Jacob A. Riis (18491914). The Battle with the Slum. 1902.
off the roof over his head before he was up. Then, and only then, did he retreat. His exit was characterized by rather more haste than dignity. There had been a heavy fall of snow overnight, and Barney slid down the jagged slope from his window, dragging his trunk with him, in imminent peril of breaking his aged bones. That day he disappeared from Mulberry Street. I thought he was gone for good, and through the Grand Army of the Republic had set inquiries on foot to find what had become of him, when one day I saw him from my window, standing on the opposite side of the street, key-ring in hand, and looking fixedly at what had once been the passageway to the alley, but was now a barred gap between the houses, leading nowhere. He stood there long, gazing sadly at the gateway, at the children dancing to the Italians hand-organ, at Trilby trying to look unconcerned on the stoop, and then went his way silently, a poor castaway, and I saw him no more.
So Cat Alley, with all that belonged to it, passed out of my life. It had its faults, but it can at least be said of it, in extenuation, that it was very human. With them all it had a rude sense of justice that did not distinguish its early builders. When the work of tearing down had begun, I watched, one day, a troop of children having fun with a see-saw they had made of a plank laid across a lime barrel.