in his heart
faithful yet to the hills and the woods in spite of the latter-day city.
But it is when the moonlight is upon the water and upon the dark phantom
forest, when the heavy breathing of some passing steamer is the only sound
that breaks the stillness of the night, and the watchman smokes his only
pipe on the bulwark, that the Farm has a mood and an atmosphere all its
own, full of poetry, which some day a painter's brush will catch and hold.

Into the ugliest tenement street Christmas brings something of
picturesqueness as of cheer. Its message was ever to the poor and the
heavy-laden, and by them it is understood with an instinctive yearning to
do it honor. In the stiff dignity of the brownstone streets up-town there
may be scarce a hint of it. In the homes of the poor it blossoms on stoop
and fire-escape, looks out of the front window, and makes the unsightly
barber-pole to sprout overnight like an Aaron's rod. Poor indeed is the
home that has not its sign of peace over the hearth, be it but a single
sprig of green. A little color creeps with it even into rabbinical Hester
street, and shows in the shop-windows and in the children's faces. The
very feather-dusters in the peddler's stock take on brighter hues for the
occasion, and the big knives in the cutler's shop gleam with a lively
anticipation of the impending goose "with fixin's"--a concession, perhaps,
to the commercial rather than the religious holiday: business comes then,
if ever. A crowd of ragamuffins camp out at a window where Santa Claus and
his wife stand in state, embodiment of the domestic ideal that has not yet
gone out of fashion in these tenements, gazing hungrily at the
announcement that "A silver present will be given to every purchaser by a
real Santa Claus.--M. Levitsky." Across the way, in a hole in the wall,
two cobblers are pegging away under an oozy lamp that makes a yellow
splurge on the inky blackness about them, revealing to the passer-by their
bearded faces, but nothing of the environment save a single sprig of holly
suspended from the lamp. From what forgotten brake it came with a message
of cheer, a thought of wife and children across the sea waiting their
summons, God knows. The shop is their house and home. It was once the hall
of the tenement; but to save space, enough has been walled in to make room
for their bench and bed. The tenants go through the next house. No matter
if they are cramped; by and by they will have room. By and by comes the
spring, and with it the steamer. Does not the green branch speak of spring
and of hope? The policeman on the beat hears their hammers beat a joyous
tattoo past midnight, far into Christmas morning. Who shall say its
message has not reached even them in their slum?

Where the noisy trains speed over the iron highway past the second-story
windows of Allen street, a cellar door yawns darkly in the shadow of one
of the pillars that half block the narrow sidewalk. A dull gleam behind
the cobweb-shrouded window-pane supplements the sign over the door, in
Yiddish and English: "Old Brasses." Four crooked and moldy steps lead to
utter darkness, with no friendly voice to guide the hapless customer.
Fumbling along the dank wall, he is left to find the door of the shop as
best he can. Not a likely place to encounter the fastidious from the
Avenue! Yet ladies in furs and silk find this door and the grim old smith
within it. Now and then an artist stumbles upon them, and exults
exceedingly in his find. Two holiday shoppers are even now haggling with
the coppersmith over the price of a pair of curiously wrought brass
candle-sticks. The old man has turned from the forge, at which he was
working, unmindful of his callers roving among the dusty shelves. Standing
there, erect and sturdy, in his shiny leather apron, hammer in hand, with
the firelight upon his venerable head, strong arms bared to the elbow, and
the square paper cap pushed back from a thoughtful, knotty brow, he stirs
strange fancies. One half expects to see him fashioning a gorget or a
sword on his anvil. But his is a more peaceful craft. Nothing more warlike
is in sight than a row of brass shields, destined for ornament, not for
battle. Dark shadows chase one another by the flickering light among
copper kettles of ruddy glow, old-fashioned samovars, and massive andirons
of tarnished brass. The bargaining goes on. Overhead the nineteenth
century speeds by with rattle and roar; in here linger the shadows of the
centuries long dead. The boy at the anvil listens open-mouthed, clutching
the bellows-rope.

In Liberty Hall a Jewish wedding is in progress. Liberty! Strange how the
word echoes through these sweaters' tenements, where starvation is at home
half the time. It is as an all-consuming passion with these people, whose
spirit a thousand years of bondage have not availed to daunt. It breaks
out in strikes, when to strike is to hunger and die. Not until I stood by
a striking cloakmaker whose last cent was gone, with not a crust in the
house to feed seven hungry mouths, yet who had voted vehemently in the
meeting that day to keep up the strike to the bitter end,--bitter indeed,
nor far distant,--and heard him at sunset recite the prayer of his
fathers: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the world, that thou
hast redeemed us as thou didst redeem our fathers, hast delivered us from
bondage to liberty, and from servile dependence to redemption!"--not until
then did I know what of sacrifice the word might mean, and how utterly we
of another day had forgotten. But for once shop and tenement are left
behind. Whatever other days may have in store, this is their day of play,
when all may rejoice.

The bridegroom, a cloak-presser in a hired dress-suit, sits alone and ill
at ease at one end of the hall, sipping whisky with a fine air of
indifference, but glancing apprehensively toward the crowd of women in the
opposite corner that surrounds the bride, a pale little shop-girl with a
pleading, winsome face. From somewhere unexpectedly appears a big man in
an ill-fitting coat and skull cap, flanked on either side by a fiddler,
who scrapes away and away, accompanying the improvisator in a plaintive
minor key as he halts before the bride and intones his lay. With many a
shrug of stooping shoulders and queer excited gesture, he drones, in the
harsh, guttural Yiddish of Hester street, his story of life's joys and
sorrows, its struggles and victories in the land of promise. The women
listen, nodding and swaying their bodies sympathetically. He works himself
into a frenzy, in which the fiddlers vainly try to keep up with him. He
turns and digs the laggard angrily in the side without losing the meter.
The climax comes. The bride bursts into hysterical sobs, while the women
wipe their eyes. A plate, heretofore concealed under his coat, is whisked
out. He has conquered; the inevitable collection is taken up.

The tuneful procession moves upon the bridegroom. An Essex-street girl in
the crowd, watching them go, says disdainfully: "None of this humbug when
I get married." It is the straining of young America at the fetters of
tradition. Ten minutes later, when, between double files of women holding
candles, the couple pass to the canopy where the rabbi waits, she has
already forgotten; and when the crunching of a glass under the
bridegroom's heel announces that they are one, and that until the broken
pieces be reunited he is hers and hers alone, she joins with all the
company in the exulting shout of "Mozzel tov!" ("Good luck!"). Then the
_dupka_, men and women joining in, forgetting all but the moment, hands on
hips, stepping in time, forward, backward, and across. And then the feast.

They sit at the long tables by squads and tribes. Those who belong
together sit together. There is no attempt at pairing off for conversation
or mutual entertainment, at speech-making or toasting. The business in
hand is to eat, and it is attended to. The bridegroom, at the head of the
table, with his shiny silk hat on, sets the example; and the guests
emulate it with zeal, the men smoking big, strong cigars between
mouthfuls. "Gosh! ain't it fine?" is the grateful comment of one
curly-headed youngster, bravely attacking his third plate of chicken-stew.
"Fine as silk," nods his neighbor in knickerbockers. Christmas, for once,
means something to them that they can understand. The crowd of hurrying
waiters make room for one bearing aloft a small turkey adorned with much
tinsel and many paper flowers. It is for the bride, the one thing not to
be touched until the next day--one day off from the drudgery of
housekeeping; she, too, can keep Christmas.

A group of bearded, dark-browed men sit apart, the rabbi among them. They
are the orthodox, who cannot break bread with the rest, for fear, though
the food be kosher, the plates have been defiled. They brought their own
to the feast, and sit at their own table, stern and justified. Did they
but know what depravity is harbored in the impish mind of the girl yonder,
who plans to hang her stocking overnight by the window! There is no
fireplace in the tenement. Queer things happen over here, in the strife
between the old and the new. The girls of the College Settlement, last
summer, felt compelled to explain that the holiday in the country which
they offered some of these children was to be spent in an Episcopal
clergyman's house, where they had prayers every morning. "Oh," was the
indulgent answer, "they know it isn't true, so it won't hurt them."

The bell of a neighboring church-tower strikes the vesper hour. A man in
working-clothes uncovers his head reverently, and passes on. Through the
vista of green bowers formed of the grocer's stock of Christmas trees a
passing glimpse of flaring torches in the distant square is caught. They
touch with flame the gilt cross towering high above the "White Garden," as
the German residents call Tompkins Square. On the sidewalk the holy-eve
fair is in its busiest hour. In the pine-board booths stand rows of
staring toy dogs alternately with plaster saints. Red apples and candy are
hawked from carts. Peddlers offer colored candles with shrill outcry. A
huckster feeding his horse by the curb scatters, unseen, a share for the
sparrows. The cross flashes white against the dark sky.

In one of the side-streets near the East River has stood for thirty years
a little mission church, called Hope Chapel by its founders, in the brave
spirit in which they built it. It has had plenty of use for the spirit
since. Of the kind of problems that beset its pastor I caught a glimpse
the other day, when, as I entered his room, a rough-looking man went out.

"One of my cares," said Mr. Devins, looking after him with contracted
brow. "He has spent two Christmas days of twenty-three out of jail. He is
a burglar, or was. His daughter has brought him round. She is a
seamstress. For three months, now, she has been keeping him and the home,
working nights. If I could only get him a job! He won't stay honest long
without it; but who wants a burglar for a watchman? And how can I
recommend him?"

A few doors from the chapel an alley sets into the block. We halted at the
mouth of it.

"Come in," said Mr. Devins, "and wish Blind Jennie a Merry Christmas."

We went in, in single file; there was not room for two. As we climbed the
creaking stairs of the rear tenement, a chorus of children's shrill voices
burst into song somewhere above.

"It is her class," said the pastor of Hope Chapel, as he stopped on the
landing. "They are all kinds. We never could hope to reach them; Jennie
can. They fetch her the papers given out in the Sunday-school, and read to
her what is printed under the pictures; and she tells them the story of
it. There is nothing Jennie doesn't know about the Bible."

The door opened upon a low-ceiled room, where the evening shades lay deep.
The red glow from the kitchen stove discovered a jam of children, young
girls mostly, perched on the table, the chairs, in one another's laps, or
squatting on the floor; in the midst of them, a little old woman with
heavily veiled face, and wan, wrinkled hands folded in her lap. The
singing ceased as we stepped across the threshold.

"Be welcome," piped a harsh voice with a singular note of cheerfulness in
it. "Whose step is that with you, pastor? I don't know it. He is welcome
in Jennie's house, whoever he be. Girls, make him to home." The girls
moved up to make room.

"Jennie has not seen since she was a child," said the clergyman, gently;
"but she knows a friend without it. Some day she shall see the great
Friend in his glory, and then she shall be Blind Jennie no more."

The little woman raised the veil from a face shockingly disfigured, and
touched the eyeless sockets. "Some day," she repeated, "Jennie shall see.
Not long now--not long!" Her pastor patted her hand. The silence of the
dark room was broken by Blind Jennie's voice, rising cracked and
quavering: "Alas! and did my Saviour bleed?" The shrill chorus burst in:

  It was there by faith I received my sight,
      And now I am happy all the day.

The light that falls from the windows of the Neighborhood Guild, in
Delancey street, makes a white path across the asphalt pavement. Within
there is mirth and laughter. The Tenth Ward Social Reform Club is having
its Christmas festival. Its members, poor mothers, scrubwomen,--the
president is the janitress of a tenement near by,--have brought their
little ones, a few their husbands, to share in the fun. One little girl
has to be dragged up to the grab-bag. She cries at the sight of Santa
Claus. The baby has drawn a woolly horse. He kisses the toy with a look of
ecstatic bliss, and toddles away. At the far end of the hall a game of
blindman's-buff is starting up. The aged grandmother, who has watched it
with growing excitement, bids one of the settlement workers hold her
grandchild, that she may join in; and she does join in, with all the
pent-up hunger of fifty joyless years. The worker, looking on, smiles; one
has been reached. Thus is the battle against the slum waged and won with
the child's play.

Tramp! tramp! comes the to-morrow upon the stage. Two hundred and fifty
pairs of little feet, keeping step, are marching to dinner in the
Newsboys' Lodging-house. Five hundred pairs more are restlessly awaiting
their turn up-stairs. In prison, hospital, and almshouse to-night the city
is host, and gives of her plenty. Here an unknown friend has spread a
generous repast for the waifs who all the rest of the days shift for
themselves as best they can. Turkey, coffee, and pie, with "vegetubles" to
fill in. As the file of eagle-eyed youngsters passes down the long tables,
there are swift movements of grimy hands, and shirt-waists bulge, ragged
coats sag at the pockets. Hardly is the file seated when the plaint rises:
"I ain't got no pie! It got swiped on me." Seven despoiled ones hold up
their hands.

The superintendent laughs--it is Christmas eve. He taps one tentatively on
the bulging shirt. "What have you here, my lad?"

"Me pie," responds he, with an innocent look; "I wuz scart it would get
stole."

A little fellow who has been eying one of the visitors attentively takes
his knife out of his mouth, and points it at him with conviction.

"I know you," he pipes. "You're a p'lice commissioner. I seen yer picter
in the papers. You're Teddy Roosevelt!"

The clatter of knives and forks ceases suddenly. Seven pies creep
stealthily over the edge of the table, and are replaced on as many plates.
The visitors laugh. It was a case of mistaken identity.

Farthest down-town, where the island narrows toward the Battery, and
warehouses crowd the few remaining tenements, the somber-hued colony of
Syrians is astir with preparation for the holiday. How comes it that in
the only settlement of the real Christmas people in New York the corner
saloon appropriates to itself all the outward signs of it? Even the floral
cross that is nailed over the door of the Orthodox church is long withered
and dead: it has been there since Easter, and it is yet twelve days to
Christmas by the belated reckoning of the Greek Church. But if the houses
show no sign of the holiday, within there is nothing lacking. The whole
colony is gone a-visiting. There are enough of the unorthodox to set the
fashion, and the rest follow the custom of the country. The men go from
house to house, laugh, shake hands, and kiss one another on both cheeks,
with the salutation, "Kol am va antom Salimoon." "Every year and you are
safe," the Syrian guide renders it into English; and a non-professional
interpreter amends it: "May you grow happier year by year." Arrack made
from grapes and flavored with aniseed, and candy baked in little white
balls like marbles, are served with the indispensable cigarette; for long
callers, the pipe.

In a top-floor room of one of the darkest of the dilapidated tenements,
the dusty window-panes of which the last glow in the winter sky is tinging
faintly with red, a dance is in progress. The guests, most of them fresh
from the hillsides of Mount Lebanon, squat about the room. A reed-pipe and
a tambourine furnish the music. One has the center of the floor. With a
beer-jug filled to the brim on his head, he skips and sways, bending,
twisting, kneeling, gesturing, and keeping time, while the men clap their
hands. He lies down and turns over, but not a drop is spilled. Another
succeeds him, stepping proudly, gracefully, furling and unfurling a
handkerchief like a banner. As he sits down, and the beer goes around, one
in the corner, who looks like a shepherd fresh from his pasture, strikes
up a song--a far-off, lonesome, plaintive lay. "'Far as the hills,'" says
the guide; "a song of the old days and the old people, now seldom heard."
All together croon the refrain. The host delivers himself of an epic about
his love across the seas, with the most agonizing expression, and in a
shockingly bad voice. He is the worst singer I ever heard; but his
companions greet his effort with approving shouts of "Yi! yi!" They look
so fierce, and yet are so childishly happy, that at the thought of their
exile and of the dark tenement the question arises, "Why all this joy?"
The guide answers it with a look of surprise. "They sing," he says,
"because they are glad they are free. Did you not know?"

The bells in old Trinity chime the midnight hour. From dark hallways men
and women pour forth and hasten to the Maronite church. In the loft of the
dingy old warehouse wax candles burn before an altar of brass. The priest,
in a white robe with a huge gold cross worked on the back, chants the
ritual. The people respond. The women kneel in the aisles, shrouding their
heads in their shawls; the surpliced acolyte swings his censer; the heavy
perfume of burning incense fills the hall.

The band at the anarchists' ball is tuning up for the last dance. Young
and old float to the happy strains, forgetting injustice, oppression,
hatred. Children slide upon the waxed floor, weaving fearlessly in and out
between the couples--between fierce, bearded men and short-haired women
with crimson-bordered kerchiefs. A Punch-and-Judy show in the corner
evokes shouts of laughter.

Outside the snow is falling. It sifts silently into each nook and corner,
softens all the hard and ugly lines, and throws the spotless mantle of
charity over the blemishes, the shortcomings. Christmas morning will dawn
pure and white.



'TWAS LIZA'S DOINGS


Joe drove his old gray mare along the stony road in deep thought. They had
been across the ferry to Newtown with a load of Christmas truck. It had
been a hard pull uphill for them both, for Joe had found it necessary not
a few times to get down and give old 'Liza a lift to help her over the
roughest spots; and now, going home, with the twilight coming on and no
other job a-waiting, he let her have her own way. It was slow, but steady,
and it suited Joe; for his head was full of busy thoughts, and there were
few enough of them that were pleasant.

Business had been bad at the big stores, never worse, and what trucking
there was there were too many about. Storekeepers who never used to look
at a dollar, so long as they knew they could trust the man who did their
hauling, were counting the nickels these days. As for chance jobs like
this one, that was all over now with the holidays, and there had been
little enough of it, too.

There would be less, a good deal, with the hard winter at the door, and
with 'Liza to keep and the many mouths to fill. Still, he wouldn't have
minded it so much but for mother fretting and worrying herself sick at
home, and all along o' Jim, the eldest boy, who had gone away mad and
never come back. Many were the dollars he had paid the doctor and the
druggist to fix her up, but it was no use. She was worrying herself into a
decline, it was clear to be seen.

Joe heaved a heavy sigh as he thought of the strapping lad who had brought
such sorrow to his mother. So strong and so handy on the wagon. Old 'Liza
loved him like a brother and minded him even better than she did himself.
If he only had him now, they could face the winter and the bad times, and
pull through. But things never had gone right since he left. He didn't
know, Joe thought humbly as he jogged along over the rough road, but he
had been a little hard on the lad. Boys wanted a chance once in a while.
All work and no play was not for them. Likely he had forgotten he was a
boy once himself. But Jim was such a big lad, 'most like a man. He took
after his mother more than the rest. She had been proud, too, when she was
a girl. He wished he hadn't been hasty that time they had words about
those boxes at the store. Anyway, it turned out that it wasn't Jim's
fault. But he was gone that night, and try as they might to find him, they
never had word of him since. And Joe sighed again more heavily than
before.

Old 'Liza shied at something in the road, and Joe took a firmer hold on
the reins. It turned his thoughts to the horse. She was getting old, too,
and not as handy as she was. He noticed that she was getting winded with a
heavy load. It was well on to ten years she had been their capital and the
breadwinner of the house. Sometimes he thought that she missed Jim. If she
was to leave them now, he wouldn't know what to do, for he couldn't raise
the money to buy another horse nohow, as things were. Poor old 'Liza! He
stroked her gray coat musingly with the point of his whip as he thought of
their old friendship. The horse pointed one ear back toward her master and
neighed gently, as if to assure him that she was all right.

Suddenly she stumbled. Joe pulled her up in time, and throwing the reins
over her back, got down to see what it was. An old horseshoe, and in the
dust beside it a new silver quarter. He picked both up and put the shoe in
the wagon.

"They say it is luck," he mused, "finding horse-iron and money. Maybe it's
my Christmas. Get up, 'Liza!" And he drove off to the ferry.

       *       *       *       *       *

The glare of a thousand gas-lamps had chased the sunset out of the western
sky, when Joe drove home through the city's streets. Between their
straight mile-long rows surged the busy life of the coming holiday. In
front of every grocery-store was a grove of fragrant Christmas trees
waiting to be fitted into little green stands with fairy fences. Within,
customers were bargaining, chatting, and bantering the busy clerks.
Peddlers offering tinsel and colored candles waylaid them on the
door-step. The rack under the butcher's awning fairly groaned with its
weight of plucked geese, of turkeys, stout and skinny, of poultry of every
kind. The saloon-keeper even had wreathed his door-posts in ground-ivy and
hemlock, and hung a sprig of holly in the window, as if with a spurious
promise of peace on earth and good-will toward men who entered there. It
tempted not Joe. He drove past it to the corner, where he turned up a
street darker and lonelier than the rest, toward a stretch of rocky,
vacant lots fenced in by an old stone wall. 'Liza turned in at the rude
gate without being told, and pulled up at the house.

A plain little one-story frame with a lean-to for a kitchen, and an
adjoining stable-shed, over-shadowed all by two great chestnuts of the
days when there were country lanes where now are paved streets, and on
Manhattan Island there was farm by farm. A light gleamed in the window
looking toward the street. As 'Liza's hoofs were heard on the drive, a
young girl with a shawl over her head ran out from some shelter where she
had been watching, and took the reins from Joe.

"You're late," she said, stroking the mare's steaming flank. 'Liza reached
around and rubbed her head against the girl's shoulder, nibbling playfully
at the fringe of her shawl.

"Yes; we've come far, and it's been a hard pull. 'Liza is tired. Give her
a good feed, and I'll bed her down. How's mother?"

"Sprier than she was," replied the girl, bending over the shaft to
unbuckle the horse; "seems as if she'd kinder cheered up for Christmas."
And she led 'Liza to the stable while her father backed the wagon into the
shed.

It was warm and very comfortable in the little kitchen, where he joined
the family after "washing up." The fire burned brightly in the range, on
which a good-sized roast sizzled cheerily in its pot, sending up clouds of
savory steam. The sand on the white pine floor was swept in tongues,
old-country fashion. Joe and his wife were both born across the sea, and
liked to keep Christmas eve as they had kept it when they were children.
Two little boys and a younger girl than the one who had met him at the
gate received him with shouts of glee, and pulled him straight from the
door to look at a hemlock branch stuck in the tub of sand in the corner.
It was their Christmas tree, and they were to light it with candles, red
and yellow and green, which mama got them at the grocer's where the big
Santa Claus stood on the shelf. They pranced about like so many little
colts, and clung to Joe by turns, shouting all at once, each one anxious
to tell the great news first and loudest.

Joe took them on his knee, all three, and when they had shouted until they
had to stop for breath, he pulled from under his coat a paper bundle, at
which the children's eyes bulged. He undid the wrapping slowly.

"Who do you think has come home with me?" he said, and he held up before
them the veritable Santa Claus himself, done in plaster and all
snow-covered. He had bought it at the corner toy-store with his lucky
quarter. "I met him on the road over on Long Island, where 'Liza and I was
to-day, and I gave him a ride to town. They say it's luck falling in with
Santa Claus, partickler when there's a horseshoe along. I put hisn up in
the barn, in 'Liza's stall. Maybe our luck will turn yet, eh! old woman?"
And he put his arm around his wife, who was setting out the dinner with
Jennie, and gave her a good hug, while the children danced off with their
Santa Claus.

She was a comely little woman, and she tried hard to be cheerful. She gave
him a brave look and a smile, but there were tears in her eyes, and Joe
saw them, though he let on that he didn't. He patted her tenderly on the
back and smoothed his Jennie's yellow braids, while he swallowed the lump
in his throat and got it down and out of the way. He needed no doctor to
tell him that Santa Claus would not come again and find her cooking their
Christmas dinner, unless she mended soon and swiftly.

They ate their dinner together, and sat and talked until it was time to go
to bed. Joe went out to make all snug about 'Liza for the night and to
give her an extra feed. He stopped in the door, coming back, to shake the
snow out of his clothes. It was coming on with bad weather and a northerly
storm, he reported. The snow was falling thick already and drifting badly.
He saw to the kitchen fire and put the children to bed. Long before the
clock in the neighboring church-tower struck twelve, and its doors were
opened for the throngs come to worship at the midnight mass, the lights in
the cottage were out, and all within it fast asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

The murmur of the homeward-hurrying crowds had died out, and the last
echoing shout of "Merry Christmas!" had been whirled away on the storm,
now grown fierce with bitter cold, when a lonely wanderer came down the
street. It was a boy, big and strong-limbed, and, judging from the manner
in which he pushed his way through the gathering drifts, not unused to
battle with the world, but evidently in hard luck. His jacket, white with
the falling snow, was scant and worn nearly to rags, and there was that in
his face which spoke of hunger and suffering silently endured. He stopped
at the gate in the stone fence, and looked long and steadily at the
cottage in the chestnuts. No life stirred within, and he walked through
the gap with slow and hesitating step. Under the kitchen window he stood
awhile, sheltered from the storm, as if undecided, then stepped to the
horse-shed and rapped gently on the door.

"'Liza!" he called, "'Liza, old girl! It's me--Jim!"

A low, delighted whinnying from the stall told the shivering boy that he
was not forgotten there. The faithful beast was straining at her halter in
a vain effort to get at her friend. Jim raised a bar that held the door
closed by the aid of a lever within, of which he knew the trick, and went
in. The horse made room for him in her stall, and laid her shaggy head
against his cheek.

"Poor old 'Liza!" he said, patting her neck and smoothing her gray coat,
"poor old girl! Jim has one friend that hasn't gone back on him. I've
come to keep Christmas with you, 'Liza! Had your supper, eh? You're in
luck. I haven't; I wasn't bid, 'Liza; but never mind. You shall feed for
both of us. Here goes!" He dug into the oats-bin with the measure, and
poured it full into 'Liza's crib.

"Fill up, old girl! and good night to you." With a departing pat he crept
up the ladder to the loft above, and, scooping out a berth in the loose
hay, snuggled down in it to sleep. Soon his regular breathing up there
kept step with the steady munching of the horse in her stall. The two
reunited friends were dreaming happy Christmas dreams.

The night wore into the small hours of Christmas morning. The fury of the
storm was unabated. The old cottage shook under the fierce blasts, and the
chestnuts waved their hoary branches wildly, beseechingly, above it, as if
they wanted to warn those within of some threatened danger. But they slept
and heard them not. From the kitchen chimney, after a blast more violent
than any that had gone before, a red spark issued, was whirled upward and
beaten against the shingle roof of the barn, swept clean of snow. Another
followed it, and another. Still they slept in the cottage; the chestnuts
moaned and brandished their arms in vain. The storm fanned one of the
sparks into a flame. It flickered for a moment and then went out. So, at
least, it seemed. But presently it reappeared, and with it a faint glow
was reflected in the attic window over the door. Down in her stall 'Liza
moved uneasily. Nobody responding, she plunged and reared, neighing loudly
for help. The storm drowned her calls; her master slept, unheeding.

