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Cast Adrift - Chapter XXI Post by :venkata Category :Long Stories Author :T. S. Arthur Date :March 2011 Read :3552

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Cast Adrift - Chapter XXI

CHAPTER XXI. Intimate relations of physical and moral purity--Blind
Jake--The harvest of the thieves and beggars--Inconsiderate
charity--Beggary a vice--"The deserving poor are never common
beggars"--"To help the evil is to hurt the good" The malignant ulcer
in the body politic of our city--The breeding-places of epidemics
and malignant diseases--Little Italian street musicians--The
existence of slavery in our midst--Facts in regard to it


"_I TAKE reproof to myself," said Mr. Dinneford. "As one of your
board of managers, I ought to have regarded my position as more than
a nominal one. I understand better now what you said about the ten
or twenty of our rich and influential men who, if they could be
induced to look away for a brief period from their great
enterprises, and concentrate thought and effort upon the social
evils, abuse of justice, violations of law, poverty and suffering
that exist here and in other parts of our city, would inaugurate
reforms and set beneficent agencies at work that would soon produce
marvelous changes for good."

"Ah, yes," sighed Mr. Paulding. "If we had for just a little while
the help of our strong men--the men of brains and will and money,
the men who are used to commanding success, whose business it is to
organize forces and set impediments at defiance, the men whose word
is a kind of law to the people--how quickly, and as if by magic,
would all this change!

"But we cannot now hope to get this great diversion in our favor.
Until we do we must stand in the breach, small in numbers and weak
though we are--must go on doing our best and helping when we may.
Help is help and good is good, be it ever so small. If I am able to
rescue but a single life where many are drowning, I make just so
much head against death and destruction. Shall I stand off and
refuse to put forth my hand because I cannot save a score?

"Take heart, Mr. Dinneford. Our work is not in vain. Its fruits may
be seen all around. Bad as you find everything, it is not so bad as
it was. When our day-school was opened, the stench from the filthy
children who were gathered in was so great that the teachers were
nauseated. They were dirty in person as well as dirty in their
clothing. This would not do. There was no hope of moral purity while
such physical impurity existed. So the mission set up baths, and
made every child go in and thoroughly wash his body. Then they got
children's clothing--new and old--from all possible sources, and put
clean garments on their little scholars. From the moment they were
washed and cleanly clad, a new and better spirit came upon them.
They were more orderly and obedient, and more teachable. There was,
or seemed to be, a tenderer quality in their voices as they sang
their hymns of praise."

Just then there came a sudden outcry and a confusion of voices from
the street. Mr. Dinneford arose quickly and went to the window. A
man, apparently drunk and in a rage, was holding a boy tightly
gripped by the collar with one hand and cuffing him about the head
and face with the other.

"It's that miserable Blind Jake!" said Mr. Paulding.

In great excitement, Mr. Dinneford threw up the window and called
for the police. At this the man stopped beating the boy, but swore
at him terribly, his sightless eyes rolling and his face distorted
in a frightful way. A policeman who was not far off came now upon
the scene.

"What's all this about?" he asked, sternly.

"Jake's drunk again, that's the row," answered a voice.

"Lock him up, lock him up!" cried two or three from the crowd.

An expression of savage defiance came into the face of the blind
man, and he moved his arms and clenched his fist like one who was
bent on desperate resistance. He was large and muscular, and, now
that he was excited by drink and bad passions, had a look that was
dangerous.

"Go home and behave yourself," said the policeman, not caring to
have a single-handed tussle with the human savage, whose strength
and desperate character he well knew.

Blind Jake, as he was called, stood for a few moments half defiant,
growling and distorting his face until it looked more like a wild
animal's than a man's, then jerked out the words,

"Where's that Pete?" with a sound like the crack of a whip.

The boy he had been beating in his drunken fury, and who did not
seem to be much hurt, came forward from the crowd, and taking him by
the hand, led him away.

"Who is this blind man? I have seen him before," said Mr. Dinneford.

"You may see him any day standing at the street corners, begging, a
miserable-looking object, exciting the pity of the humane, and
gathering in money to spend in drunken debauchery at night. He has
been known to bring in some days as high as ten and some fifteen
dollars, all of which is wasted in riot before the next morning. He
lives just over the way, and night after night I can hear his howls
and curses and laughter mingled with those of the vile women with
whom he herds."

