An Outcast/Chapter X
"Having served well the offices of felons and impostors, Hag Zogbaum would instruct her girls in the mysteries of licentiousness. When they reached a certain age, their personal appearance was improved, and one by one they were passed into the hands of splendidly-dressed ladies, as we then took them to be, who paid a sum for them to Hag Zogbaum, and took them away; and that was the last we saw of them. They had no desire to remain in their miserable abode, and were only too glad to get away from it. In most cases they were homeless and neglected orphans; and knowing no better condition, fell easy victims to the snares set for them.
"It was in this dark, cavern-like den—in this mysterious caldron of precocious depravity, rioting unheeded in the very centre of a great city, whose boasted wealth and civilization it might put to shame, if indeed it were capable of shame, I first met the child of beauty, Anna Bonard. Yes!—the Anna Bonard you now see at the house of Madame Flamingo. At that time she was but seven years old—a child of uncommon beauty and aptness, of delicate but well-proportioned features, of middle stature, and a face that care might have made charming beyond comparison. But vice hardens, corrodes, and gives a false hue to the features. Anna said she was an orphan. How far this was true I know not. A mystery shrouded the way in which she fell into the hands of Hag Zogbaum. Hag Zogbaum said she got her of an apple-woman; and the apple-woman kept a stand in West street, but never would disclose how she came by Anna. And Mr. Tom Toddleworth, who was the chronicle of the Points, and used to look into 'Scorpion Cove' now and then, and inquire about Anna, as if he had a sort of interest in her, they said knew all about her. But if he did, he always kept it a secret between himself and Hag Zogbaum.
"She was always of a melancholy turn, used to say life was but a burden to her—that she could see nothing in the future that did not seem dark and tortuous. The lot into which she was cast of necessity others might have mistaken for that which she had chosen. It was not. The hard hand of necessity had forced her into this quicksand of death; the indifference of a naturally generous community, robbed her of the light of intelligence, and left her a helpless victim in the hands of this cultivator of vice. How could she, orphan as she was called, and unencouraged, come to be a noble and generous-hearted woman? No one offered her the means to come up and ornament her sex; but tyrannical society neither forgets her misfortunes nor forgives her errors. Once seal the death-warrant of a woman's errors, and you have none to come forward and cancel it; the tomb only removes the seal. Anna took a liking to me, and was kind to me, and looked to me to protect her. And I loved her, and our love grew up, and strengthened; and being alike neglected in the world, our condition served as the strongest means of cementing our attachment.
"Hag Zogbaum then sent Anna away to the house up the alley, in Elizabeth street, where she sent most of her girls when they had reached the age of eleven and twelve. Hag Zogbaum had many places for her female pupils. The very best looking always went a while to the house in the alley; the next best looking were sure to find their way into the hands of Miss Brown, in Little Water street, and Miss Brown, they said, sold them to the fairies of the South, who dressed them in velvet and gold; and the 'scrubs,' as the old woman used to call the rest, got, by some mysterious process, into the hands of Paddy Pie and Tim Branahan, who kept shantees in Orange street.
"Anna had been away some time, and Mr. Tom Toddleworth had several times been seen to look in and inquire for her. Mr. Toddleworth said he had a ripping bid for her. At that time I was ignorant of its meaning. Harry Rooney and me were sent to the house in Elizabeth street, one morning, to bring Anna and another girl home. The house was large, and had an air of neatness about it that contrasted strangely with the den in 'Scorpion Cove.' We rang the bell and inquired for the girls, who, after waiting nearly an hour, were sent down to us, clean and neatly dressed. In Anna the change was so great, that though I had loved her, and thought of her day and night during her absence, I scarce recognized her. So glad did she seem to see me that she burst into tears, flung her arms about my neck, and kissed me with the fondness of a sister. Then she recounted with childlike enthusiasm the kind treatment she had received at the house of Madame Harding (for such it was called), between whom and Hag Zogbaum there was carried on a species of business I am not inclined to designate here. Two kind and splendidly-dressed ladies, Anna said, called to see them nearly every day, and were going to take them away, that they might live like fairies all the rest of their lives.
"When we got home, two ladies were waiting at the den. It was not the first time we had seen them at the den. Anna recognized them as the ladies she had seen at Madame Harding's. One was the woman who so kindly gave me the shilling in the market, when I was cold and hungry. A lengthy whispering took place between Hag Zogbaum and the ladies, and we were ordered into the back cellar. I knew the whispering was about Anna; and watching through the boards I heard the Hag say Anna was fourteen and nothing less, and saw one of the ladies draw from her purse numerous pieces of gold, which were slipped into her hand. In a few minutes more I saw poor little Anna follow her up the steps that led into 'Scorpion Cove.' When we were released Hag was serving ragged and dejected-looking men with gin and beer. Anna, she said when I inquired, had gone to a good home in the country. I loved her ardently, and being lonesome was not content with the statement of the old woman. I could not read, but had begun to think for myself, and something told me all was not right. For weeks and months I watched at the house in Leonard street, into which I had followed the woman who gave me the shilling. But I neither saw her nor the woman. Elegant carriages, and elegantly-dressed men drove to and from the door, and passed in and out of the house, and the house seemed to have a deal of fashionable customers, and that was all I knew of it then.