But one heard it, and in the nick of time. The door of the shed was thrown
violently open, and out plunged Jim, his hair on fire and his clothes
singed and smoking. He brushed the sparks off himself as if they were
flakes of snow. Quick as thought, he tore 'Liza's halter from its
fastening, pulling out staple and all, threw his smoking coat over her
eyes, and backed her out of the shed. He reached in, and pulling the
harness off the hook, threw it as far into the snow as he could, yelling
"Fire!" at the top of his voice. Then he jumped on the back of the horse,
and beating her with heels and hands into a mad gallop, was off up the
street before the bewildered inmates of the cottage had rubbed the sleep
out of their eyes and come out to see the barn on fire and burning up.

Down street and avenue fire-engines raced with clanging bells, leaving
tracks of glowing coals in the snow-drifts, to the cottage in the chestnut
lots. They got there just in time to see the roof crash into the barn,
burying, as Joe and his crying wife and children thought, 'Liza and their
last hope in the fiery wreck. The door had blown shut, and the harness Jim
threw out was snowed under. No one dreamed that the mare was not there.
The flames burst through the wreck and lit up the cottage and swaying
chestnuts. Joe and his family stood in the shelter of it, looking sadly
on. For the second time that Christmas night tears came into the honest
truckman's eyes. He wiped them away with his cap.

"Poor 'Liza!" he said.

A hand was laid with gentle touch upon his arm. He looked up. It was his
wife. Her face beamed with a great happiness.

"Joe," she said, "you remember what you read: 'tidings of great joy.' Oh,
Joe, Jim has come home!"

She stepped aside, and there was Jim, sister Jennie hanging on his neck,
and 'Liza alive and neighing her pleasure. The lad looked at his father
and hung his head.

"Jim saved her, father," said Jennie, patting the gray mare; "it was him
fetched the engine."

Joe took a step toward his son and held out his hand to him.

"Jim," he said, "you're a better man nor yer father. From now on, you'n I
run the truck on shares. But mind this, Jim: never leave mother no more."

And in the clasp of the two hands all the past was forgotten and forgiven.
Father and son had found each other again.

"'Liza," said the truckman, with sudden vehemence, turning to the old mare
and putting his arm around her neck, "'Liza! It was your doin's. I knew it
was luck when I found them things. Merry Christmas!" And he kissed her
smack on her hairy mouth, one, two, three times.



THE DUBOURQUES, FATHER AND SON


It must be nearly a quarter of a century since I first met the Dubourques.
There are plenty of old New-Yorkers yet who will recall them as I saw
them, plodding along Chatham street, swarthy, silent, meanly dressed,
undersized, with their great tin signs covering front and back, like
ill-favored gnomes turned sandwich-men to vent their spite against a gay
world. Sunshine or rain, they went their way, Indian file, never apart,
bearing their everlasting, unavailing protest.

"I demand," read the painted signs, "the will and testament of my brother,
who died in California, leaving a large property inheritance to Virgile
Dubourque, which has never reached him."

That was all any one was ever able to make out. At that point the story
became rambling and unintelligible. Denunciation, hot and wrathful, of the
thieves, whoever they were, of the government, of bishops, priests, and
lawyers, alternated with protestations of innocence of heaven knows what
crimes. If any one stopped them to ask what it was all about, they stared,
shook their heads, and passed on. If money was offered, they took it
without thanking the giver; indeed, without noticing him. They were never
seen apart, yet never together in the sense of being apparently anything
to each other. I doubt if they ever spoke, unless they were obliged to.
Grim and lonely, they traveled the streets, parading their grievance
before an unheeding day.

What that grievance was, and what was their story, a whole generation had
tried vainly to find out. Every young reporter tried his hand at it at
least once, some many times, I among them. None of us ever found out
anything tangible about them. Now and then we ran down a rumor in the
region of Bleecker street, then the "French quarter,"--I should have said
that they were French and spoke but a few words of broken English when
they spoke at all,--only to have it come to nothing. One which I recall
was to the effect that, at some time in the far past, the elder of the two
had been a schoolmaster in Lorraine, and had come across the sea in quest
of a fabulous fortune left by his brother, one of the gold-diggers of '49,
who died in his boots; that there had been some disagreement between
father and son, which resulted in the latter running away with their
saved-up capital, leaving the old man stranded in a strange city, among
people of strange speech, without the means of asserting his claim, and
that, when he realized this, he lost his reason. Thus his son, Erneste,
found him, returning after years penniless and repentant.

From that meeting father and son came forth what they were ever since. So
ran the story, but whether it was all fancy, or some or most of it, I
could not tell. No one could. One by one, the reporters dropped them,
unable to make them out. The officers of a French benevolent society,
where twice a week they received fixed rations, gave up importuning them
to accept the shelter of the house before their persistent, almost fierce,
refusal. The police did not trouble them, except when people complained
that the tin signs tore their clothes. After that they walked with canvas
posters, and were let alone.

One morning in the winter of 1882, among the police reports of the night's
happenings that were laid upon my desk, I found one saying that Virgile
Dubourque, Frenchman, seventy-five years old, had died in a Wooster-street
lodging-house. The story of his death, as I learned it there that day, was
as tragic as that of his life. He had grown more and more feeble, until at
last he was unable to leave the house. For the first time the son went out
alone. The old man sat by the stove all day, silently brooding over his
wrongs. The lodgers came and went. He heeded neither their going nor their
coming. Through the long night he kept his seat, gazing fixedly into the
fire. In the morning, when daylight shone upon the cold, gray ashes, he
sat there dead. The son slept peacefully beside him.

The old schoolmaster took his last trip alone; no mourners rode behind the
hearse to the Palisade Cemetery, where charitable countrymen bought him a
grave. Erneste did not go to the funeral. That afternoon I met him on
Broadway, plodding alone over the old route. His eyes were red and
swollen. The "protest" hung from his shoulders; in his hand he carried,
done up roughly in a pack, the signs the old man had borne. A look of such
utter loneliness as I had never seen on a human face came into his when I
asked him where his father was. He made a gesture of dejection and shifted
his feet uneasily, as if impatient at being detained. Something distracted
my attention for the moment, and when I looked again he was gone.

Once in the following summer I heard from Erneste through the newspapers,
just when I had begun to miss him from his old haunts. It seems that he
had somehow found the papers that proved his claim, or thought he had. He
had put them into the hands of the French consul the day before, said the
item, appearing before him clothed and in his right mind, without the
signs. But the account merely added to the mystery by hinting that the old
man had unconsciously hoarded the papers all the years he sought them with
such toil in the streets of New York. Here was my story at last; but
before I could lay hold of it, it evaded me once more in the hurry and
worry of the police office.

Autumn had come and nearly gone, when New York was one day startled by
the report that a madman had run through Fourteenth street at an hour in
the afternoon when it was most crowded with shoppers, and, with a pair of
carpenter's compasses, had cut right and left, stabbing as many as came in
his way. A scene of the wildest panic ensued. Women flung themselves down
basement-steps and fell fainting in doorways. Fully half a score were cut
down, among them the wife of Policeman Hanley, who was on duty in the
block, and who arrested the maniac without knowing that his wife lay
mortally wounded among his victims. She had come out to meet him, with the
children. It was only after he had attended to the rest and sent the
prisoner away securely bound that he was told there was still a wounded
woman in the next store, and found her there with her little ones.

The madman was Erneste Dubourque. I found him in the police station,
surrounded by a crowd of excited officials, to whose inquiries he turned a
mien of dull and stolid indifference. He knew me when I called him by
name, and looked up with a movement of quick intelligence, as one who
suddenly remembers something he had forgotten and vainly tried to recall.
He started for the door. When they seized him and brought him back, he
fought like a demon. His shrieks of "Thieves! robbers!" filled the
building as they bore him struggling to a cell.

He was tried by a jury and acquitted of murder. The defense was insanity.
The court ordered his incarceration in a safe asylum. The police had
received a severe lesson, and during the next month, while it was yet
fresh in the public mind, they bestirred themselves, and sent a number of
"harmless" lunatics, who had gone about unmolested, after him. I never
heard of Erneste Dubourque again; but even now, after fifteen years, I
find myself sometimes asking the old question: What was the story of wrong
that bore such a crop of sorrow and darkness and murder?



ABE'S GAME OF JACKS


Time hung heavily on Abe Seelig's hands, alone, or as good as alone, in
the flat on the "stoop" of the Allen-street tenement. His mother had gone
to the butcher's. Chajim, the father,--"Chajim" is the Yiddish of
"Herman,"--was long at the shop. To Abe was committed the care of his two
young brothers, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham was nine, and past time for
fooling. Play is "fooling" in the sweaters' tenements, and the muddling of
ideas makes trouble, later on, to which the police returns have the index.

"Don't let 'em on the stairs," the mother had said, on going, with a
warning nod toward the bed where Jake and Ikey slept. He didn't intend to.
Besides, they were fast asleep. Abe cast about him for fun of some kind,
and bethought himself of a game of jacks. That he had no jackstones was
of small moment to him. East-Side tenements, where pennies are infrequent,
have resources. One penny was Abe's hoard. With that, and an accidental
match, he began the game.

It went on well enough, albeit slightly lopsided by reason of the penny
being so much the weightier, until the match, in one unlucky throw, fell
close to a chair by the bed, and, in falling, caught fire.

Something hung down from the chair, and while Abe gazed, open-mouthed, at
the match, at the chair, and at the bed right alongside, with his sleeping
brothers on it, the little blaze caught it. The flame climbed up, up, up,
and a great smoke curled under the ceiling. The children still slept,
locked in each other's arms, and Abe--Abe ran.

He ran, frightened half out of his senses, out of the room, out of the
house, into the street, to the nearest friendly place he knew, a
grocery-store five doors away, where his mother traded; but she was not
there. Abe merely saw that she was not there, then he hid himself
trembling.

In all the block, where three thousand tenants live, no one knew what
cruel thing was happening on the stoop of No. 19.

A train passed on the elevated road, slowing up for the station near by.
The engineer saw one wild whirl of fire within the room, and opening the
throttle of his whistle wide, let out a screech so long and so loud that
in ten seconds the street was black with men and women rushing out to see
what dreadful thing had happened.

No need of asking. From the door of the Seelig flat, burned through,
fierce flames reached across the hall, barring the way. The tenement was
shut in.

Promptly it poured itself forth upon fire-escape ladders, front and rear,
with shrieks and wailing. In the street the crowd became a deadly crush.
Police and firemen battered their way through, ran down and over men,
women, and children, with a desperate effort.

The firemen from Hook and Ladder Six, around the corner, had heard the
shrieks, and, knowing what they portended, ran with haste. But they were
too late with their extinguishers; could not even approach the burning
flat. They could only throw up their ladders to those above. For the rest
they must needs wait until the engines came.

One tore up the street, coupled on a hose, and ran it into the house. Then
died out the fire in the flat as speedily as it had come. The burning
room was pumped full of water, and the firemen entered.

Just within the room they came upon little Jacob, still alive, but half
roasted. He had struggled from the bed nearly to the door. On the bed lay
the body of Isaac, the youngest, burned to a crisp.

They carried Jacob to the police station. As they brought him out, a
frantic woman burst through the throng and threw herself upon him. It was
the children's mother come back. When they took her to the blackened
corpse of little Ike, she went stark mad. A dozen neighbors held her down,
shrieking, while others went in search of the father.

In the street the excitement grew until it became almost uncontrollable
when the dead boy was carried out.

In the midst of it little Abe returned, pale, silent, and frightened, to
stand by his raving mother.



A LITTLE PICTURE


The fire-bells rang on the Bowery in the small hours of the morning. One
of the old dwelling-houses that remain from the day when the "Bouwerie"
was yet remembered as an avenue of beer-gardens and pleasure resorts was
burning. Down in the street stormed the firemen, coupling hose and
dragging it to the front. Up-stairs in the peak of the roof, in the broken
skylight, hung a man, old, feeble, and gasping for breath, struggling
vainly to get out. He had piled chairs upon tables, and climbed up where
he could grasp the edge, but his strength had given out when one more
effort would have freed him. He felt himself sinking back. Over him was
the sky, reddened now by the fire that raged below. Through the hole the
pent-up smoke in the building found vent and rushed in a black and
stifling cloud.

"Air, air!" gasped the old man. "O God, water!"

There was a swishing sound, a splash, and the copious spray of a stream
sent over the house from the street fell upon his upturned face. It beat
back the smoke. Strength and hope returned. He took another grip on the
rafter just as he would have let go.

"Oh, that I might be reached yet and saved from this awful death!" he
prayed. "Help, O God, help!"

An answering cry came over the adjoining roof. He had been heard, and the
firemen, who did not dream that any one was in the burning building, had
him in a minute. He had been asleep in the store when the fire aroused him
and drove him, blinded and bewildered, to the attic, where he was trapped.

Safe in the street, the old man fell upon his knees.

"I prayed for water, and it came; I prayed for freedom, and was saved. The
God of my fathers be praised!" he said, and bowed his head in
thanksgiving.



A DREAM OF THE WOODS


Something came over Police Headquarters in the middle of the summer night.
It was like the sighing of the north wind in the branches of the tall firs
and in the reeds along lonely river-banks where the otter dips from the
brink for its prey. The doorman, who yawned in the hall, and to whom
reed-grown river-banks have been strangers so long that he has forgotten
they ever were, shivered and thought of pneumonia.

The sergeant behind the desk shouted for some one to close the door; it
was getting as cold as January. The little messenger boy on the lowest
step of the oaken stairs nodded and dreamed in his sleep of Uncas and
Chingachgook and the great woods. The cunning old beaver was there in his
hut, and he heard the crack of Deerslayer's rifle.

He knew all the time he was dreaming, sitting on the steps of Police
Headquarters, and yet it was all as real to him as if he were there, with
the Mingoes creeping up to him in ambush all about and reaching for his
scalp.

While he slept, a light step had passed, and the moccasin of the woods
left its trail in his dream. In with the gust through the Mulberry-street
door had come a strange pair, an old woman and a bright-eyed child, led by
a policeman, and had passed up to Matron Travers's quarters on the top
floor.

Strangely different, they were yet alike, both children of the woods. The
woman was a squaw typical in looks and bearing, with the straight black
hair, dark skin, and stolid look of her race. She climbed the steps
wearily, holding the child by the hand. The little one skipped eagerly,
two steps at a time. There was the faintest tinge of brown in her plump
cheeks, and a roguish smile in the corner of her eyes that made it a
hardship not to take her up in one's lap and hug her at sight. In her
frock of red-and-white calico she was a fresh and charming picture, with
all the grace of movement and the sweet shyness of a young fawn.

The policeman had found them sitting on a big trunk in the Grand Central
Station, waiting patiently for something or somebody that didn't come.
When he had let them sit until he thought the child ought to be in bed, he
took them into the police station in the depot, and there an effort was
made to find out who and what they were. It was not an easy matter.
Neither could speak English. They knew a few words of French, however, and
between that and a note the old woman had in her pocket the general
outline of the trouble was gathered. They were of the Canaghwaga tribe of
Iroquois, domiciled in the St. Regis reservation across the Canadian
border, and had come down to sell a trunkful of beads, and things worked
with beads. Some one was to meet them, but had failed to come, and these
two, to whom the trackless wilderness was as an open book, were lost in
the city of ten thousand homes.

The matron made them understand by signs that two of the nine white beds
in the nursery were for them, and they turned right in, humbly and
silently thankful. The little girl had carried up with her, hugged very
close under her arm, a doll that was a real ethnological study. It was a
faithful rendering of the Indian papoose, whittled out of a chunk of
wood, with two staring glass beads for eyes, and strapped to a board the
way Indian babies are, under a coverlet of very gaudy blue. It was a
marvelous doll baby, and its nurse was mighty proud of it. She didn't let
it go when she went to bed. It slept with her, and got up to play with her
as soon as the first ray of daylight peeped in over the tall roofs.

The morning brought visitors, who admired the doll, chirruped to the
little girl, and tried to talk with her grandmother, for that they made
her out to be. To most questions she simply answered by shaking her head
and holding out her credentials. There were two letters: one to the
conductor of the train from Montreal, asking him to see that they got
through all right; the other, a memorandum, for her own benefit
apparently, recounting the number of hearts, crosses, and other treasures
she had in her trunk. It was from those she had left behind at the
reservation.

"Little Angus," it ran, "sends what is over to sell for him. Sarah sends
the hearts. As soon as you can, will you try and sell some hearts?" Then
there was "love to mother," and lastly an account of what the mason had
said about the chimney of the cabin. They had sent for him to fix it. It
was very dangerous the way it was, ran the message, and if mother would
get the bricks, he would fix it right away.

The old squaw looked on with an anxious expression while the note was
being read, as if she expected some sense to come out of it that would
find her folks; but none of that kind could be made out of it, so they sat
and waited until General Parker should come in.

General Ely S. Parker was the "big Indian" of Mulberry street in a very
real sense. Though he was a clerk in the Police Department and never went
on the war-path any more, he was the head of the ancient Indian
Confederacy, chief of the Six Nations, once so powerful for mischief, and
now a mere name that frightens no one. Donegahawa--one cannot help wishing
that the picturesque old chief had kept his name of the council lodge--was
not born to sit writing at an office desk. In youth he tracked the bear
and the panther in the Northern woods. The scattered remnants of the
tribes East and West owned his rightful authority as chief. The
Canaghwagas were one of these. So these lost ones had come straight to the
official and actual head of their people when they were stranded in the
great city. They knew it when they heard the magic name of Donegahawa,
and sat silently waiting and wondering till he should come. The child
looked up admiringly at the gold-laced cap of Inspector Williams, when he
took her on his knee, and the stern face of the big policeman relaxed and
grew tender as a woman's as he took her face between his hands and kissed
it.

When the general came in, he spoke to them at once in their own tongue,
and very sweet and musical it was. Then their troubles were soon over. The
sachem, when he had heard their woes, said two words between puffs of his
pipe that cleared all the shadows away. They sounded to the paleface ear
like "Huh Hoo--ochsjawai," or something equally barbarous, but they meant
that there were not so many Indians in town but that theirs could be
found, and in that the sachem was right. The number of redskins in
Thompson street--they all live over there--is about seven.

The old squaw, when she was told that her friend would be found, got up
promptly, and, bowing first to Inspector Williams and the other officials
in the room, and next to the general, said very sweetly, "Njeawa," and
Lightfoot--that was the child's name, it appeared--said it after her;
which meant, the general explained, that they were very much obliged. Then
they went out in charge of a policeman, to begin their search, little
Lightfoot hugging her doll and looking back over her shoulder at the many
gold-laced policemen who had captured her little heart. And they kissed
their hands after her.

Mulberry street awoke from its dream of youth, of the fields and the deep
woods, to the knowledge that it was a bad day. The old doorman, who had
stood at the gate patiently answering questions for twenty years, told the
first man who came looking for a lost child, with sudden resentment, that
he ought to be locked up for losing her, and, pushing him out in the rain,
slammed the door after him.



A HEATHEN BABY


A stack of mail comes to Police Headquarters every morning from the
precincts by special department carrier. It includes the reports for the
last twenty-four hours of stolen and recovered goods, complaints, and the
thousand and one things the official mail-bag contains from day to day. It
is all routine, and everything has its own pigeonhole into which it drops
and is forgotten until some raking up in the department turns up the old
blotters and the old things once more. But at last the mail-bag contained
something that was altogether out of the usual run, to wit, a Chinese
baby.

Piccaninnies have come in it before this, lots of them, black and shiny,
and one papoose from a West-Side wigwam; but a Chinese baby never.

Sergeant Jack was so astonished that it took his breath away. When he
recovered he spoke learnedly about its clothes as evidence of its heathen
origin. Never saw such a thing before, he said. They were like they were
sewn on; it was impossible to disentangle that child by any way short of
rolling it on the floor.

Sergeant Jack is an old bachelor, and that is all he knows about babies.
The child was not sewn up at all. It was just swaddled, and no Chinese had
done that, but the Italian woman who found it. Sergeant Jack sees such
babies every night in Mulberry street, but that is the way with old
bachelors. They don't know much, anyhow.

It was clear that the baby thought so. She was a little girl, very little,
only one night old; and she regarded him through her almond eyes with a
supercilious look, as who should say, "Now, if he was only a bottle,
instead of a big, useless policeman, why, one might put up with him";
which reflection opened the flood-gates of grief and set the little Chinee
squalling: "Yow! Yow! Yap!" until the sergeant held his ears, and a
policeman carried it up-stairs in a hurry.

Down-stairs first, in the sergeant's big blotter, and up-stairs in the
matron's nursery next, the baby's brief official history was recorded.
There was very little of it, indeed, and what there was was not marked by
much ceremony. The stork hadn't brought it, as it does in far-off Denmark;
nor had the doctor found it and brought it in, on the American plan.

An Italian woman had just scratched it out of an ash-barrel. Perhaps
that's the way they find babies in China, in which case the sympathy of
all American mothers and fathers will be with the present despoilers of
the heathen Chinee, who is entitled to no consideration whatever until he
introduces a new way.

The Italian woman was Mrs. Maria Lepanto. She lives in Thompson street,
but she had come all the way down to the corner of Elizabeth and Canal
streets with her little girl to look at a procession passing by. That as
everybody knows, is next door to Chinatown. It was ten o'clock, and the
end of the procession was in sight, when she noticed something stirring in
an ash-barrel that stood against the wall. She thought first it was a rat,
and was going to run, when a noise that was certainly not a rat's squeal
came from the barrel. The child clung to her hand and dragged her toward
the sound.

"Oh, mama!" she cried, in wild excitement, "hear it! It isn't a rat! I
know! Hear!"

It was a wail, a very tiny wail, ever so sorry, as well it might be,
coming from a baby that was cradled in an ash-barrel. It was little
Susie's eager hands that snatched it out. Then they saw that it was indeed
a child, a poor, helpless, grieving little baby.

It had nothing on at all, not even a rag. Perhaps they had not had time to
dress it.

"Oh, it will fit my dolly's jacket!" cried Susie, dancing around and
hugging it in glee. "It will, mama! A real live baby! Now Tilde needn't
brag of theirs. We will take it home, won't we, mama!"

The bands brayed, and the flickering light of many torches filled the
night. The procession had gone down the street, and the crowd with it. The
poor woman wrapped the baby in her worn shawl and gave it to the girl to
carry. And Susie carried it, prouder and happier than any of the men that
marched to the music. So they arrived home. The little stranger had found
friends and a resting-place.

But not for long. In the morning Mrs. Lepanto took counsel with the
neighbors, and was told that the child must be given to the police. That
was the law, they said, and though little Susie cried bitterly at having
to part with her splendid new toy, Mrs. Lepanto, being a law-abiding
woman, wrapped up her find and took it to the Macdougal-street station.

That was the way it got to Headquarters with the morning mail, and how
Sergeant Jack got a chance to tell all he didn't know about babies. Matron
Travers knew more, a good deal. She tucked the little heathen away in a
trundle-bed with a big bottle, and blessed silence fell at once on
Headquarters. In five minutes the child was asleep.

While it slept, Matron Travers entered it in her book as "No. 103" of that
year's crop of the gutter, and before it woke up she was on the way with
it, snuggled safely in a big gray shawl, up to the Charities. There Mr.
Bauer registered it under yet another number, chucked it under the chin,
and chirped at it in what he probably thought might pass for baby Chinese.
Then it got another big bottle and went to sleep once more.

At ten o'clock there came a big ship on purpose to give the little
Mott-street waif a ride up the river, and by dinner-time it was on a
green island with four hundred other babies of all kinds and shades, but
not one just like it in the whole lot. For it was New York's first and
only Chinese foundling. As to that Superintendent Bauer, Matron Travers,
and Mrs. Lepanto agreed. Sergeant Jack's evidence doesn't count, except as
backed by his superiors. He doesn't know a heathen baby when he sees one.

The island where the waif from Mott street cast anchor is called Randall's
Island, and there its stay ends, or begins. The chances are that it ends,
for with an ash-barrel filling its past and a foundling asylum its future,
a baby hasn't much of a show. Babies were made to be hugged each by one
pair of mother's arms, and neither white-capped nurses nor sleek
milch-cows fed on the fattest of meadow-grass can take their place, try as
they may. The babies know that they are cheated, and they will not stay.



HE KEPT HIS TRYST


Policeman Schultz was stamping up and down his beat in Hester street,
trying to keep warm, on the night before Christmas, when a human wreck, in
rum and rags, shuffled across his path and hailed him: "You allus treated
me fair, Schultz," it said; "say, will you do a thing for me?"

"What is it, Denny?" said the officer. He had recognized the wreck as
Denny the Robber, a tramp who had haunted his beat ever since he had been
on it, and for years before, he had heard, further back than any one knew.

"Will you," said the wreck, wistfully--"will you run me in and give me
about three months to-morrow? Will you do it?"

"That I will," said Schultz. He had often done it before, sometimes for
three, sometimes for six months, and sometimes for ten days, according to
how he and Denny and the justice felt about it. In the spell between trips
to the island, Denny was a regular pensioner of the policeman, who let him
have a quarter or so when he had so little money as to be next to
desperate. He never did get quite to that point. Perhaps the policeman's
quarters saved him. His nickname of "the Robber" was given to him on the
same principle that dubbed the neighborhood he haunted the Pig
Market--because pigs are the only ware not for sale there. Denny never
robbed anybody. The only thing he ever stole was the time he should have
spent in working. There was no denying it, Denny was a loafer. He himself
had told Schultz that it was because his wife and children put him out of
their house in Madison street five years before. Perhaps if his wife's
story had been heard it would have reversed that statement of facts. But
nobody ever heard it. Nobody took the trouble to inquire. The O'Neil
family--that was understood to be the name--interested no one in Jewtown.
One of its members was enough. Except that Mrs. O'Neil lived in Madison
street, somewhere "near Lundy's store," nothing was known of her.

"That I will, Denny," repeated the policeman, heartily, slipping him a
dime for luck. "You come around to-morrow, and I will run you in. Now go
along."

But Denny didn't go, though he had the price of two "balls" at the
distillery. He shifted thoughtfully on his feet, and said:

"Say, Schultz, if I should die now,--I am all full o' rheumatiz, and
sore,--if I should die before, would you see to me and tell the wife?"

"Small fear of yer dying, Denny, with the price of two drinks," said the
policeman, poking him facetiously in the ribs with his club. "Don't you
worry. All the same, if you will tell me where the old woman lives, I will
let her know. What's the number?"

But the Robber's mood had changed under the touch of the silver dime that
burned his palm. "Never mind, Schultz," he said; "I guess I won't kick; so
long!" and moved off.

