Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 323
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 323
 
the police to prevent. A laborer, who lived in the attic, had gone mad, poisoned by the stenches of the sewers in which he worked. For two nights he had been pacing the hallway, muttering incoherent things, and then fell to sharpening an axe, with his six children playing about—beautiful, brown-eyed girls they were, sweet and innocent little tots. In five minutes we should have been too late, for it appeared that the man’s madness had taken on the homicidal tinge. They were better out of the world, he told us, as we carried him off to the hospital. When he was gone, the children came upon the alley, and loyally did it stand by them until a job was found for the mother by the local political boss. He got her appointed scrub-woman at the City Hall, and the alley, always faithful, was solid for him ever after. Organized charity might, and indeed did, provide groceries on the instalment plan. The Tammany captain provided the means of pulling the family through and of bringing up the children, although there was not a vote in the family. It was not the first time I had met him and observed his plan of “keeping close” to the people. Against it not the most carping reform critic could have found just ground of complaint.
  The charity of the alley was contagious. With the reporters’ messenger boys, a harum-scarum lot, in “the front,” the alley was not on good terms for

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