"Surely this cannot be?" said Mr. Dinneford.

"Surely it is," was replied. "I know of what I speak. There is
hardly a viler wretch in all our city than this man, who draws
hundreds--I might say, without exaggeration, thousands--of dollars
from weak and tender-hearted people every year to be spent as I have
said; and he is not the only one. Out of this district go hundreds
of thieves and beggars every day, spreading themselves over the city
and gathering in their harvests from our people. I see them at the
street corners, coming out of yards and alley-gates, skulking near
unguarded premises and studying shop-windows. They are all impostors
or thieves. Not one of them is deserving of charity. He who gives to
them wastes his money and encourages thieving and vagrancy. One half
of the successful burglaries committed on dwelling-houses are in
consequence of information gained by beggars. Servant-girls are
lured away by old women who come in the guise of alms-seekers, and
by well-feigned poverty and a seeming spirit of humble
thankfulness--often of pious trust in God--win upon their sympathy
and confidence. Many a poor weak girl has thus been led to visit one
of these poor women in the hope of doing her some good, and many a
one has thus been drawn into evil ways. If the people only
understood this matter as I understand it, they would shut hearts
and hands against all beggars. I add beggary as a vice to drinking
and policy-buying as the next most active agency in the work of
making paupers and criminals."

"But there are deserving poor," said Dinneford. "We cannot shut our
hearts against all who seek for help."

"The deserving poor," replied Mr. Paulding, "are never common
beggars--never those who solicit in the street or importune from
house to house. They try always to help themselves, and ask for aid
only when in great extremity. They rarely force themselves on your
attention; they suffer and die often in dumb despair. We find them
in these dreary and desolate cellars and garrets, sick and starving
and silent, often dying, and minister to them as best we can. If the
money given daily to idle and vicious beggars could be gathered into
a fund and dispensed with a wise Christian charity, it would do a
vast amount of good; now it does only evil."

"You are doubtless right in this," returned Mr. Dinneford. "Some one
has said that to help the evil is to hurt the good, and I guess his
saying is near the truth."

"If you help the vicious and the idle," was answered, "you simply
encourage vice and idleness, and these never exist without doing a
hurt to society. Withhold aid, and they will be forced to work, and
so not only do something for the common good, but be kept out of the
evil ways into which idleness always leads.

"So you see, sir, how wrong it is to give alms to the vast crew of
beggars that infest our cities, and especially to the children who
are sent out daily to beg or steal as opportunity offers.

"But there is another view of the case, continued Mr. Paulding,
"that few consider, and which would, I am sure, arouse the people to
immediate action if they understood it as I do. We compare the
nation to a great man. We call it a 'body politic.' We speak of its
head, its brain, its hands, its feet, its arteries and vital forces.
We know that no part of the nation can be hurt without all the other
parts feeling in some degree the shock and sharing the loss or
suffering. What is true of the great man of the nation is true of
our smaller communities, our States and cities and towns. Each is an
aggregate man, and the health and well-being of this man depend on
the individual men and the groups and societies of men by which it
is constituted. There cannot be an unhealthy organ in the human
system without a communication of disease to the whole body. A
diseased liver or heart or lung, a useless hand or foot, an ulcer or
local obstruction, cannot exist without injury and impediment to the
whole. In the case of a malignant ulcer, how soon the blood gets
poisoned!

"Now, here is a malignant ulcer in the body politic of our city. Is
it possible, do you think, for it to exist, and in the virulent
condition we find it, and not poison the blood of our whole
community? Moral and spiritual laws are as unvarying in their
action, out of natural sight though they be, as physical laws. Evil
and good are as positive entities as fire, and destroy or consume as
surely. As certainly as an ulcer poisons with its malignant ichor
this blood that visits every part of the body, so surely is this
ulcer poisoning every part of our community. Any one who reflects
for a moment will see that it cannot be otherwise. From this moral
ulcer there flows out daily and nightly an ichor as destructive as
that from a cancer. Here theft and robbery and murder have birth,
nurture and growth until full formed and organized, and then go
forth to plunder and destroy. The life and property of no citizen is
safe so long as this community exists. It has its schools of
instruction for thieves and housebreakers, where even little
children are educated to the business of stealing and robbery. Out
from it go daily hundreds of men and women, boys and girls, on their
business of beggary, theft and the enticement of the weak and unwary
into crime. In it congregate human vultures and harpies who absorb
most of the plunder that is gained outside, and render more brutal
and desperate the wretches they rob in comparative safety.

