Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 109
Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 109
nearly as big as themselves, with desperate endeavor to lose nothing of the show. There is a funeral in the block. Unnumbered sewing-machines cease for once their tireless rivalry with the flour mill in the next block, that is forever grinding in a vain effort to catch up. Heads are poked from windows. On the stoops hooded and shawled figures have front seats. The crowd is hardly restrained by the policeman and the undertaker in holiday mourning, who clear a path by main strength to the plumed hearse. The eager haste, the frantic rush to see,—what does it not tell of these starved lives, of the quality of their aims and ambitions? The mill clatters loudly; there is one mouth less to fill. In the midst of it all, with clamor of urgent gong, the patrol wagon rounds the corner, carrying two policemen precariously perched upon a struggling “drunk,” a woman. The crowd scatters, following the new sensation. The tragedies of death and life in the slum have met together.
  Many a mile I might lead you along these rivers, east and west, through the island of Manhattan, and find little else than we have seen. The great crowd is yet below Fourteenth Street, but the northward march knows no slackening of pace. As the tide sets up-town, it reproduces faithfully the scenes of the older wards, though with less of their human interest than here, where the old houses, in all their



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