       *       *       *       *       *

The snow drifted wickedly down Suffolk street Christmas morning, pinching
noses and ears and cheeks already pinched by hunger and want. It set
around the corner into the Pig Market, where the hucksters plodded
knee-deep in the drifts, burying the horseradish man and his machine, and
coating the bare, plucked breasts of the geese that swung from countless
hooks at the corner stand with softer and whiter down than ever grew
there. It drove the suspender-man into the hallway of a Suffolk-street
tenement, where he tried to pluck the icicles from his frozen ears and
beard with numb and powerless fingers.

As he stepped out of the way of some one entering with a blast that set
like a cold shiver up through the house, he stumbled over something, and
put down his hand to feel what it was. It touched a cold face, and the
house rang with a shriek that silenced the clink of glasses in the
distillery, against the side door of which the something lay. They crowded
out, glasses in hand, to see what it was.

"Only a dead tramp," said some one, and the crowd went back to the warm
saloon, where the barrels lay in rows on the racks. The clink of glasses
and shouts of laughter came through the peep-hole in the door into the
dark hallway as Policeman Schultz bent over the stiff, cold shape. Some
one had called him.

"Denny," he said, tugging at his sleeve. "Denny, come. Your time is up. I
am here." Denny never stirred. The policeman looked up, white in the face.

"My God!" he said, "he's dead. But he kept his date."

And so he had. Denny the Robber was dead. Rum and exposure and the
"rheumatiz" had killed him. Policeman Schultz kept his word, too, and had
him taken to the station on a stretcher.

"He was a bad penny," said the saloon-keeper, and no one in Jewtown was
found to contradict him.



JOHN GAVIN, MISFIT


John Gavin was to blame--there is no doubt of that. To be sure, he was out
of a job, with never a cent in his pockets, his babies starving, and
notice served by the landlord that day. He had traveled the streets till
midnight looking for work, and had found none. And so he gave up. Gave up,
with the Employment Bureau in the next street registering applicants; with
the Wayfarers' Lodge over in Poverty Gap, where he might have earned fifty
cents, anyway, chopping wood; with charities without end, organized and
unorganized, that would have referred his case, had they done nothing
else. With all these things and a hundred like them to meet their wants,
the Gavins of our day have been told often enough that they have no
business to lose hope. That they will persist is strange. But perhaps
this one had never heard of them.

Anyway, Gavin is dead. But yesterday he was the father of six children,
running from May, the eldest, who was thirteen and at school, to the baby,
just old enough to poke its little fingers into its father's eyes and crow
and jump when he came in from his long and dreary tramps. They were as
happy a little family as a family of eight could be with the wolf
scratching at the door, its nose already poking through. There had been no
work and no wages in the house for months, and the landlord had given
notice that at the end of the week out they must go, unless the back rent
was paid. And there was about as much likelihood of its being paid as of a
slice of the February sun dropping down through the ceiling into the room
to warm the shivering Gavin family.

It began when Gavin's health gave way. He was a lather and had a steady
job till sickness came. It was the old story: nothing laid away--how could
there be, with a houseful of children?--and nothing coming in. They talk
of death-rates to measure the misery of the slum by, but death does not
touch the bottom. It ends the misery. Sickness only begins it. It began
Gavin's. When he had to drop hammer and nails, he got a job in a saloon as
a barkeeper; but the saloon didn't prosper, and when it was shut up, there
was an end. Gavin didn't know it then. He looked at the babies and kept up
spirits as well as he could, though it wrung his heart.

He tried everything under the sun to get a job. He traveled early and
traveled late, but wherever he went they had men and to spare. And
besides, he was ill. As they told him bluntly, sometimes, they didn't have
any use for sick men. Men to work and earn wages must be strong. And he
had to own that it was true.

Gavin was not strong. As he denied himself secretly the nourishment he
needed that his little ones might have enough, he felt it more and more.
It was harder work for him to get around, and each refusal left him more
downcast. He was yet a young man, only thirty-four, but he felt as if he
was old and tired--tired out; that was it.

The feeling grew on him while he went his last errand, offering his
services at saloons and wherever, as he thought, an opening offered. In
fact, he thought but little about it any more. The whole thing had become
an empty, hopeless formality with him. He knew at last that he was looking
for the thing he would never find; that in a cityful where every man had
his place he was a misfit with none. With his dull brain dimly conscious
of that one idea, he plodded homeward in the midnight hour. He had been on
the go since early morning, and excepting some lunch from the saloon
counters, had eaten nothing.

The lamp burned dimly in the room where May sat poring yet over her books,
waiting for papa. When he came in she looked up and smiled, but saw by his
look, as he hung up his hat, that there was no good news, and returned
with a sigh to her book. The tired mother was asleep on the bed, dressed,
with the baby in her arms. She had lain down to quiet it and had been
lulled to sleep with it herself.

Gavin did not wake them. He went to the bed where the four little ones
slept, and kissed them, each in his turn, then came back and kissed his
wife and baby.

May nestled close to him as he bent over her and gave her, too, a little
hug.

"Where are you going, papa?" she asked.

He turned around at the door and cast a look back at the quiet room,
irresolute. Then he went back once more to kiss his sleeping wife and
baby softly.

But however softly, it woke the mother. She saw him making for the door,
and asked him where he meant to go so late.

"Out, just a little while," he said, and his voice was husky. He turned
his head away.

A woman's instinct made her arise hastily and go to him.

"Don't go," she said; "please don't go away."

As he still moved toward the door, she put her arm about his neck and drew
his head toward her.

She strove with him anxiously, frightened, she hardly knew herself by
what. The lamplight fell upon something shining which he held behind his
back. The room rang with the shot, and the baby awoke crying, to see its
father slip from mama's arms to the floor, dead.

For John Gavin, alive, there was no place. At least he did not find it;
for which, let it be said and done with, he was to blame. Dead, society
will find one for him. And for the one misfit got off the list there are
seven whom not employment bureau nor woodyard nor charity register can be
made to reach. Social economy the thing is called; which makes the eighth
misfit.



IN THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL


The fact was printed the other day that the half-hundred children or more
who are in the hospitals on North Brother Island had no playthings, not
even a rattle, to make the long days skip by, which, set in smallpox,
scarlet fever, and measles, must be longer there than anywhere else in the
world. The toys that were brought over there with a consignment of nursery
tots who had the typhus fever had been worn clean out, except some
fish-horns which the doctor frowned on, and which were therefore not
allowed at large. Not as much as a red monkey on a yellow stick was there
left on the island to make the youngsters happy.

That afternoon a big, hearty-looking man came into the office with the
paper in his hand, and demanded to see the editor. He had come, he said,
to see to it that those sick youngsters got the playthings they were
entitled to; and a regular Santa Claus he proved to the friendless little
colony on the lonely island, for he left a crisp fifty-dollar note behind
when he went away without giving his name. The single condition was
attached to the gift that it should be spent buying toys for the children
on North Brother Island.

Accordingly, a strange invading army took the island by storm three or
four nights ago. Under cover of the darkness it had itself ferried over
from One Hundred and Thirty-eighth street in the department yawl, and
before morning it was in undisputed possession. It has come to stay. Not a
doll or a sheep will ever leave the island again. They may riot upon it as
they please, within certain well-defined limits, but none of them can ever
cross the channel to the mainland again, unless it be the rubber dolls who
can swim, so it is said. Here is the muster-roll:

Six sheep (four with lambs), six fairies (big dolls in street-dress),
twelve rubber dolls (in woolen jackets), four railroad-trains,
twenty-eight base-balls, twenty rubber balls, six big painted (Scotch
plaid) rubber balls, six still bigger ditto, seven boxes of blocks, half a
dozen music-boxes, twenty-four rattles, six bubble (soap) toys, twelve
small engines, six games of dominoes, twelve rubber toys (old woman who
lived in a shoe, etc.), five wooden toys (bad bear, etc.), thirty-six
horse-reins.

As there is only one horse on the island, and that one a very steady-going
steed in no urgent need of restraint, this last item might seem
superfluous, but only to the uninstructed mind. Within a brief week half
the boys and girls on the island that are out of bed long enough to stand
on their feet will be transformed into ponies and the other half into
drivers, and flying teams will go cavorting around to the tune of "Johnny,
Get your Gun," and the "Jolly Brothers Gallop," as they are ground out of
the music-boxes by little fingers that but just now toyed feebly with the
balusters on the golden stair.

That music! When I went over to the island it fell upon my ears in little
drops of sweet melody, as soon as I came in sight of the nurses' quarters.
I listened, but couldn't make out the tune. The drops seemed mixed. When I
opened the door upon one of the nurses, Dr. Dixon, and the hospital
matron, each grinding his or her music for all there was in it, and
looking perfectly happy withal, I understood why.

They were all playing different tunes at the same time, the nurse "When
the Robins Nest Again," Dr. Dixon "Nancy Lee," and the visitor "Sweet
Violets." A little child stood by in open-mouthed admiration, that became
ecstasy when I joined in with "The Babies on our Block." It was all for
the little one's benefit, and she thought it beautiful without a doubt.

The storekeeper, knowing that music hath charms to soothe the breast of
even a typhus-fever patient, had thrown in a dozen as his own gift. Thus
one good deed brings on another, and a good deal more than fifty dollars'
worth of happiness will be ground out on the island before there is an end
of the music.

There is one little girl in the measles ward already who will eat only
when her nurse sits by grinding out "Nancy Lee." She cannot be made to
swallow one mouthful on any other condition. No other nurse and no other
tune but "Nancy Lee" will do--neither the "Star-Spangled Banner" nor "The
Babies on our Block." Whether it is Nancy all by her melodious self, or
the beautiful picture of her in a sailor's suit on the lid of the box, or
the two and the nurse and the dinner together, that serve to soothe her,
is a question of some concern to the island, since Nancy and the nurse
have shown signs of giving out together.

Three of the six sheep that were bought for the ridiculously low price of
eighty-nine cents apiece, the lambs being thrown in as make-weight, were
grazing on the mixed-measles lawn over on the east shore of the island,
with a fairy in evening dress eying them rather disdainfully in the grasp
of tearful Annie Cullum. Annie is a foundling from the asylum temporarily
sojourning here. The measles and the scarlet fever were the only things
that ever took kindly to her in her little life. They tackled her both at
once, and poor Annie, after a six or eight weeks' tussle with them, has
just about enough spunk left to cry when anybody looks at her.

Three woolly sheep and a fairy all at once have robbed her of all hope,
and in the midst of it all she weeps as if her heart would break. Even
when the nurse pulls one of the unresisting mutton heads, and it emits a
loud "Baa-a," she stops only just for a second or two and then wails
again. The sheep look rather surprised, as they have a right to. They have
come to be little Annie's steady company, hers and her fellow-sufferers'
in the mixed-measles ward. The triangular lawn upon which they are
browsing is theirs to gambol on when the sun shines, but cross the walk
that borders it they never can, any more than the babies with whom they
play. Sumptuary law rules the island they are on. Habeas corpus and the
constitution stop short of the ferry. Even Comstock's authority does not
cross it: the one exception to the rule that dolls and sheep and babies
shall not visit from ward to ward is in favor of the rubber dolls, and the
etiquette of the island requires that they shall lay off their woolen
jackets and go calling just as the factory turned them out, without a
stitch or shred of any kind on.

As for the rest, they are assigned, babies, nurses, sheep, rattles, and
railroad-trains, to their separate measles, scarlet-fever, and diphtheria
lawns or wards, and there must be content to stay. A sheep may be
transferred from the scarlet-fever ward with its patron to the
mixed-measles or diphtheria, when symptoms of either of these diseases
appear, as they often do; but it cannot then go back again, lest it carry
the seeds of the new contagion to its old friends.

Even the fairies are put under the ban of suspicion by such evil
associations, and, once they have crossed the line, are not allowed to go
back to corrupt the good manners of the babies with only one complaint.

Pauline Meyer, the bigger of the two girls on the mixed-measles
stoop,--the other is friendless Annie,--has just enough strength to laugh
when her sheep's head is pulled. She has been on the limits of one ward
after another these four months, and has had everything short of typhus
fever and smallpox that the island affords.

It is a marvel that there is one laugh left in her whole little shrunken
body after it all; but there is, and the grin on her face reaches almost
from ear to ear, as she clasps the biggest fairy in an arm very little
stouter than a boy's bean-blower, and hears the lamb bleat. Why, that one
smile on that ghastly face would be thought worth his fifty dollars by the
children's friend, could he see it. Pauline is the child of Swedish
emigrants. She and Annie will not fight over their lambs and their dolls,
not for many weeks. They can't. They can't even stand up.

One of the railroad-trains, drawn by a glorious tin engine, with the name
"Union" painted on the cab, is making across the stoop for the little boy
with the whooping-cough in the next building. But it won't get there; it
is quarantined. But it will have plenty of exercise. Little hands are
itching to get hold of it in one of the cribs inside. There are thirty-six
sick children on the island just now, about half of them boys, who will
find plenty of use for the balls and things as soon as they get about. How
those base-balls are to be kept within bounds is a hopeless mystery the
doctors are puzzling over.

Even if nines are organized in every ward, as has been suggested, it is
hard to see how they can be allowed to play each other, as they would want
to, of course, as soon as they could toddle about. It would be something,
though, a smallpox nine pitted against the scarlets or the measles, with
an umpire from the mixed ward!

The old woman that lived in a shoe, being of rubber, is a privileged
character, and is away on a call in the female scarlet, says the nurse. It
is a good thing that she was made that way, for she is very popular. So
are Mother Goose and her ten companion rubber toys. The bear and the man
that strike alternately a wooden anvil with a ditto hammer are scarcely
less exciting to the infantile mind; but, being of wood, they are steady
boarders permanently attached each to his ward. The dominoes fell to the
lot of the male scarlets. That ward has half a dozen grown men in it at
present, and they have never once lost sight of the little black blocks
since they first saw them.

The doctor reports that they are getting better just as fast as they can
since they took to playing dominoes. If there is any hint in this to the
profession at large, they are welcome to it, along with humanity.

A little girl with a rubber doll in a red-woolen jacket--a combination to
make the perspiration run right off one with the humidity at 98--looks
wistfully down from the second-story balcony of the smallpox pavilion, as
the doctor goes past with the last sheep tucked under his arm.

But though it baa-a ever so loudly, it is not for her. It is bound for the
white tent on the shore, shunned even here, where sits a solitary watcher
gazing wistfully all day toward the city that has passed out of his life.
Perchance it may bring to him a message from the far-away home where the
birds sang for him, and the waves and the flowers spoke to him, and
"Unclean" had not been written against his name. Of all on the Pest Island
he alone is hopeless. He is a leper, and his sentence is that of a living
death in a strange land.



NIGGER MARTHA'S WAKE


A woman with face all seared and blotched by something that had burned
through the skin sat propped up in the doorway of a Bowery restaurant at
four o'clock in the morning, senseless, apparently dying. A policeman
stood by, looking anxiously up the street and consulting his watch. At
intervals he shook her to make sure she was not dead. The drift of the
Bowery that was borne that way eddied about, intent upon what was going
on. A dumpy little man edged through the crowd and peered into the woman's
face.

"Phew!" he said, "it's Nigger Martha! What is gettin' into the girls on
the Bowery I don't know. Remember my Maggie? She was her chum."

This to the watchman on the block. The watchman remembered. He knows
everything that goes on in the Bowery. Maggie was the wayward daughter of
a decent laundress, and killed herself by drinking carbolic acid less than
a month before. She had wearied of the Bowery. Nigger Martha was her one
friend. And now she had followed her example.

She was drunk when she did it. It is in their cups that a glimpse of the
life they traded away for the street comes sometimes to these wretches,
with remorse not to be borne.

It came so to Nigger Martha. Ten minutes before she had been sitting with
two boon companions in the oyster saloon next door, discussing their
night's catch. Elsie "Specs" was one of the two; the other was known to
the street simply as Mame. Elsie wore glasses, a thing unusual enough in
the Bowery to deserve recognition. From their presence Martha rose
suddenly to pull a vial from her pocket. Mame saw it, and, knowing what it
meant in the heavy humor that was upon Nigger Martha, she struck it from
her hand with a pepper-box. It fell, but was not broken. The woman picked
it up, and staggering out, swallowed its contents upon the sidewalk--that
is, as much as went into her mouth. Much went over her face, burning it.
She fell shrieking.

Then came the crowd. The Bowery never sleeps. The policeman on the beat
set her in the doorway and sent a hurry call for an ambulance. It came at
last, and Nigger Martha was taken to the hospital.

As Mame told it, so it was recorded on the police blotter, with the
addition that she was anywhere from forty to fifty years old. That was the
strange part of it. It is not often that any one lasts out a generation in
the Bowery. Nigger Martha did. Her beginning was way back in the palmy
days of Billy McGlory and Owney Geoghegan. Her first remembered appearance
was on the occasion of the mock wake they got up at Geoghegan's for Police
Captain Foley when he was broken. That was in the days when dive-keepers
made and broke police captains, and made no secret of it. Billy McGlory
did not. Ever since, Martha was on the street.

In time she picked up Maggie Mooney, and they got to be chummy. The
friendships of the Bowery by night may not be of a very exalted type, but
when death breaks them it leaves nothing to the survivor. That is the
reason suicides there happen in pairs. The story of Tilly Lorrison and
Tricksy came from the Tenderloin not long ago. This one of Maggie Mooney
and Nigger Martha was theirs over again.

In each case it was the younger, the one nearest the life that was forever
past, who took the step first, in despair. The other followed. To her it
was the last link with something that had long ceased to be anything but a
dream, which was broken. But without the dream life was unbearable, in the
Tenderloin and on the Bowery.

The newsboys were crying their night extras when Undertaker Reardon's
wagon jogged across the Bowery with Nigger Martha's body in it. She had
given the doctors the slip, as she had the policeman many a time. A friend
of hers, an Italian in the Bend, had hired the undertaker to "do it
proper," and Nigger Martha was to have a funeral.

All the Bowery came to the wake. The all-nighters from Chatham Square to
Bleecker street trooped up to the top-floor flat in the Forsyth-street
tenement where Nigger Martha was laid out. There they sat around, saying
little and drinking much. It was not a cheery crowd.

The Bowery by night is not cheerful in the presence of The Mystery. Its
one effort is to get away from it, to forget--the thing it can never do.
When out of its sight it carouses boisterously, as children sing and shout
in the dark to persuade themselves that they are not afraid. And some who
hear think it happy.

Sheeny Rose was the master of ceremonies and kept the door. This for a
purpose. In life Nigger Martha had one enemy whom she hated--cock-eyed
Grace. Like all of her kind, Nigger Martha was superstitious. Grace's evil
eye ever brought her bad luck when she crossed her path, and she shunned
her as the pestilence. When inadvertently she came upon her, she turned as
she passed and spat twice over her left shoulder. And Grace, with white
malice in her wicked face, spurned her.

"I don't want," Nigger Martha had said one night in the hearing of Sheeny
Rose--"I don't want that cock-eyed thing to look at my body when I am
dead. She'll give me hard luck in the grave yet."

And Sheeny Rose was there to see that cock-eyed Grace didn't come to the
wake.

She did come. She labored up the long stairs, and knocked, with no one
will ever know what purpose in her heart. If it was a last glimmer of
good, of forgiveness, it was promptly squelched. It was Sheeny Rose who
opened the door.

"You can't come in here," she said curtly. "You know she hated you. She
didn't want you to look at her stiff."

Cock-eyed Grace's face grew set with anger. Her curses were heard within.
She threatened fight, but dropped it.

"All right," she said as she went down. "I'll fix you, Sheeny Rose!"

It was in the exact spot where Nigger Martha had sat and died that Grace
met her enemy the night after the funeral. Lizzie La Blanche, the Marine's
girl, was there; Elsie Specs, Little Mame, and Jack the Dog, toughest of
all the girls, who for that reason had earned the name of "Mayor of the
Bowery." She brooked no rivals. They were all within reach when the two
enemies met under the arc light.

Cock-eyed Grace sounded the challenge.

"Now, you little Sheeny Rose," she said, "I'm goin' to do ye fer shuttin'
of me out o' Nigger Martha's wake."

With that out came her hatpin, and she made a lunge at Sheeny Rose. The
other was on her guard. Hatpin in hand, she parried the thrust and lunged
back. In a moment the girls had made a ring about the two, shutting them
out of sight. Within it the desperate women thrust and parried, backed and
squared off, leaping like tigers when they saw an opening. Their hats had
fallen off, their hair was down, and eager hate glittered in their eyes.
It was a battle for life; for there is no dagger more deadly than the
hatpin these women carry, chiefly as a weapon of defense in the hour of
need.

They were evenly matched. Sheeny Rose made up in superior suppleness of
limb for the pent-up malice of the other. Grace aimed her thrusts at her
opponent's face. She tried to reach her eye. Once the sharp steel just
pricked Sheeny Rose's cheek and drew blood. In the next turn Rose's hatpin
passed within a quarter-inch of Grace's jugular.

But the blow nearly threw her off her feet, and she was at her enemy's
mercy. With an evil oath the fiend thrust full at her face just as the
policeman, who had come through the crowd unobserved, so intent was it
upon the fight, knocked the steel from her hand.

At midnight two disheveled hags with faces flattened against the bars of
adjoining cells in the police station were hurling sidelong curses at each
other and at the maddened doorman. Nigger Martha's wake had received its
appropriate and foreordained ending.



A CHIP FROM THE MAELSTROM


"The cop just sceert her to death, that's what he done. For Gawd's sake,
boss, don't let on I tole you."

The negro, stopping suddenly in his game of craps in the Pell-street back
yard, glanced up with a look of agonized entreaty. Discovering no such
fell purpose in his questioner's face, he added quickly, reassured:

"And if he asks if you seed me a-playing craps, say no, not on yer life,
boss, will yer?" And he resumed the game where he left off.

An hour before he had seen Maggie Lynch die in that hallway, and it was of
her he spoke. She belonged to the tenement and to Pell street, as he did
himself. They were part of it while they lived, with all that that
implied; when they died, to make part of it again, reorganized and closing
ranks in the trench on Hart's Island. It is only the Celestials in Pell
street who escape the trench. The others are booked for it from the day
they are pushed out from the rapids of the Bowery into this maelstrom that
sucks under all it seizes. Thenceforward they come to the surface only at
intervals in the police courts, each time more forlorn, but not more
hopeless, until at last they disappear and are heard of no more.

When Maggie Lynch turned the corner no one there knows. The street keeps
no reckoning, and it doesn't matter. She took her place unchallenged, and
her "character" was registered in due time. It was good. Even Pell street
has its degrees and its standard of perfection. The standard's strong
point is contempt of the Chinese, who are hosts in Pell street. Maggie
Lynch came to be known as homeless, without a man, though with the
prospects of motherhood approaching, yet she "had never lived with a
Chink." To Pell street that was heroic. It would have forgiven all the
rest, had there been anything to forgive. But there was not. Whatever else
may be, cant is not among the vices of Pell street.

And it is well. Maggie Lynch lived with the Cuffs on the top floor of No.
21 until the Cuffs moved. They left an old lounge they didn't want, and
Maggie. Maggie was sick, and the housekeeper had no heart to put her out.
Heart sometimes survives in the slums, even in Pell street, long after
respectability has been hopelessly smothered. It provided shelter and a
bed for Maggie when her only friends deserted her. In return she did what
she could, helping about the hall and stairs. Queer that gratitude should
be another of the virtues the slum has no power to smother, though dive
and brothel and the scorn of the good do their best, working together.

There was an old mattress that had to be burned, and Maggie dragged it
down with an effort. She took it out in the street, and there set it on
fire. It burned and blazed high in the narrow street. The policeman saw
the sheen in the windows on the opposite side of the way, and saw the
danger of it as he came around the corner. Maggie did not notice him till
he was right behind her. She gave a great start when he spoke to her.

"I've a good mind to lock you up for this," he said as he stamped out the
fire. "Don't you know it's against the law?"

The negro heard it and saw Maggie stagger toward the door, with her hand
pressed upon her heart, as the policeman went away down the street. On
the threshold she stopped, panting.

"My Gawd, that cop frightened me!" she said, and sat down on the
door-step.

A tenant who came out saw that she was ill, and helped her into the hall.
She gasped once or twice, and then lay back, dead.

Word went around to the Elizabeth-street station, and was sent on from
there with an order for the dead-wagon. Maggie's turn had come for the
ride up the Sound. She was as good as checked off for the Potter's Field,
but Pell street made an effort and came up almost to Maggie's standard.

Even while the dead-wagon was rattling down the Bowery, one of the tenants
ran all the way to Henry street, where he had heard that Maggie's father
lived, and brought him to the police station. The old man wiped his eyes
as he gazed upon his child, dead in her sins.

"She had a good home," he said to Captain Young. "But she didn't know it,
and she wouldn't stay. Send her home, and I will bury her with her
mother."

The Potter's Field was cheated out of a victim, and by Pell street. But
the maelstrom grinds on and on.



SARAH JOYCE'S HUSBANDS


Policeman Muller had run against a boisterous crowd surrounding a drunken
woman at Prince street and the Bowery. When he joined the crowd it
scattered, but got together again before it had run half a block, and
slunk after him and his prisoner to the Mulberry-street station. There
Sergeant Woodruff learned by questioning the woman that she was Mary
Donovan and had come down from Westchester to have a holiday. She had had
it without a doubt. The sergeant ordered her to be locked up for
safe-keeping, when, unexpectedly, objection was made.

A small lot of the crowd had picked up courage to come into the station to
see what became of the prisoner. From out of this, one spoke up: "Don't
lock that woman up; she is my wife."

"Eh," said the sergeant, "and who are you?"

The man said he was George Reilly and a salesman. The prisoner had given
her name as Mary Donovan and said she was single. The sergeant drew Mr.
Reilly's attention to the street door, which was there for his
accommodation, but he did not take the hint. He became so abusive that he,
too, was locked up, still protesting that the woman was his wife.

She had gone on her way to Elizabeth street, where there is a matron, to
be locked up there; and the objections of Mr. Reilly having been silenced
at last, peace was descending once more upon the station-house, when the
door was opened, and a man with a swagger entered.

"Got that woman locked up here?" he demanded.

"What woman?" asked the sergeant, looking up.

"Her what Muller took in."

"Well," said the sergeant, looking over the desk, "what of her?"

"I want her out; she is my wife. She--"

The sergeant rang his bell. "Here, lock this man up with that woman's
other husband," he said, pointing to the stranger.

