Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 250
Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 250
Street-cleaning Band to the point of reproving his mother for throwing a banana peel in the street, the thing to be done is to take him out and spank him, if it is reverting to “the savagery” of the street. Better a savage than a cad. The boys have the making of both in them. Their vanity furnishes abundant material for the cad, but only when unduly pampered. Left to itself, the gang can be trusted not to develop that kink.
  It comes down in the end to the personal influence that is always most potent in dealing with these problems. We had a gang start up once when my boys were of that age, out in the village on Long Island where we lived. It had its head-quarters in our barn, where it planned divers raids that aimed at killing the cat and other like out-rages; the central fact being that the boys had an air rifle, with which it was necessary to murder something. My wife discovered the conspiracy, and, with woman’s wit, defeated it by joining the gang. She “gave in wood” to the election bon-fires, and pulled the safety valve upon all the other plots by entering into the true spirit of them,—which was adventure rather than mischief,—and so keeping them within safe lines. She was elected an honorary member, and became the counsellor of the gang in all its little scrapes. I can yet see her dear brow wrinkled in the study of some knotty



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