Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 222
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 222
 
judgment. I have in mind the “difficult case” that confronted some philanthropic friends of mine in a rear tenement on Twelfth Street, in the person of an aged widow, quite seventy I should think, who worked uncomplainingly for a sweater all day and far into the night, pinching and saving and stinting herself, with black break and chickory coffee as her only fare, in order that she might carry her pitiful earnings to her big, lazy lout of a son in Brooklyn. He never worked. My friends’ difficulty was a very real one, for absolutely every attempt to relieve the widow was wrecked upon her mother heart. It all went over the river. Yet would you have had her different?
  Sometimes it is only the unfamiliar setting that shocks. When an East Side midnight burglar, discovered and pursued, killed a tenant who blocked his way of escape, not long ago, his “girl” gave him up to the police. But it was not because he had taken human life. “He was good to me,” she explained to the captain whom she told where to find him, “but since he robbed the church I had no use for him.” He had stolen, it seems, the communion service in a Staten Island church. The thoughtless laughed. But in her ignorant way she was only trying to apply the ethical standards she knew. Our servant, pondering if the fortune she was told is “real good” at fifteen cents, when

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