Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 99
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 99
 
restraining himself with an effort from kicking the fellow.
  She laughed scornfully, “At the junk business.” It meant that he was a thief.
  Young men, with blotched faces and cadaverous looks, were loafing in every room. They hung their heads in silence. The women turned their faces away at the sight of the uniform. They cling to these wretches, who exploit their wretches, who exploit their starved affections for their own ease, with a grip of desperation. It is their last hold. Women have to love something. It is their deepest degradation that they must love these. Even the wretches themselves feel the shame of it, and repay them by beating and robbing them, as their daily occupation. A poor little baby in one of the rooms gave a shuddering human touch to it all.
  The old houses began it, as they began all the tenement mischief that has come upon New York. But the opportunity that was made by the tenant’s need was not one to be neglected. In some of the newer tenements, with their smaller rooms, the lodger is by this time provided for in the plan, with a special entrance from the hall. “Lodger” comes, by an easy transition, to stand for “family.” One winter’s night I went with the sanitary police on their midnight inspection through a row of Elizabeth Street tenements which I had known since they

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