The fellow ran out just in time, as the doorman made a grab for him. The
sergeant drew a tired breath and picked up the ruler to make a red line in
his blotter. There was a brisk step, a rap, and a young fellow stood in
the open door.

"Say, serg," he began.

The sergeant reached with his left hand for the inkstand, while his right
clutched the ruler. He never took his eyes off the stranger.

"Say," wheedled he, glancing around and seeing no trap, "serg, I say: that
woman w'at's locked up, she's--"

"She's what?" asked the sergeant, getting the range as well as he could.

"My wife," said the fellow.

There was a bang, the slamming of a door, and the room was empty. The
doorman came running in, looked out, and up and down the street. But
nothing was to be seen. There is no record of what became of the third
husband of Mary Donovan.

The first slept serenely in the jail. The woman herself, when she saw the
iron bars in the Elizabeth-street station, fell into hysterics and was
taken to the Hudson Street Hospital.

Reilly was arraigned in the Tombs Police Court in the morning. He paid his
fine and left, protesting that he was her only husband.

He had not been gone ten minutes when Claimant No. 4 entered.

"Was Sarah Joyce brought here?" he asked Clerk Betts.

The clerk couldn't find the name.

"Look for Mary Donovan," said No. 4.

"Who are you?" asked the clerk.

"I am Sarah's husband," was the answer.

Clerk Betts smiled, and told the man the story of the other three.

"Well, I am blamed," he said.



THE CAT TOOK THE KOSHER MEAT


The tenement No. 76 Madison street had been for some time scandalized by
the hoidenish ways of Rose Baruch, the little cloakmaker on the top floor.
Rose was seventeen, and boarded with her mother in the Pincus family. But
for her harum-scarum ways she might, in the opinion of the tenement, be a
nice girl and some day a good wife; but these were unbearable.

For the tenement is a great working hive in which nothing has value unless
exchangeable for gold. Rose's animal spirits, which long hours and low
wages had no power to curb, were exchangeable only for wrath in the
tenement. Her noisy feet on the stairs when she came home woke up all the
tenants, and made them swear at the loss of the precious moments of sleep
which were their reserve capital. Rose was so Americanized, they said
impatiently among themselves, that nothing could be done with her.

Perhaps they were mistaken. Perhaps Rose's stout refusal to be subdued
even by the tenement was their hope, as it was her capital. Perhaps her
spiteful tread upon the stairs heralded the coming protest of the freeborn
American against slavery, industrial or otherwise, in which their day of
deliverance was dawning. It may be so. They didn't see it. How should
they? They were not Americanized; not yet.

However that might be, Rose came to the end that was to be expected. The
judgment of the tenement was, for the time, borne out by experience. This
was the way of it:

Rose's mother had bought several pounds of kosher meat and put it into the
ice-box--that is to say, on the window-sill of their fifth-floor flat.
Other ice-box these East-Side sweaters' tenements have none. And it does
well enough in cold weather, unless the cat gets around, or, as it
happened in this case, it slides off and falls down. Rose's breakfast and
dinner disappeared down the air-shaft, seventy feet or more, at 10:30 P.
M.

There was a family consultation as to what should be done. It was late,
and everybody was in bed, but Rose declared herself equal to the rousing
of the tenants in the first floor rear, through whose window she could
climb into the shaft for the meat. She had done it before for a nickel.
Enough said. An expedition set out at once from the top floor to recover
the meat. Mrs. Baruch, Rose, and Jake, the boarder, went in a body.

Arrived before the Knauff family's flat on the ground floor, they opened
proceedings by a vigorous attack on the door. The Knauffs woke up in a
fright, believing that the house was full of burglars. They were stirring
to barricade the door, when they recognized Rose's voice and were calmed.
Let in, the expedition explained matters, and was grudgingly allowed to
take a look out of the window in the air-shaft. Yes! there was the meat,
as yet safe from rats. The thing was to get it.

The boarder tried first, but crawled back frightened. He couldn't reach
it. Rose jerked him impatiently away.

"Leg go!" she said. "I can do it. I was there wunst. You're no good."

And she bent over the window-sill, reaching down until her toes barely
touched the floor, when all of a sudden, before they could grab her
skirts, over she went, heels over head, down the shaft, and disappeared.

The shrieks of the Knauffs, of Mrs. Baruch, and of Jake, the boarder, were
echoed from below. Rose's voice rose in pain and in bitter lamentation
from the bottom of the shaft. She had fallen fully fifteen feet, and in
the fall had hurt her back badly, if, indeed, she had not injured herself
beyond repair. Her cries suggested nothing less. They filled the tenement,
rising to every floor and appealing at every bedroom window.

In a minute the whole building was astir from cellar to roof. A dozen
heads were thrust out of every window, and answering wails carried
messages of helpless sympathy to the once so unpopular Rose. Upon this
concert of sorrow the police broke in with anxious inquiry as to what was
the matter.

When they found out, a second relief expedition was organized. It reached
Rose through the basement coal-bin, and she was carried out and sent to
the Gouverneur Hospital. There she lies, unable to move, and the tenement
wonders what is amiss that it has lost its old spirits. It has not even
anything left to swear at.

The cat took the kosher meat.



FIRE IN THE BARRACKS


The rush and roar, the blaze and the wild panic, of a great fire filled
Twenty-third street. Helmeted men stormed and swore; horses tramped and
reared; crying women, hurrying hither and thither, stumbled over squirming
hose on street and sidewalk.

The throbbing of a dozen pumping-engines merged all other sounds in its
frantic appeal for haste. In the midst of it all, seven red-shirted men
knelt beside a heap of trunks, hastily thrown up as if for a breastwork,
and prayed fervently with bared heads.

Firemen and policemen stumbled up against them with angry words, stopped,
stared, and passed silently by. The fleeing crowd halted and fell back.
The rush and the roar swirled to the right and to the left, leaving the
little band as if in an eddy, untouched and serene, with the glow of the
fire upon it and the stars paling overhead.

The seven were the Swedish Salvation Army. Their barracks were burning up
in a blast of fire so sudden and so fierce that scant time was left to
save life and goods.

From the tenements next door men and women dragged bundles and
feather-beds, choking stairs and halls, and shrieking madly to be let out.
The police struggled angrily with the torrent. The lodgers in the
Holly-Tree Inn, who had nothing to save, ran for their lives.

In the station-house behind the barracks they were hastily clearing the
prison. The last man had hardly passed out of his cell when, with a
deafening crash, the toppling wall fell upon and smashed the roof of the
jail.

Fire-bells rang in every street as engines rushed from north and south. A
general alarm had called out the reserves. Every hydrant for blocks around
was tapped. Engine crews climbed upon the track of the elevated road,
picketed the surrounding tenements, and stood their ground on top of the
police station.

Up there two crews labored with a Siamese joint hose throwing a stream as
big as a man's thigh. It got away from them, and for a while there was
panic and a struggle up on the heights as well as in the street. The
throbbing hose bounded over the roof, thrashing right and left, and
flinging about the men who endeavored to pin it down like half-drowned
kittens. It struck the coping, knocked it off, and the resistless stream
washed brick and stone down into the yard as upon the wave of a mighty
flood.

Amid the fright and uproar the seven alone were calm. The sun rose upon
their little band perched upon the pile of trunks, victorious and defiant.
It shone upon Old Glory and the Salvation Army's flag floating from their
improvised fort, and upon an ample lake, sprung up within an hour where
yesterday there was a vacant sunken lot. The fire was out, the firemen
going home.

The lodgers in the Holly-Tree Inn, of whom there is one for every day in
the year, looked upon the sudden expanse of water, shivered, and went in.
The tenants returned to their homes. The fright was over with the
darkness.



A WAR ON THE GOATS


War has been declared in Hell's Kitchen. An indignant public opinion
demands to have "something done ag'in' them goats," and there is alarm at
the river end of the street. A public opinion in Hell's Kitchen that
demands anything besides schooners of mixed ale is a sign. Surer than a
college settlement and a sociological canvass, it foretells the end of the
slum. Sebastopol, the rocky fastness of the gang that gave the place its
bad name, was razed only the other day, and now the police have been set
on the goats. Cause enough for alarm.

A reconnaissance in force by the enemy showed some foundation for the
claim that the goats owned the block. Thirteen were found foraging in the
gutters, standing upon trucks, or calmly dozing in doorways. They evinced
no particularly hostile disposition, but a marked desire to know the
business of every chance caller in the block. This caused a passing
unpleasantness between one big white goat and the janitress of the
tenement on the corner. Being crowded up against the wall by the animal,
bent on exploring her pockets, she beat it off with her scrubbing-pail and
mop. The goat, thus dismissed, joined a horse at the curb in apparently
innocent meditation, but with one leering eye fixed back over its shoulder
upon the housekeeper setting out an ash-barrel.

Her back was barely turned when it was in the barrel, with head and fore
feet exploring its depths. The door of the tenement opened upon the
housekeeper trundling another barrel just as the first one fell and rolled
across the sidewalk, with the goat capering about. Then was the air filled
with bad language and a broomstick and a goat for a moment, and the woman
was left shouting her wrongs.

"What de divil good is dem goats anyhow?" she said, panting. "There's no
housekeeper in de United Shtates can watch de ash-cans wid dem divil's
imps around. They near killed an Eyetalian child the other day, and two
of them got basted in de neck when de goats follied dem and didn't get
nothing. That big white one o' Tim's, he's the worst in de lot, and he's
got only one horn, too."

This wicked and unsymmetrical animal is denounced for its malice
throughout the block by even the defenders of the goats. Singularly
enough, he cannot be located, and neither can Tim. If the scouting-party
has better luck and can seize this wretched beast, half the campaign may
be over. It will be accepted as a sacrifice by one side, and the other is
willing to give it up.

Mrs. Shallock lives in a crazy old frame house, over a saloon. Her kitchen
is approached by a sort of hen-ladder, a foot wide, which terminates in a
balcony, the whole of which was occupied by a big gray goat. There was not
room for the police inquisitor and the goat too, and the former had to
wait till the animal had come off his perch. Mrs. Shallock is a widow. A
load of anxiety and concern overspread her motherly countenance when she
heard of the trouble.

"Are they after dem goats again?" she said. "Sarah! Leho! come right here,
an' don't you go in the street again. Excuse me, sor! but it's all because
one of dem knocked down an old woman that used to give it a paper every
day. She is the mother of the blind newsboy around on the avenue, an' she
used to feed an old paper to him every night. So he follied her. That
night she didn't have any, an' when he stuck his nose in her basket an'
didn't find any, he knocked her down, an' she bruk her arm."

Whether it was the one-horned goat that thus insisted upon his sporting
extra does not appear. Probably it was.

"There's neighbors lives there has got 'em on floors," Mrs. Shallock kept
on. "I'm paying taxes here, an' I think it's my privilege to have one
little goat."

"I just wish they'd take 'em," broke in the widow's buxom daughter, who
had appeared in the doorway, combing her hair. "They goes up in the hall
and knocks on the door with their horns all night. There's sixteen dozen
of them on the stoop, if there's one. What good are they? Let's sell 'em
to the butcher, mama; he'll buy 'em for mutton, the way he did Bill
Buckley's. You know right well he did."

"They ain't much good, that's a fact," mused the widow. "But yere's Leho;
she's follying me around just like a child. She is a regular pet, is
Leho. We got her from Mr. Lee, who is dead, and we called her after him,
Leho [Leo]. Take Sarah; but Leho, little Leho, let's keep."

Leho stuck her head in through the front door and belied her name. If the
widow keeps her, another campaign will shortly have to be begun in
Forty-sixth street. There will be more goats where Leho is.

Mr. Cleary lives in a rear tenement and has only one goat. It belongs, he
says, to his little boy, and is no good except to amuse him. Minnie is her
name, and she once had a mate. When it was sold, the boy cried so much
that he was sick for two weeks. Mr. Cleary couldn't think of parting with
Minnie.

Neither will Mr. Lennon, in the next yard, give up his. He owns the
stable, he says, and axes no odds of anybody. His goat is some good
anyhow, for it gives milk for his tea. Says his wife, "Many is the dime it
has saved us." There are two goats in Mr. Lennon's yard, one perched on
top of a shed surveying the yard, the other engaged in chewing at a
buck-saw that hangs on the fence.

Mrs. Buckley does not know how many goats she has. A glance at the bigger
of the two that are stabled at the entrance to the tenement explains her
doubts, which are temporary. Mrs. Buckley says that her husband "generally
sells them away," meaning the kids, presumably to the butcher for mutton.

"Hey, Jenny!" she says, stroking the big one at the door. Jenny eyes the
visitor calmly, and chews an old newspaper. She has two horns.

"She ain't as bad as they lets on," says Mrs. Buckley.

The scouting party reports the new public opinion of the Kitchen to be of
healthy but alien growth, as yet without roots in the soil strong enough
to stand the shock of a general raid on the goats. They recommend as a
present concession the seizure of the one-horned Billy that seems to have
no friends on the block, if indeed he belongs there, and an ambush is
being laid accordingly.



ROVER'S LAST FIGHT


The little village of Valley Stream nestles peacefully among the woods and
meadows of Long Island. The days and the years roll by uneventfully within
its quiet precincts. Nothing more exciting than the arrival of a party of
fishermen from the city, on a vain hunt for perch in the ponds that lie
hidden among its groves and feed the Brooklyn water-works, troubles the
every-day routine of the village. Two great railroad wrecks are remembered
thereabouts, but these are already ancient history. Only the oldest
inhabitants know of the earlier one. There hasn't been as much as a sudden
death in the town since, and the constable and chief of police--probably
one and the same person--haven't turned an honest or dishonest penny in
the whole course of their official existence. All of which is as it ought
to be.

But at last something occurred that ought not to have been. The village
was aroused at daybreak by the intelligence that a robbery had been
committed overnight, and a murder. The house of Gabriel Dodge, a
well-to-do farmer, had been sacked by thieves, who left in their trail the
farmer's murdered dog. Rover was a collie, large for his kind, and quite
as noisy as the rest of them. He had been left as an outside guard,
according to Farmer Dodge's awkward practice. Inside, he might have been
of use by alarming the folks when the thieves tried to get in. But they
had only to fear his bark; his bite was harmless.

The whole of Valley Stream gathered at Farmer Dodge's house to watch,
awe-struck, the mysterious movements of the police force as it went
tiptoeing about, peeping into corners, secretly examining tracks in the
mud, and squinting suspiciously at the brogans of the bystanders. When it
had all been gone through, this record of facts bearing on the case was
made:

Rover was dead.

He had apparently been smothered.

With the hand, not a rope.

There was a ladder set up against the window of the spare bedroom.

That it had not been there before was evidence that the thieves had set it
up.

The window was open, and they had gone in.

Several watches, some good clothes, sundry articles of jewelry, all worth
some six or seven hundred dollars, were missing and could not be found.

In conclusion, the constable put on record his belief that the thieves who
had smothered the dog and set up the ladder had taken the property.

The solid citizens of the village sat upon the verdict in the store,
solemnly considered it, and agreed that it was so. This point settled,
there was left only the other: Who were the thieves? The solid citizens by
a unanimous decision concluded that Inspector Byrnes was the man to tell
them.

So they came over to New York and laid the matter before him, with a
mental diagram of the village, the house, the dog, and the ladder at the
window. There was just the suspicion of a twinkle in the corner of the
inspector's eye as he listened gravely and then said:

"It was the spare bedroom, wasn't it?"

"The spare bedroom," said the committee, in one breath.

"The only one in the house?" queried the inspector, further.

"The only one," responded the echo.

"H'm!" pondered the inspector. "You keep hands on your farm, Mr. Dodge?"

Mr. Dodge did.

"Sleep in the house?"

"Yes."

"Discharged any one lately?"

The committee rose as one man, and, staring at each other with bulging
eyes, said "Jake!" all at once.

"Jakey, b' gosh!" repeated the constable to himself, kicking his own shins
softly as he tugged at his beard. "Jake, by thunder!"

Jake was a boy of eighteen, who had been employed by the farmer to do
chores. He was shiftless, and a week or two before had been sent away in
disgrace. He had gone no one knew whither.

The committee told the inspector all about Jake, gave him a minute
description of him,--of his ways, his gait, and his clothes,--and went
home feeling that they had been wondrous smart in putting so sharp a man
on the track he would never have thought of if they hadn't mentioned
Jake's name. All he had to do now was to follow it to the end, and let
them know when he had reached it. And as these good men had prophesied,
even so it came to pass.

Detectives of the inspector's staff were put on the trail. They followed
it from the Long Island pastures across the East River to the Bowery, and
there into one of the cheap lodging-houses where thieves are turned out
ready-made while you wait. There they found Jake.

They didn't hail him at once, or clap him into irons, as the constable
from Valley Stream would have done. They let him alone and watched awhile
to see what he was doing. And the thing that they found him doing was just
what they expected: he was herding with thieves. When they had thoroughly
fastened this companionship upon the lad, they arrested the band. They
were three.

They had not been locked up many hours at Headquarters before the
inspector sent for Jake. He told him he knew all about his dismissal by
Farmer Dodge, and asked him what he had done to the old man. Jake blurted
out hotly, "Nothin'," and betrayed such feeling that his questioner soon
made him admit that he was "sore on the boss." From that to telling the
whole story of the robbery was only a little way, easy to travel in such
company as Jake was in then. He told how he had come to New York, angry
enough to do anything, and had "struck" the Bowery. Struck, too, his two
friends, not the only two of that kind who loiter about that thoroughfare.

To them he told his story while waiting in the "hotel" for something to
turn up, and they showed him a way to get square with the old man for what
he had done to him. The farmer had money and property he would hate to
lose. Jake knew the lay of the land, and could steer them straight; they
would take care of the rest. "See!" said they.

Jake saw, and the sight tempted him. But in his mind's eye he saw also
Rover and heard him bark. How could he be managed?

"He will come to me if I call him," pondered Jake, while his two
companions sat watching his face, "but you may have to kill him. Poor
Rover!"

"You call the dog and leave him to me," said the oldest thief, and shut
his teeth hard. And so it was arranged.

That night the three went out on the last train, and hid in the woods down
by the gatekeeper's house at the pond, until the last light had gone out
in the village and it was fast asleep. Then they crept up by a back way to
Farmer Dodge's house. As expected, Rover came bounding out at their
approach, barking furiously. It was Jake's turn then.

"Rover," he called softly, and whistled. The dog stopped barking and came
on, wagging his tail, but still growling ominously as he got scent of the
strange men.

"Rover, poor Rover," said Jake, stroking his shaggy fur and feeling like
the guilty wretch he was; for just then the hand of Pfeiffer, the thief,
grabbed the throat of the faithful beast in a grip as of an iron vise, and
he had barked his last bark. Struggle as he might, he could not free
himself or breathe, while Jake, the treacherous Jake, held his legs. And
so he died, fighting for his master and his home.

In the morning the ladder at the open window and poor Rover dead in the
yard told of the drama of the night.

The committee of farmers came over and took Jake home, after
congratulating Inspector Byrnes on having so intelligently followed their
directions in hunting down the thieves. The inspector shook hands with
them and smiled.



WHEN THE LETTER CAME


"To-morrow it will come," Godfrey Krueger had said that night to his
landlord. "To-morrow it will surely come, and then I shall have money.
Soon I shall be rich, richer than you can think."

And the landlord of the Forsyth-street tenement, who in his heart liked
the gray-haired inventor, but who had rooms to let, grumbled something
about a to-morrow that never came.

"Oh, but it will come," said Krueger, turning on the stairs and shading
the lamp with his hand, the better to see his landlord's good-natured
face; "you know the application has been advanced. It is bound to be
granted, and to-night I shall finish my ship."

Now, as he sat alone in his room at his work, fitting, shaping, and
whittling with restless hands, he had to admit to himself that it was
time it came. Two whole days he had lived on a crust, and he was starving.
He had worked and waited thirteen hard years for the success that had more
than once been almost within his grasp, only to elude it again. It had
never seemed nearer and surer than now, and there was need of it. He had
come to the jumping-off place. All his money was gone, to the last cent,
and his application for a pension hung fire in Washington unaccountably.
It had been advanced to the last stage, and word that it had been granted
might be received any day. But the days slipped by and no word came. For
two days he had lived on faith and a crust, but they were giving out
together. If only--

Well, when it did come, what with his back pay for all those years, he
would have the means to build his ship, and hunger and want would be
forgotten. He should have enough. And the world would know that Godfrey
Krueger was not an idle crank.

"In six months I shall cross the ocean to Europe in twenty hours in my
air-ship," he had said in showing the landlord his models, "with as many
as want to go. Then I shall become a millionaire and shall make you one,
too." And the landlord had heaved a sigh at the thought of his
twenty-seven dollars, and doubtingly wished it might be so.

Weak and famished, Krueger bent to his all but finished task. Before
morning he should know that it would work as he had planned. There
remained only to fit the last parts together. The idea of building an
air-ship had come to him while he lay dying with scurvy, as they thought,
in a Confederate prison, and he had never abandoned it. He had been a
teacher and a student, and was a trained mathematician. There could be no
flaw in his calculations. He had worked them out again and again. The
energy developed by his plan was great enough to float a ship capable of
carrying almost any burden, and of directing it against the strongest head
winds. Now, upon the threshold of success, he was awaiting merely the
long-delayed pension to carry his dream into life. To-morrow would bring
it, and with it an end to all his waiting and suffering.

One after another the lights went out in the tenement. Only the one in the
inventor's room burned steadily through the night. The policeman on the
beat noticed the lighted window, and made a mental note of the fact that
some one was sick. Once during the early hours he stopped short to listen.
Upon the morning breeze was borne a muffled sound, as of a distant
explosion. But all was quiet again, and he went on, thinking that his
senses had deceived him. The dawn came in the eastern sky, and with it the
stir that attends the awakening of another day. The lamp burned steadily
yet behind the dim window-pane.

The milkmen came, and the push-cart criers. The policeman was relieved,
and another took his place. Lastly came the mail-carrier with a large
official envelop marked, "Pension Bureau, Washington." He shouted up the
stairway:

"Krueger! Letter!"

The landlord came to the door and was glad. So it had come, had it?

"Run, Emma," he said to his little daughter, "run and tell Mr. Godfrey his
letter has come."

The child skipped up the steps gleefully. She knocked at the inventor's
door, but no answer came. It was not locked, and she pushed it open. The
little lamp smoked yet on the table. The room was strewn with broken
models and torn papers that littered the floor. Something there frightened
the child. She held to the banisters and called faintly:

"Papa! Oh, papa!"

They went in together on tiptoe without knowing why, the postman with the
big official letter in his hand. The morrow had kept its promise. Of
hunger and want there was an end. On the bed, stretched at full length,
with his Grand Army hat flung beside him, lay the inventor, dead. A little
round hole in the temple, from which a few drops of blood had flowed, told
what remained of his story. In the night disillusion had come, with
failure.



THE KID


He was an every-day tough, bull-necked, square-jawed, red of face, and
with his hair cropped short in the fashion that rules at Sing Sing and is
admired of Battle Row. Any one could have told it at a glance. The bruised
and wrathful face of the policeman who brought him to Mulberry street, to
be "stood up" before the detectives in the hope that there might be
something against him to aggravate the offense of beating an officer with
his own club, bore witness to it. It told a familiar story. The prisoner's
gang had started a fight in the street, probably with a scheme of ultimate
robbery in view, and the police had come upon it unexpectedly. The rest
had got away with an assortment of promiscuous bruises. The "Kid" stood
his ground, and went down with two "cops" on top of him after a valiant
battle, in which he had performed the feat that entitled him to honorable
mention henceforth in the felonious annals of the gang. There was no
surrender in his sullen look as he stood before the desk, his hard face
disfigured further by a streak of half-dried blood, reminiscent of the
night's encounter. The fight had gone against him--that was all right.
There was a time for getting square. Till then he was man enough to take
his medicine, let them do their worst.

It was there, plain as could be, in his set jaws and dogged bearing as he
came out, numbered now and indexed in the rogues' gallery, and started for
the police court between two officers. It chanced that I was going the
same way, and joined company. Besides, I have certain theories concerning
toughs which my friend the sergeant says are rot, and I was not averse to
testing them on the Kid.

But the Kid was a bad subject. He replied to my friendly advances with a
muttered curse, or not at all, and upset all my notions in the most
reckless way. Conversation had ceased before we were half-way across to
Broadway. He "wanted no guff," and I left him to his meditations
respecting his defenseless state. At Broadway there was a jam of trucks,
and we stopped at the corner to wait for an opening.

It all happened so quickly that only a confused picture of it is in my
mind till this day. A sudden start, a leap, and a warning cry, and the Kid
had wrenched himself loose. He was free. I was dimly conscious of a rush
of blue and brass; and then I saw--the whole street saw--a child, a
toddling baby, in the middle of the railroad-track, right in front of the
coming car. It reached out its tiny hand toward the madly clanging bell
and crowed. A scream rose wild and piercing above the tumult; men
struggled with a frantic woman on the curb, and turned their heads away--

And then there stood the Kid, with the child in his arms, unhurt. I see
him now, as he set it down gently as any woman, trying, with lingering
touch, to unclasp the grip of the baby hand upon his rough finger. I see
the hard look coming back into his face as the policeman, red and out of
breath, twisted the nipper on his wrist, with a half-uncertain aside to
me: "Them toughs there ain't no depending on nohow." Sullen, defiant,
planning vengeance, I see him led away to jail. Ruffian and thief! The
police blotter said so.

But, even so, the Kid had proved that my theories about toughs were not
rot. Who knows but that, like sergeants, the blotter may be sometimes
mistaken?



LOST CHILDREN


I am not thinking now of theological dogmas or moral distinctions. I am
considering the matter from the plain every-day standpoint of the police
office. It is not my fault that the one thing that is lost more
persistently than any other in a large city is the very thing you would
imagine to be safest of all in the keeping of its owner. Nor do I pretend
to explain it. It is simply one of the contradictions of metropolitan
life. In twenty years' acquaintance with the police office, I have seen
money, diamonds, coffins, horses, and tubs of butter brought there and
passed into the keeping of the property clerk as lost or strayed. I
remember a whole front stoop, brownstone, with steps and iron railing all
complete, being put up at auction, unclaimed. But these were mere
representatives of a class which as a whole kept its place and the peace.
The children did neither. One might have been tempted to apply the old
inquiry about the pins to them but for another contradictory circumstance:
rather more of them are found than lost.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children keeps the account of
the surplus. It has now on its books half a score Jane Does and twice as
many Richard Roes, of whom nothing more will ever be known than that they
were found, which is on the whole, perhaps, best--for them certainly. The
others, the lost, drift from the tenements and back, a host of thousands
year by year. The two I am thinking of were of these, typical of the
maelstrom.

