Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 251
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 251
 
gang problem, which we discussed when the boys had been long asleep. They did not dream of it, and the village never knew what small tragedies it escaped, nor who it was that so skilfully averted them.
  It is always the women who do those things. They are the law and the gospel to the boy, both in one. It is the mother heart, I suppose, and there is nothing better in a all the world. I am reminded of the conversion of “the Kid” by one who was in a very real sense the mother of a social settlement up-town, in the latitude of Battle Row. The Kid was driftwood. He had been cast off by a drunken father and mother, and was living on what he could scrape out of ash barrels, and an occasional dime for kindling-wood which he sold from a wheel-barrow, when the gang found and adopted him. My friend adopted the gang in her turn, and civilized it by slow stages. Easter Sunday came, when she was to redeem her promise to take the boys to witness the services in a neighboring church, where the liturgy was especially impressive. It found the larger part of the gang at her door,—a minority, it was announced, were out stealing potatoes, hence were excusable,—in a state of high indignation.
  “The Kid’s been cussin’ awful,” explained the leader. The Kid showed in the turbulent distance, red-eyed and raging.

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