Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 315
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 315
 
said, “to liken my kids to them Dagos! Out they go.” And they went.
  Up on the third floor there was the French couple. It was another of the contradictions of the alley that of this pair the man should have been a typical, stolid German, she a mercurial Parisian, who at seventy sang the “Marseillaise” with all the spirit of the Commune in her cracked voice, and hated from the bottom of her patriotic soul the enemy with whom the irony of fate had yoked her. However, she improved the opportunity in truly French fashion. He was rheumatic, and most of the time was tied to his chair. He had not worked for seven years. “He no goode,” she said, with a grimace, as her nimble fingers fashioned the wares by the sale of which, from a basket, she supported them both. The wares were dancing girls with tremendous limbs and very brief skirts of tricolor gauze,—“ballerinas,” in her vocabulary,—and monkeys with tin hats, cunningly made to look like German soldiers. For these she taught him to supply the decorations. It was his department, she reasoned; the ballerinas were of her country and hers. Parbleu! must one not work? What then? Starve? Before her look and gesture the cripple quailed, and twisted and rolled and pasted all day long, to his country’s shame, fuming with impotent rage.
  “I wish the devil had you,” he growled.

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