"As I watched one night, a gentleman came out of the house, took me by the arm and shook me, said I was a loitering vagrant, that he had seen me before, and having a suspicious look he would order the watch to lock me up. He inquired where my home was; and when I told him it was in 'Scorpion Cove,' he replied he didn't know where that was. I told him it wasn't much of a home, and he said I ought to have a better one. It was all very well to say so; but with me the case was different. That night I met Tom Farley, who was glad to see me, and told how he got out of the lock-up, and what he thought of the lock-up, and the jolly old Judge who sent him to the lock-up, and who he saw in the lock-up, and what mischief was concocted in the lock-up, and what he got to eat in the lock-up, and how the lock-up wasn't so bad a place after all.
"The fact was I was inclined to think the lock-up not so bad a place to get into, seeing how they gave people something good to eat, and clothes to wear. Tom and me went into business together. We sold Heralds and Sunday papers, and made a good thing of it, and shared our earnings, and got enough to eat and some clothes. I took up my stand in Centre Market, and Tom took up his at Peck Slip. At night we would meet, count our earnings, and give them to Mr. Crogan, who kept the cellar in Water street, where we slept. I left Hag Zogbaum, who we got to calling the wizard. She got all we could earn or pilfer, and we got nothing for our backs but a few rags, and unwholesome fish and beer for our bellies. I thought of Anna day and night; I hoped to meet in Centre Market the woman who took her away.
"I said no one ever looked in at the den in 'Scorpion Cove,' but there was a kind little man, with sharp black eyes, and black hair, and an earnest olive-colored face, and an earnester manner about him, who used to look in now and then, talk kindly to us, and tell us he wished he had a home for us all, and was rich enough to give us all enough to eat. He hated Hag Zogbaum, and Hag Zogbaum hated him; but we all liked him because he was kind to us, and used to shake his head, and say he would do something for us yet. Hag Zogbaum said he was always meddling with other people's business. At other times a man would come along and throw tracts in at the gate of the alley. We were ignorant of what they were intended for, and used to try to sell them at the Gibraltars. Nobody wanted them, and nobody could read at the den, so Hag Zogbaum lighted the fire with them, and that was the end of them.
"Well, I sold papers for nearly two years, and learned to read a little by so doing, and got up in the world a little; and being what was called smart, attracted the attention of a printer in Nassau street, who took me into his office, and did well by me. My mind was bent on getting a trade. I knew I could do well for myself with a trade to lean upon. Two years I worked faithfully at the printer's, was approaching manhood, and with the facilities it afforded me had not failed to improve my mind and get a tolerable good knowledge of the trade. But the image of Anna, and the singular manner in which she disappeared, made me unhappy.
"On my return from dinner one day I met in Broadway the lady who took Anna away. The past and its trials flashed across my brain, and I turned and followed her—found that her home was changed to Mercer street, and this accounted for my fruitless watching in Leonard street.
"The love of Anna, that had left its embers smouldering in my bosom, quickened, and seemed to burn with redoubled ardor. It was my first and only love; the sufferings of our childhood had made it lasting. My very emotion rose to action as I saw the woman I knew took her away. My anxiety to know her fate had no bounds. Dressing myself up as respectably as it was possible with my means, I took advantage of a dark and stormy night in the month of November to call at the house in Mercer street, into which I had traced the lady. I rung the bell; a sumptuously-dressed woman came to the door, which opened into a gorgeously-decorated hall. She looked at me with an inquiring eye and disdainful frown, inquired who I was and what I wanted. I confess I was nervous, for the dazzling splendor of the mansion produced in me a feeling of awe rather than admiration. I made known my mission as best I could; the woman said no such person had ever resided there. In that moment of disappointment I felt like casting myself away in despair. The associations of Scorpion Cove, of the house of the Nine Nations, of the Rookery, of Paddy Pie's—or any other den in that desert of death that engulphs the Points, seemed holding out a solace for the melancholy that weighed me down. But when I got back into Broadway my resolution gained strength, and with it I wept over the folly of my thoughts.
