Jacob A. Riis (18491914). The Battle with the Slum. 1902.
a perilous path of shaky timbers and sliding brick. He evidently considered it a kind of siege, and shut himself in his attic, bolting and barring the door, and making secret sorties by night for provisions. When the chimney fell down or was blown over, he punched a hole in the rear wall and stuck the stove-pipe through that, where it blew defiance to the new houses springing up almost within arms-reach of it. It suggested guns pointing from a fort, and perhaps it pleased the old mans soldier fancy. It certainly made smoke enough in his room, where he was fighting his battles over with himself, and occasionally with the janitor from the front, who climbed over the pile of bricks and in through the window to bring him water. When I visited him there one day, and, after giving the password, got behind the bolted door, I found him, the room, and everything else absolutely covered with soot, coal-black from roof to rafters. The password was Lettér! yelled out loud at the foot of the stairs. That would always bring him out, in the belief that the government had finally sent him the long-due money. Barney was stubbornly defiant, he would stand by his guns to the end; but he was weakening physically under the combined effect of short rations and nightly alarms. It was clear that he could not stand it much longer.