"Let me show you how this is done. A man or a woman thirsting for
liquor will steal anything to get money for whisky. The article
stolen may be a coat, a pair of boots or a dress--something worth
from five to twenty dollars. It is taken to one of these harpies,
and sold for fifty cents or a dollar--anything to get enough for a
drunken spree. I am speaking only of what I know. Then, again, a man
or a woman gets stupidly drunk in one of the whisky-shops. Before he
or she is thrown out upon the street, the thrifty liquor-seller
'goes through' the pockets of the insensible wretch, and confiscates
all he finds. Again, a vile woman has robbed one of her visitors,
and with the money in her pocket goes to a dram-shop. The sum may be
ten dollars or it may be two hundred. A glass or so unlooses her
tongue; she boasts of her exploit, and perhaps shows her booty. Not
once in a dozen times will she take this booty away. If there are
only a few women in the shop, the liquor-seller will most likely
pounce on her at once and get the money by force. There is no
redress. To inform the police is to give information against
herself. He may give her back a little to keep her quiet or he may
not, just as he feels about it. If he does not resort to direct
force, he will manage in some other way to get the money. I could
take you to the dram-shop of a man scarcely a stone's throw from
this place who came out of the State's prison less than four years
ago and set up his vile trap where it now stands. He is known to be
worth fifty thousand dollars to-day. How did he make this large sum?
By the profits of his bar? No one believes this. It has been by
robbing his drunken and criminal customers whenever he could get
them in his power."

"I am oppressed by all this," said Mr. Dinneford. "I never dreamed
of such a state of things."

"Nor does one in a hundred of our good citizens, who live in quiet
unconcern with this pest-house of crime and disease in their midst.
And speaking of disease, let me give you another fact that should be
widely known. Every obnoxious epidemic with which our city has been
visited in the last twenty years has originated here--ship fever,
relapsing fever and small-pox--and so, getting a lodgment in the
body politic, have poured their malignant poisons into the blood and
diseased the whole. Death has found his way into the homes of
hundreds of our best citizens through the door opened for him here."

"Can this be so?" exclaimed Mr. Dinneford.

"It is just as I have said," was replied. "And how could it be
otherwise? Whether men take heed or not, the evil they permit to lie
at their doors will surely do them harm. Ignorance of a statute, a
moral or a physical law gives no immunity from consequence if the
law be transgressed--a fact that thousands learn every year to their
sorrow. There are those who would call this spread of disease,
originating here, all over our city, a judgment from God, to punish
the people for that neglect and indifference which has left such a
hell as this in their midst. I do not so read it. God has no
pleasure in punishments and retributions. The evil comes not from
him. It enters through the door we have left open, just as a thief
enters our dwellings, invited through our neglect to make the
fastenings sure. It comes under the operations of a law as unvarying
as any law in physics. And so long as we have this epidemic-breeding
district in the very heart of our city, we must expect to reap our
periodical harvests of disease and death. What it is to be next
year, or the next, none can tell."

"Does not your perpetual contact with all this give your mind an
unhealthy tone--a disposition to magnify its disastrous
consequences?" said Mr. Dinneford.

The missionary dropped his eyes. The flush and animation went out of
his face.

"I leave you to judge for yourself," he answered, after a brief
silence, and in a voice that betrayed a feeling of disappointment.
"You have the fact before you in the board of health, prison,
almshouse, police, house of refuge, mission and other reports that
are made every year to the people. If they hear not these, neither
will they believe, though one rose from the dead."

"All is too dreadfully palpable for unbelief," returned Mr.
Dinneford. "I only expressed a passing thought."