"Led by curiosity, and the air of comfort pervading the well-furnished room, and the piously-disposed appearance of the persons who passed in and out, I had several times looked in at the house of the 'Foreign Missions,' as we used to call it. A man with a good-natured face used to sit in the chair, and a wise-looking little man in spectacles (the Secretary) used to sit a bit below him, and a dozen or two well-disposed persons of both sexes, with sharp and anxious countenances, used to sit round in a half circle, listening. The wise-looking man in the spectacles would, on motion of some one present, read a long report, which was generally made up of a list of donations and expenditures for getting up a scheme to evangelize the world, and get Mr. Singleton Spyke off to Antioch. It seemed to me as if a deal of time and money was expended on Mr. Singleton Spyke, and yet Mr. Spyke never got off to Antioch. When the man of the spectacles got through reading the long paper, and the good-natured man in the chair got through explaining that the heavy amount of twenty-odd thousand dollars had been judiciously expended for the salary of officers of the society, and the getting Brothers Spurn and Witherspoon off to enlighten the heathen, Brother Singleton Spyke's mission would come up. Every one agreed that there ought to be no delay in getting Brother Spyke off to Antioch; but a small deficiency always stood in the way. And Brother Spyke seemed spiked to this deficiency; for notwithstanding Mrs. Slocum, who was reckoned the strongest-minded woman, and best business-man of the society, always made speeches in favor of Brother Spyke and his mission (a special one), he never got off to Antioch.
"Feeling forlorn, smarting under disappointment, and undecided where to go after I left the house in Mercer street, I looked in at the house of the 'Foreign Missions.' Mrs. Slocum, as I had many times before seen her, was warmly contesting a question concerning Brother Spyke, with the good-natured man in the chair. It was wrong, she said, so much money should be expended, and Brother Spyke not got off to Antioch. So leaving them debating Mr. Spyke's mission to Antioch, I proceeded back to the house in Mercer street, and inquired for the landlady of the house. The landlady, the woman that opened the door said, was engaged. The door was shut in my face, and I turned away more wounded in my feelings than before. Day and night I contemplated some plan by which to ascertain Anna's place of abode, her pursuit in life, her wants. When we parted she could neither write nor read: I had taken writing lessons, by which I could communicate tolerably well, while my occupation afforded me the means of improvement. A few weeks passed (I continued to watch the house), and I recognized her one afternoon, by her black, floating hair, sitting at a second-story window of the house in Mercer street, her back toward me. The sight was like electricity on my feelings; a transport of joy bore away my thoughts. I gazed, and continued to gaze upon the object, throwing, as it were, new passion into my soul. But it turned, and there was a changed face, a face more lovely, looking eagerly into a book. Looking eagerly into a book did not betray one who could not read. But there was that in my heart that prompted me to look on the favorable side of the doubt—to try a different expedient in gaining admittance to the house. When night came, I assumed a dress those who look on mechanics as vulgar people, would have said became a gentleman; and approaching the house, gained easy admittance. As I was about entering the great parlors, a familiar but somewhat changed voice at the top of the circling stairs that led from the hall caught my ear. I paused, listened, became entranced with suspense. Again it resounded—again my heart throbbed with joy. It was Anna's voice, so soft and musical. The woman who opened the door turned from me, and attempted to hush it. But Anna seemed indifferent to the admonition, for she tripped buoyantly down stairs, accompanying a gentleman to the door. I stood before her, a changed person. Her recognition of me was instantaneous. Her color changed, her lips quivered, her eyes filled with tears, her very soul seemed fired with emotions she had no power to resist. 'George Mullholland!' she exclaimed, throwing her arms about my neck, kissing me, and burying her head in my bosom, and giving vent to her feelings in tears and quickened sobs—'how I have thought of you, watched for you, and hoped for the day when we would meet again and be happy. Oh, George! George! how changed everything seems since we parted! It seems a long age, and yet our sufferings, and the fondness for each other that was created in that suffering, freshens in the mind. Dear, good George—my protector!' she continued, clinging to me convulsively. I took her in my arms (the scene created no little excitement in the house) and bore her away to her chamber, which was chastely furnished, displaying a correct taste, and otherwise suited to a princess. Having gained her presence of mind, and become calm, she commenced relating what had occurred since we parted at Scorpion Cove. I need not relate it at length here, for it was similar in character to what might be told by a thousand others if they were not powerless. For months she had been confined to the house, her love of dress indulged to the furthest extent, her mind polluted and initiated into the mysteries of refined licentiousness, her personal appearance scrupulously regarded, and made to serve the object of which she was a victim in the hands of the hostess, who made her the worse than slave to a banker of great respectability in Wall street. This good man and father was well down in the vale of years, had a mansion on Fifth Avenue, and an interesting and much-beloved family. He was, in addition, a prominent member of the commercial community; but his example to those more ready to imitate the errors of men in high positions, than to improve by the examples of the virtuous poor, was not what it should be. Though a child of neglect, and schooled to licentiousness under the very eye of a generous community, her natural sensibility recoiled at the thought that she was a mere object of prey to the passions of one she could not love.