Yette Lubinsky was three years old when she was lost from her Essex-street
home, in that neighborhood where once the police commissioners thought
seriously of having the children tagged with name and street number, to
save trotting them back and forth between police station and Headquarters.
She had gone from the tenement to the corner where her father kept a
stand, to beg a penny, and nothing more was known of her. Weeks after, a
neighbor identified one of her little frocks as the match of one worn by
a child she had seen dragged off by a rough-looking man. But though Max
Lubinsky, the peddler, and Yette's mother camped on the steps of Police
Headquarters early and late, anxiously questioning every one who went in
and out about their lost child, no other word was heard of her. By and by
it came to be an old story, and the two were looked upon as among the
fixtures of the place. Mulberry street has other such.

They were poor and friendless in a strange land, the very language of
which was jargon to them, as theirs was to us, timid in the crush, and
they were shouldered out. It was not inhumanity; at least, it was not
meant to be. It was the way of the city, with every one for himself; and
they accepted it, uncomplaining. So they kept their vigil on the stone
steps, in storm and fair weather, every night, taking turns to watch all
who passed. When it was a policeman with a little child, as it was many
times between sunset and sunrise, the one on the watch would start up the
minute they turned the corner, and run to meet them, eagerly scanning the
little face, only to return, disappointed but not cast down, to the step
upon which the other slept, head upon knees, waiting the summons to wake
and watch.

Their mute sorrow appealed to me, then doing night duty in the newspaper
office across the way, and I tried to help them in their search for the
lost Yette. They accepted my help gratefully, trustfully, but without loud
demonstration. Together we searched the police records, the hospitals, the
morgue, and the long register of the river's dead. She was not there.
Having made sure of this, we turned to the children's asylums. We had a
description of Yette sent to each and every one, with the minutest
particulars concerning her and her disappearance, but no word came back in
response. A year passed, and we were compelled at last to give over the
search. It seemed as if every means of finding out what had become of the
child had been exhausted, and all alike had failed.

During the long search, I had occasion to go more than once to the
Lubinskys' home. They lived up three flights, in one of the big barracks
that give to the lower end of Essex street the appearance of a deep black
cañon with cliff-dwellers living in tiers all the way up, their
watch-fires showing like so many dull red eyes through the night. The hall
was pitch-dark, and the whole building redolent of the slum; but in the
stuffy little room where the peddler lived there was, in spite of it all,
an atmosphere of home that set it sharply apart from the rest. One of
these visits I will always remember. I had stumbled in, unthinking, upon
their Sabbath-eve meal. The candles were lighted, and the children
gathered about the table; at its head, the father, every trace of the
timid, shrinking peddler of Mulberry street laid aside with the week's
toil, was invoking the Sabbath blessing upon his house and all it
harbored. I saw him turn, with a quiver of the lip, to a vacant seat
between him and the mother; and it was then that I noticed the baby's high
chair, empty, but kept ever waiting for the little wanderer. I understood;
and in the strength of domestic affection that burned with unquenched
faith in the dark tenement after the many months of weary failure I read
the history of this strange people that in every land and in every day has
conquered even the slum with the hope of home.

It was not to be put to shame here, either. Yette returned, after all, and
the way of it came near being stranger than all the rest. Two long years
had passed, and the memory of her and hers had long since faded out of
Mulberry street, when, in the overhauling of one of the children's homes
we thought we had canvassed thoroughly, the child turned up, as
unaccountably as she had been lost. All that I ever learned about it was
that she had been brought there, picked up by some one in the street,
probably, and, after more or less inquiry that had failed to connect with
the search at our end of the line, had been included in their flock on
some formal commitment, and had stayed there. Not knowing her name,--she
could not tell it herself, to be understood,--they had given her one of
their own choosing; and thus disguised, she might have stayed there
forever but for the fortunate chance that cast her up to the surface once
more, and gave the clue to her identity at last. Even then her father had
nearly as much trouble in proving his title to his child as he had had in
looking for her, but in the end he made it good. The frock she had worn
when she was lost proved the missing link. The mate of it was still
carefully laid away in the tenement. So Yette returned to fill the empty
chair at the Sabbath board, and the peddler's faith was justified.

       *       *       *       *       *

My other chip from the maelstrom was a lad half grown. He dropped into my
office as if out of the clouds, one long and busy day, when, tired and out
of sorts, I sat wishing my papers and the world in general in Halifax. I
had not heard the knock, and when I looked up, there stood my boy, a
stout, square-shouldered lad, with heavy cowhide boots and dull, honest
eyes--eyes that looked into mine as if with a question they were about to
put, and then gave it up, gazing straight ahead, stolid, impassive. It
struck me that I had seen that face before, and I found out immediately
where. The officer of the Children's Aid Society who had brought him
explained that Frands--that was his name--had been in the society's care
five months and over. They had found him drifting in the streets, and,
knowing whither that drift set, had taken him in charge and sent him to
one of their lodging-houses, where he had been since, doing chores and
plodding about in his dull way. That was where I had met him. Now they had
decided that he should go to Florida, if he would, but first they would
like to find out something about him. They had never been able to, beyond
the fact that he was from Denmark. He had put his finger on the map in
the reading-room, one day, and shown them where he came from: that was the
extent of their information on that point. So they had sent him to me to
talk to him in his own tongue and see what I could make of him.

I addressed him in the politest Danish I was master of, and for an instant
I saw the listening, questioning look return; but it vanished almost at
once, and he answered in monosyllables, if at all. Much of what I said
passed him entirely by. He did not seem to understand. By slow stages I
got out of him that his father was a farm-laborer; that he had come over
to look for his cousin, who worked in Passaic, New Jersey, and had found
him,--Heaven knows how!--but had lost him again. Then he had drifted to
New York, where the society's officers had come upon him. He nodded when
told that he was to be sent far away to the country, much as if I had
spoken of some one he had never heard of. We had arrived at this point
when I asked him the name of his native town.

The word he spoke came upon me with all the force of a sudden blow. I had
played in the old village as a boy; all my childhood was bound up in its
memories. For many years now I had not heard its name--not since boyhood
days spoken as he spoke it. Perhaps it was because I was tired: the office
faded away, desk, Headquarters across the street, boy, officer, business,
and all. In their place were the brown heath I loved, the distant hills,
the winding wagon-track, the peat-stacks, and the solitary sheep browsing
on the barrows. Forgotten the thirty years, the seas that rolled between,
the teeming city! I was at home again, a child. And there he stood, the
boy, with it all in his dull, absent look. I read it now as plain as the
day.

"Hua er et no? Ka do ett fostó hua a sejer?"

It plumped out of me in the broad Jutland dialect I had neither heard nor
spoken in half a lifetime, and so astonished me that I nearly fell off my
chair. Sheep, peat-stacks, cairn, and hills all vanished together, and in
place of the sweet heather there was the table with the tiresome papers. I
reached out yearningly after the heath; I had not seen it for such a long
time,--how long it did seem!--and--but in the same breath it was all there
again in the smile that lighted up Frands's broad face like a glint of
sunlight from a leaden sky.

"Joesses, jou," he laughed, "no ka a da saa grou godt."[1]

    [1] My exclamation on finding myself so suddenly translated back to
    Denmark was an impatient "Why, don't you understand me?" His answer
    was, "Lord, yes, now I do, indeed."

It was the first honest Danish word he had heard since he came to this
bewildering land. I read it in his face, no longer heavy or dull; saw it
in the way he followed my speech--spelling the words, as it were, with his
own lips, to lose no syllable; caught it in his glad smile as he went on
telling me about his journey, his home, and his homesickness for the
heath, with a breathless kind of haste, as if, now that at last he had a
chance, he were afraid it was all a dream, and that he would presently
wake up and find it gone. Then the officer pulled my sleeve.

He had coughed once or twice, but neither of us had heard him. Now he held
out a paper he had brought, with an apologetic gesture. It was an
agreement Frands was to sign, if he was going to Florida. I glanced at it.
Florida? Yes, to be sure; oh, yes, Florida. I spoke to the officer, and it
was in the Jutland dialect. I tried again, with no better luck. I saw him
looking at me queerly, as if he thought it was not quite right with me,
either, and then I recovered myself, and got back to the office and to
America; but it was an effort. One does not skip across thirty years and
two oceans, at my age, so easily as that.

And then the dull look came back into Frands's eyes, and he nodded
stolidly. Yes, he would go to Florida. The papers were made out, and off
he went, after giving me a hearty hand-shake that warranted he would come
out right when he became accustomed to the new country; but he took
something with him which it hurt me to part with.

       *       *       *       *       *

Frands is long since in Florida, growing up with the country, and little
Yette is a young woman. So long ago was it that the current which sucked
her under cast her up again, that there lives not in the whole street any
one who can recall her loss. I tried to find one only the other day, but
all the old people were dead or had moved away, and of the young, who were
very anxious to help me, scarcely one was born at that time. But still the
maelstrom drags down its victims; and far away lies my Danish heath under
the gray October sky, hidden behind the seas.



THE SLIPPER-MAKER'S FAST


Isaac Josephs, slipper-maker, sat up on the fifth floor of his
Allen-street tenement, in the gray of the morning, to finish the task he
had set himself before Yom Kippur. Three days and three nights he had
worked without sleep, almost without taking time to eat, to make ready the
two dozen slippers that were to enable him to fast the fourth day and
night for conscience' sake, and now they were nearly done. As he saw the
end of his task near, he worked faster and faster, while the tenement
slept.

Three years he had slaved for the sweater, stinted and starved himself,
before he had saved enough to send for his wife and children, awaiting his
summons in the city by the Black Sea. Since they came they had slaved and
starved together; for wages had become steadily less, work more grinding,
and hours longer and later. Still, of that he thought little. They had
known little else, there or here, and they were together now. The past was
dead; the future was their own, even in the Allen-street tenement, toiling
night and day at starvation wages. To-morrow was the feast, their first
Yom Kippur since they had come together again,--Esther, his wife, and Ruth
and little Ben,--the feast when, priest and patriarch of his own house, he
might forget his bondage and be free. Poor little Ben! The hand that
smoothed the soft leather on the last took a tenderer, lingering touch as
he glanced toward the stool where the child had sat watching him work till
his eyes grew small. Brave little Ben, almost a baby yet, but so patient,
so wise, and so strong!

The deep breathing of the sleeping children reached him from their crib.
He smiled and listened, with the half-finished slipper in his hand. As he
sat thus, a great drowsiness came upon him. He nodded once, twice; his
hands sank into his lap, his head fell forward upon his chest. In the
silence of the morning he slept, worn out with utter weariness.

He awoke with a guilty start to find the first rays of the dawn struggling
through his window, and his task yet undone. With desperate energy he
seized the unfinished slipper to resume his work. His unsteady hand upset
the little lamp by his side, upon which his burnishing-iron was heating.
The oil blazed up on the floor and ran toward the nearly finished pile of
work. The cloth on the table caught fire. In a fever of terror and
excitement, the slipper-maker caught it in his hands, wrung it, and tore
at it to smother the flames. His hands were burned, but what of that? The
slippers, the slippers! If they were burned, it was ruin. There would be
no Yom Kippur, no feast of Atonement, no fast--rather, no end of it;
starvation for him and his.

He beat the fire with his hands and trampled it with his feet as it burned
and spread on the floor. His hair and his beard caught fire. With a
despairing shriek he gave it up and fell before the precious slippers,
barring the way of the flames to them with his body.

The shriek woke his wife. She sprang out of bed, snatched up a blanket,
and threw it upon the fire. It went out, was smothered under the blanket.
The slipper-maker sat up, panting and grateful. His Yom Kippur was saved.

The tenement awoke to hear of the fire in the morning, when all Jewtown
was stirring with preparations for the feast. The slipper-maker's wife was
setting the house to rights for the holiday then. Two half-naked children
played about her knees, asking eager questions about it. Asked if her
husband had often to work so hard, and what he made by it, she shrugged
her shoulders and said: "The rent and a crust."

And yet all this labor and effort to enable him to fast one day according
to the old dispensation, when all the rest of the days he fasted according
to the new!



PAOLO'S AWAKENING


Paolo sat cross-legged on his bench, stitching away for dear life. He
pursed his lips and screwed up his mouth into all sorts of odd shapes with
the effort, for it was an effort. He was only eight, and you would
scarcely have imagined him over six, as he sat there sewing like a real
little tailor; only Paolo knew but one seam, and that a hard one. Yet he
held the needle and felt the edge with it in quite a grown-up way, and
pulled the thread just as far as his short arm would reach. His mother sat
on a stool by the window, where she could help him when he got into a
snarl,--as he did once in a while, in spite of all he could do,--or when
the needle had to be threaded. Then she dropped her own sewing, and,
patting him on the head, said he was a good boy.

Paolo felt very proud and big then, that he was able to help his mother,
and he worked even more carefully and faithfully than before, so that the
boss should find no fault. The shouts of the boys in the block, playing
duck-on-a-rock down in the street, came in through the open window, and he
laughed as he heard them. He did not envy them, though he liked well
enough to romp with the others. His was a sunny temper, content with what
came; besides, his supper was at stake, and Paolo had a good appetite.
They were in sober earnest working for dear life--Paolo and his mother.

"Pants" for the sweater in Stanton street was what they were making;
little knickerbockers for boys of Paolo's own age. "Twelve pants for ten
cents," he said, counting on his fingers. The mother brought them once a
week--a big bundle which she carried home on her head--to have the buttons
put on, fourteen on each pair, the bottoms turned up, and a ribbon sewed
fast to the back seam inside. That was called finishing. When work was
brisk--and it was not always so since there had been such frequent strikes
in Stanton street--they could together make the rent-money, and even more,
as Paolo was learning and getting a stronger grip on the needle week by
week. The rent was six dollars a month for a dingy basement room, in which
it was twilight even on the brightest days, and a dark little cubbyhole,
where it was always midnight, and where there was just room for a bed of
old boards, no more. In there slept Paolo with his uncle; his mother made
her bed on the floor of the "kitchen," as they called it.

The three made the family. There used to be four; but one stormy night in
winter Paolo's father had not come home. The uncle came alone, and the
story he told made the poor home in the basement darker and drearier for
many a day than it had yet been. The two men worked together for a padrone
on the scows. They were in the crew that went out that day to the
dumping-ground, far outside the harbor. It was a dangerous journey in a
rough sea. The half-frozen Italians clung to the great heaps like so many
frightened flies, when the waves rose and tossed the unwieldy scows about,
bumping one against the other, though they were strung out in a long row
behind the tug, quite a distance apart. One sea washed entirely over the
last scow and nearly upset it. When it floated even again, two of the
crew were missing, one of them Paolo's father. They had been washed away
and lost, miles from shore. No one ever saw them again.

The widow's tears flowed for her dead husband, whom she could not even see
laid in a grave which the priest had blessed. The good father spoke to her
of the sea as a vast God's-acre, over which the storms are forever
chanting anthems in his praise to whom the secrets of its depths are
revealed; but she thought of it only as the cruel destroyer that had
robbed her of her husband, and her tears fell faster. Paolo cried, too:
partly because his mother cried; partly, if the truth must be told,
because he was not to have a ride to the cemetery in the splendid coach.
Giuseppe Salvatore, in the corner house, had never ceased talking of the
ride he had when his father died, the year before. Pietro and Jim went
along, too, and rode all the way behind the hearse with black plumes. It
was a sore subject with Paolo, for he was in school that day.

And then he and his mother dried their tears and went to work. Henceforth
there was to be little else for them. The luxury of grief is not among the
few luxuries which Mott-street tenements afford. Paolo's life, after
that, was lived mainly with the pants on his hard bench in the rear
tenement. His routine of work was varied by the household duties, which he
shared with his mother. There were the meals to get, few and plain as they
were. Paolo was the cook, and not infrequently, when a building was being
torn down in the neighborhood, he furnished the fuel as well. Those were
his off days, when he put the needle away and foraged with the other
children, dragging old beams and carrying burdens far beyond his years.

The truant officer never found his way to Paolo's tenement to discover
that he could neither read nor write, and, what was more, would probably
never learn. It would have been of little use, for the public schools
thereabouts were crowded, and Paolo could not have got into one of them if
he had tried. The teacher from the Industrial School, which he had
attended for one brief season while his father was alive, called at long
intervals, and brought him once a plant, which he set out in his mother's
window-garden and nursed carefully ever after. The "garden" was contained
within an old starch-box, which had its place on the window-sill since
the policeman had ordered the fire-escape to be cleared. It was a
kitchen-garden with vegetables, and was almost all the green there was in
the landscape. From one or two other windows in the yard there peeped
tufts of green; but of trees there was none in sight--nothing but the bare
clothes-poles with their pulley-lines stretching from every window.

Beside the cemetery plot in the next block there was not an open spot or
breathing-place, certainly not a playground, within reach of that great
teeming slum that harbored more than a hundred thousand persons, young and
old. Even the graveyard was shut in by a high brick wall, so that a
glimpse of the greensward over the old mounds was to be caught only
through the spiked iron gates, the key to which was lost, or by standing
on tiptoe and craning one's neck. The dead there were of more account,
though they had been forgotten these many years, than the living children
who gazed so wistfully upon the little paradise through the barred gates,
and were chased by the policeman when he came that way. Something like
this thought was in Paolo's mind when he stood at sunset and peered in at
the golden rays falling athwart the green, but he did not know it. Paolo
was not a philosopher, but he loved beauty and beautiful things, and was
conscious of a great hunger which there was nothing in his narrow world to
satisfy.

Certainly not in the tenement. It was old and rickety and wretched, in
keeping with the slum of which it formed a part. The whitewash was peeling
off the walls, the stairs were patched, and the door-step long since worn
entirely away. It was hard to be decent in such a place, but the widow did
the best she could. Her rooms were as neat as the general dilapidation
would permit. On the shelf where the old clock stood, flanked by the best
crockery, most of it cracked and yellow with age, there was red and green
paper cut in scallops very nicely. Garlic and onions hung in strings over
the stove, and the red peppers that grew in the starch-box at the window
gave quite a cheerful appearance to the room. In the corner, under a cheap
print of the Virgin Mary with the Child, a small night-light in a blue
glass was always kept burning. It was a kind of illumination in honor of
the Mother of God, through which the widow's devout nature found
expression. Paolo always looked upon it as a very solemn show. When he
said his prayers, the sweet, patient eyes in the picture seemed to watch
him with a mild look that made him turn over and go to sleep with a sigh
of contentment. He felt then that he had not been altogether bad, and that
he was quite safe in their keeping.

Yet Paolo's life was not wholly without its bright spots. Far from it.
There were the occasional trips to the dump with Uncle Pasquale's dinner,
where there was always sport to be had in chasing the rats that overran
the place, fighting for the scraps and bones the trimmers had rescued from
the scows. There were so many of them, and so bold were they, that an old
Italian who could no longer dig was employed to sit on a bale of rags and
throw things at them, lest they carry off the whole establishment. When he
hit one, the rest squealed and scampered away; but they were back again in
a minute, and the old man had his hands full pretty nearly all the time.
Paolo thought that his was a glorious job, as any boy might, and hoped
that he would soon be old, too, and as important. And then the men at the
cage--a great wire crate into which the rags from the ash-barrels were
stuffed, to be plunged into the river, where the tide ran through them
and carried some of the loose dirt away. That was called washing the rags.
To Paolo it was the most exciting thing in the world. What if some day the
crate should bring up a fish, a real fish, from the river? When he thought
of it, he wished that he might be sitting forever on that string-piece,
fishing with the rag-cage, particularly when he was tired of stitching and
turning over, a whole long day.

Besides, there were the real holidays, when there was a marriage, a
christening, or a funeral in the tenement, particularly when a baby died
whose father belonged to one of the many benefit societies. A brass band
was the proper thing then, and the whole block took a vacation to follow
the music and the white hearse out of their ward into the next. But the
chief of all the holidays came once a year, when the feast of St.
Rocco--the patron saint of the village where Paolo's parents had
lived--was celebrated. Then a really beautiful altar was erected at one
end of the yard, with lights and pictures on it. The rear fire-escapes in
the whole row were decked with sheets, and made into handsome
balconies,--reserved seats, as it were,--on which the tenants sat and
enjoyed it. A band in gorgeous uniforms played three whole days in the
yard, and the men in their holiday clothes stepped up, bowed, and crossed
themselves, and laid their gifts on the plate which St. Rocco's namesake,
the saloon-keeper in the block, who had got up the celebration, had put
there for them. In the evening they set off great strings of fire-crackers
in the street, in the saint's honor, until the police interfered once and
forbade that. Those were great days for Paolo always.

But the fun Paolo loved best of all was when he could get in a corner by
himself, with no one to disturb him, and build castles and things out of
some abandoned clay or mortar, or wet sand if there was nothing better.
The plastic material took strange shapes of beauty under his hands. It was
as if life had been somehow breathed into it by his touch, and it ordered
itself as none of the other boys could make it. His fingers were tipped
with genius, but he did not know it, for his work was only for the hour.
He destroyed it as soon as it was made, to try for something better. What
he had made never satisfied him--one of the surest proofs that he was
capable of great things, had he only known it. But, as I said, he did
not.

The teacher from the Industrial School came upon him one day, sitting in
the corner by himself, and breathing life into the mud. She stood and
watched him awhile, unseen, getting interested, almost excited, as he
worked on. As for Paolo, he was solving the problem that had eluded him so
long, and had eyes or thought for nothing else. As his fingers ran over
the soft clay, the needle, the hard bench, the pants, even the sweater
himself, vanished out of his sight, out of his life, and he thought only
of the beautiful things he was fashioning to express the longing in his
soul, which nothing mortal could shape. Then, suddenly, seeing and
despairing, he dashed it to pieces, and came back to earth and to the
tenement.

But not to the pants and the sweater. What the teacher had seen that day
had set her to thinking, and her visit resulted in a great change for
Paolo. She called at night and had a long talk with his mother and uncle
through the medium of the priest, who interpreted when they got to a hard
place. Uncle Pasquale took but little part in the conversation. He sat by
and nodded most of the time, assured by the presence of the priest that
it was all right. The widow cried a good deal, and went more than once to
take a look at the boy, lying snugly tucked in his bed in the inner room,
quite unconscious of the weighty matters that were being decided
concerning him. She came back the last time drying her eyes, and laid both
her hands in the hand of the teacher. She nodded twice and smiled through
her tears, and the bargain was made. Paolo's slavery was at an end.

His friend came the next day and took him away, dressed up in his best
clothes, to a large school where there were many children, not of his own
people, and where he was received kindly. There dawned that day a new life
for Paolo, for in the afternoon trays of modeling-clay were brought in,
and the children were told to mold in it objects that were set before
them. Paolo's teacher stood by, and nodded approvingly as his little
fingers played so deftly with the clay, his face all lighted up with joy
at this strange kind of a school-lesson.

After that he had a new and faithful friend, and, as he worked away,
putting his whole young soul into the tasks that filled it with radiant
hope, other friends, rich and powerful, found him out in his slum. They
brought better-paying work for his mother than sewing pants for the
sweater, and Uncle Pasquale abandoned the scows to become a porter in a
big shipping-house on the West Side. The little family moved out of the
old home into a better tenement, though not far away. Paolo's loyal heart
clung to the neighborhood where he had played and dreamed as a child, and
he wanted it to share in his good fortune, now that it had come. As the
days passed, the neighbors who had known him as little Paolo came to speak
of him as one who some day would be a great artist and make them all
proud. He laughed at that, and said that the first bust he would hew in
marble should be that of his patient, faithful mother; and with that he
gave her a little hug, and danced out of the room, leaving her to look
after him with glistening eyes, brimming over with happiness.

But Paolo's dream was to have another awakening. The years passed and
brought their changes. In the manly youth who came forward as his name was
called in the academy, and stood modestly at the desk to receive his
diploma, few would have recognized the little ragamuffin who had dragged
bundles of fire-wood to the rookery in the alley, and carried Uncle
Pasquale's dinner-pail to the dump. But the audience gathered to witness
the commencement exercises knew it all, and greeted him with a hearty
welcome that recalled his early struggles and his hard-won success. It was
Paolo's day of triumph. The class honors and the medal were his. The bust
that had won both stood in the hall crowned with laurel--an Italian
peasant woman, with sweet, gentle face, in which there lingered the
memories of the patient eyes that had lulled the child to sleep in the old
days in the alley. His teacher spoke to him, spoke of him, with pride in
voice and glance; spoke tenderly of his old mother of the tenement, of his
faithful work, of the loyal manhood that ever is the soul and badge of
true genius. As he bade him welcome to the fellowship of artists who in
him honored the best and noblest in their own aspirations, the emotion of
the audience found voice once more. Paolo, flushed, his eyes filled with
happy tears, stumbled out, he knew not how, with the coveted parchment in
his hand.

Home to his mother! It was the one thought in his mind as he walked
toward the big bridge to cross to the city of his home--to tell her of his
joy, of his success. Soon she would no longer be poor. The day of hardship
was over. He could work now and earn money, much money, and the world
would know and honor Paolo's mother as it had honored him. As he walked
through the foggy winter day toward the river, where delayed throngs
jostled one another at the bridge entrance, he thought with grateful heart
of the friends who had smoothed the way for him. Ah, not for long the fog
and slush! The medal carried with it a traveling stipend, and soon the
sunlight of his native land for him and her. He should hear the surf wash
on the shingly beach and in the deep grottoes of which she had sung to him
when a child. Had he not promised her this? And had they not many a time
laughed for very joy at the prospect, the two together?

He picked his way up the crowded stairs, carefully guarding the precious
roll. The crush was even greater than usual. There had been
delay--something wrong with the cable; but a train was just waiting, and
he hurried on board with the rest, little heeding what became of him so
long as the diploma was safe. The train rolled out on the bridge, with
Paolo wedged in the crowd on the platform of the last car, holding the
paper high over his head, where it was sheltered safe from the fog and the
rain and the crush.

Another train backed up, received its load of cross humanity, and vanished
in the mist. The damp gray curtain had barely closed behind it, and the
impatient throng was fretting at a further delay, when consternation
spread in the bridge-house. Word had come up from the track that something
had happened. Trains were stalled all along the route. While the dread and
uncertainty grew, a messenger ran up, out of breath. There had been a
collision. The last train had run into the one preceding it, in the fog.
One was killed, others were injured. Doctors and ambulances were wanted.