"My mind may take an unhealthy tone--does often, without doubt,"
said Mr. Paulding. "I wonder, sometimes, that I can keep my head
clear and my purposes steady amid all this moral and physical
disorder and suffering. But exaggeration of either this evil or its
consequences is impossible. The half can never be told."

Mr. Dinneford rose to go. As he did so, two little Italian children,
a boy and a girl, not over eight years of age, tired, hungry,
pinched and starved-looking little creatures, the boy with a harp
slung over his shoulder, and the girl carrying a violin, went past
on the other side.

"Where in the world do all of these little wretches come from?"
asked Mr. Dinneford. "They are swarming our streets of late.
Yesterday I saw a child who could not be over two years of age
tinkling her triangle, while an older boy and girl were playing on a
harp and violin. She seemed so cold and tired that it made me sad to
look at her. There is something wrong about this."

"Something very wrong," answered the missionary. "Doubtless you
think these children are brought here by their parents or near
relatives. No such thing. Most of them are slaves. I speak
advisedly. The slave-trade is not yet dead. Its abolition on the
coast of Africa did not abolish the cupidity that gave it birth. And
the 'coolie' trade, one of its new forms, is not confined to the
East."

"I am at a loss for your meaning," said Mr. Dinneford.

"I am not surprised. The new slave-trade, which has been carried on
with a secresy that is only now beginning to attract attention, has
its source of supply in Southern Italy, from which large numbers of
children are drawn every year and brought to this country.

"The headquarters of this trade--cruel enough in some of its
features to bear comparison with the African slave-trade itself--are
in New York. From this city agents are sent out to Southern Italy
every year, where little intelligence and great poverty exist. These
agents tell grand stories of the brilliant prospects offered to the
young in America. Let me now read to you from the published
testimony of one who has made a thorough investigation of this
nefarious business, so that you may get a clear comprehension of its
extent and iniquity.

"He says: 'One of these agents will approach the father of a family,
and after commenting upon the beauty of his children, will tell him
that his boys "should be sent at once to America, where they must in
time become rich." "There are no poor in America." "The children
should go when young, so that they may grow up with the people and
the better acquire the language." "None are too young or too old to
go to America." The father, of course, has not the means to go
himself or to send his children to this delightful country. The
agent then offers to take the children to America, and to pay forty
or fifty dollars to the father upon his signing an indenture
abandoning all claims upon them. He often, also, promises to pay a
hundred or more at the end of a year, but, of course, never does it.

"'After the agent has collected a sufficient number of children,
they are all supplied with musical instruments, and the trip on foot
through Switzerland and France begins. They are generally shipped to
Genoa, and often to Marseilles, and accomplish the remainder of the
journey to Havre or Calais by easy stages from village to village.
Thus they become a paying investment from the beginning. This
journey occupies the greater portion of the summer months; and after
a long trip in the steerage of a sailing-vessel, the unfortunate
children land at Castle Garden. As the parents never hear from them
again, they do not know whether they are doing well or not.

"'They are too young and ignorant to know how to get themselves
delivered from oppression; they do not speak our language, and find
little or no sympathy among the people whom they annoy. They are
thus left to the mercy of their masters, who treat them brutally,
and apparently without fear of the law or any of its officers. They
are crowded into small, ill-ventilated, uncarpeted rooms, eighteen
or twenty in each, and pass the night on the floor, with only a
blanket to protect them from the severity of the weather. In the
mornings they are fed by their temporary guardian with maccaroni,
served in the filthiest manner in a large open dish in the centre of
the room, after which they are turned out into the streets to beg or
steal until late at night.

"'More than all this, when the miserable little outcasts return to
their cheerless quarters, they are required to deliver every cent
which they have gathered during the day; and if the same be deemed
insufficient, the children are carefully searched and soundly
beaten.

"'The children are put through a kind of training in the arts of
producing discords on their instruments, and of begging, in the
whole of which the cruelty of the masters and the stolid submission
of the pupils are the predominant features. The worst part of all is
that the children become utterly unfitted for any occupation except
vagrancy and theft.'

"You have the answer to your question, 'Where do all these little
wretches come from?'" said the missionary as he laid aside the paper
from which he had been reading. "Poor little slaves!"

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