"She resolved to remain in this condition no longer, and escaped to Savannah with a young man whose acquaintance she had made at the house in Mercer street. For a time they lived at a respectable hotel, as husband and wife. But her antecedents got out, and they got notice to leave. The same fate met them in Charleston, to which city they removed. Her antecedents seemed to follow her wherever she went, like haunting spirits seeking her betrayal. She was homeless; and without a home there was nothing open to her but that vortex of licentiousness the world seemed pointing her to. Back she went to the house in Mercer street—was glad to get back; was at least free from the finger of scorn. Henceforward she associated with various friends, who sought her because of her transcendent charms. She had cultivated a natural intelligence, and her manners were such as might have become one in better society. But her heart's desire was to leave the house. I took her from it; and for a time I was happy to find that the contaminating weeds of vice had not overgrown the more sensitive buds of virtue.
"I provided a small tenement in Centre street, such as my means would afford, and we started in the world, resolved to live respectably. But what had maintained me respectably was now found inadequate to the support of us both. Life in a house of sumptuous vice had rendered Anna incapable of adapting herself to the extreme of economy now forced upon us. Anna was taken sick; I was compelled to neglect my work, and was discharged. Discontent, embarrassment, and poverty resulted. I struggled to live for six months; but my prospects, my hopes of gaining an honest living, were gone. I had no money to join the society, and the trade being dull, could get nothing to do. Fate seemed driving us to the last stage of distress. One by one our few pieces of furniture, our clothing, and the few bits of jewelry Anna had presented her at the house in Mercer street, found their way to the sign of the Three Martyrs. The man of the eagle face would always lend something on them, and that something relieved us for the time. I many times thought, as I passed the house of the Foreign Missions in Centre street, where there was such an air of comfort, that if Mrs. Abijah Slocum, and the good-natured man who sat in the chair, and the wise little man in the spectacles, would condescend to look in at our little place, and instead of always talking about getting Mr. Singleton Spyke off to Antioch, take pity on our destitution, what a relief it would be. It would have made more hearts happy than Mr. Spyke, notwithstanding the high end of his mission, could have softened in ten years at Antioch.
"Necessity, not inclination, forced Anna back into the house in Mercer street, when I became her friend, her transient protector. Her hand was as ready to bestow as her heart was warm and generous. She gave me money, and was kind to me; but the degraded character of my position caused me to despond, to yield myself a victim to insidious vice, to become the associate of men whose only occupation was that of gambling and 'roping-in' unsuspecting persons. I was not long in becoming an efficient in the arts these men practiced on the unwary. We used to meet at the 'Subterranean,' in Church street, and there concoct our mode of operations. And from this centre went forth, daily, men who lived by gambling, larceny, picking pockets, counterfeiting, and passing counterfeit money. I kept Anna ignorant of my associations. Nevertheless I was forced to get money, for I found her affections becoming perverted. At times her manner towards me was cold, and I sought to change it with money.
"While thus pursuing a life so precarious and exciting, I used to look in at the 'Empire,' in Broadway, to see whom I could 'spot,' as we called it at the 'Subterranean.' And it was here I met poor Tom Swiggs, distracted and giving himself up to drink, in the fruitless search after the girl of his love, from whom he had been separated, as he said, by his mother. He had loved the girl, and the girl returned his love with all the sincerity and ardor of her soul. But she was poor, and of poor parents. And as such people were reckoned nothing in Charleston, his mother locked him up in jail, and she was got out of the way. Tom opened his heart to me, said foul means had been resorted to, and the girl had thrown herself away, because, while he was held in close confinement, falsehoods had been used to make her believe he had abandoned her. To have her an outcast on his account, to have her leading the life of an abandoned woman, and that with the more galling belief that he had forsaken her, was more than he could bear, and he was sinking under the burden. Instead of making him an object of my criminal profession, his story so touched my feelings that I became his protector, saw him to his lodgings in Green street, and ultimately got him on board a vessel bound to Charleston.
"Not many weeks after this, I, being moneyless, was the principal of a plot by which nearly a thousand dollars was got of the old man in Wall street, who had been Anna's friend; and fearing it might get out, I induced her to accompany me to Charleston, where she believed I had a prospect of bettering my condition, quitting my uncertain mode of living, and becoming a respectable man. Together we put up at the Charleston Hotel. But necessity again forced me to reveal to her my circumstances, and the real cause of my leaving New York. Her hopes of shaking off the taint of her former life seemed blasted; but she bore the shock with resignation, and removed with me to the house of Madame Flamingo, where we for a time lived privately. But the Judge sought her out, followed her with the zeal of a knight, and promised, if she would forsake me, to be her protector; to provide for her and maintain her like a lady during her life. What progress he has made in carrying out his promise you have seen. The English baronet imposed her upon the St. Cecilia, and the Judge was the first to betray her."