They came with the police, and by and by the partly wrecked train was
hauled up to the platform. When the wounded had been taken to the
hospital, they bore from the train the body of a youth, clutching yet in
his hand a torn, blood-stained paper, tied about with a purple ribbon. It
was Paolo. The awakening had come. Brighter skies than those of sunny
Italy had dawned upon him in the gloom and terror of the great crash.
Paolo was at home, waiting for his mother.



THE LITTLE DOLLAR'S CHRISTMAS JOURNEY


"It is too bad," said Mrs. Lee, and she put down the magazine in which she
had been reading of the poor children in the tenements of the great city
that know little of Christmas joys; "no Christmas tree! One of them shall
have one, at any rate. I think this will buy it, and it is so handy to
send. Nobody would know that there was money in the letter." And she
inclosed a coupon in a letter to a professor, a friend in the city, who,
she knew, would have no trouble in finding the child, and had it mailed at
once. Mrs. Lee was a widow whose not too great income was derived from the
interest on some four-per-cent. government bonds which represented the
savings of her husband's life of toil, that was none the less hard
because it was spent in a counting-room and not with shovel and spade.
The coupon looked for all the world like a dollar bill, except that it was
so small that a baby's hand could easily cover it. The United States, the
printing on it said, would pay on demand to the bearer one dollar; and
there was a number on it, just as on a full-grown dollar, that was the
number of the bond from which it had been cut.

The letter traveled all night, and was tossed and sorted and bunched at
the end of its journey in the great gray beehive that never sleeps, day or
night, and where half the tears and joys of the land, including this
account of the little dollar, are checked off unceasingly as first-class
matter or second or third, as the case may be. In the morning it was laid,
none the worse for its journey, at the professor's breakfast-plate. The
professor was a kindly man, and he smiled as he read it. "To procure one
small Christmas tree for a poor tenement," was its errand.

"Little dollar," he said, "I think I know where you are needed." And he
made a note in his book. There were other notes there that made him smile
again as he saw them. They had names set opposite them. One about a
Noah's ark was marked "Vivi." That was the baby; and there was one about a
doll's carriage that had the words "Katie, sure," set over against it. The
professor eyed the list in mock dismay.

"How ever will I do it?" he sighed, as he put on his hat.

"Well, you will have to get Santa Claus to help you, John," said his wife,
buttoning his greatcoat about him. "And, mercy! the duckses' babies! don't
forget them, whatever you do. The baby has been talking about nothing else
since he saw them at the store, the old duck and the two ducklings on
wheels. You know them, John?"

But the professor was gone, repeating to himself as he went down the
garden walk: "The duckses' babies, indeed!" He chuckled as he said it, why
I cannot tell. He was very particular about his grammar, was the
professor, ordinarily. Perhaps it was because it was Christmas eve.

Down-town went the professor; but instead of going with the crowd that was
setting toward Santa Claus's headquarters, in the big Broadway store, he
turned off into a quieter street, leading west. It took him to a narrow
thoroughfare, with five-story tenements frowning on either side, where
the people he met were not so well dressed as those he had left behind,
and did not seem to be in such a hurry of joyful anticipation of the
holiday. Into one of the tenements he went, and, groping his way through a
pitch-dark hall, came to a door 'way back, the last one to the left, at
which he knocked. An expectant voice said, "Come in," and the professor
pushed open the door.

The room was very small, very stuffy, and very dark, so dark that a
smoking kerosene-lamp that burned on a table next the stove hardly lighted
it at all, though it was broad day. A big, unshaven man, who sat on the
bed, rose when he saw the visitor, and stood uncomfortably shifting his
feet and avoiding the professor's eye. The latter's glance was serious,
though not unkind, as he asked the woman with the baby if he had found no
work yet.

"No," she said, anxiously coming to the rescue, "not yet; he was waitin'
for a recommend." But Johnnie had earned two dollars running errands, and,
now there was a big fall of snow, his father might get a job of shoveling.
The woman's face was worried, yet there was a cheerful note in her voice
that somehow made the place seem less discouraging than it was. The baby
she nursed was not much larger than a middle-sized doll. Its little face
looked thin and wan. It had been very sick, she explained, but the doctor
said it was mending now. That was good, said the professor, and patted one
of the bigger children on the head.

There were six of them, of all sizes, from Johnnie, who could run errands,
down. They were busy fixing up a Christmas tree that half filled the room,
though it was of the very smallest. Yes, it was a real Christmas tree,
left over from the Sunday-school stock, and it was dressed up at that.
Pictures from the colored supplement of a Sunday newspaper hung and stood
on every branch, and three pieces of colored glass, suspended on threads
that shone in the smoky lamplight, lent color and real beauty to the show.
The children were greatly tickled.

"John put it up," said the mother, by way of explanation, as the professor
eyed it approvingly. "There ain't nothing to eat on it. If there was, it
wouldn't be there a minute. The childer be always a-searchin' in it."

"But there must be, or else it isn't a real Christmas tree," said the
professor, and brought out the little dollar. "This is a dollar which a
friend gave me for the children's Christmas, and she sends her love with
it. Now, you buy them some things and a few candles, Mrs. Ferguson, and
then a good supper for the rest of the family. Good night, and a Merry
Christmas to you. I think myself the baby is getting better." It had just
opened its eyes and laughed at the tree.

The professor was not very far on his way toward keeping his appointment
with Santa Claus before Mrs. Ferguson was at the grocery laying in her
dinner. A dollar goes a long way when it is the only one in the house; and
when she had everything, including two cents' worth of flitter-gold, four
apples, and five candles for the tree, the grocer footed up her bill on
the bag that held her potatoes--ninety-eight cents. Mrs. Ferguson gave him
the little dollar.

"What's this?" said the grocer, his fat smile turning cold as he laid a
restraining hand on the full basket. "That ain't no good."

"It's a dollar, ain't it?" said the woman, in alarm. "It's all right. I
know the man that give it to me."

"It ain't all right in this store," said the grocer, sternly. "Put them
things back. I want none o' that."

The woman's eyes filled with tears as she slowly took the lid off the
basket and lifted out the precious bag of potatoes. They were waiting for
that dinner at home. The children were even then camping on the door-step
to take her in to the tree in triumph. And now--

For the second time a restraining hand was laid upon her basket; but this
time it was not the grocer's. A gentleman who had come in to order a
Christmas turkey had overheard the conversation, and had seen the strange
bill.

"It is all right," he said to the grocer. "Give it to me. Here is a dollar
bill for it of the kind you know. If all your groceries were as honest as
this bill, Mr. Schmidt, it would be a pleasure to trade with you. Don't be
afraid to trust Uncle Sam where you see his promise to pay."

The gentleman held the door open for Mrs. Ferguson, and heard the shout of
the delegation awaiting her on the stoop as he went down the street.

"I wonder where that came from, now," he mused. "Coupons in Bedford
street! I suppose somebody sent it to the woman for a Christmas gift.
Hello! Here are old Thomas and Snowflake. I wonder if it wouldn't surprise
her old stomach if I gave her a Christmas gift of oats. If only the shock
doesn't kill her! Thomas! Oh, Thomas!"

The old man thus hailed stopped and awaited the gentleman's coming. He was
a cartman who did odd jobs through the ward, thus picking up a living for
himself and the white horse, which the boys had dubbed Snowflake in a
spirit of fun. They were a well-matched old pair, Thomas and his horse.
One was not more decrepit than the other. There was a tradition along the
docks, where Thomas found a job now and then, and Snowflake an occasional
straw to lunch on, that they were of an age, but this was denied by
Thomas.

"See here," said the gentleman, as he caught up with them; "I want
Snowflake to keep Christmas, Thomas. Take this and buy him a bag of oats.
And give it to him carefully, do you hear?--not all at once, Thomas. He
isn't used to it."

"Gee whizz!" said the old man, rubbing his eyes with his cap, as his
friend passed out of sight, "oats fer Christmas! G'lang, Snowflake; yer
in luck."

The feed-man put on his spectacles and looked Thomas over at the strange
order. Then he scanned the little dollar, first on one side, then on the
other.

"Never seed one like him," he said. "'Pears to me he is mighty short. Wait
till I send round to the hockshop. He'll know, if anybody."

The man at the pawnshop did not need a second look. "Why, of course," he
said, and handed a dollar bill over the counter. "Old Thomas, did you say?
Well, I am blamed if the old man ain't got a stocking after all. They're a
sly pair, he and Snowflake."

Business was brisk that day at the pawnshop. The door-bell tinkled early
and late, and the stock on the shelves grew. Bundle was added to bundle.
It had been a hard winter so far. Among the callers in the early afternoon
was a young girl in a gingham dress and without other covering, who stood
timidly at the counter and asked for three dollars on a watch, a keepsake
evidently, which she was loath to part with. Perhaps it was the last
glimpse of brighter days. The pawnbroker was doubtful; it was not worth
so much. She pleaded hard, while he compared the number of the movement
with a list sent in from Police Headquarters.

"Two," he said decisively at last, snapping the case shut--"two or
nothing." The girl handed over the watch with a troubled sigh. He made out
a ticket and gave it to her with a handful of silver change.

Was it the sigh and her evident distress, or was it the little dollar? As
she turned to go, he called her back:

"Here, it is Christmas!" he said. "I'll run the risk." And he added the
coupon to the little heap.

The girl looked at it and at him questioningly.

"It is all right," he said; "you can take it; I'm running short of change.
Bring it back if they won't take it. I'm good for it." Uncle Sam had
achieved a backer.

In Grand street the holiday crowds jammed every store in their eager hunt
for bargains. In one of them, at the knit-goods counter, stood the girl
from the pawnshop, picking out a thick, warm shawl. She hesitated between
a gray and a maroon-colored one, and held them up to the light.

"For you?" asked the salesgirl, thinking to aid her. She glanced at her
thin dress and shivering form as she said it.

"No," said the girl; "for mother; she is poorly and needs it." She chose
the gray, and gave the salesgirl her handful of money.

The girl gave back the coupon.

"They don't go," she said; "give me another, please."

"But I haven't got another," said the girl, looking apprehensively at the
shawl. "The--Mr. Feeney said it was all right. Take it to the desk,
please, and ask."

The salesgirl took the bill and the shawl, and went to the desk. She came
back, almost immediately, with the storekeeper, who looked sharply at the
customer and noted the number of the coupon.

"It is all right," he said, satisfied apparently by the inspection; "a
little unusual, only. We don't see many of them. Can I help you, miss?"
And he attended her to the door.

In the street there was even more of a Christmas show going on than in the
stores. Peddlers of toys, of mottos, of candles, and of knickknacks of
every description stood in rows along the curb, and were driving a lively
trade. Their push-carts were decorated with fir-branches--even whole
Christmas trees. One held a whole cargo of Santa Clauses in a bower of
green, each one with a cedar-bush in his folded arms, as a soldier carries
his gun. The lights were blazing out in the stores, and the hucksters'
torches were flaring at the corners. There was Christmas in the very air
and Christmas in the storekeeper's till. It had been a very busy day. He
thought of it with a satisfied nod as he stood a moment breathing the
brisk air of the winter day, absently fingering the coupon the girl had
paid for the shawl. A thin voice at his elbow said: "Merry Christmas, Mr.
Stein! Here's yer paper."

It was the newsboy who left the evening papers at the door every night.
The storekeeper knew him, and something about the struggle they had at
home to keep the roof over their heads. Mike was a kind of protégé of his.
He had helped to get him his route.

"Wait a bit, Mike," he said. "You'll be wanting your Christmas from me.
Here's a dollar. It's just like yourself: it is small, but it is all
right. You take it home and have a good time."

Was it the message with which it had been sent forth from far away in the
country, or what was it? Whatever it was, it was just impossible for the
little dollar to lie still in the pocket while there was want to be
relieved, mouths to be filled, or Christmas lights to be lit. It just
couldn't, and it didn't.

Mike stopped around the corner of Allen street, and gave three whoops
expressive of his approval of Mr. Stein; having done which, he sidled up
to the first lighted window out of range to examine his gift. His
enthusiasm changed to open-mouthed astonishment as he saw the little
dollar. His jaw fell. Mike was not much of a scholar, and could not make
out the inscription on the coupon; but he had heard of shin-plasters as
something they "had in the war," and he took this to be some sort of a
ten-cent piece. The policeman on the block might tell. Just now he and
Mike were hunk. They had made up a little difference they'd had, and if
any one would know, the cop surely would. And off he went in search of
him.

Mr. McCarthy pulled off his gloves, put his club under his arm, and
studied the little dollar with contracted brow. He shook his head as he
handed it back, and rendered the opinion that it was "some dom swindle
that's ag'in' the law." He advised Mike to take it back to Mr. Stein, and
added, as he prodded him in an entirely friendly manner in the ribs with
his locust, that if it had been the week before he might have "run him in"
for having the thing in his possession. As it happened, Mr. Stein was busy
and not to be seen, and Mike went home between hope and fear, with his
doubtful prize.

There was a crowd at the door of the tenement, and Mike saw, before he had
reached it, running, that it clustered about an ambulance that was backed
up to the sidewalk. Just as he pushed his way through the throng it drove
off, its clanging gong scattering the people right and left. A little girl
sat weeping on the top step of the stoop. To her Mike turned for
information.

"Susie, what's up?" he asked, confronting her with his armful of papers.
"Who's got hurted?"

"It's papa," sobbed the girl. "He ain't hurted. He's sick, and he was took
that bad he had to go, an' to-morrer is Christmas, an'--oh, Mike!"

It is not the fashion of Essex street to slop over. Mike didn't. He just
set his mouth to a whistle and took a turn down the hall to think. Susie
was his chum. There were seven in her flat; in his only four, including
two that made wages. He came back from his trip with his mind made up.

"Suse," he said, "come on in. You take this, Suse, see! an' let the kids
have their Christmas. Mr. Stein give it to me. It's a little one, but if
it ain't all right I'll take it back, and get one that is good. Go on,
now, Suse, you hear?" And he was gone.

There was a Christmas tree that night in Susie's flat, with candles and
apples and shining gold on, but the little dollar did not pay for it. That
rested securely in the purse of the charity visitor who had come that
afternoon, just at the right time, as it proved. She had heard the story
of Mike and his sacrifice, and had herself given the children a one-dollar
bill for the coupon. They had their Christmas, and a joyful one, too, for
the lady went up to the hospital and brought back word that Susie's father
would be all right with rest and care, which he was now getting. Mike came
in and helped them "sack" the tree when the lady was gone. He gave three
more whoops for Mr. Stein, three for the lady, and three for the hospital
doctor to even things up. Essex street was all right that night.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Do you know, professor," said that learned man's wife, when, after
supper, he had settled down in his easy-chair to admire the Noah's ark and
the duckses' babies and the rest, all of which had arrived safely by
express ahead of him and were waiting to be detailed to their appropriate
stockings while the children slept--"do you know, I heard such a story of
a little newsboy to-day. It was at the meeting of our district charity
committee this evening. Miss Linder, our visitor, came right from the
house." And she told the story of Mike and Susie.

"And I just got the little dollar bill to keep. Here it is." She took the
coupon out of her purse and passed it to her husband.

"Eh! what?" said the professor, adjusting his spectacles and reading the
number. "If here isn't my little dollar come back to me! Why, where have
you been, little one? I left you in Bedford street this morning, and here
you come by way of Essex. Well, I declare!" And he told his wife how he
had received it in a letter in the morning.

"John," she said, with a sudden impulse,--she didn't know, and neither
did he, that it was the charm of the little dollar that was working
again,--"John, I guess it is a sin to stop it. Jones's children won't have
any Christmas tree, because they can't afford it. He told me so this
morning when he fixed the furnace. And the baby is sick. Let us give them
the little dollar. He is here in the kitchen now."

And they did; and the Joneses, and I don't know how many others, had a
Merry Christmas because of the blessed little dollar that carried
Christmas cheer and good luck wherever it went. For all I know, it may be
going yet. Certainly it is a sin to stop it, and if any one has locked it
up without knowing that he locked up the Christmas dollar, let him start
it right out again. He can tell it easily enough. If he just looks at the
number, that's the one.



A PROPOSAL ON THE ELEVATED


The sleeper on the 3:35 A. M. elevated train from the Harlem bridge was
awake for once. The sleeper is the last car in the train, and has its own
set that snores nightly in the same seats, grunts with the fixed
inhospitality of the commuter at the intrusion of a stranger, and is on
terms with Conrad, the German conductor, who knows each one of his
passengers and wakes him up at his station. The sleeper is unique. It is
run for the benefit of those who ride in it, not for the company's. It not
only puts them off properly; it waits for them, if they are not there. The
conductor knows that they will come. They are men, mostly, with small
homes beyond the bridge, whose work takes them down-town to the markets,
the Post-office, and the busy marts of the city long before cock-crow.
The day begins in New York at all hours.

Usually the sleeper is all that its name implies, but this morning it was
as far from it as could be. A party of young people, fresh from a
neighborhood hop, had come on board and filled the rear end of the car.
Their feet tripped yet to the dance, and snatches of the latest waltz
floated through the train between peals of laughter and little girlish
shrieks. The regulars glared, discontented, in strange seats, unable to go
to sleep. Only the railroad yardmen dropped off promptly as they came in.
Theirs was the shortest ride, and they could least afford to lose time.
Two old Irishmen, flanked by their dinner-pails, gravely discussed the
Henry George campaign.

Across the passage sat a group of three apart--a young man, a girl, and a
little elderly woman with lines of care and hard work in her patient face.
She guarded carefully three umbrellas, a very old and faded one, and two
that were new and of silk, which she held in her lap, though it had not
rained for a month. He was a likely young fellow, tall and straight, with
the thoughtful eye of a student. His dark hair fell nearly to his
shoulders, and his coat had a foreign cut. The girl was a typical child
of the city, slight and graceful of form, dressed in good taste, and with
a bright, winning face. The two chatted confidentially together, forgetful
of all else, while mama, between them, nodded sleepily in her seat.

A sudden burst of white light flooded the car.

"Hey! Ninety-ninth street!" called the conductor, and rattled the door.
The railroad men tumbled out pell-mell, all but one. Conrad shook him, and
he went out, mechanically blinking his eyes.

"Eighty-ninth next!" from the doorway.

The laughter at the rear end of the car had died out. The young people, in
a quieter mood, were humming a popular love-song. Presently above the rest
rose a clear tenor:

  Oh, promise me that some day you and I
  Will take our love together to some sky
  Where we can be alone and faith renew--

The clatter of the train as it flew over a switch drowned the rest. When
the last wheel had banged upon the frog, I heard the young student's
voice, in the soft accents of southern Europe:

"Wenn ich in Wien war--" He was telling her of his home and his people in
the language of his childhood. I glanced across. She sat listening with
kindling eyes. Mama slumbered sweetly; her worn old hands clutched
unconsciously the umbrellas in her lap. The two Irishmen, having settled
the campaign, had dropped to sleep, too. In the crowded car the two were
alone. His hand sought hers and met it half-way.

"Forty-seventh!" There was a clatter of tin cans below. The contingent of
milkmen scrambled out of their seats and off for the depot. In the lull
that followed their going, the tenor rose from the last seat:

  Those first sweet violets of early spring,
  Which come in whispers, thrill us both, and sing
  Of love unspeakable that is to be,
  Oh, promise me! Oh, promise me!

The two young people faced each other. He had thrown his hat upon the seat
beside him and held her hand fast, gesticulating with his free hand as he
spoke rapidly, eloquently, eagerly of his prospects and his hopes. Her own
toyed nervously with his coat-lapel, twisting and twirling a button as he
went on. What he said might have been heard to the other end of the car,
had there been anybody to listen. He was to live here always; his uncle
would open a business in New York, of which he was to have charge, when he
had learned to know the country and its people. It would not be long now,
and then--and then--

"Twenty-third street!"

There was a long stop after the levy for the ferries had left. The
conductor went out on the platform and consulted with the ticket-chopper.
He was scrutinizing his watch for the second time, when the faint jingle
of an east-bound car was heard.

"Here she comes!" said the ticket-chopper. A shout, and a man bounded up
the steps, three at a time. It was an engineer who, to make connection
with his locomotive at Chatham Square, must catch that train.

"Hullo, Conrad! Nearly missed you," he said as he jumped on the car,
breathless.

"All right, Jack." And the conductor jerked the bell-rope. "You made it,
though." The train sped on.

Two lives, heretofore running apart, were hastening to a union. The lovers
had seen nothing, heard nothing but each other. His eyes burned as hers
met his and fell before them. His head bent lower until his face almost
touched hers. His dark hair lay against her blond curls. The ostrich
feather on her hat swept his shoulder.

"Mögtest Du mich haben?" he entreated.

Above the grinding of the wheels as the train slowed up for the station a
block ahead, pleaded the tenor:

  Oh, promise me that you will take my hand,
  The most unworthy in this lonely land--

Did she speak? Her face was hidden, but the blond curls moved with a nod
so slight that only a lover's eye could see it. He seized her disengaged
hand. The conductor stuck his head into the car.

"Fourteenth street!"

A squad of stout, florid men with butchers' aprons started for the door.
The girl arose hastily.

"Mama!" she called, "steh' auf! Es ist Fourteenth street."

The little woman woke up, gathered the umbrellas in her arms, and bustled
after the marketmen, her daughter leading the way. He sat as one dreaming.

"Ach!" he sighed, and ran his hand through his dark hair, "so rasch!"

And he went out after them.



DEATH COMES TO CAT ALLEY


The dead-wagon stopped at the mouth of Cat Alley. Its coming made a
commotion among the children in the block, and the Chief of Police looked
out of his window across the street, his attention arrested by the noise.
He saw a little pine coffin carried into the alley under the arm of the
driver, a shoal of ragged children trailing behind. After a while the
driver carried it out again, shoved it in the wagon, where there were
other boxes like it, and, slamming the door, drove off.

A red-eyed woman watched it down the street until it disappeared around
the corner. Then she wiped her eyes with her apron and went in.

It was only Mary Welsh's baby that was dead, but to her the alley, never
cheerful on the brightest of days, seemed hopelessly desolate to-day. It
was all she had. Her first baby died in teething.

Cat Alley is a back-yard illustration of the theory of evolution. The
fittest survive, and the Welsh babies were not among them. It would be
strange if they were. Mike, the father, works in a Crosby-street factory
when he does work. It is necessary to put it that way, for, though he has
not been discharged, he had only one day's work this week and none at all
last week. He gets one dollar a day, and the one dollar he earned these
last two weeks his wife had to draw to pay the doctor with when the baby
was so sick. They have had nothing else coming in, and but for the wages
of Mrs. Welsh's father, who lives with them, there would have been nothing
in the house to eat.

The baby came three weeks ago, right in the hardest of the hard times. It
was never strong enough to nurse, and the milk bought in Mulberry street
is not for babies to grow on who are not strong enough to stand anything.
Little John never grew at all. He lay upon his pillow this morning as
white and wan and tiny as the day he came into a world that didn't want
him.

Yesterday, just before he died, he sat upon his grandmother's lap and
laughed and crowed for the first time in his brief life, "just like he was
talkin' to me," said the old woman, with a smile that struggled hard to
keep down a sob. "I suppose it was a sort of inward cramp," she added--a
mother's explanation of baby laugh in Cat Alley.

The mother laid out the little body on the only table in their room, in
its only little white slip, and covered it with a piece of discarded lace
curtain to keep off the flies. They had no ice, and no money to pay an
undertaker for opening the little grave in Calvary, where their first baby
lay. All night she sat by the improvised bier, her tears dropping
silently.

When morning came and brought the woman with the broken arm from across
the hall to sit by her, it was sadly evident that the burial of the child
must be hastened. It was not well to look at the little face and the
crossed baby hands, and even the mother saw it.

"Let the trench take him, in God's name; he has his soul," said the
grandmother, crossing herself devoutly.

An undertaker had promised to put the baby in the grave in Calvary for
twelve dollars and take two dollars a week until it was paid. But how can
a man raise two dollars a week, with only one coming in in two weeks, and
that gone to the doctor? With a sigh Mike Welsh went for the "lines" that
must smooth its way to the trench in the Potter's Field, and then to Mr.
Blake's for the dead-wagon. It was the hardest walk of his life.

And so it happened that the dead-wagon halted at Cat Alley and that little
John took his first and last ride. A little cross and a number on the pine
box, cut in the lid with a chisel, and his brief history was closed, with
only the memory of the little life remaining to the Welshes to help them
fight the battle alone.

In the middle of the night, when the dead-lamp burned dimly at the bottom
of the alley, a policeman brought to Police Headquarters a wailing child,
an outcast found in the area of a Lexington-avenue house by a citizen, who
handed it over to the police. Until its cries were smothered in the police
nursery up-stairs with the ever-ready bottle, they reached the bereaved
mother in Cat Alley and made her tears drop faster. As the dead-wagon
drove away with its load in the morning, Matron Travers came out with the
now sleeping waif in her arms. She, too, was bound for Mr. Blake's.

The two took their ride on the same boat--the living child, whom no one
wanted, to Randall's Island, to be enlisted with its number in the army of
the city's waifs, strong and able to fight its way; the dead, for whom a
mother's heart yearns, to its place in the great ditch.



WHY IT HAPPENED


Yom Kippur being at hand, all the East Side was undergoing a scrubbing,
the people included. It is part of the religious observance of the chief
Jewish holiday that every worshiper presenting himself at the synagogue to
be cleansed from sin must first have washed his body clean.

Hence the numerous tenement bath-houses on the East Side are run night and
day in Yom Kippur week to their full capacity. There are so many more
people than tubs that there is no rest for the attendants even in the
small hours of the morning.

They are not palatial establishments exactly, these _mikwehs_
(bath-houses). Most of them are in keeping with the tenements that harbor
them; but they fill the bill. One, at 20 Orchard street, has even a
Turkish and a Russian attachment. It is one of the most pretentious. For
thirty-five cents one can be roasted by dry heat or boiled with steam. The
unhappy experience of Jacob Epstein shows that it is even possible to be
boiled literally and in earnest in hot water at the same price. He chose
that way unwittingly, and the choice came near causing a riot.

Epstein came to the bath-house with a party of friends at 2 A. M., in
quest of a Russian bath. They had been steamed, and were disporting
themselves to their heart's content when the thing befell the tailor.
Epstein is a tailor. He went to get a shower-bath in a pail,--where
Russian baths are got for thirty-five cents they are got partly by hand,
as it were,--and in the dim, religious light of the room, the small
gas-jet struggling ineffectually with the steam and darkness, he mistook
the hot-water faucet for the cold. He found out his mistake when he raised
the pail and poured a flood of boiling water over himself.

Then his shrieks filled the house. His companions paused in amazement, and
beheld the tailor dancing on one foot and on the other by turns, yelling:

"Weh! Weh! Ich bin verbrennt!"

They thought he had gone suddenly mad, and joined in the lamentation, till
one of them saw his skin red and parboiled and raising big blisters. Then
they ran with a common accord for their own cold-water pails, and pursued
him, seeking to dash their contents over him.

But the tailor, frantic with pain, thought, if he thought at all, that he
was going to be killed, and yelled louder than ever. His companions'
shouts, joined to his, were heard in the street, and there promptly
gathered a wailing throng that echoed the "Weh! Weh!" from within, and
exchanged opinions between their laments as to who was being killed, and
why.

Policeman Schulem came just in time to prevent a general panic and restore
peace.

Schulem is a valuable man on the East Side. His name alone is enough. It
signifies peace--peace in the language of Ludlow street. The crowd melted
away, and the tailor was taken to the hospital, bewailing his bad luck.

The bath-house keeper was an indignant and injured man. His business was
hurt.

"How did it happen?" he said. "It happened because he is a schlemiehl.
_Teufel!_ he's worse than a schlemiehl; he is a chammer."

Which accounts for it, of course, and explains everything.



THE CHRISTENING IN BOTTLE ALLEY


All Bottle Alley was bidden to the christening. It being Sunday, when
Mulberry street was wont to adjust its differences over the cards and the
wine-cup, it came "heeled," ready for what might befall. From Tomaso, the
rag-picker in the farthest rear cellar, to the Signor Undertaker, mainstay
and umpire in the varying affairs of life, which had a habit in the Bend
of lapsing suddenly upon his professional domain, they were all there, the
men of Malpete's village. The baby was named for the village saint, so
that it was a kind of communal feast as well. Carmen was there with her
man, and Francisco Cessari.

If Carmen had any other name, neither Mulberry street nor the alley knew
it. She was Carmen to them when, seven years before, she had taken up
with Francisco, then a young mountaineer straight as the cedar of his
native hills, the breath of which was yet in the songs with which he wooed
her. Whether the priest had blessed their bonds no one knew or asked. The
Bend only knew that one day, after three years during which the Francisco
tenement had been the scene of more than one jealous quarrel, not, it was
whispered, without cause, the mountaineer was missing. He did not come
back. From over the sea the Bend heard, after a while, that he had
reappeared in the old village to claim the sweetheart he had left behind.
In the course of time new arrivals brought the news that Francisco was
married and that they were living happily, as a young couple should. At
the news Mulberry street looked askance at Carmen; but she gave no sign.
By tacit consent, she was the Widow Carmen after that.

The summers passed. The fourth brought Francisco Cessari, come back to
seek his fortune, with his wife and baby. He greeted old friends
effusively and made cautious inquiries about Carmen. When told that she
had consoled herself with his old rival, Luigi, with whom she was then
living in Bottle Alley, he laughed with a light heart, and took up his
abode within half a dozen doors of the alley. That was but a short time
before the christening at Malpete's. There their paths crossed each other
for the first time since his flight.

She met him with a smile on her lips, but with hate in her heart. He,
manlike, saw only the smile. The men smoking and drinking in the court
watched them speak apart, saw him, with the laugh that sat so lightly upon
his lips, turn to his wife, sitting by the hydrant with the child, and
heard him say: "Look, Carmen! our baby!"

The woman bent over it, and, as she did, the little one woke suddenly out
of its sleep and cried out in affright. It was noticed that Carmen smiled
again then, and that the young mother shivered, why she herself could not
have told. Francisco, joining the group at the farther end of the yard,
said carelessly that she had forgotten. They poked fun at him and spoke
Carmen's name loudly, with laughter.

From the tenement, as they did, came Luigi and asked threateningly who
insulted his wife. They only laughed the more, said he had drunk too much
wine, and, shouldering him out, bade him go look to his woman. He went.
Carmen had witnessed it all from the house. She called him a coward and
goaded him with bitter taunts, until, mad with anger and drink, he went
out in the court once more and shook his fist in the face of Francisco.
They hailed his return with bantering words. Luigi was spoiling for a
fight, they laughed, and would find one before the day was much older. But
suddenly silence fell upon the group. Carmen stood on the step, pale and
cold. She hid something under her apron.

"Luigi!" she called, and he came to her. She drew from under the apron a
cocked pistol, and, pointing to Francisco, pushed it into his hand. At the
sight the alley was cleared as suddenly as if a tornado had swept through
it. Malpete's guests leaped over fences, dived into cellarways, anywhere
for shelter. The door of the woodshed slammed behind Francisco just as his
old rival reached it. The maddened man tore it open and dragged him out by
the throat. He pinned him against the fence, and leveled the pistol with
frenzied curses. They died on his lips. The face that was turning livid in
his grasp was the face of his boyhood's friend. They had gone to school
together, danced together at the fairs in the old days. They had been
friends--till Carmen came. The muzzle of the weapon fell.

"Shoot!" said a hard voice behind him. Carmen stood there with face of
stone. She stamped her foot. "Shoot!" she commanded, pointing, relentless,
at the struggling man. "Coward, shoot!"

Her lover's finger crooked itself upon the trigger. A shriek, wild and
despairing, rang through the alley. A woman ran madly from the house, flew
across the pavement, and fell panting at Carmen's feet.

"Mother of God! mercy!" she cried, thrusting her babe before the
assassin's weapon. "Jesus Maria! Carmen, the child! He is my husband!"

No gleam of pity came into the cold eyes. Only hatred, fierce and bitter,
was there. In one swift, sweeping glance she saw it all: the woman fawning
at her feet, the man she hated limp and helpless in the grasp of her
lover.

"He was mine once," she said, "and he had no mercy." She pushed the baby
aside. "Coward, shoot!"

The shot was drowned in the shriek, hopeless, despairing, of the widow who
fell upon the body of Francisco as it slipped lifeless from the grasp of
the assassin. The christening party saw Carmen standing over the three
with the same pale smile on her cruel lips.

For once the Bend did not shield a murderer. The door of the tenement was
shut against him. The women spurned him. The very children spat at him as
he fled to the street. The police took him there. With him they seized
Carmen. She made no attempt to escape. She had bided her time, and it had
come. She had her revenge. To the end of its lurid life Bottle Alley
remembered it as the murder accursed of God.



IN THE MULBERRY STREET COURT


"Conduct unbecoming an officer," read the charge, "in this, to wit, that
the said defendants brought into the station-house, by means to deponent
unknown, on the said Fourth of July, a keg of beer, and, when apprehended,
were consuming the contents of the same." Twenty policemen, comprising the
whole off platoon of the East One Hundred and Fourth street squad,
answered the charge as defendants. They had been caught grouped about a
pot of chowder and the fatal keg in the top-floor dormitory, singing,
"Beer, beer, glorious beer!" Sergeant McNally and Roundsman Stevenson
interrupted the proceedings.

The commissioner's eyes bulged as, at the call of the complaint clerk, the
twenty marched up and ranged themselves in rows, three deep, before him.

They took the oath collectively, with a toss and a smack, as if to say, "I
don't care if I do," and told separately and identically the same story,
while the sergeant stared and the commissioner's eyes grew bigger and
rounder.

Missing his reserves, Sergeant McNally had sent the roundsman in search of
them. He was slow in returning, and the sergeant went on a tour of
inspection himself. He journeyed to the upper region, and there came upon
the party in full swing. Then and there he called the roll. Not one of the
platoon was missing.

They formed a hollow square around something that looked uncommonly like a
beer-keg. A number of tin growlers stood beside it. The sergeant picked up
one and turned the tap. There was enough left in the keg to barely half
fill it. Seeing that, the platoon followed him down-stairs without a
murmur.

One by one the twenty took the stand after the sergeant had left it, and
testified without a tremor that they had seen no beer-keg. In fact, the
majority would not know one if they saw it. They were tired and hungry,
having been held in reserve all day, when a pleasant smell assailed their
nostrils.

Each of the twenty followed his nose independently to the top floor, where
he was surprised to see the rest gathered about a pot of steaming chowder.
He joined the circle and partook of some. It was good. As to beer, he had
seen none and drunk less. There was something there of wood with a brass
handle to it. What it was none of them seemed to know. They were all
shocked at the idea that it might have been a beer-keg. Such things are
forbidden in police stations.

The sergeant himself could not tell how it could have got in there, while
stoutly maintaining that it was a keg. He scratched his head and concluded
that it might have come over the roof or, somehow, from a building that is
in course of erection next door. The chowder had come in by the main door.
At least, one policeman had seen it carried up-stairs. He had fallen in
behind it immediately.

When the commissioner had heard this story told exactly twenty times the
platoon fell in and marched off to the elevated station. When he can
decide what punishment to inflict on a policeman who does not know a
beer-keg when he sees it, they all will be fined accordingly, and a
door-man who has served a term as a barkeeper will be sent to the East One
Hundred and Fourth street station to keep the police there out of harm's
way.



SPOONING IN DYNAMITE ALLEY


Dynamite Alley is bereft. Its spring spooning is over. Once more the
growler has the right of way. But what good is it, with Kate Cassidy
hiding in her third floor back, her "steady" hiding from the police, and
Tom Hart laid up in hospital with two of his "slats stove in," all along
of their "spieling"? There will be nothing now to heave a brick at on a
dark night, and no chance for a row for many a day to come. No wonder
Dynamite Alley is out of sorts.

It got its name from the many rows that traveled in the wake of the
growler out and in at the three-foot gap between brick walls, which was a
garden walk when the front house was young and pansies and spiderwort grew
in the back lot. These many years a tenement has stood there, and as it
grew older and more dilapidated, rows multiplied and grew noisier, until
the explosive name was hooked to the alley by the neighbors, and stuck. It
was long after that that the Cassidys, father and daughter, came to live
in it, and also the Harts. Their coming wrought no appreciable change,
except that it added another and powerful one to the dynamic forces of the
alley--jealousy. Kate is pretty. She is blonde and she is twenty. She
greases plates in a pie bakery in Sullivan street by day, and so earns her
own living. Of course she is a favorite. There isn't a ball going on that
she doesn't attend, or a picnic either. It was at one of them, the last of
the Hounds' balls, that she met George Finnegan.

There weren't many hours after that when they didn't meet. He made the
alley his headquarters by day and by night. On the morning after the ball
he scandalized it by spooning with Kate from daybreak till nine o'clock.
By the middle of the afternoon he was back again, and all night, till
every one was asleep, he and Kate held the alley by main strength, as it
were, the fact being that when they were in it no one could pass. Their
spooning blocked it, blocked the way of the growler. The alley called it
mean, and trouble began promptly.

After that things fell by accident out of the windows of the rear tenement
when Kate and George Finnegan were sitting in the doorway. They tried to
reduce the chances of a hit as much as might be by squeezing into the
space of one, at which the alley jeered. Sometimes one of the tenants
would jostle them in the yard and "give lip," in the alley's vernacular,
and Kate would retort with dignity: "Excuse yerself. Ye don't know who yer
talkin' to."

It had to come to it, and it did. Finnegan had been continuing the siege
since the warm weather set in. He was a good spieler, Kate gave in to
that. But she hadn't taken him for her steady yet, though the alley let on
it thought so. Her steady is away at sea. George evidently thought the
time ripe for cutting him out. His spooning ran into the small hours of
the morning, night after night.

It was near 1 A. M. that morning when Thomas Hart came down to the yard,
stumbled over the pair in the doorway, and made remarks. As he passed out
of sight, George, the swain, said:

"If he gives any more lip when he comes back, I'll swing on him." And
just then Hart came back.

He did "give lip," and George "swung on him." It took him in the eye, and
he fell. Then he jumped on him and stove in his slats. Kate ran.

After all, George Finnegan was not game. When Hart's wife came down to see
who groaned in the yard, and, finding her husband, let out those
blood-curdling yells which made Kate Cassidy hide in an ice-wagon half-way
down the block, he deserted Kate and ran.

Mistress Hart's yells brought Policeman Devery. He didn't ask whence they
came, but made straight for the alley. Mistress Hart was there, vowing
vengeance upon "Kate Cassidy's feller," who had done up her man. She vowed
vengeance in such a loud voice that the alley trembled with joyful
excitement, while Kate, down the street, crept farther into the ice-wagon,
trembling also, but with fear. Kate is not a fighter. She is too
good-looking for that.

The policeman found her there and escorted her home, past the Hart door,
after he had sent Mister Hart to the hospital, where the doctors fixed his
slats (ribs, that is to say). Mistress Hart, outnumbered, fell back and
organized an ambush, vowing that she would lay Kate out yet. Discovering
that the Floods, next door, had connived at her enemy's descent by way of
their fire-escape, she included them in the siege by prompt declaration of
war upon the whole floor.

The cause of it all, safe in the bakery, suspended the greasing of
pie-plates long enough to give her version of the row:

"We were a-sittin' there, quiet an' peaceful like," she said, "when Mister
Hart came along an' made remarks, an' George he give it back to him good.
'Oh,' says he, 'you ain't a thousand; yer only one,' an' he went. When he
came back, George he stood up, an' Mister Hart he says to me: 'Ye're not
an up-stairs girl; you can be called down,' an' George he up an' struck
him. I didn't wait fer no more. I just run out of the alley. Is he hurted
bad?

"Who is George? He is me feller. I met him at the Hounds' ball in Germania
Hall, an' he treated me same as you would any lady. We danced together an'
had a couple of drinks, an' he took me home. George ain't me steady, you
know. Me regular he is to sea. See?

"I didn't see nothin'. I hid in the wagon while I heard him callin'
names. I wasn't goin' in till Mr. Deevy [Policeman Devery] he came along.
I told him I was scart, and he said: 'Oh, come along.' But I was dead
scart.

"Say, you won't forget to come to our picnic, the 'Pie-Girls,' will you?
It'll be great."



HEROES WHO FIGHT FIRE


Thirteen years have passed since, but it is all to me as if it had
happened yesterday--the clanging of the fire-bells, the hoarse shouts of
the firemen, the wild rush and terror of the streets; then the great hush
that fell upon the crowd; the sea of upturned faces, with the fire-glow
upon it; and up there, against the background of black smoke that poured
from roof and attic, the boy clinging to the narrow ledge, so far up that
it seemed humanly impossible that help could ever come.

But even then it was coming. Up from the street, while the crew of the
truck company were laboring with the heavy extension-ladder that at its
longest stretch was many feet too short, crept four men upon long, slender
poles with cross-bars, iron-hooked at the end. Standing in one window,
they reached up and thrust the hook through the next one above, then
mounted a story higher. Again the crash of glass, and again the dizzy
ascent. Straight up the wall they crept, looking like human flies on the
ceiling, and clinging as close, never resting, reaching one recess only to
set out for the next; nearer and nearer in the race for life, until but a
single span separated the foremost from the boy. And now the iron hook
fell at his feet, and the fireman stood upon the step with the rescued lad
in his arms, just as the pent-up flame burst lurid from the attic window,
reaching with impotent fury for its prey. The next moment they were safe
upon the great ladder waiting to receive them below.

Then such a shout went up! Men fell on each other's necks, and cried and
laughed at once. Strangers slapped one another on the back, with
glistening faces, shook hands, and behaved generally like men gone
suddenly mad. Women wept in the street. The driver of a car stalled in the
crowd, who had stood through it all speechless, clutching the reins,
whipped his horses into a gallop, and drove away yelling like a Comanche,
to relieve his feelings. The boy and his rescuer were carried across the
street without any one knowing how. Policemen forgot their dignity, and
shouted with the rest. Fire, peril, terror, and loss were alike forgotten
in the one touch of nature that makes the whole world kin.

Fireman John Binns was made captain of his crew, and the Bennett medal was
pinned on his coat on the next parade-day. The burning of the St. George
Flats was the first opportunity New York had of witnessing a rescue with
the scaling-ladders that form such an essential part of the equipment of
the fire-fighters to-day. Since then there have been many such. In the
company in which John Binns was a private of the second grade, two others
to-day bear the medal for brave deeds: the foreman, Daniel J. Meagher, and
Private Martin M. Coleman, whose name has been seven times inscribed on
the roll of honor for twice that number of rescues, any one of which
stamped him as a man among men, a real hero. And Hook-and-Ladder No. 3 is
not specially distinguished among the fire-crews of the metropolis for
daring and courage. New-Yorkers are justly proud of their firemen. Take it
all in all, there is not, I think, to be found anywhere a body of men as
fearless, as brave, and as efficient as the Fire Brigade of New York. I
have known it well for twenty years, and I speak from a personal
acquaintance with very many of its men, and from a professional knowledge
of more daring feats, more hairbreadth escapes, and more brilliant work,
than could well be recorded between the covers of this book.

Indeed, it is hard, in recording any, to make a choice, and to avoid
giving the impression that recklessness is a chief quality in the
fireman's make-up. That would not be true. His life is too full of real
peril for him to expose it recklessly--that is to say, needlessly. From
the time when he leaves his quarters in answer to an alarm until he
returns, he takes a risk that may at any moment set him face to face with
death in its most cruel form. He needs nothing so much as a clear head;
and nothing is prized so highly, nothing puts him so surely in the line of
promotion; for as he advances in rank and responsibility, the lives of
others, as well as his own, come to depend on his judgment. The act of
conspicuous daring which the world applauds is oftenest to the fireman a
matter of simple duty that had to be done in that way because there was no
other. Nor is it always, or even usually, the hardest duty, as he sees
it. It came easy to him because he is an athlete trained to do just such
things, and because once for all it is easier to risk one's life in the
open, in the sight of one's fellows, than to face death alone, caught like
a rat in a trap. That is the real peril which he knows too well; but of
that the public hears only when he has fought his last fight, and lost.

How literally our every-day security--of which we think, if we think of it
at all, as a mere matter of course--is built upon the supreme sacrifice of
these devoted men, we realize at long intervals, when a disaster occurs
such as the one in which Chief Bresnan and Foreman Rooney[2] lost their
lives three years ago. They were crushed to death under the great
water-tank in a Twenty-fourth street factory that was on fire. Its
supports had been burned away. An examination that was then made of the
water-tanks in the city discovered eight thousand that were either wholly
unsupported, except by the roof-beams, or propped on timbers, and
therefore a direct menace, not only to the firemen when they were called
there, but daily to those living under them. It is not pleasant to add
that the department's just demand for a law that should compel landlords
either to build tanks on the wall or on iron supports has not been heeded
yet; but that is, unhappily, an old story.

    [2] Rooney wore the Bennett medal for saving the life of a woman at
    the disastrous fire in the old "World" building, on January 31, 1882.
    The ladder upon which he stood was too short. Riding upon the topmost
    rung, he bade the woman jump, and caught and held her as she fell.

Seventeen years ago the collapse of a Broadway building during a fire
convinced the community that stone pillars were unsafe as supports. The
fire was in the basement, and the firemen had turned the hose on. When the
water struck the hot granite columns, they cracked and fell, and the
building fell with them. There were upon the roof at the time a dozen men
of the crew of Truck Company No. 1, chopping holes for smoke-vents. The
majority clung to the parapet, and hung there till rescued. Two went down
into the furnace from which the flames shot up twenty feet when the roof
broke. One, Fireman Thomas J. Dougherty, was a wearer of the Bennett
medal, too. His foreman answers on parade-day, when his name is called,
that he "died on the field of duty." These, at all events, did not die in
vain. Stone columns are not now used as supports for buildings in New
York.

So one might go on quoting the perils of the firemen as so many steps
forward for the better protection of the rest of us. It was the burning of
the St. George Flats, and more recently of the Manhattan Bank, in which a
dozen men were disabled, that stamped the average fire-proof construction
as faulty and largely delusive. One might even go further, and say that
the fireman's risk increases in the ratio of our progress or convenience.
The water-tanks came with the very high buildings, which in themselves
offer problems to the fire-fighters that have not yet been solved. The
very air-shafts that were hailed as the first advance in tenement-house
building added enormously to the fireman's work and risk, as well as to
the risk of every one dwelling under their roofs, by acting as so many
huge chimneys that carried the fire to the windows opening upon them in
every story. More than half of all the fires in New York occur in
tenement-houses. When the Tenement-House Commission of 1894 sat in this
city, considering means of making them safer and better, it received the
most practical help and advice from the firemen, especially from Chief
Bresnan, whose death occurred only a few days after he had testified as a
witness. The recommendations upon which he insisted are now part of the
general tenement-house law.

Chief Bresnan died leading his men against the enemy. In the Fire
Department the battalion chief leads; he does not direct operations from a
safe position in the rear. Perhaps this is one of the secrets of the
indomitable spirit of his men. Whatever hardships they have to endure, his
is the first and the biggest share. Next in line comes the captain, or
foreman, as he is called. Of the six who were caught in the fatal trap of
the water-tank, four hewed their way out with axes through an intervening
partition. They were of the ranks. The two who were killed were the chief
and Assistant Foreman John L. Rooney, who was that day in charge of his
company, Foreman Shaw having just been promoted to Bresnan's rank. It was
less than a year after that Chief Shaw was killed in a fire in Mercer
street. I think I could reckon up as many as five or six battalion chiefs
who have died in that way, leading their men. They would not deserve the
name if they did not follow such leaders, no matter where the road led.

In the chief's quarters of the Fourteenth Battalion up in Wakefield there
sits to-day a man, still young in years, who in his maimed body but
unbroken spirit bears such testimony to the quality of New York's
fire-fighters as the brave Bresnan and his comrade did in their death.
Thomas J. Ahearn led his company as captain to a fire in the Consolidated
Gas-Works on the East Side. He found one of the buildings ablaze. Far
toward the rear, at the end of a narrow lane, around which the fire
swirled and arched itself, white and wicked, lay the body of a man--dead,
said the panic-stricken crowd. His sufferings had been brief. A worse fate
threatened all unless the fire was quickly put out. There were underground
reservoirs of naphtha--the ground was honeycombed with them--that might
explode at any moment with the fire raging overhead. The peril was instant
and great. Captain Ahearn looked at the body, and saw it stir. The
watch-chain upon the man's vest rose and fell as if he were breathing.

"He is not dead," he said. "I am going to get that man out." And he crept
down the lane of fire, unmindful of the hidden dangers, seeing only the
man who was perishing. The flames scorched him; they blocked his way; but
he came through alive, and brought out his man, so badly hurt, however,
that he died in the hospital that day. The Board of Fire Commissioners
gave Ahearn the medal for bravery, and made him chief. Within a year he
all but lost his life in a gallant attempt to save the life of a child
that was supposed to be penned in a burning Rivington-street tenement.
Chief Ahearn's quarters were near by, and he was first on the ground. A
desperate man confronted him in the hallway. "My child! my child!" he
cried, and wrung his hands. "Save him! He is in there." He pointed to the
back room. It was black with smoke. In the front room the fire was raging.
Crawling on hands and feet, the chief made his way into the room the man
had pointed out. He groped under the bed, and in it, but found no child
there. Satisfied that it had escaped, he started to return. The smoke had
grown so thick that breathing was no longer possible, even at the floor.
The chief drew his coat over his head, and made a dash for the hall door.
He reached it only to find that the spring-lock had snapped shut. The
door-knob burned his hand. The fire burst through from the front room, and
seared his face. With a last effort, he kicked the lower panel out of the
door, and put his head through. And then he knew no more.

His men found him lying so when they came looking for him. The coat was
burned off his back, and of his hat only the wire rim remained. He lay ten
months in the hospital, and came out deaf and wrecked physically. At the
age of forty-five the board retired him to the quiet of the country
district, with this formal resolution, that did the board more credit than
it could do him. It is the only one of its kind upon the department books:

    _Resolved_, That in assigning Battalion Chief Thomas J. Ahearn to
    command the Fourteenth Battalion, in the newly annexed district, the
    Board deems it proper to express the sense of obligation felt by the
    Board and all good citizens for the brilliant and meritorious services
    of Chief Ahearn in the discharge of duty which will always serve as an
    example and an inspiration to our uniformed force, and to express the
    hope that his future years of service at a less arduous post may be as
    comfortable and pleasant as his former years have been brilliant and
    honorable.

Firemen are athletes as a matter of course. They have to be, or they could
not hold their places for a week, even if they could get into them at
all. The mere handling of the scaling-ladders, which, light though they
seem, weigh from sixteen to forty pounds, requires unusual strength. No
particular skill is needed. A man need only have steady nerve, and the
strength to raise the long pole by its narrow end, and jam the iron hook
through a window which he cannot see but knows is there. Once through, the
teeth in the hook and the man's weight upon the ladder hold it safe, and
there is no real danger unless he loses his head. Against that possibility
the severe drill in the school of instruction is the barrier. Any one to
whom climbing at dizzy heights, or doing the hundred and one things of
peril to ordinary men which firemen are constantly called upon to do,
causes the least discomfort, is rejected as unfit. About five per cent. of
all appointees are eliminated by the ladder test, and never get beyond
their probation service. A certain smaller percentage takes itself out
through loss of "nerve" generally. The first experience of a room full of
smothering smoke, with the fire roaring overhead, is generally sufficient
to convince the timid that the service is not for him. No cowards are
dismissed from the department, for the reason that none get into it.

The notion that there is a life-saving corps apart from the general body
of firemen rests upon a mistake. They are one. Every fireman nowadays must
pass muster at life-saving drill, must climb to the top of any building on
his scaling-ladder, slide down with a rescued comrade, or jump without
hesitation from the third story into the life-net spread below. By such
training the men are fitted for their work, and the occasion comes soon
that puts them to the test. It came to Daniel J. Meagher, of whom I spoke
as foreman of Hook-and-Ladder Company No. 3, when, in the midnight hour, a
woman hung from the fifth-story window of a burning building, and the
longest ladder at hand fell short ten or a dozen feet of reaching her. The
boldest man in the crew had vainly attempted to get to her, and in the
effort had sprained his foot. There were no scaling-ladders then. Meagher
ordered the rest to plant the ladder on the stoop and hold it out from the
building so that he might reach the very topmost step. Balanced thus where
the slightest tremor might have caused ladder and all to crash to the
ground, he bade the woman drop, and receiving her in his arms, carried her
down safe.

No one but an athlete with muscles and nerves of steel could have
performed such a feat, or that which made Dennis Ryer, of the crew of
Engine No. 36, famous three years ago. That was on Seventh Avenue at One
Hundred and Thirty-fourth street. A flat was on fire, and the tenants had
fled; but one, a woman, bethought herself of her parrot, and went back for
it, to find escape by the stairs cut off when she again attempted to reach
the street. With the parrot-cage, she appeared at the top-floor window,
framed in smoke, calling for help. Again there was no ladder to reach.
There were neighbors on the roof with a rope, but the woman was too
frightened to use it herself. Dennis Ryer made it fast about his own
waist, and bade the others let him down, and hold on for life. He drew the
woman out, but she was heavy, and it was all they could do above to hold
them. To pull them over the cornice was out of the question. Upon the
highest step of the ladder, many feet below, stood Ryer's father, himself
a fireman of another company, and saw his boy's peril.

"Hold fast, Dennis!" he shouted. "If you fall I will catch you." Had they
let go, all three would have been killed. The young fireman saw the
danger, and the one door of escape, with a glance. The window before which
he swung, half smothered by the smoke that belched from it, was the last
in the house. Just beyond, in the window of the adjoining house, was
safety, if he could but reach it. Putting out a foot, he kicked the wall,
and made himself swing toward it, once, twice, bending his body to add to
the motion. The third time he all but passed it, and took a mighty grip on
the affrighted woman, shouting into her ear to loose her own hold at the
same time. As they passed the window on the fourth trip, he thrust her
through sash and all with a supreme effort, and himself followed on the
next rebound, while the street, that was black with a surging multitude,
rang with a mighty cheer. Old Washington Ryer, on his ladder, threw his
cap in the air, and cheered louder than all the rest. But the parrot was
dead--frightened to death, very likely, or smothered.

I once asked Fireman Martin M. Coleman, after one of those exhibitions of
coolness and courage that thrust him constantly upon the notice of the
newspaper man, what he thought of when he stood upon the ladder, with this
thing before him to do that might mean life or death the next moment. He
looked at me in some perplexity.

"Think?" he said slowly. "Why, I don't think. There ain't any time to. If
I'd stopped to think, them five people would 'a' been burnt. No; I don't
think of danger. If it is anything, it is that--up there--I am boss. The
rest are not in it. Only I wish," he added, rubbing his arm ruefully at
the recollection, "that she hadn't fainted. It's hard when they faint.
They're just so much dead-weight. We get no help at all from them heavy
women."

And that was all I could get out of him. I never had much better luck with
Chief Benjamin A. Gicquel, who is the oldest wearer of the Bennett medal,
just as Coleman is the youngest, or the one who received it last. He was
willing enough to talk about the science of putting out fires; of
Department Chief Bonner, the "man of few words," who, he thinks, has
mastered the art beyond any man living; of the back-draft, and almost
anything else pertaining to the business: but when I insisted upon his
telling me the story of the rescue of the Schaefer family of five from a
burning tenement down in Cherry street, in which he earned his rank and
reward, he laughed a good-humored little laugh, and said that it was "the
old man"--meaning Schaefer--who should have had the medal. "It was a grand
thing in him to let the little ones come out first." I have sometimes
wished that firemen were not so modest. It would be much easier, if not so
satisfactory, to record their gallant deeds. But I am not sure that it is,
after all, modesty so much as a wholly different point of view. It is
business with them, the work of their lives. The one feeling that is
allowed to rise beyond this is the feeling of exultation in the face of
peril conquered by courage, which Coleman expressed. On the ladder he was
boss! It was the fancy of a masterful man, and none but a masterful man
would have got upon the ladder at all.

Doubtless there is something in the spectacular side of it that attracts.
It would be strange if there were not. There is everything in a fireman's
existence to encourage it. Day and night he leads a kind of hair-trigger
life, that feeds naturally upon excitement, even if only as a relief from
the irksome idling in quarters. Try as they may to give him enough to do
there, the time hangs heavily upon his hands, keyed up as he is, and need
be, to adventurous deeds at shortest notice. He falls to grumbling and
quarreling, and the necessity becomes imperative of holding him to the
strictest discipline, under which he chafes impatiently. "They nag like a
lot of old women," said Department Chief Bonner to me once; "and the best
at a fire are often the worst in the house." In the midst of it all the
gong strikes a familiar signal. The horses' hoofs thunder on the planks;
with a leap the men go down the shining pole to the main floor, all else
forgotten; and with crash and clatter and bang the heavy engine swings
into the street, and races away on a wild gallop, leaving a trail of fire
behind.

Presently the crowd sees rubber-coated, helmeted men with pipe and hose go
through a window from which such dense smoke pours forth that it seems
incredible that a human being could breathe it for a second and live. The
hose is dragged squirming over the sill, where shortly a red-eyed face
with disheveled hair appears, to shout something hoarsely to those below,
which they understand. Then, unless some emergency arise, the spectacular
part is over. Could the citizen whose heart beat as he watched them enter
see them now, he would see grimy shapes, very unlike the fine-looking men
who but just now had roused his admiration, crawling on hands and knees,
with their noses close to the floor if the smoke be very dense, ever
pointing the "pipe" in the direction where the enemy is expected to
appear. The fire is the enemy; but he can fight that, once he reaches it,
with something of a chance. The smoke kills without giving him a show to
fight back. Long practice toughens him against it, until he learns the
trick of "eating the smoke." He can breathe where a candle goes out for
want of oxygen. By holding his mouth close to the nozzle, he gets what
little air the stream of water brings with it and sets free; and within a
few inches of the floor there is nearly always a current of air. In the
last emergency, there is the hose that he can follow out. The smoke always
is his worst enemy. It lays ambushes for him which he can suspect, but not
ward off. He tries to, by opening vents in the roof as soon as the
pipe-men are in place and ready; but in spite of all precautions, he is
often surprised by the dreaded back-draft.

I remember standing in front of a burning Broadway store, one night, when
the back-draft blew out the whole front without warning. It is simply an
explosion of gases generated by the heat, which must have vent, and go
upon the line of least resistance, up, or down, or in a circle--it does
not much matter, so that they go. It swept shutters, windows, and all,
across Broadway, in this instance, like so much chaff, littering the
street with heavy rolls of cloth. The crash was like a fearful clap of
thunder. Men were knocked down on the opposite sidewalk, and two teams of
engine horses, used to almost any kind of happening at a fire, ran away in
a wild panic. It was a blast of that kind that threw down and severely
injured Battalion Chief M'Gill, one of the oldest and most experienced of
firemen, at a fire on Broadway in March, 1890; and it has cost more brave
men's lives than the fiercest fire that ever raged. The "puff," as the
firemen call it, comes suddenly, and from the corner where it is least
expected. It is dread of that, and of getting overcome by the smoke
generally, which makes firemen go always in couples or more together. They
never lose sight of one another for an instant, if they can help it. If
they do, they go at once in search of the lost. The delay of a moment may
prove fatal to him.

Lieutenant Samuel Banta of the Franklin-street company, discovering the
pipe that had just been held by Fireman Quinn at a Park-Place fire
thrashing aimlessly about, looked about him, and saw Quinn floating on his
face in the cellar, which was running full of water. He had been overcome,
had tumbled in, and was then drowning, with the fire raging above and
alongside. Banta jumped in after him, and endeavored to get his head above
water. While thus occupied, he glanced up, and saw the preliminary puff of
the back-draft bearing down upon him. The lieutenant dived at once, and
tried to pull his unhappy pipe-man with him; but he struggled and worked
himself loose. From under the water Banta held up a hand, and it was
burnt. He held up the other, and knew that the puff had passed when it
came back unsinged. Then he brought Quinn out with him; but it was too
late. Caught between flood and fire, he had no chance. When I asked the
lieutenant about it, he replied simply: "The man in charge of the hose
fell into the cellar. I got him out; that was all." "But how?" I
persisted. "Why, I went down through the cellar," said the lieutenant,
smiling, as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world.

It was this same Banta who, when Fireman David H. Soden had been buried
under the falling walls of a Pell-street house, crept through a gap in the
basement wall, in among the fallen timbers, and, in imminent peril of his
own life, worked there with a hand-saw two long hours to free his comrade,
while the firemen held the severed timbers up with ropes to give him a
chance. Repeatedly, while he was at work, his clothes caught fire, and it
was necessary to keep playing the hose upon him. But he brought out his
man safe and sound, and, for the twentieth time perhaps, had his name
recorded on the roll of merit. His comrades tell how, at one of the
twenty, the fall of a building in Hall Place had left a workman lying on a
shaky piece of wall, helpless, with a broken leg. It could not bear the
weight of a ladder, and it seemed certain death to attempt to reach him,
when Banta, running up a slanting beam that still hung to its fastening
with one end, leaped from perch to perch upon the wall, where hardly a
goat could have found footing, reached his man, and brought him down
slung over his shoulder, and swearing at him like a trooper lest the peril
of the descent cause him to lose his nerve and with it the lives of both.

Firemen dread cellar fires more than any other kind, and with reason. It
is difficult to make a vent for the smoke, and the danger of drowning is
added to that of being smothered when they get fairly to work. If a man is
lost to sight or touch of his fellows there for ever so brief a while,
there are five chances to one that he will not again be seen alive. Then
there ensues such a fight as the city witnessed only last May at the
burning of a Chambers-street paper-warehouse. It was fought out deep
underground, with fire and flood, freezing cold and poisonous gases,
leagued against Chief Bonner's forces. Next door was a cold-storage house,
whence the cold. Something that was burning--I do not know that it was
ever found out just what--gave forth the smothering fumes before which the
firemen went down in squads. File after file staggered out into the
street, blackened and gasping, to drop there. The near engine-house was
made into a hospital, where the senseless men were laid on straw hastily
spread. Ambulance surgeons worked over them. As fast as they were brought
to, they went back to bear a hand in the work of rescue. In delirium they
fought to return. Down in the depths one of their number was lying
helpless.

There is nothing finer in the records of glorious war than the story of
the struggle these brave fellows kept up for hours against tremendous odds
for the rescue of their comrade. Time after time they went down into the
pit of deadly smoke, only to fail. Lieutenant Banta tried twice and
failed. Fireman King was pulled up senseless, and having been brought
round, went down once more. Fireman Sheridan returned empty-handed, more
dead than alive. John O'Connell, of Truck No. 1, at length succeeded in
reaching his comrade and tying a rope about him, while from above they
drenched both with water to keep them from roasting. They drew up a dying
man; but John G. Reinhardt dead is more potent than a whole crew of
firemen alive. The story of the fight for his life will long be told in
the engine-houses of New York, and will nerve the Kings and the Sheridans
and the O'Connells of another day to like deeds.

How firemen manage to hear in their sleep the right signal, while they
sleep right through any number that concerns the next company, not them,
is one of the mysteries that will probably always remain unsolved. "I
don't know," said Department Chief Bonner, when I asked him once. "I guess
it is the same way with everybody. You hear what you have to hear. There
is a gong right over my bed at home, and I hear every stroke of it, but I
don't hear the baby. My wife hears the baby if it as much as stirs in its
crib, but not the gong." Very likely he is right. The fact that the
fireman can hear and count correctly the strokes of the gong in his sleep
has meant life to many hundreds, and no end of property saved; for it is
in the early moments of a fire that it can be dealt with summarily. I
recall one instance in which the failure to interpret a signal properly,
or the accident of taking a wrong road to the fire, cost a life, and,
singularly enough, that of the wife of one of the firemen who answered the
alarm. It was all so pitiful, so tragic, that it has left an indelible
impression on my mind. It was the fire at which Patrick F. Lucas earned
the medal for that year by snatching five persons out of the very jaws of
death in a Dominick-street tenement. The alarm-signal rang in the
hook-and-ladder company's quarters in North Moore street, but was either
misunderstood or they made a wrong start. Instead of turning east to West
Broadway, the truck turned west, and went galloping toward Greenwich
street. It was only a few seconds, the time that was lost, but it was
enough. Fireman Murphy's heart went up in his throat when, from his seat
on the truck as it flew toward the fire, he saw that it was his own home
that was burning. Up on the fifth floor he found his wife penned in. She
died in his arms as he carried her to the fire-escape. The fire, for once,
had won in the race for a life.

While I am writing this, the morning paper that is left at my door tells
the story of a fireman who, laid up with a broken ankle in an up-town
hospital, jumped out of bed, forgetting his injury, when the alarm-gong
rang his signal, and tried to go to the fire. The fire-alarms are rung in
the hospitals for the information of the ambulance corps. The crippled
fireman heard the signal at the dead of night, and, only half awake,
jumped out of bed, groped about for the sliding-pole, and, getting hold of
the bedpost, tried to slide down that. The plaster cast about his ankle
was broken, the old injury reopened, and he was seriously hurt.

New York firemen have a proud saying that they "fight fire from the
inside." It means unhesitating courage, prompt sacrifice, and victory
gained, all in one. The saving of life that gets into the newspapers and
wins applause is done, of necessity, largely from the outside, but is none
the less perilous for that. Sometimes, though rarely, it has in its
intense gravity almost a comic tinge, as at one of the infrequent fires in
the Mulberry Bend some years ago. The Italians believe, with reason, that
there is bad luck in fire, therefore do not insure, and have few fires. Of
this one the Romolo family shrine was the cause. The lamp upon it
exploded, and the tenement was ablaze when the firemen came. The policeman
on the beat had tried to save Mrs. Romolo; but she clung to the bedpost,
and refused to go without the rest of the family. So he seized the baby,
and rolled down the burning stairs with it, his beard and coat afire. The
only way out was shut off when the engines arrived. The Romolos shrieked
at the top-floor window, threatening to throw themselves out. There was
not a moment to be lost. Lying flat on the roof, with their heads over
the cornice, the firemen fished the two children out of the window with
their hooks. The ladders were run up in time for the father and mother.

The readiness of resource no less than the intrepid courage and athletic
skill of the rescuers evoke enthusiastic admiration. Two instances stand
out in my recollection among many. Of one Fireman Howe, who had on more
than one occasion signally distinguished himself, was the hero. It
happened on the morning of January 2, 1896, when the Geneva Club on
Lexington Avenue was burned out. Fireman Howe drove Hook-and-Ladder No. 7
to the fire that morning, to find two boarders at the third-story window,
hemmed in by flames which already showed behind them. Followed by Fireman
Pearl, he ran up in the adjoining building, and presently appeared at a
window on the third floor, separated from the one occupied by the two men
by a blank wall-space of perhaps four or five feet. It offered no other
footing than a rusty hook, but it was enough. Astride of the window-sill,
with one foot upon the hook, the other anchored inside by his comrade, his
body stretched at full length along the wall, Howe was able to reach the
two, and to swing them, one after the other, through his own window to
safety. As the second went through, the crew in the street below set up a
cheer that raised the sleeping echoes of the street. Howe looked down,
nodded, and took a firmer grip; and that instant came his great peril.

A third face had appeared at the window just as the fire swept through.
Howe shut his eyes to shield them, and braced himself on the hook for a
last effort. It broke; and the man, frightened out of his wits, threw
himself headlong from the window upon Howe's neck.

The fireman's form bent and swayed. His comrade within felt the strain,
and dug his heels into the boards. He was almost dragged out of the
window, but held on with a supreme effort. Just as he thought the end had
come, he felt the strain ease up. The ladder had reached Howe in the very
nick of time, and given him support. But in his desperate effort to save
himself and the other, he slammed his burden back over his shoulder with
such force that he went crashing through, carrying sash and all, and fell,
cut and bruised, but safe, upon Fireman Pearl, who groveled upon the
floor, prostrate and panting.

The other case New York remembers yet with a shudder. It was known long
in the department for the bravest act ever done by a fireman--an act that
earned for Foreman William Quirk the medal for 1888. He was next in
command of Engine No. 22 when, on a March morning, the Elberon Flats in
East Eighty-fifth street were burned. The Westlake family, mother,
daughter, and two sons, were in the fifth story, helpless and hopeless.
Quirk ran up on the scaling-ladder to the fourth floor, hung it on the
sill above, and got the boys and their sister down. But the flames burst
from the floor below, cutting off their retreat. Quirk's captain had seen
the danger, and shouted to him to turn back while it was yet time. But
Quirk had no intention of turning back. He measured the distance and the
risk with a look, saw the crowd tugging frantically at the life-net under
the window, and bade them jump, one by one. They jumped, and were saved.
Last of all, he jumped himself, after a vain effort to save the mother.
She was already dead. He caught her gown, but the body slipped from his
grasp and fell crashing to the street fifty feet below. He himself was
hurt in his jump. The volunteers who held the net looked up, and were
frightened; they let go their grip, and the plucky fireman broke a leg
and hurt his back in the fall.

"Like a cry of fire in the night" appeals to the dullest imagination with
a sense of sudden fear. There have been nights in this city when the cry
swelled into such a clamor of terror and despair as to make the stoutest
heart quake--when it seemed to those who had to do with putting out fires
as if the end of all things was at hand. Such a night was that of the
burning of "Cohnfeld's Folly," in Bleecker street, March 17, 1891. The
burning of the big store involved the destruction, wholly or in part, of
ten surrounding buildings, and called out nearly one third of the city's
Fire Department. While the fire raged as yet unchecked,--while walls were
falling with shock and crash of thunder, the streets full of galloping
engines and ambulances carrying injured firemen, with clangor of urgent
gongs; while insurance patrolmen were being smothered in buildings a block
away by the smoke that hung like a pall over the city,--another disastrous
fire broke out in the dry-goods district, and three alarm-calls came from
West Seventeenth street. Nine other fires were signaled, and before
morning all the crews that were left were summoned to Allen street, where
four persons were burned to death in a tenement. Those are the wild nights
that try firemen's souls, and never yet found them wanting. During the
great blizzard, when the streets were impassable and the system crippled,
the fires in the city averaged nine a day,--forty-five for the five days
from March 12 to 16,--and not one of them got beyond control. The fire
commissioners put on record their pride in the achievement, as well they
might. It was something to be proud of, indeed.

Such a night promised to be the one when the Manhattan Bank and the State
Bank across the street on the other Broadway corner, with three or four
other buildings, were burned, and when the ominous "two nines" were rung,
calling nine tenths of the whole force below Central Park to the
threatened quarter. But, happily, the promise was not fully kept. The
supposed fire-proof bank was crumbling in the withering blast like so much
paper; the cry went up that whole companies of firemen were perishing
within it; and the alarm had reached Police Headquarters in the next
block, where they were counting the election returns. Thirteen firemen,
including the deputy department chief, a battalion chief, and two
captains, limped or were carried from the burning bank, more or less
injured. The stone steps of the fire-proof stairs had fallen with them or
upon them. Their imperiled comrades, whose escape was cut off, slid down
hose and scaling-ladders. The last, the crew of Engine Company No. 3, had
reached the street, and all were thought to be out, when the assistant
foreman, Daniel Fitzmaurice, appeared at a fifth-story window. The fire
beating against it drove him away, but he found footing at another, next
adjoining the building on the north. To reach him from below, with the
whole building ablaze, was impossible. Other escape there was none, save a
cornice ledge extending half-way to his window; but it was too narrow to
afford foothold.

Then an extraordinary scene was enacted in the sight of thousands. In the
other building were a number of fire-insurance patrolmen, covering goods
to protect them against water damage. One of these--Patrolman John
Rush--stepped out on the ledge, and edged his way toward a spur of stone
that projected from the bank building. Behind followed Patrolman Barnett,
steadying him and pressing him close against the wall. Behind him was
another, with still another holding on within the room, where the living
chain was anchored by all the rest. Rush, at the end of the ledge, leaned
over and gave Fitzmaurice his hand. The fireman grasped it, and edged out
upon the spur. Barnett, holding the rescuer fast, gave him what he
needed--something to cling to. Once he was on the ledge, the chain wound
itself up as it had unwound itself. Slowly, inch by inch, it crept back,
each man pushing the next flat against the wall with might and main, while
the multitudes in the street held their breath, and the very engines
stopped panting, until all were safe.

John Rush is a fireman to-day, a member of "Thirty-three's" crew in Great
Jones street. He was an insurance patrolman then. The organization is
unofficial. Its main purpose is to save property; but in the face of the
emergency firemen and patrolmen become one body, obeying one head.

That the spirit which has made New York's Fire Department great equally
animates its commercial brother has been shown more than once, but never
better than at the memorable fire in the Hotel Royal, which cost so many
lives. No account of heroic life-saving at fires, even as fragmentary as
this, could pass by the marvelous feat, or feats, of Sergeant (now
Captain) John R. Vaughan on that February morning six years ago. The alarm
rang in patrol station No. 3 at 3:20 o'clock on Sunday morning. Sergeant
Vaughan, hastening to the fire with his men, found the whole five-story
hotel ablaze from roof to cellar. The fire had shot up the elevator shaft,
round which the stairs ran, and from the first had made escape impossible.
Men and women were jumping and hanging from windows. One, falling from a
great height, came within an inch of killing the sergeant as he tried to
enter the building. Darting up into the next house, and leaning out of the
window with his whole body, while one of the crew hung on to one leg,--as
Fireman Pearl did to Howe's in the splendid rescue at the Geneva Club,--he
took a half-hitch with the other in some electric-light wires that ran up
the wall, trusting to his rubber boots to protect him from the current,
and made of his body a living bridge for the safe passage from the last
window of the burning hotel of three men and a woman whom death stared in
the face, steadying them as they went with his free hand. As the last
passed over, ladders were being thrown up against the wall, and what
could be done there was done.

Sergeant Vaughan went up on the roof. The smoke was so dense there that he
could see little, but through it he heard a cry for help, and made out the
shape of a man standing upon a window-sill in the fifth story, overlooking
the courtyard of the hotel. The yard was between them. Bidding his men
follow,--they were five, all told,--he ran down and around in the next
street to the roof of the house that formed an angle with the hotel wing.
There stood the man below him, only a jump away, but a jump which no
mortal might take and live. His face and hands were black with smoke.
Vaughan, looking down, thought him a negro. He was perfectly calm.

"It is no use," he said, glancing up. "Don't try. You can't do it."

The sergeant looked wistfully about him. Not a stick or a piece of rope
was in sight. Every shred was used below. There was absolutely nothing.
"But I couldn't let him," he said to me, months after, when he had come
out of the hospital a whole man again, and was back at work,--"I just
couldn't, standing there so quiet and brave." To the man he said sharply:

"I want you to do exactly as I tell you, now. Don't grab me, but let me
get the first grab." He had noticed that the man wore a heavy overcoat,
and had already laid his plan.

"Don't try," urged the man. "You cannot save me. I will stay here till it
gets too hot; then I will jump."

"No, you won't," from the sergeant, as he lay at full length on the roof,
looking over. "It is a pretty hard yard down there. I will get you, or go
dead myself."

The four sat on the sergeant's legs as he swung free down to the waist; so
he was almost able to reach the man on the window with outstretched hands.

"Now jump--quick!" he commanded; and the man jumped. He caught him by both
wrists as directed, and the sergeant got a grip on the collar of his coat.

"Hoist!" he shouted to the four on the roof; and they tugged with their
might. The sergeant's body did not move. Bending over till the back
creaked, it hung over the edge, a weight of two hundred and three pounds
suspended from and holding it down. The cold sweat started upon his men's
foreheads as they tried and tried again, without gaining an inch. Blood
dripped from Sergeant Vaughan's nostrils and ears. Sixty feet below was
the paved courtyard; over against him the window, behind which he saw the
back-draft coming, gathering headway with lurid, swirling smoke. Now it
burst through, burning the hair and the coats of the two. For an instant
he thought all hope was gone.

But in a flash it came back to him. To relieve the terrible dead-weight
that wrenched and tore at his muscles, he was swinging the man to and fro
like a pendulum, head touching head. He could _swing him up_! A smothered
shout warned his men. They crept nearer the edge without letting go their
grip on him, and watched with staring eyes the human pendulum swing wider
and wider, farther and farther, until now, with a mighty effort, it swung
within their reach. They caught the skirt of the coat, held on, pulled in,
and in a moment lifted him over the edge.

They lay upon the roof, all six, breathless, sightless, their faces turned
to the winter sky. The tumult of the street came up as a faint echo; the
spray of a score of engines pumping below fell upon them, froze, and
covered them with ice. The very roar of the fire seemed far off. The
sergeant was the first to recover. He carried down the man he had saved,
and saw him sent off to the hospital. Then first he noticed that he was
not a negro; the smut had been rubbed off his face. Monday had dawned
before he came to, and days passed before he knew his rescuer. Sergeant
Vaughan was laid up himself then. He had returned to his work, and
finished it; but what he had gone through was too much for human strength.
It was spring before he returned to his quarters, to find himself
promoted, petted, and made much of.

From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a little step. Among the many
who journeyed to the insurance patrol station to see the hero of the great
fire, there came, one day, a woman. She was young and pretty, the
sweetheart of the man on the window-sill. He was a lawyer, since a State
senator of Pennsylvania. She wished the sergeant to repeat exactly the
words he spoke to him in that awful moment when he bade him jump--to life
or death. She had heard them, and she wanted the sergeant to repeat them
to her, that she might know for sure he was the man who did it. He
stammered and hitched--tried subterfuges. She waited, inexorable.
Finally, in desperation, blushing fiery red, he blurted out "a lot of
cuss-words." "You know," he said apologetically, in telling of it, "when I
am in a place like that I can't help it."

When she heard the words which her fiancé had already told her,
straightway she fell upon the fireman's neck. The sergeant stood
dumfounded. "Women are queer," he said.

Thus a fireman's life. That the very horses that are their friends in
quarters, their comrades at the fire, sharing with them what comes of good
and evil, catch the spirit of it, is not strange. It would be strange if
they did not. With human intelligence and more than human affection, the
splendid animals follow the fortunes of their masters, doing their share
in whatever is demanded of them. In the final showing that in thirty
years, while with the growing population the number of fires has steadily
increased, the average loss per fire has as steadily decreased, they have
their full share, also, of the credit. In 1866 there were 796 fires in New
York, with an average loss of $8075.38 per fire. In 1876, with 1382 fires,
the loss was but $2786.70 at each. In 1896, 3890 fires averaged only
$878.81. It means that every year more fires are headed off than run
down--smothered at the start, as a fire should be. When to the verdict of
"faithful unto death" that record is added, nothing remains to be said.
The firemen know how much of that is the doing of their four-legged
comrades. It is the one blot on the fair picture that the city which owes
these horses so much has not seen fit, in gratitude, to provide comfort
for their worn old age. When a fireman grows old, he is retired on
half-pay for the rest of his days. When a horse that has run with the
heavy engines to fires by night and by day for perhaps ten or fifteen
years is worn out, it is--sold, to a huckster, perhaps, or a contractor,
to slave for him until it is fit only for the bone-yard! The city receives
a paltry two or three thousand dollars a year for this rank treachery, and
pockets the blood-money without a protest. There is room next, in New
York, for a movement that shall secure to the fireman's faithful friend
the grateful reward of a quiet farm, a full crib, and a green pasture to
the end of its days, when it is no longer young enough and strong enough
to "run with the machine."





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